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'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, September 8th, 2012

September 8, 2012

Guests: Norris Henderson, Glenn Martin, Soffiyah Elijah, Lola Adesioye, Leslie Sanchez

question, how did we become an incarceration nation?

Plus, how Texas, yes, Texas might be a swing state sooner than you

And unconventional thinking. All the things that weren`t said in
Tampa or Charlotte.

But first, the donkey stampede and what it means to have home court

Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. The start of this week many
thought the donkey the Democrats would try out for their party`s national
convention would be a lot like Winnie the Pooh`s friend Eeyore careful
never to raise expectations too high. Always conceding that things aren`t
great and that they could always be worse. Focusing only on the problems
to be overcome basically of a gloomy fellow, but instead the democratic
donkey who actually showed up was a lot more like Shrek`s singing sidekick
relentlessly optimistic searching for solutions ready to kick over
obstacles in his way.

The disheartened and divided party struggling to ridge an enthusiasm
gap was nowhere to be found in Charlotte`s Time Warner Cable Arena. But
the Democrats did display one trait that both Eeyore and Donkey share.
Unflinching loyalty to their guy. What we also saw was the tactical
advantage of going second. You get to see how your opponent is going to
play his hand and adjust accordingly. And when it was their turn, the
Democrats matched the Republicans play-for-play.

The Republicans had their queen of hearts and the Democrats had one,
too. They saw the GOP candidates compelling wife with the moving personal
narrative and raised them a candidate`s wife who took a personal story and
punched it up by making it political.


MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: I have seen firsthand that being
president doesn`t change who you are. No, it reveals who you are. So in
the end for Barack these issues aren`t political, they are personal.
Barack knows the American dream because he`s lived it. And he wants
everyone in this country, everyone to have the same opportunity no matter
who we are or where we are from or what we look like or who we love.


PERRY: Last week, a republican governor slammed the convention with
a club, which he used to bash the opposition and bait the bails. This
week, a democratic governor hit back with a club of his own and he made it
clear the democrats didn`t just come to win, they came to fight.


GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Mitt Romney talks a lot about
all the things he`s fixed. I can tell you, Massachusetts was not one of


He`s a fine fellow and a great salesman. But as governor, he was a
lot more interested in having the job than doing the job. It`s time for
Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe!


PERRY: Now, the wild card that threw the Republicans off message was
missing from this week`s convention, but former Ohio Governor Ted
Strickland played the joker with the series of stinging one-liner attacks
against Mitt Romney.


FMR. GOV. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: If Mitt was Santa Claus, he
would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves. Barack Obama is betting
on the American worker. Mitt Romney is betting on a Bermuda Shell
Corporation. Barack Obama saved the American auto industry. Mitt Romney
saved on his taxes.



PERRY: Both conventions made their appeal to Latino voters with a
constellation of rising stars. Of course, the Democrats upped the ante by
featuring a pair, Joaquin Castro, a frontrunner for the Texas Congressional
seat and his twin brother and keynote speaker San Antonio Mayor Julian


that connect us, the only people who will go far are those who are already
ahead. We all understand that freedom isn`t free. What Romney and Ryan
don`t understand is that neither is opportunity. We have to invest in it.


PERRY: Now those aren`t the only benefits to playing your position
later in the game. The Democrats also had a few cards that were missing
from the Republican Party`s deck. Marriage equality and reproductive
rights moved from their place in the shadows last week into the spotlight
at the Democratic Convention. Sandra Fluke made the argument for a Romney
administration as not just a war on women but a scorched earth assault
against them.


SANDRA FLUKE, ATTORNEY, ACTIVIST: An America in which states
humiliate women by forcing us to endure invasive ultrasounds that we don`t
want. And which access to birth control is controlled by people who will
never use it.


An America in which politicians redefine rape and victims are
victimized all over again. In which someone decides which domestic
violence victims deserves access to services and which don`t.


PERRY: And there`s this, Mitt Romney`s speech last week made no
mention of military service members or the war the United States is still
fighting in Afghanistan. It`s a point that Tammy Duckworth, a war-wounded
veteran and Illinois candidate for the House of Representatives did not


our men and women in harm`s way, we have a clear choice on November 6th.
Last week, Mitt Romney had a chance to show his support for the brave men
and women he is seeking to command, but he chose to criticize President
Obama instead of even uttering the word Afghanistan.

And then there was one card the Republicans kept so close to the vest
that we never saw or heard any mention of it. It was as if their last two-
term president never existed. Maybe George W. Bush was the invisible guy
in the chair, but there was no missing the Democrats last two term
president on Wednesday night. If there was any card Bill Clinton was
holding, it had to be a spade because he dug right into the accomplishments
of the Obama administration with a 49-minute workhorse, or donkey, of a

In fact, the New York Giants could have taken some notes on defense
from President Clinton on Wednesday night because he knocked down point-
for-point every criticism leveled against President Obama by the
Republicans last week.


FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON (D), UNITED STATES: Let`s take a look at
what`s actually happened so far. Now there were two other attacks on the
president in Tampa that I think deserve an answer. And here`s what
happened. Now, folks, this is serious, because it gets worse. And you
won`t be laughing when I finish telling you this. Let`s look at the other
big charge the Republicans made. It`s a real doozy.


PERRY: By Thursday, the Democrats had almost finished playing their
hand which was fine because who needs a jack in your deck when you have a
Jo. Vice President Joe Biden was giving the First Lady competition for the
person who most embodied the Democratic Convention`s spirit of standing by
their man.


VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN (D), UNITED STATES: You know, Barack and I, we
have been through a lot together in these four years, and we learned about
one another, a lot about one another. And one of the things I learned
about Barack is the enormity of his heart. And I think he learned about me
the depth of my loyalty to him.


PERRY: And, of course, the final card in the democratic deck, their
ace, Barack Obama. Sounding like the seasoned president, he is today
rather than the candidate he was when he spoke at the convention four years
ago. For reminding us that when that candidate in 2008 said, yes, we can,
that the most important of those three words was the one in the middle.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: The election four years ago
wasn`t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens, you were the
change. You`re the reason there`s a little girl with a heart disorder in
Phoenix who will get the surgery she needs because an insurance company
can`t limit her coverage. You did that. You`re the reason a young man in
Colorado who never thought he would be able to afford his dream of earning
a medical degree is about to get that chance. You made that possible. You
did that!


You did that!


PERRY: Then came the morning after and the reminder of what we still
haven`t been able to do, move the jobless rate significantly beyond
disappointing numbers like 8.1 percent. But with less than 60 days until
the election, 8.1 may be much less important than 52. You see, 52 percent
is the President`s, current approval rating according to Gallup, the
highest since May of 2011. In politics, we call that a bounce maybe.

Joining me today is Joy Reid, MSNBC contributor and managing editor
for the Ari Melber, MSNBC contributor and correspondent for "The
Nation." Lola Adesioye?


PERRY: Adesioye, writer and social commentator, and Leslie Sanchez,
republican analyst and author of "You`ve Come a Long Way, Maybe."

All right. So, I just got back from Charlotte, I am still sleep-
deprived, but here we are. And Ari and Joy, you guys were both in
Charlotte, what is the major take-away point from that whole story that I
just retold?

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, what? I love that
retelling it. And it`s true, it was a tale of two conventions, both of
which were about Barack Obama. That`s what was so stunning. The
difference between the two is that you had this hugely sort of negative
message about Obama, which was really the takeaway from Tampa because the
convention wasn`t about Mitt Romney, he was sort of an afterthought. It
was all Obama is the bad guy, get him out of there.

And then you have the Charlotte convention which as you said, was all
we love this guy, this is our guy. And really a focused tight message of
people who really actually liked the President, love the President but then
when he came on, he really redirected it back to the supporters saying, I
need you to be invested in this. This was your election in 2008. Be
invested. And you know what? It wasn`t just because they had heard Mary
J. Blige, the audience was invested in what he was doing.


PERRY: Yes, real love. Oh, Ari, I`m sorry I stepped on that line,
that was good. That felt to me like the important turn, right, that in
that speech, you know, we had seen a lot of the policy conversations, all
of that, but it really was the President turning around and saying, yes, we
can, was always about we. And it fell like such an important sort of turn
in thinking about what counts as sort of a success, right, success is us
moving forward.

MELBER: Right. It is us doing it and this convention is about us
coming together comparing notes, talking about what we have done, where we
are going and getting out to vote. You saw both Michelle Obama and the
former President Bill Clinton speak very directly, we forget, this is still
about getting people out there, the yard signs don`t vote, people vote.
People vote with or without IDs depending on the state they are in. There
are a lot of issues that were raised in conjunction with that, but I
thought that was another contrast to Tampa which felt at times more like a
conference or board presentation.

There was a lot of clear sort of detail about why they don`t like
President Obama but there wasn`t necessarily as much a call to arms of
saying, Mitt Romney is your man. And on Joy`s point, when they totaled up
the number of words used, the word Obama was used more than Romney at both


MELBER: That`s not necessarily bad for the Republicans because they
have to both convince the country to fire one guy and hire another.

PERRY: Right. Because I mean, if you don`t vote for President Obama,
I mean, the only alternative is, of course, Governor Romney. Leslie, let
me ask you this, I mean, one could say, all right, I disagree with the
party, you know, I don`t like what was said. You know, I think -- but the
convention itself was a good convention, right? In terms of doing what it
needed to do?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN ANALYST: Gather a bunch of delegates that
were excited about voting for Obama? If you mean that, yes, it did
accomplish that and energize --

PERRY: And it gave him a five-point bounce.

SANCHEZ: Well, that`s expected though. I think it you look back
historically at these conventions, that`s what you get. And that`s why you
want to be the home court advantage we talked about is traditionally about
a five-point bounce. You want to see that. Do you remember Sarah Palin
and McCain, it is funny we lead with her, coming out of 2008. It was this
big bounce that you didn`t think you would see an end to until you saw the
collapse of Lehman, until you saw the financial crisis.


SANCHEZ: The Republicans never recovered. It was good for the
purposes of energizing the base but this is a referendum on Obama
regardless of what party you were in.

PERRY: So, I want to play with that idea for just a little bit
because we saw not only the bounce but also that there seems to be an
impact also in sort of voter choice, which we didn`t see coming out of
Tampa. If we look at the Gallup poll and the Reuters numbers coming out on
Friday, you know, we see this position where, in fact, part of what`s
happened here is 48 percent to 45 percent in terms of not just likability
or job approval but actually likelihood of voting.

And I hear you, actually, I`ve gotten in trouble before for saying,
had the election of 2008 been held in October instead of November, it is
possible that the McCain/Palin ticket could have won because they did
collapse afterward, but these numbers, when you have an incumbent who is
now leading, I got to say that looks much more formidable to me.

ADESIOYE: Yes. Definitely. And if you look, you know, the
Republican Convention, if you are an undecided voter, you know, if you`re
not a hard core republican, there was no space for you.


ADESIOYE: You know, it was very much speaking to these are our
people, these are our base and it`s an exclusive group. You know, and this
convention, the Democratic Convention was speaking to a wide range of
issues, wide range of people. And I think if you are undecided, you`re
more likely to get something out of that.


PERRY: And when we come back, we`ll going to talk, we have so much
more. I know, we can just go and go. But up next, I really do want to
talk about one person, in particular, because we all want to be Michelle
Obama when we grow up. So, we`ll talk more about that when we come back.


PERRY: The most intimate portraits we have heard about President
Obama this week came from two people, one is his partner in life and the
other is his partner in politics. First Lady Michelle Obama made her case
for Barack Obama, the good president by telling us about Barack Obama, the
good man.


MICHELLE OBAMA: That`s the man I see in those quiet moments late at
night hunched over his desk pouring over the letters people have sent him.
I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, you won`t believe
what these folks are going through, Michelle. It`s not right. We`ve got
to keep working to fix this. We`ve got so much more to do.



PERRY: And never once missed words, Vice President Joe Biden skipped
the figure of descriptions and told us literally why that good man makes a
great president.


BIDEN: He always asked in every one of those critical meetings the
same fundamental question, how is this going to affect the average
American? How is this going to affect people`s lives? That`s what`s
inside this man.


That`s what makes him tick. That`s who he is.


PERRY: Still at the table, Joy, Ari, Lola and Leslie. OK. It feels
to me like the surrogate piece was an awfully important part of what
happened this week and that the First Lady and the Vice President were
perhaps the most effective surrogates the President had.

REID: Yes. Definitely. And, you know, what? And the thing is that
particularly with Joe Biden, first of all, Michelle Obama is gorgeous,
she`s fabulous.

PERRY: And compelling in a way like -- I think, she`s always been a
compelling individual.

REID: Right.

PERRY: But we have seen her grow up as a political figure in her own

REID: She`s coming to her own. And she`s the great speaker. She`s
sort of went beyond politics, she`s sort of went above the political
discourse and really talk about the person, the human being and you sort of
contrast that with the way Ann Romney did it, they come across a bit more
aristocratic, worth the Obama tell the story, that could be just human
being, could be anybody, and how they just sort of came up together without
a silver spoon.

So, I think she was important in that sense in the A-political sense,
but Joe Biden as much as the right sort of down him, Joe Biden is probably
the most underrated guy in politics, right? Because he is so relatable
that everybody has someone in their family like Joe. He`s your Uncle Joe,

PERRY: Crazy Uncle Joe.

REID: Crazy Uncle Joe.


He`s relatable. And I think speaking to Catholics, older voters,
white working class voters, I don`t think there`s anybody better except --

PERRY: Yes. So, I mean, it does feel to me like Joe Biden did two
really important things. One he gave us the backstage passes to the
presidency, right? This is what I see when this guy is acting as
president. The other was I really did love his car thing, so, I don`t know
if you guys know. I`m slightly obsessed with the transformers, I keep
trying to find reasons to have transformers on the show. And so, I have
this feeling like when he was talking about my daddy was a car guy and
that`s totally different than when Mitt Romney`s daddy was a car guy. I
can just see like, they were beating down, you know, the Republicans in
some important way. Is that right? Is Biden an effective counter over and
against the Romney narrative of like the American automobile industry, for

SANCHEZ: Biden is the gift that keeps on giving. I mean, you just
have to really put him next to a live mic and you get just pretty much
anything, you never really know what you`re going to get. One thing, he is
very candid, he is very truthful and he has a lot of put in mouth disease,
but the truth about that and the history of this administration, the truth
of that is he does speak truth to many of the realities of the labor
movement, of immigration reform, all those things we have seen kind of the
aftermath of that.

I think to that sense, what is important about what the role he did
and Michelle Obama and Ann Romney is they humanized the candidate. Because
in many cases, people are not really tuning in. These independent voters
she`s talking about, until right now. And with Governor Romney it is, who
is he, what kind of person is he? And I think Marco Rubio is one name who
really defined what Governor Romney was about, not only the spouses do it
in a very personal way but also these other surrogates lay out that full

MELBER: There`s a funny thing that happens though -- there`s a funny
thing that happens at the convention where is the earlier you go in the day
before there`s all the TV coverage.


MELBER: There`s a lot of ideology, there`s a lot of talk about where
the party is and that`s true I think in both parties. As you get up to
primetime, I think the ideology fades and you get into attitude. And those
two speeches, those two validators that people who we think of a sort of
flanking this President were telling us, look, Barack Obama is real, he is
strong, he cares a great deal about you, that is his attitude. And by
implicit contrast, Mitt Romney is a phony, he`s inauthentic and we don`t
know who he is thinking about, maybe you, maybe your bank account, maybe
his taxes.

And that was a strong contrast Republicans have to deal with it.
They have a different view about those contrasts but that to me was what
jumped out, the idea that Michelle said the core of her speech was, this is
a revealing process. You`re under the light, you`re under the pressure and
you have a president who has done a lot of things that are unpopular,
including at times the signature issue of health care and he hasn`t backed

Again, in contrast to Mitt Romney who I think Mitt Romney did the
right thing on health care. I think universal health care at a state level
is a great thing, but as soon as it became difficult, he took his signature
issue and he talks about the window.

PERRY: Well, and develop as he may have passed it. But I implement
it. Let me -- when we get back, Lola.


Because there was one more highly effective surrogate. I mean, he`s
going to get his whole own conversation. That guy with a 69 percent
approval rating who thinks that President Obama should be re-elected. How
do you counter that? That`s next.



CLINTON: Are we where we want to be today? No. Is the President
satisfied? Of course not. But are we better off than we were when he took
office? Listen to this. Listen to this.


Everybody`s forgotten -- everybody`s forgotten when President Barack
Obama took office the economy was in freefall, it had just shrunk nine poll
percent GDP. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Are we doing better
than that today? The answer is yes.


PERRY: That was former President Bill Clinton who made that clear-
cut case for the re-election of President Obama on Wednesday night, but the
case for Clinton himself is a bit more complicated. Democrats hoping to
ride the wave of Clinton`s `90s nostalgia leave themselves vulnerable to
the reality that that the era was not so golden to everyone, but with a 69
percent approval rating, Clinton leaves Republicans with no line of attack,
and no choice. But declare their love along with the rest of America.

Mitt Romney`s campaign quickly fell in love the night with President
Obama`s speech releasing a statement from a spokesman saying, quote,
"President Clinton drew a stark contrast between himself and President
Obama tonight. Bill Clinton worked with Republicans` balance the budget.
And after four years, he could say, you were better off. What is this
nostalgia? The -- went on to criticize President Obama and basically say,
he`s no Bill Clinton. Really? That tells the other side is going to deal
with the big dog?

Back to my panel. All right. Lola, I want to bring in your
conversation on -- here because it does feel a little bit surprising that
Republicans now, their line of attack is you`re no Bill Clinton. Really?

ADESIOYE: Because they don`t really have any other line of attack.
It`s quite clear, it`s always been an anti-Obama attack in anyway.
Anything they can draw to solidify that they will, and this is the next
one. Now, they`re going to attack, you know, the Clinton/Obama comparison
is a silly thing.

PERRY: Well, so, you know, one of the things I notice at the Clinton
speech was, all right, is it felt to me a little bit like an Ezra Klein
blog, right? I mean, it was full of numbers and I expected him to whip out
the PowerPoint. It was incredibly compelling because it was Bill Clinton,
but was it just a fact check. He wrote a piece about sort of the
importance of fact checking. Was this a great -- Bill Clinton fact check
on the Republicans?

MELBER: I think it was. I mean, yes. The piece I wrote for PBS
MediaShift was about how the fact checking has gone so viral just in the
past few weeks and we`re seeing reporters use twitter as sort of a public
back channel to quickly figure out claims. And we are seeing a model of
basically truth leading rather than balance. Balance is what you said,
global warming is happening but someone else says, it`s not, and here,
figure it out.

PERRY: Right.

MELBER: Whereas truth or truth vigilante is in the "New York Times"
former Op-ed or what`s his name -- public editor they call it, basically
they are fact checkers. Maybe sometimes, you should be a vigilant for
truth. Bill Clinton as that vigilante for truth and I think --

PERRY: Truth over truthiness.

MELBER: Truth over truthiness. Truth over competing claims and I
think that speaks to his view of the moment, you know, Bill Clinton is also
a political analyst. He has to decide what`s happening out there before he
decides what to write in his speech. And his view is not that they have
the worst side of the argument, whether they need to humanize their
candidate or any of these things.

PERRY: Right.

MELBER: His view is, they have a really good argument that is
getting petty-fogged by all of these false claims and these confusing ads
and what happened on welfare and what happened on the economy. And so, I
thought it was striking, I would argue that this was the most detail-laden
primetime convention speech in the last 20 years.

PERRY: It was kind of shocking that he could talk for 45 minutes and
have people -- really only Bill Clinton could do it. You do a very good
Bill Clinton impression, but I do have to -- was there a lot of truth in
it? It also felt like there was some revision of his own background. So,
what I wanted him to say, the one line I really wanted was, this President
got health care reform passed and I didn`t.

REID: Right. Right.

PERRY: Right? But you still felt a lot of sort of Clinton
protectionism of his own memory, his nostalgic memory of like working
together with Republicans.

REID: So, I was amazed, Melissa, that Bill Clinton, only Bill Clinton
could have gotten a room full of activists, most of whom are to the left of
center to cheer for essentially DLC position.


REID: This was the DLC president, right? This guy was to the right
in a lot of ways of Barack Obama, but he got that room to stand up and
cheer despite the fact that on things like marriage equality, or things
like Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell specifically, he was on the other side of Barack


REID: But that said, you can`t beat having a former president to do
the bill of particulars for you. Because if anyone who was a swing voter
will listen, they may not listen to the partisans they get on stage.

PERRY: Yes. Right.

REID: But a former president has a weight.

PERRY: Who carries the --

REID: Right. And for the Republicans not to disappear their
president and not to be able to bring a president to bear, I mean, they
lost a huge opportunity to get nonpartisan-type voters who Bill Clinton
actually appeals to.


PERRY: Yes, listen. You guys have to listen, you have two living
presidents. Like where were the bushes?

SANCHEZ: -- revision of history. Because let`s go back to 2000 when
Al Gore was nowhere near Bill Clinton.


PERRY: And he`s became a Nobel Prize winning nice guy and not the

SANCHEZ: I understand, that`s what I`m saying. Decisions are made
and it`s very easy to have a 69 percent approval rating when you are not in
elected office.

ADESIOYE: He had it when he was there.

SANCHEZ: He did.


PERRY: It was not passed by his wife. I mean, let`s put it in
perspective in the context of what it was. But we talk about welfare
reform, telecommunications reform, those were very difficult processes.
Government shut down, but they did lead to cooperation between Republicans
and Democrats.

MELBER: Can I say --

SANCHEZ: It was reformed twice before it passed.

MELBER: I think you`re right. Sometimes the politics push people
apart, but the problem here for the Republicans is deeper than that.
George W. Bush is not only personally unpopular, his policies, economic,
deregulation, those are unpopular policies and Mitt Romney has doubled down
on them.

REID: That`s right.

MELBER: Mitt Romney`s tax plan is more tilted towards millionaires
than George W. Bush.

PERRY: Yes. Because the reason W. could be there because it would
be a reminder that he actually is tethered to W. In fact, we`ll going to
talk a little bit next about somebody who showed up at the Democratic
Convention you might not have expected, Rush Limbaugh. Not really Rush
Limbaugh but he was an important part of why one of the speakers was in the
primetime lineup.


PERRY: Interesting thing happened in Charlotte, women`s reproductive
rights went right into the spotlight at the Democratic National Convention
right alongside issues like gay marriage and immigration. It was a big
week for politics with a little P. So, the big tent got awfully big. My
favorite, favorite buttons of the week were just a straight up pink button
that says uterus like that just said at all. I love this one which is a
Sandra Fluke inspire, she indeed up being a primetime speaker because Rush
Limbaugh had called her a slut.

And so, we have a slut vote button. I thought that was pretty great.
And then there was also a black folks must vote button, right? All of
those feel like identity politics to me, right? Gender, race, the dreamers
were at the front. Is this a party that is actively this time going to
say, we are a party for everybody who is not, you know, sort of Mitt

REID: Yes. And, you know, that I think yet another contrast between
the two conventions. I felt like the Democratic Convention was a whole
America Convention, right? You have a little bit of everything. Even the
musical selections were like, you know, James Taylor, the Foo Fighters to
Mary J. It was sort of an ethnically and ideologically whole America
convention. And I thought it was interesting that, you know, the
Democrats, there was a time when they were afraid to talk about issues like
contraception and abortion.

They were using the word abortion, they were very forthright, and
front and center saying, we embrace these policies that we have always sort
of done in the background but we are going to bring them to the forefront,
we`re going to actually move Sandra Fluke`s speech, which caused a lot of
consternation on the right, on twitter, like oh, they`re hiding around,
there were some really offensive tweets around that. But the fact is no,
we wanted to make her more prominent is what they were saying. So, I
thought it was interesting, Democrats seem now unafraid somehow, it become

ADESIOYE: Well, I think moving away from the Republicans again in all
the kind of rhetoric about women and abortion and the illegitimate rape,
they kind of had to do that in a way. It`s like, we could have really
demarcate who we are and we are going to put, you know, these people that
are being vilified women and minorities out there, you know, front and
center, so that you know who we are. So, I think you know, they had to do
that really.

PERRY: This is Governor Duvall`s notion of a backbone. Let me ask
you, Leslie, I know, you know, for more than a decade and you have been
talking about the split in Latino voting, the possibility of Latinos as
swing voters, that could go either way, but it felt to me like the front
and centering of the dreamers and to the President`s deferred action at,
you know, at the core, is this the end of a swing possibility or Latinos
simply going to say, look, our interests are much better served in the
Democratic Party?

SANCHEZ: I think the interests of Latinos are much better served when
there`s a strong economy that benefits Latinos. And that`s what they`re
going to be looking at -- it`s not necessarily the length of identity
politics for the democratic Latinos, they are by far moved and concerned
about the fact there was not immigration reform. That the President pushed
health care reform and a variety of other issues before immigration when he
promised to have been address in his first year. He has to mobilize that
base of voters and get them to turn out. The swing voters --

PERRY: But deferred action, I mean, that is a -- him saying, OK, I
couldn`t get Republicans to go along with the Dream Act -- but I am going -

SANCHEZ: Yes, it`s a false hope.

PERRY: It`s not a false -- I mean --

SANCHEZ: It`s a false hope.

PERRY: It makes a difference for actual young people living right in
this moment. Like he said, look, I`m the President, this is the wrong
policy, this is the right one and I`m going to take all the action that I
can within the constitutional bounds of my presidency to address it.

SANCHEZ: The problem -- and there`s not enough time in that, but the
problem with that is that it is a short-term solution, it`s not a long-term
solution. If you`re going to disclose that you are here as an undocumented
student, you jeopardize and are basically outing your mother, father,
grandmother, everybody else in your family and you have to rely on the fact
that the federal government, the Republicans and Democrats are going to get
together and solve this issue. You have to take a big leap of faith.
That`s a challenge.

PERRY: I hear you, which is why the Dream Act is not a long-term


So, one thing we saw this week at the DNC in Charlotte was San
Antonio Mayor Julian Castro putting Texas front and center. We`re going to
talk more about this because if you think Texas is solidly read, and you
think the lone star state can`t be a battleground, you got to hear what`s



MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO (D), SAN ANTONIO, TX: My grandmother didn`t live
to see us begin our lives in public service, but she probably would have
thought it extraordinary that just two generations after she arrived in San
Antonio, one grandson would be the mayor and the other would be on his way,
the good people of San Antonio willing, to the United States Congress!


PERRY: So that was rising democratic star San Antonio Mayor Julian
Castro speaking Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention. He reminds
us that Texas isn`t completely in the hands of Republicans. And Cecile
Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, reminded us that Texas does
indeed have a long history with the Democratic Party. Take a look.


ago my mother, former Texas Governor Ann Richards, spoke to this



PERRY: Yes, I mean, just say Ann Richards name gets a cheer because
Cecile`s mother, former Governor Ann Richards was the last democratic
governor of Texas. And the last democrat to win a statewide seat was an
Attorney General in 1994 and since then there`s been a bit of a dry spell,
but with stars like Julian Castro, this guy may be the limit because Texas
Democrats showed up pretty big in Charlotte.

Meanwhile in Tampa, the Republicans didn`t even have the last
nationally elected Texans. You know, former President George W. Bush
speaks at their convention, Wisconsin and Massachusetts where in the House
vote. Right. OK. So, it may have been since 1976 that the last time we
had a democratic presidential candidate win the state of Texas in the form
of Jimmy Carter, but one has to ask, is it possible with the rising stars
and expanding an ethnically diverse population that the lone star state can
once ago go from red to blue.

And the first person I got to ask that question of, Leslie, is you.
I mean, you`re a Texan, I think you make the very clear point that Latino
voters, demographics are not destiny, right? Latino voters believe and
have different kinds of interests, but is this a real possibility?

SANCHEZ: Texas is an incubator for a solidly conservative, more
conservative oriented Latino. You`re seeing that, you`re it in the last
several elections, you see the rise of Ted Cruz for Senate who was the
underdog candidate who came to beat the incumbent lieutenant governor, you
know, through a grassroots movement. Texas is interesting and I say that
Julian and Joaquin are rising stars regardless of their party. They are
excellent examples of the types of true politicians in kind of public
leaders you get out of Texas.

The reason we are different is we are one of the last batches of
conservative Democrats. You have pro-trade, open, you know, not open word
but strong border relations with Mexico when you come from Texas. And you
have about 30 percent of the community there that wants to vote for a
republican candidate.

PERRY: That`s an interesting point. We have been talking about this
sort of tension between sort of DLC version of a democrat and there`s
potentially more leftward leaning one to bring Texas. And you have to be
big tents sort of towards the right.

REID: Right. And it`s interesting that you guys mention that because
at the Tampa Convention, the way the Texas delegation showed out is they
were the ones who were booing and walking out to support the main
delegation. They were Ron Paul deep.

PERRY: Right.

REID: The two black Texas delegates that I met in Tampa, one of them
was a Ron Paul guy. And I mean, they literally when you heard all that
noise and all that booing, that was Texas. So they tend to go very
libertarian. This is a very libertarian Ron Paul sort of type of
republican, but what`s interesting for the future and I was sort of talking
to the Julian Castro staff people about this, is that if you look at the
Latino population, already 38 percent of Texas, the young population, the
part under 18 is something like three times the size of the population over

PERRY: Right.

REID: There`s a huge sort of boom-lit of Latino that coming up in
that generation that`s going to turn 18 in the next several years and
Democrats are working hard for that vote.

MELBER: There`s a link between what Leslie and Joy are talking about,
which is a less partisan and more open grassroots there is. If I can
praise George W. Bush on this show for a moment --

PERRY: Wow, tread carefully, Ari. Let`s hear it.

MELBER: Look, George W. Bush for was comprehensive immigration reform
and you worked hard between his party and across party lines on that. They
didn`t get there but I do think that was real to his heart. And although,
I don`t agree with most -- with other minority-related policies at the
level of his cabinet, it was the most ethnically diverse of any republican
candidate in U.S. history. So, that is a real part of what Texas
republicanism meant to him and there`s no reason why the Castros or other
groups coming out of there can`t build across party lines and sort of --

PERRY: I got more Texas questions as soon as we come back because,
you know, LBJ, Barbara Jordan, Texas is a big prize. A lot of electoral
votes. There`s a lot more to talk about. And we`ll going to speak more on
it as soon as we come back.


PERRY: Welcome back. And we are still talking about the big state,
the big prize, that is Texas. So, OK, a speech like Castro`s does a couple
of different things, right? One that puts him on the map but the other
thing it occurs to me -- is to remind people who give money to local
candidates, remind the national party, oh, yes, there are Democrats down in
that state. Is there kind of a structural building that becomes possible
once you`ve got these twin brothers saying, hey, there are Democrats here
who could do it on the national stage?

ADESIOYE: Well, I think the, you know, when things start to shift you
can`t take one group for granted and it`s becoming obvious politically, and
they are not monolithic. And actually, there`s even a hybrid
republican/democrat thing going on. I think structurally something has to
start the rising level. How do we actually accommodate what otherwise he
tries to position these paragraphs to go views but actually some ways that
come together. How do we accommodate that and allow for this group, which
is a huge group, to actually you know, have their say.

PERRY: It felt like such a reminder after, I mean, the voice we have
been hearing from Texas is Rick Perry and literally secessionist language,
right? So, that`s what we have been hearing and all of a sudden we get a
different view of Texas and it`s like, oh, yes, that`s right, there is
Austin down there down and there is San Antonio and there is Houston right
in there of this faces. But is that what it is, that the municipalities
are different than the state?

SANCHEZ: Even if you go back to the Henris Neros (ph), I mean,
there`s a wrong history of strong democratic leaders coming out of
municipalities particularly in San Antonio, you see that in Dallas. But
Republicans have focused on the state legislatures and trying to take
control because we understand that`s where a lot of the redistributing
takes place. You can see these new seats of which Castro`s brother is
running for and also the statewide seats were always important to
republican candidates. And part of that map is to earn 30 percent of the
Hispanic vote in the state of Texas, which will ensure or pretty much lead
to a republican win.

REID: The only way they are doing is redistributing, right? And we
just had that (INAUDIBLE) we talked about during the break. And
Republicans I think recognize that there is a democratic wave is coming.
And you have seen it in a lot states, and you also see it in Texas. If
there was no possibility that Texas would become a purple state, you
wouldn`t have seen the aggressive types of redistricting that you saw.

PERRY: Yes, that story that you just told about the demographics and
about young people and about this change and this change and sort of, what
it is going to look like in Texas. I said, oh, that of course is why you
saw these aggressive suppression voters, I`ve heard. And of course because
Texas is still under the pre-clearance laws of the voting rights act. The
big win has come out of Texas.

MELBER: Exactly. And this is something you spotlighted on the show
before. Texas now has been slapped down twice. Once on the pre-clearance
issue about how they are creating these districts because they`re govern by
the voting rights law because of discriminatory history. And two, this
whole new second era wave of discrimination through voter ID laws and the
new ruling that slapped down their voter ID law in Texas is a big deal
because the Supreme Court has said, you can have these kinds of IDs.

What is that mean? It means, when a lower court slaps down your ID,
it means, it`s not the idea of the ID, it`s exactly how badly and how
onerously you would govern and creating hurdles. So, I think that is the
other big problems. The Democrats in Texas have that challenge because
they don`t want to be whining about the referees and that`s a political


MELBER: But this substantive issue is people have to have the right
to vote. And when the federal courts have to come in and clean up what the
Republicans are doing on a local level, that shows you how bad they are

PERRY: Yes. And of course, also the fascinating shift because the
ugly history there was in the Democratic Party, right? The all-white
primary, the Democratic Party Convention. But what we see now is the
Republican Party picking up those same kind of --

REID: Can I tell you a real quick statistic?


REID: In 2008 in the primaries, republican and democratic, Hillary
Clinton by herself got more vote, got actual votes than all of the
republican candidates combined. The turnout for the democratic primary was
something like double the turnout for the Republicans. So, Democrats have
a future in that state.

PERRY: Right. Right. And that`s something -- that can shift the
whole electoral map.

SANCHEZ: A fun step to add to that was it was a lot of Hispanic,
Mexican-American women who helped Hillary Clinton.

PERRY: Absolutely.


SANCHEZ: In Nevada as well.

PERRY: Yes. In `08, right, Spanish, language media households were
more supportive of Clinton, right, than of Obama in the `08 primaries but
then they came very much came along in the large Obama coalition for the
win. And at this point seemed to be very solidly in President Obama`s re-
election coalition. It is really a question of turnout.

ADESIOYE: Yes. I think it`s some -- you know, he leads by 64 to
Romney`s 34 or something like that. He has a massive advantage with the
Latino voters. And it is a matter of turnout, so thankfully with the voter
suppression, I mean, the federal court actually said that Texas was
actually trying to discriminate against these voters. I mean, you know,
it`s shocking that people are still doing that in 2012, but yes, the
turnout is going to be the main thing.

PERRY: Right. And the federal court has the ability to do that that
many of these other courts don`t because of the voting rights act. Because
desperate impact is the basis, right. So, you don`t have to say, oh,
you`re a bad and racist, you know, legislature, you can just say there`s a
disparate impact and that desperate impact can`t hold under voting rights
act. We have got a lot more.

There`s one state right now that similar to Texas has got an
important Latino population. It`s also a swing state that`s in play and it
is Florida. And in fact, Florida is right now where the president is. And
so, when we come back, we are going to spend a little time talking about
what wasn`t said in Tampa, what wasn`t said in Charlotte but what is going
to be said in Florida this morning by the President.


PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And you are looking
at a live event underway in St. Petersburg College in Florida where
President Obama is campaigning as part of his two-day tour of the
battleground state. And we`re going to take you there live as soon as the
President goes on stage. You won`t miss a thing, I promise.

Meanwhile, we`re going to turn the things that weren`t said in Tampa
or Charlotte, three days and dozens -- I`m telling you, I was there --
dozens of speakers along each party to cover a range. But we couldn`t help
there were more than a few issues that barely garnered a mention.

For example, even as former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, perhaps the
most famous gunshot wound survivor led the Pledge of Allegiance on
Thursday, there was no talk of serious gun control at the DNC. And despite
the recent mass shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin, the gun issue was also
off the table the previous week in Tampa.

And perhaps at a national convention, maybe that`s understandable
because gun violence is often a local issue with local complexities. So
where else did both Democrats and Republicans prove gun shy? Well,
certainly not in the middle class, not by a long shot. Signs reading
middle class first were on display throughout the halls as President
Clinton hammered home his party`s political priority.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If you want a future of shared
prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining,
where the American dream is really alive and well, again growing and where
the United States maintains its leadership as a force for peace and justice
and prosperity in this highly competitive world -- you have to vote for
Barack Obama.



HARRIS-PERRY: So, of course, Republicans the week before said that
the middle class has to vote for Mitt Romney for the same reasons. But
what about those still seeking their admission ticket into the middle
class, who was courting or even talking about them this week?

The Department of Agriculture reported that nearly 17 million people,
that`s 5.7 percent of Americans, suffered from what is termed very low food
security in 2011. That was an increase of 800,000 people since 2010. And
that is people skipping a meal or meals going hungry for a day or more
because they couldn`t afford to buy food here in America. Not a ticket to
a concert, not the latest Blu-ray DVD -- food.

Back at the table, Joy, Ari, Lola and Leslie.

Lola, why is nobody talking about poverty?

It`s not the thing people are talking about at the moment. At the moment,
the Republicans are talking about this wealth thing and middle class and
then the one in six people that, you know, have nothing and are not there.
And that is a major, major issue because President Obama did talk about
incomes not meeting, you know, rising costs and, yes, that`s much more than
-- that means people from the middle class can become poor.


ADESIOYE: So that -- it`s not just about shoring up what`s already
there and getting more jobs but it really is about addressing the fact that
there are serious factors on the table. That if they`re not really dealt
with and, you know, you can have more and more people falling into the
poverty trap.

HARRIS-PERRY: I had a big of explosion last week in my angst about
how poverty isn`t talked about in this country and got a ton of hate mail
in response, but one of the pieces was irritating to me because it said
was, Melissa, you`re an idiot. Actually people live in the third world in
America, they have social services.

I thought, no, no, actual poor people live right here. In that
vacuum of simply talking about poverty, even beyond the question of
policies, just talking about it feels to me like something that the parties
-- both of them needed to address.

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: Well, Melissa, I don`t think the idiot
attack is going to stick to you if you need to run for office or anything.
The negative things people say about you probably wouldn`t be stupid. I
don`t think that will be a problem, but it is a problematic argument,

It`s the same argument you hear really about women and minorities
which is, well, you`re lucky it is not 50 years ago. Thanks, but we`re not
doing like a -- excuse me -- we`re not doing like a hot tub time machine
politics here, right? We are talking about how things are today and while
you may be better off than if you were born in a refugee camp in a
developing world, poor people in this country have a lot of trouble.

But the only contrast I saw that was the Medicaid discussion it`s
about a group that who are very poor, although many are struggling, you
know, falling out of the middle class, and the voting rates there are much
lower. That`s why it was so weird when D.C. media said it was courageous
for Paul Ryan or anyone else to balance the budget by cutting Medicaid
because of Medicaid.


MELBER: I think -- go ahead.

JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM: I was just going to stay the forward --



REID: But in other hand, in addition, the voter who are still
available, right, it`s a very partisan election. We have sort of 47/46,
only 5 percent or 6 percent left undecided. And conservatives have done a
very good job over the last three decades of sort of demonizing the poor as
unworthy and lazy. So the voters who are still available, which is really
working class white voters, have built up a resentment over the last
generation where they feel their stuff, their money, is being taken from
them through taxation to give to the poor.

So talking about the poor just stokes more resentment.

HARRIS-PERRY: But let me ask you this, the fact is one could look at
President Obama`s accomplishments and say, these actually are
accomplishments that help to mitigate poverty despite the numbers. Lily
Ledbetter is in certain ways more than a policy program than a gender
program, right? Why? Because single moms make the lowest dollar per male
income, right?

Food subsidies -- so he`s been attacked at the food stamp president
but he can spin it that I`m keeping kids from starving president, right?
And, of course, this is also a president whose health care reform will have
an indisputable and important impact for poor families. He doesn`t say
these were poverty alleviations programs and Republicans don`t say, hey,
you made a whole bunch more people poor, right? Nobody said -- like
there`s an argument on both sides.

that argument. I think what`s interesting about it is if you look at 2008,
President Obama was saying, look, give me the benefit of the doubt to move
this anemic economy and where we were. And that`s really the decision that
5 percent or 6 percent are making, the ones that are -- this independent
group, and I would say it is bigger than that.

If you look at the fact that Spanish children are the largest group
living in poverty now, higher foreclosure rates among minority and
communities of color, higher unemployment, all the way around -- those are
very significant things that happened under this administration. So that`s
why I do think the poverty conversation is coming up but it`s not coming up
in the way that we want it to.

HARRIS-PERRY: But I got to say, but it hasn`t come up in that way,
right? So, you know, we hear the middle class argument. We even hear the
foreclosure argument, but I don`t think, for example, you hear about poor
and hungry kids because then if Newt Gingrich is attacking the president
saying you`re a food stamp president, he has to say, yes, what would my
option have been, right?

MELBER: You know who the last presidential candidate was who talked
a lot about poverty. He is from Charlotte, North Carolina. His name is
John Edwards. That name which we dare not speak.

But whatever John Edwards --

SANCHEZ: Bush, John Edwards, you are just on a role.


HARRIS-PERRY: I know, Ari.

MELBER: Sorry. I have a suicide mission on social media.

But John Edwards may have been wrong about many things. He was not
wrong about taking his position as a politically famous person and trying
to put poverty on the agenda.

HARRIS-PERRY: Is it the discrediting of John Edwards part of what
happened? So, in other words, if you now start to talk about the two
Americas, do you evoke, oh, my goodness, you are the John Edwards guy?

REID: In the Democratic primary, he was losing the primary with the
argument. I have to say -- I mean, unfortunately in this country right
now, poverty is, as you said, not a sexy topic. It`s not a political
winner, because again, we are such -- we take so many pains to court the
middle class. All politicians zero in on them, even rich politicians
really pin them on tax cuts. It is always framed for the middle class.

MELBER: And there`s also a conservative mind rhetoric block that
goes on where if you talk about poverty too much people say, what do you
know about poverty if you`re not poor? John Edwards, if you are so rich,
you can`t talk about poverty. Or if you`re a man, how can you talk about
women`s rights? These are the rhetorical blocks that often move only
against progressive reform and not to the other direction.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. We are going to continue to await President
Obama at the campaign rally in the battleground state of Florida. We are
going to take you there as soon as we come back.


HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama is campaigning at St. Petersburg
College in Seminole, Florida, as part of a two-day swing through the
battleground state. Let`s take a listen to the president.


thing I want to do is make sure everybody is staying hydrated. And if you
have been standing here a while, bend your knees. I don`t want anybody
falling out.

I want to -- I want to thank Charlie Christ for his introduction, for
his support, for showing that the values that we are fighting for are not
Democratic values or Republican values, they are American values. That`s
what we are fighting for.


We`ve got one of the finest senators in the country, your senator,
Bill Nelson, here.


One of the best members of Congress that we`ve got, Kathy Castor, is


And all of you are here.


I`m really excited about that.

Now, I love you back. That`s why I came.


Now, we just had our convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Folks
there could not have been more welcoming. Michelle, what can I say?


You know, as the other men in the audience know, our main goal when
we marry is to improve our gene pool. That`s why my daughters turned out
good, because you just -- you marry up. You marry somebody superior to
yourself. And you just beg them until they marry you. You just -- you
just -- persistence is the key.

And then you got President Clinton who made the case as only he can.


After he spoke somebody sent out a tweet that said, you should
appoint him secretary of explaining stuff.


I like that, secretary of explaining stuff. Although I have to
admit, it didn`t really say stuff. I cleaned that up a little bit.


And then two days ago I did my best to lay out the stakes in this
election, because they are big stakes. On both sides, they have made their
arguments now. And I know you handled a lot of national Republicans in the
neighborhood making their argument.


We`ve made ours. And so now you`ve got a big choice to make.

And, by the way, don`t boo, vote!



I honestly believe this is the clearest choice of any time in our
generation, because it`s a choice not just between two candidates or two
political parties, this is a choice between two fundamentally different
paths for America -- two fundamentally different visions for our future.

Now ours is a fight on behalf of that basic bargain that built the
largest middle class in the strongest economy the world has ever known, the
bargain that says if you work hard, it will pay off. The bargain that says
responsibility will be rewarded and everybody`s got a fair shot, and
everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of
rules from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, D.C. That`s what we
are fighting for.


That basic bargain is why I ran for president in the first place,
because too many jobs were disappearing overseas. Too many families were
struggling to make the mortgage. Or put food on the table. People were
having to borrow just for day-to-day expenses to fill up the gas tank, and
over time, more and more of that debt built up.

And then this whole house of cards came tumbling down in the worst
economic crisis, the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression.
And millions of innocent Americans lost their jobs and their homes and
their life savings -- a tragedy that we are still fighting to recover from.

Now, our friends at their convention, they were more than happy to
talk about everything they think is wrong with America. But they didn`t
say much about how they would make it right. They want your vote but they
don`t want you to know their plan.

And that`s because --


That`s because all they`ve got to offer are the same prescriptions
that they have had for 30 years. Tax cuts, tax cuts, got a few
regulations, some more tax cuts. Tax cuts when times are good, tax cuts
when times are bad. Tax cuts to help you lose a few extra pounds. Tax
cuts to help your love life.


Say, somebody says it doesn`t help. You tried those tax cuts, huh?


Now listen, actually, it does help when you give it to folks who need
it. That`s why I`ve cut taxes for middle class families and for small
business owners 18 times. But I don`t believe and you don`t believe that
another round of tax breaks for millionaires is going to bring good jobs
back to our shores or pay down our deficit. I don`t believe that firing
teachers or kicking students off of financial aid, students who go right
here to this institution that somehow that`s going to help our economy or
help us compete with scientists and engineers coming out of China.

After all that we have been through, do we really think that it would
make sense to roll back regulations on Wall Street?


OBAMA: That somehow that`s going to help small businesswomen expand
our laid off construction workers keep their homes?


OBAMA: Let me tell you that, we have been there. We have tried what
they are pedaling. It didn`t work. We are not going back.


OBAMA: We are going forward. We are going forward. We are going


I won`t pretend the path I`m offering is quick or that it`s going to
be easy. I never have. Sometimes I ask people to go back to 2008 and look
at what I said. I said, this was going to take some time because these
problems have been building up for a long time.

Bill Clinton reminded us on Wednesday night it`s going to take more
than a few years to solve challenges that have been built up for decades.

But let me tell you something, when our opponents say this nation is
in decline, they are dead wrong. This is America. We still have the best
workers in the world and the best entrepreneurs in the world. We got the
best scientists and the best researchers.

We`ve got the best colleges and the best universities. We are a
young nation with a great diversity of talent and ingenuity from every
corner of the globe. So no matter what the naysayers may say for political
reasons, no matter how dark they try to make everything look, there`s not a
country on earth that wouldn`t gladly trade places with the United States
of America.


HARRIS-PERRY: That is President Obama campaigning in St. Petersburg,
Florida. He`s on the traditional post-convention battleground campaign
swing right there in Florida.

Later this morning, Vice President Biden will be speaking in Ohio,
another battleground. Let`s go back to the panel.

So, we really heard the president sort of put out his general means
there, right, the tax cut joke. You know, this idea that they don`t have a
real policy, they just have tax cuts. He`s got this whole piece here
around -- I know you just heard 8.1 percent, he`s not going to say that,
but I know you just heard 8 percent 1 percent, but anybody who tells you it
is all doom and gloom is a naysayer, we are moving forward and here are the
kinds of plans and policies we have for moving forward. It looks like
that`s going to be the theme of the next 50-some-odd days.

REID: Yes. It`s sort of the Reagan re-elect. It`s all about sort
of we are the guys sort of hopeful positive party and the other side is the
doom and gloom party. I think that`s actually quite true. I mean, the
Republican message is it`s a negative mess. They`re just saying, this guy
has failed you, put us in.

And what the Obama message is, look, we are moving forward, which is
literally his campaign message and give us more time to do it. But also,
we`re sort of the rah-rah America party. That`s part of this other role
reversal of the two parties. The Democrats are the now the flag-waving,
can-do, "don`t bet against America" party.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it`s kind of interesting to watch that happen.

MELBER: Yes. And also, the thing about politics is when you get an
attack sometimes you fight it and sometimes you flee, right? I mean, it
comes down to those basic instincts, and this attack -- are you better now
than four years ago? -- was an idea from Republicans that this would be a
winner. Obviously, Obama and the Democrats think they can own it and they
are grabbing onto it. They are using it as a pivot to foreign policy and
ask bin Laden and General Motors as a pivot.

But he`s also going to go out in the trail ands say, yes -- that was
so interesting about the Bill Clinton speech, which he just mentioned in
quoting the famous tweet about he should be secretary of explaining stuff.
Bill Clinton explained that you bet, compared to a net 750,000 a month job
loss are we doing better today as an economic fact? Absolutely.

HARRIS-PERRY: Even for him to say go back and read my 2008 speech,
which I have printed out so I started going back in and reading it, but in
other words, he`s not running from the four years ago. He`s saying, OK,
let`s go back to four years ago and let`s talk about where we are right

You`re not buying it?

SANCHEZ: Not at all. I was there four years ago and there were
balloons and confetti, and maybe not balloons. But I certainly remember
the confetti.

It was hope and change. It was -- we were going to do this. We are
the ones we have been waiting for.

It was this whole idea that everybody -- especially the independent
voters -- bought into and gave the benefit of the doubt. And this is the
case where you see that these voters are looking to give the benefit of the
doubt to a different party and are they really willing to make that change.

You can argue whatever you want about this and that. I think he`s
running away from it. I think the speech he gave was not as exciting, not
as enthusiastic.


HARRIS-PERRY: It certainly wasn`t as exciting, but I think it was on
purpose. You don`t in a recession. He`s the president, right? He`s going
to perform it differently.

But to say he`s running away from it, I`ve got to say, he really did
go right for his record. He`s like, here`s what we did. I mean, all
candidates tell their record selectively, but he certainly laid out the
ways in which the policy priorities that he set out he managed to
accomplish over some time.

ADESIOYE: Yes, I mean, there has been some change, you know, there
has been change.

HARRIS-PERRY: Meaningful change.

ADESIOYE: Meaningful change. Health care reform, you know, it
hadn`t -- it wasn`t the big thing everyone wanted it to be that way, but I
don`t know what people expect. It`s four years. And I did student
politics and in that time, I realized what I said I was going to do was
like, oh my God, when you get in there and you`re fighting all the other --
you know, Congress and people against you, it`s very difficult. So I think
that --


HARRIS-PERRY: There is so much more. You know, the president is --
whatever else he is, he`s compelling enough to keep all of us fighting
about what he says.

So, thank you to Joy and Leslie and Lola. Ari is going to stick
around for a bit longer.

But up next, we`ll talk about something educational nobody is talking
about, and that`s a priority on my list: prisons. I`m taking you back home
to Louisiana.


HARRIS-PERRY: Forward may have been the branding at the Democratic
National Convention, but collective work and responsibility was the
message. In direct contrast to the emphasis placed on "I" at the RNC last
week, the shared "we" took center stage this week.

And attention was paid to what we have built together. One of those
projects that we have built together as a nation, something that we as
Americans can uniquely say we have poured our resources into over the years
-- prisons. We have been incarcerating more of our citizens than any other
country in the world. At last check, 2.3 million.

My home state of Louisiana has become the prison capital of the
world. Louisiana`s incarceration rate is five times that of Iran`s, 16
times China`s, and 20 times Germany`s.

I took a look at what we have taken the time, energy and resources to
build in my state and met with a local activist working to turn that system
around in New Orleans.

Norris Henderson spent nearly half his life in prison for a crime he
did not commit. Now that he`s free, his work still focuses on those still
in the system.


HARRIS-PERRY: Hi, Lawrence, how are you?


HARRIS-PERRY: Good to see you. Thanks for joining me today.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes.

The first thing I was up and running and to see post-Katrina, guess
what? The jail. They turned the Greyhound bus station into Camp
Greyhound, into a prison.

So, they were up and running and I was told the jail was up and
running. I was told before we had the first school -- well, we still don`t
have a hospital, you know? I mean, right now, the jail hospital is still
closed, but the jail became a priority because this city has enjoyed the
benefits of putting their citizens, their residents in jail.

But, you know, we lead the nation for capital incarceration in a
place that also has the highest violent crime rate in the country. But
what is allowed to happen here, prison is a growth industry expressed from

And, you know, people ask, how do you know how much about that?
Well, I spent practically half my life in a prison. I spent 27 years in
prison for a crime I didn`t commit. And I watched this system go from
having one penitentiary and one institution for young adults that have
grown to 13 institutions and a jail in every parish that are housing state

Here in New Orleans, this perverse incentive, you know, per diem,
they pay for the cost of the person being in jail.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, I don`t want to miss this because I remember when
I first learned this story, right, that the state is paying local policing,
local sheriffs, in these parishes -- the counties, we call them parishes,
right, a per diem, per body to house the inmates.


HARRIS-PERRY: So there`s incentive not to clear out but to keep
people in.

(voice-over): One of the sheriffs is Marlin Gusman, who is
responsible for the Orleans Parish prison. I asked him about the per diem

someone on a daily basis to house an inmate did lead to the construction of
new facilities as a way to finance them. Not something that we have done
here. And, you know, perhaps sometimes you pay for the deeds of others
that come before you. We really have gotten away from that. And, you
know, it`s -- what I would like to focus more on is proper funding.

HARRIS-PERRY (on camera): I walked with you a little bit before we
got started on the conversation and took a little bit of look at the new
facilities. It was the plan before (INAUDIBLE) up on the wall. And I got
to say, there`s a part of me that makes my heart sink because there`s no
principal in this town that can walk me through, or very few principals to
walk me through and show me the new facilities being built for their

And that image of building prisons, building jail cells rather than
classrooms I think is sort of the critical image, is the question people
have. Why are we investing tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands,
millions of dollars into facilities to incarcerate people but not to
educate people?

GUSMAN: Well, first of all, there are certainty some very nice
schools here that have been rebuilt after Katrina. Whether you go to the
Martin Luther King School for Science and Technology or the L.B. Landry
School across the river that have really been done nice.

As far as incarceration, it`s an unfortunate fact in our way of life.

HENDERSON: This system has been perpetuating itself for better of 40
years. So, uneducated people make uneducated, unwise decisions. So when
kids get into trouble here, if you track their academic process, you
understand why they are having this problem.


HARRIS-PERRY: The United States, with about 5 percent of the world`s
population has nearly 25 percent of the world`s prisoners. Why? And what
we can do about it when we come back.


HARRIS-PERRY: Since 1970, the number of people incarcerated in this
country has grown by 700 percent. After President Richard Nixon declared
the war on drugs 40 years ago, we saw an explosion in the nation`s prison
population. And following the same trajectory, our federal and state
governments have poured billions into the so-called correctional

With our prison industrial complex no part of the discussion at
either party`s convention, when and how will this quiet epidemic receive
the attention it deserves?

Here to discuss our attorney Soffiyah Elijah, the executive director
of the Correctional Association of New York, Glenn Martin, vice president
of public affairs at the Fortune society and a former inmate himself. And
"The Nation`s" Ari Melber.

Glenn, tough on crime, this was the winning strategy for 30 years.
These are the lingering effects. What can we do to turn it around?

GLENN MARTIN, THE FORTUNE SOCIETY: So, tough on crime is what got us
here. We have an explosion, a growth of 500 percent in our prison
population over the last 30 years here in America. And essentially America
has been sold a poor bill of goods and being told that tough on crime is a
direction to go, that we would reduce recidivism and reduce crime if we
focused on being tough on crime.

Now we are paying the price. We have 700,000 people exiting our
prison each year, 2.3 million people in our prison on any given day. And
we`ve turned our prisons into economic engines.


MARTIN: Essentially, there are communities that wouldn`t exist were
it not for the existence of the prisons in those communities.

HARRIS-PERRY: I want to pause on that because I`m not sure that
people understand the economic incentive structure that exists around
incarceration, because I think people think -- people do bad things. We
put them in jail. You got to put people in jail, or else they keep doing
bad things, rather than recognize there`s actual profit-driven here.

MARTIN: Sure. I mean, what people -- at the Fortune Society, we
actually keep people out of prison on the front end. So, there are
hundreds of thousands of people in prison currently that would have
benefited from treatment on the front end as opposed to being put into the
criminal justice system without actually exit on the other side, without
any access to treatment at all.

So, the general -- so if you look at New York, California and Texas,
three states that were closely compared to each other in terms of the
prison rate just 15, 20 years ago. New York state invested heavily in
alternatives to incarceration and now we are reaping the benefit.

The prison population is down 20 percent, our recidivism rate is down
slightly and definitely crime is down in New York. Whereas you look at
California and the judges are essentially telling them, you have to get
people 30,000, 40,000 people of out your prison system. And California`s
response? To put them into jails.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right. So, that Supreme Court ruling around
California`s prison system has to do with how incentivized, right, the
state prisons were to keep people locked up, is that right?

Part of the problem and California`s response, as Glenn was saying, yes,
they moved a lot of people out of their prisons into the local jails where
they don`t get the kinds of programs they need to eventually lead to
successful reentry and even more frightening is the move thousands of
people to other state facilities across the country.


ELIJAH: Which means that their families can`t have access to them
and all of the research shows that strong family ties maintained while
someone is incarcerated leads to successful reentry. So, the response to
California has -- that`s only going to make the problem worse down the

HARRIS-PERRY: I`m thinking, Ari, in the last segment, we`re talking
about why isn`t anyone talking about the poor? And we say, well, the poor
don`t vote, and that sort of -- that`s an empirical statement, but ex-
felons being unable to vote is often a policy statement. Is that why no
one is asking about prison conditions, prison reform, changing this
incentive structure?

ELIJAH: It`s a huge problem and notion that someone who has paid
their debt to society, which is even from a tough perspective, the baseline
of serving doesn`t have the ability to reengage in civil society. I mean,
I think that`s why the denial of voting rights is such an important issue
although it`s been determined constitutional. Doesn`t mean it is good

And then the other piece that I love to get your thoughts on is
people forget and the presidential campaign does not reflect the fact that
we`ve gone from a system where we have trial by juries of our peers, to a
system of plea bargaining between powerful prosecutors and powerless
defendants. How does that play into the way people get to prison?


MARTIN: Thirty to 40 years ago, when we moved to mandatory minimums,
the idea you get arrested for a crime, and has no discretion for the judge,
what we really did was moved the discretion to the prosecutors. And so,
now you have a system where 95 percent of the people go through the system
and the plea bargaining, before they get anywhere near a jury trial.

In fact, I think it was Michelle Alexander that pointed out if
everyone in the system said, I want to go to trial, this system would come
to a grinding halt. So what it means is that we have filled our prisons,
2.3 million people in prison, folks who don`t have a chance to even get
access to treatment, although I`d also make an argument that unfortunately,
the criminal justice system should not be the only way people have access
to treatment.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And let`s be clear when talking about this
explosion in the prison population, it`s vastly predominantly non-violent
crimes. These were mostly drug crimes.

MARTIN: That`s absolutely true. Our so-called war on drugs has
really resulted in a war on poor people because people, what the research
shows is that the vast majority of the people who use drugs are more
affluent and predominantly white.

But what we find is incarcerated is people of color and poorer
people. And treatment for drug addiction is what is the way we aught to go
because addiction is a disease and should not be criminalized.

HARRIS-PERRY: As soon as we come back on, we`ll pick up on something
I said earlier about families. And I want to think a little bit about sort
of the impact of this incarceration on folks beyond the wide circle, beyond
the individuals who are incarcerated. And also on states, if you`re a
taxpayer, you should care about this. Now, in California, there are so
many prisoners that when the court ordered the state had to deal with
overcrowding, they basically redefine the word "capacity" -- our capacity
to spend on this and not on the rest. That`s next.


HARRIS-PERRY: We are back and talking about the explosion of the
prison population. I just want to show you this number. This number is
what it costs taxpayers to keep state prisoners, $31,286 per state prisoner
annually -- $31,000. Think about all the things your state could spend
$31,000 a year on.

What are all our alternatives here, Soffiyah?

ELIJAH: We should be looking at alternatives to incarceration,
diverting people out of the criminal justice system, providing them with
the necessary education, counseling, substance treatment, mental health
treatment because of the disproportionate number of people incarcerated
with mental health issues.

If we use those alternatives, some of the approaches we have been
using in New York, for instance, we could find that we could decrease this
population substantially.

We could also release a number of our elderly incarcerated people.


ELIJAH: We have approximately 246,000 people over the age of 55 who
are incarcerated. And the population is growing. The prison population of
this age group has increased by over 63 percent in the past four years.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. This is part of that tough on crime, was to
put people in prison for life. So now what you have is this population of
people over 50, over 60, with very low recidivism rates. But we`re
spending upwards of $32,000. You know, I`m talking about the cost of the
taxpayer but the other piece is the costs we don`t necessarily talk about,
that are costs to the whole community.

What does it mean to live in a community where people are
disproportionally incarcerated?

MARTIN: Sure. It`s not just the $31,000 cost, but the question is
what sort of bang are we getting for our buck?


MARTIN: Sixty percent of the people who go to prison and come home
go back within three years. Any other industry with that failure rate
would be out of existence. Instead, we keep feeding resources into the
criminal justice system in the United States and doing things the same
repeatedly. And with the 700,000 people coming home from prison, they`re
not going across America. They`re going to very specific communities --
communities that are disproportionately impacted. Communities of color,
poor communities, so it`s not just the fact that these people have done
long periods of time in prison and are not prepared upon return, but it`s
also the invisible punishment that we attach.

The fact that you can`t vote --

HARRIS-PERRY: You can`t vote, you can`t live in public housing. So,
if you can`t live in public housing, you`re going back to a poor community,
and your wife or your mother or your sister lives in public housing, you
can`t be together as a family, right, because you are no longer allowed to
live in public housing.

MARTIN: So, the communities that need the political power the most
to be able to get the resources responsible to the large number of people
coming home are the same communities that experienced a huge amount of
voter dilution as a result of so many people coming home without the
ability to vote.

HARRIS-PERRY: You know, there are two sides to this as well around -
- like when I think about the costs born --you made the point about the
elderly, about the people who have served so many years who are unlikely to
return than others.

You know, there`s this tax code called what will happen to me about
the children, there are nearly 3 million children who have parents in
prison. It`s this kind of beautiful book with these beautiful faces of
young people talking about their sadness, this young woman talking about I
felt so sad I was crying, it made my head hurt, my brain hurt, my stomach

This young woman has not committed a crime. Her mother is imprisoned
for a drug crime and she is managing all the psychosocial, you know,
cultural aspects of that. It just feels like it is time to talk about a
new solution.

ELIJAH: I couldn`t agree with you more. The devastating impact on
the children of parents who are incarcerated, we see this manifesting
itself in the schools, because if a child has just come back from a visit
with a parent, that child is unlikely to be focused on what`s going on in
school because of the emotional issues that you just identified. And then
that child`s performance starts to decline. And then it becomes a self-
perpetuating, devastating impact.

HARRIS-PERRY: Is it possible to imagine our party saying build
schools, not prisons?

MELBER: Not right now. I think that what we are hearing from
Soffiyah and Glenn is the cycle of de-legitimatization. And it starts at
the level of the individual defendant. But it goes all the way up to the
political system. If you talk about decriminalizing marijuana in
Washington, D.C., you`re laugh out of the room.


MELBER: Either you`re like a hippy, which is don`t thrown back --
there aren`t really many hippies around, so you`re probably not a hippie.


MELBER: Or you`re some sort of politically naive person who wants to
cuddle criminals.


MELBER: Those are not the only two choices. And just to pick a
specific example -- last week, President Obama went for the first time
(INAUDIBLE) where you can get grassroots questions from around the country,
and there were a bunch about drug policy. And the Washington media says,
oh, there`s that marijuana question again, oh, those stoners.

Well, no, the issues around marijuana or crack cocaine are not just
about drug users, they are about the question whether we think this is the
right trade-off to delegitimize and dehumanize people and take them away
and disappear them as individuals and disappear these issues from our
political discourse. Is this the right tradeoff? A lot of people think

HARRIS-PERRY: And I`ve got more on this question of prisons in just
a moment. But first it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT" -
- Alex.

ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hello, Melissa. Well, to you -- everybody,
hello out there.

And on the campaign trail, jobs seems to be the number one issue out
there. How both parties are reacting. Plus, new poll numbers that suggest
President Obama may have gotten a convention bounce.

New storm warnings out at this hour, and it`s not just from tropical
storm Leslie. In fact, we`re going to bring you the very latest in a busy
weather day, including right here in Manhattan.

Plus, we`re nearing the 9/11 anniversary. One analyst says there are
terrorists in the U.S. now who would like to avenge the death of Osama bin
Laden with an attack. It is the topic of today`s office politics.

And a new study just out that tells us which states are the most
expensive when it comes to raising children. The top few surprise some
surprises for you. We`re going share that with our viewers.

Melissa, back to you.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Alex.

And up next, the surprising solution found in prison food.


HARRIS-PERRY: Right now on Rikers Island, two dozen inmates are
waiting for a program that could change their lives. In just a few weeks,
they will join Fresh Start, in hopes of getting just that.

They inspired to follow the example of the 18 students, inmates
actually, who earlier this summer completed the 10 weeks, 40-hour a week
culinary training program in Rikers Island jail here in New York.

Now, the opportunities made possible by Elizabeth Gaynes, our foot
soldier of the week. Liz operates under a very simple premise about the
inmates her program works with.


ELIZABETH GAYNES: They can take responsibility for what`s happened,
make amends for the harm that they`ve caused, and then come back and be
part of the community.


HARRIS-PERRY: As a law student in 1970s, the shock of Attica prison
riots where 29 inmates were killed set Liz on a career path dedicated to
the lives and betterment of inmates. She also has a personal connection.
For 25 years, Liz drove six hours each way between New York City and
Virginia, bringing her two children to see their incarcerated father.

Liz learned firsthand how a prison sentence applies to more than just
the prisoner. And when Liz joined the Osborne Association, the nonprofit
that runs the Fresh Start program, as its executive director, the
organization had two employees. They served 50 prison inmates a year.

Twenty-eight years later, Osborne has 200 employees and works with
7,000 prisoners and family members a year. Fresh Start draws participants
in with culinary training, but also offers computer literacy classes, job
readiness and life skills. Inmates take part in their communities, cooking
and serving holiday meals. And once an inmate has completed the program
and left Rikers Island, Fresh Start offers job and school placement

Wondering if it works? Since its inception, 1,500 men have completed
Fresh Start. The "New York Times" reports that of the inmates who take
part in the Fresh Start program, 90 percent do not return to jail within
the year. Cost to the city? Five thousand dollars per participant.

Many people come together to make Fresh Start possible, but Liz
Gaynes is the program`s lifeblood and driving force.

And as she told us, "To be effective in this work you have to spend
time in jail to listen to what people need. It`s not a job you can do
behind a desk."

For getting out from behind that desk and for making a difference to
those that so many would just as soon forget, Liz Gaynes is our foot
soldier of the week.

And that is our show today. Thank you to Soffiyah, Glenn, and Ari
for sticking around. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll see you
tomorrow morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

Coming up right now, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."


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