'Up with Steve Kornacki' for Saturday, June 14th, 2014
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UP with STEVE KORNACKI
June 14, 2014
Guest: Richard Engel, Joan Walsh, Michael Steele, Brian Thompson, Mark
Potter, Gabriela Domenzain, Michael Steele, Joan Walsh, Bill Scheft, Wesley
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: What exactly is on the table for U.S. military
intervention in Iraq?
More than a decade after U.S. forces invaded Iraq this week will be
remembered as the week when the fragile peace we left behind there almost
three years ago completely and rapidly collapsed. Iraq is once again at
war. It`s at civil war. Country ripped apart by sectarian violence. In
response President Obama while not ruling out military action is making it
clear that the U.S. will not intervene unless or until the administration
supported Shiite government there starts working with Iraq`s Sunni
Earlier this week, Sunni insurgent groups led by an al Qaeda
splinter group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria or ISIS
started advancing their way from Syria across the border into Iraq and on
Tuesday they claimed Mosul as the second largest city in Iraq. And on
Wednesday, they captured Saddam Hussein`s hometown of Tikrit and then
yesterday they seized Kirkuk, which is where you`ll find one of the biggest
oil fields in the world.
This morning they`re advancing into a province near the Iranian
border and they have their designs on Baghdad, which is only 100 miles
away. The Iraqi army estimated to be 90 percent Shiite has basically
collapsed and all the U.S. military equipment at their disposal is now in
the hands of al Qaeda all of which leaves Iraq in basically three parts
Sunnis and the al Qaeda affiliates have gained control in the west more of
it with each passing hour.
In the South, the Shiite government led by Prime Minister Nuri Al-
Maliki is trying to hold on and in the northeast, the Kurds. The crisis of
course has created ripple effects here at home including those questions of
whether the Obama administration will intervene with military action.
President Obama met with his national security advisers on Friday.
And the man who campaigned on the promise of ending the war in Iraq and
bringing U.S. troops home said the U.S. response would not include boots on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We`re not going
to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which while we`re
there we`re keeping a lid on things and after enormous sacrifices by us as
soon as we`re not there suddenly people end up acting in ways that are not
conducive to the long-term stability and prosperity of the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, for the very latest on the situation on the ground, we want
to go to NBC`s Richard Engel who is one of the only western journalists to
cover the entire war in Iraq. He`s in Northern Iraq for us this morning --
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: We are now in the
city of Kirkuk. This is the oil-rich capital of the north home to about 15
percent of all of Iraq`s known oil reserves all of the different factions
in this country have long wanted to control Kirkuk.
Until a few days ago there were Iraqi troops here, but now this city
and the oil fields are being controlled by Kurdish militias, by the Kurdish
fighters. The dynamics in this country are shifting and changing as ISIS
militants continue to march on Baghdad.
ENGEL (voice-over): Iraq`s second biggest city, Mosul, is now under
Islamic Sharia law. Militants from the al Qaeda offshoot is decreed all
women must veil. It outlawed freedom of religion and banned other armed
groups from entering the city. Mosul was one of the first cities occupied
by U.S. troops a decade ago. American officials said democracy would then
spread from here. Not this.
And the men the United States trained to fight the ISIS assault
they`re still surrendering. With no army protection, hundreds of thousands
of civilians are leaving Mosul. This family all 12 of them walked 20 miles
to escape Mosul. Now this tent is their home. Omar blames the U.S.-backed
Shiite prime minister saying he alienated all Sunnis in the country, made
them feel second class.
(on camera): Volunteers and aid workers are building tents as fast
as they can. There`s been a massive wave of people fleeing their homes.
The fear here this is just the beginning.
(voice-over): Kathy Robinson from UNHCR said the displaced hundreds
of thousands need food and shelter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s dusty. It`s hot. There`s nowhere to stay.
There`s nowhere to go.
ENGEL: But this conflict may have changed. The Shiite majority awoke. In
the holy city of Karbala where Shia Islam was forged in battle 13 centuries
ago volunteers signed up for a new war. Shiite clerics called the faithful
to arms and promised those who died fighting ISIS a place in paradise.
ENGEL: There is concern all over the world about what is happening here in
Iraq. So much so that today Iran`s president said his country would
consider working with the United States to fight terrorism in Iraq.
Richard Engel NBC News, Kirkuk, Northern Iraq.
KORNACKI: All right, thank you to NBC chief foreign correspondent, Richard
Engel. So, with president Obama now contemplating military intervention of
some sort in Iraq, some of his critics led by the man who ran against him
in 2008 are saying the U.S. never should have left Iraq or at least we
shouldn`t have left so early if you can call eight years of conflict early.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The fact is we had the conflict won and
we had a stable government and a residual force such as we have left
behind, we even have forces in Bosnia, Korea, Germany, Japan where we could
have, but the president wanted out and now we are paying a very heavy
price. You`re going to see the same thing happen in Afghanistan if we
don`t leave a residual --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we`re going to fee in Iraq and Afghanistan and
then we`re also going into Syria in your estimate? I mean, I`m just
wondering how long can we do this, how long can we do this? How long can
you ask this of American troops and think it`s OK? I just want to know.
And I know with all due respect, sir, you served and you paid a price, how
long can we do this?
MCCAIN: With all due respect do you think we should pull our troops out of
Korea? With all due respect do you think we should pull out of Bosnia? We
made great sacrifice in order to stabilize the situation and now by pulling
out we are leaving a vacuum and all of those sacrifices are -- will be have
been made in vain.
KORNACKI: Giving advice to President Bush before the invasion, Secretary
of State Colin Powell famously cited when he called the pottery barn rule
if you break it, you own it, which was probably said more as a warning than
a prediction. The U.S. would be responsible for any lasting damages
incurred but that dynamic is now overshadowing the political fallout in the
What obligation, what appetite does the Obama administration have to
intervene? Are air strikes a possibility? What about Congress? President
Obama goes to Capitol Hill and asks for authorization to use military force
in Iraq. Will the members vote yes to get into this?
I want to bring MSNBC political analyst, Joan Walsh. She is also an
editor at large at "Salon" and Michael Steele, he is the former chairman of
RNC and an MSNBC political analyst. So let`s pick up on that point about
Congress here because watching the exchange between Mika and John McCain, I
think Mika was channeling what a lot of people feel.
This fatigue, the war fatigue. It`s been more than a decade. It
was fall of 2002, early 2003 when the whole Iraq authorization went through
in the first place. My sense is if the administration has to take this to
Congress if they say, we want to do air strikes here, if they take it to
Congress what happens to Syria last year, it doesn`t happen.
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree. The president did want to
leave a residual force in the country. We were not allowed to do it.
KORNACKI: Maliki government. He wanted us out and Iran wanted us out.
WALSH: I cannot believe that he continues to go on TV and acted as if the
president fecklessly pulled every last soldier out of there. That is not
what happened, this government that the Bush administration created,
propped up. To see those soldiers surrender knowing the billions of
dollars in training, they`re very well trained -- they`re actually well
trained. They`re very well equipped. They`re throwing off their uniforms
and surrendering really raises the question, how can we intervene there in
an effective way?
KORNACKI: So, Michael, what do you think? When you listen to somebody
like John McCain, there are certainly people who are saying, well, it was a
mistake to get out in 2011. We need to do something now. And there`s even
indications the administration may be thinking seriously, there are
indications the administration is thinking seriously in terms of air
strikes but politically speaking where does the will come from?
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t think there`s a will
certainly not emanating from the American people. I think Mika did reflect
in a lot of ways the frustrations that will be translated in Congress. I
think this is going to be a very hard sell in Congress right now. You
know, this idea that, you know, you`ve got this rush by Republicans in the
House to do this, there is no rush by Republicans in the House or the
Senate to go down this road.
Yes, you have John McCain and Lindsey Graham as a voice out there in
some respects. But it is I think more broadly speaking not a reflection of
where Republicans think we need to go. Do we have concerns about the
nature of the president`s foreign policy? Yes, we do. But that is
something that you have to handle real time in the context of this reality
that you`re not going to be sending troops in.
The American people do not want to re-engage. But I think for me,
Steve, it goes to a broader question about how our government now addresses
the issues on foreign policy particularly military engagement. We never
asked the question in the beginning how does this end. What does this look
like when we`re done?
In the propping up governments, putting someone like Maliki in place
as basically a puppet that is does not have the full force to do the job or
doesn`t have the will himself to do the job, just creates further tumbling
down this road.
KORNACKI: Look at the situation we`re in right now and try to think back
to 2001, 2002, and 2003 and what the situation in Iraq was. Look, Saddam
Hussein, horrible human bean being. Did atrocious things leading Iraq, no
question. But you`re looking right now at sort of the situation that we
were fearing back in 2001, 2002, 2003, we were fearing Islamic militants
taking power and getting control of the levers of control in Iraq.
Whatever terrible thing he did, he kept the militants in check over
there and now you are seeing -- it almost seems like the U.S. doing
something in terms of air strikes is stronger now than 12 years ago but the
WALSH: The will has been spent because we`ve seen what happened. What
you`ve got there -- what you have -- what broke out after Saddam was this
incredible sectarian conflict. And the Maliki government did nothing to
integrate the country, did nothing to bring in the Sunni.
And now you`ve got militias I think you`re going to see a return to
militias. The other really sad thing that John McCain said to I think it
was Andrea Mitchell yesterday on MSNBC was, you know, if Maliki won`t
change, then he`s got to be changed. We`re going to change another --
we`re going to take out another Iraq leader and put in who? I mean --
STEELE: The key thing to keep in mind to your point is that Maliki really
is the father of a lot of the sectarian conflict there because he
exacerbated the situation. He did not integrate his government the way --
STEELE: -- initial discussions were set out. He did not play the part
that the U.S. needed him to play. Once the military action was done we`re
bringing in the reinforcements with, you know, advisers and some, you know,
some troops to help support him, but he then just went behind all of that
and just totally disrupted the process.
KORNACKI: It`s true. Although these leaders act -- they tend to act even
when they`re doing terrible things, there is a rational calculus, right?
When I look at what Maliki`s done to the U.S. sort of in the surge, sort of
the Sunni awakening we called it about four, five, five, sick years ago
whenever it was, and the United States did a lot to bring a political
reconciliation between the Shiites and the Sunnis.
I just wonder though without the U.S. there and U.S. can`t be a
permanent presence there. Without the U.S., could this ever have worked?
Could this ever work in the future? Because you go back to how Iraq was
created and how it was carved after World War I in the first place and you
have these groups, what does the concept of Iraq even meanwhile to the
different groups? The concept of Sunni and Shia and Kurd means something?
STEELE: You are talking millennial -- just millenniums of generations
here. This is not something, you know, the Hatfields and the McCoys which
is a 50-year battle, we`re talking 1,000-plus years of sectarian tension
between the various religious groups, the various, you know, families,
interests. I mean, this thing is much deeper than we kind of go and
everybody is the same.
KORNACKI: We say in the name of Iraq we should all come together.
WALSH: There`s no Iraq. This is not a country that is in their psyches,
their bones, their culture.
STEELE: You have the Kurds who say we want to carve ourselves away from
KORNACKI: So bottom line politically for the United States do you think
the Obama administration is going to go to Congress?
WALSH: I hope they do. I would really like to see that debate and see the
warmongers who were wrong in 2002 and 2003 some of the same people saying
the same things I`d like to see them challenged and I`d like to see them
challenged in their own party frankly. I`d like to see Rand Paul stand up
and challenge John McCain I`d like to see the future of the Republican
Party that we keep hearing about where there will be common sense, pushback
STEELE: Rational foreign policy.
WALSH: I`d love to see that.
KORNACKI: It`s a debate we`d all love to see and I would love to see him
go to Congress, but I do wonder if they really think they need to do this
identify don`t think they want to go to Congress right now. That`s the
story to watch in the coming week. I want to thank Joan Walsh and Michael
Steele. We`ll see you later in the hour.
For five months now, Chris Christie has been the butt of late night
jokes, but will he have the last laugh especially amid reports of a new
investigation? That`s next.
KORNACKI: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is on what some are calling
his comeback tour this weekend with stops in California and Utah under the
banner of the Republican Governors Association. It`s a group he`s leading
this year. He even did an hour-long Facebook town hall last night and on
Thursday, Christie made his return to late night television.
A stop by "The Tonight Show" right here in this building where he
and Jimmy Fallon demonstrated dad dancing for Father`s Day. By poking fun
of himself Christie is trying to put the bridge-gate scandal behind him.
The only problem is the scandal doesn`t seem to be going anywhere at
least not yet because pretty much as he was taping that appearance on "The
Tonight Show," the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey acknowledged
for the first time that it is under investigation by the Securities and
The "Bergen Record" reported Thursday night the SEC is looking
closely at decisions that diverted $1.8 billion in Port Authority funds to
pay for New Jersey road projects. These are projects usually paid for by
the state and projects that were initiated at the urging of the Christie
The question is whether the Christie administration pressured Port
Authority officials to find ways around state laws that require the agency
to spend money only on its own facilities unless it gets approval from
lawmakers in New Jersey and New York. If so, it could mean the Port
Authority misled investors.
The SEC is not the only investigative body looking in to the use of
Port Authority funds for New Jersey road projects. The U.S. Attorney`s
Office in New Jersey and the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office also have
their own probes. These are probes the Port Authority also acknowledged on
In April, Christie said he relied on the advice of attorneys. He`s
confident the SEC will agree. How big of a liability are these open
investigations for Governor Christie as he tries to launch a national
political campaign? And where are all these investigations headed?
Well, here to talk about all of this we have New Jersey reporter for
WNBC, Brian Thompson, thanks for joining us this morning. Start maybe by
explaining to people if you could the political incentive for the
administration. So we hear about Port Authority funds and New Jersey road
projects now and investigations into this.
Politically what was going on here? What would the incentive have
been for the administration to taking Port Authority by New York and New
Jersey state money and to use it for New Jersey bridge projects?
BRIAN THOMPSON, WNBC REPORTER: It boils down to a five letter word, Steve,
taxes, if you are a governor of a state with political ambitions, you don`t
want to be known for the guy who raised the taxes. To make these critical
investments in infrastructure, for example, the Pulaski skyway, 3-1/2 miles
long, 1930s construction, spanning two rivers, archaic looking and
industrial era looking and falling down almost.
So, it had to be renovated. But because it doesn`t tie in directly
to either one of the tunnels into New York, you would think it would have
to be done with state taxpayer money, gas tax. Governor doesn`t want to
raise the gas tax so he has to find the money somewhere else.
KORNACKI: There`s this big pool of money sitting right there. You can get
your hands on the money. You don`t raise taxes and you can be the
conservative governor and you can take care of the infrastructure.
THOMPSON: It`s basically free money and people pay tolls and people don`t
connect toll hikes with tax hikes.
KORNACKI: But it apparently comes with an investigation from the SEC. We
played the clip. Here he is. He`s in building a couple floors above us
right now with Jimmy Fallon and there`s the reference in the dance to the
THOMPSON: The bridge.
KORNACKI: The bridge is closing. I mean, you`ve watched -- you`ve watched
him sort of on the rise. You`ve watched him sort of weather this scandal.
What do you think of this strategy of trying to make light of it?
THOMPSON: I don`t know what to make of it to tell you the truth. If you
go back to his news conference last December when he first denied that
there was any problem at the bridge whatsoever, he`d check with his staff,
anybody who did anything wrong, please step forward and nobody stepped
And so he mocked the whole thing by saying, yes, I put the cones out
there. That was me who was, you know, being David Wildstein, which we
didn`t know that name as well as we do now. And it even goes back I think
of the images of President George W. Bush back during the presidency and
the whole issue of no weapons of mass destruction.
And remember he did that slide show at the Radio Television
Correspondents Dinner, had him looking under the table, looking under the -
KORNACKI: No WMDs here.
THOMPON: And everybody laughed at it. And it`s a self-deprecating kind of
humor, but I`m not sure where it really gets you in the big picture. I`ve
been thinking about it all the way in this morning. I said, what does this
say? And I don`t have a really good analysis of what this will mean for
his presidential ambitions. Other than to say that this is Chris Christie.
Whether you like it or not, this is what you`re getting.
KORNACKI: So, what -- you`re around these guys, people around him, the
governor himself, what is your sense of how they see the 2016 landscape
right now? Because we always talked about, well, is he too moderate, is he
not conservative enough in the Republican Party, but now we`re just dealing
with is there too much baggage?
Is there too much of an overhang here with all the investigations.
What is your sense of in terms of how they look at 2016? Do they think,
no, we`ve got this covered, we`ll be fine? Do they think, no, we`ll --
what is your sense?
THOMPSON: Can I quote Chris Christie here and use the word hypothetically?
Because that`s what he did on Jimmy Fallon. Well, what if Hillary runs,
you mean hypothetically, what if you run, hypothetically. Could you beat
her? Hypothetically, yes. Hypothetically, he does believe that he still
has a chance. There is -- if you look at the chaos that the Tea Party has
caused -- and you were just talking about it a few minutes ago with Michael
Steele and Joan Walsh.
The chaos that the Tea Party has caused within the Republican Party,
there is a road to the nomination. And I think that they definitely
believe that this is a road that they can drive down and the lanes will be
KORNACKI: AS long as David Wildstein doesn`t shut it down for you.
THOMPSON: I beat you to it.
KORNACKI: It`s interesting, too, because that`s the one thing I`m watching
kind of go through all the rituals of the comeback attempt here and I`m
saying to himself in the back of his mind does he say, yes, it would be fun
for a year, I can`t go through with it, or does he actually think he can go
through with it? WNBC`s Brian Thompson, thank you for getting up this
The Tea Party spent the week celebrating the defeat of Eric Cantor,
but did that cost him the crucial time in their efforts to really change
Capitol Hill? We`ll tell you about that next.
KORNACKI: Weekends are usually quiet on the political front, but not this
one because there is some intense politicking going on this morning in what
is the first full day of a campaign that will end next Thursday. That`s
the race to replace Eric Cantor as the House majority leader, the number
two position in the House.
Cantor, of course, suffered a defeat for the ages in the Republican
primary in his Virginia District on Tuesday. Announced the next day that
he`ll be stepping down from his leadership post at the end of July. In
what looks like an effort to keep that job in the hands of an establishment
Republican, House GOP leaders immediately scheduled the election to replace
Cantor for this coming Thursday.
That gives a big leg up to cantor`s close friend, California`s Kevin
McCarthy. McCarthy`s already in the GOP leadership. He`s the majority
Whip, which is the number three position and Cantor was quick to endorse
him this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I can tell you that if my
dear friend and colleague, Kevin McCarthy does decide to run, I think he
would make an outstanding majority leader and I will be backing him with my
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, it seems like McCarthy has the votes to win this race. The
Republican who was seen as the biggest threat to him, Jeb Hensarling of
Texas decided not to challenge and another Texan, Pete Sessions, entered
the race only to quickly back out in the face of McCarthy`s strength.
Yesterday afternoon, Idaho`s Raul Labrador, a Tea Party friendly
conservative who was first elected in the GOP wave of 2010 jumped in the
race. The question is whether Labrador actually has a chance to win. He
entered the race late, but there are conservatives who are now trying to
stoke grassroots opposition to McCarthy to the idea of handing off Cantor`s
slot to another establishment figure.
Conservative writer, Phillip Klein of the "Washington Examiner"
wrote that, quote, "If Republicans respond to the shocking primary defeat
of Majority Leader Representative Eric Cantor by elevating his handpicked
successor, Representative Kevin McCarthy it would be beyond tone deaf, it
would be pure absurdity.
"Red State`s" Erick Erickson wrote a post simply titled "Not
McCarthy." So are the skids greased for McCarthy or is there another
conservative backlash that no one sees coming?
Well, here to talk about it, we have MSNBC political analyst, Joan
Walsh. She is back with us joined by Wesley Lowery. He is a political
reporter at the "Washington Post` and Michael Steele, former RNC chair and
MSNBC political analyst.
Wesley, I know you`ve been in the Capitol this week. You`re
covering this. I want to start by reading something new from your
colleague at "The Washington Post" Robert Costa and this is his take on the
Labrador campaign here.
"Those precious first few hours of celebration in Northern Virginia
on Fox News and across Capitol Hill would come to haunt conservatives over
the next two days when their political machinery proved woefully unable to
match their excitement. The only conservative that has jumped into the
race for majority leader is Representative Raul Labrador, who waited until
Friday afternoon to announce a bid."
Does that sound right? Was there an opening for the Tea Party to
beat out McCarthy and get into the House leadership that they missed or
were the skids greased for McCarthy?
WESLEY LOWERY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It was always an uphill battle, but
as a general rule, Robert Costa, writes about the House GOP, I take it as
gospel. Tuesday night as we`re still trying to digest what happened with
Eric Cantor, I rushed back to the capitol building, a lot of us had left.
No one expecting this to be a race.
And as I rushed back to the Capitol building, we`re getting ready to
leave around midnight and we see in Kevin McCarthy`s office all of the
lights are on and a dozen aides are in and out and rushing back and forth,
they were there well past midnight from 1:00 to 2:00 a.m.
Now that first day, Kevin McCarthy said I`m not going to comment or
get into it out of respect for Eric Cantor and I`m not going to decide if
I`m getting into this race yet, but it was very clear from the very
beginning that he was laying the groundwork for this run to become the
majority leader and he was doing the work he needed up front.
Conservatives, on the other hand, the Tea Party candidates who were
playing games whether or not they would get in, Hensarling, Sessions, we`ll
see, can we unite the whole Texas delegation to get us all together. They
were spending much more time seemingly talking to the media about whether
or not they were going to run for majority leader.
While Kevin McCarthy was spending the time figuring out if he had
the votes and by the time the conservatives figured it out the votes were
already taken up.
KORNACKI: One thing we`re always hearing about is the anatomy of the House
Republican conference there are two groups. You say they are all basically
conservatives, but there`s a split between sort of the Tea Party true
believers and then the conservatives who have more pragmatic instincts, but
are scared of the Tea Party.
I`ve always thought on a leadership vote where it`s a secret ballot,
their constituents aren`t going to know how they answer, I voted for the
tea party guy, do you think that secretly if it was between a Tea Partier
and somebody like McCarthy from the establishment are the majority of the
Republicans in the House on the establishment side secretly or are on the
Tea Party secretly?
LOWERY: I think the majority of them are in the establishment side
secretly. I think the majority of people on the Republican House caucus
want to get some things done. And I think while many of them are a little
further to the right then maybe John Boehner or Eric Cantor or Kevin
McCarthy, a lot of them see it`s easier to be Tea Party and stand on
principles when you don`t have to run the caucus.
And I think that a lot of these people especially given the fact
that it`s a secret ballot, yes, publicly they very much want a Tea Party
conservative running for the race, but those that want the caucus to be
governed by a Tea Party conservative, they also realize one of the better
chances is trying to unseat John Boehner later this year and not in this
race right now. There`s a real --
KORNACKI: We have elections, the general elections in November and
leadership elections after that. Michael, you made some news yesterday by
saying you think the establishment might be overreaching scheduling the
quick election and grassroots backlash and watching things play out later
do you think it`s a possibility or do you still think Kevin McCarthy has
STEELE: I think Kevin McCarthy has the upper hand, but I think you`re
right it works to see how it plays out with the organization of the vote
among conservatives. There`s a lot -- Erick Erickson and others are just
the tip of that iceberg of pissed-off conservatives. They`ve watched the
Boehner, McCarthy, Cantor team in their view capitulate more than they
would like on a host of issues.
And so they`re saying now at least can we have a slot in this
leadership trifecta between the majority leader and the speaker and so
forth. So, that`s going to be their push. Now, you know, the Whip
position is going to be in play. With Scalise and others who are strong.
STEELE: From Louisiana very strong conservatives there. But this
leadership post I think is going to be a very important fight. It`s
symbolic in a lot of respects, but I really think right now conservatives
are trying to send the message that we`re now going to vie for real
leadership of the party. I think you`re right this may play out in the
speaker`s race next year. It`s a very good point. They waited and
hesitated and lost the mode that was there off of that election and now
they are playing a little catch up.
KORNACKI: In the intro there I called it on Tuesday night a shock for the
ages, but the Eric Cantor defeat it was the biggest upset I`ve ever seen in
politics and I stand by it a few days later, but everybody has an opinion
why Cantor lost that race this week. But there`s one question that no one
seems to have an answer for.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: The lost of Eric Cantor based immigration
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The big issue was immigration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Immigration reform.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Immigration reform.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The immigration issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really shows how white hot the immigration issue is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they know that amnesty is on the table, amnesty
KORNACKI: So that has been the constant refrain this week that House
Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost Tuesday because he wasn`t tough enough on
immigration reform that`s what inspired Republicans in his district to
choose someone else as their nominee for another two years.
But here`s the thing. It was basically no credible polling done on
Eric Cantor`s race before that primary on Tuesday. There has been some
since then and here`s what a conservative group found when they went into
the field this week after the primary and asked people who voted for David
Brat, the guy who beat Cantor asked them what their main reason for doing
Only 22 percent of them said immigration. It`s only about one in
five voters who voted against Cantor saying that immigration was what
motivated them. The rest, the other four out of five anti-Cantor voters
pointed to other reasons like Cantor was, quote, "Too focused on national
politics instead of local needs" and that he`d, quote, "lost touch with
And on the day -- on the same day of that election in a poll
conducted by the Democratic polling organization, PPP, a clear majority of
voters in Cantor`s district said they not only supported immigration
reform, but also it`s an important priority to be addressed this year.
And there is also this at the same exact moment that Cantor was
going down on Tuesday night one of the most vocal and visible Republican
supporters of a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented was winning a
Republican primary in the very conservative, very southern state of South
So, what really happened in Virginia? What is the real lesson when
Eric Cantor spends $5 million and loses to a college professor even as
Lindsey Graham coasts in South Carolina? Let`s run that by the panel here.
Joan, I mean, it`s -- I always say there`s sort of how the political world
understands something and I think that`s baked into the cake now.
The political world decided this is about immigration and there`s
real serious consequences in terms of what Congress can do now and we`ll
talk about it later. But it seems to me if you want to talk practically
about future elections and future politicians and Eric Cantor running for
re-election this is not just about immigration. There`s something really
WALSH: Dave Brat made Eric Cantor, he really completely misrepresented
Cantor`s record and his views on immigration. It was really kind of ugly.
It is played a role. But it probably wasn`t the dominant role. I think
everybody can agree that the dominant thing was that Eric Cantor was
spending more money on steakhouses than Brat spent on the whole election.
That he really wasn`t -- that his district might be open to
believing that he was pro-amnesty because they didn`t even know him because
he was so much not a presence. And he was counting his votes for speaker
down the road as opposed to counting votes in his district so I think that
there`s a real, you know, real dissatisfaction and anti-Washington message
Another thing is that, you know, liberals kind of like about Brat,
he`s a free market person for sure, but he really -- he railed against
Cantor as a friend of crony capitalism, as a friend of Wall Street, as
somebody who has helped rig the game for big banks and while I don`t
believe that Dave Brat is going to be part of a solution to that problem at
least he`s naming that problem.
KORNACKI: Yes, there`s some Elizabeth Warren rhetoric here.
WALSH: It`s not matched to Elizabeth Warren -- we`ll see.
KORNACKI: What is the formula here? I think we`ve been trying to crack
this code for four or five years now, when Sharron Angle wins a primary in
Nevada, you know, what is the formula, Lugar losing to Mourdock? Do we
know now what is the format, what kind of Republican is safe and who is at
LOWERY: The Republican who is attentive to their district is safe, one of
the main lessons to take away. When I look at the Cantor race, some of the
reporting I`ve done on the Mitch McConnell race, as establishment as
establishment gets the same waif that Eric Cantor or John Boehner is, but
when you talk to Republicans in Mitch McConnell`s state where his
unfavorables through are the roof.
Mitch McConnell has done an effective job of arguing when he had a
Tea Party challenger and attempting to argue in the general election,
Kentucky stands to gain if you have the Senate majority leader. You may
hate me, but if you kick me out and have a junior senator or have someone
new come in we lose clout as a state.
That`s the argument that Eric Cantor did not make in Virginia. He
was the majority leader. Virginia has huge standing way more -- bigger
standing, disproportionate standing that they will now having a new member
KORNACKI: A fresh member.
LOWERY: That`s the argument that was not made. And meanwhile you had this
other miscalculation where someone like Eric Cantor seemingly gets scared
and decides to go up with big spending where he keeps repeating the name of
his challenger and you don`t ever do that. Mitch McConnell`s ad, I don`t
think he had a single ad that said Matt Bevin. There`s a reasonable for
KORNACKI: The video that made the counts of the county convention about a
month ago where Eric Cantor goes back and he starts attacking Brat as a
liberal college professor and the Tea Party audience rallying to the
LOWERY: It just did not -- it strategically did not work. But, again, you
have to be attentive to your district. You have to be smart about how you
handle this and I think that he made a series of mistakes here. I don`t
know that we can extrapolate them and apply them more broadly, but it`s a
KORNACKI: If the district had more Morton Steakhouses. Michael Steele, I
got to ask you, because you know in Republican world. Tuesday night 7:45
p.m., the whole world suddenly looks at Twitter and looks on TV and says,
my God, Eric Cantor --
STEELE: What the heck.
KORNACKI: What kind of phone calls were you getting? What kind of
conversations were you having? What were they saying at that moment?
STEELE: What the heck is going on? Did you see this coming? What is
going on? I think a lot of people were very surprised that this race
turned out the way that it did largely because, you know, the title, the
position, the prestige carries these individuals in these types of races,
you know, that`s why they`re so aloof, that`s why they often look their
nose down on their constituency.
Yes, I`ll go to your fish fry maybe, you know, that type of thing.
And what they`re realizing now is that people do bite back. And they --
and they are saying you need to pay attention. I don`t care if you are the
majority leader, you`re my congressman, all right? You`re the local guy.
And I think to your point that this is really the fight that you`re
going to see played out in these upcoming elections the remainder of this
primary and I`ll have to say even in the general election. Look for some
upsets this fall. I think the American people are really sort of liking
the idea of throwing the bums out. And how those members perform between
now and Election Day is going to get a lot more notice.
KORNACKI: Let`s hit the over/under, percent of Congress re-elected, 97
percent. I`ll take the over, you take the under.
STEELE: I`m saying it`s going to be 95 percent.
KORNACKI: It`s 95. That`s an anti-incumbent wave. We`ve got one more
thing to talk about with Eric Cantor. There`s an implication for 2016 as
well. We`re going to get to that when we come back.
KORNACKI: All right, one Republican who may have been particularly
startled by Cantor`s loss on Tuesday is Jeb Bush. The former Florida
governor is right now mulling a presidential bid in 2016, but will the
grassroots revolt that took Cantor down give Bush pause about going through
with it. Not just that Bush supports comprehensive immigration reform,
he`s also one of the most vocal Republican champions of the common core
education standards, which the conservative base is now rebelling against.
In many ways Bush embodies the Wall Street, Chamber of Commerce
party establishment in the same way that Cantor does, are voters in
Virginia also sending a warning to Jeb Bush about what he might face if he
tries to run in 2016.
Joan, I think of the circumstances of the last Bush presidency, the
second of the Bush presidencies, in the late `90s there was this mood it
seemed in the Republican Party in the late `90s of, you know, Bill Clinton
has sort of out compassioned us, we need to move to the middle and co-op
and working for Clinton.
WALSH: We`ll have compassionate conservatives.
KORNACKI: There was an appetite in the party for what he represented at
that time. I`m not seeing that right now when I look at Jeb Bush and where
the Republican Party is.
WALSH: No. I`m seeing it in the establishment. I`m seeing an appetite
not necessarily for compassion, but some kind of centrism and moderation
and willingness to do something on the immigration issue that Jeb Bush
represents. Even if we diminish the role that immigration played in the
Cantor loss, we can`t dismiss it entirely.
It was what people were screaming about in those last two weeks. So
I think a guy who calls -- crossing the border for your family or with your
family an act of love he`s going to have a hard time. A guy who went to
work for Lehman Brothers, he might have a hard time.
A guy with his establishment credentials is going to have a hard
time in the common core stuff has become a culture war issues although
these are people on the left who are not fond of common core either. But
he really does represent that entire array of interests that Cantor did,
too, and so I did think that night that it was --
KORNACKI: I look at Jeb Bush and I can`t see what is the issue where the
base of the party -- and there`s the question of the issues and also just
the question of the style that he represents. Where`s the connection with
where the base of the party is right now?
LOWERY: Of course, it will be hard and I think it`s hard to quantify the
base of the party. We do have to remember the voters who show up in 2014
for the midterms are very different from the voters that show up in 2016.
It`s a pocket of people who are much further to the right who are mobilized
because it`s the second year of an Obama presidency and very much the Tea
Party sentiment. In 2016 it moderates itself in a little bit.
WALSH: You think the primaries get much more moderate than this base?
LOWERY: Maybe. Not necessarily much more moderate.
WALSH: A little.
LOWERY: It starts to moderate because people like John McCain and Mitt
Romney are able to survive. There`s the Romney path.
STEELE: Let`s break this down because a lot of people making the
comparison on election night what happened to, you know, Senator Graham in
South Carolina, how did he win given his position on immigration and Cantor
ostensibly this was an issue. There`s an issue between running statewide
and running in a congressional district.
So when you`re looking at the voter makeup, the primary makeup in a
statewide Republican primary versus a congressional Republican primary, the
dynamics are very, very different. You do have more moderating voices that
come out in the statewide primaries because it`s from parts of the state
that may be a little bit more moderate in their make-up in, you know, that
area versus a specific congressional district which was designed and
crafted to be very red.
So, that`s number one in terms of how the numbers kind of play
themselves out. I think more broadly on what Jeb Bush needs to do and I
really -- of all the people at the table, participating at the table for
president, I think he has the gravitas to do it and that is to have that
sister moment with the Republican Party and say, look, this is about how we
lead and how we govern.
And we can no longer afford to isolate ourselves from the American
people and the way this country is growing and progressing. So, yes, let`s
bring our conservative principles fully into these arguments, into these
discussions, as we talk about how families struggle coming across the
border, once they get here.
I think we as Republicans have lost the fact that we were always the
party that talked about assimilation. We were always the party that
gravitated towards that argument. And I think he has the space to do it.
To Joan`s point, whether or no he does it, we`ll see.
KORNACKI: Let`s see. We got to squeeze a break in here, but you were
telling us, I want to make a little bit of news, you were telling us
something very interesting in the break. We were talking about Eric
Cantor. What is he doing next? He`s leaving as majority leader and
leaving the House this year involuntarily and you are hearing interesting
STEELE: The what`s next is always the big play in Washington what do you
do next and with the upcoming presidential election, there`s a lot of
interest in Eric Cantor serving as national chairman of the RNC.
KORNACKI: Republican National Committee.
STEELE: So that will be interesting to see how that plays out, you know,
that cycle is going to be so important across the board and Cantor`s
network and his ability to lead. In fact, I think he`d be interesting
because he started dialogues on poverty and some other issues that were
sort of outside of what Republicans traditionally have talked about. So,
he could bring a very interesting voice into that space. We`ll see.
KORNACKI: All right, we`ll see if David Brat wants to run against him.
Anyway still ahead, the crisis on the U.S. border. A huge and sudden
children of children making their way into the U.S. illegally and all
alone. What is the Obama administration doing for them and will the
president act unilaterally to bring about immigration reform? There`s a
lot going on at the border this morning. You`ll have a live report from
there straight ahead.
KORNACKI: We`ll be right back with a live report from the U.S. border with
Mexico on the humanitarian crisis facing those tens of thousands of
children who have migrated to the U.S. alone. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: We talked about last hour even if immigration wasn`t the real
reason that Eric Cantor lost his primary this week the political world is
clearly interpreting it as if it was, which means that Republicans in
Congress who already live in fear of crossing their base and becoming a
victim of the Tea Party in a primary are now that much more worried.
Which means that the slim chance that existed before Tuesday that
Speaker John Boehner would allow a vote sometime this summer on
comprehensive immigration reform is now a non-existent chance. The fallout
from Eric Cantor`s defeat is huge, it means it`s just not happening. But
that doesn`t mean that nothing will happen on immigration this year because
even if Congress sits on its hands, President Obama has the power to act by
himself, but will he?
The non-Cantor headlines in the news right now lend real urgency to
the issue of unauthorized immigration. Nowhere are the challenges more
prominent than in the Rio Grande Valley in south eastern Texas. The last
eight months 47,000 unaccompanied minors, children, 47,000 children, that`s
more than double the number of the entire previous year, some estimates
suggest the number may actually grow to 90,000 by the years end.
It`s a wave of immigrants that is overwhelming U.S. border
officials. On Thursday, "The Washington Post" obtained undercover cell
phone video taken at the border patrol station looking at it now. It shows
the conditions in those children and other Central American women who were
crossing the border illegally are being held as they wait to be processed
by Border Protection.
Sleeping on concrete floors, they are cordoned off by police tape.
The facility`s capacity is less than 500 and it`s received as many as 1,300
migrants per day in recent weeks. The Department of Health and Human
Services released their own images showing much better conditions at the
shelters where unaccompanied minors are temporarily housed after being
processed at the border.
Last week, President Obama called the surge of unaccompanied minors
a humanitarian crisis. And he appointed the Federal Emergency Management
Agency to lead the government`s response. And on Thursday, Homeland
Security Secretary Jeh Johnson underscored the executive order that allows
his department to delay prosecuting undocumented minors does not apply to
these new arrivals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT: Those apprehended at
our border are priorities for removal. They are priorities for enforcement
of our immigration laws regardless of age. If you cross the border
illegally today, you are not eligible for DOCA treatment nor are you
eligible for the earned path to citizenship that is being contemplated by
the legislation that`s now before Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Secretary Johnson also cited the current humanitarian crisis and
confusion over current law as a reason for immigration reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: I think the thing that this brings home is the need for
comprehensive immigration reform, which includes added resources for border
security as well as -- as well as stability in the law right now. If
Congress acts I believe we know our immigration law landscape for years, if
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But as we`ve talked about the politics on Capitol Hill looks
like they are heading in the opposite direction. California`s Kevin
McCarthy, the front-runner to take over from Eric Cantor as House majority
leader was asked by NBC News after Cantor`s loss if he thinks immigration
reform can happen this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: I think it`s very
difficult based upon what the president has done. The thing that has to
happen is our borders need to be secured. See what`s going forward now
that should be the top priority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, we seemed to have reached a moment the White House has been
hinting at for a while now, the moment when the last realistic prospect of
Congress acting on immigration seems to be flickering out when all eyes
shift to the White House where President Obama can act unilaterally with
It seems like this will be the biggest political story of the
summer. The White House continues to say its strategy is not changed and
the impetus for action remains on the House. Night after the election this
week, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough met with top Congressional
Democrats at the capitol where they agreed to keep pushing for a
But the prospects of them finding willing partners in House
Republicans seemed more and more like a pipe dream. So what can Obama do
and what should he do and what will he do and what will happen to those
thousands of children being held indefinitely by U.S. officials along the
Joining me from the border is Mark Potter. He`s live in Mission,
Texas. Mark, so if you could tell us, first, about who these children are
and where they come from because it seems this is -- an awful lot of them
are from Central America, from Honduras, from El Salvador, in many cases
you can make an argument they are refugees more than they are people trying
to get into the country for other reasons.
MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS: You could argue that and you could also point out
they are being aided by smugglers. There`s a business involved in bringing
them up and they claim that they`re leaving the violence of Honduras, El
Salvador to complete your list, Guatemala, those three countries are the
prime ones bringing people in.
They all say the ones we`re talking to that they`re either fleeing
vie lens or if they`re young people they are here to join their parents who
are already here who have paid smugglers to bring them in. There`s a big
flow across the river we witnessed it this morning.
Before sunup we saw a group of 17 Salvadorans, they`d slept in this
city park -- county park, they slept in here overnight after crossing the
Rio Grande in rafts. They are from El Salvador, small villages, they said
they took nine days to come through Mexico and they were walking down this
They didn`t know they were in the United States until they
approached our team that was setting up for this broadcast and they asked
where they were and I told them that indeed they`re in the United States.
They came over to this area here and they sat down. It was women and
children, two young men, they were thirsty and very tired.
And they just sat there and waited for the authorities to arrive.
The border patrol came in and took them out. That is a story that happens
here all the time. It`s a 24/7 event now here on the border. Every day,
every hour, people are pouring across this border. We have seen several of
We got here the other night when a group came across. This is a
low-water dam that also serves as a road and we saw a group coming up here,
again, before the authorities arrived and they`re just pouring into this
area. All that debate you were talking about occurs, this is the real
story here on the border.
And despite all this talk about why it`s happening the bottom line
is these are people and they`re hurting and, you know, you can argue about
why they`re here, but it`s a tough thing.
KORNACKI: So, Mark, so, then, what happens? Because they`re sort of being
held indefinitely right now. That`s not, you know, a lifetime solution.
What is going to happen to people who are -- children who are being held
right now, to others who are coming in?
A lot of the reporting I`ve seen says a lot of them are turning
themselves in and they`re saying that their understanding was women and
children are being allowed into the country. What is going to happen to
them? Do we have a sense of that at all?
POTTER: Yes. I think we do. And, yes, that`s right, there are rumors in
Central America this is the time to come. Come here fowl, if you come
here, you`ll be allowed to stay. So many people are disappointed to hear
maybe that`s not the case. But that`s what they`re being told.
It`s said on television down there and smugglers are telling them
that and they are charging a lot of money to come up here. What will
happen to them they`ll be picked up by the border patrol and processed and
the border patrol has 72 hours to process them and they`ll turn them over
to Health and Human Services and they are opening military bases and trying
to find space to the people.
The one with families will be taken to their families and the
ultimate goal is to get them into immigration hearings, removal hearings
they`re called, to see what happens. For many of them the chances are not
good of being able to stay. And that`s the part that they weren`t told
when they came up here.
Some might be able to stay if they have family, if they have asylum
claims that they can make effectively about the violence they`re facing in
their countries, but it`s not a slam dunk that they`ll stay here, but it
will take a while. So in the interim they will either be in shelters or
they will be with their families.
And they might be able to stay, but the chances are that so many of
them will be sent back and that is not the message that they`re hearing in
Central America either in their own countries or watching activities in
this country. It`s very clear they`re drawn to this country now like moths
and that`s why we have this big uptick.
Those conditions in Central America have lasted a long time.
They`ve been there for years. They`re getting worse, but essentially it`s
been a big problem down there. But there`s a surge now. So, there`s
another element involved here that we`re hearing from people and that is
they`re being told go now, go now while you can and they are.
They`re pouring through here every day. These people slept in this
park last night. This is a park where people are going to be gathering for
Father`s Day and the authorities are here because they know a lot of
immigrants will be coming in across the river to join the people who are
here to celebrate.
KORNACKI: NBC`s Mark Potter in Mission, Texas, thanks for that. A vivid
report. We appreciate that. And joining me now at the table to discuss
all this is Gabriela Domenzain. She is the former director of Hispanic
Press for Obama`s 2012 campaign. She is now a principal at the Ravin
Group, a progressive strategy communications and lobbying firm.
And Michael Steele is a former RNC chair and MSNBC political
analyst, who is back with us. Gabriela, I wonder, the president has talked
about having sort of a more humane deportation policy. I know, you know,
Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary has been looking in to that.
There`s now all this talk, OK, the House, Congress isn`t going to
act. There are executive actions the president can take. When you look at
the situation that Mark was just describing, what do you think
realistically the administration can and should be doing about this?
GABRIELA DOMENZAIN, OBAMA 2012 HISPANIC PRESS DIRECTOR: With this
situation in particular what they`re doing calling it two weeks ago
humanitarian crisis, making FEMA coordinate all the agencies and making
sure that we realize like your reporter said that these are children,
right? Most of the kids that are coming are now under the age of 13 and
And they`re coming, like, your reporter said from Honduras,
Guatemala and El Salvador. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the
world, right? This isn`t some random there`s word on the street is that
America`s going to let you in, Jeh Johnson and have been has made very,
very clear they`re not eligible for the Senate immigration bill.
But for right now when you have 60,000 kids, what you need to do is
figure out how to treat them humanely because it`s a humanitarian crisis
and that`s exactly what they`re doing.
KORNACKI: What do you think longer term though?
DOMENZAIN: This is precisely why we need immigration reform, Steve, right?
We need a system that can work with the ebbs and flows of migration
patterns. There`s also humanitarian crises whether it`s Haiti or Cuba.
There is always going to be examples of people that need help and we`re one
of the biggest and welcoming countries in the world. But if Republicans or
conservatives want to use this as an example why we need border security
first which we have more than ever, it`s ridiculous.
KORNACKI: What would the -- one thing I want to figure out, first of all,
from an executive action standpoint, that`s where the ball game is,
anything happening at the federal level is going to be an executive action,
you know, this summer early this fall. When you look at this specific
situation, though, what do you look for the administration to this be doing
on this right now?
DOMENZAIN: OK. But I need to counter your premise that it`s not going to
happen, right? Let`s talk about McCarthy and Labrador. McCarthy is from
Bakersfield, it`s not only in his interest in his district because of the
growers and because of his population to do something, but obviously
Hispanics are going to blame 100 percent Republicans and Labrador is an
immigration attorney. He knows full well the problem and he`s a Hispanic.
I`m not completely sold on this.
KORNACKI: You think this summer the Republicans in the U.S. House could
put this on the floor?
DOMENZAIN: I don`t understand how wise Republicans aren`t telling their
party to do so!
MICHAEL STEEL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Tell my party --
KORNACKI: Michael Steele, the prospects of the House actually voting on
STEELE: Zero. There`s no -- there is no political upside. There`s no
political interest and there`s no -- there`s no desire to move on this
because the elements of what Republicans want on the table, first and
foremost in this situation that we`re seeing now, as reported just a moment
ago, folks coming across the border, securing the borders is -- unless that
is dealt with in a comprehensive way and the president`s got to be honest
Yes, it`s a humanitarian crisis, but when people see this -- this
influx coming across the border, it re-emerges the conversation, about gee,
why isn`t that border secure. All I`m saying is there`s a disconnect
between the humanitarian piece that you`re talking about and the fact that
we will always have this humanitarian problem if we don`t close that border
KORNACKI: We can agree to disagree.
STEELE: I`m saying that`s the elements there.
KORNACKI: In terms of the prospects of it passing the House this summer,
we can agree to disagree. If you are optimistic about Kevin McCarthy, you
are, in the reality with the base behaving the way the base is behaving.
They`re not going to do it. That`s why I ask. The prospect, it doesn`t
mean nothing happens. It means the onus goes to the president to act with
his executive power. And I`m just wondering from your standpoint as a
strong advocate for immigration reform what are you looking for the
president to do if it doesn`t happen in the House this summer?
DOMENZAIN: I think he`s in a really tough position, right? Think he`s
agreed that the 11 million folks that the Senate bill would address are
people that should be given a right to pay their taxes and get in the back
of the line and now he`s going to have to sit there and choose which ones
of these to prioritize, right? So there`s talk about maybe the dreamers
parents being extended -- administrative relief.
But regardless of what he does, it`s never going to be enough.
There`s always going to be whether they`re farmworkers, whether they are
day laborers, there are always groups of folks left out, which is why we
have to fix the problem.
KORNACKI: When do the political calculations all the roadblocks in the
Republican universe right now to signing up to something like comprehensive
immigration reform, when does that change?
STEELE: I think the dynamic starts to change next year. I think it starts
to change probably first, second quarter of next year.
KORNACKI: They don`t have to lose another election to change on this?
STEELE: Right, right, right -- well, what will happen is the candidates
running for the nomination will begin to define that landscape a lot more
than a Kevin McCarthy or, you know, a Boehner, Speaker Boehner will. There
becomes a point where as a nominee begins to emerge, they begin to put into
place in the context of party action and policy what they want to have done
and how we talk about these things.
I think you`ll begin to see that dynamic unfold early next year as
candidates begin to emerge and this debate becomes much more of a focal
point because then, you`re right, now we`re talking about the presidential
race. And the ramifications there are huge.
KORNACKI: See, I see a game here where politically speaking the Congress
doesn`t act this summer, the president takes executive action this fall and
then that becomes the big rallying cry on the right, that`s a terrible
overreach by the president. And I wonder if the Republican Party has to
lose another national election before the Republican Party changes.
DOMENZAIN: Or loses all of them.
DOMENZAIN: The first thing that Ros-Lehtinen said as soon as Cantor lost,
people that are saying that immigration reform is dead are dead wrong,
there are leaders in Congress who pointed to Cantor as the big problem to
KORNACKI: I don`t see how Eric Cantor is the maybe reason. It seems like
it`s the psychology of the right and the psychology of the base and it`s
the price that too many Republicans are paying.
DOMENZAIN: The psychology of the base is for it, 65 percent of brat voters
want comprehensive immigration reform. Seventy percent of Cantor primary
voters wanted it.
KORNACKI: When he ran for president it was for self-deportation. If
they`re so strongly for it I don`t think they`ll make Mitt Romney do it.
But I want to thank Gabriela Domenzain and Michael Steele, they`ll be both
be back later in the show for, of course, "Up Against the Clock." So don`t
go too far.
Coming up next, do you live in a place where people largely share
your political views? It turns out most Americans now do. We`ll talk
about that and the rest of the political headlines that are brewing this
morning and this weekend so stay with us.
KORNACKI: Mitt Romney insists he won`t run for president again, but the
former Massachusetts governor sure sounded like he was considering a third
run in a speech he gave yesterday to supporters and donors in Utah. He
said, quote, "It`s the failing of the White House leadership that concerns
me and that`s got to change. I lost the election, we lost an election, but
I and we will continue to fight."
Despite what that sounded like, his former advisers say Romney is
more interested in helping the Republican Party than pursuing office
himself. So far this year he`s endorsed 29 candidates running for
statewide office or Congress, but with no clear front runner for 2016,
Romney kind of maybe have his eyes on the White House yet again.
Here now to discuss that and some of the other stories we`re reading
in the papers this morning, we have MSNBC political analyst, Joan Walsh,
editor-at-large of "Salon." She is back with us. Wesley Lowery, he is a
reporter at the "Washington Post," and in his UP debut, "Late Show" with
David Letterman writer, Bill Scheft. He is also the author of the upcoming
book, "Shrink Thy Self."
So let`s start on this question of what Mitt Romney`s up to because
I obviously like everybody else, at the end of the 2012 election. So
that`s it. That`s the end of Mitt Romney`s political career and I started
thinking about that in the context of past presidential candidates.
You realize it used to almost be a tradition in this country that a
candidate could get nominated, you know, Adlai Stevenson ran twice and
Richard Nixon came back and Hubert Humphrey ran how many times even George
McGovern ran 12 years later and didn`t win and it`s only in more recent
times that the tradition has kind of stopped.
And I kind of look at where the Republican Party is right now, we
talk about there`s no clear obvious leader or front-runner for 2016, and
Chris Christie`s in trouble and maybe Jeb Bush is in trouble. I`m not
saying that Mitt Romney is going to run, but I think he might be flirting
with it a little bit here. Anybody see it?
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He did run twice. It`s not like he
lost and could come back a second time. It would be a third time and I
think that would be very hard for his ego, you know, I see him now playing
a role. He is a leader of the party. I just don`t --
KORNACKI: Does his ego say third time`s the charm?
WALSH: Yes, I don`t know. I think it would just be so crushing to lose a
third time and I think he would lose a third time.
BILL SCHEFT, WRITER, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": I feel about Mitt
Romney presidential bids the same way I feel about "Godfather" films, they
should have stopped at two.
KORNACKI: No more -- no takers on the Romney.
WALSH: Sorry, no.
WESLEY LOWERY, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think it`s too hard
especially if we think Hillary Clinton is a candidate on the left. I think
if Mitt Romney thought I`ve got a clear pathway, I can definitely do this,
but you have to remember historically running for president wasn`t quite
like running for president now, with 24-hour media and the scrutiny and
digging up every family member and finding them and asking them questions.
It`s very different than it was 50 years ago, 60 years ago and even
25 years ago and the idea of subjecting yourself to a national campaign
that many times, I think to the scene in "Mitt," the documentary, where he
says we eat our loser presidential candidates alive. We label them a
KORNACKI: I wouldn`t put money on him running or anything, but I wonder if
part of him looks at it and says, my rightful prize and it got denied.
LOWERY: I look at what he`s saying now and what John McCain said in the
early days of the Obama administration where all of a sudden he continued
to be a main critic and to this day continues.
KORNACKI: That hasn`t stopped.
LOWERY: And now Mitt Romney kind of took his vacation. You know, he took
his lumps and lost and he`s emerged as an elder statesman of the Republican
Party and that`s a national progression.
KORNACKI: There was one Democrat who actually spoke at this Romney
gathering, Brian Schweitzer, the former governor of Montana, frequent guest
on this show and may be interested in running in 2016. He said Romney
would be, quote, "A giant in a field of midgets." Brian Schweitzer saying
SCHEFT: A big endorsement. But, you know, I feel that Mitt Romney is
still relevant as a presidential candidate in the same way that I feel that
Ohio is still too close to call. I mean, I just don`t think it makes it --
this is what I respect about the Democrats. You know, especially recently,
you know, you lose and you go away. I mean, you know, how Mike Dukakis
answers the phone, hello, Olive Garden.
WALSH: Secretary of state, I just want to make that point, John Kerry.
KORNACKI: There is life after losing a presidential --
SCHEFT: As a presidential candidate they go away.
KORNACKI: There`s a museum in Kansas of presidential losers and it`s
devoted to --
SCHEFT: Only you would know that.
KORNACKI: I will make a special vacation to see this place. I forgot the
name of the town, but I`ll look it up. Hillary Clinton is taking some heat
for her recent comments about same-sex marriage, it wasn`t so much what he
said. It was how she said it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think you`re trying to say I
used to be opposed and now I`m in favor and I did it for political reasons
and that`s just flat wrong, so let me just state what I feel like you are
implying and repudiate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Hillary Clinton talking to Terry Gross and NPR`s fresh
air on Thursday, it`s the first time Clinton has been questioned about her
support for same-sex marriage. She didn`t support it when she ran for
president in 2008. No one did. As you can hear from the interview on
Thursday Clinton seemed defensive when questioned about the timeline of her
I`m still struggling to figure out how to think about it exactly
because what she`s saying is absolutely true. This is an issue where
everybody has changed their mind in the last 10, 20 years. Hillary Clinton
is hardly alone in that. If there`s a political calculation in there she
would hardly be alone in that.
WALSH: I listened to it several times and read the transcript and it feels
like two women who I admire were talking past each other. Hillary felt
like she was being accused of something and Terry Gross was describing
something that she thinks is not a big deal. I mean, Barack Obama, other
people, have actually privately supported it, made calculations it wasn`t
the time and suddenly it was the time.
Hillary Clinton actually answered her question and said, no, that`s
not what happened, I really did change my mind in a couple of different
places. But she got so -- it got so confrontational that I think Terry
Gross couldn`t hear the answer through I`m still being defiant here. And
it just took on a tone that was really unfortunate.
SCHEFT: Well, two things. As somebody who was also trying to promote a
book, you know, you should play nice with Terry Gross. That`s thing one.
And point number two, I -- the thing that I resent is the description of
her as testy because once again, you know, if a man is confrontational, you
know, he`s being passionate.
SCHEFT: And when a woman is, she`s testy. I, you know, I don`t like the
language on that.
KORNACKI: Also it sounded like in a way and maybe almost unwittingly Terry
Gross was trying to pay her a compliment, you saw this ten years ago like
we all did --
LOWERY: She was trying to talk her to a different talking point and reword
it in a different way. In this interview and the Diane Sawyer interview
and some of the more recent Hillary Clinton appearances, we`ve seen her
still trying to knock the cobwebs off. Compared to other people who will
be presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton, has been much more messaged
controlled for the last eight years than most of the other ones.
She`s not showing up like Rand Paul is, I ran in to him in the
hallway, he`s giving sound bites and Hillary Clinton has been messaged
controlled for a while. She was speaking at George Washington University
last night --
KORNACKI: That`s a whole different place.
LOWERY: Completely different college. She`s being interviewed by a former
speechwriter of hers, and we`ll see more exchanges as she continues to get
back into the media circuit and talking to people who aren`t necessarily
going to say, two plus two is five, you`re right, Hillary, I think you`ll
see more exchanges like that.
KORNACKI: I think that`s a small taste of what will come in the next
couple of years if she runs for president, we have to add that. We`ll be
right back. We have more to talk about that is going on this weekend.
We`ll get to it when we come back.
KORNACKI: Politics maybe more divisive than ever in this country.
According to a new Pew Research poll 20 percent of Americans say they hold
either consistently conservative or consistently liberal views on major
issues. That number is twice what it was just a decade ago. Politics are
dictating where people live, too.
The poll found that 50 percent of conservatives and 35 percent of
liberals say it`s important to live in a place where most people share
their political views and the survey also found that 36 percent of
Republicans view Democrats as a threat to the nation`s well-being and 27
percent of Democrats feel the same way about Republicans.
So, let`s talk about this. This survey got a lot of attention this
week and to me it`s sort of in a way it`s symptomatic of I think it`s a
real problem for this country and it`s the increasingly it seems like
things aren`t happening at a national level. They`re not happening in
Washington. They`re not happening at a federal level. They`re not
happening to all of us.
There are things that are happening in one state, in blue states,
blue things are happening, in red states red things are happening and
there`s a growing antagonism and on all the issues there`s no consensus and
the red states do one thing and the blue states do another and the country
seems like it`s splitting farther and farther apart.
WALSH: Well, two things, you know, in some ways it goes back to Rick
Pearlstein`s great book "Nixon Land" where he really describes Nixon land
as a state of mind where the two sides of the country decided not merely
that the other was wrong, but that the other were bad people and that they
couldn`t co-exist in the same country.
That overstates it to some extent, but it certainly was true at the
margins. We`re seeing this again at the margins and I tweeted to you when
this came out the other day that one of my problems with this study, the
data are the data. But the Republican, quote, "intolerance wanting to live
some place with other Republicans" that was 15 points higher than the
The issue of thinking that liberals or Democrats are bad people,
again, 10 points higher among Republicans on every one of those scores
where, you know, Allen Murray at "The Wall Street Journal" and others are
trying to equate liberals and conservatives. The conservatives are, you
know, "x" points more intolerant.
KORNACKI: You tweeted? I didn`t see this. I got to check this. I`m not
good with the -- I know to tweet things out. I`m still -- I`m not good.
Working on that.
WALSH: You didn`t answer. I was crushed.
KORNACKI: I`ll offer an on-air apology if I missed a tweet at me.
WALSH: Services in the building for you.
LOWERY: This is how we respond to the tweets we call them out on air.
KORNACKI: You don`t tweet at me, you come on the show-and-tell and tell me
that you tweeted at me. I want to thank MSNBC political analyst, Joan
Walsh, Wesley Lowery with the "Washington Post" for joining us this
Up next, the latest from Iraq and still ahead all of this week`s
news packed into an exciting 300-second game show.
KORNACKI: New video to show you this hour as some of the hundreds of young
Iraqi men who are flocking to volunteers centers in Baghdad this morning to
sign up to fight. They aren`t joining the Iraqi Army, which has folded the
young men are forming a Shiite militias in the bid to take security in
their own hands. The close ally of the Shiite government indicated its
willingness to pitch in. Iran is ready to help Iraq in its fight against
Sunni militants if asked. We`ll keep you updated on MSNBC and we`ll be
ANNOUNCER: Live from Studio 3A in Rockefeller Center, USA, it`s time for
"Up Against The Clock." Today`s contestants, he coined the phrase drill,
baby, drill. This morning his mantra, win, baby, win. Say hello to
Michael Steele! Did you know that she was once a beloved arts and craft
camp counselor in Maine? This is Gabby Domenzain!
And he`s looking to add "Up Against The Clock" champion to his top
ten lists of career achievements, please welcome, Bill Scheft! And now a
man who needs no introduction but gets one anyway, the host of "Up Against
the Clock" Steve Kornacki!
KORNACKI: Thank you, Bill Wolf. Thank you to everyone out there at home
and thank you for tuning in again for another exciting edition of "Up
Against The Clock." Let me quickly take you through how this works if you
need a refresher. It`s a fast-paced political news and current events quiz
we`ll play for three rounds and each round is 100 seconds round.
And contestants take notice, you can ring in at any time but you
will be penalized for wrong answers and also there are special bonus
questions scattered throughout here. We`re going to explain those as they
come up. Our contestants will be playing today not just for victory, but
also for a chance to play in our tournament of champions.
But to qualify, Contestants, you will first have to win today. So,
as always, I will implore our live studio audience, please, no outbursts.
Contestants, I will ask you, I will say welcome to the show. I will ask
you to put your hands on your buzzers and ask if you are ready to play.
All right, let`s put 100 seconds on the clock the 100-point round
here and it begins with this, on Monday, the comedy and theater group
"Second City" will begin holding auditions for its musical tribute to this
Canadian mayor. Michael?
STEELE: Mayor Ford.
KORNACKI: Correct, 100-point question. This once and possibly future
Republican presidential candidate caused a stir when he compared
homosexuality to alcoholism. Bill.
SCHEFT: Rick Perry.
KORNACKI: Correct. Bill is on the board. A 100-point question, quote,
"We will no longer educate children," read in unfortunately truncated tweet
sent out this week by this South Carolina governor. Bill?
KORNACKI: Haley is correct. A 100 points for Michael. With an assist
there. A 100-point toss-up question. The largest super PAC backing
embattled Mississippi senator, Thad Cochran, in the last few weeks received
a $250,000 infusion from this former New York City mayor? Michael?
STEELE: Mayor Bloomberg.
KORNACKI: Correct. Stop the clock! Michael Steele has some exciting news
because you answered that question correctly it means you are eligible for
our video bonus. Our celebrity quote of note. That was the trigger
question and you will now have a chance to add an extra 100 points to your
score. It`s very simple.
We have asked a celebrity to read a famous political quote. All you
have to do is correctly identify who said it and you will receive an extra
100 points. There`s no penalty for guessing on this one, so if you`ll
direct your attention to the video monitor, here is Ali Krieger from the
U.S. Women`s national soccer team with a special question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And in honor of the World Cup, I bring you this
week`s "Up Against the Clock" quote of note. From the U.S. women`s soccer
legend who was the face of two World Cup winning teams in 1991 and in 1999.
Who said -- the person that said winning isn`t everything never won
anything. Good luck.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right, you heard the quote, Michael. Tell me what women`s
soccer player said that.
STEELE: Woman`s soccer player?
KORNACKI: We`ll need an answer.
STEELE: Crickets. Blanking.
KORNACKI: Crickets and Blanking. Incorrect. Correct answer Mia Hamm who
said that. No penalty for that. Put the clock back on the board and we
come back to the 100-point toss-ups with this. President George H.W. Bush
celebrated his birthday this week by jumping out of -- Gabby.
KORNACKI: Incorrect. I`ll complete the question. Michael?
KORNACKI: Incorrect. I`ll complete the question, Bill, by becoming the
fifth U.S. president to reach the age of 90 --
KORNACKI: The question was to name one of the other four presidents who
lived to 90. A 100-point toss-up question. Texas Senator Ted Cruz
followed through on a promise to renounce --
DOMENZAIN: Canadian citizenship.
KORNACKI: Correct. A 100-point question according to "Politico" nearly
half of this top political leader`s 43 million Twitter followers are
DOMENZAIN: The president?
KORNACKI: President Obama is correct. A 100 points for Gabby. Michael in
the lead at 200 and Gabby creeping up at 100 and Bill negative 100, but
things can change in a hurry because this 200-point round. The questions
are worth twice as much. Let`s put 100 seconds on the clock and begin with
The Library of Congress announced this week that Pulitzer Prize
winning author, Charles Wright will hold what ceremonial position? We call
time. That`s the poet laureate. Your new poet laureate.
A 200-point question after previously being an outspoken opponent,
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Thursday said it doesn`t matter what I
think now about this issue. Bill?
SCHEFT: Gay marriage.
KORNACKI: Gay marriage is correct. Two hundred points for Bill. Positive
in territory there, 200-point question, the Senate on Wednesday declined to
approve a bill to allow students to refinance loans to cheaper debt that
was first proposed by whom? Michael?
STEELE: Senator Elizabeth Warren.
KORNACKI: Correct. Stop the clock! Michael again!
WALSH: So lucky.
KORNACKI: That`s the use it or lose it bonus question. And I have
exciting news for you, Michael, you have a chance to add an extra 200
points to your score. Basically it works like this. You have to risk it.
You have a follow-up question to the question I just asked you. It is
related in some way. You have to choose if you want the question or not.
If you get the question correct, 200 extra points. If not, we`ll take away
the 200 points that you just won or you can pass altogether. It`s a
follow-up question. Do you want to use it or lose it?
STEELE: I`m going to lose it. I`m going to keep what I got.
KORNACKI: That`s too bad. Less exciting but you`re welcome to do that.
And we`ll move right back on with the game. It was an easy one, too and
put the clock back up on the screen and we`ll pick up the round with this.
Twenty years ago this week, the murders of Nicole Brown-Simpson and
Ron Goldman took place creating an unlikely celebrity out of O.J. -- Bill?
SCHEFT: O.J. Simpson.
KORNACKI: Creating an unlikely celebrity out of O.J. Simpson`s house
guest, Kato Kaelin whose real first name is this? Hard, 200 points. We`ll
call time. Michael doesn`t want to guess. It`s Brian. A 200-point
question new abortion restrictions were signed into law this week by this
Louisiana governor? Michael?
STEELE: Bobby Jindal.
KORNACKI: Correct. Two hundred points for Michael. At a London
conference on rape and sexual violence this week, Secretary of State John
Kerry was joined by this A-list actress and humanitarian activist?
KORNACKI: Jolie. We`ll accept that. Two hundred points for Michael.
Angelina Jolie. At the wire, 200 more points. Michael opening a
commanding lead with 800 points. Gabby at 100 and Bill at negative 100,
just think how much higher, Michael, if you`d taken the bonus, but we`ll
dim the lights and go to the PhD level.
These are 300-point questions in this round and we`ll crown a
champion here. The gap can be made up awfully fast, here we go. A 100
seconds on the clock and let`s decide the game with this. This week the
Supreme Court decided with Pom Wonderful in its false advertising fight
against what soda giant? Gabby?
DOMENZAIN: Coca-Cola is correct! Sometimes the guesses work. 300-point
question. On Friday President Obama made his first official visit to
Indian country when he spoke to the standing Rock Sioux tribal nation that
is located in what U.S. state? Gabby?
DOMENZAIN: New Mexico?
KORNACKI: Incorrect. Time. It`s North Dakota. A 300-point question. In
her new memoir "Hard Choices," Hillary Clinton makes a case for a case for
ending the trade embargo against Cuba, which was first instituted in 1960
when Fidel Castro came to power after deposing --
KORNACKI: Batista is correct, 300 points for Bill. A 300-point question,
a Los Angeles judge on Tuesday sided with plaintiffs who sought to overturn
California`s teacher tenure system in a lawsuit that named as a defendant
this governor? Time! It -- Bill?
SCHEFT: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
KORNACKI: Incorrect. Any guesses? Time! It was Jerry Brown! You got to
ring in. A 300-point question. This Republican who recently lost a high
profile race in Virginia was named the president of the Senate
Conservatives Fund -- Bill?
SCHEFT: Eric Cantor.
KORNACKI: Incorrect. Going to call time. Ken Cuccinelli. A 300-point
question. The last time the United States failed to advance past the
opening round in the World Cup was in 2006 when who was speaker of the
SCHEFT: Nancy Pelosi.
KORNACKI: It was jay Dennis Hastert. That`s the horn and the end of the
game. Michael Steele, you are today`s champion with 800 points. A very
impressive showing and as the champion you get a great prize package and
Bill Wolf will tell you about it.
STEELE: All right.
ANNOUNCER: As our champion your name will be engraved on the gold cup and
you`ll receive a DVD copy of the film "Cocoon II The Return." And you`ll
get to play in the jackpot round for the grand prize a $50 to Quick Meal
food cart midtown Manhattan the only street meat vendor in the greater 45th
Street area operated by a former chef of the Russian Tea Room. I had it
for lunch today. Delicious! Enjoy the meal and congratulations. Back to
KORNACKI: All right, congratulations, Michael Steele, but to sweeten the
pot I have your jackpot bonus question here and it`s this.
KORNACKI: Before Eric Cantor`s shocking loss this week the biggest upset
in congressional primary history arguably took place in 1972. When the
dean of the House and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Emanuel
Cellar, was beaten in his primary by this up-and-coming Democrat who would
go on to narrowly lose a Senate race to Al D`Amato?
I need an answer. No penalty for guessing.
STEELE: Al D`Amato. I have blanked.
KORNACKI: It was Elizabeth Holdsmith. The $50 gift certificate is safe
for another week. Congratulations on the win, and thank you, contestants
for playing. You`ll get the home edition. We`ll be back right after this.
KORNACKI: Time to find out what our guests know now they didn`t know when
the week began. Gabby, start with you.
DOMENZAIN: I will say that I`m not watching this for the right reasons,
but the World Cup is on, as you know. Did you know that it is more popular
in America than NASCAR?
KORNACKI: I didn`t know that, but I`m glad to know that because I like the
World Cup better than NASCAR.
STEELE: Again, it`s all things political. I think what we`re going to be
watching is the intersection of the effects of the Cantor race and the saga
that is now drawing out with Iraq and how that shapes the conversation. I
think that`s something that`s going to be very interesting going forward.
KORNACKI: Congratulations on your win.
STEELE: Thank you.
SCHEFT: The Taliban prisoner exchange, President Obama got the idea of the
five for one deal from a sport coat sale at Josef A. Bank.
KORNACKI: I also didn`t know that one, but I do want to thank Gabriela
Domenzain, Michael Steele, the reigning "Up Against The Clock" champion,
Bill Scheft. Thank you for joining us today. Tomorrow the very latest on
the unfolding situation in Iraq. My guest will be U.S. Army General Wesley
Clark, former NATO commander, former presidential contender. Up next,
"MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY" just minutes away.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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