Guests: Spencer Fluhman, Joanna Brooks, Dorian Warren, Matt Viser, Ion Viser, Anthea Butler, Raul Reyes, Judith Browne Dianis, Rick Newman
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, what do a wildly
popular teen romance series, a quirky Broadway hit and a presidential
candidate all have in common? They are all connected to the church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints, what is real, what`s myth and what is fair
game? Plus, the problem with the truth in politics, the dangers of saying
what you actually believe. And sunshine -- a showdown, defiance in Florida
many times over and the continuing battle over who can vote. But first, if
you believe America is the most exceptional country on earth, you are
probably an American. That does not mean you are wrong.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Attorney General Eric Holder
notified Congress last night that he has assigned two U.S. attorneys to
lead criminal investigations into possible leaks of classified White House
information, President Obama yesterday defended his administration against
claims that it helped leak information to reporters on drone attacks, cyber
attacks and detention of suspected terrorists. And in Syria, a U.N.
monitoring system team has succeeded in capturing on video proof of the
massacres of dozens of people there this week. Meantime, Reuters this
morning reports another 17 people were killed overnight by shelling. And
we will have details on that in just a little bit.
But now, it is time for our top political story. Look, the past week
for President Obama was like something out of a children`s book "A Series
of Unfortunate Events." He was already smarting after last weeks
disappointing job numbers, then the Obama campaign fundraising juggernaut
was humbled by news that they had been outstripped by Mitt Romney last
month. Add to that Scott Walker`s victory in the Wisconsin recall that had
everyone questioning, if President Obama could defend the White House in a
battle where the rules of engagement seem to have shifted. Meanwhile,
former President Bill Clinton apparently forgot one of the rules of being a
campaign surrogate, it`s the one that says, you do not directly contradict
the position of your candidate, and suggest that, you know, Bush tax cuts
should be extended when President Obama does not think they ought to.
After days of playing defense, the president tried to shift to offense and
get the last word of the week. So, he showed up yesterday morning n the
White House briefing room to talk about the economy. We all tuned in to
see what he had to say about the American economy, except he talked a lot
about some place else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Right now,
one concern is Europe, which faces a threat of renewed recession as
countries deal with a financial crisis. If there`s less demand for our
products in places like Paris or Madrid, it could mean less businesses or
less business for manufacturers in places like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Hmm. When was the last time you heard an American
president mention Pittsburgh and Milwaukee in the same sentence as, you
know, Paris and Madrid? You know, it does not happen often, because in
America we tend to think of ourselves as separate and apart from the rest
of the world, separated by more than just vast oceans, but also set apart
with the special history, and mission. The shining city on the hill,
Americans like to believe that we are exceptional, but here is President
Obama complicating the story a bit. He is a patriot who reinforces our
uniqueness, but yesterday the president admitted that we are
interconnected. That when it comes to the economy, the fate of one is in
fact tied to the fate of all. Now, of course, that`s the kind of thinking
that could get you voted out of the White House, because his rival Mitt
Romney has cast an American exceptionalism that sees our country as not
just apart, but above as a litmus test for leadership.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We knew without question
there was extraordinary exceptional and special to be American. Our
president doesn`t have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: From the time the Continental Congress first called our
states united, American exceptionalism has served as our binding identity,
it was a standard for America, even for those who criticized the country
for its failure to live up to it, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony,
Martin Luther King Jr. all relied on the idea of America as a special place
even as they pressed for change. Think of it as a kind of revolutionary
narcissism, but now we are confronted with the reality that one of the
special cornerstones, upon which we have built the idea of America, that
our exceptionalism is in part derived from our economic power, maybe that
we are just as ordinary as the rest of the world, indeed all of the
bedrocks of our self-understanding are singular political ideology, our
national identity, our military might have shifted and with them are long
held beliefs about what makes us exceptional, may be fading, which could be
OK, if it leads us to be more sober and tolerant and peaceful and global in
our perspective of our place in the world, but divergent views on American
exceptionalism may also sever the last threads of national identity that
bind us together, which is why this presidential election may be presenting
us with more than the obvious decision, not just one between President
Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, but a choice to re-imagine and
redefine what makes us exceptional now.
Joining me around the table Anthea Butler, professor of religious
studies, and graduate chair of religion at the University of Pennsylvania,
Raul Reyes, attorney and NBC Latino contributor Dorian Warren, assistant
professor of political science and international public affairs at Columbia
University and fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and Rick Newman, chief
business correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, and also author of
"Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback to Success," which we have
talked about on this show. Thank you all so much for being here. So,
American exceptionalism, particularly as it is rooted in the economy, are
we still in a place where we can make a claim for the exceptional American
RICK NEWMAN, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: I think what is happening
now is we are basically redefining what it means to be American. I mean we
have gone from being on the top of the heap to this -- there is this whole
sense of decline, we don`t really know where we are headed. I think what
is different now is that this sense of American exceptionalism is actually
something America earned, but throughout its history in many different ways
throughout the 1800s and the Industrial Revolution, all of those great
companies that got built became the economic engine of the world, the 1900s
leadership in World War II, especially there is a lot of sacrifice
associated with that, a lot of hard work and excellent leadership. We
earned it, and now it seems like we have a sense of entitlement to it. So
I think we -- I think we have sort of drifted from something we earned to
something we expect. And I think that is the problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I find that to be a really useful intervention,
this idea that it is not bestowed on us, but that we earn it, and it does
make me wonder even a little bit about our notion around taxes, this idea
of shared sacrifice being part of the how we determine that we are
ANTHEA BUTLER, PROFESSOR, UNIV. OF PENNSYLVANIA: Yeah, exactly. The
only thing about American exceptionalism is that embedded in it is this
idea about individualism, OK, so it`s America is exceptional, but
individuals are exceptional because they work hard, and they are in
America, all this stuff. Now, nobody wants to do the shared sacrifice of
taxes. Because it`s like, I am individually exceptional, America is
exceptional, that does not translate into me giving money to everybody else
to do something. So I think this is the place where that idea of
exceptionalism is broken in a certain kind of way. I would be the first to
say America is exceptional, but it`s only exceptional to the case that it
will try to work on its problems, and I think what you are saying here is
really true, that we have earned it, but we don`t know how to keep it.
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: Well, I wouldn`t say it so much is broken, I
think that right now the concept of American exceptionalism or Amex, you
HARRIS-PERRY: Really, Amex? But isn`t that also a credit card?
REYES: But I think it is being distorted because I mean I believe in
it, when you go back to the what our Founding Fathers, how they separated
us from Europe and the old world systems, what Thomas Jefferson and Thomas
Paine wrote about, those are the values that do make us exceptional, but
what we see now, you know, like with Mr. Romney and other Republican
candidates, they are promoting exceptionalism almost as our birthright ...
REYES: ... almost the type of jingoism, we are American, we are
number one, with greatest because ...
NEWMAN: I think it`s because you deserve to be special, and ...
BUTLER: You deserve -- but it`s also a demarcation point, that is
used usually racially, too. Exceptionalism means this is this other kind of
exceptionalism. And you know as I do, if you are immigrants, or somebody
from another country, you hold on to that, because you want to be the
exceptional person, but now what has happened with ...
REYES: Drawing the line.
BUTLER: It`s drawing the line, it`s like white people are exceptional
and the rest of this is really isn`t exceptional. I feel like it`s
racially coded at times.
DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: There is a different way in which
we are exceptional as a country, and that is, among all rich democracies,
we have the highest levels of inequality, we have the weakest labor
movement, and we are of all rich democracies the less mobile country now
WARREN: You are more likely to stay in the station under which you
were born today in America than in any other advanced democracy. So people
cannot move up the class ladder in this country like the myth of how that
was. And it was the reality in the post war period, but that time is over.
In that sense ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, and this ...
WARREN: ... we`re no longer exceptional in terms of mobility.
HARRIS-PERRY: And right, and this is all this sort of our two-sided
angst around exceptionalism, right, is it we are particularly if we are
going to be focusing here on the economy of American exceptionalism. We
are the Horatio Alger story right, and we are the story of American
slavery, right ...
HARRIS-PERRY: We are the story of wealth that is built on the backs
of unpaid labor at the same time that we are also -- I mean and both of
them are true. It is not as though the narrative of slavery wipes away the
story of Horatio Alger. But at this moment, our policies do -- do seem to
be wiping away the possibility of fast mobility.
NEWMAN: There is also an expectation that has developed over the last
years, and we do have a welfare state. I mean there is an expectation that
the government can just sort of take care of you -- I think this is why we
are so discombobulated right now, because we are moving from one thing to
another, it`s -- and it is a very uncomfortable shift. So, we are -- there
is no doubt we are moving into a time when the government is going to do
less for people, and it is going to ask more from people, that is just
simple math of the budget, and people, the thing that is going to pull
America out of this is more self-reliance for individuals, but they have
not gotten the message yet, a lot of people haven`t anyway, that you are on
your own and no politician is going to tell them that.
So, politicians are basically feeding lie, especially during this
campaign that just some new policy in Washington will fix your problem,
right? It is not going to happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, let me pause on this for a second, because this
is really quite counter to what the president said yesterday. So,
yesterday he said, and this might be the thing that makes us exceptional
relative to the European economic crisis is that America actually has a
political solution to our economic crisis, so he talked a little bit about
the need to be spending at the state and local level, so if we have just a
second, let`s take a listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Where we are
seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with the state and the local
government. Oftentimes cuts initiated by, you know, governors or mayors
who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So the story is there, well, there is a solution, if we
-- if we increase federal tax revenues we push that money down to the
states, the states will go back to hiring and then people can, right, pull
REYES: So I think we are at a point right now where there is a lot of
as you mentioned, this anxiety and in a certain sense people are -- I think
are afraid. You know, we`re in a age of globalization, you know, the age
of terrorism, and you know, an age in which the face of America is
changing, and I think all those are underlying causes why we do have this
sense of anxiety. And last month "Time" magazine found that 71 percent of
Americans thought our greatest days were behind us. So I think people are
kind of reaching out for the notion of exceptionalism as something to hang
on to so as not to have to deal with our new reality.
NEWMAN: That`s not an exceptional attitude, by the way.
NEWMAN: That`s a very defeatist attitude ...
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s actually a very European attitude, right? Sort
of -- it`s the attitude of former great imperial empires. We`re going to
continue our conversation about American exceptionalism because there is a
lot more to say. But before we do that, I`m going to address fine gate,
when we come back. I`m going to talk about President Obama`s so-called
gaffe when he talked in that economic speech yesterday about the private
sector doing fine. I think he meant it. And I think a lot of times we
need to hear politicians when they say what they say, they mean it. That
is up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yesterday morning, the president made news with his
press conference on the state of the economy, and although he had a lot to
say, many people came away focused on the president`s apparent stumble,
here is what got a lot of people talking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The truth of the matter is that as I said, we have created 4.3
million jobs over the last two, 27 months, over 800,000 just this year
alone. The private sector is doing fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama explained later in the day that he was
merely trying to stress how much we really do need to focus on the economy,
but it was seen as a political miscalculation all the same, and he was not
the only one this week handing the opposition teams a nice sound bite.
There was several off-message moments in recent days. Here is Jeb Bush on
Thursday talking about his own presidential prospects.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER GOVERNOR JEB BUSH, R-FLA.: There`s a window of opportunity in
life for all sorts of reasons, and this was probably my time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Bill Clinton on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.: And I think what we need
to do is to find some way to avoid the fiscal cliff. I think what it means
is they will have to extend -- they will probably have to put everything
off until early next year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, that rogue Clinton seemingly endorsing the
extension of the Bush tax cuts which goes against the Obama
administration`s opinion on the matter, so, cue the reporters, political
pundits and campaign strategists in unison saying, did he just say that!
Now, here in "Nerdland" when I say something off script, outrageous or
counter-intuitive, which happens quite often, it is a did she just say
that? And the answer is always yep, she did, and she meant it.
So when Bill Clinton, for instance, speaks his mind, we do as we normally
do here in Nerdland, instead of waving our hands in the air and saying, oh
my, he has gone rogue, we like to listen to the words and figure out if
there is something interesting there. Because you know what, nine times of
ten, our president, our candidate, or a lawmaker means what he says. We
don`t want political leaders who only ever say what we expect them to say
or are only ever on message, because those off-message moments are often
the most insightful and informative political conversations being had. So
you didn`t catch these politicians making a gaffe, you heard them say what
they meant. So here is my message to all of you newsmakers out there who
want to go off message -- this is the forum to do it. Please, come on the
MHP Show and go rogue!
Coming up, remember back when then Senator Barack Obama said there was
just one America and not a red one and a blue one and a conservative and a
liberal one? It turns out, he was wrong. That`s up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Despite our deep differences on policy issues, American
voters have traditionally shared substantial agreement on core national
values, that vision of the unified America was at the heart of the speech
delivered by then state Senator Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country
into red states and blue states, red states for Republicans, blue states
for Democrats. There is not a liberal America and a conservative America.
There is the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, actually, new data suggests that Americans are
more divided than we have been in the last 25 years. And the widest divide
that separates us according to a Pew Research Center report released this
week is not between race, gender, age or class, in fact, take a look at
those, those because they are actually remained relatively stable over the
years, what has changed, the widest of all of the goals that divide us is
our political ideology. Pew researchers found that the partisan gap
between Democrats and Republicans has doubled since 1987. And nearly all
of the increase in our country`s divide in the last two decades happened
during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Still here
with me, Anthea Butler, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Raul
Reyes, NBC Latino contributor, Dorian Warren, assistant professor of
Columbia University and Rick Newman, chief business correspondent for "U.S.
News" and "World Report."
OK, this data really troubled me. We have often -- have like a principle
policy gap or people say, no, I believe in free speech, but I don`t want a
communist to teach in my schools, you know, that sort of thing ...
HARRIS-PERRY: But -- but these data that say that, I can predict what
you -- what your core values are based on your partisanship, that -- that
deeply troubles me.
WARREN: And the data also reinforces what we know from congressional
roll call data about the polarization among members of Congress, which is
more polarized now than in any time since the Civil War. So, both in terms
of political elites, but also in terms of mass opinion, we have a deep,
deep partisan divide that we have not seen in a long, long time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Although I saw you say, you know, divide, and you are
both hands right, but the data actually show that sort of the divide kind
of goes like this, in other words, at the elite level, it is driven almost
entirely by the right moving to the right, but that`s not quite what is
happening in the public opinion data. Ordinary people, it does in fact
seem to be going like this.
REYES: But in terms of the parties, the Democrats have moved to the
center, it is -- as they have done that ...
HARRIS-PERRY: At best.
REYES: And Republicans have gone further and further to the right, so
it is not so much to me a divide as a shift to the far right, and we have a
major political candidate with some views that many Americans would
consider extreme, and he is now -- you know, he is a mainstream candidate
HARRIS-PERRY: But for me, if there is an American exceptionalism, it
is that we would be able to have these kinds of disagreements, but as
Madison said, that we`d have these overlapping factions, that any one
identity being from the south or the north or being black or white, that
that would not tell you everything you need to know about a person ...
HARRIS-PERRY: ... but somehow, it is like -- it`s like the idea that
that is falling away feels like a certain kind of an end to exceptionalism.
BUTLER: Well, I think what we are missing is a conversation about
civics. Nobody talks about the civic engagement anymore and what civics
mean. So we`ve got this hard shift, when you go over to the right, and
they are those people can say I am more exceptional than anybody else, but
what we are not talking about is this shared experience and civic
engagement. And so civic engagement means that your -- your language gets
harder, you get more entrenched, you can`t have a conversation, everything
is harsh. And so, I think this has become the problem as we don`t have
anybody who talks about civic engagement anymore, because it`s all about
who can win. It`s not a conversation about how do we share things, it`s
only about which party is going to win, and how are they going to win.
HARRIS-PERRY: So on exactly that question. Can an election be an
opportunity for a national conversation about what makes us exceptional,
what makes us Americans?
REYES: If everything has to be so simplified, yes.
NEWMAN: I mean, when I look at that -- those numbers you showed up on
those charts, the one thing that`s not on there is the decline in living
standards and the stagnation, and then the decline in real incomes. And I
think that -- I think that we are all perplexed about why is this
happening, I mean two things, I think. First, we don`t have a unifying
national cause right now. I mean we`re a very comfortable nation ....
HARRIS-PERRY: We have been at war for a decade.
NEWMAN: That is not doing it anymore. I mean, we clearly had that
cause after 9/11. Iraq was a different story, and nobody is unified over
terrorism anymore. I mean, everybody complains if they have to take their
shoes off to get on an airplane. I mean this is hardly a major
inconvenience to safeguard people. But I think what -- I think in the
thing that people are more scared about is the decline in their own lives
that is not theoretical. It`s very real, people feel it, they know they
are not getting ahead, and when you feel stagnated or put down, you start
looking around and saying whose fault is this, and I think that is a big
factor behind what`s going on here.
BUTLER: You said something about self-reliance, and I`m like, you
can`t have self-reliance without somebody trying to tell you what to do.
So, it`s just disingenuous to have this arguing about self-reliance, when
you just tell these people, go do what you need to do, and their lives are
failing, but the line I hear from the other side is good luck with that,
like it`s Sponge Bob! And it is not that, you don`t have the money, you
can`t pay your bills. This has got to change. And so, you can`t have a
conversation about you need to be self-reliant, without realizing that part
of this has to happen with governmental intervention, with other things to
happen. If I want to see anything happen right now, can`t we bring back
the WPA? Can`t we rebuild the infrastructure in this country? I would be
proud to say ...
WARREN: We can`t. We don`t have the money.
BUTLER: We could if we started working on this, though. This is what
I disagree with it.
WARREN: That`s actually from the Pew poll, that is the number one
issue that polarizes Americans, is the role and the scope of the
WARREN: Should there be government intervention. But to go back to
something you just said -- I actually, I actually started to think that the
years between 1945 and 1973, those are the exceptional years in America.
Those are the years, where we were most -- those were the years we were
most equal and we were least polarized. Actually, I think the norm is to
be polarized and to be unequal in this country. And that, when you take a
look at a longer historical perspective, that`s been our politics.
REYES: But those years were the--
REYES: That`s been the actual material years for say, white
Americans, right, mainstream Americans ...
REYES: They were not exceptional for everybody in the pre-civil
rights era, and I think that, you know, when we see this clip of Obama
talks -- speaking like that, it seems like a lifetime ago.
HARRIS-PERRY: It does.
REYES: I agree with you and I admire that you are willing to say,
that no, it is not like that anymore. It is heartbreaking to me that this
is our reality, and I think the other thing that you have to remember is
that when you inject people`s faith-based values into the equation, it is
even more difficult, you know, because when people believe something
because of their faith, they are not going to change their minds because of
data, or because you show them statistics or political policy, so that
makes our exceptionalism even more polarized.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I want to go a little bit back to the point you
made about this feeling -- part of what I heard you say is, if I don`t
believe that my kids are going to do better than I am doing, to assure
their shared struggle, but if I don`t think that we`re in an uptick, that I
can do better next year, and then my kids can do better in the next
generation, then I start to feel less attached to the American story. And
I hear that and I think, oh yeah, that seems right, but then it`s also true
that some -- that many of the groups that have best articulated an American
exceptionalism have been the groups who have been least equal and least
REYES: Right. Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, you often hear immigrants who are, you
know, sort of shut away in urban ghettos, or African Americans in the
immediate post-Civil War, like why would -- why would former slaves right
after the Civil War run for office in a country that had enslaved them,
right? This feels to me like a kind of impulsive American exceptionalism
from the ...
REYES: People fought for it.
NEWMAN: We gauge our well-being based on how we feel today compared
to how we felt yesterday. I mean, it really is relative at the individual
level. And, you know, so if you are better off than you were yesterday,
you are feeling pretty good, even if you look around and you are not as
well off as people around you. But you -- what -- have less of now, is this
sense of opportunity that I can get ahead, I can get to where that person
is next to me. I mean, it is an interesting poll thing, it`s very hard to
raise taxes on the rich, and it is puzzling, but one of the reasons is that
people envision themselves being rich.
HARRIS-PERRY: They want to be rich.
NEWMAN: You know, I don`t want this to trickle down to me. And so--
NEWMAN: So, we are losing, that is what we are sort of losing, and I
think it is largely economic. I think people are just really frustrated
they can`t get ahead. So, they are less engaged in everything. I think we
need -- I mean I don`t think government -- people really care that much
about the size of government, I think that that`s -- that`s what they are
pinning the blame on. Is what I think.
REYES: No, not the size of, I think the scope and the function of
government. People have always been divided, we`ve always been divided
about that question. And that`s, you know government`s role in supporting
policy, and (inaudible) definitely favor of it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we`re on exactly that issue about communities of
color, we`re going to continue as conversation as soon as we get back. And
we`re going to shift a little bit and talk about the enormous demographic
changes, because part of the exceptionalism story is what is an American
even look like these days? They are really very different than the American
that we once imagined. Later this hour, "Nerdland" is also going to dig
deep into the most American of all religions, the Mormon Church. Don`t go
HARRIS-PERRY: Tonight the Boston Celtics face off against the Miami
Heat in game seven of the NBA eastern conference finals. Yes, you are
still watching MHP Show. So, if I were to ask you to think of what a
Boston Celtic looks like, a lot of you would picture this. That`s iconic
Celtics player and NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird, but all of you didn`t
think about him. Some of you thought about this guy. Now, that`s Celtics
forward and team captain, Paul Pierce. He is what the iconic Celtic player
looks like today.
It is a lot like the way we tend to think about what an American looks
like. The most salient image that comes to mind may not be quite the one
that matches up with reality. The Celtics are lucky the Leprechaun mascot
is a nod to the team`s Irish heritage, and the story of the Irish in Boston
is in many ways the story of America. They are who we picture when we hear
those famous words enshrined at the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired,
your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." That idea that we
welcome with open arms those seeking liberty and freedom, it`s also part of
what we believe makes us exceptional.
And yet that, too, who we are welcoming and how openly we welcome them, has
changed. According to a report released last month from the Census Bureau
as of July 2011, for the first time ever, the majority of children born in
the United States were born to people of color, which means, the picture of
what an American looks like just got browner than it`s ever been before.
Still with me, Anthea Butler, Raul Reyes, Donald Warren and Rick Newman.
So, yes, the Celtics are going to play the Miami Heat, but, you know, I was
raised to dislike the Celtics in part because they were somehow the white
team. You know, you look at that team now, and you`re like wow, it`s a lot
of things, but it`s just not that, right!
REYES: And even the culture (ph) is black!
HARRIS-PERRY: But, you know, it`s a totally different sort of
situation, and I think in so many ways, you look out at the American
demographic changes, and similarly, what looks like an American something
very different than it once was. Is this part of our angst around losing
REYES: Absolutely. And I think when you factor the immigrant
experience into the idea of exceptionalism, you have to wonder like how
does it play out, because it is like as we mentioned, it`s almost a drawing
a line between people who were born here and, say, people who came here.
And I always wonder, you know, if you were going to take this to the
logical conclusion, if you were born in Guam or Puerto Rico, are you
somewhat exceptional, because you know, you are not -- you a full citizen
with full rights, but I think it is something to divide us from many of the
immigrants who are increasingly Hispanic, and, you know, not what we
typically think of as the face of America.
HARRIS-PERRY: Anthea, is this what birtherism is about, was it about
saying I just can`t believe that this guy is an American because of
literally what he looks like?
BUTLER: Yeah, exactly. And I will put it one step further, it is
what it is, because he actually took that American dream and made it
happen. And so when I think there was a collective Tourette`s gasp of oh,
my god, we have a black president and not only that, he went to Harvard, he
did all these things that I thought my white kid would do, and this didn`t
happen for me. We got all these brown people crowding us out from what
we`re supposed to get. It completely freaked everybody out, and so, this
is why he is having problems right now with, you know, white male working
class voters, because those are the people who felt like they have been
exceptional, no matter how much money they made, and now the rest of this
population is telling me I`m not so exceptional anymore.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I want to complicate it just a little bit, because
you know, I do think there is this kind of classic black/white divide, that
we think about, but, you know, I remember that moment when President Obama
is speaking to the joint session of Congress and Joe Wilson stands up and
says "You lie," right?
HARRIS-PERRY: And a lot of people read that as OK, there is a white
guy from a former Confederate state yelling at the black president, that`s
old-fashioned racism. But we have to remember that what President Obama
was saying in that moment was, when we pass health care we will not let
Latinos who are illegal immigrants -- here is -- I can`t remember exactly
the language either, illegal immigrants or something like that, we`re not
going to let them be part of it, and he is in that moment sort of raising
the brown specter, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: And then Joe Wilson says, you lie. So there is all of
this like, there is this black/white divide, but there is also this
immigration anxiety, all mooched together.
WARREN: I`ve heard this described -- this is the intersection of
generation and race, so I`ve heard this described as the conflict between
the white grays and the brown millennials.
And I think if you think of it like that, and then you look at the
Republican Party. It`s 87 percent ...
HARRIS-PERRY: And by gray, by gray you mean, because they are aging?
WARREN: Exactly. Exactly. The Republican Party membership s 87
percent white. It is for all intents and purposes a whites-only party.
Only two percent of ...
HARRIS-PERRY: And then Michael Steele.
WARREN: Well, he is one of the two percent, right. He is one of the
two percent of black people that are in that party. So I think, and it`s
an older party as well.
WARREN: So I think we are seeing this generation on racial conflict
play out between the two parties, and that partly gets to our discussion
about political polarization. You have older white folks who are really
trying to pull the line back for and say what they think is their sense of
American exceptionalism, and an American dream, and they don`t want to get
access to the brown and black folks that are younger and coming up. In
fact, they think those are freeloaders. So I think part of that is
reflected in our politics that we see.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, although I`m not sure this makes us exceptional
as Americans ...
HARRIS-PERRY: ... because this is precisely what Europe is doing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right? I mean in that sense, you know, I could start
waving my European flags, too, where all of the ...
NEWMAN: Germany and France.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. All these former imperial nations when
the folks from the colonies start coming to the motherland and asking for
the same social services.
NEWMAN: This goes back to economic insecurity, and one of that, you
know, people -- people again, are looking for somebody to blame, they are
afraid, they are not sure what they are afraid of, a lot of people anyway,
and here comes some politicians happy to exploit that fear and tell them
oh, some immigrant is going to take your job. I mean that is a basic fear
a lot of people have, somebody is going to come in, they are going to be
willing to work for less than you, and I mean we just have a dysfunctional
immigration policy. I mean, we ware undermining our own economy every day
because we won`t let in the immigrants who actually are job creators.
NEWMAN: And by the way, the statistics are very clear on this, the
most dynamic small business owners are immigrants.
NEWMAN: The people who come here and start businesses. I mean,
immigrants start businesses at a way higher proportion than, you know,
people who start here. And we are just turning -- we`re just shutting them
out and then we`re saying, well, we are just going to somehow find other
ways to fix our economy. It is just crazy.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s such a useful intervention (ph), economic pie
shrinks, ethnic anxiety increases.
NEWMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up in our conversation, the United Nations says
a civil war is imminent in Syria, and U.N. monitors are investigating yet
another massacre where dozens of children and women were killed. Speaking
of American exceptionalism, is there an American duty to intervene? We`re
going to ask about the international aspect of our exceptionalism when we
HARRIS-PERRY: The news of Syria this week has been chilling. Blood
stains, bullet holes and shell casings were what greeted a U.N. team of
observers yesterday, when they reached the province of Homa and the scene
of the country`s most recently reported massacre. Pro-government forces
are accused by the opposition of slaughtering at least 78 people -- men,
women and children in a bombardment of heavy weaponry and door-to-door
executions. In the past, the Americans response to such news from abroad
might be to want to put the full force of our military behind those
defenseless people, we are Americans, it`s what we do. It is just another
part of what makes us exceptional as John McCain suggested when he spoke
Thursday from the Senate floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ( R), ARIZONA: Military intervention of some kind is
a prerequisite to the political resolution of the conflict that we all want
to achieve. How many more have to die? How many more before we will act?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But as it turns out, acting actually may not be what we
do, or at least that is the feeling of the majority of Americans who
believe that the U.S. has no responsibility to intervene in Syria. Back
with me are Anthea Butler, Raul Reyes, Dorian Warren and Rick Newman. So,
Dorian, before in our last segment, you were talking about the idea that it
was the post war era, that after the great World War II, after the
sacrifices of that war that we became sort of our best most exceptional
selves, and yet here we are at this moment facing what feels like the
similar kinds of human rights horrors, is the way that we re-establish our
exceptionalism to step in at a moment like this?
NEWMAN: This has always been a thorny problem. I mean, you know, the
United States has not always stepped in when there have been genocides
even. I mean we -- you know, in the `90s we did not intervene in Rwanda in
the genocide there; we watched slaughter happen in the former Yugoslavia
for two or three years before basically backing our way into that. Syria
is another case. I mean, on a moral -- in a moral sense, yes, we clearly
should be doing more. This is obviously very complicated involves Iran,
believe it or not it involves the price of gas here in the United States,
and if you are thinking about this like in a geostrategic sense, the one
thing you are thinking is if that that regime falls, it is much better for
that regime to be pushed out from inside Syria than for the United States
to be seen as taking one regime out, and then getting stuck with the
problem of imposing another. So from the strategic sense, there is --
there is a reason to sort of stay on the margins, if you will. But it is
very uncomfortable to watch, there is no doubt.
REYES: But that`s just -- that is part of the problem with where we
are at in terms of exceptionalism today. What we see, what we may see as
our sense of exceptionalism when you flip it, other countries see it as
arrogance, bullying, meddling ...
REYES: Imperialism. You know, all -- they there`s a whole negative
aside to it, and, you know, we have not always been conscious of that in
the historical context when you look at some of the countries that have had
this exceptional sense inherent in them. And it really does not reflect
well. Nazi Germany, they thought they were exceptional, Imperial Japan,
the British Empire, so it can be a very dangerous tricky slope.
WARREN: Well, what you said in beginning was striking in terms of how
most Americans do not favor intervention. And I think that is the
difference between now and the immediate post-war period where we were
instrumental in founding the United Nations to help coordinate the world to
advance peace. And remember just a few years ago we had a whole debate ...
HARRIS-PERRY: But we had to be dragged into the World War II, right,
as -- I mean it was really about the attacks here.
WARREN: Yes, but afterwards, both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were
quite instrumental in creating the U.N., to again, to coordinate global
action around issues of peace war, and I think if you look back to the
debate we`ve had a few years ago, oh, my goodness, multilateral
intervention is a bad thing, who tells the U.S. what we can do, you know.
This sense of nobody -- the world does not tell us what to do, we intervene
when we want to anywhere in the world, and we act alone. And I think
that`s a shift from the immediate postwar period of people thinking no, we
need to act collectively as a global order.
HARRIS-PERRY: But this is -- this is kind of the Obama doctrine,
right, is no more unilateral actions, we`re going to at least -- at least
in terms of his language, right, because, there is a lot of critiques about
the drones and the other way, to which we continue, you know ....
HARRIS-PERRY: ... to act ...
BUTLER: That`s what I was going to bring.
HARRIS-PERRY: To act unilaterally.
BUTLER: Yes. Yes. I mean, he is acting unilaterally every time he
just blows a drone over everybody, so I just keep thinking, you know, where
is the drone going over Syria, right? But I want to come back to what you
said about, you know, setting up dictators -- we do that all the time in
this country. So I think that`s part of the ...
BUTLER: It doesn`t work out very well, and I`m thinking about Saddam
Hussein, I`m thinking about some other folks.
BUTLER: It doesn`t always work out well, but I think in these cases,
where you see humanitarian problems, I mean I think one of the worst things
that happened on Clinton`s administration was Rwanda, and now we may be
seeing the same thing again, like you said Bosnia and others. And those
are troubling situations. I find myself always torn. I don`t like seeing
children`s bodies, you know, with holes in their abdomens and everything
else that we`ve been seeing this week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody does.
BUTLER: Nobody does. But at the same time, I wonder, how much of
that do we have to see, but what does it mean for us to intervene? Can we
do -- think about other ways of intervention that don`t mean we go drop a
bomb on somebody.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, but Raul`s point about sort of our position, our
exceptional position requires in part that, you know, sort of our position
relative to human rights internationally has been part of what allowed for
pressing civil rights here at home. It was engagement in World War II that
allowed black civilians say, by the way, Jim Crow, have you heard about ...
REYES: And we are going to the U.N.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. And we are going to go to the U.N. and
talk about it. And yet, we don`t sign on to so many of the international
human rights standards, as if we don`t want to be held accountable, so --
so I mean it`s definitely feels sort of easy like, well, that`s other
people`s problems ...
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, we just -- we simply don`t have the
resources, it feels like, and yet we are the one remaining superpower.
REYES: Do we -- or do we have the resources? I sometimes wonder if
we`re entering the stage where the United States just feels that in certain
instances we perhaps are above the law, that as you mentioned, we do what
we want to do, when we want to do it. And usually in favor when oil is
involved, but in other terrible tragic situations that`s when we opt out,
and that -- I just think that`s a terrible basis for a political
NEWMAN: What we`re really talking about is leadership and leadership
style. How do you lead in this world right now?
NEWMAN: One of the things we just saw in the last year or two is this
uprisings in the Middle East. And it is terrific that Egypt got rid of
Mubarak without us.
NEWMAN: That`s really important. I mean -- Libya was a little
different situation, but there is an indigenous uprising there, it`s really
important that that`s how Gadhafi disappeared, right? So we`re trying to
figure out how to not meddle, but be helpful in these things. It is a
really tricky problem, and I think the real question is, comes down to kind
of humility. I mean, humility is a component of great leadership. It`s
also very rare in leadership. And we are trying to, you know, how do we
lead in a way that demonstrates some humility so we don`t appear to be
arrogant. Arrogant comes back to bite us in the rear end all of the time
HARRIS-PERRY: I -- I ...
NEWMAN: ... and we`re trying to figure out how to manage this.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love this idea that we land here at this moment
saying that perhaps the thing that could make us most exceptional in this
moment is to be exceptionally humble in our international (inaudible).
NEWMAN: How about powerfully humble?
HARRIS-PERRY: Powerfully humble ...
NEWMAN: You can do that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I would like a T-shirt that says powerfully humble,
American exceptionalism that you can believe in. Thank you, Rick Newman,
and the rest of you are going to stick around for a little bit. Coming up,
it is one of the fastest growing religions in the world, yet half of
Americans say they know little or nothing about it. Next, "Nerdland" is
going to study up on the Mormon faith.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are back and changing course in our conversation on
You see, there is one religion that makes a strong theological claim
that America is exceptional. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day
Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, believes that America is the holy
land, and yet so few Americans know about the Mormon religion. In fact, 50
percent of non-Mormons say that they know little or nothing about the
religion. 32 percent of those recently surveyed said that the Mormon faith
is not a Christian religion, and 42 percent of people say that they would
feel somewhat or very uncomfortable with a Mormon president. But the LDS
Church is among the fastest growing religions in the world, boasting 14.4
million members and growing, six million of which are American citizens
with 8 million converts in Asia, Africa and around the globe. There are
55,410 Mormon missionaries dispatched at 340 missions around the world,
spending two years of their lives teaching the world about their religion
and convincing others to join the fold.
But the Mormon faith was born here on American soil. 1827 -- that is
the year that the religion`s founder and original prophet Joseph Smith
finds the Book of Mormon written on golden plates. Smith spends the next
several years translating the tablets. 1831, the year that Smith leads the
followers of Latter-Day Saints to Missouri, the place considered to be the
faith`s promised land. And in 1838, Missouri`s governor orders the Mormons
expelled from the state, or exterminated if necessary, making wandering
pioneers out of the Mormon faithful.
In1844, Joseph Smith announces his candidacy for the presidency of the
United States. That campaign ended with his assassination that same year,
leading to Brigham Young taking over as the presiding authority of the
Mr. Young, in turn, was the one to bring the Mormon people into Utah.
And in 1847, Brigham Young announced this is the place! Establishing Salt
Lake City as the Mormon pioneers` new home and religious base. And still
to this day, the faith is led by 12 white men who make up the Quorum of
Apostles, who serve as counsels to the church. Led by one prophet and
president of the LDS church, who today is Thomas Monson.
And then there is one more, one member of the church who hopes to be
president of the United States and will be the first Mormon nominee of a
major political party, Mitt Romney, who would rather we didn`t focus on his
religion during this campaign, but whose candidacy shines a bright
spotlight on this relatively young and largely unknown faith. So when we
come back, I`ve got a table full of Mormons and we are going to separate
fact from fiction. It can be fun, come back.
MELISSA HARRIS PERRY, HOST: This week, Brigham Young University
professor Spencer Fluhman wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times" explaining
why we, quote, "fear" Mormons. And the response pieces flooded in. I was
having a good time reading both the article and the response pieces.
He writes, "Making Mormons look bad makes others feel good by
imagining Mormons as intolerant rubes, or as heretical deviants. Americans
from left and write can imagine that they are, by contrast, tolerant,
rational and truly Christian. Mitt Romney`s candidacy is only the latest
opportunity for such stereotypes to be aired."
And this intolerance is at the center of the Mormon history. Right
now, we are in what could be described as a Mormon moment, dawning as the
faith enters the mainstream. There was once only Donny and Marie, but now
there is an irreverence Broadway musical, "The Book of Mormon," and the
wildly popular, symbolism heavy "Twilight" series, and, of course, the
Republican president nominee Mitt Romney.
Let`s unpack the Mormon myths and to do that is the man who started
the conversation this week, Spencer Fluhman, professor at Brigham Young
University and the author of the forthcoming book, "A Peculiar People:
Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in the 19th Century America"; and
Joanna Brooks, senior correspondent for "Religious Dispatches," and the
book, "The Book of Mormon Girl"; and Dorian Warren, assistant professor of
political science at Columbia University.
Thanks every for being here. I`m actually really thrilled to have
So, Spencer, I want to start with you, because I found your piece in
"The New York Times" to be incredibly useful for creating a frame of
saying, OK, the issue is people like to pick apart all of these so-called
weird beliefs or the troubling practices, because it helps us to feel
better about ourselves.
J. SPENCER FLUHMAN, BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: Yes. I
think that the premise I started from with both the op-ed and the book was
we wouldn`t seek to understand anti-Semitism by looking at Jewish
strangeness or misbehavior about --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s interesting. So, to understand the anti-side,
we don`t look at the thing that is discriminated against.
FLUHMAN: And certainly that`s part of it. I mean, no one wants to
paint Mormons as innocent victims just being picked on.
FLUHMAN: By the same token, anti-Mormonism tells us a lot about the
American culture and the tensions of American culture. For me, it`s about
the tensions between religion and the public sphere -- how should religion
function in the public sphere. And I think Mormonism has been a kind of
surrogate for that conversation for a very long time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, in part, because it is the uniquely American
religion, right? So this is -- we have been talking about the American
exceptionalism, and there is this kind of American exceptionalism embedded
in the very theology of Latter Day of Saints belief, right?
So, we have in the Mormon Church`s articles of faith that we believe
in the literal gathering of Israel and the restoration of the 10 tribes,
that Zion, and the new Jerusalem, will be built upon the American
continent, right? This idea that there is here in this country a
particularly exceptional space which I supposed is part of what`s so
surprises me about the idea that Americans know so little. I mean, this is
the jazz of religion, right, as the American version.
JOANNA BROOKS, AUTHOR, "THE BOOK OF MORMON GIRL": Yes, absolutely.
The Mormon moment is a moment in which America is finding out how little it
knows about the 6 million Mormons who actually live here -- actually live
here in every state, every walk of life. It`s a moment for us to really
tell our story.
And the question that Spencer has raised is what kind of
conversations are we having about Mormonism? Are they contributing
substantially to the public discourse about religion in general? Are we
asking the questions that matter and getting hung up on the unfamiliar
aspects of the religion?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So, tell me a little bit, Dorian, as we are
thinking about the question of the big misconceptions, what is it that you
think is happening and maybe you also want to reveal why you get to be at
the table of Mormons, but I`m interested of why we get interested in the
little so-called beliefs or the odd practices.
DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, first, I was baptized as a
Mormon when I was a kid and grew up in the church for a number of years, in
Chicago, actually, in the South Side. Yes, there are black Mormons on the
HARRIS-PERRY: In the South Side of Chicago.
WARREN: In the South Side of Chicago.
You know, I think it`s part of the unknown as well. So, all we know
are oh, you know, Mormons have the strange practices around say wives or --
you know, popular culture contributes to this a lot. There are TV shows
that glorify certain aspects of -- or certain myths of the religion. So, I
think it`s the unknown and people really don`t want to know more about the
You know, it`s also one of the wealthiest churches in the country and
in the world. And there is a reason for that.
But Americans don`t want to know. And we kind of put down blinders
and say, they are not Christian. They are somewhere over there. They have
another book in addition to the Bible. We don`t know what that is all
So I think that, you know, in such an evangelical country, we resist
wanting to know about the other.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the usefulness to me about this idea is that in
part, part of why we resisted is because if we were to take our own sets of
beliefs and I`m -- you know, whatever one`s holy book is, whatever one`s
origin myths are, and we were to set it down outside of faith, and read it
as, though, if it were -- this is what sort of happened on this day, I`m
not sure that, you know, pregnant virgins or stone tablets or anymore weird
or odd or extraordinary than any other set of beliefs that are part of sort
of faith claims.
FLUHMAN: Well, there are two things going on here. One is that
Americans don`t know a lot about any faith other than their own. This is
not just a problem with Mormonism, and thinking of a great book called
"Religious illiteracy," and Americans practice faith more than western
Europe countries practice faith, but know less about everyone else`s faith
than the Europeans do.
And so, I think religious illiteracy is an American problem that
relates not only to Mormonism, but other faiths as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: That is interesting giving how religious we are
compared to Europe.
FLUHMAN: Well, it`s surprising.
BROOKS: And also the fact that Mormons are not telling our own
stories in the mainstreams. I mean, our stories are told still by non-
Mormons. John Krakauer`s book "Under the Banner of Heaven" makes noise
that America believes that we`re murderers, polygamists, serial killers.
You know, "The Book of Mormon," "The South Park" creators and the musical -
- it`s generally a friendly depiction. It`s pretty sweet on words.
Still, we`re not really telling our stories. And our story is a lot
about sacrificing to build the community, being willing to be different for
a good reason, you know, holding yourself to the high ideals, and that is a
story that the Mormon moment will bring out unless we are fixated on the
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I appreciate your talking about this idea of
telling our own stories which we`re actually going to do in the next
segment. But as I was reading the forthcoming book, I loved the story of
being a little kid and going to the birthday parties and needing to ask for
the root beer instead of the Coke, because LDS does not, and people who are
in Latter Day Saints and who are practicing do not drink coffee, tea or
BROOKS: There is some backsliding on the caffeinated cola, because a
lot of us have the Diet Dr. Pepper in the morning, and the Mormon coffee.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love the idea of being a kid and navigating the
practices, just this idea of what it means to be a kid who is different.
So, besides the belief, itself, just sort of, and I thought, that I can
relate to and that I get is the idea of being a different kid in that
BROOKS: When I went into a room as a kid, I could tell, and I grew
up in southern California. So, not in Utah, not in the bosom of Zion, but
I know what the other Mormons were.
BROOKS: And that taught me something important. That taught me
something important. That taught me feel different, to take responsibility
for the living differently, living to the higher cause.
So, I believe that experience of being different gives the Mormons
something powerful to draw from and it should, it should oblige us to use
our experience, to think about people who are disadvantaged, marginalized
and left out. That is how I experienced the faith.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Very good. We have a lot more the say.
And speaking of the personal narratives, I`m going to pull out my
family photos because I come from Mormon stock. That`s why I got to be at
the table of Mormons.
HARRIS-PERRY: Perhaps you have heard me mention this before. I come
from Mormon stock. My father is a black man raised in the Jim Crow South.
He is a direct descendent of a slave sold on a Richmond Street corner in
But my maternal line is Mormon. My great, great grand father was an
Englishman who converted to the faith and traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Another member of my family is from the same generation served time in
prison after he refused to give up his multiple wives when Utah a made the
change from territory to statehood and polygamy became illegal.
My own mother was raised as a Mormon and attended and graduated from
Brigham Young University.
She left the church as an adult and I was never myself raised through
the LDS church. But through my family, I have come to learn a great deal
about the history of the church, and also the persecution of so many
religious groups before the Mormons have faced.
Back at the table are: Brigham Young university professor J. Spencer
Fluhman, Joanna Brooks of AskMormonGirl.com, Dorian Warren from Columbia
And joining us now, "Boston Globe" national political reporter Matt
Viser, who as far was we know, does have a secret Mormon stock to tell us
Joanna, I really-- I was enjoying reading your book last night. And
specifically I wanted to draw your attention or driving ones attention to
one point that you wrote that I normally get in trouble about talking about
this, but I will figure I will anybody. So, you were at this point talking
about learning. About the issue of black Mormons and the anxieties about
very real, clearly racist practices within the church.
You write, "These are the unspoken legacies we inherit when we belong
to a people. Not only luminous visions of eternal expanses of love and
kindness, but actual human histories of exclusion and rank prejudice."
And I thought, that`s it, that when we are part of a people, we take
it all. We`re talking about American exceptionalism -- we are both this
extraordinary American nation full of goodness, and we are Americans who
still to this day write benefit from the realities of the slavery and Jim
Talk to me about how we can in public space make that kind of
narrative a way to discuss the problematic histories of the church?
BROOKS: I was raised a as Mormon. to believe in a God that was with
just, loving, powerful. I was also raised in a church that when I was 7
years old only started to give the priesthood to men of African decent.
That`s a massive contradiction of every Mormon leaves with. America also a
bundle of contradiction, on the very small in the country, how we
deliberate because those contradictions give us our moral bearing.\
Religion has that rule to play in our public conversation, helping us
find our own moral bearings to deal with our own unfinished business to
help us deal with the business of this country that still needs to be
You know, it`s really important discussion to be having in this
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels complicated, because these are not small
points, right? I mean, these issues -- it`s not like, oh, yes, all
religions behave that way. On one hand, yes, all religions behave that
way. But there these -- I mean, for me right now my big issue with the
Mormon Church is not theological or historical, it`s about Proposition 8.
It`s about the continuing politics that I see -- continue to see as
WARREN: But what`s interesting about the Mormon Church is
quintessentially American, and it reflects other American institutions and
patriarchal institution and racial exclusion. And when you get to the
politics, remember that the church opposed equal rights amendments in the
`70s, that comes out of the church in terms of role of the women. And, you
know, walk us up to the Proposition 8 and being against same-sex marriage
in California that comes out of the practice of the church in the sense of
what people believe.
So, in that sense, it`s reflective of other American institutions.
It`s not unique in that sense.
FLUHMAN: I would like to add, to, and this is a very good point,
Dorian, and this is a good point. If the stereotype runs that, oh, Mormons
are racist, an unintended consequence of the stereotype is that it neglects
the change in the modern Mormon Church, right? But the other thing that it
puts in the background black Mormon voices.
As you said in the outset, there are black Mormons and the stereotype
that Mormons are racists, it erases the presence of the reality of black
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, let`s go right there because I am dying to
book Utah`s Mia Love on the show, because I really want to talk to her,
because I can`t book her yet, I want to listen for a moment as part of the
"I am Mormon" campaign, and this is the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MIA LOVE, SARATOGO SPRINGS, UTAH: I am the mayor of Saratoga
Springs, and I love it. I get to make this life better for me and better
for others. My friends from back home are always saying, what are you
doing in Utah? What they don`t know is that when I came here, I felt
I`m a wife. I`m a mother. I`m a mayor. My name is Mia Love. And I
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, fascinating, right? I mean, that alone, I
want her on the show, just because, first of all, I thin even the notion of
black women as mayor is in itself interesting. But there she is a mayor of
a Utah town and she, herself, Mormon and standing up there to say, yes, we
have this history, and I am, but here I am in the modern representation a
different sort of thing.
Is this part of the kind of story telling that Americans will need to
get past their anxiety about the Mormon Church do you think?
MATT VISER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Yes. I think that is what the church
is hoping that we have open discussions like this about the church in a
context that is not sharply partisan. You know, in a way that it could
become over the next couple of months particularly with -- I mean, Mitt
Romney who you mentioned the "I am Mormon" campaign and he is the ideal
poster for that in some ways. And the most prominent Mormon that most
Americans are going to know about and yet he does not talk an awful lot
about his own faith.
BROOKS: And he is not eager to talk about the difficult
contradictory and that is what is going to be the cost of Mormon entering
the mainstream, our willingness to wrestle with the contradictions of our
won faith, to be honest about them and to really that we are just like
other human beings trying to figure out our walk with God, do the best the
we can, we`re evolving on all kinds of issues.
WARREN: Another consequence I think of -- unintended consequence of
Romney`s prominence in this campaign season is that it embraces progressive
Mormons. So, not all Mormons share the same politics.
When I was a kid and I went to the Mormon Church in Hyde Park,
Chicago, it is one of the most integrated spaces I was in and almost
everybody there was liberal and progressive. And my snapshot of what
Mormonism was, was very different than I think the majority of church.
HARRIS-PERRY: Although if you look, if we hold out of the Mormons in
the U.S. House of Representatives there, there is little of a handful
mostly from the Western states, from Utah and Arizona and Nevada. But
almost most everybody has an "R" next to their names.
There is Jim Matheson who is a Democrat and the Mormon from the
American Samoa who happens to be a Democrat.
BROOKS: Don`t forget Harry Reid.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, moving over to the Senate, that is right. And
part of it is the diversity piece, and part of it is the ideological
That said, what I don`t want to do is to let off of the hook, the
ways in which the institutional church has intervened in the land of
politics. So, we`re going to talk more about that institutional political
question when we come back. We are going to talk not so much about the
Mormon Church just sort of in a vacuum and not just because the most famous
Mormon in America is of course running for president, but how that question
of Romney`s faith may impact the kind of president that he is and whether
or not that is a fair question, and that is up next.
Yesterday, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was in is center of
Mormon country, Salt Lake, Utah. Here he is with fellow Mormon, Senator
Orrin Hatch on the campaign trail in the state, but the shared religion
belief is not something that the Romney campaign would want us to focus on,
and why is that? Why is the Mormon thing seen as a problem for the Romney
camp? Is it in fact a drag on the chances of getting to the White House?
Should it be?
Here with me at the table, Spencer Fluhman, assistant professor at
Young Brigham University, Joanna Brooks, correspondent for "Religious
Dispatcher, Columbia University, and Matt Viser of "Boston Globe."
OK, Matt, what difference does it make? I mean, it`s not like Mitt
Romney hasn`t held office before, like we have a governing record. Is
there some reason to believe that Mitt Romney, because he is a member of
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, will government
differently than if he weren`t?
VISER: I don`t think so, although I do think to understand who Mitt
Romney is as a person, you have to understand something about Mormonism. I
mean, it`s hard to overstate just how important his faith is to his wife,
and to his upbringing, and to his family? I mean, his family deeply
intertwined with the church. He played a prominent role in the church in
Massachusetts, in the Mormon Church.
It`s an important part of who the core is, who his family is, and,
you know, he and his wife share that faith. So I think to understand Mitt
Romney, it`s important.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. There`s going to be a moment at the RNC
convention, where they do that. you know, meet the candidates video. We
remember, you know, Bill Clinton was up from hope, and Barack Obama`s was
like from United Colors of Benetton commercial, right?
And there is going to be a moment when if you`re going to tell the
Mitt Romney story, you`re going to have to talk about a lot of these
BROOKS: He`s crossing the plains.
HARRIS-PERRY: There will be pushcarts going across the plains.
BROOKS: But the real questions you need to be asking Mitt Romney is
the question we`d ask of any presidential candidate of any faith, what are
your moral bearings? How is faith shape those? Has it impact your
economic and political decision-making? I mean, that`s really where the
rubber hits the road with faith. That`s what we need to hear from him.
VISER: And he`s only talk about that a couple of times in the
campaign and in that context to talk about how I understand the problems
that poor people may have as a role, as a counselor in my church, you know?
Or his the mission to France --
BROOKS: But does your faith also oblige you, make you feel committed
to health care for everyone or decent education for everyone, or work for
dignity for everyone? How do you feel about war, torture? Those are moral
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And I keep wondering like, is it fair to sort
of, you know, come up to Mitt Romney, and say, you know, actually, the
Church of Latter Day Saints has a strong position on the social welfare?
We are doing this a lot right now with the Catholicism, right? So, you
have the bishops on the one hand saying, this is all about reproductive
rights and, you have the nuns saying, no, this is all about the budget, and
whether or not the budget is a moral and ethical document.
And so, you know, there`s a part of me that wants to say, OK, Mr.
Romney, what about the caring for the poor? What about the aspect of the
church are very much about communal and collectivism, and not just about
BROOKS: We know his stands with the church on same-sex marriage. But
for example, on immigration, he`s actually more conservative than the LDS
Church`s position in support of an immigration reform.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s true. Well, of course, it makes sense because
the LDS Church is a missionary church that often brings immigrants like
those from our family.
VISER: And even Mitt Romney`s family. I mean, they spent time in
Mexico, and his great-grandfather was in the Mexico community there and has
relatives who live in that colony.
WARREN: And I do think it`s a fair question to ask, because it`s not
as if the Mormon church has itself put -- entered politics, it`s entered
the political arena. It`s entered the political sphere. So, therefore I
We can ask all sorts of questions about what are the positions of the
church, what are the positions of Romney and do we agree and disagree with
those or not.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think it`s also important to think about his
leadership within the church, right? That he`s not sort of a casual
Mormon. This is -- when you understand lay leadership, you understand what
his position is.
This is someone for whom you pointed out, he would have to reconcile
any position that he took that was different. At a minimum, he`d had to
reconcile it for himself, potentially -- with the leadership.
FLUHMAN: And I don`t think that you can see, and I don`t think that
you can see the public persona apart from the bitter history of Mormonism.
I mean, he`s white, he`s rich, he`s male -- these are all the markers of
privilege and yet, why is he hesitant on Mormonism? Because of this bitter
history of Mormonism.
A hundred years ago -- you mentioned Chicago -- at the Chicago
Exposition, Mormons are not invited to the parliament of religions, but
Mormons celebrated as hardworking community people. So, there`s kind of
secularized portrait of Mormonism that is OK in the public sphere, but
there is a long history of Mormon religion not being comfortable there, and
that`s one way to read him. I`m not saying it`s the only way. But it`s
one way to comprehend his willingness to present a kind of putting the
religion to the side a little bit. There is a long history there.
HARRIS-PERRY: I know I`m going to get in trouble for this, but
sometimes I feel like Mormons are the black folks of the Republican Party.
And by that, I mean that the African-Americans give the vote to the
Democratic Party from the mid-century on, 90 percent of African-Americans
going to vote for the Democratic Party. But often, a lot of anti-black
animus, a lot of running away from black issues within the Democratic
And so when President Obama first run, he has to coordinate his
position as an African-American and a Democrat. And it feels like, yes,
the vast majority of the Mormons are Republican, but they are Republican
and yet often held at a bit of an arm`s length in the party.
VISER: I think it`s an interesting point, and I do think that, you
know, you do expect -- I mean, I think it`s 85 percent, 90 percent of
Mormons I think say the they support Mitt Romney. I mean, it`s really a
BROOKS: Eighty-seven percent yesterday.
VISER: So, it`s not like he`s having to do anything to get to the
Mormon vote. He`s got it, you know? But yet, he does not talk about it a
And Mormons have had to -- Republican Mormons have had to stomach a
lot of the anti-Mormonism from the evangelicals, and that`s just been fact
of life in the GOP. I think we have seen the change in the 2012. It`s
easier that it was in 2008, but it has been a factor -- it`s been a feature
of the landscape.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So when this came up last time, a religious
question about a president running? It was John F. Kennedy. And I want to
listen to how JFK addressed his Catholicism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Because I am a Catholic and
no Catholic has ever been elected president, the real issues in the
campaign have been obscured. So it is apparently necessary for me to state
once again not what kind of church I believe in. For that should be
important only to me, but what kind of America I believe in. I believe in
an America with the separation of the church and the state is absolute.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, is this -- I mean, I know that Romney did his 2007
version, and he talked at Liberty College. But is he going to need the
statement of the JFK statement about LDS?
BROOKS: Is he equipped to -- is one question. I mean, you know, he
is like many Mormons, nervous about talking the faith in public who used to
ridicule. But he also manifest the sort of bureaucratic personality that -
- familiar about the Mormon is we very carefully managed statements about
the faith. Don`t show vulnerability, don`t show humanness, don`t show our
contradictions, don`t show our baggage.
I don`t know that he`s set up to make the statement. I think the
statement that is important for him to make is like JFK, what impact has
his faith made on his moral bearings, on his economic and the political
VISER: It`s interesting that Mitt Romney`s father participated in a
biography in the `60s and it was called "George Romney, a Mormon
Politician". So, it was very much of an identity for his father, and
public part of the identity, and we haven`t seen that quite from Mitt
Romney so far. I don`t know -- I mean, that the campaign doesn`t I don`t
think that they want to give a Mormon speech again and they felt like they
dealt with it four years ago and avoided it altogether, and like you said
earlier, the convention is going to be interesting to see how much they
bring up his faith and background.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, look, not just the faith. His parents might have
a problem for him. I mean, we have been having ourselves a good time with
George Romney and even with Mitt`s mom who ran for office, who ran for
Senate, who really are decidedly to the left of their son at a time when it
was harder to be to the left.
BROOKS: George Romney is on record in support of civil rights that
way that Mitt Romney is certainly not, even in support of pay, equity for
BROOKS. You know, his parents were more outspoken on progressive
policy, more out front in their commitment to equality for all people under
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. No. I feel like for me, there are so many good
reasons to not vote for Mitt Romney, and that, of course, is simply because
I am a liberal progressive, right? So I always think, oh, my gosh, I can
make you a whole case for not voting for Mitt Romney, but I don`t want. I
just do not want the reason that any person makes the choice not to or to
vote for Mitt Romney to be about an anti-Mormon animus, right?
So, similarly, if you are on the right, there must be a lot of --
just bazillion great reasons not to vote for Barack Obama, but none of us
want the lever to be pulled because of an anti-black animus.
VISER: Well, part of that -- I mean, I think it`s interesting to
watch Mitt Romney and how he address a couple of weeks ago when there was
talk about Reverend Wright entering the public discussion, Mitt Romney was
very quick to say that was out of bounds and we shouldn`t do that. He`s
not done the same with Donald Trump and his discussion about Barack Obama`s
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I would like him, too. Yes.
VISER: So, I think the religious aspect hits Mitt Romney in more
than a proud way, both because I think he has sensitivity on religious
grounds, but also, he doesn`t want the discussion, I mean, if Reverend
Wright comes up, then it brings up a whole set of other questions about
Mitt Romney and his own faith that he`s not eager to have as a national
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much for joining us, Spencer, Joanna,
Matt. Thanks all for being here.
Dorian, you want to stick around a little bit longer. The showdown
is shaping up in Florida over who can vote, and who shouldn`t be able to
vote in an election where Florida might decide what happens in November.
What you need to know right after the break.
HARRIS-PERRY: Major showdown is brewing in the all-important state
of Florida. Remember the late Tim Russert`s dry-erase board on election
night 2000? Florida, Florida, Florida.
Well, bring out your white boards, because it looks like the
tightening presidential race is going to be all about Florida`s 29
electoral votes, which is why the current duel over Florida`s voter rolls,
is possibly the most important thing happening in this election.
Last month, Governor Rick Scott initiated a program to identify and
eliminate non-citizens from Florida`s rolls. Concern about the likelihood
of purging many legitimate Florida voters, the Justice Department told
Florida to halt its actions. In response, Florida`s secretary of state Ken
Detzner, is giving the DOJ his own deadline, this coming Monday, to explain
why it is illegal to remove noncitizens from the rolls.
And in a letter to the DOJ, he writes, "The Department of State
respectively -- excuse me, respectfully, disagrees with the DOJ`s action.
The actions taken by Florida to identify and remove non-citizens from its
voter rolls ensure that the right to vote of citizens is protected and it`s
not diluted by the votes of an ineligible person."
Attorney General Eric Holder had this to say about a purge problem at
a hearing on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The problem with Florida effort is
that it runs counter to the National Voter Registration Act which says you
can`t do this within 90 days of an election. You can successfully do that,
which Florida is trying to do, as has done and has been approved by the
Justice Department in North Carolina and Georgia. They did it via the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: With this showdown, the stakes may be who ends up in
the White House this fall.
With me now from Tallahassee is Ion Sancho, the Leon County
supervisor of elections.
Ion, nice to have you here.
ION SANCHO, LEON COUNTY, FL., SUPV. OF ELECTIONS: My pleasure,
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, this is truly a showdown because we`ve got
multiple levels going on here, right? We`ve got the Florida governor and
the secretary of state fighting at the federal level, but then we have
local officials like you saying, we are not going the go forward with what
the state is telling us to do.
Tell me exactly what is going on, on the ground in Florida right now
on this issue?
SANCHO: Well, it is a complex issue, because the supervisor of
elections or the local election officials really don`t work for the
governor. We don`t work for the legislature. For the most part, we are
independently elected from our counties to ensure that the process works
smoothly at the county level, and we`re decentralized historically.
What the governor is trying to do is to essentially rewrite the
entire process in Florida at the 11th hour, trying to make us, the local
officials, subservient to his statewide policy, but as independent
political officials, our own general counsel, Ron Labaski, sent us a memo
last week which basically said that the state is probably in violation of
the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
And as a 24-year veteran of the elections administration, I was
around when the NVRA was passed and section eight of the law absolutely
does prohibit a state from conducting a systemic purge with a few
exceptions within 90 days of a federal election.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ion --
SANCHO: May 17th is that deadline. And we are past it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ion, I so appreciate your position here, because I
feel like you are one of the last of the critically important breed which
is to say that your issue here is not about the Democratic voters or the
Republican voters, it is fundamentally about the integrity of the voting
How important are the stakes for us as a democracy, for Florida`s
quality of elections, not just outcome of the election, in terms of this
voter purge going on?
SANCHO: Well, unfortunately, I think this voter purge is really
being done for political reasons, not for pragmatic reasons, i.e., it`s not
because they, that anyone in the state has decided there`s lots of numbers
of noncitizens who are registered to vote. The governor here was elected
basically as a Tea Party candidate. That was his self-described moniker,
and quite frankly, that base believes for example that Barack Obama didn`t
even win the 2008 election, and stolen through the voter fraud.
And this kind of extremist view is really what is motivating, I
believe, this kind of a purge at this late hour. It does fulfill a
campaign promise that the governor made to his supporters to root out this
systemic voter fraud which as an election official, I can tell you that
quite frankly, it does not exist as a problem in the country. In the state
of Florida, for example, there are far more public officials indicted for
corruption -- 781 in the last decade -- than there have been even arrests
for voter fraud -- 178 cases have been turned over to the Florida
department of law enforcement, and of that only 11 cases even resulted in
There is no systemic problem with Florida`s voter registration
database. This is a controversy, in my opinion made for political reasons
to motivate a base in a presidential election year, and quite frankly, the
threat of just using politics or any means necessary to win at any cost, I
think that does threaten the very existence of this republic.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ion, I cannot imagine saying it better. Thank you for
being with us, and giving the report from there. Thank you for joining us
this morning. Undoubtedly, we will continue to talk about this and, in
fact, we`re going to continue to talk about it in our very next segment.
So, hang out, because the experts are here at the table to talk about
exactly what we`ve just about Ion. This matters possibly the election.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re talking about the showdown in Florida, over the
possible purging of thousands of voters off the voter rolls.
Back with me at the table are Anthea Butler, religious studies
professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Raul Reyes, attorney and NBC
Latino contributor, Dorian Warren of Columbia University, and Judith Browne
Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, whose group is prepared to
file a lawsuit against Florida if necessary.
Here`s my fear about the lawsuit -- this Supreme Court and this
federal judiciary terrifies me. If you guys take Florida to court, is this
the end of the Voting Rights Act?
JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: No, it`s s not. First of
all, we will be filing a lawsuit under the National Voter Registration Act.
We have to step back at what is happening here. Florida likes to be in the
cutting edge, they are innovators of voter suppression. So, what they have
done is they have taken a page out of the playbook of the Republican voter
suppression model, right, which is not just voter ID that passed in nine
states over the past two years.
DIANIS: But it`s also these purges. And that`s how you win
And why people should care is because in 2000, it`s 537 votes that
the e election came down to. Here, we`re talking about 180,000 potential
voters who could be purged, mostly Latino. But we also need to know that
it impacts elderly, it impacts college students. So, you know, this is a
broad play that they are going for, and you know, we are going to fight it,
and the DOJ is stepping in.
So, it`s is great that we are, you know, really anteing up. And the
governor has decided to be recalcitrant.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right. This is -- so, I read an article that I`m
sure I agree with, but it`s just -- he is standing in the schoolhouse door,
and this idea of massive resistance, and in a purple state with 29
Electoral College votes, right? I mean, it is one thing to do this in a
state that is likely to be Democrat or Republican, but Florida might decide
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: I have to say, you know, I found it incredibly
courageous that Mr. Sancho is willing to stand up to let it out. And when
you look at the purge, it is 48 percent Hispanic, and 40 percent African-
American. So, it`s quite blatant. It`s very troubling. It`s very
DIANIS: Local election officials are saying, hold on, we are not
getting in this, partisan and we`re not going to be sued, because they know
that we`ll come after them, too.
ANTHEA BUTLER, UNIV. OF PENNSYLVANIA: There`s only two words to say,
state`s rights. This is what this is about. He`s trying to assert the
state right to do whatever they want to do, and you can read this, Bull
Connor, all the rest of them, were doing the same old thing again, we`re
HARRIS-PERRY: And I love for all of the state`s rights language, it
is the local officials who were like, well, no, not over here.
WARREN: You know, we were talking earlier in one of the breaks of
the incredible turnout in Wisconsin earlier this week, we should be having
a discussion about how to expand our democracy and get everybody to the
polls. And instead, we are forced to have this discussion and fight these
battles around the voter suppression, it`s amazing to me how in the 21st
century, we are having a fight over the age-old tactic of the you can`t win
the election, exclude people in the first place.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And if you win, because you have a better ideas
and a better ground game and more voters choose you, fine, right? But if
you win because you have purged actual citizens from the laws --
DIANIS: Changed the laws and then, you know, change the rules of the
game, and all for partisan game. And it`s really about undermining
democracy. That`s what they`re tying to do, to cut off the participation
so that the people who showed up in 2008, minorities, college students,
elderly, the disabled, won`t show up this time.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, how do we build the largest possible coalition? I
mean, yes, folks who look like the folks sitting around this table are
those most likely to be impacted, but because this is about the quality of
our, how do we build the largest possible coalition?
BUTLER: I think the way you have to start is to really fight back
against this and realize, help people to understand what the history of
voting has been and that we need to recognize that lots of people died so
that we would have a right to vote.
I remember when MTV started out the get out the vote campaign, always
in the previous elections, we need the same thing, except in Florida right
now, we can`t even do it, the League of Women Voters, its hands are tied.
REYES: Don`t get out the vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: Everybody stay home on Election Day!
DIANIS: This is a day, it shouldn`t matter whether you`re right or
left, you should be here about democracy. It`s a great equalizer. It
doesn`t matter if you`re rich, poor, white or black in election day, we all
have the same amount of power.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s supposed to be, that moment is one person, one
vote. In a moment, there are three Jersey girls who could have spent their
summer at the shore, but instead, they decided to change the world.
But, first, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it is. Hello to you.
Well, it`s already happen. After statements by Mitt Romney and
President Obama, both sides have created some new campaign ads and strategy
talk is generating more heat than light.
He`s the other presidential candidate. Gary Johnson joins me to talk
about his new ad and why it paints such a gloomy picture.
Plus, fight for so-called Wal-Mart moms, sort of bringing you the
fascinating results of a new focus group of female voters.
"I`ll Have Another" will lead all horses today, after hopes are
dashed for a Triple Crown.
I was still bum out when that happened.
HARRIS-PERRY: That was sad.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Alex.
And, folks, do not go away because I have a great story of three
fabulous teenagers. And they`re Jersey girls. Come back, hear their
story. They`re our foot soldier this is week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Our foot soldiers this week are three young women,
high school sophomores in the midst of taking finals who are making the
case to right what they consider a shocking wrong. Emma Axelrod, Sammi
Siegel and Elena Tsemberis of Montclair, New Jersey, recently found out
what any of us could have realized had we bothered to look. No woman has
moderated a presidential debate since Carol Simpson of ABC News 20 years
"How can the issues important to women be addressed if they haven`t
been given the chance to ask them?" asks one of the young women. And they
are doing more than asking the right questions, they starting to take
action, in the form of a petition on Change.org, which already has more
than 100,000 signatures. They also have some suggestions for who the
moderators can be.
And let`s be clear. There are plenty of women to choose from. Like
CNN`s Candy Crowley who has been covering presidential politics since the
nomination of Jimmy Carter. Or Lesley Stahl, a 21-year veteran of the news
magazine, "60 Minutes," and a White House correspondent during the Reagan
If comparable experience is of concern, consider PBS` Gwenn Ifill,
who has moderated two vice presidential debates, but never the big show
Now, and at the risk of sounding like a corporate shill, I`ll proudly
point to my colleague here at MSNBC, the award-winning Andrea Mitchell, who
served as both NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and the host of
this network`s superb daily show, "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS".
Our Jersey girl foot soldiers are growing up when one of the icons of
cool is a woman who went from first lady to senator to presidential
candidate to secretary of state, and when women voters are capable of
deciding national elections. But they`ve never watched a woman pose her
own questions in her own voice to the men who seek the nation`s highest
"The fact that there hasn`t been a female moderator of one of the
debates in so long is just another sign that America is a long way from
being as equal as it thinks it is," another one of our young women from
Indeed, these students have a Congress that thinks it`s reasonable to
discuss contraception without talking to my women. They live in a country
where male lawmakers craft policy to peer inside women`s pregnant bodies
and live in a country where women still earn less than their male
Shouldn`t they also live in a country where a woman has the
opportunity to at least ask "why."?
For pushing that idea forward, Emma, Sammi and Elena are our foot
soldier this is week.
And that is our show for today. Thank you to Anthea Butler, Raul
Reyes and Dorian Warren for sticking around. Thank you for watching. I`m
so excited about tomorrow`s show. Reverend Al Sharpton is going to be here
and so is actress Nicole Ari Parker, right here at this table.
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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