'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, July 21, 2012
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Guests: Jason Altmire, Michael Castle, Irin Carmon, Nancy Giles, Richard Kim, Dorian Warren, Rhonda Fields, Dafna Linzer, Ron Barber
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning we`ll try to make
sense of the senseless. One day after the mass shooting in Aurora,
Colorado, we still have more questions than answers. We`ll have the latest
on what we know, what we don`t and where as a community we go from here.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. They were supposed to be the
lucky ones. The movie-goers who just after midnight Friday morning settled
back in their seats in Aurora, Colorado, for indulgent and fantasy. They
had the coveted tickets to one of the first showings in most anticipated
films of the year. Theaters nationwide were sold out, so Batman lovers
could see "The Dark Knight Rise." The final chapter in an extraordinary
fantasy. It was supposed to be an escape into a world where caped
crusaders battle evil, fictional evil, but the audience in Aurora suddenly
was confronted with the horrors of reality. As Hollywood sound effects
gave way to the real life sounds of violence and chaos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve got people running out of the theater.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have gas masks available. I need officers on
the inside of (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Team six, we have another person outside, shot
in the leg, a female.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: 12 people killed, 58 more injured. By all accounts at
the hand of a single man. A man wearing a gas mask walked into a crowded
theater, unleashed smoke devices on an unsuspecting and confused audience
and then began shooting. Eyewitness accounts from survivors started
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn`t really know something was happening
until someone came from the left entrance and told us that we shouldn`t go
outside because there was a guy with a gun out there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were people unconscious, people bleeding.
I saw one bed go past, poor guy had blood caked all over his face. He just
was not responsive at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had put the gun in my face. And at that point
I had five seconds to do something and I just jumped deep within, you know,
the aisle and curled up in a ball and tried to just duck and cover at that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Authorities did what they could to bring about a sense
of order sharing information as it developed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not looking for any other suspects. We are
confident that he acted alone. However, we will do a thorough
investigation to be absolutely sure that that is the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Details about the suspect in the shooting begin to
emerge. He is James Holmes, a 24-year-old former neuroscience graduate
student. Now, some initial questions have been answered. No, he`s not
tied to any foreign terrorist organization. Yes, he seems to have acted
alone. No, he has no prior criminal record. But still unanswered and
maybe impossible to answer is why. Joining me now from Aurora, Colorado,
MSNBC`s Chris Jansing. Good morning, Chris.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Melissa.
And I think it is fair to say that that is the huge lingering question, is
why. And we don`t have any answers because for all the people that
reporters have talked to, friends, people who lived in his apartment
complex, they described him as quiet, very few people, if any, seemed to
really know him. And he seemed to be very calm and acting typically as he
always did, keeping to himself and not just the days but the minutes
leading up to this shooting. He is in custody, as you know. He has a
lawyer. So I don`t think we`re going to be getting any answers from him
any time soon.
In the meantime, we`re getting more information about the victims.
Nothing official has been released, but various newspapers and other
reporters have been able to piece together information based on family
members. All of the four people we know among the 12 who were killed were
in their 20s. 23-year-old Micayla Medek who had for her family an
agonizing day of waiting to hear whether or not she was alive or dead.
Matt McQuinn who was a 2004 high school graduate and worked at a local
target store with his girlfriend died, we are told trying to shield her
from the bullets. She was hit but is in fair condition at the hospital.
27-year-old Alex Sullivan was celebrating his birthday with friends when he
was shot and killed. And 24-year-old Jessica Ghawi whose brother has been
out there trying to keep her memory alive, was an aspiring sportscaster.
There will be a memorial here Sunday night for the victims. And of course
there, were also 58 people who were injured. We now know that 30 of them
are hospitalized. 11 of them remain critical. Melissa?
HARRIS-PERRY: Chris, I so appreciate you moving us from the suspect,
James Holmes, to the victims and the survivors. I think, you know, in the
days to come, undoubtedly, we are going to want to know more about their
stories. But one more thing on Holmes is obviously that his apartment is
very heavily booby-trapped and the police announced last night after the
exhaustion of the day that they were going to be holding off on trying to
enter the apartment until today. Do you know what the situation is there
at the apartment?
JANSING: The intention is to try to go in again today, the problem is
that they don`t really know exactly what they are dealing with. You have
this situation that few people have seen with all these crisscrossed wires.
They are connected to what police believe could be incendiary devices. You
have one-liter bottles with some sort of liquid in there. You have jars
that are full of ammunition. We know that he bought in the two months
leading up to this four guns and 6,000 rounds, Melissa, of ammunition. And
the question becomes, why would he tell police? He`s the one who told
police, go to my apartment, you`re going to find it and it is booby-
trapped. You have to assume that someone who goes into a theater and opens
fire and kills all those people, injuries all those people, means business.
And so even though they don`t know 100 percent whether it is a live and
dangerous situation, when you have someone with obviously callous disregard
for life, you have to assume that it could be. And the ATF is there, the
FBI is there and local police are there, but they are still trying to
figure out exactly how to approach this situation. And obviously, they
don`t want to detonate anything. There`s a lot of important evidence in
there that they are going to want to use for trial, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Indeed. Thank you, Chris Jansing in Aurora, Colorado.
Chris, I know you are going to be back this afternoon to anchor a special
report of the tragedy in Colorado beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern right
here on MSNBC. Let`s go now to NBC`s national investigative correspondent,
Michael Isikoff in Washington. Good morning, Michael.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Michael, you know, obviously, this is an
investigation that is going to span all the different levels from this
local police who by all accounts did an extraordinary job in managing this
circumstance all the way up obviously to the federal government through the
FBI. Where do things stand with the investigation right now?
ISIKOFF: Well, first of all, the FBI and the Department of Homeland
Security put out a bulletin late yesterday saying there are no indications
that there are any further attacks planned by anybody else on movie
theaters. That`s something that`s obviously of concern to movie-goers
around the country. All indications are that Mr. Holmes acted alone. The
big unanswered question is why, his motivation. What we do know is that he
purchased those four weapons recovered from him, the two Glock pistols, the
shotgun and that AR-15 assault rifle legally in Colorado, although it is
worth mentioning, and this is something gun control groups are emphasizing
today, that that AR-15 is some tithing that was illegal as recently as ten
years ago. There was an assault weapons` ban in this country from 1994 to
2004. That was lifted under President Bush. President Obama had pledged
during his campaign to restore it. He has dropped that issue. So the
assault, that AR-15 is a legal weapon now. But it was not ten years ago.
One other point, in addition to purchasing those guns, he also got 7,000
rounds of ammunition and multiple magazines online. Another indication of
the ease with which one can acquire firepower. So we know how he acquired
the weapons. What we don`t know is why.
HARRIS-PERRY: Obviously, Michael, it`s a relief to hear that at this
point there`s no reason to believe that he was acting in concert with
anyone else or that there are any other attacks planned. That said, the
kind of body armor that the chief of police has indicated that the suspect
was wearing suggests that he planned to leave that theater alive. That he
was not planning either to commit suicide himself or to be shot by the
police. Is there any sense of where -- like was he expecting to go
somewhere else or is that all at this point purely speculation?
ISIKOFF: Well, it is completely baffling. And as Chris pointed out,
why would he have booby-trapped the apartment and then told the police that
he had done so. There may not be any logical answers to this. This is
obviously an irrational act and irrational, you know, people like this act
in irrational ways.
HARRIS-PERRY: Irrational, but awfully closely planned. I mean, you
know, I`m always -- want to be a little careful because this is not from
one who just sort of randomly went out and did this. He clearly planned
this for some time.
ISIKOFF: Obviously. Obviously. But there are a lot of unanswered
questions. Some of them may be answered on Monday when Mr. Holmes is due
in court for his initial court appearance. And we could expect prosecutors
to at least present some evidence that they may not have made public to
date. But clearly this is an ongoing investigation. And what`s in that
apartment can be critical evidence for this. And I think that`s another
reason that police are responding so gingerly to this because they don`t
want to destroy what could be crucial evidence as to why he did what he
did, anything he had written, his computers, all of that could be crucial
evidence in this case.
HARRIS-PERRY: Indeed. Thank you to NBC`s Michael Isikoff.
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me from Aurora is Colorado State Representative
Rhonda Fields. She lives just minutes from the theater, that was a scene
of yesterday`s shooing. Representative Fields, very nice to speak with you
STATE REP. RHONDA FIELDS (D ), COLORADO: Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, obviously, this is -- this is a terrible tragedy, a
terrible blow to the community. How are people doing this morning?
FIELDS: You know, I think people are just still in shock and awe.
This is just something that no community could ever imagine.
HARRIS-PERRY: Representative Fields, I have to tell you as I`ve been
watching and covering this, I have been incredibly impressed by police
chief Oates and his handling of the crisis. Is he someone who was already
a figure in the community?
FIELDS: Absolutely. The police of -- excuse me, the chief of police
is always essential figure in any community.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, my understanding is that you have planned a
vigil. Tell me about that.
FIELDS: You know, the city has planned a citywide prayer vigil on
Sunday. That`s going to be 6:30 in the municipal building. And basically,
it is just an opportunity for the community to come together and to pray
and to console each other and just to kind of heal.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, one of the things that I`ve been surprised
at, or maybe not surprised, but taking some sort of odd comfort in as I
looked at all of the photographs, is it this looks like it was a very
diverse community. I mean obviously a lot of young people because it was a
midnight showing ...
HARRIS-PERRY: ... but I`ve been -- I mean, tell me a little bit about
Aurora. Is it a diverse place where people come together across race and
class lines? Is that typical of the community?
FIELDS: Yes. Absolutely. Aurora is a community of families. We are
known for the great American city. So the reason people live here in
Aurora is because we celebrate families. And we are known for the children
and the community that we have.
HARRIS-PERRY: Are people talking politics at all yet in the
community? Are folks talking about gun control or about the desire to have,
you know, more safety and security at movie theaters and in public places,
or is this still really just about the tragedy?
FIELDS: You know, as far as I know of, for me, it`s about the
tragedy. It`s about the families. It`s about making sure that everyone is
properly notified and that we are handling that situation in a very
diplomatic manner. So at this point, I don`t think so. I think we are
just trying to understand why someone would so deliberately calculate this
type of murder and crime.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, State Representative Rhonda Fields. I know
there will be a lot of healing in your community and we appreciate your
leadership on it.
FIELDS: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, we continue to try to make sense of the
senseless by sorting out what comes next. We have a panel. Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are still trying to wrap our heads around the
senseless tragedy that unfolded in Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in the
early hours of Friday morning. Movie goers at the midnight screening of
"The Dark Knight Rises" were terrorized by a lone gunman leaving 12 people
dead and another 59 injured. The alleged shooter, 24-year old James
Holmes, is in police custody and awaiting a court appearance in Colorado on
Monday morning. Joining me now at the table to try to make some sense of
all this, Richard Kim, executive editor at thenation.com. Nancy Giles,
writer and contributor to CBS News "Sunday Morning", Harry Smith,
correspondent for NBC`s "Rock Center" and Dorian Warren, assistant
professor of political science of international and public affairs at
Richard, I want to start with you. I rarely find myself in a position
of like cheering on a police chief. But this police chief in everything
from his public demeanor to apparently the very swift response really sort
of got me thinking, about who is this guy? And I come to find out he`s an
NYPD veteran, but the one that I really loved is apparently he was in Ann
Arbor before this and had a very strong, we will not have any anti-Muslim
action post 9/11 here, 9/11. He took a very clear and public stance on
that. Is there something that cities can learn from watching this police
chief in this tragic moment?
RICHARD KIM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THENATION.COM: You know, I think he`s
been very careful about not leaping to conclusions and being very cautious
about the advice and information that he doles out. And we -- we see how
easy it is for the media in this 24-hour, you know, news cycle to just jump
to conclusions. So he`s had a very restrained, you know, presence and I
think that`s one of the most important things to understand what you don`t
KIM: ... in moments like this.
HARRIS-PERRY: But even when he says, you know, I`m not an expert on -
- on the bomb -- I think he said the bomb stuff at one point. Kind of
clarifying, you know, I`m good at this, I`m not good at this. You know, I
do wonder, though, as I was watching how quickly they responded, you know,
a lot of us have been following how bankrupt cities are, and I`m thinking
if this happens tomorrow in a city that`s had to fire much of its police
force for budgetary reasons ...
HARRY SMITH, NBC CORRESPONDENT, "ROCK CENTER": Oh, they were looking
at it -- they were allegedly looking at budget cuts for the police
department in Aurora.
KIM: Exactly, yeah.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. Because it was apparently recently ranked as
like the ninth safest city in America. So you imagine, oh, then this is
the time when it would be fine to, you know, reduce police.
SMITH: The theaters are very close to the central part of Aurora.
Maybe not so surprising that hour of the night that the response was so
fast. I think the other element in this is the guy was standing next to
SMITH: He wasn`t standing there with a gun pointed at anybody like
I`m going to knock you down. So a lot of things fell into place well for
this police department in this particular case.
NANCY GILES, CBS CONTRIBUTOR, "SUNDAY MORNING": But, you know, this
is one case where maybe just what you said about the fear of downsizing
police departments and fire departments, maybe that kind of policy can be
looked at in this tragedy and someone can really start to think, this is
not something we should eliminate. It doesn`t matter. I mean, I know
budgets have to be balanced and all that stuff ...
GILES: ... but this is crucial to have police and emergency people at
the ready in case something happens. Hopefully that might work its way
down into some of the presidential debate or some of the, you know ...
SMITH: Well, and make sure they have pension plans. That`s -- that`s
what they -- I mean, if you are wanting to get to the real point of all
HARRIS-PERRY: But you know, listening to -- listening to the chief
last night talk about the emotional trauma that his officers have undergone
as they have been taking victims out, you know, should they have pensions -
- like today I would be cheering ...
GILES: If my tax rate goes up 0.05 percent to compensate for their
pension plans, I`m fine with that for that for these police officers and
the police officers ...
DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: This is a debate -- this is a
debate we have been having the last two years about what are Americans
willing to pay in terms of taxes for a range of services that we all take
WARREN: And this is another example of how we take police departments
for granted often in lots of places when they respond -- first responders
generally we take for granted, and it is not an abstract thing about
whether, you know, they deserve pensions or not. These has real
consequences, these decisions about how much we invest in our services have
consequences for how well people are able to respond in emergencies.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask the culture question here. Because it feels
like it has been coming up a bit. Maybe just underneath, but the sense of,
well, it was a violent movie, we feed violence. You know, that maybe there
was some aspect of this person copycatting an earlier part of the movie.
Is there reason to think that a cultural political conversation should be
part of this, you know, sort of discussions.
KIM: I saw "The Dark Knight" yesterday, actually. And I think the
movie actually has a lesson for this moment. And I know it is a comic book
movie and I`m not trying to draw too much from it, but, so, you know, "The
Dark Knight" takes place in a failed state. And we know it`s a failed
state, because elites are corrupt and law enforcement is corrupt, but the
thing that really marks it as a failed state is that the state has lost its
monopoly on violence. And in that situation, right, you have vigilantes
like Batman, you have organized crime, you have terrorists. And what the
movie depicts that it is very difficult in a failed state to tell what is
just and unjust violence, right? And what`s the difference between a
terrorist like the Joker and the Batman, the vigilante?
KIM: And so you look at America now, and it`s not too much a stretch
to say that in those horrific moments in Aurora we approached a failed
state. When someone can buy that kind of ammunition and these weapons
online, no confident police force can get there and to have a monopoly on
violence in that moment. When you have people like George Zimmerman
encouraged to vigilantism because we`ve cut the police forces, you have the
shards of a failed state. So, I think that`s a very profound ...
HARRIS-PERRY: America ...
KIM: A very profound sort of reflection, a dark reflection, really.
Do we want to live in that night?
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Harry, I want to ask you, because even as I am
like reveling in the brilliance of that notion of America as Gotham, I also
like suddenly find myself in a very different position than I have ever
been in previously, which is now I`m part of media, right? So, you know, to
make that kind of analysis from a professorial chair or even from like a
"Nation" article chair is one thing, but I kept asking myself, does this
moment focus us as journalists as it say, this is exactly what we are
supposed to be doing? Or does it say, like, why this story of violence
rather than all of the other stories of violence?
SMITH: Right. Well, we always go to that bright shiny thing. Right?
And even if it is a bloody bright, shiny thing. That`s the thing that we
always, you know, are drawn immediately to. And in the situation like
this, it is irresistible. So, we go there and we try to peel apart all the
different pieces of this onion and try to find out who this guy is and
search out the despair. I was thinking to myself just the other day, I was
at Fort Hood on that Friday morning.
SMITH: I got on the airplane and I went home Friday, Friday
afternoon. And by Monday the story, you know, begins to diminish already.
GILES: And that`s what is so painful is that these stories just start
becoming back -- yeah, they are like background noise. But Harry is right,
I mean when it bleeds it leads. That`s what gets everybody`s attention.
And I think ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Except when it bleeds, it doesn`t lead.
GILES: Well, well -- and that`s the thing.
KIM: There are 8,000 ...
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
KIM: You know, gun-related homicides a year and they don`t rise --
the individual, you know, acts don`t rise to this sort of attention that
GILES: But what I was going to say is there was a brief moment when
President Obama spoke where he at least mentioned and other gun violence
that happens, which it may just have been a phrase, but I thought it was so
important that got said.
HARRIS-PERRY: And as soon as we come back, we`re going to talk about
another story that captured our attention. We`ll talk to a survivor of a
different shooting who saw that as a call to run for office. Arizona
Congressman Ron Barber is up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are talking about yesterday`s mass shooting at a
movie theater in Colorado. The latest incidence of gun violence to capture
the attention of our nation, but sadly it is far from the first and
probably will not be the last. We all remember the day last year when the
shooter in Arizona opened fire outside the grocery store where
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was meeting with constituents. When the
smoke cleared, six people were did and 13 others including Giffords were
wounded. The congresswoman vacated her seat in January after struggling
for a year to recover from the gunshot that went through her head. Last
month, Ron Barber, Giffords` former aide, who was also injured that day,
won an Arizona special election to take over her seat in the House of
Representative. Congressman Barber joins me now from Tucson, Arizona.
Thank you for being here, Congressman.
REP. RON BARBER (D ), ARIZONA: Good morning. Thank you for having me
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me ask you this, obviously you must have thought
as many of us did about your own experience once you heard this news. What
is just sort of your personal reaction to this tragedy?
BARBER: Well, it`s very emotional, actually. And I heard about this
shooting just as I was boarding a plane from Washington to come back home
last night. And it was a while before I was on the ground and could learn
more details. And I`m just horrified, obviously, at what happened as all
Americans, I hope, will be and are about that. My immediate thought was to
the people who have lost loved ones and those who are waiting for those who
were wounded to recover. It takes me back to a Saturday morning in the
days that followed right after the shooting on January 8th last year. And
I know how personally my family was affected, not knowing if I was alive or
dead, and then as the story evolved, many more families were stricken with
grief because they had lost their loved ones and many more not sure how
things would turn out. So my first thoughts go to the families who lost
loved ones and those who are waiting for their loved ones to recover in
this terrible tragedy.
And I also -- I also am thinking about the people who responded that
afternoon, that evening. The EMTs, the police officers, I remember talking
to police officers after the event in Tucson who came on that scene. It
was absolutely mayhem when they came, 19 bodies on the ground, and when the
police officers came to Aurora to that theater, even more. And it is just
unimaginable what they have to deal with, even with all of their training,
and yet they perform professionally by all accounts and I`m sure help save
lives. So, I think of the victims, certainly, and I also think of the
first responders, without whom, I`m sure others would have been injured,
worst injured and perhaps even died.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congressman Barber, I agree. I think that, you know,
for us to think of the victims or the survivors of the families and the
first responders, you know, the Tucson shooting, in which you were injured
occurred during a political event.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, in many ways, politics immediately became part of
the conversation, even a question about whether or not Congresswoman
Giffords was being targeted because of her stance or because of her
partisan identification. But the presidential candidates this time said
let`s take politics out of it. They took their ads down from Colorado.
Should we be having a political conversation right now or is it best as you
just suggested to think mostly of this as a tragedy?
BARBER: I think that`s the first thing. For me, it`s a stark
reminder of what we all went through as a community following the shooting.
There`s a deep shot to a community after something like this happens. And
what we need -- have to concentrate now on is bringing that community
together. I`m sure it is already rallying around the people who lost their
relatives and who are waiting for others to recover. What happened in
Tucson, I believe, is happening there. Prayers, people are going to
churches, synagogues, mosques, wherever they worship to try to get their
heads around this and also to try to pray for the people who were injured
and who died. And that`s what we really need to be doing right now. You
know, it`s too early, I think, to speculate about why this happened or how
it could have been prevented. And one of the things that I`m really
concerned about in a tragedy like this is that before we know it, the
shooter becomes the big story. Instead of those who lost their lives,
instead of those whose relatives are wounded and dead. That`s what we need
to remember. And we need to keep them in our hearts and in our minds
because it is not long before that fades from memory and we have to
remember those people who are suffering deeply today.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congressman, I have just one last quick question for
you. You are a victim of gun violence. The issue of your shooting came up
during your campaign. We are now looking at this, what is going to be your
relationship in Congress with the NRA? Again, you represent Arizona, I live
in Louisiana, I know about guns. But what is your relationship with the
NRA going to be in your position?
BARBER: Well, I don`t really have a relationship, quite frankly, with
the NRA one way or the other. I went to Congress to represent the people
of Congressional District Eight. And what they sent me there to talk
about, quite frankly, has to do with the middle class wage stagnation,
social security, Medicare, border security, these are the things that I
went there to talk about. Now this tragedy raises the issue of gun
violence and I don`t have a direct communication -- relationship with the
NRA on this matter at all. I`m just concerned as one who has survived a
similar shooting with what we do now to rally around the people who are so
seriously injured. And that whole community that is shocked to its core,
mental health counseling I think is essential for everyone in that
community who needs it and especially for the families who were caught up
in this awful and horrific event.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Congressman Ron Barber. I appreciate you
being here this morning.
BARBER: Thank you very much for having me today.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, both President Obama and Governor Romney.
What are they going to do about the guns?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If there`s
anything to take away from this tragedy it`s the reminder that life is very
fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious.
MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a time for
each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one
another and how much we love and how much we care for our great country.
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt
Romney yesterday putting politics to the side to offer words of comfort to
the victims of the Colorado shooting and all Americans who have been
touched by the tragedy. But even as the questions mount about why and how
this could have happened, the answers will inevitably spark a political
response and reinvigorate our national discussion about gun violence in
America. In fact, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg already got the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: Instead of the two people,
President Obama and Governor Romney, talking in broad things about they
want to make the world a better place. OK, tell us how, and this is a real
problem. No matter where you stand on the Second Amendment, no matter
where you stand on guns, we have a right to hear from both of them
concretely, not just in generalities. Specifically, what are they going to
do about guns?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Still with me, Richard Kim, Nancy Giles, Harry Smith
and Dorian Warren. Dorian, usually these acts of violence don`t actually
shift public opinion toward gun control, and we just heard the congressman
say, despite the fact that he`s there because of a shooting, he said that`s
not what people sent me here to Congress to do. This is not -- I`m here to
do middle class stuff, not to do gun control.
WARREN: So, this is the result of the successful campaign by the gun
lobby and the National Rifle Association over decades to shape public
opinion. So in 1990, 80 percent of Americans roughly were in favor of gun
control. By 2010 only 44 percent of Americans are in favor of gun control.
So the mayor is actually, Mayor Bloomberg is right about the fact that we
deserve to hear from both political candidates for president what they
would actually do around gun control. I think, unfortunately, we are not
going to hear anything from either of them precisely because the NRA has
won the debate. But there`s another issue here besides gun control, and
that`s the earlier point about the culture. And the question is, is
violence so normalized in our culture that we are numb to it? So I think
all the time about the more than 500 young people in Chicago that have been
shot and killed by guns, mostly in black and Latino communities since 2008.
We don`t have the news stories about those kids on a regular basis. We
only have the, you know, exceptional news stories ...
WARREN: ... when they are somewhat, you know, a quote/unquote crazy
killer. So we have to deal with both issues around guns and what our
attitudes are about guns and what our values are about guns as well as the
conversation about the culture of violence in this society.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I mean Harry, nothing would please me more than
believing that a gun control law would make sure that this would never
happen again. And I`m a gun control advocate and yet it does seem
insufficient as a response.
SMITH: Yeah. If I`m going to pick up on something he said, it was we
were talking about this in the last segment because we go for that bright,
shiny thing, because that`s the easier thing to cover, chronic is hard.
SMITH: Sensational is easy. So we are all, you know, we are there,
there, there, but chronic like Chicago, you will (ph) report it, we will
(ph) talk about it -- I think Bill Bratton wrote a great piece, by the way,
in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning talking about all the way from
community policing. The fact is, overall crime rates in Chicago are way,
way, way down. And some of the gang guys in Chicago have been actually
thrown in jail, left to younger, not wiser people to fight it out on the
streets. And that`s some part of an explanation at least for what`s going
on there. But yesterday when this happened I thought, we jump at this
thing, but we don`t -- it`s harder. It`s harder to drill down on Chicago
or places, other big cities ...
HARRIS-PERRY: And especially ...
SMITH: ... where police forces are impacted.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And in fact, you know, I`m thinking, you know,
in New Orleans we both have the highest murder rate in the country ...
HARRIS-PERRY: ... and our local paper is going to online most days of
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, if you know, the one place where it used to get
covered would be at least in the local paper.
HARRIS-PERRY: And now you don`t even have that.
GILES: Well, there is a couple of things. I don`t normally agree
with Mike Bloomberg on a lot of things, but I really agreed with him on
GILES: I think there has to be a conversation. Now, going back to
Bloomberg, I don`t know if stop and frisk ...
GILES: ... is necessarily going to be the answer to the problem, but
I`m struck by so many things. Just the different types of shootings. When
we talk about the ones that happen in urban neighborhoods and we talk about
this. And this is not to denigrate the coverage, but there`s something
kind of weird about putting a special tragic theme song to the coverage.
Having a special graphic. Making almost like an entertainment special out
of something that happens on that end where there`s maybe a crazed shooter
GILES: And then as Harry was saying, the other more banal killings
that happen every day, they get nothing. I mean, it`s a strange subtle way
of valuing life in different ways that always creeps me out.
KIM: But I`ve been trying to think through that. And I see your
point, but I also think some of the reason why these mass attacks offend us
so much, hurt us so much, is because they are not just isolated acts of gun
violence that take place in private or at the individual level.
KIM: They are enabled by our human desire to see politicians, to go
to school, like Virginia Tech, to go see a movie with your friends at
night. So, there`s an assault on sort of very notion of being public and
being this sort of freedom of association at its most elemental level. And
I think that`s also why these attacks are so horrifying to us.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s also my greatest nervousness -- so, you know,
again I`m a gun control advocate in general, but my worry when we face
existential threat and our first response, well, we must be too free.
Let`s go -- let`s go remove some of our freedoms. Like my angst about that
is exactly the public piece because I don`t want our public life to become
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I mean -- I don`t ....
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t want our freedom, look, I don`t want it to be
harder to go to school or to go to a movie theater.
WARREN: But I think this is -- I think there`s a distinction we can
make between, you know, when you have military-level fire power ...
WARREN: ... in civilian hands, we`re going to -- this is what
happens. This is the inevitable outcome, and it will happen again and
again and again, unless we want to make a distinction and say we have a
value around certain kinds of guns in this society that nobody needs.
HARRIS-PERRY: How do you answer the gun lobbyist position that if
somebody in that theater had been packing and carrying they would have
start -- I mean this is -- right? This is the response to that.
GILES: I know ...
SMITH: I have very good friends who carry concealed weapons.
SMITH: ... and would say, you know what -- if I was in there or if
one of my pals was in there, that guy would have gone ten shots off, not
dozens and dozens.
GILES: Everyone would like to think that.
KIM: My response is that I do not want to rely on neighbors and
strangers with concealed weapons to do justice and to provide public
safety. I do not want vigilantes and Batmans in charge of the public
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s (inaudible) Batman.
KIM: I want to disarm the sort of people who might do these
atrocities. This person purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition online. Had
a magazine on that had a 100 clips in it, that could have fired off 60
rounds in a minute? What freedoms are being encroached by making illegal
this level of weaponry?
SMITH: Well, Michael Isikoff was saying earlier, right, that those --
this particular gun was on the assault weapons ban.
KIM: It was.
SMITH: And then it was taken off.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, right. This is a gun that would have been
illegal. And I think -- I think that`s part -- you know, we`ll go to break
in a moment, but I think that`s part of the question. So here`s a gun that
would have been illegal. Had the gun been illegal, would this not have
happened? I think -- I think that`s for me is like the constant roiling.
Deep. And I just want us to be clear that it is difficult. So, maybe this
is right I agree with Michael Bloomberg.
If it is difficult, let`s hear the presidential candidates talk about
Up next, maybe instead of continuing to compile gun victim statistics,
we should be thinking about how to stop the epidemic. Also, programming
note, MSNBC will continue to cover this story with a two-hour special at
3:00 p.m. Eastern hosted by Chris Jansing. We`ll be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you have access to a television, computer or a
newspaper, by now you have heard the numbers associated with yesterday`s
senseless tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. At the midnight screening of "The
Dark Knight Rises." Twelve. That`s the number of innocent lives a lone
gunman indiscriminately took when he barged into a crowded movie theater.
58 is the number of additional people left injured and irrevocably changed
by this shooting. Tragic, that`s the word that comes to mind when we are
thinking about what happened in Colorado, but still we cannot lose sight of
the shattered lives and loss that occurred there.
We also have to remember the tragedy that happens around our country
on a daily basis. Because both instances speak to the perilous state we
are at when it comes to gun violence.
Here is some numbers that you may not have heard about -- three.
That`s how many teenage boys were shot on the south side of Chicago on
Thursday night in two separate shootings. One is how many of those young
men survived, although he is still in critical condition. 275 is the
number of murders in Chicago for the current year. 1,205, that`s how many
shooting incidents Chicago has seen just this year in 2012. 159, that`s
the number of homicides that have occurred in the city of Los Angeles so
far this year. 642 is how many shooting victims Los Angeles has seen since
the beginning of 2012. 111 is the current tally of murders in my adopted
city of New Orleans for this year alone.
These numbers show the totality of senseless violence across our
country in addition to the horrific tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. What they
don`t show is that people are not numbers. Yes, shootings and murders can
be quantified, but the numbers don`t speak to the loss of life and the
lasting damage to those left behind. The victims in Colorado, they were
part of someone`s family. These young men and women in cities across the
country had hopes and dreams that will never be met. And until we get
serious about the causes and effects of gun violence everywhere, we will
continue to compile statistics on the epidemic. What I want us to do is
start working to save people from it.
Coming up, what if presidential pardons were considered in a
completely different way. They might be. And that`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: In a week full of bad news an array of hope. Some
promising developments in the commutation request for Clarence Aaron. Now,
we first told you about Aaron and his case back in May. He was a star
linebacker at historically black Southern University of Louisiana when he
got caught up with a cocaine dealer. Convicted in 1993 for his very first
criminal offense. Aaron was sentenced to three life sentences without
parole. That sentence was the harshest of anyone involved in the same drug
crime. Now the Obama administration have asked for a review of Clarence
Aaron`s commutation request and ordered the Justice Department to conduct
in-depth analysis of recommendations for who receives a presidential pardon
going forward. "Propublica" senior writer, Dafna Linzer was reporting has
definitely been the key in this development. Thank you for being here,
DAFNA LINZER, SENIOR REPORTER, PROPUBLICA: Thanks so much, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, just remind us again about the -- we know who
Clarence Aaron is, remind us again why this request went so wrong
LINZER: Right. This is really, you know, an extraordinary case of a
guy whose request got very, very far and actually caught the attention of
the last administration, the Bush administration that was eager to see if
they could commune his sentence. I think just really for the reasons that
you articulated. And this was a first-time offense. This was a young guy,
this is a college student. He had, you know, the least, sort of most minor
role in the conspiracy itself and got the harshest sentence. I mean, as
you said, we are talking about triple life sentences. You know, murderers
are freed at the state level, but this was a federal crime, this was at the
height of the drug wars ...
LINZER: ... when prosecutors were eager to, you know, make examples
out of young people. And so there you have it. He ended up being a model
prisoner. His extremely harsh sentence caught a lot of people`s attention,
and he was considered an outstanding candidate for clemency.
Unfortunately, the pardon attorney, you know, felt otherwise and really did
not give the White House the information it needed to make a reasonable
fair decision in the case.
HARRIS-PERRY: So now President Obama is prepared in part, because of
your reporting, is prepared to reconsider this case. How hopeful are you
LINZER: I`m hopeful. I think this is a good sign. You know,
President Obama has commuted the sentence of exactly one person since he`s
been president. It is very, very hard to get this far in the game. Very
few people get this far. The fact that the White House has read his entire
file now, lawyers in the White House know exactly who Clarence Aaron is and
want a fresh review. I think that`s a very good sign.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, how is the family feeling?
LINZER: I think they, you know, they are hopeful. I mean, you know,
they have really been helpful all along. Clarence, you know, I have spoken
to him, he`s a guy full of grace. And I think, you know, he really feels,
you know, that he might have a shot.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, definitely. Thank you for being back. I really
hope the next time that you`re here, I really -- I am imaging Clarence
sitting right next to you, it would be -- it would be lovely. Thank you
for all of your work.
LINZER: Thank you so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, it`s hard out there. Excuse me. It`s hard
out there for a moderate. Why politicians on the Hill find that being
partisan is the answer.
HARRIS-PERRY: Whenever an extreme act of violence like the one we saw
in Aurora, Colorado, occurs we are often met with extreme political
rhetoric. Even before all the facts are clear, both sides retreat to their
corners blaming the policies and politics of the other as the root cause of
the tragedy. In our current politics, the extremes are increasingly the
This week we saw a backlash to that kind of extreme politicking. It
was in the response to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann`s letter to the
Department of State calling for an investigation into a top aide to
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, questioning her connection to the
Muslim Brotherhood. On Wednesday, it was particularly refreshing when
Republican Senator John McCain reminded us that prior to his 2008
presidential run, he was long considered one of Congress` more moderate
voices. Here he is, defending Clinton`s aide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Madam President, rarely do I come to
the floor of this body to discuss particular individuals. But I understand
how painful and injurious it is when a person`s character, reputation and
patriotism are attacked without concern for fact or fairness.
When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches a specious and
degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more
than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames
the spirit of our nation and we all grow poorer because of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: McCain, American hero, author of campaign finance
reform, has been known as a politician who puts principle over politics.
And today, his statements of bipartisanship are unfortunately a few and far
between as moderates in Congress are rare. Moderation is not what it once
And the Bipartisan Policy Center assesses a state of cross-aisle
politics via the number of those who represent districts that are not in
line with their party affiliation. So, in 1993, there were 93 Democrats
who represented Republican-leaning districts. Today, there are only nine
Democrats in GOP dominated districts.
And the number of moderates is likely to shrink after the November
election, 25 of the most moderate members of both parties in the House of
Representatives, of those nine are not seeking re-election in 2012. That`s
seven Democrats and two Republicans. And an analysis by the "Cook
Political Report" shows 18 moderates facing an uncertain path to re-
So perhaps the loss of moderation is just an effect of redistricting,
or less competitive districts. Does that mean bipartisanship is gone for
good? Or ideological alliances a thing of the past?
With me at the table is Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, ranked as one
of the top five most moderate Democrats in Congress by the Bipartisan
Policy Center, NBC`s "Rock Center" correspondent Harry Smith. And joining
me from Wilmington, Delaware, is former Republican congressman and former
governor of Delaware, Mike Castle.
Thank you all for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glad to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to start with you, Mr. Castle, because the
Dodd-Frank Act is one of your great accomplishments, but it immediately
became a political liability in what feels like an environment where
moderation is no longer possible.
FMR. REP. MICHAEL CASTLE (R), DELAWARE: Well, the Dodd-Frank is very
complicated and did have a lot of problems associated with it. I think the
regulatory aspects of it since that have not been carried out particularly
So I sort of understand some of the problems there. But it is just
an indication of how you can take an issue such as that or a lot of other
issues for all that matter and blow them up. We have blogs and Web sites
and different partisan commentators out there who take these issues and
make it absolute evil as far as they are concerned and it makes it tougher
and tougher for those who are trying to take positions in the middle and do
the right thing as far as the country is concerned to be able to advance
those kinds of causes.
Now, you`re seeing it in terms of those who are more in the middle,
dropping out of Congress, struggling in primaries as I did and Jason has
done, and that`s, I think, difficult and not good for the country. I mean,
I think a good example of this is the whole Simpson-Bowles legislation that
would have actually led us to a balanced -- more balanced budget --
CASTLE: -- in fiscal circumstance in this country and yet you cannot
get a majority to go to the middle to adopt this because it`s either a tax
increase of some kind, or it reduces benefits for somebody on the more
And that`s a problem. We need to deal with that. And unfortunately
in this circumstance it is very hard to do so. And I think it is a real
loss for the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congressman Altmire, you are not seeking re-election.
Is it because you decided this is no country for moderates?
REP. JASON ALTMIRE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, it`s because I lost my
primary. I think what Congressman Castle was just talking about with the
Wall Street reform, things like the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell," the
Equal Pay Act for women, the Lilly Ledbetter, none of that would have
happened if Democrats had control of Congress. The reason Democrats had
control of Congress is because all across the country, conservative
Democrats, moderate Democrats, centrists were able to win districts that
otherwise would have elected Republicans, that would have opposed the
And, unfortunately, there`s no political payoff for being in the
middle. And I don`t think that`s where the country is. I think most of
the country is in the middle.
I get asked all the time. Why is there so much partisanship in
Washington? It`s because our system is designed to elect partisans, but
that`s not representative of where the country is. The country wants us to
work together. They want us to get things done.
Unfortunately, we have people on the extremes that are serving in the
HARRY SMITH, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That`s a great example of that
this week. FOX News had a poll of who should be Mitt Romney`s vice
SMITH: Who was the winner?
HARRIS-PERRY: Condi Rice.
SMITH: Who is --
HARRIS-PERRY: Who is pro-choice.
SMITH: -- never going to be accused of being radically or
dramatically one way or any direction.
And I thought that was so interesting because it was by a wide margin
over Marco Rubio, over a whole list of --
HARRIS-PERRY: Paul Ryan.
SMITH: Stunning. And the thought, if anything, what does that tell
you about where people really are versus -- it seemed the middle has been
discredited. Only if you are on some polar opposite does it have some kind
of credibility. And it has it sort of a street cred to it and kind of the
intellectual sort of dismissiveness about comity and about people getting
HARRIS-PERRY: And Representative Castle, I think this is a really
good point, Harry, about sort of -- and also, Jason about this idea of sort
of, you know, the people being in a different place. So how then does it
You know, I was thinking, for example, Representative Castle, your
situation was unique in Delaware because it`s a small state. You were the
only representative from that state. So I`m wondering, does that -- does
it make it more important to be moderate when like a senator, for example,
you`re representing the entire state.
Does it make it -- and yet in your case it didn`t. There was still
this need to pull to one poll.
CASTLE: Well, I guess it`s true. I mean, in a state like Delaware,
which has tended to be rather Democratic in its votes in recent years, a
Republican is probably not going to get elected unless they have somewhat
I was taken out by somebody who was not remotely moderate and was
supported by the Tea Party. That`s where it all came from. In spite of
the fact I had leads in the polls in both the primary and general election.
That energy came up and got me.
That may not be true in, say, a Wyoming or other states with single
representatives, but in the more balanced states, that`s a problem.
So when you`re trying to do the right thing, you`re trying to work
with both parties in order to advance causes in the greater public good,
unfortunately, within your own party, there are those who are ideologically
much more to one side or the other, and they tend to think if you`re not
voting that way, that you have committed some sort of heresy and you
shouldn`t be in office.
I had many people bemoan the fact that I didn`t win in the primary or
the general election in Delaware, but I would be willing to bet most of the
people in the Republican Party voted against me, and it was a small number,
it was a small turnout, probably were relatively happy just to be rid of
me, because I was not quite conservative enough for them.
And that`s the mindset of the political parties to a great degree
today. And that leads to the extremism that we see in Congress because
Republicans tend to be quite conservative and Democrats tend to be quite
liberal. And people like Jason and myself and others who may take a more
middle position get hurt badly within our parties and these primary
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Congressman, when I heard that repeat there was
that it was the primary, that the problem was the primary process. Is
there like structurally some way you can imagine around that? Obviously,
parties have to make a choice about which candidate they`re going to put
ALTMIRE: Well, the jungle primary system that they have in
California I think is worth looking at, where you have both parties able to
vote at once in the top two candidates regardless of party affiliation come
out. I haven`t thought much about that before, but when you really think
through that, you are a lot less likely to have fringe candidates survive
that process. Maybe that`s the way to do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s messy, but it might lead to some moderation.
Thank you to the former governor, Mike Castle in Delaware. I
appreciate you being here.
CASTLE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Everybody else is going to stick around. We`re going
to stay on this conversation and ask a little bit more about partisanship,
moderation and whether or not there`s any way towards more civility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: We feel we have the responsibility
to represent people all across America, where we, whether they can vote for
us or not. And we try to come up with those policies that are for America
-- policies that will make a difference in a child`s life whether you live
in New York or whether you live in Pennsylvania or Iowa or South Carolina.
Those kinds of common sense policies because to one degree, we are all
alike in that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks of New
York speaking with me last weekend during a Congressional Black Caucus trip
to New York City. Now, the CBC had long been known as the conscious of the
Congress for his work bringing complete political leaders together.
But we cannot leave this heavy lifting to the CBC because they are a
typically progressive arm of the Democratic Party and especially in this
partisan political climate.
Last Wednesday, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted
again to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It was the 33rd time that House
Republicans have voted to strip, defund or repeal the health care law.
Choosing symbolic voting and political grandstanding over their job,
the 112th Congress has been the least affective in history. Three quarters
into the legislative session, and this Congress has not passed half as many
laws as the least productive Congress to date. Loss of moderates in
Congress not only shows a loss of civility but it also might mean the loss
With me at the table is Democratic Congressman Jason Altmire of
Pennsylvania, NBC`s "Rock Center" correspondent Harry Smith, Dorian Warren
of Columbia University, and Richard Kim, executive editor of thenation.com.
So, Richard, I just got to say, I really only ever want the other
guys to be moderate. I don`t want our guys to be moderate, like I want to
be really honest about that. I really just want the Republicans to be
RICHARD KIM, THENATION.COM: Well, you are seeing asymmetric
polarization, that the drift has been much more on the Republican side than
the Democratic side. But, you know, we were talking in the green room and
I`m wondering why we necessarily link the question of congressional
productivity to the lack of moderates, right? Or why we link polarization,
right, to the lack of productivity.
You have countries in Europe where there`s incredible polarization.
There are actually fascists in European countries and socialist/communist
parties, right? But there`s a political system there, not a two-party
system that enables the kind of sausage-making and compromise that you need
to make government function in an incredibly polarized environment.
So, while the lack of moderates and getting more moderates elected,
it could be one way to increase congressional productivity, there could
also be reforms to the very electoral system that we have that takes into
account that America might be for a long time now, a much more polarized
HARRIS-PERRY: So, is the sausage-making, we heard Michael Castle,
say, well, part of the problem is social media and blogs and all this
visibility. Is the issue that you`ve got to be able to make sausage in
order to govern and that in this particular media environment, congressmen
can`t make sausage anymore?
SMITH: There are so many candidates and people that end up in office
that have pledged sort of almost unreal fealty to certain sorts of -- I
will never do this. And as long as that kind of thing is around, it makes
it really hard to make sausage.
I wonder, though, sometimes as I`m listening to this whole
conversation, we remember the good old days of Ronald Reagan and Tip
O`Neill would fight, and then would get together and have a scotch at the
end of the day, and say, all right, on we go, we actually have to get this
And I wonder as I spent time covering both the White House and having
conversations with guys like John Boehner, is there enough will on both
sides to say, we need to do this thing? And it feels like to me in the
last decade to two decades that it`s more about I`m going to take my agenda
and I`m going to get it. And if there`s collateral damage along the way,
so be it.
SMITH: And that`s been sort of the way things have worked. It seems
like since post-Clinton, maybe.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m with you on that I despise like political
nostalgia. I never buy it because in every point before this one, I`m sort
of not really particularly a citizen, but I was looking back at what are
the things that we have managed to do in a bipartisan way, and I was
reminded of the `64 Civil Rights Act. That was the really bad Democrats,
not the nice ones of today, who were, of course, you know, doing their
filibuster and so the Civil Rights Act of `64 passes because Republican
leadership gets 27 Republican senators to join the 44 Democrats to end the
filibuster of their fellow Democratic colleagues.
And I think, OK, yes, I don`t like the nostalgia good old days, but,
man, I like the `64 Civil Rights Act.
DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: But I think it`s important that
you go back to that historical reference, because the following year, in
`65, when Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, he says, what, I just
delivered the South to the Republican Party of a generation.
And I think that`s the story of the loss of moderates, we have seen a
radical shift in the two-party system where the Republican Party became a
Southern party and the Democrats became a Northern and coastal party. And
so, the loss of or the re-composition of those two parties has reshaped the
ideology of both parties.
HARRIS-PERRY: And also urban rule, right? So, part of it is coast
and South, but the other piece of is like there`s no blue states, there`s
only blue cities and the city is big enough to carry the state or not. But
I do want to -- on the one hand, my favorite bipartisan moment is about
being the blue dogs. On the other hand, I`m represented in Louisiana by
David Vitter on one hand, and by Mary Landrieu.
Now, Mary Landrieu, lots of disagreements, but, man, I would rather
have her than, you know, a Vitter 2.0 in that position.
ALTMIRE: Well, something to think about is the bills that have
passed, the monumental legislation that was passed recently under President
Obama were not bipartisan. The stimulus, by and large, was not bipartisan,
certainly not in the House. The health care bill got no Republican votes.
So, it`s very different than it was. I don`t think we have ever
passed that type of legislation, that significant monumental life-changing
legislation in a unified way like that.
SMITH: So do you blame the guys run over, so to speak, for saying,
bringing it up 33 times?
SMITH: Uh-huh. That`s what we were trying to say before.
And so, they felt like they got sold a bill of goods and what
happens? The Congress gets turned over.
So, this is -- this is the environment that we live in now.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, you know, I wonder about that because I`m
wondering therefore if we are not misidentifying what counts as moderate,
because yes, it passed only with Democratic support but it was a bill that
was basically what Republicans wanted in the 1990s.
KIM: The mandate was absolutely a Republican idea. It came from the
Heritage Foundation and it`s a bill that the Senate Republicans would have
passed two years ago.
KIM: So the question there is not just sort of the lack of
moderates, but the way I think the elections have kind of seethed into
every aspect of governance. There`s now no longer a non-election cycle.
And so you have people making calculations that they`re going to defeat
this piece of legislation.
They don`t want Obama to actually have a successful, the largest
expansion of domestic policy since, I think, 40 years or something like
that. They don`t want that to work because of the political and electoral
consequences that would have down the line. So, that`s disheartening, too,
that it`s all just been about winning and losing.
WARREN: I`m not sure this is something new. You know, I think in
the middle 20th century, we had a lot of cross-party collaboration in
voting. We have the same fragment media environment in the 19th century
where we had really polarized and partisan media, and we had a polarized
and partisan Congress.
So the nostalgia is nice, but this isn`t anything new in terms of
HARRIS-PERRY: And Dorian Warren is bringing us back to the 19th
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Congressman Altmire, for being in here.
And thank you to Harry Smith. I always appreciate your voices at the
The rest are back after the break.
And up next, the continuing struggle for reproductive rights.
HARRIS-PERRY: The assault on women`s reproductive rights is getting
exhausting. It feels like it just never ends, but Republican this is week
made a special effort to up the ante. On Wednesday, a House subcommittee
chaired by Kentucky Republican Hal Rogers pushed through a new spending
bill that the Washington paper "The Hill" reports would cut funding for
Planned Parenthood if the organization continues to provide legal
It was no different in the states this week. We have been covering a
new restriction in Mississippi which had been blocked by a federal judge
right before it was scheduled to go in effect. The law mandates that the
physician who performs abortions must have local hospital privileges.
However, at the state`s only abortion clinic, the doctors are from out of
state. So that same federal judge has now cleared the law to take effect.
However, the Jackson Women`s Health Organization, that one clinic which is
thought to be the target of the law, was shielded from any penalties.
In Virginia, State Attorney General Ken -- I always mess up his name
-- Cuccinelli is ignored the board`s of health recommendation for relaxing
what it described as rigorous architectural regulations for already
existing abortion clinics. Despite the 7-4 board vote, Mr. Cuccinelli
claims that the board has no legal right to make such a ruling.
Adding to the pile this week, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
appointed a new member to the same board of health, one who just happens to
be vice-chair of the anti-reproductive rights group OB/GYNs for Life.
And in Arizona, if nothing is done, I know it`s ridiculous, right? A
new law goes into effect that would ban most abortions at the point of 20
weeks after a woman`s last menstrual cycle. Last week, a group of doctor`s
advocates filed a lawsuit against Arizona`s so-called Fetal Pain Bill
called the most extreme example yet of the early limit laws by the Center
for Reproductive Rights.
Joining us now is Irin Carmon, reporter for Salon.com.
And back at the table, Dorian Warren, Nancy Giles and Richard Kim.
Erin, the reason I always mess up the attorney general of Virginia`s
name is because there`s this brilliant Website called coochwatch.com where
they literally look at what Bob McDonnell and Mr. Cuccinelli are doing.
But I got to say, like the very idea that we are in this space
politically and socially where we are having this conversation in 2012 --
it just continues to amaze me.
IRIN CARMON, SALON.COM: What I find amazing is that the first few
rounds of the battles in the past have gone so badly for Republicans and
they keep restarting them.
I mean, this is what -- it`s fascinating. In February, there was a
"National Journal" poll that said that 69 percent of people opposed
defunding Planned Parenthood even when they knew that Planned Parenthood
performed safe abortions without federal funds.
In Virginia, Bob McDonnell, it`s become political poison, his
transvaginal thing. And yet, here they are restarting the same battles and
somehow they think it`s going to go differently.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, literally, like Cooch Watch -- I mean,
transvaginal ultrasounds are literally a cooch watch, right?
NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR: I have two basic problems. The
first thing, and I`m going to just say it, is no woman jumps up in the
morning and go, hey, ha, I`m going to get an abortion.
This is not some lighthearted, quick decision that someone makes.
It`s very personal. It`s really painful.
It just shouldn`t even -- you know, the legislation just astounds me.
So, that`s the first thing.
The second thing is that all of these initiatives made and made by
Republicans when they are questioned about it with a straight face and
people are dilated. They say, what are you talking about? We`re not doing
anything. It`s not our work. We`re not doing the war on women. It`s the
And I find myself shouting at the TV going, it`s you!
HARRIS-PERRY: I think a lot of the advocates repeat the statistic
that something like 60 percent of women who seek termination already have a
child. It is not because they don`t understand what pregnancy is. It`s
not because --
GILES: Or because of gender.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, they just don`t want to parent. Or they just -
- it`s actually because they do know what it takes to be a parent.
Is this about laziness on the left, Richard? Did we just -- I mean,
the fact we are still having this conversation in 2012, did we just decide
post Roe v. Wade that it was all going to be OK and somehow lose our
KIM: You know, I think that`s part of the explanation and I do think
we could have been putting reproductive rights more at the center of the
Democratic Party agenda and the left agenda for example, not as a separate
thing over here that only women care about, because men and society at
large I think benefits from having reproductive rights.
But I also wonder and this goes back to the sort of conversation
we`re having about polarization, you know, and it seems like are these
Republicans, let`s say in Mississippi, actually going to pay for this? You
know, will they sort of get elected out of office?
And I`m not sure they will just because you have such a right-leaning
district drawn up. So they really are not catering to the center or
towards the larger sort of political audience.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, they lost personhood because personhood reached
too far and allowed the mobilization of like the broadest definition of
reproductive rights. So, folks who want reproductive services on other
side, in other words fertility services, but it doesn`t mean that those
people are pro-choice, right? They are still perfectly happy to shut down
Planned Parenthood, even if they don`t want a personhood amendment.
WARREN: This whole debate, there`s one word in my head every time I
hear a news story about this and it`s "domination". This is the politics
And when you think about the earlier conversation, so we can be
adamant about the freedom of having an assault weapon, but women don`t have
the freedom to control their own destinies or their own bodies.
WARREN: That is insane.
WARREN: I don`t know how else to explain it. I don`t know what else
is behind, expert for an ideology that`s about controlling women`s freedoms
and bodies. It`s about domination. That`s the word all week long that was
in my head.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And really when you said it next to that sort of
civil liberties framework, it really -- it`s so startling and different.
CARMON: I think your analysis of what happened in Mississippi is
correct but I would also think that -- I also think that generally
speaking, they are actually has been a sleeping giant awakened in the last
few months. I think you`re right. I mean, when I talk to somebody from
Planned Parenthood this week, they were saying that for 15 to 20 years, you
know, things -- people thought things were quiet and there are people who
are donating now who never have before.
You have President Obama making a video in support of Planned
Parenthood and running ads to point out Mitt Romney wants to end Planned
Parenthood. You have Obama coming out against the abortion restriction in
Virginia which has never happened before to my knowledge.
So, I actually think -- and in Mississippi there are some -- you
know, they are outnumbered but there are strong activists working there and
trying really hard to push back at these laws.
And also, I mean, you have -- yes, you have this, there`s no war on
women, but you also have in Mississippi people saying things like, you
know, if they use coat hangers, you`ve got to have moral values. They are
also saying we want Mississippi to be abortion-free.
You know, anyone who has been to a country where abortion is outlawed
knows what abortion-free means, 50,000 women dying every year from unsafe
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s also -- I mean, I think part of what`s so
astounding me about Mississippi, as the case in here, right, some of the
activist there are some of the most extraordinary people I`ve ever met,
including one of the physicians perform there. But it is also one of the
poorest states. And what we know is that women with wealth and women with
private doctors are able to access abortions even when it is supposedly
illegal, and it is the poor who can`t.
Up next, we`re going to talk a little bit more about who gets to talk
about reproductive rights and who is supposed to just shut up.
HARRIS-PERRY: No taxation without representation is a slogan that
originated in colonial days. But it lives on today ironically in our
nation`s capitol. If you have driven behind a car with a D.C. license
plate, you`ve probably seen this. Now simply "taxation without
representation" because it`s less a protest than a statement of fact.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegate to the United States Congress
representing D.C., can serve on committees but she can`t vote. As such
when she wanted to speak up in opposition to Arizona Republican Congressman
Trent Franks` bill banning abortions beyond 20 weeks in her District of
Please don`t miss that, the Arizona congressman in her district,
Delegate Holmes Norton was denied the opportunity to speak.
She did get her word in, finally, by posting a statement on her site
saying, "Republicans ganging up on the district instead of introducing a
nationwide bill was quickly seen for what it is; the use of the women of
this city to target Roe v. Wade and the women whose reproductive health
depends on the constitutionally guaranteed right to an abortion."
It is one thing to try to defund Planned Parenthood or sabotage
abortion clinics in one`s own state. But when congressmen are singling out
the District of Columbia and not allowing its representative who can`t even
vote to at least have a voice, we are officially looking through the
looking glass, folks.
Joining me again: Irin Carmon of "Salon", Dorian Warren of Columbia
University, Nancy Giles of CBS "Sunday Morning", and Richard Kim of
This part of the story drove me batty. I mean, it is one thing to
have a state by state, we the people of Mississippi don`t want abortions.
But an Arizona congresswoman making laws for D.C. and the D.C.
congresswoman was already disenfranchised doesn`t get to speak? What more
do women need to look like?
GILES: I mean, this is the second time we have seen a bill that has
to do with women, restricting women who had effects getting a chance to
speak. Yes, I felt the same way. What business is it of yours what women
in D.C. do?
And I couldn`t escape the fact that, you know, it`s a huge African-
American area. There are a lot of women of color who might need abortion
services. And he`s sticking his nose in.
Actually, I don`t want to use words like sticking your nose in.
That`s too icky.
GILES: Backing up.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, Irin, is this because what they are trying to do
is bring a Roe v. Wade damage before this court?
CARMON: Absolutely. For this court or a court under a Romney
presidency, I have to say it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please don`t say it anymore.
CARMON: To me, these 20-week bans are the scariest and most
interesting and the most legally important because we have a situation
where they are trying to create the pain capable, the fetal pain thing so
that if the Supreme Court considers what happens to the fetus it`s on the
road to banning abortion altogether. It`s not clear if they can do it
under this court, but probably could if they had one more judge.
So, you`re right, the D.C. women predominantly African-American
women, low-income, they are just the pawn for -- the 20-week ban is the
priority of the National Right to Life Committee this year, precisely
because they want to get a court battle set up. They want to refocus the
conversation to later abortions.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Roe v. Wade opens the door to this, right, Roe did
not find absolute constitutional right termination services. It`s the
thing that right set up -- Roe set up the trimester and the idea that`s
something fundamentally different in the first trimester and second and
CARMON: But 20-week is absolutely is absolutely a violation of Roe
because of pre-viability. So, it`s just --you know, if you talk to legal
experts about this, they say if the court follows its precedent, this is
unconstitutional. Banning abortion before viability, you cannot do it.
CARMON: They want to create a new legal principle which says that
under the scientifically spurious idea that there`s fetal pain that you
should ban abortions after 20 weeks. D.C. and the House of Representatives
is a really prominent place to do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s worth pointing out that this is less than one
half of 1 percent of abortions performed after 20 weeks and they are almost
always performed because they are almost never sort of about what we think
of abortion on demand. They are almost always because there`s something
wrong with the fetus or with the mother in a way that -- these are often
wanted pregnancies that have to be terminated. Again, we are talking after
WARREN: There you go with those pesky facts again.
CARMON: One more thing interesting and depressing about this D.C.
taxation without representation thing is that last year, the federal
government almost shut down over Planned Parenthood funding. And the thing
-- you have this famous quote from a "Washington Post" story that Obama
said, "John, I`ll give you D.C. abortions but I`m not going to like it,"
which is to say that they saved Planned Parenthood funding but D.C. is now
allowed to use its own taxpayer funds to fund women on Medicaid getting
So, again, it`s their own money. They`re not allowed -- it`s their
local taxation and that became a pawn in this national, political showdown.
And it could happen again.
HARRIS-PERRY: This feels like exactly the domination argument you
were -- like D.C. disenfranchised and becomes the symbol for women.
WARREN: And against the lie -- I mean, it exposes the lie of
conservative ideology. We are all about states rights and local control,
except when we don`t agree with your politics and we want to dominate you.
Now, we are just going to enact this bill if we can to control this
entire population that has no voice in our representative system.
HARRIS-PERRY: It falls apart around marriage equality where they
don`t want state by state marriage equality. It falls around abortion
rights, right? So, it`s all about states rights unless the states are more
KIM: Well, they didn`t want state by state inequality, until the
states started passing marriage quality.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask that, I mean, it`s -- oh, I`m sorry,
let me hold for one moment because we are going to go back to Colorado.
The medical center of Aurora is now having a briefing. And this center
received 18 patients related to yesterday`s shooting.
Let`s take a listen for at least a moment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Settling down or going away, some of them, the
patients, are starting to realize what really went on. So, day two is a
pivotal day for them, you know, beginning the recovery process.
Our staff also who treated all the traumas. They have had some
stress in the night. We are working with them and the staff is coming
together. So I think it is a whole community here trying to heal and
starting to heal.
I think one thing as we also absorb all this is, we are learning what
benefit it is to have a trauma system the way we do -- such high
professionalism, expertise, a lot of collaboration.
I mean, this is why the EMS, the police, the hospitals, the surgeons,
the ERs, the fire departments train and drill. They don`t ever want to
have to use it, but I think in speaking to the folks who were here since
1:00 a.m. yesterday, it was precise. I mean, it happened the way it was
I know some communication -- there were some gaps in communication,
but that comes with chaos, you know, from the city and everywhere else.
But I think this demonstrated a terrific trauma system, and this is a level
2 trauma center, and it worked very well.
So, again, introduce Dr. Bob Snyder. He`s a trauma surgeon. He just
did some rounds with the patients. He can give you updates on our numbers
and status. OK?
DR. BOB SNYDER, TRAUMA SURGEON, MEDICAL CENTER OF AURORA: Thanks,
This morning, we made rounds on all the patients that were admitted
to the trauma service as a result of this mass casualty incident. The
patients that we have in the hospital right now are all doing fairly well.
As Linda said, it was a relatively quiet night last night. We did
not have any incidents that required any emergency procedures or anything
of that nature. I know Dr. Denton (ph) had alluded to the fact that the
first 24 to 48 hours after an incident like this, we`re looking for missed
injuries that wouldn`t necessarily show up right away. And thankfully, we
have not found any missed injuries.
Everything that we made a diagnosis originally is what we`re still
working with right now. We still have seven patients in the hospital. We
have three patients on the regular floor, our trauma floor. We have four
patients in the intensive care unit. Of those four patients that are in
the intensive care unit, two of them remain in critical condition, but they
And things that we`re looking for this morning as far as blood
pressure and oxygen levels, all, thankfully, are doing all right. We
actually have plans of moving one of our patients in the ICU out to the
Linda is correct in that it is going to be a long day for a lot of
people. The initial adrenaline rush of having something like this happen,
both for the families and the patients themselves, is starting to wear off,
and today is the day that there`s going to be (AUDIO GAP).
We have staff in place as far as mental health counselors to work
with the patients and their families, and we (AUDIO GAP).
HARRIS-PERRY: We are having some difficulties with our feed, but
that`s a briefing at the medical center of Aurora, Colorado. As news
continues to develop, we will bring you more about the status of the
victims from yesterday`s shooting.
And when we come back, I am actually going to talk a little bit about
what we just heard, about the importance of having a trauma center and the
communications and all of the things that went right yesterday despite
everything that went wrong.
Stay with us here on MSNBC.
HARRIS-PERRY: Just before the break, we had an update from Aurora,
Colorado, and we heard from Dr. Linda Denton (ph) who said things are going
as well as can be expected for the victims and survivors who are there in
And it just -- I have to ask this panel, is this a moment where we
can talk a little bit more about Medicaid expansion, about the Affordable
Care Act, about the fact to the extent that something is going right, it
ought to go right for everybody?
GILES: That`s your proof right there, is that everyone deserves that
level of care. I mean, we are talking about Scranton -- Scranton where
they are bankrupt. What if something like this happened in a place like
that where they are cutting back on police and emergency personnel and the
hospitals. I mean, this is -- this is how it should be.
KIM: Look at Texas, right? So, Texas is one of the states where the
Tea Party Governor Rick Perry has said that he will not take the Medicaid
expansion, even though the federal government pays for 100 percent of it or
90 percent of it, right? So, Texas also has 25 percent of Texans are
uninsured and this would impact millions of people.
I, you know, did an article at TheNation.com, which is up now, and
the cost to kick in for Medicare expansion, if they passed a minimal state
income tax -- Texas, one of nine states that doesn`t have a state income
tax -- if they passed the minimal state incomes tax, they could pay for
this 26 times over.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it is really -- you know, this is why we started
our #FBJ, forget Bobby Jindal, because -- you know, down in Louisiana, same
thing. They are sending back money in a place where we just talked about
what the --
KIM: Every single state that has rejected Medicaid expansion, they
have incredible tax loopholes and tax breaks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, maybe there`s a new policy conversation
Quick programming note: MSNBC will continue to cover the Colorado
shootings with a two-hour special report at 3:00 p.m. Eastern hosted by
Up next, are we keeping our promise to do better as a nation?
HARRIS-PERRY: January 8th, 2011, Americans were shocked by the
unthinkable violence in Arizona, a shooting at a political event. It left
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords forever changed. Six people dead and 13
One of those killed was 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Born on
September 11th, 2001, Christina was a living symbol of hope that persisted
despite the tragedy our country faced that day. So President Obama spoke
about Christina in his speech at the Tucson memorial a few days later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to live up to
her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined
it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The president was imploring us to be a better nation
for Christina, better so that no parent, no mother would ever of have to
endure the loss of a child again. And, if they did, for whatever reason,
that justice would be fair and swift.
So I couldn`t help but think of Christina but this week and wondered
how well we lived up to President Obama`s challenge.
For Sybrina Fulton, we still have a ways to go. She spoke out this
week after the killer of her son, George Zimmerman, said in an interview on
FOX News that the events leading to the death of Trayvon Martin were part
of, quote, "God`s plan."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN`S MOTHER: I wish Trayvon was here to
tell his side of the story. And I don`t believe that`s God`s plan for him
to kill an innocent teenager.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But Trayvon can`t be here to tell his side of the
story. He was shot and killed by George Zimmerman on February 26th. His
mother is hoping that justice for her child is also part of God`s plan and
she`s praying the laws of the state of Florida will not shield his killer.
Then there`s a Encarnacion Romero, a Guatemalan woman who was living
and working in Missouri. She was arrested in an immigration sting on May
22nd, 2007. So, this past Wednesday, a judge terminated her parental
rights to her 5-year-old son on the grounds that she had abandoned him.
Abandoned him? Because she was arrested for her immigration status.
The ruling leaves open the door for a Missouri`s couple to adopt
Romero`s son as their own. A mother separated from her child by laws more
interested in punishing her than insuring a just outcome.
And what about Aruna Vallabhaneni? Aruna left India in 1997 to
escape repeated abuse by her husband, abuse that led to a broken nose,
which left her with no sense of smell, a kick in the stomach that was so
brutal she had to have a hysterectomy at 28. She had to leave her children
And after 15 years she was finally granted asylum by the United
States last month. In 2008, Aruna was reunited with her daughter but still
has not seen her son, 15 years of separation because our laws didn`t give
And, of course, the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, on Friday,
which separated forever too many parents from their children. But a little
ray of hope in the midst of so much loss. The survival of the youngest
among the survivors, a 3-month-old caught in the chaos who thankfully
See, too often, our politics, our laws, our policies, even our
national violence, separate mothers from the children they love. But the
little miracle among all the death in Colorado this week is a reminder that
not all is lost.
President Obama told us to be better. And to live up to the
expectations of young Christina Taylor Green. But to do that, we can`t
rely solely on miracles. We have to craft a safer world that ensures that
mothers and their kids are protected from all the things that separate them
from one another.
That is our show for today.
Thank you to Erin Carmon, to Dorian Warren, to Nancy Giles and to
Richard Kim for sticking around.
Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll see you tomorrow morning,
10:00 a.m. Eastern. Model and activist Alek Wek will be here.
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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