UP with STEVE KORNACKI
June 28, 2014
Guest: L. Joy Williams, Ana Marie Cox, Wayne Barrett, Dennis Van Roekel,
Paul Butler, Kate Zernike, Sam Hall, Phillip Dennis, Katon Dawson
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: President Obama fights back against Republican
obstruction. Good morning and thanks for getting up with us today. There
is a lot going on this morning, a lot going on this weekend and a lot of
stories that everyone is going to be talking about all weekend long. We
want to get through as many of them as we can.
Let`s jump right in starting with this. President Obama calling out his
political opponents in far more blunt and direct language than anyone is
used to hearing from him. Many papers this morning including "The New York
Times," picking up on how the president ripped into Republicans in a speech
in Minneapolis for opposing his economic agenda that aims to help the
The remarks were billed by the White House as an economic address. It`s
being talked about this morning not for its policy content, but as Obama`s
bull worth movement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They don`t do anything
except block me and call me names, and it can`t be that much fun. It would
be so much more fun if they said let`s do something together. If they were
more interested in growing the economy for you and the issues that you`re
talking about instead of trying to mess with me --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And Obama isn`t letting up either in his weekly radio address
this morning, he discusses one of the women he met in Minnesota yesterday
and again rips into the Republicans in Congress for all he says they are
not doing to help her and other middle class families.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The problem is Republicans in Congress keep blocking or
voting down almost every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. This
year alone they said no to raising minimum wage, no to fair pay, no to
student loan reform. No to extending unemployment insurance. And rather
than invest in education that helps working families get ahead, they
actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.
This obstruction keeps the system rigged for those at the top.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And here to discuss the president`s remarks and rest of the
stories everyone will be talking about this weekend, we`re joined by NBC
News Capitol Hill correspondent, Luke Russert, in the Joe Scarborough gear
today, Anna Marie Cox of "The Guardian," political strategist L. Joy
Williams is here too.
This Obama`s bull worth moment, I heard that said, he doesn`t have the
jacket on and sleeves rolled up. A couple of things jumped out of me. The
language he used yesterday, it`s not the first time he sort of called out
the other side. But two things in particular.
One was particularly that line we played. All they do is block me and call
me names. There`s a lot of truth to that I think, but that`s something the
White House has not wanted him saying.
L. JOY WILLIAMS, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Definitely this is a different --
not different in terms of what he`s been saying over the past -- for both
terms, it`s not different what he`s been saying but certainly the agitated
president has sort of emerged a little bit more. So this is a combination
of things, one he`s not running for re-election given time, there`s the
comfort level there.
And reaching the senior status we all talk about the older you get, the
more you don`t care. You just want to get things done. So I think that
that`s where is and so while the White House and his staff may want to say,
calm that down a little bit, we still have other elections to go down, I
think he`s agitated.
But the question is, how can you -- can you connect that at all to any
movement? And so, you know, it would be great if he was agitated and it
was during last election or even the midterms and that helped move people
to the polls and helped move policy agenda and can that happen --
KORNACKI: I guess that`s the question here. Is this a president who sort
of reached a point six years in, I can`t get anything through Congress.
You know, my approval rating is not where I want it to be --
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Look what happened this
week, he realizes any possibility of having a significant legislative
achievement has gone out the window. He`s being in effect sued by the
speaker of the House of Representatives. The trust factor that House
Republicans always refer to is reasons they can`t move on immigration
reform or other large scale issues is completely eroded. He`s cognizant of
that and also says in those remarks, I don`t really care about what I say
KORNACKI: But he says that -- see, that`s where he also, if you took a
poll and said what do you want the politician to say -- is that what this
is? Does this represent a president who really is just saying what he
wants to say or is there a --
ANA MARIE COX, "THE GUARDIAN": I honestly think I`m not sure what the
political game is. I think he`s honestly frustrated and you can tell by --
he`s literally shrill. His voice raises an octave. They have seen every
legislative goal they wanted to have as a legacy has slipped away from them
and -- I was going to say.
COX: Things they wanted to do have not --
KORNACKI: Breaking the fever after the 2012 election. We are going to get
movement on this issue --
RUSSERT: Fever increased and immigration reform is the most important
priority. That`s dead until he`s out of office. We`re having trouble now
with the export/import. The highway trust fund bill is being held up.
Highway trust fund? Do you know how many years the highway trust fund was
voted on, blank check? Things that used to be the normal of normal are a
KORNACKI: Those on left are saying -- I remember this in 2009 and 2010,
basically what you heard yesterday and what you heard this morning because
the other thing that jumped out at me was he`s not saying Congress won`t do
this. He`s saying Republicans won`t do this. I heard a lot of people on
the left saying they wish he would talk about -- wish he had been talking
that way in 2009 and 2012. Were it made a difference if he was?
WILLIAMS: I think so. Just I take a little exception in terms of him not
specifically saying Republicans because I do believe he has said over the
years specifically Republicans, the people on the other side, he has used
that language. The question in terms of the -- you remember the
conversation everybody wanted him to get angry. To show some anger.
This doesn`t show anger, but it certainly shows a different level of
passion. And the question is, can we take that passion and move it into
action? There`s no -- in terms of the environment, moving immigration and
those things and voting rights act, which is a huge issue, I`m not sure
they`ll -- he`ll be able to move at this point.
RUSSERT: It leads to what I think was an interesting argument is when
every House Republican voted against the stimulus back in 2009, there was a
part of the liberal wing of the House Democratic caucus and senators who
said that was the warning sign that you should just move with us while you
have us. They decided to worship at the altar people like Olympia Snow and
Susan Collins, he`s going to break through this with negotiation and never
happen that could be the long-term.
COX: The moderation I hope has passed now. That might be the one good
thing that`s happened here. People stop thinking being in the middle is
somehow in and of itself a good thing.
KORNACKI: It leaves you then if you`ve come to that realization, then you
need control basically of all of Congress to get anything done and that`s
the whole other -- there are other things we want to get to.
Moving on to Iraq, that`s one of the biggest and there`s big news this
morning. The most influential Shiite cleric in the region, Grand Ayatollah
Ali Sistani, is calling on the country`s leaders to choose a prime minister
by this Tuesday, just three days from now, a new prime minister.
The clock appears to be ticking on Iraqi Prime Minister`s Nuri Al Maliki`s
eight-year rule of the country? Maliki must either build a coalition to
keep his hold on power for a third term or step aside?
In a "New York Times" editorial this morning that is highly critical of
Maliki saying the U.S. military support, quote, "Won`t accomplish much. Mr.
Maliki and other Iraqi leaders refused to join together to save their
It appears to be what the United States wants, the idea of getting a new
prime minister in place and soon but is it going to happen and matter if it
does happen and is it going to matter if it does happen?
I guess that`s the question I have, we say well, Maliki failed to do the
reconciliation here, the Shiites and the Sunnis and the Kurds, and bringing
them together and someone needs to step in and do that. My question is
always, is that even possible?
You`re talking about these -- talking about Iraq as a country that created
basically 100 years ago. Today is the 100th anniversary of World War I and
the west creates Iraq and -- what Iraq really is, is three completely
separate groups. Of course, Maliki -- could anybody bring them together?
COX: Can it happen? There`s the difficulty of happening and difficulty of
what are we supposed to do? Besides calling for things, which by the way,
I`m fine with calling for things as oppose to the alternative, sending in
more people, but it is an artificially constructed state. I`m not sure if
asking people to come together under a construction that the west invented
is even a reasonable thing to do. The only problem letting them separate
is even worse.
RUSSERT: Look how they were able to come together before, it was under the
hand of a ruthless dictator --
KORNACKI: Strong man moderate.
RUSSERT: The biggest difference between what happened in 2007 with the
violence when the Sunni tribe leaders eventually side with us is that they
were against Arkawi in Iraq because he was killing civilians. This new guy
who leads ISIS is much more cognizant of what the coverage is of his
movements, has not killed as many civilians indiscriminately as his
predecessor and very much aware of saying we`re going to bring you services
You`ve been oppressed by Maliki. We`re going to help build schools and
latrines and whatnot. The Sunni tribal leaders are much more comfortable
going with him than anyone propped up by the central government not to
mention Kurdistan`s movement and Kirkuk, why are they going to pull back?
I don`t see how you can have a unified state with John Kerry going over
there and giving a speech or --
KORNACKI: What happens, if the U.S. has been pushing for clearly the
administration wants Maliki out, let`s say and I don`t know the intricacies
of Iraqi politics that well, but let`s say there is a new prime minister --
RUSSERT: How does somebody --
KORNACKI: Does that then commit the U.S. in some way because we got what
WILLIAMS: Your question and your point is we`re going to be involved in
some aspect in any way, whether they stay together and sort of be able to
come to some agreement going forward or if they split up, I imagine we`ll
have more influence, greater action if they split up. As you mentioned,
you can`t do anything there without violence.
That`s going to be the difficulty. More of what we`re talking about is
getting Americans to understand sort of join in on the conversations. "New
York Times" editorial board sort of calling for something. All Americans
care about is that we don`t send any other people there.
KORNACKI: It just feels like if there`s a lesson from what`s happened in
the last few months. I`m sure there is a lot of lessons, but one of them
seems to be, inevitably whenever the U.S. leaves something bad is going to
happen because instability is the rule given this history and given the
nature of the country.
WILLIAMS: And particularly if we had a hand in falsely creating the --
KORNACKI: We could go in and create a brand-new government all over again
and step back --
RUSSERT: Do you really want to get in the middle of the Sunni/Shiite
divide, which has been happening longer than the U.S. has been around.
Look at the regional powers in play. You don`t think Saudis are involved.
You don`t think Iranians are involved? You don`t think Jordanians and
Syrians? It is essentially becoming this proxy war of these various
nations surrounding it and the United States is tasked with fixing it.
That`s quite tough.
KORNACKI: Among other reasons why people don`t have the appetite for it.
There are a couple of other things though need to get to first. We`ve got
to get to a break though. Be right back after this.
KORNACKI: We started to mention this a minute ago and now we`ll turn to
immigration. President Obama is trying to stem a flow of young
undocumented immigrants into this country. "Los Angeles Times" reporting
that he is encouraging parents in Central America who might be still be
considering sending their children to the United States to escape violence
and poverty at home not to do it.
It is too risky for them if they do. It`s a message that some Republicans,
including Arizona Senator Jeff Flake from a border state encouraging the
president to voice. The White House believes more than 50,000
unaccompanied minors and counting have been detained since October.
But with reform all but dead in Congress now, maybe that qualifier of all -
- isn`t really need anyway. It`s dead in Congress. How much -- that is
really the story of the week and that`s what I wanted to talk about this
morning. I think this is the week that everybody kind of declared
immigration reform is dead.
I know we`ve heard that declaration made a number of times now really for
the past year or so. But actually one of the reports that was out there
this week was in "Politico" said the Republican, Mario Diaz Ballart from
Florida, who is the top Republican has been pushing for this in the House,
saying up until last month, he had 120 Republicans ready to vote for some
kind of legalization and basically Eric Cantor`s defeat ended that. Was
RUSSERT: There`s a strong element of truth to that. I don`t know if I
would peg it at 120. You have to remember that there`s only about 40 GOP
districts that have more than 20 percent Latino population. So it`s not a
pressing issue for a lot of these guys. There`s a lot that look forward
that realize the realities, the largest voting population being Latino, you
may not want to offend them to the degree they`ve been offended before.
KORNACKI: What you`re asking for them there is the difference between
making the self-interested calculation --
RUSSERT: When are you going to do it? The popular reasoning was do it
ahead of 2016 so we give ourselves a fighting chance. George Bush got 40
percent back in `04. Even though it wasn`t about immigration, it was more
about Eric Cantor not going home and people losing touch with him scared a
lot of people. They said if Eric Cantor, outspending 16 to 1, lost with
this issue we don`t want to --
COX: It`s not completely clear that`s what he lost over.
KORNACKI: Why you actually lose and why the political establishment thinks
you lost. It`s always the second one even if it`s invalid.
COX: How polarization is working in Congress as well, the loud nose will
always be able to like overwhelm the yeses. If you are still against
immigration reform when you see this catastrophe at the border, I`m not
KORNACKI: The catastrophe adds to the opposition to reform.
COX: It does.
KORNACKI: If the case is being made that Obama did this deferred action
program and sent the wrong message. Now we`re being flooded with more --
WILLIAMS: We have no system to take care of any of this. That`s what I
mean and then it`s just like a human tragedy that`s happening there. The
question on whether or not Republicans or folks that would be against
something are sort of see the human tragedy of it all and will act, I think
we`re way past that.
WILLIAMS: If they are not going to act already, this is -- we`re done.
And I think from your point in terms of reviewing one race to look long-
term and see how that affects -- the issue is that they are looking at
their immediate political future rather than the focus of the party in the
future. We`ve seen that from every issue over past couple of years, they
do not care about the long-term strategy, those loud nos do not care about
the long-term strategy of the party.
COX: You have people who are not willing to do -- willing to do nothing.
WILLIAMS: That`s what they got elected for, what they campaigned on.
They campaigned on, I will go and say no.
COX: He was asking about the polarization in American politics, where is
the self-interest in the polarization? You don`t understand, self-interest
isn`t doing nothing.
KORNACKI: It is better than the alternative doing any compromise with
anybody that will -- go ahead.
WILLIAMS: So then the future is I think for the immigration reform is sort
of how you make this the central issue for 2016 and --
RUSSERT: For Democrats and honestly if you`re a guy like Jeb Bush, what do
you do now? How do you go about this in a pragmatic way? If you`re a guy
like Chris Christie, who did very well with Latinos, who is possibly
thinking about running depending on how much more reporting you do, Steve.
KORNACKI: More on that later in the show.
RUSSERT: It`s a very difficult line to walk for them and quite honestly, I
don`t think they`ve had ---
KORNACKI: Or does a guy like Jeb Bush say at a certain point, I don`t want
to put up with this.
RUSSERT: What about states like Florida, Colorado, Virginia, New Mexico?
You`re seating --
KORNACKI: What I`m wondering if the Republican Party not the Republican
Party everybody in it, but a lot of Republicans in Congress are looking at
this differently than we thought they were. We used to look at this as we
can survive 2014 without -- but 2016 is a problem and that`s why they`ll do
something. They are looking at 2016 and they are telling themselves, that
Obama coalition is not showing up in 2016. That`s a problem for 2020,
COX: I think when the GOP came up with its review of 2012 that said we
need to be more moderate on this issues, I think they are going to go
right. I think they can get to 2014 without having -- without further
entrenching ourselves on those issues, but now they are going to entrench.
KORNACKI: Anyway, out of time but I want to thank Ana Marie Cox, political
columnist with "The Guardian," and political strategist, L. Joy Williams.
And up next, the latest on the IRS e-mail scandal -- or is it even a
scandal at all? That`s ahead.
KORNACKI: The George Washington bridge scandal didn`t really become a
scandal until that e-mail was uncovered in which Brigitte Kelly wrote that
it`s time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee. Bankers at Barclays in
London were caught red handed fixing interest rates because of e-mails in
which they detailed what they were doing. When eight U.S. attorneys were
fired during the Bush administration, e-mails showed that Karl Rove and
other senior White House aides were more involved than previously thought.
The modern age especially when scandal is involved, e-mail is forever,
which is why so many people including, but not limited to conservative
lawmakers are finding it hard to believe that, Lois Lerner, former employee
at the center of the controversy over the IRS` treatment of non-profit
political organizations simply lost two years` worth of e-mails to a hard
drive graveyard from which they can never be recovered.
Those lost e-mails coupled with a new set of e-mails that came to light
this week in which Lerner seemed to suggest and then back off of a
suggestion to possibly refer Republican Senator Chuck Grassley for a
potential audit, have re-fuelled the efforts of Republican members of
Congress to investigate and have stirred cries from the right that the
media is failing to adequately cover a potentially explosive scandal.
Is the media really missing anything here? Yes, the lost e-mails are
awfully suspicious and yes, that hardly seems like the kind of excuse the
IRS would accept from an ordinary taxpayer. But is there anything more to
the story besides the hypocrisy that just about everyone, Republican,
Democrat and independent, already associated with the IRS?
Is there any kind of political scandal here that the media is missing? To
try to answer that we have Luke Russert who lives and breathes Capitol
Hill. If you live and breathe Capitol Hill, Luke -- live and breathe the
So here`s the thing, I don`t like the IRS. I think they intimidate people
and they are heavy handed, but I think that`s true whether there`s a
Democrat in the White House or whether there`s a Republican in the White
House. What I`m hearing from Republicans, certainly there were members of
Congress saying that this week.
And certainly Republicans who flood by inbox and me in Twitter telling me
to cover this. They think there`s a connection between the IRS and the
White House. The IRS and the Democrats and the Obama administration. You
have been following this. Do you see that connection at all?
RUSSERT: From where we stand -- or sit this morning, I do not see the
direct link between anything that Lois Lerner did or the Cincinnati Field
Office did and some sort of the direction from the White House. There is
no concrete length that brings them together. That`s not saying some way
there`s a smoking gun in the future and they link them. From all hearings
that we`ve gone through and all e-mails that have come out, that link so
far does not exist.
KORNACKI: What is it that Republicans suspect here? They want the e-mails
and like I said, if I -- were a member of Congress and asked for e-mails,
and they lost me, can`t find them, that`s crazy. No taxpayer will tell the
IRS that. I understand that. What is it they think they are going to
uncover? They seem intent on figuring that out.
RUSSERT: Their belief is that somebody in the Obama White House or
somebody higher up directed the IRS specifically to target these right
leaning Tea Party groups trying to file for tax exempt status before. They
feel those groups were harassed overtly and they feel that they drew more
scrutiny than liberal groups and this was done to limit the fundraising
apparatus and keep them down.
When you look at the evidence, liberal groups were subjected to a lot of
this scrutiny and you also find this issue is a lot of this stems from post
Citizens United of this how do you interpret exactly what these groups are
doing and the way they are operating to file for tax exempt status, they
sort of special organization, it gets into murky waters and legal waters
and that`s what you`re seeing.
KORNACKI: The IRS suddenly gets all these applications from these groups
that want -- non-profit want the tax exempt status. They are not trained
RUSSERT: The biggest problem with them is that they have not been exposed
to the media scrutiny they are getting now or types of hearings they are
getting now. Often what you see on Capitol Hill, when you get these
government officials who come in and usually are in these offices that have
no windows and don`t interact with the outside world, they say really
What great example of that is this guy, Koskinen, what we knew about the e-
mails in April and told the administration and didn`t tell Congress until
May, what do you think he`s going to do? He`s reasoning, I want to get to
the bottom of it before I told Congress. You don`t think Congress will be
upset that you held it from him from another six weeks?
KORNACKI: Koskinen, the IRS commissioner called before Darrell Issa`s
committee this week and was prepared another way. It was not common for
government officials to be as ready to kind of go back and forth to jab the
way he did. Let`s play a clip and talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE DARRELL ISSA (R), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Didn`t
tell your IG that some documents would not be provided? Or did you cause
someone to find out at the White House at treasury or your IG?
JOHN KOSKINEN, IRS COMMISSIONER: I did not and if you have evidence of
that I would be happy to see it.
ISSA: I asked a question.
KOSKINEN: And I answered it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It`s an interesting exchange to me for a couple of reasons. You
know, one is I think people who feel that Republicans are overreaching on
this and trying to create a White House scandal where there isn`t one are
watching that of that and defiance in Koskinen`s voice and they start
cheering. And they say, wait a minute, we can`t cheer for the IRS. This
is the IRS. That`s what Republicans are kind of at the root of this,
everybody hates the IRS.
RUSSERT: He himself is an interesting figure, Koskinen, specifically,
because he sees himself as somebody who has done things the right way and
been this career civil servant who is being unfairly prosecuted for
something that he was not directly involved in the past. Remember, he
wasn`t there when all this went forward.
What you`re sort of seeing at the hearings, more so than anything, red meat
for the Republicans, right, and we talked about earlier in the show there`s
not a lot of stuff they can push legislatively. You have this IRS scandal.
You have Benghazi and this lawsuit moving forward saying that the president
overreached on executive actions. This is what they have to do for the
rest of the 2014. This will be the legacy of --
KORNACKI: Where do you think this goes? You know, let`s say there is no
smoking gun here where, you know, Obama is on the phone saying, Grassley,
Lerner, you know, anything like that, there is no absolutely no evidence of
that, where does this go? When do Republicans drop this at some point?
RUSSERT: They won`t drop it. They`ll continue it.
KORNACKI: Where do they want to get with it?
RUSSERT: I think they would like to have Lois Lerner`s head on a platter
to be honest with you. They would like her to testify. I think the other
thing they would like to look forward is put so much fear in the heart of
the IRS or any of these groups that upon review, these conservative leaning
groups would never be audited to the degree, which they were prior.
And sort of this idea that the jury is out on the IRS. They want to put it
in folks` mind, ahead of election season, President Obama and his Chicago
style politics were trying to control how your taxes were collected.
KORNACKI: They want Obama IRS in the headline and they think maybe on that
they win. I can understand the politics of that. Anyway, thank for that.
Democrats depend on unions for funding and things like getting out the
vote. So why are so many high level Democrats willing to break ranks on
the issue of teacher tenure? We`ll organize our thoughts during the break.
KORNACKI: The close ties between labor unions and the Democratic Party
date back at least to FDR`s new deal throughout the second half of the 20th
Century. Democrats and unions relied on each other to fight for their
shared political goals. They haven`t always been on the same page. The
unions you remember hated Bill Clinton when he pushed for Nafta back in the
But overall this has been a profoundly enduring political alliance. Now
though two former top aides to President Obama are adding to what is
becoming a major rift between some key segments of the Democratic Party in
a major force in the union movement. Robert Gibbs and Ben Labolt, both of
them are former spokesman for the president are joining a national campaign
to support a series of lawsuits that will challenge teacher tenure and
powerful teachers unions.
These are lawsuits that question the validity of a system that promises
seniority and other job protections to teachers. Gibbs and Labolt will
offer their expertise to a group that`s been established by former CNN
anchor and NBC News White House correspondent, Campbell Brown.
The non-profit she`s formed is called "The Partnership for Educational
Justice" is planning to file a lawsuit in New York next month that takes
its cue from a landmark California ruling a few weeks ago that struck down
that state`s teacher tenure laws. Nine public school students successfully
sued the state of California arguing that they were deprived the right to
an equal education and denied effective teachers by the state law that
awarded lifetime employment to teachers after just 18 months on the job.
The California ruling has been stayed pending an appeal. Teachers unions
have applied political pressure for years to ensure that teacher rights
come first. As Robert Gibbs and Ben Labolt`s involvement shows there`s a
robust debate happening on the left right now about whether or not teacher
tenure is in the best interest of students.
The same fault lines can be seen in the charter school debate. Among those
who support charter schools over the objections of the teachers unions are
Democratic heavy hitters like California Governor Jerry Brown, former
Vermont Governor Howard Dean, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and don`t forget
that President Obama`s race to the top education initiative asks that
states money demonstrate a willingness to promote charter schools.
Democratic candidates have long counted upon the strenuous support of
teacher unions, how will this new fracture affect political campaigns
moving forward? Wayne Barrett, a former New York City public school
teacher and self-described life long lefty, who has covered politics for
nearly 40 years.
Used to do the village voice and wrote a provocative column in the "New
York Daily News" this week arguing that progressives will equate liberalism
with automatic support for teachers unions have it wrong. The interest of
all students and the interest of unions are to the same on some major
He joins us now as does the president of the National Education
Association, Dennis Van Roekel. So I`ll start with you, Wayne, because
this is a really provocative piece who wrote this week and I think it`s
kicked up a lot of debate. It`s a very interesting one for me to watch.
Because as you sort of acknowledged at the start of the piece, the default
position for a lot of people who think they are liberals, I`m a liberal and
therefore I`m pro-union and pro teacher`s union. Let`s take the issue of
tenure. We`ll start with that because that`s in the news of this lawsuit.
You`re saying that teacher`s union position on tenure is not correct and it
actually misses what`s in the best interest of students. The interest
don`t collide there. Can you explain that?
WAYNE BARRETT, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: There are so many issues in which
teachers unions and parents and liberals are in the same agenda. Certainly
school funding, decent salaries for children and teachers and class size.
These are issues in which I think indisputably does both the teacher
interest and public interest and parent interest and student interest. But
then there are these other issues in which the protectionism of the
teachers union across the country --
KORNACKI: On tenure, what is it specifically, what is the expense to
students in terms of, there`s a tenure system in place, what are students
missing or losing because of that?
BARRETT: Well, the judge`s decision in California was not just about
tenure, it was about seniority too and attacks both, California and New
York, are among the ten states in the United States that say that seniority
is the sole determinant, only factor in determining which teachers are laid
off and which teachers aren`t. How teachers are assigned and how teachers
are accessed. So that`s a very unusual thing.
Only 17 percent of the population in California supports seniority as the
source. It`s not just tenure that the case involves. Obviously I think if
you look at both, tenure and seniority and you look at them objectively,
they are protections almost insurmountable walls on case of tenure that are
used to protect bad teachers.
I think it`s in the interest of the union and public education and building
a national constituency for public education, which needs to be built for
the unions to be a little more flexible on both of these points.
KORNACKI: Dennis, National Education Association, you heard Wayne`s
argument there and tenure and seniority and these are insurmountable
barriers that can protect bad teachers. What`s your response to that?
DENNIS VAN ROEKEL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: As a high
school math teacher for 23 years, one of the things we can agree on, no one
wants an ineffective teacher in the classroom. From a student`s point of
view, there are two things that are very important. Number one, there
needs to be a process that is fair and efficient, fair to both employer and
employee, to remove teachers who shouldn`t be there.
Number two, for the student, it`s absolutely essential that good teachers
are not fired for bad reasons. No teacher should lose their job because
they speak out too loudly for student needs or because of their race or
because of their religion. Good teachers need that protection to ensure
that the students they serve have that benefit.
You know, if you really want to make a difference for kids, if you really
care about kids, you`ve got to look at all of the factors that impact the
students. They say that 1 percent to 14 percent of the impact of learning
is the teacher themselves, but the other 86 percent it has to do with class
It has to do with the conditions of learning, if we really care about kids
and need to deal with issues like school readiness and conditions of
learning that are equitable in every circumstance.
KORNACKI: Let`s stay on the point of tenure, though, for a minute, we can
broaden it out. We have a little time here. You`re making the argument
there you gave a couple examples, types of teachers and actions by teachers
that would be protected because of a tenure system. That`s your case for
Can you look at it from the other side though, can you see the tenure
system that has been in place in California and New York and seniority
system that`s in place other states across the country and say, there are
examples and times when this system does insulate bad teachers who don`t
belong in the classroom, but they get that protection and it hurt students?
Isn`t that a flip side to it?
VAN ROEKEL: I think the first thing -- the definition of due process or
tenure is really critical here. Due process or tenure simply means you get
a hearing. They must state a reason why they are going to dismiss you and
you have a hearing. I think good teachers need that protection. Students
need that protection for their teachers that they are doing a good job.
So the idea that after depending on the state anywhere from two to five
years you don`t have the right to due process, the idea that you get a due
process that they must give a reason, I think that`s fair and equitable
both to the employer and the employee, but most of all to the students.
KORNACKI: Wayne, if you could respond to what you heard from Dennis, he`s
saying a teacher wants to speak out and say my students are getting screwed
here and stand up for them and their resources or something like that, with
tenure, they have the freedom to do that. Without tenure, they are in
BARRETT: We have states without tenure, I`ll bet you he can`t point to a
single example in the United States of teachers who are removed because of
their race or religion or because they spoke out. You know, academic
freedom was the rationale for tenure at a university level. You know,
where clearly you have university professors taking controversial positions
in their classrooms, a political science professor and so forth.
Now it takes seven years or so to get tenure in a university. You have to
publish and do all kinds of things. All you have to do to be a New York
City public school teacher with tenure is survive and not get rated
unsatisfactory a couple of years and brought up on charged. All you got to
do is sit there and wait for the clock to tick. It doesn`t have to tick
KORNACKI: OK, so Dennis, go ahead, one thing Wayne asked there, can you
point to an example in one of those types of cases where that`s happening?
VAN ROEKEL: Absolutely. It happens all the time. When -- if the law is
removed, the right to have due process and by the way, tenure at the
university level --
BARRETT: So give us an example then.
VAN ROEKEL: I`ll give you an example.
BARRETT: Someone who was removed for race or religion.
KORNACKI: Let`s hear the example.
VAN ROEKEL: Just recently a teacher who is highly regarded early childhood
educator. For years he had been in that position. She has been very vocal
in blogs and public meetings about the needs for early childhood program.
She was called in at the end of the year in a 5-minute meeting and informed
she would be teaching fifth grade social studies next year. It is simply
retaliation for speaking out. If you are not --
BARRETT: She didn`t lose her job. She didn`t lose her job.
VAN ROEKEL: -- not required to give any reason for firing someone, they
can be fired because of race or religion or speaking out or any other
reason because they don`t have to say why. We`ve got to protect good
teachers, students deserve to have good teachers and we can`t let an
arbitrary system simply remove them from the classrooms.
KORNACKI: I know Wayne is anxious to respond to that. There`s a lot more
I want to get into. We`ll pick it up right after this.
KORNACKI: I want to broaden out to the issue of charter school. We talked
about tenure and talked about the sort of this Democrats who maybe have a
problem with teachers union on that issue and you look at the divide
between Democratic players and unions. You said this in your piece, the
ten biggest mayors, nine of them are pro charter. The one exception being
Bill De Blasio here in New York City.
So make your case on charter, this is an issue where teachers unions have a
lot of concerns and problems with the charter school movement. Why do you
say the unions are wrong on that and as a liberal, you`re pro charter?
BARRETT: I`m pro non-profit charter. I`m not pro any form of education
that is for profit. We have some for profit schools, but it`s against the
law now in New York to have new for profit schools. But I certainly think
that the record in New York and I can`t address the national figures as
clearly, but certainly in New York City in particular, although somewhat
true upstate, they`ve been a remarkable success.
And the way in which progressives I think should look at the question of
charter schools or of tenure and seniority is, do they benefit children,
the two pillars as you`ve been discussing of the Democratic Party are
teachers unions, not just teacher unions, but teacher union specifically
and the black community.
It appears other than when we have a black president, whenever white
liberals have to choose between the two, they go with the unions. And
these are two pillars of the party. And you know, there`s certainly an
interest in black children. I`ve been in Harlem armories with 10,000
parents lined up to get into a charter.
We`re going to say they are probably all Democrats. You can`t choose,
we`re going to limit your choice in every way we can get legislators to do
it, we`re going to limit your choice on charters. Charters in New York
City and Harlem in particular had a remarkable success.
KORNACKI: So Dennis, that`s a question for you, Dennis, what do you say to
those parents who were lined up whether it`s in Harlem -- we say big city
Democratic mayors and Wayne has explained why it is a lot of their
constituents want their children in charter schools? What do you say to
VAN ROEKEL: Wayne and I totally agree that we would only support charters
that are public charters not privatized. The issue of charters, I think
what we have to focus on is, are we providing great education for every
student regardless of their zipcode or economic status. The answer to that
is no. I don`t believe charters are the silver bullet approach.
What we know is we support charters and believe they are set up with the
proper financial and transparency and safeguards. They can be successful.
If you look at nationwide in the study of all charter schools, about 17
percent do better than the traditional public schools. About 37 percent do
worse, and the rest do better.
That`s not a good enough record. I think we have to really focus on every
single school to make sure that kids get what they need for school
readiness to make sure they have the conditions of learning that are there.
So charters in and of themselves are not the real answer.
The real answer is to focus on the needs of students, especially those in
high poverty areas and remove the obstacles. We can do that and I think
the unions are an important part of that. If you look around the country -
KORNACKI: Dennis, we`re running low on time. One more question I really
do want to ask you, though, and this basic dilemma we outline at the
beginning where there`s teachers unions and interest of unions and
students. The basic point that Wayne made in his column is they don`t
always intersect, do you agree with that? Are there places where teachers
unions and students don`t necessarily have the same interest?
VAN ROEKEL: I think teachers unions have their interest as a student
centered approach. I went into teaching not to become a unionist, but
because I believed in education and advocating for kids. I came into the
union because I wanted a voice. I wanted to be able to advocate and tell
policy makers how their rules and regulations and laws impacted the
students in my classroom.
By the way, I owe Wayne an answer real quick when he asked about people who
have been fired without reason, in Denver, there`s a lawsuit right now of
all the teachers who have lost their jobs. They have no negative
evaluations and there`s nothing negative that they were ineffective at all.
But the majority were over 50 and of color. I believe that demonstrates if
you don`t have due process, that something bad happens to good teachers.
KORNACKI: All right, that will have to be the final word here. I want to
thank NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and I want to thank Wayne Barrett
from "The Nationist" too. Appreciate you both being on today. We will
have an update on the fight against Sunni militants in Iraq when we come
KORNACKI: We`ve already reported this hour on the political pressure
that`s building in Iraq to see Prime Minister Al Maliki gone as early as
this coming Tuesday. There are also reports of air strikes on the city of
Tikrit. These are coming from Iraqi military helicopters. Important
distinctions since the U.S. confirmed it is flying armed drones over
The video we are showing right now is of the Iraqi families who are today
trying to flee cities that include Tikrit. That city is of course the
hometown of Saddam Hussein, one of the two major cities to fall in recent
weeks to Sunni militants. Be right back with more right after this.
KORNACK: The big question to emerge in the bridgegate scandal last week is
whether Chris Christie`s top appointee at the Port Authority, David Samson,
will turn and provide evidence against the governor in exchange for a deal
with the U.S. attorney.
And this week, yet more details emerge that make that possibility all the
more intrigue. Phone logs reveal the document extensive communications
between Samson and high level members of the Christie administration in the
run-up to, during and in the wake of those infamous access lane closures
The logs don`t show what the calls were about but they do show that as the
scandal built traction, they were some uptick in conversation between
Samson and the administration. They spoke several times a week.
Phone logs also show that during the week of the Fort Lee traffic jam,
Samson had phone contact with ousted Port Authority officials Bill Baroni
and David Wildstein, alleged to have carried out the land closures. And,
in fact, it is contacts with Wildstein markedly increased in months leading
up to the closures.
It`s important to note that there are just call logs. Again, we don`t know
what was discussed in any of these phone calls and all -- and some or all
of them might have been related to bridge gate. Samson has refused to
speak about what happened last fall. But the level of contact between
Samson and Christie`s Port Authority appointees and top aides is more
significant than most previously believed.
Democrats in the New Jersey legislature followed up on this news this week
by announcing that they plan to call 13 new people before the special
committee investigating all of this, including mayor of Fort Lee, Mark
Sokolich, who`s town has been at the center of the lane closure scandal.
And on top of all of this, "The New York Times" also reported this week
that the Christie administration is being investigated for possible
violations of securities law. Violations stemming from money they
allegedly rerouted from the Port Authority to a highway project in New
Jersey. The issue is that the Port Authority lawyers had told the
administration it was legally prohibited from using Port Authority funds
for the project. But according to "The Times", they went ahead and did it
Just in the last week, Governor Christie campaigned in New Hampshire. He`s
played charity softball at Yankee Stadium and took questions at a town hall
style meeting where he promised to veto a so-called millionaires` tax in
But with new revelations coming at a steady face, he`s been unable to put
the scandal behind him.
So, joining me now to discuss all of this, we have Paul Butler, former
federal prosecutor who now teaches at Georgetown Law School and Kate
Zernike, who`s national correspondent for "The New York Times", and she was
a co-author of Tuesday`s front page story that we just mentioned.
We will get into that in a minute, Kate, because I want to get these
details and there`s just so much here to talk about. But I think the first
thing I want to put up, show this on the screen. We talk about these call
logs, of David Samson, top Christie appointee at the Port Authority, he
resigned a couple of months ago.
All of these calls came out. There`s one thing in particular that jumps
out, September 9th, the first night of the lane closures, these are David
Samson`s calls that night.
And look at this -- Bill Baroni, four separate calls for Bill Baroni, it`s
one of Christie`s top Port Authority appointees. Another one with David
Wildstein, and then also Regina Egea. Who`s Regina Egea? She was the head
of what`s called the authorities unit. She`s overseeing authorities like
the Port Authority for the governor`s office.
So, there`s extensive contact with these principle players in the closures
and David Samson on day this happens and there`s also detail on that same
night, Mark Sokolich had been reaching out, the mayor of Fort Lee, had been
reaching and he had been -- you know, to Bill Baroni and he gets a text
message from David Wildstein that night that says, 911, please call me.
So, again, we don`t know what`s said in these phone conversations, but,
Kate, there`s -- the timing on this certainly raises eyebrows.
KATE ZERNIKE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. This is what everyone has said.
We`re at a point in the scandal, six months in, there`s not going to be
blue dress. There`s not going to be another Bridget Kelly e-mail saying,
time for some traffic problems, there`s not going to be anything that sort
of, that damning, that revealing. What -- the way the case is going to be
pieced together is by phone calls and not just these phone calls, but
again, there`s a crucial period in December where there are a phone calls
among Christie appointees, Christie`s top staff members in the governor`s
office, you know, 111 minutes spent talking the night before the governor
gives his press conference on this. What was going on in these
And I think what people who know what happened in this case are saying is,
that this is always how it`s going to be pieced together. You`re going to
have to look at who`s talking to whom, when they`re talking, what prompts
these phone calls. And that`s going to establish a pattern. It`s going to
tell us --
KORNACKI: So, you`re right, there haven`t been since time for traffic
problems in Fort Lee. There haven`t been blockbuster revelations. This
seemed the biggest, watching in terms of the lane closures, these phone
logs seem the most significant to me.
Paul, as -- you`ve been in these prosecutor`s office and love having you on
to talk about these things. So, if you`re in prosecutor`s office and
you`re seeing this, what are you doing?
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER PROSECUTOR: You know, there`s rarely a blue dress,
smoking gun, you`re exactly right. You put it together by looking at who`s
talking to who and what they are saying. So, here, you know, one of the
interesting things is there`s no records of any calls between Samson and
Governor Christie. Now, Samson is Governor Christie`s man, his godfather.
So, it`s weird that there are no official calls between them.
KORNACKI: Yes. You think they would have called to say hi at some point,
BUTLER: So, yes, so prosecutors are looking at two things, obstruction of
justice because it really is always about the cover-up. You know, it`s
never been clear exactly what the federal crime is with bridgegate.
There`s something called intentional interference with interstate commerce.
That sounds promising for prosecutors but there`s a lot more if there was
an effort to cover-up afterwards.
So, it`s really the telephone calls and records after bridge-gate happened
and the bridge was closed.
KORNACKI: And so, everybody, and again, I preface this by saying there`s
so much speculation. Inside the U.S. attorney`s office, it`s so opaque
trying to figure out what`s going on there. But you`ve been in there,
Paul. And the speculation right now is about what is the U.S. attorney`s
office, is it flipping David Samson.
Tell us how just in general how when you try to flip somebody, how that
works, and if you get them to cooperate, that something -- does the public
know about it right away? Do we not find out for a few months? Could he
or somebody else have already flipped and we don`t know?
BUTLER: It`s unlikely that anyone has flipped and we don`t know. But what
the prosecutors are doing are investigating everything that David Samson
has ever done in his life. They are telling him, we have the goods on you
for the last 20 years and if you don`t give us the goods on Governor
Christie, you`re going to go to prison for the rest of your life.
Now, he`s 74 years old an in ill health and has a story to tell. They
believe he has a story to tell about Christie. Make no mistake, Christie
is the big kahuna. All of this, millions of dollars they`re spending on
this investigation, there`s there different investigations, if Governor
Christie is not ultimately prosecuted, will be considered a failure.
KORNACKI: Yes. And that`s -- in terms of what Christie could be vulnerable
on, I guess, one of the possibilities that`s out there is because what
we`ve seen in the Mastro report, internal report that came out from the
administration and a lot of this testimony before to legislatures, we keep
saying no smoking gun. But there`s a lot more -- there were a lot more
hints in the air around Chris Christie in September, October, November,
that he knew this happened or that he could have figured out easily this ha
happened. A lot of warnings that were provided to him.
One of these people who the Democrats want to subpoena now is -- had a
phone conversation with him apparently, like the morning of the press
conference. He denied anybody had known, and he was saying, well,
Wildstein is saying Stepien. Wildstein saying that Bridget Kelly knew.
So, is that potentially one of the big vulnerability here, that he knew in
September, he knew in October, he knew in November, and he`s playing dumb
and maybe covering it up some way?
ZERNIKE: Well, I think it`s potentially a legal vulnerability for him, but
I think absolutely a political vulnerability. Remember that he has moved
the goalpost in this. Initially, he said in December, even in January, I
knew nothing about this, my senior staff knew nothing about this, and now,
we see that, in fact, his chief of staff handed him an e-mail right before
he went on that press conference in December, saying showing that the
administration did know about this, had information about this while it was
going on for Mark Sokolich. We have a suggestion he actually knew during
the week of 9/11 when the lane closures were happening.
So, absolutely. And I think, you know, the question is, always -- you
know, what did the governor know, and, you know, when did he know it? So,
that`s absolutely a vulnerability.
KORNACKI: So, now, let`s pivot here not all directly related, but we call
it a bridgegate because you made waves with the story this week. And I`ve
tried to explain this to people, gets into these dense granular
transportation issues. But the main thing here is big pool of money that
the Port Authority had for this ARC tunnel, rail tunnel connecting New
Jersey and New York. Christie, we all remember, cancels the tunnel and
it`s basically how he got that money to pay for the thing called the
Pulaski Skyway, elevated highway between Jersey City and Newark.
Legally speaking, I mean, it looks like serious potentially serious hot
water here. What is the legal issue here that`s been raised?
ZERNIKE: They call that part to justify the Port Authority taking that
money. First of all, Port Authority lawyers warned and warned and warned,
don`t do this. You can`t do this.
At some point, they were under so much pressure because the governor was
calling press conferences, I`m going to do this, the governor`s people were
pressuring the Port Authority, saying we have to get this done. So, at
some point, the Port Authority switches and says, OK, remember, now we have
to legally justify this. What they did was say this is a Lincoln Tunnel
The statute is very clear on what you can spend Lincoln Tunnel money on.
It`s basically, the Helix, that curb that goes into Lincoln Tunnel and
roads underneath. You cannot call the Pulaski Skyway six miles away, which
leads into Holland Tunnel. You can`t call it a Lincoln Tunnel Project.
So, this is (INAUDIBLE). It`s misrepresentation to bondholders, to
potential bond buyers.
KORNACKI: Right. And one thing I`ve heard this week, what you just
mentioned there. So, Christie was out there publicly saying, hey, this is
what we`re doing. Christie defenders are saying, well, hey, you know, if
it was so illegal, if it was such an illegal problem, there`s no way he
wouldn`t be doing it.
Is there any indication he didn`t know about the law?
ZERNIKE: Well, if he didn`t know about it, he wasn`t talking to his senior
staff. Was he trying not to know about it I guess is the question? But
again, that`s the legal issue. But there`s also the political issue, which
is that Chris Christie, if he wants to run for president, has to go out and
convince conservatives in the Republican primaries that he is a physical
conservative and he has managed the state well.
So, what he did here was take money from the Port Authority and spend it on
a state project, which you`re not supposed to do. Potentially securities
fraud, right? But the other thing he did was, he takes money from a
project supposed to generate revenue for the Port Authority, this tunnel
and spends it on a road project, which is not going to generate money from
the state. So, it`s taking capital costs and putting them in an operating
KORNACKI: You don`t have to raise the gas tax.
ZERNIKE: Exactly, and he couldn`t balance his budget, so he stole from
Port Authority to do it. That`s the problem, that`s politically.
KORNACKI: So, legally then, Paul, this is at the heart of this particular
issue then with the Pulaski Skyway and the Port Authority money and all
that, there`s something called the Martin Act.
KORNACKI: Which is this New York state statute. Now, can you explain in
terms -- this is my understanding of this is that people on Wall Street, on
the New York side here, fear this thing. It`s a New York state law and
because this is the Manhattan district attorney looking into it, this is a
law with some real teeth in it.
BUTLER: Yes, so important point. You remember Paul Fishman, the U.S.
attorney from New Jersey, is investigating Sandy-gate. So, this is a whole
different prosecutor with a whole different team of agents and
investigators looking into this Pulaski Bridge scandal, they have the
powerful tool, the Martin Act. It`s a New York state law. It`s class E
felony and it says that if you misrepresent any material fact to a
bondholder, then you`re going to jail.
And misrepresent -- it doesn`t have been to intent to defraud. All you
have to say something that`s not true like the purpose of this Pulaski
infrastructure project is to increase access to the Lincoln Tunnel. Well,
that`s just not true. Governor Christie is going on TV and saying in press
conferences that they are going to use the money because it`s Port
Authority legitimate money -- again, that`s exposure. That`s not good for
KORNACKI: Quick question, Kate, from your reporting. Do you have any
sense -- we`re always asking when is the next shoe to drop? It seems like
the U.S. attorney, we think it`s a little longer term, I`ve heard from
people that they say, and I don`t know if it`s right, you can tell me, they
expect the Manhattan district attorney maybe to move into a relatively near
future on this. Did you get any indication of that?
ZERNIKE: Well, the Manhattan -- as Paul hinted, the Manhattan district
attorney is really limited to but their thing is the Martin Act
legislation, right? Because this is New York state law. The New Jersey
U.S. attorney is looking at Sandy money, they`re looking at this idea of
Hoboken, which you have reported so much on, they`re also looking
So, they`ve got a lot on their plate to investigate. So, I do think the
Manhattan D.A. could turn this around faster.
KORNACKI: OK. Well, we`ll look at that one first and all of the other
ones at the same time.
Anyway, my thanks to Paul Butler from Georgetown School of Law, and "New
York Times`" Kate Zernike, appreciate you both being here.
When we come back, how the GOP is destroying itself from within after
Senator Thad Cochran`s razor thin victory in the Mississippi primary, the
infighting has only gotten worse after the shocking death of a key figure
in the race`s biggest scandal. All of the new details are next.
KORNACKI: The Mississippi Senate race took a sad turn yesterday with news
of an apparent suicide. Mark Mayfield was vice chairman of the Mississippi
Tea Party and a Chris McDaniel supporter. Last month, he was arrested in
an alleged conspiracy to photograph Senator Thad Cochran`s bedridden. Mrs.
Cochran suffers from dementia and the scandal slowed McDaniel`s building
You, no doubt, by now know that McDaniel lost on Tuesday by less than two
points. Yesterday morning, police say they received a phone call from
Mayfield`s wife saying her husband had shot himself at their home.
According to a report in the "Jackson Clarion-Ledger", Mayfield was found
dead at scene. Chris McDaniel issue a statement saying, quote, "Regardless
of recent allegations made against his character, Mark Mayfield was a fine
Christian man always respectful and kind. He`s one of the most polite and
humble men I`ve ever met in politics."
Joining me now to discuss the latest on this developing story is Sam Hall,
reporting from "The Clarion-Ledger" newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi.
So, Sam, obviously a truly tragic turn here in what`s been a bizarre story
all around. Politically speaking, though, I`ve heard people around Chris
McDaniel now lashing out and saying that politics from Thad Cochran
supporters brought this on. In terms of that reaction, who are you hearing
it from and who exactly are they blaming for this?
SAM HALL, CLARION-LDEGER: We`re hearing it from mostly supporters, a lot
of the volunteers who have been involved with the race, people who are on
social media and who have been very active in kind of pushing their message
and their agenda. There was a staffer yesterday who was very close to
McDaniel who lashed out on Twitter. He eventually deleted that tweet and
sent out a press release where he explained his relationship with Mayfield.
He didn`t apologize for what he said.
But, you know, the gist of it and it`s gotten uglier and uglier, is that,
you know, the police mishandled the way they arrested him and the district
attorney you know came up with bogus charges or the bond was set too high.
And you know, that the Cochran campaign and his supporters made political
hay out of something they shouldn`t have.
So, you know, the blame is being put out there. There`s people from out of
state especially who are putting all sorts of vile and unbelievable things
out there, you know, accusing Mayor Madison and other people of being
involved in -- going so far to say they killed this man. So --
KORNACKI: Right. I mean, this is as we said, it`s -- all around ugly and
sad and bizarre story. But also, the context for this obviously, what`s
happened since Tuesday in the election where you had the non-concession
speech from Chris McDaniel.
Here`s the latest from yesterday. This is Chris McDaniel`s latest in
talking about what he`s going to do next. Let`s just play that and then
talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MCDANIEL (R-MS), DEFEATED SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: This was not a fair
election. Activity was illegal at worst, unethical at best. We can`t have
elections like that and have people maintain their confidence in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, Sam, do you have any indication -- I mean, what McDaniel is
going to do next. Is there some kind of legal challenge that he`s going to
try to pursue here? I`ve heard people saying a write-in campaign. I don`t
even know if a write-in is legal in Mississippi. What`s his next move? Do
you have any sense?
HALL: Well, a write-in campaign would not be legal. They could write it
in but the votes wouldn`t count. The way the laws are set up, the only
time a write-in campaign is allowed if the candidate either dies or is
removed from the ballot between the ballot being prepared and the actual
Election Day. So, it`s very narrow window.
But past that, they are still trying to go through all of the ballot books
and I don`t know if it`s all of the counties but definitely specific
counties trying to determine if there are enough irregularities to bring
KORNACKI: So, what --
HALL: But 1,200 in the largest county and that number has been disputed by
-- you know, by the people who are running the election there in Hinds
KORNACKI: So, where do you think this is all going? Because, I mean, our
understanding of this race before was, hey, look, if Thad Cochran survives
the primary, we`re not talking about Mississippi in November, Republicans
win and that`s it. I`m looking especially in the wake of this tragic human
event with the suicide, but also how that divides two factions down there.
Is this -- are you confident Republicans can come together and for November
and win this thing?
HALL: Not anymore, no. There`s a sense that this is over as far as any
kind of challenge and all, they are going to go through there. The odds of
them actually finding enough irregularities to make a difference in the
race is probably slim. There clearly are some, but I don`t think it`s as
widespread as they are trying to make people believe.
At the same time, I don`t see any real stomach for saying, look, we`re
supporting Thad Cochran. It`s certainly not there among the rank in file
of the Tea Party movement and his core supporters. And I don`t think it`s
there for McDaniel right now at all.
KORNACKI: All right. Well, my thanks to Sam Hall of "The Clarion-Ledger."
You`ve been great covering the story. Appreciate all of the work you`ve
We`re going to get more into the politics of the story and what comes next
for the Tea Party, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCDANIEL: This is not the party of Reagan.
MCDANIEL: But we`re not done fighting. When we`re done, it will be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Chris McDaniel in what was not his concession speech on
Tuesday night after losing to Thad Cochran by less than two points.
We talked about the way that Cochran won the Mississippi race this week,
reaching out to African-Americans who generally vote Democratic, has
enraged his defeated Tea Party opponents, as well as Tea Party leaders
across the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: Insider Republicans in the Senate bought 9
percentage points, 8 or 9 percentage points from the black Uncle Tom voters
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So with these tensions building, what will be the national
fallout from the Cochran/McDaniel race?
Joining us now to discuss, we have Phillip Dennis. He`s the founder of the
Dallas Texas Party. And Katon Dawson, he`s the former chairman of the
South Carolina Republican Party. He joins us from Columbia, in South
Carolina this morning.
So, I appreciate you both being here. I want the two of you here because I
see each of you -- you know, I see Phillip as quintessential Tea Party guy.
Katon Dawson -- don`t take this a wrong way -- quintessential Republican
establishment guy. You almost became the chairman of the RNC a few years
ago. And I want to have this discussion between the two of you because the
reaction to this race in Mississippi has really crystallized to me the
mistrust that exists, and open warfare that exists between the Tea Party
base and Republican establishment and I think raises questions about your
ability to kind of co-exist within the same party going forward.
And, Philip, I want to start with you, because I was sitting in for Chris
Matthews on "HARDBALL" this week and we had you on. And you said something
that floored me. You said that in response to what happened in and how
Thad Cochran won this race, you want Republicans in Mississippi to vote
this fall not for Thad Cochran but for the Democratic candidate.
Can you explain that?
PHILLIP DENNIS, DALLAS, TEXAS TEA PARTY: Well, right, when the Republicans
are so desperate to keep a big spending lifetime politician, one of the
most prolific pork spenders in office, that they have to reach out to
liberal Democrats to win, and he received 35,000 votes from Democrats and
only won by 6,000 votes. The Republicans in the state of Mississippi
soundly rejected Thad Cochran and preferred Chris McDaniel.
And the way they did that in utilizing the most vile lies in disparaging
Tea Partiers as racist, Klan members, Nazis and so forth, it was
despicable. That`s why Al Sharpton and Barack Obama used.
KORNACKI: But you`re making the argument, you`re not just saying we`re
upset that we lost. You`re saying, not only are we upset that we lost, you
would rather have a Democrat vote for Harry Reid as majority lead are than
Thad Cochran who won`t?
DENNIS: Well, we`ve lost primary battles against the establishment
Republicans and they have all of the money and they have a lot of laws and
have the best talent in the world to get them and keep them elected. But
the problem, if the way that they did this, the Republicans cannot be
rewarded with the seat if they are going to use this basically nuclear bomb
against the conservative base in the Republican Party, what they did bas
basically saying that the Tea Party, they echoed the words of Harry Reid
and Nancy Pelosi. The only reason we don`t support Barack Obama is because
he`s a black man, but we supported Tim Scott and Mia Love and Herman Cain
and Allen West and other black conservatives and so forth.
But for Republicans to utilize those tactics is despicable and really
should be below even the Republican establishment.
KORNACKI: So this is a voice, a prominent voice from the Republican Party
base. How do you respond to what you`ve been hearing?
KATON DAWSON, FORMER CHAIRMAN, SC REPUBLICAN PARTY: You know, one of the
things we noticed in the Tea Party movement is the five principles they
have, which is physical responsibility, limited government, personal
responsibility to rule the law and national sovereignty is in the middle of
all of the Republican Party`s rules, laws in every state.
So, my point here is that there`s a big difference in disconnect between a
Republican Party and a Tea Party. Certainly, I`ve been involved in South
Carolina with the elections of Tim Scott, Nikki Haley and Lindsey Graham
and diverse Republicans.
But I would tell you is, there`s a difference in a political party and the
organic movement of the Tea Party, which has held a lot of the Republican
Party accountable. And that`s been a good thing. When you come to the
elections in Mississippi, it was Mississippi`s voters, there`s no litmus
test of who can vote in a primary there. There`s not registration by
party. It isn`t in South Carolina --
KORNACKI: But, Katon, can you understand the basic rage I would say not an
understatement given some of this reaction, I know there`s no party
registration in Mississippi, but it is clear that it was traditionally
Democratic -- totally legal, traditional Democratic leaders who put Cochran
over the top in Mississippi.
Can you understand from the standpoint of somebody who`s a conservative
Republican in the base of the party, they would say, it`s legal but boy,
that`s not fair, that`s -- you know, we want a conservative Republican?
DAWSON: Well, Steve, certainly I`m a conservative Republican and do think
it`s unique that I`m now a member of establishment.
But what I would say is when are you going to have a litmus test on who can
come vote at the ballot box? When are you going to say, you know, OK,
we`re only going to let certain factions of our party come vote. Thad
Cochran won, they did a get the vote machine. It doesn`t take a rocket
scientist to figure out how Thad Cochran beat Chris McDaniel.
KORNACKI: Phillip, can you --as a leader in the Tea Party movement, you`re
listening to Katon right now, and you heard people say thing like he`s
saying all week. Can you continue to exist in this party?
DENNIS: I think that it`s certainly brings us to a new level. We find it
incredulous that the Republican party in Mississippi would want Nazi Klan
racist in their big tent. I mean, they`ve kind of -- if you live by that
kind of sword in the primary to keep your man alive, you`re probably going
to die by it. This one is a little bit easier. I mean, this is not Harry
Reid we`re talking about that`s running as a Democrat in Mississippi. He`s
a very conservative --
KORNACKI: But he`ll make Harry Reid majority leader again.
DENNIS: But again, this is the whole point with the Republicans, is that
we`re seeing -- virtually no difference between the Republicans and
Democrats in Washington, D.C. They worked together and we now have an
almost $18 trillion deficit -- national debt.
And Republicans haven`t done anything about that. They signed on every
spending bill and gone along about Harry Reid and Barack Obama. And so,
what we`re seeing is that Mitch McConnell would only -- if he took over the
Senate, as Senate leader, would only be a Harry Reid lite. Nothing is
going to change. We have no confidence, because as a fiscal conservative,
when have the Republicans ever failed to disappoint us? Never, they always
do the wrong thing.
In this case, they used the most vile tactics to keep their man in office.
The reason that he won saying, I`ll spend more money than the other guy.
KORNACKI: This is a conversation -- I want to keep this going but we`re up
against the clock here. It`s a conversation to keep paying attention to
going forward, because I think these two groups, the Republican
establishment and Tea Party, this is a story to pay attention to through
2016. Can the Republican Party to keep those two groups intact?
My thanks to Phillip Dennis of the Dallas, Texas Tea Party, and Katon
Dawson, the former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.
Sometimes it feels like you can`t turn on our sister network and not see a
report by NBC`s Lester Holt, I vote for the hardest working person in TV
news, we`ll put Lester to work alongside two trusted colleagues in a battle
of the network stars, a special edition of "Up Against the Clock." You do
not want to miss it. It`s coming up next.
KORNACKI: Are you someone who remembers battle of the network stars. You
can still catch it on ESPN Classic. The premise, in case you need a
reminder -- the biggest, boldest TV stars of the `70s and `80s, in
ridiculously short shorts, facing off in intense and grueling athletic
competition. All in the picturesque campus of Malibu`s Pepperdine
University, obstacle courses, kayak races and, of course, the always
entertaining baseball dunk and all of the play-by-play analysis handled by
the one and only Mr. Howard Cosell.
It was such an event, such a production, such a huge deal could only happen
twice a year. Well, we did our own battle of the network stars in our own
weekly current events quiz show "Up Against the Clock" last season and only
now have we recovered enough to do it again. That`s right, "Battle of the
Network Stars 2" is moments away. Three of the biggest names in network
news duking it out on this stage.
I`m told Lester Holt is refusing to wear the short shorts, but is standing
by in the isolation booth until right after this.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Studio 3A in Rockefeller Center, USA, it`s time for a
special battle of network stars edition of "Up Against the Clock."
He has the cutest pug on all of Twitter, say hello to Luke Russert!
She is among the most prestigious Boston University alumni, along with "Up
Against the Clock" host Steve Kornacki, this is Erica Hill!
Did you know he appeared in the 1993 thriller, "The Fugitive"? He`s
everywhere, including right here. Please welcome, Lester Holt!
And now, it`s the host of "Up Against the Clock", Steve Kornacki!
KORNACKI: Oh, thank you, Bill Wolff. Thank you, contestants. Thank you
to everyone out there at home for tuning in. Another special edition and
battle of the network stars edition of "Up Against the Clock."
Luke, Erica, Lester, thank you for joining us.
ERICA HILL, NBC NEWS: Rough weekend for you.
KORNACKI: These are the biggest names in NBC. Let`s take you through the
rules, though. I know this is the first time playing for all of you. This
is a fast paced political news and current events quiz.
We`re going to play three rounds, each of them 100 seconds long, questions
are worth 100 points in the first round, 200 in the second and 300 in the
And contestants, take note -- you can ring in any time but you will be
penalized for wrong answers. Also, there are two special bonus questions
scattered in here. We`re going to explain those when they come up.
Contestants will be playing not injure for victory today but also for a
chance to play in our tournament of champions at the end of the season.
To qualify, you will first have to win today. As always, I will implore
our live studio audience, please no outbursts.
Contestants, we`re going to ask you if you`re ready. They look ready.
We`ll ask you to put your hands on your buzzers.
We`re going to put 100 seconds on the clock.
I have the 100 point questions here in the 100-point round begins with
this. This pop star said this week that if Hillary Clinton runs for
president, she wants to write her campaign song.
RUSSERT: Katy Perry.
KORNACKI: Katy Perry said that, 100 points for Luke.
Hundred-point question. On Wednesday, Dallas, Texas, was named as one of
the finalist cities for 2016 Republican Convention which --
KORNACKI: Incorrect. I`ll complete the question. Dallas, which last
hosted the GOP when Ronald Reagan sought re-election in what year?
KORNACKI: All ready ringing. Luke, you`re disqualified from this round.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: 1984.
KORNACKI: 1984 is correct, 100 points for Lester. It wasn`t sure where
that was going.
A hundred point question. The number of senators supporting gay marriage
rose to four this week when this New Englander --
HOLT: Susan Collins.
KORNACKI: Susan Collins joined the ranks. Stop the clock.
Not only are you correct there, but that is also our quote of note bonus
KORNACKI: Quickly explain how this works for 100 additional points, we
have a special celebrity guest who is going to read a famous political
quote. There will be no penalty for guessing on this one, only 100 extra
points. You have to identify who said the quote.
Let`s go to our special celebrity guest. She is the reigning Miss USA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIA SANCHEZ, MISS USA: Hi. I`m Nia Sanchez, Miss USA. And this governor
once famously said you campaign in poetry and govern in prose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Only for Lester? Sorry, Erica.
HILL: Dang it.
HOLT: That was Mario Cuomo.
KORNACKI: Mario Cuomo said you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. A
hundred more points for Lester. He is out to the early lead.
HILL: I was going to say Mario Cuomo.
KORNACKI: We put the clock back in motion, though, and we`re back with
this, 100 points. Italy was eliminated from the World Cup this week, in a
game that was marred by a biting incident involving Luis Suarez, a star
player for what country.
KORNACKI: Uruguay, 100 points for Luke.
Next question, he has claimed he is not famous anymore but this movie state
made big headlines when he was arrested at --
HOLT: Shia LaBeouf.
KORNACKI: Shia, I don`t know how to pronounce it either, but I`m going to
give you the point for that, 100 points.
A hundred point question. During a Twitter question on answer session on
Wednesday, new White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said his favorite
celebrity encounter at the White House was with this NBA star and newly
minted free agent.
RUSSERT: LeBron James.
KORNACKI: Luke gets it just before Erica there, 100 points for Luke. A
hundred point toss-up question, if the U.S. defeats Belgium in the World
Cup`s round of 16 on Tuesday, it will put Americans in quarterfinals for
the first time since in 2002 when he was president.
RUSSERT: George W. Bush.
KORNACKI: George W. Bush, ends the round, 100 points for Luke, brings you
within 100 with Lester, who`s at the lead with 400, Erica just missing out
there a couple of times, yet to get on the board. But, Erica, good news
for you, this is the 200 point round you can make that gap up in a hurry
HILL: Great because I don`t look like an idiot at this point at all. I`m
just testing here. It works, it does. OK.
KORNACKI: So, 200 point round. Now, we put 100 seconds on the clock.
Gets more suspenseful and we start with this.
In an interview with "BuzzFeed", Hillary Clinton`s publisher revealed this
week her new book has been effectively banned in what foreign country?
Going to call time, China, effectively banned in China.
Two hundred-point question. Players in this week`s tennis tournament at
Wimbledon are required to bow to the royal box if one of the two members is
RUSSERT: Queen Elizabeth.
KORNACKI: We`ll give you queen, yes, and the prince of Wales is the other
Two hundred-point question. A report with proposed solutions to
Washington`s gridlock was put out by this bipartisan duo of former --
RUSSERT: Trent Lott and Daschle.
KORNACKI: Trent Lott and Daschle is correct.
Stop the clock, because Luke, not only did you correctly answer that
question, but that was our use it or lose it bonus question, that means you
have a chance to double what you won to scoop up extra 200 points but this
one, Luke, is not risk free. Here`s a deal. I have a follow-up question
to the one you just answered, it is related in some way and it is worth 200
extra points if you can answer correctly. But if you`re wrong, you`ll lose
200 points you just won. We`ll take them right off the board, or you can
pass on pt question, won`t get any deductions, you won`t get any credit.
It`s your choice, use it or lose it.
RUSSERT: Lester is a very smart guy, I`m not going to gamble, I`m going to
KORNACKI: He`s not going to gamble, he`s going to stay at 700 points. We
will never reveal what this question was but you would have got it right.
OK, put the clock back on board here, 200 point question will continue with
this -- Anthony Brown who won the Democratic primary for governor of
Maryland this week would be the third elected black governor in U.S.
history. Name one of the other two --
KORNACKI: Luke --
RUSSERT: Deval Patrick.
KORNACKI: Deval Patrick, we also would have been --
RUSSERT: Doug Wilder.
KORNACKI: Doug Wilder, there you go. Too bad that wasn`t the bonus
Two hundred points here. U.S. officials said this country is secretly
sending drones to Iraq to fight ISIS militants.
KORNACKI: Iran is correct. He said with confidence on that one.
Two hundred-point question. It was revealed this week that former
President Bill Clinton went from, quote, "dead broke" to earning $100
million primarily by doing this --
KORNACKI: Giving speeches, we`ll accept that.
200 point question, this week the city of Chicago was chosen as the site
for museum featuring art work and Hollywood o memorabilia from the
collection of this legendary American graffiti director.
HOLT: Lucas --
KORNACKI: Yes, we`ll accept that, George Lucas.
At the wire, Lester pulls you to 800, Luke at 1,100. Erica still to get on
But again --
HILL: I keep trying and then I hear it and think it`s mine and look and
you hit it before me.
KORNACKI: Split seconds of getting in there. But you have a chance here
still because this is the 300 point round, we call this the PhD round. A
lot of funny things can happen. We`re going to crown a champion with this
round. We`ll dim the lights. That`s how important and suspenseful it is,
100 seconds on the clock, final round, 300-point questions.
And we start with this, 100-year-old letters between Warren G. Harding and
his mistress are being released by the press. Who succeed Harding as
RUSSERT: Calvin Coolidge.
KORNACKI: Three hundred points for Luke.
Three hundred-point question, the United States is currently trying to name
the Washington, D.C. street the Chinese embassy is on after a Chinese
political dissident, a move that calls to mind the previous effort to name
the street the Soviet embassy is on after this famous 1980 Soviet political
KORNACKI: Time. I`m sorry, time Andre Sakharov.
HOLT: Andre Sakharov.
KORNACKI: Three hundred points. On Wednesday, Maine Governor Paul LaPage
said it doesn`t matter what they call the payments, it is welfare pure and
simple. And he was referring to what program signed by Franklin Roosevelt
Going to call time. It was Social Security.
Three-hundred-point question --
HOLT: Didn`t want to guess that.
KORNACKI: It was announced that there`s been a major drop in air pollution
on the East Coast. Most notably along this roadway that runs from Maine to
KORNACKI: I-95, 300 points for Luke.
Three hundred-point question. Former Republican Senate majority leader --
minority Leader Howard Baker or both, passed up a chance to run for
president in 1988 and instead agree in 1987 to serve in what position in
Ronald Reagan --
RUSSERT: Chief of staff.
KORNACKI: He`s the chief of staff, correct.
Three hundred point question, New York Congressman Charlie Rangel, who held
off a serious challenge to survive his Democratic primary this week first
won his seat back in 1970 when he stunned this iconic civil rights leader
in a Democratic primary.
RUSSERT: His son is now in Congress --
KORNACKI: Time -- and time, Adam Clayton Powell is the correct answer.
Nobody got it.
But, Luke, with 2,000 points, congratulations, you have won the game and --
RUSSERT: Calvin Coolidge, thank you.
HILL: Nice work. Very nice.
KORNACKI: You win the game and win some fantastic prizes. But Bill Wolff
is going to tell you all about it.
ANNOUNCER: As our champion, your name will be engraved using the finest
sharpie on a all new stain-resistant "Up Against the Clock" gold cup. You
also receive a DVD copy of the classic 1988 film "Cocoon 2: The Return",
personally autographed by Wilford Brimley.
And you`ll get to play in our jackpot round for today`s grand prize, a $50
gift certificate to quick meal foot cart, Midtown Manhattan, the only
street meat vendor in the Greater 45th 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 you, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right. That is quite a prize you have. You`ve already won
And here is your chance to get that, quick, whatever we call it, the quick
cart. Here`s your chance for that gift certificate. One question, make or
break. Here it is, Howard Baker`s first wife was the daughter of long time
Senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen. After her death, he remarried
Nancy Kassebaum, who is the daughter of this 1936 Republican presidential
RUSSERT: 1936 Republican presidential nominee, so they ran against FDR.
KORNACKI: Going to need an answer. No answer?
RUSSERT: It`s not Dewey.
KORNACKI: It`s not Dewey, it is Alf Landon. I`m sorry, Luke, you do not
RUSSERT: That`s not on my history.
KORNACKI: The food cart gift certificate but you do win a copy of a chance
to play in the tournament of champions.
Erica and Lester, appreciate you playing, appreciate being good sports.
You get the home edition.
HILL: Sure. Steve, I`m happy I could help. Go Terriers.
KORNACKI: Go Terriers. There it is.
RUSSERT: Boston College is rigged (ph).
KORNACKI: Oh no.
HILL: Oh, no! I forgot about that.
KORNACKI: We will argue about during the break. And we come back right
RUSSERT: Sucks to be you.
HILL: So you did rig my buzzer.
KORNACKI: Thank you for playing.
KORNACKI: All right. It`s time to find out what our guests or contestants
didn`t know when the week began. And we`ll start with you, Luke Russert,
congratulations, new champion.
RUSSERT: Thank you very much. I read a wonderful story in "The Washington
Post". IT was quite fascinating about this nonprofit barbecue called
Inspire Barbecue and it`s unfortunately closing down. It`s a victim of a
gentrification condo deal in Eighth Street neighborhood of Washington,
D.C., and it helped out ex-cons and returning veterans.
And I hope someone can find a place for Inspire it. They take no
government assistance. They help out a lot of people.
KORNACKI: A good barbecue, too.
RUSSERT: It`s good barbecue. Give them a place to set up. Good stuff.
KORNACKI: All right. Lester?
HOLT: I learned about the death of this controversy over the Export-Import
Bank when it comes to our biggest exporter Boeing. They sell a lot of
airplanes because the U.S. helps countries finance, foreign countries
opinion. But the Delta Airlines is saying you`re empowering our
So, it`s an interesting comparison between the airlines and Boeing. Some
people call corporate welfare.
KORNACKI: This is what we`re going to be hearing about. I think it`s
becoming a big political issue now.
HILL: I actually learned more about soccer quite honestly. I`m totally
falling into jumping on the bandwagon. One of the things I never knew
about was the way that time could be added and I didn`t realize that until
U.S./Portugal on Sunday. That was fascinating to me.
HOLT: Where is the clock?
HILL: Added or take away, totally up to the referee to decide. It blows
KORNACKI: Here`s the questions I`ve had. There`s stoppage time, I
understand. Yet 90 minutes, they put on an extra few minutes. What if
there`s stoppage time in stoppage time?
HILL: Excellent question.
KORNACKI: If someone scores a goal, there`s been three minutes setting up
the next one. You need more time after that.
HILL: You do, you absolutely do. Blows my mind.
HOLT: The biggest sport in this country, we need to be able to 10, nine,
KORNACKI: Yes, a countdown, absolutely.
HILL: There was a great point made about that. The one of the articles I
was reading this week and they were saying this is one of the issues for
Americans, especially coming in now if you don`t watch soccer regularly.
This is so frustrating because it doesn`t play by the rules we`re used to
and there isn`t this sort of concrete clock that we can look at and there
aren`t these concrete reasons why the decision is made.
KORNACKI: And I also want my other soccer proposal, while on the subject.
We got to widen the goals. We need a little more scoring. We don`t need
14-12 but we need 6-4, 6-5, something like that.
HOLT: Like OK, they come back and they`re down by one goal. One goal.
KORNACKI: Yes, one goal is like 42-0 in football.
I want to thank, Erica Hill, Lester Holt, Luke Russert. Thank you all for
playing and be part of that game. We appreciate it.
Thank you for joining us today for UP. And join us tomorrow, Sunday
morning at 8:00.
Coming up next, "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY". And today`s "MHP", Bond, Julian
Bond, live from Jackson, Mississippi. The 50-year commemoration of Freedom
Summer is under way. That is "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY". She`s coming up
We will see you right here tomorrow at 8:00. Thanks for getting up.
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