UP with STEVE KORNACKI
August 11, 2013
Guests: Elahe Izadi, Brian Beutler, Tom Davis, Raul Reyes, Richard
Socarides, Rashad Robinson, Julia Ioffe, Lauren Harmon, Dave Wasserman
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Immigration reform has a new best friend --
the Tea Party. Wait, what?
It is town hall season for members of Congress. And the big story from the
first week of the August recess has been the loud and aggressive demands by
Tea Party activists, the Republicans vote to defund Obamacare even if that
means shutting down the entire federal government. You`ve probably seen
the heated exchanges by now, there was Robert Pittenger, the North Carolina
Republican who`s put his name on over a dozen bills to repeal Obamacare,
but who was still blasted by Tea Partiers because he wouldn`t take the
shutdown pledge. This is the town hall story that we already know about,
events like that. But a much different town hall story may also be taking
shape, one that hasn`t gotten much attention. How immigration reform is
playing back home. The comprehensive overhaul package providing
citizenship for undocumented immigrants after establishing strict new
border controls passed the Senate with a strong 68-32 bipartisan majority
in June. And it looks like it actually would have the votes to pass the
House, but that`s only if Republican leadership actually lets it come to a
vote, which so far has been completely out of the question. A big reason
for that, fear among Republicans that letting it pass will trigger an angry
backlash from the conservative base, which gets to that other story it`s
developing from the town halls. So far at least, the loud Tea Party
protests have been about Obamacare funding. And they have not been about
immigration. This comes even as several Republican members of Congress
used town hall meetings this week to soften their opposition to
comprehensive reform. On Monday Aaron Schock of Illinois embraced a path
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. AARON SCHOCK, (R ), ILLINOIS: I think there needs to be a secure
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure.
SCHOCK: And I think when that happens and people pay their back taxes and
they haven`t committed any violation of laws, they`ve been here on a
probationary period, then they can apply for citizenship and go to the back
of their lines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Then on Wednesday it was Washington Republican Dave Reichert`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAVE RECHERT(R ), WASHINGTON: I want to get to the point where
they`ve got to pay a fine, there`s some penalties that they have to go
through, there`s steps they have to go through and then I want to hold them
accountable and then they get citizenship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And Kevin McCarthy, the number of three Republican in the House,
told a conservative group in his district that people who come here
illegally should be able to work toward legal status and the dreamers
should be able to get citizenship. When these Republicans said these
things this week, they were not bombarded with cries of betrayal from
conservative activists. But there`s still time. Lots of time. Congress
is going to be in recess for weeks to come, but loud, organized opposition
to immigration reform is so far mostly missing from town hall season. And
this conservative columnist Byron York observed on Monday, quote, if August
goes quietly on the immigration front, some Republican lawmakers may return
to Washington with the sense that voters back home don`t really mind that
immigration reform goes forward. And then it will.
This is the other major town hall story to watch. The flipside of the
mounting pressure on Republicans to force a shutdown over Obamacare. Could
it be that Republicans will return to D.C. next month intent on picking a
distractive fight on health care, but also emboldened to actually let real
immigration reform through the House and into law. I want to bring in NBC
Latino contributor Raul Reyes, also a columnist with "USA Today", former
Republican Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia, he is now director of Federal
Government Affairs for the consulting firm Deloitte and Touche. And Brian
Beutler, a senior stuffer at Salon.com, I know that place. Elahe Izadi is
a politics writer at the "National Journal."
Thanks for joining us. I`ll start with you. You heard there sort of what
I make of the town halls for the last week, lots of noise from the right,
about, you know, shutting down the government over Obamacare, the kind of
noise that in the past you think of like 2006 and 2007, when immigration
was on the table, that kind of a noise you were hearing on the right
against immigration, it seems to me now at least for this moment, it`s
being directed towards Obamacare. And I`m wondering, does that maybe leave
an opening here for some of these Republican congressmen to say, you know,
maybe the price won`t be that stiff if we go forward with this.
ELAHE IZADI, NATIONAL JOURNAL: I mean the Tea Party way started in large -
- out of the opposition to Obamacare, so there is a passion gap as far as
opposition to immigration reform goes. And on the other hand, you have
immigration reform advocates who are really organized, really well-funded
and very focused on certain congressmen, Republican congressmen, they have
a handful of 20 or so, who they`re targeting right now. And you`re not
seeing that on the other end as far as people who are opposed to
immigration reform. But you can take Paul Ryan, for example, and his
district, Mark Zuckerberg`s backed group is funding about $350,000 worth of
ads and support of him and his push for comprehensive reform or some kind
of reform, and groups opposed to immigration reform, they are spending
about half of that amount. So, really there`s a passion gap and also a
money gap. People aren`t as focused on immigration reform as far as
opposing it as they are on Obamacare and opposing Obamacare.
KORNACKI: Brian, has it surprised you? The consensus coming, you know, a
few weeks ago, at least, and probably still now, is that immigration reform
is dead. But do you think something might be happening here in terms of
the lack of response that we`ve seen so far?
BRIAN BEUTLER, SALON.COM: I`m actually a little less optimistic. I think
two things, one, there is a deadline gap, too, is that Obama care, the
enrollment period is going to start in October and the exchanges are going
to launch in January. So, there is this tiny window where conservatives
have been led to believe that this law is going to, you know, destroy the
country and if they`re going to do anything about it, now is the moment,
now is the last possible opportunity that they have. So, that`s why health
care has sort of swarmed the town halls instead of immigration reform. And
the other is that -- is that immigration reform, the messaging from
conservative leads, from Republicans to the base, has been mixed. Some
people are for it, some people are against it, but there is no deadline.
And so, I think that if they go back to Washington and have this sense,
that because there was no outrage at the town halls that that means that
they can just go ahead and pass the Senate bill or something similar.
That`s when you`re going to start seeing maybe not in town halls because
there won`t be another recess, but in phone calls, in letters, and in, you
know, talk radio, on cable TV, that the opposition will really kind of
start getting itself up.
KORNACKI: Well, I`m glad we have Tom Davis, a former member of Congress
here, because this is something that I was wondering, it`s sort of the
psychological impact on a member of Congress of these town hall meetings.
And sort of when as a member of Congress you`re faced with a vote, how does
your experience in dealing with crowds at a town hall meeting weigh on your
decision? If you had a meeting and there were, you know, 100 people -- you
know, 100 sort of conservative Republicans in your case, who were saying
don`t do immigration reform, you`ll get a primary challenge, all of these
things. How would that affect you versus phone calls, versus, you know,
pressure from your colleagues, how do these town halls weigh into the
decision making of the members?
FMR. REP. TOM DAVIS, (R ) VIRGINIA: Oh, I mean they weigh in. If you have
a town hall, you want to be prepared for it. You`ve got to have your
narrative down and you`re going to spend a lot of time listening. What`s
important is, a lot of members aren`t doing town halls. They`ve learned
the lesson from what`s happened in the last congresses when you bring these
citizens out. They`re doing tele-town halls. Or they are doing this
online where they can scream questions and the like.
Most of these members in both parties now from these very safe districts,
so they care what the party base is. And look, the Republican leadership
want to get (inaudible) the conference, I don`t think there is any question
that they are committed to doing that. My gut is they want to do something
called this Kids Act, which is a modified Dream Act, that will allow a path
to citizenship for people who are brought here, their parents bring them
in. But it won`t be anything like the Senate bill.
There are members who say, we don`t want this to go to conference because
we`re afraid we may end up with the Senate bill being jammed down it. It`s
a difficult dilemma for the leadership because Boehner has said, I need to
have a majority in my conference support a bill before it goes -- so you
need like 117 Republicans, not three or four, which is what we`re seeing
right now. There`s a long way to go on this. But I think they will find
something that can go to conference, whether they can resolve it or not,
you made the comment, it`s a long way to go at this point. It`s still
KORNACKI: Well, yeah, I want to get into that, and we have plenty of time
here, the logistics of -- actually, the mechanics of trying to pass
something out of conference could be -- would come into that. But Raul, it
kind of strikes me, there`s just sort of a waiting game here right now
because the Senate passed its bill. Immigration reform put - has sort of
shown their cards. Hey, this is the package we`re good with. We got it
through the Senate. And it`s sort of like - just waiting to see if and
when this could be safe enough on the Republican side for those conditions
that Tom was just talking about to be met.
RAUL REYES, NBCLATINO.COM: Right. And I believe a lot of the House
Republicans are going home and sort of testing the waters to see how much
opposition is out there to immigration reform. Whether it`s rising or
falling, what they are hearing at the town halls. And I have to say this
time around, compared to 2006-2007, the immigration rights coalitions or
the advocacy groups who support reform are by far much better organized,
they have a stronger message, they have partnered with all sorts of groups,
you know, clergy groups and business groups, labor.
So, they have a stronger coalition going into it. And for example,
Representative Schock, who you mentioned who changed his mind recently in
immigration reform, he had been targeted for about six months. Not just
with letters, not just with emails, but also the reform proponents`
pressure different donors and business leaders to, you know, to message him
in support of reform. So, their efforts are much more sophisticated than
they were before. And they`re not ready to give up either. So, it remains
to be seen. I think many people in the immigration -- the pro-reform camp
regard this period right now, it`s not the end game; it`s more like
KORNACKI: So, when we`re talking about this issue, Tom, with convincing,
you know, House Republicans basically that it`s safe to vote for this or
it`s safe to allow this, you know, to come up for a vote and then to have
your party sort of attached to it. We look at always - it`s the fear of
the primary challenge, right, that you don`t want to be considered a
betrayer to the cause. You don`t want to get the, you know, we live in the
era when Christine O`Donnell can beat Mike Castle in a primary in Delaware.
What are the forces within the Republican universe? What are the forces
that are countering that right now?
DAVIS: You`ve got the business forces are very strongly for this
legislation. They are your financial forces. They fund a lot of these
campaigns very strongly. Reichert`s from a more urbanized district. Urban
areas this isn`t the big problem that it is in rural districts. But the
Republican base in the House is basically rural now and it is very
southern. And those .
KORNACKI: These are not districts with the very diverse populations.
DAVIS: They`re not, and they take - pay no price for voting against the
immigration reform. In fact, they probably get rewarded for it. You have
to make the sale there and get some of those people to come on board.
KORNACKI: Well, how does that look? You know, you guys are covering
Capitol Hill. How does it look right now when you look at the Republican
conference, do you have a sense of the breakdown? How many are just, you
know, absolutely opposed and will never vote for this? How many are sort
of in play? Do we have a sense of that at all?
BEUTLER: Well, and so - I don`t have a sense because there`s just too many
to really just kind of query in that way, but there`s -- there`s a large
group of Republican congressmen who don`t want anything to happen. Who
don`t even want to go to conference. Who will vote against immigration
bills, piecemeal bills that they support in principle because they don`t
want to get to conference. And that might be where this whole thing falls
The other thing, you know, to touch on something that Tom said, is that
we`ve only seen about three congressmen at their town halls kind of come
out and support for pathway to citizenship and none of them has really been
a surprise. Reichert in Washington, Schock in Illinois, right after the
election, he had an interview in a paper in Chicago saying, that we need to
respond this election by doing immigration reform. I think Daniel Webster
who is very conservative, but in Florida, and he`s got a lot of Latinos in
his district. So -- so none of these people - it`s like a real surprise
that they`re coming out and supporting it. And I think that next week if
we see many, many more Republican congressman at town halls coming out and
saying that they support this, that you might start to see the grounds
moving under their feet a little bit but it`s too early to say that now.
IZADI: Yeah, and 84 percent of House Republicans, they represent districts
that are 20 percent or less Hispanics. So, to Tom`s point, I mean, the
incentive for them to switch on immigration reform is not that high.
Congressman Gutierrez said the other day that he believes he has 40 to 50
Republican votes in favor of immigration reform. But 40 to 50 is not a
majority of the Republican conference. And we know that Speaker Boehner is
not going to bring anything to the floor. So, to your point, yeah, maybe
there is like 20 more out there who could maybe change their minds, but
that`s not a ground swell, so we`re not seeing anything.
KORNACKI: Yeah, I think the number is -- it`s like all but nine Republican
members of the House come from districts that Mitt Romney carried last
KORNACKI: So you get like a political incentives back there. But I want
to pick this after --after this. If -- let`s just suppose Republicans come
back from break, and immigration reform, the idea of it at least on the
table, I want to talk about how mechanically that could actually get
through Congress. And what that final bill, what it would look like.
We`ll talk about that after this.
KORNACKI: At his press conference on Friday President Obama actually
talked about what he sees as the path forward legislatively for immigration
reform when Congress comes back after the break. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: So, you know,
what I see right now is a strong bipartisan vote coming out of the Senate.
I think that the speaker and others have said they need to do something.
And I`d urge when they get back to do something. Put forward a bill that
has an opportunity to actually pass. It may not be precisely what`s in the
Senate bill. My preference would be for them to go ahead and call the
Senate bill. But if they got some additional ideas, I think the Senate`s
happy to consider them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, let`s talk about the pathway to citizenship, the pathway to
getting something through Congress. Because the simplest thing, you know,
as the president said, there would basically be -- you take that bill to
pass in the Senate, you put it on the House floor, they pass it, it`s time
done. That`s not going to happen. So, the question is, we`ve been talking
about this, the conference committee. So, if the House passes something
different or if the House passes, I guess, a series of broken up bills,
sort of these piecemeal approach, one deals with border security, you know,
one deals with kids or something, a series of bills get through the House
that could be merged with the Senate in the conference and then -- each -
the packages -- you have to get a vote in the Senate, would have to get a
vote in the House and maybe it could work that way. Brian, you just talk
us through what`s involved in this process? And, you know, sort of
practically speaking what the pitfalls are of relying on that.
BEUTLER: I think the pitfalls -- the single biggest pitfall is that you
have -- you have certain Republicans who don`t want to get to conference.
And so, when you break up the bill, you have some things that are consensus
issues. I think that there`s a question of whether -- whether Democrats
would vote for a Dream Act, now just under the circumstances because they
want to get to full pathway to citizenship. But they supported the Dream
Act, and you can imagine impartment with the Republicans to pass something
like that. Certain visa programs. But when the Republicans try to pass
the border security alone bill, Democrats are not going to be there for
them. They`re not - just not going to -- they are just not going to help
Republicans pass on their own. And I think that if you have 15, 20, 25
Republicans who say I might support this in principle, but I don`t want to
go to conference, they`re going to kill individual elements, so you`re
going to have this sort of like riddled with holes, series of bills that
you kind of cobble together when you go to conference. But then you`re
going to have problems on the flipside of that, because House Republicans
when it comes out of Congress and those holes are filled in with elements
of the Democratic bill in the Senate, they`re going to say, no, this is a
swindle. And this is not what we signed up for.
KORNACKI: Well, how -- I`m just -- (inaudible) for the president -- how
little can the House do and still go to conference? Like, could you go to
conference committee without addressing any kind -- without addressing the
citizenship question and then have the citizenship question filled in in
conference and have it go back to the House that way? I guess I`m saying,
can the House just do a border security or something and that goes into the
conference committee and it comes out as citizenship? Is that possible?
Is that .
REYES: It might be possible, but it`s not going to get the votes when it
comes back. But there are two risks for the Democrats with something going
to conference. Because, for example, if three of the House Republicans
send something to conference, which is top-heavy on border security and
fails in conference because Democrats don`t like it, then the Republicans
can pin the failure of reform and say, well, it was both of us, it was not
just us. The Democrats didn`t like it either. So, there`s that risk for
them. And the other risk, this is something that`s being watched very
closely in the immigrant community among many Latino advocacy groups, is
that the Senate bill that we have right now, the S-744, has already pitched
very far to the right. To the absolute limit with the lean of the border
surge and a long pathway to citizenship, many preconditions, as pretty much
as far to the right as you could go. If that were to merge with something
coming out of the House, potentially it could even go further to the right,
because that`s where they`re coming from, which would make it possibly
unacceptable to Democrats.
KORNACKI: Yeah, I want to handle that question, too, in a little bit about
how far, you know, Democrats and supporters can go, you know, to compromise
more, but .
DAVIS: But we don`t compromise anymore. I mean it`s going to go to the
right. You want a bill out of the House, that`s the system at this point.
It`s a Republican House and you`ve got an overwhelming vote in the Senate.
Both sides are going to have to get out of their comfort zone if this thing
is going to work.
KORNACKI: What do you think when it comes to that, because the real
stumbling block, I guess, when it comes to Republicans in the House is the
question of citizenship. And what do you think -- realistically .
DAVIS: You will not get a citizenship coming out of the House. Many
members are afraid that if you put it to conference, you`re going to get
citizenship coming out of conference and they don`t want to have to vote on
that. I`m not sure at this point a majority of the Republican conference
is ready to vote for that. Maybe that (inaudible) over the next few
months, and I thinks some members fear that, which is why they don`t want
it to go to conference.
KORNACKI: Because the idea would be like - Goodlatte from Virginia who is
the judiciary chairman is apparently going to be working on one of the
piecemeal bills in the House, would be like - just for the Dreamers, it
will be for children. If that is part of the package, the individual
package that gets out of the House, I guess the theory is that that in the
conference committee could turn into something broader for citizenship and
then come out and the House could vote .
DAVIS: Even border could change into something broader. You just do a
strong border control that could change conferences, have funny ways of --
on jurisdiction, if you get a majority you agree to send it back. If you
can get a majority of Republicans to agree, but you need a majority of the
Republicans in the House to agree to this. Democrats, if they`re smart
will give them some votes to get something out of the House. Republicans
have problems getting 218 votes out of their conference for anything. I
mean -- that was the lesson of the farm bill.
DAVIS: And they -- you have difficulty doing that at all. They are going
to need some Democratic help, I think, to get anything at all out of the
House. Leaders would like to come forward there with this - they call it
the Kids Act, to take care of people who came here involuntarily and give
them a path to citizenship. I think that is doable, if they can get some
Democratic support. It`s short of what Democrats desire at the end of the
day, but it moves the process along. And unless both sides will join hands
and take some risks in moving the process along, nothing happens.
KORNACKI: Well, then I want to pick that point after this, and that`s the
question if it`s going to take Democratic help, what more would Democrats
willing to compromise on this. And what are their options if they are not.
We`ll pick it up after this.
KORNACKI: So, I want to pick up this question of what more, practically
speaking, could or would Democrats and immigration reform supporters be
willing to compromise. And where this -- where this thing stands right now
to get it through, you know, the Senate, you had this really expensive
border security surge that went through here, it established the pathway to
citizenship, but it`s filled with all sorts of penalties, with all sorts of
fines, all sorts of, you know, sort of benchmarks that had to be met along
the way. It`s a very cumbersome process. What more do you think
reasonably speaking, Democrats would be willing to say, OK, we`ll also give
you this, we`ll also give you that?
IZADI: Well, what`s interesting is, on border security there`s actually a
measure in the House that`s already passed out of committee unanimously.
It`s probably going to be one of the first pieces of this immigration
reform legislation puzzle coming out of the House that`s going to the
floor. And you`re seeing some progressive and more liberal Democrats who
actually prefer that to what has been passed in the Senate. So that, I
think, is a really interesting thing to keep an eye on. Now, the question
is whether they would vote in favor of that without some insurance, if
there is going to be a pathway or some sort of legalization measure also
put on the floor. That`s the big question. And I think -- but I think
that measure in particular shows that there`s some interesting cross-
sections that are taking place in the House. And also on the Dream Act,
will they vote for that without also knowing, OK, are we going to vote on a
15-year pathway? I mean that`s what`s been floated in the House, but
instead of in the Senate those 13 years, in the House it would be 15 years.
I mean what`s two years, I guess, if you at least get to cast a vote and
KORNACKI: So, what -- what is the -- you know, Brian, if this thing -- the
conventional wisdom we`re saying right now is immigration reform is sort of
fading out, if we get a few months down the line and it really looks dead
and really looks all the avenues -- like all the avenues have been
exhausted, is there a sense that Democrats would say, hey, if we could get
the Dream Act, and just get that, we`d be for it?
BEUTLER: I don`t know. I think that they`re not willing to show their
cards on that question yet. I think that -- I think that if Republican
leadership tried to team up with Democrats the pass of Dream Act and a few
other things, just to get to conference with a kind of understanding that
things would get pulled back toward the Senate direction there, that they
might be willing to provide some votes for that, but we`re not at that
point yet. And I think that if -- if it turns out you can`t get that
understanding and there`s just no conference and then we get into December,
into January, then there are steps that Democratic leadership could take in
the House, even though they`re in the minority to try to force Republicans
to just put the Senate bill on the floor for a vote. And then -- then it
comes down to a question of whether you can get a couple of dozen
KORNACKI: And that`s deputy - the discharge petition. Just explain that.
BEUTLER: Right. And so, yeah. Basically the majority leadership controls
the floor of the House with the rare exception of when the minority or
anybody, really, introduces the discharge petition to put a piece of
legislation on the floor. And all they need is 218 signatures on the
petition to get there. It doesn`t happen very often. It happens even less
often for big legislation like immigration reform. But when -- but if it`s
a choice between Republicans in the House being saddled with blame for
killing the whole process, you might see -- maybe not enough to get it on
the floor but ten, 20 Republicans agree to break with the leadership and
try to get it.
KORNACKI: So, you brought this up in the break, and I asked that question,
when this has been used on something big, you said McCain/Feingold, the
campaign finds reform in 2002. And Tom, you were talking about how that
actually put -- how the discharge petition was circulated and what affect
it had on McCain-Feingold in 2002 and the Republican leadership
DAVIS: Shames me. I mean you had the same kind of polarization in the
conference at that point. You have on immigration to an extent that vast
majority of our members were against it. But you had a handful of members,
particularly from urban areas where there are big newspapers were
editorializing on this every week and cast gating these members and they
signed the petition and our leadership saw them getting to the 218 total.
And at that point brought the bill forward on their own terms as opposed if
it had gone to this petition, it would have come back on the Democrats`
KORNACKI: Could -- do you see, you know, the sort of dynamics of the
Republican House conference than anybody here? Could you see there being a
couple of dozen House Republicans who a couple of months from now would say
in my district or for the sake of the future of my party I want to get this
done and I want to put my name on something like that?
DAVIS: You put it best when you said there are only a handful of
Republicans that are from Obama`s districts. I think that kind of says,
those are the members that would be most likely to sign something like
KORNACKI: So, that would be -- that would be like nine, which wouldn`t get
DAVIS: It doesn`t get you there.
KORNACKI: But would it be any nine more who would say the Republican Party
can`t win in 2016, 2020, 2024 if we don`t do this.
DAVIS: You`re not going to put your own -- how I said. But probably
doesn`t work that strategically.
DAVIS: Right. I mean, maybe. I mean, look, you don`t know until you try
it. And you - the mounting pressure. So, it`s certainly to all the
Democrats, I think, will utilize but I think they want to give Republicans
a chance, honestly, to move something forward and have an honest
But I do think both leadership sides want a bill here. It`s a question of
how they can get there.
DAVIS: All right, Raul, we`re going to pick it up with you right after
KORNACKI: Raul, I cut you off there, what you were going to say?
REYES: We were -- we`re talking about the procedural mechanisms available,
the viability of going forward with the immigration reform bill from the
House, possibly from the House, along with the Senate. One thing, I just
think is when we look at the larger picture, more and more people are aware
of that -- you know, we do have polling consistently shows support for
immigration reform. The Republican leadership wants it. Certainly the
Latino voters want it. You know, there`s a number of prominent Republicans
who want it. So, I think the public in this instance, especially right now
it`s August, is not that much news happening, is increasingly becoming
aware of the fact that it`s just this procedural move, this refuse of
Speaker Boehner to allow vote on that. And I don`t think that is a
sustainable position, and there`s two big dangers for the Republicans
there. Is that number one, in this period where it`s sort of a void, we
have people like Steve King, with his nutty comments, you know, about
comparing the immigrants to drug -- you know, they`re filling that void
which is, you know, just cementing a negative image of the GOP. And also I
think the Republicans still underestimate how important this issue, even
though they may not be in their districts, how important and how personal
this issue is to Latinos because I`ll tell you, when I was growing up, the
rare occasions when I looked at Spanish language TV, it was car crashes and
news from Mexico and Central America. When you put on Spanish language
media now, Telemundo or one of the sort (ph), it`s all about Speaker
Boehner, it`s all about Eric Cantor. It`s all about things happening in
our Congress. So, this is a very engaged segment of the electorate. And
long term for the party, you know, there`s a great deal at stake.
KORNACKI: The other thing I want to ask you about is this questions of
further compromise to get something through. There was an interesting
story this week, I think it was in "National Journal," they basically said,
a lot of immigration supporters are saying, we`ve come compromised a lot
KORNACKI: This thing -- we`re not sure, this thing is worth supporting if
it gets watered down any more.
KORNACKI: And the Plan B idea, this is how it`s sort of framed, was that
there`s sort of a reliance on President Obama to expand the deferred action
program. So, last year .
KORNACKI: Basically, for Dreamers, basically for certain children of
undocumented immigrants, he suspended deportation. So, he could basically
by executive order, the idea would be expand that .
KORNACKI: . expand the scope of that and it would be a waiting game. It
would be OK, we get to 2017, maybe you get a new Democratic president,
maybe you have a stronger, you know, Democratic presence in the House,
maybe Republicans have lost another national election and blaming the
Latino vote for that, is there any growing sense that maybe that`s the
REYES: I think it is. And the president has alluded to it, not directly,
I think he`s wise, and, you know, keeping his cards close to the vest
because if he puts that up there now, it`s just going to flame everybody,
you know in the opposition. But it is something I believe that he would
consider doing, you know, closer -- towards the end of the year if it
becomes clear that immigration reform isn`t going to go forward from the
House. And the thing is, he does -- it`s a legal gray area. I think part
of the reason it`s also being delayed is he has to really explore the
legality of some of these measures. When he did that -- the DACA, the
deferred action program for childhood arrivals that was well within his
executive powers. It was a small targeted group, but if you`re talking
about a much larger population, people who have been here longer, you know,
or are getting into the 11 million of the whole undocumented population, I
think that`s something that has to be, you know, studied, analyzed a bit
KORNACKI: And that would be -- I mean - so the president`s role in the
immigration debate so far has been sort of -- it`s been weird because he`s
sort of been sidelined a little bit, intentionally so, because the idea of
him being engaged, I think with the sense of this is going to polarize
things further and make it tougher to get Republicans to come onboard, but
when you talk about the idea of maybe it comes to expanding the deferred
action program, I look there and say, that`s sort of -- that would be a
second term move, wouldn`t that, right? That`s a president who wouldn`t
have to face the voters again. And do you see that on the horizon at all?
IZADI: Yeah, I mean I think to Raul`s point, he`s keeping his cards close
to the chest. Because if he reveals that that`s a possibility or that he`s
moving in that direction, that takes all the steam out of the push for
immigration reform now. I mean his comments on Friday at his press
conference pushing for some -- for the House to do something, I mean he`s
not going to be going out and talking emphatically at length about
immigration reform. That`s probably the worst thing he could do right now.
IZADI: Quite honestly, that`s going to inflame the opposition. So, I
think everyone is trying to give the House some room to do something, but
we`ll go -- we`ll see what happens a few months out, especially if they are
going to have to deal with the debt ceiling, a measure to fund the
government, that might take precedence, might take everyone`s attention off
of immigration reform and then maybe -- OK, let`s revisit -- let`s revisit
that Plan B.
KORNACKI: It`s really been watching President Obama, and this -- it has
been an interesting lesson in the limits of the power of the bully pulpit.
KORNACKI: I always got the bully pulpit -- well, you don`t want to use
that, because we sort of learned this -- anyway. My thanks to NBC Latino
contributor Raul Reyes and Elahe Izadi of "The National Journal."
The calendar says 2013, but when it comes to President Obama and Vladimir
Putin it`s starting to feel like 1980. That`s next.
KORNACKI: President Obama this week became the first American president in
decades to cancel a meeting with the Russian leader. White House confirmed
on Wednesday that Obama will attend the annual G-20 conference in St.
Petersburg next month, but he will not meet separately with Russian
president Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Obama apparently concluded the
differences between the two sides were so great that there was no point in
sitting down together. Something he hinted at the night before that
announcement in an appearance on Jay Leno`s "Tonight Show."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking
and a Cold War mentality. And what I consistently say to them and what I
say to President Putin is, that`s the past. And, you know, we`ve got to
think about the future. And there`s no reason why we shouldn`t be able to
cooperate more effectively than we do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Tensions between the U.S. and Russia escalated at the start of
this month when Russia granted temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, he is
the former National Security Agency contractor who`s disclosed secrets
about America`s surveillance programs, but there are other issues that
divide the two countries as well, as President Obama noted in his press
conference on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: You know, I think the latest episode is just one more in a number
of emerging differences that we`ve seen over the last several months around
Syria, around human rights issues, where, you know, it is probably
appropriate for us to take a pause.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck
Hagel did meet with their Russian counterparts on Friday to discuss the war
in Syria among other things. Russia has supported the regime of President
Bashar Assad and provided Syrian forces with weapons over the objections of
the United States, there is also Russia`s draconian new anti-gay laws,
which have cast the shadow over the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Last month
Putin signed a law making it illegal for gay couples anywhere in the world
to adopt Russian children. The law, so makes it illegal for Russian
children to be adopted by couples and single parent in any country where
marriage equality exists in any form. And just weeks before that Putin
also signed laws banning so-called "homosexual propaganda" and authorizing
the police to arrest or detain foreign nationals suspected of being pro-
gay. All this has made for a tense few months between the United States
and Russia, and President Obama has downplayed those tensions between
himself and Putin, but he`s also acknowledged that their relationship may
not always seem so warm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I don`t have a bad personal relationship with Putin. When we have
conversations they`re candid, they`re blunt. Oftentimes they`re
constructive. I know the press likes to focus on body language and he`s
got that kind of slouch looking like the bored kid in the back of the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I love that, the slouch like the bored kid. Anyway, I want to
bring in Richard Socarides, he is former senior adviser in the Clinton
White House, now a writer for the Newyorker.com. Still have Tom Davis,
former Republican congressman from Virginia. Rashad Robinson, executive
director of ColorOfChange.org, the nation`s largest African-American online
political organization, also a board member of all out LGBT equality group
organizing opposition to Russia`s antigay policies. And we have Julia
Ioffe, senior editor for the "New Republic" magazine and a former Moscow
correspondent for the "New Yorker" and "Foreign Policy" magazine.
So, we said in intro there, the first time in decades an American president
has canceled a sit down with a Russian leader. I think the last time, we
dug it out, it would have been LBJ in 1968, 45 years ago this month he
canceled a meeting after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. So, I
think that`s the last time you had something like this. Maybe a slightly
different -- Julia is shaking her head there. We just wanted to get the --
KORNACKI: But I`m curious about -- just the questions of -- I think
there`s the conventional wisdom around the decision here to cancel the
meeting was, basically, it was kind of a pointless exercise. Did Obama
really have a choice at this point? Was anything going to come out of
this? And Julia, I just want if you share this basic opinion was, was
there really no point to this meeting given all of the tensions we just
JULIA IOFFE, THE NEW REPUBLIC: I think this was a good decision on Obama`s
part. I just want to go back to the canceling meeting things. Actually,
about a year ago there was -- you know, Obama didn`t go to a summit because
it was September, it was right before the election. Before that Putin
didn`t go to a summit with Obama. So, they`ve been kind of like canceling
getting drinks together for a while now. As for what they have to talk
about, things have been going downhill since about two years ago, since
intervention in Libya. The Russians felt duped, they felt that especially
after Gadhafi was killed I think that personally hit Putin very hard. And
then you had the American ambassador on the ground being harassed by pro-
Kremlin groups and pro-Kremlin TV channels or Kremlin-owned TV channels,
and it`s just been snowballing ever since. I don`t think it`s that -- you
know, when Putin and Obama get together, it`s not like they`re working out
the nitty-gritty, the two of them. A lot of that stuff is worked out
beforehand. It`s kind of a symbolic acknowledgment on both sides. You`ll
notice the Russians aren`t angry at this move. They`re also saying, like
we recognize that we have to recalibrate and we`re still going to keep
working together. There -- you are not seeing an angry response out of
Moscow. I think this is an acknowledgment on both sides that we need to
kind of step back and recalibrate.
KORNACKI: Also, I`m curious about that questions of how this is playing in
Russia. Because, you know, the - a lot of the conversation here in the
United States is about denying Putin the prestige that comes with having a
meeting with the American leader. Is this -- how do you think is this
being portrayed by the media in Russia? How is this perceived by the
public in Russia? And does that -- is Putin -- is Putin worried if his
prestige suffers a little bit because of this?
IOFFE: No. I think - look, the way it`s being played in Russia is it`s
being downplayed. Because if you make a stink over it, you acknowledge the
fact that it was a snub or a slap in the face, right? So, it`s like, OK,
you know, he`s not coming, we`ll see each other another time. And we`ll
see each other on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg. As
for how Putin sees it, he probably -- you know, it probably makes him
respect Obama a little bit more. I think Putin has seen Obama as a kind of
weak president. He can`t quite understand, for example, when Obama tells
him, you know, I have Congress to deal with. I might -- I can`t get
everything through Congress, Putin will say, well, I also have a congress.
You know .
IOFFE: They get it through. I can get my stuff through. So, anyway, so
this is kind of like .
DAVIS: Putin doesn`t have the Tea Party, though.
IOFFE: He also doesn`t have a parliament (ph).
IOFFE: I mean just thinking - it probably makes him .
DAVIS: Right. Yeah.
IOFFE: . seem stronger to Putin.
KORNACKI: Well, Richard, I just wonder, given the moment we sort of
reached here in the relations between the two countries and the two
leaders, what do you think it would take to sort of restart - this sort of
-- have meetings again between Obama and Putin. What would have to happen?
RICHARD SOCARIDES, FMR. SR. ADVISOR CLINTON ADM.: You know, the most
interesting thing I thought about this, was that it was the White House
decided it was in their interest to spread out the reasons for canceling
this summit. But I think the reality is, is that but for the Snowden
episode, the summit would have gone forward. And, you know, I think it was
such a poke in the eye to us and to President Obama personally and to the
new secretary of state, that they just felt that that was -- that that was
-- you know, it was the straw that broke the camel`s back. But had the --
had the Snowden not been granted this one-year citizenship, this one-year
status that he`s got, and even if he was just still at the airport, I bet
President Obama would have gone. The other thing was so interesting about
the press conference in the clip you played was how Obama talks about his
counterpart. I mean, he calls him -- he didn`t say Vladimir or he didn`t,
you know, go by his official title. He calls him Putin. You know, I mean
it was like .
IOFFE: And refers to him as a kid slouching in the back of the class.
SOCARIDES: It was not very diplomatic. Right, I mean, you know -- you are
-- you`ve been around these diplomats, I mean they are very careful the way
they talk about him. And I don`t know if the president was just kind of --
it was Friday afternoon, he was kind of on a roll. But boy, that is not
the way you talk about a leader.
IOFFE: He`s playing to the American press, he`s playing to the American
KORNACKI: Yes. But how does that -- how does that go -- how do you think
Putin -- Putin will get the transition.
IOFFE: Oh, that`s a dis.
IOFFE: That`s a dis. You don`t talk about Putin like that. Putin is, you
know, the father of a nation and an empire.
KORNACKI: But you were saying - you were saying maybe this built a little
bit of respect for Obama.
IOFFE: Yeah, yeah.
KORNACKI: I`m going far (ph), but this being talked to that way maybe has
--- anyway, I want to pick this up, and I just want to get into as well the
issue with the Olympics and the issue with the antigay laws in Russia.
We`ll get to that after this.
KORNACKI: So there wasn`t really a lot of loud, you know, sort of
reaction, I think, from Republicans to the president, you know, the
announcement this week that the meeting with Putin would be canceled, but I
did notice this. This was -- this was John Boehner`s office was contacted
for comment and the Boehner spokesman said "The president`s signature
foreign policy accomplishment from the first term, a reset with Russia has
It seemed like a little gloating was going on over there. Although, I did,
I did notice, you know other Republicans didn`t seem to be joining the
course. But Tom, I guess what I wanted to ask you about was, there seems
to be -- there is a split. And we`ve talked about this, in the Republican
Party, sort of increasingly on foreign policy questions, where you`ve got
the wing that was sort of dominant in the Bush era, more of the like the
neocon, the more hawkish wing, and then you`ve got this sort of insurgent,
almost, you know, the Rand Paul noninterventionist side of things. I`m
looking at Russia right now, the more hawkish forces you seem to see an
opening here in the Republican Party, and I think in the national debate,
and that is, that if we`re not talking to Putin anymore, maybe this an
opening to act unilaterally like on -- on missile defense and issues like
that. I`m just curious, if you have a sense of where that debate in the
Republican Party is.
DAVIS: Our Cold War wing of the party has been looking for something for
years, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and found it a little bit in
these wars in the Middle East. So, I think there is some at both parties,
by the way, have these divisions within them. These are so far not some
along partisan lines. I`m frankly not surprised by Boehner`s spokesman
because it`s kind of electioneering and so on. But Republicans are pretty
muted. Look, everybody is playing the role on this thing. If they have to
play, the president, he had to cancel that, I think, after the Snowden
event. He would have very weak had he not done that. I think Moscow
really didn`t have much choice on Snowden. If they give him back to the
United States, Putin would have looked very weak under the circumstances.
The good news is, the talks continue underneath, we have the secretary of
defense there, secretary of state talking to their people. So, you know,
business as usual.
KORNACKI: So, let`s get into the question here, I think, that`s gotten the
most press attention, it`s going to continue to get the most, I think, for
months ahead because all the through February of next year with the
Olympics. Is the question of these new antigay laws in Russia. And
Rashad, we kind of outlined them there at the beginning, but I wonder if
you could just quickly take us through exactly -- what is -- what is the
impact right now on gays and lesbians in Russia? And where did this come
from? I think that`s the other question people have.
RASHAD ROBINSON, COLOROFCHANGE.ORG: Well, we`ve seen these laws popping up
around the world as more and more visibility happens for LGBT Americans and
folks in the West. And what we`re seeing, particularly in Russia, is a law
that outlines what they say is propaganda. And that could mean a host of
things. It could mean everything from someone who`s not gay or lesbian
supporting gay and lesbian people, carrying a rainbow flag, wanting to
stand up. We`ve seen folks filming documentaries being harassed and coming
under attack from these laws in Russia. And what it particularly does, is
it sends a message around the world about exactly where Russia stands
around not just around LGBT equality, but around human rights and freedom
KORNACKI: So, where Julia -- where, though, did the move for these laws
come from? Because we think of like -- in the United States, I think we`re
so used to looking at the gay rights debate as, you know, it`s inevitable
at this point, and gay marriages keeps popping up in other states, the
polls keep moving, there`s sort of, you know, the arc of history bends
toward justice. That whole thing. But in Russia it seems like they`re
moving in the opposite direction. Is that the political class, and maybe
religious leaders trying to impose something on the masses or does this
reflect something broader about where Russian culture is moving right now?
IOFFE: So, I think there are two things here. Two things happening.
First of all, this law is one of the few thing that we`ve seen originate
not from the top down, but from the bottom-up. It started out as an
antigay propaganda law in cities in central Russia and -- and then up in
Arkhangelsk in the north and then came down to St. Petersburg, and then
down to Moscow, which then spread it to a federal level. This normally
doesn`t happen. Normally, laws are, you know, there`s a signal from the
top, the Duma, the Russian parliament passes something. This is something
that reflects, I think this is just Russia`s historical (inaudible) with
its role as kind of the West, but not the West. On the one hand, it wants
to be part of Europe, it talks about -- and Putin constantly talks about
how Russia`s an integral and important part of Europe. On the other hand,
after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it hasn`t been much of an ideology
to hold the place together. You have the church, just like it (inaudible)
in the last like few hundred years coming in, creating a national idea
that`s kind of a very conservative one and traditional one. And you also
have this national idea forming as a response to the West. So, we`re they
un-West. Where homosexuality is seen as a Western-imported, seen as a
fashion choice, almost.
KORNACKI: All right. I want to pick that up -- and we`ll have a lot more
time as we start in the next hour, because I want to talk more about how it
got to this point in Russia, what that means to the Olympics and what the
response should be from the United States, from the Olympic Committee, from
the West - all of that, next hour.
KORNACKI: All right. We are talking about how politics in the Olympics
are sort of -- being, you know, meeting right now. And when it comes to
the question of the antigay laws in Russia and the upcoming Olympic Games
in next February in Sochi and what the response from the rest of the world
should be. This, we`re talking with former Clinton administration official
Rich Socarides, former Republican Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia, Rashad
Robinson of ColorOfChange.org and Julia Ioffe of "The New Republic"
So, the Olympics start, you know, a few months from now in Sochi, 2014
Winter Games, and this whole question of what the response of the United
States and the international community should be to the antigay laws in
Russia. It reminded me -- I set this - I`ll set up Obama`s press
conference on Friday, first by playing 33 years ago in January 1980, this
was just after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the summer games that
year were scheduled for Moscow and the president of the United States was
asked what the response should be when it came to the Olympics. This was
Jimmy Carter in January 1980.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MONROE: Mr. President, assuming the soviets do not pull out of
Afghanistan any time soon, do you favor the U.S. participating in the
Moscow Olympics? And if not, what are the alternatives?
JIMMY CARTER: No, neither I nor the American people would support the
sending of an American team to Moscow. With soviet invasion troops in
Afghanistan. I`ve sent a message today to the United States Olympic
Committee spelling out my own position that unless the soviets withdraw
their troops within a month from Afghanistan, that the Olympic Games be
moved from Moscow to an alternate site or multiple sites or postponed or
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And the United States and a lot of countries around the world
did boycott the 1980 summer games in response to the Soviet Union and in
the sort of the Eastern Bloc nations in 1984 boycotted the Olympics in Los
Angeles. In response to that Ted Turner started something called the
Goodwill Games, and that took place in 1986 in Moscow. A little bit of the
international competition history from the 1980s. But President Obama at
his press conference on Friday was asked, basically, the same question, in
light of the antigay laws in Russia, what about the United States and the
Olympics? And this is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I do not think it`s appropriate to boycott the Olympics. We`ve got
a bunch of Americans out there who are training hard, who are doing
everything they can to succeed. Nobody is more offended than me by some of
the antigay and lesbian legislation that you`ve been seeing in Russia. And
one of the things I`m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and
lesbian athletes bringing home the gold, or silver or bronze, which I think
would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we`re seeing
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, Rashad, I wonder what you think the appropriate response
here is. I`ve heard the idea of the United States should boycott, other
countries should boycott, the International Olympic Committee should move
the games out of Russia and move them to like Vancouver, where they`ve held
in 2010. You have the president there basically saying, hey, let`s hope
some gay athletes win medals over there and really kind of show it to the
Russians. What do you think the right response is?
ROBINSON: I think there are three quick points here. You know, all out
has a petition of over 300,000 people around the world that is pushing the
IOC to really clarify and force Russia to clarify its position, so that,
you know, not just the athletes, but folks from around the world who go to
Russia are able to be safe and able to be open in who they are. And two
other points. The history of not just gay rights in this country, but
around the world, it`s been a history of visibility, people being open and
counted and enlisted allies. And there`s no greater sort of international
moment than the Olympics for people around the world to go there and win
their support to the LGBT community, to the Russian LGBT network and other
folks in Russia on the ground. And then the final point is really about
sports in general, from Jesse Owens to Jackie Robinson to Billie Jean King,
we have seen sports become a place where we can have deep and honest
conversations about who we want to be and being our best selves. And
hopefully, this Olympics gives us the opportunity for folks around the
world to go there and really raise their voice for equality.
KORNACKI: So, you want -- you want the games to continue in Sochi, you
want the United States to be there, the rest of the world to be there?
ROBINSON: And hopefully people will be carrying flags of support and
standing up in support of equal rights and human rights.
KORNACKI: And that - we should say -- you asked about Russia clarifying
what exactly is going to happen to any gay athletes or any, you know,
supporters of the gay athletes. We`ve had conflicting statements here from
the Russian sports minister. I think a week or two ago he said that no one
is forbidding an athlete with nontraditional sexual orientation from coming
to Sochi, but if goes out on the streets and starts propagandizing it,
then, of course, he will be held accountable. And that`s just recreates a
huge -- well, what exactly does that mean with propaganda? That could mean
almost anything. And then, you know, that created a backlash, so the
response, again, from the sports minister, this was just this week, he says
"Russia has the constitution that guarantees to all citizens rights for the
private life and privacy. Rest assured that all the athletes and all the
sports organizations should be relaxed."
Richard, does that relax you hearing this from the Russian sports minister?
SOCARIDES: I mean I think if anything, it puts people on high alert,
right, because you`ve got different people saying different things. And,
you know, they`re trying to intentionally keep it a very gray area. But
listen, you said in the one of the last segments, I mean this is going to
be -- this story is just getting started. This is going to be a huge
international story. It is probably going to be the biggest international
gay rights story ever.
I mean, we are at a new -- you know, a lot of this originates in the West.
And here in the West we are at a new moment in gay rights. The gay rights
movement in this country is emboldened. They`ve been emboldened by a
Supreme Court who earlier this summer said that gays and lesbians are
entitled to dignity in this country. And the gay rights movement is really
on a roll.
And this is going to be a huge issue, it`s going to be a huge issue for NBC
Universal, for this network, it`s going to be a huge issue for everybody
else who is connected to or sponsors the Olympics. There`s already a
McDonnell`s -- you know, McDonnell`s one of the big sponsors. There`s
already a fake McDonnell`s ad going around where they have -- they`re
opening, they`ve taken the opening of a McDonnell`s ad, which says, you
know, we`re happy to be in Sochi and they`ve spliced into it pictures of
these gay Russian youths being beaten and abused on the street. Videotape
that is widely available.
And, you know, this idea that we can have this celebration of the Olympics
and celebration of our athletes while real Russian citizens are being
beaten and harassed, I think that, you know, what Rashad -- I agree with
what Rashad says and I want, you know, our athletes to go and compete. And
I want us -- I want us and other countries that support gay and lesbian
civil rights to show the rest of the world the way to do it, but I also
think that we have to -- you know, we have to have some focus on what is
actually happening to gay people in Russia. And they`re being beaten and
harassed and sometimes killed in an environment which promotes this. The
government is promoting this. So, we have to, you know, we have to also
listen to them.
KORNACKI: Well, what, Julia -- what do you think -- how do you think the
Russian government is going to -- is going to play this, then, when it
comes to the Olympics? Do you think that they would actually go for it
with (inaudible), with trying to enforce any of these laws or also, do you
think there would be an effect where they`re a little bit more sensitive to
doing anything domestically outside of Sochi that attracts international
headlines in the next few months.
IOFFE: Yeah, so, this is -- I mean you`re seeing the Russian government in
action. It`s not a very strategic government. It`s a very knee-jerk
action. They passed this law and now they`re running up against hosting a
major international sporting event and they`re like, what do we do with
this? I mean, so the IOC actually has asked for a written clarification
both so that they`re clear on what this law means and how it applies to
athletes that are going to be competing in Sochi, but also so that they
have it in writing, so that if then there is a conflict, they can point to
a written document and say, you promised this would -- or wouldn`t happen.
The other thing is that if homosexuality is already seen as a nefarious
import from the West, the West and it`s seen as a, you know, a global gay
cabal is trying to wreak moral havoc on Russia. The global gay cabal
getting up in arms and circulating videos and threaten to boycott the
Olympics just reinforces this idea that Russia and its Russian Christian
spirit is under attack from the morally bankrupt West. And -- and I think
like you said, it doesn`t really help. The more you press on Putin and you
threaten to boycott the Olympics, this is very personally important project
for him, the more he`s going to turn inwards and dig his heels in and say,
you know what, then we were right. Look at this, you`re trying to --
you`re trying to pressure us. You`re trying to impose your moral values on
us. We`re going to stick to our guns.
KORNACKI: Well, how --
IOFFE: And it doesn`t help gay people in Russia.
KORNACKI: Rashad, how do you break through that, then? When you look at
trying to improve the lives and help the lives of gay people in Russia, if
that`s the reality, that any sort of intervention from the West is an
outcry, this is terrible, is interpreted the way Julia just said, how do
you break through that and actually -- and actually help?
ROBINSON: I mean I think it`s really important that we support the
activists and the community on the ground, the folks who have been doing
this work for years in Russia. You know, I have watched these issues play
out not just in Russia but in -- throughout Eastern Europe. I went to
Serbia a number of years ago with the State Department to support LGBT
activists there as they`re working to have their pride. And folks have
been working for years, the same way people have been working in this
country. And in parts of this country for decades where it wasn`t always
safe and where religiosity got in the way of equality. And people have to
continue to tell their stories, raise their voices, and enlist allies. And
the Olympics in this moment will create greater opportunity for that. And
that`s why, I think, it`s so important that at the same time that we`re
pushing at the IOC, that we`re also pushing and supporting the folks on the
ground to be able to do the work that they need to do.
KORNACKI: All right.
KORNACKI: One of those timings -- I would love to, otherwise. But I want
to thank former Clinton administration official Richard Socarides, Rashad
Robinson of ColorOfChange.org and Julia Ioffe of "The New Republic"
magazine. Mr. Davis is not going away. We`ll have you back.
Most important election of 2013 has a little bit of everything, except
maybe a candidate that anyone actually wants to vote for. That`s next.
KORNACKI: I want to tell you about a basketball game that mercifully no
one remembers. You know, it was the championship game, and it was in what
was then called the Trans-America Athletic Conference. The TAC. It was
the central Florida Golden Knights against the Mercer Bears. Now, the TAC
was a small college basketball conference, it`s a kind of conference with a
bunch of schools you`ve never heard of, they never get on TV, they play
their games in tiny gyms that fit like 500 people. But the beautiful thing
about college basketball is that it is the most democratic with a small
"d," big time sport. There are more than 300 teams total that play it and
every single one of them, every year from mighty Duke in Kentucky to no-
names like Texas Pan American and Southern Utah, they all have the same
opportunity. You win you conference championship, you make the NCAA
tournament. You win the NCAA tournament, and you claim the national title.
Every team, no matter how big or small has the same theoretical chance to
win it all. And that is beautiful. But what happened on Saturday, March
2nd, 1996, was not. It was the championship game of the TAC conference
tournament. The winner would get that automatic bid to the NCAA
tournament. ESPN was there. It was the one annual moment in the sun for
the Tech. The only problem, neither team playing had any business being
there. Central Florida`s record was a feeble ten wins, and 18 losses.
They finished near the bottom of the regular season standings. Mercer,
their opponent, was almost as bad -- they finished just a game ahead of
Central Florida in the standings.
Now, ordinarily neither team would have made it to the conference
championship game, or anywhere close to the conference championship game.
And to the brink of the NCAA tournament. But in 1996, a couple of
accidents happened. The best team in the league was ineligible to play in
the tournament, that was one, and also the other top team suffered fluke
losses in the first round. Basically, the bracket in the tournament
collapsed and it left two cellar dwellers to play for the championship.
Neither one of them deserved to be there, but one of them was going to win
and then go on to represent the conference on the national stage in the
NCAA tournament. And it was a very ugly game. Central Florida was bad.
Mercer was a lot worse that day. 12 minutes into the game the score was 23
to nothing, and Central Florida went on to win it. That put them in the
NCAA tournament. And, of course, they were immediately crushed in the
first round. And that was it. The season was over for the Golden Knights.
But that Central Florida/Mercer game, that conference championship game, I
don`t think there has ever been a game in college basketball where so much
has been on the line, where something of such value was at stake and where
both teams were so totally unworthy of the prize. And if you`re wondering
what the 1996 Trans-America Athletic Conference basketball championship
game has to do with politics in the year 2013, well, I`m glad you asked
because that same dynamic that I just described also defines the most
important election this year. That is the race for governor of Virginia.
Virginia is a big state. It`s probably the premiere swing state in the
country. This is an open seat race. Each party has a legitimate chance of
winning the governorship. And yet somehow both parties have decided to
field candidates with profound deficiencies. Candidates that few voters
actually seem interested in voting for. This is a poll from just a couple
of weeks ago.
And look at that. Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli. They are the two
nominees. They both have higher, unfavorable, that`s the word, ratings
than favorable ratings. Now, Cuccinelli`s numbers are worse in that poll.
His unfavorable is near 50 percent. And we know why that is. It`s partly
ideological extremism, he`s aggressively championed the Tea Party and
Christian right from the (ph) agenda. That is bound to rub some swing
voters the wrong way. It`s also scandal. The news in Virginia has been
dominated this summer by revelations about lavish gifts that a businessman
named Johnny Williams has showered on the state`s current Republican
governor and his family. Cuccinelli has been caught up in that same storm,
he took $18,000 worth of gifts from Walker, private jet flights, use of a
vacation home, a catered Thanksgiving feast.
Now, ordinarily all of this, the ideological extremism of Ken Cuccinelli,
the pricy gifts, the poisonous unfavorable numbers, the fact that Virginia
is a swing state, ordinarily all of that would be more than enough to doom
a candidate like Cuccinelli. But remember who Cuccinelli is running
against. Terry McAuliffe has already run for governor before in 2009 and
he got trounced in his own party`s primary. It`s a consummate beltway
insider, a mega bundler who embodies so many of the aspects of D.C. that
drive people crazy. That`s why his favorable score was so weak in that
recent poll. And here`s the kicker. That poll was taken before this.
News that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating an
electric car company owned by McAuliffe.
Amazingly, both Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe somehow won their
party`s nominations without opposition this year. They are two very weak
and very flawed general election candidates, but when this campaign ends,
one of them will be governor of a big, important state. There are national
implications here. By nominating Cuccinelli in a purple state, Republicans
are testing just how far of the right they can get away with going. And
consider it a trial run for 2016. Barack Obama is not going to be on the
ballot this fall, the electorate will be a lot more Republican-friendly.
GOPs bet is in a climate like that they can elect candidates like
Cuccinelli in states like Virginia. For their part, Democrats are betting
on Republican extremism, the idea that swing voters will be so turned off
by a candidate with Cuccinelli`s agenda and his baggage. They`ll hold
their noses and they`ll vote for a candidate like McAuliffe.
This is not a pretty race, but this is the most closely watched election in
the country this year. We`ll talk about how it ever came to this, how
voters got stuck with this choice and what their decision in November will
mean for the future after this.
KORNACKI: So, we are talking about the race for governor of Virginia and
the two candidates, voters there seem to be stuck with. We`re here with
Lauren Harmon, she is the executive director of the Virginia Democratic
Party. She might have had a different view in Terry McAuliffe. Now, we
get former Congressman Tom Davis from Virginia. He`s still with us. Brian
Beutler of Salon.com rejoins us and Dave Wasserman, he is the house editor
for the "Cook Political Report" and one of those all-around numbers experts
on politics, so he can dissect Virginia every way we want to dissect it.
So, Tom, I want to start with you on this one. Because I think it`s a
question everybody looks at this race and asks, this is a swing state, this
is a big state, Virginia, this is on paper a very winnable race for
Republicans given the climate. It`s an open seat, and all of that. How
did they ever end up giving the nomination to Ken Cuccinelli uncontested?
DAVIS: Convention. Cuccinelli - he took over the state party, central
committee with the help from the Ron Paul people. And they changed the
rules. We were set for the primary. They went to a convention instead --
and at that point, the Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling said I
can`t win a convention and he dropped out.
KORNACKI: So, that was - if Bolling had -- if there had been a primary,
you`d think Ken Cuccinelli -- Bolling would have beaten or could have
DAVIS: It would have been a competitive race, it would have been a much
different race. Bolling had a huge financial advantage at that point, he
had the backing of the governor. It`s created obviously a rift in the
party. Bolling is having nothing to do with Cuccinelli from everything I
can tell at this point. So yes, it caused some problems, but it did give
him a path to the nomination, and a very conservative ticket to run with.
KORNACKI: We`ll pick that up in a minute. I want to ask you about at the
start of this race, I think the idea of Ken Cuccinelli, how Ken Cuccinelli
could maybe win was that Bob McDonnell, the governor, the Republican
governor was very popular, and the idea was you can`t give anybody a second
term in Virginia, but maybe Ken Cuccinelli could kind of run for Bob
McDonnell`s second term. Bob McDonnell has been completely submerged in
scandal the last few months. Has it gotten to the point, do you think,
where McDonnell`s troubles are rubbing off on Cuccinelli in the polls,
especially given he`s taken gifts, $18,000 worth of gifts from the same guy
who`s been showering all these gifts on McDonnell?
DAVIS: It`s interesting because really, McAuliffe was running as
McDonnell`s heir for a while. He supported the transportation bill,
Cuccinelli didn`t. And of course now they`re both running (inaudible).
But I think the governor`s performance as a governor in terms of his job
approval is actually pretty good. It`s the personal stuff now that hangs
over him because of the gifts that he took. And Cuccinelli took money from
the same guy. From the Star Williams -- the Star Enterprises guy.
$18,000, the governor has said he will give the money back. Cuccinelli has
said -- has not said that to date. So that issue is still out there that
could adversely affect him.
I don`t think anybody is really paying attention yet. I think that`s good
news for Republicans. And traditionally Virginia has voted for the party
out of power in the White House nine straight times. So that`s what`s
going for him.
KORNACKI: So, Lauren, maybe you could take us inside sort of Democratic
headquarters in Virginia when you found out Ken Cuccinelli would be your
opponent this year, was that a very happy day for Democrats? We have a much
better chance of winning this now?
LAUREN HARMON, DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF VIRGINIA: Yeah, absolutely. I think
Ken Cuccinelli has a record of extremism on issues that are important to
all types of Virginians, whether it is our gay and lesbian Virginians,
women`s health, saying that folks who are on Medicaid and Social Security
are dependent on the government. We knew we`d have a lot to work with on
him, and I would agree with Tom that I think choosing to run with the
convention rather than a primary, as we did with our candidates, made their
ticket weaker. We have a great ticket, three strong Democrats who are
going to get the job done this year. You know, and certainly we`re going
to make sure that folks continue to hear what Cuccinelli has been up to.
KORNACKI: You mentioned the ticket, and Tom talked about this a minute
ago. The lieutenant governor nominee also picked at the same Republican
convention in Virginia is E.W. Jackson, who is -- has said some incredibly
inflammatory things. That`s probably the mild way of putting it. To give
you an example, this is E.W. Jackson in action. We have a montage here if
we can just play it quickly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
E.W. JACKSON, NOMINEE FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: The Ku Klux
Klan did not do nearly as much to destroy black life as Planned Parenthood
Barack Obama is at best a confused man, is at worst has the sensibilities,
and I don`t know how this combination works, of an atheist and a Muslim.
We have never had a president who systematically disregards our
Constitution, ignores our laws, and sets himself up as some sort of king or
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, now the lieutenant governor and governor technically run
separately in Virginia. There are separate elections for them, but E.W.
Jackson sort of I think wanted to kind of be seen -- wanted this to be seen
as the Cuccinelli/Jackson ticket. The conventional wisdom has been that
Cuccinelli wants nothing to do or as little to do as possible with E.W.
Jackson. But TMP`s Brian (inaudible) actually got some audio on Friday.
This was Ken Cuccinelli basically reassuring conservative activists, that
no, he wants to be associated with Jackson. Let`s just play that audio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUCCINELLI: I certainly support E.W. And all the grassroots work that we
do, and the top of the ticket runs this, and puts in the effort and designs
the system. And, look, I`m a grassroots campaigner. That`s how this was
designed. Because I`m a grassroots campaigner. And because we`re going to
be outspent by the (inaudible) machine here with Terry McAuliffe. E.W.
Jackson gets the benefit of all of that work. He and I have discussed
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, Brian, this complicates things a lot for Cuccinelli, I
think, because the McDonnell -- the Bob McDonnell model for winning in
Virginia is if -- at least from 2009 was if you`re a cultural conservative,
you downplay that as much as you can in the general election, you run on
the economy, you run on jobs. If that`s part of your agenda, you wait
until you`re governor to do it. But Cuccinelli is sort of caught in a
position here where he has got this lieutenant governor candidate who has
great appeal to that very conservative cultural base of the Republican
Party, but he`s saying the things you`re not supposed to be saying in the
general election. But if he distances himself, it offends that base.
BEUTLER: Yes. So he`s got conservatives on both sides, on social issues
and on the economic issues. And I think, I mean, nobody wants to lose a
governor race, a gubernatorial race, but there is a real silver lining for
Democrats here if they -- if McAuliffe loses, and that is that, you know,
it might help hold Virginia as a firewall, as a Democratic state in 2016,
because you`re going to have Ken Cuccinelli in office doing -- continuing
to do and say the things he says about women`s issues, about the Affordable
Care Act. If you have the system working well in Maryland and D.C., where
everyone is pulling in the same direction, he`s continuing to meddle with
it. That suddenly, they`ll be able to nationalize him and the lieutenant
governor, if they pull it off. And you know, that`s a loss for Democrats
in the near term, but in the long term it kind of helps cement the
Republican Party`s image nationwide as a party of people like Ken
KORNACKI: Dave, I want to bring you in and I want to pick up what
Cuccinelli sort of says about and how he fits into this story of Virginia`s
evolution from a Republican state to a swing state, even maybe a Democratic
state. We`ll pick it up after this.
KORNACKI: So, Dave, I`m hoping you can tell us a little bit about the sort
of the cultural and demographic changes and evolutions that have sort of
transformed Virginia, because I think the perception I have looking at it
from the outside is that it`s a lot of sort of suburban swing voters who
may be more moderate and liberal on cultural issues, especially, and who
have sort of -- who maybe used to be Republican voters or just moved to the
state and are turned off by exactly what sort of Ken Cuccinelli represents.
Is that a fair reading of it?
DAVE WASSERMAN, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: They`re turned off by what ken
Cuccinelli represents. They`re also turned off by what E.W. Jackson
represents. We talk about usually balancing a ticket, the need for a party
to put people who can appeal to different voter groups on the ticket. In
this case, the lieutenant governor candidate on the Republican side is
someone who`s mentally unbalanced. And so even a lot of Republicans would
admit that he`s been a drag, and I think that`s probably moved this race,
in addition to the McDonnell implosion and the fishy Johnny Williams
contributions from a race that might have favored Cuccinelli a couple of
months ago given the off-year turnout dynamics, into a pure toss-up.
But there are two ways a Democrat can win a governors election in Virginia,
Steve. There is the Mark Warner method, the Mark Warner model of going to
the southwest Virginia with a bluegrass band, saying Mark Warner is a hero
of the hills --
KORNACKI: This is a very rural, conservative --
WASSERMAN: Yes. That rural coalition, and my barometer for that is a
place called Buchanan County, the coal capital of southwest Virginia, where
Mark Warner got 66 percent of the vote in 2001. And then there is the Tim
Kaine model, and the Barack Obama, Jim Webb model as well, running up those
suburban numbers, appealing to that suburban vote in not only Northern
Virginia, but also down in Hampton Roads and Richmond, where most voters
actually live. And maybe downplaying a little bit less that coal country
and Shenandoah swing.
So, in 2005 when Tim Kaine won the governorship, he won 60 percent of the
vote in Fairfax County, up six points from the 54 percent that Mark Warner
had won, but he only won 52 percent of the vote in Buchanan County. Creigh
Deeds won only 37 percent there in 2009.
Now, Terry McAuliffe`s model is a little bit of a hybrid model. He`s going
to southwest Virginia. He`s stumping with Ted Strickland, former governor
of Ohio. He is, you know, promoting his jobs plan in rural areas of the
state, but he`s also appealing to Northern Virginia`s business leaders.
And what`s smart about Terry`s campaign, I think it`s been run a little bit
better than the Cuccinelli campaign, is that he`s surrounding himself with
the type of people who are the real kingmakers in these types of
gubernatorial elections, the (inaudible) community in Northern Virginia,
that can gin up those independent votes in Northern Virginia. Both parties
are focusing most of their efforts on the base.
KORNACKI: We started to talk about McAuliffe here. I`ll ask you the same
question as I asked Tom. We looked, we put the unfavorable numbers up
there. There`s all the SEC stuff about Green Tech Automotive, that is the
electric car company. We can talk about that a little more in a minute.
There is the fact that he ran in 2009, and he just got trounced by the
Democratic Party. I think a lot of people look at this and ask, how did
somebody with that background just have this nomination uncontested? There
was no opposition for him. Are Democrats that excited about him? What is
it that you are seeing that got your party behind him like this?
HARMON: Yes, I think Democrats are excited about Terry. This year, with
everything that we`ve been seeing in the country, we`re ready for someone
who`s here to create business. Terry McAuliffe is a businessman. He`s
going to bring a lot of jobs to the state. He`s brought along the whole
ticket with him, Ralph Northam, Mark Herring, to make sure we are making
this a pro-business environment, as opposed to someone like Ken Cuccinelli
and E.W. Jackson who are really scaring businesses away. We`ve seen
companies say they wouldn`t want to come to a place where their employees
who are women, couldn`t get the health care they need; their employees who
are LGBT might be discriminated against; where scientists are sued because
Ken Cuccinelli does not like their work product. They`re making this a
KORNACKI: What happened with McAuliffe? Because I am remembering in the
spring of 2009 and watching his campaign for governor just implode, and he
lost that primary like two to one. I`m curious given that experience and
just given his baggage, what happened in the four years between then and
now within the Democratic Party -- not McAuliffe versus Cuccinelli, but
within the Democratic Party for Democrats in Virginia to say, no, this is
the guy, this is the one. What happened?
HARMON: Fair enough. I think he hit the road. He got out there, he did
the hard work of talking to voters and letting them know what he was all
about. I was down at a crab steam in Matthews County last night. Dorothy
McAuliffe, his wife, was out there talking about the things that they care
about there. We were up in Shenandoah County at the picnic with Toby, the
Democratic donkey a few weeks ago. Terry hit the road up there to talk to
folks about what you were just talking about, you know, those of those more
rural red concerns. And he`s done the work. You can`t just run for
governor and expect that folks are going to come out and love you just
because you put your name on the ballot. You have got to show up, show
your face, and tell them who you are, and he`s done that over the last four
years, and we`re ready to have his back now.
KORNACKI: I love going to a crab steam, I love the local political
HARMON: I loved it, too.
KORNACKI: Brian, maybe you can talk a little bit, too, about what is it
about Terry McAuliffe that seems to turn off -- Jonathan Chait in "New
York" magazine, I think, I`ve used this line before, it really stuck with
me. He said that Terry McAuliffe is the Democrat that Democrats have been
dreaming of voting against. There`s something about I guess the bundling,
the sort of the top-tier fund-raising, and all of that, Beltway
connections. There`s some sort of sensibility, it seems that he, at least
in 2009, he offended among Democrats.
BEUTLER: I guess it`s sort of Democrats, liberal elites, there`s very
little about Terry McAuliffe that -- that sort of they feel like they can
relate to. And they don`t feel like he has core values that they really
want to see in their candidates. Like, they`re willing to tolerate
candidates that sort of have, you know, heresies here and there. And Terry
McAuliffe is sort of all heresy and no core, and I think that that sort of
gets to why, you know, liberals haven`t been super enthusiastic about Terry
McAuliffe, but then Cuccinelli comes along and it changes people`s minds
that maybe they can tolerate somebody who does not see eye to eye with them
on almost anything.
KORNACKI: So, right, it ends up being each side is sort of voting against
the other candidate, which I get. But then we had those numbers earlier
that showed Cuccinelli`s unfavorables much higher than McAuliffe`s. That`s
as I said, before this SEC news broke. So the story with this SEC
investigation is that, you know, that McAuliffe started this electric car
company, Green Tech Automotive. The idea was sort of using it to prove
that he`s a job creator, prove that he can bring all sorts of jobs to the
state. And in the process, the investigation is at least looking at -- was
pressure exerted on -- to the Department of Homeland Security to get visas
for people to bankroll the company. Tom, very quickly, I mean, when you
look at this as a Republican, is this something that -- are you looking at
this and saying Cuccinelli can`t save himself but maybe this is what saves
DAVIS: Look, at the end of the day, if this race is about Cuccinelli, I
think the Democrats win. If this race is about Terry McAuliffe, I think
Republicans win. At this point, both of these candidates have some flaws
with the voters. We saw the unfavorables, that`s before the barrage of
negative advertising goes in. I wouldn`t be surprised if both of these
candidates are upside down on election day in terms of
favorable/unfavorable support. So driving is going to be voting against.
This will be one of the most negative campaigns in the history of Virginia,
and we`ve had a bunch of them.
KORNACKI: And that has happened at least once before in recent memory, a
very famous race where both candidates went to election day with upside
down favorable/unfavorable scores. I`m going to remind you and play a
very, very entertaining clip from that race after this.
KORNACKI: The last high-profile race I can think of, at least in Virginia
where you had this dynamic where the two candidates just went into election
day much more unpopular than popular was a famous race in 1994 between
Oliver North, as the Republican, the Iran-Contra figure, he had his
conviction overturned basically on a technicality, came out, ran for the
Senate. And then Charles Robb, who was this scandal-plagued Democratic
incumbent. And there it is. There is the final poll from that race, and
you can see it, look at that. Oliver North`s unfavorables near 50 percent.
Chuck Robb`s, we got there, 43 percent. Their favorables back in the 30s,
just an absolutely terrible place for them to be. And just to show you how
that election was won, and it was not on positive messages at all, this is
from a documentary made about that race called "The Perfect Candidate," and
this is Chuck Robb basically on the eve of the election. This is his
summation of the case to vote for Chuck Robb. (inaudible).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES ROBB, CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: You know something about my
opponent. My opponent is a document-shredding, Constitution-trashing,
commander in chief bashing, ayatollah loving, arms dealing, criminal
protecting, resume enhancing, Noriega coddling, Swiss banking, law
breaking, letter faking, self-serving, snake oil salesman who can`t tell
the difference between the truth and a lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And you should have heard the bad stuff he said about North,
too. So that`s the definition of a negative campaign. And Lauren, I guess
you`re sort of in the middle of strategy on this. Are we going to see, is
this going to be one of the more negative campaigns between Cuccinelli and
HARMON: Short answer, yes. Right? I mean, there`s a lot to work with on
Cuccinelli certainly on our side. Obviously, I`m biased, but I happen to
think most of the things that Cuccinelli will be coming at Terry McAuliffe
with will be just to really distract from his record of scandal as an
attorney general, to distract from the fact that he`s trying to pretend to
be a moderate now, now that he`s, we know he`s arm in arm with E.W.
Jackson, as we just heard. So that`s what a lot of you`re going to see
from him will be. And for us, we`re going to talk about his record. And
if people want to call that negative, I call it facts.
KORNACKI: And, Tom, you have the experience, we go back to 1994 there,
Chuck Robb we should say won that race by three points, it turned out, and
six years later he ran for re-election and lost to George Allen. You had
the experience of running as a Republican in Northern Virginia, which is a
lot more Democratic-friendly now than it was then, but it was still
Democratic-friendly back then, with Oliver North on the ticket. Can you
talk about the experience that -- for Republicans in Virginia, for more
moderate Republicans in Virginia, running with Cuccinelli, what`s going
through their mind right now?
DAVIS: You`re getting as much separation as you can in the urban areas.
Ken will run very strongly in some of the rural areas of the state. Let`s
not underestimate. This is a guy who a statewide election four years ago
with a pretty significant margin over a very strong Democratic candidate.
Now, part of it was on the governor`s coattails, but the urban areas are
where Republicans are hurting in a year like this. The social issues kill
us in these urban areas. The immigration issue right now is a hot issue.
Republicans are going to have to be able to solve that.
We know this in Virginia. When everyone shows up, there are more Democrats
than Republicans. We`ve seen that in the last two presidential elections.
But the off-year turnouts have tended to be against the party in the White
House. That augurs to our benefit this year.
KORNACKI: And, Dave, that is sort of the million dollar question in
Virginia, and everywhere. With the Obama coalition that has produced two
straight national Democratic victories, definitely showed up in Virginia
and elsewhere in 2008, definitely showed up in 2012, was not there in 2009
when McDonnell won. It was not there in the 2010 midterms. Do you have a
sense looking at 2013 what kind of electorate we`re looking at?
WASSERMAN: This electorate is going to be more Democratic than the one
that showed up in 2009, but it`s not going to be as Democratic as the one
that showed up in 2008 or 2012. So that`s why this race is a toss-up. The
county I would pay attention to on elections night, we had been talking a
little bit about this, is Prince William County, kind of in the southern
outer ring of the D.C. suburbs, the ring of fire, the foreclosure belt.
The eastern half of the country is majority/minority, close to the Potomac
River. Then turnout in 2009 fell off close to 65 percent versus where it
was in 2008. Meanwhile, in western Prince William County, a little bit
wealthier, majority white, out towards hay market, down Route 66, you have
an electorate that only fell off about 30 percent from where it was between
2008 and 2009. The question for Terry McAuliffe`s campaign, is can he get
those voters, Hispanic, Asian-American, African-American, in places -- in
east Prince William County? The same thing in the Richmond suburbs, the
same thing in Hampton Roads, out to the polls to vote. In order to do
that, he is going to have to run an extremely negative campaign that makes
the prospect of Governor Cuccinelli and Lieutenant Governor Jackson
KORNACKI: This is sort of the first test we`re getting, too, of the post-
Obama era Democrats. How can Democrats win and how can Democrats get the
Obama coalition out or enough of the Obama coalition out without Obama on
the ballot? That`s one of the reasons I think Virginia is worth watching.
Also, it will be a mud fight. Anyway, what should we know today? My
answer`s after this.
KORNACKI: So what should we know for today? Well, we should know that
there are still Republican lawmakers dabbing with birtherism. This time,
it`s Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin, who was confronted at a town
hall this week by a woman claiming to have documents that disprove
President Obama`s American citizenship. Mullin responded at first that it
was a dead issue, but he then went on to tell the woman, quote, "I believe
that you`re saying." He later mused, "who would have thought we`d ever
actually be questioning if we had a natural born president being
president." A spokeswoman later told Talking Points Memo that the
congressman has quote, "never been a birther," and he just misspoke.
We should also know that Tip O`Neill, the grandfatherly speaker of the
House, he was the face of the Democratic Party`s opposition to Ronald
Reagan for much of the 1980S. He may soon be subject of a movie. Former
O`Neill aide, Todd O`Connor, who is now a lobbyist and consultant in the
energy sector, is raising money on Kickstarter for a documentary based on
the legendary Irish Catholic pol, who passed away back in 1994. O`Connor
says the film will draw from John A. Farrell`s classic biography "Tip
O`Neill and the Democratic Century." If the fundraising campaign is
successful, O`Neill`s most famous maxim may need some updating -- all
politics is local and crowd sourced, too.
Speaking of famous politicians, we should note that the place where a lot
of them are buried, the congressional cemetery in Washington, is being
overrun by goats, on purpose. The cemetery has become overgrown with weeds
and pesky plants like poison ivy. So a herd of about 100 goats was
released into it this week to graze on the overgrowth, and to demonstrate
that goats can be an ecologically friendly alternative to pesticides.
Nonprofit association that cares for the cemetery is encouraging visitors
to attend and to watch. The goats are already so popular, it`s probably
not long before some of them start getting mentioned as potential Senate
contenders for 2014.
And finally, we should know that reading the fine print matters, even for
big banks. This week a judge ruled in favor of a Russian man who rewrote
the fine print of a credit card application to give himself more favorable
terms, like a zero percent interest rate, no fees, and no credit limit.
Dmitry Agarkov got the application in the mail from Tinkoff Credit Systems
in 2008, and rather than just throw it away like most of us would, he
decided to do what the banks do all the times, he rewrote the terms. Then
he sent the application back, and surprisingly the bank accepted the terms
and issued him a credit card. Now the bank is trying to collect fees and
late payment charges that weren`t part of that agreement. Not only has the
judge ruled in Agarkov`s favor, Agarkov`s turning the tables by suing the
bank for breaching the contract. The bank`s defense, in short, we didn`t
We want to find out what my guests think we should know, and we`ll start
with you, Lauren.
HARMON: Yes, I wanted to bring the folks` attention to a really excellent
op-ed that was written in Politico over the weekend by one of my
colleagues, Scott Arcenaux. He is the executive director of the Florida
Democratic Party, and I`m a little bit of a nerd on state party stuff. So
for anyone who is wondering more about the role of state parties, why state
parties or how Democrats are going to keep winning on into the future and
aren`t just going to go away in this era of super PACs, and big (inaudible)
style campaigns, check it out. It`s really great.
KORNACKI: State party executives stick together. Tom.
DAVIS: This is what all Washington is talking about, we`ve been waiting
all year for it, but the Nationals are starting their run. They won their
second straight last night with a come-from-behind. They were 4-0 down to
the Phillies, they have Strasburg (ph) on the mound today. This is their
run. They probably won`t win the division, Atlanta is up there, but they
are in for a wild card.
KORNACKI: Yeah, too bad the Braves have won like 12 straight. Brian, go
BEUTLER: Maybe less what you should know than what I think might happen,
but I think we`re going to start sorting out the question you asked at the
top of the show of whether the Republican animosity towards health care
reform is creating some sort of space for immigration reform to maybe move
ahead. I think that the Republican leadership is interested in kind of
putting to bed this idea they are going to shut down the government. And
if they are able to do that, then maybe we`ll have a clear sense of how the
base regards the immigration reform process.
KORNACKI: All right, and Dave.
WASSERMAN: This is August recess, so it`s a sleepy time for a lot of
political journalists. But pay attention to what`s happening back home in
a lot of these districts for members who are holding town hall meetings
just like Congressman Mullin, whom you just showed. These tend to be the
times when the seeds of Tea Party challenges next year and primaries are
sewn. So it depends on whether these members play to their base back home,
whether they strike a more moderate tone, or whether some people in the
audience think about running themselves.
KORNACKI: All right, I want to thank Lauren Harmon of the Virginia
Democratic Party, former Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia, Brian Beutler
of Salon.com, and Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. Thanks for
getting UP. And thank you all for joining us. We`ll be back here next
weekend, next Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern time. Our guests
will include New York City mayoral candidate, Bill De Blasio. And coming
up next is "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY." On Today`s "MHP," a new poll shows 40
percent of white Americans have only white friends. That and why so many
cities are facing a potential economic crisis. That`s Melissa Harris-
Perry. She`s coming up next. And we`ll see you next week here on UP.
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