'Up with Steve Kornacki' for Sunday, December 29th, 2013
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UP with STEVE KORNACKI
December 29, 2013
Guests: Brian Brown, Rachael Bade, Josh Barro, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Ben Zimmer, Jane Hall, Lynn Sweet, Jimmy Tingle
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI": Marriage
equality comes to red state America.
It is the last Sunday of 2013, which means we`re taking stock this
morning of everything that has been accomplished this year. It has been a
remarkable year for gay rights in the United States. DOMA was overturned
and state after state has joined the movement for marriage equality. That
movement isn`t over yet. It is now moving on to the red states of Utah and
Indiana. Where will it be heading next?
Also, do you like to drink soda or maybe they call it pop where
you`re from. Some expert linguists have concocted a pretty amazing and
simple quiz that can predict with pinpoint accuracy where Americans lived
based on how we talk. Also, we all know that in the House, this was the
most unproductive year in Congress ever. There is some praise to be handed
out today for the Senate, something major happened there this year with
potentially giant ramifications for next year, and for beyond. We`re going
to talk about that later.
And, if it is New Year, it must be bowl time. This is no ordinary
time for college football. The BCS, maybe you`ve heard of it, critics say
it is one letter too long. It is the 15-year-old system for choosing a
national champion. Well, it is on its way out. We will tackle where this
supposedly amateur sport is going in the post BCS era, that`s later.
But first, if you look at the history of gay marriage in the United
States, you need to start in Massachusetts. Bluest of blue states and the
first in the country to legalize same sex marriage as back in 2003. From
there, it was on to California, where the right was lost for a while, but
then it was won back soon after, and then affirmed by the Supreme Court
just this year. And then you had Connecticut and Iowa and Vermont and New
Hampshire, New York, Maryland. You get the picture. States where
Democrats typically do well.
Because that`s how we have come to understand gay marriage in this
country, something that divides along blue states and red state lines.
Take a look at the 2012 election map. You have President Obama who
defeated Republican Mitt Romney nationally by a 51 to 47 percent margin.
But in the places that have marriage equality, if you take the average
score of those 17 states in the District of Columbia, President Obama won
61 percent of the vote there, while Mitt Romney took just 37 percent.
In fact, if you look at President Obama`s top 16 margins in the
country, places where he racked up his biggest majorities last year, there
are the 15 states in the District of Columbia where marriage equality is
the law. But all the way down there at the very opposite end of the
spectrum, right-hand corner of the chart, state where the margin was the
widest against President Obama in 2012. Well that would be Utah.
President Obama lost that state by 48 points last year.
And yet, five days before Christmas, a federal judge there handed
down a ruling declaring the state`s 2004 ban on same sex marriage to be
unconstitutional. Which made Utah the 18th state where gay marriage is
legal. At least for now. Last weekend, same sex couples in Utah started
marrying and they`re doing so at a record shattering pace. Previous record
for most marriages in a day in Salt Lake City County was 85. On Monday,
though, for first full day that clerks were allowed to issue marriage
licenses to same sex couples, the county clerk`s office handed out 353
At first, some Utah County clerks didn`t adhere to the ruling,
they`re refused to hand out licenses. The conservative state government is
as we speak appealing to the courts to put the brakes on same sex marriage
in their state, but the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has already denied
the Republican Governor Gary Herbert`s emergency motion for a temporary
stay. The appeal was denied because the lower court`s rationale is firmly
backed up by a decision and a dissent ironically from the Supreme Court in
June. The United States v. Windsor which is the five to four decision that
struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the majority opinion in that
ruling written by Justice Anthony Kennedy found that, quote, "DOMA`s
principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and
make them unequal."
Kennedy also said that DOMA denied the equal protection and due
process guaranteed under the 14th amendment, because, quote, "It is
motivated by a bare desire to harm couples in same sex marriages." In
response to that, conservative Justice Anthony Scalia took issue with the
characterization and in his dissent, how the decision, how this
characterization of DOMA would be interpreted. He wrote, quote, "How easy
it is, indeed how inevitable to reach the same conclusion with regards to
state laws denying same sex couples marital status."
And lo and behold, a little less than six months later, we now have a
federal judge in Utah who wrote last week that, quote, "The court agrees
with Justice Scalia`s interpretation of Windsor and finds the important --
that the important federalism concerns at issue here are nevertheless
insufficient to save a state law prohibition that denies the plaintiffs
their rights to due process and equal protection under the law." So there
is the situation in deeply conservative Utah. The first red state to get
marriage equality. So far the state`s conservative political leadership
has been unable to fight it off.
And there is also a big test coming up in Indiana. With the
exception of a very slim victory for Obama there in 2008, Republicans have
dominated presidential elections there for the last half century. And now
gay marriage opponents are making the Hoosier State their next mark key
battleground, the place where they hope to put the seemingly unstoppable
momentum of gay marriage to the test with the ballot question this
November, another constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. This
is how they hoped to prove to the country that this issue is far from
resolved, that there remains deep popular opposition to gay marriage and a
strong popular will to resort to altering state constitutions to prevent
Governor Mike Pence, a Christian conservative and a former
congressman, is now entering his second year in office. He opposes same
sex marriage, but he is also notably exhibited limited public passion for
the fight this time around. Social conservatives are applying intense
pressure on a state`s Republican led legislature to put their marriage
amendment on the 2014 ballot. And while the legislature will debate it,
the Republican speaker of the State House in Indiana hardly seems
enthusiastic about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. BRIAN BOSMA (R), INDIANA HOUSE SPEAKER: And, yes, while
it is not high on the agenda, we all know we have to deal with whether
Hoosiers should be entrusted with the important decision of the marriage
amendment. My charge to you as we debate a very emotional and personal
issue is that we do so with the recognition of the dignity of every Hoosier
in here and elsewhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Story of gay marriage that we know already is the story of
a rapid evolution from a fringe concept to an accepted consensus issue and
half of America. In blue state America. That` the story of the last
decade. That`s the story of the last few years, really. Now, it`s 2014
dawns, that story is shifting. Gay marriage has now arrived in one of the
reddest states in America. And gay marriage opponents are now picking what
could be a defining fight in another red state. Will 2014 be the year that
gay marriage takes its next big step, away from being a red state/blue
state issue, and closer to being a nonissue?
To discuss, I want to bring in Brian Brown, he`s the president of the
National Organization for Marriage, Rachael Bade, she`s a policy reporter
at Politico. Josh Barro, he`s politics editor at Business Insider, and
Aisha Moodie-Mills, she`s a senior fellow and adviser for the LGBT policy
at the Center for American Progress.
And thanks all for joining us this morning. And Aisha, I`ll start
with you. Because we`re sort of taking what has happened in Utah, what may
be happening in Indiana next year, also we should note there was a ruling
in Ohio in the last two weeks, ruling in Ohio that basically said same sex
couples should be -- should qualify for death benefits in that state, again
citing the Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year.
And it seems to me that something is going to give, whether it`s in
2014 or 2015, in the very near future, something is going to give at the
ballot box, maybe it will be in a red state like Indiana, where, you know,
voters sort of surprise people and say, you know, we`re not -- we don`t
want to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage or something will give
at the Supreme Court level and the Supreme Court is going to have to issue
a ruling that finally says, in all 50 states these are the rules. But it
really feels to me like we`re fast approaching the point where something is
going to give on this in a big way.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, yes. What we
have seen this year is certainly we`ve hit a tipping point. And we`ve hit
a tipping point that`s been decades in the making. We more than doubled
the number of states where we have marriage equality in just one year. And
that`s huge. That`s huge and we also have seen the public opinion kind of
go off the charts now. More than 50 percent of the public believes that
marriage equality should just be the law of the land and it is not really
that big of a deal. I think that what we have seen in Utah is really what
we`re going to continue to see around the country where the courts are
coming in and saying this is a constitutional issue here.
You cannot treat some couples differently than you treat other
couples. I think we`re definitely going to see that even in the face of,
you know what is becoming smaller and smaller pockets of conservative
opposition from a political stand standpoint, I think we`re going to see
our legal system prevail in this case.
KORNACKI: Josh, that`s the striking thing about what happened in
Utah, is you had a judge, a federal judge who was appointed I think at the
behest of Orrin Hatch, you know, conservative senator from Utah, I think
Mike Lee signed off on the appointment too, so that`s where he`s sort of
coming from. But he`s looking at the Supreme Court ruling from June and
he`s basically following it to its logical conclusion. It is what Anthony
Scalia actually was warning about in his dissent. And he`s basically
saying, you can`t have two standards here.
JOSH BARRO, BUSINESS INSIDER: Yes, well, I mean, I think Scalia`s
logic was correct. I think it does follow from the majority opinion. The
majority opinion didn`t really address the question, it didn`t have to.
Scalia because it was in his dissent could say this is what is going to
happen next. But I think what is been really interesting about this year,
is that you`ve seen this explosion of marriage equality through three
different channels. You`ve seen court decisions like in Utah, there has
been legislative action in places like Illinois and Minnesota and then you
had at the end of 2012 voters in Washington State and Maryland and Maine
approving gay marriage by a ballot measure.
So, I think you`re going to see advances on all three of those fronts
for a time because gay marriage is prohibited in so many state
constitutions, the only way it can be legalized in most states is either
through another popular vote or through a court decision regarding the
federal constitution. So, I think you`re going to see more and more of
that movement unless the Supreme Court sweeps in and legalizes gay marriage
everywhere and makes the issue moot. But I think for a long time, gay
rights campaigners got used to saying that things shouldn`t go to the
ballot box. That these things shouldn`t be put to a vote and they`re going
to have to get quite comfortable going to the ballot box because -- unless
the courts come in, that`s going to be the only way to advance marriage
equality in a lot of the remaining states.
KORNACKI: And I want to come back to the issue of going to the ballot
box and some interesting results from the 2012 election and some stuff
coming up on the horizon in 2014. But I want to start also with the court
side, to keep on that for a second. Josh Marshall of
TalkingPointsMemo.com, he wrote, he looked at the decision in Utah, he
looked at this ruling in Ohio, and he basically said that judicial -- in
terms of the courts, the clock has really sped up because of the these two
And he wrote it, "I think everybody on each side of the issue is
realized for the past two or three years that it is only a matter of time
until this happens. But the decade or so of different policies from state
to state now appears quite unlikely. I see little way to look at last week
and not conclude the gay marriage will be the law of land in every state of
the country in the near future probably during the Obama presidency and
maybe sooner still." I don`t know how you can be sooner than the Obama
presidency, but taking -- what he`s basically saying is the court, which
thought it was maybe buying itself some time on this issue with how it
finessed the issue back in June, that this has now been sped up and the
court is going to have to rule on this as it applies it all 50 states maybe
by like 2015.
RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO: Yes, potentially. And it all comes back to
the equal protection clause of the constitution. So, in 2013, you know, we
have seen a double -- in the number of states who recognize same sex
marriage has doubled. And so that brings up the question of can people
just move from one state to another and see their rights sort of disappear?
So right now say you have a lesbian couple in Vermont and they get married,
the state recognizes their marriage, the federal government now recognizes
their marriage because of the Supreme Court ruling this summer, but, say,
one of the wives gets transferred to Texas and all of a sudden, you know,
that marriage is not recognized anymore and the benefits they got in their
state of Vermont are no longer there.
But the equal protection clause of the constitution essentially says
that Americans should not see significant legal protections disappear
moving from one part of the country to the other. So this is definitely
stepping on the gas. Now 40 percent of Americans live in states where same
sex marriage is allowed, so what about these rates? Are they transferrable
from one state to the next? The Supreme Court is definitely going to see
that it has to answer this sooner rather than later, especially now that
we`re seeing so many states --
KORNACKI: And that`s one issue, Brian, I know your group is out there
fighting this, that was the issue that was at the heart of this ruling in
Ohio, where a judge looked at this couple that was married legally in a
state that has gay marriage, and basically said, how can a state of Ohio
denied death benefits to one of the spouses when the entire history of the
state of Ohio and just about every state in this country, it doesn`t matter
when it comes to marriage, it is a history of reciprocity. We honor the
marriage in one state in this state. Why would you single out same sex
couples who were legally married in the state of Maryland, I think that`s
where this couple got married, why would you single them out and say, you
are denied the death benefits that spouses should get in the state of Ohio.
That was at the heart of this Ohio ruling, that question is being raised
all across the country now.
BRIAN BROWN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE: Well,
attempting to use the full faith and credit clause of the constitution to
impose same sex marriage on states is nothing new. This goes all the way
back to the decision in Massachusetts. Look, the importance of the Utah
decision doesn`t signify at all any change on the part of the voters of
Utah. What it does signify is one federal judge had decided that it is OK
to throw out two-thirds of the voters` will in a single decision and the
10th Circuit is unwilling to have justice be done and put a state on this
decision. Everyone who looks at this knows what he`s trying to do.
Let`s get as many gay marriages as possible to occur in Utah, so it
is hard to roll back the clock. Let`s impose this immediately. Something
that the Ninth Circuit and the California example refused to do. At least
showed some attempt to restrain itself. This judge does not want to do.
So now what we`re going to find out is whether the Supreme Court itself is
going to put a stay on this. This will go to Sotomayor, there will be --
it is not filed yet, but there will be another attempt to restore law in
Utah by going to the court and saying, let`s stop this nonsense.
KORNACKI: But you raise a couple of interesting points there. And I
know the sort of the conservative argument, the anti-gay marriage argument,
I think there is a conservative argument for gay marriage, but the anti-gay
marriage argument, a lot of it revolves around, you know, bashing activist
judges and you`re sort of paying these guys now to this judge. Who again,
I think was appointed at the Behest of Orrin Hatch and signed off by Mike
Lee, so, we`ll put that aside.
But the question I asked you there, first, it wasn`t about Utah, it
was about Ohio. We had two rulings in the last couple of weeks. And that
question of basic fairness that Rachael was talking about. A couple that
is legally married in the state, in the state of Maryland, are legally
married there, and they are residents, they move to Ohio, one of the
spouses dies, why shouldn`t the marriage laws of the state of Ohio, isn`t
it only a matter of fairness that the death benefits apply to the spouse?
BROWN: No, it is not fairness at all. If your logic holds true, then
no state should be able to define marriage as the union of a man and a
woman because there are a few states that have redefined marriage. Again,
mostly by the courts.
KORNACKI: More than half of the country now lives in states where
gay marriage -- more than half of the population of the country lives in a
place where --
BROWN: We still have 33 states where people have largely
overwhelmingly voted to amend their constitution because they know that
there is something true and good and unique about unions.
KORNACKI: That`s not why --
BROWN: I think overwhelmingly and the argument from the other side is
the reason that they voted this way often is because of bigotry.
BROWN: Well --
KORNACKI: Yes, that is the argument. That`s the truth.
BROWN: Our own president, over a year and a half ago, was he a bigot
KORNACKI: OK. We have reached an interesting point and we`re
getting into the question of this popular -- and I think there is a lot to
be said and Josh has something to say in response to this. We will take a
break and we`ll pick it right up where we left off after this.
KORNACKI: Talking about the court battles, sort of the pending court
battle that is probably going back to the Supreme Court over gay marriage.
But there`s also just the issue of the, you know, state referendums that`s
how this all started in Utah, was the voters of Utah in 2004, basically a
decade ago, voting to ban gay marriage. Brian was starting to talk about
that. Josh, you wanted to say a response to that.
BARRO: Yes. Well, I mean, you had a number of states that passed
these referendum over a period of about a decade and then you`ve been
having a shift in public opinion, you had three states that passed by
popular referendum legalization of gay marriage in 2013, Minnesota defeated
a proposal, and you do find that support for gay marriage at the polls
tends to lag the public opinion polls by a few points. Because opposition
to gay marriage is shameful and people are ashamed to tell pollsters that
they hold this opinion. I think that tells us something very telling.
That if you hold a political position that is so objectionable, you can`t
even tell another person you hold it. It`s probably not one that`s very
But that bigotry is falling away. And so I can see in Indiana they
want to go now in part because this is maybe their last opportunity to get
it done. But if, you know, it passes in this year, it will be like what
the Speaker of House said in North Carolina when they passed their gay
marriage ban last year, which is, you know, I think it is going to pass now
and I think it will be repealed within 20 years. The tide of changing
public opinion is still going out by two or three points a year, and that`s
going to sweep over the country gradually over time, and ultimately into
the reddest states.
BROWN: Josh -- I have to respond to that. Because Josh basically
proving my point for me. Look, when you can so callously and with such
pious elitism discount the votes of the overwhelming majority of Americans
as simply bigotry, and then you can applaud a federal judge when he
discards those votes and say that`s because it is simply shameful to
believe anything other than two men and two women should get married, and
that all of human history, all of human history is wrong and how --
BARRO: Not a human history.
BROWN: I`m right up until the last 15 years. And then the hypocrisy
of, well, it is no big deal if we change it, well, of course it is a big
deal if we change it. If the government starts to say what Josh is saying,
that those of us who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a
woman, are the functional equivalent of racist --
KORNACKI: But, Brian, here`s the question, though, how do you -- I
like you to respond to how dramatically public opinion is shifting.
Because we can talk about referenda that passed in 2004 and 2006, even
2008. Just to give you a sense of how dramatically this has changed. The
first time we started polling this question in 1996, here was the 27 to 68
against legalized same sex marriage in this country. That number has
doubled in just 17 years for support. It is now majority support across
the country, 54/43. You were quoted this week in the New York Times
talking about how this battle in Indiana, this proposed constitutional
amendment, the idea of getting constitutional amendment in Indiana, red
state Indiana this year, is a big deal to your group and to your movement.
Well, here is the latest polling on that constitutional amendment in
Indiana. First of all, this is polling for same sex marriage overall in
Indiana. Support 48/46. This is for same sex marriage. Here is the
question your constitutional amendment, 58 opposed, 38 percent support.
That is a huge dramatic shift. So we are now really talking about -- let`s
be honest about what we`re talking about here when it comes to same sex
marriage. We`re talking about a country in last 15 years has fundamentally
changed to majority support for this.
BROWN: No, I actually disagree with that. Of course the polling has
moved. Why would the polling not move in the direction of redefining
marriage when you have almost all of the elites trying to bludgeon and put
down people who disagree with this new orthodoxy as somehow --
KORNACKI: Do you think that`s what it is? Or do you think more
people now know gay people?
BROWN: No, I don`t.
KORNACKI: Know them in their families, know them in their
BROWN: Let`s go back and look at the polling, if we`re going to
accept your arguments on polling. In 2008, during Proposition 8, we had
polling showing that Proposition 8 was down by 18 points. Most recently in
North Carolina, you mentioned the four states that voted either to redefine
marriage or not to amend their constitution to protect marriage by the
ballot. What you don`t mention is that in North Carolina roughly the same
time, 61 percent of the people of North Carolina, this is not long ago,
voted to amend their constitution to protect marriage. In all of those
states we saw polls showing that the ballot initiative was going to fail.
And by huge margins. So the polling --
KORNACKI: What if you lose? What if you lose in Indiana next year?
What does it mean?
BROWN: What it means is, we continue to stand up and fight, in and
out of season, for the truth. And the truth is, and Americans know this,
the truth is there is something unique and special about men and women
coming together in marriage and that is not bigotry. That is not bigotry.
MILLS: You know, I`m kind of watching this show here because it is
really hilarious. The longer you let him talk and let these arguments
continue, the more that conservatives and these arguments against marriage
sync themselves in general. You know, I`m reminded, it`s very short
history here, actually I am reminded of all of the arguments that were made
to support Jim Crow laws, to support slavery, all of the kind anti-
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Now we`re going to live --
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
MILLS: That was happening and it is -- it is absolutely the same
type of bigotry that what very simply we`re talking about here is a group
of people who think that because there are other folks who are different,
they should be treated differently under the law. And what we know in
America is that that should never be the case. And that`s --
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
KORNACKI: All right. Aisha has the last word for this segment.
We`re back for the next segment after this.
KORNACKI: I didn`t show this earlier. But there is another piece of
polling data I wanted to point up there. I really also think tells the
story of this shift in public opinion that we have seen. This is, again,
this is national, this is from Gallup poll from just this past July,
support for the legalization of gay marriage by age group. And I think
this really tells a story. Look at that, 18 to 34, seven out of ten
support this. And you get to 55 plus, this is still, you know, a more
exotic concept. They think it`s fewer than four out of ten. I mean, there
it is. I think you`re seeing the future in that polling.
We have so many, you know, political science studies and social
science studies that talk about how your sort of political ideology or
philosophy is locked in such a young age and I think you can kind of see
the future there. But Rachael, you were talking off the air about
something interesting and that is again, the theme of the segment is how
this may be shifting from a red state/blue state issue, eventually to a
nonissue. And there is movement, you`re seeing, among conservatives in red
state America on this. You`re talking about that.
BADE: Yes, absolutely. Brian mentioned that in Utah was one, you
know, a judge who said that gay marriage needed to be legal in Utah, it
wasn`t necessarily the masses coming up and saying, you know, in Utah we
want this for our state. But it is interesting because if you look at
other conservative states, you can actually see a shift supporting more --
more people supporting gay marriage. If you look at South Carolina, for
example, this is a very red state, Republican in the governor`s mansion,
Republican controlled state house, almost all their elected members --
KORNACKI: Voted Newt Gingrich in the primary.
BADE: Haven`t voted for a democratic president since Jimmy Carter, I
don`t think. But just a few years ago, in 2006, I think the constitutional
amendment to ban gay marriage passed by something like 80 percent. In
polls, this fall, have sort of shown that that has decreased and now about
50 percent -- 52 percent of South Carolinians still disagree with allowing
gay marriage in their state. But that`s a drastic change from 80 percent
to, you know, 52 percent. And just, you know, young Republicans around the
country, polls have shown that Republicans under 50, more than half of
them, think that gay marriage should be legal.
If you look at the Supreme Court ruling this summer, Republicans of
all ages, 43 percent of them agreed with the Supreme Court ruling that gay
marriages should be recognized by the federal government. And we even have
seen this change in people who you normally think of being against gay
marriage, just very conservative Christians, young evangelicals, Romney
pollster did a study and found that something like 64 percent of younger
evangelicals support gay marriage. The Catholic Church says about, you
know, 60 percent or more support gay marriage there. So, I mean, I think
we have definitely seen a change. And I wouldn`t go as far as to say, you
know, red states are going to be bringing up this up to a ballot and it`s
going to pass right away and gay marriage is going to become legal there
right away. But there has definitely been a shift over --
KORNACKI: And that`s why I think Indiana is such a very interesting
and telling test for 2014. The Republican Party itself, first of all, we
should remember, recognized this in this autopsy report after the election
last year. They called, I believe the term they used for gay rights was a
gateway issue. They said younger people are not even going to consider our
party`s message on anything else until they`re satisfied that on gay rights
we don`t have a problem with it. They identify it as a gateway issue.
Detail to me in Indian is, we`ll see if this thing gets on the
ballot. I have a feeling if this constitutional amendment gets on the
ballot, it`s going to lose in Indiana, but we`ll see. It is the lack of
enthusiasm from Republican leaders in Indiana -- I remember Mike Pence
being one of the most outspoken conservative Christian congressman and he`s
so far refusing to take the lead on getting this thing on the ballot in
MILLS: Yes. And I think that`s a really important point to make is
that even social conservatives are kind of over these issues, like marriage
equality, which essentially are about divisiveness, are trying to divide
the electorate or actually at this point tearing the party apart and what
they realize is that that wing of their party, that kind of staunchly
socially conservative wing is essentially going to drive down their ability
to maintain power. And that`s why you see some reticence on the behalf of
a lot of members to even take up this issue.
Because one, it is a nonstarter for young people. In general. And
I`m so thankful that you brought up the polling around young Republicans,
young evangelicals. This issue should just be a nonissue. Because at the
end of the day, it is not about partisanship. It is about how we treat
people in America and what the constitution says. And so it does get, you
know, Brian raised the question in the break, is this a civil rights issue?
It absolutely is a civil rights issue. It is about how people are being
treated under the civil rights of the United States of America and we see
the Supreme Court weighing in, we see other federal courts weighing in.
And so, you know, one of the things that we also know is that
sometimes voters are lagging indicator of where we should be going in terms
of the evolution of our democracy. I take it back again to when we`re
talking about dismantling Jim Crow laws, when we`re talking about other
laws misogynism laws, if we would have allowed the public to vote at that
time, folks would have continued to keep African-Americans a second class
citizens. And so I completely reject this argument that --
BROWN: This is comparing apples and oranges. Laws -- anti-misogyny -
MILLS: As a black lesbian woman, no it is not. Not, it`s not.
BROWN: Keeping a racist apart. Marriage is about bringing sexiest
together. We don`t have a majority of Americans who are somehow raving
bigots because they understand that marriage is the union of a man and a
woman. And on Indiana, Governor Pence has come out and supported the
marriage amendment, has supported it going to a vote, and I strongly
believe that if it gets on the ballot, you`re going to see that all this
polling that you`re bringing out, you`re again going to see North Carolina
all over again. Strong majority will support --
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
KORNACKI: I want to just get a straight answer on this question from
you though, because you have said, you were quoted in this New York Times
article talking about how big Indiana is to you. I show the poll --
MILLS: Only thing that they have.
KORNACKI: But what happens if -- what happens to your movement, what
does it say to you if the voters in Indiana disagree with you this year?
Do you rethink where public opinion this, where you are on this?
BROWN: Well, we`ve lost a state. I mean, again --
KORNACKI: You lost a red state --
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
BROWN: No, it is obviously a big fight. But Indiana is not the only
state that may have this on the ballot. You have Oregon, you have Ohio,
and you have Indiana. In Ohio, supporters of redefining marriage are
likely putting their own amendment forward. So, you`re going to have three
votes possibly in 2014. Indiana, of course, is very important. Very
confident that the voters of Indiana will make the right choice that will
not let judges for same sex marriage on them, they will vote to amend their
constitution to protect --
KORNACKI: All right. Josh, I`ll give you the last word.
BARRO: The whole point of our constitution is that sometimes the
majority will is incorrect. The purpose of it is to restrict the kinds of
laws that can be made by the popular will. So, to say, well, you know,
they`re replacing the considered judgment of voters, they are absolutely
replacing the judgment of voters, but that`s been part of the American
system for more than 200 years. It doesn`t make it per se invalid for them
to do so.
BROWN: But not a singer founder that would accept your interpretation
of the U.S. constitution.
BARRO: Well, a lot of the founders owned slaves.
KORNACKI: All right. That`s the last word. I want to thank the
Brian Brown for joining us this morning and rest of the panel, I will see
you in the next hour.
But coming up next, rummage sale, tag sale, yard sale, tell me which
one of those terms you use, and I can probably tell you exactly where
you`re from. How America is divided by words. How is that for a segment?
KORNACKI: If you traveled much here in the U.S., chances are at some
point you had or you witnessed a conversation that maybe went something
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Is it possible that two youths --
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Two what? What was that word?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What word?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Two what?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Did you say utes?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes, two youths.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What is a youth?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh, excuse me, your honor, two youths.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The famous utes scene from 1982 movie "My Cousin Vinny."
Even if you`re not an Italian-American lawyer, you`re defending your cousin
in a murder trial in the Deep South, you probably experienced the
frustration of wondering what someone was talking about in another part of
the country. Not so much how they were pronouncing a word, but what the
actual term they were using meant.
Well, up next, the colorful ways in which our increasingly homogenous
country is still wonderfully diverse when it comes to language. Stay with
KORNACKI: So let`s say you`re back at your holiday gathering earlier
this week and mom needs to get everyone`s attention. Maybe she wants a
photograph or maybe it`s dinner time. I don`t know. Anyway, she needs
everyone`s attention. So what term does she use to address the crowd?
Does she say, listen up, you guys? Or, hey y`all or maybe you lot or yins.
If you`ve been anywhere near social media this week, you may have seen why
I`m asking this. There was an online survey from the New York Times that
went viral this week. In just 25 questions, the survey makers claim they
can pinpoint your dialect to a very specific, very narrow slice of the
For instance, what do you call the rubber soled shoes worn in gym
class or athletic abilities? If you answered sneakers like me, you`re
likely from the northeast or maybe you`re from Florida. If you said tennis
shoes, even when not playing tennis, you`re probably from pretty much
everywhere else, except maybe Chicago or Cincinnati or some people
apparently use the term gym shoes. The quiz was based on a decade long
linguistic study conducted at Harvard University and a New York Times
survey of more than 350,000 people. Results are not always perfect. But
when I took the quiz, placed me somewhere between Springfield, Mass and
Boston and Providence.
And since I`m from Groton, Massachusetts, isn`t far from any of those
places, I would say the survey is pretty spot on. In a world of big box
stores, chain restaurants, and so many other things that started to make
this country look and feel the same in state after state, these distinct
cultural pockets and language patterns that differentiate how we talk are
one of the ways that still make our nation a wonderful mish-mash of quirky
Here to discuss our linguistically diverse nation, we have Ben
Zimmer, he`s a linguist and language columnist, now at the Wall Street
Journal, the executive producer of Vocabulary.com. Jane Hall, he`s a
professor at American University School of Communication. Lynn Sweet,
she`s the Washington Bureau Chief with the Chicago Sun-Times and Jimmy
Tingle, he`s a comedian and a political humorist. Welcome. And Jimmy, you
are from Boston, I think anybody who hears you talk in the next ten seconds
will pick that up right away.
JIMMY TINGLE, COMEDIAN AND POLITICAL HUMORIST: Why do you say that?
KORNACKI: I brought this -- one of our producers brought this up.
This is called the Boston dictionary. It is all these, like, only in
Boston expressions. And it struck me preparing for this segment, maybe
it`s my bias of growing up in Massachusetts and New England, but it seems
to me there are more of this sort of quirky regional expressions and sort
of the accent is more quirky in particular in Boston, in Massachusetts, in
New England, than anywhere else in the country. Is that something you
found traveling around?
TINGLE: I definitely found that to be true. My father is originally
from North Carolina. So every summer as kids we would go to North Carolina
to visit his relatives and clearly coming from Cambridge, Mass, OK, where
we grew up, to North Carolina, we would have all these different words.
For example, we`re going to a store in North Carolina, as kids go, I want a
tonic. A tonic? They come up with a jar of -- you know, and then they
say, you know, and then they would have words for us you know, like my
relatives would say, we`ll give you -- just say park the car in the Harvard
Yard. You know? And they had words for us, like Damn Yankees.
KORNACKI: We go through some of these to give you -- if you haven`t
taken the test this week, maybe we can give you a few examples. One of the
questions in the test. What do you call a traffic situation in which
several roads meet in a circle. So, Lynn, Chicago area native, what would
you call it -- would you call it a rotary, a roundabout, a circle, a
traffic circle, a traffic circus, what is the term you would use?
LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: In Chicago, it would be none of the
Which I don`t know that was an option there. But in the test, here`s
the giveaway for Chicago on that test, and it was, gym shoes, which is
everyone the right thing to call --
KORNACKI: You call them gym shoes?
KORNACKI: When I ring that test, I thought it was a tricky answer or
something. Who would call these things --
SWEET: Well, I would say because you did say in your opening, some
people say -- I have a little respect for everyone out there. Gym shoes,
KORNACKI: Well, this question about the -- where the roads meet in a
circle is the giveaway. The test tells you what gave away where you`re
from. And the giveaway on mine, was I call this a rotary.
KORNACKI: I grew up calling these things rotary. A rotary, near
where I lived, the west concord rotary, one of the most dangerous in the
state. But, Jane, you took the test. How accurate was it for you?
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, it is interesting. I
was somewhat disappointed to find that they pegged me for Mobile or
Tallahassee, when I`m in fact from Texas. But it was because I said median
for the strip down the middle and service road. Now, I don`t know how they
pegged me on that, but I was thinking about tells and one of the things
that is a tell for me, someone watched me on TV and said I didn`t know Jane
Hall was from Texas until I heard her say might could. It is sort of a
Texas conditional. We might could be able to go. But it pecked me as more
southern. I have southern heritage so that made sense.
KORNACKI: There is a great, there`s a dictionary of American regional
English that the University of Wisconsin puts out. I was just looking
through. There is some great expressions I`ve never heard, blind pig.
This is a California expression apparently, that`s a place that sells
liquor illegally. There is this Appalachian verb to get schnydered, it
means you got scammed. Kentucky, tag tale. This is a Wyoming expression.
This is someone who lags behind. So, in Wyoming, I guess we would say Liz
Cheney is tag-taling in the race for U.S. Senate right now. But, Ben, when
you look at these, are these expressions that in these sort of regional
distinctions in terms of how we talk, are they here to stay or in this
country of, like, the same chain restaurants in Maine is in California, the
same big box stores, are they going to disappear, are these things here to
BEN ZIMMER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Linguistic diversity is not
going anywhere in the United States. American English has always been
tremendously diverse. And as you say, there are forces for homogenization.
There`s greater mobility, people are traveling around the country, they`re
not staying in their own location so much. And there is mass media and
other things that might cause people to, you know, share a common language.
But as this quiz demonstrates, there is still lots of diversity in other
parts of the country. I`m from Central New Jersey, and so we call it a
circle there. I grew up in a town that had three of them. You know, we`re
KORNACKI: And you got the jug handles of New Jersey too. I lived in
New Jersey what the heck is this.
ZIMMER: Got to know your jug handles and your circles.
KORNACKI: So we talk about the media in the show. When we come back,
I want to talk about how these sort of linguistic differences, how they
affect our politics. You know, when you`re in the north, how do you hear a
southern politician, you`re in the south, you hear a northern politician, a
news anchor with a distinct dialect, something like that. Let`s talk about
that when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning, y`all.
Good to be with you. I got started right this morning with a biscuit
and some cheesy grits, I`ll tell you. Delicious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was one of many -- that is most cringe inducing Mitt
Romney moment from 2012. And Lynn, that is sort of one of the dangers of -
- in politics, you take a candidate from one part of the country, you want
to go to the other part of the country and find some sort of common ground
with the locals and that`s sort of like the most disastrous thing that
SWEET: Well, it is. Except the second most disastrous thing is
mispronouncing the name of the field where the Green Bay Packers play,
which I won`t say because I may do that. But to your point of regional
differences, and politics, in Chicago, you know, there is differences
within even the north side and the south side. I -- if you -- we call them
ds, dumbs and dos, which is a variance of a Chicago accent, which you see I
might still have because I haven`t -- I go back to brush up. So the only -
- so that is, if you live -- listen to Bill Daley and Rahm Emanuel, both
White House chiefs of staff, both grew up in a place called Chicago, but
linguistically, the way they speak is very different.
So, Bill Daley has some of the ds, dumbs and dos speech. OK. Rahm
who grew up, whose father lived in the neighborhood that I grew up in, but
then they had to move to a better neighborhood than the one I grew up in,
so we have some regional accents the same, but not as pronounced. The one
unifier, though, is da bears. But if you look at the children of bears, we
call them the cubs.
KORNACKI: That gets to a point, Jimmy, we`re talking about this a
little bit in the break. So, Lynn, from Chicago, can appreciate this very
in some cases subtle differences between --
SWEET: Subtle? Like a sledgehammer.
KORNACKI: Subtle to you. That`s us all Chicago. But Jimmy, like in
Boston, all of the movies and the TV shows set in Boston, and somebody from
Boston hears the accent of how Hollywood kind of filters the Boston accent,
now how people in Boston hear it.
ZIMMER: No, it is very difficult to reproduce on screen if you`re not
from Boston. Some people do it very well. In the movie "The Town," they
did it really well. In "The Fighter," they did it really well. But it`s a
tough accent unless you`re from there. It`s really hard. I don`t
understand why they just don`t hire more actors from Boston who play Boston
roles. But by the way, Mitt Romney, what state was he in right there?
KORNACKI: I think that`s Alabama.
ZIMMER: OK. Good. Because after that, he had to self-deport.
KORNACKI: Or Mississippi. I`m sorry. He also lost -- he lost the
Mississippi primary. Jane, also, I wonder from a news media standpoint,
you know, we think of, like, I imagine in a local market, if you`re talking
about, like, a news anchor, that kind of accent maybe is appreciated if you
have the local accent. But is there sort of -- would we trust a national
news anchor with a thick distinctive -- I`m trying to think of --
HALL: Well, I think that the coaches tell them to get rid of their
accents. Dan Rather was famous for Ratherisms, you know, about like a cat
in the roomful of rockers, that kind of thing, sort of metaphorically. You
know? But the coaches don`t want people to have regional accents. You
know, which I think is very interesting. The other thing I remember
growing up and coming to New York is it is more accent than speech. But
you would sort of be stereotyped, people you know, assumed if you were from
the south, you were possibly a cracker, possibly, you know, ignorant, that
sort of thing, you know. I remember people making fun of LBJ after
Kennedy`s areadition (ph), you know, he seemed like a corn pone to a lot of
KORNACKI: There is a regional word too. Anyway, if you want to take
a quiz, we`ll be sure to publish the link on our website, on MSNBC.com. I
want to thank the comedian Jimmy Tingle, linguist Ben Zimmer, Professor
Jane Hall. The whole thing about this Congress being the least effective,
most pointless Congress ever. Well, it`s kind of true. But there`s also
something really big and really important that did happen in Congress this
year. We`ll going to talk about it, next.
KORNACKI: You think back over the last year, two of the most
memorable episodes on Capitol Hill involved individual members of the U.S.
Senate going out of their way, going way out of their way to prevent their
colleagues from doing something, to shut down the chamber. There was Rand
Paul back in March holding the floor for 12 hours and 52 minutes, a
filibuster of the nomination of John Brennan to lead the CIA. Didn`t work.
There was plenty of bipartisan support for Brennan. But it attracted a ton
of attention, it elevated Paul`s profile and even provided a little
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I would go for another 12 hours to try
to break Strom Thurmond`s record, but I discovered that there are some
limits to filibustering, and I`m going to have to take care of one of those
in a few minutes here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And there was Ted Cruz who took to the floor in late September
and did not stop speaking for 21 hours and 19 minutes. Technically what
Cruz did wasn`t actually a filibuster, but it was the same basic idea, the
Senate was about to pass a plan to keep the government open without
defunding Obamacare. And Cruz who pushed his party into the shutdown
fight, was making a symbolic stand against the deal.
And really that`s what filibusters are supposed to be, that`s how
they`re supposed to work. If one member or a small band of members of the
Senate doesn`t like something about to pass, you can slow things down, you
can draw attention to something they care about, and maybe, maybe they can
even extract some kind of a concession before relenting and letting the
Senate get back to business and pass whatever it was about to pass. That`s
the filibuster at its best.
Problem, of course, is that it is always ripe for abuse. The
filibuster most infamously is how one group of senators, all of them white,
mainly from the south, banded together to hold back the tide of racial
equality for nearly a century. That kind of abuse that led to some changes
to the filibuster over the years. The number of votes needed to kill one
has been rolled back. It was once 67, two-thirds of the Senate, now 60.
Exceptions were made in 1975 rule was passed that said any
legislation that deals with deficit reduction couldn`t be filibustered. No
simple tweaking of the rules could have addressed how the filibuster has
been abused during the Obama presidency. How it has become a routine
tactic employed by Republicans on virtually every significant piece of
legislation and on all sorts nominations.
Sixty votes, 60 votes out of 100, super majority, is what Democrats
needed to get almost anything out of the Senate in the Obama era. That`s
what happens when all of the senators from one party, from the opposition
party, decide that they`re all going to band together, week after week,
month after month, year after year, to stall to an instruct and it derail
the White House`s agenda.
Not what the filibuster was designed to be, and it had huge
implications for the kind of footprint Barack Obama has been able to
establish as president. And it is why the biggest story of the year in
Washington, one of the biggest stories of the year in all of politics is
what Democrats finally decided to do about it. They went nuclear. They
went partially nuclear.
They made a rules change in November that they have been threatening
to make for a long time, that almost no one believed they ever actually
followed through on. But in November, when Republicans made it clear that
they would use the filibuster to block any Obama nominee, no matter how
qualified, no matter how impeccably qualified from serving on the second
most powerful court in America, that`s the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals,
as jurisdiction over all of the laws that pass in Congress, since Congress
is in D.C.
When Republicans made it clear that that`s what they were doing with
the filibuster, Democrats went ahead and they changed the rules. From that
point forward, there would be no filibustering of nominees, judicial
nominees and nominees for executive branch posts, for cabinet appointees,
people running federal agencies, to that kind of thing. We talk all
indictment about how little happens in Washington.
But because of that rules change, some very big, very real and very
important things have started happening in Washington. Like this.
Patricia Millett confirmed to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
and Mel Watt was confirmed to run the federal housing finance agency.
Neither one received 60 votes.
Under the old rules, both would have stalled. Both nominations
would have stalled before the rules change. After the rules change,
Democrats needed a simple majority to confirm them. So they were both
confirmed on December 10th. That`s one new Obama appointee running a vital
agency that badly needed a leader, and it is a new Obama appointee on the
second most important court on the country, a court tilting conservative.
And it actually now is two new Obama appointees who have been
confirmed to that hugely important court because Cornelia Pillard was
confirmed by a majority vote on December 12th by our count there have been
a total of 16 nominations cleared by the Senate since that rule has
changed, since the Senate went partially nuclear.
When they made the change, Republicans vowed retribution. They
hinted at the Senate that might reach new levels of dysfunction, blustered
that Democrats would face the wrath of an angry public. But the story of
the post-nuclear Senate, so far, is that almost none of that happened.
Democrats changed the rules and they got -- they got actual nominees
confirmed. They got people in place in very important agencies and on
It raises the question of what`s next. What`s next for the
filibuster, for what`s left of the filibuster? There has been a clear
reward for Democrats so far in getting rid of it on nominations, but what
about all legislation? Is that the next domino that will fall? Are we
watching the Senate transform itself into the House where simple majority
is the rule on basically everything and are there unintended, unforeseen
consequences when that day comes? If that day comes?
Here to discuss it, we have back at the table, Josh Barro, politics
editor with "Business Insider," Aisha Moody Mills, from the Center for
American Progress, Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief at the "Chicago Sun
Times," and Rachael Bade, is a reporter with "Politico."
I want to start with the polling maybe puts this in perspective
because we talked to years, this was on the table when Republicans were
running the Senate, George W. Bush was president, the nuclear option. It
has been on the table, on the table for years with Obama as president,
Democrats running the Senate and here. It actually happened, Democrats
went nuclear on nominations and here is the polling.
This is a "National Journal" poll from December 12th to 15th. Do
you agree or disagree with the Democrats going nuclear for nominations, 47
agree, 44 degree. It`s a fairly standard party line thing. This is not
dramatic. The country is not revolting. For all those years of talk, the
reaction from the country to a huge deal in the Senate has been sort of ho-
LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN TIMES: It has because this appeals to the fairness
of people. If you don`t know a lot about the arcane rules of Congress, it
would just seem to be fair, right? Majority rules have a vote, vote yes,
vote no, and get on with it. So what ad can you make against this? No
matter what side you take on this issue. Can`t say Steve Kornacki is
against majority rule. Vote against Steve Kornacki. People say what the
heck is that over?
In some ways it is more restrictive because the leadership there
locks up everything that gets to the floor. So and it is -- even though
that is where it is so much more fair that you majority rule because a lot
of rules they have there and there is still ways that a minority can tie
things up in the Senate, which we could get to if we have time, so the
minority party still has -- still has some tools in the box.
KORNACKI: One of those tools is you could dig it from the floor, you can
go to the committee level, and at the committee level they could boycott
meetings and they can, you know --
SWEET: Also in judicial nominees, for judges that sit in circuits based
in states, there is a tradition that is still being held to that the
senators have to agree, even if they`re not of the party of the White
House. Some states work out a working relationship because they know that
things can change in the power in the White House and in the makeup of the
Congress. And facing midterm elections, by the way, that`s the reason I
don`t think the Senate will put in more rules, we`re too close and what if
they do lose -- Dems lose in 2014. So you have states where you can tie up
judges if the senators won`t agree on who the nominees are that you go to
the White House.
KORNACKI: Which gets to the nature of the Senate and what is always sort
of traditionally separated the Senate from the house, the individual
prerogatives of the senators. They have more sort of individual autonomy
in the Senate, six-year term elected state wide. You are not
representative of a small district for two years. What comes is a little
bit traditionally a little more of the power. The filibuster is part of
Traditionally when used right, it is a bargaining chip. I guess the
question is in the era we`re now living in, when ideology is so synced up
with partisanship, the Republicans and the conservative party, the
Republicans the left of center party, regional, cultural divide between the
parties are so stark and everything is a party line vote. Is there any
role for filibuster in the Senate anymore?
JOSH BARRO, BUSINESS INSIDER: I think probably not. I think it is part of
a broader question. Any Democratic system has a set of structures that are
used to impede majority rule. It is not that whatever 51 percent of the
public wants happens. You have a bicameral legislature. Things have to
pass the House and the Senate, even if you had the same rules that would
make things more difficult than passing something through a legislature
that had just one House.
You have a constitution that imposes various rules that says what
kinds of laws Congress can`t make this. This is another structure that
makes it difficult to enact laws. The Republicans, they sort of see so
many things slipping away from them in the country, and so this tool that
allows you to basically stop anything from happening and say no has become
very appealing and very useful as an obstructive mechanism.
I don`t think there is some grand overarching principle about
democracy that says what the correct number of votes is to get through the
Senate. I think you to look at the specifics of the times and now it is
looking pretty inappropriate.
RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO: I would actually disagree and sort of talk about -
- like to talk about the merits of the filibuster. You go back to the
founders of the nation, created two different parts of Congress, bicameral
system, and the House was supposed to be protecting the voice of majority,
and the Senate was inherently made to sort of be a slower moving body that
really thought about what it was doing, was less susceptible to public
opinion actually, the six-year terms senators really have time to do
things, don`t have to think about the election right away.
And that being said, filibuster and the motion to proceed requiring
60 votes or before it was even higher, sort of, you know, protected the
minority so that they got a chance to get their amendments on the floor,
and, yes, there have been a lot of things held up and that`s a big problem
for Obama and that obviously has been.
When Obama was a senator, he was a Democrat, and Republicans wanted
to do this, he was against it. The argument is that if you do this for
nominees and only make it, you know, 51 votes in the Senate and just like
the House, majority rule, then eventually it will move into legislation and
if it moves into legislation, and all you need is majority to get something
passed in the Senate, there is no need to go bipartisan.
KORNACKI: We should play, there is one Democrat who was against these rule
changes, a veteran Democrat from Michigan, Carl Levin, is retiring in 2014
and this was his warning as his fellow Democrats were changing the rules,
he was saying no, this is what he said back in November.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: If it can be changed on judges or on
other nominees, this precedent is going to be used, I fear, to change the
rules on consideration of legislation and down the road, we don`t know how
far down the road, we never know that in a democracy, but down the road,
the hard won protections and benefits for our people`s health and welfare
will be lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, Aisha, he`s saying -- he`s saying let`s say it is January
17 and President Chris Christie has been elected and he`s got a Republican
Senate and he`s got a Republican House, and the first order of business for
the Republican led Senate is, you know what, the filibuster on legislation
is gone too. Now we need 50 votes and the vice president to pass whatever
we want in the Senate and he`s saying basically every major progressive
piece of legislation they could then dismantle. Is that something you
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: There is always going to
be fear of taking advantage of the system, right? But what we have seen,
we can`t forget how we got to this point of this nuclear option in first
place. The Republicans were taking advantage of the filibuster and
literally stalling the government from being able to function. This is not
a situation where we just don`t agree with, like, the laws you want to pass
today, so we`re going to block them.
They actually very strategically were using the filibuster to keep
the Obama administration from being able to actually perform its work, to
keep the government from being actually able to serve the American people.
And what is interesting is that they use it as a tool for political gain to
say, we`re going to block nominees, keep people off the bench and this
isn`t just the federal benches and just like a couple of nominees.
There is whole kind of bench -- a slew of people that are waiting
for confirmation, which means there are federal jobs that aren`t being done
right now because they have been held up. So that the Republicans can then
go out and campaign and say, look, we told you government doesn`t work, we
told you the administration doesn`t work and it is essentially because they
are using the filibuster to block the process.
Do we want the Senate to be playing these tricks and games with the
American people and with our government, shutting it down, not shutting it
down, not letting anything happen, and that`s how it came to the desperate
place of a nuclear option.
KORNACKI: Lynn is dying to get in here and she will in 2 minutes.
KORNACKI: OK, the filibuster, Lynn, you were about to say.
SWEET: I think that the Obama administration could have been more
aggressive in trying to figure out the reality and the hand they were dealt
and how to navigate it. And it is true what the statistics that you
pointed out that the Republicans gang up on him to deny him, but they
needed to figure out a way around it or pull the nuclear option sooner or
it is called making deals. OK.
KORNACKI: I guess that`s the issue. Is the Republican opposition he`s
been facing, is it different than what we have seen --
SWEET: I don`t think comparisons are all that useful. I work in the real
world. If we were playing cards here, you don`t say, well, Lynn, five
hands a go, I had a better hand. So what, guys, you have to deal with the
hand you`re dealt. The comparisons just aren`t that useful when you`re
faced with an obstinate, polarized Republican opposition who doesn`t want
to help you. Well, deal with it.
KORNACKI: Let`s talk about some of the potential longer term consequences.
Here is one I see. Let`s say everybody looks at the 2014 Senate map and
there is a plausible scenario that Republicans are going to win the Senate
in 2014. I would say they`re underdogs but let`s say Republicans win the
Senate 2014 elections. They now have a majority in the Senate. So they --
if votes on nominations are becoming party line votes, which is what we`re
seeing, if Republicans then have 51 votes in Senate.
Does that mean in the years 2015 and 2016 Obama is still president,
does that mean every nomination is just going to die in the Senate because
Republicans -- these things are becoming party line votes? Does your party
need to control the Senate if you also control the White House to get
BARRO: It won`t be every nomination. For example, Janet Yellen got a
number of Republican votes. Harry Reid didn`t vote on her. She would have
gotten 60 if the old rules had still been in place. I think on executive
branch nominations, if there is a Republican majority, the president has to
be more consultative with Republicans and frankly give up a lot in
agreements on those.
I think it`s likely that Republicans will hold up a lot of judicial
nominations if they get a majority going into the last two years of the
president`s term because they know if Republicans win the presidency back,
those will be open judicial positions they get to fill with their own
choices. I think the -- I think the filibuster to your point. It doesn`t
fix the problem of options and partisan polarization in Washington.
KORNACKI: It becomes another problem too, let`s say Republicans say in
2015 and 2016 let`s block the judicial picks because we get the presidency
back, let`s say they get it back in 2016, but they get the Senate back.
This is the longer term issue of how our system is becoming much more like
a parliamentary system where everything is a party line vote. And when
everything is a party line vote, and you`ve got to get nominations
confirmed by the Senate, I see a long-term problem there, of any party
getting anybody through.
SWEET: It is. On the judicial nominees, that`s the Obama legacy. I think
the executive appointments will come and go with the administration for
sure. The judicial appointments are so important because they live on
KORNACKI: Right. It could be the biggest legacy of the party. The other
question too is on the legislative filibuster, no incentive right now for
Democrats to end the legislative filibuster, they don`t control the House.
Everything through the Senate, the House can just block it. I mean, do you
guys assume that is something that whether it is the Democrats with full
control in 2017, the Republicans, is it just a matter of time before that
BARRO: I think probably, I think the other thing is, the legislative
filibuster is structurally adventurous to the right. You had Carl Levin
talking about if the filibuster goes away, terrorist programs for Democrats
will go away. I think that`s the wrong analysis. On average, Democrats
are trying to create new programs. Republicans are saying they`re trying
to repeal programs. It is easier to create a program. Ending a filibuster
work make it easier for the left to get its legislative agenda through.
I think actually it is Republicans who have reason to fear that the
legislative filibuster would go away. I think Republicans would not get
rid of the legislative filibuster even if they got control of Congress and
the presidency because they fear exactly that. They know what Democrats
would do if they had full control of the government with no filibuster.
MILLS: I agree. I don`t think the slope is as slippery as I think we`re
doing the sky is falling scenario now because we don`t know what the next
five years are going to look like. I don`t think the slope is that
slippery at all.
KORNACKI: I talk about maybe a lurch toward a parliamentary system, the
labor government in Britain passed the National Health Service. It does
make me wonder if Republicans got absolute control in the system, how much
they would actually dismantle.
BADE: I don`t think we`ll see a change in the filibuster rules unless a
party controls everything. Why would Democrats do it now with Republicans
controlling the House? They`re going to get pushback from it and it`s not
going to go anywhere in the House anyway.
SWEET: Also, if all three parties -- if one party controlled all three
chambers, the leaders control what gets on the floor as a practical matter,
so the rules become less important.
KORNACKI: It still is interesting too to look back at the presidency, the
first two years with Democratic control of the House, with super majority
of the Senate for part of the time, whatever you think of the legislation
that came out of it, they got a lot of important legislation through. And
the story now for the past three plus years has been absolute paralysis,
divided government with this kind of partisan polarization. It is just not
fun to cover.
Anyway, I want to thank Lynn Sweet, "Chicago Sun-Times,"
"Politico`s" Rachel Bade, "Business Insider`s" Josh Barro, Aisha Moody--
Mills, the Center for American Progress for joining us.
Still ahead, a very different kind of American institution ripe for
some big change. That`s next.
KORNACKI: Football season is reaching its peak. It is Bowl week in
college football. The NFL playoffs are almost here. We`ll talk about it
today because there is a huge change coming to the college game. A change
valued at billions of dollars. Change that fans have been agitating for
ever and one I`m excited about. To explain what going on, I`m going to
start about by talking about college basketball.
One of my strongly held beliefs is when it comes to the world of
sports. There is nothing more beautiful, more perfect, more fair than how
a champion is crowned in that sport. Works like this, there are 351
schools that play division one college basketball. 351. They range from
the giant powerhouses that you all heard of, Duke, North Carolina, Indiana,
Kansas, Kentucky, all of the blue bloods.
All the way down to the tiny anonymous teams like the Stetson
University Hatters or the Murray State Racers or the newest addition to the
division ranks and one of my new favorites, the University of Massachusetts
at Lowell River Hawks, playing division one this year and are off to a 1-11
start. I got eight credits there. I got to put them into the script.
There are huge disparities among the schools, the Dukes and UNCs
play in front of tens of thousands of fans with millions of people watching
on TV at home. They have lucrative shoe contracts, coaches paid a fortune,
budgets for recruiting, travel, everything they could ever possibly need
are eye bulging.
Meanwhile, the UMass Lowells of Division One play in glorified high
school gyms with maybe a few hundred fans watching if they`re lucky with no
TV cameras in sight, with almost no one even aware that they exist. What
unites all of these teams from the biggest of the big to the smallest of
the small is that they all have it in their own power to earn the title of
national champion. It`s simple.
If you play Division One basketball, and you win your conference,
you get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. March madness. Celebrate
it every year. If you win that tournament, you become the undisputed
national champion. That`s why I love college basketball. There is more
variety than any other sport, 351 teams playing. But all of them, at least
theoretically, can say at the start of every year, we can go out and we can
win the national championship.
In reality, of course, the little guys never really end up winning
the whole thing, but they can make noise in the tournament, can knock off
one of the goliaths or two or three, they can screw up everyone`s bracket,
can make it farther than everyone thought they could, can make a hardened
cynic believe just for a fleeting moment that anything is possible.
College basketball, our most Democratic sport, that`s why I love it.
That`s my sermon on that.
It is for that same reason that for years college football has
driven me and millions of other fans to the brink of insanity with how its
championship is decided. It is called the Bowl Championship Series, the
BCS. Basically in case you don`t already know, it goes like this, from
Labor Day to just after Thanksgiving, the 120 or so teams that make up the
top division in college football play 12 regular season games.
Then they stop and a computer formula decides which two of those
teams will play each other for the national championship. Then those teams
wait about a month and finally play each other. And that championship game
can be ugly. The teams have had way too much rest, they`re rusty. But the
real problem is how unjust, how unfair, and how undemocratic the matchups
You have 120 teams playing just 12 games a season, decreeing that
exactly two have distinguished themselves enough to play for the national
championship is ludicrous. What if there are more than two undefeated
teams? That happened before or the bias against teams from small
conferences. If you play in the SEC or the big ten or one of the
powerhouse conferences and you go undefeated, you`ll probably play for the
But if you play in one of the small conferences, you can go
undefeated and it won`t matter. They`re going to lock you out anyway.
That`s happened to Tulane, to Boise State, to TCU, to Cincinnati. If you
like underdogs, if you like Cinderella stories, like what makes the NCAA
basketball tournament so amazing, you hate the BCS. It`s just maddeningly
unfair. And yet college football has stuck with it for last 15 years.
It was created in 1998, supposed to be an improvement over the old
system, though I`m not sure it actually was, for all of that time, the
sports overlords resisted the simple obvious solution, a post season
tournament. Now, finally, mercifully, the BCS is coming to an end. On
January 6th, Florida State will play Auburn for the final BCS championship
And starting next year, 2014 season, there will be a little more
fairness and fun in college football`s post season. Instead of picking two
teams at the end of the year to play for the title, four teams will get to
play in a playoff. Not a perfect solution, not the system I want, but a
start, a long overdue start, a start that fans all across the country have
been clamoring for years.
This is the next big step in the evolution of college football from
a corky sport defined by regional rivalries to a true national game.
College football has more fans than ever before, higher ratings, more
lucrative television contracts than ever before, the question is why it has
taken this long to figure out something as simple as how to pick a
champion. What are the other major changes that are on the horizon for the
For this, I want to bring in Anita Marks, she is a member of the New
York Giants broadcast team, the radio host with NBC Sports, Mike Uzani, an
executive editor at "Forbes," co-host of "Forbes Sports on Money" and the
Yes Network, Don McPherson, he is a former NFL quarterback and NCAA
football hall of famer, now a television sports analyst.
Don was part of Syracuse`s unbeaten 1987 team, which did not get a
chance to play for the national title, and Mike Pesca, a sports reporter
with NPR. Welcome to all of you and thank you for joining us. Don, I`ll
start with you. We were prepared for this show. We were watching some
highlights from the 1987 --
black and white.
KORNACKI: We saw your comeback against West Virginia to preserve the
undefeated season. Nice to see you go on and play in the Sugar Bowl. It
was a tie in that game. I looked at that and the injustice of college
football stands out, even if you won the Sugar Bowl, you wouldn`t have won
the national title, even though you did everything in your power -- you
would have gone undefeated. How did college football get this so wrong for
DON MCPHERSON, FORMER COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYER: I don`t think college
football has it so wrong. I think that when we play it, I played in the
Cherry Bowl two years before that and we lost, but you still walked away as
a Bowl champion and walked away with something positive in your season.
Between football and basketball, you play it out very clearly, with
basketball, you can play those games two or three in a week, and you can
get down from 100 some odd schools down to two, down to the final four or
whatever it is that you celebrate.
Football, you can`t do that and so there are a lot of schools out
there playing football. It is not as easy. I think the comparison really
should be to division two and three. They do a playoff throughout the
month of December, which division one can clearly do.
KORNACKI: Why doesn`t -- if the one double a teams --
MCPHERSON: They`re so lucrative.
KORNACKI: There were a couple on yesterday. I guess the TV ratings are
different. I see half empty stands, a 6-6 team playing a 7-5 team. It is,
like, who cares and you can do this anyway, but why don`t they have that
tournament they have at the other levels of football?
MIKE PESCA, NPR: It`s all because of the money, exactly right. The
schools are often taking a bath on it. They charge the band, for instance,
full ticket price. But the people that run the Bowls make money and stood
in the way for a long time of any reform of the system. I agree with you.
It has been quite obvious it was easy to do a playoff system. They`re
going to do a playoff system. And the future is people will love it so
much and the ratings will be so high that they will insist that it expand
to eight teams.
It will make the last few weeks of the regular season unbelievably
exciting. I think in ten years, I don`t know if it will expand that much
beyond eight teams, but in a few years we`ll look back at this system as
the dark ages as, my gosh, I can`t even -- like, we`ll look at it like when
states elected -- when states pointed senators instead of elected senators.
It won`t even seem plausible.
KORNACKI: That`s my dream, that eight or 16 teams.
ANITA MARKS, NY GIANTS BROADCAST TEAM: I have to disagree with you. To
say that a team goes to a Bowl game and win he`s a Bowl game, but isn`t
seen as the number one team in the country, I think there something wrong
with that. I like the new system being implemented. I can`t wait. And go
one step further and in regard to how so many people are going to be
watching, keep in mind, those two Bowl games, those semifinals, three of
them will be played -- three will be played on New Year`s Eve and three of
them will be played on New Year`s Day.
It is going to change the culture of New Year`s and who is going to
go to those top notch restaurants? Nobody. Everybody is going to stay
home and watch the three games, that are going to decide a lot, and New
Year`s Day it will decide a lot. Nobody will go anywhere. These are going
to be the top games that everyone wants to watch.
KORNACKI: We have the biggest bowls, except we decree the national
championship, Florida State and Auburn game, I`ll watch it, it is a fun
matchup, but the big marquis bowls, the Rose Bowl, Michigan State against
Stanford, it is a great game, but playing for fourth place basically. It
is a glorified exhibition game, isn`t it?
MCPHERSON: It is a fantastic football game. Watch it, enjoy it.
KORNACKI: I will watch it, but I`ll go crazy because they`re going for
MIKE OZANIAN, FORBES: Here is what they have to address when they get to a
bigger playoff format. Are you ever going to pay the players more, right?
You got all this money coming in -- get a little bit of variety, maybe a
free -- a scholarship, a small stipend. As these gentlemen pointed out, it
is all about money and the player format. You get four teams picked by
committee. Not like you`ve really gone to a more serious playoff format.
It is about the money. The money that ESPN is paying to televise the games
and when do the players get more?
KORNACKI: So this is the money we`re talking about here, to try to put
this on the -- $7.3 billion. This is what ESPN paid for a -- the rights
to a playoff for 12 years, four-team playoff, through the 2025, 2026
season, that breaks down to they`re paying $608 million a year for the
rights to broadcast. What they had been paying under the current BCS
formula was $495 million a year. So it increased in value $113 million by
having more of these games mean something. I`m wondering if in a couple of
years, saying the same thing, maybe the value is going to be -- they`ll
realize it is higher.
MARKS: Yes. And granted that contract is for 12 years. Once those 12
years are up, I guarantee the bidding war will be insane.
MCPHERSON: I don`t think that will --
MARKS: That`s true. Also, the playing game, from what I understand, will
make $250 million to $500 million. And that -- I should say that plus one
game and this -- that year, 2014, it is going to be at Cowboys Stadium.
Jerry Jones has to love that. They`re not going any income from it, but
the city is. And what I like about that plus one game, the championship
game we`re going to see, I believe it is January 12th, 2015, is that each
year it is going to be in a different city. It is kind of like the Super
Bowl. Cities are going to be -- cities will bid for that national
championship. I love it. I love the system.
KORNACKI: Like we`re doing with the Super Bowl.
MARKS: We`re going to legitimately appoint a national champion.
OZANIAN: Don hit it on the head. This contract is not going to last full
term. There is a renegotiation period. You look at the ratings, right,
you get to the national championship and some of the other Bowl games,
they`re not that much lower than the professional football playoffs. You
look at pro football, talked about the $608 million. They`re taking it
from the networks and ESPN, $4.9 billion. There is a huge gap in the
money, but not that big a gap in the ratings. That`s why don hit it on the
KORNACKI: We`ve to take a break. We`ll talk more about the money and also
my solution, I worked up a little solution yesterday. I think when they
blow up the contract in a couple of years. I`ll show you my solution when
we come back.
KORNACKI: Here is my solution, we`re talking about the four-team playoff
that will start to determine college football`s championship next year.
And it is a 12-year contract. Let`s say it blows up in a few years. I`m
pushing for a 16-team team tournament. The principle of this is like the
college basketball tournament, every conference, no matter how big, how
small, the champion of the conference gets in. This is what it would look
The champion of the conference gets in, ten conferences, it would
leave space for six at large teams and so you get, like you have in college
basketball, these Cinderella -- Louisiana Lafayette would go to Florida
State on the first weekend and maybe they pull off the upset, maybe lose by
50 points I don`t know, Rice to Auburn. You work your way through to a
national championship game. This is what I ultimately want to see done.
Is this ever going to happen?
MCPHERSON: Not a chance. Not a chance. What happened over the last
several years is that the top five conferences and could have been six if
the big east was able to manage to keep itself together, but the top five
conferences started to push everyone else out. And now it is just a matter
of deciding, I think, that does Boise get to be in one of those
conferences? Does the pac-12 want to -- or pac-12 wants to go and allow
Boise in or the big 12? That is the next step.
I think we`re right in the middle of it. Don`t think we have come
close to a conclusion. I don`t think it will be a four-team playoff very
long. I think the money is going to be so great, they`ll figure out, now
that we have it, the word governance, they want to change the rules to
bring in more student athletes to these top five conferences, who don`t
necessarily qualify to be on campus --
KORNACKI: That`s the trend you`re seeing is an expansion among -- talking
about the SEC, the Pac-12, the big ten. What I love about college sports,
the variety, the little guy, relatively speaking, has a chance, but is that
the consequence here? Is that going to disappear?
PESCA: I didn`t want to say anything, but I think your premise about the
NCAA basketball tournament is a little off. The little guy doesn`t really
have a chance. The little guy occasionally does well and --
KORNACKI: Gets a shot, gets a shot.
MCPHERSON: That`s that September is for.
PESCA: When your budget is $5 million -- the entire thing about the whole
conversation, everything you`re saying about relining all the conferences,
think about the fallout, how many athlete playing women`s lacrosse or
people at the school who aren`t even athletes, University of Tennessee has
to buy off its coach and can`t pay for programs because of all the money
driving college football.
College football is affecting every Division One athlete, college
football is affecting colleges and education so much, it is -- it is all
realignment and chasing the money. I would like the -- the NCAA, the big
college football teams do not need the NCAA. It seems like this is -- the
NCAA is desperately trying to hold on to try to enforce some rules.
OZANIAN: I want to take the opposite side of that. I think your system
has a chance precisely because I disagree with Mike. I think that the
other sports get funded by football and I think getting towards your
PESCA: Vast majority of schools lose money on football.
OZANIAN: Vast majority make money on football and --
PESCA: Simply not true.
OZANIAN: It is. It is a fact. The money that goes from football funds
the academic programs. You can go online, look at the statements. Look at
the operating revenues and expenses for each program. Information is all -
MARKS: You`re telling me that Duke football is funding Duke basketball?
OZANIAN: I`m talking about big time college. You won`t see Duke playing a
big Bowl game, I don`t think. Talking about all the -- talking about Penn
State, Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, the top teams. That`s who is going to be in
your expanded plf. Not going to be duke making it to the final four or the
final eight. It is going to be the top programs and the money is going to
KORNACKI: We had the $7.3 billion figure for what this four-team thing is
worth for 12 years. It seems to be a consensus that 12 years will not
last. If this thing is a hit, and if that price tag goes way up, and we`re
talking closer to NFL levels, does that money change -- that trickle down
in other ways?
MARKS: Let`s put it into this perspective, everybody saw that Alabama and
Auburn game. How much money would you pay to watch them play depend? If
the college system was implemented this year that 2-3 would be Alabama and
Auburn. I would pay like $5,000 for that ticket to go watch them play
again. Absolutely, and think about it, you think Auburn will be able --
you think the team of destiny, think it will happen twice? More than
likely Alabama will win the game and we`ll see the plus one game we wanted
to see. And that`s Alabama and --
OZANIAN: And top football schools.
MARKS: Alabama and FSU --
OZANIAN: The average ticket price of the secondary market was over $800
for some of the big games. Like Alabama, Texas A&M, they`re leaving a lot
of money on the table. The small schools, yes, their football programs --
I`m talking about the top schools that compete for the championship,
they`re leaving a lot of money on the table.
MCPHERSON: And here is the rub for all of this. I`ve said this about
sports in general, across our society, from youth sports all the way up to
the NFL, is that people are expecting sports to do something today that was
never expected to do. It wasn`t expected to raise kids and build character
and integrity, and all those things. Those are byproducts. Sports and
higher education was never meant to be a revenue generator, and in a
nonprofit academic institution.
And the other side of the conversation that has not been expressed
in this conversation is the academic side. And as soon as you get to those
kinds of gaudy numbers, as soon as you get to start changing the system,
and the way this college athletics operates and whatever is -- people start
to really understand what football is paying for and where and how, you`re
going to see that the academic side say hold on, we`re not doing this,
we`re not playing this game, we`re not the NFL.
OZANIAN: What about the donors? How many people donate money to a school
because they like the music program -- they watch because they like the way
you play football.
MCPHERSON: Even the donors, as big time as they are, I work with my alma
mater, the donors are important. They`re being now you usurped by the
television contract. It is being usurped by media.
KORNACKI: We got to leave it there. I do want to point out, in my 16-team
team bracket, Stanford upsets Alabama. I just got to say, my thing on the
NCAA basketball tournament, I get chills when Vermont beats Syracuse in the
first round. What should we know today? It`s a question I`ve asked often
on this show. The answers from the year after this.
KORNACKI: So we close the books in 2013, one thing I know now that I
didn`t know when the year began is that you never know what`s going to
happen when you ask a group of really smart and funny people what we
KORNACKI: Time to find out what our guests know that they didn`t know when
the week began, Caroline?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn`t know how beautiful your teeth were before I
was on this show and I have a 5-year-old, and now I have to save so much
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now I know not to go to Steve Kornacki for Christmas
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Big, big news this week, Area 51 is real.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you running for president in 2016?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m glad you asked that question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clinton`s communication skills, I think you`re right.
KORNACKI: That`s very nice of you to say, you`re definitely invited back
now. Art Basel has something in common with Chris Christie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Hillary Clinton doesn`t run, Al Gore?
KORNACKI: The Al Gore rumors are back. I fully and enthusiastically
support the U.S. Olympics team and I am now reading this from a script.
Go, America, USA. Melissa is ready to kill me for this. I`m losing
circulation as I speak. Thank you for joining us today.
KORNACKI: and I have to watch what I say around Melissa, no taking shots
at the New Orleans Saints anymore although I want the cardinals to make the
playoffs today. Some final thoughts right after this.
KORNACKI: One thing I want everyone to know today is that I have the
smartest, hardest working team and crew in television, on this show. And
none of what we`ve done this year, none of what we`ve done today or anytime
this year would have been possible without them. And I want to thank our
guests today, former football star, Don McPherson, NRP` Mike Pesca, sports
broadcaster, Anita Marks, and Mike Ozanian with "Forbes."
Thanks, everyone for getting up and joining us this morning and
joining us every Saturday and Sunday morning this year. We will be back
next weekend, next year, actually, and we double dare you to watch on
Saturday, when one of our guests will include television host, game show
host, TV personality extraordinaire, Mark Summers.
Stick around, right now, because up next is a can`t-miss edition
Melissa Harris-Perry. It`s MPP`s second annual look back at the year in
laughter. A phenomenal panel of comedians will join her. We hope to see
you next week, next year, right here on UP.
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