Guests: David Chalian, Karen Finney, Katon Dawson, Matt Miller, Ella Ward
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST, "THE MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY": This morning
my question, is this election rigged?
Plus, the war on women transformed into the year of women as a record
154 seek Congressional seats. And we`ve got foot soldiers onset here in
nerd land. They won! Even if the folks in power won`t admit it.
But first, Paul Ryan brings his Medicare message to the sunshine state
and he`s taking his momma with him.
Good Saturday morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And the biggest
story of the week is about a partnership that is finally official. We all
knew it was eminent, we just had to wait for the official question and the
decisive yes. Media has talked of little else from the moment the two
decided to become one.
No, not the engagement of Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux. I`m
talking about the republican rollout of Romney/Ryan 2012, or as I like to
call it, arr! In fact, right now, we`re preparing to go live to Florida
where Mitt Romney`s new running mate Paul Ryan is scheduled to speak at a
retirement community of the villages near Orlando.
Yes, the guy whose budget plan would change Medicare as we know it
into a coupon program speaking in Florida to a group of seniors? We`ll
take you there live once we see him stepping up to the mic. And you are
not going to want to miss that because I`m kind of hoping I`ll hear the
Grammys go, arr!
OK. So, today Ryan appearance caps off an introductory week that
began with a big event in front of the U.S. Wisconsin last Saturday. Since
then, Romney/Ryan campaign tells us that they have raised $10 million. Not
a bad week. But as much as their bank balance went up, Gallup`s national
poll stayed pretty much where it have been. And since the country is just
getting to really know Congressman Ryan, they have been starting with the
thing that he`s best known for, his controversial budget plan. Which would
cut corporate and one percent of taxes drastically.
All while increasing the deficit that Ryan claims to dislike so much.
Now Romney has said that he would sign the Ryan budget, but after the week
of Ryan as his running mate, we are still not exactly sure that he would
actually run on the Ryan budget. So let`s follow the bouncing Romney,
On Sunday, Romney told CBS News that he wouldn`t be running on the
Ryan plan since he has his very own. The next day, Monday, they were for
it again with Romney saying, quote, "My plan for Medicare is very similar
to his," meaning Ryan`s plan for Medicare. So Romney`s own plan might as
well be Ryan`s plan anyway, but wait, there`s more.
On Tuesday, against it. Romney`s surrogate John Sununu told CNN that
Romney plan was very different. Then on Wednesday, Romney said in a local
interview that if his plan wasn`t identical to Ryan`s plan, it was, quote,
"probably close to identical." We await the next update. And one thing
was certain this week, not even Ryan himself could explain his budget.
This is from his first solo interview of the week with FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The budget plan that you are now
supporting would get to balance when?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, there are
different -- the budget plan that Mitt Romney is supporting gets us down to
20 percent of GDP government spending by 2016. That means get the size of
government back to where it historically has been. What President Obama
has done is he has brought the size of government to as high as it hasn`t
been since World War II. We want to reduce the size of government so we
can have more economic freedom.
HUME: I get that, but what about balance?
RYAN: Well, I don`t know exactly when it balances because I don`t
want to get wonky on you, but we have not run the number on that specific
RYAN: The plans that we`ve offered in the House, balance the budget.
I would put a contrast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: OK. So when Ryan wasn`t getting wonky on people with the
murky details and fuzzy math, he was confusing his own record about having
requested funds from the Obama stimulus. When he did and then slamming the
President for not saving an auto plant in his district. You see as talking
points memo noted yesterday, the plant close in 2008, under that other guy,
President George W. Bush.
Oops. The week`s highlight though might have been Mitt Romney trying
to use a white board to explain how his plan differs from Obamacare. He
still neglected to write on the board that the Ryan plan budget cuts the
same 700-plus billion from Medicare. Cuts he proposes at the same time
that he insists on cutting tax rates for Americans who are the most
But then just this morning in his first ever weekly podcast, Governor
Romney made clear he supports the actions Paul Ryan has taken on Medicare
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, that he and I have
teamed up, we are going to ensure that seniors are protected from President
Obama`s reckless actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: So, as we keep an eye on Florida and await Congressman Ryan, I
am joined by David Chalian, Yahoo! News Washington Bureau Chief. Karen
Finney, former DNC communications director, columnist for The Hill and
MSNBC political analyst. Katon Dawson, one of our former favorite
Republicans, though former chair of South Carolina Republican Party. And
Matt Miller, Washington Post columnist and an MSNBC contributor. Thanks to
everybody for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thank you.
PERRY: All right. So, he`s going to the lion`s den if we might want
to think of it that way right into Florida, right into Florida, right into
the retirement community. What`s you going to say?
MATT MILLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first, it is kind of a rigged,
it`s kind of a rigged lion`s den because it is owned by a big republican
contributor and it`s known to be populated by mostly Republicans. So, if
he`s taking mom down to sort of right side car with him, I think his
message is going to be, we need to reform the programs but it`s not going
to be a threat to anyone who`s currently on them. I actually think it is
kind of a bold move for them and he`ll do better than expected selling that
message to a very friendly crowd that`s primed for him.
DAVID CHALIAN, YAHOO! NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: It`s also not
unfamiliar turf for him. When he put his budget out, he ran around
Wisconsin and did these town halls with seniors. He really likes giving
this sort of lecture, this educational speech to people about his plan.
And there`s no doubt Matt is write, this is not Palm Beach County senior
center, this is the villages and it is definitely a little bit of home
turf for him.
PERRY: But this has been traditionally a bipartisan issue, right,
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, actually it`s
traditionally been as we start earlier in the week when Republican
Congressional Campaign Committee put out a presentation that said, that
points out the fact that this is traditionally an issue where Republicans
start with the trust deficit. And so, this whole presentation was how do
you take that issue on and essentially they said, my favorite of the
lessons learned is bring a third party validator, maybe mom.
Because they had a candidate who basically used his mom as his
validator on Medicare. But here`s kind of where the Romney/Ryan plan ended
up this week which I thought was the sort of double speak. So, they were
talking about this 760 billion, right?
FINNEY: That Obama takes out and they say, put it into Obamacare.
Well, it actually goes into Obamacare for Medicare to reduce costs, it`s
waste fraud and abuse, reduces cost, improve the program now. As of Friday
on that lovely etch-a-sketch or whiteboard that we had.
PERRY: I have brought a whiteboard in case anyone would like to make
any points, Katon, if you guys are into this now. That`s OK.
FINNEY: So what Romney essentially by the end of the week was saying
is, I`ll restore that 760 billion and we are going to approve the program
in ten years. So, why not go ahead and put that money like President Obama
wants to in right now?
PERRY: Well, this is part for the brilliance of the language of
Obamacare, right? It ends up telling like, I`m taking money from you to go
care for President Obama, right, as opposed to what the plan is actually
called, in fact, not a plan, a law that`s been upheld now by the Supreme
So Katon, I think I teased you previously, that I don`t think that you
guys like Mitt Romney much, which is to say that Republicans were
relatively cool about Romney and that the Ryan rollout, arr, is supposed to
be about sort of getting this enthusiasm and energy back, we saw it
initially on the U.S. Wisconsin, but has it fallen apart this week? I
mean, can Ryan really bring folks together, particularly if he`s going
right in the weak point, the trust deficit for the Medicare question?
KATON DAWSON, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, let me -- we do like Mitt
Romney. I mean, I did work for Newt Gingrich, I did work for Rick Perry
and I`m proud of both of those men and our service there, and we did in the
campaign election try to tear both his arms off and do everything we could.
And we tried to push him to the far right, we did.
And one thing I found with Mitt Romney is this guy is pretty tough. I
mean, he can take a punch. We have thrown everything we can throw at him
and he won. And whether he was the most conservative candidate or not, he
outlasted everybody. And I`m proud of that. He wants to be president.
It`s tempered him for this debate. And I`ll go back to earlier campaigns,
I watched the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama campaign in South Carolina.
I watched it. One of the most brutal campaigns I have ever seen. And
President Obama then Senator Obama took every punch that Clinton could
throw at him, so these things sort of temper a candidate. I think what
Paul Ryan has done for us, and I understand, I`m real proud that
Republicans are willing to have a Medicare/Medicaid debate. We have
usually ducked that, so at least we are willing to address that. But --
PERRY: But OK, all right. I hear you. And I hear you that Medicare
is an important part of the federal budget that we have to talk about, but
it is not really a debate. In part because what`s going up on the
whiteboard is not fair, right?
DAWSON: Melissa, it is not a debate yet, it will be.
FINNEY: But actually it has been and actually that was the other
thing you saw this week where you had to have John Boehner essentially calm
down most Republicans who are terrified of having this conversation, you
even have Allen west trying to defend his vote in support of the
Ryan/Romney budget because they know this is not popular.
DAWSON: We need a good referee now. I mean, we need somebody --
MILLER: But beyond the referee, the big hoax that`s come out already
is we`ve had one week of the kind of scrutiny of Paul Ryan`s record that he
hasn`t had for years. Like there`s been this kind of media love fest, this
conservative kind of echo chamber has propagated this image, this totally
phony that Ryan is a leading fiscal conservative.
MILLER: Everyone who started to look at this, I have written my
columns on this because I had Ryan in my sights far a long time now.
MILLER: He adds trillions to the debt. His budgets don`t balance as
you saw on the clip before until the 2040s. And that`s only on very
dubious assumptions. What kind of fiscal conservative has a 25-year plan
to balance the budget? It`s a hoax.
PERRY: Wait. And not only his -- radical plans don`t. But his actual
vote, his actual votes for the Bush tax cuts, which increased the deficit,
his actual votes for the Iraq war, which increased the deficit,
particularly off the books.
FINNEY: In fairness he would say, you know, he was a junior member
and he had to do what he was told to do.
PERRY: Sure, sure, sure. And they`re planning --
DAWSON: But we thought he was un-rightly in that principle.
PERRY: Right. Right. Right. Exactly. And this notion of principle
versus sort of what he`s actually doing.
So, we are actually waiting for congressman and vice presidential
candidate Paul Ryan to take the stage at the villages in Central Florida.
Stay with us. We are going to bring you the Romney/Ryan republican
PERRY: We are waiting to hear Paul Ryan who will be joined by his
mother today speaking at the villages, a huge retirement community outside
of Orlando, Florida. Ryan`s very presence in Florida is a big deal
considering that his plan to end Medicare as we know it is his calling
card. And here`s something he had to say about Medicare just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: We want this debate, we need this debate and we are going to win
this debate on Medicare.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I`ll tell you why. There`s only one person who treated Medicare like
a piggy bank. And that`s President Obama. He took $760 billion from that
program to create Obamacare. That affects current seniors and his campaign
calls this an achievement. You think raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare
is an achievement? Why we don`t just get rid of Obamacare all together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: And this is a fight that Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney both want.
And while it is not exactly brave to go into a republican enclave like the
villages, they are elderly individuals who I venture to say like their
Medicare. And Ryan is not only asking for a debate about it, he`s
practically begging for one.
Joining me once again are David Chalian, Karen Finney, Katon Dawson
and Matt Miller.
Matt, let me ask you. So, I just, you know, we hear that and
basically the pivot, right? The speaking pivot is, no, it`s not about my
Medicare plan, it`s about Obamacare. And he just does it each and every
time. Is that a debate or is that sort of an unfair characterization or do
you think that`s fair?
MILLER: I don`t think it`s fair. But I think it`s a political
strategy and it`s probably the best thing the Republicans can do. It is
kind of clever when you think about it, because they usually as Karen said
are walking -- they are putting their head in the news. And Ryan, to his
credit, I mean, Medicare does need to be reformed in the long-term. That`s
not by big beef with him, it`s the cutting taxes on the one percent using
it to, you know, also slashing programs for the poor.
But there`s no question even from the progressive side, Medicare`s
growth has to be slowed. So, the idea that they are trying to go on
offense and try and muddy the water enough so that people aren`t sure, you
know, exactly where it lies, it is an interesting strategy. I think
because people don`t trust Republicans ultimately on Medicare. It will be
a loser for them, but I think it`s the best hand they can play.
FINNEY: I`m sorry, you put Democrats on defense on Obamacare and
unfortunately, we know a lot of Democrats are still -- a lot of candidates
down ballot are still playing a little bit of defense. High camp is the
only one that`s really effectively shown how to flip that back around.
CHALIAN: And we saw in 2010 how effectively, I mean, obviously, it
was a wave of election but how effectively Republicans used in advertising
this exact sort of jujitsu on Medicare, on the Obamacare attack.
MILLER: And they won seniors.
CHALIAN: .and yes, and they won seniors.
MILLER: I mean, the big picture still is that there`s no cuts being
done by anyone in Medicare. Medicare is growing enormously under anyone`s
plan. It is around $550 billion a year today. It`s going to go even under
the supposed evil Ryan plan to $909, ten years from now. So, that`s not a
cut by any measure. And then they`re talking about slowing the growth
after that. So we do have to get in nerd land to --
PERRY: That`s right.
MILLER: We have to get real about this.
PERRY: That`s right. But the solvency of Medicare is not a one-sided
question, right? I mean, this is true at any given budget debate. There`s
certainly the question of cost control but there`s also a question of
resources, right? This is, you know, when we try to make it on the
individual level, you can get a second job, right? Bring in more resources
to your household or you cut your budget. And when you cut the budget,
there are limits to where you would cut your budget, right?
And so one might say, OK, I`m actually going to take the second job.
In other words, raise taxes, bring in more revenue rather than talking
about we are not going to feed folks or we are not going to provide health
care. It does feel to me like as though from the pure politics of it, not
even the nerd land part, but the politics of it, that the cardinal rule of
the VP pick should always be first do no harm.
And so, Katon, on the one hand you`ve got, yes, it changes the musical
tract, you get all these energy but do you also ultimately end up with a
candidate who does more harm to the party as a political matter?
DAWSON: I don`t think so. I think Paul Ryan was a tremendous add to
the ticket and a good balance. I do as a republican. I think he does
change the music and our party does. I mean, we need to go from the
Liberace type music down to Rascal Flatts and Derek Crocker (ph). We need
to change. And he`s an exciting guy who has a lot of experience and a very
touching personal story. And I applaud the fact that his mother is willing
to go into the audience with him.
PERRY: We almost have to ask like, whose momma isn`t going to go?
DAWSON: Right. I got that. I got that.
PERRY: I mean.
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
I see my son as more of a problem.
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
DAWSON: They didn`t like me, so -- but I think we have touched the
underlying thing we`re in Florida. The battleground state, the ads are
coming just in rapid fire down there right now, both the President and team
Romney now are competing at a pretty high level. So, I`m excited the fact
that we are spending the time in Florida. I`m excited the fact that we are
talking about that. And next week, it`s going to be Social Security. So
just right now -- and then the President is going to have won again because
what we have done this week, and I`m glad Republicans are talking about
it, but next week it will be Social Security and we won`t be talking about
what Bill Clinton talked about when he beat George Bush, when was the
economy is stupid. So, that what it matters.
CHALIAN: I think we are a little ways off yet from being to saying
that the Paul Ryan pick has done harm to Mitt Romney`s campaign. I think
the jury is still out on that. I do think though, there is no doubt that
in the Ryan pick, Romney gave the Obama team a weapon that they were
already going to use but sharpened it for them, right?
CHALIAN: And that, you just don`t even want to give that to your
political opponent. Here`s a weapon you`re going to use to attack me and
I`m going to make it a more effective weapon for you. And that`s what he
PERRY: Unless it`s the briar patch, right? So, one possibility is,
OK, they were already going to wrap Paul Ryan around him and so they
sharpened it by actually putting Ryan next to him. Or Brer Rabbit thing,
please saying, don`t throw me in the briar patch when in fact, that`s
exactly where I want to be. And I haven`t been able to figure out yet, if
the Romney`s actually wanted to show up here.
FINNEY: But tactically speaking, part of the conversation we were
having this week, not just Democrats but Republicans, is the lack of the
preparedness of the Romney campaign for the obvious questions about the
Ryan budget and Ryan Medicare. And as you pointed out, we got lots of
different answers. And again, at the end of the week, we find out, oh
guess what? Instead of they`re going to campaign separately, they are
actually coming back together next week. And one of the excuses they gave
aside from Romney`s little isolated feels lonely on the campaign trail.
PERRY: Yes, right.
FINNEY: .the President is really lonely, is because they want to try
to get, put this issue of the differences on Medicare behind them. That
says to me, and I certainly don`t compare Ryan to Sarah Palin, but again,
there`s this, you know, it`s not just a do no harm, it`s -- you have to be
able to move that ball down the field past the first 48, 78 hours and kind
of keep that momentum going.
PERRY: Yes, and it feels to me like the other thing that happened
last week just right here at the very end of the news cycle, Friday night,
is those tax returns. And so now, we`ve got Ryan, right, showing up with
two years of tax returns, paying at least a 15 percent rate. I mean, when
you read Ryan`s tax returns, man, he`s downright middle class compared to
his running mate. So again you stay on the side --
MILLER: The higher tax rate again than Mitt Romney and trying to
justify it by saying, I think he was out there saying, well, Romney has
already paid. He`s paying taxes twice because he earned it as income and
that`s why he is doing it, but that`s not true because of the carried
interest loophole on the private equity stuff, most of Romney`s earnings
weren`t taxed twice. And the idea that the guy is making $20 million a
year at a time of trillion dollar deficits, ten years of war, and he`s
trying to cut taxes further on the top. How do you defend that?
PERRY: Yes. Well, actually, I`ll let you defend it as soon as we get
DAWSON: Thank you.
PERRY: But when you are faced with a proposed drastic change in
Medicare and you go to speak to a group of elderly in Florida, there`s a
word for that. I`m told the word is called chutzpah. Bachmann might say,
When we come back, we`ll go live to Congressman Paul Ryan in Florida.
PERRY: Welcome back. We are awaiting Congressman Paul Ryan in
Florida at the villages, a large retirement community there. And while we
await Congressman Ryan, I want to give you an opportunity, Katon, to sort
of defend this position on particularly -- on the tax returns question,
which came back up because we saw Ryan`s returns.
DAWSON: We as Republicans in primary have tried tax returns and tried
wealth and no wealth and whether there is, whether you do five years, three
years or two years. That in our polling just doesn`t matter right now. I
mean, there are all kinds of arguments but --
PERRY: But it matters to not do it. So, I certainly I actually agree
with you. But like if he showed them, might bet is, whatever is in them,
it would just sort of go away but the opposite refusal to show them does
feel like it matters.
DAWSON: Just by this happen both in democrat primaries and republican
primaries and wealthy people and non-wealthy people who are running for
office, we look and we can tell right now what matters. And where the
President`s team has won is we are talking about taxes again this weekend,
not talking about jobs and the economy and creating jobs, which is Mitt
Romney`s forte. That`s what got him the nomination. So, that`s the win.
I think we`ll stand another four or five days on these tax returns, on
these marginal rates on who`s paying or what, but at the end of the day,
the people want somebody in office who had been --
PERRY: And the guy who is stepping up right now there is, in fact, a
taxpayer. We have seen two years of his tax returns of 15 percent.
And let`s go live to Florida where Congressman Paul Ryan is speaking
at a retirement community called the villages near Orlando.
RYAN: I want to introduce you to my mom.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
This is my mom, Betty. She`s why I am here. She and her grandkids
are why I am here. Say hi to my mom, Betty. Thanks, mom. Have a seat,
mom. There you go, mom.
Friends, we have a big choice to make. This is no ordinary election.
It`s not an ordinary time. We have a choice. We can stay on the path we
are on, the one President Obama has put us on. It`s a nation deeper in
debt, it`s a nation further in doubt, it`s a nation in decline. Or we can
elect a leader, a leader who will make the tough decisions, who will apply
our founding principles, get us back on track, restore the American idea
and get people back to work.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
You see, President Obama and other politicians like him in Washington
have become more focused on their next election than they have on the next
generation. Not us. We are not going to do that. We will lead. We want
to earn your support. We want to deserve victory.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Amen.
RYAN: So that when we win, we have the mandates, the moral authority
to stop kicking the can down the road and get this country back on track.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
It`s very clear that President Obama -- you guys see that? It`s very
clear, you guys see that? Yep. It`s coming. Got the medic coming? Thank
you very much. Say hi back for me. It`s very clear that President Obama
inherited a difficult situation. There`s no two ways about it. The
problem is he made matters worse.
This is why the President has run out of ideas. This is why the
President is not running on hope and change anymore, he`s running on anger
and frustration. Fear and smear. We are not going to do that. We need
Let me tell you about the man who is about to be the next president of
the United States and his name is Mitt Romney.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I don`t think I have seen a time in our nation`s history where the man
in the moment have met so perfectly. This man is a leader. Everything
Mitt Romney has done in his life has prepared him for this moment in our
history to provide the kind of leadership we need. Look at the beautiful
family he`s raised. You remember the Olympics in the late `90s? Remember
the scandals, the wasteful spending, the bloat, the corruption. Sounds
kind of familiar, doesn`t it?
When they needed someone to turn it around, who did Salt Lake call?
They called Mitt Romney. And Mitt Romney turned those Olympics around and
made America proud. And we thank him for that leadership.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Look at what he`s done in business. He helped start new businesses.
He helped turn around struggling businesses. He helped create great
businesses that we all know now. Sports Authority, Bright Horizons,
Staples. This is a man who actually created jobs. Who knows what it takes
to get people back to work, to get businesses up and running, to create
prosperity, to help people in need.
Take a look at what he did when he was governor of Massachusetts. Of
all contrasts that we can have, this is as clear as it gets. President
Obama came into office promising to create jobs and prevent unemployment
from ever getting above eight percent. It`s been above eight percent for
42 months. When Mitt Romney is governor of Massachusetts, unemployment
went down. Twenty three million Americans today are struggling to find
Nearly one in six Americans are in poverty today. Household income,
family income has gone down by more than $4,000 over the past four years.
When Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, family income went up by
$5,000 over his four years.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Remember President Obama used to say, he`s going to bring everybody
together. There are not red states or blue states, just the United States
of America. We`ll set aside childish things. It`s the most partisan
atmosphere I have ever seen and this is the third president I have served
with. When Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, a republican in a
democratic state with a democratic legislature consisting of 87 percent of
the legislature, what did Mitt Romney do? He reached across the aisle, he
extended the hand, he negotiated and he balanced the budget without raising
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
This is the kind of man for this kind of moment we need to lead our
nation at this crucial moment. Now, you`ve heard the President has been
talking about Medicare a bit lately. We want this debate, we need this
debate, and we are going to win this debate.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Now, like a lot of Americans, when I think about Medicare, it`s not
just a program, it`s not just a bunch of numbers, it`s what my mom relies
on. It`s what my grandma had. You see, like a lot of people, and I see
some Wisconsin hats all around here, wow. That`s a pretty good showing.
Hey, Pat. We had this rule in Wisconsin, it`s kind of an unwritten rule,
you turn 65, you have to go south for the winter.
We call them snow birds. My mom is a snow bird. She`s a Florida
resident. She lives just down the road over near Lauderdale and she, like
so many people here, she comes down here for the winter. Just like so many
folks from all over the country do. You know, my grandma moved in with us,
with my mom and me when I was in high school. She had advanced
Alzheimer`s. My mom and I were her two primary care givers.
You learn a lot about life. You learn a lot about your elderly
seniors in your family. You learn a lot about Alzheimer`s. Medicare was
there for our family, for my grandma, when we need it then. And Medicare
is there for my mom while she needs it now. And we have to keep that
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
My mom has been on Medicare for over ten years. And I won`t you
exactly how many years over ten years she`s been on it. She plays tennis
every week, she exercises every day. She planned her retirement around
this promise that the government made her because she paid her payroll
taxes into this program, which she had this promise with. That`s a promise
we have to keep.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Here`s what the President won`t tell you about his Medicare plan.
About Obamacare. The President raised $716 billion from the Medicare
program to pay for the Obamacare program.
What`s more? In addition to that, he puts a board of 15 unelected,
unaccountable bureaucrats in charge of Medicare who are required to cut
Medicare in ways that will lead to denied care for current seniors.
You want to know what Medicare is saying about this? From Medicare,
officials themselves, one out of six of our hospitals and our nursing homes
will go out of business as a result of this. Four million seniors are
projected to lose their Medicare advantage plans that they enjoy and they
chose today under this Obamacare plan.
What`s worse? Is the President`s campaign calls this an achievement?
Do you think raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare is an achievement?
Do you think empowering a board of bureaucrats to cut Medicare is an
Neither do I. Medicare should not be used as a piggy bank for
Obamacare. Medicare should be the promise that it made to our current
seniors period, end of story.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PERRY: OK. So, we are hearing what has been described by at least
one of my guests here at the table as a ballsy conversation, in which
Congressman Ryan goes directly to the issue of talking about and speaking
about Medicare in a retirement community called the villages near Orlando,
So, let me bring back in my group David Chalian, Karen Finney, Katon
Dawson and Matt Miller.
All right. So, let`s just start by clearing up a couple things that
we heard, Ryan saying at the end, which is that the Affordable Care Act of
2010 raids Medicare to pay for Obamacare, right? There are provisions that
affect Medicare including enhanced benefits, spending reductions around
current plans, including for some high income individuals, raising
premiums a bit in order to make it more affordable for other folks.
But also this was the point I was making earlier about bringing in
more income, changing that payroll tax system so that everybody pays who
are at the top of the income a little bit higher. This notion that Ryan is
giving us here that my mom paid into it and now she is taking basically her
wages back. That is not how Medicare works, right? That is simply not how
this system works. And so, on the one hand it is ballsy, they are there
having this conversation, but it is not quite a fair fight and that he`s
suggesting facts that something aren`t accurate.
FINNEY: Well, it`s interesting because essentially he`s doing what
Democrats have been trying to do for several years, which is it`s not,
these programs are not entitlement, right? The idea that it`s entitlements
would have suggest that it`s some kind of -- like, you know, going to Fifth
Avenue instead of this sort of you know, promise across the generations and
this idea that we value, that we don`t want seniors to be living in
poverty, right? So, by talking, you know, saving, preserving, my mom, and
all that language which was in that presentation that says, this is how you
mitigate the issue for Republicans, this is also the difference between
nerd land and political land in terms of the facts and the spin.
PERRY: Well, and the thing that I love about the story is like, oh,
you know, my mom is retired and she gets to play tennis and she gets to
come down to Florida. And I`m thinking, who doesn`t want that for their
parents? But the reality before Medicare, before Social Security is that
the elderly lived in abject poverty and the notion that we had such high
poverty rates that we`re fundamentally altered by Social Security and
Medicare would dissolve under the Ryan plan.
MILLER: All that`s true and yet I think this is very effective from
the republican side, it`s very effective. It humanizes Ryan, it humanizes
somebody who obviously cares about seniors, the Alzheimer`s grandmother who
lived with him when he was younger, using your mom as kind of a human
political shield is a little bit dubious maybe, but the thing -- one of the
things that shows up is I think they are making the most, the cleverest
argument they can make on this to try and go on offense, but it really
shows how the White House blew it by delaying the implementation of the
Affordable Care Act past the next election.
Because it still remains this half and half support/nonsupport things.
So, it is like an applause line that you would raise something to do this
awful thing like Obamacare which will extend health coverage to 30 million
people that Romney and Ryan want to take away. And because, right, no one
feels anything yet, a handful of people, the kids aren`t off the parent`s
thing, but all the subsidies, all the enrollment, and they are trying to
PERRY: And I hear you, although saying that the White House blew it
on this is tough. Only because that wipes away like on our whiteboard,
right? It just wipes away, the whole reality that it was incredibly hard
to get every single tiny bit of everything they got. We have Ryan there
saying, this is the most partisan atmosphere. And I`m thinking, yes, and
it takes two sides to make it a partisan atmosphere.
MILLER: And my only point is they could have funded benefits starting
before the 2012 election.
MILLER: The deficits are so big anyway, that if they had front loaded
some of this subsidies, so you had millions of people signing up for
coverage for the first time in their lives not tied to their employer, it
would have been a big story right now.
PERRY: Yes. And --
FINNEY: I think they didn`t message it as well as they could because
there actually are millions of people who are impacted, who don`t actually
even realize they are benefiting right now.
PERRY: Yes. So Matt, thanks so much. We -- unfortunately, we have
to take a little of break. Paul Ryan took up a bunch of my time.
So, up next from Paul Ryan to the man that he seeks to replace, does
Vice President Joe Biden deserve a path on the change line? Let me take
that on, when we come back.
PERRY: After the Romney/Ryan republican rollout or arr, as I like to
call it here on MHP, one man made sure he was not left behind in the
shadows. Oh, no. Vice President Joe Biden reinserted himself right back
into the national conversation this week. Like only Joe can. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN (D), UNITED STATES: Romney wants to let the --
he said in the first 100 days, he`s going to let the big banks once again
write their own rules, unchain Wall Street! They`re going to put you all
back in chains.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: Did he just say that? Say it ain`t so, Joe! Now, while some
including the Romney campaign jumped on Joe for his comments, the President
had his back. Noting that his comments had to be taken in context versus
focusing on just the phraseology.
So even after decades of public service, Vice President Joe Biden may
not be slick or poised, polished or perfect, but what Vice President Biden
is includes passionate, effective, smart and real. He`s all of those
things regardless of the times when he has us shaking our heads with a
collective, did he just say that? Like the time he tried to invoke
President Ted Kennedy, excuse me -- Ted Roosevelt when talking about
President Obama. Oh, boy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy
Roosevelt. "Speak softly and carry a big stick" end of quote. I promise
you, the president has a big stick. I promise you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: I don`t even know how to react to that one without possibly
getting fined by the FCC. So, as Jay-Z says, on to the next one. When
President Obama signed health care into law, it was a pretty exciting
occasion, and apparently, for no one more so than for VP Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: OK. You have to agree with the Vice President, that moment
was a big you know what deal. And when Joe Biden tried to come to Hillary
Clinton`s defense in 2008, even before becoming vice president, he may have
me a made a better case for her than for himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Make no mistake about this. Hillary Clinton is as qualified
or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of
America. Let`s get that straight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: So, we know what you meant, Joe, even if it took us a minute.
And one can make a good argument for Vice President Biden having a really,
really bad case of foot and mouth disease, but gaffes alone do not make the
man and there are many reasons why Joe rocks. One of the biggest is
something called the violence against women act of 1994 which came about
under then Senator Biden`s leadership and finally enacted a comprehensive
approach to address the issue.
And then there`s how Joe can go anywhere and be a rock star, even at
the NAACP`s annual convention. And finally, Joe realizes the immense
weight and responsibility that being part of the administration, the first
African-American president. And he told Gwen Ifill just that in 2008 when
asked what would happen if he had to take over for President Obama if
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GWEN IFILL, JOURNALIST: How would a Biden administration be different
from an Obama administration if that were to happen?
BIDEN: God forbid that would ever happen. It would be a national
tragedy of historic proportions if it were to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: So that`s Joe Biden. Relatable, no nonsense, having his
Now, while Paul Ryan may give a great speech, Joe Biden makes great
policy. With a passion and enthusiasm that only Amtrak Joe can deliver.
And while he may not always be smooth, he is our guy.
So you go, Joe! Gaffes and all. Coming up, a record number of women
are running for office this year. And I`m going to tell you why that
number is still too low. That`s up next.
PERRY: You know that Beyonce song, "Run the World Girls," OK, I won`t
sing anymore, I promise. But now that I have the song stock in your head,
think about these numbers from the Center for American Women and Politics
at Rutgers University, 298 women have filed to run for Congress in this
election cycle. A hundred and fifty four have won primaries in House
races. And there are still nine more upcoming Congressional primaries
involving women. This outpaces the previous record of 141 nominees set in
Now that sounds like a whopping number, but there are only 73 women in
Congress right now. And that means women only make up 17 percent of the
House. One of those women hoping to add another seat to the boy`s table
this November is Ella Ward, a city council woman in Virginia`s Norfolk
Congressional District. Ward won her democratic primary back in June. And
will face a six time incumbent in November. She joins me now from Virginia
Beach. Good morning, Ms. Ward.
ELLA WARD (D), CHESAPEAKE, VA COUNCILWOMAN: Good morning, Melissa.
How are you?
PERRY: Oh, it`s lovely to have you on. And I really, I`m so excited
because part of the thing we want to talk about here is the fact that this
has been called kind of the year of a war on women, but then you look at
these numbers and you are one of a record number of women running, you`re
running against a sixth-time incumbent. What made you decide to run?
WARD: I think it`s the challenges of women period. What has
happened, Melissa, you know, throughout the fourth district, throughout
Virginia, really throughout the United States. I heard you say, you know,
earlier, there is a war on women. And women make up 52 percent of the
population of this country. So when you consider the fact that 17 percent,
only 17 percent represent us in the House of Representatives and just 16.8
percent represent us in the Senate, well, it`s time for women to take their
And the fact that we have 52 percent of the population gave me the
encouragement that I need to step up to the plate. And it`s time for
candidates to see that women make a difference. And when women vote and
when women run, we win. So, we are going to have to fight this war in a
way that we just cannot have things the way that they are. We are
certainly are happy that the Lilly Ledbetter Act had passed, but the fair
act did not get passed. So I`m running for women -- yes, go on.
PERRY: Yes, because so much word, I mean, you have been married for
more than 40 years, you have an adult son who served in the U.S. military.
You have more than five degrees, if I understand right. You have been
involved in education, you`ve sat -- I mean, so you have a ton of
experience. And yet experience teaches us that often women with exactly
that kind of record don`t make the decision to run. And one of the reasons
they often don`t run is how hard it is to raise money. How are you doing
in terms of trying to find the resources to challenge a sixth-term
WARD: Well, you know, Melissa, that is very challenging. I`ll have
to -- and it has been difficult and having to have a primary, you talked
about those primaries earlier, that certainly did put a damper on things,
but we`ve decided that we are strong, we are determined and we are going to
go on. One thing about it is that I plan to go to all of the areas in the
fourth district and touch bases with the people there.
People vote, Melissa, it is not just the big votes that win all the
time. We`ve got to be on the ground and certainly a grassroots campaign
that I`m running, but I think it is achievable. I think it can be done.
So, once we put our minds to it, women can do it. It is hard, yes, he`s
had 11 years to build up his war task, but we`re going to every single
district in this fourth district, and just let the people know that they
can make a difference.
At this time they have a choice. They can keep things the way they
have been over the last 11 years or they can elect a congresswoman whose
going to go to Congress and not forget where she`s come from and not forget
the people who put them there. I think that`s going to be --
PERRY: Well, and let me ask you one last question because you are
talking about a door-to-door grassroots campaign in Virginia`s fourth
Congressional District. Obviously, Virginia is a swing state for President
Obama and for Governor Romney. They are both going to have their eyes
focused on Virginia. How will your election impact President Obama`s or
the other way around?
WARD: Well, I think it`s going to be two-fold. It will go both ways.
Because I have lived in the fourth district all of my life, I think that`s
going to be a help for President Obama. But the fact that he is running
and he is now the current president, it`s going to help my campaign, also.
I think it`s going to take teamwork. We are going to work this thing
together along with Cain (ph) and our ticket is strong. It`s powerful.
And we are going to make a difference. I believe that team Rick (ph)
will certainly get us where we need to be. And when you consider the fact
that 52 percent of the voters and 52 percent of the people in Virginia and
in the nation are women, women are going to help make this difference. And
I believe that I`m up to the challenge.
PERRY: Thank you, Mrs. Ella Ward. I truly appreciate that you are a
model of stepping up to the plate and running for office.
WARD: Thank you so very much for having me.
PERRY: And coming up next, I have got one simple question. A
question that must be answered. Is the election rigged?
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry here in New
And if you`re a regular visitor to Nerdland, you know, we like to
indulge of the occasional pop quiz. This morning, I`m not putting my panel
on the spot. This one is for you at home.
Ready? First question: If there were a proposal to join Alabama and
Mississippi and form one state, what groups would have to vote their
approval in order for this to be done? The answer: Congress and the
legislatures of both states.
OK. Maybe that was hard. Next, how many states were required to
approve the original Constitution in order for it to be in effect? That`s
right. Only nine states were required to approve the Constitution.
OK. Finally, name two things which the states are forbidden to do by
the U.S. Constitution? The answer? Coin money or make treaties.
So how did you do?
OK. As a professor, I would like to give my students every
opportunity for success. So I`m going to give you a bit of a make up exam
in case you didn`t get all of those correct. I`ll give you another crack
at a few more questions. Don`t worry. These shouldn`t be quite so hard.
Take a look here at this jelly bean jar. You know, jelly beans are a
regular guest on the MHP show.
How many jelly beans are in that jar? Not sure?
OK. Take this one. This is a bar of soap. If I were to wash my
hands with the soap, how many bubbles would be in the bar?
Both of those are pretty impossible questions to answer, right?
Now, imagine if your right to vote depended on answering them
correctly. Because that was the case in many states throughout the South
throughout the first six decades of the 20th century. You had to answer
questions like these or pay the equivalent today of a nearly $11 poll tax
to even be allowed to register to vote.
The result was that between 1892 and 1916 states with both a poll tax
and a literacy test had a presidential voter turnout of just 24 percent,
according to research by historians Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward.
So, of course, those numbers weren`t just collateral damage. The laws
were designed to disenfranchise those without the money to pay poll taxes
or the advanced education to pass a complicated test.
Of the 147,000 voting age African-Americans in Mississippi, fewer than
9,000 were registered to vote after 1890, according to the National Museum
of American History records.
And in Louisiana, 130,000 black voters registered in 1896, dropped
down 1,342 by 1904. After discriminatory voting laws were enacted.
Thank goodness those days are over, right?
Today, 71 percent of voting age Americans are registered voters and
more than 17 million of them are African-American -- all that in no smart
part thanks to our Constitution, which was amended and expanded to extend
the vote to all Americans. But you see the evolution of our laws around
voting has historically moved towards making the vote more, not less
acceptable to citizens.
And it`s why as Americans we should be concerned about the state of
our democracy when we heard the news this week that a Pennsylvania judge
ruled to uphold the state`s new voter ID law.
Pennsylvania`s law and the newly minted photo ID laws in nine other
states are a far cry from the jelly bean literacy test, but the
consequences of the Pennsylvania law whose requirements to vote are among
the nation`s strictest are the same, discriminatory disenfranchisement of
American people. And testimony in the case brought against the law
revealed that more than 1 million registered Pennsylvania voters don`t have
the required identification.
It`s not just Pennsylvania. More than 21 million American citizens do
not possess a government issued photo ID. They are overwhelmingly more
likely to be people of color, the poor or young people, all of whom tend to
vote Democratic and all of whom turned out in big numbers to vote for the
man who is now president of the United States back in 2008.
Joining me now: Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel of the
Brennan Center for Justice in Washington, D.C. And Victoria Bassetti, the
author of "Electoral Dysfunction" and a consulting producer on a
documentary of the same name.
Thank you for joining me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I really wanted to pause and take a little time to
talk about that history, but tell me, what happened in Pennsylvania just
NICOLE AUSTIN-HILLERY, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: What happened in
Pennsylvania this week, unfortunately, Melissa, is that the court made a
decision that`s going to make it difficult for thousands of voters in
Pennsylvania to cast their ballot. The court was able to see by the
evidence that was presented that there are numerous Pennsylvanians who are
not going to be able to add here to the requirements that the legislator
has set up.
Unfortunately, the court said that it believed that the steps that
Pennsylvania is taking to ensure that the voters in the state have the
requisite ID, he thinks those are fair steps and he thinks they are
adequate. And if the steps are followed, that everyone in Pennsylvania
would have the requisite ID and be able to therefore vote.
We don`t think that`s true. We know that in any instance when a state
institutes new procedures, particularly in a crucial voting year, that it
is often filled with errors, inefficiencies. And so to think that everyone
in Pennsylvania who does not have the requisite ID, to think they will all
be able to get in time for the November election, I think is just -- it`s
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And we are 80-day countdown before the
election. This isn`t six months out, this isn`t a year out, right? This
is less than three months out from the election.
Now, Victoria, as you can see from the state of your book here, I have
spent a lot of time with it. And I got to say, it feels to me like this
law, a rule like this is not -- it certainly is not maybe as egregious as
can you interpret the Constitution or tell me how many bubbles are in a bar
of soap, but it certainly does feel like the effect of reducing the number
of people eligible and able to cast their fundamental vote for the
president of the United States is similarly restricted.
VICTORIA BASSETTI, AUTHOR, "ELECTORAL DYSFUNCTION": Yes, there have
been more than a few studies which have attempted to study the extent of
the burden that the laws place upon voters. For example, in Indiana, in
2008, was one of the first states to implement the laws. More than 1,000
people were effectively turned away at the polls in the 2008 election.
They were offered provisional ballots. Of them, only 15 percent ultimately
managed to cast their ballot.
In another instance, in Philadelphia there was a local church that was
trying to help people get their voter identification so that they could
ultimately go to vote. A hundred fifty people came into the doors, only 75
of them ultimately succeeded in getting their voter ID.
State after state shows that trying to actually get your ID and then
subsequently trying to cast a ballot really does put a burden in the way of
people casting their ballots. For example, in Texas, which currently has a
voter ID requirement which is suspended, it`s not in implementation right
now, there are more than 25 percent of the counties in Texas don`t have an
operational DMV office. In one county, it takes 127 miles round-trip to
get a driver`s license or license.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. We were looking a little bit at the numbers just
around how far people are from a state ID office. And we`ve got more than
10 million eligible voters overall who are quite far for them, 1.2 million
eligible voters whose income falls below the poverty line, 1.2 million
black and 500,000 Hispanic eligible voters who are quite a distant, right,
from their state office. So, it is a real burden.
So, talk to me about why. Why is it that -- people ask me all the
time, why don`t you just have an ID? What sort of person doesn`t have the
kind of ID you need to vote?
AUSTIN-HILLERY: Melissa, first of all, I hope the statistics that you
just read came from our Brennan Center report --
HARRIS-PERRY: Of course, it came from --
AUSTIN-HILLERY: -- which we just released a few weeks ago that goes
into detail to talk about just how difficult it is for so many voters to
get the requisite ID that`s now being required by these states.
You know, whenever we are asked the question, one thin I remind people
of this -- voting in a country is a right. It is not a privilege -- as is
getting on a plane or going to an R-rated movie or going to do anything in
this country where you have to show an ID. It is a fundamental right.
And as you stated at the start of the show of this segment rather, the
history of this country has been about the right to expand the vote. It
has not been about decreasing that right for Americans.
So to put any kind of barrier in place that`s going to make it more
difficult, particularly when there`s really no valid reason to do so, it`s
nonsensical and it really goes against the grain of our democracy.
HARRIS-PERRY: The ugly history, though, is full of this, right? So I
mean, I`m reading this and am thinking one of my favorite moments in this
text is that Thomas Paine, who is the -- truly in my ways, the founder of
the American democratic system was at one point kept from voting in part
because he had gone over to hang out with the French and sort of became a
little too common folk, right? And this idea of restricting ordinary
people`s ability to be part of the governing decisions.
BASSETTI: Yes, it`s -- the history of American democracy is the
expansion of the franchise. And it`s actually one of the histories we
should be proudest of and embrace. You know, we started off with an
incredibly restricted franchise with essentially only white property owning
males able to vote. And slowly but surely over time, as a result of social
-- profound social movements as a result of Americans coming together and
valuing democracy, we got to the point where everyone can vote.
And to begin the process of pulling some of those, some of that
progress back is really a profound shame for American democracy. We have
one of the lowest participation rates of any industrialized nation in the
world where approximately we are 170th out of about 180 democracies.
That`s something we need to fix. That should be the thing we are
trying to fix, not imposing voter ID laws, which are a solution in search
of a problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Where there isn`t even yet a problem. So
what`s key to understand here is that these laws are not random. There is
a very clear reason why this is happening and we are going to get into
HARRIS-PERRY: In our last segment, we started with a history pop
quiz. Now, let`s try a little math.
Start with this number: in 2011, according to the Brennan Center for
Justice, states with laws requiring photo ID quadrupled -- quadrupled in
order to vote. That`s an increase by four times the number of voting laws.
Prior to that year, only two states, Indiana and Georgia, had ever
implemented a voter photo ID requirement.
Now take that number and add to it these. At least 180 restricted
bills were introduced since the beginning of 2011 in 41 states. All but
one, all but one was a strict voter ID bills were backed by Republican
state legislators. And 25 percent of them were introduced by new members
voted into office after the 2010 midterm elections.
Add all that up, what do you get? Not a coincidence.
Still with me here, Nicole Austin-Hillery and Victoria Bassetti. And
joining them are: David Chalian, D.C. bureau chief of Yahoo News. And
Katon Dawson, national Republican consultant and former South Carolina GOP
So, Katon, doesn`t look random to me. It`s one of the reasons we put
it in red. This is about voter fraud, and I`m just going to assume that
Democrats and Republicans both care about the country and the quality of
voting. Why is it only Republicans who are introducing and backing these?
KATON DAWSON, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, let me give some
statistics here. It looks like 33 states we have right now that have some
type of either photo ID or some ID that`s required. My history of running
state party in -- during five to six election cycles, there are a lot of
things that go back to registration.
And, Victoria, I agree, and, Nicole, both, it is a right. It`s not an
entitlement. It`s a right to be able to vote. But you have to exercise
And one of the things I`ll tell you about the voting problems that
comes around, is in my home state, you`re from Virginia, I`m from South
Carolina, we have been having dead people voting for years -- years. Right
now in South Carolina we had 953 in the last cycle.
There aren`t even alive -- it looks like a Michael Jackson thriller
HARRIS-PERRY: You don`t have them voting. You have them on the
DAWSON: We have them voting. We have people voting under those
names. And I know that gets to a dicey question, but what the problem, in
terms of the problem we have is -- and you did say, the ID, it gets down to
the voter`s ID and the question was, why are these Republican states that
are doing it?
I think this is a very important point that it is one of the most
precious things we have in America. It makes us different, the right to
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I hear you, Katon, this is the Republican line, the
precious right to vote. That you`ve got voting polls where people have
obviously lost a loved one, don`t make it their first priority to go and
get their dead relative off the voting rolls. I mean, that`s not
But I`ve got to tell you, when you listen to what Republicans said why
they are doing this, you have the Pennsylvania House Republican leader Mike
Turzai saying this. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE TURZAI (R), PENNSYLVANIA HOUSE LEADER: Voter ID, which is going
to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Excuse me? I mean, that is not voter ID, which is
going to protect the integrity of the process. That is voter ID, which is
going to allow Romney to win. That sounds to me like a partisan issue.
DAWSON: Well, I couldn`t disagree with that. The House, the Senate
and the governor signed it and now the judge has okayed it. It`s gone
through the process, right, wrong, or different. What he said
characterized the entire feeling of that tune of legislation? Maybe it
did, but I can`t change his words. It is what he said.
DAVID CHALIAN, YAHOO NEWS: Obviously, there`s no way to have elected
representatives, partisan elected representatives go into office to change
voting laws without putting a political calculus on it, right? They are
inextricably linked. So if it is an agenda item to get power and then go
in and change voting laws, you know doubt make a calculus about whether
that`s going to hurt or help your own party`s political --
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, this is what (INNAUDIBLE), right? So, every
year, you get the census, you redrawn lines. Democrats and Republicans
will always redraw boundaries so that it benefits their parties, sure. But
Democrats don`t pass voter ID laws.
CHALINA: No, no, I understand. This was clearly a Republican agenda
item. And when a lot of Republicans took over state legislative houses,
governorships in 2010, we saw this item as you were saying become a major -
- let`s also, it is -- I think we have to pull back a little bit to say,
this debate should not be one we have to be having anymore. This does not
represent 21st century America. We have a voting system that abysmal in
this country all the way through.
We have the technology and we have the ability as a country right now
to have a system where everyone has access to vote without question. And
these debates about these laws are not necessary. We need to get out of
the system we are in and put in a modern 21st century voting system.
AUSTIN-HILLERY: The Brennan Center actually has a policy proposal
called voter registration modernization and it proposes just that. In
fact, the House of Representatives introduced a bill recently called the
Voter Empowerment Act. And one of the provisions of that bill specifically
includes recommendations dealing with voter registration modernization.
And just yesterday here in the great state of New York, or earlier
this week, Governor Cuomo took a step toward that. He recognizes that we
have an antiquated system that needs to be changed. So, now, in New York
voters can now use the DMV Web site in order to register to vote. And
that`s a step in the right direction.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to suggest, the very fact in New York it is
happening this way and in Pennsylvania it`s happening this way. I mean --
I think Americans don`t always catch, and I think your point makes this
well, there`s no national right to vote. There`s no federal level, every
single American having -- it all rests in each and every state.
So as I`ve heard Reverend Jackson say many times, there are 50
separate and unequal rights to vote or relatively less right to vote in
each and every state. Isn`t it time to simply say, OK, even if you`re a
states rights kind of person, this is a right that ought to rest at the
level of American identity, particularly in a country where people move as
frequently as they do? The idea that I`m always in Virginia or a Floridian
or something else is just sort of antiquated.
BASSETTI: Yes. We have a patchwork fractured legal structure and
system that allows for more than 13,000 election districts, each of which
has their own history, each of which has their own kind of scatter shot
rules. As a result, voters are confused, votes are lost, people aren`t
We`ve got an outmoded election system that was basically built for the
horse and buggy era. In the 21st century, we really ought to be able to
get around or a lot of the debates about whether or not dead people are
voting, whether or not we need voter ID.
We need to take the partisanship out of the system and establish a few
clear metrics and goals as a nation that we want, have the number of people
who are unregistered in five years, increase our turnout rate to be
comparable to Canada or Mexico`s.
These are the sort of things we can do rather than fighting about
whether or not people should show voter ID or whether or not dead people
And I can`t let it pass, the idea of 900 dead people voting in South
Carolina has been rebutted by South Carolina`s own election board, which
did a detailed study of every single one of the incidents and found no
reputable case of it happening.
HARRIS-PERRY: These are people on polls -- I mean, again on the
registration rolls and oftentimes people on registration rolls, because it
is not the first priority of a family to get folks off.
BASSETTI: In fairness, they did find three dead people who died after
their cast their ballot.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Victoria Bassetti. I promise, you`re going
to get to stick around. We have more on this. The rest are back for more.
And among the dozen or so battleground states, one stands out above
the rest as the key test, the essential win for the White House.
Republicans there are changing the rules. We are going to go to that
HARRIS-PERRY: The way I think of this is voter ID laws are one tool
on the legislative Swiss Army knife on army suppression. And where voter
ID laws won`t get the job done, there`s always another weapon in the
arsenal. In five states, including the battleground of Ohio and Florida,
that weapon is a restriction on early voting. New laws limit the hours for
weekday, early voting and eliminate voting on the weekend before Election
Those Sundays are traditionally a day that African-American churches
organize trips for their congregations to voting locations after the Sunday
So, this week, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted standardized the
state`s laws so that both Republican ands Democratic election boards in
Ohio all stay open for the same hours. And his directive still includes
limited evening hours and no weekend voting.
But a group of black pastors in Ohio are saying that won`t stop them
from getting Souls to the Polls.
Joining me today from Cleveland is one of those pastors: Reverend Tony
Minor, director of advocacy for Cleveland`s Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry
and member of the African-American Ministers Leadership Council.
Nice to have you, Reverend Minor.
REV. TONY MINOR, CLEVELAND LUTHER METROPOLITAN MINISTRY: Thank you.
It`s good to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you, we have been talking a little bit
about this idea that voter ID restrictions and that early voter
restrictions are all sort of about voter fraud, but we have data here from
the school of journalism of Arizona State University that says, "In-person
voter, impersonation on Election Day which prompted 37 state legislatures
to enact or consider tough voter ID laws is virtually non-existent, only 10
such cases over more than a decade were reported. Looks to me like voter
suppression, looks to me like ringing in the election."
What can a church like yours and the organization that you lead do
about something like this?
MINOR: Well, thank you very much. We certainly are trying to make
the most out of a very terrible situation. We hate to call it partisan and
hate to say that it`s targeted, but it is what it is.
But the faith community has a very strong opportunity using the power
of the pulpit to be very organized to help our people get to the polls.
What we attend to do with agencies I`m associated with and especially
LMM, we try to give people the tools and inspiration so that they can take
part in our democracy.
In Cleveland, we have introduced a five-point plan. Over the last
three months, we have been training individuals to be captains. We have
about 50 captains on the ground that are working through congregations.
Some are at the 2100 men`s shelter, that`s a part of LMM.
And we are getting them to understand people`s status. We are in
phase two of the plan and what we are doing is voter verification.
With all of the confusion that`s out there with folks being purged,
with the changing in precincts, it`s important that people do what we are
inspired to do through the vessels program. And that is to be prepared.
And we have implemented an "I Am Ready" program so we are using
software, we are on a 14-day plan now going throughout Cleveland and we are
verifying people to vote. The most important thing is the Souls to the
Polls. And we will not be deterred.
These are barriers, these are restrictions, but what they have done is
ignited us. They have encouraged us to use the power of the pulpit, to use
our experience in our past to say that we will not turn around. So we will
continue to use vans, we will continue to use the buses.
And we are going to try to take advantage of the absentee process.
And throughout churches, you`ll see in the next couple of weeks, we`re
going to have a vote now day at churches, where people are going to come
with their absentee ballots and they are actually going to mass mail them
Now, here is the challenge.
HARRIS-PERRY: Reverend Minor, I want to ask you a quick question on
this. I love what you`re up to and talking about sort of using your
history as a way to be motivated. And on the one hand clearly there`s a
deep history, a long history, but there`s also a very recent one. I was in
Ohio in 2004 and the lines were brutal. I mean, I just -- you know, it was
bad weather that day. So it feels to me like there`s a fundamental ethical
issue involved here in that some precincts, no problem, just walk in and
vote. You don`t stand in the rain and others, these long lines.
MINOR: Absolutely. What happened in 2004, we experienced it, long
lines, people got frustrated and they went home.
By 2008, we changed the laws and we allowed early voting, in which you
saw across the country in Ohio, in Cleveland particularly, and in urban
communities working through churches, people voting early, taking advantage
of the process. The question is: what happened after 2008?
So, now, we have HB-194, where they began to change the law. And
right now, we are -- we have done away in Ohio with early voting. And when
I say early voting, I mean the ability to vote in the evenings and
And as we indicated, that was a very important tool. We hate to say
that it`s partisan, we hate to say that it`s targeted, but it is what it
HARRIS-PERRY: Reverend, I feel OK saying it`s targeted.
HARRIS-PERRY: And feel OK saying it is partisan. And the reason
really goes back to Ohio, that is the fact there are elected officials from
political parties who are making these decisions. These are not sort of
unelected officials for whom, you know, there isn`t a partisan interest.
We are going to keep our eye --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- on Ohio. We will undoubtedly talk to you again,
Reverend Tony Minor in Cleveland.
And also, I just want to say, I was a fan of the late Congressman
Stephanie Tubbs Jones whose work was very much about making sure what
happened in `04 would not happen again. I appreciate that you are
continuing her legacy.
Now, if you don`t live in Pennsylvania or in Ohio, that doesn`t mean
you aren`t about to be disenfranchised. Voter suppression efforts are
underway all over the country. I`m going to bring my panel back in and we
are going to talk potentially about your right to vote and whether or not
HARRIS-PERRY: We are back talking about voter suppression efforts all
over the country.
Still here with me are Nicole Austin-Hillery, Karen Finney, David
Chalian and Katon Dawson.
All right. I saw you, I was nervous, Katon, as the minister was
speaking from Ohio laying out his five-point plan, I saw you taking notes.
I was going to say, don`t you take notes on what they are doing on this!
HARRIS-PERRY: But there is a passion in that minister here about what
is happening on that space. I have to tell you, it feels to me like this
is where the Democratic Party actually ought to be.
DAWSON: I applaud Pastor Minor. He`s doing what sometimes the party
should be doing -- voter registration, absentee ballot process, moving
people to the polls. I`m sure he`s adhering to the laws, but that kind of
fashion is, as we said, is a history in African-American churches forever
because they probably didn`t think they had the right to vote.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And because we were told we
were not human beings. And we had to be reminded of the right --
HARRIS-PERRY: And not just told but legislated. And I think that`s
part of it.
It`s not just sort of an emotional or psychological -- although that`s
certainly part of it, but it is that these laws feel so similar. I was
looking at -- we have an intern here, Kristen (ph), who is in school in
Pennsylvania last year, although she`s graduated. And Kristen got the
letter, you know, from Pennsylvania about what it takes to be able to vote.
And, you know, I`m thinking, this is the kind of thing they would send
out. Like these long, hard, technical words. You have to do these 15
different things. Every ID card has to have an expiration date just to
discourage you if you are an ordinary citizen.
AUSTIN-HILLERY: And, Melissa, that`s the problem. These kinds of
activities are intimidating to voters. Even in states with no voter ID, I
have heard secretaries of state say that in West Virginia, particularly, I
was on a panel with the secretary of state in West Virginia who said, I
have voters calling, asking what are the voter requirements?
There are no such requirements in West Virginia.
So, this entire effort is causing intimidation and it`s mass confusion
among voters. That`s a serious problem.
FINNEY: Part of the problems Democrats have had on this, and this is
a place where I`m disappointed in my party, I think the Republicans have
had a long-term strategy -- as David pointed out, this was on the
legislative agenda. We saw in Pennsylvania. We`ve seen it in Florida.
Gee, it just happens to be any state that`s a battleground state that
has a growth in African-American/Latino population that just happens to
have the laws. The party -- our party, the Democratic Party, needs to do a
better job on a constant basis. And the conversation, we have seeded the
ground on the conversation.
This is not about voter ID. This is about voting. It is a
constitutional right, in the same way that the right to bear arms is a
constitutional right. If we are going to have that fight, let`s have that
fight and let`s figure out what`s the best way to ensure that everyone gets
to exercise that right.
And politically, unfortunately for you, Katon, part of the reason your
party takes a hit on this, I`ll give you an example, November 2008, the RNC
tried to get out of the 1982 argument with the DNC to stop voter
suppression based on an `82 case where 45,000 African-Americans were
targeted. There was a memo from the RNC political director saying if we do
this right, this can keep the black voters down considerably. That`s why
this gets so politicize.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And, you now, it`s easier to buy a gun than to
vote in many states. And, in fact, some states, you can`t use your student
ID to vote but you can use your gun license to vote in Texas.
FINNEY: You can`t use your military ID to vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: To vote. And yet we don`t -- part of the kind of hands
huff off on gun control is, look, it`s a fundamental right, so we are not -
- no party is going to go there, but we don`t get the same sense with the
CHALIAN: Before you dismiss the entire voter fraud side of the
argument, I mean, the reason why we see polling suggest the Florida law,
majority popular in Florida, across the country, we have seen across the
country, because Americans believe in the rule of law, right?
So we have -- there is the access piece. Every single legitimate
voter should have access to exercise their right to vote. And it seems to
me that this, when the conversation gets politicized, these aren`t two
things that should be pitted against each other. It`s the wrong debate,
There is no doubt that everybody at this table, I would imagine, can
agree that if you cast a ballot, you should be a legitimate voter doing
that, right? There`s no doubt about that.
And I would bet, Katon, back me up here, I think, like everyone would
believe, you, every one who is a legitimate voter should have equal access
HARRIS-PERRY: No, they don`t! We all agree that if you cast a vote
you should be legitimate.
But it is completely clear that Republican state legislator does not
think that if you are an eligible voter who is in fact who you say you are,
that you have --
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m sure, Katon --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- Nicole Austin-Hillery, David Chalian, and Katon
Karen Finney is going to stick around with me just a little bit longer
because in 1992, at the University of Richmond, history was made. One
woman made an introduction that hasn`t been repeated for about 20 years.
And that is all about to change. We are going to introduce you to the
young women who made sure it was going to change.
HARRIS-PERRY: Presidential debates are like the political nerd`s
Super Bowl, a battle of the titans, best of the best, everything a good
football game does -- big strategies, set plays, (INAUDIBLE) line, time
limits, rules and referees.
And any sports fan knows the difference a referee can make. One bad
call can tip the game, which is why it`s so important to make sure the ref
is the best there is.
For our vault this week, we dug back into 1996, to see who the
referees have been for the past 11 presidential debates.
Here`s a look at 11 debate moderators in 63 seconds.
JIM LEHRER, PBS: Good evening from the Fieldhouse at Washington
University at Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I`m Jim Lehrer of the
"NewsHour" on PBS.
CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: I`m Charles Gibson of ABC News.
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS: I`m Bob Schieffer of CBS News.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: I`m Tom Brokaw of NBC News.
LEHRER: Tonight will primarily be about foreign policy and national
SCHIEFFER: The topic will be domestic affairs.
GIBSON: I have selected the questions to be asked and the order.
LEHRER: And the questions are mine.
GIBSON: The first question is for Senator Kerry.
BROKAW: Do you think the economy is going to get worse before it gets
SCHIEFFER: Why is your plan better than his?
LEHRER: Are you opposed to affirmative action?
SCHIEFFER: Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?
BROKAW: You may not have noticed but we have lights around here that
have -- they have red, green and yellow and they are the signal to --
BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m just trying to keep up
LEHRER: Speaking of keeping the scorekeepers, I`m trying to do that
here, Mr. Vice President and Governor Bush. We`re going to -- we`re going
to move on, we`re going to have to move on.
SCHIEFFER: I will leave you tonight with what my mother always said.
Go vote now. It will make you feel big and strong. Good night, everyone.
HARRIS-PERRY: So did you notice anything except the fact that I was
as bad as blocking as some of those debates?
Well, first, you probably noticed that Jim Lehrer of PBS moderated a
lot of presidential debates. That`s cool. Jim is terrific.
But we couldn`t help but realize that when the commission on
presidential debates chose someone other than Jim Lehrer, the person looked
a lot like, well, like Jim. Ten weeks ago we brought you the story of
three young women from New Jersey in our foot soldiers segment.
Emma, Elena and Sami had one request, after learning their high school
civics class that a woman hadn`t moderated a presidential debate since
Carol Simpson in 1992. The girls set out on a mission to change that and
threw a petition on the citizen activist site, Change.org. These young
women collected more than 180,000 signatures in support of their cause.
This week, change happened. Twenty years later, Jim Lehrer will once
again be moderating the presidential debate, but so too will CNN`s Candy
Crowley. Commensurate with the boys, Crowley breaks the 20-year exclusion
of women. Success.
Joining me now three young women who say their work is far from
finished: Emma Axelrod, Sammi Siegel and Elena Tsemberis. And also to be
able to give us a little context on how we got here MSNBC contributor Karen
Thank you for being here, ladies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for having us.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s almost exciting to have foot soldiers at the
table. When you all discovered this, sort of in your civics class, why the
decision to take the information and turn it into a petition?
EMMA AXELROD, NJ HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Because we wanted to do
something about it. We were all sort of shocked that it had been 20 years
and sort of wondering why people like us couldn`t moderate a debate and
wanted to change that by the time we are adults going out into the world as
HARRIS-PERRY: W hat difference does it make who the debate moderator
is? There`s not a woman on either ticket this year as either president or
vice presidential candidates?
SAMMI SIEGEL, PETITIONED FOR FEMALE DEBATE MOIDERATOR: It`s is all
about being a positive role model. There hasn`t been a woman moderating
for two decades. So, longer than in any of us have been alive.
HARIS-PERRY: Oh, my gosh. That`s true. Some of us been alive longer
than that, but I`m with you, OK.
SIEGEL: But it`s all about having a positive powerful role model up
there for little girls to see and achieve to be in such a great position.
HARRIS-PERRY: So when you heard that Candy Crowley had, in fact,
gotten this decision, did you feel like we have a win here?
ELENA TSEMBERIS, PETITIONED FOR FEMALE DEBATE MOIDERATOR: We were so
excited that this finally happened and we were so thankful to everyone who
signed the petition. We couldn`t be here without them.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it feels to me, Karen, this is one of those moments
when young activists sort of do something so obvious that the rest of us
should feel like, oh, right? Why didn`t we take care of that? Why didn`t
we take care of that for 20 years?
FINNEY: I just also -- let`s also remember Martha Raddatz will also
be at the presidential debate. We`re almost at parody in terms of our
total representation society. We`re not quite there yet.
Look, I think, I do think that the commission understood this time
that they needed to do better with regard, from what I understand, to
having women representation, but one of the things we have to remember, I
mean, these guys said it so well, you know, when women are in these
positions, when you watch the Sunday talk shows, when you watch the
presidential debates, you see and perceive these people as authority
figures. And when women are blocked out of those opportunities, it
subverts women to a different position.
And so you`re right, we should have been fighting for it. I think
people have been trying to fight for it but just haven`t quite, you know,
been able to make the case. One other challenge I`ll just say tactically
having been through this is both campaigns have a lot of input in terms of
it is almost like the preemptive challenges they won`t accept, so it is
hard to get down to four people that both sides agree on. I`m thrilled.
HARRIS-PERRY: Apparently everyone likes Jim.
FINNEY: Right. Indeed. But it is thrilling that -- you know, I
mean, Candy Crowley is an excellent journalist.
FINNEY: She`s going to represent very well, as is Martha. So I think
-- you guys should be very proud of what you did. It was awesome.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you should be hugely proud. And despite the fact
that the CPD is saying it is not because of what you did, I`m completely
convinced it is because what you did.
So what will you use your super powers for next? What`s the next
agenda item your for you?
TSEMBERIS: I mean, I`m sure everyone has noticed there`s no one of
color moderating any of the presidential debates ands we still have a long
way to go when it comes to workplace equality for women as well. So,
hopefully, we can tackle one of those issues.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love those are. You`re thinking round petitions or
in other kinds of ways?
SIEGEL: Petitions are a great way to do it. We were very successful.
It is also just about keeping the public aware we can`t have another 20-
year gap and we finally closed it. But we don`t want it to reopen, just
really want the public to be aware that this has been going on an needs to
HARRIS-PERRY: So, one of the things I experience with young women at
our table is that they do a lot of political work but are not thinking of
running for office themselves. Anybody at this table thinking of running
for office at the school level or potentially at other levels at some
AXELROD: Definitely at the school level. Next year I`m going to be
the president of the junior class in our small learning community, but
we`ll see. I mean, we are 16. We have a long way to think about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: I am thrilled you are getting experience in your junior
class as president. That`s the first step. You start holding office now.
Maybe we`ll be moderating debates where you are the candidates at some
And more in just a moment.
But first it`s time of a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT", today
hosted by Craig Melvin.
CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hey there. I love the foot soldier
segment, by the way.
A little more than a week into the Republican National Convention. I
will get the inside scoop from the press secretary. We`ll also talk about
whether these grand spectacles are even relevant.
Plus, Meghan McCain writing about why she thinks the president needs
to drop the vice president in his reelection bid. I will ask her if she`s
And Chelsea Clinton`s thoughts on running for office. Alex talks to
the creators of the "Real Housewives" and finds out the truth behind it
Plus, the one question that Andy Cohen asked the president that he
refused to answer.
And, of course, the long awaited movie "Sparkle" is out. It was
Whitney Houston`s last performance. We will have a review of that.
All that and lots more coming up at the top of the hour -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Craig. I appreciate that. And I love the fact
that Chelsea Clinton might be running. Maybe get another female role
Up next, we`re going to talk about how to turn survivors of sexual
assault into leaders for movement to end violence against women.
Our foot soldiers are next.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is always hard to talk about rape. And in some
communities, the silence is deafening. But as they heal, survivors can
learn to be advocates for themselves and others as they tell their painful
Scheherazade Tillet, co-founder of the organization, A Long Walk Home,
is committed to teaching them how. And her vision is to turn survivors
into leaders for the movement to end violence against girls and women.
Recently, I went to Chicago to meet her and the extraordinary teens in the
SCHEHERAZADE TILLET, CO-FOUNDER, A LONG WALK HOME: My sister is a
sexual assault survivor. In the process of me trying to help her heal, I
photographed her healing process. And so that really became the
understanding of how to use art as a way to help someone and help someone
heal. So the heart of A Long Walk Home is using it as a tool to end sexual
violence in communities.
HARRIS-PERRY: So art it end violence. That seems surprising.
TILLET: Yes. Art is a way of engaging people. I think it is such a
really taboo topic to talk about violence against women and girls. So we
use art as a way to entertain, get them to talk about it, get them to heal,
like to use art as a way to transform culture at large about things.
CHERRISH BROWN, A LONG WALK HOME: A lot of times we don`t like to
talk about things that happen in our household. And like now, with this
program, I`m able to speak out about it and when I tell my story, it helps
others tell their story.
I think I use anger the most to tell what happened to me as a child.
So, when I started to paint -- my mom asked, why do you paint everything so
dark. Then when I got Ms. Tillet, she kind of helped me realized, like,
wow, this is all of the anger inside of me, putting it on the canvas.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the dark colors in the painting was about your --
BROWN: About the pain and the fear.
LARRINITA STARKS, A LONG WALK HOME: I was the type of person that I
don`t need to tell anybody anything. Things are better left unsaid. But
it ended up to horrible things and me thinking horrible things. When you
talk, and you speak, and you know that somebody is there to listen, then it
can work out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three --
TILLET: I think we`re so protective of young girls when it comes to
this issue, we don`t think of them as leaders about these things. Like how
do you actually become a leader about these things.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. We think of them as victims or survivors but
TILLET: Yes. They are trained to end sexual violence in their
community. And then they go out and spread the message where they are
building their own programs. Sol, that`s the idea of the movement.
HARRIS-PERRY: A movement -- a movement that can inspire a community
and change the way we view survivors of sexual assault. That`s why
Scheherazade Tillet is this week`s foot soldier. To learn more about her
organization, go to alongwalkhome.org.
And that is our show for today. Thank you to our teens, Emma, Sami
and Elena, and thank you to Karen Finney. And also thanks to you at home
Tomorrow at MHP, what happened to the campaign of big ideas? What
makes for a great education? And does Paul Ryan have a plan it solve the
national debt? Plus, iconic actress Jennifer Beals will join me.
All that tomorrow morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern. And coming up,
"WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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