'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, October 5th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Sunday Show
October 5, 2014
Guest: Gordon Chang; Christina Greer; Peter Goodman; Jillian Melchior;
Frank Clemente, Rich Staropoli, Marc Ambinder, Julian Zelizer, Christina
Greer, Maria Hinojosa
DORIAN WARREN, MSNBC HOST: This morning my question, what does China want
with all that New Zealand farmland?
Plus, corporations that take the money and run.
And, the secret service mission to secure and seclude.
But first, the latest on the deadly Ebola disease here at home.
Good morning, I`m Dorian Warren in for Melissa Harris-Perry.
We have a lot of news to cover this morning, including the tense standoff
unfolding in Hong Kong and the latest on the secret service investigation.
But we begin with growing concern over the first Ebola patient diagnosed in
According to Dallas hospital officials, Thomas Duncan`s condition has been
downgraded to critical. We`ll go live to Dallas for the latest in just a
moment. Also, the American free lance photographer who contracted Ebola in
Liberia is expected to arrive in Nebraska tomorrow for treatment. Ashoka
Mukpo was working for NBC when he was diagnosed. He is the fifth American
known to have contracted the disease.
Right now in this country, the focus remains on Thomas Duncan. The CDC
says at least nine people had close contact with Duncan and none of them
has displayed any symptoms. As many as 40 other people who may have had
contact with Duncan are also being monitored just to be safe. This case
has raised questions about the United States` ability to control the spread
of Ebola, but the head of the CDC says health officials are on top of the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: Everything we`ve seen until now reinforces what
we`ve known for the past 40 years. We know how to stop outbreaks of Ebola.
In this country we have health care infection control and public health
systems that are tried and true and will stop before there`s any widespread
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Now for the latest, NBC`s Mark Potter joins us from Dallas.
Mark, what more can you tell us about Thomas Duncan`s condition?
MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dorian, it clearly has
worsened. They are putting him on the critical list is a change from what
he was on Friday when he was listed in serious condition. The hospital is
not saying much about that, but family members in North Carolina talking to
medical officials here in Dallas tell us that he is on a ventilator. He is
on a dialysis machine. And he is being treated with highly experimental
anti-viral drugs, all suggesting that he`s in a very tough shape right now.
A nephew tells us -- tells NBC News that they were actually able to talk to
him from Tuesday through Friday morning by phone, calling the isolation
unit, but when they called on Saturday, they were told that things had
changed, that Duncan could not talk to them, that he had been incubated and
so that started causing very great concern on the part of the family.
Now, a medical source for our affiliated TV station here in Dallas, KXAS,
says that while he is on life support, the fact that he is young, 42-years-
old, does give officials some hope that he can survive this. But on the
"Today" show this morning, the CDC director was asked if sometimes
conditions get worse before they start to get better again and his answer
was just flat out that he is very concerned about this patient. So, it`s -
- I don`t want to say touch and go, but it seems to be that when you talk
to the various people who are watching it closely.
WARREN: What more can you tell us about the family that was evacuated from
the apartment where Duncan was staying?
POTTER: Well, they`re currently in an undisclosed location in a gated
community in a house that`s sort of isolated within that community that has
been donated by somebody in the faith-based community for them to use now.
It`s a woman and her three -- and three family members.
A local minister here said that actually Duncan was coming here to join her
and to try to become married to her. They had a relationship in Liberia
that broke apart years ago. He came here for that but now of course he is
in the hospital and the family is being monitored very closely to see if
any of them contracted Ebola. Nobody here in Dallas has done that yet, but
officials say if it happens, they will be ready, Dorian.
WARREN: NBC`s Mark Potter in Dallas, thank you.
Turning now to another developing story in Hong Kong, where a deadline has
been set and the clock is ticking. The next 12 hours are critical to Hong
Kong`s future. The threat from the city`s leader to protesters is clear,
get out of the streets by Monday morning or all necessary actions will be
taken to restore social order. And the last few hours we`ve learned that
some protesters have pulled back, pulled back in a sit-in outside the
offices of Hong Kong`s leader.
The handshake deal between a pro-democracy protester and a police officer
appeared to stem the threat of immediate confrontation. But thousands
remain in the streets protesting the Chinese government`s decision to vet
candidates for an upcoming election. The country`s attempt to tighten
control of Hong Kong`s political process is viewed as a broken promise. A
promise made in 1997 to allow Hong Kong to elect its own leader in 2017.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a revolution. This is only a movement of
people to strive for democracy to get back the rights that should be
enjoyed by all the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: The protest`s first week was mostly peaceful, a snapshot of
successful civil disobedience. Images of (INAUDIBLE) prevailed. The
protesters who were mostly students and young professionals were observed
as polite as they picked up trash and sorted for recycling. But in the
last few days, pro-Beijing demonstrators have tried to forcibly shut down
the rallies. The counter demonstrators provoked bloody scuffles and women
have reported being sexually assaulted and harassed. The director of
amnesty international Hong Kong said the city`s police force is present but
failing to protect peaceful protesters.
When Hong Kong, the former British colony was returned to China, it created
a unique arrangement commonly referred to as one country, two systems.
That structure encouraged the free flow of western capital to continue and
much to Hong Kong and China`s economic benefit.
At the time of the handover, Hong Kong made up 16 percent of China`s GDP,
but now it`s a meager three percent. Many say that`s part of the reason
China has decided to flex its muscle. It`s not that simple. Hong Kong
remains relevant as a critical and stable hub for international investment.
Joining me now, Peter Goodman, editor in chief of the international
business times, Jillian Melchior, a writer for national review as a fellow
for the Franklin center and independent women`s forum, Christina Greer,
assistant professor of political science at Fordham University and Gordon
Chang, columnist at forbes.com and author of "the coming collapse of
Thank you all for joining me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
WARREN: So, Gordon, tell us first what should we make of these protests
and what`s going to happen?
GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST AT FORBES.COM: I think on Monday morning we`re
going to know a lot more because I don`t think the protesters are going to
leave the streets which is really what C.Y. Long, the chief executive of
Hong Kong, in other words, the new governor, is basically going to say get
out. Now, I think it`s a hollow threat. We have seen them use force
before on Sunday. We saw the use of the triads on Friday. It didn`t work.
As a matter of fact, it was counterproductive.
WARREN: Can you tell us what the triads are?
CHANG: The triads are basically gangsters or goons. And we have seen them
very active in Hong Kong this year. There was a near fatal beating of a
journalist at the end of February and we`ve seen other incidents they have
been involved in. And of course, we saw them on Friday as they attacked
protesters in both two locations coordinated, same time, same tactics,
really was directed by somebody, probably Beijing.
WARREN: Peter, how is this different from the response to China in 1989,
and we all have images of Tiananmen Square in our head?
PETER GOODMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES: Well, don`t
know yet. I mean, one of the dynamics that makes this very volatile, as
you alluded during the opening segment, this goes back to 1997 and the
handover of Hong Kong, which was then a British colony, back to China and
the creation of this one country, two systems scenario.
Well, there`s part of this movement that says we just want that promise of
what we got in 1997. We want democracy here. We want to be able to
directly elect our leadership. But there are a lot of young people who
barely remember 1997, let alone 1989 when Beijing opened fire on protesters
in Tiananmen Square in Beijing who are essentially saying we don`t want one
country, two systems, we want our own country. We don`t want China. We
don`t want to have to compete with an influx of mainland students for slots
at university. We don`t want the pollution that they have in China. We
don`t want the sense of dysfunction that pervades in a lot of major Chinese
At the same time, for the leadership in Beijing and the proxy leadership in
Hong Kong, it`s a highly volatile situation because they have now dug in.
They have essentially said you`ve got to get out. And for the party in
Beijing, their legitimacy today rests on their ability to improve living
standards across China and nationalism.
And you know, let`s not forget this flexing of muscles that you`re talking
about. It`s not just Hong Kong. I mean there`s been a crackdown on the
Weagers (ph) in (INAUDIBLE). There`s some loosening we see in terms of
relationships with Tibet. But the nationalism that we see playing out in
terms of confrontation with Japan and the East China Sea with many
southeastern Asia countries in the South China Sea, this is part of the
leadership in Beijing, essentially saying we`re done with worrying about
public opinion. We`re now a strong superpower and we are going to do what
we want to do. So you have students on the one hand really dug in saying
we`re not going to accept anything less than the chief executive leaving
and direct suffrage as promised in 1997. And you have a leadership in
Beijing saying, you know, we`re not playing around here. It`s time to get
on with business.
WARREN: Christina, in terms of social movements and civil disobedience,
and Peter has mentioned that Beijing is not as concerned about public
opinion as maybe other leaders in democracies are, how do you think this
protest might play itself out?
CHRISTINA GREER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, we know
that it`s already affected global markets tremendously, right, because a
peaceful Hong Kong essentially makes global markets feel very safe, but
when we see this unrest, because we know that many people can`t necessarily
rely on Chinese judicial systems and there is a lack of trust when it comes
to China in many ways, so we`re looking at Hong Kong as stability, right,
not just because of geographic locale.
So when we think about social movements and how this could sort of catch
fire in other issues that we`re talking about, say Tibet, say different
provinces across China, this is very concerning for, I think, the larger
Chinese government to really think about young people as the future of
making movements happen.
WARREN: Jillian, in terms of -- Christina just mentioned this issue of
stability and financial markets. Is the world watching?
JILLIAN MELCHIOR, A WRITER FOR NATIONAL REVIEW: Yes. I think the world is
absolutely watching. And I think inside of China is watching too. So what
Hong Kongers are basically saying is they have had economic liberty. They
were economic free than the United States. But economic liberty isn`t
enough. You look at that model in Mainland China and it`s resulted in
rampant corruption and extreme materialism that plays out in horrible ways.
They don`t want that. And they want some political check on it. So I
think for China this has become existential because if Hong Kongers can
push and get it, Mainland China is going to want to get it too.
WARREN: Everyone, stay with me. We need to take a quick break. More on
the unrest in Hong Kong and suspicion of government sanctioned gang
violence when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people get paid by Mainlanders and have been
trying to cause trouble around here. They`re trying to take away the
barricades. A lot of people went over to stop them from causing trouble.
As a result, they cause trouble and make an excuse for the police to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: That was a pro-democracy protester in Hong Kong describing the
counterdemonstrations and what many are saying are coordinated attacks
between the police, local government and even the local mafia there known
as the triad.
So Gordon, we talked about this in the last segment. Tell us more about
the triad and tell us also about how this might indication a division
between the people who are protesting and others that are pro-Beijing.
CHANG: Yes. Triads have existed for hundreds of years. But they have
become especially prominent in Hong Kong after China took over Hong Kong in
1997 because, you know, (INAUDIBLE), a prior Chinese leader talked about
the triads in Hong Kong, some of them being patriotic. And so therefore,
they have gotten unofficial support. But they have gotten a lot of
support. And that`s why they have been using the triads to do things that
they can`t have their fingerprints on. The government can`t have its
So essentially, the triads right now have attacked the pro-democracy
demonstrators. It was coordinated from all that we can tell. And there`s
only one party that would do this and that, of course, is the Chinese
The Hong Kong government won`t do anything, you know, without consulting
Beijing first. And this was really counterproductive because the crowds
were pretty small in Mongkok (ph), where they were attacked, under 100.
And after the triad attack, they went to over a thousand.
So this is clearly showing the Hong Kong government and the Chinese
government can`t influence events on the streets. Because every time they
use their tools like violence, the crowds just get bigger.
WARREN: Peter, you spent some time in China.
WARREN: Tell us more about how can the balance between these two systems
be sustained, if at all?
GOODMAN: Well, I think that`s very much up in the air now. I mean at this
point you have both sides dug in on two very different conceptions and two
sides is misleading in that within Hong Kong you have different conceptions
about what the future ought to be. Whether Hong Kong ought to be a kind of
testing ground for democracy for greater China or whether Hong Kong ought
to be much like independence advocates in Taiwan see things its own place
that can be culturally Chinese and separately Hong Kong with its own
That`s very much in dispute. But one of the things that I think remains
mysterious at this moment is, you know, the violence, these thugs who went
in and attacked the demonstrators. I mean, I think Gordon is correct to
say that nothing happens in Hong Kong from the government`s standpoint
without some coordination from Beijing, but how granular.
I mean, personally, I`d really like to know. I mean did Beijing order
these thugs in or did the foolish Hong Kong government decide of its own
accord to send the thugs out or did the shop owners or Nathan road who are
losing sales during a national holiday with a lot of mainland tourists in
town wanting to buy handbags and iphones, did they send the thugs in.
Because we should remember that before the violence broke out, the student
movement was beginning to splinter. I mean, there was a sense that, you
know, we`re in danger of becoming a nuisance in the eyes of people who make
their living in Hong Kong and things were quieting down. And that violence
has really reinvigorated this movement and that`s why we`re so dug in now.
It`s back fired on Beijing.
WARREN: You mentioned handbags and iphones and I want to move to shoes and
dresses. So we have a shot here. Hong Kong`s executive leader`s daughter
upset many of the protesters with a facebook post, Christina, that said
thanks for all my beautiful shoes and dresses. That, I`m sure, must be
infuriating on the protesters. What happens it Beijing and Hong Kong
leaders crack down on this protest? And how should the U.S. respond, if at
GREER: Well, it`s interesting because my students actually saw this
facebook post before I did, which really does speak to the power of social
media. And so it puts Hong Kong protesters in a very interesting position,
right, because now they have essentially seen from the leadership what a
small percentage or maybe a representative sample really feels about them,
right? Essentially you all are paying for our lifestyle. And so, this
puts the United States in even more precarious position because we know
that we`re obviously building relationships with China, some more stable
than others. But if this movement, as Jillian said, really does sort of
take hold into the larger Chinese populous, right, and people start to see
that is this how our leadership not only thinks about us but treats us
ultimately, it really does put not necessarily Barack Obama, but the future
leadership of this country in a really interesting position as to how are
we going to move forward with some substantive relationships in these
global markets when there`s a growing distrust and corruption essentially
in Hong Kong and Mainland China.
WARREN: Jillian, I want to get you in really quickly. You lived in China
for a while as well. Dresses and shoes, is this very tone deaf from the
daughter of the leader of Hong Kong?
MELCHIOR: It`s incredibly tone deaf and I think it`s a dangerous game.
I`ve seen a lot of comparisons between what`s happening in Hong Kong and
what happened in Ukraine at the mode on protest. You`ve got the same sort
of triggers, this very conspicuous corrupt consumption. You`ve got
protesters that are getting government sponsored thugs essentially cracking
down on them and in Ukraine, you know, they waited it out and they got what
they wanted. I think if I were Beijing, rather than take a play out of
Putin`s book I`d be looking at that with caution.
WARREN: Up next, stay with me. Up next, China is on a buying spree of an
essential and very limited resource.
WARREN: Many of the protesters fighting for democracy in Hong Kong are
middle class, members of China`s fastest growing income group. By 2025,
520 million people are expected to make up China`s emerging middle class.
That`s more than half of the country`s anticipated population.
Now, just for some perspective, the United States` entire population stands
at about 319 million people today. As income rises, families tend to spend
more on small luxuries and a smaller percentage of money is spent on the
But one of the biggest basics, food consumption, will continue to grow in
absolute spending as the overall economy expands. China is one of the
fastest growing food markets in the world. It comprises 20 percent of the
world`s population but only nine percent of its farmable land. The
farmable land that does exist is worsened by water pollution and poor soil
conditions making a headline like this no surprise.
A Chinese company is awaiting approval to buy one of New Zealand`s prize
farms where sheep and cattle are raised on pristine, green pastures. The
land is valued at more than $70 million for 34,000 acres. It`s a
controversial deal but New Zealand farmers worried about the repercussions
of selling off their precious real estate.
New Zealand`s government recently created stricter rules for land buys in
which the purchaser had to demonstrate how the local economy would benefit.
It`s the most recent development in a trend. Chinese companies already
control farmland in other countries, including Ukraine, Cambodia,
Australia, Chile and the United States.
So, Gordon, how concerned should we be about China buying up land not only
in New Zealand but in other parts of the world?
CHANG: You know, I don`t think people in New Zealand at the end of the day
are going to be that upset. At least they`re not as upset as people in
central Asian countries because to China`s west, the country had been
buying up big farm tracts. And this is not just a question of people
buying land. It is a question of sovereignty because China has just
recently settled its territory disputes with these countries. But these
countries are worried about the Chinese moving into there and then Beijing
later on claiming this should be part of China.
So these farm buys in central Asia are extremely controversial. They could
even bring down governments, which they did in one of them. And so, you
know, this is something which is going to be very closely watched. New
Zealand, yes, that`s a problem, but central Asia, much more so.
WARREN: So, Peter, bringing it back to the U.S., we know that a Chinese
company bought Smithfield, which is one of the largest pork processors in
the country and the world.
WARREN: What should we think in terms of the U.S., China buying up U.S.
GOODMAN: I think, frankly, we should welcome it. I mean, we have a
regulatory process and we should scrutinize each deal and make sure there`s
no national security issue, there`s no food safety issue.
I mean we have rules that apply to the people who produce our food. If a
Chinese company wants to come and take dollars and invest them in the
United States and employ people and create demand for Chinese-made goods
and services in China, that`s generally a good thing. I mean, let`s
remember that right now China is sitting on a multi trillion dollar stack
of American debt. They could sell that debt with the push of a button. I
mean that wouldn`t be a logical move to make, but if they decided, for
instance, that the Saudis, who also own a lot of our debt, were under
pressure from jihadists to unload the American debt, it could suddenly
become rational to unload a lot of U.S. dollars. They could do that with a
computer mouse and that would have tremendously destabilizing consequences.
When you own something like a factory, a food processor, you can`t just
unload it. You`re actually invested. And so I also think, frankly, that
there`s a racial dimension to a lot of this. I mean, when you know, Dutch
companies, when German companies come in and they buy up American
companies, we don`t tend to get all agitated.
Now, we have to be concerned about Chinese government implications, given
that this is still a largely authoritarian society, but in terms of the
flow of dollars, I mean, that`s to be welcomed. We need people to create
jobs in America.
WARREN: Gordon, I want to come back to you for a minute and talk about the
middle class, 520 million people. That`s a staggering number. What should
we make of China`s growing middle class? And in fact we know from a few
weeks ago, Alibaba went public and created all these new millionaires in
China. What should we make of the increasing growth of the middle class
and new millionaires in China?
CHANG: Well, you know, that`s a good thing but its changing Chinese
society and it is creating fear on the part of the communist party.
Because when you look back and the party looks back at all of this, many of
these revolutions that we`ve seen in the last two decades have been created
by the middle class, which is an historical trend.
And so, when you get people that have a stake in society, they don`t
necessarily buy into the notion that a one-party system is appropriate for
a modernizing China. And that`s why we`ve seen a lot of protests in China,
including two Wednesdays ago when a number of middle class Chinese in the
center of Shanghai, People`s Square, demonstrated in support of the Hong
Kong students. And they not only did that, but they also asked for the
vote for themselves in China.
And in addition, they listed their names on a social media posting,
basically saying to the Chinese government, come and get me. This is very,
very serious. That`s going to change Chinese society.
WARREN: So, Jillian, and Christina mentioned this earlier, in terms of the
role of social media, Shanghai protests, people asking for the vote in an
authoritarian regime, how well is China doing in terms of censoring what`s
happening in Hong Kong? And might this protest spread using other kinds of
MELCHIOR: I think they are absolutely going to spread. One of the things
I was really intrigued with when I was in China is the creativity with
which the Chinese get around censors. So, for example, Tiananmen Square
protests, calling it what was it, May 35th? Yes, because they couldn`t get
it blocked that way.
So I think as much as the government tries, you`ve got people that want
freedom. They`re willing to take to the Internet and do it and they`re
going to do it more creative way than the awe authoritarian government. It
is just the way it is.
WARREN: I know you want to get in here, Christi, but we`ve got to get a
Thank you, Gordon Chang. The rest of the panel is sticking around.
Still to come this morning, the secret service and the president, a very
complicated relationship. But first, where is all that iphone money going?
WARREN: Just three days into the launch of Apple`s iphone 6 and 6 plus,
the company had sold more than 10 million of the new devices, a record
Apple says. Part of the success comes from Apple`s reach. The company
with headquarters in Cupertino, California, is already selling the new
iphones in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong
Kong, Japan, Singapore and the United Kingdom. By the end of the year, new
iphones will be on sale in 115 countries.
Yes, the company that started in a modest California home is most certainly
now global. At an average price point of $350, Apple`s new iphones in just
three days brought in somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.5 billion in
revenue. That`s more than a billion dollars of revenue a day, just from
the phones. The money is no doubt a boon to the computer company, a reason
to smile for shareholders and you might think very exciting to the United
States treasury department, eager to get its cut of an American company`s
But much of that revenue generated around the world doesn`t come back here
to the United States. It goes to Ireland, where Apple is subject to a
lower corporate tax rate and in a global economy. That kind of corporate
practice has become pretty much standard practice. But buying a foreign
company so that your American company can be subject to friendlier tax
codes in that country, that`s a newer trend, and the Obama administration
is pushing back. That story is next.
WARREN: Nerdland, stay with me here for a moment because this one is
Be honest. When someone utters the term "tax inversion" do you hear this?
That may just be what big corporations are counting on because those two
words that sent most of us into something resembling the matrix will cost
the U.S. an estimated $20 billion and more in tax revenue over the next
Think of it sort of like the corporate dine and dash. Your rich friend
invites you to dinner, enjoys your charm and good looks, orders widely from
the menu and then bolts when someone has to pay the check. And someone
does have to pay the check. Everybody else, namely in this case, small
businesses and consumers.
Now, imagine that on an international scale that check paying. A U.S.-
based company with American employees selling goods and services in America
taking advantage of American infrastructure buys a smaller company in
another country, like, say, Ireland or the Bahamas or the Caymans and then
nominally relocates, there by being able to take advantage of that other
country`s lower tax rate.
Earlier this year, Burger King left many of its loyal U.S. customers
feeling flame broiled when it announced plans to buy Canadian coffee and
doughnut chain Tim Horton`s and moving its headquarters north of the border
making it a Canadian company.
Burger King says the move isn`t a tax dodge, rather just a part of long-
term global expansion plan. But you don`t have to be Warren Buffett to see
the whopper-sized benefits of the king relocating. Canada`s corporate tax
rate is about 15 percent. The U.S. clocks in at 35 percent. Though, the
effective corporate tax rate is substantially lower. We`ll get to more on
When you consider that unlike most developed countries, the U.S. taxes
companies based on their global profits, not just the money they make at
home. It`s not hard to do the math here. President Obama has crunch the
numbers and says corporate deserters need to be stopped.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we`re trying to do is
to say that if you simply acquire a small company in Ireland or some other
country to take advantage of the low tax rate, you start saying we`re now
magically an Irish company, despite the fact that you may only have 100
employees there and you`ve got 10,000 employees in the United States.
You`re just gaming the system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: The president isn`t waiting for Congress to take action. Late
last month the treasury department announced new rules that reduce the
appeal of U.S. companies saying bye to their tax burden.
Still with me, Peter Goodman from the International Business Times, Jillian
Melchior, a writer for National Review, Christina Greer, Fordham
University, assistant professor of political science and now Frank
Clemente, executive director of Americans for tax fairness.
Peter, I want to come to you. And by the way, I have my iphone 6 here.
GOODMAN: The people of Ireland should be thanking you.
WARREN: Well, and -- but, I`m a little incensed about the tax inversions.
On the other hand, this is the American way. Everybody is trying to reduce
their taxes. Why should we be upset about this?
GOODMAN: Well, I think for a lot of regular people, it does offend their
sense of fair play that you take a company like Apple, which has benefited
from American military technology and a public-private partnership with
Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley that gave us this
great thing called the worldwide web which is essential to a lot of their
products, that has exploited the notion of being an American company, which
around the world still has, you know, great branding appeal. We are
educating the children of their employees and protecting them from fire and
crime and mowing lawns of public parks and yet when it comes time to pay
the tax bill, actually we`re an Irish company. We have, you know, several
hundred employees, if that. In fact ask Siri why Apple is in Ireland and
she won`t be able to tell you.
So yes, I mean, I think -- I mean, not to make light of it, it offends our
basic sense of fairness in the political conversation.
WARREN: Now, Frank, so you just brought up a good point here and I want
Frank to help us understand this. Tell us the difference between tax
avoidance and inversions.
FRANK CLEMENTE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICANS FOR TAX FAIRNESS: Well,
massive tax avoidance is happening already, and you brought up Apple. I
mean, they avoid tens of billions of dollars in taxes every year because of
the shell game they play, right. They`re basically making it look like
their profits are being earned in Ireland rather than here in America and
they pay a much lower tax rate here in America.
I also just want to say parenthetically about Apple, 95 percent of its
research and development occurs here in America. That`s what is so
outrageous about it or that`s how they generate their profits off of their
technology and yet they`re making it look like their technology and profits
are being generated abroad.
WARREN: So in Apple`s defense, I just want to get Tim Cook here, I want to
listen to some sound because he has a response to this question. Let`s
take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM COOK, CEO, APPLE: We pay all the taxes we owe every single dollar. We
not only comply with the laws, but we comply with the spirit of the laws.
We don`t depend on tax gimmicks. We don`t move intellectual property
offshore and use it to sell our products back to the United States to avoid
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: OK. So that`s Tim Cook testifying in 2013 in front of a Senate
subcommittee. So come on.
CLEMENTE: His company was being grilled. A major report was put out by
the committee that he testified before that said they`re avoiding tens of
billions of dollars a year in taxes. But straight up, he was just, you
know, he was doing a testimonial dodge just like the company does tax
dodges. You asked before about what`s the difference between an inversion
and normal tax avoidance.
In an inversion, you have the U.S. company which is the big fish here,
right, and they`re buying a small company in Ireland, but they`re actually
becoming a subsidiary of that small company.
WARREN: Of that smaller company.
CLEMENTE: Exactly right. And so their address changes, their headquarters
doesn`t change. OK, Medtronic, a big medical device company here in
America, they`re going to stay in Minnesota, all their employees, all their
headquarters, they`re just going to buy this smaller company (INAUDIBLE)
over in Ireland which actually has its headquarters in Massachusetts. So
if you can believe that.
CLEMENTE: And so, but by having that presence on paper in Ireland, it gets
to pay the Irish tax rate rather than the American tax rate and the rest of
us pick up the tab for that.
WARREN: OK. So I want to ask the question about why the treasury
department is cracking down now. And let`s put up this shot here of the
inversion crackdown by the Obama administration. It has three elements.
Eliminate hopscotch loans, no more premerger slimming and no fattening of
Frank, and then I will make the rest of you in. Frank, can you translate
that into English for us? I have no idea what that mean?
CLEMENTE: OK. The hopscotch loans is the biggest factor here. Take a
company like Pfizer, right. We`ve all heard that Pfizer was trying to buy
Astra Zeneca and it is still on the hunt right now to buy a company
offshore to do an inversion. They have $69 billion sitting offshore right
now in profits that are U.S. profits, but the way our tax law is
structured, they don`t have to pay taxes on those profits until they are
brought back to the United States.
Under an inversion, those profits can get loaned to the new foreign parent
company and then through that it can then get brought back to America and
not be taxed at all. So they would avoid taxes say they 30 percent, 35
percent rate on $69 billion. We`re talking big bucks.
WARREN: Jillian, OK, so we`re talking about avoidance of taxes, tax
inversions. The official corporate tax rate is 35 percent, but we know
corporations don`t pay 35 percent. The effective rate is much lower. What
is all the hoopla? They don`t even pay the appropriate 35 percent. Why
are they doing all of this?
MELCHIOR: I think it is pretty legitimate hoopla. And if you factor in
state taxes, it`s actually closer to 40 percent. And that`s a problem
WARREN: Well, some estimates so as low as 13, 14 percent.
MELCHIOR: Whether or not they are paying it, we do have the highest
corporate tax rate in the developed world. And with the inversion thing,
we tax profits earned abroad. There are only like five other industrial
countries in the world that do that.
So I think we really need to be asking ourselves here not how do we game
the system, how do we change the tax code to track companies, and it`s how
do we change the tax system so that they want to be here so that there`s
not that incentive for them to do it.
I mean, with Apple, you know, like it or not, they weren`t doing anything
illegal. They were things -- submitting -- I`ve heard of two feet of
paperwork for the IRS every year. This has been a long-term thing. I
think this need to be about systematic change not about calling companies
out because we don`t like how they are dealing with the existing tax cuts
and abiding by the law.
WARREN: All right, so we`ve talking a lot of legalese here. When we come
back I want to get Christina and Peter in on this and ask the question
should we be morally outraged.
More Nerdland in just a minute.
WARREN: It looks like rules imposed by the treasury department has stopped
U.S. companies from dodging taxes by moving their corporate offices
overseas, has stopped at least one merger.
Salix pharmaceuticals announced it has thrown in a planned $2.7 million
deal to join forces with Italian drug maker Cosmo. "Bloomberg" reports
it`s the first time a U.S. company has cited the Obama administration`s
tougher rules to give up on plans to move overseas for the sake of lower
Frank, I want to come to you first. Does this decision mean that these new
rules are working?
GOODMAN: I mean, it seems to be so, at least in the margins, given that
the companies themselves are saying this is what did it. But I mean, I
think until there`s congressional action, we`re still not going to have a
wholesale change here that a lot of people are calling for and like
virtually everything else in Congress, where largely at a standstill. I
mean, nobody at Congress has an appetite or the Republicans in Congress
rather don`t have an appetite for handing a victory to the Obama
administration even though, strangely enough, this is one of the issues on
which both sides in terms of the largest talking points, like let`s close
loopholes, they all rhetorically agree.
WARREN: And sorry, Peter. I meant to say Peter.
GOODMAN: That`s OK.
WARREN: Frank, you say the government can put an end to these. What more
can we be doing?
CLEMENTE: Well, the public has to get outraged about this. I mean, you
know, this has been a fairly obscure battle. The business pages have
tremendous number of news stories about this. But until it, really, gets
out there to the public, because fundamentally this is about power in
Washington and who controls the agenda. And what we see is -- I mean
there`s a lot of rhetoric about wanting to close corporate loopholes,
including wanting to close this inversion loophole so these companies can`t
do it, but we can`t get over the hump. And the reason we can`t get over
the hump is these companies are very big. They dole out a lot of campaign
contributions. They have a lot of lobbyists walking around the hill. And
they also exist out in the states.
They do employ folks out in the states. They have some big operations out
in some of the states so they`re very influential. And so Congress feels
enough pressure to change the law to stop these inversions and beyond, the
much bigger -- inversions are relatively small compared to the larger tax
avoidance. And we`re avoiding -- not we, corporations are avoiding about
$100 billion a year in taxes through all these offshore loopholes.
WARREN: I`m glad you said we because I just want to make the point that
the tax burden has increased for individuals, meaning we, and decreased
over time for corporations.
And Christina, in terms of changing the law to really deal with this
declining contribution, frankly, of corporations, I want to play sound
again from Tim Cook who`s basically arguing here that we haven`t caught up
to the digital age. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOK: Unfortunately, the tax code has not kept up with the digital age.
The tax system handicaps American corporations in relation to our foreign
competitors who don`t have such constraints on the free movement of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: OK. So how do we catch up in the digital age?
GREER: I`m not buying it.
WARREN: Why not?
GREER: Because we have growing inequality, right? So much so that it`s
greater than apartheid South Africa, right? I wouldn`t be so outraged if
we didn`t have crumbling infrastructure, if we had solid public schools, if
we had job security, if we had some sort of future prospects that wouldn`t
further increase the incredibly rich getting richer because of these
loopholes and working class Americans who used to be middle class Americans
but now they`re working class, working poor Americans not benefiting from,
you know, what Tim Cook is saying. It`s just a technological glitch. It
is not, right?
These are -- the beauty and the curse of American democracy is that you can
always find your way around the law, right? Yes, it has helped certain
groups over time, but this is one of those instances where we`re seeing
wealthy corporations benefiting from their ability to hire lawyers and
lobbyists and essentially buy off members of Congress to make themselves
even more wealthy.
WARREN: OK. I`m glad you said that you said buy off members of Congress,
Jillian, I want to play some sound of a chamber of commerce ad and get your
response to the question about how difficult it might be to change our tax
code. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are some who want American employers and their
workers to go backwards. They want to go back in time and retroactively
rewrite the tax laws so they can impose taxes that weren`t owed in the
first place on American businesses. It sounds crazy, but it`s true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: It sounds crazy, but it`s true. I mean these poor corporations.
MELCHIOR: Well, I think here`s the deal. So I wouldn`t argue that there
needs to be tax reform. Our tax policy is so complicated. I think it`s
bad that companies have to hire that many attorneys to be able to negotiate
it. That said, this is something that Congress needs to change. And
President Obama has tried to change it by executive action. I don`t think
that`s really fair. I think it needs to be something that`s con
congressionally that follows the system and that`s not how it`s being done.
I mean, you`ve got Jack Lew saying at first that he didn`t think he had the
legal authority to do it and then turning around and doing it. And I`ve
tried to find office of legal counsel memos for it. It submitted a record
or request and I can`t find them. So I want to know what the legal basis
of doing this through executive action is compared to Congress. And if
Congress needs to do it, I think they just got to man up.
WARREN: And woman up too maybe?
MELCHIOR: And woman up too.
WARREN: Frank, how hard is this going to be -- look, this Congress -- it`s
gridlocked. What can we do really to change the tax code?
CLEMENTE: We`ve got to elect the right folks to office and they`re the
ones who are going to have to change the tax code. But people out there,
your listeners, your viewers have got to get incensed and enraged and
GOODMAN: I mean, I think to come full circle, you asked should there be
moral outrage. It clearly, is moral outrage because we`re having a
conversation about innovation in the tax code instead of innovation where
Apple is supposed to be giving us innovation. Where Starbucks is supposed
to be giving us innovation, and so must giving us great products and
services that excite us. Instead it seems like they`re spending a lot of
time with their lobbyists and their accountants gaming the system. That`s
the political conversation that we`re having now.
WARREN: Thank you. So much more to say about this but I want to thank all
of you. Thank you to Peter Goodman, Jillian Melchior and Frank Clemente.
Christina will be back in the next hour.
Coming up next, protecting the president. A former secret service agent
joins us with an inside look at the scandal rocking the agency.
Plus, the latest on the Ebola disease here within U.S. borders.
More Nerdland at the top of the hour.
WARREN: Welcome back. I`m Dorian Warren in for Melissa Harris-Perry. We
begin this hour with new details on the first Ebola patient to be diagnosed
in the United States. Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national, is now in
critical condition in a Dallas hospital. We`ll go live to Dallas in a
moment for the latest.
Also the NBC freelance photographer diagnosed with Ebola is expected to
depart Liberia in a few hours. Ashoka Mukpo is expected to arrive in
Nebraska tomorrow for treatment. He is the fifth American known to have
the disease. Another American patient, Dr. Rick Sacra who was successfully
treated for Ebola last month is back in the hospital. Health officials
suspect he has pneumonia and say it`s highly unlikely that he has a relapse
of Ebola but he is being kept in isolation as a precaution.
In the case of Thomas Duncan, the focus is now on those who may have had
contact with him after he became symptomatic. When Duncan first visited
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital he was sent home, even though he was ill
and told a nurse he had recently arrived from Liberia. He was back in the
hospital two days later. Officials with the CDC say at least nine people
had close contact with Duncan, but none of them have shown any symptoms of
Ebola. Another 40 people are also being monitored as a precaution. As the
attention on this case grows, the CDC says reports of possible cases are
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: We have already gotten well over 100
inquiries of possible patients. We`ve assessed every one of those with
state and local health departments, with local health departments and
hospitals, and just this one patient has tested positive. We expect that
we will see more rumors or concerns or possibilities of cases. Until there
is a positive laboratory test, that is what they are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: For the latest on the situation, NBC News correspondent Marc
Potter joins us from Dallas. What more can you tell us, Marc, about how
Thomas Duncan is doing this morning?
MARK POTTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, unfortunately it appears that his
condition has worsened. As noted earlier, he is now listed in critical
condition. That`s a downward turn from where he was Friday when he was
listed in serious condition. This morning on the "Today" show, the CDC
director was asked if sometimes you get worse before you get better, and
his answer had nothing to do with that. He said simply I`m very worried
about this patient and it was very clear that he is concerned. Family
members in North Carolina also share that concern. They say they have been
told by doctors here that he`s on a ventilator, he`s on a dialysis machine
and they are using an experimental anti-viral drug that has not been used
before to try to see if they can turn this around. A nephew tells NBC News
that they had been able to talk to him on Tuesday through Friday when they
would call on the phone to the isolation unit. They could talk to him, but
on Saturday they were told that was no longer the case, he couldn`t talk
because he had been intubated. And, of course, that deeply concerned the
A medical source has told our affiliate here, KXAS, that while he is on
life support, the fact that he is relatively young, 42 years old, does give
him -- gives doctors hope for his survivability, but again the tone this
morning from the CDC director was that there is -- there is deep concern.
We hope to hear more about that at a news conference to come within -- in
about an hour from the CDC devoted to this issue here in Dallas. So we`ll
hear about it. But right now, you know, things are certainly not as
positive as they were o Friday.
WARREN: NBC`s Marc Potter in Dallas, Texas. Thank you very much.
So, now we turn to another story we watched develop throughout the week,
the growing list of recent failures attributed to the Secret Service. One
of the prime directives for an agent of the Secret Service is to stay out
of the spotlight and blend into the background. But as the constant
companions of one of the most recognizable and photographed people on the
planet, well, we can`t help but take notice. In fact for an institution
that prides itself on the ability of its members to be inconspicuous,
ironically many Americans will instantly recognize the iconic image of the
Wherever you see a U.S. president, there they are, just off to the left or
right, maybe trailing at a close distance behind or a few steps ahead. The
guy in the dark suit, eyes constantly moving behind his sunglasses, talking
into his sleeve and listening to the voice in his ear, with a don`t even
think about breathing in the president`s general direction expression on
his face. Or maybe the image you best associate with the Secret Service is
this, agent Clint Hill, moments after President John F. Kennedy was hit by
an assassin`s bullet, leaping atop the president`s car to protect First
Lady Jackie Kennedy. Perhaps it`s Secret Service agents turning themselves
into human shields for wounded President Reagan and rushing him into a limo
and to the hospital after he was shot by John Hinckley in March of 1981.
Whatever the context, the image of the Secret Service has long reflected
its reputation for quietly, but effectively doing the work that has been
its singular mission for more than a century, constant vigilance over the
president of the United States. Agents ready at a moment`s notice to
defend against a threat to his life and, if necessary, sacrifice their own
in the course of duty. But last week, that image of the Secret Service was
shattered and replaced with this. A man outside the White House jumping
the fence, running across the front lawn, through an unlocked door into the
executive mansion, all while carrying a knife. With nary a Secret Service
agent in sight. And as we`d later find out, the intruder, Army veteran
Omar Gonzalez, overpowered the first Secret Service officer he encountered
before running even further into the White House, making it as far as the
East Room before he was tackled by a counter assault agent who was off duty
at the time.
Although the first family wasn`t home during the incident, this spectacular
breach of White House security exposed both the vulnerability of the Secret
Service and the American presidency. And that impression of vulnerability
was only deepened in the days following the White House intrusion by a
string of revelations of previous lapses in the Secret Service`s protection
of the president.
A "Washington Post" report last week revealed the bungled security response
to a shooter who fired bullets into the White House in November of 2011
while Sasha Obama was home with her grandmother, Marian Robinson, and Malia
Obama on her way back home from an outing with friends. Then just days
later, another revelation that during a trip to Atlanta on September 16th,
an armed security contractor made his way onto an elevator with President
Obama. The man didn`t come to the attention of agents until he disobeyed
their orders to stop recording the president with a cell phone camera. Nor
did they realize he was armed until after his elevator encounter with
President Obama. The revelation of security failures ultimately led to the
resignation of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson and a launch of a
full-scale review of the agency. And it`s left the Secret Service, which
has so long been the silent presence in the lingering shadows exposed to
the spotlight of public scrutiny.
Here with me now is Rich Staropoli who was in the Secret Service for 23
years, including as a position as assistant special agent in charge of the
Secret Service`s New York office and six years assigned to the presidential
detail under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. And here is Marc
-- also here is Marc Ambinder, contributing editor at GQ and "The Week" and
author of "Deep State, Inside the Government Secrecy Agency." Marc gained
unprecedented access to the Secret Service when he wrote a 2011 story on
the agency for "The Atlantic." Thank you both for joining us. And Rich, I
want to start with you. What are you thinking as you`ve been watching all
of these revelations about these Secret Service security lapses?
RICH STAROPOLI, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Well, I`ve got to tell you
speaking on behalf of myself and my fellow agents, we are not happy with
what we`ve seen. It`s quite the embarrassment, pretty disgusting what`s
happened. But it was a culmination of a number of years` worth of hiring
practices where we`ve hired, to put it nicely, nice people. The public has
a certain perception of how a Secret Service agent should present himself
and how we should act. And basically he should do his job. What we`ve
hired now and we`ve gotten away from that. We`ve hired people that are
afraid to put hands on people that are greatly constrained by senior
management that have become more concerned about operating within the
bureaucracy and possibly about their next job down the road and have
handcuffed the working populous from doing their job and what they`re paid
to do. You know, I love how everyone mentions Clint Hill, and, of course,
the actions of Tim McCarthy at the Reagan shooting. Some would argue that
those guys, what they did is heroic. I would counter with, no, those guys
did their job. And when Omar Gonzalez jumped over that fence last week, we
saw a complete breakdown. Uniformed division officers simply did not do
their job and that`s the basic problem with the Secret Service right now.
WARREN: OK. So, this isn`t -- these aren`t isolated or recent incidents.
And you said part of the problem has been the hiring of nice people. So we
might remember, some of us might remember the Secret Service prostitution
WARREN: From a few years back. Nice people, but also people that like to
STAROPOLI: That`s right.
WARREN: These failures aren`t a recent development. So why now are they
coming to public notice? Has this been a long-term systemic failure within
STAROPOLI: Yeah, I think it has been a long term and it`s a long time
coming. You know, this is not -- I use the example, this is not the New
York City Police Department where you`ve got 60,000 employees. You get one
or two bad apples or people that don`t meet the standards, you can bury
them somewhere. This is a very small organization with an incredibly
complex and incredibly high profile important job to do. You cannot
continually hire people who don`t meet the standards and who are not up to
the task of doing this job. Hiring people that have never had a job
before, Secret Service agent or uniformed division officer, should not and
cannot be the first-time job for someone. Yet we`re starting to see more
and more of that and it works fine when nothing happens.
WARREN: OK. So what should be done now and then I want to bring you in on
this, Marc. But what do you think should happen to prevent these mistakes?
STAROPOLI: I think in the bigger picture what we have to get back to the
standards of hiring that were instituted years and years ago. Somewhere
along the line, maybe during the Clinton administration, we`ve gotten away
from hiring people that could actually do the job. I would start with the
cleansing of the House at headquarters. You`ve got too much of a
bureaucracy there. You`ve got a chain of command that works, if this was
the U.S. Army, not for an agency that prides itself on doing things in the
immediacy with the sense of urgency that the Secret Service needs to do.
The chain of command is way too complicated here. And a lot of that I
attribute to the creation of positions solely so these bureaucrats at
headquarters can continually promote their friends and the nepotism is
running rampant here and it`s killing the Secret Service.
WARREN: So, Marc, I want to bring you in on this. You have a very unique
perspective as the very first journalist to get an inside look at how the
Secret Service operates. What can you tell us about these recent
revelations and what should be done?
MARK AMBINDER, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, GQ: There`s no question that
collectively they sap morale. I mean the week that all this came out,
agents, as anyone who was in New York knows, were here putting together the
United Nations General Assembly and that was the event that I went behind
the scenes with a few years ago. It`s an amazing event where you have two-
thirds of the world`s leaders come to New York, a city that`s been attacked
by terrorists multiple times, and it goes off without a hitch. And it`s a
testament to what the Secret Service can do when it`s performing at its
highest levels. So you`ve seen this fascinating dichotomy over the past
couple of weeks. You`ve seen them perform amazingly as an organization and
then you`ve seen these bewildering failures, which suggest endemic
WARREN: OK, so Jill Clancy, who we should say was formerly director of
corporate security for NBC Universal, which is the parent company of
Comcast, has now taken over as temporary director. And Rich, you worked
with Joe, what can you tell us about him and the test that lies ahead for
STAROPOLI: Big fan of Joe Clancy. I think there isn`t anyone that I could
think of that would embody the model of the Secret Service worthy of trust
and confidence more than Joe Clancy. That is a man of honor and integrity
and it`s also a man who`s not afraid when push comes to shove to lay hands
on people and take care of business and carry out what the public thinks a
Secret Service agent should be doing when the job needs to be done. But
Joe cannot do this job alone. What it will be interesting to see is who he
brings along with him to clean up this mess and get things straightened
down. This isn`t something that can linger for five years. You know,
we`re not looking to reinvent General Motors here. This is a job that
needs to be -- these actions have to be taken now, in the immediacy.
WARREN: Rich Staropoli, thank you very much. Marc is going to stick
around. Up next, the trade-off for securing the president usually means
secluding the president and why the occupants of the White House often
think of it more as a jailhouse. But first, "Saturday Night Live`s" take
on the Secret Service story from last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, some of what you said tonight is a
little worrisome. That combined with the recent security breaches at the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve, Steve, Steve, we had problems with our Secret
Service, but I promise you, we`ve taken care of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, Mr. President. There is a man with a
sharpened screwdriver here to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think that this might be time sensitive as he was
running across the front lawn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know what, I`ll just have him wait in the Oval
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Once upon a time the American presidency was not surrounded by the
rarefied air we have come to associate with the office. In fact the White
House was once an open house. After President Thomas Jefferson began a
tradition of allowing public access to the presidential mansion during the
inauguration. That tradition was most famously celebrated after the
swearing in of President Andrew Jackson when, a rowdy crowd of more than
20,000 members of the public invaded the White House. In fact, the Secret
Service didn`t even come into existence until nine presidents later. On
April 14TH, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln established the agency not to
protect the American president, but to defend American currency against
rampant financial fraud. Now if that date seems a little familiar to you,
it`s because ironically President Lincoln was assassinated later that same
day. But it would take Congress another 36 years and the assassination of
two more presidents to decide creating a protective fence around the
president might be a good idea.
So, 1901, Teddy Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to have the full
protection of the Secret Service and the first but not the last president
guarded by the agency to view the gleaming white columns on the White House
more like the bars of a prison cell. Roosevelt`s dislike of the constant
surveillance that came along with the presidency would be echoed by several
others. President Truman who famously called the White House the great
white jail and the glamorous prison. President Reagan who once referred to
himself as a bird in a gilded cage. President Clinton who called his
presidential home the crown jewel of the federal penitentiary system. And,
of course, President Obama, who seemed just a little too happy for a rare
moment of freedom when during this early summer jaunt across the National
Mall made this gleeful declaration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The bear is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Joining me now is Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and
public affairs of Princeton University. Author of "The Fierce Urgency of
Now", Lyndon Johnson, Congress in the Battle for the Great Society, Marc
Ambinder, contributing editor at GQ and "The Week", Christina Greer,
assistant professor of political science at Fordham University and
syndicated columnist Bob Franken. Thank you all for joining us for this
conversation. That little video of the president on his jog got a little
shaky there but I want to put up some images of the president going to
Shake Shack with the vice president as well as we know President Obama
likes to shop at the Gap, right? So how much of a strain does the Secret
Service put on agents - put on - how much of a strain do agents put on the
president`s ability to basically go to the Gap, to get a Shake Shack
BOB FRANKEN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, you know, I`ve often wondered if
an agent tells his wife that he`s going to the Gap, does she say to him can
you pick up a couple pairs of jeans or something like that.
FRANKEN: What is so interesting, and this is sympathetic to the Secret
Service, is that for a little trip to the Gap or when the bear was loose,
that was a huge operation. Even if it was something that was accomplished
immediately, and Marc can speak more effectively to that, but the fact of
the matter is that there are preparations where just about everybody has
his slot, all that kind of thing. I think it`s fair to argue that the
Secret Service is very good at the things that it has under its control.
But what we witnessed at the White House, what we apparently witnessed in
Atlanta with that security guard is that if they have to ad lib, they
haven`t really been trained well enough, at least today, to act
spontaneously. Only if they have it drilled into their heads the stuff
that they have to remember by rote.
WARREN: Marc, I want to bring you back in because, again, you`re the first
journalist to have access to the Secret Service. And for president, the
Secret Service protection has felt almost like a prison. I mean they`ve
actually said it - it feels like they are in prison. President Clinton
said this is sort of the crown jewel of the federal penitentiary system.
This is not just an issue of security for the president, but a sense of
security for the public as well. So when there are threats to the
president that we have seen play out in the last couple of weeks, what does
that mean for how we as American citizens view our own protection and sense
AMBINDER: Well, I think generally at a time when our faith and
institutions has declined significantly, the margin of error for such
things is razor, razor thin. The first African-American president, a lot
of very different threats, the type of threats to him are very different
than the type of threats to President Bush. And, frankly, there is a
symbolism attached to the idea of an agency where most of the president`s
detail are white men protecting an African-American and all these lapses.
I can guarantee you that everyone on the president`s detail, everyone would
take a bullet for President Obama. But the perception matters. And it
really -- it really, really does. And I think that`s playing into this a
WARREN: Julian, I want to bring you in and let me - I just want to read a
quote from "the L.A. Times" this week about what happened to President
Obama when he spoke at an event in L.A. over the summer. The president had
just begun a new campaign style speech when a man in the crowd standing
less than 50 feet away, interrupted with loud cries, "Antichrist - the man
yelled - you`ll be destroyed." Less than an hour later, however, offstage
and surrounded again by security and staff member, the president was no
longer laughing. That man would kill me, he told them flatly. Is the
president aware of the threats on his life?
JULIAN ZELIZER, AUTHOR, "THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW": I think he is aware.
I think there`s a balance between being aware of this, being aware of being
the first African-American president, but also the desire to get out, the
desire to be political. Lyndon Johnson always used to hate the Secret
Service because he wanted to shake hands and they wouldn`t let him shake
enough hands. But I think, you know, this plays into another issue. We`ve
had since 9/11 this ongoing battle about the national security system
versus civil liberties. So, I think symbolically, when Americans see this
after all they have given up, they wonder, you know, why can`t we just
protect the White House? What does it mean about .
WARREN: Let me follow up with you on this, though, because after 9/11 the
Secret Service was moved out of the Treasury Department and into Homeland
Security. And one could argue that that`s been part of the problem in
terms of this different oversight over the Secret Service. Should it be an
independent agency in some way?
ZELIZER: Yeah, I think one proposal is to make it independent. Another
proposal is to eliminate some of its older functions, such as dealing with
ZELIZER: . credit card fraud, which is from the 1865 when it was created,
not credit cards, but counterfeiting. And so both to make it independent,
but also to narrow its mission, protect the president. You know, there was
an age when John Quincy Adams could walk around every morning on a morning
stroll or a morning swim and no one protected him. And Martin van Buren
walked to church. We`re no longer in that era so we need a Secret Service
totally focused on the president.
WARREN: Christine, I know you want to jump in on this. And you`ve
remarked before about the president and his dad jeans. So, I don`t think
the Gap sells those anymore, but I know you want to .
CHRISTINE GREER, ASSISTANT PROF., FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: I think we need to
also realize, you know, we`re in an intense moment in this country in
extreme bipolar politics, right? We also have an increase in mental
illness, which we miraculously have no money to support, right, so we know
that as a nation, we`re broke. So there`s certain things that we can`t
afford to assist people with, right? But then at the same time, we find
money for all these other endeavors. This is something that we must find
the time, the resources and the absolute money, whether we create a brand
new department or not, where when we feel threatened by external forces, we
need stability. We need to know that we`re not going to have a traumatic
situation that so many Americans did witness with John F. Kennedy, right?
And especially because we have our first African-American president, we
know the types of threats have been extremely specific with this type of
WARREN: OK, so the first African-American president, hold that thought,
Bob. Up next, more on the perceived particular risk for this president.
WARREN: I want to take you back for a moment to January of 2009 during the
inaugural parade at the beginning of President Obama`s first term. We see
a car in the presidential motorcade slow to a stop. A Secret Service agent
opening the door and the emergence of President Obama and later first lady
Michelle Obama, who takes some time to stroll along the parade route out in
the open before returning to their car. Many Americans watched with a
sense of pride and excitement at this historic moment, but for some, those
feelings were also mixed with fear. That emotion was based on the
recognition that what made the Obamas so singular in history also may have
made them singularly vulnerable to a threat in a way that no other
president and first lady have felt before. Because what they were seeing
wasn`t just the first family, but the first African-American first family.
And as "The New York Times" reported this week, there are some for whom
that difference magnifies the failures of the Secret Service to protect
this president in particular. U.S. Representatives Elijah Cummings and
Emanuel Cleaver told "The Times" they don`t believe the security lapses had
anything to do with the president`s race but they have as of late had to
dispel the notion among their constituents. Said Cleaver, it is something
that is widespread in black circles. I`ve been hearing this for some time.
Well, the Secret Service, they`re trying to expose the president. You hear
a lot of that from African-Americans in particular.
So, Marc, having been embedded with the Secret Service, how vulnerable is
the president because of his race? And let me just put up a screen of
Jelani Cobb who wrote an article for "The New Yorker" this week who
basically says that one of the least openly discussed elements of the
initial hesitance on the part of African-American to support him in `08 was
the legitimate fears about his protection.
AMBINDER: And you`ll remember, of course, that he got Secret Service
protection very early. Precisely .
WARREN: Earliest in history.
AMBINDER: The earliest in history precisely because of those threats, and
the threats were real. But Secret Service when assessing the type of
threats that Obama received versus the type of threats that President Bush
received, President Bush was much more vulnerable to a coordinated assault
by terrorists. President Obama much more vulnerable to lone wolfs egged on
by white supremacists. And in some cases, that scenario is even more scary
for the Secret Service because lone wolfs are lone and they don`t plan.
They don`t leave the paper trail. So from the context of an absolute
threat, it absolutely is a concern that is magnified for President Obama.
WARREN: This side of the table is eager to jump in. Bob first and then
I`ll get to you, Christina and Julian.
FRANKEN: Well, it`s easy to be dismissive of that concern. I don`t know
if you noticed that I`m white, so it would be easy for those of us who
share that color to say, oh, that`s ridiculous. However, particularly for
the black experience, you witness what happens in Ferguson, Missouri, you
witness all the instances that are probably credibly - that have to do
between the police and African-Americans, you realize that the Secret
Service is perceived as a police organization. It`s easy to understand why
people would feel that way.
WARREN: So I want to -- before you jump in, Chris, I want to play some
sound of first lady Michelle Obama on "60 Minutes" in February of 2007. So
during the primaries. And get you to respond. Julian and Christi to
respond. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE CROFT, CBS ANCHOR: This is a tough question to ask, but a number of
years ago Colin Powell was thinking about running for president. And his
wife Alma really did not want him to run, she was worried about some crazy
person with a gun. Has that been a factor? I mean have you talked about
that? Is that something that you think about?
MICHELLE OBAMA: I don`t lose sleep over it. Because the realities are
that, you know, as a black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: OK, Chrissie, this is to Bob`s point on some level, right? Hey,
police could have shot Barack, some lone wolf can shot Barack, outside -
you know, outside of Secret Service protection. What should we make of
GREER: These are rational fears, right? When black Americans actually
talk about their distrust in the Secret Service, this is a highly rational
fear, right? Because we know that there are many white Americans who are
stockpiling guns who have an irrational fear of black people, right? Where
what Michelle Obama was saying and most people are saying now is that this
particular president is highly vulnerable to people within his own country,
right, across the country and not just lone wolves, but some coordinated
efforts on various levels, right? We do know that there has been a
resurgence of the KKK, we do know that there has been a resurgence of hate
groups specifically targeted to people of color. We do know that there`s
this resurgence of hatred in this bipolarized fashion, right? And not
necessarily just coming from right wing politics, but it`s actually coming
from center and even certain left wing politics.
So when we think about the rational versus irrational, it is very rational
for African-Americans to worry about this president because we have seen
historically what can happen to an African-American individual, man, woman
or child in this particular country.
ZELIZER: And every school child learns about Martin Luther King and the
hopes that were shattered when a great leader was assassinated. So I think
it`s contemporary, but it`s also historical. You know, the tragedy,
though, of presidential protection is a lot of the reforms come after
ZELIZER: After John F. Kennedy was killed, the Secret Service revamps and
expands itself. We don`t really protect the president until Lincoln,
Garfield and McKinley assassinations take place. So we have this history,
which is a little frightening, that the best and most important reforms
take a little time and take bad things to happen.
WARREN: All right, after the break, it`s not just the physical isolation,
but it`s also political isolation, we might argue. Just imagine if the
president and Congress behaved more like Britain`s parliament. That`s
WARREN: Many Americans, unless they`re regular watchers of C-span, are
likely unfamiliar with the British tradition of the prime minister`s
questions. Since 1997, each week at noon, the British prime minister goes
before the House of Commons where he must endure response to half an hour
of rapid fire and oftentimes hostile questions. This is just a typical day
at the office for British Prime Minister David Cameron squaring off against
a member of parliament.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we know who`s responsible for the great economic
recession, because extraordinarily they`re still in their jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, he`s in his fifth year as prime minister
and all he can do is try and blame someone else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he just -- and he just doesn`t get it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Subjecting the head of state to that degree of direct scrutiny
from Congress would be unthinkable for most Americans who are accustomed to
the protection of not only the president, but the office of the U.S.
presidency. Not only does the president rarely have to encounter a room
full of legislators shouting at him, but it was a major scandal when
President Obama was verbally assaulted by just one member of Congress in
this moment during an address in 2009 to a joint session of Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The reforms I`m proposing would not apply to those who are here
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You lie!
OBAMA: That`s not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: It seems as though it would have hardly registered across the
pond, but here in the United States we have a president who is both
physically and in many ways politically secluded. So, Bob, I want to come
to you first. Why not a U.K. -style prime minister`s questions here. Is
this about the respect for the office?
FRANKEN: Well, first of all, that question period sounds no more raucous
than the daily network television editorial meeting. But in truth, we
can`t do that because we`re not structured the same way. The prime
minister is a member of parliament. He is in effect the chief Member of
Parliament. And under that system, he is allowed or has to endure this
question period every week. We have the separation of powers now. The
closest we come to it is the State of the Union message, and every once in
a while a congressman yelling.
WARREN: OK, but at this point you said we`re not - we are not on this
point we`re not structured to do that, but I want to play sound from a
moment that we probably have all forgotten and that`s in 2010, the
president goes to the lion`s den of sorts, he goes to the GOP House issues
conference, and it`s the closest that we`ve seen of a U.K.-style prime
minister interaction with parliament. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE PENCE (R) INDIANA: And so rest assured the summary document you
received is backed up by precisely the kind of detailed legislation that
Speaker Pelosi and your administration have been busy ignoring for 12
OBAMA: Mike, what we - hold on - hold on a second. You know, Mike.
OBAMA: I`ve read your legislation. I mean I take a look at this stuff.
And the good ideas we take. Here`s the thing I guess that all of us have
to be mindful of. It can`t be all or nothing one way or the other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Now, that happened just once and I want to also put up a tweet for
you to respond to, Julian, this is from Luke Russert who was - who tweeted
out after that encounter, GOP aides telling me it was a mistake to allow
cameras into Obama`s QA with GOP members. Allowed BO to refute GOP for 1.5
hours on TV. They didn`t want to do that again, but we could do it if we
ZELIZER: We could do it and there`s part of me as a spectator, certainly,
that would enjoy to see the questions and answers and Speaker Boehner and
the president interacting. I`m not sure that would solve the kind of
polarization we have and the problems that exist between the parties. They
are much more deeply rooted than golf games --
WARREN: Put a prospect in this point.
WARREN: That - couldn`t that actually solve some of the policy stagnation
and gridlock if we had much more of those televised exchanges between
Congress and the president?
ZELIZER: It could, or it could be as some said, C-SPAN ended up being,
just another platform for performance often and for fueling the kind of
partisan interaction that might be softened if it wasn`t in front of the
AMBINDER: But if it moved public opinion, if exchanges like that were to
change people`s minds, widely magnified on cable and where everyone else
gets their news, in that way it could be -- it could be useful. But Obama
-- both Obama and the House GOP both concluded after that, that there was
no utility to it. Obama would love to do it again.
GREER: Well, I think it depends on the president, right? We do know that
there are certain president who would enjoy it. But the issue is that
unfortunately we have not just voter apathy, but voter fatigue. And so, I
think many voters feel like well, all we`re seeing are sort of the same
debates that are consistently surfaced, right? We know that the GOP has
sort of pinky sworn to never work with this president. So, essentially
what would be the point .
WARREN: Pinky sworn?
GREER: Pinky sworn .
GREER: In January, 2009. And so the issue then is we have this separation
of powers where the institution of the presidency that continues to expand
consistently buttresses against a very polarized Congress. And we`re not
going to see substantive change because many voters are asked to vote three
times a year and they`re actually not seeing the needle move.
WARREN: But you say this, fatigue, and Bob, I want to get you in on this.
I was excited, that was great political theater to watch that. Maybe
voters would be excited.
FRANKEN: It was great TV. Are you ready for some controversy?
FRANKEN: OK, to be honest, the annual files are going to up in arms over
this. I quite frankly think the parliament looks kind of buffoonish, when
they do that and I think that we already have enough buffoonery in the
United States political process.
WARREN: I don`t think that`s controversial.
WARREN: Julian, give us some historical perspective. Wasn`t Congress much
more rancheros in the 19th century and the early 20Tth of century than it
ZELIZER: No, absolutely. They used to get in fist fights, gun fights.
WARREN: People stabbed on the floor of Congress!
ZELIZER: You know, the 20th century, there`s been fight for Senator Joseph
McCarthy was talking about treason in the White House, so this is an
institution that`s always very bitter, very conflicted. It changes, the
kind of obstacles the president faces. But the nostalgia that we had this
year of great civil debate I think is often misplaced.
WARREN: So, Marc, you said something really interesting. You said those
kind of debates could move public opinion, right?
AMBINDER: If they could move public opinion, they would be worthwhile. If
they could move public opinion, cable news wouldn`t need to exist because
those are the types of debates.
WARREN: Hey, hey, hey.
AMBINDER: Controversial. But people watch what they want to watch now
too, and so there`s an enormous sorting of everything in terms of how we
get our information, who we listen to, the arguments that we`re receptive
to. So I am pessimistic as well, but if it could, if one side or the other
gave such a smash bang performance that the public collectively looked at
it and said that argument is just stupid that the other side is giving,
then it would be worth it.
WARREN: 30 seconds, Bob.
FRANKEN: Well, let me take a stab, another stab at controversy. I happen
to believe that public opinion in this day and age is immovable. That
people have pretty much dug in in their point of view and their hate reds
and their ignorance and there`s nothing that we could do that`s going to
really change that except maybe on the edges.
WARREN: So much to say about this. Sorry, Julian. You want to get in?
Thank you very much to Julian Zelizer, Marc Ambinder, Christina and Bob are
Still to come this morning, a developing story we`ll be updating for the
next 29 years.
WARREN: This morning we`d like to turn your attention to some developing
news. There is a monumental transformation slowly unfolding across the
country. This historic shift could have huge implications for the economy,
the electorate and the political landscape, and it`s projected to take
place in mere decades. In fact, we now know exactly when to expect it,
2043. Now, just what exactly is on the horizon? The answer when we come
WARREN: Demographers predicted that by the year 2043 nonwhite citizens
will comprise the majority of the American population but no one ethnic
group will become the majority. In fact, 50 percent of those born since
2011 have been people of color. The shifting demographics can have a
lasting impact on the nation`s cultural and political landscapes as
population changes translate to new voting blocks that will have a
significant influence on elections. And a new TV series is devoted to
breaking down this historic trend number by number.
"America by the Numbers," which launched on World Channel and PBS last week
is hosted by award winning reporter Maria Hinojosa. And each episode
Hinojosa takes a close look at what the ever evolving census numbers mean
for various regions of the country. For cities like Clarkston, Georgia,
where there are different nationalities represented in one square mile. Or
Guam, the U.S. territory in the Pacific. It`s home to many citizens who
serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, but they don`t have access to a VA hospital
on the island. Hinojosa`s coverage goes beyond the numbers as the series
models states behind every number there`s a story. And in keeping with the
model, each episode documents the underreported stories of the Americans
leading the historic demographic transformation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Baby Benjamin Notwan (ph) is a brand new American.
His parents fled the repression of a Burmese military junta and moved to
Clarkston in 2008. Today, they celebrate their second child born in the
(on camera): What do you dream about Benjamin`s future? As an American?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Joining the table now to discuss "America by the Numbers is Maria
Hinojosa. Host of NPR`s Latino USA and hosts and executive producer of
"America by the Numbers." And still with me is Christina Greer from
Fordham University and syndicated columnist Bob Franken. Maria, thank you
for joining us. This was an amazing documentary to watch. I want to start
by just asking you. What inspired you to do this project? And what are
your hopes for it?
MARIA HINOJOSA, HOST, "AMERICA BY THE NUMBERS": Let`s see, what inspired
me to do this project? A couple of things. You know, I worked in the
mainstream, I worked with Bob at CNN. I worked in many mainstream news
organizations. And sometimes when I would want to talk about this change
that I was a part of because I was born in Mexico, raised in Chicago and
I`m an American citizen now. You know, you kind of get the, oh, we did
that story already. Or isn`t that going to happen in the future? Or that.
So I wanted to create my own television series. And I wanted to change the
narrative, right? How we approach change and demographic change. I don`t
approach this story from a perspective of fear of change, right? Because I
am that change. So having a different kind of journalist making the
editorial decisions is also . And we wanted to base it on data. So, it`s
HINOJOSA: This country is changing, period, by the numbers.
WARREN: So, for this documentary, you traveled all over the country. And
I was just captivated by Idaho, by Gam. But I want to show our viewers a
little bit from Clarkston, Georgia. Because it`s a fascinating story with
political implications. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HINOJOSA: It`s a surprising turn of events for a city that lies in the
heart of the Deep South and was almost 90 percent white just 30 years ago.
Now, whites make up less than 20 percent of the population and the majority
of the city`s residents are black. When I first came here in 2012, the
city council was all white. Even though the population is more than 80
percent nonwhite. One year later, for the first time ever, three former
refugees are running for office in local elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: OK, Maria. Three former refugees, what was the outcome of that
HINOJOSA: Well, first of all, it was historic.
WARREN: It was historic.
HINOJOSA: And we were there to document it. And part of what happened is
that when they saw -- because they were our pilot show and we went back to
do eight half hours. When they saw themselves on television on a national
level talking about politics, the Constitution, then they said, wait, we
can do this. And so three former refugees for the first time ever in
history decided to run. The first ever Bhutanese-American decided to run.
He lost by just a few votes. The first ever Somali-American not elected to
a school board, won. And a young white man named Ted Terry replaced the
first African-American appointed mayor. So, you never know with politics.
WARREN: Really, really interesting. And I just want to show our viewers
the stark population change in Clarkston. So, in 1980, it was 89 percent
white, by 2012, it was 18.2 percent white. But as you said, Clarkston had
an all-white city council in 2012. And it`s sort of, when I saw that,
Chrissie, it resonated with me in terms of Ferguson, Missouri, and the all-
white political establishment there. It`s a city where 67 percent black.
But one of, I think, I`m sorry, one of the six city council members is
black, but 94 percent of the police force is white. What does Clarkston
tell us about the potential for a place like Ferguson?
HINOJOSA: Well, I think Clarkston tells us it can serve as a microcosm for
many things. I mean obviously in my book "Black Ethnics", I talk about the
divides of African and Afro-Caribbean populations and their voting
capacities, right? But we also see people who are coming from countries
who are not necessarily beholden to one party or the other, right? So,
just because you see no typically me look one way, that doesn`t necessarily
mean that you`ll be a Democrat. I also think looping it back to what we
talked about a little bit earlier with sort of the rise of the middle class
in China. As we see so many Chinese moving to the United States. But they
may not necessarily have the same political identities as ABCs, which are
American born Chinese, right? Because of socioeconomic statuses or the
geographic locales in which they plan to reside.
So - so for example, our Bhutanese-American family, so they were the first
Bhutanese to be settled in Clarkston, Georgia. The father who ran and lost
by about 12 votes is a conservative Republican. His youngest son who is a
hipster rapper liked Ron Paul. And the two daughters liked -- like
Clinton, no, liked Obama. I don`t know if they still do. But liked Obama.
So in one family of new voters, you can`t really predict how they`re going
to turn around and vote.
FRANKEN: As a matter of fact, you`re seeing this manifested among
Republicans, some of whom are saying, hey, folks, we`ve got this demography
that we have to try and convince them that we`re not unfriendly to them.
Unfortunately, they`re running into the reality .
HINOJOSA: You are exactly right.
FRANKEN: That many of those Republicans are unfriendly to them. But
they`re recognizing that the white guy`s party isn`t going to be one that
can dominate the political scene very long.
HINOJOSA: And you know what the problem is? It`s that if the Republicans
don`t connect with this new electorate, the Republican Party has a very
dismal future by the numbers. The problem also is that the Democratic
Party right now is having a very hard time connecting with these voters,
too. Particularly with Latinos.
FRANKEN: Well, for .
WARREN: Unfortunately, we got to end there, I`ll tell you .
WARREN: But this is a good tease for the documentary. Thank you, again,
Maria Hinojosa, again, the PBS series is "America by the Numbers. Check it
out. Thank you also, Christina Greer and Bob Franken. That is our show
for today. Thank you at home for watching. Melissa Harris-Perry will be
back here next Saturday at 10:00 A. M. Eastern.
Coming up next, "Weekends with Alex Witt."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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