'Up with Steve Kornacki' for Sunday, November 23rd, 2014
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Show: UP with STEVE KORNACKI
Date: November 23, 2014
Guest: Sahil Kapur, Will Cain, Blake Zeff, John Yarmuth, Paul Butler,
Brian Wice, Grace Meng, Neil Malhotra, Terry Anderson
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Republicans arguing about immigration with
All right, good morning. Thanks for getting up with us this Sunday
morning. Plenty of news, lots of politics to get to this morning,
including, but not limited to, the wait continuing in Ferguson, Missouri,
for that grand jury decision. A little twist overnight to tell you about
there. It`s also been a very busy week for Hillary Clinton and some of her
most ardent supporters, and we`re excited to have on the show this morning,
very excited to have with us Terry Anderson who is going to discuss U.S.
hostage policy and whether it should change now that we`re confronting
ISIS, the question of paying ransoms for hostages. Also the death
overnight of one of the most unforgettable political figures of the 20th
century. All that still to come in the show.
But we want to begin this morning with the Republican dilemma over what to
do about President Obama`s immigration action. It`s clear that most
everyone in the Republican Party is angry with the president for his
executive action and it`s equally clear that the conservative base really
wants lawmakers to respond. But as Politico reports, the party can`t agree
on what exactly it`s going to do here. So, the conservative media site
Breitbart puts it in their headline. Republicans leave town without a plan
to fight Obama quoting further, the many desperate ideas leave Republicans
without any clear course of action after the president moves forward, and
neither - when most of them be present in Washington since Congress has
To discuss this joined by our panel this morning, we have MSNBC contributor
and "Washington Post" columnist Jonathan Capehart, Sahil Kapur, our senior
congressional reporter for "The Talking Points Memo" and the Blaze`s Will
Cain joins us, as well. So, this question of what Republicans do from
here, Will, I`ll start with you. I wonder why I picked you for this. But
here`s what I see on this. We talked about this a little bit in the show
yesterday. I definitely see it in the short term, there is a political hit
that the White House is taking here and I think they`re willingly taking
which is you take the poll and people don`t like the idea of Obama acting
unilaterally on this. So, this is the number - 30 percent. But the
calculation you are making is that once he sort of does this, once he puts
this on the books, essentially, Republicans are going to be left without,
well, if you go to some effort to repeal it, that`s not a popular move
because these individual steps are popular and if you want to take some
action to repeal it, it`s going to have to be something dramatic like going
down the rule of a shutdown threat or something like that. So, they think
the politics on that front, they put the Republicans on a tough spot.
WILL CAIN, THE BLAZE: Well, Long term taking things away is never popular
politically, no matter what the issue. If you are talking about Obamacare,
immigration, whatever. Taking things away is not a popular move. The
answer to what Republicans should do here, you have to ask yourself, what
is the goal? And quickly, I think there is three - three paths here you
have to analyze. Policy, is there anything Republicans can do to actually
affect the president`s inaction on immigration? I think the answer is no.
Whether or not you are talking about defunding his policies, impeachment,
whatever maybe, you actually can`t stop this move by the president. And it
illustrates the fragile nature of our democracy, actually. That there is
very few truthfully checks and balances. And secondly, it shows the
importance of politics, that`s the point you are bringing up. The only
ultimate check on this is political. That`s why President Obama did it a
month after an election and if the American people don`t like it, it`s
going to matter in 2016. Finally, if you want to accomplish something
legally, and I think that`s important, do you want - do you want to forbid
future presidents from going down this paths, you do file a lawsuit. It
won`t stop President Obama, but hopefully it will stop future presidents
from abusing of executive power.
KORNACKI: Well, so, where does this go from here, Jonathan?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: OK, well, first of all, Congress put itself in this
position primarily because the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration
bill with lots of Republican votes. 68 votes out of the Senate went to the
House where it died. So, if Republicans want to do something on
immigration reform, Speaker Boehner should just let the bill go to the
floor for a vote and then completely upend and supersede what the president
wants to do. So, that`s the key thing. I mean, the president said and I
think correctly, that all Congress needs to do is pass a bill, if they
don`t like what he wants to do and what he`s trying to do. And we all know
that that`s not going to happen. That`s not going to happen in the lame
duck and it`s certainly not going to happen with 114th Congress.
CAIN: Just to respond to that. There`s two problems with that. One, it`s
not an appropriate form of democracy to say, do what I want or I`ll do it
on my own. The answer can`t be .
CAIN: How to stop me from doing .
SAHIL KAPUR: But there are checks on this.
KORNACKI: Go ahead.
KAPUR: There is Congress, which is going to be controlled entirely by
Republicans and they can pass a bill to overturn this, they can attach it
to a CR, and there`s also the lawsuit route. The courts can overturn this
and the president actually .
KAPUR: Illegal and you can sue. Well, the point is if he`s losing in
court or if Congress is overturning it or Democrats are defecting and
siding with Republicans on this, then Republicans have a big advantage, and
that is a check on the president. The problem here is that Republican
leaders don`t know what they want to do. They don`t have an alternate plan
for immigration. They haven`t called last around it, and they are divided
as to how to discuss this. The more, you know, the hotter elements of the
base, the firebrands like Steve King and Jeff Sessions want to talk about
the policy and they want to say roll this back, come what may and do
whatever it takes. Speaker Boehner and Mitch McConnell, I don`t think they
want to do that, they prefer to talk about the process. They know this is
a very, very difficult issue for them and they know the election in two
years, Hispanic voters whom this benefits are going to support this.
KORNACKI: I can`t imagine any Republican who thinks he or she is going to
be the party`s nominee in 2016. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, John Kasich,
whatever it is, wants to run in 2016 on a platform of in what if my first
actions as president will be to rescind this executive order and make these
four or five million people eligible for deportation.
CAIN: Ted Cruz.
KAPUR: Well, that`s the answer .
KORNACKI: Ted Cruz is right. There is ..
KAPUR: He moves everyone else to the right. So that could be a real
problem for him in the primary.
CAIN: You`ve prefaced it with short term. That`s the question on
politics. Is I do think the Democratic Party will pay a price somewhat in
the short term for this action. I think it could hurt in the Midwest and
it could hurt - those whose jobs is the number one issue. Long term you
gain some Latino votes on the Democratic side. So, but the question there
is short term versus long term. Quickly to you, Jonathan. The whole pass
the bill mean, the whole idea, let`s go back in time and revisit the Senate
bill or just pass a bill now. It comes with the words you`re not offering,
which is comprehensive. That`s the only thing you are offering as
Democrats as the president - pass comprehensive immigration reform and
everything will be OK.
CAPEHART: Well, there`s a Senate bill. Well, there`s a bill.
CAIN: But you`re dictating only one course of action is appropriate. It`s
the only one you will accede (ph) to. What if Republicans say we will pass
five immigration bills, we`ll pass ten immigration bills, but the most
divisive part on what to do with the undocumented immigrants, the 40
million and how do - 11 million, how we divide it up, that is the most
contentious part and it`s not the part you saw by executive ..
KORNACKI: Hold on. Let me, let`s get some clarity on this. The Senate
bill, the most comprehensive thing has been on the table. With pass what
significant Republican support in the Senate and move to the House. What
is the break down? Because this is - it is a Republican majority in the
house and they refuse to put it on the floor. Now, certainly, they have a
right not to put it on the floor. But what is the break down? Why was it
OK for the Republicans in the Senate to vote for it and what is it
Republicans in the House do not like about this?
CAIN: I can tell you the intellectual opposition to that bill, and it`s
this. It`s the order of things in which they proceed. Is that you offer
legality before you give back the carrots for the legality. In other
words, border security and so forth. Legality comes first. I understand
you`re going to use the word pathway to citizenship. But you offer a legal
status, which is the true thing that illegal immigrants, undocumented
immigrants whatever term we want to use want. Legal status.
KORNACKI: So, you`re saying it`s you don`t - they don`t want citizenship.
That`s the .
CAIN: Legal status. And if you offer legal status then there is no
further incentive for a Democratic Congress to give the other aspects of
the immigration bill. Meaning border enforcements and so forth. That`s
why you break it up and that`s why you can`t do comprehensive immigration.
KAPUR: Will is right about this. That there is a provisional legal status
that comes before the border security and the other elements, but the
problem with that argument is that the House hasn`t done anything. If the
House would try something, passes series of bills, four or five, six bills
as Speaker Boehner has been saying for a while, they would have a much
KORNACKI: That`s a completely legitimate point and concern.
CAIN: Squeeze, they would guess.
KAPUR: Actually have an argument to say we did something. Now you`re
overwriting the will of Congress. But they can`t say we are going to
ignore this problem, this is a broken relationship.
CAPEHART: I agree.
KAPUR: How dare you do anything?
KORNACKI: I think that - and then I think the other .
KAPUR: (INAUDIBLE) Even to me.
KORNACKI: It`s still then the other angle to look at it from the angle of
the president making this executive action. I mean I could look at this
two ways. I could certainly see - I could take Will`s point here that, you
know, Congress, if Congress chooses to do nothing, Congress does have a
choice. They can choose to do nothing and our system says the ultimate
recourse should be the voters to say, well, let`s get a new Congress that
will do something. So, I can take that point. But at the same time we`re
talking about something that`s fairly, actually, limited in nature here.
This is the president saying that for the duration of my presidency. These
are going to be the guidelines in terms of the enforcement of immigration
in this country and if people don`t like that, they can vote for somebody
else for president in two years, or also if Congress doesn`t like that, any
moment Congress - it`s not just the bill that`s sitting there right now,
they can pass anything.
CAIN: But that is such a subjective interpretation on Steve Kornacki`s
point of view.
KORNACKI: That`s politics.
CAIN: On what - on what limited is, you know, 4 or 5 million .
KORNACKI: It`s limited - it`s limited because it expires no matter what
January 20, 2017.
CAIN: But that`s not how you want this country to work. I don`t think -
you need - regardless for our politics, we don`t want our policies to flip-
flop according to who is president. We don`t want the president coming in
every four to eight years and saying I`m changing the way this thing works.
KORNACKI: No, no, right. I mean these are all symptoms of a broken and
dysfunctional system. I`m just wondering is that outrages for a president
when nothing is coming out of Congress and there is a significant problem,
obviously with undocumented in this country for a president to say, OK,
wow, Congress does nothing right now for the duration of my presidency.
These are the guidelines.
KAPUR: George W. Bush did the same thing. A very similar thing, though.
Undocumented population was much smaller in his time. But he signed - he
did by executive action he shielded 40 percent of the undocumented
population at the time for the purpose of keeping families together from
deportation. Work permits, you know, the same divert action that President
Obama is doing now and he`s applying it to a much bigger number, but it`s
still 40 percent of the undocumented population at this point. It`s
comparable, legally, to what previous presidents have done. It`s the
problem is, it`s on a much bigger scale right now and the issue is much
hotter now than I think it`s ever been. That`s why it`s so explosive at
KORNACKI: We do want to hear this, because sometimes all you really need
to do if you want to find out how news is resonating, to turn on your
television at 11:35 on the Saturday night, watch "Saturday Night Live" in
its cold open and that was true last night when the show began with this
"School House" rock parody on what we`ve just been talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, first I go to the House, and they foot on me, but
then I need from the Senate a majority and if I pass the legislation passed
then I wind up on the president`s desk and - Oh! Oh!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama, what`s the big idea? That bill was
trying to become a law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I realize that. But you know, son, there was actually
an even easier way to get things done around here. It`s called an
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m an executive order and I pretty much just happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: As I said, all symptoms of a broken and dysfunctional system. I
guess that`s what --- the interesting thing there is, obviously, you know,
the sort of a mass audience show and you looked at the poll that came out
this week saying 38 percent of Americans support 48 percent who oppose the
president taking executive action. I think it`s because that`s sort of
what people are seeing when they think about, you know, the idea of the
president taking executive action on immigration.
CAPEHART: Well, because the way we all - I guess used to learn in school,
the way democracy works is the way the bill goes to the House and the
Senate goes to the president`s desk and the president signs it. But what
that doesn`t talk about is how when the bill goes to one of the chambers
and nothing happens. And the president has to do something about it. So,
I think that`s hilarious. The other part of that is when the president
throws him down the steps, again.
KORNACKI: Three times.
CAPEHART: So many steps. So many steps.
KORNACKI: OK, I think if we play more than 30 seconds we have to start
paying them or something.
KORNACKI: So, we cut the clip off there.
Anyway, we`ll be back right after this. News of the passing of a political
icon. We`ll tell you about that right after this.
KORNACKI: We got news overnight that former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion
Barry passed away earlier this morning at the age of 78. He was a
polarizing figure who served four terms, two different stints, actually, as
mayor of Washington, D.C. Even longer as a member of the D.C. City
Council. In one of those terms as mayor came after Barry was arrested by
the FBI, which caught him in 1990 smoking crack on video. He was sentenced
to six months in prison and returned to the mayor`s office four years
later. Undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable political comeback stories
ever. Marion Barry, I mean the ark of this guy`s life and political
career, I know, obviously, whatever you think of him. A trailblazing
figure in the 1970s. People don`t realize that Washington, D.C. didn`t
have a mayor, didn`t have a city council, didn`t have a local government
really until the 1970s. And Marion Barry, I mean this guy was big news
nationally when he got elected in 1978. Oversaw there was a lot of
redevelopment in Washington, D.C. In the downtown in the 1980s. He had
his personal problems to put it mildly .
CAPEHART: Big person.
KORNACKI: You know, the drug video goes to jail and then I mean I remember
it, 20 years ago, 1994, Marion Barry comes back and gets re-elected Mayor
of Washington, D.C. And the last ten years, he is still a city council
member. He`s still onto action. I checked his Twitter feed this morning.
This guy - he would tweet, you know, random everyday things. He tweeted on
Thursday night about "Scandal." That`s of last week.
CAPEHART: There`s no scandal. But you know, here`s the thing. Marion
Barry, the thing that people don`t remember about him. He was involved
majorly involved in the civil rights movement. So, when Marion Barry ran
for mayor of Washington, D.C., he was a known figure. He was somewhat
revered figure. And so, what we saw with Marion Barry through his
mayoralty was someone sort of the rise and promise of the civil rights
generation. You know, the Jesse Jackson generation. Then we also saw the
peril of that and that was the crack cocaine arrest. Questions about his
governance style in Washington and so, but people loved him. People in
Washington loved him, which is why he could come back four years after his
KORNACKI: Yeah, there`s certain, there`s politicians who are like that.
You know, and we, we had Buddy Cianci on this show from Providence, Rhode
Island. Edwin Edwards down in Louisiana, and there is - I mean they have
sort of, you know, checkered histories, or whatever. But they also - there
is something very populous about them, about their appeal, they`re real and
they are authentic in a way and didn`t ultimately resonate with people.
KAPUR: Hard to think of national figures who have this kind of appeal. I
can`t think of someone who`s been through everything that Marion Barry has
been through on a national level, whether it`s in Congress or the White
House that`s come back.
CAPEHART: I lobby and I`m thinking, yeah, there is someone who has
comfortably come to that, that`s Bill Clinton.
KORNACKI: That`s what I was - Yeah, yeah.
CAPEHART: Bill Clinton was impeached and everything and he is sitting on
top of the world right now.
KAPUR: Minus the drugs.
CAPEHART: Well, yes, minus the drugs. I said .
KORNACKI: And the arrest.
KAPUR: Bill Clinton has never been arrested.
KORNACKI: I know what you`re saying.
KORNACKI: Doing your work for you.
KORNACKI: No, but that was, that`s true. It was during Bill Clinton`s
impeachment, though. That was his poll numbers, the amazing thing and
Republicans never guessed this was going to happen in 1998, as that thing
played out for six months, Bill Clinton`s poll numbers went higher and
higher and higher.
CAIN: I don`t know what lessons we can take from the redemption, at least
politically, of Marion Barry. It`s one of two things that you are talking
about, the cult of personality, how authentic or charming he can be. Maybe
Rob Ford also exhibits some element. When it`s on a local level, I think
you point, you know, you also have to answer the questions whether or not
people are benefiting from someone`s corruption. So, in other words, at a
local level your own vices can become other`s virtues. You can actually
help yourself get elected through your own corruption. Especially when you
talk about Louisiana.
KORNACKI: Sure. Well, you`re defining patronage there. I think .
KORNACKI: That`s, you know - it`s funny you mention Rob Ford. Because
Marion Barry was asked about Rob Ford last year, when all the Rob Ford
stuff came to life, and he said you`re forgetting the big difference. The
government didn`t set up Rob Ford. That was - that was what Marion Barry
said that when that came out. Anyway, my thanks to .
CAIN: They`ll forgive just about anything, it seems if you`re good enough
KORNACKI: Absolutely. Absolutely. Will Cain from "The Blaze, "Jonathan
Capehart from "The Washington Post". Thanks for joining us and Sahil, you
are going to be joining us for something else a little bit later. We`ll
talk about that in a minute, but it will be at least tomorrow before a
grand jury decides if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will be charged
with Michael Brown`s death. Up next, we are going to go live to Ferguson
and get a sense of the tension there. So stay with us for that.
KORNACKI: When this weekend begin, it was thought we might get a decision
out of the Ferguson grand jury. The jurors have been meeting to decide
whether to indict a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer in the shooting
death of an unarmed African-American teenager this past August. This is
what it looked like in Ferguson back then, back in August in the wake of
that shooting. And there were concerns about what might happen after the
upcoming decision. Yesterday afternoon, though, a public safety unit in
Ferguson eased back a little bit on their alert status and the members of
the grand jury, well, they got some off time this weekend. NBC News has
confirmed they will not be meeting again until tomorrow.
The situation has been fraught for months now. For the very latest on what
we might expect to happen next and when, more importantly, let`s go live to
MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee who`s in Ferguson, he`s been covering this story since
August. Trymaine, thanks for getting up early this morning, appreciate it.
So, this - we`re getting indications it seemed up until, you know, maybe
yesterday or Friday that this was imminent. Maybe Sunday we`d get some
kind of announcement here from the grand jury. Any sense, has something
changed in any sense of what that might be?
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: Of course, last week there was so
much speculation over when the grand jury makes that announcement, that
people would have put money on Friday or sometime this weekend. Now that
we`re looking at possibly reconvening on Monday and that`s pushing an
announcement decision possibly further into the week closer to
Thanksgiving. Now some sources say that perhaps the grand jury is
reviewing evidence. That they are still deliberating. They just don`t
have what they need yet to make a decision. But already protest groups and
organizers are already planning, you know, Black Friday protests,
Thanksgiving protests that will extend through the weekend. And so, while
we`re still waiting for this announcement, you know, folks are still
hunkering down. With the warmer weather we have seen protests out at the
Ferguson police station on the last three nights. And so perhaps, that`s a
sign to come as folks are ramping up as waiting for this decision.
KORNACKI: How would you, I`m curious, just talking to the protesters, how
would you describe their mood in anticipation of this? Is it one of
genuine hope that they`re going to get the outcome that they want or is it
one of dread that, you know, we don`t think this is going to go our way and
we`re getting ready for what comes after that?
LEE: When you talk to folks here on the ground, especially those who have
been around the block a few times, the veterans of the August movements,
you know, they don`t feel hopeful at all. You know, it`s almost a foregone
conclusion for many at this point that there will be a non-indictment. Yet
and still, through it all. You talk to some people, the small minority who
believe there is still hope. But either way they plan on taking to the
streets and either way they plan on protesting, either way they still want
to lift this banner of justice for Michael Brown and all the other black
youths that they say have been wronged or killed by police. And so, while
there is not much hope and optimism. Folks are still pretty charged up.
And again, with the weather breaking, you know, last we were in a 16 -
there was 16 degrees, 19 degrees, it was a kind of freeze over this place,
but now with the warmer temperatures and, you know, getting closer to that
announcement, folks are, again, getting fired up.
KORNACKI: And do you - the preparations that have been made here sort of
by law enforcement, by the government and the state of emergency declared.
I know there have been meetings between law enforcement and some of the
protest groups trying to sort of plan out what is going to happen after
this decision is announced. Have they succeeded, do you think, in creating
a climate where whatever happens, it will be peaceful and people will get
their First Amendment exercise - exercise their First Amendment rights or
has this, does it work the other way where it creates so much tension and
so much anticipation that it almost has a negative effect? What is your
sense of that?
LEE: I say to some degree, yes. Organizers have been meeting with police.
Both seem to be working in good faith. They`re trying to avoid violence.
You know, no one wants this thing to turn bad and ugly. But still, for
many, the idea that Governor Jay Nixon preemptively called the state of
emergency, preemptively mobilized the National Guard before the first
chant, before the first sign, before any problem. That to them is a sign
that perhaps law enforcement are looking for trouble. That they`re looking
to provoke some sort of unrest. Now again, on the flipside of that, they
have been working together. They had 19 rules of engagement and for the
most part police, you know, kind of agree with the protesters. They avoid
trying to be extra provocative. And on the part of protesters, they say,
you know, they don`t want any trouble either. They want to go out and, you
know, exercise their rights as American citizens. But again, the idea that
you`ve already called hundreds of troops into the city in preparation, you
know, some say it doesn`t bode well for when they come.
KORNACKI: All right, Trymaine Lee, live from Ferguson, Missouri this
morning again. Thanks for getting up. We really appreciate that. And up
next, the latest clue that points to Hillary Clinton. Guess what? Running
for president in 2016. We`ll tell you about it.
KORNACKI: Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb this week became the first
Democrat to take a formal step towards running for president in 2016. When
he announced the launch of an exploratory campaign committee, that`s
something that`s going to help him raise money and travel around the
country. Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders who`s technically an independent
has also been saying for months that he may run as a Democrat in 2016 on
the message of economic populism. And maybe, maybe Maryland Governor
Martin O`Malley will join them as a candidate, as well. And when it comes
to Democrats lining up for 2016 who aren`t named Hillary Clinton, well,
that is pretty much it. And one of the reasons that list of possible
candidates is so short is a group called Ready for Hillary. Which for
nearly two years now has existed to lay the groundwork for the campaign
that everyone expects the former first lady and secretary of state to make.
And in a sign of how quickly 2016 is approaching, Politico reported this
week that ready for Hillary is getting ready to shut down, presumably to be
overtaken by a real Clinton campaign organization. The group has raised
over $10 million, it`s identified over 3 million Clinton supporters and
held events in all 50 states. Also, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
The Hillary Bus, it`s the mobile arm of Ready for Hillary has traveled over
40,000 miles across 43 states and it`s scheduled to visit 21 college
campuses in the next month alone. On Friday, group`s national finance
council met with the bevy of top officials, donors and Clinton insiders,
all of them expected to support Hillary if she does run. By the way, all
of this organizing, all of this fund-raising, but there`s something that is
missing so far, a message. What is using, and what ideas would Hillary run
on if she does run as the head of a pro-Hillary Super PAC put it this week,
"Hillary Clinton will determine the message." So, Ready for Hillary is
coming to an end. What happens now? Joining us to discuss, we have Blake
Zeff politics editor at Salon and Beth Fouhy, senior editor at mscnbc.com.
And Blake, we should say in a different life many, many years ago you did
work for the Hillary campaign back in 2008.
BLAKE ZEFF, SALON.COM: Among many others.
KORNACKI: Now, on our such - so, let`s start with this "Ready for Hillary"
as a group. Because I think when we started this show, actually, I
remember I think it was our very first episode, happened to be the week
this group was starting and we had somebody from the group, and my
impression of it at the time was, I wasn`t sure how connected to
Hillaryland this was. It feels like it has evolved.
ZEFF: That`s exactly right. The history is really important here to
understand what`s happening. So, initially, Ready for Hillary, as you say,
was something started by some well-meaning former Hillary aides who were
not kind of the top staffers. No offense to them, they`re younger people,
they are not the household names that you associate with the Clinton
operation. But they had this idea they were really excited about Hillary
Clinton. And Hillary Clinton operation wasn`t necessarily - this wasn`t
something cooked up by Hillary and Bill in their Georgetown mansion, you
know, coming up with we`d love to do this kind of thing. This was
something where initially, I think, there was a little bit of concern from
the inner circle of the Hillary Clinton people about this, because you
know, you`re entrusting the brand and the name to some well-meaning, you
know, relatively junior staffers.
Ultimately they made the decision, the Clinton operation did to actually
sort of embrace this operation and almost coopted by having a lot of their
top aides, consultants.
KORNACKI: So, have they really been like kind of de facto running this?
ZEFF: I wouldn`t say they`ve been de facto running. But I think the one
way to look at it is almost like when, you know, when you`re a new parent
or you are a doc, they say do no harm. I think a big thing here was to
sort of make sure that this Ready for Hillary thing didn`t come off as some
sort of outside thing that was going off the reservation and doing all
sorts of things on their own. It was a way to make sure that there were
some "grownups" who the Clintons felt comfortable with to sort of make sure
that this thing was, you know, relatively under control. I don`t say that
with any sort of inside knowledge.
ZEFF: It`s sort of - looking it.
KORNACKI: So, what Blake is saying, Beth, when you look at what this group
has done for the last two years, "Ready for Hillary", have they helped her?
Have they hurt her? Has it been helpful that there is a group out there
doing the things we just outlines, or does it harmed in that, as we say,
there is a bus tour, these people signing up "Ready for Hillary.` And, oh,
by the way, nobody knows what she stands for. These major issues we`ve had
for the last two years.
BETH FOUHY, MSNB: Nor has she even said she`s running.
FOUHY: But actually, I would say, it`s been pretty much an unmitigated
good. I mean just jumping out with what Blake said, I mean a lot of people
involved in her organization for many, many years are sort of behind the
scenes and doing a lot of work with Ready for Hillary, but this group has
kind of given this impression of its recruiting her. It`s begging her to
come in. It`s attracting all this attention and support. And what else
can she possibly do but say, OK, and yes to this and that she will step
forward because they`re asking her to do so. It`s been this wonderful
combination of this appearance of grassroots kind of pulling her in while
at the same time a lot of people who are very connected to her right there.
Gerald Akis (ph), he is a major player, they`ve brought in people who were
with Obama in 2008 in that cage match. As Senator Claire McCaskill. They
bring in Jim Messina who was Obama`s campaign manager. They`ve done a
wonderful job of making it seem, of course she now must run. Everybody is
coalescing behind her. It`s her time to step forward and do this.
KORNACKI: So, what`s happened now? As there was a report this morning, I
think she`s going to give some kind of a paid speech, I think in February,
actually. Does that mean she`s not going to make any move until February?
When do we - when do you think we`re going to hear something definitive
from Hillary Clinton where she says you know what? Yeah, I`m running. Or
yeah, it looks like - when do you think that happens?
ZEFF: Well, the history here is that last time in 2008 or 2007 the
announcement came in January and the Clinton people felt at that point
their hand had been forced a little bit because Obama was suddenly picking
KORNACKI: And he already announced.
ZEFF: He had already announced. He was raising lots of money.
KORNACKI: Their plan had been to go later and .
ZEFF: I think the preference had been to go later and all of a sudden,
there`s Obama taking on. I think to the extent that they can push that
into the future, further and further and further shorten the campaign a
little bit. That would be the preference. Hillary Clinton made the point
a lot in the last cycle, that Bill had not actually - had the formally
announced until October or something. I`m sure, you remember.
KORNACKI: They were extenuating circumstances in 1991.
ZEFF: There were a lot of - that`s a whole .
KORNACKI: I know that Zeff - let me go there talking. He didn`t win Iowa,
because Tom Harkin from Iowa ran, that`s why, but anyway.
ZEFF: Exactly. But in terms of a formal launch, they were able to push
it, you know, further back. And that`s clearly the preference for a lot of
the reasons, you know. That - I think to the extent that they can kind of
push this off, they will.
FOUHY: Yeah, and I would say, they definitely would love to wait because
this is going to be a very, very long campaign. If she is, as everybody
expects at this point, positioned to just take it all the way to the end.
I mean you mentioned Jim Webb, you mentioned Martin O`Malley. There are
other Democrats who are out there. There`s nobody with the clout and the
potential that Barack Obama had in 2007, 2008. I mean, those candidates,
they are not unserious people. Jim Webb, Martin O`Malley, for sure, but
they are not going to raise the kind of money they need to be competitive
with her. I doubt they are going to have like Super PACs standing behind
them to give her a good run. So, she`s really out there, you know, very
exposed for quite a long time and how to keep the momentum around her, her
candidacy going for, you know, a year. You know, all the way until the
actual election starts coming around.
KORNACKI: Right. I mean she`s not going to be in a hurry to have like 20
debates with Bernie Sanders.
FOUHY: Right. Right. And how do you manage that process when you don`t
want that. You want to be exposed, but you don`t want to have to be pulled
into odd little events with these candidates. When you just want to show
that you`re the person who is going to ultimately win this thing.
KORNACKI: The one that I`m sort of waiting for here and I imagine there`s
going to be some kind of choreography with this, is Biden. Because just as
the sitting vice president, you know, clearly he would like in an ideal
world to be running to be president and to be at least seen as the
successor. So, I think there`s going to be some sort of delicate
choreographer there at some point. He defers to her and there`s maybe
some, you know, together ceremony or something. So, I guess that`s
something to be looking for in the next few months. But anyway, Ready for
Hillary 2013 to 2014 looks like it`s coming to an end anyway. I want to
thank Salon`s Blake Zeff for joining us today and Beth Fouhy back with us
in a little bit.
Up next, the continuing fallout over the president`s decision to extend the
U.S. mission in Afghanistan secretly.
KORNACKI: In just a few hours President Obama will be returning to
Washington from Las Vegas. So, he`s been since Friday when he headed west
to promote his executive action on immigration reform. We also learned
this morning that he managed to work in a round of golf with newly retired
Yankee short stuff Derek Jeter. What the president has not talked about
publicly, though, is his signing of a secret order that expands the role of
U.S. troops in Afghanistan, an order he president signed quietly, the story
that came to light just yesterday morning. NBC News White House
correspondent Kristen Welker is live at the White House now.
So, Kristen, the story was in the papers yesterday morning and we talked a
little bit about it on the show. The president basically saying that U.S.
forces can take a much more proactive role in going after the Taliban in
Afghanistan through at least 2016. Is this something we can expect to hear
him or people in the White House talking about publicly?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I think it will be. The big
topic of conversation, certainly at the daily briefing on Monday, Steve.
We haven`t heard from President Obama yet about this. You are absolutely
right. But next on he talks to reporters, you can bet he is going to get a
lot of questions about this.
Here`s what we know so far. The president approved this order earlier this
month. Bottom line, as you point out, is that American troops could be
involved in what the Pentagon calls offensive operations in Afghanistan.
Essentially combat operations into next year. That`s significant because
that is, of course, after the combat mission was supposed to end. That
date was initially set for January First of next year. Now, according to a
senior administration official, the president`s order means that U.S.
military leaders can authorize combat operations. Everything from ground
forces to manned aircraft and drones and they need to fall under a few sets
of circumstances. Could include counterterrorism operations against al
Qaeda and other terrorist groups protecting U.S. Forces on the ground and
also assisting Afghan forces.
Now, I have been talking to U.S. officials throughout the weekend. One
official downplaying this news insisting that, look, counterterrorism
missions were always a part of the post-2015 plan. This official told me
this weekend, "We will no longer target belligerence solely because they
are members of the Taliban. To the extent the Taliban members directly
threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide
direct support to al Qaeda. However, we will take appropriate measures to
keep Americans safe."
Now, the "New York Times" initially broke this story, as you`ve been
saying, Steve, and they`re reporting that the president made the decision
due to one, the advances of Islamic militants in Iraq. And also because
you`ll recall that there is now a new president of Afghanistan who has a
strong working relationship with the United States at this point. Who not
only welcomes this move, but, apparently, actually requested it. You`ll
recall that back in May President Obama ordered a reduction in the number
of U.S. troops to 9,800 by January First. That number expected to be
decreased at the end of 2016 to about 1,000 troops and those troop levels,
at this point, still on track.
But, again, Steve, we expect that once President Obama comes back tonight
and we get back into the regular swing of things here at the White House on
Monday, there will be a daily briefing. Undoubtedly, Press Secretary Josh
Earnest will get a lot of questions about this.
KORNACKI: Yes, I mean you can understand politically certainly why the
White House wouldn`t want people to be talking too much about a more
aggressive and more active role in Afghanistan, but obviously, important
questions there to be raised and asked.
KORNACKI: Somebody will look at it - tomorrow. Kristen Welker live at the
White House. Really appreciate you taking the time this morning.
WELKER: Thank you, Steve.
KORNACKI: What will it take? Here is a question you may have heard
before. But here is a twist. What will it take for Democrats and
Republicans to work together and actually get things done for the next two
years? Well, up next we`re going to talk to a lawmaker who may have some
ideas because he`s been a member of both parties. That`s next.
KORNACKI: So, here`s a story line you may have heard once or twice before.
The election is over, the winning party is promising to do things
differently, and both parties are also pledging to find new ways to work
together and get things done. Breaking the gridlock of this paralyzed
Washington for the last four years is something many of the Republicans who
swept to victory earlier this month campaigned on and come January they
will have a chance to start delivering on that, if they want to. Even
long-term politician, Republican politician like Mike Pence who spent a
dozen years in Congress before returning to Indiana as governor pointed to
the election as a mandate of change for ushering in a different type of
Republican leadership, especially at the state level.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R) INDIANA: First and foremost, I think there were two
messages on Election Day a couple weeks back, Joe. And that is, number
one, the American people want to change a direction in Washington, D.C.
But number two with 31 Republican governors elected and re-elected,
including in places like Maryland and Massachusetts and Illinois, I think
the American people said they want more of what Republican leadership is
providing at the state level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Fresh start, new direction, bipartisanship. We hear this kind
of thing after every election it seems no matter who wins. But the
question remains. Can the new Republican majority in Congress work with
President Obama and actually steer clear of at least some of the gridlock
when it comes to passing any legislation over the next two years. In the
weeks since the election, Republicans have been loudly warning President
Obama not to issue an executive action on immigration telling him,
basically, that if he does do that. He can say good-bye to any chance of
compromising with him on anything else. But Obama went ahead and issued
that executive order anyway this past week. So, now what? Determined
Democratic president and angry Republican Congress, this is the reality for
at least the next two years. So, can anything get done? Our next guest is
in a unique position to help us find out. A Republican who switched
parties to become a Democrat back in 1985. Congressman John Yarmuth is now
the soul of Democrats in the Kentucky delegation. He joins us live on set
this morning. Thanks for being here, congressman.
REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D) KENTUCKY: Thanks for having me.
KORNACKI: Former Republican John Yarmuth. I bet you`re introduced like
that, it`s been a while.
KORNACKI: This instance .
YARMUTH: It`s a chapter in my life which I don`t talk about very often.
KORNACKI: I bet now. So, let me ask you about this, though, because the
story, obviously, has been immigration politically since the election.
Immigration has been the big story in Washington and in the run up to what
the president did this week. Taking the executive action. We heard from a
number of Republicans, you know, basically this warning, hey, you will
poison the well by doing this. If you do this all that idea - all this
idea of compromise of working together the next two years, it can`t happen
because we can`t work with you and we can`t trust you. Do you think
they`re telling the truth when they say that?
YARMUTH: Well, no, I don`t think they`re telling the truth. I think, you
know, I know Mitch McConnell very well. I`ve known him for a long time,
and Mitch is pragmatic a politician as there is. Mitch will do whatever he
thinks is in his interest and the party`s interest. So, if that means
working with the president on something, he will work with the president on
something. He doesn`t hold grudges like that. And I think Boehner is kind
of the same way. Now, Boehner has an element of his conference in the
House that probably will be affected by this. So, going to be infuriated.
But the question is going to be, can he manage them?
KORNACKI: And I think it`s really been the question for the last four
years, it`s the same thing with McConnell. I guess you say, he will do
what is in his interest. I guess it`s a question of how he defines his
interest. This is interest just sort of keeping the Ted Cruz types at bay
and making sure they can`t pin the traitor to the conservative cause label
on him or does he define his interest more as, hey, I`ve got this - this
position now. I`ve worked my whole career for it. Right? Senate,
majority leader. He`s always wanted to be that. Now, he is that. Does he
start to think in bigger terms? What do you think?
YARMUTH: I do. And I said this before, before Election Day that I think
if he becomes majority leader, he will be a different kind of leader. He
will try to be anyway. Because his legacy will be shaped in these next two
years. He doesn`t want his legacy to be I was an obstructionist my entire
political career. So, I think he will try. Now, the odds are against him
because he has a very, very difficult House that he has to navigate and he
also has to, obviously, the president and he have disagreements and his far
right wing members. And the new members who came into the Senate Joni
Ernst and Thom Tillis and Cory Gardner and I forget, James Lankford. These
are as conservative as they get. And so, he is going to get - he`s going
to have a much more, I think, contentious problem in his own caucus in the
Senate, but, also, he has got a three-legged stool he has to work with. I
think he will try.
KORNACKI: Well, let`s talk about some of the areas then. We talk about
whether it will be compromise. Let`s talk about some of the areas that
maybe are right for compromise. Let me - let`s start with immigration
because the president`s order is only - it only lasts as long as his
presidency. So, no matter what, January 20 of 2017, even if nothing else
happens, this goes away then. So, what are the prospects now realistically
for some kind of immigration bill to get through Congress over these next
YARMUTH: I think the prospects are great if John Boehner wants to do it.
I was part of the .
KORNACKI: Well, he hasn`t for the last two years. So .
YARMUTH: Interestingly, I was on the Gang of Eight in the House that
worked for seven months every day putting together comprehensive proposal.
We actually reached agreement on one. And not only did we reach agreement
on one, the Republican members out of our group thought they could get
upwards of 80 votes.
KORNACKI: So, where did that fall apart?
YARMUTH: It fell apart first of all, because several Republicans left the
group, but it was also because Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the judiciary
committee, it has jurisdiction, refuses to bring anything out of his
committee and Boehner has not been willing to either take on his Tea Party
members or take on Bob Goodlatte. He`s going to have to do that.
KORNACKI: And you can see that changing in the next two years?
YARMUTH: I think it could change. Again, I think John Boehner sincerely
wants to get immigration reform done. And we passed - we came up to an
agreement on a proposal that we know can pass the House and it was
basically written by the Republican members. I mean we got some of what we
wanted. But, you know, we knew going in that this had to be a bill that
was at least perceived to be more conservative than the Senate bill. And
so, some of it is. The path to citizenship is a little harder and a little
bit longer. Basically the elements are similar. Except border security.
We didn`t militarize the border as the Senate bill did. But, again, we
know that can pass and I think, you know, there`s going to be pressure now
regardless of what - how they scream about what the president did. The
ball is now in Republican`s court on immigration.
KORNACKI: Right. On immigration, right. He`s put it there. So, let me
look at some of the other items that sort of unfinished business items for
- in terms of the Obama presidency. Obviously, he`s talked about the
minimum wage, he`s talked about climate change. He`s talked about the
Affordable Care Act as on the books, but there are fixes that need to be
made to that. Tweaks that need to be made legislatively that haven`t been.
So, when you look at those three things and there`s a few others, too,
there, that are priorities. Things he would like to get Congress to act on
in some way. Let me ask you this, what are the things that he and what are
the things that your party, that Democrats can offer, can trade in exchange
for action on those items? What are things that you look at Republicans
and say, hey, if you give us this, we`ll give you that. What are some of
YARMUTH: Well, we don`t know what the Republicans want to do. So, I have
a hard time answering that. All they have done over the last two years is
essentially try to repeal the Affordable Care Act and then do away with all
environmental regulations on undermine the EPA. That has been their focus
and, then, obviously, when they can weaken unions, they want to do that.
So, you know, ending prevailing wage of those types of thing I think would
be very difficult for us to accept. There may be some changes to some of
the environmental rigs that we could accept. We actually wish that they
wouldn`t work with us on some of those things because, you know, I come
from a state that is affected dramatically by EPA actions. So, I think
there`s some possibilities there where you could break off part of our
caucus. But, you know, our blue dogs are all gone. I don`t think there
are any left any more. So, we have a much more liberal caucus in the
House, the Republicans are much more conservative.
KORNACKI: The parties are even moving apart.
YARMUTH: Moving farther apart.
KORNACKI: In a way, it`s almost - it`s tougher to compromise because you
don`t have these, you know, the Democrat is more conservative than the
liberal Republican you have .
YARMUTH: That`s right. So, if the Republican, and now with their margin
they can get anything they want through the House, and no question about
that and it`s going to be up to them to decide whether they can put stuff
out that will actually pass the Senate and the Obama can sign. We`re
really kind of irrelevant in the process. The only time they need us. I
mean the Republicans need the Democrats is on spending bills when the Tea
Party members don`t want to vote for any spending and they need Democrats
to pass it. That`s probably the only time they`ll need us.
KORNACKI: This is something we`re going to talk about a little bit later
in the show. But I want to ask you about it since you`re here. There`s
been a lot of talk about the leadership of the Democratic Party in
Washington, this is true in the Senate and in the House. Nancy Pelosi is
74 years old and Harry Reid is I think 74 years old. Jim Clyburn I believe
is also 74 years old.
YARMUTH: It`s a magic number.
KORNACKI: 74 or 75 years old. So, I mean these are leaders who have been
in their positions in some cases for well over a decade. They`re,
obviously, very familiar figures to people. How do you feel about that? Do
you think - would you like to see new and different leadership for the
YARMUTH: I definitely think we need to do a better job with that.
Republicans do a great job with it. I mean Kevin McCarthy came in with me
eight years ago and he`s now majority leader. So, and there are committee
chairs. You know, Trey Gowdy came in after me, he`s head of the Benghazi
committee. We don`t do that. Seniority is much more important in our
caucus and we have now 50, no, 68 new members the last two congresses many
of whom are brilliant and talented and we need to make sure that we elevate
them so that they don`t get frustrated and say I can`t spend another 15
years here before I ever get to a position of power. So, I think we need
to do a better job of that.
KORNACKI: All right. John Yarmuth. Congressman. The only Democratic
congressman from Kentucky. Once, a very Democratic state, not quite the
same anymore. But anyway, John, thanks for joining us this morning.
YARMUTH: Thank you.
KORNACKI: We appreciate that.
And up next, the crisis folks in Buffalo, New York, are facing this
morning. As we await the decision on whether the Ferguson - a Ferguson
police officer Darren Wilson will face any charges, we are going to look
behind the scenes at what the grand jury that is still deliberating, what
they are doing. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: Inside the Ferguson grand jury.
All right. Thanks for staying with us this Sunday morning as we wait for
at least another day for decision from that grand jury in Ferguson. We`ll
be taking a look this hour at what`s happening behind the scenes there.
How does the grand jury process work? What does it take - what would it
take to return an indictment and these decisions need to be unanimous.
We`ll also be turning our attention this hour to a crucial voting bloc one
that might decide the next election and it is overlooked. And former
hostage Terry Anderson will be joining us later on as well, to discuss
whether U.S. hostage policy needs to change as we deal with the threat of
ISIS, specifically looking at the question of ransoms there. But we begin
this hour, about 350 miles north and west where I`m sitting right now after
a snowstorm this week that dropped up to seven feet of snow in some places.
Folks in western New York are facing a new challenge this morning,
flooding. Only days after the storm, temperatures are now above freezing
and they could reach into the 60s in the next two days and that snow is
starting to melt very fast. NBC News Kristen Dahlgren is live for us in
Buffalo. So, Kristen, I mean the story was just this incredible blizzard
last week. And now it`s - it`s flooding. You can tell us about the scene
KRISTEN DAHLGREN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, sort of a one-two punch
here, Steven. Take a look, and I`ll show you first what they are still
dealing with. You can see just a small portion of that roof still left
standing and the snow just so heavy. You said it. Six, seven feet of snow,
but now we`ve got these warming temperatures. Rain coming into the area
and, so, think of it like a sponge. All of this snow really just absorbing
all of that water continuing to melt. Gets heavier and heavier, so we
could continue to see those roof collapses and then we`re dealing with
flooding and so, that`s why, as we drove around and went throughout the day
yesterday, our crews saw people trying desperately to clear off their roof
so they`re not heavy and then also clean out drains in areas so that this
all of this snow, as it melts, has some place to go.
There are flood warnings in effect around the area. The governor spoke
about it yesterday. And he`s trying to position assets in this area to
make sure that they`re ready. There are about 425 generators and pumps
moving into the area. 51 boats being brought here in case they have to do
any rescues. About three helicopters so they can check things out from the
air and then almost 200,000 sandbags in this area so people can use them,
get ready and try and keep the water out of their homes. He said, they
really are preparing for the worst today, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right, Kristen Dahlgren live us from Buffalo. An amazing,
amazing story out there and obviously, we hope that flooding doesn`t get
too bad. We appreciate you joining us this morning. Thanks for that.
And turning now to St. Louis County, that`s where today is a day of rest
for the grand jury that is meeting to decide whether to indict Ferguson
police officer Darren Wilson. The decision had been expected as early as
this weekend, the fatal shooting death of unarmed African-American teenager
Michael Brown back in August. But sources tell NBC News the grand j jury
will not be meeting again now until tomorrow. Here`s what all the grand
jury, the process is cloaked in secrecy, but here`s what we do know, 12 St.
Louis County residents are considering whether there is probable cause. In
other words, reasonable suspicion to believe that Wilson committed a crime.
Grand juries usually get only an overview of the case and often deliver the
indictments that prosecutors seek. But the Ferguson grand jury process has
been far from typical. Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said he would turn over
all evidence to the grand jury giving much more responsibility to those 12
jurors. Instead of recommending a charge, like prosecutors usually do,
McCulloch is providing the grand jury with a list of possible charges for
them to consider.
Three of the jurors are African-American, one man, two women. Nine of the
jurors are white. Six men, three women. And nine votes are needed to
charge Wilson with a crime. If the grand jury does indict Wilson, he will
then undergo a criminal trial to determine whether he`s guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt. If the grand jury doesn`t indict Wilson, he`ll be clear
of state charges, but he could still potentially face federal civil rights
charges or civil lawsuits. McCulloch says that if there is no indictment,
he`ll ask a judge to allow the public access to the testimony and the
evidence that has been presented to the grand jury.
So, what should we expect from this grand jury process that`s already been
full of twists and turns for the last few months? Well, joining me now to
help shed some light on that, we have our own legal Dream Team here, Brian
Wice, criminal defense attorney in Houston who recently served on the legal
team for Adrian Peterson, a Minnesota Vikings running back and Paul Butler,
a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Georgetown law
school. Thank you, both, for joining us.
So, Paul, former prosecutor. Let me start with you. We highlighted some
of the sort of unusual things that are happening with this grand jury.
Getting all of the evidence, not getting a recommended charge. Can you
tell us why that would be in a case like this?
PAUL BUTLER, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Steve, the prosecutor has the
option of just going down to the courthouse and filing charges himself. He
doesn`t have to go through this process of using the grand jury. You know,
frankly, in cases, in which young, black men are the defendants, that`s
what prosecutors do all the time. But in cases like this and this isn`t
like it`s the only time in which this prosecutor McAuliffe has had to
consider what he should do when a white cop shoots an unarmed black man.
In all of those cases what this prosecutor does is ask the grand jury to
make a decision and, guess what, he has never gotten a true bill from a
grand jury. Which means that when he`s gone to the grand jury and asked
him to bring charges against cops, accused of killing unarmed black men,
they have never returned an indictment. So, what some folks think, Steve,
is that he does this for political cover. Remember, he is a politician.
He`s an elected official. So, he has got to have some kind of explanation
if he doesn`t bring charges when cops gun down people, he blames it on the
KORNACKI: So, Brian, I mean what`s your read on - what Paul just said on
the strategy that the prosecutor is using here. I mean is this a case when
you`re dealing with a grand jury, I mean, does the clich‚ about you get the
grand jury to indict the ham sandwich, but is that do you have to point
the grand jury really specifically where you want them to go otherwise they
won`t do anything?
BRIAN WICE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, Steve, the grand jury has always been
thought of dating all the way back to common law is the conscious of the
community. A ball work between the king and his minions and trying to run
up the usual suspects, indicting everybody and letting trial jury sort them
out, but in the situation like this, and Paul is right. Being a police
officer is the ultimate home field advantage. For instance, in Harris
County, Houston, Texas, where I live and practice. It is virtually unheard
of for any Harris County grand jury to not only indict any officer for
conduct involved with on the job shooting, but for any trial jury to
ultimately convict. And that`s because, by and large, most grand jurors
identify with police officers and not with suspects. And in a situation
like this, what we are going to see are 12 good, decent, hard-working St.
Louis County residents who are non-lawyers getting a veritable crash course
in criminal law.
KORNACKI: So, Paul, what about the other, the other aspect we mentioned
there. The idea of all this evidence, potentially, if there is no
indictment, all of this evidence being presented for the public to look at.
Is that unusual and what do you think the implications of that could be?
BUTLER: Well, first of all, I`ll believe it when I see it. That is very
unusual. These people are testifying under oath. It`s a secret
proceeding. You know, one of the concerns is how we seem to know so much
about what is going on. It`s supposed to be a process that only the
prosecutor. This is the advantage I have over my buddy Brian who is a
defense attorney. I have been in the grand jury 100 times. Because only
the prosecutor is allowed there with the grand jurors. It`s a lull
standard. It`s probable cause. They don`t have to decide whether this guy
is guilty. And what I don`t get, Steve, is you are right. McAuliffe is
throwing all of this evidence, all of this law at the grand jurors and he`s
not giving them any advice. He says he`s not going to make a
recommendation. I have some of the best law students in the world at
Georgetown. We spend weeks thinking about the difference between
manslaughter and murder and negligent homicide. I don`t know how you take
these 12 citizens and throw all this stuff at them and expect them to come
out with a reasonable decision.
KORNACKI: I mean how many options - just give people idea, the other
sense, like how many options the jurors are presented with? If he`s not
giving them, hey, try this or look at this. What does the menu look like
BUTLER: Well, he`s saying you could do murder one. You could do murder
two and you can do volunteer manslaughter, which is like a heat of passion
killing. You can do negligent homicides. You can do involuntary
manslaughter, which is like reckless killing. Steve, you get to the point.
These are technical terms. How are these lay people as smart and
responsible as they can be? How are they supposed to make an informed
decision? I don`t get it.
KORNACKI: So, Brian, from the standpoint of a defense attorney here now.
What do you think - what is the strategy and what do you think the strategy
has been for Officer Wilson here in terms of dealing with this grand jury
and then as we say also even if he clears this hurdle, even if there`s no
indictment here, there`s still the potential for federal civil rights
charges, there`s still the potential for civil lawsuits. So, how are his
people approaching this?
WICE: Well, two words. All in, with regards to my buddy Chris Hayes.
This is a situation where they have not only shown their whole card,
they`ve shown everything else they can possibly come up with. And like my
buddy Paul will tell you, having a suspect, a target or a defendant testify
in the grand jury is like Christmas in July. It usually doesn`t happen and
it usually doesn`t happen for a good reason. In this situation, these 12
folks have not only heard from the officer, they heard from his experts.
And in a situation like that, if and the defense`s estimation they go to
death con one, and this grand jury returns a true bill, the prosecution is
going to have a blue print for not only this officer`s testimony, but his
expert testimony, as well. And it could be a very rough ride for the
defense, if this grand jury sometime next week returns a true bill for any
one of the four or five criminal options, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right, well, this is one to stay tuned on. This week we
might get some more clarity again. That grand jury will be reconvening
apparently tomorrow. But until then, Brian Wice, Paul Butler, legal
experts. We appreciate you both joining us this morning. Thanks a lot for
And up next, get to indulge in two of my favorite things. Speculation
about who is going to run for president and more importantly, the big
board. We are going to bring that back and talk about some interesting new
poll numbers. So, stick around for that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SCOTT WALKER, WISCONSIN: I`m not going to run just because of the
pundits or anything else like that. The closer you get to something like
that the more you realize and I say this only half-jokingly that you have
to be crazy to want to be president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Well, that is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently reelected
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and he`s also made some indications in the
last week that he is, in fact, interested in running for president in 2016
and certainly there are plenty of Republicans encouraging him to do so. We
had the news earlier, as well. We mentioned the Ready for Hillary Super
PAC unfolding and getting ready for Hillary Clinton campaign, Jim Webb the
former Democratic senator making his moves, too, now, to run. So, that`s
the season we`ve entered. The mid-term election is over and the campaign
for 2016, it really has began. And this is when it begins traditionally,
right after the midterm election.
And the stage we`re at right now is sort of the first impression stage.
The field, the perspective field is out there. We don`t know for sure who
is actually going to be on the ballot when the first primaries and caucuses
are held but we do know who is interested and we do have a sense of what
kind of impression they`ve made so far on the American people. What the
American people generally think of each of these candidates to start with.
So, that`s what we wanted to use the big board to show you today. Who are
the perspective candidates and what are the first impressions people have
of them? So, let`s start on the Republican side. The name everybody talks
about is Jeb Bush. Now, there`s something interesting to look at here.
This is the most recent NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll came out this
week, and you see Bush`s, you know, overall this is with all voters, this
is not just Republicans. But with all voters those aren`t great numbers
for Bush. You know, 26 percent positive, 33 percent negative. Not great
numbers. Especially when you look at this, this is Jeb Bush right now.
Look at George W. Bush, his brother, at the same point in advance of the
2000 presidential election. Look at that difference. George W. Bush was
53 percent positive, just 9 percent negative. That is one of the reasons
Republicans were so excited in 2000 to get behind George W. Bush`s
campaign. Why he was able to wrap up that nomination so easily. Jeb Bush,
look, he can`t make the same arguments, maybe, to Republicans that George
W. Bush made when he got the nomination.
Let`s quickly take you through some of the other Republicans who are out
there, just see how they`re stacking up, again. Rand Paul, you know, a
little bit better there than Jeb actually, slightly positive view, you
know, from all voters. You look at Ted Cruz, it`s the opposite. That`s
negative, that`s one of the worst scores you`re going to see among
Republicans. Rick Perry, again, that`s very negative, did not make a good
impression with his 2012 campaign sitting there with almost a ten-point
gap. Marco Rubio, a little bit more on the positive side, you can see.
Mike Huckabee ran in 2008 and may run again, you know, right there, and
sort of in the middle and John Kasich, this is somebody we talked about a
little bit in the show this weekend. Very much wants to be if he runs that
establishment choice, not very well known right now. So, he`s yet to make
a broader impression and we`ll see what happens and Scott Walker, again,
who we just showed that clip from 15 and 14.
Now, here`s another interesting one to look at. Chris Christie, so right
now Chris Christie, 29 percent positive and 29 percent negative. But what
did Chris Christie want to run on originally? What was the idea? The idea
was that George W. Bush 2000 idea. He`s the guy, you know, who helped New
Jersey through Superstorm Sandy that was one of the things he was going to
run on. Very popular. Look at what it was just a year ago. Just over a
year ago, Chris Christie was at 41-12 and now he is at 29-29. Chris
Christie`s image has changed and it`s changed for the worse in the last
year. It doesn`t knock him out. He still certainly seems to be interested
in running, but it changes the equation a little bit. Take a look quickly
at the Democratic field. Much, much smaller field. There you see Hillary
Clinton in the poll this week 43 percent positive and 43 percent negative.
Here`s the interesting thing on Hillary Clinton. Take a look back just
about a year, two years ago. 58, 28. Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton,
for that matter, enjoyed sort of a renaissance when it came to their public
opinion, when it came to their standing in polls during the first term of
the Obama presidency because she was the secretary of state, she was
removed from day-to-day politics. A lot of Republicans started praising
Bill Clinton and sort of held him up as an example. Here is a good
Democrat we could work with as opposed to Barack Obama. That was sort of
the Republican talking point for a lot of the first term and it resulted in
that. It gave Hillary Clinton these great poll numbers and now you can see
she`s back down to earth, although certainly among the Democrats doing a
far better known than any other Democrat. You look at the other names that
are mentioned quickly. Elizabeth Warren, 23-17. And then Joe Biden, you
know, eight years in the spotlight here, basically seven years as vice
president and slightly more negative than positive and as we said early,
doesn`t look like Joe Biden is going to have much traction, if he wanted to
run for president 2016 against Hillary Clinton. So, not expected to right
now. But you can see that`s where the vice president stands.
So, again, this is about first impressions, the initial impression that
these candidates and perspective candidates are making on the American
people. I thought we`d show you that now.
And up next, we`ll talk about the growing voter block that may hold the key
to 2016 and beyond. A group you do not hear much about.
KORNACKI: It`s no secret that Democrats and Republicans actively court
Hispanic voters. It`s a block that maybe didn`t turn out for Democrats in
quite the numbers this year that it has in the past. So, also, a group
that both sides agree could play a huge role in who wins the 2016
But Democrats may also be losing support among another crucial constituency
and there were warning signs in this year`s mid-term election results.
Asian-American voters. About 50 percent of Asians voted for Democrats in
the 2014 mid-terms as according to exit polls, while 49 percent voted for
Republicans. Basically dead even. Two years, that one in 2012, exit polls
show that 73 percent of Asians voted for Democrats, more so that year than
even Hispanic voters. So, what caused that massive, we are talking about a
23 point swing here, what caused that drop from 2012 to 2014? Well, one
possible answer is President Obama`s delay in acting on immigration reform.
There are about 1.4 million undocumented immigrants from Asia and the
Pacific Islands. There`s another theory. What if Asian-Americans are more
prone to be Republican in the first place? After all, Bill Clinton
received less than 40 percent of the Asian vote when he ran for president
back in 1992. And a team of political scientists pointed out earlier this
year that Asian Americans, as a group, tend to earn more money, excuse me,
than other ethnic groups and be more business-oriented. And have other
conservative characteristics, all that to be traditionally ascribed to
Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in the country, they
account for almost 4 percent of all votes. So, it`s time to go a little
bit more attention to their ability to help swing an election. And to help
us talk about that, I`m joined now by Stanford`s Neil Malhotra, who is part
of the team political scientists to examine the Asian American vote and
also joining me this congresswoman Grace Meng of New York, a Democrat, a
member of the Congressional Asian-Pacific American Caucus. Thank to both
for being here.
So, well, Congresswoman, I`ll start with you. 2012, 73 percent of the
Asian vote goes for Democrats. Huge reason President Obama is re-elected
and now we look up and it`s dead even. 50/50 basically. What happened in
the last two years?
REP. GRACE MENG, (D) NEW YORK: Well, I`d also like to counter that there
have been other exit polls, for example, one by - that shows that many
Asian Americans still leaned Democratic in a lot of local and state
elections. And, so, I think that the Asian American vote is definitely
something that we can take it for granted. And the time for our 2016
candidates to cater to the Asian American vote and to find out their
concerns, the time begins now.
KORNACKI: Well, so, but did something happen in the last few years? Is it
a particular issue? We were suggesting in the intro there the president
did the executive action this week, but didn`t do it for the previous two
years. Is it that or is it something else? What would cause that kind of
MENG: Well, I believe the Asian American vote is also a very diverse
constituency. It`s important for both parties to utilize, for example,
different types of ethnic media and see that they`re doing the best that
they can to reach out to the Asian American constituency.
KORNACKI: Yeah. That`s actually a good question, too, Neal. Is just when
we say the Asian American vote, it`s a particularly broad term. What are
we talking about here?
NEIL MALHOTRA, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: I totally agree with that. I mean,
for example, Indian Americans and Vietnamese Americans are two totally
different groups. Indian Americans are among the richest in the country
and Vietnamese are on the poorer side. Indian Americans are more likely to
be Democratic than the Vietnamese Americans. So, it`s a very complex
constituency and probably it`s maybe less accurate to say it`s one broad
group, even in pulling together Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, for example.
KORNACKI: Well, so, is this - within this sort of - among this patchwork
of different groups that we can define as Asian Americans, was there any
movement, particular movement you saw in the last couple of years to
explain what happened in this election?
MALHOTRA: Well, first of all, I say, don`t take the exit polls too
seriously. They`re not sampled to be representative of Asian Americans.
It was only 300 Asian Americans sampled across the country in that exit
poll, just FYU. But I think the more important thing is what is the common
fabric, and I think it`s the issue of inclusion versus exclusion, that they
look at the Republican Party, they see them excluding them from the social
fabric. And maybe if there is any movement that is particular to the
group, it could be that the president has not moved fast enough on the
immigration issue and basically trying to include them in the American
KORNACKI: I wonder, too, because we say the history of, again, when you
have these exit polls going back years. I mean there`s - it`s not as, you
look at the African-American vote and for 50 years it`s been staunchly
Democratic, and I don`t think there`s been a Republican presidential
candidate has broken 20 percent going back past, you know, Goldwater. But
when you look at the exit polls for the Asian vote, Asian-American vote, it
does go more to the Republicans. You know Reagan, Bush and in that era.
MALHOTRA: OK, I wouldn`t take it that seriously.
MALHOTRA: Some of those exit polls, you sided. There were literally like
50 Asian Americans polled in that exit poll. The margin of errors are
huge. That being said, the big things that Asian Americans are newer to
the American social fabric than African-Americans, they don`t participate
in politics, not much, when they do, they don`t align with a party and,
therefore, the Republicans think they`re still up for grabs even though
they do lean to the Democratic as of this moment.
KORNACKI: So, when you talk about the Democratic Party needing to be more
attentive and not taking anything for granted. What - are there particular
issues that you think the Democratic Party should be focusing on? And
giving voice to the (INAUDIBLE) right now?
MENG: Sure, well, I think both parties need to be more attentive, but I
think that immigration, of course, is a tremendously important issue, but
there are also issues of economics and health care. Asian Americans a lot
of them are small business owners and they face a lot of obstacles to
achieve in their American dream. Health care is something that, you know,
we talked about the wealthy Asian Americans but there are also many Asian
Americans who are living in poverty across the country.
KORNACKI: Are you seeing political campaigns? We look at, again, we
talked about the politics and immigration and all the mobilization efforts
that have sprung up around this issue. Obviously, getting out the African-
American vote for Democrats is, you know, a huge part of political
campaigns. Are you seeing campaigns trying to organize mobile - it`s
challenging - all these different sort of almost subgroups, I guess you
could say. But are campaigns paying more attention to the Asian American
vote than they did before?
MALHOTRA: I think they are. And if you look at a lot of Asian Americans
don`t live in swing states. One of the few swing states is Virginia which
I think the Asian Americans did help Mark Warner hold on to that seat and
in a district close to Stanford, where I`m from, Honda, Ro Khanna, district
in Silicon Valley.
KORNACKI: The House race.
MALHOTRA: The House race. That was an intra-Democratic race, immigration
was a big issue, but maybe not the way you might expect because Ro Khanna
was saying we need more H1B visas whereas Mike Honda was more traditional
Democratic view, which is protect American workers. So, it`s actually
pretty complicated even among Asians how much they can disagree on the
KORNACKI: Yeah, what are the other sources of, because again, it`s such a
diverse community? Are there other issues you can think of where there is
a big disagreement, sort of, with .
MALHOTRA: Well, I will give you one that the Republicans might be able to
use to advantage in the future was affirmative action which was a big issue
in California, too. Asian Americans are kind of slowly coming to the
realization that maybe affirmative action is not only a transfer from their
groups to blacks and Hispanics but, actually, it`s kind of slots going to
white Americans and the Democrats might be protecting that at elite
universities, et cetera. So, I think this is an issue where even Asian
Americans disagree and where it could be a schism that the Republicans can
take advantage of.
KORNACKI: That`s interesting. I`m curious to what your reaction to that
MENG: Well, I think it`s important that we as Democrats and Republicans
begin to analyze the impact of affirmative action. We`ve seen cases of
recent lawsuits, for example, with Harvard and in North Carolina and it`s
important that students are able to be as well rounded as possible, to be
able to apply and get accepted based on their criteria.
KORNACKI: I say, do you say, you know, I take your points, such as small
sample in the exit polls. When you see that 23-point drop from one
election to another. You say, well, something might be going on here.
Interesting to have the conversation. My thanks to Stanford`s Neil
Malhotra and Congresswoman Grace Meng of New York for joining us this
morning. We appreciate that.
And who should be part of the next generation of leaders for Democrats and
is it time for them to leave now? We`ll take a look at that question.
That`s right after this.
KORNACKI: Didn`t take long after the Democrats defeat in the recent
election for the party`s top leaders in Congress, Nancy Pelosi in the House
and Harry Reid in the Senate to both say that they will stay on in their
leadership positions. There haven`t been any grumblings - rumblings from
challengers looking to unseat them. What there has been, are suggestions
that it might be time for Pelosi and Reid to step aside and to move on. A
suggestion that Leader Pelosi bristled at.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) MINORITY LEADER: When was the day that any of
you said to Mitch McConnell when they lost the Senate three times in a row,
lost making progress and taking back the Senate three times in a row?
Aren`t you getting a little old, Mitch? Shouldn`t you step aside? But it
just is interesting as a woman to see how many times that question is asked
of a woman and how many times that question is never asked of Mitch
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: On the heels of Pelosi`s heated reaction there, the "Daily
Show`s" Jon Stewart called Pelosi "Every bit as politically craven as her
male counterparts" and said it was time for her to go." And there is also
this. 74-year-old Harry Reid does gets asked whether he is too old to keep
his leadership position. It`s not as if his age is an outlier either.
Nancy Pelosi, as we say, is 74m Steny Hoyer, number two Democrat in the
House, is 75, Jim Clyburn the number three Democrat is 74. On the Senate
side Dick Durbin is 70 and that makes Chuck Schumer the spring chicken of
the bunch. He turns 64 today. Even Elizabeth Warren, the new kid on the
block, brought in as the party`s leadership, liberal - kind of liberal
base, she is 65 years old. So, is this a valid question? The idea of
being too old or just staying too long. Is it time for Democrats to
consider bringing in some younger blood to lead the party on Capitol Hill?
Back with us is Sahil Kapur who covers Capitol, you know, for Talking
Points Memo and Beth Fouhy, senior editor at msnbc.com. So, Sahil, let me
just - let me talk to you first. I - what Pelosi is saying there about
McConnell and, you know, how come there is no pressure on him when they
couldn`t take back the Senate in 2010, 2012?
KORNACKI: There`s certainly -if they hadn`t won this year, there certainly
would have been big pressure on him to go at that point. I remember
covering the House Democrats about ten years ago, when they missed in 2002
and they missed in 2004 and there was started maybe talk of hey, Pelosi,
you have got to get it together in 2006 or - to come, but she did get it
together and everything was fine. What is the attitude among Democrats
right now in the House when you talk to them about Nancy Pelosi, she`s been
there, you know, active leader for more than 12 years now. Are they
starting to say it is too much?
KAPUR: I think it breaks down in two categories. And then the big thing
is to remember that everything has been in a holding pattern in the
Democratic conference for more than a decade with the Pelosi and Hoyer
battle, and that has really been going on under the surface. They don`t
air their dirty laundry in public. But the way people talk about it
privately, is you`re a Hoyer person or you are a Pelosi person. So, and
they ran against each other, way back in this - that divide has always
KAPUR: And it`s a very closely divided conference. You`ve got a proxy
battle between the two of them, between Anna Eshoo and Frank Pallone who is
more senior. Frank Pallone ended up winning against the Pelosi pick.
KORNACKI: This was for a committee for .
KAPUR: For a committee for the powerful and energy Congress committee top
Democrat position. The really interesting thing is that there is no clear
ascendancy in terms of who will take their place. It`s not clear who will
be the next Democratic conference leader. Who will be the next swift (ph).
The entire calculus scrambles, because everything has been in such a
holding pattern between the Pelosi folks and the higher folks right now.
And the Pelosi folks, obviously, have an advantage.
KORNACKI: And what Sahil is describing, Beth. I mean I remember when I
was covering the House, it really struck me. Pelosi was so good at sort of
keeping this sort of tight circle around her and just keeping control of
that caucus. And it was - I mean, it`s the stuff you have to do if you are
going to be good in politics, I think. If you want to keep a leadership
position where everybody is sort of coming after you. You know, Hoyer had
run against her and she squeezed out, you know, all of the Hoyer people as
much as she could and she kept this tight circle around her. But when I
look at the House Democrats right now, I see her and I see the people
around her. They are the same people going back ten plus years now. Is
this something - that Democrats, is there a price for Democrats to pay
outside the Capitol Hill when people look and say, it`s familiar. I`ve
been looking at Pelosi for 12 years. . I`ve been looking at Harry Reid
for 12 years. The people want something new at a certain point.
FOUHY: Yeah, I mean I think the irony of having Barack Obama coming as
president in 2008, this black man in 2008, this young, dynamic black man.
Ever since he`s become - been president, he`s lost so many Democrats out of
the House and the Senate and now Democrats who are supposedly the party of
young people are basically sort of these old calcified people who have been
around forever. All the diversity, all the youth is now on the Republican
side because they`ve won these massive midterm elections so convincingly.
So, yeah, I don`t know, I mean, Nancy Pelosi is, obviously, you know, she
made a good point that women are probably judged more harshly than men in
terms of their age and their longevity in some of these physicians. It`s
not so much her age, it`s just the fact that nothing has ever changed.
That it`s the same people making the same decisions and their caucus gets
smaller and smaller and smaller. That`s not Nancy Pelosi`s fault. There`s
structural reasons why that`s the case. Most House districts are
gerrymandered to elect Republicans, even though there are more Democratic
voters in this country. However, with the same people in place making the
same decisions and the same strategy, it has got to be incredibly
frustrating. And yes, there is this problem at the state level because
there`s not a lot of young Democrats coming up who are going to get into
those positions and eventually make their way up to the leadership.
KORNACKI: And also, who - I mean give me some of the names. If there are
names out there. When you get beyond Pelosi and Hoyer and Clyburn. Who
are the Democrats out there if in 2016 one or all of them would walk away?
Who would we be hearing from? Are there people in position?
KAPUR: I think there are. I think it`s very likely that we`d be very
surprised by some of the names that come up. Some of the names that I`m
hearing are Chris Van Hollen. He`s navigated the Pelosi -Harry waters very
well. He has the trust of the conference. He raises a lot of money and
then there is Javier Bacerra, who is already in leadership.
KORNACKI: In California.
KAPUR: Right. And Joe Crowley I think who sort of has been there. Sort
of - you have done some great reporting on how he`s gotten .
KORNACKI: Joe Crowley from Queens, New York. Yes. We`ll get ..
KORNACKI: There`s another show right there.
KAPUR: Caught up in that leadership battle and I think John Larson is
there, as well. But, you know, it`s hard to know, there are a lot of young
Democrats who kind of want this and there are a lot of Democratic recruits
in recent elections that have just gotten wiped out and have not been able
to win because the House is such a difficult map for Democrats in general.
So, they do have a problem, I think, with this generationally.
KORNACKI: Yeah, and with Pelosi, too, you wonder at a certain point like I
think the Democrats their best bet in 2014 was not to win the House this
year, but was to do well enough that in 2016 if Hillary had a good
performance that could maybe on her coattails take it back. It doesn`t
look like that is going to happen now. So, if you`re Pelosi, I think you
start to wonder, I`m going to be in the minority here pretty much as long
as I stick around. How long do you want to stay a minority leader? Not
having a chance of being speaker?
FOUHY: Great question. I mean she`s been majority leader, she`s been
minority leader. It`s got to be incredibly frustrating to go from one to
the other, because there is so little power for the minority party in the
House. And yes, you are right, 2016, even if Hillary Clinton is the
nominee on the Democratic side and she wins fairly convincingly, the
structure is still not set up for the Democrats to take back the House
then. It`s probably not going to be until the next census. We`re probably
looking at 2022 where there is a realistic chance for Democrats to reclaim
the House. That is a long time. And for younger people or people who are
very ambitious to want to run for House seats and Democrats and then be
stuck in the minority for six years.
It is really hard to see how they can recruit .
KORNACKI: It`s hard to hold on to power for that long. If Nancy Pelosi
got that position basically in 2001 and you`re talking 20, 21, 21 years to
hold on to power on Capitol Hill. That is very tough to do.
KAPUR: The crazy thing is, I think she could probably do it if she really
wants to. And one of the big things on her mind, I think, in terms of
retiring is who her successor is going to be. She wants someone who`s more
in her image than .
KORNACKI: Does she have a name? Does she have - I mean .
KAPUR: I`m not aware, if she does, I don`t know it.
KORNACKI: She hasn`t - She`s still searching.
KAPUR: She`s still searching, and she wants someone to be in the position
right now Hoyer is overriding favorite to be the next in line if she goes.
I`m not sure she would like that.
KORNACKI: Yeah, and I - logically, I see how he would be because there`s
always been that divide. But he`s 75 years old and he`s been there for a
long time. I wonder if Democrats would want to do that. Anyway, my thanks
to Talking Points Sahil Kapur for joining us this morning and MSNBC Beth
Fouhy, as well.
But still ahead, former hostage Terry Anderson is going to join us to
discuss whether the U.S. hostage negotiation policy needs to change with
the threat from ISIS, and up next, passing of a political icon. Stay with
KORNACKI: I want to take a break from talking about the partisan fighting
in Washington D.C. for a moment to talk about the loss one of that city`s
most well-known and unforgettable leaders, former D.C. Mayor Mario Barry
passed away early this morning. He`s had numerous health issues in recent
years, managed to pull of one of the most remarkable and improbable
political comebacks ever. Also, Barry was first elected mayor in 1978. He
was beloved by many as an anti-poverty crusader, also revered for his role
in the civil right movement. His detractors, though, underscored cronyism
and urban decay that played out on his watch as mayor. But what he was
really known for was this. In 1990, he was arrested after the FBI
videotaped him smoking crack in a hotel room. He served six months in
prison for that, but then he returned to city government in D.C. in 1992 by
winning a seat on the city council and then came the ultimate comeback.
Two years later in 1994 running for mayor, again. Unseating the incumbent
in the primary and winning, winning back his fourth term as mayor in
Washington, D.C. Fourth and final term as it turned out and after that
Marion Barry returned to the city council in 2004 a seat that he held until
his death. Marion Barry, dubbed D.C.`s mayor for life was 78 years old.
KORNACKI: Something that has been happening with sickening regularity.
Images that show a hostage from the U.S. or the U.K. being brutally
executed by ISIS. Just this week American Peter Kassig became the latest
victim in the summer after journalist James Foley was the first to be
killed the Obama administration revealed that the U.S. has launched a
rescue mission to try to free Americans being held by the violent
extremists group, but because the U.S. has a policy of not negotiating with
terrorists, when that mission failed, that`s when the administration`s
efforts effectively stopped. ISIS is a terrorist group unlike any we`ve
ever seen. One that not only demands exorbitantly high prices for its
hostages, ransoms, but one that also has demonstrated a clear willingness
to follow through on its most gruesome threats. And some Americans,
including some of the victims` family members are now openly questioning
the wisdom of continuing with the current policy, the policy of never
paying ransoms in the face of such a radical threat. If seems like they
have gotten the attention of the White House. The administration
confirming this week that President Obama has asked for a policy review of
how the U.S. handles international hostage situations. But despite the
policy review, the Obama administration remains adamant that the U.S. will
not waiver on its refusal to pay ransoms in exchange for the release of
hostages. The concern, of course, is that paying such ransoms will only
encourage more kidnappings to fund further terrorist activity, putting even
more people at risk. So, what changes might the White House consider
instead? And what would an ultra-policy look like? What should it look
like? What should be revised?
While reporting for the Associated Press in Beirut in 1985, journalist
Terry Anderson was captured by Hezbollah militants and held hostage for a
then record 2554 days. That`s more than six years in captivity, before his
eventual release. Well, Terry Anderson is now a professor at the
University of Florida. And the honorary chairman of the Committee to
Protect Journalist. And Terry Anderson joins us now to share his very
unique perspective on this. So, Terry, first of all, thank you very much
for joining us this morning. I really appreciate it. And let me just
start with this basic questions about the ransoms. Because I`ve read some
accounts of - these Americans and Brits who were held by ISIS and the
accounts that are provided by those who`ve been released, their fellow
captives who`ve been released. And they`ve been released because their
governments, other governments in Europe are putting up the money for these
ransoms and they are getting them out. And you read these stories about -
we`re getting firsthand accounts of what Peter Kassig was talking about
because of these hostage that had been released. What do you think of that
policy in general of never paying ransoms?
TERRY ANDERSON, FMR. HOSTAGE: I agree with it. It`s an extraordinarily
difficult decision and it`s an extraordinarily difficult policy to stick to
in the face of families who want their loved ones back. But it is, in
fact, the only thing that the government can do that is effective. The
U.S. did pay ransom of a sort during the Lebanon hostage situation. They
shipped some arms to Tehran in exchange for three hostages eventually who
were released in that exchange. And in fact, all three of those hostages
came out of the prisons where I was, and by the time the third one was
released, our hostage takers have gone out and gotten several more. The
problem is, you`re setting up a market in hostages.
Beyond that, though, there are things that the government can do and should
be doing. Not paying ransom, not negotiating does not mean not talking,
does not mean that you can`t try to convince the kidnappers to get proof of
life or to somehow affect the situation short of paying ransom. Most of us
in Lebanon were released through the efforts of John Dominico Pico, then
deputy secretary general of the United States who travelled to Lebanon and
allowed himself to be kidnapped repeatedly in order to talk to our hostage
takers. He had nothing to offer them, and he said that, he had nothing to
offer them and it took a while but he eventually convinced them that that
was the case that there was little that they would get out of it and they
gradually let us go. ISIS is different.
KORNACKI: When you ..
ANDERSON: ISIS is different from everything.
KORNACKI: What is, next, and I`m curious about that too, because when you
compare your experience, your captor, what you went through in the 1980s,
nearly 1990s to what we`re seeing from this group right now from ISIS, when
Hezbollah versus ISIS, you look at that difference, what do you see?
ANDERSON: ISIS is a new thing in this situation. We have not seen
anything like this before. They`re not only well organized and well
managed, but they`re absolutely ruthless, as we have seen. How do you
negotiate with somebody like that? They make their demands, and you either
pay them or not, but the fact is it is a guess, but we believe Europeans
paid up to $150 million to ISIS for hostages and that`s a lot of money to
give to a terrorist organization. It supports their - their activities.
Look, this is not an easy decision to make. It`s not an easy policy to
hold. Nobody really knows what you can do that is effective short of
paying ransom, but do we really want to be funding ISIS to the tune of $150
million when we`re spending millions of others dollars to try to destroy
KORNACKI: You know, I guess I think of the family of James Foley and the
story of the summer about, you know, they were told basically what the
ransom price tag was, they were interested apparently in trying to raise
that on their own if the government would not pay it, and being told,
apparently, by the Obama administration no, absolutely, you know, we will
not allow that. To happen - I think of a family like that, and obviously
like any family, it would be looking it means the difference between seeing
my son, my daughter again and not, there is no price on that one to pay.
ANDERSON: Of course, of course. They`re willing to pay anything. But
again, it goes back to the question of are you causing more hostages to be
taken when you pay ransom? Incidentally, the attitude toward families of
hostage victims is something that the administration can change and should.
KORNACKI: In what way?
ANDERSON: They don`t talk to them. They don`t talk to them, they don`t
tell them anything. It`s basically they tell them don`t make waves, stay
away from publicity, keep quiet, we`ll do what we can. That is not very
helpful to the families. And they can certainly change that attitude.
KORNACKI: Well, I`m curious just based on your experience, and again,
thank you for taking a few minutes this morning with us, but I`m curious
families here right now, families in the U.K. right now who have loved
ones, who are being held hostage, one of the letters, I think it was from
Peter Kassig really jumped out at me, he wrote to his family saying I don`t
know whether to hope or not." I`m curious of a family over here, who have
a loved one over there, what would you tell them about that experience and
what their loved one might be thinking and going through?
ANDERSON: Peter was a good friend of my daughter Sulome who is also a
journalist. And works in Lebanon from time to time. And she asked me that
question. What do I hope for? And I had to tell her there is not really
much anybody can do and that`s a hard thing to face. I have every sympathy
for the family. I know what my family went through and the other hostages`
families in Lebanon. They need to see that the government is doing
everything it can. They need to see that. Whether or not they should be
allowed to pay a ransom that is a difficult question. But they certainly
need to be kept more informed by the U.S. government as to what exactly is
KORNACKI: That`s a good note to end it on, and it`s something that we have
to debate over ransom, but it certainly seems as while we are having a
debate, that is something that can and should be addressed, and that`s a
very good point. Terry Anderson, really appreciate you taking the time
this morning. Thank you very much for that. And we will be back, next
weekend, next Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. Eastern time. Coming up next,
Melissa Harris Perry. We`ll see you next week here on "UP," and have a
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