'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, August 12, 2012
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
Guests: Joy Reid, Ari Melber, Raul Reyes, Julian Zelizer, Chris Van Hollen, Rob Zerban
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: The Olympics are ending but the games have
Mitt Romney`s subconscious seems to think Paul Ryan is the next
president of the United States. So all eyes are turning to Wisconsin. And
there is plenty to see there.
Nerdland asks: Who is this man with a plan?
PERRY: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Today, with the final event of the 2012 Olympic Games, we wrap the
biggest story of the last two weeks and dive right into the biggest story,
really the only story of the last two days.
Yesterday, Mitt Romney stepped from the deck of an aircraft carrier
in Norfolk, Virginia, and made his decision known.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is an honor to announce
my running mate and the next vice president of the United States, Paul
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: When the Wisconsin congressman bounded out of his
holding area, he showed more energy and charisma than we have seen from
Mitt Romney all year.
Now, if the man was unrecognizable to you before yesterday, by now
you are surely well-versed in all things Paul Ryan. Seventh term
congressman elected in Wisconsin, first district, when he was only 28 years
old. Catholic, married, father of three. Chairman of the House Budget
Committee. Darling of the conservative media.
And the thing for which Ryan is perhaps best known: architect of the
GOP`s road map for America. It`s a plan he laid out in "The Path to
Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal", more commonly known as Ryan
A far cry from Mitt Romney`s sometimes muddled and mixed messages,
Ryan`s vision for America`s future is crystal clear. And in Paul Ryan`s
America, we cut the budget deficit with massive reductions in spending,
achieved primarily by slashing social programs.
Under Ryan`s plan, American was the most money would see a reduction
in their taxes and those with the least money would see a reduction in the
benefits they depend on to survive. That means pulling the Medicare rug
out from under future beneficiaries and cutting food subsidies for
struggling families, reducing Pell Grants for students who can`t afford the
cost of college and slashing the growth of Medicaid.
But he didn`t mention any of those details yesterday when he was
introducing himself to America, as the man who will occupy the number two
spot on the GOP ticket or as Mitt Romney said in his introduction, possibly
a slightly higher position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Join me in welcoming the next president of the United
States, Paul Ryan!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. We laughed. We laughed about that one.
That is until we listened to what Ryan had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America is more
than just a place though. America is an idea.
RYAN: It`s the only country founded on an idea. Our rights come
from nature and God, not from government.
This idea was founded on the principles of liberty, freedom, free
enterprise, self-determination, and government by consent of the governed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So if Ryan sounded vaguely presidential there, it`s
because he was channeling one of our greatest presidents, the man who wrote
these words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain
unalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness. That to secure that`s rights, governments are instituted
among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Yes, Paul Ryan was cribbing from no less a wordsmith than our third
president, Thomas Jefferson, and his greatest achievements, the Declaration
Now, Jefferson is one of my favorite presidents. But Paul Ryan, you,
sir, are no Thomas Jefferson.
Now, Jefferson, with his hundreds of slaves, was not a perfect man.
But he was a man with a perfect idea, an enlightenment idea, bigger than
himself. At the time that he first drafted the Declaration of
Independence, we hadn`t yet become as John Adams famously said a government
of laws and not men. Whatever rights our young nation could lay claim to
were delineated by one man, King George III.
But the brilliance of the Thomas Jefferson`s words in the Declaration
lies in their universality. See, no one man is in source of those rights.
They are endowed by a higher power, a Creator. No man has the power to
separate us from those rights. They are unalienable, cannot be alienated
from, you see.
And because we`re all created equal, we all have the right to life,
and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Now, of course, in 1776, those flawed men had a limited take on who
was to be under the umbrella term of all. They allowed no room under that
umbrella for someone who looked like me, but that perfect idea, that
perfect document was greater than those imperfect men, so great, in fact,
that decades later, women who weren`t part of the original vision could use
Jefferson`s words as an inspiration for their own declaration, when
Elizabeth Cady Stanton dropped the Declaration of Sentiments at the Seneca
Falls convention in 1848.
That idea was so expansive that it could reach across the centuries
and find itself spoken from the mouth of the descendent of slaves as he
laid out the dream of America on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
But yesterday when that stretched a little farther into the introduction by
the man who might be our country`s next vice president, that perfect
universal idea felt like it got smaller because although Paul Ryan got
Jefferson`s words rights, the policies that he and Mitt Romney want to
pursue for our country get the ideas all wrong.
The Declaration of Independence is our nation`s social contract and
the policies endorsed by the Republican ticket are in violation of that
contact (ph). The declaration guarantees the right to life and liberty and
pursuit of happiness to all Americans. You see, equal access to health
care and adequate food for children protects our right to life. Fair labor
practices that include labor organizing enhance the right to liberty, the
ability of loving adults to marry one another, no matter their sexual
orientation is central to pursuing happiness.
Our founding ideas are bigger than Ryan`s narrow vision.
Joining me at the table today, Julian Zelizer is a professor of
history and public affairs at Princeton University and author of "Governing
And also, Joy Reid, MSNBC contributor and Nerdland friend,
contributing editor and also managing editor at TheGrio.com.
Thank you both for being here.
JULIAN ZELIZER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Thank you.
MADDOW: Julian, you`re a political historian. Were you at all
surprised to hear Ryan invoke Jefferson in his introduction of himself to
the American people?
ZELIZER: I wasn`t that surprised. It sounded a little like Ronald
Reagan, who also tapped in to founding principles and linked them not to
the idea of more government, but to the idea of free enterprise and freeing
the country of government.
So it`s a familiar conservative theme and I think Ryan who`s been
around in conservative circles for a long time is trying to draw in that
HARRIS-PERRY: And Jefferson certainly was a small government guy,
right? I mean, Jefferson was a proponent initially of a relatively limited
government, of agrarian society, that sort of thing. But, you know, my
take hear on the declaration is it`s bigger than that. It`s elastic and
part of it is that it`s a growing document, just like the Constitution is.
It`s a living document, not a dead one.
Although it seems silly, Joy, it does feel like Romney and Ryan said,
let`s make this about ideas. Let`s not just make this about policy, let`s
make this about something big. So, let`s -- like I`m totally ready to have
a political theory conversation with them.
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Exactly. And what they believe you
just said is the problem, right? They don`t like the idea of an expansive
definition of liberty. They want to go back to a frontier America.
I think if you talk to conservatives and read a lot of what they
write, what they`re upset about is that popular culture, the media, they
think the public school system, everything has conspired to sort of hide
their ideas or make them embarrassed about them.
Their idea really is that before the 20th century, America was the
better place, where you didn`t have the government confiscating one
person`s wealth to provide a social safety net for someone else, where you
didn`t tax wealth, where you didn`t tax corporations. And it was up to
your own enterprise and pluck to make it, and if you didn`t make it, well,
I guess you were not smart enough or not plucky enough and it was your own
problem, and there was no one to rescue you.
They really want to go back to that, and they feel like if they could
just find the right messenger, or somebody sunny and optimistic, like
Ronald Reagan, then Americans would like cure themselves of statism. They
would stop wanting dependency on government. They would get rid of Social
Security and Medicare and they`d want do it because they`d want to go back
to being liberty and self-sufficient minded. They really believe that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. But, Julian, I believe the part that allows
them to believe that is a kind of misreading of some of the historical
facts, that in fact, at every moment -- for example, government is
protecting property. This is literally why governments are instituted
Is there something -- if I`m in the Obama administration, if I`m in
the Obama campaign and camp right now, how do I go back and take this
language of either the declaration or the founding documents and say, "You
know what, you guys have this interpretation wrong, Mr. Romney ands Mr.
Ryan, here are the way of imagining what these big ideas are"?
ZELIZER: Well, for Democrats, there`s two ways they`re going do
that. One is to look back at American history and say, hey, government was
always important. They built our roads. They allowed commerce to take
place. They sent our mail. They protected our lands. So, government has
always been an integral part of the country.
And the second is to talk about specific issues. That`s how the
debate is going to turn. Ryan and Romney -- they`ll talk about government
philosophically in the abstract. Obama and Biden and others will talk
about Medicare. They`ll talk about Social Security.
The polls show Americans often don`t like government, but they like
government programs. So, that`s going to be what the fall`s about, which
way do you frame that debate.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think this point that you just made, Julian, is so
important, if you say government, it`s this thing out there, right? And
it`s often represented by bureaucrats whose names I don`t know.
But then you say, oh, we`re laying off bureaucrats, we`re laying
government workers, but then you say we`re laying off teachers, oh, I`m
sorry, I didn`t realize we were talking about teachers. Or you`ll say,
hey, you know, when you say government, what you actually mean is the road
that you drive to school on? Oh, I like that.
So is there something here in sort of the American notion of
government that we`ve had, that we`ve delinked over history where we say I
don`t like government but -- hey, government hands off my Medicare, for
example, which is what we saw in the Tea Party movement.
REID: And that is exactly the point, is that in the abstract, this
idea that conservatives have that we just get rid of government and go back
to our own enterprise, it would be great, were the experience of the pre-
20th century America was pretty awful for like 95 percent of people.
REID: If you were not already wealthy or a landed man, white man,
you know, life was really rough for you in 20th century. So when people
actually experienced the loss of government, if there were no firefighters
to come and put out the fire when your house, you know, is on fire, if
there was no police to protect you, if there was no military to protect
you, if there was no Medicare and you had to retire just on the little
pittance that you had, if you didn`t have any savings, even most
conservatives say they wouldn`t want to live in that America. They keep
saying they want it, but when you actually experience the loss of
quote/unquote, "government," they also object to it.
REID: So, I think that`s what Democrats have to remind people.
Government is not some abstract thing.
REID: It`s the thing -- and also, by the way, most of the wealth
that`s created by these big corporations is with government subsidies,
REID: Even Bain, they kept getting this government assistance and
all of this stuff from government. We built that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, we built that.
So, coming up: is Mitt Romney, who`s generally pretty risk-averse, is
this Ryan pick too big a gamble? Will the lad outshine the dad?
HARRIS-PERRY: So politically speaking, an ideal vice-presidential
pick fills in the gaps where the presidential contender is lacking. Lyndon
Johnson was John Kennedy`s gateway to the South. Sarah Palin revved the
base for John McCain and tried to court women voters.
What does Paul Ryan have that Mitt Romney is missing? It`s not the
Midwestern background. It`s certainly not the economic expertise. Family
man with conservative moral values? Romney has got plenty of that.
Mitt Romney doesn`t have warmth or relatable personality. And
whatever Ryan`s policy shortcomings are, he`s got charisma and charm enough
for both of them.
So, was he the bold boost of energy that the Romney campaign needed
or risky choice that could actually upstage the top of the ticket?
Still with me Julian Zelizer and Joy Reid. And joining the group
are: Paul Reyes, attorney and NBC Latino contributor, and Ari Melber, MSNBC
contributor and correspondent for "The Nation".
So, Ari, 2:00 a.m., they make the announcement. And you are on
Twitter with opinions. What do you think? Is it --
ARI MELBER, THE NATION: It`s where I live.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
Is it a brilliant pick or an awful pick?
MELBER: I think it is a strong pick that reflects the undeniable
fact that auto-pilot was not going to win this race and the attempt to make
it a referendum on Obama which itself wasn`t necessarily happening, even if
that worked perfectly, wasn`t going to win this race.
And so, what they did was say we need something bigger, stronger,
something more specific. Mitt Romney is a guy you go to school with for
four years and you don`t really know him that well. If people ask you
about him, you don`t know many details about him.
MELBER: And Paul Ryan is the guy where you see his picture in the
Facebook, whether it`s for paper Facebook or today in Facebook, you see his
picture, you know exactly who that guy is.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s like, oh, yes, I remember.
All right. So, this was my thought -- Julian, I want to ask you.
You sort of looked across the history of presidential picks and V.P. picks,
whether they make a difference. You cover, August 6th, 2012, of the
"Newsweek", basically is Romney too much of a wimp to win the presidency?
He picks this guy who is many things but not wimpy. Is it going to
ultimately be bad for him because it will make him look more wimpy in
comparison or do V.P.s not matter much?
ZELIZER: Sometimes they can matter on the campaign trail. They can
matter if the person who articulates the idea behind the campaign.
But Walter Mondale in 1976, many Democrats didn`t trust Jimmy Carter.
They didn`t know who he was. They thought he was kind of hard to pin down,
Mondale brought traditional Democrats right into the fold and helped him
win that election.
George H.W. Bush in 1980 gave Ronald Reagan some Washington
establishment, foreign policy expertise and helped him look less like Barry
Goldwater in `64, someone out there and more like a respectable candidate.
So, they can make a difference. There`s limits to what they can do,
but they can be effective.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it`s fascinating to think of Walter Mondale and
George H.W. Bush as helpful.
HARRIS-PERRY: But only a historian could remind us of such a thing.
So I`m also looking at just the stagecraft of this, right? They`re
in Virginia, not in Wisconsin, right? They`re coming out on this
decommissioned, you know, military ship. What are they trying to signal
both with this pick and with the stagecraft of this pick?
PAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: That was a little confusing to me, because in
a way, it pointed out that neither of these people, you know, have military
service which is unusual for both people on the ticket.
And, I also felt that, you know, isn`t it true generally speaking,
when you choose your vice president, you don`t usually want someone who`s
going to upstage and outshine you. Even if you glance at the TV for Paul
Ryan, no matter what you whether you think about him or know him, he is
dynamic, he has something to say. He`s jumping off the TV screen.
He`s someone -- he`s ready for his moment. He`s like he`s ready to
jump into the fight.
And I think for Mitt Romney, there`s a real danger that this campaign
going forward is going to be about Paul Ryan and not about Mitt Romney.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last night, they came back out and did another joint
appearance and Romney comes out and is speaking off prompter, off script,
and I was waiting for like the Dean scream at the end because this is not
his normal way to come out and be quite that enthusiastic.
Can that last or is Romney just sort of still the character that is,
you know, he`s an automaton?
REID: No. I think that this is the problem. It`s the opportunity
and it`s the problem. I thought it was the strongest pick, too. It was
the strongest pick he could have made.
REID: However, what Ryan brings to the campaign that Romney lacked
is ideas and that`s the problem. And that we`re now going to focus on the
ideas that Romney had, which by the way, even before he was on the ticket,
Romney was pretty much running on Paul Ryan`s ideas, right? Ryan is
supplying the intellectual basis right now for the Republican Party. And
Romney was running on that anyway, so may was well add him to the ticket.
But now he is stuck with Ryan`s ideas. You see the first thing he
said, he put out a statement saying, "I`m going to have my own plan." No,
you`re not. You`re going to run on Ryan`s plan.
MELBER: I think Joy is putting his finger on it exactly, which is
there`s Romney 1.0, Massachusetts moderate, universal health care, assault
MELBER: OK? Those are real things he did with his time and his
MELBER: And there`s Romney`s 2.0 which is engaging the most right-
wing fringes of today`s Republican Party.
One of the things that he was trying to do for months and I do think
has failed and this pick shows that he`s failed, was say, I can be all of
that and I can telegraph certain things to the right, but I can also try to
make moderates think that I will come back to my roots, that I`m not as
scary as some of these Republican primary candidates, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: They decided not to etch a sketch. They`re going to
stay right over here.
MELBER: That is over. That is over.
What he`s done is put all of his chips down on the heart of the
modern Republican government, which is that government health care, that
Medicare, that Social Security, that none of these things are worth paying
for and we need to do, in the case of the Ryan budget, a 20-plus-percent
cut for millionaires. That comes first, and that comes at the cost of 14
million people being pushed off Medicare.
That is the blue print. And now he said it`s not going to be 1.0.
This is who I am.
REYES: That`s dangerous, because, you know, he is aligning himself
and he is giving Romney a type of core and saying this is the candidacy for
the true 1 percent, for the economic elite. That`s who we`re going to look
after and take care of.
HARRIS-PERRY: In this moment, basically let the scrutiny begin
because we are not in Wisconsin anymore. So if a criticism of Mitt Romney
has been really about how vague his proposals are in a lot of ways,
Congressman Paul Ryan is man with specifics. And when we come back, the
ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Congressman Chris Van
Hollen, joins me, to talk about those specifics.
HARRIS-PERRY: After he was introduced as Mitt Romney`s running mate
yesterday, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan`s remarks were characterized by
vague generalities and big broad promises much like the Romney campaign has
been up to this point.
But Ryan is not just an ideas guy. He has an actually plan. It`s a
big plan. And it is filled with specifics, and those specifics are now up
Saturday, I joined "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" where our own Rachel Maddow
took out the nearly 100-page Ryan roadmap for America`s future in one fell
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: Find your nearest old person and ask
them, do you like Medicare? Would you like Medicare to instead be replaced
by a coupon and a prayer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. But, of course, the Paul Ryan does not
change Medicare for anyone over the age of 55. On the other hand, what the
Affordable Care Act --
MADDOW: Ask a 54-year-old what`s about to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So with Ryan as V.P., every voter born after
1958 in every state in the nation has a very specific proposal to vote for
or against in November.
To help assess the political impact of this roadmap, I`m joined by
Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the ranking member of the House
Budget Committee chaired currently by Paul Ryan.
Thanks for joining us.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: It`s great to be with you,
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Congressman, does this choice for Ryan now make
this election a national one in the sense of each and every state down
ticket, now congressional races, all of it, will in part be about the Ryan
VAN HOLLEN: Well, absolutely. You know, earlier, Romney had said
that the Ryan plan was, quote, "marvelous". Now, he`s fully embraced and
endorsed it, and he`s going to have to live with it and he`s going to have
to live with the specifics.
And as the debate goes on, people are going to learn more and more
how the Ryan plan is great for people like Mitt Romney but it`s really bad
for the rest of the country. It provides big tax breaks for the very
wealthy. Mitt Romney would do very well, but for the rest of the country,
whether your seniors on Medicare, whether your kids who are trying to pay
for your education, or whether you`re a middle income taxpayer, the
benefits of the very wealthy come at the expense of everybody else.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I was struck, Congressman. I was listening to
Congressman Ryan talking about the first two years of the Obama
administration and he said at that time Democrats had full control. Can we
take a moment and take a listen to what he had to say?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: No one disputes that President Obama inherited a difficult
situation. And in his first two years with his party in complete control
of Washington, he passed nearly every item on his agenda. But that didn`t
make things better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So you were there. Is that how you remember 2008 to
VAN HOLLEN: Well, there are a couple of points here. Obviously,
while Paul works in the House of Representatives, he should know the rules
in the Senate gave the Republicans an incredible amount of power and Mitch
McConnell famously said his top priority was not the economy and not jobs
but to defeat the president.
Of course, Republicans in the Senate even for those two years did
everything they could to obstruct progress.
However, it should be said that the president was able to stop the
free-fall in the economy. After all, we were losing over 800,000 jobs a
month when the president was sworn in, able to turn the corner, and now
we`re in positive territory.
And we`d be in even more positive territory if the House Republicans
would simply allow a vote on the president`s jobs bill. We voted 37 times
to overturn Obamacare, to overturn the Affordable Care Act, but not once on
the president`s jobs plan.
Look. Now, we`re going to have an opportunity, Melissa, for a real
fight. I just wanted to make a point that was in the lead-in, with
Republicans are claiming that the Ryan plan will not impact any seniors for
10 years. That`s just not true.
If you`re a senior with high prescription drug costs, you will
immediately have to pay more because they reopen what we call the
prescription drug donut hole. If you`re a senior, you`re immediately going
to have to pay more for preventable health services.
One of the things we did in the Affordable Care Act was trying to
encourage seniors to get preventative care before they developed chronic
conditions. You`re going to have to pay a lot more. So, it`s going to
impact seniors immediately.
And in the longer term, what I would say about the Ryan plan is it
gives members of Congress a much better health care plan than the Medicare
plan they`re proposing for seniors.
And let me ask you this, Congressman. In his introduction of Ryan,
Romney indicated that even his opponents respect him. You`ve sat there
with Ryan, you`ve worked with him. You know, it seems like in a personal
way on the ground lots of respect, even from people who are not on his side
of the aisle.
As the Obama campaign is moving forward, does the president`s
campaign make the most sense to vet the man or vet the ideas?
VAN HOLLEN: Oh, I think we should vet the ideas.
Look, I work with Paul Ryan. We get along very well personally. We
have very tough and spirited debates, but they`ve always been civil debates
in the budget committee.
Look, there`s plenty to go on with respect to the ideas in terms of a
target-rich environment, because when you dig down deep in the Ryan budget,
it really is bad for the vast majority of the country. Again, great for
folks who are already on top, but at the expense of everybody else.
They say they want to make the hard decisions but they ask nothing of
folks at the very top, while they ask others to take a big hit, whether
you`re a senior on Medicare or whether you`re a construction worker,
because under their plan, you`re going to cut significantly the federal
investment in our infrastructure, in our roads, in our bridges.
So, again, it`s not hard if you`re not going to ask the folks at the
very top to pitch in a little more. Of course, it complies with the Grover
Norquist pledge which 98 percent of the Republicans have signed.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Congressman, let me ask you this very last
question. And that is between the empirics of the votes that Ryan has
passed during his years in Congress, including voting for the Bush tax
cuts, the Iraq war expenditures, the Medicare Part D, which although a good
policy was not offset in terms of its deficit impact. How does he square
that ultimately with his sort of narrative of himself as a deficit hawk?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, that`s a very good question. That`s one that
they`re going to have to answer during the campaign, because as you point
out, Melissa, during the eight years of the Bush administration, Paul Ryan,
along with his others colleagues, voted for that Bush agenda. Now, they
say they didn`t mean it, or they wished they done something else.
But the reality is that agent lead to the loss of millions of jobs.
The only thing that went up during those eight years was the deficit, which
skyrocketed, and now the issue is how do you deal with the long-term
deficit? What we`ve said is you take a balanced approach that involves
some cuts and the president has made those cuts and has recommended more.
But you also got to ask the folks on the very top to pay more, because if
you ask nothing of them, you hit everyone else really hard.
And that`s what the Romney-Ryan plan does. Again, great if you`re
Mitt Romney, you`re going to get another tax break. But everybody else is
going to suffer and it`s just more of the same in terms of trickle-down
economics. You can dress it however you want, but this is Bush trickle-
down economics on steroids.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Thank you, Congressman Van Hollen. You`re
calling it the Romney-Ryan plan. I`ve been calling it the Romney-Ryan
Republican rollout, or -- arrrr!
VAN HOLLEN: There you go.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nice to see you. Thank you for joining me.
VAN HOLLEN: Good to see you. Thanks.
HARRIS-PERRY: And up next, the choices left behind. Mitt Romney had
many options and his decisions tell us a lot about what he doesn`t want to
do. Sorry, Bobby.
HARRIS-PERRY: Just as interesting as who Mitt Romney picked for his
running mate is who he passed over. Now, I know no one wants to even utter
the words veepstakes again. But bear with me.
Who could Romney have chosen but didn`t? Not this guy, Louisiana`s
Bobby Jindal, who last year was reelected as the governor of the state I
Or this guy, Florida`s Marco Rubio and up and coming freshman
senator, son of immigrant parents, also from a Southern state, one of the
few up for grabs this November.
Or perhaps another freshman, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte.
Or even New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, another one of the
See anything in common among these people? Yes, not of them is a
Now, there were some other white men rejected as well, Rob Portman
and poor Tim Pawlenty to name two.
But why might Romney, presumptive nominee of a demographically pale
party, that has taken serious criticisms for its women`s health policy this
year pass up the chance to diversify the ticket a little bit?
I want to bring back in our guest, Julian Zelizer, Joy Reid, Raul
Reyes and Ari Melber.
Ari, are they just done? They`re not going to go for women`s votes?
I mean, they`ve got -- Ryan is somebody who introduced a personhood bill.
You`ve got transvaginal Governor McDonnell, you know, introducing them in
Virginia. Are they just done? They`re just -- white guys only?
MELBER: They have been done for a while. I mean, there was a big
quote and a lot of attention you remember a couple of months ago in
"Politico" where they said, look, let`s be clear. This is going to be a
white guy running mate.
That said two things. One, that they felt the need to draw that the
line, and two, that it was conceivable to their base and some of their
potential voters, that they would go in the different direction they had to
deal with. It`s a big contrast, though. I mean, people beat up the
elements of the Tea Party that tread on hate and there`s that element.
MELBER: But there`s also elements in the grassroots of Republicanism
that they missed out on. If you look to Texas, you had an establishment
white guy who just got bitten in the primary by Ted Cruz. Now, whatever
else you can say about Ted Cruz, he has one of those stories as a son of an
immigrant who came to this country and who is a minority, and who has
prospered. People love those stories, separate from the ideology.
So, it is a contrast not only where persuadable voters might be in,
where the left has been, which is really advancing women in minorities,
even at sometimes political risk. But it`s also a contrast I think most
interesting to Texas grassroots Republicans --
MELBER: When they find someone they agree with, who also is a
minority, they look at that as a plus factor. Now, they won`t -- it`s the
last thing I`ll say -- they won`t call it this, but that`s called
MELBER: The Supreme Court`s going to look at affirmative action in
this term, the upcoming term.
MELBER: Romney says he`s against it. The parties are going to say
they`re against it. The grassroots in Texas weren`t against it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Speaking of things that they`re against, I`ve got this
great thing I heard yesterday, Raul, that I want to ask you about. So,
last night, Romney was talking about the American dream again. This is his
off the cuff moment. He`s not on teleprompter.
Let`s just listen to what he said for a moment when he was talking
about the American dream.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: This is the nation of America. The president is changing it
into government-dominated, government-centric. It will not work in
America. It will not work anywhere. What works here, what works around
the world is free people pursuing their dreams. We want those dreamers
here. We can accomplish our dreams.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Raul, he wants the dreamers here. Man, he is off
script, because you do not say we want the dreamers here in this political
context when in fact, of course, they don`t want the dreamers here.
REYES: Absolutely not. They want the dreamers to self-deport, along
with their grand parents.
MELBER: They want the dreamers there.
REYES: So, it`s very strange. Even talking about the selection of
the also-rans, one thing that I will give GOP credit for, they have been
very successful at fielding Latino and Hispanic candidates around the
country -- Susana Martinez, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz.
So, I was little surprise that they didn`t choose -- I know that
Marco Rubio has not been the favorite lately.
REYES: But still, he is from Florida. It`s a swing state. He
brings some color literally to this ticket. I`m a little surprised he
didn`t say, you know, in the running he didn`t choose someone like him, who
give them at least that diversity.
And it does help. When speaking about the affirmative action case,
which is going to be a big deal, when you have a very white party and two
white men one side saying, we don`t like affirmative action, whatever you
think of this issue, that just looks bad. It really does help when you
have some diversity, when you have someone can layout different reasons for
being against it.
REYES: They have really chosen this route to say like, well, we`re
just -- it really seems that they`re not interested on Latino voters.
REID: Yes, I mean, the think is that, you know, again, I think the
Romney campaign is all about telling movement conservatives, we`re going to
let you have your moment. We`re going to give you an air your ideas, we`re
going to give a real airing without embarrassment and we`re not going to
coat it with things like we`re going to find a minority and do
multiculturalism, which they see as a liberal thing that`s pushed on
We`re not going to do compassionate conservatism. We`re going to a
straight and no --
HARRIS-PERRY: But one would not need to be compassionate. I mean,
if President Obama wins re-election, the fact that the 2016 GOP field looks
without any kind of compassionate, like a very diverse field. You`ve Nicky
Haley coming out of South Carolina, Marco Rubio coming out of Florida,
ZELIZER: Romney won`t win that. I mean, I think the bad is, whoever
you have on the vice presidential pick, it is going to bring -- even Rubio
-- a huge number over. I think they`re trying to go for a cross-class
coalition, which Republicans have been attempting to build since the `80s,
and get white working class people from Wisconsin, through someone like his
story, through focusing on a deficit, through shifting it to issues of
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, I got it.
ZELIZER: And winning that coalition.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is my racialized. So, there actually is
diversity on the ticket. I`m missing it.
ZELIZER: It`s not diversity. I think they`re actually giving up
those votes. They`re going for a different kind of vote.
REID: I think they don`t like the idea that they`re supposed to want
diversity. If you are Piyush Jindal, you become Bobby. You know what I
REID: -- to you, you cater to us.
REID: And they pick people like Marco Rubio who do that.
REID: They are Cuban-American for the most part. Ted Cruz as well.
They are not the typical story of somebody that`s Mexican-American.
They`re somebody who conforms to the right.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve got more on Ryan coming up, Ryan who represents
an 80 percent white district. The diversity maybe cross-class, but it
certainly is, as you`re pointing out, does not cross racial and ethnic.
Coming up next, I`m joining by Congressman Paul Ryan`s opponent in
the 2012 election. You`re going to want to see it.
HARRIS-PERRY: His star was already on the rise, but Congressman Paul
Ryan has now officially gone national. I personally cannot wait for the
vice presidential debate between Ryan and Vice President Biden. It will be
true, political nerd`s dream.
But Joe Biden isn`t Paul Ryan`s only opponent. Congressman Ryan will
remain on the ballot for his House seat, representing the first district of
Wisconsin, and his opponent in that race is Democratic candidate and former
small business owner Rob Zerban who joins me now from Milwaukee.
ROB ZERBAN, CHALLENGING REP. PAUL RYAN FOR HOUSE SEAT: Thanks for
having me, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: You`re trained chef. You`re former small business
owner. But you`re also the person who has been most focused making a case
against Paul Ryan. You don`t think he`s right for the first congressional
district of Wisconsin.
What do you think about the sort of quality of his candidacy for the
American vice presidency?
ZERBAN: Well, I think he just highlights the Romney/Ryan road to
ruin, as I like to call it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rrrr.
ZERBAN: Yes, your rrr. I`ll give you a new moniker for it.
So, well, you know, it`s going to bring a lot of attention to the
Ryan budget, and I think once people start finding more and more of the
details about what`s in the budget, they`re going to reject it
wholeheartedly. It will be fun to watch him lose twice, once on the ballot
with Mitt Romney and then also in the first congressional district as the
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you one question. One of my guests
here, Ari Melber, was telling me in the break that ever since Romney has
been chosen as the vice-presidential pick there`s more heard on your
campaign. We`ve been hearing there`s been $3.5 million contributed to the
Romney campaign. Have you seen an uptick in contributions to your
ZERBAN: Yes, a spotlight`s been drawn on to the campaign in the
first congressional district. You know, we did see an upswing in our
campaign contributions and, yes, how this is going to affect it long term,
I`m not going to really speculate on.
But I think this is definitely going to help by bringing more
attention to the Ryan budget.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, let me back out a little bit to the panel. I
just want to ask. You know, as we`re thinking about sort of Paul Ryan as a
Wisconsin guy, as somebody who`s from Janesville who`s got this kind of
long history, who can tell a story, apparently really good at retail
politics, he`s been in there seven times.
How is it going to change now that he`s on the national stage? What
does it mean to be voting for vice president, not for a congressional seat?
REYES: I think for him one of the big risks, you know, he`s going to
be on this national stage. You know, with we have this document here, all
these pages at this table of all the nerds - can talk about all day, not
you, you`re very cool.
REYES: But I think most people, regular people, are just going to
say, like, this is someone who wants to dismantle Medicare. Most people
are not going get into the intricacies of what this budget or his plan is.
They just going to look at, he wants to give tax breaks to the very wealthy
people, dismantle social services, and transform or eliminate Medicare.
REYES: Very simple debate to the many people, I think.
MELBER: I agree. And think it`s going to be one of these debates
where language is so key because they`re going to say we want to change
MELBER: We want to take Social Security --
REYES: Reform it.
MELBER: Right? And that`s a bit like if say to your husband, you
say, well, like let`s go out for Italian. He goes like, I like the idea of
eating Italian tonight, why don`t we go out for sushi restaurant instead?
It will be like that. And it`s like we`re going to have that debate.
HARRIS-PERRY: Rob, let me pull you in here. Did you want to say
something about that?
ZERBAN: Yes. Melissa, you also have to understand, this
congressional race is kind of unprecedented. Not only is Paul Ryan is
running against Joe Biden and Barack Obama at the presidential level, he`s
running a second race here in the congressional district. So, this is kind
of unprecedented territory. We haven`t seen this before.
HARRIS-PERRY: Rob, do you have one piece of advice that you give to
Vice President Biden in his preparations for meeting up against Paul Ryan
in the vice presidential debate?
ZERBAN: Joe Biden is a much more experience public servant than I am
and I would be -- it would be presumptuous for me to saying he`s going to
HARRIS-PERRY: It will be fun though.
MELBER: Rob, you might have to be a little pushy if you`re going to
be a politician.
REID: I don`t understand, because at the end of the day, all
politics is local. One of the aspects of Paul Ryan`s sort of philosophy is
that he stops taking earmark.
REID: And that he stopped bringing money to the district. And, you
know, on the local sort of district congressional level, what you`re
bringing to the district directly matters. So, I`m wondering if his big-
picture philosophy is going to be used by his opponent in the district to
say, hey, you`re not delivering for us.
HARRIS-PERRY: If your district is starving.
REID: There`s still going to be road.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. The district is starving, a little pork is a
Rob, thank you so much for joining me from Wisconsin. We`re
undoubtedly all going to be watching your campaign very closely now.
And up next, we`re going to keep our focus on Wisconsin. Just a
little bit differently.
HARRIS-PERRY: All eyes are on Wisconsin`s favorite son, Congressman
Paul Ryan, who is now the Republican vice presidential pick. We should not
let the relentless news cycle make us forget the other story from
Just one week ago, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, it was rocked by violence
in a Sikh house of worship. Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old former Army
sergeant, with known white supremacist affiliation, entered the temple
carrying a .9 millimeter semi-automatic handgun. Page killed six people
and critically injured three others. After being wounded by police, the
gunman took his own life.
Now, many were quick to call this incident a case of mistaken
identity, suggesting that these Sikh Americans were targeted because they
were confused with Muslims.
Valerie Kaur, a Sikh filmmaker and advocate who has chronicled
violence against her community for a decade responded. In "The Washington
Post" she wrote, "The notion of mistaken identity is not just wrong. It`s
dangerous. It implies that there is a correct target and it further
implies that hate violence should rightfully be directed at Muslims.
This is unacceptable. We must end violence against all innocent
people, Muslim, Sikh and anyone else, and build a world without terror."
At a memorial service for the Sikh victims on Friday, attended by
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Attorney General Eric Holder, the
shooting was called an act of terrorism and a hate crime. The FBI is
investigating the shooting as domestic terrorism, but it`s indicated that
no law enforcement agency was aware of the shooter`s intentions.
But we do know because the Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked a
spike in extremist hate groups in this country in the past few years, and
in times of economic struggle and political polarization, too many find
meaning and outrage and hate. And with guns at the ready, this hate can
easily turn into violence.
As Valerie Kaur wrote, "The deaths of Trayvon Martin and the Matthew
Shepard, and Balbir Singh Sodhi and the Sikh Americans in Wisconsin all
rise from the same crisis in our social fabric. Individuals driven by fear
and hatred of people different from them believe that senseless acts of
violence are warranted and justified."
We are all Sikh now, because the struggle for human dignity is
universal, knowing the other is a responsibility we all share, building
safe communities is a collective effort. Let`s learn from the response of
Oak Creek`s Sikh community who adhere to the principles of resilience.
Just after the killings, these men and women went back to their
sacred space. They began to rebuild, repaint and repair. Leaving a sole
bullet hole as a reminder of what was lost, a reminder hot new political
news or not, we must remember or we`re doomed to repeat.
That is our show for today. Thank you to Julian Zelizer, Joy Reid,
Raul Reyes and Ari Melber for sticking around. And thank you to you at
home for watching. I`m going to see you again next time at 10:00 a.m.
We`re coming back to our regular programming schedule. And right
now, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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