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'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, March 8th, 2014

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March 8, 2014

Guests: Michael Goldfarb, Amy Hagstrom Miller, Christina Greer, David S.
Cohen, Elahe Izadi, Pedro Noguera, Regina Dowdell, Steve Barr, Dan Cantor,
Greg Feith, Chaitanya Komanduri, , Sam Tanenhaus, Jim Tilmon, Sally Field

ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning. I am Ari Melber in for Melissa
Harris-Perry. Today, we are reporting a new development in the fight over
reproductive rights, the fight over President Obama`s education plan and a
historical conservatism, but we begin today with breaking news of the
sudden disappearance of a Malaysia airlines flight. This is a file picture
of the plane that was carrying 239 people. That includes three Americans,
two of them young children. The flight was first reported missing
yesterday at about 1:40 p.m. Eastern.

And this morning the first indication appeared that the plane may have
crashed. Vietnamese air force planes have spotted two oil slicks in the
waters between Malaysia and Vietnam. Those may be from the missing plane.
The Boeing 777200 was bound from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. When it lost
contact with air traffic controllers. It was an emotional scene at the
Beijing airport where friends and relatives initially gathered to hear any
news about loved ones on board. The U.S.. is sending a Naval ship, the USS
Pinckney to the southern coast of Vietnam to aid with search efforts.

Now, for the latest, right now we go to Tom Costello who covers aviation
for NBC News. Tom, what can you tell us about the plane, the search and
what we know right now?

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s a mystery. And I think
this is really one of the most extreme cases of a plane disappearing
suddenly and without explanation and still missing this far into the
experience. This is a very experienced pilot. The 777 200, a very good
plane with a great safety record. It is an earlier model of the 777, but
still a very good plane. This particular one that was flying, it was about
11 or 12 years old.

Importantly though, it did have an incident within the past two years or
so. It hit another plane on the ground, on the tarmac, China plane, and
the question is whether there - it might have suffered any damage in that
incident. We don`t know yet, but at this point with this plane having
disappeared and now having been out of communication for so long, everybody
is hypothesizing about what might have happened. Here`s the timeline once
again as you look at the flight path there. Flight 370 left Kuala Lumpur
at 12:40 a.m. This was the early morning, the red eye flight to Beijing.
Two hours into the flight or so air traffic controllers lost contact.

Now, not just radio contact, but radar contact and no radio contact with
the home base either. So, we believe that this went down. If it went down
we believe it happened somewhere near Vietnamese air space, near the
Vietnamese water. Supposed to arrive at Beijing at 6:30. It didn`t
happen. And there is a total crew numbers, 227 passengers, 12 crew
members, and we have three Americans including two children.

Aviation experts talking about what might have happened. Terrorism is on
the table, but most terrorism experts at this point don`t see anything that
would suggest that there was an operation or that this plane was a target.
We also know that this plane operates in a highly corrosive environment,
salt air with the Malaysian environment there up against the ocean.

Was there a catastrophic breakup in flight in some fashion, in which
suddenly and without warning the flight loses air pressure? And if that
happens, if there is no air pressure inside the plane, then everybody would
lose consciousness very quickly. So a lot of factors at play here and
nobody has any real answers yet. And you can imagine that there are a lot
of people asking.

MELBER: Yeah, a lot of questions there in Beijing. We`re seeing reports
of families waiting, waiting in a holding room, not getting any real good
information yet on this. Speak as well to the reports of an oil slick in
the water, what we know, if anything, about what investigators think about

COSTELLO: Well, we don`t know, and that`s the problem. We have only
reports from two Vietnamese pilots who reported an oil slick in the water.
That`s it. Now this is a part of the world where there is an awful lot of
traffic on the water, an awful lot of, you know, fishing traffic and
trawler traffic and ship traffic.

So it is premature to jump to a conclusion that that oil slick may or may
not be in any way associated with this missing plane, but you can imagine
that that is why now the Vietnamese Navy is moving towards that location.
The Chinese Navy is also assisting. The Philippine Navy, rather, is doing
the same thing, the same thing with the Malaysian Navy. And U.S.. assets
in the region. So, a lot of assets to bear. But this is also a part of
the world where we do not have great radar tracking capabilities.

MELBER: Right.

COSTELLO: You know when you are flying over the United States or you`re
flying over Europe, for example, you are never out of radar contact. But
when you`re flying over vast stretches of water, like in this particular
region, and you`re flying between second and thirds world countries, there
are gaps in the radar coverage.

MELBER: Yeah. NBC`s Tom Costello, thanks for your reporting and your
careful attention to details here. We will keep an eye on the story. And
as rescue crews continue their desperate search for this missing Malaysian
Airlines flight and as we`ve said, the 239 passengers on board,
investigators are trying to work swiftly to figure out what happened and
what they can do. And for more on this fast-moving investigation we go to
Greg Feith whose work as an investigator for the National Transportation
Security Safety Board, the federal agency, and officially investigate
airplane accents here in the U.S.. and assists on international incidents.
Joining us from Denver, walk us through what an investigation looks like at
this moment.

GREG FEITH, FMR. NTSB INVESTIGATOR: Right now, Ari, there is a lot of, you
know, speculation going on and not a lot of information, factual
information. Investigators are going to try and get as much radar
information leading up to the loss of two-way communication and any radar
coverage that was there. I would expect that investigators are using other
assets, military assets as far as radar coverage to see if there`s any
additional information to give them a location to really zero in the assets
looking for the wreckage. So the early stages are getting initial
information from the Malaysian dispatchers and flight operations group and,
of course, using any kind of assets to try and pinpoint the exact location
of where the bulk of the wreckage may be.

MELBER: Yeah, and Greg, when you look at this plane going off the grid
about two hours into the flight, that is everyone`s worst nightmare if
you`re ever tracking a plane or a loved one on a plane with over 200 people
in that predicament here. What happens when they go off the grid like
that? How long till alarms go off or investigators like the investigative
you used to do, how long before until that kicks in?

FEITH: Well, I think right now there might even be some confusion. If you
look at some of the public websites, a place called flight aware. If you
look at their tracking data, it shows that the airplane may have gone off
the grid an hour into the flight rather than two hours. All of this has to
be verified because that`s going to determine really where this search and
rescue operation is going to be focused. For the families, unfortunately,
because of this lack of information, they have no ability to get any kind
of closure and, of course, Malaysia airlines, until they get confirmation
aren`t going to really tell the passengers or at least the families of the
passengers that there is a confirmed airplane down. So there`s a lot of
questions yet to be answered and for investigators, they can`t provide
those answers.

MELBER: Right. Well, we will keep an eye on that. And we thank you, Greg
Feith, in Denver, Colorado.

We`re going to turn now from one international story to another important
one. In Russia President Vladimir Putin was back in Sochi Friday for the
Paralympic Games. And in the opening ceremony - this is interesting - the
Russian team marched in to the song "Good-Bye America." An earlier today a
Ukrainian official on a military base in Crimea, said pro-Russian troops
crashed a truck through gates of the base in an attempt to take it over.
That`s according to the Associated Press. So, the tensions in Crimea are
high and the country or I should say the region now is moving forward on a
plan to hold a local referendum on whether its residents do want to rejoin
Russia. That is scheduled now for next Sunday. Today the Ukrainian acting
foreign minister said that very vote is illegal, a point President Obama
has been pressing. So we go to NBC News correspondent Jim Maceda in
Moscow. Jim, Russia`s president Vladimir Putin is facing pressure from the
U.S.., much of the Western world. We mentioned some of the back and forth
here and some of the symbolism there at the Paralympic games. What can you
tell us on the ground?

JIM ACEDA, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ari. Well, Putin`s been responding to
the pressure like Vladimir Putin. Whether it`s diplomatic pressure from
Secretary of State John Kerry or man to man pressure, if you will, from
those two phone calls with President Obama or economic pressure in the
guise of sanctions or the threat of sanctions, Putin has been and will
remain defiant warning that sanctions against Russia will only backfire on
the United States. For instance, if the U.S. freezes Russian assets in
U.S. banks the Kremlin is saying that it will freeze the $22 billion in
U.S. assets exposed to Russia. So Putin really seems confident that the
West will not be able to deter him from what appears now to be his major -
his main goal, and that is to control the Crimean peninsula, and eventually
to own it just like the old Soviet days.

But for now experts were telling us here in Moscow that he doesn`t have to
go to war with Ukraine, in fact, he doesn`t even want to go to war with
Ukraine. He just wants to build facts. He just has to build facts on the
ground. He`s got 20, 30,000 Russian or pro-Russian troops and militias
now, according to some Ukrainian sources. It`s now only pro- Russian media
being heard and seen. All the Ukrainian media is off the air. So, Crimea
is already, Ari, is de facto Russian. Even without a referendum. Now, not
surprisingly Putin says the Crimeans should have the right to self-
determination. And, of course, Crimea, as you say, will vote. It`s
primarily ethnic Russian. So, it`s likely to vote to secede from Ukraine.
So, Putin really is holding all the cards here. He may have lost Kiev, but
he`s not about to lose Crimea. Ari, back to you.

MELBER: Thank you for that report. Jim Maceda in Moscow, we appreciate

And here at home, Ukraine, is, of course, on the minds of our political
leaders, and that turns out to mean a lot of Republicans. Many start to
burnish their tough foreign policy credentials at this week`s conservative
political action conference, which all political junkies know as CPAC.
Have a look.


SEN. Ted Cruz (R-TEXAS): You look at the last five years of President
Obama as hope has diminished across the world. The people of Ukraine have
seen Russian tanks move into their sovereign land, as the nation of Israel
has been left without its friend and ally, the United States of America.

JOHN BOLTON, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We`re going to get what we
see today in the Ukraine where Vladimir Putin has a strategy and Obama has
nothing, where Putin has a growing defense budget and ours is shrinking.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R-FLORIDA): The president loves to point to Ronald
Reagan and said, well, Reagan talked to Russia. Reagan talked to the
Soviet Union, why can`t we talk to Iran, but there`s a difference. Reagan
dealt with the Soviet Union because they had nuclear weapons and he wanted
peace, but he never accepted the Soviet Union.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TEXAS): How can we appease a Syrian tyrant and embolden
his Russian ally without the bill ever coming to you? There is a price to
be paid for policies that destroy our economy and embolden our foreign


MELBER: Well, to put those foreign enemies in context as well as
neoconservatives and Tea Party conservatives we have a pretty tremendous
panel on the roots and the evolution of conservatism today and the
progressive response. I`m going to bring you the panel. That`s up next.
Stay with us.


MELBER: This evening, the conservative voters of CPAC will conduct their
straw poll, an unscientific but highly partisan snapshot of who is
ascendant in the right-wing base. Last year, Rand Paul edged out Marco
Rubio. After the vote, attendees will hear from Sarah Palin herself. Now,
the conference has already featured memorable moments, including Senator
Mitch McConnell hoisting an award from the NRA shaped like a rifle.

And the schedule is packed with conservative stars like Ted Cruz, Bobby
Jindal, Chris Christie, Tim Scott, and even yes, unfortunately Donald
Trump. But sometimes, folks, you can tell more about a painting from its
negative space. What wasn`t at CPAC this year? Well, this is the first
CPAC since the Supreme Court`s two big rulings on marriage equality,
providing some federal benefits and passing on California`s Prop 8 case.
The conference comes amidst a shift of public opinion. Now 50 percent of
Americans, let me say that again, 50 percent of Americans believe same-sex
couples have a constitutional right to marry. The issue of gay rights was
basically absent at CPAC, however. The conference even told gay
conservative leaders that while they could attend as guests, they couldn`t
be sponsors or panelists. And more of a focus was on areas of conservative


CRUZ: We need to repeal every single word of Obamacare.

LAPIERRE: The NRA will not go quietly into the night. We will fight, I
promise you that!

PAUL: I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn


MELBER: Amen, brother. Paul Ryan also played down the idea of infighting.


RYAN: I don`t see this great divide in our party. What I see is a vibrant
debate. We are figuring out the best way to apply our principles to the
challenges of the day. Sure, we have our disagreements. And, yes, they
can get a little passionate. I like to think of it as creative tension.


MELBER: Who doesn`t love some tension? But Ted Cruz was actually itching
for a family feud. He even brought out the older generation.


CRUZ: And then, of course, all of us remember President Dole and President
McCain and President Romney. Look, they`re good men, they`re decent men,
but when you don`t stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don`t stand
for principle, Democrats celebrate.


MELBER: Now, look, that is certainly a recurring theme in politics.
Liberals and conservatives will tell you that they lost elections because
they weren`t pure enough. Here`s what`s different right now, though. The
Tea Party has moved the GOP towards more of the principles that Cruz wants.
House Republicans are running a hard right strategy from shutting down the
government to re-re-re-re-repealing the ACA. And based on what we`ve seen
since the election of 2012, the Republican Party is already the party of
Ted Cruz, so why, why beat up on the moderates of the past right now? To
help answer that question and a whole lot more about the state of
conservatism today, we have the National Journal`s Elahe Izadi, Chaitanya
Komandury, a political strategist who`s worked for President Obama and the
campaign to Hillary Clinton, Wes Clark and John Kerry. Sam Tanenhaus, the
New York Times writer at large who wrote "The Death of Conservatism" and
edited "McCarthyism in America." And Christina Greer, assistant professor
of political science at Fordham University. Welcome to you all. This is a
super panel.

Christina, let`s start with that question. Ted Cruz reaching into the
history to say, no more moderation.

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIV.: Well, we know that the Republican Party is
in a civil war, right? They can`t deny it. We know that Chris Christie and
Ted Cruz had very opposing messages at CPAC. Ted Cruz said we won`t do
this, we won`t deal with Obamacare, we won`t, we won`t. Chris Christie
says we need to stop being the party of we can`t, we`re not doing it, and
the obstructionist party, because he recognizes that this may be the
strategy for Ted Cruz in a primary, but in the general, Republicans
actually want to see bipartisanship to a certain extent. They have to
actually be for something as a party. They just can`t be an obstructionist
party, as they`ve been in the past eight years, because it doesn`t work,
especially on the presidential level.

Yes, you get votes in the House. Yes, you may get some votes in the
Senate. But if they`re actually thinking about a GOP presidential
strategy, we know that 2016 is a great opportunity for them, sort of a last
opportunity. If they don`t really capitalize on that, then we know the
electoral map shows it`s a Democratic presidential game.

MELBER: You`re hitting actually on something that`s important, which is
the difference between ideology and your cooperative posture. I want to
put up on the screen Senator Dole`s response to some of this. "Cruz should
check my voting record before making comments. I was one of President
Reagan`s strongest supporters, and my record is that of a traditional
Republican conservative."

Elahe, what he`s saying basically is I was a strong conservative on policy,
but I could still work with people. That shouldn`t be a dirty word. He`s
also sort of telling Senator Cruz to, you know, keep his name out of
Senator Cruz`s mouth.

ELAHE IZADI, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Yeah, I mean, I think this is really
illustrating the divide between a lot of Republicans who say that they are
conservative but newer stars, people on the scene are trying to depict them
as being establishment Republicans. And to be fair, I mean, if we`re
talking about Mitch McConnell or John Cornyn, they`ve been around for a
while in Washington. If you look at John Cornyn, the senator from Texas,
the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, his voting record is extremely
conservative. So how much further can one be? This tactic that Ted Cruz
has introduced and really has been at the forefront of in Congress, has
been absolutely no - we have to stand against working together with
Democrats, working together to find any way forward, and that`s what the
Democrats are saying. If you look at the debt ceiling vote, for instance,
Republican leadership wanted it to play out so that no Republicans would
have to vote for the debt ceiling in order for it to pass. Now, Ted Cruz
called him out on this, and he basically was saying, look, if you want the
debt ceiling to be raised, you have to cast a vote in favor of that. So he
forced a situation in which there is a procedural vote, and so some
Republicans, 12 Republicans, ended up voting for that, including almost all
of the Republican leadership.

frankly don`t believe I`m uttering that sentence, the idea that Ronald
Reagan, who Ted Cruz brings up all the time, did not compromise is an utter
canard. If you want any proof of that, just Google the size of the deficit
when Ronald Reagan was president. That number alone is proof that that
that guy could cut a deal. Sam can talk to that more further.

And certainly Bob Dole, who was Senate majority leader for a number of
years, cut a lot of deals. Chris Matthews, who`s on this network, can
speak to that. His former boss, Tip O`Neill, cut a lot of deals with
Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan compromised plenty, and was very successful
because he compromised. What people liked about Ronald Reagan was that he
unified people, he brought people together, as opposed to us versus them
rhetoric which you`ve heard nonstop at CPAC.

SAM TANENHAUS, NEW YORKER: I agree with everything that`s been said here.
Let me just add a couple of things to think about. One is that if you are
Ted Cruz, what you want to do is smoke out everybody. This is a tactical
thing. CPAC -- we know who wins CPAC. Somebody who is probably not going
to get the nomination, that`s what`s happened the last few years. But if
the competition for the base, which is where they are here now, is going to
be a competition to the right, you`re Ted Cruz, you make everybody else go
as far right as you can. When they stop two inches short, you`ve won.
It`s a saying, politics -- the Bolsheviks used. Your enemy, right,
infantile left wing disorder. You`re -- somebody who`s two steps to the
left of you is the enemy. The other thing I`d add to that as well is CPAC
essentially is a kind of side show, and so I wouldn`t confuse it too much
with some stuff that`s fairly interesting that`s going on in the
conservative movement that policy people are working on that may end up
being more important.

GREER: This is a failed long-term strategy, right? The people who are
paying attention to CPAC are far right wingers and lefties who want to
discuss it. These people actually don`t represent the bulk of what the
larger GOP actually wants and needs them to talk about and understand. The
fact that marriage equity and marijuana aren`t on the table lets us know
that this whole three-day exercise is actually missing so much of the meat
and potatoes of what larger Republicans recognize will come through in a
general election.

TANENHAUS: Which is one reason it doesn`t matter a whole lot.

MELBER: That`s such an important point, which I want to go to in the next
segment. Which is that this is supposed to be the conference of ideas.
This is supposed to be the ideological wing, although Sam`s arguing that
there is a lot of tactics obviously enmeshed in it. Up next, I also want
to look at a Republican focus on dignity, even as one state moves forward
on a plan to shame those in need. Nothing dignified about that. Stay with



RYAN: Take Senator Rubio, he wants to repair our safety net. He wants to
streamline those government programs and give working families a boost,
because we believe in this country it should always pay to work. We
believe in the dignity of work.


MELBER: That was Republican Congressman Paul Ryan on Thursday at CPAC,
arguing that government benefits must avoid compromising the dignity of
work, and in Congress, Republicans often argue virtually any government
benefit will lull people away from labor. Bu at the local level, some
Republicans are erecting barriers on benefits that haven`t already been
cut. Take this Indiana proposal. It looks less like an appeal for workers
dignity than subjecting indignity on those who get benefits. The Indiana
Senate on Tuesday voted 34-14 for a bill that forces drug testing on
welfare recipients who have a drug conviction. Indiana`s House and Senate
are now trying to compromise on a final version of the bill, and if it
passes, the governor, Governor Mike Pence, might sign it into law, and
Indiana would become at least one of the ten states that require drug
testing in order to receive public assistance. Now, is that about ensuring
that benefits aren`t wasted, or is it some kind of an attempt to shame
people on public assistance? Christina?

GREER: First, I need to say any time I see Paul Ryan, I always say you
should have delivered Wisconsin. That`s my first thing. The second piece
is that, you know, this is actually a war on poor people, which this
Republican -- certain factions of the Republican Party consistently blame
poor people for poverty. We`ll talk about it later in the hour when we
think about reproductive rights, but there is absolutely no reason why we
should make people who make a certain amount of money second-class citizens
when they should be given benefits that are promised to them by the
national government.

KOMANDURI: Yeah. And one of the things that would be really great if
conservatives emphasized is the -- they talk about the dignity of work. I
didn`t see it in terms of policy a whole lot of honoring of the dignity of
work. You really didn`t see any of that. Didn`t see programs aimed at
people who get up every morning in this country, take the bus to work, try
to make ends meet. How would conservatives help them? You never heard any
of that. What you heard was let`s cut taxes for wealthy people and hope it
trickles down. That`s more or less what Paul Ryan was arguing.

And, you know, he says, well, you`re calling me mean spirited, etc., etc.
Well, yes. His proposals are mean spirited. If you are somebody who makes
$30,000 a year in this country, Paul Ryan would basically make you much
poorer. There would be a lot less money for you at the end of the day in
your paycheck, because you won`t get as much in Social Security, you won`t
get as much in Medicare and Medicaid. And what is really fascinating about
that was the one person at this conference who called Paul Ryan out on
that, interestingly enough, was Donald Trump, who actually said that, you
know, I don`t agree with Paul Ryan on these Medicare, Medicaid and Social
Security cuts. I don`t see how we win with that. That was about the most
-- the only logical thing Donald Trump said in his entire speech.

MELBER: So where does that debate fit in the history of the party here?

KOMANDURI: If you think about CPAC, I think Sam can also talk about this,
in the 1970s there was a legitimate policy discussion about crime, the Cold
War, stagflation and the terrible economy. The way to look at CPAC now is
to look at it as the conservative entertainment equivalent of the consumer
electronics show. You go to the consumer electronics show to see the
latest in consumer electronics. You got to CPAC to see the latest in
conservative entertainment starting with Donald Trump, ending with Sarah
Palin, Ann Coulter. The Andrew Breitbart award went to Mark Levin, I
believe, and entertainers in between. Ted Cruz is not a legislator, he`s
an entertainer. He`s up there to provide entertainment. And the greatest
proof of that is that the thing that CPAC loves the most is hearing people
who are basically unelectable. Chris Christie a year ago, he was the most
popular Republican governor in the country and was riding high, was winning
Democrats and minorities and all of those people, CPAC wanted nothing to do
with him. Bridgegate, he`s unelectable, they give him a standing ovation.

MELBER: You`ve written about some of this.

IZADI: Yeah, last year he was purposefully not invited because after
Superstorm Sandy, he appeared with the president. A lot of Republicans
felt like that gave President Obama a boost ahead of the 2012 elections.
This year I think actually a lot of the media attention on Chris Christie
and what`s going on in New Jersey with bridgegate and everything, a lot of
conservatives feel like, oh, now one of us is under attack by mainstream
media and the liberal left, and it`s actually I think endeared him a bit to
the conservative base. I was there at CPAC and heard his speech. The
response was quite positive to Chris Christie.

TANENHAUS: That`s absolutely right. We were talking about the 1970s. The
hard right in the Republican Party hated Richard Nixon who many now say is
the last liberal president America had, until Watergate. Once the media
and the establishment went after Nixon, then they rallied around behind
him. Similarly the way the left did with Clinton. The left wing of the
Democratic Party didn`t love Bill Clinton until the impeachment scandal,
then they rallied around. So Christie is really the beneficiary of being
attacked by my newspaper, that`s how it`s presented, "The New York Times,"
and the rest of the so-called establishment. McCain, too. Remember when
McCain got in trouble. There was a big story that my paper did in the 2008
election about McCain`s relationship with lobbyists. That was the best
thing that happened for McCain with the right.

MELBER: That goes partly to the point he was raising, which is if it`s not
a proving ground for ideological and political conversations, but more of
an entertainment complex, then being beleaguered, being a, quote, victim,
can be a great story for them.

TANENHAUS: Sure. It`s being interviewed by Barbara Walters and she makes
you cry.

MELBRE: Right. We have to go. Chai (ph) and Sam, thank you very much.
You guys are great on this. I appreciate it. You two are staying with us.
Stick around and have some kiwi or a little pastry there if you want.

Up next we`re going to bring you an update on the breaking news this
morning. The search for that missing Malaysian Airlines flight. The
Boeing 777 200 was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members. Now, it
vanished yesterday while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Air
traffic controllers lost contact with the plane two hours or so after
takeoff. We`ll go live to Beijing for the latest on that important story
when we come back.


MELBER: We want to bring you up to date now on the latest news regarding
that Malaysia Airlines flight, MH370. This was a Boeing 777 200 plane
pictured here in 2009. It did vanish on Friday. 227 passengers and 12
crew members were on board when it took off from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
It was supposed to land 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time, that would be 6:30 am.
Saturday morning local time in Beijing, China. That`s where we have CNBC`s
senior correspondent Eunice Yoon. Also joining us now by phone, aviation
expert Jim Tilmon, a retired American Airlines captain and former Chicago
weather anchor. Eunice, we`ll start with you, what are you learning on the
ground there in Beijing on this story?

EUNICE YOON, CNBC: Well, Ari, as countries are starting to look into the
fate of their citizens, there are two governments that have told their
local reporters that their citizens who are on the passenger list weren`t
actually on the plane. Both officials from Italy as well as Austria have
told their local press that they called the families of those citizens and
that they found out that both of those citizens were actually safe in
different countries. Now the curious part about this is that both of those
citizens had said that they had their passports stolen in the recent past.
Now, this is raising a lot of questions as to the identity of the people
who were actually on the plane, why there would be false identities being
used on that plane, and how that could potentially relate to the fate of
this airliner. Ari?

MELBER: Right. We`ve been speaking to investigators here. There is not
concrete public information on the nature of the missing airplane. That is
to say, what happened, why it`s missing, where its ultimate result was, but
what you`re saying is at least from some Chinese officials, there are
reports regarding the identification which raises questions, at least,
about whether this was an operational failure or some other kind of

YOON: That`s right. It`s -- well, in terms of where it`s coming from,
this is actually reports from the Italian press as well as the Austrian
press. Basically showing that foreign ministry officials from both of
those countries had inquired into the families to check to see what was
happening with their citizens and just to see what -- you know, what had
actually happened to them, but they were able to verify to their own
country reporters that the citizens in question who are on the passenger
list were actually not on the plane. So, again, that is raising a lot of
questions as to who the people were using those identities and those
passports on the plane.

Now, in terms of what the Chinese authorities are doing, they have been
very much trying to help in the search and rescue effort. They`ve been
informing their people, and even from the very top have been trying to say
that China needs to do as much as it can for the people, the hundreds of
people who are waiting here at this hotel, hoping to get some information
about their loved ones.

MELBER: Stay with us. I want to go to Jim on the phone. With your
experience as a pilot, what is your take on what we are learning so far?

JIM TILMON, FORMER WEATHER ANCHOR: Well, it`s confusing, and it`s
frustrating because there`s so little that we really do know for a fact.
We have some hints. We know something about how long the airplane was in
the air. We can predict pretty much where it may have gone down. We do
know, however, that something really catastrophic had to happen. This is
not -- there`s nothing routine about this. There was no distress signal.
That always gets my attention, because it means why didn`t they make a
distress call? Did they have absolutely no warning, no time, no anything
else? There are lots of means aboard that airplane to send information to
the ground. All of them shut off at the same time. Very peculiar

MELBER: Right. That`s well put. Good context. Those are the kind of
questions, of course, investigators are looking into and that we will
continue to report on as we have been throughout the hour and this morning
here on MSNBC. I want to thank Eunice Yoon in Beijing and Jim Tilmon in
Scottsdale, Arizona.

Still to come this hour, we`re going to have here on the show Oscar winner
Sally Field joining us live. And up next, I have a letter this week, with
friends like this, who needs enemies.


MELBER: On Wednesday, we saw a twist in Senate Republicans` efforts to
block presidential nominees from federal posts. This time, the blockade
was made possible by not just Republicans, but by seven Democrats as well.
They voted against the nomination of Debo Adegbile to lead the Justice
Department`s Civil Rights Division, which is of course responsible for
ensuring fair access to the ballot. They voted no despite Adegbile`s
credentials, as a preeminent civil rights attorney, one who took the
defense of the Voting Rights Act all the way to the Supreme Court last
year. And my letter today is to one of those Democratic senators, Heidi
Heitkamp of North Dakota.

Dear Senator Heitkamp, it is me, Ari. Let`s start with how you explained
your vote this week. Quote, "I was very concerned about a nominee who
would face such staunch opposition from law enforcement officers from day
one." That opposition, as we`ve reported, is based on Adegbile`s role as
an attorney with the NAACP`s Legal Defense Fund, where he worked on the
appeal of Mumia Abu Jamal, who had been convicted in 1982 of a murder of a
Philadelphia police officer. As the National Association of Police
Organization said, quote, "here we have a nominee who`s made his name
defending one of the most notorious and unrepentant cop killers around,"
end quote.

Now, many police officers and their families sincerely oppose anyone who
had anything to do with Abu Jamal`s defense. And that`s their choice.
That is their right. But for you, Senator, to say that the act of
providing counsel to someone accused of a crime disqualifies a lawyer from
public service, that`s an outrageous precedent. And as a former state
attorney general, you, Senator, should know better.

In fact, had that standard existed in, say, 2005, it would have preempted
the confirmation of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. He once
consulted on the death penalty appeal of a man convicted of murdering eight
people. Or it would have disqualified the hundreds of great, qualified,
honest, American patriotic attorneys who have worked on behalf of detainees
at Guantanamo Bay. It would have disqualified one of our country`s
founders, John Adams, who said his defense of the British soldiers
responsible for the Boston massacre, our enemies at the time, was quote,
"one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my
whole life."

But, Senator, you here are sending a dangerous message to our nation`s
lawyers and law students and future lawyers. Don`t stand up for the
constitutional right to counsel. Don`t work on these cases if someone says
they`re controversial. Don`t help a poor defendant appeal a death
sentence. You`re encouraging a choice between upholding our Constitution
and serving in government itself, when it`s precisely the people who have
taken these kind of hard cases to defend our Constitution that belong in

But opposition to Adegbile`s nomination also runs deeper than his defense
of Abu Jamal. For some, it was about his work and NLDF`s work against
voting restrictions like voter ID and the elimination of early voting. If
you drill down into the attacks, you find things like this, quote,
"Adegbile hails from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, an organization that
pushes radical racial agendas, including attacks on election integrity
measures." Senator Heitkamp, you recommended the president nominate
someone not so controversial. But here is the thing. Anyone who has a
record of fighting hard against those voting restrictions will be
controversial in the eyes of those who seek to impose those restrictions.
And now you risk looking like you fell for a smear campaign that worked
against the very values that you actually claim to stand for. Indeed,
they`re the ones that on the very same day of the vote you championed in a
fundraising e-mail, saying you would work to protect, quote, every
American`s right to vote.

President Obama called this vote a travesty, and if this is the precedent
that you want to set, that no one who defends controversial clients can
serve in our government, can serve the public, then it`s a travesty for all
of us. Sincerely, Ari.


MELBER: Welcome back. We have something pretty exciting. Sally Field is
one of Hollywood`s most beloved actors from her roles as Gidget the Flying
Nun to Academy Award winning performances in "Norma Rae" and "Places in the
Heart" and best supporting nominee in last year`s biopic, "Lincoln."
However, it`s also her notable activism off screen that we`re going to
highlight right now. Sally Field is a board member for Vital Voices global
partnership. That`s an organization that promotes women`s rights by
supporting female leaders around the world. Just this morning, in fact,
she helped lead the Vital Voices mentoring walk on the National Mall. Two
other walks are taking place in the U.S. today in Seattle and San Francisco
as well as in more than 30 countries around the world. Wow. It is an
honor today on International Women`s Day to welcome Sally Field to the
program. Good morning.

SALLY FIELD, ACTOR: Good morning.

MELBER: Really excited to have you. Let`s start with talking about this
work. You`ve served on the board of directors for Vital Voices for a while
now, since 2002.


MELBER: How did you get involved? What`s important about this work? And,
of course, the walks and leadership you guys are doing today.

FIELD: Wow. Well, I was very, very fortunate in that I got to attend the
Beijing women`s conference in 1995, and I went with my then 22-year-old son
and what we learned and what we saw really changed our lives. And it
certainly changed mine. And I was so moved because I saw it through his
eyes and how moved he was and what really has to be done to heal the planet
is we need to empower women. It`s the untapped resource of the planet.
And Vital Voices was forming sort of at that time, was co-founded by
Hillary Clinton before she was secretary of state and Melanne Verveer who
is a remarkable woman. And it really is the gold standard for women`s
leadership organization. They identify and invest in emerging women
leaders in 144 countries. I didn`t even know there were 144 countries.


FIELD: There are. And they have mentored 14,000 women at this point and
these women go back to their communities to realize their visions that in
most cases are inspired and they empower these women with skills that they
did not have, business skills, entrepreneurial skills, communication

MELBER: Yeah, let me - let me just - you mentioned that and, of course,
Secretary of State Clinton, Senator Clinton, can`t list all of her titles
but I`ll list some of them --

FIELD: I know.

MELBER: With the ...

FIELD: I hope there`s more to come.

MELBER: Oh, yeah - well, let me - so, I want to get your reaction to that.
Let me put her comments.

FIELD: We were talking about this. Yes.

MELBER: Yeah, exactly. Her comments at the U.N. on Friday. Take a


HILLARY CLINTON, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: When women succeed, the world
succeeds. So our new development agenda must be a universal agenda. The
goals must apply to every country according to its level of need.

MELBER: Now you`ve spent time with Hillary Clinton as part of this effort.
Tell us about your work together, how important it is that she joins what
is now several women who have been in charge of diplomacy for the United

FIELD: I mean she`s leading the effort. And she really is, you know, in
bringing this awareness to the world, and not only that, but I mean in
Vital Voices` case, in actually helping it happen one individual at a time
on a human rights level. And when they bring visibility to these women
they also ensure that perhaps the people that are trying to eradicate them
because they`re the forces they`re standing up against in the first place,
have a harder time eliminating them when they have that kind of visibility.
But Hillary Clinton is a hero in this respect. It is the untapped resource
and statistically what they bring back to their community when they`re
allowed to participate fully at the table is that their cities are -- and
villages and countries, if it goes that far, they`re more economically
sound, environmentally sound, on a human rights level they`re safer and
politically safer. They`re more democratic. It`s just a statistical fact.
It`s an economic boon that we are not using.

MELBER: Yeah. You know, Sally, it`s actually interesting talking about
this in International Women`s Day and this effort at a time when, of
course, we have other unrest in the world. But ...


MELBER: But soft power and this kind of bottom up international diplomacy
is also a huge important thing. Obviously, you`ve been working on it as
has Hillary Clinton for some time. It was really exciting to have you
here. And I hope you will come back on MHP and MSNBC again.

FIELD: I`d love to. I`d love to. Thank you.

MELBER: Fantastic. Joining us from Washington, Sally Field this morning.
Thank you again.

And coming up in our next hour, a story you will see only here on MHP
literally. reporter Irene Carmone, who you may have seen in the
program before, she`s coming here with a look at her first exclusive report
from Norman, Oklahoma, where the anti-abortion activist community are
taking on people from clinics to schools, abortion ban without exceptions,
and they`re not afraid to shock or offend in the process.


IRENE CARMONE, MSNBC.COM: What do you think should happen to women who
have abortions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when it`s made illegal, their death should be
treated like the death of other people. So we want the laws for murder to
apply to all people.


MELBER: More of that reporting and more Nerdland at the top of the hour.


ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: Welcome back. I am Ari Melber, in for Melissa
Harris-Perry today.

And we want to bring you the latest on breaking news this morning. There
are new signs that a missing Malaysia Airlines flight may have crashed.
The Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 people, including three Americans was bound
from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it vanished yesterday. Today, the
Vietnamese air force reported the appearance of two oil slicks off the
southern tip of Vietnam. They were the first signs the plane may, may have
crashed into the water after disappearing over the South China Sea.

Officials from the U.S. embassies in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing are in
contact with families of those three Americans confirmed by the State
Department who have been on board the aircraft. The State Department says
it`s working to confirm if any additional Americans were on board the

I want to go now to Michael Goldfarb, former FAA chief of staff, president
of MGA Aviation Consulting, who`s in our bureau in Washington.

Good morning.

What can you tell us about this fast-moving and obviously concerning story?

Thanks for having me.

I think you`ve had excellent reporting by Tom Costello and Greg Fyfe and
others about what actually happened to this mystery of a plane at 36,000
feet suddenly having some kind of catastrophic problem.

We know it`s an excellent aircraft. It`s had some problems, some
regulatory problems. They`ve been fixed. So, the plane is a workhorse.
It`s an efficient, safe aircraft.

Planes don`t fall out of the sky at 36,000 feet. The catastrophic incident
some hint that perhaps corrosion because Malaysian Airlines flies oceanic
routes. It was one thing that will cause reduction in air pressure that
would in a matter of seconds cause passengers and the crew to lose

But once again, they have a good anti-aging aircraft, the Malaysia Air
does. The plane is 11 years old.

So, we don`t know anything. One of the problems going forward is the awful
example of the Air France crash in the South Atlantic several years back.
It took investigators two years to find those so-called black boxes, flight
data, cockpit voice recorders from the bottom of the ocean.

From a regulatory standpoint, FAA and other authorities around the world,
this is the worst nightmare of the unexplained 777 going down. We need to
learn. Every accident teaches us ways to make things safer.

MELBER: Yes. And, Michael, let me jump in there. I mean, we talk a lot
about risk assessment and we know that certain other activities are still
broadly riskier like driving fast on a highway. And yet it is often the
nature of this that scares people so much. When people think about flying
or they imagine if their loved ones were on this plane. Then it goes off
the grid, two hours in, and we still are being told by investigators they
have very little idea where it is, what it is, what happened?

GOLDFARB: Right. So, 1 in 90 million chances, Ari, of being in a crash,
let alone 95 percent of crashes aren`t fatal. So, it doesn`t matter
because people in their gut who fly get very nervous about this when
they`re on an airplane. Off the grid, no ground control, oceanic is
limited to radio reporting, they literally don`t have a clue.

The fear is if it`s in the ocean, it`s going to take significant amount of
time if that black box -- so-called black boxes are buried on the bottom of
the ocean floor, a protracted period of basically not knowing do we have a
problem with 777s around the world. That`s the worst nightmare for

MELBER: Right. And that`s a larger policy question of course that many
governments are going to be looking into when you see this kind of incident
although, again, a word of caution and data from you on the larger context.

Michael Goldfarb in Washington, D.C., thank you.

And we will keep reporting on this story. But we`re going turn back to
news at home now.

GOLDFARB: Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you.

This news comes from Texas, this House Bill 2, the most restricted set of
state level abortion laws passed in 2013. It claimed another two
casualties among a wave of abortion providers that have shut down since the
law was enacted in November. Now, the law bans abortion after 20 weeks, it
bans medical abortions after seven weeks. It requires multiple clinic
visits before a woman can complete the procedure, and it requires all
doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Now, that provision, the requirement about hospital admitting privileges
was, as we`ve reported, particularly difficult for clinics to help cut the
number of abortion providers in Texas by half, from a high of 44 in 2011,
down to now just 22 in 2014. And this week comes news that two more
abortion providers have been subtracted from the tally.

On Thursday, two clinics in Texas border towns, one in Beaumont in east
Texas, and this clinic in McAllen, in the southern most tip of the state,
well, they both shut down. They were the last remaining abortion providers
in rural Texas.

The loss of these two facilities means as a practical matter that women in
these communities which are primarily low income, uninsured, African-
American Latino women -- well, they would have to travel 90 miles for those
multiple visits that we mention are regulated, required, to complete the
procedure now under Texas law. And the dwindling number of providers in
the state faces yet another round of closures later this year.

Another of the law`s requirements for clinics to have on-site ambulatory
surgical centers by September 1st would put 14 more of the state`s
remaining 20 clinics out of business.

We`re running down these numbers for you because when you do the math, it
leaves a total of just six abortion providers in the country`s second
largest state.

Now, with me at the table is Elahe Izadi, staff correspondent at the
"National Journal", Irin Carmon, national reporter for, David S.
Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University, who works on those issues, and
back with us, Christina Greer as well, assistant professor at Fordham
University and author of "The Back Ethnics."

And also, an important guest on this topic, joining us from Tampa, Florida,
the head of the company that run two of those clinics, Amy Hagstrom Miller,
CEO of Whole Women`s Health.

I want to start with you, Amy. You have managed to keep five of your
clinics open up until this week. Why did you have to make the decision to
close these two? Walk us through this law`s impact.

AMY HAGSTROM MILLER, WHOLE WOMEN`S HEALTH: You know, this decision was not
an easy decision to make. We`ve served the women in the community in
McAllen and Beaumont for over ten years. And I purchased those clinics
from physicians who had been in the community for 30 or 40 years before.

So, both of these border communities have had safe access to medically
professional abortion care since Roe and we serve the women who really need
us the most. We serve a diverse group of people from both sides of the
border, Louisiana, Texas, Mexico, Texas. You know, Texas is 49th out of
50th as far as people in our state who have insurance.

And so, there`s a lot of people who fall through the cracks. And so, it
was really difficult to make the decision to close these two offices.

But I just have felt, you know, there`s nothing more that we could do.
We`ve had political interference from the state on a number of levels over
the last ten years. The laws have just combined cumulatively to make it
virtually impossible for us to stay open.

In McAllen, we were unable to obtain privileges for any of our four board
certified OB/GYN physicians at any of the hospitals there. In Beaumont, we
have privileges for one of the physicians who`s 75. And we -- there`s just
-- the writing is on the wall coming up in September. He`s unable to keep
up with the patient care that we need without being able to privilege a
second physician. None of the hospitals would grant us privileges or even
give us an application for privileges in Beaumont or McAllen specifically
because of the work that we`re doing.

And coming up here in six months -- yes, go ahead.

MELBER: I just want to jump in and ask you, Amy, do you feel like this law
is targeting these particular communities that are bearing the brunt of it?

MILLER: Absolutely. This -- abortion is one of the safest medical
procedures in medicine. Abortion has a lot of challenges for a lot of
people, both medically and ethically.

And I think our opposition has really preyed on that and tried to tell a
story that abortion clinics need more regulation, or that they`re unsafe.
We all know that`s not true.

And here we are being able to provide really safe medical care with
compassion and dignity for the women in these communities, and this law did
nothing to prevent the need for abortion, so what we`re going to end up
with is the same amount of women in these communities needing the service,
but being blocked from accessing it safely and medically with dignity.

So, we`re seeing people take things into their own hands.

MELBER: What happens -- what happens when they do that or when they feel
that they don`t have other options?

MILLER: You know, so we have women who come to us. I mean, we`ve been
open in McAllen, unable to do actual abortion procedures but open with the
doors open. And the same amount of women have been coming in over the last
three months telling us, you know, what are we going to do? How are we
going to take care of our families? We can`t travel north. We can`t go
four or five hours north to have a procedure and spend two days or three
days in San Antonio.

And a lot of these women are telling us we`re going to go over the border,
we`re going to try to get medication over the Internet. I`ve been drinking
this tea that I was told about. I`m hoping it`s going to help me pass the

So, we`ve been trying to help people both pre and post, you know, self-
induction to try to help them manage their lives and keep healthy.

MELBER: Yes. Stay with us. I`m going to go out to our panel and back to

MILLER: Sure, sure.

MELBER: Christina, when you look at the impact here -- I want to be clear,
the folks passing these laws -- these laws say, well, they`re not trying to
hit any particular part of Texas. They say they`re trying to add safety
requirements. And yet, we can`t as citizens or journalists look at this
and not see the incredibly disparate impact.

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: As I said before when we were
thinking about the war on poverty. This is not only a war on poverty but
war on women, right? It`s a conflation of the two. I mean, these are very
same legislators who will not keep these clinics open, yet they don`t want
to provide health care, they don`t want to provide Head Start, they don`t
want to provide sex ed, they don`t want to provide condoms in school. They
don`t want to provide good schools, right?

So, this is -- they`re anti everything that would prevent some of the
ramifications of these decisions.

So, it`s frustrating because it is this conflation of this constant attack
on people who don`t have as much, right? And we do know as Amy said, you
know, people have to take things into their own hands.

But this is not the 1960s, right? Why are we rolling back so many
Democratic provisions that we`ve worked so hard to get.

MELBER: So, let me go back to Amy for a final word on this, because the
question ultimately is, does it matter if Roe v. Wade is on the books if
it`s not practically an option for people in so many of these communities

MILLER: Right. Ari, that`s a great question. What you have is something
that`s legal on paper but in reality, it`s a complete abstraction. I mean,
it almost doesn`t matter for people. If it`s out of reach, if it`s
inaccessible, the legality of it is just sort of, you know, a matter of
paper. And we have women saying that to us all the time.

This is -- women are doing -- they`re taking matters into their hands, but
we can`t forget abortion is still legal.

MELBER: Right. Exactly -- I mean, that really is the issue.

We`re going to continue on that. The MHP team wanted to have you on it
given your work and your view from the ground. I`m sure we`ll be hearing
from you again. Amy Hagstrom Miller, thank you.

MILLER: You`re welcome. Thank you.

MELBER: Now, if you think this is an isolated story or if you think, well,
I don`t live in Texas, so however problematic this is, my rights are not
being restricted -- well, we would argue, think again. This is happening
in states all over the country. And when we come back, we`ll get into
states going to the most extreme lengths yet with some original reporting.


MELBER: Welcome back.

This week, a bill passed by lawmakers in Alabama can give the state the
claim to the title of toughest abortion law in the nation. The Alabama
House voted Tuesday to approve four restrictive reproductive rights bills.
One of which would ban abortions after six weeks, when a heartbeat confirms
to be detected.

A heartbeat bill would end, in effect, end the vast majority of abortions
in the state of Alabama. And while it includes exceptions for the life of
the mother and the likelihood of a possible still birth, it doesn`t make
exceptions for rape or incest. There are three additional measures passed
by the House, one of them would extend the waiting period from an abortion
from 24 to 48 hours.

The bills have to pass the Alabama Senate before going on to Governor
Robert Bentley for his signature.

But if they go on to become law as we mentioned, the Alabama measures may
face the same federal court challenges, similar bills passed last year in
North Dakota, which also approved a six-week ban and Arkansas which ban an
abortion at 12 weeks.

We go out to our panel.

What is the political context for this?

ELAHE IZADI, NATIONAL JOURNAL: So, in 2013, 22 states passed 70 measures
relating to some sort of abortion restriction. In 2014, activists on the
right, antiabortion activists are looking to really focus on this issue
also pushing forward legislation that would prevent women who receive
government subsidies to help pay for health care to be eligible for plans
that provide abortion access.

And they`re hoping that this will also motivate the conservative base and a
mid-term cycle when you`re not having as many general election kind of
voters come out. This is an issue that they believe plays very well on the

Now, we talked about CPAC at the top of the show, the big conservative
conference. There wasn`t very much mention about abortion there. There
was no panel there. Last year, there was a big main stage panel. A lot of
antiabortion activists were actually kind of upset that there wasn`t
greater focus on this.

MELBER: So, let me dive in on that and then go to David who`s been
researching this.

What you`re saying is it`s open season in the states, but it`s not being
messaged at CPAC?

IZADI: Yes. It appears that there`s a lot of hesitation, at least on a
national level for the GOP to really go hard on this issue and be very
vocal and be very specific after 2012 when you had the Todd Akins. People
feel are very hesitant. And people feel like Republicans need to learn how
to talk about this issue better.

MELBER: And yet, David, people feel that when you look at these policies,
that Todd Akins, they were not just bad statements politically, but they
were accurate about where a lot of the party is.

DAVID S. COHEN, DREXEL UNIVERSITY: Right. If you look at what`s been
happening in the states, they`ve been very active in prohibiting abortion -
- not prohibiting abortion but restricting abortion in all different
creative ways. I mean, the six week ban in Alabama and North Dakota, the
12-week ban in Arkansas, these are flatly unconstitutional.

These are extreme measures that will never become effective laws. They are
symbolic measures. But they impose costs on people in those states
because, (a), it sends a signal that abortion is not welcome here. But,
(b), it`s -- the state is going to wind up footing the bill for these legal
challenges that are going to be successful.

So, the taxpayers are going to have to pay. If the people in these states
want safer abortions, they need to look at policies that will double the
number of clinics that Amy Hagstrom Miller has. She operates safe clinics
that are woman-centered and if the people of Texas, the people of Alabama
want safer procedures, we need more clinics. Not fewer.

IRIN CARMON, MSNBC.COM: Right. Of course, they don`t want safer
procedures, they want fewer abortions.

But they cannot go after Roe wholesale. They have to go at it in this
incremental way where they say it`s about women`s health. The actual
impact, of course, is to restrict abortion. They have not had much success
on the demand side of restricting abortion which is to say convincing women
not to have abortions.

What they`ve realized is if they want to lower the abortion number, they
have go after the supply side, close down clinics and make it nearly

And what`s interesting is that the old backstops in the federal court that
used to put the brakes on these are not actually as solid as they were
before. I was in the courtroom in Texas where basically a panel of three
female judges said, I don`t think it`s an undue burden to have to drive 250
miles because Texas is a big state.

MELBER: Let me jump in there and bring in Christina. When you refer to
undue burden you`re referring to the 1992 Supreme Court case, Planned
Parenthood v. Casey. Yes, there may be rules and restrictions but they
can`t have a huge or undue burden. And yet, it seems in our courts when it
comes -- I`m saying something obvious but necessary to say -- when it comes
to some of these words, applying them for the protection of women or
minorities, they suddenly recede.

GREER: Well, we saw this in the 1950s and `60s with the civil rights
movement, this vague language that left it up to the states to make the
decisions. We`re seeing it now with stand your ground laws and part of
movements and stop and frisk, right? We`re seeing it on local levels as
well when this comes to black and brown men and how the police can treat
them. So, we know vague language can work, right?

What`s really frustrating, though, is that 250 miles for someone who may
not have a car who may have to take off one, maybe two, maybe three days of
work for a minimum wage job and maybe not have that job waiting for them
when they come back. That is actually a huge burden. Where will these
people stay?

We`ve heard tons of stories about women sleeping in the car of a friend,
right, or having to go by themselves because a friend couldn`t take off
work. So, this is actually a much larger situation.

What we`re couching in today`s language was, it`s like 250 miles. Well,
you know, that could be three and a half to four hours to say nothing of
gas money and all these other things that are added costs. We know that
they`re costs to voting, but they`re cost to doing anything in your daily

This is actually to say nothing of the emotional costs that women have to
prepare themselves for. They`re huge financial --

MELBER: We`re going to come back to you and your piece. You`re hitting
the connective tissue, right, which is saying if you need a driver`s
license to vote and you need a car to your rights, to make a medical
decision, this is not how it`s supposed to work.

We`re going to come back to you because they`re in my ear about timing.

But up next, we have a report you`ll only see here. It is Irin Carmon`s
report, on the ground from Norman, Oklahoma, and you may not agree with
some of the peel people she met with there but you do need to hear what
they told her.


MELBER: Reproductive rights advocates see the record level state
restrictions on abortion access as a result of an extreme agenda. But one
new group growing in popularity thinks the movement to ban abortion hasn`t
gone far enough. They`re not satisfied with Republican politicians, or 20-
week bans or regulations to even shut down clinics.

What they want is an absolute ban to abortion, full stop. No allowances,
no exceptions. And they`re not afraid to shock or offend in pursuit of
that goal, or to target high school students with their message. They
reject the pro-life label, in fact, and have reached back into history for
another term to describe themselves, abolitionists.

Now, an exclusive MSNBC original report, national reporter Irin Carmon from traveled to the heart of red state America to follow these
crusaders against abortions as they make their case outside a high school
for an effort they call Project Front Lines.


CARMON: In general, I like to spend time with the anti-abortion movement
in part because it`s pretty clear to me what the pro-choice side believes
and these people have been wagging a long war for the 41 years that
abortion has been legal in the United States, and you could really argue
that they`re winning. I mean, they believe they`re losing but they have
managed to stigmatize abortion, they have managed to pass untold laws. I
think they`re getting closer to their goal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you guys get a handout? Did you guys get one?

CARMON: We`re standing here outside of Norman High School in Norman,
Oklahoma. It`s been quite a heated morning.

Project Front Lines is kicking off today. That is an effort by abolish
human abortion. The kids have been really, really interested in talking to
people. They have come right into the thick of these conversations. They
have confronted them on the graphic images.

UNIDENTIFIED MAEL: Why are you showing that?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, get on the Internet and find me a study that that
actually affects. Those kids probably watch "Walking Dead."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is real though.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you want the choice to have an abortion, you
should have the choice I am not saying that if you get pregnant you have to
have an abortion. What I`m saying is that if you believe that you should
for whatever reason, then you should be able to have that choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The abolitionists of slavery, that`s in textbooks of
high schools. You know what I`m saying? I saw that and showed that to
people back in the day. Guess what they were?

all pro-lifers have thought this through. They`re following leaders who
have maybe, but when we -- if you ask the bold question, who are you more
sort of combative with, yes, pro-lifers.

CARMON: What do you think should happen to women who have abortions?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, when it`s made illegal, their death should be
treated like the death of other people. So we want the laws for murder to
apply to all people. We don`t want the laws for murder to be bias and only
apply to certain people, OK?

So just like African-Americans back in the days of slavery, we want the
laws of protection of humanity to be applied to all people equally.

CARMON: So women who have abortions should get life in prison or the death

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I`m going to leave what happens to them up to
the legislators, but in my opinion, yes. I mean, if a woman maliciously
goes in and pays a hired assassin to rip the arms and legs off their child,
she should go to prison for that.


MELBER: Irin Carmon, you`re reporting there. What did you learn?

CARMON: Well, I think every movement has its passionate soldiers who were
trying to make the rest of the movement listen to them. The anti-abortion
movement has made its peace with this sort of incremental strategy that
we`ve been talking about, which is to say we want to make abortion clinics
safer, we want to pretend we`re talking about women`s health when we`re
actually talking about shutting down clinics.

These guys think -- it`s not happening fast enough. They want to push the
movement to be more zealous. They call themselves agitators. In some
cases they`re having a lot of success.

MELBER: Yes, the question is where do they fit in on the spectrum? If you
look at the Gallup poll which we can put up for viewers, what you see is a
pretty consistent support for Roe. What you see is you have people
basically saying we don`t want to overturn Roe by well over the majority
and then pluralities with other views.

Where does this fit in to that? Because the groups that you`re studying do
think they`re losing, and that`s one way they are, at least in public
opinion if not in the statehouse.

CARMON: They use the phrase they`re dissenting from the culture of death.
That`s how they would put it. I think they realize the odds are stacked
against them and that`s why they`re going to high school students. They
think that going to the abortion clinic is going to the final line. Going
to the front line is going to the high school students.

But unfortunately for the anti-abortion movement, one in three women will
have an abortion. Women choose to have abortions for all kinds of reasons
and without stigmatizing that woman`s decision, you`re going to hit a wall
if you`re saying we want to end abortion.

MELBER: Right. You`re hitting that wall of public opinion. David, you`ve
studied these groups. And this is an area again that we forget because of
how polarized we hear about it in politics. We forget to Irin`s point,
it`s not actually that polarized in public opinion.

I want to put up when you ask women and men and minorities and white
voters, what you see is that flat line of 50 percent or near there people
being pro-choice and fewer being pro-life down in the low 40s. This is one
of the few areas in our politics where an issue that is divisive and
discussed a lot in media, on the campaign trail, actually has a big diverse

COHEN: Right, big, diverse coalition that hasn`t gotten smaller over the
years. The anti-choice movement has not succeeded in moving the needle.
In fact, if you look at the graphic you just showed, it`s not that there`s
50 percent who are against abortion, it`s a smaller group who actually want
to ban abortion.

MELBER: Right, that`s pro choice.

COHEN: Right.

MELBER: Pro-life is smaller than even smaller to your point.

COHEN: They want to outlaw it. People don`t want to outlaw it.

But the people who are profiled in this piece, they`re part of a small
extremist group who not only go to high schools and talk to students, but
they protest doctors at their homes. They stalk clinic workers on their
way to and from work. They picket people at churches.

Just this week, a clinic in Montana was vandalized. All of their equipment
was destroyed by antiabortion extremists. I mean, these are people who
will go to any means to try and stop abortion.

MELBER: Yes. And, Christina, briefly, your thoughts on abolition?

GREER: Well, I can`t roll my eyes because I`m sure my mom is watching.
But, I mean, this is absurd to even use that type of language. But I
think I want to make two points before we move forward.

One, we just need to make sure that the concept of class isn`t always given
to poor women. There are several upper middle class black, white, Latina
and Asian women who have had abortions. So, I think, oftentimes, the
argument gets stigmatize where it`s poor women that only get abortions,
which we clearly know isn`t the case.

And number two, I think, you know, when he was talking with this, he`s
against death, right? Well, if we think about some of the Martin Luther
King latter radical speeches, what he calls sort of death is actually
starving American children without providing them with not just nutrition
but the educational nutrition that they need, right?

So, these are the arguments that the GOP completely ignore but that`s
actually the fundamental American Democratic principle we should think

MELBER: I think that`s well put, and you are talking, of course, about
life. Life is one of the buzzwords here.

I want to thank all of you. Elahe Izadi, a name I`ve been working on
pronouncing, Irin Carmon, David Cohen and Christina Greer, a really great

Up next, a massive rift within the Democratic Party over what is best for
our kids. But, first, we do want to update you on this morning`s breaking
news briefly.

The search for the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-370. The plane that was
carrying 239 people including 3 Americans, it vanished yesterday while en
route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Now, according to the "New York
Times", Vietnamese air force planes have spotted a 12-mile-long oil slick
in the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam.

The U.S. is sending a naval ship to the southern coast of Vietnam to help
with the search efforts. You can stay with MSNBC, of course, throughout
the day for the latest on that developing story. We will be back with the
education wars, up next.


MELBER: President Obama`s new budget is clear on education. He appeared
Tuesday at a Washington elementary school and visited a pre-kindergarten


reason why we`re here today, that education has to start at the earliest
possible ages. So, this budget expands access to the kind of high quality
preschool and other learning programs to give all of our children the same
kinds of opportunities that those wonderful children that we just saw are
getting right here at Powell.


MELBER: How wonderful? Well, the president`s budget seeks to pump $68.6
billion in discretionary funds to education. That includes some specific
expansions of public preschool programs.

Now, as the president discussed in previous State of the Union Addresses he
backs more early education for young children and programs targeting the
achievement gap in all schools. National leadership matters but, of
course, most education funding and choices happen at the local level. The
battle over pre-K and charter schools was a huge political fight, from
Washington to New York and back again.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing forward with a plan to tax
wealthy New Yorkers with new pre-k and after school programs. And he
recently announced he would also block three charter schools from using
free space inside New York City public school buildings.

Two of the preschools were pushed by the Success Academy Network chaired by
Eva Moskowitz, a group of charter schools that has been backed by former
New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and some Democrats and Republicans from Wall

While de Blasio aides emphasized that of 49 proposals to share a school
space, a majority went untouched for the charters, the move -- well, it
proved controversial.

Last week on the cover of "The New York Post", that picks up a critical
note in Washington where House Majority Eric Cantor recently singled out,
this was interesting, he singled out Bill de Blasio over these charter

And Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, joined with
Moskowitz and thousands of parents and schoolchildren Tuesday for a huge
rally on the state capital in Albany. Their message? Well, charters work.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: I am committed to ensuring charter
schools have the financial capacity to physical space and that government`s
support to thrive and to grow.



MELBER: Mayor de Blasio led his own rally two blocks away, returning to
push his plan for universal pre-k.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: We are closer than ever to
opening next school year with 54,000 full day pre-k seats in New York City.


That`s tens of thousands more full day seats than we have today and that is
a game changer for our children, a game changer for our families.


MELBER: Joining us now to talk about the schools, the drama and the
students, Pedro Noguera, professor of sociology at NYU, and executive
director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education.

And Regina Dowdell a parent of a New York City charter school student, and
a parent leader for Families for Excellent Schools. What`s wrong with

Also, Steve Barr, founder of Green Dot Schools and the Future is Now, as
well as university prep high school in the South Bronx University.

And Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party which
might be the most progressive thing on the ballot. We have to make up your
mind for yourself.

This is an all-star panel for a very important discussion.

I want to start with you, Pedro. Your view of this battle, both how it
relates to students because we care about policy, and why it`s attracting
such political heat this week.

PEDRO NOGUERA, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, it`s attracting heat because
charter schools have emerged as an alternative to the traditional public
schools. And some of those schools are quite good. I`m sure we`ll hear
more about that later.

But we should keep in mind that 95 percent of kids are not in charter
schools. So, it`s ironic that the governor would weigh in so heavily on
this when we know that most kids are not in charter schools. And there`s
been no policy set for what role charter schools should play.

I think Mayor de Blasio`s push for preschool is important. We know the
foundation for learning that it sets is critical to learning throughout a
child`s life, but this issue has become so divisive in New York City, it`s
largely issue over space. Where do we put kids?

MELBER: Regina?

huge issue because there are so many children who are affected by this. So
although only 5 percent of the children are actually in charter schools,
there are so many families who are hurting who don`t have other options if
they don`t get this co-located space. So, it is something that`s important
that the governor should have weighed in on.

DAN CANTOR, WORKING FAMILIES PARTY: Listen, you have to back up what`s
going on seems to us is the free market fundamentalists and Wall Street
ideologues holding aside the question of good charters, bad charters,
whatever, have decided it`s time to remake public education. They want to
disinvest in public education. They like private things. They want
competition that produces winners and losers. It`s a very different view
of how public education should exist in our society and I think it`s a
dangerous view.

MELBER: And you think it`s wrong that Governor Cuomo has teemed up with
Eric Cantor?

CANTOR: Obviously, Eric Cantor`s killing my brand. We strongly like what
Mayor de Blasio is talking about, right? It`s not unreasonable to ask the
wealthiest New Yorkers to actually pay a bit more in taxes. They don`t
like him for it. They`re using this issue to both weaken de Blasio and
advance their own ambitions.

STEVE BARR, FUTURE IS NOW: Well, the optics of this is terrible because
you got people down in Maryland right now debating about how to hold a gun,
you know? Immigrants are bad. Poor people are bad.

MELBER: What do you mean?


MELBER: Oh, sure.

BARR: The Republican Party. We I assume are all Democrats. We probably
agree on 80, 90 percent of the stuff and yet we`re fighting. You know,
instead of problem solving.

MELBER: Steve, let me push you that. We do that a lot. We do it in
media, we do it in politics, we do it in the family. I don`t come home to
my family and talk about things we agree on. Sometimes, we focus on the 5
percent on the table that we disagree with.

You`ve been in this movement. You`ve been something of a middle ground.
You said you don`t want charter schools to be anti--union. You want
something that can scale.

But when you want something that can scale, what you`re saying is you want
a different type of education in America.

BARR: One of the great school, tradition public school, charter public
school, whatever is working, stop trying to water down the results and
fight it. Scale it up, there`s a demand there. Charter schools aren`t
going anymore. Teachers unions aren`t going anywhere. So, the example you
refer to in the South Bronx, I founded a school with Randi Weingarten, it`s
a unionized school. It`s a high school. It`s the fourth best high school
in the city of New York. Why? Because all of the adults are pulling
together. It gets really easy after that.

MELBER: But, Pedro, a lot of the concern here is there`s so much attention
on a few charter schools that by and large can be more expensive and need
an assist from public schools which the public school community says is
draining their resources.

NOGUERA: Right. And some of the best charter schools, I`m not saying this
is true for Steve`s, are receiving additional funds, and from their
corporate backers and that is demonstrating that it actually takes more
money to educate kids well.

But that`s not a reason to oppose the schools. I sat as an authorizer of
charter schools in New York state for several years. I finally resigned
because of the absence of policy. And what I mean is that we see
communities being pitted against each other.

In this case, when one school goes in, another school goes out. So, you`re
talking about which kids deserve a right to a building. And that is a
decision that should not be fought out at the level of the school. Our
elected officials should look and think about in a balance way. What
Steve`s done, which is admirable, he`s put charter schools in schools that
are clearly failing and provided kids with a much better alternative.
That`s not what most of those charters are doing.

MELBER: Let me go to Regina. Let me read you something from an education
analyst. I`m just going to read.

Mayor de Blasio should stop the expansion of charter schools and stop co-
locating charter schools in public space. This is from Diane Rathers (ph).

They are privately managed. They have private boards of directors and they
have private sources of funding. More than a dozen of the charter schools
are paid more than the city school`s chancellors, with two of them earning
nearly half a million dollars a year.

Does that bother you or as a parent your view is this is working for your
student, as you`ve written, your student, that`s the first priority if the
charter schools are working?

DOWDELL: I mean, of -- not just my student. There are hundreds. I know a
lot personally where charter schools are actually working for their

So, of course, it does bother me because there does need to be some degree
of equality, but like Pedro said, they need to look at that balance.

So when it comes to the co-locations, that`s why there is a procedure in
place. Here`s what needs to be done before a school can be co-located. It
can`t go over this capacity. It has to be approved by the building they`re
going into, all of those different things. That`s why that`s in place, to
ensure that there`s equality.

MELBER: OK. We`ll continue on this. Mayor de Blasio was getting hammered
so hard that he went to fair territory. A hip-hop station called Hot 97,
which "The New York Times" was writing about. That is all up next.


MELBER: The national debate when charter schools reached hip-hop radio
station Hot 97 here in New York City on Thursday. Sound the air horns when
Mayor Bill de Blasio joined host Peter Rosenberg and Ebro Darden.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, de Blasio, the big deal right now. Charter
schools, pre-K. I`m feeling like they`re making you look like you`re anti-
charter school. I don`t think that`s the case but explain to us why this
is playing out this way.

DE BLASIO: Well, you are absolutely correct, it`s not the case. So the
bottom line is, of course, we`re going to work with the charter schools.
There`s a lot of good charter schools, but we`re going to treat them with
an equality as the same way we treat traditional public schools. We`re not
going to favor them the way the Bloomberg administration did.


MELBER: The mayor has talked politics on hot 97 before. This time it may
have been a strategic move as it includes not only the state`s Democratic
Governor Andrew Cuomo but thousands of constituents, including many
students and parents of color who have strongly objected to barriers for
those three charter schools in Harlem and who say charter schools are key
to improving education around the city.

Regina, you wanted to get in on this.

DOWDELL: I did. First, he said they`re not adverse to working with
charter schools and he`s not against them. But throughout his campaign he
said something quite the opposite.

Also, my organization, Families for Excellent Schools, we reached out to
him several times before he was elected and after to work with us to get on
the same page with charter school parents and he rebuffed us.

We had a mayoral forum that I moderated back in June. He quit on us maybe
a half an hour before we were to start.

So, he`s not as open to working with charter school parents as he would
like Hot 97 staff to believe.

MELBER: And do you think the attacks he`s facing which the Hot 97 host and
others have said do have to do with the incredible political and Wall
Street support for charter schools, for changing three of them, do you
think these attacks are proportionate and deserved?

DOWDELL: They can be seen as disproportionate to someone who isn`t
affected by it. So, of course, families who weren`t affected can say, hey,
it was only a few schools, you guys can work it out.

But to the families who were affected by it, this is a big deal.

MELBER: I hear that.

CANTOR: Listen, we should stipulate, all parents love their children and
want them to do well, and want them to be in schools that are well-run with
well-trained teachers who love their work and so on. We also want to live
in a society in which people`s live chances are not determined at birth.

And the people who are driving a lot of the corporatization of education
actually don`t necessarily agree with that. They want to skim this 5
percent. What about the 95 percent?

Either we`re going to have one system, it can have charters, it cannot have
charters, but all these children need to be treated equally. And they`re
not. The bathroom analogy where you`ll have a co-located school and they`d
be all really nice renovated bathrooms that only these some students were
allowed to use. What does say?

MELBER: Right.

Steve, is that fair?

BARR: Well, I mean, let`s get off our talking points for a second.

Putting down 7.500 people there in one charter, nonprofit as somehow
they`re skimmed and there are special parents is silly to all parents. I
mean, literally, what are you doing, you`re degrading their intelligence,
you`re degrading the teachers who leave the system for better work
conditions, and they`re proving things.

Instead of putting that down and reading off talking points, we should -- I
mean, I want to go to schools and say what are you doing and how can I
replicate that. I want to go to great public schools and do the same

My neighborhood in Los Angeles, Silver Lake, great elementary school I want
to scale up.

MELBER: Final word from Pedro.

NOGUERA: I would say it`s interesting. I mean, I think we should be
learning from these schools. That was the vision behind charter schools.
That`s not happening, because we created a competition.

But I would also challenge Governor Cuomo here. He is trying to change the
conversation on education because of the disastrous rollout of the common
core standards. Most suburban communities where his base lies don`t know
what charter schools are. If those charters were located in the suburbs,
as they try to do in places as Asnan (ph), you will see an uproar of a
backlash, because often when the charters come in it means resources taken
away from the public schools.

So this is why the governor needs to establish a reasonable and fair
policy. Right now, he`s grandstanding and he`s picking on the mayor and
the mayor needs to develop a policy for the city. But the governor needs
to exercise some responsibility, not just on the charters, but the common

MELBER: Yes. We`re out of time. I think that`s a key question. That`s
why you`ve got people in the House Republican caucus weighing in on this,
people following New York figuring out what works here.

Like I said, we`re out of time. This was fun. I would like to do it with
more time soon if you guys would oblige.

I want to thank Pedro Noguera, Regina Dowdell, Steve Barr and, of course,
Dan Cantor.

Up next, a big challenge from Melissa Harris-Perry herself.


MELBER: Before we go, did you know this? A 2008 study by the Center for
American Women in Politics at Rutgers found that only 3 percent of women
state representatives had children under the age of 6. Now, that`s
compared to 8 percent of male state representatives.

Are you intrigued? Well, there is a chance to find out each so much more
about this, through the first-ever Nerdland scholar challenge. In just
nine days, Melissa Harris-Perry is going to launch an interactive online
experience that will walk you through the history of the intersection of
motherhood and politics. She`s calling it the mother of all politics

Sign up by going to our Web site, That`s

And that is our show for today. Thank you for watching. It was fun.

I`m going to see you again tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. if you come back.

Now, it is time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."



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