PoliticsNation, Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Read the transcript from the Thursday show
Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: November 20, 2014
Guest: Xavier Becerra, Susan Milligan, Dana Milbank, Angela Rye, Douglas
Brinkley, Joe Madison, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Luis Gutierrez, Ed
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks to you for tuning in. I`m live
tonight in Washington, D.C. for one of the most important nights of the
We begin with that breaking news. In less than two hours, President Obama
will address the nation, revealing the steps he`ll take to help fix our
broken immigration system. His historic executive action is set to help
millions of families. It could also lead to a political war for months if
not years to come.
Tonight, the president is helping to fulfill a promise he made nearly two
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Remember, this is not just a
debate about policy. It`s about people. It`s about men and women and
young people who want nothing more than the chance to earn their way into
the American story.
The time has come for common sense, comprehensive immigration reform. The
time is now. Now`s the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: And why is the president taking this action now? Because
Republicans in Congress didn`t.
It`s been 511 days since the Senate passed immigration reformed, 511 days
that the house has sat on its hands, 511 days that families have had to
live in fear, fear that they`ll be torn apart. So now the president is
moving forward with a plan that could protect up to five million people
from deportation, most of them, parents of U.S. citizens and legal
This will be a historic step forward for millions of people living in the
shadows. And this president is making it happen. We`re going to cover it
all, all the angles of the story, from the president, to Congress, to
people whose families are directly affected.
But we begin at the White House with NBC senior White House correspondent
Chris, this is a major moment for this administration. What are you
hearing about the speech the president will give tonight?
CHRIS JANSING, NBC SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Reverend Al,
we`re getting some new details on what will be sure to be the most sweeping
change to the immigration system in almost 30 years. It`s going to be a
feature about ten minutes long. And in it, the president will lay out his
justification and some of the details that will affect all those millions,
nearly five million Americans.
As you pointed out, some of the biggest winners, if you want to put it that
way in this, are parents of children who are citizens. So they came over
here illegally without documentation. Their children were born here. Now
they have a chance to stay. They will be allowed to get a Social Security
card. They`ll be allowed to work. What they won`t get is Social Security
benefits or Obamacare. There`s also a big new path for dreamers. More
dreamers will be eligible. It expands the age. There`s no longer an age
limit. Their parents, however, will not be eligible. And there`s expanded
opportunities for visas for people in hi-tech fields, although not as far
as the tech industry would have liked.
The White House is putting this is that they are going to focus this more -
- the deportations more on felons than family. So they have a very
specific list of the people they`re going after at the border, gang
members, suspected terrorists, felons. Anyone in fact who has come to
United States since January 1st of this year. They want to discourage new
people from coming who are undocumented.
But without a doubt, it is the most sweeping change we have seen. And it
is setting up top be a huge public relations. But you`ve heard the
Republicans who have said, he has way overstepped his executive authority.
But across the country, pro-immigration groups are setting up watch parties
tonight and say they got the president`s back. They`re going to start a
campaign to win in the court of public opinion.
SHARPTON: Yes. And yet, I sense that there`s a lot of excitement. I was
over at the White House earlier today with about 11 of us meeting with the
president. He wouldn`t show us his speech. But I don`t sense that he`s
got any doubt in his mind about what he`s doing. He doesn`t seem to have
the detractors and critics on his mind. What sense are you getting at the
JANSING: Well, look. When the president decided he wanted to do this, he
went to his cabinet and he said, I want to know how far I can go legally.
We know what`s in the bill that I wanted, the bill that the Senate passed.
What in this bill can we do that we can legally defend?
Now, I should say that we`ve learned that the reason parents of dreamers
are not included in this. They don`t feel that they had the legal
justification for the president to do it. But you are right, he feels
confident, his cabinet feels confident that what he`s done, he can legally
SHARPTON: Chris Jansing at the White House, thank you for your time
SHARPTON: Now, let me bring in Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
Congressman, you worked on this issue for years. I don`t know anyone
that`s worked harder. How are you feeling tonight?
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: I`m going to tell you what I told the
president last night at dinner, Reverend. I said to him, this is a bold,
generous, and courageous step on your part. And I`m so thankful to you.
I said to him, you know, I will travel anywhere in the country to begin
signing people up. You`re offering an opportunity to millions of Americans
to get right with the law, to register with the government, go through a
criminal background check, and if they come back with a clean bill of
health, give them what, a work permit so that they can go work and pay
taxes, get right. I mean, we want to end amnesty for them and we want to
get them on the books.
I just got to tell you, when I think of the faces of children, the
president said to us, you know what, no more children being torn up in our
broken immigration system. Let`s put the resources of the federal
government against criminals, against felons, against gang bangers and drug
dealers, people who cause us harm. And families are going to come forward.
And I got to tell you, I`m going to be in Chicago. I`m going tomorrow with
the president out to Las Vegas, but you know why I`m going out? I got to
tell you. I`m going, Reverend, because I said to myself, I want to be
there so that the president understands that I and others are with him.
The other thing I want to tell you about. Last night, maybe you saw it
today, Reverend, right? What confidence and determination he exudes in
speaking about this. I`ve never seen him more determined and more hopeful.
And let me just say, the community out there is excited. It`s almost in
breathless anticipation. Waited so long.
The Republican-held, controlled House of Representatives didn`t want to do
anything, and the president`s going to act tonight opinion can`t wait to
hear his speech.
SHARPTON: But Congressman, I want to have you hold are for a minute.
SHARPTON: But I did see that same focus in, I did see the determination in
the president and -- in meeting with us today. But the fury on the right
is, you know, when you walk out at the White House, is as passionate as the
excitement of those that are one to see the day. How are we going to deal
with that fury?
GUTIERREZ: Here`s how we`re going to deal with it. Because we`re going to
tell the American people who it is. I think when we explain to the
American people that amnesty is doing nothing, that we`re going to register
them with the government, we`re going to have them pay taxes, we are going
to make them pay at their own expense, to go through a criminal background
check, and if they come back with a clean bill of health, I think the
American public is going to say, that`s progress. And then we are going to
take the resources, put them. That`s a stand our porter between Mexico and
the United States. That`s necessary.
But our border at LaGuardia, our border at LAX, our border at O`Hare and in
Miami. You know, millions and millions of undocumented workers are in this
country never crossed that border. We`re going to change the conversation.
And lastly, you know, what we`re going to talk about? We are going to talk
about that soldier that has deployment order after deployment order after
deployment order. And unfortunately, has a deportation order against their
spouse. That actually happens. And when the American public sees this is
about Americans, I think the American public is going to say, use that
executive authority that you have, and they`re going to be happy. Because
in the end, the American people are always going to be on the side of
And lastly, can you imagine what it must have been like when President
Truman in 1948 signed an executive order? He didn`t go to Congress, didn`t
ask a single senator, because if he had asked them, you know, it would have
been the Dixiecrats (ph), his own Democrats who would have told him not to
do it. And you know what he did? He signed it.
What do we do today? We celebrate Truman`s courage. It wasn`t like that
back in 1948. We are going to celebrate today the president`s courage.
SHARPTON: Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell now is with us, too.
Governor, thanks for joining us, first of all.
ED RENDELL (D), FORMER GOVERNOR, PENNSYLVANIA: My pleasure. Tough to
follow the representative`s enthusiasm.
SHARPTON: Yes. He`s very, very passionate there. He has been throughout
this fight, no doubt about it.
But let me ask you, what are the politics here tonight?
RENDELL: Well the politics, I actually believe that the president is doing
this solely because he believes it`s the right thing and because it`s a
promise he made two years ago and he`s right when he says, this isn`t about
politics, it`s about people.
But let`s look at the politics. I think the Republicans will lose in court
if they go to court. The president clearly has the discretion to tell the
justice department who he wants to deport and who he wants to not deport,
where he wants the emphasis to be. It is clearly within his rights.
But more than that, if the Republican party can`t control itself, if they,
in fact, shut down the government because of this, they`ll pay a heavy
price. If, in fact, they say, we`re not going to do anything about
immigration, because the president took this action, they`ll look like
spoiled children. They`ll pay a heavy price.
If in fact they say, we`re not going to meet the president halfway about
anything because he did this, they`ll pay a heavy price. So I think it`s a
test for the Republican Party and its leadership whether they`re going to
be responsible and go ahead, and if they don`t like the executive order,
pass a bill. Send the president a bill. That would end the executive
SHARPTON: Pass the Senate bill.
RENDELL: Right. They have their power in a month to do away with this
SHARPTON: Congressman, senior White House officials broke down what this
process would work like. What it would be like. One parents of U.S.
citizen, a legal resident, will be able to apply for deferred action if
they`ve been in the country for five years and if they don`t have a
criminal record, which you pointed out. Separately they can apply for work
authorization, but it does not provide a path to citizenship. What do you
make of the plan?
GUTIERREZ: Right. Here`s what I make of the plan. As Governor Rendell
just stated to us, what the president is doing is a first step. It`s an
initiation of a process to heal our broken immigration system. But the
people who have to finish the job is the Congress of the United States, the
members of the House and the Senate.
And I just want to echo the statements of the governor. Look, this program
does not begin until January 1st of 2015. It will take 180 days from that
moment before the first offices open that someone can apply for a work
permit or anything from the program, 180 days.
So here`s what I`m going to do. On January 6th, when I get sworn in with
the new Congress, I`m taking a calendar down there. And I`m going to tell
them, hey, you got 180 minus six days and every 30 days we should continue
to challenge them to say, every month, you got 60 days, 30 days, 90 days.
Tell them to act. They have six months before anybody.
And let me just say this. Think about it a moment. What we`re saying to
people is, at your own expense, we`re going to process these documents and
these petitions for your work permit at your own expense. And you got to
get right with the law and you got to pay back taxes. You got to get right
with the law.
What is -- I mean, it`s amazing to me that Republicans would say, I want to
shut down the government because I don`t want to collect billions of
dollars in additional taxes from people in America.
SHARPTON: Governor, you can`t help but think about the moment in history
this is. What will this be in terms of the president`s legacy, President
Obama`s legacy? What will this mean?
RENDELL: Well, I think it will be a real plus and a positive for his
legacy. Because I agree with the Congressman. I think this is going to be
the catalyst for action. I think the Republican Party has got to act. I
think if they sit on their hands and act like petulant children, as I said,
they`ll pay a heavy price.
So I think you will see a bill sent to the president, a reasonable bill, a
bill that can get democratic support in the Senate, where they have to have
Democrats to pass it, because of the filibuster rule. You will see a
reasonable bill sent to the president before that 180 days.
But by the way, Representative Gutierrez, if I can give him a message,
that`s a great tactic. We got the minimum wage raised in Pennsylvania,
even when I had all Republican legislatures because we started ticking off
the days. Ticking off the days we have introduced the bill and they
wouldn`t bring it to the floor for a vote. And eventually, we embarrassed
them into action. And that will be part of the president`s legacy, Rev.
SHARPTON: Congressman and former Governor Ed Rendell, I`m out of time.
Thank you for your time tonight.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Coming up on this historic night for the president and the
country, the GOP scare machine goes into overdrive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re going to see -- hopefully not, but you could see
instances of anarchy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What do you mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could see violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I`ve got a few ideas about what all this over-the-top rhetoric
reveals about the GOP.
Also, the human cost of gridlock. We`ll hear from some of the millions of
real people who have been asking for the type of action we`ll see tonight.
Plus, turning point. How will tonight`s big move affect the Obama
presidency and his legacy?
Big show ahead. Please stay with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: In just under two hours, we`ll hear a historic announcement from
the president on immigration.
Straight ahead, the Republican reaction is already heating up. One member
of Congress is even talking about jail time.
Stay with us.
SHARPTON: In just under two hours, President Obama will announce his
executive action on immigration. The president has long vowed to take
action if Congress didn`t. Yet, Republicans are absolutely losing their
minds over it today. Political threats, a shutdown, a lawsuit, even
impeachment, and now this from a Republican senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The country`s going to go nuts, because they`re going
to see it as a move outside of the authority of the president. And it`s
going to be a very dangerous situation. You`re going to see -- hopefully
not -- but you could see instances of anarchy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What do you mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could see violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: What is he even implying there?
And today they were all -- they were all on message to distract and attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE DAINES (R), MONTANA: President Obama seems to have forgotten
that he is not a king.
REP. SAM JOHNSON (R), TEXAS: The president is ignoring the American
people, our constitution with the president`s imperial actions.
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: He drops this bomb in the middle of us, and
there will be -- it will tear as under this constitution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s almost like a 13-year-old reacting, look at me,
I`m important again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: It`s ugly stuff. And late today Speaker Boehner joined the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president has said
before that he`s not king and he`s not an emperor, but he`s sure acting
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The president is doing his job. Acting when Republicans in
Congress won`t. No matter what they throw at him, he`s not blinking.
Joining me now is Victoria DeFrancesco Soto and Joe Madison. Thank you
both for being here.
JOE MADISON, HOST, MORNINGS WITH MADISON: Thank you, Reverend.
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, NBC LATINO CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Joe, I have to start with the claim from GOP Senator Tom Coburn
about the president possibly triggering anarchy and violence. What`s your
take on this?
MADISON: It`s inflammatory. It`s provoking violence, coming from someone
who works in one of the most gasps (ph) bodies of government, And I don`t
think I`ve ever heard any kind of language like that, quite candidly, since
the civil war.
And if one would go back, and I did this the other day, and look at when
Lincoln signed one of the executive orders, which was the emancipation
proclamation, there are political cartoons accusing him of being an
emperor. This is just history repeating itself again.
SOTO: What is so crazy about Coburn`s remarks, when he said this country
is going to go nuts if he signs this executive order is, why don`t we think
about what would happen to this country if we were to deport the five
million plus undocumented persons who would be covered under there? That`s
when our country would truly go nuts. Can you imagine what would happen?
Our country would come to a standstill.
Economically speaking, we depend on immigrant labor and much of it is
undocumented. What gets me is the hypocrisy of Republicans. They talk
about the need for growing and expanding the economy, don`t they understand
that substantive sectors of our economy, agriculture, construction, rests
literally on the backs of immigrants. They are not just in touch with the
reality of what our economic society faces.
SHARPTON: You know, GOP Congressman Mo Brooks, he went even further. He
said, quote, "at some point you have to evaluate whether the president`s
conduct aids or abets, encourages or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross
into the United States of America. That has a five-year-in-jail penalty
associated with it."
I mean, is he seriously floating this insane idea to put the president of
the United States in jail?
MADISON: He`s serious about that. That`s exactly what he is. He`s very
serious and very stupid about it. And there`s not a lawyer, a lawyer,
unless he is a lawyer, in this country that would agree that anything the
president does in the next two hours is high crime and misdemeanor that
would have, in fact, have jail time. Now, you will find a lawyer and I
will interview him, you will interview him, and I guarantee you that any
reasonable attorney would know that is not possible.
Let me add something else too that these conservatives need to understand.
If you had to deport five million people, I read the other day, where it
would cost a minimum of $20,000 per person.
SHARPTON: Per person?
MADISON: Per person.
SHARPTON: Times five million.
You know, Victoria, Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman, you know, this is
what she said about the president`s plan. The social cost will be profound
on the U.S. taxpayer. Millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals
coming into the United States who can`t speak the English language. I
mean, how many do comments like this undermine the Republicans` efforts to
be taken seriously in immigration debate, Victoria?
SOTO: First of all, Reverend, she`s factually incorrect. Because by
putting forward this executive action, we are going to have increased
revenue from the back taxes and the fines they are paying.
And second, in terms of revenue -- I`m sorry, in terms of rhetoric, they`re
alienating Latinos. All right, we get that. But I think more
interestingly, they are alienating that moderate middle. They`re even
alienating Republicans, because don`t forget that there are sizeable
portions of the Republican Party who support immigration.
Remember, the bibles, badges and business, there are Republicans who say,
hey, it makes sense. So by using this rhetoric, you`re pushing a lot of
people away and you are just endearing yourself to a small tea party
SHARPTON: You know, Joe, next week, when your right wing Uncle comes over
for thanksgiving, you might hear this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The emperor in chief of the United States
is going to declare war on the U.S. constitution and grant amnesty to
millions of people.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It is like we`re going to put the
constitution up on a wall and Obama is going to start shooting a BB gun at
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, I don`t know you have a right wing uncle, but a lot of
listeners do. How do they deal with this across --?
MADISON: I`ve got a cousin Pooky (ph), but he did go vote. But I think
what you have to do is remind that uncle that it was just a couple years
ago you talked about family values and how important families are.
Now, what will the president do? He`s going to talk about keeping families
together. Hey, Uncle, excuse me, if we deport the mother and the father,
who takes care of the child who is a citizen that you can`t deport because
the constitution says so?
I mean, this is crazy stuff. And you know what, I hope they do consider
impeachment. I hope they do consider jail. I hope they do consider it
because they can bend over and kiss their collective you know what goodbye.
SHARPTON: Victoria, they say a lot of this because they believe it, or
they say a lot of this because they really have no concrete, substantive
answers to where they would go with immigration, which is why they haven`t
even passed the Senate bill that`s already passed the Senate?
SOTO: I`m leaning towards the latter, Reverend. I mean, I think there are
some people who really do believe they can impeach the president. They
will throw him in jail. But I think most Republicans are performing Kabuki
theater. They are trying to make up for time and figure out what, can we
do between now and when it`s implemented. And they also know that if they
were to in fact pursue these options of impeachment or jail time, that it
would hurt them, not just in the short-term, but the medium to long-term.
This say party that says it wants to increase its size, wants to be a big
tent. Well, this isn`t what you want to do if you want that.
And 2016 is not far off from here. And if they want to go back to the
White House, they need to play nice.
SHARPTON: Victoria DeFrancesco Soto and Joe Madison, thank you for your
MADISON: Thank you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Coming up, a dream becomes reality, five million stories. We`ll
look at the human faces behind this action tonight.
And can Republicans stop this? We know they will try, but can they
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST, "POLITICS NATION": You`re looking at a live
picture of the White House where in about an hour and a half President
Obama will address the nation about his immigration plan. And we just got
excerpts from the speech. The President will say, quote, "that`s the real
amnesty, leaving the broken system the way it is, mass amnesty would be
unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our
character. What I`m describing is accountability. A common-sense, middle-
ground approach. If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows
and get right with the law. If you`re a criminal, you`ll be deported. If
you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and
sent back just went up."
Joining me now is Congressman Xavier Becerra, Democrat from California,
who`s been a champion for reform. Congressman Becerra, thank you for being
REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Reverend, good to be with you.
SHARPTON: First, the President will say reform is not amnesty and is a
common-sense approach. What do you say to those tonight who don`t agree
with this immigration reform?
BECERRA: Well, it isn`t amnesty, when you have to pay taxes and register
and go through a background check. It`s not amnesty. If you can`t survive
a background check, you`re gone. If you`re not willing to pay taxes,
you`re gone. And so this is no freebie. You have to be able to prove that
you have an opportunity to do things the right way, come out of the
SHARPTON: The opposition to this is really ferocious. Can it be stopped?
BECERRA: Reverend, it`s like the civil rights movement. The opposition
was ferocious. Can it be stopped? It wasn`t a matter of, can it be
stopped, it must be stopped. So, we`re going to move forward. The dye is
cast. We`re not turning back the clock. And so, we`re moving forward.
This is a new day. And everyone who believes that we can wind back the
clock is in for a different story. It`s time to move forward.
SHARPTON: You know, this is a civil rights movement, and it`s about
people. It`s not about politics. Let`s listen to some of the voices that
are affected by this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: My name is Aka. And -- (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: When you think about it, you realize, I have a degree, I
have all this. What am I doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sophomore year, when I took driver`s Ed, that`s kind of
when it hit me, I can`t get a driver`s license, I can`t have a student I.D.
There`s no way I can get in the military.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: What do you think the reaction is going to be as people see the
people coming from the shadows and finally be able to have an opportunity?
Because as the President said, there`s harsh lines here, have an
opportunity to come forward and live as American citizens that have been
living here anyway.
BECERRA: You know, Reverend, I think one of the first and probably one of
the common reactions will be, I didn`t know that that friend of my
daughters was undocumented. I didn`t know that my neighbor was
undocumented. I didn`t know that the person who`s been serving me my
breakfast at the cafe for the last five years was undocumented. And now I
know. And they`re just like me. And it`s like a lot of these things.
Once people begin to realize, oh, they`re just like the family that I know,
the friends that I know, it`s going to change. I believe it will take some
time. We have to make sure people understand, this not amnesty because
there are those who opposes, who want to make it sound like people are
getting something free and you`re not. And remember, this is not a
permanent fix. We still need Congress to act. This is only a first good
step. But we still need Congress to act because the President can only do
this temporarily and in a limited way.
SHARPTON: You know, there are more than 11 million undocumented immigrants
in the U.S. The President`s action could affect five million of them. So
that means more than six million won`t be eligible. Including parents of
dreamers and farm workers. "The New York Times" says that decision was
made to make it harder to challenge the action that he`s taking tonight.
Quote, "Administration officials have said the President`s actions were
designed to be legally unassailable, which activists said, led the White
House to make some tough choices." So the White House is very confident in
its authority. But doesn`t this show how much we still need the Congress
to act, Congressman?
BECERRA: That`s absolutely right, Reverend. The President has said, I
can`t change the law. The President has said, I can`t fix this by myself.
And what the President now is saying is, this is what I can do, because
under my inherent authorities as the President of the United States within
the constitution, this is what I can do to make a law work better and
smarter. But he can`t change the law. And so he`s limited. And so, he
can only do so much for that population that`s out there. One of the
reasons that he`s going to put more enforcement at the border, so we can
crack down on those trying to come in the wrong way. I think the President
is right. He`s got to send the message. We`ve had a system that hasn`t
worked for a long time. And it`s no one person`s fault that there are
people here without documents. Because remember, there are Americans who
are hiring and keeping these folks employed.
SHARPTON: Oh, yes, and exploiting them.
BECERRA: And exploiting. And so, what we got to do is now deal with the
fact that we`re trying to stop that from happening again. But for those
who were here who can prove they`ve been here for more than five years,
working, paying taxes, do the background check, what the President is
saying is, come out of the shadows, because when the Congress finally asked
to make this a permanent fix, we`ll treat you right.
SHARPTON: Congressman Xavier Becerra, you`re quite right about this being
a civil rights issue, by the way. That`s why we are very concerned about
BECERRA: Yes, sir.
SHARPTON: Thanks for your time tonight.
BECERRA: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, high stakes for the president. What do Americans
need to hear tonight?
Plus, the political implications for the key political players in this
fight. That`s all coming up as we get ready for a big night in Washington.
Please stay with us.
SHARPTON: It`s time now for a special political edition of "Conversation
Joining me tonight here in Washington, Susan Milligan of U.S. News and
World Report. "The Washington Post" Dana Milbank, and political strategist
Angela Rye. Thank you all for being here.
ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Thanks, Rev.
DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Thank you, Rev.
SHARPTON: Let`s get right to the high stakes of this executive action
tonight. Forty eight percent are against the President acting alone on
immigration. But 74 percent support a path way to citizenship. So
Americans support the policies, but not the President`s action. Seems odd.
Dana, what does the President need to do to address this point tonight?
MILBANK: I wouldn`t be too concerned about that. Because what we`ve seen
over and over again is, Americans do not care about process. And whenever
anybody fights an election based on how the process worked or the vote, you
know, I mean, remember John Kerry saying how he voted for the whatever
hundred million before he voted against it? Not a good way to proceed in
politics. So if he`s got the message right and the exit poll certainly
show that he`s on the public`s side here, he`ll win that fight here
ultimately. He just got to keep hammering away at the message. It`s not
about delivering a speech tonight. It`s about making this point over and
over and over again and intimidating the republicans and in seeing if
they`re going to be crazy enough to shut down the government.
SUSAN MILLIGAN, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: I agree completely. And while
he might take some hits in the short-term and I think we`ll see the
republicans make all kinds of threats, in the medium and the long-term,
it`s absolutely brilliant. If you`re a republican primary candidate for
president, you`re going to have to come out to appease the base and say I`m
going to undo this, that`s not going to work well in a general election.
How are you going to come out and say, I`m going to separate these families
that were united? That`s not a good message in the general election in
2016. And I agree Dana, the public, they might not like the way he`s doing
this, but they`ll forget about it and then they`ll focus on the policy
RYE: I think one thing that we haven`t really talked about with these
numbers is the fact that some folks don`t want him to act unilaterally
because they don`t think he`ll go far enough. Other folks don`t want to
act unilaterally because they think he`ll go too far, right?
RYE: So, there`s that one piece and I think the same that we do have to
pay attention to is the fact that over 70 percent of Americans think that
there needs to be some type of action. I think that what we`ll see
tonight, again, are just like the polls show, people frustrated on both
sides. There are immigration activists that don`t think again, it`s far
enough. It`s a temporary fix with DACA. It`s not far enough for high tech
workers. So there`s all types of frustrations, he`ll have to do something.
SHARPTON: Now, let`s turn to the President`s gamble tonight. It`s a
decision that could have major impact on his legacy. But is there a price?
And what are the ramifications? Not just for President Obama but for all
the key political players in the fight. Angela, let`s start with the
SHARPTON: What will this mean for him in the short-term, political pain,
for his long-term legacy, I mean, what will this mean?
RYE: Well, I think it`s another great step for him in building a legacy.
Right, Rev. I think, you know, you have the Affordable Care Act, or
ObamaCare, as so many know and refer to the health care law. I think the
other thing you have to pay attention to is the fact that he has pleaded
with Congress to act. So he`s saying, this is a great marker. I`m not
saying that this is all that needs to be done to address immigration
reform, it`s not comprehensive.
SHARPTON: First step.
RYE: That`s absolutely right. And it`s a great way for him to again,
demonstrate leadership. It has to move some in some ways.
MILBANK: Politically, it works very well for the President. I think he
should have done it earlier and not been a chicken before the election. It
would have done him some good. It will certainly help him with the Latino
base right now. And you have to remember, this isn`t the end of the story
here. Republicans don`t like it. Good. Start passing some legislation.
There`s a path ahead to get all the way back to comprehensive immigration
reform if they want to follow it.
SHARPTON: Everyone, stay with us, we`re coming back. When we come back,
Jimmy Fallon and the Republican Party, next.
SHARPTON: No, no, no, the President. Back with me, our panel, Susan,
Dana, and Angela. Now to the GOP becoming a punchline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yesterday house republicans picked an all-male group of
new committee chairs for next year`s session. They`ve actually come up
with a pretty good name for that all-male group. No direction.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Susan, so does the GOP have an image problem and is it made
worse by this immigration issue?
MILLIGAN: I do think they do. And I think that having an all-male
committee chair set, except for the house of administration committee,
which ironically is sort of the housekeeping committee of the house --
SHARPTON: That`s the only --
MILLIGAN: That`s the only one that they`re putting a woman in to run.
But, yes, I think, you know, the party is going to have to expand beyond
white men if it ever wants to win another national election. And, you
know, the approach of the immigration bill and the selection of the
committee chairs is not helping them.
MILBANK: No, I mean, it reflects the caucus they have in the House. And
basically they`re in the position of using women as props and making sure
the couple that they have are front and center during in the photo ops of
that press conference.
RYE: Well, she was a prop because she was placed -- was placed on the
House Administration Committee last year because they heard about it in the
news, this picture problem, is representative of a candidate recruitment
problem. So, she absolutely was really a --
SHARPTON: So the autopsy didn`t help them?
RYE: No, they`re still dead, Rev.
SHARPTON: The fact is, how do you -- I mean, they`re there now, does the
Congress, does the senate. And their policies are driven by their fear of
the far right that affects them in primaries. How do they change their
image given the political environment that they`re in?
MILLIGAN: They didn`t do a better job of recruiting more women and more
people of color into the party, both in the rank and file and in for
elected office. I mean, they have more than they used to, but again, the
selection of the committee chairs is just, you know, it`s not seniority
that drives it anymore completely where it used to be. It`s not an
automatic thing with seniority. And the visual just looks very bad.
SHARPTON: And, Dana, the policies also seem to correspondent with the
MILBANK: Right. Like you remember when that same committee that wouldn`t
allow Sandra Fluke to testify, all-male committee.
MILBANK: So when you have the emerging of a policy that women see as
hostile to them, with an all-male pack of legislators, it`s a bit of an
SHARPTON: All right. Susan, Dana and Angela, thank you all for your time.
When we come back, President Obama`s legacy. Next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Our journey is not complete until
we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still
see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and
engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That promise kept. That`s next.
SHARPTON: We`re just about an hour away from history. President Obama`s
executive action. What does it mean for the President`s legacy?
Joining me now is presidential historian Doug Brinkley. Thank you for
being here tonight.
DOUG BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thanks for having me.
SHARPTON: Doug, how big is this night to the Obama presidency?
BRINKLEY: Well, it`s gigantic. I think we can now cross off the concept
of a lame-duck presidency. This is a major moment in his second term. It
follows climate change, with China getting that deal and net neutrality.
This president still has a lot of fight in him and I think tonight you`re
going to see him telling Congress to get out there and pass a bill if you
want to do it on immigration, but the system is broken and I have to fix
it. Remember, yes, we can, how he came into the White House, was the
saying from Caesar Chavez, so six years later into his presidency to do a
huge executive action on immigration reform, it`s a big feather in his
SHARPTON: You know, here`s another excerpt we just received from the
President`s speech. He`s going to say, the actions I`m taking are not only
lawful. They`re the kinds of action taken by every single republican
president and every democratic president for the past half century. And to
those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration
system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has
failed, I have one answer. Pass a bill. I mean, politically there`s some
mixed messages on immigration. New NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 70
percentage of people support a path way to citizenship after background
check and paying fines. But 48 percent don`t think the President should
act on his own. How might the President address this tonight, Doug?
BRINKLEY: He`s going to talk a little bit I think about the border being a
national security issue, you know, under his presidency, he`s deported a
lot of illegal people. He`s strengthened the border and that we have to
find some way to fix this brokenness. He`s going to use this opportunity
as presence to and they go primetime at night to address an audience and
remind people that -- that`s working in that in the long run, that this
needs to be done. The encouraging stat for the president, most people want
to see this fixed. And so I don`t think he`s worried about a negative poll
tonight. I think he feels this is long overdue actually. Some people
might wonder why it took six years, instead of maybe doing the executive
order in his first term.
SHARPTON: Now, in terms of presidential history, where will this fit? You
mentioned the Affordable Care Act. You`ve mentioned climate change. Is
this one of the big things that he would be remembered for in history, this
first step he`s announcing tonight?
BRINKLEY: Well, the first step`s the big thing. This is like an opening
salvo of a fight, an immigration reform fight that`s probably going to
consume a lot of oxygen in `15. But yes, I mean, he wants to show that he
broke the glass ceiling, he`s opened up the net for African-Americans,
Latinos, gay Americans, people that have been marginalized, Native
Americans, from the system. So this helps him in that regard. In the end,
that`s who his base is. This is a moment that his base will celebrate.
And the danger the republicans have is to play small ball on this. Do to
something really irresponsible like Senator Coburn just did by talking
about anarchy and violence for no reason, to throw that into the public
sphere is reprehensible. This is a president that has to deal with real
human beings, 11 million people in our country and he`s addressing five
million of them that have broken no laws. So, it`s a major moment for him.
SHARPTON: He even said, small ball, that seems to be though what the
opposition is doing.
BRINKLEY: Well, they`re trying to get a sound bite because there`s that
energy with the Tea Party. That the louder your noise is, the more you
brutalize Obama, the more press you`ll going to get.
SHARPTON: Doug Brinkley, thanks so much for your time tonight.
BRINKLEY: Thank you.
SHARPTON: In a little over an hour, we will watch the President of the
United States make a historic move, a first step. I`ve been involved in
social movements all my life. How do you really gauge whether social
movement is historic? A lot of noise and a lot of drama. And some time we
get caught up in our own fervor. The way you judge it is by how it impacts
and changes lives of people that would never have been touched or changed
before. When you look at five million people, lives will change. You know
this is real. Five million people that were in the shadows. Five million
people that felt marginalized. You know this is real. You`re watching
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton, please join us for special coverage
of President Obama`s immigration speech in 45 minutes. "HARDBALL" starts
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