UP with STEVE KORNACKI
August 17, 2014
Guest: Ryan Reilly, Bob Herbert, Eleanor Clift, Michael Steele, Christy
Hoppe, Basil Smikle Jr., Brian Wice, Will Hailer, Peter Suderman, Jamelle
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBS ANCHOR: Tear gas and violence on the first night of
the Ferguson curfew.
We begin this morning in the immediate wake of an unsettling overnight in
Ferguson, Missouri where a curfew ordered by the governor went into effect
at midnight Central Time and was lifted just two hours ago. When Missouri
Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in the St. Louis suburb
and announced the curfew yesterday afternoon, there were loud cries of
protests from many demonstrators who pleaded with Nixon to reconsider. But
the curfew went into effect at midnight anyway. And here is what we know
happened on the ground in the overnight hours. Just before the curfew took
effect, there were hundreds of protesters who were gathered in what was a
steady rain last night to peacefully protest the police shooting of an
unarmed teenager named Michael Brown one week ago Saturday. When the
midnight deadline arrived, many of those protesters heeded the instructions
of police to disperse and to head home. But there were other protesters
who remained. They marched with their hands up and drove down the street
with some people standing on cars chanting things like "Hands up, don`t
shoot," "No justice, no curfew." And as they were, quote, "never going
home," less than an hour into the curfew, just before 1 a.m. Central Time,
police including five armored vehicles assembled to move in on that crowd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the police department. You are violating a
state-imposed curfew. You must continue to disperse peacefully or you will
be subject to arrest and/or other actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The police began firing canisters into the crowd that they
initially said were smoke and not tear gas. An NBC producer who was on the
scene, though shooting video near the front line, someone who has been
exposed to tear gas before says it was, in fact, tear gas. And a few hours
later law enforcement admitted that at least some of the canisters were
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. RON JOHNSON, MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL: They deployed tea gas, well,
first they deployed gas, just gas, smoke, we call it smoke. So, they
deployed smoke. Several smoke canisters to assist in moving the crowd
backwards. They kept moving forward. At the time that the team started
moving forward, they continued to deploy smoke.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Captain Ron Johnson from the Missouri State Highway
Patrol, a Ferguson native who has been running the law enforcement response
on the ground since Thursday. He say the police moved in on the protesters
not to disperse the crowd, but to control separate incidents that were
unfolding in the area. He added that there were seven arrests overnight.
He said a police car was fired upon in the vicinity and that one victim was
shot, not by law enforcement, but amid the clashes in the street.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: We have a shooting victim that`s in critical condition that may
lose their life. We had a subject standing in the middle of the road with
a handgun. We had a police car shot at tonight, and yes, I think that was
the proper response tonight, to maintain officer safety and public safety
so we didn`t have more victims, whether that was law enforcement or some of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right, the "Huffington Post`s" Ryan Reilly who has been in
Ferguson all week, he joins us live from there this morning. Thanks for
taking a few minutes, Ryan. I appreciate. So, can you just take us
through what the night was like for you? You were there. You witnessed
it, what your vantage point was for this and what you saw overnight?
RYAN REILLY, HUFFINGTON POST: Sure, it was an intense night. And the
media, essentially, most of the media at least was confined sort of
actually to this media area. They set up for the first time last night
which actually was the Ferguson market, the parking lot of the Ferguson
market where the alleged robbery took place and it has been the subject of
some protests and looting the previous evening. So we essentially -- and
this night as opposed to being on sort of the side - you know, the
physically on the side of the protesters and being amongst the crowd, we`re
essentially separated from the crowd and saw this from the police
perspective rather than the side of the protesters.
KORNACKI: And the protesters, the seven arrests we are talking about,
these are people who are protesting -- we`re showing some of the scenes on
the screen with people walking with their hands up in the air, these are
the people who were arrested. Wee there any other arrests you`re aware of?
REILLY: Yeah, I think those were the main ones that, you know, that he
talked about. I`m not sure if I`m aware of any other arrests outside of
that. I just note that yesterday as compared to some of the previous
nights, I think especially earlier on in the night, it was a much different
- it was a different crowd. I think all the reporters kind of all
concluded that this was a little bit different. It was much younger crowd.
There weren`t as many adults sort of scattered throughout. There weren`t
as many people necessarily holding I guess - everyone is sort of
responsible holding in a minor. There were a couple of groups that were
trying to maintain order that Captain Johnson was working closely with.
When we saw earlier on. But, you know, this was pretty relatively early on
a night a couple of reporters were sort of, you know, commented to that, a
couple of protesters that, you know, that we could essentially become
targets, too. You know, if basically if we started pointing our cameras
around when I think things got crazy, was the quote from one of the
KORNACKI: And now - if you could describe for us what the scene was like
before the curfew was imposed, trying to get the protesters -- the police
trying to get the protesters to disperse and go home, what was that process
REILLY: Sure, so there are all down where we were located, which is the
sort of closer to a lot of the businesses that had been targeted last night
that we could see from our vantage point, I mean there are - it was the
things were getting pretty clear. There`s a group of peacekeepers on the
street who were sort of encouraging everyone to go home and the rain, I
think also was a big crowd deterrent here. It was pouring - you know,
completely pouring at some points. So, that was certainly something that
kept people -- that maybe encouraged some people to head home. But the
area around the QT, which the Quick Trip, which had been burnt down, of
course, you know, earlier this week was where most of the activity was
taking place. It was tough for us as the press to see what was happening
down there. A few obviously vice went was in there amongst the crowd.
But, you know, we were not allowed to sort of move down. We were told we
would be subject to arrest at that point. So, you know, the few reporters
had made a decision to sort of ignore that, but it was also difficult to
find a way even to get down there where a police officer wouldn`t stock
KORNACKI: You also - so this is before the curfew went into effect, you
were tweeting last night, I was following and you tweeted something that
just really jumped out at me. You said you had witnessed - on your
Twitter, and you said, one of the most incredible moments I`ve ever
experienced in my career as a journalist. And what you were tweeting about
was you watched an encounter between Captain Johnson and I guess - it was a
young man wearing a mask who was shouting something at him. Can you - we
have some pictures of it - can you talk about what you witnessed, what was
REILLY: Sure, so this was sort of right after an impromptu sort of press
conference with Captain Johnson where he was informing - you know,
informing us how he thought the night was going. Saying that at that time
that he thought the things were going pretty well and that people were
And after he sort of walked away, an individual walked in, he had, you
know, a bandana around his face obviously and started yelling. It was very
- a very aggressive and, you know, and threatening. I think and certainly
intimidating to a lot of the media who was there. And he continued to
follow the officer. At one point, a couple of the fellow officers sort of
got in front of Johnson -- between - got between Johnson and between this
individual to sort of cut him off. And it looked like a very tense
situation, there was someone who was accompanying the protester, who is
trying to calm him down. But he was obviously very riled and heated up.
And at one point Johnson who had been looking and sort of had been walking
away turned over and walked directly to him and had one of the most amazing
things I`ve ever seen, this civil exchange between this protester. He was
very angry about what had happened and what - you know, how he feels, you
know, as an African-American in this community and this Ferguson native,
Johnson, who basically, you know, said that he was right on a lot of things
and that he understood how he felt and talked about the FBI coming in and
how important that investigation was and said at one point that that
investigation is going to lead them right through Missouri all the way to
the White House.
KORNACKI: And quickly, Ryan, just how long is - do we know how long the
curfew is going to last? Is it going to keep going tonight, indefinitely?
REILLY: I think all that sort of up in the air right now. We`re not too
sure. We haven`t - been given any information. I`m sure we`ll be finding
out, you know, either later this morning or this afternoon what`s going to
happen and what`s going to be the plan for tonight.
KORNACKI: My thanks to Ryan Reilly of the "Huffington Post" for taking a
few minutes from Ferguson, but I appreciate that. We have quite a panel
here. We have Michael Steele, we have Bob Herbert, we have Basil Smikle.
We are going to hear from all of them when we come back from a break.
KORNACKI: Joining me now is Bob Herbert, he`s a senior fellow at Demos,
political strategist and Columbia University professor Basil Smikle Jr.,
and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. So,
thanks to all of you for being here. So, we just heard that story from
Ryan Reilly about Ron Johnson`s - Captain Ron Johnson`s encounter with a
protester, basically a protester who is initially very hostile to him and
he basically wins him over. And Bob, you were making this comment in the
break that basically, we`ve seen a lot of stories this week about Ron
Johnson like this.
BOB HERBERT: Yeah, he`s - he`s been one of the few sustained upbeat
aspects of this story. I mean he`s gone in. He`s a reasonable guy. He
has calmed the community to some extent, not fully. But he hasn`t
abandoned his law enforcement responsibilities. I mean the police at this
point are in a very tough position. And that`s because the authorities put
them in such a tough position. But they can`t just let the violence go
unattended to. So, you know, people being shot, some people being hurt,
perhaps, you know, looting. So they have to take care of that. On the
other hand, the protesters have legitimate grievances and a right to
protest. So, it`s a tough line to walk and he`s been doing I think a
pretty good job walking that line.
KORNACKI: But it does show. I mean part of it is he`s from the community.
KORNACKI: And he`s made this point. I`ve seen him at press conferences
over and over making this point, as you know, where the media is going to
be gone at some point, but you, the protesters who are stating at the press
conference, are going to still be here, still would have to live here. And
you`re the ones I want to be talking to. And it just - it strikes me, as
we always talk about, I guess the term is community policing, but it`s, you
know, where the police are as much a part of the community as the people
that they`re protecting and serving. And it seems to be the essence of
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: He`s doing that and he`s doing it in
a way that up to now no one else seems to have been able to do. And
certainly, not the police chief in Ferguson. He is the best thing on the
ground right now. He is the key asset that I think both the governor, law
enforcement and even the FBI want to have in place. I noted in that video
that at the beginning of the confrontation with the young man, the bandana
was on. And it was very (INAUDIBLE), the bandana was down, you could see
his whole face.
BASIL SMIKLE JR., POLITICAL STRATEGIST: That`s right.
STEELE: In other words, the protester had opened himself up to listening
to what the chief had to say. And I think that that`s going to be critical
going forward. I took note of his comment about the curfew. And while he
didn`t say we shouldn`t have a curfew, he said, well, last night didn`t go
as well as we had hoped. Meaning that there`s probably some question as to
whether or not the curfew is the best thing to put in place at this moment.
Maybe a little bit later on, but let the community - and this is how he`s
really expressed it, let the community work this out so that they can feel
that at least you`re hearing what I have to say, and then if you want to
say I have to be in by midnight, OK. But up to right now, I think the
community largely feels put off and set aside. And he`s been the link to
kind of bring them in to the conversation with officials. And that`s
KORNACKI: Did that go better last night? Then you think you with Basil -
I mean I know we had that press conference yesterday. We`re going to play
more from it later. But certainly after that people - everybody was
saying, I don`t know if this curfew is a good idea, if this isn`t going to
end up riling up protesters in the way that the otherwise wouldn`t have.
Did it go better than you thought it was last night?
SMIKLE: No. And I think to take Michael`s point, I think - you know, I
wrestle with whether or not a curfew actually is a good thing because
Captain Johnson`s exchange there is extraordinarily important. I just look
at - just listening to Reilly`s - Ryan`s comment. He mentioned that
protester was acting in an aggressive and threatening manner. Maybe that`s
the case. But at least Captain Johnson may actually have a different - to
him, it may not be aggressive or threatening. And I think what Michael is
talking about and Bob is talking about, is that, you have to give a chance
for the community leaders, the elected officials, the members of the clergy
to actually work with the protesters, with members of the community to
actually start to solve these problems. They need to be able to stop a lot
of the looting. And some of the more powerful pictures that I`ve seen
where community leaders may not have been dressed in a suit and tie, they
could have been out there in a t-shirt and shorts but saying this is my
community, too, and standing in front of those stores and saying, you`re
not going to come to this store. That`s what needs to happen. The police
I think, need to give - empower the community leaders to be able to take
that stand, to support their neighbors in trying to keep the peace.
KORNACKI: You know, the other thing I thought of when I saw that scene
with Captain Johnson, was, I was reading up on him the other day. And I
don`t know if people noticed, the story of how he became a cop. He says he
was stopped driving his car when he was like 18, 19 years old, and the
officer - the officer was an Africa African-American who stopped him. And
he said he took note of the pride with which the officer carried himself.
And he sort of decided on the spot that that`s what he aspired to. And
that`s what he aspired. And in part of this story has been that this
police force serving this town is two thirds black, this police force is
like 90 percent white.
KORNACKI: And the higher-ups - the police department are saying well, we
don`t have black applicants. And I wonder if the presence of somebody like
Ron Johnson on the ground, the visibility of somebody like Ron Johnson, if
there aren`t more future Ron Johnsons being created.
HERBERT: This is an important point. You know, people talk about
diversity and they tend to talk about it all the time. And very often it`s
poo poo`d and that sort of thing. It`s really important. In a community
like Ferguson. I think they only have three African-Americans on the
police force. It would make a big difference, it wouldn`t stop all the -
but it would make a big difference, if you had a more representative police
force. You know, so you have some other Captain Johnsons out there. It
helps to make the authorities and the police department specifically not
seem like an alien force that`s trying to just control you.
STEELE: Right. Well, you have institutions like law enforcement, people
tend to look at them and if they do not see themselves reflected in those
institutions, their reactions to them sometimes leads to what we`ve seen
over the last few days. To Bob`s point, it doesn`t mean that if you had,
you know, a majority of black officers, you still wouldn`t have the rights
and all that.
STEELE: But as you see with Captain Johnson, that calming effect, that
ability to communicate, that ability to read the body language of the
community does matter, and to be quite frank about it, you know, clearly
Johnson reads that body language very different than the current police
chief read that body language. I would submit that that had been the white
police chief in that position last night, it would have been a very
different outcome. First off, he probably even wouldn`t have stopped in
turn to talk to him. All right? But had he done that, it would have been
-- you could feel the tension coming off of it. And with Johnson, you saw
the tension dissipate because he understood, and instinctively where this
young man was coming from.
KORNACKI: Well, you know, that`s the other interesting thing. And
Michael, maybe you can appreciate this from - with lieutenant governor
looking over a whole state. Usually, it seems when you look at these
situations, the ideal we always talk about is this, the local people who
should be in charge, whether it`s education or policing or anything like
that. And here is a case where the local people, the people on the ground
KORNACKI: Mess this thing up completely, the state came in and the state
is actually -- the representatives of the state are more in touch with the
population than the locals.
SMIKLE: Right. And I actually don`t think you`re going to see the last of
this nationally as demographics, not just in places like New York, but also
in smaller communities change where you have African-Americans with an out
migration from a lot of big cities moving into a lot of smaller
communities, whether it`s in the Midwest or the south, just the immigration
broadly, you`re going to see the cities become far more diverse. And I
think, if - whether it`s local governments or state governments view
diversity as being important, you`re not going to be able to get away with,
well, there aren`t enough applicants. You have to go out and start growing
SMIKLE: And I think that- and I think that`s the next sort of test that we
should have of elected officials, of people in positions of leadership,
what is your commitment to diversity? And we can see how that plays out on
the ground in Ferguson.
STEELE: It`s always such a bogus argument, oh, we can`t find anyone.
KORNACKI: Bob, where do you think things are going from here?
HERBERT: Well, you know, it`s - I think it`s very difficult because your
reporter on the ground was talking about it looked like the protesters were
changing, they were becoming younger, perhaps some were becoming more
militant. One of the things that we can hope is that the police show some
restraint and that people exhaust themselves. You know, you just - just
let it play out. But there`s always the danger of violence. So you have
to be really careful. A point that I think is really important is that
this is not taking place -- Ferguson is not taking place in a vacuum.
African-Americans across this country are angry and resentful over a number
of issues and those issues have to be addressed.
KORNACKI: Right. My thanks to Bob Herbert from Demos for joining us this
morning, I appreciate that. Michael and Basil, we`ll see you a little bit
later. Still ahead, we`ll have much more on the situation in Ferguson
throughout the show including some amazing extended video from that press
conference where Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced yesterday the curfew
and calling it a press conference is probably the worst way of describing
We are going to play it for you, and I promise, you are going to want to
see it. That`s coming up. And up next, the indictment of Rick Perry.
Reaction to it is not what you might expect. One of Perry`s biggest
defenders so far is also one of President Obama`s closest confidants.
We`ll explain next.
KORNACKI: Texas Governor Rick Perry is speaking out strongly against the
surprise indictment that is rocking the Texas and national political
worlds. The indictment was revealed late on Friday and Perry faced the
press for the first time since then yesterday afternoon, calling it a farce
and declaring that he wholeheartedly and unequivocally stands by the
actions that prosecutors are calling abuse of power and coercion of a
public servant. Here is what happened to get to all this. Last year Perry
threatened to veto the funding with the district attorney of - the District
Attorney of Travis County, Travis County is where Austin is. Threatened to
do that if the D.A. didn`t resign from her job. Now, that D.A., a woman
named Rosemary Lehmberg and Democrat, had been convicted for driving while
intoxicated and sentenced to 45 days in prison. Video also emerged showing
her behaving hostilely toward law enforcement when she was arrested. And
it is her office, because it has jurisdiction over Austin where the state
capital is, that runs the state`s public integrity unit, her job is to be
the watch dog of other public officials. And Perry said that because of
her behavior she was no longer fit to hold that position. On Friday night
the governor`s office swiftly and firmly insisted he had acted within the
law. Even some partisan Democrats like David Axelrod were defending the
Texas Republican. Axelrod wrote on Twitter, "Unless he was demonstrably
trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than the stated reason, Perry
indictment seems pretty sketchy." Bringing more on his support and
surprisingly, support of state from some Democrats later in the show, we`ll
debate that issue, but for now, here is more of what Perry had to say about
the charges against him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R) TEXAS: I exercised this authority to veto funding for
an office whose leadership had lost the public`s confidence by acting
inappropriately and unethically. I am confident that we will ultimately
prevail, that this farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is.
And those responsible will be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The question now is will these corruption charges halt Governor
Perry`s bid to transform himself as the picture of competency with
Republican primary voters as he thinks about 2016. Joining me now is
Christy Hoppe, she`s the Austin bureau chief of the "Dallas Morning News."
Christy, thanks for joining us this morning. So, I`m just curious how this
is all going over in Texas, because generally speaking in politics, when
the headline is governor, senator, president, whatever, indicted, it is
just a terrible catastrophic headline for that politician. Is this playing
out as a terrible catastrophic headline, or is this a "Yeah, but" story in
CHRISTY HOPPE, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: A little bit of both. You cannot get
beyond the fact that you have a governor who`s been indicted on two major
felonies, one of which carries a sentence of 99 years. But at the same
time Texas has always been a sharp elbowed, rough and tumble type of
political state. And that`s the kind of politics Perry has played. And
some people were questioning whether we`re now criminalizing the kind of
arm twisting that often goes on in politics.
KORNACKI: Yeah, I mean that`s the issue I have. Whether I mean, you know,
the threat of a veto to produce some kind of an action, well, that`s sort
of a point of a veto threat. I mean veto threat is so embedded in our
political culture, but what is - legally speaking at this point, so he`s
going to turn himself in I guess this week for arraignment. I guess that`s
being arranged. You say the possible sentence does go up to 99 years. Is
there an expectation that this will go to trial or is there a way this
might not reach trial?
HOPPE: I think from what Governor Perry said yesterday, I think what the
prosecutor said, it will go to trial. I wouldn`t expect any kind of plea
deal. The governor was very emphatic and defiant yesterday, and I think he
said he wanted a swift trial. Politically, he needs to - if he can beat
this charge, put it behind him as quickly as possible to have any
opportunity or chance to clear his name, and continue his quest for a
KORNACKI: Well, we have Michael Steele, former RNC chairman here. So,
Michael, I`m curious asking you just nationally speaking, looking at the
Republican Party, Rick Perry wants another chance to run for president in
2016. Now he`s got to deal with this. What`s the effect?
STEELE: I think it enhances his stature ironically enough in the party.
He`s fighting against a D.A.`s office that is very much politicized. It is
really one of the last bunkers in Texas for Democrats. And this office in
the past has indicted, you know, Kay Bailey Hutchison, which was thrown out
on the first day of trial opening. So, there is this political history
here that plays into a very good narrative for the governor. And, you
know, his defiance at that podium really sort of speaks to that narrative.
And it enhances and emboldens him within this state and Republicans outside
looking in, as you`ve heard Republicans from around the country, even some
of his potential rivals like Bobby Jindal coming to his defense and saying
emphatically, this is bogus. This is not - you know, his offense is not,
you know, a prosecutable offense because it`s part of his executive
authority and this is what he does. Now, the problem was he sort of
telegraphed and said what he was going to do. And he just did it without
necessarily saying what was on his mind.
KORNACKI: Wait. Legally speaking you`re trying to get him on a veto
KORNACKI: And that`s why it`s to me like Axelrod`s coming out, because I
think even Democrats in government look at this and say the power of the
line item veto, the executive`s power to have the veto, was it as a threat,
any kind of threat is going to be coercive in nature. I mean this is
politics. This is what ...
STEELE: This is politics.
KORNACKI: Politics is. But Kathy, excuse me, Christy, just to go back to
you, I do have one more question about where this goes legally. So, we say
this is in a county, I get the most Democratic county in Texas. One of the
most Democratic counties in Texas. So, if there is a jury trial there,
this is going to be a more Democratic, anti-Rick Perry jury pool than you
get elsewhere in Texas.
HOPPE: Very possibly. Let me make a point. This was not Rosemary
Lehmberg`s district attorney`s office that is prosecuting this. This is a
special prosecutor who was named by a Republican judge and has many
Republican ties who is prosecuting this. So there is that, and in
addition, it`s not the veto threat that is part of this indictment.
Everybody has a veto threat. It`s that he said unless Rosemary Lehmberg
does something, unless she resigns her office which is supposedly the
coercion part of this, that he will veto it then. He`s mandating that she
leave her job in order to receive funding.
KORNACKI: Right. Again, that`s to me - that`s politics.
KORNACKI: Throw LBJ in jail for all.
But my thanks to Christy out there, "Dallas Morning News," I appreciate
that. And Michael Steele is still staying with us. Still ahead, more from
Ferguson including more incredible sound from when the curfew was announced
But first, we know they`re trying, they`ve been trying for a long time.
So, will Republicans be able to bring African-Americans back into their
fold? Interesting conversation on that. Stay ahead - stay with us.
KORNACKI: It`s taken as an established fact in modern politics that
African-American voters tend to vote for Democrats. And to do so,
overwhelmingly, Barack Obama took 93 percent of the black vote in 2012 when
he won re-election. Even John Kerry when he lost to George W. Bush, back
in 2000, well, he still claimed 88 percent of the black vote. And in fact,
since 1964 Democrats have won at least 80 percent of the black vote in
every presidential election. Republicans, of course, have been trying to
change this or saying they want to try to change this for a long time. So
long that it can be easy to forget that it wasn`t always this way.
Republican Party was actually founded in the 1850s by Americans who wanted
to abolish slavery. The iconic Republican president who did just that was
elected in 1860. But fast forward to about 100 years later, and the
Republican Party began to attract the Southern Democrats who are against
the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It`s how Republicans Senator Barry
Goldwater who joined the segregationist block of Southern Democratic
Senator in their failed attempt to filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
it`s how he ended up winning five Southern states as the Republican
presidential nominee that fall even as he suffered one of the worst defeats
ever elsewhere in the country.
In the decades that follow, the Republican Party built its stronghold in
the South with a strategy, the so-called Southern strategy that included
its share of subtle appeals to racism. Many people didn`t think it was an
accident that Ronald Reagan chose to launch his general election campaign
for the White House in Philadelphia and Mississippi back in 1980 that was
in a county that was the most - it was most famous as the place where three
civil rights workers had been murdered only 15 years earlier. Reagan spoke
in that speech of his fondness for state`s rights. Many believed he was
sending a clear message to locals. Historian Jelani Cobb writing in "The
New York Times" this week that, quote, "An honest appeal to African-
Americans would start with the admission that Republicans didn`t lose the
black vote but forfeited it. The Republican Party now faces the same
dilemma as the mid 20TH century Democratic Party, whether it`s interest in
black voters might ever outweigh its investment into reactionary politics
So what is it going to take for the Republican Party to win black voters
back? It appears at least on paper to be at least some common ground,
things like religion and school vouchers, but really nothing there
Republicans have said or done for the last 50 years has budged the needle.
So, what really take and are Republicans willing to do it. Joining me now
is Jamelle Bouie of "Slate," former RNC Chairman Michael Steele is still
with us. Jamelle, I`ll start with you. So, we established the history
there, you know, not everybody remember the Republican Party sort of once
was the home of black voters. Hasn`t been for a long time now. In your
mind, as you look at American politics right now, what would it take for
Republicans to move the needle in a way they haven`t for the last 50 years?
JAMELLE BOUIE, SLATE: So, here is a place where I think Republicans could
do very well to reach back in their history, and not so much the history of
the conservative movement, a move from conservatism, but the history of
like what - stalwart or modern Republicanism. In the 1960s you did have a
fight between moderate Republicans and intuitive Republicans over whether
or not attracting the black vote was going to be a focus. And moderate
Republicans, especially those elected to local positions, those elected to
mayorships of cities, those elected to, you know, governorships, put forth
a sustained effort to try to attract black voters and say you had sort of
reformers attempts in cities, right, to break Democratic machines and
attract black voters with, you know, economic programs geared towards
entrepreneurship and then also attempts to reduce crime, and so on and so
And I think that`s actually an approach that can work again. I`m not sure
if Republicans can take right now a national approach to winning black
voters, but local approaches, based on shared concerns like reducing the
footprint of police forces in black neighborhoods, reforming sentencing
laws, again, focusing on entrepreneurship in black communities and bringing
investment capital and mortgage capital to the communities, can begin the
process of building a bridge. And if you can, you know, if you can begin
building those coalitions on a local and statewide level, then those are
things that can be built into something much larger.
KORNACKI: So, Michael, in what Jamelle is describing there is something
that in some corners of the Republican Party was working through the `60s,
maybe even to the `70s, did not so much what we see today. How much is the
Republican Party today in terms of reaching out to black voters. Now, you
chaired the party. This was you something you tried to do. In your
experience, how much is it haunted by the legacy of when the civil rights
movement happened in this country and there was a backlash down south, the
Republican Party made itself the home for the Dixie..
STEELE: Very little. And that narrative has kind of run its course with
particularly newer generations of African-Americans who don`t relate back
to that particular history. My parents obviously would. I would, my sons
do not. So, there`s a very different narrative now that we have to have a
very different conversation. And to Mr. Cobb`s point, I`ll agree with all
of that. But the problem is the national conversation overwhelms the local
conversation. So, while you may have the conversation about
entrepreneurism and we want to do, we want to create vibrant school systems
with parental choice, et cetera, voting rights, civil rights, the national
conversation in the national posture of Republicans dwarfs that
conversation at the local level.
KORNACKI: Back off his voting record.
STEELE: Exactly. So, it`s hard to convince black folks you want them when
they look around and see you`re limiting their access to the ballot box.
So, don`t tell me you want to give me a job when I can`t vote .
KORNACKI: Let`s take this issue - Let`s take this issue of voting rights,
let`s take this issue of voter I.D. initiatives across the country. So,
you identified a key point there for Republicans, when you have that
conversation with Republicans and say, hey, look, this is what it`s doing
to us, this is what is keeping us from doing it. What do they say back to
STEELE: A lot of times the pushback is we`ve got to protect the ballot
box. OK, so I agree with you. Let`s do that. But why do you do that in a
way that alienates the very people that you want to be a part of the
process? You know, we should be the party as we once were, of opening
ourselves up to the community and saying y`all come, we want you to be a
part of this, we want you to have access unfettered to the ballot box. The
party is now more fixated on how you vote not necessarily that you vote.
And as national chairman, and I ran into this problem quite a bit. My
emphasis was not on, you know, how you vote, Republican, I just want to
make sure you had access to the ballot box because it opened up the
conversation then. Because then that doesn`t become a stumbling block.
But here is the final point on that -- not the final point, but a key
point. While you may have a national autopsy about, you know, we need to
get the black vote, unless county chairmen and state chairmen buy into it
wholeheartedly, it`s not going to work. Because that`s the retail of
politics. That`s where the action is. It`s in that local community that
you`re talking about that it really matters that the local Republican Party
wants you and needs you to be a part of the process. So the national
chairman saying one thing is great, but unless the county chairman and the
local chairman follow it up, it doesn`t go anywhere.
KORNACKI: Jamelle, let me ask you about the history of this and its
relevance to the modern moment. Because I certainly get what Michael is
saying that something that happened 50 years ago, 40, 50 years ago to
somebody under 40, 50 years old is going to feel like, I don`t know, this
is before my time. But at the same time can you see a connection between
the decision that was made by the Republican Party to sort of build its
future in the South, to build its future with white voters in the South
back in the 60s. And we`re talking today about something like voter I.D.
initiatives all across. It`s not just the south, but all across the
BOUIE: Right. You know, I agree with Michael that for younger people, the
particular decision might not be very relevant, but the consequences of the
decision are. So, the consequences of the decision of the Republican Party
is very much a Southern and sort of like western party, and that has - that
left us with a situation where those norms, those norms of behavior have
spread throughout the entire Republican Party. And so, you know, something
like voter I.D. laws which are sort of part and parcel of Southern
politics, like trying to restrict people from getting to the ballot have
now spread throughout the country and are seen in Wisconsin and
Pennsylvania and places that traditionally haven`t had these kind of
policies. You are also - what`s also - from the `60s is in the `60s, and
in the `70s and the `50s, you had Republican mayors of big cities. And
this mattered. It meant that the Republican Party geographically had to
appeal to a diverse people. That`s not the case anymore. The Republican
Party`s geographic reach is pretty much, again, in the South and in the
west. And that means it`s only appealing to a relatively small slice of
voters. There`s no need for it as a matter of party infrastructure to
include the voices of people who are different. When it comes time to
reach out to, you know, a national audience, there`s no -- there are very
few politicians even prepared to do that because they`ve never had to do it
as a matter of their day-to-day political lives.
And that, I think that, you know, the fact that the GOP is not just an
ideologically narrower party than it was in the `60s, but a geographically
narrower party is a huge problem and conversely it`s sort of why the
Democrats retain this strength of appealing to multiple interests. Since
it`s very much a geographically diverse party had Democrats tried to win
voters in the south, in the northeast, in the west, on the West Coast? And
that allows for a lot of flexibility that I`m not sure the Republican Party
has but it needs to begin the process of appealing to black voters.
KORNACKI: I want to hear what Michael has to say about that, the sort of
demise of big city Republicanism. I have to squeeze a break in. But we`ll
pick this up when we come back.
KORNACKI: So, picking up this discussion about black voters in the
Republican Party, so, Michael, Jamelle was just making the point about it
used to be that Republicans had sort of a toe hold in a lot of big cities.
KORNACKI: Big city- I can remember, say, about 20 years ago the two
largest cities in the country, Los Angeles and New York, both had
Republican mayors at the same time, Riordan, you know, and Giuliani. I
think the list is maybe - that the 12 biggest cities in the United States,
they may all have Democratic mayors now, it`s maybe one Republican there,
but it`s basically all Democratic. It seems like that`s a big part of the
STEELE: It is a big part of the story. And it speaks to what Jamelle was
talking about, the demographic shifts that have occurred around the
country, the concentration of people in certain areas while they may expand
in some others. And for me, a big part is how the party adapts. I used to
say to national leadership, let`s go and grab Republicans where we find
them. We don`t need to create them, we don`t need to say you need to be a
Republican. Let`s go out and take that message of ownership, empowerment
and opportunity into communities and have them define and shape it for
themselves. And you saw that with individuals like Rudy Giuliani and
others who are able to navigate their way through that. And probably, one
of the key leaders in that regard was Jack Kemp. Jack Kemp who
instinctively understood how to have the conversation with black America in
a way that they weren`t - they didn`t feel put off, they didn`t feel that
he was talking down to them. He made them a part of it.
KORNACKI: So, does the Republican Party of today, though, when you look at
this - the red state and blue state map and everything. Both parties do
this, from the Republican standpoint, they look at that electoral map at
the start of the presidential election here, and they just write off
basically the metro - the biggest metro areas all around the country and
just say we`re going to win this thing in the South, we are going to win
these things in the West, I`m going to take off in Ohio in Pennsylvania,
and that`s our path.
STEELE: One of the most boneheaded things that you can ever - ever do in
politics is to start writing off communities of people. And when I was
national chairman, my first official trip outside of Washington was New
York. And I came up to Harlem to do a town hall on health care and a whole
bunch of other issues. And the blowback inside Washington political elite
was why are you going to Harlem? Well, because that`s where the votes are.
That`s where the conversations need to be had. If we believe in all this
entrepreneurial stuff, then let`s go talk to a community that`s
entrepreneurial. If we have issues regarding health care and how we think
we have a better plan, then let`s go talk to them about that. And the
parties sort of have gotten into this sort of bunker mentality where, you
know, we go and we do photo ops, we have a conversation and we put some
boots on the ground, but you`re not really engaging people because you
still haven`t addressed fundamentally the core issues that black folks are
concerned about. What are you going to do about my civil rights, my voting
rights? What are you going to do that makes me feel that I`m a part of the
American dream, not an afterthought? And I think that`s a very powerful
conversation for the party to have in the 21st century, just that we`re not
KORNACKI: And Jamelle, just the final question for you. I mean you talked
earlier about starting this more at a local level, in the cities or
something, but obviously the context right now, you know, Rand Paul, Paul
Ryan, a couple of prominent Republicans have been doing some form of
listening tours going to non-white areas, going to city urban areas. Do
you see anything coming out of that and the way Rand Paul has responded to
Ferguson, for instance, that might be opening the doors for Republicans?
BOUIE: I think in the medium term, but that`s a long-term, these are very
good steps, right, these are things you can do that open up conversations,
that begin the process of maybe never winning, you know, 15 and 20 percent
or 25 percent of the black vote, but certainly getting back to your 11, 12
and 13 percent totals that you saw in the 2000 and 2004 elections, and I
think this election, things that are still very gettable for Republicans
and would make a really big difference in terms of winning states like
Virginia or Ohio and Florida. With that said, I think for Republicans to
want to get any more than that does kind of require a fundamental change in
the party. And it`s noteworthy that the high watermark for Republican vote
getting in the postwar era in 1960 -- or 1956, 1960 when Republicans were
polling a third of the black vote came when the party was ideologically
heterodox. And it`s just not anymore. And I think as long as the GOP is
ideologically conservative and not just sort of like philosophically
conservative, it`s going to have a hard time peeling off like voters who
may not necessarily share that same ideological view, but, you know, our
appeal to other aspects of Republicanism.
BOUIE: I always say the age of lowered expectations and the goal should be
11 or 12 percent .
BOUIE: You know, still writing off 87.
STEELE: But Rand Paul is cutting into that.
KORNACKI: Anyway, my thanks to Jamelle Bouie of "Slate", appreciate that,
and much more when we come back.
KORNACKI: "The New York Times" reported late last month that Montana
Senator John Walsh had plagiarized some assignments while in college.
Dropped out of the race and Democrats needed someone else with a shot to
hold that seat. And they looked at almost everyone, including Jeff Bridges
from the Big Lebowski, but he didn`t want to run, and nobody else who seem
wanted to either. So, yesterday afternoon, Montana Democrats held a
convention and they picked a 34-year-old state representative named Amanda
Curtis, she`s their new nominee for the Senate. Curtis insisted this week
that, quote, "I`m not a sacrificial lamb. I`m going to win and I`m going
to come out swinging for the fences." Amanda Curtis has 78 days until
November 4th to prove she can do it. It will be a very uphill fight.
We`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: The press conference that led to the overnight curfew in
Ferguson and everything that followed.
We`re back. Thanks for getting up with us this Sunday morning. It has
been only a matter of hours now since the overnight curfew in Ferguson,
Missouri, was lifted, a curfew that did not fully empty the streets of the
St. Louis suburb as intended. Hundreds of protesters did leave before the
midnight deadline took effect. Among those who remained experienced smoke,
tear gas, violence and arrests. Several people were taken into custody. A
police car was fired upon in the vicinity. One protester was shot and
critically wounded by another protester in the chaos. NBC`s Ron Allen is
in Ferguson, and he is joining us now live with the latest. Good morning,
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS: Good morning, Steve. I think everyone here is trying
to sort out what happened last night. There was this curfew imposed, and
there was a huge show of force that happened last night. The police said
they had planned to go in with a much softer approach, they were going to
go in on foot patrols into the area that had been plagued by violence. But
they say right around the time that the curfew was to be imposed, around
12:00 midnight, they had reports of armed gunmen in the area, reports of a
shooting victim who turned out to be in critical condition. And they felt
that at that point, they had to go in with much more force. They tried to
clear the street, they did clear the street. They fired at first smoke
canisters and then tear gas later on in the operation. It took about 45
minutes or so to clear the streets, and then they -- the protesters left.
It was a sort of a confusing situation. It wasn`t just clean. It wasn`t
about the curfew or about these armed gunmen, which made many of us think
that this was an aggressive move to impose the curfew. But they said this
was not about the curfew, this was so much about the threat of violence.
There was also a police car that had been fired on they said later.
So a lot of emotion here. A lot of passion here from the protesters, some
who were dug in and defiant, who had said that they were going to stay here
despite the curfew. But it turned out that the larger issue that the
police were concerned about were these armed gunmen who were in the area.
There was a lot of bullets, a lot of weaponry there on both sides,
apparently. There were lots of reports of gunfire through the night at
different points of the night. So a continuing volatile situation. The
rest of the town, I have to say this, there was - the violence was confined
to a small area of Ferguson. The rest of the town observed the call for a
curfew peaceful. But again, we go forward now. The officials here have
not said whether they will impose another curfew tonight. But I have every
expectation they`ll try to do that again.
KORNACKI: OK, we`ll be looking to see what the answer is to that one.
Definitely but Ron Allen for us live on the ground out there in Ferguson.
Appreciate your time this morning. The curfew was imposed last night by
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon in a press conference in which he also declared
a state of emergency. Tensions didn`t just flare overnight on the streets
of Ferguson. The press conference itself, though not violent, did not go
as the governor and law enforcement officials probably hoped it would.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAY NIXON, D-MISSOURI: We`re going to achieve justice. We must first
have and maintain peace. This is a test. The eyes of the world are
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me, governor, you need to charge that
policeman with murder.
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]
JOHNSON: That curfew will start today. It will run from 12:00 midnight,
is when the curfew will start, until 5:00 in the morning. We will enforce
that curfew in an effort to provide safety and security to the area.
NIXON: Our focus is security, and we`re going to maintain that focus while
continuing to comment and support appropriately.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you and Captain Johnson, how are you all going
to enforce this curfew tonight peacefully? Are you going to do tear gas
again? Are you bringing back military force? How are you planning to
enforce this curfew?
NIXON: The best way for any -- we`ll hear from him. We`ll hear from him.
NIXON: The best way for us to get peace is for everybody to help, to make
sure that everybody gets home safe tonight at 12:00 and gets a good solid
five hours sleep before they get up tomorrow morning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is the focus on security and not getting justice?
NIXON: If we want justice -- I`ll let you yell at me next. If we want --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One question at a time, please.
NIXON: If we want justice, we cannot be distracted. We must be focused on
making sure that people are allowed their First Amendment rights. But we
just want it in a peaceful fashion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The citizens that you`re asking to help you, we call
911, we call the county, we call the local police, and everybody was
pushing the buck. It`s like we`re chasing our tail. You`re asking us to
help, but we don`t know how to help.
JOHNSON: Can I answer that? That`s why we`re going to clear those streets.
Because we did have citizens who called, and we were unable to get to them.
We`re going to clear those streets so we can handle those sick cases.
KORNACKI: Joining me now, once again, are former Republican National
Committee Chairman Michael Steele, political strategist and Columbia
University professor Basil Smikle Jr., and Eleanor Clift from "The Daily
Beast" joins us, too.
So we wanted to display a lot of that, because I`m not sure how many people
got to see that yesterday afternoon. It`s extraordinary, in a way, not
only the act of declaring a state of emergency, and a curfew in a situation
like this, but a governor of the state, a major elected official of a
state, standing there and facing such sort of overt hostility from members
of this community, and listening to it, responding to it a little bit,
maybe getting a little peevish at one point there, but I`m just curious,
Eleanor, what you made of what you just saw.
CLIFT: So much of the images that we`ve seen in the last week or so are
right out of the `60s. And you think, this is still going on, and it`s
extraordinary. But what we didn`t see in the `60s were officials, state
officials standing up and actually trying to engage in a positive way.
I think there`s a lot of anger here that predated this incident. They`re
angry at that governor because he hadn`t been there for them. He just
cared about them when it was vote counting time. And he showed up a little
bit too late, but he`s made some good decisions, and putting Captain
Johnson in charge is a brilliant move. He is someone who actually comes
from the community, understands the community, and can relate.
So I think they`re working their way through this, but there`s a lot of now
opportunistic crime that`s going to occur. That gives some folks a, look,
we told you so, this is what it`s about. So they`ve got to control that as
well, and they got to do it in a way that doesn`t look too heavy-handed.
The politics of this is that you now have people on the right looking and
saying this is the heavy-handed government coming down, and they`re siding
with the protesters. And I think the fear among some Democrats is that you
could -- African-American populations could be turned off. And when it
comes to voting time, they`re not going to show up and the right will.
Because we look at everything now through the prism of what`s going to
happen in November.
KORNACKI: Basil, I`m curious, too. Eleanor mentions Ron Johnson. And Ron
Johnson was at that press conference too. And one thing that - this is --
I may be totally off base, but I noticed this I thought a few times this
week, where it`s a guy who cares deeply about the community and also in
some cases is following orders. It seemed to me at that press conference,
when he said we`re going to get through this -- the tone of his voice, what
he was communicating with his body language was this maybe wasn`t something
he was -- a decision he was particularly happy about, but he was going to
carry it out.
SMIKLE: That`s absolutely right. Bob Herbert talked about this earlier,
in an earlier segment. He`s tasked with two things. One, he`s from the
community, so he understands it. And he`s trying to work with the folks in
the community to say this is how we can move forward. But he`s also a law
enforcement official, and he has to uphold the law. But I think the tone,
when you talk about tone, there`s a sense that the officials are getting up
and saying we`ve got to still find a way to control you folks. There`s
this patronizing tone that comes across.
And when you, as a governor, you`re talking about peace and I understand
that he`s trying to do the right thing now. But from the community`s
perspective, you`ve had days of this hyper militarized police force sort of
coming down on this community. And so, and again, you guys were talking
about this earlier. You are still not really addressing the underlying
problems, so I think Captain Johnson, what he`s much more sensitive to is
that underlying problem, the ongoing tension between the community and the
KORNACKI: I just got the impression that before this press conference --
I`m totally guessing here, but I got the impression that when the governor
came in and said this is what we want to do, Captain Johnson said, "you
want to do what?"
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that`s a correct impression.
KORNACKI: Did you ever encounter anything like this in politics, an
elected official having to go face a crowd like that? How - what is it like
for a politician?
STEELE: It`s very hard. After Hurricane Agnes, for example, in 2003, we,
new administration had just come in, families had been displaced. They
wanted to know immediately, so what do you do to help us through the
recovery? What type of assistance are you prepared to bring and help this
community? And while this is not that, but the underlying argument is the
same. What are you going to do to help this community? Very much to
Basil`s point, we want to get a sense that you understand our fight and our
struggle here. Oh, those military tanks don`t express that sense that you
understand our fight and struggle. So you create this immediate tension.
I think Johnson, to Eleanor`s point, such a pivotal player here, because he
is the bridge between the authoritarian aspects of the government coming in
with their curfews and their police force and the community that just wants
answers. And you heard the crowd say, if my son had killed a cop, he`d be
in jail now. So why won`t you arrest one of your own who you identified as
the one who killed this young man? They`re looking for that parity and
justice that they don`t see. It frustrates the purpose even more.
CLIFT: It`s amazing how much difference a single leader can make. I`m
thinking of Katrina, Captain Honore, I`m butchering his name maybe, but he
certainly came in and changed the whole tone of how that tragedy was being
treated and how the people that had been so critically damaged throughout
it were being seen and heard. And here we have a new generation really
discovering the power of protest. And this has not spread to other cities.
I`m not saying it should or would, but you do have this sense that, if you
take to the streets, you get the national media to pay attention, and you
may get some focus on your problems, which we thought we`d put to bed all
those street protests.
SMIKLE: Another quick point. One of the things that has also sparked some
of this tension, is the fact that you had the police department then
release these images allegedly of this individual robbing -- Michael Brown
robbing a store, and so it also speaks to this disparate treatment of
predominantly African-American and Latino alleged perpetrators of crimes,
how do you talk about someone after they`ve been arrested. There was some
article that came out a day or so ago that if you took a look at the number
of white criminals and how they`re talked about in the press, they`ll say
well, in the case of the Colorado shooting, this really bright young man
just went completely awry, whereas there`s this constant sort of barrage of
negative comments about young African-American men.
STEELE: It`s an immediate need, to your point, to put the image out there,
we saw it in the Trayvon Martin case, we see it here, of characterizing
this individual as a thug, as a threat.
KORNACKI: The timing of putting that out with the officer`s name and not
the officer`s picture, that`s -- suspicious is the polite way of putting
that. The other thing that struck me about Nixon yesterday, it was
interesting, it seemed like he couldn`t, Jay Nixon the governor, couldn`t
quite decide if he wanted to have a conciliatory tone or if he wanted to be
the hard-liner who is laying down the law. And the result was, he kind of
stood there, I guess I let you talk, I think he looked weak and indecisive
all around. So it was a strange performance by the governor. The governor
whose people around him have talked a little bit about the presidency. I
don`t know if they`re going to be doing that after this. But we`ll be
right back with breaking news on the situation in Ferguson right after
KORNACKI: We have a breaking development on the situation in Ferguson to
tell you about. NBC News has now verified two photographs of Officer
Darren Wilson, he`s the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael
Brown. These are the first photos we have seen and aired of the officer.
These pictures were first reported by Yahoo news, and Ferguson police have
not responded to NBC News` request for comments on the photos. But again,
NBC News has verified the man you`re looking at on your screen is Officer
Darren Williams (sic), officer Darren Williams (sic) is the officer who
shot and killed Michael Brown. Back here with the panel getting our first
look at the officer. And obviously the obvious question it raises, why it
would take this long to get that picture out there.
STEELE: Again, complicates the narrative when you`re trying to both police
a community that`s upset and do investigations and create an avenue where
you can begin to have this sort of ongoing dialogue with the broader
There was no hesitation as we`ve seen, even with Michael Brown`s photo to
get that out there and to show the perpetrator of a potential crime. Yet
we knew who the officer was. I get the argument about the safety of the
family and all that, but he`s a public official, and this is a public
investigation, and if you have access to that information, put it on the
street, so at least the community knows who we`re talking about. And I
think it short-changes the community to think that somehow, their reaction
would be to go harm his family or harm him. They just want the justice
that`s deserved to the young man.
STEELE: So why do we immediately jump to, because black folks are upset,
they want to get violent and start going after people. Do your job, do it
well, do it openly, and then it will save you a lot of pain and headache.
You don`t have to worry about curfews, you don`t have to worry about the
types of things we`ve seen happen in Ferguson if the police come correct--
KORNACKI: We had Jim Cavanaugh, who is our law enforcement analyst, who
was on the show yesterday, who was basically saying, look, you have -- it`s
not been publicly reported, but must exist, but you have witnesses who have
spoken publicly about what they saw, eyewitnesses to this shooting about
what they saw. He said, based on that, in his perspective, law enforcement
expert, his perspective, there should be enough right now to bring the
officer in. To begin -- it`s not a conviction.
CLIFT: The police tend to circle the wagons. And this us versus them
attitude permeates everything here. I don`t know what the procedure is. I
don`t know whether it`s a full-blown arrest or whatever. They need to
start the wheels of justice grinding. And then I think they have to think
in broader terms. Whatever the version in Ferguson would be of the truth
and reconciliation commissions that we`ve seen in South Africa and other --
there has to be a broader process here for the community to be heard and
for genuine grievances to be corrected. But they have to get the -- they
have to honor justice in handling this police officer for him as well as--
KORNACKI: That was the refrain at the press conference from the crowd
yesterday. But again, to recap the breaking news here, NBC News has now
verified the photographs we`ve shown you. You`ll be seeing a lot of
Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown. There it is
again. These are the first photos we`ve seen of the officer, they were
first reported by Yahoo News. Ferguson police has not responded to NBC
News request for comment on the photos. We`ll be right back with more
KORNACKI: The words indicted and presidential hopeful go together like
dynamite and a lit match. Friday`s indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry
on two felony counts served up just that sort of explosive dynamic, at a
time when the Republican presidential hopeful has been trying to
rehabilitate his image. But the reaction from Democrats to the indictment
against Perry, so far has not exactly been what you might expect. We
mentioned earlier Obama adviser David Axelrod`s tweet defending the Texas
Republican, quote, "unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics
unit for other than his stated reason, the Perry indictment seems pretty
sketchy." And Axelrod wasn`t alone. Democratic strategist Jonathan
Prince, who worked for both Presidents Clinton and Obama, called its
reasoning nuts. The "New York magazine`s" Jonathan Chait wrote, the
legislature can hardly negotiate with the governor if he won`t tell them in
advance what he plans to veto. This is why when you say the word veto, the
next word that springs to mind is threat. That`s how vetoes work.
This is not to say this is necessarily a positive for Governor Perry. But
I don`t think we can say it`s a career killer necessarily. We want to
debate the implications and we want to debate whether this is a strong case
or not with two guests right now. We have joining us Brian Wice, he is a
Houston defense attorney who successfully overturned the Travis County DA
corruption unit`s prosecution of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
And in Austin, we have Will Hailer, he is the executive director of the
Texas Democratic Party. So I`ve said earlier in the show, I`m a little --
I need some convincing that this should be something that any governor
should be indicted for. Will, tell me why I`m wrong?
WILL HAILER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEMOCRATIC PARTY: This was an
independent investigation that was done by a Republican judge presiding
over the case, it was a non-partisan prosecutor that was appointed by that
Republican judge, and a peer (ph) of Texans found the governor guilty of
abuse of power and coercion. This is one of the worst examples we have
seen for some time. The governor used his political opportunity to go
after an office that is charged with and tasked with making sure that no
illegal stuff happens in the Texas capital. There is without a doubt no
reason the governor wanted to end this unit and get rid of Rosemary
Lehmberg, the chief of that unit, because of what was happening on the
cancer research funds here in Texas.
KORNACKI: Will, how can you say there`s absolutely no doubt when this is
the head of the public integrity unit, who is driving three times over the
legal limit, who is belligerent with law enforcement. And he makes the
case, he makes the case, and I got to say, not just Perry, I think most
people in Texas probably agree that if you have her position and you do
that, you should forfeit your right to have that job. That`s his case.
HAILER: Steve, they`ve been going after the public integrity unit since
2005. In fact, in 2007, they tried to cut funding. And the reason why
this is the only check against abuse that`s happening in Austin.
Republicans like Governor Perry and his cronies like Attorney General
Abbott have been abusing power when it comes to boards like the cancer
research fund, where they`re handing out contributions and doling out
taxpayer dollars to their donors. The integrity unit was looking into it
at this time. And if the governor really wanted to get rid of the D.A., he
would have called the legislature back to issue an impeachment. He also
wouldn`t have said that the D.A. should stick around. The "San Antonio
Express-News" reported a couple of days ago that the governor and his team
were trying to keep her on as a second in command. The only reason to go
after her was they didn`t like that she was investigating them for
improprieties that were happening before. That`s really what`s at stake
KORNACKI: Brian, let`s start by taking the interpretation we just heard
from Will and let`s say that`s the case, hypothetically speaking. Let`s
say the intent here from Rick Perry was not to get somebody out who drove
drunk and acted belligerently to law enforcement. Let`s say the intent was
to shut down an investigation. Is there then a crime, in your mind?
BRIAN WICE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely not. First of all, my good
friend Will misstates exactly what happened on Friday. This grand jury
hasn`t found Governor Perry guilty of anything. There is a chasm that
exists between probable cause, whether it`s more likely than not that a
crime has been committed, and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover,
I`ve looked at this indictment now more than the Zapruder film has been
reviewed, and I`m telling you guys, I haven`t seen crap like this since I
paid 13 bucks to seen "The Lone Ranger." This is outrageous. If you look
at the indictment, you will see on its face that Rick Perry had every
right, for those of us who didn`t sleep through civics class, under the
separation of powers doctrine, to veto this legislation. Why? Maybe
because his analyst told him to do it, maybe because it was ultimately in
the best interest of the citizens of this great state, maybe he wanted to
impress Jodie Foster. But Rick Perry knew that Rosemary Lehmberg and that
video we`ve seen now over the course of the last couple days on your show
makes it clear. When she was arrested, she acted like a drunk, a bully and
a thug. This is a woman who controlled an $8 or $9 million unit with
statewide jurisdiction to investigate any public official. If that doesn`t
scare the bejebeers out of you, it ultimately should.
KORNACKI: Looking at the Texas state constitution, the power of the veto,
the power of the line item veto, are you basically -- the legal case here
is that`s an absolute power, you can veto anything you want for any reason
at any time?
WICE: There`s no question about that. He didn`t have to say why he did.
In this great state, we don`t indict politicians for being candid and being
frank. This is nothing more than the criminalization of politics. And
indicting Rick Perry for doing his job, as folks like David Axelrod have
said, basically it`s like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.
You can`t take a series of legal acts and transform them into an illegal
one. And what they`ve done in this case with this garbage in my estimation
sets a precedent that ought to make every elected official in this great
state`s head spin like the exorcist.
KORNACKI: Your response to that point, Will? That is my biggest
reservation with it is, any state, whether it`s Texas or any other state
that gives its governor the power not just to veto, but of a line item
veto, is empowering that governor essentially to veto any specific items
out of the budget he wants at any time for any reason. You may not like
the reason here, but why can`t he do that? He has that power.
HAILER: If they really wanted to go after the D.A., like I said, they
could have had articles of impeachment brought up in the legislature. Why
is Perry saying that she should have stayed on in a number two position?
What they were upset about was this D.A. was going after illegal activity,
which has led to indictments on the cancer research fund.
KORNACKI: Can you prove a link there?
HAILER: Absolutely. The money that was going out of this fund were going
to Perry and Abbott donors. They were investigating this at the time.
This is the reason why Perry called on her to step down so vehemently, even
though there were many other things he could have done as governor. If
this were a partisan or a political witch-hunt, Governor Perry is one of
the longest serving governors in Texas history. And it hasn`t been since
1917 that they have issued an indictment on two felony accounts for a
governor. This is not a partisan witch-hunt. This is about a culture of
corruption which is surrounding Perry and surrounding the Republican Party
not only in Austin but across the country. He`s three of four former
Republican Governor Association chairs who have either been indicted or
faced federal investigations. This is about a culture of corruption and
not playing by the rules. That`s ultimately what Texans want out of this.
Yesterday morning, 26 million Texans woke up and they didn`t get indicted.
Their governor had been. That`s a real shame.
KORNACKI: To me the bottom line is if Perry doesn`t say anything and he
just vetoes this, no one can ever say exactly why it happened and you could
have no case here at all. I still don`t think there`s much of a case, but
I appreciate you taking the time and trying to convince us, will. Brian
Wice, I appreciate you bringing your courtroom A game today as well, thanks
for joining us.
Up next, a reaction from the right to the developments in Ferguson, and
that reaction may surprise you.
KORNACKI: To recap our breaking news this hour, NBC News has verified two
photographs of Officer Darren Wilson. I might have said Darren Williams
earlier, but it`s Darren Wilson. He`s the Ferguson police officer who shot
and killed Michael Brown. These are the first photos we have seen of the
officer. They were first reported by Yahoo News. Ferguson police have not
responded to NBC`s News` request for comments on the photos. But NBC News
has verified that they are the officer in question.
In the wake of a very aggressive response by police to protesters in that
shooting, we`re seeing a different political reaction in this country, one
that`s not as predictable and neatly divided as it used to be in situations
like this, and that point was driven home when Time published an op-ed by
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul on Thursday, expressing grave concern about the
conduct of the police in Ferguson. "The scenes of camouflaged, heavily
armed officers confronting civilians," he wrote, "resemble war more than
traditional police action." "There is," he added, "a systemic problem with
today`s law enforcement." It used to be that the right never questioned
law enforcement. That was something supposedly for those criminal-coddling
liberals, but that may be changing now. Speaking out against the
militarization of America`s police appears to be part of Senator Paul`s
broader platform to bring reform to the criminal justice system. He and
Democratic Senator Cory Booker are co-sponsoring legislation to end
mandatory minimums for non-violent drug crimes and to restore voting rights
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: The problem really of the war on drugs is taking a
lot of people who make youthful mistakes and it`s punishing them for a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Rand Paul has Democratic allies in this mission. The question
now is who on the right will join him? Here to discuss this, we have Peter
Suderman from "Reason" magazine, and Michael Steele is back with us.
Peter, I`ll start with you. With "Reason," I guess a libertarian-leaning
magazine, probably a lot of common ground there with Rand Paul. I wonder
in terms of the broader political right, not just the libertarian movement,
but the broader political right that exists today, how much appetite is
there, for instance, for what Rand Paul is saying this week about the
militarization of police?
PETER SUDERMAN, "REASON" MAGAZINE: I think there is a fair amount of
appetite. It`s not just Rand Paul. It`s also folks like Representative
Justin Amash, who issued if anything an even more strongly worded
statement, just a tweet, but basically said that in addition to seeing
Ferguson, saying the images in Ferguson were like a war zone, he also said
that the government`s militarized response escalated the tension. So he
was putting actually some of the blame on the government for escalating
I think that that`s something that you`re increasingly going to see, and
you`re going to see it for a couple of reasons. One is that conservatives
have already started to become convinced that sentencing reform and prison
reform in particular is a good idea. They were kind of hooked on this idea
because of budgetary concerns at the state level. So in Texas, for
example, Governor Rick Perry started a prison reform project looking to
shut down prisons, actually, because maintaining prisons is very expensive.
So budgetary concerns are kind of the gateway drug here. And you also see
that the crime concerns, the crime wave of the `70s and `80s just doesn`t
exist anymore. And we see a lot less crime in our cities and a lot less
crime on our streets. And that makes it easier for conservatives,
Republicans, to take a somewhat more libertarian stance on some of these
issues. You`re seeing that with folks like Rand Paul, who is very
influential in the party, and with Representative Justin Amash, who is very
influential with I would say with part of the base, and particularly the
Tea Party folks.
KORNACKI: Peter, you mentioned the decline, the really kind of precipitous
decline in the violent crime rate in this country over the last generation
or so. It just strikes me that so much of the success of the Republican
Party was built in the `70s, in the `80s, even into the `90s, on this tough
on crime message, reverence for law enforcement. The Democrats want to
understand the criminals, we want to punish the criminals. It`s been such
a potent message for Republicans. Do you think it can work still?
SUDERMAN: I think that Republicans are going to be shifting. I think
Ferguson shows that there is right now -- that there`s a shift going on.
And I think that what we`re seeing is that Republicans are saying, look, we
are a party that has talked about the problems with state power, the
problems with unchecked state power, with federal incentives. That`s a big
part of this. Rand Paul mentions this in his piece for "Time" magazine.
He actually talks about the way the federal government has spent money, $35
billion from the Department of Homeland Security since 2002 to armor up
these local police forces. And so I think that what you`re increasingly
going to see are conservatives and Republicans who take their natural
skepticism of federal power in particular and apply it here and say, look,
we need to be consistent. We see that there are problems with this. We
see that this is actually making the situation worse, and we`re not even in
a situation where you can make the argument that this is necessary because
there`s a huge crime wave anymore. So it`s made this new way of seeing
things -- I shouldn`t say new, but it is new for a lot of Republicans, this
different way of seeing things, much more potent than it was ten years ago.
KORNACKI: I saw in his "Time" piece, he tried to make this connection,
that this is the federal government and devolving down to this. Michael, I
look at this a little skeptically in terms of the politics within the
Republican Party, because I certainly take Peter`s point about that there`s
a growing appetite on the right, and there is a growing appetite in general
I think for what Rand Paul is talking about here specifically with the
police. I got to think that old tough on crime message, the political
party is not going to give that up easily.
STEELE: I don`t know if they give it up easily or completely. But what
they do is they update it. And I think that`s what Rand Paul is
contextualizing right now. I was struck by a comment that he said if I had
been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a
distinct possibility that I might have smarted off, but I wouldn`t have
expected to be shot. That is revelatory. That`s to have someone like a
Rand Paul make that kind of acknowledgment, it touches to what we were
saying before, to the community that`s listening, it opens up a sensitivity
in the conversation to the plight of individuals within a specific region
of the country or demographic. And that`s new. It`s not that this wall of
we`re tough on crime and we`re going to enforce the law. It`s actually
stepping back and looking at how we enforce the law, what tools do we use?
Do we use tanks or do we walk the street with the protesters? I think Rand
Paul is sort of moving the party. As Peter says, Justin is doing the same
thing, Representative Amash is doing the same thing, trying to move that
conversation in a direction where people are. And I think that`s
important. I said to you and I really think it`s true, Rand Paul is
perhaps the most dangerous man in politics for Democrats and Republicans
right now, because he`s playing against type, he is going outside of his
comfort zone, and this is just one of those examples that I think has the
potential of transforming the political landscape. Not that you`re going
to get all the benefits in one election cycle, but if he`s consistent and
emerges as the leader and that new voice, he can bring the party into a new
space that I think is the better space for it.
KORNACKI: He was on our airwaves a year ago that Chris Matthews said he
thinks -- he said Rand Paul 2016, Republican nominee, book it. I said at
the time, that`s crazy. You know what? I don`t see it as so crazy
anymore. My thanks to Peter Suderman of "Reason" magazine for joining us
this morning, appreciate that. And coming up, vacation shaming of American
presidents. We`ll separate fact from fiction. That`s next. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: There`s things you can count on in the month of August. You can
count on the streets of New York City smelling like the worst scratch and
sniff book ever. That`s a little rough. You can count on criticism when
the president, any president goes on vacation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush took more vacation than any other president
in the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A mountain bike ride today. A brief distraction.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president is not scheduled to go back to
Washington until the end of August.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: President Obama, well, he`s in full
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s really on the golf course a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Playing golf.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vacationing on a multimillion dollar Martha`s Vineyard
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The kind of vacation for President Obama and his family
most of you can only dream about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It is the kind of story that seems to rely more on August being
a slow news month. It hasn`t been true this month, of course, than the
facts. Presidents even really get to go on vacation or they just take a
traveling version of the White House with them wherever they go? A lot has
been made in recent years of the many vacations that President George W.
Bush took. According to CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller, President
Bush had taken 407 vacation days at this point in his presidency.
President Obama so far has taken a total of 125 days. As "The Washington
Post" pointed out this week that`s nothing compared to some earlier
presidents. President John Adams left the nation`s capital for his home in
Massachusetts for eight straight months at the time when the U.S. was on
the brink of war with France. Near the end of his term, James Madison
skipped town for about five months. It`s also always criticism about what
these vacations will cost taxpayers. Michelle Obama took her children and
her mother to Spain, she was accused of spending $10 million. The first
family presidents included foot the bill for all their own lodging, food
and incidentals while traveling. . What they don`t pay for is the
security costs that come with that and the staff members that have to come
with them because, as we just talked about, when you`re president, you
don`t ever really get to stop working.
So, to paraphrase how one writer put it this week, is it time to stop
vacation shaming our presidents. Former RNC chairman Michael Steele and
the Daily Beast Eleanor Clift join me now to talk about this. Eleanor,
let`s give you a chance to come clean here. You`ve been a journalist for a
while, have you ever vacation-shamed a president as a journalist?
ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: In my memory I think it started with
President Reagan. And then the White House responded then, they coined the
phrase working vacation. The press corps would decamp to California, and
you never got to see the president. And you would have the briefings by
the beach. So, the press corps was kind of enjoying that as well.
KORNACKI: It depends a lot where .
KORNACKI: Right? Because the beach versus Bush in Waco Texas or versus
CLIFT: That`s right. Or Jimmy Carter in Plains, Texas.
KORNACKI: Right. Right.
CLIFT: So, it`s an easy target. And President Bush for a time did suspend
his golfing when the Iraq war was really going badly. And I think after
he`d had one, you know, tee shot after delivering a very sober message,
then he turned around and said, you know, took a shot off the - and said
see that or watch that.
KORNACKI: I think I`ve seen that clip once or twice.
CLIFT: Yes. Yes.
KORNACKI: Well, Michael, so, it`s, you know, it seems like, I mean - tell
me about John Adams and - to the presidency is sort of evolved, but so much
of it has to do with like, hey, if Congress is in town, he`s not in town,
what`s the point of anyone being in D.C.? Right? So, the president goes
off somewhere in August. Does he really need to be in Washington?
STEELE: The Congress at 19 percent, I don`t really think people care or
miss them. So, it`s probably a good thing that they`re not in town. I
think the difference between the day of John Adams taking eight months off
and the president taking two weeks at Martha`s Vineyard is the press corps
itself has changed. But the universe of communication has changed. So,
now it`s a 24-hour news cycle. You`ve got Twitter, you`ve got Facebook,
you`ve got all these other ways, in which we keep tabs of what the
president is or is not doing. I think, though, in this particular
instance, given the complexity of things that are going on, there`s a
greater emphasis that is focused on how the president is spending his time.
And if there seems to be equivocation in policy, if there doesn`t seem to
be sort of a focused energy in any given direction on any given issue, then
vacation becomes a wonderful excuse and a good bag to hit at. But the
president is getting the national security briefings in wherever he is.
He`s getting the kinds of updates that he needs to get and if he needs to
have a phone call, he`ll have that phone call. Basically .
CLIFT: He was coming back to Washington today.
STEELE: And he`s coming back today.
CLIFT: To a meeting at the White House tomorrow before returning to
Martha`s Vineyard for a few more days.
KORNACKI: Is that one of his bipartisan accords? Maybe the two parties
could sit down and - something I won`t attack your president`s vacation and
you won`t attack my president`s vacation.
CLIFT: Yeah. Well, the worst, I think is when the Clintons didn`t go to
Martha`s Vineyard and took a vacation out west .
KORNACKI: That`s right. I was going to ask.
CLIFT: Because it hold better, they wanted to look like the man of the
CLIFT: That was ..
KORNACKI: Nothing says family vacation like how to push buttons. The
other thing, the other big difference that you can see when it`s vacation
for a president versus official business. When President Obama speaks now,
he got the jacket but no tie on.
KORNACKI: t is like when he`s .
KORNACKI: He`s on vacation.
KORNACKI: What should we know for the week ahead? Our answer is after
KORNACKI: It`s time to find out what our guests think we should know for
the week ahead. We`ll start with you, Eleanor.
CLIFT: This comes as - heading a blast from the (INAUDIBLE). Former
Georgia Governor Zell Miller, a former U.S. senator and Democrat, but he
spoke at the Republican convention, I think it was in `96, I think he
challenged Chris Matthews to a shootout. A very colorful.
CLIFT: He is now supporting Michelle Nunn and her race to become senator
in Georgia and to take that seat back for the Democrats. And I haven`t
heard much from him for a lot of years. So, it`s very interesting.
SMIKLE: Yeah, John Miller back in the Democratic fold, at least for this
STEELE: Three years ago this past Wednesday, a gentleman by the name of
Warren Weinstein was kidnapped in Pakistan, an American citizen who is a
development worker and the focus on a lot of other things that we have
needs to turn to him and the fact that we still have two American citizens,
private citizens who are being held captive in the Middle East. And so, I
really like people to check out, bringwarrenhome.com to lend your voice to
helping bringing a U.S. citizen back home. He`s 73 years old, he`s in
failing health and right now there`s sort of a stand still between our
government and the Pakistani government as to bringing him home.
KORNACKI: It`s to get that answer. Basil.
SMIKLE: I`m sitting in front of Governor Jerry Brown in California right
now with something called the kill switch bill.
In light of what we`ve been talking about in Ferguson, it`s the bill that -
it was originally targeted to fight cell phone theft, but what the bill can
actually do is the specific carve out that will allow law enforcement to
actually turn off your phones during an emergency. But the fear is that it
will be used also during protests similar to what we`ve seen in Ferguson.
KORNACKI: It was interesting information. And I have something to look
for for the week ahead. Tuesday night I`m going back to my home state in
Massachusetts and I would be moderating Democratic primary debate there in
the race for governor. Martha Coakley, remember her, Steve Grossman,
Donald Berwick - those are the candidates, Stone Hill College Tuesday night
if you`re around. Check it out, stop by and keep an eye out for more
details on our Facebook page, too. We will bring you some highlights next
week on the show. We also want you to know that we have a new member here
at "UP" world headquarters. And her name is Ramona Celest (ph) Schaefer-
Levin. She is the daughter of our senior producer, Casey Schaefer. She is
a little sister to her big brother Lyoness (ph). Couldn`t be happier. We
want to wish the entire family the best. I know they`re watching today
because Casey`s already texted me.
KORNACKI: I want to thank "The Daily Beast" Eleanor Clift, former RNC
Chairman Michael Steele, political strategist Basil Smikle Jr. Joining us
this morning, thanks for getting up, and thank you at home for joining us.
Tune in, again, next Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Same
show, same name and all that stuff.
And MHP, Melissa Harris-Perry standing by. She is coming up next.
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