November 24, 2013
Guest: Jack Jacobs, J.J. Goldberg, Fawaz Gerges, Farai Chideya, Scott
Ross, Ron Christie, Sally Kohn, Chris Kofinis, Dean Baker, Malcolm Lee,
Elon James White, Jamie Kilstein, Farai Chideya, Courtney Andrews, Melanie
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. How can a
convicted rapist end up in a nonviolent offender`s program? Plus, a closer
look at the Republicans who want to be president. And reuniting with our
friends from the "Best Man." But first, the late breaking news out of
Geneva on a deal over Iran`s nuclear program.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. For the first time in nearly a
decade, Iran has agreed to temporarily halt its nuclear program. The
United States, along with five other major world powers, announced the deal
late last night, after marathon negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland. The
agreement is set to last six months, while international negotiations work
to reach a more comprehensive deal.
Under the plan, Iran agreed to stop enriching uranium beyond five percent.
That the level sufficient for energy production, but not bomb making. Its
stockpile of uranium enrich beyond that level will be diluted or converted
so it cannot be used for weapons purposes.
Iran will also agree to more intrusive nuclear inspections including daily
visits to some facilities. In exchange for this set, the U.S. has agreed
to provide $7 billion in sanctions relief. Last night, President Obama
hailed the agreement as a step toward a world that is more secure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are substantial
limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
Simply put, they cut off Iran`s most likely paths to a bomb. Meanwhile,
this first step will create time and space over six months for more
negotiations to fully address the comprehensive concerns about the Iranian
program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as
cover to advance its program.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Secretary of state, John Kerry who flew to Geneva early
Saturday to help final negotiations praised the deal, while admitting it`s
just a first step.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The next phase let me be clear, will be
even more difficult and we need to be honest about it. But it will also be
more consequential. Now, while we obviously have profound differences with
Iran, yet to be resolved, the fact is that this agreement could not have
been reached without the decision of the Iranian government to come to the
table and negotiate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: For more on this agreement, let`s go to NBC`s Tehran bureau
chief, Ali Arouzi who is in Geneva, Switzerland this morning.
Nice to have you with us.
ALI AROUZI, NBC NEWS TEHRAN BUREAU CHIEF: Thank you. It is a historic
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I was going to ask you to lay out what this deal means
in the context of these long, ongoing negotiations.
AROUZI: Well, it`s a very important initial step on the surface. It
looked like Iran had given up a lot. We were surprised when it was all
announced last night. It seemed Iran made major concessions and hadn`t
gotten a lot in return. But if you scratch the surface of the deal, Iran
is essentially keeping its entire nuclear program, it is not taking away
any centrifuges, it is diluting the stockpile, which it could build up, if
they want to. But it is consequence building measure.
They are going to get minor sanctions relief over the six months. They
will be able to trade in gold and other precious metals in order to get
money for oil which was be very difficult for them. But in Iran, this is a
huge success. President Rouhani has come out and said this is a huge
success for Iran, for his negotiating team. And most importantly, it got
the blessing of the Supreme leader.
The box stops with him in Iran and he was very (INAUDIBLE) of his
negotiating team. He said this was a huge victory for Iran and they could
go forward for this. But as secretary Kerry said last night, this was an
important first step. The next six months is going to be very tough to see
where these negotiations are going to go. We have to see if Iran would be
willing to disassemble any of the centrifuges, which is going to be a very,
very sore point. So, there`s going to be a lot of hard work to do over the
next six months -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ali Arouzi, thank you so much for joining us from Geneva,
Switzerland and thanks for your reporting from there.
Here with me in New York is retired U.S. army colonel and Medal of Honor
recipient, Jack Jacobs and also J.J. Goldberg, editor-at-large of the
Jewish Daily Forward.
I want to come to you first, J.
On the sort of the points that we just heard that Iran internally is
celebrating this deal as a good one and maybe potentially even as a
victory. So, let me play for you Prime Minister Netanyahu and his response
to the deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: What was concluded in Geneva
last night is not an historic agreement. It`s an historic mistake. So,
Israel is not bound by this agreement. We cannot and will not allow a
regime that calls for the destruction of Islam to obtain the means to
achieve this goal. We will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, the prime minister of Israel says this is an historic
mistake and failure. The supreme leader within Iran is saying this looks
like a pretty good deal. What should the American public take from those
two positions in terms of understanding how good this is or is not for the
J.J. GOLDBERG, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE JEWISH DAILY FORWARD: Well, for
starters, you need to understand that negotiations are, by nature, both
sides getting something. So, the fact Iran feels they got something
doesn`t mean the west and Israel didn`t get something.
Second of all, the Israeli intelligence sources I spoken since last night
are saying that it could be a good deal depending on what happens in the
next six months. What this is is an Iranian agreement, a, to enter the
process, to put its nuclear program on the table, which it hadn`t agreed to
until now and second of all, to continue negotiations to see where it goes.
So, the results will be known depending on where we go here.
Third, Netanyahu`s strategy up until now has been to put pressure on to get
more out of Iran. So, he is continuing to do that. If the assumption is
that Iran needs to do a lot more before it is safe, now remember, Iran
still has not complied with the Security Council. It`s far from complying
with the Security Council. They have agreed to discuss all this. That
means there`s got to be continued pressure on the negotiators. And that`s
what Netanyahu is doing.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So Colonel Jacobs, walk me through this a little
bit. Because it think this is useful to point out, that when you are in
the context of negotiations, you should expect people, if you are
negotiating appropriately, people should not walk away feeling that they
have been completely defeated.
You are not at war here. You are, in fact, trying to keep those sorts of
hostility from occurring. But what is gained, particularly around the
question of how much uranium, you know, what sorts of things it can be
used, how much more quickly they might be able to ramp up. What is
strategically gained here in terms of safety in the region?
COL. JACK JACOBS, RETIRED U.S. ARMY: Six months, that is what we gained.
End it to a process which is an act to be rejuvenated over time, an
opportunity in theory to inspect, to make sure that there is some
compliance with the agreement and so on. I think one of the things we have
to keep in mind is the United States, on the one hand plus the other five,
the Security Council, U.N. Security Council plus Germany. The way we look
at it is very much, our objective, is very different than those if let`s
say Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel and Saudi Arabia, they don`t want Iran
to have the capability to produce nuclear weapons, period. They live
there. That`s their neighborhood. And there are lots of reasons why they
wouldn`t want to have Iran, who proved to be cheating all the time, to have
The United States doesn`t have that view. Our view is we just want to slow
them down. And for the next six months, the objective of that is just to
slow it down.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So pause with me. I want to go, at this moment,
to Fawaz Gerges who is in London. He`s a professor of Middle Eastern
politics and international relations at the London school of economics and
Nice to have you this morning.
FAWAZ GERGES, PROFESSOR, MIDDLE EAST POLITICS: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you a bit about this. The way, obviously,
that we get to this table and part of, sort of the conversation that pushes
Iran to any level of agreement here has to do with sanctions. So, tell me
now, what has been earned in terms of the U.S. sanctions agreement as a
result of this decision last night.
GERGES: Well, remember, I mean Iran will get only between $6 billion and
$7 billion out of this particular partial deal. Because you have -- I
mean, in the next six month, we shall see whether a comprehensive agreement
is reached or not.
But the big point for your view is that what President Hassan Rouhani and
the new leadership are trying to do is to pursue a process whereby the
sanctions are lifted. The structure of the sanction that are in place, the
economic and financial sanctions imposed by the U.S. Congress, this is the
target, the key targets of the Iranian leadership.
Remember, the sanctions, this is one of the most stringent sanctions
regimes in history. They have led the Iranian economy. President Hassan
Rouhani, even during his elections campaign, made it very clear that the
improving of well-being of the Iranian people and lifting the sanctions are
a top priority of this administration. So far, so good.
If you had asked me three or four months ago if President Hassan Rouhani
would have been able to do what he has done, I would have said no. Not
only he has been able to deliver so far, in fact, the supreme leader, Ali
Khamenei, seems to be on the same page. It tells me that a major decision
has been made by the Iranian leadership to pursue a strategy of
reconciliation of the world.
And more importantly here, Melissa, is a (INAUDIBLE) with the United
States. You and I and all of us are focusing on the details of the
agreement and really overlooking a big point, what we are witnessing
probably a potential (INAUDIBLE) between the United States and Iran that
could basically redraw the geo strategic map in the Middle East itself.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask -- I want to follow up on that for a moment
here. Because does building that relationship between the U.S. and Iran
end up severing or deeply harming the relationship with Israel which is a
very old one at this point between the U.S. and already the chilly
relationships between Netanyahu and President Obama as important as this
deal may be for redrawing that global relationship, what does it do to the
existing relationship between Israel and the U.S.?
GERGES: Let me be the rat. What has happened and what would happen does
not harm other American-Israeli relations or American-Saudi relations. At
this particular point, America`s relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia are
not aligned, are not on the same page and that is fine. The United States
remember, has broader national interests that take into account security
and stability of the region and American national interest as well.
What the United States is saying, the United States wants de-escalation.
The United States wants to integrate Iran into the community nation. The
United States wants to recognize Iranian security interest in the Gulf.
And the United States is capitalizing on the fact once Iran is integrated
into the world economy, Iran could play a positive role, whether we are
talking about the Syrian crisis or whether we are talking about security in
the Persian Gulf or even the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The reality is the Obama administration is proceeding from the simple fact
Iran cannot and will not be ignored. Iran is pivotal power. The United
States wants de-escalation and no more military adventures in the Middle
East. And that`s why I think the potential (INAUDIBLE) with Iran is, I
think, helpful for the U.S. and the region as a whole.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Professor Fawaz Gerges and also to Colonel Jack
Jacobs and J.J. Goldberg here in New York.
When we come back, I`m going to bring in a political panel because we have
to ask about the instantaneous backlash generated by the GOP here at home
HARRIS-PERRY: The president`s domestic opponents were quick to react to
the Iran deal last night. And as you might expect, they weren`t cheering
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second highest ranking member of the
Senate Republicans tweeted, amazing what the White House will do to
distract attention from Obamacare.
You know, Senator, you know, we can hear you, right? I mean, other
congressional Republicans took of somewhat more measured, but still
skeptical approach in their reaction.
For example, House majority leader Eric Cantor said, as the deal goes into
effect, the United States must remain vigilant and respond immediately and
severely to any cheating or wrong doing by Iran. We must rebuild our
alliances in the region and stand firmly with our closest partners against
Let`s go now to the White House and to our correspondent Luke Russert.
Luke, your usual feed is up there on Capitol Hill. Can you tell us what is
going on in terms of responses from Congress this morning?
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s interesting, Melissa. I
should tell everybody that before the Senate went into recess last week,
Harry Reid said if there was no deal announced in Geneva. They are
actually going to have a very tough sanctions bill come out of the United
Now, presumably that will not happen because of the deal that was reached.
But there was a lot of emphasis on Kerry to get that done. So, what does
Well, there a lot of skepticism from the Republican side about the deal
which is not unexpected. A lot of them are very close with Netanyahu over
at Israel. Netanyahu is almost a defacto, a supporter of Mitt Romney
during the campaign, as you remember, saying they have more hawkish views
when it comes to Israel.
There`s also a lot of skeptical Democrats from conversations I have had.
I`m very interesting to see what folks like Chuck Schumer come out on this
deal, folks like Teddy Hoyer, sort of this cautious approach moving
What will be interesting though, Melissa, is I believe you`ll see a tougher
sanctions bill come out of the House. And in that goes the United States
Senate in the future, what happens then? Because there might be some
Democratic support for that. How long can Harry Reid push that off? And
there is a possibility President Obama might have to issue his first veto
But overall, you are seeing a big political backlash from Republicans, not
unexpected. John Cornyn, as you mentioned, tying it to Obamacare. Lindsey
Graham in a tweet saying unless there`s a complete stoppage of then
allowing to destroy centrifuges, it`s not a good deal. And you are going
to hear a lot of this Obama as we got Iran.
Politically though, the White House sees this as a big victory, not only
because it does allows them not to talk about all the domestic issues going
on, but it`s historic. I mean, it`s the first time in 34 years. This
dialogue has not even opened, but there is positive movement into some
common ground -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Luke, thank you so much. And if you see any other
congressmen, could you help them to set like no tweeting after 10:00 rule
because there is a pause in responses.
RUSSERT: They have a few pops, you never know what happens. I`m not
accusing anybody of that but it`s a good idea to stay off twitter after
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Thanks to you, Luke. I appreciate you joining
Joining us is Farai Chideya, a professor of journalism at NYU, Chris
Kofinis who is a Democratic strategist, Sally Kohn, who is a columnist at
"the Daily Beast" and salon.com and Republican strategist Ron Christie.
And Ron, I actually do want to start with you on this.
Look, I got this skepticism. You know, I have suspicion about the whole
thing, you know, because we have a long relationship with Iran that has not
always been above board. That said, you know, when I get the e-mail at
10:00 at night as a member of the press that hey, something historic
happened, I am distressed when members of the government are responding
immediately before we even know everything. This is clearly, obviously
bad. It feels like that is just a political reaction. Can we get the
Republicans to pause and actually assess it before reacting?
RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I can only speak for this
Republican and I have actually paused. I didn`t say anything about this
last night. But I looked at it. I`m worried about it. If you look the
region at ARAK that is the one area that the United Nations just wanted to
have the opportunity to investigate for weapons of mass destruction, for
enriching Iranians. The Iranians won`t let them in. There`s no fixed time
line of when they will be allowed inspections starting in that nation.
Also, they are still allowed to enrich uranium and they are not to suppose
to dispose of their 17,000 centrifuges. So, what sort of a deal really is
this? Still have centrifuges, they are still enriching uranium. They are
not allowing people in the area where we are very concerned there might be
some weapons. So, this is not a good deal, in my view.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Col. Jacobs says what this is was to buy us six months.
The issues you have drawn up here are reasonable ones, but the part of what
was happening was the savor rattling around harsher sanctions coming out of
our own Congress. And that maybe that is saver rattling is part of what
pushed secretary of state Kerry to say we have to get something out here so
that we can move ahead in these next six months.
SALLY KOHN, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, and let`s not, of course,
forget the larger, louder saver rattling from Republicans all along who
wanted military action in Iran. Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran from McCain.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Syria.
KOHN: So, this is a situation where you would hope we can step back as
Americans and say this is a good thing. It is not perfect, I agree with
Ron. Do we have to monitor it? It`s a step down the road toward a larger
agreement. And it is a good thing to have Iran at the table in
negotiations and agreeing to some monitoring rather than not.
The fact Republicans are so quick to just sort of dismiss this says, I mean
look, we have one party here that wants our country safer and wants to try
to get Iran back from the nuclear brink and another party that is cheering
against that happening so the president can look bad or fail. Come on.
Just -- it does feel like that. I mean, it does -- even if it`s not true,
right? Like I don`t think the Republicans want us to be not safe, but it
does end up feeling that way when you get these kinds of responses.
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, it`s not a new
phenomenon. There`s a distinctive reaction by the Republican Party, the
president says sun, they say dark.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right.
KOFINIS: It`s kind of the nature of the way politics has transformed over
the last five years between the president and the Republicans in Congress.
In terms of this deal, I think, I understand them being cautious. I think
this is a reasonable small step, historic. But at the end of the day,
there`s no way you could have gotten the big deal. You have to build
trust. That`s just like I think the reality in the diplomatic process.
Now, this could all fall apart, you know, in the next few months, but it
buys time. And I think that`s what Senator Kerry was trying to do and he
understands I think the value of that.
I think if these things that are happening where you address the big
issues, this is not only like good for the country, it is good for the
world. So, you know, let`s at least take a breath and say good things,
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that`s right.
All right, so -- since we don`t have all the everything, just yet, we will
take a pause. We are going to stay here. After the break, we are going to
move on a little bit, away from Geneva and toward a different meeting, a
meeting that happened in Scottsville, Arizona where the Republicans
governors were falling all over each other at their owned self-perceives
HARRIS-PERRY: Here is the million dollar question for 2016. Can state
Republicans save the GOP?
Congressional approval is in single digits. And favorability for the
Republican Party is lower than it has been ever for either party. If the
GOP wants any chance of taking the White House in three years, they better
pick someone who can claim distance from the train wreck that is
Washington, D.C. Someone who can present themselves as reasonable,
competent and mature, you know, like a grown up.
That message has clearly been received by some of the nation`s 30
Republican governors who met in Scottsville, Arizona for the annual
Republican Governors association conference. The official agenda of the
meeting included crowning New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, the new
chairman of the RDA and planning strategy for the 2014 governor`s races.
Now, the governors tried as much as possible to put ground between
themselves and Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I think what you have seen over the
last two days is what I have seen here is the incredible contrast between
what you see being discussed here and accomplished by the people on this
stage and other colleagues as opposed to what`s going on in Washington,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, sitting next to Governor Christie, and pretending she
also doesn`t know any of those Republicans in Washington, South Carolina`s
governor, Nikki Haley.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The best story of all of this is
while D.C. talks, governors act. That`s really the take away. And if you
look at everything that is going on, we are looking at the chaos that is
Washington, D.C., yet we are looking at the states that more stable than
they have ever been, more creative than they have ever been, more focused
than they have ever been. And these CEOs of their states are proving every
day they are bringing jobs back to the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And those CEOs of various states have one more D.C. bashing
to do, this time from Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: And that`s what we should be running on
our records, because that`s a record of success. So, instead of looking at
Washington where you hear about blame and you hear about fighting, when you
look at the states and you look at the Republican governors, it`s about
getting it right and getting it done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The RGA officially standing for Republican Governors
Association. Maybe they are hoping people will see them as the Republican
I mean, I have to say, that was clearly the theme. It is like there are
two Republican parties. There are the good CEOs of the states and the bad,
bad congressional Republicans.
FARAI CHIDEYA, PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, if you
look at the fund raising numbers for the midterm elections which is about
Congress, you will see that the Democrats are out-raising the Republicans
right now, which is, you know, a bit of a turn around.
HARRIS-PERRY: Have the cokes given their contributions yet?
CHIDEYA: Probably, they are sneaking them in various chartered and
unchartered ways. But the main point is that the Republican backers are
very disappointed in this Congress. They know that people have shown their
rusty Dusty up on Capitol Hill and that the American public is not having
The governors, on the other hand, do have to make sense of policy every
day. They cannot run a deficit. They have to close their budgets, you
know, by law. And so, whether or not they are doing the absolute most
perfect job, they have to live in a reality based world where they have to
budget, where they have to take care of their people. And then you have
somebody like Christie, you know, who hugged President Obama, you know,
during Sandy. And I, until recently we would thought Christies did not
have a snowball chance in hell of taking the presidency. But I think with
the way the GOP on Capitol Hill is acting, I think he`s actually got a
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Because the question for Christie and anything for all
the Republicans, and I are talking about this on the break, is the issue of
winning the primary, right, and then being able to win the general. So,
you know, governors have to win statewide seats. Obviously, they are not
in these small seats that we have seen in the house that allow for some of
the bad behavior.
That said, there are 36 gubernatorial races coming up in 2014, 36. How is,
sort of having to compete -- and many of the states are held by Republican
governors. How is competing in the states going to set up a discourse that
allows for 2016, a way to win the primary without pulling too far to the
CHRISTIE: I think there is a lot of what variety of set, actually. I
think a lot of the Republicans on Capitol Hill are being wise to follow the
lead of what a lot of these state Republican governors have done. They
have reached across the aisle to work with Democrats. They balanced their
budgets. They have actually on the ground with their constituents and very
in tune to the needs of their constituents as opposed to being removed in
Washington where they can say, well, I am acting on the best half of my
constituents as oppose to --.
HARRIS-PERRY: But wait a minute. They are also denying Medicaid expansion
which doesn`t feel like being into with the needs of your constituents.
CHRISTIE: No, no. Let me address that.
There is a provision, of course, the Supreme Court said that it was a
coercive power to have states mandate them to go on Medicaid. And they
were at their election. So, this is a constitutional issue and the
governors were allowed to take it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it is a constitutional issue that is now decided a
question of the court in terms of whether or not they have to take it. But
I`m asking about taking it. I`m talking about John Kasich saying OK, look,
poor people in Ohio need it and Bobby Jindal saying poor people don`t.
KOFINIS: It is very different a moral perspective between the Republican
governors and Democratic governors, Republican Party, Democratic Party. I
think it`s pretty clear.
In terms of how we look at the poor, how we look at the working class.
Republicans are still struggling with the fact they are seeing as a party
that is simply out of touch on social issues that are kind of we clearly
move in more progressive direction. But they are out of touch, I think, on
the big, economic issues that matter to most working families, the middle
The problem that we have is Democrats, meaning we, is that, you know, right
now because of the mess of this, you know, roll out on Obamacare, we have
undercut our own philosophy that government can do great things and it
gives the Republicans the ability to hit us on it.
So, if we can get this fixed in the next few months, I think it will blunt
some of that opposition. If we don`t, it`s going to be this battle
between, you know, the argument that one party is going out there saying we
don`t really care about the poor, but we`ll make government work. And the
over party saying we care about the poor, but we are not really sure about
how to make government work.
HARRIS-PERRY: Got it. Stay with us. We are going to stay right on that
issue and talk very specifically about one of these governors, Wisconsin`s
governor and his notion of the ideal Republican presidential nominee. It
is definitely sounds like he`s talking about himself.
HARRIS-PERRY: Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, he is the guy who, of
course, did the surprise union busting in 2011 that led to mass protest at
the state capitol in Madison, perhaps a challenging run Christie`s belief
that the Republicans are all in touch with their people. But he was not at
the Republican Governors Association conference this year. He did start a
weeklong tour this week promoting his new book, "Unintimidated." He
apparently thinks someone like him would make a pretty good president.
Here is what he said on ABC this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: So, describe for me the ideal Republican
presidential candidate in 2016.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: I think it is going to be an outsider.
I think both the presidential and the vice presidential nominee should be a
former or current governor, now, people who have done successful things in
their state who have taken out being reform, to ready to move on in there
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And especially if their last name is Walker.
Joining me now from Madison, Wisconsin a man that makes it his business to
know all things, Scott Walker. Scott Ross, executive director of the
progressive group, One Wisconsin Now.
Nice to see you.
SCOTT ROSS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ONE WISCONSIN NOW: Good morning, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So tell me, Scott, clearly Scott Walker, despite the fact
that he used to run back and forth in those secret tunnels so not to have
to deal with the protesters, by framing himself as the unintimidated
outsider of D.C., is looking to win the Republican nomination for the U.S.
presidency. What do you think? Is it likely?
ROSS: Well, you know, Governor Walker has been an elected official his
entire adult life, more than 20 years. And he is dismissed by his
potential opponents at their own peril. I mean, Governor Walker has access
to an ungodly amount of money. His campaign co-chair runs the $500 million
right wing funding Bradley foundation. His largest donor is the wealthiest
woman in Wisconsin. He`s checked every single tea party box. He has
uncompromising. And most importantly, you know, a lot of his opponents
will have gotten checks from billionaires like David and Charles Koch,
Sheldon Adelson, Foster Freeze.
Governor Walker took six figure checks from all those guys. And what did
he do with the money? He won. To do that, you know, after doing that,
he`s engaged in a radical pro-privatization agenda, stripping away rights
of his potential enemies and taking away money from those who most need it.
It`s quite scary. And those of us in Wisconsin will tell you, you know,
and this maybe a message to the folks out D.C. and Scottsville. You know,
there`s only one riskier wager in Wisconsin and betting against Terry
Rogers (ph) and that is underestimating what Scott Walker will do to win an
HARRIS-PERRY: And listen, I want to ask a little bit more about the sort
of what you all know that the rest of us don`t don`t` know. I was just in
New Jersey and everyone kept saying to me let me tell you about the real
Chris Christie. And, you know, when you look at Walker`s approval ratings,
he`s only at about 50 percent, approval ratings is about 45 percent
disapproval ratings. What is that that you know and that others in
Wisconsin know about this man that if he is going to come to the national
stage, we ought to know?
ROSS: Well, Governor Walker engaged in a radical privatization of public
education here in the state of Wisconsin. He has stripped away the rights
of 175,000 workers. He has taken away rights of women to have equal pay in
the workplace as well as reproductive choices. And he has voter scheme
which could deny hundreds of thousands of legal voters lost the right to go
to the polls and cast their ballot on Election Day, you know.
And let me just tell you, you know, I went through Unintimidated yesterday.
I read the whole thing so you didn`t have to. And to get through all the
misstatements, the half-truths and eye-rolling hypocrisy would probably
make us have to turn this into the Melissa Harris-Perry network, instead of
the show, not that I have a problem with that.
But, you know, he talks in the book about how his faith guides him. And he
also talks about how in the midst of the uprising against him, he increased
staff moral by sending out a top ten list of attacks on public employees.
Among other things, question their faith. Let me tell you about one of
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, Scott --
ROSS: When it`s the middle of January in Wisconsin, we, you know, and your
water main breaks, this guy goes down in a hole at 3:00 a.m. to make sure
your home doesn`t get flooded and property destroyed.
Well, Governor Walker`s reward to him was to take away his rights to
collectively bargain for a safe-working environment and cut his pay by
$16,000 so he doesn`t have money to spend in the economy, put food on the
table or maybe help his kid pay for college. So, that kid doesn`t engage,
you know, get into this student load debt crisis.
HARRIS-PERRY: Scott -- Scott, I have to cut you off because if it was the
Melissa Harris-Perry network, we wouldn`t have commercials. But since it
is still MSNBC, I got to go to one.
And then, as soon as we come back, I`m going to let Ron Christie and get
seize over here just losing his mind as you talk.
When we come back, compassionate conservatism 2.0, is the GOP really trying
to become the party for everybody?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we are back and talking about the Republican governors
and who among them may be running in 2016 after a little bit of
conversation here at the table during the break, it`s clear that Sally Kohn
has figured out that Ron Christie is probably the son, cousin, brother of
KOHN: That was collective oh, God. And twitters are going to hate me.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, the joke here is obviously, we are saying if you
were related to Chris Christie, this would be the end of his campaign or
some other such things. But part of what Republicans are going to need to
do is be able to say we are the party of everybody, black folks and brown
folks, you know, Latinos, poor people, everybody in the party. And you are
laughing with great joy at this possibility.
KOHN: Good luck with that.
Well, we all remember 2012, Republicans came out with an autopsy saying our
party is dead. If we look at the demographic future and the fact the
younger voters and voters of color are against us and the issues we stand
on. So, we are going to try to care more about those voters. We are going
do things about immigration reform, et cetera. That lasted what like two
And now, they are still trying to cram all these restrictions on
reproductive rights, down women`s vote, they are opposing immigration
reform. They are not extending Medicaid. I mean, all of these things that
if you want to be a popular party, actually, do things that voters like.
It`s a crazy idea.
CHIDEYA: Not to mention the guy who just got arrested for buying coke
wanted to drug test people getting food stamps.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, just listening to Scott as he`s talking about
Scott Walker and he is saying OK, he checked all the tea party boxes, and
then nobody goes on to say, as basically union busting and voter
suppression and, you know, anti-reproductive rights. And I`m thinking, you
know, I can live with if the box checking is balancing the budget or, you
know, cutting like -- that`s reasonable. We would expect that. But I am
disturbed when it is against this group, against this group, against this
KOFINIS: This is, I think, is the trap that a lot of the Republican
governors and Republican candidates we have seen over the last two years
and the ones we are going to see find themselves in. And it`s going to be
more pronounced when you get in (INAUDIBLE) in primary because there`s
going to be a tea party candidate. There`s going to be a far, far right
candidate who is going to get support in Iowa, who is going to rally that
base and it automatically, all come in Christie`s and the Kasichs or
whomever it might be are going to play in the middle of the Republican
primary. And then the base starts acting up and like OK, we have to go
right. We have to go further right. That`s the same problem Romney had,
then you get into the general and all hell breaks loose because you just
alienated the very people you need in order to win the election.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Ron, let me ask, then, particularly you brought up
So, I`m wondering, will there be inter messy in a fight around Obamacare
and particularly the Medicaid expansion aspect of it between the Republican
governors who made a decision to in fact expand and those who didn`t,
because some of them are going to end up likely on one of those big primary
stages together in the debate?
CHRISTIE: Could be. And I worked for John Kasich for eight years. So, I
can tell you, having spoken with him about Medicaid expansion, he said this
is keeping Ohio dollars in Ohio to deal with the Ohio population. He made
it very compelling and a very coaching orgaminist (ph) to why for him it
made sense to make that Medicaid expansion.
But you also look at a guy like John Kasich and he say he is a true,
compassionate conservative. He really has delivered social services
programs to the people in his state and he has balanced the budget and he
is a strong conservative.
KOFINIS: But what that is the debate. The debate will be he stood up for
Obamacare. That will be the debate. And then he`ll start panicking once
people are like wait a second, he supported Obamacare.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. The big money will come in with the simplistic as it
simply say this guy likes Obama.
KOFINIS: If the Kasich`s or Christie`s can get past the primary, a huge
if, I think they are going to get sliced up like a surgeon, right? But
putting that aside, if they get past the primary, then they are going to be
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, absolutely.
KOHN: But that`s a big if. And I don`t think that is a sensible
Republican, the few that are left in the party in the party.
CHRISTIE: There are plenty of us. Plenty of us.
KOHN: Can get through the current primary.
HARRIS-PERRY: But Bill Clinton got through -- so, I guess I would just say
-- my only sort of, you know, contemporary reasonable history on this is
Bill Clinton gets through the primary, in part, by stiff arming the groups
that had an 84 and 88, poll the Democratic Party.
HARRIS-PERRY: Gotcha. A lot less money, too.
KOHN: I don`t think the left of the Democratic Party has been as
formidable, forceful or well organized, and I`m sad about that, as the
right wing of the Republican Party.
KOFINIS: I agree with that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Got nothing on David Koch. OK, that happens.
Chris Kofinis and Sally Kohn and Ron Christie, thanks to all of you for
being here. Farai you are going to hang around so we can talk some best
man in the next hour.
But up next, it looks like Janet Yellen, who would be the first woman to
head the Federal Reserve is actually going to make it through the
confirmation process. That story is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET YELLEN, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN NOMINEE: This is a very serious
problem. It`s not a new problem. It`s a problem that really goes back to
the 1980s in which we have seen a huge rise in income and equality. A
disproportionate share of the gains have gone to the top 10 percent and
even to the top one percent, so this is an extremely difficult, and to my
mind, very worrisome problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was fed chair nominee, Janet Yellen ten days ago during
her testimony before the Senate banking committee. Yellen is now one step
closer to becoming fed chair and arguably the most powerful woman in
America. As the senate banking committee voted 14 to eight in her favor
this week with three Republicans voting with their 11 Democratic
colleagues. All that`s left is a vote in the full chamber, which is
expected soon after the thanksgiving holiday.
And with the new Senate rules now in play, it looks like Yellen is poised
to make some history. Joining me from Washington, D.C., is Dean Baker, co-
director for the center of economic and policy research.
Nice to have you this morning.
DEAN BAKER, DIRECTOR, CENTER OF ECONOMICS AND POLICY RESEARCH: Thanks for
having me in.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it does look like Yellen is going to have an easy
confirmation. How historic is this beyond the fact that she will be the
first woman fed chair?
BAKER: Well, it is certainly great to see her appointed. You know, she
has a solid background. She has been on the fed in the` 90s. She was
president of the San Francisco bank for five years before coming vice
chair. So, she certainly has the background.
And it is great, you know, given her commitments. I mean, she`s made it
very clear. She thinks the fed has a very important role in maintaining
high levels of employment. She supported Bernanke`s policy of quantitative
easing. And it is possible she`ll try to go further. I mean, there`s
limits to what the fed can do, but I think she is going to try to press the
fed as far as possible in terms of boosting growth and creating jobs.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what does it mean for ordinary people who for whom the
fed chair may feel like sort of a position that is out there, that they are
not quite sure what that person does? What does it mean to have a fed
chair who they articulate a discourse about inequality?
BAKER: Well, there is a few things. I mean, one is simply that the fed
chair always has a lot of respect for their views, certainly when Alan
Greenspan held that position. Every time he spoke before Congress, they
would ask him about everything from trade policy to tax policy, everything
in the world.
So, to have someone there as committed toward creating jobs, promoting
equality, that`s a great thing. Secondly, you know, the fed has been
trying to boost the economy. We can argue as to how much of an effect is
has had. And to my view, it no doubt it`s been positive, this quantitative
easing policy. She might push that further. She might go to the Japanese
central bank of targeting a higher rate of inflation, trying to give firms
more incentive to invest because they know they can sell their goods at a
higher price in the future.
The third point it, at some point, and we don`t know when this is will be,
hopefully not too long, there will be concerns about the economy
approaching full employment. And it is very important that you have a fed
that is prepared to let that go. Let the economy keep growing with the
unemployment rate fall.
Back in the `90s, Alan Greenspan did originally raised rates back in `93 or
`94, I should say to keep the economy from growing. He didn`t want the
unemployment rate to get too low. Later he reversed himself to his great
credit. This is one thing I credit Greenspan for. We got down to four
percent unemployment at the end of the decade. It was the first time since
the early `70s that you saw widespread wage growth up and down the income
ladder. So, the fed chair has enormous power and a variety there is. And
I can`t think of anyone I would rather see there right now than Janet
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I have a complicated question that you only a few
seconds to answer, but here it is. What kind of monetary policy can create
an incentive for firms to not just invest, but to invest specifically in
labor, in hiring?
BAKER: I don`t think there`s a simple way to put it. I mean, I think we
will benefit if we could have a lower value dollar because that means we
will see more domestically produced goods, we will improve out trade
balance. And that would employ a lot of workers in manufacturing which
would improve hiring in relatively high paying jobs. I think that`s the
best the fed can do.
Dean Baker in Washington this morning, thank you so much.
It is going to be fascinating to watch how Miss Yellen, in fact, takes on
BAKER: Thanks for having me in.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up next, the director of the new hit movie and I saw
some of my producers last night, "the Best Man Holiday." He`s coming to
Nerdland and we`ll take a closer look at Hollywood, race and whether life
is beginning to imitating art.
There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-
Last week, at the box office, nine mere mortals took on a superhero
deity and won. In this clash of the sequels, Christmas romantic comedy,
"The Best Man Holiday" beat ticket sales for "Thor" and "The Dark World", a
new film opened on Friday.
Now, the movie`s total haul for its opening weekend ultimately left
it in second place behind "Thor." But with more than $300 million in
ticket sales, "The Best Man Holiday" was a surprise hit outperforming
expectations of Hollywood projected $20 million at the box office.
The success of the film came as no surprise however to the filmgoers
who turned out in force to reunite with the characters they fell in love
with 14 years ago, when the original, "The Best Man", was released in 1999.
The first film story is of six college friends. And this film is
about how they reunite. The first one, they are reunited for a wedding.
And it continues in the sequel where they come together for the Christmas
This time around, the film mines drama and comedy from the
characters` lives and relationships that have matured and became more
complicated over the years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her man, on the other hand is iconic.
If I went that way, that`s what I would get, a tall, a (INAUDIBLE)
latte. I like, I like, I like.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Busted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Between a lot of laughter and some tears, "The Best
Man Holiday" explores broad things of love, loss, friendship, loyalty, sex,
parenthood, career and marriage. Now, you`ll notice that missing from the
long list of the movie`s dramatic content is one particular topic, race,
which is why last week, "USA Today" built a sting of social media backlash
when, of all possible ways of describing this movie, the parent went with
the headline, calling it, quote, "a race-themed film."
The article discussed the movie alongside "Fruitvale Station" and
"The Butler", other box office movies from this year with explicit racial
connotations, except the only obvious racial similarity between "The Best
Man Holiday" and those others is the race of the performers in the film,
the nine African-American principle cast members from the original movie
who reprised their roles for the sequel.
The paper went on to change the headline with an editor`s note saying
they had, quote, "good intentions."
It sparked a conversation about whether films that feature black
actors can be seen as anything other than race movies.
Joining me is the man who brought the cast back together one more
time, "Best Man Holiday" writer and director, Malcolm D. Lee.
I am so happy to have you here. And your film made $30 million, not
$300 million. I got a little overwhelmed. You are like, what!
MALCOLM D. LEE, WRITER/DIRECTOR: Somebody (ph) told me something.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nobody told me about this.
I have so many questions to ask you, but let me first ask you to
respond to sort of that emotion that people were having about this film,
"Best Man Holiday" being described as a race-theme film. What was sort of
your response to that moment?
LEE: Well, you know, I heard about it on social media. I didn`t see
the "USA Today" headline first. I, you know, it doesn`t surprise me that
it got described that way because it`s lazy journalism in my mind, you
know, just to describe a movie that has African-American characters in
there, just human beings and being American as race themed.
I was glad that people came out in force and denounced that because
even with the first "Best Man" and every movie I have tried to make have
had universal themes. They are very relatable characters, they all have
wants and desires and things that make them tick. And they just happen to
being African-American or black.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, there is a racial specificity to it that is
part of the great pleasure, particularly for black audiences and watching
it -- the moment in the film when the men perform the new edition sort of
tantamount. I mean, I was blushing because I felt like oh, I know those
guys. I know this moment. I have sat in this room.
How do you take the specificity of such a racialized moment, new
edition and the singing, yet it does feel universal?
LEE: Well, you know, it`s no different than any other movie that
features karaoke. I mean, you know, "My Best Friend`s Wedding" has Cameron
Diaz doing it to a song I never heard of.
LEE: You know, there`s other people who never heard of (INAUDIBLE).
But, you know, I -- my movie, yes, they`re universal, but they have
And, you know, that`s my perspective I can talk ability. That`s
where I came from. These are the people I relate to. At the same time,
I`m a human being like anybody else.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, your characters got more human this time. I want
to say, I had a tension when we talked about doing this. I said I loved
the `99 film. I legitimately loved it.
LEE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was 25 years old. I got married in the summer of
`99. It spoke to the moments in my life.
I can remember thinking I don`t like the women in the film. They
feel not as human. But this time, that distance, that 15 years, everybody
really grew up, really grew.
Was that intentional?
LEE: I think it`s just a matter of, you know, where I am in my life.
I knew when I made the first movie that I wasn`t going to do a sequel right
away. If I was going to tackle these characters again, it would be like 10
years later once they have a chance to live some life and I have a chance
to live some life.
And you talked about the female characters being a little bit
flatter, you know, I have lived life now, talked to more women, I am
married now. I have children. You know, so, the kind of things we think
about when we are post graduate, mid-20s are different than what we think
about when were late 30s and married and have mortgages and career
struggles and what-have-you.
So, you know, it was just being a better writer now, a better
director and the actors, obviously are better as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: And also, incredibly well-preserved. Can I just say -
- I was like wow, everybody still looks great 15 years later.
LEE: It`s true, it`s true. And the fact they are still working in
the industry is amazing as well. I mean, the industry can really beat you
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me say thank you to you from all of Nerdland
because when my producers and I were sitting there watching it last night
and we saw the show represented in the film, there was a fair bit of what
we call nerdgasm in the front row. We were screaming and yelling and
pointing and so thrilled you saw this show as being part of the cultural
you that would be part of this.
But you use music and references to fraternities and sororities in a
variety of ways to ground this in a very particular moment. Tell me about
the use of black culture and a popular culture to tell the story.
LEE: Again, trying to make things relevant to people and relatable.
I wanted -- you know, in most of the movies that I do, some not with
standing, some -- this movie, the first one in particular, you take
cultural touch stones and popular culture and take things that are relevant
to people nowadays. In the first one, nobody had a cell phone.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right. And now, the cell phone is a key part of
LEE: A key part as is social media. You know, I wanted to use all
the things at my disposal to keep things current, keep things relatable,
and make sure that people feel very close to the characters. It`s what
they have felt like a real authenticity. I think that`s why people are so
connected to what happens in the film and why they feel to laugh at certain
things, and, you know, emote at other times.
HARRIS-PERRY: When I went -- in preparing to see the new film last
night, I went back and watched the first one two nights ago. And I
realize, one of the differences, the "N" word was used regularly in the
first one. It only happens once in the second film and with a clear sort
of joke connected to it, the sort of, we need to get rid of it and we are
going to use it in this moment.
Again, was that intentional or is that the difference between 25 and
LEE: I think it`s a bit of both. You know, I try to pretty much
keep the "N" word limited to Quentin played by Terrence Howard in the first
movie. You know, it trickled off to other characters. Believe me, I
actually took it down from the first movie, also.
But, yes, in this one, it`s like we are more mature and more
conscious of what we say. I think, you know, honestly, I think we should
be more. It gives people a license to say it, who aren`t African-American
to say it. It`s been happening for a number of years now and I think we
have a real conundrum like that when people are like, well, you know, they
can`t say the word. I can`t say the word -- OK, nobody use it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me also ask you this, you bring in the possibility
of interracial love and relationship in a lovely way actually without doing
weird things around the white man.
HARRIS-PERRY: Are you thinking about potentially tackling the
possibility of same-sex love and romance in what has got to be a third
"Best Man" at some point?
LEE: You know, we haven`t figured out the exact story that`s going
to happen. I doubt I would go in that direction. You know, I don`t know
much about that side of the world. And even though there`s lot of
Again, you know, love is universal. We don`t necessarily control who
we love. But, you know, that`s not in my realm right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Stick with us because I want to continue
to push this more, bring some other folks to the table. I`m so thrilled
you are going to stick around with us and talk race, and film and politics,
because when we come back, the first black president -- no, Barack Obama is
not here. I`m talking 1933.
HARRIS-PERRY: Quick, when was the first time you ever saw a black
man hold the title president of the United States? If you said President
Barack Obama, well, you are partially correct, because the first black man
most of us have seen addressed as president was, of course, Morgan Freeman.
You remember back in 1998 when Morgan Freeman portrayed President Tom Beck
in "Deep Impact", where he leads the country through a mass extinction from
a comet on the collision course with the Earth.
In fact, President Barack Obama has had several on-screen
presidential predecessors before he ever claimed the title. You may not
recognize the name of actor Tom Lister, better known as Tiny Lister, he was
a President Lindberg in "The Fifth Element." That was the film where
Earth-based obliteration from an evil alien weapon.
Then, there was Danny Glover as President Thomas Wilson in the film
called "2012", where he was tasked with ensuring the survival of humanity
after a cataclysmic geological disaster.
And most recently, President James Sawyer, portrayed by Jaime Foxx in
"White House Down", where he joins Tatum Channing as a capitol policeman in
defending the White House against the terroristic attack. Every time a
black president is in the movie, his term gets cut short. At least we know
tasking the fictional presidents with such tremendous responsibility meant
the audiences were primed to take the possibility of a black man in the
real White House, and that our ability to imagine that possibility come a
long way from the first real portrayal of a black president.
Believe it or not, you are not going to believe this, 7-year-old
Sammy Davis Jr. I`m not kidding. Davis played the title role in 1933
film, "Rufus Jones for President." You probably have never seen the film.
So, you might want to prepare yourself for what past as a race-themed film
in the early 20th century.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What`s all this fuss and celebration about? We
want Rufus for the president. See, didn`t I tell you, you was going to be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Spoiler alert, on Rufus` first day in office, he
swears to give them free pork chops, open the chicken coops and designate
watermelon as public property. I`m not, I couldn`t have made that up.
All right. So, we wanted to go back and -- Elon is looking at me
like I`m nuts. We wanted to go back and do that history. We`ve got Elon
James White and Jamie Kilstein, who have joined our table along with Farai
Chideya, because we wanted to ask this question, what happens -- how
powerful is film in portraying what black life is, in shaping how it is in
other people outside of blackness understand what black life is and what is
ELON JAMES WHITE, HOST, TWIB RADIO: It`s interesting because movies
do a lot. That`s why people love movies. It`s why people keep arguing
about media portrayal of people of color in general, about them in the
movies, because it`s the first time some folks meet black people. That`s
when then they get their first black friend when they see a movie and they
go, wow. Is that what Negroes do?
And it`s like yes. So, it`s important about the portrayal in movies,
because otherwise, there are portions of the country that literally, they
will not have an understanding of black folks outside of that particular
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. But it doesn`t mean that every movie has to be
perfectly nuanced and clean an clear and do every aspect of black life. I
mean, it is important to me that we`ve sat this table and talked "Best Man
Holiday" and talk "12 Years of Slave" this year, right? And I want all
those portrayals out there.
JAMIE KILSTEIN, CITIZEN RADIO: I think that`s why people get upset
when they feel that black culture is sort of being stereotyped because we
don`t have a laundry list of prominent black directors, producers, writers,
stuff like that. It`s like when you see this ridiculous caricature, you`re
kind of like ahh, this was my one shot. Even when, like on television, you
know, girls got in so much trouble for sort of having, you know, one black
character and portrayed poorly and stuff like that.
I agree with all the criticism. But at the same time, do you want a
white hipster from Brooklyn writing a bunch of black characters, or should
we have so many other shows that portray black women at that age that we
don`t even have to worry about what Lena Dunham thinks about black
FARAI CHIDEYA, PROF. OF JOURNALISM: Yes, for me, I definitely, I`m
thinking about the holidays now. There`s this old Disney cartoon where
white dolls are falling of a conveyer belt and they say mama, and a black
doll falls out and says mame. And apparently, that`s now largely been
banned on air.
But my grandfather was a big animation fan and collector and an
artist. I remember being impressed with the artistry of that cartoon and
dismayed by the racism. And I think that today, a lot of times, we have to
separate artistry and race and be cognizant of both, because there`s some
people who are incredible crafts people who still do the most ridiculous
portrayals of African-American.
CHIDEYA: There`s also been Latino presidents on television, we
should point out as well, like this whole idea of having people of color in
leadership roles is not just about black people. I can`t call up an Asian-
American president on TV or film. Maybe there is one and someone can tweet
Something that comes to mind for me is that movies that have more
than one black character are considered black movies. Look at the "Fast
and Furious" franchise, the first movie was very black and then it became
progressively became less so. Then they became white or off white.
So, I think that a lot of times people are like if you want a
mainstream franchise, you have to lighten it up. I think that`s a problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want you to ask you, Malcolm, do you, as -- you
know, I keep thinking, maybe I`m over-identifying with the "Best Man"
because of the age similarities and the sort of cohorts similarities in
terms of college and being at age of you`re having, you know, marriage and
But did you think about, primarily this audience, right? So, all the
folks who loved them in `99 showing back up and how come as it were you, in
terms of thinking about wide audiences and trying to either communicate
with them or not communicate with non-black audiences about black life.
LEE: You know, again, when I first wrote "The Best Man" I was -- I
wasn`t seeing myself portrayed on screen in a way that was authentic. So,
that`s why it was one impetuses for writing it and trying to create, you
know, something multidimensional, especially when it came to black men.
And so, the second movie, "The Best Man Holiday", it was a
continuation of that for me, you know? And I knew that African-American
audiences would go to it and feel strongly about it and, you know, if white
people came along? Great.
Like again, it`s a very universal story and with specificity of being
African-American. It`s funny, you talk about when President Barack Obama
was first elected, me and my other black friends, you know, educate
themselves and walk around. We were down in Soho and white kids walked
past like, oh my God, they really exist. That was the look --
HARRIS-PERRY: There are other Obama types out there.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s funny you say that because I was thinking going
through there, a lot of hilarity occurring in Nerdland, we were going back
to black presidents. And there was a time when black president was like a
punch line, black president, ha, ha. Because the notion of it was hilarity
until, I do think it matters in the films about the black presidents, it`s
not about the black presidents. They are incidentally black. They`re
actually movies about the aliens or asteroids coming to kill the earth.
WHITE: Yes. By the way, my first black president was Dennis
Haysbert in "24". How did you guys forget?
HARRIS-PERRY: No, because it`s TV. We actually made a decision, we
did a film versus television situation.
WHITE: Yes, but it`s a great example. The idea that a lot of times,
media will get people used to something. When they first see it, they go,
what, that`s crazy, the third time they see it, I guess I can see it. Yes,
that`s like t movie we saw last time.
That`s why it`s important. That`s why when people get angry at
movies, people are praising "Best Man Holiday" then they rip a new one,
Tyler Perry. You wonder why that might happen.
And the fact is they are worried about portrayal. It`s not the
portrayal of people of color that I would like to see on screen. Yes, are
we multidimensional and are there all types? Yes. But at the same time,
if that`s the only thing you are going to see, that`s the problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, we are going to talk a little bit
about the class warfare aspect. And I might just look at you and say,
Tyler Perry (INAUDIBLE).
Up next, whether or not -- up next, we are going to talk about TV.
This time, "The Cosby Show" effect, and whether or not positive images can
still have a negative impact.
HARRIS-PERRY: Perhaps no show proves the willingness of a broad
audience to watch black people on screen than the series that was one of
the most watched shows in the country in the 1980s, "The Cosby Show."
Americans tuning in to watch the Huxtables every Thursday night. It gave
the show dominance for seven years. And for four of those years, more of
us watch "The Cosby Show" than any show on television.
The race of the characters wasn`t a deterrent at all drawn for the
diverse audience drawn to the show`s portrayal of a black, upper middle
class family living in a beautiful Brooklyn brownstone. But that doesn`t
that while they were watching the Huxtables, those audience didn`t see
In the 1992 book, "Enlightened Racism," researchers Sut Jhally and
Justin Lewis conducted focus groups on "Cosby Show" viewers. And they
found that not only did white viewers see race when they watched the show,
but that saw the Huxtables as racially exceptional because of their upward
mobility. And that among those viewers, the show reinforced the idea that
race and class barriers to equality were nonexistent.
So, Jamie, you know, I --
KILSTEIN: I was not surveyed. I want to throw that out there.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, that is the challenge. On the one hand, part of
what the Cosby did is show us a great human family. We loved it. But then
also seem to be having the impact of having some folks going, oh, if the
imaginary Huxtables can have it, why can`t you pull yourself up by your
KILSTEIN: Yes, that`s a tough position, right, where you don`t know
whose fault it is. You are so glad to see a regular, you know, family of
color represented. You know, you were talking before that it`s so hard to
see, like, there`s literally to go back to television, there was literally
one episode of "Walking Dead" where they added a black character and in the
same episode killed another black character like you can only have one.
HARRIS-PERRY: There can only be one.
KILSTEIN: Like anti-affirmative action, like last week, they added a
new black character to "New Girl" and I`m like, they`re going to kill
Winston, like kill him out.
So, it`s really important but you don`t -- yes, you don`t want to
feed. I mean, I`ve heard Bill Cosby used as an example so many times about
it. Bill Cosby used Bill Cosby as an example. It`s rough. Why can`t
these young kids who grow up in poverty with no jobs just grow up to be a
really famous comedian and actor like me? It`s like, well, that`s like a
hard path to make it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I love -- we were looking at the UCLA film,
diversity -- out of the UCLA African-American studies department did this
incredible survey looking at the diversity of cast of shows as well as the
diversity of the writers on the shows. And it turns out the shows with
diverse cast actually have higher ratings as well as shows with diverse
writers end up with higher ratings. And I keep thinking, well, yes, duh,
WHITE: You mean shows that show people`s experiences, people like
that? I don`t understand that. It`s crazy talk.
And it`s hilarious that "The Cosby Show" was used as a cudgel against
black folks, when at the same time, I grew up on "The Cosby Show" like I
used to pick up the phone sing the white residence because Theo used to.
WHITE: For me, I appreciated "The Cosby Show" so much because at the
time, I was in Brooklyn, the middle of the `90s, during the (INAUDIBLE),
when it was one of the most dangerous ghettos. I kept saying, this is not
the only way. Obviously, there`s something up. But I understand it was
television, but at the same time, if you say I can be anything, I can be a
doctor and marry a lawyer. So, why isn`t it something I could do.
So, I appreciate the portrayal more than anything else. I have to
tell the folks that want to use that as a cudgel like kick rock, you can`t
use "The Cosby Show" to somehow police Negroes.
CHIDEYA: There`s much bigger studies that go to things like
journalism that when you would think giving examples, which is what we
journalists do and going out and reporting would give people a sense of the
big picture. But often, people put it in this exceptional box. So, the
human brain works in different ways.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes --
CHIDEYA: Yes. Basically, if you want to believe something, you will
go to great lengths to believe it. It takes a lot to break the cognitive
dissonance in your mind of seeing injustice, and then seeing a different
So, human beings are not going to be just enlightened. I think it`s
great to have shows that portray, like for example, I`m from Baltimore. I
grew up in a neighborhood where my mom is an urban farmer. She was a
schoolteacher. She has fruit trees and we always grew stuff and canned
When people ask is the wire real, absolutely, just not where I live.
You know, I didn`t live on a street with brownstones, we had old trees and
shingles and stuff like that. To me, I don`t have to pretend the wire
doesn`t exist to tell people about my life.
CHIDEYA: If you only have those little imaginary black friends on
TV, then you won`t have a sense of how black --
HARRIS-PERRY: I think that`s how I was feeling watching the film,
"Holiday" last night, was I almost don`t care what this work, like it
almost doesn`t matter to me what work it was doing in some sort of broader
sense of audiences, because it was so pleasurable for me to experience what
-- I mean, I`m older than you, Elon, but similarly, that "Cosby Show"
feeling that this is about me. Like the moment I realized that the one
character Nia is in my sorority, she`s a Delta. And -- I don`t know, it`s
a small thing, it was not a big, huge part of the plot device or anything -
CHIDEYA: Not to mention that you are on the TV set.
HARRIS-PERRY: That was crazy.
CHIDEYA: -- in the opening --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right, because Nia Long`s character works, is
basically (INAUDIBLE), she`s our VP here, African-American woman VP here at
MSNBC. I felt like this little thing in my stomach, this sense of
recognition of -- like I know nobody else gets that moment except people
that know that have that literary moment with black sororities and
fraternities. There`s a movie about me. That`s nice.
WHITE: That`s important and I don`t think people, and the thing
about is like we don`t have to explain that, because that`s why they keep
stopping us from having black casts, because they keep saying, well, the
audience don`t connect. No, no, the white audience doesn`t connect. And
that`s what you mean when you say that.
And so, obviously, you know that connecting is important, so why do
you create this space and have these casts that people that are no the
default in America could connect to?
HARRIS-PERRY: We are going to --
CHIDEYA: You better get schooled because you might have a black
cousin now and then.
HARRIS-PERRY: Malcolm, thank you so much for making the film. Thank
you for letting Nerdland be in the film. It was a great surprise. Thank
you. Next time, bring your guys shirtless. We`d like to have them. OK.
LEE: I`ll do my best.
HARRIS-PERRY: Not for me, just for the viewers.
Thank you also to Farai Chideya, who was the NYU journalism
professor, Jaime Kilstein, co-host of Citizen Radio, and to our friend,
Elon James White, host of "This Week in Blackness", also contributing
editor to "The Root".
Thanks so much to everyone.
And up next, the story we could not believe when we read it.
HARRIS-PERRY: The story I`m about to tell you is one we first read
about last week, but we didn`t share it then. We hit the pause button and
waited because honestly we thought this can`t possibly be true.
Too much about the story, from the headline to the conclusion felt
unbelievable. But as we looked further, the story, upsetting as it was,
turned out to be all too true.
First, the believable beginning. This 25-year-old Alabama man Austin
Smith Clem was convicted in September of raping his former neighbor three
times. Twice when she was 14 and again when she was 18. The jurors
deliberated for less than two hours before they rendered a verdict.
Testifying for the prosecution was the survivor, her best friend, her
father and a nurse. Clem`s defense reportedly did not call any witnesses
during the trial. So, Clem`s conviction wasn`t the unbelievable part.
It`s what happened when he was sentenced last week that made our jaws drop
and our stomachs churn.
Just going to read the headline from "Mother Jones", "Alabama man
won`t serve prison time for raping 14-year-old." I`m going to read it
again, "Alabama man won`t serve prison time for raping 14-year-old."
Now, let me remind you that Clem was convicted on three separate
counts of sexual assault. According to the reporting, he will serve no
Read nearly to the end of the story here and you are going to find
this paragraph. Totten, he`s defense attorney in the story, Totten notes
he and Woodruff, he`s the judge, are childhood friends who grew up down the
street from one another. Although Totten says he didn`t feel that that
affected the sentence.
He didn`t feel being childhood friends with the judge affected the
And that sentence, from Judge James Woodruff was a total of 40 years
in the state penitentiary suspended, along with six years of probation.
Essentially, the sentence was structured in such a way that Clem convicted
on three counts of rape would not serve prison time unless he violates the
term of what is essentially an extensive parole.
Per the judge`s orders, he will serve two years in the LLCP,
Limestone County Community Corrections Program, a program whose own Web
site claims to, quote, "keep violent offenders incarcerated longer by
placing nonviolent offenders, low level offenders in the community
corrections program, diverting them from the penitentiary."
So, during this time the convicted rapist will spend in this program
for nonviolent offenders, he`ll be able to live at home. "Mother Jones"
quotes Clem`s defense attorney, Dan Totten as saying Clem`s lifestyle for
the next six years is going to be very controlled. If he goes to a party
and they are serving beer, he can`t say, can I have one?
Totten said this sentence was no slap on the wrist. So, by now, I`m
sure you are seeing the parts of the story that, at first, we thought were
simply unbelievable. This man was convicted of three counts of rape of a
minor and the primary punishment seems to be about having to stay sober
while at a party?
The survivor in this story is now a college student. And she`s
reacting publicly. Here is what she had to say to our affiliate, WAFF
about the verdict.
(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)
COURTNEY ANDREWS, RAPE SURVIVOR: It` been proven guilty, guilty,
however many times guilty and you are going to put him back on the streets
with all these people. I don`t know how it`s OK with you. In my heart, I
feel jail is where he needs to be because I feel it`s the only place where
he`s not going to hurt people anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Courtney Andrews. And, normally, you know we
wouldn`t name a rape survivor. But Courtney has been quite vocal in the
aftermath of this case. And she was in the courtroom for the sentencing.
She recalls the prosecutor leaping up when it was read and saying, this
isn`t legal, it`s not a legal sentence.
We reached out to the judge multiple times for statement regarding
the sentence, and despite our attempts, we have not heard back.
Now, not only is the county district attorney going to the Alabama
criminal court of appeals and arguing the Clem`s current sentence is
illegal, but a network of rape crisis centers in Alabama are pushing to
change state laws, so that nothing like this can happen again.
Now, I know that so much about this story seems unbelievable, but you
do not have to take my word for it, because when we come back, Courtney
Andrews is here and she`s going to speak for herself.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have been talking about the story that left us
stunned this week. This young woman, Courtney Andrews survived being raped
three times, twice at the age of 14 and once again at 18, by the same
assailant, 25-year-old Austin Smith Clem, a one-time neighbor for a family
And for that, Clem got a sentence on November 13th that has sparked
outrage and disbelief. Six years probation and two years in a non-violent
community corrections center and zero real prison time.
Courtney is not staying silent. She is making sure that people know
about a rape sentence that some are calling illegal. And she is determined
to fight this injustice.
Joining me now is Courtney Andrews, now a student at the University
of South Alabama. Also with her is her aunt, Melanie Johnson. And also,
Irin Carmon, national reporter for MSNBC.com.
Thank you for being here.
Start by telling me when you decided to tell and who you initially
ANDREWS: I was 18 when I told. Actually, my best friend told for me
because I didn`t have the heart to tell my parents.
HARRIS-PERRY: I absolutely understand that and yet that has also
been used against you as a survivor in this case as it so often is. That
somehow, because you didn`t react the way people who never survived this
think you should have reacted, that somehow says you were complicit in it.
Tell me how you have had to fight back against that.
ANDREWS: It`s just that people don`t understand the feelings that
come along with it, being scared, the fact that I was young, I was a child,
you know, you threaten to hurt my family, you threaten to hurt me. What
was I supposed to do? It`s just hard because people aren`t going to
I mean, a lot of people that have a problem with it, it`s going to be
hard to change their attitude towards it. So, I feel like there`s not
really a whole lot I can do to change their mind.
HARRIS-PERRY: What you are doing a lot right now to change the minds
of the people who know that this man did this because he has been convicted
of it, and yet, gave a sentence so light it`s hard to think of as a
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you were protecting yourself, your family, your
privacy for so many years, now you are here having to reveal such a
Why did you make that decision to stand-up and have a voice in this
ANDREWS: I just felt like if it happened with me, it probably
happened to other people. And if no one has really stood up and said
anything about it, maybe no one will if I don`t. So, I felt it would be an
injustice to other people if I didn`t. I just knew I had to do what I had
HARRIS-PERRY: How angry is the family right now?
MELANIE JOHNSON, AUNT OF COURTNEY ANDREWS: Very angry. Very
disappointed. It`s just, we were floored by it.
You know, I don`t understand it, really. It`s an understanding
thing, how could it happen? I mean, when they read the sentence to us, we
were like what does that mean? When we were talking to the people, we were
like what does that mean?
When they said no jail time, we were looking at each other going, no,
you are understanding it wrong. It can`t be. It can`t be.
And, of course, at that point, that`s when we are the most angry.
It`s like, this can`t be. But, you know, then you walk away and think what
are we going to do? They can`t get away with that.
HARRIS-PERRY: There are -- for people who are not survivors may not
understand this. There are multiple levels to this. There`s a decision to
tell, and then there`s a decision to go forward with the criminal actions
with the court.
And the decision to tell and the decision to go forward with criminal
actions are very different choices. And often, we don`t do the second one
because of exactly this. This isn`t even a case, Irin, where the survivor
is not believed by a jury, which is so often the case.
A jury believes you, provides a conviction, then a judge refuses to
sentence and in so doing says this is a non-violent offense, basically.
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC.COM: Right, there are many injustices here. An
enormous injustice is the idea that these programs which are designated for
non-violent offenders like drug offenders who need healing and have not
committed violence, the implicit idea that rape is not a violent act, when
it is obviously a very violent act that is masked by all of our society`s
issues around the fact that it`s also an intimate act.
But to think about how extraordinary, first of all your courage in
coming forward that a majority of rape survivors will not report, I believe
the number is 54 percent. Of those, the prosecutor has to decide there`s
enough evidence to bring charges. Then if you are able to get a
conviction, you know, an analysis by RAINN showed out of the cases that are
conviction convictions, 97 out of 100 will not serve a day in prison.
So, unfortunately, this is an extraordinary injustice that is all too
HARRIS-PERRY: I -- you know, we believe in alternatives to
sentencing on this show. We, in fact, talk about alternative sentencing,
pretty regularly, which supports a program like the one that we`re talking
about here for non-violent drug offenders for a variety of reasons. This
is clearly not what we are talking about at all.
You have said that you feel scared now. This perpetrator, this
convicted rapist is now back in the community, is that correct?
ANDREWS: Yes, ma`am.
CARMON: And we know actually that rapists, that sexual violence is
perpetrated by people who continually do so. In your case, that`s what
happened. And so, I mean, I applaud you for saying that`s exactly, you
know, the reason to put yourself through this experience and the justice
system, is so that it won`t happen again.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I guess, you know, this is a tough one for me. We
do conversations here about sexual assault, but none has ever hit closer to
home for me. And -- because my own story is so close to your story because
I was the same age, because it was a neighbor, and although I finally told
at about 20, never went forward to the court system for exactly this
And my level of anger that you would have worked up the courage you
did to go forward and for this to happen. So what is next in the courts?
Is there any possibility of a new sentence here?
ANDREWS: Well, my attorney Brian (ph) has filled out, you know,
paper work and stuff and presented it to the higher court to try and get us
a new judge to do a new sentencing. But there is no guarantee on that.
JOHNSON: We haven`t heard anything.
JOHNSON: In days about it. So we don`t know.
CARMON: From what I understand, the Alabama statute is written in a
very contradictory, confusing way, where it both says that this is a -- you
know, there`s this kind of sentencing that should happen and at the same
time it`s eligible for community corrections and it`s not. So, maybe if
they aren`t able to fix this particular injustice, people after you will
benefit from your activism.
HARRIS-PERRY: What do you need to feel safe?
ANDREWS: I mean, for him to be in prison. I`m not going to feel
safe other than that, you know. Every time that I think about going home
to see my parents, it`s going to be really hard every time I even think
about my parents being home, you know? It just really bothers me and it
scares me. Because they`re there and I know I`m only 20, but I want to
HARRIS-PERRY: Because you didn`t tell because you wanted to protect
ANDREWS: Yes. I wanted to be strong for my family. I still want to
be strong. If that meant dealing with it on my own, that`s what I felt
like I needed to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you for telling, thank you for pursuing it,
thank you for being here now. It`s OK to keep feeling bad and to give
yourself -- there`s no timeline. It`s OK to take the time you need to
heal, OK? And we`re going to keep watching this story, all right? And we
ANDREWS: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Courtney Andrews, Melanie Johnson and Irin Carmon,
thank you so much. We`re going to be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to extend another thank you to Courtney Andrews
and to her family. Thank you for coming on the program this morning and
exhibiting such courage. That`s going to be our show for today.
And thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you next
Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Despite the fact we`re feeling kind of
sad, by next weekend we`re going to bring you some thanks because it is the
Thanksgiving weekend programming. With the holiday season upon us, we`re
actually going to ask the question, what makes us happy? We`re also going
to get some incredible stories about American mythology and talk about why
there are values, even when the myths are quite true.
And then to really make ourselves feel better, we`re going to talk
about pie. After all, what is more American than apple pie? So, Nerdland,
I got some homework for you. This week send us pictures of your pie. If
you`re making pie for the holidays, send us pictures of your nerd pies.
Tweet them to us through MHP show and @MHPShow and use #nerdpie.
We`re going to be looking for your baking, for your finished product,
and for any kind of nerdy pie selfie you want to take. We`re going to
shake it off. Be thankful.
Have a great week.
And don`t go away. Coming up right now is "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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