updated 5/8/2012 6:56:25 PM ET 2012-05-08T22:56:25

Guests: Alex Wagner, Robert Traynham, Alex Witt, Kathrine Switzer, Jemele Hill, Ashley Hicks, Rebecca Traister,
Nathan Gonzales, Doug Thornell, Doug Inkley, Dean Blanchard, Rebecca
Traister, Bob Graham

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, why there are at least a
thousand races more important than the one for the White House.

Plus, two years since the BP oil spill in the Gulf and the nightmare
continues.

And, the reason I am so excited about ladies in gym shorts.

But first, why this time around President Obama really is a black guy
running for president.

Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.

Republicans may be holding their noses just a little as they start to get
in line and lock step with their presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney. But
evidence shows that there is little reason to think that President Obama is
a lock for re-election.

A slew of polls out this week makes one thing clear, we do not know who
will occupy the White House come January 20th, 2013. The NBC News "Wall
Street Journal" poll shows President Obama with a six-point lead over to
the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The CBS News "New York
Times" poll shows that the two contenders are even. And a Quinnipiac poll
shows the president leading by four points. Look. And any way you slice
it, this thing is close. And each election hinges on certain recurring
factors.

For re-election, the first issue the strength of the opponent. As they
say, you can`t beat somebody with nobody. Second, economic indicators and
particularly unemployment and remember this, lower is better for re-
election. Third, war. Wartime incumbents usually hold an electoral kind
of rally around the flag edge, but after more than ten years of combat in
foreign lands, it is not sure how much rallying this incumbent can expect.

And forth, the ground game. Chicago may have rewritten book in 2008, this
time their opponent may be short on charisma, but his very being is
organization, attention to m minutia, the battleground on the ground will
be epic.

And then, there`s the fifth or the x-factor, President Obama is black. I`m
sorry, did you think that we were past that? Hardly. Let`s go back to the
numbers again where the racial polarization is palpable.

Among the black voters Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney by 91 points. I did
not inverse that. It wasn`t 19, 91 points. Now, that is more or less in
line with the African-American voting in 2008.

For the Obama campaign the issue is black loaders will be turnout. But,
among the white voters, Mitt Romney is leading the president 52 to 36
percent. That`s a 16 point spread. And bigger than the 12 points
advantage McCain had over Obama in 2008 on election day. Not necessarily
much bigger gap for President Obama, but off of the charts we compare to
the last time a relatively centrist Democratic president ran for election.

When Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole in 1996, he did so with a coalition of
racial minorities and helped him to overcome a deficit among white voters.
But Clinton only lost the white voters by three points. In the end of
race, Don Kinder and Alison Dale-Riddle positive theory that had it not
been for race, Obama`s 2008 margin of victory would have been a landslide.

Obama, they say, won in spike of race because even the race on the present
in his very body, the candidate Obama barely spoke of race. And in fact,
the biological pre presentation going back to the landmark 2004 convention
speech was truly all inclusive. Voters were free to project their vision
of the ideal candidate on to him.

And for white voters, some were liberals who saw senator Obama as the
chance to participate in a great moment of racial transcendence by casting
their ballot for a black man. Then, there were others who because of
personal politics or personal, simply never would have voted for candidate
Obama under any circumstances.

And then finally, there was a great vast middle of moderate Democrat and of
disaffected Republicans who w ere open the voting for a black candidate if
he was the right candidate. And senator Obama`s unique story allow then on
trade into the big tent.

But for those voters, President Obama`s 2012 is not the blank canvas than
he was in 2008. He now has a specific record of governing and a record
that I contend because of his race will be held to a much higher standard
than it would have been for white incumbent.

Those white voters who found what they were looking for in 2008 will not
necessarily be so enthusiastic in 2012. The election of 2008 may have made
history in the election of the first black president, but the much greater
challenge and I think that maybe the greater indication of social change
would be the re-election of the first black president in 2012.

At the table with me Alex Wagner, host of MSNBC`s "Now," Doug Thornell, a
Democratic strategist and former press secretary for the democratic
congressional campaign committee, the Triple CC, Robert Traynham, former
communications director for Rick Santorum and now a MSNBC contributor and
journalist Rebecca Traister of salon.com. She is also the author of "Big
Girls Don`t Cry." Hey, everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks for hanging out during my long scream of what I
think, is going on in 2012.

Alex, do I have this right in terms of the things that I have laid out? Is
this what it takes for the president to be elected, you know, the strength
of the other candidate and war and economy and in this case race?

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST, NOW: Sure. I mean, I think race absolutely has
to do with the conversation around re-election and I think your point about
the re-election of the first black president is almost more of a milestone
for American culture than the election. There are things to unpack within
each one of those.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure.

WAGNER: And I think that we can`t underestimate the complexity in terms of
the opponent. Mitt Romney is, in many ways, a cipher and you are seeing
team Obama sort of re-configure its strategy vis-a-vis team Romney. In the
primary, it was Mitt Romney is a flip-flopper. Mitt Romney no core. We
are now seeing a pivot. It`s been acknowledged in the pages of "The New
York Times" that the Obama team is really looking to paint Mitt Romney as a
crazy hard-core conservative.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right.

WAGNER: That is two-fold. One, it is to, you know, undermine I think that
a lot of the positions that he took when he was governor of Massachusetts
and a stark difference between the president and also to strike fear in the
hearts of liberals who I think in many ways are not paying attention to the
race or perhaps are not ginned up in terms of enthusiasm.

HARRIS-PERRY: The language of cipher is much nicer than the language of
etch-a-sketch which is a term we have heard.

But how, that are we to we understand sort of, now we got to paint Mitt
Romney as the extreme conservative?

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well here`s why. And Alex is
absolutely on point with what she said, because there are really two
pillars of the Democratic Party that President Obama won that he needs for
re-election.

Number one, college educated white women. And that is the reason why you
hear this historical GOP war on women, if you will. And secondly, it was
minorities. She mentioned a few moments ago, Melissa, 91 percent in young
people. If in fact, the president can hold on to the two strongholds he
will win re- election.

But here`s a problem, and hopefully we can talk about this. He has got a
major problem. He always, but his major problem with blue collar Reagan
Democrats and blue collar men out there particularly that are not educated
in terms of the four-year degree and that is the main reason why, Melissa,
you hear them talking about college education. He had talked about
community colleges, is because he is trying to bring up the numbers with
white working class men.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, white folks are kind of a tough voting bloc
because they - I mean, we always think of the Latinos or the African-
Americans as voting bloc, but in this case, right, as we start to turn to
pick apart what is the white electorate, right. We have young people who
went very strong for President Obama. We got the question of women,
working class, all of the intersections on this notion of whiteness.

DOUG THORNELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right. Well, I think that what is
happening is that voters are shopping around right now. And especially
with, you know, then blue collar working class whites who have always been
not necessarily a strength of the president`s. They are shopping around.

Now, for the president`s campaign, the good thing is that the candidate
that they are running against is probably not the best person to win those
votes. He has real problems disconnecting with the white working class
voters. But, there is also something else I don`t think we are not talking
about here.

This is been a strategy going back to 1968 by the Republican party to kind
of divide the electorate based on racial lines, and that really started
with the southern strategy. And it is - it`s not so much unique to
President Obama, the Democratic Party has had problems with the rural white
voters and with southern voters for years now, and he actually did better
than most, than every democratic candidate running for president.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right, running the first time.

THORNELL: That`s right. And he is still right around where he needs to be
to be re-elected.

REBECCA TRAISTER, AUTHOR, BIG GIRLS DON`T CRY: : And actually, one of the
things that we should mention is that with every election, the white vote
and whether you win it actually matters less and less. So that is a
crucial thing. I mean, the fact is, he did lose the white vote. He lost
both white men and white women and he still won in 2008 by a big margin.
In fact, I think, he was the first presidential candidate to lose white men
by double-digits and still win the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is right.

TRAISTER: So, and what you are looking at is an electorate that is
increasingly diverse - in 2008 I think it was 26 percent black and Latino
voters -- non-white voters and it was projected to be at 28 percent this
year, though voter suppression measures in lots of states around the
country could have a really practical impact on that, and this is something
I think we really need to keep in mind.

And also talk about the connection of the Republican strategy in states
around the country when you talk about the variety of voter suppression
measures and how it does real damage to those chances.

HARRIS-PERRY: And let me ask you a question, and so, you know, voters of
color may have the votes, but white folks have the money, right, just in
the most dramatic ways looking at the wealth gaps.

TRAYNHAM: Historically in h terms of giving, absolutely.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And so, just looking, you know, at the cover of "The
New York Times" today, big donations drop sharply for the president right,
it`s clearly at least some of it is about the assessment that maybe this is
a lock already. But, if he is having trouble with white folks, it could be
also a money problem, right?

THORNELL: Well, he is doing pretty well with raising money. I mean, I
don`t think it should be, you know, crying for the Obama`s campaign. I
mean, they are doing a pretty good job for raising their money. They have
always raise a lot of money from small dollar donors. You know, the Romney
campaign actually is depending upon this huge donations and his campaign is
really depending upon this outside groups to run, kind of a supportive
shadow campaign for him.

But the president, I think there is also an enthusiasm gap when it comes to
raising money between the two candidates. And so - but, I don`t - I think
as we get closer -

HARRIS-PERRY: Obviously, if a get one more of those text messages or
emails, I was leaning tonight and I`m kind a weird titles --

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: And you know. I was lecturing in class and the half of the
class you start hearing, and I said, what is that? Oh, it is the president
texting again.

TRAYNHAM: Melissa, breaking news, I thought it was coming from the Romney
campaign and it was them asking for money.

(LAUGHTER)

WAGNER: Well, they have spiced up the subject lines as well. I do think
in terms of the fund-raising thing, the biggest disparity is obviously the
super PACs, I mean, you know, the Obama super PAC is a basically a drop in
the bucket compared to crossroads GPS.

But, you know, the strategy of painting Romney as a crazy conservative, it
summing people by it, and even irregardless of that, there is going to be a
debate and I think the White House relish it and so do the Republicans in
some degree about the American social context. And we are going to see
that in the general election and I think will - I do think people will open
up their pocket books when they understand Social Security is on the line.

HARRIS-PERRY: And more about that as soon as we come back. In fact, we
will are going to look at how President Obama has put a silver spoon in the
mouth of Mitt Romney.

And also later in this hour, former senator Bob Graham is going to join us
and tell us why he is concerned about the state of oil drilling in America.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wasn`t born with a silver
spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn`t. But somebody gave us a chance. Just
like these folks up here are looking for a chance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: And with one silver-plated smack in the mouth, President
Obama throws down the gauntlet at Mitt Romney`s feet. It is a kind of
tough talk but I think many have hoped to hear from the president since the
beginning of the administration.

Is he ready to take the gloves off and go all Bill Clinton on opposition?

Still with is MSNBC host Alex Wagner, Democratic strategist Doug Thornell,
MSNBC contributor Robert Traynham and journalist and author, Rebecca
Traister.

We are going to start by showing this NBC News "Wall Street Journal" poll,
where we sort to see interesting break down between the president and his
likely opponent, Mitt Romney.

So, we got the poll showing that President Obama is coming out as, you
know, more likable, more likely to care about people like me, more
understanding of people like me and more caring of the people in the
middle-class. Romney is lower on those things.

But in the same poll, respondents were asked about who is better at
improving the economy and changing Washington? Now, neither one of them
even rise to 50 percent there which is interesting, but you do see Romney
with a little bit of the edge.

TRAYNHAM: Rich people have ran for president before and rich people have
been president before. George H.W. Bush, Franklin Roosevelt, John F.
Kennedy. People don`t care about - well, they do care to a certain degree,
but they are not going to grudge your wealth.

What they care about I think this whole speaks to it is, what have you done
for me lately and what programs specifically are you going to better my
opportunity to be just like you? And I think that is the main issue that
the Obama campaign is maybe really walking down where they don`t want to
walk down to. Don`t begrudge me, if I`m Mitt Romney, because I`m
successful.

That is the American dream and if anything, you should want everybody to be
like me, and so for -- it reminds me of 1988 when Ann Richardson stood up
in front of Democratic convention and said, quote, "poor George, he was
born with a silver foot in his mouth."

And I think most people would say, I want a silver foot in my mouth, too.
But the bottom line is what are you going to do for me, Mr. President, to
make sure that I can get that silver spoon for my kid?

HARRIS-PERRY: And is it begrudging or more of an attempt to empathy.
Well, I understand you. I have experienced what you experienced.

TRAISTER: And what side of the issues are you on? Yes. He has the
incumbent problem when it comes to this, which is if people are
dissatisfied with the economy, if people are dissatisfied with the way
things have done, they are looking for any alternative and that is where
Romney, the new agreed upon candidate Romney comes in. He is the other
person in the alternative. And we don`t know a lot about where he is going
to stand policy-wise, what he is proposing to do to change the way
Washington works, to change the way the economy works.

We don`t have that information yet, so a lot of the bump you are saying and
a lot of that -- those numbers are about, OK, well, maybe this other person
fill in the blank whoever it is going to be. And I think we are going to
see those attitudes shift and change. And what Obama is trying to get at
is not simple resentment of the wealthy. He talks about his own wealth
very often. He acknowledges his own wealth that he had as he came into the
presidency.

HARRIS-PERRY: And his own tax bracket. But he was not wealthy in the same
way. He just paid off the law student loans when --

TRAYNHAM: But the difference is that it appear appears to a certain degree
that he pushes people down that have money now. It seems like it --

(CROSSTALK)

TRAYNHAM: And if you take a look at my brother who is a prime example of
this, and he was born with no money whatsoever in our family, who now lives
on wall street, whose barely successful, no money in the family. But - he
is a democrat who he says that every time the president speaks to me, I
feel like he is talking down to me, because I been successful.

THORNELL: No, you know, I actually think what the president is talking
about is that we are in this together. This is about shared
responsibility. Mitt Romney has an economic plan which basically puts the
burden of reducing the deficit on middle-class families, seniors and low
income workers.

And so, what the president is talking about is, look, I don`t begrudge
success. I want everyone to be success. In fact, his ideas in policies
will make that happen much sooner than Mitt Romney`s.

But he is talking about a shared responsibility. We have gone through the
last eight or ten or 12 years where we had huge tax cuts for the rich. We
had unpaid for prescription drug plan. We had two wars drove up the
deficit, and now Republicans care about spending, and they are talking
about reducing the deficit by cutting a lot of the programs that the middle
class/poor people care about. And I think that is what he is getting at.
And I think by talking about this silver spoon piece, it is a way that kind
of show, look, he is not on your side. And I am.

WAGNER: Can I say two things? When I read --

HARRIS-PERRY: You can even say three.

(LAUGHTER)

WAGNER: Well, the first screen that you showed Mitt Romney doesn`t care
about -- and the empathy, compassion , you know, it`s unclear whether the
American electorate thinks he actually has a beating human heart in the
chest. I almost felt bad reading those and saying, wow, people do not like
that dude.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

WAGNER: But we are seeing a parsing of likability versus trustworthiness.
And the issue for President Obama and Steve Kornacki in salon has said this
I think it was a very fine but important point, he has to tie the
inequality and fair shot message to in economic message. People cannot
think of those two things as disparate. That has to be the economic
message, because right now I think they think of them then as singular
things. He has an economic plan and also want to wants to help the middle-
class.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And when Bill Clinton one realization. And it is
useful to go back to the last democrat who managed to do it, right. So,
when Bill Clinton won re-election, people did not find him that likable
action.

WAGNER: Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: What they find him was highly competent, right, so he
actually had sort the opposite problem of President Obama.

THORNELL: Well, it`s funny you mentioned that because `96, Bill Clinton
raised people`s taxes with people making over $250,000. But he never
begrudged those success. He was - he never begrudged him.

HARRIS-PERRY: What do you mean by begrudged?

(CROSSTALK)

THORNELL: Well, when did he ever criticize people who are successful?

TRAYNHAM: I mean, I can go over example after example, when you talk of
individual that are in corporate world, when you ask him about the
confidence level that they have in this president whether it`s --

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: Well, that is very different than begrudging them. I mean, there
is an effect that the Dodd/Frank stock, the regulatory infrastructure that
has been created as seen as begrudging wealthy people as their money, when
in reality that is trying to prevent financial stability.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, yes. And we are talking about a Ryan and Romney-
blessed budget that - I mean, what does it do? It actually cuts food
stamps for the poor - I mean, begrudging versus the real policy sort.

THORNELL: Yes. I think if you look at who is actually mounting a class
warfare fight, you can make an argument that it is the Republican, because
their policies -- and the thing about Mitt Romney is, you know, he is a
very - I think he is one of the most secretive candidates that we. And it
seems that the only way to get information about what he actually will cut
is if you go to the high dollar fund-raiser and it comes out there. But we
don`t know how he will pay for a $5 trillion tax cut. And part of it is,
now we are hearing is, cutting education to the point where the only reason
why you have a department of education is to go police teachers unions.

And so, it is kind of like you are hearing some of the things -- I also
would say that Mitt Romney has not done himself much favors with his own
kind of, well, it`s own the language and the way he talks about I mean,
this whole scene in Pennsylvania with the cookie. I mean. That was just
so awkward.

TRAISTER: I feel bad on the some level - you know, it`s hard on the
campaign trail and every word that comes out at your mouth and you don`t
want to talk about the small stuff, but you watch that scene and what you
think is, who behaves this way? Who sits down with supporters who have put
a plate of cookies in front of you and said that these cookies look kind of
bad?

(LAUGHTER)

WAGNER: Nobody ever says bad things about my fruit. It would be rude.

TRAYNHAM: You`re right. I would be the first to say that Mitt Romney
needs help in terms of trying -- just trying to be normal.

WAGNER: He is running for president for seven years.

TRAYNHAM: But at the end of the day I am not sure it matters, because when
you look at the NBC "Wall Street Journal" poll, people are saying, you know
what, he may be awkward, he may be stiff, he may not be like me, and I
don`t care. I want someone that can solve the problem.

THORNELL: But he is losing it in the end.

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: These lessons can be taught, forget cookie gate. Remember the
joke he made about the father closing down factories and that was a joke.
This is a man that fundamentally does not have the same wiring for empathy
in the human condition as other people. I don`t think that stuff that an
analyst or speechwriter or, you know, strategist can fix.

THORNELL: And, you know, we talk about previous presidents who have, you
know, who came from means. I mean, and George W. Bush, say what you want
about his policies, obviously, you didn`t like him that much.

But he was the guy that people like. And if you looked at the character -
if you looked at the character questions at the poll eight years ago when
he ran against John Kerry, he had a very similar standing as President
Obama. Everyone likes him. They want to come and sit there, have a beer
with him.

You know, there was some issues on the policy issues that they favored
Kerry, but don`t dismiss these character questions when it comes to, you
know, voting. People don`t necessarily always vote on policies. They also
vote on who they want to follow.

HARRIS-PERRY: And one thing we know for sure, you cannot have a beer with
Mitt Romney.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS-PERRY: So, everybody is staying right here, but up next, George
Zimmerman is currently sitting in a Florida jail. And until they can post
$150,000 bond. And we will bring you all of the latest on the Trayvon
Martin case right here after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Perhaps you know the details by now. Bond was set at
$150,000 yesterday for Trayvon Martin`s confessed killer George Zimmerman.
If and when the bond is actually posted, Zimmerman would have to wear an
electronic monitor and adhere to a 7:00 p.m. curfew, be in touch with
authorities every three days and not touch alcohol, drugs or heaven forbid
a firearm. It`s a reasonable decision.

The new judge in case, Kenneth Lester Jr., did not rule on whether
Zimmerman would be allowed the leave the state of Florida. OK, that is the
long and short of it. But here`s one thing that happened during the bond
hearing that caught my attention.

Let`s start back on April 11th, the morning before Zimmerman was arrested
and charged when Trayvon`s mother, Sybrina Fulton, told the associated
press, quote, "I would give him an opportunity to apologize."

When Fulton appeared on the "Today Show" the next morning alongside
Trayvon`s father and her attorney, Sybrina Fulton spoke about her son`s
killer again. This time not asking so much for an apology, as an
explanation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN`S MOTHER: I would ask him did he know that
was a minor, that that was a teenager, and that he did not have a weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So when Trayvon`s parents arrived at the Seminole
county courthouse yesterday for Zimmerman`s bond hearing, they already knew
that Zimmerman wanted to apologize and they made it clear they wanted no
part of it. They refused the offer to meet with him to tell them that he
is sorry, and so when Zimmerman took the stand at that hearing, he
surprised the prosecutor and almost everyone else in the room by first
addressing Trayvon`s parents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, DEFENDANT: I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of
your son. I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit
younger than I am, and I did not know if he was armed or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: OK. That was part apology, part direct answers to two
questions that Trayvon`s mother had asked on the "Today" show. Zimmerman
said he didn`t know how if Trayvon had a weapon and he didn`t know how old
Trayvon was. I can`t know what Zimmerman knew about Trayvon`s age. I do
know that Zimmerman was completely aware that these parents still mourning
their slain son bearing up emotionally to confront his confessed killer for
the first time did not want a public apology from the stand.

One of the attorneys for Trayvon`s family told the "Orlando Sentinel" that
the apology was quote "insulting," and I`m inclined to agree considering
that Zimmerman took 54 days, offered it on his own terms and did so when
his apology could benefit him front of the court and all of us watching
from home.

Coming up, why the president`s commission investigating the BP oil spill
were not pleased this week with the progress that Washington has made since
that disaster.

Former Senator Bob Graham, chairman of that commission, joins us after the
break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Two years after the massive oil spill that consumed the gulf
of Mexico, Congress has yet to enact a single bill to make drilling safer
and that what the commission formed by President Obama after the BP oil
spill to investigate the deep water horizon explosion set this week.

Eleven people on board the offshore oil rig were killed April 20th, 2010
and two days later, an oil slick began. And for 87 days, the oil spewed
from the well that lay 5,000 feet below the water surface off of the coast
of Louisiana.

And we all watched it live underwater camera, the worst oil spill in U.S.
history. The disaster would eventually released nearly 260 million gallons
of oil, a devastating blow to the gulf ecosystem. Just this past
Wednesday, BP who own the well, announced a multi-billion dollar settlement
bridge between the company and lawyers representing plaintiffs in the gulf
oil disaster.

Joining me from Miami is former senator Bob Graham, the co-chair of the
presidential commission that investigated the BP oil spill.

Back with me is MSNBC host Alex Wagner and also at the table is Doug
Inkley, senior biologist for the wildlife federation.

Thanks to everybody for being here.

Senator Graham, I actually want to start with you, because you said this
week that you were disappointed with congress` lack of action. Here we are
two years later and they haven`t taken any action to make drilling safer.
What could Congress do if Congress were so inclined to make drilling safer?

BOB GRAHAM (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, Melissa, there is a long list
of things that Congress could do. Many important reforms have taken place
at the department of interior. For instance, they have re-organized to
eliminate some of the politicalization, conflict of interest. They are
hiring more and more sophisticated engineers and scientists to oversee the
offshore oil industry. The industry, itself, has taken some important
steps in increasing the capability to respond to an accident. But Congress
is the only one that can make all of those changes permanent. So that the
next head of the industry or the next head of the department of interior
cannot do what has happened in the past, unfortunately, and that is strong
safety rules be repealed.

HARRIS-PERRY: And you know, Doug, I want to ask you in part about this,
because that point I think is really critically important, this idea that
immediately during a disaster, right, we all become experts on everything
happening right. We learn so much about underwater drilling. We learned
about sort of what was happening. So, you get the new regulations, but
then our attention wanes, right, as a public. So then, they can repeal
them and we don`t even really notice it until the next disaster.

What do we need to know, Doug, right now about how this drilling is
occurring or what we need to know as a public to keep people held
accountable?

DOUG INKLEY, SENIOR BIOLOGIST, NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION: Well, we need
to understand that what is happening right now despite the gulf oil drill,
they are drilling for more oil in gulf of Mexico and another areas off our
shores. Yet as Senator Graham has indicated no reform by Congress of the
oil and gas drilling regulations so that an accident like this cannot
happen again. And going down to the voluntary basis, if you will, which is
essentially what happened because it was inadequate, did not work. We -
now, what we need to do is make sure that the regulations are strengthened
and enforced.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Alex, is there any political will for this?

WAGNER: No. Let`s put it in context this is the two-year anniversary of
the deep water horizon sinking and of course the BP oil spill. And what
happened in the house this week? The House passed, for the forth - forth
time the keystone pipeline. There is now a very - a Republican talking
points that is tried it out every couple of weeks that President Obama is
not a fan of domestic oil production, that the permit processing for deep
water drilling is not fast enough, and you know, it was two years ago. I
was covering the White House. And that camera showing that gusher was a
source of site of national horror.

HARRIS-PERRY: Horror is such a right way to put like - you just felt it
every moment. I can`t believe it is still happening. I can`t believe it
still happening.

WAGNER: And for days and days and days and yet, nothing. Not only that, I
think we have taken steps backwards.

HARRIS-PERRY: So Senator, let me ask you --

GRAHAM: Melissa, if I could add, actually production in the United States
both onshore and offshore is as high as any time in recent American
history. So the idea that there has been some restraint beyond those
necessary restraints to try to make the drilling not only more in quantity,
but more in quality and safety is frankly ridiculous.

HARRIS-PERRY: Senator Graham, at the most basic level should we be
drilling for oil in the ocean? Is that what we ought to be doing? Is it
sufficiently safe?

GRAHAM: Yes. For instance, if we were as safe as the Norwegians and
today, there is a significant gap between the safety standards and the
safety results such as fatalities in the gulf of Mexico, and in the much
more difficult north sea in which the Norwegians operate, because they have
developed some effective standards, and industry heavily involved, they
have adequate enforcement of those standards and real sanctions if the
standards are violated. We can drill safely. It`s just the question on
whether we have the commitment to do so.

HARRIS-PERRY: Doug, are you on the same page with this one?

INKLEY: I am on the same page to some extent, and that is that in very
difficult conditions such as a mile down, it is proven that we don`t have
the technology to do it safely. In some of the shallow areas, we do. But
the fundamental problem is that we are addicted to oil, and we don`t have
to be. We don`t have to be drilling in difficult places, because we can
look to the alternative energy sources to supply much of the energy that we
need. I`m talking about wind power. I`m talking solar power.

There are all sorts of other technologies that we can develop that we know
how to do now, and in fact, there are developed now that we could
implement, but we are not doing that. We need to make a decision to get
off of this dirty oil, and get off of the dirty fuel and go to clean
energy. We need a clean energy future, and we can do that. We just have
to make the decision.

And yet, when President Obama has talked about energy alternatives, he has
often labeled as basically quixotic, literally like kind of going out to
windmills instead of after the notion of there`s kind of easily available
oil.

WAGNER: Well, yes. And I think there are a couple of things at play. One
is, you know, when you talk about the alternative energy, and in many cases
that energy needs some kind of government support for to carry it through
the sort of the development phase known as the valley of death.

Government involvement and government investment in green energy is a very
taboo subject following Solyndra. We know that the federal funds set aside
for investment in alternative energy development are not even being granted
out because they are such a concern around Solyndra especially in an
election year.

And the other fundamental thing is, you know, alternative energies take a
little bit more time and we have shown ourselves to be a very increasingly
impatient public. I think that there has to be a long-term scenario
sketched out that Americans really wrap their arms around in order to
embrace alternative fuels.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it takes a while.

Senator Graham, thank you for joining us.

Coming up, we will keep talking about BP oil. This time, we are going talk
a bit about shrimp without eyes and crabs without legs. And we will get
details from the owner of a major fish company in the gulf coast, and that
is up next.

Thanks again, Senator Graham.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: We are back on the second anniversary of the oil spill that
consumed the gulf of Mexico following the explosion of the deepwater
horizon rig. And as we mention, BP who owned the well announced this week
a $7.8 billion settlement with the plaintiffs who were affected by the oil
disaster. One of them is joining us from New Orleans.

Dean Blanchard, owner of the Dean Blanchard seafood. Still with us is also
MSNBC`s Alex Wagner and Doug Inkley of the national Wildlife Federation.

I want go to you first, Dean. Because, you know, of course, I too live on
the gulf coast. I live in New Orleans. And one of the things I hear from
the victims all the time is the sense that they are disbelief when they
talk about their own symptoms since the oil spill.

So talk to me about both, the economic impact of this spill had on you, as
well as the very personal impact that it had.

DEAN BLANCHARD, OWNER, DEAN BLANCHARD SEAFOOD: That we, we are pretty much
devastated, our coastline. It killed a lot of the fish. It killed a lot
of the shrimp. Our whole town. The only say we got missing in the town
we live in is the little tumbleweed rolling down the middle. We are down
to one gas station. We got three restaurants went out of business to
include gas stations. There is no more tourists and the only thing that we
have to do in grand isle is to lay on the beach and fish. The fish are
dead and the beach is full of oil.

HARRIS-PERRY: So Dean, you are talking about the fish being dead. Doug, I
want to look at your report from the national wildlife federation that is
about sort of about the health of the coastland and the health of the
wildlife and fish that are there. So, we were looking at bottle nosed
dolphins, 523 of whom have been stranded. More than 95 percent of them
dying, and what I remember from the report is that bottle-nosed dolphins
are an awfully good indication, because they are pretty far back in the
line of the kind of food chain, so it tells us a lot.

And then also sea turtles and brown pelicans both of which made me
extremely sad to read about in your report, because sea turtles are in a
potential of being extinct and brown pelicans are of course the image of
our state, and that, again, they have also been profoundly impacted by
this.

INKLEY: Well, I think it is important to remember that although the oil
itself has been stopped spilling, this oil spill is far, far from over. If
we look at other oil spills around the world including the Exxon Valdez
spill 23 years ago, we are seeing those impacts where some species have not
recovered.

I expect that the impacts of the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico will go on
for years if not decades. Dolphins, as you mentioned, is one of those.
This is an unprecedented amount of dolphins that are dying in the gulf of
Mexico and being stranded. That is in terms of the federal government and
not my words, unprecedented.

For 26 months consecutively, we have seen above average dolphin deaths and
I think that a large part of that is attributed to the oil spill. And the
dolphins that have been studied in the most heavily oil there is, they are
in poor health.

HARRIS-PERRY: And Dean, you have some visual aids with you, and is that
right? My understanding is that you live in grand isle and you brought
with you tar balls so that Doug was telling us that the oil spill is not
over in the sense of the effects are not just over, but you are actually
still seeing the tar balls, and -- oh, my God. Look at that.

BLANCHARD: We are seeing them on a daily basis, Melissa. I mean, you
could pick up thousands and thousands of these on the beach every day.

HARRIS-PERRY: That is stunning. So, you are finding that on the beach
near your home?

BLANCHARD: On the beach. On my property, on the back bay by my house, and
as far as the dolphins, all of the dolphins died in our area. And about
two months ago, they brought 20 dolphins with radios and numbers on them,
and they died within a week. Then they brought about a week ago they
brought 20 more, and they don`t look like they are doing too good right
now.

HARRIS-PERRY: And talk to me also about the shrimp. Obviously, shrimp is
your business, Dean. I eat gulf coast seafood three or four times a week
and my understanding is you also brought a photograph for us of shrimp that
have been - that have been blinded by the oil.

BLANCHARD: We are getting shrimp without eyes. We are getting shrimp with
no tails. We are shrimp tumors on the head. We seeing red snapper with
lesions and tumors and holes in them. We are seeing crabs that you can see
through and through them. We are seeing oysters with oil in it.

You know, it is far from over. The definition of insanity is when you do
the same thing and expect a different result and basically they did the
same thing in the gulf coast that they did in Alaska only on a way larger
scale.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Alex. Here is the political challenge from my
perspective as I look at this. So, when we live on the gulf coast, you are
a supporter of oil, and of oil and gas industries because they provide jobs
and opportunities. But if you live on the gulf coast, I mean, this is one
day of claims against BP for what happened after it is not providing jobs
and opportunities, but it is now spilling into the -- do you vote pro oil
or no oil?

WAGNER: Well, I mean, I think that is the problem, is that it becomes pro
oil or no oil, or at least sort of positioned. For the president, it does
not have a no oil approach.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

WAGNER: I mean, since his whole thing is, it has to be a balanced
portfolio. As far as the claims go, I mean, we are talking about the fish
and the wildlife. There is a great piece in "the nation" detailing some of
the respiratory problems that workers who worked in the cleanup phase and
bleeding from the eyes, problems with liver and kidneys functions. I mean,
these are serious health concerns. And there are a lot of folks that don`t
think that the claims -- the claims process is working out. We are
actually going to have Ken Feinberg on my show on Monday to talk about
that.

The `New York Times" had a great piece by writer, and that really mean the
case that there needs to be not only a criminal investigation is ongoing.
But someone needs to be charged here. The idea that this is the nation`s
worst ecological and environmental disaster and nobody has paid the price,
no heads have rolled, I think is an American travesty.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So despite the huge billion - multibillion dollar
settlement, BP also has record profits.

WAGNER: $26 billion last year.

HARRIS-PERRY: Both of those things happening last year.

Now, I give you the last word here, Doug. Obviously, as Alex, pointed out
as we heard from Dean, there are real human effects here, but remind us
again of the impact of the earth. This is after all sort of the earth week
here.

INKLEY: Well, the gulf oil spill - excuse me. The oil spill has been to
the gulf of Mexico as smoking is to human. To kills some of you, and for
those who it doesn`t kill, it will degrade your general overall health.

So, what we need to do is we need to do major gulf coast restoration to
recover the wetlands, so much of the oil spill damage you can`t directly
addressed. But what we can do is restore the gulf of Mexico through the
restore act which Congress is considering. But like Senator Graham said
earlier, they still haven`t done anything since the oil spill. That`s what
needs to be done. Restore the gulf of Mexico through the restore act.

HARRIS-PERRY: We lose a football field an hour of our coastal wetlands.

INKLEY: That`s right.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Doug Inkley and to Dean Blanchard. I
appreciate both of you being here.

And in just a few minutes, last week`s foot soldier Catherine Switzer, the
first woman who officially first ran the Boston marathon is going to join
me here.

But first, I`m breaking out my pompoms and resurrecting my inner
cheerleader. That is up, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Championship season is upon us. No, I know we are still in
the peak of the NBA season and baseball is just getting under way.

I`m talk about acrobatics and tumbling or acro for short. This week marks
the kick off the National Collegiate Acrobatic and Tumbling Association
national championships. This brand new competitive cheerleading is looking
to get NCAA recognition and coverage under Title IX by distancing itself
from its supportive roots on the sideline.

Acro, allows for displays of all of the athleticism of cheerleading without
any of the rah, rah rallying around the team. But if given a choice, I
would choose cheer over competition. What? You didn`t think that I`d say
that. OK. Ready. OK.

First of all, don`t let the pompoms and the ponytails fool you,
cheerleaders have always been athletes. Well, at least as long as
cheerleaders have been women that is. You see it was privileged educated
men who were the first cheerleaders, literally leading the crowd to cheer
in support of a college team.

Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and even George W. Bush were all
cheerleaders. But it was not until the 1920s that women first picked up
the pompoms, that they didn`t just begin to dominate, but also introduced
elite athleticism and competition into cheerleading.

Even before they were allowed to be athletes on the field, women were
proving the prowess on the sidelines and cheerleading requires the same
level of teamwork, physical and mental, endurance, conditioning and agility
and strength as any sport.

But sports are not just about head-to-head competition and physical contact
on the field of play. Sports are also about rallying a community together
around a team. Full disclosure, at one time in my life, I shook my pompoms
with the best of them and I loved every minute of it. In fact, if I
weren`t wearing these heels right now I would set out a Hurley.

I still got all the moves! But, what I love most with the way that my
fellow cheerleaders and I were symbols of the community in our uniforms.
We were ambassadors, not only of the team, but also for the collective
spirit of athletes supporting one another.

So I don`t want my cheerleading without the cheer. There no shame in
playing a supporting role. In fact, I`d argue that is just as valuable as
the sport, itself. It is why I am proudly and cheerfully coming to the d-
e-f-e-n-s-e of cheerleading!

Coming up, soccer balls and running shorts, how women athletes are fighting
for equality one step at a time. Legendary marathoner Catherine Switzer,
the first woman to run the Boston marathon joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: On Thursday, the White House announced
it will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation`s highest
civilian honor to a basketball coach. Not just any coach, Pat Summitt,
arguably the best head coach in college basketball history. She led the
University of Tennessee women basketball team to nearly 1,108 NCAA --
excuse me, 1,100 wins and eight NCAA titles.

Last summer, Summitt revealed that she had been diagnosed with early
onset dementia, a precursor to Alzheimer`s disease. And after 38 seasons,
she stepped down Wednesday and accepted an advisory role for the team.
Now, Pat Summitt is an incredible role model for any woman, or man,
regardless of whether or not you are a sports fan.

Interestingly enough, Title IX, the landmark 1972 legislation that is
so well known for making careers like hers even possible, if you read it,
it doesn`t mention sports at all. Its first section reads, quote, "No
person in the United States shall on the basis of sex, be excluded in
participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to
discrimination under any education program or activity, receiving federal
financial assistance.

In the 40 years since President Nixon signed those words into law,
women collegiate sports have flourished, but women athletes have only just
begun.

Let me welcome, ESPN columnist Jemele Hill; Ashley Hicks, the
cofounder of Black Girls Run, a fitness advocacy initiative targeting
obesity in African-American communities. And last but certainly not least,
my foot soldier from last week, Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to
officially run in the Boston marathon. She`s also author of "Marathon
Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women`s Sports."

Thank you so much to all of you for being here.

Kathrine, I think I`m actually going to start with you, since --

KATHRINE SWITZER, AUTHOR, "MARATHON WOMAN": I`m the oldest.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, you are. You are the pre-Title IX person
sitting at this table, right?

SWITZER: Absolutely.

HARRIS-PERRY: All of us benefited from the work that you did so that
sports were available to us. So, talk to me a little bit about both your
Boston marathon experience, but much more importantly, the broad social
movement around women and sports.

SWITZER: And, you know, Melissa, it has become a social revolution.
It is absolutely astonishing. But, really, briefly, in 1967, I was the
first woman to pin on numbers and run the Boston marathon. My coach didn`t
believe a woman could do the distance. And in practice, at Syracuse
University, where I was a student, I proved to him in practice that I could
cover 26 miles, 385 yards. In fact, we ran 31 miles and he passed out at
the end of the workout, and he said that women didn`t have any potential or
endurance or stamina.

We really had discovered something. I felt like Magellan everyday,
discovering how far the body would go. I was so excited about that first
Boston marathon and who would have imagined that in the race, at two miles,
the race director jumped off of the press truck, attacked me and grabbed me
and said, "Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers," and try
to throw me out of the race.

My boyfriend, of course, this funny start of the story, in the
retelling (ph), it wasn`t funny at the time, punched the official, and
official went out of the race instead and I went on to finish, but there
was that moment of being an innocent girl who`s running his first marathon
as a reward from her coach. You know, I had proved to him I could do it,
and he helped me to sign up for the race, he said this is a serious race,
you have to sign up, and then as soon as I was a attacked I realized, hey,
I`ve got to finish this race no matter what.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. This is -- I`m not just racing for me now, I`m
racing for the whole right to run in this.

SWITZER: Yes. Well, nobody believed that women could do something
that arduous and if they did, they would turn into a man or something bad
would happen. You know, you have big legs, you know, your uterus is going
to fall out. I mean, these are myths -- and that`s also the myths are what
keep women from being un-empowered. I finish the race, I would have
finished it on my hands and my knees, and I had a life plan after that,
which was to create opportunities for women in sports, to become a better
athlete.

I really campaigned very hard. I did become a better athlete. I won
the New York City marathon eventually. But more importantly, helped lead
the drive to get the women`s marathon into the Olympic Games. And that
happened in 1984, but five years after my run in Boston, we campaigned to
the official in the Boston marathon and this is the 40th anniversary of
women being allowed to run the Boston marathon.

HARRIS-PERRY: And the marathon is Monday, is that right?

SWITZER: No, it was last Monday.

HARRIS-PERRY: It was last Monday. That`s right. The marathon was
just last Monday.

SWITZER: Lots of celebrations. And, of course, it didn`t make Title
IX happened in June. This was April and June, when President Nixon signed
Title IX into law, but it sure helped, because if a woman could run 26
miles, she can do anything.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, although one might have thought that we could
anything even before that. But obviously, your work at ESPN, you have seen
so much of the lifeblood of what this is coming to fruition. I mean, the
very fact of you as a sports voice I think is indicative of where we are
now.

JEMELE HILL, ESPN.COM COLUMNIST: Yes, a lot of the pioneers who have
preceded me, and Christine Brennan and Lesley Visser -- all those women,
the battles that they fought, those are things that I don`t even have to
deal with now. It`s not strange now for male athletes to see women in the
locker room, to have women covering them on a routine basis, because --
Lisa Olsen (ph), because they put with so much being banned from locker
rooms, barred from particular sporting events.

And that`s why even now when you look at, say, Augusta National and
the Masters, and them not allowing female members, some of our strongest
voices were female sports writers. And so, it`s important just how my
profession is flourishing and how Title IX has impacted me and allowed me
to do something I love, which is sports and, of course, journalism.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, I`m listening to Kathrine talk about the effort of
just being able to run, and then the notion that you already stand on the
shoulders of a group of women`s sports reporters who came before you, and
then your organization, Ashley, Black Girls Run, the idea that we are still
-- so I know that my daughter had been involved with Girls on the Run,
which is kind of a national organization to get girls running.

And I know that Black Girls Run is about saying that even as we have
opened doors there are communities of people with fewer opportunities and
particularly of girls with fewer opportunities.

ASHLEY HICKS, BLACKGIRLSRUN.COM: Right. When my partner Tony and I
started Black Girls Run, this is three years ago, we realized that, you
know, there are very few African-American women who are running and we
thought initially this is a great way to kind of bring that community
together and then we realized a couple of years later that we would inspire
thousands of women to actually start running.

So that`s kind of been the best part of really encouraging them,
because we in the African community, it`s like we haven`t had the exposure
to distance running and even the education to know how to get started
running, what do I need to wear and what is this about, because we don`t
have a mom, you know, a mom or a grandmother who ran.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, this is -- one of my favorite parts of your
story, Kathrine, is just the visuals of you in the sweats. And I`m
thinking, I could not run 26 miles in, like, it was before wicking fabric
and, you know, all of the extra kinds of things.

I want to talk a little bit about, though, why girls participation in
sports matters, right? I mean, this isn`t just sort of a general fairness
question, although that`s certainly part of it, but what are some of the
reasons that it matters to actually have girls and women participating as
equals in sports.

SWITZER: Four reasons. And this is one reason why Michelle Obama`s
effort to get kids moving is so critically important. It`s in a way, it`s
beyond obesity, and it`s beyond preventing disease.

And first of all, cardiovascular disease is actually the number one
killer of women. It kills 45 percent. It leaves cancer -- forget it. All
the cancers --

HARRIS-PERRY: All right. We think about breast cancer. But --

SWITZER: Yes, all of the cancers combined can`t match what
cardiovascular disease will do to kill women.

And actually, all you need to do is a 30-minute a walk a day to help
prevent almost all cases of the cardiovascular diseases. It`s phenomenal.

OK. So, help. And the other thing is the empowerment issue. The
thing we talked about so much. We are changing women`s lives profoundly.

And in the black movement in particular, the African women who are
coming over and winning our marathons, the Ethiopians and the Kenyans, I
mean, it`s profound when you see what their prize money is doing to their
villages. They are changing the social fabric. They`re inoculating kids.
They are building wells. They are building schools. They are changing the
social status.

HARRIS-PERRY: Fascinating.

SWITZER: It`s fascinating.

HARRIS-PERRY: Because the Kenyan men have long been at the front of
the prize winning races. But you tell me that when women win, the impact
into the communities is greater.

SWITZER: So, let`s look at that as a very dramatic example. But
yet, in every community in this country, in the United States, women are
running in their millions, and they`re changing their own sense of self-
esteem and their empowerment. There are more women runners now, by the
way, in the United States than men, which is, it`s 53 percent, which is a
social change.

The other thing is we are preventing aging. You know, there is all
kinds of evidence that cardio --

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRUY: I`m thinking I`m going to up the mileage this week,
like I do the best I can to get it in. But seriously, I won`t age?

SWITZER: Yes. Well, we have proved that cardiovascular disease not
only shortens and makes the aging process, you know, longer -- I mean, you
last longer. And that you show aging less and actually there`s really
recent evidence that it prevents Alzheimer`s and dementia. So, that`s
really, really profound. So, those four great reasons are really -- plus,
it`s fun.

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: I think psychologically, too, the impact that it has on women
is profound. The women who participate in sports have higher self-esteem.
Girls at the high school level who participate in sports are more likely to
graduate. And I look at --

HARRIS-PERRY: Less likely to get pregnant as teen.

HILL: Less likely to get pregnant. So, it has a profound
psychological effect, and it makes us feel good about who we are --
developing that confidence. Sports gave me so much confidence and it`s a
bigger reason why I feel I have been able to succeed in this job is because
I got the confidence from playing sports, that competiveness that I think
that there used to be sort of perceptions that women could be as
competitive.

No, that is not the case, and it gives you kind of that inner spark.

HARRIS-PERRY: And, in fact, I want to talk more about that inner
spark, more about community based organization that are doing the work of
providing these opportunities for all kids.

So, stay right there. We`re going to continue to the conversation
when we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: It has been 40 years since the signing of the landmark
Title IX legislation, the law that put women`s collegiate sports on the
equal playing field with men`s. And here to explore the intersection
between politics, fitness, women and girls and sports are: ESPN columnist
Jemele Hill, Black Girls Run co-founder Ashley Hicks, author ands
pioneering marathoner Kathrine Switzer, and "Salon`s" senior writer Rebecca
Traister.

So, let me just start with First Lady Obama, Kathrine, who you
brought up a few moments ago, and her effort to really try get young people
in general moving, but also as a woman, and as a woman of color, sort of
providing an example.

And so, we saw a recent episode of NBC`s "The Biggest Loser" and
there she was kind of, you know, gamely in there, working it out, you know,
bringing attention -- I love -- I mean, look at those. She does boy push-
ups, right.

All of this really sort of providing an opportunity for us to talk
about women`s participation at this national level, but there are
undoubtedly people watching MHP right now who don`t lace up shoes, who
don`t care much about sports.

Why should we care about participation and participation of everybody
and particularly of girls?

REBECCA TRAISTER, AUTHOR, "BIG GIRLS DON`T CRY": I think that one of
the things that`s great about "Let`s Move" is that as far as a program
goes, it`s all about increasing possibility for more people, right? When
it is criticized and you hear it being criticized as the nanny state and
finger-wagging.

The great thing about "Let`s Move," it`s not about bad body image and
it`s not about taking away anybody`s food. It`s about increasing
education, increasing nutritional options and that`s why that`s good is
because it is part of the many factors that begin to put people on an equal
playing field to begin with.

And fitness, having healthy bodies, having healthy minds, having
attitudes and good food to fuel your mind, that is a good starting place
for anywhere else you want to go in the world. And I think bringing that
message is not about deprivation, it`s not about -- it`s not about
monitoring. It`s about increasing possibility, and I think that`s one of
the things that we should aspire to in all realms and fitness is a great
start.

HARRIS-PERRY: And that increasing possibility is actually political,
right? It`s not just about individual choices. I know that Black Girls
Run and other organizations have talked about, you know, it`s tough to go
for that 30-minute walk if you don`t have decent sidewalks, if you don`t
have safe communities, if you don`t have opportunities for girls to play
pick-up basketball, too.

HICKS: Right. And one of the good things about Black Girls Run is
feel like we are being kind of new fitness role models for young black
women, and for just people in general to see that this is really about
creating a lifestyle and a lifestyle that is of moderation. It`s not
trying to fit into some ideal image, but it`s really just living the best
quality of life. And that`s really what we are trying to preach to people.

HILL: And to have a woman of color and First Lady Obama being the
one spearheading this is really important because statistically, right now,
you have 50 percent of black women are either obese or overweight. And by
2020, they expect that number to be 70 percent and that`s 50 percent right
now compared to 33 percent among white men.

So, for women of color to see, you know, working out is cool, it`s
fun, it keeps you healthy, I think that`s just a critical message.

SWITZER: And another thing I think in terms of the children, is that
creating that program that Michelle Obama is creating is allowing them to
play and giving them a goal and giving them a focus. And if you can create
a basis of fitness at an early age in life, it sticks with you your whole
life. It`s so important. It`s inclusionary.

You know, we beat up on the fast food industry, how about let`s just
get the kids moving?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: And also, your notion of inclusionary is interesting.
Part of what I love about your book, Rebecca, around women running in the
2008 election is that there was Sarah Palin who for whatever ways we may
disagree with her, understands herself as what she would call herself a
Title IX feminist, right?

TRAISTER: And there`s a whole generation of female politicians who
grew up with Title IX. And let`s talk about the psychological differences
that being involved in fitness and athletic competition makes. When I
hear, by the way, of Black Girls Run, I write about politics all the time,
I think black girls run for office, too, right?

(CROSSTALK)

TRAISTER: And actually, this is -- that`s not accidental. The
language of competition, of ambition, of feeling comfortable going out on a
playing field is we -- use that language with regard to the political
competition all of the time. And with men, quarterbacks, presidents, all
of the same thing, right?

HARRY-PERRY: There is a reason we called a race.

TRAISTER: Exactly. Exactly. And so -- but think about the fact
that up until Title IX, we had women who were not encouraged to behave that
way on playgrounds, let alone on soccer fields, let alone in a marathon,
let alone in a presidential or even any kind of other political race.

So I think the connection -- and Sarah Palin did us all a great favor
in making it shark and clear.

HARRIS-PERRY: She was absolutely explicit, right? Sarah Plain was
like I -- you cannot beat me because I am tough and I am tough. And here
are the ways which I`m tough. I run these races. I played on this
basketball team, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah Barracuda was her nickname.

TRAISTER: Yes, and you could see it. You could see the psychology
develop as a basketball player and her approach to politics.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she also played sports, too.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.

HICKS: As someone who played sports my entire life, I really
attribute that to building leadership skills, as being the team captain and
saying, you know what, hey, let`s rally all the girls and this is the plan
of action for when we get on the field. And so, it`s important that easily
translates into politics and into business. And I feel like I use those
skills on a daily basis.

HARRIS-PERRY: I want to complicate it, because we are having like a
festival of joy and happiness about playing sports. But the other side of
it is that there can be -- you know, just as sports should be encouraging
us to just think about what our bodies do and not what they look like, the
fact is that women athletes, particularly when we do cover them in the
news, we do keep talking about what they look like. So, I remember the
amazing photo of the soccer champion --

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Brandi Chastain, and there she is ripping off the
shirt, and she has an incredible muscular body. But then we start talking
about, oh, should a woman take her shirt off, and this somehow becomes a
sexualized moment.

And we know that yes, there`s all this confidence. Yes, there`s all
this leadership ability. But there`s also rampant eating disorders.
There`s also - you know, I talked about cheerleading earlier.

Also in gymnastics. NBC has got the Olympics coming up. We watch
the gymnasts. The gymnasts are expected to have very narrow, very small.

So, how do we give the good without passing on all of the bad?

HILL: Well, I don`t know if it is possible unfortunately. I would
say not just female athletes -- athletes in general are very sexualized
these days. Look at the David Beckham commercial. So, it`s not just
happening for female athletes.

But I think the important thing is that we are so used to and
accustomed to having the female athletes be role models, to be superstars
that at least it does normalize the sports for a larger majority of girls
and women who are watching. I mean, we`re going to always have, you know,
coverage issues. But I do think that the gains that have been made just
far outweigh the negatives.

Look at ESPN, for example, we carried the entire NCAA women`s
tournament. We`ve got a huge initiative this year with Title IX and
celebrating that anniversary. We`ve got ESPNW which we kicked off. Those
are the things that were not happening.

HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, be honest. The NFL draft is going to be
happening across the street at Radio Music City Hall. It is basically an
event. And we just had the WNBA draft, and it was like a private party.

HILL: On the campus, right. Compared to the men, obviously, there`s
an entire -- there`s a coverage differential.

But let`s not forget where men`s sports started. The NBA used to be
on tape delay, OK. There have been plenty of leagues that have fallen.
The first Super Bowl, the ticket was $13.

So, we can`t --we don`t always have to put women`s athletics in the
box of comparing them to men. We have to realize where they have gained in
the last 40 years and it`s significant progress.

HARRIS-PERRY: And where they`re going.

HILL: And where they are going. I don`t know if it will equal out,
but it`s definitely trending upward.

SWITZER: Yes, it will equal out. OK. Here`s the old lady talking,
OK?

Now, we have a very short history, but we`ve got a very long future.
We`re only beginning to understand what women`s capability is all about.
We know that men have speed, power and strength, but we`re just exploring
women`s superior capacity in stamina, endurance, flexibility and balance.
Sport may be completely different in 50 years from everything we know. It
maybe, you know, it`s already -- we`ve reached in track and field and
athletics, for instance, in the Olympic Games parity.

But imagine sports we can`t think of right now. Women are winning
out 100-mile six-day races, three-day events, things like that. It`s quite
stunning. And I think that I`d like to throw out to the young people, that
you guys plan it. You know.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No pressure.

SWITZER: Who has ever imagine black girls run 10 years ago.

HICKS: Right.

SWITZER: It`s fantastic. We thought about it, we were trying to get
more black women out running.

But to imagine what using our best abilities -- it doesn`t mean women
are better than men or men are better than women. It means that we are
different.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s kind of exciting that we both have young
daughters and yours are littler than mine. But --

TRAISTER: And she`s not even walking, really.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right. But soon she will be running.

So, I thank you, too, Rebecca Traister, Jemele Hill, Ashley Hicks and
Kathrine Switzer.

And I might -- don`t be mad at the name of the next book is "Black
Girls Run."

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Just so you know.

Up next, how a piece of cake got me seriously riled up this week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: This week, the nerd land crew debated for hours
whether or not to show this next piece of video. We never came to a
consensus.

Now, the video we are about to play may disturb some of you, but I
decided to show it, because it is the most effective way to have an
important conversation, a teachable moment, if you will.

The video comes from this week`s 75th anniversary of the Swedish Arts
Federation at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. On display is one of
the many cakes artists were invited to make for the event.

And this is from Afro-Swedish performance artist, Makode Linde.
Makode himself is there in the cake. He is in black face, as the head of a
caricature of an African woman`s body.

And this is where it is hard to watch. Makode invited guests at the
museum to slide into the woman`s body as represented in cake form and to
allow her innards to spill on to their plates. And, as they cut, Makode
screams in apparent agony and the screams are met with smiles and laughs,
photos and more people taking pieces of the cake woman.

Now, their representational violence, utter indifference and stunning
lack of empathy for the suffering cake became critical parts of the
performance. The artist says his intent is to highlight and to oppose the
practice of female genital mutilation.

Art at its best provokes both feeling and thought. And controversial
art is a valuable tool in a democracy. And Makode`s motive was not to
create racial indifference but to highlight its existence.

Still, I haven`t been able to shake the sadness and the anger that I
have felt seen since seeing this video. Provocative art must be
accountable to the violence it can do to the viewers. Now, I`ll never
forget attending without sanctuary exhibit. It`s a visual I`m not going to
share with you here. But without sanctuary displayed images of lynching
victims, images of charred and broken hanging bodies that were turned into
postcards and mailed around our country. It`s grotesque, historical art.

But everyone in the exhibit was silent as we passed through and
literally rendered mute by the horror we were seeing. The boisterous
Swedish cake performance felt more like the carnival displays of African
women`s bodies throughout Europe and America that were popular in the 19th
and 20th century. The glee and spectacle recalled the laughing crowds at
minstrel shows who applauded as gators consumed black babies or the gawking
wonder of the Englishmen who came to see the so-called hot and taut Venus
naked in her cage at the Piccadilly.

Yes, the cake is art, but understanding it as art does not remove our
rights as observers and consumers to mark the human violation that the art
encompasses. It does not take away our right to react with disgust and
agony.

Up next, why the most important election coming up is one that you
have not heard of at all. And that`s right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama doesn`t matter. No, that`s not what I
am saying. That`s the message that some of his fellow Democrats are
putting out there as they are running for their own political lives, in
their own re-election campaigns this election season.

On Thursday, Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana facing his own
re-election bid had this to say on my colleague Andrea Mitchell`s show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Is the president at the top of the
ticket a drag for your race, because he`s not popular in Montana?

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: Andrea, it`s six of one and half a
dozen of the other. I think there`s going to be more people vote in this
election than in 2010, and mainly because the president is on the ticket.
The president isn`t particularly doing well in a state like Montana. But
this isn`t about the presidential race. This is about a U.S. Senate race
from Montana.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: And West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said
he had reservations about voting for either Mitt Romney or President Obama.

So, here`s the thing, being below the ballot of the presidential
ticket may seem like a drag or a lift for some candidates. But, remember,
for voters, the down ballot races are often much more important than the
race for the White House.

Here with me to discuss all politics being local are: MSNBC host Alex
Wagner, MSNBC contributor Robert Traynham, Nathan Gonzales, editor of the
"Rothenberg Political Report", and former DCCC press secretary, Doug
Thornell.

So, the notion that all politics are local, that the real nitty-
gritty of our lives happens down on the ground somewhere, with city
councils and school boards. But one step up from that, Congress, the
Senate, the gubernatorial elections, that`s where the real action is.

So, where is the action going in on 2012 other than obviously at the
White House?

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, it depends on the
states. I mean, if we take a look at Utah, or Massachusetts. Well, pretty
vanilla.

But, you know, in some of these voter initiatives, in Ohio and some -
- Virginia, and other states, that really matters. When it comes the gay
marriage, that really matters. When it comes to propositions in
California, that really matters.

So, again, it depends on the state.

I think both of those senators said something that was very
interesting. You know what? If I`m Jon tester in Montana, I`m running in
2012, I`m scared. I`m very, very scared.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure.

TRAYNHAM: It`s because that is a Republican state. However, if I`m
an entrenched Republican that`s running for re-election perhaps, maybe it`s
Dick Lugar in Indian, I`m not sure Barack Obama really matters at the top
of the ticket.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, although Orrin Hatch is apparently facing a GOP
convention, that`s issue right now in Utah. So, even the entrenched -- I
mean, Orrin Hatch has been there for 38 years.

TRAYNHAM: Right. I`m saying if you`re assuming that you`re running
in the general with Barack Obama at the top.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

DOUG THORNELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think most incumbents should
-- they should be worried just in general. This is a bad, bad environment
for any incumbent. The approval rating for Congress is basically in the
toilet.

HARRIS-PERRY: Everybody hates Congress.

THORNELL: And it`s not getting much better. But I think that the
interesting thing about the Senate and Nathan knows this like the back of
his hand, is that a number of the top Senate races are in states where the
presidential race is really not going to be that important. There`s not
going to be a ton of advertising. There`s not going to be coordinated
campaigns. You are talking about Montana, you are talking about a
Massachusetts -- these are places where, you know, it`s the basically going
to be the Senate race or these congressional races on their own.

So, that`s going to be something to I think pay attention to.

HARRIS: So, there may be just as much lift from the bottom, right?
So if this is a safe blue or safe red state, right? And so, you`re not
getting a lot of spending from the presidential candidates, and what you
are saying is that the statewide Senate races can provide the opportunities
for people to remember, there`s an election showing up.

NATHAN GONZALES, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: Right. I think that
for the case of Jon Tester, it`s about -- and for others that are running
in these places where people are in split ticket voters, presidential
voters then crossover and vote for a different party, it`s about how the
election is framed. Jon Tester wants to have a very personal election, and
that he is more Montana. He was tweeting about the sack lunch he had in
his tractor when he was out on the farm.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. He said he wants to make the U.S. Congress a
little bit more Montana, right?

GONZALES: Right. So, it`s about how the election is framed.

And the same goes for Massachusetts. Senator Scott Brown, he`s going
to need potentially a half a million voters that voted for Obama at the top
of the ticket to turn around and vote for him if he wants to win re-
election. He is airing television and radio ads about the Red Sox that
have nothing to do with the politics. So, that`s going to decide --

HARRIS-PERRY: I want to pause on Massachusetts for a second, because
I do think that that`s one of these non-presidential races that nonetheless
people are paying a lot of attention to. And you`re right, he`s running
the Boston Red Sox as his commercial. I think we`ve got that sound, don`t
we?

OK. Let`s take a quick listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Hello. This is Scott Brown.
Well, it`s spring training again and while it`s fun to look forward to a
new season of Red Sox baseball, I want to take you back for just a moment.
Two of my favorite players are retiring, people who meant a lot to us over
the years.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TRAYNHAM: That is all politics. I don`t care what anybody says.

HARRIS-PERRY: Hello.

TRAYNHAM: That is all politics. It`s very, very smart. And here`s
why -- because it`s speaking to what? The white, average, middle class or
lower middle class individual out there that`s probably saying, you know
what, throw the bums out in Washington, D.C., I don`t want to hear about
politics, but talk to me about the Red Sox.

And so, understanding that, it is called micro-targeting and Scott
Brown is speaking to that voter out there who has politics on the back of
their minds, sports on the front of the mind, and he is trying to conflate
the two.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: But Scott Brown is doing something
interesting that you don`t see in American politics all that often these
days, which is touting his record as a moderate, and someone who got things
done in Washington, which is -- the race is really interesting, because
we`ve talked a lot about the Republican caucus being really fractured and
sort of shifting sands in terms of right, the magnets moving right.

Here in Massachusetts, you have Elizabeth Warren, who is a strong
liberal candidate and Scott Brown who, of course, is a Republican, but is
very moderate. And it would be really interesting to see how the Democrats
react to that.

HARRIS-PERRY: To this local way of doing politics without talking
about politics.

TRAYNHAM: This is the guy who drove in a pickup truck. You know --
remember, he won election -- it was a special election, but he won in
Massachusetts because he knows the state.

THORNELL: And the thing about Scott Brown is I think, you know, he
ran as a Tea Party candidate when he won that special election. He had a
lot of support from the Tea Party, from conservatives, and he`s now walking
away from the support.

HARRIS-PERRY: And touting the moderate.

THORNELL: And, you know, I mean, I don`t know what it is about flip-
flopping in the state of Massachusetts, but it seems to be running rampant
in that with politicians there. But the fact is --

HARRIS-PERRY: He got his talking point in there. He did it. Give
it to him.

(LAUGHTER)

THORNELL: And my point is, look, he is doing what he has to do to
get re-elected. I think he`s going to have a tough time in a state where,
you know, as Nathan points out, the president is going to run up a huge
number there.

And Elizabeth Warren, say what you want about her, I like her and I
think she`s been -- she has proven to be a really good candidate so far,
raising a ton of money. She`s catching -- she is catching up to him.

And I think that`s a race that Democrats can pick up.

WAGNER: The other thing when you talk about the dynamics of local
versus national is what`s happening in the state legislatures across the
country. And there`s a big article today in "The Times" discussing how the
GOP understands that the bills are being passed on everything from
evolution to contraception to immigration, to the local level, are really
complicating things for the party, which is the very --

TRAYNHAM: At the national level.

WAGNER: At the national.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.

THORNELL: In the House, you have over 60 House Republicans who
represent districts that Barack Obama won in 2008. So, in 2010, it was a
terrible environment for Republicans, but now it`s shifting --

HARRIS-PERRY: For Dems.

THORNELL: For Dems -- right. It`s becoming a bit more neutral now.
And so, how do they juggle, you know, representing the districts where the
president is not an evil person, and with, you know, keeping that
conservative support that put them in there.

PERRY: We`re going to come right back. I want to talk to Nathan
about all of these other races. And I want to talk about the one thing
that all members of Congress are doing all of the time, and that will be
right when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Here is something we know from political science
research, congressmen are single-minded seekers of reelection and that`s
it. Whatever they are doing, whatever policies they are passing, whatever
positions they are taking in the world, what congresspersons are doing is
seeking re-election. And in every single two-year election cycle, the
entire U.S. House of Representatives is up for re-election. That means
they are running all of the time. They must be tired.

Still at the table are: MSNBC host Alex Wagner, MSNBC contributor
Robert Traynham, Nathan Gonzales of the "Rothenberg Political Report," and
Democratic strategist Doug Thornell.

Nathan, talk to me what other races -- I know we`ve been all watching
Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, what are the races are the key races that
if I`m at home and I live wherever I live, why should I be worried races in
these other places? What matters?

GONZALES: Even though the presidential race gets most of the
attention, like you said, 435 seats are up in Congress. But really, when
you boil it down, even though we hear about this anti-incumbent narrative,
there are only 78 races that are truly competitive that have a chance of
flipping from one party to another. That`s actually a fairly large amount
compared to the middle of the decade.

HARRIS-PERRY: When it would be closer to 40.

GONZALES: Right. Ands Democrats, they need a net gain of 25 seats.
And they`re going to have to win a handful in some key states -- Illinois,
California and Florida.

And I think on election night, if you`re -- you know, the
presidential race is over, you want to look at what the House and how
Democrats are doing in those key three states, because that will I think
show us who is going to be in control, and what kind of Congress we`re
going to have for the next president, whether it`s President Obama or a
President Romney.

HARRIS-PERRY: And this structural, right? Part of the reason that
Democrats are facing particular challenges in these House races, is because
we had a 2010 census, right? And after that census, we also had a big
election that led a lot of Republicans into the state legislatures. They
started redrawing congressional districts in ways -- all parties do it,
both parties do it, right -- that benefit Republicans. And so, you
actually have some Democrats who are both incumbents running against one
another, right, in order -- because there is fewer Democratic seats in some
of these places.

GONZALES: Right. I mean, what Republicans, they won 63 seats in
2010, and what they did through redistricting is strengthen a lot of those
seats and make them more difficult for Democrats to take over the majority
of this cycle. But it`s true, some of these incumbents are drawn together.

Next week in Pennsylvania with Mark Kritz and Jason Altmire in
western PA. It`s a big incumbent versus incumbent battle. Well, and what
is unique, it is not a strongly Democratic seat. Whoever wins there is
still vulnerable to the Republican challenge.

And it`s just -- redistricting is one of the most chaotic and
complicated processes that we have in this country. But it`s so important
that I think most people don`t realize how it can dramatically affect the
election even before the election comes.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me also ask this. So, if in fact we have a
presidential election that is looking at safe red and safe blue states and
so, not -- you know, if the Republicans and the Democrats are not sending
in their ground game into these states, because these are safe states, how
does that impact the down card?

THORNELL: Well, I think one of the things that happens with House
races is that, you know, early on, these candidates really have to define -
- getting back to Tester point -- really have to define themselves
independent of everything else going on.

And I think Democrats when they were really good and successful in
`06 and `08, they were able to recruit the candidates in the southern
districts and more rural districts where they were able to define
themselves as, you know, people of part of that district -- as part of that
community. And they were also able to build, to put together a very, very
aggressive voter contact program that started early.

And that`s something that I know my friends at the DCCC are starting
to get going right now. And you have to do it, because in some of the
districts, you don`t have the DNC, you won`t have the RNC, you won`t have
OFA there. So you literally have to do it on your own. You have to build
these campaign out of scratch.

And that`s why the RNCC, the DCCC, the national committees, to some
degree, the early part are very important.

HARRIS-PERRY: But this is -- I mean, wasn`t this the genius of
Gingrich, was that -- that when Gingrich -- I know, I just said the genius
of Gingrich. But I mean when he was Congressman Gingrich, right, that what
he did was to turn local races into national races, through the contract on
--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With America.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. Contract with America.

But is it possible for President Obama, for the Democrats in the
House to make this a national race on reproductive rights issues -- can we
make these local races national?

TRAYNHAM: Well, I think they are trying. I don`t know if it will
work this time. I mean, look, this is will be a national conversation
about the economy. I know the Democrats want this to be a national
conversation about women`s rights. But when it comes -- what?

HARRIS-PERRY: Why do you think it`s us -- that Democrats would want
that? I mean --

TRAYNHAM: Well --

HARRIS: Or it`s because they are on better footing with it?

TRAYNHAM: Well, based on the talking points, based on what you see
on the Democratic National Committee, based on --

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: Well, that is from the Republican statehouses and the
Republican legislatures.

TRAYNHAM: But what I find interesting is that when you take a look
at the poll numbers, that`s not the number three, that`s on the top three
issues of the American people. What is on the top three of the people`s
issues is education, health care and the economy being number one.

So, understanding that, I think this will be a national conversation
about the economy -- and to both of your points here, the question then
becomes is if I`m a member of Congress in Virginia, where perhaps maybe
that state really matters at both the Republican and the Democratic levels,
I`m going to have probably President Obama on my side if I`m a Democrat and
I`m probably going to have Mitt Romney on my side if I`m a Republican.

But to your point, if I`m in California or from Massachusetts, I`m on
my own. You know, we know --

HARRIS-PERRY: Or Virginia, Florida, you have lots of company.

TRAYNHAM: And sometimes you want it, and sometimes you don`t. It
really depends on quite frankly what kind of district you`re running in.

You know, look, members of Congress are all about running for re-
election, because politics is all local, but we know that the national
polls show that the congressional approval rating is at 12 percent. But
when you ask that person about their local member of Congress, that number
is much, much higher.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Everybody hates Congress, but they love their
congressman.

Alex, I want to give you the last word around this.

WAGNER: I think, you know, the thing we haven`t mentioned is the
decline of moderates. I mean, some of these folks are retiring because
they just don`t have the stomach for the fisticuffs, which is now
legislating on Capitol Hill. It is always shocking to me that we have the
defense triggers going into place, the Bush tax cuts that need to be
extended or not, unemployment insurance that needs to be extended or not,
alternative minimum tax stuff, big ticket items for Congress, and none of
it is going to be dealt with until the lame duck session of Congress.

It is crazy that Congress no longer --

HARRIS-PERRY: No longer governs.

WAGNER: Exactly. Needs to do what Congress does.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Because -- I mean, once you just sort of take
one`s lumps, but the role of being elected is, in fact, to go.

TRAYNHAM: But they`re afraid of their bases. The Tea Party is
afraid of the extreme right, and the Democrats are afraid of the extreme
left.

GONZALES: People want bipartisanship or just get something done.
But the voters aren`t rewarding that without a vote of primaries.

HARRIS-PERRY: More in just a moment. I`m going to show you a story
about how storytelling can be very political. But, first, it`s time for a
preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT" -- Alex.

ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST: OK. Thanks so much for that.

It has been a winter and spring of crazy winter, if you want. And
more are in the parts of the country. We`re going to bring you some
details on a major storm that`s brewing.

In strategy talk, we go inside the polls with two experts. What do
the latest numbers really tell us about what might happen in November?

And what went in the Hotel Caribe. We`re learning a bit more about
the scandal that`s costing Secret Service agents their jobs. We`re live in
Colombia with that.

Then in office politics, our friend Rachel Maddow talks about how she
approaches her show and why she thinks politicians` families should not be
part of the campaign (INAUDIBLE). That was really interesting finding out
about that from Rachel. So, make sure you`ll join us.

HARRIS-PERRY: I love that you and Rachel -- even just in one-on-one
conversations, she has props, which is great.

WITT: It`s so cool.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Alex.

WITT: OK.

HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, our foot soldiers this week or a group that
actually built a bridge over troubled waters. And that`s up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Every week, we bring you the stories of those we
rarely hear from in national media.

Today`s foot soldier is an organization whose entire mission is to
highlight the voices of those who have been overlooked, Bridge the Gulf.

Bridget the Gulf is devoted to documenting the lives and the work of
the people in Gulf Coast communities. The coalition was founded in
response to how often citizens were misrepresented, and communities were
regularly ignored in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

And two years ago, these documentarians began to collect the stories
of those impacted by the BP oil spill. Their coalition of voices is part
oral history, part journalism and part environmental activism, which gives
many Gulf Coast foot soldiers the platform to speak for themselves.

Bridge the Gulf gathered the testimonials of clean up-workers who are
now suffering with illnesses directly related to chemical exposure, and
made the stories of local people available to all. Like the stories of
Cherry Foutain (ph), the wife of an oil worker and mother of six, who
walked from New Orleans to Washington, D.C. to tell Congress to clean up
the Gulf. And Daniel Nguyen (ph), who is working with Vietnamese American
fishermen affected by the spill to start their own fishermen`s cooperative.

This month, Bridge the Gulf, in collaboration with local partner
organizations, released its report "Troubled Waters." It pieces together a
more complete picture of the material and emotional effects of the BP oil
spill through the voices of those who lived it, and are working to rebuild
the coast. The data and stories reflected reflect a sobering reality, that
despite two years of promises, many people in the Gulf Coast continue to
battle economic hardship and lingering health problems.

Bridge the Gulf is now calling for federal and state governments to
play more of a direct role in the ongoing recovery efforts.

In the meantime, these foot soldiers soldier on.

To hear and read more from these stories from the Gulf Coast or to
nominate your own foot soldier, go to MHPShow.com.

And that is our show for today. Thank you to Alex Wagner, Robert
Traynham, Nathan Gonzales and Doug Thornell.

And thanks to you at home for watching.

I`ll see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern when I ask, what
happened to the Tea Party?

Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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