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'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

November 3, 2012

Guests: Neera Tanden, David Rohde, Katon Dawson, Ari Melber, Lakshman
Achuthan, Jonathan Cohn, Seth Andrew

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. What
if Mitt Romney is the next president of the United States? Plus, 5.4
million private sector jobs created in undeniable recovery.

And teaching students to be citizens. But first, why Sandy should
make us ask, what is a disaster anyway?

Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris Perry coming to you this morning
from our studio on Democracy Plaza in Rockefeller Center, here in New York
City. The New York City still reeling from the effects of super storm
Sandy and her landfall earlier this week. Today, 2.5 million people remain
without power and at least 40 New Yorkers have died in the storms
aftermath. Almost half of those deaths were in just one of the boroughs
that make up the five boroughs of New York, Staten Island. Now, this
striking image was captured by an NBC producer on Yetmen (ph) Avenue on
Staten Island. Sandy`s wake left the debris in the backyard of John Della
Rosa`s severely damaged home. Smashed plates and wine bubbles from a
nearby restaurant mingled with ominous Halloween decorations. Overwhelmed
by the devastation, rocked by the power of the storm, Mr. Della Rosa is
left to pick up the pieces of the storm surge which sent more than 8 feet
of water into the neighborhood. He is also left to grieve the losses of
his next door neighbors, the foundation and stairs are all that remain of
the Dresh family home.

George Dresh and his 13-year-old daughter, Angela died, when the storm
surge came through their home. And George`s wife and Angela`s mother,
Patricia, remain in the hospital. That is one story of devastation brought
by the hurricane on one street in one neighborhood in New York City. The
immediate aftermath of the storm, President Obama declared a large swath of
the East Coast as a major disaster area. Neighborhoods brought to their
knees by what we think of as mother nature`s dispassionate, impersonal and
indiscriminate force. But in fact, storms do discriminate. Hurricane-
force winds blow back the covers on the structural inequities and reveal
the life and death consequences of those inequalities, slamming directly
into the heart of one of the world`s biggest metropolises, where the
disparity is the starkest.

Sandy racked the focus of its devastation in a way that lets us see
those differences. 21 percent of this city lives in poverty. And on the
island of Manhattan, the wealthiest fifth make 40 times that of the poorest
fifth. A gap only surpassed by a few developing nations. This is a
disaster that we live with each and every day, the Gulf between the rich
and poor in this city was only exacerbated by the great recession. All of
us are still living through a disaster brought on by the immediate
devastation from the financial crash and housing crises. In fact, we have
been living in a state of disaster since the financial storm racked our
nation to its structural core. A housing cyclone that hollowed out more
homes that Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy combined. The very definition of
disaster needs broadening.

We need to recapture the initial horror, the tremendous human loss and
emotional trauma created by those single natural disasters and put it
toward the relief of our ongoing national disasters. The energy gathered
by gale force winds has the power to focus our public attention. Super
storm Sandy may in fact help the electorate focus in the few days that
remain in the 2012 presidential campaign. Our votes on Tuesday will be for
a disaster manager in chief taking charge of a country in an economic state
of emergency, building a society that leaves all of us more prepared for

At my table is MSNBC contributor Ari Melber, correspondent for the
"Nation" magazine, Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress and a
former White House advisor. Katon Dawson, Republican consultant and former
South Carolina GOP chair and David Rohde, a Reuters columnist and a
contributor for the Atlantic. Thank you all for being here.


HARRIS-PERRY: David, I want to start with you. Because this is
really, the article, the piece that you wrote was about the inequalities
that have been revealed in the context of Sandy.

ROHDE: It was this -- as a New-Yorker and I want to first -- I am one
of the privileged New Yorkers. There has always been divisions in the
city, but this story brought -- this storm brought them out more vividly
than ever. I was able to go to a hotel. I was in a mandatory evacuation
area. And I went to this hotel. And it struck me that if you had wealth,
you could shelter in a nice place like I had. If you had a car, you could
leave the city, if you had a steady job, you didn`t have to work. All
around this hotel were restaurant workers that had no choice and stayed.
There was a restaurant serving food two to three hours before landfall of
Sandy ...


ROHDE: Right by this hotel, maids in the hotel once told me she was
calling her family in Queens, terrified what happened to them, a doorman
worried about his mom uptown, and then garage attendant, the next day after
the storm, I asked him and he talked to me, his family, he hadn`t been able
to reach his sister in New Jersey. But I said, where did you spend the
storm? And he said he slept in his car.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, David, when you tell me these stories, they sound
-- I mean those images from Staten Island, particularly the stairs to
nowhere, that is an iconic image of really -- of the lower Ninth Ward of
those of us who lived in post-Katrina New Orleans, those stairs to nowhere
where houses were just knocked straight off their foundation. But the
stories that you are telling right here are also such reminders to me that
when a storm comes at the end of the month, right. If you have a savings
account, no problem, if it comes at the end of the month, right, because
you can as you say, put gas in your car, get food out of fast food
restaurant and get out of town. But if it comes at the end of the month
and you need to wait until the first of the month to get paid, you are
never more broke than your at the end of the month. Is there something
that we learn here about kind of the broader notion of what constitutes
disaster. If we can take a step back from the kind of immediate cause and
learn something about what`s happening underneath.

mentioned, I mean what`s really happening here is that we have these
moments in time where you can like a light is shown on these inequalities.
We live with them all the time. But in a moment where people are
suffering, there is greater concern. People can look at it in a new light.
So I think the question is, is this a teachable moment. Do we take this
opportunity to say, you know, it`s just really wrong that when it comes to
life and death choices, or whether a mother -- or when a mother is
concerned about her children or her parents or husband, is it right that
some group of people have such constrained choices and others don`t? And I
think that`s what we have to really think about in these issues, which is
how do we address them, how do we insure that there is action taken around
them and we don`t just wait for the next disaster?

HARRIS-PERRY: And so, for Katon, for me, this is where the politics
of it is. So you know, you hear, don`t politicize a disaster, people are
dying. And yet, there are politics, particularly because the disaster is
so much more long lasting. You were talking about this, Neera, as a
possible teachable moment. I want to listen to candidate Romney on June
13th, 2011, talking about FEMA during a presidential debate. Because I
think this is kind of the key teachable moment that we all want to here.

Oh, actually, so -- we are in new studio, Democracy Plaza, so we don`t
have it this morning. But I will read just a bit of it. When he was asked
by John King about FEMA, Mr. Romney said absolutely every time you have an
occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to
the states, that`s the right direction. If you have -- you can go even
further and send it back to the private sector. That`s even better. So he
talks about taking FEMA and basically divesting it into the states. And
yet, this week, I think that statement is many coming back to haunt him.
Is this more than anything a teachable moment for Mitt Romney?

KATON DAWSON, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: The storms bring the best and
the worst out in America. And they both seem to show up during a natural
disaster. And a natural disaster is one that crosses a couple of states.
I lived through Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and watched the politics of a
hurricane. We were out of power. My house for a couple of weeks, my
business was down. And it`s like you say, it`s an economic nightmare for
people who live on the edge, and for politicians, they have to be very
careful. It can make or break a political career. This is an instance
where the American public, both Democrat and Republican expect the
government to step up, and not just step up for a couple of days or a
couple of sound bites. And right now, it is the sound bites that are going
to get us to this election. And it`s certainly been good for President
Obama. He has showed leadership. Governor Romney was a governor of a
state, I don`t think there was a natural disaster while he was governor to
be able to manage four lanes of highway traffic moving, no gasoline. But
it is a teachable moment. And it is one where once you land in New York,
you see the city is a little empty and people are fairly desperate and the
desperation is just going to start. Because our hearts and prayers from
people who live in harm`s way in the southeast in the United States, people
who went through Katrina know what it is. But the political ramifications
very well could show up on Tuesday.

HARRIS-PERRY: So are -- is this a moment when as much as we are
talking about the politics is short-term electoral politics, is this a
moment where as Neera and David are saying, we can get through a broader
political conversation? Because it`s not just that Mitt Romney would
devolve FEMA back to the states, states which then can`t use it, because
they are under water at the moment, but that -- the very notion of
inequality, of that 47 percent of all of that, that that is what is
revealed in this moment.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think that`s right. And the feeling
you have when you see what you just showed, which was someone through no
fault of their own being dealt with the worst tragedy that can befall a
human being. And the feeling that that`s wrong, and it`s not their fault.
That`s the feeling I think a lot of people have in general when you look at
people who through no fault of their own were born into tough

That is the feeling that animates a lot of modern liberalism. And it
is a feeling that conservatives do have sometimes although they talk more
about other elements in society like churches or private charities stepping
up. But to your point, the church isn`t going to solve this problem.
There are big enough problems, big enough inequalities that only government
can deal with. And what we have seen from the Republican primary, is a
little bit like seeing into someone. If someone is courting you, they want
to take you out and they want to tell you how great they are and they want
to seal the deal. But you get a portal into them just talking to their
friends. And it turns out they sound different or they trash talk you.
That`s what we know from this year`s Republican primary.

That`s not always the case. But to go to two moments, the one you
showed and the one when Congressman Ron Paul said, well, you know, there
really shouldn`t be any help in an emergency. If you go to the E.R., you
should be allowed to die rather than to have government help. And there
was applause, and that was the Republican mainstream position. And the
problem for that is, and it really relates to everything you are talking
about, is that position, that got applause in the Republican primary, is
illegal ...


MELBER: .. because a Republican Senate and a Republican President,
Ronald Reagan, signed a law saying you do need that assistance.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.

MELBER: The feeling you got when you go to the E.R. or that feeling
you have when you want FEMA to be there is a good feeling. But it also is
a big government feeling.

HARRIS-PERRY: And we are going to come back on exactly this topic.
And because the picture of President Obama and Mitt Romney`s top surrogate,
in fact, the guy he wanted to be V.P. candidate, Governor Chris Christie,
that picture together said it all this week. Sandy may have been the
October surprise that no one saw coming.

Also, an important announcement. Tune in for a special edition of our
show, "Why Women Matter," live tonight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on


HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. We are here in Democracy Plaza home of
NBC`s Decision 2012 coverage. Thousands will gather here on election night
watching the results come in. The iconic skating rink will hold a map of
the United States, with states icing over in red or blue as the racers
called by the NBC News decision desk, red and blue banners, representing
electoral votes will rise up in the front of the building as each campaign
climbs towards 270.

Now, we turn back to the discussion of Sandy. The drama of the storm,
whether political or weather related is never without a protagonist. And
this political season we were gifted with many. Super storm Sandy, itself,
had stolen the spotlight as the leading lady of this presidential election,
and a lot of political hay has been made this week from the storm`s debris.
Cue the political tropes. Quick to the draw, Mediaiate rushed to announce
the Sandy effect: a win for the president. Forget Obama`s Katrina. This
is October surprise named Sandy. Thankfully, in the last days, many have
thoughtfully considered the role of a strong infrastructure and an even
stronger centralized government. This October surprise helped us to focus
on the very real need for the kind of disaster planning and preparedness
that only our government can provide. And this morning, President Obama
said he remains focused as well.


continues to be my number one priority. There is nothing more important
than us getting this right. And we are going to spend as much time,
effort, and energy as necessary to make sure that all the people in New
York, New Jersey, and Connecticut know that the entire country is behind


HARRIS-PERRY: So, back to my panel, David, you know, in the immediate
moments after a disaster, we feel like, oh, all victims are worthy and we
have this sort of rallying around the -- rallying around the victim effect.
How long does that last? And should we expect in this context that some
folks are going to be made into villains.

ROHDE: That is going to happen.


ROHDE: And this is not over by any means. There is tremendous anger
on Staten Island. The power is coming back on in Manhattan today. That`s
not going to surprise a lot of people in the outer Boroughs. They are
talking about November 10 for other people getting their power back. There
is the same sense of inequality. And I have to say that yesterday, Mayor
Mike Bloomberg nearly blew it.


ROHDE: This marathon decision was astonishing, it was incredibly
foolish and insensitive. He is very stubborn. You know, the details this
morning are that virtually all the deputy mayors and the police
commissioner turned on him and said, do not hold this marathon. So, gas
lines are enormous.

HARRIS-PERRY: And let me -- and beyond the optics, part of it is the
optics of running through a disaster zone, but the other piece of it the
number of generators, the amount of, you know, the number of workers, of
all things you were talking about in terms of hotel workers, those are
human beings who themselves are also impacted by this storm.

ROHDE: And this is a test of government, in terms of, you know, both
sides here. The government can still fail in the coming days. You know,
people are furious about, you know, this gas rationing now. In the -- like
in the `70s, odd license plates. Chris Christie decreed yesterday you can
buy gas in New Jersey on odd days, even license plates, even days. If that
tension continues, if all this delivery of gas doesn`t happen, this could
still backfire on the president. It is not an automatic thing for him.
The government must perform or we are not through this yet.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, I still do think, Ari, the great optic, the one
that at least this moment I think is going to carry us to Tuesday is that
Chris Christie embracing of President Obama. I want to listen just for a
moment to sort of how Chris Christie was talking on Fox News Channel about
his interest in having the president and his disinterest in having Mitt


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any possibility that Governor Romney may
go to New Jersey to tour some of the damage with you?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: I have no idea nor am I the least bit
concerned or interested.


CHRISTIE: I`ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that is much bigger
than presidential politics. And I could care less about any of that stuff.
I have a job to do. I`ve got 2.4 million people out of power. I`ve got
devastation on the shore. I`ve got floods in the northern part of my
state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics,
then you don`t know me.


HARRIS-PERRY: No better way to run for 2016 than to say I don`t give
a damn about presidential politics. I mean I take him at his word but
there is also -- I mean there always is a politics to this.

MELBER: Can I start answering questions from you the way Governor
Christie talks to Fox?


MELBER: I don`t give a damn about the premise of your question.

HARRIS-PERRY: No, right.

MELBER: It`s too much, it`s too strong, and the question, to be fair
to Steve Doocy, who asks a lot of really bad questions -- that was a
straight question. Prior to that clip, they were talking about the role of
the president. And then to balance it out, he asked, I don`t think there
was any spin on the ball. He said, what about Governor Romney? And it is
not unusual, by the way, within the traditions of our country to have the
challenger engaged. We do that on foreign policy. They get briefings.
Governor Romney has been included and offered to talk to the management
infrastructure. And there are briefings if you win. If Governor Romney
were to win, there would be briefings before he became president. So, it
was not at all a political question to my view. I think it was a fair
question. I think what we saw was Governor Christie`s desire to show
everyone how strongly he is apolitical, which, as you said, makes him look

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, absolutely. Neera.

TANDEN: Yeah, I mean I would say, you know, having worked for a lot
of politicians, I don`t think we should always read into everyone`s
motives. I mean obviously, there is politics here, but at the end of the
day, Chris Christie is aware of it. He is going to be judged not on today
or tomorrow, but over the next several weeks, and his number one priority
has to be that people of New Jersey that he is working on this. And having
an event with Mitt Romney while people don`t have power, would seem very
political. So, I think he had the right response. Maybe he was a little
bit more confrontational than I would be. But, you know, I mean that the
substances of this is the right one. And, you know, the fact that we have
politicians reaching across the aisle is something we should separate ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, Neera ...

TANDEN: ... instead of looking at their -- looking at their motives

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, I would ...

TANDEN: And that`s what also feeds distrust in government.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, I would agree that we should embrace this idea of
kind of a bipartisan moment. I`m just saying that the fact is, it doesn`t
have to happen that way. You know, again, living in Louisiana with Bobby
Jindal who during the last hurricane, during Isaac, you know, when I lost a
home, Jindal refused to allow the president on the ground initially,
embraced and accepted Romney. And so I guess, it is only to say that --
it`s not to say that there is a pure cynical motive on the part of
Christie, but that a few days before an election, his embrace of President
Obama and President Obama`s skill in managing this, ends up having
political consequences.

TANDEN: Absolutely. You know what -- Bobby Jindal looks much smaller
today ...


TANDEN: ... because of what Governor Christie did.


TANDEN: I think that`s the right lesson from this.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, around here we like to say hash tag, FBJ, forget
Bobby Jindal.


HARRIS-PERRY: All right. We should note that earlier this morning,
New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced the Department of Defense will
be setting up gas distribution centers here in New York to help motorists.
And there will be a ten gallon limit.

Up next, the convention speech one-liner Mitt Romney would rather we



promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans.


ROMNEY: And to heal the planet.


ROMNEY: My promise is to help you and your family.



HARRIS-PERRY: Tell that to the people across the East Coast today
still dealing with the effects of the planet`s rising oceans and raging
storms. Sometimes, Mr. Romney, climate infrastructure and family are the
same thing.

Back to my panel, David. After Katrina, we started talking about
category 5 levees. New York people all the time say we need category 5
levees. And I kept thinking, but the category 5 levees we need are shelter
and quality education and health care for everybody and infrastructure and
transportation so that people can move on. Is there any possibility of
taking this moment and actually having that broader conversation about the
kind of levees we need, not a surge wall out there, but sort of
environmental policy that keeps this sort of thing from happening or
housing policy that makes it easier to manage this?

ROHDE: I think there is. I agree with Neera that people like this
sort of post-partisan moment. They are tired of this partisan politics, we
were talking about it in the break, people are tired and nothing getting
done. You know, this paralysis. So, we need it all. We need education,
we need infrastructure. You know, and even Bloomberg, you know, this week
endorsed Obama citing global warming as the cause. And the president ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Bloomberg Businessweek, right, it`s global
warming, stupid, right.

ROHDE: For the last -- you know, twice in the last, you know, 14
months, New York City has had to evacuate because of these massive
hurricanes. That has never happened before in the city`s history. So, all
these things are in play. This has changed the dynamic. But I think there
is a sense, you know, we need to move on this. And I wish we could have
bipartisan agreement on how to move forward on the economy, on education.

HARRIS-PERRY: But Katon, it is tough to have bipartisan agreement
when Republicans keep being, you know, climate change deniers and -- and
sort of anti-science in a variety of ways.

DAWSON: Well, anti-science, sort -- I mean we are still dealing with
46 million people on food stamps. We are still dealing with a 50 percent
increase in the national debt, we are still dealing with a 100 percent
increase in the gasoline price. And now, in New Jersey, they can only get
ten gallons.


DAWSON: We are dealing with a lot of economic problems.

HARRIS-PERRY: But those things aren`t separate. I guess part of what
Sandy tells us, is yes, we are dealing with all of those things. And
that`s not somehow separate from trying to get a laugh line by talking
about the rising ocean.

DAWSON: I think what Sandy tells us is everybody here involved wants
to see C-130s one after another, unloading electric trucks to help them.
And then they expect the government to show up. And it is what level the
government takes their responsibilities. I think we are going to see
firsthand, not enough time between now and Tuesday to see what this storm
has done to the presidential election. Plus, the states where it`s
affected are states the Republicans are going to win.

HARRIS-PERRY: But, OK, so I guess I will say to Katon`s point, is,
you know, if we keep thinking of government`s response as only about
response after the fact rather than thinking about the money that is saved
and the policies and the fairness associated with doing disaster planning
through fair governance in the first place.

MELBER: Right. You are talking about wanting a cop on the block to
do the job. And I think what Melissa is talking about is funding the cop,
training the cop, making sure we have the right cops. That`s a policy
discussion. And it goes deeper than this disaster. The problem I see is
what you are talking about bipartisanship, but I think conservatives have
brainwashed a lot of what I would call the political class into right-wing
rules for disasters that require liberal reforms. So, when there is a
school shooting, it is politicization, right ...


MELBER: ... to talk about gun control.

HARRIS-PERRY: Gun control.

MELBER: When there is a disaster like this, it is politicization to
talk about these kind of reforms are dealing with structural inequalities,
but when there is a terror attack, what we need, the Patriot Act, we need
to go to war, we need to do all these things. And this is so baked in that
if you watch, you know, a lot of Sunday shows and other networks, you know,
you will just hear that stated not as an idea or a concept, but for really
as a premise that to talk about big government right now would be to
somehow abuse the disaster. I think it is the opposite. We live in a
democracy. So, when we have problems, we deal with them through democracy
and politics.

TANDEN: I mean I guess what I would take from this, is there is
something really basic: infrastructure needs. Right. We have reports
about New York needing more infrastructure investment to protect against
this. And, you know, here is -- here is what`s sad about the moment we
live in. We have zero percent interest rates, essentially.


TANDEN: This is the opportune time to have investment in
infrastructure. We don`t have enough -- you know, we are growing, but we
could use more jobs.


TANDEN: This would be a way to employ more people. The president has
had an infrastructure proposal before the Congress for years, and they
won`t act on it. But they will act on payroll tax cuts, but not on these
things. And that`s what`s depressing about our politics is that even
things that people -- across the aisle -- Republicans were supporting
infrastructure investments five years ago. We can`t get action like that,
and we are looking now at a situation where we are going to have to spend
hundreds of billions of dollars instead of spending the $10 billion or $15
billion to protect (inaudible). So that`s what`s depressing about it. It
is like common sense notions ...

HARRIS-PERRY: But I think ...

TANDEN: ... are politicized in a way that you can`t get action.

HARRIS-PERRY: It feels more than -- I mean so I (inaudible)
depressing but it also feels deeply strategic in the way that Ari was
talking about. I mean, you know, these sort of infrastructure investments
have been acceptable as long as they are happening through disaster
capitalism. This is kind of, you know, Naomi Klein`s point that yes, there
are people who profit and there are jobs to be had and there is
infrastructure to be built after these disasters, but it is overwhelmingly
not the public sector in the public interest that ends up doing it, right,
it`s these sort of storm chasers disaster capitalists who come in to do it.
David, I really appreciate you being here today.

ROHDE: Thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, David Rohde, and the rest, however, are back for
more. But before we go to break, I do want to acknowledge just one little
thing. I know that many of the visuals created by Sandy are traumatic and
upsetting. There was one image, a great image of inspiration and change
that emerged in the story of Sandy. And it`s this image: the woman next
to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is Lydia Callis. Lydia grew up in a
deaf family and is the mayor`s new sign interpreter. We have been talking
about inequality and the mayor did one thing right. He kept Lydia next to
him. Some have criticized her animated style, but those of us here in
Nerdland love it, because in times of crisis, communication is key. And
that`s part of what Lydia delivers. Kudos to Lydia to even knowing how to
sign with a New York accent. Stay with us. My weekly trip to the post
office is next. I`ve got a letter to send to that fellow who did a heck of
a job.


HARRIS-PERRY: This week, many made comparisons between the federal
response to super storm Sandy and that of the Bush administration in 2005
after the levee failure following Hurricane Katrina. None was more
stunning than that of former FEMA chief, Michael Brown. So stunning that I
thought it deserved an open letter.

Dear Michael, it is me, Melissa. You won`t mind if I call you
Brownie, do you? So I hear you have a few choice words for President Obama
about his response to Hurricane Sandy. You actually said, one thing he is
going to be asked is, why did he jump on the hurricane so quickly and go
back to D.C. so quick?

Actually, no. No one is going to ask the president of the United
States why he responded so quickly to an unprecedented weather event
threatening millions. Why? Because while it is bad manners to show up
early for a dinner party, it is actually a really great idea to show up
early to disaster response.

I am a little taken aback that you don`t already know this after you
and your boss, W., fumbled the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Your
failures became the impetus for a 218 page report. The report reads
"FEMA`s efforts to support state emergency management and to prepare the
federal response and recovery in natural disasters were insufficient for an
event of Hurricane Katrina`s magnitude." Your agency was described as
"overwhelmed the first week after landfall." Maybe FEMA was overwhelmed
because you, the director, were given full authority to respond to Katrina
on August 27th, but didn`t request Homeland Security workers for four hours
after Katrina hit on the 29th. Maybe it was your decision to only send 100
buses to Louisiana after the National Guard requested 700 for evacuations,
or maybe it is because in the midst of a crisis, you were busy sending cute
e-mails to your staff about your clothing choices and joking, I`m trapped
now, please rescue me, as New Orleans was actually trapped without food or

So remember, when two days after Katrina hit and a FEMA employee told
you the situation is past critical and listed problems, including many
people near death and food and water running out at the Superdome, your
entire response was, "thanks for the update, anything specific I need to do
or tweak?"

But it is not all your fault. You never should have been in that
role. After all, you had no experience or qualification, having been a
lawyer for the International Arabian Horse Association, which is perhaps
why President Obama, unlike your boss, chose an experienced disaster
manager to head FEMA. Craig Fugate was the director of the Florida
division of Emergency Management. He managed a 138 full time staff and a
budget of 745 million. His experience? in 2004, Fugate managed the
largest federal disaster response in Florida history as Hurricane`s
Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne all pummeled the state in quick
succession -- and oh, yeah, he was even a volunteer firefighter and

So, you see, Brownie, President Obama didn`t begin preparing for Sandy
on Sunday. He started in 2009 when he appointed a qualified, responsive
leader to manage FEMA.

Jarvis DeBerry writing for my home town site,, asked this
pointed question when it comes to your experience on disaster. If a
reporter comes calling with a question for comment, why would you even
answer the phone? But I thank you for your intervention into public
discourse. Because it is a reminder of the stark and important choices we
are facing in this election. Pick another Bush who will put someone like
you in charge of our national vulnerability or reelect President Obama
whose idea of a qualified leader is Craig Fugate. In one of your famous
Katrina e-mails in `05 you asked, can I quit now? The answer is yes, yes,
please, quit now.

Sincerely, Melissa.


HARRIS-PERRY: Some of you out there in Nerdland will hate to even ask
the question, but it must be asked. What if? What if Mitt Romney wins?
OK, OK, OK, I said it. Well, for starters, he is going to have one very,
very busy first day.


administration, I will label China a currency manipulator. welfare.

Taking work out of welfare -- something I`ll change, I`ll tell you
that. Day one.

Day one, we will say yes to Keystone pipeline and get that under way.

My presidency will be a pro-life presidency.

One day one, I will ...


ROMNEY: I will ensure that organizations like Planned Parenthood get
no more federal support.

I`ll get rid of Obamacare day one.

We are going to get rid of Obamacare. On day one, getting rid of
Obamacare. Day one. I will repeal Obamacare on day one with all the
energy I can muster.


HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So if we are going to take Mitt Romney at
his word. OK, stop laughing, let`s say we are going to take Mitt Romney at
his word. He will get all of that done on his first day in office. But
what about the next four years? What would a Romney presidency really look
like? Joining me to prognosticate, are again, "The Nation`s" Ari Melber,
Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress, Republican consultant
Katon Dawson. And joining the panel now is Lakshman Achuthan, co-founder
and chief operation`s officer of the Economic Cycle Research Institute. He
is the co-author of "Beating the Business Cycle." Lakshman, thanks for
joining us.


HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s start with the tax plans. Let`s just start with
-- if I believe that there is something that Mitt Romney really is invested
in doing, it is his tax plan.


HARRIS-PERRY: He claims it is revenue neutral.

ACHUTHAN: Right. Well, that -- I mean you have to claim certain
things, I guess. But this actually goes for both sides. There is this
thing called the business cycle.


ACHUTHAN: This is what we study. In a free market economy,
recessions and recoveries, upswings and downswings are part and parcel of
the world we live in. And you can`t really control it that much. That`s
the problem, right? So when we look at how budgets are proposed ...


ACHUTHAN: Then you see them on both sides. They basically proposed,
I think, off of the Congressional Budget Office`s projections. Take a look
at those. They are not that realistic. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, they are
projecting real GDP growth ...


ACHUTHAN: ... of 4.4 percent. It sounds pretty good. But how
realistic is it? And if you take a look at reality, what`s happened since
the beginning of the century? GDP has grown at 1.7 percent and we know we
are in a pretty sluggish economy. There is a huge disconnect between
what`s proposed and what`s going on outside this window.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, Katon, that`s -- I mean that`s the big
deal, right? The claim is, I`m going to go in and cut taxes. But don`t
worry, cutting taxes is going to be stimulative. We are going to end up
with way more jobs and so even though there will be fewer taxes from each
individual there will be way more people paying into the tax system. It`s
revenue neutral. And so Lakshman is telling us, well, wait a minute, you
have a lot of control over how much you charge people in taxes, right,
that`s just a legislative choice. But the business cycle may not end up
producing all these additional jobs. What he is doing on day one is adding
to the deficit.

DAWSON: Could be, but let`s go back to 1980 and Ronald Reagan who
changed tax policy, moved -- a similar situation to now. The elections are
a little different. But I don`t know many people who trust Washington to
have any more money to spend.

TANDEN: Well, I think -- I think Reagan is a great example. Because
he did cut taxes and then we had exploiting deficits. That did happen in
1980s. We also have another example.

HARRIS-PERRY: But then he raised them.

TANDEN: But then -- and then he raised them. And then, another -- -
but we do also have another example from the 1990s ...


TANDEN: ... which is President Clinton, who had a balanced budget.
He asked the wealthy to pay more. They went through -- rates went up to


TANDEN: And we had eight years of very strong growth.

HARRIS-PERRY: Including surplus.

TANDEN: I`m not saying the taxes cause that ...


TANDEN: ... but we know that having higher taxes on wealthy Americans
didn`t lead to a recession as Republicans have argued. And that`s what`s
really daunting about the whole discussion about taxes. And the fact that
we have no real idea what Mitt Romney will do on taxes as president ...


TANDEN: ... other than take -- if we take him at his word, it does
mean that middle class Americans will pay more in taxes. So there is
either he is not being honest with us or middle class Americans will see a
tax increase. And that`s the choice people have on Tuesday.

HARRIS-PERRY: And he also seems to be threatening us a little bit.
Ari, I want you to respond to this. Let`s listen to Mitt Romney who seems
to be threatening that if President Obama is reelected that Republicans are
going to take us over the fiscal cliff. Let`s listen to this.


ROMNEY: And unless we change course, we may well be looking at
another recession. You know that if the president is reelected, he will
still be unable to work with the people in Congress. I mean he has ignored
them. He has attacked them. He has blamed them. The debt ceiling will
come up again and shut down and default will be threatening chilling the


MELBER: The debt ceiling will come up again. It just will happen.
It is just this thing that will transpire and destroy the president`s
second term. The debt ceiling doesn`t just come up. There is a process by
which Congress votes to raise it and has done so as everyone may remember
from the last terrible fight under presidents from both parties for several
decades. This is the first time the hostage crisis got this bad.


MELBER: It got so bad that many very serious economic voices,
including many prominent Republicans in this town went really hard on the
House Republicans and pushed back and said, you cannot do this, because it
is just an economic suicide. It makes no sense.


MELBER: It`s a terrible thing. And to be clear again, I love people
to know this, but just to restate it, what the debt ceiling does is deal
with the spending decisions Congress has already made ...


MELBER: ... both parties. Both parties, so there are some
Republicans who were really bad and irresponsible on that, and some, by the
way, to be fair who tried to walk it back from the brink, including a lot
of Republican constituents. So the problem here is what you are seeing is
the most irresponsible type of approach to an election, which is
threatening to do bad things to the economy and the country. During a
recession, by the way, but that any time, in order to get your political


ACHUTHAN: -- slight thing on the framing also. Somehow one policy or
another will avert a recession.


ACHUTHAN: That`s kind of naive. We have 222 years of business cycle
history for the United States. We have had 47 recessions. None of them
were welcome. All of them people tried to avoid. And so, the idea that
one policy or another will push a recession off indefinitely is also naive
or that if a certain policy will bring one on.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, yeah ...

ACHUTHAN: Yeah, yeah ...


ACHUTHAN: You know, it just doesn`t work that way.

HARRIS-PERRY: And not only a policy, but like, one politician versus
another one.


TANDEN: I have to disagree with this a little bit. Because, you
know, government policy can exacerbate recessions.


TANDEN: Look at what`s happening in Britain, with massive austerity
policies adapted ...

ACHUTHAN: Exacerbate ...

TANDEN: And they have -- they are going into a double dip reception.
And if you look at policies, you know ...


TANDEN: Mitt Romney -- I mean the first thing that Mitt Romney and
Paul Ryan are going to do adopt a budget that is going to take money out of
the economy, and take it, you know, from middle class families and people,
seniors, et cetera, and they support a variety of proposals. And that --
it can`t be very damaging, it is not like you can`t have a double dip
recession. You can.

ACHUTHAN: To the contrary. I am actually agreeing that it is
probably more likely than anyone here may admit.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. And so, it may not be easy to just drag
it out.

TANDEN: Because the government can make it happen.

ACHUTHAN: Government? Well, here, it`s interesting ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s stay on the (inaudible). I want you to talk
about that stimulative impact of government versus this possibility of
austerity creating this recession. But I also want to talk about the other
thing that Mitt Romney just might send us back to, if he really gets the
chance. When we come back.


HARRIS-PERRY: We are awaiting President Obama`s campaign appearance
this morning in Mentor, Ohio. And we will take you there when he appears
on stage, but for now, we have been discussing what a Romney administration
would look like should he win. Now, I need a little disclaimer here for
the church crowd who believes that you can speak things into being. I am
not trying to manifest a Romney win. I just think we better know what we
are facing. So, here is a new ad that the Obama campaign has put out just
on the Web. But it hints at just how bad a Romney White House could be for
some of us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back in Washington, the Supreme Court decided it
would soon hear arguments in a case widely seen as a vehicle for reversing
Roe v. Wade, which legal experts say is all but certain in the wake of
President Romney`s first nominee joining the high court.


HARRIS-PERRY: That`s just a few seconds of it-- the ad goes on for
about three minutes. And it is just kind of fake news report of what 100
days into a Romney presidency look like -- looks like. And it includes not
only the massive deficit, but also the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade,
the end of EPA, all of these other kinds of social issues, the Social
Security voucher system. Realistically, I mean, sure, presidents don`t
have complete control over the economy despite the fact that retrospective
voters hold them accountable as though they do. But he is going to put
someone on the Supreme Court. And he has indicated that the person he
wants to put on the Supreme Court is someone who would overturn Roe v.
Wade. He has indicated that he wants to cut taxes. And that does look
like it`s going to create a larger deficit. I mean, we have to think about
what does it mean to have a Romney presidency. Katon, did you want to?

DAWSON: Certainly, I do. I mean when we talk about the first 100
days, let`s talk about the last four years. I mean I`m certainly for
Governor Romney, voting and advocating for him, but at the end of the day,
this election or what`s happened this week and happened this morning is,
this storm and hurricane has taken Libya off the table. It has taken the
23 million people who are out of work off the table. It has taken 46
million people on food stamps off the table, right before an election. So
that`s the political frame of what`s going on here. Certainly ...

HARRIS-PERRY: But in the last four years.

DAWSON: Our base is motivated out there and so is the base of the
president on the Supreme Court justices.


DAWSON: I`ve always said, turn it out. We don`t have to worry about
our bases. They are coming, they are showing, 23 percent of America has
already voted. So, a lot of people cast this vote before the storm came
up. And this election is hinging in the balance. Ohio certainly. And
(ph) the president.

HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t want to miss that in the last four years, I
mean you can have a fight about where the economy is, and where it could be
in a different place, but in the last four years, I have not at any point
lost my right to choose or to use the health insurance to cover birth
control pills. I mean that -- those are very real issues on the table
right now.

TANDEN: Yeah. I mean, I first want to just touch on some of the
issues you mentioned, which is that this is a great example. 23 million
people aren`t unemployed. This is something that Mitt Romney says. It is
not true. 23 -- we have an underemployment problem. But the truth is, if
you compare the last four years, we have 5.6 million private sector jobs
that beats the record of the previous eight years. We do have a business
cycle challenge, we do have growth challenges. We should continue to work
on those. But we are facing a choice in this election, which is what to do
over the next four years. And the challenge is Mitt Romney has adopted
policies that are unfortunately to the right of where George Bush was on
tax policy. He has a more conservative tax policy at this point than
George Bush did. So that`s the choice that people face. And it is true.
I think people should vote on issues like choice because that is -- the
reason why we have women engaged so much in this election, is because
Republicans made issues like contraception controversial.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s right.

TANDEN: Like no one ...


HARRIS-PERRY: -- into political issue.

TANDEN: No one thought contraception was controversial. Young women
who have not been motivated to vote are voting, because they had never
thought birth control would be a political issue. That happened because
Republicans attacked it, not Democrats.

HARRIS-PERRY: Neera, we are going to stay on the issue of the
economy, and I absolutely agree with you on this issue of sort of why women
matter. But we are doing a whole special on it. 6 o`clock tonight on
exactly this issue of why women matter. But coming up, the slow and steady
comeback of the U.S. economy. There is some undeniable evidence that there
is a recovery. But is it enough? What is next? That`s when we come back.


MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.

And we are awaiting for President Obama in a campaign event in
Mentor, Ohio. We will take you there when the president is on the stage.

Three days before the election, the candidates are going in hard and
making their closing economic arguments to the American people in light of
the latest jobs numbers reports.

So, now, we could argue until we are blue in the faces about what
voters care about most but the economy has been undeniably and is going to
continue to be the dominant issue of this election.

The latest jobs report noted that while the unemployment rate had an
uptick from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent, total nonfarm payroll increased by
171,000 jobs in October.

For President Obama, the glass is half full.


have created nearly 5.5 million new jobs. And this morning, we learned
that companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last
eight months.



HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, progress under President Obama has been slow and
sometimes frustratingly so, but it has been steady. There has been

Still, for Mitt Romney, the glass is half empty.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He said he was going to lower
the unemployment rate down to 5.2 percent right now. Today, we learned
that it`s actually 7.9 percent and that`s 9 million jobs short of what he
promised. Unemployment is higher today than when Barack Obama took office.


HARRIS-PERRY: If you haven`t heard by now, and I can`t imagine how
you haven`t heard by now, in regards to what Mitt Romney says he is going
to actually do, he`s got a five-point plan for you.


ROMNEY: People across the country are responding to our five-part
plan to create jobs. Part one, as you know, is about taking full advantage
of our energy resources. Second, I`m going to move to boost trade,
especially with Latin America. Now, third, I am going to send to Congress
the Retraining Reform Act to make sure every worker can get the skills and
chance for a good-paying job. And, fourth, I`ll move to tackle out of
control spending. Number five, I`m going to act to boost small business
and all business.


HARRIS-PERRY: What the American people will have to decide on
Tuesday is whether it is worth it to stay the course or choose an unknown
path -- big on promise, but short on specifics.

In 2008, we as an electorate decided the change was good. Given the
crisis averted and progress made since then, is it the right course now --
to paraphrase as old Abe Lincoln would, don`t change horses in midstream.

All right. Back to my panel.

Ari, you have made the argument before that being a businessman is
not the same thing as being a good adviser to the economy or leader to the
economy in a government role.


HARRIS-PERRY: Is that what we are seeing, just sort of a mismatch?

MELBER: I think that is a problem for Mitt Romney. I will say, this
is the Republicans best argument. It is reality-based. It identifies a
problem that we are all experiencing. And it is a very real problem. It`s
not one the president can dispute. It is their best argument.

So, John Dewey always said, a problem well-stated is a problem half-
solved. And we do agree, we must agree that the jobs crisis is one of the
core policy choices of the era we are living in and perhaps for some time.
So, that`s number one.

Number two goes back to the segment we just did on Romney fan


MELBER: Right? What does the Romney novel look like? There, I have
to echo Neera and the points that are made here that are about what you
would do. What is your solution to the problem? You just played the five

They do not deal with domestic spending in a way that most economists
think will jump-start jobs. Now, there is a larger economic debate there
and Republicans have some economists and some studies on their side. But
there are studies out that show what the Republicans have managed to do
with the power they are wielding has actually raised unemployment by a full
point. That`s, you know, many, many jobs because of the crackdown on all
these state governments.

HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s look at exactly that, because, Neera, I want to
bring -- this is just point about what government does, can, in fact, make
a difference in our economy. When you look at these public versus private
sector jobs, to the extent that this has been modest growth, it`s mostly
modest because we are constantly offsetting growth in the private sector
with a decrease in the public sector.

So, the idea that governor doesn`t create jobs is kind of crazy town,
like, no, actually if only Republican governors would allow these jobs to
stay and be created, then, in fact, we`d be seeing a more robust growth.
Is that the right way to read --

more jobs, the unemployment rate would be much lower if we hadn`t had all
these cuts over that`s last couple of years from the private sector -- I
mean, from the public sector. But I think when we are looking at these
issues, I think we should really look at not just public sector versus
private sector, I`m happy to say private sector jobs is a good measure for

But I think that challenges the Romney/Ryan budget is something that
would cut jobs. I mean, because essentially, when you are taking that much
money out of the economy, when you are cutting programs across the board,
that does have affect. If you cut people`s ability to pay rent, then they
have -- it has a negative consequence on the economy.

is -- this is really the key of what`s going on right now. It is somewhat

Now, what a downturn is, what a business cycle downturn is, it`s not
about GDP. It`s about production, which is one thing GDP is getting at.
It`s about jobs, which is still growing but, you know, it`s underwhelming.
And it`s about income and it is about sales.

And when we look --

HARRIS-PERRY: Because we are a consumer-driven economy.

ACHUTHAN: We are consumer-driven. Well, these are things that tell
you where you are in the business cycle. How much are you producing, how
many people are working, how much are they making and how much are they
buying? These four things together, we can look at them.

The thing is that it`s hard to measure them so they get revised a

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, sure. Almost every time --


ACHUTHAN: Almost everything. Things get moved around, things get
moved around.


ACHUTHAN: Now, right now, when you look at those four things, what
you see is that you`ve got ease in three out of four. The only one bucking
the trend at the moment is jobs.


ACHUTHAN: So the problem is they tend to move together when you look
at these patterns. I don`t want to get hung up on any number, 5.5, 8.0,
whatever, it doesn`t matter. The thing is, what are the patterns here?

And then, when we talk about all these other policies and different
expansions, you had an eight-year expansion with Reagan, you had a 10-year
expansion with Clinton, very different policies.


ACHUTHAN: We had an almost seven-year expansion with Bush. Here we
are 3 1/2 years, and what I`m afraid of, what our work tells us is that the
length of these expansions is getting shorter, not because of any
particular policy at the moment. That`s a pattern that is going on now,
which is something that troubles us here at home.

You know, I`m going slightly off script, but it`s something that
troubles developed economies.


ACHUTHAN: This is a serious policy issue, which is going to
basically have to deal with high unemployment almost no matter what.

HARRIS-PERRY: It can`t be addressed simply by saying, China, you are
behaving badly. We are in a global crisis.

ACHUTHAN: You are talking about turning the Titanic.

HARRIS-PERRY: As I listen to you, I`m feeling a little bit of the
angst that many of us felt I think in 2008.


HARRIS-PERRY: We were looking at this huge global --

ACHUTHAN: Well, it`s not that bad.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not that bad, and yet, I have been walking around
for a month with this article. It`s "The New York Times" on October 2nd of
2012. And it`s a Bob Draper with the Mitt Romney who might have been. It
is this claim in this reporting that Romney was in the room along with John
McCain when they were getting the reporting. This is bad. You know, this
is as bad as we can imagine it being.

And that he was about the same as everybody else in the room. It was
confusing. It was complicated. But he didn`t sort of stand up and say, I
will tell you how to address this. That he, like everyone else, found it
confusing and tough.

I think more than anything, part of what I am yearning for from the
Republicans, Katon, is the sense of complexity.


HARRIS-PERRY: Just to say it is hard work. There is not one single
policy that impacts such a complex economy.

DAWSON: And there`s not one single party that`s going to get it all
this done.

And I think you just framed the election for me and a lot of other
people out there is how big do we want our government to be? You talk
about increasing government jobs. Well, how big of a government can we

HARRIS-PERRY: If it`s teachers, I would like it to be very big.

DAWSON: I`ve got my sister back home that would like that also.


DAWSON: And that would come in the civics discussion tomorrow. But
my point is, that how really big -- this is the choice America is making --
is how big of a government, not do we want but can which afford? That gets
to a liberal versus conservative argument. That`s what this election is
boiling down to be -- policies and all this other stuff get stuff in the

How big a government do we want? And do we want more government
jobs? That becomes a real thing.

I`m sure you do. I`m sure I don`t.

HARRIS-PERRY: See, that`s --

DAWSON: I want more private sector, small business opportunities and
entrepreneurs that have a chance to live the American dream.

TANDEN: But this is the great irony, because if you actually look at
private versus public sector jobs -- we just talked about the expansion in
the Bush years. As you know, the expansion of the Bush years came from
government spending.

All the job growth for the first six years -- let me just answer you.
All the job growth essentially from 2000 to 2006 was public sector jobs.


TANDEN: It was a giant expansion of the government. You have -- you
have inverted. President Obama has actually increased private sector jobs.
We`ve lost public sector jobs.

His proposals aren`t about expanding the government. His proposals
are actually insuring that middle class families have what they need to
grow because there is a difference --

HARRIS-PERRY: And when we come back, we are going to talk about one
sector of the private sector in particular that has been an important part
of our politics. That is the car. We are going to take our focus to the
battle for the auto vote in Ohio. And the latest whopper that Mitt Romney
is using to curry favor.


HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. We are here in Democracy Plaza, home of
NBC`s Decision 2012 coverage. Thousands will gather here on election night
watching the results come in.

And the iconic skating rink will hold a map of the United States with
states icing over in red and blue if the race by the NBC News desk. We are
going to have red and blue banners representing electoral votes that are
going to rise up in front of the building as each campaign climbs towards

Why 270? Because that`s how many Electoral College votes you need to
be president. Right now, the key one is Ohio, which is why we are going to
talk about Mitt Romney`s closing argument for the auto industry. He says
he is going to be better than President Obama.


AD NARRATOR: Who will do more for the auto industry? Not Barack
Obama. Fact checkers confirm his attacks on Mitt Romney are false. The
truth? Mitt Romney has a plan to help the auto industry. He is supported
by Lee Iacocca and `The Detroit News".

Obama took G.M. and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to
Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.


HARRIS-PERRY: So, Romney`s new ad running in Ohio claims that
President Obama took G.M. and Chrysler into bankruptcy. Interesting.
Because Romney preferred a managed bankruptcy for the car companies.

He had also claimed, as you just heard, that Jeeps are going to be
built in China by Italians. The CEO of Chrysler found that whopper too
much to bear and issued a statement saying, "I feel obliged to
unambiguously restate our position. Jeep production will not be moved from
the United States to China. Jeep assembly line will remain in operation in
the United States and will constitute the backbone of the backbone of the
brand. It`s inaccurate to suggest anything different."

So, will be best for the auto industry? It may not be the guy whose
car ad is full of holes.

I`m back with my panel and also joining me from Detroit is Jonathan
Cohn, senior editor at "The New Republic".

Hi, Jonathan.

JONATHAN COHN, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Hi. Thanks for having me on.

HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. So, usually, when we talk cars, I get out
my transformers and have this whole thing about President Obama being
Optimus Prime and, you know, Mitt Romney being Decepticon and that kind of

But the fact is that cars are big deal in Ohio. Is this car issue
going to be the thing that turns Ohio voters?

COHN: Well, I think it`s a huge issue. You know, in Ohio, one of
every eight jobs is tied to the auto industry. The voters there, they
understand how important the auto rescue, the Obama`s decision to provide
Chrysler and G.M. loans. They know how important that was.

You get now but 2008, 2009, when G.M. and Chrysler were on the verge
of collapse, the idea of saving them, it was not very popular. You know,
the voters, they were tired of bailouts. Even a lot of Democrats were
saying, look, the auto industry, it`s got all kinds of problems. You know,
it`s just not worth saving. And I think the voters in Ohio --

HARRIS-PERRY: Which is how you end up with Mitt Romney saying, let
Detroit go bankrupt, right? That`s how you end up with that iconic images
that at that time, he is going with public sentiment, which agreed, go
ahead, let Detroit go bankrupt.

COHN: Exactly. He was sort of riding the wave at that time. I
think we have seen from Mitt Romney, he`s got an acute sense of what he
thinks the voters want to hear. And he gives them that. And so, he was
saying, look, let`s let them go.

But, you know, I think the voters of Ohio, they understand that
President Obama and he said, I`m not going to let this backbone of American
manufacturing collapse. I`m not going to let 1 million people lose their

And I think the voters of Ohio, the voters of Michigan, I think they
remember that. I mean, I think they say, look, this is a president who
cares about us. He is a president who understands how our economy works
and he is a president who when it was tough, when it was unpopular, when
everybody was against this, he stood up for us.

I think that`s -- you know, that`s not just a policy judgment. But
it hits at an emotional level, that this is a guy who cares about us. And
I think that helps explain why, you know, even when President Obama`s poll
numbers after that Denver debate, they were looking a little shaky. They
held up pretty well in Ohio. And I think you look at it and think, that
has got to be the auto rescue.

HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, Jonathan, the latest NBC/Marist poll is
showing that the president is holding a fairly sizeable lead in Ohio. I
think about six points at this point. And most folks are indicating that
that`s because he has a better margin with white male voters in Ohio than
he does anywhere else in the country at this time. And that`s probably
related to the cars.

I want to bring in Ari Melber for a moment here, because Ari and I
were chatting about this before.

This is one time when maybe progressives are down with a corporation
spending money on political ads?

MELBER: Yes. I mean, we`ve have had a lot of talk about speech and
corporate personhood and all these sort of interesting doctrinal questions.
But this is an example where you have to be careful. If you want to start
from the position that corporations shouldn`t have the free speech rights
or the spending rights that others have, then you wouldn`t have them able
to come out and robustly engage in the political process. They are free
under current law to speak close to an election, which was restricted under
McCain-Feingold and was wiped out under the Supreme Court.

But that`s not always bad in the same way that when Michael Moore
speaks, he speaks through the Miramax Corporation to make "Fahrenheit 911"
or when "The New York Times" speaks, it speaks as a corporation.

HARRIS-PERRY: The value is that they are speaking about something
they have deep knowledge, because it`s about themselves.

MELBER: Absolutely. And I support and I`m on record for public
financing and the Fair Elections Now bill in the Senate and a lot of those
things. But when we go a step further beyond public financing, I just
think we have to be careful. This is a good example, I would argue, where
more speech is good for the political process, regardless of the source.

HARRIS-PERRY: Because it fact checks Romney in this case. Neera?

TANDEN: I mean, there was nothing prior -- in prior elections and
prior systems that wouldn`t have allowed Sergio Marchionne to issue a
clarifying statement. So, I`m not really sure about that. But I think --

MELBER: McCain-Feingold restricts the money that corporations spend


MELBER: -- on their own behalf 90 days into an election. So, if
they wanted to do anything like run a full page ad, which corporations have
done in political issues this cycle, if they want -- if they felt that
because they were being attacked on TV, they wanted to respond on TV, they
are free to do that.

TANDEN: They are not doing that. They`re just issuing clarifying

MELBER: For example, he ran the op-ed in the paper, right?

TANDEN: Right.

MELBER: If he wanted to buy that space, that`s a very fine grain
distinction. My point is, they are freer to speak more robustly.

TANDEN: Right, right. I mean, just on the broader issue, I think
you learn a lot about campaigns and what`s moving by both sides. So,
clearly, when Mitt Romney runs a Jeep ad like that, which is clearly false,
he knows that the auto industry issue is really hurting him and he has to
go on offense.

So, I think this really goes to Jonathan`s point, which is the thing
that we know that the auto bailout is a big issue in Ohio because of Mitt
Romney`s ads. The problem for him is that it`s a challenge to do a
demonstrably false ad.

I mean, there is a negative consequence to this. When you do an ad
like this, you get days and days of newspapers attacking you. And that`s
what you`ve seen all this week.

HARRIS-PERRY: Five Pinocchio, pants on fire, all of that kind of

TANDEN: You have in the Cleveland papers and Cincinnati papers,
front page articles saying he is not telling the truth about this. It has
been a high-risk strategy. I don`t know if Ohio is opening, if he`s gone
from three to six as the polls seem to indicate today. But if it is, I
think this shows that the risk he took in being dishonest about this was a
bad risk for him to take.

HARRIS-PERRY: Jonathan Cohn, I give you the last word on this before
we go to break. What is it that you are hearing personally on the ground
in the Midwest right now?

COHN: Well, you know, you talk to people and, you know, again, I
think it`s a question of who they think will stand up for them? You know,
they look at a guy like Mitt Romney. You know, he is running around
saying, hey, I`m from Michigan. I`m a car guy.

Well, yes, he is a car guy. His dad owned the car company. But, you
know, being a car guy means understanding what it`s like to work in a
factory. It means understanding what people who are looking at their jobs
and wondering if they are really going to go overseas, what that feels

I mean, I think that`s one of the ironies here, is that by raising
this, something so obviously false, he scared the bejesus out of people.
And I think people don`t like that.

I mean, you know, it`s funny. He cites in his ad, "The Detroit
News", which did, in fact, endorse him. But, you know, "The Detroit News"
has said, the ad is false.


COHN: And that`s getting around. People say, this guy is playing
with our lives. You know, he is using us as a political pawn. They don`t
like that.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, the 47 percent does not like to have the bejesus
scared out of us.

Thank you to Jonathan Cohn in Michigan.

And, up next, what warning we should take from Sandy for our future.

Also, a very important note, tune in for a special edition of our
show, "Why Women Matter", live tonight, 6:00 p.m. eastern, right here on
MSNBC. You are not going to want to miss it.



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: I also want to thank the president
who granted a request that we made which will increase people`s food stamp
allocation for the month by 50 percent. In other words, a lot of people
lost their food. Let`s give President Barack Obama a round of applause for


HARRIS-PERRY: That was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking
earlier this morning at the National Guard food distribution site in
Manhattan for victims of hurricane Sandy. Hurricane Sandy is the most
recent reminder that the greatest economic closing arguments that
candidates can make is how they are going to prepare for the future.

So, Lakshman, you have been saying earlier, look, we -- you know,
presidents can`t just decide it all. But like here`s a moment in disaster
relief, as much as Republicans have hammered on food stamps. Here`s a
moment where we`re saying, OK, this is going to feed hungry people.


HARRIS-PERRY: Or in the case of the auto bailout, you needed
government to step in.

ACHUTHAN: Yes. And to the broader point, you know, can government
step in and make a difference to the shape of the business cycle?
Absolutely. So, during the Great Recession, you saw the former President
Bush, he was the first interventionist, right? So, he had $150 billion
bailout, I don`t know, stimulus you would call it, the checks on the mail.

It didn`t work because the business cycle really overwhelmed it. You
had rate cuts going on out of the Federal Reserve. And then Obama
continued that kind of intervention and specifically here with autos we
were just talking about. That`s a strategic issue for the nation. Lots of
countries want to build cars.


ACHUTHAN: It is important for us to be able to do it, too.

So, these were all really critical interventions that probably it is
hard to prove it counter-factual but probably kept the Great Recession from
being something worse.

HARRIS-PERRY: This point of it being hard to prove it counterfactual
is a tough one, right? Because part of the president`s claim is -- yes, I
know things are bad but, boy, they could have been terrible.

But I think Sandy is sort of a reminder, like this is how bad things
can be. And again, in this case, here you have a governor saying, thank
you, Mr. President, for increasing access to food stamps.

And you got a guy who is trying to hit the president on, well, now,
he is in war. People have more food stamps?

DAWSON: Well, the difference is this is a national tragedy. And the
president has to use his presidential power, one -- his presidential power
of the purse. He is able to give money away.

And whether it`s right, wrong, or indifferent, I`m not going to
diminish the fact of the pain that is here in this section of the country.
And a president should do whatever it takes to eliminate that pain.

I don`t think you`ll see that as an issue that they increased it.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me --

DAWSON: I think it is an issue that we have 314 million Americans
and 46 million of them are using food stamps to help supplement, to feed
them (ph).



DAWSON: This is just math, and the dignity that`s involved in trying
to get a job. So, we are talking about, is it -- is this election really
going to be about jobs or is it going to be about camouflage?

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, let`s push on that because I appreciate it you
saying, OK, this is a national tragedy. So, in this case, the extension of
food subsidy benefits is not something that is likely to become a partisan
political issue.

But the very fact that we are coming out of a part of the business
cycle where we had this deep recession where people were hungry, feels to
me like -- this is our whole point from the very beginning, how do we
define disaster? That was a disaster, where the president needed to make
available greater access to food.

ACHUTHAN: And what was going on with the Great Recession isn`t over.
I think that`s -- people think like, oh, it`s over. Let`s forget about it.


DAWSON: This election is going to solve it. We are going to elect
somebody and we will move forward, move backward, lean forward or get

ACHUTHAN: But it`s a lot bigger than that.

DAWSON: It is.

ACHUTHAN: This is something that`s been going on for a quarter
century. I think a lot of us are framed by what we remember the economy
was in the last couple of decades. But I think that is history. We`re not
there. We have left that. We are not in Kansas anymore.

HARRIS-PERRRY: The `90s are done.

ACHUTHAN: This is done. We are in a different world. And it`s a
global world, it`s a competitive world. You need to figure out how policy-
wise from both sides.

How are you going to change that growth pattern? On one hand,
something with taxes, on the other hand, something with spending. But you
have to figure -- if you don`t figure that out, if we don`t figure that
out, we have a long time of unemployment cycling around at high levels
regardless of who`s in the White House.

HARRIS-PERRY: I want my government to intervene in those.

ACHUTHAN: Yes, that`s a big deal.

TANDEN: I mean, I have to say, these arguments that like food stamps
have gone up and we have unemployment, you know, you are absolutely right.
We are still dealing with the aftermath of the Great Recession.

And what was the Great Recession? It was a decision. It was
affected by decisions by the government --

HARRIS-PERRY: To deregulate.

TANDEN: -- to deregulate, to let things go in a way that many people
around Wall Street now would recognize was wrong.

ACHUTHAN: Now, a couple of bubbles, a couple of big bubbles. You
had a tech bubble followed by housing bubble.


TANDEN: But the housing bubble was also, if you listen to
Republicans, government policy as well.

DAWSON: There were culpable players on all sides.

TANDEN: I agree with that. But this is what -- I mean, it seems to
me, this whole conversation about, you know, the food stamps increasing and
unemployment increasing and things aren`t good enough, it`s like
Republicans got us into this mess. They did. George Bush wasn`t doing
what he need to do and the accusation against President Obama is he hasn`t
fixed it fast enough.

DAWSON: Does the voter have the tolerance to keep waiting? That`s
the question. Does this voter --


HARRIS-PERRY: We are not going to have much longer. This Tuesday is
Election Day.

Thank you to Lakshman Achuthan. And the rest are staying for more.

When we come back, the myths and lies we teach other kids -- no, it`s
not about the Jeep ad -- when we come back.


HARRIS-PERRY: Next week, as voting age adults cast a ballot, many of
our fellow citizens, under 18, will pretend to vote in mock elections.
Students across the country who are going to play at voting on Tuesday will
be engaging in a kind of make-believe that often passes for real civic
education. Students` understanding of themselves as citizens is often
still grounded in the mythical stories that we tell ourselves about who we
are as Americans, instead of the reality.

They are myths that begin with in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean
blue. They go on to tell how the pilgrims and Indians gave thanks for a
bountiful harvest over a turkey dinner. But none of these lessons prepare
students to deal with the duty which they will be charged with as American
adults, how to become responsible citizens.

Joining my panel is Seth Andrew, founder and superintendent of
Democracy Prep Public Schools.

All right. So I want to move our conversation a little bit, because
this close to the election, what I want to talk about as a teacher is not
just what`s going to happen in this election, but what`s going to happen
going forward. And when I was looking at these tests of national civic
knowledge, I was completely freaked out. May of 2011, fewer than 5 percent
are demonstrating advanced levels of knowledge.

What kind of social studies and civic education are we teaching when
fewer than 5 percent of our kids have basic knowledge?

we have civic education crisis of unprecedented proportions when we think
the actual knowledge of our electorate and how our government works, how
our democracy works, it`s broken. We have kids who get out of school, 18
years old, registered to vote, and are unable to understand the issues
around them. They get sucked into the vitriol and cynicism and negative
politics and they can`t determine truth from lies.

And so, we have to rethink civic education in America in a dramatic
way. I mean, we think about civic knowledge often and what it takes to
build civic knowledge. But we really need to be creating civic
dispositions. The habits of individuals coming out of school who actually
know what it takes to be a good citizen and become engaged in civic life
for the rest of their lives.

HARRIS-PERRY: So is one of the reasons that we have trouble telling
the difference between myth and fact or between sort of good arguments and
poor ones about our civic culture, because we lie to kids so much early on.
I mean, on the one hand, like I get that you need to know the story first
before you can deconstruct it, right? So you need to know the Columbus
story before you can go back and say, actually that`s not how it went down.
Or Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves but not quite.

But do we just teach the lie, just teach the myth, and then it`s easy
for a politician to repeat those kinds of myths later?

ANDREW: Let`s start with this. We have to teach kids to read.

DAWSON: Right.

ANDREW: So, our public schools are in a similar crisis because our
students are not able to read, think critically at the very foundation.
And so, if you take those lies, if you take the history books that may or
may not be correctly based on the reality of history or maybe skewed in one
way or another, or put together by a text book publisher, you are not
looking at the core issues.

And so, what we`ve tried to do at Democracy Prep in Harlem is say,
let`s get to the core issues. How do we build kids who actually are
critical thinkers, critical readers and who can look at issues and
deconstruct them, understand the positives and negatives of any individual
case that is being made in the public realm and actually make their own


ANDREW: So, we really work very hard to build those civic
dispositions and then turn to authentic skills. If you have the
dispositions and the skills you need to be a good citizen, the knowledge is
easy to attain.


ANDREW: If you can read, you can understand what you need to learn
about history. That`s something that we are focused on in all the wrong

HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s interesting that you make this point.
I was looking at the fact that Governor Jan Brewer in Arizona after signing
HB-1070, then signed HB-2281, which stripped these Arizona schools of what
they called ethnic solidarity courses, African-American history and
particularly Hispanic and Latino history.

I know the Democracy Prep is a predominantly African-American school
in Harlem.

Is there a way as your trying to get young people involved like a
relevant issue for helping them get that critical world view on their own

ANDREW: But there is, but I think people use it is as an excuse. We
have a black president, right? Like this is not an issue anymore, where
you can`t say, I don`t -- I can`t relate to politics because there aren`t
people like me in office. There are now.


ANDREW: And so, the question is really about the quality of our
public schools, is that when we have schools that are broken, kids are not
learning what they need to learn to be able to read and be able to really
think deeply about the civic life around them. So, with our kids, we try
to focus on that really early, is building those dispositions so they can
really say, how can I become an engaged citizen when I`m an adult? How can
I have impact right now as a student?

So, our kids are out on Election Day not doing mock elections, but
get out the vote campaigns in nonpartisan ways.


ANDREW: They are out there doing a campaign called, I can`t vote but
you can. So, you`ll see them up in Harlem on Tuesday with their bright
yellow shirt saying, "I can`t vote", because they want to let people in
Harlem know today is Election Day. We need to get out. Forty percent of
Americans are not going to turn out on Tuesday, despite all that we are
talking about, all the issues.

The incredible gravity of this election, 40 percent of Americans are
going to stay home.

HARRIS-PERRY: Seth, I love that. I`m going to bring the rest of my
panel back in as soon as we come back.

And as we go to break, I want you to take a look at Seth`s kids from
Democracy Prep Harlem campus teaching all of us about civil responsibility.



HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. You are taking a look there at
Democracy Plaza. Here where NBC and MSNBC are going to be having our
election night coverage.

And we have been discussing the very content of what we teach our
children to help them grow up to be constructive and productive citizens in
a democracy. And I want to bring the rest of our panel in.

Ari, has high-stake testing killed social studies? I mean, this is
my one worry, except when you said, kids have to read. I thought, oh, no,
are you making a claim that the testing is the most important? I keep
thinking I think politics is fascinating. How can they know so little?

MELBER: Yes. I do think performance pressure on teachers sets up
some really weird incentives, because we don`t want teachers to only be
productivity machines and we have to think, I believe as much about the
bottom 10 percent of the class as the top 10 percent. That`s why some of
the testing stuff in No Child Left Behind from a policy perspective is
concerning to a lot of us.

I didn`t know what you were doing, Seth. I mean, I always learn
something watching MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY. And it sounds like a really great
program. One of the things that jumped out to me what you`re talking about
is that there`s also a lot of stupidity in the way our elite discourse
deals with politics versus civics, that contrast you were drawing.

And I`m reminded of, after the health care ruling, a lot of the
coverage was, how are people reacting? And there were all these polls in
the first week about reactions. Did people support or oppose the health
care opinion of the Supreme Court? I`m not talking about politics, I`m
talking about how people felt about a decision of the Supreme Court that
was going to become law of the land.

And then there was one poll that asked people, hey, what did the
Supreme Court do?

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right, I don`t know.

MELBER: Yes, exactly, it was the most widely covered decision
according to media metrics since Bush v. Gore. And what they found was 45
percent of adults had no idea what the court did. And those numbers broke
down into a majority of those people, thought they knew what the court did
and said they opposed it.

And then a smaller plurality said they didn`t know. So, I guess the
question back to you is, how much of the top down larger discourse that we
have that treats politics as a game and a sport and a predictive project
rather than civics? How much of that also sort of deal with some of the
problems you have to fight against?

ANDREW: It`s a huge part of the problem, because as we think about
politics as a sport, instead as our civil life, we forget the purpose of
our public schools.


ANDREW: The purpose of our public schools is to educate citizens for
our democracy, is to prepare people so they can function at our democracy.
As you are indicating and as all the polls show and as all the research
data shows, we`ve done a terrible job of actually doing that.

We look at the majority of Americans and they can`t handle the basic
civic truths of our life today. And so, we have to really stop and rethink
what civic education looks like across the country in schools like
Democracy Prep, but also in every traditional public school, every public
charter school across the country. We have to say, what we are doing isn`t
working? How do we stop, reset and create a civic revolution that actually
changes the way we educate kids for our democracy?

HARRIS-PERRY: Katon, one of the few places where Dems and
Republicans have managed to find some common ground has been around
education reform, a lot of the education reform that makes me -- makes my
teeth itch in the back. But it is a place where there`s been some common

When you -- when you hear these stories or look and see it has
worked, so how does it resonate with what you are seeing even in South

DAWSON: I`ll tell you, the Constitution was a big deal in the
Republican primaries. In the earlier show, we saw people starting to carry
a Constitution. That might be a little unusual, but I think the
Constitution is important.

My little sister, who is a public school teacher and now works at a
private school, taught civics for about 17 years, and the Constitution and
how important it is to the development of a child.

But back to education, that`s my criticism from this election cycle
from both candidates. We`ve heard very little on education, all about
jobs, all about food stamps. Very little on the -- education is getting
ready to change dramatically.

I work for a school in Ohio that educates 15,000 kids that never go
into bricks and mortar, the largest graduating class in America, online
learning. This new technology is coming and it`s coming at 100 miles an
hour to help people that don`t have people.

HARRIS-PERRY: And yet it`s interesting. I mean, at some point, I
promise you and I are going to have a conversation about that online
learning. But I got to say, Seth`s Democracy Prep feels like the sort of
thing that can`t happen online. So I feel like there are all kinds of
skills that you can pick up.

But part of what happens when you are sitting in a classroom with all
of your friends singing, vote for Obama or vote for Romney, is a different
kind of educational experience.

DAWSON: Seth, they could handle any kind of tool you could put in
that classroom, couldn`t they?

ANDREW: They could have had great teachers.

DAWSON: And I`m not replacing the teachers. I`m telling, new
technology coming into yours school is one of the answers that helps us in
Harlem or whether it helps us in Hilton Head, South Carolina. This
presidential race has been devoid of big ideas on education, on both sides.

TANDEN: The one thing I would say, I do think we can have a
technological revolution on teaching. But it isn`t actually the case there
hasn`t been any discussion about teaching, or schools or education. And I
would say, I mean, there hasn`t been enough. I agree with that.

You know, the facts are Mitt Romney does have an education proposal.
It`s a very radical educational proposal. He basically proposes
transforming Title I into a voucher program --


TANDEN: -- which would dramatically undermine most of our public
schools in the United States. I mean, that`s again -- he did that in the
primary or towards the end of the primary. And people haven`t really paid
attention to it, and I think the president tried to make it more of an
issue in the debates.


TANDEN: But it is one where when you are talking about what we need
to do to compete over the 20th century, over 21st century, education is the
area. We are in a global competition for having a high school workforce
and, you know, not taking those resources out of the high school isn`t the
right thing.

HARRIS-PERRY: Neera, you`re right. There was this point, in fact,
in the middle of the foreign policy debate where they began to have an
education conversation. That was like, what is happening.

Up next, there are more than 25 million foot soldiers who are going
to get a special shout-out from MHP.


HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama is about to take the stage in Mentor,
Ohio, and we`ll hear from him in a few minutes. But, right now, I want to
turn to our foot soldiers of the week, because every Saturday, we close out
our show with our footage soldier segment, where we highlight one person,
or a small group of people who have taken matters into their own hands to
make a difference in their community. It`s all about doing big things on a
small scale.

But this week, we are going big. Our foot soldiers this week are the
25,819,503 early voters. Early voters have stood in long lines, braved the
elements and researched the ever-changing voting requirements in their
state to ensure that their chance to participate in our democracy is not
hampered. This year, we have seen coordinate efforts to prevent citizens
from casting their votes early, efforts that went all the way to the
Supreme Court.

But America`s early voters have responded with a coordinated effort
all their own. They are standing up to be counted. In Georgia, more than
1,649,000 people have already voted early.


EARLY GEORGIA VOTER 1: This is not a long line. I mean, I`ve seen
longer lines in other elections. I`ve never missed an election in any
state I`ve lived in.

EARLY GEORGIA VOTER 2: I care about the country.

EARLY GEORGIA VOTER 3: This is our privilege and our right.

EARLY GEORGIA VOTER 2: I care about jobs. I care about homeless. I
care about health care.

EARLY GEORGIA VOTER 1: Voting is what makes me feel Americans.

EARLY GEORGIA VOTER 2: I care about people.


HARRIS-PERRY: In Florida, more than 3.4 million people have voted


EARLY FLORIDA VOTER 1: Every vote counts. My vote counts.

EARLY FLORIDA VOTER 2: Standing in line for any amount of time to
make sure my vote is served (ph).

EARLY FLORIDA VOTER 3: I showed up. I saw the line, I said, oh my
gosh. It`s three hours.

EARLY FLORIDA VOTER 2: At the end of it, you feel better that you
were able to stand in line for such a great end.

EARLY VOTER 3: I`ll be here first thing in the morning at 7:00.

EARLY VOTER 4: I`m a strong believer in voting. And that`s why I`m
on the line.


HARRIS-PERRY: We applaud each and every voter who cast a ballot this
year, whether you`re already rocking an "I voted early" sticker, or if
you`re going to find your way to a polling place on Tuesday.

But I wanted to give a little extra recognition to early voters. By
voting early, you remind all of us that we still need election reform to
make access to the polls fairer and easier, not harder. By voting early,
you demonstrate your enthusiasm for American democracy, even with all of
its imperfections.

And by voting early, you ease the burden of lines and delays and
glitches that are a part of Election Day. By voting early, you set the
momentum and the enthusiasm for out election and by voting early, you say,
my voice matters, I will be heard, I will not be intimidated, deterred or
bought. And you are undoubtedly scaring the bejesus out of all those who
tried to limit your right.

For taking action, for weathering the long lines, for showing us all
how it`s done, you early voters, including my eldest niece, are our foot
soldiers of the week. And remember, there is still time to go and vote.

And that`s our show for today. Thank you to Ari Melber, Neera
Tanden, Katon Dawson and Seth Andrew. Also, thanks to you at home for

We are not done for today. I`ll see you again tonight, 6:00 p.m.
Eastern, for special edition of our show, "Why Women Matter". And then, of
course, tomorrow morning, Sunday, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.



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