August 28, 2013
Guests: Taylor Branch, Michelle Bernard, Terry Edmonds, Doug Brinkley, Martin Luther King III, Peter Yarrow
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: A question of character.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
The content of his character -- remember that great line in Martin Luther
King`s speech? Remember how he offered the hope that his four little
children, as he put it, would some day be judged not by the color of their
skin but by the content of their character?
Have we reached that day? Have we? Is that how people of color are judged
today? Is that how the president of the United States has been judged, by
the content of his character?
I wish. You may wish. He must wish. Barack Obama, the man, has led a
remarkable life. He excelled in school. He climbed to the Ivy League and
made editor of the "Harvard Law Review" in a blind test that has nothing to
do with affirmative action. Nothing. He has led an unblemished life, has
been a solid, faithful husband, a obviously caring father of his two
seemingly perfect young daughters.
His one major political flaw, as I have attested often, is that he spends
too many evenings with his family and not enough time wooing, cadging (ph)
and winning over his follow politicians. He`s too much the good daddy, too
much the stay-at-home husband.
And what has been the judgment of the right wing? Have they said a single
word of good about this man, about his character? Even though he needs --
in fact, meets every known standard, conservative standard of what a good
man should be -- clean, faithful, hard-working, committed to goals,
responsible, and yes, when it comes to dealing with this country`s enemies
The content of his character? Fifty years later, I ask has this president
of ours been given that test, or has he been judged by his critics, as
Martin Luther King hoped we`d some day get past, by the color of his skin?
I think every honest American knows the answer.
What other president has been stopped in the conduct of his presidential
business and been asked to show his papers, his birth certificate? What
other president has been faced with nullification of his landmark
accomplishments, with talk of impeachment without even the fig leaf of a
justification for such talk?
Let`s get at it. Taylor Branch is an historian and author of "The King
Years" and Michelle Bernard`s the president of the Bernard Center for
Women, Politics and Public Policy and the author of "Moving America Toward
Taylor, you`re a great historian. I want to put the question to you, but
first let`s do this. The president today spoke on the 50th anniversary of
the march on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King`s famous "I have a
dream" speech. He paid tribute to the men and women of the front lines of
the Civil Rights movement, only a few of whom, like Congressman --
Congressman John Lewis, are with us today.
Well, let`s watch the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And because they kept
marching, America changed. Because they marched, the civil rights law was
Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed
and Congress changed, and yes, eventually the White House changed.
Because they marched, America became more free and more fair not just for
African-Americans, but for women and Latinos, Asians and native Americans,
for Catholics, Jews and Muslims, for gays, for Americans with disabilities.
America changed for you and for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Have conservatives in America judged this man by the content of
his character, Taylor Branch?
TAYLOR BRANCH, AUTHOR, "THE KING YEARS": Absolutely not. Conservatives in
America talk about conservative politics and use the phrase endlessly,
whereas liberals are almost afraid to use the word liberal. But they don`t
talk about politics at all and certainly not about race, even though most
of the conservative political appeals have a hidden underpinning in race.
This president`s weakness is that he can`t talk about race very much.
MATTHEWS: Why can`t he throw it back at the people who use it implicitly?
BRANCH: Because he`s afraid that it will boomerang on him.
MATTHEWS: He`ll be a whiner?
MATTHEWS: You used this term. Will he be perceived or called a whiner if
he says, You guys are --
BRANCH: They`ll call him out and say that he`s for favoritism. They`ll
say that he`s talking about race. And you know, a lot of conservatives
misconstrued King`s speech and say "the content of their character" means
we don`t talk about race. Therefore, the goal of America is not to talk
about race, which, of course, is nonsense.
To say that we should get over talking about race is like saying a
democracy should get over having elections. That`s what we do. That`s how
we manage our differences. That`s how we form a more perfect union.
American democracy has always been measured by race.
BRANCH: And when we deal with it forthrightly, we make progress across the
board. When we hide from it, our politics atrophy into today`s gridlock.
The greatest question right now that is unexamined, including to some
degree by President Obama today, is to what degree is partisan gridlock
underneath it still driven by race?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think that`s a good question. I think I know the answer,
but you never know about -- as Tip O`Neill, my old boss, used to say, you
never know what`s in another man`s heart.
So let`s just operate on the basis of, has this president affirmatively
been judged by the fact he`s obviously a good family man, a clean as hell
guy, a hard-working guy, all the values that conservatives especially have
held true -- have held high. They never say, Well, wait a minute. I just
want to make it clear I think he`s a good man. I mean, McCain did it a
couple times, and that seemed to be the end of it.
Ever since then, you played the Muslim card against, the Arab card against
him, the birther card against him. And they just cheer or giggle, or don`t
MICHELLE BERNARD, AUTHOR, "MOVING AMERICA TOWARD JUSTICE": Never in my
lifetime did I expect to see a member of Congress yelling at the president
of the United States during a national address --
MATTHEWS: "You lie."
BERNARD: -- "You lie." As much as Republicans --
MATTHEWS: Would they have done it against a white guy?
BERNARD: They would have never done it against Bill Clinton, and they
couldn`t stand Bill Clinton.
BERNARD: They would have never done it against any other Democratic
president other than Barack Obama. And you can`t help but think to
yourself that it was done on the basis of race.
He has been demonized over and over and over again. People today on -- the
Internet is rife with statements being made that Obama is a race baiter,
even -- even to the extent that if you examine the speech he gave today, a
lot of the things that he said are valued by conservatives.
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at him again. Here`s more of his speech
today. President Obama correctly pointed out that Dr. King`s message --
well, it tried to transcend race, in a way. But let`s listen to the
president make his case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The men and women who gathered 50 years ago were not there in
search of some abstract idea. They were there seeking jobs, as well as
And Dr. King explained that the goals of African-Americans were identical
to working people of all races -- decent wages, fair working conditions,
livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions
in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect
in the community. What King was describing has been the dream of every
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I want to get back to what you said a moment ago
because I watched the speech today, and I expected there to be a more
concrete speech about jobs. OK, it wasn`t. It was his call. But I did
think amazing (ph) -- he had opportunities to take a shot at some of the
right wing and what they`ve said about him, the birtherism that keeps
coming up to the surface, people like Donald Trump keep playing the card.
And the Republicans like Mitt Romney hang around them and kiss their butts.
And you got people talking about impeachment and they don`t even come up
with a reason for it! They figure, Well, he`s black or whatever, we`ll
just talk about impeaching him.
Why do you think the president held back today and never pointed to an
enemy, kept talking about unity. He talked about good people on the
Republican side. He really avoided any kind of divisiveness. Is it
because he is black? Is it because of the occasion today? What was it?
BRANCH: I think he was trying to be a statesman on a day that was not his.
It was a day about the 50th anniversary of those people. And so he was
trying to be above it.
He paid tribute to the racial agenda 50 years ago, but then he shifted to
economics today and he didn`t connect them.
BRANCH: The reason that we can`t make any progress on economics today is
because we`re at a gridlock that is driven by racial appeals that we can`t
talk about. I wish what he would have said was, 50 years ago we dealt
forthrightly with race for a brief time, and it paid dividends for
everybody, for the whole country.
When we do talk about it and we address it -- our politics, and we believe
we can accomplish great things together, we can, including for the white
South. That`s why it was amazing that you had two white Southern
presidents up there --
BRANCH: -- saying, This movement liberated my region of the country,
which resents the blessings that was given to us from this movement. So I
MATTHEWS: Isn`t that ironic? Because what I know -- you know much more
about the history of all this, but you take issues like meals on wheels,
smaller program. You take big issues like Social Security. And in
impoverished areas, rural areas of Mississippi and Alabama (INAUDIBLE)
where there are a lot of poor people of both backgrounds, black and white,
they`re (INAUDIBLE) they don`t own plantations. These are workers. And
they really care about these basic social fabric programs. And yet Obama
fights for them, and they don`t ally with him.
BRANCH: They don`t ally with him, and somehow, they buy the notion that
they`d be better off on their own --
MATTHEWS: OK --
BRANCH: -- than in something that we do together as a country.
MATTHEWS: I want you because I know you`re friends with Bill Cosby and we
-- I in many ways worship the guy. So let`s take a look. Here`s President
Obama, didn`t shy away from delivering a get tough message at one point
(INAUDIBLE) which I never expected this today. He certainly didn`t sound
like the lefty socialist his critics on the right often portray him as.
Talk about bootstraps talk!
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If we`re honest with ourselves, we`ll admit that during the course
of 50 years, there were times when some of us claiming to push for change
lost our way.
The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots. Legitimate
grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse making for criminal
behavior. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the
chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead, was too often framed
as a mere desire for government support as if we had no agency in our own
liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and
bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Get tough.
BERNARD: I loved it. I absolutely loved it, for many reasons. Most
important -- the most important reason being there is this stereotype that
African-Americans by and large, the vast majority of us, want to live on
the state. We want to live on the welfare state. We don`t take care of
our children. We blame everything negative that happens to us on the man.
And here is Barack Obama. He is a self-made man. He has done it himself.
And there are millions of African-American men and women just like him all
over the country --
BERNARD: -- who believe in --
MATTHEWS: -- to D.C. at 6:30 in the morning, look who`s out catching the
BERNARD: Exactly. And -- and --
MATTHEWS: And who`s going to work.
BERNARD: -- and don`t want a government handout --
BERNARD: -- and don`t -- and don`t blame everything negative that
happens to us on, quote, unquote, "the man." But the bottom line is people
also have to understand that to the extent that there are institutional
barriers to our success -- for example, the lack of an opportunity to get
an excellent and equal education -- that`s a huge problem. Take down the
barriers, and we will rise as a nation.
MATTHEWS: And there`s the other hystemic -- his --
MATTHEWS: -- systemic problem -- hystemic -- that most times -- I always
say of people looking for a job, which is what we all ought to be talking
about, you got to get there during the two weeks somebody`s just given
MATTHEWS: -- because bosses will try to fill that job as soon as they
could. So who gets the job? Somebody who knows somebody who knows
somebody who knows somebody. And they get -- they show up. And if you`re
not there and know the job`s open -- see, the jobs are posted formally, but
you know how it works.
MATTHEWS: And that`s why whites have this advantage, because they got most
of the jobs, they got to give them out most of times. And blacks have that
-- and that`s why you`ve got to work at opening the door to more
opportunities and bringing more people in for job interviews.
Taylor Branch, it`s an honor to have you on. And you, as always, are
superb in your thinking and values. Thank you, Taylor Branch. Thank you,
Coming up: Half full or half empty? In the 50 years since the march on
Washington, how far have we come in achieving King`s dream? Let`s to get
both sides of this argument.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: I have a dream that my four little children
will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of
their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: One of the more interesting things we`ve learned in the last few
days is how "The Washington Post," long this city`s premiere newspaper,
covered the King speech in 1963. It didn`t.
Robert Kaiser, former managing editor of "The Post," was a young reporter
at the time. He says that the paper was poised for trouble, perhaps a
riot, but not history. The paper published two dozen stories about the
march, but not one of those stories grasped the significance of Dr. King`s
In the end, he says, there was only one mention of the words "I have a
dream," and that was in a wrap-up of the day`s rhetoric on page A-15 in the
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Among the remarkable speakers today
and speeches today was former president Bill Clinton, who is always a home
run hitter. He took this historic occasion to dole out a little plain-
spoken political reality. But we have to interpret it. Martin Luther
King, Jr., and all those who fought for justice deserve better than
whining, he put it, about political gridlock. Try to figure out who he`s
talking to here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- political
gridlock now. Read a little history. It`s nothing new. Yes, there remain
racial inequalities in employment, income, health, wealth, incarceration,
and in the victims and perpetrators of violent crime.
But we don`t face beatings, lynchings and shootings for our political
beliefs anymore. And I would respectfully suggest that Martin Luther King
did not live and die to hear his heirs whine about political gridlock. It
is time to stop complaining and put our shoulders against the stubborn
gates holding the American people back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, some historic perspective to put today`s seemingly
immovable politics in context. Joining me right now is historian Douglas
Brinkley, whose latest great book is "Cronkite," and Terry Edmonds, the
first -- actually, first African-American presidential speech writer ever
and he wrote speeches for -- as far back as we know anyway, Terry. They
should have researched this, right?
TERRY EDMONDS, FMR. CLINTON SPEECH WRITER: Yes.
MATTHEWS: OK, you are. So you`re numero uno.
Let me ask you to start with this. You worked for Bill Clinton. You know
his style. Who was he talking to about the complainers and the whiners?
Was he talking about the liberal progressive Democratic heirs of Dr. King,
or was he talking about the right, or who`s he -- about the people who
blame everything on gridlock? Who`s he blame?
EDMONDS: Well, first of all, you have to ask him directly who he was
MATTHEWS: But I`m asking you.
EDMONDS: But second of all, I would say that he was talking to the
American people. This was a speech directed to everyone. And he`s just as
frustrated as everyone about the gridlock in Washington. And President
Clinton is also somewhat of a provocateur when it comes to race. You
remember the Sister Souljah moment.
EDMONDS: So he`s not --
MATTHEWS: Was he pulling a Sister Souljah against Obama today?
EDMONDS: I don`t think it -- no, it was not against Obama. I think it was
against -- it was directed --
MATTHEWS: I like to provoke, too, you know.
MATTHEWS: I like to provoke trouble, is what I like to do.
EDMONDS: I know you do.
MATTHEWS: I got the feeling he`s talking about liberals because he said
whining and he said complaining and he said the heirs of Dr. King. You
wouldn`t call Mitch McConnell an heir of Dr. King or Ted Cruz or Rand Paul
or Donald Trump an heir to Dr. King. I would call the Democrats heirs to
Dr. King. But your interpretation.
DOUG BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes, I think so. I think you`re
right. And it`s -- remember, it really was saying, Yes we can. What
happened to that? Everybody said, Yes, we can, and now people are starting
to say, No, we can`t. And I think he was trying to fix that.
But this idea that -- you know, Arthur Schlesinger once said the point of
history is to remind us our times are not uniquely oppressive. And I think
that`s what Clinton was trying to do.
But look, the gridlock is you have Republican right-wingers in Congress who
don`t want to hear about the dream. I mean, look at all the great
Republicans like Everett Dirksen or a Dwight Eisenhower --
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) Who doesn`t want a budget, even to meet? They don`t
even want the two sides to have a budget. They don`t want a debt ceiling
bill. They don`t want a continuing resolution (INAUDIBLE) There is one
side that wants gridlock. They want it all to stop. I don`t like to be
too even-handed when there`s a culprit here.
EDMONDS: I hear you. And -- but I think that, again, the president was
talking to the American people writ large. And I think his point was, in
order to get those people from the gates of freedom --
EDMONDS: -- who are blocking the gates of freedom, we need to vote new
people in. We need to get the old intransigents out and get new people in.
And I think that`s what he was talking about.
MATTHEWS: One thing struck me today was the fact that there was very
little ad hominem, in fact, no ad hominem shots.
I engage in them because I think they`re appropriate at times. But it was
almost, Douglas, as if they had the house rules. You can`t mention -- make
a mention of anybody by name as if there`s something wrong with that
person. I didn`t hear Mitch McConnell`s name today. I didn`t hear Donald
Trump. I didn`t hear Ted Cruz. I didn`t hear Rand Paul, all the
conservatives you think that people who are on the progressive side who
were largely there today would have normally taken a shot at.
They didn`t. Was that the -- is that the -- is that the rules of the park
service, the people with the Mountie hats on today, that they were going to
call out and say you can`t talk like that?
BRINKLEY: No, I think it was meant to be like a church service, almost,
like a big memorial.
BRINKLEY: And it started off really the big moment with the bell right
MATTHEWS: Nice bell.
BRINKLEY: They have a beautiful bell, 16th Street Baptist bell. But it
gave it kind of a religious cast. And it wasn`t about sticking a finger in
Barack Obama came close to it. He talked about greed, people that think
greed is good. In some ways, I felt there was that old 99 percent vs. the
1 percenters in the economic justice plank of the Obama speech today.
MATTHEWS: Did you get a sense he was talking about -- Obama took a couple
shots. I wasn`t -- against the Republicans, but against the way things
are, if you will, the fact that the middle class is getting squeezed now,
that there`s a wider chasm than there was before between rich and poor. We
People are making exponentially more money than most people now at the top.
And the fact that we have stagnant wages -- people watching right now know
exactly what I`m talking about, making maybe a little more, but not enough
to keep up with inflation, and basically unable to go to the movies, when
they used to be able to go once in a while or buy new shoes once in a while
when they used to do it.
That sense of a struggling class of people out there, I think he talked
about that. I don`t think he blamed anybody essentially for that.
EDMONDS: No. That`s been his theme for years now, that America in order
to be the great country that we are, we have to deal with the issue of
income inequality and rising unemployment, especially in poor and African-
American and Latino communities.
So I think he, you know, pointed out those problems without overtly blaming
MATTHEWS: I get the feeling you might be willing to take President
Clinton`s side against President Obama right now. I just have this hunch.
When I talk about President Obama, I think he`s uniquely hated by the
right. They didn`t like Bill Clinton. But they never yelled him out -- as
Michelle Bernard just said a couple minutes -- they never humiliated him on
the House floor when he came to give a presidential address.
This derision that people like Trump engage in, basically saying the guy is
a street corner con artist, like he`s doing a three-card monte game on the
corner, a street hood, that reference to him as being illegal, the
reference to him as impeachable, not even naming the grounds. At least
with your boss, they had grounds for impeachment.
EDMONDS: Chris, you can`t deny the fact some of this is racial. Some of
it is based on the fact that he`s the first African-American president.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And they can`t get over it.
EDMONDS: Some people just can`t get over it. They just don`t -- they
MATTHEWS: I think it`s like they get to bet at night and I legitimately
think some of these guys -- like my dad used to worry about the national
debt. I swear he went to bed at night worrying about deficit spending.
I think they put their head on the pillow with their wife or their wife
does with them and they can`t go to sleep at night, that Barack Obama`s
president. He`s in Washington. He`s in the Oval Office. He`s living
upstairs. He shouldn`t be there.
BRINKLEY: Well, and the Republican politicians don`t want to be in a
photo-op with Obama. They don`t even want to be seen next to him, even on
a day like this.
MATTHEWS: How about the guy that said I felt sick being 10 feet from the
guy? That guy said it.
BRINKLEY: That`s saying what a lot of people in Capitol Hill feel because
of that photo of a Republican with Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: It cost Charlie Crist his job in Florida.
BRINKLEY: Cost them their job. And that`s where we`re at, where it used
to be there was anybody -- anybody would want to be with the president on a
day like this.
MATTHEWS: This is high school. This is high school stuff.
Thank you, Doug.
MATTHEWS: Terry, the first ever.
EDMONDS: Yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: I was a presidential speechwriter, but I wasn`t a first ever.
Thank you, guys, Doug Brinkley and Terry Edmonds.
Up next: a taste of the sights and sounds from this historic day. We have
got a lot of celebrities giving speeches right now, a lot of faces you will
recognize here at the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "OPRAH`S NEXT CHAPTER": Let us ask ourselves, how
will the dream live on in me, in you, in all of us?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back, and thank you for sharing this historic day with
us on MSNBC.
It`s hard to overstate the importance of the March on Washington. There`s
no doubt that progress has been made in the last 50 years since. However,
it`s not often that we have the opportunity to reflect as an entire country
on the significance of that turning point in history of 50 years ago.
And that`s what this anniversary calls for. Look, the events out on the
National Mall today recaptured the sentiments of Dr. Martin Luther King and
John Lewis and Whitney Young and the other great civil rights leaders who
set forth a change in the nation. A generation later, the nation gathered
to celebrate and reflect.
Not everyone who spoke was a politician today. Here are some of the more
familiar celebrity faces we saw today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FOREST WHITAKER, ACTOR: I want you to recognize the hero that exists
inside yourselves, to understand that every step you take around an unknown
corner marks your bravery. When we overcome life`s hurdles, when we face
and conquer our fears, when we help others become their better selves, we
are committing small acts of heroism.
CAROLINE KENNEDY, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: Now it`s our turn
to live up to our parents` dream, to draw renewed strength from what
happened here 50 years ago and work together for a better world.
WINFREY: Let us ask ourselves, how will the dream live on in me, in you, in
all of us?
We must recommit to that love that abides and connects each of us to shine
through and let freedom ring.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. I`m Veronica De La
Cruz. And here`s what`s happening.
President Obama is speaking out on possible action against Syria, this just
a short time ago on the "PBS NewsHour." The president said he has not made
a decision yet on a military strike against the regime, but says it is
clear the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people. And
for that, he says for there needs to be consequences. The White House has
said any military strike would be limited and would act to deter the regime
from further chemical attacks -- and now back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A great democracy
doesn`t make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: We must open those stubborn gates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
By the way, Clinton has never looked better in his life. Everybody talks
about he`s getting older in health. He`s got no health problem. That guy
looks great. Anyway, that was former President Clinton earlier today
taking a shot at those pushing voter suppression and those pushing against
gun control, two issues which gravely obviously affect -- and we have seen
that -- the African-American community.
As we commemorate the 1963 March on Washington, as we did today, it`s worth
remembering it wasn`t too long ago that Republicans used to compete in my
old day for the African-American vote. In 1960, for example, Richard Nixon
captured 32 percent of the black vote, just about a third. And four years
before that, nearly 40 percent of the black electorate voted for Ike, for
the Republican Eisenhower. Both of course were Republicans.
George Romney, Mitt Romney`s dad, was a staunch supporter of civil rights,
as was his wife, in the `60s, when he was governor of Michigan. Senator
Arlen Specter vigorously competed for minority voters when he was a
Republican in my home state of Pennsylvania. And, by the way, never forget
Nelson Rockefeller. Rocky was huge among the black community, competing
for every vote he could.
Today, different story. Republicans have generally seized on racial
divisions in this country -- rid them, rather -- and have tried to exploit
Jonathan Capehart is with "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.
And Martin Luther King III -- that`s him right -- human rights activist and
son of Dr. King and a prominent figure today, is with us today.
Thank you, gentlemen.
What do you -- I want you to go with this, Jonathan, because you write
columns every day. And I want you to start on this thing. Why don`t
Republicans make a decent effort to say, look, we agree on a lot of things,
or we`re going to try to find places to agree, and try to get that huge
number of voters who, let`s face it, as I said today, have been in this
country longer than most white people.
Blacks are not immigrants. They live here. They have always lived here.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. No, that is true.
And up until about maybe the 1960 presidential election, they did compete
for the African-American vote. But, along the way, certainly after
President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, that the Republican Party
just decided, you know what? Let`s drive a wedge between white voters and
the Democratic Party. And how can we do that? Scapegoating African-
Americans. Just ramp up the rhetoric, talking --
MATTHEWS: Law and order.
CAPEHART: Yes, law and order, welfare queens.
MATTHEWS: The president talked about that today.
CAPEHART: All sorts of things to try to make African-Americans other, to
make African-Americans not people who have been here and helped build this
country, but these basically sort of foreign invaders who are here at our,
meaning at the rest of the country`s -- you know.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me get Martin.
Colin Powell comes out the other day and says, what are they doing this
for? There`s no evidence of vast voter fraudulence. If one or two people
cheated and they shouldn`t have voted, it didn`t affect the results
anywhere. And if there`s so much of it, point to it.
MARTIN LUTHER KING III, PRESIDENT & CEO, REALIZING THE DREAM: Well,
In fact, he said that the party is going to regret what it did. And, you
know, I`m just trying to understand, is the Republican Party really trying
to win or are they just trying to divide the nation? I would hope that
they not --
MATTHEWS: Are they circling the wagons?
KING: Well, you know, they`re doing superficial things, I think.
I don`t see any real efforts yet, not at all. And I`m disappointed in that
because I think, number one, black folk are not monolithic. There are
African-Americans who are in the Republican Party. And I think we have to
be. In fact, today, one of the things that I was concerned about was we
didn`t have Republicans involved. President Bush was going to come, but of
course he just had his procedure so he wasn`t able to come.
But I would have liked to have seen more Republicans involved today.
MATTHEWS: OK. Good point.
Republicans have launched an all-out war on African-Americans. It`s easy
to point to that. They have introduced voter suppression legislation in
three dozen states this year alone, many of which would hit black districts
the hardest. We all know this. They have blocked efforts for gun control.
Now, you may not say it`s a racial issue, but it`s an issue with
disproportionate effects in urban and black neighborhoods. Look where the
killings are going on. They may want to dismantle, by the way, the
Affordable Care Act, a law which is so clearly helping working class and
poor, working-class African-Americans, partly because it will help insure
millions of people in urban neighborhoods who normally go the E.R.
And they have also advanced an agenda of class warfare by voting to
eradicate social programs like food stamps, programs which
disproportionately affect minority and black communities.
How easy it is to ignore that. The GOP used to compete for the black
American vote and now they`re basically giving up. I go to the cases I
grew up with, Hugh Scott in Pennsylvania, all these statewide guys, Bill
Scranton. They all went in the black community and they competed. And
they may have only gotten the middle class. But there is a middle class in
the blacks who don`t like big taxes, who don`t like all this big
MATTHEWS: They say, look, I`m where I`m at. I want to be left alone. I
want to make some money.
CAPEHART: Look, after the election, I wrote a piece about how the
Republican Party is leaving votes on the table, both policy-wise and
They could compete for the Latino vote. They could compete for the
African-American vote. They could compete for the LBGT vote, the gay vote,
if they would just moderate their --
MATTHEWS: But they have got to make a decision.
MATTHEWS: They have got to change their platform, Jonathan.
CAPEHART: Change their platform, but also change their stances, change
The NAACP did a poll of African-American -- likely African-American voters
in key swing states. And they were asked -- they asked the black voters if
the Republican Party supported social justice issues in some sort of way,
would you be more likely to vote for the Republicans? And they said yes.
MATTHEWS: You`re a little older than this fellow, but you remember the
Lone Ranger and Tonto? He would say, methinks he speaks with forked
OK, here`s a guy that speaks with forked tongue, RNC chair Reince Priebus.
He spoke about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Take a
listen to what he said. Then I will tell you what he`s doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Just think about
what this means for our party, what lessons we can learn, what I can learn
as chairman of the party.
You know, you can`t make the sale if you don`t show up and ask for the
PRIEBUS: Our party has a rich, proud history of equality, freedom,
But we don`t tell our story anymore. We have lost the history of this
party, because we don`t tell it. But we`re going to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s the story, Reince.
The story is that they have spent an enormous amount of time getting three
dozen states, almost all the states, three-quarters of them, basically, to
run voter suppression efforts. In Pennsylvania, the head of the Republican
Party, Gleason, openly says they shaved points by Obama by five points.
They shaved him by five, like old basketball scandals. They shaved the
And the guy has got -- like Turzai, the head of the Republicans in the
House up there Pennsylvania, in Harrisburg, said, we`re going to get Romney
to win this election because we`re going to force them to do voter I.D.
So, clearly, his own Republican rank and file are saying they`re out to
screw the black voter. And the black voter, as we saw wonderfully this
last election, showed up in bigger numbers than whites did, because they
didn`t want to be suppressed.
KING: No -- no question about it.
And in fact, that`s one of the reasons why probably African-American vote
showed up in large numbers, because it was the situation to tell people you
can`t vote. Black folk were saying, no, we`re going to vote. In fact
we`re going to register more.
We got North Carolina, we got Texas, my own state of Georgia, Alabama. All
of these states now have these restrictive laws. I`m very sad about that
because my dad and many others, John Lewis, so many others in our nation,
as well as some Republicans, tried to make it possible for everybody to
vote easily. And there are people who are trying to keep people from
voting. That`s very sad in 2013.
MATTHEWS: So, I`m going to ask you, son. What was it like to be the son
KING: Oh, it was incredible to have the president of the United States, to
have my wife and daughter, my brother and his wife, my sister, to have two
former presidents, to have Congressman Lewis, and the list goes on and on.
It was quite phenomenal, a wonderful experience.
MATTHEWS: And who`s still there? Lewis and a few other people. A
photographer back from `63 who was taking pictures. But, you know, this --
the great thing about the 50th anniversary is you still have some living
Well, of course, you also had Ambassador Young, Reverend Jackson was
around, Reverend Sharpton not 50 years ago but certainly on the stage
today. But just all the organizations, the significant organizations have
representation, including the National Council of Negro Women, which Dr.
Height was leading and, of course, represented today by Ingrid Saunders
MATTHEWS: The thing everyone talked about today was the phenomenal nature
of it. It wasn`t scripted. There was no teleprompter that your dad gave.
It somehow came out when Mahalia Jackson yelled to him, "Tell them about
MATTHEWS: Anyone can yell, "Tell them about the dream." But your father
did something. Did he ever try to explain to you what -- how it came?
KING: No, quite frankly, if you look at iterations, dad did an iterations
in `58 of "I Have a Dream." He did another iteration in 1960 to `61.
Another one in Detroit. So he put them all together to deliver this
incredible message that moved the nation and our world.
MATTHEWS: That crescendo that came at the end, that build, the speech was
kind of prosaic, then he begin talking about my country `tis of thee from
the lyrics of a great song. And the references to the Bible and references
to Shakespeare, and the sweltering summer of discontent.
Mosihial Catantani (ph) at "The New York Times" today pointed out -- people
are going to be studying this for years. The source material of the Bible,
of Shakespeare, of Woody Guthrie, of the declaration, of the documents all
enriching that one statement, in 17 minutes.
KING: Yes. I mean, that`s the brilliance of it. How -- that was the
brilliance of who he as an orator was. And "I Have a Dream" is probably
one of the most well-known speeches on the planet, quite frankly.
MATTHEWS: Around the world.
KING: Around the world. Unquestionably. And I think certainly today
represented so of that, with all the coverage from world networks. I mean,
I`ve done so many things from BBC that I`ve ever done in my life. I`ve
done BBC but because of the importance of this message.
MATTHEWS: What`s it like when you hear him say on tape again my four
little children? You`re one of them.
KING: That certainly -- I am certainly judged by, I think, the content of
my character as an older guy. But I`m concerned that the vast majority of
younger black men are not. Trayvon martin shows us that black men are
first profiled just by the color of your skin.
We got to work on that. You got work to do.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Capehart, I`ve come to really respect your writing and your
thinking. What did you feel today?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: An incredible moment, the entire
day, watching the proceedings. I have to say the most powerful point in
the afternoon came, I believe it was at 4:00 on this channel when we showed
the full 17-minute speech. And to see it in context was incredibly moving.
I sat in my office literally with tears in my eyes as he got to that "I
Have a Dream" part.
MATTHEWS: We`re going to air that again here. We`re going to announce
that 8:00, we`re playing that whole thing again.
CAPEHART: Right. And I sent a tweet after it was over and I could compose
myself. That after listening to it, it was like a 17-minute love letter to
America from a worthy suitor using America`s own words to try to win her
MATTHEWS: From the past.
By the way, you don`t have to say literally, because I know you did have
tears. And I thank you so much. Jonathan Capehart, you`re not Joe Biden.
Thank you, Jonathan Capehart and Martin Luther King III, what an honor to
have you on.
Up next, one of the people who performed at the march on Washington in
1963, he`s coming up right now. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary --
he`ll be on in just a minute and play for us some of the stuff he did back
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: One of the people most impressed with Dr. King`s speech back in
1963 was a man who knew a thing or two himself about giving a speech,
President John F. Kennedy. Taylor Branch who was with us earlier writes
President Kennedy watched King`s speech on TV, he was impressed with how
effortlessly King threw out his prepared text and broke into his "I Have a
Dream" refrain. Branch says Kennedy turned to his aides and remarked,
"He`s damn good." Certainly was.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Boy, that rhythm, it was rousing back then. We`re back right
now, it was the great folk group, Peter, Paul and Mary performing their
hit, "If I Had a Hammer", 50 years ago today on the steps of the Lincoln
Memorial. And joining us is one of the Peter, Paul and Mary crowd, Peter
Yarrow himself. He performed again today five decades after the famous
march on Washington.
There he is. He`s not the musician, of course. He`s vaunted activist for
peace issues and justice. The very issues of war, and civil rights that
they fought for back then.
Thank you for joining us, Peter, my friend.
PETER YARROW, MUSICIAN/ACTIVIST: My brother.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. I love to call you my brother.
Let me ask you about the fact that, one of the great reactions that Dr.
King got 50 years ago, he said, we have a lot of whites here. We got a lot
of whites who support our cause, by the fact they`re here, and the crowd
just went up.
YARROW: You see, what that was then was an affair of the heart. It was
not an affair of policy, although policy was there mentioned. What people
did was they fell in love and got married to a dream that day, and we
stayed married all this time.
Today was a renewal of vows, if you will. You know, OK, we`re still there.
Do you know the Civil Rights Acts were signed at the Religious Action
Center of Reform Judaism because of the collaborative efforts of Jews and
YARROW: That it was -- do you know how many progressive whites were
involved and SNCC, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee? This was a
dream of togetherness, of equality. It was very specifically something
that was inclusive.
That is what he said, is that -- and it wasn`t talking about, let`s try to
make this happen it had happened with this group, and he was celebrating
it, and saying, now we`re going to take it, here are your marching orders.
People really don`t understand that this was a heart centric effort.
MATTHEWS: Boy, the stark reality that. The three guys who were killed and
buried alive, I mean, Schwerner and Goodman and Chaney, two Jewish guys I
believe, and an African-American guy.
YARROW: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: I remember being on television 20 years ago, and somebody was
African-American was saying, Jewish never did anything for us. I said, how
about these cases, what are you talking about?
YARROW: Yes. As a matter of fact, Peter, Paul and Mary sang at the laying
of the gravestone for Andrew Goodman, and the song that we sang was the
same song that we sang.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
YARROW (singing): How many deaths will it take till he knows. That too
many people have died. Well the answer my friend is blowing in the wind,
the answer -
See, when you sing that, there`s something that you can feel from that
first march, which was a combination of the awareness of the pain and the
suffering of African-Americans that whites indeed had taken on themselves.
As if it was in their hearts. There were lynchings once every three days
on average. We -- and hypocritically, you know, we said, the pledge of
allegiance, and liberty and justice for all. We knew that, it was a break
Now today, it`s far more complicated situation.
MATTHEWS: What broke in late `50s, the late `50s and `60s with the beat
period was over. (INAUDIBLE) bringing back with Peter, Paul, and Mary.
The civil rights movement is reaching the crescendo before the war even. I
always tell people, the biggest thing about the `60s were the civil rights
and then the war.
YARROW: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: What brought it to a head. Was it dogs? Was it Bull Connor?
YARROW: I think it was just the sense that we were good enough as a nation
in general to finally be able to put the scales from our eyes and say, look
at the cruelty that we must end.
MATTHEWS: Sing us out.
YARROW: Here we go.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the politics of today.
You know what surprised me, commemorating Martin Luther King`s great
speech, the stunning absence of partisanship. I was on the Washington Mall
all day and didn`t hear the words Mitch McConnell or Ted Cruz or Donald
Trump, not once, not one reference to those who have derided and mocked
this president for four and a half years.
Not a word about those who called him an illegal immigrant, someone who
snuck into the country and pulled a con, that`s Trumps word, on the
American voter. Like he was some guy with a square of cardboard and a
three-card monty going at the corner.
Not a word about the efforts of the rights to nullify the law of the land
on health care, or to impeach Obama, without even -- as I said at the
outset tonight -- the fig leaf of a reason.
So, you have to ask yourself, since the people today, and that clearly
includes the president, didn`t call out the Republicans as the villain.
Why? Why? Why don`t they? The Republicans get back into the contest for
Obama`s not running again. They can run African-American candidates for
office, can`t they? Why not get into the political contest of making their
case to African-Americans. Why not return to where the Republican Party
was, say, back in the 1960s when Republican senators, all but two of them
back the Voting Rights Act? Back when it was the Dixiecrats, the southern
segregationist of a Democratic Party, who were opponents of blacks getting
a real opportunity to vote.
That`s why my little question tonight as we leave each other, why can`t the
Republicans learn to speak. To set a good example for those right wingers
whose racial talk is as Henry Higgins would say, painful to your ears.
That`s HARDBALL tonight. Thanks for being with us. Please stay tuned now
for a special edition of "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES," including the entire "I
Have a Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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