February 10, 2013
Guests: Richard Kim, Laura Flanders, Bryon Hurt, Salamishah Tillet, L.Y. Marlow, Ellen Bravo
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my questions, did
Republicans don`t know who they are, how can we?
Plus, the family medical leave act turns 20.
And Rihanna and Chris Brown are together again in time for the Grammy`s.
But first, why from time-to-time the president has to give a speech.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
On Tuesday night, people all over America will tune revisits in to their
televisions in breathless anticipation of the sweeping address delivered in
the U.S. capital in this must have pomp and circumstance. This address,
President Obama`s first State of the Union since his re-election will be
broader scope and perhaps ambitious in his vision and will no doubt
punctuated by moments of pervert applause by those gathered in the house of
chamber. Maybe even some of us watching at home will be applauding.
And if you are near a television at 9:00 p.m. Tuesday night, the State of
the Union will be unavoidable. The networks and cable news will, as
always, broadcast wall-to-wall coverage of the speech. The attention given
to the president`s speech is indicative of our reverence for everything
that falls under the category, very important things required by the
constitution. Only, have you ever noticed how the constitution described
the State of the Union? You might be surprised to find the founders are
pretty vague and sound bored with the whole idea of it.
Article two, section three reads he shall from time-to-time give to the
Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their
consideration such measures as he may judge necessary and expedient. He
may. On extraordinary occasions, convene both houses or either of them.
And in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the title of
adjournment, he may adjourn them to such times he thinks, she shall in
Give Congress information from time-to-time? So, another words, just tell
them stuff about the country, whenever you feel like it. He may convene
both houses or just one of them. Whatever. Or, if they disagree, feel
free to send them home. You know, whatever you think is best.
Yes, when it came to the State of the Union, the founders were kind of
light on specifics. And you will notice, they don`t even require the
president to update Congress in the form of a speech. After Thomas
Jefferson took office in 1801, he skipped the whole thing all together.
Instead, he wrote his update on a piece of paper and had a clerk read what
it says to Congress in his place. In fact, Jefferson`s preference for a
paper report over a public speech report continued for 112 years until 1913
when Woodrow Wilson decided to deliver his address in person.
But it wasn`t until 1965 that the State of the Union became a can`t miss
television event. That was the first year the State of the Union moved
from a daytime to an evening broadcast.
LBJ, one of all eyes on him as he made his case to America for civil rights
reform and his plans for the great society. LBJ used his speech to great
effect instead of precedence that remains with us. As we look forward to
the president`s big speech with the greatest of expectations. Only, our
anticipation to hear what President Obama will say goes beyond our
historical tradition of excitement around the president`s address to
Congress. It also has everything to do with what we have come to expect
from this particular president.
When it comes to a public speech, holding forth on the big issues of the
day, few have delivered like President Barack Obama. Beginning with a
speech that few of us heard from an Illinois state senator that few of us
knew speaking truth of power about the Iraq war.
In 2002, state senator Barack Obama said in a speech quote "that`s what I`m
opposed to, a dumb war, a rash war, a war based not on reason or principle
but on passion, not on politics." Two years later, we still don`t know
him, but we would not soon forget him. After this keynote address at the
2004 Democratic National Convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is not a liberal
America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America.
There is not a black America and a white America and Latino a America and
Asian America, there`s the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: By 2008, when we were still deciding whether then candidate
Obama would be a great president, he convinced us he was most certainly a
great orator. After losing the New Hampshire primary, he made a concession
speech that sounded like a victory speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this
nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes, we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He saved his campaign and made us believe he was a fearless
speaker when he spoke on a topic that an American politics is usually
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I can no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother, a
woman who loves me as much as she loves anything this n this world but a
woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her by on the
street. These people are part of me. They are part of America, this
country that I love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And we all remember when President Obama gave us this moment
in 2011, when he delivered news of triumph in the midst of a national
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room
and some of her colleagues from Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her
eyes for the first time. Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Of all the memorable moments of oratory from President Obama
over the years, among the most forgettable are the instances when he
delivers the speech he`s going to give Tuesday night for the fifth time.
Quick, name one big applause line from the State of the Union last year.
Wait. Yes, the fact is that the president tends to give the extraordinary
speech when called for by an extraordinary moment or when charged with
addressing us on an occasion as routine of pedestrian as a State of the
Union, not so much.
Take a look at this info graphic from "the Washington Post" comparing the
president`s last four addresses. You can almost set your watch by the
regularity of President Obama`s State of the Union speeches. He spends
roughly the same amount of time on the same topics in the same order. The
one exception was 2011 when he deviated a bit from the script in the
aftermath of a seminal event, the shooting in Tucson, Arizona.
So, the president finds himself in much the same environment on the eve of
his 2013 speech, updating Congress on how the country is doing following
another horrific mass shooting. Which leaves us with two possibilities
from the president on Tuesday night. Either another moment that history
will remember because it`s impossible to forget or simply another regularly
scheduled update that comes from time-to-time as the founders intended.
When we come back, the panel weighs in on how the president can make
Tuesday night historic.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are previewing President Obama`s Tuesday night State of
the Union address. And I want to turn to my guests to find out what they
think the president will say and what they think he should say which aren`t
necessarily the same things.
Here with me today is Laura Flanders, host and founder of the grittv.org
and Author of "blue grit," Susan Del Percio, a Republican strategist and
MSNBC contributor, Richard Kim, executive editor of thenation.com and
Victoria Defrancesco Soto, NBC Latino contributor and fellow at the LBJ
school at the University of Texas. She`s also director of communications
for Latino decisions.
So Laura, how can the president make Tuesday night count? I mean, is it
possible to -- ?
LAURA FLANDERS, HOST, FOUNDER, GRITTV.ORG: What is he going to say? He is
going to say the State of the Union is strong. Listening to his speech
from the DNC all those years ago, I remember that red not blue, not liberal
conservative -- we have a very divided nation. One thing is to point out
that our Congress in predominantly working and middle class country is a
Congress of billionaires and multimillionaires. And I think at the last
count, most of them had not more than 1.5 percent of their work lives ever
involved in any kind of manual labor or service industry job. So, you have
a huge division when talking about union. And then, if you want to talk
about the political division of the country, the country is red/blue
divided like when on the verge of the civil war.
I do think, I spoke to the folks from the color of change this week on grit
TV. And I do think there`s something he could do. Last year, if you may
remember, the State of the Union declared the $25 billion housing
settlement. A lot of people want to know where has that money gone? And
it goes to the question of wealth in this country and specifically you
talked about it, race.
African-Americans lost 75 percent of their wealth. Black wealth is at the
lowest in 26 years. Color of change and whole of others the same. This is
the kind of action appoint to top cop to, you know, monitor where that
money is going. Stop the banks as they try and fine every trick they can
to distribute the money where it`s not need and raise the issue of wealth
and equality in this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Richard, it is kind of interesting, and completely memorable
if they said look, the state of our economy is improving. The state of our
national defense is strong. But the state of out union -- not so good.
That would be like if he said we are in fact not unionized because of the
RICHARD KIM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THENATION.COM: You know, what is
interesting that speeches you showed earlier, they were all on the campaign
trail or they are all in the states of emergency. Now, I think Obama`s
State of the Union is overwhelming because it`s a cramped environment.
That`s what he`s trying to project.
And you know, I think this -- do you remember the 2011 when the future
State of the Union speech? Well, I think this is going to be back to when
the future State of the Union speech. When is that it`s going to focus on
education, energy and infrastructure, right. These are the same things he
laid out for four years in a row. He did it in 2011. There`s nothing
wrong with that kind of technocratic bipartisan all hands in, sort of call
for America to create jobs. It is just like, you know, he`s avoiding
conflict in that. He`s not willing to push the political leverage to get
this done. And it sort of failed as a sort of incitement to action for the
past four years. So, I just wonder what he can do new in this setting to
actually move that agenda forward.
FLANDERS: You need to have power outage right there.
HARRIS-PERRY: But Susan, people watch, right. This was one of my
questions. Is it just us, right? I mean, you know, I watched the State of
the Union. I won`t this year because of Mardi Gras.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Priorities.
HARRIS-PERRY: Priorities. Most people watch State of the Union -- and so,
when we were just looking at the numbers like who watches? Is it just the
sort of political class? But the answer is no. People in fact do tune in.
They do in fact want to see the State of the Union. We have seen with the
president, it kind of goes up and down. But we are talking many tens of
millions of people there who watched the State of the Union over the years
for the president. One of the things people watch for is that applause
line, right? And particularly the partisan nature of it. What are they
going to see from Republicans? What are they going to applaud and not
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that is going to be very
interesting. And I think that s why the response from Marco Rubio will
provide even a greater insight. But just to go back to the point of what
he needs to do. He does needs to pull the political lever. I mean, he did
take a lot of mixed criticism for his inaugural speech. This is his legacy
speech, right here.
This is ticking off his second term. He`s not going to have more than a
year to move forward. This is going to determine his legacy and he should
be political. Because as much as he`s been trying to unite the country or
say, you know, he believes this that message, we see the fights. No one
believes it. So, why not draw the line in the sand? Because he has been
successful in it.
Now, I agree with the policies.
KIM: And I totally agree with Susan right here.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m looking for the moment to jump on the Republican
strategist. But I`m like, yes. OK.
DEL PERCIO: As a strategist, that`s what you should do. Get into what the
Republicans do to respond to it. But he should if he needs to make it
memorable. Also, he`s in a difficult situation. How much does he go to the
economy which everyone is concerned about versus an issue like gun control
which is right now starting to lose steam in the American public`s eye.
And this is something that he has been on. And frankly, I think, he should
be successful at it. I hope he is successful at. And he could be losing
it and have to balance that with economic message.
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, NBC LATINO CONTRIBUTOR: Who is his audience?
So, I sit down and I think when you are talking to this, you are preaching
to the choir. We need to do out economic agenda, our environmental agenda.
What I`m really interested in and what I think is going to be fascinating
is how Republicans respond. Because Republicans right now are at a cross
roads. And they are trying to shake out how they are going to respond in
the next two years going into this 2014 midterm and into the presidential.
Interestingly enough, Marco Rubio is giving the official response. Rand
Paul is giving the Tea Party response. So, we are going to see how these
two Republican factions fight it out amongst themselves in response to the
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you, very specifically, Vicky, on the applause
line question, what about immigration? I mean, because Rubio is going to
give the response. We know that this is one of the places where at least
dispersively, there isn`t that much daylight between the president and the
senator on issues of what the immigration plan looks like. It ice brand-
new, right? Let`s be clear, which is bran-new. But are they going really
makes what will undoubtedly be the kind of common sense immigration
discursive lines. Are we going to see the whole chamber stand for those?
SOTO: You are going to see that 70 percent.
SOTO: Let`s remember, there is that faction of extreme conservative that
is only want ward of security. And they don`t want to see anything but
And speaking of Rubio`s response, I do think it`s interesting that it`s the
first time we will ever see a response in Spanish, in Espanol, that I think
that`s a step in the right direction. You have to have substance behind
the style. Don`t just speak to me in Spanish.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are going to stay on Tuesday`s speech. Because there are
going to be some very unusual guests in the room. Who they are and why
they are there, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back.
This was the scene yesterday as first lady Michelle Obama attended the
Chicago funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old teen who was shot and
killed in Chicago just days after performing at President Obama`s
Hadiya`s mother, Cleopatra Cowley Pendleton will be one of 23 people
directly affected by gun violence who will be attending the State of the
Union as invited guests of house Democrats. The representatives are using
the bright spotlight of the State of the Union to bring attention to gun
control measures now being considered by Congress. And as a reminder and
for the president even these most routine of speeches, his also as most
visible platform to influence the debate and highlight the policy go with
it he hope to accomplish in the second term.
So, it does feels to me like, you know as you said, the one thing beyond
the sort of ordinary mundane, are right here continuing to get out of the
recession, is this gun violence question and this idea of using this as a
moment to put pressure on it. Like whether or not they stand for
immigration with 23 gun victim, you know, survivor family members in the
room, it`s going to be hard not to stand on some sort of gun control.
DEL PERCIO: And it goes to what Victoria said, who is the audience? Who
is the president trying to make the statement to? So, if he`s trying to
get public support on his side, he already has it with the few of the
issues whether it be background checks, pull of piercing.
DEL PERCIO: -- and 50 round clips. Now, the funny thing is they actually
don`t prevent much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. They prevent Newtown, but they don`t prevent Hadiya
DEL PERCIO: And to some extent they don`t because Connecticut has all of
these laws. But at least on the PR war, he could come down the road and
get a lot of Republicans, I think, moderate Republicans in this country who
say this is crazy that we have these -- we don`t have these kind of laws.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So, is this a time then when part of the audience is
undoubtedly Republicans. But the other part of the audience are ordinary
Americans, many of whom are gun owners. We know that we have millions of
guns in this country. And so, I`m not here to take your guns. Although,
wouldn`t that be interested? I mean, like LBJ used that moment and say we
are here to end segregation.
KIM: Well I mean, you could have a buyback program. And that is what they
did in Australia to make handguns, you know, less problems in society which
is by far the largest cause of gun violence in America.
But you know, I think Obama has sort of learned from the mistake of the
assault weapon ban in `94 which went through this, you know, five-year kind
of sausage making effort after horrific crime in Stockton, California. And
what came out of it was a watered down bill that everyone has already
detached from the crisis moment earlier. And so, it`s clear to me what
he`s trying to do now is sort of like have a flash kind of moment on this
and use this to heal the wounds it country feels from Newtown to at least
get an up and down vote on the stuff. I don`t think he`s going get the
assault weapons ban. But at least have a vote on this and at least put on
record, you know, if you are in the pack of NRA and you voted against that
and there`s another shooting, you have something to call them on.
SOTO: He`s cheap. I`m going to be the downer about the State of the Union
address. He can go there and talk all he wants, but it is actions speak
louder than words. And this is where we get back to organizing for
What is the president going to do with the establishment he has? That`s
what`s going to matter. It`s not talking to the TV viewers or even talking
to the pundits. What is he going to do? And we know that traditionally,
the Democratic Party has been weak in institution.
Republicans have been good at institution building. Democrats haven`t.
And 2009 through 2012 was a lost opportunity with the Democratic Party.
What is he going to do going forward? Is he going to take it to the
shooting or immigration? That`s my question.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here is one thing he could do dispersively. And that is he
could tie the death of Hadiya Pendleton and the handgun death which is the
vast majority of death, not the Newtown, to the questions you were bringing
up earlier, Laura, about inequality, about poverty. I mean, so, Hadiya is
standing there in her neighborhood park. She was most likely shot by
someone engaged in sort of gang warfare over the drug war. In another
words, he could make dispersively make this not just about weaponry, but
about the context in which American violence occurs. He`s a Chicagoan. He
has the position to stand there and do that.
FLANDERS: I just have to say, you know, listening to this conversation and
thinking of who is going to be there and thinking of the consequences of
gun violence. You know, who is not going to be there is anybody who is a
representative of those who are victims of U.S. gun violence around the
world. A drone victim, for example. They are not there. And I do think
this is also the State of the Union is a time where the president has to
address our global union. Our union with the world which at the moment,
it`s read horribly by the proliferation of weapons that our industries are
responsible for enough policy too.
So, I know it`s a huge long leap and it is not going to happen. But I do
think just to avoid the hypocrisy, the president needs to acknowledge, we
are one of the biggest arms manufacturing nation in the world. We are
clearly a proliferating weapons around the world and home. And that we
have to address the consequences of violence on both of these levels. And
absolutely, that start it home and start it local. Then, let`s not wiped
out -- let`s not ignore the fact that, you know, we need some gun control
for the Pentagon.
DEL PERCIO: But the problem is, again, it goes to this being his legacy
speech. This is it. This is all he is going to have to determine his
agenda for the next six months to a year. So, it`s also facing a sluggish
economy. He`s not going to be able to fight through all of these other
SOTO: It`s not just unemployment rates. It`s the contraction. I see $100
less on my paycheck every month. So, I think it`s the tangibility of it.
FLANDERS: The only place money is going to come from for the
infrastructure is --
KIM: He`s called for high speed rail before. I mean, that is the
infrastructure. He`s called for clean energy, 80 percent clean energy by
2035, right. So, the revenue is not there to make it happen. And so, what
is he going to put on the table in the State of the Union that is going to
generate the revenue or at least, you know, push some political buttons?
DEL PERCIO: In the State of the Union, he`s adding spending in a very
HARRIS-PERRY: So, is this been the moment dispersively what he makes the
claim for revenue. Because that`s the other thing. I mean, there`s been a
kind of, you know, global peace, inequality piece of the left that has been
calling for. But what about the other -- I mean, the other piece could be
here is why government matters. Here is why we need more revenue in order
to I dare you not to raise taxes because that`s what we need to do.
KIM: Absolutely. I think that is actually -- she should go through in the
corporate tax loopholes. He needs to go a Robin Hood tax, all that. I
mean, what he`s tried before is kind of incentives for capital to spend
money and create jobs. We wee that not work. Corporations are hoarding
cash. Banks are hoarding cash. So, they are sort of like using federal
policy at the kind of leverage to get this hasn`t really happened. What is
going to happen?
HARRIS-PERRY: I so love the State of the Union we have written where the
president says State of the Union is week, we are going to need more taxes.
I`m done with drones. By the way, I`m coming for your handguns, and --.
KIM: Why not? Why not lay that out?
HARRIS-PERRY: This is fun. We are going to stay on the State of the Union
question. We are going to do it Nerdland style. Pop quiz is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Fun facts. In 1790, it was formally called the annual
message. But no one knows what that is. Because since 1942, folks have
been referring to as the State of the Union. A self-explanatory moniker
that the State of the Union gives the president a chance to lay out plainly
his plans for the next year, while also giving Congress and citizens an
update on the country`s general well being.
But that`s not the only fun fact about the State of the Union. And the
Nerdland crew has dug up some more. It is time -- for pop quiz. State of
the union edition.
All right, go ahead and play along at home. You can tweet your answers
using #Nerdland. But for the panelists here at the table, you ring your
bells if you know the answer.
OK. Just calm it on down there Richard.
KIM: Sorry. Sorry.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, here is the first question, which president
delivered the shortest State of the Union?
HARRIS-PERRY: No. A little bit earlier. Here is the hint. The president
has no predecessor to learn from.
DEL PERCIO: George Washington.
HARRIS-PERRY: There you go. A Nerdland sticker. That`s right, George
Washington. His State of the Union was 1,089 words long which is basically
the length of the columns I have to give Richard.
KIM: Eighty nine words longer.
HARRIS-PERRY: Eighty nine words longer than the columns I give Richard
once a month.
All right, on the other hand, who gave the longest State of the Union?
HARRIS-PERRY: You got it. That`s right. Who else but would it be? Of
course, but our friend Bill Clinton. In 2000, his State of the Union was
1:28:49. Papa does loves to talk. It`s really it is true.
SOTO: He is slower, too. A southern drawl.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, but I think he likes hearing himself.
DEL PERCIO: The applause.
HARRIS-PERRY: That is what it is. It is not himself. But it is the
applause he likes.
All right, question three. It`s about to get harder. Sorry. OK.
Name either of the two president who is never gave a State of the Union.
And they never gave it because of circumstance that is could not be helped.
FLANDERS: Was it Jefferson?
HARRIS-PERRY: No, he wrote it.
FLANDERS: OK. FDR?
HARRIS-PERRY: No, he gave a bunch. It was -- it`s all right if you didn`t
know this one Nerdland. William Henry Harrison in 1841 and James Garfield
in 1881. I have a sticker for anybody who knows why.
KIM: They died.
HARRIS-PERRY: They died. Good job.
KIM: He died before -- it`s very sad.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is. Wear your overcoat at the inauguration is the story
All right. Which president gave the first televised State of the Union
FLANDERS: Didn`t you tell us at the beginning of the program? Wasn`t it
LBJ or FDR?
HARRIS-PERRY: No. So, OK. So, LBJ gave the first prime time one. That
was the classic like professorial plant false information that`s kind of
KIM: We weren`t listening to context clues.
HARRIS-PERRY: It was actually Truman in 1947. It just happened to be
during the day.
DEL PERCIO: JFK looked best doing it.
HARRIS-PERRY: True. Although, you know, I think President Obama has a
kind of stately way of giving states of the union. Who was the first lady
to invite guests to the State of the Union? She was, herself, formerly an
DEL PERCIO: No.
HARRIS-PERRY: Go, go, go.
DEL PERCIO: Nancy Reagan.
HARRIS-PERRY: You got it! Nancy Reagan is correct. The answer was Nancy
Reagan. In 1982, she invited Lenny Scutnick who is considered a hero for
saving a woman`s life. And so, now, what we called people sitting with the
first lady in her box are Scutnicks for that reason.
Yes. All right. Which television show did Rob Gibbs, who is then
President Obama`s press secretary promise that President Obama would not
interrupt with his State of the Union? Which TV show was it?
HARRIS-PERRY: "Lost." You got it.
That`s right. It was an ABC thriller. And Gibbs said I don`t foresee a
scenario which millions of people who hope to finally get some conclusion
with "Lost" are preempted by the president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whew!
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank goodness for that one.
All right. You guys are fantastic. And everybody ends up with a sticker.
I love it.
Up next, the GOP. I`ll give you one for hanging out with us.
Up next the GOP`s identity crisis. Are Eric Cantor and Republican
governors at war with each other?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Over the next two years,
our house majority will pursue an agenda that is based on a shared vision
of creating the conditions of health, happiness and prosperity for more
Americans and their families. Our goal to ensure every American has a fair
shot to earn success and achieve their dreams.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was the second ranking Republican Congressman, Eric
Cantor, speaking on Tuesday to the American Enterprise Institute about the
new, kinder, gentler GOP, a GOP that cares about the poor and the
But this week also showed us that this rebrand may not have reached many
local GOP bosses. Pennsylvania`s governor Tom Corbett became the eleventh
Republican governor to opted out from the funds of federal government is
offering under the affordable care act to expand Medicaid to those American
families earning less than $32,000. That means 4.7 million low income
Americans who would be eligible for Medicare in 2014, now live in states
where Republican governors are rejecting the funding. Kinder, gentler?
What is the new GOP really about?
DEL PERCIO: They don`t want to be the ones to administer. They still get
it, it`s not one or the other. They just choose not to administer because
in the end, it`s going to cost the states more.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I will say, let me say this, because I live in one of
these states where it`s happening. Part of what`s going on here is I think
an odd kind of ideological position that we don`t want federal government
encourage him, but rather than making a decision to set up, for example,
state based exchanges were going to allow the federal government to do it
and we are going to -- we are going to actually not take increase on
funding in Medicaid that would expand Medicaid for the poorest folks living
in those states.
KIM: And the extension on Medicaid, these are rejection -- in exchange --
we do it to bb administer by the federal government. But if they reject
the expansion, there are a rejection. It`s administered by the federal
government. And the money is 100 percent funded for the first two years.
It goes to 90 percent over time.
DEL PERCIO: And that`s it. You seem, that is the whole problem. You
already -- if you see the decrease in funding as it goes on, which is the
bigger problem for the states. The state costs are only going up.
KIM: Each of those states, by closing tiny, tiny tax loopholes, you fund
DEL PERCIO: You try to close them in a state like New York. Again, they
are taking the exchange. But it is very, very difficult to make that work.
KIM: Tax cut, tax cut policy.
DEL PERCIO: You have to recognize that different states have difference
purposes and they administer this. I mean, the state like New York is a
lot different than a state like North Dakota, for example.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. But I will say, in many of the southern states with
Republican governor that is are doing this, they are in fact states where
they are getting 100 percent, where you would be increasing this sort of
floor or ceiling for where people have an opportunity to be part of it.
And we have every reason to think with a healthier -- these are states with
unhealthy population states with very high levels of poverty and both of
those things keeping the states budgets -- I mean, economies from expanding
which is part of what keeps the budgets down, right?
So, with a healthier citizenry, with people not losing time for work, with
people having the opportunity to go into work and having coverage at higher
levels. Those are things that expand your overall economy and therefore
expand your capacity to have people pay into the taxes.
KIM: The obvious, this is a matter of money so much ideology. I mean,
this is really what`s going on here.
SOTO: Beyond talking Medicaid/Medicare, what is the division in the
Republican party? What I see is a public face, Marco Rubio in the cover of
"Times." We see Chris Christie and the private face. And the private face
is the local level. It`s county party. It`s people getting together at
coffee shops indicator and in Texas. And the problem is, that these are
the people who are going to be driving the politics.
DEL PERCIO: The problem with them, this is my biggest concern with the
party, they tend to have a litmus test for who counts as a Republican. And
that is one of the biggest dangers the Republican party has right now.
SOTO: Or they going to deal with it.
DEL PERCIO: You know, and it is important for it to be dealt with. And I
do think it is going to be on the local level. But you take Marco Rubio
right now. He has been actually put in a very difficult position. He has
now being called a leader of a party, but he should simply be just doing
his job and governing if he wants to run. This is not what he needs right
now if he wants to run for president.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Because he is going to have to take on the baggage
of the entire party.
DEL PERCIO: Focus on the Tea Party.
FLANDERS: He shouldn`t have to make that fight.
DEL PERCIO: It`s where the Republicans get in trouble.
FLANDERS: I mean the conversation about Rubio and the pick to have him do
this, you know, is it really in kind it is almost you need those kinds of
strategy, you know, I have to say, who else are they going have do this
speech? You have Chris Christie who does nothing but rally against them.
You got Paul Ryan who are gave it.
FLANDERS: Palin, they don`t even want on FOX News. I think there`s an
aspect of who else do we have here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it is part of what`s interesting is we have Rubio on
one hand, but then Rand Paul doing the Tea Party response. And the very
fact that there were two, that there`s a Tea Party response and GOP
FLANDERS: That happened before.
SOTO: The fisher (ph) in the Republican party. I think it`s interesting
to see how Karl Rove is trying to battle it out with the conservative
element. But he can carpet back the air waves all he wants with the
messaging. What`s going to move people is going to the grass roots level.
He has an Obama strategy with the folks at the lower level. Otherwise --
DEL PERCIO: Right. And that is going to be this lower levels where they
are sick of losing friends, the way Republicans are saying we keep vomiting
these people IS Rove going to get cooperative?
KIM: They have won the state legislatures and they won governor houses.
DEL PERCIO: Run on the Senate level.
KIM: But the Senate is where the problem is, I think, for Republicans.
That`s where you have and the public face and Republican Party is actually
not Marco Rubio. It is Mitch McConnell, it is John McCain who is becoming
an embarrassment for the party. It is all these people who are lecturing
it out Benghazi, who are the two backwards and they are so, they are
getting the Iraq war, who are voting against the VOWA who are its filing
briefs. It`s important. They are looking like the white old man party.
FLANDERS: What you were saying before quickly, which is you know, at the
local level, it`s not a Tea Party versus the new party, this is the party.
DEL PERCIO: Well, you know, it is funny. I always hear that, Susan, you
are the reasonable Republican. You are fine. You are reasonable. I`m not
that unique as a Republican. There are a lot more reasonable Republicans,
if you will, I actually hate the term. But people out there who think that
there is room for more than one idea. There are people out there like
myself who think a woman`s body should not be a campaign issue. And that`s
what the Republicans have to start not putting that litmus strategy in.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this bid tent strategy, like a hallmark of George W.
Bush, free 9/11 basically, right. The George W. Bush that was initially
elected. He served his position even as --
DEL PERCIO: Ellie Barbers (ph).
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. They have a new republic cover, right, that says when
we look at the Republican party now, it is the party of white people. And
look. You think about the George W. Bush moment, at least initially, we
are not the party of white people. We are bringing Latinos, you know, we
are bringing a small portion of African-Americans who are, you know,
morality -- they were doing all kind of things to make it happen. But they
were nonetheless, imagining a more integrated party.
FLANDERS: It`s the strategy for years. I mean, that`s how we got, you
know, Clarence Thomas. Let us just remember that was a Reagan appointee.
You know, this have been a campaign, I mean, an effort for years. I just
don`t think it`s going to work. It hasn`t worked for the party for the
last ten years. People see through the picture to get a policy in this --.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, we will stay right on the issue of the
GOP because you are on fire about it. But we want to talk about a little
bit about Karl Rove and what he thinks is going on and trying to be
extremist Republican candidate as soon as we get back.
HARRIS-PERRY: With white board in hand, Republicans with this figure, Karl
Rove has been consistently shaking the money tree for quote, true
Republican candidates. But even Rove is having trouble figuring out who
the winners are in the GOP these days. Here he is with FOX`s Bill O`Reilly
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, AMERICAN CONSULTANT AND POLICY ADVISOR: Look, we gave more
money, spent more money on behalf of the Tea Party candidates than any
other group in America, any group. I love these groups that are
criticizing us saying they are fake conservatives. Well, I repeat, we
spent $30 million for Tea Party Senatee candidates and $25 million.
There`s no group that comes close to what cross roads has done in terms of
financial support for Tea Party candidates.
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: We believe you.
ROVE: It`s not the question of Tea Party or not, it`s a question of
whether or not they are bad candidates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I tell you what. Whatever is going on with the GOP,
they are down with white boards these days, right. If you are talking to a
Republican, they whip out a white board. You didn`t bring one?
DEL PERCIO: No, sorry.
HARRIS-PERRY: But look. On one hand, I think we have overestimated and
over spoken the so-called demise of the Republican party. I think
Republicans have a deeper bench than Democrats going into 2016. Obviously,
the control of the governor`s mansions and of course, the redistricting
that happened in 2010 that allows Congressional candidates to stay in for a
very long time.
On the other hand, there`s something going on that seems to be identity
crisis for them, the party, particularly with the question of what`s going
to happen with the Tea Party, what is going to happen with social issue
which is now no longer affect that wedges, but are now really quite
DEL PERCIO: Well, it`s also important for currently elected Republicans in
the Senate and the Congress to feel like someone has their back. I would
like to see Karl Rove, instead of his group going out and doing their
current messages, I rather have them protect someone in office for saying
the right thing and venturing to actually govern because that`s what people
really want to do.
They want to see their elected officials getting something done. So, when
you command and say I support this idea whether be an immigration or fiscal
policy, we can compromise on reducing the debt or however you want to look
at it or I agree to raise taxes over $450,000. Maybe it`s not something I
want to do, but we need to govern. We need to have people backing those
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s an interesting point.
KIM: I think you are right, Melissa, also in that, you know, the
Republican party have been very adept at holding on to the mechanisms of
power on the state level, whether it`s the gerrymandering or the change in
election boss or citizens united. And so, you are going to see, I think,
on a state level and even on a congressional level a lot of success.
What they have not been able to put together a national package. And
that`s where you have the kinds of suicide wing of the Republican party
totally signing an attempt to actually talk to a majority of Americans and
whether they are going to kind of snap out of it and want to do that is a
HARRIS-PERRY: But Susan suggests what causes you to snap out of it isn`t
some kind of epiphany, it is a structural change, right. That if, if what
you do is decide, OK, we are going to put financial support between those.
You make compromise not a dirty word, by supporting those who actually do
the work of governing. I mean, that to me is a fascinating kind of re-
jiggering of the idea.
KIM: Except , so many have been able to get reelected while holding that
suicide. That`s what I`m saying in that, right. I mean, that is my first
act of kind of mechanisms.
DEL PERCIO: It`s a difference in the Republicans that deal with the
congressional races. They are still worried about being primary from the
right. No one is being worried about being primary from the left.
DEL PERCIO: So if you want to see Republicans, I think, being able to do
better governance, support them when they are trying to do it instead of
attacking them and going to the extreme.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, talk about the Chris Christie moment then. So, on the
hand, you have Chris Christie whose policies of labor, union, destruction,
all those things are clearly very in the right, on the right hand. Then he
did this political theater with hugging the president and with critiquing
the Republican party for its failure to pass the Sandy legislation, right?
DEL PERCIO: I`ll give you one more to go on that Chris Christie thing. He
also did something else very significant in that time period. He came up
with a teachers deal, a teacher contract for Newark, New Jersey. And he
had to negotiate with Randy Winegarn (ph). That is not an easy thing to
do. And what they both came out saying was, neither one of us had to give
up on principals, but we had to compromise. That`s the type of leadership.
FLANDERS: The embededness (ph) and the reality, I think, is what made that
Chris Christie moment so important. That he was dealing as governor with
the reality of Sandy. It will be interesting to see over the next month
what happens to his policies. But as long as he continues embeds his
decision making in reality of the requirements of governing, I think you
are really right.
HARRIS-PERRY: But he managed to keep himself in New Jersey from having a
viable democrat run against him. Like the number one job, right, of an
incumbent is to keep yourself from having a real challenger. And whatever
else happened, he did that. Right?
SOTO: Let`s not forget regional differences. Then, it is very
informmarable (ph) are two-party system by a multi-party system when we
think about region. But I want to get to your point about compromise. The
Pugh did a study, the Pugh Institute did a study.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, I know. And I still want to hear about it if you tell
me in the commercial because unfortunately, we have to have to commercials
to pay for this.
Thank you to Susan and Richard. Laura and Victoria are actually going to
stick around for the next hour.
And coming up, a new chance for Republicans to get on board. This time
with the violence against women act.
Plus, 20 years after the family medical leave act, why too many parents
More Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, sounds like the easiest thing in
the world to support, a proverbial no brainer. It shouldn`t require much
thought to support legislation that aims to stop violence against women.
Before the Senate passes it tomorrow, as expected, and sends it to the
House, it`s worth taking a look at why it`s taken this long to get to this
point. The Violence Against Women Act has been in effect since 1994. But
its reauthorization was blocked last year because of differences between
the Democratically-controlled Senate and Republicans in the House.
Among other things, the VAWA strengthened federal penalties for repeat sex
offenders, used federal funds to train law enforcement to better handle
crimes of sexual violence, provided grants to domestic violence survivors
to help them get protection orders and possibly leave a situation which
they might have otherwise felt trapped by financial dependence.
And the Senate version of the VAWA is expected to pass tomorrow, those
grand programs could no longer discriminate against LGBTQ citizens. They,
along with undocumented immigrants and American-Indian women, would receive
But it`s obvious that some Republicans still have a problem with the bill.
These eight Republican senators, all men, last week voted against the
Violence Against Women Act, even coming up for a vote. I guess we can
count on what they are going to do tomorrow.
But what about House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who in the last Congress
led the objections to aspects of the more inclusive Senate version of the
bill. On the House floor last Wednesday, he tried to reassure us that he
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTOR: You know, I, as a gentleman care very deeply about women in the
abuse situation, that we need to get them the relief that this bill offers.
That`s what we want to do. That`s our priority, we must move and act on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Great. Leader Cantor and his fellow House Republicans will
move an act on the VAWA. Whether they now intend the law to protect all
women in that abuse situation remains a giant question mark.
Let me welcome my guests, author, Laura Flanders of Grittv.org; Salamishah
Tillet, co-founder of the non-profit, A Long Walk Home; Byron Hurt, co-
founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention; and author L.Y. Marlow, founder
of Saving Promise.
So, let`s start with the gentleman at the table who cares a lot about women
in this abuse situation.
When you hear this kind of discourse, do you get the sense that these
congressmen get it? That they know what this act can in fact do?
BYRON HURT, CO-FOUNDER, MENTORS IN VIOLENCE PREVENTION: Well, what I hear
are men who are not really empathizing and showing compassion for the women
in their own lives, you know, who may have been affected by sexual violence
or physical violence, or may have experienced some sort of rape or any sort
of sexual violence in their lives for which this measure, this actual act
would help, you know, provide services and protection that they need in
order to, you know, survive these situations.
HARRIS-PERRY: Laura, it feels like certainly an act does not keep women
from being victimized, right? I mean, we recognize that, right? There are
laws. But what it does do is create pathways for survival out of that
initial experience of victimization.
How is this a political football?
FLANDERS: Well, it`s been a political football since it passed in 1994,
which is one of the historical aspects of this. This has been the bone of
contention since back then. The Republicans didn`t want it back then.
You know how they are about history. I want to go right back there and
One of the things I just want to mention is what you said, which is that
there has been a movement to support this Violence Against Women Act that
has had a huge impact this time around and up to this time around.
It`s not just -- oh, we got seven Republicans in the Senate to come around.
It`s been a fight to get the senators there. The fight has been hugely
helped, I think, by grassroots initiatives and activism on the women`s
fronts all in the Native American reservations, within immigrants, and by
international movements like the One Billion Rising movement of V-Day and
Eve Ensler fame. They have been working on this.
And it`s interesting, because even as they push the legislation, which
makes a place for domestic violence, shelters, hot lines, they are also
saying, wait a minute, the goal is ending violence against women.
FLANDERS: One in three women on the planet will be abused in their
lifetime. It`s got to stop. Not just from the hotline --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Not just from -- Salamishah, that`s -- I think that,
for me, is part of like my different positions on VAWA. I mean, on the one
hand, we just have to get it passed. It`s ridiculous we don`t.
But on the other hand, we cant see the passage of VAWA as a panacea for
this fundamental issue, of vulnerability of women and a particular women,
of women who are undocumented, of men and woman who are gay, who may not be
under these protections, and particularly of indigenous woman.
What is the part that helps to build that bridge between the policy and the
actual making of this -- making of a new world where you see less violence
SALAMISHAH TILLET, ASST. PROF., AFRICANA STUDIES, UPENN: Well, I think
Laura spoke to the activism going on in this country and around issues of
violence against women. But I just want to speak quickly, personally, as a
rape survivor who didn`t have health insurance. I went to the local crisis
center. And so, for me, VAWA is a really personal and deeply political
issue and very intimate, right?
So, VAWA saved or at least helped millions of women and men in this country
already. Millions of -- and families in this country are ready. So, to
think of it as something that ends up being a partisan issue that people
think don`t affect the lives of every day people is really, really
disturbing and a different kind of violence.
But you are right. With the kinds of women, and particularly now the
sticking point is Native American women, right? So, 70 percent of Native
American women who are victims of violence are attacked by people who
aren`t from their communities, who aren`t from their reservations.
So, it`s also what kind of women and men, what kinds of women do we
consider American? What kinds of women do we think should have protection
under the law? And who, you know, the Congress is saying that Republicans
are saying that this is unconstitutional.
But these treaties have been established, fortunately or unfortunately, for
many years --
FLANDERS: I mean, you have your personal story. This is a personal story,
a personal issue. But women are being used, once again as a pawn in a
political fight that actually has to do with tribal courts versus federal
courts, U.S. courts, state courts, and immigration law, because those in
the Heritage Foundation and American -- I think it`s the Family Research
Institute and Phyllis Schlafly, all those people, they literally believe
that women are lying about domestic violence to get immigration status.
Again, it`s a pawn in a much bigger fight. But what could be bigger than
stopping our women and girls from having the support they need.
HARRIS-PERRY: Exactly on this issue of the deep personal nature of it. I
just looked at the work that you have been doing. I am -- it feels to me -
- let me ask about by asking you about your story so that you can help
broaden this situation for us.
L.Y. MARLOW, FOUNDER, SAVING PROMISE: Absolutely. This is personal for me
because I come from a family of four generations of mothers and daughters
that suffered and survived over 60 years of domestic violence and abuse.
It would be the story of my daughter`s little girl named Promise, and now
the fifth generation laid on a bed next to my daughter that was strangled
that would incite me to found an organization called Saving Promise, a
national organization to put forth greater prevention, and education and
awareness, to launch a national call to action, to change the face of this
So, when I hear the political mockery that has been going on around VAWA, I
am not only sickened by it, but I personally stand to attest for my
grandmother, my mother, myself and my daughter.
The other thing I want to get to is that, as you mentioned, VAWA is a
historic legislation. It was a landmark legislation back in 1994 when we
barely had nothing. And it was important legislation and still is
I think that because it comes up every five years for reauthorization.
This was an opportunity for our country to take a look at this,
particularly after the CDC came out with a report that said domestic
violence has turned into a national health crisis for our country.
MARLOW: How is it that we have had this VAWA in order for over 18 plus
years and the problem continues to get worse?
MARLOW: Instead of turning this into a political mockery, it`s an
opportunity for them to stand-up and say, wait a minute, what is not
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Yes.
MARLOW: Why are we spending $690-plus million and we still have not gotten
And what I would say to those turning it into a political mockery, I
challenge you to learn about the story of my grandmother, my mother,
myself, and my daughter.
MARLOW: I challenge you to find out what this did to my family for over 60
MARLOW: I challenge to learn about Promise`s story.
And I challenge you to reach out to me and find out what Saving Promise is
doing, like putting forth and challenging them to think about a national
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to pause you right there only because I want to -- as
we go out to break, we are going to stay on this topic when we come back.
I want to see, again, the image of those eight GOP senators who voted
against moving VAWA to the floor, because what you just said to me, that
clarion call, I challenge you.
There`s a lot of people who need a challenge. Let`s start with these
eight. Let`s start with these eight and maybe they need to get your book
and have a read and have a little moment where they think about what is
Up next, we are going to talk about Rihanna and Chris Brown, and why the
young women involved in domestic violence are invisible to so many of us.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Grammy Awards will be handed out tonight. And among the
performers will be pop superstar Rihanna, a far cry when she didn`t show up
and her performance at the Grammys was canceled.
Reports soon emerged of an attack on her by her then-boyfriend Chris Brown,
a pop superstar in his own right. Brown pled guilty to felony assault. He
was sentenced to five years probation and six months of community service.
This week, Brown appeared in court to face allegation that he didn`t
complete the community service. That wasn`t the news. The headline was
the fact Rihanna tagged along and blew him a kiss as he entered the
The two singers are back together, have been recording together and may
attend the Grammys together tonight.
In a recent interview with "Rolling Stone," Rihanna said, "Even if it`s a
mistake, it`s my mistake. After being tormented for so many years, being
angry and dark, rather just live my truth and take the backlash. I can
Here is the thing. It is her mistake, it is her personal choice, but it
speaks to a broader conversation we are in.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to start with you because you were with us in that
moment of trying to think about your family story and how VAWA impacts it
and then we also lay on top of it the cultural reality of the Chris Brown
and Rihanna situation.
MARLOW: What I would say to that and before I talk about the Chris Brown
and Rihanna situation, going back to VAWA, I want to put a final challenge
out there to those eight or how many number that is of folk who really made
this into a political mockery. I challenge them to Google Saving Promise
and learn about the work we are doing.
And more importantly, sit-down with me and have a conversation, hear about
my family story and the four generations and what we need to be doing going
forward. Yes the reauthorization bill might be passed tomorrow, but that`s
not the end. That`s the start of it.
MARLOW: Because we have to think about what is not working and what do we
need to be doing better going forward. Greater prevention. Greater
education. Greater awareness.
To know that one in three women every single day are a victim and three
women are murdered. Something isn`t working.
HARRIS-PERRY: And one of the places where it`s happening is with young
women. I mean, someone tweeted me earlier this morning when I said we`re
going to talk Rihanna and Chris Brown and said, Melissa, leave her alone,
they were teenagers.
And I was like, no, no, that`s just the point. This is precisely where the
violence starts for so many young women. And then adults will ignore it
and saying, well, it was a childhood relationship, so it doesn`t much
Well, I mean, I think it`s important for guys and men, yes, to have
conversations about physical and sexual violence and our role in it, you
know, and how we can prevent these things from happening.
And also, what I think is important to understand is why things like VAWA
are very important for us as men, right? I mean, why the violence against
women act should be important to us. And it should be because we have
women in our lives who are affected daily by physical and sexual violence.
And that`s just a fact.
I`ll never forget, several years ago, I co-facilitated with Jackson Catch
(ph) on a Marine Corps base in Hawaii. And it was a room full of men in
uniform, Marines, grown men, hard charging marines. And there were two
men, one African-American male, one white. They both broke down and cried
their hearts out. They talked about how they experienced their mothers
being physically assaulted as young boys but they could not do anything
about it because they were too small, too young.
In that moment, it really dawned on me how violence against women also
affects boys and men because we witness this abuse and then some of us
identify with the oppressor and continue the abuse, and some of us identify
and empathize with the victim, and we try to prevent it.
We need more men to speak out, to be stronger leaders. We need these
congressmen, people in the House, to support this measure because the very
women in their lives, in their circle, in their sphere of influence, could
be affected by this and need these protections.
FLANDERS: There are some powerful videos of men speaking up about why they
are going to be rising on February 14th this week with One Billion Rising.
Jarvis Green, the NFL player, two-time Super Bowl guy, talking about why he
I`ll take you one further. This has got to be un-siloed. It`s not a
woman`s issue. It`s not a men`s issue. What about it`s an economic issue?
All those girls you are talking about that get beaten up or in tense
relationships, difficult relationships, nowhere they can go, what do they
do? They tend to drop out of school. It is the number one reason that
young women do not finish college. That affects our economy and it goes on
affecting our economy, the pregnancies, untended and unwanted pregnancies.
This is an issue of our future. Our recovery is resting on the recovery of
women. And while we have violence against women statistics like, this is
not a matter of one piece of funding for shelters, although we need it. It
is a matter of a major national investment in collaboration.
We can say at this point with people and governments all across the country
-- across the world, there are governments of other countries that are
taking a position on this, for example One Billion Rising, the mayor of
Leman (ph), the mayor of Manila.
HARRIS-PERRY: And as we wait for our government, we can barely get
reauthorization act that is inadequate. The fact is there is organizing
happening. You`ve got Saving Promise.
And, Salamishah, your organization trains teen girls themselves to become
the peer interveners.
TILLET: So, A Long Walk Home is an organization that uses art therapy, end
violence against girls and women. And we focus specifically on communities
of color and under-resourced communities. Our program Girl Friends
empowers teen girls, primarily African-American and Latino girls, to become
like the vanguards or the faces of the new women`s movement around these
But the Chris Brown and Rihanna situation is really, really personal to us
as an organization because our girls in our training were split. They are
not split if we change the scenario to sexual violence. They pretty much
were clear on the side of, let`s say, Rihanna, if that were the case.
But when it came to issues of teen dating violence in this February teen
dating violence month. It`s good to recognize that as well. But they were
split. They didn`t know even -- with the photo of Rihanna, they felt like
maybe Chris Brown, maybe it was more complicated, maybe we don`t know all
the information, right?
And so, it changed our organization to take this issue -- looking it not at
silos of sexual violence and domestic violence and teen getting violence,
but to think about violence against women as this kind of intersecting
thing that we need to be thinking about. They don`t need to be as
segregated as they currently are and to organize girls not only to have
resources and also role models, but for them to be the voices of change,
agents of change.
And oftentimes the girls are seen as silent victims or invisible victims.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this feels like why I get the leave Rihanna alone,
because what I don`t want to be a piler on her, an additional abuser in
this situation, someone who turn her into a dumb, stupid, silly girl who
doesn`t know better. She`s a young woman making a complicated set of
choices. We can see how she`s managing those complicated choices.
But like the mom in me also just wants to intervene for her and for my 11-
year-old daughter who`s watching her.
MARLOW: Absolutely. Rihanna`s story is my daughter`s story.
MARLOW: Rihanna said I need to live my truth. That`s her choice to do
that. It`s her choice to be with Chris Brown.
But she also needs to live the truth that she does serve as a role model
for young women and young girls. And that they are watching her and she
has to look at the message she`s sending to young women and young girls.
She can say, you know what? This is my choice.
She can also take responsibility and say, my truth is also to say to young
women and young girls what Chris did to me was wrong. It was absolutely
wrong. And even though this is my choice. You don`t have to make that
If this happens to you, you should stand-up and make sure that people treat
you with love and respect and honor you.
So, she has to live her truth, but she has to live her truth in terms of
HARRIS-PERRY: And, of course, you know, that`s the tough part, because
what we see is the choice, not necessarily the words. This is complicated
and will stay complicated.
But I appreciate all of you for the work that you`re up.
L.Y., thank you for being here and thank you also just for the work that
you are doing. Please let us know if any of those eight take you up on it,
because I would like to know if any of them have the courage to sit down
MARLOW: And if they don`t, I`m coming back saying you have not had the
HARRIS-PERRY: None of you has the courage. Absolutely.
MARLOW: Don`t have the courage.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Thank you, L.Y.
And up next, everybody else is staying for a little while longer because up
next, we`re going to the vault, the anniversary of the law that changed so
much for so many families.
HARRIS-PERRY: Twenty years ago this past week, President Bill Clinton
signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which expanded worker protections
to include 12 weeks of unpaid leave in the event of a pregnancy of family
medical leave. In our vault this morning, a look back at the moment that
impacted so many.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I have spent an enormous amount
of time in the last 12 years in factories and businesses of this country
talking to employers and employees, watching the way people work, often
working with them. And I know that men and women are more productive when
they are sure they won`t lose their jobs because they are trying to be good
parents and good children.
Our businesses should not lose the services of these dedicated Americans.
And over the long run, the lessons of the most productive companies in the
world here at home and around the world are those who put their people
first are those who will triumph in the global economy.
Family and medical leave is a matter of pure, common sense and a matter of
common decency. It will provide Americans what they need most, peace of
mind. Never again will parents have to fear losing their jobs because of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, the Family and Medical Leave Act helped millions of
women and men keep their jobs while caring for their newborn children and
their seriously ill relatives. But 40 percent of American workers are
still not afforded this protection.
Why that is and what can be done about it, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Despite being 20 years old, the Family and Medical Leave Act
fails to cover all American workers. Some 40 percent of the country`s
workforce is still ineligible for medical leave protections because they
work for companies with fewer than 50 employees or they work fewer than 25
hours a week, and 50 percent of workers report not being able to take the
leave time available to them because they can`t afford to go 12 weeks
And, of course, these protections are not extended for caring for a loved
one in a same-sex partnership. And advocates are still calling for an
extension of this historic legislation.
One of the people who helped make the Family and Medical Leave Act a
reality is with us now.
Ellen Bravo began working from 9:00 to 5:00 at the National Association of
Working Women in 1982, where she helped organize the push for the leave
act. She is now the director of the Family Values at Work consortium and
is joining us from Madison, Wisconsin.
So nice to have you, Ellen.
ELLEN BRAVO, EXEC. DIR., FAMILY VALUES AT WORK: Pleasure to be here.
Thanks a lot.
HARRIS-PERRY: So -- I mean, this is the month we celebrate FMLA but also
remind us what it doesn`t do. What the extensions need to be.
BRAVO: So, we put booklet on our Web site familyvaluesatwork.org and
you`ll read about lots of people who are celebrating because they were able
to be with a newborn or a child that suddenly fell into a syndrome that
made her deaf or hold the hand of a spouse or a parent to let them recover
at home or to ease their passing.
So, there were literally tens of millions of workers who benefited. But as
you said, 2/5 of the workforce is left out and many more who are covered
simply can`t -- for every five people who needed leave and took it, there
were two people who didn`t leave and didn`t take it.
BRAVO: And most of them because they couldn`t afford.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s interesting, because this feels like one of
those potential consensus legislative positions.
I want to listen to President Clinton saying about how important this
particular piece of legislation is when he meets folks. Let`s listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: People desperately want to have successful families to be good
parents and have a job and succeed at it. If you take one away to get the
other, the country pays a grievous price and every life is diminished.
It`s really what this is all about.
I`ve had more people mention the family leave law to me both while I was in
the White House and in the 12 years since I have been gone than any other
single piece of legislation I have signed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
So, here is this point where you can make the family values argument and
make the kind of social safety net argument at the same time. Shouldn`t
this be where we can make serious progress in extending FMLA?
BRAVO: Absolutely, you would think. And as President Clinton said, it was
a common sense measure then. It`s a common sense measure now.
To do what he said, which is to expand it. Laws aren`t monuments, they are
meant to change, is what he said the other day when we celebrated.
The problem: partisanship and corporate lobbyists. This was a bipartisan
jobs bill really what we called it. And we have lots of Republican
support. Today, it`s really difficult to do that.
So, we need to tell Republicans, just as the DREAMers did, we have a
movement that is powerful enough that you are going to have to listen to
us. And that`s what our coalitions are doing across the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, Ellen, it`s important that we point out that when
FMLA passed, there were 163 congressmen in the House that voted against it.
And 20 years later, 19 of those guys are still in the House and every last
one of them is a white man.
And it does feel to me like in this country right now, with an increasing
number of women working with more people of color who may not have as many
resources. As we know, the white Americans had particularly in the
question of wealth, that this is a place where you could really start
talking about coalition building.
How does that happen on the ground to pressure these 19 and other folks?
BRAVO: So, the great thing about our coalition -- of course, this issue
disproportionately affects women and people of color. And you can see that
in our coalitions. But they include restaurant workers and restaurant
They include people who are fighting domestic violence, because one of the
bills we are fighting for in addition to affordable family leave and
expanding access to family leave is paid sick days. And that includes safe
days so people can seek shelter and press charges and take care of
themselves and their families while experiencing and recovering from
So, we see people who want to fight poverty and fight asthma, because they
understand they all -- as Bill Clinton said -- have a stake in people being
healthy, people having strong families who they love, and being able to
take care of those families by supporting them and paying the bills.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love -- I love the both asthma and abuse issue.
One last point, I am now officially part of the sandwich generation. It`s
not just about caring for young children, but also caring for our elderly.
How do we start moving towards legislation that recognizes the needs of
children to take care of their parents, not only for their own children?
BRAVO: Absolutely. So, of course, family leave includes care for parents.
What it doesn`t include care for grandparents, or siblings, or same-sex
partners. And we need to make the care for parents real by making it
affordable. That`s one of the things when people say I needed leave but
didn`t take it, that`s one of the things they give up, as well as putting
off their own surgery or going back four days after giving birth.
BRAVO: We are a better nation that this. There`s momentum all around the
country. I urge your viewers to go to our Web site and see how they can
get involved by winning in cities and states, we are going lay the basis
for winning new national legislation that will make it affordable and real
for all families in the United States.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Ellen. I so appreciate you there in Madison,
Wisconsin. That you didn`t just get this legislation passed and say, hey,
look, I did it. But you stayed in the struggle. I greatly appreciate
BRAVO: Thank you, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: And up next, just ahead, Valentine`s Day -- we are going to
talk about the first marriage and the lessons from the Obamas love story.
HARRIS-PERRY: As we brace for Valentine`s Day and its overt
commercialization of a very narrow definition of romantic love, it`s worth
noting that the most romantic couple in America today is not in Hollywood,
but in the White House.
The president and the first lady have a palpable attraction to one another,
rooted in equal parts, mutual admiration and old fashion magnetism. Their
affection, I believe, carries a particular, cultural and political weight
because they are an African-American family.
And in a cultural context that repeatedly asserts that black women are
unlovable, unattractive, and unlikely to marry, the Obamas are
surprisingly, but not unproblematically aspirational.
President Obama as a highly accomplished interracial man shows us his wife,
a woman as tall as him, as smart as him and as historian Blair Kelley would
say, black from a distance. And that choice is one that resonates for many
of President Obama supporters; that makes the first marriage one that
carries particular cultural weight.
Back with me at the table: Laura Flanders, Salamishah Tillet, Byron Hurt
and rejoining the group, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto.
So I got to tell you, I forgive President Obama over and over again because
he so openly and affectionately likes Michelle. Doesn`t just marry her and
just love her, but likes her.
HURT: Yes, I think it`s very powerful. I think it sends a really powerful
message to a lot of people, especially black people, especially black
women, who love the iconography of the first family.
I know so many people who post pictures and tweet and have physical
pictures in their home of the first family because they resonate for
people. And it is very aspirational. People long to have that kind of,
sort of happy household that the Obama`s seem to have.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, that aspirational nature is also part of what
becomes problematic. In my house, we -- our saying is we are not the
Obama`s, right? It`s a kind of reminder that we -- it took us two
marriages to get together. We`ve got a step kid and it`s just messier.
And we want to embrace that mess.
So, there`s something about the realities of same-sex love and making a
family in ways that are non-traditional that I wonder if it`s used as a
weapon against the non-traditional family.
TILLET: Well, I also think there`s a particular strategy the Obama family
themselves are deploying, right, so they are staving off a kind of old
school narratives of black pathology, right? The kind of deadbeat dad,
Obama himself really articulated a position against, but also embodies -- I
feel like they are the living version of the Cosby fiction.
TILLET: Or the kind of bad, black mother that Michelle is staving off the
stereotypes. So, that`s the kind of good work that I think their image
does in terms of racial politics. I think in terms of other issues, the
ways in which gender and sexuality may intersect with race, right, we could
open the conversation beyond the Obama normative family structure, right?
It is the father and the mother.
And in some ways, there`s -- I think there`s equality in the private
sphere. But there`s no way that in a kind of political sphere, that he`s
president of the United States, she`s first lady. Those aren`t equal
TILLET: So that President Obama becoming first lady kind of shifted or at
least change the equality that they once had.
FLANDERS: I have heard her say -- the normativity of it is partly that the
picture does not reflect their family.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. The iconography of it, right.
FLANDERS: What Ellen Bravo said about, you know, what it takes to keep a
family together and in work when crisis hits. What it takes to keep that
family together is Marian Robinson, mom, for some reason, never in the
pictures. There`s also Michelle`s brother, Craig. The family is not the
normative nuclear foursome that for some reason is the official picture.
I wish we would see some change in that over the next years.
SOTO: It`s just completely removed from reality. We know that divorce
rates are at 50 percent. It`s about the modern family now.
Looking at our past presidents, how many of our past presidents, with the
exception of Ronald Reagan had been divorced? So, it`s a very aspirational
model that we have in looking at the first families. Do we really look up
to the first families or do we like to believe we look up to first
HARRIS-PERRY: I feel like for the Obama`s there`s an actual looking up to.
That part of it is, you know, because of social media, right, and the
iconography. We see people deploying these images.
I mean, at one point, the first family was standing there, greeting guests
at the White House and Bo the dog was there. The president managed to make
the dog sit. Oh, man, even the dog is trained.
It does feel like there is something powerful in a country that is said
that this is an impossibility for these families. But I agree, I want to
see Momma Robinson in the pictures. She`s part of what makes this foursome
possible. It`s a fifth person.
FLANDERS: And here is also -- I hate to be a downer here. But again, I
mentioned that I have spoken to Rashad Robinson of Color of Change and they
have a campaign raising huge alarms about the NRA`s ad involving the first
family. There`s a picture, they have an ad that says it`s wrong for
President Obama to have Secret Service protection for the girls and schools
don`t have a shooter in every classroom.
And they are raising -- they are reminding us that while we say a lot of
people look up to us, this is a family that has received 400 percent more
death threats than the Bush family ever did, 30 a day according to a book
that was written about the Secret Service.
So, just for a moment, remember --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right. A reminder.
FLANDERS: They are both looked up to and there`s something else going on.
TILLET: Can I jump in, too? This is why it`s important for Barack Obama
to come out in favor of marriage equality, because it was a position in
2008, that he was really conservative on it.
But the other position that he was conservative on is that famous Father`s
Day speech that we know that he gave in the black church. He really spoke
against the kind of single parent household where African-American fathers
So, I`d be interested to see if that -- those kind of issues, those kind
notion, a blended family or flexible families in a way in which FMLA
supports that kind stuff could really come back and --
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s so interesting that you bring that up,
Salamishah. I had an opportunity to interview the president at the White
House for "Ebony" magazine on their family issue. I once thought that that
was the kind political position as well that he was sort of distancing
himself from black fathers.
But there were a couple of moments of President Obama dropping the
president and just being kind of Barack Obama and one of them was when he
talked about fathers. And I`ve got to say -- good, bad, or otherwise,
whatever it is about his own personal narrative, there is an actual sort of
thing in him that says -- so on that, there`s little flexibility, because
my bet he actually has been kind of a long supporter of marriage equality.
But on this question of fathers, he deeply feels this sense of the need for
the black father in the household.
HURT: Well, I mean he does and he models that. It`s one thing I have to
say, I do appreciate about him because of the way he talks about his
daughters. He shows so much care for his daughters. You can tell that he
is as president as he can be with his children, considering he`s president
of the United States.
But I know for me, as an African-American man, you know, he represents a
healthy manhood, a healthy masculinity on many levels. And for me, it
makes me kind of step up my game on some level, in terms of my fatherhood.
So, my desire to be president, to be loving and caring and nurturing not
just to my daughter, but to my wife as well.
HURT: So, he kind of makes some men step up their game, although a lot of
men probably feel like they can`t live up to him or measure up to being a
Barack Obama, which is, you know --
HARRIS-PERRY: I will just say, on the single momma front, the president
himself is a great president and father, that the man who became president
became president with a single momma and some grandparents. So, I will
just say, there`s clearly, if we read the Obama story more fully, it is
both him as the great father, but also he is a product of a single momma
who remarries, and is going around getting her own education, and wondering
around the globe and also relying on her parents. There`s many models.
HURT: I think why these images resonate with so many people, especially
black people, is because we don`t see this much. We don`t see it often.
HURT: And because we don`t see it often, we just get drunk on the images.
HURT: Even though it may not represent reality for the most of us, you
know, we still, I think we said aspire to it. The reality is that, you
know, we have so many blended families. We have gay families, we have
mommas and mommas, and daddies and papas in families now. So, the culture
is changing but they still represent --
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ll take it. It`s Valentine`s Day, I`ll take an ahh
moment. And more in just a moment.
But, first, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: All right. Hello to you, Melissa.
Well, the State of the Union address on Tuesday, I`m going to ask two
insiders which President Obama will show up.
Plus, the manhunt for a rogue ex-cop is intensifying and now, the TSA is
involved. We`ll tell you why.
Also, the big snowstorm may be over, but now, word of another round headed
in the same path. So, how will it affect travel around the country?
Plus, I`m talking to the producers of the Oscar-nominated documentary
redemption, about a blossoming profession grown out of desperation, finding
treasures in New York City trash.
Then in office politics, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Colonel
Jack Jacobs, with his take on PTSD, women in combat, and why he and NBC`s
Brian Williams have a running gag on who is a better public speaker.
We`ll see what happens on that one.
HARRIS-PERRY: All I can say about the weather is as long as it holds off
in time for me to get home this afternoon. Mardi Gras is this week.
WITT: It will.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: And thanks to Alex.
Up next, saying good-bye to Hadiya Pendleton. She`s been gone much too
HARRIS-PERRY: Who are you when your child is murdered? When your parents
die, you`re an orphan. When your spouse dies, you`re a widow. Who are you
when your child dies?
What name can you call yourself that tells the world what you have lost,
that indicates to everyone how deep your pain is? What should we call
Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, who buried her 15-year-old daughter Hadiya
By now, you probably know the name Hadiya Pendleton. Hadiya was beautiful,
ambitious, focused, talented, and bursting with life. She had just
performed at President Barack Obama`s second inauguration, and she was with
her friends in the park taking shelter from the rain. She was senselessly
shot to death by a gunman who apparently wasn`t even aiming for her.
On January 29th, she became the 42nd person to be murdered in Chicago this
year. Her death changed Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton forever. But what do
we call this? What is it to be a mother whose child has been murdered?
What word captured it?
Yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama attended Hadiya`s funeral. She was
there to bear witness to this reality that has become routine for the
evening news but which has never mundane for those who lose their beloved.
First Lady Obama was there because this is more than just sad or tragic.
This is preventable. American children do not have to die when standing in
parks near their homes. Mothers do not have to wonder when you send them
to school in the morning, whether they`re going to return at night.
In the handwritten note, the president wrote to Hadiya`s family. "Michelle
and I just wanted you to know how heartbroken we are to have heard about
Hadiya`s passing. We know that no words from us can soothe the pain, but
rest assured that we are praying for you and that we will continue to work
as hard as we can to end this senseless violence.
God bless, Barack Obama."
Maybe that is where we will find the answer to the question of what we call
a parent who has lost her child. The name we call Mamie Till Mobley, whose
son Emmitt Till was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. The name we have for
Cindy Sheehan, whose son U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan has killed by
enemy action during the Iraq war. The name we have for Sabrina Fulton,
whose son Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.
The name we will now have for Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, whose daughter
Hadiya was murdered in Chicago.
The name we will call all of them is activists, rabble-rouser, justice
seeker, world changer. The name we will call them is survivor.
That`s our show for today. Thank you to Laura and Salamishah, Byron and
Vicky for sticking around.
Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll see you again next Saturday at
And coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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