October 6, 2012
Guest: Matt Segal, Raul Reyes, Maya Wiley, Elijah Cummings, Annie Murphy Paul. Dan Dicker
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY": This
morning, my letter to George. There is no fear of firing a black
president. Plus, the state by state takedown of voter suppression tactics.
And the most important year of schooling, third grade. But first,
the 7.8 percent October surprise.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Sometimes the week is just
one day too long, one day too long to keep a hold of the news cycle that
is. Well, at least for Governor Mitt Romney, debate and what debate? Oh,
right. Wednesday. The first presidential debate. We got a rigorous
macroeconomic lesson that day. But by the end of the week, the only number
that mattered was 7.8. That`s because the unemployment rate released
yesterday is the lowest since President Obama took office in 2009.
So, while the economy added a modest 114, 000 jobs last month, the
big news was in the details. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also announced
fresh revisions for the summer jobs numbers. In fact, July and August saw
a combined increase of 86,000 more jobs than were originally reported. And
the household survey showed an exceptionally strong month with 873,000 more
employed Americans last month than in July. President Obama was back on
the trail yesterday trying to temper his enthusiasm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Today`s news certainly is not
an excuse to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points.
It`s a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Romney, of course, saw it a little differently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reason it`s come down
this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just
stopped looking for work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Good try but actually this month, the rate fell
because Americans were finding work, not because they were dropping out of
the labor force. But he was right about one thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: The American people have a choice. I think in both men, we
have individuals who cared very deeply about our country and care about the
people of America. But we would lead America in very different ways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that choice was crystal clear on debate night.
Now, liberal pundits grumbled and groaned over the President` decidedly
underwhelming performance behind the podium. Let`s be honest, I was one of
them. I could not believe the President lets so many easy opportunities
for jabs pass him by. Defund Big Bird? I might be the new accountant,
come on! Granted the president returned all the jabs the next day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When I got on to the stage, I met this very spirited fellow
who claimed to be Mitt Romney.
But it couldn`t have been Mitt Romney, because the real Mitt Romney
has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion
in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said,
he didn`t know anything about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. That was good but it`s a little bit like sending
an e-mail to your opponent in a game of dozens a day after. Everyone has
left the playground. You have to get in your licks while there are more
than 70 million viewers watching. Even if you wanted to sort of stay above
the fray, it was frustrating to see President Obama miss repeated
opportunities to correct factual inaccuracies spouted by Romney.
President Obama, for example, did not add almost as much to the
federal debt as all the prior presidents combined. And when Mr. Romney
suggested that half of the green energy companies given stimulus funds had
failed, well, that`s only true if three is half of about 30. There was
that sense also, that the President just didn`t really want to be there.
It was hard to get a fierce sense of urgency from the President on
Wednesday night. So, yes, it did look bad.
And all the rope-a-dope Thursday morning metaphors couldn`t have
changed how bad it looked. But here in nerd land, we are always more
interested in substance than style. And there is one thing that you could
say about the first debate, it was with a good old-fashioned policy debate,
one that had each candidate offering complicated recitations of policy and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Now, I`m concerned that the path that we`re on has just been
unsuccessful. The President has a view, very similar to the view he had
when he ran four years ago, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing
more, regulating more, if you will, trickle-down government would work.
That`s not the right answer for America.
OBAMA: The approach that Governor Romney is talking about is the
same sales pitch that was made in 2001 and 2003. And we ended up with the
slowest job growth in 50 years. We ended up moving from surplus to
deficits. And it all culminated in the worst financial crisis since the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I suppose Mr. Romney thought that the President
wouldn`t recognize the term trickle-down if he just twisted it around. But
call it what you like, Romney is proposing boilerplate trickle-down
economics providing tax relief for businesses with the false hope that they
won pocket that money but rather put it into new jobs. Help the rich get
richer and then they`ll help everyone else. But hey, Mr. Romney`s plan as
stated in the debate may in fact sound right to you. But don`t call it
new. It`s a been there, done that track record.
Lower taxes on the rich, simply don`t lead to job growth. When you
compare the top marginal income tax rate, that`s the tax rate that top
earners get taxed over the highest threshold with employment, growth
happens when taxes are higher, not lower. Let me show you a chart that the
President could have used this week to simplify the whole debate. This is
what the election boils down to right here.
Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels` chart makes it pretty
clear, under democratic presidents, everyone does better, even the very
top. Talk about trickle-down big government but more importantly,
Americans are ready to move on, even before the good news job numbers were
released, an NBC/"Wall Street Journal" survey showed that 44 percent of
Americans believe that the economy will improve in the next year. And four
in ten now say that the country is headed in the right direction, which is
the highest percentage on this question since June of 2009.
Here with me is CNBC contributor Dan Dicker, a 25-year trading
veteran of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Civil rights Attorney Maya
Wiley, she is the founder and president of the Center for Social Inclusion.
Attorney Raul Reyes of NBC Latino and Ari Berman, contributing writer for
"The Nation" magazine.
Thanks to all of you for being here. Let me ask a question, does 7.8
percent really wipe away Wednesday night`s performance? Is that news story
MAYA WILEY, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION: I
don`t think it`s over. I think the reality is, that the debates are not
going to have the big impact that some people are predicting. So, there`s
a little bit of post-debate, you know, euphoria for Romney supporters and
probably a little bit too much concern for Obama supporters. The reality
is those numbers help Obama tremendously. At the same time, Obama has the
opportunity now to come back and do what he did the very next day. I think
that was a key day for him.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, if he had that sort of debate performance and then
we`d gotten job numbers that had us stuck at 8.2, then you start talking
about a crisis at that point for the campaign.
But we do have a chance to make it a much bigger story, precisely
because the Republicans have been so nice to us and delivered, for example,
DAN DICKER, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The numbers were entirely fixed. He`s
been chimed in this morning by Steve Forbes, also said these have been
fixed numbers. And they intended for them to go down precisely under eight
percent before the election started. This is some crazy stuff that`s going
on, on the right here. And that might generate enough interest to make the
debate entirely --
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, this is -- I just want to -- just in case anyone
has been sleeping under a rock on, you know, Friday or something. I just
wanted to show what Jack Welch`s response was, it was a tweeted response
that then got picked up in the news where he basically said that the U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics apparently in conjunction with the Chicago
machine, right, the Chicago guys will do anything. You can`t debate, so
you change the numbers. That`s the idea, that that`s what happened here,
that these numbers aren`t real.
RAUL REYES, NBC LATINO CONTRIBUTOR: But that`s so outstanding, for
me, you know, first, I was even just astonished considering that, you know,
he is to be the head of this whole network and everyone --
REYES: That`s amazing. Like, you know, the other thing is, that
these jobs numbers, they destroy their big talking point of the Republicans
over the last, you know, eight, nine months that the unemployment has not
been below eight percent. You know, it`s also falling into another one of
their talking points since Spanish language media, that Hispanic
unemployment has been above 10 percent. Now, it`s 9.9 percent below.
HARRIS-PERRY: This was not just good 7.8 but like each of the
subcategories were also falling.
REYES: In contrast to what Mitt Romney was saying on the clip, where
he said people have left the job market, that is so not true.
REYES: Because there are 418,000 people who have entered the job
markets. So, you can`t just say that, oh, the numbers are falling because
people are quitting.
The question is what is Romney going to say for the next month of the
election? I mean, his entire message has been Obama isn`t working.
ARI BERMAN, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE NATION": That is the tag line
of his campaign. Well, people are working. And clearly it`s not enough.
But the central tent of his campaign has now been proving false. And
there`s this weird distance between the news and what Romney is saying.
He`s obviously saying, you know, what? Actually saying, things suck, OK,
and if you don`t realize it, you`re an idiot. And I don`t think that`s
going to square well, not only with voters but also with the governors in
all these states where Romney is campaigning when the unemployment rate is
lowering. So, I think he has a hard time the next month making his case.
HARRIS-PERRY: I almost felt bad for Romney in this case Ari, because
he had finally gotten it back on message, right? Jobs are the message.
You know, whatever you could say about Wednesday night, he just kept
bringing it back to jobs are my priority, jobs are my priority, and then
the very next day, apparently, it turns out, jobs were also the President`s
WILEY: Well, there are a couple of things here that I think are
important to lift up. So, one is that I completely agree, that Mitt Romney
was back on message. He had the problem of not articulating exactly how he
was going to create these jobs which I think is a real weakness for him.
He has to do a better job in this next month of articulating that. I think
the second point though, as good as these numbers are for Obama, and they
are, and we have to remember that in 2001, the unemployment rate was 10
So, you know, they actually have been coming down for a long time.
What the Republicans have been effective at doing is actually arguing
against recovery, despite the fact that there have been indications for the
past two years. And what Obama has to do better is do something to
acknowledge the fact that people who are still hurting are people who are
re-entering the job market there and part-time jobs, 582,000 of those jobs
particularly when they re-adjusted for the previous months were part-time
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And this is exactly the point I want us to come
back on. Because Ari and I also know that you said, there`s a way that we
could have been at six percent. And so, making that claim for the value of
So, as soon as we come back, we`ll going to talk more about how to
push this number down. I got more to say about the debate, too. Stay
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. JOHN SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: What people saw last
night, I think, was a president that revealed his incompetence, how lazy
and detached he is.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Governor, I want to give you a chance to maybe
take it back. Did you really mean to call Barack Obama, the President of
the United States, lazy?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUNUNU: Yes. I think it -- I think you saw him admit it the night
before when he delivered the pizzas. He said, you know, they`re making me
do this work. He didn`t want to prepare for this debate. He`s lazy and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Wow. That was former New Hampshire Governor John
Sununu on Thursday with his take on the debate. And so, we`ve been talking
about, you know, at the table on the one hand, there was a sense of a
desire to see more fire from President Obama on that day but the fact that
the language on Thursday was, we`re going to be so far, you know, kind of
gone that we`ll going to call the President a lazy delivery. Pizza
delivery guy, the black president, a lazy pizza delivery guy.
WILEY: No, I think this is important when we talk about George
Will`s piece. Is, you know, how many American presidents have we called
WILEY: George Bush took more vacations, I think than any president
in modern times. Nobody called him lazy. And that`s such a stereotype for
black people that, you know, my hackles went way up.
HARRIS-PERRY: And my colleague Andrea Mitchell was like, oh, maybe
you`d like to take that back. Maybe you didn`t realize what you just said.
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
DICKER: In fact, I want to double down on -- I saw him on the couch
watching the football game doing nothing. One of the things -- one of the
things that really frustrated me about this debate is that the President
did not talk about the incredible portfolio of economic successes he has
had. I mean, we refuse to mention any of them, forgetting about the jobs
numbers for now. You know, there`s been an auto industry that he saved.
DICKER: And that has meant a million more jobs. We`ve seen auto
sales go up virtually every month that he`s been in office. We have got in
the energy sphere, we have domestic production that is up 1.5 million
barrels a year. That`s the first time that`s happened in 30 years. We
have the jobs numbers we know about, the stock market is at 13,000. The
Dow is at 13,600. If rich people have something to complain about, it`s
certainly not in their portfolios.
Even Jack Welch who we talked about, his stock is at 23. When we
started this whole thing and the crises, it was nine bucks. So, his
shareholders aren`t really complaining about what the President`s done. He
has got a tremendous amount of things he can call upon and talk about that
he`s done right. And he refuses to talk about any of them. And I wonder
BERMAN: I think the President really need to push back on this idea,
that there isn`t a role for the government to play in the economy. And
even the idea that government can`t create jobs. Because we have lost
656,000 public sector jobs since the recession began. The government could
have saved those jobs. Not only that, but Obama has a plan right now that
Moody`s said, it would create two million new jobs. It would lower the
unemployment rate by one percent. If we saved all those public sector jobs
and we passed another jobs bill, the unemployment rate really would be six
percent right now.
BERMAN: So, it`s not a fantasy. We know what would work and it`s
being blocked because number one the President and his team were afraid to
talk about it between the span when the stimulus passed before he
introduced his jobs bill in September of 2011. Republicans decided they
weren`t going to do anything. And they`ve been opposed to job creation and
Mitt Romney doesn`t even have a jobs plan. And I couldn`t believe the
President didn`t say, not only do you not have a jobs plan but economists
say, your ideas would make the economy worse. So, Romney -- jobs, and he
has ideas that would make the economy work.
HARRIS-PERRY: This was the moment when it was Jim Lehrer said to
tell me your vision of government. And I wanted the, you know, the
narrative of, look, I have done a great job, here`s all of my
accomplishments. But you know what, if I had been given the ability to do
more on the stimulus, if we could have pushed harder, then in fact we would
be in an even better place right, rather than sort of, as a President, he
actually brought up the deficit first.
REYES: But it was very frustrating that he also did not mention any
of the tremendous obstructionism that he has faced, especially when Mitt
Romney was talking about, you know, when I was in Massachusetts, when I was
governor. I so wish the president, you know, had just looked at him and
said, you know, listen, you have not been president. You have plot been
where I have been. You know, that`s small potatoes to what I am doing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Although maybe he can`t. You know, I will say, you
know, as I was watching, I kept going back and forth about like, ahh! But
maybe he can`t say, you know what, you guys block me, right? Because part
of what he`s doing in a presidential debate is to demonstrate -- is being
WILEY: And remember that Romney -- one of Romney`s talking points in
his own favor was that he was the republican governor of Massachusetts.
HARRIS-PERRY: All of a sudden.
WILEY: To walk across the aisle. So, for Obama then to say, well, I
couldn`t, I couldn`t make it work. But here`s -- so, I think I agree with
that point. One of the things that was so frustrating, though, which he
could have said, you know, if you remember when his inauguration speech,
his inauguration speech I thought he did some brilliant framing. And his
framing was, this isn`t about big government and it`s not about small
government. It`s about smart government. And he could have picked up that
same frame and pulled it into this debate for his articulation of his
vision for both government, which is make it smart. Because Romney got
points on that. He said, I would cut the stupid government programs.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right, right.
WILEY: He`s like, me, too. And I will invest in the smart government
programs, the ones as Ari mentioned that will put people back to work.
REYES: And along with that, what I thought was so missing from their
whole exchange was he had many opportunities to bring in some of Romney`s
views that are actually quite extreme. You know, whether you talk about
immigration or women`s health, you know, gay and lesbian rights. And he
let those go by. So, he gave Romney in a sense another opportunity to
reframe himself yet again. I mean, it`s very difficult to keep, you know,
keep up with it. But he`s presenting some new ideas and going back to old
ones. And the President allows him. So frustrating.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. The biggest danger was that people may have
walked away thinking, Mitt Romney is not that scary. Or the thing like,
only Big Bird was like, no --
He`s scary, scary, scary Mitt Romney! I`m sorry, Big Bird and I have
been spending a lot of time together. Look, I do want to also just point
out that for all of the look at this moment, this sort if 7.8 and the
debate, we are headed towards the fiscal cliff, right? We are moving very
quickly towards the circumstance where this President, either at the newly
re-elected president or as the lame duck president is going to face this
Congress. Either with, you know, a majority that`s going out or it`s lame
majority. On January 1, we hit the fiscal cliff. Dan, talk to me just a
little bit about why we should be thinking about that as well.
DICKER: This is a major, major danger for a lot of reasons. What
happens when we get sequestration which means there`s going to be cuts that
nobody wants, big cuts, and they`re going to be obviously an expiration of
the Bush tax cuts. So we will get a tax increase for everybody, from the
middle class on up. We`ll also get sequestration now. In many ways, some
of the Democrats have argued this might be the kind of nuclear option way
to finally get some sort of agreement and get the Republicans to move a
little bit and get a little compromise in terms of getting at least a
little bit of tax increase on the revenue side from them.
But I`m not so sure that`s going to happen. And if something like
this does happen, the fiscal cliff actually comes off, we will see without
a question a repeat of the recession or at least a small one. We will see
GDP instead of being around two percent go to negative two percent, we will
have some serious problems that this President will have --
HARRIS-PERRY: But there are real consequences.
DICKER: Real consequences.
BERMAN: Remember, Paul Krugman (ph) just wrote a very good column
saying, this election is turning into a referendum on the social safety
BERMAN: Do we want to preserve programs like Medicare, Medicaid and
Social Security or do we want to destroy them?
BERMAN: And if Obama gets re-elected talking about how he`s going to
save Social Security and save Medicare and Medicaid, and then turns around
and the first thing he does in the lame duck is cut those programs, weaken
those programs, there`s going to be a lot of Obama supporters who I believe
are rightfully angry at the President for all the trail.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And at this moment, what we can say is that,
Obama supporters are thrilled with this president. The campaign announced
that in September, it raised a record $181 million. And they seem to be
thrilled in part because if this is a referendum on the Social Safety net,
at the moment, the Obama administration is saying, we are the folks who are
going to save it. So, when we hit that fiscal cliff, they have to do it.
Up next, we`ll going to talk more about this issue. But specifically
about how one simple dream could jump start the economy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Much has been made this week of the final points of
the candidate`s job creating plans or lack thereof. Mr. Romney says that
his plans will produce 12 million new jobs to his energy tax and China
policies alone. Now, though his math is fuzzy at best, I have one way that
he could get part of the way to the goal. Pass the dream act on day one.
A new study from the Center for American Progress shows that legalizing the
2.1 million undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States
since they were children would generate 1.4 million jobs and add a whopping
$329 billion to the economy by 2030.
Raul, I love this report by the Center for American Progress on the
dreamers because it is the definitive point that is consumers who are job
HARRIS-PERRY: Not the one percent that are the job creators. If
these folks become legalized citizens, they can go to college. You know,
they will spend more money. That creates jobs.
REYES: They paid taxes. I mean, these are people who are here.
They`re the underground economy, they`re working off the books. If they`re
allowed to, you know, if the dream act passes, and they`re allowed to go on
the books, everyone benefits. You know, they can go to college. So, they
can obtain paying jobs, they are paying taxes, you know, they are
contributing more. And what gets lost, I think, so much in the immigration
debate, is this whole idea which is, you know, so basic in economics is
that, you know, economics is not a zero sum game. If one person gets a
job, they`re not taking it from someone else.
If we bring in all these people to the economy, we`re growing the
economy. It`s a net benefit for everyone. And what I really love about
this study, is that the immigration restriction, the anti-immigration
crowd, they like to point, like get the statistics for a specific day. You
know, like a snapshot in time and say, this is how much the undocumented
are costing us. This is what the illegal immigrants cost us. But that`s
not accurate. This study shows a trajectory over time. You know, it`s an
investment that pays off by investing in these young people. So, that`s
why I think this study is terrific.
HARRIS-PERRY: And these are people who are Americans.
WILEY: That`s right. These are people who have been here since they
were babies to young children. This is the only country they`ve known.
They are fully acculturated here and have been, as Raul says, contributing
already in multiple ways to the country and are actually part of the
country`s future which is I think part of what we lose when we look at the
change in demographics of the country, the fastest growing demographic in
this country are young people. And already, the majority, the half of all
young people under 18 are not white.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And those young people of color, paying in is
what makes Social Security solvent, is what makes Medicare solvent.
WILEY: Exactly. And I think, this is one of the things that we`re
losing, is what we really need to have a conversation about in this country
is who are we.
WILEY: Because this has really become a wedge issue. Right?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Right.
WILEY: Because we`re really not talking about undocumented
immigration. We`re really talking about Latinos. What we`re really saying
is we`re afraid of all these Latinos coming in and taking our -- and that`s
the wedge that those who oppose comprehensive immigration reform have been
using is, we should be afraid of these people, these people mean Latinos.
And that actually also threatens who we are as a country. There`s lots of
language about not just taking our jobs.
HARRIS-PERRY: They are taking our identity.
WILEY: Taking our identity.
REYES: Taking over.
WILEY: And what we`re missing with the Dream Act, is no, this is us.
These are people who have been here with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. We`re here!
WILEY: We`re already here.
BERMAN: He`s really on the wrong side of history here. Because you
look as I mention the demographic changes, take North Carolina for example,
in North Carolina, the black and Hispanic electorate grew by 2.5 percent
since 2008. The white share of the electorate fell by 2.5 percent. So,
the country is on a trajectory and it`s not moving backward. And I know
we`ll going to talk about voter suppression later in the hour. But this is
the GOP`s only answer to demographic change. They either back policies
like the Dream Act, backed policies like immigration reform, or they back
voter suppression laws. Because there`s no in between. You`re for either
the changing demographics or you`re not.
HARRIS-PERRY: But you either think you can win that group via policy.
And, you know, it feels to me as though the Dream Act conversation also
does, it gets us focused on as we talk about all these numbers, what does
it mean for actual people? Then I`ll give you the last word on this. That
fiscal clip is looking to us like is sequestration could mean 1.4 million
DICKER: Economically speaking, anytime that you can take what is a
dark poll economic activity and put it transparently open a back up,
whether it`s in the business world or personal world, I mean, the amount of
money that you generate by having these people as Raul says, start to pay
taxes. It`s an enormous boom to this economy just to get these people to
start putting in, and starting to put into the government what they are
getting out of it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It makes all the difference.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we`re going to stay there. It`s a good transition
on this. Because in all the news this week, you may have lost what
happened on Monday when columnist George Will said that President Obama is
likely to be re-elected because America is unwilling to fire its first
black president? My dear George letter is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Every now and then, I like to push back from the big
panel and give some people individualized attention. Sometimes the best
way to make your point is with a personalized touch like a letter. So
George Will, this one`s for you.
Dear George. It`s me, Melissa. On Monday, your column made a case
for rejecting President Barack Obama`s re-election bid. Now, it was based
on our tough economic realities and questioned whether Mitt Romney could
turn this contest around. Let`s be clear.
I disagree with your assessment of the Obama administration but the
first part of your argument is reasonable, it`s based in empirics. You
convincingly demonstrate that Americans have had a tough time fiscally in
the past four years. I might disagree with you about the causal
relationships between the economic factors you site and the Obama
administration but I don`t argue with your data which means I hope you
won`t quibble with the new data released just yesterday showing that
unemployment fell to 7.8 percent and also offering upward revisions of job
growth and an additional 114, 000 jobs created last month.
But here`s the point, George, after a reasonable start, you went off
the rails by writing this, "Obama`s administration is in shambles. Yet he
is prospering politically. This may not, however, entirely be evidence of
the irrationality of the electorate, something more benign may be at work."
Interesting word choice there, benign. Because what you really mean is
You suspect something is amiss when even after the President`s meager
performance in Wednesday`s debate, he still enjoys a 46 percent to 44
percent lead over challenger Mitt Romney. You see, George, I don`t think
it`s all that much of a paradox. It could be that Democrats have
effectively linked Romney with candidates, elected officials and policies
that represent the extreme anti-reproductive rights initiatives in the
Republican Party. That big old gender gap could be because of transvaginal
McDonald, legitimate rape Akin, and no pills Santorum.
Or George, perhaps it`s that Mr. Romney chose a running mate who
advocated transforming Medicare into a voucher system. That just might
have caused some reliably conservative seniors to reconsider their
willingness to support the President. And George, it could be that until
Wednesday night, Mitt Romney had run a breathtakingly uninspiring campaign,
pock marked with gaffes and inconsistencies and evasion. But, no, George,
you took none of this into account. Instead you wrote that the President`s
lead is solid because -- and I`m not sure if anyone else has noticed this,
because the President is black.
You say, "The nation which is generally reluctant to declare a
president a failure, thereby admitting that it made a mistake in choosing
him seems reluctant to give up on the first African-American president.
Right. Because we all know that black men hold an unfair damage in the
labor market. You can see the evidence of it all around you. After
decades of racial goodwill, shown to black workers as a result of the
unfairly imposed guilt trip by radical race card playing media types like
me, black workers now have an unemployment rate of 13.4 percent.
Right. Racial guilt, that`s it. Well, here`s the deal, George. I
hereby give you permission to set down the white man`s burden. If you
don`t want to vote for the President, don`t! Plenty of other voters seem
to have found actual reasons to support him. Sincerely, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, according to George Will, the reason why President
Barack Obama is doing so well in the polls isn`t because of his successes
with saving the auto industry, getting health care passed or slowly but
surely getting the economy on track. Nope. According to George, President
Obama is doing well with the American voters because they don`t want to
fire the black guy. In a nation where race has been catified into law, and
narrowly constructed by society, could there possibly be any truth to
Will`s argument that guilt over firing the first black president is what
has him ahead in the polls.
Back with me are CNBC`s Dan Dicker, Attorney Maya Wiley, NBC`s
Latinos Raul Reyes and The Nation`s Ari Berman. All right. So, I mean --
WILEY: I want to --
DICKER: I want to be where the study goes. Let`s admit maybe there
are four people who are voting for the president because of racial guilt.
I want to see the ledger between those who are voting for him for racial
guilt as opposed to those who refuse to vote for him because he`s an
African-American. I want to see that ledger because I`m going to bet.
That is really tilted to one side.
WILEY: You know, the complicated thing about this, is that, you
know, so much of how race animosity is expressed right now is implicit by
us, meaning people who don`t consciously think of themselves as racist, who
actually believe in equality and equal opportunity, believe that the civil
rights movement was a good thing. And actually, don`t recognize that part
of what`s happening subconsciously is that the stereotypes about people who
are black -- lazy black president are actually still active, are actually
So, even right thinking people respond to these stereotypes not even
sometimes knowing that they`re responding to them. And when you have an
active right that is actually playing to those stereotypes, which is part
of what we`ve seen in the election cycle both in 2008 and now, what you see
is people being influenced by that. So the birther, the whole birth
certificate thing, even my daughter who`s in seventh grade now, you know,
back when she starts, she`s like, I`m in fourth grade and I know Hawaii`s
WILEY: Right, I mean --
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, Maya, I so appreciate that you point out
that it`s complex, because it is, right? On the one hand, I think it`s
sort of patently false that if the President is re-elected, it will be
because of racial advantage, right? That`s kind of affirmative action,
ill-gotten gains, narrative.
HARRIS-PERRY: But having a black president is complicated for
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, you point out the implicit attitude. Like,
I encourage everybody to go to the implicit attitudes test, right? The
fact is that, even people of color hold implicit stereotypes and bias. On
the other hand, it`s also can be for example really exciting to see --
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, for me, watching the first family as an
African-American family in this position in the White House, there`s sort
of a, wow, look at that happening.
REYES: It`s actually happening.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s pretty extraordinary to live to see.
REYES: Right. I think that was one of the reasons why even
inauguration day was so exciting for people, just to see that this was
happening. But to me, I mean, I agree with you. Everything George Will is
saying here is so ridiculous. And you really have to be, you know,
ensconced in your bubble of privilege as a member of the elite to look at
like someone who isn`t a minority and just assume like though it so easy
because he`s black. And this reminds me of when Mitt Romney was saying, if
only I had been Mexican, this thing would have been a snap.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Because we had so many Mexican presidents.
REYES: But what`s so troubling is that, you know, George F. Will,
he`s not some fringe person.
REYES: He`s not some --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
REYES: You know, he is an established mainstream very well respected
columnist with a long career.
REYES: And he has an audience, he has a following and he`s
disseminated his opinions. He believes this.
BERMAN: Well, and Melissa, what`s so shocking to me is that in 2012
how explicit Republicans are being in playing the race card. I mean, it`s
just shocking what they`re saying. You look again at the voting stuff. I
mean, in South Carolina, the author of the voter ID bill got an e-mail
after it passed from a supporter saying that if you offered blacks voter
ID, it would be like bees going to a watermelon. You know what the
supporter of the voter ID law wrote back to him? Amen.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right. They said, Amen, thanks for supporting.
BERMAN: In Ohio, you have the head of the Republican Party in
Columbus, Ohio, saying we shouldn`t contort the voting process to
accommodate African-Americans. So, this isn`t racial coding anymore. This
is just racial.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s funny, because it happens at the same time
that something else really exciting happens, and that is that Americans
don`t like being called racist, right? I mean, the fact that President
George W. Bush said that the worst moment of his presidency was when Kanye
West suggested that he was racist, I mean, there`s a little part of me that
likes that. Because I like the idea that people find racism bad. And they
don`t want to be associated with it. Right?
HARRIS-PERRY: That, on the one hand that is progress. Because there
was much of American history where people were like, yep, I`m a racist.
Right? But then that`s happening at the same time that we get this sort of
WILEY: But I think that`s the importance of having the conversation
about race. Because the complexity is that we`ve made so much progress in
this country, that it isn`t acceptable to be racist. And that as a result,
so many people aren`t consciously racist. Right? And at the same time,
because we have our first black president, it`s also brought up some of the
overt stuff. So like post-2008, after Obama`s elected, white supremacist
websites started crashing because of the increased traffic to white
supremacist sites. That`s over at racism.
At the same time, the danger in not talking about race is that for
the majority of Americans who are right thinking, who care about fairness,
who believe that the civil rights movement was a good thing and that we as
a country should be proud that we`re one of the few industrialized nations
that actually has achieved someone from a disadvantaged group becoming the
president of our country, that those people are still susceptible to the
manipulation of those Latinos are taking our jobs.
WILEY: To those black folk are just on the dole, taking money and not
paying into the system.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re going to stay on exactly this topic when we come
back. But it was funny to me that George Will in his column, I think he
was talking about the good moment. He was talking about coach Robinson of
the Cleveland Indians. And he repeatedly was talking about this black
coach of the Indians and it was like it didn`t -- he didn`t really notice
that like the smiling Indian --
WILEY: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I just wanted to be like, you`re missing it, my
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, more on this question about race talk. And
specifically, was there any race talk going on, on Wednesday night? Did
President Obama risk being labeled an angry black man if he had attacked
the way so many on the left wanted him to. When we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Supporters were up in arms with President Obama`s
performance at Wednesday night`s debate. Instead of being aggressive like
Governor Romney, what voters got instead was even tampered, and although,
maybe there was even a flat version of the president there, it does beg the
question if President Obama were to go on the defensive or on the offensive
to Mitt Romney, how would that be perceived? Would he have been thought of
as the tough incumbent fighting back or would he have been thought of as
the angry black man?
This has come up as a narrative in part because on Monday, before the
debate, you had Tucker Carlson dropping this 2007 Hampton speech as though
it were prefacing the possibility of the President behaving that way so
they could link it. So, let`s take a look at what showed up on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When Hurricane Andrew struck in Florida, people said, look at
this devastation, we don`t expect you to come up with your own money here,
here`s the money to rebuild. We`re not going to wait for you to scratch it
together. Because you`re part of the American family. What`s happening
down in New Orleans? Where`s your dollar? Where`s your Stafford act
money? Makes no sense. Tells me the bullet hasn`t been taken out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, there`s the President doing what so many of us, as
African-Americans do, he`s code switching, right? He`s speaking to an
African-American ministerial audience, he sounds like an African-American
minister, he`s got the fire. But just two days before the debate this
dropped and the narrative is somehow the President is an angry black man.
Is that part of what we saw him pull back on Wednesday?
DICKER: I don`t think he had to attack Mitt Romney in order to make
a good case for himself during this debate. He had so much positive that
he could talk about and he refused to do it. I -- I really -- one of the
things that really, the most frustrating moment for me was when he talked
about killing Bin Laden, he talked about it in a context of a bipartisan
kind of agreement with Republicans that he was, no, no --
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no. You did.
DICKER: No, no, I killed Bin Laden and you know, you saw the jobs
report how great that is and, by the way, I killed Bin Laden. I would have
said it every 30 seconds because if there`s one thing that everybody across
the aisle and those independents that he`s trying to reach can feel good
about, is that`s bullet in the eye of Bin Laden.
HARRIS-PERRY: I killed Bin Laden and you want to kill Big Bird. Yes,
DICKER: That was the point he made. And that`s not being angry, of
angry black man. That`s talking about the accomplishments that you have
not trying to attack anybody anywhere.
REYES: That was a missed opportunity but you know, I still wonder why
-- I really question why is the whole idea of, you know, the code switching
such a negative because, listen, I can tell you anyone who is Latino,
Hispanic-American, when you`re in a bilingual crowd, we do it. And so do
southern people and people from Texas do it when they`re with other people
from Texas. It`s something, anyone who has their subgroup or their culture
-- that`s something we do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Bill Clinton was the king -- switch in a talk, right?
REYES: Why is that such a negative? And I mean, I do agreed to a
certain extent the President had to be -- he is confined and constrained to
a certain extent that he cannot get angry, he cannot have the flash of
irritation because it will be replayed endlessly. Given, you know, that`s
a given. But still, you know, he could have been more present. But why is
the whole notion of code switching so wrong? It`s human.
WILEY: Well, so this is -- this is Ari and I were speculating on this
in the green room, which is that, one, I think that probably this whole
speculation, I have no facts to go on.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. It`s new. Here we go.
WILEY: And I`m very comfortable with that.
So, but the point is, I guess that what the campaign was saying is,
you`re ahead, your job is to look presidential. So, don`t go on the
attack. You`re winning. Be presidential. And that part of what that is
can also play as don`t be the angry black man but I suspect that they were
thinking less about that and thinking more about, you know, use your
advantage and be -- and demonstrate that you are still the president as he
has said in the past.
BERMAN: I want to go back to Tucker Carlson because one of the things
that conservatives say was damning about that video is that Obama thanked
Reverend Wright. That he generously thanked Reverend Wright in a speech by
the way that was already covered by Tucker Carlson back in 2007 when it
came out. But the question is, what is the argument here, that Americans
don`t know about Reverend Wright?
BERMAN: I mean, come on. This is the best the GOP has right now? I
think it`s a diagnostic failure. I think it`s the saying, OK, well, if
only Obama was vetted in 2008, then he wouldn`t have been elected. Obama
was vetted in 2008. He was vetted extensively. That clip played for
BERMAN: Americans decided it wasn`t the most important issue. That
the economy, that health care, that a lot of other things mattered more.
Just like in 2012, they`ve decided, a lot of things mattered a whole lot
more than Reverend Wright. This might gin up the GOP base. It`s not going
to move swing voters at all.
HARRIS-PERRY: Which is also perhaps in a certain way it`s a triumph
of, I mean, you know, as much as I`m irritated by these sort of pockets of
racialized discourse that have emerge, I mean, there`s something triumph
not final, not now we`re in a post-racial America but there is something
triumphant about the idea that this president in 2008 was able to suggest
to the American people these other things matter more than any particular
negative association you have around race.
WILEY: But remember how he did that. So, this is one of the things
that I think is too often forgotten. He did it by talking about race. The
way he actually got out of the Reverend Wright problem that he had was that
he actually, in Philadelphia, delivered a speech on race in America and
said, we have to have this discussion. And one of the things that he
demonstrated is that you can be the black leader who talks about race if
you talk about it well. And I think one of the disappointments I have is I
think Obama could have done more of that both as a president and even as a
candidate because he`s demonstrated his ability to call us to a higher
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And one thing that certainly happens is there`s
a lot of race talk that occurs around the president.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, who knows, maybe if there is a second term, I
accidentally just said there was one last week, but if there is a second
term maybe we`ll see more of that. Dan, I really appreciate you being here
and chatting with us. I hope you`ll be back again soon. The rest are back
And coming up, one small win in Pennsylvania but the struggle
continues. This week in voter suppression is next.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And at this point in the show, it`s time for a little something we
like to call "This Week in Voter Suppression"!
"This Week in Voter Suppression," good news, actually. Put another
"W" on the board for voting rights because Pennsylvania commonwealth court
judge, Robert Simpson, ruled Tuesday that Pennsylvanians do not have to
show ID in order to vote on Election Day. Judge Simpson found the state
had not done enough to ensure every Pennsylvanian had equal access to a
valid voter ID or to convince him no one would be disenfranchised by the
The Pennsylvania decision is one of the recent voting right victories
across the country. Just yesterday, a three-judge panel in Ohio hinted a
win to President Obama`s campaign by siding with the campaign`s lawsuit to
restore early voting for all Ohio voters on the weekend before Election
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, restrictive voting laws
have been blocked or weakened by 10 courts nationwide and one has been
blocked by the Department of Justice. Laws in to two states were repealed
result of push back from voters. But that still leaves 16 new voting
restrictions and two executive actions in 13 states that will be in effect
on Election Day.
With me are Matt Segal, president of OurTime.org, a student
association for voter empowerment, civil rights attorney Maya Wiley, NBC
Latinos` Raul Reyes, and attorney and "The Nation`s" Ari Berman.
Ari, what just happened to Pennsylvania?
ARI BERMAN, THE NATION: Sure. Well, the judge didn`t block the law,
but basically said it`s optional, that you can ask people for ID but people
don`t have to show it. So, therefore, you don`t need government issued ID
to be able to vote in November, which is a good thing for voting rights.
It`s a confusing solution because the judge should have just said --
and I believe he should have said this a long time ago -- that there should
be an injunction against this law because a lot of registered voters don`t
have IDs, and the state is not doing enough to get them IDs. And we know
that because of the math that I have discussed on this show before.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, is allowing people to ask for it is that a
possible intimidation tactic?
BERMAN: It could be a possible intimidation tactic. I mean, people
are raising concerns about racial profiling at the polls right now because
you could have situations where people are asked for ID, told they need it
when in fact, they don`t need it.
You could also have situations where people don`t show up to vote
because they think they need an ID that they don`t need but that they don`t
So, there are some pretty confusing things that occur because of this
law. That said, it`s better that it`s optional than mandatory. I mean,
this is still something of a punt by the court but at least it creates some
level of certainty that didn`t exist before on November 6th.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, your point than even just the level of confusion
and, you know, obviously, we`re doing "This Week in Voter Suppression,"
every week, following it, following it and following it.
And even for us, like every week we have to go back and say, what is
going on in Pennsylvania again? What is -- so when you look at vulnerable
population, Matt, the group you`ve been particularly interested in is
college students. So, it`s basically a dorm room edition of "This Week in
Voter Suppression" around these kind of confusing law changes.
MATTHEW SEGAL, STUDENT ASSOCIATION FOR VOTER EMPOWERMENT: Correct.
Here`s what`s happening: partisan election officials or state
representatives or politicians are going and saying, dorm rooms, do not
constitute proper residency. Or if you want to vote where you attend
school, which you have a Supreme Court upheld right to do since 1979, in a
case called Simms versus the U.S., you have to register your vehicle which
costs money, $10 to $50, depending on the county you live in, and declare
that you are a permanent resident of the state.
Now, here`s the larger issue with that. One, college students care
about their communities. Oftentimes, they want to vote where they attend
school and they give tremendous community service.
I can speak personally. When I was in school, I volunteered. I went
to school in Ohio. I wanted to play a part in doing local tutoring, et
cetera. That made me a part of my community.
Secondly, we benefit local businesses in community.
SEGAL: We create jobs.
And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the U.S. Census counts for
student populations. So if you are in Ohio State, the 50,000 people who go
to Ohio State who are students there nine months of the year, the community
is getting federal and statewide dollars for that money. So they are
reaping the benefits of students going there, yet they`re saying that
they`re infiltrating or diluting votes.
SEGAL: It`s nonsense and it`s totally partisan.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s particularly nonsense when we`re talking
about the top of the ballot, right? I mean, it`s one thing if you`re
talking about the school board race or city council race. When you`re
talking about the top of the ballot, the presidency, then the idea that
that there`s a dilution of American citizens voting for the American
president is only because we have this archaic system of the Electoral
College, right, which changes state by state, the value of your vote. The
real issue is students in swing votes.
SEGAL: I`d even take it a step further. I`d say even local
elections matter, because I know that I voted in local elections when I was
in school. I know many people who get to know they certainly campaign on
college campuses and talk about what they`re going to do for the local
community. So, I mean, forget presidential politics.
SEGAL: This is an issue that we see time and time again. It`s about
people feeling students do not belong but students are a huge asset for the
ways I just mentioned.
And, above all in New Hampshire, the state speaker of the House was
talking about the fact that the student population there does not belong
and that they were going to pay -- not pay taxes and that they were going
to help take people who lived in the state of New Hampshire and drowned out
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me -- I want to ask you one more question on
the dorm room edition that you open up a little bit more. You talked about
the permanent residency piece. Doesn`t that have also have tuition
repercussions? If you now declare yourself a permanent resident of a state
where you`re attending the state university and you were an out-of-state
student paying out of state tuition, I mean, there are rules about just
being able to declare oneself a permanent resident of the state.
SEGAL: When you are permanent resident of the state, there`s one
person in New Hampshire who actually wanted to vote where he attended
school at Dartmouth. And as a result, he lost scholarship money from his
home state which gave him scholarship. There are all kinds of
And actually, there are hundreds of -- some of which are archaic or
antiquated residency laws. So that when you declare being a permanent
resident, there are issues with not only losing scholarships but potential
health care ramifications and things with parents and their ability to file
you as dependents on their tax forms.
SEGAL: We saw confusion about that in 2008 in Virginia Tech when
students were told: don`t vote where you go to college because it`s going
to compromise your parents` ability to file you as a dependent. And then
all of these parents were contacting their kids and saying, don`t you dare
vote while you`re in school.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, because I need you for my write-off. That`s
SEGAL: That was, of course, false.
HARRIS-PERRY: That was false.
HARRIS-PERRY: So part of it, it feels to me like part of what`s
happening here with voter suppression is just massive misinformation that
makes it tougher and tougher for students who have a million other things
to worry about, for the elderly, for people with the fewest resources to
figure out how to do their basic -- have their basic right.
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: That`s like the flip side of voter
suppression. We were speaking about earlier, voter confusion. If you`re a
member, marginal population, someone who is very focused on your day-to-day
economic needs, you don`t have time to pay attention to all of these court
rulings, you know, whether or not all of this information is up to date.
It`s hard to follow even, you know, for us. We`re very focused on
all of this news. I think, also, for the younger voters, especially with
this generation, they see such a disconnect in terms of their needs being
You know, senior citizen, seniors today are a very important group of
politics because they vote and they participate.
HARRIS-PERRY: And they get it. They get how the government impacts
REYES: But for the young people, the potential is there, but it`s
not being extended to them and that`s why it`s easy for politicians to
consistently cut educational programs and Pell Grants. All these things in
education, they can cut those without consequences. And I think more and
more with the younger generation, they`re digital. We need to have online
registration. We need that for them.
SEGAL: A hundred percent. And well said, by the way.
In the state of California, many state legislators were saying that
the reason they cut higher education for the U.C. system first is they
figured there was the least amount of political consequence for them in
doing so because young people don`t vote. So the case that our
organization, OurTime.org, is making to people is not just vote because of
the historical importance or because of the necessity as American citizens,
but money equates to vote because they allocate money and resources on the
basis of how groups turn out and that`s critical.
HARRIS-PERRY: If they think they can cut you without consequence,
they certainly will.
SEGAL: They will.
MAYA WILEY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: A part of the cynicism here, too,
I think is that the youth vote was a critical vote in the 2008 elections.
You know, to this point of who is most impacted, both the people who have
been getting much, much more engaged in our electoral process.
These are first -- many times they`re first-time voters. And what
we`re doing is essentially saying, and by the way, you know, we`re not
really that interested in you participating.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay out.
WILEY: Professor Kathy Cohen (ph) from the University of Chicago,
you know, put out this groundbreaking study that showed this is 700,000
youth of color potentially -- when we talked about demographics earlier,
the fastest growing demographic. The country we`re literally saying to our
citizens of color, you know, we`re not so much interested in you
BERMAN: They said explicitly that students are too liberal to vote.
SEGAL: Yes, it was in New Hampshire.
BERMAN: In New Hampshire. They said -- the speaker of the House,
how I believe, is the one who said it, that students are too liberal to be
able to vote.
SEGAL: They have to inform proper opinion.
BERMAN: Exactly. So, they haven`t matured to the point where they
can cast a ballot. And the larger issue here is why are we`re erecting all
of these unnecessary hurdles?
BERMAN: Why in Texas can you vote with a handgun permit but not a
student ID? Why do you need government issued ID that you`ve never needed
before where there`s no voter fraud to justify it. Why do you have to have
a car registered in a state to be able to cast a ballot? That`s not a
requirement of citizenship, having your car registered. So, we`re
redefining what it means to be a citizen and what it means to be
participating in the electoral process I think in a very, very disturbing
ways in this election.
HARRIS-PERRY: And when we come back, I`m going to bring in another
guest because there was an incredible letter asking exactly those questions
this week. Let`s see. We`re going to talk with Congressman Elijah
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve told you before about True the Vote, the
organization whose Web site claims to be about, quote, "equipping citizens
to take a stand for free and fair elections." But their version of taking
a stand equates to attempting to have hundreds of people removed from voter
rolls, and dispatching True the Vote volunteers on Election Day to
challenge and intimidate voters at the polls.
Well, one member of Congress has said, enough. In a letter to True
the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht, Democratic Representative Elijah
Cummings is calling out the organization for illegitimate voter challenges
and calling for transparency in a challenged process.
Representative Cummings writes, quote, "An effort to challenge voter
registrations by the thousands without any legitimate basis may be evidence
of illegal voter suppression. If these efforts are intentional,
politically motivated and widespread across multiple states, they could
amount to criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their
Representative Elijah Cummings is joining me now from Baltimore,
So nice to have you, Congressman.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: It`s good to be with you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I loved that letter. I have been spending time
reading it and rereading it.
Tell me why this was the moment when you decided, OK, enough around
True the Vote.
CUMMINGS: First of all, I believe that voting is a fundamental
right. It`s not to be denied people who are eligible voters. Any effort
to deny that right I consider to be criminal in some instances -- as a
matter of fact, it`s very offensive. It`s certainly unpatriotic.
And so, we have to do everything we can to address that.
Now, True the Vote has a situation where they are literally
challenging thousands upon thousands of legitimate voters, and claiming
that they should not be on the voter rolls. They are contacting locally
elected officials and the next thing you know, Melissa, folks who have been
voting for the last 30 years suddenly find a letter in their mailbox that
says your vote is being challenged by some stranger.
They don`t we -- they don`t know what the hell is going on. And the
next thing you know, they`ve got to go through a lot of changes to prove
that either they live where they live or that they are alive, all kinds of
things. It`s incredible.
But it`s an effort -- it`s widespread. True the Vote claims that
they are trying to clean up the voter rolls. But I can tell you that even
the Ohio secretary of state who is a Republican has said this is like the
boy who cried wolf and he said it verges on illegitimate activity.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I think for me, True the Vote is even more
upsetting than some of the legislative activity we`ve seen because it feels
like a kind of voter vigilantism.
CUMMINGS: That`s exactly what it is. And what they are trying to do
-- and when we look at where they -- the people they target, they target
people in trailer parks, minorities, people who would normally vote for
Democrats and students. I know you were just talking about students.
Students is a big target for them, and they will go in and they will
challenge thousands of names of students trying to get them off of the
And, again, the head -- some would say, well, Cummings, you know,
they`re probably trying to do a nice democratic thing.
Well, that`s not true. The head of the organization True the Vote
has made it clear. As she has stated that I want -- that she wants a
change in the White House. She wants somebody other than president in
And so, you would think that an organization that supposed to be
about the business of true democracy in upholding our democracy would want
-- would never talk about who they want. They would talk about making sure
that the process is fair.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congressman, I want to bring Ari Berman in on this --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- because, Ari, you`ve been doing so much reporting
about this. When you saw the congressman`s letter this week, did it feel
like, OK, finally, we`ve got the federal government in on this one?
BERMAN: It`s good in that people are following True the Vote now and
my colleague Brentin Mock who has been on your show has done incredible
work on this front.
But, Congressman, I want to ask you, what can actually be done? I
mean, what are you proposing in terms of either legislative solutions a
month before the election or in terms of what are you telling secretaries
of states or governors in states to do to try to minimize voter confusion
when it comes to True the Vote?
CUMMINGS: Great question. Basically what we`re trying to do at this
moment is bring attention to what True the Vote is doing, and put True the
Vote on notice that we are watching them. We`ve asked them to give us
documents as to what they -- what the basis of their challenges are.
It is a little late right now, but I see this -- this is going to be
a long range project. In other words, we`re going to bring them in this
week. The True the Vote -- the president has already told us that they
will cooperate with our investigation. And then we`re going to see what we
Now, if the findings are as I think they will be, we may have to look
at our federal laws to see exactly how we might rein this kind of illegal -
- what I think to be illegal conduct is.
But, again, keep in mind -- what we are seeing is an attack on the
voter. Your discussion that you just had a few minutes ago, it seems as if
there`s an attack on certain voters and it`s an effort to try to stop them
from voting by any means necessary.
This is a democracy. We go all over the world. We have our blood,
sweat, and tears to create situations in other countries where people can
vote freely and fairly. And here we are in this country, instead of
expanding the right to vote, we seem to be trying to shrink the right to
And we -- this is our watch. We better be very careful that we don`t
do away with the very essence of our democracy -- that is to vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congressman, let me bring in Maya Wiley here.
WILEY: I appreciate your leadership on this, and I`m wondering if
you`ll speak a little bit more to the partisanship, because one of the
things that you`re pointing up is the whole attack, the whole voter
suppression attack has been under the theory that we have to be concerned
about people pretending to be someone they`re not, right? That`s what
these voter ID laws are about, by the way, we only started passing in 2006.
These are brand new laws, right?
WILEY: And what you`re actually demonstrating is, it continues and
where we`re really seeing it is outside of the voter in organizations,
political parties, and candidates even who actually are doing much more
fraudulent activity, I would argue. Is that your sense or?
CUMMINGS: Yes, that is my sense. But I want to go to -- to your
The secretary of state of Ohio talks about how since -- over the past
three or four presidential elections, you are talking about 12, 14, 16
years, that there has only been a handful of fraudulent type of voting that
True the Vote claims they are trying to address. And so it appears that to
me, that we have -- these folks have a remedy, Melissa, in search of a
CUMMINGS: The problem is not there. And I think it`s so unfair.
Again, I emphasize, we have got to guard this right to vote.
CUMMINGS: It is so important. And if they get away with this -- if
you look at what just happened, the decision that you talked about in Ohio
and in Pennsylvania, those are still -- they challenge those laws.
CUMMINGS: But the fact is, is what would have happened if they
didn`t challenge them? What`s the next step? Are you going to say to
seniors you can`t vote because we worry if you`re over 70 years old, you
may not be able to understand what`s going on?
CUMMINGS: Where does it stop?
CUMMINGS: Every step, every one of these things undermines our
HARRIS-PERRY: Congressman, I so appreciate you being with us today.
Especially appreciate your point that this is our watch. And we know that
the last time that we had this kind of voter suppression, it took certainly
the activity of the people on the ground, it took the attorneys in the
courtroom, but it also took ultimately the federal government through the
Congress coming in and saying, no, we believe that America requires the
ability of people to have access to the polls. So, I greatly appreciate
you pointing out this time it is our watch.
CUMMINGS: We`re going to remain vigilant.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Congressman Cummings, and Ari Berman.
The rest are back for more.
And up next, destiny determined by the third grade. That`s what a
HARRIS-PERRY: Wednesday night`s heavy focus on the economy allowed
President Obama and Governor Romney to outline their differences on key
issues, like tax policy, Wall Street regulation, and Medicare.
But when it came time to discuss education, our two presidential
candidates didn`t sound very different from one another. Their focus
remained largely on initiatives like Race to the Top, funding for teachers
-- those are two important parts of the education discussion for sure.
But today we`re focus and a third, as in third grade, which according
to a study by professor of sociology Donald Hernandez at the City
University of New York, is the most important year in your education. Why?
Because it`s the year that you stop learning to read and start reading to
learn -- 3,975, that`s how many students professor Hernandez followed for
19 years, tracking their reading scores and economic status.
Of all the students surveyed, one-third struggled to read in third
grade. And if they were among that third, they were four times, that`s how
much more likely students are not to graduate from high school on time than
those who read proficiently in the third grade. Sixteen percent is the
overall rate at which third grade students who are not reading proficiently
by the end of the year, failed to graduate from high school on time.
But money matters, too. Twenty-two percent of the students from the
study who experienced poverty, regardless of reading proficiency, did not
complete high school on time, which is the same number for poor white
students who did miss the reading proficiency mark.
But if you`re black or brown, 31 percent is how many poor African-
American students who missed the third grade reading proficiency mark
didn`t graduate on time; 33 percent is how many poor Latino students who
failed to hit that third grade reading mark turned 19 without high school
But then there is this number: zero. Zero is the gap between white
and minority students when not living in poverty when it comes to
graduation rates for third grade readers who hit their reading proficiency
What`s at stake? Well, it`s known as Matthew effect. As in the
gospel of Matthew, Chapter 13, Verse 12. That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: A question for all of the adults watching. Do you
remember third grade?
Turns out that this third grade may not be your first memory that you
have of pencil, books, and teachers` dirty looks, but it may be the most
pivotal juncture in our lives.
Highlighting the recent study we broke down in the last segment, our
guest: Annie Murphy Paul wrote in "Time" magazine about the importance of
third grade, saying, quote, "It`s the year that students move from the
learn to read, that is decoding words using their knowledge of the alphabet
to reading to learn."
As Annie notes, what`s at stake is called the Matthew Effect, as the
New Testament verse Matthew 13:12.
If you look it up over the break, you know, it reads, "Whoever has
will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not
have, even what they have will be taken from them."
No, that`s not a Mitt Romney campaign slogan. It simply means that
the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and not just in terms of money.
If the Matthew Effect is real, then maxim is true for book learning, too.
But can just one year so early in a child`s life determine so much?
Joining me now to help answer that question and many more about this
is the aforementioned Annie Murphy Paul, author and "Time" magazine
contributor. She`s backed up by Raul Reyes of NBC Latino, Matt Segal,
president of OurTime.org and civil rights attorney Maya Wiley.
So, talk to me, what should I as the parent of a fifth grader take
away -- and Maya, she`s the parent of a third grader -- what should we take
away from this piece telling us that third grade is the critical moment?
ANNIE MURPHY PAUL, AUTHOR, "ORIGINS": Well, the first thing to
realize is that it`s never too late to help a student who is struggling in
school. It`s just that third grade is a particularly important year to
intervene, to make sure that students are reading at grade level, because
as you mentioned, this is the year when students go from learning to read,
learning to decode, learning to apply their knowledge of the alphabet, to
make sense of words on the page, to reading to learn -- which means that
they are reading these fact-filled books about the solar system, Native
Americans, the civil war.
They`re learning from what they`re reading.
PAUL: So, if at that point they haven`t been able to make the leap
to fast, fluent reading, they`re not going to be amassing the knowledge,
that background knowledge that their classmates are getting and they`re not
going to be learning new words from context.
So it`s going to become ever harder to read proficiently, to learn
from what you`re reading. That`s the rich get richer idea. That the more
you know, the more you can know.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And it`s not just additive. It`s
multiplicative, right? So, it`s not just like, oh, you can go back and
pick up that step, it`s all of these other steps lay on top of it.
What I wanted to ask in part about that because I really went berserk
reading all the reports last night and what this might mean, is that
apparently in response to this, at least some folks are saying, therefore,
if you don`t hit that third grade proficiency mark, hold the kids back.
Keep them back another year.
Is that the solution to this issue?
PAUL: Right. These mandatory retention policies, as they`re known,
have passed now in Arizona, in Florida, in Indiana, in Oklahoma, and
they`re being considered in other states, as well.
I don`t think that`s the answer. If a child going through third
grade didn`t learn how to read, why would we think that doing the same
thing over again would work for them?
PAUL: What needs to happen is the parent, the teacher needs to get
together and perhaps a special reading specialist, need to get together,
figure out why the child is struggling and develop an individualized plan
to help them learn, that might involve tutoring or specialized instruction
or maybe summer school.
But just holding a kid back, especially with all we know about the
social stigma that accompanies being held back is not the reasons.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Maya, this feels like where the politics shows
up, because what that sounds like to me is if these are the critical years,
when I look at teacher remuneration, the best paid teachers out to be the
kindergarten teachers. It ought to be first and second grade teachers, the
people with the smallest classrooms and the most flexibility. And yet we
know at this point preschool teachers basically make minimum wage in most
How do we take this kind of knowledge and turn it into the education?
WILEY: That`s a really important question because policies have so
shaped the educational opportunity that our kids have. And one of the
things particularly for kids of color is this gap starts showing up at age
WILEY: At age 2, there`s a five-point gap in cognitive tests in
terms of their performance. And this is created by social conditions.
This isn`t about them being intelligent. This isn`t about their capacity
This is about having oh we you`re much more likely to be born into a
household where your mother is earning $17,000 a year, which is not enough
to live only, working, therefore not reading to you, right? We know how
important it is for parents to read to their children, particularly before
HARRIS-PERRY: She, herself, may not have --
WILEY: She, herself, may have some literacy issues. So you have
this multiplicity of social condition. And we also know that a lot of
these kids are in high poverty schools. If you have economically
integrated schools, you`re much more likely higher levels achievement,
including for poor children than if you`re economically isolated schools.
And so a lot of what this tells us is we need to invest in education.
We need to think about the relationship between people`s ability to have
good child care and still work, right?
WILEY: We`ve not talked a lot about child care investments. We
talked about the fiscal cliff earlier in the show. Head Start is going to
be cut based on a sequester, that will impact 100,000 children.
WILEY: One hundred thousand. Title I will be cut. That`s going to
be over a million children.
SEGAL: The other draconian part of mandatory retention is the notion
that applying a "one size fits all" strategy to education does not work.
Ten thousand dollars is the cost of third grade in some states that have
You`ve said the definition of insanity is repeating itself over and
SEGAL: Why redo it?
So, why not take that $10,000 and give it to a well qualified mentor
or an after school teach whole can take individualized style or unique
idiosyncrasies by which people learn and apply that more proactively and
productively so that the student develops and whether they have to put
additional time in afterwards.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s be clear. This is what happens in schools of
SEGAL: Of course. Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you are a private school where you are paying a
high level of tuition and your kid gets to third grade and there are
challenges. Man, they call in the reading specialist and you go and get
SEGAL: They do your homework for you.
HARRIS-PERRY: I only mean it in the most positive way. The idea is
this kid in this school are not going to fail and we`re going to bring the
REYES: What they should be doing --
REYES: What`s troubling as you mentioned, especially in communities
of color, I know that Latino kids are much likely not to access pre-K, so
as you said they start at a disadvantage. There`s a shortage of teachers
who work with. There`s a shortage of bilingual teachers. There`s a
shortage of teachers working with English language learners.
So, in the ideal situation, I think the study does recommend this
type of intervention. What happens in these much larger public schools?
Like where we are communities maybe reluctant to fund those schools.
HARRIS-PERRY: Speaking of reluctance, we`re going to come back on
this topic and when we come back we`re going to talk about the reluctance
to fund this guy -- 8`2", full of feathers, bright yellow, and under
HARRIS-PERRY: It was a welcome sure price to see education, even
preschool education, come up in Wednesday night`s presidential debate. The
most memorable moment involved public television`s role in that education.
And a reference to the bird that`s more than eight feet tall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m sorry, Jim, I`m going
to stop the subsidy to PBS. I`m going to stop other things. I like PBS.
I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too.
But I`m not going to -- I`m not going to keep on spending money on
things to borrow money from China to pay for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Say what?
LeVar Burton, the former host and executive producer of PBS` reading
rainbow had this to say yesterday on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEVAR BURTON, ACTOR: I was outraged. I couldn`t believe the man
actually fixed his mouth to say that.
SOLEDAD O`BRIEN, CNN: Why?
BURTON: -- as attack on children, Soledad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Later on Friday, while campaigning in Virginia, the
president piled on, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When he was asked what
he`d actually do to cut spending and reduce the deficit, he -- his big
example was to go after public television.
For all you moms and kids out there, don`t worry, somebody is finally
getting tough on Big Bird, rounding him up. Elmo`s got to watch out, too.
Governor Romney plans to let Wall Street run wild again but he`s going to
bring down the hammer on Sesame Street. It makes perfect sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The Sesame Workshop, which produces "Sesame Street",
isn`t part of PBS but that network does put the show on your TV. Mitt
Romney is proposing to cut you and your kids off from PBS presumably to pay
down our debt to China? Hey, that`s what he said.
The government contribution to the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting this year amounts to $450 million, or what the Pentagon spends
in six hours.
Governor Romney scapegoating educational public broadcasting for a
Look, for me, the report, what was stunning was that the reading gaps
are closed in part when kids self select and read things that they
themselves like. And I`m just thinking for me, "Sesame Street" was all
about in you stories and different kind of folks and that was part of what
developed me as a kid to find stories that I loved and liked.
So, I mean, is this an actual attack on this very thing we are
looking at here?
WILEY: Well, there`s been tons of attacks. Romney also wants to
give the Defense Department $2 billion more than they`ve asked for and yet
wants to cut not just Big Bird but is he taking on national education cuts?
I mean, so because we are cutting education. We are cutting it.
We`re cutting it at a time when we know the class size, for example, so to
get those individualized plans for kids requires teachers to have fewer
students in their classrooms.
SEGAL: I`m not surprised he does this, though, because oftentimes
Republicans support innovative styles of learning and bringing learning to
the TV, to Internet, to game theory is something they support because it
cheapens the cost of learning and it makes it more accessible to people.
So, to cut such a successful American institution or to threat on the cut
it compounds me in many ways.
REYES: It speaks, again, we were speaking at earlier is that Mitt
Romney is very removed from the mainstream because, you know, Big Bird and
Elmo and all of those things are iconic and people grew up on it.
For a lot of families, for a lot of lower income families, that`s
your pre-K. Watching Sesame Street. Why drive an attack on that?
HARRIS-PERRY: It could be that -- and also it feels to me that
there`s a little bit of a narrative here that, Maya, you were putting it
out earlier that kids who are not succeeding by third grade, it`s a an
cognitive individual problem they have or a family problem rather than,
look, we could change that with, you know, dare I say it, stimulus, with
actually redirecting what our strategies look like.
Do we know what works in terms of intervention?
PAUL: Well, you know, Melissa, that makes me think of a book that`s
gotten a lot of attention lately, a book called "How Children Succeed" by
Paul Tough, and it`s generated this meme of talking about grit, that all we
need is grit.
PAUL: And perseverance and conversations s but grit is no good on
its own without any kind of support or help from adults.
And, you know, another piece of the book talks about and Paul Tough
does a nuance job of talking about this. The way it`s been interpreted is
that, you know, if you work hard enough, if you confront failure, you`re
going to come out on top.
Well, then our urban inner city schools should be producing geniuses
all over the place.
HARRIS-PERRY: They may be, all right? I mean, look, living in New
Orleans part of what has been obscene to me about how this massive
education restructuring has occurred is that we were producing certain
kinds of genius. It was creative genius, musical genius, but none of that
counts, none of that gets measured on an SAT for -- so when was talk about
kids with grit, my goodness, kids growing up in difficult circumstances may
be using up all their grit just to get to school, much less do it on a
WILEY: This is a critically important point you`re making, Melissa,
because if you actually and this point about grit. So, I want to get
person, because I went to inner city public school through third grade.
My mother had the resources to transfer me to private school. I was
at the top of my class. I was in a middle class family.
I have two parents with graduate degrees. My father, yes, black man,
1957, Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Cornell University, OK?
I was reading ready when I went to kindergarten. I was not the gap,
going into that school, because we like to blame parents.
WILEY: We like to say the problems are parents aren`t doing what
they should do at home. My parents were reading to me from bank street
schoolbooks. They were doing all the right things.
I was two years behind grade level by third grade at the top of my
class. That`s not about parenting. That`s not even about poverty anymore.
That means if I`m a middle class student in a high poverty school, I am at
a deficit and it has nothing to do with what my family has given me or what
they supported me with.
Now, their only escape route was to do something they didn`t want to
do was to put me in private, all white private school. While all my black
counterparts that -- whose mothers were on welfare had to stay in the
So, this is actually what we`ve instructed. This is a policy
construction. And it is not about kids` ability to learn.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve actually -- and we have constructed more of
that, more opting out and more of leaving everybody else behind.
More in just a moment. But first, it`s time for a preview of
"WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hello. Enjoying this conversation right
now. Anyway, we`ll get to this.
The man who hopes to take Michele Bachmann`s House seat, and some new
polls say he could be very close to doing just that. We`re going to talk
Also, if Congress lets the U.S. fall over the fiscal clip, guess what
it could cost a lot of money. We look at the new report and we`re going to
tell you exactly what that is and you might not even want to see these
And we`re debating and debunking those conspiracy theories about the
unemployment numbers. Plus, gas prices are rising exponentially it seems
in California. Will it last? And could it spread to your state?
That is all ahead.
Melissa, back to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Conspiracy theories about -- yes.
WITT: I tried to debunk that earlier. I have two people; Jared
Bernstein is like no way. (INAUDIBLE) no way. They both work in the
middle. I mean, you know?
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s really -- it`s something. Thank you, Alex.
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And up next, narrowing the gap of the digital divide.
HARRIS-PERRY: For many of us, it`s easy to take Internet access for
granted. For more than 200 million of us, laptops, smartphones are like
limbs perpetually attached. But there are 19 million Americans watching a
favorite TV show on Hulu, watching the latest information about traffic
delays, or doing research for a school project is impossible.
It`s the digital divide between those with and those without access
to the Internet due to racial, socioeconomic and geographic disparity.
Just 41 percent of households with annual incomes below $30,000 have high-
speed Internet compared with 89 percent of households who make more than
In 2010, President Obama allotted $7.2 billion in funds under his
stimulus package to equip America`s media with broadband Internet. But
it`s citizens like retired educator and 50-year Detroit resident Delores
Leonard, our foot soldier for today, who are providing the people power to
create wireless hubs in impoverished neighborhoods.
Delores is committed to bridging the digital and achievement divide
for her community, one of the poorest in Detroit. The city once touted for
its flourishing auto industry is now synonymous with decline. Detroit
suffers an unemployment rate of 19.6 percent, with 37.6 percent of the
population living below the poverty line.
There are no libraries in Delores` neighborhood. She tells us,
quote, "Our children have to take three buss to get to the library. They
shouldn`t have to do that. Access is important.
Indeed, access is important. According to FCC, some 80 percent of
Fortune 500 companies like Target, Walmart, Costco, require online job
applications. So that is why it is important that Delores teaches computer
literacy classes at her local rec center.
But that`s just the tip of the iceberg. Delores has volunteered her
one-story brick house to be the epicenter of an Internet distribution
method dubbed "mesh", or what she affectionately calls chicken wire.
Delores`s chimney will hold a 3 foot long metal device, providing a
wireless internet hub that through a local network allows for hi speed
Internet access throughout the neighborhood.
When asked how she gets the word out about "mesh," she describes a
network of the low-tech variety. She says I go through the ministers.
That`s the way I`ve learned over the years.
The African-American church is very important within the African-
American community and that is my entree. Delores, a true teacher, says
the Internet can never be a substitute for books or for in-person
education. But she knows that connectivity, as she puts it access, is
essential to bringing change to her community. And her community is what
Delores is focused on.
For constantly thinking of others first and for connecting that pole
to her chimney, Delores Leonard is our foot soldier of the week.
And that is our show for today.
Thank you to Matt, Annie, Raul and Maya for sticking around.
Also, thank you at home for watching. I`ll see you tomorrow 10:00
a.m. Eastern when we are going to look ahead to next week`s vice-president
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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