'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, June 28th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
June 28, 2014
Guest: Cristina Beltran, Robert George, Nicholas Confessore, Julian Bond,
Akhil Reed Amar, Jessica Gonzales Rojas, Michelle Bruns, Seth Freed
Wessler, Marina Caeiro, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, what do
these Supreme Court decisions mean for the rest of us? Plus, an important
deadline looms in North Carolina. And Julian Bond comes to Nerdland. But
first, if you don`t know, now you know. This is the Republican Party.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry, and, you know, we`ve been hearing
about the Tea Party for years. Ever since a group of Americans got really
nervous about President Obama and his health care reform plan. They
convened at congressional town halls and they went to the Washington, D.C.,
mall en masse and they adopted the liberty and anti-taxation language of
the American Revolution. These guy`s picture was taken a lot. And we
heard about the Tea Party wave of 2010. In reality, 85 percent of the
incumbents were re-elected to the House of Representatives. Tea Party
caucuses were launched in the House and in the Senate. Well, they`re
basically nonexistent today. But the Tea Party dominates still in our
Let`s take the Mississippi primary for the U.S. Senate that wrapped up this
week. Here are some of the headlines. First, Tea Party versus GOP
establishment showdown since Cantor`s defeat. There`s an actual Tea Party
versus establishment matchup in Mississippi. Cochran holds off Tea Party
challenger in Mississippi. Will the Tea Party actually ditch the GOP? I`m
just going to put it out there. The Tea Party is not a real thing. No,
not real. It`s as imaginary as the tea that I am pouring right now. It`s
all an illusion. The Tea Party that`s just a fancy is name for, well, the
Republican Party. Exhibit A, John Boehner as speaker of the House, he is
as establishment as establishment gets. He is the leader of the Republican
Party. And the only - that`s the only part of government that the party
currently controls and this week Speaker Boehner announced that he is doing
something that so-called Tea Party types like former Virginia governor,
Attorney General - excuse me, not a governor, but attorney general Ken
Cuccinelli and current Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott absolutely love
to do, sue the president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I believe the president is not
faithfully executing the laws of our country. And on behalf of the
institution and our Constitution, standing up and fighting for this is in
the best long-term interest of the Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So Mr. Boehner says the suit will challenge the president`s
use of executive orders. In a letter to his fellow representatives, he
wrote that people he meets regularly express to him this sentiment. "We
elected a president. We didn`t elect a monarch or a king." Now the
speaker hasn`t said, just which executive orders are monarch enough to
warrant legal challenge? Actually he said he hadn`t even decided yet. He
also claimed the mood isn`t a precursor to eventual impeachment of the
president or a move to rally Republican voters ahead of the 2014 elections.
Speaker Boehner unquestionably an establishment Republican. I mean he was
in Congress for nearly 20 years before the label Tea Party was even a
glimmer in the right wing`s eye, was doing the same thing that a Tea Party
would do if given the chance. Do you see what I`m saying here? Tea
Party/Republican Party that just isn`t any difference. Tea Party is just
shorthand for Republicans who demand a teeny, tiny, very, very small
government, low income taxes, minimal social programs. It`s an ideology
that has frankly been around forever. Tea Party Republicans just seem to
be less willing to compromise and more willing to say outlandish things
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R) TEXAS: Do you like green eggs and ham? I do not like
them, Sam I am. I do not like green eggs and ham.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: What`s better for a Tea Party than a little Dr. Seuss? You
see, the Tea Parties are idealists, the blockers, they are the take no
prisoners, burn it to the ground, defund Obamacare or close down the entire
government, do nothing, spend nothing, hear nothing Republicans. But, yes,
Republicans. So, when we describe politicians as Tea Party Republicans we
are implying there are other types of Republicans. We call them moderate
or establishment Republicans. But who even is that? Who is establishment
and not Tea Party? Is it speaker John "Sue the President" Boehner? Is it
Senate Minority Leader Mitch "Only a GOP Senate Majority Can Humble the
President" McConnell? Mr. McConnell is establishment and yet he talks
about crushing the Tea Party at the same time that he does things like, you
know, block the veterans` health bills over feigned concern for the budget.
Or is the establishment, people like former Senator Olympia Snowe who quit
the Senate in 2012 because there was no longer any place for her in the
increasingly polarized Congress. Still, Tea Party is a useful shorthand
for those of us in media to make Republican intra-party politics seem a lot
more interesting. Take Mississippi where six-term senator Thad Cochran
beat back a very nearly successful challenge this week by state senator
Chris McDaniel. It was billed, as I said earlier, as the establishment
versus the Tea Party. Much of that came for each candidate was getting his
money and endorsements. In Cochran`s corner was former governor and
national party chair Haley Barbour, Senator John McCain, the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce, the establishment. McDaniel had Sarah Palin and the Senate
conservative PAC homed by Ken Cuccinelli and the Club for Growth, the Tea
The major policy difference between Cochrane and the challenger, their
views on what to do with federal funding. Cochran has a track record of
funneling federal dollars. From 2008 to 2010 alone he secured $2.6 billion
in earmarks for projects in Mississippi. That was before the earmark ban,
a Tea Party concoction which he opposed. He used to be really good at
this. And assuredly that contributed to the fact that Mississippi gets
nearly half of its general revenue from federal dollars, the most of any
state in the country. McDaniel`s supporters attacked Cochran for bringing
home the bacon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Um: In Mississippi Thad Cochran`s name is on lots of buildings. In
Washington, Cochran`s name is on bailouts, tax hikes and debt, lots of at
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right, the Tea Party doesn`t like pork with their
tea. And so, in the end Cochran, however, won in no small part because of
his efficacy in getting federal money to state projects. That was central
to the Cochran`s campaign effort to turn out block voters, which in
Mississippi means Democrats. Cochran`s campaign highlighted federal
funding he`s been able to get for historically black colleges and health
centers and other projects in the state`s African-American communities and
a pro-Cochran PAC hired African-American leaders including preachers to
encourage black voters to cast votes in the Republican primary.
A Republican in Mississippi actively courting black voters is not something
we have seen much of since Reconstruction ended in 1876. Mississippi may
be more politically divided along race lines than anywhere else. Most
Mississippi Democrats, 75 percent, are black. And most black voters in
Mississippi vote for Democratic candidates. And on the other side, very
nearly all Republicans, 96 percent of them, are white. And almost 90
percent of white voters in Mississippi voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. That
is 30 points higher than the national average. That`s why even though
Mississippi has the highest proportion of African-Americans of any state,
37 percent, the state still votes reliably Republican in every presidential
race and hasn`t sent a Democrat to the Senate since the label Mississippi
Democrat was synonymous with segregationists.
In this context Cochran`s public effort to get black voters to not only
vote for him, but to vote in the Republican primary, that was surprising,
but it turned out to be politically ingenious. Turnout went up in
Mississippi`s counties with the highest percentage of African-American
residents and it went up to Cochran`s advantage. In the end even if we
never know if it was Democratic voters who were the decisive factor in the
race, we do know that Cochran felt he needed to go outside the GOP in order
to win. And we know McDaniel, who has not conceded, feels that he would
have won if only Republicans came out to the polls this past Tuesday
because McDaniel, as the super conservative Tea Party take down the federal
government and all that comes with it candidate, is the Republican Party
now. The guy who says things like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. CHRIS MCDANIEL (R) MISSISSIPPI: If you can`t fight against this
president that is truly unfortunate. That is truly unfortunate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s his pitch. He`ll fight the president. That`s the
goal, whether you`re Chris McDaniel or John Boehner. McDaniel is not an
outlier. He`s not the fringe. He`s the new mainstream. The rift between
the Tea Party and the Republican Party is alive. The Tea Party is the
Republican Party now.
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama doesn`t think much of House Speaker John
Boehner`s plans to sue him over his executive orders. Here he is speaking
with ABC`s George Stephanopolous in an interview that aired on Friday on
"Good Morning, America."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You know, the
suit is a stunt. But what I told Speaker Boehner directly is if you`re
really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don`t you
try getting something done through Congress. The majority of the American
people want to see immigration reform done. We had a bipartisan bill
through the Senate. And you`re going to squawk if I try to fix some parts
of it administratively that are within my authority and while you are not
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: At least we know one thing Speaker Boehner has the Tea Party
doesn`t, a direct line to the president. Joining me now Cristina Beltran,
the associate professor of social and cultural analysis at NYU, Robert
George, associate editorial page editor at the "New York Post," and
Nicholas Confessore, who is a political reporter at the "New York Times."
Thank you all for being here.
ROBERT GEORGE, ASSOC. EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, NEW YORK POST: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me start with you. Is there a difference between --
I mean, the reporting is there`s this great intimacy battle between the Tea
Party and the mainstream Republicans. I just spent a lot of time saying,
no, they`re the same thing. What do you think, battle or the same thing?
GEORGE: I mean to the extent that the Tea Party is a grassroots insurgency
within the party, they are two different things. In the big picture,
though, they are -- and to me a battle over fundamental principles of the
party and how best to execute them in a kind - in a legislative or
governing concept. And that`s where there`s -- and that`s where there`s a
difference. The Tea Party people feel that the Republican leadership has
either not combatted President Obama enough or cut deals or how have you -
but the fact is, once you`re in a governing - once you are part of a
governing body, you have to kind of get things through and there is
compromise and that`s something that the grassroots on either side doesn`t
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s an interesting point. I was on Reverend Al`s show
last night and we were sort of talking about the Speaker Boehner`s suit and
the president calling it a stunt. But then E.J. Dionne said something
really interesting. He suggested that in fact, this is Boehner playing a
middle ground that we just may not be recognizing. I want to play E.J.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
E.J. DIONNE: Oddly, John Boehner is trying this because he doesn`t want
something worse to happen. And from his point of view, the worst thing
would be outright impeachment of the president. The problem -- because he
knows that nothing -- nothing would churn out the Democratic base more than
if the Republicans made overt impeachment moves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So do you buy that that the suit is actually sort of pulling
back from the Tea Party a bit?
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Actually I
think it`s a way to deflect some heat from himself and the leadership.
It`s a way to channel some of the pressure he`s under from parts of his
party into something that ultimately will not matter that much. But will
put on a show of force and show that he cares about what they`re arguing
about. That he, too, is angry about the executive actions. But, you know,
I agree with E.J. I think it`s actually a smart tactical move and it puts
off something worse for the leadership in the House.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when you say that, when you say that part of what he`s
trying to do is to cope with the realities of this Tea Party, the
increasing - but this part of what I`m thinking about is, so we know when
you look at the normal curve as a political scientist you can`t have a
third party that sticks around, right? Third parties come, but they have
to either displace or realign. Is that what we`re seeing? Like will the
Tea Party basically meld the Republican Party, shmoosh it over to the right
and then those establishment Republicans who can`t continue to walk that
Boehner line end up as Democrats?
CRISTINA BELTRAN, ASSOC. PROF. OF SOCIAL & CULTURAL STUDIES, NYU: Well,
that`s going to be very interesting to see since they`re really talking
third party right now. You`re getting some bubbling of that. But I think
the point you made was so important, and we don`t talk about it enough,
which is that establishment is not synonymous with moderate. And that
establishment Republicans have the same policy preferences as Tea Party
Republicans. So most of what we`re talking about when we talk about them
being different is the difference in style. It`s aesthetic, right, it`s a
tone issue, I think, a lot of the time. And so I think the media has been
very bad at helping voters understand the difference between style and
substance. So, I think the fact that you`re talking about shared policy
preferences is really important. But I do think there is something
different about the Tea Party in that they are fundamentalists around the
question of governing, and they really do feel like the system is broken
and they think that the very idea, I think, of - they oppose the idea of
working with people who think differently from them, right? There`s not a
lot of room for pluralism in terms of just acceptable - legitimate .
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s different.
CONFESSORE: As the public looks at immigration reform, look at earmarks.
BELTRAN: Obamacare, gun control, abortion.
CONFESSORE: There are - there are real differences. I mean, you know,
Thad Cochran won election partly by broadcasting that he was a guy who
brought home the bacon from - that he did earmarks that he was in favor of
GEORGE: And Mississippi happens to be the number one state in terms of
what it gets from the federal government versus what it pays in in taxes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And it is because it is a poor state. Like, you
know, when I - live in Louisiana, we abut Mississippi, we appreciate
Mississippi because it so often makes us the 49th in things.
GEORGE: It`s also military bases, HPC unions, things like that.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. And so for me that seems like a reasonable
use of the federal government, right? And our previous understanding of
what grassroots voters would have held an elected official to, was that
they would have asked, did you do something for our locality? Is it very
hard for me to imagine just sort of, again, what I learned in political
science 101 that what they would be asking is how little have you done for
GEORGE: Well, the interesting thing about that is over the last few years
because earmarks have become a dirty word, it`s done two things. It`s,
one, made it harder for Republican politicians to talk about bringing home
the bacon, but it`s also made it harder for a John Boehner to - in terms of
BELTRAN: To actually get anything done.
HARRIS-PERRY: For the control --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. That`s right. Stick with us. I promise
we`re going to do more on earmarks. We are also going to - I want to ask
the Nate Silver question that was asked this week, which is has the Tea
Party outlived its usefulness? But first, before we continue our
discussion, I do want to bring you up to date on some developing news that
we will continue to report on this morning. The Justice Department says
that Libyan militia leader suspected of playing a key role in the 2012
attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is in law enforcement custody.
According to "The New York Times," Ahmed Abu Khattala who was captured two
weeks ago, arrived in Washington this morning. NBC News reports that
Khattala could be brought before a federal judge to face charges, perhaps
as early as today.
Four Americans including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya were killed in the
2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Khattala`s arrest was the
first we are breaking the case. Stay with MSNBC for the latest on the
story as it develops.
HARRIS-PERRY: This weekend in Jackson, Mississippi, civil rights leaders
are commemorating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer. When 1000
volunteers converged in Mississippi to attempt to register African
Americans to vote. Their actions including the ultimate sacrifice made by
three volunteers who were murdered that summer helped lead to the passage
of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Which finally secured the right to vote
for African-Americans in the South. The commemorations are taking place
the same week that black voters in Mississippi are once again in the news.
This time for crossing party lines to vote in the Republican primary for
the U.S. Senate and likely ensuring the win of Senator Thad Cochran over
conservative challenger Chris McDaniel. McDaniel has refused to concede
and is looking to challenge the votes cast by Democrats, which in
Mississippi means African-Americans. Joining us now from Jackson,
Mississippi, the legendary civil rights leader and a key participant in the
events of that summer 50 years ago, Julian Bond. So nice to have you.
JULIAN BOND, CHAIRMAN EMERITUS, NAACP: My pleasure. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, first talk to me about this recent primary. Do you see
this as a sign of the empowerment of black voters in Mississippi and,
therefore, in line with the legacy of freedom summer? Or is it about the
fact that they have these fundamentally constrained political choices?
BOND: Well, it`s a little bit of both of those things. But particularly I
think it`s about black Mississippians saying we can make a difference here.
We can choose between a nut cake and the incumbent senator and we chose the
HARRIS-PERRY: Have you talked to anyone who actually cast a vote in this
recent primary, because I`m really interested in sort of what they`re
saying about the choice.
BOND: As a matter of fact, no. Because I`ve been with the people who came
to Mississippi 50 years ago and almost none of them became Mississippians.
There are some Mississippians here, but at this convention but, no, I`ve
not talked to anybody who cast their votes for anybody here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, here on "MHP" we often raise concerns about
contemporary voter suppression. We call it out this weekend voter
suppression and stunning how much there is to cover. I wonder when you
look at what you`re seeing right now in voter suppression efforts across
the country whether or not you see that as distinct from the forces you
were battling 50 years ago or very much connected to those same battles.
BOND: No, it`s absolutely a repetition of what was happening 50 years ago.
50 years ago we fought against these kind of restrictions and we overcame
them with the Voting Rights Act. Now the Supreme Court - under the
leadership of the Chief Justice who`s been opposed to voting rights since
he worked for Ronald Reagan years and years ago, managed to eviscerate the
Voting Rights Act and the states have jumped into the battle and increased
the kind of - of awful, awful restrictions on voters, these voter I.D. and
other things and made it more difficult for Americans to vote. So we are
really seeing a repetition of what happened 50 years ago, but despite these
restrictions I think we`re going to see a black turnout on Election Day
greater than anybody expected.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, in fact, I`m wondering if this Cochran primary
might, in fact, leave the establishment GOP to feel differently about voter
suppression given that in this case it looks like black voters were
critical, were pivotal in returning this incumbent.
BOND: You would think that would happen, you would think that ordinary
people would say, gee, maybe we need to do things differently. But I don`t
think these people have the slightest idea of doing that.
HARRIS-PERRY: That said, I want to play for you a little bit of sound.
This is McDaniel who was the challenger talking about sort of what
happened. And I`ve got to say the language sounded very reminiscent to me
of an earlier period. Can we listen to this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCDANIEL: As you know today, folks, there were literally dozens of
irregularities reported all across this state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES: Yes! Yes!
MCDANIEL: And you know why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES: Yes! Yes!
MCDANIEL: You read the stories.
UM: It`s a rough state.
MCDANIEL: You`re familiar. You`re familiar with the problems that we
have. Now it`s our job .
MCDANIEL: Now it`s our job to make sure that the sanctity of the vote is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m not even sure if that`s a dog whistle, (INAUDIBLE),
because I can hear it.
BOND: Yeah, I think it is a dog whistle. What he`s saying is what really
happened is he lost the election and he can`t deal with it. Black people
crossed over to the Republican primary, which they`ve not done before and
made the difference in the outcome. So, this is a major, major dog
whistle. And you`re probably - you`re going to hear more of this because
he refuses to concede and she still thinks he`s very much in the race.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last quick question for you. Are you at all optimistic that
we can get a new VRA formula for Section 5?
BOND: No, I`m not the very optimistic about that because there`s no --
almost no Republican support for it and the Democratic support is not that
vigorous. So I`m not optimistic about that at all. I`m usually optimistic
about everything .
BOND: but not about this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, that is fascinating, and particularly your point there
about the Democratic Party, which is part of what I`m going to ask my
roundtable here when we come back. Julian Bond in Jackson, Mississippi.
It is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak with you this morning,
BOND: My pleasure. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so when we come back, we`ll continue to talk about
whether or not what happened in Mississippi is indicative of the Republican
Party doing something interesting and great or the Democratic Party really
making a mess of it.
HARRIS-PERRY: We may never know for sure if it was really black Democrats
who gave Senator Cochran his win in the Mississippi Republican run-off this
week. But we do know that the higher the percentage of African-Americans
in a particular county, the bigger the gains Cochran made in the run-off as
compared to the original primary. As the data mining blog 538 put it, the
ten counties where the incumbent senator improved most, those were where
blacks make up 69 percent or more of the population. Is this the moment
you have been waiting for?
HARRIS-PERRY: Black people determine the Republican nominee in
GEORGE: As I tweeted on that night, this was - I think it was the first
GOP primary that was determined by the black swing vote .
GEORGE: At least this century. The two things that struck me from your
interview with Julian Bond, one was that clip we had of Chris McDaniel
talking about the problems that were going on. That reminded me of Trent
Lott 12 years ago actually when he - ultimately the quote that doomed his
career as majority leader was, he said, you know, had we voted for Strom
Thurmond we would not be having all of these problems. And it`s so
fascinating that we are talking about Mississippi again and this question
of problems when it has - always talking about black voters` participation.
The other point, though, that I thought was interesting, we have - there`s
been a lot of discussion about this idea of voter suppression and what is
voter suppression. What I thought was interesting and I think something
that both Republicans and Democrats should keep in mind was this was
actually the first primary that was run in Mississippi with voter I.D.
mandated. And I think it`s interesting that in its run-off you have got
this historic moment of African-Americans participating in the Republican
primary and they`ve got voter I.D. So on the one hand Republicans can`t
complain, oh, they`re illegal voters because clearly, they have got the
I.D. But Democrats also have to point out that voter I.D. does not always
equal voter suppression.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. All right. So, you`ve laid a lot on the table. And I
want to dig into a couple. Because one of the points you made, I went back
and looked at it empirically. And in fact African-American voters in
Mississippi going back to `04, so well before the Obama moment,
outperformed white voters in turnout. So that even in `04, 66.6 percent of
African-Americans turn out to vote. Even in the midterms, in `06, 50
percent of black voters showing. So in many ways it feels like that legacy
of Freedom Summer, of folks who worked hard for the vote and, therefore
have not lost it. On the other hand .
GEORGE: I mean - the original Tea Party.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. Well, yeah, other side.
HARRIS-PERRY: Freedom Democratic Party. But look, as I look at what
happened in this case, here you have black voters who have been showing up
to vote, who show up even over and above voter I.D. But for whom the
choice is Cochran versus McDaniel. And I`m thinking where in the world is
the Democratic Party? Why have they completely given up on the Deep South
and why is there no sense that there would be a meaningful alternative, a
possibility of electing a Democrat statewide?
BELTRAN: Right. Right. No, it`s a huge amount of low expectations and
the fact that the Democratic Party can .
HARRIS-PERRY: The soft bigotry of the ..
BELTRAN: And Democratic voter and, you know, African-American voters they
were just really pragmatic.
BELTRAN: You know, so they were very smart, pragmatic voters. But I think
the point you made in relating this to Freedom Summer is the fact that when
large numbers of African-Americans vote or large numbers of poor people
vote, Latinos vote, immigrants vote, that is treated by a big segment of
the GOP as a suspect class.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yeah, yeah.
BELTRAN: So, the very act of blacks voting constitutes an irregularity.
And I mean I think that fact that you have same things like, you know, the
sanctity of our vote really speaks to I think that language that assumes
that if that population is voting in large numbers they`re not really part
of the real American electorate. They`re a suspect class in their eyes.
HARRIS-PERRY: But what if Republicans, mainstream Republicans who I
claimed earlier, just are the Tea Party, but what if one of the way they
decide to distinguish themselves from the Tea Party was to say, hmm, maybe
there are black voters who need some alternatives and actually try to list
CONFESSORE: Rand Paul. We see - we see Rand Paul going, I mean.
BELTRAN: Jack Kemp.
CONFESSORE: Going, I mean, look, this has been what we see at the
presidential level certainly. Every cycle the candidates on Republican
side try to figure out what`s the one issue they`re going to do to combat
the idea that they`re too harsh as a party, right? With Bush who has
compassionate conservatism and education. With Chris Christie now it`s
drug treatment. With Rand Paul, it`s disenfranchisement for felons, right?
And he - he`s going round.
HARRIS-PERRY: Which is a real. That`s not a make believe issue.
CONFESSORE: And he is going around saying, look, we have to broaden our
audience. We have to broaden our appeal. And what`s interesting to me
about that is sometimes with these issues, they seem more like a play for
moderate white votes, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yep. Yep.
CONFESSORE: But that actually feels like an actual play for black votes
because it is a central issue for African Americans.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with me, stick with me because I really do - I want to
dig a little bit deeper, go back to the earmarks when we talked about
before. And I really do want to ask, is there a way that we could begin
imaging not only a realignment of the party, but a realignment of black
voters. When we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Take a listen to Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel
telling Sean Hannity while he refused to concede the U.S. Senate primary to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCDANIEL: We`re talking about widespread irregularities of ineligible
voters that should not have been there in the first place. And they were
pushed there. This is what`s shocking, Sean, they were pushed there by an
overt action, an aggressive action on the part of Senator Cochran`s
campaign that was filled with race baiting, lies, distortions. He
literally ran the latter three weeks on food stamps. He ran on the voter
suppression and he ran on pork.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MF: Food stamps, voter suppression and pork. OK, for real, though .
GEORGE: Come on. On these issues. That was the campaign strategy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And yet like that discourse, right, if you`re
talking about the style versus substance, right, but if that - if you are
the GOP establishment are you thinking this would be a different way to run
GEORGE: Well, yeah, I think that`s a very interesting point and this isn`t
actually, an opportunity for Republicans. Look, I don`t think the
Republicans should try to be selling, you know, big government and things
like that. I mean they should have at least a consistent message. But
they now do have a list of African-Americans who have cast their very first
votes in a Republican primary. And that`s a great opportunity for them to
start mining these people and start making select calls. Now, look,
they`re not going to necessarily - they are not going to be going on an
anti-Obama rant and things like that. But they are going to be - they are
saying, you know, think about some of the things the Republican Party can
do for you.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Republican Party doesn`t need 40 percent of the black
vote. They need five percent of the black vote to stay home and three
percent to vote for Republicans. And that is the margin of victory in
CONFESSORE: You know, the strategy so far at a national level has
basically been - we have to elect or appoint African American in our party
and now - we have to - who we already believe.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right?
CONFESSORE: Right. Now, that`s great. But, you know, they`re a community
that has beliefs and needs and policies they favor and part of politics is
where can you find common ground and what they want, not what you want and
want to get them to want.
BELTRAN: This is one of the really interesting differences between African
American and Latino outreach in the GOP, is because they actually think
that if they have leaders in the GOP that are Latino that an electorate
will emerge out of that. I think there`s a really different sense when you
have African-American leaders. There`s much less of a faith if there`s an
actual electorate underneath that that would be African-American. There`s
a sense ..
BELTRAN: And they know that.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, look, and policies are part of it. But the part of the
policies that have always mattered for reelection campaign has been
earmarks. I mean - said earlier that`s very high percentage of the
Mississippi general revenue that comes from federal aid, something like
45.8 percent coming from federal aid. Cochran himself pulling in 754
earmarks that he sponsored. $2.6 billion in federal funding. There`s a
Republican argument that that is a horrible thing for those of us living in
post-Katrina gulf coast communities. That sounds like he was an effective
CONFESSORE: It`s cognitive dissonance, right, about some of these southern
states - you know, a lot of them were built with billions and billions of
dollars of federal spending and pork over two generations.
BELTRAN: Yeah, right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Never mind the reconstruction dollars.
CONFESSORE: You know, and Mississippi, you know, we hear about - like the
makers and takers, right? There`s a taker for you. They are a taker
HARRIS-PERRY: The entire state. And only 37 percent of them are African-
CONFESSORE: But actually, I mean, it`s .
BELTRAN: The security the Tea Party - because the Tea Party - the people
who really - the true believers on this, they don`t even want to fund pork
for themselves. I mean they actually don`t believe in the federal
government doing that.
GEORGE: And there`s also - there`s also .
BELTRAN: It`s a scary principle. And that`s fascinating.
GEORGE: There`s another element here, too. Mississippi, you know, has
incredible number of military bases down there and you knew this, there`s
also - within the African-Americans a lot of military families. That`s
another entre, frankly, the Republicans can have with black votes if they
really want to explore that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, sure, but none of that can happen if, in fact, the
Republican Party equals the Tea Party and Chris McDaniel is running around
with those dog whistles. Thank you to Cristina Beltran and to Robert
George and to Nicholas Confessore. That was happening recently as the
1970s, it was legally sanctioned and it was about as horrible a thing that
a government could do to its citizens as it is supposed to serve. Now
reparations are being paid. That story is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: North Carolina is paying reparations. Some survivors of
systematic enforced sterilization in the state of North Carolina are
eligible for a share of a $10 million fund to be split among those who were
involuntarily stripped of their ability to have children by a state
sanctioned eugenics program. The North Carolina State Eugenics Board
operated from 1929 to 1974. "The Winston-Salem Journal" reports for more
than 40 years North Carolina ran one of the nation`s largest and most
aggressive sterilization programs. It expanded after World War II even as
most other states pulled back in light of the horrors of Hitler`s Germany.
7,600 people were either forced or coerced into sterilization. They were
disproportionately African-American, poor people, and the disabled. Today
about 1,800 of those targeted are still alive. The time is running out for
those survivors to make their claim with the state. Monday is the deadline
and currently only 630 have filed with the Office for Justice for
Sterilization Victims for their legal share of the reparation. As part of
an MSNBC original report one of the survivors Deborah Blackman and her
family shared their story.
MARGARET RANKIN, DEBORAH`S SISTER: My sister was a daddy`s girl. And he
tried to protect her all he could. So it was hard for the family. I
remember social workers coming to our house. They would always talk to my
parents. They came so many times and then the next thing I knew was my
father telling me that my sister was going to have surgery. I don`t think
they really understood, you know, what was going on. You don`t hardly find
too many men that cry, but my dad pulled out some tears the time my sister
spent in the hospital. My dad told the doctors, he said, take care of my
baby. But we see all the pain that she went through.
LATOYA ADAMS, DEBORAH`S NIECE: This is the document they actually had her
to sign and they actually had her to put her signature here consenting to
her having this procedure done, a 14-year-old. Final diagnosis, mental
retardation, severe. Eugenics sterilization and total abdominal
DEBORAH ANN BLACKMON, STERILIZATION VICTIM: I remember when they were
shaving me, and they said we`ll go down to your surgery. And I said, OK, I
will take the surgery. And I went down and they gave me a sedative.
RANKIN: These social workers knew that they didn`t have very much
education and they pretty much convinced them this is what you need to do
because you have a mentally retarded child. They labelled us as poor
people. Uneducated. Black. Being mentally retarded.
ADAMS: These people were dehumanized. It was like they treated them like
animals. They basically manipulated them into thinking that it was the
right thing to do. But it makes me sad, you know, not just for my aunt but
for all the victims, you know, that you would make a decision like that for
someone else`s life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is MSNBC national reporter Irin Carmon who`s
been reporting extensively on the story. Irin, help us to understand the
history of the eugenics board in North Carolina.
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, eugenics spread across the country
legitimized by the Supreme Court. In 1927 the Buck versus Bell decision
said basically that it was - if you could have mandatory vaccinations you
could have mandatory eugenic sterilization. The idea being that if you
forced people to -- if you denied people their right to reproduce you would
somehow be able to better the human race. After that eventually 30 U.S.
states passed these kinds of laws that allow the state to have
extraordinary power to sterilize, to issue tubal ligations for the people
that they consider defective, who were the most vulnerable members of
society. North Carolina had the worse program of all.
HARRIS-PERRY: North Carolina was not alone, but it was clearly one of the
CARMON: In other states, you know, the sterilization programs mostly
focused on institutionalized people. In North Carolina they focused on
institutionalized people and social workers, as in the case of the Blackmon
family that you saw, social workers could just show up at your house. You
know, we interviewed rape victims who when they became pregnant, social
workers would show up and have them sterilized. There were mothers and
daughters who were sterilized. There were fathers who were committing
incest who had the victims sterilized. I mean it was an enormously
comprehensive program that really reached into people`s homes.
HARRIS-PERRY: John Railey of the "Winston Salem Journal" has really been
responsible for the reporting on this for years now, he is himself living
right there in North Carolina writing in North Carolina. What is - with -
sort of what`s his motivation for revealing the story and getting us to a
place where there`s some recompense for these victims?
CARMON: Well, at the same time that a historian Johanna Schoen working on
this, the "Winston-Salem Journal" had a team of investigative reporters
working on this and then John Railey kind of moved over to the editorial
page and started really advocating. And under Democratic control in North
Carolina, unfortunately, there really wasn`t a big push for these kinds of
reparations, but from the editorial board of the "Winston-Salem Journal"
there was this constant drumbeat what are you going to do for the
survivors? How are we going to make amends?
HARRIS-PERRY: And what are we going to do for the survivors? Who is
eligible and what do they need to do?
CARMON: Well, eligibility is going to be determined on a case-by-case
basis. But on Monday there is a deadline to apply. It`s not a simple
process, it involves notarized forms, it involves getting official
documents so you have the University of North Carolina Center for Civil
Rights that has free legal clinics. You have the NAACP in North Carolina
that`s really trying to do outreach. It`s been on the local news. After
those documents are in on June 30, they`re going to start evaluating their
claims against the records of the eugenics board which may mean that some
folks, we don`t know yet, but it may mean that some folks who were victims
of the eugenics sterilization law, because they don`t have the right kinds
of records, they may be denied the kind of compensation that other folks
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask one more question around the sterilization
because I think you use the word tubal ligation at one point which I think
many people recognize and think of tubal ligation as what primarily was
happening. But part of what we heard in the Blackmon story, was a 14-year-
old girl experiencing a total abdominal hysterectomy. Obviously, the
medical consequences of a total hysterectomy on an adolescence go beyond
the issue of sterilization. There`s a variety of it physical issues that
arise. Are any of those issues also part of what can be made as a
reparative claim or is only the aspect of sterilization?
CARMON: There`s been some conversation about mental health care as well.
I mean the truth is these folks, they already were so vulnerable, they
already didn`t have great access to health care. It`s quite difficult to
find them as a result of their already marginalized state in society. I
mean we know this was something that really disproportionately targeted
African-Americans and particularly African-American women and it was part
of a sort of broader program of reproductive control.
HARRIS-PERRY: A reminder that justice delayed is, in fact, justice denied
over and over again. Thank you for your reporting. You can see more of
Irin`s reporting on this topic online right now on msnbc.com. Please
remember the deadline to file for these reparations is on Monday.
Coming up next, since when does our current Supreme Court find unanimous
agreement on any big case? The ruling that brought Clarence Thomas and
Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the same side. Plus the artist who wants folks to
stop telling women to smile. There`s, of course, more Nerdland at the top
of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
On Thursday, all nine U.S. Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled to do
away with the 35-foot buffer zones around entrances to abortion clinics in
Massachusetts. It`s a ruling that sent shock waves through the
reproductive rights community not only because of a fear that it will now
be harder for women to exercise their right to choose but because of the
fear that both violence and intimidation might once again be possible. And
given the history of physician assassination, bombing of abortion
facilities and harassing blockades at clinic entrances, this is a
Chief Justice John Roberts who wrote the majority opinion imagines a more
civil process. He wrote, "Petitioners wish to converse with their fellow
citizens about an important subject on the public streets and sidewalks,
sites that have hosted discussions about the issues of the day throughout
That is the key to how the court ruled. The petitioners made it about
their right to have free speech be and argued that the buffer zones made it
impossible for that to happen. The court agreed, writing, "The buffer
zones impose serious burdens on petitioners` speech. At each of the three
Planned Parenthood clinics where petitioners attempt to counsel patients,
the zones carve out a significant portion of the adjacent public sidewalks
pushing petitioners well back from the clinic entrances and driveways. The
zones thereby compromise petitioners` abilities to initiate the close
personal conversations they view as essential to sidewalk counseling."
Sidewalk counseling? I have seen this sidewalk counseling firsthand when I
volunteered as an escort for women seeking abortions. And this was
anything but counseling. As the women were shown pictures of dead infants,
bloody crosses, and they were subjected to horrific taunts like baby
In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts went so far as to write, "Petitioners
are not protesters. They seek not merely to express their opposition to
abortion, but to inform women of various alternatives and to provide help
in pursuing them. If all that the women can see and hear are vociferous
opponents of abortion, then the buffer zones have effectively stifled
Intended or not, the court`s ruling gives First Amendment protection to
anti-choice advocates to counsel a pregnant woman about the choices she
should or should not make with her own body. Yet, these counselors don`t
have to hold any particular license to hole these sidewalk counseling
sessions. What about the rights of pregnant women who want to keep their
condition, you know, private?
Well, the court`s decision can be viewed as narrowly tailored. It is a
step towards taking away a woman`s access to full reproductive care and
preventing her from enjoying the full breadth of autonomy and citizenship,
which is rooted in privacy.
At the table: Irin Carmon, national reporter for MSNBC.com, Akhil Reed
Amar, who is sterling professor of law and political science at Yale
University, Jessica Gonzales Rojas, who is executive director of the
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and Michelle Bruns, who
is a clinic escort and defense organizer.
Thank you all for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for having us.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Akhil, I have many feelings. So, help me with
the fact that this was a unanimous decision. I have enough residual
respect left for the court that it makes me presume that this must have
been legally the right decision.
AKHIL REED AMAR, YALE UNIVERSITY: Well, I have some questions.
AMAR: This is a court -- here`s the good news. They love the First
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that`s good.
AMAR: And everyone does and the First Amendment has never been so strongly
But the bad news is, all you have to do sometimes is call it the First
Amendment and all sorts of other things start creeping in. So, free
marketers, well, we have a First Amendment right to say all sorts of things
about our product and you can`t restrict us.
So, in this case, (INAUDIBLE) loves the First Amendment, and here`s the
second, I think you zeroed in, they called themselves "counselors" rather
than protesters. And here is the third point, this is the sidewalk and the
court thinks sidewalks are spaces for public conversation.
Now, here`s what can be done to pushback, because there`s another thing
this court respects, private property. So, one possibility would be to
actually sell the sidewalk in a 35-foot zone to the clinics so this would
be their private property and then they would be able to control access to
it. The key to the case I think was, this was speech on a sidewalk.
HARRIS-PERRY: On a public -- because, of course -- and I think this is
part of what`s driven a the lot of us nuts in the reproductive community,
we know that the Supreme Court operates behind a much larger buffer zone,
but it happens to be private property.
AMAR: Right, because the sidewalk is free. But then they`ve got the steps
and the plaza behind the sidewalk and they say, well, that`s not the
sidewalk. That`s not the sidewalk.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. That`s right. You can`t protest there.
Irin, I wanted to go back to this counseling thing for a second because you
and I were talking about the sterilization question in North Carolina. And
so, as part of that we pulled up an old pamphlet that explained the
necessity of eugenics sterilization. And in the pamphlet, it explains why
the feeble-minded can`t be trusted to have children and why those who are -
- they literally used the language of moron. It`s a very sort of well-put
together North Carolina state pamphlet for why these reproductive choices
should be made in this way.
And it is such a reminder to me, such a stark example that sidewalk
counseling is not medically or politically or reasonable necessarily.
CARMON: Well, there`s a profound paternalism at work here, right? It`s
the idea that somebody has a right not just to speak -- you know, they can
still speak 35 feet away. That`s still First Amendment expression. They
have a right to come up to you, they have the right to be in your space,
and they have to right to express their opinion about the contents of your
CARMON: So, that is a real expansion of those kinds of rights and the
idea, I went to organize argument for this case. First of all, the idea of
the paternalism, that person being entitled to speak to you is the same
mentality that we were just speaking about in the eugenics sterilization.
It`s the same denial of reproductive autonomy and the idea that somebody
else knows better than you about what to do with your body.
HARRIS-PERRY: Can we imagine that I would have the right to produce with
my church, for example, a pamphlet on kidney disease? And as you went into
the dialysis center, I should be able to stand and whisper into your ear
about whether or not you get dialysis. I mean, it`s bizarre, right? We
were just -- we`re like -- gross. Get away from me. Why would you have
something to say about this had?
JESSICA GONZALES ROJAS, NATIONAL LATINA INSTITUTE FOR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH:
Yes, it`s really unfair. What brings me to this work is my own experience
in Massachusetts. I`m trying to get reproductive health care at a clinic.
And I was -- prior to my politicization and I was entering the facility and
I was physically attacked. I was physically assaulted. I was grabbed.
People were saying, don`t do it, don`t do it. They don`t know why I was
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, don`t get that pap smear! Don`t do it!
ROJAS: A breast exam.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
ROJAS: So they don`t know why -- and it shouldn`t matter if I`m getting an
abortion, if I`m getting contraception, if I`m getting birth control. It
doesn`t matter. Women should be allowed to access the care that they need
without intimidation, without fear, without stigma. And it is unjust.
And women of color in particular are disproportionately impacted. These
clinics provide safe spaces. They provide confidential care for women
despite income status, despite immigration status. So, our community is
often disproportionately impacted.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t want to miss that point, but it does for me tie back
that sterilization point and the paternalism, because if I am a wealthy
woman, and not -- or at least middle income woman who has private health
insurance and seeks my medical care at a private facility that does eyes,
ears and throat and all other kinds of things, then you won`t know why I am
entering. I won`t be subjected to your sidewalk counseling.
And so, it is ultimately over and over again women of color, poor women,
women without insurance who are most likely to be subjected to this.
ROJAS: And we heard from women who -- women of color who heard racial
slurs. They were called a race traitor in entering the clinic. And for
me, personally, going through that experience, you`re shaken, you`re
stirred, but I became angry. And actually, what they did was create
another advocate, because I decided to fight to ensure that women in the
future will never have to go through the experience.
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate your point that the personal experience can be
We`re going to take a break and as soon as we come back I want to talk to
you about your experiences as an escort. It was some of the first
political work that I ever did, which I didn`t think of as political work
at the time, but walking that gauntlet is -- it is not friendly sidewalk
counseling, when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: The targets two abortion clinics in
suburban Boston, and two people are dead.
REPORTER: Eyewitnesses say he arrived dressed in black, pulled out a .22
caliber rifle and as they ride to flee, opened fire. The gunman shot four
people before escaping here. One woman, a clinic worker, died at the
But the terror wasn`t over. Just 10 minutes later, a similar attack at a
clinic blocks away by a gunman also dressed in black. Three people were
injured at the second clinic, including one woman who died at the hospital.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was the "NBC Nightly News" broadcast from the night of
December 30, 1994, the same day a gunman killed a total of two people and
wounded five others at two separate abortion clinics in suburban Boston.
That shooting, along with a history of harassment and violence at the
clinics, led to the 2007 Massachusetts law that created the 35-foot buffer
zone the Supreme Court just ruled unconstitutional, on the grounds that it
violated the protesters` First Amendment.
This is part of the work that you do, Michelle.
MICHELLE BRUNS, CLINIC ORGANIZER: Absolutely. Absolutely. I am wondering
where is the patient`s First Amendment liberty not to have to hear this
speech. In fact, we`re going to talk about Hobby Lobby later.
But as I understand it, I`m not a legal expert. That is a case. It is a
First Amendment case that is about a corporation`s negative liberty not to
have to provide birth control. And so, we`re saying that is protected by
I would very much love to live in a society where any reproductive health
patient`s right not to be harassed, not to be called horrific names, not to
have enormous posters shoved in her face. I want to live in that country
and that`s not the one we live in, not even in clinics where we do have
AMAR: A captive audience I think is a nice phrase. And let`s remember
also some of these women might be wanted pregnancies. They`re extremists.
It`s not that different. No one wants to be at a funeral. And in that
funeral -- there was funeral case, a funeral protest case a while back.
And, actually, Chief Justice Roberts said, you know, you should have a
buffer zone for funerals and there`s a buffer zone at the Supreme Court.
So, it`s interesting.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And I want to point out, you were saying -- I think
those of us who have done the escort work, the signs and the posters and
the screaming, but I was almost more appalled by Robert`s discussion of
this sidewalk counseling in part because of the paternalism and in part
also because presumes that women who do seek abortion don`t know what is
happening in their bodies when, in fact, we know the majority of them are
BRUNS: Sixty-one percent of women having abortions have already had
children. And --
HARRIS-PERRY: So they know.
BRUNS: They know exactly what`s about to happen inside of their bodies.
And I want to make it really clear that if you read this decision, it kind
of sets up this binary that you`ve got the plump grandmothers and that`s
who this case concerns. But then you`ve got these mean protesters. I
don`t see that binary.
I escorted eight clinics in eight states over the last five years and there
is absolutely kind of a spectrum. I`ve seen quiet rosary praying
protesters trespass. I`ve caught them on the property and had to chase
them away. That`s a plump grandmother by this alleged binary.
I`ve also frequently -- you heard the same people who have these gore
posters 6x12 feet large screaming about murder, Jesus, death. They`ll say,
come to me. We`ll help you. We`ll give you anything you need.
And if you need counseling, I want you to have counseling. But I`m going
to bet that if you are having difficulty with your reproductive health
decision, you`re not going to run to this screaming guy on the sidewalk.
CARMON: Well, and particularly because these often are medically
inaccurate information, right? They are spreading lie, disproven
information about abortion causes infertility, abortion causes breast
cancer, it will make you kill yourself.
It`s also false information. I think that`s worth saying.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it can often be false information. But let`s put that
then in the context of states which are passing TRAP laws, which are
requiring a variety of medically unnecessary procedures -- all of those
states, everything you see in yellow, has some kind of TRAP that includes
things like the width of a hallway, you know, physicians having admitting
So, the clinics providing health care have to meet all these standards but
the people providing this health counseling don`t. OK. But let me back up
for one second. One second.
I want to say the one thing I agree with Roberts on. This is a fundamental
issue. It is one which there has been disagreements of people who are of
goodwill, and that it is reasonable to have a public conversation about it
even as the right to access the medical procedure is protected.
So, how do we do that?
AMAR: And even though I`m somewhat critical of the decision as you`ve
heard, here are a cull of things that should be said on its behalf. Its
tone was not the screaming and yelling.
It actually -- I did identify things that could be done if there was an
evidentiary basis. I talked about more targeted judicial injunctions.
They said it was really a problem -- this is what they said -- on Saturdays
in Boston and not elsewhere.
But look, note one thing, you had Roberts joined by the four liberals
actually. So they themselves are kind of modeling -- this is the same
lineup as we saw actually upholding the Obama health care law.
So, at least -- and the volume was toned down I think in Scalia`s
AMAR: I thought Roberts` opinion tried very much to give us a model of
what counseling rather than protest might look like.
ROJAS: I think the challenges of what`s happening in the courtroom is so
disconnected from the reality on the ground.
ROJAS: So we`re seeing so many tactics getting more and more egregious.
We`re seeing women -- we`re seeing pictures being taken, license plates
being taken, being posted on the Internet. So the tactics have become
very, very dangerous and very egregious and that hasn`t opinion really
considered in this court case, and quite frankly, this is how these things
are still going to happen and we`re really concerned about the
implementation of what the decision is.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, you bring up an interesting point. I was pushing
on this privacy point and I hadn`t thought about that, that new
technologies often mean not only that they lose, that women lose privacy in
that moment, but can lose privacy in a much broader sense to the extent
that protesters or counselors want to publicize openly who these women are.
Stay with us because I to want to talk about Hobby Lobby a little bit. I
real quick want to get a position on one other big ruling that we saw this
Up next, the other key ruling out of the Supreme Court this week that had
the makings of a ninth grade social studies lesson. I want to ask Akhil
about it when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: A second ruling by the Supreme Court on Thursday sent a
clear message that President Obama`s powers are limited. The court
unanimously ruled in NLRB versus Noel Canning, that the president violated
the Constitution in 2012 by making recess appointments to the National
Labor Relations Board while the Senate was on a brief break.
In its opinion, which was written by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court
concluded that "when the appointments before us took place, the Senate was
in a midst of a three-day recess. Three days is too short a time to bring
a recess within the scope of the clause, thus we concluded the president
lacked the power to make the recess appointments here at issue."
Though the court put limits on the president`s recess appointment powers in
the short term, they still left open the possibility for recess
appointments to be made during breaks of 10 days or more. So, 10 days is a
recess. Three days is not.
You wrote about this back when the appointments were made and said, hey,
just write a letter. It will solve it.
Tell me about that solution that wasn`t taken.
AMAR: You see, because a lot of people think this is the president
disregarding the Senate. In fact, and that`s what Senator McConnell says
and the minority leader, that Obama probably will have the support of the
majority of the Senate the but there was the filibuster to deal. He didn`t
have 60 senators. He had 51.
So way back when, the day he did this, I said, Senator Reid, the majority
letter should sign the letter, get 50 other Democrats onboard saying, we
support what the president did. The president is not dissing the Senate.
He`s actually helping us do a kind of filibuster reform.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that idea because it reminds us that, in fact, the
Senate is controlled by a majority of Democrats and that in this case, the
notion of the president versus the Senate is not really quite what
I want to talk about one other case that`s coming up, that`s Hobby Lobby.
Any sense from our buffer zones case, from your perspective, Irin, about
what we can expect from Hobby Lobby?
CARMON: These cases I think are intimately related on a lot of ways. So,
one thing, they both set up people who are conservative as the victims as
being, as their rights being oppressed and they, in fact, have overlapping
attorneys. The attorney for Eleanor McCullen, Mark Rienzi, who argued the
case, he works for the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, which has
brought most of the cases against the contraceptive coverage in the
Affordable Care Act, which is what is at issue in the decision we`re
expecting on Monday.
And this whole idea is using the First Amendment as a weapon to kind of
erode different laws and regulations that have been passed to expand access
to reproductive health care. So, we`ll see perhaps maybe the anonymity in
McCullen was the sign. I don`t know this is the case. Perhaps it was the
sign that there was some vote swapping because Justice Roberts really likes
unanimous decisions. He likes to look reasonable. Perhaps that will mean
a less bad outcome for contraceptive access on Monday.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, as you bring unanimity, I`m reminded that, of course,
one of the people currently sitting on the court is Sonia Sotomayor who --
I`m always looking for Sotomayor and the notorious RBG, Ginsberg, to scream
out, no, no, not this. And so when Sotomayor joins in this decision, I
started asking, is it about a kind of Catholic Latino conservatism? And
you were saying earlier, no, that is not the way to think about it.
So, tell me that.
ROJAS: So, like the majority of all women, the vast majority of women in
this country, Latinas of all faiths use and support contraception, and 97
percent of sexually experienced Latinas have used a form of contraception
in their life and 90 percent of married Catholic Latinas have used a form
of contraceptive that`s banned by the Vatican. So, this is something we
need that we used and that the ACA was a big one for us when they included
contraception as preventative care.
So, we are hopeful and we really want to ensure that the Supreme Court
rules in the favor of religious liberty of the women, of the families that
can make decisions for themselves with their own moral agency, with their
own faith, with their own conscience, not those of the CEOs.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you don`t see Sotomayor as necessarily joining as a base
level identity politics?
HARRIS-PERRY: Because we`re probably getting the politics wrong.
Let me ask one are more. I want to get you in on this. I want to
underline one more time the point that gauntlet that will lead to either
the screaming or to the sidewalk counseling is really about certain kinds
of communities, certain kinds of women, those marginalized having to
BRUNS: Absolutely. More and more, I think, throughout our society we`re
really seeing this doubling down on privilege, and when you have the
Supreme Court has this enormous buffer zone for the interest of the
justices don`t actually even use, versus, we can`t get a measly 35 feet.
We never had a Supreme Court justice murdered. We had one brought up on
murder charges in the 1880s but never killed.
Meanwhile, we had eight doctors, workers, providers, escorts killed since
1993. And so, you have this history that says, look, to me it`s reasonable
to say 35 lousy feet away. But, you know, these are folks who are going
into a clinic to receive a stigmatized type of health care. They are women
who don`t have the private doctors that you were mentioning. It just
exposes them in a way that people who do have more advantages in life
don`t, and that`s fundamentally unjust to me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you all for being here and thank you for, if only they
would read your pieces, they would avoid such terrible outcomes.
Thank you to Irin Carmon and Akhil Reed Amar. Also, thank you to Jessica
Gonzales Rojas, and to Michelle Kinsey Bruns.
Coming up, using art as a kind of 35-foot buffer zone to fend off street
harassment. But first, my letter of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Over the last month, we`ve been telling you about the tens
of thousands of children coming alone across the southern border of the
United States. Since October, more than 27,000 children have reached the
border, many of them fleeing brutal violence and extreme poverty in their
As part of the Obama administration`s effort to stem the tide of young
people crossing the border, the United States is sending $225 million in
aid money to the three countries of origin for most of the migrant
children, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
The money is intended to help return the children home and assist those
countries in ensuring their safety and security once they are resettled.
But some opponents of the aid program argued a better response to the surge
in migrant children is punishment instead of protection, which is why my
letter this week goes to one of the most vocal and influential of those
voices, the vice chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Dear Representative Candice Miller:
It`s me, Melissa.
Now, I think we can all agree that the sudden surge of unaccompanied
children at the border is a complicated problem but no easy answers. But
your suggestion that the United States try to solve it by cutting off aid
to Central America makes me question whether you fully appreciate the
nature of the problem itself.
This week, you issued a statement saying, "We need to take some steps to
protect America by getting our neighbor`s attention instead of increasing
funding by hundreds of millions as the president has called for, we need to
stop foreign aid to the centrals immediately."
I`m wondering if maybe this is a case of how having only a hammer causes
you to see only nails everywhere you look, because it seems that your
leadership positions on homeland and border security committees have
limited the scope of your perspective on exactly what you are looking at
when you see the children at our border. According to a survey of migrant
children from the U.N. Refugee Agency, nearly 60 percent of children they
spoke with reported being forcibly displaced because they suffered or faced
harms that indicate a potential or actual need for international
The countries that the children call home, Honduras, El Salvador,
Guatemala, have some of the highest murder rates on the planet. Many of
the children reported vulnerability to widespread gang violence in those
countries as their primary reason for leaving. Some told stories about the
every day challenges of trying to avoid threats like beatings and robberies
and rapes and murders and the inevitability of falling victim if they
From where I`m sitting, Representative Miller, that isn`t a matter of
national security or immigration policy. That is a humanitarian crisis,
emphasis on humans -- thousands of children who are running for their
lives. And they won`t be made any safer by your proposal to use the United
States large footprint of influence in Central America to stop their
governments into submission.
There`s no quick fix for the current challenges facing those governments.
The extreme poverty, the murderous gangs, these problems have been decades
in the making. And are due in no small part to the U.S.`s long history of
intervention to advance our interests in Central America.
Now, the consequences of the involvement have reached our doorstep,
demanding that we respond not to a problem in need of punishment but to
people, children, who simply want to be safe.
HARRIS-PERRY: Any fan of televised legal dramas can recite by heart the
last two lines of the Miranda rights read by police to a criminal suspect
under arrest. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an
attorney, one will be provided for you.
But what you may not know is that those rights guaranteed by the Supreme
Court in its 1963 Gideon v. Wainwright decision apply only to criminal
cases. There is no guaranteed right to counsel in civil cases, which means
if you can`t afford a lawyer you could be on your own in trying to fight
the loss of your home, your money, your children, which in the vast
majority of cases are civil matters. And if you`re an immigrant facing
deportation, also a civil case not being able to afford a lawyer could mean
you lose everything.
But the city of New York is looking to change that, with the first of its
kind pilot program that has provided free legal defense for poor
immigrants. The program, which matched 190 people with attorneys, has been
expanded to ensure representation for all indigent New Yorkers who are in
detention awaiting deportation.
Joining me now is someone who has been covering that story, Seth Freed
Wessler, reporter for "In Plain Sight", an NBC News project covering
poverty and inequality in America, and also, Marina Caeiro, senior program
associate for the Center on Immigration and Justice at the Vera Institute,
one of the groups that helped to launch the program.
Thank you both for being here.
SETH FREED WESSLER, IN PLAIN SIGHT: Thanks a lot.
MARINA CAEIRO, VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE: Thank you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Marina, let me start with you. Talk to me -- what
proportion of people who are -- who are in that New York system are folks
who would not otherwise have had a lawyer?
CAEIRO: Yes, this program is a program that`s helping that population.
Sixty percent of people in immigration detention, the deportation
proceedings have to go through those proceedings without the help of an
HARRIS-PERRY: And -- I mean, this is sort of an obvious question but I
want to be very clear about this, is immigration law relatively simple,
something one could figure out for oneself? Or is it a complicated issue?
CAEIRO: No, that`s a great point, Melissa. What happens is immigration
law is often compared to tax law as to the level of complexity and this is
a real problem because we have people who are -- maybe speak English as a
second language, maybe speak no English. They have no legal background and
they are forced to litigate their own cases against government trained
attorneys without the help of an attorney.
This is really an access to justice issue. And the city -- the New York
City has been making great progress in ensuring that New York City families
can stay together.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So this idea of the Gideon v. Wainwright providing for
criminal defendants but not for civil ones, Seth, I actually think this is
something most folks don`t really think much about particularly when it
comes to immigration. In your reporting, sort of, are folks themselves in
these detention centers aware that they don`t have the right?
WESSLER: Well, I mean, I`ve been reporting on immigration for years. I
spent a lot of time inside federal immigration detention centers and
noncitizens who are detained are regularly going through this system
without any idea about what`s happening to them.
And, you know, the consequence here is a pretty serious thing. It`s very
often being separated from children, from your whole community, from your
home, and deported to a place that for many people for years and years and
I mean, Kat Aaron and I wrote a piece for NBCNews.com and we covered a
story of a young man named Leroy Samuels who came to the United States when
he was 10 years old from Jamaica. He has lived here for 14 years. Several
years ago he got into some trouble. He had a drug conviction and he went
through the criminal justice system. He got the defense. He was getting
his life back together, was doing really well.
And then all of a sudden, ICE comes and picks him up and throws him into
deportation proceedings. His sister was out of work. They tried to find
an attorney, picked up the phone. The attorneys on the other side of the
phone said it`s going to cost you $4,000, $5,000.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m like, whoa.
WESSLER: Right, she can`t do that. She was hanging up on these people.
And then, he was sure he was getting sent back to this place, Jamaica, that
he knew nobody, had nobody left. And then this program clicked in and he
found himself an attorney. He got out of detention. He`s now trying to
get a job again.
He`s back with his newborn kid and his partner and so it really changes
HARRIS-PERRY: And as both of you have pointed out, this is in so many ways
a family issue. In 2013, there were nearly 72,400 people who were removed
from the U.S., right? This is in New York, who were removed from the U.S.
who actually have U.S.-born children. In part giving lie to that anchor
baby narrative that had emerged politically.
Your children who are U.S.-born citizens are not in fact anchors, right?
This splits up families all the time.
CAEIRO: That`s right. And I can tell you something about the numbers
we`re seeing that help families stay together here in New York state under
the pilot, the New York Immigrant Family Unity Pilot. We`re seeing that in
50 percent of cases attorneys have been able to identify a potential from
relief, for people, for, you know, parents and mothers here in New York
This is a very important figure because under that the Vera Institute
conducted, we found that only 5 percent of people who are detained and do
not have an attorney are able to realize that they have a claim to stay
here lawfully in the country. So, we`re seeing tremendous progress on
access to justice and the ability to keeping New York City families
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what then is the likelihood that New York, with which
has done this amazing pilot program, which is now expanding it, what`s the
likelihood of us seeing this in Los Angeles, in San Francisco and Phoenix
WESSLER: You know, there are cities around, counties around the country
looking into replicating what New York has done. I mean, just to be clear
this is the first time in the United States that a county, or in this case
the city of New York, has provided blanket defense for people facing
deportation who are poor. It`s a really big deal, and there are lots of
counties around the country looking to do similar things.
I mean, Alameda County in California, the public defenders office there has
now brought on an attorney to represent some people who are facing
deportation. It`s starting to happen. And I think there`s a recognition.
I mean, when I talk to public defenders who represent people on the
criminal side, they often say to me, the most frustrating thing in the
world is to defend somebody, to get them out of a criminal issue, to get
them out of jail, to deal with that issue and then see them slip into the
criminal justice system -- I mean, into the immigration, the civil
immigration system and find themselves facing deportation -- I mean, which
is just as great of a consequence if for many people.
HARRIS-PERRY: Real quickly, because I know some folks will be saying if
they`re providing blanket coverage, that`s got to be expensive. But you
say in your article that nationally, giving a lawyer to every indigent
immigration facing deportation would actually save the federal government
close to $175 until in detention costs.
So this is not necessarily a massively expensive program. In fact,
potentially, a cost-saving one.
WESSLER: Right. I mean, it is an incredibly expensive thing to lock
people up and one of the main arguments that I think you all have made and
others have made for the program is that by providing people with legal
defense, it gets people out of detention. They can fight their cases from
outside of detention. The government is not spending money on detention.
You know, being detained is a barrier to stopping your deportation. So,
getting out of detention really helps people to stop their deportation.
But it doesn`t -- you know, this process -- this representation doesn`t
guarantee that people are going to be allowed to stay here.
And I think that`s what --
HARRIS-PERRY: Just like having a public defender does not keep you out of
jail but it does give you, as you said, it is an access to justice issue.
Marina Caeiro, thank you so much for being here.
Seth Freed Wessler, thank you so much for being here.
There is more of Seth`s reporting on this story online now. You can head
over to our Web site, MHPShow.com, look for the link to "In Plain Sight".
Up next, an artist is using her work to push back, resist, maybe even
create a buffer zone around sexual harassment on the street. Our foot
soldier of the week is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: According to a year 2000 telephone poll by a research firm,
87 percent of women have experienced street harassment by men. In another
study in Chicago in 2003, 36 percent of young women said they experience
cat calls daily. A typical trip to work is all too often derail by
whistles and cat calls, obstructed by winks or piercing stares or downright
disrupted by unwelcome presumptuous comments or demands.
And it`s probably the seemingly innocuous nature of these unsolicited
remarks makes the behavior so insidious. According to a 2008 survey by
Stop Street Harassment, 87 percent of women constantly assess their
surroundings, 40 percent avoid being out alone, and 50 percent cross the
street or alter their route in response to street harassment and the threat
for potential violence. Another typical response to these forms of
harassment -- silence.
But our foot soldier has a simple message for street harassers. And for
those who view their unwelcome comments as mere facts of life -- stop
telling women to smile.
Tatyana Fasalasiadi (ph)-- nope, say it, I got it totally wrong.
TATYANA FAZLALIZADEH, VISUAL ARTIST: Fazlalizadeh.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tatyana is here as a visual artist who focuses on oil
painting, who grew tired of the constant cat calls and leers she met on the
street. And in 2012, she decided to take action through art. It started
which a self-portrait sitting atop the caption stop "telling women to
After putting this artwork on display on a New York City street, the
project really took off. And the fall of 2013, Tatyana was interviewing
women from New York and Boston and Chicago to listen to their accounts of
street harassment and to create their portraits, complete with the captions
that serve as responses to the intimidation. And by posting the art in
public space, the place where harassment happens, Tatyana hopes to give
women interviewed a way to take back the space.
Joining me now to discuss her project is our foot soldier of the week.
Why street harassment as a fundamental artistic question for you.
FAZLALIZADEH: Well, because it`s something that I experience almost daily,
and I try to create work that is, you know, powerful and meaningful to me -
- something that I am passionate about. And this is something that I`m
passionate about because I experience it so often and it upsets me so much.
I felt like I really needed to use my art in order to talk about it. And
instead of talking about it in an oil painting, which is what I usually do,
I just felt like doing something outside in the street would have a better
impact and be more meaningful. And so I decided to do some street art
HARRIS-PERRY: And talk to me specifically about this smile piece.
Sometimes when I`m talking to young women in leadership training, I`ll say,
don`t nod and smile unless you are happy and agree. In fact, we are
trained as girls to nod and smile in order to make the other person in the
conversation feel better.
What is that particular -- sort of stop telling women to smile, what is
FAZLALIZADEH: Well, being told to smile is something that happens to me
fairly often. It`s usually from men. It`s never something that is coming
from this kind of genuine place where they want you to feel better or put,
you know, you in a better mood, it`s always something that makes me feel
like I`m there to entertain someone. Like they`re asking me to jump or,
you know, entertain me, you`re here for my pleasure.
I`d like to see you with a smiling face because I think it makes you
prettier, it makes you more lady-like, it makes you look more pleasant,
more approachable. It`s always for them, it`s never for me. And so,
that`s where the smile comment comes from. That`s why I decided to call
this project stop telling women to smile, because for me it fits in the
context of street harassment.
And so, I wanted to bring people into the project by calling it something
like that so they can question it and ask about it and consider it. I
think sometimes people get caught up on that specific poster because they
think I`m talking about just smiling in general, like I don`t want women to
smile, period -- and that`s not what it`s about at all. I like smiling. I
just don`t enjoy being told to smile.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me -- I want to read to you an excerpt that I often use
in my classes that gets a lot of conversation going around whether or not
women appreciate street harassment. So, I want to be careful about it.
This is Joan Morgan who we`ve had on the show who is an incredible feminist
writer, writing, in her 20s, in the book, "When Chicken Heads Come Home to
And she asked this question, "Is it foul to say that imagining a world
where you could paint your big brown lips in the most decadent of shades,
pile your fat ass into a fave micromini, slip your freshly manicured toes
into four-inch F-me sandals and have not one single solitary man objectify
-- I mean roam his eyes longingly over all the intended places -- is, like,
a total drag for you?"
So she`s performing this sort of as a feminist, do I have to not appreciate
being appreciated on the street? Talk to me about the difference between
that experience, she seems to have a lot agency in, versus what you call
FAZLALIZADEH: Right. I mean, I think there`s something about being
appreciated for the way you look. I think a lot of people want to feel
attractive and feel desired. That`s not what street harassment is. We`re
not talking about a compliment here.
I understand what a compliment is. When someone compliments me, I say
thank you. I have conversations with men on street all the time where it`s
very pleasant and it`s more we`re speaking to each other as human beings.
Not when I feel like I`m being objectified or sexualized. That`s where the
harassment comes in.
I do know that people go outside and they want to feel attractive, that`s
fine. But no one`s asking to be disrespected or to feel like you are just
a piece of meat or feel like you`re sexualized. Even if you are taking
agency over your sexuality and your power in that, that`s fine, but you
have to have the say on when you want to feel sexualized, not when someone
else does that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate the art. I appreciate the politics behind it.
And particularly, as we are watching the Supreme Court saying that women
don`t have a right to a buffer zone, I appreciate the art is actually
pushing back at this point, even against the Supreme Court, in creating
that buffer zone.
Thank you so much for being here today.
FAZLALIZADEH: Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: And thank you for being our foot soldier.
And that is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m
going to see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. eastern. We`re working up
a segment on the fascinating politics of King LeBron James.
Plus, Justin Simien, director of the new film, "Dear White People", is
going to join me.
Right now, it`s time for preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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