'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, October 21st, 2012
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
October 21, 2012
Guests: Matt Miller, Gordon Chang, Salamishah Tillet, Dorie Clark, Thomas
Norman DeWolf, Sharon Leslie Morgan
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning my question. Why does Mitt
Romney think marriage solves gun violence?
Plus, we are women and you will hear us vote.
And, a race talk that asks if talking about race really helps at all.
But first, it`s a complex world out there. We need someone to lead it.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
At approximately 6:15 a.m. Eastern time, former U.S. senator George
McGovern passed away while in hospice in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He was
90 years old. An early opponent of the Vietnam War, George McGovern was
the Democratic Party nominee for president in 1972, but lost in a landslide
election to Republican Richard Nixon.
In a statement, the McGovern family said quote "we are blessed to know that
our father lived a long, successful and productive life, advocating for the
hungry, being a progressive voice for millions and fighting for peace."
McGovern long will be remembered for his unwavering opposition to war and
war is where we begin this morning.
Today we`re taking you back to June 28th, 1914. Yes. June 28, 1914. That
was the day that a foreign emissary was assassinated while on a diplomatic
mission in Sarajevo. That single death set off a chain of events that led
to the largest global conflict the world had ever seen. On that fateful
day, a 19-year-old, Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip took the life of
Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Knowing the dead to the air of Austrian
Hungarian Empire and stunts German ally would not go unanswered, Serbia
appealed to their Russian neighbors for help believing this crisis would be
on excuse for war in the Balkans, Russia readied its army. By July 28,
Austria Hungary had declared war on Serbia.
A few days later, after hearing news of Russian`s mobilization, Germany
declared war on Russia. Hoping to keep Russia`s ally at bay, the German
army invaded France through Belgium violating the small nation`s neutrality
and drawing Great Britain into war as well.
Ferdinand`s death beget millions more over four years of trench warfare
ending not with sustained peace but scorched earth that set the stage for
the second world war. Now, today the world is dictated by much different
events. September 11th, 2012, the anniversary of the biggest terror attack
on U.S. soil, one of our most well-respected diplomats, ambassador
Christopher Stevens was assassinated in Benghazi.
The tragic death will thankfully not lead to an immediate declaration of
war, in part, because there`s no one nation to declare war on. President
Obama`s vow to track down those responsible only reminds us that in this
post 9/11 era, our conflicts wither managed by the boundaries of nation
states or diplomatic cables. Moreover, we still aren`t exactly sure who
we`re hunting for. Every day, new conflicting details emerge both in
reporting and from those responsible for our national security. An
accurate account of what happened on that day in September is still not
At this point, we have only been offered a window into the current state of
our national security apparatus. And from we can see it is a system that
many have expanded and may have expanded beyond its capacity, preventing
clear lines of communication between departments. A symptom that`s
infected our national debate on foreign policy steering the conversation
away from terrorism and diplomacy and straight into a game that`s really
just about blame.
If last week`s political conversation was any indication, what we will be
hearing a lot of tomorrow night is bickering that sounds like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it`s interesting the
president just said something which is that on the day after the attack he
went to the rose garden and said that this was an act of terror. You said
in the rose garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror. It
was not a spontaneous demonstration. Is that what you`re saying?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Please proceed, Governor.
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the
president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He did in fact, sir.
So, let me call it an act of terror.
OBAMA: Can you say it louder Candy?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Please proceed, governor. Say it louder, Candy. Because
you see, we are most certainly also going to hear about this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Even you would admit it was not the optimal
response, at least to the American people as far as us all being on the
OBAMA: Here`s what I`ll say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Yes.
OBAMA: If four Americans get killed, it`s not optimal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Right.
OBAMA: And we are going to fix it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: All of it?
OBAMA: All of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Those are the barbs and the talking points of politicians,
not statesmen. The back and forth about who said what when or if the
president uttered the word terrorism or used the most sensitive dictions`,
frankly, beside the point.
This nation is on the precipice of a unique opportunity. With two 9/11
wars coming to a close, we have an opportunity to learn from past mistakes.
The he said/he said debate provides no context to the life or death
questions at hand. What should American, foreign policy be in a post-war
Presidential elections are an opportunity about discussion for every facet
of our democracy. Ideally, what emerges is a choice about the direction of
our nation and its place in the world. I hope that tomorrow night`s debate
provides the context and breadth of conversations to make that choice.
With me are MSNBC contributors, Rula Jebreal, foreign policy enlist for the
"Newsweek," "Washington Post` opinion writer, Jonathan Capehart. Matt
Miller, senior fellow at the center for American progress and Gordon Chang
columnist for forbes.com.
Nice to have you here. We have a somber tone on Nerdland this morning.
You know, in part because obviously we`re looking at the death of George
McGovern early this morning, but also because going into the foreign policy
debate, this feels like what could be the single most important
presidential debate. This is where presidential power lies and yet I feel
like we`re going to end up in a conversation about politics, not about
MATT MILLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think that is totally lie because it`s
only going to be a debate in the sense that we call these things, debate.
It`s going to be a televised event where Mitt Romney tries to use words of
foreign countries to try and persuade the million people in five or six
states to win. That`s a terrible way. I mean, it just means he will be
seizing on every moment, whether it`s Benghazi, whether it`s this latest
Iranian thing I know we`ll talk about just to try and score points to move
some votes. I don`t think we`ll get the high minded debate we`ll have
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And Benghazi has had an impact. It was when we look
at the Pew polling; President Obama was leading Mitt Romney in foreign
policy sort of in September coming out of the elections. He was leading on
the question of foreign policy 53-38. Post Libya Benghazi, death of the
ambassador; it`s much closer to 47/43 percent.
So, I think you are right, Matt. There are points to be scored here. Is
that really what we are going hear or is there or is there any opportunity
for a substantive conversation about what we ought to be up to in the
We should have a substantive conversation. Because, you know, although we
can talk about Benghazi or we talk about Iran, which is the new story,
really what we need is a context for what`s going on.
GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, FORBES.COM: And clearly, you know for instance,
Winston Churchill in 1946 gave context with his iron curtain speech. But
we need an update of that speech, but only for our times. And I think that
the candidate who gives it tomorrow night, whether it is President Obama or
Governor Romney, the one who gives that context, is going to be the one who
changes the terms of debate and it`s basically, I think, going to carry the
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s interesting that you make that point about
context. We sort of went back to tenth grade U.S. and world history where
you teach, you know, World War I by saying it basically all happened in
this way. And part of the reason to repeat that, it is the tenth grade
version of it, but it is the simplified version of what constitutes the
purposes and the reasons for World War I. Are we going to see sort of the
Libya and Benghazi situation talked about in that way or is there a way to
provide context that lets us see, you know, the kind of -- it`s not about a
You Tube video and it is also not necessary about the administration line.
It is far more complicated issue.
RULA JEBREAL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s actually like something in between.
The truth that President Obama would come to this debate with a huge record
on foreign policy, let`s be honest about that. He steered and he worked in
an area that`s very volatile and he in a very changed world who ever win
the election, will have to understand the policy of the United States in
the Arab world, he will -- whoever will win will have to face a totally
different world. Our policy was policy of (INAUDIBLE) back in dictators,
that policy is different today. You have to face government that were
elected and are in power and they don`t have to have the same interests.
And we have to convince them and collaborate to them and partner with them
on shaping their realities closest we can to our views.
What`s Romney did and I`m sorry to say that. President Obama will come
with his achievements, killing bin Laden, hammering al-Qaeda, actually
trying to endorse Palestinian and Israeli peace process that he couldn`t do
because of the factors of what`s going on in the ground and many other
What Romney will come with is a bunch of insults towards these countries
that actually alienate them before he`s in office. Even with China. How
can he talk to the number two economy in the world, the number one holder
of U.S. debt and actually, the country that is giving loans to emerging
markets more than the World Bank? How can he talk to them before you`re in
office in those terms? How do you think they will do?
HARRIS-PERRY: A really good point here about the fact that in the Mideast
now dealing with democracies. There`s been sort of an assumption within
the land of IR democracies. Don`t go to war with one another. That
democracy will always mean regimes in the interest of the United States.
But, that is not necessarily so as we might say on Broadway, right? That
in fact, we now have a very different position vis-a-vis these governments
because like them or not, they are chosen by at least some form of
democracy in the country.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: By people. What
this entire discussion is about is, how complex international relations is.
In our presidential election cycle, you know, politics is black and white.
And international relations and certainly intelligence is a murky world of
CAPEHART: And you cannot -- I don`t think tomorrow night, we`re going to
have the conversation we need to have in the context that you were talking
about because, one, there`s not enough time. You can`t get context in 90-
second two-minute answers.
But also, it`s deeply unsatisfying, I think to the president who knows the
context and has all the intelligence but can`t give the answers because
things are classified or doesn`t have enough time. But also, the American
people just -- there`s not enough bandwidth there.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to come back on exactly this point of intelligence
and on the issue of what we are entitled to know. We are going to stay on
the issue of foreign policy but specifically the big news this morning out
of both Iran and Syria. Has there been a historic breakthrough or not?
Depends on what time you`re reading the news. We will get to that next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tomorrow night is the third and final presidential debate
focusing entirely on national security and foreign policy. Its focus will
certainly be on Iran and Syria. We woke up today to news involving both
Late last night "The New York Times" reported that Iran had agreed in
principal to one-on-one nuclear talks with the United States. The times
sourced the story to the Obama administration. However, both the White
House and Iranian foreign minister deny the report. A senior
administration official tells NBC News that there has been back channel
talks between the U.S. and Iran about a bilateral meeting on the nuclear
issue, but no meeting agreed to yet.
Meanwhile, earlier today, a powerful explosion hit the Syrian capital of
Damascus killing ten people. The blast comes on the same day that a U.N.
peace envoy was in the city for talks with President Assad.
The world does not stop for the U.S. presidential race. And tomorrow
night, both President Obama and Governor Romney will surely need to lay out
their plans for the way forward with both Iran and Syria.
If this on the table, and if so what in the world is it doing on a
political table when this is not about politics?
MILLER: The Iranian thing, the mystery of that this morning, we were
talking about this before, is who leaked this, what was their intent,
regardless of that what`s the impact tomorrow night in the debate. You
know, there`s theories already, this was a hostile intent by somebody who
wants to derail any potential direct talks between the U.S. and Iran.
But, I can see how it`s impossible to, you know, to know before tomorrow
night. But I could see how this could play to the president`s favor.
Because Iran is one of the places where Romney has tried to stake his claim
that he is tougher, that we are four years closer to a nuclear weapon,
blah-blah-blah. This, at least, lets the president say look, I can`t
discuss everything that may be under way, but we are obviously going to
explore every peaceful solution and if Romney - the fact that lets him cast
Romney as a bit more of a warmonger on the eve of the election in the eyes
of the independents, I think that could work for Obama.
CAPEHART: War fearing independence.
JEBREAL: I thought it is actually, not only work for Obama; it`s the best
policy that we can -- that we achieve with Iranians. I mean, the
strangling sanction that we put on their central bank and their economy,
their economy is sinking. Let`s be honest about it. The food prices are
soaring to 40 percent. The rial is, you know, sold in the black market,
18,000 to one dollar. It`s a disaster for them.
At the same time, now, they have to come to a bold move. The bold move, we
are ready to talk. They have been saying that, you know, especially the
reformist of the regime. Now, they are on their knees and they want to do
that. That would play towards actually President Obama.
Romney will have a big problem here. Because he said I will never accept
that they have access to nuclear technology. I look at word.
JEBREAL: Technology and not bomb. I mean, here, we`re talking technology.
They already have that. So, that means that the first day in you`re in
office you have to attack them if this is your policy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And so, I think that is exactly on this issue. So,
what does it mean to talk about a nation state, or to even be talking about
whether or not these talks are occurring, whether or not there has been
intelligence, the issue of intelligence is the thing that shifts us away
from the sort of what war or what foreign policy or what diplomacy looks
like previously versus what it looks like now. Can a president in a
presidential debate with the sensitivity of actually governing within this
complex world talk honestly with the American people about what his
policies are for example in Syria or Iran.
JEBREAL: They have to.
CHANG: The disadvantages in course, but also, he does have the advantage
of knowing more than Mitt Romney. Also, he has the advantage of being the
president and the Americans do rally behind their leader in times of
crisis. And Iran certainly is capable of supplying crises. But --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, indeed. They are.
CHANG: The one thing about Iran which I think is important is that Iran is
dangerous, of course. But Iran really poses a threat because it has
backing from for instance, China. And what we saw in the Wiki Leaks, you
talked about intelligence, what we saw in the Wiki Leaks cables was that
the Bush administration had these discussions with China about its
proliferation of nuclear weapons technology to Iran and did nothing about
it. And so clearly, this is going to be an issue not only for the
Republicans but also for the Democrats because neither party has been very
successful on Iran.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, how do you balance that like the threat issue so
Iran can provide us with this sense of threat versus Syria, which is not a
threat issue. It`s a humanitarian crisis issue. And so, if you`re
president and you are in a foreign policy debate, it`s both an issue about
war weary independence, not liking a war mongering stance vis-a-vis Iran.
But, is there also a kind of progressive or liberal bent toward
intervention around humanitarian crisis that might work against the
president on sort of, you know, taking a bit of a stance back from Syria.
CAPEHART: I think the American people at this point, after two wars and
thousands of Americans wounded and thousands killed, if the president is
going to send troops to another country, they want to know exactly what is
the mission, what exactly are they going to be doing and how fast can we
then bring them home? The thing --
HARRIS-PERRY: All the answers we didn`t get in Iraq.
JEBREAL: If you want to resolve the Syrian crisis, you have to own it.
You have to invade it, you have to occupy Syria. Send troops on the
ground. But because Romney, the view is OK, I`ll arm their rebels. Who
are the rebels? Who are they? And who are they represent - stands for?
CAPEHART: A larger point I was going to make, which is the president has
for all the things you said, Gordon, the thing I would tack on that is, the
president has a record. We know what he`s been doing the last four years.
With Mitt Romney, we don`t exactly know. He says a lot of things.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It is always easy to be the candidate.
CAPEHART: Right, what he is going to do. Yes, it always easy to be the
candidate. But when you`re Governor Romney, one minute you sound like you
want to go to war with Iran. The next minute you say, well yes, basically
my policy is the same as the president`s.
MILLER: I think Romney is portraying is this kind of nostalgia for the age
when America shaped global events more than it can in a world where China
and the rise of the rest. And I don`t even know if Romney believes that.
It`s hard to know what Romney believes at this point.
JEBREAL: Deep ignorance on --
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s go -- we`re going to come right back on this issue of
-- this changing power, particularly as you brought up China and the issue
of China and what it means to be the candidates who can say whatever he
wants about how strong and powerful and rough he is going to be on China.
But, are you willing to pay more for your iphone? We are talking China
when we get back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: On day one, I will label China currency manipulator, which will
allow me as president to be able to put in place, if necessary, terrorist
tariffs where I believe they`re taking advantage of manufacturers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes, really? Because something tells me that Mitt
Romney isn`t the man to get tough on China. Perhaps, because this is the
man who touts his business experience as a CEO of Bain Capital, that`s Bain
Capital with a long history of outsourcing to China. He thinks of that as
his main qualification for president. Or maybe it`s because he is the man
who just hired a new economic policy director, who is JPMorgan`s executive
director for lobbying and during that time helped to kill legislation meant
to address Chinese currency manipulation. It could also be because a move
like that is outside the purview of the oval office. I call that an idle
threat, Mr. Romney.
Back to my panel. Gordon, I want to bring you in on this. I mean, this
language of who is going to get tough on China, we have seen polling now
where Americans give an edge, 49 percent to 40 percent edge to Mr. Romney
over President Obama on China policy. And yet, I keep thinking, this is
the land of la la. This is not what China policy actually is.
CHANG: Yes. I mean, there is a lot of politics of course on this current
issue pressing manipulations. But, this is the first presidential election
where both candidates are trying to outdo each other on China. And
regardless of who wins and regardless of what they say right now, there
will be real policy change in the next administration. It will be tougher
on China. But that`s largely because of reaction of what Beijing is doing.
Beijing`s trade behavior of the last couple of years has gotten much worse.
They`re trying to use it as trade leverage for geopolitical purposes
against us, against the Japanese, against most countries in the region.
So really, there`s going to be a very different conversation about China.
It is going to be away from the sound bites that we have been hearing in
the last three or four weeks but nonetheless, the policy change will be
HARRIS-PERRY: The constraints are regardless of who is elected and these
are structural constraints.
MILLER: The truth is, I think that if Romney did not have the Bain Capital
pioneer of outsourcing vulnerabilities, Obama would be very vulnerable on
China. Because I don`t think either party thought through what would
happen in the dozen years since the WTO when the entire, because of the
incentives of globalization, you don`t need to locate work anywhere. The
entire U.S. based, multinational community integrated their supply stores
with the Chinese. And the impact that it had on wages and will have on
wages, in the U.S. for decades, there is something you kind of, is sort of
the cow that left the barn. And it is very hard - now, we`ve created a
constituency in the U.S. that`s very powerful because the state cannot
upsetting that Apple cart.
CHANG: That`s changing, though. Because China made it self-an unreliable
member of global supply chains. And so, you`re seeing the multinationals
tend to push back just a little bit and the smaller in U.S. --
JEBREAL: I think Obama was though on China especially when he denounced it
in so many episodes and he went after them. But, I think what Romney is
saying, he`s envisioning his relationship with China as president
eventually as if it was a decade ago. OK, we see China as we have problem
with them on trade, on Taiwan and eventually human rights.
China is a different monster today, it`s a different beast. And we have to
address that. China is the one that oppose our intervention in Syria or
any other sanction kind of sanction against Syria by using veto. China is
today number two economies in the world.
JEBREAL: And they are determined. Policies in so many areas, Iran,
they`re giving loans to -
MILLER: They are colonizing Africa.
JEBREAL: Bigger than that, we have to address this issue. So, the
challenge for China will be economic issues, yes, human rights issues, that
will be the lock, geopolitical influence. We have to know that.
MILLER: And Obama made a useful tilt militarily to Asia that I think all
the -- when I was in the region last year, Japan, others are very happy
that the U.S. is signaling they are going to shift their presence there.
But, I do think the challenge for the U.S. is, I think the Chinese are
playing this 100-year-long, very long game. Our presidents and CEOs, is
four or five years.
HARRIS-PERRY: And let`s not miss this because again, the world does not
stop just because there`s a presidential election. In fact, it will
respond. We have a Chinese newspaper responding to Romney`s conversation
about I`m going to call you a currency manipulator. And they write.
"China perhaps will be forced to fight back. And then his administration
would be very likely on its way to a global trade war." Right? So, if you
can`t just sort of act unilaterally in this circumstance.
CHANG: But here though, you know, China has an enormous trade surplus
against the United States, $295.4 billion last year. Countries with trade
surpluses don`t start trade wars. They`re in no position to do so.
HARRIS-PERRY: I see.
CHANG: And it is also because the Chinese economy right now is slumping
very badly. They don`t have the seven percent growth they`re talking
about. They have more like one or two, maybe even zero. And that means
that China is becoming even more reliant on the U.S. these days. So,
there`s a lot of --
HARRIS-PERRY: Part of why they`re sending not only infrastructure
investment but also workers into Africa right, they`re making some of the
international inroads that for example the U.S. has not had the foresight
JEBREAL: Listen, the United States will remain for the second -- for the
next two decades the number one super power in the Middle East and probably
in most countries. Simply not because of the values and the national
interest, simply because it represent today for all of the global emerging
markets a place where they would like to head for and would like to be
And I think that investment of this administration, in education in these
countries, Planned Parenthood and other funds to develop and evolve is
massive. And it shows. You go to Lebanon, you go actually to Pakistan,
you know, the Mala case is a huge case. Actually, makes you think,
something is changing on the ground in Pakistan and in Iran itself where we
found secrecy and not secretly to --
HARRIS-PERRY: You`ve taken exactly where we are going to go as soon as we
come back after the break. We will have an update on Malala. If you
remember from last week, she`s the 15-year-old Pakistani girl shot for
going to school. Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last week we talked about 15-year-old Pakistani activist
Malala Yousufzai who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban on her
school bus, all for daring to promote the idea that girls in her country
deserve a proper education.
On Tuesday, Malala was flown to the United Kingdom for treatment. And this
week, we`ve learned that she`s steadily improving. According to the
university hospital`s Birmingham update, she is stable, comfortable and
responding well. On Friday, doctors said Malala was able to stand with
help and to write.
Her body may be slowly healing, but a "New York Times" article indicated
yesterday that public opinion about her shooting and her struggle may be
quickly turning. We have mixed feelings one man told reporter deck Lynn
Walsh. What is the Americans who shot her or was it al-Qaeda? We don`t
know. Some people think this is all an American publicity stunt to make
their point against the Taliban.
Now, granted, there was skepticism about Malala`s activism before she was
attacked. But this conspiracy theory, one that involves American
subterfuge of our quote-unquote "ally" is just one example of how
complicated our relationship with Pakistan is and how difficult it will be
to manage no matter whom the next president is.
Rula, you were here when we talked about Malala last week. I am stunned
that just a week later, we have folks saying this is just an American
JEBREAL: But this is -- I`m not that so surprised at all and simply,
because we`ve been giving the military huge aid, $20 billion in ten years.
And what they have been doing with that, they are turning blind eye to the
Taliban. They have been promoting propaganda that is anti-American
propaganda. And they will keep the money because they will always tell the
United States look, we are civilizing the country for you on your behalf.
So, give us the money. We`ll keep this huge sum of money and we will, you
know, we will try to handle the Taliban sometimes. And they have been
doing nothing on the ground.
And they`ve been actually poisoning the public opinion against the U.S.
administration over and over, and it`s a double policy that they`re using
are one hand. They use of public opinions to steer attention. So the U.S.
will think, oh, my God, we need maybe the military to calm them down and it
is poisonous relationships that have to stop and has to be addressed
differently. More money goes to people like Malala and to schools actually
will have and will uproar a civil society that will stand up themselves to
the militaries and to the Taliban.
CHANG: This is a really important point because U.S. aid to Pakistan has
been going largely to the army as you point out. The army has been taking
a lot of it and giving it to the Haqqani (ph) network, giving it to the
Taliban before killing Americans.
And so, we have had this policy of engagement with Islamabad. What we have
done though is over the period of decades created a dangerous state. And I
think we really need to pull back because Malala sort of symbolizes what is
wrong with our American policy in both administrations, you know
Republican, Democrat going back decades. It`s been wrong from the start.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, the conspiracy, when we hear Americans actually shot
her, but there is something to be said about our complicity in the shooting
itself in part because of our relationship --
MILLER: Participating in what`s essentially in international shakedown by
the Pakistani military and then when you see something like this, I have a
15-year-old daughter. The idea that a girl who wants to go to school --
HARRIS-PERRY: Deserves to be --
MILLER: Shot. It shows you the sickness we`re dealing with. If there`s
good and evil, I know it`s a complex world. This has to be one of the
HARRIS-PERRY: This one is not complicated.
CAPEHART: But here`s the complication, excuse me, about Pakistan, and we
were talking before about wow, this is supposed to be a friend, this is
supposed to be an ally, this is a frenemy that has nukes.
CAPEHART: And so, you know, how does that, you know, mess things up in
terms of our relationship, the things we can do, the things we can`t do and
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, for all of our anxiety about Iranian access to
nuclear capacity and technology, we now have this so-called allied
relationship which could not be more complicated. I mean, I can`t imagine
JEBREAL: OK. I give you the money to silence you and at the same time,
OK, fine, they will always keep you under pressure. So I can`t have the
money. That newspaper, let`s check really who owned that newspaper in
Pakistan and most of the statements are controlled by the army director.
So, we are funding the worst monster. I am very concerned about this. I
think the U.S. --
HARRIS-PERRY: How old is this particular policy? This is not a past three
year sort of policy.
CHANG: This goes back to George H.W. Bush. And it had actually bipartisan
support then. One of the things I think is interesting about all of this.
For as bad as the Taliban is and as tough as al-Qaeda looks, they have
values that most people in the world just find abhorrent. And this is our
strength. And the one thing that - you know, you look at President Obama
and he represents things. He represents America. He represents things
that people like around the world. And that`s why he got the Nobel peace
prize. You know, as controversial award. But I think it really goes to
the issue of American and western --
HARRIS-PERRY: I said before, it was a brilliant award for us as a nation
because he`s a cosmopolitan world citizen sort of president. It was like
good job America on imaging that you could be led by someone like that.
Gordon Chang. Thank you so much for being here. The rest are all back for
And up next, I`m going to talk about Mitt Romney`s answer to gun violence.
More husbands, apparently single moms as our weapons of mass destruction.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here in Nerdland, we were really looking forward to the town
hall debate specifically because of the format. Maybe, just maybe, one of
the audience`s questions who had shake things up introduce an issue other
than the usual broiler plate. And a response from the candidate, other
than the standard talking points. And it seems on Tuesday night like that
moment had finally arrived.
No, not when Mike Jones, the abuser, can have a seat. Rather, the great
moment came when audience member, Nina Gonzalez, stood up and presented our
presidential contenders with this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NINA GONZALEZ, DEBATE AUDIENCE MEMBER: President Obama, during the
Democratic National Convention in 2008 you stated you wanted to keep Ak-47s
out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or
planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Our nations need for an answer to that question couldn`t be
more urgent than it is right now. Because 2010 and 2011 the number of
violent victimizations in the United States increased by 18 percent.
That`s the sharpest year to year increase our nation has seen in nearly two
Of homicides for which the FBI received weapons data in 2009, 72 percent of
murders were committed with guns. In one year, almost 100,000 people are
shot in the United States. Of those people, more than 30,000 of them are
killed by guns. Every year, in the U.S., in the last 44 years, there have
been more than one million Americans killed by guns. A number we should
take into account when we talk about American exceptionalism. Because
among 23 of the world`s high-income populous countries, the United States
firearm homicide rates were 19.5 times higher than all of those countries.
For 15-year-olds to 24-year-olds, firearm homicide rates in the United
States were 42.7 times higher. And overall among those, 23 of the high
income nations, United States accounted for 80 percent of all firearm
Now, there are the ones we know. The ones that make national headlines,
like the 12 who died and the 58 wounded after James Holmes opened fire in
Aurora, Colorado movie theater in July where the six people who were killed
and the four wounded when Wade Michael Page attacked a Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Sikh temple in August.
Since 1982, there have been 61 of those attention grabbing mass murders,
139 firearms were involved. Then, there are the shootings that become so
commonplace that they barely merit a mention in the local press or when
it`s the president`s hometown of Chicago, maybe it might get a mention in a
This city, Chicago, marked a grim milestone at the start of this month. On
Monday morning, October 1st, Chicago woke up to reports of the city`s 400th
homicide in the year. That`s a 25 percent increase in homicide in Chicago
from the same time last year.
For all these reasons and for, Nina Gonzalez`s question set the perfect
tone in the presidential debate. And it`s also why the response from the
Republican candidate struck us as appallingly tone deaf. Because Mitt
Romney`s response to all of those in search a solution was to tell single
mothers to go in search of a husband. We`re going to try to do better than
that when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: A lot of great single moms, single dads, but, God, to tell our
kids before they have babies they ought to think about getting married to
someone, that`s a great idea because as a two parent family the prospect of
living in poverty goes down dramatically. So, we can make changes in the
way our culture works to help bring people away from violence --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so, there we all were right in the middle of a
discussion about gun control, between our two presidential candidates,
suddenly out of nowhere, one of them out of nowhere starts talking about
I got to tell you, it was odd enough to hear a lecture about family
planning from a member of a party that opposes reproductive right. But,
Romney`s non-sector about marriage didn`t even come close to hitting the
bulls` eye on the topic of guns, because the best way to address gun
control isn`t to implicate single parent. The best was to address gun
control is, you know, control guns.
Joining our panel is Salamishah Tillet, an assistant professor of African
studies at the University of Pennsylvania. And I want to you on this,
Salamisha. You know, I was looking at the president`s face there on that
clip and he`s got a sort of neutral expression as he`s listening to Mitt
Romney. But, I was in my living room, boy, what? What like why would
single parenting be the answer to a gun control question?
SALAMISHAH TILLET, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF AFRICAN STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF
PENNSYLVANIA: Yes. One, as people brought up by single parent household,
it is just offensive. But, I was thinking where is Sarah Palin when you
need here? If anyone can talk about relationship or their lack of such in
gun control and single parent household, maybe she could be spokesperson
But honestly, the real issue I think that Mitt Romney was pointing to is
something that a lot of Americans think, that there`s a link between the
kind of deterioration in the American family and rise of gun, you know,
violent crimes with (INAUDIBLE).
But, you know, "Mother Jones" has a really interesting raw survey and they
found that the most recent mass shootings, 12 of those that came out of
this year, six of the men who did these crimes were from two parent
households and only three were from single parent households. So there`s
no correlation between who`s doing these kinds of things and what kinds of
families they`re doing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. It felt more to me like a kind of moral panic there,
right? So, you know, someone asked about a so-called social problem which
is gun violence. And then, the answer is what must be associated or
correlated with this other social problem. You just look at a quick graph
of this, to demonstrate that they are simply not correlated if anything
they seem to be negatively correlated. It appears that as there has been
more single parent head of households, there`s been less gun violence,
which potentially means that is getting rid of your father is the better
way to assure no gun violence. I don`t know, but obviously, they`re not
JEBREAL: Actually, I was very disappointed with both sides` answer to
this. I mean, we have to be honest here. I think, it shows one thing that
how much the NRA actually is so powerful in lobbying and shutting down this
debate and come, you know, when you ask them, what would you do? Very
simple, what would you do? Would you ban weapons of assaults, assault
weapons and they simply both of them, you know, fumbled, that said, yes, we
believe in the second amendment, this and that. It`s like telling women or
anybody that has cancer OK, take an aspirin, because this can happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, and particularly putting it between your knees.
MILLER: The National Rifle Association, they claim four million members.
MILLER: There`s 300 million of us. They totally control where the debate
is. "Saturday Night Live" did the great thing last night where on that
question, would you do something about Ak-47s, both Romney goes, no, and
they say Mr. President, no, saying, me neither.
I experienced it in my column writing like the power of the NRA when I
wrote a column a few years ago that there were these sensible laws to limit
gun ownership to come to purchase to one gun a month. And I thought,
that`s reasonable for needs. I don`t find myself needing more than one a
month. It is supposed to stop gun trafficking.
But when in a column came out that I thought was very cleaver from a
reader, saying, why don`t we limit Matt Miller to one column a month if we
are going to start, you know, limiting constitutional right? I thought,
well that is a cleaver guy. Then I got another and another, then dozens
and then hundreds. You have got like flame by NRA`s central that put out
the constitutional argument and try to bat you back. They`re incredibly
well-organized. The other 296 million of us are not and that`s why we have
a debate on that.
JEBREAL: Being in Washington, D.C. on a huge amount of money, so everybody
would shut their mouth up. And what happened to Marcus actually should
bring this debate because what happen, and I`m sorry to compare this.
After September 11, everybody wanted a reaction, everybody wanted to go and
hammer the Talibans and at risk international issues. We should address
this issue because it`s the future of our children. We should send our
children to schools, university and even to a cinema without fearing that
HARRIS-PERRY: If not a bad metaphor analogy. This is like, you know, when
lines are lost and they are being lost predicatively and regularly, you
know, the very fact that the president acknowledged, this is happening in
Chicago. But there are no serious attempts other than increased policing
to address this, right? And increased policing we know is insufficient.
CAPEHART: And then it gets to what you were just saying, it`s the power of
the NRA. It`s not that they just give lots of money to politicians, it`s
that they run candidates against politicians who go against their
interests. I mean clearly --
HARRIS-PERRY: And Alec writes some legislation like the castle doctor
CAPEHART: Right. The stand your ground law which made it possible - it
might make it possible for George Zimmerman to literally get away with
murder for killing Trayvon Martin. So, I think at some point, the 296
million rests of us have to start pushing back against it gets this one
organization that is making it possible for crazy people and unstable
HARRIS-PERRY: And speaking to the rest of us, in our next hour, we are
going to be talking about the rest of us because the struggle for women and
the struggle for their vote continue. So, we have some good news this week
in voter suppression.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Now, we have a quick but very important update on one of the "This
Week in Voter Suppression" stories that we`ve been covering. Namely, these
-- "Voter fraud is a felony" warnings that were erected mostly in
communities of color, in cities like Cleveland, Ohio.
Now the billboards were put up by Clear Channel after they were paid
for by, quote, "a private family foundation as is stated in fine print on
the ad itself."
Now, that last part is important, because it`s a big reason why the
30 or so billboards in Cleveland after much protest will now be coming
down, immediately. "The Cleveland Plain Dealer" reported at 12:00 a.m.
this morning that Clear Channel is taking down the boards because the
company has a policy against putting up anonymous political message on its
To correct the error, Clear Channel said that the client, the private
family foundation, felt the best solution was to take the boards down. So,
we`re in the process of removing them.
Interesting, huh? The client is willing to take the boards down
rather than reveal their identity. Now, we are seeking confirmation from
Clear Channel that similar billboards in other cities, including Cincinnati
and Milwaukee, will also be removed. We`re going to let you know when we
know more. But for now, we`re putting that in the win column.
All right. Now, I also want to turn to this point to the latest NBC
News/"Wall Street Journal" poll out this morning. Among likely voters
nationwide, President Obama and Governor Romney are now tied. Golly
goodness. OK. At 47 percent apiece.
Now, the poll conducted after the second presidential debate makes
clear that if the president is re-elected, it`s going to be for one reason,
because of women voters. The president now leads nationally, 51 percent to
43 percent over Mitt Romney among women voters. And indeed, this week we
saw a slew of polls from battleground states that show just how crucial the
women`s vote is.
Data released by the Project New America shows that in Florida the
president leads 48 percent to 44 percent among likely women voters. In
North Carolina, a state that the president won in 2008, he leads 49 percent
to 43 percent. And the margin increases in Wisconsin 50 percent to 40
percent. While in Colorado, the gap widens with 53 percent in favor of the
president and only 39 percent for Romney. In Nevada, the president enjoys
a 14 percent lead over his challenger among women who are likely voters.
Each of these states, the president is holding a thin lead due to
that gender gap. But the campaigns know that it just ain`t over until it`s
And for that very reason, ladies, they`re working to get your vote.
And maybe we should all be feeling pretty special right now. I don`t know
about y`all, but I like to be courted by my politicos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don`t have to order
up some binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This president has failed
OBAMA: Being a woman is not a preexisting condition.
ROMNEY: This is a presidency that has not helped America`s women.
OBAMA: You can turn back the clocks for immigrants, gays or women,
or you can stand up and say, we`re going to move forward.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HARRIS-PERRY: So this campaign season shows anything, there`s no one
way to be a woman who is voting. And there are many issues that matter to
us, including, reproductive rights.
Last month, a Pew poll showed that 54 percent of women rated abortion
as a very important issue, versus 36 percent of men. That may be why Mitt
Romney tried to soften his stance on abortion and contraception in last
week`s presidential debate. This from the same man who has said he
believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe
At the table, Rula Jebreal, an MSNBC contributor and foreign policy
analyst for "Newsweek", and her new buddy on Twitter, Jonathan Capehart, an
MSNBC contributor and opinion writer for "The Washington Post"; Dorie
Clark, a contributor to "Forbes" and the "Harvard Business Review";
Salamishah Tillet, assistant professor of Africana studies at the
University of Pennsylvania.
Dorie, I want to start with you, because there has been all of this
like, ladies, ladies, women, women talk over the course of the past month
certainly, but really over the course of this whole year. Are Mitt Romney
and Paul Ryan going to be held accountable for the stances that they took
about women`s equality, about reproductive rights earlier in these
DORIE CLARK, CONTRIBUTOR, FORBES: Well, I think they will, Melissa.
I mean, one of the things that`s most interesting to me and why it was so
strategic of President Obama to really be driving the message towards
social issues in the second debate that happened on Tuesday is the fact
that when you bring the issue over to social issues, one of two things
happens. And neither of which is good for Mitt Romney.
One is that he`s forced to take a centrist position. That opens his
up to charges of flip-flopping.
CLARK: Because he`s said the opposite thing before.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or Romnesia.
CLARK: Exactly. That`s right, and alienating his conservative base
at the time when he can`t afford it.
CLARK: The second thing that could happen is he reiterates his
rightward stance. And freaks a lot of women out.
CLARK: And swing voters say, wait a minute, this is a lot more
concerning than I thought.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well -- but, of course, part of this is what we know
for sure, is that there isn`t just sort of one version of woman voter,
despite the fact that we get that language from the campaign. The big
differences occurring with women, we see when we sort of disintegrate those
polls, is that it`s women of color that are driving that gender gap.
So, yes, gender is part of it, but the other really important part of
it is women at the intersection of racial minority status or ethnic
minority status, or linguistic status, right? So, if you`re a gay woman,
you vote differently than a straight woman. When you`re an African-
American woman, you tend to vote different. And if you`re Spanish
speaking, differently than those who are not Spanish speaking.
Like these have very real consequences for the ideal woman voter.
RULA JEBREAL, NEWSWEEK FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: Actually, look, I
heard these arguments in a different country. I lived in Italy. Silvio
Berlusconi, the former prime minister of Italy, used to say that women
should go home at 5:00 and cook, used to say actually it`s very hard that
they can`t take higher offices or positions because simply they are -- you
know, they cannot handle the pressure and many other of these.
But he never dared, in Catholic country like Italy that have the
Vatican to question abortion rights. Simply understood he will alienate
the majority of these women. If you think of as you said --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s fascinating, like I just want to recall,
because you do -- you hear this sort of Catholicism at the center of this
contraception conversation and that somehow you`re doing this horrible
thing to the Catholic Church. But the idea that one would stand in Italy
and refuse to even touch that question.
JEBREAL: He can`t. He can`t.
JEBREAL: They gained that right in the `70s after a huge battle. We
gained this right I this country, and especially if you think of our
children, the girls that go to schools, high schools, that they have maybe
intercourse and then for some reason they get pregnant. They cannot afford
to have that child or the people that have, you know, access to
contraceptions because they have some kind of health care or because the
employer is helping them in that.
These are actually social issues and will affect women here, but will
affect women in the world, because when you question this basic right --
JEBREAL: -- you are sending message to the world.
HARRIS-PERRY: You question this for everybody.
JEBREAL: You question this for everybody. If you cannot have the
right to have the freedom to control your choices on your bodies, then why
HARRIS-PERRY: And we know for sure that Mitt Romney have said he
would reinstitute the global gag rule, which is one of the very first
things that President Obama did away with in the beginning of his
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. I think one of the
important things the president did in his response to the women`s health
question to the contraception question, to the abortion question, was to
pivot and to talk about the fact that access to contraception and access to
family planning and abortion services have -- yes, it`s a health issue but
it`s also an economic issue.
CAPEHART: That these -- that a woman who has to pay for these things
out of pocket, that money could have gone to tuition, could have gone to
food, could have gone to family -- could have gone to a whole lot of other
things that families, you know, put money on but can`t afford to.
And, you know, this is hitting women in the pocketbook. I think the
president was very smart to sort of heed this line of argument that I`ve
been hearing for weeks now from certainly progressive women but to say that
the president needs to make this point that it`s not just about abortion,
it`s about our pocketbooks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, if you can`t control when or if you`re going to
reproduce, you cannot control your job. You can -- I mean, it is a deep,
deep economic issue.
SALAMISHAH TILLET, UNIV. OF PENNSYLVANIA PROF: It`s a classic
feminist position that the president has finally incorporated in the second
debate. But, you know, I was thinking about the schizophrenia of the
Republican position. On one hand, you say that women are mentally
incapable of making reproductive decisions.
HARRIS-PERRY: They don`t need to because their bodies will reject
rape sperm. You don`t have to think about it.
TILLET: They`re economically culpable, right? So I think of it as
like a man taking a woman on a date, right? So, he says, like, you know,
you`re not smart enough to pick the restaurant, you`re not smart enough to
pick the movie, you`re not smart enough to pick the wine, but you`re going
to pay the bill at the end.
And I think this was why it was important for Obama, like you said,
to pivot to making this an economic issue. It`s so unfortunate that so
many issues are considered women`s issues when they really are mainstream
national -- that they should be considered national issues, whether it`s
gun control, whether it`s reproductive health. These are all things that
affect the economy or affect people`s everyday lives, and they always kind
of ghettoized (ph) these women`s issues. Fundamentally, they`re American
JEBREAL: I think the women -- I`m really insulted I have to say.
The way I heard speaking about women in this campaign, I never heard this
anywhere else. Not even in Egypt, not even in Afghanistan, where they
actually kill women.
But here, we`re degrading them to level --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think your point, though, about sort of what this
message sends, right? Because certainly part of it is about control of
one`s reproductive rights.
But, you know, I gave up -- I gave up my uterus to a hysterectomy
several years ago. I don`t need birth control. I don`t need an abortion.
But I am deeply concerned with these issues because I`m concerned about
them for my daughter. I`m concerned about them for women.
And so, the idea that it would only be straight women in their
reproductive years who care about these questions is inaccurate. This is
something that women are going to care about in the broadest sense.
We`re going to stay on these issues. But there was a missed message.
I know a binder full of women was the meme. But there was a missed message
on that binders meme.
We`re going to talk about that when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Mitt Romney`s comment about having binders
full of women created the meme heard round the world and even inspired
someone to create a Tumblr in homage to the comment.
It also distracted people, though, in my opinion from the important
thing that he said just before it. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We took a concerted effort to
go out and find women who had background that is could be qualified to
become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women`s groups and
said, can you help us find folks? They brought us whole binders full of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So we know it`s not true that he was the one who
actively went out. But if he was and given that he acted as though that
was reasonable, did you hear what he said there?
Sounded to me like he said affirmative action policies for the
purpose of diversifying your workforce are a reasonable policy initiative.
I was -- then he ruined it with binders full of women. And so, then we
forgot to talk about the fact that the Republican presidential candidate,
as far as I could tell, said affirmative action policies are perfectly
Am I misreading that?
CLARK: Well, no. I was involved in that campaign in 2002. I was
the press secretary for Robert Reich, who -- the former U.S. labor
secretary, who is also unsuccessfully running for governor. And so, we get
to watch Mitt up close.
It was very interesting because in Massachusetts, the Republicans
that succeed are moderates. They`re Rockefeller Republicans. That`s who
Mitt Romney pitched himself to be during that time.
He was so emphatic in -- and, you know, we were hammering him, of
course, during the whole campaign that, you know, don`t believe him. He`s
a phony. He`s a wolf in sheep`s clothing.
HARRIS-PERRY: You were right.
CLARK: Interestingly, for the first year of his administration, we
were wrong. He really was sort of hewing a moderate path. He was, you
know, going all out on climate change. Oh, yes, we want to make
Massachusetts the stem cell research capital.
And when he decided that it would be more fun to run for president of
the United States than be governor of Massachusetts, he turned on a dime
and we have Mitt 2.0.
HARRIS-PERRY: Who has the -- I love this story, right? Because for
me, that is precisely the angst that I think ought to drive concerns about
this man as president.
So, on the one hand, there`s disagreement. But in a democracy,
you`re going to sometimes disagree with the person who is your president
even when you overall agree with them, right? You`re going to have
disagreements with your president.
But the idea I can`t trust where you`re coming from, what your
position is going to be, that for me -- and we heard -- we saw the "Salt
Lake City Tribune" --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- gave its endorsement to President Obama because it
said we don`t know, are we endorsing this Mitt Romney, that Mitt Romney.
I mean, it`s not just sort of a flip-flop, flip-flop strategy here.
It`s a real like kind of fundamental concern.
CAPEHART: Well, it`s a character issue here. I mean, politicians
change their minds all the time. And in fact, we should respect and trust
a little more a politician who will change his or her mind on a core issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: If they`ve learned something --
CAPEHART: Right. Abortion, climate change, immigration, gay rights.
HARRIS-PERRY: Evolving on marriage equality.
CAPEHART: Health care.
But all of them? That`s the problem with Mitt Romney. He has
changed his position on all of those issues.
HARRIS-PERRY: I see.
CAPEHART: How can you possibly trust that that person who has done
all those things, once they get into the Oval Office, will not change their
mind again and in a way that is detrimental to you or to the nation.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, as excited I was about the notion that he was
supporting affirmative action and given that he may have even engaged in a
kind of affirmative action policy for women there, that does not mean in
any way that he would be supportive of it now.
JEBREAL: I think we should believe Mitt Romney when he says behind
private doors the 47 percent, we should believe him that he will actually
put a conservative Supreme Court judge. We should believe him on these
issues, because it represents who he is and what he stands for and who is
Look, when he chose his match runner, his -- the vice president --
CAPEHART: Paul Ryan.
JEBREAL: Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan was the guy that was talking to Todd
Akin and they were actually together thinking of policies towards women.
These are the words of the Republican Party.
CAPEHART: Yes, forcible rape.
JEBREAL: This is the Republican Party that Barbara Bush said she
never heard that in the history of the Republican Party. These are --
these are the people that dictate -- have their agenda dictated by the Tea
Parties. These are the people --
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to look real quickly at Romney`s ads.
Salamishah, I want to come to you on this, because this is the sort of
Romney`s woman ad in which he says we ought to think the nice things about
him. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was personally struck by his humanity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said we need to take care of those who can`t
take care of themselves -- single mothers or women who are trying to get
back to work. He was very, very sensitive about that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He totally gets working women, especially women
who like myself, had two young kids. I needed flexibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He totally gets women. He likes women. He`s even got
a wife. I mean, so like -- those ads, in other words, might actually be
consistent with a president who would nonetheless, seek to overturn Roe v.
Wade, who would see to make it harder to --
JEBREAL: He actually had one of his lovers as a minister of equal
opportunity in Italy.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
CAPEHART: Bunga bunga.
TILLET: I was going to say that, you know, all of these anecdotal or
personal stories that Mitt Romney has to continually show are up against
the absence of policy, right? That`s why the women are telling the stories
about his personable and kind of like women-friend behavior.
There`s a couple of things I want to point, like real data points.
One, under Mitt Romney`s kind of rein in Massachusetts, I lived there -- I
was in grad school there. There was a drop in terms of appointed women in
terms of his -- in terms of government -- 27 percent. There was 27
HARRIS-PERRY: He left them in the binders.
TILLET: Right, he left them in the binders.
And also, and this is what he doesn`t say about his Bain record. I
think that`s a better indication versus kind of a moderate Mitt in
Massachusetts. During the 1980s and 1990s, there are no women that were
Today, out of the 49 partners, there are only four women who are
So, whether he is really friendly towards women or has policies that
are -- you know, workplace friendly towards women, we can see that Bain
doesn`t prove that. He wants to be CEO of the United States. Let`s look
at his Bain record versus his very short time as governor of Massachusetts.
HARRIS-PERRY: How could they become partners if they have to make
You know, it was tough for me because on the one hand, look, you
know, I was a single parent, I am at all points a working parent. Flex
time is a real policy issue, right? That is something that is meaningful
for working parents, for working children who have parents that they are
caring for, for all of us in the sandwich generation. It`s a real policy.
But the way it was deployed by Mitt Romney in the debate sounded more
like, you know, girls got to home and cook dinner. And so, don`t worry,
we`ll hire them.
JEBREAL: He rejected the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Let`s look at really
In the end of the day, I would love also President Obama in the next
term, if he will win, to put more women in executive offices.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m all for that.
JEBREAL: When ex-prime minister of Spain was elected. He said 50
percent women, 50 percent men -- because this is the only way you can
challenge society and change society. Put women in executive roles and
they can really change things.
HARRIS-PERRY: As soon as we come back, I want to ask about how women
can make their voices heard. We are women. Hear us roar. It`s been fun.
We`ve been having a good time with this video. Watch it.
(MUSIC VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. I am sorry. I`ve been playing that video
over and over because the voice is so beautiful and the dancing is so bad.
But in it, there is this sort of language about trying to preserve the
rights that we have gained over the past 40 years. And just -- I have been
asking, where is the, like, Will.i.am video of this year? Where is the
handmade/homemade YouTube that say this is the candidate on whose side we
And we`re finally starting to see them. They`re emerging from women
who are like, OK, enough, right?
In what ways, given that we clearly are going to have a man as
president and a man as a vice president, in what ways can women make sure
that the issues are not sort of filtered through the voices of men but we
actually have a seat at the table coming up in the next four years.
CLARK: I mean, I think one of the important points. I write a lot
for "Forbes" and the "Harvard Business Review". And one of the things that
is most critical is that when you look at, quote-unquote, "women`s issues"
like flex time and things like that, work life balance, the latest business
thinking is really bringing it to the point where we need to understand
it`s not just about women. This is something that actually benefits
everyone in the workforce.
If you`re a baby boomer, and you want to cut after hours, if you have
a sick parent, if you are a woman or a man raising young children. The
workforce needs to evolve. It can`t be the model that Mitt Romney grew up
with at Bain.
And so, if you make it those changes, it`s not a sock to women. It`s
a way of moving things forward for everyone, and thereby enhancing our
So, I think it`s putting women`s issues in the context of global
issues for everyone. I think both candidates can probably get behind that.
HARRIS-PERRY: But it does sometimes take folks who are in those
kinds of circumstances which are often women in positions of leadership to
see where those policy holes are.
Salamishah and I are both in the academy, which is a generally pretty
flexible kind of job. We know when I was at Princeton and had a woman as
the president of Princeton University, she had established a set of rules
about taking time off, vis-a-vis tenure when you have a baby, whether
you`re a male or a female. Whether you adopt or give birth. Sort of
making sure that these were policies that were in place for everybody.
But that`s because she had been the single mom who worked up through
the tenure system. She could see, right, what those constraints were.
JEBREAL: Also, when women ran for office, look at Elizabeth Warren
JEBREAL: I remember when Arianna Huffington ran as governor of
California. I mean, the way -- the sexism and the misogyny that she was
treated with, the mores, and the dismissing of her -- the disdain,
I mean, these things have to stop, they have to end. They have to
address women and what they`re saying, what they`re doing. And not who
they are, who they think they are and what should --
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to play.
JEBREAL: They should stop.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to play for you what Todd Akin said about
Claire McCaskill. I know. I`m sorry I have to do this, because I think it
goes exactly to your point here. So, this is Todd Akin talking about
Claire McCaskill and her relationship to Washington, D.C. Let`s take a
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: So, she goes to Washington, D.C., and
it`s a little bit like one of those dog, you know, fetch, and she goes to
Washington, D.C. and gets all of these taxes and red tape and bureaucracy
and executive orders and agencies and she brings all of this stuff and
dumps it on us in Missouri.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So politics is tough, you got to have
thick skin. But this guy, Akin, given his track record, now saying she`s
like a dog that fetches was a bit much.
CAPEHART: A bit much. And doglessly, if I may say.
And I don`t know -- I`m just sort of -- I`m horrified by that. Quite
frankly, I`m sort of horrified by the level of discourse in the country
today, in the last few years. How we`ve gone -- we no longer know how to
disagree without being disagreeable.
I know that sort of might be earnest and pie in the sky. But at some
point, we`re going to have to stop with the vitriol and get down to the
business of hashing out these problems.
JEBREAL: (INAUDIBLE) moderators in these debates, I`m sorry to say
that I`m -- women, I`m sorry.
JEBREAL: When we used to be on television sometimes. They have to
be blond and perfect and say nothing. And now women are challenging and
asking for questions and actually pushing these contenders to answer in
policies, and about what they stand for and what they`re about to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: As much as I agree we need to agree to disagree, I
don`t think we can disagree about the definition of rape.
HARRIS-PERRY: There are some things where the very position of
disagreeing with it is inherently disagreeable, right?
JEBREAL: And the women in Bosnia, the women that were raped actually
in Libya when Gadhafi said go house to house actually using this cryptic
military language go and rape women. How these women would feel about
these definitions, on these statements? They feel horrified.
TILLET: I want to bring it back to affirmative action, the idea that
you brought up, just because I think that gets sidelined sometimes. I
think, you know, when we were talking about women`s gains over the last 40
years, we can`t not think affirmative action --
TILLET: -- in a way in which the GOP has actually successfully made
it seem like it`s only a race issue or an issue that disproportionately
Americans or Latinos.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s why you end up with Abigail Fisher in this
University of Texas case being a white woman against affirmative action.
I`m thinking, come on, are you kidding me? In Texas? Like the role of
affirmative action in bringing white women into the system.
TILLET: Exactly. And I think that`s what was so interesting about
Mitt Romney`s quote, his pro-affirmative action stance in the debate is,
you know, when you`re thinking about the binders full of women, hopefully
it was kind of multiracial binder, let`s say, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: A binder full of multiracial women.
TILLET: Yes. But the point is that with the Supreme Court really
deciding on affirmative action and thinking about really black and brown
bodies being even kind of underrepresented in higher institutions, we have
to think how it helped women get into higher positions of power.
TILLET: With the -- you know, the other issue is how hard it is for
women to run for elected office.
TILLET: So I think these are -- all the issues we`re talking about
for the average women to go to work affect candidates, you know, and being
called a dog and we know what a female dog really is, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, exactly.
TILLET: So, I just think it`s -- you know, how can we get women into
elected office and get them to be viable presidential candidates. Hillary
Clinton`s specter is still looming large in this election.
HARRIS-PERRY: Despite the fact that she`s saying, actually, I`m not
going to run.
HARRIS-PERRY: But there`s lots to be said on that.
Thanks to Rula and Jonathan and Dorie.
Salamishah is going to hang out with us a little bit longer.
But coming up, an African-American woman from Chicago`s South Side
who says she avoids white folks, and a white man from rural Oregon who
descends from the largest slave trading dynasty in U.S. history. They have
one thing in common and they`re going to be at my table, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a story of healing from sins and wounds of the
country`s ugly and painful past. She`s the descendant of American slaves
and he`s the descendant of the largest slave trading family in U.S.
history, transporting at least 10,000 Africans to the Americas.
Now, they came together in late 2009 on a journey of discovery and
racial reconciliation traveling through ancestral towns, cemeteries and
antebellum mansions. The pair also spent two weeks in Tobago, a
significant piece of the transatlantic slave trade.
The end result of their sojourn is this book, "Gather at the Table:
The Healing Journey, the Daughter of Slavery and Son of the Slave Trade".
Please welcome to our table, Sharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Nelson
It`s really lovely to have you all both here.
We do this thing where we talk about race and we try to do it in
complicated ways and for me, your book was so useful on this. Because it`s
not necessarily a friendly story. It`s not holding hands and singing and
it all works out all right. There`s a lot of tension here.
Talk to me about what this process was like for you all.
THOMAS NORMAN DEWOLF, AUTHOR, "GATHER AT THE TABLE": Go.
SHARON LESLIE MORGAN, AUTHOR, "GATHER AT THE TABLE": You go.
DEWOLF: Recognizing that racism is this historic traumatic wound
with its roots, you know, back in slavery hundreds of years and that
because that trauma has never been healed, we continue to pass it on
generation to generation.
And so we met in Virginia, actually, at Eastern Mennonite University
with a group called Coming to the Table that brings together the
descendants of the enslaved and the enslavers to look at the traumatic
wound and find ways to acknowledge, to heal, to work through it in ways
that are accountable, that are legitimate, that are authentic.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And this accountability and authenticity, I
think it important. I want to just read quickly from the book, Sharon,
because I thought it was so critical.
"Race is such an omnipresent fact of life for black people. You
expect everyone to take the cue when you want to talk about it. White
people apparently don`t think about it, and don`t want to talk about it or
don`t know how to talk about it. Maybe they just don`t see it as important
because their lives have never depended on the information exchange."
HARRIS-PERRY: To me, that asymmetry is part of the difficulty of
race talk. The idea that race talk is early and consistent and an ordinary
part of life when you are racially marginal and it can often not be a part
of life at all when you`re a white American. And so, when someone brings
it up, it`s like whoa, why are we having this conversation?
How do you sort of broach that?
MORGAN: I think the beginning part of it was deciding that we could
not do anything bigger than creative relationship between two people. So,
we purposefully decided, I`m going to engage one person from the other side
and we`re going to be really candid and honest and open about how we feel.
And what we did was use the places that we visited to sort of be
signals so you have something that would jar you and then you -- it would
give us fodder for being able to talk about it. I said to Tom when we
first started, I`m going to say things to you that I`ve never said to any
white person before, because as you know, African-Americans have these
conversations all the time, but Tom and his people don`t.
And we did have some moments that were very testy because it was so
emotional at points for me that I cried more than I ever have. I mean, I
said things to him that were like just shoot me now. Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sharon, one of the moments -- you talk about anger and
your willingness to be angry and to be hurt particularly about historic
moments. I want to go to the moment that it is Emmett Till, and, of
course, the lynching and death of the Chicago African-American boy in
Mississippi and the way in which that is part of what launches the
contemporary civil rights movement because Till`s mother allows the
publication of the photos of his body in the "Jet" magazine and those
images of what can happen when you cross that racial boundary.
I mean, there is real danger in crossing racial boundaries in the
American story, right? It`s not all friendly and something we do for fun
or for ratings, right? Real bodies were implicated, real death, real life
DEWOLF: You know, I think a lot of this, being raised as a white
male in this particular society, I`m raised not to see these things.
DEWOLF: I mean, I didn`t get a big story about Emmett Till the way
Sharon did growing up.
DEWOLF: You know, when she and I are standing in front of the
crumbling ruins of Bryant Store in Money, Mississippi, that`s a big moment
for us. But we approach it from very different places because that`s not
the story I get.
I don`t get it in school. I don`t get in church. I don`t get it in
home. I don`t get it in any of the institutions.
It`s designed for me to be ignorant. It`s designed for me not to see
it. I don`t know about the stories so I can`t have a conversation with you
about them until I make the commitment to learn --
DEWOLF: -- to educate myself and work with other white people to
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, I want to come back as we come back after
break on exactly this issue of vocabulary. And when we have goodwill and
have decided to try to make a relationship at least with two people and
beyond that, do we even have the common vocabulary. If Emmett Till is a
standard thing that I just know and part of my discourse, and it is not for
you, then how do we begin to have these conversations?
We`ll bring in a couple more people on the conversation when we come
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. We`re continuing the conversation about
discovery and race with Sharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolf,
authors of "Gather at the Table".
And joining me also are Matt Miller, MSNBC contributor and
"Washington Post" correspondent, and Salamishah Tillet of the University of
Pennsylvania and author of "Sites of Slavery".
Salamishah, one of the reasons I wanted you at the table while we
have Sharon and Tom were here is because part of what they did was visit
sites of slavery, sites of agony within the American story as they tried to
have the conversations.
What does it mean on a broader level, the kind of personal track that
TILLET: Yes, I`m very excited about your book. So, thank you for
doing this and for having the conversation between yourselves and then
sharing it with the nation.
What sparked my book, "Sites of Slavery", really was what I see as a
national amnesia around slavery.
This is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. And
yet, as a country, we do very little things or we have very few rituals or
formal remembrances of slavery and emancipation.
And so, one of the things I was interested in is how have African-
American writers and artists and intellectuals kept the memory of slavery
alive in the present in order to address or redress policies, racial
inequities that have -- the long arm of slavery that continues on today.
And so, the kind of silence that you talk about within your family is
really kind of a microcosm of the larger amnesia and larger silence that
the nation continues to have around one of the founding stories. You know,
Americans democracy was born on the back of American slavery. You can`t
really talk about democracy without talking about slavery. Yet for the
most part, since the end of the Civil War, we`ve really repressed the
second half of the American story.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Thomas, it`s not really part of what`s useful is
that your approach to this -- not sort of a white guilt. I feel bad about
racism in general. But rather a more specific engagement with the ways
that slavery provides privilege and profit and opportunity.
DEWOLF: I think that -- my favorite phrase is that guilt is the glue
that holds racism together. So, get over yourself. And, you know, get to
the point of acknowledgment and being real with this issue.
One of the things that I found fascinating on Sharon`s and my travels
is visiting places, many of which are exhibiting that exact amnesia. And
others that -- you know, Monticello, Clifton House in Philadelphia, that
are actually making big strides towards telling the whole story of the
There was a teacher that brought a class to Clifton in Philadelphia
where we were last week. And she said, you know, talked about the
revolution, but we really don`t want to discuss slavery here. The guide
said, "You can`t. How can you do one without the other?"
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, Monticello, I grew up in
DEWOLF: Right, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the `70s, when you went to Monticello, there were
just cooks, right? No one could even talk about the fact that the so-
called cooks were enslaved people.
HARRIS-PERRY: And some of these enslaved people were the children of
Thomas Jefferson himself.
MATT MILLER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, you know, one of
the things that seemed so powerful about what your project is, is there`s
an empathy gap I feel like in a lot of our public life, not just on this
issue but particularly on this issue.
I think the cure for that has to be education and sort of getting
MILLER: I mean, I grew up about -- in a suburb of New York that was
kind of half Jewish, half Italian, was what my school colleagues were for a
dozen years. Maybe there was one or two black families. And you don`t get
the same exposure to what you talked about, the Emmett Till, the lore, and
the integral way that these issues are bound up with the American story.
So, if only I had been helped earlier, I think --
DEWOLF: Yes, thank you.
MILLER: You know what I mean, it`s part of what has to be the fabric
of what every kid learns in America.
MORGAN: My commitment comes through genealogy. I found that
incredibly empowering, because when you combine doing the historical
research on people who are actually in your family and then you combine
that with the sites that are associated with it, like my great grandparents
were enslaved in Lawrence County, Alabama, which is where the heart of the
voter registration drives were.
MORGAN: And for you to look at that, do that genealogy, visit that
place and then say you`re not going to vote, that`s insane. Because it
just evokes, you got to.
HARRIS-PERRY: For me, this is, I think, part of what is most
enraging about the birtherism comments around President Obama, is that your
point about genealogy that for so many African-American families, we can`t
trace back. We don`t know. And not because we somehow are failures to
keep records, but because we were separated forcibly and our births were
not even recorded with names and our names were changed and our families
were not valued.
And then the idea that you finally have a black president, although
he`s not quite from that tradition, but you have a black president and he
is -- this language of prove where you`re from. I`m like, excuse me. That
very inability to trace where we are from and it`s part of what makes him
interesting is that he can say, this is my actual story. He actually --
TILLET: We also found recently on his mother`s side that there is
some slave holding ancestry
I opened my book also with Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. What
I look at is the ways in which African-American writers, like Barbara
Chase-Riboud or Annette Gordon-Reed, retell the story and the founding
story through Sally Hemings` perspective.
What`s interesting is the symbolic integration of slavery and how we
think about American history. But I end the book with reparations. And
it`s a conversation that`s pretty much been sidelined again since the
election of President Obama arguably.
But that we can`t have symbolic recognition of slavery. We actually
have to think about the economic disenfranchisement that thousands and
millions of African-Americans --
MORGAN: The fact that slavery built the wealth of the Western world.
Not just America.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I also appreciate that you brought us back to
America, because voting and the voting struggle is exactly where we`re
going to go as soon as we come back, because I know that you want to know
who`s going to win the election. I don`t have an answer, but I do have a
little Korean hip-hop. You heard me right. That`s when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe it`s because I`m a political scientist or
because I have a show on MSNBC or maybe it`s because I`m not shy with my
opinions. Whatever the reason, these days, every day, nearly everyone I
ask, everyone I meet asks me the same question. Who do you think is going
to win the election?
The polls are close, the debates are ferocious, the stakes are high.
And even though we will have an answer in just a couple of weeks, people
are looking for certainty now.
Now, I don`t know who`s going to win the election. There are
traditional measures that help us to predict -- economic indicators,
incumbency advantage, swing state polling, advertising buys, get out the
vote operations and early voting turnout. But these only give us rough
estimates and there is plenty of uncertainty.
And you know what`s more fun and sometimes more powerful than these
empirical measures? Cultural zeitgeist, the influential creative
productions of a moment. Think about how Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton
both dominated the zeitgeist of their eras.
And there is no denying that "Yes, we can" were the most important
words in all of 2008. Today, there`s a weird and wonderful zeitgeist
captured in Korean hip hopper Psy "Gangnam Style." If you haven`t seen
this video, you`ve been asleep for a month.
(MUSIC VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
HARRIS-PERRY: So Gangnam is the sort of the Beverly Hills for Korea.
And Psy`s video is hilarious, eminently watchable and surprisingly subtle
in its critique of the lavishness of the lifestyle of those in the Gangnam
district. It`s an understatement to say that Gangnam is viral, everybody
is in on this, even my colleagues here on the "Today" show.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
HARRIS-PERRY: So we agreed, Gangnam is the zeitgeist of 2012, which
is why beside myself, when David Graham, associate editor at "The
Atlantic", posted this video on TheAtlantic.com.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That is so 72-year-old Democratic Congressman
John Lewis. You know John Lewis, one of the original freedom writers who
was viciously beaten while marching for voting rights in Selma. The John
Lewis who have equated current voter suppression tactics with the horrors
of Jim Crow, yes, that John Lewis just went "Gangnam Style" to get out the
Now, I don`t know who`s going to win, but I do know that getting out
the vote and the critique of 1 percent are extravagant just came together
in a moment of pretty awesome cultural zeitgeist. And therefore, all of
Nerdland is here to dance it out Gangnam Style.
And that`s our show for today.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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