'Up with Steve Kornacki' for Sunday, May 4th, 2014
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UP with STEVE KORNACKI
May 4, 2014
Guests: Kathleen Parker, Jamelle Bouie, Mark Leibovich, Ezra Klein, Charlie
Rangel, Pat Meehan, Carolyn Maloney, Jim Morrill, Kevin Nealon
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: A big news day ahead of the biggest night of
the year in Washington. We`re live from the nation`s capital.
Good morning from Washington. We do so much talking here about politics.
This weekend we have taken our somehow on the road to the nexus of all
things politics, our nation`s capital. Yesterday, I went to Capitol Hill
to interview House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. She made some big news
about Benghazi. We will have more on that later this hour.
That`s not the only reason it`s good to be here in D.C. this weekend. The
president of the United States addressed members of the White House Press
Corps in a joint briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday.
He talked about matters important to both countries, the situation in
Ukraine, NSA surveillance, big domestic news here at home, the latest job
numbers unemployment plunging to its lowest level in six years.
In an hour from now, though, the president will be addressing members of
the press corps in a national television audience and highly anticipated
annual speech. One with a lot more punch lines than the annual "State of
the Union" address. That`s right, tonight is the White House
Correspondents Dinner. Maybe you love it, hate it, somewhere in the
middle, but you know what it`s about.
It`s the one night a year when the reporters who cover the president, the
presidents themselves get together socially to break bread and crack jokes
at their own expense as well as each other. Every president has put
himself through this ritual at least once, although it wasn`t always quite
the spectacle. It used to be a scholarship fundraising dinner.
Then about a half a century into it in 1987 a Baltimore Sun reporter
changed the game by attending the dinner with (Fone Hall). Do you remember
her? She was of the celebrities of the moment. She was the former
secretary for Oliver North who back then was in the middle of the raging
Iran contra-scandal. The next year that same reporter brought Donna Rice
to the dinner who helped ensure that Gary Heart would never get to speak at
a White House Correspondents Dinner.
Then Ellen Degeneres, a decade later, just two weeks coming out in once a
sleepy get together has evolved into a celebrity studded event. Stars ling
up for a chance to see and hear the president. Reporters clamouring for
the chance to mingle with the stars, which in recent years has produced a
backlash of its own.
With critics and even some reporters themselves saying the event has become
too big. This will be the seventh year "The New York Times" will not be in
attendance at the dinner. The bureau chief at the time in 2007 saying,
quote, "We came to the conclusion that it evolved into a very odd
celebrity-driven event that made it look like the press and government all
shucked their roles for one night of the year, sing together and have a
grand old time cracking jokes.
It feels like it sends the wrong viewers like we are all in together and it
is all a game, it feels uncomfortable." One of the press corps made this
case in 2009, we should get rid of the White House press corps altogether.
All too often the White House briefing room where is news goes to die. A
major political story broken by a White House correspondent, a thorough
debunking of the Bush case for Iraqi WMD.
The newspaper State Department and national security correspondents, even
Watergate came off "The Washington Post" Metro Desk. The dinner will go on
tonight. President Obama will be on stage listening to a comedian. It
will be Joel McHale this year making fun of him and he will get a chance to
do a comedy set of his own and will be watching to see how funny and how
clever the president is this year.
Here we are in D.C. for the biggest day of the political world year in D.C.
We asked what should we expect tonight, should we feel guilty if we enjoy
this dinner or at least enjoy parts of this dinner or are the critics
right? Has it crossed over from being a harmless night of fun to a display
of what`s wrong with Washington?
Here to talk about the dinner and all the political news that Washington is
talking about, we have with us this morning, Mark Leibovich. He is the
chief national correspondent for "The New York Times" magazine whose
takedown book has been released. This is the perfect day to have him on
the show. EJ Dionne, he is the MSNBC contributor and a columnist with "The
Washington Post, MSNBC political analyst, Kathleen Parker, she is also a
columnist with "The Washington Post," and Jamelle Bouie, he is a staff
writer at Slate.
The set looks different. This is the first time we have had two pastry
plates. The dress code is more serious so I put a jacket on. But let`s
talk about this dinner. I`m not going to be going to it tonight, but I
will be watching it. I want to see what the president has to say. I want
to see what Joel McHale has to say. Mark Leibovich, you wrote the book
sort of explaining why this thing is bad for the media, bad for politics.
Make that case. Why is this a bad thing tonight?
MARK LEIBOVICH, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think the dinner itself is a
sleepy dinner. It raises money. That in and of itself is innocuous. What
I object to strenuously is the five-day, 30-party decadence over a long
period. What message are we sending? The notion that we`re celebrating
ourselves, what are we celebrate exactly? We`re talking millions and
millions of dollars spent on this. It`s great that scholarship money is
raised, but I would advocate for in lieu of flowers at the end of an
obituary, certain media organizations should in lieu of the 29th party we
have this weekend, give to their own scholarship fund or something.
KORNACKI: You talk about the culture around the dinner, the pre-party, the
pre, pre-party and all that stuff.
KATHLEEN PARKER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I`m feeling sad for both of you.
I`m getting you didn`t get invited to the dinner.
KORNACKI: Are you going to the dinner?
PARKER: I`m a guest of someone. I`ve been almost every year. I didn`t go
last year. I had this conversation with Tom Brokaw via e-mail. He made
the big statement that he was not going again after having viewed
Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan. And so I agree with everything he said.
It`s superficial and gives the wrong message. It`s all those terrible
But I`m a reporter. I like to go and watch. I`m there to see the
president of the United States. Since he`s there, I feel it`s OK for me to
be there. It`s a fun night if you don`t mind standing in line. Everyone
is sweating. It`s hot. It`s uncomfortable.
Every year, I have a column about this, I say I`m never going again, this
is it. But Greta Van Susteren even and I had this conversation. She is an
icon of the class. She shows up every year in the same tux. She`s really
mocking the whole thing in a way to her credit. I`m still going.
KORNACKI: It sounds to me like a football game. I hate the lines, they
search you when you go, so I watch it on TV. The view is better from home.
How do you look at this? Are you going tonight?
JAMELLE BOUIE, "SLATE": I`m not going.
KORNACKI: You and me are watching on TV.
BOUIE: I think I`m too young to get invited. I think it`s worth saying my
experience of the White House press core prior to being in Washington is
being a college student watching the run up to the Iraq war. So for me
seeing this really does give me the heady jeebys. Stephen Colbert used
that platform to say something important, but I find it unseemly precisely
because you have this mixing of people who are supposed to have an
adversarial relationship with the president kind of hanging out like he`s a
buddy. As much as I think Obama is a good guy, that makes me feel
KORNACKI: So what do you make of that? Can you go to a dinner like this,
laugh at the jokes, and still be an adversarial reporter?
E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. The last time I went was when Karl
Rove got drawn into a hip hop number and played a character called M.C.
Rove and it seemed very strange, although I was laughing, I confess.
LEIBOVICH: It seems perfectly natural.
DIONNE: There`s a great line that politics is Hollywood for ugly people.
I can argue this one either way. I feel like a high school debater. On
the one hand, there`s something obvious corrupt about this intermingling
and the other hand is get over it school, which is the politics are funny,
if nothing else people write really good jokes for them. The comedian is
really funny. Stephen Colbert moment, that was great. What`s interesting
about that and maybe that gets to both sides of this. There was outrage at
Colbert for kind of breaking a code because he was so up front in being
kind of angry within that humor. On the one hand it was great he was up
there and it`s good to have presidents make fun of themselves, but that
showed there`s something odd.
KORNACKI: The interesting thing about that Colbert one is in the write-up
the next day, "The New York Times" didn`t mention it at all. They
mentioned George Bush had a double with him. They wrote about that and
then they realized most of the attention outside of Washington had been on
Stephen Colbert`s speech so the next day they sort of corrected themselves.
We kind of missed this one. So that`s the dinner. I will be watching it
But we`re going to move on to a couple things in the news this week.
There`s a lot going on. We have all these things to get to. People are
talking about. The Clintons overnight Senator Tim Kaine became the latest
Democrat to throw his support behind Hillary Clinton for president although
she hasn`t even said she is running. This came a few days after Bill
Clinton spoke at Georgetown University and delivered a defense of his
economic record as president. A speech why we`ve seen as a pre-emptive
effort to head off trouble on the left for Hillary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: How many times I have read from the left
bitter criticism about what a slug I was to sign the balanced budget of `
96 lowering the capital gains rate from 28 to 20 percent. I did it but we
had the money to do it and it was the price I paid to e get the children`s
health insurance program and all that education stuff and I would do it
again tomorrow in a heartbeat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So the legacy of Bill Clinton on economic issues and domestic
issues, it plays a role in how the Democratic Party looks at him and looks
at his wife, how they look back at the 1990s and I found that speech so
interesting because when I look at the Clinton years, I think you can make
a case -- he is doing a pretty good job of himself. I think the speech was
two hours, which was short for Bill Clinton.
I think you could make a case to be satisfying to the liberal base, but at
the same time Bill Clinton is the president who forged this alliance
between the Democratic Party in Wall Street. Talk about Glass Stiegel.
You talk about what happened in 2008. How does the left look at Bill
Clinton`s legacy as president?
BOUIE: I`m not going to speak for the entire left --
KORNACKI: Just half of it.
BOUIE: A quarter of the left, I think for labor oriented liberals, they
see the Clinton administration as a disaster. You have the gutting of
organized labor or the continued gutting of organized labor. You have the
emergence of this real relationship between the Democratic Party and Wall
Street and sort of the corporate world. And I think even if some of those
liberals and folks on the left may have seen the long-term effective it has
been new to the Democratic Party`s ability to speak on populous issues.
It`s been to orient the Democratic Party towards a set of policy as deficit
reduction and make cuts to Social Security that they view as disastrous and
counterproductive and had a hindrance when what the economy need was the
opposite of those things and instead you had prominent figures in the party
say, now it`s time to cut deficits and they would draw a straight line from
that to Clinton.
DIONNE: You know what I think is that Bill Clinton is such a peculiar
figure. When you look back on his record, he made a bunch of concessions
to Wall Street. Some of the deregulation happened on Clinton`s watch. I`m
told that he regrets some of that. At the same time, he was a heck of a
populous politician. Everybody forgets when he ran in 1992, he ran on
raising taxes on rich people in order to balance the budget.
So the Clintons have a populous streak in them that`s really important.
The reason I think he was successful as a politician is he handled both
sides of this, but above all, the economy grew and it was the one period
when you actually had, there were a couple years where the bottom was
coming up as fast as at top and you`ll hear that a lot from Hillary
LEIBOVICH: I would say what`s striking is in 2008 he lost a big part of
his populous base because it went over to Obama. That was the shiny new
things. I see this as an effort to win back the lustre they might have
KORNACKI: You can see the energy of the Democratic base seems to be
connecting with economic issues in a way maybe it wasn`t five or ten years
ago. So interesting to see that speech to try to connect with that.
We have a lot more to talk about with this great panel. We`ll be right
KORNACKI: It only took me 17 seconds to put my foot in my mouth. I`m
going to try to correct it. The title of your book is not "Our Town."
It`s "This Town."
LEIBOVICH: Not yet a play.
KORNACKI: There it is, "This Town." Maybe it will be a play.
PARKER: Do I get a turn? It came out so quickly that I didn`t realize I
put my shoe in my mouth, I didn`t mean the Kardashian harem. I write about
literal interpretations. I meant there were more than one. There was more
than one. There is more than one. I`m going to eat some cake.
KORNACKI: There is -- do you want to make a clarification? There`s fresh
news this morning in another big story this week one that combine race,
sports, culture and politics, the Donald Sterling saga. The woman whose
voice was on this audio recordings that led to Sterling`s lifetime ban from
the NBA spoke to ABC`s Barbara Walters last night and said Sterling should
apologize, but that he`s not a racist. Here`s what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Through his actions, he`s shown that he`s not a
racist, through his actions he`s shown to be a very generous and kind man.
If he was a real racist then why would he help the world the way that he
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And that came earlier in the day. There was a report from the
web site that Donald Sterling said who knew they would be breaking the big
story on this. He said I wish I had just paid her off. Then there`s also
some fresh polling data. The "New York Times" was asking if you think that
the punishment was too lenient, too hard, or about right?
Widespread agreement that this is about right. But then this was
interesting. Do you think Donald Sterling`s comments are representative of
other attitudes of owners? Suddenly you see it emerging. Three quarters
of whites said no. It`s not widespread. But nearly 67 percent of black
fans say it is widespread.
That sort of jumped out at me. What do you make of how this story has --
does this story reveal something more about American culture and how we
talk about race? Everybody was universally outraged about Donald Sterling,
but when you break it down, you see some division start to emerge.
BOUIE: I think the comment his girlfriend made is very striking about how
Americans talk about race. He did these nice things, he`s such a great
guys. He`s not a racist, which seemed to invoke some horrible monster of a
creature. When in fact, plenty of racists throughout history have been
perfectly lovely people. Being a nice person has nothing to do with it.
It`s about your willingness to accept a certain view of the world. So I
think you see a lot of the times whenever racism comes up, you have this
response. This is a great person, they are not a racist. That has nothing
to do with it at all.
As for the division, I think that what we`re seeing really is another
instance of being dramatic different in perception between African-
Americans and white Americans. African-Americans still see lots of racial
bias throughout society.
And I think there`s a lot of contention about that because in my own
writing, I have been accused of being too sensitive to race. From where I
stand, how I look, to me it`s very obvious that so much of American society
still is saturated with this bias.
KORNACKI: I guess that`s what that poll is really getting at, the question
is, not just in the professional sports world, is that an isolated case
that we can all say, terrible, let`s banish him from public life or is it
PARKER: I can`t speak exactly to the position, but I agree on the nice
people. It`s the good German syndrome. Everybody averts their gaze from
horrible things that are taking place and pretend that they are not
participants by their silence. So I think that the fact that we`re all so
outraged is at least a positive sign.
Whether that punishment is appropriate, it does raise other questions such
as -- this is not a popular thing, but I try to think about all the
ramifications of such things. You have this person talking on the phone to
another person and he thinks he`s having a private conversation.
Regardless of what the content of the conversation was, it became public
and he`s been punished for his way of thinking. I don`t know where that
KORNACKI: That`s interesting. I don`t think we have it on the screen, but
there was another question asked in the poll. So you saw widespread
agreement, this was the right punishment. Then it asked, was it right that
he`s being punished for something said in a private conversation. This was
shared, black and white, right down the middle. People very conflicted on
LEIBOVICH: I think that`s part of the divide here. The process here is
quite problematic and a separate issue. The problem is to separate these
issues, you have to not look at what he actually said, which is extremely
offensive. But what I think a lot of the white respondents are talking
about having relatives at a certain age at their Thanksgiving table who
they are fond of on many levels and probably heard talk like that and
DIONNE: I think one of the most powerful statements on this was from
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had a good piece in "Time" magazine. There were
knowings about Mr. Sterling before any of this happened that he was sued by
the Justice Department for discriminating against tenants twice. It
appears he said some really racist things then. He settled those suits.
The notion is tenants don`t have any power. NBA players in the middle of
the playoffs have an awful lot of power. And the whole game was in
jeopardy at the time of the year when most people were watching.
If you`re African-American, but not just if you`re African-American, you
ask, wait a minute, this comment is going to create all this trouble. Why
weren`t these questions asked at an earlier stage?
KORNACKI: That gets into Donald Sterling was one of the most litigious
owners and so it was the calculation a lot of people think the NBA was
making is the media is not blowing these stories up too much. Not let`s
make an issue because we don`t want to get stuck in ten years of
litigation. Now we`re going to see how the vote goes with the owners as
they try to force him to sell the team.
No one thinks he`s going to take that lying down. This is a saga that is
not going to unfold completely for a long time. I want to thank Mark
Leibovich of the "New York Times" magazine for joining us this morning,
author of the book "This Town" and Jamelle Bouie of "Slate". We`ll see you
in the next hour.
House Republicans refuse to give up on Benghazi. Their latest move and how
Nancy Pelosi fired back. That`s next.
KORNACKI: For nearly two years now since terrorists attacked Benghazi,
Republicans have kept up a steady political attack against the Obama
administration accusing it of misleading the public about how it responded
to the attacks and its aftermath. Yesterday that quest continued when
Speaker John Boehner announced that he would be calling for a vote to
establish a select committee to investigate.
So naturally when I sat down at the capital with Democratic Leader Nancy
Pelosi it was the first thing I wanted to get her reaction to. This is
what she told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: I have not been informed
by the speaker of his plans to establish such a commission, is it?
Benghazi is such a very sad event, more than an event, a tragedy.
Ambassador Stevens, Shawn Smith, Glen Dougherty, Tyron Woods, we carry
their names in our hearts, pray for their families and for the exploitation
of it to be never ending by the Republicans is really hard to understand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was just the beginning of what Nancy Pelosi and I had to
talk about. You can catch the rest of our interview tomorrow morning,
Sunday, here on UP including a very frank conversation about how she deals
personally with the Republican attacks that keep coming at her. We`ll be
right back with a surprising new crusader on the war on poverty. Not
everybody is ready to hear his message.
KORNACKI: It was back in November that "The Washington Post" first
reported on Congressman Paul Ryan`s plan for a big makeover. He was moving
beyond the previous year`s loss on the presidential ticket. He wasn`t
going to be associated with that anymore and he was setting his sights on
fighting poverty and winning minds. That was the headline back in
November. But for Paul Ryan and in the months since, winning minds has
been the hard part. In March when he appeared on a radio show and
criticized the culture of the inner city and its relationship to work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We have got this tailspin of culture in our
inner cities, in particular, of men not working and just generations of men
not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: A lot of Ryan`s fellow lawmakers were outraged including members
of the Congressional Black Caucus. California`s Barbara Lee put it this
way at that time. Quote, "My colleague Congressman Ryan`s comments about
inner city poverty are a racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let`s be
clear when Mr. Ryan says inner city when he says culture, these are simply
code words for what he really means, black.
Since then Ryan has been trying to undo the damage and to craft an image as
something like the next Jack Kemp. As Buzzfeed has documented this week,
Paul Ryan visited a dozen groups combatting urban poverty. Wednesday he
convened the House Budget Committee for a hearing on urban poverty. After
that he stopped by a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus saying they
agreed on little, but they were determined to do something.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: We all have to do a better job at challenging the status quo on how
best to fight poverty. We have shared a lot of ideas on how to do that.
What we`re trying to accomplish is improving the tone of debate so more
people are invited to the debate so we can do a better job of getting a
control of our problems with poverty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So what are those ideas? Many people, not just some of Ryan`s
Democratic colleagues, question the effectiveness of what he`s proposing to
do when it comes to fighting poverty. Paul Ryan made headlines with a poor
boy who didn`t want a brown bag lunch from the government. About a month
ago he released a new budget to propose cut spending by $5 trillion,
specifically by targeting social services that benefit Americans on the low
end of the economic scale.
So let`s talk Paul Ryan, talk poverty, joining me is Charles Rangel, a
Democrat from New York, one of the founding members of the Congressional
Black Caucus. He was at that meeting this week. MSNBC policy analyst,
Ezra Klein, he is editor-in-chief at voxx.com and MSNBC contributor, E.J.
Dionne is still at the table along with Kathleen Parker and MSNBC political
analyst and a columnist at "The Washington Post."
Congressman Rangel, I`ll start with you. We saw you showing some of the
footage, we saw you in the shot there meeting with Paul Ryan with the CBC
this week. I guess my question is, did you hear anything from him that
surprised you, that made you say I didn`t know this about paul ryan,
didn`t know this about what he was proposing, did you learn anything new
about Paul Ryan from meeting with him?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: There`s no member in Congress that has
known Paul Ryan longer than I have. But I know Jack Kemp. I worked with
Jack Kemp and something like this was said before, but Paul Ryan is no Jack
Kemp. It is unfortunate the utter contempt that a small group of people in
the Republican Party have for the poor and middle class.
First of all, the budget is not going anywhere and the reason they have
this blueprint of, I guess, what`s going to be the 2016 campaign is they
want a basis to explain that they are going to favor the rich, which
unfortunately 1 percent owns about 43 percent of the wealth and really the
middle class is slipping into poverty.
This makes no sense for the Republican Party, a nation, or those people who
really want to work and have been said whether they are black or white have
a culture not wanting to work. That is holding these people in utter
contempt and it`s really painful.
KORNACKI: So I`m wondering, you have some strong thoughts about what Paul
Ryan is proposing. Take us inside this meeting a little bit. Did you
express those thoughts to him? What kind of dialogue happened? What did he
say in response? He talked about how one of the goals is to promote a
bipartisan dialogue. What was the conversation like?
RANGEL: Congresswoman Gwen Moore asked the question early on, could you
tell me do you understand what your budget, the impact it would have on the
poor and the lower middle class. And I guess, everyone and especially me,
said, Paul, we understand the philosophy, you have expressed it so many
times, but we`re asking you today about the budget. And he gave his
ideology that amounts to what so many think.
If you give tax breaks to the rich and really cut back the programs that
the poor and the middle class depend on that sooner or later it will level
up. So the cuts are in Medicaid, Medicare, education, infrastructure, all
of the things. But I don`t put as much attention to what Paul and the
Republicans in the budget committee.
The truth of the matter is the mission initially was not the budget, but to
get rid of Obama. So everything in there is really to make certain that
nothing is going to be done except through executive order.
KORNACKI: All right, we`re back to the table here for a second. Ezra, the
Congressional Black Caucus came out with its own proposed budget. There
was a basic comparison of the two. The CBC put out a budget with a $500
billion jobs plan and raises $2 trillion in revenue through tax increases
on wealthy Americans and corporations. Ryan`s budget would cut spending,
69 percent of those programs that serve low income Americans. Do you see
any potential for common ground between where Paul Ryan is and where the
black caucus is?
EZRA KLEIN, VOX.COM: Not unless they are going to move tremendously. It`s
worth zooming out on Ryan`s budget. It doesn`t get this way by accident.
They have made a series of commitments and forced this outcome. They won`t
raise any taxes. That`s a core commitment. They won`t cut defense. They
want to increase it in the budget. They will not cut retirement programs
for those at or near retirement.
When you have knocked all that out, when you can`t do those things, pretty
much the other big thing the federal government spends money on is the
poor. If you`re going to have to cut so much out of the budget, cutting
more than $5 trillion, you`re going to have to cut tremendous amounts of
money for programs for the poor. That in every one of these budgets is
what Ryan has done.
In this Buzzfeed profile, Ryan got asked about this. He basically waved
his budget away. I have to do that for the Republican Party. I`m going
the poverty thing for me. For Ryan after the last five years to suggest
the budget is somebody else is that somehow he does not have to stand
behind that it`s a genuinely pretty shocking actually.
So perhaps he`s planning to make a big swerve and say I never thought the
budget was good any way. Here`s my whole new poverty plan, but within the
budget, within the framework he has adopted, there`s absolutely no
arithmetic he can do except for massive cuts to the poor to make the other
promises work out.
KORNACKI: Kathleen, I wonder what you make of what Paul Ryan is up to. If
you take the new Republican orthodox, never, ever any new tax increases.
If you take defense off the table, if you take Social Security off the
table, you are left with deep cuts to the social safety net that affect
poor Americans. Do you think that`s the right way to go or do the
Republicans need to rethink this especially in terms of the old school Jack
Kemp style outreach.
PARKER: Yes, they listen to me. I found that double personality sort of
problematic too. I thought it was awfully strange to say the budget is one
thing, but I`m trying to be a good person here. I do think he means well
and there`s a possibility that Paul Ryan has experienced some sort of a
transformation here. He quoted the pope, talked about how we have to
balance the formula of balance, programs that will help people become more
The Republicans absolutely have to change what they are doing. I don`t
think -- you can`t tell me there`s no way to cut defense. You can`t tell
me that there`s some big problem with means testing or adjusting some of
the programs for people in retirement who may be able to afford a little
more self-monetizing, I`m stumbling here because I need more coffee. But I
think they have to change. But they can`t. Their constituents will never
let them change any of those pillars.
KORNACKI: I am dying to hear what E.J. has to say. I`m dying to hear from
the congressman. We`re going to do all of that right after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: Today we`re going to learn about what it takes to fight poverty. I
think we can all agree that Washington isn`t making anybody proud these
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s Congressman Paul Ryan on Wednesday opening up his budget
committee hearing on poverty. EJ, you wanted to get in right before the
break. We were talking about this during the break. The comparisons are
being made to Jack Kemp in terms of outreach to constituencies that don`t
normally vote Republican. But a big difference between Jack Kemp and Paul
Ryan was that Jack Kemp did not care about deficits. Paul Ryan wants to
make deep cuts.
DIONNE: Jack Kemp wanted the tax cuts and wanted to keep spending what it
took to help poor people. Ezra made the point that Ryan is saying that the
Ryan budget is for them. Ryan is saying the Ryan budget is not mine is
like Coca-Cola saying we don`t make soft drinks. It`s an odd distancing.
And I think his problem is I don`t doubt that at some personal level he
doesn`t care about the poor and has gone to visit some of these areas.
What I think his ideology does not allow him to face is that if you want to
lift up the poor, some significant degree of public spending is required.
And I don`t think he wants to come to terms with that fully. The brown
paper bag story that you referenced at the conference, it turned out the
story wasn`t even true, but let`s just take the story.
The kid who was on the school lunch program wanted lunch because it showed
his parents cared about the other kids but not me. And that was an outrage
because it implied that all the poor parents who care enough about their
kids somehow didn`t care as much as parent who is didn`t need public
assistance of any kind. It`s that kind of contradiction that no matter how
often he visits poor neighborhoods, he still hasn`t come to terms with.
PARKER: I`m smiling because only when you come to the brown lunch bag.
They don`t taste good.
KORNACKI: Congressman, I want to bring you in. Just about the poverty
tour that Paul Ryan has been on. He`s been visiting some of these
neighborhoods. We`re talking here about the contradiction about how he`s
talking about his own budget versus the last three or four years. I asked
if you learn anything new about Paul Ryan at that meeting. Did you get the
sense that he learned anything from meeting with you, with the black
RANGEL: He learned that just given the rhetorical response and not dealing
with the response is not going to work with 43 African-American members of
the Congress. But I know Paul Ryan. He got his education from Social
Security as a survivor fund when his dad passed away. And John Boehner
knows poverty. He came from the middle class. What they are doing is
destroying the middle class. It is true that black African-Americans,
Hispanics have more than that. We`re talking about the United States of
We`re talking about the disparity between the wealth and the poor. We`re
talking about the middle class which is the heartbeat of America not being
able to have purchasing power. Therefore we`re talking about small
businesses. It`s a tragic thing to think. But I tell you this. When you
take a look at the Republican Party, it could be that Paul Ryan is trying
to find a way to appease the extremists in his party at the same time to
have some credibility because right now, I don`t want to be a part of just
a one-party system in America. But they are doing this.
KORNACKI: I want to pick up on the other side. If there is something
about what Paul Ryan is doing now in terms of rhetoric that could
potentially open up some kind of avenue for a change on the, the other side
of the break.
KORNACKI: I want to pick this up on the point the congressman was making
about making this more than a one-party thing. The most recent example is
another attempt to raise the minimum wage gets filibustered to death by
Republicans in the Senate. When you look at what Paul Ryan is doing right
now, does it suggest to you any avenues that might be opening up for any
kind of compromise?
KLEIN: This is why I focus on policy. When you look at what Paul Ryan is
doing, when you look at what he`s saying, it`s many avenues. He could go
in any direction he would like. But talking is cheap and listening is
cheap too. Going on a poverty too is an important thing to do, but it
doesn`t matter at all unless it shows up somewhere afterwards.
The Republican Party has locked itself into a set of other commitments.
And what I`m not seeing is a willingness to revisit those commitments. I`m
not seeing Paul Ryan saying I have decided that doing more to help the
impoverished is more important than keeping taxes at exactly the rate now
or it`s more important than keeping defense exactly where it is now or
These things need to fit together. There`s a great line about budgets
where budgets are where we show our values. Where we have to make the
tradeoffs. Until the Republican Party is willing to make a different
tradeoff somewhere other than poverty, they can`t do anything different.
That`s the trap for them right now and that`s what I`m not hearing it get
DIONNE: He`s going to put money where he wants his heart to be. That`s
the fundamental choice he cannot stick with this particular budget or a
view that the government can`t do anything to raise the minimum wage. If
you want to cut food stamps, have people pay enough so they don`t need food
stamps. He has to make some shift and we can say, all right, maybe he`s
changing his mind.
KORNACKI: Go ahead, Kathleen.
PARKER: The one thing they could have done, but the problem always is
their constituents won`t let them. They are really trying to keep the Tea
Party quiet. The one thing they could have done is raise the minimum wage.
They should have done it long ago, not now as a last resort. But because
their argument is it won`t create jobs and it will cost jobs at the lower
rungs. If that is true, so what. Have at it. Give the people a raise.
Let them spend a little extra money if they have it to help the economy.
Even symbolically it was the right thing to do and they missed it.
RANGEL: I don`t really think that Paul Ryan is addressing this budget to
the country. He`s e addressing it to the conservative part of the
Republican Party. He really believes that in order to Republicans to
succeed, he needs these people. So all of the things he`s doing is not
directed to become law, but it`s really to try to show that he is not as
conservative as they are, but he`s going to meet them halfway and try to
bring them on board. This budget is born dead. But like they said, it is
a reflection of where the Republican Party wants to go. And right now,
they are out of business nationally.
KORNACKI: All right, Congressman Charlie Rangel up in New York, I want to
thank you for joining us this morning. Usually we have to go to D.C. to
get the congressman. Now we come here and get them from New York. Thank
you for joining us. As well as Ezra Klein with Vox.com and the "Washington
Post," EJ Dionne. Democrats and Republicans working together in Congress,
the effort that is uniting them. That`s just ahead.
KORNACKI: On Thursday, the Obama administration unveiled a list of 55
colleges and universities currently under federal investigation for the
possible mishandling of sexual assault complaints on campus. This is the
first time ever an administration is publicly unveiled a full list of
schools under investigation.
It follows Monday`s announcement by the Department of Education that Toughs
University in Massachusetts failed to comply with antidiscrimination law in
its handling of sexual assault on its campus. They are disputing that
finding. All of this is part of a bigger White House effort to combat
sexual assault on college campuses that was unveiled on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Colleges and
universities can no longer turn a blind eye or pretend rape and sexual
assault doesn`t occur on their campus. We need to provide survivors with
more support and bring perpetrators to justice, and we need the colleges
and universities to step up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Most recent statistics available on this come from the
Department of Justice found that one woman out of five is sexually
assaulted while in college, one out of five. The figure is 6 percent for
men. The White House task force to protect students from sexual assault
launched a new web site that will serve as a central resource for rape
survivors to learn their rights, file complaints and track the results of
previous cases. The White House also put out a star-studded PSA in an
effort to push witnesses of sexual assault to step in and to intervene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If she doesn`t consent or if she can`t consent, it`s
rape, it`s assault.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a crime. It`s wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I saw it happening, I was taught you have to do
something about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I saw it happening, I speak up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I saw it happening, I would never blame her. I
would help her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I don`t want to be a part of the problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be a part of the solution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need all of you to be part of the solution. This is
about respect. It`s about responsibility.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It`s up to all of
us to put an end to sexual assault, and that starts with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And that you includes your elected leaders. In the Senate,
Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskil have expanded their efforts to
combat sexual assault in the military, to rape on college campuses. On
Thursday, we learned that reports of sexual assaults by members of the
military rose 50 percent last year in the wake of increased attention to
That means more victims are coming forward and actually reporting their
abuse. In the House members of Congress have proposed an outside the box
approach to raise awareness of sexual assault on campus. A dozen members
asked U.S. news to include sexual assault and prevention data in their
college rankings. The magazine hasn`t commented on the specifics of the
proposal, but they said they would meet with members of Congress to discuss
Joining us now are two members of Congress who are backing legislation to
combat sexual assault on campus. Congressman Pat Meehan is a Republican
from Pennsylvania who signed that letter to "U.S. News and World Report,"
and Congresswoman Carol Maloney, is a Democrat from New York. Also here at
the table, we have MSNBC political analyst, Kathleen Parker, columnist for
the "Washington Post" and Jamelle Bouie, a writer for slate.com is back
Congressman Meehan, I want to start with you because you signed this letter
to "U.S News and World Report," I guess, 12 members of Congress signed it.
I`m really interested in what you`re trying to do here. When I was
applying to college, everybody was looking at the U.S. News rankings. I
remember my school reading about the extraordinary efforts they would take
to raise their rankings to try to rise.
This is such a thing that colleges care so deeply about. Can you tell us
what specifically you want to incorporate sexual assault into these
rankings? How would you incorporate that into these rankings that come out
REP. PAT MEEHAN (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I would like to see the colleges be
responsible not just for identifying the amount of rape that occurs and to
allow there to be the kind of anonymous reporting including sort of
surveying the school to see how much might be there. But the key is to be
able to have some kind of a standard that will allow the schools to be
judged on how they are performing across the board. Not just whether they
are reporting more, but how they are responding to the victims.
KORNACKI: We`re talking about 55 names were named this week, 55 colleges
and universities. When you start looking at the statistics and you look at
the importance, it`s really been an eye opener how much colleges care about
their rankings. So in a way, this is a logical way to put pressure on
them. Are you expecting a lot of resistance, pushback on this idea just
given the magnitude of the problem and the effect it could have on
something they care so deeply about.
MEEHAN: I have been a prosecutor before I went to Congress. The fact of
the matter is a lot of colleges want to do this right, but there`s been a
failure to respond appropriately to the issue. They have been afraid to
get into the middle of what they felt were circumstances between
effectively were two adults. But that`s not sufficient because we know
that often times sometimes alcohol is part of the issue, but still it`s not
a consensual relationship.
Statistics speak for themselves. It`s an overwhelming issue and the
colleges have a responsibility not only under the act, they have a
responsibility to be responsive, to create an environment that allows that
victim to retain control over her destiny once she determines how she would
like to proceed and to be able to understand how the school will be
responsive and supportive in that effort.
KORNACKI: And legislatively, if you could speak about the efforts underway
or going to be undertaken. I know there`s a bill that`s going to be
introduced soon that would compel colleges to do annual, anonymous surveys
to get data to find out the true extent of the problem on their campus.
Can you talk about the prospects of that and other bills actually passing
on this issue?
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: Earlier, I authored the campus safe
act and the campus save act requires and was incorporate d into the
violence against women act, which was passed and is now law and it requires
the colleges and universities to clearly spell out what their policies are
for domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual assault and stalking. It
also requires them to come forward with the numbers in this area and more
transparency. Transparency in a sense is prevention.
Earlier, Jackie Spear and I wrote a letter to the task force asking them to
come forward with a required survey from the campuses and a not alone web
site that they have started similar to the bullying.com web site that they
started earlier in another area. But the survey will be required by 2016.
It requires the universities and colleges to make public the number of
assaults and attacks and reported incidents that come forward.
We know that universities and colleges have not treated it with a
seriousness that they should. And truly no responsibility of government is
more important than protecting our citizens. We know from the numbers we
have to protect our young men and women on college campuses. The numbers
are troubling and it`s a crisis the amount of people that report that they
have been hurt.
In one university, the young women organized a protest march and a website
appeared saying that the leaders of this march should be raped. Well one
of them was raped. The minute this website came apparent, the FBI should
have been called in to close it down, to arrest whoever called for violence
against women and to end this.
Violence against women, as my colleague pat knows, and we have worked
together on a number of important initiatives, it should be treated like a
crime with a seriousness of a crime. I`m pleased the White House has made
it a top focus now. I certainly join in supporting their efforts.
KORNACKI: I`m curious what our panel here in Washington makes of this. We
gave in the interim, the numbers really are staggering when you start
looking at one rape a day taking place on large size college campuses. We
had in the intro the number of reports in the military growing in the wake
of the new attention being focused on sexual assault in the military. Is
there a culture change that maybe is taking place now more broadly in
society in general that is encouraging women to come forward more? Do you
sense any of that?
PARKER: I have two comments on the culture question. I want to first of
all say this is a brilliant idea to tag violence and the way universities
and colleges handle violent reports not only rape, but in other areas as
well to the rankings. Why not? That makes perfect sense to me and it will
force colleges to step up to the plate and deal with these situations more
fully. And one of the situations they have to deal with is the alcohol
abuse and the binge drinking.
I hope that`s part -- that has to become part of it because they are tied
closely together. That`s one of the cultural questions. The culture in
general is sexually hostile. I think the rampant pornography plays a role
in all of this in terms of lack of respect for other people and the
dehumanizing of women particularly. I think that`s a factor. Alcohol is a
That we are talking about this in open ways and without reserve is
certainly helpful to young women and girls because these are really
children. Anybody who has been a parent knows an 18-year-old is a child.
But to have us be able to talk about this in the open is very helpful to
the victims and those who do feel that they have been -- I want to make one
little quick point and I would direct this as a question to both of you.
When we talk about sexual assault, I would caution you to pay attention to
how these things are determined. I wrote about this years ago so I`m not
up to date on what questionnaires are being used, but in the past they have
been somewhat vague and one question might be as simple have you ever had a
sexual advance that you did not want. That gets conflated with sexual
KORNACKI: Congresswoman Maloney, can you speak to that? There`s going to
be legislation, you`re saying, on these surveys that colleges should be
taking. What kind of questions -- how specific are the questions going to
be? Is that something you`re thinking about?
MALONEY: Well, some of the colleges that appeared on the 55 targeted list
that was released by the White House in the state I`m privileged to
represent and our district and I have already reached out to them on what
are they doing. We need to e see how they are framing it. I have a
meeting set up with one of the college presidents. How are they trying to
So often it`s not even whether it`s an unwanted advance. It`s absolute
rape and oftentimes students are afraid to even report because of the
confidentiality. And often times, as we know from the Cleary case, the
victim becomes the victim again as they attack her for even reporting it.
As you saw on one campus, they did not take down the web site. They were
calling for a public attack against women.
And one did occur. And how insensitive can you be to protecting your
students and young people. A lot of work needs to be done and the
questionnaire absolutely needs to be appropriate. But it is a crisis at
this point given the statistics.
PARKER: I certainly agree with that and I have heard that from young women
in college now and it`s appalling. The fact that sometimes these parties a
girl will be under assault and no one does anything about it or films it
for distribution. And I have heard too that the girls feel not only afraid
to report it because they don`t want to go through the ordeal, but they
will be condemned and ostracizing by their own peer group.
KORNACKI: There`s another aspect I want to get to as well. We talk about
change the culture to encourage women to come forward. There`s also the
question that the culture of men and men sort of the messages that they
receive now versus the messages that might discourage this kind of
behavior. It`s not always the case of men sexually women. But men being
the perpetrators, there has to be a culture change taking place.
BOUIE: Absolutely. We don`t just focus on the victims. You need to
report, you need to be proactive. We also say to people I think it`s to
say men living in a culture that doesn`t respect females. They are
entitled to sexual activity if they make an advance, it ought to be honored
that they deserve women`s attention. We need to be saying to men, this is
obviously super simplified, don`t rape. Ask for consent.
MALONEY: The report from the White House that they are using men as spokes
people. When you see something, stop it. When you see something,
intervene which speaks to the cultural change of not just women, but men
speak out in defense of helping other women and men.
KORNACKI: Go ahead, Congressman.
MEEHAN: I think we can go a long way by making progress against one
particular group, which is among the men, they have been able to identify
that there`s a particular group that are serial actors in this behalf.
We`re talking often times about young women as Kathleen said, 17 or 18
years old, first time away from home in college, and they are exploited
Alcohol gets into the situation and the self-reporting has identified that
while there may be certain circumstances between a male and a woman, also
people on the campus that have five, six, seven different incidents. They
are the serial rapists.
Those are the ones we clearly want to be able to go after. And often times
the failure to investigate one act has enabled them to continue. I saw
that as a prosecutor and that`s the kind of thing we could make a real dent
KORNACKI: This is interesting. I have been doing this show over a year.
We have potential legislation, we have a Democrat and Republican on and
there`s actual discussion about bipartisanship and working together. A lot
of people look at that and that`s refreshing even though the issue is not a
pleasant one. I want to thank Congressman Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania and
New York Congresswoman, Carol Maloney.
A major test for the Republican Party is just three days away. Will they
pass or will they fail. That`s next.
KORNACKI: In just three days, there`s going to be a major test for the
Republican Party and it`s a test that Democrats are watching very carefully
too. We all know the story of in 2010 and 2012 the GOP blew golden
opportunities to get back control in the Senate by nominating fringe
candidates. You remember them.
Now it`s 2014 and once again Republicans are in prime position to grab
control of the Senate. But there are plenty of ways they could blow it yet
again and one of the most obvious would be nominating fringe candidates in
key races, which brings us to the test that`s three days away. This coming
Tuesday is the primary election in North Carolina, Kay Hagan faces a re-
election fight. It`s a state Republicans badly need to pick up if they are
going to win the Senate this fall.
But who will they nominate to oppose Hagan? The establishment favorite is
a man named Thom Tillis, he is the speaker of the State House of
Representatives. His main opponent is a Tea Party insurgent named Greg
Brannon. Tillis leads in the polls, but if he doesn`t crack 40 percent on
Tuesday, he will be forced into a runoff and things get very wild and very
unpredictable in runoffs, which helps explain why the biggest establishment
Republican in the state of North Carolina felt the need to way in this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Like I needed to be up front
with the people and direct with the people and know that tomorrow I`m
voting for Thom Tillis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Then came another endorsement for Tillis from one of the biggest
establishment Republicans in the whole country. Jeb Bush, he`s on Tillis`s
side too, but as all of this was happening, Brannon, the Tea Party
candidate reeled in the best endorsement that a Tea Party candidate can get
with Rand Paul announcing that he`s coming to North Carolina this Monday,
election eve, to campaign for Brannon.
Is the Tea Party revolt within the Republican Party as big and strong as
it`s been for the last two elections or has the GOP establishment tamped it
down? If they have, have they done it by moving so far to the right that
damages the establishment candidate in the general election? Even if the
Tea Party candidate loses on Tuesday in North Carolina, is the Tea Party
North Carolina is one of the most pivotal Senate races on the board. All
of the eyes will be on it on Tuesday and for months to come after that.
I`m joined by Jim Morrill, he is a political writer for the "Charlotte
Observer" and Kasie Hunt, she is a political producer and reporter for NBC
Jim, I`ll start with you on the ground down in North Carolina. The story
of this race to me seems like obviously Thom Tillis, the establishment
candidate needs to crack 40 percent on Tuesday. He has an overwhelming
advantage when it comes to money and ads that have been run on his behalf.
There`s a poll here that asked people in North Carolina who have you seen
the most ads from in the Republican primary, 72 percent said Thom Tillis, 7
percent said Greg Brannon. So you get a sense of the imbalance there.
On the other and you have Greg Brannon trying to tap into the Tea Party
insurgency that was so powerful in 2010. You have Rand Paul coming in.
What is your sense of where this race stands right now and what we`re
likely to see on Tuesday.
JIM MORRILL, "CHARLOTTE OBSERVER": Where it stands, you have seen Tillis
building momentum in the last few days. He has the Jeb Bush endorsement, a
new poll came out that showed him breaking the race open. That may or may
not be accurate, but there`s a sense that he is breaking through that 40
percent. I think Rand Paul`s visit on Monday might be a little too little
too late for Greg Brannon. I have to say that the Freedom Works, which
endorsed Greg Brannon, a Tea Party affiliated group, is making a lot of
effort around this area and around the state getting people out to vote and
doing some last-minute voter turnout.
KORNACKI: So Kasey, this is an interesting question. Jim is talking about
it looks like Tillis is favored to break that 40 percent mark and not have
to deal with a runoff. On the surface, that`s a victory for the
establishment Republicans. Have they figured out here looking at the race
it seems to me Brannon is the kind of candidate we would be looking at him
surging right now. If he loses this thing, if he doesn`t force the runoff,
does that tell us that the establishment of the Republican Party has
figured out how to tamp these things down, how to keep guys like Greg
Brannon from getting nominated?
KASIE HUNT, "NBC NEWS": To a certain extent, that`s the case. They were
aware of the problem way earlier than before. A lot of the candidates that
you showed who ended up winning and going on to lose were people that the
Republican establishment wasn`t paying attention to. Richard Lugar was
not paying attention to Murdoch and that`s definitely not the case here.
It`s also true that Democrats, while now they are saying, no, we`re not
trying to meddle in North Carolina Republican primary as it looks like they
are going to get the outcome that they didn`t they want, that`s the
opposite of what they were saying a few months. The person we don`t want
to run against is Thom Tillis. Even if he prevails, it goes to a runoff
and they have failed to do that.
KORNACKI: If the establishment does prevail, if they get their candidate
through, did it come with a price? Brannon has all of the markings of
another Todd Aiken waiting to happen. He talked about if we had state
militias. On the other hand, to tamp down the Tea Party insurgency, to
make himself acceptable. Here`s an example of what Thom Tillis had to do.
This is from a Republican debate on the issue of climate change. This is
what Tillis is talking like in the primary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is climate change a fact?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, God controls the climate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So I`m wondering, there`s an example of Thom Tillis avoiding a
land mine in a Republican primary, but if that`s the thing he`s had to do
to keep the Tea Party from revolting to get the nomination, that seems like
the kind of thing that will hurt him in the fall. Are there more examples
where he set general election traps for himself?
MORRILL: It does, there are. He`s kept a little space between him and the
other candidates. Greg Brannon and Mark Harris, last fall he came out in
support of the shutdown against the leadership, which is supporting him and
has been supporting him. He`s come across as a lot more conservative than
people think he really is. That`s a lot of bitterness among the Tea Party
types in North Carolina. They are going to remember that come fall. They
will probably vote for him maybe grudgingly, but they are going to remember
KORNACKI: Kasie, the issue here of Rand Paul, obviously we keep talking
about how Rand Paul is laying the groundwork to run for president. It was
a surprise to me when he decided to be in there on Monday campaigning for
Brannon. We`re talking about Brannon losing this thing on Tuesday. Did
Rand Paul make a mistake here?
HUNT: Potentially. He`s not a politician who typically u takes quick
steps away. A lot of times he`s reluctant to walk it back. You`re seeing
the continuation o of that trend with him going down there for Brannon.
It`s also interesting here that Senator McConnell endorsed Tillis. But
Paul has been heavily endorsed. If anything he`s been a center piece of
his own campaign to win his primary later this month.
KORNACKI: The tension --
HUNT: It pits them.
KORNACKI: North Carolina, this is a state that President Obama carried in
2008. He did not carry in 2012. This is a swing state. They don`t have
to win, but it`s very important to them. It would do them a lot of favors
to win. My thanks to Jim Morrill from the "Charlotte Observer" and Kasie
Hunt of "NBC News". Still ahead, a special guest will be here to pump you
KORNACKI: Developing news this morning in the scandal surrounding New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie. One of his top political appointees,
former Port Authority David Samson says he will no longer cooperate with
the state legislature`s investigation into bridgegate, into the closure of
those access lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
Samson`s New Jersey-based law firm has recently been subpoenaed by both the
U.S. attorney for New Jersey and the Manhattan district attorney. The
investigators are tight lipped about what exactly they are looking at, but
numerous reports say they are interested in potential conflicts o of
interest between Samson`s public office and private business dealings,
something Samson denies.
A lawyer for Samson, Michael Chertoff, is the former homeland security
secretary said in a statement, quote, "It`s apparent that the legislative
committee is engaged in a political exercise, not an objective fact-finding
Former Attorney General Samson cannot and will not participate in a process
that fundamentally jeopardizes his constitutional rights and which stands
to wrongly besmirch his reputation for honestly and public service. We`ll
bring you more on this as it develops.
KORNACKI: If President Obama is like most of his predecessors then he`s
probably feeling a sense of dread right now. There are plenty of people in
D.C. and around the country who turned on the White House Correspondents
Dinner in recent years say it`s become too much of a glitzy event that it
encourages reporters to think of themselves as celebrities. It showcases
an unhealthy coziness between the press and government leaders.
But it turns out that hating the White House Correspondents Dinner is a
pretty well established tradition among presidents. It`s a pleasure to
know it`s over, it really is, Richard Nixon growled to his chief of staff
after the dinner. I have done it for so many years, hated every one of
them. That`s not just Nixon being Nixon. Carter and George Bush Sr. had
no use for the event either, nor did Bill Clinton.
He said, I`ll be honest, he hated going to these things. These were the
people who spent their professional lives kicking him around and being in
his view extremely unfair. He did not relish going to these dinner and had
to sit through comedians making jokes at his expense. You can understand.
This is a taste of what he dealt with back in the `90s. This is 1996 that
he and his wife had to sit on stage as Don Imus said things like this about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON IMUS: When Kal Ripkin broke the game record the president was at
Camden Yards doing play-by-play on the radio with John Miller. Hit a
double and we all heard the president in his excitement holler, go, baby.
I remember commenting at the time, I bet that`s not the first time he`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: OK, to be fair, that was from a different annual dinner, it was
the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner. You wouldn`t be excited about any
dinner. But as much as Bill Clinton hated it, he was pretty good at
getting a laugh. At his final dinner, he was the star of the memorable
video that predicted him as a bored guy trying to pass the time as the
second term ran out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe, anybody home?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wish I could be here more, but I really think Bill
has everything under control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Honey, wait, wait, wait, you forgot your lunch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think his legacy is going to be the natural
environment. Improving the green spaces of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Clinton`s successor knew how to get a laugh. Here`s George Bush
performing with a George W. Bush impersonator back in 2006. This was just
after Vice President Dick Cheney had accidentally shot someone on a hunting
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I agree with the press that Dick was a
little late reporting that hunting episode down in Texas. In fact, I
didn`t know a thing about it until I saw him on "America`s Most Wanted."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cheney, what a goof ball. Shot the only trial lawyer
in the country who`s for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That routine got a great reception, but by the time that night
was over, Bush was probably feeling a lot like Bill Clinton because 2006
was the same year that Stephen Colbert crashed the party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT: I believe the government that governs best is the
government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a
fabulous government in Iraq. Most of all I believe in this president. Now
I know there`s some polls out there saying this man has a 32 percent
approval rating. But guys like us, we don`t pay attention to the polls.
We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what
people are thinking in reality and reality has a well-known liberal bias.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: As for the current president the word is he`s not too fond of
the correspondence dinner either, but it was the scene of the most surreal
moments of his presidency. It was three years ago in 2011, maybe you
remember, Donald Trump was pretending he might run for president. He was
running around insisting that President Obama wasn`t really born in
He was also going to be a guest at the correspondents` dinner. Just before
the dinner, the White House took the step of tracking down and releasing
the president`s long-form birth certificate and made Trump look even more
like a fool. You can only imagine the delight Obama took when at the
dinner he got the turn the screw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No one is
happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest
than the Donald. And that`s because he can finally get back to focusing on
the issues that matter. Like did we fake the moon landing? What really
happened in Roswell and where are Biggie and Tupac?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I don`t know if Donald Trump has ever really gotten over that
one, but the amazing part is what we didn`t know that night. That
President Obama hadn`t told that the Osama Bin Laden had been located and
that a Navy SEAL team was making plans to take him out. His real job that
night was to show up at the dinner and act like everything was normal so
that no one would suspect anything was up.
Without a doubt, that was the best performance any president has put on the
White House Correspondents Dinner. In about 12 hours, President Obama will
be up on that stage again. This year it will be Joel McHale making fun of
him and all of Washington. We`ll see how Obama takes it and what he dishes
out. Speech starts at 9:00 tonight. You can catch them right here.
Up next, we`re going to talk to someone who knows about the art and anxiety
that comes with standing on a stage and be told to say something funny.
He`s a professional comedian. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Clinton won`t be here tonight. Had I known
that, I would have brought my wife. You didn`t tell me. I think we`re all
a little disappointed that the president is not here. It`s really not the
same without him here. I`m sure you agree with me. There`s no tension
knowing he`s not right there and getting worried and nervous and sweating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Kevin Neelan at the 1998 Radio and Television
Correspondents Dinner as the Monica Lewinsky scandal was breaking.
President Clinton was away in Africa and not up there on stage with him.
He just looked at the pressure that President Obama is probably facing, but
what about the comedian that comes after him? What about pressure of
having to perform in front of the president of the United States?
Tonight that pressure will fall on Joel McHale. He`s not going to catch
that break that Kevin does back in 1998. Even if he didn`t have to perform
in front of President Clinton that night, he knows a thing or two about
using presidents for punch lines. He was the anchor of "Saturday Night
Live`s" weekend update, which was one of the premier venues for political
humor for nearly four decades.
You know, some of the alumni, Daton Kurtin and Dan Acroy, Tina and Jimmy,
Norm McDonald, Seth Myers. They had to strike that balance between news
and funny without going too far over that line. You probably know Kevin
Nealon from some of the other characters he created. He was one of the
pump you up duo.
And more recently he played Doug Wilson on the series "Weeds." He`s had a
long and varied career, but one constant, he`s been given the task of
trying to say something funny. Here to talk about what that is like,
especially when your target is sitting right there, Kevin Nealon himself.
Kevin, welcome to the show.
KEVIN NEALON, ACTOR AND COMEDIAN: Thank you, steve. Good weekend to be
here. I had no idea.
KORNACKI: So you`re performing elsewhere in the city. Joel McHale is
performing. Would you want to be up on that stage? You dodged a bullet in
`98. Would you want to perform in front of the president?
NEALON: You hope they are going to be there even though it`s a tremendous
amount of pressure and people judging you and criticizing you. It`s tough
to get away with having a score of 100 on that evening. But it is a great
KORNACKI: So what was that like? President Clinton wasn`t on the stage,
but what you did is very similar to what Joel will be doing tonight.
Poking fun of Washington, all of Washington is there. What was it like to
prepare for that, stand there and do that, did you have fun doing it?
NEALON: Not really. It wasn`t a lot of fun. It was a lot of pressure. I
was ready for it, just like I`m sure Joel is ready. You put a lot of work
into it and work with some writers. When I did it, the Clintons were not
there. They were in Africa. So I had to get some cut-outs. I`d see the
card boards around town. I said let`s put one in the chair so I can feel
like they are here.
NEALON: But leading up to it, you`re sitting there and all you`re thinking
about is your act. You`re looking over your notes and trying to pretend
you`re having conversation with John McCain, who was sitting next to me and
then they finally call you up there and you do it.
KORNACKI: What`s that moment like when you get there and looking at the
audience. Do you freeze?
NEALON: You know it`s not your typical audience. It`s not the people that
would come to see you at a theatre. They are there and you happen to be
the guest speaker. And I remember finishing my thing and in hindsight
there was some jokes I wouldn`t have done. But I remember -- Peter
Jennings came up to me afterwards as I got back to my seat. He came up to
me and he looked up and he goes, don`t feel bad, the speakers weren`t
working in the back. And I wasn`t feeling bad until he said that.
KORNACKI: That`s terrible. Let me ask you, this is probably true for
whether you`re performing at something like the correspondents` dinner
tonight or comedy in general. Something I have always wondered, every joke
you can sort of tell right away did it land or not. You can tell is there
a murmur in the audience, did they explode with laughter. As a performer,
are you sort of keeping track of that in your head? If one doesn`t land,
does it affect your psyche as you tell the next one?
NEALON: It`s kind of like I liken it to being a boxer in a ring. You get
a couple jabs cover up and keep going. So much going on in your head.
You`re thinking about the next joke, how am I going over. Let that joke go
that didn`t work. You know another one that`s coming up that`s going to
kill hopefully. There`s so much o going on. I wish they could just hook
up some electrodes to a comic and see the way the mind is working. It`s
KORNACKI: What do you like best? We know you from "Weeds." I grew up
watching SNL and I still watch it. I grew up watching you as the anchor on
weekend update. It`s different when you`re doing comedy on television
where it`s scripted like that, less of performing in front of an audience.
Do you like one over the other? Live versus television?
NEALON: I like the live venue. I was just thinking one of my favorite
experiences was doing "Curb Your Enthusiasm." it`s improvised and they have
bullet points. It was not a letdown, but I think I like the impromptu kind
KORNACKI: You like the spontaneity.
NEALON: Yes, that`s a rush.
KORNACKI: Mr. Subliminal was my favorite u characters on that show. You
would say something with a straight face and say something under your
breath completely contradictory.
NEALON: That was based on a few different things. There was a character
in Los Angeles a friend of mine who did a thing called tagging. He says,
watch what I do to the waitress. I`m going to do a thing called tagging.
He would slip them these profanity words. I`m going to have the
cheeseburger with some fries and why don`t you give me the diet Coke. And
I`ll pick up the tab.
KORNACKI: Did she notice?
NEALON: He would bury it. I went to school for marketing. And Al Franken
and I wrote the first one. It was the first sketch I did on "Saturday
Night Live." I`m about to go on "Saturday Night Live," a show I watched for
a long time growing up. Here I am about to do my first sketch and it`s
subliminal. And we`re at commercial, the cameras are away and we`re coming
back, 5 seconds to go and Loren Michael was standing next to me and he
goes, are you sure this is what you want?
KORNACKI: You`re not getting much support. You wrote it with Al Franken,
a U.S. senator. He might be there tonight. Here you are in Washington
performing. If you`re in Washington and you don`t have a ticket to the
dinner, you can go see Kevin Nealon. My thanks to Kevin Nealon. You can
catch him later this month doing stand up comedy at comedy off Broadway in
Lexington, Kentucky, and two new movies out this month. We`ll be right
KORNACKI: That is all the time we have for today. Thanks at home for
joining us and keep is here for all your White House Correspondents Dinner
throughout the day. Live coverage of all the speeches, including the man
of the hour, the real president, Barack Obama, beginning at 9:00 eastern
tonight. Of course tomorrow morning we`ll have complete post-dinner
analysis plus my interview with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Her
thoughts on the midterms, immigration and herself. We covered it all, so
don`t miss tomorrow`s show. Coming up next is Melissa Harris-Perry.
Thanks for getting up.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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