'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, September 30th, 2012
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
September 30, 2012
Guests: Amy Jo Martin, Jamal Simmons, Katon Dawson, Parker Perry, Kevin Gover, Asia Graves, Andrea Powell
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning my question. Is it time to
text the vote? Plus, a lesson for Senator Scott Brown. And sex
trafficking here at home. A crisis of modern day slavery.
But first, the candidates will finally debate and a lot of us just don`t
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Ever notice the holidays are getting earlier and earlier? Every year those
Christmas tree ornaments and Santa hats get put on display just a week or
two earlier. Incrementally pushing up the date of when it`s acceptable to
think about candy canes and reindeer.
This year, apparently Christmas has arrived this year. We haven`t trick-
or-treated or given thanks yet. Better break out the dreidel or light the
Kwanzaa candle or get the tree up. Taking a page from the lobby Christmas
tree`s book, the political parties have made sure we don`t forget to vote.
And on any day in the month preceding Election Day, that is. Because you
can vote early. But not often.
That`s right. It`s Election Day. Thirty-seven days shy of the actual
Election Day and people in Iowa are already casting their votes and across
30 states absentee ballots are already hitting mailboxes.
Now, nowadays, it`s not about winning more votes on Election Day, it`s
about racking up ballots over the election month. And this will be
especially important in swing states like Iowa, Ohio, Florida and Colorado
that allow early voting.
All told, in 32 states and the district of Columbia, citizens will be going
to the polls early and experts expect that at least 35 percent of the
electorate will cast their vote before Election Day. That`s on par with
2008 and it`s not an inconsequential third.
In 2008 in Iowa, then senator Barack Obama received fewer votes than
Senator John McCain on Election Day. But still won the state due to tally
from early voting. This year, President Obama could receive the same edge
from early voting. And the Iowa secretary of state`s office says that
Democrats have a five to one advantage over Republicans in the number of
absentee ballots requested.
Now, though the state`s Republican party promises to close that advantage
by Election Day, the candidates seem to have embraced early voting. Both
camps approximate put out ads that look and feel like closing arguments.
Here`s President Obama`s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s time for a new economic
patriotism. Rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins with a
strong, thriving middle class. Read my plan. Compare it to governor
Romney`s and decide for yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And with a very different pitch, governor Mitt Romney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama and I both care
about poor and middle class families. The difference is, my policies will
make things better for them. We shouldn`t measure compassion by how many
people are on welfare. We should measure compassion by how many people are
able to get off welfare and get a good-paying job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, seriously, why not go ahead and vote now. I mean, what
else do you need to know between these two? I mean, we have had the
primaries, endless political ads, direct mail, 24-hour political pundits
online and on the airwaves dissecting every little tiny moment of this very
long political cycle. What else is there left to be learned? After all,
one of the biggest hurdles to voting as we have been telling you every week
is access to the polls. So early voting should be an expansion of
But, you know, I still kind of have to wonder, what does it say about the
deliberative nature of democracy that many cast votes before the debates
and the official closing arguments? I find myself agreeing, but very
narrowly, with Newt Gingrich here. Let`s embrace the essence of the
Lincoln Douglas Senate debates of 1858, the democratic spirit of two
candidates facing off with 90 minutes, with no moderator, freely open to
the populous to decide who wins the war of ideas. Aren`t the presidential
debates when we test the mettle of each side`s convictions and the
substance of their policy.
This has become particularly an ideologically driven election. Each of
students start contrast the other on what their vision of America should
be. No longer referendum on foreign wars or economic failings, this is a
choice of doctrine and of direction. So perhaps that`s why I don`t mind
sharing a little political science secret with you.
Although the debates routinely draw large viewing audiences, evidence shows
that voters do learn a little bit of information from them, but political
scientists also tend to agree that debates don`t actually make a difference
in the outcome. Sorry. It`s at least statistically true.
Most often, you can accurately predict where a race will end up after the
debates by knowing where things stood before the debates. But don`t tell
the candidates. Because with the first presidential debate coming up
Wednesday, governor Romney and President Obama are going to spend days
hunkered down with their teams gearing up for a dialectic dog fight. And
honestly, I think that`s a good thing because we still need the debates.
They serve as a kind of televised Socratic seminars of sorts for the whole
country having the candidates stand behind their podiums forced to answer
for their proposals. We get to see how the ideas stand up under
questioning before you decide. And at least for some of us, before we
Here with me today is MSNBC co contributor for Jonathan Capehart who writes
for the "Washington Post" post-partisan the blog, NBC Latino.com`s Victoria
DeFrancesco Soto. She`s a communications director from Latino decisions
and a fellow at the University of Texas. Jamal Simmons, a Democratic
consultant, and Katon Dawson, a Republican consultant and former South
Carolina GOP chairman.
Thanks to everybody for being here.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So here we go. It`s going to be October, last
month, final push, debates. What are we going to see in the debates?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: You don`t see the two of these
people standing on the stage, used their practice lines as they have been
studying up so much. You know, we haven`t seen much of Mitt Romney on the
campaign trail. He`s been studying for this because it is such a big deal
for him. The problem for Romney though is --
HARRIS-PERRY: You think that`s what he`s been doing, studying, not
Totally, he`s been studying. He`s got to make something work in this
debate. And he doesn`t that he is going to have a tough time to argue to
fundraisers and to the Republican bigwigs that they ought to stick with him
and not cut him loose.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Katon, is there anything that Mitt Romney can say in
the context of the debates that can do this? Is there anything in his
studying or fundraisers to change these poll numbers.
KATON DAWSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think he can change the dynamic and
we will go into later in the show about social media. I mean, there were -
- maybe there won`t be that many people watching the debate. But the noise
around it and after it will matter. The 1980 Carter debate with Ronald
Reagan of where he said, "There you go again," which is basically calling
the sitting president a liar.
That`s when after that debate is going to Carter started collapsing. So
you have got a few moments to make the one-liners catch and stick. But,
all of the substance will get lost in the minutia. So I think both are
practicing. It is barely hard to catch one of those debates moments. And
Romney certainly needs one worse than the president right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Jonathan, is that it? They are not so much studying the
substance and getting their ideas ready, you know, Douglas Lincoln style.
Is it like trying to figure out what the zinger is going to be that will
get re-tweeted on a hash tag?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, that it is.
HARRIS-PERRY: It makes me so sad.
CAPEHART: Well, yes. But also, as you just said, the stakes are higher
for Mitt Romney. Keep this mind, this is a man who has been running for
president for six years.
CAPEHART: And it`s come down to this one moment, this first debate on
Wednesday where he`s got to change the trajectory of his campaign, of the
narrative with at that point, what is it 35 days in the race.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
CAPEHART: You`re the political scientist here. You`re the nerd here at
the table. Just to my mind, I do not see how practically speaking Mitt
Romney can change the trajectory and move his campaign into a positive
position with so little time.
HARRIS-PERRY: You`re a big nerd too.
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, LATINO DECISIONS: I am
a Nerdlander. You know, and the other thing is in the wake of the 47
percent comment, we are going to see a lot of compassion coming out of
Romney. We don`t want any cowboy tactics. We don`t want to see him act
like he did during the Republican primaries, where he had to be tough,
where he made Rick Perry look weak. So he needs to tone that down and
speak to the people who may not feel connected to him and say I can speak
HARRIS-PERRY: He hasn`t been doing this well. He`s got this friend who
tells this story of -- these are the stories we hear about oh, he`s this
great guy. And so, let`s listen to this story of the rescue, the Mitt
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MARRIOTT, MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL CHAIRMAN: I realize there was nobody
in the boat to help me dock the boat, tie with the ropes, do anything.
They just left me out there at sea.
MARRIOTT: So I finally found a place to park after about 20 minutes and I
pulled in. I said who is going to grab the rope and I looked up and there
was Mitt Romney. So he pulled me in, tied up the boat for me. He rescued
me, just as he`s going to rescue this great country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Except that it`s not like an old man and the sea boat. It`s
like his yacht. Romney saves his friend Bill Marriott on his yacht. This
is not --
SIMMONS: And the part they didn`t have in there is when he talks about
taking his grandchildren out for ice cream by motoring across the lake and
couldn`t find anywhere to dock. That`s the part of the story --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s what I do on the weekends.
SIMMONS: Yachts, no, sir the ones driving bunks --
HARRIS-PERRY: But not even picking on people with yachts necessarily but
with the idea that that sort of narrative does the sort of connection,
Victoria, that you were suggesting like if he`s going to come and be the
guy who is going to make a connection in the debate in order to turn around
this campaign, that it can`t be stories like that.
SOTO: And also, it`s so important because during the Republican national
convention, he did not form that convention. That was our expectation that
he is just going to hit it out of the park. He is going to form that human
connection, share that personal side of Mitt and he didn`t. So we see him
trying to o do that in the commercials, looking, you know, face to face at
people and speaking to them. We need to see that again in the debates.
CAPEHART: You know, I`m going to disagree with you, Victoria. He did make
a connection during the convention on the night of his speech unfortunately
SIMMONS: It didn`t get on the air.
CAPEHART: No one sign. The biopic, it was the best thing out of both
conventions. It`s like a tree falling in the woods.
DAWSON: I was watching c-span so I saw it.
HARRIS-PERRY: You too are a super nerd.
As we come back in the next block, I want to talk more about early voting
because, you know, a tradition in presidential campaigns has been the
October surprise. If you`ve already cast your vote in September, what
happens to the October surprise? That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Early voting has already begun. And many will be making up
their minds before the end of October. Doesn`t give much time for a so-
called October surprise, which could knock President Obama out of range of
a win. As it was said to have done for president Carter during the Iran
Well, this week Republican congressman Peter King, chairman of the homeland
security committee, called for the resignation of U.N. ambassador Susan
Rice because of her handling of the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi.
U.S. intelligence is now saying there is evidence that the Benghazi attack
was in fact initially planned. Now initially, the administration had
maintained they believed the attacks in Libya were spontaneous reaction to
the offensive video that rocked the Middle East and beyond. So could the
direct sort of politicizing of the Benghazi attack snowball into a full-
blown October surprise for the president?
What do you think? Does the changing discourse about what happened in
Benghazi ultimately cause harm to the president?
SIMMONS: The thing about an October surprise is it usually has to
reinforce some fundamental weakness or arguments from taking place with the
president. So if you think about the bin Laden tape at the end of the 2004
campaign with Bush and Kerry, people already -- Bush had been running on
this fear and strength and all these issues getting the country animated on
this. So by the time the surprise happened, it reinforced what the people
The thing with the president and this is why the bin Laden assassination
sort of worked out. Is because people started to trust him that he`s not
soft on terrorists. Ask the terrorists hit by drone strikes. So people
trust his judgment on this. So it is not the problems that you get, it`s
how you handle it as president and the president has a pretty good record.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And your guy, Katon, I mean, Romney comes out
initially right after these attacks and flubs it, right? He messes up his
response to it. He doesn`t realize there`s been a statesman, you know,
killed in the field. Can he try to spin this back now?
DAWSON: If we would exercise patience and waited three days, this would
have been a real issue to get your arms around. But, you know certainly,
the foreign policy questions here, certainly where the president wants this
race to be versus the economic factors, the unemployment numbers. So one
more time the president`s team wins on the debate. But then, certainly --
HARRIS-PERRY: In other words, this is the briar patch. Please throw me
DAWSON: I killed Osama bin Laden and I understand that. But the governor
Romney has to get back to the economy. That`s where he wins in the
numbers. We do have a chance -- he did have a chance, Jamal, and talking
about it. But there wasn`t patient enough to let this thing unfold long
enough. I agree with you, that this is not over yet.
SIMMONS: It would have been a tough issue --
HARRIS-PERRY: Is there anyone who would change their vote. Is there
anyone who has already cast their vote, we got 32 states and D.C., you look
at that map, it`s a map that is just filled with people already voting.
Right? That`s where you have early voting.
Are any of the folks, if it turns out that there was missed intelligence
about the likelihood that this was not a spontaneous event; that this was
terrorism linked to al-Qaeda who were saying, man, I wish I could have my
SOTO: This is about the economy. The vast amount of Americans have
economy as their top concern. As we were talking about earlier, that the
issue of foreign policy only helps the president. Even if there was
something there that might be cloudy, at the end of the day he is the hero
and governor Romney does not have that experience. He was a governor. At
least if you`re a congressman, you can say, well, I served on the foreign
service committee. I have this experienced. He doesn`t have that. That
is his Achilles heel.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And even if he was a governor in a state like New York
that had the sort of 9/11 experience, but in this context, in
Massachusetts, certainly --
SIMMONS: Or Alaska where you can see Russia.
CAPEHART: Dig that one back up.
HARRIS-PERRY: They can see your DNA by looking.
CAPEHART: Two problems that Mitt Romney had or has in all of this, one is
that basically as you`re saying, if he had waited three days, this would be
a completely different story because there are serious questions here for
the president, for the state department, for the administration to answer.
But basically, Mitt Romney gave President Obama cover on this. So he`s got
the bin Laden kill, but he`s got this. The second thing is, both of you
just said, yes, this campaign is about the economy. This election is on
the economy. But up until last week, it was an issue for Mitt Romney. But
as we saw in the NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, the president is
winning the argument on the economy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Indeed. I mean, and very clearly, in a bunch of
measures, right? So we have both the misery index being lower than you
might expect it to be. So people sot of feeling more hopeful. But also
this sense that the austerity measures that the Romney/Ryan campaign are
suggesting just are not flying with the American people.
And I got to say, I still think George W. Bush gives the president some
cover on this. If you start talking about Susan Rice having misled the
people on Benghazi. I mean, isn`t it sort of easy to point out the weapons
of mass destruction argument? There`s already a president who was re-
elected in the context of actively -- active deception towards the American
SIMMONS: I think this is a bigger deal for Susan Rice if she wants to be
secretary of state than Barack Obama being re-elected.
CAPEHART: That is a good point.
HARRIS-PERRY: You think Susan Rice is going to be secretary of state? I
heard the rumor was Kerry. Very interesting.
CAPEHART: Both those names are in the hat.
HARRIS-PERRY: And senator Kerry has given a lot - actually a bit of cover
to Susan Rice this week suggesting that in fact he believes that she
handled it appropriately and this is just about --
DAWSON: I will contend this race isn`t over yet. So I hope they keep
picking cabinet members.
DAWSON: I`ll give you some of our names in a little while.
HARRIS-PERRY: I went straight to second term there. Sorry about that.
Up next, one of the debate not really a debate. For starters, you might
argue this Wednesday. Come back, all the stuff they are not going to talk
about this Wednesday.
HARRIS-PERRY: Over the next month, President Obama and governor Romney
will meet for three national televised debates. The first debate, this
coming Wednesday will be dominated by the economy, sometimes devoted to
health care and the role of governing. And the candidates will be ready
because over the past month, the rules, scheduling and topics for the
debate have been negotiated by the commission on presidential debates. The
major party bosses and the campaigns. In fact, this year for the first
time history, the presidential candidates will be given the topics of the
debate ahead of time.
When I did debate, we called that a cheat sheet. But OK. Topics that
didn`t make the list? Plenty. To name a few, the candidates won`t be
addressing gun control, the national incarceration crisis or wage
As I stand in this moment, I have my stand-in debaters and I want to know
what you guys think ought to be on the debate calendar, on the schedule
that`s not there.
SOTO: I don`t think we should be constrained to these narrow topics. If
anything, I would prefer to see a freer flow of debates. I want to see
Romney and Obama the man. I want to see them -- you know, I can watch ads
that put their platforms forward. I can read their websites. But I want
to see them speak freely. And I think most of America is hungry for that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe it would be fun to have them at the Nerdland table.
And we could, you know, we can take 90 minutes. In fact, actually we have
a little longer than that here on the show. We could just chat it up,
right? But, that`s not what the debates are like, right? We do have these
topics. And so, here, they are going to go to Colorado, right, the site of
two major acts of gun violence and nobody is going to talk about that.
Should they be discussing that?
SIMMONS: They should be discussing gun violence. And I was the football
issue this week. And a guy came up to me from Canon, New Jersey and he
says, you know, it would be nice if we could do something like this around
poverty in places like Camden and Detroit and a bunch of other places. It
would be nice to hear Mitt Romney talk about how he helps the wealthy and
middle class, but the people who want to get in to the middle class.
What`s his plan to get people out of poverty and in to the middle.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because this is the story behind the unemployment numbers.
You can have more employment and still have poverty because of the nature
of wage stagnation. You were saying in the break that you thought the
October surprise are already happened in September.
SOTO: We decided.
CAPEHART: Because of early voting, as you talked about, the October
surprise actually has already happened. It happened in September and it
was that 47 percent video where you had Mitt Romney unplugged, unfiltered
in a nice little cocoon with his, you know, upper one percent friends
talking about or should say disparaging, belittling the 47 percent and not
just saying they`re not going to vote for me.
But saying I can`t do anything for them. They don`t want to take
responsibility for their lives. That`s unbelievably damaging. And for
there to be a summit on poverty, you know, I came to CGI to have Mitt
Romney talk about that. People would sit back --
HARRIS-PERRY: Wouldn`t that be - I mean, that feels like that would be
rich in the context of the debate.
SOTO: That is the other key part of it. Same comparison to the 2008 gaffe
of clinging to their guns and bibles. Horrible gaffe but then he went on
to explained it. You know, we are not seeing any that from Romney.
SIMMONS: Mitt Romney hasn`t explained anything in the last year and a
half. We don`t know anything more about Bain, we don`t know anything more
about his faith, we don`t know anything more about any of the touch stones
that people have questions about.
SOTO: I really would --
HARRIS-PERRY: So is he going, Katon, can you, guys, do this at the debate?
Can he give us more?
DAWSON: He certainly has the opportunity. He has done 20-something
debates against Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum and Ron
Paul. He has done it and he seasoned with that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Raise those expectations.
DAWSON: He also did them with Ted Kennedy, which lowered the expectations.
But, what you`re saying a lot here is the president is a well-organized
campaign. I mean, all these messages aren`t coming out by themselves.
DAWSON: They`re pushing them out. He has the power of the presidency. He
has invested in a ground game in 12 states to this next and run again.
And North Carolina, with early voting, 12,000 people have already voted.
On game day, 747,000 people voted for Obama and a 1,000,039 voted for
McCain. And Obama, because of early voting, won.
DAWSON: Organization matters and the way the earned media is going
matters. A lot of the things we talk about what Romney is behind, is the
president has a pretty good campaign.
HARRIS-PERRY: Certainly not a bad one.
DAWSON: We have time to catch up. And we have ground game. But he`s
running a pretty good campaign.
HARRIS-PERRY: Not much time. Thirty-two seats. Did you see that map.
The people are voting.
But up next, I want all of you guys to get your paper and pencils ready, my
daughter Parker is here with a pop quiz next.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. We`re political nerds so in Nerdland we`ve been
getting ready for the first presidential debate. And that means that we
have some fun rehashing our favorite debate zingers and bizarre moments
from previous debates. And that made us realize it was time for a pop
So here`s -- I know. You should see how nervous my guests are. It`s very
funny. So this quiz is about debate lines. And we are just going to say,
you know, who did it? And so, in order to do this, we have enlisted my
daughter Parker, she`s ten, almost 11. And when you -- after she is
finished you ring your bell. If you think you know who said the line that
she is going to say. All right?
So let`s start first with parker`s version of a classic presidential debate
zinger. Roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARKER, PERRY, MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY`S DAUGHTER: I want you to know also I
will not make an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for
political purposes my opponent`s youth and inexperience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. The one I heard after -- who was that and when did it
CAPEHART: Ronald Reagan.
HARRIS-PERRY: You got it.
CAPEHART: Ronald Reagan, 1980.
HARRIS-PERRY: `84. That`s right. I think you both get a sticker for that
one. So Ronald Reagan in 1984 and obviously, he was at the time 73. He
was running against Mondale who was 56. And obviously, cleaned Mondale`s
clock. So in fact, age was not used against Reagan.
All right, Parker is back.
DAWSON: Nothing but a number.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nothing but a number. Parker is back for the second one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator,
you`re no Jack Kennedy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Jamaal, yes.
SIMMONS: Lloyd Bentsen in the vice presidential debate.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you remembered it was Lloyd Bentsen. Good job.
SIMMONS: Nerdland for a reason.
CAPEHART: What state, Jamal?
SIMMONS: He was from Texas.
HARRIS-PERRY: Does anybody remember what Dan Quayle said in response?
SOTO: He said that`s uncalled for.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that`s exactly it.
CAPEHART: Crawl under the podium.
SOTO: After the laughing subsided in the crowd.
HARRIS-PERRY: That was a pretty good one.
SOTO: I think that`s my best.
DAWSON: Jamal is being very polite. He is not hitting his bell until she
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. there`s the next Parker video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: George Bush taking credit for the Berlin wall coming down is like
the rooster taking credit for the sunrise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a lot of attitude. Yes.
CAPEHART: And that could only be governor Ann Richards of Texas.
HARRIS-PERRY: You would think, right? It`s a very -- she said it like
CAPEHART: But it wasn`t?
HARRIS-PERRY: No. It wasn`t. Anybody knows who?
SOTO: She`s channeling Ann.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, she is channeling Ann. And It was not actually in a
debate with George Bush is your hint here. It was in a debate during the
same time but --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Al Gore.
That`s right. Applause. It was Al Gore in 1982. Vice presidential debate
he was mocking then president George H. W. Bush.
All right, next question actually comes from the exact same debate. Listen
to Parker on this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: Who am I/ Why am I here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOTO: It`s the vice presidential debate and I`m just blanking on the name
of the general.
CAPEHART: Sockwell --
HARRIS-PERRY: You guys are like working together collectively here to get
these. That`s right.
All right, so we have got another one here that this is one of my
favorites. Let`s watch this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: Say it isn`t so, Joe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIMMONS: We know who that is.
DAWSON: Sarah Palin.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Sarah Palin versus Joe Biden, very good. And you
DAWSON: I was bringing up another one. That was lipstick on a pig.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you know why she came out and asked him is it OK if I
call you Joe? Do you know the reason?
DAWSON: I`ll let you answer ha.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, apparently, she kept messing up his name and calling
him Joe --
CAPEHART: Joe - No.
HARRIS-PERRY: Joe O`Biden.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Joe O`Biden.
All right, here`s our very last one. And this one is a little different
because it`s purely visual. Let`s take look at this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: That`s OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Go, Jonathan.
CAPEHART: George H. W. Bush in 1992.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. Looking at his watch in the middle of the
debate. Like he had somewhere better to be.
CAPEHART: Got to feed the meter.
PERRY: The one you didn`t get was that one that made me nervous as a
staffer, Al Gore sighing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes, yes.
SIMMONS: Gore was sort of back on the incline coming back up and the
debates stalled him out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. absolutely. We will just as we`re going out, we won`t
make this one a question. This is just Parker doing her Bill Clinton
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: In my state when people lose their jobs, there`s a good chance I`ll
know them by their name.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Parker can feel your pain just like Bill Clinton. And
I think one of the tasks for Mitt Romney is to prove he can feel your pain,
not just inflict it.
Up next, what difference does it make when your president is also your
friend? At least on facebook.
Thanks, Parker. I appreciate it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So before 2008, we were used to a certain type of
presidential campaign. Then in the Obama for America campaign did what it
did, winning in a way we had never seen before. But that`s old news
according to Obama campaign manager Jim Messina who said earlier this month
said this year quote "we`re going to be making 2008 on the ground look like
Jurassic Park." I don`t think he means dinosaurs per se.
In other words, that`s on the ground where the Obama for America folks aim
to knock on 150 percent more doors than in the 2008 election. But how will
they mobilize those canvassers? And what if those people who aren`t home
and who don`t pick up the phone when a volunteer calls?
The key is technology, social media, twitter, facebook, Instagram, Google
plus. The list goes on and on. But, when it comes to evolving
technologies, ask myspace, you either adapt or you get out. And just
because the Obama folks had it figured out when they faced John McCain four
years ago, do they still have it figured out?
Naturally, Republican Mitt Romney`s campaign doesn`t think so. His digital
director recently told the tech news site Mashable quote "I think they are
used to the 2008 model where nobody was matching them. But it`s a mistake
of the Obama campaign to underestimate us." What campaigns presidential
and otherwise are the most tech savvy? And how will that advantage
translate into votes in the next 37 days?
Joining me now is Amy Jo Martin, founder and CEO of the social media
consultancy, digital royalty and author of a new book coming out Tuesday,
"Renegades write the rules, how the digital royalty used social media to
innovate." Joining her at the table Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Jamal
Simmons and Katon Dawson.
All right Amy, what is an effective use of social media by a presidential
AMY JO MARTIN, AUTHOR, RENEGADES WRITE THE RULES: It`s all about
humanizing their brand, right? So there are so many different channels and
forums that can be used to get their messaging across. At the end of the
day, who is the individual behind that voice. And with celebrities that we
have worked with in the past, Shaquille O`Neil for example. Who is the
Shaquille behind the shock? Christopher Rock behind --
HARRIS-PERRY: I didn`t said am early adaptor Shaq was.
MARTIN: Very early, yes. Exactly. Because humans connect with humans,
not logos or robots, right? So social is such a great tool for doing just
that and scalable to your point earlier. You know, there are no
boundaries. And from a technology standpoint, we`re only bound by the
speed of technology now. So this is a way to scale someone`s brand and
actually connect with more people, whether it`s one to one or one to 19
million in Barack Obama`s case.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, that`s funny, because you use the language of
people connecting with people. And on the one hand, right, it`s just our
little machines that we`re using. But there is something about social
media that gives it a sense of familiarity, a kind of two-way intimacy.
Like when somebody you like tweets you back, I can remember a very -- my
best girlfriend in the world getting a tweet back from LL Cool J and we
were of the age where that was like oh, my God. LL tweeted me back, right?
And so, like the idea of the Obama campaign for example responding to you
would be, You know, there`s a sense that there`s a immediacy to it. Is the
Obama campaign do something new in 2012 than they did in `08?
SIMMONS: Well, they are all over the place. You know, you think back to
2008, one of the things you put on roulette. How many twitter messages
that the Obama campaign sent out in 2008, just one.
SIMMONS: One on Election Day. Now they send out one, tow like every two
minutes it seems.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It was all facebook in `08.
SIMMONS: They`re on facebook and they are on Pintos and they are on
twitter and they are all the different things.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, they are literally on twitter behind us right now.
So you know, on our big -- this is the live feed for both Barack Obama and
Mitt Romney. If fact, if you guys are watching, feel free to tweet us
here. Use the Nerdland hash tag. Right. You`re right. Certainly twitter
is a platform that wasn`t -- .
SIMMONS: Here`s what was good. I was in Tampa for the last couple of
days, went to three or four field offices in the Obama campaign and saw
them putting people out on the ground with clip boards going door to door.
But, what they figured out how to marry up the old field organizing
campaign with the new online campaign to make it all kind of work
DAWSON: I`ll tell you, they`re iPads, not clipboards anymore.
SIMMONS: Old school.
DAWSON: Because we are going new school with these iPads and other stuff.
What I`ve really seen and Amy Jo, I love your opinion is, 140 million
facebook users. And facebook right now has people talking to people in
high school that were in high school with them and watch after the debates.
This is where I`ve said it won`t be what we`re watching during the debate.
Social media is going to catch it and the campaign social media war will be
up and running. And then we will see who is really connected.
HARRIS-PERRY: Romney is losing that. I mean, so his 47 percent video has
been viewed two million more times than his convention speech. Right? So
at the moment, yes there`s a lot of Romney activity. But what they are
doing is showing things -- and Barack Obama`s speech, the president`s
speech is way above that. What I love is the first lady`s speech is above
Mitt Romney`s convention speech.
SOTO: I don`t want us to lose touch of the importance of the human
connection, of pressing the flesh. Like you`re saying, the trick is to web
the two. Because we know from political science research, your direct
mobilization is always going to be more effective than your indirect
mobilization. We are getting better at indirect mobilization and it`s a
nice subsidy. But you can`t just say oh, you know, we`re in a new
technological era, we don`t need worry about getting boots on the street
and you need boots on the street.
MARTIN: And that is exactly right. Bridging the virtual world with the
physical word is really when social media channels come to life and the
magic happens. Because whoever coined the term social media didn`t do us
any favors. It`s not really media. It`s more like the telephone, less
like the TV. And when it comes to communication, we all revolve around
communication. But when you can bring that virtual world and physical
world and start to mesh the two, that`s when it becomes so powerful.
DAWSON: Essentially, we`re still going door to door. President Obama
invested the money before the -- while we were running. He put the ground
game out there, 40-something offices in north Carolina. I watched it, I
tagged it. Thousands of people working on the Obama or America campaign
payrolls and it matters. That`s what I said earlier. That matters. You
mix it with social media and we are out there looking at the 140 million
facebook users looking for the independent voters.
HARRIS-PERRY: And when they connect -- what I had remembered as the moment
in the `08 campaign for OFA was when they got everybody to sign up to get
the text message about who the vice presidential nominee was going to be
and it ended up being Joe Bide.
Now, there is nothing less exciting in the world than -- but they used it.
I mean, once I gave up that number, boy, they could now text you for the
next four years, right? so, it was just a moment. But it allowed a
building of an old fashion --
SIMMONS: The Oprah Winfrey rally for the first time that happened.
DAWSON: I knew we were in trouble because I went to it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Did you?
DAWSON: You need to see what the - and I kept wondering, why are they
caging the numbers when they come through the doors. While they caged in,
I was going to criticize the democrat chairman. You`ve got all these
customers coming and you are not catching them. And then they said open up
your phone and dial this number. And I said we are in real trouble.
MARTIN: The thing though is that there`s campaign season and then you have
four years of being real and governments and you actually have to do what
you say you`re going to do. And so, those four years are very important in
CAPEHART: And the records matter.
MARTIN: You can`t just show up when you`re ready. It`s like social media
is like a cocktail party.
HARRIS-PERRY: You have to build the relationship.
MARTIN: You earn your right to ask for a callback and then - or not
influenced because impressions don`t always convert, but influence does.
And those four years of intent we`ve been seeing day after day what the
story is and if you just go away when it`s not campaign season, where --
HARRIS-PERRY: Amy, we are going to come back on all of this. And in
particular, I also want to ask not just how technology allows us to
campaign but whether or not new technologies allow us to vote differently.
That`s up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Despite being as heavily into social media as we are, for
example you can follow us on twitter @mhp show, we are still a country that
is using 19th century technology to vote. With butterfly ballots and old
machines and punch cards. It`s sort of the equivalent of one of those old
ATMs that suck your card all the way in and also didn`t give you a receipt.
We haven`t made any investments in a Broadway of thinking how a more
streamlined reasonable and national system for voting and voting
technology, what that could look like. Now, I can go online and buy pretty
much whatever I want on my phone. I can even buy a new phone on my phone.
We value and celebrate tech savvy when it comes to consumerism. When will
we do for our most valuable right, our vote?
So I want to come to you Amy Jo, my colleague, Chris Hayes who has the show
that precedes this one, "Up with Chris," is the most tech savvy human being
I can imagine with a television show. He tweets simultaneously while like
top ling his staff, while doing the show. It`s bizarre, right?
MARTIN: Instagram by the way on the breaks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. This is the kind of Chris Hayes moment. And
I see the way that that allows, but all of these multiple levels of
connection. But I keep thinking to myself, if that`s possible, if one
could host a show and talk to one`s staff and talk to one`s viewers,
shouldn`t we be able to register to vote online? Should we be able to - I
mean, are there ways to imagine harnessing this?
MARTIN: Yes, absolutely. In fact, the "X Factor" is a client of ours at
digital royalty. And you can submit. We started accepting votes through
direct message on twitter. So the functionality is there. Are the
logistics and the security, those are all other different types of
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t know if you`re -- that it`s not -- people will know
who sent the vote.
MARTIN: Exactly. It`s all about the unique and I.P. and everything.
However, when it comes to, you know, voting in general and the presidential
candidates right now and asking for that vote, so much of what we`re seeing
right now is called action and is advertising. And it is so much more
powerful to have touch points of natural integration versus interruption
And so, one of the challenges I see is just a lack of education with the
teams that are managing, you know, the social media efforts, especially
HARRIS-PERRY: Are you nervous about this?
MARTIN: Let me take a step back.
SOTO: Not even voting, hopefully one day that will come. But I think
registering to vote, we have this ram shackle, Rickety (ph) system of
voting. About a dozen states here in the country have automated
registration. I can go online and register to vote. New York is one of
the last states to do that. But, most states don`t and they can. But it`s
the state legislatures, it`s the governors, it`s the secretary of State who
are saying we don`t want to go there. Well, why? We can all --
MARTIN: We can`t all understand it.
SOTO: Because of the enfranchisement of people that would bring about.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the challenges with incumbent changing voting rules,
is any incumbent always got elected under whatever the current voting rules
SOTO: You want to keep the system you got elected under. We know from
states that have done that, it costs less to register people automatedly.
You get more people to register and hence more people to vote. But, we
only see about a dozen states are doing that. And folks aren`t talking
HARRIS-PERRY: Is there any political will for this?
SIMMONS: How lazy we going to get, right? So people are going to have to
sit at home and vote. Can`t we get up and go to a polling place.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, the answer is many -- for many people, the answer is
no. they live very far from polls in rural areas. They are disabled - I
mean, it`s not necessarily laziness that teach you from the poll.
SIMMONS: Put a poll near them. But, I do think that the society like this
is one of the fundamental parts of democracy. And at some point people
have to kind of, you know, by participate. And you can`t just sit at home
and push and button.
DAWSON: Jamal, I`m with you on this.
HARRIS-PERRY: How is this happening?
DAWSON: There are 171 million customers. That`s who is registered to vote
in America. 171, 172 million people that get to vote and you`ve got
different states. You`re being realistic. Well, will for that to be there
by politicians because the only thing that I see moving that is the
monetary aspect of how much cheaper it would be. But it`s still the
historic right of people get to vote. There are tools for absentee.
SIMMONS: Do it by mail.
DAWSON: But to have the national government, which is what we would
contend to come in and change the way we vote, I`m being realistic, that`s
just not going to happen.
SOTO: I have to step back. Why do we vote on the first Tuesday of
November? Why? Because of who could vote back in the 1800s. It was white
men. And we were an agricultural society at the time. So you had to wait
until the harvest was over and it wasn`t too cold. So you did it on
Tuesday. Because you need a day of travel. That`s why we vote on Tuesday.
That`s not mechanism. We`re in 2012.
SIMMONS: am all for making Election Day a national holiday, you know to
give people like make it a day off for everybody. Let`s vote. Turn it
into a party. There`s something to me that says as a culture, don`t we
want -- jury duty, people want to escape. We`re not going to have draft
anymore. At some point as a culture don`t we have to get up off our butts
HARRIS-PERRY: I am in definitely in bizarro world because the democratic
consultant was just like take individual`s responsibility, get of your butt
and vote. I will be, yes. We should have, you know, some early voting.
What is happening?
HARRIS-PERRY: But thank you to Amy Jo Martin. And a reminder to everyone
that your new book, "Renegades Write the Rules" comes out this Tuesday.
Everybody else is sticking around a little bit.
And coming up, what is an American Indian supposed to look like exactly and
should it matter in a political race? That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
As Bill Clinton would say, basic arithmetic tells us that we`ve come a long
way since 1892. Or at least it seems that way. 1892 was the year that
Louisiana passed the Separate Car Act which legally segregated common
carriers. Enter 30-year-old Homer Plessy. He was a Creole of color who
intentionally sat in the white car after making it known that he was
colored. He was subsequently arrested.
His case known as Plessy versus Ferguson went all the way to the United
States Supreme Court. And the Court ruled in 1896 set forth a precedent
that would take decades to overturn. It wasn`t until 1954 Brown versus
board of education that we saw it overturned. So you may have heard of the
Plessy v. Ferguson case, "separate but equal".
The majority for the court found that a statute which implies a distinction
between the white and colored races -- has no tendency to destroy the legal
quality of the two races.
All right. So let`s make this clearer. Not only did the ruling separate
people by race. It also narrowly defined them based on society`s construct
of what race is. You see, Plessy himself, was the sort of man that you
might look at and assume that he was white.
So when the court was not only saying in this case that black and white are
separate, they were also saying that the one drop rule is the definition of
But that was then, right? Because we`ve moved beyond the definition and
separation of race being inscribed into law. Right.
And race is no longer a construct placed on others by narrow end of
societal notions. Right. Come on, come on, come on. Take off the rose
colored glasses, put on your hermeneutic of suspicion, let`s look at this
year`s Massachusetts Senate race and you`ll see that the path of progress
is sometimes a long and slow one, because that race is like a sea out of
the movie from "The Sixth Sense," where some are saying, "I see indigenous
Democratic Candidate Elizabeth Warren`s heritage has been scrutinized for
months. AT issue is whether or not she`s of Native American descent.
I mean, is that what an American Indian is supposed to look like? Careful,
because the answer is that there is no answer. If the candidate Warren
grew up thinking she is Native American by heritage, who are we to say that
she is not. Why would we try to define her based on narrow constructs of
I think it`s because we have confusion about what race is. We think if she
has one drop of Native American blood, she is Native American. If she
doesn`t, then she`s not.
But the fact is, people of Massachusetts may be giving all of us an
invitation to a long overdue discussion about race.
At the table: MSNBC contributor and the "Washington Post`s" Jonathan
Capehart, NBC Latino contributor Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Democratic
consultant Jamal Simmons and national Republican consultant Katon Dawson.
All right. So yes, I`m taking professorial privilege to talk about the
social construction of race. But it does feel to me like we talk about, we
need to have a conversation on race all the time. But part of it is we
need a conversation on what race actually is.
SOTO: Race is a social construct. Nevertheless, it is this concrete
pillar in our society. And not just in the U.S. if you look at Latin
America, Latin America makes the U.S. look weak. I mean, you have the
casta system where you have 16 different racial categorizations.
So we have to acknowledge that race has been with us since our founding
documents. The (INAUDIBLE) compromised. So it`s embedded in race.
I think another document that keeps perpetuating race in our society,
whether we like it or not, is the census.
SOTO: The census defines race. So we can`t get away from it. We can`t
say we live in a racially colorblind society because we keep
Just recently, we`re seeing that there`s a discussion of including Latino
as a racial category not just as an ethnic category. But we`re going to
create a whole new race perhaps in the next census.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet the notion that we can undo racism simply by undoing
these data is also false, right? Because as you point out, on the one
hand, it`s socially constructive. It`s not real. The very fact that
there`s a different system of race just to the south of us means that it`s
not like if you have one drop of biological material, you become that
thing. So you can`t just undo it by pretending it`s not there. But on the
other hand, we do keep recreating it.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. And you talk about
Elizabeth Warren believing that she was Native American. First of all, how
many do you believe are Native Americans?
HARRIS-PERRY: Everybody. I don`t know one black person without a --
SIMMONS: It reminds me of that Dave Chappelle skit with the blind racist
guy who thought he was white.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right, right.
SIMMONS: But, you know, the point you make about ignoring race. They try
this in France actually. In France, they have a system where they don`t
actually count people by race. And what they find is, because they don`t
measure it, they can`t fix it. They`re having a really hard time going
after discrimination in housing, discrimination in employment because
nobody keeps records on it.
So it is still important to measure it so that we can make sure we`re
holding up to our values. But we do have to find a way, I think, to be
inclusive and imaginative.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting for this to be happening during the
reelection campaign of President Obama. In part because he was like hyper
speed version of the social done construction of race. At the beginning of
the `08 campaign, he was insufficiently black. And by the end of the
campaign, he was way too black, right?
And the idea that blackness was even constructed in that way. In this
case, you have Native American identity which I think also has a lot of
angst and sort of, you know, what is that, and what is do it mean to look
indigenous in this country?
DAWSON: I think one of the things that was said is the government puts up
big exclamation mark on it. It comes to your door and asks you in the
census. Look at colleges who have special scholarships funds for your
ethnicity. I can name them. We`re looking for them to see. And I
remember looking and say, let me go see if I can find that Indians
somewhere, because there was money out there for certain groups.
HARRIS-PERRY: But let`s pause, Katon. The group with the most money out
there for are the white Americans. And the way I know that by looking the
So yes, there are set asides for scholarship funds, typically not from
state universities. From state funds. It`s always from private funds.
But that`s in part because the resources are so enormous by race.
SOTO: I think the problem that we`re having before and in my research
looking at social group identities. I look at what a Latino identity
means. I think the struggle that we`re having is that we`re not seeing a
subject of the identity.
So objectively, she says I`m Native American. I have a Native American
ancestor. But do we see her culturally partaking in that? I mean, that`s
not my prerogative. It`s that difference kind of in social psychology
between objective and subjective identification.
CAPEHART: But there`s another problem here. That is the way Elizabeth
Warren handled this issue when it came up. Add that she`s now running,
where she takes it head on and she talks about the fact that when her
parents got married, they had to elope because --
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s listen to her. I`m going to let you make your point.
I want to listen to her and have her making that point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: As a kid, I never asked my
mom for documentation when she talked about our Native American heritage.
What kid would? But I knew my father`s family didn`t like that she was
part Cherokee and part Delaware. So my parents had to elope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: Now, see, that`s a fantastic ad. It`s a powerful ad. She`s
owning her heritage. She`s not allowing her opponent to say she doesn`t
look Native American. She`s been lying. She`s been using this as a way to
This conversation about race construct goes both ways. We`ve got people
who are hurling accusations and saying you`re less than and you`re not good
enough, or using this for purposes or for nefarious purposes.
But on the other hand, you have someone like Elizabeth Warren when the
accusation is thrown out there, she didn`t own it. This became a story
because she spent weeks upon weeks at first denying and defending and
finally she owns it. She should have just stepped right out there and
said, yes, I am and who are you to tell me what my heritage is?
HARRIS-PERRY: But maybe it`s in part because as you point out, this is not
a claim about biology. It`s a claim also that she`s making culturally.
It`s a part of the angst, that yes, she has a sort of narrative about
personal, very intimate discriminatory emotion. But she doesn`t have a
story of -- you know, because my mom was Cherokee, we went to these events,
these were my --
SOTO: We celebrated.
HARRIS-PERRY: We celebrated this.
SOTO: I think your rule about owning it just holds in politics in general.
Own it and own it quickly because if not, your opponent is going to define
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, Mitt Romney certainly owned 47 percent. That is what
When we come back, it`s back to Massachusetts and the incredible scene
caught on tape. What Senator Scott Brown staffers did that got their boss
all riled up is next.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was a rally in Boston last week where Scott Brown and
Elizabeth Warren supporters were both presents. Amazingly, some making the
offensive tomahawk chops and war cries were staffers for Senator Scott
Brown. The bottom line, it is not OK to represent indigenous people as
funny little Indians.
Joining me from Washington, D.C. is Kevin Gover. He`s the director of the
Smithsonian`s Institution National Museum of the American Indian and a
member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. He served in the Clinton
administration as assistant secretary for Indiana affairs.
Thank you for joining me this morning.
KEVIN GOVER, DIR. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN: You`re welcome.
Glad to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kerry, I actually want to ask you about two different
issues. First, if you could weigh in a little bit on the Massachusetts
Senate race. I know there are mixed opinions within Indian communities
about the claims to native heritage that we`re hearing.
GOVER: Well, they are mixed. Indian people aren`t monolithic in their
beliefs or their attitudes or certainly in their political judgments.
I`d say a couple of things. The thing that sort of comes to me from
watching all this happen is the casual nature of the devolution into
stereotyping and the appropriation of native identity by all involved. You
know, a drop of Indian blood does not an Indian make. It looks very odd
for many of us to see someone who has never associated with the community
or affiliated herself in some way with a particular native nation to assert
in any format that they are an Indian.
On the other hand, as you and your panel have pointed out earlier, it`s
equally jarring for us to hear somebody say you don`t look like an Indian
because Indians look a lot of different ways these days. I know blonde-
haired, blue-eyed Indians and I know Indians of every shape, size and
So both sides as I say, has sort of devolved into stereotyping. The --
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you about, particularly about that evolution of
the stereotyping. The video that we just showed was, I think, for me it
was really appalling to watch on the one hand, this representation of folks
in that crowd doing the tomahawk chop.
But part of the reason they think that`s OK is because we perpetuate that
in American sports teams at the collegiate level, at the national level.
It felt suddenly like see, this is exactly the cost of turning human beings
GOVER: I think that`s right. It is the sports mascots. It`s also our
formal education system. It`s also the popular culture at large which
feels free to define Indians for itself.
Of course, what they`re really showing are imaginary Indians, the Indians
that they are imitating never existed. They don`t exist today. And it`s
at the expense of real Indians that this is the popular image of Indians.
So you put your finger exactly on it. The culture, the society at large
really works to create this image of Indians to define Indians and it`s
something that`s been going on for a very long time. And I should say
quickly that I don`t think that this kind much -- I think that these acts
are racist in nature, but I don`t think that makes the people who engage in
that conduct racist. I think we`ve sort of all been victimized, we`ve been
bamboozled by the education system, by the culture, into believing these
things about Indians and many Indians believe these things as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kevin, that`s a youthful distinction. The distinction
between casual racist acts, the representations that are racist are not
necessarily inherent to the human beings who are doing them. But that
should give us a little space for people to feel less defensive so that we
can in fact root out those acts and behaviors.
I wanted to ask a little bit about your work at the museum because
obviously as you point out, these are imaginary representations of Indian.
Talk to me about how the actual historic work that you`re doing at the
museum in D.C. helps to counter these images.
GOVER: Well, we have museums in both Washington and New York. And in both
of these museums, we`re trying to represent native cultures in an
appropriate way. When I say in an appropriate way, what we really mean is
that we involve the indigenous nations themselves in the representations of
their cultures and histories.
For many, many years, educational institutions, including museums, took it
upon themselves to say we`re the experts and we know who -- what these
people are. We do a very different thing and most museums do now, and say
you can`t have an authentic representation of native people unless you
involve them in the creation of these exhibitions and programs.
So in both of our museums, we`re just trying to get people to take another
look and if you spend any time at all, and I would encourage both Senator
Brown`s staff and were Ms. Warren to win, her staff, to come to our museum
and you`ll very quickly lose the idea that there is some kind of -- that
there`s any image that represents all Indians, because there simply isn`t.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love this idea. It`s a very Nerdland idea. Let`s get
Senator Brown`s staff and Elizabeth Warren`s staff down to the museum
Thank you, Kevin Gover in Washington, for joining me this morning.
GOVER: Thank you so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, Elizabeth Warren fires back and we talk about us
little brown girl professors, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Let me get clear. I never asked for, never got any benefit of
because of my heritage. The people who hired me have all said they didn`t
know about it. I`m Elizabeth Warren. I approve this message. Scott brown
can continue attacking my family, but I`m going to keep fighting for yours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was a Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren,
sending a clear message to Senator Scott Brown that her heritage didn`t
give her an unfair advantage. But maybe the story isn`t so much that she
defended herself but rather the claim on the part of Senator Brown that
she`s a recipient of undeserved benefits. It sounds to a bit like me the
ugly anti-affirmative action beast is rearing its head again.
Back with me: Jonathan Capehart, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Jamal Simmons
and Katon Dawson.
Jonathan, is that because really is, it`s not really a debate about the
social construction of race. It`s just about the idea that Elizabeth
Warren got undeserved benefits and by extension that all of these other
brown folks get undeserved benefits.
CAPEHART: Well, sure. Sure. I mean, from Scott Brown to say that look,
she doesn`t look like this, look like a Native American. And yet she found
a way to work the system to her benefit, thus taking benefits away from
other more deserving people. I mean, we`ve seen this in politics for
generation after generation.
SIMMONS: Well, Melissa, let`s remember. The other part of that 47 percent
video is Mitt Romney talking about had his grandfather or father actually
been Latino, he would have a better chance being president if he were
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, because there`s been a lot of Latino presidents.
SIMMONS: Absolutely, and Latinos don`t face any hurdles in America today.
So that to me speaks to something that`s more subtle that you`re getting
at. That there is maybe a little bit of a feeling that -- well, the
advantages are going to people who aren`t like us. So we got to do
something to kind much tamp that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s put empirical evidence on this. I was a tenured
faculty member at Princeton University for a while. I`m at Tulane now.
But I just said, OK, well, let`s look at it. Let`s look at people of color
in the Ivy Leagues, which is where Elizabeth Warren is. And these are Ivy
League new faculty hires. This is from 2003.
And as you can see, there`s a little bit hard to see but the tenure is the
green line. The tenure is that`s the thing you want or the tenure track.
That`s the yellow. And as you can see, white men are that big tall green
line at the end there, whereas underrepresented minority, yes they are way
down -- the little bitty tiny lines over to the left.
And look, the fact is at this point fewer than one half of 1 percent of
Ph.D.s are awarded to Native American women, fewer of 1/2 of 1 percent. If
she was looking to gain an advantage in the Ivy League, she should have
told people she was a white man, not that she was an indigenous woman, like
just -- I want to pull apart this affirmative action fantasy that somehow
black and brown people are getting a bunch of undeserved benefits. It`s
not what it looks like.
SOTO: And there`s the stigma that comes with it. And owning your identity
and saying, you feel that your colleagues are looking around and saying,
did she get this job because she`s talented or did she get it because of
So even as affirming your own identity, you place you`re self in that
position of having potential stigma.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting that you point that out. I think a lot of
folks worry about the stigma. I always figure I`m down with the stigma.
Like, I am very happily own that a child born in the 1970s, I am the
recipient of affirmative action benefits.
Part of the reason I could afford to pay for college, you know, at a
private university was because it was still considered important to
diversify those classrooms. I don`t think that I`m smarter than the
generations that came before me. I think I had more opportunities. Those
opportunities were given to me by -- I`m down with that stigma.
Affirmative action baby right here.
SIMMONS: Remember what (INAUDIBLE) said, let`s keep affirmative action.
If there`s a stigma to it, let`s make sure they can get as good a job as
possible so they can afford the best psychiatric care to deal with the
stigma later on life.
HARRIS-PERRY: The goal here is to be in a post racist world, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Not necessarily post racial one, one where the lines would
not look like that. Right? Where they would be representative of the
Is there a way to get there in part? I mean, in other words, is there a
teachable moment in this Massachusetts Senate race, is there something for
all the ugliness that can allow us to pause -- you`re saying in the break,
Katon, you know, Jamal and I were teasing about the African-American troupe
of having a Cherokee grandmother. You were like whoa, can we do that? Can
we make jokes about that sort of thing?
It does feel tense to have a race conversation.
DAWSON: It`s uncomfortable.
DAWSON: You took on the ivy leagues of walking the walk and talking the
talk then too. You looked at the figures and the statistics of what
they`re doing and who they`re hiring and what they`re doing, the place that
I would think would be most successful would have been the Ivy League
schools. It looks like they`re failing to me.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, you know, it`s interesting because I think they`re
doing a good job of diversifying the student population.
DAWSON: But not the faculty.
HARRIS-PERRY: But not -- and all the power lies in those voting tenured
faculty members, right?
DAWSON: Sitting in the middle of Massachusetts with a race there that`s
bringing up this conversation. I think it`s one worthy of having.
CAPEHART: But, you know, it all goes back to something that I said I think
that was during the break. When these conversations we`re having, the
conversations you`re saying I couldn`t possibly say that, we could have a
conversation about race around this table because there would be an element
of trust among us that whatever we say, we understand the motivation. We
understand where it`s coming from.
CAPEHART: Yes, that`s right. That there`s goodwill and that the whole
purpose of the conversation is to advance an understanding. In order to
get to that point, some really possibly hurtful racist, horrible things
need to be said. But in order to have the conversation and to educate each
other, we need to have -- we need to air those things and so that we all
know that`s not cool or oh, that`s wrong the way I`m thinking or that`s
misguided the way that I`m thinking.
HARRIS-PERRY: And let me also suggest that in addition to that -- part of
what the goodwill is also policy. In other words, you can`t have the
conversation if everyone at the top is of one racial category and everybody
at the bottom is another racial category. And you`re not only trying to
talk across race. You`re also trying to talk across power dynamics, right?
Part of what makes it possible is we`re sitting at a table of peers, right?
It`s not exactly a round table.
SOTO: Affirmative action isn`t just about your college application.
Affirmative action is also about giving children in preschool and
elementary school and middle school a level playing field.
SOTO: I think when we talk about affirmative action, we should think about
social policy, broadly described. I think this is where we can come back
to Elizabeth Warren. She`s advocating for affirmative action through a
more equitable social policy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Affirmatively furthering fairness.
SIMMONS: You make a very good point, because nobody is really exempt from
this. I mean, we have this conversation, the Democratic Party all the
time, from those of us who are political consultants, because when you look
around to the political consulting class, particularly the places where
they spend the most money, in media and in polling, you see very few
African-American media consultants making TV ads, very few African-American
pollsters who are focused on that.
So the Democratic Party has a problem with this and we fight for this every
day. I mean, this is part of our --
DAWSON: But they come to you when they need help.
DAWSON: When they want to pay you, that`s exactly right.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I will say that this -- in this race, we have Elizabeth
Warren running for the U.S. Senate. I want to remind everyone of the
number of women of color currently in the U.S. Senate. That would be zero.
All right. Thank you to Jamal Simmons and Katon Dawson. Jonathan and
Victoria are going to stick around.
And up next, we`re going to go to a very stuff conversation -- buying girls
for sex on the Internet right here in America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family, girls my
daughters` age, runs away from home or is lured by the false promise of a
better life and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists,
that`s slavery. It is barbaric and it is evil. And it has no place in a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama speaking in no uncertain terms
Tuesday at the Clinton Global Initiative, in a speech devoted entirely to
the issue of child trafficking and the United States new initiatives to end
it. He spoke of young women and men overseas enduring horrific brutalities
at the hands of traffickers.
But as the president said, the bitter truth is that trafficking also goes
on right here in the United States. It`s the teenage girl beaten and
forced to walk the streets. I have one of those young women here with me
Asia Graves spent years in cities all over the country as a prisoner of a
trafficker who sold her for sex, starting when she was just 16 years old.
Asia survived continuous violence and abuse and today works for the Fair
Girls organization, helping to rescue other girls and increase awareness
about child sex trafficking.
Also here is Andrea Powell, executive director and co-founder of Fair
Also still with us, Jonathan Capehart and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto.
So Asia, your story is a tough one to hear. But I understand there is one
question in particular that always upsets you. Tell me sort of that
irritating question and your response to it.
ASIA GRAVES, SURVIVOR OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Well, the irritating question
is people usually ask, why don`t you leave? Why never -- why did you not
leave? When I explain to them it`s similar to someone leaving a domestic
violence situation. You may try to leave one time but if you know you`re
going to be beaten or abused when they know you`ll leave, you don`t want to
leave and you`re afraid to leave.
I`ve seen girls beaten up, tied up, held hostage with guns to their heads.
It made me afraid to leave. So it took years actually to get out. Once I
did, I was actually happy. Now, I work with young ladies who are trying to
leave a situation like I did.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think that was part of what was important to me about how
the president framed this issue. Was he consistently used the language of
slavery? In part, you don`t look at someone who has been enslaved and say
why didn`t you leave, right?
It does feel like on the issue of sex trafficking, people often assume that
somehow something you did asked for it. When you are talking to young
women who have heard that over and over again, who maybe internalized that,
what are the things you say to them to help them realize they`re not at
fault for what they`ve experienced?
GRAVES: Usually, I just start by saying I understand where you`re coming
from. I`ve been where you were. It takes a strong person to leave and a
strong person to survive it. If you survived this, then you can survive
anything. When you get out, I`m here to help you no matter what because I
understand what you`re going through.
Our stories may be a little different because we`re from different parts of
the country or world. But the fact that they that at least one of us in
the organization has been through what they`ve been through, someone is
actually there who cares about what they`re going through.
HARRIS-PERRY: Andrea, this point about the shared experience, you know, as
we look at children in this country in particular who are trafficked, often
there is an experience of early childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse.
Sometimes at the hands of family members and given that that is so
frequently part of the story, what are some of the ways that we as a
country, as a society -- and we`ll talk later about the politics -- can
intervene before it turns into this additional layer of abuse?
ANDREA POWELL, EXECUTIVE DIR. & CO-FOUNDER, FAIR GIRLS: Absolutely.
You`re completely right. So almost all of the young women and girls who we
work with at Fair Girls and we work with hundreds every year, have
experienced sexual abuse in the home or in the community. And their
parents either didn`t see what was happening, maybe a school teacher didn`t
see. But most of them did try to get help.
And so what I say to this country is keep your eyes open, because
intervening early means that you might have a girl who yes, has been
exploited or a boy. But you can keep them from being enslaved, because it
is very hard, as Asia is saying, to get out.
There`s this blame that`s placed. This sort of, you could have gotten out.
You should have known better.
But the truth of the matter is, a little girl at 4 years old raped by her
father, is later abused by a boyfriend, and then finally sold into
trafficking as a slave, she may not even understand what`s happening to
her. She may think this is all I`m worth.
POWELL: So many of the girls say that. So at Fair Girls, we try to give
them an opportunity to connect to Asia and other survivors in our office
who are working day by day with us to show them that this doesn`t have to
be this way. You`re worth that much more.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s what abusers do, right? Part of the abuse, the first
thing they do is tell you if you`re at fault, you`re responsible for it and
if you tell, that there are additional negative consequences.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I want to broaden this out a little bit on the politics.
Because it does feel like so much of this work, to the extent that it`s
been done is being done by groups like yours. I mean, it`s God`s work to
be doing this work.
But we have as a country sort of said, you`re not really worth the
conversation, you`re not with the politics, but here you have the president
of the United States taking the time in this context to spend the entire
speech discussing this.
How does this change the game for young people in these circumstances?
CAPEHART: Well, obviously, when the president of the United States says
anything about anything, it raises the bar in terms of awareness, in terms
of importance. We saw that when it came to same-sex marriage, that the
president of the United States came out for it. It changed people`s
opinions. My own mother included.
CAPEHART: On this issue, let`s keep in mind that President Obama spoke at
length and specifically on this topic, but it was more the icing on the
cake, more the cherry on top of the sundae than a one and only time. I
mean, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Undersecretary of State Melinda
Baird (ph), women and girls have been a focus of the State Department and
thus the Obama administration from the moment they came into office.
CAPEHART: So this is nothing new to the president. This is nothing new to
the Obama administration.
But it is new to hear him speak at length on this issue. So maybe what it
will do is to open people`s eyes to what`s happening to women and girls in
this country, specifically.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Victoria?
SOTO: Yes. Building on Jonathan just said, and what you said also, which
is the rhetoric used, where it`s slavery. You don`t have a choice. You
didn`t leave because you couldn`t.
And I wanted to talk about one sub-segment of sex trafficking which deals
with Latin American women.
SOTO: So over the past two decades, what we`ve seen these immigrant
smugglers going to small towns in Mexico, that are very poor villages and
saying, hey, we can get you a job cleaning hotel rooms, waiting tables.
It`s going to cost about $2,000 but you can pay that off once you cross the
border. So they come over and you fall into the same pattern of sexual
abuse and tell you you`re not worth it, it`s your fault.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you have a debt to repay.
SOTO: You have a debt. And on top of that, you don`t know English and
there is the threat of being undocumented that I can call INS at any moment
if you don`t do what I say. Add on all of those threats and the women
never leave unless there`s an external force that comes in.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that level of social vulnerability.
Up next, we`re going to talk about how technology has been transforming the
HARRIS-PERRY: In 2010, a Georgia advocacy group commissioned a survey of
men who admitted to buying sex online. The results were staggering. An
estimated 7,200 men purchasing adolescent girls for sex every month. And
that was just in the state of Georgia.
It was a reflection of the way that technology has transformed the child
sex trade. It`s gone from the streets to online. At the center of it all
is the classified Web site, Backpage.com, where advocates claim underage
girls are regularly trafficked for sex.
Until recently, Backpage.com was owned and operated by alternative weekly
company, Village Voice Media Incorporated, which made an estimated $22
million in fees off the site. In a buyout deal announced this week, the
"Village Voice" newspaper and its affiliated weeklies are splitting from
Backpage.com. All that means is that Village Voice Media is dumping the
paper but keeping its classified section, including the ad listing purchase
for women and children for sex.
OK. Andrea, this is clearly a central -- I mean, if we`re going to solve
this, we can`t just be rescuing the girls one by one. We have to solve it
at the source. What can we do about a Backpage?
POWELL: I think it`s important to point out that organizations like Fair
Girls, we are drowning in girls coming to our office. It`s because Village
Voice -- Backpage.com now, this is a smoke and mirrors effort on their
part. But nonetheless, this, because the marketplace is so vast and so
So what needs to take place are three things:
One, public education. We need to make people understand these aren`t just
girls somewhere over there. They`re in the hotel right next to you.
They`re in the apartment down the hall. They`re in the schoolyard.
These girls are being bought and sold like commodities. So we need to
raise the passion bar so that everyone these are real girls who are your
neighbors, your classmates.
Second, we need for a stronger federal and state push to look at both
criminal and civil litigation.
POWELL: We need to make this something that is financially unattractive
for Lacey and Larkin who own Backpage.com. I`m saying their name on
purpose this time, I`ve never done that before -- because they need to
understand, sitting down the hall from me are girls like Asia, but younger,
12, 13, 14, or even 18 or 19 who were bought and sold on their Web site and
they know about it because I`ve sent them letters. I`ve sent them photos.
I`ve begged their reporters that they say screen the ads.
POWELL: Do something about this. This is a real girl, a real situation.
No response at all.
And then finally, I think that what`s really amazing about Asia and other
girls who are speaking up, they`re showing other girls who were there in
those hotel rooms and apartments, you can stand up. We`re not going to
stand for this anymore.
I know we work tirelessly with the president`s administration in
preparation for the speech he gave Tuesday at Clinton Global Initiative.
It was incredible to see the reaction of our girls in our office like he
talked about us.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Asia, you`ve got Backpage not acknowledging, but what is
it like to have the president of the United States saying your experience
GRAVES: I actually cried for about five minutes because I was kind of in
such shock like did he really actually mention like what we go through on
national news? And reporters all over the world, reporting on the topic.
And I actually did a piece several days ago for "USA Today" that was front
page and I had a girl last night at our hotel who was in the life, who
actually approached me and said I read your piece. You spoke up for us.
And a lot of girls I work with are like you`re speaking up for us because
we don`t have that voice yet, which I hope more girls can, just like I am.
I know some aren`t ready yet to be there and do what I`m doing right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: You have an extraordinary voice, Asia. I read your piece as
well. You`re here in Nerdland. You actually consume a lot of political
news that you watch it. Tell me what your plans are in terms of both your
education and your professional future as you`re going forward?
GRAVES: I`m trying to finish up a bachelors degree in political science
with a legal concentration, as well as I`m finishing up a bachelors degree
in social work. I hope to continue to work with Fair Girls for as long as
possible and open an office if Andrea allows me to open --
POWELL: You`re thinking about Miami again.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this is sort of the whole point. When you say these are
real girls, real people. It`s also real contributions -- you know, Real
careers and lives and families. And to have the president stand and make
that -- as you point out, Jonathan, that there`s been a lot of effort on
the part of the White House, but neither he nor the White House alone can
do this, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: This is going to take major changes in the marketplace, in
our media. What do you see as some of the roles we can play?
SOTO: It`s not just awareness of the girls. We need the voice out there.
But it`s awareness of the johns. We need to bring this to light. Shame
And also educate. From a young age, this is not acceptable. This is not
what a regular guy does. This is sick. This is criminal.
So we need education on both sides. On the male and female side.
POWELL: Boys actually do want to hear this. We go into schools in D.C. as
well as through partner organizations around the country. Often the boys
start to say, hey, I know a girl down the street. What can I do to help?
They`re listening to the song "TIMP" by 50 Cent that talks about a girl
being recruited. Usually the boys say I didn`t realize how awful this was.
That`s disgusting. Boys can be educated.
And then girls also need to understand. Hey, he doesn`t love you. He`s
using you like a piece of pizza. You have to stand up.
And I think to answer the question, digging deeper than just the girls, we
need to also have a clear understanding that girls shouldn`t be arrested
because they`re involved in this situation.
POWELL: Right now, there is a 13-year-old girl in D.C. in detention
facility being treated like a criminal and she`s a victim of trafficking.
HARRIS-PERRY: We criminalize girls or victims, sometimes also boys for
prostitution rather than as you point out, putting the emphasis --
particularly of the criminal action on the men themselves.
We have about a minute left. I understand you brought something from the
POWELL: I`ll be rude and open your present for you.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no.
POWELL: This is a bracelet girls made by one of the girls who`s a survivor
in our program and it`s something that represents the beauty and the hope
that our girls have. They learn how to make the jewelry. They earn an
income from its sale.
But most of all, they have a sense of sisterhood and safe space and instead
of having people take advantage of them, they`re with us and they`re
learning how to take of themselves.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is absolutely. I will wear it. I`m a survivor assault,
although not -- nothing like this trafficking. But that sense of how that
assault becomes on assault on who you are that allow the possibility of
enslavement is very -- and I will wear this in the knowledge of -- and the
work that you are doing is extraordinary and we appreciate you continuing
to do it.
POWELL: Thanks for having us.
GRAVES: Thanks so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. Andrea and Asia, I thank you for being here and
sharing your story.
And up next, I`ve got a tale of Internet cruelty that turned out
differently than you might expect.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Internet can be a brutal place. Shielded by digital
anonymity, bullies are emboldened to unleash cruelty that shames, hurt and
silences their victims. That seemed to be what was happening when a young
man posted this photo of an Ohio State University sophomore in the funny
section of the social news Web site Reddit.com.
The caption read, "I`m not sure what to conclude from this." As you can
see from the photograph, Kaur is a Sikh woman. Her appearance is unusual
because she has facial hair that she chooses not to remove.
She did not know the photo was taken. She did not know it was posted on
the Internet. She did not know that strangers were ridiculing her
When she found out, this was her response. "I`m a baptized Sikh woman with
facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look
different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the
sacredness of this body. By transcending societal views of beauty, I
believe that I can focus more on my actions."
No anger, no vitriol, no name calling. With that thoughtful, brave and
breathtakingly graceful response, Kaur altered the all too familiar story
line of Internet cruelty and personal shaming. And she transformed her
would-be enemy into her ally.
The young man who posted the photo responded by admitting that his original
post was ignorant. And he took action on that ignorance by reading up on
the Sikh faith and reaching out to Kaur personally. After reflection he
says, it makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not
worrying about what you look like.
This history honestly reminds of many things that we desperately need to
remember as we move into the final month of the election season. No matter
how many times you see the term battleground state, we are not at war with
one another. Our neighbors are not our enemies. Even when the actions of
political candidates communicate that it is OK to dehumanize and mock each
other, it isn`t.
And although everybody will be looking to land the best one liner in the
debates, what really matters in a democracy is taking the time to listen to
each other. And learn something.
Thank you, Balpreet Kaur, for the reminders.
And that is our show for today. Thank you to Jonathan, Victoria, Asia and
Andrea, and thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you again
next Saturday at 10:00 Eastern.
Coming up 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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