'Up with Steve Kornacki' for Saturday, August 31st, 2013
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UP with STEVE KORNACKI
August 31, 2013
Guests: Marc Ginsberg, James Jeffrey, Miriam Elder, Ed Husain, Perry Bacon Jr., Kurtis Lee, Kate Nocera, Bill Scher, Bill Thompson, Sahil Kapur
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: The president officially remains undecided
about what, if anything, to do about what his own secretary of state
characterized yesterday as overwhelming evidence that Bashar Assad`s regime
killed 1, 429 civilians, including at least 426 children with poison gas.
The statement that John Kerry made strongly suggested that the only
remaining question is when and not if the missiles will start flying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: If we choose to live in a world where a
thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own
people with impunity, even after the United States and our allies said no,
and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test
of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe
that they can do as they will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: President Obama spoke briefly to reporters shortly after Kerry
made those remarks. Well, he was less emphatic, his message was similar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Part of our obligation as a
leader in the world is making sure that when you have a regime that is
willing to use weapons that are prohibited by international norms on their
own people, including children, that they are held to account.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The team of U.N. weapons inspectors investigating the attack
have now left Syria, and we are waiting their final report. Meanwhile,
Pentagon officials tell NBC News that five guided missile destroyers are in
the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and that nearly all of the targets have
already been loaded into the warheads of some 200 tomahawk cruise missiles.
A strike would be limited and tailored to Syria`s chemical weapons program.
President Obama were to order such a strike it will come without support
from Great Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a humiliate
rebuke in parliament on Thursday when members have voted against military
Cameron now says he will honor their wishes. While France`s leader says
they are in, and he -- any American strike would also come without the
blessing of the United Nations Security Council where Russia and China,
staunch allies of Syria, both of them loom as impenetrable barriers to any
And for now, at least, it would also come without explicit authorization
from Congress as even as more and more members from both parties are
speaking of to demand at the White House first clear any attack with the
House and the Senate. We have a sense of where the public stands on this,
although, the results are somewhat murky.
In the latest NBC News polls, 42 percent say the U.S. should take military
action in the face of reports of chemical weapons use by the Syrian
government, 50 percent say we shouldn`t. The numbers flip, though, when
people are told that the attack will be limited to airstrikes. Then 50
percent say to go ahead and only 44 percent say no.
There`s a lot to talk about here. Let`s go first to NBC News foreign
correspondent, Ayman Mohyeldin, who`s in the region right now live from
Beirut, Lebanon. And Ayman, you know, can you just give us a sense of the
mood of the region over there? This potential attack has really been
clearly telegraphed, you know, on this side of the ocean. Are people just
sort of bracing for the when and not if reality of this?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC NEWS, BEIRUT, LEBANON: Absolutely. I think most
people we`ve been speaking to here and reading of the situation, it`s a
foregone conclusion that some type of military strike is going to happen.
Even the Syrian government anticipates it. Syrian state television has
been broadcasting for the last couple of hours patriotic songs,
nationalistic songs to try and rally the morale of the country, perhaps,
even the troops and those in government.
At the same time, they, themselves, have reportedly come out and said they
expect and anticipate a strike on the government or on the country in any
given point. Here in Lebanon, those weapons inspectors that you mentioned
crossed over from Syria into Lebanon. They left today. They`re expected
to present their findings, in perhaps, as early as two weeks, but they will
give some initial conclusions of their reports to the U.N. secretary-
general as early as Monday.
Meanwhile, here in Lebanon, the situation does remain tense. The
government has beefed up security, but more importantly, a lot of foreign
governments are asking their citizens either to leave Lebanon or in the
case of some, to avoid any nonessential travel to the country. So, it
gives you a sense that anxiety here in Lebanon and across the region is
reaching new levels of nervousness -- Steve.
KORNACKI: And Ayman, you talked a little bit there about some of the
preparations that the Syrian government is taking in terms of broadcasting
patriotic songs. Given how sort of publicly all of this sort of
deliberations here in the United States about whether to attack or not have
played out, has that given -- do you have a sense, has that given the
Syrian government an opportunity to make specific preparations for what the
U.S. is about to do?
MOHYELDIN: Well, certainly the Syrian government has been denying any
responsibility for chemical weapons attack. They say this is part of a
larger conspiracy of western aggression on the country to weaken it. Now,
there are reports that are coming out from various opposition sources about
various troop movements that their military has evacuated some buildings
that they anticipate being hit.
Now, that`s very difficult to confirm because it is coming from the
opposition sources who do have scouts on the ground and are monitoring the
situation. In fact, one of the senior commanders of the opposition did say
that his groups were going to try and attempt and exploit or capitalize on
the momentum. That may be created from a U.S. strike on Syrian military
But in terms of the Syrian government coming out, they have remained
defiant saying they will defend their territory, but no indication right
now of anything official in terms of movements -- Steve.
KORNACKI: OK. My thanks to Ayman Mohyeldin in Beirut.
And now, for the latest on what President Obama may be deciding, we turn to
Kristen Welker who is at the White House. Kristen, good morning to you.
What can you tell us from Washington?
KRISTEN WELKER, MSNBC NEWS: Steve, good morning to you. Well, I can tell
you that administration officials will be briefing Congressional
Republicans today as they continue to build their case. President Obama
has said that he hasn`t made a final decision yet about how to proceed.
But, look, the military has a plan in place. They have five navy
destroyers in the Mediterranean.
Submarines there ready to move in and attack, if that is what President
Obama, in fact, decides to do. So, really, a military strike could come at
any time. We expect President Obama to continue to reach out to his
foreign counterparts today. I know that he placed phone calls to the prime
minister of Britain yesterday as well as the President of France.
Of course, the administration has not been able to build that broad base of
international support that they were hoping for, particularly, surprised by
the fact that the British parliament voted against joining in any military
effort. But it does appear as though France is on board. President Obama
has vowed that any military strike would be limited in scope and still
vowing no boots on the ground -- Steve.
KORNACKI: All right. Thanks to Kristen Welker who`s live at the White
House. Appreciate it.
I want to bring in now Ed Husain. He`s a senior fellow from Middle Eastern
Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Marc Ginsberg former U.S.
ambassador to Morocco and a former White House advisor on Middle East
policy, James Jeffrey, he`s a former U.S ambassador to Iraq and Turkey, now
a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute and think-tank on U.S.-Middle
East policy, and Miriam Elder, a former Moscow bureau chief for "The
Guardian" and now the foreign editor at BuzzFeed.com. Thank you all for
I guess, I`ll start by just sort of an open question and feel free to speak
up here if you think this, but is there anything right now, does anybody on
this panel think anything could happen in the next few hours, in the next
day or two, that would stop the United States from launching a military
attack? Does anybody think anything could change at this point?
MARC GINSBERG, FMR U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO: Yes. I mean, I could say
that there are several things. It could very well be that the president
feels that for all of the reasons at this particular second, he does not
want to launch this attack, and yet, he`s reserving the right to. I mean,
the element of surprise, whatever that may mean in the end, has been lost
here in so far as the Syrians are concerned.
There`s nothing in my judgment that`s going to change the equation between
him now doing it today, tomorrow, or two weeks from now. Other than the
fact that the media and the White House, frankly, has created this buzz
that this attack is inevitable.
The fact that the president is going through the necessary motions of
briefing the Congress and trying to at least make sure that Congressional
leadership is on board, may take a few more days. So, I`m not convinced
that this could happen within the next few hours.
KORNACKI: But you are convinced there will be an attack?
GINSBERG: I`m actually convinced that there will be an attack. I just am
not prepared to say it will be right now.
KORNACKI: That`s an interesting point. You talk about the buzz that`s
been created around this. And ambassador, I wonder if there`s -- so if
what marc Is saying is correct that maybe this takes a few days, maybe this
even takes a few weeks before there`s an attack. So much of what we`ve
heard is about the United States needs to follow through on this to show
that its word means something. Every day that there`s a delay right now,
that story only seems to build.
JAMES JEFFREY, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: That`s true, but I do think
that the president has almost certainly taken a decision. He probably will
await the preliminary report from the U.N. inspectors. That`s only
prudent. The only thing I think at this point could stop it would be some
extraordinarily dramatic action on the part of the Syrians.
I think that`s highly unlikely, but it`s very, very wise to never assume
that a future course of action is absolutely etched in stone because we`ve
seen when there can be changes. But for the moment, I think that you can
operate any assumption that he`s ready to cross the line.
KORNACKI: OK. And we talk about how this has been telegraphed publicly.
Miriam, I guess, the other question I have is, we have the president saying
that this would be limited and narrow in scope if that`s what he`s
considering. That`s certainly the expectation. All of the reporting
that`s come out, all of the sort of, you know, source stuff from behind the
scenes has indicated that.
But is there a possibility that this ends up being more involved than we
realized of, a more significant military action than has been telegraphed
MIRIAM ELDER, BUZZFEED.COM: Absolutely. And I think that`s why a lot of
people are questioning whether this is the right course of action, because
you can want a limited strike but the variables are unknown. The reactions
are unknown. And let`s say we react to a chemical strike today and then
Assad reacts with a chemical strike on his people again in two weeks` time,
a month`s time in six months` time. How does the U.S. respond then?
KORNACKI: Right. And Ed, maybe you can pick up that point, because I know
you have lots of reservations to say the least about the United States
doing anything right now. How would you respond what Miriam just said?
ED HUSAIN, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think Miriam is absolutely
right. There`s a real risk that the more we obliterate Assad`s
conventional ways (ph) of striking, this is a fight to the end for Assad
fight for his survival that he will resort to using extreme forms of
weaponry in his defense which include weapons of mass destruction. There`s
But the concern that the very allies that we`re trying to protect, i.e.,
Turkey, Jordan, Israel, will be first in the line of being attacked by
Assad in the form of retaliation. And, in that same vain, I would say
still premature for the United States to respond now. This is a response
primarily that ought to come from the region.
Between Israel, Turkey, Jordan, and other nations in the region, they have
the military sophistication to strike Assad in a way that forces him to
rethink his actions again without the U.S. dealing a blow at this juncture.
If our allies aren`t competent enough to strike him and his military`s
defense systems adequately, then I think it`s responsible for the U.S. to
act or if those allies are struck in a way that they need backup, much in
the way that the Nazis were obliterated because France and the U.K. weren`t
up to the job of containing the Nazis, that the United States rightly went
And I think at that juncture, if the war were to spread in Syria, beyond
Syria in a serious way that requires U.S. response that the U.S. military
force ought to be --
HUSAIN: -- it`s still too soon to be going and let Israel, Turkey, and
Jordan and others do the job.
KORNACKI: I see you shaking your head, Marc. What confuses me overall
about this is what is the objective, if this is a limited in scope strike,
that if what`s sort of been reported the idea that, you know, Assad needs
to pay a price for crossing the red line that was established by the
president last year. But at the same time, United States doesn`t want to
knock him out of power because that would unleash chaos.
I don`t see what the real objective of that is from Assad`s standpoint if
you`re trying to make him pay but you let him stay in power, what do you
GINSBERG: In a perfect world, if it was the perfect world, we`d have a
coalition of Turkey and Israel and Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but you know
what, it`s not the perfect world in the Middle East. The fact of the
matter is is that this is not an isolated situation of determining American
credibility with respect to Syria.
When I hear all of the commentary about saying, well, we have to do what is
only, you know, why is the United States taking the lead here. Let`s
remember. It`s not merely a question of Syria being a test of American
credibility. It`s what will Israel do if the United States does not act
with respect to a red line in Syria and attack Iran if the United States is
not prepared to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
GINSBERG: North Korea. OK. There are so many other variables involving
the credibility. It was not I or you who said that the president of the
United States needed to come out and say there was a red line that was
crossed. It was the president of the United States that put the United
States` credibility on the line.
And whether we like it or not, the reality of the world is is that the
United States` credibility, not President Obama`s, but the United States`
credibility is on the line with respect to North Korea, with respect to our
allies, with respect to Iran, and with respect to Israel.
KORNACKI: I want to pick up that point in a second and get it a little
more closely, but first, Ambassador Jeffrey, I know, you want to try to
just answer that question. So, if the United States` credibility is on the
line with the red line that was established, then the question is, how does
this very surgical strike that does not disrupt Assad`s power really
JEFFREY: I think I can explain that. What we`re trying to do is to get
Assad not to use chemical weapons again in the massive way he did for two
reasons. One is, in and of itself, this is a horrible crime and this is a
real threat to international security as the president said yesterday and
to American national security.
Secondly, this can be a game changer on the ground that can go from Syria
going from relative stalemate to Assad rolling up the opposition over time
if he continues to use these massive strikes combined with conventional
forces. And we don`t want to see Assad win. And we may not want to see
him lose, but we certainly don`t want to see him win.
By taking these actions such as this, we`re using a model we used very
effectively in Kosovo, Bosnia, Libya several years ago, and against Iraq in
1998 in "Desert Fox" where from a distance, using strikes against key
military and other command and control facilities, we degrade the ability
of the other side to conduct military operations and get them to rethink
what they want to do. That`s the objective that the president would have.
KORNACKI: There`s a question there of what happens if the strikes do not
accomplish anything, do not cause Assad to rethink what he`s doing. Does
the United States get sucked in? Do we have to escalate a little bit?
I`ll pick that up right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: So, what does the president want to do?
The president, apparently, wants to have a kind of a cosmetic strike,
launch a few missiles and then say, well, we responded. This is the same
president that two years ago said Bashar Assad had to go. It`s also the
president who said there would be a red line if they used chemical weapons.
Maybe that red line was written in disappearing ink. I don`t know. But we
need to --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
MCCAIN: We have to be as good as our word. And, is there any good
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Sen. John McCain last night on "The Tonight Show" seeming to say
right there that what`s on the table at least what`s been publicly revealed
about what the administration wants to do here is not going to be
sufficient at least in his view. I want to pick the point up with you, Ed,
and we started to get into this with Ambassador Jeffrey before the break.
He laid out the sort of the best case scenario for what intervention can
accomplish. It can sort of cause a change in the thinking of Assad maybe
getting to the table. The flip side of that that I raised before the break
though, is, let`s say there`s this, as john McCain calls it a cosmetic
strike, it does not change Assad`s thinking, and instead, Assad responds by
launching more chemical attacks. What happens then? What does the United
States do in that situation?
HUSAIN: Then Assad is in control of the battlefield by forcing the United
States to respond just by mere virtue of the domestic considerations inside
Syria. The fact that the U.S. has laid this precedent, every time there`s
a significant chemical weapons attack, the U.S. now feels compelled to
That means the U.S. is now drawn into yet another Middle Eastern war, I
guess another Arab war, I guess another Muslim war in which we don`t have
support from the Arab league, which we don`t have support from the U.N. or
even European allies which forces the U.S. again to be isolated and again
to be sucked into Middle Eastern war.
And the worst situation is that in the quagmire that we create in Syria
that Assad falls, and then we see jihadists and others becoming even
stronger in the Middle East and using Syria as a Launchpad for attacks into
neighboring countries. So, the risks of attacking are extremely high, and
we`re not paying enough attention, I think, the retaliation that we will
see from Russia, from Hezbollah, from Iran, from Syria.
We`re just thinking by just attacking, we`re doing our job. We can retreat
and say, oh, the president has kept his word. But it`s not only about
keeping the president`s word, because what will happen is that the
president will be forced to amplify and ramp up this war and create a mess
that is beyond our control.
KORNACKI: So Miriam, Ed just mentioned Russia and that`s, you know, a huge
factor. We talk about how Russia is blocking -- stands as this obstacle to
the U.N. Security Council taking action. I wonder -- we just laid out the
scenario. Let`s say that this attack does not force Assad to rethink
anything and there are more chemical attacks. Is there a point where
Russia reconsiders its posture on Syria?
ELDER: Where it drops its support for Assad you mean?
KORNACKI: Admits (ph), you know, the chemical weapon -- sort of
acknowledges the same chemical evidence that the administration is now sort
ELDER: I find that very unlikely. Russia`s position in the world, in
general, is just to kind of be this force to stand up to the United States.
I don`t think that they`re willing to go far enough to be part any of
response to a U.S. attack on Syria.
However, it`s in their interest to just kind of have America involved in
this mess in the Middle East for as long as it can and wants to see the
U.S. bogged down. But it doesn`t have the strength or the desire to really
respond to the United States.
KORNACKI: How important is Syria to Russia right now?
ELDER: I think it`s important in, actually, mainly a cosmetic way. They
do have this port there but calling it a port is kind of an exaggeration.
It`s like this rusted sort of thing in the sea to reload its own ships.
It`s an arms client but not a major arms client. It`s more like its last
holdout in the Middle East. So, it`s more something for its own prestige.
KORNACKI: So I once said earlier we`d revisit this issue of the red line.
And it seems, again, I`ve heard two different justifications for potential
military action here. The case that John Kerry laid out yesterday was the
humanitarian case, was just 426 children, 1,400 civilians and you look at
that and it seems like there is -- if the United States can do something,
every instinct in your body, I think, is to say, we should do something.
But at the same time, I hear it almost feels like that might be cover for a
different case. The case being the president laid down this red line. We
have other countries we need to, in the world, that we need to tell, you
know, we mean something when we say red line. Is that really what this is
about -- taking the red line?
JEFFREY: Yes as well. And I think Kerry was very explicit in laying out
our allies and he named them, who can be -- what did he say? A stiff
breeze away from Damascus. That`s a consideration. Also, American
credibility in half a dozen frozen conflicts or other very difficult
situations from North Korea all the way through the Middle East. These are
all things that the president also has to take into consideration.
The president said something very important yesterday. He said this is all
about American national security. Not just the national security of the
people of Syria or the people in the region. That we have major, major
stakes here. And finally, in terms of getting bogged down, anything is
possible, particularly, when you go to something that approaches -- but
I`ve worked for President Obama.
And if there`s ever a president who`s unlikely to get us bogged down, every
instinct is not to get tied down, particularly, in a ground war, it`s
KORNACKI: But I wonder -- you mentioned this earlier Marc the idea of, you
know, Iran watching, of North Korea watching, does that really change their
thinking if -- again, we`re saying, the one thing I guess if we launch this
strike and Assad, you know, rethinks everything -- but if this is a strike
that sort of doesn`t change that much. It just leaves Assad in power.
He`s not at the negotiating table. We`ve enforced our red line, whatever
that means. We`ve launched a strike. Doesn`t Iran look at that and take
sort of the opposite, you know, message that, you know, hey, we can kind of
act with impunity here and we`re going to suffer, you know, a kind of
minimal cosmetic strike?
GINSBERG: It`s not merely a question of that calculus alone, Steve. The
fact of the matter is is that, in a very troubled Middle East, where
American interests are not just regarding humanitarian issues in Syria but
involve our interests in the Persian Gulf. We have other allies that we
actually have a defense agreement with. It`s not just Israel. It`s the
United Arab Emirates.
We do a great deal of military cooperation with Egypt if we ever restore
relationships there. If it were merely a question whether the United
States was sitting on this side of the Atlantic and it was a chemical
weapons attack and for humanitarian reasons alone, Americans were aghast at
what they saw on the television, well then, we could say we had no further
interest in the region other than punishing Assad.
But whether we like it or not, it`s not a question of us getting dragged
into a situation in Syria. Look, the bottom line is the bottom line. The
contagion of the Syrian civil war is going to affect this region for
decades to come. It`s going to redraw sectarian and religious lines in the
region. The worst thing that we could do here is to pretend as if somehow
or other this is an isolated situation that doesn`t affect American
interests elsewhere in the world.
That`s what the president is talking about. When the president said this
is an issue of American national security, he understood, as Secretary
Kerry did, that the ramifications of not doing nothing could come back and
haunt us years to come.
KORNACKI: Ed, let me just finish with you because you said, and I asked at
the very beginning of the show, you know, if anybody thinks there`s not
going to be military action here and you said, with everybody else, you
think there`s going to be.
You don`t think it`s a good idea, but we do have, you know, as Ambassador
Jeffrey said, there are cases in the past which humanitarian interventions
have worked. We looked at Kosovo, we looked at Bosnia in the 1990s. Do
you see a possibility that despite your reservation, this could actually
HUSAIN: There`s a possibility tha Assad and his allies may not ramp up
the conflict, but given the probability that they will simply because it`s
a fight to the death for them, simply because Syria is a country which
reflects the sectarian, religious, ethnic composition of the Middle East in
a way that no other country in the region does in terms of numbers. Even
Lebanon doesn`t come close to the numbers that Syria does.
Any involvement in Syria at the moment where we have Hezbollah fighting al
Qaeda, our enemy fighting our enemies and let them fight. Let them die.
Like Henry Kissinger said, it`s too bad both sides can`t lose.
By the U.S. getting involved and Assad responding and, therefore, ramping
up the conflict and the U.S. getting even further involved, despite
reservations about not getting involved simply because of the fact that
Assad may not be using chemical weapons again. There`s no guarantee that
he won`t. And if he does, we`re even more involved.
HUSAIN: The only way to end this conflict is to have boots on the ground.
We`re not prepared to do that for understandable reasons. And unless the
international community or whether it`s the Jordanians or the Turks are
prepared to put soldiers on the ground that separate fighting faction from
fighting faction and force both sides to the negotiating table, there`s no
other way after --
GINSBERG: But we`re involved.
KORNACKI: Very quick, Marc.
GINSBERG: We`re involved no matter what we do here. We`re providing
intelligence support. We`re facilitating arms transfers. We`ve been
providing the Turks and Jordanians --
HUSAIN: That`s different from striking. That`s different from striking.
GINSBERG: We`re really involved whether we like it or not.
HUSAIN: Direct or indirect is the question. Indirect and not (ph) direct
KORNACKI: OK. It`s the biggest story going on right now. We`re going to
pick it up next hour. We`re going to be talking about it all weekend. We
will be following all the developments in Syria throughout the day here on
MSNBC. And the next hour, we`re going to look at how President Obama`s
decision compares to what Bill Clinton faced in 1998 in Kosovo.
For now, I want to thank Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations,
Marc Ginsberg, a former U.S. ambassador to Morocco, James Jeffrey, former
U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Turkey, and Miriam Elder of BuzzFeed.com.
President Obama has talked about race plenty in his political career, but
is he talking about it differently now that he`ll never have to face the
voters again? That`s next.
KORNACKI: The way that Barack Obama talked about race played a big role in
his climb from the Illinois State Senate to the presidency in a span of
just four years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America
and Asian America. There`s the United States of America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But when he won re-election last November 6th, the climbing
ended. For the next four years, Obama would enjoy all of the powers of the
presidency and none of the pressures that come with having to run again.
This is how President Obama in his second term talks about race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who
marched 50 years ago was not merely how many Blacks could join the ranks of
millionaires. It was whether this country would admit all people who are
willing to work hard regardless of race into the ranks of the middle class
KORNACKI: Is it any different? One of our guests thinks so, and he`s
going to tell us why right after this.
KORNACKI: He`s now furiously studying for panels here on UP, our friend,
Perry Bacon Jr. moonlight as the political editor for our sister site,
TheGrio.com. He wrote a provocative piece there this week, arguing that
President Obama is more willing to talk bluntly about issues of race and
class now that he`s won a second term.
From his article, quote, "Obama did not want to turn his presidency into
one focused on his race but would feel more comfortable engaging cultural
issues that were broader than just policy concerns like health care and the
economy." In just the past few months, the president has spoken at length
and in deeply personal terms about the acquittal of George Zimmerman and
the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
At the 50th anniversary of the march in Washington this past Wednesday and
he stood on the steps of the Lincoln -- excuse me, reading that wrong --
that`s where he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and he channeled
many of the social and economic themes that animated the original
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: With that courage, we can stand together for good jobs and just
wages. With that courage, we can stand together for the right to health
care in the richest nation on Earth for every person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Not everyone thinks we`re seeing a different President Obama
when it comes to race. Reacting to Wednesday`s speech, the "Daily Beast"
Jamelle Bouie wrote, "Simply put 350 years of bondage and oppression can`t
be ameliorated with 50 years of citizenship rights, tepid liberal programs,
and color blindness. That includes the president who works hard to avoid
race and its role in shaping our problems."
Here to discuss is the author of the piece that inspired the segment, Perry
Bacon Jr. of the Grio.com and joining us also on our panel. We have Bill
Scher, the online campaign manager at Campaign for America`s Future, the
executive editor of the blog and podcast LiberalOasis.com., Kate Nocera.
She`s the Capitol Hill reporter for BuzzFeed.com, and Kurtis Lee, he`s the
political reporter for the "Denver Post."
So, Perry, just sort of start by kind of outlining what you wrote this
week, but you`re saying, first term Obama, second term Obama, when it comes
to race, there is a difference.
PERRY BACON JR., THE GRIO.COM: The difference. There`s not a huge
difference. (INAUDIBLE) 2004, 2006. He`s mostly a person who`s pretty
optimistic about race. He doesn`t want to be bogged down and only talking
about racial issues. He doesn`t want to be defined as sort of the Black
president or the Black senator before. That`s it. Look at the second
term. He talked about Trayvon Martin for two minutes in 2012. He talked
about it for 18 minutes in 2013.
I think the White House advisers said this personal tone he gave about
Trayvon Martin is unlikely to be something he would have said in 2009 when
after the (INAUDIBLE) gave a controversy. They were a little wary about
certain kinds of issues. Also look at Eric Holder what he`s done. A lot
of things on mandatory minimum sentences in terms of -- African-American.
He`s been very aggressive on voter I.D. laws and trying to reverse what`s
happened in Texas and looking to North Carolina. I think if you look at
Michelle Obama made this comment about Hadiya Pendleton is me and I was
her. This is a young girl who was shot in Chicago earlier this year and
Michelle Obama, a Black woman. And then, Michelle Obama very personalized
I think you`re seeing -- it`s not a huge shift, but they are more willing
to engage on these kinds of issues about culture, about race, and also
about income inequality. I mean, Obama, you remember, was this community
organizer. That sort of animated his career early on, but the first term
was very much about the economy and the middle class versus now he sounds
much more liberal in terms of talking about the problem of income
He said a few weeks ago, if we have more income inequality, it can actually
hurt race relations in the country, which is a pretty bold statement and
something I think he would not have said in 2011.
KORNACKI: Is that something do you attribute it to the idea of the first
term president who has to run for re-election and is just thinking of
playing it a lot safer and the second term president who`s maybe a little
emboldened and maybe liberated? Do you think that`s where it is? Do you
think something else is going on?
BACON: I think there`s two things here. I do think the first thing is
winning re-election does for you to say certain things. One of the people
I talk to the White House a lot says, this is Second term Obama now, Perry.
Think about it. Second term Obama. I think meaning the -- meaning he`s
free to say some things.
Also, the issues have changed a little bit, too, where I think in the first
term there was a sense that if we don`t talk about certain issues, income
inequality, race it will help the Republicans work with us more. I was
with Valerie Jarrett with a meeting with Joy Reid (ph) and I a few days ago
and she was talking about the point that we don`t want to like -- we don`t
want to be blocked by the Republicans all the time.
The Republicans is going to oppose us on everything anyways. So, we can`t
shy away from certain kinds of issues because the Republicans were scared
of them. They are always going to oppose us. We need to like lean on
issues that are important to the country and the president can`t avoid
those kinds of issues.
KORNACKI: So, I`m curious and open this to the panel (ph), too, what
everybody made of the president`s speech this week, you know, on Wednesday
because I heard, you know, different takes.
I`ve heard -- we read Jamelle Bouie`s, you know, take from the "Daily
Beast" this week where he was basically saying this is another example of
President Obama, you know, bending over backwards not to make anything sort
of race explicit where he`s talking about, you know, this is not just about
Black Americans. This is about all Americans. He`s saying he`s not
picking up any kind of change there. Kurtis, I wonder just watching this
speech this week what you made of it.
KURTIS LEE, THE DENVER POST: Well, going back to what Perry was saying. I
mean, in President Obama`s first term, he rarely -- you didn`t hear him
speak about race that often, I think, outside of the Trayvon Martin
incident where he said Trayvon Martin looks kind of like his son. There
was Henry Louis Gates issue where the president said that the police
officer acted stupid in arresting, handing (ph) those case.
I thought that the president, I mean, coming back to his speech on
Wednesday, he came out and he did strike tones with race. I mean, he
addressed Black unemployment and how it`s been high in the four years that
he`s been in office and it`s continued into his second term. And he really
hit on tones that, you know, that with -- where -- with race. I mean, it
worked out well.
KORNACKI: If we mention the gates thing from 2010 twice now. It really
seems like that was one of those moments that was sort of a revealing
moment for a lot of people, but I think for the White House, too, right,
where the president said something that I think, it felt like a natural
sort of instinctive response for him and I think he was surprised.
I was surprised by the blowback, frankly, that that engendered, but I think
he was, too, and that sort of -- that really seemed to shape the White
House`s attitude for at least the next two years.
KATE NOCERA, BUZZFEED.COM: I was really interested in your piece just
because the reaction that I heard on "The Hill" was that he didn`t talk
enough about the Voting Rights Act, that he wasn`t forceful enough. And,
you know, I was there on Saturday watching the speeches as well. And I saw
Eric Holder come out and very forcefully talk about, you know, this is what
we`re going to do with the Voting Rights Act and we`re not going to let
people to take this away.
And so, I was interested from you why you thought that the president was --
was more forceful.
BACON: This is more forceful than he was in 2009. Not as forceful as the
CBC would like him to. There`s two different points. I mean, the first is
that the White House view of this is, any issue we talk about becomes more
partisanised. So, their argument would be, of course, we want a new Voting
Rights Act, but if the president gave three speeches about that, that would
be the worst possible way to make that happen.
And I think there`s a lot of evidence for that to be true. So, in some
ways, Eric Holder works for the president. So, the fact that Eric Holder
is being more assertive on these issues is not an accident and not
something the president is not aware of and therefore involved in as well.
The second point, I think the more broad one that in Jamelle`s piece got
it, there is a real legitimate point here that the president talks in terms
of the economy, in terms of still in a very color blind way.
In 1963, African-Americans earned 55 cents for every $1 Whites earned. In
2011, 66 cents for every $1. So, there`s a real policy point, whatever you
think of the rhetoric that maybe the president`s view is just wrong in that
we need -- you may need to have more race specific policies to address the
huge disparities in this country.
And whatever you think about how often or how he talks about race, you may
need to have different public policies to address these disparities. And
that`s what Jamelle was talking about and that was -- what I hear. You may
just need to lean in more colorblind policies may not work at all.
KORNACKI: All right. Well, we have to -- we have 3 1/2 years left of a
second term. So, I have a feeling we will revisit this a few times between
now and then.
There was something that was missing from the march of Washington
festivities this week, and I`ll give you a hint. It starts with "R" and
ends with epublicans. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN LUTHER KING, III, SON OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: If I had to say I
had a disappointment, that would be the disappointment that we didn`t have
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s Martin Luther king`s son, Martin Luther King III just
after Wednesday`s 50th anniversary commemoration on the steps of the
Lincoln memorial. By now, you`ve probably heard about what he was talking
about there, the complete absence of prominent Republicans from the program
at Wednesday`s ceremony.
Big name Democrats like Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, John
Lewis, Caroline Kennedy, and Martin O`Malley, they all took part. But the
two former President Bushs, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Jeb Bush, John
McCain, Mike Huckabee, they are all among the Republicans that organizers
say were invited but declined to attend.
Now, there were some obvious disclaimers. There are health reasons why
George H.W. Bush could not make the trip to Washington, D.C. George W.
Bush did just have heart surgery, although, I think I saw him at the SMU
football game last night. There are also apparently -- there`s also
apparently some dispute over how much notice some of the no-shows got from
While we can quibble over whether they got one, two or three weeks` notice,
what we do know is that this milestone event, the 50th anniversary of the
march on Washington, was not one that Republicans marked on their own
calendars and made it priority to commemorate. After all, they didn`t have
to be invited to speak to just show up and pay their respects.
Let`s not pretend this is surprising, because part of the story of the
civil rights movement, a big part of the story is how it fundamentally
remade both political parties, leaving one a lot more interested in and
responsive to the plight of Black Americans than the other. This graph
tells the story. It shows which party Black Americans have identified with
since 1936. You can see in the early years there around the depression and
World War II, it`s basically a tie.
African-Americans were just as likely to call themselves Republicans back
then as Democrats. And in fact, the graph doesn`t show it, but if you went
back farther than that, if you looked at the 50 years or so between the end
of reconstruction and the depression, you`d probably find that Republicans
were more popular with African-Americans than with Democrats back then.
That`s because the GOP of that era was filled with liberals from the north
who in the wake of the civil war briefly managed to impose a measure of
racial equality on the south. That equality didn`t last, though, because
conservative White Democrats in the south fought it and imposed Jim Crow.
It`s where segregation came from.
Anyway, let`s go back to that graph now, because by World War II, you can
see that both parties are equally popular with African-Americans with
Democrats gaining favor because of FDR and the new deal, but now look at
1948. That is the first key turning point in modern history. There is an
obvious reason for it, too. 1948 is the year that a Democratic president,
Harry Truman, signed an executive order integrating the armed forced.
And it is also the year that northern liberals successfully ratified a
platform plank at the Democratic National Convention calling for civil
rights. That move prompted a walkout by southern segregationists who then
nominated their own rump ticket headed by Strom Thurmond, the dixiecrat,
they were called. So, that explains the sharp spike in support you see
there among African-Americans for the Democratic Party in 1948.
It was the year that the forces of integration in civil rights really began
to win the party`s internal war, the year when African-Americans could
really start to see their political future in the Democratic Party. And
now, look at the next spike. That would be 1964. That is the year after
the 1963 March. It is the same year that a Democratic president, Lyndon
Johnson, finally broke the South`s filibuster and pushed the civil rights
act of 1964 through Congress and into law.
And it is also the same year, 1964, that the Republican Party nominated for
president a Senator, Barry Goldwater, who had joined the South`s
filibuster. And now, you can look at the years and the decades after 1964.
And you can see that nothing really changes. African-American support for
the Republican Party teeters between very low and microscopic. These are
the same years and decades that the center of power within the GOP shifted
from the north and the Midwest to the south, to the White conservative
The years of Nixon southern strategy, of Ronald Reagan`s infamous trip to
Philadelphia, Mississippi, now to the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act
and all the restricted new voting laws we`re suddenly seeing. Is it
disappointing that Republicans weren`t part of the march on Washington
anniversary? Of course, it was. But is it a surprise? Not really. It`s
the story of the last 50 years.
Real football fans love a good snowball. If you`re the governor of the
state hosting the first outdoor cold weather Super Bowl ever, are you
really supposed to say that`s what you`re hoping for? We`ll tackle that
KORNACKI: Super Bowl XLVIII is going to be held next February at Metlife
Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the old (INAUDIBLE). It`s where
the Jets and Giants play. It`s the first time ever that the NFL`s premier
event will take place in an outdoor stadium in a cold weather city.
And this week, we learned that the Farmer`s Almanac is predicting a
bitterly cold upcoming winter, meaning, I guess, the field could be covered
in snow for the big game. New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, was the
guest host Monday on a sports talk show -- sports talk radio show, and he
gave a defiant response to that possibility.
Quote, "Listen, I`ve already got the plows fired up. They`re good to go.
They`re ready to go. Let me tell you, nobody is going to be slipping on
ice and not being able to get to the stadium. We`re from New Jersey. It
snows all the time. I`d like a blinding snowstorm during the game. It
would be amazing."
So, I`m struck by this that the -- this is the marquee showcase event for
the state of New Jersey. The whole world is going to be watching and the
governor is saying, yes, I`d like a natural disaster. It seems a little
BILL SCHER, CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA`S FUTURE: Well, on the upside for
Christie, it makes him sound like a regular guy, just a football fan who
wants a fun, crazy game. But the thing that catches my eye in that
statement is I`ve got the plows fired up. He better have the plows fired
SCHER: -- if it snows. Many politicians has been befallen by a snowstorm.
No one likes when they can`t get to the game. So, he better make sure all
his ducks are lined up before the game starts.
KORNACKI: That`s right. I tell you what, I do kind -- I don`t know if the
governor of the whole state is supposed to be saying this. He`s probably
supposed to be saying, no, it`s going to be 50 and balmy and all of that.
But, I do love a football game in the snow. There`s something almost
romantic about it, you know?
LEE: You played the AFC championship game in New England and the NFC
championship game in Green Bay some years. I mean, it`s cold out there.
This -- what Christie is saying, he`s a football guy. That`s what football
fans want. They want to see a blizzard out there.
KORNACKI: I hate it. Then they send them to a dome -- the Miami or San
Diego or whatever. That`s not real football. Real football is the frozen
tundra of Lambeau Field and all that.
NOCERA: Thank you for explaining all of this.
KORNACKI: But it`s -- I`ll tell you. The reason I have the soft spot for
snow football is I`m from New England. I`m from Massachusetts, and one of
the greatest moments in New England Patriots history was in January 2002.
It was the snowball game against the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs.
That`s the one where Tom Brady, you know, -- it was clearly an incomplete
pass but some people say he fumbled the ball and the refs overturned it.
There`s obviously an incomplete pass. I have a real soft spot for football
in the snow. So, I would just -- the novelty of seeing the Super Bowl kind
of messed up by this, I guess, would be kind of interesting. But again,
the governor of the state, I think you`re sort of the chamber of commerce
guy. You`re supposed to be hoping for nice weather, but that`s Chris
Christie for you.
KORNACKI: Anyway, when the rest of his party was rolling over from Michael
Bloomberg four years ago, there was One New York Democrat who stood up and
ran against him and who almost pulled off a stunning upset. Now, Bill
Thompson is running again and he is an underdog again with ten days to go
before the Democratic primary for mayor of America`s biggest city. Bill
Thompson will join us at the table. That is live. That is next.
KORNACKI: The big story in the race for mayor of New York this month has
been the sudden and dramatic rise of Bill De Blasio. It`s where new polls
came out this and all of them showed him surging in for the least. The
most recent, a "New York Times"/Siena College poll released yesterday put
De Blasio at 32 percent trailed by Bill Thompson with 18 percent and
Christine Quinn with 17 percent. And the primary is just ten days away on
September 10th. If none of the candidates break 40 percent that day, a
run-off will be held three weeks later.
So, this race is probably more fluid than the poll makes it look. A
surprising reason that de Blasio`s support is soaring is that he`s made
major inroads within the African-American community, a group that political
establishment expected to rally behind Bill Thompson, who is the lone
African-American in the race. According to this week`s Quinnipiac poll,
one in three black voters are backing de Blasio, compared to one in four
for Thompson. The Thompson camp says those numbers don`t capture the black
and Latino voters who will actually line up behind him in the campaign`s
Thompson, in case you need an introduction, came within four points of a
stunning upset of Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009. This after the
political and media class in New York and nationally had written him off.
He also enjoys support from the city`s powerful teachers union and he
previously served as the elected comptroller of New York for two terms,
from 2002 to 2009.
Here to talk about the race for mayor and how he`s going to catch Bill de
Blasio is Bill Thompson.
And thank your for joining us, sir. I appreciate it.
So, I mean, we can go back and forth on where exactly the polls are right
now. Where exactly de Blasio stands relative to you. But, clearly, the
evidence from every poll that we`ve taken shows that de Blasio has struck a
cord with Democrats who are most dissatisfied with Mayor Michael Bloomberg,
who want, you know, what he calls the clean break from Michael Bloomberg,
and I look at you and I say, you actually ran against the guy. You ran
against Mike Bloomberg and you almost beat him.
I wonder, why do people not see you as the candidate of change and why are
they looking at Bill de Blasio and saying he`s the candidate of change?
BILL THOMPSON (D), NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think as you look at the
polls, particularly in the responses there, they haven`t -- they`ve always
proven to be relatively inaccurate. You look at my last election in 2009,
it had me, I think deadlocked with African-Americans with Mike Bloomberg
with two days to go and I won three quarters of the African-American vote.
The same thing with Latino vote, its` the same thing in so many different
ways. I think, though, what you are seeing now is the electorate still
making up its mind. Just focusing as we`re 10 days to go. I`m real
confident that things in the end are going to coalesce. I`m going to do
well. If there is a run-off, I`m in that run-off and I`m going to wind up
being the Democratic nominee after that.
So, not worried about the poll numbers right now. It`s a question of going
out, getting the job done, continuing to reach out to voters each and every
day. That`s how it`s going to win.
KORNACKI: But there is and we sort of set this up in the introduction.
There`s something that`s somewhat extraordinary that seems to be going on.
And that is that there`s -- this assumption from the media, from the
political class, and just base on the story of big city elections and New
York City elections when you look at like David Dinkins, who`s the first
black mayor of New York about the black support that he got. You mentioned
the black support you got in 2009.
To actually have black voters split right now, the way they are in these
polls, with a black candidate in the race and with a white candidate, Bill
de Blasio, actually in most polls leading or very competitive with you
among black voters, I wonder if you take that, if you look at that and you
say, this is -- this is a sign of progress. This is, you know, we`re sort
of giving away from identity politics and it`s sort of a jump ball with any
THOMPSON: Well, anybody who assumes that black voters are monolithic, that
they`re all just going to vote for somebody because you are black, that`s
never been the assumption. I`ve never take taken that way. You have to go
out and earn those votes each and every day. That`s what it indicates.
I think that`s the one thing that is -- is it a sign of progress? It`s a
sign of where it always has been. You always have to go out and compete
for black voters directly. You have to speak to the issues. You can`t
just show up.
So, I`ve never just show up. I`ve always spoken to the issues. I am
confident in the end that black voters as well as others are going to be
there on Election Day.
KORNACKI: The other thing I wonder, we had Bill de Blasio on a couple
weeks ago. He talked about the role his entire family, his wife, his two
children play -- very actively campaigning for him. His son, his 15-year-
old son stars in probably his most famous campaign ad.
I wonder if you think people look at this family, this very sort of
attractive, compelling, you know, it`s a biracial family. Do you think
that maybe African-American voters look at that, and has that helped him at
all with African-American voters?
THOMPSON: Possibly. I mean, I think that, you know, Bill`s family has
been out there. You know, my wife has been out there. My kids are not
quite as -- they are not looking for -- you know, they aren`t as
comfortable in the camera. So I think it is a question of what your family
is comfortable with.
Do I think that presents a bit of a compelling picture? Possibly. At the
same time, I think in then it`s not a question of who your family is. It`s
a question f what policies you are talking about and what direction you`re
going to take the city of New York in. I think in the end, that`s what
people are going to decide and make decision based on.
KORNACKI: So, I want to get to -- you probably know this is coming. In
"The New York Times" today, there`s a big story on the front page. It sort
of -- it came up overnight. They`re basically saying, they looked at your
record as comptroller of New York.
So, you controlled the pension funds for the city of New York, the largest
-- you know, one of the largest pension funds in the country. And they`re
basically saying that you engaged in pay-to-play. And that is that you
gave pension business to people who had given you campaign money.
There`s a couple quotes here. This is sort of their conclusions from their
reporting on your record as comptroller. This is from "The New York
They say, "Again and again, Mr. Thompson reaped political gains from those
he awarded city business." They say that, "Routinely, Mr. Thompson`s
political fund-raisers arranged for him to meet investment managers
pursuing city business, sometimes within days of when the donors made their
contributions to his campaign."
So they have a number of examples here of people who raised money for you,
whose sort of business associates raised money for you and then turned
around and they got city business. They got pension business from your
office. How do you respond to the story?
THOMPSON: In the end, the one thing "The Times" tends to overlook is that
I wasn`t a sole trustee. State comptroller is the sole trustee of the
pension funds. The city comptroller, there are five pension boards. Each
of them have multiple trustees.
KORNACKI: But you`re making recommendations as the comptroller about who
is -- I mean, as I understand it, the city comptroller`s recommendations
almost always win out.
THOMPSON: No, that is not true. As a matter of fact, the mayor chairs the
boards of all the pension funds. So, the comptroller can make
recommendations. At the same point, it isn`t just me making
recommendations. It`s outside consultants who work for each of the boards.
It`s the trustees doing interviews of all the people who look into managed
funds. So, there really -- when you look at it, there are probably more
than 35 trustees on five different boards. Each one of them with a vote
who are making decisions based on what they think is in the best interest
of the pension fund. So, no, it`s absolutely not true and particularly
within my office, there was always a separation between anybody who had
going to do with fund-raising, never anything to do with the pension and
fund-raising side at all.
KORNACKI: But you -- again, they show sort of a pattern here. I want to
ask you about some of these specific cases they say because they`re showing
specific examples where you met with somebody in some cases, more than one
meeting with people and then they turn around and they got business. Some
of these are unsavory characters. Somebody who was later -- who pleaded
guilty to paying kickbacks, to get business from the New York state pension
fund. Somebody who`s later charged with document forgery in a California
pension scandal. A third who had to return $78,000 in fees because he
wasn`t licensed to be doing what he was doing.
I wonder if people just look at this and they say whatever the exact sort
of bureaucratic web of this is, should the city comptroller be meeting with
people who he`s -- who are raising money for him and looking for business
from the city. Should you be doing that?
THOMPSON: Well, the one thing I wind up meeting, those are probably a few
out of hundreds of meetings that I did over period of eight years. And,
you know, it`s singling out -- here`s three or four people. In the end, I
wound up having an open door policy.
I met with people all across the board -- managers in different areas,
whether it was private equity, whether it was asset management, other
areas. I`d meet with people, with staff, and be able to sit and let them
make a presentation. So that was part of my job to sit down and meet with
As I said "The Times" selected a few. Not -- I mean, I probably met with
hundreds of individuals because we did have that open door policy.
KORNACKI: Go ahead, Kate.
NOCERA: You are hitting de Blasio pretty hard for meetings that he didn`t
disclose with lobbyists and so I`m just wondering where you kind of see the
difference between what "The Times" is talking about here and what you are
accusing Mr. de Blasio of having done.
I think what we`re looking with Bill de Blasio is time after time after
time, saying one thing and doing something else. So, Bill de Blasio sat
there and said that he would disclose any meetings he did with lobbyists.
Well, in the end, it turned out to be not accurate. So, Bill has
Again, it`s the same thing he did with the term limit issue, in saying that
he supports -- well, when he was rung to be speaker in 2005 at the city
council, he supported changing term limits through the legislative
backdoor, through the city council. And when he was doing something else,
in 2008, he opposed it.
It`s the same thing about supporting member items. He supported member
items when he was a member of the city council. You know, that`s slush
fund. He supported it. He was a huge beneficiary of. After he was no
longer in the city council, he opposed to.
So, what I talked about Bill de Blasio is saying one thing and doing
something else. I think that`s what New Yorkers want. They want somebody
who is going to be honest with them.
SCHER: You mentioned this race should be about what direction the city
should go in. It seems like de Blasio is getting the leg up because he
painting a very clear liberal, progressive direction for the city.
Just take one issue: universal prekindergarten. He`s for a plan that would
create 50,000 more full-time slots. You`ve called that a fantasy plan
knocking his revenue source would be going to Albany and asking for an
income tax which the governor rejects.
But why aren`t you aiming high for 50,000 -- they say your plan will only
do 3,000 slots. Why not aim for de Blasio`s goal and find a more realistic
funding source you have just as bold the direction for the city?
THOMPSON: I think when you want to present a realistic picture. It`s not
a question of just a fantasy. It`s a question of realistic.
When you talk about and you are running and saying, we`re going to do
universal pre-K, but then the funding stream for it is almost impossible to
get, then that`s not accurate. That`s not true. You`re not being honest
with the people of the city of New York.
I support universal pre-K. I think if you look right now, we return
dollars each and every year, tens of millions of dollars for part-time pre-
K, for half-day pre-K. We need to work with the governor who indicated he
wants to add dollars to pre-K and universal pre-K. Why aren`t we working
to reprogram them to push for universal pre-K to get the additional dollars
the governor is talking about?
That`s leadership. That`s realistic. That`s not a fantasy.
And I think that`s the problem when you talk about, we`re going to go tax
the wealthy to be able to do pre-K. We all would support taxing the
wealthy. It`s a question of what for and in this case, it`s not realistic.
KORNACKI: That`s one of the areas where I think de Blasio has rhetorically
Another is stop and frisk. And I know you have an ad up right now and in
the debate you went toe-to-toe with him saying he`s not being honest on how
he portrays his position on stop and frisk. I`ll grant you that point in
that if you look at it he does not want to actually end the practice of
stop and frisk. He wants to take the racial profiling out of it. That is
your position as well. You don`t want to end stop and risk, you want to
take the racial profiling out of it.
But I was talking to someone last night who was supporting Bill de Blasio
and I made that exact. He said I still support de Blasio because he made a
point early in his campaign of talking about it and highlighting it and
making it an issue in this campaign.
Do you regret looking back that you were not more outspoken and forceful on
the issue early in this campaign?
THOMPSON: No, I think I continue to talk about eliminating racial
profiling and stop and frisk, about -- I mean, when you go back. In the
2009 election back then, I said I wouldn`t keep Ray Kelly as the police
commissioner because of racial profiling was one of the issues or at least
the misuse and abuse of stop and frisk.
So, it has been a point that has been made in 2013 also. I think Bill has
gotten more attention for it than others have, but at the same point, his
position is not different. And I think that`s the other point. And again,
misleading the public and talking about he`s the only one who would
eliminate the abuse.
PERRY BACON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Let me push back on that, though. May
29th, 2013, "New York Times" story, you are quoted as saying there`s a,
quote, "overreaction -- overreaction to stop and frisk." Do you regret
that remark or you stand by it?
THOMPSON: I stand by it. The quote was not about the reaction to stop and
frisk. And that perhaps is a little bit of a misquote in there.
What the point was making is we`re pushing legislation at that point to
bring change about to stop and frisk when what we need was a mayoral change
and a police commissioner change and a mayor who had the courage and
conviction to say we`re not going to allow racial profiling in our city.
That`s what it was regard to.
So, racial profiling and the way stop and frisk has been used, I`ve opposed
that for years. It is wrong. It is stigmatized, and it has stereotyped
people, and it is wrong.
KORNACKI: We have to go here, but I want to get you on the record on one
other important issue in this campaign. This is one of the Republican
candidates for mayor, Joe Lhota.
And there was an incident on the subway tracks here in New York a few days
ago where two kittens were found. They shut down the line for about two
hours to rescue the kittens. And Joe Lhota, Republican candidate, says,
"No, I would have let the trains keep going even if the kittens died."
As a candidate for mayor, I want to get you on the record. What would you
have done with the kittens on the subway?
THOMPSON: Well, as -- as my wife and I have two cats, we`re stopping the
trains, OK? I mean, I can`t believe that Joe Lhota said something so
insensitive. It`s -- you know, is that what we`ve become in New York City
these days? I don`t think so.
KORNACKI: Bill Thompson is opposed to killing kittens, I think --
KORNACKI: Thank you for joining us, Bill Thompson, a candidate for mayor
of New York City, the primary is September 10th.
One year after writing to Barack Obama`s rescue, the secretary of
explaining stuff is making a comeback. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Now, people ask me all the time, how
we got four surplus budgets in a row? What new ideas did we bring to
Washington? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That is Bill Clinton at the Democratic convention in Charlotte
one year ago nearly to the day. A speech that mesmerized the crowd and
prompted a grateful Barack Obama to bestow a new nickname on him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After he spoke, somebody
sent out a tweet. They said you should appoint him secretary of explaining
I like that. Secretary of explaining stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And now that secretary of explaining stuff is due to make his
return this time to address Obamacare. The former president will deliver a
speech at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock this coming
Wednesday in which he`ll do his best to explain a law that much of the
public still does not understand.
It comes at a crucial moment. The exchanges at the heart of the Affordable
Care Act are due to open in a month and convincing Americans, particularly
health young Americans to sign up will be crucial to the law`s success.
And there`s also the politics. Republicans are banking on lingering
distaste for Obamacare to carry them in next year`s midterms. It should be
noted that Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, a Democrat who is facing a
difficult re-election campaign in 2014, will not be at Clinton`s Little
Rock speech on Wednesday.
So, I`m not sure where to start with this one. I want to pick it up on the
politics, because one that that kind of jumped out at me talking about
this. We`re always talking about Hillary in 2016 and maybe the Clinton
restoration and all that. You know, from a very practical standpoint, if
Hillary Clinton does run in 2016, if she is the Democratic nominee, if she
becomes the president of the United States, she`s going to have to run on,
defend and continue implementing this law.
So there`s a very sort of basic interest here for the Clintons in rallying
around this right now.
NOCERA: And I think you will see bill Clinton try and explain exactly what
we can do to make the law better. That was a point he hit on in February
when he met with House Democrats at the Democratic retreat. And I was
reporting on it.
And he said, you guys need to get caught fixing this thing. You can`t just
-- you can`t just walk around and say, you know, we want to keep pre-
existing conditions. That`s great. You need to defend it from Republican
attacks, but you need to get caught fixing it.
And I think that you might hear him say we need to work together. We need
Republicans on board to try and fix it. It`s the law.
That the Democrats are the problem solvers in this case, as opposed to the
ones trying to just stop it from happening.
KORNACKI: So like I`ll grant the point that he is a great explainer. That
speech really accomplished something kind of meaningful for the Obama
campaign last year.
But, Bill, I guess I look at the last 3 1/2 years since the passage, really
go back four years since the thing was kind of working its way through
Congress, the Affordable Care Act. I don`t know there`s anybody that can
really explain this -- explain the complexities in this in a way that`s
going to break through that sort of partisan divide that has governed
public opinion. That`s going to make the Republican who just says
Obamacare, no, it`s socialism/no, I`m against it, it`s a big spending train
wreck and say -- yes, actually exchanges are a good idea.
I don`t know that`s going to happen.
SCHER: Well, let`s keep in mind, this is the one issue that Bill Clinton
was not able to explain well when he was president because it is a
complicated issue. But it is the centerpiece of Obama`s legacy and it`s
critical to the entire liberal progressive project of proving that active
government is good for America again.
So, the implementation has to go as smoothly as possible. Therefore, you
bring out every possible tool you have at your disposal to explain it to
the public so they understand it. I mean, you`ve got -- in food stamps,
which has been around for 40 years, 13 million people who are eligible
don`t get the benefits.
I mean, it`s not that simple. Just to show up and get what`s actually
coming to them. So, you have to have, as deep and thorough a
communications project as possible, so it`s not just Clinton. It`s going
to be a much wider range of spokesmen on that.
KORNACKI: And that`s the other thing. So, let`s think about this
practically. We talk about these exchanges are going to open up and people
are going to be eligible for them. So, let`s even talk about the people
who do use the exchanges. It`s going to be run by your individual state.
So, let`s say you`re in Montana, I don`t know the latest status in Montana
if they`re signing this up or not, but let`s say they are. It won`t be
called Obamacare. You won`t be signing up for Obamacare. You`ll be
signing up for the grizzly bear exchange or whatever they call it out
So, they may not even know.
BACON: The thing is, this is now out of Bill Clinton`s hands, out of
Barack Obama`s hands. "The Huffington Post" did a great story where they
are in Kentucky at the state fair there and somebody comes up to the
counter and the counter is called Kentucky Connect. That`s what their
exchange is called, Kentucky Connect.
And this guy comes up and explains to him. He responds to the person
explaining, wow, this sounds much better than Obamacare. And that`s
exactly what the goal should be to disconnect this as much from Obama as
possible or Clinton or the Democratic Party.
I know in Kentucky, they are very focused on making this a law about health
care and not about politics. And I think the chief explainers who are most
effective are people going door to door to your house in your neighborhood,
like the Enroll America group Obama staff set up to enroll people in their
neighborhoods and their communities. They`re going to go to your house.
They`re going to be neighbors, people you know. You can go to the state
fair in Kentucky or things like, where it will not be Obama campaign
volunteers, but people on something called a Kentucky Connect or Montana
Connect and those people are going to have a much bigger role than Bill
Clinton will have.
LEE: It comes at a critical time. I mean, right now, polls show 40
percent of Americans don`t even know if Obamacare is essentially a law. I
mean, that`s how astonishing this is. And with the president now, the
administration coming out and getting the message out, this is a key time
with millions set to enroll in health care.
KORNACKI: And I just that -- that`s the thing. I can game this out and
assuming none of these repeal efforts are successful. I could sort of see
a scenario where this is a perfectly successful law where people sign up
for Kentucky Connect or the grizzly bear exchange or whatever the heck it`s
called out there, and they`re still against Obama re. They think it`s this
big spending train wreck that needs to be repealed and I wonder how you`ll
reconcile those two.
But I also -- the other interesting aspect of this, too, is the
Obama/Clinton relationship. We always remember 2008 and how tense and
hostile everything got. The moment that I remember, though, was think back
to the end of 2010 when Bill Clinton showed up at the White House, sort of
in the White House briefing room.
BACON: I was there. It was a great moment, too. Let`s just play this.
This was the two of them together three years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Here`s what I`ll say is, I`ve been keeping the first lady waiting
for about half an hour. So I`m going to take off. But --
CLINTON: I don`t want to make her mad. Please go.
OBAMA: You`re in good hands. And Gibbs will call last question. Yes.
CLINTON: Help me. Thank you.
Yes, go ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I mean -- please stay, but, yes.
KORNACKI: I don`t know what the interpersonal relationship dynamics were
at that point. I always interpreted that as, to me, that was the low
point. Barack Obama literally left. Bill Clinton didn`t want him to stay
and Bill Clinton was there for 45 minutes and was like, this is how you do
NOCERA: Right, this is how it`s done. I think the speech in Arkansas is
going to be so important because it`s really going to set the tone for the
rest of the speeches that the White House is saying are going to come. The
administration officials are talking that there will be more high-profile
speeches about the law, but, you know, you can`t get anyone better than
Bill Clinton to fire people up about this.
BACON: I`m just going to say Bill Clinton is good at explaining stuff.
You notice some of the lines in the speech were used by the president and
the vice president and their staff after that. My guess is we`ll hear some
lines that you haven`t heard before that will help you and I and other
people who do this for a living understand the law better.
I think Bill Clinton is good at explaining, to his credit.
KORNACKI: It`s arithmetic thing. I remember that popping up a few times.
I think Obama tried it in the bay and it didn`t quite work the same.
SCHER: One point about the whole Clinton/Obama drama, never have two blood
feud enemies been so helpful to each other for so many years in a row. I
mean, Woodrow Wilson had a secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, who
resigned in protest of his war policy, the (INAUDIBLE) against its foreign
policy. You had Robert Kennedy running against LBJ. You had Ted Kennedy
running against Jimmy Carter.
These guys -- I mean, whatever friction there might be, maybe they aren`t
best of friends but they have made the calculation for a long time they are
in this together. They help each other. It`s good for the party and good
for their beliefs.
KORNACKI: It`s an alliance of mutual interest. There`s 2016 hanging
there. The idea of Hillary running as the -- almost heir to Obama. And
somewhere Joe Biden saying, what about me?
We`re just getting started with Bill Clinton because he`s the president a
lot of advocates of a military strike in Syria are pointing to right now,
Kosovo, Bosnia, the interventions of the 1990s and what they do and do not
mean for President Obama`s decision on Syria. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Do our interests in Kosovo justify the dangers to our armed
forces? I thought long and hard about that question. I am convinced that
the dangers of acting are far outweighed by the dangers of not acting,
dangers to defenseless people and to our national interests. If we and our
allies were to allow this war to continue with no response, President
Milosevic would read our hesitation as a license to kill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It`s Bill Clinton in March of 1999 telling Americans that he`d
decided without the consent of Congress or the United Nations that the
United States would take the lead in a NATO air campaign against
Yugoslavia. It was billed as a humanitarian intervention to stop Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic`s bloody crackdown against Kosovo`s ethnic
Albanian population. And it worked.
After 78 days of bombings, the Serbs withdrew and the violence stopped.
This week, "The New York Times" called that intervention, quote, "The
obvious precedent for air strikes against Syria."
Actually Kosovo wasn`t the only successful intervention of the Clinton
years. "Operation Deliberate Force" was crucial in ending the Bosnian war
in 1995. So, humanitarian interventions can work.
But do the lessons of Bosnia and Kosovo really apply to the dilemma on
Let`s welcome to the table, MSNBC military analyst and Medal of Honor
recipient, retired U.S .Army Colonel Jack Jacobs.
Thanks for joining us, Colonel.
So, maybe start with taking these one at a time and look at Kosovo, what
"The New York Times" calls the obvious precedent for Syria. And you see
some similarities there, in that the Serbs had an alliance, traditional
alliance with the Russians. The Russians were willing to block anything
the United Nations aimed at holding them accountable.
So, if anything was going to happen -- it was going to happen without the
U.N. It sort of goes without saying, it happened without Congress.
You had sort of massacres of civilian populations that prompted the United
States to act. And then you had 78 days of air strikes and a positive
Do you see any encouraging signs there for Syria?
COL. JACK JACOBS, RET., MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: No, I don`t think so.
You said it yourself -- 78 days of bombing. We`re not going to -- we`re
going to have one to three days of targeted rockets hitting specific places
inside Syria and facilities.
Most important, though, the objective is completely different. The
objective there was to stop it. The objective in Bosnia was to stop it,
was to end it.
Our objective is not to end it. Our objective is to send a message to
Assad and the world that says that you can`t use chemical weapons. By the
way, that`s not going to necessarily stop them from using chemical weapons
KORNACKI: And that was also part of the story with Kosovo, that when the
bombing originally started, the response from the Serbs was to escalate,
was to go after more civilians, I think like in Macedonia and then the
response then was for escalation on the part of NATO with the air strikes.
So, I wonder if you see sort of -- if that`s sort of a warning sign for
what we may be getting into with Syria. That if Assad responds, not by
saying, OK, I give up. I got the message but with more attacks on
civilians, would that be the response from the United States?
JACOBS: Yes, probably would. We`d probably bomb them again and there
would be an escalation and there would be involvement with Israel and
already with Jordan and Lebanon and so on.
This has all been discussed in the White House. And that`s one reason why
the president and the secretary of state made it abundantly clear that we
weren`t going to do that. And in fact, this was just to back up what the
president said a year ago.
KORNACKI: But how do you -- when you think about it from the humanitarian
aspect, though. I mean, you look at the evidence that John Kerry laid out
yesterday, 426 children, 1,400 civilians, and you think back -- the other
intervention in the 1990s, one of the others was Bosnia and you think of
the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995. You had 8,000 Bosnia and Muslims in
mass graves. And that prompted the world to act.
At what point should we be prompted to action here for out of the similar
JACOBS: Well, we do have a similar concern but if we reacted any time by
just the massacre of civilians, we`d be bombing North Korea right now. And
other places, too. We`d be much more heavily involved in sub-Saharan
Africa, which we are not.
Look, we`re a superpower. We can pick and choose our fights. We`ve
decided that we`re going to respond to the chemical bombing, but not
because of the chemical bombing. He bombed -- he used chemical weapons
against his own citizens a dozen times before.
I think the president of the United States is kicking himself in the back
side for having said what he said a year ago because what it does is reduce
our optionality going forward. Now, you kind of suck. You`ve got to do
SCHER: I don`t personally buy that he`s going to change his entire foreign
policy based on one comment he made. It he thought it was a bad idea, he
could walk it back any number of ways.
I take your point it may not tactically work. Most of us on our bar stools
across the country can`t speak to whether a military tactic is going to
work or not. I don`t think that`s what our role in a democracy is.
We do have a role to play as citizens as far as directing our country`s
vision and direction. And I personally believe, at least, that, you know,
this is -- this may not be a Kosovo for a number of ways. It`s also not
Iraq. It`s not neo-conservativism. It`s not empire. It`s not military
basis or control of natural resources.
JACOBS: It`s none of those things.
SCHER: Right. It is trying to maintain international norm on the use of
chemical weapons. And I think longer term, trying to create an untenable
stalemate in Syria that would allow for a power share agreement to form.
JACOBS: But if we`re going to use military force in order to enforce
international norms against using chemical weapons, then why didn`t we act
two years ago?
SCHER: Well, I think Obama`s approach for many of these subjects is,
what`s going to work? I`m not going to use a cookie cutter strategy for
every foreign policy crisis in front of us. The way he handled Libya is
not how he handled Iran, is not how he handled Egypt.
JACOBS: No, I`m talking about against Syria. Syria has been using
chemical weapons --
SCHER: But a much larger scale tactic than before. This possibility he`d
get more international support this time around two years ago.
JACOBS: Oh, no, clearly not. I agree exactly -- I think exactly the
opposite. He would have gotten much more international support two years
ago than he does now.
Clearly, he has no international support.
SCHER: He just started making the case. I don`t know if we can judge
JACOBS: The case inside the halls of power was made a long, long time ago.
We all agree you`re not allowed to use chemical weapons. If we are serious
about making sure that no chemical weapons are to be used, we -- the time
to make the case was, you know, 14 attacks earlier.
KORNACKI: Well, that`s one of the questions that hangs over this, too, is
we -- chemical attacks on civilians, you talk about the international -- it
is an atrocity. There are also 100,000 people who have been killed over
the last two years. And it does seem strange on some level that this is
what -- this is what sort of instigates international action when the
100,000 before this didn`t.
Anyway, I want to thank MSNBC military analyst, Colonel Jack Jacobs, Bill
Scher of the Campaign for America`s Future.
I said we`re just getting started with Bill Clinton and I meant it because
everything we`re seeing from Republicans on Capitol Hill today can be
traced to four lessons they took from the Clinton years. Those lessons are
KORNACKI: So, when Eliot Spitzer suddenly came out of exile and jumped
into the race for New York City controller two months ago, everyone figured
he`d win easily -- tons of money, universal name idea, no name opponent,
all that stuff. Well, everyone except a certain weekend morning cable
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: My reaction when I saw that poll on Wednesday actually was 42
percent to 33 percent for Spitzer. You`re talking about a former governor,
national name, running against somebody who doesn`t have that much -- very
kind of low profile and he starts out 8 points under 50, only nine points
ahead overall with all these forces against him, I don`t know that he`s in
a great place here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And now, vindication. A new poll from Quinnipiac this week
shows the race between Spitzer and Scott Stringer, his opponent, dead even,
tied at 46 percent. There`s Stringer momentum in the air.
And I have to say I called it -- just like I called it when I sized up the
Scott Brown/Martha Coakley race a few years ago when I wrote, "The noise on
the right about Scott Brown pulling up a shocking upset in the January 19
election to fill Ted Kennedy`s Senate seat is just that. Take it from this
Bay State native. It ain`t happening."
Or when I analyzed Harry Reid`s re-election campaign that year and
concluded, "By the end of the year, Reid will be done, both as leader and
as a senator."
So, OK, I`m not exactly Kornacki the magnificent. I`m more like the broken
clock that`s right twice a day. And I think I`m done making guarantees.
But I always thought this would be a hard race for Spitzer to win. Now, I
think it`s starting to show.
KORNACKI: We were just talking about the lessons for today from Bill
Clinton`s foreign policy. But when Congress returns to Washington, there
are some serious and potentially catastrophic fights looming over funding
of the government and the debt ceiling. It`s a familiar story by now. But
the unified and sustained obstruction that President Obama has faced has
its roots in the Clinton years.
There`s a difference, though. Back then, in the face of Republican
overreach of two government shutdowns and even an impeachment, Bill
Clinton`s popularity just kept going up.
Sahil Kapur of "Talking Points Memo" says that today`s Republicans led by
John Boehner have learned from the `90s and have perfected the art of
obstruction. He wrote a piece this week highlighting what he says are the
four big lessons the GOP has learned from the Clinton era.
Here to talk about it is the author of that piece, Sahil Kapur, and another
friend of the show.
Sahil, thanks for coming up today.
So, before we get to the individual lessons, just talk maybe in general
about, we have the same basic dynamic in Washington today that we had in
the Clinton years. The Democratic president, the Republican house. The
very conservative Republican House. I guess the slight differences, this
Republicans had the Senate back then. They have the Democrats do now.
SAHIL KAPUR, TALKING POINTS MEMO: Right.
KORNACKI: But there are very basic similar parallels between how
Washington is structured today and how it was back then.
KAPUR: That`s exactly right. And, you know, the president`s first midterm
election, newly elected Democrat. There was a huge backlash from
conservatives and they swept into Congress. Now, they controlled the
House, massive majority.
And what the base really wants is for the new Congress, for the new
Republican Congress, to thwart the president and to go after him in every
possible way. And what the Republican leadership did in the `90s, they did
a variety of things to try to please the conservative base and to go after
Clinton. They learn the lessons and the leadership has certainly learned
the lessons and they`ve kept those in mind, as they are trying to actualize
some of the same goals with Obama.
KORNACKI: So, the Tea Party revolution in 2010. It gives a Republican
House. We have the Gingrich revolution in 1994. It gives a Republican
Now, let`s look at these individual lessons they say to learn to perfect
the art of obstruction. The first one, lesson number one -- don`t shut
down the government. So explain that.
KAPUR: They did that twice -- late in 1995 and early 1996. Newt Gingrich
stared down Bill Clinton. He shut down the government over budget
disputes. It turned out really badly for Republicans. Newt`s popularity,
the GOP`s brand was damaged. Clinton`s popularity, as you said, just kept
going up and up.
This time, Speaker Boehner who is leading a Republican Congress that`s
practically tailor-made for shutdowns. The budget disputes are so wide and
so significant, they`ve always managed to avoid a shutdown. And that`s
because he was part of the leadership team in 1998 and learned from that.
KORNACKI: I guess, I wonder how long can that go up? I keep hearing them
talk about that, you know?
NOCERA: You keep hearing talk about it and then at the end of the day,
what you get is these very small budget deals, right? You are just kind of
leapfrogging from one deal to the next. So, we`re never -- we`re not
shutting down, but we`re also doing this every --
LEE: Crisis of confidence.
NOCERA: Yes, crisis management. So I don`t know how long they can sustain
it. But I`m wondering from you, you also talk in your piece about
impeachment and how --
KORNACKI: Oh, we`re getting there.
NOCERA: Oh, I`m sorry.
KORNACKI: We`re doing the -- let`s take that as the segue to go to lesson
number two. And this is, don`t overreach on scandals. So, explain that.
KAPUR: Right. So the series of scandals that started with Whitewater and
culminated in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, also worked out really badly for
Republicans because the public saw it for what it was. It was an
expression of primal distaste and just dislike for a Democratic president.
And Bill Clinton, he was not impeached, as some Democrats think, for the
misdeeds he did and he was not -- he was ultimately impeached because he
was a Democrat in the White House.
And that`s what -- and the mismanagement, I guess, or the obsession with
sort of bringing him down is something Republicans have learned from. You
have issues like the IRS scandal and other things that the president --
that the president is worried about now, which Republicans are not going
after in the same way they did under Clinton. They aren`t keeping the
focus on him, the leadership. Even Darrell Issa whose entire job it is to
go after the president is saying we`re going to focus on these things
individually, we`re not going to blame the president for every --
KORNACKI: You don`t think, though, that there`s a significant chunk of the
party waiting for the right moment? Because I think back to the `90, and I
remember, I told this story before, I was like 13 years old. Like a month
after Clinton was inaugurated in 1993. Nothing had happened yet. I saw an
impeach Clinton bumper sticker. That captured the mood of the right to
meet the entire 1990s and it took until 1998, 1999 to actually find, OK, we
can say obstruction of justice, suborning perjury with Lewinsky.
To me, I just look at -- I hear the talk of impeachment now from the back
bench and everything, I say, boy, they just have the moment, they`re going
to use it.
KAPUR: The back benchers will want to do it and there will be a
significant faction of conservatives who do want to impeach the president
and they just look for a reason to do it and when they find it, they will
jump on it. The leadership in my view won`t go for it.
BACON: Key factor being, there hasn`t been a moment. Benghazi turned out
to be nothing. The IRS turned out to be very little. Obama is not giving
them any kind of big moment. I think they`re ready for one and haven`t
found. Fast and Furious wasn`t it. They just haven`t found the moment.
KORNACKI: Yes. Well, OK, let`s get to lesson three. Oh, I`m going to get
this -- this is: don`t impeach the president for political gain. OK, they
didn`t impeach him, but they are about to. Not about to, but we`re saying
they are waiting for the moment.
KAPUR: And a lot of conservatives and a lot of Republicans certainly want
to, especially the ones who weren`t around in the `90s. But the
impeachment in 1998 again worked out very well for Clinton. Republicans
actually lost seats in the midterm election, up -- you know, the second
term of a president and that almost never happens. And it was partly
because the public was disgusted by the obsession with the Lewinsky scandal
and a distraction from what they thought would be the right thing to do
would to be govern.
KORNACKI: And we have lesson number four. And this one is opposing health
care reform is politically lucrative. So, Bill Clinton tried to do health
care reform 20 years before Barack Obama did and --
KAPUR: And he was one of many presidents who tried to do it. President
since going back to Teddy Roosevelt have tried to do it and they`ve always
been blocked. President Obama is the first to succeed. Under Clinton,
their big insight was it`s easy to scare the public because the public is
scared of big changes.
So, if you oppose this, conservatives will turn out conservatives will
turnout for Republicans in the midterms and a lot of the independents who
are skeptical of this will also turn out. And that worked out very well
for them in 1994. So, they applied this lesson again, they decided I think
from the beginning, to oppose any health care reform whatever health care
reform that President Obama came up with. And I think what they didn`t
count on that he would actually succeed this time the way no president has.
And if I were to add a postscript to this, it`s that 20 years from now, if
we`re in a similar position again, I think Republicans will have learned
the lesson of, if you want to oppose a Democratic president`s signature
initiative, don`t say it`s going to destroy people`s freedom and everything
they love, because then the base is going to demand you do all sorts of
radical and possibly irrational things to shut down the government to try
to stop it. It`s not an argument to say this law is so bad and it`s going
to destroy everything you love about your country, but it`s not worth
closing down national parks and zoos and museums over.
KORNACKI: Well, that`s the interesting question here, right? It is that,
you know, in 1994, they would say, hey, we killed health care reform. He
tried doing the economy, he couldn`t.
How do Republicans get out of this -- the moment of saying, OK, we can live
with this well? Can they ever say that?
LEE: To that point -- I mean, I think since 2011, when Republicans took
back control of the House, they voted about 40 times on repealing and
defunding Obamacare, to no avail. Obviously, that`s not going to work.
The president has veto power. The Senate is in control of Democrats.
So, it`s kind of -- even just over this August recess, Republicans are in
town halls, Tea Party Republicans, and they`re just denouncing Obamacare,
continuously. They`re signing letters, 80 Republicans recently signed a
letter to leadership, basically saying they want this defunded and they
don`t want any spending bills that are going to come out. They want
Obamacare to be defunded. Obviously, House leadership is not signing on to
this letter, though.
NOCERA: But I do think that leadership seize an opportunity when the
administration keeps delaying portions of the law or is trying to, you
know, manage different parts of the law to make it work better, when
implementation does go in. But they see that and they can, look, the
administration is admitting it`s not working, they`re delaying it.
KORNACKI: Which just speaks to the, if you`re in that mind-set of your
base says, this is socialism and it has to go, then you`re going to look
for every opening you can to please that base and say, this is the latest
example of why we can`t have it, why we need to repeal it.
And I just wonder, at what point will we stop -- when will the last repeal
vote be in the House -- maybe we`ll start a pool. I`ll take November 23rd,
2029, or something.
KORNACKI: Anyway, what do we know now that we didn`t know last week?
We`ve got answer right after this.
KORNACKI: All right. We`re going to find out what everybody knows now
that they didn`t know when the week began.
Kate, we`ll start with you.
NOCERA: I learned that liberals and conservative in Congress can come
together on something and that is when to approve the war in Syria. They
want the president to call Congress back and have a vote on that.
KORNACKI: It is bipartisan.
LEE: In Colorado, two Democratic state senators are up for recall
elections a little over a week from today. And Michael Bloomberg, the New
York City mayor, opened up his pocketbooks this past week. He donated
$20,000 from an issue committee. They`re basically calling recall for
their support of tougher gun legislation in Colorado.
KORNACKI: I have a feeling we`ll talk about that next weekend.
KAPUR: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the senior justice of the court`s liberal
wing, said she`s not -- she has no intention of retiring under President
Obama and that`s, I think, extremely important, because come 2016, there`ll
be three justices who are 80 or older and one who`s 78, which means the
2016 may be the most important Supreme Court election of any of our
KORNACKI: All right. Perry?
BACON: "New York Times" this week showed Obama has done no better than
picking women for high-level jobs than Bill Clinton did, even (INAUDIBLE)
those kinds of jobs. And what I know from that is that if Larry Summers is
being picked to be the Fed chair, there`ll be a very, very big backlash.
KORNACKI: That`s right. And I know my favorite football team, the Kansas
State Wildcats, are going to have a very long year. They opened their
season last night against North Dakota State Bison. And they were
defeated, a shocking upset.
My thanks to Kate Nocera, Kurtis Lee, Sahil Kapur and Perry Bacon Jr.
Thank you for getting UP and thank you for joining us today for UP.
Join us tomorrow, Sunday morning at 8:00 when Senator Angus King of Maine
Coming up next is "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY" with continuing coverage of the
rapidly changing situation in Syria.
We`ll see you right here tomorrow at 8:00. Thanks for getting UP.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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