'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, May 12, 2012
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Guests: Jonathan Capehart, Joy-Ann Reid, Joe Watkins, Alex Witt, Evan Wolfson, Lizz Winstead, Arlen Specter, Roy Gulick
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning moderation domination, and
the action reaction. What happens when extremism goes too far?
Plus occupy this and analyze that. The 99 percent are back. But do they
know what they want? And a tribute to the wild things of our childhoods
and imaginations, but first, the evolution was televised, but is it change
that you can campaign on?
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
In just a little bit I will take you to Liberty University in Virginia.
Seriously, I will take you to Liberty University in Virginia in just a
little bit because former governor Mitt Romney will be delivering the
school`s commencement address.
And Liberty was founded by conservative tell van evangelist Jerry Falwell
and it is the largest Christian university in the world. It became a
standard stop on the campaign trail for Republican candidate looking to
polish the Christian conservative credentials. And Romney who has
struggled with the conservatives is trying to score points with those who
have so-called traditional family values.
Of course, he also wants to make sure they give his a message about
nontraditional families and that is same sex couple. Mitt Romney believes
should not be allowed to marry. And in Romney`s speech, he is going to cap
off a week`s worth of uproar over the same-sex marriage.
But here`s the thing, in a lot of ways it is much ado about nothing.
Seriously, if you are an America hoping to get married to a man or woman of
the same sex, literally nothing changed for you this week. One state where
same-sex marriage was illegal voted overwhelmingly to make same-sex
marriage illegal. And after that one man, very important man expressed his
opinion about gay Americans and marriage. And yet, while there has been no
policy change this week on marriage equality, did you feel it? The entire
culture has shifted incrementally starting with two. Two people, one man
and one woman joined in marriage are the only legal union recognized by the
state of North Carolina, thanks to 61 percent, the percent of people who
voted overwhelmingly in favor of amendment one.
Voted for approval for the amendment puts a tar heel state at 38 on the
list of states which have been active either constitutional or statutory
bans against marriage between two people of the same-sex.
It puts North Carolina last among southern state, all of whom have outlaws
same-sex marriage. And they may soon be joined four, that`s how many
states Minnesota, Maine, Washington and Maryland have upcoming ballot
initiative that if passed would also ban same-sex marriage.
And let`s be clear. When we way banning marriage for same-sex couples,
that means denying them 1,138 federal benefits, rights and protection that
are available to people who are married, that`s heterosexual people who are
married. Because zero is the number of those benefits guaranteed to same-
sex couples married or not according to the defense of marriage act. That
even includes the eight states plus the District of Columbia which have say
you can to gay couple wanting to say I do. That message, a part of that
culture shift we witness this week.
And there are also part of the 50 percent of Americans who say the same-sex
marriage should be recognized and affirmed by law. And as of this week,
those supporters are joined in their number by one. One president, who, in
an interview with Robin Roberts on ABC`s "Good Morning America" spoke these
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that same sex
couples should be able to get married.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And with those 11 words reached the end of a long evolution,
and found that being fully human and fully American means given equal right
s regardless of the sex of the person you love.
With me now to tally the political prize of the president`s stance on same-
sex marriage, Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, Joe Watkins,
Republican strategist and former H. W. Bush aide, Jonathan Capehart, MSNBC
contributor and "Washington Post" opinion writer, and Lizz Winstead, a
political satirist and co-creator of the "daily show." She is also the
author of "Lizz free or die."
What a week!
HARRIS-PERRY: What a week! I was sort of like breathlessly trying to get
through it and this is what happen that I, you know, as one of the
weaknesses of having a Saturday show is, I kept wanting to say something
all week long about this.
So, take a look at this week. What difference does this week make
substantively? What difference does this week make?
EVAN WOLFSON, AUTHOR, WHY MARRIAGE MATTERS: Well, it makes an enormous
difference. The president of the United States has done what we elect
presidents to do. He has put his moral leadership out there in support of
freedom, in support of fairness, in support of families and what is
important was how he did it.
He sat and talked about conversations he had with gay friends, with gay
staffers, with his own family. He talked about he and Michelle talking
with their daughter Sasha and Malia who talked with their parents about
their classmates and the gay parents they have. And the president said I
listened to my daughters and I thought, they would never understand why
classmates of their family should be treated unfairly.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that is interesting, because Sarah Palin`s daughter,
Bristol Palin, actually critiqued the president on exactly that aspect of
his discussion with Robin Roberts saying that he was sort of listening to
the teenagers and what sort of father would govern by listen to his
teenagers. But it did feel like there was an enormous difference that the
president was setting between himself, and Mitt Romney who in listening to
his aide who is openly gay made the choice to allow that aide to leave the
campaign rather than shifting and evolving on the position. So, it felt
like a clear distinction being drawn here about how we listen and what we
do with the new information that we have.
WOLFSON: Well, that`s right. And I think the president is very heartfelt
and personal and of course, thoughtful words really rang true, because it
is the very same journey that so many Americans have taken and so many
Americans have changed their minds and opened their hearts as they have
learned more about gay families and why marriage matters.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what are the politics on this, Jonathan?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, the politics
of this are going to be played out over many, many months. I mean, we have
the initial reaction which was, my God, this is going to hurt him in the
black community particularly with church going black people which I don`t -
I mean, I know that people are upset with the president, but ultimately
into the ballot, and they go into the voting booth, they are going to
decide with the president generally speaking, overwhelmingly speaking. But
HARRIS-PERRY: But Jonathan, I want to let you go on, but I have to pause
here, because this is one of the things that had me going absolutely --
HARRIS-PERRY: Nuts all week. So, I mean, first we have poll data showing
that 60 percent of Americans are saying overall this is not going to change
their support of the president one way or another, they either for him or
against him, but this language around the African-American communities felt
to me as though there was kind of an underlying notion that somehow black
communities are the most homophobic, the most bigoted and most willing to
change our support of a candidate who represents a party that the African-
American voters have voted more than 80 percent for, for decades. I
promise, I will let you in, Joe. I promise I will.
CAPEHART: You know, we have to look at this in the context of the national
organization for marriage which has had it obviously an anti-marriage
equality organization and so much so that they put down in writing in a
confidential memo that was unearthed by the human rights campaign, that
they were going to use this issue as a wedge issue to separate the African-
American community from the progressive community against the president.
They would use this as a way to hopefully in their view bring down the
president. That is the context in which that conversation is happening.
And I think that you and I and a lot of other folks look at that and think,
that is horrendous. That is -- you know, to pitting people against each
other because they may or may not support people who are looking for
fairness and dignity for themselves and their families.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me let Joe in.
JOE WATKINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I agree and disagree. I agree with
the part that says that black people in general in the fall will side with
the president. I think in overwhelmingly numbers I agree with you on that
I think from that standpoint of the Republican using this against the
president or any that kind of stuff, I don`t think that`s the issue as much
as it is. There are a lot of black people who are conflicted on this.
WATKINS: But because they go to church, they believe with the bible says,
the love God. I love God. God has been good to me and I love God and I
want to obey God in his commandments. And I`m not homophobic. I`m not
bigoted and I think lots of African-Americans who are in the same position,
and they don`t dislike people who are gay.
HARRIS-PERRY: I do have to say though, I do think that the only position
on which one denies marriage, excuse me, and the rights of marriage to
someone simply because they disagree with them is inherently bigoted,
right, which is to say it is one thing to be conflicted, ethically and
morally conflicted. Now, I would actually push back even that the
fundamental commandments of God are again, so, I actually with the even
from the New Testament and Christian --
WATKINS: I know I studied them in seminary.
HARRIS-PERRY: I am a seminarian too and I got tell you, I feel like that
the moment of which Christ says the greatest commandment of first to love -
WATKINS: Love the Lord your God with your heart, mid, soul, strength.
HARRIS-PERRY: And your neighbor --
WATKINS: As yourself.
HARRIS-PERRY: As yourself.
WATKINS: Love God with your heart, mind, and soul. And he says to obey
and to listen to him.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, but he actually doesn`t say, obey the biblical (ph)
code. He actually doesn`t say - and you have given that choice is standing
their inner conversation with religious leaders asking him about the
biblical (ph) code, asking him about the legal context and he is that
literally pushing back against that legal context and say no, the greater
commandment is the commandment about God`s Grace. And then I will say
particularly that in a country where for example Muslims don`t have
Christian marriage, they have Islamic marriage, and where Jews don`t have
Christian marriage, they have Jewish marriage, the idea that it has to fit
into all of the Christian marriage.
WATKINS: And speaking in an authoritative way about what God likes and
what God doesn`t like. It does not fit into what we like and doesn`t like,
but God is God. He is separate from us. He is our creator. We are not the
creator. We are the creation. And so, for people --
HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels like you are about to --
WATKINS: Well, for people of faith like me, I pastor a church and
everybody is welcome to come to the church that I serve and not my church,
but the church I serve, everybody is welcome to come because we are in the
same boat. Every one of us -- we are sinners and saved by grace if we
choose to believe him and follow.
HARRIS-PERRY: But we are not all in the same boat as a matter of law,
because there is a group of people who are not in the same boat who are
actually shut out of thousands of rights and privileges as a matter of
actively purposely shut out by the government.
LIZZ WINSTEAD, CO-CREATOR, THE DAILY SHOW: And who also don`t at the end
your church and part of your religion.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, Jon --.
WINSTEAD: And I respect religion. I am a person of faith. But again,
when we go down that path and stop talking about the constitution first, it
is very worrisome to me first a, and b, when we talk about the way that the
politics will fall out and I think it is very interesting that the first
thing we heard is what Bristol Palin says and others have said as well
which is why doesn`t the president listen, too. Let`s just take that mean.
The president should always be listening. We should always be listening,
because as Evan so adeptly pointed out, as we are hearing people change
their mind on marriage equality, it is about who, we come into contact
with, who we know, who we live next to.
Now I wish that there was a way that we could start some big gay movement
where everybody start moving into neighbors where we need to know people,
right, because that seems to be the sentiment that comes from race and
everything, and how we do that, I don`t know, but --
WOLFSON: And one point is that the law is circumvented.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we will continue the talk about God, why not. As soon
as we get back, because I want you to hear the latest accusation that
somehow the president made God cry this weekend.
We will talk about that and much more on same-sex marriage when we come
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama`s support of same-sex marriage may have made
the LGBT community happy, but he has made God sad. No, seriously. At
least that is the gospel according to Franklin Graham, the son of Billy
Graham, the legendary televangelist and spiritual advisor to some of
The younger Graham has this to say on Thursday in response to the
president`s position, quote, "President Obama has, in my view, shaken his
first at the same God who created and defined marriage. It grieves me that
our president would now affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it
grieves God even more."
Still with me at the table Evan Wolfson, Joe Watkins, John Capehart and
So, God is weeping this morning, although it is quite sunny beautiful. It
looks though God is smiling at least in New York.
WINSTEAD: I mean, it is always problematic when people speak for God. I
don`t want people to speak for me, never mind speaking for God, even though
they are studied on it. But I don`t believe that God is weeping about
somebody wanting to have two people to find their happiness. I believe God
weeps for poverty. I believe God weeps when we drop drones on children in
Afghanistan. I believe that there are many reasons for God the weep. I
just simply do not believe that two people who are trying to find their
best selves in a partner is something to --
CAPEHART: And trying to raise a family and trying to hold the family
together and trying to ensure that their children, and that their family
have the same rights and protections that the straight married couple next
door have. I mean, how does that make God cry?
HARRIS-PERRY: And earlier, you were making a claim around creation and the
idea that God creates us, and so, part of that idea, that is clearly a
theological debate and some scientific debate about all of that and not
scientific debate about the beginning.
But the notion of God as the sort of initiator of it, that said, if we
believe that God is the creator of all human things and that God does not
make mistakes like we say in the black church, why would God weep about
God`s own people, the gays and lesbians and all people?
WATKINS: I think God loves everybody. He loves us all. HE really does
and doesn`t love everything that we do. He wants us to love each other and
does not sign off on everything that we do. And we don`t always understand
why God has issued the commands that he has. But he has. He sends you
commands and he says, you know, I like this. I don`t like that.
HARRIS-PERRY: And there is no commandment.
WATKINS: Or pronouncements or call it what you want. But my point is --
HARRIS-PERRY: There is nothing against it.
WATKINS: There is discussion by Paul, the apostle Paul who is one of the
big writers in the New Testament.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, sure.
WATKINS: The discussion in the Old Testament as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right, but the bible has contested and internally
contradictory document and there are discussions.
WATKINS: In the minds of some people, but for other people, they take it
as the proven infallible word of God.
WOLFSON: And sometimes it says two different things. So we did internally
WATKINS: Well, maybe for you it may say that but not for me it doesn`t and
for lots of people who read the bible, who follow God, who believe in
Christ and in many instances, that is not the case for them. And the whole
point is that we are supposed to love the Lord our God with all of the mind
and the soul and the strength, and the neighbors as we love ourselves.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, let me pull back a little bit to the political
WOLFSON: People who do believe in Christ and God are the president and the
first lady. And the president --
HARRIS-PERRY: And the vice president.
WOLFSON: And let`s go back to what the president said, and you are
Joe Biden is a practicing catholic. But what the president talked about is
the conversations that he and Michelle have as people who believe in
Christ, and people who believe in God and the values they are teaching the
daughters, and they were specific about it.
WATKINS: And well, they don`t --
WOLFSON: Well, let me just say that what they believe is that the bible
tells them to teach their children the golden rule of treating others as
you would want to be treated and that resonates for them. Now, that goes
to the point that as you just said that people are entitled to have
different religious views and the president has his, but what the
government doesn`t --
WATKINS: And he does not follow Christ on this one.
WOLFSON: Well, he does not follow your idea, but he is a deep serious and
real person and great family man. This is what he believes. But more
importantly, the government does not issue bar for licenses.
HARRIS-PERRY: There you go.
WOLFSON: It doesn`t issue communion licenses, and we don`t want the
government picking and choosing whether your religion or the president`s
religion is right, and we want the government to treat us all fairly and
justly and that is what the president put into the mix as well, and that is
what he is supposed to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to key in on exactly this political piece. In part,
because the other aspect of it. And I`m sure that we will hear it today
with Romney is this language of the tradition of marriage.
And I just - you know, I want to speak on to the kind of the tradition of
marriage is actually a fundamentally problematic tradition in some really
important ways. We have come a long way and we ought to celebrate
fundamentally where we have come in marriage.
WINSTEAD: And I am, and I just look at when you argue as Evan does about
how we will be treated fairly in the society, and it never gets argued that
way. It is always argued that if two people of the same sex want to get
married, it somehow destroys somebody else`s marriage.
WINSTEAD: And if somebody could answer the question, and maybe you, Joe,
how two people who live in a state that some married couple is never going
to go to who are trying to find happiness are going to destroy the marriage
of someone they don`t know, then maybe --
HARRIS-PERRY: That is not the point.
WINSTEAD: It is the point. The national organization of marriage says,
and Joe, Joe, let me finish and then I will let you go. The national
organization of marriage has based the entire campaign around things. I
have been on shows where they say, it is destroying and they use the word
WOLFSON: The so-called defense of marriage act, and that marriage needs
defending from the people who want to participate.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this - and of course, this is the whole point that
marriage has changed over time. If we talked about -- when people invoked
this and for thousands of years of traditional marriage, I would like to
remind people that for thaw thousands of years, traditional marriages were
arranged. They were not unions of love between two consenting adults.
They would typically, economic arrangements between two consenting families
often without the consent of young couples.
WOLFSON: And women in subordinated entirely.
WINSTEAD: That`s right. They were treated as chattel.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. I mean, this is a country where it was
impossible to rape your wife, because we operated under a law of covertures
that said a woman`s body belonged fully and completely to her husband based
on the set of biblical laws and we were like, that`s the problem. So, we
changed that. That change marriage absolutely. And thank goodness. So --
WOLFSON: As a young attorney, I actually worked on the case that ended the
marital rape exemption here in New York back in the "hair" days. But it
was in the 1980s. It was not ancient. This is the kind of changes we had
to make to make sure that marriage functions as what most of us cherish it
to be, a union of committed people and dedicated to one another, that care
for one another in a relationship that is recognized legally by the state.
Churches are free to do what they want to do. It`s up to them.
WATKINS: Well, this becomes a conflict --
HARRIS-PERRY: And we are going to come back. I promise we have got more
on this. We are also going to take you live to the Liberty University, the
late Jerry Falwell, the evangelical Hag Ward. Mitt Romney is about to
deliver the commencement address that make him face for the religious
right. All of that, and more on marriage equalities coming up.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are back talking same-sex marriage and still with me at t
the table is Evan Wolfson, Joe Watkins, Jonathan Capehart and joining them
is Joy-Ann Reid, MSNBC contributor and managing editor for thegrio.com.
So, let me start with the politics of this. And we have that 51 percent,
this is a Gallup poll, 51 percent of American overall approve of the
president`s position for his faith for Democrats, we are looking at 71
percent. And for those all important independent swing voters, 53 percent,
and so majorities on each of them approving of the president`s position.
But then, right? So, even as we have this graphic, then we have Tony
Perkins, president of the family research council saying in Friday`s "USA
"Mitt Romney needs to take what the president gave him Wednesday and I
think that it could be the key to the White House. It does not need to be
the hood ornament of the campaign, but it needs to be in the vehicle and he
needs to talk about it."
Am I missing something? Is the GOP purposely trying to make themselves
irrelevant in 15 years?
CAPEHART: Well, Tony Perkins gave the same advice to Rick Santorum.
JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: But Rick Santorum could have taken it and
run with it a little bit more than Mitt Romney. I think herein lies one of
the reasons that Mitt Romney is an awkward choice for Republicans. Right.
REID: Awkward. The three-legged stool of the Republican party consists of
the wall street, you know, conservatives, the economic sort of fiscal
conservatives who want to cut the spending and the religious right. And
the religious right has been very powerful with the party at various
This is a period when they have not been at the forefront, when really the
economic conservatives have taken the ball with the tea party, and this is
their opportunity to resurge. But they don`t have a guy on the ticket that
is their guy.
Rick Santorum would have been their guy. I don`t know that Romney knows
how to articulate what the religious right feels the way that let`s say
Rick Santorum could have, but they would like him to.
CAPEHART: And Mitt Romney as we saw in the reaction to what happened this
week doesn`t want to talk about this. When he is asked about it, he is
either uncomfortable or shouting down reporters saying that the two words
that he wants everyone to focus on, the economy, the economy, the economy.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is almost sad, isn`t it? Like the discomfort with this
is very clear.
WATKINS: And his discomfort with it. I mean, I think this is bigger than
a Republican or Democrat issue. I know lots of Democrats like the
Democrats in my family and my siblings and my mother who like the president
and who have supported him in the past, who tell me, like lots of other
Democrats they are conflicted on the issue. They are not Republicans.
They are not hard core right wing conservatives, but conflicted in the
issue, because they go to church. They believe in God. They don`t - they
are not homophobic or bigots.
And they have people who they love and friends who happen to be gay. But
for them it is an issue of this is what the bible says and what the
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I don`t want to go too far into the bible things. But
I do want to point out to the extent that we have in this country denied
people the right to marry. It has always been about bigotry. I mean the
very fact that what we saw the Congress do in response to the president,
and so that the president makes a statement, right. And just makes a
statement in support of inherent equal civil rights. And the Congress goes
into session and decides to tell military bases and not just churches.
But that on military base bases, you are not going to be able to have same-
sex marriages performed or anything that looks like a marriage ceremony and
looks like a marriage ceremony to me sounds like jumping the broom. It
just 100 sounds to me exactly like the other groups of people that we have
kept from being able to marry in this country, and it was people that we
wanted to keep subordinate subordinated.
WOLFSON: And they voted for a measure that said that chaplains who want to
perform those ceremonies for couples who want to have them who are serving
our country should not have them. So, people who believe in religion and
religion is important, as we all do, where is the freedom of religion
there? Why are people saying it is wrong for the government to interfere
with religious ceremonies on military bases?
HARRIS-PERRY: But, can I just need to bring it, you know, to the politics
of it though. All that is being said here, Mitt Romney is not engaging in
the conversation, because he is not -- this is not at his core what his
campaign was about. The campaign is about the economy.
HARRIS-PERRY: And right, his record, his record --
REID: Very mixed.
HARRIS-PERRY: And his own language is that I`m going to be to the left of
Ted Kennedy on --
REID: At a certain point.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. Sure. But this is part of the whole flip-flop
narrative that there was a moment in Mitt Romney`s political past where
this was not the position.
REID: He is running away from the political past and he is trying to be a
different Mitt Romney, and it is a problem. And the problem for Mitt
Romney is that he is not a natural social conservative. He just hasn`t
been politically. He is trying to wade into it. He is saying the words,
but the base has never believe he means the words.
So, this is the point where Mitt Romney definitely can get the Wall Street
Republican. They love him. He is the CNBC candidate, right? He
definitely can get them. But the tea party and the religious right have
not shown passion to him because he has not shown passion towards him. So,
he needs -- he could if he can articulate this with the Tony Perkins of the
world could get fully behind him. But I`m not sure Mitt Romney is --
WATKINS: He needs the independents who are not in the Republican side.
HARRIS-PERRY: And 51 percent of whom are supportive of --
WATKINS: And I don`t believe that this issue drives the election, and this
is not the issue that determines.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it could drive a wedge between.
WOLFSON: And that is why listening to someone like Tony Perkins is the
wrong thing to do. Of course Tony Perkins is going to say that this is the
issue to get Mitt Romney into the White House because this is all that Tony
Perkins focuses on.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, here`s what I want to do when we come back, we will
have a short segment, but I want to talk about the fact that marriage
equality is just one part of a much larger set of issues facing lesbians
and gays marriage, if it is about the economy stupid, then the fact is we
are still in a situation where lesbians and gays Americans and
transgendered Americans are in circumstance where they face all kinds of
inequality, not just around marriage.
Also, still head, former senator Arlen Specter is going to joins us to talk
about why there is no room for people like him, you know, moderates in
All that coming up.
HARRIS-PERRY: Still here, Evan Wolfson, Joe Watkins, Jonathan Capehart and
Joy-Ann Reid. We have been talking about marriage equality. But I want
to talk about a little bit more about equality in general. Because I do
think that marriage equality becomes the agenda item for lesbian, gay and
transgendered folks that we talked about.
But I just want to point out that the kind of real life economics, social,
family issues that the president has actually been extremely good on these
policy issues up to this moment, and that this is in certain ways a
capstone. So talk to me about a little bit about the broader agenda.
WOLFSON: Right. Well, look, gay people want what all people want. We
want it all. We want to be able to protect our families. We want to be
able to hold a job. We want our schools to be safe. We want our seniors
to have support. I mean, people should not have to choose between which
slice of their life matters especially when the one that is pushing the
discrimination is the government.
The reason that the marriage discussion is so powerful and so central is
not because marriage is the only thing that matters, it is because of the
vocabulary of connectiveness of love, of commitment of family that helps
people as the president and the vice president showed so powerfully rethink
their understanding of who gay people are. It is a vocabulary of
connectiveness itself that enables people to then understand that it is
wrong to fire these people from a job. It`s wrong to take people serving
in the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Wrong, but absolutely legal, right? In the majority of the
American states, people can still lose their job, be discriminated against
in housing solely as a result of the identity and being gay or lesbian.
CAPEHART: Right. And when we talk about on this network and all over the
place of incumbent equality.
CAPEHART: Now, think about it, because same sex couples are not able to
get married at the federal level and you mentioned the 1,138 rights and
privileges they are not able to take advantage of, those are tax credits,
tack benefits that allow --
HARRIS-PERRY: And health care.
WOLFSON: And Social Security.
HARRIS-PERRY: Social Security.
CAPEHART: Right. And so, when you stack up two families, a heterosexual
married family and same sex couple both with children, the same-sex couples
over 18 years with a study of the center for American progress, that`s
about two hundred something thousand dollars.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is literally a gay tax.
HARRIS-PERRY: And then, speaking of money, this has been financially is
awfully good for President Obama. So it does feel like it was a real and
legitimate evolution, but it also was a matter of politics in the campaign
year not a bad day. He went to George Clooney`s house and had his big
fund-raiser that if you are on that list you got 439 text messages about.
WATKINS: And you can go to be with the rich friends and still not be seen
ostracized and the Republican is seen as out of touch.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, everybody has to raise money for the campaign, Democrats
WATKINS: And you have to raise money, but it would be nice if Republicans
were treated the same.
REID: Well, Republicans hang with the hedge fund people and wall street
the people generally don`t like. And everybody loves Hollywood. So, I
HARRIS-PERRY: Everyone loves George Clooney.
REID: The thing is for the president, quite frankly, that event and
subsequent events that are fundraisers with Hollywood are with liberal
donors are maybe a lot less awkward now, because one of the issues that the
president has faced is that when he would show up to the events, they would
eventually the q and the a. When someone would say, excuse me, why aren`t
you for gay marriage? And he always would have this sort of awkward
exchanges. And then of course there was a fact that 15 percent of the
donor base are gay and lesbians, so he has helped himself politically.
HARRIS-PERRY: And in fact Evan, you were about to have one of the awkward
exchanges with the president, right? So, and tell me how you thought it
would go and how you expected to go out?
WOLFSON: Right. Well, Monday, both President Obama and I will be
receiving the Barnard medal of distinction which is like the honorary
degree at the Barnard commencement center.
WOLFSON: I was deeply honored to be awarded that by, obviously, this
prestigious women`s college and to speak this generation on. And then
President Obama managed to get himself an invitation, as well and my stock
soared. But the encounter was going to be challenging one, because of
course I wanted to thank the president for all he has done historic
magnitude in support of ending discrimination and for the country
generally, but at the same time tended very much to press him to finish the
journey and join the majority for marriage. Now I just get to say thank
HARRIS-PERRY: Just say thank you.
Well, and thank you to Evan Wilson. And it will be It great for you to be
at that commencement address, and we will talk more about commencement
addresses later, because there is one going on in Virginia.
But also, coming up in campaign season, there is a lot of cheesy campaign
songs. We are going to lighten it up a little bit. We are going to play
some of the hits. We are going to play "name that tune" a pop quiz right
here on set. Stay tuned.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that happened. That was the theme song of socialist
candidate Francois Hollande who won the French presidential election this
OK. I hate that you are watching that incredible video only because --
what was happening on the set was pretty amazing, because Reverend Joe
Watkins is having a good time.
CAPEHART: He was working it out.
HARRIS-PERRY: He was working it out. But the Jay-Z and Kayne West
collaboration is a far cry from anything that you would ever see or hear in
Take that moment and compare it to this little ditty, an early campaign
theme song that we dug up.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So we have got like "I like Ike" versus Francois
Hollande would shake the entire - what - I love it!
WINSTEAD: I was - I just had my hair cut on Saturday and I was at the
salon and the music was awful and all of the horrible music and I said,
what is this? And they actually said it is the Carla Bruni Pandora
WINSTEAD: And it was like, Carla Bruni and I know she is a horrible
singer, but that is why Sarkozy lost, because of the Carla Bruni and if I
could give anybody information today that is even you will enjoy, Joe, do
not listen to the Carla Bruni Pandora channel unless you want a weird mix
of bad country and music of women singing and whining.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you are turning. That is Lizz Winstead who is joined at
our table with Republican strategist Joe Watkins who was dancing with Jay-Z
and Kayne West, also the "Washington Post" Jonathan Capehart and the grio`s
OK. You guys are having too much fun, and we haven`t even started the pop
quiz. So, here`s what we are going to do. I -- everybody has a buzzer
dinger, all right. And so I`m going to tell you a little bit about the
song, and then your job is to guess what it is.
WATKINS: It is like "jeopardy." kind of like?
HARRIS-PERRY: Kind of like.
WATKINS: OK. Kind of like.
HARRIS-PERRY: A little bit like that. that`s right. So the first --
although you don`t have to phrase the question. So, the first song was
used in the very brief 2008 presidential campaign of former Iowa culture
and current secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack, but which democratic
nominee had used this song? Let`s listen.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Joe knows.
WATKINS: Bill Clinton.
HARRIS-PERRY: Bill Clinton. Very close. Right on the edge of being close.
It wasn`t Bill Clinton, it was --
CAPEHART: Al Gore.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, indeed. Al Gore. Man. His 2000 campaign and the song
was "let the day begin" by the 1980s band the call. I called it. I
thought you would do great on this.
All right. The next song. Was actually used by a candidate whose parents
are immigrants, but let`s listen to the song.
CAPEHART: Michael Dukakis.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, you got it. Michael Dukakis` 1980 campaign.
CAPEHART: I listen to it.
WINSTEAD: That is why I was so bummed out by Dukakis, because that make
makes me want to cringe. What he does today! Michael Dukakis, you are
lucky, you are getting my vote.
Yes. There are some candidates, you have to present are not happening.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. All right. This one I love. This is by and on again
and off again presidential candidate who went with a surprisingly --
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, you have not listened to the music, and a mellow tune
and one that was said to be descriptive of the candidate. Let`s listen for
REID: Ross Perot.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, one word. And Joy-Ann Reid catches that "Crazy" is
potentially a descriptor for presidential candidate Ross Perot. All right.
This hit song was used by the campaign until the artist said stop.
WATKINS: There you go.
WINSTEAD: Ronald Reagan. Yes. Michele Bachmann.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, no, she did the other tom petty one.
You got the artist right. It is "I won`t back down." But which candidate
WATKINS: George Bush.
HARRIS-PERRY: And for the bonus point. Which George Bush? H.
HARRIS-PERRY: Very good. Yes.
WINSTEAD: You have an advantage.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. This one. This is the last one, and it is a crooner.
And he used this song, and you have to listen to it, because then the words
change, but listen to the original words for a second.
WATKINS: 1960s John Kennedy campaign. Right?
WATKINS: That is Frank Sinatra.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That is Frank Sinatra. That is the Kennedy campaign,
but listen to how the words were changed specifically for Kennedy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Joe Watkins, you have redeemed yourself at the Nerdland
table. You and I disagree on things that`s hilarious. But you are
absolutely the king of campaign songs.
WINSTEAD: I would like a bell and use it to like bypass that bible thing,
where is that Leviticus. OK. Romans 4.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Bonus round. If you have to pick a song for each one
of the presidential candidate in this year`s race, and let`s say they
didn`t have to be, you know narrowed. Let`s say they could be like the
French, what would be the song?
WATKINS: For Mitt Romney, Kayne West "stronger."
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. All right.
WATKINS: And for President Obama, I`d say Madonna`s "vogue."
REID: I love that, Joe. I`m confused.
WATKINS: Well, he is cool, and, you don`t think so? Madonna is a great
WINSTEAD: Have you ever seen Obama go like this?
WINSTEAD: Because I think that all of us would call him up and go, never
again. Not that.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Anybody else got Obama or Mitt Romney?
REID: Well, Obama is cool and I would have gone with "Moves Like Jagger,"
right? Because I think that he finesse d the whole gay marriage thing,
which I was just sort to applaud him by little Joe Biden.
REID: And he has moves like Jagger. And my choice for Mitt Romney would
be "I want to break free" by Queen, because I just thing the irony of
having Freddy Mercury standing in for Mitt Romney is too rich.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s too cute. But I still love Kayne for Romney.
CAPEHART: I would give for Romney "Papa don`t preach" by Madonna.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s a lot of Madonna going on at the table.
CAPEHART: And for President Obama, the you Eurhythmics "sweet dreams are
made of this."
HARRIS-PERRY: Very nice.
All right. You get the last word of the segment.
WINSTEAD: For Romney, I would go with Jackson Browne`s "running on empty."
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Give me on for the president?
WINSTEAD: Frankly, I didn`t really have one. I think you guys covered it
and I was trying to think, and I think that we could retire U2, because I
think that we use a lot of U2.
WATKINS: Jackson five "I want you back."
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s good.
WATKINS: That passed your lips. And you are now the emissary.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you are the undisputed emperor of campaigns.
WINSTEAD: I want you back is actually awesome.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, I`m going to try to bring the caffeine level down
just a bit here at the table. We will go live to the Liberty University,
the evangelical. Conservative pasture where Mitt Romney is addressing
graduates. And that is right after the break.
And also still ahead, a medical breakthrough in the battle against aids.
So stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: You are looking at a live picture of governor Mitt Romney on
stage at Liberty University giving the commencement address. He just
started a moment ago.
Liberty of course was founded by the late reverend Jerry Falwell, Sr., and
this is an opportunity for governor Romney to do major outreach to the
evangelicals of the party that is going to be so crucial come November.
Let`s take a listen.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The chicken sandwiches were a
comfort food to the primary season and heaven knows there were days that we
need a lot of comfort. So true, thank you and congratulations on the well
deserved honor today.
ROMNEY: Of course, there are some people here who are even more pleased
than the graduates. That would be their parents. Their years of prayers
and devotion and investment have added up to the joyful achievement, and
with credit to congressman Dick Army, the American dream is not owning your
own home, it is getting the kids out of the home you own.
ROMNEY: Lately, I have found myself thinking about life in four-year
stretches. And let`s just say that not everybody has achieved as much in
this last four years as you have. But that is a theme for another day.
But two observations. First even though job opportunities are scarce in
this economy, it is not for nothing that you have spent this time
preparing. Jerry Falwell Sr. Long ago observed that you don`t determine a
man`s greatness by his talent or the wealth as the world does, but rather
what it takes to discourage him.
America needs your talent and skill. If we take the right course, I am
convinced that we are going to see a resurgence in the American economy
that will surprise the world and that will open up new doors of opportunity
for those who are as prepared as you are. Of course -
HARRIS-PERRY: That is Mitt Romney at Liberty University giving the
commencement address and still getting warmed up.
But coming up the day that moderation died. Why some of the favorite
lawmakers are going extinct. Former senator Arlen Specter joins us next.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: Welcome back. We just heard a little
bit from Mitt Romney who is in Virginia today, delivering the commencement
address at the late televangelist Jerry Falwell`s Liberty University.
In November, the severely conservative Mormon is going to need the
steady support of the social and the religious conservatives represented by
the Liberty University crowd.
Now, Romney is already leading with white evangelicals. A recent
poll shows him pulling ahead of President Obama with a hefty margin of 68
percent to 19 percent with evangelicals. And this week, President Obama`s
endorsement of same-sex marriage likely only cemented evangelicals` opinion
But while we celebrate the president`s move away from the middle, I
do worry about the reaction of his decision to support same-sex marriage
will add to a polarized political environment. Increasingly, Washington is
no place for moderation, which that means no place for governing.
On the Hill, putting a W on the board, and that means win and not
George W. Bush, for your team, seems to be all that matters.
And consider these words of wisdom from Indiana state treasurer
Richard Mourdock who bested long time senator and key bipartisan champion
Dick Lugar at the Indiana Republican Senate primary Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), INDIANA STATE TREASURER: I certainly think
that bipartisanship ought to consist of the 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 idea 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)
HARRIS-PERRY: You just cannot get any clearer than that.
But let`s be honest, most of us actually only want moderates on the
other side of the aisle. On our side, we want fighters and pushovers on
the other side.
But in a diverse democracy, governing requires compromise as Senator
Lugar said in his concession statement this week. "Partisan groups have
worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party
to hold independent views and to continue to compromise. If that attitude
in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction
we have witnessed during the last several years."
So, I like Lugar more on the depth, not so much of moderates, but of
moderation this week.
Back with me see is Lizz Winstead, a political satirist, and co-
creator of "The Daily Show"; Joe Watkins, Republican strategist and former
George H.W. Bush aide; Jonathan Capehart, MSNBC contributor and "Washington
Post" opinion writer; and Joy-Ann Reid, MSNBC contributor and managing
editor for TheGrio.com.
Is moderation dead?
JOE WATKINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Civility is. I mean, I think
that we don`t seem to have a capacity to disagree on issues and still love
each other. I mean, it`s gotten so ugly.
When I first started to work in the U.S. Senate, I hate to say it, as
many years ago as I did, I had good close friendships with the Democrats
and I knew lots of folks who were friendly on both sides of the political
aisle. I don`t know if it`s that way anymore. I mean, it`s really gotten
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Civility is dead, but, yes,
moderation is dying on Capitol Hill. We saw it after the 2010 midterm
elections when you 87 new freshmen, a lot of them Tea Party members, who
were elected to go to Washington to shape things up, and to blow things up,
to not compromise. There are people who are there who were elected because
they said they would not compromise with the president, they would not
compromise with Democrats.
Well, unfortunately, the only way that you can govern a diverse
democracy is if you give a little to get a little, and the people who are
being elected and elected in the last cycle and we will see if the same
people get elected in this cycle, the only way that the country will be
governed with the problems coming down the road after this election is done
is if people compromise. And the way that things are going right now, it
is not going to happen.
JOY-ANN REID, THEGRIO.COM: And at the same time though, I think,
Melissa, you made a really good point, which is that we always like the
other side to have the moderates, because the liberals were not pleased
with the existence of people like Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh, and also in
2010, a purging of the Democratic moderates. And then I think without
those people in the middle --
LIZZ WINSTEAD, POLITICAL SATIRIST: And outcrying critique about
REID: Being moderate on health care reform, for instance. And that
is an example that is not perfect of compromise producing a big result that
was not perfect by any means, but what you get in Washington when people
So, neither side really likes it, but we have had a redefinition of
moderate. Dick Lugar is not a moderate.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- when we yearn for Dick Lugar and Ronald Reagan.
WINSTEAD: And Bob Bennett.
REID: Yes. Right, right.
WINSTEAD: And then to your point, when we talk about the moderates
and the Democratic Party and the Ben Nelsons, I think the biggest problem
of the moderates and the liberals is that you were voting mostly with
Republicans. It wasn`t like you were moderate, you were voting against
Democratic bills for a lot of the times.
And then, what I don`t understand just in the metascope of things,
what kind of life allows you to run for political office to say, I will not
compromise. Is compromise removed from your life somehow? Because it is
impossible to live in a world whether you are a husband or a sister or
employed or elected to the Congress or to the U.S. Senate, where you don`t
have to compromise.
If your can life has been reduced to that, that`s a bigger problem.
WATKINS: I think you have to compromise. I think that`s part of
being in the political process. I think the big challenge becomes the tone
of the conversation which is probably reaching an all-time high for
meanness and tone deafness on both sides of the aisle with regards to the
HARRIS-PERRY: Although, I got to say, if we had a historian at the
table, which we don`t today, every time we say that, right -- everyone a
sort of contemporary pundit says, oh, this is the worst that`s ever been,
they always bring up some like 1892, you know, thing, and they say, no,
actually much worse, you know? In fact, you had folks claiming that the
other candidate was dead.
Just -- I want to, and it seems to me that on one hand there is this
let`s all be nice to each other, and I supposed you know, I worried that
the "let`s all be nice to each other" and I actually mean governing. So,
we`ve had people like McCain/Feingold, and Lugar/Kerry and Graham/Lieberman
and you could call them the Butch Cassidy and the sun dance kids or the
Bonnie and Clyde of the U.S. Senate at one point, kind of the buddies who
actually managed to get some kinds of things done.
I want to listen to Kerry on Lugar. He actually had something to say
about this guy who had been his kind of moderation buddy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: He refused to allow this march
to unorthodoxy, about ideology and partisan politics to get in the way of
what he thought was the responsibility of the senator an indeed the need of
the country to have people come together and find the common ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Speaking of senators thrown out in part around this
moderation question, let`s bring in former Pennsylvania Senator Arlen
Specter, who represented his years for 30 years in the Senate, first as a
Republican and then later as a Democrat. He is the author of "Life Among
the Cannibals: A Political Career, A Tea Party Uprising, and the End of
Governing as We Know It."
That, Senator, is the sort of title tat tells you about what is in
So, you went through this yourself, and you were known as a
contrarian, but your decision to break with your party and vote for the
president`s stimulus package cost you your seat. Are you the exception to
this, or are you the rule?
ARLEN SPECTER (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: No. That is what is
happening in Washington today, Melissa. That`s why Charles Robins and I
wrote this book "Life Among the Cannibals," because what is happening and
happened again in the last few days when Senator Dick Lugar was
Cannibals are devouring senators. If you don`t follow orthodoxy,
vote the party line right down the line, if you have a 93 percent
conservative voting record like Bob Bennett in Utah, that`s not
conservative enough. And the cannibals function to cost the Republicans
the Senate seat in Colorado and Delaware and Nevada almost in Alaska, and
now Orrin Hatch is in jeopardy in Utah.
I hope that people in Utah, and I know you have a big listening
audience, viewing audience there, Melissa, will read this book and come out
and vote to make sure that Orrin Hatch is not cannibalized.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask you this. Is this cannibalizing
happening on both sides or really just about the Tea Party or happening on
the right? It doesn`t feel like the left has been as effective in actually
taking down moderates within the Democratic Party, the blue dog Democrats
SPECTER: Well, the cannibalizing goes on in both parties. An able
senator like Joe Lieberman could not win a Democratic primary in
Connecticut. And Lieberman is now leaving the Senate, because he is a
person without a party.
I had the unique experience, Melissa, to be inside both the
Democratic and the Republican caucuses, Senate caucuses, in recent times
and I can tell you that the extremism is present on both sides.
The answer, Melissa, is what happened to Senator Lisa Murkowski in
Alaska. She was cannibalized. The Tea Party beat her in the primary. She
then came back and won on a write-in, and virtually unprecedented in
American political history, and can you imagine winning a write-in with a
name like Murkowski?
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a great point.
But when we look at the two big movements that have emerged since
2010, the Tea Party on the right and Occupy on the left, and the fact is
that it is Tea Party folks who -- so I hear the point about Lieberman and
despite the fact that he ran for vice president on the Democratic ticket,
there is some question of how moderate or how much of a Democrat he was.
But, I do worry about this question that we say, oh, it is happening
on both sides, when it does really feel like far more a pull to the right -
- and we have Mourdock saying this week, it means more Democrats coming to
our side of the aisle.
SPECTER: Well, it is happening more often with the Republicans,
because think are better organized with the Tea Party.
SPECTER: But the extremism has gripped both sides. This book I
can`t recommend too much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Senator, I`m going to let Joy-Ann Reid to jump in
REID: The one example of the Democratic Party was Blanche Lincoln,
right? Blanche Lincoln was washed out in the similar sense that the
liberals didn`t think she was liberal enough.
HARRIS-PERRY: Blue dog.
REID: And when she left, of course, the Democrats then lost the
seat, because the energy again in the state she was running was still on
But I think what`s really -- the reason that the right feels they are
more of the ones doing this is that you have had conservativism to water it
down and compassion, and try all of the ways to assert itself, and it has
never been successful, because the Americans tend to resist austerity, they
tend to resist cuts to social programs. To impose this, you have to have
doctrinaire people to go with the majority view and stick to the party line
and impose really a minority view on the country.
REID: So, I think you had like John birch Society tried to take the
party in the `50s and they failed. They`ve got it now, and the only way to
implement what is a minority view -- cut social program, cut Social
Security, cut Medicare -- is doctrinaire people who are willing to go
HARRIS: Joy-Ann, I really -- that is an extremely helpful way of
thinking about this, and we`re going to continue to talk about, and more
about where have all of the moderates gone when we come.
And later, why North Carolina felt like center of the universe to a
lot of people this week. And I`m not talking about John Edwards. Stay
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me take you to White House where at this moment
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are honoring police officers
from around the country. Now, this is the first time we are seeing the
president and the vice president together since Mr. Biden voiced his
support of same-sex marriage on "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
OK. I just wanted to show them together and I hoped that they would
hug or embrace, no, nothing.
OK. So, let`s get back to our conversation in part because here --
here are the vice president and the president both having come out in the
course of the week in a very strong way -- at least rhetorically -- for
same-sex marriage, and at the same time right at this moment, Mitt Romney
is speaking is at Liberty University which we are going to take a gamble is
not supportive of same-sex marriage, and we are trying to figure out where
is the middle where people can govern in American politics.
Senator Specter, I want to come back to you for a moment and ask
whether or you think part of what is going on in politics is also driven by
what`s happening in the media? If part of what is going on cursively --
Reverend Watkins earlier said, you know, sort of meanness. Is that part of
sort of driven by our desire to beat each other up in the blogosphere, on
Twitter, on cable news? Is that`s what`s happening? Or is this driven
primarily by the politicians themselves?
SPECTER: Media has a very important effect, Melissa. You have
radio, and talk TV really taking sides, and having a profound effect of
whipping up the extremists who are the ones who are watching MSNBC and FOX
and listening to Rush Limbaugh --
HARRIS-PERRY: Hey, hey, hey. Senator Specter, we are not whipping
up extremists on MSNBC.
SPECTER: Well, you may not think that you are, but I think that you
advertise that you are leaning forward which is another way of saying that
you are leaning left. I`m not objecting to that. But I call them as I see
them. And I think that whips people up/
And that`s why in the Pennsylvania primary, a couple of weeks ago,
only 20 percent of the people voted. When I ran in a primary in
Pennsylvania two years ago, a very small turnout. Had there been a more
representative turnout, I think that the result would have been different.
HARRIS-PERRY: I certainly opened up on the question with media, but
I do want to suggest that actually leaning forward does not necessarily
mean leaning left. And, in fact, maybe what I do is go back in part to Jo
Ann`s point earlier that we`re talking about a majority of the Americans
for example with support for a social safety net, and only a minority
against that and sort of an order to govern in that way, and I do hear you
say that journalism and point of view television is a different.
But let me ask, is there a way -- is there a model that we can use,
where we are on the one hand stand very strong on our own positions, our
own ideas, but also make space for the realities of governing. And what
the does that look like to the folks at the table here?
REID: Well, you know, I just don`t think not on fundamental issues.
I think the only way that I think there is on one hand on other, had both
sides do it -- let`s take Social Security. Democrats -- no Democrat
whoever wants to be re-elected would compromise on getting rid of Social
Security, and would ever compromise on making Medicare a voucher program
for instance. There are some things that the base wants you to stand
strong on, and that principally, you think that you would if you are in the
The only spaces for compromise are around altering these programs. I
think that there has to be a basic agreement, societal agreement that there
are certain things we`re going to do, right? We`re going to take care of
the poor. We`re going to take care of the elderly.
REID: But that is a position of me as somebody that you would put me
in the liberal position. Conservatives don`t believe that.
WATKINS: Most people who run for political office and get elected
are hopefully there are there because they believe they`re supposed to
doing what`s right for everybody, you`re supposed to be doing the right
thing -- whether it`s popular or expedient, the right thing to do.
And then the other side becomes how you explain it, and the
discourses become so mean between us that the reason that President Obama`s
2004 convention speech resonated with so many Americans is because it was a
home run. He was saying --
HARRIS-PERRY: So inclusive.
WATSON: Yes, inclusive. He said we`re not red states and blue
states, but the United States of America. And what we have not seen him
yet is him bring us together and end the polarization.
HARRIS-PERRY: But problem is the discourse -- the thing is that the
president can`t end -- I think this is my point about is not just sort of
both sides. The president, himself, cannot individually end polarization,
otherwise you`ll get the Mourdock problem where it`s just the president
coming and sort of doing whatever Republicans want.
But even then, and even to the extent that the president`s health
care reform bill, which actually passed the Congress and the Senate was
something that was basically proposed by Republicans two decades ago and it
is now being called socialism. I mean, it does feel like meanness, but
like an act of misrepresentation of the realities of the policy.
CAPEHART: Well, and that`s misrepresentation. But also, I keep
coming back to the fact that you have now people on Capitol Hill who are
there either resistant to facts or come to the table with their own facts.
I remember something that Chuck Todd said in the height of the debt
ceiling debate. He said he was talking to a long-time Hill staffer who
said in the old days freshmen would come in and the leadership would sit
them down and tell them, this is how things work --
CAPEHART: -- this is why this is important, and here are what the
facts are, and you know, go ahead and vote. But this is how we want you to
With the debt ceiling fight you had all of the people coming in who
had access to their own sources of information and this is the
democratization of information --
CAPEHART: And you would have Speaker John Boehner sitting there and
saying, you know, if we don`t raise the debt ceiling, the full faith and
credit of the United States will go off the cliff, and all of these things
are going to happen.
CAPEART: Right. It won`t. No, freshmen saying that to the speaker
of the House.
CAPEHART: So, that`s I think is a civility problem and respect
problem, but it is also people feeling as though because they were elected,
and because they have access to their own facts, that they are able to do
whatever is that they want regardless of what it means for the overall
HARRIS-PERRY: And I kind of like Joy Ann`s point about some things
we just have to agree that we`re going to do together as a country.
So, before, I actually have to play something real quickly that Mitt
Romney just said a moment at Liberty University about same-sex marriage
that got a lot of applause. Let`s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now as fundamental as these
principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate from time to
time, so it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage
is a relationship between one man and one woman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, again, that is factually empirically not quite
right. There is not one enduring relationship of marriage, and marriage
has changed in different societies across time and --
REID: In Romney`s own family.
HARRIS-PERRY: In Romney`s own family. I mean, the fact is that
there are plural marriages. I mean, it has not always been one man and one
woman in time and for memorial, and if we are in a place where we are
voting for people`s civil rights on ballots in the states -- I mean, is
there some place, Arlen Specter, I will give you the last word on this --
is there one word that you can say to help to bring us to a place where we
are prepared to compromise for the good of the general republic?
SPECTER: The issue of 2,000 words ago that you were searching for is
how to compromise, and it`s illustrated by what is in the budget process
today. You have a battle between cuts and defense and cuts in social
programs. And the way to work it out is to make out a long list and decide
what is most important on both sides and then find the accommodation where
nobody gets everything they want, but there is an approach that each of the
issues is recognized and is accommodated to the extent within the overall
amount of money that you can spend.
If you are talking about the same-sex marriage, that`s a matter of
principle. You are talking about school prayer. That`s a matter of
But most of what the Congress does, and I saw it in 30 years is to
try to figure out how to divide up the money. And that can be worked out
if people are willing to talk and to listen to each other. It can`t be
accomplished if it`s the Tea Party running on a platform of no compromise.
HARRIS-PERRY: Senator Arlen Specter, I greatly appreciate it. There
is a fundamental issue of governing trying to figure out how to spend the
money. Thank you for bringing us back to that.
And coming up, for the first time, doctors are recommending giving
healthy people a drug to prevent HIV. It`s a potential breakthrough in the
battle against AIDS. And I just want to have a quick conversation about it
when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: This morning, I want to talk about a potential medical
On Thursday for the first time in the 31-year battle against HIV and
AIDS in the U.S., a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended
approval of the drug people who are considered high risk to prevent them
from getting an HIV infection. The drug called Truvada is already used to
threat HIV, and proponents hope the drug use could also lead to the
decrease of the rate of new HIV infections.
Opponents think the FDA recommending preventative use will backfire,
because many people will forget to take the once-a-day pill or they lead to
believe that condoms are no longer need.
So, here to help sort this out, because it seems important, is Dr.
Roy Gulick, chief of Infectious Diseases at the New York Presbyterian
University, well, Cornel University Hospital.
DR. ROY GULICK, NY PRESBYTERIAN: Sure.
HARRIS-PERRY: So clarify it for me. What is it that I read on "The
New York Times" about the possibility of preventing HIV infections?
GULICK: Every year in this country, 50,000 Americans have been newly
infected with HIV. That`s a stunning statistic. But not only is that
true, it has not changed in the last 20 years. So every year for the last
two decades 50,000 more Americans are HIV infected.
HARRIS-PERRY: The numbers have not gone down?
GULICK: No. And it`s very surprising. We are doing better treating
people with HIV, but clearly we need to do better with prevention.
So what we have heard is in addition to what we have always done --
ABC, abstinence, be faithful and condoms is working for many people, now we
have a new tool, and that`s what the excitement is about.
HARRIS-PERY: So, talk to me, even if the numbers the populations
have changed, right? What we think of a high-risk population is now
different. What does that look like particularly in terms of how this drug
might be used or recommended by the FDA?
GULICK: Very much so. The communities that are disproportionately
affected today are communities of color, African-Americans and Latinos. If
you look at the people at risk for HIV, the line group or infections who
are actually going up is gay men. And infected, it`s young gay man and
most of all, young gay men of color.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, men who were potentially born after that kind of
initial AIDS crisis of the early 1980s that really gripped if nation.
GULICK: Yes, under the age of 30 is the group that is most at risk.
And the fact is, we need more tools and better tools to help people prevent
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what does this drug actually do?
GULICK: So, what we are talking about here are two HIV drugs that we
used to treat HIV together in one pill. We are talking about giving one
pill once a day to someone who is at risk for HIV. The drugs are on board,
and if they come in contact with HIV in the body, it will prevent HIV from
HARRIS-PERRY: Who -- what physicians should -- or I mean, physicians
will be talking to which potential patients about making this decision,
about describing this?
GULICK: So, it will be physicians who are taking care of people who
are at risk of HIV, from sexual exposure and, again, we need to reinforce,
abstain, be faithful. And condom use is really critical. And get testing
HARRIS-PERRY: And this doesn`t change those behavior -- the
necessity of those behavior?
GULICK: Not at all. This would be an add-on to what we`re already
doing. We know that this pill, depending on which population you look at
can prevent HIV infections, reduce the risks by somewhere between 44
percent and 75 percent, or even higher when you look at the subpopulation
who had detectible levels in their blood, 90 percent or higher protection
from taking one pill once a day.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last question, are we moving towards a vaccine? Is
that a possibility?
GULICK: Vaccine might be another tool in our tool box for HIV
prevention. It`s going to take multiple approaches. Lots of research
going on now to look for a vaccine, until we have a vaccine, let`s use what
we have, let`s use what works.
HARRIS-PERRY: Doctor, I greatly appreciate your being here to talk
with us about this.
So, up next, the head of the nation`s biggest bank admits he and his
colleagues were stupid and sloppy. Well, we`ll tell you what they did and
why the Occupy movement might want to listen up, after the break.
HARRIS: There was a lot going on in North Carolina this week -- a
draconian vote against marriage equality, the salacious trial of a former
presidential candidate and visit by a current presidential candidate, and
Bank of America annual shareholders meeting in Charlotte.
I know. That last one does not seem like it is big news, but it is,
because a lot of more than shareholders showed up at the headquarters. On
Wednesday, the Occupy movement, along with other activist groups, protested
the nation`s second largest bank for its foreclosure and lending practices,
as well as its funding of the U.S. coal industry. Charlotte, of course,
will also host the Democratic National Convention later this summer.
So, this came about a week after the Occupy movement relaunched its
public presence with May Day protests on May 1st known as international
So it is apparent that whether you like it or not, whether you wanted
it or not, whether you realize it or not, Occupy is here, and they are
determined to make an impact on the national conversation.
Now, what are they going to do?
So, joining us to answer that question: Lizz Winstead, Joe Watkins,
Jonathan Capehart and Joy-Ann Reid.
OK. How will Occupy impact this election?
CAPEHART: Look, early on, I said there is a link between the anger
fueling the Tea Party movement, and the anger fueling Occupy.
CAPEHART: The Tea Party was angry at government, what they saw as
overreach of the government, size of the budgets, deficits, and government
spending. Occupy is angry at powerful forces on Wall Street that were
responsible for people losing their homes, losing their jobs and imploding
What Tea Party did was they took that anger that they displayed on
the streets of Washington, they then ran for Congress, ran for state
HARRIS-PERRY: Like 15 minutes later.
HARRIS-PERRY: They were like, we are mad, and that is it.
CAPEHART: And we are in power, in Congress.
CAPEHART: And Occupy Wall Street, tell me if I`m wrong, maybe I
missed it, but who are the Occupy candidates who are going to be on the
ballot in November for Congress? For state Senate? State representatives?
Where are those people?
HARRIS-PERRY: I think that the part of the Occupy would claim,
because I am sort of with you, and I`ve always been sort of an Occupy hater
hashtag, which is a problem, because I think that -- you know, I think that
part of what Occupy would say is that part of what they did was to change
the conversation. Remember that super committee that was all about the
deficits, and they shifted the language from the deficit hawk discussions
over to inequality conversation, and that inequality conversation has been
CAPEHART: But who is leading that conversation now?
WATKINS: Well, they are generally angry. I mean, you know, that`s
the thing about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, they are at the Bank of America meeting.
CAPEHART: Well, anger is a legitimate point, Joe.
WATKINS: Yes. But the thought is that -- you know, there is a way
to start a conversation. There was a way to get things done. I mean, if
you look at the Tea Party movement, at least, the point you made so
wonderfully was that they channeled that energy into something concrete,
and said, there`s an end to what we`re trying to accomplish.
REID: You have to remember, too, that political operatives from
Republican Party co-opted the Tea Party movement almost immediately. They
had organizational assistance from the Republican Party who saw the
potential for them as an electoral model.
Whereas, I went down to Occupy Wall Street to see for myself, sort of
talk to people, they were not only not organizing politically, but they
were happy about that. They were purposefully not even writing down
people`s names that were there. They were purposely not writing down ways
to even connect each other again.
And that`s been sort of my iteration toward Occupy, is that they were
deciding not to be political and not to channel what they did. But I do
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, not electorally.
REID: They are political, but not electoral. But they introduced
the 99 or mean, which has been hugely influential. I think that they
accomplished that. They can be very proud of that. But after that, I`m
not really sure what they`re about.
WATKINS: That`s the problem.
WINSTEAD: And what they are about is I think could be debated and
the fact that there`s nobody here is from Occupy, that makes it a little
confusing. But for me, they introduced 99 percent and they were the ones
who really talked about wage disparity and got it into the conversation
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, absolutely.
WINSTEAD: But what I haven`t seen happened is that become part of
the dialogue around the kitchen tables constantly, and just breaking it
down. For me, as somebody who feels I`m pretty informed about life, any
time we talk about any of this stuff, my head -- you say the word
derivative and my brain goes and glazes and I feel like I`m not smart
enough and there is never anybody who has laid out to me.
And to me, the most important part of this is that what are the legal
things that these banks are doing that they are not incriminated and if
every American knew what was in this tax code that allowed these
corporations to behave this way, that is perfectly legal people would be
outraged. But there has not been an extension of that makes --
HARRIS-PERRY: This is exactly what -- I mean, this is the big news
story of the week. So, Bank of America is the second largest of the week,
but the big one, JPMorgan Chase was interviewed this week -- excuse me, not
JPMorgan Chase obviously, but Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, was
interviewed this week for "Meet the Press," and we learned that they lost
$2 billion, "B" -- billion dollars.
Let`s just take a listen to what we`re going to hear on "Meet the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": A media question, the
SEC is looking into this. Did the bank break any laws? Did it violate any
accounting rules or SEC rules?
JAMIE DIMON, JPMORGAN CHASE CEO: So we have had audit, legal risk
compliance and our best people looking all of that. We know we were
sloppy. We know we were stupid. We know there was bad judgment. We don`t
know if any of that is true yet.
And, of course, regulators should look at something like this.
That`s their job. So, we are totally open to the regulators and they will
come to their own conclusion. But we intend to fix it, learn from it, and
be a better company when it was done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you can catch the full interview of Jamie Dimon on
"Meet on Press" tomorrow morning on NBC, although you should actually watch
"MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY" here on MSNBC. And we will -- that`s right, Josh,
we`ll replay it, too. We`ll tell you all about.
WINSTEAD: I don`t believe him.
HARRIS-PERRY: But that your point about, did you break any laws, and
he`s saying, no, we were sloppy and stupid, but we were within the laws --
but you lost $2 billion.
WATKINS: Individuals and banks make mistakes also, Not every
mistake is a malicious one.
HARRIS-PERRY: Two billion dollars?
WATKINS: Even when you consider the amount of capital that`s in play
every single day, to all of us, it sounds like a big number. It may not be
as big of a number as some people may think. But people make mistakes,
every mistake is a not criminal one.
REID: Can I just say? Jamie Dimon has been one of the most vocal
whiners on Wall Street about regulations, about the Dodd-Frank bill, saying
don`t blame the banks for the implosion, you know, don`t hate on us, and be
angry at President Obama and the Democrats for daring to regulate them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Apparently, this regulation would have saved them $1.5
Coming up: how the Republican Party has been able to make the
president look bad in a tux. This is the latest video attacking the
president, and we`re going to look at that when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I want you to take a good hard look at the new
web video released yesterday by the Republican National Committee and I
want you to really focus on the juxtaposition of images here. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes people,
forget the magnitude of it. You know, and you saw some of it I think in
the video of it. Sometimes I forget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So there`s the sad underlay of music. But there`s
also those images of the president in tuxedos or at fancy events during the
great American recession. That`s why it`s in black and white on the other
So, Republicans have always been pretty insistent on making this
Democrat look all fancy pants, calling the president celebrity-in-chief and
whatnot. But that`s not going to cut it. I actually think the RNC is now
trying to brand President Obama with the dreaded, out of touch label of a 1
percent. They`re trying basically to turn him into this guy -- you know,
the guy in the middle, their own candidate.
When the Republicans are making this argument, I have to say it feels
like Occupy is in fact dictating the terms of the debate.
Joining us for a last thought here are Lizz Winstead, Joe Watkins,
Jonathan Capehart and Joy-Ann Reid.
So, I don`t know, Jonathan. Maybe is why he is wearing the horrible
CAPEHART: And you took -- look, I`d much rather see the president in
tuxedo, black tie, and maybe blazers, but suit, I thought he burned that
during the campaign. Brown suit and a yellow tie? Come on, man.
HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe he is trying to look like the 99 percent. Is
that an indication that in fact the Occupy movement is still dictating the
terms that even the RNC is trying to separate him out as a 1 percenter?
REID: I think the ghost of Occupy definitely hangs over this
campaign. I think for Romney, it`s dangerous to peg his entire campaign on
the economy, because it can bite as well if you are the Republican
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And it`s getting better and better. That`s the
WATKINS: Soft, it`s still soft. I mean, you have just too many
people who aren`t working full time jobs, who don`t have benefits who are
HARRIS-PERRY: But we`re getting to that 8 percent. I mean, Romney
said 8 percent. We`re at 8.1. Any second, I feel a 7.9 percent dance
WINSTEAD: I just think it shows -- the Republicans don`t know what
to do, because that whole role playbook, accuse your candidate of what you
are thing is so incredibly -- you can`t do it this time, and they are still
trying to anyway and it`s really embarrassing.
I mean, pretty soon, they`re just going to have middle-class people
in the Sarah McLaughlin ASPCA ad saying that Americans are in cages -- help
us, and Barack Obama put us in cages. Help us. They are going to do
HARRIS-PERRY: Goodness, Lizz Winstead. That is the best.
HARRIS-PERRY: Lizz wins.
WATKINS: How do you come back to that?
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no. There`s no comeback. We`re letting that be
the last word, but not the last word of the show, because when you come
back, we are going to continue by talking about a children`s book, and what
this children`s book can tell us about citizenship.
But before we do that, we`re going to take a preview of "WEEKENDS
WITH ALEX WITT" -- Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: I loved that book. I`m so sad he passed.
Anyway, let`s talk about dueling commencement speeches. Within the
very past hour, we have both First Lady Michele Obama and Mitt Romney
delivering messages to graduating college students. So did either touch on
the big news of the week? We`ll check that out.
Meanwhile, the president also within the past hour, honoring heroes
who protect and serve across the U.S. everyday. We`re going to hear from
him as well.
Two billion and counting. The JPMorgan Chase debacle -- could it
affect the overall economy, just like the last financial crisis?
And what happened here is historic. Can you check this out? This is
one for the record book. It looks scary, cool -- all I can say is
cowabunga. Wow, that guy!
Anyway, we`re going to look at that again, because you can`t get
enough of the dude.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that`s pretty good. But also, I love the dueling
commencement speeches. I`m so excited about First Lady Obama being at
North Carolina A&T.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, that is really a site, traditional site of
the civil rights movement right there in Greensboro, North Carolina, right
there. So, I`m hoping she`s going to talk about the broader civil rights
agenda we still have. I can`t hear more about that.
WITT: I`m going to tell you.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Good.
All right. Up next, I`ll tell you why the kids need a little fear in
HARRIS-PERRY: For this week`s foot soldier, nerd land went to the
forest. Author of "Where the Wild Things Are," Maurice Sendak, passed away
Tuesday at 83 years old.
Tapping into the realities of child hood and realizing it wasn`t all
ponies and fairies, Sendak`s 1963 book changed the landscape of children`s
literature forever after. Early reviews of Sendak`s work glowed. "The New
York Times" wrote of the author and his book as, "Disguised in fantasy,
springs from him earliest self, from the vagrant child that lurks in the
heart of all of us."
"Wild Things" is a dramatic departure from the relentlessly
optimistic children`s stories and sometimes is a dark allegory for life`s
turbulent journey. The book is undeniably influenced by Sendak`s own
experience. From a young age, he struggled with a string of diseases and
depression. His penchant for traveling to and covering the dark side was a
way of overcoming his real-life obstacles.
And so we meet Rambunctious Max, frustrated by the constraints of the
real world. He escapes to another by dressing up as a wolf. But when he
barks playfully at his mother shouting, I`ll eat you up, he gets sent to
his room without dinner in his belly.
So he takes his escape further, allowing his imagination to build a
forest where there was once just a bedroom, until his ceiling hung with
vines and the walls became the world all around. His fantasy becomes more
elaborate, the shores of reality further away n and out of weeks and almost
over a year to where the wild things are.
Max is met with the gargantuan wild beasts whose claws and things
surely destroy him. They roar, they terrible roars, and gnash their
terrible teeth, and roll their terrible eyes, and show their terrible
claws. Until Max said, be still!
Sendak was telling us something. Whether in fantasy or reality, when
met with adversity, take control. And like Max, you can become the ruler
over the very things you fear. But as Sendak write, even a ruler needs
love -- and dinner.
So despite protests from his disciples, Max leaves the forest and
returns home to his mom, to real life, bringing with him the confidence
gain overcoming the challenges he faced in the forest. And back at home,
he finds that the dinner he was initially denied is waiting for him. And
it`s still hot.
Maurice Sendak said, "I don`t write books for children, I write them
for myself and children happen to like them."
And children`s books are the first lesson that most of us receive in
civic education on how to be a part of democracy and about becoming a fully
participating citizen. So, Sendak taught us to embrace the things that
others tell us to fear and to participate in the wild rumpus of life. And
for that, he is our foot soldier of the week.
And that is our show for today. Thank you to Lizz Winstead, Joe
Watkins, Jonathan Capehart, and Joy-Ann Reid for sticking around.
Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll see you tomorrow morning at
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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