'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, October 27th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
October 27, 2013
Guest: Karen Marin; Bob Herbert; Karen Skinner; Barton Gellman, Kiron
Skinner, Noah Shachtman, Clifford Chanin, Carol Marin, Karla Holloway
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-
This week, as Congress continues to be entangled in the now usual
Washington gridlock, the junior senator from Texas is cruising right on
through. Republican senator Ted Cruz has taken his one-man show on the
road with a sold out performance that killed Friday night before an
audience of 600 at the Republican party of Iowa`s fall Ronald Reagan
It was Cruz`s first visit to the state since the 21-hour talkathon that
propelled him into political infamy among his fellow Republicans and into
the political stratosphere among his tea party base. Tea party crowds have
since devoured Cruz`s message of the little guy resistance to big
government tyranny. And at Friday night`s dinner, he served them up a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I`m convinced we`re facing a new paradigm in
politics. It is a paradigm that is the rise of the grassroots. I have to
tell you, it has official Washington absolutely terrified.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, while senator has consistently avoided the 2016 will he
or won`t he question in the press, his appearance on Friday was his third
visit in as many months to the first in the nation caucus state of Iowa.
And although Cruz may not yet want to go near the question of his White
House aspirations, he certainly put himself in close proximity to the giant
GOP elephant in the room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: The answer we saw in 1980 was a grassroots revolution. It was the
Reagan revolution. It was millions of Americans, many of the men and women
in this room who stood up, who got involved, and said, we`re going to get
back to the principles that made this nation great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And in attempting to cover himself in the cape of the GOP`s
conservative crusader, Ted Cruz is joining in on the Republican Party`s
ongoing bromance with our nation`s 40th president.
Ronald Reagan rode into the White House in 1981 on a 44-state landslide
victory and was re-elected in 1984 by 49 states. Today, he continues to be
one of the most popular presidents, more than two decades after he left
office. A 2011 poll gave him the third highest approval ranking among
presidents of the last 50 years behind John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton.
It`s the kind of popularity that is but a distant memory for the Republican
Party today and that continues to fuel GOP nostalgia for the Reagan era.
But that`s the thing about nostalgia for the past. It tends to obscure
some of the facts of history. Something Republicans longing for the golden
days of the gipper might want to remember. Because returning to Reagan
Republicanism might require today`s GOP to make a few adjustments to their
party line. Like that whole tax cuts thing? Yes, that`s got to go.
Sure, Reagan`s 1981 tax cut, the single largest in America`s history at the
time is kind of policy that Republicans can only fantasize about today, but
president Reagan also passed the single largest tax increase since 1968,
during his first term. In fact, Reagan would ultimately raise taxes 11
times while he was in office and clutch the Republican pearls, because one
of those tax hikes, the 1983 payroll tax increase, went to pay for Social
Security and Medicare. And that is right, Ronald Reagan raised taxes to
pay for government-run health care.
By the way, how married are you to that small government ideology, because
during Reagan`s eight years in office, federal spending increased by an
annual average of 2.5 percent, adjusted for inflation. And the national
debt, that tripled from $700 billion to nearly $3 trillion.
Republicans longing for the `80s might also want to get going on
immigration policy. Because in 1982, Ronald Reagan signed a bill that made
any immigrant who had entered the country before that year eligible for
amnesty and helped three million people become American citizens.
Your whole conservative Christian war on women, might want to call that off
too. Because Ronald Reagan may have been more than willing to hop on the
southern strategy states rights bandwagon, but he was not one to bring god
along for the ride. And although he spoke about his opposition to
abortion, he never introduced a bill to oppose reproductive rights and he
actually helped the cause by pointing Supreme Court justices, Sandra Day
O`Connor and Anthony Kennedy, who joined in the majority opinion in the
case upholding Roe V. Wade.
Now, let`s be clear, none of this is to suggest that Reagan was a champion
of using the power of government to help the little guy. Though exploding
deficits and growing government receipts were caused by bolstering the
Pentagon and unleashing jaw-dropping defense spending, even as America`s
chief rival, the soviet union, was becoming less threatening.
And Reagan was largely indifferent to the problem of cities and the needs
of the poor during the golden years that the current Republican Party
yearns for, economic inequality widened, home ownership declined, and the
justice department largely refused to prosecute racial discrimination in
housing. These realities are why some of us still called the Washington
D.C. airport national.
And yet, despite the painful and contradictory realities that marked the
Reagan years, the man did something that current Republican leadership has
wholly proved incapable of doing. He governed despite having different
parties control the White House and the House of Representatives. Perhaps
the most useful truth about Reagan for a party Republican party, wondering
what would Ronnie do, can be found in his relationship with his greatest
political adversary, Democratic speaker of the house, Tip O`Neill. The two
men were ideological opponents who still meant to govern and compromise in
the national interest.
Joining me now is the man who wrote the book on that political partnership,
Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC show, "HARDBALL," and author of "Tip and the
Gipper, when politics work."
Chris, nice to have you.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR, HARDBALL: Well said. I agree with
everything you said.
Well, that was used against to me. And people think this is a love story
of Reagan. This is an adversary story. But it`s limited. Like limited
government, conservatives believe in that. How about limited politics?
You compromise. And Reagan, the governor, as you point out, was different
than Reagan the pamphleteer, Reagan the commentator. It is one thing to go
on the radio and scream a philosophy. It is another one to get in there
and try to make the government work.
And on taxes, you`re right. So, he cut too much in `81. He came back
totally the other way in `82. On Social Security, he had a progressive
solution. Tax the rich and make sure the poor had an adequate health care,
I mean, adequate retirement pension program for the federal government.
I mean, ironically, and even on the defense spending, you could argue, I
wouldn`t make the argument, but a lot of what he was able to do with
Gorbachev, is because he had the heft on his side, because they believed in
the bluff. We could do SDI. There are two people on earth who believe
HARRIS-PERRY: And Gorbachev, the two who needed to believe it.
MATTHEWS: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: There were a couple of things about the book that for me
revealed aspects that we don`t talk so much about in contemporary politics
or sort of in our media moment. Now, obviously, you`re writing this in
part from the perspective of a staffer. And so, it reveals against how
important staffers are. We tend to de-focus on the principles.
Is there, at this moment, a set of staffers, you know, a sort of
enterprising young man or woman working inside the White House or inside
the speaker`s office that we ought to be paying more attention to, because
maybe they`re the ones who are actually pushing either the president or the
speaker to behave many particular ways?
MATTHEWS: I know we`ve had problems with Boehner and his chief of staff.
I mean, you hear about the speaker not even clearing the driveway from the
White House and finding out his chief of staff says, you can`t go that way.
I guess go back to the more hierarchy way that Reagan ran it with Jim
Baker. Baker was fabulous. He would come to see the speaker can head up,
go to the House, a lot of respect there. Made sure that tip was the first
person to see Reagan after he was shot. A lot of protocol there. And
getting things done, he was a kick butt kind of guy. You didn`t mess up.
And I keep thinking of this thing with the health care, it`s not about
ideas, about philosophy, it`s about implementation, and would it have been
done more efficiently with a stronger team there. But I think what we`re
lacking is probably a very strong chief of staff, and for whatever reason,
President Obama doesn`t want to seem to have one.
HARRIS-PERRY: No. He sort of did with Emanuel initially. But at the
point, he also had Nancy Pelosi in the house. And so, it wasn`t the chief
of staff managing -- a Congress that have a different party.
MATTHEWS: Pelosi is fabulous. She had 100 percent when they reopened the
government, 100 percent! Nobody can do that anymore! She has the fear
factor and the love factor. They love her and they fear her, which the
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you, this story that you tell about the first
time that Reagan increases the debt ceiling and has to do so in
relationship with Tip O`Neill, and O`Neill asks for a personal note from
the president, to each and every Democratic member of the house, asking for
his or her support in the matte of raising the debt ceiling. This was a
brilliant piece of sort of political maneuvering. How did we go from that
to the kind of debt ceiling fights we`re having now?
MATTHEWS: You know, I think, first of all Tip didn`t try to exploit it.
He said look, we`ve got to raise the debt ceiling. It has nothing to do
with spending. It`s just pays your debt and see if you already spent the
money. IT is just being honest. So he didn`t see it as an opportunity to
kill Reagan. He saw it as an opportunity for a truce fire. He said, OK, I
don`t want my guys hurt. Because the year before with Carter, the
Democrats said, we`re going to provide all the votes for raising the debt
ceiling. And the Republicans ride against to any of that issue. You raise
the debt. Now what? Didn`t raise the debt, you paid the bills. So he
said, how about this deal? I don`t want any of my guys hurt. DO no harm.
I want a letter and (INAUDIBLE) told me the story. He said, first of all,
Reagan -- Tip was -- Reagan was -- Tip was impressed that this guy on the
spot could say, deal. That Reagan trusted his people. And the next day
the letters came, delivered.
HARRIS-PERRY: And those letters provided cover, right, for those Democrats
when they`re running in that midterm election. If people say, oh, you
raised the debt ceiling. Oh, no, no, no. I was asked to do so by this
massively popular president.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And I think it fits in this notion that, you know, today
they disagree because they fight. In the old days, they fought because
they disagreed. So, in the old days, if you didn`t have a problem, you
didn`t fight. We have no problem with raising the debt ceiling.
Today, another opportunity to fight, another opportunity screw the thing
up, because there was a respect for the office of the presidency, which we
don`t have today. The office and the man, I think we have a problem on
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you about exactly that. Because part of what
I love about how you write this, you write it how I feel like I might write
if I was writing about the questions of race in the Obama presidency and
the ways in which sort of, for you, the Irish-Catholic relationship or that
sense of being sort of from a similar cultural background, between Tip
O`Neill and Ronald Reagan created a kind of baseline of respect and of
shared knowledge, sort of shared cultural moments. Is part of what`s going
on, like, I can`t imagine a Boehner/Obama moment that has the same warmth
behind it, even when I`ve seen them sort of connect, it always seems
professional, not warmth. Is that part of it?
MATTHEWS: Well, one of the stories I tell is them praying together after
Reagan is shot and kissing Reagan in the forehead and holding hands in
reciting the 23rd sound together. I can`t see Boehner --
HARRIS-PERRY: Can you imagine Boehner kissing President Obama on the
MATTHEWS: But there`s this cooties idea. I was ten feet from him and
already felt sick like an 8-year-old. I said, I can`t stand looking at
you. All the stuffs has leaked out.
HARRIS-PERRY: But doesn`t that feel racialized to me?
MATTHEWS: That part is. But then, there`s the state issue. When Tip went
over and represented Reagan to Gorbachev, the first time and said, we don`t
disagree on everything and he`s our leader. That sense of, when in doubt,
back the leader. The president is the only president. He`s not just head
of the Democratic Party. He`s not just an African-American guy. He`s our
president. That`s why lately, I`ve been insisting on my show, we`re going
to call him the president. Not even President Obama anymore, just, the
president. Let`s get that straight. That state issue.
So, I think there were two things. One, we have (INAUDIBLE) thing today.
He never is isolated, but it is there with the (INAUDIBLE). It is clearly,
there are the birthers in Donald Trump and the like.
But then there`s the state issue. Do we now respect our president, when in
doubt and we don`t have the fight with him, do we normally support him?
That`s gone. And I think the idea of electing a president is so different
than electing a speaker. Tip never thought he was a national brand. He
knew he was elected by his fellow Democrats. Sometimes these guys in the
house think, I`m only going to represent my district, which is
gerrymandered, and all I`m going to represent is some rural district in
Texas. That`s my only job. And there are senators like that, Cruz acts
like that. You`ve got to say, I`m a United States senator. And that`s
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with me because I want to also want to ask whether or
not the book is too romantic and I want to bring some additional voices in.
But before we go, I do -- you and I have share a common bond. And that is,
we have a common senior producer. Our beloved Moshe, who left on your
program, was on our program for a while, and has now run off to Israel,
enjoying new adventures. I want to show a message he sent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Chris. Hi, Melissa. I`m here at the Jerusalem
post. It`s Saturday night. I`m editing today`s news for tomorrow`s
newspaper. I miss you. I hope you have a great show tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And when we come back, we`re bringing more folks to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: The model I turned to over and over again is the model of Ronald
Reagan. Ronald Reagan stood up with a smile and he drew a line in the
sand. And he said, President Carter and I have fundamentally different
visions of this country and our future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Senator Ted Cruz invoking the legacy of President
Reagan in Iowa on Friday. Still with me to talk about the gipper`s ongoing
influence on the GOP is MSNBC`s Chris Matthews. Joining us at the table,
Karen Skinner, the director of Carnegie Mellon University`s center for
international relations and politics, also, Bob Herbert, distinguished
senior fellow at DEMOS, and Karen Marin who is the political columnist for
"the Chicago Sun-Times" and the political editor at NBC 5 News in Chicago.
Thanks to all of you for being here.
So I want to start with you, Carol. When you see Ted Cruz sort of invoking
Reagan, what does this tell you? I mean, do you see Cruz as really
standing in the legacy of Reagan, or is it that Reagan has become content
less, and so he`s just sort of a thing that we say?
KAREN MARIN, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: He`s a person and
a persona that we grab, but it doesn`t work. I mean, Ted Cruz is -- I was
listening to Chris on Tip O`Neill and thinking of Dan Rostenkowski. I
mean, Reagan and Rostenkowski could work things out. Compromise wasn`t a
dirty word. For the tea party and Ted Cruz, it is a dirty word. And so,
governing still comes up as the greatest principle that I think he`s not
willing to embrace. And so he`s an image, but I don`t think it works.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, Bob, I wonder. You know, so I really, I enjoyed
every moment of the book like, I was deeply engaged with it. But I also
kept wondering, based on the sort of the hatred for which I had for Ronald
Reagan in terms of what I was raised to despise this person, right? I kept
thinking, is it a little bit too romantic? So, I was looking at this great
quote you have from Ron Reagan, from Reagan`s son, in which he said that
his father was tender hearted and sentimental in his personal dealings, but
he could nevertheless have difficulty extending his sympathies to abstract
classes of people. And then, in fact, when we look at the growing
inequalities, the kind of racial anxieties that emerge during the 1980s, we
see precisely that. And that didn`t feel like politics was working for
BOB HERBERT, SENIOR FELLOW, DEMOS: No, politics was definitely not working
for many people. And Reagan`s policies hurt people during the Reagan
administration. And subsequently, right up until today, with the folks
that are following their view of who and what Ronald Reagan was. I think
one of the problems with the Republican Party nowadays is that many of them
seem not to be part of the real world. I mean, there`s no acknowledgement
of reality. One of the reasons why Reagan was able to govern, even though
I was hostile to his policies, he was able to govern because he governed
within the context of the real world. He understood the realities of life
in America and politics in Washington. But the Republicans, I think, have
are really moved away from that.
HARRIS-PERRY: But Karen, what are the lessons that contemporary GOP
leaders opt to be learning from the actual Reagan, not just the myth of
KAREN SKINNER, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY`S CENTER: You
anticipated it at the top of the program when you said, you talked about
Reagan and governing. And I think it`s a lesson not just for Republicans,
but for all politicians, including the current administration, is to know
that governing is different than campaigning. And Reagan understood that
fundamentally because he campaigned for office so long.
Many don`t know that he first ran for president, I know Chris, you know
this as well, in 1968. And he had this kind of stealth campaign, as
governor, two years into his time in the statehouse, and he was going all
over the country, giving speeches down south, in the Midwest. There was no
way that he could stop the Nixon machine so he announced at the convention,
which is unimaginable today. And three days later, of course, he did not
get the nomination. But `68 was much more important for him than `76,
because he learned how to campaign, how to change his message, so it would
broaden the coalition.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. But he ran the coalition in part, Chris, by employing a
southern strategy that brought out the conservative Democrat out of that
Democratic Party. I mean, I was reading back this Washington star article
about sort of the welfare queen, which actually emerged in the 1976
campaign, where he writes, there`s a woman in Chicago who has 80 names, 30
addresses, 12 Social Security cards, is collecting veterans benefits on
four nonexistent deceased husbands, collecting Social Security on they are
car, she has Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, and her tax cash free cash
income alone is over $150,000. That is the lesson, right? I mean, I just
think on the campaigning, that the GOP learned that lesson of a kind of
racial divisiveness as a way of breaking apart that very fragile Democratic
coalition that Tip O`Neill was trying to hold together.
MATTHEWS: Yes. It think -- what I mean by politics is not that
progressive -- Reagan is not a progressive. You guys don`t like him
because you don`t like his policy, me neither. Every minute of my life was
fighting the guy.
But look what we were able to do in the opposition? We took a guy who
really didn`t like Social Security. He really wanted it to make it
voluntary and we solidified it for history. It was solid and has been
solid ever since --tough negotiations, firing at it for two, three,
straight years. And back `81, `82, all we did was hit him on Social
Security. We made him pay for that. So, it needs to be cut our deal, of
progressive solution on Social Security, higher taxes on the rich, made it
subject to taxes, basically me tested. Reagan signed that damn bill. On
tax reform, we got equal rates for equity income, for rich people, coupon
clipping, for the guy who goes out there and sweats. We got that done.
So, all these issues, (INAUDIBLE), you may not like his defense, I didn`t
like it we fought it. But at the end, a lot of pressure on him, and he
went to Gorbachev and he was the guy that could sign the bill. So, I would
argue, we took him from being -- because of our good opposition took a very
possibly radical president who wanted to govern Social Security and
Medicare to being a reasonable conservative, who ended up winning the cold
war. And by the way, on race, he was always terrible. Because for
whatever reason, black folk I`ve known never bought him. No. this is a
reality and it will never going to change.
What I`m trying to point out is, when you totally disagree with a person,
all you have is opposition. You`re not going to fire him. You are not
going to beat Ronald Reagan. He got 49 states the second time. You can
sit at home and hate the guy or you can go out there and try to work with
him and make him a better guy. And I`m telling you, I think good
opposition and good politics works when you temper each side.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Stay right there. We`re going to talk about the
whacko birds that are currently running this joint and whether or not they
have learned the process of good opposition.
HARRIS-PERRY: In a March interview with the "Huffington Post," Senator
John McCain was asked whether the new lawmakers from the conservative
grassroots were a positive force in the Republican Party. And he
responded, quote, "it`s always the whacko birds on the right and left that
get the media megaphone. I think it can be harmful if there is a belief
among the American people that those people are reflective of the views of
the majority of Republicans. They`re not."
When press specified the flock of whacko birds, McCain name checked one
House Republicans, Republican representative Justine Amash and two senate
colleagues from his side of the aisle, Kentucky senator Rand Paul and Texas
senator Ted Cruz, who just a couple of months later had this to say in a
May speech on the Senate floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: It`s been suggested those of us who are fighting to defend liberty,
fighting to turn around the out-of-control spending and out-of-control debt
in this country, fighting to defend the constitution, it has been suggested
that we are whacko birds. Well, if that is the case, I will suggest to my
friend from Arizona, there may be more whacko birds in the Senate than is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, the public infighting between Republican colleagues in
putting both McCain and Cruz, did a direct violation of the famous 11th
commandment popularized by Ronald Reagan himself, thou shall not speak ill
of another Republican. I want to let you all in.
MARIN: Look at Lamar Alexander right now, who is running for U.S. Senate
and who is doing some pushback on this. He`s not calling him a whacko
bird, but he is talking about Republicans have got to dump this scorecard
concept of how they run this party. And so, just as McCain did when he was
re-elected, Orrin Hatch did, they took a more centrist approach and pushed
back, which I think may be a real lesson for this party in the face of the
Ted Cruzes of this world.
SKINNER: I think if we go back to thinking about Ronald Reagan and how he
can inform this debate, within the Republican Party, actually, this big
civil war, is to realize that Ronald Reagan actually understood how to
govern. And that`s the theme of Chris` book. And when you look at Reagan,
the core of his governing is that he stayed true to his principles, but he
was always concerned about getting his message across in a way that would
open the door for a broader coalition. And actually, he was quite a
centrist on the major issues facing the country during the day. For
example, on the cold war, he was seen as a hawk by many on the left. But
he had more summits with his soviet opposite number than any American
president. And more than some presidents combined.
HARRIS-PERRY: I hear you. Like, I really do. And I think, I mean, part
of what makes Reagan complicated. But I also don`t want to miss that
income inequality grows massively, that homelessness grows as a result of
his public housing policies. That there`s a kind of ending of the civil
rights process that a kind of halt that occurs in the 1980s. That I think
we just have to be careful as we think about the centrist Reagan, not to
But also, Chris, I really want to ask about Tip --
MATTHEWS: Can we talk about Ted Cruz and how different he was? Because
Cruz -- you`ve got to listen to Cruz. What`s he advocating? A one-party
state. He`s not advocating the country that we`ve lived in and will live
in our whole lives, which will always be a two-party state. You think
about the times in history when one top party have dictate Roosevelt`s
first term. LBJ in the months after Kennedy was killed. That`s about it.
We have one party dictate and that`s what he wants. This is not American
politics he`s talking about. Where I can go in there and wave my finger in
an evangelical matter and dictate some on the hard right, and that`s g to
be future in perpetuity.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the even homogeneity in the party, part of what was
remarkable about the text, was your stories about Tip O`Neill holding
together this Democratic Party coalition, which includes at this point,
still a set a fan of Dixiecrats (ph). And I think this really critically
important and reflect this moment, all of these folks who end up sort of
just barely in because of the nature of how districting was looking in
So what is it that Boehner could learn from Tip O`Neill in terms of how to
hold together a party with discipline as the speaker of the house?
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s much harder, because, you know, America is basically
run by a swing group of people. The ones I know, because they`re called
Reagan Democrats. They tend to be Irish, Italian, working class, middle
class, people who have had Democratic roots, but are willing to vote for a
Reagan or a Nixon because they can`t stand McGovern. But then they swing.
Almost ethnic groups are fairly predictable. But it is that middle group,
and that includes or did include some of these southerners. Now the
Dixiecrats (ph) have stopped calling themselves Democrats. They only
called themselves Republicans but they are still Dixiecrats (ph) and said
this in conscience, some of them.
And I think it`s very hard for John Boehner, who is a typical Republican,
he could be Gerry Ford (ph) or Michael to try to move them because they
don`t have any coalition partners. Those people on the hard tea party
right don`t really fit with any political party. They can`t join the
Democrats and there aren`t any fascists to join.
HARRIS-PERRY: But the swing ethnic group that could have been cultivated
that was a swing ethnic group for a moment was Latinos, who was divided
about a third. There was this whole possibility, and now we see the tea
party we see sort of this hard right move, this refusal to move on
immigration actually shutting off that, possibly.
Stick with me. We`ve got a lot more. But specifically I want to talk
about the fact that it`s not just the Republican who is invoke Reagan, but
President Obama himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The 1980 election was
different. I mean, I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America
in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill
Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path, because the
country was ready for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was then Senator Barack Obama in a January 2008
interview with the Reno Gazette journal talking about why he believed
Ronald Reagan to be a singularly game-changing president.
What do you think the president is doing when he`s invoking Reagan?
HERBERT: I believe he`s invoking the myth of Reagan. Reagan is like this,
overwhelmingly popular, political figure in America. A lot of the things
that we`re talking about, but people that were hurt as a result of Reagan`s
policies have been forgotten by the mainstream, you know. So I guess, you
know, Obama considers this to be a political plus.
My view has always been, you know, not being a politician, that the
Democrats never fought hard enough against the policies and the approach
that came out of the Reagan era and that comes right up until now. I mean,
we have an administration that is still trying to find common ground with
the Republican Party that is like, so far beyond the pale and doesn`t make
any sense. And the net result is that all kinds of people are being hurt
and suffering. The Republicans are trying to cut food stamps as we speak.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s happening November 1, just as a result of it dropping
back from the sort of pre-sequester levels. But let`s just say, does that
level than the question of instead of celebrating Tip O`Neill and President
Ronald Reagan coming to compromise, that Tip O`Neill should have behaved
more like Ted Cruz, should have shut -- I mean, that`s what you`re saying,
they didn`t find hard enough?
MATTHEWS: Every day, every moment of my life fought Reagan, every minute.
It`s what he could get done. It is what you can do in -- you have to be as
reasonable as you ask the other side to be reasonable. The country wanted
Reagan, they voted for him. They voted overwhelmingly for him because he
represented to them the America they believed in. He gave optimism back to
people that had completely given up. How many presidencies in a row?
Kennedy was killed, Johnson was a disaster as the Vietnam, Jerry Ford was
kicked out, Carter was kicked out. The country was dying for a leader, a
leader. He went in there and kicked butt.
HERBERT: Chris has written about the fact that -- exactly, that the
Democrats fought against Reagan`s policies. So Reagan cuts taxes and you
get the biggest tax cut, I guess in history, up to that point. And then a
year or so later, they`re fighting and he is forced to raise taxes. That`s
not what has happened since then. What`s happened since then, you have all
kinds of Democrats embracing the tax cut --
HARRIS-PERRY: That is the legacy of Bill Clinton. But that`s the legacy
of Bill Clinton.
HERBERT: And my contention is all along, the Democrats should have been
fighting against those concepts and philosophies that came out of that era.
HARRIS-PERRY: But the legacy of Bill Clinton and that whole notion of
moving the Democratic Party to the right, embracing a sort of Reagan
moment, right? And I think actually, President Obama stands more in that
legacy of that sort of centrist Democrat --
HERBERT: I agree.
So -- but that happens in part because of a narrative --
MATTHEWS: You would have loved Walter Mondale. So, in 1984, I`m standing
at the convention in San Francisco, and he said, Reagan won`t tell you
we`ve got to raise taxes, I just did. You know what happened then? They
HERBERT: You don`t come out of a campaign and say, I want to raise taxes.
What you do is show the harm that`s being inflicted on working people,
middle class people, and poor people by these policies. You don`t just
say, hey, I want to raise taxes. You say, hey, look what they`re doing to
MARIN: And it still comes out, I want to raise taxes. Ultimately, the
message is going to drive that. I don`t think there`s too much being made
of Reagan and Tip O`Neill. I think it is compromise and governing. And
that isn`t what we`re seeing here. And when we talk about the Ted Cruz
mantle of Ronald Reagan, let`s remember a couple of things. He has barely
won one election. He`s barely in the Senate.
Ronald Reagan, by the time he got to government had been turned to tempered
still. He understood, he had been a governor, he had negotiated, he`d seen
political rallies. He`s been across the country in ways that Cruz has not
been in. Cruz is extremely smart and don`t discount him. He still is, not
unlike Rick Perry, a guy who`s won an election in Texas.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ted Cruz, you are no Ronald Reagan.
Thank you so much to Chris Matthews, author of "Tip and the Gipper: when
Up next, why next week will be a particularly tough one for the poor and
hungry. Bob was taken up there just a few minutes ago.
HARRIS-PERRY: November is when the holiday season goes into overdrive and
Americans have so much to worry between navigating holiday crowds and
family drama that figuring out if they have enough money to eat should not
be on their list of things to worry about.
But for a nearly 48 million Americans that issue will grow more complicated
starting November 1st, this Friday. Because on that day, the boost
provided by the 2009 recovery act for households receiving SNAP or
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, ends.
That translates to an $11 cut for a household of one, $20 for a household
of two, $29 for a household of three, and $36 for a family of four. Now,
that might seem like nothing, but that`s exactly the point. The
individuals and families who receive SNAP benefits often subsist on barely
anything and are still expected to feed themselves. More than 80 percent
of SNAP beneficiaries leave below the federal poverty line and more than 40
percent live in what is called deep poverty. Their salaries are below half
of the poverty line. $36 less a month for a family of four at today`s
prices translates into full fewer whole chickens a month and don`t even
think about a turkey for thanksgiving. These additional cuts mean that in
2014, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per meal, per meal.
Not only does this affect families struggling to put food on the table, but
also the food banks that are trying to feed them. The combined cuts that
take place on November 1st and the proposed farm bill cuts transit late to
nearly 3.4 billion meals. For an organization like feeding America, that
loss exceeds their projected annual meal distribution of about 3.3 billion.
Even with their best efforts, there is no way nonprofits will be able to
make up this gap.
This is the season of giving, but charity alone is not sufficient. And you
can`t fit justice into a Christmas sock.
So this year, think about giving the gift of a phone call or an e-mail to
your member of Congress. It is time they hear from us. Tell them. Don`t
let our neighbors go hungry.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called President
Obama and she might have bought a new phone to do it because she was
calling to ask for reassurance that a recent revelation from NSA leaker
Edward Snowden isn`t true. That her cell phone wasn`t the target of an
American intelligence tap.
Merkel, who expressed her concerns about electronic surveillance when
President Obama visited her country in the summer, apparently gave the
president an earful during their phone chat. According to her
spokesperson, Merkel said she, quote, "unequivocally disapproves of such
practices and sees them as completely unacceptable, and that any such thing
would be a grave breach of trust."
Now, the Germany newspaper there, (INAUDIBLE), reported Saturday that
Merkel`s phone may have been bugged for more than ten years by the most
seats. But also, that President Obama told Merkel that he would have
stopped it if he`d known about it.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said a couple of days ago that the
White House isn`t doing this, but I can`t exactly blame Merkel for being
As it is Nerdland, we may end up handing over our own secrets through our
phones and not necessarily to a government. Look, I recently got the
iphone 5s. I love it. One of my favorite things about this new edition of
Apple`s top so in device, is the fingerprint sensor that unlocks the phone.
No more swiping the screen and no more pass codes that a thief can decode.
Your one of a kind fingerprint is your ticket to real security.
Well, I sort of thought that until I remembered something that I saw my
guest today tweet back in September. New iphone wants your fingerprint for
Rightfully, everyone from world leaders to regular citizens have been
bugging about what Edward Snowden has revealed. But what about the
information that we so-called voluntarily and so casually give up every
Joining me now is Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and senior fellow at
the Century Foundation, Barton Gellman, one of the journalists for whom Mr.
Snowden has been a source.
It is so nice to have you here.
BARTON GELLMAN, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTURY FOUNDATION: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, I have been a bit of a skeptic or at least,
not completely sure about how to think about the newfound anxieties around
security and privacy. So I wanted to have a bit of a one on one with you,
because I want you to convince me. I`m open to being convinced that I
should be at least as anxious about NSA that I really am feeling at this
moment about Apple.
GELLMAN: Look, it`s a question about power and the power of a relationship
between citizens and the state. What`s happened over the last decade or
so, and especially since 9/11, has been that we have become and more
transparent to our government, and it has become more and more opaque to
us. So the more the surveillance has expanded, the more secretive it`s
Intelligence agencies can`t function completely in the light. That`s not
their job. But when the basic fundamental policies of where we`ll spy, on
whom, how, are secret, when the law is secret, that`s a different question.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I think maybe it`s the historical narrative that you
just told that`s part of what`s difficult for me. Do you really believe
that our government is more opaque now than it was in the mid-1960s, or do
you think this is a continuation of a set of behaviors that this government
has engaged in really from the beginning? Just empirically, before we get
to the moral outrage around either NSA or (INAUDIBLE), do you think it`s
actually more opaque now?
GELLMAN: Well, for sure, there have been lots of secrets, and for much
worse behavior. Look, you know, secret surveillance was one of the
articles of impeachment against Nixon, and he used it for sort of blatantly
political and obviously sort of illegitimate purposes. I mean, the paradox
here is we now have given them, and they have acquired, powers that would
beggar the imagination of (INAUDIBLE), but they`re not big brother in the
sense that they`re trying to suppress political debate. There`s no
evidence that they`re using surveillance as an instrument of oppression.
But they have accumulated so much latent power that any future government
can do whatever it wanted with it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So in terms of thinking of personal information as latent
power then, that`s part of why I have more anxiety about Google, about
Apple in part because, at least presumably, within a Democratic governance,
I can get this president who uses privacy inappropriately. I can actually
go for an article of impeachment or I can vote against this person. There
is so level of Democratic accountability to the people. But a multi-
national corporation that is not even bound by nation state security
concerns, in certain ways, if the information is itself latent power,
aren`t they the folks we should be most concerned about?
GELLMAN: My feeling is why choose.
HARRIS-PERRY: I see. So both? So duck and cover from both?
GELLMAN: I`m writing a book about the whole spectrum of the sort of
surveillance industrial state that`s been created. There`s a whole lot of
overlap in the interests between the commercial marketers, the law
enforcement people, and the national security people. And all of them have
available to them a sort of volume of information that simply never existed
before on the planet. And they are all capable now of tracking every
movement you make, your entire social grip. What the marketers call your
psychographer (ph) doesn`t have any obligation to keep it private.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, in fact, not an obligation, they have a real incentive
and interest to sell it. I mean, the thing that makes these social media
sites profitable. Twitter is about to go public, right? The thing that
makes that profitable isn`t us talking to each other in 140 characters,
it`s the information that we provide, which then makes us targets for, at
this point, just marketing, right? But potentially more nefarious things.
I mean, this all comes back to me, to the question of transparency. People
don`t understand what`s happening with the information that they`re
providing, because everybody who`s collecting it has a strong incentive to
keep it secret. I did a little experiment with a guy in my office at the
century foundation, with the ability to kind of get 100 of one percent of
what the companies get. Just downloaded all the locations of his tweets
and uploaded them up on to Google maps, said, OK, so here`s where you live,
here`s where your kid goes to school. Here`s where you were visiting your
in-laws, before you were up late that night. Here`s another space you go
to all the time, not even going to ask what that one is. He looked at
that, my ability to date and time stamp his locations around the world and
immediately went and deleted all of them.
HARRIS-PERRY: He`s like, I`m done.
GELLMAN: As soon as you make it concrete for people, it sort of freaks
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I want to talk more about this feeling of feeling
freaked out and what we do within the context of the democracy to check the
latent power of those who govern us.
Coming up next, there have been protesters calling to be seen and heard in
order to not be seen and heard.
More Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Stop watching us! Seriously! Stop it!
No, no, no, no. Not you, Nerdland viewer. Please, for goodness sake, keep
watching us. In fact, keep watching so you can learn about Stop Watching
Us. I`m talking about the coalition that was a part, a big part of a big
rally yesterday in Washington reportedly drawing thousands of people
calling for the government to stop watching us, online, on the phone, and
A coalition with that name, Stop Watching Us, helped to organize Saturday`s
rally, in front of the capitol, demanding that we all keep paying
attention. Not just to them, but the coast that they`re championing.
So, here`s a YouTube video published on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Revelations that have emerged in the past few months from
whistle-blower Edward Snowden and others.
PHIL DONAHUE: Have painted a disturbing picture of widespread
suspicionless surveillance of American citizens.
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: We got a wake up call just recently.
DAVID SEGAL: NSA snooping includes the interception and collection of call
detail records and Internet traffic.
MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL: Including audio, video, photographs, documents, chat
logs, and e-mails.
OLIVER STONE: Every American is at risk for getting caught up in the NSA
JOHN CUSACK: Including average citizens not suspected of a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So as you can tell, this is actually made up of people who
are typically pretty public. Actors and politicians, scholars, and yet
they`re saying, stop watching us, because this coalition delivered a
petition to Congress on Saturday with more than 500,000 petition
signatures, demanding reform of the country`s surveillance laws.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden weighed in at the rally himself. Not
in person. He`s still in Russia, actually.
But with a statement to the ACLU that read in part, quote, "Today, no
telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA.
Today, no Internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing
through the NSA hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not
surveillance and they`re wrong. Now it`s time for the government to learn
Now, if you`re like me, you`ve had some skepticism about Snowden and the
maelstrom that erupted after both "The Guardian" newspaper and "The
Washington Post" published the 30-year-old`s revelations in June of this
I`ve caught my share of heat for it, but again, I reiterate, it`s the
revelations beneath Snowden`s newfound celebrity that I want to concentrate
on here. There may be no better time to do it than right now, because
Saturday was the 12th birthday of the USA Patriot Act, signed into law by
President George W. Bush on October 26th, 2001, just about six week after
September 11th terrorist attacks.
And what has it done since? It has exploited one of the most vulnerable
moments in our history to allow the NSA and the rest of Washington`s
military industrial complex to expand federal tentacles, even deeper into
our lives. All in the name of making us safer. But has it?
Still with me is Barton Gellman of the Century Foundation, Kiron Skinner
from Carnegie Mellon University, Bob Herbert from Demos, and now joining me
is Noah Shachtman, executive editor of news for "Foreign Policy" magazine,
and a nonresident fellow of the Brookings Institution.
So, nice to have you all.
So let`s dig in a little bit about this idea of stop watching us. It`s a
very basic sort of claim, but how realistic is it that, in fact, the
government will stop watching us?
KIRON SKINNER, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY: It`s actually not realistic at
all, because it has always done it and it always will and when we`re
talking about the firestorm of this past week, the revelations or the
alleged stories about France and Germany listening in on the cell phone of
the chancellor and then millions of French citizens in a 30-day period,
that`s something that the U.S. has done and all countries do. I think it`s
the scope of what`s happened that`s been so shocking for people.
And the fact that it`s being alleged that U.S. political figures have been
asked by the NSA to provide private phone numbers of heads of government
and other counterparts that they interact with. I think that`s offensive
not just to Americans but to our core allies upon whom we depend. But it
makes it difficult, even if the leaders knew that this was going on, it
makes it hard for them with their public, when they have to go back and
explain American behavior, which they don`t want to explain.
SKINNER: So I think there`s not little positive that comes out of all of
this. And the sheer scope, I think is just really frightening for a lot of
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Bart, so this sheer scope point that Kiron is making
here, I read at one point you wrote, I shouldn`t have been prepared, given
the work that you do, I should have been prepared for the kind of thing
that happens when Snowden provides you with these credible documents. But
you were, in fact, a bit taken aback by what Mr. Snowden provided.
BARTON GELLMAN, THE CENTURY FOUNDATION: Well, that`s true. I mean, I paid
a lot of attention to surveillance issues when I did a book on Dick Cheney
a few years ago, and I was still kite stunned by some of the things that
I`ve learned from the Snowden archive.
Here`s another way to look at what you just said. Sure, governments have
always been interested in collecting information. And they`ve been
collecting for a long time. But what`s different now, is that you don`t
have the potential obscurity you used to have. It was simply not feasible,
even for the Stasi in East Germany to watch and listen to every
conversation of every person and file those and index -- they literally had
index cards, OK?
GELLMAN: Now, you have automated systems that can collect, just sitting
back and doing nothing, all the records of who you talk to and exactly
when, where you travel, you know, what you buy. And machines can correlate
that with quite sophisticated tools called like contact Cheney, for
example. And you -- the other difference is, you have no control over
If you`re worried about someone listening to you, you can be quiet. You
can choose your words. You cannot do anything to conceal your metadata.
The metadata is much more revealing.
NOAH SHACHTMAN, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: And also, this is a controversial
proposition, even within the U.S. intelligence community, to collect all
this information. There`s lots of people, very smart people and very
senior people in U.S. intelligence community that don`t think it`s a good
idea to be collecting so broadly on basically the entire world. So, even
the spies are not so sure this is a great idea.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, in fact, let me push on that a little bit more. I
think for me reporting the news in a broad sense, it is tough in the same
week to report our government in Washington is incapable of putting up a
decent Web site, right, and can`t collect data for people who are trying to
give the government data in order to sign up for Obamacare. And the next
day turning around and doing a story about how the government is like James
Bond level capable of collecting all of our data.
So I guess part of what I wonder is if the sheer sort of fire hose force of
information coming at a government that is apparently incapable of putting
up a Web site, makes those data not even useful to us as a security
question, right, because they`re not very good at sorting it. Or is it
that this part of the government is good and this part is bad at this?
SHACHTMAN: Yes, I mean, I wouldn`t confuse the NSA with the --
HARRIS-PERRY: So they should do the Obamacare Web site?
SHACHTMAN: Exactly. No, but that is a concern within the U.S.
intelligence community, is that they don`t have adequate tools to really
sort through this information yet. And while they`re doing great at
collecting, great at collecting, the sorting is still a work in progress.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, because knowing where my kid went to school or when I
went to visit my in-laws is not very useful for the protection of American
BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: You know, the collection of data is going to continue.
The technological genie is out of the bottle.
I think that one of the things that we need to do is have the American
public much more informed about what is going on, and then we need much
less governmental secrecy. And, you know, one of the reasons why I favored
what Edward Snowden was doing from the beginning is, and this may go to my
background as a journalist, I`m just always in favor of more information
for the public to understand what is going on.
And I have long thought that the government has classified much too much
information. But the idea that the government or that business, or the
business for that matter, are going to stop monitoring everything that`s
sort of going on in our lives, I think that idea is --
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask a little bit -- OK, so I want to ask a little
bit about the political coalition here, which is a strange set of
bedfellows and in part has been part of my challenge in really sort of
getting fully engaged with this, because when I think about government
surveillance, that makes me nervous, it is much more grand level. It is
the surveillance of local welfare offices over the bodies of poor women,
who are using, you know, TANF and food stamps to feed their families. It
is the surveillance of stop and frisk cops on the beat.
I -- it is just so much more likely that the NOPD is going to have a
negative influence in my life. And the problem is that when I look at the
political coalition that is here around the stop watching us, they`re not
the same political coalition interested in those aspects of surveillance
which feel more imminent to me.
HERBERT: The kinds of things you`re talking about can be stopped. That
sort of thing can be changed. I mean, it would require campaigns and
citizens involvement to have it done, but it definitely can be controlled.
SKINNER: But I think, Melissa, you`re speaking about an interesting
national coalition in the period when we`re so divided that`s emerging from
the very different extremes in the U.S. And I think it may be some glimmer
of hope. It`s the same coalition --
HARRIS-PERRY: Dennis Kucinich and Rand Paul hanging out together.
SKINNER: You think about the drone strike debate earlier and Senator Rand
Paul`s filibuster last spring. Who supported him? The ACLU.
SKINNER: The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, making some of
the same arguments about the role of privacy, governments and intervention
in our privacy, on that issue. And they`re saying the same thing here. So
there are national security issues that bring Democrats, Republicans,
libertarians together and this is one of them.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Conyers and Sensenbrenner being together -- because the
problem is, I`m not taking comfort in it. Like it doesn`t feel like, oh,
great, this is the big coalition. I keep thinking man, if Rand Paul was
for it, maybe I ought to be against it.
But stick with us, because I`ve really -- my favorite story of the week was
about flipping the script on the former NSA chief. I mean, you just never
know who`s listening.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know how on Amtrak trains, they`ll have a quiet car? A
place where you can busy yourself with work or reading or sleeping without
the distraction of your fellow travelers` conversations? I`m thinking
that`s where Michael Hayden will be riding from now on.
Hayden served as NSA chief and then a CIA director under President George
W. Bush and very briefly under President Obama. He was on the train
Thursday afternoon, giving an interview by phone about the Obama
administration as an enormous source. He was not in the quiet car. And
seemingly he was at high volume. So loud that Tom Matzzie, a clean energy
entrepreneur, and former activist for the liberal group MoveOn.org sitting
nearby could live tweet it.
"On Acela, listening to former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden give off-record
interview," Matzzie tweeted at first.
And then, "I feel like I`m in the NSA, except I`m in public. #awkward."
I lover this story for so many reasons, in part because of the technology
you know sort of piece that you brought up, and I felt it in a little bit
in the stop watching us rally yesterday, which is like, can a revolution
for privacy be live tweeted? I mean, there`s a way in which like our very
being in the 21st century is so connected with revelation that it`s, it`s
at odds with our notions and desire for privacy.
SKINNER: I felt that the Hayden story really, in some ways, invalidated
the Snowden story, because it goes to this fundamental issue. In the
digital age, it`s almost impossible to keep a secret, even if you`re the
national government, you don`t need a contractor going rogue, to unleash
the kind of documents that Snowden has. It can happen eventually.
Do we not believe that our friends in German and other counterparts around
the world have -- don`t have technology people that are as sophisticated as
we are and will catch up to us?
So, I think we have to fundamentally rethink what we`re doing in the
espionage arena, given that there`s just so much transparency due to the
digital age and how fast people are catching up to what we`re doing.
GELLMAN: Let me offer counterpoint to that, an example of what`s Snowden
did for us, that took a whole long time. Eleven years ago, with the
passage of the Patriot Act, the Bush administration secretly interpreted it
to mean that because Congress said, you`re allowed to get business records
that are relevant to a terrorism investigation. They secretly interpreted
that to mean that we can get all the records of all phone calls of all
And instead the FBI put out word -- don`t worry, we`re not abusing this.
We`ve only used that power two dozen times in the past year. Turns out one
dozen of them was enough to get 1 trillion phone records.
GELLMAN: And we have not known -- 11 years went by and we found out
because of Snowden.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, he did an important public service, for no other
reason, generating this set of conversations, which maybe we haven`t been
having, in part because we were consciously like -- I mean, the thought
that I was going to give -- that I gave my fingerprint, right? I mean, I
just never would have done that if I had been thinking more carefully about
it, until that moment I thought, oh, this will be fun. We get so used to
that notion of technology.
I wanted to -- one of our MSNBC reporters, Adam Serwer, was in the field at
the rally yesterday, and spoke with a student from Philadelphia named Kyle
who said this. He said, "They`re reading my e-mails and they`re watching
the porn I watch. It`s ridiculous, he said, of the NSA."
Now, as I read that, I laughed about it, because it was a kind of lack of
sense of irony about the idea of being a voyeur, of the most private act,
but wanting privacy in the context of that voyeurism. And that feels to me
like precisely the angst that we have to be able -- in other words, how can
we both have our technological developments and feel a sense of safety and
HERBERT: I mean, I think that you could, in theory. I think in the real
world, it`s becoming increasingly difficult. And, you know, when we talk
about this governmental intrusion and why we should be concerned about what
the NSA or other aspects of the government are doing -- this young fella
who`s talking about, you know, they`re watching my porn or whatever, he
actually has a good point, because we don`t to a lot of talking about how
this information can be misused. It doesn`t have to be used for national
security purposes. It can be used for political purposes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or your employer.
HERBERT: It can be used to take down a political opponent or it can be
used by your employer, that sort of thing. So, you know, we do need to be
concerned, and that`s why am so much in favor of the public understanding
as much as possible about what the government is doing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this is probably where I started to transition a bit in
my sort of softening a little bit towards Edward Snowden. That is this.
That it does feel like those concerns of the midcentury, the 1950s and
`60s, the great pushback was about the robustness of democracy. The thing
that fights back against your government being those kind of political
machinations of your government is having a robust economy where people
have more information and more capacity to engage.
Are we in a time where that very technology that allows us to be surveilled
is also the technology that might create a more robust engagement with our
SKINNER: I think you speak to a fundamental issue that the Obama
administration should be addressing. The president has a role in all of
this. He has to set the moral climate for the intelligence community and
for the government at large on these issues. And every time something
comes up like this, he says, I learn it on the nightly news.
And that`s not leadership and that means he could not possibly be setting a
climate of openness and responsibility. He keeps learning scandal after
scandal in real time. And so, I`m worried about the leadership in
Washington, coming out of the White House on issues like privacy.
SHACHTMAN: I think one of the reasons he`s learning about it because it
became so routine to conduct mass surveillance that they actually didn`t
have to bother telling the president on a sort of project-by-project basis.
And I do think there`s a change in the last 48 to 72 hours within the
administration, that there`s a sense that maybe the NSA has gone too far
and maybe there does need to be some rethinking of it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I appreciate that point, that it doesn`t necessarily
mean sort of bad presidential behavior, but a set of institutional
practices that have emerged, particularly post-Patriot Act. Thanks to all
of you for being here and being thoughtful with me. I get trolled for
privacy all the time.
So, it`s useful to me to have an engaging conversation as I try to think
through these questions.
Thank you to Barton Gellman and Kiron Skinner and to Noah Shachtman.
When we come back, we are going to talk about the very unusual decision
made in Newtown, Connecticut, and what is happening there, right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: This morning, the site of one of the worst school shootings
in American history, Sandy Hook Elementary, is being completely torn down.
And it`s all happening behind barricades, away from TV news cameras and
with as much privacy as Newtown can muster. Under strict confidentiality
agreements and behind concrete barriers, construction crews are destroying
every trace of the nearly 60-year-old building where gunman Adam Lanza
killed 20 children and six adults last December.
The town decided to raze the building and construct an entirely new school
on the site, because as one town leader said, quote, "We`re not a tourist
attraction or a large city. We are a small town of 28,000 that just wants
to be left alone to heal. We don`t want parts of the building showing up
as collectors items on eBay."
Too many other schools have had to make similar decisions, struggling with
balancing the impulse to honor and preserve the site of a tragedy in memory
of what happened there with the need to heal by moving on, especially when
the site of the tragedy, the newly sacred ground, is also the location of a
much-needed local amenity, like a school.
In Pennsylvania, the community tore down the West Nichols Mine Amish school
ten days after a gunman opened fire there in October of 2006, killing five
girls and injuring five others. A new school opened up yards away.
At Virginia Tech, university officials kept the building where a gunman
killed 30 people in April of 2007, but renovated the classrooms into a
center for peace, studies, and violence prevention. Columbine High School
in Colorado reopened its doors after 13 students were shot dead in April of
1999, but the library where most of the victims died was eventually removed
and replaced with an atrium, and a memorial was erected on a hill opposite
Memory matters. Commemoration matters. Remembrance matters. But how much
does the specific location for remembrance matter and why does it matter?
I`m going to discuss all of that with my panel when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Some of the most visible protests against the government
shutdown this month weren`t staged at the shuttered offices or the
struggling food banks, they were staged at a memorial to World War II. It
was closed because the national parks service had to furlough the 300
people who work at the memorial park site and the mall because of the
Republican caused shutdown.
Now, that didn`t stop Republicans, Tea Party aficionados and veterans from
gathering there to demand that it be reopened, saying it was an outrage
that people could not get into the physical space dedicated to those lost
in World War II. That memorial, of course, like so many other places of
remembrance in our nation`s history is in Washington, D.C., dominated
literally and figuratively by a massive 555-foot memorial commemorating our
Founding Father. It`s a city whose love of visible, physical monuments is
so great that when D.C. launched a study last year to figure out whether to
relax the federal height of buildings act of 1910 and allow taller
structures, the mayor`s office hastened to assure people that, quote, "you
are not going to have a building that`s going to overshadow the Washington
Joining me now are: Clifford Chanin, vice president for education and
public programs, the National September 11th Memorial and Museum, and co-
editor of "The Stories They Tell: Artifacts From the National September
11th Memorial Museum." Karla Holloway, professor of English law and
African-American studies at Duke University.
And still with me are Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos,
and Carolyn Marin, who is the political columnist at the "Chicago Sun-
Thank you all.
Let me start with you, because I think September 11th is perhaps the moment
beyond perhaps World War II that is most present for us in terms of
memorializing. Why is memorializing losses like this, why is that so
important to us as a people?
CLIFFORD CHANIN, NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11 MEMORIAL & MUSEUM: Well, one way
that the memorial serves not just the victims and the families is it serves
a public purpose by bringing people together in a venue. In the case of
9/11, the venue where a large part of the tragedy actually occurred, and it
brings them into a place that`s been dedicated to memory and remembrance.
And you can see, we`ve had 10 million plus people visit the memorial in
just over two years. You can see the interaction in this public sphere and
the way in which that chapter of history is sort of knitted into an
American historical narrative and a global narrative as well. Because 30,
40 percent of the visitors come from overseas.
HARRIS-PERRY: So on the one hand, you have, I think people, particularly
Americans, get that. We understand that idea of that great loss, the sort
of notion that the whole historic time of notion, sort of pre and post.
But then I think, Carol, about the idea that in Newtown, they are pulling
down the elementary school, they are asking for privacy, and at this point
they are not planning that kind of a memorialization of their loss.
CAROL MARIN, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: You know, grief is not one size fits all.
The memorializing is not one size fits all. I think in the Newtown
experience, in a smaller community, they have spoken about what they need
and what they don`t want is some sort of exploitation, people selling
bricks from the school, people bringing artifacts. As grateful as they are
for being inundated with teddy bears and things, it`s too much right now I
think to handle.
And so, I think what we as a nation have to recognize is some memorials are
perfect for that moment or that time or that people, but not all of them.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, Carl, I kept thinking to myself, I am as upset
about the memorials that don`t exist as the ones that could potentially be
foisted on. So, when you talk about not wanting it to, you know, the
little pieces of the elementary school to go around. We, of course, know
that happened with Nazi memorabilia, that it happened with lynching
postcards, this idea of sending out these kind of, you know,
memorializations of horror.
But I also, living in New Orleans and like the butt whipping that will be
given in the Superdome today to the Buffalo Bills. And yet the Superdome
is the site of where my neighbors dehydrated and died because their
government did not come for them. And there is -- and like, I don`t know
how to respond to the Superdome in that moment.
KARLA HOLLOWAY, DUKE UNIVERSITY: That is exactly it. Which story do we
want to tell? One thing that memorial does, public memorial, is to locate
and even attempt to make more coherent what the narrative is going to be
around the grief. So, the 9/11 Memorial is a public way to cohere and tell
a certain story.
In Newtown, taking, reclaiming those bodies back to families, the privacy
of those moments, rather than letting them be available to a body politics,
maybe because of not trusting that and knowing what happened to the parents
who resiliently presented themselves in Washington to rally against gun
violence. So when memorial is -- when dying is incoherent, it`s hard to
recapture that moment and put the pieces together.
HARRIS-PERRY: I really like this distinction. The public can be trusted
with the memorialization of 9/11. It`s OK to invite people because we
behaved, not completely inappropriately, we just talked about the Patriot
Act, but we behaved with the sense of the enormity of that loss. But for
the Newtown families, we failed to act to protect their children. So, we
can`t be trusted.
HOLLOWAY: And one of the things the families might want to do is to take
their stories of grief back to their own safekeeping. Not trusting a
public narrative, because it`s been so used and misused and
Taking those bodies of children back home, which is what memorial is really
HERBERT: The -- you know, there`s a difference between a memorial and --
in you`re going to observe and learn about events that occurred, no matter
how terrible. There`s a difference between that and being unable to shake
painful memories. And I think I`m quite sympathetic with the folks in
Newtown who are concerned, you know, want having sort of a monument that`s
always going to remind you of this school. And especially because it`s an
elementary school and the children were so young.
And you don`t want to be passing by something like this all the time when
you`re having, you know, 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds saying, you know,
what`s that, mommy, and you have to explain, that`s where the children died
at school and they become afraid of school and that sort of thing. So I`m
sympathetic to the concerns of the residents of Newtown.
MARIN: And there`s time. A memorial doesn`t have to be today, because the
terrible tragedy was yesterday. But it`s time to process and think. And
it isn`t to say, but there aren`t memorials going on in Newtown. There
aren`t moments and observances, but everyone, I think, gets to do it if
it`s possible, their own way.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, I want to talk more about when memorials
are erected, who gets to tell the story. So, this point about passing by
where horrible things happened -- you know, we talked about "12 Years a
Slave" last week on the show. And I was reminded because it was filmed in
New Orleans, that I passed by a slave market every day, but we don`t
memorialize that in the same way. And having grown up in Richmond,
Virginia, you know, Monument Avenue is all about Confederates and the
So, who gets to build the memorial and tell the story that affects our
memory of it, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back and continuing to talk about the issue of
memorials and monuments and how we remember and what we remember.
So I want to talk a little bit about this idea of writing the story and who
gets to remember. In the context of September 11th and Ground Zero and
what was going to happen there, what were the sort of various possibilities
for that space and who ultimately held sway in deciding how that space
would be used.
CHANIN: Well, it`s a long, complicated story, of course. But one of the
interest elements of the story is that in terms of the space of a museum,
which will open next spring, but which is a huge 110,000 square foot
underground space, what held enormous sway was the surviving artifacts of
the building. That their presence, they had not collapsed with the
building, they had, in fact, held back in some cases, the slurry wall held
back the Hudson River from flooding Lower Manhattan.
These elements somehow spoke to the process in such a way that they became
essential to the whole project of making a museum and making a memorial.
You know, what`s really interesting about this, and we see this just we the
volume of people who visit, by now in this generation, people have been
educated to expect a memorial gesture in the aftermath of a large-scale
tragedy like this.
It`s not as if you could not do something. It`s not that you know what to
do immediately or it takes a specified amount of time, but people have been
educated for two or three generations, now, really this whole post-
Holocaust awareness of memory has created this sense that people want to
participate. They share an expectation that something is expected of them,
and there`s a civic role for them in participating.
MARIN: Except women served in the military for how long before we ever
memorialized women. I mean, some of this also speaks to what you were
saying -- what we don`t memorialize and what we purposefully look away
HOLLOWAY: That`s the difficulty of it. That once people learn to expect
the narrative, not only do people compete for a location in that narrative
and what that location would be, but also there`s a competition amongst,
which is more important than the other.
I don`t think all of this public memorializing is always a good idea.
Certainly, I do with 9/11, but if I remember one of the controversies is,
what will we do? How will we record the perpetrators of this violence,
within the museum?
So, if we`re going to tell a story, is it going to be a complete story?
Are we going to be selective with our histories?
So, memorials are complicated moments, like you said, Carol. And I think
the idea of giving ourselves some time to process and think it through and
let the various archive pieces find their own places and then learn from
them rather than import the story on to them.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, think about the fight (INAUDIBLE) over how folks who
were in museums are constantly doing memorialization within the context of
actually just getting the museum collection. But for each of us, I so
appreciate this point about the women who aren`t memorialized, the African-
Americans who don`t appear.
The fact that the one time there was an attempt to put on the national
mall, a memorial to an African-American woman, was that memorial, which
thank God was not built, right, and that notion that sort of who should we
remember, not actual black women doing real work, right, but these
HOLLOWAY: Rosa Parks sitting down amongst these standing up people.
HOLLOWAY: Which in one sense makes sense, without that kind of competition
I was talking about. How shall I be located and what is America going to
tell. They didn`t start thinking about, Rosa, do we want you to stand up,
HARRIS-PERRY: And I remember Arthur Ash going up on Monument Avenue in
Richmond. This is a battle that he would take space there next to the
HERBERT: Well, I personally think that memorials should always be in the
hands of liberals.
HARRIS-PERRY: And government and everything else, yes.
HERBERT: I do get pushback on that.
One of the concerns, though, is, if you feel that every time a tragedy
occurs, it requires a memorial, it takes on a knee-jerk quality. And you
don`t want that to happen. A memorial, I think, is generally a very
special place. Not particularly political, although we know there are a
lot of political fights behind them.
So, you don`t want to sort of just get to a point where we take them for
granted. We have to have a memorial --
HARRIS-PERRY: What about commerce on these memorials? When you go to
Gettysburg and it is the definitive battle of the Civil War, but it`s also
where you can buy a hot dog. Or in the context of September 11th, there is
going to be commerce. There is going to be business transacted. Yes,
there is a museum, but there is extremely valuable real estate in Lower
CHANIN: Well, you were kind enough to mention the book that the museum
just put out at the beginning of this segment. Yes, it`s evolved. This is
an expectation that people have. They want to have more.
They want to walk away with something that reminds them of what it was.
Obviously, it can be more or less according to the taste each of us, but
the idea is that you don`t just leave it there, that there`s an ongoing
interaction. If I could, you know, one point about -- memorials somehow
capture what`s going on in a time. And the emptiness or the missing people
from one memorial moment are encapsulated in another.
Two very quick examples on the 9/11 Memorial. We have something we call
meaningful adjacencies. Families requested that their loved ones be placed
alongside someone else`s. So on flight 175, we have the names of the
Hanson family, which includes the youngest victim, Christine Hanson. But
above them are Gamboa Brandherst (ph) family, two gay men with a son.
And that is an adjacency that is part of what the memorial is, but perhaps
30, 40 years ago would not have been acknowledged as what it was. At the
same time, we have women who are pregnant memorialized and their unborn
child and her unborn child, is a phrase that was added to this. So, you
see within this bronze set eternally, you have that moment of transition
within the society.
MARIN: And the Vietnam Memorial stands as a -- because we`ve all been on
that Mall where families, some wearing sunglasses because they don`t want
people to see them cry, are stenciling out the name. But this is America,
and somewhere down the way, there`s someone selling a t-shirt, and not
necessarily maliciously, but because I support my troops or whatever they
Listen, no memorial is going to be the answer for all of the grief or the
proper answer for some of the grief for some of the people involved.
HARRIS-PERRY: Cliff and Carol and Bob, thank you so much.
Karla, stick around because I want to talk North Carolina with you when we
Comedy Central took on North Carolina`s voting laws, but what is really
going on is simply not a joke. Raise up, North Carolina.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week North Carolina`s Republican Party experienced an
epic fail when Don Yelton, a precinct chairman in Buncombe County, that`s
over there where Asheville is, sincerely answered the question questions of
"The Daily Show`s" satirical correspondent regarding the voter ID law. But
you`ve got to see it to believe it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON YELTON: The bottom line is, the law is not racist.
REPORTER: Of course the law is not racist. And you are not racist.
YELTON: Well -- I`ve been called a bigot before.
Let me tell you something. You don`t look like me, but I think I`ve
treated you the same as I would anybody else. As matter of fact, one of my
best friends is -- black.
REPORTER: One of your best friends --
YELTON: One of my best friends.
REPORTER: -- is black?
REPORTER: And there`s more.
YELTON: When I was a young man, you didn`t call a black a black, you
called him a Negro. I had a picture one time of Obama sitting on a stump
as a witch doctor and I posted that on Facebook.
I was making fun of white half of Obama, not the black half. Now, you have
a black person using the term (AUDIO DELETED), and it`s OK for them to do
REPORTER: You know that we can hear you, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I`m sorry. He resigned this week after his comments
were denounced by Tar Heel Republicans, but the headlines about North
I get the hilarity, but it also makes me so sad because I went to college
and grad school in North Carolina. I cast my first vote there, worked my
first campaign there. I cut my teeth as a reproductive rights advocate
there. I mean, NC is my political home. And I take absolutely no pleasure
in seeing the state reduced to a primetime punchline.
So I wanted to take advantage of having one of my academic advisers from
Duke University here in Nerdland to talk about why all is not lost in North
Carolina. Still with me is professor Karla Holloway.
OK. You`ve been a resident of North Carolina for decades. Please tell me
that the current right-wing explosion there is not indicative of what the
state is and where it`s going.
HOLLOWAY: No. Partially, I can say that.
HOLLOWAY: Because what you have is a group of Democrats and progressives
energized by the clarity of this kind of nonsense that we just heard. But
we also have a Republican legislature that`s passing bill after bill after
bill that`s disenfranchising in so many ways of just people`s social lives.
So, we have the clarity of do you really want this to happen to your state.
And this is a state that voted for Obama in the first presidency. So I am
a hopeful person in this regard, but I also have to be pragmatic that as
bad as -- or on the other side of the racism expressed by these comments is
that we have clarity about how those laws that disenfranchise voters, the
voter ID law, the voter suppression in terms of early voting, were
conceived of in party leaders` heads.
Now, will this guy be deposed and can we get him on record and can we get
some kind of understanding about the lawsuit that`s currently going on
around section two of the Voting Rights Act? Perhaps, but I think worse
than the racism we know is always entrenched is the clarity of Republican
Party politics that is centrally involved in making sure that as this man
said, Democrats lose the vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: That point about clarity, particularly in kind of narrative
of post-racial America and that everything is okay, and then as soon as you
see this without a hint of irony, conversation about, oh, yes, you know,
and sort of easy use of the "N" word -- the one thing that is happening in
North Carolina that gives me such hope is there is a legitimate social
movement linking reproductive rights and voting rights and anti-racist
activity in the context of Moral Mondays.
HOLLOWAY: The Moral Monday movement has been extraordinary. It`s crossed
the state. When originally conceived as the center, the capital politic in
the legislative area, but is being taken from county to county and getting
thousands of people, hundreds of people involved in clarifying their own
relatedness to a constituency.
So, teachers along with physicians, along with blue-collar workers
understanding that they have an equal stake in making sure that the rights
around reproductive rights, for example, which affects all of our families,
aren`t lost. That`s why it`s a really complicated scenario. I`m just
going to, because I have that opportunity to take the optimistic side and
think, OK, we get it, does everybody understand what this politic is?
But do know that there`s a Republican Party that this isn`t new to.
HOLLOWAY: His commentary was not a surprise to anybody. He was in the
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right, or else it wouldn`t have emerged.
HOLLOWAY: With such ease.
HARRIS-PERRY: Karla, it is always a pleasure to have an opportunity to ask
the tough questions of my actual advisers. You know, that intellectual
HOLLOWAY: You need no more advice.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, no, it`s not true, it`s not true. I need it all the
Thank you to Karla Holloway.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going
to see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern right back here on Nerdland.
But, right now, time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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