January 5, 2013
Guests: Seth Freed Wessler, Carmen Wong Ulrich, Jamal Simmons, Kyrsten Sinema, Janet Murguia, Matt Welch, Khalil Muhammad-
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, did Lincoln
free the slaves? And will the dream of immigration reform become reality?
Plus, the struggle continues between the White House and Congress, but
first on the chessboard of the fiscal cliff, the rooks were doing all the
Good morning, and happy new year. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. We are
starting today in early August of 2008. You see, back then John McCain was
looking for a running mate, and the press was trying to help him find one.
Well, before McCain shocked the political world with the soon to be former
governor of Alaska, there was talk of another obscure figure still emerging
on the national stage -- Eric Cantor, the fourth-term congressman from
Virginia. Supporters gushed that he was the rising star of the GOP, young,
handsome and well spoken . He was the only Republican Jewish member of the
House. He could help, they said, in Florida. He would shake up the race a
Now, John McCain did not pick Eric Cantor, but in 2008, Eric Cantor still
had a very good year. He was elected minority party whip, making him the
number two Republican in the House. And it had been a swift assent thanks
to Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, who first brought Cantor into party
leadership back in 2002.
Now, reports claim that Blunt recognized Cantor`s prowess in one critical
area of governing -- not legislating, not deal making, fund-raising. So
before he is even in his second term, Cantor is a man with power, and by
2008, Cantor is John Boehner`s lieutenant.
But hold on, I`ve got another story to tell. Let`s go back again to August
of 2008, because then, then-Senator Barack Obama was also looking for a
running mate. Would it be primary rival Hillary Clinton, battleground
beloved Tim Kaine, fellow Senator Chris Dodd? The speculation ended at 3
a.m. on August 23rd when the text message delivered around the world told
us that Joe Biden would be Barack Obama`s lieutenant.
Now, it has started off rough, but 2008 was a mighty big year for Joe
Biden, just as big as it had been for Eric Cantor, and early in the new
administration, as the president`s lieutenant, Biden -- at least by Biden`s
standards -- kept relatively quiet. Rather than being out in front of the
cameras, he relished a role he described as always being the last person in
the room with the president.
But while Biden was keeping quiet, Cantor was making noise. He convinced
Boehner that if the party could not win, at least they could refuse to
cooperate. So, President Obama passed a stimulus bill in January of 2009,
but he had to do it without a single Republican vote in the House of
Representatives. Biden was gaining power by whispering in the president`s
ear, and Cantor was getting power by shouting in the president`s face.
Symbolically, of course.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I`m going to keep
on talking to Eric Cantor and some day, sooner or later, he is going to
say, boy, Obama had a good idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But, of course, what we`ve learned is that Cantor was not
interested in finding common ground with the president; he was interested
in remaking the Republican Party. As the leader of the so-called "Young
Guns" on the Hill, Cantor was helping to recruit like-minded candidates to
run in the 2010 midterms. He called them, he coached them, he answered
their text messages and he raised lots and lots of money for them, lots of
money through his PAC in 2010, Cantor donated $657,000 to soon to be new
members of the House, and he helped to raise millions more for their
campaigns. And when the 112th Congress was seated with 87 GOP freshmen,
Eric Cantor had a lot of new allies. His party was now in the majority and
he was not the whip anymore, he was the leader with influence rivaling John
For his part, Joe Biden increasingly became President Obama`s go-to Mr.
fix-it man with a hand in everything from Iraq to Afghanistan to the new
banking regulations to the auto bailout. He is now regarded by some as the
most influential vice president ever, and the last one was Dick Cheney.
Which is why the key moment in the end of the grand bargain was not a
meeting between the president and the speaker. It was in 2011 when Eric
Cantor walked out of Vice President Biden`s bipartisan talks on deficit
reduction. The lieutenants were empowered, the strategy was all in the
rooks, which is why this week, there we were on the brink again walking up
to the cliff, peering over and collectively wondering what would happen
next. And in the 11th hour, Vice President Joe Biden called to the House -
was called to the Hill at the request of Republican Senator Mitch McConnell
to help usher through a deal. But even after the Senate vote, the deal was
still shaky. Why? Because of one simple message, Cantor is a no. The
lieutenant broke with the speaker and brought along another 150 Republican
members of the House to vote "No" on the deal compared to the 84
Republicans who joined Boehner to vote for it.
Biden has won this round on behalf of the administration, but lieutenant
Cantor has made it clear he plans to keep the battle raging.
At the table with me today, editor-in-chief of "Reason" magazine Matt
Welch, finance expert and president of Alta Wealth Management, Carmen Wong
Ulrich, Democratic Strategist Jamal Simmons and I`m very excited to welcome
to Nerdland, fresh off of her swearing in, not even 48 hours ago, the U.S.
Representative from Arizona`s Ninth Congressional District, Congresswoman
Kyrsten Sinema. So nice to have you all at the table.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Congresswoman Sinema, you have been in - a member of the
U.S. Congress for all of - I don`t know -- 48 hours. Do you have it fixed
REP. KYRSTEN SINEMA, (D), ARIZONA: Oh, no, but by Monday.
SINEMA: Give me the weekend.
HARRIS-PERRY: Just another few minutes. I mean, seriously, you know,
obviously the first thing that the 113th has managed to do is to vote on
leadership and to vote on the Sandy bill, but you all are coming in on the
back end, obviously, of the fiscal cliff negotiations. Who is really
empowered in this Congress?
SINEMA: Well, I think that we saw clearly that Representative Cantor holds
heavy sway over a significant portion of this caucus, but as we saw in the
vote that happened on Thursday, Speaker Boehner still retains the loyalty
of the majority of the members in the caucus, but I don`t think we`ll see
that struggle end. I think that struggle will continue. And frankly, I
mean from someone sitting on the other side of the aisle, we all as
Democratic freshmen were somewhat surprised in wonderment as we watched
this, it seemed almost like a lack of strength in unity, and it is
continuing to be fracturous, and I think it will cause problems for them as
we move forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I`m wondering about this, Jamal. I mean if we - if we
look at the vote that actually reelected John Boehner to his speaker
position, right, it was not a unanimous vote, in fact there were - there
were even some votes cast there for like Allen West.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: That is my favorite vote.
SIMMONS: That was my favorite vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, Jim Jordan and Eric Cantor got three ...
SIMMONS: David Walker ...
HARRIS-PERRY: David Walker got (ph) one in there.
SINEMA: Colin Powell got one.
HARRIS-PERRY: Colin Powell got one, right?
What does that tell us about where Boehner is in terms of his leadership,
SIMMONS: Look, he is in a tough spot, we have known this ever since the
last round of negotiations that he went through with the president. He
didn`t seem like he had that long of a leash from his caucus to go out and
cut a deal that, you know, maybe Republicans would not like 100 percent of
the deal, but he get a lot of what they wanted done. Now they are in a
worse spot, it is interesting that President Obama in many ways can talk
about Lincoln and some other stuff later, he had this team of rivals
around him that he assembled from Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and a bunch
of other people who he ran against, it`s like Boehner surrounded by rivals
SIMMONS: And he`s got all these people like, you know, Ryan, Cantor who
want his job or want a job over his, and they are all vying for their own
power inside the Republican caucus. He does not seem like he really has a
hold over it, and it would be interesting to me to see how long he`s able
to stay in the job and be effective.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it is very different, we have this - this vision of
putting Biden and Cantor next to each other, right? But Biden is, I mean
Biden - he loves President Obama, right. You have this strong sense of him
being on the president`s side, much less so for Cantor, but I wonder about
insights into that, Matt, like in terms of how he built power. One of my
favorite sort of quotes about Cantor is the fact that he returned the text
messages of these new freshmen, so there is this language about - this is
in "The New York" magazine, "I can text Cantor and get a response back in
minutes. I don`t even know if Speaker Boehner`s has a cell phone." This
is from an unnamed freshman back in 2010.
Is there something that Cantor is doing in terms of building power that is
unlike things we have seen previously?
MATT WELCH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, REASON: Well, yeah, there is a fundamental -
Jamal is completely right, there is a fundamental tension here in the
Republican Party, right? There are people that sort of Tea Party
grassroots who really want to cut the size of government. But people who
are Republicans who hold power really don`t want to run on that, because
they think that they are going to lose elections, and so you have - there
is not any kind of legislative or intellectual groundwork for actually
cutting government. They just say we want to cut government and we are not
going to tell you how, because they are scared to. That is the John
The Cantor side, and even beyond that, there is a new kind of rump way, and
these are the people who are behind the challenge to Boehner, the Justin
Amash people, they are kind of post Ron Paul people ...
WELCH: ... who came in and they say, we are libertarians, we are not
WELCH: We don`t care, we are willing to embrace disorder and break ranks,
because we actually want to do this thing that Republicans have been too
scared to do. So as long as there is that tension, we are going to see
Boehner in an increasingly untenable position. And the question is, will
Cantor coalesce those people? I`m not sure that he will or what will Paul
Ryan do vis-a-vis all of that. Ryan at the end of the day always votes
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. Right.
WELCH: He always votes "Yes" - he voted yes for TARP, he voted "Yes" for
the auto bailout, he voted "Yes" for Medicare Part D. All these things
that actual kind of libertarian or small government conservatives hate, he
voted "Yes" on, because he is seeing his future as being kind of the
statesman who has the background in limited government.
HARRIS-PERRY: But this has been ...
SIMMONS: And the thing about Ryan, he is kind of part of the coalition of
the rational. I mean, he does sometimes come across like, look, I`m
willing to be a grown-up at the tough moments. I`ve got some wacky ideas
about Medicare, but when it comes down to actually governing, I want to be
a part of that process.
HARRIS-PERRY: But it used to be that the naive hypothesis was congressmen
vote yes, and in fact most of the time most congresspersons voted yes,
because, of course, it just didn`t get brought to the floor. Unless you
knew that there was going to be a majority vote. I mean this is part of
what we see with Boehner making a decision to bring something to the floor
that wasn`t going to get a majority of his caucus vote.
CARMEN WONG ULRICH, PRES., ALTA WEALTH MANAGEMENT: Yeah, you know, and you
guys just mentioned a couple of things that really show how this is a
generational shift -- you just mentioned being a grown-up, the texts
ULRICH: Then we have a bunch of young bucks here who really want to go in
and make some moves and make some waves. And we have Senator Rubio,
unfortunately, I feel it, sometimes is this lack of knowledge, is this lack
of research saying he voted against this because of the tax moves, because
it will hurt small business, but the majority of small businesses in this
country do not even make close to $400,000.
ULRICH: It absolutely does not at all. So, is this a lack of experience,
a lack of knowledge or is this just saying I`m going to just take a
ULRICH: Because it gets ...
HARRIS-PERRY: It may get to the point that there may not be an actual
ideological structure ...
ULRICH: Right. Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: ... beneath some of this. After the break, we are going to
talk more specifically about some of the things that have happened since
the 113th convened. The Sandy vote. What could they have been thinking in
the 112th? Seriously? What could they have been thinking?
HARRIS-PERRY: Late Friday morning the House passed a bill providing $9.7
billion for Superstorm Sandy victims. That is hard to say Superstorm
Sandy. Speaker Boehner had delayed the vote from Tuesday night, which
yielded a high profile rebuke best summed up in two words, Christie mad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R ), NEW JERSEY: There is only one group to blame for
the continuing suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and
their Speaker John Boehner. I called the speaker four times last night
after 11:20, and he did not take my calls. I`m not going to get into the
specifics of what I discussed with John Boehner today, but what I will tell
you is, there is no reason for me at the moment to believe anything they
tell me. On a political chessboard of internal palace intrigue politics,
our people were played last night as a pawn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So the funny thing was, here again, there was a split
between House Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenant, Majority Leader Eric
Cantor. Breitbart.com, of all places, reported that it was Boehner who
pushed off the vote while Cantor wanted it to be passed before the 112th
Congress ended. And the worst part of it is, according to Breitbart, that
Boehner canceled the originally planned vote because of spite for Cantor
voting against the fiscal cliff deal? I`ve got to tell you, panel, I don`t
(ph) actually buy that.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I mean I would love to just sit here and beat up
on Boehner, but spite does not sound right to me, there has got to be some
kind of strategy occurring in this moment.
SIMMONS: Is there strategy? I`m not sure.
ULRICH: Well, everybody is like, no, no, no.
WELCH: It is not.
HARRIS-PERRY: I do. I mean I generally - well, not even of the better
nature, but certainly of a more strategic one, that I - it`s not going to
me how sort of giving it to Peter King or getting yourself yelled at by
Chris Christie on TV is in fact like bad for Eric Cantor per se, except
that, of course, we know he did not want to put out money for the Irene
hurricane victims earlier.
SIMMONS: Well, I do see in Eric - I mean in our Chris Christie,
particularly, what you see is something very, very clear. No Republican is
going to pay a cost with the American public for going against the
Republican Congress. Chris Christie has decided that he will stand up
against kind of the whack-a-doodles that are going on in Washington.
ULRICH: And which helps him a lot. I mean this is - this is ...
SIMMONS: Which helps him a lot.
ULRICH: This is an opportunity. He took this opportunity to say, I`m not
like these crazy people, I`m like you, and he knows that it`s a very wise
move to make ...
ULRICH: ... because next four years out, I mean he really knows that ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. I`m against - I`m against the president and
I`m against ...
ULRICH: Yes, exactly.
WELCH: We are talking about the bill that was - that at least in the early
form was $60 billion ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
WELCH: It`s twice the New Jersey state budget. So, yes, it is an
interesting political move and St. Christie, and he is very funny when he
is on your side for a moment.
WELCH: But in fact he`s just trying to get maximum dollar from Washington
WELCH: Like any governor does in the wake of a hurricane. And I -- I do
HARRIS-PERRY: Except not any governor does it, right. This was what was
bizarre to me about being a Louisianan living under Bobby Jindal. I mean
it should - I think this is my point about strategy, right, it should be
that we can expect certain kinds of things. Governors bring home as much
federal money as they can, but then you ended up with people who are so
ideologically opposed to it ...
HARRIS-PERRY: As in the case of some of these folks standing up against,
for example, Affordable Care Act and others, that they actually turned back
SINEMA: Melissa, those are individuals who are not suffering themselves.
WELCH: Well, actually some of them are. There are some people who voted
against it and who live in the affected areas.
SINEMA: No, that`s not what I said. I said these are individuals ...
WELCH: Who are not suffering ...
SINEMA: Who are not suffering themselves, right? They are individuals who
voted against this legislation whose constituents are suffering. They are
not individuals who voted against it who themselves are suffering.
SINEMA: Right? So I think what we have to remember is, yeah, there was a
vote yesterday. I was proud to vote yes. My first substantive vote ...
SINEMA: But it was unfortunately one sixth of what it should have been,
because the amount of money that was passing out of appropriation yesterday
is enough to cover a couple blocks of solving the problem. It does not
solve the problem. So my point is that the folks who voted no weren`t
suffering. Those are the individuals ...
SINEMA: ... who lost their homes.
HARRIS-PERRY: And when - there are (inaudible) to vote, and I just want to
be clear that, you know, as you point out, this is a much smaller bill, you
know, we will go back again to see if there will be a second appropriation
or a third even. But when we look at the numbers of who voted, we still
had among Democrats - you`ve got all 192 members of the House Democratic
coalition who are voting "Yes" for Sandy relief. There is still 67
Republicans in the House voting against it.
SINEMA: Including the entire Republican delegation from my state.
SIMMONS: Well, the ...
SINEMA: We don`t have hurricanes in Arizona ...
SINEMA: We have disasters, and we need that federal help when disasters
happens in our state.
SIMMONS: -- policy and rhetorical cul-de-sac here. Because they have been
telling people for years that bills like this are the reasons why we are
running trillion dollar deficits, and they are not.
SIMMONS: Wars and tax cuts and all the other things that we are spending
are where all the money is, but they have been telling each other that this
is where you go to get the cash, foreign affairs, all these little bills,.
And now they are caught, because they need to do something, but they don`t
have the ideological room to actually do something productive for the
WELCH: Thirty years ago we did not pay for local disasters, even huge
local disasters like this was, through the federal government. That
changed with Hurricane Andrew, I believe.
WELCH: In Florida, and then now it is a blank check situation. I mean,
things get larded into these bills, including a lot of stuff that had
really nothing to do with disaster relief. Republicans - they are - it
goes back to the original kind of ideological split. They are people who
have an ideological belief that this is the wrong way to deal with the
disasters, however they have not won anything, they haven`t presented an
alternative scenario ...
WELCH: And they haven`t, to your point, been credible on cutting
government where it`s actually big. So that they can make a principled
case. So while Republicans are in that zone, there is going to be a lot of
moments like that, where they are going to seem to be monsters on the wrong
side of ...
HARRIS-PERRY: I love the language about rhetorical cul-de-sac, and in
fact, I think there is another one they are currently stuck in, and that -
that question of ending violence against women. I mean you would think
that this would again one of the easiest things to pass, even in a divided
Congress. It`s not. And the two lieutenants are playing very different
HARRIS-PERRY: The news out of India this week was sobering. Five suspects
have been charged with the brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on
a bus. The men who had been drinking beat the woman with iron bars, raped
her and then threw her out of the moving bus. The crime sparked mass
protests in India, many of them led by men calling for a change of attitude
toward women and new laws regarding violence against women. Prosecutors
will seek the death penalty against the suspects who have been charged.
But while we gasp in horror at the events in India, we need to recognize
that this is not an other world problem. Right here at home, we deal with
cases like the one in Steubenvillve, Ohio, were two high school football
players stand accused of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party. To make the
crime more horrific, this week video emerged online of young men laughing
about the rape. We are not going to show you that video. Rather, we will
show you this: the headlines about the fact that the 112th Congress
allowed the Violence Against Women Act to expire. And the headlines like
this, that shows us who has been handling the negotiations, none other than
In 1994, it was Senator Joe Biden who led the passage of VAWA, and for 18
years the bill had no problem being reauthorized in a bipartisan session,
but reports saying that Eric Cantor just take an issue with the Senate
version passed last year because of extended protections within indigenous
tribal lands, and as the 112th Congress came to an end, even with growing
support among House members for the Senate version, the House leadership
chose not to scheduled a vote on the Senate bill.
Congresswoman, you are part of the most diverse class of - particularly of
women, of people of color, there is great, you know, images now of all the
Democratic women standing there on the steps of the Capitol, can the war
against women finally begin to be wrapped up in the 113th? Can you get
SINEMA: Well, I certainly hope we can. And Melissa, this is a really
personal issue for me, you know. Before I was in politics, I was a social
worker. My very first job was as a rape crisis counselor at a domestic
violence shelter, so this is an issue that has mattered to me my entire
And the fact that the 112th Congress let VAWA expire does not just mean
that they politically opposed to some of the expansions. It means that
women all across this country, right now today, are living without these
So I think what the job of the new women in Congress, there is now 61
Democratic women in Congress, we`ve got a handful of women on the
Republican side as well. And I think there is some opportunity to build a
bipartisan coalition, to help communicate to our brothers on both sides of
the aisle how important it is to pass this legislation. The truth is,
there is not a single piece of partisan ideology in that legislation.
There is nothing ideological about it.
SINEMA: All women deserve protection from abuse, and that is all this
legislation says. I do think that the new Congress being more diverse,
more women, more communities of color, I think we have an opportunity to
help get this forward, but I think it`s going to take a concerted effort
not just from Democratic women, but we need Republican women to help us
stand up and push this through as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: And your point that there is nothing ideological, but there
is a lot of politics engaged here.
ULRICH: What`s so sad to me and horrifying is basically you have a group
of men who are saying, that this is political, simply because it has
something to do with minority communities, undocumented immigrants ...
ULRICH: LGBT, and indigenous Americans, what is political about that?
These are human beings. If you look at the female farm workers, right, who
are undocumented, the situations that they are in, the fear of deportation
is so similar to what is going on in India right now. If you look at the
fact there is no protection, what is the difference between us and that?
And that is really too big of a deal to not even put this through for one
more minute, because every minute we spend talking about this, someone is
getting assaulted who is not going to be able to report it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Carmen, I want our public, I just don`t want the viewers
to miss that, right, that the part of - part of what - we talked about the
fiscal cliff so much, which wasn`t really quite a cliff, as my colleague,
you know, Chris Hayes, says, right, you can go right over it, and
everything is fine, but there was an actual VAWA cliff, we are now over it.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are on the other side, and it has expired and this point
about undocumented workers who are women who may be in circumstances of
domestic violence, but fear deportation, rightly fear it, and if they show
up to report their situation of violence, could - so they don`t report,
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean these are very real (inaudible) situations (ph).
ULRICH: Absolutely. And any times the people that are - actually doing
the assault ...
ULRICH: ... are the people that have hired them.
WELCH: It all was to keep the existing law on the books. And this is
going to be deeply unpopular on the Nerdland Twitter feed.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. The House could have voted - I mean the Senate could
have voted for the House version.
WELCH: The Senate could have voted for the existing law to remain on the
books and it would be there. There is an article in "The New York Times"
in April that I would commend everyone to read, it was "Seeing Advantage in
the After-contraception Battle", Democrats push to put Republicans on the
defensive on the Violence Against Women Act. And so, it is - let`s put
some - Jeff Sessions had a great quote in there - conservative senator from
Alabama, he said, "I`ve supported this bill from the -- this law from the
beginning. It seems like the changes are being made exactly to try to
attract opposition. So, it`s expanding pathways to immigration for, you
know, illegal immigrants, which Republicans always go crazy about. It is
expanding this - the same sex couples, so this was politicized, this was
seen as a political opportunity for Democrats to keep pushing Republicans
on the defensive in the war against women.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is basically the argument - you know, we called
Cantor`s office, had multiple conversations with Cantor`s office back and
forth, and this is basically the argument they made to us. You can`t
complain to us that the existing VAWA did not get passed, because, you
know, there was in fact the House version that was existing, when Senate
could have voted on it, and they are the ones who politicized this.
SIMMONS: Yeah, look, we`ve got to pass - we`ve got to pass the Violence
Against Women Act. I mean, it`s ridiculous that does not happen, and I
think we also, we don`t spend enough time talking about young boys and how
we have to educate the young boys about their sexual responsibility. I
think it`s got to be more of a discussion about that in the country.
And then there`s the third part, which is about the politics of this.
Republicans are losing women in national elections by double digits every
time, really, is this the place where you want to draw the line in the
sand? I mean for a party that has got to find a way out of the wilderness
and back into the mainstream of American life, they continue to make these
decisions that put them outside where most common sense Americans are,
Republican or Democrat.
SINEMA: And here is - and here is what is a thing that`s a little bit
tricky about what Mr. Sessions and Mr. Cantors are saying. They say we`re
OK with the current VAWA, but we don`t want to expand it to protect any
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s an ...
SINEMA: The problem there, because ...
SINEMA: And you are saying that some women are better than other women.
SINEMA: And the reality is, that a woman who is being raped or sexually
assaulted is a woman, period. And whether she is a tourist from France,
whether she is an undocumented person who is being abused by her boyfriend
or whether she happens to be a person who lives on the tribal land ...
WELCH: But it`s not just that ...
SINEMA: She is still being sexually assaulted.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, and ...
ULRICH: By the way, you are referring to the U-visa, right, so if you are
an undocumented immigrant, what happens is that you basically get a
temporary visa so that you can prosecute ...
ULRICH: But it has only happened once so far, but this is ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Don`t go too far on this, because we`re going to take up
immigration as we get into our next hour as well. We can - we can come
back on this. Before the break, I want to give you a quick update because
last Saturday in my weekly open letter I wrote it out - I wrote out to
outgoing North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue asking her to right a
historical wrong and to pardon the Wilmington Ten before she left office.
On Monday, she did just that.
Now, it was not my letter, it was - it was undoubtedly the work of so many
people in the state of North Carolina, but Governor Perdue granted pardons
of innocence to the nine black men and the one white woman who had been
unjustly convicted in 1972 of fire bombing a grocery ,store and we in
Nerdland applaud her action.
So up next, I`ve got another letter. This time, it`s going to Virginia.
40 years after Roe v. Wade, we are losing ground on reproductive rights,
maybe we can get another break this week. When we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Just three days shy of closing the calendar on 2012,
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell offered a final parting shot in last year`s
onslaught of legal restrictions against women`s reproductive rights.
Quietly, with no public announcement, he certified new regulations that
could result in the closure of abortion clinics in the state of Virginia.
Here is where we find ourselves as we approach this month 40th anniversary
of the Supreme Court`s landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Watching as state
anti-choice lawmakers gradually chip away at the federal government`s
affirmation that a woman has the right to control her own body, but we also
find ourselves witnessing vocal impassioned and effective resistance to
those efforts as well. So this week, as we near the anniversary, and the
seemingly inevitable Supreme Court challenge to the Roe v. Wade, I want to
address this week`s open letter to one of the voices who led that charge
last year. NARAL`s pro-choice Virginia executive director Tarina Keene.
Dear Tarina, it is me, Melissa. I hope in 2013 that you get a minute to
relax, because 2012 was a busy year for you. It was only March when
Governor Bob McDonnell signed a bill requiring doctors to perform an
ultrasound on women before they could end an unwanted pregnancy. But
thanks to you and the protest sparked by the spotlight you helped shine on
this legislation, the law passed minus its most invasive provision that
would have forced women to undergo a trans-vaginal ultrasound. And yes,
thanks to you those Republican legislators in Virginia can never again
claim ignorance about the phrase vaginal probe.
But more importantly, you put lawmakers in other states on notice that we
will not stand idly while they mandate invasive medical procedures for
women. After all that, you deserve a moment to catch your breath, but you
will not get it, because Governor McDonnell is at it again. He knew that
you and Virginia`s pro-choice advocates would be waiting to pounce if he
made a lot of fanfare about these new regulations, so he snuck them in
between Christmas and the New Year holiday.
Now, Virginia`s 20 abortion clinics may have to make costly renovations
that have nothing to do with the safety and health of their clients, but
everything to do with forcing those clinics out of business.
Tarina, provisions like this are why you are and other state local
advocates for women`s rights are a critical line of defense for
reproductive justice. Because while its opponents wait to attempt a
killing blow to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court, they are also delivering
its death by a 1,000 tiny cuts with restrictive state laws. This slow
erosion of reproductive rights has left us with the conclusion reached by
this week`s "Time" magazine cover story that "Getting an abortion in
America is in some places harder today than at any point since it became a
constitutionally protected right."
According to the Guttmacher Institute last year, 43 laws were passed in 19
states to limit women`s access to abortion. It`s the second highest number
of annual abortion restrictions passed by state.
But Tarina, I want you to take heart, because there was also fewer than
half the restrictions passed in 2011, a year in which a record 92 abortion
restrictions were enacted. The difference in those numbers is due in part
to people like you who stood against restrictive laws, stood for women`s
reproductive rights and put the issues on the forefront of our political
election year this last year. And that is what I want you to remember as
we near this milestone in the defense of women`s rights. Yes, the fight to
defend those rights is in many ways harder, even than it was four decades
ago, but do not give up, and do not give in, stand your ground. In fact,
keep pushing to lay claim to even more ground for reproductive rights. Let
us not only work to block restrictive state laws, but to push even farther
for federal policy that expands and improves reproductive justice. So that
in another 40 years, we will reflect on 2013 and 1973 as the years that
women made history.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have been talking a bit about the lieutenants who helped
to negotiate the fiscal cliff deal or at least tried stand in its way in
other ways, but that is the political side of the deal. What about the
details? According to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, the deal
wasn`t all it was cracked up to be. In a recent op-ed he wrote, "Was it a
great deal? No, as I said, taxes should not be going up at all, just as
importantly, the transcendent issue of our time, the transcendent issue of
our time, the spiraling debt remains completely unaddressed, yet now that
the president has gotten his long sought tax hike on the rich, we can
finally turn squarely toward the real problem, which is spending."
OK. Let`s take a step back and take a look at the impact on the other end
of the economic spectrum. Were there components of the deal that were
somewhat positive for low income Americans? According to Greg Kaufmann of
"The Nation" the answer is yes. He cites unemployment insurance extended
for a year, no cuts to food stamps, Medicaid or Social Security and
improved child tax credit and earned income tax credit extended for five
years. So, while positive, there is a long road ahead of us. But we must
make sure that those who are most vulnerable are not left out in the
Back at the table, "Reason" magazine`s Matt Welch, finance expert Carmen
Wong Ulrich, Democratic consultant Jamal Simmons and Democratic
Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. So, Carmen ...
HARRIS-PERRY: The deal, right? I mean the deal is in certain ways quite
progressive in terms of the taxing, right, when we look at kind of the
chart, it just shows us that it is going to be tiny tax increases for those
who make the least, massive tax increases for those who make the most? Is
it a good deal?
ULRICH: Sort of. Let`s think about it that way. Now, you mentioned, of
course, lower income Americans, but also I have to add to that, that middle
income and the upper middle income Americans really dodged a huge bullet.
It is not talked about a lot, because people don`t understand it. The AMT
- now the AMT tax, if that patch had not been put in there permanently, we
are talking about another 3 million of Americans who make - because back
when this was built in the `70s, if you made $75,000, you were rich ...
ULRICH: A year. And a family making $100,000 was rich, now we know today
that`s not the case, but the AMT applies to that, not indexed for
inflation, over 3 million Americans would have had to pay another $3,800 on
average a year in taxes, and for the rest of us who end up getting caught
in this AMT, it`s a really expensive way to get taxed, and the fact that
that was patched up is a really big deal.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So there were some real protections for real
Americans within this, and I think there is a victory here in that the
president said what we have to do is have people paying their fair share
and in fact when we look at kind of the details here, I mean, the
fundamental fair share is that we go for a permanent at least 20 percent on
incomes above $400 to $450,000, right, that is the big deal that occurs
here for capital gains and dividends, right, which is not just income, but
SIMMONS: Absolutely. And, you know, if you look at this more broadly and
we pull back just a little bit, let`s remember a few years ago when we were
in the middle of the banking crisis, the entire country came together and
we bailed out the largest banks in this country, because we thought that
was in the best interests of the country. Now we (inaudible) decided --
and remember the banks started giving each other bonuses, and so we had
there`s money here ...
SIMMONS: ... go out to all these pretty wealthy people. Now we are at a
place where we are broadening the level of responsibility in the country,
so that the people who have made the most over the last few years are the
ones who are also going to share some of the responsibility in a greater
And I think if we are going to ask middle income Americans and poor
Americans to have more responsibility in fixing some of the big problems
that we face as the country, we`ve got to also ask the wealthy to do it,
and that is why I think this deal was very important.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Matt, I want to ask you a little bit about this kind of
ideological piece that we talked a bit about earlier, because it does feel
to me like on the one hand there is this - the very simple reality that the
main thing Congress does is levy taxes, I mean to the extent that it has
the power - it has power to do that, but then you have sort of an
ideological perspective at least with the minority that says under no
circumstances do you raise taxes on anyone ever? Does that just mean,
there is no power - for that ideological group, does that mean that there
is no effective power in the U.S. House?
WELCH: Well, the ground is shifting, right? For years, for 25 years or
more, it was don`t raise any tax under any circumstances, and then you
could support tax breaks for given constituencies, because you are reducing
the tax burden.
This has in my view really contributed to the horrifying complexity and
also just kind of corporatization of American life, unfortunately.
But that view is shifting, at least on sentiment among people who might
vote for Republicans sometimes to I don`t really care as much about taxes
as I care about spending, and that has not translated yet into many votes
to speak of on Capitol Hill, but it`s a real thing, that there are people
who do want to cut government and do not hold the line on taxes. Some of
them - the people who voted against this, like Rand Paul, like Marco Rubio,
Justin Amash, these guys said, we can talk about raising taxes, that - I`m
actually -- I can do that, but we need to do this in such a way that we are
actually addressing long-term entitlement spending, deficit reduction, all
these kinds of things. This was a deal, it was the deficit reduction deal
that did not reduce the deficit.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right, right.
WELCH: It was an entitlement deal that did not touch entitlements, it`s a
debt ceiling deal that did not ...
HARRIS-PERRY: That didn`t raise the debt ceiling. Right.
WELCH: What did we do?
WELCH: Well, and actually, I think - I mean for me, Congresswoman, this
fundamental question, the reason I kind of laughed and had to stop in the
middle of the McConnell quote is the idea that the debt or the so-called
spiraling debt is the fundamental pre-eminent issue facing us. I mean if
that - if that is the sort of line in the sand for the 113th, it sounds to
me like you are going to have a hard time getting these other things
addressed, if in fact, the narrative is always going to be about debt and
spending in some way.
SINEMA: Well, I think what we have seen is that most Americans do think
that debt is a real concern, and they may not understand all the details,
but they know in their own lives when they have lots of debt, they are in
trouble. So I do think we have to have a conversation about debt, and we
have to have it honestly, we have to acknowledge that it`s a problem.
But we also have to acknowledge that the way to solve it is not just to
raise taxes or just to cut spending. So, you hear sometimes some
Republicans will say no more taxes and some Democrats will say no cutting
spending. And the truth is, as everything is, that we have to find a
middle ground and do it.
What we didn`t see from the deal that came out last week is actually making
progress towards those shared goals, but there were some important things
that happened. You know, protecting the unemployment insurance for low
income folks, protecting the earned income tax credit. That`s critical for
folks in the middle class and folks who are trying to make it to the middle
What I think we have to do, is have a real discussion about how to cut
spending in a way that doesn`t make the middle class or those trying to get
to the middle class more vulnerable. But how to do it in a way that`s
really smart. I mean, we all remember there was a report that came out
from the GAO office that someone in the Veterans Affairs office had gone on
this lavish trip and spent $6 million like in Vegas or something ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right.
SINEMA: That`s shameful.
SINEMA: That`s wrong.
SINEMA: It should stop.
SINEMA: Now, Republicans and Democrats can agree on that.
SINEMA: What we have to do, though, is get past the talking points of just
cutting, just taxes, and really talk about a comprehensive solution.
SIMMONS: (inaudible) economic growth.
SIMMONS: That`s all.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. OK. We`re going to take a quick break, we will be
right back on that, because the struggle, in fact, does continue.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, remember that whole we oppose tax increases of any kind
line from the Republican Party? Don`t be fooled. As the result of the
most recent deal in Washington, about 77 percent of taxpayers will pay more
in taxes this year. Why? Because the holiday season just ended, and I`m
not talking about Kwanzaa, folks. The payroll tax holiday is over. And
taxes on wage earners are going up. So - so this is it, right? I mean,
for whatever else got protected, payroll tax holiday did not, and for most
wage earners, it is going to be a slight uptick in taxes.
ULRICH: Listen, if you are making $50,000 a year and now you`re going to
be paying another almost $100 a month in taxes, this is really going to be
a big hit for you. So you have to sort of try to plan as much as you can
ahead for that, because it is a big jump, especially for the lower income
folks who are not low income enough to not have to pay more in taxes, you
have to pay attention to that.
But that was a temporary little patch there, that was not something that
was permanent, so eventually that was going to have to go back and have to
HARRIS-PERRY: And in some ways, thank goodness. I mean, yes, it`s going
to hurt if you are the family, but on the other hand, it is going to hurt
us in a big way if we are not paying into Social Security and Medicare.
SIMMONS: Absolutely, and this is almost like a little gift from the
government, but it went on for so long that we all got sort of used to
having that gift, and so now that gift is going away and we have got to pay
up. It is like the first day back at work after new year`s.
HARRIS-PERRY: You were saying before the break, the other way to think
about sort of how we get sufficient revenue is to think about economic
growth, not just the taxes versus spending tradeoff.
SIMMONS: That is right. And in the 1990s, when we started to handle the
debt, one of the ways we did that was that we had extraordinary growth, and
so the revenues that came in were spent to deal with that. Now, what we
did do on the government side is we limited our spending, so as the money
came in, we didn`t go out and buy a bunch of new stuff, we actually took
that money to pay down the debt. And that is what we sort of have to do
now. We`ve got to get growth stimulated again, we`ve got to get people
back to work, and then we`ve got to keep spending restraints so that we can
apply that money to paying down the debt.
ULRICH: And that is the conversation that we really need to have here,
because our fear is that this debt cliff is going to get loud, there`s
going to be a lot of shouting and yelling, and it is a distraction from
really, what`s really important. I mean, if we take this back to kitchen
table economics, basically you are in a situation where we are still in
some economic crises, we still have 12 million people out of work, we have
to address that. You need to keep a roof over your head, food on the
table, and some form of transportation. You can find the money by cutting
some spending, but you also got to make more money, and that you have to do
before you can start paying those credit card bills, before you can start
managing that debt. So you have to bring growth in, and the debt will go
away like that.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think if we make that kitchen table analogy, it is
also true that families don`t take food out of the mouths out of the
elderly or out of their kids to pay their credit card debt. That is
another key example.
HARRIS-PERRY: Priorities. Priorities matter, in our family, even if it is
our big national family.
Coming up in our next hour, one of the most pressing issues on the
president`s agenda. Can he achieve real immigration reform? And 150 years
after the Emancipation Proclamation, Emancipation Proclamation, a lesson on
the true impact of the historic document. More Nerdland at the top of the
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Presidents are
going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. That is a
refrain we often heard from then-Senator Barack Obama while he was making
his first White House run in 2008. Well, the first week of 2013 bore that
out. Even as the White House and the rest of Washington was scrambling to
limit the fiscal cliff damage, President Obama once again used his
executive power to get something done on immigration policy.
According to "The Washington Post", the rule set to go into effect
March 4th will allow qualified relatives of citizens who are undocumented -
- excuse me -- of Americans who are undocumented to apply for a provisional
unlawful presence waiver before leaving the United States to obtain their
Right. So that the change is a big deal for families. Basically,
you have a situation where if you were an undocumented family member and
you left to go get a visa, it could take as much as 10 years of separation
from the family while you were in the native country applying for the visa.
But now, the family members will face a shorter wait outside of the United
The president did not do this without a push. Back in December,
Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez told our guest, Seth Freed Wessler,
of Colorlines.com, that, quote, "administratively stopping the deportations
of spouses, parents, and children of citizens is an urgent matter that can
be a catalyst for the permanent legislative reform.
But will it be? Of all of the priorities we heard discussion for
President Obama`s second term, immigration reform tops the list largely
because he did not live up to the ambitious goal to not only pass reform in
his first term, the first year with his first term. Late in the 2012
campaign, the president owned up to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we talked about
immigration reform in the first year, that`s before the economy was on the
verge of collapse, and what I confess I did not expect -- and so I`m happy
to take responsibility for being naive here -- is that Republicans who had
previously supported comprehensive immigration reform, my opponent in 2008
who had been a champion of it and who attended these meetings suddenly
would walk away. That`s what I did not anticipate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, can he expect them to do the same thing this time?
The new Congress is days` old, and we`re all waiting to see whether or not
Republicans are still up to their obstructionist ways.
Joining me to dig into those questions are the aforementioned
investigative reporter and researcher for Colorlines.com, Seth Freed
Wessler, finance expert Carmen Wong Ulrich, Democratic consultant Jamal
Simmons, and freshly sworn-in Congressman Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
So, Seth, tell me the story. Is this the beginning of comprehensive
SETH FREED WESSLER, COLORLINES.COM: Well, look, there are a lot of
promises coming out of Washington right now. The White House is saying
consistently that they`re going to push a comprehensive immigration reform
bill. Republicans have said the same thing. And, in fact, there are a
group of people who are Congress people who are spending time right now,
and according to the aides spent time over the holidays thinking about what
a bill would look like crafting a bill.
We have yet to see what a bill might look like. And absolutely, we
are looking at a scene right now that makes it look very difficult to get
anything, anything progressive certainly passed.
Now, you know, the reality is that both parties here are starting
from in the red on immigration reform right now. I mean, the Republican
Party has consistently blocked everything, and immigration reform, and the
DREAM Act and talked about, you know, Romney talked about self-deportation
during the elections.
But, you know, the Democrats on the same day that this announcement
was made about parents and spouses -- I mean, weeks before that
announcement was made, numbers came out about the new deportation numbers,
and what we are seeing is that historic numbers of deportation in the last
year 409,000 people were deported from the United States, and I got that
data from a Freedom of Information Act request just a week before that,
that showed in about two years, over 200,000 parents of U.S. citizen
children were deported.
So -- I mean, this is the scene that we are talking about. The
pressure is really on.
HARRIS-PERRY: And there`s another aspect to the pressure being on,
right, Carmen? I mean, part of what puts the pressure on has to do with
what happened demographically in this election cycle, right? So when we
look at what happened in 2012, we see that the Latina and Asian voters gave
their support to President Obama over Mitt Romney in the sort of enormous
But this part of the coalition did not come just for fun, they came
because there were real policy issues on the agenda.
CARMEN WONG URLICH, PRES., ALTA WEALTH MANAGEMENT: Huge issues. I
mean, we`re talking about separating children who have grown up and born in
this country, and sending their parents to another country that they don`t
know. And, of course, the parents are not going to take the kids with
them, because they want the education here.
You know, to hear anything, I really hope that we won`t get to this
point again, where we`re hearing the jobs talk. This is all about jobs and
taking away American jobs.
Absolutely not. Basically, we are talking about people who do not
compete with almost any segment of American population, even -- because --
we`re talking about high school or a less high school education, and most
Americans who have less than a high school education take jobs that require
service, service jobs, cashier, phone operators, interaction language, all
those things that basically you grow up as American.
So, we have a group of people doing the jobs that we are on the back
of, by the way, so we can open up the restaurants and afford the pay the
bills in the restaurants, because we have people who are working in the
back who make less. So, we have to basically acknowledge that doing
something about these millions of people really actually helps the country
and helps the economy.
And University of California-Davis actually showed that on average,
we are all helped, our incomes year after year by thousands of dollars, in
the last estimate we found $5,000. Our income goes up simply because the
economy is built on this labor.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, this is to me such a key point, Jamal,
that I wanted to pull in here. I mean, two things, right? One, that whole
anchor babies narrative was a lie, right? As soon as you see how families
are being separated, you realized there`s no anchors here, right? Because
you don`t get in fact anchored to the country.
But the other piece of it is this economic piece, and the idea that
it`s not competitive. It`s actually the very basis. Many of the low wage
jobs taken by undocumented immigrants is the very basis of our current
profitability as a nation.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, we do have to desegregate
this just a little bit.
JAMAL SIMMONS: Because people who are at the low end of the economic
scale are facing some wage pressure of the addition of this labor. So they
have a rational perspective about being suspicious of this. But when you
talk to people about the fairness, you know, this is where -- you know,
particularly African-Americans who may be in conflict with some of the
immigration population. They absolutely break on the side of more
immigration, because they don`t want to have a situation where people are
being discriminated against because of what they look like and what they
sound like and where they come from and that`s where the African-Americans
For those of us from the middle, people who are wealthy, we
absolutely do better because of immigration, and it absolutely helps our
bottom line. But there is a wage pressure at the low end that we do have
to be conscious of as we figure out how to make all this work.
ULRICH: A much smaller portion than the millions we`re talking
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Congressman, I guess part of what I find
fascinating about the fact that the president, in these two cases, the
deferred actions that we will talk a bit about in a minute, and now on this
question of the parental and the family question, the president has had to
take action, because the Congress which once had, certainly not a majority
support, but bipartisan support, couldn`t come together on this question.
REP. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D), ARIZONA: The truth is, it`s not rocket
science. George Bush, Jon Kyl, John McCain, Barack Obama had all proposed
pretty much the same solution. And there`s three components. You`ve got
to secure the borders so you can tell difference between bad guys and the
good guys. And the bad guys are the drug runners and the gun runners. The
good guys want to come and work in this country and do good.
The second thing you got to do is really adjust our quota system for
immigration to meet market demands. The truth is we have never been able
to meet the job demands in our country without labor from outside of the
country, including, I`m guessing, many of our own ancestors.
SINEMA: So I my family immigrated to this country for work several
generations ago. And so, that`s number two. We`ve got to have a market-
based immigration system.
And the third thing that we have to do: to help the folks in the
shadow come out of the shadows. And these families and these kids, the
DREAMers are exactly the people we are talking about.
SINEMA: You know, these families, these mixed families where some
people in the family have papers and some don`t, you know ,a lot of these
young people don`t realize until they are 16, 17, 18 years old --
HARRIS-PERRY: They don`t have any idea.
SINEMA: -- that they can`t join the military or they can`t go to
ULRICH: But also, they end up in foster homes.
ULRICH: This is what`s so horrifying. Can you imagine just being 10
years old and basically being placed in a foster home with strangers and
not seeing a parent for a couple of years?
HARRIS-PERRY: Because your mom got picked up at an immigration
checkpoint sort of on her way to pick you up from school.
I met dozens and dozens of parents inside of the immigration
detention centers when I was reporting on precisely this question, what
happens to the children of these parents? In fact, these parents, as
they`re deported in these detention centers, are losing touch with their
kids. Their kids are being taken out of the families and are stuck in
I mean, you know, 200,000 parents. That`s a colossal numbers and the
collateral effects of that are just going to ripple outward.
I do want to say, I mean, you know, immigration reform, and
comprehensive immigration reform is always talked about a three-pronged
thing. I just talked, right? Legalization, and for fixing folks who are
undocumented, creating a pathway for people who want to come here to come
here and enforcement.
But, you know, those are really broad buckets. And what`s most
important -- you know, we don`t really know what that means until we see
the language and the space for -- there could be a very regressive version
of these bills. We could see more enforcement.
We could see -- we could see a kind of path to legalization that
doesn`t include citizenship. I mean, the Republicans have put forward in
November, put forward an idea like that for DREAMers.
So, I think we have to wait and see what the sort of proposals look
like, which will probably start coming out in the next few months.
SINEMA: Or --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, we`re going to take a quick break, and as we go
out on this break, I want to show you what you didn`t see last week because
you were laughing it up with the Nerdland comedy show.
As we go out, we`re going to listen to President Obama on the "Meet
the Press" last week where he tells us that immigration is on the top of
his priority list.
When we come back, we`re going to talk to someone who is going to
hold him to that promise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I have said that fixing our broken immigration system is a
top priority. I will introduce legislation in the first year to get that
done. I think that we have talked about it long enough. We know how to
fix it. We can do it in a comprehensive way, but the American people
support, that`s something we should get done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Now, I know that some people want to bypass Congress and have
me change the laws on my own. Believe me --
OBAMA: And believe me, right now, dealing with Congress the idea --
CROWD: Yes, you can! Yes, you can! Yes, you can!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama being interrupted in his
speech in July of 2011 at the National Council of La Raza annual Washington
conference. Activists were insisting that the president who claimed he
couldn`t bypass Congress could in fact do exactly that, bypass Congress,
and just by making his own deportation policy -- and he did.
In June of last year, the president announced a new policy called
Deferred Action for Child Arrivals or DACA, which allows undocumented
immigrants 30 years old or younger to apply to stay in the United States
obtain driver`s licenses and work without fear of deportation for two years
with a chance of renewal. DACA has been very popular with more than
300,000 undocumented immigrants lining up to pay the $465 fee and file
And while the president enjoyed political kudos for the action, the
idea was not initially his. It came from the activists themselves.
DREAMer groups organized 96 legal scholars who signed a letter to the White
House outlining the legal justifications for the president`s actions. They
showed him not just the problem but also the viable solution.
So what will they come up with next?
Back at the table is "Reason" magazine`s Matt Welch. And joining us
live from Washington, D.C. is Janet Murguia, who is president and CEO the
National Council of La Raza, the nation`s largest Latino, civil rights and
So nice to have you with us.
JANET MURGUIA, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA: Thank you. Really
appreciate being here today.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I have to tell you. You know, when you look at
what the DREAMers did for DACA, it feels like, you know, pretty soon, I`m
going to end up teaching this all historians and sociologists and political
scientists are going to teach this as the way to organize. It`s a real
case study of how to get action in this stalled and the divided government.
What were the key parts of that movement that you think can now be
applied as we move forward for more immigration reform?
MURGUIA: Well, I think more than anything else, is the fact that it
was very authentic and organic movement that really was created by the
DREAMers themselves. And it was quite courageous to see young people step
out, knowing they were putting themselves at risk, but saying that they did
feel part of this country, that they were in every which way they knew
possible Americans except for the certificate.
And so, for us, I think they have been a real true source of
inspiration and courage, and you`d be surprised how that can move people.
And, in fact, we do know that the polls show that the DREAMers have broad
support, and the fact that we were pushing legislation that would actually
put into law what the president essentially has done with his action, even
though his action is only temporary, has brought support among the American
people, and it`s because they do understand that there`s an essential
element of justice and fairness when you are looking at these young people,
and the fact that they have been very courageous.
So, the fact that it`s been an authentic movement, the fact that they
have worked in a broad coalition, and that many organizations have been
helping to support that, I think there was just a real sense that this is
really a fair thing to do. Although, I do believe that the administration
was quite skittish --
MURGUIA: -- in wanting to take that action. So, it did require
pressure on this administration, and to remind the president of the promise
that he made, and that in fact, he was empowered to do some of this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. There is a kind of lesson here that reminds me
of the civil rights movement and the Birmingham children`s march which
ultimately broke the back of the Birmingham massive resistance against
civil rights when you started to see all those teenagers and young people
and you realized, oh, wait a minute, the injustices to youth and to
families helps to kind of galvanize the American consciousness. But as you
pointed out, the other big piece of it was showing a pathway to the
administration legally of what it could to do.
So, when you look now at the sort of new action that the president
and the administration have taken around families that should go into
effect in March, what comes next after that? So, if we got young people
addressed, if we`ve got some family members addressed, it still feels to me
like there are an awful lot of holes, how does sort of the movement in part
embodied by La Raza start to move forward?
MURGUIA: Well, obviously, we want to continue to move for
comprehensive immigration reform and see a law passed that would deal with
this in a permanent way, because don`t forget, the president`s action while
important step to provide relief to the young people, these DREAMers, it`s
only temporary. It expires after two years.
So, we want and need the permanent action and we need comprehensive
immigration reform. But we do know that our other options that I think the
administration can pursue and we are looking at 11 million individuals out
there who are undocumented in their status and who have been here at least
So, we are looking at ways that perhaps we can find administratively
to provide relief. I do think that that`s going to be ultimately very
challenging. I do think that the administration is pushing as much as they
can administratively, but we`re going to run out of administrative options
real soon, and that`s why there is a sense of urgency around getting
comprehensive immigration reform done and I think a real window of
opportunity post the election and the turnout of Hispanics in this election
which was quite decisive I think in the result.
HARRIS-PERRY: Janet Murguia, thank you so much for joining us.
When we come back, we will talk to some folks at the table about
exactly the moment of opportunity that you have suggested there.
We`ve got a congresswoman from Arizona. She`s at the table, and
we`re going to talk about the fact that Arizona has been ground zero for
immigration reform. What can that mean now for the 113th Congress?
HARRIS-PERRY: Every state in the Union is to some degree, a
legislative laboratory, a testing ground for federal laws that are yet to
be born, and it would be hard to argue that any state has tested the waters
on immigration policy more than Arizona.
Tempers flared in 2010 when the infamous, and subsequently
determined, mostly unconstitutional SB-1070 or the "papers, please" law was
signed into effect by Governor Jan Brewer. The law instantly became the
most stringent anti-immigration measure anywhere in the country.
From the outset, one of the strongest and most vocal opponents of SB-
1070 was then State Representative Kyrsten Sinema. As of noon Thursday,
Kyrsten Sinema is now a United States congresswoman and she joins us here
today in Nerdland.
SB-1070, does that set the table for the immigration reform
SINEMA: Well, I think what SB-1070 does is it really helps everyone
else around the country see exactly what happens when Congress fails to
act. The fact is Arizona is and has been ground zero for the immigration
crisis for decades. And, unfortunately, we have been asking Congress to
stand up, get the moral courage and do what`s right to solve this problem,
and when they fail to do so, the Arizona state legislature took action.
That was important to note that as you mentioned, I virulently
opposed this legislation. I feel like it was the fraud solution to a very
But SB-1070 was and still is popular in Arizona. And reason is not
because people believe it`s the great solution. It`s because they see it
as a solution.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Some kind of action.
SINEMAN: That`s right. And so, what we`ve learned is that the
public in Arizona is interested in anything that you`re going to do. If
you give them a good option, they will take the good one over the bad one.
But if you only provide failed solutions, they`ll give it a shot.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Matt, the other possibility, though, would be to
do nothing, right? I mean, there is a libertarian perspective that says
actually it shouldn`t be the just do as much as you possibly can to at
least create some sort of action around immigration, it`s a sort of an open
MATT WELCH, REASON MAGAZINE: Well, I mean, that requires doing
WELCH: I think any time that you have -- you have tens of millions
of people who are breaking a law, and you can look at it as a lawlessness
problem which a lot of people do, especially the Republicans when they talk
about this. Or you can look at it as a prohibition problem.
And just like the war on drugs is a prohibition problem, particularly
on marijuana. I think, in many cases, the immigration system here is a
prohibition issue. When you are only allowing 50,000 workers from Mexico a
ULRICH: Well, 10,000 unskilled workers a year.
WELCH: Ten thousand unskilled workers from Mexico, you can find more
of those in Downey, California, right now, if you go there right now.
So, if you were looking at it as a lawlessness problem, then you`re
doing to do all these E-verify stuff, you`re going to make everyone check
their papers, you`re going to do workplace raids, you`re going to break up
all those families -- these terrible things that have happened in the last
four years and the last 15 years. That`s what you`re going to do.
And what you need to do and I`m glad that you mentioned this earlier,
is we need to greatly expand the number of people who can just come here
legally and work. That`s what they want to do. That`s what they`re coming
here to do, not to suck on welfare --
WELCH: -- and all this kind of nightmare stories.
They`re coming here to start stuff, to become more wealthy than they
are back home. So, let`s make that easier and let`s put that in the front
of it ,because if you stop that sort of number of illegal immigrants
growing by legalizing immigration --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right.
WELCH: -- then suddenly, this huge problem start to shrink and you
don`t have to have a gigantic, comprehensive deal that touches every single
last issue of it.
WELCH: You don`t have to build a triple fence and all these kinds of
HARRIS-PERRY: You can change lawlessness by in fact changing laws.
It is the story of alcohol prohibition in this country, right? You had all
of this lawlessness because people were drinking. As soon as you changed
that law back, repealed prohibition, then it becomes whatever set of
problems it becomes, public health or whatever else, but it doesn`t become
a problem of criminal justice.
WELCH: And as you were saying in the break, you know, there is a
parallel with the criminal justice system.
WELCH: And that affects so many families here, a lot of which -- a
huge amount of which is due to the drug war. This is breaking up families.
This is causing cycles of poverty and pathologies, so when you look at it
as a prohibition (INAUDIBLE).
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And so, I wonder about the rule in part, Seth,
of journalists who are telling the stories. I mean, to the extent that the
dreamers are beginning to create pressure for Congress, it`s because they
borrowed another thing from a different movement, not only the kids` part
of the civil rights movement, but the coming out of the closet part from
the LGBT movement where they said, you know what? I am not ashamed to be
undocumented. I am here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here are the ways I`m contributing.
So what does media or journalism do as part of the social action?
WESSLER: Well, I mean, I think when I`m talking to these DREAMers or
I`m talking to activists in Arizona, what`s clear to me is that the
immigrant rights movement, the push for reform has actually never been
stronger than it is now. It`s precisely because these dreamers are now
organizing all over the country. People have organized in remarkable ways
to push back against the Arizona-type laws, also to push back against the
Obama`s deportation policies that have removed hundreds of thousands of
And so, you have this remarkable, very young network of grassroots
organizers who know how to use social media, and know how to tell the
stories in ways that are compelling that are pushing on Congress and
pushing on the administration to make change.
I mean, I think that the power of the grassroots in this context is
enormous right now, and it`s a response to really, you know, incredibly
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Seth Freed Wessler and also to Matt
More with my other guests in just a moment.
But, next, the Emancipation Proclamation, 150 years later, the
surprising things that you don`t know about the historic document, when we
HARRIS-PERRY: The stroke of midnight on New Year`s Day marked more
than the beginning of 2013. It was also the 150th anniversary of a
milestone in our nation`s history, the dawn of that day in 1863 for more
than 3 million enslaved people in a then-divided America brought the end of
life as property and the beginning of a new existence as free men, women
On December 31st, 1862, African-Americans and their abolitionist
allies gathered together to pray and to watch and to wait for the coming of
the new day on January 1st when President Abraham Lincoln signed the
Emancipation Proclamation. It would take another two years and the passage
of a Thirteenth Amendment before the institution of slavery was abolished
But after nearly 250 years in bondage, African-Americans heard
deliverance in the proclamation`s words that all persons held as slaves in
the rebellious states shall be forever free.
Since that time, that coming of Emancipation Day has been celebrated
in African-American churches across the country with the tradition known as
Watch Night, where parishioners come together once again to pray and give
thanks in remembrance of their ancestors. The anniversary of the
Emancipation Proclamation has also been commemorated by New York`s
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, with a photographic
retrospective called visualizing emancipation.
Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the director of the Schomburg Center, is
my guest here.
Hi, Khalil. It`s so nice to have you here.
KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, SCHOMBURG CENTER: Hi, Melissa. Thanks for
having me here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is just a little history lesson for folks who
don`t know what the Emancipation Proclamation did, because we were taught
war history in our elementary schools and we were just taught Lincoln freed
HARRIS-PERRY: What did the Emancipation Proclamation do and not do?
MUHAMMAD: Well, in principle, it freed as many 3 million enslaved
people from all of the Confederate states that left out approximately
800,000 who were absolutely not free under any circumstances in four border
states from Missouri to Kentucky to Maryland and Delaware. Also excluded
the entire state of Tennessee.
So, it was the principle military order.
MUHAMMAD: Lincoln`s use of the war powers provision to essentially
strip the Confederacy of enslaved people as laborers, as the backbone of
holding up the infrastructure of the South, and indeed, prosecuting the
war, and made possible the eventual end of slavery. But there`s a lot that
happened in between.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think -- I want to push here, because I think
that strategic point is so critical, that the Lincoln who we often think of
and I think -- I still sort of get teary eyed even at the Lincoln Memorial.
I mean, we have emotions about the Lincoln.
MUHAMMAD: Well, it`s a big marble structure, too, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: And Martin Luther King stood there and all kinds of,
you know, amazing parts of what happened there -- I mean, Mary Anderson and
that sort of thing. But it was strategic rather than principled in some
really critical ways, and that`s why it is the rebellious states and not
the border states.
MUHAMMAD: Yes, absolutely it was strategic, but I think one of the
things that is important is from the very beginning as a senatorial
candidate, as a presidential candidate, Lincoln was in fact committed to
the end of slavery as a principled matter and made it very clear that his
personal aversion to the institution of slavery as a kind of abomination to
the world, and to what democracy and liberty stood for was not his
constitutional mandate or his political one.
And the complications of strategy have to do with saving the Union
and preserving the Union to the point of a military victory. So, it gets
really complicated, and in some ways it is understandable why there is so
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, if you were one of the 1.2 million-plus human
beings who have been caught in the system of intergenerational chattel
bondage, then the motivations of Lincoln are probably less important than
the actual facts of the emancipation proclamation, itself.
Now, talk to me about the idea of compensation, because, you know, we
have just in this Congress, we have Congressman Conyers once again bringing
forth the possibility of what he calls the "40 bill", which get introduced
almost every Congress, of bringing reparations for African-Americans
because of slavery. But what we know is that Lincoln considered basically
reparations, compensation for the enslavers, to the slave holders.
MUHAMMAD: That`s right. So compensation right up until literally
the final act of the January 1 Emancipation Proclamation, because there was
a September 22nd preliminary emancipation. It essentially gave a 100-day
mandate to the Confederacy, to lay down the arms against the Union, or your
slaves will be free.
Well, up until that January 1st deadline, Lincoln was still doing
backdoor deals with Congress people, essentially trying to offer the border
states various, gradual and compensated emancipation plans. He also spent
on the day before the January 1st deadline, as much as $250,000 developing
a potential colony for enslaved people in Haiti.
MUHAMMAD: So, money in this regard was considered a carrot or olive
branch to those who were supporting the Union, but were very much invested
in slavery. And if he could use the federal treasury to essentially bribe
slave holders into laying down their arms and rejoining the Union, Lincoln
was absolutely willing to do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because -- I mean, I just don`t want to miss it. As
we go out and I`m going to continue this history lesson with our whole
panel, and talk a little bit about the Schomburg exhibit when we come back,
but the idea that black bodies, enslaved bodies, were commodities --
MUHAMMAD: Absolutely --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- and therefore had value that you could determine --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- and that idea of paying back.
MUHAMMAD: And a quick point on that. If you think about the
reparations day in our contemporary moment, which most people think is
fanciful and absolutely absurd, well, if you take the value of slaves in
1860, it exceeded the entire banking industry, the entire railroad industry
which was the Internet age. If you could take all of the commerce of our
Internet age, and translate it back to the railroad period, as well as all
of the manufacturing in the country, that`s how valuable slavery was, not
just in the United States, but in the Western world.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So that is what makes America economically
what she becomes.
MUHAMMAD: That`s right. Absolutely.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And yet it was human people, it was humans, not
slaves, enslaved people.
Up next, President Obama and his Lincoln moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In the shadow of the old state capitol where Lincoln called
upon a House divided to stand together, where common hopes and common
dreams still live, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for
president of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Barack Obama six years ago when he
first embarked upon the road to the White House, invoking the legacy of the
man in whose footsteps he would eventually follow.
President Obama made that announcement in Springfield, Illinois, the
very site of President Abraham Lincoln`s historic condemnation of slavery
where Lincoln declared that a House divided against itself cannot stand.
Now, of course, Barack Obama is not Abraham Lincoln. But as we have
seen through the fiscal cliff negotiations, he certainly is a president
presiding over an America with a divided house.
Still with me: Dr. Khalil Muhammad, and joining us is Carmen Wong
Ulrich, Jamal Simmons and Representative Kyrsten Sinema.
So I wanted to come back to that Lincoln moment, in part because it
was initiated I think by the president six years ago, when he brings
Lincoln to our consciousness. But then we`ve had two sort of slavery
Lincoln moment in popular culture, the "Lincoln" film and the new Django
film, both of which more than anything else were problematic for me because
of the ways that they reduce the agency of the enslaved people themselves,
reduced the role that African-Americans themselves played in the freedom
Is there something that as we`re now looking at the 150th of the
Emancipation Proclamation that gives us a chance to revisit that?
MUHAMMAD: Absolutely. Because partly as you said earlier, we don`t
know much about it collectively as a society. And every generation that
passes over the course of the 20th century into the 21st century, loses a
little bit of the historical memory, and it`s not by accident. I mean, the
Southern Poverty Law Center did a report a year that pointed out that even
the civil rights movement is not being taught in a vast majority of the
states, 35 either don`t do it at all, or do very little.
So, it`s not a surprise that in this moment, we have a kind of
collective historical amnesia, and all we`re left with is the top-down
political narratives that shape our collective consciousness which belie
essentially the reality of what happens on the ground.
HARRIS-PERRY: But tell me what you`re doing at Schomburg right now.
What is the exhibit that`s up? Just a bit about that.
MUHAMMAD: Sure. It`s 200 image and illustration depiction of real
black people --
HARRIS-PERRY: Not ones made up by Quentin Tarantino?
MUHAMMAD: No, by Tony Kushner.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right, right.
MUHAMMAD: These are people who really shaped the landscape of what
was possible in America, including Frederick Douglass, aha, who by the
1840s was the head Negro in charge. He was the black abolitionist leading
the voice of consciousness for this nation, and every bit part of the
landscape for which Lincoln was responding to.
ULRICH: Well, I saw "Django" and I have to say that, you know, as
grotesque as it was, something that really hit me as someone who was raised
on "Roots" and watching it on TV.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, Lord.
ULRICH: Exactly. But, you know -- and my ancestors, of course, come
from the Dominican and were slaves, is that, you know, it`s been so long I
feel that we`ve had a real look at the reality of slavery and how it
functioned, it reminded me that this was a business. It showed big owners
of slave traders. It showed the different roles that African-Americans
had, in and with slavery, whether it was trading slaves themselves or being
like the Samuel L. Jackson character.
No, of course, it was not the best movie. It was not at all, but I
was struck of being reminded and I felt like growing up in the `70s, we
were reminded of this history much, much, much more, of course, because it
was closer. But what do our kids have today? And not that they should see
ULRICH: But what else is there and who else is there going to
actually make this a reality now that we have a black president? Let`s not
SIMMONS: You`re talking about the agency, and I think it`s important
for us to remember we`re talking about Lincoln and the work that the white
abolitionist did, that Africans who were enslaved spent their entire time
here resisting in every way they could find possible. There was cultural
resistance, people finding ways to use naming ceremonies and things in
There were things that were happening, they were sabotaging the
equipment they were using, they were having sick days and poisoning the
masters and all sorts of things. They were fleeing when they had the
chance, Sojourner Truth and others, and they were fighting. You know,
there were slave rebellions that were taking place.
So, as in whatever ways they could find to do it, they were trying to
claim some bit of man and womanhood to hold on to, and because of
particularly their cultural resistance, I think they passed a lot of those
things down to the current generation of Africa African-Americans that we
still, many of us don`t realize come from this long history that we have
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s part of the amazing part of the Emancipation
Proclamation story and part of the reason that Lincoln had to deal with it
is because enslaved people were stealing themselves, right? They had
already taken themselves behind enemy lines and as you were pointing out,
Khalil, they are property, they are value. So, when you took yourself away
from the Confederacy, you were actually stealing the very wealth of the
Confederacy. So, then Lincoln was left to talk about it.
This is not the moment of the Civil War, but it does feel as though
the president in certain ways as he tries to channel Lincoln is trying to
think about the decisions between on the one hand fighting the other side
and on the other hand trying to find the common ground with the other side.
No one is suggesting that we are about to go into a civil war,
Kyrsten, but I wonder, Congresswoman, if there is some kind of lesson that
we can take from the Lincoln moment in this moment?
SINEMA: You know, I actually saw "Lincoln" not once, but twice, and
I saw it the second time because I was struck and left the movie with a
heavy heart. And I saw both times was before my swearing in.
And each time as I left, I thought to myself, I wonder, I hope that
our Congress can rise up and meet the challenges that we face. Very, very
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, the Thaddeus Stevens, can I be?
SINEMA: Can we -- can we as a body with the great divisions, and as
we saw in "Lincoln", divisions within one party, right, which we experience
right now in Congress -- can we, too, come together to overcome the
challenges that we face? Again, of a very different nature, but can we do
And what I loved thinking after watching the film several times, and
as I read "Team of Rival" recently, it`s an incredible story, is that I
think that we can. The question is whether or not we want to. And that`s
the challenge I think we face.
And throughout our country`s history, as messy as our democracy is
and as much as it is designed actually to create this back and forth
gridlock and toughness, before you make the massive changes, we`ve always
risen to the challenge. Our country has always risen to the challenge, not
always on time --
SINEMA: But we have always risen.
So the question I think before this Congress -- this is a moment in
our lifetimes -- will we rise again?
HARRIS-PERRY: Congresswoman, I love that. I am -- having grown up
in Charlottesville, Virginia -- truly an optimist about the American
project at its core.
So we`re going to talk more in just a moment.
But, first, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: And hello to you and happy New Year. It`s
good to be here back to back again.
Here we go, everyone. Round two in the fiscal fight. Some calling
for a partial government shutdown there. And Denver seems to be doing
everything right that D.C. is not. Their mayor is going to join me with
Also, newly revealed FBI files reveal Marilyn Monroe`s connections to
communism, and I`m talking to the journalist who got the agency to
publicize these files.
Plus, in office politics, Al Roker tells me about the valuable advice
he got from Willard Scott before he took over. Plus, his perspective on
So, with that, I`ll send it back to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Alex. We appreciate it.
And up next, our foot soldier who is helping the hidden homeless.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to take you to Chillicothe, Missouri.
Chillicothe is a Shawnee Indian word meaning "our big town." But in the
2010 census, it registered a population of just 9,515 residents.
It`s the kind of the place where the mayor writes a monthly report
for the town Web site that thanks the park staff by name for decorating the
town square for Christmas.
But when this week`s foot soldier first came to Chillicothe, it
wasn`t to see the annual Festival of Lights. In May of 2009, Jason Benson
was arrested for driving drunk and jailed in Chillicothe. He was an
alcoholic and he was homeless. When his car was impounded, he no longer
had a place to live because he`d been living out of his car.
So, here he was in little town where he`d never been, where he knew
no one, he had no place to stay.
A local church secured a hotel room for Jason and it was in those
days when the spirit of "our big town" touched him. Jason told us that he
realized his life of self-indulgence was really just leading to self-
So instead of just cleaning up and clearing out, Jason decided to
open a homeless center in this underserved rural community. Working with
an established local community nonprofit leader, Jason was able to secure
501(c)3 status for the shelter. And in February 2011, less than two years
after his DUI arrest, Jason opened the doors to the SALT organization, an
emergency overnight homeless center. SALT stands for "Simply Achieving
Since their opening, SALT has expanded to two buildings, one with
eight beds for men and another with five beds for women. Both centers have
a shower, they have a kitchen. They have bedding and hygiene products,
nurses from nearby hospitals volunteer and provide basic first aid and
medical care and referrals.
SALT is the only homeless shelter in the surrounding 15 rural
counties. And SALT doors are open to everyone -- everyone -- regardless of
race, gender, or sexual orientation or disability.
Communities like Chillicothe often look so idyllic that we believe
they are immune to the problems facing cities. Jason says that the rural
homeless are the hidden homeless, because no one wants to acknowledge the
issue. But this problem was not hidden to Jason because he had lived it.
For opening the doors of life`s triumphs to the hidden homeless in
our rural counties, Jason Benson is our foot soldier of the week. And you
can read more about Jason on our Web site, MHPShow.com. Peggy and Laura
from Polo, Missouri, nominated Jason.
And if you know a foot soldier, send us your nomination on our
Facebook page, Facebook.com/MHPShow.
And that`s our show for today. Thank you to Khalil and Carmen,
Jamal, and especially, Congresswoman Sinema. Also, thanks to you at home
I`m going to see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Tomorrow, we`re going to bring you a story that could change everything you
think you know about the changing crime rates in our country. You will be
amazed when you hear the reasons.
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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