July 26, 2014
Guest: Sonia Nazario, Christina Jimenez, Yolanda Pierce, Jonathan Cohen,
Sara Knight, Tara Dowdell, Philip Hansten, Sarah Knight, Igor Volsky,
Zephyr Teachout, Erica Sagrans, Harriette Chandler, Maude Barlow
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question. Is two
hours of torture enough to ignite change? Plus, the presidential playbook
of Elizabeth Warren. And Canada. Bringing us more than just hockey
players. But, first, here we are again telling children do not cross that
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Yesterday, President Obama met at
the White House with the presidents of the three countries that are home to
the vast majority of the nearly 58,000 children who`ve arrived at the
southern border of the United States as of last month. The president
invited the leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to Washington to
discuss how the countries can work together to stop the flow of children
into the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Each of these
leaders have shown great responsiveness and great sincerity in wanting to
deal with this situation in a sensible and compassionate way. I appreciate
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama`s public display of cooperation with the
Central American leaders comes as his domestic plan to deal with the border
crisis has hit the skids with a decidedly uncooperative Congress. Both
House Republicans and Senate Democrats have responded to his $3.7 billion
request for emergency aid with their own proposals that would cut a billion
or more from the president`s plan. But while Washington can`t come to a
consensus on how much to spend on the young people at the border, all of
the plans are in agreement on this. Most of those crossing the border can
and will be sent back as quickly as the law will allow. And for the most
part Americans agree. A Pew poll found that 53 percent of people are in
favor of speeding up the legal process that guarantees a hearing for each
child even if that means some who would be eligible for asylum will be
deported. Republicans have supported their case for speedy deportation
with a litany of reasons for why these women and children should make the
United States tremble in fear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MO BROOKS, (R) ALABAMA: This president has promised them all sorts of
free goodies like free food, free clothing, free health care, free
transportation, free entertainment, and until that stops, you cannot
anticipate that people around the world won`t try to break into America
because America is going to be their sugar daddy.
REV. STEVE KING (R) IOWA: This is the most dangerous demographic that you
can select out of any civilization being brought into the United States and
REP. PHIL GINGREY, (R) GEORGIA: Gave us a list of the diseases they`re
concerned about, and Ebola was one of those, tuberculosis, Changes disease,
smallpox. Some of the infectious disease of children - all of these are
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I just can`t. Look, there was all of that and then there
was this from a radio interview with Florida Congressman Rich Nugent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RICH NUGENT (R) FLORIDA: When you have those types coming across the
border, they`re not children at that point. You know, these kids have been
brought up in a culture of, you know, of thievery, of culture of, you know,
murder, of rape.
NUGENT: All those things. And we`re going to now infuse them into the
American culture. It`s just ludicrous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: A dangerous demographic of disease infested thieves,
murderers and rapists who are coming to get their hands on all of our free
goodies, who apparently pose so much of a threat to the United States that
both House Republicans and Texas Governor Rick Perry feel that it will take
no less than the full military might of the National Guard to defend
ourselves against them. Could we please pause for a moment here and
remember that we are talking about children who are vulnerable,
unprotected, and afraid, who are fleeing extreme violence and poverty in
their home countries? Drawn to the United States where by our nation`s
reputation as a place where children are valued, precious and protected,
and to some extent what they have found here is as good as what is
advertised. There are people of the Rio Grande Valley who despite being at
the epicenter of the surge - and children and families crossing the border
-- have stepped up to support their region`s strained resources with
thousands of hours of volunteer time, food, shelter, and emotional support
for the migrant kids. Then there was Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick
who last week offered temporary shelter for up to 1,000 unaccompanied
minors citing what he calls America`s century long tradition of giving
sanctuary to desperate children. And if we looked at that history, we do
indeed see there are moments when children have been the catalyst that
moved Americans to push beyond their own biases and borders, both national
In May of 1963 the children`s crusade organized by the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference brought more than 3,000 young people to the city of
Birmingham, Alabama, in a show of civil disobedience against segregation in
the city. Once Americans saw those images of children standing
courageously against injustice, the tide of national public opinion took a
pivotal turn in support of the civil rights movement`s cause, but we can`t
embrace that moment of America`s moral fortitude without also owing the
great -- owning the great moral failing to which it was responding, because
the children at the border have also been confronted with the hostility
that is as old as the segregated south and just as American as the grace
and charity of those to who have extended a hand of help. And if we are to
claim our history in protecting vulnerable children, we must also grapple
with our history of responding to them as a threat when their presence
undermines an established order. As much as Americans rallied to the cause
of the children`s crusade, it was also agents of the American state that
were willing to attack them with armed officers, fire hoses, and police
dogs when they challenge a deeply entrenched way of life in the South.
Rick Perry was preceded in his call to send armed troops to confront
children by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, and he, of course, called the
National Guard to stop the little rock nine from their first day of school
at Central High. The presence of children on buses integrating Boston
schools in 1974 didn`t stop white crowds from confronting them with slurs
and threats of violence. Nor did it give pause to the adults who hurled
objects and insults at six-year-old Ruby Bridges on the day she became the
first African-American child to desegregate an elementary school. And so,
when we look to children seeking safety at our borders and see instead an
invasion to be defended against a contagion to be contained or a drain on
resources that we just don`t want to share, that is a side of history on
which we are choosing to stand. With me now is Christina Jimenez, co-
founder and managing director of United We Dream, Yolanda Pierce, associate
professor of religion and literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, and
joining us from Los Angeles is Sonia Nazario who is author of the Pulitzer
Prize winning book, "Enrique`s Journey." Thank you so much for joining us,
all of us.
CHRISTINA JIMENEZ, UNITED WE DREAM: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Christina, I want to start with this idea of what it would
take to shift this language from a language of immigration to a language of
refugee crisis. And particularly children`s refugee crisis.
JIMENEZ: Well, I think that that`s the problem that we are having in the
return of (INAUDIBLE) right now. So I really appreciate that we`re having
these conversations here because the minute that this crisis became
evident, what we saw is Republicans jumping on this issue, exploiting the
discussion to actually get into the broader content of immigration policy
that we have been talking about for the last couple of years here, and then
use this crisis to attack dreamers, folks like me, and attack the DACA
program, which is the president`s program that protects some dreamers from
deportation, some immigrant youth. And they`ve been saying this is the
cause for the refugee crisis that we have, and, therefore, we have to get
rid of that program, and we have to promote mass deportation. So, I think
it`s been so shameless to see Republicans and other politicians using this
situation to exploit it and to advance their own anti-immigrant rhetoric
and hate rhetoric, so you know, what we did with United We Dream and our
leaders that live in actually that border area of Texas, is to join the
children. We went there, we mobilized the community to volunteer. And we
really started to show people the side of America that we are really about.
In McAllen Texas where we were, that district is one of the poorest
districts in the United States. Yet, the community there has stepped up,
volunteered at the shelters, and I just cannot possibly understand how
Republicans can advocate for mass deportation of these children, and
dehumanize these children when I was able to shower myself a 2-year-old
that had crossed the border with his mother.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so this is - and Sonia, I want to come to you on this
because you have been talking about this question and writing so eloquently
about this question of children and often of their mothers who come before
them crossing these borders as a result of the economic and violence crisis
in their own homes, and, yet, in their own home nations. And yet, I wonder
if what Christina is saying here is true of who we really are as a people.
If we hear their stories because your book is available on the bookshelf,
if we hear their stories, do we change our opinions?
SONIA NAZARIO, PULITZER PRIZE WINNER: Yes. I mean, I think there`s a
complete disconnect between what we`re hearing in Washington D.C., an
inability to truly grasp what these children are fleeing, and I was just in
Honduras for a week, and I have been there several times, but just went
back after a decade of not going to Tegucigalpa, the capital, and what I
saw just astounded me in terms of the level of violence. Between 2006 and
2011 the number of homicides doubled, and just this year you have seen 500
children killed in Honduras. This is a country with a population that`s
smaller than the size of New York City, the population of New York City. I
saw children who were 10, 11 years old, an 11-year-old boy, Christian, in
an elementary school who said, you know, they are forcing me -- the narco
cartels that control my neighborhood, the gangs that control my
neighborhood, are forcing me to use drugs, and they want me to sell drugs,
and they`re threatening to beat me up as I come out of my elementary
school, and these children are being threatened multiple times, and that`s
what`s forcing them to flee. A decade ago when I went, it was largely
economic conditions, poverty that was forcing these kids -- that was
getting these kids to come to the United States. It was the desire like
the boy that I wrote about, Enrique, to reunify with a parent who had left
them behind in their home countries and come to the United States. But now
it is this incredible level of violence directed at children who are being
recruited by the cartels and by the gangs to be their foot soldiers in this
war to control this turf. Honduras has become the main turf where cocaine
flows that`s coming from Columbia and Venezuela up to the United States.
Our use of illegal drugs in this country -- I tell many students I speak to
-- your choices of using drugs are killing children in places like
Honduras, and so I think there`s a fundamental disconnect, an unwillingness
to really see what is driving these children. They are refugees, and we
must treat them as refugees with compassion. You can`t talk about
compassion and being humane and then basically try to interdict these
children in Mexico and Guatemala and send them back to conditions where
they may be killed.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sonia, that`s so helpful to me. In part, also just sort of
seeing that shift from the economic to the question of violence, although
they`re obviously interconnected. And yet, Yolanda, part of - you know,
when I hear Christina speak about this, when I hear Sonia speak about this,
I cannot help but to think about Elizabeth Eckford walking into Central
High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, and adults standing there looking at
this girl, a child, and screaming and yelling and spitting on her.
NAZARIO: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: I am -- my -- the part of me that loves the American
patriotic, yes, we can aspect of our history wants to say that once we
understand these conditions, that we as Americans will feel differently and
act differently, but when I hear language that sounds, God help me, like
"the help" about, oh, they`re bringing these diseases and they`re -- you
know, this notion of literal contamination of our culture, I just think,
oh, man, this is the worst of who we are. This is the ugliest part of our
YOLANDA PIERCE, ASSOC. PROF., PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: So, it`s the
question of which side of history are we going to be on? We have to be
completely clear about the racist undertones that just imbue all of this
language. But we also have to be clear that we are in a human rights
crisis. That these children are not only being stripped of their humanity,
but they are being stripped of their protective status as children. That
they`re making the argument, these are not four and five-year-olds.
Apparently these are grown adults in four or five-year-old bodies.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, they`re not children anymore because they`ve
PIERCE: It`s a human rights crisis. What are we going to do? What
morally and ethically are we as one human being to another to do when faced
with these children who are seeking to flee conditions that, in part, we
have helped to create.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that`s just where I want to go. This issue of the
conditions that we help to create, we also heard a little bit of this from
Sonia. So, stay right there because at the root of the border crisis are
the policies of a country with which you are probably very familiar. How
the U.S. helped to make this mess.
HARRIS-PERRY: The increasing attention to the humanitarian situation at
the border has brought with it increased scrutiny of the United States
culpability and creating the crisis. Honduran President Juan Hernandez,
has criticized U.S. drug policy for helping to push violent traffickers
into Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. He spoke Friday about the
consequences for his country in an interview with my colleague, MSNBC`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN HERNANDEZ, HONDURAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Your country here
in the United States is the largest consumer of drugs. And what happens
with that, is you manage to resolve the problem by separating the violence
from the consumption of drugs. And for many public officials here - the
problem isn`t matter of health. Or is it for us in Central America. It`s
a problem of life and death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Sonia, this goes to the point that you were making about
the consumption of drugs, which is clearly part of it. That, you know,
every line of coke is on the back of a child. But it`s more than just
that. Right? There`s also the - like active -- for example, agricultural
policies and economic policies, and political policies of the U.S. relative
to these nations.
NAZARIO: Yeah. I mean, I was -- I testified before the Senate about a
week ago. And some of the Senate Republicans were saying, you know, this
crisis really started in 2012, and, you know, you can look at U.S. meddling
in places like Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador going back to the Monroe
doctrine in the 1800s. Honduras is the original banana republic with large
companies that went into Honduras and created this export economy of
bananas and were willing to fund and arm groups that deposed a president in
1911 and certainly our co-war politics were part of these civil wars that
we saw in Central America that killed hundreds of thousands of people and
destroyed the economies of these places. And we`ve also deported tens of
thousands of gangsters from my hometown here of Los Angeles. People with
the 18th Street gang, MS gang. In 1996 we toughened immigration laws
towards permanent residents who had committed certain drug crimes. And so,
these guys have been deported in large numbers and really helped spur a lot
of the gang violence that is the underpinning of the current violence in
these countries, and now we have this funneling of drugs through Honduras.
Four and five flights of cocaine are landing in Honduras. Certainly the
Honduran president and administration has a lot to blame here.
NAZARIO: There`s enormous corruption four in five homicides in Honduras
are never even investigated, much less prosecuted. So .
NAZARIO: There`s blame all around.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels important to me. I`m glad you said that, to
point out that talking about American culpability does not mean that there
is no blame to be shared, particularly for the democratically elected
leaders of these nations. But it does, Christina, feel to me like part of
what we have to do, even as we look at that, is say, OK, so if these young
people, these refugees on our border -- because they are children, they are
miners` canaries, they are the vulnerable population where we will see sort
of the worst effects of our policies come to fruition first. So, if we
don`t deal with this well now, Christina, what do you think we see 20 years
from now? What are the seeds we are sewing now for two decades from this
JIMENEZ: Well, I think that this is really a question about legacy, and
this is for both, right? Republicans and Democrats. And I think it`s also
important to highlight the fact that the president has not also been clear
about how he wants to be treating this situation like a refugee crisis.
And that in fact, his administration has been vague about whether or not
they`re also promoting mass deportation or fast tracking, quote-unquote
deportation of these children.
HARRIS-PERRY: You guys, for millions - but in part - or in large part
simply to speed up the process.
JIMENEZ: And, you know, the fact of the matter is this administration has
also deported the most number of people in the history of the United
States. Over 2 million people. So, I really think it`s a question about
legacy for both parties and political leaders. Whether the president or
not is going to use this opportunity, right, to really step up and lead and
live up to the values of this nation. It`s a big question. Not only on
the refugee crisis that we have, but also on immigration. He has already
said that he is going to take action, and if he does not act in a way of
providing administrative relief that will protect the most number of people
from deportation here living in the United States, I think that that will
be a sign that he will be caving in to all of the Republican rhetoric that
we`ve been hearing of this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold to me, Yolanda, that`s exactly where I want to come
back to you when we come back about the question of the president`s legacy
here, but also, as you pointed out, what side of history we want to as the
people be standing on. When we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In addition to being a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation
of laws, and if you have a disorderly and dangerous process of migration,
that not only puts the children themselves at risk, but it also caused the
question, the legal immigration process of those who are properly applying
and trying to enter into our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was the president on Friday after meeting with the
presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. And I appreciate what
the president was saying there. I appreciate living in a nation of laws.
Well, you know what would be illegal? Me eating in a restaurant with white
folks, me going to school with like - you know, sometimes our laws reflect
the very worst of our biases, and we`re showing since that refugee crisis
has occurred that between February of 2014 and July of 2014 a decline in
support for a pathway to citizenship around immigration from 73 percent to
68 percent. Still a massive majority. But it does look like this framing
is having this negative effect.
PIERCE: We have to name this a humanitarian crisis as opposed to an
immigration crisis because we have to ask whose families matter. Which
children matter? We have to sit with the horrific decisions that some of
these parents, mothers in particular, have had to make in order to even
send their children away from their homes to flee the violence that they`re
facing. And so, the question about the humanitarian crisis is whose human
dignity matters in this equation? And everyone`s human dignity has to
matter, including these children who are fleeing violence that we have
helped to perpetuate in these areas? And until we name it as such, we`ll
continue to talk about immigration laws as opposed to talking about whose
bodies of the most vulnerable of the least protected are being impacted by
our policies at the border.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, in fact, Sonia, on that point and on the point that the
president made about being a nation of laws, we also exist with an
international community. Are our actions at this point in violation of
either international law or practice relative to this idea of speeding up a
process of sending home children who might, in fact, be eligible for
NAZARIO: Well, you know, I think that these children are no different.
What I saw in Honduras, the violence they face and the pressures to join
these narco cartels is not very different from what child soldiers face in
Sudan and we ask countries like -- that surround Syria to take in nearly 3
million refugees in recent months and years, and we ask them to be humane
towards refugees, and we have signed protocols and conventions that we will
do the same. I believe that we are a compassionate country, and we used to
take in twice as many refugees pre-9/11 as we take in now. I believe that
there is a humane, practical, legal approach to dealing with this crisis
that President Obama has shown very little leadership on this issue. He is
basically saying let`s keep these kids from coming here, seal them into
this deadly fate? Let`s expedite their removal so they don`t have a fair
process here in the United States. What we need to do is have these
refugee centers in the United States where children are held for two to
three months, and you bring in a lot of immigration judges and asylum
officers and you give these kids a full, fair hearing so that they can
really -- you give them an attorney because it`s not a real process unless
they have someone to advocate their right for asylum, to be a refugee in
this country. And you give them a full fair process, and if they qualify
as a refugee, let them in. And if they`re economic migrants, if they`re
coming here simply to better their lives and if they have a parent in their
home country, then deport them. I understand we can have a full-throated
discussion about economic migrants to the United States. The positives and
negatives of that. But these are not economic migrants largely. They are
refugees. And we have to show the same compassion that we demand from
other countries towards refugees. We must lead in this area.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so let me ask you, Christina, about that possibility of
leadership. So, we are hammering home this is a refugee crisis, not an
immigration question, and, yet, the dreamers have been the folks now roped
in in this conversation from the right, and you all were also most
effective in pushing the president to demonstrate to him what he could do
free from the Congress, what he could do just as president in terms of
DOCA. Can you imagine the dreamers potentially picking up this question of
these refugee young people and providing for the president, for the
administration a road map of how to do the kinds of things we hear from
Sonia on here?
JIMENEZ: We have been doing that already. We were the first responders.
Dreamers in Texas, in areas like California and other border areas where
the first ones to respond to this crisis going to volunteer to the
shelters, making donations. That`s what we did in McAllen, Texas. And our
big push right now is let`s talk about the children and let`s have the
right conversation, which is about human beings and about children.
Because, listen, the same thing that they`ve done with these children,
they`ve done with me and they`ve done with my family and all the immigrants
who live here without status, they have dehumanized us, criminalized us to
the point that our families have been put in deportation. We have gone
through massive family separation. Every day over 1,000 people get
deported. That means children without mothers. Fathers without their
children. I mean so that`s the crisis that we have, and I think dreamers
won`t stop pushing the president not only to the right thing on this
refugee crisis because let`s be honest, congress is not going to resolve
this before August recess.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. That`s right. That`s right.
JIMENEZ: So, this is going to be on the president .
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
JIMENEZ: And he has the opportunity to lead.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
JIMENEZ: And to fix his own record of being called the deporter-in-chief.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I will say that for me watching all of this keeps
calling to mind those four little girls in that Birmingham church basement,
Emmett Till and the ways, in which for African-American communities we have
seen our children bear the brunt of the worst kind of violence and border
protection in terms of racial border protection and - and I certainly hope
that not only does the president lead, but also African-American
communities recognize the empathetic historical connections here.
Sonia Nazario in Los Angeles, California, thank you for joining us this
NAZARIO: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here in New York, Christina Jimenez and Yolanda Pierce,
thank you for joining us. And up next, there`s at least some good news
this week, I promise, there really is good news. You may not have heard it
anywhere else, but I want to tell you, stay after the break.
HARRIS-PERRY: How about some good news for a minute? The Affordable Care
Act is working. 6.7 million more people are enrolled in Medicaid now
compared to the months before the ACA expanded eligibility. More than 8
million people have enrolled in private plans via the law`s exchanges. 85
percent of them are eligible for subsidies from the federal government to
help them afford it. The subsidies average $264 a month, and the best news
of all? A new study published this week in the "New England Journal of
Medicine" estimated that 10.3 million people who didn`t have health
insurance before the ACA took effect now have health insurance. They can
see a doctor. It`s less of a struggle for them to pay their medical bills.
That`s a 26 percent decline in the number of uninsured in just a few
months. That is huge. Obamacare is starting to work. 10.3 million
people. And yet, there remain those who want to dismantle the law, who
want to prove it doesn`t work by breaking it themselves. Their latest
maneuver? Eliminating those vital federal subsidies for millions of people
around the country, and they may just have gotten closer to their goal.
HARRIS-PERRY: This past Tuesday, two federal circuit courts 100 miles
apart issued opposite rulings on two very similar challenges to the
Affordable Care Act. The rulings have to do with the law`s on-line
insurance exchanges where people can buy individual health insurance
policies. There`s an exchange in each state. In 14 states and Washington
D.C. the state or local government set up the exchange. In the other 36
states the federal government stepped in to at least partly run the
exchanges. In some states because Republican-led governments refuse to
participate in Obamacare. Now, here is where the affordable part of the
Affordable Care Act comes in. People buying insurance policies on the
exchanges can get federal tax credits to help cover their premiums. Of the
more than 8 million people who have signed up for exchange plans, 85
percent are eligible for the subsidies. The subsidies cover on average
three-quarters of the monthly premium. It is those subsidies that are
being challenged in court. ACA opponents claim that according to the plain
language of the ACA the subsidies are only supposed to go to people in
states with state-run exchanges. They claim that the law doesn`t say
anything about giving tax credits to people in states with federally run
exchanges. Again, 36 states have federally run exchanges. 4.7 million
people have gotten subsidized coverage in those exchanges? This week, one
federal court agreed that the subsidies are illegal. Within hours, another
federal court came to the opposite conclusion, and with that the fate of
the Affordable Care Act is once again in question. With me at the table,
Sarah Knight from the American Constitution Society, Democratic strategist,
Tara Dowdell and msnbc.com national reporter Suzy Khimm, and joining us
from Michigan is Jonathan Cohen, a senior editor at "The New Republic" and
writer for their new policy blog, QED. He is also author of the book
"Sick, the Untold Story of America`s Health Care Crisis and the People Who
Pay the Price." Jonathan, nice to have you.
JONATHAN COHEN, SENIOR EDITOR "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, tell me, what exactly happened here, and what is likely
to happen next?
COHEN: So, it`s as you described. The opponents of the Affordable Care
Act found some ambiguity, some confusing language in the text of the law.
Now, as anyone who knows how Congress works, this is not uncommon. It is
typical in a large piece of legislation. You have some language that was
just, you know, written in the wrong way because making a law is a
complicated process. And typically, the courts say when that happens they
say, well, we`ll defer to the agency that is in charge of putting this law
into effect. We`ll let them figure out exactly what it was supposed to
mean. The opponents of the ACA have seized on this link, and said no, no,
no, no, it`s very clear to us that the people who wrote this law intended
it in such a way so that if a state, as you said, chose not to run his
exchange, chose to ask the federal government to take on that work, then
the people in that state would not get the federal subsidies, that those
tax credits that can be worth hundreds, even thousands of dollars a year.
And so, they`re basically saying they intended to deprive, you know, half
the country potentially of health insurance.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, Jonathan, help me out here, because I understand
when the Supreme Court is looking at the intention of law particularly of
the Constitution and they`re talking about people who wrote these words in
the 1770s, 1780s, 1790s, that it is a question of interpretation. But most
of the members of the United States Congress who`ve helped to pass this law
are still living and most of them are still serving in that same Congress.
Couldn`t we just ask them what they intended?
COHEN: Well, not only could we ask them. We have asked them. I have
asked them, you know, I`ve just spoken to the people who`ve worked on the
bill - every reporter who has covered this has asked them. You don`t even
have to take our word for it. Nancy Pelosi, Max Baucus, the other
congressional leaders who wrote the law, filed a brief with the Supreme
Court saying this is not what we meant. We did not intend it this way.
You know, the best analogy I can come up with is this is a little like my
ten-year-old telling me that when I sent him to bed last night I didn`t
intend for him to go to sleep. It`s just nonsensical. But this is the
case that`s going forward.
COHEN: Yeah. I was going to say from two to ten, they will totally do
that. You have to be very careful what you say. Like go to bed, get under
the covers, go to sleep.
COHEN: But let me ask you, sir, let me bring you in on this because on the
one hand like there`s a part of me that just wants to shrug my shoulders
and mock this. But law is something different than justice, and law is
something different than commonsense, right? Is there a real legal basis
here, beyond the kind of ideology, for saying, well, you guys got this law
wrong when you drafted it. This is what it now legally says.
SARAH KNIGHT, VP OF NETWORK ADVANCEMENT, ACS: Well, I think - I think the
D.C. circuit opinion is likely attempt (ph) to the teapot. And what
happened next is that it will go to the full panel of judges who sit on the
D.C. circuit who will reconsider the case. So, those 13 judges, the senior
judges get included because they heard it on the earlier panel. We`ll look
at this nice fully expect that they will come down in the same way that
every other federal court that`s heard this case has come out, including
the fourth circuit, which is to say they won`t read these provision in
isolation from the rest of the 2,000 pages of the act. They`ll look at it
within the context of the act, and they won`t do what senior judge Harry
Edwards called in his strong dissent in the D.C. Circuit opinion, "The
Poison Pill Approach." To read that one provision in such a way that makes
the rest of the act absurd and so I expect that that will do away with the
circuit split that exists at this moment, and will make it less likely that
the Supreme Court would want to intervene and take up the case. At least
at this moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so everybody stay with me because we`ve talked a little
bit about the kind of legal question here, but the absurdity almost always
means it`s time to talk politics. So, up next, why Republicans could be a
political risk if they keep trying to dismantle Obamacare. Everybody, stay
The portion of Americans without health insurance is plummeting. The
underinsured rate dropped almost five points since late last year alone to
a six-year low, according to gallop. The 13 percent, though, it is still
too high. But as more people are gaining health insurance through their
Affordable Care Act, the political tide could be turning. Among those who
have gotten insurance through the ACA either by Medicaid or through the
exchanges, an overwhelming majority say they are satisfied with their new
coverage. Including 74 percent of those who identify as Republican. Isn`t
the rule that once a government program exists and people have an actual
benefit that it is always to your political peril to take it away?
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it depends. In this crazy
climate that`s not always the case, as we`re seeing. Another poll came out
saying that over half of Americans either had benefitted directly from the
Affordable Care Act or know someone who has benefitted from the Affordable
Care Act. So, that`s a really astounding number.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Ok, you are saying the same all the time. So, why
aren`t they making a commercial about that? Where is the administration
DOWDELL: You are absolutely right. And I think you`re going to see more
of that happening, and I do think, though, that there`s been an ongoing
issue from my perspective, and I said this. I actually said this here.
Democrats should not for a second think that Republicans are going to stop
attacking this law. They will continue to attack it as long as it works
for them and their base. And that is the only thing that they`re concerned
about, is 2014 ensuring that their base comes out to vote. And for the
most ardent part of their base, saying Obamacare is still something that
riles them up.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, now they are 2016 .
DOWDELL: It`s all they need right now.
DOWDELL: They`re not worried. They`re not worried about it - And that`s
what Democrats -- don`t worry about 2016. We`re in 2014 right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, look at those numbers, though. And they`re telling me
that 74 percent of Republicans are satisfied with their new coverage, and
when you look at those who oppose the act for not going far enough, it`s
only -- 38 percent are saying that it is too liberal? Right? That`s as
tiny minority of folks saying the law is too liberal. A full 17 percent
are just saying it`s actually not liberal enough. So, I mean, what is
happening here that they continue to think that politically this is
valuable for them?
SUZY KHIMM, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there`s definitely - and
you`re going to see this increasingly as the law is implemented and takes
effect. The differences between the kind of rhetoric that we hear in
Washington and the kind of fights that we have on that level and what`s
actually happening on the ground. And I think there is a disconnect
between these things. But I think it`s only a matter of time between those
two sorts of get closer together. Particularly as voters go to the polls.
And the interesting thing about the exchange subsidies, for instance, I
think a lot of people are sort of making - drawing parallels with Medicaid
and the Medicaid expansion, being like - but we have to keep in mind that
exchange of these go to richer people that we`re not just talking about
those for folks in states that had expanded Medicaid. That means that if
you earn $16,000 as a single person, you can qualify -- newly qualify for
Medicaid. For subsidies, you can earn up to $45,000. These are working
class people. These are lower middle class people.
HARRIS-PERRY: And these are people who vote, right?
KHIMM: And these are people who vote. These are supposedly the middle
class voters that both Democrats and Republicans say they want. And to
take - to threaten to take those subsidies away would be, I think a lot
more politically perilous.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels as though it`s more politically perilous. And yet
that`s precisely what this particular decision, if it stood. I mean and
so, you made me feel better that this decision is unlikely to stand. And
yet, it does feel like a kind of injustice that could happen. In part,
because for decades we have talked about getting healthcare reform and it
does appear that this law is reducing the number of uninsured, doing it in
a way that is affordable and that it would be absurd to move backward on
KNIGHT: I think that`s exactly right. And I also think that we have good
reason to believe that the Supreme Court wouldn`t necessarily take it up in
a dire way either. I mean, you know, in the 2012 .
DOWDELL: Supreme Court makes me very nervous this particular court.
KNIGHT: And I also think that we have good reason to believe that the
Supreme Court wouldn`t necessarily take it up in a dire way either. I
mean, you know, in a ..
DOWDELL: Supreme Court makes me very nervous this particular court.
KNIGHT: I agree that I think, you know, Chief Justice Roberts took a
pretty strong move in the 2012 case to avoid overturning the law on what
was I think a much more frontal and more - at least, you know,
HARRIS-PERRY: The mandate.
KNIGHT: Acceptable ground. I find it very difficult to believe that he
would take this slender thread of one provision and use that to undercut
the entire law when he didn`t do it in the first pass.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Jonathan, let me ask a little bit about that. Because
it also feels to me like there`s an interest group here that we`re kind of
leaving out, and that is the insurance companies themselves. Don`t they,
as a very powerful block, right -- we`re talking about voters and what they
get, but these insurance companies now have lots of, as Suzy was pointing
out, working and middle income folks who are now buying policies, and they
can only buy them because they`re subsidized by the federal government. If
this did go to the Supreme Court, would the health insurance companies end
up writing the amicus brief in support of the ACA?
COHEN: Oh, you know, that`s a really interesting question. I don`t know
if they would actually write the amicus brief, but there`s no question at
all there is now a huge constituency to keep these subsidies in place, and
it`s not just the people, as you say, getting the subsidies. It`s the
insurance companies. It`s also the hospitals. It`s the employers. There
are going to be some interest groups that feel differently, but there`s a
lot of people with a stake in keeping this going right now, and you can
rest assured that they will be rooting for the law to stay in place in all
of the states, not just those that decided to run their own exchanges.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Tara, is this also a moment when we could finally see
Republican governors begin to reconsider that decision not to expand
DOWDELL: I think we will see it. I think that if Democrats have to tap
into, first of all, we talked about these Moral Mondays. These on the
ground grassroots protests where people are very upset, and they have been
consistent. These are ongoing protests. And they are attacking back at
different levels lawsuits as well, on their parts. So, I think if
Democrats tap into that grassroots fervor on the left, and start to really
push back and also extend that to people just on policy grounds -- forget
the politics. Extend to people on policy grounds that you have two
parties. One that wants to give you more affordable health care, and one
that wants to take it away. Second point, you have two parties. One party
that wants to do something about the fact that over the last 35 years we`ve
seen 875 percent increase in CEO pay. We`ve seen a five percent increase.
These issues are interrelated. Democrats need to tap into it. They need
to push it. There will be a tipping point, but we need to make sure that
tipping point happens sooner rather than later.
KHIMM: And I think what`s fascinating is the Republican-led states that
have either expand -- chosen to expand Medicaid and get some political
peril. You see that in Ohio. Or in Pennsylvania where this debate is
ongoing right now. The Republican governor doesn`t want to do it. He
wants to propose an alternate plan, but there are Republican state
legislators who are really pushing for this. Ohio and Pennsylvania .
HARRIS-PERRY: Because there are hospitals in their district that will
KHIMM: And these are swing states. These are the states that Republicans
and Democrats fight over every single midterm election. All the
presidential elections. They are really sort of key pedal states
politically. We (INAUDIBLE) this playing out.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yes, this also goes back to our 2014 versus 2016 short,
mid and long term strategies here. Again, just for me as in political
science, I might, but there`s a rule - the rule is once people have
something, its bad politics to take it back.
HARRIS-PERRY: And those rules are clearly being rewritten. Jonathan Cohen
in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Thank you as always for joining us here, and here
in New York thank you to Tara Dowdell and to Sarah and Suzy who are going
to stick around a little bit longer. Up next, one hour and 57 minutes to
kill a man. Could we possibly agree that that is cruel and unusual? And
the Obama presidential playbook being put to work by a grassroots favorite.
Much more of "Nerdland" at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
In the 1940s, `50s, and `60s, Americans otherwise healthy were purposely
made ill by the United States government. Whether they were forced to
contract a deadly stomach bug or given gonorrhea or malaria, prison inmates
were used for incredibly painful medical experiments with half of U.S.
states allowing these practices.
It was not until 1973 that this exploitation came to a head during
congressional hearings and pharmaceutical industry officials acknowledge
they were using prisoners. The reason? Prisoners were cheaper than
Then-Senator Hubert Humphrey declared, "It is our moral responsibility to
see that the poor and the uneducated and the captive are not left
unprotected as human guinea pigs."
Yet, those on death row are still being subjected to painful and unethical
experimentation. Pharmaceutical suppliers that once provided the drug for
lethal injection now refuse based on opposition to the death penalty. So,
states are experimenting with untested drug combinations to horrifying
effect. The latest happened Wednesday in Arizona. The fourth botched
execution this year.
Fifty-five-year-old Joseph Rudolph Wood was injected with a two-drug
cocktail never before tried in Arizona. It took him one hour and 57
minutes to die.
Witnesses described Wood gasping for air for over an hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TROY HAYDEN, KSAZ-TV: To watch a man lay there for an hour and 40 minutes,
gulping air, I can liken it to, if you catch a fish and throw it on the
shore, the way the fish opens and closes its mouth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In the aftermath, Arizona`s attorney general issued a
temporary moratorium on executions Thursday, while a review by the state
corrections department is conducted,
Joining me at the table, Sara Knight, vice president of network advancement
at the American Constitution Society. She`s also represented pro bono
clients in death penalty cases.
And joining us from Seattle, Philip Hansten, who is professor emeritus of
pharmacy at the University of Washington and co-founder of Pharmacists
Opposed to Participation in Executions.
Thank you both for being here.
So, this issue feels to me like it is at the intersection of medicine, law,
What should the rules be, Philip, by which we make a decision? How do we
adjudicate? Should we use an ethical, medical, or a legal standard?
PHILIP HANSTEN, CO-FOUNDER, POPE: Well, the problem that has occurred with
using compounding pharmacies to prepare these products. And as you said,
they are untested products, is that there`s a real question, the reason why
we set up the organization, Pharmacists Opposed to Participating in
Executions, is because these things are, in fact, experimental, and they go
against really what should be the code of ethics for pharmacy.
And one of the key issues -- this one key issue I would like to bring up
that pertains to pharmacy participation, and that is -- and for anybody to
participate for that matter, is the issue of innocence. A hundred forty-
four people have been released from death row for reasons of innocence.
And secondly, a recent report suggests that at least one in 25 people on
death row is innocent. So, what this means is if a pharmacist participates
or anybody participates in execution, there`s a reasonable chance they will
be killing an innocent human being.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Doctor, that feels critically apparently to me, but I
am, of course, someone who has long held an opposition to the death
penalty. And I think part of what I`m interested in is whether or not --
if I`m someone who doesn`t have a particular opposition to the death
penalty per se, as an ethical question, should the issue of how a person
dies and whether or not it takes 15 minutes or an hour and 57 minutes,
should that make any difference to me?
HANSTEN: Well, I think it should. Obviously, we are going to have the
death penalty, it shouldn`t be done in this manner because it does bring up
-- your other guests will talk about, I`m sure, whether this is cruel and
unusual. It certainly brings up that possibility.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, Sarah, let me turn to you on exactly that. When we
look at the history of how the death penalty has been carried out in this
country, we arrive at the moment of lethal injection, in part because we
understand that form of euthanasia as being potentially the most sort of
compelling kind of or at least -- least cruel and unusual. Does that
change -- do these realities about the pharmaceuticals change that, that
sort of notion that we have?
SARAH KNIGHT, VP OF NETWORK ADVANCEMENT, ACS: Yes, I think there are a
couple of things going on here. And one is that when states started using
lethal injection, it was on an argument that it was for capital punishment
than firing squads and the electric chair. And for many years, they use
the standard, three-drug cocktail that was I think fairly standard if not
totally standard across the state.
One, at least one of those drug manufacturers operates out of Europe and,
it really dovetails with what Philip was talking about just now, were there
serious ethical considerations on the behalf of pharmaceutical companies.
So, what we`re seeing in the states now is the states` response to
pharmaceutical companies no longer selling to them -- the drugs they had
been using that they knew how to use, and so, in addition to having
untested drugs that are being used, there`s a veil of secrecy.
And so one of the main issues in Arizona and in Oklahoma before that was
that we simply cannot conduct any amendment inquiry. We can`t determine
whether there`s cruel and unusual punishment afoot. We don`t know what
drugs that are being used, the prevalence of drugs, the purity of those
drugs, the doses of those drugs, or the procedures that are being used to
administer them to the person who is being executed.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wonder also if there`s a sanitizing effect of this form of
euthanasia or that we see it as a form of euthanasia almost in the ways
that we make choices, for example, for our beloved family pets. And so, we
see this -- that it actually creates not only a veil of secrecy, but also
kind of allows us to step back from it.
In fact, the judge went so far as to suggest that we go back to firing
squads in order to take that veil away and says, sure, firing squads can be
messy, but if you are -- we should not shield ourselves from the reality
that we are shedding human blood. If we as a society cannot stomach the
splatter from an execution set back from a firing squad, then we shouldn`t
be carrying them out at all this kind of go to the guillotine because then
you see the heads rolling and you know what you are doing.
KNIGHT: Although it`s ironic that that particular decision was issued in
the context of denying the ninth -- or dissenting from the ninth circuit
decision that Arizona should tell everybody what they`re up to, what drugs
they`re use and how they`re being used.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Philip, let me ask you what I think is a tough question
at the heart of this. I want to listen for a moment to a woman who is a
family member, the daughter and the sister of the man who was killed by the
state who themselves were killed. Let`s take a moment and listen to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANE BROWN, VICTIM`S SISTER: What`s excruciating is seeing your dad lying
there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying there in a pool of
blood. That`s excruciating. This man deserved it, and I shouldn`t really
call him a man. He deserved everything he had coming to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Ms. Brown calls us to ask the question, the moral and
ethical question about victim`s rights, and whether or not we as a people
should care how an inmate dies.
HANSTEN: Well, absolutely. You have to -- your heart has to go out to the
victim`s families. I can only dimly imagine what it must be like, how
horrific it must be like to endure that. I think also, not to harp on the
innocence again, but have you to juxtapose that. It is really an
incremental difference between life in prison without the possibility of
parole versus execution. It`s that incremental difference that we`re
talking about with regard to the victim`s families.
With regard to the 144 innocent mostly men, who spent 10 or 15 or 20 years,
imagine waking up every morning knowing that you have been falsely accused
of murder and realizing it`s not just a bad dream, but you really may well
be killed as a result of a false imprisonment.
So, I think that you must juxtapose -- the victims absolutely have to be
considered, but you also have to consider the innocent, accused and their
families, because it must be very difficult for them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Philip Hansten in Seattle, Washington -- thank you for
joining us. Sarah will be back a little later in the hour.
But, next, which grassroots favorite appears to be taking cues from the
Obama presidential playbook?
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. I want to tell you about my long personal
history with President Barack Obama. No, no, it`s nothing sordid. Sorry,
TMZ. It`s just that for me, Barack Obama has been a political figure much
longer than for most. I was a Chicago resident when he ran against Bobby
Rush in 2000, and he lost big, like 2-1, 30 percent big.
So, for most Americans, it was four years later in this moment when still
State Senator Obama first made an entrance into their political
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN-STATE SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: We worship an awesome God in
the blue states and we don`t like federal agents poking around in our
libraries in the red states. We coach little league in the blue states,
and, yes, we`ve got some gay friends in the red states. We are one people,
all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending
the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, for most Americans, that was the moment that made
his historic run for the White House possible. But that`s not the moment.
This was the moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: In Illinois tonight, the Republican candidate
for U.S. Senate said he would not drop out of the race has dropped out.
Party leaders pressured Jack Ryan to quit after divorce records unsealed
earlier this week revealed allegations he had taken his ex-wife to sex
clubs against her will.
In a recent statement, Ryan said he was quitting to avoid what he called a
brutal scorched-earth campaign, and he blamed the media for dwelling on the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. When Republican Jack Ryan dropped out of the race with
what presumably scandalous revelations from his divorce proceedings,
suddenly, State Senator Obama, his Democratic opponent, had no opposition.
At least for a hot minute, I mean, Republicans did scramble and come up
with a conservative author and activist Alan Keyes, who wasn`t even from
Illinois or living in the state at the time.
So, suddenly, you`ve got this young state senator, largely unknown, running
for a U.S. Senate seat that he would later win by a margin of 70-27.
Thanks in large part to this large lead in the polls throughout the
campaign, our soon to be senator could afford to roam around outside his
And in 2004, the politician on the rise campaigned hard and not just
exclusively in Illinois. Mr. Obama was also on the road, doing what
politicians do, raising money for fellow Democrats, raising awareness for
others, pushing to get out the vote in battleground states -- all the while
collecting political capital to be cashed in at a later date.
And, in fact, a few years later, still learning his way around Washington
the junior senator gets a call from his party`s leader, Harry Reid. The
book "Game Change" chronicles a July 2006 meeting that the freshman Senator
Obama was called to on Capitol Hill.
Quote, "You`re not going anyplace here," Reid declared, soon after Obama
took his seat. "I know that you don`t like it, doing what you are doing."
Later, when Obama returned to his office, Robert Gibbs asked him what they
had done wrong to provoke the meeting. "Nothing", Obama replied. Harry
wants me to run for president.
"That whole meeting was about you running for president?" Gibbs asked.
"Yep," Obama said and grinned. "He really wants me to run for president."
Well, the rest is history. The inevitability of the Clinton candidacy
crumbled, because Democrats wanted an option, a candidate who could expand
the playing field. They wanted to discover someone new. They wanted to
have a choice.
Now, eight years later you can call her a liberal pipe dream if you want
to, but Senator Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts is following a very
similar playbook. From declaring that she will serve out her full Senate
term and not run for president, Senator Obama did that too, and she`s
campaigning for Democrats in deep red states like Kentucky and West
Last weekend in Detroit, she stoked the fires among progressive grassroots
wit an impassioned speech at events like Netroots Nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We believe that no one should
still work full-time and still live in poverty. That means raising the
minimum wage and we will fight for it.
We believe in equal pay for equal work, and we`ll fight for it.
And we believe that corporations are not people. That women have a right
to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Man, that sounds like a campaign slogan. We will fight for
it. Yes, we can. Hmm-hmm.
Joining us now is Zephyr Teachout, constitutional law professor at Fordham
University, and Democratic primary candidate for governor of New York.
Igor Volsky is managing editor for Think Progress, and Suzy Khimm, national
reporter for MSNBC.com.
Now, what I want to do is back up from the like Elizabeth Warren
progressive substance love fest that has been going on because it`s not so
much the substance I want to talk about here. It`s the strategy.
Whether or not what we`re seeing her do is in fact actually setting up the
possibility of an Obama-like run in 2016.
IGOR VOLSKY, THINKPROGRESS.ORG: Well, it`s hard to tell. Certainly, she`s
fundraising. She`s saying she`s not running.
VOLSKY: She`s also not commenting on foreign affairs. She`s not saying
anything about the Middle East. She`s not traveling to Iowa or New
And it`s not clear that she really has this ambition to run that many
candidates have. What she`s talking about is issues, and I think she feels
even from the Senate if she can insert issues about economic populism,
about student death, about raising the minimum wage, if that can be a
Democratic platform, that can help pull Hillary to the left, pull the party
to the left much more so maybe than just jumping into the race entirely.
HARRIS-PERRY: But that is the thing. It`s interesting. Because then that
-- what that sounds to me like Elizabeth Warren is playing from a Jesse
Jackson `84, `88 handbook, where you have the progressive who pulls the
candidate that is going to likely win to speak to the issues, but part of
what Obama did and I`m saying Obama, not President Obama because he wasn`t
president at the time. What Obama did in that moment was to say, no, we
don`t just have to run in the party, I`m actually running for president.
And I am wondering if maybe we just can`t see her because we couldn`t see
Obama because they are demographically different than what we expect.
ZEPHYR TEACHOUT, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: You may not know this, but I was part
of a draft Obama movement way back when --
HARRIS-PERRY: One of those early women for Obama.
TEACHOUT: Where we would have a grassroots folks around all the states,
and I remember going to some political science conference where 19 out of
19 political scientists said this is inevitable. You need Hillary Clinton.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. We also knew the Soviet Union was coming down.
TEACHOUT: Any time somebody says inevitable in politics, they`re usually
wrong. The key here is we need a primary. You know, the political world,
the economic world has changed since the crash of 2008, and, you know, the
2008 race couldn`t be about that.
But now, we have a chance to have real conversations with real power at
stake about public education. Everything has changed since then, about
what`s happening with big business. I mean, big business has taken over
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this seems important. You made the point that she`s not
doing the sort of foreign policy credentializing, which, of course, we know
the Obama beats Clinton in large part in that primary because of that one
speech in Hyde Park where he says I`m against the dumb wars. He is
standing against the Iraq war.
I`m wondering, Suzy, if that means that in this case, to your point,
Zephyr, that the critical issue in this case isn`t going to be the war in
Iraq where we were standing at that moment in 2007-2008. But instead, it
will be the question of the 1 percent, 99 percent inequality, economic
questions, and if she is, in fact, sticking out that same ground.
SUZY KHIMM, MSNBC.COM NATIONAL REPORTER: I think the thing that people
love about warren, and I actually went to -- the beginning of Elizabeth
Warren`s book tour, to Cambridge, Massachusetts, you know basically her
home base at Harvard, and the -- what I heard from them is that they love
her authenticity. They love her passion, and the fact that she`s been
devoted to this issue not just as political -- as a politician? In the
Senate, but for years and years before then.
She was a consumer advocate speaking out against, you know, the fact that
things were too big. The fact that consumers were getting screwed over,
for years and years before anyone else cared.
Now the party is definitely going in the direction, I think part of what
helps that is the fact that Republicans are -- they are in gridlock. These
Republicans in Congress, that they can basically put forward bills that
represent their ideals. They`re not actually having to compromise because
there`s nothing really happening in Congress.
So, they can really stake out what they believe in, what their values are.
Even I sort of idealize world almost.
And I think Elizabeth Warren is definitely kind of at the heart of that
push in Congress and outside of Washington of that conversation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us, because I wanted to pick up that issue as soon
as we come back, because all the political scientists are really bad at
prediction were really good at analysis, and the one thing that we would
say about, I think, a Warren candidacy is that there`s a lot of uncertainty
and, therefore, a campaign could actually teach people things.
So, when we come back, we`re going to talk about what that campaign might
look like. If you are ready for Hillary, you know, it turns, there`s also
a ready for Warren.
HARRIS-PERRY: We don`t know whether former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton is running for president in 2016, but we can understand why there`s
a Ready for Hillary for president group, and while a lot of prominent
politicians have signed on to it, the likelihood is strong enough, the
viability that`s strong enough, and, hey, they can pay off to get on board
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on the other hand has said repeatedly that
she ain`t aiming for the Oval Office. Not right now, anyway. "I`m not
running for president and I plan to serve out my term," she said in
December. "I am not running," she told ABC last week.
A day earlier, she told "The Boston Globe" in an interview, "I`m going to
give you the same answer I have given you many times. There is no wiggle
room. I am not running for president. No means no."
Get it? Not happening. Once I know, I know. What`s happening, the point
is starting a group called Ready for Warren. That`s what the "National
Journal" report asks. The new group who stated intent to show Senator
Warren how much support there is for her to run with regard to the group
itself, Warren said, "I do not support this." So, will the ready for
Warren folks take a hint, or be that persuasive?
Let`s ask our next guest, joining us from Chicago, Erica Sagrans, who is
campaign manager for Ready for Warren.
Nice to have you, Erica.
SAGRNAN: Thanks, Melissa. It`s great to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, why are you ready for Warren?
SAGRANS: Well, we`re ready for Warren because we need progressive champion
in the 2016 election. We can implement this debate right now. There`s
huge excitement about Warren. Tons of folks across the country really want
her to run.
So, she`s been a fighter for working families. She`s stood up for
progressive values. That`s gotten people really excited. That`s why we`re
starting this effort right now because we believe we can influence her,
that she`s listening, and if we show her, we`re ready to get behind her,
that she could run and she could jump into this race.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want you to listen to a moment with Senator Obama back in
2006. I just want you to listen to what he said when asked about running
for the U.S. presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: So you will not run for president or vice president
in on 2008?
OBAMA: I will not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So that was that. Are you hoping basically that what will
happen is that all of these no`s on the part of Senator Warren will turn
into President Warren?
SAGRANS: Right. I think no candidate is going to announce they`re running
until they`re actually running. And we believe she`s listening. She`s out
there campaigning. She`s out there raising money. She`s listening to us.
And if we can show her that we`re behind her, and that she has huge
support. I think we can get her to run.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold on for me one second, because, Zephyr, I wanted to ask
you a question. How much for the Ready for Warren, kind of Warren fever is
about Elizabeth Warren herself, and how much of it is about Hillary Clinton
and a kind of desire to have alternatives to Hillary?
TEACHOUT: It`s about something else entirely.
TEACHOUT: It`s about people not having jobs, schools failing, a need for
competition in the Democratic primary. Democrats --
HARRIS-PERRY: You think people actually care about topics for their own
lives as opposed to the lives of the potential elected official?
TEACHOUT: Well, one once said it`s about the economy stupid. It`s about
an economy and democracy and too few big companies that are really running
roughshod over working family`s lives, over middle class lives.
And so, people want competition, because they know without a real
competitive fight, you know, most people are going to left behind.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me go back to the point that you made earlier, Igor,
about the pulling to the left, because the Clintons -- the original version
of the Clintons in the early 1990s was about the corrective to the
primaries that have brought Democrats too far to the left in `84 and `88
left us with general election candidates who couldn`t win.
Is this now a corrective back against that sort of first version of the
VOLKSKY: I mean, I think so. It`s because Warren really represents kind
of the heart of these issues that Democrats care about so much. That`s why
they`re clinging to her.
Hillary has been the national stage for so long. She has donors that think
in a certain way that middle class and lower income Americans may not, and
so, that`s why it`s difficult for her to muster up the kind of rhetoric
that Warren can use.
She`s a fresh-faced person to politics. She has a state seat in the
Senate. She can make these kinds of calls.
Now, is she electable? Can she raise the kind of money Hillary can to take
things to the White House? Who knows? We don`t.
HARRIS-PERRY: What was being said about the state senator guy Obama --
VOLSKY: Yes, exactly.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to come back to you for a minute, Erica, on this
because one of the -- some of the things that you often hear about Senator
Warren is about authenticity and about her story. And I was saying before
the break, that part of what you want in a candidate is somebody we haven`t
made up our minds about, so that a campaign can teach us. It`s part of the
Clinton problem. It`s just people really have a lot of opinions already
What are the aspects of the Warren story that you think generate a
constituency for her?
SAGRANS: I think it is about her authenticity. It`s about her spending --
she spent her whole life fighting for working families, standing up for
progressive values. I think her work and her story and her life really
speaks to what people care about in terms of can I get a job that pays a
decent wage? Am I going to be able to afford a home and afford college?
It is what voters are thinking about and people are thinking about, and
some of the biggest most pressing issues facing our country right now in
terms of recovering from the financial crisis, skyrocketing income
inequality. So, those really matter to people and to voters. I think
that`s what`s really resonating and exciting people about Warren.
HARRIS-PERRY: Erica Sagrans in Chicago, once again, making the Zephyr
Teachout point that somehow people are voting for their own interests as
opposed to that of the party. But when we come back, I want to ask whether
or not there even is a Democratic Party anymore, or if the bench is so
short that the political party is dead, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, we`re talking. Is it Hillary Clinton from
the `90s, or is it Elizabeth Warren who has 15,000 likes on Facebook in her
Ready for Warren page.
So, is that evidence Suzy that we just don`t have a deep enough bench?
KHIMM: I think it`s sort of interesting. There`s a poll done by Gallup
very recently that 40 percent of Democrats have no idea who Elizabeth
Warren is. They don`t know who Elizabeth Warren is, they don`t really know
who Martin O`Malley, the Democratic governor of Maryland, is. They don`t
know these people. They haven`t made names for themselves in terms of the
broader Democratic Party.
As we were just sort of talking about a moment ago, I think part of the
Democrats` challenge is that in terms of the kind of folks that you would
get to run for president, say a governor of a state, the Democratic, you
know, leadership doesn`t represent the constituency. We don`t have enough
women. We don`t have enough minorities.
This is one area where Republicans have actually made a lot of inroads.
You have Nikki Haley in South Carolina. You have Susana Martinez. These
are the people that you hear are being buzzed about because they seem to
represent an increasingly changing demographic in the United States. And
Democrats just haven`t built out that bench in the same way.
HARRIS-PERRY: I so agree, and I particularly think that a Republican
ticket that is on people of color and women would be particularly powerful
and difficult for Democrats to challenge.
On the other hand, like some people you don`t know, say Jimmy Carter, say
Barack Obama, all of the most recent Democratic presidents are people with
this moment like governor of Arkansas or, you know, basically a state
senator out of Chicago. I`m not certain that a bench -- so I mean, I asked
if the bench not deep enough. But maybe we`re not looking in the right
VOLSKY: Well, I mean, there`s people coming up like the Castro brothers.
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama followed by President Castro?
VOLSKY: I think, yes.
VOLKSY: But, you know, part of the frustration here is you`re going to
have Hillary, you had Bush, it`s like this dynasty of politics, these guys
and gals who have been there forever, who are running time and time again,
and I think it makes young people feel like they can`t break through, they
can`t get into politics if we get another Clinton.
Or, you know, Biden, who has been there forever. All of these folks who
have been around for so long, and that`s particularly why Warren is so
exciting because she`s this fresh face.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, poor Veep Joe, we barely talk about him.
TEACHOUT: I`m running against a dynasty right now in New York. And I will
tell you, if it`s all about name recognition and money, and then we have
democracy. You`re gong to have a name recognition and money, and a
monarchy. But I talk to people all the time who say politics is as closed
down as our economy, I`m not going to get involved.
So, it`s good for the health of our whole democracy to have new people. I
wouldn`t write out people we haven`t heard of either.
VOLSKY: People who represents the growing and changing face of America?
TEACHOUT: Yes. That`s what makes for a healthy democracy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And that, of course, is part of what Warren does and
being a woman candidate. But the key is her progressivism, but her
demographic identity also is not irrelevant.
Thank you, Zephyr Teachout. Igor is going to stick around a little longer.
Also thanks to Suzy Khimm.
Very quick programming note, if you are not familiar with the digital
extension of this program, it`s called Nerding Out, and you can catch this
week`s edition hosted by the prince of Nerdland, Dorian Warren live on
MSNBC.com. It stream this is Thursday morning at 11:30 a.m. and will
feature Zephyr Teachout on campaign finance law.
Up next for us, what is a state to do when all nine Supreme Court justices
say the law is unconstitutional? Rewrite the law, of course.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s take a look at what`s happening in New Orleans.
Hundreds of protesters, many of them belonging to the anti-choice
organization known as Operation Save America had been in New Orleans since
last Saturday for a demonstration. Protesters have gathered at the site of
a future Planned Parenthood clinic and at a medical clinic that provides
abortions, and even at the private residence of an individual the group
believes to be an abortion provider.
They even staged a dramatic open casket wake in Jackson Square for a
terminated pregnancy with crying attendance placing carnations around the
casket. Protesters then took their anti-choice message to the first
Unitarian Universalist Church, disturbing a moment of silence for a long-
time congregate who had passed away the week before, and telling the
congregants that they didn`t have a true faith because of the church`s
support for reproductive rights.
Demonstrators were invited to join the service respectfully, but the
loudest ones were led outside the church.
While New Orleans is more than 1,500 miles from Boston, this emboldened
activity by anti-choice protesters or so called sidewalk counselors cannot
be separated from the unanimous decision by the Supreme Court in June to
strike down the 2007 Massachusetts law that created a buffer zone between
abortion seekers and those looking to protest or counsel them. That ruling
has Massachusetts state legislators who are heeding the calm from Governor
Deval Patrick to push a new buffer zone bill before their legislative
session ends next Thursday.
Now, versions of the bill have been passed by both the Massachusetts Senate
and House, and once the final draft is agreed upon is expected to be signed
by Governor Patrick. The new law will allow police to order one or more
protesters to withdraw, if they impede access to a clinic. In order that
back off, protesters would have to stay at least 25 feet from the building
for up to eight hours. The attorney general could seek fines and
compensatory damages from protesters who break the law.
Back at the table, Sarah Knight, vice president of Network Advancement for
the American Constitution Society, Igor Volsky, managing editor at
ThinkProgress.com, and from Boston, Massachusetts, State Senator Harriette
Chandler, who is the Senate`s assistant majority leader and is the sponsor
of the new clinic`s buffer zone bill.
Nice to have you.
STATE SEN. HARRIETTE CHANDLER, ASSISTANT MAJORITY LEADER: Thank you for
HARRIS-PERRY: So, am I wrong to connect these protests in New Orleans to a
ruling in D.C. about a law in Massachusetts? Or do you see them as
CHANDLER: I don`t think you`re wrong at all. I see them as connected, and
it was just feelings like this that made us realize when the Supreme Court
struck down our 2007 law that there was a void that needed to be filled and
needed to be filled as quickly as possible.
We can`t have issues like this. We can`t have people impending access to
our facilities. We can`t have harassment. We can`t have intimidation.
We had a murder in Massachusetts in 1994, and that memory runs long and
deep for us. Two people were murdered in a Planned Parenthood clinic, and
we`re afraid that that sort of thing could happen again if we left
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I have to say that learning that these protesters have
gone to the First Unitarian Universalists Church was chilling, but because
we know that Dr. Tiller was assassinated in his church. Also because that
was one of the churches I attended when I lived in New Orleans, and so it`s
a chilling sort of moment.
So, tell me about this new law that you all are working on getting passed,
the speed with which you have done it, and sort of what you see as how this
law responds to the Supreme Court ruling.
CHANDLER: Well, as I said in 1994 we had a murder. We responded with a
bill in 2001 that gave us a bubble. So, there was some protection. We
want to protect people`s access to clinics. We want to make sure they`re
not harassed. We want to make sure they`re not intimated.
And the issue that was posed when the 2007 bill that created the buffer
zone was struck down by the Supreme Court in June was that there was a
First Amendment problem. There was no freedom of speech here.
And so, we read the bill, but read the decision very carefully. And we
really crafted the bill very narrowly so that we would balance the safety
issues with the safety issues and the access issues that needed to be
protected. And I think we`ve done that. The first thing is that we wanted
to make sure that if there was a problem, that the police on a written
notice could dispense or disperse and that`s the word that`s used in the
decision itself, could disperse the problems, to disperse the people the
And they could go within a line 25 feet away. They could stay there for
eight hours or until the facility closed.
But we want to make sure that there is no problem. We want to make sure
that nobody is injured. We want to make sure that this is always on public
property, and we want to make sure that there is no infringement of
people`s basic rights on that score.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, hold it one moment, State Senator.
So, Sarah, just from listening to the state senator, does that seem to pass
the First Amendment test from your perspective?
KNIGHT: Well, I think it`s a valiant effort to try. And one thing to know
about the opinion is that while all nine justices agreed that the 35-foot
buffer zone violated the First Amendment rights of the protesters, there
was not agreement among all nine of them about the rationale for that.
So, in an unusual combination, we see Chief Justice Roberts join with the
more liberal members of the court, just like he did with the ACA, it`s a
very unusual combination, and crafted pretty limited decision that strikes
down the 35-foot buffer and suggests vociferously that there are more
reasonable and less restrictive alternatives that they can pursue, but
doesn`t give a lot of guidance on to what exactly that`s going to look
On the other hand, the four more conservative justices on the court are
pretty clear that they would go farther. There`s 2,000 decisions. State
senator talked about the buffer that goes around a person. A bubble that
kind of follows a person as another approach to the Supreme Court has
I think it`s clear that the other four more conservative justices would
strike that down. It`s unclear because Justice Roberts` opinion doesn`t
address that fact, what he would do in that situation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, so we`re not completely clear where that would end up
leading you us.
Sarah, thank you so much for joining us today.
And, Igor, thank you for joining us today.
And also specifically, thank you, State Senator Harriette Chandler in
Boston, Massachusetts. But also for trying to respond so swiftly to this
change and trying to, in fact, protect both the First Amendment rights of
protesters and women who are seeking constitutionally protected medical
care. Thank you.
CHANDLER: Thank you, Melissa.
Still to come this morning, our foot soldier is bringing more from Canada
than just hockey players and news anchors, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Detroit water and sewage department has been shutting
off the water of delinquent customers since March. The department began
shutting off water for up to 3,000 accounts per week, placing a basic
necessity out of reach for those who cannot afford to pay, in order to
incentivize bill payment.
On Monday, the department decided to halt the shutoff for 15 days to give
customers enough time to work out payment plans after proving that they
are, in fact, unable to pay their water bills. By the time this decision
was rendered, two Twitter users had already taken matters into their own
hands, and keyboards.
Tiffani Ashley Bell and Kristy Tillman, two young women whose virtual
friendship began on Twitter, began exchanging tweets about the water crisis
in Detroit. They found themselves focused on a simple question. How can
you pay for someone`s water bill directly?
Their solution: the Detroit water project. The Web site offers a platform
for Detroit water and sewage department customers who need help with their
bills and to seek assistance and a place for the donors to offer a
contribution. The site anonymously matches donors to customers in order to
facilitate bill payment and get the water turned back on.
The project has already attracted more than 3,000 donors who have each
contributed anywhere from $20 to $2,500. Those donations, the Detroit
water project has been able to pay more than 16 overdue accounts. And Bell
and Tillman aren`t the only ones helping a hand.
Our food soldier this week, water rights activist Maude Barlow led a seven-
vehicle convoy on Thursday, across the border to deliver about 250 gallons
of water to Detroit. Maude said, to drive home the message that cutting
off delinquent customers violates the U.N.`s 2010 assertion that water is a
Joining me now from Ottawa is Maude Barlow, the national chairperson, the
Council of Canadians.
So nice to have you.
MAUDE BARLOW, COUNCIL OF CANADIANS: So nice to be here, thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, tell me about yesterday`s rally.
BARLOW: Well, it was very moving. We had a convoy from Windsor, which is
the twin city of Detroit, to the tunnel. We did get stopped at the
homeland security and had to pay a tariff on each of the cars, but they
were very nice. And then we were met by hundreds of supporters and people
who have been protesting and fighting the cutoffs.
And we went to one of the water drop-off churches, there`s centers around
Detroit where you can drop water off where people need it. It was
extremely moving. The water was blessed and people sang. It was a very
moving moment, very moving afternoon, as a matter of fact. The culmination
of a lot of months of work with our friends in Detroit to show that
Canadians care and that we show solidarity with what they`re going through.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is not a usual sort of mundane experience for a major
American city to be receiving international aid for something as basic as
water. What do you make of this? Is it an indication of sort of a failing
within the U.S. context? Is it -- how do you see what this moment is?
BARLOW: Well, thank you for saying that. Because that was exactly the
point we`re trying to make. We`ve been -- I`ve been personally very
involved in getting the U.N. to recognize the human right to water. We`ve
been working with communities around the world that don`t have access to
water. It`s usually in third-world countries. It`s usually in countries
that we think of as very far away and very poor.
But there are communities in the so-called First World now. Europe is
turning off a lot of water because of their austerity programs. There are
communities and cities in the United States where it`s happening.
Detroit`s the worst. It`s not the only one, but it`s the worst. And what
happened was the department decided under the new bankruptcy plan to sell
off the water system and they wanted to get rid of the bad debt and they
didn`t go after the corporate users, the golf courses and big companies who
owe $30 million. They went after the poorest of the poor who have been
left behind as money has left Detroit.
So, we thought, well, look, if we are concerned about the lack of water
rights in Kenya or Bolivia, why are we not concerned about the absolute
clear violation of the human right to water and sanitation in Detroit? And
I have to say, I don`t think Detroit`s going to be the last place in North
America where this is going to happen, unless we change our policies.
Cut infrastructure. Cut Social Security. You know, bring in policies for
the 1 percent, you know, let the globalization -- so the jobs all leave and
who got left behind in Detroit, the very people who couldn`t pay, and then
the water rates went up 119 percent. Then, two weeks ago, they jacked them
up another 8 percent.
And now, we`re just told they`re going up another 34 percent. They can`t
pay. They`ve got twice the bills, twice the rate of the United States.
So, yes, it`s the canary in the coal mine. And we really wanted to make
HARRIS-PERRY: Maude, it seems to me what you just did there is something
we always aspire to with our foot soldiers. This is about an individual
one person to another kind of contribution. And yet, it really is shining
a light on a much broader sort of structural policy question.
BARLOW: Well, that`s right. In this case, it has to do of course with --
I call it the policies by the 1 percent for the 1 percent. I think we need
to ask the question, how can a city go bankrupt? It`s not a corporation.
How can you let people fend for themselves? How have we come to the place
where we bail out the banks and we let the poorest of the poor in the heat
of summer go without water?
It`s also a larger question around water privatization. I mean, we`re
living in a world where the water stocks are depleting. Freshwater access
is depleting around the world. I just wrote a new book on it. And the
statistics are really distressing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, yes.
BARLOW: So, the question is going to become, who makes these decisions
around access to water? Will it be public or private? Will it be
diplomatic or will it be corporately controlled?
HARRIS-PERRY: This is truly getting back to basics. Water is a human
Maude Barlow is our food soldier, is in Canada this morning. Thank you.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going
to see you tomorrow morning 10:00 a.m.
We`re going to be looking at the outbreak take being place in Western
Africa that has already killed more than 100 people and could be spreading
to even more heavily populated areas. Also, the myth of the magical black
father. You are not going to want to miss our conversations.
But, right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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