February 24, 2013
Guests: Barbara Arnwine, Nick Dranias, Akhil Reed Amar, Kenji Yoshino, Sherrilyn Iffil, Josh Fox, Maya Wiley, Frances Beinecke, Julia Bond, Dina Dariotis
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, are more
guns the answer to gun violence?
Plus, Julian Bond joins me to talk keystone.
But first, I have assembled a panel of constitutional law experts. And we
are about to talk (INAUDIBLE), Nerdland style.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
They don`t call the Supreme Court the highest court in the land for
nothing. It`s the body with the power to check and balance the actions of
the president of Congress and has the final say over disputes over law in
the constitution. With cases on same-sex marriage and voting rights coming
before the court in the next few weeks, this could prove to be a landmark
year. But, let`s start with the biggy coming up in just a few days.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in case of Shelby
County versus Holder. That is Shelby County, Alabama to be specific. And
just in case you were wondering, yes, that`s attorney general, Eric Holder,
who is the named defendant in the case. Shelby County is asking the court
to review if Congress 2006 decision to reauthorize section five of the
Voting Rights Acts exceeded its authority under the 14th and 15th
amendments and it turned violated the tenth amendment and article four of
Now, while that may sound like a whole lot of legal mumbo jumbo, here is
what it means in plain English.
Section five of the Voting Rights Act required certain states, nine of them
covered as a whole and most of those in the south to get federal approval
before a new election law is imposed. And the Shelby County case challenge
whether such a provision is still necessary because the plaintiffs in the
case don`t think they really need it anymore.
Oh, really? Well. Shelby County, let me remind you why you are one of the
states that were included under section five. While you think that you may
have come a long way since 1965, images like this one are forever ingrained
in the minds of men and women who endured the brutal police attacks,
vicious racism and even death for the right to vote.
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, it
suddenly ensured that Americans of color get that right and states like
yours, could not use tactics to undermine it. Johnson explained the
importance of section five best in the speech on the day the act was signed
into law, saying the heart of the act is plain. Wherever by clear and
objective standards, states and counties are using regulations or laws or
tests to deny the right to vote, then, they will be struck down. It is
clear state officials intend to discriminate. The federal examiners will
be sent in to register all voters. When the process of elimination is
gone, the examiners will be withdrawn. But for the first time millions of
African-Americans could vote without undue influence or violence.
But let`s be honest about a few things. First, 1965 was not that long ago.
Even if the images are in black and white. It`s around the corner
historically and Caliber City in Shelby County, in active and
discriminatory and the redistricting plan was as recently as 2006.
Wednesday, the process that will either unravel or sustain a key act of the
civil rights era begins. And the way the Supreme Court openly decides this
case is vitally important and could leave many Americans, particularly
Americans of color with less legally protected right to vote.
There`s a lot to unpack in this issue and I am not a lawyer. So, we went
out and got a table full of them to help me out. Joining me is Sherrilyn
Iffil, president and director and counsel of the NAACP legal defense fund,
Kenji Yoshino, of course, you know him because he is a Nerdland favorite
who is the chief justice professor of constitutional law at NYU law school.
And Kenji didn`t just spring forth from a rock. Here is his adviser, Akhil
Reed Amar, Sterling professor of law and political science at Yale
University and Nick Dranias who is director of constitutional government at
the Goldwater Institute because there`s not one way to read the law. So,
here we all are.
Thank you so much. I have been trying to convince my producers that it
made perfect sense to have an insider discussion that allows us to have a
broad conversation about what we are facing in this court. Let`s start
with section five.
Akhil, second five is about the power of Congress to do something vis-a-vis
the state. Is that what this is about?
AKHIL REED AMAR, LAW AND POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY:
Exactly. The objection is, in part, you are singling out states to jump
through federal hoops. And the irony of this is that the very process by
which the 14th amendment the constitution was adapted was one in which some
states because they had a bad record of rights and observance, voting
rights and other rights, democratic rights in the process by which the
14thnd 15th amendments were adopted, we call it reconstruction, certain
states were required to jump through special hoops. The same states, by
in-large, that are covered by section five of the voting act which just
echoes poetically the very process by which the 14th and 15th amendments
became part of the constitution. So, I have a little piece actually,
(INAUDIBLE) and check it out. It is in Harvard law review online. It is
called the lawfulness of section five of the 14th amend. And that is the
section five of the voting rights.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And in fact, I have it in front of me. I read it
last night and a little bit this morning which is why there`s coffee on it.
And the piece -- the sentence I wanted to pull from it, I wanted to ask you
about, Nick,. It says this general history of the 14th and 15th
amendments, thus, supports broad congressional power to administer strong
and even selective medicine to individual states with sorry democratic with
a little "d" track records, the exact sort of medicine employed by section
five of the Voting Rights Act.
So, it says, we have president for this sort of decision. But, I know that
on the other side, folks are saying no, you can`t single out states, some
counties, that this represents a kind of fundamental unfairness.
NICK DRANIAS, CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT DIRECTOR, GOLDWATER INSTITUTE:
Well, let`s not forget there`s second two of the voting act right as well
which already prohibits racial discrimination and other forms of
impermissible discrimination in the voting context. So, section five is
and always has been in extraordinary remedy. That`s what the Supreme Court
called it in the 1960s in the midst of Jim Crow (ph). And it is frankly,
as bad as things may be in certain areas. We are nowhere near the state
sponsoring videos discrimination of the Jim Crow era. And for it to be an
extraordinary remedy in that time frame, certainly it is an extraordinary
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s an interesting point. But, it feels to me like saying,
you know, my blood pressure medicine is working so well, I`m going stop
taking my blood pressure, right? So, it`s clearly section five because it
doesn`t require -- second two prohibits discrimination but it requires
somebody to bring a case, right? Section five puts on onus on the former
discriminator themselves, right? So, knowing that it works should be
evidence of why we should keep it, right?
SHERRILYN IFILL, PRESIDENT, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE
ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE: I mean, there is no other statute, you
know, to which we apply this standard. We don`t say because people are
aware of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. That therefore, we
don`t need any laws covering gender discrimination or sexual harassment.
The law certainly has made it better and there has been progress. We have
admitted it. The court has admitted it. Everyone`s admitted there`s
progress. But, there`s still a need. And that is what Congress was really
focused on in 2006. It`s actually, you know, incorrect to pretend as
though revolting simply from 1965. Every time the Voting Rights Act has
been re-authorized, Congress has looked at what has been happening in the
states covered by section five to determine if it`s needed.
HARRIS-PERRY: And not just Congress. I mean, part of what I loved about
reading the stuff is Jeff Sessions, right? So, I mean, 98 members of the
Senate voted to reauthorize in 2006, right. So, no member didn`t. And
Jeff Sessions of Alabama, whose voice sounds to me like segregation,
although I know, that is unfair. But, he voted to reauthorize the 2006, in
2006 Voting Rights Act.
KENJI YOSHINO, LAW PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Yes. And I think
bouncing off with Sherrilyn`s point here. I think the clam on the other
side is like they are using an elephant gun to kill a mouse. So in 1965,
there were actual elephants, right? And now, there aren`t elephants.
Whereas, the progressive side is saying there are still elephants out
there. And as evidence of the fact that there are still elephants out
there and let me point you to and this gets to the congressional deference
point, you know, 15,000 pages of record that Congress produced for the 2006
renewal, right, 21 different hearings.
So, the question is, how much deference does the court have to give to
Congress when it makes that kind of determination? It is not in the
congress that we are going rubber stamp that and move on because of it`s
too much of the political hot potato. I really looked into this.
So, the additional argument has to be, well, there may be elephants here,
but the elephants are no longer, solely in the covered jurisdictions and
that goes to your say unfairness issue. But actually, empirically, we can
show that the elephants are more likely to be and still in the covered
jurisdictions than uncovered jurisdiction. And then additionally, the
statute itself gives a bailout provision that allows jurisdiction to that
have a clean nose for particular period of time to opt out.
AMAR: And the bail in.
YOSHINO: It goes both waits, right.
AMAR: If a jurisdiction isn`t covered and begins to develop a bad track
record, it can get put in. So, we update, basically, the data base and we
look at the law every few years, it sunsets. And not just 98 to nothing in
the Senate and overwhelmingly the house signed by Republican presidents an
epic statute initially adopted with a signature of that president.
DRANAS: Here is the part of mental problem. It was an extraordinary
remedy in the 1960s and still remains extraordinary because our
constitution was meant to be color blind. And by definition, the entire
portion of this act --
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, come on now. Our constitution was absolutely not
meant to be color blind. I mean, I think if we are very honest about the
initial document, it is many things, but color blind is not one of them.
It is a living document, a document that allows us to become more perfected
over time. That initial document that renders my ancestors is certainly
not color blind.
DRANAS: I`m taking this after the 14th amendment. And of course, justice
Harwin (ph) is decent. (INAUDIBLE) say that this is a color blind
document. It`s taken 100 years to get to a point we are at now.
AMAR: Congress has power to protect the voting rights and then, four other
amendments say that. Again and again, in Congress, not the court, Congress
gets to make the call. And it also says, actually, in the very process of
being adopted, it`s OK for Congress to treat some states differently than
other states if they have bad democratic track record. It`s built into the
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And, of course, we know it supposed to be in the14th
amendment because that comes at a time when we are talking about states
that didn`t just have a bad track record, but left.
Everybody stay here. We have the whole hour. But, I`m going to bring in
Barbara Arnwine next. And you guys, know when Barbara Arnwine gets here,
Nerdland gets hot, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, Wednesday marks the first voting right case the
Supreme Court will hear. It`s not the only one. The court will also hear
arguments that later in Arizona versus intertribal council of Arizona on
March 18th. That case pertains specifically to whether Arizona`s proof of
citizenship requirement violates the national voter registration act.
That`s not all. There`s a potential third case on the court`s arrival (ph)
hat has yet to be scheduled. Texas versus U.S. or some call it Texas
versus Holder. It is whether the district ruled the plan violated section
five of the voting act.
Joining my panel from Washington D.C. is Barbara Arnwine, president and
executive director of the lawyers committee for civil rights under the law.
A group representing individuals in each of these three cases.
Hi, Barbara. Nice to see you.
BARBARA ARNWINE, PRESIDENT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LAWYERS COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL
RIGHTS UNDER THE LAW: It`s a pleasure to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we have been talking a little bit about Shelby, but talk
to me about the Arizona case.
ARNWINE: The Arizona case is really fascinating. Many people remember
that in 1993, Congress passed what`s called the motor voter act for the
national voter registration act. Part of the purpose of that act was to
make sure that for federal elections, that there would be a uniform
registration process. And it delegated authority to the election
administration commission to set up a registration form, which it did.
Unfortunately, in 2004, Arizona passed a law that added its own
requirements requiring proof of citizenship that where in addition and
above to those from the federal form. The federal form already has its all
proof of citizenship requirement.
But, they thought that wasn`t enough. They wanted more. And we, of
course, objected on behalf of our clients because this placed a special
burden on people in Arizona versus the burdens that were placed on people
in other states. And we said it`s unlawful, it is unconstitutional and it
is contrary to the intent of a statute and federal law should preempt any
state law. And they knew it when they passed it. They knew what the
federal law was. This should not be a hard case.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Barbara, let me pop to the panel for a second. Akhil, I
want to ask about this point that Barbara just made about the federal law
auto preempt the state laws. If feels to have part of how any of these
decisions that are going to be made, we have a little bit of evidence from
how they decided the affordable care act case which narrowed the commerce
law piece. Is this basically a state`s right court?
AMAR: Well, at the end of the day, of course, chief justice Roberts,
perhaps, with an eye toward history avoided a narrow bipartisan ruling,
invalidating this. And I think the four democrat appointees, liberals on
the court, justices Kagan and Sotomayor and Ginsberg and Brier are in a
pretty solidly in favor of strong federal protection of voting rights.
They only need one from the other side. You know, the other side has to
fill inside straight.
And on many occasions, Justice Kennedy has crossed over. Chief justice
Roberts, very dramatically in the Obama care case. And I`m still
optimistic that we can get Justice Thomas or Justice because they claim be
originalists and they claims to care about the constitutions.
And there is what you need to understand because I think Nick gave us a
good reminder, our constitution is not just the founding document, it is a
constitution as amended and there are five amendments that talk about a
right to vote, the 14, 15, 19, 26 and --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 24.
AMAR: Thank you. And every single one of them says Congress should have
power to enforce this.
AMAR: So, there is broad tradition in our amendments of congressional
protection of voting rights.
HARRIS-PERRY: Barbara, let me come back to you then. There is a third
case that doesn`t yet have a date. That`s the Texas versus U.S. and why
doesn`t it have a date yet?
ARNWINE: Well, no one really knows. It may be that the court is waiting
to see what it does in these other cases. We just don`t know. And I don`t
think we should speculate on it. But, you know, what`s important for
people to know about the case is this is the case that follows the
redistricting in 2010 in Texas where the state gave four congressional
districts mainly because 98 percent of this population increase was due to
Latinos in that state and it drew four new districts that were all white in
And that split and packed and cracked, you know, the Latino vote so that
people of Latino heritage would not be able to elect the candidate of their
choice. We represent the Mexican-American caucus that said it`s absolutely
on constitutional and it violates section five because Texas needs to pre-
clear this. And it`s just not, you know, good for this country.
And guess what? The court held that that action by the Texas legislature
through all those districts in a way no person of Latino heritage could be
elected by candidates of their choice. That district, that court held that
action by the state was purposefully discriminatory.
ARNWINE: That they did this for a discriminatory purpose. And as a
consequence, they re-drew the districts and now there is a district in
which Latino candidates can be elected by Latino population.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sherrilyn, I want to ask you about this because this is the
other side that we have been talking about, this is the voter`s rights like
the voter. But the other piece of this have o do with the representatives,
right, and the ability of representatives of color to actually get elected.
So, when we hear stack pack and crack, that is not just, as Barbara right,
those are technical term about how these districts are drawn.
IFILL: Yes. And actually, the example of the Texas redistricting,
actually, really feeds into the earlier conversation about section five.
Texas has not had a, redistricting since the Voting Rights Act was enacted
that hasn`t been found to violate the rights of minorities, something they
do consistently. It`s old news.
And it really brings us to this kind of question about what does section
five do that is valuable and important. I mean, earlier, we heard, we have
section two to cover the country. And you pointed out you have to bring a
suit. And Congress made the decision that no, we want to stop
discrimination before it happens.
Let me give you a couple quick examples.
HARRIS-PERRY: Give me one quick example.
ARNWINE: One quick example. You mentioned a city in Collero (ph), which
in Shelby County. Irony of ironies says they are the county bringing the
case saying we don`t need the Voting Rights Act.
This is a county where as a result of section two litigation, they had
actually created council districts that resulted in one majority black
council district. A black representative had been elected for 20 years.
And then, suddenly, as a result of the redistricting, they decide to reduce
the population, the black population in that district from 70 percent to 29
percent. They don`t pre-clear it. They go ahead with the election. The
justice department has to do an enforcement action to stop them from
undermining the minority voters to elect their representative of choice
looks they have been able to do for the 20 years prior. And happened in
2008, not 1965.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. This is not ancient history.
Barbara, I`m going to give you the last ten seconds here because I know
that you have a rally, a call to rally to protect voting rights that is
going to be happening right there on the steps of the Supreme Court.
ARNWINE: Well, the civil rights community, because of cases being held are
heard on February 27th, this coming Wednesday, they have called for people
around the country to come and to show their support for the Voting Rights
Act and not surprisingly people are interested, very determined.
Because we understand what`s at stake here. As Americans, we know that the
fight here is opened a future to this country. So, we are new immerging
American electorate. And it`s over whether or not we are going to power,
share or we are going power hold illegally.
And so, the fight is about our making sure that, you know, that this act,
the Voting Rights Act has the teeth and the ability to prevent
discrimination. Imagine, according to the congressional record, over
2,2100 plus violations of Voting Rights Acts occurred where people tried to
have discriminatory practices and procedures.
If every one of those went to court, what would our country look like?
Think of the tension, the horror, the money. This is why section five is
so beautiful because it prevents discrimination. It keeps our country
solidly in its goals. And that`s where we have to be as a country. We
must fight for the future.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ma`am Barbara Arnwine will bring the fire, no matter how
long she has. That`s why we love having you as a guest.
Thank you so much Barbara Arnwine in Washington, D.C.
And speaking of where we are going as a country and how fair we are going
to be, up next, money and politics. The Supreme Court has a lot on its
HARRIS-PERRY: Two recent Supreme Court rulings for every changed the path
of our country did their impact on presidential politics. The first, Bush
v. Gore, affectively resulted in the choice of a president. The second,
citizens united forever changed how that choice can be influenced.
Citizens United is the key set opened the flood gates of the campaign
contributions we saw in the 2012 election. Flood gates that brought $5.2
billion, that`s $5.2 billion spent in the 2012 cycle according to the most
import billion dollar democracy. And it was just 32 super PAC donors each
giving an average of $9.9 million that were able to match the $13 million
that small donors gave in total to President Obama and Mitt Romney
combined. It took at least 3.7 million of those small donors to race that
$313 million as compared to just 32 mega donors who kept the super PACs
For super PACs, a 159 donors, each gave $1 million or more to comprise 60
percent of total super PAC funding, $91.8 million. That`s how much just
one couple gave to super PAC in the last election cycle, making Sheldon and
Marian Adelson, the season`s two largest donors. And in spite of that big
number, the Adelsons still spent only 37 percent, less than one-half of one
percent of their net worth.
To put that into perspective, if the average middle class family with a net
worth of $77,300 a year, were to make up a proportional contribution, they
would be getting $285. Three hundred and twenty two thousands, that`s how
many American, middle American families would have to give in order to have
I mean, a donation, a sizeable as that of the Adelsons, which brings me to
Shaun McCutcheon. $33,088 is how much Shaun contributed to 16 candidates
in the 2012 election cycle. And Shaun, wanted to give them even more, but
was constrained by federal aggregate limits, so he sued.
Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear McCutcheon versus the federal
election commission, a case that finish what citizens united started,
bringing me to this number, zero. That`s what could become of campaign
limits if the court uses the case to open the flood gates of money further.
Back with my panel when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sky is the limit is the phrase that could best describe our
country`s approach to campaign finance should the Supreme Court agree with
Shaun McCutcheon`s argument about spending on elections. McCutcheon, a
businessman, a conservative activist from Alabama wants to uncork battle on
the amount of money and individual can on candidates or political
committees during a campaign cycle. And currently under federal law, no
one person can give more than $2500 to a single candidate in an election
and no more than 30,800 to a national party committee.
OK. This is the Scalia and Thomas free speech argument that campaign
confirmation should not be limited.
DRANAS: Absolutely. Look, aggregate limits on contributions are debt.
There`s no justification for limiting the total amount of money that a
person can spend to project his message during an election other than to
try to eliminate money on an election which it says if you have already
said, it is included even the purpose for the campaign finance lost. So,
there are, simply no way that the current president that this aggregate
limits contributions will be sustained.
And you know, that is a good thing because we are just talking about
speech. It takes physical things to engage and project your message with
an audience and that means money. And so, the more money involved, the
more speech we have. And, you know, as much as someone may disagree with
Adelsons` expenditures, which is more dangerous, the government throttling
speech deciding why you have spoken enough or (INAUDIBLE) spends a lot of
I think it is far more dangerous over the long run and founders did as well
for the federal government particularly to be the position of throttling
how much speech can take place.
HARRIS-PERRY: No. On this one, I am more conflicted than I am on voting
rights in part because I think money has a way to influence politics,
almost no matter what our legislative actions are, but also in part because
as much as 2012 told me there was lots of tinkering still happening around
voting rights, it is also, for all that money the spent, they only bought
the status quo as far as I can tell, at least at the national level.
So, tell me why, in fact, there is a reason in this case to throttle
YOSHINO: That`s really an anti-corruption rationale. So, I want to just
drive on where as it is just a matter of occur black letter law in between
contributions and expenditures. So, this goes actually all the back to
1976 case, (INAUDIBLE). In there, the court said with respect to
expenditures which is what citizens united was about, money is more like
speech. Therefore, we are going to subject those to scrutiny and Congress
is going to be less likely to regulate expenditures.
With respect to contributions, that the different animal. And this
McCutcheon case is a contributions case, not an expenditure case. So, it`s
really important not to let all the kind of political hoopla around
Citizens United trickle a little over into this case because this is
totally separate issue.
And with spec to contributions, the court said, you can limit contributions
because there`s too much of a threat of corruption. This is not there`s
too much money in politics rational. This is a quicker quo rational. I
can lay so much money at your doorstep and to this point about, we are
talking about aggregate limits, not alone independently.
This is actually the strongest argument. So, you know, I definitely agree
with that which is to say the independent limits, the individual limits are
I can only give so much to a particular candidate. That is not being
challenges with McCutcheon. What is being challenged is the aggregate
limit which is to say, can I -- am I blocked from giving to everyone at
this table, you know, or capped out at a certain amount.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, if it does -- I get this.
YOSHINO: The argument still is there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So, this is useful to me, right, to think about
expenditures and contributions, right? So, make that argument back.
DRANAS: It`s really critical disclosure between the cap on the total
amount of money I can contribute and the cap on how much I can give to a
person. There`s no opportunity for a quick pro quo argument. There is no
opportunity for anticorruption purpose if what I`m doing is being prevented
from giving more money to other people. The bottom line is --
DRANAS: OK. So, let me back up because this one might be hard. I want to
be clear that folks understand this.
So, in another words, if we are still talking about a $2600 cap on each
individual lawmaker, but now, you are going to spread that $2600 over more
even more lawmakers, even more organizations, than what you are saying is
there`s no corruption argument because it is still the individual making,
you know, casting the vote in Congress only got 26 --.
YOSHINO: It`s the strongest argument. (INAUDIBLE) who wrote the opinion
below was a libertarian who is no sort of friend, we assume, of campaign
contributions said, you know, this is actually government by the Buckley
quick pro quo argument. Because if you give that amount of money to all
these different people and then, those people in turn, got send it back to
one individual, then the individual say it all goes to you, you know where
to lay the wreath of gratitude.
DRANAS: The problem is in speech, you can`t have prophylactic upon
prophylactic measures. If the government can`t just keep protecting
against one possible corruption by protecting another protected area of
speech and then regulating another speech beyond that and so forth.
I mean, this is a principle that the Supreme Court is articulated at least
as recently as Wisconsin right to life. So, the bottom line here is
aggregate caps on contributions limits are untold contributions and have
nothing to do with quick pro-Holder. It is no question of buying a vote
when you are being capped off and prevented from giving any and all money
to somebody else. And the real purpose of this is manifestly to throttle
back the amount of money for speech.
HARRIS-PERRY: This one is, I think, challenging for us in part because we
talk the principle. The principle sounds reasonable on both sides, but the
effects feel so enormous and measurable and imperica on the ground.
AMAR: And on the effects, your audience might find very interesting, very
leftist, brilliant book where public lost which talks about the way which
the system itself gets bent away from one person, one vote, the
independence of the government upon the citizenry, upon the people, upon
the electorate into $1, one vote that dependents of the system upon
So, how much time -- most of our lawmakers then, most of their time are
dialing for dollars and that just corrupts the system. That is less
argument. There are other ways of doing campaign finance reform. These
are not my ideas, but I think they are brilliant ones and they involved
free access to television and public financing. One idea might be to pay
voters to actually bone up on the issues. Take a day, two weeks before
come election. Go, actually hear not 30 seconds sound bites but 30 minute
presentation talk with the fellow citizens.
HARRIS-PERRY: How much do I love that college professor and the likely
idea of paying for homework? That is not good.
When we come back, how the president is trying to influence the Robert`s
court. It`s not with dollars, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Friday, President Barack Obama`s administration weighed
in big time on the issue of marriage I quality. The administration filed a
legal brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down section three of the
defense of marriage act. The act known as DOMA, define marriage as a union
solely between one man and one woman. In section three allows the denial
of benefits to same sex couples.
The significance is huge. It`s the first time a U.S. president weighed in,
in support of same-sex marriage in a Supreme Court. In this case, the
United States versus Windsor is heard Thursday, March, 27, the day before
the court will hear argument in another significant marriage equality case.
Holy Worth (ph) v. Perry, which ask the court the reverse a link that
California`s prop 8 which created a state amendment prohibiting marriage
was unconstitutional because it takes away rights for same-sex couples. We
don`t know how to court will rule, one thing is certain, march will be an
important month on the road to marriage equality.
All right, Kenji, this is your road house. This is your view. Let`s start
with the prop 8 case. What are the arguments here?
YOSHINO: Basically, it`s a right to marry argument, a deposits arguments
and equal protection argument. I think that the court will likely go with
the equal protection argument. It gives it more options. Essentially, I
don`t want to see it as either zero states or 50 states. There is three
options in the middle. So, there is a one stage procedural solution, a one
state procedural says you are not the right people to bring this to court.
It kicks it back to California. Marriage down turns to California than
touch marriage returns in California.
Sake sex marriage comes back to California. You can`t give a right then
take away the right. That third part gets left out. It should remain. It
would be a ruling. It would affect all 50 states but California is the
only state that has given the right and took away the right. I should say
And then, the eight state solutions and perhaps the most interesting and
underreported one which is that there are eight states currently that give
same-sex couples all the likes and benefits of marriage but withhold the
word marriage. And the court could say that in itself the toke of why
would you with hold only the word unless trying to make second class
citizens. The people, this is like a trademark gate in which the
corporation is saying, you know, you are tarnishing the brand and you
cannot unless you are less than, right? And so, that to itself, the token
anonymous, that would be an incremental solution between the one state
solution and then not to states proof.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, before -- what`s interesting to me here is having
just talked voting rights and sort of a little bit of angst than we are
having about the issue of state`s rights around voting rights. Here, in
the case of marriage equality, all of a sudden being able to bring forward
state`s rights becomes the progressive position.
YOSHINO: Yes, absolutely. And this is actually what makes me tear my hair
out a bit.
YOSHINO: All of these conservative doma because, you know, all of these
conservatives justices have been saying to us in case after case beginning
with 1995, watershed case of Lopez and then going on to Morrison in 2000.
That family law is state law. And that, you know, the Congress should stay
out of traditional state domains because they are traditional state domain.
And so, for them to turned around and say doma is constitutional is bizarre
because this is a congressional regulations of the traditional state of man
and the family in marriage law.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And so, is this, what will hinge on or turn on
AMAR: Just to remind the audience, there are two cases. The Doma cases
about the federal statue and there is the California case. And in - and
just stepping way back, regardless of what happens this month and this
year, we are going to have gay marriage in America in all 50 states in our
lifetime, indeed within the next five to ten years because the demographics
are so dramatically shifting as evidence by President Obama`s issue on this
in one direction, an arc of history bending toward justice in a certain
way. And once enough states do this on their own, which they will, the
Supreme Court will nationalize it, even if it doesn`t do it this year.
And even it doesn`t do that, once enough states do it on their own and
other states have to recognize marriages solemnized in places where it`s
legal just as people today can get fast divorces in Nevada. People today,
regardless of where they live can go to Massachusetts to get married or
other places and we will very quickly move to a 50-state solution even if
we don`t do it this year, you know, stepping back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And yet, we always have - but, I guess the very
thing that makes me nervous is the idea of justice delayed, justice denied.
And so, for example, right, before Mrs. Perry who comes under right at this
moment having to pay in the state tax where she would not attempt to pay -
right. And so, I think, you know, we are going to watch this closely. But
there is a question on the one hand, I want to be careful then say, don`t
worry. It`s coming. Public opinion poll show it is coming because there
is still the question of justice now.
All right, when we come back, a little bit more on the question of justice
now. We are going to talk about affirmative action and the ruling that
could change it forever.
HARRIS-PERRY: Supreme Court may be presiding over some pretty big cases
this year. But the case with the biggest buzz may be the one they have
In October of last year, the court heard arguments in fisher versus the
University of Texas at Austin. It is the case which questions the
constitutionality of the university`s use of race in undergraduate
admissions. And the decision, in this case potentially save or end
affirmative action as we know it.
So, Akhil, this one for me is, you know, you know, deeply personal because
I`m on a college campus. But specifically, this could be decided very,
very narrowly or very, very broadly. What are you expecting from this
AMAR: I`m expecting that unfortunately, a plan to be invalidated, a test
that was set forth in a case called Grouter in 2006 to be stiffened.
Justice O`Connor was replaced by justice Alito, the new median, the swing
voter, the fifth person is justice Kennedy, who has been more skeptical of
race-based affirmative action.
Now, what he may simply do is say this one goes too far. It`s possible
some uses of race may be OK. This goes too far. The most sweeping could
be not ruling in theory, not only can state universities not take race into
account, but private universities get funds. All private schools governed
by the same rule. That would be an earthquake.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Sherrilyn.
IFILL: So, I mean, you know, it feels describing what could be a terrible
and perfect storm. I mean, let`s back up for a second. He described the
grouter (ph) case 2006, that`s just six years ago. And it is true, you
know, a key member of the court left the bench and was replaced by justice
Alito -- .
HARRIS-PERRY: And Kagan refused.
IFILL: And Kagan has refused and Justice O`Connor actually came to the
oral argument. So, I think you that was kind of important moment.
But, you know, I think this court has questions about itself as an
institution it has to answer in this decision. Does it want to take the
step of reversing a decision this court issued in 2006 in which it said, it
thought affirmative action was needed for another 25 years. That`s what
makes me think that the more cautious, more narrow view that Akhil
suggested, really, may be in play.
I`m not convinced that Justice Kennedy is ready over a grouter. I think
that, you know, he has got concerns. We saw it in oral argument. But,
unlike others, I remain optimistic the court in this case will understand
it set itself on a course after 2006 that universities all over the country
followed. That it`s a matter - it is all in kind of institutional
integrity and a matter of what the future of America looks like. The
reality is no matter what, affirmative action has been the engine that`s
created spaces all over the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Nick, you are also enthusiastic and that wasn`t so sure.
Sherrilyn is optimistic and are you, but we are totally for different
DRANAS: Look. Grouter was a radical decision because the first time ever,
the scrutiny process deemed a compelling state interest to be diversity. I
mean this is the same form of scrutiny given to Guantanamo Bay detainees in
the adequate justification or given to yelling fire in a theater and the
adequate state compelling interest articulated for the first time ever with
no foundation in any prior case or history was diversity. As a compelling
state interest, I think it demeans the district`s certain standard.
IFILL: No. Wait a minute. It`s interesting because we are having this
conversation about the first amendment in the country earlier. What the
court said in, brother, was that the court should defer to the first
amendment academic freedom of institutions to make the decision of how to
construct and compose their classes for the purpose of educating leaders --
DRANAS: Government institutions.
IFILL: Indeed. Indeed.
DRANAS: A 100 years ago, (INAUDIBLE) , the decent of Harlem, is finally
coming true. It will be a color blind institution.
IFILL: But, where are your markers for this. We keep talking about this
color blindness. I mean, --
HARRIS-PERRY: We know - so, first of all, what we know is that color
blindness often leads to sort of a monochromatic classroom. We are seen it
in California and other places. And part of what is interesting about the
fisher case is that the University of Texas has a different formulation for
creating a diverse classroom.
IFILL: Very narrow, the 10 percent rule.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the problem with the 10 percent rule, of course, is that
it gives us a stake in residential segregation.
AMAR: That`s what makes it work.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So that the reason with the ten percent rule works
is because you have segregate --
IFILL: -- with this color blindness right there. The whole case of the
ten percent rule works is because we don`t live in a color blind society.
But, what it also does is it excludes from inclusion in that African-
Americans who go to private schools.
AMAR: It does not end state racism.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m going to give you the last word on this.
YOSHINO: It just - he even handed about, I mean, grouter was 2003, not
2006. The diversity rational was not made out of the whole cloth and
grouter. The diversity rational goes all the way back to the first
affirmative action case, 1978 (INAUDIBLE).
So, what he does -- let`s be clear for the audience at home because I think
your comment may have given a misimpression whether you intended it or not,
that, you know, diversity is not a longstanding threat. And all of the
affirmative action cases from Buckley onward through metro broadcasting, it
gets over ruled all the way through 2003. So, it`s a rational.
I mean, the reason that it`s not tested under strict scrutiny is that it is
only with the (INAUDIBLE) case that hurts through where it`s ushered in
1995. And the standard for part of --
YOSHINO: You may believe that, right, but I think there`s a big
difference. You are making it sound like strict scrutiny was a rule all
the way along and that we introduced diversity. It is the other way
around. Diversity was the rule all the way along. And then recently, much
more recently in 1995, we introduced this notion as excrutiny and grouter
held that excrutiny was met by this diversity rational. We can debate it -
- we can debate.
HARRIS-PERRY: We won`t get it fixed here. But, what I do hope is folks at
home in Nerdland, what I`m hoping is that you feel like maybe this is what
we want, at least our Supreme Court to be doing. We hope the conversations
are at least as engaged as the beautiful things we just heard here.
Thank you to Sherrilyn and to Akhil. Nick and Kenji are actually going to
be back later in the show.
But, up next, the civil rights legend at the center of a major
environmental showdown. Julian Bond (ph) is going to join us live.
There`s more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris Perry.
Since day one of his second term, President Obama put climate change on the
top of his agenda as we heard in his inaugural address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will respond to the
threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray
our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming
judgment of science. But none can avoid the devastating impact of fires
and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yet, one of the first decisions President Obama will make on
environmental issues may be to approve an expansive energy project that
activists say would have devastating effects on our climate.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would stretch nearly 2,000 miles,
connecting the oil sands of Canada to American refineries around Houston
and the Gulf of Mexico. The $7 billion project would deliver more than
700,000 barrels of heavy crude oil into the country every day if build,
allowing production at Canada tar sands to explode and emit what activists
are calling a carbon bomb.
Extraction of crude oil from tar sands is particularly a dirty process. If
allowed to go forward, full production of Canadian tar sands could release
into our atmosphere two times the amount of carbon dioxide burned in all
the oil used throughout our entire history. In fact, one of the country`s
climate scientists and the head of NASA`s institute said, building the
Keystone pipeline would be game over for the climate -- which, of course,
means game over for us. We live in the climate.
OK. So, approval of the pipeline appeared imminent in 2012 but was delayed
due to concerns over the environmental impact. Now the proposal is back on
the president`s desk. Technically, it is the jurisdiction of the State
Department to decide. But President Obama has the unique singular
authority to decide this matter. And yesterday, Republicans were calling
on the president to rubber stamp it.
Joining me is civil rights attorney Maya Wiley, founder and president of
the Center for Social Inclusion, and filmmaker and activist, Josh Fox,
director of "Gasland"; and Frances Beinecke, who is president of the
Natural Resources Defense Council.
And, Frances, I actually want to start with you because, you know, often we
hear the president is constrained by Congress, by all the other forces he`s
facing. But in this case, this is the president`s call.
FRANCES BEINECKE, PRES., NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: Yes, it is.
The president has to decide whether this is in the national interest. The
State Department is going to do the environmental review. It`s not yet
completed, but then it`s on the president`s desk. We`re not sure when that
will be, sometime this spring.
But it is his decision to decide whether this is in the national interest
or not. And it`s not because of the climate of locations that you just
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, the claim, Josh, is -- but there are jobs. And the
national interest is a short-term interest based on jobs. How do we
balance this game over for the climate next to jobs?
JOSH FOX, DIRECTOR, "GASLAND": Well, there are more jobs in the renewable
FOX: What I want to say is I come into this not as a lifelong
environmental campaigner, but a person who lives in an area being invaded
by the fossil fuel industry.
FOX: And when you are in the sights of, in my case, the natural gas
industry, as people are in 24 states around the country, or if you are in
the line of the Keystone XL, or in Appalachia, where they are blowing up
mountains, this represents a paradigm shit in energy development, to
something called extreme energy.
It`s no longer, you can just drill and tap and get oil or gas. You are
fracturing rocks, you are blowing up mountains, you`re scraping off the
entire surface of the boreal forest in Canada to get at this energy.
So, this is a moment, actually, the president can take bold leadership and
say, you know what? We cannot allow more and more of the environment and
now with the climate, everybody is a member of the front line community.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, you know, as you describe that, as you describe what it
takes to this extreme energy development, keep thinking, part of this is a
fundamental, ethical, moral question, which is -- yes, if a resource
exists, does it belong to us, humans, to do with what we want, or does it
belong to the Earth? Do we -- because I think part of what we just miss
is, yes, there`s oil there. That doesn`t mean it`s ours. It just might
belong to the Earth itself.
MAYA WILEY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTOREY: It`s interesting, I got a tweet before
coming on the show from someone who said, you know, this is a divine
resource given to us. Therefore, it`s our divine right to use it.
You know, I think it`s one thing to say, I think it`s important to see the
divinity of this resource. The planet is part of that divinity and people
are as well. If you actually look -- does that mean we use it in a way
that exhausts it and destroys? I think that`s the frame we are talking
about -- when you look at what`s happening in native populations around
these oil sands and these tar sands, we have seen incredible jumps in
cancer rates, we`ve seen deformed fish.
You know, we are not talking extracting a resource that exists. We are
talking about actually the impacts on real people`s lives when we do it the
way we are doing it and the great and tremendous health risks that we`re
BEINECKE: I think what`s happening, Melissa, is we have a choice as a
country, are we going to go down a clean energy pathway that addresses the
urgency of climate change that we are seeing here in New York? We had
hurricane Sandy and everyone who`s here was on the front lines of that, or
are we going to go down a fossil fuel, carbon-emitting pathway that we have
been on for 100 years and causing more and more and more devastation across
the world, not just across the United States.
So, this is a leadership moment for the president. To say I am going to
step forward and make a -- act on climate principle and we are not going to
continue down that fossil fuel pathway.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it does feels to me like the LBJ moment, right?
So, Johnson at that moment of the `64 Civil Rights Act, as a Southern
Democrat, has to make the decision in signing `64 Civil Rights and `65
Voting Rights Acts, that he`s going to give away the South for the
Democratic Party. And he does so on principle because of what it means for
And that feels like who the president is called to. It is not easy. I
don`t want to make it small in that sense. But, certainly, politically,
our time horizon is much shorter.
But, you know, I live in New Orleans. I saw BP. We all saw it.
FOX: Well, the fourth piece of this extreme energy is also deep water
drilling. We were drilling into water into depths that we`ve -- that are
uncontrollable. And you saw what happened, the devastating effects.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve tried to put golf balls down there to fix it.
That`s part of the other thing here, is that there`s absolutely no
accountability or long term planning for what happens when disaster occurs.
And with these extreme forms, it`s a foregone conclusion that you are going
to have absolutely environmental ruin.
But what`s happening now is whether they are coming from fracking or from
mountain top removal or from the Gulf or climate change, is this incredible
movement of people. I toured the country with Bill McKibben (ph) who
really is to be credited with these Keystone protests. And we had
thousands of people at every location, 50,000 people in Washington, D.C. on
what was, I think the coldest day of the year.
This is what I`m seeing over and over again. As you see these extreme
energy moves into these places in America, you get all of the above
resistance to this all of the above strategy.
Maya, let me show you the Harris poll about support for the Keystone
Pipeline, because I think this is part of your question about whether or
not we see a movement. We have 69 percent of Americans saying that they
support the Keystone Pipeline, but that feels to me in part because they
may not have clear information about what the consequences of building are.
WILEY: Yes. I think going back to your point, Melissa, about the
president and the political position he`s in right now. And one thing that
makes it a little different from the `64 act, the Civil Rights Act of
Johnson, it`s a moral dilemma, except that part of the problem is the
notion of scarcity, right?
We are in this frame of scarcity. We have so many people who need jobs.
We are in part where our economy is not completely recovered from a
tremendous recession. Where the president rightly used, as an opportunity
to try to rebuild the economy, also invest in renewable energy, which is
Now, trying to figure out how in the context of incredible, real pain that
real people are feeling on the job market, most of how people are seeing
keystone is in this frame of jobs -- jobs, jobs, jobs.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So you end up with 69 percent of the people
WILEY: And the part of the conversation that`s not happening to your point
about information is if we invest in renewable energy, it`s 1.9 million
jobs compared to the 20,000 that Keystone will create. And also, what are
those jobs going to produce in terms of our communities?
WILEY: I would rather see the energy that ensures that our kids aren`t
getting cancer and our asthma rates are not increasing and that, you know,
one of the biggest contributors to the deficit is our health care costs.
So, when you actually think about all the big problems we are trying to
solve in the country, we`re not just talking about whether Keystone is good
or bad for 20,000 jobs. We`re talking about its impact on health, its
impact on communities, it`s impact on environment, and whether there are
better solutions to the problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: With even more jobs.
Yes. We are going to stay on this issue with everyone at the table and
also with the legendary activist Julian Bond who got arrested on this
issue. I want to ask him why when we`re back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is it possible that one single issue could bring tens of
thousands of Midwest farmers, American-Indians, celebrities, civil rights
activists together? Well, that`s exactly what happened last Sunday when a
broad coalition filled the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to protest the
Keystone XL pipeline in what activists are calling the biggest climate
change rally in U.S. history.
Fighting the pipeline has become a central organizing issue for
environmental activists, leading the nation`s oldest and most influential
environmental organization to lift its 120-year ban on civil disobedience.
And on Sunday, dozens of activists were arrested for acts of non-violent
One of those was picked up was civil right legend Julian Bond, who helped
found the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, a seminal civil
rights organization. No stranger to civil disobedience, Julian Bond has
faced the consequences of activism dating back to his days fighting for
integration in Atlanta`s movie theaters and lunch counters.
And joining us for our discussion from Washington, D.C. is Julian Bond,
chairman emeritus of the NAACP.
It`s so nice to see you today, Mr. Bond.
JULIAN BOND, CHAIRMAN EMERITUS, NAACP: Pleasure to be here. Thanks for
having me on.
HARRIS-PERRY: So hearing last week that you had been arrested, I thought,
OK, this was an interesting moment because you weren`t at this moment being
arrested over an obvious civil rights issue, but clearly there`s a
coalition here who is beginning to understand this environmental question
as a civil rights issue.
BOND: Well, it is a civil rights issue. You know, people of color are
affected by environmental depredation more than other people in the
country. The NAACP, whose board I used to chair, has been on this issue
for almost decades.
And any American who is cognizant of the weather around him or her, what`s
happening, we flooded the biggest city in the country, we had the most hot
-- hottest year in history last year. I mean, how can you deny these
things are happening and need quickly to be stopped?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, I want to ask you, because this trade off
between the idea of jobs particularly for communities that are economically
deprived and economically at a disadvantage. And then, on the other hand,
the environment has often meant that communities of color and poor
communities have been set over and against the very air they breathe and
the water that they drink.
BOND: Exactly. The choice is always, we`ll give you the jobs if you put
up with the trash. But, you know, that`s really a false choice. We heard
on the panel just now that the green economy will create many, many
thousands of jobs while the pipeline will produce relatively few. That`s
an easy choice for most people to make if you can delay some gratification
for a moment and look forward to the long term.
It`s better to go with the green world rather than the awful world that
promises to come if we continue in the current path.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me pull out to the panel for a little bit. Josh,
because I want to ask -- it`s not just about American citizens, because
it`s not just about domestic civil rights. There`s a whole Canadian
FOX: Actually, I was adopted by the Blood Tribe, which is the largest
reserve in Canada, in southern Alberta. Their reserve was leased out to
fracking to frac gas, to send to the tar sands, to boil down these sands,
So, using enormous amounts of gas and water to get the oil and then they
pipe it to American refineries. And one of them is in Pennsylvania where
they are flaring off the excess gas.
It`s wasteful at every turn. It`s destroying people`s communities.
Whether that`s -- in Warren, Pennsylvania, in the inner city, or on the
Blood reserve in Alberta or further north where the tar sands are, this is
We are not talking about Canada. We are talking multi-national oil
FOX: -- that have no borders, they have no allegiances to nations.
We are just in the way of their business model. When their business model
is destroying the planet and destroying your neighborhood, they are going
to counter resistance.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s not the first time.
BEINECKE: No, the interesting thing is TransCanada, the company wants to
bring the pipeline to the United States, because the pipeline to the west,
the gateway pipeline across British Columbia is being blocked by Canadian
citizens and first nations. Pipelines to the east are not accessible
BEINECKE: So, suddenly, the United States is the vehicle to carry the
Canadian oil to export through the Gulf of Mexico. What`s in there for the
BEINECKE: Not a lot. And I think that`s where the president has a real
opportunity to take a very principled action to say, climate is one of the
most devastating things this country and the planet faces and I`m going to
act to deny this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. I mean, it`s based on the belief that sort of the
Americans are unattached to questions of green politics that you can just
build it straight through us, because there`s so much good, high quality
opposition in Canada.
BEINECKE: Well, but there`s good high quality opposition here, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That`s what we are beginning to see.
BEINECKE: Not only the people in Washington, D.C., but the people all
across the route -- the farmers, the ranchers, the people in Texas who are
chaining themselves to the pipeline, the people in the refinery
But there`s widespread opposition to this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Bond, I want to come back to you for a moment, because
this question of whether or not, sort of how you build that coalition seems
to be difficult in part because a lot of this coalition, which is going to
be built to pressure President Obama is derived from President Obama`s own
So, it feels tonight, this is right at the crux of exactly the kind of work
that the NAACP always had to do. How do you say to a friend in the White
House, right, somebody who`s generally on board with your legislative
agenda, on this thing, I oppose you and need you to do better?
BOND: You say it just the way you tell them, on this thing, oppose you and
need you to do better and expect you to do better.
BOND: You mention this in your inaugural speech, you leaned in this
direction. You have done impressive things in the environment. Now, do
this one thing. We are asking you to keep on the record you are
establishing for yourself to future generations say, that Barack Obama, he
was just great on the environment, we are so lucky to have had him. He
saved the country for us, he saved the world for us.
And I think that`s the kind of appeal we are making to him, just to do what
you believe to do be the right thing. We believe you feel, as we do, that
the right thing to do is say no to this pipeline.
This is not a pipeline to America. This is a pipeline through America. It
does nothing for us. It does great things for the oil company.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Maya?
WILEY: Well, I was just going to say that I think one of the important
things we have to talk about, particularly when we talk about communities
of color in this equation, that we have to talk about the solutions that
take the fastest growing segment of the country, right? Communities of
color in this country are very soon going to be half of the country.
And when we look at the solutions that we have, one of the things we need
President Obama and Congress to do is pay attention to how we invest in
local scale renewable energy solutions that communities of color can
WILEY: -- because one of the things happening as we invest in renewable
energy and a stimulus invested in renewable energy, is it didn`t pay
attention enough to how we have to actually look at doing it differently
given how communities of color have been excluded from investment
opportunities. In Boston, there was community of environmental justice
advocates that recognized homeowners in Roxbury, Boston, were not going to
be able to home-weatherize their homes because there weren`t weatherization
companies nearby that were going to weatherize.
Community of color could have worked, they were trying to organize the
cooperative that would create a for-profit model where they would be doing
that home weatherization.
HARRIS-PERRY: It gives an opportunity for entrepreneurship and for
WILEY: Jobs, as well as efficiency.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. I mean, jobs, yes, but not just jobs, also
innovation and ownership.
Josh, I want you to lead us in this on the point I don`t know if we have
clearly driven home enough. This is, in fact, dangerous. We have reasons
to believe that -- I mean, we`ve already seen some spills. This is an
FOX: And for all the things Obama said in his State of the Union address.
You cannot be talking about climate change, and at the same time, approve
FOX: In the same way, I mean, you are seeing this contradiction happening
for people like Andrew Cuomo as well. You have the governor talking about
climate change and on the verge of the decision to open up New York to the
largest fossil fuel expansion in its history. They are in a bind.
But the truth is, it`s a moment for bold leadership. And you have to say
we are going to take a break from the past and we`re going to do all these
thing that make so much sense like develop renewable energy, get jobs for
the future, not the dirty jobs of the past.
HARRIS-PERRY: I just want to say thank you so much to you, Julian Bond,
for joining us. It`s always just a pleasure --
BOND: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- for me to have you. And particularly for talking about
possibilities for bold leadership. There`s no -- there`s no face I`d
rather have on set when we are talking about the possibility of bold
leadership. You certainly have a personal and organizational history of
doing exactly that.
BOND: Thank you. That`s kind of you. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
And also, thank you to Josh and to Frances.
Maya is going to stick around for a while longer, because up next, the one-
year anniversary of the moment that sparked international outrage.
HARRIS-PERRY: One year ago, this coming Tuesday, marks the day that
sparked a national conversation about guns. No, it is not the anniversary
of the day James Holmes opened fire in a midnight showing of "The Dark
Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people. Nor are we already
year out from the shooting by Wade Michael Page that killed in a Sikh
temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and the horrors of Sandy Hook Elementary
School in Connecticut where Adam Lanza gunned down 20 children and six
teachers. It`s still very much fresh in our minds.
Those horrific and attention-grabbing shootings captivated the country
instantly when they happened. The shooting that took place a year ago
Tuesday was relatively unknown at first -- a single death, not a planned
massacre, but it was an altercation gone horribly wrong. And it almost
escaped national attention given at first, police didn`t make an arrest.
One year ago this Tuesday marked the day that George Zimmerman shot and
killed Trayvon Martin. And one year later, we still await George
We have made a point on this program of not litigating the case against
Zimmerman on television. We are going to leave that to the courts. And by
no means am I suggesting a link between Trayvon, Aurora, Oak Creek, Sandy
Hook, or even to Hadiya Pendleton, or to Jovan Belcher and Kasandra
Perkins, or the 2,200 plus people killed with a gun in this country since
the massacre at Sandy Hook.
Certainly, an altercation between two individual that ends in death is
different from a shooting in a theater or a temple or school. And that`s
all different from city street violence, even different from domestic
But there is one thing. In each and every case, if the assailant has not
had a gun, the victims could not have been shot.
HARRIS-PERRY: Guns are the only recurring themes in all the shootings of
masses of people and individuals that have so captivated the country in the
last year. The notion that our laws are too loose with the conditions
under which those guns are obtained and used has inspired federal and state
policies that tighten those restrictions. But not all those proposals
answer more gun deaths with more gun regulations. Though, there are some
of those who would opt to respond to more gun deaths with more guns.
You see, lawmakers in Arizona, California, Oklahoma, South Dakota and
Tennessee are considering legislation that puts guns in hands of teachers
and other school employees. At least 200 teachers in Utah have already
taken advantage of the state`s allowance of guns in schools and signed
themselves up for firearms training.
Utah lawmakers have also approved a bill that would eliminate the
requirement for a permit to carry a concealed gun. Montana is considering
allowing students to carry firearms on college campuses.
South Carolina lawmakers have advanced a bill that would eliminate all
penalties for carrying concealed weapons in bars and restaurant that serve
alcohol. Sorry, I shouldn`t laugh.
But the philosophy of maximum guns is best summed up by the National Rifle
Association`s leader, Wayne Pierre (ph), when he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a
good guy with a gun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Back with me is civil rights attorney, Maya
Wiley; New York University Law School professor Kenji Yoshino; the
Goldwater Institute`s Nick Dranias; and former staffer for New York Mayor
Mike Bloomberg now a board member of the New Yorkers Against Gun Violence,
Dina Dariotis, is that correct?
Dariotis, got it. I am actually epically bad at people`s names.
So, Dina, I want to start with you, because I spent some time last night
and this morning reading this text -- reducing gun violence in America and
Mayor Bloomberg has written the foreword to this text, which he makes a
claim that it really is all gun violence, right? In fact, suicide rates
here in New York -- I mean, not only do we keep people from being killed in
homicides with guns, we have lower gun suicide rates, because once you
don`t have a gun you can`t shoot anybody.
It feels like a basic argument.
DINA DARIOTIS, NEW YORKERS AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE: Well, it`s absolutely
true. The statistics bear that out. I mean, states that have universal
background checks or stronger background check laws have half the suicides
than states that don`t have those types of laws in place. Almost 40
percent of women -- 40 percent fewer women are shot and killed by intimate
partners in states that have better background check laws. States that
have better background check laws are less frequently the sources of
trafficked guns that end up being used in crimes.
So, there`s definitely a huge body of evidence to support that notion.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, on the one hand, there`s this huge body of evidence. On
the other hand, there`s a very simple reality that if I open up my
Constitution, there is a Second Amendment. And that Second Amendment
largely has been understood through our Supreme Court to say you have an
individual right to own a gun.
DRANIAS: Absolutely. Look, that doesn`t mean there can`t be some
reasonable regulation anymore than there can be some reasonable regulation
of speech in the First Amendment. But we have to recognize that this is a
constitutional right. The Supreme Court is looking to the original meaning
and scope to determine where it applies and we can`t go willy-nilly with
just banning guns. Something like a background check could very pass
HARRIS-PERRY: What do you think, Kenji? Is the Second Amendment actually
a hindrance to making reasonable gun policy in this country?
YOSHINO: Yes, I mean, I think it is. You know, I`m basically with Nick on
this one. After 2008 and 2010 when the Supreme Court handed down this pair
of rulings saying there was an individual right to bear arms, the first
2008 ruling against the federal government, the 2010 ruling applied the
right against the states.
Justice Scalia`s major opinion in the 2008 opinion is really clear as a
matter of constitutional law that says, in saying that this isn`t meant to
prohibit reasonable regulation.
But all of that said, there is a floor, right, that the right protects.
Sometimes I think that floor is unreasonable. This is now my normative
view on why the 2008 was wrongly decided.
So, I mean, the idea there is that -- you know, the Second Amendment says
that right to bear arms is connected to the maintenance of a regulated
militia. So, the question is whether or not that law of regulated militia
is preparatory clause is restricted or really descriptive. I lost that
one. The 2008 decision says it`s clearly, you know, descriptive, not meant
to be a precondition on the right, the right as an individual right that is
held by individuals.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, on the one hand there`s a question of what we have a
right to do. On the other hand, a question of what is prudent to do.
And so, we hear Wayne LaPierre saying, all right, you`ve got to arm the
good guys, right? One of the good guys apparently was supposed to arm our
teachers. And my -- I have to say, as a college professor, first of all,
if my students could carry guns, we would no longer have debate over grade
inflation. Everyone would have A`s.
But beyond that, the idea that -- like, for example, students and teachers
should be carrying guns. I immediately was thinking about Amy Bishop in
Alabama, who came in and shot all of her colleagues after not receiving
tenure. We can`t assume certain positions necessarily mean that you are
the good guy, right?
In any given context, the teacher might be the bad guy.
WILEY: So, I`m going to start in this conversation as a mother with two
kids in school.
I am not sending my child to a school where people who have their jobs not
subject to any psychological evaluation, by the way, nor carrying a gun
with any particular training are going to be in a classroom with my child.
I`m not doing it.
HARRIS-PERRY: We don`t even let teachers paddle students anymore.
WILEY: So the idea that our kids are going to be safer because there are a
bunch of guns inside the school is just insane. If you actually look at
some of the research, what it shows particularly from home invasions is
that, you know, the more you introduce a gun into the scenario, the more
likely the guns are going to be used.
So, unless we want video games becoming what is happening inside the
schools, which is people getting into gun battles --
WILEY: -- I don`t actually think that`s a solution. I think the solution
is to figure out certainly how to keep guns out of schools, not let more
guns into schools.
HARRIS-PERRY: Look, there is a point of -- you know, this notion that
there would be shootout and the good guy might be able to win. I`m sorry,
I should not have laughed when I said South Carolina is allowing people to
carry them in bars.
But it does not --
WILEY: Alcohol and guns.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it just seems like a bad idea.
But even the issue of at home, part of what we are hindered by, right, is a
lack of research. We don`t know how good the brainy laws have been or how
bad the problem is. We are in a circumstance where only $100,000 out of a
$6 billion research budget from the federal budget goes to understanding
DRANIAS: Well, you can actually look at John Lasworth (ph), which shows
there`s a correlation between less gun control and less crime. In fact, I
think that is a reason not to say we shouldn`t have guns in every place in
every school, but it is a reason to have states experiment with their
policies within the scope of the protections of the Second Amendment.
It may be that in New York, having guns in schools is not wise. But, in
Arizona, we have constitutional carry. You don`t need a permit to carry or
conceal a weapon. You can walk around pretty much anywhere with it. And
we don`t have anywhere near the crime rate of New York.
HARRIS-PERRY: But you do have the Gabby like -- so I hear you. And then
Gabby Giffords is standing there saying we must do something.
DARIOTIS: There`s been an effort to limit federal research on this issue.
Yes, we are hamstrung to some level with data being able to support some of
these things. But the evidence is clear. I mean, we saw it in Columbine.
There was an armed guard at Columbine High School, and you know, it didn`t
HARRIS-PERRY: It didn`t make a difference.
We are going to take a quick break. I wonder if there`s an Eighteenth
Amendment issue going on here. That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: The late 19th century, when the surge of violence in America
moved concerned citizens and policymakers to declare that something must be
done, that something had nothing to do with guns.
The conventional thinking of the day located the root of violence not at
the end of a barrel but the bottom of a glass. The prohibition movement
considered alcohol and the violence that accompanied it and its consumption
in excess to be a national curse -- so much so that it would take nothing
short of a constitutional amendment to eradicate its existence.
So, was born the Eighteenth Amendment, banning the manufacture and
transportation of liquor. Only prohibition ultimately did not succeed in
prohibiting anything. In fact, it created more violence, not less.
Outlawing liquor gave rise to organized crime, a thriving black market for
bootlegging and gave alcohol an outsize place in the American imagination.
1933, the Twenty-First Amendment repealed prohibition and left us with a
lesson of the fallacy of banning our vices.
Yet, as we consider policies to ban certain kinds of guns, is this a lesson
that we need to relearn?
So, Eighteenth Amendment is always my challenge. On the one hand, let`s go
get the guns, and then thinking -- whoops, that could turn into a mess.
DRANIAS: I think this would end up punishing young black men who live in
urban areas where police have failed them, because they are more likely to
be carrying guns for self-protection. If you try to prohibit guns,
innocent people trying to do the right thing, trying to protect themselves
and their family could get swept up in that and destroy their future, very
much like the Warren crack (ph) did.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t think that carrying a gun on the South Side makes
you safer. I don`t think that had Pendleton been strapped she would be
safer in the circumstance that killed her.
On the other hand, I do agree these are the kind of laws, the way they are
implemented have a way of sweeping up a certain kind of population`s
effect. It is, unfortunately, the other side of Mayor Bloomberg`s law
here. The other side of that is, of course, stop and frisk.
WILEY: Well, we are assuming that sweeping up the guns means a punitive
way of sweeping up the guns. I think that`s a mistake.
So, number one, I think it`s really important to understand black youth are
15 percent of the population in this country and they are 45 percent of the
youth that are killed by guns. So, it actually is a significant issue for
the black community. It`s a significant issue and we have to get those
guns and deal with those guns.
It`s really important to understand, those guns are coming in many
different ways. No, gun regulation alone is not going to take care of that
problem. I think it`s important to be honest about that.
At the same time, it doesn`t mean going and getting the guns only can be
done in a punitive way that increases the incarceration rates of black
youth. There have been lots of efforts. Some are really about creating
relationships between the police and communities differently. Police, if
they start to accept mediation and mediators into the process, can create a
different relationship with communities and actually create exchange
programs for guns in some places that have been effective in getting guns.
Teaching families not to exchange guns with other family members. That`s
one of the major source like flipping 40 percent of the guns in a black
community are coming from a family member or friend handing the gun over to
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, your brother, your cousin.
Sometimes around this notion of self-protection, you know, you, young men,
are going out to the world, and it`s a dangerous neighborhood, let me get
you strapped, right?
I do wonder, though, because the other piece of it, particularly -- so
there`s the Hadiya Pendleton and there`s the Newtown`s, there`s even the
Trayvon Martins. But the fact is that for most women, the likelihood of
being killed by a firearm is most like to come from intimate partner of
I wonder whether or not background checks are going get us there, right?
So, I think we can`t go and get all the guns, but I think ahh, we`ve got to
figure out something, because that`s where you are most likely to be
DARIOTIS: Well, I got to go back to the background checks systems.
There`s two major systems with the background check system. One, millions
of records are currently missing from the background check system,
including records of people who are seriously mentally ill. In some cases,
people who are domestically violence offenders.
Number every state is doing a great job of putting, get that information
into the database. So, right there, you have one problem.
The second problem is the gaping hole in the background check system that
allows 40 percent of the guns in this country to be sold without a
background check altogether. Right now, the system that exists by licensed
sellers, 2 million people have been stopped from buying guns.
DRANIAS: But you`re not answering the question.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here is my question, though. Could we approach -- so, if
prohibition is a lesson against going, particularly after handguns, are
cigarettes a different model of how you -- you take a cultural practice and
just kill it. Just make it gross, right?
Cigarettes, at one point -- I mean, I would have been doing this show
smoking and you would have smoked anywhere and everywhere. So, you do end
up with important prohibitions, particularly in public space without making
it illegal to own them, right? You just create a huge social cost to being
So, are there still smokers? Of course. But smoking does not have the
same place in our culture or any of that in part because it became a public
DRANIAS: Well, it`s less restrictive than outright bans or even background
One of the interesting things about those who advocate for gun relations is
they often advocate solutions in search of a problem. As you pointed out,
background checks are not going to eliminate the spousal abuse cause of
violence. Banning assault rifles is not going to stop 98 percent of the
gun homicide that happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because they are handguns.
DRANIAS: So, there`s a disingenuous to the advocates of gun control. I
don`t say this of you, personally, but I mean, in general, we rarely see a
match between the evidence of what guns are doing and the regulation that`s
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m not sure I come -- I hear what you are saying. I`m not
sure it comes as disingenuous but it does certainly feels constrained as
though the things we have the ability to touch and go to and make policy
about are in a limited space that somehow are not always connected to
exactly the greatest spot of violence.
WILEY: But I don`t think the problem with this whole discussion right now
is that number one, I think actually the evidence is not as clearly
supportive of regulation doesn`t work. And to the -- going back to the
conversation we had earlier, I mean, actually the research that you cited
by Lott (ph) has actually been challenged by other researchers.
So, it goes back to your point earlier, Melissa, that we actually don`t
have enough information.
WILEY: I would say that it would be -- I do think it is a good common
sense step to say if nothing else, register. Put who the owners are.
HARRIS-PERRY: At least we know.
WILEY: Check who they are, put it out in the open. It`s not keeping
people from having them.
WILEY: That`s making sure we know who does and that we make sure they
don`t have a criminal record. That`s actually the American public is
strongly in favor of this, including NRA members.
WILEY: This is not controversial. But I think the other part of it is, if
we actually look at what`s happening with the Trayvon Martin, because
that`s the way we tee this up. Trayvon Martin is probably dead today
because somebody was afraid of him.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that`s right. And if George Zimmerman was afraid of
him, but not armed, it would have been an ugly circumstance, but Trayvon
would probably be alive.
We have to go but I will suggest this book, "Reducing Gun Violence in
America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis." It is not just one-
sided. It`s a fascinating text, full of the only data we`ve got these
days. Go get it.
More in just a moment, but, first, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS
WITH ALEX WITT." Hi, Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hi to you. It sounds like a good book to get.
It`s on my list.
Melissa, a short time ago, we had the head of the Daytona International
Speedway talked about that frightening crash that`s injured more than two
dozen spectators. You might be surprised about what he says about the
people who were hurt.
It`s getting nasty in the nation`s capital, whole new round of finger
pointing over sequestration started today. So does America have blame-game
fatigue? I can weigh in and say yes.
And a new report on Florida and the Tea Party effect. How the public there
may have buyer`s remorse.
Then, in office politics, former New York David Dinkins shares a remarkable
story about his friendship with tennis star and pioneer Arthur Ashe. It`s
so good. He`s such a big tennis fan. So cute hear him talking about him.
HARRIS-PERRY: He`s lovely. But where are the pandas? Bring back the
WITT: Oh, we have more pandas today.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, good.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Alex.
Up next, the naked truth about body image. What I really look like in the
HARRIS-PERRY: Here are some heartbreaking statistics. Forty-two percent
of first third grade girls want to be thinner. Eighty-one percent of 10-
year-olds are afraid of being fat. And in the past decade,
hospitalizations for eating disorders increased by 119 percent for children
younger than 12.
These distressing numbers come to us from the National Eating Disorders
Association who have set aside this week as National Eating Disorders
Awareness Week. And they point to the ongoing crisis of self-hate and
self-abuse that impacts many young women.
The causes of eating disorders are complicated. For example, studies
report that more than a third of those suffering from bulimia where sexual
assault survivors, and anorexia is a condition that often impacts multiple
generations in a single family.
But with all the complex causes, there is this nagging sense of inadequacy,
a hard to shake feeling that I`m just not good enough as I am.
One local organization in Philadelphia, the Renfrew Center Foundation is
using this week for the Barefaced and Beautiful Campaign. They are
encouraging women to go without makeup tomorrow and to post pictures of
their scrubbed mugs on social media.
No, there is no reason to think that wearing makeup is causally linked to
eating disorders. I mean, makeup can be a perfectly healthy, playful, fun
way to present yourself to the world, like big earrings or your favorite
shoes -- kind of a chance to highlight our fierce fabulousness.
But makeup can become a mask that shields our authentic selves full of
perceived imperfections from a world that judges women harshly and
repeatedly on how we look rather than what we think or how we contribute or
who we are.
Renfrew`s research has shown that more than a quarter of girls who wear
makeup rarely or never leave the house without it. So I decided to take
the makeup off and share in this effort, because even baby steps towards
self-acceptance, maybe even if adult women can show a little more
acceptance of ourselves, we can be models of self-love for our daughters
and our nieces and our students.
So this is it. My almost 40-year-old face without any makeup, not even lip
gloss. It`s imperfect, inconsistent, and wonderfully mine.
Join me, take it all off and revel in the realness. Tweet your picture and
use the #barefacedbeauty.
That`s our show for today.
Thank you to Maya, Kenji, Nick and Dina.
And thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you again next
Saturday 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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