'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, August 18th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
August 18, 2013
Guests: Mona Eltahawy, Michael Hanna, Isobel Coleman, Nancy Okail, Ari Berman, Robert George, Cristina Beltran, Dorian Warren
JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning, I`m Joy-Ann Reid in for Melissa
At least 1,000 people have been killed in political violence in Egypt this
week which started Wednesday when the military raised two camps in Cairo,
where tens of thousands of Muslim brotherhood supporters have been
protesting the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.
The tension continued Saturday when the military stormed a Cairo mosque
where hundreds of brotherhood supporters were taking shelter. A mob
outside attacked brotherhood members as they left the mosque.
International leaders have condemned the violence. Leaders of the European
Union called for a return to dialogue saying in a statement, "the calls for
democracy and fundamental freedoms from the Egyptian population cannot be
disregarded much less washed away in blood."
The Egyptian government described what it called the foreign influence in
the recent violence, especially from the international media, which the
government believes is too sympathetic to the Muslim brotherhood.
Officials are considering reinstating 60-year long ban on the brotherhood
And joining us now to give us the latest from Cairo is NBC News chief
foreign correspondent Richard Engel.
And Richard, thank you so much for being here this morning. Can you, first
of all, describe the situation in Egypt today? Is it calm? Is it tense
sort of? Give us the lay of the land.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It`s certainly very
tense. There are calls for more protests from the Muslim brotherhood. The
group is trying to organize a series of demonstrations all week. Now,
every night there is a curfew in place. And you are seeing Egyptian army
checkpoints on the streets. You are also seeing pro-military vigilante
checkpoints in the Muslim brotherhood areas. They have set up some of
their own checkpoints and barricades. But we are seeing divisions are
merging in society and clashes, sometimes just between Egyptians themselves
divided along these lines, pro-military, pro-brotherhood a very dangerous
REID: And Richard, we are hearing that, on Egyptian television now, you
are starting to see even English sort of Cairons (ph) putting up,
describing it almost as the war against terrorism. Is that the tactic that
you are seeing --?
ENGEL: That`s what they are worrying, terrorism.
REID: So, they are basically now trying to sort of describe this
organization which we have to remember, won a national election, had a
president in office as a result of an election. They are now sort of
writing off the Muslim brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
ENGEL: Yes, that is clearly the government`s objective. But when you to -
- you have to look back at what the Muslim brotherhood. And what they were
doing when they were in office. And we talked about the will of Egyptian
people. A lot of Egyptians hated the Muslim brotherhood and agree with the
military characterization that the group is a terrorist organization. It
was a group that was taking active stances against women. It was taking
active and aggressive positions against Christians in society.
Its members, over the last few days, have been attacking churches. They
have been burning government buildings. They have killed more than 100
police officers. It`s not just a one-sided crackdown from the government.
Clearly, the government h the most guns, clearly, the government had the
APCS, they have been killing protesters, but the government has been
arguing that it also facing a group that it believes has a tendency towards
terrorism and violence and it linked to international terrorism and violent
REID: And lastly, Richard, there are some reports in "the Washington
Post," as well as "the New York Times" about the flurry of attempted
diplomatic activity, U.S. and also international interests that tried to
talk to both sides, whether the Muslim brotherhood side or military side to
get them to stand down and the fact it utterly failed. Do you have the
sense right now the U.S. is in contact with the government and that is
having any impact?
ENGEL: I think these statements by the U.S. of effectively saying, we told
you so are a little bit pathetic. The United States argument and position
towards Egypt has been unclear. We backed Mubarak for decades and then got
rid of him. We backed the Muslim brotherhood while they were in power then
we accepted the coup. Now, once there`s been a crackdown, we are unhappy
with the coup crackdown.
The United States seems to want to have it every -- always all the time.
And now, they are talking about remove aid from Egypt and cutting off a
billion and a half dollars in aid Washington gives this country. I think
most people in this country would find that to be, not only insulting, but
something that will encourage more of an insurgency like the conservancy we
are seeing right now.
REID: OK. NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, thank you
for joining us from Cairo Egypt.
All right, I want to bring in now my panel. And joining me this morning,
Nancy Okail, director of freedom house, Egypt office in Cairo, Charles
Sennott, the vice president, editorial-at-large and co-founder of "Global
Post, Dr. Isobel Coleman, senior fellow on Council on Foreign Relations,
and Michael Wahid Hanna, senior fellow at the Century Foundation.
And thank you all for being here.
And Michael, I want to start with you and just sort of, to take a step back
for a moment, can you walk our viewers through the Muslim brotherhood, who
they are and sort of where they came from in terms of their political
development, because this is a very old organization. They are not
MICHAEL WAHID HANNA, SENIOR FELLOW, THE CENTURY FOUNDATION: Sure.
They have been around for 80 years and have gone through various aerations,
at one point, used violence as a political tool and in a valid way. They
eventually renounced violence and slowly came to accept the idea of
democracy, at least in the form of electoral democracy and participating
the political parties. That was in the 1980s. They participated in
various parliaments, obviously, in a contained opposition, framework under
the Mubarak regime. And eventually, when Mubarak fell, they were the most
organized political source in society and clearly took advantage of this
new opportunity and won a series of elections in an immediate post Mubarak
REID: And you just got back from Egypt. Give me your sense of ordinary
Egyptians. What is their feeling now about the Muslim brotherhood? Do
they agree with those Chirons (ph) that they are seeing on Egyptian
television that this is now a terrorist group or do they see them at the
political party that would unfairly ousted from power.
HANNA: Well, obviously, the country is pretty divided. I do think it is
fair to say that the Muslim brotherhood, and particularly President Morsi,
had lost a great deal of the popularity they had that propelled them to
those electoral victories. A lot of that support is gone. And we saw in
what was a pretty broad-based uprising against the rule of Morsi.
So, I think it`s fair to say that this crackdown even still probably does
have majority support of the populace. And of course, that`s quite
dangerous in and of itself.
REID: Right. And Isobel, you know, there is this question for the U.S.
and it`s obviously very complicated because you do have the Israelis, you
have other sources saying you know what, don`t go too hard on this military
government because there was the a discomfort of the Muslim brotherhood in
On the other hand, if we are trying to send a signal to Egypt that
democracy is the answer, what signal have we set now that the military can
oust the democratically elected government and the U.S. says nothing. Are
we in a no win situation that we are trying to argue for a democratic
DOCTOR ISOBEL COLEMAN, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well,
we are not in a good situation as you heard from correspondent Richard
Engel. We sent mixed signals to the government and Egyptian people over
the last couple of years. And I think right now, there is a strong
argument tore continuing the aid because the Egyptians will be really upset
if we discontinue the aid. But I think there is also a really strong
argument for discontinuing the aid. And I have been a proponent at this
point cutting off military aid as a way of sending a signal to the Egyptian
government that their no holds barred strategy is not one we support. I
mean, we have given very lukewarm, mild rebuke to what`s happened so far.
And I think that the Egyptians are going down a very dangerous path, going
down taking the country down a very dangerous path. Both sides are. And
what really needs to happen is not to try to just kill each other but to
pull back, make compromises and go back to trying to have a political
resolution to this conflict. And the United States really has to be very
clear on that.
REID: But, what would cutting off an aid really do? I mean, you have the
Gulf States, right, that would simply come in and fill it in. I mean,
there is been aid that has flown in from the gulf states that we are
supportive of the military, even before they became in charge of the
government. Would they just fill in aid and would it really have an impact
for us to stop at $1.5 million?
CHARLES SENNOTT, VICE PRESIDENT, EDITORIAL-AT-LARGE, CO-FOUNDER OF GLOBAL
POST: I think it would have a very significant impact to cut off aid
because it would be a clear rebuke from Washington, a clear signal they are
not happy with the military and what they are doing. It`s a message
Washington failed to send. I think Richard Engel has done extraordinary
reporting in the field, courageous reporting but he also have insight.
I think what Richard just said about the U.S. seems to wants it all ways is
very accurate. If you`re there on the street, what you hear, the only
thing that ties everyone together is a steeply divided country. Is there
all against the United States, the pro-Morsi crowds us that the United
States supported the military coup. When have you those that believe in
the coup, they say, the U.S. gave too much countenance to Morsi and Muslim
Tough spot for foreign policy, for U.S. foreign policy right now, but I
really think in the end of the day, lost opportunity is the one thing you
have to look at here. Here was an opportunity to support a democratic
yearning, an expression from the street in those heady days of Tahrir
Square where you could really feel the excitement of a new democracy. All
of that squandered now.
And The U.S. is really in a tough position. What do you support, democracy
as we proclaim or stability, which we seem to be much more practical about?
REID: And this is something, I mean, I actually was struck there was a
lengthy piece in the "New York Times" this morning, Nancy, where they talk
about sort of follow the intricacies trying to deal with the Egyptians and
saying that we are in a bad position. We can either, you know, allow a
country that`s been the bedrock of Middle East peace for 35 years to sort
of fall apart or we have to make a decision between supporting Muslim
brotherhood which ideologically, a lot of Americans are uncomfortable with.
And they are saying, listen, democracy means something that when they win
an election you, can`t have a coup or a government that was in many ways
trained by us.
Mohamed Morsi has a PhD from USC. The Al-Sisi who is now in charge,
educated at the Army War College. We are very much involved in having
trained and developed a lot of these leaders and now we seem to have no
influence with them.
NANCY OKAIL, DIRECTOR, FREEDOM HOUSE: Well, I think the issue of influence
is that you -- there`s a need to have consistency in your policy. Again,
as Mike and everyone said, I mean, you cannot just turn a blind eye when,
for example, the military massacre of the sphere (ph) and then now, you
come and say we are going to cut aid. And then, this sends confusing
signals to the Egyptian population and increases the holes in the anti-
Western, anti-American sentiment there because they feel -- the issue is
not they don`t care. If the Americans don`t care less about human rights
and democracy in the country, they just care about stability and peace with
Israel. So, that is very problematic.
REID: OK. No one situation. Please stay right there. There is news from
the head of the Egyptian military this morning and we will bring you that
REID: The political violence in Egypt this week was staggering, the worst
in decades, with the death toll in a few days was on par with the weeks
long uprising in 2011. It began with the military`s violent raid on two
incidents where tens of thousands of Muslim brotherhood supporters were
protesting the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and refusing to disperse.
And fresh reports just moments ago from the "Associated Press" say Egypt`s
military chief says the army has no intention of seizing power but will not
stand by while there`s violence. He is calling for inclusion of Islamists.
And joining our panel now from Cairo is columnist and public speaker on
Arab and Muslin issues, Mona Eltahawy.
Mona, thanks for being here. And I don`t know if you were able to hear the
new statements that are coming out of the Al-Sisi, I guess we`ll call it
the government for now. What is your response to those statements?
MONA ELTAHAWY, COLUMNIST: Well, I mean, first of all, I want to make it
very clear that I oppose Muslim brotherhood and I oppose the military and
any regime that wants somebody to involved politically because neither are
friends of democracy or freedom. Our revolution did not call for an
Islamist state and our revolution is not call somebody to rule. If
anything, we are fighting military rule and wanting to keep the military
I do believe, however, that the security forces are responsible for the
most excessive use of force but Muslim brotherhood are also not angels and
then, they are also not friends of democracy. But at the end of the day,
we are all Egyptians and Egyptians are dying and are dying in two high
numbers. I mean, one day alone when they cleared the sit-ins, more
Egyptians died than we killed during the 18-day there with Hosni Mubarak.
So, we have to stop killing each other. We have to sit down and talk. And
we are all Egyptians and were all included. I don`t believe in excluding
anyone from political discussions with Egypt today.
REID: And isn`t that the main point, Mona, that you had this Arab spring,
this uprising to rid the country of a dictator, but the only two
institutions that were prepared to organize themselves to run the country
were the Muslim brotherhood that has this lengthy history of organizing,
really, underground a lot of years and the military which wields power now.
So, is there a sense that there is another institution, an alternative that
has the organizational power to be an alternative to both of them?
ELTAHAWY: That is exactly our dilemma, Joy. Because for the past 60 years
w have been forced to choose between these two binaries, neither of which
are friends to freedom and the revolution. And that is the Muslim
brotherhood and the military. What was seeing today, and again, I condemn
all killing and bloodletting must stop. But what we are seeing today is
essentially the latest round in the battle between the military regime or
regime military and Muslim brotherhood. And we have to stop allowing
ourselves as Egyptians to be forced into making a choice between a false
We had to make the first choice last summer when the elections where the
military hunt a guy and the Muslim brotherhood guy. Again with -- but now,
what e are seeing is it is paying out on television screens. It is playing
on our streets horrifically. And as Egyptians, I mean, our faith, we are
bigger than this. Egypt is bigger than the military. Egypt is bigger than
the Muslim brotherhood. And we have to create that alternative.
For many, many years, we were prevented from creating that alternative.
And each side used the other side to scared us in to siding with it. Now,
as a woman and as a feminist, I refuse the binary. Because you have to
remember that general Sisi, he was in charge. He justified, the so-called
virginity test. When Egyptian see more revolution, these were sexually
assaulted, where values where were cleared, and when Morsi was president,
many of his supporters and members of the Muslim brotherhood were
completely silent and blamed women for sexual assaults.
Now, neither of these sides are friends to women`s rights. They are
authoritarian and they understand each other`s language which is fascism, a
language of fascism, passion with God and passion with guns and in
negotiate in blood. And Egypt has to move beyond this and we must create
REID: OK. I want to bring the panel back in just on that very point.
And Nancy, I will go to you. I mean, that is the (INAUDIBLE). And for
women in Egypt, this is actually a sense of great urgency.
OKAIL: That`s true. And I totally agree with what Mona said. It is like
that we have been trapped between binary from the brotherhood and the
military. And if you look at the heart of the issue, if you look at all
the events that happened in Egypt began at over the past two years and a
half and take away the names and levels, you find that this is the same
events recurring over and again with the same way of approaching how to
solve it or how to deal with it. The same approach of the ministry of
interior, which was the most important demand of the 21st century, is to
reform the security sector and to reform the access in general in Egypt.
And when Morsi came, he did not do any -- he did not take any meaningful
steps in order to reform this apparatus. And he also made sure that there
are two articles in the constitution that give rights to the military and
exempt from parliamentary oversight and also give them the right to arrest
civilians when there is a national threat.
So I mean, these are all the consequences of all the bad decisions that`s
been made since the beginning and made us like in this -- put us in this
trap between the brotherhood authoritarianism and military
REID: And how was Egypt work as way out this. I mean, Charles, because
you also have regional interest. And I want to put up a map. This is
because -- so that people can remember that we are dealing with a country
that is so pivotal, not only its own security and office, don`t want a
state of civil war in Egypt, but look where Egypt sits. Gaza is right
there. And one of the big interests that the U.S. has had is in the
Egyptian government keeping that closing, the border crossing between
itself and Gaza closed because for Israelis that`s a matter of security
because Hamas is on the side of the border running the Gaza Strip.
You also have the Gulf States that have their own sides. That have taken
their owned sides in it. Son, how does Egypt work its way out of this box
when you also have regional interest at play?
SENNOTT: Well, there is much at stake in Egypt and there is no doubt about
it. If you look at the violence that has been escalating in the Sinai
Peninsula up along the border with Gaza and Israel, you begin to get a
sense of just how perilous this is. If this, really, gets out of control,
if we really see a civil conflict erupt in a larger way than we have
already seen so tragically in the last week, you have a very volatile
I think what Mona was expressing is the heart of this. And that is that
the Egyptian people deserve better. And there`s very much the sense that,
you know, what they fought for in Tahrir Square, millions of people to took
to the street over threw Hosni Mubarak, a 30-year dictator who ran a brutal
and corrupt police state.
That was the expression in the streets. They had an election. The Muslim
brotherhood was elected. It did a terrible job of governance. There is
now been a military coup. OK, how do you get back to that?
And I think, the yearning of June 30th, when an estimated 20 million people
took to the streets and said they do not want this government of Mohamed
Morsi, they were also saying we want democracy. They don`t want a military
So, I think the great challenge for the United States right now is to get
an ear for the Arab strip. To start to really hear what the people are
saying. And I don`t think that the state department has had a very good
ear for the Arab street today.
REID: OK. At that point, I want to put a pin in it right there. And
Mona, please stay with us as well. We`re going to take a quick break and
are going to talk about the U.S. role and what can be done right after
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are going to be false
starts. There will be difficult days. America`s democratic journey took
us through might struggles. From Asia to America, we know democratic
transitions are measured not in months or years but sometimes generations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That was President Obama speaking Thursday from Martha`s Vineyard
about the violence in Egypt. And the message seems clear. We can`t expect
through democratic reform overnight in Egypt. But unless to ask when the
military simply wipes out the results of what many may have been imperfect
but at least a democratic in nature election, how are we to think the
country is starting down the path?
And I want to bring back in Mona Eltahawy on that very question. Because
we saw Hosni Mubarak, the 40-year dictator-plus year dictator of Egypt step
down only in February 2011. So, we are now, really, only two years on.
Can we really have expected Egypt to stand up a U.S. style democracy in
such a short time? Are these the growing pains of democracy or is Egypt
really fundamentally off the rails?
ELTAHAWY: You know, what I think is happening with Egypt, Joy, is that we
are finally being appreciated for the unpredictability that we have.
Because for too long, Egypt was considered predictable. For too long five
U.S. administrations supported a dictator at the expense of the people for
the sake of stability.
So, it`s that kind of predictability I`m glad is gone. Again, I condemn
all the bloodletting, but we have to get this out of our system. This is a
mess, but it`s a necessary mess because only two and a half years after we
got rid of Hosni Mubarak, we are still trying to push forward and become
And what really stuns me and upsets me deeply is that too many people are
so willing to write us off. They don`t think we deserve freedom and we
deserve to be free. And Egyptians will be free. But we need to stumble
and we need to learn and we need to push the fascist aside and say you will
not derail our post to freedom. And you will not continue to define Egypt
because Egypt is all of us. Egypt is a military and the Muslim
brotherhood, but we won`t allow the fascism and that negotiation in blood
And my message to the U.S. administration is catch up with us. Because for
too long, you thought that we were just plodding along, loving this strong
fisted leader. My message to General Sisi is we will not allow another
Hosni Mubarak and we will not allow military junta to ruin our aspirations
to become free. We deserve to be free.
REID: Michael Hanna, isn`t that really the fundamental point, that the
U.S. administration, not just this one but all of them, have always looked
at Egypt, looked the region through the lens of real politic? What are our
strategic interests and how can we make that government fit in? And if
it`s a dictator, we will work with that. Doesn`t the U.S. need to
fundamentally change the way that it`s approaching each other.
HANNA: Yes, I think it is right to look at the continuities that American
policies even post Mubarak. It hasn`t changed very much despite utter
turmoil and tumult in the region. So, that`s true. And I think the sort
of essential flaw there is the assumption that repression, and this is a
flaw in the thinking of Egyptians as well, that repression can breed some
form of stability. And that repressive stability is gone. I`m not quite
as optimistic as Mona about the prospects for democratization because I
worried about its rootedness in the Egyptian society.
REID: Well, talk about that a little bit. Because obviously, this is a
country that hasn`t had the fundamentals sort of freedom to choose its
leaders, it has been imposed. And there is this stability. Look, the
people are living their everyday lives. Stability is not exactly a bad
thing but there is also what is coming with it. Because when Morsi was in,
the fear was Islamists came with the bargain. And with military, there`s
this fear that military dictatorship comes with the bargain.
HANNA: Yes. No, I think people want stability. People want normalcy. I
think the flaw in the current thinking in Egypt. And this past week, I
mean, Egypt has crossed a threshold. It`s not something that is easily
resolvable. And it was a threshold crossing of choice. This didn`t have
to happen by any stretch of the imagination. And I think there is this
idea that this is a way to repress their way to stability. It`s totally
madness, frankly. And the idea that we, that Egyptians can sit by and
watch hundreds of people killed in the street, and that this isn`t going to
precipitate a almost incurable cycle of violence, it`s foolhardy. I mean,
the recklessness of what has taken place in the last few weeks in Egypt is
REID: And Isobel, is there anything the U.S. can do? Pragmatically is
there any influence and with who and what can we do?
COLEMAN: Well, the last real leverage we have is this military aid, which
is why I think it really is an important statement if we say, you know, we
are going to suspend the military aid. And will they react? Not clear
that they will. But what needs to happen at this point is that both side
compromise and you have never seen that. Despite rhetoric that you are
hearing this morning from Sisi saying yes, we are ready for reconciliation
or compromise, we want to include the Islamists, you have actually not seen
it from either side. When the Muslim brotherhood was in power, they made
many mistakes, a winner take all attitude.
Even though they won the election with around 51 percent of the vote, they
said we are going to run it as if we have a full control of everything.
And the military now is doing the same thing, not, you know, making
concessions that are necessary, stepping back from the brink of really a
black hole and saying, OK, how do we step back?
Well, we`ll release some political prisoners, you reduce your sit-ins in
the squares, pull back from that brink. Then, you know, we will not
prosecute some of your leaders as they are up on terrorism charges. What
charges, you know? Let`s see what the evidence is on some of these people
they have got in prison on terrorist charges. And pull back from the brink
and recognize that neither side can take a winner take all attitude to this
because the country is deeply divided and there has to be a political
REID: And quickly, Mona Eltahawy, is there any chance of what Isobel just
described happening? Is there any chance at these two sides can walk back
from the brink? Do you see evidence of that on the ground in Egypt?
ELTAHAWY: Well, I think what will happen once people realize that we are
paying too high a price in blood is that we will remember what this
revolution is about. And Egyptians have changed forever, Joy.
The quote I usually like to say, although I don`t know who said it, I think
it might have been Cesar Chavez, was, you know, like democracy and
revolution is like teaching someone who is illiterate to read and write.
So, you can never un-teach them to read and write.
Now, Egyptians of all level and all backgrounds, understands what -- have
seen a revolution begins. It`s not finished but they have seen it again.
And they understand that our vote counts as real consequence.
Every Egyptian family, including my own, has huge arguments where we yell
and scream because we recognize that we have difficult political views that
have consequence now. But, we have to learn to speak.
And I want to say something real quick about U.S. military aid. You have
to remember, that all the money that goes to Egyptian military goes right
back to U.S., to U.S. arms manufacturing firms.
So then, it`s not just about, you know, punishing the military. I want to
see that aid cut. But remember, that aid goes to buying U.S. weapons. So,
if you`re not seeing that aid cut, ask why. So, I think all of those
things at the end of the day we have to stop killing each other. We have
to sit down and talk because Egypt deserves better.
REID: All right, Mona Eltahawy, thank you for joining us from Cairo.
More MHP show after this.
REID: Back with our panel talking about the crisis in Egypt.
And Michael, you were saying during the break, we were just talking about
sort of this conundrum in Egypt, they are seeming to be only a binary
choice between the military, which was very organized, obviously, ran the
military even under Mubarak and the Muslim brotherhood, who has been around
80-plus year and was organized and ready for an election. Was there a
third possibility that was unexercised in Egypt?
HANNA: Well, it was there for a fleeting ephemeral moment when we look
back at the 18 days that unseated Mubarak in 2011, there was a reformist
Islamist, it was a tactical alliance. It wasn`t very deep. And it
shattered very quickly after Mubarak fell. Probably by March of 2011, that
possibility had really been damaged by various decisions made primarily by
the military in charge at the time and intern capacity in the Muslim
Nobody has ever broken the zero sum mentality towards politics. And I
think what we have seen since, as if only deepened that polarization, those
divides, that reformist Islamist alliance that seemed possible for a very
short period of time is never coming back now. The divisions that have
ensued since and have brought the country really to the brink of really --
to broad-based civil strived, that, the possibility for that is really
gone. And that`s a tragedy for the country.
SENNOTT: I was just going to say, you know Michael, I covered a lot of
that effort from coming out of the top rear moment where it seemed possible
that you could have this progressive element working with Islamists, people
working together, and new future. And Mona talks about the right for
Egyptians to fulfill this revolution all the way to the end.
But there`s something else that Mona hasn`t brought up. And I don`t hear a
lot of Egyptian people speaking about, and that is democracy is hard work.
And I didn`t see those great young people in Tahrir Square who organized so
well the demonstrations, they didn`t bring the same energy, commitment,
passion, attention to detail to building democratic parties, to organizing
on the streets, to getting out the vote, putting up posters, to making a
point within a democratic process. They failed on that.
And I would argue, the U.S. government failed in supporting that effort.
If you talked about what can the U.S. do? How can we get out of this? The
United States needs to support civil society in Egypt. And if we really
believe in all the rhetoric of democracy, we have to support it. I don`t
think that`s really been there on the ground in the last two and a half
years, that kind of support.
HANNA: But some of the expectations was regard to the possibility of
organization, I think, are slightly inflated. It takes time. There is no
way that people that have not organized in a political fashion, whose
parties have been repressed in previous years, can simply stand up to the
REID: But that`s what`s interesting because, you know, and Nancy, you saw
in Tahrir Square kind of the visual markers, right, of a popular
revolution. We have seen it in South Africa when you have the
demonstrations against apartheid. You saw it in the U.S. when you had
civil rights movement, where you saw the margin. That`s what you saw
But beneath that a lot of organizing, a lot of tactical maneuvering to sort
of standup institutions to go with it once you`re successful. So, the
march on Washington that we are commemorating next week, underlying that
was a bill that was trying to get through Congress that this popular
uprising was design to support.
Is that really, was that the failure, that maybe what the U.S. could have
done was support institution building to go along with what`s happening on
OKAIL: It is mainly institutional reform, rather than -- and like before
we talk about institution building. It`s a little bit of an unfair
statement when we talk about the revolutionary and activists have been lazy
in organizing because they are fighting up. And institutions that have
been there with their old pathologist for 30 and more years. And you can`t
come today and ask people like we are going to fight and reform on our own.
And the issue is not, again, not changing people, names, or political
parties, but reforming those institutions and also the revolution was about
changing the relationship between state institutions and this did not
And again, when we come to see how things moved on in the past two years
and a half, none of these rulers have followed a transitional justice
reform approach. And that is very important. None of the people who
committed a prostitute against the people. And before I end after the
revolution were held accountable, only two officers were sentenced in this
killing and numbers of people.
HANNA: It`s true the military has never been brought to justice for those.
And there`s a lot for the military that they need to reconcile with the
Egyptian people. But, where I would disagree is that it`s unfair somehow,
to challenge Egyptian people to be more effective and organizing democracy.
I know so many Egyptian people. I`ve covered this story for 20 years.
They are fantastic people. They are super talented. They are smart. They
are innovative. And their country has been thwarted by a military
dictatorship that`s been supported by the United States.
Now, they have an opportunity to throw that off and organize. But, Joy,
and I think you nailed it with this. And that is there`s a perfect
comparison to civil rights and the march we commemorate and that is it took
a lot of hard work. And democracy is hard week and Egypt has to do it.
REID: We have a short time. But Isobel, I want to get you back in.
Because the U.S. spent years training military, we didn`t institution
build, right, in preparation with democracy because we never expected it.
We were supporting dictatorship for a long time.
COLEMAN: That`s not quite fair. We did try some. People will say we
didn`t try enough. But there were enormous constraints put on what we
could do. Nancy knows this well, as well as anyone. The civil societies
and our attempts to support civil society were very dictated by the Mubarak
government, what you can fund, what you cannot. It caused enormous tension
in the relationship. And that tension spilled over into the post Mubarak
period with, as you all remember, several American NGOs being put in jail,
arrested for their work.
REID: Well, unfortunately, the fact that this discussion we probably going
to have to continue on twitter. Unfortunately, we are out of time.
Thank you so much, Nancy Okail, Charlie Sennott, Isobel Coleman, as well as
Michael Hanna. Thank you all for joining us.
And up next, Republican politics. Is the party wigging out?
REID: Henry Clay served three times as speaker of the U.S. House of
Representatives. President John Quincy Adams named him secretary of state.
He has multiple terms as a United States senator. And Clay was one of the
commissioner`s appointed to negotiate the treaty of peace with Great
Britain in 1814. The point is, Henry Clay was not French, not by any
means, nor was the political party he led.
The Whig Party founded in 1934 by Clay and other political opponents of
President Andrew Jackson. It was fast in its rise to power. Five times
the party put up a candidate for president and twice they won with William
Henry Harrison in 1840 and Zachery Taylor in 1848. The party even boasted
down ticket political stars like Abraham Lincoln.
But by 1852, that slavers expansion with the dominating political issue of
the day, the Whig party quick to power was quick to crumble. One faction,
the so-called conscious Whigs whose core issue was opposition to slavery
went on to form the Republican Party.
And while historians debate the definitive reason for the demise of a party
that twice captured the White House, there is a general consensus that what
bound together the various political factions of the Whigs was one thing,
their unified opposition to a democratic president. In this case
unpleasant Andrew Jackson, a party of no unified in its opposition to an
agenda rather than in support of an agenda of its own. A party that while
once at the pinnacle of political power is now a chapter in the history
There are parallel to stories of Henry Clay`s political party. One, the
today`s party of no, should he let it go the way of the Whigs.
REID: You remember the Republican Party makeover described in the 100 page
report released by the RNC in March, in one headline quote, "that
opportunity project." If we have seen anything since then, giving the GOP
a makeover has been a project, all right.
Wednesday at the Republican summer meeting in Boston, Newt Gingrich who
once shut the government down as speaker of the House in the 1990s offered
a word of advice over those threatening to do the same thing now over Obama
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I will bet you, for most of you,
if you go home and you look them in the eye and you say what is your
positive replacement for Obama care? They will have zero answer because
we`re caught up right now in a culture, and you see it every single day
where as long as we are negative and as long as we are vicious and as long
as we can tear down our opponent, we don`t have to learn anything, and so,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So, there`s Newt Gingrich once again trying to come off as the
party`s elder statesmen. But it is precisely the party elders who appear
to have no influence today. Rather, it`s the right wing extremist who have
all the mojo. Tea party senators like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio
who are driving the GOP to a point where writing in Politico this week,
Mark Allen and Jim (INAUDIBLE) offered this.
It`s almost impossible to find an establishment Republican in town who is
not downright more owes about the 2013 that has been and is about to be.
Several influential Republicans hold as the party is actually in a worse
place than it was November 7th, the day after the disastrous election.
At the table, Dorian Warren, associate professor of Political Science at
International Public Affairs at Columbia University, Cristina Beltran,
associate professor of social and cultural analysis in New York University,
Ari Berman, contributing writer for "the Nation" magazine, and Robert
George, associate editorial page editor of the "New York Post," and for
today the official pooh-bah of the Republican Party, the representative.
You own them all. We have made you own them all.
ROBERT GEORGE, ASSOCIATE EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, NEW YORK POST: That`s a
hard row to hoe.
REID: It is a hard row to hoe because Allan West comes with the package.
Now, I want ask you, Robert, in all seriousness, is the Republican Party
are at risk of going the way of the Whigs, extinction meaning.
GEORGE: I certainly wouldn`t go that far. And you may not know but I
worked for Newt Gingrich in the 1990. So, it is kind of interesting that -
- how the circle has turned now.
Newt was exactly right, though, that Republicans, particularly in the
house, are in a really tough shape. And this is a classic case of, you
know, idle hands become the devil`s play things.
One of the things that the Republicans had under Newt, that they don`t have
right now. Now, I know a lot of liberals hated the contract with America.
In fact, I wouldn`t be surprised if Ari`s dissertation was a contract on
ARI BERMAN, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NATION MAGAZINE: PhD luckily for
GEORGE: But the fact was, back then they actually did have an agenda out
there. A lot of people didn`t like it. But they came in and people knew
exactly what they stood for. The Republicans right now seem to be in a
negative mode. The best thing that they have to put forward is the idea of
repealing Obama care or defunding Obama care. And without a message of
what they want to do, of an actual of a true agenda, they do seem fruitless
REID: Well, I mean, Ari, I mean I think there`s a little bit of Gods her
in remembrance of the contract with America. And part broke apart because
a lot of their agenda was naked opposition to Bill Clinton. Like that is a
lot of what they were about as well, right? And they knew he would shut
down the government over Clinton policy.
BERMAN: You know how far it`s come when Newt Gingrich is the voice of
reason. I mean, it really is kind of shocking here. And we thought in
1994 that the Republican Party couldn`t be any more conservative, more
White, more southern. And they really have been. And you look at the
groups in the autopsy that the Republican Party that they need to reach out
to, really, there was three main constituency, women, young people and
people of color. And they have alienated all three of those very quickly
in 2013. They have alienated women by passing all these now abortion
restrictions that is going to shut down women`s health clinics in places
like Texas and North Carolina. They have alienated young people, trying to
make it hard to vote, trying to make it harder pay for student loans. They
obviously alienated people of color with the voting laws we are going to
talking about and also by basically looking seem like they are killing
REID: And smacking down Marco Rubio when he tried to do it.
And I want -- we are going to come back and we are going to give you a
chance to respond to it. And I want to talk about this idea of the death
of a major party.
And Cristina, I want to bring you in on that, because the reason I brought
up the Whig and Henry Clay, and by the way, their name doe not wigs like
hair, Whig more and it comes from Scottish opponent of Charles at birth.
So, it has something to do with hair. But the idea that the Whigs didn`t
go away. They actually morphed into other parties. What existed of them
went into the Republican Party.
So, the idea is (INAUDIBLE) die, but that it may not be the GOP come after
the next election, or up to the next major presidential election. We are
going to talk about that.
And also, the truth behind who is really running things in the Republican
Party. It is not who you think.
And also, playing the race card. Who gets to do it and when?
So much Nerdland coming up after the hour.
REID: Welcome back. I`m Joy Reid sitting in for Melissa Harris-Perry.
With America`s confidence in Congress at just 10 percent, the lowest in
Gallup has recorded for any institution ever and no real national GOP
agenda to speak up besides repealing Obama care 11 lengthy times in the
House, the real action of the Republican Party and in the conservative
movement is taking place in the states where Republican governors and
legislators are implementing far right legislation, some of it truly
radical that will have a real impact on Americans. Some like Texas
Governor Rick Perry didn`t necessarily surprise us when he spent over a
million taxpayer dollars for two special legislative sessions this summer
to pass surprise restrictions on abortion providers.
Others like Michigan`s Rick Snyder talked the centrist talk while governing
from the far right. And Snyder`s case essentially eliminating the
democratic process in city after city by installing emergency managers with
the power to set aside local elected government most famously in Michigan`s
largest city, Detroit.
Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett, so unpopular he may not even run for
reelection in 2014, pushed through a voter ID law last year that can
disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters prompting a federal court to
smack the law down.
And equally unpopular Florida governor Rick Scott, who refuses to budge on
his state`s "stand your ground" law is trying his second purge of the
state`s voter rolls, never mind how many county supervisors tell him that
it`s legitimate voters who are more likely to be bumped off the rolls.
Four, take Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, who`s considering expanding
his anti-union efforts or Governor Kasich in Ohio, who just signed new
restrictions on reproductive rights.
Or Governor LePage in Maine, whose education agenda included state funding
for religious schools. The list just goes on and on, far right Republican
governor implementing radical agendas.
But to see the real prize, to really see right-wing governance in action,
you have to go to North Carolina, and its governor, Pat McCrory, who
promised that if he won, which he did last November, he wouldn`t sign any
new abortion restrictions into law.
Well, he did just that putting his signature on a bill last month that
tucked those restrictions into a motorcycle safety measure.
And then this week McCrory signed a bill into law that takes voter
suppression to a whole new level.
North Carolina`s new voter law requires government issued photo IDs at the
polls, reduces the early voting period by one week, ends Sunday voting and
same-day registration. It doesn`t get more radical than that.
And with me are Columbia University professor Dorian Warren, NYU professor
Cristina Beltran as well as "Nation" magazine contributing writer Ari
Berman and "New York Post" editorial writer Robert George.
I`m going to come to you in a minute because you did call the North
Carolina voter law the worst in the nation.
But I want to start over here at this end of the table.
Do we have a sense, Dorian, that -- actually, I promised to start with
REID: Do we have a sense because the national Republican Party really
can`t get its agenda through the House, they know it will never be signed
by Senate, that it`s really the governors who are becoming the laboratories
of radical Republican values and ideas.
CRISTINA BELTRAN, NYU PROFESSOR: I think so in some really critical ways.
And I think I might disagree with Robert on this question of the party is
just, it`s an anti-party, anti-Obama.
I think what`s really interesting when you think how Democrats tend to
govern, they tend to govern in a pragmatic almost resigned attitude, you
can`t get everything you want, half a loaf is better than no loaf, take
what you can get.
This is not how they are governing. The radical Right is government right
now in terms of they are proposing policies that are trying to enact the
world they want to see.
They want to see a world in which women don`t have access to abortion
rights, people of color have less political power. They actually are
enacting a vision of the world. It`s a bold vision. We might think it`s a
scary vision. But it is. And I think one thing that we get caught up in,
we get so caught up in their craziness, that we don`t ask the question of
where is the Democratic Party`s bold vision? Because we`re talking about
their world vision all the time.
GEORGE: I have to jump in here only because I think you stack the deck
against those Republican governors and there`s just so many there, I --
it`s hard for me to figure out which shadow. Let`s just take Michigan.
Keep in mind, Detroit was $18 billion in the red. New York State, it still
actually has a financial control board in place in New York City from when
New York City --
REID: But Robert, bankruptcy is different -- hold on. Bankruptcy is
different than the law up in Michigan, which essentially allows elected
governments to be removed after people have voted for them. That is
different than a city going into bankruptcy, fundamentally different.
GEORGE: But, look, the governor was working with the financial overseer in
Detroit. They made this decision when they realized the only way to get
Detroit`s finances into order was to go into bankruptcy. So that`s one
I think in a sense that`s fundamentally different from what we`re talking
about right here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lets go back to the big question here, this period
reminds me of the end of reconstruction in the South when we started to see
black codes and all sorts of anti-voting measures, really boldly in
response to the advances around racial justice post Civil War.
This is a similar type of period we`re in. When we talk about the death of
the Republican Party, I don`t see that at all. I see the Republican Party
REID: (Inaudible). I want to get Ari in, because I think that North
Carolina is really the prototypical exactly right now. We`re at,
Cristina`s point, they are enacting the world they want to see.
BERMAN: Absolutely. And there`s these theoretical discussions in the
mainstream media about, well, is GOP reaching out to new constituencies,
are they the party of white people? These aren`t theoretical questions.
Just look at North Carolina, you can see what they`re doing. They passed
every possible extreme policy they could. They gerrymandered the lines in
a very racially discriminatory way to give it a whole of power.
And then after they did this gerrymandering, and after they passed all
these unpopular policy, then they tried to make it harder for all their
political opponents to be able to vote.
It goes well beyond voter ID; it goes well beyond even repealing
(INAUDIBLE) registration or early voting. What they did after they signed
this law, the first thing they did, they shut down an early voting site at
Appalachian State University, the only early voting site at that college.
They put 9,300 people into a precinct that was made for 1,500 people with
35 parking spaces. OK? Then what they did is they took a student at a
historically black college, who was running for office, who had been there
since 2009, they said he couldn`t run for office because he wasn`t a
And the GOP chair in that place said they were going to challenge the voter
registration of more students at the historically black college.
This is not just wrong, This is immoral.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of message are we sending to people in a
democracy when we say to them, you can`t vote?
GEORGE: I`m going to partially agree with Ari on the restrictions on
college student voting, and I think from a pragmatic side that if you try
to send a signal that college students shouldn`t be getting involved in the
political process, as a political party you`re sending a wrong signal.
The fact, though, that a lot of Democrats objected to the idea of just
basic voter ID, the idea of a government issued ID when you`re voting, I
don`t think that`s a problem. In fact, the polls show even among African-
Americans that support it. Look, to get into this building today, we had
to show our --
REID: You don`t have a fundamental right to get do into this building.
You have to work here to get into this building.
And I want to just -- the point is here that you do have governors who are
paying a price for this in terms of the approval rating within their own
state. If you look at governors who are doing this, the governors that I
looked at in that open, McCrory down to 39 percent, Corbett down to 30
percent, Snyder under water, Walker under water, Kasich, now he has gone up
a little bit, even though he`s got other issues, and Scott`s highest
approval rating ever since he`s been elected, is 43 percent.
Dorian, the problem here is that they are paying a price in the polls but
then they`re making it harder to act on your disapproval because they are
making it harder to vote them out.
DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. And this is -- the party
is not dead yet. So this might be considered the last gasp of a dying
party, right, this is the last effort to try to close the ranks and hold
And by the way, in terms of the big question, if you look at the Democratic
Party and the Republican Party, it`s not just Republican governors, it`s
Republicans who hold the entire state houses and more than half the states.
So in terms if we ignore Congress in a minute, in terms of who actually has
governing power in this country, it is the Republican Party.
And they`re trying to hold onto it before it`s too late.
REID: And isn`t it the fault of Democrats, though? In 2010, this was the
disaster election, the Armageddon election for Democrats. All those states
I mentioned, swing states, Democrats dropped the ball and didn`t turn out
and allow the state houses to be taken over, not just the governor`s
BELTRAN: This tells you so much about the importance of redistricting and
what this does to our politics. But I think to your point about the
parties, the Whig model, is this party changing or transforming, I think
there`s something interesting -- interesting nonparallel to what happened
to Democrats in 1965.
The passage of the Voting Rights Act, the Democratic Party basically
aligned itself with African-Americans and against Southern segregationism
and basically said this -- we`re aligning with civil rights. All those, or
many of those Southern Democrats became Republicans, Strom Thurmond, the
entire history of the Southern Republican Party and the Southern strategy.
The party had this moment. And from Goldwater to Nixon to Reagan, this is
a party, as Ari was saying, that`s deeply committed to a politics of white
A lot of white threat is playing out here. So I think one of the big
questions is this is not a problem of a few bad eggs. This is a
BELTRAN: And I think the party really -- so I don`t see how they can have
that Democratic 1965 moment where they purge these people because it`s
constitutive to the party`s logic for the past 45 years. And so the
question really becomes, what they have now is this incredibly animated
base, it has a toxic vitality, but it`s the vitality of the party.
REID: And Robert, how do you deal with the party? It`s hard to argue that
a lot of what Cristina`s saying isn`t fundamentally true, that the party is
acting out of the anxiety of a certain demographic, an older white male
demographic, that it`s anxious about the role of women in society, that`s
anxious about issues like contraception, even, and abortion, that`s anxious
How does the party possibly grow if that`s where it`s governing from?
GEORGE: Well, first of all, the idea that Tea Party and others are
GEORGE: But the interesting question I think Democrats have to focus on is
the fact that many of the Republican leaders that are coming up are
actually women, are actually people of color. You`ve got Ted Cruz, you`ve
got Marco Rubio.
REID: Robert, can you argue that Ted Cruz is representative broadly of the
aspirations of Hispanics in this country or that Allen West or Herman Cain
or any of these guys really represent a broad constituency within their
ethnic groups? They are one-offs, but they don`t have a constituency
within their own ethnic group.
How are they bringing any additional people to the party?
GEORGE: Well, first of all, I actually would argue that Marco Rubio in
that group does.
REID: Marco Rubio has turned against immigration reform because he was
essentially chased out of the room by the Tea Party.
GEORGE: He hasn`t turned again it.
REID: He walked from that; now he wants to shut down the government.
GEORGE: He was the person who helped basically create a 60 vote majority
in the Senate, it`s now obviously -- they`re trying to battle it out.
GEORGE: He`s getting criticism from the Right --
REID: From the base.
GEORGE: I don`t disagree with that.
But he certainly hasn`t walked away from (INAUDIBLE).
REID: But given the fact, Ari, that Rubio was not rewarded by a party that
needs (INAUDIBLE) -- he wasn`t rewarded, he was actually punished.
BERMAN: Absolutely. And the GOP can`t reach out to new constituencies if
it`s trying to disenfranchise. That is the fundamental --
BERMAN: -- right now. You can`t have it both ways. What the people are
doing in the states is they are putting the Marco Rubios in a bind because
the minute the GOP tries to reach out, they get so much flack they have to
walk it back. And so all we`re seeing right now from the Republican Party,
is this extremism. We`re not seeing the modernization anywhere. We`re not
seeing it in Congress, we`re certainly not seeing it in the states. And I
think it`s going to be hard to see it (INAUDIBLE).
GEORGE: In the House, though, you do -- even though the House hasn`t taken
up the comprehensive immigration reform, they have taken up the DREAM Act,
though. And the Democrats are actually --
REID: Well, they`re just enforced (ph). But anyway, this is a great
discussion, another one that has to continue on Twitter. Stay right there.
Up next, detained for waving while black. Yes, waving. Wow, seriously?
REID: It may be a slow news summer but there`s no lack of material for our
"Wow, Seriously?" segment.
They`re the stories that pop up in Nerdland editorial meetings that simply
leave us saying, "Wow, seriously?"
First up, if you thought you had seen every possible type, brand and flavor
of Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act, think again. Enter
Republican Missouri state representative Paul Weiland.
Weiland has filed a lawsuit in federal court to exempt his family from
having to accept contraception coverage which would be provided under his
state plan as a result of ObamaCare.
You heard it right. He wants a special legal exemption just for his
Why? Because Weiland is Catholic. And he believes that the mandate for
contraception coverage violates his family`s First Amendment right to
freedom of religion. He says, quote, "I see abortion-inducing drugs as
intrinsically evil. And I cannot in good conscience preach one thing to my
kids and then just go with the flow on our insurance.
"This is a moral conundrum for me. Do I just cancel the coverage and put
my family at risk? I don`t believe in what the government is doing."
By coverage contraception in his insurance. Wow, seriously?
Look, when I offer freedom of religion you`re not free to misrepresent the
issue. Abortion inducing drugs? No, sir. The HHS doesn`t mandate
abortion inducing drugs. It provides -- say it with me -- contraception.
You and your anti-abortion compadres might want to conflate contraception
with abortion, but it ain`t happening.
If you and your family, including your three daughters, don`t want to take
advantage of the contraception coverage that President Obama`s landmark
health care legislation will afford to millions of Americans, that`s cool.
But contraception coverage will provide those that want it with something
you and your uterus-occupying cronies can`t stand: choices.
On to the other side of the world, where misrepresentation also seems to be
reigning supreme. The People`s Republic of China is the gift that keeps on
Last week they were all about dressing up the babies in watermelon
costumes, using actual watermelons. This week a zoo in China thought it
could pass off a dog as a lion. Wow, seriously?
Now the Tibetan mastiff is quite the hairy beast and can be described as
looking lionlike. And while the zoo`s regular lion was away at a breeding
center, I suppose they decided they needed a replacement.
But the jig was up when the lion rather than letting out a mighty roar
offered instead a meager bark.
Back to the U.S., where the lessons of what not to do while black continue.
This week, if you`re black and riding a bike, don`t wave to police
officers, even if you`re a firefighter. Thirty-eight-year-old firefighter,
father of four and youth pastor George Madison Jr. waved at police officers
when he passed them on his bike in Evansville, Louisiana, because he
thought he recognized them.
Well, they didn`t recognize him and deemed his wave a threat. The officers
almost used a stun gun on Madison and put him in cuffs while they could
verify his identity. Detained for saying hello. Wow, that`s one we just
couldn`t wave off, seriously.
Madison has filed a formal complaint with the police department`s internal
And coming up, the right wing and race, time to send in the clowns.
REID: Hate to be the one to break it to you, clown college graduates, but
all that time you spent learning to apply the perfect white face,
painstakingly draw on a happy smile and making sure your red round nose is
applied just right, complete waste of time.
Because apparently all you need to do to keep a crowd in stitches is head
to your nearest costume store and pick up yourself a mask of President
At least that`s what worked for this guy last week at the Missouri State
Fair. An Obama mask was all he needed to delight the crowd. Well, that
and the rodeo announcer asking who wanted to see, quote, "Obama run down by
a bull." A video of the act shot by one spectator who wasn`t laughing went
viral, leading to man behind the mask, who is remaining anonymous, being
permanently banned from the state fair.
But the backlash also led to something else. Backlash to the backlash from
some on the Right for whom the beleaguered clown has become a martyred hero
of sorts. And it`s not just the usual suspects. OK, yes, it`s some of the
usual suspects. Glenn Beck, who on his radio show declared himself a rodeo
clown in a show of solidarity. And Sistine Stockman (ph), Republican
representative from Texas and birther conspiracy theorist, who has invited
the clown to perform at a rodeo in his state.
But the clown has also gotten some love from "Wall Street Journal"
columnist Peggy Noonan, who urged the president to take a break from his
vacation on Martha`s Vineyard to encourage the sad clown to turn his frown
And Representative Steve King, who offered this tweet, "Mr. President,
invite the rodeo clown to the White House for a beer summit, take the
temperature down, have a laugh, relax, it`s not about race."
Oh, it`s not about race? That`s a relief. Thanks, Steve King, thanks for
clearing that up.
Because whatever would we do without the wisdom of the Right to define the
parameters of racism?
I mean, how else would we have known after President Obama weighed in on
the events that led to the last beer summit that the president was a racist
if Glenn Beck hadn`t pointed out his, quote, "deep-seated hatred for white
people and the white culture."
Thanks to the wisdom of conservative commentators, we also know that
President Obama`s personal reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin
revealed that our commander in chief was in fact, quote, "first racist in
And if weren`t for the insight of Representative Ted Yoho (ph) of Florida,
how else would we have known that ObamaCare`s 10 percent tax on tanning
beds is actually, as Yoho (ph) called it, a, quote, "racist tax against the
Yes, we owe conservatives a great deal of gratitude for showing us who is
really hiding behind that Obama mask, a man who simply by acknowledging the
fact of racism has exposed himself as the racist they know him to be.
Coming back to our panel, and Dorian, why is President Obama constantly
causing racism by describing it?
WARREN: It`s so interesting to me that white racists can`t ever see the
white side of President Obama. Can`t they claim him for something?
REID: They claimed Bob Marley.
WARREN: That Kansas part of the biography always gets deleted out.
WARREN: It`s so absurd you have to laugh a bit, right? Every day we hear
another story, let`s get beyond race; we`re not racist, and then you see
racist actions happen all the time.
It`s the norm in American politics, it always has been, of white racists
saying we`re now racists, we`re not racists, yet you see fire hoses or you
see people being lynched or today you see clowns at rodeos.
GEORGE: No, as a disclaimer, I will say in my spare time I engage in
improv and standup comedy and so forth. Was the rodeo clown skit
incredibly tasteless, absolutely. Is it racist?
REID: Playing with the lips of the clown. Wait a minute, Robert, they
didn`t just have him charged by the bull, they were playing with the lips.
Is that racial at all?
GEORGE: Maybe. The reason why you`ve got this backlash to the backlash,
or the outrage, if you will, put it this way, let`s just say it was racist
and they fired the clown. Fine, whatever.
The fact, though, that you`ve got people coming in and now saying all the
clowns have to go through sensitivity training. Just think about that for
GEORGE: Clowns going to sensitivity training.
I think even if you accept the fact that the skit may have been racist, the
idea that clowns should go to sensitivity training.
No, this part I`m serious about. That I think is why sometimes when people
get angry at people who do actually identify with racism, some of the
solutions they come forward with tend to get laughed out because
sensitivity training --
BELTRAN: This is my disclaimer, I don`t like clowns, I fear them. They
are scary and they bother me. One thing we`re thinking about right now,
what`s interesting, we can`t talk about racial disparities. When we talk
about racial disparities, that is talking about race and that is racism.
That`s the logic.
But I do think the point you`re making that is really interesting is that
we now exist in a particular political moment of enhance racial
opportunity. Look at this table. Enhanced, alongside massive racial
So how to have a conversation about both of those things simultaneously,
about enhanced opportunity for certain segments of these communities
alongside ongoing massive inequality, so these sides become like crazy
flash points because we don`t know how to do this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve gone so far --
BERMAN: Let me jump in here. First thing, if you have to ask the
question, is something racist, it probably is racist, first off, and then
second thing, just look at history. There is a long history of this kind
of stuff used in a very racial context.
And it`s happening at a moment when we`re having all these discussions
about race in the context of voting rights, in the context of Trayvon
Martin, in the context of stop-and-frisk.
And look at next week when there`s the big march on Washington, the 50th
anniversary. So many of these issues are front and center now in a way
that they weren`t even a few years ago. And that`s why this is such a
It is fascinating. To your point, we do have the 50th anniversary of the
march. And the major speaker there is the black white president of the
United States showing exactly how far things --
REID: Robert, hold on. I want to bring Dorian back in. Here is the
thing. We do have enhanced racial progress. But at the same time, what
Barack Obama was doing was pointing out that despite the fact that he has
made it to be leader of the free world, he is still not immune to day to
I just want to point out, sensitivity training, not just for clowns but
we`re talking about ordinary people who are not dressed up as rodeo clowns.
When Barack Obama goes to Arizona, singing "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" and
railing against the half-white Muslim in Arizona or you have people in
Florida, greeting Barack Obama with signs saying, "Can you go home?" There
is still a cultural aesthetic that is very racialized on the Right, whether
or not you want to call it racist.
WARREN: That`s right. And Ari just brought up 50th anniversary of the
march on Washington. Let`s put this in context. These very same people,
and this very right wing movement would have been absolutely 100 percent
opposed to the march. They would have found it somehow racist that black
and white people could show up on the mall. They would have found it as --
they -- we know -- public opinion tells us -- they thought civil rights was
going too fast in 1963. Slow down.
So these are the very same people that would have been opposed to Dr.
King`s "I have a dream" speech, even though they wrap themselves in it
today. They would have been opposed to it then, they would oppose -- they
would have been opposed to every policy that the march on Washington
represented in terms of pushing for racial and economic justice.
It`s a very (INAUDIBLE) --
REID: Hold on one second. Hold on one second, because I`m going to give
you a chance to respond (INAUDIBLE). This is a good discussion. And I`m
going to put a pin in it for just one second, because when we come back
we`re going to talk more about this; we`re going to let Robert respond,
we`re going to let Ari get in, and up next, we`re also bring the O into it.
We`re going to bring the Oprah in and talk about the backlash over a bag.
REID: Joining President Obama, in the Right`s secret races club, is the
woman who was short one $38,000 handbag, Oprah Winfrey found herself being
the one to issue an apology after responding to a question asked by an
interviewer about whether she has experienced racism.
After her story about being racially profiled in a high end store in Zurich
exploded to the level of an international incident, Oprah offered her mea
culpa in an interview with the Associated Press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, ACTRESS: I think that incident in Switzerland was just an
incident in Switzerland. I`m really sorry that it got blown up. I
purposefully didn`t mention the name of the store. I`m sorry I said it was
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: But Oprah`s apology still didn`t earn her an exemption from the
Right. FOX News was more than happy to renew her secret racist card,
responding to her comments, comparing Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till, a
guest on Sean Hannity`s show accused her of, quote, "engaging in idiocy and
And, Robert, this, I guess, is my beef with your folks, with the
BERMAN: Talk about being profiled.
REID: I feel like there`s this thing on the Right where they want to own
the description of what racism is. They want to be the ones to be the
arbiters of what racism is and who is allowed to talk about race.
So, Oprah, you`re not allowed to talk about race. Barack Obama, you`re not
allowed. We are the ones who are allowed. It is Glenn Beck who will tell
us what and who is racist.
What is that thing that`s going on on the Right?
GEORGE: I think on both the Right -- obviously on the Right and
particularly in the context of the Republican Party we`ve talked about this
before, that it is a heavily white party right now. And you`ve got
certainly more diversity on the Left in the context of the Democratic
I think the bulk of the Republican base are people of goodwill. They don`t
like being profiled themselves as being automatically -- as automatically
racist, any criticism.
REID: Who is profiling people?
REID: Hold on. Have you to answer that.
GEORGE: From their point of view, they feel that any strong -- much to the
strong criticism against Barack Obama is described by Democratic supporters
of Barack Obama as being inherently racist and not just the fact he`s a
REID: I can`t let that go, Robert.
GEORGE: I`m trying to tell you from that perspective.
REID: But the problem I have with that is that that hasn`t happened. When
you -- if you call him a half-white Muslim, (INAUDIBLE). If you say "Baa,
baa, black sheep," bingo. But I haven`t heard a single commentator on the
Left describe mere criticism of Barack Obama as racist.
GEORGE: When Joe Wilson from South Carolina yelled out "You lie" in the
State of the Union --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never happened to a president before ever.
GEORGE: Was that out-of-bounds? Yes. Was it racist? No. I don`t think
that was -- look, let me say this.
What we have seen in terms of political discourse over the last 20 years,
successively is more and more hard-edged criticism of presidents.
Bill Clinton --
WARREN: Let`s get back but the big issue is this, this is the perversity
and the power of racial ideology when you point out disparities and stop-
and-frisk and you have the mayor of the city say that whites are more
likely to be stopped than blacks or Latinos and it`s a lie, the facts don`t
support it. That`s the perversity of racial ideology, is to flip any
pointing out of a racial disparity (INAUDIBLE) demand for racial justice on
its head and say, well --
BELTRAN: -- the hypersensitivity of talking about race. That`s the other
thing, like any kind of speech about this creates this enormous anxiety on
the Right which --
REID: Just two examples quickly and I`ll go to you, Ari, is that what
caused Glenn Beck to call Barack Obama a racist was him saying a police
officer acted stupidly.
He made no racial statement there. He said the police officer acted
stupidly; suddenly he was a racist. So even speech that is about
tangentially race as a construct becomes labeled racism by the Right.
BERMAN: Well, I just wanted to say, going back to the march on Washington,
because I have a new story out about this in "The Nation," is that people
want to point to President Obama and Attorney General Holder as evidence of
the progress, which it is. It`s amazing that these things have happened.
But they don`t want to talk about the disparities that still exist. They
don`t want to talk about the fact seven Southern states have rushed to pass
new voting restrictions since the Supreme Court ruling, they don`t want to
talk about the fact that the unemployment rate between white and black, the
disparity is the same as it was in 1963.
They don`t want to talk about the fact that more black men are in jail now
than were enslaved in 1850. So this is a really real moment at a time when
we really need a new civil rights movement. And people are trying to talk
about this like it`s the past as opposed to things that have happened --
REID: And one more thing that I want to throw to you, Robert, because this
is what I conservatives, I feel, do want to do. This is Clarence Thomas, a
conservative, an African-American and conservative. And this is the way he
described affirmative action. This was his response to it.
He said slave holders argued that slavery was a positive good, that
civilized blacks and elevated them in every dimension of life.
Segregationists likewise defended segregation on the ground that it
provided more leadership opportunities for black.
This to me, is somewhat on the Right doing what they`re claiming the Left
does. He has taken the issue of affirmative action and equated it with
slavery and with segregation. That is the kind of hyperbole, I don`t see
the Left doing the equivalent of that on the other side.
GEORGE: I`m not sure when that Clarence Thomas quote was --
REID: It was in the case of Fisher v. Texas.
GEORGE: -- was made. He`s making a specific philosophical argument that
affirmative action is --
GEORGE: Well, it`s racist and ultimately it often ends up profiling and
demonizing blacks and so forth.
I think, though, that you are -- you do have amongst Republicans who -- I
should say amongst a certain segment, among conservative whites, who having
seen the advancements that have gone on in society, don`t always accept
that racism, per se, is the largest problem, saying holding blacks back and
And that`s where a lot of this argument. When they look at violence in
Chicago and so forth, it`s not -- it`s not just -- it`s not just racism
that is at the root of either educational disparities or crime disparities.
BELTRAN: Racism, there`s a kind of way in which Republicans will say the
Klan is bad but we don`t know how to talk about the complex issues of
institutional racism now. We don`t know how to have that conversation and
that talk about that racism.
REID: Unfortunately, Robert, we`ve got to leave it there, I`m sorry. We
don`t know how to have that conversation in the next 10 seconds because we
have no more time. So I apologize.
Thank you very much for being with us.
Up next, the new mission for Trayvon Martin`s mother.
REID: While some on the Right are redefining the CliffsNotes version of
racism, others are using their time and energy responding to a set of laws
that figured prominently in one of the country`s most racially polarizing
The verdict in George Zimmerman`s case is in. But for the mother of
Trayvon Martin, the case on "stand your ground", the law invoked during his
trial, is far from closed. Sybrina Fulton joined her attorney, Benjamin
Crump, this morning on "MEET THE PRESS" to announce the next steps in her
and her supporters` crusade to change the law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: The death of my son was so
negative, that we felt that we needed to do something positive to not only
help us heal but to help other families of senseless gun violence. That`s
why we started the Trayvon Martin Foundation.
That`s why we`re going all over the country to the 21 states that have the
"stand your ground" law, to try to make some type of change.
We understand that it`s not going to be done overnight, that it`s going to
take time to do this, but we`re in it for the long haul. We`re in it.
This is a part of my life now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And Ari, I want to now read -- Benjamin Crump, the attorney that was
on with her, one of the attorneys, had an article in "The Washington Post"
yesterday. This is what he said because it`s really interesting. They are
taking the whole Trayvon Martin issue, they`re taking it to the ballot box.
He says, "This vote, your vote will be historic, it starts when you sign
the change.org petition by Trayvon`s family to amend "stand your ground"
laws in 21 of the 31 states where they`re on the books.
"It continues when you cast your vote in 2014 in the midterm elections and
each election cycle beyond until we make history by passing a Trayvon
Martin amendment to the "stand your ground" laws in every state that has
them. These actions will make you part of a new voting bloc, the Trayvon
And I spoke to Ben about this yesterday and I thought this was very
interesting because what they are doing is they`re taking a Florida case
about a Florida law and they`re now broadening it out to a midterm election
Is this smart on the part of them and is it going to really help Democrats?
BERMAN: I think it is smart because I think what progressives and
Democrats are realizing is the importance, number one, of local elections
and the importance, number two, of long-term organizing, both of which the
Right has done for many, many years.
So the policies we`re seeing, for example, in North Carolina. These have
been pushed for 30 years by conservatives to try to get them in place, the
anti-union laws, the NRA laws, the anti-women laws, all this stuff didn`t
come out of nowhere, right. There`s a long history of organizing for it.
So I think progressives have to do the same thing if they`re going to want
to be successful going forward.
It might not happen overnight. You have work towards that goal going
REID: And it`s fascinating, Cristina, without an outlet of their own, the
Left has to resort to other ways of organizing the base. The Right has
helped then a lot with voter ID laws, which have galvanized African-
American and Latino voters.
This is interesting, because this also pulls in younger voters. Trayvon
Martin resonated with younger people of all races. And so this is almost a
youth mobilization strategy, when midterms don`t usually get a lot of young
BELTRAN: Right. I think that`s going to be one of the interesting
questions in this, in the midterm, is how is this going to galvanize young
voters, how are all the attacks on voting rights and voters suppression
going to actually galvanize certain populations.
This might -- people might not be voting in a positive sense for who they
like; they might be voting against, feel like they`re having their civil
rights infringed. So that kind of politics -- I think one of the
interesting things For the Left, though, is that, Art, I think part of the
Left`s tendency sometimes is to feel very frustrated with institutional
party politics that we retreat from it.
And the interesting thing is, the Right doesn`t do that. The Right, the
radical base, is in it. They are in it to win it. And we have to figure
out how do progressives find a way within our frustrations, our
disappointments to do the long game with these questions.
GEORGE: I`d just like to (INAUDIBLE) let me say, I`m not sure exactly what
the language of the amendment is, but I think it`s great that Trayvon
Martin`s mother has taken a horrible tragedy and then wants to make
something positive about it. One of the concerns that you do have in terms
of "stand your ground" and I think that should be taken a look at, is that
if the presumption ends up being on basically the person that`s alive,
their word is against the person that is dead.
That`s kind of problematic. So if part of the amendment is trying to
ensure greater discovery in terms of what that person did during the
encounter, I think that`s great.
REID: And the text of the amendment actually is that if you are the
aggressor you can`t then claim "stand your ground".
WARREN: I want to reemphasize a point Ari made and that is in some ways,
the last 30 years we`ve seen progressive political organizing and politics
grow up and become more sophisticated. And this is an indication of that.
So it`s not just about voting every two or four years, it`s not just about
organizing and doing direct action like the dream defenders in Florida.
It`s about both constantly, right, you have to combine, organizing,
grassroots organizing with civic engagement every election cycle. But you
can`t go home after the fact. You have to keep at it, pushing policies
after election day.
GEORGE: Normally the party out of power is the one that has all the issues
to organize their base in a midterm election. I think next year might be
something a little bit different. You`re certainly going to have
conservatives who`re going to be upset over ObamaCare but you`re going to
have those on the Left who`re going to be upset over this -- over
immigration and abortion.
REID: But really quickly, Robert, before we go, did the Right make a
fundamental miscalculation in the way they responded to the Trayvon Martin
case, the vituperative response to the family and to the -- to Trayvon
WARREN: I think some of them did. I mean, I was one of those people who
felt -- I thought that the manslaughter could have been a credible
conviction. I think some lack of sensitivity on their part, but --
REID: Very measured. He said some. He got there. We`re getting you
there. We`re getting you there. We`re working on you. All right. Robert
Warren, Cristina Beltran, Ari Berman, Robert George, thank you so much.
And up next, living the dream 50 years later.
REID: Two months after John F. Kennedy requested air time on each of the
three television networks to speak to the nation about civil rights in the
wake of Governor George Wallace`s notorious stand at the schoolhouse door
at the University of Alabama, a group of activists led by labor leader
Athila Randolph led a march on Washington.
The leaders of the 1963 march, including Randolph and Bayard Rustin, a top
aide to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., wanted to show support for a civil
rights bill Kennedy had introduced about a week after his speech, in which
he was attempting to shepherd through an unwilling Congress.
Kennedy had said in his televised address --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It ought to be
possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in
places of public accommodation such as hotels and restaurants and theaters
and retail stores without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the
And it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register
and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And the march organizers hope to make that so. The date they chose
for the rally coincided with the eighth anniversary of the lynching of
Emmitt Till in Mississippi. The official name of the march was The March
on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Its purpose was not just to support
Kennedy`s legislation, but also to call out the economic inequality and
social restrictions faced by black Americans in the South and in the North.
It was also not Dr. King`s march. He was one of several speakers scheduled
to be on the dais that day. The speech Martin Luther King Jr. planned to
deliver that day was not the gauzy recitation of his dream for America, a
riff he had used many times and in many speeches and sermons before. It
was an accusation.
King`s speech accused the country and its leaders of handing the Negro a
bad check on economic advancement, access to public spaces, education and
jobs. It was only when King went off script that he spoke of his dream and
gave the world the lines that have come to define him in history.
After the march, King, Randolph and the other leaders gathered at the White
House. And Kennedy reportedly leaned into King and smiled saying, "I have
Three months later Kennedy was dead. The following July the civil rights
bill that 250,000 people marched for was passed.
When we commemorate the march on Washington next weekend, it will be that
dream and those spontaneous words from Dr. King that will be on the minds
of most Americans. But it is the pragmatic goals of the march -- jobs,
economics and social justice, an end to police brutality and racial
profiling, the ability of all Americans to vote without impediment and to
have a dignified life and a job with health care -- those are the things
that the movement -- were that King and the movement were going all along
and we`re still not there.
When it comes to many members of American society, black, brown, white and,
indeed, today, the struggle continues.
In for Melissa Harris-Perry, I`m Joy Reid. And that`s our show for today.
Melissa will be back next week 10:00 am Eastern Saturday morning from the
mall in Washington, D.C., with coverage of the 50th anniversary of the
march on Washington.
And now it`s a time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST: Hello, Thank you so much, Joy.
Well, a story that has a lot of people talking, a bakery refuses to sell a
lesbian couple a wedding cake. The store claims that much of the town
supports them. You are going to hear from some of those residents and our
big three panel weighing in.
Also Steve Lonigan, Cory Booker`s GOP challenger for the late New Jersey
Senator Frank Lautenberg`s seat joins us to talk about the race and his
Plus are you ready for football season? The NFL has a first of its kind
security policy. All those details ahead.
And where in the world does McDonald`s pay $15 an hour? We`ll tell you.
So don`t go anywhere. I`ll be right back.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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