'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, March 21st, 2015
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: March 21, 2015
Guest: Alfonso Aguilar, Shane Goldmacher, Sabrina Siddiqui, Kai Wright,
Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, David Zirin, Vince Warren, Valarie Carey, Eric
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: On the real madness of March.
And Joy Reid reports on a hanging in Mississippi. But first, why is no one
running for president?
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. March Madness is in full swing
right now. The national obsession with rankings, matchups and the guessing
game over whether the top seed will go all the way or be toppled by the
surprise Cinderella. And I`m not talking about the NCAA basketball
tournament. I`m talking about the other big dance, the one that only comes
around every four years, the race to be president of the United States.
Just like that other big tournament, the race for 2016 has already seen
lots of fanfare, rousing pep rallies, fiery speeches and plenty of trash
talking. But unlike that other tournament, we can`t fill out ore 2016
brackets yet because we lack - crucial piece of information. The actual
players. After all, the ink and the air time that has been spent on the
2016 presidential race we have the same number of official candidates that
we started the year with, zero.
Now compare that to the last presidential campaign without an incumbent.
By this point in 2007, at least seven Democrats and four Republicans had
already launched their campaigns. And one of those candidates, then Iowa
Governor Tom Vilsack, it already announced and dropped out of the race. So
far, we have seen many of the likely 2016 contenders create super PACs,
hire staff and spend a lot of time with the suddenly and once again very
popular folks in the critical states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
We have heard them talk about why they love America and why they don`t love
our current president. But we have not heard anyone officially say they
want to be the next president. Of course, they have been asked and even
though they are making what looks like campaign trips to what looks a lot
like campaign rallies and forums and many of them have actually put on
payroll a lot of what looks like a campaign staff, let`s listen to what
they actually say though.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST: Why do you want to be president of the United
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven`t made that decision yet, Sean. It was a good
try to give me .
SCOTT WALKER: I did run in track. I was good at the half mile, the
quarter miles. And I did run in three times in the last four years, so I`m
getting pretty used to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So coy, but despite his coy answer, Scott Walker did
acknowledge last week that hey, maybe he is the front runner for the GOP
nomination, to which likely opponent Jeb Bush had this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH: I`m not a candidate. I don`t think he - maybe he is, I don`t
know. But I`m not. You can`t be a front runner until you start running.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So said former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who just happened
to be in New Hampshire. Well played, sir. See what he did there? He
imagined to avoid making an official announcement while still putting down
one of his toughest competitors. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul seems to be a
candidate in every way, but officially. Especially now that he`s picked a
political director for his operation in New Hampshire. For a moment last
weekend it seemed that Paul had become the first to make a public
declaration after tweeting "I`m the only candidate who thinks the NSA
program on phone records should be shut down." Then Paul tweeted his
verification. "Re-candidacy comments. I am a candidate for the U.S.
Senate." But the queen of the artful dodge may be former secretary of
state Hillary Clinton. She`s not officially a candidate for the White
House, but she is using the White House as a source for her new
communications team. Jennifer Palmieri, the White House communications
director is leaving to join the Clinton team, which prompted this pointed
comment from the White House spokesman on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, W.H. PRESS SECRETARY: I think it`s possible that while today
is her last day in this White House, it may not be the last time that she
serves at the White House so we`ll see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet despite major hints like that, Clinton is still
hedging on whether or not she`s actually going to run. Here`s what she had
to say while speaking to the powerful political action committee analyst
earlier this month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: And I suppose it`s only fair to
say don`t you someday want to see a woman president of the United States of
HARRIS-PERRY: Hillary Clinton`s verbal gymnastics around the question of
whether she`s running are so common the non-candidate candidate mim is now
material for "Saturday Night Live."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There will be no mistakes in my rise to the top. If
I decide to run, who knows? And right now, as you can see, I`m just
relaxing at home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: This trend, let`s call it #runningnotrunning of the 2016
cycle is neither accidental nor coincidental. There is good wings in the
hold out, and largely what it comes down to is cold, hard cash. Here to
help us understand features Kai Wright, editor of "The Nation," Sabrina
Siddiqui, who is a political reporter for "The Guardian," Alfonso Aguilar,
who is executive director of the American Principles projects, Latino
Partnership and Shane Goldmacher, who is senior political correspondent for
"The National Journal?" And author of the article "When It Pays to Pretend
You Are Not Running for President." So I`m going to start with you, Shane.
Why is it a good idea to play hard to get to not actually officially
SHANE GOLDMACHER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: I mean you have answered this question
and it`s just money. For all of these people, there`s an advantage to
waiting. And the advantage is, they can raise more money from more people
now and then when they actually get into the race they can tap them for the
smaller contributions, you`re limited to once you`re actually a candidate.
And when you`re folks that are out of office entirely like Jeb Bush, you
can actually coordinate with a super PAC that`s raising money. You can
raise money in hundred thousand dollar increments. Once you are actually a
candidate, $2700 is your cap.
HARRIS-PERRY: You have a great line in the piece that says something like
the best way to run for president is to be unemployed and not actually
GOLDMACHER: Yeah, this is his great advantage. And it`s one of the - the
first people who are expected to announce are actually the sitting U.S.
senators. Rand Paul sort of has an announcement scheduled for April 7th.
And the reason is, because he`s in office. He doesn`t get these
advantages. Once you`re a federal official, you don`t get to get around
So, is the people out of office, you can especially take advantage of this
- sort of loophole.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. He`s a candidate for the U.S. Senate. I also wonder
if there`s something in particular about the Republican field. About the
way that Republicans make choices in their primaries, which is a somewhat
different literally process in the way that Democrats do. I just - I guess
I am stunned in what is going to be an open seat race, that so few people,
particularly on the Republican side, where it is wide, wide open haven`t
thrown their hat in the ring.
ALFONSO AGUILAR, EXEC. DIRECTOR, LATINO PARTNERSHIP: Well, some are going
to announce soon.
AGUILAR: But I have to say it`s happening on both sides. Because as you
said at the beginning, we don`t have any candidates on the Democratic side
or the Republican side.
HARRIS-PERRY: But let me just real quick - because I - when I look at the
Democratic side, I presume that is because there is an elephant in the
room, there`s a big foot in the race, there`s - there`s even though she`s
not declared, Hillary Clinton`s presence kind of -- but on the Republican
side, it`s just far more open.
AGUILAR: Well, I mean, I think certainly money is part of it. They are
waiting so they can raise money for the super PACs that eventually will
support their campaigns during dependent expenditures. But I don`t think
it`s only money. I think this is the new reality of 21st century of
politics with a 24-hour news cycle and the infinity of media outlets.
Before you had to announce in January and February because you have to
getting yourself known by the American public. Now you can wait. You
don`t want to be - you don`t want to get burned. And you can get known in
a short period of time because you have so many media outlets. Social
media to connect with voters. I think that`s part of it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it`s interesting. You actually framed that a little
differently than I thought to say, OK, because of this proliferation of
media, then like the capacity to introduce yourself rises. But I guess
part of what I have been thinking is, is it, in fact, because once you
announce, you are open to a certain level of scrutiny that you would not
otherwise be open to.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN: Absolutely. I do think that this 24/7
media environment that we live in does expose candidates to higher level of
scrutiny. And one can argue, of course, that they were already being
scrutinized. Every move that they make. If you look at all the staffers
who have had to resign, you know, Liz Mair, high profile GOP operative, who
is hired by Scott Locker, made some comments about Iowa and 48 hours later,
all those tweets, she was forced to hand in her resignation. This has
happened to Rick Perry as well hiring someone who had made questionable
comments about women. That`s the kind of scrutiny that these candidates
are already facing. But you are right. You know, people start the feeding
frenzy when you officially throw your hat in the race. That`s when the
Apple, of course, also comes out, and it`s really hard for these candidates
to then stay on message while also having to, you know, take care of - and
then handle these distractions that are, of course, unflattering for their
HARRIS-PERRY: Look, it is leading to some wonderful moments. I want to
take a listen to Jeb Bush at CPAC. Just the way that he talks about
himself running and not running is so funny. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH: If I go beyond the consideration of the possibility of running,
which is the legal terminology, that many of the people here are coming to
see PAC - or probably are using to not trigger a campaign, if I get beyond
that and I run for president, I have to show what`s in my heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I didn`t even - at the end I was like, wait a minute, your
heart? I don`t even know how did we get there?
KAI WRIGHT, FEATURES EDITOR, THE NATION: It`s an absurdity. And I think
it`s this kind of absurdity that does connect substantively to their
disengagement. And, you know, I think I have done a lot of reporting on
poverty in particular, for instance, and people always talk about well, you
know, you look at poor folks and how much they do or do not vote and what
do they feel about the system, and across the spectrum, across the
political spectrum, you hear consistently people saying, well, what are
those - and the politicians - they have nothing to do with my. They have
nothing to do with my life because they plainly represent the powerful and
the rich. And I think this sort of unvarnished playing of games with
campaign finance is the sort of thing that turns people off and says, well,
this doesn`t have anything to do with me. So .
AGUILAR: But let me disagree with that, because the involvement of the
super PACs, at least on the Republican side in places like Iowa and New
Hampshire, it`s actually promoting border engagement. They are organizing
events where candidates are -- or potential candidates, whatever they are,
are connecting directly with people and talking about issues. This super
PACs work with grassroots organizations and regular people are getting very
involved in the process.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, both of these things could be true at the same time
in the sense that the work of the super PAC in early primary organizing
like this could absolutely activate those primary voters who we know are a
nonrandom draw from the box. Right. But - and yet the kind of notions of
us sitting around a table at this point and saying, are you running, are
you not running, can make ordinary people trying to bounce their checkbooks
and make sense out of life feeling like what is Washington doing. Stick
with me, because up next we`re going to talk about the Stephen Colbert
But before I get there, I do want to talk a little bit about some
developing news. We need to report this on a tragic story this morning out
of Brooklyn where a home fire killed seven children, left two other people
in critical condition. Officials say all of the victims are believed to be
from the same family. More than 100 firefighters responded to the scene,
brought the fire under control around 1:30 a.m. The New York City fire
marshal spoke earlier this morning about what caused this fire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently it was a hot plate that are used to keep
food warm. A hot plate was left on. A malfunction occurred and the fire
started in the kitchen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT: How do I turn this into a super PAC?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All you have to do is send a cover letter to the
commission that says this PAC is actually a super PAC.
COLBERT: Here`s my form. That`s a regular PAC that cannot take money or a
gift from Viacom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
COLBERT: Now it`s a super PAC?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
COLBERT: OK. PAC, super PAC.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, very bare bones lesson in campaign finance from
comedian turned one time candidate, Stephen Colbert. Now, you may remember
in the run-up to the 2012 presidential campaign, Colbert created his very
own super PAC called "American for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow." But once
he launched his run for the president of the United States and South
Carolina, he could no longer be associated with the real life super PAC per
campaign finance law. So Colbert handed over control to his partner in
comedy "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart. Now, according to the NBC News
political reportedly and - real life potential candidate Jeb Bush may be
following Colbert`s playbook. Once Bush announces his candidacy for
presidency, it is expected that a close ally of his will take over his
super PAC right to rise. With real life politicians taking cues from
satirical ones, we have to wonder if Colbert was right. Is our campaign
finance system just one big joke. So Kai suggested that this kind of
gaming turns people off. I just wanted to listen to the solution that
President Obama offered this week for this problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In Australia and
some other countries, there`s mandatory vote. It would be transformative
if everybody voted. That would counteract money more than anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Is that the solution to the money problem?
GOLDMACHER: It`s going to be a hard sell to get mandatory voting in the
HARRIS-PERRY: Really? You can`t - like the Australians do it, so here we
GOLDMACHER: The fascinating thing about the Stephen Colbert example is
that he was doing it this cycle, he wouldn`t be creating a super PAC. He
would be creating a secret money nonprofit group that would never have to
disclose its donors at all, and that`s actually what some of these
candidates are already doing. Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, I
guess, non-candidates. All of whom have created or closely affiliated with
a nonprofit that can raise money from people, and never disclose where they
got the money in the first place.
And in fact, as this campaign goes along, most likely, they are not going
to just have a super PAC helping them out. They are going to have a secret
money nonprofit group too.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is this bad for democracy?
GOLDMACHER: I mean if you ask most folks, they want to know who is funding
AGUILAR: To be fair. I mean they have to disclose it to the FCC. They
don`t have to discuss it publicly. Look, this is the legacy of Citizens
United versus FCC. We had the same thing happen in 2012. I`m actually a
believer that government should not impose the limits in free speech and -
but basically did that decision said that corporations, unions, nonprofits
can raise money indefinitely. So, I support that. I think what we have to
need some rules in terms of, you know, specifically coordination when
already somebody has announced that he or she is a candidate they can`t
coordinate with a super PAC. Well, what exactly is coordination or before
they announce when exactly are they using that super PAC to explore? Those
are the two type of rules that we need. But I have no problem in allowing
organizations to raise as much money as they can to educate voters. And
get voters involved in the political process.
WRIGHT: Yeah, but I mean I don`t think that -- first of all, there is what
kinds of voters are we talking about? Again, when we are in the primaries,
we`re not talking about getting a broad swath of voters involved in the
process. We`re talking about targeting a very specific piece of your base
that is going -and often suppressing everyone else. And the second
question of coordination is really actually what - is at stake here. Is at
what point are you representing your donors and not your -- and not the
people who you`re voting for.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. All right. So, when you say that, like so this
question of who you`re representing, like to me, this is part of what is
fascinating is watching the big money happen largely behind the scenes
while there`s this attempt to play regular Joe on its face. So, I want to
listen to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. We talked a bit about him last
week. I want to take a listen to him doing this thing about sort of being
a regular guy out shopping.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R) WISCONSIN: I know after many years of practice that
if I`m going to go buy a shirt, I go to that rack that says it was $29.99
and now it`s $19.99 and then I get the Sunday insert out with the little
scratch off and I take it up to the cash register along with my Kohl`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, there he is in New Hampshire, not campaigning
campaigning -right? And he`s doing this, you know, here`s how I manage my
money at the Kohl`s. Now, maybe he does, but it does seem like a bizarre
reference point when we know the many millions going to these campaigns.
SIDDIQUI: And I think that is why as Kai mentioned earlier in the program,
turns the American public off about this process. There could be a debate
over what kind of caps we should have legally in terms of how much people
can contribute to campaign, but it`s this dual game that these candidates
are playing where they want to present themselves as an average Joe, but
they are, as Shane noted in the article, navigating the loosening of
campaign finance rules so that they could use these super PACs for as long
as they can to raise more and more money and then declare much later in the
race when those limits then kicking on to their campaigns. I mean is
really what I think people find as obstructing the democratic process.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you know, we`re picking on the Republicans here in park,
because they just have a more interesting field full of bunch of
candidates, but it is not a Republican problem exclusively. And in fact,
still to come this morning, Dave Zirin coming to Nerdland to talk sports
and no, we are going to talk about the other side of this, the democratic
side. Because there is in fact an alternative to the current Democratic
front runner, not-runner campaign, not campaigning. Actually, he`s in Iowa
HARRIS-PERRY: While it really does appear that the GOP presidential
nomination is up for grabs, commentators keep behaving as though the
Democratic nominee is a foregone conclusion. In the latest poll, former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a commanding double-digit lead over
all the possible Democratic challengers. Not only is that early lead not
necessarily a good thing for the Democratic Party, it`s not even
necessarily a good thing for Hillary Clinton. During her first
presidential run in 2008 Hillary Clinton faced a contentious primary
against a young senator from Illinois. And some Democrats worried that all
that tension would hurt voter turnout. It didn`t. In fact, the 2008
presidential campaign had the highest voter turnout in four decades, due in
part to a vigorous and protracted primary that energized and registered the
Democratic base. Maybe a little friendlier or even not so friendly
competition is a good thing. And some Democrats seem to agree.
In the wake of her e-mail controversy, there are signs that Hillary Clinton
is losing support among some Democrats. Some returning to the obvious
second Senator Elizabeth Warren in hopes that she will run, but she`s not
the only progressive alternative to Clinton. Former Maryland Governor
Martin O`Malley is looking a lot like a contender this weekend, meeting and
greeting Democratic supporters in Iowa where he`s already spent a lot of
time and money. And in an op-ed for the "Des Moines Register" he struck a
very warrant like tone going after big banks and one of Clinton`s biggest
political vulnerabilities. O`Malley writes, "Structural reforms aren`t
enough. We must bring fundamental change to the culture of Wall Street
beginning with accountability."
So, you wrote that Hillary Clinton is most likable when she`s not running.
Is that the problem here?
GOLDMACHER: I mean this is the fascinating part of Hillary Clinton
polling. Is that when she was secretary of state from the moment she was
announced until a few months after she left office, she was in the `60s
nationally. Democrats, Republicans, Independents. Now that she`s getting
back in the political fray, the most recent CNN poll has her exactly at the
same level she was when she left the last presidential campaign. It`s a
good spot, it`s 53 percent. But she`s disliked most when she`s actively a
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I have long held that her biggest problem isn`t how
disliked she is, but simply how known she is. So, you were making the
point earlier up on about the opportunity to introduce yourself. And I
just - we went back to the 2008 presidential campaign to kind of this
moment, sort of March night 2011, 2007 and people were asked have you never
heard of or had no opinion of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. 19 percent
of people had never heard of Barack Obama, 16 percent had no opinion about
him. Look how tiny those numbers were for Hillary Clinton? So, what is he
getting an opportunity to? Introduce himself, teach people about himself
and it feels like there`s no room for her to do that. People already love
her or hate her.
AGUILAR: Right, look, that`s one of the reasons why she`s postponed her
announcement. She knows that once she announces the media is going to go
after her. They are going to uncover - they are going to uncover the past
scandals and they are going to uncover the new scandals. Look at the e-
mail scandal which, personally, I think is a very serious thing. Dealing
with government, serious business, in a private e-mail server, I think
that`s a serious thing. And I think that`s going to - that issue has legs.
But again, it`s not only the issue, it`s how she responded.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, right, I would disagree with .
AGUILAR: There`s impunity to the Clintons. And while lawyer .
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. Yeah. I would say I disagree that the issue itself
has particular legs, but the responses can, right? And there`s a way in
which it makes you feel again that sense of disconnection.
SIDDIQUI: There`s a sense of entitlements that she exhibits. And that`s
what bothers a lot of people about her. And the inevitably of her
campaign, too, I think she felt like she was very defensive - do they
really have to explain why she had just this personal e-mail account. And,
you know, to the points that have been made, I think that it`s very
beneficial to not just - Hillary Clinton, but also to Democratic Party at
large to have more contested primary. She needs to be put in a position
where she more clearly articulates her vision, her policies and that would
also improve, I think the obstacle that she faces of being so well known.
She can actually reintroduce herself to the electorate and that would only
be possible if there`s an Elizabeth Warren just pushing her a little bit to
the left. If there`s Martin O`Malley, if - or even a Joe Biden who`s
adding that extra bit of pressure.
HARRIS-PERRY: See, you just said the vice president`s name. Why does
nobody ever say the vice president`s name?
WRIGHT: Vice president, I can say his name a lot easier.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s true.
WRIGHT: I mean I think particularly the issue is challenged on equity and
her relationship to Wall Street, I think that`s going to be helpful for her
as a candidate ultimately. And helpful for the world. But also, I have to
say that I think part of the Clinton`s problem, but her problem and the
Clinton -at great large, is their relationship to power generally. If they
are going - they understood to be in constant pursuit of power. So the
minute she`s running, she`s in pursuit of power and she`s immediately
turned off. But that`s also an advantage, I think, amongst some Democrats
who are ready for someone who says, hey, listen, it`s time for a powerful
Democrat around here. And I think if she can introduce that part of
herself and again, if she has got a challenger, it might raise those kinds
of hackles, she might do better.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kai Wright and Sabrina Siddiqui and Alfonso Aguilera are all
sticking around and are going to be back in the next hour.
I want to say thank you to Shane Goldmacher.
Still to come this morning, Rahm Emanuel`s challenger in Chicago, Chui
Garcia, but first, what the class of 2016 can learn from Senator Barack
HARRIS-PERRY: Right now, there are big decisions to be made. Clinton,
Bush, Christie, O`Malley, Walker, Webb, Carson, Jindal, Cruz, Paul,
Senators Fiorina, Rubio, Santorum, Perry Graham. All of the class of 2016,
and all of this I`m not a candidate candidates will, if they do take the
plunge, likely make their intentions official in the coming months. Maybe
even in weeks or days. Yes, we are about to experience the onslaught of
presidential campaign announcements. Each of these would-be commanders-in-
chief having one opportunity to own the news psycho with a big splash.
Each of them with one chance to introduce or reintroduces themselves to the
country. To look presidential, to show they have the wind at their backs,
announcing your home state or an early state, announce via tweet, a video
message or a speech, indoors or out, the announcement is carefully crafted
moments of political stage craft. The timing, the location, the backdrop,
the audience, the words, all of it is carefully selected for maximum
impact. And it`s a tricky business. The class of 2016 has plenty to go on
based on their predecessors.
Let`s start with like a 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy announced
his candidacy in the Senate caucus room to a group of reporters. There was
little fanfare and he even took some questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY: I am today announcing my candidacy for the presidency of
the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Kennedy, if you don`t win the presidential
nomination, will you accept the vice presidency?
KENNEDY: I shall not in any condition be a candidate for vice president.
If I fail in this endeavor I shall return and serve in the United States
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Or a candidate can take the Reagan route. In 1979 Ronald
Reagan made his announcement directly to the voters in a pre-taped half
hour long video that aired on national television.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN: Good evening, I`m here tonight to announce my intention to
seek the Republican nomination for president of the United States. If I`m
elected, I shall regard my election as proof that the people of the United
States have decided to set a new agenda and have recognized that the human
spirit thrives best when goals are set and progress can be measured in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In 1991 Bill Clinton announced his candidacy to an
enthusiastic crowd of supporters from the steps of the old state house in
Little Rock, Arkansas. It was pure presidential stage craft complete with
American flags and the would-be first family by his side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON: To provide that proven leadership is our challenge in 1992
and that is why today I proudly announce my candidacy for president of the
United States of America.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
HARRIS-PERRY: In 1999 George W. Bush showed there was no need to announce
just once when he and his wife Laura sat on patio chairs in Austin to give
a preannouncement announcement to Texas-based reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH: I wanted the Texas press and therefore, my fellow Texans
to hear it from me first that this coming Sunday I`m going to announce the
formation of an exploratory committee to determine whether or not I should
seek the presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, one of the 2016 likely candidates has already run for
president. Hillary Clinton announced in January 2007 with a simple
statement on her website, I`m in and I`m in to win. Like President Reagan,
she also released a pre-taped video speaking directly to the camera. Her
sitting was a cozy living room and she made clear she wanted to chat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON: I announce today that I`m forming a presidential
exploratory committee. I`m not just starting a campaign, though, I`m
beginning a conversation, with you, with America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, living rooms are nice, but perhaps what Secretary
Clinton and really all of the class of 2016 are aiming for is the kind of
moment our current president had in February 2007 in front of a cheering
crowd of 16,000 people packed into a square in Springfield, Illinois,
despite the single digit temperature and despite the fact that Senator
Barack Obama was polling 19 points behind Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA: I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for
president of the United States of America.
OBAMA: I know that I haven`t spent a lot of time learning the ways of
OBAMA: But I have been there long enough to know that the ways of
Washington must change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The class of 2016 that is a presidential announcement.
You`re up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Richard N. Daley served as mayor of Chicago for 22 years.
Daley won his first election in 1989 with 55 percent of the vote. In 1991
Daley secured another four years with 70 percent of the vote. Then after
Daley`s third landslide win in 1995, the Republican-controlled Illinois
general assembly changed the way the election game was played. Suddenly
the primary general election format was gone. Instead the general assembly
called for one single nonpartisan election with every candidate`s hat in
the ring. A runoff would be held if no candidate earned more than 50
percent of the vote. For Richard Daley, though, rule change never
mattered. He went on to win the next three elections never dipping below
70 percent of the vote. Daley never faced a runoff.
Rahm Emanuel is not Richard Daley and this year for the first time in
Chicago`s new system the incumbent mayor will face a runoff election
leading off to Chicago`s February 24th election, Emanuel had raised more
than $15 million in campaign funds. Also in his arsenal, an endorsement
from former boss, President Obama. Money, yes, endorsement, yes, but the
votes, 50 percent of them, no. Mayor Emanuel had just 45 percent of those.
The run off was on, it is on and it will happen on April 7th. And Emanuel
will face Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia.
Garcia emigrated from Mexico with his family as a child to become a citizen
in 1979. He`s served on the Chicago City Council and in the Illinois state
senate. Recent polls show Emanuel with a commanding lead over Garcia, but
the challenger has picked up key endorsement from the Chicago`s teachers
union and the service employees international union, SEIU. Joining me now
live from Chicago is Democratic candidate for mayor Chuy Garcia.
So nice to have you this morning. Yesterday .
JESUS "CHUY" GARCIA (D) CANDIDATE FOR CHICAGO MAYOR: Good morning,
Melissa. Great to join you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Very nice to see you. Yesterday, "The Chicago Tribune"
endorsed the mayor. Do you have a real chance of unseating him?
GARCIA: We definitely do, this is a campaign that`s gathered tremendous
enthusiasm and momentum over the past two weeks since the February 24th
election. Ironically the day that the tribune endorses the mayor, the
Chicago public schools bands are downgraded once again now. So it shows
that his stewardship of what he says is a strength the finances in Chicago
is in a financial freefall. The city has never been this bad, and it`s
just a testament to his tenure over the past four years.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you brought up, I think, one of the key and central
issues in this campaign and now certainly in the runoff and it is this
question of revenue, the question of the city`s finances. And in fact,
this morning the "Chicago Sun-Times" is reporting a variety of issues
around this, but part of it is saying that you`re being clear about what
some of your revenue willingness is and that some of it has to do with
potentially gambling and maybe even with trying what some other cities have
tried, which is the legalization and taxing of marijuana. What are other
kinds - you know, are those on the table for you and what are the other
issues that are on the table for you?
GARCIA: You know, we`re looking at a host of potential revenue measures to
shore up the city`s finances. But obviously, the mayor has done a terrible
job as a financial steward of the city. It`s important to understand that
what people are really concerned about in Chicago the school closures and
the future of the Chicago public schools, obviously, the mayor`s
stewardship is undermining them. People are concerned about the 10,000
shootings that Chicago experienced over the past four years and people in
the neighborhoods are saying where is the prosperity that we see in the
central business district. We don`t see that in the neighborhoods. People
in Chicago neighborhoods feel abandoned and that`s why 55 percent of them
voted for change on February 24th and that will catapult us to victory on
April 7. People are tired of the wrong priorities of this mayor. They
think he`s made bad decisions and that he`s broken promises to fix the
schools and the school finances in the city and to make it safer. Those
are his three prime promises four years ago and he`s failed on each one of
HARRIS-PERRY: So, two of those are things that we have discussed a lot on
this show. One is the issue of the schools. The other one being the
horrible violence that has particularly racked certain neighborhoods in
Chicago. So talk to me about the school piece in particular. You`re being
backed now by the teachers union. Tell me what your plans are for managing
a real crisis going on in the Chicago public schools.
GARCIA: First of all, we have to stabilize the finances of the schools and
obviously, that`s been a terrible job that this mayor has performed. We
begin doing that by opening the books to show where the revenues have been
going, where the revenues need to stop going to privatization to
politically connected contractors to billionaires and millionaires who are
friends of the mayor who provide him with large campaign contributions.
That`s a central issue in this campaign. The other is ensuring that
schools everywhere in Chicago, not just certain parts have educational
equity. That means good teachers, computers, books, support staff in those
schools especially in the poorest parts of the city to ensure that children
actually learning. We also have to get away with - from so much
standardized tests because we`re over-testing and under-educating children
in Chicago. So, it is about equity. It`s also about bridging the
separation and the divide between the very prosperous central business
district and the neighborhoods which have been left behind. Inequality has
multiplied under the tenure of this mayor. People in Chicago have come
together across race and ethnicity in a really fascinating coalition that
seeks to take Chicago back and reprioritize where our resources are
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Jesus Chuy Garcia in Chicago, Illinois. It is
undoubtedly a fascinating race. And we will all be watching it quite
GARCIA: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, Dave Zirin on the edge of sports and the true
madness of March.
HARRIS-PERRY: With off season for the NFL, but the most stunning sports
news of the week was about a San Francisco 49er and his decision to quit
the game. After playing just one season, and at the age of 24 Chris
Borland announced his retirement on ESPN`s outside the lines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS BORLAND, ANNOUNCED RETIREMENT FROM 49ERS: It`s a unique decision to
me. I have done a lot of research. What I have experienced in past,
projected to what I would have to do to be the linebacker I wanted to be
and for me it wasn`t worth the risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That risk, of course, being neurological diseases or earlier
death caused by concussions, head injuries and brain trauma. The
announcement caused shockwaves both on and off the field. Borland is the
fourth player age 30 or younger to announce his retirement in the past
week. And he`s one of the most promising players a star rookie who stood
to make tens of millions of dollars over a decade of possible playing time.
Also, this week as President Obama made his pick for the 2015 NCAA
basketball tournament. For him it`s Kentucky all the way. Players suited
up to kick off March Madness. On the same day the tournament began,
lawyers at the NCAA asked a federal appeals court to overturn last summer`s
landmark decision that college athletes should be paid. And then the
basketball tournament brings in more than $700 million each year and right
now all the players, the super stars, and the bench riders get the same
Joining me now from Washington Dave Zirin, sports editor for "The Nation"
magazine and author of "Brazil`s Dance for the Devil: The World`s Cup and
Olympics and the Fight for Democracy."
So, Dave, it is NCAA Madness time. And part of that madness is $700
million coming in every year and the players don`t - we are talking about -
don`t actually make any kind of salary. What is the defense there?
DAVID ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, "THE NATION" MAGAZINE: I have no idea what
their defense is at this point other than them hiring lawyers who, by the
way, aren`t working for free, to go and argue that no, no, no, the money
has to stay away from the players` pockets. I mean look, anyone who has
watched the tournament this week knows what they saw. It`s an incredible
spectacle. It`s absolutely narcotic. It`s a national obsession. More
people interact with the NCAA tournament than even the Super Bowl. More
money is bet on the NCAA tournament than the Super Bowl. And who are we
really tuning in to watch? Who is wearing the corporate logos as they run
up and down the court? It`s the players, that`s who we`re watching and yet
they do not get paid for it. And so, we all become party to this kind of
rank exploitation, Melissa. We become collectively corrupted as myself
included. As we watch this thing so acidulously.
And I`ll tell you what`s so disturbing about it to me is that when you
dispense what the niceties of it are, when we stop trying to speak in
politically correct language, what we`re looking at is the organized theft
of black wealth. And if we want to talk about it more broadly, the
organized theft of youth wealth. I mean it really is like, imagine if
we`re watching "The Facts of Life" and only Mrs. Garrett is getting paid.
I mean this - what we`re looking it, and we are all a party to this. And
I`ll tell you the thing that I find the most obnoxious, the thing I find
the most personally offensive is when people argue that players should not
be paid because they already have too much of a sense of entitlements and
they would be feel even more entitled if they were paid for their labors.
You know who has the sense of entitlement in this scenario? The coaches
have a sense of entitlement, the NCAA has a sense of entitlement. They
think they are entitled to all the money. They think they are entitled to
the sneaker money even though they are not wearing sneakers. That`s
And I`ll tell you something. I would much rather have 18 to 22-year-old
kids with those billions of dollars in their pockets because they will
spend it in their communities.
ZIRIN: They are not going to stick it in some offshore accounts in some
cat shelter or in some Haiti sweatshop and that money never gets circulated
back in our country. Give the money to the kids. At least they will spend
it. And if problems develop from that, I could totally see problems
developing from that, of young people getting that money, but you know
what, there are problems right now with them not getting the money.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, David, so it`s interesting because I think the other
argument is made in addition to the entitlement one is, well, they are
being paid. They are being paid in free education. Right? You know,
getting particularly being on a college campus where people are paying many
tens of thousands of dollars to go. You know, the idea is while you`re
making $40,000 or $50,000 in that you`re getting free tuition. But I think
you have made this point before and we see it if we shift a little bit to
the NFL story here as well, you know, the idea that these players may
actually be opting out of making millions of dollars because of the concern
about the protection of their minds, the protection of their brains and
some of them having really lovely brains. I love our Baltimore Raven John
Urschel who did this insanely complex math piece that he published in a
math journal. And I keep thinking if they are not - if they are also not
getting fully educated, they are not having opportunity to be nerds, then
here is also something else is being stolen?
ZIRIN: Absolutely. You know, they are being robbed of their right to be
able - and football it works what we are talking about, they are being
robbed of their right to use their brains when they hit their 30s, 40s and
50s. It`s an old expression that if you play tackle football, particularly
at the pro-level, you`re giving up your right to a middle age. You`re
going straight from being young to being old. And that`s what Chris
Borland was saying. What made Chris Borland`s retirement so electric is
that he`s doing this in advance of getting concussions. Because he`s
saying as a history major as someone who earned his degree from the
University of Wisconsin, he`s actually applying what he learned at school.
And you see a lot of people in the NFL cognoscenti punishing him for
actually applying what he learned. It`s like when Kain Colter, the
quarterback for Northwestern, attempted to organize a union, he did that
because he took a labor law class at Northwestern and said, wait a minute,
my labor situation is pretty messed up. What I`m learning applies to my
life as a student athlete and he was punished and attacked for actually
applying what he learned. That`s the big sham in all of this.
And what you want is that there`s really going to be an educational
component, you want people to be able to use that education. And that`s
the biggest sham of all. I mean I interviewed Jimmy King who was with the
Michigan Fab Five and he called it a big hustle because you`re not even
really getting that education. You`ve got to practice so much. You`ve got
to travel so much. It`s not even there for you to do. The big fear of the
NFL is that it`s going to go straight gladiator and what you`re going to
have is people who come from middle class backgrounds who have options are
just going to leave and it`s going to be poor kids, disproportionately
black, bashing their brains in for wealthy fans.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dave Zirin in Washington, D.C., always bringing all the fire
on your analysis of the sports, the politics and the questions of labor
fairness, thanks for joining us this morning.
And up next, all the things that happened and the one thing that doesn`t in
133 days. There`s more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
One hundred thirty-three days -- it`s been 133 days since the president of
the United States said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I couldn`t be prouder that
today I can announce somebody who shares that fierce commitment to equal
justice under the law as my nominee for the next attorney general, U.S.
Attorney Loretta Lynch.
It`s pretty hard to be more qualified. She`s spent years in the trenches
as a prosecutor, aggressively fighting terrorism, financial fraud, cyber
crime -- all while vigorously defending civil rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was November 8th, 2014, 133 days ago.
Since then, a lot has happened. The St. Louis County grand jury chose not
to indict Officer Darren Wilson and outrage gripped the people of Ferguson.
A Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict the police officers
involved in the death of Eric Garner, and protesters shut down the streets
of New York City.
Across the country, a nascent movement of those with hands up, explaining
they could not breathe, dying in and declaring black lives matter, demanded
our attention and shaped our discourse. Two officers were senselessly
murdered in Brooklyn and the city`s police turned their back on the mayor.
Loretta Lynch, she waited to be confirmed. We celebrated Thanksgiving,
Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, we even rang in the New Year. The 114th
Congress started and brought with it a historic proportion of women and
people of color as legislators.
The world mourned with Paris in the wake of the "Charlie Hebdo" massacre,
and the courts expanded marriage. We debated deflated footballs, lobbied
for our favorite movies, endured what seemed like endless winter and
finally got to see the Apple Watch. The Department of Justice released a
report from Ferguson and announced a plan to make changes in police
departments across the country. Loretta Lynch waited to be confirmed.
Two weeks ago, the nation remembered the transformational courage of those
who dared to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And for those who had come to
Selma, Loretta Lynch`s waiting did not go unnoticed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Call your United States senators and tell them that
they must confirm the first African-American attorney general.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, how did we get here? I mean, when the president
nominated Lynch just days after the 2014 midterms, most competitors could
barely fathom a controversy. She has a Harvard Law education, decades of
experience, and an un-assailed reputation. During her confirmation
hearing, she had one especially valuable characteristic, given the current
A.G.`s icy relationship with Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Let me just stipulate, you`re not Eric
Holder, are you?
LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: No, I`m not, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But despite assurances that she is not Eric Holder, Loretta
Lynch is still waiting, 133 days after being nominated.
What is the holdup?
Mitch McConnell announced Sunday that he would not schedule the vote until
the Senate passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. On the face
of it, that doesn`t sound like it`s going to be difficult, except that
Republicans stacked the bill with anti-abortion language that Democrats
oppose. The bill calls for anyone convicted of human trafficking to pay
into a restitution fund for their victims, but money in the fund cannot be
used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or if the life
of the woman is in danger.
Language like this is actually fairly standard in these annual spending
bills. The problem here is about precedent. Democrats worry that
including this language in a bill that does not have to be reauthorized
each year could lead to more abortion restrictions in the future.
So, at the moment, no compromise looks likely. Meanwhile, Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to turn to a debate on the budget next
week. And then the Senate goes on spring break. That means the vote could
have to wait until at least mid-April.
The whole thing has gotten so maddening that President Obama weighed in on
it on day 132.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: You don`t hold attorney general nominees hostage for other issues.
This is our top law enforcement office. Nobody denies that she`s well-
qualified. We need to go ahead and get it done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now, Kai Wright, features editor of "The Nation",
Sabrina Siddiqui, who is political reporter for "The Guardian", Alfonso
Aguilar, who is executive director of the American Principles Projects
Latino Partnership, and Vince Warren, executive director at the Center for
Vince, what is going on?
VINCE WARREN, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: This is crazy. As you
laid out, holding the chief position, law position in the country during a
time when we have one of the emerging issues that we have now is the state
of race relations with the police department where we have people -- police
officers are getting shot, protesters are getting tear gassed, this is
going back to the 1960s.
And to hold this particular position hostage at this it time is a
tremendous problem. It`s a tremendous problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Guess who agrees with you? Rudy Giuliani.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, there are not going to be a lot of times I`m going
to be able to look at you, Vince Warren, over the Nerdland table and be
like, you and Rudy Giuliani, are down with each other.
He wrote, "My interpretation has always been that the president should be
given the deference to choose his cabinet, unless a nominee is unqualified
to do the job, has a history of unethical behavior, or is so ideologically
rigid as to be incapable of making rationale choices in the public
interest. None of these disqualifiers apply here.
If this is not about Loretta Lynch, if no one thinks this is about her, is
this at all a reasonable way for Republicans in the Senate to be behaving?
AGUILAR: Look, sadly, the relationship between the executive and the
legislative branch is in shambles. The president has a terrible
relationship with Congress, with the Senate and I think this is one of the
reasons why this is taking so long.
I would say to clarity, because Senator Durbin and others have implied that
somehow race is part of this issue, that`s the worst kind of race-baiting -
- of racial identity politics.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to pause you right there, just because I want to play
it. In case folks haven`t heard it, let`s have them listen to what you`re
So, this is Durbin and then we`ll listen to McCain right behind him making
a point that`s on this same issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: So, Loretta Lynch, the first African-
American woman nominated to be attorney general, is asked to sit in the
back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar. That is unfair.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The need for decorum and dignity of the
United States Senate, I would say to the senator from Illinois, for him to
come to this floor and use that imagery and suggest that racist tactics are
being employed to delay Ms. Lynch`s confirmation vote. Such inflammatory
rhetoric has no place in this body and serves no purpose. It was offensive
and unnecessary, and I think he owes this body, Ms. Lynch and all Americans
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AGUILAR: I agree with Senator McCain. When he voted, when Senator Durbin
voted against Condoleezza Rice for secretary of state, was he being racist?
Of course, not. It`s ridiculous to imply that.
Look, Mitch McConnell has said that the next issue after the human
trafficking bill they are going to deal with is the confirmation of Loretta
Lynch, she will be confirmed.
The only reason why this is taking so long at this point in time is because
the Democrats are intent in subverting the consensus policy that we have
had with Hyde Amendment of the federal government not providing funding to
abortions. It`s radical abortion tactics, if anything, that are holding up
Loretta Lynch`s confirmation.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the idea, I want to give you your full say on that. I
know that is the line. But I will say, the idea that radical abortion
tactics, which first of all I think we are not in a consensus place with
the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment is simply that position that has
become the de facto position, but that does not make it consensus. That
said, when we look at Janet Reno, 29 days, Alberto Gonzales, 86 days, Eric
Holder, who they really do not like, 64 days, and Loretta Lynch at 133, the
idea that something that has nothing to do with her job, not single thing
to do with her qualifications would be associated with it, does seem to be
like a malpractice.
WRIGHT: How many days when the Hyde Amendment became the issue?
WRIGHT: Before that, which I think is probably still the core issue, is
immigration. They still want to use Loretta Lynch to beat the president up
on his executive order.
And, you know, I would just once like to see Republicans as outraged about
race and racism when it comes up in our many plays as they are when
Democrats bring it up.
SIDDIQUI: I do think that immigration is still at the core of this, and it
goes back to Alfonso`s point about just how poor the relationship is
between the executive and legislative branch, and this is another
opportunity for Republicans to rebuke the president`s executive action on
Conservatives are particularly outraged in the hearing when Loretta Lynch
did defend those actions, as you would expect her to do, of course, being a
potential appointee in the Obama administration, but it mounted a lot of
outside conservatives opposition. Obviously, a lot of the right -- the
hard right commentator has been against her nomination. I think this delay
buys Republican leaders more time to maybe peel off some of the support
that she does have --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, I think this is in part why we have to be very
careful about how we understand how race is operating here. What I do
think is absolutely sort of almost ludicrous is to suggest they don`t want
a black attorney general. They have a black attorney general, right? One
they really don`t like.
So, all this does is keep Eric Holder in office. But that doesn`t mean
it`s not about race in these other kinds of ways, which is to say that
talking about it around issues of immigration is to look at --
HARRIS-PERRY: I promise. We`re going to take a break and come back. We
have more to say.
And I`m going to make a suggestion that this may be about more than just a
waiting game. The notion that we know how this is going to turn out might
not be how it turns out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last week, the acting assistant attorney general for the
civil rights division of the Department of Justice released a statement
that read in part the results of the civil rights divisions investigation
into the practices of the Ferguson Police Department remain a top concern
So, you see that statement, it`s a e reminder of two issues. First, the
DOJ is in the midst of long-term work even while the Senate stalls the
confirmation of the person who should be leading the department. Second,
the person currently charged with overseeing the civil rights division
aspect of this work.
Vanita Gupta is herself an acting assistant A.G. Now, Gupta is herself
terrific. But why is her title acting? Because she steps into the role
after the Senate denied confirmation of a qualified attorney to lead the
civil rights division for wholly political reasons.
In Debo Adegbile was forced to withdraw his name from consideration for
assistant attorney general of the civil rights division. Adegbile who was
a 1970s "Sesame Street" kid was one of the most respected civil rights
lawyers and served as acting president of the NAACP legal Defense and
Education Fund. You know the LDF. It was led by none other then Thurgood
Marshall when successful argued Brown v. Board of Education, and overturned
segregation in American public schools.
Given his experience, Debo`s experience, his representation and
accomplishments, nominating Adegbile for the assistant A.G. of the civil
rights division was obvious, noncontroversial, until conservatives launched
a smear campaign because the LDF had defended Mumia Abu Jamal in an appeal
after his conviction for killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.
Don`t miss this. Adegbile headed a civil rights organization that did what
every lawyer is ethnically bound to do in our criminal justice system,
vigorously defended the rights of the client. And for that, he was denied
the position for which he was qualified and nominated by the president of
the United States.
And it wasn`t just Republicans. Eight Democrats joined the vote that has
left the civil rights division of the Department of Justice without a
permanent director, even as that division is tasked with reforming policing
So, if you have been thinking, surely, it`s just a matter of time before
the Senate confirmed Loretta Lynch because she`s qualified -- just remember
I asked the attorney general about it when we spoke in February.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: He did what a lawyer is supposed to do.
You know, take on tough cases that are unpopular and he did so extremely
honorably. The fact that he got penalized for doing that sets I think a
very bad precedent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Yes, the problem that we`re seeing here is that both in the
context of Debo Adegbile`s nomination and Loretta Lynch`s is that we now
have eminently qualified people of color that are necessary to lead our
country through the justice path that we actually have right now. And
these are getting blocked by political and partisan pieces, no question
about it. But also it reminds me of Loretta Lynch`s story.
You remember, when she was in high school in North Carolina, she was the
valedictorian and as the valedictorian scored higher than anybody, that
through this bureaucratic means, she was not allowed to shine as the
valedictorian and they had two other white students because the world
wasn`t ready for a strong, smart, qualified black girl to lead.
We have a situation now where the Congress is seeing exactly the same
thing, that they are inhibiting the leaders that we need to move us through
this, through these bureaucratic means and I frankly don`t care whether the
Republicans are playing tit-for-tat with the president or whether this is
about the immigration bill, there are black lives and white lives at risk
right now that are getting slowed up because they are not moving this
forward. And we have to change that.
AGUILAR: I have to disagree with this. This has nothing to do with race.
This is not political or smear.
Let`s be honest. I`m not saying --
HARRIS-PERRY: It is political.
AGUILAR: It is political, but it`s not just partisan. He did something
which is defend a person who killed a police officer. Now, an attorney, as
an attorney --
HARRIS-PERRY: First of all, I want to be clear about that.
AGUILAR: In an appeal.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no, but I also would like to be clear about that. He
was not the lead attorney. The LDF defended --
AGUILAR: But he was part of the appeal team.
AGUILAR: As an attorney, you choose your clients. And you have to live
HARRIS-PERRY: This is a Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP.
AGUILAR: That`s fine. I`m not saying -- they have the right to defend
whoever they want to defend. But at the end, you have to live with the
consequences. You defended a person who -- look --
HARRIS-PERRY: He defended him against the death penalty.
He actually did not -- I want to be clear because the lives and the smears
that have been told about Debo are precisely the point that I`m trying to
get at here. He did not defend him as an individual attorney making a big
defense profit force. So, I want to be clear about that. He was a part of
a nonprofit organization that defends peoples` civil rights, and they
defended the man against the death penalty, not against conviction, which
is a wholly different issue relative to the question of civil rights. And
he was being nominated for the issue of civil rights.
And so, I bring this to the face because what is important here is that we
not think about race as an issue of the racialized bodies that have been
nominated. That is too easy. We have to look at what it`s saying about a
broader system of justice and the ways in which it impacts people of color
AGUILAR: But, Melissa, to be fair, there was outrage because he was
involved in this appeal, defending this individual who killed a police
officer. And it wasn`t only conservatives. Senator Casey --
HARRIS-PERRY: There are numbers of the Supreme Court of the United States
AGUILAR: Senator Casey of Pennsylvania came forward and oppose this --
HARRIS-PERRY: I was very clear about what I think about those Democrats.
SIDDIQUI: -- shockingly came forward and sided with Republicans when this
got politically inconvenient for them. But also, it`s important to note
that the court agreed with him on that death penalty piece, too. So, the
court did lessen the sentence to life in prison.
So, that`s also important to note when we`re following the facts.
AGUILAR: Let`s be fair. Why when Democrats are appointing somebody to the
bench or an important position, they are fully qualified? When a
Republican nominee eminently qualified, oh, no, no.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is not the Supreme Court. Gonzales was nominated and
confirmed in less than two months.
The notion that Democrats have stood in the way of the appointment, and
again, at the point we`re talking about Debo, and so many others who have
been stood in the way of by the Senate, we are not talking about cabinet
level position. We`re talking about a Senate that`s created a system of
massive resistance every time this president has tried to nominate people.
WRIGHT: This is a cautionary tale because three weeks is a long time. And
Rudy Giuliani and law enforcement statements in the past couple days are
not coincidental, because they also know there`s going to be a campaign
over the next three weeks to find Mumia and Loretta Lynch`s history --
HARRIS-PERRY: And Giuliani I think has a respectful and long-term
relationship with Lynch, it`s like stop this, move forward.
WRIGHT: We`re going to be fighting over her record over the three weeks.
SIDDIQUI: And it is political because, you know, the gun lobby got
involved this week too. The National Rifle Association is spending
(INAUDIBLE) members, we have to oppose this Obama nominee. She`s going to
be Eric Holder 2.0 is --
WRIGHT: But in the way if you are a black person fighting in civil rights,
you are much easier target in these United States because of the fact that
you are inevitably going to find yourself fighting against power. You`re
going to find yourself fighting against the way in which our criminal
justice system is set up.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, I want to go live to MSNBC national
correspondent Joy Reid with details on the story of a man found hanging in
rural in Mississippi.
HARRIS-PERRY: This morning, federal officials are investigating the death
of a man in a rural area near Port Gibson, Mississippi. The man identified
as 54-year-old Otis Byrd was found hanging from a tree near his home on
The image of a black man hanging from a tree is a shocking and powerful
one, particularly in the South. And speculation rooted in America`s bloody
racial history of lynching has already begun to define coverage of this
incident. Both the FBI and Department of Justice are on the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON ALWAY, SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: So, we would expect next week some time to
find a preliminary report as to the cause of death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid is in Port Gibson,
Joy, what have you learned? What`s the latest on this investigation?
JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Melissa, as of yesterday,
the FBI had dispatched about 30 field agents to this community in Claiborne
County, Mississippi. I`m here in Port Gibson, which is the county seat,
but there are much more rural areas we were driving around to where field
agents are essentially going door to door, trying to find family, trying to
friends, relatives of Otis Byrd to talk to them to find out what they knew.
Authorities have also searched a storage locker that Byrd rented to try to
glean any evidence from that. And, of course, we are waiting on that
autopsy result which should come perhaps within a week, to try to sort of
put together the last day of his life and figure out what happened to this
man and to determine whether or not his death was a suicide or a homicide.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Joy, obviously, this is a small town in the Deep South,
but authorities are now under a national spotlight, where there`s now
national attention on this. We have seen local authorities do well under
these circumstances and do poorly under these circumstances.
Have you had an opportunity to talk with anyone and think about how they
are handling this?
REID: Yes. And, Melissa, it`s interesting because I think the key to what
you said is this is a very small town. The county sheriff grew up in this
community of fewer than 10,000 people in the whole county. He was the
immediate past president of the NAACP. Everyone seems to know everyone.
We went to a McDonald`s in town, which is one of the newer buildings in
town, and everyone seemed to come in, everyone said that they knew Otis
Byrd, claimed to have known him, people grew up together and trust one
And so, you don`t have that element of mistrust of local law enforcement.
This is a predominantly African-American community, about 85 percent, as is
the sheriff. So, I think that, plus the federal presence, you don`t have
that sort of trigger of mistrust.
But I will tell you, people are withholding judgment but they are also
really paying attention to this, because as many said to us, this is the
Deep South that a man hanging from a tree in the Deep South, this is a very
serious issue and people want answers.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. There just is a historical resonance, and we have to
be honest about from the beginning.
Thank you to MSNBC`s Joy Reid in Port Gibson, Mississippi.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to talk about another developing story. This one is
actually out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida Police Department. Officials
yesterday announced the firing of three officers and the resignation of
The officers exchange racist texts like these. Quote, "We are coming and
drinking all your beer and killing N-word." And, "Get that N-word out from
under that wagon."
One of the officers also made and shared a racist video that included KKK
hood and an image of a black man on the ground being bitten by a dog.
Now, obviously, these are -- when we see these kinds of moments, and let`s
be clear, the Mississippi moment is quite different than the Fort
Lauderdale one. So, I`m talking specifically about the Fort Lauderdale
It -- this notion of a kind of undermining of local police force, I think -
- or the sense of trust in that police force is precisely part of why the
DOJ is so critical and crucial in this moment.
SIDDIQUI: Yes, absolutely. It goes back to we were talking about with
Dave, we don`t have a permanent head of the civil rights division within
the DOJ. We have an attorney general nominee who`s been sitting for 130
days. And it`s coming at a time when race relations are once again under a
The Ferguson report had found systemic targeting on the ends of police as
well municipal courts. We have the police brutality issue at large. It
underscores the need for a robust civil rights division of the DOJ.
WRIGHT: It`s going to be a meaningful issue in the 2016 campaign as well,
frankly because the difference between the office of civil rights under
Eric Holder and in the previous eight years is striking, that that office
was turned into a mockery of itself during the Bush administration.
HARRIS-PERRY: There was a report in 2009, not long after President Obama
was inaugurated and took office, and that report was scathing about what
happened in those years between 2001 and 2008.
WRIGHT: So, the stakes are high. We have seen what can happen when you
have an active Justice Department and as these kinds of events keep coming
up. As we reached a political moment, where we`re no longer prepared to
give police departments the benefit of the doubt.
And so, I think having an active and real Justice Department is going to be
important, and I hope that`s going to be part in place.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, I will say, the attorney general said that he is -- he
is working. So, I wonder if we have that sound on Eric Holder gave a phone
interview to MSNBC. In it, part of what he said was, look, I still am
Do we up -- in the control room, do we have that?
Yes, here we go. Let`s take a listen to the current attorney general, Eric
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HOLDER: No one should be under the illusion that I`m simply here marking
time. I`m here as a fully-engaged attorney general doing the work that
every attorney general would be expected to do, and I`m doing this work in
a way that`s consistent with how I have done this job over the past six
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Holder says, don`t worry, I`m on it. But there must be
a kind of like waiting for the new person that happens in any organization
WARREN: It happens in any organization, and it becomes particularly
problematic when it happens in the Department of Justice. And we saw after
Debo was being strung along for a long time and then ultimately forced to
move out that there was a lot of questions within the Department of Justice
and the civil rights division, how were we going to move these issues
So, civil rights groups, human rights groups like my organization were
asking for questions about partnership. What are you going to do about
this, what are you going to do about that?
No one can really give concrete, long-ranging answers about how that was
going to go down because of the uncertainty.
And we have to remember what we`re seeing in America is a structural racism
question. And it is very hard for individuals to tap into those
structures, to be able to figure out is the police responsible for this, is
the county courthouse responsible for this like in Ferguson? And we
actually need the Department of Justice to move forward and answer those
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, uncertainty is bad for markets, and it`s bad for
Thank you to Kai Wright and to Sabrina Siddiqui, also to Alfonso Aguilar
and to Vince Warren.
Up next, a wrong turn near the White House and a deadly confrontation. But
that`s just part of the story. When we come back, the rest of the story
that you may not yet have heard.
HARRIS-PERRY: On October 3rd, 2013, three days into a historic government
shutdown, there wasn`t much happening on Capitol Hill. But at around 2:30
in the afternoon, chaos erupted in Washington as breaking news reports
scrambled to make sense of what was going on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: We are following some breaking news on Capitol Hill. There are
reports of shots fired near the Capitol. Some offices are said to be on
lockdown right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: This dramatic video shot by the U.S.-funded Arabic TV
station Alhurra shows Secret Service officers firing gunshots at a car that
ended up close to the Capitol after a high speed chase the begin blocks
away near the White House.
Just minutes earlier, the car, a black Infiniti, with Connecticut tags, had
made a wrong turn into the blocked entry to a White House checkpoint.
Witnesses reported Secret Service officers shouting at the driver, who one
bystander told "The Washington Post" appeared to be scared or lost.
When an off duty Secret Service officer used a metal bike rack to block the
vehicle`s exist, the driver struck the rack and the officer while
attempting to flee the scene. The chase then continued to the west side of
the Capitol where the gunshots were reported.
It went on as the driver backed away from the officers driving away from
the Capitol until coming to a stop when a flurry of gunshots fired by
Secret Service and Capitol police officers.
Carey had driven to Washington from Connecticut with her 13-month-old
daughter who had been sitting in the backseat of the car the entire time,
whom miraculously survived unharmed.
By the end of the day, U.S. Capitol Police had ruled out a terror threat,
calling it an isolated incident. Months later, the Justice Department
announced that no charges would be filed against the Secret Service or the
Capitol Police due to insufficient evidence. DOJ`s investigation concluded
that Carrie was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and there were
no weapons inside her car.
And the news cycle moved on. But the end of the day`s biggest news was
just the beginning of the story for Carey`s family. According to a "Mother
Jones" report that revisit the story this week, Miriam Carey`s death
certificate lists the manner of death as homicide, but her family has yet
to receive a full account of exactly what occurred. More than a year
later, they are still left with lingering questions about the circumstances
surrounding her death and wondering why Miriam Carey had to pay for one
wrong turn with her life.
Up next, I`m going to talk with a member of her family about their search
for answers and for justice.
HARRIS-PERRY: Missing from the list of familiar names that have prompted a
movement to condemn violence and remind America that black lives matter is
a name of Miriam Carey. We don`t know why she drove from her home in
Connecticut to Washington, D.C. We don`t know what prompted her to make
that U-turn at the White House check point. In fact, we were wrong even in
what we thought we knew about her actions on that day.
Police initially reported that she tried to breach two Washington landmarks
and that the incident was not an accident. But according to reports in
both "The Washington Post" and "Mother Jones", none of that turned out to
What is true that is that Miriam Carey`s life mattered. We know that she
was a mother to a beloved daughter. She had family, friends and co-workers
at the dental practice where she was a valued employee.
We know the Secret Service and Capitol Police fired 26 bullets trying to
stop her. We know that after being struck by five of those bullets, Miriam
Carey was unarmed when she died.
But what we don`t know and what her family is hoping to find out is why
stopping her alleged reckless driving required the use of deadly force.
Joining me now is Miriam`s sister, Valarie Carey, and Eric Sanders, an
attorney representing the Carey family.
So, Valarie, I want to start with you both because you`re family but also
because you`re former NYPD. With what you have learned about the actions
of the Secret Service, the actions of the Capitol Police, at least what you
know at this it point, what is your professional judgment even beyond the
personal loss here?
VALARIE CAREY, SISTER OF MIRIAM CAREY: Well, we know little. It would be
great if we could get the police radio transmissions, which would tell a
bigger story. But those haven`t been made available to us, a videotape
that was obviously taken at the scene either.
Professionally, there was no need for deadly physical force. My sister was
unarmed. My sister was a law abiding citizen. She had no criminal record.
She was not committing any crimes. And she was shot multiple times to her
HARRIS-PERRY: This happened in October of 2013. Since then, the deaths of
Michael Brown and of others have led to a public conversation about this
use of deadly force and the value of black lives even when they are
ERIC SANDERS, ATTORNEY: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: But Ms. Carey was not part of that conversation for the most
part. I suspect it is because many of us thought, well, this was tragic,
but you know, D.C. and the White House and the Capitol, and so, if you act
that way, you`re probably -- that`s probably going to be what happens.
But then these recent incidents of breach of exactly that space of the
White House perimeter and even just very recently the Secret Service
themselves breaching that space has forced us to go back and reconsider
having removed Carey from our conversation around this.
SANDERS: Well, we knew from the beginning it was a bad shooting. But we
know that from law enforcement training. People like to believe that
Washington, D.C. is a magical place, but the United States Constitution
applies there, too.
As a matter of fact, the Secret Service director, the outgoing, the woman,
her name escapes me at the moment, she admitted as much that we have
constitutional limitations. And that applies to them, that applies to the
U.S. Capitol Police, and just because you think you suspect there may be a
committee, you have to follow protocols before you use force.
And all we want is full disclosure. We`re not asking to litigate this case
in the media. We want full disclosure, just like Eric Holder said with
Ferguson, Obama said with Ferguson, release all the records.
We`re sure that the facts will back up what we`re seeing from the
beginning. This is an excessive use of force and completely unnecessary
HARRIS-PERRY: Valarie, nothing can bring back your sister. Nothing can
bring back the mother of your niece. What does justice for your family
look like right now?
CAREY: Justice looks like transparency, those that were involved to be
held accountable. We still don`t know the names of the officers involved.
HARRIS-PERRY: You as a family don`t know the names of the people who fired
the 26 bullets into the car that killed your sister and potentially
endangered your niece.
SANDERS: Endangered her.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, you don`t know their names.
CAREY: No, we do not.
So, justice would be those that were involved to be held accountable. The
initial officer that I feel was the catalyst to this, which is the off duty
officer who still remains unnamed, there were two uniformed officers on the
scene at the time. I don`t see why he felt compelled to take what he
thought was police action when there were two uniformed officers on the
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, this is the officer -- that`s -- I think that`s
part of how the language got -- language about putting -- that she had
rammed a gate, because he actually moved this kind of a mobile bike gate in
front of the car after she`s already in that state.
CAREY: Right. And she was actually trying to leave.
SANDERS: That`s a police barrier, like I said from the beginning, (AUDIO
GAP) on that cooler. And now we see the cooler means something but they
didn`t do anything about it to investigate it. As you see, this agency has
a chronic drinking problem. It`s been reported over and over again,
Obama`s team, the teams that went down in Colombia, Venezuela, they are
being sent become because they are drinking too much alcohol. So, was it -
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Since we don`t know, then the question becomes why
don`t we know?
SANDERS: Or maybe they do know and just didn`t disclose it.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m also obviously -- part of the pain here is that in the
fog of how this was initially reported as though it were an attempted
terrorist attack, there is a moment in the Congress where there are
applause for the Secret Service officers.
CAREY: A standing ovation --
SANDERS: Oh, yes.
CAREY: -- that lasted for about two minutes, applauding the death of an
unarmed U.S. citizen who was law-abiding and didn`t commit any crimes.
And to this day, there hasn`t been apology, any acknowledgement, anything.
HARRIS-PERRY: If that apology from the lawmakers, the elected officials
part of what you seek in this question?
CAREY: Part of it, yes.
SANDERS: And like I said from the beginning, I think part of the problem
of the Miriam Carey shooting, as well as all these other shootings, like I
said before in other interviews, the U.S. Patriot Act is a source of a lot
of this stuff because we`re on the guise of terrorism. So, we believe
we`re stopping terror.
I don`t know what terror we`re stopping. We haven`t stopped anything. All
we have done is increased unarmed police shootings all over the United
States. That`s not what we expect here, as citizens.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m chilled every time I have to say that her 13-month-old
was in the back of the car. My daughter is 13 months right now. And,
you`re right, here`s no justice, no applauding, killing an unarmed woman
with her child in the car.
Thank you to Valarie Carey and Eric Sanders. I promise we`ll keep our eye
on this story.
SANDERS: Yes, ma`am.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, our foot soldier of the week. She`s part of the
public space revolution.
HARRIS-PERRY: In 2013, the city council of Columbia, South Carolina, voted
unanimously to make being homeless a crime. The move caused such a massive
public backlash, they later reversed it.
This past November in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, a 92-year-old World War II
veteran was arrested for the third time for feeding homeless people in
parks because of a citywide ban on public food sharing.
A church in San Francisco just this week finally stopped a two-year-long
practice of dumping water in its alcoves (AUDIO GAP) sought refuge at
In 2009, we`ve seen an all-out assault on the homeless, cities around the
country have been responding to the issue of homelessness by attempting to
criminalize it, passing laws prohibiting camping in public, sleeping in
public, loitering and even sitting in public. The National Law Center on
Homelessness and Poverty has been tracking the uptick in legislation
criminalizing the homeless and found these attempts to be costly and
Our foot soldier this week is doing something very different. Liz Coleman
is a reference librarian at the Nashville Public Library. She began her
work with libraries as a volunteer with her school in the fifth grade. Liz
has been working in the Nashville public library system for 15 years and
has always been impressed how the library caters to their homeless patrons.
At its most basic, the library provides a safe, warm place with restrooms
and outlets so that people can charge their cell phones. Liz says
librarians instinctively want to help and serve their community.
Liz started small. She befriended frequent patrons, getting to know their
names and stories and making sure there were staff members available to
help with basic computer skills and Web site navigation.
Her chance to do even more came last year when the administrators of the
library decided to remodel, to replace some printed periodicals with more
computer space. Also, through the recently established homelessness
advisory committee, Liz was able to establish a relationship with Nashville
Now, once a week, the library is visited by a social worker who helps
patrons search for housing, get food stamps and access other city services.
Also once a week, a mental health professional visits the library to
service homeless patrons and Liz points out that the warm, welcoming
environment of the library helps people otherwise reticent to enter a cold
government building more likely to receive these essential services.
And in the future, she hopes to do even more, like health screenings,
stress reduction, financial counseling, nutrition and even yoga. For the
past 25 years, the American Library Association has had in place a policy
urging libraries to grant full access to poor and homeless patrons.
But few have put in as much effort as the Nashville Public Library. Lines
form outside the library in the morning as homeless people wait for the
doors to open to the one place where they know they can find warmth,
safety, entertainment and now the services that can make such a difference
in their lives.
For looking out for some of our most vulnerable citizens and ensuring that
public spaces in fact before the public, Liz Coleman and the staff of the
Nashville Public Library are our foot soldiers of the week.
And that`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching.
I`m going to see you tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. We have a big
show planned. On the one thing that everybody seems to be talking about --
that`s right -- race. We`re going to talk about it from Starbucks to SAE
to Kendrick Lamar`s new album. It`s race talk, everywhere you look.
But right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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