'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, October 7th, 2012
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
October 7, 2012
Guests: Sayu Bhojwani, Grace Meng, Chloe Angyal, Kenji Yoshino, Debo Adegbile, Christopher Smitherman
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my question, can you hear
me? Because I`ve lost my voice. But, stick with me. This is Nerdland.
We don`t let a little head cold get in the way.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Now, normally no one shows up to watch the fight that is the undercard
bout. A vice presidential debate usually is more like an interlude to keep
us occupied while we`re waiting to get back to the main event. Not this
Here in Nerdland, we cannot wait to see what happens Thursday night when
Vice President Joe Biden goes head to head with congressman Paul Ryan in
the vice presidential debate. And of course, our anticipation is
heightened by the loss that the champ took in round one on Wednesday night.
President Obama pulled a lot of his punches in his debate with Governor
Romney, so if the original strategy was for Biden to go in the ring with a
soft touch against Paul Ryan, we can be sure that that is going out the
window. He is coming out swinging. Gloves off.
Now, Romney was able to dodge blows against his economic plan because
actually there`s not much of a plan there to jab at. Take his strategy for
economic recovery trying to corner him on his plan to fill the revenue gap
that would result from proposed tax cuts is an exercise in shadow boxing
futility. Because he hasn`t yet told us what it is he`s planning to do.
But by hitching his wagon to Paul Ryan and endorsing Ryan`s budget plan, he
also attached himself to clearly articulated policy and a record that
leaves the whole ticket exposed to attack which gives Joe Biden an opening
to hit Romney so hard -- to hit Ryan so hard that Mitt Romney is going to
feel it too. From the sound of it, the Vice President seems to be getting
his weight up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I`ve been doing
mostly is quite frankly, studying up on congressman Ryan`s positions. I
just want to make sure that when I say these things that I don`t have the
congressman no, no, no, I don`t have that position or that`s not the
governor`s position. So it`s mainly getting the factual predicates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And when it comes to strategy Thursday, in this and only
this, he may want to steal a move from Dick Cheney. I recall in 2004 when
president George W. Bush choked in the first of his three debates against
John Kerry. Dick Cheney picked up a flag for the strong performance
against John Edwards in the vice presidential debate. Cheney also took one
for the team playing the attack dog and allowing Bush to keep his
presidential hands clean.
Now, although I`d like to see a little more heat from President Obama in
debate number two, he can still keep it cool and classy while letting Biden
go all the way off the leash. But even before the first presidential
debate, the match-up between the two guys on the bottom of the tickets
promise to be a must-watched event.
What we saw in the debate between President Obama and Governor Romney was
an exchange of ideas between two pragmatists. Both share a kind of
practical approach to stimulating economic growth but have different ways
of getting us there.
The two guys that we`re going to be watching on Thursday, pragmatism
doesn`t begin to describe them. Pugilistic, not pragmatic describes these
guys. Get ready for a clash of the ideologs. Both, Biden and Ryan are
champions of the sweet science of political and economic thought of their
In little corner, the golden boy of the modern GOP economic doctrine.
Ryan, the self-described polished guy, he is (INAUDIBLE) and the architect
of the conservative platform, upon which the GOP now stands. The plan to
slash the deficit by gutting social programs and his party is on the saying
he built that.
In the other corner, a granddaddy of the Democratic last leaning base. At
only 29-years-old, Joe Biden became one of the youngest people ever elected
to the U.S. Senate. And he has been steep in the political gospel of the
Democratic Party for 40 years. He has also played key roles in influencing
U.S. foreign policy as well the member and chairman of the senate foreign
relations committee. Post schools were Europe, the Middle east, southwest
Asia; the United States has been there in the last four decades. Joe Biden
Now, Of course, congressman Paul Ryan who chairs the house budget committee
also likes to tout his foreign policy chops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have more foreign
policy experience coming into this job than President Obama did coming into
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Can you explain, how do you have more
foreign policy experience than senator Obama did? He was on the Foreign
RYAN: Norah, I voted to send men and women to war. I`ve been to Iraq and
Afghanistan. I`ve met with our troops to get perspectives. I`ve been to
the funerals, I`ve talked to the widows, talked to the wives, the moms and
the dads. That`s something. That matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. The sitting Vice President shouldn`t have much problem
landing a blow on a claim like that. Though, perhaps rather than boxing,
it`s more accurate to think of Thursday night as tag team wrestling with
each candidate making the power move that their partner missed. Of course,
ultimately a vice presidential candidate`s relationship to his running mate
is more like Hulk Hogan`s bandana or sledgehammer, fleshy accessory to the
So, while Biden and Ryan will be in the ring with each other on Thursday,
they will both have opponent`s partner firmly in their sights.
With me at the table is Steve Kornacki, the MSNBC host of "the Cycle" and a
senior writer for salon.com. Sayu Bhojwani is the founding director of new
American Leaders Project. A national organization for specifically focused
on preparing first and second general immigrants for specific leadership.
Robert Traynham is a former communications director for senator Rick
Santorum and now an MSNBC contributor. And of course, Chloe Angyal, editor
It`s so nice to have you all. I`m going to stop talking. What do you
think is going to happen on Thursday night, Steve?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, "THE CYCLE": You know, I think Joe Biden gets
a bad rap as a politician, as a communicator and as a debater. I think
there`s this -- I`m not sure when exactly it started. But sometime in the
last five years, this caricature of Biden as everyone`s crazy uncle has
taken a hold. You know, the guy who just did it, it`s a gaffe a minute.
You never know what crazy thing Joe Biden is going to say next.
I think he is a really skilled communicator. I think he`s really a strong
debater. People forget this. The reason he ended up on Obama`s ticket in
2008 was because of the Democratic primary debates between 2007 and 2008.
You know, we forget that Biden even ran for president that year. But, how
many debates, if you can really think back, did we step away from it, OK,
it`s Hillary, it`s Obama. That`s the real story. But Joe Biden won this
debate. I wrote that column four or five times in 2007, 2008.
You know, think way back. When Joe Biden first ran for president in the
1988 cycle. That was the plagiarism thing that happen that day. But,
besides that, when he was running that year, this guy was the star order of
the field. And this guy was making, you know, he was a young senator at
the time, but it was his oratory that set him apart from the rest of the
So, I just look at this and I say, I`ve always thought that Obama`s biggest
weaknesses one of the weaknesses is debates. I think it`s Biden`s biggest
strength. So, I`m set the bar really high for Joe Biden.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you have got an elder statesman in Joe Biden who, the
onion of course, teaches ruthlessly with that like shirtless, you know, Joe
Biden waxing his -- it`s horrible, right? He`s sort of an elder statesman
of the party. But then, you have the young upstart Ryan.
ROBERT TRAYNHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, look, I agree with Steve
to a certain degree. I think this vice presidential debate will be
reminiscent of 2000 when you had Dick Cheney and you also had Joe
Lieberman. Two very smart individuals on the ticket. Very thoughtful in
terms of the vice presidential debate. There was not a lot of jabs back
and forth. But a lot of substance. And I think what you will find come
this Thursday, look, say whatever you want about Paul Ryan about being a
young gun, say whatever you want about him being arch conservative. He`s
very specific and very smart. And what we will probably see is a
conversation about the Ryan budget plan, understandably so. And, I think,
you are also going to have a war, you are going to see a substantive
conversation about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the context of the
economy and how we pay for them or didn`t pay for them.
HARRIS-PERRY: you know, it`s funny that you point out that this should be
substantive, that the kind of debate that we saw last week is what I
thought we`d see from the VPs, kind of low key. But now, it feels like we
have to be - I mean, we use our boxing metaphor because it`s like we have
to have a fight.
CHLOE ANGYAL, EDITOR, FEMINISTING.COM: You know, I actually disagree with
you. I think Ryan`s reputation as a smart, substantive guy is collapsing
in part because of the amount of fact checking that had to be done after
his nomination acceptance speech.
Between that and between the amount of fact checking done on Romney`s
debate speech, I doubt very much the people will take what Ryan says in the
debate at face value. I think there`s going to be ruthless fact checking.
And so --
TRAYNHAM: Doesn`t mean it`s not going to be a substantive debate. I mean,
that is what debate are all about is to be fact check.
ANGYAL: It should be a substantive debate. And I think it will be. What
I`m saying is that his reputation as a smart thoughtful guy is crumbling.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you think that voters will be looking for something
specific at the VP debate?
SAYU BHOJWANI, FOUNDING DIRECTOR, NEW AMERICAN LEADERS PROJECT: Well, you
know, I was going to say echoing what Chloe said that there, I think, there
is going to be this desire for fact checking. If what we hear a lot about
data which is one of the challenges, I think, of Thursday`s debate. And
while everybody is interested in the economy, most of the polling shows
that voters particularly Latinos and Asians, who people expect to be
interested in something different from other Americans, are also seeing
economy as a top issue.
Bit, I think as Latino and Asian voters and other minority voters, what we
want to hear about what does this data mean to me, what it is mean to the
bottom line? And I would love to see that happen in the debates, some
connection with the actual average voter. How is the dream going to be
accessible to me beyond the $5 trillion plan?
ANGYAL: -- which is what Biden does really, really well.
TRAYNHAM: But you know, what`s interesting, Melissa, stepping back for a
second, I think part of the problem with these debates and for the problem
of the natural discussion right now, we tend to agree with what the facts
are. We can agree what the real structural issues are. If we can`t agree
that this number is the number under the deficit or this platform is the
platform for taxes, how can you have a substantive debate? I think that is
the frustrating thing about all of this.
HARRIS-PERRY: But the thing is the Republicans have actively attempted to
say that numbers can be manipulated.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean this week, we had 7. 8 percent job numbers. And the
response, not from all Republicans, but from a portion of the party was,
well, that is just not true. We just don`t plead those numbers. I mean, I
do think if we`re going to have and appear clear base debate, we have to
have some agreement about what constitutes evidence.
KORNACKI: And that`s my point about why I think Biden is a much stronger
debater than Obama. Let`s take one specific example. How many times - how
many openings did Obama miss in the debate this week to pin Romney down on
the specific question of OK, you want to cut taxes across the board, you
want to be deficit neutral and you have a broad promise to close loopholes
and deductions, OK. Let`s spell out what the deductions are that will be
on the table for this to work and let`s start specifying Mitt Romney which
ones you say, you know, you might go after in which ones you`ll protect.
And Obama never pinned him down.
Biden is really good. I think we are spelling that out for people and
really putting Paul Ryan on the spot. And I think you`re right. Ryan we
see in this campaign, interviews he had something new that he had to deal
with the last ten years, follow-up questions.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, we`re going to talk more about this.
Because we know there`s a problem of Biden romance. And I want to know
whether or not Paul Ryan is willing to go all in for Mitt Romney. And I`m
going to gargle some part salt water during the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I want to take you inside the White House to see the president as I
see him every day. Day after day, night after night. I sat beside him as
he made one gutsy decision after the other. I got to see firsthand what
drove this man. And one of the things I learned about Barack is the
enormity of his heart and I think he learned about me, the depth of my
loyalty to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So Michelle Obama may have been married to her husband for
20 years, but in that clip from the DNC, Joe Biden`s making a strong case
for his position as the number two most devoted person to President Obama.
If his words weren`t clear enough, let me state it plain. Joe Biden hearts
Barack Obama. And we will no doubt see evidence of that romance unfold
this play Thursday night. On the other hand, Mitt Romney`s put Paul Ryan
in the position where he has to defend statements like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are 47 percent of the
people who will vote for the president no matter what, all right? There
are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who
believe that they are victim, who believe that government has the
responsibility and care for them, who believe they are entitle to health
care, to food, to housing, to you name it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it feels like different from the passionate romance and
a marriage of convenience here between these two. Is that the key thing
that a VP has to be is basically champion for his principal? I mean, is
that what people are looking for in the VP debate?
ANGYAL: Well, unless the VP think that the top of the ticket guy doesn`t
really have much of a shot in which case he has to be thinking ahead to the
next election cycle. And it`s very clear to me what`s what Paul Ryan is
doing. And - so, he should be.
KORNACKI: Well, the interesting thing here is, way back when they put Ryan
on the ticket, I thought I understood why. I thought the calculation was
Romney looked and said all summer long, I`ve been behind. This isn`t
budging. I need something kind of dramatic here. So, I`m going do - I`m
going actually run on the Paul Ryan budget, the Paul Ryan Medicare plan.
And maybe it blows up in my face, but maybe it`s translated as courageous
and bold and people vote for me.
So, they put Ryan on the ticket and then they kind of panicked and said
wait a minute. We can`t run of these ideas. And so, what they did, they
tried now for the last two or three months to turn Paul Ryan into a generic
vice presidential candidate where it is like, you know, yes, I proposed his
budget, but I`m not running on that. I don`t what to talk about it. Yes,
I proposed this Medicare plan, but we are not really talking about that
right now. We are just talking about Barack Obama`s, you know, failed
So, he`s basically behaved like, you know, Rob Portman would be as a
running mate, which is -- they want the boring running mate after all. So,
it puts him in this really awkward spot. And I think you`re right Chloe
because they usually think about me was, Paul Ryan was every conservative
favorite Republican for the last five years or so. And this was a great
springboard to him for the future getting on this ticket. And I`m starting
to look at it and say, you know, if Romney/Ryan do not win this election,
his stock, you know, could go down long-term.
TRAYNHAM: So, here`s the unfortunate truth. The last time a vice
presidential nominee made a difference in the national ticket was back in
1960 when LBJ for Texas. That`s number one.
Number two, vice presidential running mates always, first thing is do no
harm. And we learned that obviously from Sarah Palin.
So, the unfortunate truth is most Americans, well, look at the vice
presidential debate and say OK, I`m still going to vote for Romney or I`m
still going to vote for the president. Unless there`s a game changer i.e.
like a Sarah Palin moment. That`s not going to happen on Thursday because
I go back to my original point. That these are two very smart people that
are going to stick to the talking points. At the end of the day, now what
Ryan does do for the ticket is he energizes the base on the Republican
Let`s also remember back in 2008 that Joe Biden and Barack Obama were not
friends. This was a political marriage of convenience. Joe Biden was --
HARRIS-PERRY: He has come to love him.
TRAYNHAM: Understandably so. Same thing with Dick Cheney and George W.
Bush. There was an interesting dynamic that I worked in the Bush White
House in 2004 and just psychologically it`s almost like Dick Cheney was the
grandfather that`s been around for a couple times.
Anyway, back to Romney. The question is, whether or not Vice President
Biden will make a gaffe or if congressman Ryan will say something that`s so
outlandish that is so kind of like the 47 percent that would be a game
changer. That most likely won`t happen.
ANGYAL: You mean like the 30 percent he`s already said?
TRAYNHAM: OK. That doesn`t --
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels to me like the issue is do no harm, that the
question, the game changer is the, to the positive, right?
TRAYNHAM: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: The game changer is to the negative. That there`s some
possibility of doing harm.
BHOJWANI: Well, and also, he has plenty -- Ryan has plenty of his own
statements to defend. So, I think there could be an interesting dynamic
where he spirals into defense of the many ludicrous and inaccurate things
he`s said where I think Biden has more experience and a very clear agenda
staying of boiled to the president.
You know, there is a little bit of a wildcard. Maybe not a huge one. But
Ryan is smart. But also very self-centered. And so, he could get really
HARRIS-PERRY: I wonder, is there an actual skill to being a vice
president? I mean, we joke that the only thing you have to do is sort of
stay alive, right? But in the Sarah Palin case, there was this sense that
wait a minute, by putting her on the ticket, if she isn`t adequate to be
president, then it makes me question John McCain`s judgment. Are both of
these guys kind of above the bar and therefore there`s no real quality
KORNACKI: I think there`s an open question about Ryan. He can be glib and
telegenic in a way that comes across his confident and maybe Palin didn`t
quite that skill.
But I mean, he can look - yes. we can LBJ was the last time the Vice
President clearly made the difference a victory and defeat for a candidate.
But, we can look other examples, you know. Palin in 2008 is a dramatic
one. I have seen estimates that it was about one, 1.5 points is what she
actually cost John McCain by being on the ticket which is huge for a vice
But you can think back to Dan Quayle. I mean, 1988 running as -- I`ve
never seen a more dramatic contrast between the basic competence of the two
vice presidential candidates, between Lloyd Bentsen, who you know, had this
like kind of old testament authority and Dan Quayle be offensive, delivered
that devastating line.
Again, look. Michael Dukakis lost the election in the landslide, but the
race tightened towards the end. And there was a lot of consideration that
Quayle presence on the ticket was drag on Bush and made that race closer
finisher of the day.
HARRIS-PERRY: Listen. Let me ask one last question here on this
particular issue. Is this going to be more fun for Joe Biden than 2008 was
because Sarah Palin was someone that he had to pull punches against both
because she was a woman, but also because it would not have looked good to
beat up on her? Is this more fun for him?
ANGYAL: I think he was dancing a delicate dance in 2008. And you will see
he`s up the P90x9 percent body fat, whatever, guy. And he can, I think he
can go as hard as he wants to. And after the debate this past week, he has
to go with.
HARRIS-PERRY: Chloe, I want to take up the issue you brought up a few
minutes which is whether or not they are looking ahead, whether or not what
they`re actually doing is running for 2016. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: In last point I`ll make is, Rudy Giuliani doesn`t know what he`s
talking about. He`s the most uninformed person in foreign policy running
for president. Number one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: You remember that? That was when senator Joe Biden during a
2007 Democratic primary debate. That was back when Joe Biden wasn`t just
trying to be the next to Barack Obama. He was trying to be President Obama
or at least he wanted the same job that Barack Obama currently holds.
That was Biden`s second time going for the nation`s top spot. And here`s
what we know. That he really, really wanted to be president. And it is
not a long logical leap to deduce that now he might be thinking he could be
Then again, Joe Biden is turning 70 next month. And if he ends up doing
another four-year stint at Vice President, he may just want to retire back
to Delaware with Jill and her family. Whatever. (INAUDIBLE).
But, Paul Ryan, on the other hand, he`s got nothing but time. 42-years-
old, the congressman has already proven his ambition for political power
and even shorter logical leap to wonder if he is thinking about 2016. So,
do that for me. Handicap. Are these two guys imagining themselves on the
presidential debate stage next time?
TRAYNHAM: Absolutely. There`s no question about it. I mean, it doesn`t
take a rocket scientist to figure out if in fact their boss, quote-unquote
"loses in 2012," the logical step is 2016. Almost every single vice
president, sitting vice president or vice presidential nominee that has
lost an election, has gone on to run for president four years later, almost
HARRIS-PERRY: And for Biden, he doesn`t have to wait for his guy to lose.
If his guy wins, he`s in a better position, right?
TRAYNHAM: Maybe not. His challenge is Hillary. That`s a different
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t have enough voice to talk about that one.
KORNACKI: No. I think Biden had any chance in 2016 has to have Obama re-
elected this year. Because his ticket is to be the loyal vice president,
have the second term go well, have Obama sitting on the 60 percent approval
rating. And then, continuity becomes the argument and Democrats want to
reward the loyalty.
But you`re right, I mean, you know, we said in the run up to 2008 that
Hillary Clinton was the most dominant front-runner we have ever seen in
Democratic politics. That had nothing on what we should be if she decided
to run in 2016.
HARRIS-PERRY: Can I just -- no. I got to tell you. You know, I know
she`s enormously popular right now but it`s because she`s not running. I
mean, it`s not that hard to be that popular.
TRAYNHAM: But a lot of Democrats are saying, wait a minute, she literally
got shafted in 2008. This is not fair. This is her turn and thus -- look,
this is -- They`re saying, she`s been a loyal soldier for the last eight
years, quote-unquote. She has to run.
HARRIS-PERRY: I said it in `08. I`ll say it in `16. The White House is
not a prize for loyalty either for Biden or Mrs. Clinton, right? It is an
indication about one`s own ability. And I think she`s fantastic. I really
do. I also think that American voters don`t particularly like older women.
We won`t even buy like makeup from older women. I think even as I was
talking about Joe Biden being 70, Hillary Clinton as an aging woman becomes
less and less appealing to American voters. Not in the way that -- just in
a way that I think is --
TRAYNHAM: You think Hillary Clinton fits into that category. Because she
has such an interesting unique person and clearly a household name. And a
lot of Democratic donors, some friends of mine in Washington D.C. have
said, they are whispering and saying, you know what if Hillary is in, I
just simply cannot go for Joe Biden.
ANGYAL: I would like make a case to president Joe Biden. I think he
represents a drastically underrepresented constituency in this country, and
that is people who occasionally accidentally drop the f-bomb on record.
And as a member of that under self constituency --
TRAYNHAM: Do it now. Do it now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Please don`t do it now.
ANGYAL: As a member of that underserved constituency and someone who feels
passionately about things against women, I`m in.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Sayu, I got to say, even as we talk about sort of all
these old heads, all these names we already know, I mean the whole point of
the Obama story was it, no one could have said his name four years
previously. When I look at the GOP bench, quite honestly, I see a pretty
deep bench, many of them first generation, second generation, (INAUDIBLE)
got help and will say this Bob Jindal and other folks who were coming
BHOJWANI: Yes. Well, you know, I think there is the new face of American
leadership. It`s hard to tell who is going to be on the ticket in 2016. I
would like to put in a plug for the challenges that Ryan is going to have
on foreign policy if he thinks that his experience is around sending people
to war also. I mean we`re looking at an increasingly savvy, diverse
electorate. Young people. And I do think the age will hurt Joe Biden.
And I want to say as big a fan I am of Hillary even though I run a
nonpartisan organization. I think it will matter. I think an aging woman
versus an aging man is a big, big issue. But, I also think he`s going to
be 74, right? That`s going to be a tough --
HARRIS-PERRY: Get more of the pictures shirtless. And I`m with you. I
really do have a great deal of respect for secretary of state Clinton. And
she`s an extraordinary person within American politics. I don`t know if
she`s the next president after this one. But, let`s get through this
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, what becomes of losing vice presidential
candidates? It`s time for a pop quiz. We`ve got stickers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know who loves debates?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fishes. The fish eat bait.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I get.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a thinker. I like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a thinker. Big bird, everyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Paul Ryan has been a darling of the Republican party for the
past few years. Seen as a leader, a visionary, possibly the future of the
GOP. After that description, risk taker.
Risk taker. Because running for vice president and losing is actually
rarely a steppingstone on the ladder of political trajectory. After all,
can you name the last vice presidential losing candidate who then went on
to be elected? Well, anywhere?
Wait, wait. Don`t answer because I have a pop quiz.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So panel here`s the challenge today. I`m going to read
to you the name of a losing vice presidential candidate. And then you will
-- I`m going to read you a brief description about a losing vice
presidential candidate. You`ll tell me which candidate you think it was
and ring in your bells to get acknowledged.
OK. So, here we go. First question. Which VP candidate who lost a bid
recently escaped jail time on campaign fraud charges?
TRAYNHAM: John Edwards.
HARRIS-PERRY: You got it. John Edwards.
TRAYNHAM: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Very good. I love Nerdland stickers. Good for you, yes.
Of course, Republican remembers our deep shame. And remember with Edwards
running against with John Kerry in 2004 and that amazing debate between
Dick Cheney and John Edwards. That was one of my most funs.
All right, number two. After losing the race, this man returned to New
York to continue his law practice. He also acted in American express
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, wow. I was going to show you a little bit. Actually,
let`s take a little bit of a look. But Steve Kornacki may know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM MILLER, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you know me? I ran
for Vice President of the United States in `64. So I shouldn`t have
trouble charging a meal, should I? Why with this, they treat me as though
I had won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: William Miller.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, my God. Steve Kornacki knows William Miller. When we
sit around in Nerdland and think about this, oh, we are like, this is the
one that nobody can get. Of course, William Miller. Of course it was.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, number three. Which unsuccessful VP candidate
returned to serve as governor for 264 days before stepping down?
ANGYAL: Sarah Palin.
HARRIS-PERRY: Very good. Although there is a weird gender coherence thing
going on. But yes, of course, it was Sarah Palin. She remained governor
of Alaska for almost nine month before becoming the world`s biggest
And of course, you know, there was at least a while in this race a question
whether or not she was going to be in the hat for the VP. But no. Not
OK. Next question. Which losing vice presidential candidate went on to
lose two other high-profile elections but did become ambassador to Japan
and later special envoy to Indonesia.
TRAYNHAM: George H. W. Bush.
HARRIS-PERRY: It was not.
KORNACKI: Walter Mondale.
HARRIS-PERRY: Walter Mondale.
TRAYNHAM: That`s right. That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because George H. W. Bush did become the president of the
KORNACKI: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. You remember those years.
KORNACKI: Yes, he was. Fun fact. When Mondale ran for senator in
Minnesota, he gained a unique and unpleasant distinction. He was the only
person to have lost a statewide election in all 50 states as of nominee of
a major party. He lost in the other 49 in the `84 presidential election.
That`s pretty --
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, next question. This is the losing vice
presidential candidate who 20 years later went on to lose his bid for the
presidency but made a star comeback in the Pepsi commercial.
TRAYNHAM: Bob Dole.
HARRIS-PERRY: Bob Dole. You can both get stickers. That`s right. It was
Bob Dole. He, of course, also made other kinds of commercials.
TRAYNHAM: Down boy.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, last question. So not all is lost if Mr. Ryan
doesn`t win, there`s at least one losing vice presidential nominee who
became president. Who was it?
KORNACKI: Franklin Roosevelt.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. It was of course Franklin Roosevelt who not only
became president but got to be president longer than anybody else.
Thanks to everybody for playing. Steve, thanks for taking all the
BHOJWANI: We`re a team here.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. And be sure to watch Steve every weekday on
the cycle at 3:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC. The rest are going to
be back for more.
The record breaking trend in immigrant communities that you never hear
HARRIS-PERRY: Five percent of those currently serving in the U.S. Congress
are Latino. Despite 16.8, seven percent of the U.S. population being
Latino, 2.5 percent of those in Congress are Asian or Pacific islander,
even though those groups make up more than five percent of the nation`s
But, those disparities could all change come November 6th. A report to be
issued tomorrow at a new American leaders project examines how demographics
and redistricting have created a record number of opportunities for
immigrant communities to gain political office. This chart shows the
breakdown of first and second generation candidates running for Congress by
Now, note that almost 70 percent of candidates represented here are Latino
with polls showing the majority of them expected to win their races. And
Asian Americans could see changes too. For example, New York state could
be poised for its first Asian American of Congress to Washington next year.
And that person is here with me now.
New York state assembly woman Grace Meng is running for Congress in the New
York`s 6th congressional district. Her family is Chinese descents. Also
at the table, Sayu Bhojwani who is founding director of the new American
Leaders Project, a national organization focused on preparing first and
second generation Americans for civic leadership. She`s a self-immigrant
of Indian descent who was raised in Belize.
And of course still with us, Republican strategist Robert Traynham and
Chloe Angyal of feministing.com.
Sayu, tell me about this report that is going to come out tomorrow.
BHOJWANI: So, we are here to talk about the very important milestone of
having this many candidates, 80 congressional candidates from immigrant
communities. So, I just want to be clear that that includes 3rd and 4th
generation Latinos. And I think it`s important to mark that moment.
I also want to say that it`s not a coincidental thing. As you said,
demographics, redistricting immigrant voter engagement by nonprofits. But
the thing that we found to be most dramatic is that it actually is not
going to shift the representation all that much. So even in the best case
scenario, if the record -- we have a record number of Asian Americans for
example running. In the best case scenario, if what the polls say come
true, we are actually going still remain steady at ten Asian Americans in
And in terms of the Latino population, because it`s 16 percent of the
country, in order for us to have adequate representation, a proportionate
representation needs to be about 86 congressional members. And we are
going to in the best case scenario get to 37. So, part of it is, look,
it`s great we`re here. And these excite things are happening, but there`s
still a long road ahead.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now Grace, your story is an interesting one because you are
running in a newly district, district 6th. And it`s an open seat. Would
you have run against an incumbent or was the fact that this was an open
seat part of what encouraged you to run.
GRACE MENG, (D) NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Well, Gary Ackerman is
the current congressman representing the district. And he`s done a
tremendous job for last 30 years. And so, he is always paid a lot of
attention to the Asian community. And so, that`s not something that would
have crossed my mind.
HARRIS-PERRY: So part of it was kind of the open seat opportunity here in.
HARRIS-PERRY: So tell me, why -- you`re a public interest lawyer. But,
why jump into the political realm in.
MENG: Well, I`ve been in the New York state assembly for about 3.5 years
now. And if elected, yes, I will one of at best case scenario, ten Asian
Americans in congress. But right now, I`m actually the only Asian serving
in state legislature. So even though it`s a small improvement, it`s a
great improvement for me.
And I`m really excited. I think that being in Congress gives me a
tremendous platform to be able to advocate for better and more services and
resources for my district. And I think that that`s something that I`ve
always tried to put people first and put families first. I`m very proud to
be an American daughter of immigrants and hope to continue that service at
the congressional level.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sayu, part of what I loved about this is that instead of
being the idea of immigrants as a problem to be solved. It`s an idea of
immigrants being problem solvers. How do we shift that conversation?
BHOJWANI: Yes. you know, that is the main sort of focus of our work. And
one of the things we do in the training is to encourage participants to own
that experience in the way that Grace just did. Because we do have some
high-profile governors from Asian American and Latino communities who are
not necessarily owning their immigrant background.
And so, I think seeing both the narrative, the immigrant narrative as a
value-based experience that you can connect to other minority and other
Americans is really important. You know, it`s step by step at the local
and state level. In places where I think at the local level there is a lot
more willingness to embrace those individuals because they`re part of the
community. And there isn`t that other -- I`m not saying that it`s all love
and kisses everywhere.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Make it look like yes, it`s a campaign.
BHOJWANI: There is that less of a sense of otherness if you`re working
with the person in the community, if they`re a parent of a kid in your
school. And so, I think starting at that level does make a difference.
And frankly, the local and state level is where people, sort of, you know,
cut their teeth in terms of national office.
HARRIS-PERRY: Chloe, I`m interested in how race or ethnic identity ends up
laying on top of the immigrant identity. In part, because if I look at
you, you don`t look like an immigrant. In part, because the language of
immigration has come to mean all these other racialized elements.
You know, when you think about this, obviously immigrants from European
countries have long been at the front and center of American politics.
ANGYAL: What I think is so interesting about what you`re saying is what
immigrant narratives do we accept as American immigrant narratives? Now,
if you take it by what you saw at the RNC, there are some immigrant
narratives that we are very, very attached to. And as time goes on, you
know, we integrate the newer ones and we start frankly using them as
political tools and props in our political conversation. And that`s both a
blessing and a curse.
But I think it`s my family came over to the states from eastern Europe
about a century ago. And I came over from Australia about seven years ago.
You`re right, no one would these days think of me as an immigrant anymore.
And that`s - like you said, that`s partly an ethnicity issue and sort of a
political and historical narrative issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m going to let you in on this when we come back. The
growing diversity of American politics.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. We`re talking about the record number of
candidates from immigrant communities who are running for office this
election psyche am.
So Robert, I want to let you in on this because, I mean, there definitely
has been both at the RNC and the DNC, there were like immigrant narratives,
but it sounded very different. You had Mia Love, Susana Martinez, telling
their immigrant stories were. It`s really quite different than what we
were hearing, for example, Julian Castro.
TRAYNHAM: Yes. You know, Mia Love obviously, is I think she is of Haitian
descent. She is the person who is running for Congress in Utah. Susana
Martinez, the governor of New Mexico. What I find interesting about this
conversation, is no one will admit this, but it is really the browning of
America and how this country is changing in a good way and thus in the
process by people. Because we`re becoming more and more browner if, you
Then, our legislature, our elected officials should be reflective of that,
right? And so, I know in the Republican party, that`s always a very
uncomfortable conversation to have. And the reason why and I believe this
is code -- you know what shall the America that I grew up in is not the
same anymore. It feels different.
What are you really saying here? Are you saying that the values of our
system are changing or are you saying that this country does not look as
white as it used to be. And that`s really what I think the underlying
conversation I think we should have but it`s an uncomfortable conversation
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. I mean, this year was the first time that more than
50 percent of children who were born in this year were born to parents who
were nonwhite or one parent was not white.
TRAYNHAM: Our next Asian president, our next Latino president or our next
Indian president is out there. And he or she will most likely be elected
in our lifetime which is a good thing, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. As long as it`s not Bobby Jindal. I`m good.
TRAYNHAM: Well, Melissa. What about Marco Rubio.
HARRIS-PERRY: As long as it`s not Bobby Jindal, I`m probably OK.
Grace, was there any sense to you that sort of the immigrant communities
from what you call, or the sort of stories of your family were part of that
sense of public service?
MENG: Definitely. You know, growing up, my family has a strong Christian
background. And what we`ve been always encouraged, my grandmother sort of
the matriarch of our family. And she`s always told us, regardless of what
profession you choose, that it`s important to give back to this community.
That America gave us all a chance for a better opportunity, for a good
education. So, it`s very important to give back.
And so now, that`s something that I`m trying to do. You know, as a state
legislator, I`ve not only been, you know, sort of a liaison between
constituents and government agencies, but I`ve also tried to be someone,
some sort of a bridge builder to encourage newer Americans and newer
immigrants to get involved in the political process, to get involved in
their communities and to do what they can.
TRAYNHAM: I`m curious. Do you consider yourself an American first and of
Asian descent second or vice versa or are they interchangeable?
MENG: It`s interchangeable for me.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. This sort of like the immigrant narrative
that`s part of the American story Robert is talking about. You are sort of
American values, although President Obama is undoubtedly 100 percent an
American born in the United States, he also has a kind of way of talking
about the country that sometimes feels to me almost like that immigrant
narrative that sense of no other country in the world is like this one.
You know, no other place has given us these sorts of opportunities.
Do you see that sort of like merits of what`s going on with this new crop
of elected officials, potential elected officials?
BHOJWANI: Absolutely. I think there`s a level of optimism that immigrant
communities feel about the American democracy.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s the word I was looking for.
BHOJWANI: Because we`re drawn here for very specific reasons. You know,
people say that immigrants are hard working. You know, there`s billions of
people in India that are not -- groups have been self-selected to come to
this country and be hard working and be part of this narrative. And we
definitely see that optimism.
I mean, I want to say something about Arizona which is a place where you
could expect to be and feel really miserable and depress. But we had an
extremely optimistic group of people we trained in Arizona. We trained 19
people, most of whom were Latinos. Four of them ran for office this year,
you know for school board, state Senate and Congress. And I think that
really says something about the strength of our belief in what this country
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels to me like you also thought the civil rights
movement for African-Americans took the opportunity of the franchise to
also run for office. If you don`t like those laws, you become a lawmaker.
BHOJWANI: Become part of the solution, you know. I think that`s - and I
want to just say about President Obama, he`s one of the reasons that people
are so mobilized by him is that you can identify with him on multiple
levels. I mean, I like to think of President Obama as an immigrant. But
certainly a child of an immigrant, you know. There And I think that there
are multiple levels at which you can identify with that and it gave people
his election also mobilized a lot of different folks to feel that something
HARRIS-PERRY: Certainly a cosmopolitan citizen having lived in schools,
Indonesia, and having a half sister who was Indonesian, as well as American
like. That idea of a cosmopolitan person is part what the immigrant story
Thank you Grace. I wish great luck in your campaign. Thank you, Sayu.
Robert and Chloe are back for me.
Next we are talking about affirmative action.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry in New York, with
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in fisher versus the
University of Texas. That outcome of that case could eradicate the use of
affirmative action in the college admissions process as we know it.
At the table, Kenji Yoshino, professor at NYU School of Law; Debo Adegbile,
the acting president and director and counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense
Fund. And back with us Robert Traynham and Chloe Angyal.
Debo, talk to me about the history of affirmative action. Where does it
begin and how do we get to where we are today?
DEBO ADEGBILE, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Well, because this case is coming
out of Texas. The history should begin with Sweatt v. Painter. Sweatt v.
Painter cleared the way for Brown versus Board of Education. It was in the
days that Texas stood for exclusion and said they didn`t want African-
Americans to go to the flagship institution.
Thurgood won that case and we got Brown. But in that case, the court
recognized that the flagship institution in the University of Texas was
superior to the alternative. That was an important marker and in the cases
that followed, including the Bakke case which was a challenge to
affirmative action out of University of California, the court said
diversity could be considered as a plus factor, that race could be
considered as a plus factor but that seats could be seat aside.
And that is how it evolved until we got to the University of Michigan cases
in the early 2000s.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to go back on the Texas thing for a bit. It`s LBJ
who initially makes this claim for affirmatively furthering fairness. It`s
insufficient to just say you`re now equal. He has this language about
taking off the shackles and saying, go run, you have affirmatively further
ADEGBILE: I think that`s exactly right. The question was: what does
And it grew out of our history which imposed specific burdens on members of
our society. Slavery, racism, Jim Crowe, they all had impacts. And they
set generations behind.
And so, LBJ in the `60s is saying how do we move forward? You can`t let
the shackles down and think we have equality. You have to work to make
equality. And that`s where the concept was rooted initially.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, this notion though of a reparation or repair aspect to
affirmative action goes away once we get to Michigan, right? I mean, these
Michigan cases which are ultimately up for debate now, tell us about those.
KENJI YOSHINO, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, NYU: Absolutely. There are
two rationales under the Constitution for affirmative action. One is the
remedial rationale is Debo so expertly laid out.
And the other one is the diversity rationale. And both in the kind of
(INAUDIBLE) and then the court itself, there`s been a movement away from
the remedial rationale towards the diversity rationale. Harvard law
professor Lani Guinier says it`s a better move because it makes people,
minority groups, look like they are burying gifts rather than grievances
which this language that I love.
Like she does, I feel like we`ve moved too far from the remedial
aspiration. But you`re exactly right. Once we get to the Michigan case,
2003 case, Grutter versus Bollinger, we have the diversity rationale being
asserted by the University of Michigan Law School. And the United States
Supreme Court for the first time upholds under the diversity rationale race
conscious affirmative action program by a majority of the court.
And so, this kind of creates a safe harbor. Schools know what they need to
do to pass constitutional muster.
And essentially, the reason it was upheld was because it was a holistic
consideration of the individual. It could have looked at race neutral
alternatives. It treated every individual as an individual. It didn`t
have a set aside, which was, you know, off the table with Bakke.
I want to emphasize that point as well, because I think that people often
associate affirmative action with quota.
HARRIS-PERRY: With quotas, right.
YOSHINO: And quotas have not been constitutionally permissible in private
institutions since 1978. And private institutions don`t have them either
because Title VI of the Civil Rights Act actually moves in lockstep with
the Equal Protection Clause. And the institution receiving federal funds
would run afoul of this if they engage in a quota.
There has never been quota since 1978.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, since 1978, there`s no sort of black seats or
brown seats set aside in a classroom. That said this language of gift and
grievances still always concerns me because it feels to me like the object
is still the white student in the classroom, right? My body is useful in
that classroom because I create diversity for that white student to
therefore, be a better Fortune 500 CEO someday, right? Rather than the
sense that there`s something valuable in educating those bodies themselves,
those brown and black bodies.
YOSHINO: Right. So, I guess I would say that I actually think that the
diversity, we say at best can be broader than that, which is to say, you
know, if we have a diverse classroom, then everybody benefits from that,
every single person. Racial minorities benefit, white students benefit
I think that the critique that you`re raising is one that many individuals
hold, which is it requires racial minorities to perform identities in a
certain way. You`re being admitted because you`re bringing diversity to
the table, you better kind of miniaturalized your identity on something.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, what if you let Robert Traynham in and he`s African-
American but he`s a Republican. He has --
YOSHINO: What I love about this is that there`s a theory of diversity-
based affirmative action, which is Justice Steven`s theory. Back in a
little known concurrence and case back in the 1980s where he says actually,
you know -- and this is a direct response to Justice Thomas` claim if you
bring whites and blacks together, they`re not going to be that different,
right? And Stevens` rejoinder as well, yes exactly.
But they`re not going to know that there are all these underlying --
they`re not going to understand that there`s a broad range of diversity
within the racial group unless they`re rubbing elbows with each other. We
don`t understand until we`re in the same room or at the same table to each
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, I hate to pick on you. There`s this notion of
performing your identity for me is part of what`s distressing about the
Robert, typically, this has tracked not along partisan lines but
ideological lines where more conservative individuals have said we are
against affirmative action.
Is -- as we`re looking at what is likely to be the end of affirmative
action in American higher education, there any distress that you feel about
what that might mean for diversity in our classroom?
TRAYNHAM: This is a tough one for me for numerous reasons. Number one,
let me say, I believe in affirmative action because I believe historically,
my race specifically, but all the races have historically been oppressed.
To use LBJ`s specific words, to your point, you simply cannot unshackle
someone and expect them to run a 26.2 mile race immediately. That`s just -
- that`s not -- it can`t be happening.
This is a struggle for me because if I understand the Fisher case, she has
a point. Her point is, I think, is that I`m qualified, I got accepted to
all these other schools. But just in the process, I couldn`t get accepted
in the University of Texas because of an underlying quota system or point-
based system that basically said my understanding is University of Texas
has 52,000 students. Out of those 52,000, 5 percent are black. That
doesn`t represent Texas. Texas has 12 percent statewide. Hispanics 18
percent. But statewide is 39 percent.
So, what Texas I think is trying to do is trying to diversify it`s
community through a point-based system, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, not quite, actually -- it`s actually that they have a
race blind policy system for the vast majority of the students. The top 10
percent of all high school graduates no matter what high school you
graduate from --
TRAYNHAM: From Texas?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, gets into Texas state system but not necessarily the
flagship. Is that right?
ADEGBILE: The top 10 percent gets in. They get guaranteed admission.
This gives you diversity because of the residential segregation and
So, you have many racially identifiable schools. It gives you a measure of
diversity. After the Michigan cases were decided, Texas decided that it
wanted to take on some of what the court said was possible to consider race
for the remaining graduates, together with a multitude of factors.
So it`s decidedly not a quota-based system or specific points system.
There are academic factors and other factors, leadership, do you come from
a single parent home. Did you work while in high school?
TRAYNHAM: But don`t you get points for that, though? That`s why my
understanding to the admission system, in other words, for your leadership
capabilities or potential, that`s graded on a point system per se, is it
not? I mean, how do you grade that?
ADEGBILE: I think it`s a range of factors that get plusses in the mix.
But I think it`s a hard point system. And certainly Texas is not shooting
for any set number of African-Americans or Latinos. They don`t even track
it as they go.
HARRIS-PERRY: Part of what is fascinating to me is that Abigail Fisher,
the plaintiff in this case is going to the court. She`s a white woman. We
know that of course, that gender diversity has been an incredibly important
part of the affirmative action there.
ANGYAL: That`s true. I want to get to that in a second.
But I want to take issue with the top 10 percent program is race mutual or
race blind, because it absolutely is not. We are talking about 81 percent
of the entering the class of 2008 at U.T. Austin came from the top 10
percent program. That leaves 19 percent of spots for people whose
admissions are being decided on other factors.
But if you look at something like the Dallas independent school district
where only 5 percent of students are white, so 95 percent of the students
are nonwhite, African-American students who took their SATs and ACTs, 4.9
percent of them tested college ready.
So, the disparities in education and resources start long before you`re
applying to admission for U.T. Austin. And I think yes, the TPP program is
race mutual in theory. In practice, it is absolutely not.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s race neutral but also problematically gives us a state
in racial segregation. It`s race neutral in that if you`re at the top 10
percent of predominantly black school, you still get admission but there`s
actual value in residential segregation because that`s the only way that a
10 percent program can create racial integration.
I shouldn`t be talking this much. I have so much to say.
When we come back, more on affirmative action and if race-based affirmative
action isn`t going to work, is there a better alternative? That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are back and talking about affirmative action. There are
two words that I want us to discuss -- the word merit and the word
entitlement. I also want to talk a little more about the fisher case
itself. But I really want to play with these ideas because I feel like
there`s a kind of underlying angst about affirmative action -- this idea
that people without merit get something to which they are not entitled.
First talk to me what the legal language is around merit and entitlement.
Then I want to push back on what our other notions of it are.
ADEGBILE: So, I guess colleges admit folks based on a range of criteria.
Some focus heavily on test scores, grades, school of graduation. But very
often they have a multitude of factors in the mix.
The reason for this is that colleges understand that the students learn as
much from each other in the classroom and outside the classroom as they do
by virtue of some specific accomplishment in the past. It`s about --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I like to believe that as a college professor that they
learn outside the classroom. But I get that that is true.
ADEGBILE: I`m not talking about your lectures.
HARRIS-PERRY: With each other, right.
Right. So, Kenji, I mean, what affirmative action currently does, right,
in the vast majority of places where it currently exist in a post-Bakke,
post-Michigan world is that it simply is taking into account racial
diversity as part of what constitutes a meritorious environment, right?
We`re already past a place where race is like the thumb on the scale,
YOSHINO: Well, I guess I would put it differently. I would say it`s not a
rigid quota. It can operate as a plus factor, which I guess to some people
would be viewed as a thumb on the scale. The brief that was sort of moving
to me in looking at greater case going -- sorry, the Fisher going up to the
Supreme Court, oral arguments are on Wednesday, is a brief written by deans
Martha Minow and Robert Post of Harvard and Yale. Notice that Harvard and
Yale are where nine of these justices graduated from in terms of their law
schools. So, they`re the deans of those two law schools.
And they essentially said, look, you know, when we do admissions, we do a
holistic merit-based analysis here. And then if we actually build a
diverse class, racial diversity is one component of that excellence. And
don`t take our word for it, like go to McKenzie and McKenzie has done
amazing consulting work with Fortune 500 companies that say, if you have
diversity on the basis of race, you`re much more likely to be, you know,
So, again, we can have queasiness about whether or not that`s a metric, you
know, this is a social justice issue, what we made just engaging in
remediation rather than this is good for the bottom line. But frankly in
the Grutter case, the lore has it going back to the 2003 case, the briefs
moving to Sandra Day O`Connor, who ultimately wrote the decision and was
the swing vote, was now being swapped out by Alito which is why many are
worried. The briefs that were moving to Sandra Day O`Connor were allegedly
not the red brief or the blue brief, but petitions of the respondents.
They were the green briefs -- the briefs from the military and the Fortune
And they said do not dry up our pipelines please. Like we get our talent
from you universities, if you stop the universities from actually producing
diverse candidates, then we`re going to be set back in our quest for both
diversity and remediation.
I don`t think that the two ideals can be seen at loggerheads with each
other. I think in both ends, we`re not put to the choice.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet O`Connor is part of the difficulty here, right?
Because she`s the one who said, I think in 25 years, we`re not going to
need this anymore.
So, I want to go directly towards O`Connor on this. In part, she says we
expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer
be necessary to further the interests approved today.
YOSHINO: Sure. Can I jump in that? This number drives me crazy. Where
does this 25-year number come from?
So, it comes that she`s deciding this case in 2003 and that was 1978. That
was 25 years.
Literally, I kid you not, that`s how she gets the 25 years. So ,Justin
Ginsburg kind of do damage control and like (INAUDIBLE) we`re really
talking about 50 years or something like that. And so, my former judge
used to say -- I think what she meant, this is a biblical 40.
It`s a generation. It`s not 25, it`s not 50. It`s a generation until this
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And the thing is though, I think what it still
misses in terms of like generations of delegates, is that there was a
massive affirmative action program in this country between about 1945 and
And it was an affirmative action predominantly for white Americans. It was
what created the American middle class. It was Social Security, it was the
G.I. bill, it was the FHA loans. It was about a billion dollars -- hundred
billion dollars worth of investments into American human capital, low
interest loans and small businesses.
ANGYAL: But you never ever hear that referred to as affirmative action.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. But that`s -- I mean, it was -- it was the
government saying we`re going to invest in this group of people who have
less and the -- it`s not additive, it`s multiplicative. So, every decade
from which they were shut out by mostly Southern Democrats shall grows and
grows and grows.
And then the new investments in the `70s, is like that much compared to
that much. It`s very, very difficult to imagine how in 25 years or even in
a biblical 40, you end up with it going far enough.
ANGYAL: You said something to me during the break that was really
interesting. You said, what is it with all these white women plaintiffs?
And I think what part of what is catching people`s imagination about this
case more than, say, something like if it happened today, I don`t think it
would make it to the Supreme Court. It`s because it`s a white woman. It`s
not a stodgy old man aggrieved by long haired kids on my lawn.
This is a young woman who is part of the group by some estimates most
likely to benefit from affirmative action in America. And, you know, I
think it`s really important to consider this in a larger historical
context. And that is that in America, we have a long history of
implementing unjust or sometimes inhuman policies and actions in the name
of drying up white women`s tears.
And I think we really need to think carefully about that as we`re looking
at this young white woman bringing her grievance about not going into the
one school that she really wanted to.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think he`s going to say, even though we`re toward the end
of this, you got to give at least one either policy or historical example.
I get you. But I want to make sure that viewers know when you say
problematic policies to manage white women`s angst, what do you mean quite
ANGYAL: I`m talking things like lynching African-American men for looking
at wrong way at a white woman and for violating her, her white womanly
HARRIS-PERRY: So on that, I promise -- no. I think it`s critically
important particularly when we think about the Senate, for example, never
passed the dire anti-lynching bill so much so that in 2005, the Senate
apologize to the people for having never passed the anti-lynching bill and
it was all tied up with race and gender and particularly around white
So, it is fascinating to make that historical connection.
Up next, more on the Supreme Court and the issue of affirmative action.
HARRIS-PERRY: Traditionally when we talk about affirmative action, we
discuss it from a race-based perspective. There`s a new push to look at it
from a class policy. Is this the new frontier? Are we going to need new
frontier? What about to happen in Supreme Court?
Kenji, normally, you talk me down when I`m panicked about a Supreme Court
decision. You said this one is going down. How bad is it going to be?
YOSHINO: Right. This is where I sort of push you down the ledge and run
downstairs to catch you. I can`t talk you off the ledge. So, I do think
what`s going to happen here is that the Texas program is going to be
So there are two options. So, they could overrule the 2003 case from the
University of Michigan. So, they could say, instead of it being 25 years -
- lo and behold, it was only nine years basically because the personnel at
the court has changed.
Alternatively and this is my hope, they could go much narrower than that,
and say, look, there is this 10 percent program which on it`s face is
neutral. So, just to clarify this debate that was going, this is actually,
they`re both right in the sense that legally, it`s basically neutral,
because the 10 percent programs have said we`re talking the 10 percent,
The reason that it was put into place was so that the top 10 percent of
highly segregated high schools would be admitted into the flagship U.T.
system. So, it has the effect, has a positive impact on racial minorities.
So, then, the question is in this case: if that program is constitutional,
which it probably is, you know, 80-plus percent of individuals at U.T. are
being admitted under that 10 percent program today. The question is what
happens to the remainder who are being admitted under a race conscious
So, Abigail Fisher is not saying I was in the top 10 percent. She wasn`t.
What she`s saying is I got aced out of a spot in that remaining sort of 15
percent of students.
YOSHINO: Thank you. Nineteen percent of students who applied to the
school simply because of my race.
And so, if the court says you can have your 10 percent program but you
can`t have the plus factor because the 10 percent program is working so
well, then that would be a relatively narrow ruling, because the 10 percent
program is a program that only works at one level. I teach at a law
school. We can`t adopt the program because thank goodness, colleges are
not that segregated today.
So, basically, the 10 percent programs viability is a race control
alternative, only work in certain --
HARRIS-PERRY: It works for a large university, works for a state
university. I mean, Texas-Austin is a perfect place for a large state
university. But the 10 percent program as you point out was this attempt
to try to honor diversity in the classroom with a new kind of policy.
There`s a new report out called "A Better Affirmative Action" by Richard
Kahlenberg at the Century Foundation suggesting maybe what we need is
socioeconomically-based affirmative action, rather than race-based.
Is this the solution if Fisher brings down affirmative action as we know it
ADEGBILE: Initially, I would say, it doesn`t have to be an either/or.
Very often when we see these cases cued up to the Supreme Court, we`re all
counting votes before the arguments even happen. And I think if we take
ourselves back to Michigan, everybody was saying that plan would not
survive. Everybody said that, almost everybody.
HARRIS-PERRY: And who knew Roberts would go for the health care reform,
ADEGBILE: It`s hard to know. It`s hard to know.
ADEGBILE: That said, there is a need for colleges and universities to
think about the socioeconomic gaps we have in our society.
Higher education is about class permeability. It`s not about nobility in
ADEGBILE: What we`re trying to do is make the American dream real. So,
where you begin doesn`t dictate where you finish. And I have no problem
making that have an economic and socioeconomic dimension.
My fundamental contention is that you don`t need to blow up the bridge of
racial inclusion in order to also embrace the socioeconomic differences
that we see.
And I speak from my own experience. I was a person of very modest means
when I applied to college. In fact, I think my classmates unloaded
property worth more value than my family earned in a year or that we lived
But when I got to college, what distinguished me was not my socioeconomic
differences. I had interactions on the soccer field and other places where
people called me things one day a fuzzy foreigner. That was not about the
wealth -- the money I had in my pocket. That was about the way I appeared.
But the person who said it to me, we became friends. We worked through
that and he learned something. So he began with a preconception but our
experiences changed him.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting, because that key of not being angst is on
the one hand, yes. We have seen such a reduction of class mobility that to
me, socioeconomic affirmative action sounds right. On the other hand, we
can`t reduce race to class.
TRAYNHAM: Right. But can`t you have both?
HARRIS-PERRY: Of course.
TRAYNHAM: What you just said a few moments ago in terms of the New Deal
and Harry Truman and so forth, Dwight Eisenhower having an affirmative
action for, quote-unquote, "white people," isn`t that almost the same for
the 21st century in some ways? Because it levels the playing field.
If I understand this correctly, it levels the playing field but also says,
regardless of who you are in terms of race, you`re still created equal, but
we understand that from a social economic standpoint, you`re not equal.
So, why not apply it, not necessarily to a race-based situation but more of
an economic-based situation?
HARRIS-PERRY: For me, there`s two responses to that. One is will it stand
given the long-term history in this country is --
HARRIS-PERRY: The systematic differences have been around --
TRAYNHAM: It`s a good point.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- right -- even more than class. But also that in the case
of the initial affirmative action, those post-World War II policies, they
were supposedly race neutral. But they were implemented in a way that had
these race positive -- race negative effects.
As I always am sort of on hold for what our actual implementation looks
like. At the same time that I want to say there should be a critical
intervention in the issue as you pointed out of low performing schools, is
not necessarily about race. It`s about that intersection between race and
ANGYAL: I think there`s something to be said for implementing some form of
socioeconomic affirmative action, because it removes a lot of the white
angst and sense of lost privilege and sort of resistance to that. At the
same time, I want to keep having that conversation. I don`t want to wipe
race off the white board and talk only about class and pretend like: (a),
like the two aren`t interlinked and like we don`t have to have a serious
conversation about race had this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re going to continue this conversation and switch gears a
little bit, because there`s more news on "This Week in Voter Suppression".
We`re going to Ohio, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yesterday, we updated you with another edition of what we
call "This Week in Voter Suppression."
And we mentioned some big news out of Ohio this week where early voting,
the weekend ahead of the election was upheld in court. Now is our chance
to find what impact that news is going to have on someone who`s on the
ground there in the Buckeye State.
My panel is back. First I want to go to Cincinnati, Ohio, and talk to city
councilman, Christopher Smitherman, who is also the president of
Nice to see you.
CHRISTOPHER SMITHERMAN, CINCINNATI NAACP: Hi, Melissa. Nice to see you
too. Thanks for having me on your show this morning.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh , absolutely. So, you`ve been involved in this voter
registration. I know that weekend directly before the election,
particularly that Sunday had been called Souls to the Polls. Tell me about
this new schedule, the fact that`s now been re-implemented that you have
that weekend, what difference is that going to make?
SMITHERMAN: What`s that, first, it`s a great win for the citizens of the
state of Ohio that John Husted here has to have early voting Saturday,
Sunday and Monday.
Melissa, as you know, 93,000 people voted in 2008 during that weekend. So
that was a tremendous win and so important, so what you`re seeing now since
that NAACP, and probably all unions across the state of the country will be
working with the Baptist ministers conferences in their area, getting their
buses ready to make sure people get down to the polls on the last three
The state of Ohio will probably break by 50,000 votes one way or the other.
So when you`re talking about 93,000 people participating in 2008 in those
three days, this was a significant decision by the sixth circuit court and
I think a very important one. What we`re focused on, on the ground since
that NAACP, we implemented a program where we`ve been sleeping out for the
last five years, Melissa, getting in line, I cast the first vote in
Hamilton County to make sure that people are aware that it is so important
to participate in the political process.
And people keep saying that people aren`t enthusiastic. People are
incredibly enthusiastic in the state of Ohio. On Friday, 80,000 people had
requested absentee ballots. We have 555,000 people registered to vote and
we`re anticipating that that absentee ballot request will hit 200,000 very,
HARRIS-PERRY: Councilman, just because I think some viewers may not
understand why early voting is important. Folks say hey, just go out and
vote on Election Day. For what groups of people does this early voting,
particularly the weekend directly before the election, what difference does
it make to which group or groups of people?
SMITHERMAN: Clearly, African-Americans heavily voted in those last three
days in 2008. So any discussion about trying to stop early voting was
clearly an act of suppression of the vote in the state of Ohio. I think
that the decision in the sixth circuit court upholding that is a clear,
clear message to Secretary of State John Husted.
What we`re hoping is that John Husted tomorrow will announce what the hours
will be and won`t appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States of
America. So, at this point, we`re not even clear whether the appeal
process is even over. But, clearly, these were actions to suppress the
vote in the state of Ohio.
HARRIS-PERRY: Councilman, I really appreciate you taking the time to come
out and I hope you don`t have to sleep out too much longer. But I
appreciate all that you and the NAACP there in Cincinnati, Ohio, is doing.
SMITHERMAN: Melissa, thank you. Let me also wish you a belated happy
birthday on October 2nd. Happy birthday to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. Yes, my birthday was October 2nd and my wedding
anniversary is October 3rd.
So when the president was complaining about having to debate on his wedding
anniversary, I was like, I`m watching on my wedding anniversary. Very nice
to see you.
SMITHERMAN: Thank you so much for having me. Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much.
And when we come back, we`re going to take this issue back to the panel.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re continuing our bonus edition of "This Week in Voter
Suppression." And while we celebrate victories against efforts to suppress
the vote in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, one thing seems clear --
this renewed civil rights issue isn`t going away yet. And will at some
point need to face a true national test.
All right. Panel, here`s what I want to know.
Debo, we have good wins. Is this ultimately going to the Supreme Court?
If it does, should I be terrified about going to a John Roberts Supreme
ADEGBILE: So, I think there will be a case that gets to the Supreme Court
growing out of these challenges. The clock is against everybody here,
because even the uncertainty of an outcome is affecting the elections on
People need to know what the rules are. If you need to have a photo
identification, it takes time to get it.
ADEGBILE: This was the rationale for blocking the law in Pennsylvania and
we`ve seen it in other places. Knowing whether or not you can vote early
on the last weekend, it matters. We need to know these things.
But the important thing is that the history in our country is that
democracy has been contested. There`s a narrative that it`s an inevitable
march forward. But we began small and incrementally added to our
Constitution a whole bunch of times to add us to the party.
HARRIS-PERRY: And not just out of goodwill, but with struggle.
ADEGBILE: And blood sweat and tears. So, I think what we`re seeing now,
what the folks sleeping in Ohio are doing is they are claiming our
democratic tradition in the highest principle. They`re not allowing us to
have high principles and low practices.
TRAYNHAM: That`s the silver lining. I do agree with you a thousand
percent. I was in a barbershop last week and, you know --
HARRIS-PERRY: Which is the source (ph) of all knowledge and wisdom.
TRAYNHAM: It really is. But in terms of voter apathy, in terms of not
voting, I mean, it`s pretty high, at least in my barbershop. My barber
specifically said I need to understand this voter ID stuff. I need to
understand exactly what I need to have to go to the polls.
And I said, what an interesting moment. This is actually a delicious
moment where someone quite frankly is very apathetic about politics could
careless about the voting process has decided because of what he heard on
the street, said you know what? I need to empower myself and I need to
That`s actually I think the silver lining in all of this, is that although
some of these voter suppression laws, you can make argument at the
(INAUDIBLE). You can make an argument that this is all about transparency.
That`s a different argument for a different day.
At the very least people are getting fired up and say, you know what,
whatever the rules are, although I may disagree with them, I need to
understand them and abide by them.
ANGYAL: I would say that the other silver lining is that hoping to God
that all these laws are struck down or blocked is that the Republican`s
agenda has been laid bare. He`s hoping that it fails, but I think it`s
really -- you know, when we talk about systemic and structural barriers to
political participation and representation, this is a really visible public
failure of those attempts.
I think it`s important for people to know that this is something that the
Republicans are trying to pull off.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kenji, as we`ve been watching all of this march through the
courts, it occurs to me that for all of our conversations in politics,
particularly the presidential election year, we don`t talk much about fact
one of the things the president does is to appoint members of the federal
judiciary, not only the Supreme Court, but all the way down in those
TRAYNHAM: That lasts for generations.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is where a president has an impact that goes far beyond
his four or eight terms in office. Talk to me about that, because I know
that President Obama has been criticized by some on the left for putting
moderates on the court. There are three openings on the 11-member U.S.
Appeals Court right now.
What are we facing in terms of the stakes of a federal judiciary in this
YOSHINO: I think that the stakes are huge. We have four justices in the
United States Supreme Court who are aged 74 or over with Ruth Bader
Ginsburg with being 75 at the top of that, right? But Scalia and Kennedy
in the middle, and Breyer being the 74-year-old.
So, the next president will have the capacity to replace now some of the
justices. It`s a very, very haunting issue. I think -- I was trying to
crystallize how to -- I was trying to figure out how to convey this most
precisely. I think the way it can do it is to say, we fight a lot over
Justice Kennedy being the swing vote in all the debates. But Justice
Kennedy only got appointed after Robert Bork went down.
YOSHINO: Right? So, imagine if Bork was confirmed and Justice Kennedy had
never made it on the court. We wouldn`t be fighting over that central
fifth vote. That fifth vote would o belong to the right wing of the court.
YOSHINO: So, these decisions are so incredibly consequential -- one of the
most consequential parts of this election about what you want your Supreme
Court to look like.
TRAYNHAM: And the justices know that. They know that -- that`s probably
why they`re hanging on saying you know what, if Obama is elected, I`m
probably going to step down now. Obviously, if he gets re-elected, if I`m
Scalia, I`m going to hang on to 2016.
And they know that. They know the legacy is -- I don`t like to say the
court is not political. It kind of is.
YOSHINO: As Thurgood Marshall said, you know, if I die, he allegedly said
to a clerk, if I die in the court, just brought me up and keep on going.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right. And this is the deep inner meshing of the
court and the politics you have. You have the lower courts deciding about
these voter suppression issues, which will in many ways decide who gets to
show up and cast their votes for the president and then that president is
going to decide what the composition of that court looks like.
So, at every point a decision made by a secretary of state in Ohio can have
intergenerational consequences from everything, from reproductive rights to
affirmative action to voting rights.
ANGYAL: The other group who is disproportionately affected by things like
what they`re trying to do in Ohio is elderly voters.
ANGYAL: You know, I think about my grandma who is 98 years old. She was
born before women had the right to vote. She was born in 1914.
And you know what? She`s not that mobile. She`s still going strong. But
she doesn`t drive anymore. You know, she`s having a bad day on an Election
Day. She`ll do everything she can to get to the polls, but if she can`t,
she doesn`t get to vote.
Something like early voting is an opportunity for her to make sure that she
gets to participate in the democracy that she has been -- that her
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And this is part of, you know, if you have to pick
up the elderly mother or grandmother, it is much easier to schedule to do
that on a Saturday than on a Tuesday which is a workday.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, these challenges -- I think what happens the
narrative about individualism is if you really want to vote, just get
yourselves out there and figure it out. We don`t think enough about the
I know, being Australian, you`re from a country where do you not put up
barriers, you actually mandate voting.
ANGYAL: Yes, it`s compulsory. And I have to say, it really -- it really
upsets me sometimes coming from a place where voting is mandatory, there`s
a light fine of $20 if you don`t vote. It really upsets me to hear
Americans and America in general touting it as the greatest democracy in
the whole world when you make it so difficult to vote.
You do it on a workday. You know, you erect structural barriers and it`s -
HARRIS-PERRY: Like registration.
ANGYAL: Australia happens on a Saturday. There`s -- you were comparing it
to -- part of the social fabric, like Fourth of July. We actually do have
barbecues sometimes at your polling place.
It upsets me to not just to hear Americans talking about how perfect and
brilliant their democracy is, but also punishing people financially who
want to vote rather than punishing people for not to vote.
TRAYNHAM: Well, just to be fair to the system to be transparent, you can
vote by absentee ballot. If in fact you feel like you`re elderly or if you
are elderly and you want to vote in person but you`re not sure you can do
it in person.
Now, granted the reason we have elections on Tuesday because it`s the whole
farming system back in the early --
TRAYNHAM: -- there`s a whole history behind that.
I agree with you that it`s very much outdated. I agree with you it`s not
particularly convenient. We thought we had -- we got this right with Help
America Vote Act in 2002. That whole fiasco of Florida, we still do not
have the right.
The unfortunate truth is, you`re right, we still make it very, very
inconvenient for a lot of our citizens to vote. We have to change that?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, in many state in this country, Tuesday is your last day
to register. There are some that say the registration for many Americans,
they may not be aware that Tuesday will be your last day to register.
Let me also just say this. That "This Week in Voter Suppression." which
we`re talking about up to the election, I think part of the question is
whether or not we`ll continue to have, not just here at Nerdland, but
whether or not we as an American populace will continue to have an
attention span for this after the concept is decided. However it`s
decided. There are these basic structural issues about our democracy, no
matter which party ends up winning the White House.
More in just a moment. But, first, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS
WITH ALEX WITT".
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hello to you, Melissa.
Well, everyone, four years ago, this was a vice presidential debate, Sarah
Palin, Joe Biden. Will it be anything like that? Historian Douglas
Brinkley has some answers on that.
Also a new poll shows Mitt Romney is closing the gap, but could Walmart
moms help the president? Results of a new study.
Plus, in office politics, New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman shares
her thoughts on the Tea Party`s effect on the GOP, and something she shares
in common with Ronald Reagan. Plus her thoughts on why the heartland could
help the president.
And Big Bird makes a surprise visit, fighting for his life.
Melissa, who`s fighting for her voice, man, tea, honey --
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, I know. I`ve been drinking it. I got to tell you, we
were watching Big Bird before the show just clapping and screaming, fight
for Big Bird.
WITT: Just laughing. It`s wonderful. Go Big Bird.
HARRIS-PERRY: It was great. Thank you, Alex.
HARRIS-PERRY: And up next, I think it is time to redefine what strong
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I know I`m at risk of sounding like I`m part of that
"SNL" skit that spoofs MSNBC`s debate coverage, and I know that in an
election year, it is not popular to say what I`m about to say.
But there it goes, constitutionally, the American presidency is weak.
Article II of the U.S. Constitution makes the president Commander-in-Chief
of the armed forces and allows him, with the consent of Congress, to
appoint cabinet members and other executive officials. He can conduct
foreign affairs, but even then, his treaties and appointments must be
approved by the Senate, and his expenditures by the House of
These are enumerated roles are modest compared to executives and other
world governments, and compared to the extensive powers given to other
branches of the U.S. government.
But while the office is constitutionally weak, American presidents have
often wielded enormous power. This power comes through each of the offices
of the individual presidents to persuade, to wield influence, and at times,
that power has seemed almost boundless.
Presidential scholar Michael Nelson argues that an explicit exultation of
presidential strength, underlying our notion of what makes a good
president. For many citizens, the president is the embodiment of America,
and many value strength above all else, which is, of course, is why so many
were aghast about President Obama`s performance on Wednesday night. They
were left asking, is he weak? And if he is weak, are we, as a nation,
So, deep breath. Let`s pause for a moment and think about what aspects of
strength we value. It takes strength to deal honestly with your opponents,
even when they deal dishonestly with you. It takes strength to make the
tough calls, even when you are not sure how they will turn out. It takes
strength to have the patience to watch policy become progress.
And it takes strength to admit mistakes and change direction when needed.
And every parent knows it takes untold strength to do this.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Yes, calming a crying baby is not actually
presidential. It`s just my favorite Obama moment, because here is the deal
-- the presidency itself is weak, which is why Americans want presidents
themselves to be strong. I just encourage us not to confuse aggressiveness
And that is our show for today. Thank you to Kenji, Debo, Robert and Chloe
for sticking around.
Also, thanks to you at home for joining us, despite my laryngitis. I`ll
see you again next Saturday with a full voice at 10:00 Eastern.
Coming up next, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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