UP with STEVE KORNACKI
June 9, 2013
Guests: Liza Goitein, Ginger Gibson, Josh Barro, Marc Morial, Robert Gibbs, Joan Walsh, Hendrik Hertzberg, Amanda Terkel, Steven Yoder, Rickey Cole, Mary Kathryn Nagle
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI": After a week of
stories on the electronic information U.S. spy agencies collect fueled by a
steady drip of anonymous leaks, now the flood gates are open.
The latest comes from the "New York Times" late last night. A report
that detailed the National Security agencies capacity to collect and store
e-mail, another electronic information on a wholesale basis. Using new
computing methods that have turned the NSA as the time puts it into the
virtual landlord of the digital assets of Americans and foreigners alike.
Time also reports, the NSA`s tools for analyzing thing data allows
the agency to track people`s movements electronically almost anywhere in
the world. This came as The Guardian newspaper publish a top secret heat
map illustrating which country is the NSA collected electronic data from in
March of this year. According to The Guardian, the map indicates the NSA
collected almost three billion pieces of data from U.S. computer networks
in that period.
Out of 97 billion pieces of data collected worldwide. The countries
from which the most data were collected were Iran, Pakistan and Jordan.
These latest reports follow a steady drumbeat of stories earlier in the
week that the U.S. had gotten a court order, possibly as a routine
occurrence, forcing a Verizon subsidiary to turn over millions of phone
records. The NSA and the FBI have been secretly gathering e-mails, video,
and audio chats, pictures and other data for major internet companies and
that the president had ordered a list drawn up of potential targets for
cyber attacks by the pentagon.
Even before last night`s new revelations, news of the various spy
programs have drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle. And also
support from both sides of the aisle. Some voicing concern about the
security breached leaks represented and others about both privacy concerns
and whether administration officials have been forthright with Congress
about U.S. surveillance activities. On Friday, the president defended the
administration`s secret intelligence gathering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I think it is important to
recognize that you can`t have 100 percent security and also then have 100
percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We are going have to make some
choices as a society. And what I can say is that in evaluating these
programs, they make a difference in our capacity to anticipate and prevent
possible terrorist activity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: In an exclusive interview with NBC News chief foreign
affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell yesterday, before these latest
stories emerged director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the
NSA had asked the Justice Department for a criminal investigation into the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: Let me say that I and
everyone in the intelligence community, who are also citizens, who also
care very deeply about our privacy and civil liberties, I certainly do.
So, let me say that at the outset. I think that a lot of what people are
reading and seeing in the media is a lot of hyperbole.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I want to bring in my guest, Ginger Gibson, Congressional
reporter for Politico.com. Josh Barro, politics editor for
BusinessInsider.com. And Liza Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and
National Security Program at NYU`s Brennan Center for Justice.
Liza, I guess I will start with you. We played the president there.
And he made -- the basic case he is making is these programs do make a
difference. There is a balance here and they make a difference on the side
of preventing terrorist attacks. Do you at least acknowledge the
possibility that a program -- any of the programs we`ve learned about this
week could do that?
LIZA GOITEIN, LIBERTY AND NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM: Well, I will say
we have come a long way from the inaugural address in which he said he
rejected the false choice between our safety and our values. And now he`s
saying that we can`t -- we have to make a choice. We can`t have 100
percent security and 100 percent privacy.
Of course in theory there may be instances where there are tradeoffs.
The problem here is that there is a balance that struck in the law and
what`s happening at least with the phone records of Americans, appears to
go beyond the balance that was struck in the lot and have very little
evidence on the other side it that actually is keeping us safer.
KORNACKI: Well, I guess -- Josh, maybe that`s part of the problem.
We have very little evidence because -- in part I would say because of this
secret nature of these programs. Right? I mean, we -- it may be that
there is no evidence out there. Even if everything was exposed to the full
light of day but it seems like we have not been having a full sort of
public debate on this just because of the secret nature of all of this.
JOSH BARRO, POLITICS EDITOR, BUSINESSINSIDER.COM: Right. And I think
that`s an unfortunate feature when you have -- you necessarily have to have
some of this deliberation occurring secret. You have intelligence
committees in both houses of Congress and they -- and they deal with
matters that can`t necessarily get us close publicly. But the problem is
you have these sort of -- behind the scenes fights where you had for a
couple of years Senator Mark Udall and Senator Ron Wyden basically hinting
that they weren`t happy with the way that this law was being implemented
but they were not able to air out in public why they were unhappy it, what
that nature that they thought would outrage the public if it were
And when have you these things that are close decisions, where have
you some members of the Senate saying no, these programs are necessary for
our safety and others saying, no they are an overreach, that is not
warranted, the public ought to be able to weigh in on those conversations.
But we don`t have a mechanism for them to do that.
KORNACKI: Actually what you mentioned -- Ron Wyden, who was sort of
raising alarms about this a while ago and sort of -- maybe -- you know,
subtle and coded ways because of you, he had access to classified
information. But we have this clip that made -- rounds this week. But
this was Ron Wyden with James Clapper earlier this year before all of this
came out at a hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Does the NSA collect any type of data at
all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
CLAPPER: No, sir.
WYDEN: It does not?
CLAPPER: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could
inadvertently perhaps collect but not wittingly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And Ginger, that was so interesting to watch this week
because now that we sort of know the subtext to that conversation, it makes
a lot more sense why Ron Wyden was asking the question that way. As a
reporter, covering, you know, covering Washington, covering Capitol Hill,
is it something you were aware of or your colleagues were aware of what Ron
Wyden, you know, what Mark Udall, what they were trying to say the last few
years? Are we picking up on that? Where his office be able to communicate
that in any way?
GINGER GIBSON, POLITICO.COM: You know Wyden said, he did everything
being leak classified information, trying to hint this was going on. And
it was clear, you know, Wyden and Rand Paul, and a number of people sort of
have these concerns and voice these concerns. There was a reason that when
this news broke the reporters ran to Wyden, ran to Rand Paul. Because
they`d made those concerns clear. They couldn`t give us the details. You
know, we didn`t know the details of what was going on. It was classified
information. They held to that. Not to say, lawmakers do not leak
classified information from time to time but did in this instance. And so
we found out much the same as everyone else did as they tried to hint that
this was a problem without saying what was going on.
KORNACKI: We are joined now by Marc Morial, he is the president and
CEO of the National Urban League, he`s also a former mayor of New Orleans.
Good morning, Steve.
KORNACKI: Good morning to you. Jump into the middle of the
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
MARC MORIAL, CEO, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Yes. There is a bigger
question here. And the question is the Fourth Amendment. And the right to
privacy. And the balance against security. And the way in which the
Fourth Amendment is being eroded, now, everybody wants to remain faith.
And should really be the debate. It is the breadth and the scope of this
that really caught my attention and -- I think that this closure thus far
may not reveal the entire breadth of what the NSA is doing.
And it is an important public debate, it is an important public
disclosure. Because new technology gives the NSA these awesome powers, the
ability to really track every American citizen. So, this is a big
discussion. It is a big debate. And it is about public policy, it`s about
the constitution, it`s about the right to privacy. And I think it is
beyond simple partisanship.
KORNACKI: Well, yes. We`ll get that in a minute. It is interesting
we say bipartisanship is dead. We would such a polarized time how
bipartisanship really was the story this week of the reaction in
Washington. But you were saying there is this aspect of safety about
whether this stuff keeps us safe. I think that is part of this debate
because every time often, I think, when sort of civil liberties questions
get polled, the public`s reaction, you know, pretty overwhelmingly is to
air on the side of safety.
And there was -- and the "New York Times" this week when they get
some sort of the man on the streets interviews, they interviewed a student
at Harvard and they asked her about all the revelations of the NSA
revelations this week. And she said, on one hand I think it is extremely
invasive. Am I surprised? Do I think it is right? No. Do I think it is
necessary? That`s where I`m undecided. And Liza, I have to keep come back
to that. Because there was a little pushback seen from the government this
week where they -- where the story was sort of put out there that the --
sort of prospective New York City subway bomber a few years ago may have
been caught through in part through this prison program, sort of the
monitoring of foreign e-mail account activity.
There was I guess, an al-Qaeda linked e-mail account that maybe was
able to be monitored through prison and maybe some dispute about all the
specifics here. But that`s an example I think when you talk to members of
public, they think of that maybe first of -- when these questions are
raised. Hey, the New York City subways weren`t not blown up because of
something like this.
GOITEIN: Sure. And if in fact there was a link to a number of al-
Qaeda or suspected member of al-Qaeda, that should be able to be tracked
and allowed for that to be able to be tracked. The key is that there needs
to be some link to a suspected terrorist or suspected terrorist plot or
suspected criminal activity. Where we cross the line is when we start
doing this dragnet surveillance as under the telephone records program or
under the prison program it appears that even though the target is supposed
to be foreign intelligence, the program is tolerating a massive amount of
what they call incidental collection.
KORNACKI: I guess that`s the key point to me. Because I remember we
kind of went through -- in the torture debate, reminds me a little bit of
where, you know, it`s not only is torture morally wrong the case to be but
torture also doesn`t actually get you any material, any information you
would not otherwise have. Is that the case here? Are you confident either
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
That we wouldn`t be getting anything we aren`t getting in this
MORIAL: Questions whether ongoing monitoring of every United States
citizen`s telephone accounts, who they call, when they make the call, how
long the call is, is an effective tool. And the reason why we can`t
evaluate that is because of the code of silence. The secrecy that
surrounds the actions of the NSA, the secrets -- the secrecy with which the
foreign intelligence surveillance court operates. And that`s why it is
important to have this debate because we don`t know. We have to go on
We have to say, we trust what our public officials are saying. That
these intrusions have in fact, have in fact yielded some benefits. And I
think that that is where we have to push back. We have to push for greater
public disclosure because FISA was a reform in the 1970s to the abuses of
the NSA with respect to U.S. citizens.
KORNACKI: Well, I want to ask about secrecy and disclosure, I want
to ask that to former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs who is going
to join us after this.
KORNACKI: We want to bring in MSNBC political analyst and former
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Thanks for joining us.
Robert, I guess one thing that I was struck by the president said
this week is this is a debate that he welcomes having. But it does strike
me that he didn`t really invite this debate in that this stuff is coming
out via leaks. This is not something the White House put out publicly.
And we had Marc Morial in the last segment talking about importance of more
disclosure so we can really have that full debate.
Is that something -- is that a step you think the administration
should be pushing for now? Because it seems like we are getting one day
The Guardian reports this, the next day "The Washington Post" that. The
next day The Guardian. Should there be sort of proactive disclosure at
this point from the White House?
ROBERT GIBBS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don`t know how much
the White House and intelligence agencies can get into, deep into the
operation of everyone of these programs. But I do think you see yesterday
the director of National Intelligence put out a statement and a facts sheet
to talk about -- I think the actions around the prism program, the director
of National Intelligence did an interview with Andrea Mitchell from NBC in
order to explain some of what is going on in order as you said to have
greater transparency. I think we do have to have this debate. We have to
understand, you know, how we are protecting privacy but at the same time,
how we are ensuring that people that seek to do us harm from outside of
this country, how they are operating.
GOITEIN: I have a question on that. If that`s all right. This is
Liza Goitein from the Brennan Center. Leaving aside the question of
proactive disclosure, we have heard that the NSA has referred the --
whoever it is who leaked this information for prosecution and given --
what`s happened in this administration, with other leaks, I think we can
expect to see a criminal investigation into whoever it is who leaked this
information. Do you see any tension between the president welcoming the
debate and saying these questions of our security versus our privacy, are
questions that need to be debated in public? And then prosecuting the
person who put that information out there so we can talk about it?
GIBBS: Well, these two separate things. I mean, we have -- look,
dating back to the patriot act in late 2001 to the re-authorization of FISA
in 2005 and 2008. Specific aspects of FISA in 2011 and 2012. We have had
some very public and should have public debate about what is possible
underneath the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Now, there are
classified -- there is classified information in the United States. When I
was the White House press secretary, there was a safe in my office. Right?
My office was pretty public.
If I had top secret information or even information above top secret,
classified segmented information, I couldn`t keep that on my desk. I had
to put that in my safe. I can`t take that material home at night to read
in my house. We have to have a series of laws around classified
information. Around top secret information. You can`t just be passed out
like somebody wrote it on the back of a bar napkin.
GOITEIN: I guess, just to follow up. It is true -- in general, you
know, I find that there are leaks that the government isn`t happy about but
there are also often leaks that the government is behind, aren`t there?
GIBBS: Well, yes. But let`s understand this. Anybody -- and I want
to be clear. Anybody that takes a piece of top secret information as a
government official and gives it to somebody who is not cleared by law to
see that information, that`s in violation of the law. OK? That`s
different than, say, leaking that, you know, some economic news is good
or, you know, some bill is going to be passed because the White House or
somebody convinced somebody to support that bill.
There is a difference between getting out information that is OK to
get out, that is not in violation of some segment of the law. Now, we can
have a discussion about whether or not information in the government is
overly classified. In other words, there aren`t some aspects of
information that shouldn`t be secret. Right? So -- for instance, it is
clear that Director Clapper at National Intelligence has declassified or
made unclassified aspects of the program so that he can do interviews, so
that they can discuss this publicly.
But we also have to have a rule of law in the sense that -- and I`m
not suggesting prosecuting reporters. OK. I`m not -- I`m not suggesting
that somebody at "The Washington Post" should be prosecuted. But there`s
somebody in the National Security Agency that took a file or a Power Point
and handed it to somebody that is not legally able to look at that
information. That is a violation of the law.
MORIAL: Robert, this is Mark Morial. And the question is because you
are a communications expert and a very good one that.
GIBBS: Thank you.
MORIAL: .in a case like this, would it be advisable for the NSA and
others to -- from time to time disclose the broad parameters of the
programs that they are undertaking, as so is to inspire some confidence in
the public. I think the pressure to leak is because of all of the lack of
transparency around FISA, around the NSA, the fact that they are agencies
unknown to the American people.
GIBBS: Yes. Well, I do think, look -- and I think maybe one of the
offshoots of what we have seen in the last few days is we ought to have a
more robust conversation about this. Maybe the president should do a
longer speech as he did on the drone policy, about why we have some of
these programs. Look, I will be honest with you. I watched the end of the
last segment. Where you guys intimated that there is this -- broad huge
surveillance of the American people. I think, quite frankly, a little bit
of transparency would likely prove that some of those statements are not
There is data collection and the data is put over in a certain place,
but for anybody to look specifically at some of that data requires a
separate trip to the foreign intelligence surveillance court, right, that`s
12 judges appointed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court under
probable cause of terrorist activity. So, simply taking -- simply having
this data from Verizon or any other telecommunications company is -- you
know, you have to talk another step in order to access and sort of drill
down, if you will, on that.
But I have no doubt that the larger question is some greater
transparency, again, though, understanding that we want to get as
transparent as people can be to get comfortable with this, or to have a
greater understanding but at the same time, let`s not tell everybody that
seeks to do us harm and there are certainly are with those people. Let`s
not tell them how they get around the programs that we have set up in order
to see if they are calling into this country to plan something.
KORNACKI: Robert, I just -- time with you. I want to ask you maybe
to take a step back and answer a broader question because you have been
with the president for a number of years that you are not officially with
him anymore. But you saw him go from being a candidate to president to
being president. And a lot of the talk this week has been about -- well,
would candidate Obama necessarily have viewed National Security questions
the same way that President Obama apparently views them.
And I wondered, did you observe, you know, was there something about
going from candidate to president, something about the information that he
KORNACKI: .seeing as president. What kind of -- can you tell us a
little bit about that transition and how that affected and shaped his
GIBBS: Yes. Well, I definitely think, you know, look, and I was with
him at a time that spanned, quite honestly, you know, the public
declaration of the Bush administration`s warrantless wiretapping in 2005
through the campaign in 2007 and then in 2008, so in June of 2008, the
president supports the FISA re-authorization that has some improvements in
his opinion to how Foreign Intelligence Surveillance was done. I think
probably one of the big things in that that caused a lot of consternation
with certain elements of his political supporters were telecommunications
immunity for having been part of the program in the past.
But I definitely think that -- I think it is -- as he has seen more
broadly what happens and how these programs are conducted, my sense is that
he`s gotten more comfortable with the safeguards and protections that are
in place as well as the necessity to have these programs operate to keep us
-- to keep us safe. And I think he`s always believed that there has to be
a balance that somebody has to, in his words, watch the watchers. And I
think as he has seen these programs up close and he said in -- in that 2008
statement on the FISA re-authorization that if he were elected president,
he would work to make sure that the balance of privacy and security was
maintained to his like.
KORNACKI: All right. I want to thank MSNBC political analyst and
former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Just like being back in
the briefing room there for minute I guess. And we will pick up on some of
the points we just discussed, after this.
KORNACKI: We just tuned in with Robert Gibbs, a former White House
Press secretary about the sort of the philosophical transformation of a
little bit of Barack Obama from candidate to president on these issues. I
mean, Ginger, I wonder, you know, in Congress, it struck me this week, this
was one time. In fact, we have a montage that kind of illustrates this.
This was one time that the predictable party lines didn`t really hold up.
First of all, here are some people sort of supportive of the news this week
of what the president has been doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I`m a Verizon customer. It
doesn`t bother me one bit for the National Security administration to have
my phone number. Because what they are trying to do is find out what
terrorist groups we know about and individuals and who the hell they are
SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think the public wants us to
keep this country safe, to prevent terrorist attacks. And the only way we
can do it is through intelligence. And this is one part of that picture.
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: It was in the last few years, this
program was used to stop a program -- excuse me. Stop a terrorist attack
in the United States. We know that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And we also have the other side of it, the other strange
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I`m appalled. I`m absolutely opposed
to the government sifting and sorting through millions of innocent people`s
SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: To have a FISA court basically give a
perpetual court order to get telephone records, not only of foreign calls
but also domestic calls. I think goes against what this country is founded
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I mean, we have the Rand Paul-Jon Tester lines. Like,
what is happening to the partisanship? Why is breaking down on this?
GIBSON: You know, you see Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein
agreeing on something, it is an unusual circumstance. What we saw is a
trend on The Hill this week was Intel committee members. Largely
supportive of the program. So we have Feinstein, the chair of the Senate
Intel Committee. Coming out and saying that they were OK with this. And
these are the people who are getting the briefings everyone else isn`t
getting. They are getting to hear all of the details and how the program
works and they start representing Roethlisberger.
The house ranking member of the Intel committee and the democrat, his
response was that it just needs more oversight from them. That they are
going to watch the program more closely. And so -- it made strange
alliances when you have Rand Paul and Dick Durbin agreeing on something.
You know you hit an unusual circumstance. But you know, the -- other
reported thing here is that they stopped briefing. The White House
acknowledged stopped briefing entirety of the Congress in 2011. So,
Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss, Roethlisberger, Mike Rogers, they have been
getting briefings much more recently on these programs. We saw
Representative Rogers saying -- and the rest of Congress is been really
critical. Not only the program but of how much information they`re
KORNACKI: Yes, go ahead.
BARRO: The question for me is why this needed to be secret. I mean,
Robert Gibbs said what I think is correct. But you know, you need rule of
law. And you need a system for protecting classified documents. But you
will get more respect for that from the press and from the public if people
really believe that when the government is keeping things secret it is
doing so for a good reason. And this wasn`t information that we are
tracking a specific person or about an ongoing plot. It is information
about a general practice that it does not seem to me to -- would -- the
fact that it is publicly known is going to interfere with the NSA`s ability
to continue doing this on an ongoing basis.
The best reason I can see to keep this secret is that it was going to
be embarrassing for the government if it was released. And so when you
have leaks like this, of top secret information that it is -- seems there
was not a great national security risk having released, then that`s the
reason that the director of National Intelligence was able to release more
classified information by declassifying it in order to defend his position
on it. It undermines the rule of law. It undermines the respect that
people ought to have for classified information because it makes people
think the government is classifying things for no good reason.
KORNACKI: And when I hear -- when I see some of the public reaction,
too, I mean, I hear the line whenever -- against civil liberties questions
come out in the open, like you hear people saying, well, you know, I don`t
have anything to hide so it does not bother me. And again, I wonder how
much -- even if all of the parameters of these were known.
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
MORIAL: We need a little lesson, a little education on the
constitution and the Fourth Amendment and the right to privacy and how it
has been like -- the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, many
important constitutional rights, it is an important constitutional right.
It`s a fourth amendment which governs this. And while today, it is e-mails
and telephone records, according to "The Wall Street Journal" the data
mining includes bank transfers, credit card transactions. Travel and
In effect, the NSA, which is designed to ferret out foreign threats
is now building, if you will, if all these reports are correct, a dossier
on every American citizen. That`s the question, that`s the debate, whether
this is even designed, whether it is so overbroad that the abuses outweigh
GOITEIN: We need a lesson in history, too. I think. That in the
past, actually throughout the modern history of this country, information
that was collected by law enforcement originally for valid purposes has
unfortunately been abused to harass political enemies, to interfere with
social justice movements, you know, there was a litany of these kinds of
abuses that was revealed by the church committee in the 1907s and
unfortunately there has been some evidence -- more recently of things like
What we are seeing in this country is an unmistakable trend where the
government is claiming the right to know more and more about the personal
information of law abiding Americans. At the same time, it is claiming
more and more rights to keep its own information secret. And that`s
backwards in a democracy. But people have a right and a need to know what
the government is doing. Whereas the activities of law abiding Americans
should be none of the government`s business.
KORNACKI: All right. I want to say, Ginger Gibson of Politico.com,
Liza Goitein of NYU`s Brennan Center for Justice, and Mark Morial of the
National Urban League. A group of women teamed up this week to make sure a
major Senate committee hearing didn`t feel like 1991. I will explain after
KORNACKI: This picture got a lot of attention this week because it
looked really bad. It is from a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on
Tuesday. The subject was sexual assault in the military and the military
leaders called to testify were almost all men. Eleven men right there at
the table. And just one woman. You can also see some of the senators,
too, in the foreground. And again, just about all men. Although you can
make out Claire McCaskill in the far edges of the picture. So, yes. It
looked bad. It was bad. And, yet, it was also kind of good in a way. Not
the picture but the hearing itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: This isn`t about sex. This is
about assaultive domination and violence. You have lost the trust of the
men and women who rely on you. Not every single commander can distinguish
between a slap on the ass and a rape because they merged all of these
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I just think it would be hard
to justify not supporting what seems to be basic common sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: See what that picture didn`t capture is the full makeup of
the Senate Armed Services Committee. Yes, the chairman is a guy, Carl
Levin, senior members but there is also a growing number of women on the
committee. Seven of them. More than ever before. And that was the real
story at this week`s hearing. One after another, with precision, with
intensity, those women grilled the military leaders and they gave voice to
the victims of sexual assault. It made me think back to another senate
committee hearing and infamous hearing back in the fall of 1991, the
Clarence Thomas hearings.
He was nominated by George Bush Sr. for a seat on the Supreme Court.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings. And it looked
like he was going to pass relatively easily. And then came the affidavit.
It was leaked to the press. Anita Hill, a law professor who would worked
for Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, quietly came
forward to say that Thomas, her boss, had made repeated unwelcomed sexual
advances. And just like that, the Thomas hearings became the Hill-Thomas
hearings. She was called to testify when she sat in the witness chair.
She faced a panel of 14 senators. Fourteen male senators. Some of them
were sympathetic to her claims. But others weren`t.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Was there any substance in Ms.
Berry`s flat statement that, quote, "Miss Hill was disappointed and
frustrated that Mr. Thomas did not show any sexual interest in her?
ANITA HILL, LAW PROFESSOR: No, there is not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SPECTER: Arlen Specter, who was one of the republican members of the
committee, was the most aggressive going after Hill. But he wasn`t alone.
And when Thomas then appeared to rebut Hill`s claims, the same senators who
had been so skeptical of her, so hostile towards her, rolled over for him.
Here was a woman making serious accusations of sexual harassment being
judged by a panel full of men. There was not a single female voice on that
judiciary committee. Outside of the committee, outside of the Senate,
outside of Capitol Hill, there was outrage. Mostly among -- particularly
among women. And that outrage made its way to the ballot box in 1992.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: October 11th.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Did you conclude that Judge Thomas was guilty of
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Did this make you as angry as it made me? I`m
Lynn Yeakel and it is time we do something about the mess in Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: As that ad said, that was Lynn Yeakel. She ran for the
democratic nomination to oppose Arlen Specter in 1992. When she started
her campaign, it was going nowhere, she was barely registering in the
polls. But that ad connected with the outrage that women and no shortage
of men across Pennsylvania were feeling. She won the democratic primary
and it was a huge upset. And it mirrored what was happening around the
country in 1992.
When that year began, there were only two women in the United States
senate. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Nancy Kassebaum. They didn`t even
have their own bathroom. In the entire history of the United States
Senate, there had only been 16 women who had served. And many of them were
widows who have appointed to fill up the final day or weeks or months out
their husband`s terms. Think of Miriam Humphrey (ph) or Rose McConnell
Long, that was Huey Long`s wife.
But 1992 became known as the year of the woman. Carol Moseley Braun
beat a sitting senator, Alan Dixon in a primary in Illinois. Patty Murray,
the mom in tennis shoe, won a primary in Washington. There were two open
democratic nominations in California. They went to Dianne Feinstein and
Barbara Boxer. In the end, Lynn Yeakel did not make it against Arlen
Specter but when the election was over, there were six women in the Senate.
In a few months later when Kay Bailey Hutchison won a special
election in Texas, there were seven. Since then, total of 23 more women
have made it in Senate. And there are 20 serving there today. It is still
not a huge number but it is the most ever. And if you ever wonder why it
matters, well, Armed Services Committee hearing this week was a pretty good
explanation. Dysfunction among House Republicans could torpedo immigration
reform, that`s next.
KORNACKI: If there is one thing that unites Republicans in House it
is Obama bashing. It`s the story of the last few years on Capitol Hill.
Even as they feud with themselves Republicans are able to find common
ground criticizing the president over the IRS or Benghazi or Fast and
Furious. Of course, there is his signature achievement Obamacare. In
fact, Republicans voted last month to appeal the affordable care act for
the 37th time since 2011. What they don`t have, we found out this week,
from "The Washington Post," is any coherent strategy even internally among
themselves for how to pass immigration reform ordeal with the debt ceiling.
Ever since January, The Post reports when Speaker John Boehner passed
the fiscal cliff deal with most of his republican conference voting against
it, the House GOP has, quote, "disintegrated into squabbling factions no
longer able to agree on much less execute, some of the most basic
government functions. Now this threatens to derail immigration reform.
Until this week, for example, republican Congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho
was a key member of the house` bipartisan gang of eight. Negotiating the
compromise in immigration reform. As recently as Wednesday, he was talking
openly about the need for bipartisan cooperation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RAUL LABRADOR (R), IDAHO: My perspective has always been that
as conservatives we need to figure out how to get to, yes. If we believe
that we have a broken immigration system, if we believe that we can fix it,
if we believe that we can actually do something about enforcing border
security and all of the things that we have to do, then we have to figure
out what things we are willing to do to get to that, to fix those problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But later that same day, Labrador pulled out of the gang
of eight. He cite a dispute between Republicans and Democrats over whether
legalized immigrants should have access to public assistance for health
care. In a statement, Labrador said, quote, "Like most Americans, I
believe that health care is first and foremost a personal responsibility.
While I will no longer be part of the bipartisan group of eight, house
negotiators, I will not abandon my efforts to modernize our broken
immigration system by securing our boarders and creating a workable guest
I want on bring in MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh, editor-at-
large for Salon. Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor at the New Yorker
Magazine. And Amanda Terkel, senior political reporter and politics
managing editor of the "Huffington Post."
So we will get to immigration in a minute. But I think that -- if --
if everybody out there has not already read this "Washington Post" by Paul
Kane earlier in this week, I`d really recommend going back and looking at
it. And I think it explains and it captures what`s going on within the
ranks of the Republicans in the house.
And one thing, he has in there I think is -- I didn`t fully realize
this, if you remember back in January, when you have the customary vote for
a new speaker at the start of every new Congress and we know Republicans
have the majority, we assume John Boehner is going to win and there might
be a few, you know, protest votes or something, according to Paul Kane`s
reporting, John Boehner came very, very close to not having the votes in
that first ballot.
He got passed by four total in the end but it could have been a lot
worse and he actually, he gets an interview, I guess, with Steve
Sutherland, who is a republican congressman from Florida, conservatives
elected in 2010 who basically said he was ready and some of his colleagues
were ready to vote against Boehner and he read an old testament passage the
night before about Sol and David and David`s decision to spare Sol and he
read from this that therefore we must spare John Boehner. And it`s just
hideous, like we could have had a situation where John Boehner really was
denied the votes to be the speaker of the house this Congress.
AMANDA TERKEL, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: That was my favorite passage in
the whole article that basically God told him to spare John Boehner. I
mean, we knew that John Boehner, there was a chance that he wouldn`t be
speaker, he probably would become speaker but he might not and it would
have been incredibly embarrassing for him even if the vote were very close
or if he had to go further rounds. But the fact that basically they had a
sort of a come to Jesus moment the night before.
KORNACKI: Literally, right?
KORNACKI: But so what is that -- I mean, I look at that instance and
I say that really -- that`s sort of formative for how the Republicans --
how the republican leadership is going to function for the next two years
because if that threat is dangling over you as John Boehner, republican
leader from day one, that this is how I came one bible passageway from
losing my job, you know, among my fellow Republicans, that`s going to make
him -- that`s going to already impede what he can do, isn`t it?
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Well, yes. And it was Raul Labrador, who was
one of the people who got the protest votes. So, it was always kind of
unlikely that he was going to hang with that gang of eight because he is so
far out on the right and I think they are looking at each other in the
right wing of the caucus and saying, we don`t need immigration reform. We
don`t care. We are not going to get Latino votes. We look at the polling,
the more recent polling shows that the Latinos -- it`s always been this
idea that they are pro-Jesus and they are pro-guns and they are pro-works.
Or maybe they would be pro-republican.
But they are pro-government spending. Young Latinos are the most
pro-choice segment of the electorate, they`re must conservative on social
issues than we have always believed in. So, I think there is a real kind
of -- what people think is a pragmatism saying why would we legalize all of
these people, our base hits the idea. And you will going to have more and
more people walking away.
KORNACKI: And Josh, it just -- it just strikes me, too, when you
look at the Boehner standing among fellow Republicans, what is -- I know
you sort of -- have your -- little more distant from the conservative
movement than you used to be.
KORNACKI: But you sort have been in that world a little bit and I
wonder -- when you talk to Republicans, what do they think of sort of
outside the beltway when they think of John Boehner?
BARRO: Well, I think what "The Washington Post" makes clear is why
John Boehner is still the speaker. Because it is not that he`s bad at
being speaker, he`s not great at it or anything, but it`s a completely
unmanageable group and impossible path to try to lead this caucus together.
Because you try get to 218, they don`t have that many more members than
that in order to pass things by majority vote. You need to get people all
the way on the very conservative end of the party, to agree, to pass things
that are not drastically unpopular.
And so you end up being unable to round up those votes and the only
way for Boehner to govern is by building these coalitions that involve lots
of Democrats and the minority of his own caucus on these really important
votes. And I think most of the Republicans in Congress understand that.
Even if they don`t want to vote for things like the debt ceiling deal and
they aren`t going to want to vote for the immigration deal, they understand
the political logic that these things have to pass. And so if someone
really thought they would come up with a better political strategy than
what Boehner has. I think he would be challenged and I think he lose the
So that -- I think that what Republicans have to think about them, I
mean, I talk more to people who are sort of D.C. establishment type people
who I think share John Boehner`s exasperation with his own caucus. So, I
don`t see a lot of dissatisfaction with him strategically in terms of
someone thinks that, you know, you can have a better way to be speaker over
this caucus. I think the problem is a divide between the establishment and
the grassroots over issues like immigration where I think they have the
same logic that Joan laid out there.
KORNACKI: Yes. We will pick it up about the prospect for
immigration reform in the House next.
KORNACKI: So, there`s something that Steve King is probably the
leading immigration reform opponent in the House, it was building this week
as a test vote on immigration reform. I was on the House floor -- House
floor on Thursday. Basically it would have deferred action. You remember
last year, there was news during the presidential campaign about President
Obama basically -- it wasn`t quite an executive order but sort of trying to
do part of the dream act through an executive order. To Steve King put
this thing on the floor, they got the vote on Thursday to defer action on
it and here was the tally when they took that vote.
You know, 221 Republicans voted yes. Six voted no. Just about every
democrat voted no. Only three voted yes. Steve King put out a statement
as soon as this was over, he said bipartisan support for my amendment has
been the first test of113th Congress in the House of Representatives on
immigration. My amendment blocks many of the provisions that are mirrored
in the Senate`s gang of eight bill, if this position holds no amnesty will
reach the president`s desk. Hendrik, that`s -- that`s what immigration
reform is up against. Steve King is the face of the opposition and -- I
don`t know if you buy it but he is saying this is a test vote and I`ve got
HENDRIK HERTZBERG, THE NEW YORKER: Yes. It really looks bad for
immigration reform because of this basic dynamic where the interest of the
House republican, the individual political interest of those House
republican members is opposite to the political interest of the GOP as a
presidential party. So, they are just veering down this road where --
where -- the -- members of Congress are going to be safe but they will
increasingly have no chance of winning presidential elections. And this is
one of the weirdnesses that our weirdo political system creates that --
these peculiar incentives.
TERKEL: And this vote came the same day that John Boehner put an
editorial or an Op-ed in a Spanish language newspaper assuring Latinos
that, we are there for you, we are working on immigration reform. So,
again, sorry, John Boehner can`t really control his caucus.
KORNACKI: Yes. And that`s -- and that gets back to what we were
sort of talking about at the beginning there about, you know, John Boehner
comes that close to losing his speakership in January and knows that it is
the Steve King like forces within his conference who are the threat to
image, Steve King is now basically saying -- linking what the Senate has
done on immigration to amnesty. Anyway, this involves the -- the issue of
dispute between the Senate and the House potentially involves Obamacare, it
involves Marco Rubio, it involves a lot and will get into it in a lot more
KORNACKI: We are talking about how republican in-fighting and in John
Boehner needing to watch his back and how those all going to affect
immigration reform which would sort of seem on track a few weeks ago, maybe
not so much right now. We are here with Joan Walsh of Salon.com. Josh
Barro of BusinessInsider.com. Hendrik Hetzberg of the New Yorker Magazine
and Amanda Terkel of "The Huffington Post."
So, I want to keep on the House for a minute here because the -- a specific
issue we had the Steve King bill, as I was telling you by deferred action
on with Obama and the dreamers. But another issue that was raised by Raul
Labrador in statement and other conservatives have raised involves Obama
care and immigration reform. And I think there`s a dispute here about, you
know, if have you this path to citizenship that runs for 10, 15 12, 15
years, wherever ends up being would people who are on this path who are
meeting the bench marks along the way be eligible for Obama care while they
are on that path. That seems to be a stumbling block emerging here.
HENDRIK HERTZBERG, JOURNALIST, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE: As I understand it, it
is even worse than that. I mean, it is -- there is a long hour where if
you present yourself in an emergency room they have to take care of
yourself basically. And what this would do, if you take that away, you
turn up -- would be 15 years into your being a good person, you know,
obeying all the rules and they can say sorry, you broke your leg. Sorry
you got in a car crash. Good-bye.
KORNACKI: It seems like a situation where we talked about what unites
Republicans right now and now is doing and only thing you can find is
bashing Obama and that here is where that kind of meets a real policy issue
because it lets bash, his new way of bashing Obama care and merging it with
JOSH BARRO, BUSINESSINSIDER.COM: I think that`s right. But I think there
is a real policy issue underlie thing which is there is some amount of
tension between a much more open borders policy and really robust welfare
state. Part of the way you keep a welfare state affordable is the
restricted to it residents of the country. And so, if you just let anybody
come to the United States for and start collecting any set of benefits they
want, there would be hundreds of millions of people around the world that
would want to do that. That does not mean that we can`t have a more open
border policy and that we can`t have regime for providing various sets of
benefits to people who are her and working and paying taxes.
But I do think that there is some amount of tradeoff here where the more
you open the borders, especially the low-skill workers and people that will
have low incomes when they come here there is a negative fiscal effect from
JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, SALON.COM: But, I was talking about people
that are already here or isn`t this debate about people already here and
going to be gradually legalized and once they get in the cue to be
legalized then they can`t use any services. I mean, that seems --
BARRO: Well, that is where what we are talking about. But then there is
going to be as there was in 1980s after the last amnesty, there will be
further illegal immigrants coming to the United States. For the same
reasons they have come in the past. People come here for opportunities and
we have to have policies dealing with that. I don`t think that this is the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it is not a made-up issue.
KORNACKI: You said there will be further immigrants coming to the country
illegally. Well, that gets to the heart of the dispute taking place is the
Senate side right now where you have Marco Rubio, who is setting some Marco
Rubio sort of the key ambassador in the Republican side for immigration
reform and sort of has been his role. He sent up signals in the last week
that maybe, you know, he wouldn`t vote for the bill as it is currently
constituted. And you have John Cornyn, a conservative Republican of Texas
who is up for re-election in 2014, always has to watch his back on the
right in Texas or Border State.
And John Cornyn now is pushing the amendment that would basically require,
I think require the wall to be complete with, you know, there is guard,
there is people watching it, you know, every mile, there`s in, And also,
that guarantee that, I think, 90 percent of the people who get across it
somehow are apprehended. So, it looks like border security. It looks like
sort of a none of the immigration reform, none of the path to citizenship
would be triggered unless these boarders security measures were met. So,
the argument here is they are basically setting impossible standard for
triggering the path to citizenship.
AMANDA TERKEL, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Yes. Any Republicans for a while have
been talking about sort of enforce many only or enforcement first. Like
you said, think it is an impossible standard that many Democrats won`t go
along with. So, in the Senate, I don`t really see that going forward. The
house certainly this is going to be very popular which is why Raul Labrador
pulling out of the gang of eight, people sort of wringing their hands over
I was always a little skeptical of how far the gang of eight would be going
in the house, anyway. And I talked to a house democratic member who
basically said have you looked at the makeup of house? This will not go
anywhere. So, I think that is something popular. You will see it being
pushed by Republicans more.
KORNACKI: Well then, but then, the issue becomes sort of the model of
getting legislation passed through the house this year is this
dysfunctional house had been to get it through to the Senate with the big,
you know, overwhelming numbers. So, it is bipartisan in the Senate. And
then it is the house Republicans are isolated and the pressure is on John
Boehner to at least bring the bill to the floor and then maybe, 30
Republicans can vote yes and all Democrats vote yes. And you know, we have
peace and love in the world.
But, I wonder, you know, Rick, you know, if Rubio is not onboard with this,
or if this becomes a situation where only maybe five or six Republicans in
the Senate sign off and get it through with 61 votes there, you think the
model is functional?
HERTZBERG: The mode is completely un-functional. And this is part of a
much huge, much bigger problem than this particular bill. We have a
situation where the majority of voters have voted to vote for democratic
president and democratic senate and democratic house. In most democracies,
than the party that was supported by the majority of voters would enact the
program. We see what happens and if people didn`t like it then they would
elect the other party the next I`m.
Under our system, where minorities have we have veto powers, essentially,
we don`t have majority rule, so everybody gets frustrated. The system
works just barely enough to kind of keep the country surviving but not to
make any kind of coherent policy, not to give anybody`s ideas as a fair
shake. That`s how it works.
WALSH: And so, you know, the question I read about that this week. The
question for me is what do Democrats do in this situation? Because you
know, Chuck Schumer was coming out and John McCain, too. We need 70 votes.
We want 70 votes. They are not going get 70 votes. Will they get close to
70 votes in the Senate? I don`t know.
And then the question becomes how bad does the bill have to get to even get
64, 65, 66 votes? A sizable Republicans votes. And do Democrats go along?
Do Democrats say, OK, we will, you know, it is not a 15-year path to
citizenship. It is a 20. Yes, to all of these border control triggers.
And agree on a vote for a terrible bill. Send it to the house wait gets
more terrible and then Nancy Pelosi is in the position of having a
basically to be speaker and pass this terrible immigration reform bill. Is
that worth it for Democrats to do that? I mean, how many people will be
help -- there will be a cost benefit tradeoff, but how many people will it
be helped by the bill?
KORNACKI: What is the mood of Democrats on capitol right now as they watch
that any of that play?
TERKEL: I think that you may see differences in the house Democrats and
Senate Democrats. To me, I think in the Senate there is a lot more
optimism. You know, they are going to be considering that though they have
a comprehensive bill in the house, what a lot of Republicans want to do is
break up the bill and consider each part individually. That`s what you
have the house Judiciary Committee chairman, Bob Goodlatte, wanting to do.
I don`t think that you would see many Democrats want go along with that.
But House Democrats are pretty pessimistic. They sort of know their
colleagues. They know they don`t want to go along with this. So, it
really is sort of depending on the Senate to pass something and hopefully
they can get enough Democrats and few Republicans to go along.
KORNACKI: We actually have -- this was Bob Goodlatte of this week,
Judiciary Committee Republican in the house talking about the idea of hey,
if the Senate gets its act together and passes something, why doesn`t the
house just take what that is and act on and vote on it, this is what he had
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BOB GOODLATTE (R), VIRGINIA: I think it is very clear that the house
will not take the Senate bill. There is an effort on the part of those
senators to improve the Senate bill as it moves to the floor. But it has a
long way to go from the house perspective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, I mean, Josh, if we get into a situation here where the
housing system is working its own way on this, you know, breaking it up and
having different committee and just, you know, sort of slow walks in, I
wonder at what point are there forces in the Republican party, I`m thinking
of business specifically, that, you know, have the power to sort of weigh
in and change that and would they be able to use it?
BARRO: I think quite possibly. And part of one upside of the house
breaking the bill up into pieces is if any of them passed and some will be
about consensus matters, you will able to pass with wide margins, you can
then send something to conference with the Senate bill and get it back to
And I think that -- I`m still optimistic about passing an immigration
reform bill. My rule to thumb with this Congress is they don`t do anything
they don`t have to do. So, I mean, they have to do a debt ceiling deal.
They had to do a fiscal cliff deal. I think they do feel like they have
though do an immigration deal and I think you see that in elites in both
parties that, you know, business interests and basically the whole
Washington establishment of the Republican party really wants them to do an
Grover Norquist is one of the people who is really aggressively pushing for
immigration deal to get done on the right. So, I think not only does that
-- is it a high priority for Republican establishment figures, it is also -
- that`s going to give cover to the individual Republican members who vote
for the bill. They are going to have institutional support behind them for
having done this. So, I think that it is likely to pass in the same way
things like the fiscal cliff deal pass where they will a minority sort of
Republican support in the house together with Democrats.
I think the bill will not be as aggressive as Democrats want. But I don`t
think, for example, there will be a poison pill like the border security
triggers that can never be triggered that John Cornyn wants. So, I still
think it is likely that is going to pass just because the right people in
Washington really want it to get done.
KORNACKI: I guess the follow-up question is if you are optimistic bears
out and it is passed, we started this whole discussion with John Boehner
getting fiscal cliff done and sort of the same way you are describing and
coming a bible verse away from losing the speakership. I mean, really, if
John Boehner puts this on the house floor even if Republicans sort of writ
large want this thing to pass, do you think within that, that Republican
universe in the house, this jeopardizes John Boehner?
HERTZBERG: Well, I suppose it could. I mean, isn`t there a threat that
the Republicans will say they will order him not to bring it to the floor
unless a majority of the caucus supports him?
KORNACKI: Is there movement to change the rules of the conference? Is
that right? Where this informal idea of the majority of the majority would
become the formal rule, but you have to have majority support of the
majority to invade it.
HERTZBERG: Where does that stand? Does anybody know?
TERKEL: I mean, people have been talking about it for a while. I think a
lot of Republican was like to but John Boehner does want to.
KORNACKI: Whatever power he has.
BARRO: I don`t see it happening. A lot of members of the Republican
caucus are actually grateful for this dynamic, for things that need to
pass, pass without them to vote for them. If you actually had the Hastert
rule, they would not be able to do that. And it is what helped them avoid
various political disasters.
They didn`t actually want to run past the debt ceiling. This was the way
they were able to do that while -- without having to admit to the
conservative base that they were complicit in allowing the debt ceiling to
So, I don`t think that Boehner is vulnerable because I don`t see who can
replace him and what alternative strategy you would us up can`t beat
something with nothing. And nobody has a better idea about how to lead
this Republican Party.
KORNACKI: Well, that is it. Although, I have had an increasingly hard
time in sort of the tea party era separating who the real sort of true
believer, you know, tea party Republicans and who the ones are faking it
are. I wondered where that line exactly is.
WALSH: Well, we used to talk about maybe Eric Cantor is a threat. But
now, Eric Cantor has everybody mad at him. Because he actually wanted to
do, you know, some nice sounding empty, probably toothless pieces of
legislation like help sick Americans or whatever. They all had silly
names. But, he was not even allowed to do that. He put his health bill on
the floor and tried to. And they made him take it back and he won up
presiding over the 37th vote --
KORNACKI: Actually, they got so upset they repealed Obama care.
WALSH: So what, you know, what -- he has weakened himself by participate
with Boehner, too. So, I don`t think that there is anybody obvious or not
obvious that could replace Boehner at this point.
I think the real issue goes back to what Rick said though, is we have this
completely paralyzed government. And these people who are paralyzing it,
they have come to realize that this is their power. They don`t need to be
a national party anymore. They don`t really need to win the White House.
They would like to, but in the meantime they can vow except everything
Barack Obama and the Democrats want do and the tell -- for their
constituencies, red constituencies, that`s doing that your job. It is not
obstruction. It is blocking what the socialists usurper in the White House
wants to do and they are just fine with it. And it is only going to get
worse. We got Mid terms coming up where the Democratic electorate tends to
stay home. Hope that is not true, but, you l know, there`s lots of reasons
for pessimism about 2014.
KORNACKI: Well, on that bright note, I want to thank you.
Joan Walsh`s salon.com, Josh Barro or Businessinsider.com, Hendrik
Hertzberg of the New Yorker magazine, and Amamda Terkel of "the Huffington
WALSH: I will never be asked back.
KORNACKI: None of us take a pastry for the road.
In any rule and lucrative Democratic Party tradition honors a man who one
writer has called the most systematic violator of human rights for non-
white Americans. That`s next.
KORNACKI: The Florida Democratic Party is holding its big annual fund-
raising dinner next Saturday night. I took a look at the press release for
and it something does not quite seem right. It is not the venue. The
Westin Diplomat hotel and convention center in Hollywood Florida, actually
drove by it on my way do my cousin`s wedding a few month ace go. Nice
It is also not the lineup of speakers. Debbie Wassermann Schultz will be
there. She is the chair of the DNC and a congresswoman from Florida. So
will Senator Bill Nelson, not Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson. And the main
speaker is a rising national star, Julian Castro who wowed Democrats in
Charlotte last summer. It is a pretty impressive roster.
You know, it does not quite feel right is the name of the event, the
Jefferson Jackson dinner. If you follow politics, especially Democratic
politics, you know what J. J. Dinner is. Every spring state parties across
the country host them and ambitious Democratic politicians angled to speak
Just last night, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick was in Missouri to
speak at that state`s J.J. dinner. Joe Biden did one in South Carolina
last month. Another in Michigan, the month before that. And we learned
yesterday he schedule s scheduled for Virginia`s June 29th Jefferson
Dinners are a tradition that goes back well over six decades. And in a way
their name makes sense. There was Thomas Jefferson who organized the
Democratic-Republican Party at the end of the 18th century. Quickly became
the main opposition to Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Party and soon
drove the federalists into oblivion and became America`s dominant political
Then in 1824, a split. A band of Democratic-Republicans who were
philosophically lined with Jefferson became the Democratic Party. They
nominated Andrew Jackson for president. Only to watch him lose when the
election was thrown to the House of Representatives. But four years later
he tried again and he won. So, you had Andrew Jackson, your first
So, yes, in a historical sense there is an obvious logic to state
democratic parties holding Jefferson Jackson dinners. But the there are
also problems especially when it comes to Jackson.
As president, he passed one most cruel and least humane laws in the
American history. It was called the Indian removal act of 1830 and it did
just what its title said. Tens of thousands of Native Americans living in
the southeast were uprooted, often at the point of a bayonet. Marched
hundreds of miles to what`s now Oklahoma. Thousands die order their way
and many more weakened by the journey and died soon after reaching their
destination. History remembers this as the trail of tears. Some just call
eight death March.
Jackson claimed the policy was voluntary but not quite how it played out.
Nor was he just adhering to the norms of his time. It is not as if the
whole country was clamoring for forced Indian removal in the 1830s. The
law was passed over strenuous outrage opposition.
And Steve Yoda wrote recently at salon one petition against the Indian
removal act collected so many signatures, that it stretched 47 yards long.
There were also Jackson`s overall politics. He hated banks and hated
factory owners and hated big business. He hated anything he thought was
run by elites. His fear of government debt verged on irrational. He gave
all federal deposits from the second bank of the United States, he killed
it off which led to the panic of 1837 and years of recession.
Jackson`s populism was aimed at whites so shared his contempt for elites.
In way he was the original tea party hero. But it is Democrats today
across the country who honor him and his legacy every spring. Just as they
honor Jefferson whose own views on slavery are still being argued. His
owned participation in slavery is still being argued.
Just like Jackson Jefferson is an odd philosophical fit for today`s
Democratic Party, a champion of states` rights with little interest in a
robust federal government. It all serves to illustrate how radically the
makeup of the Democratic Party has evolved.
Actually, there is an even better illustration. Just look at this map.
This is a map from 2008. Barack Obama was first elected. It compares that
year`s vote to the previous presidential election in 2004.
So, when John Kerry lost, not surprisingly just about every pocket of the
country got bluer. Bluer from Kerry to Obama. But look where it didn`t.
See the red swath there, that swath that I guess you can call it great
Appalachia to areas that are very rural, very white. Voters who are
descendants in many cases of the same voters who once rallied around Andrew
Jackson. As voters were once die-hard Democrats, but today, they may be
gone for the party for good.
But historical legacies of Andrew Jackson and especially Thomas Jefferson
are complicated. Each was crucial to the formation of the Democratic
Party. Each lived in a different time, each led in a very different time.
But, the story of today`s Democratic Party is the story of what has been
called the coalition of the ascendant, a coalition that is educated in
metropolitan and increasingly non-white.
It raises the question, should this Democratic Party still be holding
Jefferson-Jackson dinners? We will talk about it next.
KORNACKI: So, here at the table are Steve Yoder, to wrote a piece for
salon.com last month called, "it is time for Democrats to ditch Andrew
Jackson," Mary Kathryn Nagle, a playwright and an attorney of Citizen of
the Cherokee nation, Rickey Cole, chairman of the Mississippi Democratic
Party. Back at the table is Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National
Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans.
So, I guess that actually it occurred before we dive into this, we talk
about the Jefferson-Jackson dinners as a staple of Democratic Party or a
Democratic Party tradition. I guess I`m saying, it may night be great, but
I wonder, just could have (INAUDIBLE). But Mark, have you attended
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, CEO, THE NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE; Oh, yes. The
Jefferson-Jackson day dinner and event in Louisiana was Staple of the
Louisiana Democratic Party. And that probably attended several in other
states. But mainly, I would say in the late `80s and early `90s.
KORNACKI: And chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, you guys have
a Jefferson-Jackson dinner but add ad name to it as well, right?
RICKEY COLE, CHAIRMAN, MISSISSIPPI DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Yes. When I was
chairman before in 2002, we changed the name to the Jefferson-Jackson
dinner in recognition of the founding mother of the democratic coalition of
Mississippi, (INAUDIBLE) who led the protest in 1964 at the national
KORNACKI: Have you, any of you two, gone to Jefferson-Jackson dinners
STEVEN YODER, SALON.COM: I have not been to one and talked to people who
MARY KATHRYN NAGLE, ATTORNEY, PLAYWRIGHT: I have never been to one.
KORNACKI: Neither have I.
I`m just curious. So I wonder, Mary Katherine, you know, I will start with
you, I talked about Andrew Jackson`s legacy on the Indian removal act in
1830s. And it is interesting about sort of his legend in history because I
think that facet of this presidency didn`t get as much critical attention
in the first, you know, 100, 125 years after he left office that it has
gotten in the last generation or two. I wonder, just given your background
when you look at someone like Andrew Jackson, when think of him, what do
you think about?
NAGLE: What`s interesting you asked that question because for the very
first few years of my life, Andrew Jackson was not a president. He was
someone I learned about from my grandmother. And it was her stories about
what my grandfathers did, my grandfathers were John Ridge in the Cherokee
nation and then took a case up to the Supreme Court in 1832. And as a
result of those efforts, the Supreme Court, Justice John Marshall said the
Cherokee nation is a severing nation and the state of Georgia has to
respect the boundaries. And my grandmother told me that was a very for
story in our family.
And so, from a very young age I heard that story. But I also heard that as
soon as the Supreme Court respected our right to live on our sovereign
lands, the president of the United States, but she never used the word
president. She just said a man named Andrew Jackson said that he would not
follow the Supreme Court`s decision. And, you know, you go to school and
you kind of start to put two and two together, and you hear in school a lot
of wonderful things about the resident. He saved our nation in New
Orleans, you know, and the battle of New Orleans and these different
things he is remembered for. And his populist movement, you know, what he
did to get away, you know, to ban the requirement of landownership to vote.
Those are wonderful things. And at some point I can`t remember exactly
when it clicked for me that these are the same people. This man that my
grandmother talks about and the person everyone else is praising is the
same person. And that was revelation.
KORNACKI: Well, Rickey, when you hear that, you know, the -- being part of
the party that honors Andrew Jackson in its big, you know, dinner every
year, what is your reaction to hearing a story like that?
COLE: Well, the reason we still have Jefferson-Jackson dinners around the
country is probably the same reason Thomas Jefferson is on the nickel and
Andrew Jackson is on the $20 bills. It`s inertia of tradition. Energy of
Heritage being played out with an Anglo-Saxon bias if you will.
I think that it is time for Democrats to re-evaluate using these two names
and at least in the way we did in Mississippi, perhaps not abandoning the
name entirely but adding a new chapter to history. You can`t erase history
or study and learn from the mistakes of history. But I think that by
adding to history in Mississippi we pointed out to, our state to a lot of
young generations about (INAUDIBLE). People never heard of Miss Hamer (ph)
until we began to publicize (INAUDIBLE).
So, I think that adding new chapters as we move along we have would figures
from the 19th century, we have added a figure from the 20th century, I hope
to live long enough to see it add somebody from the 21st.
KORNACKI: And Marc, what do you make of it? Go -- did you ever have any
reservations about wow, I don`t want to be at a dinner with --
MORIAL: These were two presidents, very important in the 1800s. But it
did have a sense of stale must. That a 21st century effort really ought to
be talking about elevating, showcasing, if you will, 21st century or 20th
century, figures. So, you have great presidents like Franklin Roosevelt
and John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson whose words because of the availability
of video are much contemporary figures and give people an opportunity to
relate to the values that the Democratic Party espoused in the 21st century
I like the addition of Fannie Lou Hamer (ph), who is a great American of
the 20th century to what they have done in Mississippi. And it is
important to recognize, not to evaluate in figures from the 1800s in the
21st century context, but to recognize that if you are going to evolve, as
you say, add new chapters, think of new personalities, new presidents, who
in fact, have had a more dramatic impact on the lives of people today than
even important figures, historic and legendary figures in the 1800s.
KORNACKI: You get the issue of not evaluating from 18th or 19th century
based on the standards we have. That`s a constant sort of issue in history
and how history is written. I think it is a particularly complicated
question when it comes to Andrew Jackson and, Steven wrote about this, but
we will get to that right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you, Missouri Democrats. It
is my great honor to be with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, a rising national
star in the Democratic Party. He was in Missouri last night. That was at
Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Missouri. Sort of just an example of this --
that`s the sort of event that draws a rising national star. State dinners
around the country.
We were talking before the break this idea of how do you evaluate
historical figures from, you two, 300 years ago today. And when you get to
Andrew Jackson, you wrote about this a little bit, the tendency may be to
say, hey, you know, during his time the attitudes towards non-white groups,
attitudes towards Native Americans were very different. But we actually in
the referenced to say, allude to this in the read I did, you know, the
debate was fierce over the Indian removal act and have a quote. This is
Theodore Frelinghuysen who is a senate from New Jersey at the time this is
He said to the senate floor, "to the obligations to justice change with the
color of the skin. Sit one of the prerogatives of the white man may he
disregard the dictates of the moral principle when an Indian shall be
So, the moral questions that we sort, you know, think about right now and
grapple with right now, they were not -- they got a hearing in the 1830s.
So, Andrew Jackson heard the moral objections we expressed now and he still
went ahead and did this.
YODER: That`s right. And, you know, it -- I`m certainly sympathetic to
the argument that we cannot judge the historical figures by our own light.
I think respectable of historians. All would say that. However, as you
mentioned in your intro, he faced tremendous, ferocious opposition during
the 1830s. Eighty-five percent offing with votes the party cast during the
1830s were -- cast in opposition of Indian removal. There was a
congressional investigation -- we can get -- go back and look at some of
the activities in Florida that looked at general -- what General Jackson
did in his Florida campaign when he was general of the southern department
of the U.S. and wiped out many indigenous communities.
So, you know, and there was a citizens campaign, too. Petition from New
York City, 47 yards long. And missionaries, spending time in Indian lands
and -- trying desperately to -- petition the White House to change the
KORNACKI: I guess the case that gets made in Andrew Jackson`s defense
would be -- the thing I cited he adopted Native American child. This is --
he had a personal connection to Native Americans that way.
Also, that if you looked at the rhetoric of other political leaders of the
time like Henry Clay, for instance, Henry Clay basically made a statement
that the -- world would be fine if -- if the Indians just went away if they
just disappeared. The case I sort of -- I guess the best case I have for
Andrew Jackson is the policy had horrible consequences but intent behind it
was let`s give native Americans practical protection in Oklahoma and let`s
get -- better than having them under sort of state control and in Georgia,
(INAUDIBLE) does that register with you?
NAGLE: Well, certainly there is some of the reasons that are proffered
today. But I think if you look at what was happening at that time it is
clear what the motivation was. In 1827 the Cherokee nation pass the
constitution. They formed a tri-part government just like the federal
government here. They had courts. They had a legislative branch,
executive branch, they had a printing press. They had a written language.
In fact, at the time of the removal of the Cherokee nation, more Cherokees
were literate than actually whites living in Georgia. But in 1827, two
years later, in 1829, they discovered gold on Cherokee lands.
And you also had the expansion of the cotton industry. So, these were
economic motivations. You know the morals took a back seat to what was
seen as a way to make money in the state of Georgia wanted those lands
because they had gold and --
KORNACKI: And so, that became with the native American population cleared
out that became the slave trade would have expanded dramatically. You had
NAGLE: Right. And so, you know, I think, you know, president Jackson was
careful to always term it in these words. He would use, he would say this
is going to be better for our native brothers and sisters. We are going to
do -- if we move them to Indian territory, what`s now Oklahoma, they will
be better protected. This is for their benefit. But it was never, ever
for their benefit. It was to expand the cotton industry and to try to take
more land for that and more, you know, white farmers.
MORIAL: You know, (INAUDIBLE), I think the bigger question for today is
which presidents -- which leaders wants to showcase in the 21st century and
against the backdrop of the history if you are trying to appeal to an
increasingly diverse America, then these sorts of factors, this
reconsideration of Jackson is indeed relevant. So, Jackson did a lot of
for things. But you wonder whether a group of historians today would
consider him one of the ten best president in the United States.
Whether in the 21st century it is more for to showcase a Franklin
Roosevelt, a John Kennedy, a Lyndon Johnson, who really, really did things
that really affect the contemporary life of 121st century Americans.
KORNACKI: Does he -- I guess the case for what Andrew Jackson corks
should, or does in some way meet the democratic parties, we always hear the
stories of the last couple of decades of how sort of working class white
voters, rural white voters, and in that area, about In Appalachian area in
the south and states like West Virginia, Kentucky, are used to be Democrats
and sort of fleeing the Democratic Party. Lot of way these are sort of,
these are literally and culturally the heirs of the Jacksonians. Is will
still a hope in the democratic party we can win these voters back and this
is sort of a -- this is a symbol of that effort? Or --
What does Andrew Jackson mean to today`s Democratic Party, I guess.
COLE: Well, it`s probably about 200 years too late to hire a publicist for
an Andrew Jackson. And seen phobia and protagonist were morally wrong, I`m
not sure it bears a great deal of relevance to politics of his d bear
relevance to the politics of today. I think it is a bit of a stretch to
try to draw too many comparison.
KORNACKI: I think they are relevant in a way I got in the opening, and we
will pick it up after this break, but I think, you know, it is this -- the
parties have sorted themselves out in the last few decades, ideologically,
geographically, culturally. And part of that sorting out has been, as I
said, the heirs of the descendants of the Jacksonians leaving the
Democratic Party and causing -- like I remember after the 2000 election,
Democrats were panicking that they lost West Virginia, they lost Kentucky,
they lost Missouri.
They lost the Jacksonians. I want to talk about sort of in that sense, the
future of the post Jacksonian Democratic Party after this.
KORNACKI: So, we have been talking about differences between the old
Democratic coalition, a coalition that you can go back, you know, well over
a century, native Jacksons helps create and the new democratic coalition.
I think that we had a -- real dramatic illustration of those -- that --
those differences. In the primaries last year, we think Barack Obama ran
unopposed and won democratic nomination (INAUDIBLE) ballot.
But actually, in that pocket of the country, that`s with greater Appalachia
area that we highlighted earlier, where Obama actually did worse in 2008
than John Kerry did in 2004. Barack Obama had -- random people that got on
the ballot in democratic parties. This is West Virginia. West Virginia
used to be a deep blue state. Voted for Walter Mondale in 1984. This is
the Democratic primary in West Virginia last year. Keith Judd, if you
don`t know Keith Judd`s story a federal inmate in Texas. He was -- he is
in prison for making threats to the university of New Mexico. Somehow he
got his name on the ballot and against the president of the United States,
got 41 percent of the vote in West Virginia, he won counties in West
Virginia last year.
This happened in Arkansas. Guy named John Wolf, lawyer from Tennessee got
on the balance Scott 40 percent of the vote against Barack Obama in the
primaries. In Kentucky, uncommitted last year, took 42 percent of the
vote. And so I just -- when I raise the Jefferson-Jackson issue, I`m also
talking about sort of rural white, low-income voters who used to be such a
staple of the Democratic coalition in states like that, states like that
used to vote democratic and it kind of raises the question that, you know,
has this new democratic coalition replaced the voters and are they gone
from the party for good?
MORIAL: Well, you know, for a long time had you a Democrat -- the
Jacksonian Democrats were prior to African-Americans and women having the
right to vote. It is for to understand, that`s an for context the
electorate has expanded and changed. My perspective is -- that the rise of
social issues has altered the -- thinking and the political leanings of a
lot of what -- one of my -- one my call white rural voters whose economic
interests in many respects is more naturally and logically aligned with the
policies of the Democratic Party than the Republican party.
If you look at the economic profile of many of the voters I think you dash
however are going to see a continuing emergence and I think that -- in
places like Mississippi, my friend to my right has really, really worked
hard to try to appeal to bring hose voters back into the metric fold. But
it is not difficult --
But it is such a -- I look at the statistics from Mississippi. I believe I
saw the exit poll from last fall, Obama versus Romney in Mississippi. I
believe that among white voters it was like 90-10 for Romney. The
disparity of racial voting in the deep south especially.
Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, and to some extent Texas.
Yes the country, there is a regional divide. I think race is indeed a
factor somewhere in that mixture and it is hard to put your finger on it.
It is very different. Barack Obama carried a majority of the white, black,
Latino, native American vote in approximately a dozen states. He won a
majority of all and in doing so, he did better than some prior democratic
KORNACKI: It seems like it is a regional pattern. That`s what, you know,
the south, deep south, sort of Appalachia, that`s what I`m seeing. When I
look at the maps, Steve, that`s -- I just think that -- the Jacksonians.
YODER: You know, the -- the question there is -- I mean, if you are trying
to attract back white voters that you are talking about, the -- party
having lost, you know, when we talk about the -- something like the
Jefferson-Jackson day dinners. If you -- I don`t think as Rickey mentions,
I don`t think to the average white voter Andrew Jackson matters much or
means much so that dropping him, I don`t think loses much for the party.
Whereas, dropping him, I think, you know, especially given that -- we just
went through an election with, you know, where -- Barack Obama -- president
relied on to some degree on a minority support to retain his seat, dropping
Andrew Jackson makes a lot of sense. Given that reality because, you know,
his legacy I think does -- people associate him with the trail of tears.
So I think that -- that -- you gain more by dropping him, I think, among
minority voters than do you by -- than you lose with white voters.
KORNACKI: Right. And then we can work on currency after that, I guess.
But that`s another show and another day. So, what should we know looking
forward? My answers are after this.
KORNACKI: So what should we know looking forward? Well, we should know to
give a warm welcome to the 51st state, North Colorado. That is, if a group
of weld county commissioners get their way. "The Denver Post" reports the
commissioners are floating of proposal for several world county to secede
from Colorado after quote "the governor and his democrat colleagues in the
state has ever assaulted our way of life," as -- congressman Cory Gardner
The governor`s office told the post, quote, "background checks on gun sales
increasing renewable energy and supporting responsible development of oil
and gas are popular with rural and urban voters. Not everyone agrees, of
course. But we keep trying." The state of North Colorado, we should know,
would be the nation`s smallest state by far as well as the most hilarious.
We should know that Frank Newport, the president of Gallup announced that
they`re fixing the problems that led them last year to a final pre election
poll that gave Mitt Romney 49 percent of the and Barack Obama 48 percent.
Among those problems, dropping unlisted land lines from phone surveys and
under sampling black and Latino voters. Even if polls were perfect, they
would tell us little about what`s possible in the future. But we should
now that even after Gallup does makes its fixes are made, no poll will be
perfect. But they`re still fun to look at.
We should know that Mitt Romney is not mad at Chris Christie for praising
President Obama`s handling of sandy days before the election. Friday, he
told Neil Cavuto it wasn`t Christy`s fault the storm came ashore at a bad
time for his campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can tell you the
hurricane didn`t come at the right time. That is not because of Chris
Christie. That`s because one of the advantages of incumbency is that when
there is an event like that, you get to see the president in a fatherly
role and showing his sympathy for people who were harms, gives a little
boost to the president`s effort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Romney didn`t say when a good time would have been for the
deadly hurricane to strike.
And finally, we should know that a mass will be held this morning for
Martin Richard, the youngest victim in the Boston marathon bombing. He
would have turned nine years old today. Both of Martin`s parents were also
injured. His 7-year-old sister, Jane, lost one of her legs.
After 39 days and 12 surgeries, Jane was released from the hospital on May
23rd. In a statement that day, the family said quote, "while we remain
devastated over Martin`s death and all that`s happened, Jane`s
determination is an inspiring strength for the family. If you want more
information o their family`s recover, you can visit their Web site, Richard
Want to find out what my guests have going forward. Let`s start with
YODER: This week, we may see a decision by the Supreme Court on title v of
the civil rights act. If, as expected, the Supreme Court gets rid of title
5, we`re going to see increasingly gerrymandered districts, diluting
minorities. Fewer polling places for minority voters perhaps. New rules
and more voter I.D. laws and that`s going to -- there`s going to be nothing
to stop if indeed they -- nothing to stop this in the states that are under
title 5 review now.
NAGLE: Well, President Jackson may have succeeded in taking our lands but
he didn`t take not our sovereignty. This last march President Obama signed
into reauthorization the violence against women act, which if you read the
bill, it recognizes the inherent sovereignty of all Indian nations to
prosecute any individual no matter the race if they come on to Indian land
and commit violence and abuse.
And to celebrate, we`re doing the reading of a play called "Sliver of the
Full Moon" on Tuesday, June 11th at the national indigenous women resource
center conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, featuring many of the women
survivors who shared their stories including a woman Diane (INAUDIBLE) who
was invited to the White House to introduce Joe bidden at the signing
ceremony. You can find out to the Web site which is www.niwrc.org.
COLE: Mississippi governor Phil Bryant renewed his claim to the title of
being the goofiest governor in America earlier this week when he claimed
that education in this country began to decline when mothers left the home
and went into the workplace. Never mind the fact that for 200 years most
mothers in Mississippi have had to work pretty hard to make a living and in
the poorest state in the union, there`s still a lot more women who have
calluses from hard work on their hands than manicured fingernails.
MORIAL: We`re looking at two decisions of the Supreme Court which could
reverse the hands of time. One is the Shelby case which involves section
5, the pre-clearance provision of the voting rights act and a recent
challenge and the fisher case, which involves affirmative action and
diversity in higher education. Both of these cases are critical cases and
will give us a sense of whether this Supreme Court wants to continue
progress or reverse the hands of time.
KORNACKI: All right. I want to thank Steven Yoder, freelance journalist
and contributor to salon.com, playwright and attorney, Mary Kathryn Nagle.
Rickey Cole, chairman of Mississippi Democratic Party, and president and
CEO of the national urban like Marc Morial.
Thank you for getting up. Thank you for joining us. We`ll be back next
weekend Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 eastern time. Our guest will include
author and journalist Rick Perlstein.
Coming up next is Melissa Harris-Perry. On today`s MHP, Connecticut won`t
release images from the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. Are they
need today motivate political will for change? That`s Melissa Harris-
Perry. She`s coming up next. And we`ll see you next week here on Up.
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