'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, November 8th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: November 8, 2014
Guest: Kate Andrias, Richard Kim, Lizz Winstead, Ron Christie, Alina Das,
Erika Andiola, Judith Browne Dianis, Alma Adams, Rahman Amer, Weston
Sprott, Ben Niles
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. Has the
moment for immigration reform finally arrived? Plus, the importance of
getting loud following a loss. And Miss Alma Adams goes to Washington.
But first, what President Obama can learn from President Bush in one word.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Wednesday morning Washington woke
up to a seismic shift in the balance of government power. Tuesday`s
midterm elections put Republicans in control of the Senate for the first
time in eight years and allowed the GOP to expand its majority in the
House. The Republican takeover in Congress has added President Obama to
the list of second-term presidents, including Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton
and George W. Bush who all spent their last two years in office with a
congress, in which both houses were dominated by the opposing party.
It`s an odd position to find yourself in as president, knowing that for the
remainder of your time in office, all anyone would care about is the next
person they`re going to pick to do your job. And any attempt to advance
your agenda as the clock winds down on your presidency, will face an uphill
battle against the Congress, the little political incentive to give you
what you want.
It`s left President Obama like his similarly situated predecessors facing a
kind of political existential question, am I the most powerful elected
official in the world, or am I a lame duck? Barely a week into this post
midterm political moment, it is still unclear how successfully President
Obama will be able to pursue his agenda. Yesterday both sides made a show
of cooperation when congressional leaders came to the White House for the
president`s indication to chart the course going forward. And earlier in
the week, likely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was striking a
conciliatory tone when considering the prospect of working with the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R) KENTUCKY: We do have an obligation to work
together on issues where we can agree. I think we have a duty to do that.
Just because we have a two-party system doesn`t mean we have to be in
perpetual conflict. I think I have shown that to be true at critical times
in the past. I hope the president gives me the chance to show it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Hmm. That certainly is a far cry from the Mitch McConnell
who declared on the eve of the 2010 midterms. "The single most important
thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one term
president." And, of course, it is always possible that this newly
cooperative Congress will transform itself overnight into the exact
opposite of the uncooperative Congress Americans have come to know and
loathe for the last four years. But should that not be the case and should
President Obama decide to shed the lame duck feathers and try to govern
against the odds, he may find in the actions of his predecessor, a useful
lesson. That even penned in by an uncooperative Congress in the waning
days of his final term, a president still has room to make power moves.
Around the same time in 2006, just after midterm elections, President
George W. Bush found himself in much the same position that President Obama
finds himself in today. His approval ratings had sunk to a dismal 38
percent after he bungled at the response to Hurricane Katrina and a
deteriorating situation in Iraq had left Americans with little confidence
in his ability to govern. Despite an improving in economy, and declining
unemployment, this affected Americans belief Republicans had gotten little
accomplished and they went to the polls looking to punish the party in
power. The morning after the midterm election in 2006 looked like Bizarro
universe version of what we woke up to on Wednesday. A power grab by one
party, in this case, the Democrats who had won control of the House, the
Senate and a majority of governor seats. Republicans have been beaten so
badly that President Bush called it nothing short of a good old fashioned
Despite President Bush`s absence from both the ballot and the campaign
trail in 2006, Democrats had successfully made the election of referendum
on his presidency and his policies. And after the election, the party
doubled down on its opposition to one of those policies in particular.
Demanding that the administration wrap up the war in Iraq.
They were following a clear mandate from the American people. Whose post
911 popular support for an Iraq invasion had by 2006 eroded so much that 57
percent of Americans thought the original decision to send troops into Iraq
had been a mistake. 12 percent of Americans believed sending additional
troops to be a good idea. President Bush was staring down the end of his
presidency, with a war that he started now spiraling out of control and a
congress and a country who wanted nothing more than to see it end. Do you
remember what he did next? This.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, America will
change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down
sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will
require increasing American force levels. So I`ve committed more than
20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I mean, for real. Whatever you want to call President
Bush`s decision to embroil the country deeper in Iraq instead of acquiesce
for calls to get out, you certainly can`t call it the actions of a lame
duck. That is the power of the presidency. And as pressure mounts for
President Obama to make good on his pre-midterm process to take executive
action on immigration that is the power at his disposal right now. On
Wednesday he indicated that he is ready and willing to put that power to
use towards reforming immigration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But what I`m not going to do
is just wait. I think it`s fair to say that I have shown a lot of patience
and have tried to work on a bipartisan basis as much as possible. And I`m
going to keep on doing so. But in the meantime, let`s figure out what we
can do lawfully through executive actions to improve the functioning of the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And strategically speaking, if the president needs
inspiration for how to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat, he doesn`t
even have to go as far back as President Bush. He can start with the man
in the mirror. Remember back during the 2008 primaries? He just lost New
Hampshire to Hillary Clinton. But he turned that defeat into a power move
when he made his now famous concession speech that sounded like a
declaration of triumph and with just three words, galvanized his campaign
into a movement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When we have faced down impossible odds. When we`ve been told
we`re not ready or that we shouldn`t try or that we can`t, generations of
Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a
people. Yes, we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now from Chicago, Illinois, is Kate Andrias, who
is an assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan and a former
special assistant on associate counsel to President Obama.
So nice to have you this morning, Kate. Before yesterday.
KATE ANDRIAS, ASSIST. PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: Good to be
HARRIS-PERRY: Before yesterday - I`ve meant this point to become an
instructive metaphor call "Lesson on how President Obama could use power to
push forward on immigration reform." But then on Friday, he actually
literally followed in President Bush`s footsteps, and announced plans to
seek approval for a troop surge of his own in Iraq. Now, is this about
like a president using his foreign policy power because he feels he`s lost
his ability to make domestic policy?
ANDRIAS: Well, I`m not sure what the politics of all this are. I mean I
think that - that - the president is faced with an actual challenge on the
foreign affairs fund, and he`s responding to that. As a legal matter,
there`s a long running debate about how much power presidents have to use
their war power. So, you know, Congress is the institution of government
to declare war. But presidents are the commanders-in-chief. And so,
there`s a dispute about how much authority they have to exercise their
commander-in-chief power. Here the president is not saying he has his own
inherent authority under article two of the Constitution to wage war.
Rather he`s saying Congress has already authorized a military action in
this way, and he is -- he is using his power under that authorization.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, again, I want to dig a little bit more into that notion
of kind of the constitutional power of the presidency and how it turns into
political power. Because at its core, what a president has meant to do is
to either enforce or not enforce existing law, but not to actually make
that law himself from the White House. As you are looking at what this
president is facing in the next few years, can he sort of willpower simply
through enforcement and non-enforcement? Or is he going to have to go to
executive action route?
ANDRIAS: Well, enforcement and non-enforcement is a kind of executive
action. So, you are right. I mean it`s Congress` job to write the laws.
And the president can`t write laws on his own. He couldn`t decide, for
example, to scrap the existing immigration law and right his own statute on
his own. But the Constitution gives the president and the authority to -
actually the duty to take care to execute the law and to supervise agencies
in doing that. And part of that duty is to figure out how to enforce the
law. So, there`s a great deal of discussion, that the president has to
decide when and how to enforce the law.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the part that is a presidential power. Particularly for
a lame duck that is not written into our Constitution is that he`s also the
leader of his party and is undoubtedly along with everyone else beginning
to look forward to the 2016 presidential election and wanting, undoubtedly
like all presidents to pass off to a successor who is in his party. Is it
more or less beneficial for him ultimately to kind of make that power move,
even when if it draws the ire of Republicans? Or is it better to kind of
sit back and just allow the next candidate to emerge?
ANDRIAS: Well, I mean, I think I`ll leave that political judgment to your
other guests, but I do think that the president is still the leader of the
executive branch. And so he has a responsibility to continue to provide
that leadership role and to do so in a way that advances the policies that
he believes deeply in. Including immigration reform.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I guess, maybe that`s part of what I`m asking here. And
that`s - that question was sort of like what he believes deeply in at this
moment, and whether or not just taking a stance on that, over the course of
the next two years, even if it ends up being sort of unsuccessful in some
short-term political or policy sense, sort of what the power of value is in
asserting, these are the things that I care about.
ANDRIAS: Yeah, I mean I think there`s a great deal of value there and
we`ve seen lots of past presidents do that. And just to say a bit more
about what the scope of that power is on the part of the president, so, you
know, as you mentioned, he can`t write laws by himself. But he does have
the ability to choose -- to really prioritize on how those laws get
enforced. So, immigration is a good example of that. I mean Congress only
gives the executive branch enough money to deport about five percent of the
immigrants who are here illegally. So he must exercise a lot of
discretion. And here he can - he can - he has the ability, and he has in
the past provided a leadership role in how that kind of discussion -
influenced. And I do think that`s an important. Both - it`s both a legal
role and an important role of the president, even during divided
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Kate Andrias in Chicago. I appreciate you
joining us this morning.
And up next, I am going to bring in my panel on this discussion and show
you what happened when the president hosted a special group at the White
House this week. And no, I am not talking about congressional leadership.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congressional Republicans weren`t the only group of newly
victorious guests President Obama welcomed to the White House this week.
On Thursday he also had a visit from the Jackie Robinson West all stars.
The boys baseball team from the South Side of Chicago who capture the
attention of the whole world this summer when their stellar - with their
stellar performance in the Little League World Series, when it won them the
U.S. Championship title. Now, like President Obama the Jackie Robinson
all-stars also lost their last big contest. They failed to clinch the
world championship when they were defeated by South Korea in the final
But what the world will remember is how relentlessly they fought. All the
victories they had up to that last moment and the way we all felt empowered
by their dignity and sportsmanship. And they gave the president yet
another example of how to be a winner even when you lose.
Joining me now is Richard Kim, executive editor of thenation.com, Ron
Christie, columnist at the "Daily Beast" and former special assistant to
President George W. Bush. Liz Winstead, writer, comedian and author of
"Lizz Free or Die." And Dorian Warren, MSNBC contributor, associate
professor of political science and international and public affairs at
Columbia University, and also a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.
Normally I`ll give you the first word. But y`all won big.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Ron, you`re going to get the first word today. And I
guess, you know, I am really trying to think through sort of how presidents
react to this moment. And so I guess part of what I had asked here is, if,
you know, going back to Jackie Robinson all-stars, is your team winning
well with good sportsmanship, and is the president`s team losing well in
the sense of sort of still trying to find a place of power in the context
of the loss?
RON CHRISTIE, COLUMNIST "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, I think Republicans are
winning well. I think Republicans were smart not to gloat on election
night and John Boehner said we`re not going to gloat. We need to actually
go out and do the work that the American people hired us to do. And that
means that we need to find ways of common ground with the president, we
need to find ways to compromise with him, but also to hold firm to our
conservative principles and say this is what we believe, Mr. President
Here are priorities. We`ll put ours down next to yours, and let`s see if
we can get something done.
HARRIS-PERRY: But did they have any electoral incentive? So, let me just
back off of the ideology for a second, Richard, just asked. Does the party
who hopes to capture the White House from the sitting president in two
years and all of whom at least in the House want to be reelected again, do
they have any incentive given this election to work with the president?
RICHARD KIM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NATION.COM: Absolutely not.
KIM: I mean I think the sort of key lesson to take from this election is
that the negativity, the obstructionism works. It depressed the
electorate. It turned away Democrats. It riled up Republicans. And
already, you know, speaking of the inconsistent, John Boehner has been
terribly inconsistent. In October he said if the president does not pursue
executive action on immigration, we will have a congressional vote. He`s
completely reversed that right now, he`s saying, even if he doesn`t have
executive actions, he is going to withhold the vote. So .
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to listen to Boehner on this this this week - this is
Thursday at a press conference and what he has to say about the president
and the possibility of executive action on immigration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOEHNER: I`ve made clear to the president that if he acts
unilaterally on his own outside of his authority, he will poison the well
and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress.
It`s as simple as that. When you play with matches you take the risk of
burning yourself. And he`s going to burn himself if he continues get down
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So Lizz, I keep thinking, maybe the hashtag of the last two
years should have been #burnit. Just burn it all down, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Like because - because I keep trying to figure out if the
sort of overwhelming losses on Tuesday night were really about the
Republican obstructionism working, or if it was about Democrats ultimately
not presenting a clear alternative. And this is because I was living in a
blue dog state and so the Southern Democrats were playing this weird mid-
term game. But I just keep thinking, you know what? Go ahead. Let him do
it. You have got that to do, John Boehner. I want to do immigration
reform. You want to impeach me, Leslie? How that goes? That might
actually go quite like - like I don`t know, there`s a part of me that
thinks what is there to lose at this point?
LIZZ WINSTEAD, WRITER & COMEDIAN: Well, I know. And especially when you
look at a sort of the electorate turned down to vote in the midterms,
strong Republican numbers, the uninspired Democrat - I think everything you
said is true. I don`t think it`s did this, did this, did this. I think
everything you said is exactly right, but nobody really believes when Mitch
McConnell says, we`re going to work on that stuff that we find common
ground on. Then the first things they come out with bang, the thing that
they demand are Keystone and tax cuts. Now, both very nuance things.
America is not just like, we have been waiting for you to frack the crap
out of our country.
WINSTEAD: Overwhelming thing that Americans love. They just have not
been. And so, I feel like everybody who is cynical and didn`t turn out has
no reason to feel anything but even more cynical. And even the people who
did turn out, it`s like, really, where are we going?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, so, OK. I wonder if there are just new rules to the
parental game, Dorian. So, you know, being trained as academics, we`re
always sort of ten, 15 years behind what`s actually happening in the world.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, you know, I have this moment -- like the week before
the election, the second with Senator Bob Dole. It wasn`t on camera or
anything. I just happened to be in Kansas. And it was the most
extraordinary conversation in which he talked about feeling like there was
a time when the Senate was not primarily a partisan - I mean certainly
there were parties and all of that. But the Senate was a space where you
just didn`t see the same level of partisanship. Where there were different
identities at work. But now, and this is part of it. It really is about
who is in control. I guess it`s just a partisan question.
DORIAN WARREN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It is. And in fact, when you look
longer any longer in historical time, the Senate and the Congress overall
has been polarized for much more of our history than it was a place of
compromise. Senator McConnell and Speaker Boehner, if the president
believes them this time it`s sort of like Lucy promising .
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
WARREN: . to throw the football to Charlie Brown this time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
WARREN: It`s a pure trick. And he actually has history on his side.
Especially around immigration reform and executive action. Every single
president since Eisenhower, through the last 60 years, has taken an action
some kind of executive action on immigration. They`ve been a long line of
every previous president over the last 60 years have done it 39 times, to
take executive action now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, before we are going to go to the commercial break, we
have a little bit of breaking news to bring you. Two U.S. citizens have
been allowed to leave North Korea and are on their way back to the United
States. One, Kenneth Bae, had been held for two years. The other, Matthew
Todd Miller had been held for seven months. The director of National
Intelligence James Clapper traveled to North Korea to secure their release
and is traveling with them back to the U.S. Stay with MSNBC. We`re going
to have more on this throughout the day.
Still to come this morning, we`re awaiting President Obama`s announcement
of his new attorney general nominee. Loretta Lynch. We will go live to
the White House with that news. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What we have seen now for a number of cycles is the American people
just want to see work done here in Washington. I think they`re frustrated
by the gridlock. They would like to see more cooperation. And I think all
of us have the responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that
HARRIS-PERRY: As President Obama considers his options during the two year
home stretch of his final days in power, Harry Reid and Senate Democrats
are also facing a much shorter lame duck period of their own. Republicans
don`t officially grab the reins of power in the Senate until Congress
reconvenes in January after the Christmas break. So, that leaves Senate
Democrats with a rapidly closing two-month window in which to rush policy
to the president`s desk.
But before you discount the power of a lame duck Congress, consider the
accomplishments of the 111th Congress in the time between the Republican
takeover on Election Day and Christmas of 2010. Before handing over the
speaker`s gavel, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi helped lead the Democrat
through the passage of the food safety law, a stopgap funding bill, a
sweeping text package and in the most pivotal power move, the repeal of
"Don`t ask, don`t tell." So, the question for me is, is there anything?
Labor, infrastructure, environmental, is there anything - gun control, that
we could imagine this lame duck Congress doing in the next two months?
KIM: Well, here`s one thing that I think it should and has to vote on, is
actually a new authorization of use of military force. I don`t actually
think sending 1,500 troops to Iraq now is legal under the 2001
Authorization of Use of Military Force, which specifically said the
president is allowed to take action against those who committed the
September 11th terrorist attacks. ISIS is not that group. They have been
excommunicated from al Qaeda. Congressman Adam Shift has a perfectly good
resolution. It has an 18-month window on it. It specifically says it
targets ISIS. It`s only in Syria and Iraq. It requires the president to
report to Congress. That should come up for a vote. But if the surge is
going to continue.
HARRIS-PERRY: But again, what is the electoral incentive of anyone
involved? Like literally, Democrats, Republicans, Senate, House, president
to engage that.
KIM: Well, you know, I actually think there`s some consensus .
KIM: between Republicans and Democrats on what that should look like.
They don`t want ground troops there. And beyond that, there`s just a
Constitutional obligation to authorize this increase of military action in
HARRIS-PERRY: Can I get a minimum wage law in my Christmas sock this year?
Like can you even know?
CHRISTIE: I think ..
HARRIS-PERRY: No? No minimum wage increases before Christmas.
CHRISTIE: No minimum wage for you.
HARRIS-PERRY: No? No.
HARRIS-PERRY: But why not? Why not?
KIM: Look at all these things, Nebraska, Alaska .
HARRIS-PERRY: Even when Republicans wanted it statewide.
CHRISTIE: Because the Congressional Budget Office has indicated that we`ve
passed a national minimum wage going up to 10.10. It`s going to kill
500,000 jobs. And I don`t think that the constituents around this country
want to do something. And you know the people who actually benefit from
the minimum wage. A vast majority of the people on minimum wage are
between the ages of 16 and 24. So, for Democrats to say that you`re going
to have a living wage and a family-wage, when a majority of the people are
teenagers on this, I think it`s a false argument.
WARREN: Those arguments are from 2004. This is 2014. And - and
Republicans acknowledged that the .
WARREN: The research on this .
CHRISTIE: Not 2004.
WARREN: The research is that pretty unequivocal. There`s a consensus
among economists on this that minimum wage does not harm the economy. It
actually creates more jobs. War has a negligible effect in terms of job
loss. And the politics, frankly, is moving in the Democrats` side. When
you have three Republican candidates for Senate endorsing increasing the
minimum wage, the politics has shifted. There - and the American people
including a majority of Republicans agree with raising the minimum wage.
So this is actually - this is actually good politics and good policy.
HARRIS-PERRY: We could make that happen .
HARRIS-PERRY: In this lame duck.
WINSTEAD: And I just - would also say that the majority of those women are
single women in their 20s who are working for minimum wage.
WARREN: Not teenagers.
WARREN: Not teenagers.
WINSTEAD: Not teenagers. And you tell those women who are working not
one, but two minimum wage jobs to take care of their kids that this is not
a good idea. And it`s, you know, it`s like - it`s the politics of it is, I
would love to give you that. I think you`re going to give me a lot of
CHRISTIE: Can I ask you .
WINSTEAD: Yeah, have a lot of coal .
HARRIS-PERRY: I just - I - but so, let me ask - there does seem to be one
other possibility for what may happen in the lame duck session, and this is
- we`ll talk much more about this in the next hour. And that is, will this
attorney general pick potentially come up before this Senate rather than
waiting for McConnell`s?
CHRISTIE: I mean it could.
CHRISTIE: I think you`ve already heard Chuck Grassley say that he thinks
she`s a very qualified nominee, but at the same time, he wants regular
orders to take place and take the step in the next session. I think with
all of the constitutional crisis that had been going on .
HARRIS-PERRY: But Eric Holder wants to go home .
CHRISTIE: Hey, I`m about to give you a little sugar and not coal.
CHRISTIE: And I think frankly with all of the different things going on
with the constitutional crisis, national security crisis, I think it would
be a good thing to install a new attorney general as soon as possible.
WARREN: I hope they listen to you. I don`t see the Republican Senate
endorsing any attorney general before the president leaves office. Eric
Holder I think is going to be .
WARREN: And she is --- and Loretta Lynch is very qualified.
HARRIS-PERRY: You have to hold that one. If you want to hear why, you`re
going to have to stay with us through 11:00. But just hold on. Because
everyone here is coming back in the program a little later. But remember
the thing - do you remember the thing that made Rand Paul run? And I don`t
mean for office. I mean the thing that just made him run away. That`s
HARRIS-PERRY: This video I`m going to show you next features activist
Erika Andiola back in August when she confronted Congressman Steve King of
Iowa. See that alongside his fellow Republican Senator Rand Paul of
Kentucky. As soon as Erika identifies herself as a dreamer, an
undocumented immigrant brought here as a child, you see Senator Paul take
off. He goes. He wants no part of being held accountable on the record by
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIKA ANDIOLA: So, you are going to be (INAUDIBLE) dreamers? Calling us
(INAUDIBLE) calves like cantaloupes.
STEVE KING: I say, no. No. That`s - Please, please. You .
ANDIOLA: Again .
KING: You are very good in English. You know what I`m saying.
ANDIOLA: I was raised in the United States.
KING: So, you understand the English language. You know .
KING: No, you aren`t. I think that (INAUDIBLE).
ANDIOLA: OK, what is it?
KING: I spoke of drug smugglers. Now you are not (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was August. In September President Obama said he would
not act on immigration until after the election. So here we are after the
election. We kind of wanted to know what Erika Andiola is thinking now.
So she`s here in Nerdland. Next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Speculation about whether President Obama will take
executive action on immigration reform has grown more insistent and urgent
since Tuesday`s midterm elections. The thing is, he already took executive
action on immigration, back in 2012, with the deferred action for childhood
arrivals or DACA initiative, which grated children of undocumented
immigrants a reprieve from deportation. Now, as long as they were under
the age of 30 and were brought here before 2007. But in the wake of
massive Republican victory this week, the president was asked about taking
more expansive action. Speaking to the press on Wednesday, he stood firm
on a promise we`ve heard before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Before the end of the year. We`re going to take whatever lawful
actions that I can take, that I believe will improve the functioning of our
immigration system. And at the same time, I`ll be reaching out to both
Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and other Republican as well, as Democratic
leaders to find out how it is that they want to perceive and if they want
to get a bill done. Whether it`s during the lame duck or next year. I`m
eager to see what they have to offer. But what I`m not going to do is just
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The president may indeed reach out to the likely Senate
Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. But here`s what Mr. McConnell already
had to say about it this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R) MINORITY LEADER: I think the president choosing
to do a lot of things unilaterally on immigration would be a big mistake.
It`s an issue that most of my members want to address. Legislatively.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And as for House Speaker John Boehner, he had this to say on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: I made clear to the president, that if he acts unilaterally on
his own outside of his authority, he will poison the well and there will be
no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress. When you play
with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he`s going to
burn himself if he continues to get down this path. These immigration
issues have become a political football over the last ten years or more.
It`s just time to deal with it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Despite the fiery implications, it may be that executive
action is a president`s only path. And it has proven a successful one if
DACA is any measure. Through the end of March, 86 percent of 643,000
applications accepted have been approved, according to government data.
And none of that would have happened without the Dreamers themselves who
show President Obama the path to executive action. Still with me, Richard
Kim, executive editor of thenation.com. Ron Christie, columnist at "The
Daily Beast" and former special assistant to President George W. Bush. And
joining me now, Erika Andiola who is co-director of the Dream Action
coalition and Alina Das, assistant professor of clinical law and co-
director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at New York University School of
Law. So, Erika, let`s just start with the Dreamers who really did sort of
lay out the DACA initiative for the president. What is on your agenda for
this president in the next two months and the next two years?
ERIKA ANDIOLA, CO-DIRECTOR, DREAM ACTION COALITION: Yeah, I mean we want
him to do exactly the same thing. But now expand it to other folks who are
not fortunate to be able to get DACA, right? For folks like our parents,
folks like others who don`t have children, and those who were - under the
Senate bill, right? I mean there`s already a consensus that that`s a good
bill in the Senate. But why not get the president to expand this, right?
At least to those folks. So, that`s, you know, that`s been our demand
since before the election. We were really expecting it in September. Now
we have to wait for the election results. And now we see that the
president has nothing else to lose. He already lost the Senate. And it
was a horrible move. But it already happened.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, you know, your point that there is a Senate bill.
When we just started to talk about, is there something that could happen in
-- in the lame duck, and so there is some Senate agreement with this
current existing now lame duck Senate. There`s the president. Could they
push the House to make this happen?
ALINA DAS, ASSISTANT PROF., NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, it would be wonderful
to see that. But if what happened this summer was any indication of what
the House would do, I don`t think anyone expects them to come up with the
kind of legislation that the president would actually sign. I mean, this
summer we were facing a humanitarian crisis with children coming to the
U.S. and other countries seeking refuge from the violence they are facing
in Central America. And instead of the Republicans and the House taking
that as an opportunity to put their values forward and come up with
legislation that would protect children and protect families, they chose to
put forth some draconian measures that they knew that the Senate wouldn`t
take up and the president wouldn`t sign. So, I`m hopeful there are
Republicans who are very much in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.
I hope there`ll be a movement within the party to focus on that. But I
just don`t know that we`re going to see that during this session.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s an interesting point when you remind us of the crisis
of refugee children crossing the border, which really shouldn`t have even -
part of the immigration discussion, and that they were not immigrants in
the same sense. And then when you remind us that DACA happens because it
is about children and this idea of innocence, I wonder, Richard, like, is
there a discursive strategy, even beyond a political one? Is there a
discursive strategy that might allow the president to take aggressive
executive action and yet also sort of not prompt the potential backlash?
KIM: Yeah, I mean I think the language of keeping families together and
family reunification and that it`s a powerful moral argument. It`s
terrible to see families forcibly split up. I have a concern though, that
there`s going to be this kind of compromise, right, where instead of, say,
extending DACA to 5 million undocumented immigrants, which is in the
president`s power to do, he picks a much smaller number like half a
million, under a million, and then exchange for that. He puts together a
whole bunch of punitive stuff - increase border security, expedited
deportations. And so then, you know, I think immigration activists are in
this point where like - what is the line? Where do you support that? Now,
I think it`s the morally right thing for him to do to extend it to all 5
million undocumented immigrants that they can, but I just worry that
there`s going to be this sort of very, very troubling compromise on this.
HARRIS-PERRY: So it seems to me Ron, also - I mean the question we are
asking, so on the one hand, it`s the question of whether or not this
president, a Democrat who have said that he was - is going to do this, is
in fact going to do it. But the other piece of it is is whether or not
Republicans are going to now instead of looking at a 2014 midterm
electorate, now looking forward to a 2016 general electorate, which is
quite a different group of people. They think to themselves you know what,
it`s now in our official political electoral interest to aggressively move
forward on immigration reform.
CHRISTIE: Well, I think it`s in our interest as a country for us to find a
uniform standard of where are we setting the statute? Where are we setting
the line as it relates to folks coming in this country and how they can
enter the country? But so much of the conversation we`ve had, Melissa,
it`s what can the president do politically? What is in the president`s
best interest? I`m more interested in what is in the best interest of the
American people. This still is a nation of laws. And there are folks who
despite your compassion or despite what you think have entered this country
illegally. And I think that`s a very important debate that we need to
have. And one that is obviously being pushed aside to the political
ramifications of what does this mean for Obama as opposed to what does it
mean for the country?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, so .
CHRISTIE: It`s being pushed aside because of John Boehner. I mean he was
the one who refused to allow the Senate bill to come up for vote in the
House and continues to do so.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I want to push you .
CHRISTIE: Let me answer the questions.
CHRISTIE: No, let me answer the question - you pushed me on this. The
reason that John Boehner did not bring that bill up is that we saw what
happened when you had the Affordable Care Act. A comprehensive health care
bill that the president unilaterally rewrote 32 times of grant waivers,
granted exceptions, Republicans are radissant (ph) of having a
comprehensive package that the president can decide to enforce or not
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so what I`m going to do is I`m going to take a break and
I want to come back and I want to talk a little bit about the ACA as equals
immigration discourse. But then, I also want to go back at this idea of a
country of laws, and to talk a little bit about what sorts of laws we`re
talking about in this case. So, I think there`s something very different
between the nation of laws that we think of that operate around our -- for
example, Bill of Rights versus the laws that also will forward - Jim Crow.
So stay with us. Because the president is not the only one feeling heat
over immigration. How well numbers of Congress respond to the pressure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Democratic Congressman Louis Gutierrez of Illinois, sent a
message to President Obama the morning after last Tuesday`s midterm
elections demanding he take executive action on immigration reform. In a
new op-ed in "The Guardian," he wrote "with the midterms behind us taking
action is the first step in the storm. Orderliness and lawfulness to our
immigration system. And if it`s first the reincarnated do nothing Congress
to take action, all the better. Do as much good as you can do, Mr.
President, to save American families."
Well, why can`t Congress act on its own without the president`s prodding?
Will congressional Democrats soon to be the minority in both the House and
the Senate sit idly by just waiting on President Obama? Will Republicans
do an about face and decide to support immigration reform in advance of
2016? So I want to - I want to come to you a little bit on this. Because
obviously there`s a pressure to, you know, Mr. President do the best you
can. Interestingly enough, Gutierrez actually is using the language of
lawfulness and orderliness. But I want to - I want to get into this
question of law just a little bit. Because it does seem to me that that
language of discourse about - you are a lawbreaker, but these are status
offenses, which simply are different than criminal offenses. And we know,
and I don`t mean to suggest that immigration and Jim Crow are the same
thing. But Jim Crow was also about status offenses. You are a lawbreaker
if your physical body, which was not meant to be in certain spaces found
itself there. And so - I just - I feel like there`s a different kind of
discursive political space we are talking about status offense law, then
criminal law, the harming individuals.
ANDIOLA: Yeah, I know definitely. And I mean I think for us, that`s what
we`ve been working so hard for so many years already. To try to exactly
change the laws that are not working for our community and for the country,
right? We got so much support from the American people. We have polls
that show that most people actually support a pass to citizenship - so that
means that there`s something wrong with our laws right now. And we`ve been
trying to change them for the past ten more years. And it hasn`t worked
because our Congress is so dysfunctional, so now there`s some things that
the president can do. They are not necessarily to give us legal status.
And I think some people don`t understand that. It wouldn`t be legal
status. It would be some sort of way to enforce, you know, immigration
that has given us a way to be here, like DACA, right? Have a work permit,
even able to have a Social Security number, but I cannot become a citizen
unless I have from some other way to do it. So it`s definitely - something
that I get told every time. You are legal, you - but, you know, I feel -
we are trying to work to be able to change laws, but Congress is just not
letting us do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it takes away the fear of deportation, which is a
meaningful threat to families. Because many families have mixed statuses,
is that right?
DAS: Oh, absolutely. I mean we are seeing a deportation machine that is
out of control. I mean that`s what`s led to over 2 million people being
deported under the Obama administration alone. And we`re talking about
children being deported, parents who are sole caretakers of children, U.S.
citizen children who end up in foster care because of this. We`re talking
about veterans that have been deported. I mean that`s how bad the system
has gotten. So, a temporary reprieve in deportation is an important step.
Particularly because we think that Congress will one day come up with
comprehensive immigration reform and create a more permanent solution.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I - I just - I`m realizing that there`s going to be a
group of people who are listening who say wait a minute, what do you mean
veterans being deported? So when you say that, does that mean that we
allow undocumented immigrants to serve in the U.S. military?
DAS: Well, actually there are many lawful immigrants who have lawful
status in this country. Who are at risk of deportation under our current
laws as well? So, many green card holders are in our military. And they
face deportation over time. And that`s part of the comprehensive solution.
That we want the president to use his prosecutorial discretion to help
people who are undocumented, but also to roll back some of the mass
deportation policies that we have seen. And what Congress can do, is to
build off of that. They don`t have to point fingers or bring lawsuits. In
fact, President Reagan and President Bush senior both used executive action
after the legalization program in the `80s failed to protect all the
spouses and children of people who are able to legalize. And so, when
President Bush SR. was able to do what he called the family fairness policy
that was aimed at protecting 1.5 undocumented immigrants. And instead of
Congress pointing fingers and saying, oh, you`re exceeding your executive
authority, they took a look at the people that he was trying to help, and
then they passed their own version of family unity program in the next
series of laws. So wouldn`t that be great to see? That the president
takes bold action and tries to help many immigrants and then Congress comes
forward with the bill to make that a more permanent solution.
HARRIS-PERRY: Richard, I do find it odd to have nostalgia for George H.W.
Bush. Like, there`s .
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s my - moment, I think, where - what have we come to,
right? Like only in the sense of I don`t remember thinking of that time as
so -- like effective in terms of policymaking.
KIM: Right. Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet. It does feel like there were at least -- that we
are more paralyzed now.
KIM: Well, you know. We were talking about the Senate earlier. And I
think it really is important to stress this last Senate did come up with a
bipartisan immigration reform bill. They did do that. I think a really
big question looking at the Senate, looking at the - not just the lame
duck, but the next two years is, is it going to become like the Republican
House, you know? Is it going to become? Is Ted Cruz going to have more
power than Mitch McConnell? Is it going to become this fully
obstructionist vehicle? And if it is, then, yeah, George H.W. Bush is
going to start looking pretty good. That scenario .
HARRIS-PERRY: Richard and Ron are both going to be back in our next hour,
but I want to say thank you to Erika Andiola and to Alina Das.
Now an update on the breaking news this morning out of North Korea. Two
American citizens who had been held in North Korea have been released and
are on their way home according to the State Department. Kenneth Bae who
is a Korean American tour guide and Christian missionary, had been held for
two years in North Korea. In 2013 he was sentenced to 15 years of hard
labor for allegedly committing, quote, "hostile acts against a North Korean
state." Matthew Todd Miller have been detained since April. In September,
he was sentenced to six years of hard labor. The state has accused him of
espionage for attempting to investigate human rights conditions in a North
Korean prison. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper traveled to
the secretive communist nation, he secured the release and is accompanying
them back to the United States today.
Stick with us, an MSNBC throughout the day for updates on this breaking
story. Also still to come this morning, we are still awaiting President
Obama for a live event at the White House.
The president is set to nominate U.S. attorney Loretta Lynch to be the
attorney general of the United States. If confirmed, she will be the first
African-American woman A.G. And we are going to go live to the White House
for this historic event.
There`s much more MHP show at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Good morning again from New York. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
We`re following multiple breaking news stories for you this hour. The
first, news out of North Korea this morning about two U.S. citizens who
were being held there. Kenneth Bae has been held for two years. The
other, Matthew Todd Miller had been held for seven months. This morning
they are on their way home.
The director of National Intelligence, James Clapper traveled to North
Korea to secure their release and is traveling with them back to the U.S.
The U.S. State Department also thanked the government of Sweden, which
represents U.S. interests in North Korea for its help in securing the
freedom of the two men.
Also this morning, we are awaiting the arrival of President Obama in the
Roosevelt Room in the White House. Expected to accompany him are the U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder and the woman President Obama will nominate to
replace Mr. Holder, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. We`ll bring you that
event live when it happens.
In the meantime, one of the key takeaways from Tuesday night, here`s the
deal. Democrats lost big. But it`s OK because democracy is for losers,
seriously. A basic tenant of the system is that it`s safe to lose without
fearing that winners take all. In a healthy democracy, power is always
temporary, and contested.
In short, winning an election is not the same as staging a coup and losing
at the polls does not forfeit your right to speak, organize and seek
Exhibit A, the Tea Party, agree with them or not, they embody this lesson.
They lost big in 2008 but even with Democratic control of the White House
and both chambers of Congress, they did not sit down and shut up. They got
The first Tea Party protest by some measures happened four days after
President Obama was inaugurated when a couple dozen Ron Paul supporters
dumped soda into a river upstate New York to propose a state tax on
softdrinks. They called it a modern day Tea Party.
And it was less than a month after President Obama took office, that a
Chicago-based CNBC pundit, Rick Santoi, famously called for a Tea Party in
Lake Michigan. He was angry about the president`s plan to allow some
homeowners to finance mortgages and keep their homes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is America! How many people want to pay for your
neighbor`s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can`t pay their bills?
Raise their hands! President Obama, are you listening?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: By the spring, everybody was talking about the Tea Party.
On April 15th, thousands of people gathered in cities nationwide to protest
the stimulus package and government spending and the president`s policies
They embraced the Tea Party and some were accessorizing with tea bags. The
Tea Party became an undeniable force in American politics. In the summer
of 2009, Tea Partyers angry about the president`s proposal to reform health
care took over town hall meetings with members of Congress shouting down
lawmakers and each other and sometimes getting arrested.
The Tea Party was essential in the 2010 Republican wave when the GOP took
over the House of Representatives and what the president famously termed a
It is still members of Congress associated with the Tea Party like Senator
Ted Cruz for one who refused to go along with their party leaders on major
issues like raising the debt ceiling and who forced a government shutdown
in 2012 that many thought would damage the party`s prospects this year.
The people who would become the Tea Party were the losers in 2008. They
kept fighting for what they believed in. Democratic win be damned. It
doesn`t have to be just conservatives who pull a phoenix after a big loss.
It`s something progressives in North Carolina have been doing for years.
Progressives lost huge in North Carolina state politics in 2010 when
Republicans took over the state legislature for the first time in a century
and then again in 2012 when a Republican took the governor`s office as
Last year, they began passing law after ultra conservative law stripping
voting rights and reproductive rights and funding for education. But the
North Carolina`s progressives didn`t just sit down and shut up instead they
made their voices heard.
The Moral Monday Movement started in the spring of 2013. The first Monday,
just a few dozen people gathered in the rotunda state legislative building
in Raleigh. Seventeen were arrested. A week later they were back, this
time about 80 people strong.
They went back to the state legislative building every Monday week after
week. And Moral Monday grew and grew and gave more media attention. The
final protest of the 2013 season in July drew more than 2,000 people.
And over the several weeks of protests, nearly 1,000 people were arrested
for civil disobedience. The protest continued this year even though
lawmakers adopt new rules.
Moral Monday doesn`t have any wins under its belt just yet. And North
Carolina voters just sent the leader of the conservative legislature, House
Speaker Tom Tillis, to the U.S. Senate.
Here`s what the leader of Moral Monday, the Reverend William Barber, had to
say about this on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REVEREND WILLIAM BARBER, PRESIDENT, N.C. NAACP: The forward together
movement does not live and die by election. It does not get discouraged.
It does not get depressed. It does not fall back and does not retreat
based on one election, one candidate or one party. We will continue to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: At the table now, Richard Kim, executive editor of
thenation.com, Ron Christie, columnist for the "Daily Beast," Lizz
Winstead, comedian and co-founder of Lady Parts Justice, and Doren Warren,
MSNBC contributor and associate professor at Columbia University.
And joining us from Washington is Judith Browne Dianis, who is co-director
of the civil rights organization, The Advancement Project. Well, Judith,
2014 was a rough night, but was it a repudiation of Moral Mondays in North
JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, CO-DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: No! Moral Mondays
Movement actually won.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because they got Tillis out of North Carolina?
HARRIS-PERRY: I kept thinking, maybe this is good!
DIANIS: It`s really horrible. Look, we have to look at this at a deeper
level. This wasn`t about Kay Hagan. The Moral Monday Movement is a fight
against extremism in the state of North Carolina.
And when you look at the numbers, he only won by 49,000 votes. That means
51 percent of voters in North Carolina voted against Tillis, right? And so
despite the voter suppression laws that the Republicans, including Tillis,
passed in North Carolina, despite all the money that they put in.
Despite their efforts to make this a national race and not about his record
in North Carolina, despite a Democratic candidate, who didn`t embrace her
own party, and the agenda of the Obama administration, there were 49,000
voters that were the margin. And so this movement is not just about this
election, it`s about the long term.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so Judith, I want to go to what I see as a key
strategic difference between, not only Moral Mondays, but many left
movements versus the Tea Party that I started with. And I think you`re
Again living in North Carolina, it is certainly not like Kay Hagan was
embracing either the president or the core communities that she needed to
turn out. In many ways reduce the president of the United States to a
radio campaign three days before to try to get the base out she needed to
get -- I have a lot of feelings.
But -- but I think part of the question then is why didn`t Moral Mondays,
why don`t many left and progressive movements do what the Tea Party did?
Yes, they showed up, yes, they spoke, but they also ran candidates. Can we
begin to imagine kind of Moral Monday`s candidates, and maybe Senate is a
big one, but like even at the level of dogcatcher.
DIANIS: Right. I mean, well, here`s the thing, the whole story hasn`t
been told about North Carolina, right, because there are six seats of
incumbents in the state legislature that changed, right?
You have a new African-American congresswoman who will be on your show. So
there is other stuff going on under the radar that the national media has
not been covering.
And we know at the end of the day that this -- the moral Monday Movement is
not just, again, about this one election. This is a long-term movement in
which the state of North Carolina will be taken back and will become a
HARRIS-PERRY: So, all right, I`m going to push you on that one more time,
though, because the question of how it`s taken back in a two-party system
is a presumption. So Barbara and the Moral Monday folks claim that they
are not partisan per se, right, and it`s against extremism.
So that if they were moderate Republicans, they would be very happy to have
them elected. But as long as the Democratic Party in North Carolina, as
long as the state party is incapable of putting forward quality candidates
with a strong dispersive sort of tools that mirror Moral Mondays, how then
does it translate in electoral politics?
DIANIS: Because what you are doing is changing the politics. You`re
pushing the Democratic Party to the left. The candidates in the Democratic
Party and the Republican Party, if they so choose, are going to have to
respond and get away from extremism, they`re going to have to learn that
Kay Hagan lost as a moderate.
She ran as a moderate. They have to have a come to Jesus moment in that
Democratic Party and understand that they are going to have to have people
that are speaking to the leftist kind of wing of the Democratic Party.
That`s what is going to happen.
We`re going to see more candidates getting into the fray in North Carolina,
who are going to carry the progressive water.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Hold on for a second for me, Judith. I want to come to
you, Ron, for a second about the Tea Party. You know, there may be
asymmetry here. I may be asking something that the Tea Party had in part
because of a financial -- I mean, movements cost money and campaigns cost a
lot of money.
CHRISTIE: A lot of money.
HARRIS-PERRY: And part of what the Tea Party had was massive financial
backing. So even if I gave that it was a grassroots movement, it had --
and it may not be, right, but it had massive financial backing. Is that
really the difference?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think the difference here is it`s an organic citizens`
movement. I mean, you have millions of people across this country said
we`re taxed enough already. There`s a reason we have more Republican
legislatures controlled since the 1920s. There`s a reason more since 1928.
Because of a conservative wave across the country that said the government
is doing too much. Yes, the Tea Party did get out there and raise money
and motivate candidates to run for office, and they said here are our
beliefs. We articulated the beliefs. This is what we are going to do if
you put us in power and it`s exactly what`s happened.
KIM: I would argue the move to electrolyze the Tea Party so quickly was a
total disaster for Republicans. That`s how you got Christine O`Donnell and
Sharon Engle and Richard Murdoch. You know, it did not work actually.
So there is actually an argument that movement time is very different from
electoral time, and you let movement time build and develop. And then the
candidates that are qualified, not making crazy jokes about rape, are going
to emerge to the top, and then they`ll be ready to run.
WINSTEAD: And they`re moving in mid-term elections when one-third of the
electorate shows up. If this was a general election and we just had this,
I don`t know that I would be able to show up at your show. I would be
under the bed going, my God, I`m living in crazy town.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. It`s not fair to say the American people
wanted one thing. The electorates are so very different. And I guess, I`m
still -- maybe because I`m feeling irritated with the Democratic Party.
But it`s not just emerging. There has to be a cultivation of candidates.
CHRISTIE: And let`s be clear. First of all, there`s no Tea Party
Movement. It was just the Republican Party rebranded and the right wing of
the party rebranded. It wasn`t an organic movement. Moral Mondays is a
movement. Movements don`t work on election cycles.
They have to develop candidates outside of the parties. I`m not holding my
breath that the Democratic Party is going to develop a bench in North
Carolina or anywhere --
HARRIS-PERRY: Particularly a bench hanging on their left. All right,
we`ve got more. I promise. But up next, I know, it`s getting very excited
here. Up next, there was a North Carolina district that went without
representation for several months.
But it will now at long last have a member of Congress who can vote. It is
Miss Alma Adams. She`s going to Washington. Everybody else is still
hanging out. Miss Adams is coming. Thanks next.
HARRIS-PERRY: After officially becoming the director of the Federal
Housing Finance Agency on January 6th, Mel Watt gave up the congressional
seat he held as a representative of North Carolina`s 12th district.
But rather than expediting the selection of replacement, North Carolina
Governor Pat McCorey decided that the election of a new representative from
one of the state`s two majority minority districts could wait.
That decision left the residents of North Carolina`s 12th without voting
representation in the House of Representatives for ten months. It was like
they were D.C. or something.
But now after Tuesday`s election, these citizens finally once again have a
seat at the table through their newly elected history making Democratic
Representative Alma Adams.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP.-ELECT ALMA ADAMS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: And next week, we`re making
history again, because I`ll be sworn in immediately into Congress as the
100th woman to serve in the 113th Congress, the first woman to represent
this 12th congressional district. The 15th African-American woman in the
113th congress, a record breaking number, and the second African-American
woman to ever serve in the North Carolina Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is North Carolina general assembly member and
soon to be congresswoman, Miss Alma Adams. So nice to have you this
ADAMS: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Your victory is one of the few bright spots in North
Carolina for Democrats on Tuesday night. What do you expect to be able to
do for your district and for your state in the short session before you get
to the longer full session?
ADAMS: Well, thank you for having me. I think the first thing that we
want to do, and it is a priority, is to get the district offices open so
the people of the district, who have had no representation for ten months
will now have access to their congressperson.
And in terms of what we will offer for them, the kinds of support that we
can give, and that`s really key for us right now because the people have
been left without representation, without a voice, and now they have one.
HARRIS-PERRY: You are about to become the 100th woman in this Congress,
and your political career actually started on the school board. We`ve been
talking about kind of trying to get a new crop of potential candidates. Do
you have advice, particularly for young women, who might be thinking about
the possibility of running for office?
Well, I certainly do. I just think we need more women to run. All issues
are women`s issues. Whether we`re talking about job creation or
unemployment, education, all of these issues are ours. So many women are
heading households now.
More women are voting. We`re outvoting men and so because of many of these
issues that we`re talking about today impact women to a greater degree, we
need to be involved. Of course, we can`t serve if we don`t run. And women
can`t run if we don`t provide the support and the vehicle for them to do
So I`m grateful for portions like Emily`s List and Lillian`s List in North
Carolina that have really helped women identify good women who can run and
help them be successful in that process.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask a little bit more about the education side
because you have a PhD. You taught at Bennett College for years. And it
turns out that only 20 representatives in the U.S. House and no senators in
the current Congress have PhDs.
I was wondering how you might be thinking of how you`re going to impact the
course of education and the relevance of education to social and economic
mobility. What kinds of policies our Congress can pass?
ADAMS: Well, education is very important to me. It clearly is the pathway
to the middle class. I think everything that we do under education
undergoes everything that we do and that we can do, whether we`re talking
about creating jobs.
We have to create a good workforce, a trained workforce so education is
going to be very key. I`ve spent 40 years on the campus of Bennett
College. I`m very, very close to HBCUs. We have 11 in North Carolina. I
trained at North Carolina AMT.
I did my undergraduate work there and I did my Ph.D. at Ohio State. It was
my educational experience in the -- in my undergraduate years at these
schools that really helped me to do what I`ve been able to do. So as a
teacher, I think I can still teach here in the Congress.
There`s a lot of interaction that will have to happen across the aisles.
I`ve certainly done that throughout my political career and not only in
local government, but also in my 20-and-a-half years in the North Carolina
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Representative-elect and Professor Alma Adams in
Washington, D.C. It was such a pleasure to watch your young grandson
actually introduce you on your victory night. We will be watching you as
you go to Washington.
ADAMS: Thank you. Thank you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: This morning we are awaiting President Obama, Attorney
General Eric Holder and the woman the president will nominate to replace
Mr. Holder, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. We expect them all any moment in
the Roosevelt Room of the White House and we`ll bring that to you live.
Stick with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: If there`s a persistent group of people in politics today,
it is the opponents of the Affordable Care Act. The health care law has
survived to challenge the Supreme Court and more than 50 repeal votes in
the U.S. House did not cost President Obama re-election.
It has been implemented and already yielded health insurance for about 8
million people who did not have health insurance before, and yet, the fight
against Obamacare continues.
Yesterday the Supreme Court announced it will hear yet another challenge to
the ACA. In this one, opponents of the law claim that some of the federal
tax subsidies that are helping people buy individual insurance policies are
The lawsuit claims under that ACA itself, federal subsidies only apply when
someone buys insurance on an exchange set up by an estate. They claim the
quirk in the legislative language means that the federal subsidies cannot
help someone buy insurance on the exchange setup by the federal government.
Democrats say the language is a mistake, a little more than a typo. Only
16 states in Washington, D.C. have a state exchange meaning subsidies in
the other 34 states could be struck down. Almost 5 million people have
received subsidies on the federal exchanges.
The subsidies are key to keeping costs down and keeping the entire law
afloat. So Dorian, this is like -- I feel like it`s a pinkie and the brain
evil/genius moment. First the governors and state legislatures refused to
set up the changes.
And then once the federal exchanges come in to take their place, then they
say nope, no subsidies. And they refuse to expand Medicaid, which sent
more people into the area. The idea that we could be looking at removing
health insurance for more than 5 million people who now have it.
WARREN: And this would literally be taking thousands of dollars. Taking
money out of people`s pockets and taking away their health insurance
coverage. And the politics of this and the potential backlash of this,
clearly this court is itching to decide this case. At least four justices
have taken the case.
So clearly they`re itching to revisit this question. If they do this, I
think there could be significant political ramifications for the Republican
Party on the right. Because that gives an opening to Democrats to say,
this Supreme Court, this court took thousands of dollars out of your pocket
and took your health care away.
HARRIS-PERRY: And if the court does it, does it insulate the Republican
Party from it? Well, like in the same way that the Democrats are -- we got
-- I`m sorry.
Everyone has to hold on with me for a moment. We are going right now to
the White House where President Obama is expected to announce the
nomination of U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to replace Attorney General Eric
OBAMA: I rely on my cabinet every day to make sure we`re not just getting
the job done, but making progress for the American people. And in a
country built on the rule of law, there are few offices more important than
that of attorney general.
The attorney general is the people`s lawyer. As our nation`s chief law
enforcement officer, the person in this position is responsible for
enforcing our federal laws, including protecting our civil rights.
Working with the remarkable men and women of the Justice Department, the
attorney general oversees the vast portfolio of cases, including
counterterrorism and voting rights, public corruption and white collar
crime, judicial recommendations and policy reviews, all of the which impact
on the lives of every American and shape the life of our nation.
As I said back in September, when he decided to step down, I am enormously
grateful to Eric Holder for his outstanding service in this position. He
is one of the longest serving attorney generals in American history and one
of our finest.
Eric brought to this job a belief that justice isn`t just an abstract
theory, but a living, breathing principle. It`s about how laws interact
with the daily lives of our people.
Whether we can make an honest living, whether we can provide for our
families, whether we feel safe in our communities and welcome in our own
country, whether the words the founder set to paper 238 years ago apply to
every one of us in our time.
So thanks to Eric, our nation is safer and freer and more Americans
regardless of race or religion or gender or creed or sexual orientation or
disability receive fair and equal treatment under the law. I couldn`t be
more proud of Eric.
And I couldn`t be more proud that today I can announce somebody who shares
that fierce commitment to equal justice under the law as my nominee nor the
next attorney general, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
I also, by the way, want to thank the chair of the Senate Judiciary
Committee Patrick Leahy for being here on a Saturday to show his support.
It`s pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta.
Throughout her 30-year career, she has distinguished herself as tough, as
fair, an independent lawyer who has twice headed one of the most prominent
U.S. attorney`s offices in the country.
She has spent years in the trenches as a prosecutor, aggressively fighting
terrorism, financial fraud, cybercrime, all while vigorously defending
A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Loretta Rose as the
assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York to chief of the
Long Island Office, chief assistant U.S. attorney, and U.S. attorney.
She successfully prosecuted the terrorist who plotted to bomb the Federal
Reserve Bank and the New York City subway. She has boldly gone after
public corruption and bringing charges against public officials in both
She`s helped secure billions in settlements from the biggest banks accused
of fraud and jail some of New York`s most violent and notorious mobsters
and gang members.
And one of her proudest achievements was the civil rights prosecution of
the officers involved in the brutal assault of the Haitian immigrant,
Loretta might be the only lawyer in America who battles mobsters and drug
lords and terrorist, and still has the reputation for being a charming
And that`s probably because Loretta doesn`t look to make headlines. She
wants to make a difference. She is not about splash. She is about
substance. I could not be more confident that Loretta will bring her
signature intelligence and passion and commitment to our key priorities
including important reforms in our criminal justice system.
She has consistently proven her leadership and earned the trust and respect
of those she serves. Since 2010 she`s been a member of the Committee of
the U.S. attorneys across the nation, who advice the attorney general on
matters of policy.
And she has served as chair of that committee since 2013. So it`s no
wonder that the Senate unanimously confirmed her to be the head of the U.S.
attorney`s office in two separate situations, once under President Clinton
and once under my administration.
It`s my hope that the Senate will confirm her a third time without delay.
At every stage in her career, Loretta has followed the principle of
fairness, equality and justice that she absorbed as a young girl.
She`s born in Greensboro, North Carolina. The year before black students
there sat down at a whites-only lunch counter helping to spark a movement
to change the course of this country.
And daughter of a school librarian and a fourth-generation Baptist
minister, which meant that she knew when to be quiet. It`s a little
intimidating, being the daughter of a librarian and a minister.
But Loretta road on her father`s shoulders to his church where students
would meet to organize anti-segregation boycotts. She was inspired by
stories about her grandfather (inaudible) in the 1930s, who helped folks in
his community who got in trouble with the law and had no recourse under the
Jim Crow system.
I know that if he were here today, he would be just as proud as her as I`m
sure her husband, Steven is. I want to thank Steven, Loretta`s stepson,
Ryan, her stepdaughter, Kia and her other family members who came here
today. We appreciate you guys agreeing to share her with the American
people a little bit longer.
Loretta spent her life fighting for fair and equal justice that is the
foundation of our democracy. I can think of no better public servant to be
our next attorney general. Let me introduce to you, Ms. Loretta Lynch.
LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Thank you, everyone, and thank
you first of all, Mr. President for that kind introduction, but most
importantly thank you for your faith in me and asking me to succeed an
attorney general whom I admire and to lead the department that I love.
No one gets to this place, this room, this podium, this moment by
themselves. I also must thank Attorney General Eric Holder for your
support and your friendship over the years as well as by leading by example
and always, always pushing this department to live up to its name.
And I want to thank Chairman Leahy, senior officials of the Department of
the Justice and members of the cabinet for being here today. To my
colleagues in the U.S. attorney community and throughout the department on
who I lean every day, I thank you all of you as well for your support both
now and all the work that we have ahead.
And to my beloved office, the Eastern District of New York, my professional
home. You have twice now given me the privilege of being able to serve you
and to focus on nothing, nothing but the protection of the people. It has
been a joy. It has been an honor.
And I will carry you with me wherever I go. And of course, to my wonderful
family, several only who are here with me today. All of whom are always
with me in love and support. Most especially my parents who could not be
here today but are watching, whose ever thought and sacrifice has always
been for their children.
They have supported me in all of my endeavors as I strive to live up to
their example of service. The Department of Justice is the only cabinet
department named for an ideal and this is actually appropriate. Because
our worth is boast aspirational and grounded in gritty reality.
It is both ennobling and both profoundly challenging. Today I stand before
you so thrilled and frankly so humbled to have the opportunity to lead this
group of wonderful people who work all day and well into the night to make
that ideal a manifest reality, all as part of their steadfast protection of
the citizens of this country.
Mr. President, thank you again for the faith you that placed in me. I
pledge today to you and to the American people that if I have the honor of
being confirmed by the Senate, I will wake up every morning with the
protection of the American people my first thought.
And I will work every day to safeguard our citizens, our liberties, our
rights, and this great nation, which has given so much to me and my family.
I thank you again, Mr. President and Mr. Attorney General and all of you
for being here.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think it is a wonderful day for them and their
families and obviously we are very grateful for their safe return. And I
appreciate the director doing a great job on what was obviously a
challenging mission. All right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And there you have it, a little bit of history made for you
right here on this Saturday morning on MHP. The U.S. attorney for the
Eastern District of New York, Loretta Lynch, currently supervises 170
attorneys and 150 other personnel serving five New York counties including
Brooklyn and queens.
If her nomination is approved by the U.S. Senate, Miss Lynch, will become
the first African-American woman attorney general. Want to bring in now
from Washington, NBC News senior White House correspondent, Chris Jansing.
Chris, this selection of Loretta Lynch is undeniably historic. Let me ask
about the politics here. The first big question I have for you, is this
going to happen in the next two months? Will this happen during the lame
CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You have gotten
to the heart of it. This could be the first Senate showdown in this post-
election term. The Democrats have indicated they would like to do that,
although they haven`t made a decision. The ball is in their court.
The president and his staff have indicated they would certainly like it to
happen quickly. But they`re going to defer to the Senate. But Mitch
McConnell, who will be the incoming senate majority leader has said, don`t
And this is going to be the first test of what we heard them both talk
about, which is can they find this spirit of cooperation? I mean, if you
look at the short list of people who we think the president is considering.
She`s probably the least controversial.
Twice confirmed, as the president but by acclamation, and I think the key
thing we heard from the president, Melissa, is she doesn`t look to make
headlines. She looks to make a difference. For somebody in one of the
most high profile positions, she kept it low profile but prosecuted in the
areas that will be very important upcoming.
Of course, terrorism, public corruption, organized crime. She`s also
somebody who is not personally close to the president. He has so many
people in his inner circle who he has been close to for a long time. That
could actually be an advantage to her when you look at this new Republican
dominated Senate. That she isn`t considered to be a close Obama ally.
But to the critical question of will this happen in the lame duck or will
it happen in the new session on Congress in January, we don`t know the
answer to that yet.
HARRIS-PERRY: One more quick question, Chris, so as much as she`s kept a
low profile, not thought to make headlines for herself personally, the fact
is, we are looking at -- in the next few weeks whether or not there`s an
indictment out of Ferguson, Missouri.
And whether or not the Department of Justice will then bring civil rights
charges or not against the officer, in part depending or whether or not
there`s an indictment. And certainly her experience in the Lima case in
New York suggests she`s not looking to make headlines, if she`s in fact the
attorney general, she may make some.
JANSING: Well, there is no doubt about that and there are a lot of cases
that are out there, that`s the most significant. The one that you have put
forward, but look, this is also about the president`s legal legacy. Can
she be the person who moves forward on the things that really matter to
One of them is prison sentencing reform. It`s something that Eric Holder
has been very much in the forefront of Guantanamo Bay. So Ferguson on the
forefront, but in the next two years, a couple of significant things and
probably more that haven`t happened yet that are not only important in the
grand scheme of the U.S. legal landscape, but also in shaping President
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Chris Jansing at the White House. Up next, I`m
going to bring Judith Browne Dianis back in on this historic attorney
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama just nominated U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch
to be his next attorney general. I want to go to Judith Browne Dianis, who
is still with us in the D.C. Bureau. Obviously there`s a little bit of
history being made in terms of the potential AG`s identity as an African-
But talk to us a little more about what you know about her position around,
for example, sentencing reform, civil rights, corruption. What kind of AG
might we expect her to be if she`s confirmed?
DIANIS: Well, first I have to say whoo for African-American women today!
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, sister moment.
DIANIS: I`m sorry. I had to do that. But I think, you know, this is the
right moment for her. You know, first we can`t lose the fact that Attorney
General Holder put the Department of Justice on the right path on civil
And she now will be coming in as a person who grew up in Greensboro, North
Carolina, in an activist household. She will have to deal with voting
rights issue. I think she`s the right person.
But she`s also teamed up with Vinita Gupta, who is heading the civil rights
division. We have a two-fer there. In addition to the case that she did
against the officers in New York, the police officers in New York, it`s
really important in this moment as we see the indictment or non-indictment,
the decision on that coming down out of Ferguson.
But not only that, but there`s so many cases across the country and so we
need an AG not scared to take on police misconduct and police brutality.
But she`s also great on terrorism. She`s in New York. She`s seen all
kinds of cases and had to be a strong U.S. attorney in the most complex
kind of office there is in the country.
So I`m excited about having her. The Senate better do right thing. If
not, going to rely on the president to do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here we have a woman with an undergraduate degree from
Harvard, a law degree from Harvard, a sterling record, two affirmations in
the U.S. Senate, in terms of having been confirmed previously. I want the
viewers of nerdland to know during the president`s announcement there was -
- and I won`t tell you who is on what side.
But there`s bets at the table being placed about whether or not this --
either this lame duck Senate or the one that will come in after January is
actually going to confirm or, or whether or not they`re going to use this
as yet another opportunity to be a sort of wall against President Obama and
what it is he wants.
DIANIS: Well, I have to say this. One thing that we need to make sure of
is that the president feels that he gets the backing of all of the groups
going to support her. We`re going to be behind her 100 percent and behind
this administration because the one thing we don`t want to do is to see him
have to withdraw this nomination. We`re going to be strong.
HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe the best thing to do is stand nowhere around her.
Okay. Thank you to Judith Browne Dianis in Washington, D.C. I`m here in
New York. Thank you to Richard Kim and Ron Christie and to Lizz Winstead
and Dorian Warren.
You can feel free to place bets on who you think was placing bets about
whether or not she will be confirmed. Before we go to break, though, I
want to update everyone on the news story out of North Korea this morning.
You heard President Obama comment just moments ago. Two American citizens
who had been held in North Korea have been released and are on their way
home according to the State Department. Kenneth Bae who is a Korean-
American tour guide and Christian missionary had been held for two years in
In 2013, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly
committing hostile acts against the Korean state. Matthew Todd Miller had
been detained since April. In September, he was sentenced to six years of
The state has accused him of espionage for attempting to investigate human
rights conditions at a North Korean prison. Director of National
Intelligence James Clapper travelled to the secretive country to secure
their release and is accompanying them back to the U.S. today.
Stick with us and MSNBC throughout the day for updates on this breaking
HARRIS-PERRY: My foot soldier this week spent three years documenting the
lives of six children as they studied in Juilliard`s Music Advancement
Program, a Saturday outreach program for students typically from
communities that are underserved in the arts.
Some kind of spark from Producer/Director Ben Niles captures the hurdles
and frustrations young musicians and their teachers face throughout their
journey and the guidance they receive along the way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry. That`s all right, that`s all right. It took me
a long time to do this really correctly. The key is to be patient with it.
Don`t expect you`re going to get it all right in one day. It`s going to
take some time, maybe some months, before it`s perfected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I am pleased to have with us the young man you just saw in
that clip, Rahman Amer, his teacher, Weston Sprott and filmmaker, Ben
Niles. To tell a young person, it`s going to take months to get this right
and the level of intensity and discipline. What do you feel you`ve learned
from that process?
RAHMAN AMER, STUDENT, JILLIARD MUSIC ADVANCEMENT PROGRAM: Well, I don`t
know. There`s so much to learn just from music in general. I feel like I
learned that hard work pays off, I guess. Months of working -- it`s a long
process. And that thing is not easy to do at all. It`s called triple-
Mr. Sprott used to pick out everything I couldn`t do and break me into
pieces and build me back up. I can do that with pretty much anything and
it helps grow me as a musician in general.
HARRIS-PERRY: When you say lessons like that, I feel like, yes, it`s about
learning to play the beautiful instrument and becoming a musician and
having competency in reading music. But the other part is the lessons that
we learn. I loved these young people having this opportunity.
But I think, why pluck young people and bring them here rather than
bringing it to all students. It`s not a critique of the program. Why not
bring it to all kids?
WESTON SPROTT, TEACHER, JILLIARD MUSIC ADVANCEMENT PROGRAM: We`re going
the best we can with the best resources that we have. We need more people
to accomplish that incredible mass of work. We`re trying to inspire young
people to learn values about discipline and work ethic.
And we realize the mandate of a real education isn`t just to produce more
cogs in a machine, but rather to produce the next great members or good
members of a great society. That`s what we`re trying to build here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Amen. To say not just cogs in a machine but in fact
creative, broad-thinking citizens feels like what we have moved away from
in public education as we moved toward other types of education. I wonder
what your goals around the film are, is it about opening it up for public
education as well as for a program like this?
BEN NILES, FILMMAKER: Absolutely. When we set out to make this film, we
knew we would do a lot of outreach after the film. We want to reach out to
communities where the film might be screening and encouraging them to come
out and see if we can build a little bit of a movement because I think it`s
pretty well known that arts education in general is always slashed first.
I know where my kids go to school, and they`re good schools, they`re only
getting like 15, 20 hours a year of music education.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have no time. But why did you pick this instrument? How
did you come to it?
AMER: It`s a unfunny story. I didn`t pick the instrument. My first
choice was percussion. So I was going to get kicked out of the program.
But there was no trombone player in the room. That`s how I picked it up.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that. Sometimes it`s the mistakes, the errors, even
the failures that lead us into greatness. I`m so enjoying and can`t wait
to see who you become as you grow into manhood.
AMER: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ben Niles, "Some Kind Of Spark" makes its world premiere on
Sunday the 16th at DOC-NYC right here in New York. Thank you to Rahman
Amer, to Weston Sprott and to Ben Niles.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. See you
tomorrow morning. There is a story called pointer-gate. It`s perhaps the
most incredible story we`ve heard all week long. And we`re bringing the
man at the center of the story right here. Right now, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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