'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, May 20, 2012
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
Guests: Thomas Roberts, Emily Carpenter, Leslie Cardona, Julie Zeilinger, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Genevieve Chase, Kayla Williams, Salamishah Tillet, Kimberly Dozier, Glen Johnson, Hank Sheinkopf, Bill Bradley
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning women like our bras and
they`re expensive. We would never burn them. Seriously, we never did
Plus, women are already on the front line. It`s time to open our eyes and
And we can all do better. Really, we can. And I`m going to talk to Bill
Bradley about how.
But first I`m no assassin, but I do have a few questions about character.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Yesterday in the afternoon, a little cheer went up here in Nerd land when
we got the news that the NAACP, the nation`s oldest and largest civil
rights organization joined the growing chorus of equality and voted on a
resolution in support of marriage equality.
Finally, the organization focused civil rights, is supporting the rights of
everyone who wishes to marry. It`s quite a show of character and I`ll have
a little more on that later in our show. But actually character does seems
to be in the news a lot. But not always in a good way.
Lately, I`m hearing things like character assassination and I`m a nice guy,
which makes me feel like I`m about to watch a soap opera like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. The reality is that these accusations of character
assassination are not part of a soap opera. They`re about the angst that
Mitt Romney feels about how he perceives President Obama`s campaign is
treating him and in recent days he let everyone know about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ve been disappointed in the
president`s campaign to date, which is focused on character assassination.
I just think that we`re wiser to talk about the issues of the day, what we
do to get America working again. I talk about our respective records.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Seems like someone woke up on the sensitive side of the bed.
But character is a political liability for governor Romney and his
opponents know it. It`s not a liability in the way that character was such
an open point of attack for, say, president bill Clinton. Thank goodness
we don`t have to go down that road again.
Rather, for Romney, it`s an issue of his privilege. Look. Coming from
privilege doesn`t necessarily mean that a candidate would be an ineffective
president. Remember FDR?
But privilege does mean that a person does not have to worry about certain
things. For example, a man doesn`t have to worry when he walks to his car
at night doesn`t have to worry about sexual assault. A woman can`t help
but to worry about her safety. A wealthy person might have a lot of
issues, but, that doesn`t have to worry about where their next meal will
come from. A hungry person does.
This doesn`t mean that a privileged person is free of all troubles or that
nothing bad even happens to them. It does mean if a person like Mitt
Romney is operating from privilege, he has to actively engage in issues he
otherwise doesn`t have to deal with. He would have to decide to go from
being simply sympathetic to being empathetic.
And people do make this decision. In fact, that argue that President Obama
has, he has, because of his interracial heritage, an access to white
privilege that could afford him a certain status.
But as an adult, he chose to move away from that privilege rather than
toward it. He chose to move to the south side of Chicago. He went into
publics service rather than private law. He checks off as black, just
black on his senses form.
So, the president actively decided to be a person with less privilege
rather than with more. And how that translates to voters is key.
Listen. By all appearances Mitt Romney is truly a decent man. His
dedication to his family is clear. His love for America is unquestionable.
But his places also one of the often unquestioned unchallenged privilege
that disconnect him from ordinary folks, especially when he says something
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I`ll tell you what. $10,000 bet?
RICK PERRY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not in the betting
ROMNEY: Oh, OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Or when he tells a group of out of work Florida voters that
he`s quote, "also unemployed" or how about this friendly invitation?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I don`t think I`d play the president a round of golf but I will be
happy to take him water-skiing course. I mean, we have different -
different skills and different interest and different hobbies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Water-skiing, oh, boy, disconnection central. So while Mitt
Romney wants Americans to vote for him to fix the economy, and yes, the
economy is the number one issue on the minds of voters. It is precisely
because of his did connected comments and the fact that we do not know what
the other crisis will face the nation while any person is president, it`s
because of that the character in fact comes into play.
In other words, who do we trust to make decisions on the future unknowns.
When it comes to that, character absolutely counts.
Joining me here are Glen Johnson, politics editor of Boston.com who has
covered Mitt Romney oust his political career, Salamishah Tillet assistant
professor of African studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and Hank
Sheinkopf, democratic, political consultant and a member of President
Clinton`s re-election team.
Lovely to have all of you here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Nice to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, should character be a part of how we decide who will be
the president of the United States? Is it a fair basis for judging?
GLEN JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, BOSTON.COM: I think in me different facets
or applications, character matter. I mean, the moral form of it in terms
of whether or not your leader is somebody you can trust, also the way
somebody who`s in a position of authority has to handle their decision-
making, and do they have a proper process and background to make it. So,
definitely, it has huge role. And that`s often what I`ve about in covering
five presidential election is that it`s the personality on most more in the
character of the candidate that drives the decision more so than the
HARRIS-PERRY: And this particularly true for the challenger, right? I
mean, the incumbent always have the record, has the four years. And so, the
challenger can critique the sitting president based on what that president
has done over the course of the past four year, but the challenger, I mean
obviously it`s about certainly what they`ve done in the past but it is also
primarily about judgment, about decision, about character.
HANK SHEINKOPF, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Sure. We define character
differently. We give Bill Clinton a pass on moral issues and we attack and
we go after Gerald Ford because character means that he for gave president
Nixon on our behalf without asking us.
We judge character very differently. We look at our eyes an hour and say,
he is a war hero. We look at the reality built but we don`t really look at
the rest of it. We forget about case Summer`s be, a potential affairs in
Europe and a whole bunch of other things. We go forward in time. FDR, we
give him - we say, he is wonderful in character. But millions of people
are being destroyed in Europe.
We look at all kinds of things. We define character based upon the issues
of the moment and we take our own moral lens off for just that second as
Americans and as individual voters, and all throughout the world. I`ve
worked throughout the world. It`s the same thing. And we`d look and we
say, wait a second, what is it about that person that makes that person fit
the moment? Character is probably an ultimate decision.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, is that about the quality of the campaign? I mean, it`s
interesting that you point that out. We look at FDR and do think, there`s
man of great character. But history tells us that in his private life, he
was certainly not faithful to the most extraordinary first lady ever except
for maybe ultimately Clinton.
So, you know, here`s someone who in his private life had a whole bunch of
question. As you pointed out, he was a wartime president which means
people were dying. Is that about the quality of the candidates` ability to
get us to only think about parts of their biology as relevant for the
SALAMISHAH TILLET, ASSISTANT PROF, AFRICAN STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF
PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think with Romney it`s interesting. Because I think
his character -- well there are three things we know about him. He is
really committed in Mormon faith. He`s really committed to marriage, to
find him as one man-on woman. And three, to be committed to money, right?
Money generation, right?
But, what`s difficult about Romney and I was a resident in Massachusetts
when he was governor is that, he was a moderate Republican and yet for ass
al he was a moderate Republican and yet for ass l of us watching him we
don`t know what his character is outside those three things, right?
And so, you know that he is driven political ambition more than maybe a
kind of a solid more oftener and that now, he is actually outsourcing
character assassination. So, Romney`s such a kind of fair weather
politician, that I think it`s very difficult to know what his character is
outside of those three things.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s really interesting. This morning`s "New York Times`"
cover story is, "Romney`s fait faith: silent but deep" right, in this
notion that we can come to understand who he is by knowing something about
his commitment to later day satins tradition and particularly like some of
the rule following. What I got from this is the sense that he is deeply
and profoundly a rule follower even if that sometimes means there`s not a
lot of compassion. Is that an act - you covered him for a long time.
JOHNSON: Absolutely. And even see - saw in some of his primary exchanges
where he would start to get almost heckled or doing back and forth with
somebody in the crowd. He`d get very upset and say you`ve had your turn.
Now it`s my turn. He`s very rule driven, orderly person and likes to have
structure to his link. That`s why when the poor reporters are trying to
deal with him, he doesn`t like unscripted encounters with them. He wants
to know when he is speaking to the press and when he is not and at least
listen her intention with the people that are always around him and trying
HARRIS-PERRY: Is that why he missed the moment that has now been
negatively compared to John McCain`s moment. So, you know, John McCain,
when the woman says, you know President Obama is a scary Montero or
something and he says, no, no, no, no, no, ma`am and he takes the micro
away from her. And then we heard, you know, something sort of similar
repeated and Romney just missed the ability to correct the questioner.
Is it his inability to correct the unscripted?
JOHNSON: Well, in that case, you know, he`s always wary of where the
conversation is going with people in the audience whether to a reporter or
somebody in the audience standing up. And I just think, you know, to your
point a little bit, that would have taken him way down another path that he
didn`t want to go to that time. He wants to talk about the economy or
foreign policy whatever that is in given day and not other things.
SHEINKOPF: He`s a believer in unfettered capitalism, first of all, which
tells you a lot about the man, OK? He`s a believer, in rule, that`s true.
But anyone who`s religious is a believer in rules. And we have a history
in this country of religion being very significant and our politics is the
reason why the dollar bill has in God we trust. We have it on coins, God
is all over.
Go is a major part of the discussion. We look for moral queues from
people. This is not about two battles of morality. This is about Mitt
Romney who has a very definitive mess that is really America and Barack
Obama who has another sense, maybe not as definitive about the sense that
is called America. But there`s a real banging of heads that`s going to
occur between one pluralistic notion and one that is not. That is very
HARRIS-PERRY: I really like his agenda. In fact, when we come back, we
will take look at the very first campaign ads that are emerging here in the
general election and see what it is they`d rather have us talking about.
So, more on the character after break.
And later, what we should make of the NAACP show of good character this
So, stay right there, and come right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back and we`re talking about the importance of
character and how that question is packaged successfully in a presidential
race. So, I want to take this moment and take a look at the first two
election ads of this general election moment.
Let`s first take a quick look at the Romney first ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would a Romney presidency be like? Day one,
president Romney immediately approves the keystone pipeline, creating
thousands of jobs that Obama blocked. President Romney introduces tax cuts
and reforms that reward job creators, not punish them. President Romney
issues order to begin replacing Obama care with common sense health care
reform. That`s what a Romney presidency will look like.
ROMNEY: I`m Mitt Romney, so I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, it`s real clear Mitt Romney wants to talk
about job creation. He wants that keystone pipeline. He wants to talk
about the economy. But, here`s what the Obama campaign is telling us
they`d like to talk about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s running for president, and if he`s going to run
the country the way he ran our business, I wouldn`t want him there. He
would be so out of touch with the average person in this country, how could
you care. How could you care if the average working person if you feel
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it`s not just about the choices he made at Bain but this
questionable lack of empathy, how do you even care. As you look at the
strategy, does one seem more inherently effective or more likely to sort of
penetrate for voters.
SHEINKOPF: Strategically, the moves are pretty clear. It`s the move
Romney to the right, out of the center and to make Barack Obama do that
really quickly without talking about the Obama record. And Romney`s
position is to try to go after the smokestack states he need.
But the other thing in that Obama ad, it`s kind of take Romney out of the
states that he needs to - that Obama needs to win, Ohio and Michigan for
example, every automobile states. That`s going to talk about steel and
break up the steel companies. Now, what do you make automobile from steel?
So, if do you that, you can tell the people in the heartland, this doesn`t
matter to them. That`s really what`s going on.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That was Joe Biden in Ohio this week sort of raging,
this guy doesn`t understand who we are.
JOHNSON: And if you look back to the 1994 re-elections to senate race that
he had against Ted Kennedy, Mitt Romney actually posed the greatest re-
election threat to Ted Kennedy throughout his political career until Ted
Kennedy rolled out ads and brought him some workers from an Indiana plant
that have been shattered under Bain Capital. And that really sent Romney
into a nosedive.
So, you know, here we have the president at the start of the public phase
of his re-election campaign and Mitt Romney now new on the national scene
as the presumptive Republican nominee. And the first order of business for
the Obama campaign is to try to define him in a negative way, and that`s
what the add is all about.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And there`s an argument to be made here that this is
not completely un-appropriate, right?. I like to say that choosing a
president is a bit like choosing a spout in this one sense. We don`t know
what`s going to face us in the future, right? We don`t re-elect George W.
Bush president. We don`t know that within the year of his inauguration
we`re going to face the age of terrorism for Americans, right? We don`t
necessarily recognize each of the challenges in the future, so you`re
picking someone who you think will make the sorts of decisions, to have the
kind of honesty, judgment, you know capacity, self-control.
In that sense, is there, therefore, something valuable about not the
private issues but the public question like can you care for workers,
right? Because who knows what worker decisions will be coming in the
TILLET: I think what`s interesting about the Obama ad, is that, you know,
this politics empathy that he`s really a proponent of him. He was
nominating Supreme Court justices. We seen it a liability. Now, he is
turning it against Romney and showing like a politics of antipathy is not
actually very good. And actually not good for our economy.
So, if we have someone who doesn`t connect to average worker, what kind of
policies will he implement as a result of that? So, I just think it`s like
-- it`s nice Obama reviving that without actually saying is a politics of
empathy which is so used against him or, you know when he was picking --
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ll give you the last comment on this.
SHEINKOPF: I`m a cynic. I`m a practitioner. This is all about ball-faced
politics pick with all the other guy and don`t let them get off. And if
they can do that early enough, Romney won`t catch fire and that`s what this
is all about.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And they have the help of the super PACs this time.
SHEINKOPF: Helps the super PAC to do it. They`ve got get him out of the
way early because if he catches fire in the heartland, this is over.
HARRIS-PERRY: I always like a good cynic at the table.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next the oldest civil organization in the country has
finally seen the light. What the NAACP`s decision to support marriage
equality really means, right after the break.
HARRIS-PERRY: Making news this morning, the NAACP`s board of directors
voted yesterday afternoon to endorse same-sex marriage, declaring, quote,
"civil marriage is a civil right and matter of civil law." This is a
historic decision for the 103-year-old organization and one I have been
encouraging multiple times right here on this show.
The NAACP will announced their support for marriage equality in a press
conference tomorrow. But I wanted to understand the implications a little
bit of this today.
So, let me bring in Aisha Moodie-Mills, advisor of LGBT policy and racial
justice at the center for American progress. She`s joining us from
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, ADVISOR, LGBT POLICY & RACIAL JUSTICE: Hi, it`s good
to be back with you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s lovely to be back particularly under these
circumstances. So, talk to me. How significant is this?
MOODIE-MILLS: Well, clearly, you prompted them to take action.
HARRIS-PERRY: They`re watchers, they`re viewers.
MOODIE-MILLS: Kudos to you. But, this is really a big deal for a couple
of reasons. One, the NAACP has unequivocally stated that civil rights
belong to all of us. Civil rights are not just for the black community.
The specifically make clear that marriage equality is a civil right. And
all Americans including gay and transgender folks deserve civil rights.
And so, that`s one key thing the resolution does.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s absolutely kind of ends the chapter by chapter
inconsistency, right? Because there certainly have been NAACP chapters
including, obviously, the one in North Carolina that was led by Reverend
Barber, very much against that amendment one. But this means now the
national organization is taking a stand.
MOODIE-MILLS: Yes, absolutely. I mean, we saw in Iowa where the NAACP was
not supportive of marriage equality. And we saw and say in North Carolina
where they were. And there was just a lot of distance in the chapter
around the organization.
But, what I believe this transformative opportunity is for the NAACP is to
really lead forward in bridging the gap between the black church and the
LGBT community. We see the leadership of the NAACP to be a lot of
ministers, black clergy, the membership is full of black churchgoers who
have been grappling and evolving with LGBT issues and marriage equality in
And so, the NAACP at this point really has an opportunity to lead in
bridging that gap.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, we were teasing just a bit that maybe our
round table conversation here that you were part of might have had
something to do with this. I`m not at all sure that it did. But if did,
let`s go ahead and make another call.
What would really make my weekend complete is if the HRC and G.L.A.d. then
announced today that they were taking official positions against say voter
I.D. law that have a desperate impact on communities of color and it`s
really the NAACP`s main issue for this election year.
If we saw that kind of sort of return from LGBT organizations, would that
mean we`re really building a true coalition here?
MOODIE-MILLS: Absolutely, absolutely. We`re in a moment where we could be
living out Dr. King`s legacy of stomping out injustice everywhere because
injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. And I do think it`s
incumbent upon LGBT organizations to also stand up and support of racial
justice issues as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Aisha, let me ask you this kind of one final question here.
Should we be crediting this to the President Obama? Is this about the fact
that the president used his sort of bully pulpit and moral authority to
move the NAACP in this direction?
MOODIE-MILLS: Well, I would say that the president coming forward has
absolutely liberated a lot of people, whether they`re black, white, or
otherwise, who have been a bit on the fence about marriage equality, who
are grappling with their -- they`re trying to reconcile their faith and
their political principles and values. And so, I think the president has
liberated people to be able to evolve and to take a stand. And I think
that, yes, the NAACP, probably, you know, a lot of their members are a part
of that group who says, OK, the president has inspired me to also step up
and do the right thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Aisha. You know, my father was a long-time civil
rights activists. And even when I was four, five, 6-year-old, he would
sign my birthday cards not love daddy, but the struggle continues, daddy.
And so, it tells me undoubtedly the struggle will continue in all of these,
but it`s an exciting day and I`m glad you`re here to share it.
MOODIE-MILLS: Thank you. Thanks for having me back.
Up next, speaking of historic social movements, one of the biggest legend
of cabinets` floor is actually a myth. And I don`t want to give away the
punch line but some of us in Nerd land were shocked when we dug into the
archives. You might be too.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. To set up this conversation, the Nerd land crew dogged
up an NBC News report that you have to hear to believe. Let`s take a look
back at the dawn of the modern women`s liberation movement. But, also, at
some misconceptions that came along with it.
This clip covers the 1968 protest outside the Miss America pageant in
Atlantic city, New Jersey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The women`s liberation group has organized several
groups to protest that miss America`s pageant as a symbol of society`s
exploitation of women as sex object. It`s a popular protest. The groups
proliferate. They exist as sales, brigades association. There are names
as colorful as red stockings and red roses, as dismissive as new feminists,
women for women, older women`s liberation. They`re addicted to acronyms.
Wolf for women`s liberation front, rat for women`s radical action project.
There are groups who hate men and marriage and think all babies should be
born out of test tubes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Hating men? Having babies in test tubes? This is actually
not what the women`s liberation movement was all about. And contrary to
popular believe, it did not include bra burning.
The myth of bra burning, however, actually spawn from this very 1968 event.
A New York post story written by woman by the way, about the protest,
figuratively referred to bra burning as way to draw a parallel with Vietnam
war protesters burning draft cards.
You see, the media picked up on the bra burning label, missed the Vietnam
connection and the mythical act of feminist rage became synonymous with the
Outside of the Miss America pageant, women did throw bras and girdles and
mops ad pants and playboy magazine into a lard garbage can. And according
Carol Hanish (ph), one of the organizers of the protests, they have
intended to burn them, but because they were on the boardwalk, the police
wouldn`t allow them to play with fire. At least, not literally.
That was then, this is now. And what`s next?
Joining me to talk about the challenges facing the next generation of
women, Emily Carpenter from girls for gender equity.org, she`s 17. Leslie
Cardona who`s president of her school`s organization, young women creating
challenge. She`s 18. And Julie Zielinger, I`m sorry, an undergrad at
Barnard College and author of the book "a little f`d up, why feminism is
not a dirty word." She is 19.
Ladies, I`m thrilled to have you here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks for coming to Nerd land. So, you just saw that
video, 1968, women`s lib. Is there anything about that that you just saw
that resonates for you that feels like, yes, I`m part of that long
experience or does that feel like that was a million years ago?
JULIE ZEILINGER, AUTHOR, A LITTLE F`D UP: I think it`s still very relevant
today and the thing that`s interesting about that clip and that myth, in
fact, it just goes to show there`s so many misconceptions about feminism
and that women`s movement at large out there. I see it every day in my own
life amongst my peers. They have these really negative stereotypes and
connotations with the word when in fact it means so much more. And that`s
what I try to proved everyday on my blog, (INAUDIBLE).
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, your blog is f-bomb. You got the a little F`d
up book, I mean, you see you`re trying to intervene in this conversation
about the idea that somehow feminism is gone for young women. Would either
of you actually call yourselves feminists? Is it the label that you take
on for yourself? Or is it one that`s not as relevant?
EMILY CARPENTER, GIRLS FOR GENDER EQUITY: Well, I feel like it is
something that I do take on. At first, I wasn`t sure. I was like I`m all
about race and feminism is like a completely differently thing. And as I
started to learn more about what was going on and how I felt as a woman, I
realized that saying I am a feminist is so importance because it really
bridges the gap between women of different generations it - it transcends
race, it transcends everything, you know what I`m saying and I just feel
like identifying as a feminist is really important when it comes to
connecting with other young girls.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And it doesn`t mean you have to give up having a
real concern about racial equality and race justice as well. Those things
can go together and often do.
How about you, do you, Leslie, do you take on feminism as a label for
LESLIE CARDONA, 18-YEARS-OLD SENIOR: I do not. I just believe I`m just a
true advocate for women. I don`t think I need to identify myself with that
term, you know, just to be supportive of women.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And so, when you think about sort of being
supportive of women, what are the big challenges you see, women of your
age, 17, 18, 19 years old? What are the issues facing you?
CARDONA: I definitely feel that education is an issue. Like about, you
know, graduating and things like that. A lot of people think when we
graduate high school, it`s over. It`s like not an expectation for us to go
on to college and things like that. That`s why I like my school where they
hold a higher expectation of all of us. We all go to four-year colleges
and we all graduate. It`s not over after you graduate and it`s not OK to
drop out and things like that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Feel free to give your school a shout-out if you like.
CARDONA: In Hartford, Connecticut. I believe that high expectation of us
is what makes us go farther. If a school expects less of us to graduate
and that`s it, that`s what we will do.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, speaking of high expectation. I mean, in certain ways,
this is the best times to be a young woman. There has never been a time
when more young women have gone to college or had opportunity for equality
and yet it also feels like a time when there are a lot of new restrictions
emerging for young women.
Are the three of you tune Islamabad the idea of the war on women. Is it
something you`ve been listening to, I thinking about?
ZEILINGER: Yes, I think that`s war women is actually a really entrusting
time to watch or generation. Because I think a lot of younger men are
having this political awakening, watching what`s happened. I think a lot
of young women thought that our rights were one for us in the `70s and
that`s a big reason why they might not identify as a feminist.
But now, I think a lot of young women are starting to realize those rights
could go away at any point. That there are politicians every day trying to
take them away from us and I think that its lending to a lot of young women
finding their voices and realizing that they have to stand up for what they
HARRIS-PERRY: We were looking at a study by the group market institute
showing that in the year 2011, the number of policies that were in acted
for abortion restrictions, and so you can just sort of see from that graph
that basically throughout the `80s and `90s, it`s sort of, you know, a
fairly low number and then suddenly it becomes a very high number very
So, when you look at something like that, does it feel like something that
makes you feel concerned, or do you think those aren`t the fundamental
issues facing young women right now?
CARPENTER: Well, I feel like it is something that makes me feel concerned,
and especially because I feel like oftentimes -- like I was watching
democracy now, and there were all these men in a meeting, and there was not
one woman present, and I feel like that`s a big issue and that`s what we
need to be talking about. Having women being part of the conversation,
having young girls be part of the conversation.
I feel like unfortunately that`s happening but not enough and not on a
national scale, so I feel like it`s important for women to be present. And
that I think they`re trying to be but it`s important that we are.
HARRIS-PERRY: So obviously you all weren`t of age to vote in the last
election, but in the last election, obviously Hillary Clinton was running
in the primaries and then Sarah Palin was on the vice-presidential ticket.
Do you imagine that you`ll see a woman president in your lifetime?
CARPENTER: I hope so. I hope so. I was watching a documentary and it
said that at age 7, the same amount of boys and girls want to be president.
But, by the time they`re 15, that number drops. Like one third of those
girls still want to be president and the amount of boys that want to be
president at seven still want to be and I feel like it goes back to
education. Something`s happening where the girls thing that they can`t be
president. So I feel like that`s important.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that you watch democracy now documentaries. That`s
completely fantastic. Do you think it makes a difference? I mean, if we
had a woman president? Would it make a difference or rather how would I
make a difference to be a young woman and see a woman president?
ZEILINGER: I think visibility is so important, you know. A lost people
have said, you can`t look up to a role model that doesn`t exist. And role
models mean so much to young women. But, going off of what you said also,
I think that there`s this huge societal imposition on young women that we
constantly feel like we`re being judged. That comes from a number of
sources like unattainable beauty standards and media. It`s just one. And
we`re so afraid of putting our voices out there, that the idea of
leadership terrifies us, whether we`re qualified or not. And I think
that`s also a huge obstacle for us.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s interesting that you talk about this image
and you were talking about how you school says it`s going to create for you
the expectations of going to college.
What do you see as how your school has been effective in creating an
expectation for women in leadership?
CARDONA: I believe that with that expectation it made us do, you know --
they even prepare us for everything. They are the true, like, core to why
we do the things we do. And without it, you know, if we didn`t have the
expectation, we wouldn`t go on. And now, you know, with YWCC, I learned
like, there is such a thing as women centers and now, I`m like when I go to
college, I can be part of this women centers but I wouldn`t know it if I
didn`t go to this school.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And so, it kind a gives you a place to gather
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, I want to talk about "Julia." "Julia" is
this video that came out from the Democratic party to talk about sort of
how young women like you would be impacted by the polices of today. And
I`m interested on whether or not you see yourself in "Julia."
So, when we come back, that what we will talk about. And also, what makes
this year a game-changer for women.
So, don`t go away.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. We`ve been talking with young women - for
young women who I`ve completely fallen with over the commercial break.
And this week, my fellow nation writer, Jessica Valentine, declared this
the year of the young women. Jessica writes in the column quote, "while
the media was saying femme niche was dead and our foremothers were
complaining that young women were politically apathetic, we were preparing
for these very fights. But, bringing down Rush Limbaugh and getting a
trans vaginal ultrasound mandate removed from state legislation is not the
same as game-changing policy. We need institutional power and backing do
that. Maybe now is the moment we can actually have it."
Joining us, once again to continue our conversation about the year of the
young woman, are Emily Carpenter, Leslie Cardona, and Julie Zeilinger. And
joining us also is Salamishah Tillet of the University of Pennsylvania.
So, I said just before the break that I wanted to talk a little bit about
the "Julia" video. And "Julia" is kind of the -- it was an early strategy
by the Democratic Party, the Obama administration and re-election campaign
to say this young woman Julia would be impacted at all these different life
moments by, you know, Obama administration policies, you know, positively.
Of course, you have head start, then you have student loan, you know, debt
forgiveness, and all that sort of thing, all the way up until she would
retire with a good strong Social Security.
Do you all see yourself in "Julia"? Like the idea that a young woman is
kind of carrying the policy campaign for the president? Does that feel
like, oh, yes, I`m like "Julia" or do you think, what in the world does
that have do with me?
CARDONA: I think that in some sort we`re all like Julia, and the education
programs that he is trying to implement are very important, and I feel like
the way that, you know, the -- it`s the life of Julia, how it helps her
throughout her whole entire life, even with the student loans, like who
wants to be in debt when they`re 40 for undergrads like, you know. And
it`s like we need someone who is going to support us throughout our whole
ZEILINGER: Yes, I definitely agree. And I think even on a strategic level
from the campaign to really go to young women and young men where they are
which is online using social media in giving us a tool like that to educate
our peers who might not really be thinking about those issues and yet it
directly affects them. I think that`s great, especially considering that I
think there are about 64 million eligible voters from our generation in
this next election and it`s so important to reach out to us and have a tool
to reach out to our peers as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, everybody is asking what your age group is
going to do this time. You know, 18 to 25-year-olds were incredibly
important to the president last time. So do you see yourself in "Julia,"
CARPENTER: You know, I feel like I do just in the fact like growing the
way that they -- at 17, where you are as far as school and things like
that, I would be interested, though, to have something of maybe a group
like a you tube video or something girls responding to it. Because it`s
very important to be like, oh, yes, this is what the Obama administration
thinks women are going through and I think it would be good to have young
women responding to that from all over the country so they can say, this is
right and they can adjust to like of "Julia and to see how real young girls
HARRIS-PERRY: Listen up, Obama campaign if you`re listening in Chicago.
We`re going to need you to have some actual young women speaking whack to
So, Salamishah, I just want to go to you because speaking of Chicago, you
actually run a program with young women. And, you know, I was -- I`m so
engaged with these young women`s voices, but I know a part of what you all
are doing with the long walk home is trying to making sure that there are
institutionally safe spaces as well as sort of empowerment with young women
and Jessica was leading us to that in that nation article.
How do we combine that with the voices and the policy and institutional
changes young women need?
TILLET: I think Jessica`s article was really good. Because one of the
things she pointed out to was, you know, women of color, young women of
color actually being this the forefront of the reproductive justice
And so with the lock walk home, the population of young women that we work
with are prize merrily African-American women and Latino women, ages you
know, from 9th grade going into college. And so, we are really excited.
There are girlfriends institute to continue to do that work.
So, what we`ve noticed is if you actually engage youth, and I think this
speaks to the point you were making. If you speak of young women, and
actually have their voices and experiences s central to policy, well,
actually, it`s a really great organizing tool because through our work with
different schools in Chicago, public schools in Chicago, North Orlando to
our prep for example, you get parents involved, you get teachers involved
and you get community members involved. If you start with girls
themselves, the ripple effect is tremendous.
And so, we usually the policy is top down. The Julia add like you said.
But if you actually have girls speaking truth to their experience, then
what kind of ripple effect would that have? And I think adults actually
have a very difficult time handing over that power or sharing the power
with young people.
HARRIS-PERRY: All the good-hearted adults I know say I want go and speak
to the young people and very few say I`d like to go and listen to young
people, right, to actually hear that which is part of the idea, Julie, that
you wrote a book. Because there`s no better way to have a voice than to
put it out there.
Talk to me a little bit about both your blog and this book. What are the
motivations for you?
ZEILINGER: Yes. The real reason I started my blog with the f-bomb, which
is what this book is based on, is because I felt that we really needed this
space to say what we have to say about the feminist movement about our
experience as young woman in general.
I didn`t find space like that online. I was looking for them. I had a lot
to say. So, I decided to create one. And every single day, young women go
on and they have so much to say. And I think people should really listen
But, the reason I created the book was to give them a tool as well.
Because I think a lot of young women just aren`t educated about this issue.
They are not exposed to them. I certainly wasn`t in high school. I wish I
had then. I came to it in a different way. And I think education, as you
were saying before, is really the key to getting to these issues and to
allow women to know that they can use their voices.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, use your voices in the remaining moments that we have
here. If you had five minutes with President Obama and five minutes with
Mitt Romney or maybe just 30 seconds with each of them, what would be the
one thing that you would either say to them or ask them?
CARDONA: I would say it`s truly about women empowerment. Who is going to
do the most -- not just even women, just men as well, citizens, who is
going, you know, make this economy better, give everyone job and, who is
going to be that tool that will help us throughout our whole life because
we`re the ones voting for him.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
CARPENTER: I would also say -- wow, this is intense. If I had 30 seconds.
I would say, for one, I feel like it`s important for young women to know
that their voices are important. Like I feel that needs to be stressed so
much because it just like for a while, I didn`t even know that my voice was
important and need to be heard. And I feel like it might be hard for
President Obama or Mitt Romney to make sure women`s voices are heard
because they`re men, you know what I mean?
CARPENTER: So I feel like it`s important for them to have women close to
them, women advisers, female advisers, to make sure that young women are
being heard and that they know that their voices are super, super
HARRIS-PERRY: Fantastic. Julie, what would be your 30 seconds with the
president or Mitt Romney?
ZEILINGER: Yes. I think I would just say listen to us, we know where we
are, we know what our experiences are. You know, there`s a recent survey
that showed 88 percent of us support comprehensive sex education. Give us
comprehensive sex education. We know what we need.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, all, for joining me. Emily Carpenter, Leslie
Cardona and Julie Zeilinger.
Salamishah, stick around.
Coming up, girls and guns and fatigue. Why the military is about to get a
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, female soldiers marched one step closer to
equality in the military.
On Monday, the defense department made good on an announcement from earlier
this year to open the doors for women to join units previously populated by
only men. The new policy is first, getting a trial run by nine army
brigade before being expanded army wide.
Where once women only work alongside combat units, now they will be
assigned to jobs within combat battalions, which means 14,000 new jobs now
open to women. That still leaves them shut out of 250,000 jobs that remain
closed. Now, that`s a lot of missed opportunity.
For the 207,308 women currently serving on active duty who make up 14.5
percent of the U.S. armed forces. Now, of those brave soldiers, only two,
two women in military history have ever been awarded the title of four-star
general, the highest appointment for officer in three armed services.
These remarkable women are army general N.E. Done Witty (ph) and air force
general lieutenant general Janet C. Woofenbarger (ph)who, by the way, are
excluded from combat rules.
You see, the usual path - that`s the usual path to reaching the four-star
rank in the military. And that`s because while the new policy puts women
closer to combat, the military`s ground combat exclusion policy means zero
women are allowed to formally risk their lives in combat shoulder to
shoulder with their male counterparts.
That`s the case on paper anyway. The reality on the ground is that
military women have long been on the front lines of combat, and they`ve
been facing some of the same dangers as their male pierce. Because of the
282,000 American women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during the last
decade of the women. 144 of them have died in Iraq and Afghanistan at 868
of them have been injured. They`re among the 1.8 million American women
veterans and those numbers will only increase as the drawdown in Iraq and
Afghanistan brings more service members back from overseas, coming home to
140 percent increase in female veterans identified as homeless by the V.A.
between 2006 and 2010. Compare that to a 45 percent increase in homeless
male veterans during the same period.
Now, I want you to think about the number three. Because not only does the
suicide rate for female soldiers triple when they go to wore but female
veterans are three times as likely as civilian women to commit suicide when
they come home. And because they receive any formal recognition for the
roles in combat, those women who get lost in the fog of war have a harder
time accessing the disability benefits that could help them find their way
But, all of that might be changing very soon, and we`re going to tell you
why, coming up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Monday`s announcement on expanded roles from women in the
military will give them more opportunities for service, but not necessarily
the kind that matters most to earn admission into the highest, most elite
ranks of the arm services. For that, women have to risk their lives and
fight right alongside men on the front lines. They may soon have the
Democratic New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and California
Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez are introducing legislation into
both Chambers of Congress that would encourage Pentagon to lift all current
restrictions on women in combat.
And my guest today says that can`t happen soon enough.
Joining me is Kayla Williams, Iraq war veteran, and fellow at the
Truman National Security project and the author of "Love My Rifle More Than
You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army." Also, Genevieve Chase, who served
in Afghanistan and received a Purple Heart, and runs American Women
Still with us: Salamishah Tillet, assistant professor of English and
African studies at the University of Pennsylvania; and in D.C., Kimberly
Dozier, "A.P." intelligence and counterterrorism writer and former CBS News
Thanks to all of you for being there.
So, Kim, I want to start with you since you`re there in the D.C. Can
you talk to me how significant a step are the recent changes in terms of
opening up new roles for new women?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, AP INTELLIGENCE AND COUNTER-TERRORISM WRITER: Well,
the great thing is, it acknowledges the women who are already on the ground
doing some of these jobs. On the ground in Afghanistan, they might not
have had the official assignments but because of the way the battle lines
change, just driving across the country puts you in the middle of a war
The other thing is when I look around at my colleagues, diplomats,
journalists, a good quarter of the third of people around me in war zones
are women. It seems like the U.S. military is finally catching up to that.
Now, what it means in practice, tearing down some of those internal
divisions, there are still some folks in command out there who need to be
taught about what we can do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So I love that comparison, Kim, because, you
know, obviously women are right there on the front lines, not only as
soldiers, but obviously embedded with our troops, and yet, Genevieve and
Kayla, it feels like the Pentagon is behind the curve in simply recognizing
that women are already there.
So both of you have been very near to combat. What does that mean to
say you were near to combat since you were officially in combat?
KAYLA WILLIAMS,TRUMAN NATIONAL SECURITY PROJECT: I think that it is
a little confusing for people outside the system to understand the
difference. Women weren`t banned from combat. They`re banned from combat
jobs and from being assigned to combat units at certain levels. But as you
pointed out, over 140 women have died in combat so clearly they were in
combat and many women have won a Silver Star for their valor in combat in
both Iraq and Afghanistan.
We were performing on those roles like being attached to certain
units instead of assigned to them in some situations or as Kim mentioned by
the fact that there are no front lines. This is no longer World War I, and
the entire theory of operations can be considered a combat zone. So, it`s
a little different.
We haven`t been banned from combat, though. Just certain roles and
HARRIS-PERRY: But that banning from the assignment, from the roles
ands positions, has a critically important effect on the career path, is
GENEVIEVE CHASE, AFGHANISTAN WAR VETERAN: It absolutely can have an
impact on that. But the people who have sort of served with us for the
last decade recognize the capacity with which we served, and despite what
is on the books, you know, they`re able to see our contribution and to
respect that as well.
That`s why the laws and the rules are being changed now to be
updated, to demonstrate what we`ve already done. We essentially had to go
and do it. And unfortunately the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a
positive of that. We were able to go out there and test ourselves and
prove ourselves and now, we need to catch up the policies to reflect what
we`ve already done.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, because thee are very protective wars and wars
where we`re using a completely volunteer army, no drafts. That meant lots
of developments and imply not enough bodies, not enough folks.
When I listened to Kayla say that women are attached but not
assigned, that sounds to me as though the Pentagon is sort of reproducing
this version of gender roles, that is at least 30 or 40 or maybe a hundred
years old, and how we think about everything from our politics to our
SALAMISHA TILLET, UPENN: Yes. So many thing it`s so important in
the implications of fully segregating the military is far-reaching, right?
If you have women that are fully incorporated into all levels of the
military, you can`t then justify women shouldn`t deserve equal pay. You
can`t justify that women should have control over their bodies, right?
So the biological and psychological arguments that are used to sort
of say women should. Be fully integrated, we saw this with African-
American men in World War II. And those arguments can`t sustain themselves
anymore. I mean, people can use them still, but once you actually fully
desegregate the military, I think it`s kind of the final frontier for
certain kinds of burgeons of discrimination. So, I think it`s so important
to -- for this to happen now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And we don`t actually have anyone from the
Pentagon here. So, I wanted to look at a quick statement from the Pentagon
and this Pentagon report from the Congress about restrictions, because
they`re still making clear claims about women`s restrictions, and so what
they`ve said is women basically need to be held to the same standards
physically. So they`re saying there are some serious practical barriers
which require time to resolve so departments can maximize their safety and
So, that`s what we`re hearing. It`s a safety and privacy issue and
these practical issues feel to me like they`re at least in part sort of
concerns about physical capacity? You know, you`ve both been there. Is
that a legitimate kind of concern?
WILLIAMS: I think it can be a legitimate concern, but the assumption
that it`s only a legitimate concern for females is misguided.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, I see.
WILLIAMS: So for example if there are jobs, units, or missions that
require somebody to be able to carry a 50-pound rucksack for 25 miles,
fine. Make sure everybody can do it, males and females. A man who`s 5`2"
and 120 pounds could be challenged, whereas a woman 5`10" and 180 may not
find that as challenging.
I`m completely supporting of having physical standards for those
jobs, units, or missions that required them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, but they have to be for everyone.
Kim, let me ask you about this. You know, is the Pentagon sort of
evolving on this or are we seeing a slow movement toward what is clearly
going to be equality, or is there some real possibility here that these
sorts of double standards are going to stay in place?
DOZIER: Well, I would say there are two things going on. We are
evolving toward the point that commanders will accept. If an individual
can do the job, no matter, man, woman, sexual orientation, that they belong
in the unit. That person also has to prove to that unit that everyone in
it can trust them to fight their way out. That`s one battle that will
happen in the front lines and also in the Pentagon.
The other thing that`s happening, though, with war is it`s evolving
toward -- away from combat in that we`re drawing down in Iraq and
Afghanistan. We`re going to a war that`s much more intelligence-based, has
a lot more to do with infiltrating society with what looked like couples.
Women will prove their worth by being valuable in those roles.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s what I think is important. As war changes, the
idea of what a soldier need to have in terms of the skill set will
dramatically change. This is not trench warfare. And you can`t determine
how far you are from the frontlines because there`s not a frontline in the
CHASE: I think that in looking at the new battle space front, what
they`re talking about essentially and what we have used as a phrase that
everybody has sort of come up with as counterinsurgency, you know,
especially the hearts and minds, getting into societies and getting into
culture and understanding that, we have a natural capacity to be able to go
and talk to women, to be able to appeal to the other side of the culture.
And to be perfectly honest, even in a non-permissive environment like
Afghanistan, I talked to many men in the local communities.
So, you know, we have a lot of strengths, we have a lot of things to
offer beyond just the physical aspect of it. And that`s something that
many commanders are beginning to recognize.
WILLIAMS: Genevieve is absolutely right. And I think it`s important
to remember that in the Muslim countries, women and counterinsurgency
operations can play a vital role. We can access that half of the
population, that it would be much more challenging for our male comrades to
have access to.
WILIAMS: I want to talk about challenges that not that you`re
facing in the question of combat, but sort of as women come home and
particularly both for particularly both issues of post-traumatic stress
disorder. I want to talk about issues of sexual assault and violence and
then, of course, about homelessness and unemployment and all of those
So we`re going to turn to all of the issues to kind of how war
continues to have an impact on women veterans as we come back.
And later in this hour. Former Senator Bill Bradley is going to
visit nerd land. So don`t go away.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re here and talking about women at war and the new
Pentagon policy formally allowing them into combat units.
Back with me are Kayla Williams and Genevieve Chase, both war
veterans, Salamishah Tillet and Kim Dozier.
Kim, let me ask you this -- sexual assault in the military. We`re
talking about an estimated 19,000 women sexually assaulted in the military.
If we`re looking at more women in more equal combat roles, is that likely
to reduce or increase? Will it have any impact? Is sexual assault just
kind of a separate issue here?
It just feels to me like we want this to be on our agenda at the same
DOZIER: You know, that`s always going be an issue. You have a
population of men and women together. It`s going to be an issue.
When you`re trying to be a policy and change some minds, could there
be an increased number of assaults, harassment -- sure. But, look,
everyone going into these jobs, jobs overseas, whether it`s intelligence,
diplomacy, journalism or troops, you know you`re going to be challenging
some gender role, especially overseas where they really haven`t caught up
And you`re going to run into this. This is just kind of -- you have
to put the armor on because you know that`s what you`re going to face.
It`s part of the background noise. So, it`s certainly not a reason to not
leave my house in the morning.
WILLIAMS: I`d like to bring up that military sexual trauma, sexual
assault within the military is not exclusively a female problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Good point.
WILLIAMS: We think of it as being a women`s issue, but in terms of
those who report to the V.A., that they experience military sexual trauma,
although women reported a much higher percentage, because we`re the
minority within the military, the raw numbers of men and women are roughly
similar. This is not exclusively a female problem and think the stigma
women face in reporting, the difference between the projected number,
estimated numbers and the numbers who report, I think men face an even
bigger challenge of coming forward and reporting that they have experience
HARRIS-PERRY: Because the stigma is so great for them.
WILLIAMS: I think it`s higher for them. I disagree a little bit
with Kim. If we remove the combat exclusion policy completely that over
the longer term, it will serve to reduce instances of sexual harassment, I
think that --
HARRIS-PERRY: Because of a sense of equality.
WILLIAMS: Yes. It`s my opinion that having the combat exclusion
policy, it institutionalize as concept of women as second-class citizens,
of not real soldiers. You don`t quite deserve to be here, you don`t have
to pass the same physical fitness test. You can`t be in the combat arms,
and that if we remove that policy and women are finally acknowledged as
being full soldiers and institutionally considered equal, that over the
long run, it will serve to make the climate better and less permissive.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think that`s an important point. And it kind of
pushes back against this idea of we have to protect you, right? So, we
can`t let you in combat because you have to be protected.
It also feels like in all the battles for the ERA, in all the battles
for the Equal Rights Amendment and the idea of sort of instantiating in our
Constitution that women are equal citizens, that this issue of women in
combat was constantly used as the scare tactic to sort of build political
will against the ERA.
Once we have women fully in combat, is that the end of the sort of
final boogie man? Is there an ERA on the backside of this?
TILLET: I hope so. As I said, this diminishes some of the arguments
about biology and psychology that discriminates against women. It won`t
eradicate it fully.
But I want to add in this conversation about sexual violence and
whether it`s background noise or not, I think I agree with you it`s not
only a form of second-class citizenship, but it`s used to maintain with um
in fairer positions. There`s a great documentary out called "The Invisible
War," about sexual assault in the military.
And I think if we can change a culture and thinking about sexual
assault as national security issue, right? I mean, if we can change it and
think about it as something that puts women and men at harm for serving for
us, and the effects both while they`re there and when they come home, I
mean if we can re-imagine it differently, I think thing it goes a long way
HARRIS-PERRY: When you harm the soldier, you`re harming the nation.
TILLET: A radical reconfiguring how we think about sexual assault,
but I think that`s really what`s happening. So --
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Genevieve, you`re working with veterans.
CHASE: I do.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what are women facing as they come home, and there
will be more and more are coming home, as Kim just pointed out, we`re
drawing down now?
CHASE: Right. There are a number of issues. I was on the phone
great deal yesterday and have been over the last couple of weeks with women
who are trying to transition out of the military and we`re starting to see
things and hear things that are extremely disturbing.
Things -- having been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, and
combat stress, having been treated for that, for you know, half a year, and
then having that diagnosis changed to adjustment disorder , which is sort
of a discharge, get them off active duty as quickly as possible, into the
V.A. health care system and take whatever they have to take whatever they
have left and fight that battle to get their claims processed and to get
treatment and to get care.
So I know that there`s been some recent stuff in the press lately,
and whenever I hear that stuff I think not in my military and then I get
these calls and I have to talk to these women and work with them on these
things, and it`s just overwhelming. But in terms of things like -- I
wanted to comment on the military sexual trauma aspect, I don`t think we do
enough to psychologically and emotionally prepare people for these types of
things. I think that resiliency and that type of training and
understanding starts early.
I think just like in universities and other places, other parts of
our society and culture, we don`t necessarily do an adequate job of
preparing young men or women for the things they might face out there. So
we have young women coming into the military. I mean, I had a 19-year-old
girl who went to an all-girl Catholic school.
CHASE: She wasn`t as wise in the ways of that type of military
culture. So we -- there`s so much we can do on the front end as well that
I think should be preventive, and we stopped having these very
uncomfortable discussions with our children in our culture. I think in
some ways we still carry that on.
And in terms -- in respect to the higher reporting rates, we want to
see that. We want to see more people feeling comfortable and confident
enough to come forward knowing that they`re going to be taken care of and
that transfers over to when they get out and when they come home. When
they feel they can`t openly talk about things, because they`re not going to
be judged, their careers are going to be impacted, or they`re not going to
receive the care and treatment they need, all of that stuff spirals down
into the suicide rate.
HARRIS-PERRY: So from recruits to soldiers to veterans, making sure
we`re preparing and taking care at every point, because you all are doing
work of caring for our country. Genevieve, Kayla, Salamishah, and Kim,
thank you all so much for being here.
And coming up, I`ll introduce you to one man`s story you`re probably
going to hear a lot more about, and he`s a prisoner who may have landed
behind bars for the wrong reasons and is desperate for justice. So, hear
it here first. That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Unless you, like my staff or me, came across a
particular investigative report about him this week, you may not be
familiar with the name Clarence Aaron. Aaron was a star line backer at
historically black Southern University in Louisiana. When he introduced
one of his classmates to the brother of a cocaine dealer from his native
Mobile, Alabama, and then a set of drug crimes ensued after that
introduction and those crimes landed Aaron in prison where for almost 20
years now, he`s been serving the harshest sentence of anyone involved.
Three life sentences without any chance of parole.
Aaron is now a 41-year-old man. Here he is posing for pictures in
2019 with his family during a visit. And like any federal prisoner who
applies, he does have a chance at presidential commutation, but it`s a very
President Obama has only approved one commutation out of nearly 3,800
requests. President Bush, 11 out of nearly 7,500 before him. But Aaron`s
odds are proven to be even longer than that. According to an investigative
report that I mentioned earlier, the report whose writer is going to join
me right now is Dafna Linzer of "ProPublica".
Dafna, thank you so much for being here.
DAFNA LIZNER, PROPUBLICA: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: This report had us in nerd land just appalled. Tell
us why Aaron`s sentence was so long in the first place.
LINZER: Yes. You know, Aaron really became a symbol f the excesses
of the drug war. He was part of a conspiracy. And often a conspiracy, a
person in the group of those arrested, who knows the least, not able to
plead out or cut a deal ends up getting the harshest sentence. So, here he
is, not the buyer, the user, the seller, the dealer, and he gets a triple
In fact, of all who were involved in the conspiracy, every single
person is out, except for the dealer who`s going to be released in 2014.
HARRIS-PERRY: But Aaron won`t be?
LINZER: That`s right. If he doesn`t get a presidential commutation,
he will die in prison, having gone in at the age of 24.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. I want to be clear -- you know, he made an
introduction here. When you hear drug conspiracy, you know, you`re
thinking of, you know, guys in the back room and some kind of big dealer
sort of thing. These were the excesses of that sort of initial push, this
war on drugs.
LINZER: Absolutely. And in many cases you saw over the years the
girlfriend who was the driver or who hung out with her boyfriend and really
didn`t understand what the conspiracy or the deal was about. So in these
cases, you know, this is a perfect example of somebody just caught up in a
drug sentence like this and he`s one of them.
What makes him so compelling as a character, I think, is this is a
guy who was sentenced by a Republican-appointed judge, a Republican
prosecutor, and there was a Republican president in the White House, all of
whom were extremely interested in helping Clarence Aaron, who believed that
his sentence was harsh, believed he had served enough time and at 14 years
basically sought for him to be released from prison.
The story we tell is how that didn`t happen and why.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And think this, again, was the part that was
shocking. You`ve got all of this including prosecutor at the time of this
clemency plea basically or commutation plea who says this is a perfect
candidate for it. So, why doesn`t it happen?
LINZER: This is really the mystery at the heart of the story, which
is that you have a pardons office which is basically the gate keeper inside
the Department of Justice. The president`s power to pardon is as old as
the Constitution. The Founding Fathers fought over whether a president
should have the this kind of power, and they really felt the president had
the right to injustices and dispense mercy.
LINZER: What we found is a huge part of society is being left out of
that chance of presidential mercy, without even the president knowing it.
When we went into it, we look at is the president`s power well-served by
this pardon`s office.
In the case of Clarence Aaron where you have every single box
checked, in addition to all of this, he`s a model inmate. He`s had an
extraordinary path during incarceration, and still he`s a no.
You know, the pardon`s office, as we found, and we can talk about the
statistics as you said, President Obama has said no to thousands of people.
In the last four years, the pardons office, two presidents has recommended
7,000 nos, seven a day, every working day.
HARRIS-PERRY: So what can we do now? You know, part of the reason
we wanted to lite this. We talked a lot about Trayvon Martin, but whatever
justice or injustice comes, Trayvon Martin is gone. His life is over.
Clarence Aaron is not. So, is there anything that any viewer can do
that makes a difference in Clarence Aaron`s case?
LINZER: Well, I think family has done a lot to create petitions
online for him. And I think, again, he`s a symbol because there are a lot
of people just like him who want a fair shot. All they want is a fair
shot. You know, we found that white applicants were four times as likely
to be pardoned than people of color, and that`s not the way the system is
set up to be.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, we appreciate it for you coming in and taking the
time. We`re going to keep our eyes on this case. Thank you for your
amazing reporting here.
LINZER: Thank you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, I`m going to talk to a former NBA star who
was also once a Rhodes scholar and ran for president. Of course, you know
who I`m talking about. Bill Bradley joins me talk about his latest
HARRIS-PERRY: Our next guest is a three-term senator who represented
his state of New Jersey for 18 years before serving in the Senate. He won
an Olympic gold medal and played forward for the New York Knicks, winning
titles in 1970 and 1973.
This Rhodes scholar and presidential candidate ran against Vice
President Al Gore in 2000 and now he has a new book called "We Can All Do
Better," in which he argues government is not the problem and offers a
prescription for what ails Americans in politics.
Joining us from Washington is former Senator Bill Bradley.
It is lovely to have you. Thanks for being here.
BILL BRADLEY (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Great to be with you,
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Senator Bradley, this is a book that as I was
reading it felt sort of enthusiastic. It felt like the sort of "yes we
can" of this moment. But it has some very sort of broad and some very
specific prescriptions for our country today. What would you say, though,
is the main message of this text?
BRADLEY: The main message is we have faced difficulties in our past,
depressions, wars, we`ve overcome it. Our institutions are flexible enough
to allow us to deal with those problems and we must never forget the
goodness of the American people and as the foundation to answer the
problems that confront of us, whether it`s deficits or whether it`s plight
of the middle-income family who`s been stuck for 30 years.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that message because at my core I really am an
American economist. I really do believe that we have, you know, everything
we need both as the context of the American people, as well as without our
the institutions, but I do worry a bit about our actual politics and
there`s this one story you tell in the book where "Esquire" magazine asks
you and some of your colleagues from the Senate to come together and
balance the federal budget.
It`s a terrific story. You talked about how you got together in a
room. You were able to balance the federal budget. But I keep thinking,
yes, that`s because you weren`t actually standing for election. There was
no microphone or camera and there were no political stakes.
So do you think will alone can get folks to do what we need them to
do in order to get past the logjam?
BRADLEY: We need politicians who will put country ahead of party and
tell people the truth. That`s where we are. I think that the democracy
has two structural problems. One is gerrymandering, the way we draw
congressional and district lines. It essentially polarizes the Congress
because you have to worry about primary challenges not a general election.
If you`re in a 60/40 and only 50 seats are competitive.
The second is the role of money in our politics. I think it`s cancer
eating at the core of the system. It affects everybody. It used to be in
you were in the Senate, you had interactions with people who are in the
Now you`re in town three days a week, and you`re raising money each
of those days. You don`t get to know the other senators or congressmen as
people. That is one of the cores of the problems.
HARRIS-PERRY: You are extremely critical on this book of the
Citizens United decision which allows a whole another whole level of money
to come in and influence American politics. And also, you don`t have a lot
of kind words for the Roberts court.
What do you see as solutions to something that is so systemic as the
issue of money and politics?
BRADLEY: I think there is only one solution, given where the Supreme
Court wrong-headedly is today, and that is a constitutional amendment that
says, simply, federal, state and local governments may limit the amount
spent in a political campaign. The reason this is needed is the Supreme
Court has equated money with speech. And said you can`t limit speech,
therefore, you can`t limit money.
And Citizens United extended it to say you can`t limit the speech of
corporations because they are people. It`s just a ridiculous set of
decisions, but it is at the core of the problem because money is at the
core of the problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: So here -- I think you put your finger on exactly what
I see as the challenge that I`m not quite understanding how we solved it.
I mean, I think it`s great solution. We`re just going make it clear that
we collectively as a nation do believe that money equals speech, and the
corporations have a right to spend unlimited amounts, we`re going to do so
by putting it into our Constitution.
But why would any current elected, official, those who have managed
to gain the system, to be in elected office under these circumstances, and
who will be under tremendous pressure from exactly those monied interest,
where`s the political will to make something so commonsensical occur?
BRADLEY: Well, democracy`s not a vicarious experience, Melissa, and
that means it depends on all of us as citizens. Citizens can make
something happen. For example, take a look at our history. There had to
be a group of people in the 1830s that said slavery was wrong and they
acted. That`s abolitionist.
A group of people in the 1880s who said women ought to have a right
to vote. Those were the suffrages.
A group of people in the 1950s who said African-Americans ought to be
a full citizen in every sense of the word in this country, civil rights
movement and in the `70s and group of citizens who said we need to have
clean air and clean water.
Each of these groups were citizen movements. They didn`t pop out of
the mind of congressman or senators.
It`s up to us build that movement and in the Internet age, apathy is
not an option.
HARRIS-PERRY: Senator Bradley, don`t go away. When we come back, I
want to bring in a couple voices that and ask you a bit more about exactly
whether or not Occupy would be part of that long story that you just told.
We`ll be right back. Don`t go away.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back with former three-term Democratic senator
and basketball hall of famer Bill Bradley, in Washington, D.C.
And joining me again at the table bill is Glen Johnson, political
editor a Boston.com, and Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf. Nice to
have you all back at the table.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to be back.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Bill, before the break, you were telling, you
know, interestingly, a story similar to what President Obama as candidate
told about sort of all ways in which citizens had helped to move us
forward. It`s as being a more perfected union.
And yet you wrote an article recently in which you critique how we as
citizens may have been thinking about that election of President Obama,
saying that in November of 2008, on election night in Chicago, we made the
mistake of believing that a leader can renew the country all by himself.
Do you see that as sort of the fundamental challenge that we`re
facing now? Have we gone to being spectators? Certainly the Occupy and
the Tea Party see themselves as engage and involved.
BRADLEY: Yes, do. The next sentence says someone who touched as
deeply as Barack Obama can`t do it alone. And that means, it does take
citizens, and I think if we don`t get involved, we`re not going be part of
The reason that I called the book, "We Can All Do Better," is not
only can we do better as a government in terms of the fragility and
inequality of the economy or the direction of foreign policy or the
paralysis of our national dialogue, we can each do better in our own lives
by how much we take care of our bodies, how much we read, et cetera, et
What I want to do is act as a catalyst for this debate. And on
Twitter, if you want to follow it it` it`s @Bill Bradley #dobetter. It`s
The idea is we want to try to move our whole country forward to do
the things that we need. Primarily, we need more jobs at higher incomes.
HARRIS: So, Hank, I love that Bill Bradley is saying join us. In
the break, we were talking about the value of civil society. Civil society
in its 140-character form may not be the same as the bowling leagues that
Robert Putnam has told us we are now doing without.
But how do we harness the power of religious institutions, civil
society, collective organizations, to do exactly what Senator Bradley here
HANK SHEINKOPF, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Senator Bradley`s thoughts are
pretty clear. The research is very definitive. These societies, these
fraternal organizations, the places where they learn culture are breaking
down and disappearing because the new generation and the baby boomers left
them aside. We`ve got to somehow refigure them and get them engaged.
If not, this democracy will stop working, and that`s part of what the
senator is talking about.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Glen, you`ve been covering politics for a long
time -- do you see a kind of decline in our citizenship, not just in how
candidates are made, but has there been some sort of shift in how citizens
understand their relationship to our democracy?
GLEN JOHNSON, BOSTON.COM: In campaigns, one thing you see is a
growing coarseness in the questioning of candidates. Then you see Joe
Wilson on the House floor when he says the president lies.
Also at the same time, you also see the effect of having a politician
that runs on a very hopeful theme, actually has to start governing and
making real-time decisions. And so, you see some of the support that the
president enjoyed four years ago pulling off from people who don`t like his
policy on Guantanamo bay or don`t feel like we got out of Afghanistan far
So, some of those people have to be realists that it`s one thing the
campaign committed to certain values and ideals, but you also have to
governor once you get elected and some of that, you have to just go in your
way to the congressional and legislative process.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you have to govern with a couple hundred other
SHEINKOPF: But we have outsourced our democracy. That is the
greatest threat we faced. We have outsourced it not to political parties
anymore, but to people who work for political parties. We create turnout
organizations. But we don`t have political parties doing any work.
So, we have unions that are supposed to be engaged democracy turning
up but they`re outsourcing the work they`re doing to get their members to
turn up. Almost you have a system, that second hand democracy. We`re
going to make the first system fall apart, because it doesn`t work that
way. You have to anticipate that it`s not support. You got to get on the
playing field and we`ve got to do something about it. It`s not just
HARRIS-PERRY: And, yes, and, Bill -- Senator Bradley, you suggested
here that part of that, right, sort of even having a strong civil society
and part about people having jobs to pay their bills. It`s hard to get
engaged and active in these other sorts of things if we don`t have living
So, talk to me about the specific policies you suggest in the context
of the book for how government can be involved in generating and creating
living wage jobs.
BRADLEY: In the short term, I think that if a company hires an
additional worker and doesn`t lay anybody off, the federal government for
two years ought to pay 30 percent of the cost for that worker. That would
employ millions of Americans and not one taxpayer dollar would be spent
unless a job were created.
When you look at the midterm, there`s one startling fact. That is
nonfinancial corporations have $1.8 trillion on their books in cash and
liquid assets. If 20 percent of that was spent to hire people at the
median income of $49,000, unemployment would be 5 percent.
So why don`t they? When you talk to CEO, they say because it`s
uncertain. We need a rainy day fund. And second, there`s no demand out
there. If we produce widgets, nobody will buy them because we don`t have
the money to do that.
You deal with the problem of confidence, with deficit reduction, in
which you do taxes, entitlements, and defense, and you then deal with the
demand by a massive infrastructure program that would create millions of
jobs and would be a $1 trillion program on 50 national high-priority
infrastructure projects like high-speed rail on both coasts, like a new air
traffic control system.
HARRIS-PERRY: Senator Bradley, I thought this was so interesting for
me as I was reading this text and you were making exactly that claim going
all the way back to basically Lincoln and suggesting that Lincoln is the
first progressive, understanding that individual freedom is not the only
foundation on which America built but also the government set up to promote
the general welfare and to go through the homestead act, and the railway
act, and all of the ways we actually build infrastructure.
It feels as though there was a time, gentlemen, when infrastructure
was a bipartisan issue. When everyone agreed that we should build bridges,
and we literally had Governor Romney standing on the bridge and sort of
making fun of the bridge over the course of this past week.
Have we gone so far that we can no longer even agree on the
collective good that can be brought about by government?
SHEINKOPF: We have lost our minds. We have really lost our minds.
This country was built on the economy which created upon interstate
activity. That`s just a fact of life. Even before President Lincoln.
And this has been the staple that brings us together. It is that
joining argument, which is breaking apart. And part of what`s going on in
Washington that is awfully dangerous is the attack on the federalist system
as we know it, that somehow the federal system isn`t working when, in fact,
it`s working very well.
Those roads and bridges, that infrastructure, the Eisenhower
interstate highway system, brought this country together and as we`re
seeing it get ripped apart regionally, we`re seeing attacks on that very
system. They`re related.
BRADLEY: One of the points I tried to make in the book is to show
that Lincoln, Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, even the first George Bush, all
believed government had a role. It is the radicalization of the Republican
Party taken over by the Tea Party that wants to roll government back that
has created the current crisis.
You heard the guy that beat Senator Dick Lugar in Indiana last week.
He said the era of conciliation is over. The era of confrontation has
I think that a person who says that doesn`t understand the country.
We would not have a Constitution if we didn`t have compromise. And I`m not
pessimistic as many people are because I have an inherent belief in the
activity and the values and the intelligence of our American people.
And in our democracy, we`re in control of our future.
HARRIS-PERRY: How do we reconcile the fact that we have
obstructionist behavior by parties in Congress but we have ordinary voters
who were saying please work together and get something done?
JOHNSON: Yes, it`s the inherent tension in our political system.
Have people being elect and being held to the absolutionist positions,
especially the Tea Party position in the House Republican Caucus, that are
blocking, in effect vetoing all other congressional activity, 43 members in
the House have more power than 100 senators on the other side of the
And so you -- when you start with an absolutist position there, there
isn`t much more room for negotiations anywhere else in the political
system. And that`s frustrating when you see people like Olympia Snowe
leaving and deciding to retire or candidate like Richard Lugar losing. And
anybody else that doesn`t adhere to a no new tax pledge, or trying and
support all of its manifestation ends up not running or not winning.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we keep hearing from folks -- Senator Bradley,
I`ll give you the final word on this. We keep hearing from folks like you
who served the U.S. Senate that there was a time when people could actually
get policy made.
BRADLEY: That`s exactly correct. There have been times in American
history where political points of view were irreconcilable, the years
before the civil war comes to mind.
But usually, political combat may be vicious, but it`s bloodless, and
one of three things happens. Either one party dominates, that`s 1964, the
Democrats, or you have balanced government, meaning you have very narrow
majorities, which requires bipartisanship, which is pretty much what it is
today or when I was there. Or if neither one of these things produce the
things that American people want, in terms of more job at higher income and
deficit reduction and reform of our democratic system, you reduce the role
of money in politics.
There could be the emergence of a third congressional party that will
try to shake things up in the center, in order to get both sides to come
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Senator Bill Bradley, the book is called
"We Can All Do Better." In just a moment, I want to tell you about some
very special "I do`s" that are about to make a huge difference to scores of
people, but first, time for preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT," with one
of my favorite guys, Thomas Roberts -- Thomas.
THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hi, Melissa. Thanks so much.
Good morning, everybody.
The man behind the 1988 Pan Am Lockerbie bombings has died. We`re
going to talk to a family member of one of the victims of that airline
terror attack for reaction about al-Megrahi a free man.
Then, John Edwards may face a jury tomorrow. Will he go to jail?
That`s the big question. I`m going to talk to Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist
who was behind bars at one time, faced campaign finance questions as well,
his observations about Edwards and what his time in prison was like.
And in office politics, Alex Witt talks to Dr. Nancy Snyderman ,
about the advice that Dr. Nancy gave to President Obama about health care
And it`s one of the top trending stories of the hour. A farewell of
sorts on "Saturday Night Live," a huge graduation for Kristen Wiig.
We`ll have that coming up in a moment. Melissa, back to you.
Thanks so much, Thomas.
Up next, a few good men made me very proud this week and I`m going to
give them their due.
HARRIS-PERRY: It all started on May 9th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think same-sex
couples should be able to get married.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: A few days later on May 14th, it was Jay-Z`s turn on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY-Z, RAPPER: What people do in their own homes is you know, their
business. And you choose to love whoever you love. That`s their business.
It`s no different than discriminating against blacks. It`s discrimination,
plain and simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: On the same day, in Germany, Will Smith weighed in,
saying, "If anybody can find someone to love them and to help them through
this difficult thing that we call life, I support that in any shape or
Two days later, champion boxer, Floyd Mayweather, tweeted, "I stand
behind President Obama and support gay marriage. I`m an American citizen
and I believe people should live their life the way they want."
Yesterday morning, right here on MHP, Trinity United Church of Christ
senior pastor, Otis Moss, made this exquisite statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OTIS MOSS, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: I wrote an open letter
to other clergy who had some issues in reference to the president`s stand
in reference to marriage equality, to say that marriage is not under attack
by the president`s words, marriage has been under attack ever since men
viewed women as property and children as trophies of sexual prowess. We do
not need to frame gay and lesbian people as the problem in you`re
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And just yesterday afternoon, the nation`s oldest
civil rights organization finally got off the sidelines with this
statement. "Civil marriage is a civil rights, and a matter of civil law.
The NAACP support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the 14th
Amendment of the United States Constitution equal protection for all
Every once in a while, the movement for equality takes a giant,
lurching, unexpected and completely wonderful step forward when surprising
and compelling allies make their voices heard. It has been extraordinary
to watch. Well done, gentlemen, well done.
And that is our show for today, this day, happy birthday to my BFF,
Blair, and thank you to Glen Johnson and Hank Sheinkopf for sticking
around. And thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll see you next
Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. And don`t miss MHP next Sunday. Margaret
Cho is going to be here.
Up next, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2012 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2012 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
WATCH 'THE MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY SHOW' SATURDAY AND SUNDAY AT 10:00 A.M. ET ON MSNBC.
MORE FROM MSNBC
Add msnbc headlines to your news reader: