'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, February 9th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
February 9, 2013
GuestS: Ari Berman, Danielle Moodie-Mills, Bonnie Boswell, Michael Waldman, Mike Browne, Aletha Maybank, Anna Maria Chavez, Christianne Corbett, Rula Jebreal, David Cay Johnston, Jim Frederick, Mark Quarterman
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, could there
have been a civil rights movement without Whitney Young? Plus, three years
and nine months before the next presidential election, and they are already
trying to suppress the vote. And I`ll take the cinnamons -- the new
mission behind girl scout cookies. But first, the uninhabited islands in
the Pacific Ocean that could lead to World War III.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. In New York where up to a foot of
snow is on the ground right now as a major winter storm continues to batter
the northeast. A state of emergency is in effect in New York, as well as
in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Across the
region, more than 650,000 homes and businesses are without power this
morning. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged people to stay off of the
roads, but the Long Island Expressway is littered with dozens of cars that
became stuck in the snow overnight. New England is getting the brunt of
the storm with up to two feet of snow in Boston so far. Massachusetts
Governor Deval Patrick has taken the rare step of banning all vehicles on
every road in the state. And the storm is also creating a travel nightmare
for airline passengers with more than 5,000 flights canceled already. Stay
with us for updates throughout the show this morning.
And -- but for now, we`re going to turn to a threat that is more manmade
rather than nature-made. And that is the threat of war. This morning, I
want to direct to your attention to a little skirmish in the East China
Sea. What the BBC it is calling "a bitter diplomatic row." A row that
could have big, big diplomatic consequences. Think potentially World War
III consequences, and all because of these teeny tiny islands, islands so
small that they are inhabitable, and though no one lives there, even their
name is in dispute with China calling them one thing and Japan another.
This territorial dispute has been boiling for many years, but was re-
ignited this fall when the Japanese government fraught three of the islands
from a private Japanese owner, and the Chinese government accused Tokyo of
stealing, and sent two Naval enforcement ships to the area in a show of
force. Across China, anti-Japanese protests spread targeting both
Japanese-made products, and even those using them. Protests have gone so
intense in the past month that a Chinese man made the simple mistake of
driving a Japanese car in the Chinese city of China was beaten so badly
that he is now paralyzed.
Just this week, the Japanese defense minister accused a Chinese vessel of
locking its weapon-targeting radar on a Japanese ship in the waters, off of
the disputed islands, Chinese officials are denying that it ever happened.
Now think about it. This is the world`s second and third largest economies
playing chicken in the East China Sea with Naval ships because of a dispute
over uninhabited islands, but if this diplomatic disagreement were to
escalate into a military confrontation, the United States would be
contractually obligated by the 52-year-old treaty of mutual cooperation and
security to help protect the sovereignty of Japan. Does that mean Russia
would come to the aid of China? What about North Korea? But of course,
this is simply a quaint, albeit admittedly alarmist thought experiment,
because that is not how foreign wars are conducted anymore. Next month
marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the last conflict
we could think of as a conventional war. It claimed the lives of more than
4,000 Americans and by some counts more than 110,000 Iraqis, all because of
the Bush administration`s false claim that Iraq had weapons of mass
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: At this hour,
American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military
operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from
grave danger. On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected
targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein`s ability to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that turned out to be not quite so true. You see,
perhaps the Iraq war was truly the war to end all wars, because even the
war we are still fighting is looking less and less like the traditional
mobilization of ground troops and tanks and fighting forces that were once
the core of our overseas interventions. For the most parts, boots on the
ground have been shipped home in favor of lean Special Forces teams, backed
up by drone strikes. The perpetual war state ignited in response to the
September 11th attacks has become an institutionalized apparatus that needs
no particular provocation. What were thought to be finite emergency
measures in 2001 are now entrenched protocols from targeted kill lists to
broadening the definition of imminent threat. Counterterrorism policies
put into place under President George W. Bush have, by and large, been
continued and in fact, robustly expanded under President Obama. Just last
month in his second inaugural address President Obama called for an
enduring security and a lasting peace. That does not require perpetual
war, yet perpetual war is exactly what this administration has largely
This week, NBC`s Michael Isikoff got a hold of a secret Department of
Justice memo, that outlines the legal basis for the administration`s
authority to use legal force in counterterrorism tactics even against
American citizens. The details of that white paper shown expansion of this
administration`s understanding of provocation for the use of force. One
that even trumps constitutional protections, and it goes even further. Our
military can engage in a preemptive attack even without clear evidence that
a specific attack is eminent. Now, while we can be pretty sure that a mere
territorial dispute will not lead our troops back into the trenches, with
the explanation of what counts as a justification for preemptive strike, we
are left asking, what will ever get us out of war?
And joining us is Rula Jebreal, MSNBC contributor and "Newsweek" foreign
policy analyst. David Cay Johnston, author of "The Fine Print" and
professor of law at Syracuse University. Mark Quarterman, research
director of "The Enough" project and "Genocide and Crimes Against
Humanity," and Jim Frederick, international editor of "Time" magazine,
which is devoting its cover story to the "Rise of Drones." So, let`s start
with you here, this has been quite a week, Jim, on this question. If we
just start by thinking about war, what counts now as imminent threat? What
counts as the kind of thing that ought to move us into war?
JIM FREDERICK, INTERNATIONAL EDITOR, "TIME": Well, yeah, I think it`s
particularly troubling that this White Paper laid out a definition of
imminent threat that completely changes the conventional definition of what
imminent threat is. The White Paper itself is so vague, that drones can be
deployed virtually anywhere in the world against even the United States
citizens without due process of law. So that leaves us to ask, well, when
is the United States, the president, the administration very often in
secret justified in projecting force all across the world with lethal means
without any kind of recourse or any due process or any real justification
or call for accountability by the United States people? I mean, and this -
- this conversation is actually far overdue, because this is really just a
continuation, as you described ...
FREDERICK: ... of Bush era policies, and this is really a Rumsfeldian view
of war ...
FREDERICK: ... that Obama has not just continued, but has expanded
dramatically. I mean it`s really his lasting legacy of foreign policy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, and that leaves me with the question, given that there
are so many ideological differences between President Bush and President
Obama, but not on this, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: It suggests to me a couple of possibilities, one that
presidents are just presidents and so they always expand their kind of war
powers, which is one possibility, the other is that maybe the president
knows something I don`t know about what constitutes threats to the national
security, and the third is that well, on this one question, this president
is just as hawkish as George W. Bush. Is there any way to adjudicate those
different possibilities about what war means to the Obama administration?
MARK QUARTERMAN, RESEARCH DIR., ENOUGH PROJECT: Well, I think that, I
think that is absolutely right, that it has been a continuation of Bush
administration policies, and yes, administrations always try to push the
outer bounds of their authority. But, you know, one thing that`s clear is
the laws of war have not changed even if our practice has changed. Now,
there are really only three reasons that a country can, a state can use
force outside its borders. One, if it`s the victim of an armed attack,
second, if the U.N. Security Council authorizes it, and third, if it`s
assisting another state that requested it. We have stretched that boundary
as well far beyond what the laws of war call for. So I think there is a
very serious question about this question of perpetual war, although we
should remember historically in the 20th century, the U.S. was at war
virtually every decade of the 20th century.
QUARTERMAN: So if we think of ourselves as a peaceful country that does
not engage in war, we need to rethink that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. That`s a misrepresentation -- but David, I want to
ask a little bit about this question, because when we were before, when the
was boots on the ground, the sense of collective experience of war was
quite different. We were just looking at the numbers of military troops
versus just sort of civilian Americans not engaged. Ad it is less than one
percent of the U.S. population that is doing the fighting, and now with
technology, with drones, it, part of it why perpetual war seems possible,
is because it feels like there is little cost to the vast majority of us.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, "THE FINE PRINT": Well, I think if we had a
universal draft and in 1954 two-thirds of the graduating class of Princeton
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right.
JOHNSTON: If we had universal draft, that is a huge check on politicians,
and the policies we are following with drones are infuriating people,
because other people get killed, innocent people get killed along the way,
which raises in your -- the question you are raising future conflicts, and
the anger that, I mean imagine if somebody was using drones here and they
killed innocent Americans. The response that we would have to that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. And Rula, I think that is what I want to ask
you, like, I mean, are we creating perpetual war in part by creating new
RULA JEBREAL, NEWSWEEK FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: Let`s think of it this way
also, the kill list after September 11th was ten people, today it is
thousands of peoples and we don`t know who are these peoples and we don`t
know what they have done simply because if you are an executive of al-Qaeda
in Yemen, Pakistan or Somalia and you have been killed your cousins or your
driver will take your place and with him many other people. The
implication of the use of drone is not known in America, but it is not, and
it is very well known in Pakistan, especially in the areas for the
Waziristan where people, they cannot stand Americans anymore, because of
the buzz of the drones going over their heads over and over. And they know
that you might give a ride to a guy in the streets or you might be talking
to another guy, actually in a coffee shop, and you will be killed in that
moment without any reason, simply because you were standing ...
JEBREAL: ... in the wrong place with the wrong person. So all of this has
terrible implications, but if you think of what is happening in Yemen, I
mean, the major al Qaeda fights there or the Islamist fight is not against
the Americans anymore, it`s against the Yemeni government ...
JEBREAL: ... and the Pakistani government. So we are actually engaging in
a war that is becoming an American war, when it is not actually American
HARRIS-PERRY: ... anymore than the China-Japanese fight over the little
tiny islands ...
JEBREAL: And (inaudible) used to say, let`s make the al Qaeda war in
Pakistan a Pakistani war. Not American war.
HARRIS-PERRY: Not American war.
JEBREAL: Because that`s what will make it easier for the people to
understand and to fight it actually.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And to fight it effectively into the long term.
We`re going to stay right on exactly this issue, which is about the kill
lists, the drones and the other tools of war. What if our enemies were
using them against us?
HARRIS-PERRY: On Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee`s
confirmation hearing for CIA nominee John Brennan got off to a rocky start
when protesters from the activist group Code Pink for Peace said their
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They won`t even tell Congress what country we are
killing children in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Feinstein!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you could please expedite the removal ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are your children more important than the children in
Pakistan and Yemen? Are they more important? Do your job!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Code Pink like John Brennan has been a public picture since
2002, when groups like that one first began public action. Code Pink
started with a four-month all-day vigil in front of the White House to
protest the impending war in Iraq, and on Thursday, the group held up red
painted hands on behalf of mothers who have lost children in strikes in
Yemen and Pakistan and Somalia, all place where the Obama administration`s
drone program has touched down. But it was not just the members of Code
Pink who were questioning one of the administration`s most controversial
programs. The Brennan hearing has opened up a bigger debate about the
military`s current counterterrorism tactics. So, you know, I`m like the
drones become just a mean for liberals sometimes, where they just scream
"Drones!", and there is not an actual topic, right? It`s just a way of
saying, I`m not for the Obama administration from the left? But there --
but there is something important to say about the actual use of that tool
in conjunction with the kill lists.
JEBREAL: Yes. I think -- I think after the Iraqi war, no government, and
everybody understood that no one have the political capital to engage in an
invasion, ground invasion, so they decided, OK, let`s enhance something
else. And they didn`t think of any other method except drones, so that is
why they enhanced that method, because they thought, OK, we will kill al
Qaeda and that is the only strategy. The problem, if you don`t have any
other strategy on the ground, you have a secretive tool that that anybody -
- any other country can start thinking, OK, it creates a very dangerous
precedent, Iranians today, they have a drone, what if the -- North Korea or
many -- or even China will start to using drones as you said before against
their neighbors. We are creating a precedent that is illegal, that is so
secretive and there`s no one can actually stop or predict the implication
HARRIS-PERRY: Rula, let me remind that point, Ted Koppel asked General
Dempsey about that exactly that. Let`s just listen quickly to what Dempsey
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED KOPPEL: We have capabilities today that make us sort of comfortable
with the use of drones, but imagine if some other entity had the capability
of using drones against the United States. Are we prepared for that?
GENERAL DEMPSEY: Well, I think that ...
KOPPEL: As a nation, I mean.
DEMPSEY: Well, I think we are prepared for that, I think it`s maybe even
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: An inevitability.
JOHNSTON: Well, you can buy a drone at Radio Shack ...
JOHNSTON: Non-state actors are going to get drones and they`re going ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. They don`t have bombs on them in the Radio Shack.
JOHNSTON: No, no, no. But you can weaponize them -- you can weaponize
them pretty easily, and in the ability to build these is going to be within
the reach of non-state actors. This poses a whole set of policy questions,
and we are not addressing those at all.
HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe this was the response to gun control for hunters,
right, you just weaponize your drone, and go out and blow up the deer,
right? I mean there is -- and yet, and yet I was -- there`s always a part
of me that feels like, is this just us having like over angst or are these
real possibilities, are we talking about the possibilities of drone attacks
here in the U.S.?
FREDERICK: But in the Senate -- the Senate Intelligence Committee, there
was not a lot of angst. I think what was most remarkable is that he was
not questioned very hard ...
FREDERICK: So, we are sitting around here, talking about it. We are
FREDERICK: But it does -- it seems like the government and the
administration all the way out to, you know, Democratic congressmen,
Republican congressmen are OK with this. It seems like we have crossed a
line. Remember, Brennan was toxic in 2008 ...
FREDERICK: And now in 2013, he is the presumptive nominee, he`s going to
get voted in.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, so, why? Why this level of comfort if there wasn`t
QUARTERMAN: Well, to be slightly contrarian here ...
QUARTERMAN: We often react to new technologies by saying, oh, my goodness,
all sorts of terrible things will happen because this new technology
exists, so then maybe we shouldn`t use it. Someone would have started
using drones anyway if the U.S. hadn`t. I`m a little more concerned about,
and General Dempsey better be prepared, because it will happen.
QUARTERMAN: I`m a little more concerned about -- about basically the two
issues at play here. One is a policy issue, the other is a legal issue.
The policy issue is how effective are the drones for the purpose we`re
using them for, the legal issue is, is it legal for us to use drones in the
way we are using them.
QUARTERMAN: On the legal side first, it is really clear in the laws of
war, anybody outside a zone of armed conflict is a civilian no matter how
many stars they have on their jacket. So if you see the area of the armed
conflict as being Afghanistan, for example, that Congress has authorized us
to fight in, chasing al Qaeda all around the world and blowing up Yemen is
HARRIS-PERRY: Even -- even if they are in fact members of al Qaeda?
JEBREAL: But there`s nobody ...
QUARTERMAN: Unless they are, actually, they pose an imminent danger ...
QUARTERMAN: ... and we exigent circumstances and we stretch that.
JEBREAL: ... legal debate about -- since we are not fighting a
conventional war ...
JEBREAL: Al Qaeda is not a regular army and this what will be the future
JEBREAL: ... we know that the future, we will not be fighting regular
armies. So we need to look at it the legal way and reform that in terms
JOHNSTON: But Rula ...
JEBREAL: Second thing, in Yemen, yes, it is true we are fighting al Qaeda
there and you are talking about the implication of that. It`s what is
happening in Yemen that the more we use those drones, the more al Qaeda
groups are increasing ...
JEBREAL: ... and this is what I think that strategically we should think,
is it really effective? Is it helping our cause?
QUARTERMAN: That is the policy question. That`s the policy question.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Yes. And I want to stay on exactly that when we come
back, because part of the question on this question of effectiveness is
whether or not given the new realities of war, we need to begin to rethink
what we think is a moral, ethical and legal way to prosecute war when we
HARRIS-PERRY: We are back and continuing to talk about the challenges,
moral, legal and strategic of drone warfare, particularly because of this
White Paper that we saw from Michael Isikoff bringing out this week. What
does that White Paper tell us about where we are in terms of making these
kinds of decisions?
QUARTERMAN: It`s -- for me, it` kind of mind-boggling. The White Paper
gives the administration unchecked power to carry out these attacks. It is
a secret determination by what is called in the White Paper "an informed
high level government official." There`s secret evidence that we have no
access to, and a secret definition of the enemy, and the definition, and it
is carried out on someone if that person poses an imminent threat to the
United States, but the definition of imminent is stretched out of all
HARRIS-PERRY: So how much have we ever really known, I mean as American
citizens in the context of war, how much do we -- even in conventional
warfare, how much did we really know about who our enemies were and why we
went -- I mean this the whole nature of war propaganda, right? How is --
give me a sense of how different this is than World War I or World War II?
JEBREAL: I am sorry, I don`t think we know ...
JEBREAL: ... because this is the future of war. I mean you have cyber
attacks, you have drones -- the use of drones, and you have actually a kill
list that anybody can decide. Look at what the Israelis are doing with the
Iranians -- the Iranian scientists, somebody is killing the Iranian
scientists, we don`t know who that is, somebody decide who they are, what
they do, and we are doing the same, more or less, but if -- and this is the
big question. What if every country start using this method without any
JOHNSTON: Or non-state actors.
QUARTERMAN: Or non-state actors.
JEBREAL: Or non-state actors.
QUARTERMAN: And the part of what we -- the part of what we ...
JEBREAL: So, where is legality stops and where responsibilities end?
JOHNSTON: I mean there are some things we do know, I mean World War II, we
know from the studies of bombing it really was not that effective, for
example, but one of the things we do know is the budget. We are about to
get the president`s budget, and you watch and I predicted this in my
Columbia journalism review piece last week, the news media is going to
report that the president will propose $525 -- $550 billion, that`s not the
military budget, the military budget is closer to a trillion dollars. And
we have this huge amount of money we`re spending for wars past, the
doctrine of fighting two land wars, one in Asia, one in Africa, one in
Asia, one in Europe. When the future of war -- I think you are quite
right. Non-state actors, the cyber war, which the "Washington Post" had a
big series on were totally unprepared for, businesses totally unprepared
for and we could have been very inexpensively, if we had planned for it
FREDERICK: Spending billions on the F-35 and main battle tanks ...
FREDERICK: And I think one of the ....
JOHNSTON: ... new aircraft carriers ...
QUARTERMAN: And land wars.
FREDERICK: One of the media narratives that you`re going to see over the
next few weeks with the sequestration kicking in is how debilitating these
military cuts are going to be, but, you know, look over the history of the
20th century, it`s about 30 percent cut, which is actually less than post
Vietnam, certainly less than post World War I, it`s much smaller budgets,
but even, you know -- sorry, World War II ...
FREDERICK: You know, much smaller on the percentage basis than World War
I, so I think one of the things that you need to be on guard for is this
taboo subject that military budgets are untouchable ...
FREDERICK: When even if we are moving into drone warfare and Special Ops
forces, so much of the budget is still focused on gigantic, you know,
division level assets.
JOHNSTON: And Congress has a crucial for this ...
JEBREAL: This is what we can sort. You know, if you remember last year,
only last year, $75 billion was exported only in weapons. 33 billion to
Saudi Arabia, a country that actually financed extremists Salafis, that are
fighting us. So what are we doing? I mean somebody has to stand up and
stop and think--
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask this -- we have a little -- lot of angst, also,
in the context of the Cold War around nuclear capabilities, right? And
this idea -- we are the only nation that has used the bomb against civilian
populations, and yet at every point -- twice, right? And yet at every
point we felt perfectly fine as a sort of world leader on this question of
how to create the balance of power. So on the one hand, I hear the
language that we are creating the slippery slope that allows both non-state
actors and state actors to make use of this technologies, but that`s not
necessarily true given our own history with a different kind of war
FREDERICK: Well, we were incapable of stopping North Korea.
FREDERICK: We were incapable of stopping either India or Pakistan, so we
are currently, it appears, although we don`t really know at what level Iran
is. The U.S. military history is actually not great in terms of preventing
these kinds of technologies ...
FREDERICK: ... from leaking through and seeping through. So, you know,
for all of the successes that the much vaunted United States foreign policy
in military history can point to successes, there is a tremendous amount of
failures yet, and I think the containment of nuclear capabilities, we are
seeing it play out in Iraq. There is a lot of hype and misinformation, and
I think to the very core, we don`t really know ...
FREDERICK: How far along they are, and I think we need to be a little on
guard for some misinformation there, but it`s -- and as we have been
talking about already, the problem with the nuclear capability versus drone
capability is that it`s so much cheaper, so much democratic ...
FREDERICK: It`s basically -- when we talk about the drones, it`s basically
a remote controlled aircraft ...
FREDERICK: And those have been around forever, and the technology is
getting better all the time, and you can weaponize a radio shack drone
probably right now, and the "Time" cover story was about drones coming
home, not just in terms of using them against civilian populations, but
civilians using them for their own purposes.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was so worried you were about to say, the cover story was
about how to weaponize them.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- people not to read that -- when we come up, we`ll talk a
little bit more about this questions, because I`m interested in Brennan and
we need to remember, who he is and what he once said when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: In 2008, John Brennan had to withdraw his name from
consideration for the CIA director over concerns about his support for the
use of torture under the Bush administration. Since then the Senate
Intelligence Committee has produced a comprehensive report about the use of
torture, which left even Brennan questioning some of our most controversial
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: When I was quoted in 2007, that there
was valuable intelligence that came out from those interrogation sessions,
that`s why I did say that they saved lives. I must tell you, Senator, that
reading this report from the committee raises serious questions about the
information that I was given at the time and the impression I had at that
time. Now I have to determine what -- based on that information as well as
what the CIA says, what the truth is, and at this point, Senator, I do not
know what the truth is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: What, whoa? I do not know what the truth is. It is very
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I know, he just can`t help -- but it`s really - yeah,
it is a joke that he did not know.
QUARTERMAN: It`s shocking. He was one of the three or four top officials
in the CIA through the Bush administration. If he does not know, then who
does know? Then what is going on there?
HARRIS-PERRY: And who should therefore be creating the kill list
determining imminence and ...
JOHNSTON: What we do know -- and what accountability ...
JOHNSTON: What we do know from long experience is that torture is not the
best means to get information out of people.
HARRIS-PERRY: Active information.
JOHNSTON: Active information. People will lie, people will tell you what
you want to hear, the same thing with police beating suspects and getting
confessions out of them, you know, smart interrogators, they know how to
manipulate people psychologically, get the truth out of people. It takes
time, but they succeed.
HARRIS-PERRY: There is something about the stomach-turning recognition
that American citizens had that we were engaging in torture, so-called
enhanced interrogation techniques, that shifted the political discourse in
this country, I mean there was a change that happened after 2004 or `05 or
so, when we started to say, you know what, no, this is not who we are. And
the sense that all that happened was that went underground that we did not
actually change. I think that that is distressing for Americans as we look
at, if you can change an entire administration and still end up with the
JEBREAL: That is why Obama actually was so popular in the world ...
JEBREAL: ... because he stood up for these issues before anybody else in
Washington, and he is the one that came out to the world say, you know, the
rule of law, accountability, transparency, we are against torture and now
he is the same guy that`s appointing Brennan, actually, a guy that, you
know, sits there and tells you lie in your face telling you I did not know
and he was cc`d on 50 or more emails about these issues. I mean, this is
something that will actually backlash against America, because if we stand
in the world on something, is our principles and values.
QUARTERMAN: One thing I should say, though, is this administration other
than Mr. Brennan has been forthright ...
QUARTERMAN: ... on the issue of terrorism.
QUARTERMAN: He declined to define waterboarding as terrorism in his
hearings. The administration has been very clear.
QUARTERMAN: Leon Panetta when he was the head of the CIA was very clear
that this is torture and the U.S. does not engage in torture. So, while
there seems to be a continuation of policies related to drones and targeted
assassinations, I don`t think that there is necessarily a continuation of
JOHNSTON: But Mark, that`s part of the debate we are not having, that is
what are the contours of this.
JOHNSTON: If we want to win hearts and minds to go back to a Vietnam --
(inaudible) -- rephrase -- what are the contours of this? Do we have to
kill the handful of people who were on the al Qaeda list, who have every
legal right to go kill and should. What about all these other people who
were affiliates and associates in the other parts of the world. Are we
expanding this where it`s going to come back and hit us again in a very
HARRIS-PERRY: And this is the struggle -- I mean as someone who knows the
internal domestic politics of COINTELRPO, and the notion of how we sent in
government officials into civil rights and black power organizations,
rooted them out, made people suspicious of each other, killed people, using
the police -- all of the same kind of tactics in a domestic sphere, and to
know the ugliness and nastiness of that and the ways, in which we have
always sat over and against any American notion of we are not the kind of
country that does that. But get into the other side of COINTELRPO,
becoming a country that said that isn`t an acceptable way to teach American
-- to treat American citizens, I need that to continue to be reflected in
the 21st century.
JOHNSTON: Right. Right.
FREDERICK: And that`s disturbing. Because, you know, to your point,
Brennan was either the architect of the waterboarding program or if he
wasn`t, at least in his testimony he said that he was aware of, you know,
50 emails or memos that said it was going on, and he did not speak up at
the time. So if the Obama administration has walked back from torture and
waterboarding, the reward for knowing about it is you become the director
of the CIA.
JOHNSTON: Well, he said he did speak up a little bit, but he didn`t push
JEBREAL: He said he said to some people privately ...
FREDERICK: A little bit?
JEBREAL: ... but never came publicly. The problem is, there is another
aspect of this. Look at the countries that we are demanding today from
them to reform and become more democratic.
JEBREAL: After the Arab Spring we realized that we used some kind of
torture, in Egypt, you know. There is an imam that was kidnapped, Abu
Omar, from Milan, in 2004, and was brought into Egypt and was tortured. We
asked these countries in 2011 after the Arab Spring to become more de
democratic, not the police state anymore and now we are putting Brennan and
this is a guy that will be negotiating with the Egyptian, probably, secret
service, with the Pakistani, with others, and tell them -- what he is going
to tell them, what kinds of policy we will demand from them when Hillary
Clinton who is going there said, we want the democratic states, we want to
build citizens. And he will go there without a hand saying, I want
HARRIS-PERRY: And this has been the fundamental tough question, the one
that we`re going to continue to keep working on. And undoubtedly, it`s
light of the day that helps us to be better American citizens on all of
this. I want to say thank you to Rula and David and to Mark and to Jim, we
are going to have more of Nerdland in just a moment. But first, I do want
to give you a little bit of an update on the major winter storm that`s
pounding much of the northeast. Up to a foot of snow is blanketing parts
of New York. One of five states under state of emergency this morning.
When there is 650,000 homes and businesses across the region are without
power. And New England is getting the brunt of the storm. Nearly 30
inches of snow has fallen in Portland, Maine, breaking a record set back in
Up next, more news. A chance for justice in a legendary civil rights case.
My letter of the week is coming up.
HARRIS-PERRY: As the old saying goes, there is no time like the present
especially when it comes to justice that`s long overdue. On Monday, the
Alabama legislature unveiled bipartisan proposals that may finally
exonerate the unjustly convicted Scottsboro Boys. They were the nine young
black men ranging age from 12 to 19 who were falsely accused and arrested
for raping two white women during a freight train ride in Alabama in 1931.
The landmark case would eventually reach the Supreme Court and end the
exclusion of black citizens from juries, but the Scottsboro Boys would
spend their lives trying to prove their innocence. For too long,
Scottsboro case has been a blight on our legal system and it`s time to
correct that wrong. So my letter of this week goes to Alabama`s governor.
Dear Governor Robert Bentley, it is me, Melissa. For 82 years, Clarence,
Charlie, Haywood, Olen, Ozie, Willie, Eugene, Andy and Roy have deserved to
be cleared officially of a crime they did not commit. And given that we
are in the middle of black history month, it seemed like this would be a
good time for you to make that happen. Now, I know you are aware of two
bipartisan proposals in the Alabama state legislature, one would declare
that the Scottsboro Boys are exonerated and label them as the victims of a
series -- series of gross injustices. The other would give the authority
to the state parole board to grant them posthumous pardons. Alabama State
Senator Arthur Orr noted that, although the pardons would come late, that
does not mean we should not take steps today to address things we can here
in the 21st century that might not have been as they should have been." Y
our office even commented on your behalf saying that you believed it is
time to right this wrong, so what is the holdup? These young men lost
years of their lives because of the rampant racial and judicial inequality
that your state allowed. All nine were convicted by an all-white jury and
received death sentences with the exception of the youngest Roy Wright.
Two years after the crime, Ruby Bates, one of the alleged rape victims
recanted and testified for the defense. He reversal set off years of court
cases that resulted in the rape charges being dropped for five of the nine.
The four being convicted during their retrials. But ultimately, it set up
a lifetime of struggle for nine innocent young men. So if you need some
encouragement, governor, to finally right this wrong, there`s former
Alabama Governor Bibb Graves who commuted the death sentence of one of the
Scottsboro boys, Clarence Norris, to a life in prison. It was a small
step, even Governor George Wallace who although he was inextricably linked
with segregation, pardoned Norris in 1976, another small step or more
recent example, former North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue who signed
pardons in December for the Wilmington Ten, the nine men and one woman
wrongly convicted more than 40 years ago in the firebombing of a grocery
store. Although four of the Wilmington Ten have passed away, six of them
got to see justice in their lifetimes. Now, unfortunately, Governor
Bentley, none of the Scottsboro Boys are still alive today, but you have
the power for history sake to take the ultimate final step and right the
wrong that was done to these nine young innocent men so long ago. At some
point, governor, justice must be served, and for the Scottsboro Boys, there
is truly no time like the present. Sincerely, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s African-American history month and we in Nerdland want
to be sure that by the time you get to March, you know more than you did in
January, so let`s talk about the civil rights movement. When we think of
our civil rights heroes, we think of those who defied the system
challenging America to do better and be better through acts of open
defiance, sit-ins, marches and protests in the streets tend to be the
images that come to mind. But there are other leaders who developed a very
different strategy for achieving equality. Men like Whitney Young who used
the influence of the board room rather than the power of the protest to get
things done. Originally a social worker, Young became the executive
director of the National Urban League in 1961. In that role, Young worked
as a mediator and the facilitator challenging the business and political
leaders to create economic opportunities for black workers in corporate
America. A new documentary about young`s life "The Powerbroker" will be
airing February 18th as part of the PBS series "Independent Lenses." And
we are joined now by Young`s niece, Bonnie Boswell who is also the
executive producer and producer of "The Powerbroker." It`s so nice to have
BONNIE BOSWELL, EXEC. PRODUCER, THE POWERBROKER: Glad to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, everybody on my team has been watching -- watching the
film, and let`s just start with what was probably the number one critique
of Whitney Young during his life and one that the film takes on very
directly, and that is the idea that because he was not marching in the
streets and was instead working in the boardrooms that he was an Uncle Tom
or that he was somehow selling out kind of the civil rights movement. How
does this film take it on and give us a new and reclaimed Whitney Young?
BOSWELL: Well, I think his film points out that Whitney Young understood
that there are many roles to play and the more sophisticated one got in the
movement and everybody understood that, that Malcolm X had a role to play,
Whitney Young had a role to play. And it was important that we think in a
nuanced way that, you know, that everybody`s opinion could get into the mix
and really move things forward so the fact that he was in the boardroom
meant that he was in a different venue and was working behind the scenes to
really talk one-on-one and have things open up, which is hard to do when
you are on a platform and speaking to your crowd and to a particular
audience, so this is a different kind of format that he employed.
HARRIS-PERRY: And he very directly said, let`s listen to him from the
documentary, saying, hey, this is -- let`s really think about how one gets
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITNEY YOUNG: The Irish kept quiet, they did not shout Irish power or Jew
power or Acadian power, they kept their mouth shut and took over the police
department of New York City ...
YOUNG: And the mayorship of Boston.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So you hear the crowd giving him the laugh, right, so he is
giving it completely dry, but it is meant to be a bit of a joke. And
apparently that disarming humor was part of how Young did this kind of
BOSWELL: Exactly. I mean that is one of the things that I really enjoyed
about learning more about him. One of my favorite stories not in the film,
but a story about him going to Eastern Europe with the heads of Fortune 500
companies, where they had not really dealt with an African-American man as
a peer. This is very important. And so at the end of this trip, one of
the guys says, gee, whit if more Negroes were like you, we wouldn`t have
any problem, and he said yes, and if more white people were like you, we
wouldn`t have any problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. That`s a great -- right.
BOSWELL: So, you know.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet that is exactly the challenge, I think that we face
when we ask, so how does the Whitney Young of the movement end up getting
lost as historically, so that we remember only those who were marching and
we miss those who were doing this kind of work. I also want to listen to
Julian Bond from the NAACP on sort of his response to Young`s strategy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIAN BOND: If you think about a struggle between black and white people,
if you can`t talk to the white people, nothing is going to happen. And he
was able to talk to white people and particularly well to do white people,
business people who may have had an interest in settling racial problems,
but couldn`t see it themselves, until Whitney Young came along and
explained and said, listen, you have a stake in this, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, so. I mean. So, it`s -- I mean, you know, there is -
- I suppose I have, you know, kind of on and off feelings around that, like
on the one hand I hear him saying, well, you have to -- you have to do the
work in an interracial multiracial society of building the understanding
and then I also have a little angst about do we care about corporate
achievement as much as we cared about fundamental civil rights. How do we
connect those in our memory during black history month?
BOSWELL: Well, I think t is important to understand that Whitney Young was
a pragmatist, and it was one thing to say, yes, let`s the change the
ability of people to move into any neighborhood, but as a social worker, he
wanted to be able to provide the tools, by which people could actually move
into those neighborhoods. So you need education, you need better housing,
you need jobs, and he understood that. And that is what he was really
trying to create in the environment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Speaking of education, there is a high school, one of the
best in the city of Chicago named after Whitney Young. The first lady, in
fact, went to and graduated from Whitney Young High School. What do you
think he would say about the gun violence in the city right now?
BOSWELL: I think he would say that clearly, the job has not been done
enough to really empower people to have a stake in their communities
enough, and I think he would also try to build bridges between everybody in
the community, so the people, you know, who are disempowered and who maybe
don`t have the jobs, the education that they need to really become
stakeholders, but he also would say to the people who are in the Chambers
of Commerce that you have a vested interest in protecting this city, too.
And so, I think this is the kind of bridge building that he did. It was
not just about black or white, but saying that we all have a stake in this
together. So he would be trying to find those points of consensus where
people -- where things could get done and better housing, jobs and so forth
could empower people to really not become violent.
HARRIS-PERRY: Given how inclusive he was, he was also a scout. And there
is, in fact, a boy scout award named for Whitney Young. What do you think
he would say about the inclusion of gay men and boys openly in the boy
BOSWELL: You know, one thing that it`s about, Whitney and then I think all
the civil rights leaders, ultimately, was the fact that their mission was
about creating a better America. And that was the point. It was never
just about getting a person from one side of the bus to the other, but it`s
really being able to say, you know, we are all equals in this society, we
have to create this democracy ourselves, so I think this inclusion of
people regardless of their sexual preference would be right down his ally
to say, you know, of course, this is America, this is what we trust and
love about each other. And let`s open the doors out.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to take that quote of the rest of the day, it is not
just about getting people from one part of the bus to the other, it`s about
making a better country. Thank you so much for joining us today and for
producing this film and reclaiming your uncle`s legacy here.
Coming up next, we told you we would stay on it. This week in voter
suppression. Yes, it is back. They are starting early this time, stick
with us. The latest on the blizzard, yes, there is news, folks, it is
snowing in wintertime in the north. More of the top of the hour.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And we are going to get to the latest in the outrage of voter suppression
in a moment. But first, I want to take a peak outside the window for the
latest on the blizzard.
Up to a foot of snow is on the ground in parts of New York City. New York
is one of five states to declare a state of emergency. In Long Island, a
rare sight as heavy snow combined with a thunderstorm to create thunder
snow. More than 650,000 people across the Northeast are without power this
morning. The heaviest snow falls in are New England with three feet of
snow expected in Boston.
The Postal Service has suspended mail delivery in six states. And
Massachusetts and Rhode Island who have imposed statewide bans on road
The storm is taking a heavy toll on the air travel, with more than 5,000
flights cancelled, but New York area airports are beginning to reopen.
Stay with MSNBC for the latest on storm coverage.
For those of us in New Orleans, the real storm watch is whether it is going
to rain or not on Tuesday in Mardi Gras.
But, welcome back. Last year, during the presidential election, we brought
you one of the hardest working graphics on cable TV -- thanks to
Republican-led state legislatures` efforts to impede democracy with the
restrictive voting laws, there was barely a week that went by that we
didn`t have to employ our "this week in voter suppression" animation.
After those efforts failed to prevent President Obama`s broad coalition
from, in fact, turning out to vote in full force, we decided to give the
voter suppression graphic a vacation in recognition of a job well done.
Well, call it the Michael Jordan of news graphics, because thanks to the
new Republican scheme to block the vote, we are bringing Nerdland`s
favorite voting segment out of retirement. That`s right. It`s the return
of "this week in voter suppression."
Yes, we have heard a lot of talk recently from the Republicans who after
waking up to the political possibilities of a growing Latino electorate
have pledged to do the tough work of remaking their party in the image of
America`s evolving demographics.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus recently detailed how
the party is planning to give itself a facelift.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: You have to have people in communities from
the community, both hired and volunteer, from the community speaking to the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it turns out that`s just plan A. And if all else
fails, there is always plan B, which goes a little something like this --
if you can`t win new voters to the party fair and square by appealing to
the interests, then change the rules so that even if you lose, you still
The latest plan comes to us from battleground Pennsylvania and the state
Senate`s majority leader there. His plan is simple. In fact, it`s posted
In a bill he plans to introduce this month, the state senator says plainly
my legislation would allocate electoral votes proportionally.
Now, if at first glance, proportional allocation of electoral votes sounds
fair, keep in mind that there are no states that traditionally vote
Republican suggesting similar plans.
Let`s be clear -- what the Republican is saying is that instead off all of
Pennsylvania`s 20 electoral votes going to the candidate who wins the
state, which has gone to a Democrat in every presidential contest since
1992, that the loser in the state should get some of the electoral votes,
Now who would that benefit?
Currently, every state except two, Nebraska and Maine, uses a winner-take-
all system in which whoever wins the popular vote also wins all of the
state`s electoral votes. Six states, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia,
Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, previously have considered plans that will
reallocate electoral votes based on congressional redistricting like only
Nebraska and Maine currently do. Instead of taking all of the electoral
votes, the winner would only take some of those, the votes allocated to the
congressional districts won.
And thanks to the congressional districts that were gerrymandered by
Republicans after the 2010 Census, the majority of the votes would favor,
you guessed it, Republicans.
Here is what it would have looked like in Virginia which President Obama
won in last year`s election. Mitt Romney would have won eight of the
state`s 13 electoral votes instead of zero making him the winner in
Virginia, even though he lost the popular vote.
If that sounds fair to you, consider this, the only states who have
proposed these changes are the states that went blue for President Obama
but are controlled by Republicans at the state level. So, while reliably
red states would stay just like that, reliably red, blue states would
suddenly be purple, in play, for Republicans, without the party having to
win a single new voter.
The evil genius of it all -- unlike last year`s attempt at discriminatory
voting policies, these changes could all be allowed by law. Only, there is
a twist at the end of the story, because in all six of the states, the
schemes to tie the votes to congressional votes seem to have stopped dead
in the tracks by -- not the federal courts, not voting advocates within
each state. No, no, it turns out that these plans which were conceived by
Republicans also met their demise at the hands of state Republicans.
(AUDIO GAP) civil rights documentarian, Bonnie Boswell; president of the
Brennan Center for Justice, Michael Waldman; policy adviser at the Center
for American Progress, Danielle Moodies Mills, who is also the wife of one
of our favorite Nerdlanders, Aisha Moodie-Mills; and the man who knows
voter suppression like no other reporter knows voter suppression, "The
Nation`s" Ari Berman.
So, Ari, I want to start with you, mostly because I spent much of the back
end of my week reading about the Voting Rights Act in the piece that you
wrote for "The Nation". But also, because I`m trying to figure out, this
is like a weird, evil genius. Let`s do the Electoral College changes in
order to give Republicans the Electoral College votes. No, no, let`s not -
- all way state level Republicans.
ARI BERMAN, THE NATION: Well, it is a three-step process for the
Republican takeover. The first process was win in 2010, gerrymander the
seats so that you`re in power for the next decade.
The second step was pass new voting restrictions so that your opponents are
less likely to turn out to vote.
The third step is to gerrymander the Electoral College, along the same
lines that you gerrymandered after the 2010 elections.
So it will work together in terms of a thought-out scheme by Republicans,
and they might fail in one step in the process, right? The electoral
rigging scheme might fail. But they still have those gerrymandered maps,
and they are still pushing these new voting restrictions. So, you have to
look at every angle of what the Republicans are doing and fight it on so
many different levels.
HARRIS-PERRY: It does feel like part of the reason that we are getting a
pushback, though, is that the one thing it does is it counters the very
notion of the state as the primary identity of citizens. I mean, and one
of the big fights that we have been having is a federalism fight that says,
are we citizens of America or are we citizens of Virginia, California, New
York, Louisiana? Is that part of what we are seeing the state legislators
pushing back against the very things that other members of their party are
MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: I think so, and there`s even
a raw political calculus, too, which is that they realize that if they
suddenly were reallocating electoral votes by national representation,
national campaigns and parties would stop putting money into those states.
WALDMAN: And, you know, look, ask most people what congressional district
you are in. They couldn`t tell you. Most of them couldn`t probably tell
you who their member of Congress is.
I`m no fan of the Electoral College. I`m for national popular vote, but
only not in states that favor Republicans or Democrats. And I think that`s
the thing that keeps stopping this from happening, is that it just looks
horrible. It looks manipulative. It looks like someone trying to rig the
game after the fact.
But, you know, some state may pull it off. But I think that this is sort
of -- the more in sunlight this is, the sort more it smells.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, this is not a small point -- this idea of being awake
to the rules of the game. So often in the context of elections, we are
just interested in the personalities running, but suddenly in part because
of the work that you have been doing and the work of my colleagues here at
MSNBC, the notion that the rules of the game are as important as the
personalities running has suddenly become relevant.
And now, here we are in off-election year and we`re talking about voter
DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS, ADVISOR RACIAL JUSTICE, CENTER FOR AMERICAN
PROGRESS: When you look at the congressional district map nowadays, it
looks like a political pretzel. I mean, people don`t know where their
congressional district is like you were saying.
But then you look at it, and you are like, where am I supposed to find my
ballot place, where am I supposed -- where am I supposed to stand in line
on Election Day. One day, you are my member, the next day, you are not,
and that`s what they are banking on.
We have all of this hype that comes during the presidential elections and
maybe sometimes in the midterm, and then they hope that everyone is tired,
they`re exhausted, they go back home and, oh, we`ll see you again in four
years. That`s what they bank on is us not paying attention and being
exhausted from, I don`t know, days and days and days of political
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And, of course, having to stand in line for 83 hours
which we will talk about more in a little bit.
I mean, I`m wondering if this is part of the long civil rights movement,
right, that, you know, just as we were talking about the kind of activism
in the streets that draws a certain kind of attention, but then the need to
institutionalize change so that fairness becomes more routine.
I wonder if part of what we are doing here is just saying, the civil rights
movement is not over. The fundamental question of voting rights is not
over, we`ve got to stay awake to it.
BONNIE BOSWELL, CIVIL RIGHTS DOCUMENTARIAN: Well, I think so, you know ,
if you look at the history of involvement of the populous in voting
historically, many people have been cut out for a long time. First, you
could only be a property white man, and women, and I mean -- so, this is
something that we have been dealing with for such a long time. And so,
civil rights broadly speaking, you know, it`s really human rights, is our
ability to claim our space as Americans.
And I think, really, we have to kind of deal fundamentally, of course,
being aware of all of the tricks are important. There is no end to it.
You know, there is going to be another dirty trick the next year and the
next year and the next year.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, and, Ari, it feels like the one sort of legislative
attempt to end this dirty tricking was the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which
is up -- it`s being questioned, right? And there`s a real possibility that
the Supreme Court will make a decision to push it back. Tell us a tiny bit
BERMAN: Sure. Well, it`s very ironic that the Supreme Court is going to
hear a challenge to the heart of the Voting Rights Act at the end of Black
History Month, during all times.
BERMAN: And you have to remember, the Voting Rights Act is the most
important piece of civil rights legislation, and section five of the Voting
Rights Act which is being challenged is the most important part of the
Voting Rights Act. And we`re talking about this on the heels of an
election in which voter suppression played a starring role, in which we
have this week in voting suppression every single week, which is not
ancient history. Not only is it not ancient history, but it`s so relevant
to what we are talking about -- the idea that we would gut the Voting
Rights Act now when we need it the most is unbelievable.
And if you just look at the states that are covered under section five of
the Voting Rights Act, six of the nine states that are fully covered under
section five passed new voting restrictions since the 2010 election.
HARRIS-PERRY: And in the past two years.
BERMAN: And only 1/3 of those other states that aren`t covered under
section five did the same.
So, yes, there is a problem in Ohio and Pennsylvania that we have to figure
out how to address. But Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, those are
still the worse actors and they still need that special federal oversight.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, the bad guys are still the bad guys.
Stay right there. Up next, another battlefield in the right for voter
rights -- Wisconsin, the attack on early voting there.
HARRIS-PERRY: In last year`s election, nearly 400,000 people in Wisconsin
opted to cast a ballot early, before Election Day. In 2008, early votes
accounted for 21 percent of the nearly 3 million votes cast in Wisconsin.
And in fact, the state of Wisconsin has some of the highest rates of voter
participation in the nation, with near record turnout on Election Day last
With those kinds of numbers, it would seem a prudent approach to voting
policy in Wisconsin -- if it ain`t broke, don`t fix it.
Except for one lawmaker in Wisconsin seems to think that the rules could
still use a little tinkering, to make it so that fewer people would be able
Currently in Wisconsin, early voting begins two weeks before Election Day
and ends on the Friday beforehand. Early voting hours during that window
vary across the state and determined by individual municipal clerks.
Some stay open late into the night or on the weekends to accommodate the
citizens who maybe unable to cast a ballot during the kind of normal
Well, Wisconsin Senate Representative Duey Stroebel is trying to change all
of that. He`s planning to introduce legislation that would standardize
early voting hours for the entire state and put a cap on the hours that
individual clerks could offer for voting. Stroebel`s bill would prevent
workers who are unable to cast a vote during normal workday hours from
voting. And it would also end weekend voting, putting a stop to the Souls
to the Polls efforts that churches have traditionally use to help their
members vote on a Sunday before election.
Joining me from Wisconsin is someone who`s been keeping a close eye on the
effort to restrict the vote, Mike Browne, deputy director of One Wisconsin
Nice to see you this morning.
MIKE BROWNE, ONE WISCONSIN NOW: Thank you so much for having me here
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. So, this was a little complicated, right? This
is -- it`s not ending early voting altogether. It`s just standardizing it,
a standardizing it in a way that brings down the available hours.
Tell me the sort of what impact you think that would likely have on the
historic turnout that you have in Wisconsin.
BROWNE: Sure. Sure. You are absolutely right.
You know, Wisconsin has some of the highest voter turnout in the nation,
and it`s something that we are rightly proud of. One of the things that
has helped us achieved are the laws that we have in the state that allow
people to register same day and allow people to vote early.
You know, what Representative Stroebel is proposing is to place additional
barriers in a way of people being able to exercise their franchise. If
you`re working during the day, you are going to have a harder time being
able to cast your vote.
You know, just today, in Madison, the city clerk has decided to open up the
office from 9:00 to noon to allow people to vote early for the upcoming
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, are there any legitimate reason --
BROWNE: Under Representative Stroebel`s proposal, that would be illegal.
HARRIS-PERRY: Are there any legitimate reasons that Stroebel or others
have offered for why to fix a problem that doesn`t seem to exist?
BROWNE: Well, you know, we continually hear Republicans talking about this
myth of voting impropriety in Wisconsin. And, you know, an interesting
thing just happened this week. We open records request of the 65
legislative Republicans, many of whom decry improper voting in Wisconsin,
and we asked them, would you please provide us with the proof that you have
in your office that indicates there`s a problem with improper voting here
Of the 65, 50 reported back to us that they had absolutely no records. The
other provided us a collection of newspaper articles what are fewer than
two dozen case of voting impropriety in the states since 2004.
The fact of the matter is, they built their campaign voting on a myth.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Mike, remind me of this, Reince Priebus, the head of the
GOP is from Wisconsin, correct?
BROWNE: He was raised in Kenosha, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So he has recently clearly sort of had on the one hand
this position that says that we need to be the party that is more for the
greater broader and more diverse group of Americans, and on the other hand
seems to be supporting exactly these kinds of shenanigans that will make it
more difficult for that more diverse population to vote.
BROWNE: Right. Well, you are exactly right. You know, Reince Priebus has
said some nice things about voting recently, but if you look at his actions
over the years here at Wisconsin at the national level, it tells a very
You know, this goes all of the way back in Wisconsin to the 2000 election.
The election administrators here in the state of Wisconsin actually changed
the rules about being able to challenge voters because of the over the top
behavior that occurred on the part of Republican poll watchers under the
state Republican Party here under Reince Priebus` leadership. You know, he
has been involved right up through the current day, the gerrymandering of
the state of Wisconsin`s legislative and congressional districts.
You know, your guests have referred to this earlier. Here in Wisconsin,
Republicans received approximately 49 percent of the vote in congressional
races, yet won five of the eight seats. In the state legislature, they
received 174,000 fewer votes than Democrats did, yet added seats in the
BROWNE: It continues through with their efforts to implement a voter ID
law and thankfully enjoined by the courts at this point, but which is
estimated to disenfranchise 300,000 legal voters in the state.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Thank you to Mike Browne in Madison, Wisconsin,
reminding us that it`s not who casts the votes, but who counts the votes
that actually decide these elections.
And up next, how to fix those long lines at the polls in three easy steps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whether you voted for the
very first time or waited in line for a very long time.
By the way, we have to fix that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was a great moment. That was President Obama during
his election night victory speech, shouting out one of the problems that
plagued the democratic process that day.
For many voters, Election Day was an exercise, less in democracy and more
like an exercise in endurance as they waited in seemingly interminable
lines to vote.
But some people in Miami even fainting in the process. The average Florida
voter waited in line for 45 minutes, and the longest wait time in the
country, and was not the only state where voters had to stand for hours.
In Virginia, voters were still casting ballots well after the election had
been called. Poll observers saw people in Pennsylvania and Ohio walk away
before they could ever vote.
It`s a problem that we know how the fix. And in a new report, the Brennan
Center for Justice lays out a blueprint to do just that.
And I just so happen to have both the report and the president of the
Brennan Center with me at the table.
All right. Michael, how do we fix this since the president said that we
have to do something about this?
WALDMAN: And that was significant, of course, for him to say this on
election night and in the inaugural address. That`s prime real estate.
WALDMAN: This is clearly a priority for him and we hope for the country.
These long lines, it`s something of a symptom, a visible symptom of
underlying problems in the way we run elections. But the good news is
there are really some solutions that could deal with the long lines and
just generally modernize the way we run elections.
The first one is to modernize voter registration itself. A lot of the
problems are ramshackle paper-based voter registration system that leaves
tens of millions of voters off of the rolls, but actually does have lots of
errors and dead people`s names and so forth. Every election, 2 million to
3 million people can`t vote because of voter registration problems.
If we had the voter registration modernization, so that the government, we
changed the paradigm and government took responsibility to make sure that
everybody who is eligible is on the rolls electronically, it would add up
to 50 million people. It would cost less.
And for the people worried about the fraud, it really helps to deal with
that as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Isn`t this the model that you have for the draft, right, is
that you have to opt out and not opt-in, right? And so, there is an
expectation for example to say that at 18, you go and you register and
vote, right? There is a way in which we can actually generate a
registration process that makes the norm rather than an exceptional thing
WALDMAN: That`s right. We think it should be opt-in, but done easily and
electronically, and that way, you will get many more people on the rolls
and fewer problems causing the lines on the Election Day. So that was sort
of point one.
The second thing that we could have and should have is minimum national
standards for early voting.
WALDMAN: It varies widely across the country. And, of course, we see how
massively popular it is.
WALDMAN: It`s increased five times in volume over the last 10 years.
Imagine if Apple said, oh, my goodness, too many people are buying the
iPad, we better cut back on the store hours. I don`t think it`s the way it
works in the real world.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting to use the example of kind of private
industry, because it almost feels like -- I mean, because Apple does for
example wait for that day to submit so that you have to stand in the long
line for the new iPad or the mini pad or whatever, right? But they do that
to try to create this demand for this thing that is a consumer product, and
that`s not what voting is.
Voting is a much more fundamental democratic right. And yet, when we look
at the racial disparities in the vote time and you have African-Americans
and Latinos voting with vote wait time of 20 minutes which is almost double
that of a white American, it`s not that it`s bad, but it`s bad for specific
BERMAN: And people need to realize that there`s a political cost to
restricting the right to vote.
You look at Florida, 200,000 people in Florida didn`t vote because of the
long lines that. They showed up and then they walked away. And that was
incredibly unpopular, and Governor Rick Scott and the Republicans down
there looked really, really bad. So, lo and behold, Governor Rick Scott
and the Republicans in Florida, they are supporting the very expanded early
voting hours they opposed, because they realized there was a political cost
of doing this.
And I think that message needs to get through to the Republicans in
Congress, too. That if they just keep pushing the voters suppression,
there`s going to a cost, and they should back sensible election reform,
that this should be a bipartisan process, both parties were for early
voting in 2004 election, and it was only in 2008 that early voting became a
partisan issue. So, there`s no reason that we can`t have a workable
national standards on this with a bipartisan basis.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Mike?
WALDMAN: There`s one third thing we ought to have national standards
about, which is to make sure that very simply enough voting machines per
person in the precincts. Again, it`s a tremendous disparity based on who
leaves in which precinct. It very heavily affects communities of color,
urban communities, poorer communities.
But we saw in Ohio, the big mess in the election in 2004 in Ohio really, I
don`t think that was Karl Rove sitting in a room with a button pushing the
Diebold button. It was that there weren`t` enough voting machines in urban
areas, and lots of people got disenfranchised because of that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, but we know, of course, that part of what happened was
the secretary of state made a decision to reduce the number of voting
machines and I think that importantly leads to this question -- why is it
that this partisan at all? I mean, your point, Ari, that there was
bipartisan support in 2004 for the early voting, these sound like common
sense kind of thing that don`t necessarily require a partisan point of
MOODIE-MILLS: No, and you make a really good point. You said earlier
Apple, for instance, meets the consumer where they are. But the
Republicans do the complete and total opposite. They are not interested in
meeting the Americans where they are, they are interested in their
And it just -- it goes the show that my younger cousins live in Florida.
They stood in line for three hours, but they are young.
MOODIE-MILLS: But when I think about like my grandmother that lives there,
did she stand in line for four hours? I mean, she did, because she`s a
good Democrat. You know, for the rest of them, it just doesn`t make sense.
And it should show, it painted a very good picture of what the Republican
platform is all about. We have a really big tent, but we don`t care if
there are chairs in it. We don`t care if people are actually filling it
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a nice way to put it.
So, I give you the last word on this. If we were to think about our elders
in that civil rights movement who did so much work, what would they say
looking at the lines where people are waiting and fainting trying to cast
BOSWELL: I think they would say, are we still doing this? I mean, it`s
crazy. And I think the whole -- just to your point about being able to
standardize the voting across states. I mean, I was involved in a voter
registration campaign in Los Angeles, because I was furious that or not
only the Democrats, but the Republicans were not really reaching out
significantly to the underserved community.
And so we had to go out with the barbershop and beauty shop campaign,
because I figured that`s where they would be.
BOSWELL: You know? And talk to people and help them to understand, at
least in Los Angeles, that if you had -- if you have been a felon, you can
still vote after your parole is up, and they didn`t know that.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you bring such a great point. We`ve talked a bit about
that and undoubtedly will to, this felon disenfranchisement which actually
has a multiplicative effect, because people think that they are e
disenfranchised even they`re not.
Thank you to Bonnie Boswell and Michael Waldman and Ari Berman.
Danielle is going to stick around.
We have more Nerdland in just a moment. But, first, here is the latest on
the massive snowstorm in the Northeast. Up to a foot of snow on the ground
here in New York City.
Five states including New York have declared a state of emergency. Across
the region 650,000 homes and businesses are without power. And in Maine,
nearly 30 inches of snow has fallen, breaking the record set back in 1979.
Statewide, driving bans are in effect in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Stay with MSNBC throughout the day for the latest.
Up next, the new mission behind Girl Scout cookies. Get the Thin Mints,
HARRIS-PERRY: Who says girls don`t know anything about STEM. That`s
science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
I suggest that you don`t say this around this first grader, Zora Ball. At
7 years old, she is the youngest person to create a full version of a
mobile application video game. Yes, there`s an app for girl STEM.
And this little girl is so fly, she was able to reconfigure her application
on the spot at the University of Pennsylvania`s Bootstrap expo.
Zora is an encouraging story and hopefully she can serve as a shining
example and encourage more young women to pursue STEM majors and positions,
because while just as many girls and boys leave high school wanting to
pursue STEM careers, fewer than half of them pursue those majors in
college. And, by graduation, women are outnumbered by men in almost every
science and engineering field.
At the table: Dr. Aletha Maybank, cofounder of the We are Doc McStuffins
Movement and Artemis Medical Society; Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of the Girl
Scouts of the USA; Danielle Moodie-Mills, is director of Education Advocacy
for the National Wildlife Federation; and Christianne Corbett, Sr.,
researcher at the American Association of University of and coauthor of
"Why So Few Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics."
So, I`m in a little bit of heaven at this moment. I want to start in part,
because, you know, we actually featured Doc McStuffins as a Foot Soldier on
our show at one point because she is representative of trying to get the
young girls engaged in a different way of thinking about what they`re good
I want Doc McStuffins to introduce you, Doctor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOC MCSTUFFINS: Hi. I`m Doc McStuffins. Today, I want you to meet Dr.
Maybank. She is a pediatrician. That`s a special doctor just for kids.
DR. ALETHA MAYBANK, PEDIATRICIAN: Thanks, Doc. She is right. I`m a
pediatrician and I take care of babies and children. I wanted to be a
doctor since I was 4 years old. My mother bought me a toy doctor`s kit,
and I did checkups on my neighborhood friends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Basically, you win, because you were introduced by Doc
McStuffins, and tell me about this movement, that we are the Doc
MAYBANK: Sure. March 2012, Disney came out with Doc McStuffins. Myiesha
Taylor, who`s actually a physician out in the West Coast, her daughter was
watching the show and look and said, mommy, look, she is brown like me.
And from there, Myiesha started to gather from the other friends that she
has who were African-American physicians, photos of them and sent them to
Disney. In that process, what started to happen was a network of African-
American female docs from across the country started kind of found a space
So we were like, well, why don`t we continue this on, so we decided to
create an organization called the Artemis Medical Society. So, we are
about, McStuffins is really this opportunity to support and nurture each
other, because many times we are isolated, we`re spread out across the
country, and the African-American workforce, only 3 percent of them make up
the physician workforce. And for females, it`s 1.9 percent of the
physician workforce are African-American females.
And so, we really wanted to create a space of mentorship, of nurturing of
each other and then also figure out, well, how can we also mentor and
nurture the young African-American female that is watching this show "Doc
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I love this language of the nurturing and providing a
supportive environment. We were just talking in the break. I was a
brownie, and in the `70s, there were brownies. I was a girl scout, I sold
many, many boxes of these cookies.
And it was one of the first times where I was together with girls not
competing with them like in a sport, but we were together and working
collectively towards projects, individual achievement, but also collective
work in responsibility.
What are the Girl Scouts having to do with STEM education?
ANNA MARIA CHAVEZ, CEO, GIRL SCOUTS OF THE USA: Well, that`s great
question, and first of all, I think that Doc McStuffins is a girl scout.
She is really empowered.
We are doing a lot around STEM. You know, we`ve been working with girls
for 100 years and our founder was very actually focused on STEM, even back
in 1912. One of our first badges was on aviation and welding and really
working with technology at this time.
So over the 100 years, we have actually adopted, you know, badges around
these issues where the girls are focused specifically around technology and
math. As you know, our cookie program is the largest entrepreneurial
program for girls in the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it was the first time -- you know, I`m not terribly
entrepreneurial but it is the one time that I had a business and went
around to sell it and looked at the profit margin.
In addition to having been a girl scout, I had a critical intervention in
my career as a political scientist and American Association of University
Women Post-Doctoral Fellowship, right? So, so when we talk about the
nurturing environment, the other piece of that is the resources of young
girls and for young women and for older women to do this work.
What is the AAUW research and sort of work been telling you about what
women need to pursue STEM?
CHRISTIANNE CORBETT, SENIOR RESEARCHER, AAUW: Well, that`s a good question
and we are so proud of you, obviously. And you are an amazing alumni for
So, AAUW does give fellowship to women specifically in science and
engineering and has for many years. But in addition, we do these research
reports to help us understand why there are so few women. There is a lot
of literature on this topic. And what it shows really is that the culture
and the environment does play a big role in the why so few girls aspire to
these careers and women pursue them.
In particular, stereotypes. There still exist these stereotypes that girls
are not as good at math as boys, and these have the harmful effects of
girls. Even if girls don`t believe it, it doesn`t matter if you believe.
What matters is that you know it exists and you know that other people
probably believe it.
So it can actually affect the way that girls assess their own abilities.
There`s interesting research by Dr. Shelly Correl (ph) from Stanford
University that shows that among girls and boys who have the same
mathematical past achievement in terms of test scores and grades, girls
assess their abilities in math lower than the boys do.
On top of it, they hold themselves to a higher standard to this field. So
that can help us to understand why they are seeming not to be as interested
while, you know, part of being interested in something is thinking that you
can succeed in it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, and that you`re good at it initially.
HARRIS-PERRY: Danielle, you and I had a conversation once about the idea
of girls -- that African-American girls don`t camp, right? And I was
talking about being a Girl Scout and saying, no, no, of course we camp,
right? But this very idea that there`s some notion that what we can and
can`t do and what we are and aren`t good, and that impacts us even from the
little girl years about what we will do next.
MOODIE-MILLS: You know, my motto is be visible and be fabulous, right? Be
in your space.
And we have told for a long time to walk down. I mean, you walk down the
toy aisles and construction toys for little boys and dolls for little
girls, right? So at a very young age, as soon as you open your eyes, you
get a message of that.
The same bodes true for the outdoors. You have black people who go
outside. There is --
MOODIE-MILLS: But I have to say that in my job all the time. I cannot
tell you how many offices on the Hill that I have walked in as a
representative of the National Wildlife Federation and I get a look like
this -- like, just absolute shocked to see me, because of the stereotype
has been black people don`t do that.
We don`t go outside. We don`t camp. We don`t hike. We don`t climb
And the reality is that we do.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. Girls do math. We do in fact count. And the
cookie program is more of an entrepreneurial program than a baking program.
We`re going to stay on this because I want to stay on this, because I want
to talk about what First Lady Michelle Obama has to stay about STEM, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: It`s about showing every child that a
scientist isn`t just something you hear about in biology class, that a
doctor isn`t someone you visit when you are sick. Instead, young people,
particularly our girls, need to understand that doctors and scientists are
something that anyone can become no matter how much money your family has,
no matter where you come from, or whether you`re a man or a woman. And
that message is more important than ever in today`s world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was First Lady Michelle Obama in 2011, talking about
the importance of young girls understanding that they, too, can pursue
careers right alongside of the boys -- maybe even in front of them.
Talk to me about this. What do we do for our daughters, our little Doc
MAYBANK: Well, I think, you know, that`s the value of Doc McStuffins is
seeing this image on TV.
You know, one of the stories that I`ve heard from parents who have sons who
watch the show, have asked, well, can I be a doctor, too?
MAYBANK: Well, that`s the power of it, because what -- so what you said
earlier, this whole belief in the whole STEM things. You know, I didn`t
grow up with any doctors in my family, but I had a lot of support from my
mother, but there were many messages while growing up that I couldn`t do
this, I shouldn`t do this. I need to apply to save schools. My mom had to
say if I took accelerated classes and failed, it wasn`t their fault.
Many messages were there. And so, the support of girls and all these
organizations are really key to nurturing and to helping young women
believe that they can actually do this. And especially women of color in a
community and country which is becoming more and more diverse, we need to
have our physician workforce to reflect that.
CHAVEZ: But I also think the adults have a role in this. Absolutely, I
love the programming, so the girls can see something that resonates with
them. But it`s the adults that are giving the messages. You know, at Girl
Scouts, we have our own research institute and we`ve been studying girl for
And what we are learning about girls in STEM is, they like. They actually
are very proficient in math and science, and at a age -- you know, when
they are in fourth grade. But as they get older, the message from adults
changes their perspective on what they can do in the future.
And what`s interesting, our most recent report called Generation STEM where
we talk to the girls in high school, and they said, you know, the number
one important voice around STEM careers, because we think we can do it, but
we actually list it very low on our projection chart is that my father says
to me, or that male role model.
MAYBANK: And so, again, it`s not only about talking to our sisters, but
our brothers in the fight around exposing girls to things that are
important to them.
HARRIS-PERRY: My goddaughter is quite a wiz at this and keeps like -- you
know, my best friend every time she goes to the computer, she`s developed a
new Web site and started a new app or something, and she`s like, oh, what I
should I do? And I was like, man, nurture that, right?
That is good stuff.
CORBETT: Add to what Anna just said about how we talk to kids, because
this is -- there are some other really interesting research by Dr. Carol
Dweck. She`s a psychologist at Stanford also.
And it`s about a growth mindset, about cultivating a growth mindset in
kids, and it actually protects girls against the harmful effects of
stereotypes in math and science.
And what in her studies she shows the population is divided half and half
about a fixed mindset and growth mindset. Half the people think you`re
born with a certain amount of intelligence. And then half of the people
think your brain actually gets smarter and you get smarter as you learn
stuff, as you challenge yourself.
And so, kids with a growth mindset are more likely to persist in math and
actually get higher scores in math.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that way of thinking about it. That we`re not just
the bundle of things that we come with but that we can grow over space and
CORBETT: And specifically there`s one nugget which comes out of it, praise
kids for effort rather than their results. It`s something that I`ve
practiced with my own kids. It didn`t come naturally at first. But to
praise them for something that takes them a week to do instead of something
that comes really quickly.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not that you got the A. It`s that you worked and
worked on the math problem.
More in just a moment, but first, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hey, Melissa. Can I tell you I was a bio premed
major when I first started out. And the reason I didn`t go there, I took
myself out of it because like crazy hours, that lifestyle. I just point
out I`ve been on the air since 6:00 a.m. that worked out.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to say. I was like, crazy hours? Do you know
what job you have?
WITT: What is up with that?
Anyway, I do what`s up with strategy talk, as we have a former Senate
majority leader telling us what he thinks is going on in Washington right
now with sequestration cuts looming.
But we also got you covered on the latest on this near historic storm in
the Northeast. When will it be over? How long will it affect the economy
and how long will travelers be dealing with all the airport delays?
Plus, in office politics -- my conversation with that guy, Colonel Jack
Jacobs, one of the few recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
He`s going to share his story, Melissa, about what he did to be awarded his
nation`s highest military honor. You cannot turn away. It`s remarkable
what he did.
HARRIS-PERRY: He really is extraordinary. He was on the show about two
weeks ago and I just sat there like that the whole time. He was great.
And up next, our Foot Soldier, singing through the halls of the hospital.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hospitals can be stressful places, whether you`re there for
yourself or for a loved one, there is lots of waiting, anxiety, and news
can often be grim.
Now, one man is taking it upon himself to bring a little joy to those tense
hospital halls. Our Foot Soldier this week is Eugene Taylor. Eugene works
as a patient transporter at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. And,
every day, Eugene is interacting with cancer patients, those with severe
heart conditions and trauma victims.
He`s also a life-long music lover who turns himself into a one-man band,
taking up the African drum and adding shakers and whistles. All Eugene
needed is an audience.
On his second week at work at Rex Hospital, Eugene asked his supervisor if
he could use his lunch breaks to sing for patients and families in their
waiting rooms. So, he sings everything from oldies to gospel as he
transports patients around the hospital. Sometimes, he sets up shop in the
elevator, creating his own soothing elevator music. Doctors, visitors and
patients alike love Eugene`s presence, his positive attitude, but most of
all his music.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(EUGENE TAYLOR SINGING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Eugene says he gives up his lunch hour to do this so that he
can give patients hope. His music takes their minds off their illness,
even if only for a short while. And to those who don`t have families there
to support them, Eugene says, "I want that person if their mother or
father, son or daughter didn`t show up, I want them to know Eugene Taylor
For showing up and for sharing his music, for skipping lunch every day to
feed the souls of the sick, Eugene Taylor is our Foot Soldier of the week.
And this week`s Foot Soldier was nominated by one of our viewers, Krista
Summit (ph) from North Carolina. Christa is such a great member of the
Nerdland community that she`s been the one accumulating all our music on
the show from Spotify.
So, thanks, Krista for everything. And if you know a foot soldier in your
community, please send us a note on our Facebook page at
That`s our show for today. Thank you to Aletha, Anna, Danielle and
Christianne. And sticking around, I want you to stay and watch "WEEKENDS
WITH ALEX WITTT."
I`m sorry. I was walking and talking all at the same time. It was hard
work. See you back here tomorrow.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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