'Up with Steve Kornacki' for Saturday, April 27th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
UP with STEVE KORNACKI
April 27, 2013
Guests: Lisa Miller, Scott Atran, Fmr. Rep. Nan Hayworth, Ramzi Kassem,
Michelle Ringuette, John Knefel, Starlee Kine, Ed Cox, Timothy Naftali
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning from New York. I`m Steve
A day after Congress voted to end furloughs for air traffic controllers
that were causing massive flight delays, President Obama reiterated his
call for lawmakers to replace the automatic spending cuts known as the
sequester with a more balanced deficit reduction plan.
An opposition groups in Syria are calling for international action after
the Obama administration said Friday that President Bashar al-Assad --
Bashar al-Assad`s regime likely used chemical weapons.
Right now, I`m joined by Ramzi Kassem, associate professor at the City
University of New York Law School and lawyer for several detainees at the
military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Lisa Miller, she`s the
contributing editor at New York magazine, Scott Atran, author of "Talking
to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the Unmaking of Terrorist," also a
professor at University of Michigan. Nan Hayworth, she`s a former
Republican congresswoman from New York.
A government document obtained by NBC News shows the alleged bombmakers`
explosives closely aligned with the instructions of an article in the
digital magazine of al Qaeda titled "How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of
Your Mom." Officials said yesterday that Boston marathon bombing suspect,
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was moved from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in
Boston to a federal medical detention center at Fort Devens snowed (ph)
army base about 30 miles northwest of the city.
Meanwhile, there are still 30 victims in Boston area hospitals this morning
with one in critical condition. Richard Donohue (ph), the MBTA officer who
was injured last week in the shootout also remains hospitalized.
Tsarnaev`s transfer to a detention facility came as investigators continue
to reveal more details about Dzhokhar and his brother, Tamerlan, and about
what they planned to do after they bomb the Boston marathon.
Dzhokhar began communicating with investigators in writing on Sunday from
his hospital bed where he was being treated for gunshot wounds to the head,
neck, legs, and hand, according to officials. Details from those
interviews were still trickling out days later. On Thursday, for example,
we learned that the suspects` next destination was New York City where
officials said Tsarnaev Brothers planned to detonate their remaining
explosives in Times Square.
New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, said Thursday that the revelation
underscores the need to expand his city`s counterterrorism operations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I) NEW YORK CITY: The attacks in Boston and the
news that New York City was next on the terrorist list shows just how
critical it is for the federal government to devote resources to high risk
areas. It also shows just how crucial it is for the NYPD to continue to
gather -- to expand its counterterrorism capabilities and intelligence
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Investigators and the media have also spent the past week
scouring the brother`s past for clues as to what they have motivated them.
Officials begin cobbling together a picture of the suspects as two brothers
motivated to some degree by extremist Islamic beliefs but who acted without
any formal connection to any known terrorist groups. On Sunday, for
example, a former neighbor of the older brother, Tamerlan, told "60
Minutes" that Tamerlan had grown more radical in recent years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was explaining how the bible is a cheap copy of the
Koran and how it`s used for the American government to -- as an excuse to
invade other countries. And, I remember he said that America is a colonial
power trying to colonize the Middle East and Africa. And he also said that
most casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq are innocent by standers gunned
down by American soldiers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: On Tuesday, we learned more about federal officials contacts
with Tamerlan before the bombings. Tamerlan had been on two different U.S.
government watch lists, officials revealed, and he was the subject of at
least four conversations with Russian spy services. FBI spokesman, Paul
Bresson told "The Washington Post" Wednesday that the bureau, quote, "did
everything legally that we can do with a little bit of information that we
However, that statement was not enough to assuage some Republicans who said
the Boston bombings were proved that the U.S. remains at war with so-called
radical Islam. Here`s South Carolina senator, Lindsey Graham, on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Our systems are failing and we`re
going backwards. We need to understand that Bin Laden may be dead, but the
war against radical Islam is very much alive. Radical Islam is on the
march, and we need to up our game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, there it is. Radical Islam, that`s it. We`re at war with
them. Thank you, Senator Graham. I guess you figured it out and there`s
nothing -- it seems to me -- there`s -- this has been a particularly
complex picture to kind of piece together because there are so many
different elements and there are probably a lot of red herrings in the
background, these brothers.
I know when the news first broke last week, a lot of attention was paid to
the fact that they are Chechen and the conflict between the Chechens and
the Russians, and you know, I`m not seeing anything right now that suggests
that was, you know, any part of this. So, we had all of these different
component pieces some of which have been aired like Senator Graham there
with Islamic ties.
But there are so many other pieces of this. I know, Lisa, you were writing
about one, you know, the fact that they`re young men.
LISA MILLER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Right. I mean, in the history of these
kinds of acts, they`re almost always angry young men. And when I saw their
pictures initially, the first people I thought of was not Islamic
terrorists, but the guys who shot all of their classmates at Columbine High
School. I mean, they kind of young, disaffected, you know, people were
calling them bros online, kids.
And you know, the Columbine killers actually had bombs that didn`t go off.
So had they actually detonated those bombs, would they have been terrorists
then instead of just, you know, mad losers?
KORNACKI: Yes. It is striking. All the social media stuff that can come
out now and we have this -- we can go back and look at their lives as they
portrayed them, as they leave them online. And when you look,
particularly, I think it`s Dzhokhar, the younger brother, when you look at
like his Twitter stream and you see, you know, a few tweets there that
maybe are suggestive of, woh, this guy is getting into something dangerous
And there`s also just tons of tweets that a 19-year-old kid or an 18-year-
old kid was sending out and sort of we look at it now, we say, oh, maybe
this is radical Islam. Maybe, you know, it`s an 18-year-old kid who, you
know, was feeling alienated.
MILLER: Right. He knew the songs from "Rent." He listened to Dr. Dre.
He read, you know, English philosophers and political theorists. He was --
nothing on his Twitter feed was a red flag that said, you know, Islamic
KORNACKI: Scott, you`ve written about this a little bit. So, what is --
there is a component here of sort of radicalization, Islamic
radicalization. And it seems like it`s sort of maybe it`s disaffected
young men, and in this case, for some reason, his disaffection takes the
form of radical Islam. What`s the connection there?
SCOTT ATRAN, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: Well, look, he has about seven
percent of Islamic -- Muslims around the world who support 9/11 and what
happened. Seven percent isn`t a lot, hundred million people in the world.
But people who actually go on to violence, a very, very few. Very, very
few thousands, very, very few hundreds in the United States, most of them
have been caught in entrapment cases. It`s a path of violence.
It`s mostly young guys, emerging adults in transitional stages in their
lives, students, immigrants, between girlfriends, between jobs. They left
their family. They`re born again. Almost none of them have a religious
education to begin with. They`re born again in their late teens and early
20s. And, they`re sort of disaffected and looking for a great cause.
They`re looking for adventure, camaraderie, glory and adventure.
And out there on the internet, this is one of the most adventurous things
you can possibly imagine. I mean -- saying, look, these guys with box
cutters, they changed the history of the world. You can do it, too. And
it`s fairly attractive. But the thing is, it`s almost always small
networks of family and friends, about 10 to 15 percent family, about 60
percent friends, the rest some disciples, there`s no recruitment. They`re
almost all self-seekers who do this themselves.
They may find someone on the internet or they may hook up with someone
eventually, but that`s pretty rare. And then, they sort of withdraw from
the counter culture that`s protesting things that are going wrong in the
world. Then, they hunker down in a cocoon, a lot of times, they take an
apartment together. They close themselves off from their friends. They
get expelled from the mosque. It`s almost always happens.
They come out of their cocoon. They want to do something. They don`t
really know what to do. They come up with some hair brain scheme, like you
know, pressure cooker, which was taken by the "Inspire" magazine by
(INAUDIBLE) from the anarchist cookbook. They make a bomb. They have
really no contingency plan for what comes afterwards.
And since they`re small groups in small networks of families and friends,
neighborhoods, almost always, the only way they can achieve their ambitions
is by publicity which is the oxygen of terrorism and that`s what
KORNACKI: Well, yes, you`ve written -- you had a great piece this week
that got into that which is basically our reaction in terms of, you know,
the city of Boston was shut down for a day, some of the, you know, towns
outside of Boston were shut down. Obviously, this has dominated the news.
You know, it happened more than a week ago. We`re still talking about it
today. I think we should.
But, there`s that balancing act that, you know, if we just -- not that we
ever would -- if we just pretend that it didn`t happen, the terrorist
wouldn`t be getting what they want but how can we pretend it didn`t happen,
how can we not respond to it?
FMR. REP. NAN HAYWORTH, (R) NEW YORK: Well it is -- as Lisa said, and
Scott, you just described the scenario, these are young men who want to
show they`re powerful and, unfortunately, we exist in a world in which
someone can use, create and use a hideous weapon, whatever that may be.
And you know, of course, we were talking about guns just a couple of weeks
ago here on this program, to create mayhem.
So the question is how -- because here we have two disaffected young men,
one of whom though among the thousands we could follow as you said, Lisa, I
mean, how many of us have encountered young people, typically young men,
who have said something that could be taken as a portent of something awful
and nothing ever happens. I mean, that`s got to be case, 99.99 percent of
So, we do know that the older Tsarnaev Brother actually did, Tamerlan did
come to the presence, to the attention of the U.S. government and was
interviewed at least four times. So, how can we better -- obviously, there
was something there. It did turn into an act of awful violence. How do we
identify and solve that lesion so that those -- we could have thwarted
KORNACKI: Yes. No, I mean, I think there are -- it seems like there are
two issues here. And Scott one of them you write about is, you know, how
the media handles it and the other is sort of the official government
response. And I want to talk about the official government response if
there has been one, if there should be one, what form it will take after
KORNACKI: Marco Rubio was asked on Fox News earlier this week about a
comment that one of the Fox News personalities made basically suggesting in
the wake of Boston we ought to revisit the idea of giving out student visas
to any Muslims. And Marco Rubio seemed to suggest he was open to that.
And then, he was asked again in a follow-up. You know, wait a minute, it
seemed like you are suggesting that. Are you really open to that idea?
And here`s what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You opened the door to, perhaps, not allowing Muslim
students to receive student visas in this country. Did you mean that 24
MARCO RUBIO, (R-FL) SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE: Well, first of all --
yes. There are indicators that people are coming from parts of the world
where there are dangerous people living and plotting against us. That
should be a factor in determining whether we allow people to come here from
there or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, I`ve been trying to interpret this. The thing with Rubio is
we`ve seen this a little bit -- he`s trying to push through this
immigration overhaul right now. And it seems like every few weeks, he
makes a gesture to the hard core right of his party that sort of, you know,
I`m still with you, I`m still one of you so that he has like the political
room to get immigration through.
And he`s done this on the immigration bill where the deal was close to
being struck, and then, he said no, no, wait, I don`t think there`s a deal
at all and there was panic and it was really just to buy him space (ph).
So, I`m kind of interpreting this as he`s not going to join a formal push
to suspend student visas for Muslims. He`s just doing this to cater to his
base, but still, the fact that there`s an appetite, you know, sort of on
the right for that sort of thing is kind of telling.
RAMZI KASSEM, CUNY SCHOOL OF LAW: Absolutely. I mean, I think, you know,
the rhetoric is damaging in and of itself whether or not there`s any
political will behind it and in a time of tragedy and a time of crisis, I
think the priority should be to maintain unity. And we should be very
careful about policy making and legislating in a rush in a time of crisis.
I think we should take the time to let the facts emerge to get a clear
picture of what happened before rushing to judgment and passing laws or
policies that will have, you know, more long term effects. And so, I think
that goes as far as addressing the government response, but in terms of the
media discourse and just the public discourse around the Boston bombings,
it`s really important and I think this ties in to whatever on the same
It`s really important not to exceptionalize these acts of violence, to
contextualize them in the way that Lisa did by trying to look at
similarities between what happened in Boston to what happened in Aurora,
what happened in Sandy Hook, as well as, you know, attempted bombings with
an Islamic tinge (ph) like the attempted Times Square bombing.
I think we have to keep an open mind to really understand the phenomenon
rather than allow ourselves to exceptionalize as simply because, as you
mentioned, Steve, it happens to take on an Islamic color, or perhaps, might
take on in Islamic color in this instance.
HAYWORTH: Well, you know, I think that is one of our biggest problems when
we look at any of these events that clearly we want to see never happen
again. And, you know, never again another Newtown, never again another
marathon bombing, never again another 9/11. How do we calmly
dispassionately objectively analyze and see where and not make it political
and not make it part of a political process?
It behooves the American public to be better informed about all these
things and our voters have to understand so that political figures aren`t
tempted to go that route. But I was fascinated by what Scott said about
when we were on the break saying, you know, one way to approach someone
like a Tamerlan Tsarnaev situation would have been to talk with his family
because that actually can be quite effective. Now, that`s something that
we could do differently. That`s not a political item. That`s --
KORNACKI: Yes, Scott. I was struck by that, too. In the break, you were
telling us, you know, we have all these stories about, you know, the
Russians called and they said look out for this guy and the FBI went and
they interviewed him and they interviewed his family. And you think that
was maybe a counterproductive move.
ATRAN: Yes, I mean, the Saudis, the Turks, the Israelis, and even Doug
Stone (ph) when he took over of Abu Ghraib, Petraus` assistant in Iraq, the
way he got people out of Abu Ghraib was basically said, look, you know, we
really don`t even want to know where you guys were. We don`t want any
trouble. So, what can we do? Let`s sit down with the families. Let`s
talk about it. Let`s give them some responsibility.
Let them monitor the thing. Let their neighborhoods assess where they come
from. Let their friends -- because that`s where they come from. Let their
families monitor what they`re doing and that`s pretty much the most
effective control, certainly not -- I mean, you need police work and good
intelligence but that certainly a much better approach.
But, you know, the approach we have is sort of crazy. I mean, we`re
calling -- Lindsey Graham is calling this guy an enemy combatant. They`re
accusing him of weapons of mass destruction, I mean, for God`s sake,
nuclear weapons. You know, those of us who lived through the Cuban missile
crisis know the fear of nuclear weapons and a pressure cooker isn`t a
And yes, it`s got to be put into context. It`s not very different from all
these other events that have been described, and just the fact that you
have a mention of jihad, I mean, it also happened in the case (ph) in
Torrance, California. Some slobs (ph) robbed a gas station. You have 500
FBI agents pulled from St. Louis to California. And there is zero
I mean, you ask the heads of the FBI or law enforcement. This is crazy.
And they say to you, we know that`s crazy, but you know, I`m with senior
FBI official in parliament in Britain. And I say, you know this is crazy.
He says, if I ever advocate anything more than zero tolerance, they`d be
hanging me by my balls from the -- Congress.
KORNACKI: That`s exactly right. If you could sort of quantify all of the
other sort of threats to life that are out there and you look at the
approach we take to terrorism that we don`t apply to things that, you know,
over the last 10 years, you know, 12 years since 9/11 have killed far more
people, and yet, it`s politically acceptable in some way to let that
happen. I want to talk about why that is and if there`s any way to change
that equation and we`ll do that after this.
KORNACKI: So, we were just talking about how in politics it seems like the
only acceptable position when it comes to terrorism is that, obviously, a
zero tolerance policy and everything and anything that`s possible for the
government to do has to be done at all times to prevent terrorism and it`s
something that isn`t applied to other areas, I mean -- Congress.
Do you see a way, a plausible way for that equation to change a little bit
so that that kind of focus isn`t only on terrorism?
HAYWORTH: I think it`s a dual approach within our society which has the
potential to solve these problems far more effectively. And you can apply
it to almost any great issue we face. But I think -- it`s almost like two
halves of the coin, the response to Newtown, the response to the marathon
bombing. In both cases, we`ve had -- in one case, it was the left saying
we have to -- you saw the New York Safe Act that was passed really quite
precipitately in a way.
HAYWORTH: Right. You can understand the impetus. We all can. There`s an
emotional wave -- there`s a response because it is a horrible thing. We
want to do something about it. From the right now on the marathon bombing
in a sense, you know, what we`re seeing some of this response we got to do
everything. In both cases, in all these cases, we have to step back as a
We have to embrace and seek an approach that says these are things that we
have to address in a disciplined way that really gets the facts straight
from all sides and that applies to any of our great problems, political
figures have to, then come in on their side and not feed whatever frenzy
there may be and say, yes, these are important. Yes, we are all aggrieved
by what`s happened. Let`s make sure we`re doing -- as you said, let`s make
sure we`re doing this right.
KORNACKI: Lisa, I guess it`s tough to -- we focus on these conversations
where we sort of want -- we want to categorize it as this and only this and
here`s the prescription for this, but there`s so much nuance.
MILLER: Right. I mean, it help us as Americans, as citizens, to say,
well, that was a gun nut. That was a crazy gun nut, and so, that`s not
like me or like any of the people I know or that was an Islamic terrorist
and so that`s the bad guy and that`s not like me or any of the people I
know. And what`s so interesting about this particular case is that these
brothers really are hybrids. They`re very idiosyncratic.
They`re American, but not American. They`re insiders and they`re
outsiders. One of them was kind of a loser, one of them was sort of
popular. You know, they were drawn to Islam but not in a way that`s
recognizable from previous patterns.
And so, we have to be very careful when we`re telling these stories and
tell all of these facts because that points -- that paints a picture of
actual people in actual situations and doesn`t allow us to alienate
ourselves from what the real problem is.
KASSEM: I think what Lisa is saying really highlights the risk, the real
risk of allowing ourselves to be blinded by these labels that we project on
to the culprits and these various acts of random and senseless violence.
And so, in this instance, we`re ascribing Islamic motives to them without
really fully knowing the facts.
And I think that maybe the real risk there is that it blinds us to what
actually happens and it prevents us from understanding what led these two
young men to commit the crimes, the atrocities that they committed in
MILLER: And actually, I mean, if I may just add, it gives the public more
empathy if you know all of the facts, if you contextualize it. And then
you can say, as Nan saying, like this is the problem. This is how we get
here instead of just, you know, labeling people as crazy gun nuts or
KORNACKI: And when you talk about empathy, though, you run into -- when
you start having a nuance discussion like that, you`re going to have people
in the political system (ph), in the media saying, how dare you, you know,
treat these people as anything other than monsters, and to a certain
degree, it`s justified. Their act was monstrous, but if you want to
understand it, you have to talk about them as human beings.
MILLER: That`s right.
HAYWORTH: And as a public, we have to reject those kinds of approaches.
You know, why do figures in the media do that? Because it sells.
Publicly, we have to say it`s not going sell with me.
KORNACKI: Yes. There`s -- there is always an incentive to be sort of
counterproductive, I guess, in the political marketplace.
Anyway, I want to thank Scott Atran of University of Michigan, author of
"Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the Unmaking of Terrorist,"
Lisa Miller of New York magazine.
Guantanamo Bay detainees are starving themselves to death. Will anyone
care? That is next.
KORNACKI: Very soon they could start dying of starvation, one by one,
maybe dozens in all, unless, something changes at Guantanamo Bay. The
detainees there are now in the 80th day of their hunger strike, at least
97, more than half of those imprisoned taking part in the protest. Five of
those participating have been hospitalized. Nineteen are being forced fed.
And if that sounds at all benign to you consider one former detainee
describing on this program exactly what that experience is like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When the nurse comes, they try for
five to ten minutes on this side of the nose and then they hit the bone and
you tell me was this torture or not?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: More than a decade after the Bush administration began using the
military base for indefinite detention of individuals they dubbed enemy
combatants, the peaceful protest of the hunger strike is reminding the
world or trying to remind the world that 166 detainees are still being held
at Guantanamo, most, never having been charged with anything.
And an op-ed in the "New York Times" Yemeni detainee, Najal al Hasan
Moqbel, explained his refusal to eat in stark terms. He says, "I have been
on a hunger strike since February 10th and have lost well over 30 pounds.
I will not eat until they restore my dignity. I have been detained at
Guantanamo for 11 years and three months. I`ve never been charged with any
crime. I have never received a trial."
On Thursday, Senator Dianne Feinstein called on the Obama administration to
consider repatriating the 56 Yemenis who have been approved for transfer
out of Guantanamo but remain (ph) stuck at the base. President Obama
halted their transfer after the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda was tied to the
attempted 2009 bombing of a Detroit bound airplane.
Obama`s hold on transferring these detainees is just one of the steps the
president has taken in recent years that make transferring detainees out of
the prison more difficult. He tried unsuccessfully to close the facility
at the beginning of his presidency, but he was rebuffed by Congress back
The long history and uncertain future of Guantanamo was underscored in
testimony last month to Congress by General John Kelly who oversees
Guantanamo as the head of the U.S. Southern command.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JOHN KELLY, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I`m assuming Guantanamo will be closed
someday. But if we look into the past 11 years, it was supposed to be
temporary. Who knows where it`s going?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: To help answer that question, I want to bring in Michelle
Ringuette. She is the chief of campaign amnesty international and John
Knefel, he`s the co-host of "Radio Dispatch" and contributor to "The
Nation" magazine and RollingStone.com.
I think just to set this up, we have a pie chart that sort of -- that looks
at who those 166 detainees are, sort of how they are classified by the
government? And I know amnesty doesn`t recognize this classification.
We`ll get to that in a minute. But for the sake of just explaining this a
little bit, according to the government, you`ve got 86 who are approved for
transfer and they` re just -- they`re stuck there right now.
Forty-six who are in indefinite detention. Basically, it`s been deemed
that they need to be held, but they can`t be tried, can`t be put in trial
in a military tribunal. They can`t be tried in courts. So, that`s the
determination of the government. Others, you see there subject to active
investigations and three are convicted.
So, we`re sort of in this stalemate and, you know, I think the question
that comes to my mind is and we talked about this a little bit in the last
segment, we were talking about empathy, you know, the idea of having
empathy for people who may be commit acts of terrorism or, you know,
suspected of it, you know, it seems to me that if you`re going to have any
movement on this, there needs to be some empathy on the part of the public
for the people that are detained there.
And of course, I think the public`s instinct when they hear about
Guantanamo is, these are terrorists. These are dangerous people. I don`t
want them (ph) getting out. And I just wonder how you can kind of -- how
you get around that politically?
MICHELLE RINGUETTE, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Well, I think one thing you
really have to do is imagine that you`re just walking down the street, and
then, suddenly, you`re grabbed maybe by a foreign government, or, in many
cases, by perhaps, a bounty hunter paid $5,000 to deliver you to a foreign
government. Then, suddenly, you end up far from home with no access to
lawyers, with no ability to try your case in a fairway.
And what you`re looking at is what we`ve done with Guantanamo. It`s been
11 years now. And most of these men have never been charged and they
certainly haven`t received fair trials. And we are now in a place where we
And I know that I don`t want to have to explain to my six-year-old son why
he sees images of men in orange jumpsuits and black head bags because
amnesty often goes out and we try to make sure that we show people the
images and the visuals of what it looks like to actually have these
But it`s a real stark reminder as you try to explain what we`re doing.
These are conditions that people associate with North Korea or China, and
people have to recognize this is something the U.S. government is doing and
we have to resolve it now.
KORNACKI: So, what is the solution? Because you have -- to be clear on
the terminology, we talk about detainees being approved for transfer.
We`re not always talking about them being just released. We`re talking
maybe about going into custody in another country or going to another
country where they`re being monitored, you know, by the government.
Their activities are being monitored where still some degree of suspicion
or some degree of, you know -- you know, we think these people are a risk,
you know, going forward. Some, you know, that the government is detaining
and is basically saying, we are convinced these people had leadership roles
in al Qaeda, these are people with leadership roles in Taliban.
We do not have evidence that we can present at trial to prove this, but we
are convinced -- what is the solution to this? Is it putting everybody on
trial in the criminal court in the United States? Is that what we should
be doing here?
KASSEM: I mean, I think, you know, we have to go back to first principles
here. It`s "innocent until proven guilty," not guilty until proven
innocent. And certainly, if the U.S. government has been holding on to
someone for over 11 years and they still can`t make a case at that person,
then that person should be released. And that`s just a basic principle
that`s recogniozed by any civilized society.
And when you look at Guantanamo and you look at the fact that there were --
in 2003, almost 800 prisoners there, and now, we`re down to 166. That
alone tells you that the rhetoric that was put out there by the Bush
administration that these men are the worst of the worst was false. And
that the Obama administration has done a very poor job of undoing that
rhetorical harm, undoing this myth of the threatening Guantanamo prisoner.
And that, unfortunately, the Obama administration has not had the political
backbone to deliver on the promise that President Obama made when he was
still a candidate to shut down that prison. And that`s the only problem.
It`s not the National Defense Authorization Act. It`s not any externally
impose hurdles the fact that President Obama simply has not made this a
priority, and he can very well close that prison if he really wanted to.
KORNACKI: He can, but you mention the political backbone to do it and the
reason I would say he doesn`t have the political backbone is even members
of his own party haven`t had his back. When he tried it in 2009 when he
first took office, and he tried to get funding to shut down Guantanamo,
Republicans, you know, were outraged about it.
But it was Harry Reid, the leader -- the Democratic leader in the Senate
who helped block that request for money and I have the line here that Reid
said firmly, "We will never allow terrorists to be released into the U.S."
And it just seems -- it crosses party lines the fear of outrage in the
public by being seen as releasing terrorists.
JOHN KNEFEL, CO-HOST RADIO DISPATCH: Well, and what you said earlier about
the 86 who have been cleared, with some of them there is a conditional
aspect to that clearance, but what that means that they`re cleared is that
they have been evaluated to no longer be a national security risk to the
United States if transferred. And so, I think that that`s very important
And as far as Democrats and Obama being on the hook for that, I absolutely
agree. I mean, it was Dianne Feinstein who was very instrumental in
getting the moratorium on transfers to Yemen in place. And now, to her
credit, I think she has reversed that position but this is something that
you see over the course of Guantanamo Bay`s life as it gets more and more
of a bipartisan glean.
The public polls incredibly high and disturbingly high. There`s a 2012
poll that said 70 percent of those polled approved of Obama`s decision to
keep the prison open. I think that 00 in terms of explaining things to the
next generation, I think that that poll is going to be a very, very
unpleasant poll to ask to explain.
HAYWORTH: Well, I think a lot of it depends on how the question is framed.
And again, you know, we go back to the issue that it is enormous. We have
been for decades, more than a century the most powerful nation on earth, we
need to have the best informed public on earth.
If the question is framed as, and I think in most people`s minds, it would
probably be should we have this Guantanamo Bay in place to protect our
nation, the great bastion of liberty and defender of all other free nations
from harm, you know, people would say, well, yes, we should, because that`s
really the way it`s been framed. There was some purpose that was served by
Clearly, 11 years is a very long time to detain people with no trials.
That sounds inherently unfair. And the 86 people are being detained
apparently for no reason at this point is that --
KORNACKI: So, you were a member Congress, and I`m curious, you were
confronted with this and your former member of Congress now -- you`re
asking about it.
KORNACKI: What was your thinking? What would you like to see done in your
HAYWORTH: Well, there`s a protective element that comes into play. So,
what we don`t want to happen, obviously, is if there`s some -- if there`s
some doubt about the potential dangerous nature of the remaining detainees
at Guantanamo, then, obviously, the safety position is to say we`re not
going to change anything here until we`re absolutely certain of what we`re
doing. So, that was a big part of the decision-making on behalf of
KORNACKI: And John wants to get in, and he`s going to right after this.
KORNACKI: john, you were about to say?
KNEFEL: Well, I just wanted to respond to a point that you made, Nan, that
when Guantanamo Bay was established, it was established for a reason. The
reason was to get around the constitution. And I think that that`s -- the
more the history that we see, I think the clearer that picture becomes.
And then, as far as the other point of whether -- like you were talking
about from security standpoint, maybe if we don`t know if these people are
dangerous or not, we should hold them, that`s essentially the reverse of
one of the fundamental principles of justice which we all sort of learn at
a young age which is it`s better for ten people to go free than one to be
imprisoned and Guantanamo Bay is that in reverse, essentially.
And if we want to accept that and acknowledge that as a country, then we
have to recognize that our concept of justice has been completely turned
into a photo negative of what we`re told it is and I think what most people
would prefer to it be.
RINGUETTE: I have to agree. Like, the indefinite detention is a straight
up violation of an individual`s human rights. And what we`re looking at
right now, if you cannot bring yourself to have compassion for these 166
men and no one is saying we should have a wholesale release, right? They
should be charged or they should go through a transition process those
who`ve been cleared so that they can be repatriated into another country
where they get the services they need.
KORNACKI: When we hear, OK, there`s a chunk of this, you know, 166, a big
group of them, the government is convinced were, you know, high -- they`re
high value, you know, suspects, but they cannot try them. The government
cannot try them in the federal courts. We do not have evidence that would
be admissible. We -- what does that mean? What are they sitting on? What
is the reason for suspicion and the lack of evidence --
KASSEM: It`s really -- this isn`t a problem that is unique to Guantanamo.
There are many situations here in the United States where the government
has evidence that is inadmissible. And in those cases, you just have to
live with that. And so, when you look at Guantanamo, what`s most likely at
issue is the fact that the government was holding evidence that was
extracted under questionable circumstances, torture, cruel inhuman and
degrading treatment, coercion.
That evidence is unreliable and inadmissible. And it should be, because
there`s no indicator of reliability. I think the really important thing to
remember here we`ve been talking about justice. And I think if the Obama
administration is going to allow itself to be led by the polls, that`s
putting politics over justice. But it`s also putting politics over sound
Every single relevant national security stakeholder in the United States
government agrees that closing Guantanamo is in the national security
interest of the United States. And we`re still not doing it. So, that`s a
clear example. The clearest example I`ve ever seen of putting politics
over sound policy.
HAYWORTH: John, your contention that Guantanamo was an effort to evade the
constitution. We`re not talking about dealing with U.S. citizens, though,
which is not to say that we should deal with citizens of other nations in a
way that violates our ethics, but, this is not -- these are people who are
not entitled to the protection of the constitution, presumably.
KNEFEL: Right. That`s true. And I think maybe --
KASSEM: That`s very much an open question. I mean, that`s an issue my
students and I litigate day in and day out in federal court.
HAYWORTH: It doesn`t mean they should be treated unethically by any means,
but I would just -- I would take --
KASSEM: Well, no. I mean, I think I would actually question that premise.
I think it is very much an open question. It`s something that is being
litigated right now. Where does the constitution extend? You know, does
the constitution always follow the flag? And in one instance, we`ve
actually prevailed and the gentleman, you know, the former prisoner that
was shown in your segment earlier, there was a case under his name that was
issued by the Supreme Court (INAUDIBLE).
And in that case, the Supreme Court held that the constitution does follow
the flag as far as habeas corpus rights are concerned.
KORNACKI: What about the other constitutional rights?
HAYWORTH: If the detainees are in the U.S. facility, then they are
extended constitutional protection?
KASSEM: At guantanamo. And so, we`re still litigating that as --
HAYWORTH: Because obviously, when -- I mean, the whole rationale is that
we are at war. And it`s an unusual war.
HAYWORTH: There`s validity to that argument. War still has to be -- I
mean, we have the Geneva conventions. You know, we don`t want to be a
nation -- we are not saying (INAUDIBLE) so we want to do what is right
KORNACKI: Right. We can derive the decision oh, it`s political decision
by Obama, but of course, I mean, the reality for better or worse is, you
know, political leaders really are guided by the political pressure whether
it`s coming from the public, whether it`s coming from, you know, key
groups. And there`s a statistic here that I think might explain really
drive home where the reluctance is coming from and I want to talk about it,
show it, and see if there`s ways to get around it next.
KORNACKI: So, we`re talking about why it`s so politically difficult or why
political leaders think -- treat it as so politically difficult to address
-- to actually address the issue of Guantanamo and not just leave it alone.
And here`s a statistic that I think puts this in a little bit of
perspective. There`ve been 603 detainees who have been released or
transferred from Guantanamo.
These are -- this is from the director of National Intelligence. Their
statistics they say that 72 percent of them have gone on, not suspected
engaging in any kind of terrorism, seemed to have just kind of gone on with
their lives. Sixteen percent, they say, are confirmed, though, of going
back to terrorism or going to terrorism, maybe for the first time, maybe
their imprisonment radicalized them in some way, and then 12 percent are
suspected of it.
So, you`ve got a quarter, a little more than a quarter of the detainees,
the former detainees who are catalogues here, who are either suspected or
confirmed going back into terrorism. And we have an anecdote. I mean,
there`s a story from, I think, it was a detainee who was released in 2005
who was suspected of being -- there was no evidence to convict that he was
suspected of being sort of high up with the Taliban. He was released.
And in March of 2008, he drove a truck filled with explosives on to an
Iraqi base outside (ph) and killing 13 soldiers and wounding 42. And so,
you know, I think of the Boston bombing last week. Now, it turns out it
was just -- it was these two kids without connection to anything.
But what would happen -- and I think the fear here that animates President
Obama and animates lots of lawmakers is, you know, if we allow any of these
detainees out and then something like Boston happens and oh, wow it`s a
former Guantanamo detainee, the political price for that is incalculable.
RINGUETTE: I think that`s clearly behind some of the paralysis we`ve seen.
And -- you understand it. But the reality is Guantanamo, this is a failure
of Guantanamo. This just shows it is a terrible place to try to adjudicate
these things. And that the federal court system is the place where these
things need to be tried and that the evidence needs to come to light and
hard decisions have to be made.
But you can`t hold people with the suspicion they might do things bad in
the future, particularly, in these cases where individuals have been
cleared through our own process, our own task force and court system have
declared it`s 56 individuals cleared for transfer, another 30 if certain
conditions are met. This is easy.
This is not the hard stuff. So, we need to immediately make sure there`s
public pressure on our elected representatives to make sure this happens
because it is unacceptable for the U.S. I think most of us would agree the
U.S. is at its best when we are upholding these values that we hold sacred
and that we are serving as a model for the rest of the world.
Guantanamo is a terrible stain on our -- not just our reputation but our
legacy and we have to get past this period.
KASSEM: I think, you know, with that statistic, with that chart doesn`t
reflect is sort of the full cost of Guantanamo. Not just in terms of, you
know, that small proportion of individuals who have been confirmed to go
back and that`s by the DOD statistics and we`re unable to verify that in
the panel (ph), but even taking it is true, that chart doesn`t reflect the
full cost of Guantanamo.
In terms of, you know, what recruitment value it has for people who
actually do have an anonymous (ph) against the United States, the extent to
which it is driving down the United States` reputation internationally.
And I think that`s really -- that should be a primary consideration.
When you have over 50 percent of the prisoners at Guantanamo who`ve been
cleared for release by the U.S. government`s own standards, every single
national security agency has signed off on these individuals (INAUDIBLE).
That`s a clear point to start. I`m not conceding that everyone else is
But I think you want to start somewhere. You start there and you work your
way through. It is manageable. It is feasible to close down Guantanamo.
And that`s where we would expect President Obama to actually exercise bold
leadership and put sound policy over politics for a change and do what, you
know, our president did during the civil rights era when the Civil Rights
Act was widely in (ph) popular to just press through because it`s the just
thing to do. It the just thing to do and it`s actually good policy.
KNEFEL: There was a writer that, I believe, 25 human rights and civil
liberty groups signed on to recently that called for two steps that Obama
can take. One would be to direct Secretary of Defense Hagel to issue
national security waivers and personally certify the transfer of detainees
which the latest NDAA does allow for.
Everyone can decide for themselves whether or not they think that`s the
most ideal way to move forward, but that is something that Congress did
allow Obama to have a sort of a way around some of the restrictions. And
then, the other thing is to re-establish a task force on how to shut
What happened instead several months ago was that the office and the state
department that is responsible for attempting to shut down Guantanamo, that
office itself was shut down. So, you have things moving in many ways in
the exact wrong direction within the administration and that falls squarely
and I think really unforgivably at the White House`s door step.
KORNACKI: And again, this all starts -- there is a very basic human
question we talked about at the beginning here. There are detainees who
are basically trying to starve themselves to death right now. There`s a
military that`s trying to keep them alive and we`re just going to ask, you
know, what happens if they do start dying? We`ll talk about the
consequence of that after this.
KORNACKI: Hello from New York. I`m Steve Kornacki.
Here with Ramzi Kassem of City University of New York Law School, Michelle
Ringuette of Amnesty International, John Knefel of the Internet radio show
"Radio Dispatch", and former New York Congresswoman Nan Hayworth.
So, Ramzi, we were talking before the break about, you know, there are
prisoners who are trying to starve themselves to death. One of them is
your client and you were in contact with him this week. Tell us about
RAMZI KASSEM, CUNY SCHOOL OF LAW: Yes. I mean, the sad reality is that
every single prisoner at Guantanamo right now is on hunger strike. The
U.S. government has a different perspective. They began by denying the
hunger strike. Now, they are at a point where they are admitting that the
majority of prisoners are on a hunger strike.
But by every one of my client`s account, you know, all the prisoners --
KORNACKI: Every single of them --
KASSEM: Every single one is on a hunger strike even if it doesn`t match
to the measure that the Department of Defense uses. And one of those
clients, Mua Salali (ph), is a Yemeni national. He`s been on a continuous
hunger strike since February 6th. He stopped drinking water two weeks ago.
What he said to me yesterday on the phone, just, you know, gives tremendous
insight into his motivations. And this is a direct quote.
"I will remain on hunger strike until I leave this place. I have not lost
hope. My protest is not driven by despair but I will maintain my protest
until I regain dignity and freedom."
I think, you know, when he said that, he speaks for a majority of the
prisoners who are on a hunger strike at Guantanamo who don`t view this
hunger strike as a gesture of desperation but it`s a life-affirming
gesture. It`s a cry for justice. And it`s a reminder to not just the
Obama administration but to the world that 11 years is enough and that
people should either be charged or released.
KORNACKI: I mean, I guess the question is, there have been hunger strikes
at Guantanamo before. John, you mentioned the poll earlier, you ask
people, are you OK with indefinitely detaining suspected terrorists at
Guantanamo? And you said, 70 percent said last year in a poll on this.
Do you think this hunger strike is going to get through and it has a chance
to change public poll or activate leaders in a way we haven`t seen before?
JOHN KNEFEL, RADIO DISPATCH: I think that question remains very much open.
I think that to the extent that it can, it`s through the power of
personalizing people, and we`ve been talking about empathy on this show.
That`s one of the reasons why the "New York Times" op-ed by (INAUDIBLE) was
so important because a lot of times people to the extent they think about
Guantanamo detainees at all, they think of this sort of monolithic 166-
person blob. And there are individual peoples.
I`ve seen numerous letters from detainees. There`s a detainee who sent his
attorney letters about how he loves Ben Harper and reads "Rolling Stone".
And then these other more heartbreaking letters from prisoners like Anan
Latif (ph) who died in September. He was the ninth detainee to die. He
had attempted suicide many times.
And his letters paint just a horrifying picture of despair and when you
actually think of individuals instead of a group that`s been more demonized
than any single group you can think of that`s when I think you actually
start to -- that`s when you can see opinions start to shift both among the
base and among potentially elected officials.
KASSEM: We`re already seeing that. Senator Feinstein wrote a letter to
President Obama yesterday or earlier this week asking the president to take
concrete steps towards closing the prison, and that`s a commendable
reversal on her part and I think she references the hunger strike in that
letter. And I think we`re already seeing it impacting the political
NAN HAYWORTH (R-NY), FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN: And I think that -- I don`t
think that stories of hardship alone will move necessarily the public
unless they understand that -- because if they think these are people who
would do us harm, who are bringing this upon themselves. I don`t think
that would engender sympathy for understandable reasons.
Again if we have that evidence, look most of these men who remain there or
at least half of them really shouldn`t be there at all at this point, this
becomes an inhumane thing and they`ve drawn attention that. So that`s an
effective way for them to bring to it the attention of the American public.
The appropriate understanding has to be put in place.
And yes, 11 years, I think that any rational, thinking person, 11 years,
bring the evidence out. If it was evidence that was obtained using
interrogation techniques that were approved, we -- they underwent --
obviously we know they underwent a lot of vetting by the U.S. government,
whatever they were, be honest about it. Yes, we used waterboarding to
obtain this evidence.
KORNACKI: Do you think if that happens, if it`s not up to the standards of
the court would you be OK with releasing?
HAYWORTH: I think the public has to have confidence. I as a member of the
public and I as a representative of the people I serve have to have
confidence that when we say those 80 some prisoners who are being held,
whose release it would seem would be appropriate have been -- that has been
approved by all the people in our government whom we trust to do that. I
think that`s the way you start it.
I mean, if we trust our defenses, if we trust people we`ve put in charge of
this process and they`ve had appropriate advocacy, the detainees had
appropriate advocacy and it`s been found that at least 80 of them should be
released, let`s at least get this started and let`s get the trials going
for the others.
RINGUETTE: You know, it`s one of -- conversations like this are so
important because Guantanamo remains this inconvenient fact. It`s like the
element of war on terror that everyone wants to forget.
And it is essential that we raise these questions that we put this before
the American public, because people have to know this is being done in our
name and I don`t want this done in my name. So I want to make sure we`re
putting the pressure on them right now.
And I think it`s a mix of things. When you hear the individual stories
like your client who has such a compelling story, he`s a Saudi man. The
resident of U.K., the British parliament this week alone were standing on
the floor arguing for his release. He has a wife and child.
KASSEM: Michelle is speaking about another one of my clients, Shakir Amir
(ph), who`s also been approved by release -- not just by the Obama
administration but the Bush administration. He was sitting in Guantanamo
The foreign minister of the United Kingdom said publicly that the United
Kingdom wants him back. They`ve been saying that for years. He`s approved
for transfer by two different presidents and he lingers in Guantanamo and
he`s on hunger strike today to protest that injustice. And he`s got four
kids in the United Kingdom, including his youngest son who he`s never met,
who was born on February 14th, 2003, the day that Shakir arrived at
KORNACKI: And that`s -- you know, we talk a lot about it, the Obama
administration, you know, their position on this, in terms of wanting to
close it, are saying they want to close it, has not really -- the case
that`s been made is not really the moral case. The case that`s been made
is, this is a recruitment tool for the enemy. That`s why we can`t have
I kind of look at it and I wonder, you know, if we`re worried about sort of
anti-American radicalization, you do have to wonder, you have people who
have been detained basically by the American government for all these
years. I think there`s -- it`s very complicated to understand who is down
there. Certainly, for us being out of it (ph).
But, you know, to the extent there are people there who are being held for
no reason, if they`ve been held by the American government for years that
creates anti-American sentiment too that we`re trying combat.
Anyway, I want to thank Ramzi Kassem of the City University of New York Law
School, Michelle Ringuette of Amnesty International, and journalist John
Are George W. Bush`s supporters trying to rewrite history? That is next.
KORNACKI: So I want to talk for a minute about the other great Richard
Nixon come back. I mean there`s the come back you probably know about.
That`s the one where he lost the 1960 presidential election to JFK. Then
he made an ill-advised bid for governor of California in `62. Then, he
lost that. That he told the press they wouldn`t have him to kick around
And then, somehow, miraculously, he re-emerged and he won the White House
in 1968. That was quite a come back. I`m talking about the other great
Nixon come back.
He resigned presidency instead of being impeached for obstruction of
justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress, the one where he left
office in disgrace with the worse poll numbers ever seen for a president,
where he then spent a few years in seclusion, but then somehow he redeems
himself and became a respected elder statesman.
If that story line doesn`t ring any bells, here`s a quick refresher. For
instance, former President Richard Nixon beaming in triumph, that`s cover
of "Newsweek." "He`s Back." That`s when "Newsweek" was a big deal.
That`s when it existed.
The cover is from 1986, 12 years after Nixon left office. There`s 1992
when a Nixon video tribute played at the Republican National Convention.
It was the first time since Nixon`s resignation that Republicans made him
part of their convention.
They were cheering. It was safe to celebrate Nixon again.
If you`ve forgotten all about that period in the Richard Nixon story, those
two decades between his resignation and his death, those two decades when
he almost seem to put Watergate behind him, you`re not alone -- because if
you take a survey now, just about all people remember when they think about
Nixon is the scandal and resignation.
A couple of years ago, Gallup polled Americans on their retrospective
opinions of presidents. Nixon wasn`t really in the game. Look at that
number, 29 percent approve retrospectively. All of that work he did in the
last 20 years of his life, the nine books, the world tour, TV interviews,
the White House visits, magazine covers celebrating his supposed redemption
-- it`s like none of it ever happened.
The legacy repair crusade of Richard Millhouse Nixon is worth thinking
about right now, because this was the week that another one was formerly
launched, this time by George W. Bush, who left office a few years ago with
poll numbers as bad as Nixon`s.
Bush opened his presidential library in Dallas on Thursday. You probably
heard about that. And like all ex-presidents, he wants history to be kind
to his administration. But he has got a long, long way to go if he`s going
to get history on his side and that may be just an impossible task.
But remember this: presidential legacies are not always locked in place.
They can change over time. They can be changed over time. Richard Nixon
showed a little bit of how that worked.
Ronald Reagan is even a more dramatic example, though. Did you know that
just 20 years ago, four years after he left office, Ronald Reagan was less
popular than Jimmy Carter? That was the finding of an "L.A. Times" poll in
the summer of `92.
Today, of course, Reagan is a celebrated, venerated figure invoke by
Democrats and Republicans alike. When you look at the numbers for ex-
president, Reagan has a 74 percent approval rating. Only JFK is higher.
And there is no sign that Reagan`s popularity is going to be waning any
time soon, a total reversal from 20 years ago.
How did this happen? How did Reagan`s legacy change so much in that time?
There are probably a lot of reasons but I think there`s one that stands
The conservative movement dedicated itself to making it happen. They
invoke his name constantly. They replay famous moments from his presidency
over and over and over.
They celebrate his successes and forget his failures. They named things
after him. There`s something called the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project.
Grover Norquist is the president, dozens of Republican senators and
congressmen are on the board.
The mission is in their words is to, quote, "eventually see a statue, park
or road named after Reagan in all 3,140 counties of the United States."
That`s how presidential legacies are remade.
The George W. Bush, the library opening this week, is a first step. It`s
not a complete whitewashing of history but it does put the best spin
possible on his most controversial and most disastrous decisions.
But what Bush really needs is help. The kind of help Reagan got.
Conservatives may just end up having no choice but to give him that help.
I want to explain why right after this.
KORNACKI: I want to bring in Starlee Kine. She`s a contributor to "This
Ed Cox, he`s the chairman of the New York State Republic Committee. He`s
also the son-in-law of Richard Nixon.
Timothy Naftali, he is the former director at the Richard Nixon
And Nan Hayworth is still with us, the whole show now. Congratulations.
We`re not there yet.
But, so, you know, Bush has been, George W. Bush has been very quiet,
remarkably quiet compared to past former presidents in his four years in
office. This was sort of his coming out as an ex-president this week, I
I want to set this up by playing just a little bit of the centerpiece of
the museum that opened this week. It`s something called Decision Points
Theater. George W. Bush likes to think of himself as decider, his book was
called "Decision Points." And the point of this exhibit, it is to try to
make you see choices -- see the choices that were presented to Bush during
There`s some dispute already these choices are framed the way they should
have been framed. But, anyway, let`s take a look at what visitors are
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW CARD: George W. Bush made many tough decisions as president. Now
you`ll get a flavor for what that`s like. President Bush had to make a
choice. One, seek another U.N. coalition. Two, lead an international
coalition to remove Saddam. Three, take no action and accept that Saddam
Hussein remain in power.
Times up. It`s time to make a decision.
People in the theater could not come to a decision. The president did not
have that choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, I think that kind of to me that sort of sums this up. This
is the history of the administration right now presented with a little bit
of a slant towards, you know, hey try to see it my way, maybe your opinion
of me will change.
STARLEE KINE, CONTRIBUTOR, "THIS AMERICAN LIFE": It seems really, it`s
towards him being under a lot of pressure. The time limit is what they are
emphasizing. He would be able to make the right decision if he wasn`t so
hard pressed to make the decision right away, like a game show.
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, FORMER DIR., NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: Well, that`s
just one part of this museum. And that`s what the Bush foundation want us
to focus on. But I`d like to see the rest of the museum.
I`d like to see how balanced the rest of the museum is and the extent to
which the real contextualization of the Bush period is, because let`s not
forget, these libraries are publicly financed. They are not built with
public money. They`re built with private money. But once the National
Archives takes them over, they become a public utility and they have to
meet certain standards.
KORNACKI: And there`s -- to be clear on what (INAUDIBLE), the Bush
Foundation or any sort of president has a foundation. Bush Foundation,
private money came in and paid for this and there`s a role, though --
there`s tension between the private, you know fundraising.
ED COX, CHAIR, NY REPUBLICAN STATE COMMITTEE: What you saw in that exhibit
and I was there at the opening of the library, as you know, Trisha
represented her father, there were four former presidents, the president
and four presidential families that were represented there all together in
the same room and walked around the exhibits together for about an hour and
a half. It was quite interesting to see the interaction among them.
But if one watched W. Bush`s speech and what he said and he choked up at
the end talking about his own freedom agenda, then you know why he made the
decision that he made with respect to Iraq. He really believed that
freedom and democracy would free people like the Iraqi people to be, to be
a stable force in the Mideast and in the world.
That legacy whether it works out or not is yet to be determined and it will
be determined in part on whether the Shias stick together or the Persians,
the Iranian people and Arabs split.
COX: And that in part will determine what his legacy is.
KORNACKI: But I think what`s interesting in the video we just showed the
set up presumes that he had to make a choice about Iraq and I think, you
know, sort of critics of that administration and maybe of that exhibit
would say, well, how did it get to the point that Iraq was on the table,
the president had to decide, because the president didn`t have t make a
decision about Iraq.
COX: It was a war of choice. He could have continued the way it was, work
with the CIA to, in fact, get rid of Saddam Hussein, the military could
have remained in power, could have worked with them. It would have been a
minority government, because the Shias are the majority in the country.
They still would have been opposed to Iran, because they have a very bitter
war fought in the mid-`80s. That would have been a different course of
He chose a different course based on his freedom agenda.
NAFTALI: That`s why the context matters. That`s why if you pull it out of
history and present it the way it`s presented, you have no sense that you
still have a war in Afghanistan and you still have al Qaeda and you haven`t
found Osama bin Laden and that`s your main target because those are the
people that attacked you, not Saddam Hussein.
HAYWORTH: And Iraq is being torn by sectarian strife and it`s not in any
way clear that that war of choice. I think most us would say, I`ve
certainly said, is that if I had known then what we know today, I would
have voted no to pursuing that action.
KORNACKI: There is a part of this, when they talk about there is
acknowledged in the museum that no weapons of mass destruction were found,
but there`s also an added line after that -- but we know that Saddam
Hussein had the capacity --
COX: It did change the course of American political history though.
Because of that war, Mrs. Clinton, then a senator, decided that she could
go the middle, she had no threat from her left and voted for the war.
Because of that, Barack Obama came up on her left, made speeches he was
against the war, she was for it, the base of the Democratic Party is anti-
war going back to Vietnam, he got the nomination, she didn`t, he was
elected president, she wasn`t.
So it changed the course of American politics.
NAFTALI: Are you saying, Ed, that the Bush library should explain the Iraq
war gave us Barack Obama?
COX: Not the library but that decision certainly did.
HAYWORTH: That`s why President Obama was smiling --
KORNACKI: That`s why they are so happy.
That`s interesting because that -- it`s how the conservative movement has
understood the Barack Obama presidency, understood the rise of Barack
Obama. I watched this transition play out in 2008 and 2009 and we`re still
living with it today where basically the conservative movement lost to
Obama in 2008 and the Tea Party.
And what was the Tea Party? The Tea Party was saying George W. Bush as
president violated conservative principles, spent too much money, big
government conservatism and it confused voters and gave rise to Obama and
the only way to defeat Obama is to purify ourselves. That`s sort of the
genesis of the Tea Party movement.
So, the conservatives have had no interest in the last four or five years.
COX: I would disagree with your interpretation of the Tea Party. Nan,
certainly, we have both spoke in Tea Party. They are just real fiscal
conservatives. This is a silent majority that`s very upset by trillion
KORNACKI: But, OK. Fiscal conservatives, right. That`s the knock on
George W. Bush after his administration.
HAYWORTH: That`s right.
KORNACKI: The key is the cries of George W. Bush was not a fiscal
conservative and didn`t pick up and didn`t intensify until after he left.
And so, it seems like the conservative movement reinterpreted the Bush
presidency after he was president. I`m wondering -- yes, go ahead.
HAYWORTH: But the events of 2008 made that sort of a crisis in his legacy,
if you will, inevitable. And, of course, the biggest motivator for the Tea
Party was actually the passage of the Affordable Care Act because that was
seen as massive invasion. But, yes, many did make ties to both parties and
said look President Bush was -- he was a big government conservative.
COX: He did not veto any budget presented to him by Congress or items
presented for six or seven years.
HAYWORTH: Medicare Part D.
NAFTALI: I`m hearing reinterpretation of the Tea Party. I mean, I can`t
believe -- your father-in-law, actually when he wrote that silent majority
speech, the first phrase he chose was, you can see it at the library, it`s
in his handwriting, silent center.
What he was doing was talking to the center. The center has changed in our
country. I don`t think anybody, Tea Party, anybody, believes the Tea Party
is the center of the United States political spectrum.
COX: From the point of view of debt and deficits, the center -- a lot of
them are very centrist in the sense that they just did not believe we just
should spend beyond our means. They`re --
COX: They balance their own budgets. Why is the government going to raise
taxes to balance its budget, rather than cut spending, like I`ve had to cut
KORNACKI: What we can agree on and I think stipulate here is they are a
major component of the Republican Party right now and in the last four
years, their assessment of the Bush presidency, especially on fiscal
matters, has not been favorable.
We`re talking about Bush trying to cast -- you know, recast his legacy and
I think there might be an incentive for conservatives to move back towards
him. I teased it before, I`m teasing it again -- we`re talking about it,
KORNACKI: So, in the setup to this a couple of blocks ago, I talked about
the example of Ronald Reagan and how the conservative movement has really
adopted his legacy as one of their projects and they have been very
successful in enhancing his legacy for the last two decades. So the
conservative movement right now is not too attached to George W. Bush and
But here`s what I wonder if it will change. If his brother Jeb Bush
decides to run for president in 2016, does that give the conservative
movement the kind of incentive it had with Ronald Reagan, the kind of
incentive to say we`ve got to revisit the Bush legacy, it`s a lot better
than we thought because we got another one coming along.
NAFTALI: Well, you know, the legacy --
NAFTALI: I think the legacy of Bush 41, Daddy Bush, was enhanced by the
fact his son became president and was not as good at national security
policy as the father had been. I think a lot of people revisited the
legacy of George Herbert Walker Bush because of the son.
KORNACKI: I watched the ceremony this week and there`s the father and he`s
had some health problems and he`s not, you know -- and I`m glad he`s still
alive but the reception he got, one term president voted out of office with
the lowest share of the vote since William Howard Taft --
NAFTALI: He`s going to be not -- he won`t get exactly what Truman had.
But I suspect like Truman, George Herbert Walker Bush`s reputation will
grow with time because he managed the end of the Cold War so brilliantly.
He didn`t do it alone, Gorbachev deserves most of the credit, but you
needed a partner in the United States and he managed it extremely well.
HAYWORTH: And he showed restraint with regard to his treatment of Iraq in
NAFTALI: And, finally, he broke his tax pledge because he realized for the
sake of the country, you had to raise taxes and that sometimes being
ideologically pure is not in the interest of the United States.
KORNACKI: You know, we remember the days of balanced budget in the late
`90s, which are well forgotten now. But those were part of the legacy of
President Clinton, they were also the legacy of George Bush Sr.
HAYWORTH: And of Ronald Reagan.
KORNACKI: And the deficits.
HAYWORTH: But Reagan, the reason I think -- there are many reasons that
Republicans in particular and conservatives harken back to President
Reagan, but one of them is that he has so inspiringly articulated the cause
for, even though it was imperfectly observed as everything is in politics,
but he articulated the cause of restraining government, of respecting the
taxpayer, of respecting the citizen in that way. And that was a powerful
KORNACKI: And he was the other president, and, Starlee, I want to -- I want
to talk a little bit here about the role that these libraries play, these
museums play in the legacy of his campaign of all ex-presidents. You did
this piece for "This American Life" which was just great.
You went to the Reagan Librarian and you watched school kids try to re-
enacting the 1983 Grenada invasion from the perspective of the Oval Office.
KINE: Yes, because it`s similar to the Decision Point to Bush`s thing
where the kids, they have a part, a really thorough re-enactment where
young children go and the y can play role, they either play the role of the
press or they go to the war room or they go to the Oval Office and one of
them can play Reagan.
And they have to decide whether or not to invade. There`s all this
emphasis on it being their choice at how this is about how democracy works
and how you can make your decisions. I watched as one of these kids
decided to not invade Grenada because there`s all these different --
because what happens there`s a leak to the press and they decide to invade
and they are telling him that`s OK, that`s OK, and he picks up the phone
there`s a huge buzzer that goes off telling him he`s wrong and you actually
-- but it`s definitely wrong and the kid`s face falls.
And then in the press room, they then tell them that it`s the press`s fault
that this all has happened and the kids start attacking the kids playing
the press, and playing them for 19 people who died and the blood is on
their hands. It`s really amazing, and it`s under the guise saying it`s up
KORNACKI: But what a traumatic experience for school kids to be playing --
KINE: These kids, they were asked -- their faces and the press kids did
not know because they were given lines to read to the camera. The thing
about Reagan library is also because there`s so much goodwill there, you
feel -- you can feel how much like this is the one we`re going bank
everything on. We feel so good about him. So Grenada is something, I feel
it doesn`t come up very often and kind of a strange one for them to choose
KORNACKI: Yes. I think there is -- if you`re a visitor at one of these
libraries, one of these museums, the experience I had I was 14 years old
and driving through Iowa with my father and we saw West Branch, Iowa, the
Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum. What do I know about 14-year-old about
Herbert Hoover? Oh, he`s the guy that caused the depression. Terrible
president, all of that.
I went to this museum and I learned about Herbert Hoover the humanitarian,
all the extenuating factors that led to the depression. All the things
Herbert Hoover tried to do. And at the end, there`s the kiosk. And
they`ve asked you, now that you`ve seen all this, have you opinion of
Herbert Hoover`s rule in the Great Depression changed? And I was like,
hell yes. You know, great guy. Great president.
It`s amazing the impact it can have --
NAFTALI: You`re not the only that feel that way. When LBJ went through
that museum, he came back and I know this from some archivists who were
there at the time, he came back to the archivist of this library and said,
I just visited the Herbert Hoover Museum and they made him out to be a
great president. That`s what I want to you do for me here.
HAYWORTH: Yes, they tried.
COX: The former presidents themselves and their libraries, I know my
father-in-law did not really want to focus on his library. He wanted to
focus on having an impact and W. Bush actually in the speech he gave said
he was focused on his institute and what his institute could do with
respect to the freedom agenda and having an impact now.
And I was in the White House then and we left that final speech the
president gave, got on Marine One, going by the Washington Monument, I`m
sitting opposite of the president and he was still president then. I said,
sir, in 10 years you`ll be back, because I knew he wanted to have an
And as you pointed out in your introduction, 12 years later, he was back on
the cover of "Newsweek" because people recognized the publisher, Katharine
Graham of "Newsweek", said put him on the cover because he`s back. It was
a great speech she heard m give to the publisher`s association about where
the country was, where it should go and President Clinton acknowledged
fully the input that President Nixon had to President Clinton`s foreign
policy, particularly with respect to Russia because he felt passionately.
Communism was dead in Russia but democracy had not yet won and we had to
fight. He was traveling back and forth to Moscow to try to be, to have a
difference. He did make a difference.
KORNACKI: I mean, the last 20 years of his life are fascinating to me
because a lot of people -- as I said, history now almost forgets. When you
were living in them he was a prominent figure. But it`s been 20 years
since this, it`s been 40 years basically since his resignation. His
legacy, though, is being litigated in a way that two of our panelists have
a very personal interest in. We`ll talk about that next.
KORNACKI: So, we`re talking about the role these libraries play in shaping
And, Tim, you have a very personal experience in this. We set this up
earlier saying there`s this tension where libraries are funded by the
president`s backers, by his supporters. You were brought in, you know,
from when the federal government -- when the archives took over which they
had to do for an official presidential library, to have the papers, the
archives have to run it. Those are the rules.
So you were brought in to be historian and you put together an unsparing
exhibit on Watergate and the Nixon foundation revolted and what happened?
NAFTALI: Well, let me back track a bit, Steve. It`s important. The
federal government didn`t take -- this wasn`t a take over.
NAFTALI: The Nixon family decided they wanted their private library to be
part of the National Archives system. The private library wasn`t part of
the system because of Watergate. Richard Nixon was the first president to
lose control over his papers. They were seized because the U.S. government
thought that he was -- actually, the Supreme Court ultimately decided that
he wasn`t a trustworthy custodian of these tapes and papers. So, they
stayed in Washington.
Well, in the first term of the Bush administration, Congress altered that
law to permit the papers to go to California. However, if they went to
California, the library had to come under federal control and that meant
there had to be a federal library director. I was asked to be the first
So, the issue was, given the contentious relationship between the Nixon
estate and the federal government over the papers and the tapes, how could
we establish the credibility of this as a research center. And that meant
removing some parts of the museum which the most famous was the Watergate
And I will say that the Nixon Foundation understood that, because when they
negotiated with the federal government about the hand over, it was
understood that the Watergate exhibit had to change.
Now, initially this is before my time, the U.S. government, the National
Archives, said to the Nixon family and foundation, you change it. And as
they told me they couldn`t. They couldn`t agree amongst themselves. At
least that`s what the represent of the Nixon foundation told me. That may
not be what happened.
COX: That`s not what happened, Tim. So --
NAFTALI: But that`s what I was told. And so they asked me, both the head
of the Nixon Foundation, then Reverend John Taylor, and the National
Archives said, you do it as part of your job and establishing the federal
library, we`d also like to you do the Watergate exhibit and that led to
COX: As President Clinton said at the opening of the Bush Library two days
ago, he looked at this monumental library behind him and said, this is the
latest attempt of former presidents to rewrite history, in essence saying
libraries do present the view of history from the president`s point of
view, and the exhibit that Tim Naftali tore down and put was actually
President Nixon`s view of Watergate.
KORNACKI: It said --
COX: It was well-documented. This was his view. And in doing that, Tim
Naftali destroyed history, which was contrary to what his purpose was. And
he did a double standard with respect to libraries and doing it, on the
instructions from the Archives, I`m sure.
KORNACKI: OK. What I wonder about that is the original exhibit, the one
that Tim replaced --
KINE: Which I went to when I was a student.
KORNACKI: It says basically Watergate was the Democrats` plot to overturn
KINE: I went when I --
COX: Well, that wasn`t quite what it was. I think that`s -- they looked -
- it was complicated but it`s the way the president saw it and it was
history, very important history. This is the way the president from all
the problems he was dealing with at that time and Watergate was a very
small part of what he felt.
NAFTALI: Ed --
COX: That this is the way he saw Watergate through his eyes. And that was
NAFTALI: But, Ed, did the exhibit actually say this is only Richard
COX: You could have done that rather than tearing it down. Did you that?
Did you that?
NAFTALI: One moment. Two things. One, I didn`t tear it down. The
exhibit came down when John Taylor and the Nixon Foundation were in charge
of the library. It comes down in the spring of 2007 and we, the National
Archives, then I was the National Archives didn`t take over until July.
So, first of all, the Nixon administrator took it down. I didn`t tear it
Number two --
COX: You were responsible for it.
NAFTALI: Well, I wanted that to happen, but I didn`t have the authority to
The second thing I preserved it. We digitized it. You can see it online.
It`s on the Web site of the Nixon Library. I understood the importance to
public history that the public get a chance to see what was there.
But let me step back for a moment and ask you this. It`s a very important
question. There`s a difference between history with a capital H which we
all can debate, and the president`s perspective. I know for a fact that
that exhibit was not presented as if it were one perspective. It was
presented as history with a capital H.
You can say now that it was his perspective but it was actually presented
COX: If you go to other presidential libraries would you see the same
thing at those other presidential libraries with respect to the way those
presidents saw him?
NAFTALI: Ed, I was not running other presidential libraries. But nobody
COX: In essence, it`s a double standard.
NAFTALI: It was very important -- it was extremely important for the
national archives to have -- the National Archives, which holds the records
of the Watergate hearings and the records of the abuse of governmental
power, it was very important that the exhibit about Watergate not
contradict the materials the Archives holds for the American people.
COX: -- presidential library, double standard.
KORNACKI: Look what I started here, and I wish we could keep going because
I`m somebody who is fascinated by Richard Nixon. I`m fascinated by the
dispute that`s still going on 20 years after his death.
Anyway, what do we know now that we didn`t know last week. My answer is
KORNACKI: So what do we know now that we didn`t know last week?
We know now that gay couples in both Paris, France, and Cranston, Rhode
Island, will soon be able to get married. After months of massive anti-gay
marriage protests across France, occasionally turned violence, gay marriage
legislation passed the national assembly on Wednesday by a large margin.
It will soon make France the 14th country to recognize marriage equality.
Here in the U.S., we now know that Rhode Island will become the tenth state
to do the same. This week, nearly 20 years after gay marriage legislation
was introduced into the state`s general assembly, the state Senate voted to
pass the bill with all five Republican state senators voting in favor of
And we know that Delaware might be the next state to follow suit. A bill
to legalize gay marriage there passed the house this week and is headed to
the state Senate.
Also, after more than 340 died when a building housing garment factories
collapsed in Bangladesh this week, we now know that another example of the
pain and suffering caused by a grueling and sometimes dangerous conditions
experienced by those at the other end of our supply chain. We know that
clothes for American retailers were produced in these factories. And the
day before it collapsed, workers reported cracks in the building.
Government officials said the building wasn`t safe. But the next day, the
buildings manager gave the all clear and workers went back inside. We know
the building collapsed an hour later.
Thousands of workers are now protesting unsafe working conditions across
the country. And two owners of garment factories that were housed in the
building have been arrested. This comes five months after a fire in
another Bangladeshi factory killed 112 people. And we know it shouldn`t
take tragedies like to make us aware of the human element in how our
clothes and merchandise are made.
We turn a blind eye to the human and economic patterns behind the low
prices we pay for the patterns on our shirts. We failed to see the price
paid by those who make them. We know nothing gets better for people as
long as they remain invisible. We know as of those morning, that the
search for survivors continues.
I want to find out what my guests know now that they didn`t know when the
Starlee, let`s start with you.
KINE: Well, I`ve been really obsessed with Zach Braff`s Kickstarter
campaign actually. And so, I felt like now, because he put out, he asked
for $2 million to fund his follow-up to Garden State. And he admitted he
had already financing. But when he saw Veronica Mars` Kickstarter, he
decided he wanted to try it, too. So now we know that people will give
money to a millionaire -- will give million of dollars to a millionaire
filmmaker who already has it and they`ll do it really happily.
COX: I had dinner last week with Republican leader of the U.S. Senate,
Mitch McConnell. And he made a very interesting point. In 2010, we won 63
seats in Congress, historically large number, based Obamacare. That was an
issue, as Nan Hayworth who was elected in 2010 understands.
And it went into remission last November of 2012. It was not an issue.
But as it gets implemented, the problems of it being implemented, the train
wreck that it is that Senator Baucus who authored it, called it, its
implementation, is going to lead to becoming a major issue in the 2014
elections and the Republicans will take back the Senate and gain seats in
KORNACKI: All right. Tim?
NAFTALI: I was struck by the story of Danny, who was carjacked, the hero -
- one of the many heroes in the Boston massacre story. I was struck and
was reminded about how each of us has the ability to be a hero under the
HAYWORTH: Well, I`m reminded by our discussion earlier today of how
important it is to have representatives from swing districts across the
country. Nate Silver has pointed that there are only 35 swing districts
left in the United States. And we need those voices that really help bring
people together across the spectrum.
KORNACKI: All right. My thanks to Starlee Kine from "This American Life",
Ed Cox with the New York Republican Party, Tim Naftali, formerly with the
Richard Nixon Presidential Library, and former Congresswoman Nan Hayworth -
- thanks for getting UP.
And thank you for joining us today for UP. Join us tomorrow, Sunday
morning at 8:00. North Carolina Republicans are pushing through laws on
bother IDs and drug testing for the needy. We`ll have some news on the
fight to stop it.
And coming up next is "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY". On today`s "MHP", daily
papers around the country set to go to the highest bidder, possibly none
than the billionaire Koch brothers. Newspapers, moguls and democracy is at
a recipe for trouble. That is "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY". She is coming up
And we will see you right here tomorrow morning at 8:00. Thanks for
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2013 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2013 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
MORE FROM MSNBC
Add msnbc headlines to your news reader: