'Up with Steve Kornacki' for Sunday, July 28th, 2013
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UP with STEVE KORNACKI
July 28, 2013
Guests: Jamelle Bouie, Rick Perlstein, Ana Marie Cox, Josh Barro, Jane
Hall, Jocelyn Benson
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: There was a common lament about President
Obama this week that he was stuck in the past, pivoting to jobs as the
cliche goes for the umpteenth time and offering the same old economic
policies he`s been peddling for years. But the cynics maybe missing the
point on this one. For one thing, it probably makes sense to advocate for
the same policies if they still haven`t been implemented, especially if the
economy is still glaringly in need of a boost, but more than that, the idea
that Obama is pivoting the jobs and the economy suggests he really hasn`t
been focusing on it these past four plus years.
But that`s a tough line to swallow when you look at what he`s done or maybe
more accurately what he`s tried to do these past four years on the economy.
We can start a month into his presidency, all the way back in the winter of
2009, so Obama signed the massive $787 billion stimulus package into law.
It was a mix of investment, tax cuts, extended unemployment insurance and
aide to struggling states. It was meant to turn around an economy that had
just lost 800,000 jobs in a single month.
Not a single House Republican voted for the measure and only three Senate
Republicans went along with it. And one of those senators, Arlen Specter
from Pennsylvania took so much heat for that vote that he switched parties
a few months later. And here`s the kicker, with just three Republicans out
of 219 who were in Congress at the time voting for it, the stimulus ended
up representing one of the most bipartisan economic achievements for the
president. He was fresh off a landslide election victory, had a 65 percent
approval rating and the resistance from Republicans on his center piece
economic agenda item was still nearly universal. It`s set the tone for
what was to come. A year after the stimulus in early 2010 with
unemployment crossing ten percent, Obama offered a significant concession
to Republicans, one that infuriated many on the left, but was designed to
loosen the partisan opposition to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Families across
the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The
federal government should do the same. So, tonight I`m proposing specific
steps to pay for the trillion dollars that it took to rescue the economy
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Then came December 2010, that was a month after Democrats
suffered historic midterm election losses. Bush tax cuts were scheduled to
expire and Obama cut a deal with Republicans to extend them for everyone
for another two years. This was something he campaigned against
vehemently, but in exchange for caving in, he did get Republicans to budge
on some actual stimulus measures. There is a payroll tax cut for workers.
There was an extension of federal unemployment insurance.
If the intransigent congressional minorities hemmed Obama in the first
half of his first term, that Republican house takeover in the 2010 midterms
really put his economic agenda on ice. Republicans, you may recall, picked
a massive fight over the debt ceiling in 2011, refusing to raise it without
exacting huge cuts from the federal budget. Obama offered them a grand
bargain, $4 trillion in deficit reduction by raising revenues and putting
some sacred Democratic programs, like Social Security, Medicare and
Medicaid on the table. But the idea of even a dime in new revenue was too
much for House Republicans who forced John Boehner to walk away from the
table, unleashing brief political chaos in a last-second deal to cut
spending by $2 trillion over the next decade. It was that debacle, that
debt-ceiling debacle at the end of the summer of 2011 that brought
President Obama`s approval rating to an all-time low. And it convinced the
president that no amount of compromising would be enough to get any kind of
deal from Republicans. That if he was going to have any chance of enacting
anything he wanted, he`d have to make his case to the public and beat the
GOP in the 2012 election.
This is when he addressed a joint session of Congress and proposed the
American Jobs Act. Sweeping economic wish list have included half a
trillion dollars in recovery spending from infrastructure to work or
retraining. The idea`s all polled well and Senate Democrats tried to make
Republicans vote on them one at a time, but Republicans, not surprisingly,
just filibustered them all to death. This gave Obama fuel for his re-
election campaign, which for all intents and purposes, kicked off at the
end of 2011 in Kansas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I`m here in
Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we`re greater together than we
are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a
fair shot. When everyone does their fair share.
OBAMA: When everyone plays by the same rules. These aren`t Democratic
values or Republican values. These aren`t one percent values or 99 percent
values. They`re American values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: As he ran for re-election, Obama offered implicit message to
voters, I may not be able to enact this agenda now, but give me a mandate
at the ballot box and maybe things will change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The frustration I have right now is that we still need to break
the fever here in Washington so that this town operates and reflects those
values that are shared by people all across the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But here we are today, now nine months after his re-election
and that fever is still raging. Despite the election -- excuse me, since
the election, Obama did manage to raise taxes on the rich as part of the
New Year`s Eve fiscal cliff deal. The deal made most of these Bush tax
cuts permanent, and also let the payroll tax cut expire. In the State of
the Union address earlier this year, Obama called for raising the federal
minimum wage, it`s a popular measure that last passed in 2007 with
bipartisan majorities, was signed into law back then by President Bush.
This time around there wasn`t a single Republican vote for it in the House,
which brings us back to the limits of what Obama can do to boost the
economy now. In his second term. When in the face of Republicans who are
committed to deep budget cuts and undoing the accomplishments of his first
term, he`s got all he can handle just to maintain the status quo.
I want to bring in Jamelle Bouie, staff writer covering politics and
national affairs at "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast," Rick Perlstein,
contributor to "The Nation" magazine, Ana Marie Cox, senior political
columnist at "The Guardian" and Josh Barro, politics editor at "Business
So, we sort of took a tour of the last, you know, four-plus years there.
I just thought the context might be helpful because when I saw the Obama
pivoting to jobs headlines this week, I thought, I`ve seen this 62 times in
the last 4 1/2 years. So, let`s talk about what`s for the bigger picture
here. But, you know, it actually is an interesting sort of story that
broke overnight, an interview that the president gave to the "New York
Times" that was published overnight. He gave it to "The Times" in Illinois
before his speech this week. We actually have -- they put the video
online. I just want to play a clip from it to get things started. Let`s
just listen to what the president said in this new interview.
Oh, yeah, I`m sorry, I thought we had a video of it. Sorry about that.
This is what happens. We have breaking news overnight. "I want to make
sure that all of us in Washington are investing as much time, as much
energy, as much debate on how we grow the economy and grow the middle class
as we`ve spent over the last two to three years arguing about how we reduce
the deficits." Sorry, again, I thought that was a video clip. But my
Obama impersonation is not that bad, I have to say.
KORNACKI: It`s a very interesting quote because it suggests there`s sort
of been a change in his thinking a little bit here, that maybe, you know,
you had the pursuit of the grand bargain, you know, the putting
entitlements on the table, all of those sort of, you know, focusing on the
deficit. And now he`s sort of saying, let`s put that behind us.
ANA MARIE COX, THE GUARDIAN: I hope so. I mean that`s the message that
people respond to in theory, when they hear about Washington. They like
the idea of working together. I mean I think he keeps trying to sort of
sell this argument that leveling the playing field and we live in a winner
take all economy, it`s interesting that that message doesn`t seem to have
created the political moment for Democrats that you would think it would.
There`s polling that came out during the election showed that more people
than ever see a widening gap between rich and poor. More people than ever
see a class conflict between rich and poor. But somehow that doesn`t
translate into political momentum. I think it has to do with the fact that
Americans refuse to stop identifying themselves as middle class. Like
Americans, the same percentage of Americans identified as middle class
today as they did 20 years ago. So I think they have trouble sort of
latching onto this message that we need to grow the middle class. Even
though what`s happening is that middle class is staying stagnant as the
rich do become richer and richer.
KORNACKI: I wanted to know, I mean, what do you make of that politically
when you see how -- you know, what the president said in his speech this
week, and this is the start of a series of speeches that he is going to be
making like weekly, I guess, for the next few months. And you hear what
he`s saying in this interview, I mean what do you make of - is there a
change here that you`re picking up on?
JAMELLLE BOUIE, NEWSWEEK/THE DAILY BEAST: I think there`s a slight change
in that he`s no longer -- he`s sort of presupposing the idea of deficit
reduction doesn`t actually grow the economy. If you look at his rhetoric a
couple of years back, the sort was that -- he kind of -- sort of implied
that, you know, we can help grow the economy by reducing deficits, which is
the thing that Americans believe. I`m not totally sure Americans know what
the deficit is. I don`t say that as like a condescending thing, but it`s
just I think when Americans see when the public sees a large deficit what
they think is oh, the economy is not working, and so we have to reduce the
deficit to improve the economy. And I think Obama is suddenly trying to
break that link and to say, no, deficit reduction actually at this point
right now has very little to do with growing the economy.
KORNACKI: And he did -- you know, in this interview, the full transcript
is online, I was just reading it through before coming down here, he was
asked about deficit reduction. He went out of his ways, I make no
apologies for putting an emphasis on deficit reduction, for putting forward
-- I`m paraphrasing, for putting forward budgets that moved us towards
deficit reduction. He also said, Josh, that -- like I said, he`s going to
be doing a series of these speeches. This was -- this was his quote. He
said I`ve been in Washington long enough to know that if once a week I`m
not talking about jobs, the economy and the middle class, then all manner
of distraction fills the void.
JOSH BARRO, BUSINESS INSIDER.COM: I think that`s right. And I mean I
think one reason to pivot away from the deficit is that we`ve had a huge
change in the fiscal picture of it last few years, and the president talked
about this in the speech, that deficit has been cut about in half since the
peak at the bottom of the recession. So, even if the White House was
correct to focus on deficit reduction, they`ve sort of gotten it done. The
sequester, even though nobody likes it, did a fair bit to reduce the
deficit. And now we`re at a point where the ratio of debt to the size of
the economy is going to stabilize over the next ten years, even if there`s
no policy change.
And I think -- I think the president`s been struggling to communicate that.
I think the public perception is still that the government`s finances are
really in a dire position, and so there is no room to do stimulus measures.
And I think he needs to convince people about the way the government budget
actually looks. And you also see this on the broader economy. The
president is trying to send this message that sort of intention with
itself. He`s talking about, see how much better everything has gotten and
see all the things that I`m being blocked from doing to make it even
better. I think it`s a very difficult rope for him to walk. But he`s
trying not to just sell a policy agenda, but actually to change the
public`s perception of the way the economy and the fiscal situation are.
KORNACKI: Rick, I mean we`ve talked about this on this show before and
Jamelle and Josh get into it, the sort of the challenge of convincing
people to abandon that reflex of, you know, deficits, always bad no matter
what. Must be the top priority in fighting them. Is it - can he, you
know, overcome that?
RICK PERLSTEIN, THE NATION: Well, no wonder the public is confused. I
mean, he really bollix them up when he says, on the one hand, well, I`m
going to hit a really big home run and on the other hand, look how awesome
I am at bunting.
PERLSTEIN: I mean in the speech, you know, he said, look, I`ve lowered
the deficit for the most of any presidents in 60 years, you know. These
things are, you know, very much intention. I mean they`re the opposite.
And then, you know, also, you know, he is trying to tell a story about
Republican obstruction but then (INAUDIBLE) he says, look how many good,
honorable Republicans there are out there. I mean he said, Republicans
like spending money, too, and he went back to Abraham Lincoln.
PERLSTEIN: Right? So, he`s not exactly telling an effective story about
the way the world works, which is fundamentally what his job is and I think
he`s failing at that.
KORNACKI: I want to play a clip from his speech, and then we`ll pick it
up in the next block. But let`s just play. This is from Wednesday. And
he talked about again, you know, this drives a lot of people on the left
crazy, the grand bargain that`s been floating from time to time. You know,
putting some entitlement program in the table. This is -- he seemed to
hint at that in his speech. I want to see - let`s just play a clip from
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I will be saying to Democrats, we`ve got a question some of our
old assumptions. We`ve got to be willing to redesign or get rid of
programs that don`t work as well as they should.
OBAMA: We`ve got to be willing to .
OBAMA: We`ve got to embrace changes to cherish priorities so that they
work better in this new age.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, I`m a little confused what to make of it, too, based on
what he said in "the New York Times" interview and what he said on
Wednesday. We`ll try to kind of reconcile those things, if we can, after
KORNACKI: So, just sort of trying to reconcile the interview that Obama
has given to "New York Times," this new one where he talks about sort of
moving past deficit reduction and then his speech on Wednesday -- his big
speech in Illinois, you know, talking about -- you know, basically
questioning, cherish priorities and seeming to hint there, I think, people
would read that as Medicare, Social Security, sort of the big, you know,
great programs. I guess -- my read on that, Ana Marie is, he`s thinking
ahead to this fall and the potential of still getting some kind of deal.
You have these Senate Republicans suddenly, the sort of McCain types, who
are suddenly a little bit more flexible .
KORNACKI: .. than they`ve been in the last few days, and maybe he`s
thinking of sort of getting some kind of a budget deal to get the sequester
off the table and it also includes, you know, whether it`s (INAUDIBLE),
that will get in battle (ph) thing again, but those things might be back on
the table for something like that. Is that maybe the way to read this?
COX: Well, I think that`s probably an accurate read. And I think your
description of that sort of speaks to what we were talking about before,
which is this impossible message he`s sending, you know, trying to say two
things at once about deficit reduction or about even sort of fighting for
the middle class and Republican instruction and yet we want to work with
Republicans at the same time. Here`s -- and that, I think, exists because
he`s speaking to two different audiences. Which is to say, the Republicans
on the hill, sending a message to them, and trying to talk to the American
people, who - and both of those groups want two different messages.
And Americans themselves are kind of mixed feelings about how you move
forward on the economy. They like to hear, we`re going to get rid of these
entitlements or we`re going to pare them down because Americans don`t like
the idea of getting something for nothing or the idea of people being on
government welfare, but at the same time, those are some of the same
programs that are keeping Americans from falling through the cracks. And
there are more and more Americans who are dependent on some kind of
government aid. So, he`s got a kind of an impossible message to send. I
mean it`s easy to see that he`s sending conflicting messages, but I`m not
sure what else he could do.
KORNACKI: It seems he`s trying to navigate that basic .
KORNACKI: . sort of contradiction where people are philosophically --
tend to be philosophically conservative in their attitude, the government
is too big, it`s too bloated, it needs to be cut, but then when you get
into specific programs the conversations changes. And that can be a tough
thing for any leader to navigate.
BARRO: Well, and I think what he`s actually said there is
unobjectionable. It`s about - it was a statement about the structure of
government. And that we need to be willing to rethink programs that don`t
work. It`s not a statement about government spending or the deficit
overall. And I think it is a look forward to a deal that he hopes to cut
with John McCain and some other Senate Republicans, where you will unwind
part of the sequester, which will allow more non-defense discretionary
spending for priorities that are important to the left and then in exchange
for that one of the things that he`ll have to give up is some sort of
structural reform. I think the president would like to do a reform that
makes savings and social security and Medicare. And that`s going to be a
difficult sell to the left. But I think that the president thinks for good
reason that he can get something in exchange for that that is more
appealing to the left than what he would have to give up.
BOUIE: I think part of the problem -- if there`s a problem with President
Obama`s strategic thinking is that I think it`s still premised on the idea
that there`s -- that the Republican Party still basically supports the
safety net. And I think that`s actually -- that`s the thing in contention.
I think there are some Republicans who do, but there certainly is a large
group who actually just want to .
KORNACKI: Well, he singles out in this "New York Times" interview, he
says he anticipates the question, he`s laying out his priorities and he
anticipates the questions. I know you`re going to ask me. House
Republicans. They are not going to support anything. What do you do? And
his answer was, he talked about, quote, responsible Republicans in the
Senate. I think he`s thinking about McCain. And I think playing -- there
are Republicans who hate the sequester in the Senate because of the
PERLSTEIN: Yeah, I mean I think the reason Obama`s rhetoric and his whole
strategic approach to his presidency fails is because you`re going back six
years or more, he fundamentally misunderstands the Republican Party. He
doesn`t understand that they behave like of this kind of Leninist sell kind
of hiding .
PERLSTEIN: . (INAUDIBLE) in the mountains, waiting for the final
apocalypse. And, you know, the fact of the matter is he claims Reagan as a
role model, as a transformative presidency. You know, Reagan every day
said, there`s a problem that screwed America, it`s the Democratic Party and
the liberals. And by drawing that distinction he taught Americans to think
that way. Barack Obama is constitutionally incapable of saying, we have
adversaries. That every time a Democratic president comes in that they
handle the government more effectively. Every time a Democratic president
comes in, they create more jobs than the Republicans. But to say that
would be constitutionally impossible for Obama because he needs to tell
this story about reconciliation. There is no red America. There is no
KORNACKI: Interesting you raise the Reagan thing. I have a different
thing on the Obama/Reagan comparison based on what (INAUDIBLE). I`ll pick
it up in a little bit but I want to stay on this point of the sequester.
But first, because Josh, I`m curious what you make of the split that sort
of emerged, we talked this in a show a little bit yesterday .
KORNACKI: The split that emerged among Republicans in the Senate. Is
that something you still have the intransigent Republicans in the House.
Is it something that could be the basis for a deal that could get through
the House to get the sequester shut off? Is that a realistic possibility?
BARRO: I think it`s possible. I think it`s more likely that that will
not happen. If it does happen, it will have to happen as part of the fight
over either the continuing resolution or the debt ceiling that`s coming in
the fall. The hope for the president is to get a deal like that through
the Senate. And what you would do is you would spend a lot more money on
the military than the sequester will allow and you hope to peel off a
substantial number of Republicans in the Senate to vote for that. John
McCain clearly wants a deal like that. And I suspect that given the way
the president has started messaging the deficit and saying, you know, we
need to move beyond the deficit and focus on jobs, the problem with
unwinding the sequester has always been, what do you replace it with?
And we haven`t been able to find anything that is more appealing to both
Democrats and Republicans than the sequester itself. And I think the
answer ultimately has to be you have to replace the sequester in part with
nothing. You can use accounting gimmicks, say, you can unwind two years of
the sequester and replace it with measures that reduce the deficit by an
equivalent amount over ten years effectively. That`s the deal that grows
the budget deficit. You might get something like that through the Senate.
The question is, can the House be put in the situation where they feel
compelled to pass that? I think if House Republicans are smart, and that`s
a big if .
BARRO: . they`ll pass their own continuing resolution that continues to
fund the government at the levels that are allowed by the sequester and
they can say, we have a plan to keep the government open. This
incidentally is why Republicans panicked so much this week about attempts
by some conservative Republicans to try keeping the government open to
defunding Obama care. Because they do not want that fight to be about
Obamacare. They want it to be about maintaining the sequester, maintaining
the deficit reduction that`s already been put in place. If they get
sidetracked on the Obamacare issue, it`s possible that you`ll get a deal
out of the Senate that unwinds the sequester and the House will be put in a
position where they either have to pass that or pass nothing. That I think
is the only way that president can win on a sequester unwind.
KORNACKI: Well, I want to know what -- we talked about the sequester and
we talked about sort of the wish list that the president laid out this
week, sort of. If this stuff isn`t possible, and I`m curious what is. I
want to get your thought Ana Marie, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: (INAUDIBLE) the one thing I care about is how to use every minute
of the remaining 1,276 days of my term to make this country work for
working Americans again.
OBAMA: That`s all I care about. I don`t have another election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, the commitment is there rhetorically, Ana Marie, I mean when
you look at the obstacle that House Republicans present. We understand
what that`s all about. What do you - when you look at the rest of the
Obama presidency, what is the best case scenario for what can actually sort
of be achieved on the economy?
COX: Oh, wow. Like If I knew that .
COX: Like I would be in the White House.
KORNACKI: What would make you happier? What will make you happy? And
realistically speaking from .
COX: I don`t have a list. I`m actually pretty flexible in this stuff. I
mean the thing is like what I see over and over again is a president that I
would prefer not to immediately be talking about compromise. Because
that`s what`s going to have to happen. I mean, there`s going to have to be
BARRO: And you want to happen?
COX: And what I want to happen, indeed. But we`re not getting -- the
compromise is already starting like halfway to the middle.
COX: I mean for me.
PERLSTEIN: Another mixed message he sends is in his appointments. I mean
the SEC chair, her name is Mary Jo White, her first decision this spring, a
decision that was plain (INAUDIBLE) she made it on her own, there was no
congression -- Congress that you could blame. Was that foreign banks did
not have to follow the rules of Dodd-Frank, right? I mean if you look at,
you know, kind of -- the economy as you have the government on one hand and
you have big business on the other hand, government is supposed to contain
as a countervailing power the aggressiveness of big business, he`s, a,
sending the message and, b, creating the reality that that`s going to be
impossible to do.
COX: Look, I would -- I used to just to jump in like to talk about
concrete policy a little bit. I mean I think my problem with Obama in the
way -- in these compromises is he starts from a position of feeling like, I
guess, that Democrats need to counter the impression that they are soft on
big business and that they are -- they`re class warriors in some way. So,
you start with this already, like, oh, no, we`re not class warriors .
COX: No, we don`t hate business.
PERLSTEIN: Republicans are still going to think that he`s a Bolshevik
COX: Exactly. So I don`t know why he already started compromising with
this, when what would actually make the economy better or at least like
having an effect on the lives of working Americans would be to rein in big
business somewhat. I mean that`s where the inequality is growing.
KORNACKI: Speaking of the inequality, he talked about -- I want to play
this and I want to get back to that Reagan comparison I cued up a little
earlier. But let`s - this was the president`s speech, in which he is
talking about inequality. Let`s just listen to that for a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Even though our businesses are creating new jobs and a broken
record profits, nearly all the income gains of the past ten years have
continued to flow to the top one percent. The average CEO has gotten a
raise of nearly 40 percent since 2009. The average American earns less
than he or she did in 1999. So, in many ways the trends that I spoke about
here in 2005, eight years ago, the trend of a winner take all economy where
a few are doing better and better and better while everybody else just
treads water, those trends have been made worse by the recession.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, that actually -- that made me think of Ronald Reagan, too,
and it made me think of a much longer term view on this. You mentioned
that, you know, Reagan -- Obama had saluted Reagan as the transformative
president, you know, a few years ago. But what we -- we forget about
Reagans, when you go back to his presidency, there were a lot of
conservatives in this country who thought he had sold them out. That he
had not lived up to his -- you know, the size of government actually grew.
He did not live up to all these anti-big government rhetoric. Today, a
generation later, if you listen to any Republican talk about Ronald Reagan,
what Ronald Reagan did, what Ronald Reagan said, the only thing they got
out of Reagan`s presidency was anti-government, fight government,
government is too big. You know, government is not the solution. It is
the problem. And that is sort of underlines - underscores the entire Tea
Party movement that defines today`s Republican Party. And I`m wondering if
the president sort of is true to his word in that he`s going to -- he`s
going to be talking about this every week for the rest of this year, he`s
going to be talking about this the rest of his presidency, is this the kind
of thing that echoes a generation for now the way it`s being done.
BOUIE: I think, so, the presidency -- presidents can say radical things,
for the presidency is not a radical position, it`s position -- it`s very
much an establishment position, the position in which the people in charge
are constrained by a whole host of factors. But I think looking forward,
you might see a generation, a generation from now, a group of politicians
who took the inequality message to heart and that they can act in a radical
manner unconstrained by something like the presidency. So .
PERLSTEIN: Yeah. I mean the presidency is, in important respects, a
rhetorical office, it`s a bully pulpit, as T.R. called it. And one of the
things that Ronald Reagan was very good at, was losing well. When he lost
a fight, let`s say when he had to raise taxes, he was very good at using
that to drive home his fundamental message. I have to raise taxes because
those liberals made me do it. And that`s just what liberals do.
Ultimately, everything, whether he won or lost, he made that a generational
project of telling a story about how the world works that kept on hammering
home what he wanted the presidents after him to do. And lo and behold,
that`s what the presidents after him did, like Bill Clinton and Obama.
KORNACKI: And there`s also -- and we got some -- some - there were some
indications this week and some reporting, it`s just sort of -- that there
might be a shift going on in the Democratic Party, more in the direction of
making inequality the focus. If there`s a longer term shift there --
PERLSTEIN: It would be crazy not to.
KORNACKI: This could - right. And this could kind of (INAUDIBLE) - I want
to get into that -- into that potential shift in Democratic Party and how
that might affect the most important economic decision Obama still has to
make after this.
KORNACKI: There was an article in "The New York Times" this week about
Democrats -- sort of more progressive Democrats who are sort of speaking up
more about moving the party`s focus away -- towards, you know, making
inequality sort of one of the centerpiece issues of the party away from
that sort of, you know, Wall Street party alliance that Bill Clinton and
Robert Rubin famously struck in the 1990s, yet Tom Harkin, you know, he`s
the retiring senator from Iowa, the interesting thing is Tom Harkin
actually ran against Bill Clinton in the 1992 primaries when Bill Clinton
kind of moved the party in that centrist direction. Harkin is saying, the
sooner we get back to a good, progressive populist message, the better off
we`re going to be as Democrats. You know, you look at Elizabeth Warren,
you know, in the Senate now, you know, she`s pushing this idea of
reinstituting Glass/Steagall. I wonder, do you sense that the party
actually is -- is this shift actually happening or we`re just hearing a few
voices sort of in the wilderness here?
BOUIE: I think it will happen just based on the demographics of the
Democratic Party. I mean the people -- the people who are becoming
Democrats are Latino immigrants, Asian-American immigrants and then you
have African-Americans who are still Democrats. And these are groups that
want to be upwardly mobile. They care about inequality as a material thing
in a way if I`m not sure is true of their white counterparts. And if those
(ph), could be speaking to take up the Democratic Party or become the large
share of Democratic voters, I think politicians are going to respond
accordingly by saying, oh, yeah, we have to meet their concerns, which are
concerns centered on inequality.
BARRO: I`m skeptical of this.
BARRO: I think Tom Harkin saying that, you know, liberals win by moving
to the left is very similar to Ted Cruz or any other Tea Party Republican
talking about how Republicans win when we stay true to conservative .
COX: I totally disagree. And demographics are different here. I mean
like the demographics -- when Ted Cruz speaks that language .
COX: . he is speaking to a white, older electorate .
COX: . who cannot sustain the Republican Party.
PERLSTEIN: And also, if you look at kind of programmatically what
Americans say they want, I mean as our friend Chris Hayes used to say,
populism is popular. Right?
BARRO: But Tom Harkin, it`s a country that perceives itself as middle
class. We were discussing this in the break. And I think really sort of
hard-edged messaging about, you know, basically, you know, the pie is
shared in the wrong way, class warfare type messaging, I think often
doesn`t sell to the electorate even when they .
COX: You call it class war.
KORNACKI: Has it changed -- have the last five years, though, I wonder,
have they changed things a little bit, watching the meltdown, watching what
happen because of Wall Street, watching of how rich Wall Street has gotten
all over again, has that changed attitudes?
COX: It totally has.
BARRO: But there are two -- there are two separate issues here. I mean
the banking regulation issues and Glass/Steagall don`t have a ton to do
with these inequality issues. The actual substantive economic policy
accomplishments that the president has, are very big moves towards reducing
inequality. It`s a big increase in taxes on the rich that you`ve got in
2013, it makes the federal tax code much more progressive than it was, and
a big new health care entitlement that helps the poor and the middle class.
So, I think there is -- you can act in that direction and it can be
popular. Without actually having to message it in a way .
KORNACKI: I think there`s -- there`s an interesting -- there`s an
interesting - everybody at once. But there`s an interesting -- you know,
the subtext to, you know, the tax increase that Obama got through with the
fiscal cliff deal, was this was for a generation supposedly suicidal for
Democrats to be doing. To be going out there and calling for, you know,
you think of Bill Clinton got those -- that 39.6 percent tax break through,
20 years ago this week, I think it was the end of July 1993. And then
every Republican in the country ran against the largest tax increase in the
world and it was the 1994 midterm landslide. And supposedly this was going
to, you know, Democrats were going to step back from this sort of thing and
Obama sort of showed, that there`s still -- there`s an appetite for it
COX: It`s the messaging -- you`re right. The messaging of class warfare
does not work. Because Americans insist on seeing themselves as middle
class. But the message of income inequality, I think, can work.
PERLSTEIN: I think it`s one of the .
COX: If you poll Americans, they will describe an ideal society, which
income is distributed more equally than it is in reality anywhere in the
PERLSTEIN: I think one of the reasons a lot of people still vote for the
Democrats is they have this vague vestigial memory of when the Democratic
Party was an economic populist party. And I think that sticks with people.
KORNACKI: Very quick question before we get out of this. And we keep
going, but I want to make sure we get in -- we said the most important, you
know, decision that Obama could make on economic policy the rest of his
term is the appointment of the Fed chair with Ben Bernanke stepping down.
Larry Summers is the name that was in the news this week. I mentioned Tom
Harkin and Tom Harkin and a number of other Democrats in the Senate,
liberal Democrats in the Senate are saying no, we do not want Larry
Summers. What do you think, Josh?
BARRO: I think this is very similar to the Chuck Hagel pick. Nobody who`s
outside the Obama White House really prefers Larry Summers over Janet
Yellen. It`s going to be -- he`s going to have to spend a lot of political
capital and get Summers appointed, it`s not clear that Summers will be any
good at managing the open market committee on the Fed. And, you know, but
people talk about the Fed chair as being tremendously powerful, but in
fact, the Fed chairman`s decisions have to be ratified by this whole board.
And he needs to build consensus among them. When, you know, Summers has
had a fraught record. I think he`s done a lot of impressive things in his
career, but it`s a time now when you need the Fed to be able to speak with
a unified voice and the president doesn`t seem focused on it.
KORNACKI: Well, somebody says -- we have 30 seconds here, but somebody -
why does Obama apparently want Larry Summers for this job? Does anybody
have an answer for that?
BARRO: Because he knows Larry Summers personally, and trusts him, and
likes him, and Janet Yellen is not an Obama person. I think he wants to
know that the Fed chair is an Obama guy.
KORNACKI: All right. That`s the best answer I`ve got so far. The
Republican Party`s diversity problem got even worse this week. That`s
KORNACKI: Maybe you remember the historic moment earlier this month when
the leaders of America`s two most prominent conservative publications
merged their powers impended joint editorial calling for Republicans to
resist the comprehensive immigration reform package that had just passed
the Senate. The GOP could feel good about doing this. Bill Kristol of
"The Weekly Standard" and Rich Lowry of "The National Review" wrote,
because this time around, unlike the last immigration debate in 2006 and
2007 the Republican opposition had not been marred by over the top
As Kristol and Lowry reported, quote, "During the debate over immigration
in 2006-07 Republican rhetoric at times had a flavor that communicated a
hostility to immigrants as such. That was a mistake that did political
damage. This time has been different. The case against the bill has been
as responsible as it has been damning. That piece was published on July
9th, which was nine days before Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa
said this about the young immigrants who would be eligible for permanent
residency under the Dream Act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: For everyone who`s a Valedictorian, there`s
another 100 out there that -- they weigh 130 pounds and they`ve got calves
the size of cantaloupes because they`re hauling 75 pound of marijuana
across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That caused a bit of a stir. But when CNN`s Wolf Blitzer
offered King a chance to take it back this week, the congressman was
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER: Do you want to revise and amend, as they say, your comments
or are you standing by them?
KING: Well, of course I wouldn`t revise and amend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: . which is why House Speaker John Boehner felt compelled to
dress down his fellow Republican a day later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Representative Steve King made
comments that were I think deeply offensive and wrong. What he said does
not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But there`s a problem with Boehner`s claim that King doesn`t
speak for the GOP. Back in June the House actually passed an amendment
that would have effectively invalidated an executive order President Obama
signed last year and forced the Department of Homeland Security to resume
deporting those nearly 800,000 young immigrants, known as Dreamers. 221
Republicans voted for that amendment, only six didn`t. And who was the
author of the amendment? Here`s a hint. It was Steve King. And he said
in a press release at the time, quote, "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.
Of course, when it comes to speaking, to and about no-white voters, the
GOP`s problem does run a lot deeper that Steve King and a lot deeper than
immigration reform. The past two weeks have offered an illustration of
this: with some of the leading conservative media voices in the country
responding to the George Zimmerman verdict and President Obama`s comments
about it with racially inflammatory vitriol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY: "You know, if I had a son, he`d look like Trayvon." You
know, now the president`s saying Trayvon could have been me 35 years ago.
Oh, that`s - this is a particularly helpful comment. Is that the president
admitting that, I guess, because what, he was part of the choom gang and he
smoked pot and he did a little blow? I`m not sure how to interpret that
because we know that Trayvon had been smoking pot that night. I`m not sure
what that means.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: This kind of racializing of Obama`s presidency by Republicans
and the conservative media isn`t new. The so-called birther movement is
rooted in it. And you might remember this comment by Rush Limbaugh in the
early days of the Obama presidency after an Internet video of a student
getting beat up on a school bus, in attack, which police later said was not
racially motivated went viral.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK HOST SHOW: Obama`s America, white kids getting
beat up on school buses now. I mean, you put your kids on a school bus,
you expect safety. But in Obama`s America, the white kids now get beat up
with the black kids cheering, yeah, right on, right on, right on, and, of
course, everybody saying, the white kid deserved it. He was born a racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: This is the Republican Party that is getting less diverse in a
country that is becoming more diverse. Why are so many Republicans voices,
not all of them to be sure, but an alarming number of them, why are so many
of them leaning so heavily on race and what are their long-term plan and
what does it mean for the country? I`ll asks my guests about that, next.
KORNACKI: All right. I want to bring in a guest you may have heard of,
Melissa Harris Perry, the host of the eponymous show that comes on right
after this one on MSNBC. Melissa Harris-Perry. We also have Jane Hall,
associate professor of American University School of Communication and a
former Fox News contributor on their show "Fox News Watch."
So, there`s a lot to get to here. I want to start with the Steve King
comments this week. Because, you know, like we said, the fact that he
authored this amendment that passed a couple of months ago that would
basically undo Obama`s executive order last year on the children of illegal
immigrants, it suggests that this is a comment -- and we should add, too,
Steve King was actually asked on Fox about the comment yesterday. And once
again, he said, my colleagues are standing by me. My Republican colleagues
are standing by me. They come up to me constantly. So, this sounds like a
lot of Republicans are smart enough not to talk this way, but he`s
channeling an attitude that`s a lot more prevalent than just Steve King.
BOUIE: I think that`s exactly right. GOP congressmen across the board
are hostile to measures that would increase the amount of unauthorized --
or decrease the amount of immigration, period. Last year, I don`t know if
you remember, but there were - there were ads that were run by Republican
groups not just against immigration from Latin America, but just like
immigration, period, that - which would focus on the workers we have at
home and not bring any more people in. I think Steve King is,
unfortunately, representative of a large chunk of Republicans. And I don`t
think that`s going to change any time soon.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: I go even further and say that he`s
representative of a very long history in kind of the American project,
right, which is that nativism is a common response to economic downturns,
right? That the part of what happens when we feel as though resources are
limited, that the pie is shrinking, is we begin to ask, so who`s in and
who`s out of this contract?
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, often when I`m talking to students and they will
talk to me about their anxiety that President Obama is the object of a kind
of racial discourse, it will bring up the moment when Congressman Joe Walsh
said, you lie, right? And they say, oh, that was clearly racism. And when
they say that, they mean this kind of old-fashioned Jim Crow version of,
you know, white man from South says you lie to black man who is president.
I say, but remember what the president was saying just before the "you lie"
comment was he was talking about the upcoming passage of the Affordable
Care Act. And he was saying undocumented immigrants would not be covered
So the thing that caused, right, wasn`t the sort of old-fashioned Jim Crow
racism, this black/white divide that we typically think of race as
operating, but actually this anxiety about who is in the social safety net
and who is out of it. And particularly, this anxiety about immigration
from Mexico and from Latin America.
KORNACKI: Well, that`s really interesting. I hadn`t thought of it that
way. Right, it was actually an attempt to win over people .
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right, exactly. Don`t worry, I`m not going to let
those people be part of it.
KORNACKI: He prompts that efforts. But Josh, you know, we talk about,
when we talk about sort of the politics of the immigration debate we`re
always talking about, you know, the Republican Party getting a very low
share of the Latino vote last year and needing to improve that in an
America that`s getting more diverse and there`s this empathy gap, there`s a
50 point more gap when you ask Latinos about which party, you know, shows
more care for them. And the 50 point empathy gap here. But I wonder --
this seems like it`s a broader problem for Republicans.
This is not just about alienating Latinos. This about sending a message to
a younger America, younger Americans, that`s a lot more used to,
comfortable with, familiar with diversity. And that here`s this sort of
thing -- and, you know, I remember they`ve talked about in the Republican
autopsy after last year election, they talked about gay marriage. I think
they said a gateway issue for young people. In my mind, this sort of
rhetoric is a gateway thing, too.
BARRO: I think that`s right. And I think Republicans understand that. I
think this is the reason that John Boehner was going after Steve King this
week. And I`m not sure Steve King is the most reliable source on whether
other Republicans in Congress think what Steve King is doing is great. I
think -- I think it`s -- first of all, the immigration is an issue that
divides the Republican Party. Elite forces in the Republican Party are
actually pretty favorable to immigration.
Business interests are pushing very hard for a comprehensive reform bill,
and there`s a lot more support among Republicans for comprehensive
immigration reform than there ought to be given the fact that the
Republican base seems to be very hostile to it. So, I think there are
forces that are pushing the Republican Party in a modernizing direction on
this. But I think there`s a real tension within the party that comes from
two things. There is, you know, there is a lot of people in the party who
are skeptical of immigration in America becoming less white generally.
But I think also Republicans who understand they have a problem with
Latinos they need to fix are realizing that immigration alone won`t fix it.
They still have a problem in their economic agenda. And so, part of the
reason that this actually makes Republicans less inclined to cut a deal on
immigration is they say, well, I can do this deal on immigration that will
anger my base. And it still won`t win over Latino voters. Because they
still don`t like our economic agenda, and if we don`t want to change the
overall agenda, we might as well not even make nice on immigration. So, I
think Republicans would prefer not to have this sort of incendiary racist
rhetoric from people like Steve King, but I think they are sympathetic to
him to some extent on the politics. They share his skepticism about
whether immigration -- more immigration is a good thing for the Republican
KORNACKI: And Jane, I wonder, I mean, you know, you`re somebody who
watches the media. And we say, you know, you used to be affiliated with
Fox News. And I know you had some differences with them. But I wonder
when you look at the role that, you know, Fox News and conservative media
in general plays, there was an article this week in "The New York Times"
about how old the Fox News demographic is. They can`t put an actual age on
it. It`s just -- it`s 65 plus.
JANE HALL: Right.
KORNACKI: And you look at -- it seems to be sort of, you know, we talk
about the Republican base being sort of old and white. And that seems to
be the Fox News base, too, and probably for talk radio as well. When you
look at the kinds of messages coming out of talk radio, they seem to be --
they`re rewarding politicians who talk like Steve King and they are
punishing those who maybe try to, you know, speak to a different audience.
HALL: Well, I think the numbers are against them. Which is why Karl Rove
is for immigration. That`s why Hannity said he had evolved on immigration.
KORNACKI: But then he`s evolved back, I think.
HALL: He has. He`s evolved the other way.
KORNACKI: That`s right.
HALL: They have not evolved on race. I mean it is nativism, it is
dividing people. I think that the effect of a lot of rhetoric on Fox,
particularly, you know, around immigration, it`s always people coming
across the border in a night scope. It`s not intelligent, young people who
were brought here. There`s a demonizing of Latinos. There`s certainly a
demonizing of Trayvon Martin. I know we`ll probably talk about that.
There`s a divisiveness that ultimately is not going to win, but as a short-
term thing for a particular slice of the audience. But the effect is
really, really corrosive. I mean it`s one of the disagreements I had with
HARRIS-PERRY: But there`s short term/long term is the other thing that`s
facing the party as well, right? So, you know, the idea that Steve King
can come out after the speaker of the House clearly says shut up, right,
and he comes out afterwards and says, oh, no, my party is down with me is
indicative of in part the fact that the long term members of the party, the
folks who have that sort of longer focus and who are in districts that are
not quite so gerrymandered and who are in leadership of the party cannot
corral these folks that are in the highly gerrymandered districts, for whom
there`s a short interest in that immediate re-election. And the same thing
is true for Fox News or for any of us. There is the, can I stay on air
today based on a set of ratings that are based on, you know, the money that
-- versus, do I have a long-term audience? And I think, you know, those
pressures are very real.
KORNACKI: And Steve King is an interesting example of that, because, of
course, he had a chance to run for the U.S. Senate state wide in Iowa next
year instead of his safer district in western Iowa. We chose the safer
district. I want to broad this conversation -- I want to talk about
Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman. And we`ll get to that after this.
KORNACKI: We`ve been talking about the sort of reliance on sort of
inflammatory racial rhetoric that`s` marked a lot of -- not all of, I want
to be clear, about a lot of and the disturbing amount of the Republican
rhetoric over the last 4 1/2 years or so. We were talking about
immigration and the Steve King comments last hour. I want to sort of
broaden this out and look at the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict. You
know, we played the clip from Hannity in the setup. There was another one.
This was -- this is Bill O`Reilly, he`s sort of taking on trying to
diagnose why there might be crime in the black community. This is him
talking about it this week. Let`s just play a clip of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY: With the African-American out of wedlock birth rate at 73
percent, many young blacks are unsupervised and prone to imitate bad
behavior, like what Lil Wayne puts out.
LIL WAYNE (singing)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Jane, I want to ask you about this. Jane, our Lil Wayne expert
on the panel. But you are our Bill O`Reilly expert on the panel.
HALL: Yes, I am. I have been for seven years.
KORNACKI: Because the two years you appeared for show with Bernie
Goldberg and Bill and you and, maybe not a fair fight there, but I just
wonder, you know, he`s been doing this a lot, you know, in the wake of the
Zimmerman thing. It`s not just him and Hannity, it`s Fox News in general.
You`re familiar with sort of the a little bit of what goes on behind the
scenes here. What do you make of this? What Fox is doing right now?
HALL: You know, I`ll tell it -- well, I`ll tell you I think that they
have decided their audience can be made more fearful. It is exactly what
President Obama was talking about in his interview with the "New York
Times." You can scare people at the bottom and make them afraid of other
people at the bottom and make them feel somehow as if that`s the focus
rather than the rich people are getting richer in this country. So, I
don`t know if it`s a memo has gone out, but there`s a lot of very
inflammatory language. O`Reilly is very interesting because he said on an
interview with Geraldo that he cared about young, poor black people being
born into poverty. And I felt as if I wanted to say, well, then go
interview some of them. Quit lecturing black people on how racism is over.
I mean I think that there`s a complicated view there where Trayvon Martin
came from an intact, loving family. And there`s nothing wrong with people
who don`t, but to turn this into lecturing the black community, I mean I
feel funny even talking about it.
KORNACKI: I want to ask you about that, Melissa. Because this is the
worst barometer for public opinion, is emails and Internet comments .
KORNACKI: But I`m going to rely on that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Don`t read the comments.
KORNACKI: I`m going to -- because I noticed, you know, we did a show the
morning after the verdict. The verdict came out at 10:00 on the Saturday
KORNACKI: We did the show the next morning on it. And I got more email
response to that show than any show we`ve done, and it was -- it was some
people who said nice show, mostly my parents .
KORNACKI: . but people I never met before who were -- you know, seemed to
be more on the right, you know, anti-Obama, and I heard the same comment
over and over. One e-mail after another. Why won`t black people care
about black-on-black crime as much as they care about Trayvon Martin and
George Zimmerman? And I have heard that almost like a talking point for
the last few weeks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I mean -- I mean it`s a bit of a meme. I guess -- I
guess I want to say a few things. One, Lil Wayne`s audience, right, so
first of all, I`m from New Orleans. I mean you play Lil Wayne, I`m just
going to dance. Right?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, but Lil Wayne`s audience is a young audience, and
therefore a profoundly interracial one. Part of what breaks down in this
discourse about black culture somehow having deleterious effects on black
behavior is that black culture is youth culture. So, the sort of
availability of hip-hop music, of all of these things that then get linked
in this way is simply available to kids who are graduating valedictorian
and kids who are never going to graduate, right?
So, you know, as we would say in social science, a constant can`t prove a
variable, right? And youth culture is a constant in this. So, part of why
that then happens, right, why we make this link, is because we are not
practiced in talking about the pathologies of the privileged. We only ever
talk about the pathologies of the poor. So, when we say black-on-black
crime, people know -- they have immediately a whole set of things to hang
that on. They can connect that to a discourse that`s been going on really
since the 1960s. And particularly this language about out of wedlock
birth. You know, men -- the Democrats did that first with Daniel Patrick
Moynihan. And this idea that before we even had the civil rights act, that
the primary problem in black communities were black women and their
So, that -- like, that`s so old, it`s not even interesting anymore. But
it does give people something cognitively to hook it on. If I say to you,
you know, my students at Princeton, most of whom were white, commit crimes
pretty much every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. What they do, is
they drink illegally underage, right? Many of them also, you know, engage
in other kinds of illegal activities. Some of them, almost all of them
listen to Lil Wayne and other things. And nearly all of them will go on to
graduate from Ivy League universities, to have great jobs, to make good
families. But -- so, we -- but we`re not practiced at looking at those who
have privilege, looking at their pathologies and asking, how is it that
despite those pathologies they end up with such good lives.
And the answer is because they have all of these resources, all of these
second chances, all of these opportunities. And the assumption that we
would never want to criminalize their bad behavior. No one thinks that the
underage drinking crime of a Princeton student ought to be criminalized.
We think we ought to encourage them not to, maybe get a little therapy,
maybe work to -- but no one thinks we should put them in jail, including
KORNACKI: I never liked Princeton kids, I say to you .
HALL: They get a second chance.
HARRIS-PERRY: Of course.
HALL: They get a second chance. If you`ve got some advantages.
HALL: And a hoodie, talk about the thing -- you know .
HARRIS-PERRY: They`re certainly all wearing hoodies.
UM: There`s another message, yeah.
HALL: I mean, hoodies are worn by many kinds of young people.
KORNACKI: I want to - we have a -- the polling on this got some attention.
I want to show, first of all, this was the polling on the Zimmerman
verdict, came out, it was an ABC/"Washington Post" poll this week. And it
just showed the stark sort of race divide: whites approve of the verdict
51 to 31. Blacks nine approve, 86 disapprove, Hispanics 24 approved, 50
disapproved. What we thought was interesting is if you match this up, sort
of how politicized this all has become, if you match this up with the
breakdown of the 2012 election, it doesn`t look that much different.
You know, whites with a 20-point margin for Romney, 59-39, you know, same
thing, at 93 to six for blacks for Obama.71-27 Hispanic voters. And I`m
trying to figure out, Jamelle, if this is -- if this is because the verdict
and because of Obama`s reaction to it, it has been filtered through the
political media and each group has sort of gotten the message it`s supposed
to get or is it just that our group -- I mean group in this country sort of
already sorted itself out and just we live in these different worlds and
this is going to be the result of it?
BOUIE: I think both things are true. I think also the things that drove
Obama`s extremely high margin among African-Americans probably also drove
how African-Americans reacted to the Zimmerman verdict, which is, I think
there`s a real perception among African-Americans that Zimmerman wasn`t on
trial, Trayvon Martin was. That Trayvon Martin`s behavior and Trayvon
Martin`s life was the thing that was being judged. And if you were -- if
you felt afraid of Trayvon Martin, then, like, George Zimmerman should get
off. And if you didn`t, then Zimmerman should be guilty.
And likewise with Obama, I think there`s a very real sense among African-
Americans, even those who I think would identify themselves with
conservative views that Obama`s policies have never been the issue with
Republicans. It`s who Obama is that`s been the issue. And that`s driven
sort of a sense of group -- essentially like black people are going to give
Obama a big hug and like protect him, is what has driven his high support
among the community. And so, with the Zimmerman verdict you`re seeing --
and with the fact that both things are similar, the levels of feelings of
support are similar, you`re seeing that kind of -- the cross -- the streams
are being crossed, if I can borrow "Ghostbusters."
BARRO: Yeah, I just find the line O`Reilly has taken on this, it`s such a
change of the subject. You can -- the issue that -- I mean black-on-black
crime in as much as, you know, there is a crime problem in inner cities
that disproportionally effects black people. Is a very real problem. And
it`s a real policy problem that local officials are dealing with all the
time. I mean, the idea that nobody cares about crimes that are committed
against black people is just incorrect. And there`s been a huge
improvement in the crime situation over the last 20 years in the United
States. It doesn`t mean that there isn`t a discussion to be had about
Trayvon Martin, about whether the verdict was just. We can walk and chew
gum at the same time. So, setting said even whether Bill O`Reilly is right
or wrong about the point he`s making, and I don`t think he`s right about
Lil Wayne, it still doesn`t go to the issue, it doesn`t go to whether
there`s, you know, a conversation to be had about .
BARRO: . about whether, you know, whether a young black man walking home
alone is less -- has less legal protection than .
HARRIS-PERRY: But again, part of the problem is we just -- all crime --
the vast majority of all crimes are intraracial.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, most crime that impacts white people is committed by
KORNACKI: Which is -- it`s (INAUDIBLE) about most people -- you know,
whites live with whites and .
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, they are going - white women are most likely to be
raped by white men. Black men are most likely to be sexually assaulted by
black men. I mean -- and the only group for whom this is not true is
Native American people who are actually -- are most likely to be engaged in
interracial crimes where they are in fact victimized. But we just never --
we do not discuss white-on-white crime.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, that notion of fear, right, the notion that Mr.
Zimmerman should have been afraid of Trayvon Martin is empirically false
from the perspective that -- so the president at one point said Trayvon
Martin was most likely to have been killed by a peer. But the reality is,
so, too, is George Zimmerman most likely to have been physically attacked
or crime committed against him by a peer, right? But that`s not what
happened. This man, who is not black, did kill this child, who is black.
And he will not be going to jail for it. And those are empirical
realities. And so then the question is, how do we perceive them and what
do they tell us about what our country .
BOUIE: The response, I think, from someone like Bill O`Reilly would be --
but you can`t deny the fact that African-American men are a
disproportionate share of people who are convicted of crimes. I think the
response to that is simply the observation that the prevalence of
criminality among -- the problems of black (ph) small criminality doesn`t
imply anything about the prevalence of criminality among blacks, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s about policing -- where it`s .
HALL: But we also need to link this to guns, I think, and the arming of
America. You build up fear, you get people afraid of each other, and they
think they have to have a law that says, stand your ground. I mean if
George Zimmerman had been unarmed or had gotten back in the car, we`d have
a very -- it wouldn`t have happened.
KORNACKI: Sure. And it was just the reaction to this, the Steve King
comment, I`ve got to say, like I`ll admit to not even telling here, because
at the start of the Obama presidency, I didn`t think that racism was
tiered, that it was over, I`ve been surprised how overt the sort of -- the
racial rhetoric has been from the right. And not just how overt it is. In
a lot of cases there haven`t been the consequences I would have expected
five years ago for people talking the way somebody like Hannity has talked,
somebody like Limbaugh has talked. That`s bothered me. And I hope that
some of that changes fast, but maybe that`s naive, too.
I want to thank Melissa Harris-Perry, host of "Melissa Harris-Perry,"
which will be on in about 49 minutes .
KORNACKI: If my (INAUDIBLE) is right, Josh Barro, BusinessInsider.com and
Jane Hall of American University School of Communication. What the crisis
in Detroit reveals about America`s political fault lines, is next.
KORNACKI: The City of Detroit has lost nearly two-thirds of its
population since its post-war peak. Back in 1950 nearly 2 million people
called the Motor City home, today that number is barely above 700,000.
Signs of decay and neglect are everywhere. Vast tracks of abandoned homes
and buildings and vacant lots, shuttered public parks, half the
streetlights inside the city limits don`t even work. It takes the police
an average of an hour to respond to emergency calls. We`ve seen the auto
industry leave the city. We`ve seen white flight. And we saw the black
middle class leave, too. Then there was the economic meltdown of 2008.
The tax base in Detroit has utterly evaporated and now it has become the
largest U.S. city in history ever to file for bankruptcy.
There are major issues now on the table. What will happen to the pensions
that were promised to generations of city employees? How will the city`s
general obligation bondholders be treated? What kind of future does
Detroit have? Does it have any future at all? These questions are being
hashed out as we speak, and bankruptcy court and government offices, in
union halls, in kitchens and living rooms all over Detroit.
But it`s also worth taking a few steps back and looking at what the tragedy
of Detroit, the tragedy that was decades in the making, can tell us about
America. Because what Detroit offers is the most painfully dramatic
illustration of how the American economy, American politics and American
life were re-ordered in the decades after World War II. It`s point that
was made this week by "New York Magazine`s" Jonathan Chait who wrote,
quote, "everything that happened in the United States in the middle of the
20th century happened in and around Detroit, but more so. The enormous
mobilization of industry during World War II, that industry`s creation of
the world`s first mass affluent working class, a place where families
lacking high school diplomas routinely had nice things. And finally the
collapse of that economic paradise, and the racialization of American
politics that split the New Deal coalition.
Actually, to fully take in this story we probably need to go back to around
World War I, to the height of the great migration, when African-Americans
left the Jim Crow south in droves searching for fairness and opportunity.
Detroit was a popular destination. The auto industry was sprouting.
Demand for new workers was high. In 1910, Detroit`s black population was
just over 5,000. By 1930, it soared to 120,000. That was the largest leap
of any industrial city. And World War II only meant more jobs for Detroit.
And by 1960 nearly one in three residents of the city were black.
Despite its diversity, though, Detroit remained a segregated place. The
city`s growing black community found itself antagonized by the police and
racial tensions began boiling over in cities across the country in the
1960s. In Detroit this resulted in the 12 street riot of 1967, a police
raid of an unlicensed bar set off five days of violence. There were nearly
43 deaths, there were nearly 1200 injuries. The governor called in the
National Guard and the president sent in the Army. White flight to the
suburbs, which had already been underway for some time, accelerated. It
also created an opening for Republicans to exploit racial tensions and to
make a pitch to the blue-collar whites who had been the backbone of the New
Deal and great society coalitions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us recognize that the first civil right of every
American is to be free from domestic violence. So, I pledge to you, we
shall have order in the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP0
KORNACKI: Detroit and its suburbs came to symbolize the demise of the old
Democratic coalition. In 1960 Macomb County, which borders Detroit in the
North, gave John F. Kennedy the biggest share of vote of any suburban
county in America. Macomb was a blue collar suburb, it was heavily white,
heavily catholic, heavily union. Richard Nixon made inroads there in 1968
and he won it by 28 points in 1972. 1972 was also the year when George
Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor grabbed 66 percent of the vote
in Macomb in the Democratic presidential primary. 66 percent for the
Alabama governor in Michigan.
Macomb was made famous in the 1980s when the Democratic pollster, Stan
Greenberg, held the series of focus groups with blue-collar whites who
lived there. They`ve been raised as Democrats, they didn`t want to vote it
that way, but they started backing Republicans. They were Reagan
Democrats, and they weren`t just the Macomb phenomenon, they could be found
across the country and they were leaving the Democratic Party, they told
Greenberg, for the same reason they left Detroit and other cities, race.
"These white Democratic defectors," Greenberg reported back then, express a
profound distaste for blacks, a sentiment that pervades almost everything
they think about government and politics.
This was the story of American politics for a generation. Powered by
voters like those in Macomb, Republicans won five of the six presidential
elections between 1968 and 1988, most of them by landslides. And in some
ways it`s still the story of American politics.
President Obama has won two solid national victories now, but he was re-
elected last year despite a dismal showing with working class white voters.
But the story is also changing. For decades, Democrats panicked over the
inroads made with -- with the inroads that Republicans have made with blue-
collar whites. And Democrats plotted how to win back places like Macomb
County. They aren`t as worried anymore, America is more diverse now.
Obama may have struggled with blue-collar whites last year, but African-
Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans made up a record share of the
electorate. They racked up huge margins with them.
And suburban counties like Macomb are changing, too. Obama actually won it
by seven points in 2008, and he won it by four last year. In still a
largely white county, but black flight from Detroit has made it twice as
diverse as it was just a decade ago when pollster Stan Greenberg returned
in Macomb in 2008 for more focus groups, he found that the whites who are
there are less driven by race in forming their political attitudes than
they were just a generation earlier.
So, the decline of Detroit offers a sad symbol of the failure to integrate
African-Americans into the all the New Deal coalition, you don`t have to
look far past its city limits to find hope that a much more durable,
multiracial coalition is still possible. We`ll take about how that
coalition is taking shape and what it could mean for Detroit and for
America after this.
KORNACKI: Back on the table are Ana Marie Cox of "The Guardian," Rick
Perlstein, author of "Nixonland", Jamelle Bouie with "Newsweek" and "The
Daily Beast" and I want to bring in Jocelyn Benson, intern dean, excuse me,
of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit and the Democratic nominee
for Michigan secretary of state in 2010. Wayne State Warriors, is that
JOCELYN BENSON, WAYNE STATE LAW SCHOOL: Absolutely.
KORNACKI: All right, my college nicknames are still .
BENSON: Very proud, great football team.
KORNACKI: So, we set this up by kind of looking at the sort of the
transformation of politics in the Detroit area and sort of as an indication
of the transformation of American politics. I guess we`ll start by -- I
mentioned Macomb County, the blue collar suburb right outside of Detroit.
And this - I think this illustrates sort of -- this is where the Reagan
Democrats were kind of born. You can look back to 1964, this is the
results of Macomb County in the presidential election. And Lyndon Johnson
won it by three to one, 74 to 25. In 1967 you had the Detroit riots, you
had that Nixon ad we just showed. And you see, Nixon and Wallace running
as an independent combined to get almost 45 percent of the vote in 1968 in
this white blue-collar suburb of Detroit. And by 1972, it`s a complete
landslide for the Republicans. And I mean this is, you know, a generation
or two of American politics whose record was basically defined by what
happened in places like Macomb in the `60s.
PERLSTEIN: Yes, and it was fully driven by a kind of tragic irony. Which
is that just as kind of the economic prospect for the middle class, and
especially the industrial middle class began sort of flat-lining and
bottoming out in places like Detroit in the 1970s, politicians being
creatures of inertia, really didn`t get it and really didn`t respond to
that. And if you look at the presidential Democratic campaigns of 1976 and
1980 you would almost never guess that the kind of -- the kind of
stagnation was happening. But being inertial, politicians were still
pushing things like affirmative action. The civil rights coalition was
very strong. So, what had been kind of a product of a growing economic pie
in the `60s, it was OK passing the Civil Rights Act, although because of
people like George Wallace it really was controversial.
What had been kind of less controversial because there was a growing
economic pie, suddenly became the zero sum game in the `70s. You had
scorpions in a bottle, you had black workers and white workers kind of
fighting for the same jobs. And so, you really began to see this sort of
tension among white workers who see black people as their adversaries. And
are willing to vote on that. And, of course, the Republican Party was
willing to exploit that.
KORNACKI: And Jocelyn, I wonder, you know, you are -- you`re - out there
you`ve been in politics in Michigan. And I wonder what you`ve seen. And
first of all, how much of that still shapes politics in the Detroit area,
how much of it still shapes politics in Michigan and how much of that is
now sort of in the past?
BENSON: Well, I think to a certain extent politics is driven by the
people who turn out at the polls and their leaders and the leaders they
elect. And so well, if you look at what may have been historic
divisiveness within the urban, suburban region in Detroit, right now we`re
starting to see at least among the grassroots a strong interest in
regionalism, that`s not necessarily being reflected by the leadership in
the local government and certainly not being reflected in the state
government as well. And so, I think there`s a recognition on the
grassroots level that a lot of Detroit`s problems can be addressed through
greater partnerships, public/private partnerships for sure, but also
regional and state and federal partnerships. And we`re not seeing that
actually come to fruition in the political arena.
KORNACKI: But when we talk about, you know, the tension that Rick was
describing, that we put in the intro there, you know, that old sort of the
white ethnic, that was the term that was used, or the Archie Bunker
Democrat, right, who a lot of times for racial reasons sort of turned on
the Democratic Party sometime in the `70s, sometime in the `80s, maybe it
was Nixon, maybe it was Reagan, how much of that voter -- I mean voters
like that are still left in that area?
BENSON: Well, it`s decreasing significantly because we`ve got this new
generation of voters who are the most diverse, most progressive. You see
that across country. But certainly in Michigan as well. And so, you see
the electorate infused by a new generation of voters that recognize the
importance of working together and collaboration and are not as interested
in perhaps racial divisiveness of the past, but more interested in positive
solutions moving forward. We`re going to start to see a greater change
away from this historical divisiveness that we were talking about.
KORNACKI: We have this - I want to play this clip. It`s from -- it`s
from 1984. This is Ronald Reagan running for re-election in 1984. And
this was -- you know, we talk about the Reagan Democrats, who were like the
people in Macomb County, who - long-time Democrats who voted for Ronald
Reagan and sort of became Republicans because of him. And this was -- this
was basically his pitch to them saying, abandon Democratic Party. He went
to Macomb County to do it. Let`s play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN: The good and decent Democrats of the rank and file,
patriotic Democrats by the millions they haven`t changed. Like their
former leaders. They`re clear eyed about the world, they have few
illusions and they consider themselves to be Americans first and not
members of a special interest group.
REAGAN: But the leaders of the present Democratic Party, as I`ve said,
have gone so far left, they`ve left the mainstream.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Jamelle, I wonder when you hear that now, we have the benefit
of hindsight, what you make of that? Because that - the fear of losing
those voters who Reagan was appealing to there, and he is so successfully
appealed to them, just drove the Democratic Party for so long.
BOUIE: Right. I think what Reagan was clearly alluding to is, voters of
color and African-Americans in particular. I mean, that is the definition
of a dog whistle. And I actually sort of think that Democrats illusion
these voters may have been inevitable that when you have the combination of
a stagnating economy, when you have this whole new group of people who are
for the first time really getting access to mainstream American white --
and you have a political party trying to accommodate them, the people of
that party used to accommodate, which is, white ethnics, working class
whites, who are the main recipients of Democratic programs in the 1940s and
1950s, they`re going to react against it. And I don`t think there`s any --
I don`t think there was any way to prevent that reaction. But Republicans
didn`t necessarily have to capitalize on the racial aspects of that
reaction, and that`s what`s troubling about the entire period of American
history. That the use of racial politics by politicians like Reagan wasn`t
necessary. It didn`t have to happen. And by indulging it, by relying on
it, by exploiting, it, Reagan created real divisions that still exist.
KORNACKI: And look -- go ahead.
COX: I was just going to say, like you didn`t have to do that, but
they`re still doing that.
COX: I mean, you could play that -- you could put those words in Mitt
Romney`s mouth. In fact, I think, those words were in his mouth, and they
wouldn`t be very different. We heard some pretty much the same thing. We
still hear the same thing. What`s changing are these demographics. You
know, this is - we could take the discussion we had in the first hour and
really -- and use it here as well. Because what`s happening is that there
are fewer -- you have the dog whistles, the same dog whistles. There are
fewer and fewer dogs. You know, I mean like what you get instead are
people who hear that message and suspect there`s something kind of wrong
with it and then they hear Democrats -- the only problem is when you hear
Democrats use some similar language, which is kind of what we were talking
about with -- even Obama when he talks about entitlement programs, when he
talked about long-cherished programs, I mean no one - no voters are
confused about what he`s talking about.
KORNACKI: You know, it was sort of in response to the success that Nixon
had, to the success that Reagan had. That was sort of the modern
Democratic Party as built and as defined by Bill Clinton.
KORNACKI: It was a response - I want to pick up on Bill Clinton`s sort of
legacy in this after this.
KORNACKI: If you`re talking about Democrats, the New Deal coalition
falling apart in the `60s, in the `70s, in the `80s, and then Democrats
panicking, wanting to win back the white working class voters. And the
Democrats who sort of started to put that coalition back together, at least
partially back together, was Bill Clinton. You know, he moved the party to
the middle. You know, he famously ran in 1992, we`re going to end welfare
as we know it. It was a pitch to these Reagan Democrats. This was Bill
Clinton in the fall of 1992. He went to Macomb County, a blue-collar
suburb of Detroit to try to make his case to win Reagan Democrats back.
We`ll just play (INAUDIBLE) of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON: They talk about traditional values, but they punished
people who work hard and play by the rules. And rewarded people who cut
corners and cut deals. If you assemble automobiles you`ve lost out in the
last 12 years, but if you take corporations apart, you`re a big winner.
CLINTON: If there`s any place in this country that Mr. Bush should
account for his economic record, it`s right here in Michigan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, Clinton that year actually -- he did not -- I think we have
the result. And this is Macomb County result from `92. Clinton did not
win the county. He came -- that is the best a Democrat had done there,
though, since Humphrey in the 1968. And then in 1996, when he ran for re-
election, he did win it, became the first Democrat in a long time to do it.
Rick, you heard in that clip, there was a populist aspect .
KORNACKI: It`s a Clinton`s message, there was populism, but that was not
the whole story.
PERLSTEIN: You know, it`s fascinating how thumping a Democrat`s --
economic populism come in the closing weeks of an election .
PERLSTEIN: The irony is, people like Clinton and before him Tony Coelho
who was the head of the DCCC used the idea that the Democrats had to kind
of moderate and move to the center around these kind of Macomb County kind
of white populist issues to tell a story about what - we need to do on
economics, which ended up kind of turning the Democratic Party over to its
corporate wing, because that was, quote/unquote, more centrist, and, of
course, Bill Clinton becomes the guy to sign NAFTA, which did more to hurt
more white industrial workers in places like Detroit almost than anything
that happened with affirmative action. So, basically the cure becomes his
bad as the disease.
COX: . out of Kansas, what`s the matter with Detroit? I mean, like people
voting against their own economic interests, in this case, though thinking
that they`re voting for their economic interest .
COX: . but turning out not to.
KORNACKI: But it also shows like the voters that Clinton was going after
there, who had voted for Reagan twice, who probably voted for Bush Sr.88,
maybe Nixon if they`re old enough, there was still the populist message had
appealed to them, had resonance with them. The idea that, you know, we
need a government, it`s going to go after, you know, greedy, you know .
PERLSTEIN: Populism is popular.
KORNACKI: Rich people and greedy -- you know, and those are conservative
voters in a lot of ways.
BENSON: Well, you need to combine that message with the argument about
the values of all of us being in this together. And when you combine that
with a more divisive message it gets us to the place we are today, where
there is abandonment of our urban cities and a growth of poverty instead of
the decrease in it. Instead this new message that the president talked
about this week; that we`re all in this together, that we`re our brother`s
keeper; that we have a responsibility to each other, I think is what`s
going to be needed for us to actually move forward.
BOUIE: I think it`s important to emphasize just how new that message is.
One thing that is striking about the history, I think, of American state
intervention in the economy is that from basically, you know, after
reconstruction until the 1970s, the American welfare stayed and its
constituent parts and everything was designed for whites. It was a white
supremacist welfare state. And that broke down in the `60s, `50s and the
`60s. And it`s a good thing that it happened. But we`re sort of in its
unchartered territory, because we have never before have we had to
construct this justification for a welfare state that includes not just
whites, but blacks and whites ethnics .
BOUIE: . Asian-Americans --
PERLSTEIN: I`m not even sure we`re necessarily doing that.
BOUIE: Yeah, I`m not sure either.
PERLSTEIN: It`s the idea of the federal government reaching out and
helping Detroit even on the table as a piece of discussion?
BENSON: No. I mean this is not. If there`s going to be any real
solution to the problems of Detroit .
PERLSTEIN: That`s right.
BENSON: . the state needs to be involved and the federal government needs
to be involved. And yet, there`s been a lot of hands-off approach. We
care about Detroit, but we`re not going to actually put our money where our
PERLSTEIN: And there`s a discourse of bankruptcy, which often becomes
about stripping public provision.
KORNACKI: And I think it was Ron Brownstein, I hope it was Ron
KORNACKI: Because I`m going to credit him with it, but he was -- he was
looking at, you know, these two political coalitions that define each party
right now. We`re talking about the Republican Party being the older, more
white party. It`s a lot of sort of that they were Reagan Democrats at one
point. You know, people who we`re talking about, you know, a generation
ago who are still voting and still voting, you know, Republican. They are
hostile to basically any kind of government spending that`s not Social
Security and is not Medicare. And that would include like a bailout of
Detroit, but that would include -- that would include just anything that`s
basically not their Medicare or not their Social Security. And yet,
there`s the coalition. And still, we talk about the changing demographics.
That`s the coalition is still, probably, a majority in -- there`s probably
a majority in a majority of House districts. It`s enough to give
Republicans control of the House, enough to make Republican presidential
candidate competitive and it`s enough to keep a Democratic Party in it who
embodies this new coalition from really enacting any kind of, you know, an
BENSON: It`s the job of our leaders is to make data-driven decisions
about what`s going to be best for the people in our cities, in our country,
in our state. And what the history shows us is the bailout of the auto
industry helped because the federal government was involved. The bailout
and the support of New York City in the 1970s worked because the state was
involved. So, there`s really no solution -- there can`t be any real
solution on the table for Detroit that does not involve the investment from
the federal government and the state that for the past few decades have
actually been steadily dis-investing from our cities. Not just in Detroit,
but throughout the country.
KORNACKI: Ana Marie, I think, was trying to get in, and she will, right
KORNACKI: And Ana Marie was about to say .
COX: I was just talking about how the sort of what`s happened in Detroit
is the reflection of another kind of American`s myth about themselves,
which is they refused to stop seeing themselves as the middle class, and
they refused to stop seeing themselves as suburban and rural when really,
like while it`s true the majority of Americans don`t -- and I think don`t
live in cities, but they do live in like metropolitan areas. And
politicians speak to the suburbs and talk about, you know, and even
legislate to the suburbs.
COX: But really, these are systems.
COX: And in Detroit, especially.
PERLSTEIN: And, you know, suburbs were kind of like the green goddesses of
kind of like American political development. I mean they got these
interstates, you know, they got massive federal and state and regional
subsidies. And cities were just kind of allowed to die on the vine and
then blamed for their own problems.
PERLSTEI: And Detroit had these problems in the `40s and `50s. That
massive racial violence. Massive kind of segregation. But people didn`t
vote that way on the federal level because they knew on which side their
bread was buttered. And they knew that without the federal government
supporting the policies that built a strong auto industry and kept their
unions strong, too, they would be in very bad shape.
COX: We let -- we subsidized the suburbs and sort of let the cities fend
for themselves, but then when the city fails like in Detroit, you create a
massive failure of the whole region, well, then it`s a huge problem for
PERLSTEIN: When everyone is a victim.
COX: So, you were talking about how in Detroit, like there is like some
people talking about it, seeing it as a system and having this region work
together, rather, than just having a Detroit problem.
BENSON: I think for a number of years it was private business leaders, as
well as a lot of opinion leaders throughout -- and leaders in education
throughout the region who`ve recognized the importance of regionalism as a
necessary factor for bringing Detroit forward and bringing us all forward.
There`s a saying, that when Michigan sneezes, Detroit catches the cold.
But that we`re still all interconnected, even though Detroit will fill the
economics (INAUDIBLE) in Michigan .
KORNACKI: But that`s, you know, we talk about the suburban -- suburban
divide. It`s sort of the chase for the Macomb County voters, the suburban
voters in Detroit and across the country, the Reagan Democrats, who was
sort of, you know, Republicans seeing in the suburbs an opportunity to
expand their coalition to even to the Democratic coalition. And now it`s
sort of come around a little bit because the suburbs have evolved, American
politics have evolved. And there`s more opportunity there for Democrats.
But what`s sort of lost in the equation, are -- you know, the city of
Detroit, you know, the sort of the actual cities around the country. And I
wonder if that`s just because do people -- you know, both political parties
look at the cities and say these are monolithically Democratic cities and
Democrats can take them for grabs, and Republicans can just write them off
because they`re not competitive.
PERLSTEIN: if we got a more regional vision, it would -- you know, it
would be a rising tide that lifted all votes. And frankly, you know, in a
lot of cities in Europe have done this quite successfully. There was an
article in 2009 by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley of the Brookings
Institution, and they talked about a bunch of cities like Belfast, like a
city that we think of in terms of culture now, Bilbao, Turin in Italy,
these were all rotting industrial cities. And because their national
governments and their regional governments worked together and were able to
transcend these political divisions that are difficult in America because
we`ve turned these cities into others because of race and create these kind
of model cities that have thrived.
COX: I was just going to say like let`s not forget when we talk about
cities versus suburbs, like, what we`re talking about is right.
BOUIE: The cities - the federal policies helped, you know, encourage
whites to leave the cities and get away from them. And then were a
hindrance to African-American cities like actually trying to like turn them
into -- you know to sustain them. And that there`s this whole history of
redlining, of discrimination, of segregation, that I don`t think we really
grapple with when talking about cities and suburbs, and not grappling with
it makes it way harder to solve these problems.
PERLSTEIN: You can find historical documents from the federal housing
BOUIE: Right. Right.
PERLSTEIN: . saying, to banks, you can judge the creditworthiness of
these neighborhoods based on whether they have Slovaks, whether they have
Negros. You know, I mean this is not something that just happened, and
it`s not something that happened because of bad black politicians .
PERLSTEIN: . like Coleman Young.
BENSON: I think the tendency, and also at least among conversations I`ve
had in Detroit, has been to say well, that`s the past. Where are we now?
And one of the ways, in which neutral policies have reinforced that, what`s
happened in the past, was that lack of public transportation. It`s heart
to get and interact with each other on a regional level, even as people
because we don`t have public transportation or one of the .
PERLSTEIN: But come on, Jocelyn, we do have the people moving in Detroit.
BENSON: Oh .
KORNACKI: Very quickly, as I covered New Jersey for a long time. And
Newark, the story of Newark is kind of similar to the story of Detroit.
The biggest punching bag in state politics is always the city of Newark and
whoever the mayor of Newark was. That`s changed a little bit with Cory
Booker, but before Cory Booker, any politicians the state tried to score
points in suburbs would attack Newark and it would attack Sharpe James, the
mayor of Newark. Is that the status that Detroit enjoys in Michigan
BENSON: There`s certainly a certain amount of that type of cynical
politics everywhere and in Michigan. But I think voters are starting to
demand that we become a state and our leaders have ideas and talk about
ideas as opposed to turning each other against each other. Because that
hasn`t worked. And we`re starting to connect and recognize that that sort
of cynical politics of the past, that divisive rhetoric, has only held us
all back as we have perhaps stomped on one part of the state as a way of
lifting up the other part of the state that hasn`t worked.
KORNACKI: Al right, what should we know today? My answers are after this.
KORNACKI: So what should we know for today? Well, we should know that
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner plans to take a two-week leave of absence from
his job so that he can seek intensive therapy aimed at changing his
behavior toward women. Filner made the announcement at a press conference
Friday after seven women publicly accused him of sexual harassment. Not
surprisingly, the mayor`s damage control plan is not quite in calls for his
head. Nancy Pelosi, for instance, who was Filner`s colleague when he was
in the House said on Thursday that if Filner needs therapy he should do it
"in private." So far he`s ignoring those calls and says he`ll get briefings
on city`s business twice a day while he`s in treatment. On his personal
failures he said "I must become a better person."
We should know that Julian Assange, the controversial WikiLeaks founder
who remains the subject to a European arrest warrant has decided to run for
office in his home country of Australia. Assange announced Thursday that
he`s created his own political party. It`s called what else, the WikiLeaks
Party. He wants to run for the Australian senate under its banner.
Campaigning might be a challenge, though, for more than a year Assange has
been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy hoping to avoid extradition to
Sweden where authorities want to question him about a sexual assault case.
Assange told "The New York Times," "my plans are to essentially parachute
in a crack troupe of investigative journalists into the Senate and to do
what we have done with WikiLeaks in holding banks and government and
intelligence agencies to account."
We should know that an ambitious back door effort to kill off the
electoral college is now halfway to its goal. Under what`s called the
national popular vote compact states pledge to award their electoral votes
to the candidate who gets the most votes nationwide. That`s the national
popular vote winner. It only goes into effect once the total number of
electoral votes from states in the compact reaches 270. That`s the magic
number for a candidate to win the presidency. The plan had been stalled
with only eight states and D.C. signed on, but this week Rhode Island
decided to join them and now the states in the compact account for 136
electoral votes. It`s just barely past the halfway point. And somewhere
Al Gore is saying, where was this thing 13 years ago?
And finally, former President George H.W. Bush shaved his head this week
for a young boy named Patrick who`s the son of a Secret Service agent who
had been part of Bush`s detail. We should know that 60 years ago Bush and
his wife Barbara made another donation to help kids like Patrick. It was
in 1953 when Bush`s daughter Robin was diagnosed with leukemia and told by
doctors that nothing could be done. The Bushes took her to Memorial Sloan-
Kettering Hospital in New York, it`s now called Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center. But the best center in the world -- the best care in the world in
1953 wasn`t enough and Robin died just two months shy of her fourth
birthday. George and Barbara Bush then made a generation decision. They
gave her body to medical research so the kids like Patrick will have a
better chance of beating the disease. You want to find out what my guests
think we should know? Start with you, Ana Marie.
COX: Yes. Well, abortion law has been in the news for the past couple of
weeks, maybe last couple of months. And I just wanted to point people to
an interview at Boing Boing, the website, that they`ve done with an ob-gyn
who used to practice in Kansas where there`s very restrictive abortion laws
and she talks about how these restrictions that are supposedly to be - care
for the woman such as having a doctor, have admitting privileges at a
hospital actually hurt access to abortion and cause more dangerous
procedures to happen.
KORNACKI: And Rick?
PERLSTEIN: I want to point to a story I`ll be breaking on the nation
website tomorrow about James Comey, Obama`s FBI nominee. His role as chief
counsel at Lockheed Martin after he was in the Bush administration, was not
mentioned at the hearings. They did mention his praise of whistle blowers.
Well, when he was chief counsel at Lockheed Martin, he may have had a role
in shutting up a whistle blower in a way that cost the government millions
of dollars and in a way that I think might unfit him for federal office.
KORNACKI: I think you just broke the story here. Or half broke it.
KORNACKI: I don`t know. We`ll see. Jamelle.
BOUIE: I would like to point to the ongoing saga of the Virginia first
family. Bob McDonnell`s wife has been found to have spent $10,000 from his
pact, which is legal under Virginia`s incredibly lax campaign finance laws
if the pact is no longer in operation, but it is, which makes it very, very
sketchy. And so, as it seems every week there`s new revelations about the
McDonnells spending tens of thousands or getting tens of thousands of
dollars from weird and sketchy sources.
KORNACKI: Only five months left in the governorship. There`s only 100
revelations more and then we`ll be done with that.
KORNACKI: And Jocelyn.
BENSON: I want to point to the Supreme Court decision from about a month
ago now that eliminated part of the Voting Rights Act and now we`re
starting to see several states act on that. And we`ve seen Texas and now
North Carolina this week is examining legislation that would harm voters`
ability to participate as fully as they could and we need to keep the
pressure on Congress to modernize the Voting Rights Act.
KORNACKI: Spoken like a former secretary of state candidate definitely.
I want to thank Ana Marie Cox of "The Guardian," Rick Perlstein of
TheNation.com, Jamelle Bouie of "Newsweek", "The Daily Beast" and Jocelyn
Benson of Wayne State Law School in Detroit. Thank you all for getting up
and thank you for joining us. We`ll be back here next weekend Saturday and
Sunday at 8:00 eastern time. Our guests will include Evan McMorris Santoro
of Buzzfeed.com and Dave Weigel of Slate.com.
Coming up next is Melissa Harris-Perry. On today`s MHP, the most important
decision President Obama can possibly make that will impact the U.S.
economy and all of us - who will replace Ben Bernanke. That`s Melissa
Harris-Perry. She`s coming up next. And we will see you next week here on
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