UP with STEVE KORNACKI
August 23, 2014
Guest: John Stanton, L. Joy Williams, David Ramsey, Thomas Mann, Jim
Manley, Mubin Shaikh, Barbara Lee, Paul Butler
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI": America`s reaction
Good morning. And thanks for getting up with us this Saturday morning.
Overnight, the streets of Ferguson, Missouri were calm for a third straight
night. Violence between police and protesters is continuing to subside and
for almost two weeks of clashes that erupted after a police officer shot
and killed an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown. Last night instead of
confrontations several protesters stopped to talk with officers about
Brown`s death. There is of course fear that anger could once again ignite
if the grand jury that is now hearing evidence in that case, if that grand
jury does not return a charge against the officer in question Darren
Wilson. We`ll have a lot more on how the case is proceeding legally later
in the show.
But we want to begin this morning by talking about how Americans have been
reacting to the shooting in Ferguson and to the protests that have
followed. The "New York Times" poll this week, Americans appear evenly
divided on the police response to the protests. Thirty two percent of
those surveyed said the officers went too far. Thirty three percent about
the same number believe the police response has been about right. And 15
percent say police did not go far enough. In contrast, 59 percent of those
surveyed believe the protesters` actions went too far. Twenty percent feel
they were just about right. And seven percent say, they didn`t go far
And finally, when it comes to the investigation by local authorities into
the shooting of Michael Brown, 56 percent, a majority, have confidence it
will be conducted fairly, while 34 percent don`t share that confidence.
Joining me now to discuss Ferguson, and with these other big stories, we
have with us today, John Stanton the Washington bureau chief for BuzzFeed.
Political strategist L. Joy Williams. MSNBC contributor Josh Barro who is
also a domestic correspondent with the New York Times.
So, those are the headline numbers. But I think the other headline that
goes hand in hand with it is a clear racial divide on these questions. The
country, that suggests agreement there but the real story in those numbers
is when you ask, do you think Officer Wilson might used excessive force? I
think the number was like 55 percent among African-Americans and 11 percent
among whites. That was the biggest one I saw. But there was a whole bunch
of us so that really seems to be the story here that really two different
stories of this have kind of made it out there.
JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. And I think it`s reflective of
different personal experiences with the police. I think when you talk with
white people in the U.S. about their own and their family members`
experiences with the police, they generally haven`t had experiences of
feeling mistreated and feeling like they were being, you know,
systematically unable to trust the police. So, I think it`s this gut level
question, do you trust police officers who have made good decisions about
these sorts of things. And I think you ask white people and they`re much
more likely to say yes than if you ask black people and that drives that
big poll difference and the whole difference in perception about whether
people in Ferguson are reasonably upset about something.
KORNACKI: Well, yes. I don`t know if it was a "New York Times"/CBS poll.
There was another poll I saw this week who was basically asking, have you
had an encounter with police where you felt the police treated you
unfairly? And I think among blacks it was like 60 percent yes. Among
whites it was seven percent. So, I mean, that really might be the story of
how this --
L. JOY WILLIAMS, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Seven people probably.
KORNACKI: There was a margin error of plus or minus four points --
WILLIAMS: Yes. To your point that is exactly right. What these incidents
and sort of what this tragic incident of a young man losing his life
through, you know, I say murder, right, is the -- it kind of shows
nationwide, again, this problem, this different view that different people
have based on race of how they are treated in this country. And
particularly what enrages me and I use that word very carefully but, you
know, it is very accurate about the response has been the sort of over use
of the police officers against people peacefully protesting and how for
African-Americans when we protest, when we do anything, we`re all lumped
together. Right? There is no separation. So the protesters then become
looters and everyone is looting. You know, everyone is committing
violence. There is no separation.
KORNACKI: When you see that poll number, did the protesters go too far?
Do you think that those things are being merged in people`s minds?
WILLIAMS: Absolutely. Right? Because then there is no reasonable
response to this tragedy happening, oh, if one violent act is committed, if
someone, you know, or a handful of people out of thousands of people break
into a store, it now becomes oh, those protesters. And, you know, to
separate that out, people don`t do that. And even the news coverage of
that sort of lumps it up together. It doesn`t separate out that there are
individuals taking advantage of the situation, but in the larger context
these are people in this community protesting a violent act that was
committed against an unarmed citizen.
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, part of the thing I
think is this is a post 9/11 situation. If you look right now it`s
interesting we`re going back into this security situation with ISIS and the
country is sort of retrenching. And I think the white community has long
been much more comfortable with the idea of having a police state
especially sort of after 9/11. You saw it in how people talked about, you
know, the surveillance systems and how the federal government and local
government were operating and it was a much harder push to this sort of,
OK, look. We`re fine with having the police on the streets whereas in
minority communities it has always been sort of a thing people don`t like
this is --
KORNACKI: Although the one thing in this poll, the one place where there
seemed to be a pretty good overlap black and white was on the question --
militarization of police question and should -- I mean, I found out that
the police force in my hometown in Massachusetts, about 10,000 people, has
two M-16s. Grenade launchers in another police department in
Massachusetts. I saw that this week as well. I think people are looking
at that. Because in this poll, it showed blacks and whites in almost equal
numbers were bothered by that. That seems to be the one --
BARRO: And I think that`s been sort of the politically safe place for
national politicians to jump in on this. Everybody sort of looks at this
and says, gee. I don`t understand why they need a tank. And so, but I
think that actually sort of gets at the racial divide because people can
look at this and say, this militarization is over the top and should be
rolled back but the negative interactions that African-Americans are having
with the police are not mostly about the police having tanks and gas masks.
This is an unusual situation. I think the bigger and more important
question is about ordinary, everyday policing, and whether that is being
done in a racially just way.
And I think that`s where the huge gap remains. I`m hopeful that we will
see some positive federal change on the police militarization stuff. Maybe
the federal government will stop giving surplus tanks to police
departments. Maybe we can get police to stop dressing in camouflage. But
I think the everyday policing part is a much tougher nut to crack because I
think there is a real failure to communicate on this.
WILLIAMS: And that`s the point sort of in bringing to the larger movement
in terms of what civil rights organizations and other activists across the
country are sort of taking this moment to be, you know, we`ve been talking
about this for years. You know, the interaction that local law enforcement
have with communities of color across the country and how our communities
are over policed. The excessive force used. Right? So, we`re using this
moment to highlight that and there are demands from I think about 13 civil
rights organizations signed on to a statement with requests asking for the
Justice Department to do an investigation across the country, about the use
of excessive force particularly among unarmed African-Americans, asking for
sort of a systematic way in how these cases, like what happened in
Ferguson, are treated.
And so when they`re taken out of the hands of local prosecutors and sort of
prosecuted from the Justice Department, so there are all of these --
something that we`ve been talking about for years, and so now being able to
take this moment and use that. And I agree with you that we, you know, we
can`t let people off the hook including democrats, including -- because you
know, a state run by a democratic governor that we can`t let people off the
hook and just have them focus on the militarization of the police. It`s
larger than that. You know, the larger issue is how law enforcement deals
with African-Americans and not seeing all of us as criminals.
KORNACKI: Right. There is a major national political figure speaking out
in Ferguson as well as another pressing national issue right now, that`s
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. An eye doctor by training. He`s on a medical
mission to Guatemala this week to perform pro bono eye surgery. The
republican presidential hopeful had this to say about secretary of state,
former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton`s recent comments on foreign
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: If you want to see a transformational
election in our country, let the democrats put forward a war hawk like
Hillary Clinton and you`ll see a transformation like you`ve never seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Senator Rand Paul speaking from Guatemala. The full interview
is going to be on "Meet the Press" tomorrow and this is transitioning by
the way to the other things this week. So last week the news was sort of
about Hillary Clinton maybe distancing herself a little bit from the Obama
administration on foreign policy. The idea of, you know, don`t do stupid
stuff is not a global vision. And now you have Rand Paul basically saying,
well, if she is sending sort of hawkish signals on the democratic side,
maybe there`s room for me potentially. That`s what I`m hearing at least in
this interview is there is room for me potentially to maybe get
intervention, from people who transition there on the left into my camp.
STANTON: I think on foreign policy is been on the one place where he has
struggled. I mean, he`s sort of gone back and forth. You know, like last
week, does he support taking away all of Israel`s funding, does he not
support it? He`s sort of said yes, and then he said no, and then he said,
maybe. Read everything in context. And how there is this where he seems
to be moving back toward more sort of an isolationist position. And I
think it`s been interesting that people thought this was going to be one of
his strongest areas sort of going into this election and right now he seems
to be struggling with a way to figure out how to like define himself. And
maybe he is hoping that Hillary does that for him without him having to
figure it out on his own.
KORNACKI: Is there room for that? I mean, is it realistic for a guy like
Rand Paul to think I could pick off people who have been voting democratic
because of foreign policy?
BARRO: I think yes, possibly. I think that there are some people on the
left who the issue they care most deeply about is foreign policy. They
were very upset about the Bush administration sort of misadventures and
would like someone to not get us involved in foreign wars. I think there`s
distrust of Hillary on that. I think it`s also one of the issues where the
electorate has the weakest point of view. The electorate can be swung from
a very pro war position to a very anti-war position within a number of
years in a way that people don`t move on the economy and on social issues.
So I think part of the reason that Rand Paul has been tentative is that we
don`t know where the electorate is going to stand going into 2015-2016. I
think over the last couple years people have been very hesitant toward
intervention but you could have another attack on U.S. soil that could
swing opinions right back again. And so I think, and I think all the
candidates or many of the candidates are doing this to an extent, they`re
trying to keep their options open so they can be more hawkish or more
dovish depending on --
KORNACKI: No, that`s what I`ve been wondering about with ISIS. The way
ISIS is being talked up now even by this administration and we`re going to
have more on this later in the show but just the idea that this is a threat
beyond something we`ve seen from al Qaeda. This is something that`s bigger
in scope potentially than al Qaeda. Really talking about as an existential
threat. And I wonder and you look at horrible, you know, instance like the
video that came out this week, you say, does that start to move people and
say, you know, well, we don`t want another Iraq but they start to say,
again, we don`t want another 9/11.
WILLIAMS: Right. And clearly, I mean, foreign policy issues is one
instance where you can show some clear differences between Hillary Clinton
and sort of any other candidate in either the primary or in, you know,
because you know, most people argue that everybody starts to sound the same
and kind of everybody, you know, they can`t choose but sort of foreign
policy is the one issue in which there are clear differences in terms of
ideology of Hillary Clinton and any other folks who may be in the race.
Additionally, Rand Paul, you know, obviously make a thing that, you know,
of running towards that type has some, you know, where people on the left
may agree with him on some social issues, right? And so they may, you
know, so I agree with you on some social issues, now you`re talking my
language on this foreign policy thing. I`m more likely to listen to, you
know, what you have to say and may consider you as an option. But whether
or not someone, you know, clearly, solidly is on the left sort of makes a
transition and moves to Rand Paul, that remains to be seen.
KORNACKI: All right. We have a few more things in the news this week we
want to get to including one about Rick Perry. We`ll pick it up as soon as
we come back.
KORNACKI: All right. The next class of presidential candidates may want
to layoff criticizing President Obama`s vacation now. David Axelrod who is
one of the architects of President Obama`s campaign, he is expressing
regret about democrats` bashing President George W. Bush for his vacations
as president. Axelrod told "The New York Daily News," quote, "We used to
pillory George Bush for going to his ranch and we were wrong." He also
said, "The demands and pressures of the presidency are relentless. We
ought to warn our presidents to get small breaks to relax, even in and
maybe especially in the midst of crisis."
This week President Obama is under fire from some for hitting the golf
course immediately after addressing reporters about the horrific death of
James Foley. So, let`s talk about this. First of all, I say, good for
David Axelrod. Because this is the thing. Even before the, all of the
complaints about President Obama and his vacations, this has driven me nuts
for decades since I started watching Bill Clinton go to Martha`s Vineyard
back in the 1990s. All the talk about the time he is taking off and the
democrats, I just wish both parties, the national chair of each party would
come together and say, we`re going to stop complaining about vacations
because it`s stupid. So, I think good for Axelrod. I don`t know, it is
probably naive to think it will lead to something. But I am so tired of
STANTON: -- In this case this week though he`s, I don`t know, it seems to
me that like he shows very little emotion most of the time. He is sort of
very stoic. He gets up and talks about James Foley and didn`t seem -- he
seemed upset but not really that upset. And then you see him a couple of
hours later on the golf course laughing and like with a lot of emotion
hanging out with celebrities. And at a minimum it seems like it`s a tone
deafness that has been a problem I think for this administration
KORNACKI: I think that is true for any like, I can imagine a big White
House communications office or whatever simply getting like hey, you just
gave this incredibly solemn speech on this horrible occasion and there are
going to be photographers here at the golf course. Maybe you shouldn`t do
that today because it will send the wrong message. You know, sending the
right message, it`s part of being president but practically speaking I
don`t know if it means anything.
BARRO: Yes, I mean, I think there are two separate things. One is the
general case of presidential vacations. I believe this goes back at least
to Dwight Eisenhower the sniping about, you know, is the president lazy?
And I think, you know, we`ll have, when we have a republican president
we`ll have a republicans saying, gee, we shouldn`t have sniped at Obama so
much over his vacations and democrats will be right back at it complaining
about whatever that one does. I actually thought this was tone deaf for a
different reason. I thought his remarks seemed very impassioned and upset.
I thought he seemed really angry and personally affected. And that`s why
it was weird to then see the shots of him on the golf course right after
sort of like nothing had happened. Now I suspect what it is, is you know,
none of us know what it`s like to be president and I think there are a lot
of emotionally intense things that one does as president. It`s a lot of
responsibility. And you need to develop an ability to detach from that.
So, I think that President Obama probably more than any of us can do is
good at like doing something that is extremely distressing one second and
then going and being on the golf course the next. It still looks weird
from the outside.
KORNACKI: I don`t know what it`s like to be president. I don`t know what
it`s like to golf. But I think about it and I think of that, we`ve seen
those videos of Obama occasionally in the spring and summer where he wants
to escape the bubble.
KORNACKI: He`s on the national mall, he`s going into -- Chipotle or
something. And I think about, you know, so a golf course, you know, like
in the middle of the woods, unspoiled acreage, its trees, its grass. And
you know what? If you`re a president, it`s not necessarily a good time for
you but that`s a time when you can focus your thinking, you can get away.
I can see that being therapeutic in a positive sense.
WILLIAMS: Yes. I recognize your point in terms of certainly in the
emotional -- people seem to have a real focus on the Obama`s emotional
display over the last couple years and particularly over the last week-and-
a-half with what`s been going on in Ferguson, you know, feeling the same
way, wanting him to demonstrate emotion as well. But I think to this
question of vacation, I think it`s just going to be in the cycle of
continuing to criticize, is it too much or too little? Something that
always happens. But to your point in being able to disconnect, I mean, you
can look at the president from when he was first elected to now.
I mean, just the level of white hair that he has now and the amount of
stress. And that`s just, just think about what we know he deals with on a
daily basis and not the things that we don`t know. And then we look at
yourself individually when, you know, we`re all can`t wait until Friday,
you know, to get out of an office and be able to escape that. And I don`t
think we want a president that is sort of on all the time because when does
he then have time to repair and to break and to think and reflect. And so
I don`t necessarily put a lot of stock in -- because cameras will be there
to show him laughing -- that becomes problematic overall. I think you need
the time to disconnect to put in perspective so whether that is going to
Chipotle or being on a golf course?
KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, there is the bigger issue of golfing and there`s
the smaller issue to me of the photographing. I bet the White House if
they had to do it over would say, let`s not give them this photograph.
It`s just going to cause problems.
KORNACKI: Anyway. But Speaking of getaways, a segue here, less than 72
hours after being booked on two felony counts Texas Governor Rick Perry
went to New Hampshire where he unofficially campaigned for president. The
Lone Star State`s longest serving governor shrugged off abuse of power
charges and so did the local republicans. About four dozen business
leaders caught up with Perry in his first visit to the first in the nation
primary state. His first visit to that state since finishing sixth there
in 2012 when he received less than one percent of the vote. It should be
noted that just days before his indictment last week, Perry also visited
the Iowa state fair. So, it`s full steam ahead for Rick Perry`s
The joke is that by being indicted his odds went from zero percent to zero
percent with the presidential nomination. At the same time I continue to
wonder about -- we`re trained to say, you know, the indictment politician
must be doomed. Right? In the same way we used to be trained to say
impeachment must be doomed and the Bill Clinton thing came along. And I am
still very skeptical at this one.
STANTON: I think it`s helping him frankly. And it looks like he is
raising money off it. Republicans are sort of looking at him like oh, the
democrats hate him. Maybe we should take another look at the guy we all
sort of wrote off after his, couldn`t remember, you know, the three things
on his mind. I think it`s turned out to be a net positive at least in the
short term for him.
BARRO: I think it helps that the indictment looks fairly silly and you
have a lot of national/liberal commentators looking at the indictment and
saying that it looks silly. Basically he got indicted. This DA who had
been giving him a lot of trouble got arrested for driving very drunk, three
times the legal limit, there is video of her being belligerent. And he
threatened to veto funds for her office if she didn`t resign. And you
know, probably yes, he wanted her out because she was a thorn in his side
politically investigating people in his office but on the other hand it`s
fundamentally a political dispute.
There was an -- a political officer in the state who got in trouble with
the law and he pressured her to resign. It seems like a very strange thing
to end up in the courts. And so, it puts him in a very good position to
say this was politically motivated. Democrats are going after me. And it
gives him something to relate to people and I strongly suspect he is not
going to be convicted of anything.
WILLIAMS: I think it puts him in a better position to raise money so that
he can be in the presidential race for all of us to laugh at.
KORNACKI: So, that quick goes. Everybody wins. Up next, democrats
running on not away from health care reform. Will it work in the deep red
south? That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Among the president`s many fiscally
irresponsible policies ObamaCare stands out as one of the worst offenders.
REP. BOB GOODLATTE (R), VIRGINIA: Delays and exemptions have proven this
law is flawed and unworkable. ObamaCare has got to go and be replaced by
patient centered health care reform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It is no secret that many republicans have used ObamaCare as a
rallying cry this election year trying to link democrats to a law that
overall remains unpopular. They`re hoping to replicate what they pulled
off back in 2010 when they swept to massive midterm gains just months after
the Lane Mark (ph) law was enacted. In the state of Arkansas, those
attacks helped the GOP defeat Senator Blanche Lincoln back in 2010.
Actually, the defeat is putting it mildly in that case. She lost by 22
points that year. Lincoln had voted for the Affordable Care Act. She
voted for ObamaCare. You might expect that Mark Pryor the state`s other
democratic -- other senator excuse me, a democrat who is running for re-
election this year, he might expect him to be keeping as much distance as
possible from ObamaCare which is why this new ad that he is running got a
lot of attention this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No one should be fighting an insurance company while
you`re fighting for your life. That`s why I helped pass a law that
prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick or
deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The new prior ad is getting plenty of air time. It did not come
cheap. According to "The Washington Post," he spent six figures on that ad
buy. You`ll notice that in the ad Pryor never says the president`s name
and never actually calls the law ObamaCare or the Affordable Care Act but,
still, this is a significant moment. Arkansas has become a very red state
in national elections. Pryor is among the most vulnerable democratic
incumbents running this year.
He announced he sees the Affordable Care Act as at least partly an asset
and not just an unadulterated political liability sets up a test. Now that
the law is being implemented, are the politics of ObamaCare changing
especially in red state America? And as Pryor creating a template here
that other vulnerable democrats might turn to as the party fights to hang
on to the Senate this fall?
Here to discuss this is David Ramsey, he`s the associate editor of the
"Arkansas Times." David, thanks for joining us. I want to set this up by
showing a couple statistics here. Since the decline in the rate of un-
insurance in number states between 2013 and 2014, and you can see Arkansas
is doing the best of any of these states on the list. This is basically
showing how the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the expansion of
Medicaid is going. Arkansas rate there, its uninsured rate basically
dropping in half in just one year.
So, just statistically when you look at it that way you`d say this law
seems to be doing something right for the state of Arkansas. I wonder if
in Arkansas that has changed the way people think about ObamaCare, think
about the term the Affordable Care Act. Do they make the connection, do
they say, this is the Affordable Care Act doing this or do these things
remain disconnected to people`s minds?
DAVID RAMSEY, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, ARKANSAS TIMES: Well, I think what you see
in Arkansas is probably what you see in a lot of places nationally which is
ObamaCare, itself, remains incredibly unpopular in the state but some of
the component parts of the law are more popular. You know, in Arkansas as
you mentioned, the percentage of uninsured citizens has dropped about in
half. And that`s largely because of the private option version of Medicaid
expansion in the state by which around 200,000 Arkansans have gained
coverage. So, if you focus on something like that, people are a little
more open minded. If you say ObamaCare, that`s the worst possible thing.
And I think part of what you`re seeing, you know, Pryor is basically
beginning to talk about what the law does but meticulously avoiding naming
KORNACKI: Avoiding saying it`s her. Right. And we`ve got -- we showed
another poll here. It`s interesting. Because Kaiser has been doing this
sort of monthly tracking poll on the implementation of ObamaCare and if it
is changing attitudes on it. And I think the most recent numbers for July
show, you know, the unfavorable views of ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act
now jumping up to 53. The favorable reviews down to 37. So, that speaks
to your point there about just the name whether it`s the Affordable Care
Act or ObamaCare still testing unpopular. So, let me ask you. Think ahead
You see how Mark Pryor is addressing this issue. He is talking about the
benefits of the law. The benefits of the law are popular in Arkansas. He
is touting those. So, let`s say it as debate this fall with Tom Cotton his
republican opponent and Mark Pryor. And that is what Mark Pryor start to
talks about and then Tom Cotton comes back and says, well, you know, what?
I`m going to repeal that boondoggle of ObamaCare, I`m going to free you
from the burden of ObamaCare. Since these things seem to exist on
different plains, which is though is a stronger message, do you know?
RAMSEY: I mean, I think that`s the big question. One of the most
interesting things about the Pryor ad was Cotton`s response. I actually
was at a press conference Cotton did the very next day. Asked him about
it. He said that he hadn`t seen the ad and had a very muted kind of
response and basically what you`re seeing is as you say, you know, we
talked about Pryor wants to avoid naming the law. He wants to avoid saying
ObamaCare. But he is beginning to talk about what the law actually does.
Cotton on the other hand says ObamaCare over and over. I mean, sometimes
ten, 12 times a minute. But when asked about some of the details of what
repeal would mean, that`s where he sort of avoids talking about it. So the
question is, what`s more potent, the name or the law`s component parts? I
think that will precisely be the sort of debate them going forward and it`s
hard to say what will win out.
KORNACKI: So, you started to touch on it there. That`s the other
question. This is the other advantage democrats think they have now that
the law is being implemented. They take somebody like Tom Cotton who rails
against ObamaCare and the Affordable Care Act in a state where Medicaid
expansion has taken place. And we saw what`s that meant, all of these
Arkansans who have health coverage now who didn`t before. When the
question is put to Tom cotton, would you repeal that, would you take away
the coverage that these people now have, what is he saying to that?
RAMSEY: He really won`t answer. I mean, basically, and I`ve asked him
about the private option directly a number of times. He won`t take, and
again, that is the sort of privatized version of Medicaid expansion that
was somewhat unique to Arkansas. He won`t take a position on the private
option itself. I asked him on Thursday at this press conference, you know,
basically what he says is, if you ask him anything about health care he
says, we need to repeal ObamaCare. Start over and make it right.
And I asked, does making it right include funding for covering these
200,000 Arkansans that would lose their coverage if the Affordable Care Act
was repealed? And he really doesn`t have a direct response to that. So
you have, you know, basically I think what the way that Cotton is trying to
play this, he doesn`t really want to talk specifically about, you know,
what happens to some of the benefits if the Affordable Care Act goes away.
He just wants Arkansans to know he is against ObamaCare.
KORNACKI: David, just very quickly, the state of this race, because the
control of the Senate is so key here for both parties and this race could
end up being one that decides it. Early on Mark Pryor seemed to be defying
gravity down there leading in the polls. If you look at the polling
average that we have up on the screen now the most recent numbers that have
come in have put Cotton up by a few points. What is your sense of where
this race is right now?
RAMSEY: I mean, I think the safest thing to say is that it is very close.
I think there is going to be a get out the vote kind of, you know,
competition between the two of them. You know, the thing to keep in mind
in a close race in Arkansas, you know, the state is reddening so there is
the possibility that people that are identifying as independents will end
up voting for the Republicans. That`s a built in advantage for Cotton.
The question is basically whether sort of Pryor can rally the base and
whether Pryor can use some of his advantage sort of the name, you know, his
father was very popular senator and governor. The Pryor name still means
something in Arkansas. And cotton has some high negatives. So that`s sort
of the back and forth. I think the easiest thing to say is that, it is
very, very close.
KORNACKI: Right. David Pryor actually you see it in the ad there, David
Pryor made a cameo in that ad as well.
KORNACKI: Anyway, my thanks to you David Ramsey "Arkansas Times." I
appreciate the time this morning. Good stuff there.
RAMSEY: Thanks for having me.
KORNACKI: Coming up, does President Obama need a little quality time with
democrats in Congress? The argument has defined the last few years. We`ll
explain it, next.
KORNACKI: First there was the $800 million stimulus that brought the
United States back from the brink of the great recession. Then came the
enactment of health reform that brought health insurance coverage to
millions of Americans who didn`t already have it. A feat that eluded
presidents for a century. And soon after that, there was a landmark
financial regulation that cracked down on the reckless Wall Street
practices responsible for the economic downturn in the first place.
And last, but not least, came the repeal of don`t ask don`t tell. Sweeping
the discriminatory military policy against gay soldiers into the dust bin
of history. President Obama piled up a lot of historic, legislative
victories during the first two years of his presidency. Back in 2009 and
2010. And it was big, democratic majorities in the House and the Senate
that allowed him to do this. Since the president`s party suffered what
Obama himself called a shellacking, the 2010 mid-term elections,
Congressional Republicans have stymied the president`s agenda with
The paralysis that has defined Washington since 2010, the democratic White
House and Senate, republican house, that paralysis has given rise to an
argument that elicits strong feelings on both sides. Is there more that
President Obama could be doing? There are those who believe that even in
the face of the republican opposition he faces there is still room for the
president to rack up some bipartisan achievements if he would engage more
personally and more directly with lawmakers.
This week democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told the
"New York Times," that he can count on the number of both hands the times
he has been to the White House since 2011. He said the interaction has
been somewhat lacking. The personal, Maine Senator Angus King said, an
independent who caucuses with the democrat said, quote, "One of the things
the White House has not done well and the president has not done well is
the simple idea of establishing relationships before there is a crisis."
These are not republicans who are grousing about the president. They are
senators that caucus with his own party. So that gets to the argument that
Washington -- the arguments is being made that Washington doesn`t need to
be quite as gridlocked right now as it is. The idea that the president has
failed to develop the kinds of personal relationships on Capitol Hill that
could potentially overcome some of the partisan divide. The other side of
this argument? That all the personal charm in the world, that all the arm
twisting in the world just couldn`t and wouldn`t matter today. That we do
not any more live in the age of LBJ. As I said, this is an argument that
brings out strong views on both sides so it`s an argument that we are
excited to have on this show right now.
Joining me to talk about it, we have Congressional scholar Thomas Mann of
the Brookings Institution and Jim Manley, former senior staffer for Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid and the late Senator Edward Kennedy.
So Jim, I`ll start with you, man of the Senate, that article that we got
the quotes from this week I think caused a bit of a stir especially in
Washington because it was democrats. Democratic senators who were saying
about President Obama, not engaged enough with us. Could be getting more
results if he was. What do you say to that?
JIM MANLEY, FORMER SENATE AIDE: Well, I think you and I have talked about
this before. I`m more than willing to agree that the president is not
someone who is willing to get his hands dirty in the midst of the
legislative process. You know, he may lose on style points but as you,
yourself, just pointed out, he has been extraordinarily an effective
president and I think he should be commended for that. There is grumbling
within the caucus but the differences between the president and the
democrats pale in comparison to the difference between republicans and the
president. So do I think he could do a better job of outreach? Yes.
Absolutely. Is it going to lead necessarily to breaking gridlock?
KORNACKI: What does it lead to then? The case we`re doing is you do more
and what happens?
MANLEY: Yes. The issue, Steve, is, you know, the basic blocking and
tackling of the legislative process. You know, again, he sits too far.
You know, he sits at the 64,000 foot level. Is not willing to do what he
needs to do to try and stroke a democrat. That can only get you so far
because, of course, as you are only well aware of the real problem is
republicans. So, again, he can do a little bit better, return the phone
calls quicker, invite people more on Air Force One, do a better job of
campaigning for him back in their home states. You know, try and find ways
to help him in the legislative process. But again, those are relatively
minor things that can be worked out.
KORNACKI: Well, so Tom, I`m curious what your take on this is.
THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION SENIOR FELLOW: Well, I have a
difference of degree with Jim not of kind. Sure, everything else equal, it
might have been nice if President Obama was more sociable, more engaged,
enjoyed the sort of retail politicking up on Capitol Hill, but I don`t
think it would have made the slightest difference on anything of
consequence. The politics and policy making of this era are shaped by the
extreme partisan polarization and by the reality that the Republican Party
is acting and has been since the day of his inauguration in 2009 as a
vehement oppositional party like a parliamentary party and, ironically, his
appearance with democrats works to their advantage when they represent red
states or even purple states coming into a mid-term election.
And his being seen publicly with republicans hurts republicans and hurts
the ability of fashioning any kind of agreements. I think it took a while
for the president to realize this. Remember, his brand was a post partisan
politics and he acted in accord with that in his initial months in office
but he quickly realized what he was up against. I think he worked
effectively with democrats on The Hill in the first year of his presidency.
Actually had more success with democrats than Bill Clinton did, but now
it`s a different time period and there`s relatively little that being
chummy with senate democrats would help.
KORNACKI: Tom, I wonder, you`re somebody, you are a Congressional scholar
and know the history of this stuff. When did that change? Is there a
moment in American policy you can point to? Everybody is always forever
pointing back to LBJ and talking about, you know, the personal touch of
LBJ, the arm twisting, you know, getting in their faces, the one-on-one
stuff. Probably a lot of mythology in that. Was there a point when that
used to work and it stopped working?
MANN: Yes. It worked when there was overlap ideologically between the
parties and when there was a possibility of garnering support from the
other side of the aisle for a president. It also worked when the
Democratic Party in this case was much more divided ideologically and it
took particular presidential skills and efforts to bring some of those
democrats along who didn`t want to come along. Now the party is much more
unified. I mean, Barack Obama got all 60 democrats to vote for cloture on
health reform. That included some pretty conservative members, including
Ben Nelson, in particular.
Therefore, democrats are inclined to go along. There isn`t a single piece
of legislation or a single confirmation battle in which the president has
failed for lack of support on the democratic side. I think all of the
talk, whether it be from Bob Woodward or Maureen Dowd about the Obama`s
problem and not really reaching out and personalizing overlooks the
dramatic transformation. It was already under way by the way with Bill
MANN: Bill Clinton, for all of his schmoozing in Congress on both sides of
the aisle, garnered not a single republican vote in the House or Senate for
his major budget package.
KORNACKI: Right, `93 budget. And of course, they ended up impeaching him.
We`re going to squeeze a break here and come back. But Jim Manley who
worked with Harry Reid and I want to talk to you a little bit when we come
back too, about just your relationship and your dealings with the White
House from the Senate standpoint, that relationship between Harry Reid,
Barack Obama. We`ll talk about that when we come back.
KORNACKI: We`re back. So, Jim Manley, there was an anecdote in this "New
York Times" story we`re talking about this week where a lot of democratic
senators on the record grumbling about their relationship or lack thereof
with the White House. There was an anecdote in there about a meeting at
the White House not too long ago where Harry Reid is there and Mitch
McConnell is there and the president is there. And Harry Reid started
raising the issue of the Senate`s failure to confirm ambassadors. This was
a republican blockade.
And the story basically says that Harry Reid went to that meeting with the
idea of bringing that up and the president would then give him cover
immediately and put more pressure on McConnell. And the president instead
of doing that, just sort of said, you two settle it yourself.
KORNACKI: And Reid left that meeting all flustered, all incensed. And I
know you are not with Harry Reid anymore but imagine, that is the kind, you
could speak to maybe to, how something like that happens. Does it speak to
a communications breakdown between the White House and the democrats in the
MANLEY: Well, whether it`s a breakdown or again a difference between the
executive branch and the legislative branch, let me say it like this. The
relationship between the president and Senator Reid is rock solid. Senator
Reid is going to continue to be his most loyal ally in the Senate. Just
like for democrats as a whole. I am more than willing to say that there`s
been sometimes over the last couple years where this president and this
administration have taken Senator Reid for granted. Looking at the Senate
and saying, we don`t have to worry about the Senate.
KORNACKI: What was an example of that?
MANLEY: Well, look, you outline some of his most important achievements,
health care stimulus, et cetera. Where the president and Rahm Emanuel were
right in the middle with Reid trying to pick up the 60 votes necessarily to
overcome the filibusters. But on nominations for instance, you know, I
don`t know how to tell you this but, you know, the fact of the matter is,
it`s not necessarily Senator Reid`s job to get these guys confirmed. It`s
up to the president to work hard and try and pick up the votes on the
republican side to get his own nominees confirmed. So, you know, yes,
sometimes he is a little too aloof. His teams are a little too aloof.
They are not willing to get their hands dirty in the midst of the
legislative process preferring, you know, it is kind of flattering but like
I said, Senator Reid, take care of it.
KORNACKI: The other side of this and Tom Mann was talking about saying
look, the republicans who`ve just being associated with Barack Obama in any
way is basically political poison for them.
KORNACKI: I`m wondering because, you know, there`s one of the things
that`s been happening this year, there have been these periodic dinners
that the president has been having with some republican senators who are
seen as a little bit more potentially pragmatic. Do you think knowing the
Senate the way you know it that there exists at least in the Senate a pool
of republicans who are potentially willing to team up with the White House
on certain things if that personal push is there?
MANLEY: Well, you lost me in the personal push part which I`ll explain it
in a second. There is a small reservoir, small pool of republicans that
could be gettable in theory but the fact of the matter is, they`ve all
locked arms and they decided they`re going to do everything they can
through the election to try and undermine the president`s agenda. But
let`s take a step back. If you ask me if the president just hit more golf
games with Speaker Boehner or courted Senator McConnell more, he could have
overcome the republican gridlock, I`m here to tell, you need to get your
head examined. That is just simply not true.
What I saw from day one after this president was sworn into office was that
Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell did everything they could trying to
undermine this president. Do you know that the first bill we took to the
floor in 2009 was a bill, relatively noncontroversial to authorize a series
of national parks. What could be wrong about that? You know, we spent
three weeks debating that bill over a gun related amendment. Oh, sure.
Cobert (ph) offers amendment to allow guns on national parks. That`s how
we started the president`s administration. And that`s what`s happened
every time since then. And it took a while for the president and his team
to realize what they were dealing with but at some point in 2011 they
figured it out and now they`ve -- and they began to take it to the
KORNACKI: Yes. Now, you remember the speech that made Barack Obama famous
in 2004 was there are no red states. There are no blue states. I think
they have figured out, there are red states and there are blue states
definitely. Thanks to the former Senate aide Jim Manley, I appreciate the
time. And Thomas Mann from the Brookings Institute. I really appreciate
you getting up this morning and joining us.
Still ahead after the brutal killing of an American journalist, does the
U.S. open the door to air strikes against ISIS in Syria? That`s ahead.
KORNACKI: This morning in Baghdad, a suicide bomber drove a car full of
explosives into the gate of Iraq`s version of the CIA. At least 11 people
were killed and another two dozen wounded. The latest violence comes less
than one day since an attack on a Sunni mosque in the city killed more than
60 people. The sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia are still
escalating. Months after ISIS began its march across Iraq from Syria.
When we come back, we`ll tackle the question of whether in order to contain
ISIS, the U.S. military response in the region will now have to extend to
Syria. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: All right. Good morning again. Thanks for getting up with us
or staying with us on a Saturday morning.
Defense officials are now calling the jihadist group known as ISIS the most
dangerous threat the U.S. has faced in years. ISIS has made the Iraqi
border with Syria all but nonexistent and it`s been marching its way
eastward across Iraq in an effort to gain control away from U.S.-backed
Shia government. Yesterday, the White House National Security Adviser Ben
Rhodes said that ISIS is more dangerous today than it was six months ago.
And he added that the U.S. stands ready to take action, to take further
action against ISIS including in Syria.
We`ll be talking more about what that means, what that could mean, what
that might look like in just a little bit. But first, we want to address
this week`s execution of an American journalist by ISIS. A journalist who
was captured in Syria. The days since ISIS killed journalist James Foley
his death confirmed by the White House. American officials have been
scrambling to identify the nationality of his executioner. Because Foley`s
killer appears to have a British accent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is James Wright Foley an American citizen of your
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The only reason we show you any of that video is so you can hear
that voice. And we should reiterate that authorities haven`t yet figured
out who that voice belongs, let alone where he is from but what he sounds
like has once again heightened fears of what is commonly known as home
grown terrorism. Young men born or raised in the west who end up fighting
with jihadist groups in the Middle East. And who also have the potential
to carry out terror attacks in their home countries.
Just earlier this month, an ISIS flag along with others was seen flying
outside a public housing project in London. And back in 2006, authorities
in Canada were able to stop a massive home grown terror plot there. The
terror cell called the Toronto 18 was convicted of planning a wide range of
attacks. They were going to behead the prime minister. They were going to
detonate truck bombs in at least three locations in Toronto including
outside the Stock Exchange.
They were going to storm a television network. Parliament, in Canada`s
version of the CIA. None of that and more actually came close to happening
because a young man named Mubin Shaikh infiltrated the group. The Canadian
CIA sent him in there. Shaikh became a mole and successfully reported back
on the plot being planned by the Toronto 18.
And Mubin Shaikh who has an incredible story, he`s going to tell it to us.
He joins us now live. Mubin, I really appreciate you taking the time this
morning. So your story just -- before we talk about what happened in
Toronto few years ago, I just want people to understand your story.
Because you have a, you know, western background, Indian parents from the
United Kingdom but you`re raised in Toronto, you sort of raised in I guess
the middle class upper middle class suburbs of Toronto and you ended up
falling into extremism. Can you explain how that came about?
MUBIN SHAIKH, FORMER UNDERCOVER COUNTER TERRORISM OPERATIVES: Sure.
Steve, first of all, thanks for having me. So, I`m born and raised in
Toronto, Canada. Lived a pretty normal life. Wasn`t discriminated
against. Middle class upbringing. But I think some guilt tripping from
the community to kind of make me because I was living a normal life and
they wanted me to be really religious and made me feel bad about the life I
was living. And so I told myself that I needed to get very religious to
sort of break even with the life that I was living.
So at the age of 19 I went with the group, at an apolitical group but
nonetheless ended up in Kweta Pakistan. And Kweta in 1995 anyway was the
center of Taliban activity. And I had a chance encounter with the Taliban.
And when I returned back in September of `95 they had taken over
Afghanistan. I took that as a validation of their world view and fell into
the Jihadi mindset thereafter and remained so throughout my 20s up through
the 9/11 attacks which really made me reconsider my views.
KORNACKI: Well, just to take one step back here, so that step that seems
like such a critical step here as we worry about sort of home grown
terrorism, that critical step of going from you`re saying, you know, normal
middle class upbringing and this sort of guilt you`re feeling about not
being, you know, religiously pure enough, I guess, who is it that you
encounter? What is it that you encounter that starts making you think that
SHAIKH: The journey is different for everyone. There is no single profile
or pathway if you will. For me it was self-directed. So you basically,
your mind opens up to a new way of thinking, a cognitive opening as it`s
called, and you start to realize, OK, well, how do I fill this void that I
think that I have? And if you`re informed by a particular religious
tradition or religious interpretation, that`s the one you`re going to
default to. So for me, it was I just started to believe that I needed to
become more religious. I didn`t even know what that meant really. But
because of the particular group that I was influenced by -- it`s an
apolitical group, that`s how I kind of started to manifest the religiosity
KORNACKI: And when you`re talking about going over to Pakistan,
Afghanistan, the Taliban, what is it you`re seeing? What is it you`re
being told? What is it you`re doing over there?
SHAIKH: So, I mean, the group that I went with again, it`s an apolitical
group, but the chance encounter with the Taliban was a way for them --
because the group that I was with, their creed is basically the way to
bring about change in the world is to be more religiously observant. And I
shared this with -- I didn`t know who they were at the time -- but they of
course responded with, well, the way to bring about change in the world is
with this. And he held aloft his ak-47. So he, you know, they -- there
were like seven to ten of them -- came back to the mosque that we were
staying at just having general chit chats about, you know, how is life in
Canada? How are the youth in Canada? What`s the situation there with the
So, this is also the concept of the UMA, the Nation of Islam, the Nation of
Muslims wherever they may be. So it is to have affinity with those people.
So if I can just kind of, if you can imagine, somebody, John Smith from,
you know, South Carolina, you know, once he takes on the identity that I am
a Muslim, and he feels for other Muslims wherever they are. And so what`ll
happen is he will have a moment of vicarious suffering so the suffering of
his people over there now it becomes something front and center and
personal for him here.
KORNACKI: And so you said 9/11 seemed to change your thinking and sort of
shook you out of it. Can you explain how that happened?
SHAIKH: Yes. When the attacks initially happened, the first plane, the
reports of the first plane hitting the building, I was on my way to work.
I was working in an office building. Now, at that time I had a full length
beard. I was wearing the turban, the robes all the way down to the shins.
And as I came up the driveway coming into the office building, I was seized
with the idea that, you know, a plane could hit this building and it`s not
like they would call me and let me know that they were coming. I would
have died with everyone else. So that was the first real trigger that made
me kind of move away from whether or not this was actually the right way to
go about bringing about change in the world.
KORNACKI: So you from there you ended up helping out the intelligence
community in Canada to break up a massive terrorist plot in Toronto seven
or eight years ago. What was it they were -- who were these people and
what was it they were planning to do?
SHAIKH: So, it`s a typical, you know, a typical story, born and raised,
many of them who were raised in Toronto, Canada, were raised in a western
city, went to public school. I`m sure most people believe that, you know,
they were the nicest guys. I never would have suspected. But, you know,
different minority groups. You had some who come from -- came from
conflict zones so an individual came from Afghanistan. You had one
individual who relatively non-practicing Muslim father, a Christian mother.
So different backgrounds and the plot was of course -- there were a number
of things that they wanted to do.
I think certainly their reach exceeded their grasp in that sense but the
plan was to commit attacks on various targets in the city of Toronto
targeting security intelligence headquarters. The Toronto Stock Exchange
to do the economic target. Hitting even an Air Force base where our fallen
soldiers are repatriated because the psychology here is look. We`ll kill
them a second time. So, these were some of the items on the list if you
KORNACKI: When you saw or heard about the video with James Foley this week
and heard as we all did that what seems to be a British accent, did the
thought go through your mind at all that with a few different twists in my
life that could have been me standing there with that knife?
SHAIKH: Absolutely. I think even when I was operational on some of the
cases I saw reflections of myself when I was in my early 20s. The only
difference is I didn`t take the next step and join a group and plot to
commit an act of terror. But, I mean, had I fallen into the right group or
the wrong group if you will or the right kind of charismatic preacher, I
could very easily have ended up doing that.
KORNACKI: And just quickly, we`re all looking at what the threat of ISIS
could mean. It means obviously a lot in the Middle East right now but
also, what it could mean in Europe, what it could mean in the United
States? The potential there for other people with British accents to sort
of get radicalized and to come back here and do things. Do you see a
threat for more events like the one that was played in Toronto that you
helped breakup, do you see more threats like that growing out of ISIS?
SHAIKH: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, what you`re dealing with is a grievance
based ideology. And there is an interaction between ideology and foreign
policy. And the kinds of things that have driven the plots from pre-ISIS
days, those elements still exist. So you`re going to get the same symptom,
the same consequence and that is going to be individuals who would like to
see some kind of attack either on the American homeland or in the western
country if not of course in the theaters of war in Syria and Iraq.
So ISIS in particular, I mean, you have to understand this is a group that
kills more Muslims than non-Muslims. Even al Qaeda doesn`t want anything
to do with them. So they are just so beyond the pale in that sense and so
the threats that comes from people are coming from people who are so --
they are sociopaths. The technical term is many of them have become
sociopaths because of socializing with, you know, with individuals who are
killing people, beheading people. When you stay with groups like that you
become so desensitized with that killing becomes very easy for people.
KORNACKI: Wow! All right. Well, my thanks to Mubin Shaikh for joining us
this morning. I really appreciate the time. It`s a very fascinating
story. We really appreciate that.
SHAIKH: Thank you very much, Steve.
KORNACKI: Up next, if defeating ISIS in Iraq means also having to defeat
them in Syria, what does that mean for the future of U.S. military
involvement in the Middle East? We`ll tackle that straight ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC NEWS PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Is it the calculation
know that ISIL presents a 9/11 level threat to the United States?
CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Jim, ISIL is a sophisticated and well
funded as any group that we have seen. They`re beyond just a terrorist
group. This is beyond anything that we`ve seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday telling our
own Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski how the threat posed by ISIS
may actually surpass the threat once posed by al Qaeda. And Hagel made it
clear that defeating ISIS in Iraq means also defeating it in Syria. When
President Obama first announced he was authorizing air strikes against
Islamic militants in Northern Iraq earlier this month he referred to it as
a strictly limited mission. The president said he would, quote, "Not allow
the U.S. to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq."
That was before the killing this week of an American journalist by those
Islamic militants. The journalist who was captured in Syria. That was
before the National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said that ISIS is much
stronger now than it was just six months ago. And he added that the U.S.
was prepared to carry out air strikes inside Syria against ISIS targets.
And now before the defense secretary compared ISIS to al Qaeda, with ISIS
emerging as the biggest threat. So is a strictly limited mission still in
the cards or have the goal posts moved or are they moving?
Joining me now to talk about this is Congresswoman Barbara Lee of
California, she was an early opponent of the war in Iraq and the only
member of Congress to vote against authorization for the use of military
force in the wake of 9/11.
Congresswoman, thank you for joining us this morning. So in the wake of
some of these comments I`m just curious. You have, you know, Chuck Hagel
this week saying that this is beyond anything we`ve seen talking about
ISIS. You have Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
saying that ISIS is ultimately something we`re going to have to defeat and
then if we`re going to defeat, it`s going to have to be in Syria and that
even then air strikes alone might not be enough. When you look at what
ISIS represents and when you look at these comments I`m just curious, do
you think that`s correct what they`re saying?
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Steve, first of all, I`m delighted to be
with you this morning. And I just have to say, there is no doubt that ISIS
is extremely dangerous. I think that`s very clear. And I fully agree. I
think most people would believe what this administration is telling us. I
think what`s -- we have to recognize, though, this. Some of us or many of
us supported limited and targeted air strikes to prevent genocide and also
to protect the United States personnel. We also said, myself and others
included, that any expansion of air strikes or any expansion of our
military operations should be done within the context of a full debate and
a vote for authorization for this use.
What I`m concerned about is that it is expanding and we have not had any
type of Congressional debate or authorization. I believe that the American
people deserve to hear what the alternatives and options are. They need to
know the facts. And the way we do that is through the involvement of
Congress in our constitutional responsibility as it relates to debating and
KORNACKI: So you`re saying if there is going to be air strikes in Syria
you first want a Congressional debate and a Congressional vote to authorize
LEE: Absolutely. Because the public needs to understand what is taking
place. First of all, the American people are war weary. And we have to be
very careful if in fact we`re going to insert the United States back into a
conflict in Iraq and now possibly in Syria. We also have to remember that
there have been some who have been calling for arming the rebels in Syria
when, in fact, these rebels are partially ISIS. And so if we move into
Syria, I think the public needs to understand what is taking place. We
need to have a debate. That`s the only way it will be clear to the
American people exactly what the options are and what is taking place.
Anything short of that I believe means that Congress is really once again
abdicating its constitutional responsibility to engage in what is a very
serious responsibility and that is to debate and authorize the use of
KORNACKI: When you look at the comparisons that are being made, again we
had Chuck Hagel this week saying, you know, ISIS beyond anything we`ve
seen before saying, you know, a lot of ways more sophisticated than al
Qaeda, everybody is talking about how this group is -- ISIS is so much more
extreme than al Qaeda. You know, I understand everybody`s hesitant in this
country. It`s perfectly understandable to get involved in any way in the
Middle East after the last, you know, 10, 12 years and what those wars have
resulted in for this country. But when you look at that threat from ISIS,
I wonder, that potential threat from ISIS at least, I wondered, does that
make you change your thinking about the role of the United States should be
playing in the Middle East potentially?
LEE: Well, first of all, I think the threat is real. But once again, what
is important, at this stage, and I think it is very important that we say
this over and over again, that we have to understand the facts. We have to
know exactly what the impact and consequences could be if in fact this
administration decides to broaden the United States into a war and we have
to really come to grips with what is taking place. I think the only way
you do that, Steve, once again, is coming to Congress and having a full
debate so the public understands this. At this point, we have not had
The president and this administration has acted appropriately by keeping
Congress informed but because ISIS is so dangerous and because it appears
that the administration is considering the expansion of military strikes,
it`s absolutely essential that the American people understand that and
understand the implication and the impact of this and know exactly what is
taking place. We can`t do that without the full -- a full debate and full
authorization of the vote in Congress.
KORNACKI: All right. We`ll see. I guess one of the open questions always
here is, does Congress, certainly, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, you want that
debate. The question always is, do your colleagues want that debate? That
has been an issue too in the last years. We`ll see if Congress steps up
and demands that.
My thanks to California Congressman Barbara Lee for joining me this
morning. We really appreciate the time.
And still ahead, the future stability in Ferguson, Missouri rests on
whether a grand jury hands down charges against the police officer who shot
and killed Michael Brown. We`ll going to take a look at that case and how
it is likely to proceed, that`s next.
KORNACKI: Overnight the streets of Ferguson, Missouri were calm for a
third straight night. Violence between police and protesters is continuing
to subside after almost two weeks of clashes that erupted after a police
officer shot and killed an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown. Last
night instead of confrontations, several protesters stopped to talk with
officers about Brown`s death. There is of course fear that anger could
once again ignite if the grand jury that is now hearing evidence in that
case eventually does not return a charge against the officer in question
As the situation on the streets of Ferguson appears to be cooling down, the
legal conversation, the legal investigation is heating up. On Wednesday,
the grand jury began hearing evidence in the shooting death of Michael
Brown. It`s a grand jury that`s been serving already for a number of
months. The spokesman for the prosecutor of St. Louis County describes it
as, quote, "a diverse group of citizens, black, white, male, female, age
differences and from different parts of the county." To be more specific,
it is made up of six white men, three white women, two African-American
women, and one African-American man. Nine votes are required for an
indictment. Those numbers are in line with St. Louis County as a whole
which is about one-quarter African-American but it does not reflect the
demographics of Ferguson which is more than two-thirds African-American.
Now, they expect the legal process should advance quickly which has the
potential to cause problems. The St. Louis County prosecuting attorney
Robert McCulloch, the equivalent of a district attorney said he expects
that it will take until mid-October to present all the evidence. After
that the grand jury can take as long as it wants before reaching a
decision. So, that`s what is happening with the case at the county level.
And then there was also the federal investigation. Attorney General Eric
Holder visited Ferguson on the same day that grand jury hearings began.
Eric Holder telling reporters on the ground in Ferguson that his Justice
Department will investigate whether Michael Brown`s civil rights were
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The hope also is that through the trip
that I`m making out here today and by stressing the importance of, and the
way in which this investigation is going, that hopefully will have a
calming influence on the area and people know that a federal, thorough
investigation is being done. Being manned by these very capable people.
My hope is that that will have, give people some degree of confidence that
the appropriate things are being done by their federal government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right. And here to sort out the legal issues in the Michael
Brown shooting is former federal prosecutor Paul Butler who is now a
Professor at Georgetown Law. He joins us from D.C. Paul, thanks for
So, former prosecutor, we know the jury selection is always such a big deal
in any kind of trial, in any kind of a case. Now, we have some basic
demographic stats about this jury. Twelve members, nine white, three
African-American, it is in line with St. Louis county as a whole as
basically the demographics of St. Louis County. But I wonder, we talked
earlier in the show about this clear racial divide in public opinion on
this case so far. So, if you`re a prosecutor and you`re looking to
potentially bring a case against this officer here. When you look at that
jury, does that concern you?
PAUL BUTLER, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: Well, grand jurors are told
like regular jurors that they should use their life experiences and their
common sense in evaluating evidence. And African-Americans have different
kinds of experiences often with the police than do white Americans. So, I
think it is great that this grand jury is so diverse. I only wish the
Ferguson Police Department with its 53 officers and only three African-
American, I only wish that it were as diverse because then this whole case
might never have happened.
KORNACKI: And so, what about the other immediate issue here with this
grand jury? Is this essentially District Attorney Mcculloch who is, he is
presenting the evidence to it. It always seems, you know, the cliche is
you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich which says to me that
there is so much on, it`s about the prosecutors. The prosecutor believe in
the case. And I know there`s a lot -- that there are some doubts about
Mcculloch. Do you think looking at this from afar -- do you think
Mcculloch is a district attorney who is well positioned to bring charges if
charges should be brought?
BUTLER: Well, Steve, let`s look at how the grand jury works. The
prosecutor is the legal adviser. The defense attorney is not allowed in
the room. It`s the grand jurors who make the decision but it`s really the
prosecutor who is running the show. I have appeared before grand juries
many times, they look to you for legal advice. And so, if the community
has confidence in the prosecutor then it`s all good because they know that
she or he is putting on a careful case. You can really use it to kind of
rehearse what a trial would be like which I think we`re kind of seeing in
Bridgegate with a U.S. attorney in New Jersey.
But here the community doesn`t have that kind of confidence in its
prosecutor. He has a notorious record in cases against police officers.
He got five folks who have been or are employed by the Police Department in
his own family. So, if we`re thinking about the appearance of justice not
just justice but in a high profile racially charged case like this the
appearance of justice I think it would be his own best interests to step
KORNACKI: So, what happens in terms of the timeline? He is talking right
now about, you know, mid-October being done presenting evidence I guess by
mid-October. Is there a moment when there is a yes/no from the grand jury?
And obviously, we`ll know if they`ll indict. But is there a moment when
they basically say no we`re passing or is this or is this just something
we`ll wake up in February or march and say I guess they never acted on
BUTLER: No. You know, there is this very dramatic moment when the
prosecutor leaves the room. He says to the grand jurors you`ve heard all
the evidence. Now I`m going to go out and I want you to vote. And they
can either vote to no true bill which means they don`t bring the case or
they can vote to bring the case. But again, everyone is going to know.
It`s the prosecutor who is really leading this investigation. So, if they
say they don`t want to bring the case, people won`t blame the grand jury.
They will blame this prosecutor.
KORNACKI: All right. That`s something to look forward to ten weeks from
now. So, I guess we`ll get an answer. My thanks to Paul Butler for
joining us this morning. A lot more on the story and we`ll be able to talk
to you again about that I am sure. Thanks a lot though for today.
BUTLER: Thank you.
KORNACKI: And we will be right back to share what a television legend has
meant to us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Tonight, these four people need to compete for the price
for a --
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The price is right.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: These three people will compete today on "Jeopardy."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The voice in those classic game shows a clip sound familiar?
Well, how about this one?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It`s "Saturday Night live!"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That is the voice of a legendary radio and television announcer
Don Pardo. We were sad to learn this week that he passed away at the age
of 96. But the impression he left on generations of Americans is the voice
of "Saturday Night Live" and that will live on. The former SNL cast member
Rachel Dratch summed up his legacy like this. Quote, "Any SNL actor will
tell you the ultimate moment of your career was hearing Don Pardo say your
name. Each week he represented a dream come true." The bar that Don Pardo
set in this industry is one that we all aspire to live up to. We will try
to do just that in his memory.
Straight ahead "Up Against the Clock" is next.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
JIM CUTLER, ANNOUNCER: Live from Studio 3A in Rockefeller Center USA, it`s
time for "Up Against the Clock"! Today`s contestants, she had the unique
privilege of cooking a thanksgiving turkey on live television with Steve
Kornacki. Please welcome L. Joy Williams! He once rode through the Amazon
with a giant anaconda and on a completely unrelated note he now covers
Congress. It`s John Stanton! He was voted most opinionated in his high
school class. Today he`s been sharing his opinions with us. Say hello to
Josh Barro. And now, the host of "Up Against the Clock" Steve Kornacki!
KORNACKI: Thank you, Jim Cutler. Thank you everyone out there in TV Land
for tuning in today for another exciting, thrill packed edition of "Up
Against the Clock." Let me remind you how it all works. This is fast
paced political news and current events quiz. We play three rounds. Each
of them 100 seconds long. There are a hundred points in the first round,
200 points in the second, 300 in the third. They get harder as we go
along. Contestants are reminded you can ring in any time but you will be
penalized for incorrect answers. So be careful.
Also, there are two special bonus questions scattered in the questions
here. We will explain them when they come up. Our contestants will be
playing today not just for victory but also for a chance to play in our
annual tournament of champions. To qualify, you`re going to have to first
win today. And as always, I will implore our live studio audience, please,
no outbursts. Contestants I now ask you if you`re in place to place your
hands on your buzzers. Are you ready to play?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes.
KORNACKI: They look and sound ready to me. We`ll put a hundred seconds on
the clock. The 100-point round begins with this. On Thursday, Dr. Kent
Brantley was released from the hospital after being infected by this
KORNACKI: Ebola is correct. A hundred points for Josh. Hundred-point
tossup. The possibility of another government shutdown in 2015 was
introduced this week by this top Senate republican. Josh?
BARRO: Mitch McConnell.
KORNACKI: Mitch McConnell said that. That`s correct. Hundred-point
question here. With three weeks to go until the democratic primary a
debate was held Tuesday between the three democratic candidates in
Massachusetts who are vying to replace this current governor. Josh?
BARRO: Deval Patrick.
KORNACKI: Deval Patrick is correct. A hundred points for Josh the early
leader. Back with this hundred-point tossup after Dan Shapiro, the U.S.
ambassador to Israel took the ALS ice bucket challenge this week, this U.S.
cabinet department decided to ban its high level employees from future
KORNACKI: State department did that. Hundred points more for Josh.
Hundred-point tossup question. The 66th annual primetime Emmys will be
held this coming Monday. Among the nominees for outstanding lead actress
in a drama is this woman who plays Olivia -- L. Joy?
WILLIAMS: Oh, shoot. Did I just --
WILLIAMS: Oh, my gosh.
BARRO: Carrie Washington.
KORNACKI: Carrie Washington is correct. Stop the clock because Josh, I
have some exciting news for you. Not only did you get a hundred points for
correctly answering that but that is our video bonus question. So you have
a special celebrity guest here who is going to read you a bonus question.
This is a risk free proposition. If you get it right a hundred extra
points. If you get it wrong no penalty for guessing. Let`s listen to this
TONY GOLDWYN, ACTOR: Hi. I`m Tony Goldwyn and I have this week`s "Up
Against the Clock" quote of note. "Government is like a big baby. An
elementary canal with a big appetite at one end and no responsibility at
KORNACKI: Josh, do you recognize the quote?
BARRO: Is that Ronald Reagan?
KORNACKI: It is Ronald Reagan. A hundred more points for josh. Off to a
furious start here. Restart the clock. Hundred-point tossup question. IP
addresses from Congressional offices were banned this week from making
updates to this user -- John?
KORNACKI: Wikipedia is correct. Hundred points for John. Hundred-point
tossup. States will be allowed to delay using standardized test results to
rate teachers for another year. This Secretary of Education -- Josh?
BARRO: Arne Duncan.
KORNACKI: Arne Duncan said it. Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
admitted during testimony that during his corruption trial that he is
residing with a member of the clergy of this religion. John?
KORNACKI: Catholicism, correct. Hundred points at the wire for John.
Ended the hundred-point round. Josh with the lead at 700. John at 200.
L. Joy negative 100. But good news. You can make up a lot of ground fast
when we double the value of the points. This is the 200-point round. A
little harder. A lot more valuable. A hundred seconds on the clock. The
game continues with this.
Paul Ryan this week suggested that the next speaker of the house should be
Jed Hensarling who chairs the House Financial Services Committee and
represents this state. Josh?
KORNACKI: Texas is correct. Two hundred points for Josh. Two hundred-
point question. Russia is allegedly retaliating against U.S. sanctions by
shutting down its locations of what internationally known -- John?
KORNACKI: Mcdonald`s is correct. Stop the clock. Exciting news for you
John. You`ve just got 200 points and now I`m going to offer you a
proposition because this is our use it or lose it bonus question you`ve
just stumbled on. Here`s how it works. I have here a follow-up question
to the one you just answered. It is related in some way. You can choose
to take that question and if you answer it correctly we will double your
winnings, give you an additional 200 points. If you incorrectly answer it,
we`ll take the 200 points you won away. So, I have the question here.
Will you use it or lose it?
STANTON: I`ll use it.
KORNACKI: He`ll use it. Here is the follow-up question. For 200
additional points McDonald`s busiest location in the world is located in
this famous Moscow locale.
STANTON: The Kremlin.
KORNACKI: Incorrect. It`s Pushkin Square. I`ve never been but 200 points
off. I`m sorry. But I admire your guts for taking the shot. Put the
clock back on here. It`s running again. Two hundred-point question. We
go with this. This bank agreed this week to pay more than -- Josh.
BARRO: Bank of America.
KORNACKI: Bank of America paid more than $16 billion. Correct. Two
hundred-point tossup. According to a report in "The Wall Street Journal"
this week. Potential musical groups are being asked to pay money in order
to -- Josh?
BARRO: The Super Bowl.
KORNACKI: To play the Super Bowl. Two hundred more for Josh. Running
away your 200-point tossup. On Tuesday, former Alaska Attorney General Dan
Sullivan won the republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat, defeating
this Tea Party favorite. Josh?
BARRO: Joe Miller.
KORNACKI: Defeated Joe Miller. Two hundred more points. Two hundred-
point tossup. "New York Times" reporter Matthew Rosenberg was expelled
from this country this week after being accused by its government of
KORNACKI: Incorrect. We`ll call time. It`s Afghanistan. Afghanistan.
Two hundred-point question. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court delayed the
issuing of same sex marriage licenses from beginning in this southern
KORNACKI: In Virginia. That is correct. Two hundred-point question. A
new poll in New Hampshire this week found Scott Brown polling within four
points of this incumbent democratic senator. Josh?
BARRO: Jeanne Shaheen.
KORNACKI: Jeanne Shaheen is correct. On Monday, U.S. open will begin at
the New York Tennis center named for this trail blazing -- Josh?
BARRO: Arthur Ashe.
KORNACKI: Incorrect. I`ll complete the question. The tennis center named
for this trail blazing female tennis star. L. Joy?
WILLIAMS: Billie Jean King.
KORNACKI: Billie Jean King is correct. Three hundred points for L. Joy.
Excuse me, 200 points there. Josh, at 1700, John at zero. L. Joy on the
board at 200.
And this moves us to the final round the 300-point round. The PH.D round.
We`ll going to dim the lights for dramatic effect. Play some dramatic
music. We`ll crown a champion at the end of this round. Points can add up
fast here. Everybody is still in this game. Three-point round begins now.
This former senator who single handedly shifted control of the Senate when
he defected -- John.
STANTON: Jim Jeffords.
KORNACKI: Jim Jeffords died this week. Three hundred points for John.
Top of bankers from around the world including Federal Reserve Chair Janet
Yellen are gathered this weekend for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas
City`s annual -- Josh.
BARRO: Jackson Hole.
KORNACKI: Is in Jackson Hole. That`s correct. Three hundred-point
question. In a new ad Georgia Senate candidate democrat Michelle Nunn is
touting the endorsement of this former governor and U.S. senator who
famously challenged Chris Matthews to a duo. Josh?
BARRO: Zell Miller.
KORNACKI: Zell Miller challenged him to duo. That`s correct. Three
hundred points. Three hundred-point tossup. President Obama`s former
campaign Manager David Plouffe was hired this week by this --
KORNACKI: I`ll complete the question. David Plouffe incorrect was hired
this week by this startup transportation company Uber which is
headquartered in what city? No guesses? We`ll call time. The city is San
Francisco. Three hundred-point tossup question. Before Rick Perry was
indicted last week, the previous sitting governor to be indicted while in
office was John Roland from this state. Josh?
KORNACKI: He is from Connecticut. Correct. Three hundred-points for
Josh. Three hundred-point tossup. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul also an
ophthalmologist traveled to this country this week. Josh?
KORNACKI: Might have come up earlier in the show. Unwittingly conceding
the election, democrat Rick Wiles & accidently referred to his republican
opponent Mike Rounds as senator in a debate this week for the open Senate
seat in his -- Josh?
BARRO: South Dakota.
KORNACKI: In South Dakota. That is correct. Three hundred-points for
Josh. That`s the horn. That`s the game. That`s a very impressive score,
Josh. Twenty nine hundred points. Three hundred, 100. I think we crown
Josh the winner and Josh, that means you`ll going to get this prize package
that Bill Wolff is going to tell you about.
BILL WOLFF, STAFF ANNOUNCER: As our champion, your name will be engraved
using the finest sharpie ink on the all-new stain-resistant "Up Against the
Clock" gold cup. You`ll also receive a DVD copy of the classic 1988 film
"Cocoon 2: The Return," personally autographed by Wilford Brimley. And
you`ll get to play in our jackpot round for today`s grand prize, a $50 gift
certificate to quick meal food cart, Big Town Manhattan, the only street
meat vendor in the greater 45th St. area operated by a former chef of the
Russian tearoom. I had it for lunch today. Delicious. Enjoy the meal and
congratulations. Back to you, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right. Josh, congratulations. There he is with the
champions mug and that score means very likely you`ll be in the tournament
this year. But you`re not done yet. Because we have that instant bonus
question for that street meet gift card.
BARRO: I do really want the street meat.
KORNACKI: Well then you better get this right. Because here it is.
KORNACKI: President Obama will return from Martha`s Vineyard tomorrow
night where he has been vacationing with his wife and family for the past
two weeks. Who is the current member of Congress who represents Martha`s
Vineyard in the house?
BARRO: Oh, Bill Delahunt.
KORNACKI: Oh! Close. It`s Bill Delahunt successor, it is Bill Keating.
BARRO: Yes. Right.
KORNACKI: Unfortunately you have to pay for your own street meat. But
congratulations on the victory. Very impressive performance. Thank you to
L. Joy and John for playing. You both get the home edition fun for the
family kids of all ages. Thank you for playing. We`ll back with the rest
of the show right after this. Congratulations.
BARRO: Thank you.
KORNACKI: All right. It`s time to find out what our guests know now that
they didn`t know when the week began. And Josh Barro, we`re going to start
BARRO: Well, I think we know that at least for now, national democratic
politicians do not seem either to associate themselves with the protesters
in Ferguson and more broadly with the issue of police abuses and racial
divides in criminal justice in America which I think is actually kind of
odd in that if you can imagine an event similar to Ferguson, the 20 to 25
percent of the republican base was deeply energized about, you would see
those sorts of republicans who were looking to run for president out there
associating themselves with the protesters even though when you associate
yourself with a group that`s controversial you can end up getting backlash.
It will be interesting to see whether that`s stable. I know there`s a
resolution that`s worked its way through the DNC executive committee
standing with the protesters on various issues. So, they`ll be interested
to see if that translates into actual public action by democrats. But it
seems to me like, you know, if you`re looking for a way to run for
president to Hillary`s left and to find an issue on which democrats feel
like mainstream democrats are not voicing their anger, this is the issue.
This is fundamentally the issue that Bill de Blasio got elected mayor on in
New York. I`m surprised that we haven`t seen anybody really taking it up
and I wonder if we will see that.
KORNACKI: We`ll look for it this week. John?
STANTON: I think one of the things I learned this week definitely is that
my colleague Gina Moore who is in West Africa covering the Ebola crisis
right now, she wrote a great story, I guess, about how one of the biggest
populations being hit by this are women because they`re the people who are
taking care of the sick. And the most vulnerable within societies in West
Africa. And that it`s having a particularly difficult time for them. And
this is continuing to spread there and having a lot more troubles sort of
getting their hands around it. As we`ve fallen off the news here in the
United States because of everything else that`s going on, it`s still one of
the major crises in the world right now.
KORNACKI: Definitely. L. Joy?
WILLIAMS: Americans should know that black lives matter. I mean, and when
you have law enforcement across the country that are treating African-
Americans and other people of color as if our bodies and as if our very
lives don`t matter as much as other human beings, that should be a problem
for everyone in this country. I also know that there are hundreds of
people out on Staten Island who are continuing to protest online police
brutality in the Eric Garner case here in New York. And so, we`re heading
out to Staten Island. And also this weekend Afropunk festival in Brooklyn.
And so, I`ll be out there registering voters and talking to people getting
into sign a petition at the Justice Department regarding law enforcement
abuses. And to come to Brooklyn. We`d love to have you. But then go
KORNACKI: I`ll be sleeping this afternoon. But no, we had a question
about it in the game show, I got to moderate a debate for governor of
Massachusetts this week. Three democratic candidates. The primaries in
three weeks. It`s an interesting race because everybody looks at
Massachusetts as ah, you know, they never -- democratic state. Well,
they`ve had, you know, four republican governors in the last generation or
so and I think this one this fall is still going to get close and you might
nationally recognize the democratic front-runner right now Martha Coakley,
she`s back. She could very well be the democratic candidate this fall.
So, keep an eye on my home state. It`s a fun race.
I want to thank MSNBC contributor Josh Barro, BuzzFeed`s John Stanton, and
political strategist L. Joy Williams. Thank you for getting up and joining
us today. And thank you for joining us today, perhaps you`re joining us
tomorrow, Sunday morning, 8:00 a.m. We will talk to Wisconsin`s newly
minted democratic candidate for governor, the woman who will be challenging
Governor Scott Walker this fall. Mary Burke. There are already polls out
showing that it`s almost a dead even race.
But first coming up next is Melissa Harris-Perry on today`s "MHP." As the
violence subsides, the investigation into the killing of Michael Brown is
under way. What comes next for Ferguson?
Melissa Harris-Perry, she is coming up, next. We`ll see you right here
tomorrow 8:00 a.m. Thanks for getting UP.
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