August 25, 2012
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Buddy Roemer, Alicia Menendez, Jonathan Capehart, Emily Douglas, Angela Zimmann, Israel Ortega, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Doug Brinkley
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY": Sunshine strip
clubs and skinny dipping. No, it`s not Prince Harry in Vegas. The
Republican Party is heading to Tampa. And nerd land asks, are these guys
fit for office?
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. By now, we all know that
Congressman Paul Ryan is into keeping his body fit and healthy. As we were
being introduced to the man of ideas, there`s been a Ryan P90X Palooza.
And census VP not is taking on the wife of its own.
Check out these headlines. P90X maker excited to have crafted Paul
Ryan`s abs. We are so happy for him. Or maybe what it takes to do P90X,
Paul Ryan`s killer workout. Now, that is not really telling me much about
his policy plans. How about, Paul Ryan shirtless, Mitt Romney`s VP exposed
in vacation photo. Really, people? It is like we are trying to make Ryan
into one of these guys.
And it`s not just Ryan, remember Romney`s not-so-subtle jab at the
elder John McCain in his 2007 campaign ad? Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: At every step, he`s met extraordinary challenges. Mitt
Romney, the engine and experience to turn around Washington.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Mitt Romney and I
approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: Our interest in the presidential physiques is nothing new.
Back in 1909, America`s newly elected republican President William H. Taft
found himself the subject of a brutal rumor. A rumor started at
inauguration morning, the 300 pound Taft had gotten stuck in the bath tub
and had to be pried loose by his advisers. The story also stuck and is now
the stuff of presidential legend.
But why, why run a commercial of a candidate running or make
basically a fat joke about a president? What do bodies have to do with our
politics? Well, the answer is, a lot. Taft enemies wanted to make him
look pitiful and incompetent, so they created the mental image of an obese
bare-naked president needing the help of his advisers.
Romney wanted to be seen as strong and capable, thus we see him
running. But let`s be fair, Congressman Ryan`s focus on fitness is the
result of the tragic loss of his father and others in his family, losses
that happened prematurely due to heart attacks. But the P90X thing is also
cultivating a certain image of control. The seven percent body fat Paul
Ryan is in total control of his body. And he would like to be in control
of yours, too.
Ever since Paul Ryan joined Mitt Romney`s ticket as his VP choice,
there has been a nonstop discussion of bodies. Last week, all the talk was
about elderly bodies. Specifically focusing on the cost associated with
caring for our seniors` bodies as they age and require medical attention.
This week, the news was all about women`s bodies and the kind of magical
tricks they can perform.
No, I`m not talking about the middle super human feats performed on
the polls in the strip clubs of Tampa, though the irony that the GOP is
choosing what has been dubbing America`s strip club capital for their
convention has been fodder for the funny papers this week. I`m talking
about this magic trick that women`s bodies apparently can perform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What about in case of rape? Should it be legal or
REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female
body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: But wait, you say, those were Congressman Todd Akin`s
comments, not Paul Ryan? You can`t blame Ryan. In fact, the GOP has
mobilized against these insidious and poor Science comments. But in spite
of the mobilization against Akin`s remarks, that didn`t stop him from
taking to twitter to ask for campaign contributions.
One tweet said, "Will you chip in $5 to help me fight the party
bosses? Re-tweet this image if you`ll join me."
And before you assume that Akin wouldn`t reach his goals, think
again. On Thursday, Akin made claims to have reached more than $100,000 in
contributions. Now this was in spite of Mitt Romney disavowing Akin and
Paul Ryan personally calling Akin to advice into drop out of the race. And
Ryan could call on Akin because you see, they have legislative history
Last year, they joined forces as two original co-sponsors of the no
taxpayer funding for abortion act. Under that act only Medicaid patients
who experienced forcible rape could get funding for abortions. The two
also co-sponsored the sanctity of human life act of 2009, a federal
personhood bill that would have bestowed the same rights to a fertilized
egg as that of a human being. So their history on issues related to
abortion maybe why Ryan gave this tepid endorsement to Romney stance on the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m proud of my
record. Mitt Romney is going to be the president and the president sets
policy. His policy is exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother,
it`s a good step in the right direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: On Tuesday, the Republican Party approved platform language
that they will vote on this upcoming Monday by the full convention. And
its language that`s put the regulation of women`s bodies front and center.
Although, the RNC have not confirmed the language, here`s what`s been
reported about what it will contain. Quote, "Faithful to the self-evident
truths enshrined in the declaration of independence, we assert the sanctity
of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual
right to life which cannot be infringed." It goes on to say, "We support a
human life amendment to the constitution and endorse legislation to make
clear that the 14th amendment`s protections apply to unborn children."
Seems like a pretty clear stance on bodies and abortion to me. Look,
Ryan being in control and concerned with his own fitness is one thing, but
a person taking control of their own health should not mean that they get
to take control of your body or mine. I`m less interested in knowing how
fit my politicians are physically than knowing if they are consistently fit
for office, which includes knowing what their platforms are and how much
they think we should spend to care for older bodies and how much citizens
are allowed to make autonomous choices about our own bodies, which are not
the same choices they would make.
At the table, Buddy Roemer, former Governor of Louisiana and also
former republican presidential candidate and now chairman of the reform
Project.org. Alicia Menendez, Host of "HuffPost Live." Jonathan Capehart,
opinion writer for the Washington Post, an MSNBC contributor. And Emily
Douglas, senior editor at "The Nation." Thank you all for being here.
BUDDY ROEMER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning, Melissa.
PERRY: You don`t like seeing them objectified?
ALICIA MENENDEZ, HOST, "HUFFPOST LIVE: I know, right.
PERRY: But I mean, but here`s the question, so, are they fit for
office? I mean, you know, we are playing on this idea of fit, but as you
look at sort of what they`re offering here, are these two folks fit to be
president and vice president of the United States?
MENENDEZ: Well, I think at least with Ryan, there is a consistency
that you`ve seen in his platform position. To me, Mitt Romney is actually
much more alarming because he`s flip-flopped on this issue. He`s really
had every position on choice that one can possibly have. And that means
that when he goes into office, I really don`t -- if he were to go into
office, I don`t think you know where he would stand on this.
PERRY: Right. You are not completely certain which Romney are you
going to get? Are you`re going to get Governor Romney, are you going to
get Bain Romney, are you going to get 2012 Romney?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: When I was talking to Shante
(ph) about this yesterday, I thought of this Russian dolls, I can`t
remember the name of the Russian dolls, you pulled one out, and there`s
another one you --
PERRY: Oh, yes. Right. Right.
CAPEHART: Well, Mitt Romney is one of those Russian dolls, the one
of the really big ones. You pull off Romney, you find Paul Ryan and then
that`s it. Because as Alicia said, we know exactly where Paul Ryan is on a
host of issues, whether it is the budget, Medicare, choice politics, we
know exactly where he stands. And that clip that you showed of Congressman
Ryan saying, you know, it`s a step in the right direction where Mitt Romney
CAPEHART: I mean --
PERRY: Right. And so, if we keep pulling open the dolls, do we end
up with Congressman Akin, which in a certain way actually only goes to your
point because you wrote in "The Nation," look, why should, you know, we are
having the wrong argument about -- and exceptions for incest, for rape, for
these sorts of cases because the point is, none of these should be reasons
that the government can legislate you choice on your body.
EMILY DOUGLAS, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NATION": Absolutely. Yes. I
mean, I think that`s been one of the really lootable feminist responses to
this, has been to say that a rape exception, you know, they`re really not -
- we should not be in the business of deciding for women why they can have
an abortion or not. And, you know, the Republican Party is trying to carve
out very, very narrow exceptions, if any at all. And actually, you know,
women have a legal right to abortion and they should not need to justify
And also, let`s remember that the rape exception does not work.
There were 32,000 pregnancies in 2010 that resulted from sexual assault.
There were 9,000 terminations and Medicaid only paid for 331 of them. So
there is a rape exception right now, in which case women who need to have
support for their abortion funding or supposed to get it through Medicaid
but they do not, they clearly don`t. So exceptions of this nature just do
not work and we should keep that in mind when we are trying to create
legislation around it.
ROEMER: I`m a pro-life by the way I was raised, my church. As a
politician, I have always insisted on the allowance of exceptions. As
governor of Louisiana, I vetoed two bills that allowed no exception. It
cost me dearly at the polls, but that was my belief that that was fair. So
I don`t want to dismiss this question of exceptions. It is an important
question. I agree with you Emily, it is not the most important question.
And I don`t want to dismiss those Americans, and there are many of us who
consider ourselves pro-life but are not rigid on these sorts of exceptions.
PERRY: But I think this is such an important point and it goes, it
goes I think to two different fundamental questions. One is this deeply
troubling reality about the beliefs about what constitutes life, right?
And these are not easily adjudicated answered questions.
PERRY: Look, I am as pro-choice as any person can be. I`m also a
parent. And I`m not just a parent, I`m a parent who had my own pregnancy
and bore my own child.
PERRY: And so, there is no question in my mind that there is, that I
had a relationship with my daughter and named her and all that at some
point before the moment in which she was born, right? But also, and so I
think to not make that sort of clear ethical claim that we have an
understanding that there can be some sort of humanity that exists before
birth and that there`s also no clear way to adjudicate at what point that
PERRY: And for me, therefore, the relatively libertarian impulse has
to be that the law must be silent on it. That we can both talk about the
difficulty of managing that reality and say, and therefore law cannot step
in because I can`t tell you whether it happens on week one or two or 20.
Certainly, fertilization seems unscientific, right? But I also know that
at some point before I actually had her, I had a relationship with her.
And I feel like both -- we can come to a place of --
ROEMER: There`s truth here.
PERRY: There can be some truth here.
ROEMER: Individually we make up our minds. There`s no question about
it. However, let me make this point.
PERRY: I`m going to promise, I will absolutely let you make the
point. They are calling me to break and I do want to talk about exactly
this issue by letting women who have their own message about controlling
their own bodies. The video is going viral and it`s getting louder every
day. We`ll see it when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is my body. I do what I want with it.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is my body. I make my own decisions.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is my body. I use it as a canvas, tattoo
it, decorate it, pierce it.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I take medicine if I want to and only undergo
medical procedures I choose.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I eat what I want. Exercise for my health or
where what I like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: It`s a simple but powerful message in response to the assault
on bodies these women and more are starting to say, but this is my body.
And from the looks of the lineup of speakers at the Democratic Convention,
that takes place in less than two weeks, it appears the Democrats have
Sandra Fluke and the Obama campaign co-chair Eva Longoria and Planned
Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards are just a few of the
names that will grace the convention stage. It`s a strategic move on the
part of Democrats to deliver the democratic message which includes, Your
Body, Your Choice.
Back with me, Buddy Roemer, Alicia Menendez, Jonathan Capehart and
Emily Douglas. So, isn`t it bad politics to keep pandering this far to the
right? I mean, it looks like Democrats are like -- please, please, Akin
and Ryan and up, because what we`ll do was put women on the stage who will
have a message that both republican women and independent women will
consider coming over to the party.
ROEMER: Well, you know, the point I was going to make before we broke
is that while women have the power and the need to make these decisions and
to be fully informed about the consequences, because it`s not one life
here, it`s two lives. And it has to be, it has to -- I think, just as a
human being, that you would want every person to realize that. And then
decide what is in the health interest, what is in their best interest. I
can live with that. Even with my pro-life stance.
However, the debate in the United States Congress, when I was there
30 years ago and it still rages today, is what do we do with public money
when the public university does not support a certain policy? And that,
you know, I know we can call it politics and I know the Republicans have
adamant on this and I think the Democrats are going to take political
advantage. I think you`re right, but it is a legitimate question on all
projects and issues where we are spending the public`s money for an
PERRY: Sure. Well, I guess, I think two things. One, we have to
remember the majority of women who seek termination of their pregnancy are
women who already have children, which means for the most part, they have a
great deal of both personal inherent knowledge as well as medical knowledge
about what a pregnancy is, and the second thing I would say is, public
money, part of the nature of public money is that none of us get to make
choices about how each piece is individually spent.
So, for example, if you are a Medicare recipient and I don`t like
your politics and I don`t like the live choices you`re making and you`re
not a good guy, but you need a liver transplant, well, you`re going to get
one with the public money. And if, you know, if my President is going to
go into the war in Iraq, my tax dollars are going to pay for it. And I
don`t get to opt out of paying taxes once we have made a kind of collective
decision. But this point is interesting, but let`s look at Democrats is
trying to go to exactly this. Let`s look at the new ad by Democrats that
includes GOP women for Obama on exactly this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: One of the things that makes me really upset
about it is the attitude toward birth control contraceptives and abortion.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: If you truly believe in a small government, that
government shouldn`t be deciding what I can and cannot do with my own body.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: Right. So, every woman in that commercial is a republican.
They all say I`m a republican and then they make that point. If you
believe in small government, don`t make it so small but it fits on the end
of a transvaginal probe.
DOUGLAS: Yes. So (INAUDIBLE) I think now for Obama. So, I think
clearly Democrats are seeing their support of these policies pay off. Now,
I think this is a moment where women`s rights advocates really need to push
the Democratic Party further on this issue and not let them be complacent.
You know, there`s -- out Democrats, there`s anti-choice Democrats including
in that party and we really need to use this moment as a time where women
are speaking with one voice saying that the right to abortion is really a
fundamental part of being a democrat.
PERRY: And Jonathan, it feels to me like it is also connected to
other aspects of sort of controlling the bodies. So, part of it is,
controlling brown bodies that would come across the border. We have to
build a fence to keep them out, right? And we have to keep bodies that
love other bodies that are the same sex from them from being able to marry,
but a lot of it, despite again claiming to be Ayn Randian (ph) and
libertarian that we see from Ryan and others on the right, this attempt,
not only to control their own body with seven percent body fat but to
control everything that your body and my body can do.
CAPEHART: But what`s interesting here is, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney,
they are in a party, the Republican Party that if it does not broaden its
base, it`s going to die. I mean, right now, the Republican Party is a
reactionary party. And is keeping out Latinos over immigration but a whole
lot of other issues. Keeping out the LGBT community because of its
opposition to same sex marriage and a whole lot of other things.
There`s a poll out just this week from Harris Interactive and Logo-
Television where they asked self-identified gay people if Mitt Romney and
Barack Obama had the same position on gay rights issues.
CAPEHART: Would you be more likely to vote for Mitt Romney? Mitt
Romney got 20 percent of those people! That would have put Barack Obama
and Mitt Romney tied for the gay vote. Can you imagine?
PERRY: And this is someone who had a much more reasonable marriage
equality position in his -- in the Romney, you know, one poll though in
CAPEHART: Right. Where he said that he stood a better chance of
being better for the gay community than Senator Ted Kennedy because he was
a republican and he could go to the other side and being sort of the
ambassador to bring them along. Now look where he is.
MENENDEZ: And this question that runs specifically though, you know,
and getting ready to do this show, was reading Paul Ryan I`ll say about why
he stands where he stands on choice. And he makes it very eloquent
argument about the Dred Scott decision and how that was one case of the
court deciding about individualism and then he pivots to Roe V. Wade.
And it`s very clear than in his estimation, individual question is
not the woman carrying the pregnancy but the fetus. He confers personhood
on that fetus. And it`s a fundamental different understanding of the
individual then that I can`t relate to, I don`t agree with but it is then
consistent with his principles.
PERRY: Yes. Well, that Dred Scott thing, they have been doing that.
Now, I mean, in fact, if you remember there was a moment when George W.
Bush was responding to a question and debate and he said something about
Dred Scott, and if you`re not part of the pro-life community, you would be
like, why is he talking about this?
MENENDEZ: It is genius.
PERRY: Well, except that it is also wrong.
MENENDEZ: Look over here, not over here.
PERRY: Right. Look over here where there was slavery. Up next,
we`ll going to stay on this topic. Mitt Romney channels his inner Donald
Trump. Was it a gaffe or a dog whistle for the Tea Party base? Yes,
birtherism is back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Now, I love being home in this place where Ann and I were
raised. Where both of us were born. Ann was born at Henry Ford hospital.
I was born in Harper hospital. No one has ever asked to see my birth
certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: It is like you could not believe that it was happening when
he said it. It was just -- it was just almost too much to watch.
Back with me, are Buddy Roemer and Alicia Menendez, Jonathan Capehart
and Emily Douglas. We`re managing to have a bit of an engage conversation
here, I want to go to this birther question, but before we move to the
birther issue, let`s stay just for a moment on choice. Because I want you
to make the point you just made to me in the break.
ROEMER: I made the point that we need an honest full discussion,
there are the two lives involved here. As governor of the state, I had a
daughter in her early 20s who came to me when these bills came up, and I
was prepared to sign them. And she talked me through it that women are
involved here and their lives are involved here. And you must give these
kinds of exception at a minimum. She says, dad, I`m pro-choice and I know
you`re pro-life, but there is some middle ground here where we can work
together. Don`t let these bills pass. And I vetoed them.
PERRY: And buddy, that middle ground is exactly the ground on which
the personhood amendment was defeated in Mississippi, right? Because
Mississippi, as you and I both know, it is not some kind of pro-choice
based area, right? Quite the opposite. But that personhood amendment was
for most reasonable thinking, Mississippians a step too far.
And I feel like, in many ways, this birther comment is similarly,
it`s just a step too far for reasonable thinking Americans who are like,
OK, I don`t support the President, you know, I don`t support his policies,
maybe I even think bad things about him, but really, the idea that he`s
not an American citizen.
MENENDEZ: Yes. You`re out of the primary.
You don`t need it anymore.
PERRY: Pivot! Pivot! You pander. Pivot! Pivot!
MENENDEZ: And to me, this really reveals what they say about us when
we are not in the room. That they are on such a feedback loop that he
doesn`t know that this is now out of step with the average American because
the rooms he`s in, this is what they are saying and then they`re repeating
it back. This is how you get, not be headed host, this is how you get
jokes about "I love Lucy," just as Sonia Sotomayor during her confirmation
hearings. People stop remembering that these things are not correct.
PERRY: That`s very interesting.
CAPEHART: You know, the comment from the Romney campaign which was,
you know, this was not scripted, he didn`t mean it. This was, you know,
not intentional. But in the clip you showed, he says the joke. The crowd
roars. And then he stands there and soaks it in. At no point do you see
any visual recognition, oh, my God, I just stepped in it. Oh, my God, this
is really bad. There`s no recognition from the governor`s part of what
happened, but there`s certainly was a recognition by his campaign because
they moved quickly, very quickly to get it out there that, you know, oh,
no, no, no, no, it`s not what you think.
PERRY: And that quote on birtherism sounded very much like that of
the Akin`s -- on the legitimate rape, right? Oh, oh, that`s not really
what I meant to say.
CAPEHART: Those weren`t the right words.
PERRY: Yes. Those weren`t the right words. What I meant was, some
other kind of rape story about -- but it`s like, when you`re out of the
ROEMER: Do you think he`s sensitive to it, Emily? Romney I`m
talking about, or does he know exactly what he was doing.
DOUGLAS: It sounded very calculated to me. I mean, that`s the only
conclusion I could come to.
CAPEHART: I don`t know, you know, what? Maybe I`m a little soft
here, I think, I think Governor Romney is one of those guys, I don`t think
it was calculated. I think he`s so bumbling and so awkward when it comes
to just being a regular person that he just --
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
CAPEHART: Yes. He just stumbled into it.
PERRY: You know, it`s also your point about the crowd roaring, ever
since Ryan`s come on the ticket, you can see, like, Ryan moves the crowds,
right? It is very much like Palin. And it is almost like you can see him
trying to get his emcee on, like let me try to get that crowd applause.
CAPEHART: I`m in charge.
PERRY: Yes. Right. I don`t know if you noticed, it is Romney/Ryan,
not the other way around. But let me just ask this question then, we are
going to Tampa. And Tampa is, in fact, you know, in Florida it is the
swing state. There are, I mean, it is the state where there are
independents to be gotten, there are moderate Republicans, is the platform
that we are looking at, at least one of the leaked so far, is this the
platform that is going to bring those kinds of voters along?
DOUGLAS: You know, I don`t think so, at least not on the choice
question that we`ve been discussing this morning. It seems that though the
RNC is sending different signals about whether there`s any exceptions on
their human right amendment stance. And, you know, that to me seems
deliberate, that they are aware that I`m having a ban on abortion with
absolutely no exceptions is incredibly unpopular with the American people.
But they seem to need to continue to signal to the base that they are very
extreme on this. So it seems to me like they are really trying to push out
both sides of the story and I don`t know how successful that will be for
MENENDEZ: Immigration, I mean, the immigration stuff that is in there
is absolutely crazy, building a fence along the U.S./Mexico border, not
giving federal funding to universities that allow in-state tuition for
undocumented students, supporting Arizona`s style of immigration laws for
the entire country, I mean, this is a wild platform.
ROEMER: What you would like to see instead is a comprehensive
immigration solution and approach. Comprehensive. I mean, we can build
America. And we need immigrants. And we need the best and the brightest.
And we need young spirit. But we need a comprehensive policy because it
means something to be a citizen of America.
PERRY: Look, and look, I think part of what`s so distressing to me in
watching the party do this is, look, I actually do think that you need a
healthy robust Republican Party. You know, if Democrats are the only, you
know, if they are just kind of over here talking to themselves, then they -
- the whole nature of democracy is the debate, it is the critique, it is
the challenging one another. But if one of the parties is just gone all
off, then they are not contributing to that discourse.
CAPEHART: Well, here`s the thing about it, either party`s platform.
CAPEHART: It is supposed to be basically a sock to the base and then
you just ignore it once the election is over and then you go and govern.
The difference this time is you have a vice presidential nominee who
believes that abortion plank in the Republican Party platform. This is
now, you know, George W. Bush ignored the party platform when he was
president for those two terms. And so, now you have a situation where the
platform is not going to be ignored. And when you look back over the last
campaign, everything you just mentioned, all those things in the party
platform are all the things that --
PERRY: That they are going to run on.
CAPEHART: That they are going to govern on if they win.
PERRY: Yes. Absolutely. Thank you to Emily Douglas. I appreciate
you being here this morning. The rest are going to be back for more.
But up next, a teachable moment on how babies are made. Todd Akin,
this one is for you.
PERRY: With all of this talk about bodies, especially women`s bodies,
I figured it was time to pause for a teachable moment about how our bodies
This, my friends, is the female reproductive system. Congressman
Todd Akin, you may want to pull up a chair. Let`s just pause for a moment
to appreciate the wonder of this system, because it really is
extraordinary. Now, for women, the whole show gets started in the ovaries.
There, there and there. And every baby girl is born already in possession
of about one million eggs in her ovaries. That`s kind of cool, huh?
Hit puberty and along with the assurance that you know everything and
that your parents know nothing comes the hormones that gets those eggs
moving. About once a month, an egg reaches maturity and it pops on out of
the ovary and starts heading down the fallopian tubes, you have one on each
side. There and there.
Now, the whole trip ends in the uterus, that`s the big gal right
there in the middle. Now if the egg shows up and there`s no sperm
available, it dissolves or it shed. And if it does meet a sperm, then the
process of fertilization is possible. If that works out in the fertilized
egg implant and the process is really quite amazing, but it is not magical.
Congressman Akin, this is the key part. The egg can`t tell whether
the sperm is from consensual sex, rape or even in Vitro Fertilization.
Now, lately all the political controversy over abortion has focused on that
moment of fertilization and implantation. Is that little mass of quickly
dividing cells, a person with civil rights. But this week, Congressman
Akin managed to move the drama out of the uterus and back up the system
through the fallopian tubes and even into the ovaries. I had to wonder,
why it is that so many seem to know so little about how this whole thing
Well, let`s take Congressman Akin`s home state of Missouri for
example. At the end of this last school year, Missouri was among 29 states
that didn`t mandate comprehensive sex education to public school students.
And if a public school in Missouri voluntarily chose to teach sex-Ed, it
was far from comprehensive. The school would be forced to stress
But a 2010 marker policy review stated that "There`s no evidence that
abstinence-only-education delays teen sexual activity. Research shows that
abstinence only strategies may deter contraceptive use among sexually
active teens increasing the risk of unintended pregnancy and STIs."
So, she comes as no surprise, but although birth to teen mothers have
dropped again when last tallied, states with no mandate for comprehensive
sex-Ed, some of them have some of the highest teen birthrates. And when it
comes to STIs, the story is even more grim. While the national average for
sexually transmitted infections for women age 15 to 19 is 100.8 out of
1,000, Missouri`s average is 119.6.
Reproduction is an extraordinary process. But it should not be at
the center of the political process. In fact, common sense sex-Ed is one
of the best ways to be sure that we can have intercourse without getting
Up next, 172 women are currently nominated to run for Congress. Why
is that number still so low? We`ll ask one of the candidates.
PERRY: We have been talking about the politics of women`s bodies and
it is time to get more women into our body politic. We have told you
before but cannot tell you often enough that the United States ranks 78 in
the world for the percentage of women elected to the national legislative
body. Seventy eight. Behind Afghanistan, behind Rwanda, behind Tanzania.
And 2012 is the year that all of that can change. A record 298 women have
filed to run for Congress this year. And as of this past Tuesday, 155 have
won their primaries for the House of Representatives.
My next guest is one of the women running. She`s a democratic
nominee in Ohio`s fifth Congressional district and is taking on an
incumbent who`s been described as one of the most conservative members of
Joining me now from Toledo, Ohio, is Angela Zimmann, a mother, pastor
and college professor and candidate for the United States Congress. Good
ANGELA ZIMMANN (D), OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Good morning,
Melissa. How are you?
PERRY: Oh, I`m just fine. So, there you are in Ohio.
ZIMMANN: Beautiful. Here I am.
PERRY: Yes. And the GOP ticket is in your state campaigning today.
ZIMMANN: I am campaigning here in northwest Ohio. Like you
mentioned, I`m a mom, I`m a pastor and a professor. I`m an engineer. And
I`m here this morning to talk with you and then I`ve got a busy day out in
Northwest Ohio talking with folks all over the district.
PERRY: So, you know, I want to start a little bit with your opponent
because, in many ways, your opponent Representative Bob Latta is not that
different than Paul Ryan who is the running mate of Mitt Romney, who is
actually in Ohio today. And according to the National Journal,
Representative Latta is among the most conservative members of the U.S.
House of Representatives.
PERRY: What made you decide to take him on?
ZIMMANN: Yes. My opponent is ranked number one. I think he`s tied
with a few other people, most conservative. You know, it`s really
interesting. My story of why I`ve decided to run, I mean, has to deal with
the real people in my real life. Like I mentioned, I`m a pastor, I have
also been a foster mom. I want to tell very briefly, there`s a story I
like to tell people when they ask me why I`m running about a woman named
Kim is a person who`s involved at my church. She discovered a lump
in her breast. Because she didn`t have adequate health care insurance, she
didn`t go and get it checked out. And by the time she did go to the
emergency room, she has stage four breast cancer. Now she can`t get the
care that she needs, she can`t go to a hospital in her neighborhood because
she doesn`t have the health care she needs. She was told she had stage
four breast cancer over the phone instead of in a doctor`s office.
ZIMMANN: So, I`m running for someone like Kim. I know that my
background is pretty diverse and it allows me to have a good insight into a
lot of different facets of society of where people are coming from. As an
engineer, I work with management, I work with the unions. As a professor,
I work with college students, as a pastor, I work with people from the Tea
Party, people from the Republican Party, people from the Democratic Party,
people who are libertarians. And so, I have the opportunity to work with
people all over the spectrum and I believe that makes me the ideal person.
PERRY: You know, I want you to stay on that point just a little bit.
Because Ohio, I mean, part of what`s interesting about Ohio is this notion
that, you know, as Ohio goes, so goes the nation.
PERRY: And what I hear you saying is, you know, you`re concerned
about things that are addressed in President Obama`s Affordable Care Act,
that you nonetheless still can have conversations across the aisle. When
you look at the current republican ticket at the national level, in
addition to your own incumbent in the fifth Congressional district in Iowa,
are these folk that understand that sort of need to come together and solve
the problems facing people like your constituents would be?
ZIMMANN: I think the people in my area are absolutely the folks who
believe that moving to the middle is the best solution. They are not
radicals like my opponent. I see the Ryan budget as being a radical budget
that hurts students, that hurts the elderly. People in need of Social
Security and Medicare. People in need of student loans. The people in
Ohio, they are, it is a swing state. And I live in the most swing district
in this swing state with 165,000 new voters in this district.
It has a very slight democratic means, so we have this wonderful
opportunity to get the most conservative member of Congress out. The
people here are not that conservative. They identify themselves as middle
of the road moderates, thinking people, pragmatists. I grew up in a family
with the --
ZIMMANN: Go ahead, I`m sorry.
PERRY: Angela, stay with me because that point of being in the
swingiest of the swing district and those new voters is exactly what we are
going to talk about when we come back. Because Ohio is not only a key
battleground for the election, it is a key battleground on voter
suppression. And that`s next. Stay with me.
PERRY: Cheating has been in the news big time this week. Headline
on the sports page of late Thursday night by the fall of Lance Armstrong
known widely as one of cycling`s greatest champions. Armstrong gave up his
fight against charges that he used performance enhancing drugs and as a
result, lost his seven Tour de France titles and any chance of racing
Now, in ceasing his fight against the charges, Armstrong said in a
statement that enough is enough. I have the same sentiment when I think
about another form of cheating, voter suppression. Forget the sports
world, the entire world depends on our political system running cleanly,
running well, running honestly. And if you have to dope up to win, what`s
the message that we`re sending?
Joining us again from the Buckeye State is Ohio Congressional
candidate Angela Zimmann, and our guests here, Buddy Roemer, Alicia
Menendez, Jonathan Capehart, and joining group is Israel Ortega, editor of
Libertad.org, the Spanish language Web site of the Heritage Foundation.
All right. So, in Ohio this week, we have language that once again
seems to be suggesting that this, that these voter ID laws that closing
down polls, so we don`t have as much early voting, is not about voter fraud
but instead that what`s it`s about is making sure that conservatives can
win. I mean, is this or is this not what`s going on right now?
ISRAEL ORTEGA, EDITOR, LIBERTAD.ORG: Voter suppression if it`s real,
the law has to carry out its duty. But if the idea, if we are talking
about photo ID, you know, presenting a valid ID, I think it is very
legitimate for someone who is participating in what I think is a privilege
of being a citizen in this country and casting his or her vote in an
election should prove that he or she is who they say they are. I don`t
think that the majority of the people, in fact, there was a poll that came
out that said that majority of the people actually agree with that.
PERRY: So, I want to push on that a little bit.
ORTEGA: Yes, OK.
PERRY: But before I do, I want to bring in Angela Zimmann who is in
Ohio. Because what you said to me is you`ve got a real shot in your
district because there are all these new voters, because it`s a newly-drawn
district in 2010. So, when you hear about the rules being passed in Ohio,
that will close down early voting, making it more difficult for certain
populations to actually get out to vote, what does that sound like to you?
ZIMMANN: OK. What I`m most concerned about here in Ohio is the fact
that what is a bipartisan belief that everyone has the right to cast a
ballot to elect our leaders, voting hours are being restricted. And that`s
my number one concern. Evenings, evening voting is gone. The three days
before the election, that`s being restricted. So, folks who are shift
workers and we have a good number of those folks here in our working class
district, they cannot get to the polls. They cannot cast their vote. They
have every right to have every opportunity in a democracy, casting a vote
should be the number one priority and we should make every opportunity
available to all of our voters all of the time.
PERRY: So, Israel, I want to come back to you with Angela`s point
there, because what she`s saying is two things. One, you use the language
of privilege, she used the language of right. And then the second thing,
as she is talking about Ohio, he`s saying, hey, we are talking about shift
workers, we`re talking about the realism, economic circumstance where tons
of people can`t take a Tuesday off, if they take a Tuesday off, that might
mean the end of their job. Why wouldn`t we make it, because this one
doesn`t even go to the Pennsylvania voter ID. This is about just making
ORTEGA: I don`t this is disagreement, I think --
PERRY: There is what the Ohio --
ORTEGA: Well, I mean, I`m just saying me personally. I think we
should encourage more citizens to vote. I think it is dismal. In fact,
there are numbers that we get when an election year happens. I mean, you
look at other places in the world, and actually turnout is a lot higher.
So, yes, absolutely encourage participation. I think that`s important, but
part of a democracy.
PERRY: Is this the strategy? Is this the win strategy, the reason
that you can pull far to the right, the reason that you can, you know, have
the doma (ph) position and the other kinds of positions is because, well,
you`re just going to steal it?
MENENDEZ: Well, this sends the fact that --
PERRY: I mean, I don`t know how else --
MENENDEZ: Millionaires and billionaires can drop as much money as
they want in October and -- so, I do think it is about the structural
MENENDEZ: And, you know, if just, let`s say, for example, people
were coming from the place as he`s coming from, then you would see these
measures coupled with other measures to make sure that everyone who doesn`t
have an ID would be able to get an ID. Because this particularly affects
senior citizens who just don`t have to drive, don`t travel and don`t have
the identification they would need to be able to --
PERRY: And let me just go on the record on where I am. I mean, I
think it is great to win an election straight-up, and I`m not a fan of
buying an election, but you know, if your vote is for sale, I`m still less
worried about, I mean, if you have enough money to buy an election, our
rules allow you to buy an election and people are willing to fill their
votes, that sucks but oh well. It feels very different to me, to actually
suppress the ability of whole groups of people to cast a vote. Angela, I
want to come back to you for a second.
PERRY: We saw this in Ohio in 2004 when Ken Blackwell as secretary
of state passed a variety of rules very close to the election just like
we`re seeing now. Are folks in Ohio mobilized against what is happening
ZIMMANN: Absolutely. I mean, in fact, I have two attorneys on my
campaign team who have been active in protecting the vote for quite some
time. People are engaged and active. They want to vote. This is
exciting. It`s exciting for people to want to cast their ballots. We
should be encouraging more of it. If someone wants to suppress a vote, you
have to wonder why. If someone is trying to suppress a vote, it must be
because they are afraid that you`re going to vote against them for a very
good reason. I encourage everyone to vote. Come on out and vote. Make
the decision. It is yours to make. That`s what it means to live in a
democracy in the United States of America.
PERRY: So, what are the strategies here?
CAPEHART: What are the strategies of the people who are trying --
PERRY: Yes. Well, I mean, the pushing back against the strategies.
What are the options that are facing voters on the ground in Ohio right
CAPEHART: Well, look, what voters have to do, not just in Ohio and
Pennsylvania and Florida, but all around the country, what they should be
doing right now, right this very minute is to find out if they are, indeed,
registered to vote. If they are, indeed, signed up if their registration
is current. And if it is not, to get in touch with their local party to
find out what can be done to ensure that when they cast a ballot on
November 6th that it`s legal, that it`s -- that they can actually go in and
Because otherwise, we are looking at a really complicated situation
just happening in Ohio which is different from Pennsylvania, it`s different
PERRY: Yes, exactly.
CAPEHART: So, the best way to push back against this is to be
PERRY: Informed as much as possible. Thank you so much to Angela
Zimmann in Ohio. Thanks for joining me.
ZIMMANN: Thank you.
PERRY: And coming up, does it matter who will introduce Mitt Romney
before the candidate`s acceptance speech Thursday night in Tampa? I
absolutely think it does. Do you know who`s introducing him? If you do
not know, we`ll going to tell you, come back!
PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry in New York.
Party conventions are highly crafted, carefully orchestrated
political theater. And I always enjoy watching how the characters are
cast. In the lead -- the stern, competent, no-nonsense businessman, Mitt
Romney. The plucky sidekick, his running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan. The
tough but affable sweetheart, the moral conscious, wife, Ann Romney. The
imprudent but always entertaining tag-along, Chris Christie.
But the cast needs one more player to step out the story and he will
step to the mike on Thursday to introduce the star -- you know, the one in
the role of the one, diverse friend in the crew, Florida Senator Marco
Rubio. No matter what he actually talks about in the speech, the presence
of Rubio is an appeal to the increasingly powerful block of Latino voters,
folks who are very happy with Mr. Romney at the moment.
According to this week`s NBC News/"Wall Street Journal"/Telemundo
poll, Romney currently commands just 28 percent of the Latino vote,
trailing President Obama by 35 points. These are votes Romney needs and
his campaign knows it.
On Wednesday, a national co-chair for Romney`s Hispanic leadership
team told "The Hill" newspaper that the campaign`s goal is to get 38
percent of the Hispanic vote, and is worth noting that the campaign is not
even trying to reach the level of Latino support that the last Republican
to win the White House had. Yes, George W. Bush in 2004 won re-election
with more than 40 percent of the Latino vote.
That same NBC poll this week showed Romney underperforming with white
And if that stays true, Romney will need the Latino vote more than
Given his previously stated and ridiculed policy of self-deportation
for undocumented immigrants and the fact that Romney passed over Rubio for
Paul Ryan who wants to build a fence along the Mexican border, what can
Rubio do if anything to fix this?
Joining us now from Washington, D.C. is Manuel Roig-Franzia, author
of "The Rise of Marco Rubio." And back with me at the table, former
Republican presidential candidate, Buddy Roemer; host of "Huff Po Live,"
Alicia Menendez; "The Washington Post`s" Jonathan Capehart; and the
Heritage Foundation`s Israel Ortega
Manuel, I want to come to you first. Can you just suggest to me
based on what you know about Rubio what you think he will say in his
introduction of Mitt Romney?
MANUEL ROIG-FRANZIA, AUTHOR, "THE RISE OF MARCO RUBIO": Well, he`ll
stick to the script and talk about how Romney is going to help America get
more jobs and improve the economy. And he`ll also talk about you can be
sure something -- along the lines of American exceptionalism. He used his
own family store to talk about how America has a special obligation,
special place in the world and a special prominence.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I find Rubio so interesting as his choice
standing there between these two candidates n part because he was baptized
Mormon, went to Latter Day Saints youth groups, but then actually converted
to Catholicism and, of course, Latter Day Saints and Catholicism are the
two religion represented currently on the ticket, but also because he and I
apparently share a favorite artist, which is on Nicki Minaj.
So, any of that -- I mean, are we going to see Marco Rubio talking
about himself, his own story of immigration, his own sort of interesting
exceptional American narrative?
ROIG-FRANZIA: You know, I might add when I was working on my book
about Marco Rubio, that people who worked with him on the campaign would
say, boy, he can spit, he can spit lyrics. He also likes Snoop Dogg, so it
is not just --
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that!
ROIG-FRANZIA: It`s the not just Nicki Minaj.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that. If he would rap when he introduced
Romney, I would -- I would be very, very happy. That would be really
I want to ask you about this number, like the idea of just setting a
goal of 38 percent for Latino voters. Why set a goal that is below what
George W. Bush did when he was trying to kind of expand the big tent?
ISRAEL ORTEGA, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Yes, I don`t know. That`s a
good question for Republicans. I think that you have to be realistic, too.
They don`t have a lot of time to catch up.
But you`re right -- I mean, it`s going to be absolutely critical,
particularly in the adverse swing states. I do think Rubio and Romney
needed to have a compelling message on the economy and the American people
still give Governor Romney an edge. We know that Hispanics -- you know,
the issue of the economy and unemployment continues to be atop of the poll.
He can contrast that with the fact that the unemployment rate for Hispanics
is over 10 percent. I think that`s where Governor Romney has a chance.
HARRIS-PERRY: I hear you that the economy is at the top and yet the
immigration story really matters. And then while he has an immigration
story that you uncovered and actually told him himself, right, about his
own grandfather, that sounds to me as though, it`s actually an opposition
to the very policies that the Romney/Ryan ticket represent.
ROIG-FRANZIA: Yes, when you talked about self-deportation, I
couldn`t help but think about Marco Rubio`s grandfather, Pedro Victor
Garcia, who had come to the United States legally but then left and ran
afoul of visa requirements. When he tried to come back in, he was ordered
deported by a judge in Miami.
But he did not return to Cuba as he had been ordered. He did not
self-deport. He was not put on a plane by the authorities. And he stayed
in the country for five years before his immigration status was worked out.
He was an undocumented immigrant in the same way many millions of
undocumented immigrants are in the United States right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Alicia, will Rubio have a leg to stand on as he
has this conversation with Latino voters, particularly in Florida and Tampa
ALICIA MENENDEZ, HUFF POST LIVE: I don`t think that`s a conversation
he`s going to be having. I don`t think he`s out there to talk about
immigration. I think he`s out there to talk about small government, to
talk about the American dream, as you said, to talk about American
exceptionalism. I don`t think this is about winning Hispanics in the
I think this is very specifically about Florida. I think they
believe that he has the capacity to turn Cubans out to energize them, to
also turn out some other Hispanics in that key state. I don`t think he
plays -- with 80 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population is Mexican, they
have a very different immigration story, a very different Latino story than
Marco Rubio. But I don`t think he`s out there for them. I think he`s out
there for mainstream conservatives.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a very critical important point, right, that
maybe part of where the 38 comes from if the math they are doing is an
assessment of conservatives Cubanos in Florida and assume they can get a
Marco Rubio pull on that and some proportion of, for example, pro-life --
Southwest Latinos with Mexican heritage.
MELENDEZ: Which are older Cubanos. You know, if you look at the
numbers from 2008, young Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade, 18 to 29, turned
out 65 percent for Barack Obama, absolute inverse numbers for older Cubans.
So, you are seeing a shift even among Cuban-Americans in Miami on
these issues. I think we`ll see that again this year.
BUDDY ROEMER (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it is more
than about Mitt Romney. I think this is one of the most important speeches
we`ll hear next week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me why.
ROEMER: It`s about the future of America and the Republican Party.
It`s got to come together.
And that`s why he will talk about immigration. That`s why he must
talk about immigration. He`ll have other monuments in his valley, but he
has to talk about the kind of America he believes in. What an opportunity
for this guy.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a huge opportunity. Why not choose him for the
JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: Maybe Mitt Romney didn`t
think that senator Rubio was ready for the job. One of the criteria was
could be president if something were to happen. If something were to
happen to him.
HARRIS-PERRY: Same thing with Sarah Palin. Sorry.
CAPEHART: But that was 2008. Now we are talking 2012. So, you
know, Paul Ryan compared to Sarah Palin, I think, meets that criteria.
But you know what? I hope your right, Governor Roemer, that Marco
Rubio does address immigration in his speech, because I think whether
Hispanics will be open to Mitt Romney, I don`t know. I`m not there yet.
But I do think that, and I would hope, that Hispanics watching the
convention will be listening for -- does this ticket, does this party care
about me and my family, my relatives? I might not have an immigration
issue or immigration worry, but I know lots of people who do. If I`m going
to cast my vote for a person who represents a party who couldn`t care less
about me and wants me to self-deport in all these other mystical things,
then I can`t go there.
No matter what the economic message is, no matter what American dream
story you can present, I can`t go there.
HARRIS-PERRY: I just want to take a quick look here. We have this
chart, we are calling it the tiny, tiny tent, because, of course, the
notion of big tent Republicanism was that you would to expand, in part,
through bringing in Latino voters. But the tent is getting smaller and
smaller from 40 percent down to 31 percent and currently polling at 28
Manuel, I`ll give the last word on this: does -- is Marco Rubio at
all a relevant Sherpa for the Romney/Ryan ticket? Is there anything he can
say Thursday night in Tampa that will signal, as Jonathan Capehart suggests
here, that at least the future of the party will build that tent back out
ROIG-FRANZIA: Yes, absolutely. He`s someone who will be able to
communicate on the campaign trail in Spanish. He`s talked about changing
the tone on immigration and the Republican Party. The problem that he has
is that his positions, opposition to the DREAM Act, in favor of E-verify,
said he would vote for the inner zone immigration law, are somewhat in
conflict with that. So it will be an interesting rhetorical challenge for
I will say, though, that he is in a very elite class of speakers in
American politics and I would not underestimate him in this spotlight
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you for joining us from Washington, D.C. I
greatly appreciate it. Again, the name of your book is "The Rise of Marco
So my question is actually, we are going to exactly what Alicia
suggested, which is whether or not this is not really a moment about Mitt
Romney but a moment about Marco Rubio that might actually look a bit like
another young senator that we saw at another convention. That is up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN-STATE SENATOR BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Tonight is a
particular honor for me because, let`s face it, my presence on this stage
is pretty unlikely. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the
larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me
and that in no other country on earth is my story even possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now that was, of course, State Senator Barack Obama,
soon to be senator and future president, giving the keynote address in the
2004 Democratic National Convention, wearing the same suit that Jonathan
Capehart is currently wearing at the Nerdland table, which was kind of cool
HARRIS-PERRY: But that said, you know, it`s interesting, those words
out of his mouth could be out of Marco Rubio`s, right? This notion of I
owe a debt to this country, only in this story my country is possible. And
what we know about that 2004 moment was that John Kerry was a bit of a road
bump, you know, a speed bump on the road of history and really became
ultimately Senator Obama, then President Obama`s night.
2016, if Mitt Romney does not win -- Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Marco
Rubio, Paul Ryan, probably, Chris Christie. I mean, that is, that`s a
pretty deep bench. Is this really just a show for 2016?
ROEMER: Well, it`s more than that, but it`s that, too.
ROEMER: So you can`t dismiss that. I mean, we each talk about where
we are, where we`d like to go. And great speeches do both.
HARRIS-PERRY: And will he, with that recognition, that understanding
of what Obama did as a state senator and then ultimately president, will he
give a speech that is less about introducing Mitt Romney and more about
introducing Marco Rubio?
ORTEGA: Well, he`s going to have to walk a fine line, but yes. I
mean, absolutely he`s got to be thinking about his career. He knows his
stock is on the rise and the Republicans know that he`s got to be at the
top of the list with the next presidential election. And so, I think what
you`ll see is you`ll hear the themes of American exceptionalism.
I mean, he can speak in terms that really resonate with a number of
Americans, including Hispanics. Obviously, you know, his parents worked in
service industry. I mean, you know a lot of Hispanics work in the service
industry. And so, this is the kind of stuff that`s going to come up in the
HARRIS-PERRY: Will it fundamentally change the racial dynamics? If
you got a Marco Rubio, a Bobby Jindal, a Nikki Haley. I mean, this will
make for a very brown 2016 on the Republican.
CAPEHART: And then we`ll have to watch the Republican Party as it is
right now deal with that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that will be fascinating.
CAPEHART: We go from birther jokes yesterday to, oh, my God, one of
these people, one of these brown people could be our nominee. What do we
make of that? You know what?
HARRIS-PERRY: Would it split the party? Would they eat themselves
or would you just come into the 21st century?
ORTEGA: I don`t think that will happen, no. I mean, I think, look,
Marco Rubio -- Florida, there are a lot of parts of Florida that are rural.
I mean, he won the Senate seat there, so I think you have conservative
support whoever the candidate would be, regardless of race.
CAPEHART: We are focused on Senator Rubio, but you mention all those
CAPEHART: We are going to -- everyone is going to be watching these
people because they are the future of the party. Is anybody really, really
interested in what Governor Romney has to say on that night? It`s as if
he`s being overshadowed by everyone. Everyone else is getting all the
HARRIS-PERRY: Poor Mitt.
CAPEHART: Tiny Phil could walk across the stage and overshadow Mitt
HARRIS-PERRY: Phil is the groundhog.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, there he is!
CAPEHART: You knew, once State Senator Barack Obama gave that
speech, and I was in the hall that night, and I remember going, wow, I have
not heard a speech like that since Mario Cuomo`s speech when I was a kid.
When was that, 1984 in San Francisco?
ROEMER: Yes, 1984 in San Francisco.
CAPEHART: This guy has it. This guy`s got it. And I think we`ll
see that from Rubio. We are definitely going to see that from Paul Ryan.
And, you know, Mitt Romney, gosh, sorry, guy --
HARRIS-PERRY: You`re wearing State Senator Obama`s suit that
ultimately led --
CAPEHART: And tie.
PERRY: Right, that ultimately led him to become president. You have
called Mitt Romney both a Russian doll where each time you open it up
there`s something more and you also suggested he could be overshadowed by a
groundhog. You can come back to Nerdland any time.
Up next, a very serious topic and one very close to my heart. Seven
years ago this week, hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I don`t live there
then but I do now. And we`re going to take a tour of new house when we
come back. Don`t miss it.
HARRIS-PERRY: As tropical storm Isaac looms off the coast of
Florida, threatening to rain on the Republican convention parade, it`s a
stark reminder of how the GOP continues to live with the legacy of the Bush
administration`s abysmal response to hurricane Katrina.
Four years ago, as hurricane Gustav approached New Orleans,
Republicans held off on the first day of their convention, not out of
safety concerns in Minneapolis, but out of sensitivity to what the people
of the Gulf Coast could have been facing. Seven years ago this coming
week, the levee breach that devastated New Orleans after hurricane Katrina
will be remembered in the city I call home.
Seven years later, the city continues to rebuild but progress is
slow. A new report by the greater New Orleans data center shows that more
than one in five properties in the Crescent City remains blighted, one in
five. There are homes destroyed by the homes abandoned by their owners and
now there are a little more than economic dreams, safety hazards, and
I live directly across the street from just such a place and decided
it was time to enact my very own extreme home makeover.
So please come along with me as we visit my new home.
HARRIS: This is the home that my husband and I just bought. And
it`s the house that in many ways became, for us, the site of crime in the
neighborhood. To try to address that, we have purchased this house with
the goal of completely renovating it, bringing it back to life and
contributing ultimately to the safety and security of this neighborhood.
You literally look directly through this home because it only has
three walls. It has a front wall and two side walls -- truly exquisite and
beautiful home. And, for me, this house is very much representative of New
Orleans. And what we are facing since the storm. That if you just glance
at it, all you see is the destruction.
But if you pause and you look at the bones of it, if you look at what
it represents, if you see even still the pink paint that was on it, that
was probably a little girl`s bedroom at some point, you see there`s real
life here, just like there`s still a lot of life left here in the city.
(voice-over): My house in New Orleans` Seventh Ward is just one
example of the destruction left by hurricane Katrina. But the Lower Ninth
Ward, the area so viscerally connected with Katrina`s devastation remains
the place where work is still left to be done.
(on camera): You can get an image of a lot of what has and has not
happened here in this neighborhood. Here you have an empty lot and what we
call the stairs to nowhere, front steps that would have, at one point, led
up to a family home.
You`ll see a renovated home, somebody whose come back here to Lower
Nine, it`s a family home surrounded on all sides here by empty lots where
basically vegetation has grown back up.
(voice-over): Down the street, I met Mrs. Anderson. Lower Ninth
Ward resident for 35 years.
MRS. ANDERSON: We are all connected to something like this. If this
all my property, I wouldn`t have left (ph). If I had money I still
wouldn`t have left, but I had to do what I had to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Patricia Jones is one of the people trying to get the
Lower Ninth Ward back on track.
(on camera): So we can live right here, right?
PATRICIA JONES, NEIGHBORHOOD EMPOWERMENT NETWORK ASSN.: Yes. This
is an example of this is life, this is what we want to see building. This
is what we are working on.
So, it`s high grass. It`s houses still needing to be torn down that
are not torn down. It`s abandonment. It`s a lack of power and community.
That`s what this is.
And we fight every day to not have that to be, every year, less and
less of it in our community.
HARRIS-PERRY: Government, where is government in all of this?
JONES: Government is -- you know, there are things we call photo ops
and come when the cameras come, oh, look what we did over here. You can
look around Lower Ninth and see that it`s not where it needs to be. When
the media leaves, we are still here, you know, cutting grass, getting
another group to do this, packaging up another loan product for a family,
affordable products, so they can become homeowners.
So, for us, I`m tired of the political shenanigans.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hi, Jeff, how are you?
(voice-over): To get answers, I went to meet with Jeffrey Herbert,
director of NORA, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.
(on camera): So we are coming up on a policy change now, seven years
after the storm, where the state is no longer going to control the
property. In fact, you`re going to become the largest property owner here
in the parish of Orleans.
Now, some folks would say you`ll become the largest slum lord in the
parish of Orleans because you`re about to get a lot of properties that are
in blighted condition. What does that mean for NORA?
JEFFREY HERBERT, NEW ORLEANS REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: Well, we have
been working on this for two years. So even though the process (ph) had
been held at the state, that number was 5,000 at the beginning, after
Katrina. Over the past several years we have worked that down to 3,000 --
2,000 of those have been sold either through auction, through development
agreements or through lots next door. A thousand of them are lots next
door, where folks acquired the property next door to them.
So, we`re going to use the same strategy to go from the 3,000 that`s
left all the way down as far as we can. At the end of the day, we estimate
that there`ll be about 800 left.
HARRIS-PERRY: This kind of street corner looks like what people
think New Orleans is and, you know, things coming back in a traditional
shotgun home and all that. But what I need to tell the woman in the Lower
Ninth Ward is I like call everyone in the city and can`t get my grass cut.
HERBERT: You have to understand, the majority of those are still in
private ownership. Those that are not owned by the city, they are someone
who walked away from the property, but it`s a tremendous task to take care
of all that property. It`s a huge drain on our resources.
HARRIS-PERRY (voice-over): Which brings me back to my own front
(on camera): You know, it`s just the thing. It`s just a physical
thing and yet it represents so much more than that for the people of New
Orleans that ultimately, you know, look, this is my neighborhood. This is
my community. But it`s also for me to be a symbol of hope.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, we are asking about the continuing
legacy of Katrina.
HARRIS-PERRY: Seven years ago in August of 2005, the national
disaster devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast. On a Friday, August 26th,
a state of emergency was declared in Mississippi and Louisiana as both
states braced for impact against hurricane Katrina, one of the most
powerful storms to ever form in the Atlantic Ocean.
It was three days later on August 29th that the manmade disaster
helped along by the hurricane devastated the city of New Orleans.
Hurricane Katrina, which passed just east of the city, didn`t make the
direct hit that had been forecasted.
But that was the day the first of New Orleans` protective levees, the
city`s only defense against catastrophic flooding, was breached, water
begun pouring into the city -- flooding left 80 percent of New Orleans
under water, in some places up to 20 feet high. An estimated 80 percent of
the population left New Orleans after a mandatory evacuation order.
But the remaining 20 percent, nearly 100,000 people who would not or
could not leave were left behind. Some were stranded on rooftops. Others
sought refuge inside the hot, dark and crowded confines of the New Orleans
Superdome and the convention center where they spent days without food and
It took nearly six weeks to pump the water out of the city. But when
the waters receded, this is what remained -- more than 1,800 people
confirmed dead, more than 700 still missing, $75 billion in estimated
physical damages. More than $110 billion in economic impact to Louisiana
and Mississippi. And in New Orleans, more than 200,000 families displaced
from their homes.
The abandoned houses that remain in the city today is evidence of the
more than 140,000 who left and never returned.
Back with me is former governor of Louisiana, Buddy Roemer, and
joining us on the table is presidential historian Doug Brinkley, author of
"The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf
Nice to see you.
DOUG BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, I always feel such mixed emotions about
talking about the continuing legacy of Katrina in the city that I love,
because the city booster part of me wants to say, come on down, spend your
tourist dollars, you know?
ROEMER: And we are making progress.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, we are making progress, things are good. But,
you know, the citizen in the city part of me wants to say, hey, there`s
still too much left to be done.
ROEMER: Yes. It`s devastating. I mean, when I go back, my daughter
lives in New Orleans, my granddaddy lived on Bourbon Street, at a milk
company, high and dry. The French knew where to build, I`ll give them
But when I go back now, it just breaks my heart. And there`s no one
on the ground, there`s no governor, there`s no president, there`s no one in
charge in rebuilding. And I think it`s because the Ninth Ward will fill
with decent human beings, but they were nobodies. They didn`t have a big
company. They didn`t own a bank. They were just gone.
And I think some people are glad they are gone.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Well, we know it, right? We have heard some of
the discourse of folks being -- and that there are specific policies,
right, that have made it harder. So we hear the language about, oh, this
is a bad thing or a devastating thing, but then you have a program like the
Road Home Program, initially instituted supposedly to give people a road
It was meant to be a secondary insurer, but it worked on pre-storm
value of the home, if you know real estate, means location, location,
location. So, black neighborhoods got less money to come back. And it was
written into the federal formula.
I mean, policy actually matters here.
BRINKLEY: Absolutely. And remember, many people still want to come
back here and can`t. Look at the lower ninth ward or New Orleans east,
let`s say you`re living in Houston and want to come back to New Orleans and
you go to the Lower Ninth.
Banks won`t give you proper loans. The insurance companies don`t
want to cover you. Garbage pickup doesn`t occur.
HARRIS-PERRY: Can I tell you getting homeowners insurance on that
property I just showed you has been, like -- I mean, it has been -- it has
BRINKLEY: Exactly. You might have a little bit of sway, but a lot
of those people that you said were disenfranchised or lower middle class
and are struggling. So unfortunately it`s a whole different city. It was
always the tail of two cities above sea level and below, so we can
celebrate -- the Saints are playing coming up September 9th against the
Redskins. They might win and can celebrate Mardi Gras and the great
But unfortunately there`s a lot of pain and suffering, and it`s an
embarrassment that the United States didn`t do more to save the great city
of New Orleans.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, the Saints is an interesting example. I
mean, we showed images of the superdome and the suffering occurring there.
I`m the mixed mind, on the one hand there`s nobody a greater Saints fan,
more of a who dat, on Sunday afternoons than I am, and yet I always wonder,
here we are playing football in a place that has no marker for the
suffering that occurred here, that doesn`t -- that doesn`t mention the
people who died of dehydration in this place when our government did not
ROEMER: It`s the story of poverty in America, the greatest country
on Earth. Let me just -- I love it, but poverty is something that we have
pushed aside, that we have forgotten. And we even step on, we feed on
them. We ignore them too often.
I don`t know what the answer is, Melissa, I have thought about it a
million times. What could you do, Buddy Roemer, how could you make a
difference? I`m not sure.
I have a bank and we thought about building a bank in New Orleans.
We were around the state, we have never been in New Orleans, but we are
thinking about maybe trying to do that. I don`t know what the answer is,
but I will say this. As a former politician, no politician at the state
level or the federal level has reached out to New Orleans enough. No
BRINKLEY: I agree with that and there`s a couple other problems.
One is if you go up to the Mississippi river, to Minneapolis, St. Paul, you
have about 25 or more "Fortune" 500 companies. And you go to New Orleans,
with Entergy, and that`s about it.
And that means there`s not a lot of loose cash. The city itself is
broken. Mitch Landrieu is doing a great job, but there`s no money in the
coffers. After that, how do you bring people back to New Orleans?
Well, you have to have good schools.
BRINKLEY: You have to have good roads.
HARRIS-PERRY: You got to have safety.
BRINKLEY: And environment -- there`s no sense of environmental
consciousness. The wetlands are still disappearing. We used to have how
many football fields, every day the Gulf of Mexico is getting closer to New
Orleans. And with the disappearing of the barrier islands and wetlands,
when now a storm or hurricane will hit, it`s going to hit harder against
those levee walls.
So, the city is one of our number one homeland defense priorities,
but with most politicians want to treat it out of sight and out of mind.
HARRIS-PERRY: My mom is home in New Orleans right now watching and
she`s very nervous about Isaac. You just said that, I just want to look at
mom and say, everything is OK. I`ll call as soon as I`m off air.
But up next, I want to ask whether or not the Republican Party can
ever outrun the political legacy of Katrina. More on that when we come
HARRIS-PERRY: The legacy of hurricane Katrina can be measured not
just if in lives lost and population shifts and political upheaval in the
city of New Orleans, but also at the level of national politics. In 2004,
President George W. Bush won 11 percent of African-American voters who were
disillusioned with the Democratic Party and believed that Bush`s
conservative, Christian message of moral values aligned with their own
Then they watched a year later that the rest of the nation, as the
Bush administration dragged its feet in responding to the visible
sufferings of victims of hurricane Katrina. One month after the storm,
President Bush`s approval ratings among African-Americans fell to an all-
time low of 2 percent.
Voters seemed to be echoing this sentiment from Kanye West.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KANYE WEST, MUSICIAN: George Bush doesn`t care about black people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And now, Mitt Romney inherits that legacy. The latest
NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows President Obama with 94 percent
among African-Americans and Mitt Romney with zero. I didn`t misspeak,
zero. Donut, bupkis, nada.
Still here with me: Buddy Roemer, Doug Brinkley, Jonathan Capehart
and Israel Ortega.
All right. So, here`s the politics of it, right, because there`s the
policy of it and there`s a humanity of it. Jeff Isaac, who is the editor
of "Perspective on Politics", wrote in the "New Edition", which is all
about sort of the post-Katrina moment -- New Orleans broadly encapsulates
some very important themes in the study of politics, power and equality,
urban crisis, post-disaster reconstruction, the development of the complex
intersections of race, class, gender and sexuality.
You can add culture. You could sort of the importance of
environmental questions. Everything is right here in this moment, in the
place that is New Orleans and we did not do a good job of managing it.
And in particular, the Republicans did a failing job in managing it.
Should they be allowed to manage the country given that seven years ago,
they could not manage this crisis?
ROEMER: Don`t look at me.
HARRIS-PERRY: No. Anybody else want to talk about this?
ROEMER: That same crew is not running again. We`ve got to be fair
in looking at this.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So I will give you that. It was a Democratic
mayor who did not do a great --
ROEMER: Democratic governor.
CAPEHART: Melissa, the reason why I was a little silent and
speechless is because, yes, you can blame President Bush for his non-
reaction, for the looking out the window over New Orleans, flying over in
Air Force One and the slow response. But when I saw those, when I saw
those pictures from New Orleans, when I saw my fellow citizens screaming
for help, as you have the graphic behind you, people begging for help, this
wasn`t a Republican failure. This was an American failure.
This was a failure of the federal government to safeguard its
CAPEHART: And so no matter who the president was, whether it was a
Democratic president or Republican president, for that to happen is a
failure of the federal government.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. But let me push on this just a little bit because
a lot of the images we saw were the images of people with flags --
oftentimes with very large flags, sometimes people wrapped in the flags.
You have to ask yourself, if you`re evacuating your home, you`re getting to
the roof, there`s water coming in, where is there a flag that you both know
where it is and you have to go get it as you evacuate? There`s only one
kind of flag people care that much about, and it`s the flag from a casket
of a veteran.
People were literally wrapped in the images of their citizenship, in
the citizenship of those people who served and died on their families and
they got called on television over and over again refugees because we
literally could not see them as our fellow citizens. And in so doing, I
think we produce the moment that is now the birther moment. Like when you
look at black bodies literally wrapped in flags, of fallen soldiers, and
you look at them and call them refugees, and you can`t imagine that`s
America, I mean, are we surprised that seven years later, we are looking at
the American president asking where is his birth certificate.
To me, those things are deeply interconnected and they were part of
the Bush administration.
BRINKLEY: George W. Bush was awful and was not an inspirational
leader and there are big problems with what he did. One thing, he saw FEMA
as a Jimmy Carter feel-good program so they ghetto-ized FEMA in the
Homeland Security, put no real resources in it and if it was a joke.
What do you think you`re going to get? The Brownie moment or people
not knowing --
ROEMER: How did Brownie get his job, Doug? He gave a $10,000 check
to the campaign. This is how we pick leaders in the federal government,
how much money they give?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it`s not how Obama picked -- President Obama
picked who his FEMA head would be. I mean, the thing we can say is, you
know, I hear you that like I still think there`s insufficient attention
from the Obama administration on this question, but the FEMA head is an
actual disaster expert, not like some guy --
ROEMER: That`s an improvement.
HARRIS-PERRY: That is an improvement. That is a learning moment for
the federal government.
CAPEHART: They are stepping it back up to where it was under
ORTEGA: I mean -- I`m sorry.
BRINKLEY: Well, I was just going to say I don`t think President
Bush, as West comment, doesn`t like black people. But what President Bush
was fearful of black people. So when there was a bogus report of rescue
helicopters being shot at, which never happened, they immediately
quarantined a whole city, we don`t want a lot of black people looting.
They have a video footage in the White House of African-Americans
going into a drugstore to get supplies to stay alive where suddenly they
turn into criminals overnight. And just the incidences on the bridges
alone would happen.
We are dealing with, as he`s put it, a national racism, and as you
put it, a story of poverty in America. Everything is there. And we are
still living in Katrina.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Black victims were criminalized, right? They
actually suspended search and rescue. But including the Democratic
governor, however, suspended search and rescue in order to go to law and
order for 24 hours. I`m just saying at every level.
ROEMER: We are to blame. The police department in New Orleans,
supposedly trained, supposedly professionals, look at the examples of
cruelty they had to people in trouble. It never ends!
ORTEGA: Right. Well, look, one thing we know is natural disasters
are going to happen. So, I think if we can learn anything from seven years
post-Katrina is what with are we doing now in the country, not only in a
federal level, but on a state and local level, where are the vulnerable
cities and areas in the country because natural disasters are going to
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet this was only -- yet this was only partly a
natural disaster. The other piece was the levee failure.
BRINKLEY: And not just the levees. The so-called wise men of the
New Orleans in the `50s approved MRGO, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. My
goodness it`s now bulldozed out of commission.
HARRIS-PERRY: MRGO is stopped.
BRINKLEY: It`s stopped because that created wind funnel effect. And
the idea was green. They were going to turn the fresh water port of New
Orleans into a seaport and compete with Galveston and Mobile. Well, it was
the worst boondoggle imaginable.
So there were many failures in the infrastructure of New Orleans,
which saddens me is the Dutch were able to save Amsterdam and The Hague
(ph), these very below sea level places.
ROEMER: It can be done.
BRINKLEY: New Orleans, to sit in our culture really, a great
American city, has gotten neglected, by and large, by the American people.
HARRIS-PERRY: And no one should take my passion and anger about all
this to mean anything other however than it is a fantastic city, and
particularly this language of it being a symbol of our culture. It is home
and I do love it as so many of us from New Orleans do.
ROEMER: And the good news is an engineer that I know says we are
prepared. He endorses the billions that have been spent. He said, Buddy,
it won`t wreck it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Great. Did you hear that, mom? Buddy Roemer says we
More in a moment, but first, it`s time of a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH
ALEX WITT" -- Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: All right. Well, that is good news if
Buddy is right. Anyway, thanks so much, Melissa.
New video and details on the Empire State shooting. How did nine
people end up wounded? We`re going to have the latest on a live report.
New information on hurricane Isaac this hour. It could be worse than
first thought. And we are now hearing it could directly affect the Tampa
Republican National Convention.
He plans on crashing the GOP party. Libertarian Party candidate Gary
Johnson with some surprise comments about swing states in the coming
election. I will talk with him.
And he`s had a front row seat following President Obama`s every move.
Here`s the first of his kind and back in the White House with a new book on
his experience. We`re going to explain all that one to you, Melissa.
That one is interesting, I can`t wait for that interview.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Alex. I greatly appreciate it.
And up next, no papers and no fear -- the changing life of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALDO TORRES, UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT: My name is Geraldo Torres.
I`m 41 and I`ve been living undocumented in Phoenix for more than 18 years.
HARRIS-PERRY: What are you doing here in New Orleans?
TORRES: We are sharing our experiences and also sharing our
knowledge in how to fight for our rights against the police department,
sheriff`s department and anyone that is attacking our community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Geraldo Torres. Earlier this month, while in
New Orleans, I was fortunate to meet him and many of the other roughly 30
men and women who have decided to expose their immigration status and drive
across the country to spread their message to unfriendly territory. Their
slogan: no papers, no fear.
The trip began on July 29th, in the hotbed of anti-immigration
movement, Arizona, and it`s scheduled to last for six weeks. Their final
stop: the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
They travel by bus, a vehicle they called undocu-bus. Others called
them modern day freedom fighters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being afraid into being proud of who you are, and
for seeing the beauty in the lives of the people who are undocumented so
they must be in the shadows. But the bus is supposed to carry that message
that, no, you don`t have to be in the shadows. Come out and be a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: On their many stops, the riders are meeting with local
groups and exchanging information and organizing. They`re visiting
historical civil rights sites like the Bridge of Selma.
Maria Huerta, a 65-year-old domestic worker and organizer from
California, said this, "As we walked over the bridge, I thought of all the
kids that had died. Their fight was and is really the same as ours -- lots
of racism, hate and segregation."
The undocu bus is also driving through places with documentation laws
are most strict, such as Alabama and Georgia. The passengers are
protesting and engaging in civil disobedience when necessary. And in this
video playing next to me, you can see the group protesting at a briefing in
Alabama on the impact of state-based immigration laws.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who organized the event, chose
to have Kris Kobach as one of its speaker. Kobach is one of the authors of
Arizona`s SB-1070, the notorious "papers please" laws.
And the undocu-bus is on the road to the Democratic convention
because demonstrators are trying to bring voice to specific issues.
They`re protesting the record number of deportations under President Obama
and the rise of state laws modeled after Arizona`s SB-1070. Some of the
bus passengers are eligible will for deferred action for the childhood
arrivals program or DOCA that President Obama declared by executive action
And while the passengers laud the president`s move, they insist that
it`s still not enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I qualify for the DREAM Act. I`m 29 years old.
What about our family? What about our parents? We can get a working
permit but what with about my mom, my sister, and the community, you know?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The passengers on the undocu bus say protests like
theirs are starting to have an impact.
And so, their ride continues, all the way to Charlotte. For not
being afraid, for risking everything they have to bring voice to the
voiceless, these modern-day freedom riders are our foot soldiers of the
And that is our show today. Thank you to Buddy Roemer, Alicia
Menendez, Doug Brinkley, Jonathan Capehart and Israel Ortega.
Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you tomorrow
morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. We`re going to take a look at the shadow
party of 2012 and the new boss in Republican politics. Here`s a hint: he`s
the same old boss.
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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