PoliticsNation, Monday, June 29th, 2015
Read the transcript from the Monday show
Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: June 29, 2015
Guest: Tara Dowdell; Joan Walsh; Paul Thurmond, Bobby Scott, E.J. Dionne,
Michael Eric Dyson
REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on "Politics Nation," the
confederate flag controversy, one of the most important voices in this
debate, South Carolina state senator Paul Thurmond, son of Strom Thurmond
joins me live.
And we have breaking news from NBC universal on Donald Trump over his
highly controversial immigration comment.
And we`re learning what happened leading up to President Obama`s "Amazing
Grace" moment, and how history will judge the defining moments of the last
Welcome to "Politics Nation." I`m live tonight from Chicago. We start
with breaking news out of the Supreme Court. Late today the court blocked
a controversial Texas law that would have forced most of the state`s
abortions clinics to close. It`s a win for progressives and will be
watching the GOP response because two other historic court rulings are
giving the Republican Party real problems starting with gay marriage. A
ruling some GOP Presidential contenders just can`t accept, so they are
telling clerks not to issue marriage licenses if they don`t want to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they have conscience objection, I think they should
be excused. I`m not sure that every governor and every attorney general
should just say, well, it is the law of the land because there is no
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think they should be allowed to opt out of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Ours is just a country that was built by
men and women fleeing religious oppression.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: They are basically saying go defy the Supreme Court, and it is
forcing candidates like Jeb Bush into a very tough spot. After the ruling,
Bush called on people to quote "love our neighbor and respect others," but
what will he say on a debate stage in Iowa? Maybe he`ll highlight the need
to quote "protect religious freedom." That was also in the statement he
Remember, religious freedom bills in Indiana and Arkansas triggered massive
protest and a big Republican retreat. Then there is that other ruling, the
court upholding Obamacare subsidies, the GOP is unified on this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I disagree with their
decision. I believe Obamacare is bad for Americans, bad for the country.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First, as to the Supreme
Court ruling, I`m surprised, I`m disappointed.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: I think it was a poor decision. I think
that it is one that way beyond the constitutional mandate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: This is a real problem for Republicans. History moves forward,
not backwards. The American people are behind the rulings, Republicans can
get on board or get out of the way.
Joining me now is salon.com`s Joan Walsh. She`s been writing about the
GOP`s never ending culture wars and democratic strategist Tara Dowdell.
Thank you both for being here.
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thank you.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Thanks, Rev.
SHARPTON: Joan, what do you make of some Republicans saying openly is OK
for clerks to defy the Supreme Court on same sex marriage?
WALSH: I think it`s outrageous, Reverend Al. I think it`s terrible. And
I think it flies in the face of what American people want and it lies in
the face of the law to act like a Supreme Court ruling is just a matter of
opinion, reasonable people can disagree and religious freedom allows them
to deny people rights.
I mean, this weekend has just been cavalcade of self-pitying, self-
victimizing comments from these guys. That, I mean, to compare them --
Mike Huckabee comparing people who oppose gay rights to African-Americans
in the south fighting Jim Crow and comparing himself basically to Dr.
Martin Luther King and citing the letter from a Birmingham jail as sort of
their validation for disobeying laws that they believe are unjust. It`s a
cavalcade of self-pity.
And they have the opportunity, what really kills some people, even a few
Republicans, smart Republicans, they really have - they were handed an
opportunity to kind of turn the page, to pivot away from these divisive
issues where the country has turned against them and move on to other
things, job creation, I don`t know what those things would be, but move
away from the divisive issues. They will not do it because without the
culture wars, they won`t have anything.
SHARPTON: Well, I see you shaking your head nodding yes, Tara.
DOWDELL: Yes, absolutely, I agree with Joan 100 percent. And one of the
things she points out in her article and you stated earlier is this never-
ending culture war. And that`s the point. They won`t stop. They will not
quit. And I think and I want to note something, a note of caution to
Democrats from a strategy standpoint, they should not expect that these
attacks from the Republicans are going to seize. They will continue to
attack the Supreme Court decision that basically gave everyone the freedom
to love and the freedom to marry. They are going to continue to attack
Obamacare. And Democrats made the mistake before thinking that once they
got past one hurdle that the Republican attacks would seize. And as we can
see, it`s a never-ending culture war as Joan so rightly pointed out.
SHARPTON: But Joan, let me get this right. The same people that are
calling President Obama lawless are telling people to defy the Supreme
WALSH: To defy the law, exactly. I mean, they are just so confused right
now, Reverend Al. They really don`t know what to do about this. But, you
know, especially when it comes to Obamacare, the affordable care act, they
have no alternative. And they are acting like Paul Ryan said, you know, we
don`t have to come up -- we don`t have to fix this law. We`re going to
come up with alternatives.
They are living in a fictional world where they created alternatives and
they are popular. They haven`t done that. We know they haven`t done that.
And on gay marriage, yes, they are the lawless ones. They are -- if they
continue with this and you know what they are talking about in Texas, they
are talking about giving clerks permission to defy the law, they are the
lawless ones. They are disobeying laws they don`t like. And they are
disobeying Supreme Court that used to be the last word on issues like this.
SHARPTON: Well, 64 percent of Americans polled say keep Obamacare and what
Joan was referring to, Tara, in Texas the Republican attorney general of
the state says clerks can deny to marriage licenses to same-sex if they
object on religious grounds. How far are Republicans willing to go to defy
the Supreme Court in your opinion, Tara?
DOWDELL: I think they will continue to defy the Supreme Court, so long as
they are in the middle of a primary. Because for the base, for their base
voters, these type of things have some appeal particularly to the far right
who is the most fervent and the most active part of the base.
And so, I think you`ll see them retreat to some extent during a general
election. But right now, it`s all about the primary and everything that
they are doing is particularly when you look at Mike Huckabee who snitch,
who carved out and looking to carve out the most evangelical, the most
right-wing part of the base, there are several of them competing for that.
So you are going to continue to see this kind of rhetoric. You are going
to continue to see this kind of obstruction of laws.
And what I find really ironic was when the Supreme Court passed Citizens
United, you didn`t hear anything about the Supreme Court being tyrannical.
You didn`t hear anything about that. And that was the decision that allow
corporations to basically give, you know, unfettered the Supreme Court see
them being to allow corporations to give, you know, unfettered amounts of
money and pour it into our political system and where they had no problem
with that. There was no religious freedom on that.
SHARPTON: Or - and there was no objection or defiance when they are
gutting out a huge portion of the voting rights bill.
DOWDELL: Right, exactly.
SHARPTON: But you know, Joan, polls show that 60 percent of Americans
believe same-sex marriages should be valid. Now is this really an issue
that Republicans like Jeb Bush want to be focused on?
WALSH: You know, I think Jeb Bush believes he can play this that there is
a middle ground which involves saying it`s the law of the land that it`s
settled law. But then as you pointed out, grabbing this dodge of religious
freedom where again, they turn themselves into the victims. They are
victims of these awful laws. But he thinks that that is going to make him
the statesman in the situation.
And I have to say, you know, Tara is right not to warn us to think, well,
it`s all easy now because these ideas that they are just so unpopular, the
media gives them a pass. The media is constantly looking for a Republican
to do the right thing, step up, be moderate, move away from hate and get an
ordinate praise when they make this slightest respectful descent noises, so
Jeb Bush could get away with seeming like he`s reasonable --
SHARPTON: Jeb Bush --
WALSH: Because he`s not saying defy the law.
SHARPTON: Jeb Bush is in a tough spot here, Tara.
DOWDELL: Yes, absolutely right. But I`m going to just piggy back on what
Joan said because she raises an excellent point here. The media does do
that. They do pick out and they do what Chris Rock said, they give credit
for things that people should be doing. So that`s the thing that people
like Jeb Bush benefit from.
But I also want to ring the alarm once again, Democrats have to be very
careful when we think the Republican ideas are so extreme, they are so out
of touch, they are so out of main stream that we don`t really have to worry
about them. That is a really, really bad way to look at things in these
We saw in 2010, we saw in 2014 that just because they are extreme, just
because they do these things that we see as terrible doesn`t mean that they
don`t resonate with a certain amount of people and that those people won`t
come out and vote.
So I think we should never take for granted that their ideas are so extreme
that it`s going to come back to bite them because that`s come back to bite
SHARPTON: Good point. Thank you very much, Joan Walsh, Tara Dowdell.
Again, thank you for your time tonight.
DOWDELL: Thank you.
WALSH: Thank you, Rev.
SHARPTON: Coming up, the fight to take down the confederate flag and one
of the most powerful voices on this issue. I`ll be joined live by South
Carolina state senator Paul Thurmond, son of Strom Thurmond.
Also tonight, it`s being called historic, transformative and momentous.
We`ll look at a week to remember for President Barack Obama and what it
means for his legacy.
And breaking news on Donald Trump from NBC Universal over those
controversial immigration comments. That`s next.
SHARPTON: Breaking news tonight from NBC universal on Donald Trump. NBC
universal releasing a statement saying at NBC respect and dignity for all
people are corner stones of our values. Due to the recent derogatory
statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBC universal is ending
its business relationship with Mr. Trump. To that end, the annual Miss USA
and Miss Universe pageants, which are part of the joint venture between NBC
and Trump, will no longer air on NBC.
In addition, as Mr. Trump has already indicated, he will not be
participating in the celebrity apprentice on NBC. Celebrity apprentice is
licensed from Mark Burnett`s United artist media group and that
relationship will continue. Trump was asked about NBC`s decision today at
an event in Chicago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think NBC frankly, I`ve had
a great relationship with them. But they didn`t want me to run because
they wanted to do "the apprentice." As you know, they renewed "the
apprentice." But I just told them, I cannot do "the apprentice" because of
the fact that I`m running. And as long as I`m running for president, they
were not happy with it. They wanted me to do "the apprentice." And now
with my statements on immigration, which happen to be correct, they are
going to take a different stance and that`s OK. I mean, whatever they want
to do is OK with me. I had a lot of great relationships with NBC. I think
as far as ending the relationship, I have to do that because my view on
immigration is much different than the people at NBC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: In NBC`s statement, the company said it ended the relationship.
In Mr. Trump`s statement, he implies he did. MSNBC is part of the
Coming up, the confederate flag controversy, South Carolina state senator
Paul Thurmond, son of Strom Thurmond joins me next.
SHARPTON: Since the mother Emanuel church shooting, the whole country has
been watching South Carolina and the fight to take down the confederate
flag from the state house grounds. According to the Charleston post and
(INAUDIBLE), two-thirds of the state legislature now support taking down
the flag, enough for the bill to pass.
One of the most important voices in that debate has been State Senator Paul
Thurmond, son of the late U.S. senator Strom Thurmond. He spoke on the
Senate floor, on the state Senate floor last week about what that flag
stands for and why it must come down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. PAUL THURMOND (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Our ancestors were literally
fighting to continue to keep human beings as slaves, and continue the
unimaginable acts that occur when someone is held against their will. I am
not proud of this heritage. We must take down the confederate flag and we
must take it down now but if we stop there, we have cheated ourselves out
of an opportunity to start a different conversation about healing in our
state. I am ready. Let us start the conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: He said it`s time to start a conversation, and I agree and not
to stop at just a conversation. I did something last week I never thought
I would do. I called state senator Thurmond because it`s a painful and
awkward history we share.
You see, in 2007 a New York paper revealed that his forefathers, the
Thurmonds owned my forefathers, a woman named Anna Thurmond married to
Alexander Sharpton owned a young boy Carl Coleman who was my great
Despite the awkwardness and the pain, I saw the power in what he said and
reached out to thank him for taking that position on the floor and saying
we must start a conversation and not end there. It is in these awkward and
painful moments that maybe history can possibly move forward. In that
spirit, you`re watching something you will not see on television often,
joining me is South Carolina state senator Paul Thurmond.
Senator, thank you for being here tonight.
THURMOND: Thank you, Reverend, for having me.
SHARPTON: What made you decide the confederate flag should come down and
why was it important to speak about it?
THURMOND: Well, I tell you. The events of that Wednesday night were
horrible. I woke up Thursday morning to having a bunch of text messaging
and, you know, information about it. It was just shocking that nine people
had been massacred in my town, in my state and in this country. And as a
result, I had gone to a prayer vigil. The prayer vigil was very powerful.
It was (INAUDIBLE) AME church. And it really felt the love and from that
process and begin to pray about it.
I talked with my wife on that Friday. She asked me, why would you want to
continue to keep it up? What are your reasons? And after trying to come
to reasons, I realized that I was just making excuses. This was really the
right thing to do. On Sunday we had a bible study on the book of Mark that
referenced having, sewing seeds and having the seeds and eating fertile
ground. And I started to make the analogy of these circumstances and how
this tragedy could be turned into something positive.
And by Monday morning, well, I should -- let me step back a bit. On Sunday
afternoon, the families of these victims showed a tremendous Grace and
forgiveness to this monster. And one in which I know that I would, they
had to have been led by the Holy Spirit and one in which I would be very
challenged to do myself. And so, on Monday morning I woke up and I wrote
that speech and joined the governor Monday afternoon. And then Tuesday, I
gave the speech in hopes of trying to convince my fellow legislators this
was the right thing to do.
I`ll be the first to tell you, it was not the comfortable process for me.
The most comfortable thing would just to be to stand by that kind of
statement that there was a compromise and should go along with the
compromise, but over that reflection, that process, it just became very
clear to me this was the right thing to do, this flag symbolized racism and
hatred. These radical groups continue to take this flag and use it in such
ways to really perpetuate racism and hatred and so it`s time for it to come
down, and it`s time to end the conversation --
SHARPTON: So you are saying the flag represents racism and you`re saying
what the flag has represented to many of us that as you said on the floor
held against their will and many of us have a lot of personal, you and I
have personal history, but we can`t move forward by dismissing the past,
but we can contextualize it and not duck from the uncomfortable position of
dealing with things and moving forward.
You served there in the state Senate with Senator Pinckney who was killed
in that church. You knew him. And you even want to step further and
supported the camera on police bill and why that became important. Did the
fact that Senator Pinckney, someone you knew and advocated that also make
you have the courage to step outside of your comfort zone and the comfort
zone of a lot of Republicans?
THURMOND: Reverend, absolutely. Senator Pinckney is a man of God. He was
somebody that even in public service, he never got rallied up. He was
always calm and very direct and would listen to you and had a passionate
voice when it came to the body camera bill.
He gave one of the most amazing speeches in regards to Thomas and just made
it very clear his tremendous capability. People have referred to him as a
prot‚g‚. He started preaching at age 13 which is just outstanding. But
the tragedy really for me, it just had me step back and look at the
circumstances, look at what these radical groups were supporting and made
me reconsider and reevaluate why I was comfortable simply going along with
the position that, you know, this was a compromise, it should just stay in
place. And I found that to be an excuse.
And so, I was ready to address it. I felt like if I was going to address
it, I needed to talk to the body and let them know that process that I had
gone through and encourage them to have their own self-evaluation, their
own reflection and encourage them to support the flag coming down.
SHARPTON: What kind of response have you gotten to that speech?
THURMOND: It`s been absolutely overwhelmingly positive.
THURMOND: I have gotten emails and texts and Facebook messages from across
the country. I`ve had people reference that speech and indicate that it
brought them to tears. Indicated that they had finally heard a politician
be honest and they were just so appreciative of my courage to step out and,
you know, it`s a little overwhelming. It`s not really a position that I`m
used to being in. So you know, I`ve appreciated them in return that they
were willing to write and express their views to me.
Two things that I thought were pretty interesting, one person contacted me
and indicated that they, after hearing that speech they went out and took
their confederate flag down that they were flying outside their house. I
had another reference they had a confederate flag tattoo the on their arm
and they made an appointment with a dermatologist. It was a tremendous
outpouring of support to very, very few, maybe a half dozen that I`ve heard
from. Again, I`m not saying that in hopes that I`ll get all those haters
to start emailing me left and right, but it`s been an amazing outpouring of
support and encouragement --
SHARPTON: Well, I think --
THURMOND: I think we`ve got the votes.
SHARPTON: I think the votes are supposed to be there. And I think you`re
right and I think President Obama is right that a conversation is needed
but can`t end there. We must go a long way. But the fact that even in our
awkwardness for Strom Thurmond`s son and Coleman Sharpton`s great grandson
to even talk about racism, means maybe, just maybe if we continue being
honest and straightforward, not saying what each other wants to hear, we
can start moving in that direction.
When I called you, I said to myself, it`s a shame it takes nine lives to
bring us to this point, nine innocent lives. What would be worse, Senator,
is if we lost nine innocent lives and didn`t move at all.
State senator Paul Thurmond, thank you for your time tonight. I really
appreciate you being here.
THURMOND: Yes, sir. Thank you very much for having me.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, a defining moment for America and the Obama
presidency. How history will judge the huge achievements of the last few
Also, some surprising allies in the push to fix our criminal justice
system. I`ll talk to a lawmaker at this heart of this fight.
SHARPTON: Ahead in President Obama`s Charleston eulogy, one issue he
talked about was the urgent need to reform this country`s criminal justice
system. Now, there is a bipartisan push in Congress to change that system.
Some are calling it the most ambitious push in 20 years. I`ll talk to one
of those lawmakers leading the charge, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), SHARPTON: Every time something like this happens,
someone says we have to have a conservation about race. We talk a lot
about race. There is no shortcut. We don`t need more talk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: President Obama saying it`s time for action when it comes to
racial injustices in our society. South Carolina will soon vote on whether
to remove the confederate flag from a state house monument. It`s a good
start but on Friday the President talked about taking the next step with
real policy changes in everything from voting rights to schools to criminal
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.
OBAMA: Tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice
system. And led us to make sure that that system is not infected with
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: America has more than 1.5 million inmates behind bars right now.
There is 25 percent of the world`s prison population right here in the U.S.
And the racial disparities are shocking. In this country, one in 17 white
men will spend time in prison but for black men, one out of three will
become inmates. But now, there is a new bipartisan push to change our
prison system. Perhaps the most ambitious reform bill in a generation. It
comes from democratic congressman Bobby Scott and republican Congressman
The bill would cut sentences for drug crimes, give judges more authority
and deciding sentences, reduced sentences for some current inmates and
reduce sentences for people with good behavior. The republican sponsor
says, the current prison system is quote, "not only fiscally unsustainable
but morally irresponsible."
And the democratic sponsor Congressman Bobby Scott is joining me now.
Thank you for being here.
REP. BOBBY SCOTT (D), VIRGINIA: Good to see you, Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: Congressman, is there a growing consensus now across party lines
that we need to address this problem?
SCOTT: Well, I think you mentioned the fact that we have 25 percent of the
inmates who only have five percent of the population. The incarceration
rate has gotten to the point where many recent studies have said it`s
actually counterproductive. We`ve had so many people in jail. You messing
up so many families. You got so many people with felony records, and
you`re wasting so much money that you`re actually adding to crime not doing
anything about crime. And so on the federal level, it`s gotten so bad that
we don`t even know how many crimes we`ve created. We`ve been -- slogans
and soundbites, time and time again and run up the incarceration rate and
they have found that this incarceration rate has not reduced crime. In
fact, it`s counterproductive.
What we have come together, Democrats and Republicans have noticed, that if
you get away from the slogans and soundbites, there is a lot of common
ground. Many states, democratic run states and republican run states that
have experiences where they have actually reduced incarceration, saved
money and had initiatives that actually reduce the crime rate. And what we
did in Washington is bipartisan basis established in the House Judiciary
Committee an over criminalization task force where we looked at the entire
criminal justice system to see from start, from prevention and early
intervention all the way to parole reform, what we can do to reduce crime
and save money in a cost-effective manner.
SHARPTON: You know, I want to push on that because you have 20 co-
sponsors, ten Republicans and ten Democrats. People from Congressman
Elijah Cummings, all the way to Congressman Ted Yoho, how did you get
people of such opposite point of view on board here?
SCOTT: Well, once you get away from the slogans and sound bites, it`s
easy. Because you`re faced with initiatives that will reduce crime and
save money. You know, it`s hard to disagree but you got to get away from
the slogans. I mean, the initiatives that reduce crime and save money do
not produce the emotionally charged slogans and sound bites that some of
the foolishness does. I mean, some of the slogans will actually increase
the crime rate. There have been studies that many of them increase the
crime rate. And so, once you decide to get away from the slogans and get
to the evidence, you`re faced with a series of initiatives that will reduce
crime and save money, and that`s something that I think everybody can agree
SHARPTON: And you`re dealing with real people because earlier this month I
spoke to a woman who was granted clemency by President Obama after serving
20 years on drug charges. Listen to her talk about what it means to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBRA SCRIVNER, GRANTED CLEMENCY BY PRES. OBAMA: I want to be the voice
for all the hundreds of others with the same situations as me that are
still in prisons waiting for their second chance. There are good people in
prison that deserve a second chance and we can get out and become
successful people in society. And I`m going to prove that correct, and I`m
going to prove the naysayers wrong. We can do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: A second chance, Congressman. Is that what your bill is about
for many people and families who are affected by this?
SCOTT: Well, if you look at the President`s commutation initiative, he has
a program where if you served ten years for a low-level non-violent drug
offense, low-level non-violent, where you do not have a significant role in
the operation and you have virtually no criminal record, he will consider
you for commutation. Well, you have to wonder, if you have a low level
first offender, no violence, how did you get ten years to begin with? The
answer is mandatory minimums that were not designed to be inflicted on low
level. They were designed to be imposed on the people that are actually
running the operation. But you`ve got so many people in jail, most of the
people in jail today are on drug offenses and most of them have mandatory
minimums where they get sentences that violet common sense. We want to
impose them on what`s needed and the fact that people are getting these
kinds of sentences and low level offenses shows what the problem is.
SHARPTON: Yes. Congressman Bobby Scott, thank you for your time tonight.
SCOTT: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Straight ahead, we`ll look at a weak to remember for President
Obama and what it means for his legacy and why that Amazing Grace moment
almost never happened.
SHARPTON: We`re learning more about that unforgettable moment at Reverent
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Amazing Grace. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saves a
wreck like me, I once was lost, but now I`m found. I was once blind but
now I see --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: When the history books are written about President Obama, this
moment will be front and center, and it almost never happened. The
President wasn`t sure he was going to sing until that very moment. The
singing wasn`t in the script. But this eulogy came at the end of a
monumental and historic week for the President where we saw national
movement to take down the confederate flag, from the Supreme Court
upholding his signature healthcare law, to the Supreme Court affirming
marriage equality for all, to the inspiring Amazing Grace moment in
Charleston. Whether you`re a fan of his or not, there is no denying Barack
Obama is officially one of the most consequential presidents in American
history. He`s been a transformative president, and he still has more work
to do before he leaves office in 2017.
Let me bring in E.J. Dionne and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. Thank you both for
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good to be with you.
SHARPTON: E.J., we almost didn`t get that Amazing Grace moment. How will
that moment be seen in the history of the Obama presidency?
DIONNE: Well, I think it will be seen as a moment of his own liberation
that he felt free to do that, and I think it will be seen as very much a
piece with what he was elected to do, not just programmatically but in the
broader sense about bringing about social change and changing people`s
minds. The words of that song, I once was lost but now am found, once was
blind but now I see, is all about transformation. And what you saw that
happen in South Carolina when that flag started coming down. We pray that
it will come down. You saw that when people were confronting a racist past
that people were kind of sweeping aside under words like heritage. And so
I think the President will be noted for some real achievements like
ObamaCare, but I think it will be a period of unprecedented social change
in the country that`s going to stick long after he`s gone.
SHARPTON: Dr. Dyson, the President not only sang but in his eulogy, he
talked about real national things, and what needs to be done even beyond a
conversation. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEOC LIP)
OBAMA: For too long we were blind to the pain that the confederate flag
stirred in too many of our citizens. For too long we`ve been blind to the
unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts -- perhaps it softens hearts
towards those lost young men. Tens and tens of thousands caught up in the
criminal justice system. We search our hearts when we consider laws to
make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. If we can find
that grace, anything is possible. If we can tap that grace, everything can
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Dr. Dyson, voting rights, gun laws, substantive change, that`s
going to be the hard part. Certainly taking down the flag is important and
we must go even beyond that to these things but if we can`t take the flag
down, we can`t get even the more difficult things done.
DR. MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s a great point,
Reverend Al. And all of this at a funeral. Listen, I forget that. All of
this at the celebration of life and the grieving of death of a man who was
incredibly courageous and whose death helped to solidify in the nation`s
imagination, the real harm when President Obama talked about the unique
mayhem that is done to African-American and other poor people in this
country. The fact that he was able to talk about it in such powerful terms
and as my colleague Professor Dionne has indicated, a transformational
terms. He spoke to the America`s grief and elevated us to a point of
celebration of our American ideals, which we hold in common and you`re
right, the flag is a symbol of all that we should --
Now, the hard part comes of, how do we look beyond this moment? How do we
transform the extraordinary embrace of our common humanity that was
signified in the singing of that song Amazing Grace to make it real? How
do we get Governor Hailey or Senator Graham to not only talk about removal
of the flag but policies in place, voting rights which are being viciously
assaulted and the Supreme Court weakened considerably. How do we talk
about the incarceration and over incarceration of African-American and
Latino men and women? How do we talk about the plague of police brutality?
Those are the substance of issues that will give flesh to the skeleton that
he so brilliantly put forth at that funeral. It was such a great sermon, I
thought you had written it for him, Reverend.
SHARPTON: No, I had nothing to do with it. I sat there as most of the
crowd did in watching absolutely, I mean, I couldn`t describe because he
really was so moving. But you know, O.J., the devil is in the details and
I think as Dr. Dyson outlined and the President outlined, we have some
battles ahead but I think that for this president to focus on those battles
and for those of us that have been out there to remain disciplined and
focused is going to be the challenge if we`re going to really achieve the
social change you`re talking about.
DIONNE: Well, I think one of the things to talk about is some real change
has already taken place in these six years, a little over six years that
are -- I guess almost six years that we`ve gone through because you had
ObamaCare, which got confirmed by the court this week in a way that`s going
to make it very hard to rule it out. What is that about? That is about
DIONNE: It`s about millions of Americans who didn`t have health care and
that worked. If you look at the stimulus program, that was about getting
the American economy moving, but there were a lot of measures in there that
were particularly about lifting up some of the poorest people in the
country. So, I think we can take heart that things can actually be
achieved and that when you see the chance --
SHARPTON: If we keep going. But you know, it`s funny you say that because
Dr. Dyson as he says that, Benjy Sarlin, my colleague at MSNBC Benjy
Sarlin, he wrote about what he imagines the first paragraph of the Obama
presidency will read like in the history books and I`m quoting him. He
says, "The first black president, President Obama took office amid the
great rescission stabilized the economy with a stimulus and auto bailout,
passed universal health care, and wall street reform over fierce
opposition, implemented a suite of regulations aimed at combating client
change. The first black president to embrace marriage equality, he
presided over the landmark decision legalizing it nationwide yet he`s the
brunt of such criticism."
DYSON: I mean, it`s stunning to think about what he has achieved with a
fierce head wind, with the opposition and obstruction of Congress not
withstanding this man did such extraordinary things and without the kind of
help that might have made him or permitted him to achieve even more. It`s
astonishing to think about how this particular week last week transformed
his legacy because as E.J. Dionne has said, this is a substance of social
justice program in terms of health care and I think Obama`s legacy will be
DIONNE: And you know, Reverend, any president who tries to do a lot of
things gets criticized a lot.
DIONNE: That`s been true, you know, lord knows, Lincoln and Roosevelt got
criticized plenty. And so, he can just expect more criticism but that
doesn`t mean he`s not getting things done.
SHARPTON: E.J. Dionne and Professor Dr. Dyson, thank you both for your
DYSON: Thank you, sir.
DIONNE: Good to be with you, Reverend.
DYSON: Thank you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Coming up, a surprise trip at the MLK Memorial today. That`s
SHARPTON: Just a short time ago, President Obama took the Brazilian
president on a tour of the MLK Memorial in Washington, D.C. According to
the White House, the visit, quote, "provided the leaders an opportunity to
reflect together on Dr. King`s life-long work for equality and justice and
against racism and intolerance."
SHARPTON: As I reflected in talking with State Senator Paul Thurmond about
2007 when a New York tabloid revealed to the public and to me that it was
the forefathers of Strom Thurmond, that owned my great-grandfather. In
fact, that`s how I got the name Sharpton, he was named after those that
owned him, never really knowing his own real name. As I walked around the
cemetery and that church in South Carolina seeing the Thurmond tombstones
and the Sharptons, I was then brought to where they buried the slaves, only
pebbles were on their places of rest. The silence in that cemetery of
slaves was deafening. There will be noise on the far right and the far
left about what Paul Thurmond has done and he and I are talking. But the
whole sound that resonates from that cemetery is louder than any voices of
division and hate. We need some grace. Not regular grace but Amazing
Grace to move forward.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton, "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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