March 17, 2013
Guests: David Harris, Evangeline Gomez, Dennis Ross, Andy Shallal, Patrick Murphy, Marc Ginsberg, Zephyr Teachout, Lee Fang, Errol Louis, Harry Gantz, Joe Gantz, Diedre Melson
JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, ten years after the
start of the war in Iraq, why has no one been held accountable?
Plus, a profitable the Koch brothers are looking to buy up a media empire.
And the film that could change everything you think about poverty in
But first, the president is going to Israel and trying to keep the
expectations from getting mashugana (ph).
Good morning. I`m Joy Reid filling in for MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY.
First this morning, an update on the lead story from yesterday`s program.
In an unexpected turn of events in Steubenville, Ohio, where two teen boys
stand accused of assaulting a 16-year-old girl, both defense attorneys
wrapped their cases last night and presented both closing arguments. We
expect a ruling from Judge Thomas Lipps momentarily.
Taking the stand yesterday, the 16-year-old girl at the center of this case
burst into tears when shown pictures of herself naked and seemingly
This case has been marked by small town uproar, massive demonstrations and
national attention fueled by evidence that was made public by a social
Now, as soon as we have the verdict from Judge Lipps, we will bring you in
Until then, we bring this morning with the look ahead to President Obama`s
trip to Israel. This week, President Obama will depart for what could be
the largest international photo op in the year when he visits Israel in the
West Bank for the first time as president.
The photo op or photograph op opportunity is one of those time honored
political and civic tradition. It most often calculated to show a
politician or leader in his or her best light. Now, a cynic would not call
it much of an opportunity, because the photo op is usually a staged, all
smiled, not event, cleverly, or not so cleverly described as news.
Reportedly, the term photo op was first coined by the Richard Nixon
administration as in there would be a photo opportunity at the White House.
President George Herbert Walker Bush was said to have describe a photo
session as a modified limited photo op come statement saws questions. And
since half the battle for any politician is media strategy, the opportunity
to be photographed under favorable conditions is key.
Sometimes the opportunity the press corps is being given to capture as
people is more about the event, sorry, bigger than the individual photos.
Sometimes a group of leaders just willing to seen together and have a
picture snapped for prosperity is what makes an indelible mark on history.
On March 26, 1979, the Jimmy Carter administration managed it put together
this photo opportunity with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli
president Meacham Begin. Israel and Egypt has formally ended 30 years of
war through in a historic peace treaty brokered by President Carter. And
that photo op, those three seemingly intractable adversaries classing in
made the agreement and historic reality.
Years later, president Clinton sought to reenact that moment of diplomacy
when on September 13, 1993, Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, took the
hand of Yasser Arafat, then, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation
As president Clinton said at the time, it was the peace of the brave that
is within their reach for so they hoped. While it remains to be seen if
President Obama will try to stage a brokered handshake between the Israeli
and Palestinian leaders, as some time in the future, we know that this
Israel trip will not have that kind of photo finish.
From the looks of the itinerary, it will be a bit more tourism than
diplomacy. The president`s three-day tour will be filled with stops at
some of the popular destinations in the region including the church of the
nativity in Bethlehem and the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem. And of
course, he will meet with President Shimon Perez and Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu. He will also spend time with Palestinian authority
president, Mahmoud Abbas in the West bank and King Abdullah of Jordan in a
man all separately.
Arguably, it has been a long time since the president has directly
approached the issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace as he did early on in his
tenure. But, this diplomatic expedition is more exploratory than
determinative. As the President Obama told Israeli "TV channel 2" this
week, he plans to do a lot of listening this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I intend to meet with Fayyad
and (INAUDIBLE) and to hear from them what is their strategy, what is their
vision. Where do they think this should go?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: In fact, the president`s itinerary had built in some deliberate
choice about when and where the press will have their photo opportunity.
He will skip a visit to the Israeli parliament, instead delivering a speech
to Israeli students at the Jerusalem international convention center. And
the White House has confirmed that the president`s first visit to Israel
will not be to present a new Middle East peace plan. Some may call it a
lost opportunity or political maintenance endeavor, but that is perhaps
Perhaps this is the right strategy for the United States in the moment.
Perhaps the way forward for a new peace is without the United States
leading the charge.
At the table with me today are "Newsweek" foreign policy analyst and MSNBC
contributor Rula Jebreal, former White House Middle East advisor ambassador
Marc Ginsberg, former U.S. Congressman and Iraq war veteran Patrick Murphy
and executive director of the American Jews committee, David Harris.
So, thank you for being here, first of all. And I want to find out if you,
guys, agree that maybe the president is trying to do by sort of being more
tourist than diplomat time on this trip is just trying to take in the
experience of the Middle East, but lowering expectations for what could
actually achieve by his being there.
AMBASSADOR MARC GINSBERG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO: Well, first
of all, those of us who worked in the Middle East peace terrain for so many
years are delighted the president is going to Israel as well as to the West
Bank. It is incredibly important for him to establish a direct connection
with the Israeli people. He had been criticized for not traveling to
Israel during his first term. And the fact of the matter is, is that I
completely agree the president should not be taken new peace plan at this
point in time. What he needs to be doing is reaching to the Israeli
people. Never in the history of Israel has never been under so many
different threats from the region, from Syria, from Iran`s nuclear program,
for unstable Egypt. And I think what the Israeli people are looking for is
the personal assurance that I know the president can provide the Israeli
people that he has their back.
REID: Well, I mean, there has been polling that shows that Israelis don`t
necessarily believed that the president has a particularly favorable
attitude toward the country. There is a poll that shows that 33 percent
believe that the president`s attitude toward Israel is favorable, 14
percent say indifferent, 38 percent say hostile, 15 percent say other.
But, there really hasn`t been any difference in the president`s policies
toward Israel than any previous president. So, I`m not sure if that is a
function of maybe, the political sort of opposition to him and the way they
presented him. Because the reality, it seems to me, Congressman, is his
policies have been linear with the former president.
PATRICK MURPHY, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE: Exactly. I mean, he
has been there before as a Senator and now as Marc mentioned, you know, he
is coming as a president. This is important for him to show up and say we
are here for you and we do have your back as you said. But, it is
important to understand it takes that, you know, it takes two to tango. We
need the Israeli leadership and the Palestinian leadership to come
together. And if we are not going to come together, we can`t force that on
So, I think the president`s itinerary, when you look at, we needed both
sides, let them know that we want the peace process to happen. We want
them to come together and we want some type of settlement because, let`s
face it, the average family in Israel feels threatened. Their racket
attacks almost daily still. We need to make sure they have the security
that they need to keep their families safe.
I know, one part of the tour is also the iron dome. Looking how we partner
with them on a military side. I know when I was there talking to families
who are under that threat like Hafa and stuff, they will be reassured when
they see the president of the United States being there as our commander in
chief there to show that they are our closest ally in the Middle East.
REID: Rula, I mean, there is another side to the equation as well. I
mean, the president will also be meeting Mahmoud Abbas. And you know, the
Palestinians, on their side of not necessary felt that the U.S. has had
their back, not with this president but previously.
RULA JEBREAL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It is actually, I`m sorry, it is
ridiculous that we are talking about protecting one side of the equation
when, you know, when that side is occupying land and millions of people
under occupation. Israel has a choice today. The president tried so many
times to talk to them about two state solutions and they rejected it.
Netanyahu was pointing his finger in the face of the president and
When Biden was there, the vice president, last time, they announced on the
day of his arrival, that it would be more settlements and they would not
care for any plan that the U.S. administration would put in front of them.
And they were actually trying to put both sides in negotiation.
Today, we are facing one threat. And the threat is not actually the
missiles. The threat that Israel has to decide today, whether it is a
Jewish state or to give up the Jewish state because they will wake up one
morning and they will see that they are ruling over a majority of Arabs in
the land where they are controlling or it has to be non-territory state.
But, that means it was fixe solution that has to start now. Obama cannot
force the Israelis and Palestinians, but actually can advise the leadership
to think, not about the next election but the next generation because this
is a real threat.
MURPHY: Right. But, that`s why I said it takes two to tango. And that is
why we got done fighting another war in the Gaza Strip, you know, another
firefight. And we got, you know, both sides have to come together. And I
agree with you on the settlements. And you are absolutely right on the
facts there. But, it does take two to tango. And by this trip by saying
and being very clear, hey guys, --
REID: Let`s get David in.
DAVID HARRIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE: If I can come
in. First of all, as it happens, we took a trip to Israel, to the West
Bank and to Jordan. It was a kind of prelude to what the president is
going to do. And we met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and we met with
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and we met with King Abdullah. And I can tell
you first of all, they don`t view this as a photo opp. So, I think your
preface is not exactly how they see it in those regions.
What we heard is something else. We need the president in the region. In
Israel, we have the president in the region because we have a new
government. Because as Marc said, we have real regional concerns. And
what is going in Syria, what`s going on Iran, what`s going on in Egypt are
not to be dismissed. And the Israeli people who need to hear from the
president directly because until now, as Mark Twain (ph) once said about
the music of Richard Vaugner, the music is better than it sound. So, in
reality, the policies have been good but the Israelis haven`t fully in
control of the policy.
I think it is better if you allow me to not to focus on the past because if
we focus on the past, we are going too entangled in narrative --.
JEBREAL: That`s in the future. Not the past.
HARRIS: The past includes failed attempts by Israelis to engage in the
two-state agreement with two prime ministers beginning with there in Iraq
that I rather look forward. I think the president is coming at an
important time with important messages. And each of the three cities, it
is about more than a photo opp. It is about less than a rage of peace
plan, but it is about inspiring hope and confidence that there is a way to
REID: OK. I want to talk more about that because I think we need to talk
about the president and some of the conditions on the ground and the two
sides seem to be having very different discussions about what are the
priorities. And we will talk more about that when we come back.
He was the point man of the Middle East peace process under two
presidential administrations, Ambassador Dennis Ross joins us next.
REID: OK, I want to start right now with the verdict from judge Thomas
Lipps in the Steubenville, Ohio, trial. As for the defendant Trent Mayes,
a 17-year-old, star quarterback on Steubenville High School, the big red
football team and the team standout receiver, 16-year-old, Ma`lik Richmond.
The verdict is guilty.
So, I`m going to bring in Evangeline Gomez. She is the defense attorney
based on New Jersey, specializing in family law. She has been following
the Steubenville case.
Thank you very much, Angelique, we appreciate you for being here.
EVANGELINE GOMEZ, FAMILY LAW DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It is not surprising this
verdict. The state of Ohio`s law is very clear on this. If the victim
does not show any physical resistance, it doesn`t mean anything. It is
REID: Right. So, the point here is essentially that Mays was accused of
having sexual contact with the victim. And what had to be proved and so
did and Ma`lik as well, what had to be proved under Ohio law is she was
incapable of giving consent because she was incapacitated. That`s really,
ought that to have to be proven, is that correct.
GOMEZ: Exactly. But, if you remember, the defense made the argument that
that silence was consent which in fact, if you look at the law and you take
a logical step based on what I just said, that is not true at all. She
does not have to say no.
NBC News Ron Allen has covering been covering the Steubenville case. He
also is going to join us from the courthouse. Do we have Ron?
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I`m here, Joy.
REID: OK Ron, you are here.
OK. Ron, can you give us a little bit -- there were two counts actually
against one of the defendant, correct? Can you just read through the
counts for us? Were both defendants found guilty on all counts or was it a
ALLEN: No, there were three counts. And both defendants were found guilty
of the sexual assault or the rape charges. Trent Mays is also faced a
charge for distributing a nude picture of a minor, you essentially taken
pictures of the girl and distributed it around to friends and that he was
found guilty of that additional charges.
Well, remember, this is a juvenile case. So, we are not talking about
criminal charges. The judge said that he was struck by the profanity, by
the ugliness of what happened. You recall there were several eyewitnesses,
friends of the defendants, who said that they saw the boys attack the girl
in the backseat of the car and then both of them later on the basement
floor at a home during the night of alcohol-fueled partying. So, there was
There are also a series of text messages. The prosecutors said that they
essentially retrieved hundreds of thousands of text messages from about 17
different phones and mobile devices from the teenagers at these parties
were using that night to say what had happened to talk about what happened.
And the judge seemed to be clearly upset by what he had read. He said that
this was also a sad commentary of alcohol and underage drinking; something
that people should take notice of in the community.
But the bottom line is that the defendants were found guilty and they were
essentially sent away to a juvenile detention center immediately where they
will serve until they are 21. They also have to register as sex offenders.
It is unclear if that carries on past their 21st birthday, one is 16 and
one is 17. So, this is going to mark them for some very significant years
of their lives.
REID: So just to clarify, Ron, there is no separate sentencing in this
case. It is essentially proceeds directly from the guilty verdict to an
automatic sentence until they are 21?
ALLEN: It`s done. It`s done. Again, this is a juvenile proceeding. It
is a much more stream lined, if you will, simple process. There was no
jury. There was a juvenile judge. Thomas Lipps was or actually a retired
judge who was brought in from another part of Ohio to preside over this
You recall that there was a lot of concern over conflicts of interest here
because these two boys played for the local high school football team, the
beloved football team, the big red, which is a huge institution of force in
this town. So, everybody here has some connection to the high school
football team. They played at a stadium that seat 10,000 people. The town
is just 18,000 people. That gives you some idea of this import. As a
matter of fact, the original prosecutor in the case was removed because her
son plays on the same football team.
So, the state attorney general prosecuted the case. An outside judge was
brought in to eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest. So, that
is why this was done as it was. It was a very stream lined proceeding,
very efficient. They conducted it over the weekend to accommodate the
judge`s schedule. But, there is also some speculation that there was a
real strong interest of trying to do this as efficiently, as quickly as
possible to get this community past this incident. It has rebutted
consumed this community.
There were dozens of teenagers involved that night. The testimony revealed
that there was a lot of drinking going on at private homes. There was no
of any -- little adult supervision. People are wondering where would the
adults, where were the parents.
And there is the question still remaining of whether there will be more
participants at those parties charged in connection with the case. Three
witnesses were given immunity for their testimony. But, there were other
witnesses there who saw things and people who took pictures and did not
report this crime.
REID: Hold on a second, Ron. We are going to listen to the judge now. We
do have sound from the judge so give us on second. Stay with us and we are
going to listen to the judge now,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS LIPPS, OHIO JUDGE: Throughout the trial, the court is able to view
the demeanor of the witnesses, judge their credibility and weigh the
evidence presented to the court. The court has done so in this case and it
is the court`s decision that both of the defendants are here by adjudicated
delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt on all three counts as charged. For
those of you who are not familiar with the adjudication of delinquency, it
is similar to a finding of guilty in an adult court. Do you understand,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: OK. I want to bring Evangeline Gomez back in.
Evangeline, were you surprised that how quickly this case wrapped? I mean,
literally closing arguments took placed yesterday and we got a verdict in
less than 24 hours.
GOMEZ: Yes. It definitely stands out. But, there are reports that the
reason why the judge had to move so quickly was because this was a judge
that was brought in. Not the original judge in the court. And so, the
reports that are out there are saying that he came in with the
understanding that he was going to have this case wrapped up so he could
return to his regular docket and conduct his other cases.
REID: OK. And I want to thank you, Evangeline Gomez. We really
appreciate you being here in New York on short notice and also Ron Allen
for your reporting.
And when we come back, we are going to return to our conversation about the
president`s trip to the Middle East and bring in Ambassador Dennis Ross.
So, please stay with us.
REID: The road toward a settlement with Israel and the Palestinians has
been paved with good intentions and failed deals. As we discussed,
President Obama`s trip to the region this week, I want to include a man who
has been at the negotiation table for decades.
So, joining us from Washington, D.C., is Ambassador Dennis Ross. He was
the U.S. point man on the peace process between the Israelis and
Palestinians doing both with George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton
administration. He is also a former assistant to then secretary of state
Hillary Clinton and is now our counselor at the Washington Institute for
(INAUDIBLE) police and an NBC News/ MSNBC Middle East diplomacy analyst.
That`s a big long title, Ambassador Ross. Thank you for being here with
AMBASSADOR DENNIS ROSS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL MIDDLE EAST COUNCILOR:
Nice to be with you. Thank you.
REID: So, given your experience, I mean, just calculate for us the level
of complete frustration and cynicism within the region and within the
United States about whether or not it is possible to proceed toward a peace
deal with Israel and the Palestinians.
ROSS: Well, I think we have to put this in some perspective. We are in
the 20th year since the beginning of the Oslo process. You showed in your
opening, you were showing the different photo ops and you showed
specifically the September 13th, 1993 handshake at the White House that
Bill Clinton orchestrated. Now, that basically that`s 20 years ago. So,
on both sides, there`s a high degree of cynicism and disbelief. And if you
are going to try to preserve and approach a two-state outcome, you have to
find a way to re-establish the belief on both sides.
One of the problems that exist today is at each side questions
fundamentally whether the other is prepared to contemplate and follow
through on producing a two-state outcome. If we can`t deal with that and
again, let`s understand this is taking place in a context where the region
is in complete upheaval. It is very easy to focus on the threat that Iran
represents. It is very easy to look at everything that is happening in
Syria which is blight on the international conscious. There is the Arab
wakening in Egypt and Egypt looks increasingly unstable. And into this
broad mix, we then have the disbelief that relates to Israelis and
So, if you are going to make an effort on this issue, which I believe we
need to, if you are going to do that, it has to be very well considered and
you cannot launch a big initiative that is going to fail which simply
cement the disbelief and make a two state outcome even less likely.
REID: Well, Ambassador Ross, you mentioned Syria. You mentioned Iran. Is
there a sense and maybe it is my sense, that the external events intrude on
the ability of either side to focus. Israel wants the United States to
focus on Iran, to focus on those external threats and to have that be the
primary discussion with the United States. The Palestinians wants the
United States to focus specifically on their territorial inhibitions. Is
that part of the reason that we can`t get to a solution in part because
Israel really want to focus externally much more than a hone in on this
process right now?
ROSS: Well, I think that is a factor. But, I would say even on the
Palestinians side, the Palestinians have a big problem, too, because they
don`t control all of their territory, at least in what they would claim to
be the Palestinian state. Gaza is controlled by Hamas. So eve, for the
Palestinians, if you are of Hamas and you are looking out at negotiation,
you are very worried to go into the negotiation, you can think it is not
going to succeed and how will Hamas exploit this and if you were to make
concessions would there be a backlash from Hamas that is orchestrated and
makes it very difficult to proceed?
The environment makes it both more difficult for both sides. But, I would
also say paradoxically because everyone else in the region is focused
elsewhere, ironically, it actually creates some space for the two leaders
if they were prepared to try to do something. But here again, if they are
going to try to do something, there has to be a higher level of confidence
if they are going to succeed.
REID: OK. And last question to you, Ambassador Ross. How cynical are you
about the prospect for Middle East? Do you really believe that in our
lifetime or that this trip will do anything to advance the profits for a
lasting peace in the region?
ROSS: Well, first, I`m a congenital optimism. You could not be working on
this kind of an issue the way I have for the last 30 years unless you are
always convinced that something can be done. A, I`m motivated to believe
that way. And B, I don`t think there is no alternative that is acceptable.
So, I think the short answer to your question is I don`t think this trip is
going to produce a break through, but this trip is very important. There
is a public dimension to the trip that relates to how the president
connects with the Israeli public, but also as he addresses the Palestinians
and Jordanians, there is a private dimension to this trip that deals with
Iran, Syria, the Arab wakening, but also the peace issue. And when the
president says he is going to listen, the point of listening is to
determine what are the ideas of each sides of this point, not just what can
the United States offer, but what are the ideas of each sides, how can we
take those ideas and build some kind of common basis on which to proceed.
REID: All right.
Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate you being here, Ambassador
Dennis Ross in Washington, D.C. We are going to take a quick break. And
when we come back, I will bring my panel back in to discussion. And, we
will also talk about how Iran makes this all even more complicated.
REID: Ahead on this week`s trip to Israel, President Obama spoke to
Israel`s "channel 2 TV" where he was inevitably asked about Iran`s nuclear
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually
develop a nuclear weapon. But obviously, we don`t want to cut it too
close. If we can resolve it diplomatically, that is a more lasting
solution. But if not, I continue to keep all options on the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Now, what the president reiterated his pledge with Iran over the
nuclear energy program. His statement clashes with Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu`s beliefs that military intervention and soon is the
likely way for with Iran.
Earlier last month, tougher sanctions against Iran took effect as the U.S.
Treasury department added penalties for those aiding Iranian industries.
And yet, the question of how close Iran is to nuclear capability has been a
source of tension with Obama and Netanyahu and will likely or certainly be
an important and difficult conversation when the president is in Jerusalem
later this week.
On that subject of Iran, we were talking a bit before the break about
whether the Iran question becomes a distraction from the Palestinian
question. I want to play some sound from vice president Joe Biden. Let`s
start with that, right? Vice president Joe Biden is talking about the Iran
sanctions and sort of reiterating the seriousness of the United States when
it comes to Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The big nations can`t
bluff and presidents of the United States cannot and do not bluff. And
President Barack Obama is not bluffing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So Rula, I`m going to start with you with you. This is the posture
the United States has taken toward Iran. This is sort of the most often
repeated sort of talking point from the United States when we are talking
about the Israeli peace process.
So, is it the destruction? Are we moving past the discussion of Israeli
and Palestinian and Iran becoming sort of the look over here kind of
distraction from the point?
JEBREAL: It is both actually. The government and Netanyahu made it clear
from day one that their platform doesn`t include any negotiation with the
Palestinians. They don`t even see the Palestinians. They built a wall
around them. They don`t want to handle that issue. And it is a tragedy.
It is not tragedy for the Palestinians only; it is the tragedy for Israelis
because as I said they have to give up one of the two things. Either their
Jewish identity because the majority in 2025 will be Palestinians or they
have to give up the democracy of the state. I mean, it has to become an
apartheid state. And we saw the failure of that model. The problem with
Iran and, you know, the challenge to even Netanyahu doesn`t come from
Netanyahu. It comes from actually security apparatus who came out as the
head of the Mousad (ph) near the gun (INAUDIBLE) and many others. So, Iran
is far from getting the nuclear bomb. And we can stop them without
actually real intervention.
Cyber attacks that are taking place over and over in Iran, the killing, who
is killing all these scientists and many other things. The sanctions are
hammering the Iranian actually economy. And to focus on Iran, for Benjamin
Netanyahu, he is waving the threat to the audience. So, he can gather more
support. In the meanwhile, what he is doing, he is appointing one of the
worst guys, (INAUDIBLE) as the head of the housing as administer of the
housing and infrastructure. The man that tells you from day one, I will
build in the areas, area E1, which the area that connects western bank with
Jerusalem. Giving, you know, breaking the last hope for a two-state
solution. There is no two-state solution anymore.
REID: So, I mean, is Iran a genuine threat or distraction from the point
of the actually peace process?
GINSBERG: Look. It is a genuine threat to Israel. There is no doubt that
from the Ayatollah down, there has been a consistent ongoing war both South
Terrain and a direct war of words in support of terrorism against Israel.
Israelis feel that. Part of the purpose of the trip for the president is
not merely to say to Israel we care about the Iran nuclear program. It is
to convince Israelis that with American support, they can take the
courageous steps necessary for peace knowing the United States is behind
their support. And the fact of the matter is that we will not get move on
the Palestinian question unless the Israelis themselves, the public
themselves feel that they have the security of the United States completely
to take those risks for peace.
I have known that ever since Camp David one. This is why the president`s
connection with the Israeli public is so essential. And the work of groups
on the ground to continue to nurture a Palestinian-Israeli peace were
essentials to incubate this while the president winds up his ducks once
REID: And Marc, Jeffrey Goldberg has written that the three reasons that
the president is going to the Middle East is to quiet on why haven`t you
gone to Israel mean in the United States to bond with the Israeli public to
build of the credibility of the U.S. in making a peace or talk and being
able to talk tough to Netanyahu`s government and Iran, to essentially send
a message to Iran that U.S. has bonded with Israel. So, it sounds to me to
like none of the purpose of the trip were about actual Middle East peace.
It does seem in a sense like it is a sign - it is a conversation that takes
us off the point.
HARRIS: I think it is about more than one thing. Look, it is about Iran.
And it is not just about Iran because of Israel. Let`s be clear.
All of us who visited the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf know that what
is at the top of their agenda, of their agenda is not Israel. It is Iran.
It is the challenge between Shiite and Sunni Islam. It is the American
interest not to allow Iran to get the bomb, not just the Israeli interests.
Do we want to trigger a new nuclear arms race in this region? We don`t.
So, I think the president is exactly right in the way he is approaching
Iran. And I think that is much less difference between Netanyahu and Obama
than was suggested a few moments ago. In fact, that they see things pretty
much the same way. Number one, the president said no to containment and
yes to prevention of Iran. Number two, he has said, yes to diplomacy. But
not diplomacy that is open-ended. Diplomacy that has limitations, and
diplomacy that comes with sanctions that tell Iranians you cannot run out
the clock. And number three, we, the United States, have to have a
credible military option that says to Iranians that we`re not bluffing.
Don`t mislead us.
And I believe that that credible military option, ironically, is the
likeliest way we are to get to a peaceful settlement. People like Patrick
Murphy who have served in the region know, we don`t want to get involved in
another conflict. I don`t believe that Israeli wants to get involved in
another conflict. But it is not a distraction. When Iranian leaders
against the back drop of Jewish history talk about the elimination of the
Jewish state, we`re obligated, I believe, to take that threat very
MURPHY: I mean, it is like, Joy, it is like a chess game. I mean, here
you have Iran which we don`t want in our interests to get a nuclear weapon.
But we are - and so, the common Americans say why do we care so much?
Well, the point is that if we can`t take them out, Israel can`t do it
themselves. So, we are intertwine with our soldier ally in the Middle
East. So, we don`t want that to happen. That is why diplomacy is so
important which is als0 to his point earlier that this not just a photo op.
This is three days of the president of the United States going there with,
and then as a follow through, the new secretary of state put this on top of
his agenda to see what he can do and try to find some type of solution here
because we can`t let it go to nuclear weapon. We don`t want to start
another war in the region.
JEBREAL: But, we don`t want another Iraq. We have to be sure. You know,
the tenth anniversary of Iraq is now. We have to be sure today, more than
ever that the reason for the war ten years earlier that was weapons of mass
destruction did not exist. Today, that all against, the public opinion
both in America, internationally, needs to be sure there is actually --
HARRIS: Rula, this is not about the United States.
REID: Let`s let David talk.
HARRIS: This is about the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA
that has said repeatedly they have profound suspicions about the Iranian
program and they believe it is defense oriented. Let`s also remember that
Iran is supporting the carnage in Syria. While Dennis Rolls (ph) called
earlier that flight of the international community, Syria has been an
Iranian proxy. And let`s remember that Hamas and Hezbollah are also --
REID: Wait. We`ll have more on this. I know you have lots more to say.
But, we are actually thanking David. And I do want to make a quick point
that the IAEA also was pretty firm on the idea that Iraq did not have
nuclear weapons and the United States chose to ignore it and when it is
Iraq anyway, I think, the concern --
HARRIS: So, are we concluded therefore that going forward, every
assessment is therefore flawed fundamentally because one assessment was
flawed. The international community, the British, the French, the Germans,
the Israelis, the Americans and the IAEA, together.
HARRIS: Agree on the military aspects of the Iranian program that have to
REID: And then, I think that unfortunately, it is going to have be the
last word in the segment. We have run out of time. I want to thank you,
David Harris. The rest are staying with more.
And when we come back, ten years after the war in Iraq began, the new
report showing how it all adds up.
REID: The Iraq war has a birthday this week. One which seems very few
people are celebrating either here in America or notably in Iraq itself.
But, let`s first look at some of the things after ten years after it was
launched on March 19th, 2003, we can assess about the war to overthrow
First, 12 years. That is how long we have gone with the wars Hussein`s
Iraq. Fifty to $60 billion, that is how much the Bush administration
predicted the war in Iraq would cost.
After five years in 2008, the pentagon already placed the worth price tag
at about $600 billion. $600 billion, and that`s only a little more than
halfway through this war. That`s the lion`s share of an estimated $750
billion appropriated by Congress for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and
other fronts from the quote/unquote, "global war on terror." Seventy
percent of that, Nerdland, came not from the pentagon`s budget, but from
supplemental or emergency appropriations according to the non-partisan
Now, again, that`s just up through to 2008. The war did not officially end
until December 15th 2011. The day the American flag was lowered in Baghdad
making the Iraq conflict a war lasting eight years and eight months and
three weeks and four days.
And after all that, you got the check, America, in the amount of $823
billion and change. That`s what the bill came to up through 2011. Even
that might be under estimating things. What we might end up paying for the
Iraq war and military activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan might end up
closer to, get this, just under $4 trillion. According to costs of war, a
research project by brown university`s Watson Institute for international
studies. Adding $1.4 trillion to the national debt and costing the average
American taxpayer about $4,000 per person.
Interest payments could increase the overall cost even more. And what
about the economy in Iraq, 23 percent, that is as high the unemployment
rate was last year by the cost of war project.
2.8 million Iraqis were either displaced from their homes inside the
country or have since fled. That is one out of every 12 Iraqi, one out of
every 12. A hundred and thirty four thousand Iraqi civilians have been
killed from the violence since the war beginning. And that figure swells
to 330,000 deaths when you include American and ally soldiers, civilians,
journalists, contractors and more, all killed through February of this year
in connection to the activity in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And for
what? Saddam Hussein? Weapons of mass destruction that did not exist?
There are no guaranteed that I, or my guests have the answers. But, we
will look back at the Iraq war and look forward next.
REID: Ten years ago yesterday, vice president Dick Cheney appeared on
NBC`s "Meet the Press." He and the rest of the Bush administration were
set to launch the Iraq war in a few days. But, he was already confident
how it would turn out. He was confident how our president and others would
be perceived by the people of the country we are about to invade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think things
have gotten so bad inside Iraq from the standpoint of the Iraqi people.
And my belief is we will in fact be greeted as liberators. And the
president has made it very clear that our purpose there is if we`re forced
to do this, we will in fact be a stand-up government that is representative
of the Iraqi people, hopefully Democratic, do respect for human rights.
And it obviously involves a major commitment by the United States. But we
think it is a commitment worth making.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: If your analysis is not correct and we are
treated as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist particularly in
Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly
and bloody battle with a significant American casualties?
CHENEY: I don`t think it will be unfolding that way, Tim because I really
do believe we will be greater as liberators.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Vice president Cheney was, of course, wrong, as he in his colleagues
were about those weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein supposedly
had and about the potential to build a nuclear arms arsenal which could
turn into a mushroom cloud. We do remember that.
And while unnecessary war may seem like an obvious, even overused moniker
for what most people now believed was out misadventure in Iraq, it is the
best way to describe this destructive deadly debacle that this country
entered into based purely on lies.
So, what do we make of the aftermath? Joining me are Rula Jebreal of
"Newsweek," former White House Middle East Advisor Marc Ginsberg, former
U.S. representative Patrick Murphy, the first Iraq war veteran to serve in
the United States Congress and Iraqi American Andy Shallal, a peace
activist and the owner of the popular Washington, D.C., restaurants, bust
boys and poets.
I`m going to have to go and visit there when next I`m in D.C.
Thank you all for joining us.
And I do want to start on this side of the table. I want to start with
You served in the Iraq war. I remember talking to people during the time.
I was in local news and talking to family members, relatives of local
troops there who almost, you know, basically believed they were in Iraq
because of 9/11. When you were there, why did you think you were in Iraq?
MURPHY: Well, the people like myself and others thought they were there
because the administration from Dick Cheney, the George Bush, everyone
said, we were there for two reasons. One, the connection to 9/11 and two,
that they had weapons of mass destruction.
Both of those were false. There was a reckless arrogance from the Bush
administration that put our men and women in harm`s way. And you know
what, Joy, when I was there as a paratrooper with the 82nd airborne
division, the fact is that I lost 19 men in my unit because of those
reckless mistakes, strategic colossal mistakes of the Bush administration.
And it goes to the point of no one has been held accountable.
And it breaks my heart when I think about the over 4,400 American lives
that were lost and over 100,000 Iraqi lives that were lost because of that
REID: No. And Andy, that is the point, I think, that drives a lot of us
crazy. The fact that we did this that say we were told essentially was
because of 9/11 and they could deliver nuclear capability which is
impossible anyway. They did not have a delivery system, things that should
have been assessed more clearly.
But for Iraqis, they seem to have been an afterthought in the consequences
of who paid a price. We do talk about our price, but what about the price
ANDY SHALLAL, PEACE ACTIVIST: Well, the price is, they are still paying
for it today, obviously. If we look at ten years ago, most Iraqis will
tell you today that they were better off ten years ago than they are today.
And that is pretty devastating statement because ten years ago, that`s
probably won the lowest moments in Iraq`s recent history. Iraq had gone
through a horrible dictatorship for many, many decades. It had gone
through the war with Iran that lasted for eight years and devastated the
country. It went through the first gulf war which devastated the
infrastructure and of course, the sanctions that lasted for ten years and
ended up killing about a half a million children according to the U.N.
And let`s be clear here about sanctions, because I heard you earlier
talking about Iran and sanctions. Sanctions are like carpet bombing. They
affect the individuals, the people. Not the government. The government
continues to do whatever they do, but the people are the ones that are
still affected and affected today in Iraq.
REID: No, absolutely. I mean, we went in the country and we heard Dick
Cheney in the sound bite talking about we are going to go in and hopefully
stand up a government that was going to be representative of Iraqi people.
But, no one ever asked the Iraqi people would you like us to come in and
change your government? It just was done at our own behest. I mean, I
don`t even know how do we process that? I mean, how do we process, Marc,
the idea that the United States government can, on its own, make a decision
to change someone else`s government?
GINSBERG: Look. The fact of the matter is this was a war of choice. And
for those of us who essentially were bred the propaganda by Dick Cheney and
Colin Powell, and let me reiterate -- Collin Powell was the person who went
before the United Nations and said to the court of world public opinion
that he, Saddam Hussein, had weapons of mass destruction. He was the one
that added the moniker of credibility to what is essentially this neo-
Those of us who watched this can only say one thing. What you did was
unleash a Pandora`s box that has inflicted more harmony Iraqi people and
opened the Iran to the very type of aggressive designs in the region that
Saddam Hussein, for one sense of purpose is a blocked.
REID: Right. And when we come back, I want to ask -- we are going to have
more about this. And I want to specifically ask you about what the Iraq
war and the United States decision to promulgate it did to the way the rest
of the world looks at us and our credibility.
So, stay with us. When we come back, the one thing that former President
Bush still refuses to say.
More Nerdland at the top of the hour.
REID: Welcome back. I`m Joy Reid, in for MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY.
You may have seen the documentary "Hubris", about the buildup to the Iraq
war here on MSNBC which our colleague Rachel Maddow hosted recently. It
re-airs and also it re-airs this Friday at 9:00 Eastern.
And in it, you`ll see the "Today" show`s Matt Lauer ask President George W.
Bush this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Was there any consideration of apologizing to the
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I mean apologizing mean that the
decision was a wrong decision. I don`t believe it was a wrong decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: There are no signs on the horizon that an apology from the Iraq war
is coming to the American people for those who got us into it 10 years ago
this week. Whether or not an American apology would help our understanding
abroad is another matter.
With me at the table are Rula Jebreal of "Newsweek", former White House
Middle East adviser Marc Ginsberg, former U.S. Representative Patrick
Murphy, the first Iraq war veteran to serve in the United States Congress,
and Iraqi-American, Andy Shallal, a peace activist and the owner of the
popular Washington, D.C. restaurant and our future dinner venue, Busboys,
And I was asking you before we went to break, Rula, how the Iraq war and
just the certitude of the Bush administration in going into it, and then
the obvious lies that were exposed not long afterwards, how did that alter
the way the rest of the world views this country, even after Bush?
JEBREAL: Well, it was considered an illegal war because suddenly, they
wanted to bypass the United Nation. They wanted to shove it in the throat
of the international committee. Remember, France --
REID: They were punishing people who wouldn`t get involved.
JEBREAL: Even journalists around the world were criticizing and saying,
don`t go into that war because you will break and the equilibrium between
Shiites and Sunnis. They wouldn`t not only listen, they were threatening
us, like, oh, you`re supporting terrorist and other group.
In the just world, Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, will be hand over
to The Hague tomorrow. Not only an apology, would be hand over to The
Hague, because they are criminals. And they took an entire country into a
Today, the Americans were invading Iraq, another invasion was starting,
Iran. Iranians were invading in that same moment. And who won that war?
It`s the Iranians today, because if anybody look at the region and the
composition of the region, who is controlling today Iraq? The Iranians.
They are bypassing the sanctions through Iraq and they are helping the
Syrian regime slaughter their own people.
And isn`t that the irony? I mean, that`s the irony, is that you had a
majority Shiite government in Iran. In Iraq, you had a Sunni government
that was essentially controlling them, containing them. By going in there,
we did -- we broke the relationship between Iraq and Iran.
JEBREAL: Exactly, and the problem, when you look at the perspective for
the future, we installed a government al-Maliki and other government and we
said, oh, this is the democratic-elected government. And this is today the
government that supports and gives weapons to Bashar al-Assad and to
Hezbollah in Lebanon, and we totally altered the whole equilibrium.
For the American people, the cost was even higher. In terms of credibility
and anti-Americanism in the region. After Abu Ghraib, you couldn`t travel
as an American. You were ashamed. When that journalist took his shoe and
threw it at George W. Bush, it represented the way the world, especially
the Arab Muslim world saw America and its president.
REID: Right. And, Patrick, I mean, you as a soldier there, were you aware
-- did you feel at the time contemporaneously when you were in Iraq, there
was absolutely no greeting us? That the people didn`t want us. How
quickly did you realize we are not here to liberate these people, we`re
occupying these people?
MURPHY: It was the first memorial service with the guys I served with over
there, where you had the combat boots and rifle with the helmet on top. It
happened too many times.
And what infuriates me, so much, Joy, is the fact that it looks like the
same folks who are responsible are the same ones cheerleading for us to go
into Syria. For us to say let`s bomb Iran. It`s many because the history
of our country is that we have a strong military, which we always should
have. But we are the reluctant warriors.
You know, to think about, because of this strategically, because of the
counterbalance to Iran used to be Iraq. And now, Iraq is basically in bed
with Iran. And now, Iran is supporting and Iraq is complicit in that
support over in Syria. It`s hurting us and hurting us and hurting us.
And like you said, there is no one even apologizing for what happened.
We`re not even learning the lessons that we should have learned.
SHALLAL: I think the Iraqi people need more than an apology. They need a
lot of reparations. The country has been devastated. There has been so
much money poured into the country, you would think the place should be
REID: But we were told Iraq should pay for its own liberation. Do you
remember that --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Wolfowitz.
REID: It`s own rebuilding.
SHALLAL: There are tons of projects that are half finished. A lot of it
is, it`s money that is being embezzled. It`s money that`s being paid off
through this corrupt government, al-Maliki, that`s taking place now.
Sectarianism like what I said is at all time high, which was never really
was that high during Saddam Hussein`s time.
Unemployment is ridiculous. It`s over 25 percent anecdotally speaking.
And the government doesn`t want to talk about it. They don`t even put out
reports on unemployment.
Food is there, but no one can afford it. The middle class has been
You mentioned earlier at the top of the hour that there were 2.8 million
refugees. Those are internally displaced. That doesn`t count the people
that are outside country.
SHALLAL: And the war right now in Syria, a lot of those people that had
moved in Syria now are having to move back and they`re staying in refugee
camps. Those are vulnerable populations that don`t have security, that
don`t have shelter, that don`t have food, that don`t have any homes over
GINSBERG: One of the things that is so important for us to understand in
the context of what this has done for the foreign policy and what it has
done to the American`s people perception of our role abroad. The fact of
the matter is, is that the dangers the American people now face are even
more considerably harmful to American`s attitudes towards military
involvement because of Iraq.
What Iraq essentially did was it expended our treasury and put our young
men and women in harm`s way in a way where they themselves, and their
parents and families and all of the communities around this country are
reluctant to essentially believe our government faces the types of threats
we may indeed face in the future.
When I stop and think about when I went to Iraq to visit twice and saw the
young men and women who volunteered as Patrick said after 9/11, thinking
they were doing the right thing and now, as a result, our standing in the
Middle East is far lower that it has been. It has enhanced Iran`s statue.
Americans weren`t respect in the region. Both in the Sunni and Shiite
countries in the Middle East are not longer what it used to be as Rula
Even in Israeli, where we originally begun our conversation, Israelis are
concerned that because of what happened to us in Iraq, we would not be
prepared to get involved in a war of choice, but war of necessity. And
that`s a difference.
JEBREAL: And it shouldn`t actually.
And let`s remember also the programs of torturing.
JEBREAL: I mean, the United States was stood out for the right values and
whole world would fall in love with those values, freedom, democracy,
dignity and accountability. Suddenly, we are seeing the United States
torturing people, taking pictures of dead bodies and urinating on people
and abusing them sexually and all kinds of ways and saying, this is who we
SHALLAL: The people that exposed that torture are the ones that are facing
the consequences. Private Bradley and John Kiriakou are in jail today,
while Dick Cheney and George Bush are outside.
REID: I have to ask the former congressman, what is broken and wrong in
Congress given all we talked about, all of the blackening of the name of
the United States, all the torture, the lies just going in, what is wrong
in Congress that there`s been absolutely nothing, no assessment. I mean,
you look at the hysteria over Benghazi, as tragic as that was. You look at
this zeal to maybe do it again in Iran.
Why no consequences? Why nothing from Congress?
MURPHY: Because most of Americans, including Congress, don`t have skin in
the game. It`s less than 1 percent of our men and women serving over
there. And the ones who serve over there or serve in Congress, and when
you look at Congress right now, it`s only about 20 percent of military
experience. Forty years ago, over 75 percent had military experience.
And it`s usually the military, people like General Petraeus, which are
outspoken against torture. It`s the military that`s saying, like General
Shinseki before the Iraq war, hey, if we`re going to do this, we need
several hundred thousand troops.
MURPHY: And there was a civilian leadership of President Bush and Paul
Wolfowitz, oh, the general doesn`t know what he`s talking about. He`s off
MURPHY: That guy has lost his foot in Vietnam. That guy was the highest
ranking army officer and the civilian leadership and the Bush
administration completely disregarded his professional opinion. And we
paid the cost of that.
REID: And it shouldn`t -- it shouldn`t be lost on anyone that the person
who was most zealous about going into Iraq was Dick Cheney, who had better
things to do when his country called him on Vietnam.
MURPHY: Four deferments.
I want to thank everybody. I want to thank Rula Jebreal and Ambassador
Ginsberg and Andy Shallal. Former Congressman Murphy is staying with us.
And a quick programming note, you must tune in to watch "Hubris: The
Selling of the Iraq War" hosted by Rachel Maddow this coming Friday, March
22nd, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on MSNBC.
And coming up next, we`re going to switch gears a little bit and talk about
some other bad guys, the Koch brothers, and also somebody you may or may
not think is a bad guy, Mike Bloomberg, and more. It`s the billionaire
takeover and the preview of the incredible, incredible new documentary
REID: We are moving on now to talk politics and poker. Because you see
playing poker, especially political poker, can be quite a gamble. Take
Charles and David Koch. They played a major role bet in the 2012
presidential election and lost a big hand.
And just because the chips are down doesn`t mean the billionaires are about
to fold. In the January 2013 Koch companies "Discovery" newsletter,
Charles Koch addressed the next steps after November`s disappointment,
telling employees, "As a company, we are committed to doing what is right
in every aspect of our business. That`s why we will continue to do
everything we can to persuade politicians to put what is good for the
country first before it is late."
Oh, yes, ladies and gentlemen. It appears that the Koch brothers are not
bluffing and not only are they going all in, trying to persuade politicians
to adopt their far right vision, they may be raising the stakes in another
On Tuesday, "L.A. Weekly" reported that the Koch brothers may bid on the
Tribune Company newspaper group. That would include "The Los Angeles
Times", and "The Chicago Tribune", the "Baltimore Sun", "Sun Sentinel of
South Florida," "The Orlando sentinel," "The Hartford Courant," "The
Morning Call" and "The Daily Press."
That`s a whole lot of print real estate, with editorial pages to spread the
Koch political message. Now, while various reports say the Kochs could
face tough competition from the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Charles and David
are each worth about $34 billion. So, they -- if they wanted the papers,
they have the bankroll to make it happen.
In typical Koch fashion, they have neither confirmed nor denied the rumor.
And why should they? In the game of poker, the house ultimately wins. And
in this case, the Koch brothers are the house.
So, if they choose to extend their empire into the print world and continue
persuading politicians, they may wind up improving their already formidable
At the table now, Lee Fang, contributing writer to "The Nation" magazine,
who`s written extensively on the Koch brothers, Zephyr Teachout, associate
professor of law at Fordham University, Errol Louis, host of New York 1`s
"Inside City Hall. And staying with us, former Democratic Congressman
I`ve got to go to the person with the coolest name first, Zephyr, you are
going to get the first question.
I mean, listen, we are talking about a political gamble in which the Kochs
have already played. And they didn`t really do well in the last election.
They spent a lot of money hoping to unseat President Barack Obama and it
So, what`s the incentive for them to keep going?
ZEPHYR TEACHOUT, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: If you look at what they are doing to
try to do is buy the policy debate as opposed to individual candidates,
there`s no major policy debates that I can think in which they didn`t
actually really frame the question. So, their return on investment, if you
wanted to talk about that way, was actually quite high.
And I think there`s a danger in thinking about them as ideologues. I mean,
what I see is that they are seeking power, that they`re really trying to
consolidate power. But they`re not just trying to persuade people.
They`re actually trying to increase how much money and control they have
over the society.
REID: But, Lee, if we look at it that way, I mean, the ultimate would have
been the White House and they failed in that.
I mean, is it -- is Zephyr right? Are the Koch brothers after shaping the
society more to their liking, having their sort of conservative libertarian
policy kind of invade the public space, more people agree with it? Or they
just want raw people to just implement it, whether people agree with it, or
LEE FANG, THE NATION: Well, sure, the Koch brothers are unique among many
billionaires and wealthy corporations. They like to get involved in
politics, because they spread their money out in a very unique way. Their
philanthropy headquarters in Washington, D.C., has the same thing as their
lobbying headquarters. Koch public sector, the head of that is also the
guy in charge of handing out Koch charitable grants to all these at least
60 different conservative non-profit and different think tanks.
So, it`s kind of difficult to divorce the two when the Heritage Foundation
or another Koch-founded think tank is pushing global warming-denying, or
trying to attack the EPA. That`s the same thing that Koch`s K Street
lobbies are doing at the same time because it kind of comes back to the
same similar agenda.
REID: And I do get the sense that they are actually trying to infiltrate
the mind set. I mean, they`re endowing university professorships. They`re
trying to infiltrate sort of the university systems. I mean, if they were
able to also get, let`s say, a newspaper beachhead and then they also had
these university systems, doesn`t that give you the sense that they want
more than the pieces in Washington? They want the whole country to shift
in their direction?
MURPHY: They really do, Joy, and they are really doubling down on their
bet. And it`s just a broad grasp of power. And you look at on the other
side, on the Democratic side. Listen, I`m a senior fellow at the Center
for American Progress, a great think tank and advocacy branch. While, the
Heritage, which is our competitor, is three times the size of CAP and all
of these other branches.
So, they are putting their money where their policies are. That is
outsourcing American jobs and basically starting unnecessary wars. And we
can`t afford that as a country. It is bad policy and it`s bad politics,
and it`s going to hurt the average American family.
REID: But you know what, Errol? The question I have is whether or not
they actually win elections with their money. Haven`t the Kochs already
been kind of successful because we are pretty much on their territory? We
are talking about deficits and debt. We are not talking poverty. We`re
not talking about jobs. We`re not talking about growth. We are talking
about tax cuts, tax policy and debt. That`s where they want to be.
ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK 1: Well, I don`t know if I would give them that much
credit for the change in the debate. Changing the debate, I would date
that back to 1980, in that presidential race when Ronald Reagan came to the
But you know, before we all panic too much, I would say, just looking at
what happened to the CPAC. conference over the last few days, this is sort
like -- look, the money is like jet fuel. So, there`s a lot of jet fuel
out there. On the other hand, they are having fist fights outside the
cockpit over who should be flying the plane and they don`t know where they
want to go necessarily.
So, I don`t know if we should be prepared to acknowledge that there`s going
to be a total takeover. And you worked at newspapers and I worked at
newspapers. You can own a newspaper and you can change the editorial page.
But it`s kind of hard to herd the rest of the cats. The reporters that are
out there trying to serve an audience that is expecting traffic and weather
and news and what really what happened at city hall.
And, again, I would say it`s probably too early to panic. I mean, Rupert
Murdoch once owned "The Village Voice."
LOUIS: He bought it back in the 1970s.
LOUIS: And they won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981.
REID: Right. A lot of people are giving a side out to "The Wall Street
Journal", though, anyway, saying that he has kind of herd the cat in one
FANG: A year ago, when this guy -- a wealthy developer in San Diego --
bought "The San Diego Times Tribune." "Union Tribune", excuse me. He took
the editorials that became very partisan, very ideological and moved them
to the front page. They looked like news. So --
REID: And the thing is that the Kochs aren`t the only ones that are in
this game, right? You`ve got the big players like the Bradley Foundation,
people who don`t get as much ink. The Kochs really sort of the public face
of this, but there`s a lot of this money swirling around, especially on the
TEACHOUT: Well, I think there`s something really interesting that`s
happening here, that you have a Supreme Court that has a somewhat sort of
fetishistic relationship to the First Amendment. So that anything, if you
can attach it to the First Amendment, get special protection.
And what you see in the past few years is the Koch brothers repeatedly
buying up properties that get the special protection. So, they are going
into universities. They`re going into lobbying. They are going into
And now, this is sort of the foray into the press which is most protected.
MURPHY: Right. And there`s two points with Zephyr`s comments. One, it is
-- it is, since Citizen United, corporations are getting more respect and
more power that individual Americans, which is wrong.
But secondly, it goes back to Errol`s point, in that they are playing a
different game. They are playing in state legislatures and beyond. And
what that means is, when you have a redistricting fight like in
Pennsylvania, where there are more Americans that vote for the Democrats
for the House of Representatives, yet, the Republicans still have control
of I think 22 more seats. I mean, that`s -- they still have the power in
the House, which is why we have John Boehner who is not playing very nicely
with President Obama, even though President Obama is doing his best.
FANG: I want to make one quick point about the university topic. You
know, a lot of wealthy corporations and funds fund private endow chairs and
what-have-you at universities.
FANG: But Koch is unique here in that it the scandal came out recently,
they are giving all these grants at universities, at Florida State
FANG: They are saying that, you accept our money, but we get to approve
the type of research and we get to approve who is hired at the school.
FANG: At this department that they are underwriting. And again, this goes
back to the foundation, which is transconnected with their lobbying office.
REID: Exactly. And what happens is then, if you won`t have professors
that let`s say believe in global warming. So, then, that means the science
department is now skewing toward the Kochs direction and they happen to
have oil and gas interest and things where they don`t want global warming
to be discussed. They can actually have an affect on academia where you`re
not just doing, you know, they own the newspaper, but they can`t herd the
cuts. They are actually shaping the debate and they`re shaping what
students are learning.
We`re going to keep on this, and up next, New York`s billionaire mayor is
soon be out of a job. But he is being clear that he and his billions
aren`t going anywhere. In fact, he is going national.
But, first, a hearty congratulations to our own Melissa Harris-Perry and
the entire Nerdland crew at the last night GLAAD Media Awards right here in
New York City. MHP won in the category of outstanding journalism news
segment and for this segment, "Transgender in America", which focused
specifically on inequality for transgender Americans. Melissa has made a
point of using her voice to push for the equality of all and we are
incredibly, incredibly proud of the acknowledgment she has received. Go
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: How much are you prepared to spend in the future
to counter the NRA?
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: Well, I don`t know how to answer
that. When I care about something, I care about something. I think I have
an obligation as an American to -- and as a citizen, as human being, to
Smoking is going to kill a billion people this century. I put $600 million
of my own money into trying to stop the tobacco companies from getting kids
to smoke and convincing adults that it`s not in their health. That`s one
issue. Who knows with this?
GREGORY: Are you prepared to put a lot more money to support stricter gun
BLOOMBERG: Wouldn`t it be wonderful if we didn`t have to do that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in December speaking
with NBC`s David Gregory on "Meet the Press", after the Sandy Hook
Elementary School shooting.
He may have been vague in that interview about the money he`s willing to
spend to counter the NRA, but with only eight and a half months left in his
term, we are already seeing how deep his pockets go.
Just last month, Bloomberg contributed $2.2 million in ads against NRA A-
rated candidate Debbie Halverson, which ultimately helped Robin Kelly win
the primary for former Congressman Jessie Jackson Jr.`s Illinois House
While Mayor Bloomberg may not want to talk dollar amounts, the money he`s
already spent speaks volumes.
I want to go just into right into some of what Michael Bloomberg has done.
And he`s got a mixed record, a little bit more wins than losses.
So, let`s look at a few races that he tried to win. First, let`s start
with the Bloomberg wins. These were candidates that were endorsed by
Bloomberg`s PAC who did well. Robin Kelly, the aforementioned, Senator
Angus King in Maine, Representative Gloria Negrete McLeod in California,
who defeated her Republican opponent. Representative Dan Maffei in New
York, in Upstate New York, and Attorney General Kathleen Kaine in
So, those are his wins. Now, let`s look at his losses. Val Demings who
tried to defeat a very conservative Dan Webster in Florida, but lost.
Representative Bob Dold in Illinois. And then in Connecticut, Andrew
So, he is five up and three down.
So, Errol, that`s a better average than, you know, a lot of these --
Americans for Prosperity for instance didn`t do as well as that. Karl
Rove`s PAC did way worse than that. The tobacco lobby themselves, the
money that they put in, they didn`t do nearly as well as Bloomberg.
So, he is now incentivize to keep doing this because his over-under, his
over-under is looking pretty good?
LOUIS: Well, I don`t know about that, because you know, the key thing you
have to remember is he spent $10 million on this effort, or just under $10
million. So, is this sustainable? The other thing is the way it was done.
The race that got so much attention in Illinois. He swept in with $2
million or $3 million in the closing weeks of the campaign.
LOUIS: You can`t do that more than once or twice before people start to
realize this is going to be the strategy and here`s how we`ll prepare for
it. So, is this sustainable? We don`t know.
What difference does it make is the other question. That smattering of
winners that you put out there, they`re all over the place.
LOUIS: I mean, there is no consolidated ideology, philosophy or direction
to any of them. Angus King, I mean, some of it is over same sex marriage
and some of it is over pollution issues and some of it are over smoking,
and some of it is over gun control. So, we don`t really know how you put
all of this together. And when you start to do that, you lose the ability
to come in quickly with a couple million dollars if people don`t know where
you`re going or what this is all about.
REID: But, Patrick, I mean, how influential is that money? I mean, when
you are in the race and you see that your money is getting money for them,
or money being spent against you, how much does this shake up a campaign?
MURPHY: Well, the average budget for a congressional campaign is $1.3
million. So, when you put in $2 million --
MURPHY: -- that`s very significant.
I have to say Mayor Bloomberg is a game changer because also he`s putting
Democrats on notice, that when you have situations like Newtown,
Connecticut when 20 first graders are murdered sitting in their desks, and
in the past two and a half months in America, there`s been over 2,600 gun
deaths in America. And you have representatives that vote with the NRA, I
want to come after you is basically what he`s saying and the proof is in
MURPHY: Representative Debbie Halverson lost his race. Representative Joe
Baca in California lost his race. But of those were A-rated Democrats with
the NRA. Now, Democrats have to say to themselves, whoa, am I going to
So, it`s basically -- the only game in town used to be the NRA when it came
to guns. And now, Bloomberg is a major player.
REID: I mean, isn`t that what`s really the game changer now? It used to
be just assumed that the NRA A-rating is what you want, nothing else
matters. Now, there is a new ball game here where you can actually pay for
that "A" rating because Bloomberg might come at you.
FANG: Well, it`s unfortunate that we have a system where we have these
special interest groups going after each other. But, look, at the end of
the day, gun victims don`t have a lobby really and gun manufacturers do.
They have the NRA.
So, at least Bloomberg is adding balance to the system. It`s not a good
system, I`m not endorsing it.
FANG: But, look, for many, many years, we`ve had a system where the NRA,
ideological millionaires, gun manufacturers have dominated the gun debate.
FANG: Now that`s changing. Maybe it`s a good thing.
REID: Zephyr, you know, the last question to you, isn`t the other thing
that`s interesting about what Bloomberg is doing -- I mean, he is an
independent. He used to be a Republican. I think he was a Democrat. He
has been like in every single political party.
Isn`t the other thing that`s interesting is that he is not on one
ideological side. He is not on one partisan side. He could literally
spend money for or against you in any political party.
TEACHOUT: So, I mean, I think what`s interesting about Bloomberg and I
just want to bring it back together with the conversation about Koch. I
think what you say is right, but you want to compare sort of how
billionaires are engaging in politics.
And, you know, as you were saying earlier, Bloomberg is not engaging in a
way to consolidating his own power. He`s not doing it strategically. It`s
more ideologically. That said, it`s not in ways that are undermining his
own financial empire. He`s only going to play in areas that are sort of
But he is, in some ways, I think, more ideological than the Koch brothers,
because he is engaging non-strategically, sporadically, instead of figuring
REID: But it`s issue-based. I mean, it`s not as if he has sort of are we
REID: Right. If they get global warming back down, they`re going to make
money. It`s going to directly impact them. This guy is not going to
personally benefit from gun control. So, right, it`s ideological, but it`s
TEACHOUT: It`s issues based but it`s still disturbing. So, basically, and
then what I want to talk is not panic necessarily earlier, but how to
respond. So, when you talk about how to respond to Bloomberg, its how you
respond to an aspiring monarch.
TEACHOUT: And when you talk about responding to --
TEACHOUT: When you talk about how to respond to the Koch brothers, it`s
how do you respond to the mafia?
TEACHOUT: You know, and protests aren`t going to work with the mafia in
way they might work with Bloomberg.
REID: I think that is a sound bite we got to end on.
Thank you, Lee, Zephyr, Errol and Patrick.
And next up, the eye opening documentary "American Winter." This film
could, or I will say, will, change the way you think about America`s poor.
Stay with us.
REID: For all the talk of economic recovery in the U.S., the 48.5 million
Americans living at or below the poverty line tells us we are not
recuperating. Equally distressing, the 100 million Americans, the one out
of every three of us, who are living below or just above the poverty line.
A new HBO documentary "American Winter" puts faces to this trend. And they
are not the faces or stories that fit the stereotypes that sadly we come to
expect. The film follows eight ordinary Oregon families grappling with a
new fate they never imagine possible, poverty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I hear them in bed sometimes saying we skipped dinner
because we need to feed our kids. Sometimes when I hear that, I cry
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the middle class in this country, we have a "one
strike and you`re out" economy. The system that once was in place to
cushion those crises has been frayed. The most endangered specie in
America is the middle class.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
And here at the table to talk about "American Winter" and to debunk the
myths about what poverty in America looks like are filmmakers Joe and Henry
Thank you guys both for being here.
I was telling you in the break that I literally cried through your entire
documentary last night, watching it with my husband and one of my kids.
And the thing that was I think a smart choice but maybe a controversial, is
that you showed a face of poverty that is not what people typically look
at, right? You know, in this country, we know that the most impoverished
states are in the South. They are Mississippi, it`s Alabama, it`s
Louisiana. And also, we tend to think of poverty as being more entrenched
in African-American and Hispanic communities.
But you went to Oregon. Oregon is 88.6 percent white. Most of the
families you talked to in this documentary were white and appeared to have
been formerly middle class. Why did you make that choice?
And I`ll start with you, Harry.
HARRY GANTZ, FILMMAKER: Well, Oregon is not only white, but it actually
has good social services. But even with that situation, this whole
formerly middle class who have fallen into the economy has taxed the
system. So, it doesn`t matter whether it is non-profit secular, or non-
profit religious, or the government, they can`t handle it. It`s just too
REID: Right, and you center --
JOE GANTZ, FILMMAKER: It`s greater and greater with poverty in this
country, our statistic is that 46 percent of the country is in poverty or
near poverty. So, we chose Portland because we wanted a city that could be
identified with by most of America that doesn`t identify with L.A. or New
York. And this is a situation that is national. We just chose a city to
But you could find the same families any city in this country.
REID: But you are sensitive to the idea that people said, wait, if these
are like the model poor, these are like the perfect family, those adorable
children that are so articulate about, say, you know, I want my mom to eat
dinner and I wouldn`t mind if I didn`t, you know, the sort of model aspect
of what you did. Are you sensitive to the criticism that, you know what,
you did not show the face of the entrenched poverty. You showed that
people that everyone could relate to.
HARRY GANTZ: Well, we found the families through listening in on the 211
hotline, that people call for social services. And we heard thousands and
thousands of families. And most of them want to work. Most of them want
the dignity of providing for their families.
So, I wouldn`t say that these are the exception. I would say that these
are the rule. Of course, there is fraud in the system. But that`s minute
compared to the families who are either working poor, out of work, who will
do anything to provide for their families.
JOE GANTZ: And, you know, if you look at the families who are poor in this
country, and you realize that, you know, half -- nearly half of this
country is poor or near poor, there is every type of family. And I`m sure
we could have done this in any city across the country and gotten families
that are relatable. The people who are in this situation want nothing more
than to get back on their feet and become contributing members of society.
REID: Yes, I think that`s actually what was most frightening thing about
the documentary, that the people seem so familiar. First of all, they`ve
done everything that they`re told to do. They were married. They got
married and then had children. Some of them were homeowners.
They have done everything that you were told is the way you construct the
American dream and yet, they still found themselves because of unemployment
at that point where they couldn`t pay their lights, they couldn`t keep the
It`s terrifying in that way. It`s almost a horror movie in a sense for the
JOE GANTZ: And a number of them had even gone to college.
JOE GANTZ: So, this is like what I call garden variety poverty. It`s
everywhere. It`s across the board. And when they go for social services,
they get something to eat so they don`t starve. But they don`t get enough
to get back on their feet to become contributing members of society again.
They don`t get enough to get into the race and really be able to, you know,
get themselves and their family back in a way that they cannot worry about
their bills every single day of their lives.
REID: And in many cases, they are in those food pantries weeping because,
you know, as was said in your film, in a lot of cases, these are people who
are giving to food pantries and now they are happened to use them.
I wish we had more time. This is an amazing documentary. Oh, you guys are
staying, so we will talk. Actually, we do have more time. We will talk
more with you.
And when we come back, one of the subjects of the Gantz brothers joins us.
And hers is the most moving stories in the movie. So, we want to hear
directly from her.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I walked into the house and she was sitting in the
kitchen in the dark. I was like, mom, what`s wrong? And she was crying.
She didn`t know what she was going to do for food for the next couple of
weeks. I just couldn`t do anything but hug her and like tell her it was
going to be OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People want to work. You know, people just say to me
over and over on the phone, I want to work. I want a job. I will do
anything. And I can`t get one. They don`t want to live in poverty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That was another scene from the new HBO documentary "American
Winter." And the young man you just saw in the clip is the son of the
woman named Diedre Melson. Diedre was trained as a lab technician. She
believed her college degree and her special vocation would keep her out of
But as we saw, Diedre`s situation was such that at one point, she didn`t
even know where her family`s next meal was coming from
So, joining us now from Portland, Oregon, to talk more about her experience
is Diedre Melson. And also back at the table with us are the directors of
the film, Joe and Harry Gantz.
Diedre, thank you so much for being here.
DIEDRE MELSON, SUBJECT IN "AMERICAN WINTER" DOCU: Thank you guys for
REID: So, Diedre, you did everything that you were told that you were
supposed to do in this country. You got a college education. You had a
specialized education. And yet you still wound up in poverty, not being
able to essentially feed yourself and your family.
How did that happen for you?
MELSON: It`s -- I don`t know. Like you said, I thought I was doing
everything I was supposed to do. The lack of jobs, especially now, the not
knowing that even after you do these things, even after you obtain a
degree, even after you have a specialized skill, you`re going to be making
MELSON: And minimum wage is not a living wage.
REID: Well, what do you tell your son? I mean, your son is getting to the
age where he is looking at going to college. How do you advise him knowing
that for you, it didn`t help you stay out of poverty?
MELSON: That`s difficult because you try to tell them that they can obtain
the American dream, but as you can see, they know that it`s going to be
So, that`s a tough question. I try to encourage all the kids. And that`s
really a tough question. I`m sorry. But I give them the same advice that
I got. That to go to school, to try to get an education --
MELSON: -- and try to make sure that he gets good grades and does all
these things. I am so sorry.
REID: No, that`s OK. That`s OK.
JOE GANTZ: The truth is the American dream is slipping away for half this
country. You know, it`s one thing to tell people that if you work hard and
you do things by the book, then you`ll get ahead. These kids see their
He could not have a harder working mother and she scraps on the weekends.
She gets metal and turns it in. She gets plasma to make ends meet in
addition to working a minimum wage job and she doesn`t get ahead.
So, what does that teach other children?
REID: Right. And, you know, when I`m watching the film and watching
Diedre`s story and the other stories, Harry, I just keep thinking about the
47 percent. When Mitt Romney said 40 percent of the country who don`t want
to take care of themselves, they think they are entitled to food and
medical care -- and you see these families and you say, that is who he`s
talking about, people who, yes, they`re entitled, they are working as hard
as they can and they just are entitled to want to get ahead to get the
HARRY GANTZ: Well, our film helps to breakdown that stereotype. And it`s
not accident that it`s coming out right now after this budget battle that`s
about to be engaged in the Congress.
So, when these politicians are talking about policy, are talking about
dollars, it affects these people. These are the only people in this game
of the budget battle who have no lobbyist and it is not a give and take
situation. It`s an investment in our country`s future.
REID: And you have a character in your film, a billionaire, who
essentially says we are investing in all the wrong things. We`re giving
more tax breaks to billionaires, but we`re not helping people like Diedre.
JOE GANTZ: Yes, and John, who`s also in the film, he`s endangered of
losing his house. He has a Down syndrome child. They dropped an envelope
on his driveway yesterday saying that his house is going to be auctioned in
30 days. These are, you know, people, you know, have been working since
they were teenagers. And all they want is the chance to, you know,
compete, to have a comfortable life instead of just be worrying day in and
day out about how to pay the next bill.
I want to thank both of you for being here, Joe and Harry Gantz, and Deidre
Melson, thank you guys so much for being here.
This is a must-see documentary. The HBO documentary film is called
"American Winter." It debuts on HBO on Monday, March 18th. And in just a
moment, it is time for "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yes, I`m here with the tease for this. And hello
there to all of you.
What does this year`s CPAC. pick of 2016 Republican presidential nominee
have to do with reality?
Plus, we`ve heard that the U.S. will not need foreign oil by 2020. Jerrod
Bernstein is going to join me to talk about whether that is still true and
what it could mean for the economy.
Also in today`s office politics, I talk with Michael Isikoff about the run
up to the Iraq war and the twisting of truths to justifying invading Iraq
in the wake of 9/11.
And by popular demand, seriously so, an Internet sensation that could
change the way movies are made. This is really cool. I`m talking about
power to the people on this one, Joy. Back to you.
REID: Thank you, Alex. And happy St. Patrick`s Day. You get the green
WITT: We got that. Yes.
REID: All right. And coming up, everything you need to know about what
happened at CPAC..
REID: The Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC which wrapped
up yesterday was supposed to showcase the best and the brightest of the
conservative movement, and indeed the Republican Party, where most
Instead, we were treated to a spectacle that was every bit as colorful as
yesterday`s St. Patrick`s Day parade in New York City, only without as many
silly hats. Thanks for that, (ph) Tea Party.
There was a usual cast of 2016 wannabes, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Donald
Trump. Yes, as long as there`s a "Celebrity Apprentice" to promote, he`s
You have Jeb Bush who apparently showed up just because he`s friends with
the organizer, because he didn`t even bother joining in straw poll. There
was Mitt Romney and I`m not even really sure why.
You had Sarah Palin saying, OK, I had no idea what she was saying. I never
have any idea what Sarah Palin is saying. But suffice it to say, it had
something to do with President Obama needing a background check.
What you didn`t see at CPAC was any evidence that conservatives are ready
to confront the ways in which they themselves by cultivating extreme
ideologies are undermining their own case for political power. No change
on immigration, Marco Rubio didn`t even mention his Senate effort during
And no movement on gay rights, when a same week when a conservative Senator
Rob Portman said he now support same sex marriage because of his gay son,
the gay conservative group GOProud was excluded.
Organizers used the clip art of a random black person because apparently
they couldn`t find a real one to put in a hero`s collage on stage. In a
session called "Trump the race card" was notably only for a shouting match
involving a black woman and a white nationalist, where most of the
attendees and the African-American organizer blamed the black lady for
So I don`t believe in GOP 2.0, because while CPAC isn`t synonymous with
GOP, the movement is where the party gets its activist and its energy.
So, good luck Republicans, if CPAC is any guide, you`re going to be same
old party in 2016 that you were in 2012.
You`re welcome, Democrats.
And that`s our show for today, thanks to everyone at home for watching.
Melissa Harris-Perry will be back here next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up now, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
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