PoliticsNation, Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Read the transcript from the Wednesday show
Guests: Melissa Harris-Perry, Jonathan Capehart, Barbara Boxer, Tom Barrett, Dana Milbank, Karen Finney
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to "Politics Nation." I`m Al
Tonight, in Los Angeles, we start tonight with breaking news, President
Obama`s historic announcement about gay rights in this country. The
president says he now fully supports marriage for same sex couples. The
first time ever a sitting president has made a commitment to this basic
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hesitated on gay marriage
in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient. That was
something that would give people hospital visitation rights and other
elements that we take for granted.
And, I was sensitive to the fact that, for a lot of people, the word
marriage was something that invokes very powerful traditions, religious
beliefs, and so forth. But, I have to tell you that over the course of
several years, as I talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I
think about members of my own staff who are incredibly committed to
monogamous relationships, same sex relationships, who are raising kids
together. When I think about the soldiers, or airmen, or marines, or
sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained,
even now that don`t ask don`t tell is gone because they`re not able to
commit themselves in a marriage. At a certain point, I just concluded that
for me personally it`s important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think
same sex couples should be able to get married.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: This comes just three days after vice president Biden said he
was comfortable with same sex marriage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am absolutely
comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and
heterosexual men marrying men are entitled to the same exact rights, all
the civil liberties, and quite frankly, I don`t see much of a distinction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: We had signs for months now there might be a shift on this issue
from the White House after supporting civil unions but not gay marriage,
the president said in December of 2010 that his views were evolving. The
public has been wrestle with this issue as well and attitudes have been
Polls show steadily rising support for same sex marriage over the last
decade. In fact, a new Gallup poll now shows 50 percent of Americans now
support the right of same sex couples to marry. This includes majorities
of young people, Democrats, moderates, independents, college grads, women,
and Catholics. Clear majorities of all of these groups now support same-
sex marriage. The American people are changing on this, moving toward
acceptance of these basic civil rights. But, not Mitt Romney, here is what
he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think people have different
views on marriage, I respect those views. When I served as governor of my
state, this issue arose, the same-sex marriage in civil union. I pointed
out that I`m in favor of traditional marriage between a man and woman, and
I don`t favor civil union or gay marriage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: For many of us, this is about people`s rights, people having the
same civil and human rights. This is not about personal religious choice
and we must underscore that on such a historic day like today.
Joining me now is Melissa Harris-Perry, host of MSNBC`s "Melissa Harris-
Perry" and Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for the `Washington Post" and
an MSNBC contributor.
Thanks to you both for joining me tonight.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks, Rev.
SHARPTON: Jonathan, this is big news, what`s your reaction to this?
CAPEHART: It`s not only just big, Rev. It`s historic news. At 3:00 this
afternoon, the president of the United States for the first time expressed
support for same sex couples being able to get married.
Now, as president of the United States, all he can say is that he supports
this in order for this so-called defense of marriage to be over turn. A
law from Congress would have to hit the president`s desk and he would have
to sign it. There is one from Senator Diane Feinstein of California.
Another way it could be overturned is by a court challenge and there are a
number of cases perpetuating the way up through the Supreme Court.
But, the fact that the president came out in favor of marriage equality
today, as a said, is not only big news. It`s historic news and it was the
right thing to do.
SHARPTON: Well, I agree with you, and I think that it clearly was the
right thing to do.
But Melissa, aside from the law, this is a real victory for civil rights
and civil liberties even beyond just those in the gay and lesbian
community. Wouldn`t you agree with that?
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. And I
know a lot of folks are going to look at the politics around this and they
are going to trace this moment back to vice president Biden saying he was
totally comfortable with marriage equality while on "Meet the Press."
But I have to say. I actually think and off a lot of this decision on the
part of the president to speak out on this today, have to do with that
North Carolina amendment one vote yesterday. And I heard the coverage
throughout the day today and people are sort of keep saying well, you know,
people in North Carolina, voters in North Carolina voted for a same sex
marriage ban, but that is not what happened in North Carolina. Same sex
marriage of course was already banned in North Carolina. What happened was
a kind of extremism that pushed beyond any sort of reasonable understanding
of what civil and equal rights and first-class citizenship should look
SHARPTON: And even affected those that were not talking about same-sex
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. And so, part of what I hear in the president`s
decision today, is like Jonathan said, it`s not a legislative decision.
It`s not a policy decision. It`s about getting in front of a fundamental
ethical position about the question of first-class citizenship for all
Americans and putting his voice on the historic record in this moment and
saying I will not be part of that group of voicing calling for some people
simply because of their identity to be relegated to a constant position of
second class citizenship.
So, I agree. I hate that it happened, just in an interview, I would have
loved to hear this in the well of Congress --
SHARPTON: Well. You may, I`m sure --
HARRIS-PERRY: Talking about we shall overcome, but I`m happy to hear it no
matter how it happened.
SHARPTON: I think you probably have more proclamation. But, you agree as
start for a sitting president to say this.
SHARPTON: Jonathan, let me bring another angle here that when Melissa
talks about the politics, but I think there is one political side that a
lot of people are going to miss, and that is the courage of this.
President Obama politically was way ahead of his opponent in the gay and
lesbian community. This is a stand that he really didn`t have to take in
order to get votes in that community. So I would question isn`t this an
example of him taking a stand that politically shows some courage that he
did not have to demonstrate just to give votes. He was way ahead in that
CAPEHART: Right. He was way ahead in the LBGT community, and this was an
issue that if you read a lot of the stories in "the Washington Post," in
"New York Times," everywhere talking about the political peril that faced
the president in swing states in amongst swing voters if he were to do so.
But, the other thing I think Mark Halbert (ph) earlier today that actually
this might emerge to the president`s benefit in that. If the Republicans
try to go after the president for his public stance on same sex marriage
supporting it, that it would then shift the conversation away from the
economy and on to social issues which, as we have seen during the
Republican primary process, doesn`t help Republicans all that well and it
shifts the conversation away from the economy.
The president is in the right on this issue. And if Republicans and Mitt
Romney in particular, the presumptive Republican nominee wants to have that
conversation on social issues and particularly on marriage equality, I
think the White House and the president would be more than happy to have
SHARPTON: Now Melissa, will this become an attempt by the Republicans to
use this as a wedge issue? Because we know, I remember in 2004 when I was
running and came out for same sex marriage, they had even in the black
church, a lot of people denouncing it.
Will they try to do this across the board and use this as a wedge to get
all kinds of people, and particularly those in the right-wing Christian
community, to come out and try to drive out a vote against the president?
HARRIS-PERRY: Of course. I mean, you know, they are going to use the fact
that it`s Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday in order to attempt to drive a
wedge and keep the president from being reelected.
But, I think that goes to two points. One, as Jonathan just said, they
actually have been failing on their attempts to revival social issues as a
basis for kind of a broad coalition building. All that -- it enables them
to do is kind of drill deeper the those deep red states where people are
willing to restrict contraception, restrict the basic fundamental civil
rights of gay and lesbian Americans. It`s not, I think, going to work in
this big swing states where median voters really want to know whether or
not they going to have work, whether or not they are going to have security
in their homes, whether or not their kids are going to be able to go to
But, I think, you know, particularly on the question of race, I think this
is in part why this issue is so courageous or the stance is so courageous
for the president. Because part of what he said here is, I had these
conversations with Michelle, and with Sasha, and Malia, that these African-
American women who are his beloved family members helped to guide him to
But also, he talked quite specifically about his faith and talk about what
it meant to be a Christian that understood both the golden rule, as well as
the idea of a God, who you and I have talked about, Reverend Sharpton, a
God who actually sees sort of all of humanity as part of the narrative and
the story of the divine experience.
And so, I actually think it was quite bold of the president to go right at
that issue on religion.
SHARPTON: Very courageous, and also, as we talked about a selective
reading of the bible.
But Jonathan, I think the real question is if you look at the fact that
there are six states that gay marriage is legal now, plus the District of
Columbia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New
York, and Washington, 30 states with constitutional bans on same sex
marriage. This is going to energize a battle, but it seems as though the
Democrats were moving that way, and moving the way the general American
public has changed and grown on this issue. Not only vice president
Biden`s statement, but former president Clinton did a roll call in North
Carolina opposing of the ban on same-sex marriage.
And when we look at the fact though, that in North Carolina, voters ban
same-sex marriage and civil unions, 61 to 39, and people came out
unprecedented numbers yesterday. This is a hot issue. The President I
think gets a lot of credit for courage, but let`s not make mistake about
this. This is going to be a hot issue in this campaign.
CAPEHART: Right it is going to be a hot issue in this campaign, Rev. But,
there`s something else to keep in mind. With the president`s declaration,
and also with vice president Biden`s declaration on "Meet the Press" on
Saturday, what you`re seeing is the last -- we have now seen the last
democrat to not be in favor of marriage equality.
When the folks go to run in 2016, two of the leading candidates are
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor Martin O`Malley of Maryland,
both of whom are in favor of marriage equality. And as you said in New
York state, same-sex marriage is legal there due in large part or most part
to the active efforts of Governor Cuomo to get it done within the first six
months of his being, elected governor.
So, what we`re seeing here, yes, this is a political hot potato in 2012.
But what we are seeing is an incredible political shift away from having
civil unions be the acceptable minimum that you can say you were for to
show that you were in favor of gay rights, to now, if you`re a democrat in
particular, you must be in favor of marriage equality if you want to be on
the national stage.
SHARPTON: Melissa Harris-Perry And Jonathan Capehart. Thank you both for
your time tonight.
We will be right back.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to "Politics Nation," I`m Al Sharpton in Los
Angeles, and this is my colleague, Melissa Harris-Perry in New York. I`ll
be back later, but Melissa will pick up our coverage from here for a
Melissa, what do you have on task?
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Rev. I appreciate you letting me sit in the seat
I`m going to actually be talking with Senator Barbara Boxer about the
president`s enormous historic decision on marriage equality. We are also
going to talk about the very hard to understand choices that Republicans
are making on issues like student loans and food subsidies.
SHARPTON: All right. Thanks, Melissa. Sounds great.
And folks, stick around, I`ll be back later in the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm
that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back to "Politics Nation." I`m Melissa Harris-Perry
playing a bit of tag team with Reverend Al Sharpton tonight in continuing
our coverage of President Obama`s historic announcement that he supports
same sex marriage.
Now, it`s hard to believe that nearly 16 years ago, a Democratic president
signed one of the most restrictive bills on gays and lesbians rights into
In September 1996, in the dark of night, after returning from a campaign
trip after midnight, President Clinton quietly signed the defense of
marriage act which allows states to ignore legal same-sex marriages from
other states and also oppose federal government recognition of marriage
equality. But, what a difference 16 years makes.
This week, the former president made robo calls in North Carolina to
residents encouraging them to vote against an anti-gay marriage bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m calling to urge
you to vote against amendment one on Tuesday, May 8th. If it passes, it
won`t change North Carolina`s law on marriage. The real effect of the law
is not to keep the traditional definition of marriage, they already done
that. The real effect of the law will be to hurt families and drive away
jobs. North Carolina can do better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama`s announcement today shows just how far the
Democratic party and the country have evolved in supporting marriage
Joining me now is Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California. She
is one of only 14 senators who votes against the defensive marriage act in
Senator, thanks you for being here tonight.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for reminding me about that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. It`s a great thing.
Now, look. Obviously, the Democratic party has evolved a great deal since
1996. We have been talking about the president`s evolution, but the whole
party has come a long way. How important is the president`s announcement
BOXER: Well, let me just take issue with this idea of the party coming a
long way. I think the country is evolving if you look at the points of
view of the people.
Yes, I think definitely more Democrats favor marriage equality than
Republicans, but independents are divided. But, it is the whole country is
moving toward that marriage equality idea because if we believe in equality
for everyone, and I think we all do, theoretically we do, then you just
can`t deny this basic right to be able to spend your life with someone that
you love. And it helps the society. It really does, when you have these
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely, and in polls show was that the real divider is
not so much ideological apartment and it`s really generational. The young
people of both parties are, you know, at a minimum they are thinking who
cares about this, you know, there are certainly on the pro-equality side.
But that said, the parties now are clearly distinct and particularly these
two candidates for president.
I want to just demonstrate for our viewers what President Obama has
accomplished on LBGT issues as a matter of law during his tenure in office.
In 2009, signing the hate crimes prevention act also known as Matthew
Sheppard act. In 2010, expanding family medical leave for LBGT parents,
ending don`t ask don`t tell in 2011. Obviously, you were a part of that,
directing to the department of justice to stop defending the defense of
marriage act last year, endorsing domestic partnership of benefit in 2011
supporting an employment non-discrimination act. And I will say that, you
know, my weekend show, we also covered a hub rule around this.
Now, we compare that to Mitt Romney, someone who actually was decent on
questions of at least rhetorically of LBGT rights. But now, is in a
position where is the president has been evolving, he has clearly been
HARRIS-PERRY: In 1994 promised full equality for all of America`s gay and
lesbian citizens. By 2002 was supporting domestic partnerships benefits.
In 2004, barring out of state same-sex couples for marrying Massachusetts.
Also, in 2004, testifying before congress for a constitutional ban. In
2011, signed the national organization for marriage pledge opposing same-
sex marriage, and Saturday, giving the commencement at Liberty University.
So, when you look at the distinction here, what are Americans facing at the
ballot box on this question of fundamental civil rights?
BOXER: There`s a huge choice in this election ever where you look. And
you could look at this issue of equality, and we see Mitt Romney now, not
only has he flip-flopped all over the place on this which says a lot about
a human being`s heart and soul. But, more than that, he does not even
support civil unions anymore. I mean, this is unbelievable.
And I think if you ask Americans, do you support gay marriage or civil
unions, if you added that up, it would probably be 80 percent of the
people. So, he is just stuck on the far right on this, and I think it
isolates him certainly from the younger people.
I`m glad you mentioned it because it took me awhile to evolve, I say to you
on this issue, myself.
And it wasn`t until I read the Supreme Court decision written by Ron
Georgia`s great California justice, basically said you can think it`s equal
all you want when you say civil unions are marriage, but it has to be
marriage. That`s just the way it is because of all of the rights and
benefits that go with it.
So, after that, that was `08, I changed and my kids of course had been
bugging me for years on it and I said you can have equality without and I
realized I was wrong. And I`m very, very, very happy that this president
has said this today. You know, he is on the right side of history.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I so appreciate you taking this point of saying OK, you
know, I recognized I was wrong. I learned more. I came to a new position.
I feel like that`s what we have seen with President Obama actually
listening, actually learning something new, taking a new position.
But, let me ask you in the Senate, in a place they have been filibustering
as recently as yester. Has this gone away? Is there any more
statesmanship where people can actually say, look, we are learning and we
are taking new positions?
BOXER: One can only hope that this would happen. I just tell you, it`s so
frustrating and in your little lead up to this interview you said you would
talk about what`s happening in the Senate.
Can you imagine every single Republican voting against us being able to
just take up the Democratic bill that would cut interest rates, cut them in
half for college students on student loans? They would not let us take the
bill up. And they are making history everyday in a wrong way. More
filibusters than we have ever seen. Already in just the last couple year
or year in a happen we have seen well over 40 filibusters.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, I want to ask you also about the optics quickly, just
moving back here because part of it is about the policy making and this
filibustering and all that. But, the other pieces that Mitt Romney is
going to stand before Liberty University and give the commencement address
on Saturday. And Liberty`s positions on lesbian and gay students and on
lesbians and gay issues is really, you know, quite clear.
This is a place that even and while it says it doesn`t support federal
encroachment received 445 million in federal aid in 2010, while
simultaneously openly forbids gay students, banning a democratic club that
supported same-sex and marriage in LBGT rights and actually withdrawing
from CPAC in 2010 to protested the inclusion of a gay rights group.
What does it mean that this candidate is speaking before a university that
takes millions in federal aid while simultaneously still going against the
basic civil rights of Americans?
BOXER: Well, obviously, I certainly believe that this is his decision, but
I don`t agree with it. He could make the speech somewhere else. However,
having said that, somebody wrote, a columnist today, this could be a moment
where he could look out at that audience and lead them in another
But if he goes there, you know, and he just talks about how he opposes even
civil unions, I think it is going to be interesting to see what he say.
But I can just tell you this. History in America is clear. We always
expand rights. When you go back to the founders, you know who could vote.
Only white men owned property. From there we had our struggles, but we
moved forward and Mitt Romney is moving backwards, not only in history but
his own positions. As you said, he is devolving, the president is
evolving, and the people should choose him.
HARRIS-PERRY: Senator Boxer, I appreciate you being here tonight. I also
appreciate you setting up the possibility that maybe Mitt Romney will be a
great courageous leader on Saturday. That would be fun.
BOXER: We don`t know. But I will be watching.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Thank you so much.
Coming up, the effort to defeat Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is on and
the man who will try to kick him out of office will be here, live.
Plus, the latest installment of the GOP war against the poor.
Stay with us.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: We`re back on POLITICS NATION with
the issue of fairness and just doing what`s right. Today Senate
Republicans are behind closed doors plotting their next move at
filibustering a democratic bill that would have stopped student loan
interest rates from doubling this summer. They didn`t like the Democrats
wanted to pay for it for by closing a tax loophole for the wealthy.
Instead, Republicans wanted to pay for it by raiding a women`s healthcare
fund that provides preventative care and cancer screening, it`s a clear
example of a GOP`s misplaced priorities. It comes as a republican budget
guru Congressman Paul Ryan ramps up his crusade to cut food subsidies for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Right, so under the bill we`re moving right now
through Congress, food stamps will have increased something like 260
percent over the last decade instead of 270 percent. So, you will still
have seen a massive increase in food stamps, but we think that you have to
get savings in some of these areas with a huge, huge, increase in spending.
We think we need to fix the fact that some of these programs are growing at
such unsustainable rates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: So, why he wants to cut funding for food subsidies by $133
billion. Never mind the facts that these food subsidies reduced the
poverty rate by eight percent in 2009, or that children make up the
greatest number of recipients. In fact, a study by researchers of the
University of Chicago shows a clear link between food stamps and kids
performance in school. You see families that rely on food assistance often
starts to run out of food by the end of the month. The effect is hungry
kids. Kids will get into more fights and get lower marks on test results
in the last days of the month. Not only does the republican plan make it
harder to pay for college, it also makes it less likely that kids can get
into college in the first place. Because they will be literally too hungry
to learn. How is that for priorities?
PERRY: We`re back, and Scott Walker is fighting for his political
life. It all started February 11th last year when newly elected Governor
Scott Walker announced his budget repair bill in Madison launching an
assault on state and local by stripping them of collective bargaining
rights. It ignited massive protests in Madison. Protests has took over
the state capitol, and it became a national story with people from all over
the country vowing to recall Walker. A movement was born and America heard
Wisconsin loud and clear. And recall they did, collecting nearly a million
petitions to remove Walker from office. Today, they`re in the homestretch.
Last night, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett won the democratic primary
and he is gearing up for a rematch. Walker went head to head into the 2010
gubernatorial race. Walker of course, won by 125,000 votes, about a five
percent margin. This time around, they`re neck and neck. And the latest
poll gives racer thin one percent lead. But it will not be easy, $18
million has been spent in Wisconsin in the last four months of this we call
battle, and 78 percent of that comes from republican candidates and their
supporters. All eyes will be on Wisconsin for the next 27 days.
And right now, all eyes should be right here. Because joining me
live from Madison, first of all, his big win last night is Milwaukee Mayor
Tom Barrett, the democrat challenging Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Mayor,
first of all, congratulations.
MAYOR TOM BARRETT (D), MILWAUKEE: Thank you very much, and it`s great
to be with you tonight.
PERRY: Now, You faced Governor Walker once before. In a certain
way, this is a rematch. So, tell me how will things going to end up
differently this time?
BARRETT: Well, it`s a much different year, 2010 of course was the
year that Russ Feingold and I walked into the Tea Party buzz saw. And even
in that environment, I held Scott Walker to 52 percent of the vote. Now,
the problem of course is he`s governed as though he received 92 percent of
the vote and that`s a big part of the issue. Is because he, as he, in his
own words, dropped the bomb on the people of the state of Wisconsin last
February, when he went after 50 years of established law as to pertains to
worker`s rights. What happened after that though was really a 16 month
ideological civil war that Scott Walker started. And this state has been
at itself for 16 months. And like any war, there have been casualties, and
unfortunately the first casualties of Scott Walker`s ideological civil war
have been jobs. Because he said he would going to focus on jobs, but
instead he focused on these social issues and going after workers rights,
and Wisconsin unfortunately lost more jobs in 2011 than any other state in
this entire country. And so, that`s one of the reasons why it`s gotten
PERRY: So, Mayor, you`re absolutely right that there was this sort
of focus initially in that campaign around the issue of jobs. Wisconsin
actually instead ended up 49th in the nation for job growth, actually
losing almost 24,000 jobs in the last year alone. But the other piece of
this, I think the piece that feels like it gave so much fire behind this is
been the issue of workers` rights and union organizing. And the fact is,
Mayor, you were not the initial candidate of unions in the state of
Wisconsin. There was angst about your own position around unions. So,
what I really like to hear from you is, how do you bring those workers and
unions into enthusiastically in your fold in the next few weeks, and what
will you commit to them right here tonight after winning this primary about
what you will restore when you become government?
BARRETT: Well, throughout the entire primary, I made it clear that I
support the restoration of collective bargaining rights for public
employees, for teachers and other public employees. And I will stick to
that. There was a difference of opinion about the vehicle that should be
accomplished through. But we`ve always agree on the destination, there was
a disagreement over the vehicle. But I can tell you this that this
morning, I met with the other three candidates for this office, the other
three democratic candidates, and all three of them endorsed me this
morning, less than 14 hours after the polls closed, and that shows a
unified front, and I know that their supporters are going to be supporting
me as well. So, frankly I`m not worried about that. I think it`s fair to
say that the Democratic Party, our big tent is together, and we all
recognize the seriousness of this, and what the real goal is, and the real
goal is to elect a new governor for the State of Wisconsin. So, we got
much more information on our Web site at BarrettforWisconsin.com. And we
are very, very confident.
PERRY: Good job getting that in.
BARRETT: We feel very, very confident that everyone will be with us.
PERRY: All right. So, they may be with you, but then how do you get
them out, boots on the ground. One of the things that was amazing about
watching this initial impulse was it was February in Wisconsin and people
were outside in the cold. Can you over the course of the next four weeks
get that same kind of enthusiasm to basically finish strong this process?
BARRETT: Yes. Absolutely, yes. And again, we have talked to the
Democratic Party, the Eric Field (ph) organization. Obviously, the
President`s field organization, and we know that the working people of the
state, their organizations, the unions, and others are involved in this,
they`re going to be extremely supportive of our ground roar if you will in
getting people out to make sure they vote on June 5th. Because this is all
now about turn-out getting our base out to vote on June 5th. But when
you`ve got nearly a million people signing a petition, we have a good base
to work from. We have to make sure we reach those people, we have to make
sure we reach the people who voted in 2010, and right there, we think that
we`ve got a winning formula.
PERRY: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Graduations on your win last
night, thanks for joining us tonight, and you know we`re going to keep our
eyes on this race.
BARRETT: Thank you very much.
PERRY: Thanks. Still ahead, a new, new Tea Party extremist who`s
shaking up the Republican Party and not in a good way.
AL SHARPTON, HOST, "POLITICS NATION": Tonight, political earthquakes
are shaking the Republican Party after extremism won out in a key GOP
primary, Richard Lugar, a GOP senator for 35 years, lost the Indiana
primary to Tea Party republican Richard Mourdock. Senator Lugar was a
republican, but a republican who understood compromise. And last night, he
didn`t just lose to a Tea Partier, he lost by 22 points. A former
republican senator once said that losing Lugar would mean that the GOP has
quote, "Gone so far overboard that it is beyond redemption," that`s right,
folks, beyond redemption. Lugar was such an important bipartisan figure in
Washington that he showed up in President Obama`s campaign ad in 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: The single most important
national security threat that we face is the nuclear weapons falling into
the hands of terrorist. What I did was reached out to Senator Dick Lugar,
a republican to help locked down, loose nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Following the election, Lugar backed the President
numerous times because he wanted to do the right thing. Yet those very
votes, what Mourdock used to oust a senator. Lugar voted to confirm
Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. Mourdock slammed those votes. Lugar helped
save the auto industry, Mourdock was a fierce opponent. Lugar voted to
have the government step in to stop the financial meltdown, Mourdock
opposed it. Lugar believed in bipartisanism, bipartisanship. Here is what
Mourdock thinks of that word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), INDIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: What I`ve said is, I
certainly think that bipartisanship are consistent Democrats coming to the
republican point of view. We entered this campaign, wanting to be a voice
and hoping to give more of a national voice to the ideas that Republicans
and more specifically conservatives would be in the majority of the United
States Senate and the House and hopefully that we have a republican in the
White House. If we do that, bipartisanship means they have to come our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: This is bipartisanship? Everyone who isn`t a republican
has to become one. Folks, bipartisanship is not possible from a politician
who says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOURDOCK: To me, the highlight of politics frankly is to inflict my
opinion on someone else`s microphone or in-front of a camera to win them
over to my point of view.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The highlight of politics is inflicting my opinion on
someone else. This is what Senator Lugar thinks of Mourdock`s stance. He
says, quote, "Mourdock`s embrace of an unrelenting partisan mind-set is
irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance." Republicans, this is
extremism in your party, it forced your candidate, Willard Mitt Romney to
drop any moderate beliefs and has forced you to constantly work against
this President. No matter how good the proposals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Just about every time we put these policies up for a vote,
the Republicans in Congress got together and they said, no. They said no
to putting hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job
preparing our roads and our bridges and our schools and our transit
systems. No to a new tax cut for businesses that hire new workers, no to
putting more teachers back in our classrooms or cops back on the beat.
More firefighters back to work. The kind of things that in the past have
been supported by Democrats and Republicans. These are traditionally ideas
that have had bipartisan support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Dana Milbank, columnist for the
Washington Post, and Karen Finney, MSNBC News political analyst and
columnist for The Hill. Thank you both for being here. Dana, let me start
with you. What does Senator Lugar`s defeat last night say about where the
GOP is headed?
DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: Well, it says the Republican Party is
headed for the toilet. The problem though is it`s going to bring everybody
else there with them. What you hear Mourdock, it`s not just what he said,
it`s what he said during the campaign. And basically he was beating up on
Dick Lugar for compromising with the Democrats on keeping nuclear weapons
out of terrorists` hands. If leaders can`t compromise on that? What can
they possibly compromise on? So, you`re in a point now, he`s saying, the
only way to get things done in Washington is to have a huge conservative
majority, and the White House, and the House, and the Senate, well, guess
what? That`s not going to happen. Even if at some point, it does happen,
there will be a push back against it. It`s just fundamentally not the way
things work here. And I think it is a very depressing outlook that there`s
really no hope for getting the kind of deals done on the debt and all of
the things that need to be done.
SHARPTON: Karen, but it seems as though unfortunately, Mourdock is
just part of a growing list of GOP leaders who don`t want to compromise,
let me show you this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESLEY STAHL, CBS NEWS: So you did compromise.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We found common
STAHL: Why won`t you say -- you`re afraid of the word.
BOEHNER: I reject the word.
STAHL: Your idol as I`ve read anyway was Ronald Reagan. And he
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: He never compromised his principles.
STAHL: Well, he raised taxes and it was one of his principles not to
CANTOR: Well, he also cut taxes.
MOURDOCK: Well, the fact is you never compromise on principals. If
people on the far left have a principal they want to stand by, they should
never compromise those of us on the right should not either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So, Karen, it`s like he is in line with some of the
leadership in his party that just seem to hate the word or the thought of
compromising for a greater good.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it`s become the new C-
word that you shouldn`t say. Certainly, I think that`s going to make, you
know, continuing to have a divided Congress if that`s in fact where we end
up, it`s going to make things even more difficult.
SHARPTON: Dana, let me be real clear on how the reason why this is
so concerning to me. When you look at the fact that Lugar was consistently
rated as a strong conservative, we`re not talking about a person that seems
like seems like he was in the wrong party, sooner the Lugar`s lifetime
conservative rating was 77 percent according to the American Conservative
Unions. So, here is the man, 77 percent rated conservative, yet he was
defeated last night by 22 percent. In 2008, he won by 87 percent of the
vote. Last night, he lost by 22 percent of the vote. If someone raided
that conservative could lose by that margin, that`s little carry, don`t you
MILBANK: Yes, Reverend. I mean, look, and it`s not just him, it was
Murkowski, it was Bob Bennett, and if the same standard were applied that`s
being applied now. Well, guess what? Bob Dole would be kicked out of
party, Gerry Ford (ph) would be kicked out of the party. Howard Baker
would be kicked out of the party. Ronald Reagan wasn`t in the Congress,
but one presumes he would be kicked out of the party as well. It`s almost
like it`s not really a liberal conservative discussion here. It`s not
about ideology, it`s more about temperament. And people saying, can we
work together or can we not work together? And when Mourdock`s talks about
not compromising in principles, well, a principle is like being in favor of
the free market. He is saying, I`m not going to compromise on any policy
position or whatsoever. Not just principals but every piece that
SHARPTON: But now, Karen, this flows up. Because now the
presidential candidate for their party, Willard Mitt Romney is really
locked into positions of either being extreme or having to be silent. Let
me give you an example, this week he refused to stand up to a woman who
accused the President of treason, look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We have a President right now that is operating
outside the structure of our Constitution. I want to know -- yes, I do
agree he should be tried for treason, but I want to know what you are going
to be able to do to help restore balance between the three branches of
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m sure you do. I happen
to believe that the constitution was not just brilliant, but probably
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I mean, Karen, either he agrees with the extreme position
or he is afraid to say something that would be heckled or does not sit well
with this extreme forces with this party. Either way it`s the same effect.
FINNEY: Well, apparently he must still be trying to figure out how
you make that pivot from that severely conservative stance that he took in
his republican primary to realizing that this is a general election now and
the rules are a little bit different. You know, but Al, to me, this is a
failure of leadership. Because leaders understand when something is
happening, why it`s important, and why they either need to say or do
something. And that could be hurricane Katrina, that would be a comment
made on, you know, on a campaign event. I mean, they get it why it`s
important right here, right now and know, I got to do something. And the
fact that he just, you know, brushed by that and didn`t think to himself
somewhere in his minds, I should say something about that, shows you that
he`s not a good leader, that`s not strong leadership, but also that he is
so willing to play it so safely and he is so freaked out about how -- to
the right wing and not wanting to upset anybody or make any mistakes, that
is what frankly a Romney presidency would look like. He is very behold
into these guys now at this point.
SHARPTON: Dana, the probability of a day of political reckoning may
be coming though where Mr. Romney is going to have a hard choice between
what is politically correct and for his own position, I don`t mean
politically correct in a PC term, and where he`s going to play to the
extreme right. I mean, somewhere down the road he`s going to have a hard,
hard decision to make, and I don`t think it`s going to be an easy one for
Willard to make.
MILBANK: Right. I mean, the question people keep asking is, will
Romney ever have this Sister Souljah moment like Bill Clinton did in 1992.
Will he ever disagree in any way with his base? We keep wondering, he
didn`t do it on Grenell, the advisor who was gay, he certainly didn`t do it
in this case here. Certainly, didn`t do it during the primaries, he`s
going to have another chance at liberty university this weekend where he is
giving the commencement address, I bet you 10,000 bucks, he doesn`t do it
FINNEY: But, you know, one thing -- I don`t think he`s going to do
SHARPTON: I`ve got to go, Karen, thank you for both of you coming.
Dana Milbank, Karen Finney, thanks for coming on the show tonight.
MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: We`ll be right back.
PERRY: Tomorrow will mark an important moment in the history of
American equality. May 10th, 1866, the House of Representatives passed the
initial version of the 14th amendment. That`s another few weeks of the
language of the amendment to evolve into what we know today. But the 14th
amendment is the one that grants citizenship to former slaves, but it does
more than that. It actually creates the first constitutional language
establishing American citizenship for all people born or naturalized in
this country. You see, when it was necessary to explain what citizenship
is, for a reviled and unequaled group, in this case, former slaves, it
actually moved the entire country forward into being a more equal, just,
and fair nation.
It`s sentiment echoed by President Johnson as he spoke upon passage
of the voting right acts of 1965, he recognized that equal access to the
ballot box was more than a policy debate. It was about the heart of our
democracy. LBG said, quote, "But rarely in any time does an issue lay bear
the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge,
not to our growth or abundance or our welfare or our security but rather to
the values, and the purposes, and the meaning of our beloved nation."
We may someday look back and remember May 9th, 2012 as the a day of
similar leadership and courage. When a President recognized that what is
at stake is more than the election, more than the politics of the moment,
more than partisan bickering, what is at stake is the very definition of
America. We have country that creates three -- of belonging as Romney`s
marriage plan suggest. Or are we prepared to reaffirm the basic principle
that civil rights of our fellow citizens should not be up for debate.
Bigotry is the only basis for denying marriage equality. So, we should
debate policy, we should debate which legislative plan we take. That`s
reasonable. But the basic rights of citizens should not flip and flop,
they should not be erased like an etch-a-sketch at the wimps of the
intolerant. Our right should be permanent, constant, and abiding. Thanks
President Obama for reminding us of that.
And thanks to you for watching, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. You can
catch my show, "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY," weekends from 10:00 to noon Eastern
and I hope you tune in. Al Sharpton is going to be back tomorrow and
"HARDBALL" starts right now.
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