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'Up with Steve Kornacki ' for Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Saturday show

May 4, 2013

Guest: George Zornick, Fmr. Rep. Paul Hodes, Esther Armah, Jamelle Bouie,
Monica Potts, Noreen Malone, Anna Holmes, John Amaechi, Mike Pesca, Kelvin
Atkinson, Mary Curtis

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning from New York. I`m Steve

U.S. officials last night confirmed that Israeli air crafts truck targets
inside Syria overnight on Thursday. That`s the second such strike of this
year. We`ll be talking more about this on tomorrow`s program.

We are now just hours away from NRA CEO, Wayne Lapierre`s, speech at the
group`s annual convention in Houston. More on guns in just a moment.

But right now, I`m joined by Jamel Bouie, he`s a staff writer at American
prospect, former Democratic congressman from New Hampshire, Paul Hodes,
Esther Armah, a journalist and a host at New York City`s, WBAI Radio, and
George Zornik, reporter for "The Nation" magazine.

We saw hints this week, vivid, dramatic hints of something much of the
political world`s stopped believing in two decades ago. A genuine
grassroots backlash against politicians who side with the National Rifle

On Tuesday, at a first town hall since voting against a compromised measure
that would have expanded background checks for gun purchases, New Hampshire
Republican senator, Kelly Ayotte, faced an impassioned plea from a
constituent who insisted that his questioned about why Ayotte voted against
the gun legislation be heard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can`t deny people the right to speak because they
haven`t filled out a card. I have a question, but it`s based upon
something that was said during --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me just say that I do every town hall meeting
this way and have a process that we will get to as many questions as we
can, so --




KORNACKI: Three minutes after that, Ayotte got a question from Erica
Lafferty, daughter of the slain principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School.


ERICA LAFFERTY, DAUGHTER OF NEWTOWN VICTIM: You have mentioned that day --
owners of gun stores that should be expanded background checks. I`m just
wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the hall of
elementary school isn`t as important as that? Why is that not something to
be supported?

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: Erica, I`m certainly -- let me just
say that I`m obviously so sorry. And as everyone here, no matter what our
views, what you have been through. As you and I both know, the issue
wasn`t a background check system (INAUDIBLE) Sandy Hook.


KORNACKI: And our second town hall later that same night, Ayotte got
another one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The elephant in the living room here is gun control.
We still in addition kill thousands of people every year, every day. And,
can we look into Congress to help at all to, perhaps, reframe this issue in
way that we can really get at, because right now, I feel that Congress is
not willing to help this country out in this very critical issue.


AYOTTE: Peter, certainly, I think that the overall issue is obviously very


KORNACKI: And as you are about to see when she was pushed yet again on
Thursday at her third and final town hall of the week, Ayotte invoked fears
of a national registry to defend her vote, even though the bill she voted
against explicitly reaffirms an existing ban on such a registry.


JOHN KEEMAN, TOWN HALL PARTICIPANT: I received your four-page letter
regarding guns and background checks. I really don`t understand -- it
doesn`t make sense to me. What is wrong with universal background checks?


AYOTTE: OK. Thank you, john. I will tell you in term of a universal
background check, as it`s been framed, I have a lot of concerns about that
leading to a registry that will create a privacy situation for lawful
firearms owners.


KORNACKI: The grassroots activity comes amid growing signs that the
background check legislation may not be dead just yet. On Saturday, for
example, the bill`s co-sponsor, Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West
Virginia, said he would continue fighting to pass universal background
checks into law.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: We got a chance to pass this. Our
goal was to have another vote before August recess. We`re going to pass
this thing. Don`t give up. We`re going to pass this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe, thank you for bringing that issue here.


KORNACKI: So, we`ve been talking about this for a few weeks on this show
now since guns came to a head and sorted of the prevailing political logic,
I would say, for two decades now. Since the last time we had major gun
control legislation that got through, that was the assault weapons ban, the
Brady bill back in 1993 and 1994, the prevailing logic has been that the
Democrats paid a huge price for that in 1994 midterms.

Al Gore didn`t win the presidency in 2000. Because of it, he lost states
like West Virginia, Missouri, places like this. And basically, the only
political price to be paid in politics is by standing up to the NRA and
sort of getting these very highly engaged, you know, pro-second amendment
activists outraged at you.

What was so striking to me about watching the scene in New Hampshire this
week is here you have sort of a quintessential swing state, New Hampshire,
with a senator was going to be up for re-election in 2016, first-term
senator, hearing, really, you know, from a number of constituents who are
maybe -- I`m thinking what might be going on in her mind there, maybe this
is changing the sort of incentive calculations in her mind and by extension
other senators, other lawmakers?

GEORGE ZORNICK, THE NATION: Sure. I mean, you can only be against
something that 90 percent of the American people back for so long, and
that`s particularly true when it`s an emotional issue like gun control.
You know, this isn`t an esoteric and made about the correct mix of spending
cuts and tax increases for deficit reduction. This is something, this is
about people dying. This is about people dying in movie theaters and

And so, a couple of that, you know, since you mentioned the 1990s, you`ve
seen so many more sort of horrific shootings since then. You`ve seen so
much more of an epidemic of gun violence that it`s turned into an emotional
issue for a lot of people. And that, as a politician, is very hard to go
up against, I think.

FMR. REP. PAUL HODES, (D) NEW HAMPSHIRE: You know, it`s pretty basic. For
years, what we heard was the problem isn`t guns it`s the people who are
holding the guns. And everybody`s always said let`s make sure that we keep
guns out of the hands of people who shouldn`t have them.

So, when you see in New Hampshire starting in January, polls coming out
anywhere between 89 to 92 percent of people in New Hampshire across all
demographic lines, across all political parties, coming together to say,
let`s do something about this. Let`s do it now. This is beyond politics.
The message is pretty clear. This is a common sense basic measure that
have been widely supported even by Wayne Lapierre of the NRA.

KORNACKI: Look, Paul, I wonder, I look at the town hall and say, one thing
I think is this could have been you. You ran against Kelly Ayotte in 2010.
You serve two terms in the House from New Hampshire before that.

I wonder if you could speak a little bit to sort of the politics and the
gun culture of New Hampshire because the state motto live free or die, guns
are kind of embedded into the states culture and its history. How does a
politician think about guns in a state like New Hampshire?

HODES: Well, I think how a politician in New Hampshire thinks about guns
has changed. I had an "A" rating from the NRA. I always took a very
libertarian. Let the states decide approach to firearms. And, when I saw
my former colleague, Gabby Giffords, gunned down, when I saw what happened
in Newtown, I know something happened inside for me in a big way.

And I came to grips with what we need to do in this country, and it`s a
constellation of things, certainly, but we could certainly start in
Congress with making sure that people who shouldn`t have guns don`t have
them. And so, I went through that kind of change, and apparently, 90
percent of the people in New Hampshire did also.

So, for a politician like Senator Ayotte to be so out of touch with the
people she represents, to be so out of touch that she lectures the
daughter of somebody gunned down at Newtown about mental health issues,
we`re just -- we`re not talking -- I mean, we can talk about mental health,
but let`s start somewhere. Let`s start with background checks.

KORNACKI: What I`m trying to figure out with -- let`s take Kelly Ayotte as
an example because I think she could, in some way, stand for other
senators, you think of like Jeff Flake in Arizona, Dean Heller in Nevada,
who are from, you know, swing states, states where they could pay a general
election price for being against the large majority of the public.

I look at Kelly Ayotte and I remember when she ran in 2010, she had a
Republican primary against sort of a Tea Party Republican who nearly beat
her in that primary. And I guess, I`m kind of wondering, if she were now -
- let`s say, she were to reevaluate -- what`s the word -- we always say
evolve, if she evolve on guns right now and change her position, is there
suddenly a serious risk for Kelly Ayotte in the Republican Party, you know,
for a conservative challenge?

Is that part of the calculation that`s holding back Republicans maybe in
these swing states?

HODES: Kelly Ayotte is no moderate. When she ran in 2010, she was good
friends with Sarah Palin. She`s a right wing Tea Party extremist. She was
then. She may have hid it better than some of the other candidates she ran
against, but she`s very, very far to the right. She has now staked out, I
think, a pretty clear position to the far right and on the right wing of
the Republican Party.

And at least if you believe the press, she`s -- she may be in some real
trouble in the Republican Party as the Republican Party comes a little bit
back to the center on all kinds of issues, whether it`s immigration or
others, and it may be that she`s going to have some real trouble in 2016.

ESTHER ARMAH, WBAI FM RADIO HOST: You know, to me, the success of the town
halls and listening to the constituents is maintaining a link between the
policy and the people. It is not disconnecting the politics from the
legacy of the kinds of trauma that those who lost family members maintained
because of their presence in the town hall.

The connection the lefty (ph) made between how are gun stores burdened, how
is that higher than that which happened to my mother who was gunned down?
Maintaining that connection is really important because, you know, the
question marks and the critique organizing fraction (ph) is that it hasn`t
necessarily succeeded.

But the history of movement is that, you know, you don`t have 140 character
revolutions no matter what the cycle of media would like to think. And so,
just this week, I was in Harlem watching a documentary called "Triggering
Wounds" made by whole group of young people personally impacted by

Doing the same thing on the streets of New York and stuffs out of Chicago,
connecting the politics, the policy to the personal and saying to the
politicians, you cannot disconnect the two. And so, I think the landscape
has moved.

And so, whether somebody like Kelly Ayotte thinks she can stand in the face
of a lie when the legislation says there is no registration, there is no
registry, and continue to repeat it, the voice of those people and maintain
that connection, I think, is what`s going to shift her. Not even other own
vested interest but she absolutely stands to lose.

JAMELLE BOUIE, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT: I`m not sure that landscape has
shifted for Republicans. I think that`s certainly the case for a lot of
different kinds of politicians and maybe in different states, but Kelly
Ayotte still has to deal with the fact that if she were to adopt a position
on gun control that runs counter to the Republican base, she`s going to
face a Tea Party challenger.

She`s going to face someone who`s going to try to knock her out and she`ll
probably lose. This is a problem you`re seeing for Republican candidates
throughout the country. I don`t think it`s a surprise that Ted Cruz of
Texas who`s become superstar among right wing conservatives also was
someone who is resolutely opposed to any sort of gun regulation, and in
fact, introduced a bill that would loosen regulation on guns.

I mean, we`re in this unusual situation where you have one party that`s
more or less responsive to public opinion and another party that has just
gone off the rails when it comes to the media in America.

ARMAH: The question then when you have that reality is, it`s the people in
between those two spaces, because as you said, Kelly Ayotte stands to lose
from the Republicans, the point of the strategy of activism, you stand to
lose even more when you go against the people because that`s the only
leverage that you have.

HODES: Well, in the state like New Hampshire, you have this huge block of
independent voters, which is really representing -- where a lot of the
people in the country are going. And, on this issue, certainly, they`ve
swung. I mean, their voice has been heard. The independent voters are
saying, we`re for universal background checks. We want something done.


KORNACKI: There are -- I guess the question then is -- how many states
like New Hampshire are there out there right now? We can put some numbers
to that, and I want to do that when we come back.


KORNACKI: So, Kelly Ayotte got the most attention this week because she
answered the most public reaction to her no vote on background checks, but
there was some polling affecting other senators who voted no, some other
noteworthy polling affecting other no votes on background checks.

We can put those up on the screen right now. Just look at Rob Portman from
Ohio, swing state, Republican, his approval rating. Now, again, this is
compared to last October, a lot`s happened but down nearly 20 points. Lisa
Murkowski, Alaska, little more recent here since the last February down 16.
We have Ayotte right there, there`s polling, showing her down 15 points in
their approval rating.

Then, you`ve got Mark Begich, Democrat from Alaska, up next year down 16,
Heller Nevada, he had a swing state down two since last November. I`m not
sure if that, you know, if you can read much into that, but the question,
again, that we were posing last block, you know, we can look at this in the
Senate where the target was 60 votes, and they worked that far off.

And I can look at this and I could say, maybe you can put Ayotte on there -
- maybe you can put Dean Heller on there, maybe Mark Begich is scared of
something in 2014. You get the 60 there. That`s one issue. That`s a
maybe to me.

And then, you got this whole issue of a Republican-controlled House of
representatives where you have almost none of those Republicans coming from
districts that President Obama carried last year. So, what do we think the
prospects are of universal background checks really being revisited and
enacted this year?

ZORNICK: I`m a little bullish on that because I think what would happen is
say the Senate passes something, it would necessarily have to have some
Republican support. So, then and debate all it`s focused on John Boehner.
It`s John Boehner, will you bring this to a vote? You don`t have to say
yes. Will you at least let the Congress vote on this?

Presumably, at some point, he does. And you don`t have to collect that and
get to collect, what, 16 votes from Republicans assuming many is not all
Democrats go with it. I think, given the momentum that would come from a
technically bipartisan bill coming out of the Senate, the emotion impact
behind it and being so close to getting something pass. Not only that
because you`re going to have the NRA`s power sort of in a way weakened in
the sense by the Senate passing this out.

I mean, power in Washington is about fear. People will fear the NRA less
if they are not able to hold the line in the Senate, and so, it kind of
emboldens the Republicans, any moderate Republicans in the House who might
want to get this thing pass to say, well, the Senate has done it --

KORNACKI: This is the new model that sort of emerge, right, rack up the
big number in Senate and try to isolate John Boehner and hope he`s not too
scared of a mutiny in the House. This is government in action in 2013.

HODES: Well, fear is a great motivator. And, I think that the outpouring
of sentiment that we`ve seen certainly in New Hampshire and in other places
and the poll numbers that you`ve put up on the screen are not going to be
lost on House members who are coming up in 2014. For somebody like Ayotte,
she`s got three and a half years to 2016, maybe she figures, OK, they`ll
forget about it.

But if you`re up for election in the House in 2014 and you`re looking at
those poll numbers and the Senate moves again on this and can get it
through, you`re going to have to be thinking, where am i? Do I want to
keep my job?

ARMAH: The question for the movement, the question for the grassroots
campaign is sustainability, is maintaining this kind of pressure in a cycle
when we so easily become distracted by the next great, frankly, or non-
great event and we create one out of that.

And how do you sustain that kind of pressure in order that an Ayotte still
recognizes and feels the weight, the lens, and the scrutiny of the
constituents we saw in the town halls even as we proceed closer to 2014,
because of course, what the NRA always relies on is the distraction of
something else and the dissipation of energy.

That does spell danger, certainly. But if sustainability can be maintained
and then that becomes about strategy and what organizing to action can do
around this maintaining that connection between the people and the
legislation and not letting pure power and money interrupt that process.
That`s a challenge.

BOUIE: On the other end, on the other end for Boehner, though, he only has
so much political capital, right? He can`t pull this move all the time,
because there will be revolt -- does. And so, the question is, how much
momentum can you built behind the Senate vote? I think one that just
passed 60 votes, which is at a bare minimum because of the filibuster isn`t

It`d have to be 70 or 75 votes for Boehner, really, to feel genuine
pressure to be able (ph) to say to his members, listen, it would be in our
best interest as a collective to just do this and avoid the pressure. But
if a Senate bill passes with bare minimum, I`m not sure. I`m very
skeptical that Boehner will take that step because he`s looking out for
himself as well.

ZORNICK: Well, it`s a good question for the movement to consider, too.
The gun control movement is -- you know, if you bring it back in the Senate
now, necessarily it would have to be a compromised bill. You can`t put the
same (inaudible) thing back on the table and expect them to flip-flop just
on that. So, you have to weaken it, then, you have to send it to the House
and maybe it gets weakened again.

So, the question for the gun control movement now is, you know, to have a
better bill five, ten years from now. Are you better off waiting,
hammering Republicans for two years, seeing what happens in the next
midterm, and then the next Congress bringing a stronger --

KORNACKI: But what would you -- what would you -- I`m curious, what would
you -- because it was already pretty watered down and pretty narrow to
begin with. I know they had that provision in there that was like to try
to stop the talk of the national registry. There was like an automatic 15-
year prison term. Maybe you could up that to the death penalty. I don`t
know --


KORNACKI: What is the further watering down of this and could be done and
they could still meaningful or is this get to the point where it just the
act of beating the NRA on something is in of itself meaningful and gives
you momentum --

BOUIE: I mean, that might be the thing that just by knocking the NRA for
the first time in decades would really give enthusiasm and energy to gun
rights activists -- or not gun rights but gun control activists to push
something through or begin working on something later on. I mean, this
will be a long battle.

It took the NRA a very long time to get to the point where politicians were
afraid of it. And it will take gun control advocates if not as long been,
perhaps, longer to do the same.

ARMAH: And no movements in marathons not sprint (ph). History has taught
us that. Look at the LBGT movement, look at what happened with the
dreamers -- all movements in marathons. I think the other challenge there
in terms of the content of the bill is to mitigate against the power of the
life because the reality is, there is no -- the registry, and that is
specifically stated in the bill.

But the currency of the lie overwhelm the truth of what was in the actual
bill. So, I think part of the work outside of the activists maintaining
that pressure is Democrats being much more willing to push harder on the
truth of the bill having the same kind of currency as the lie created,
because Kelly Ayotte is standing in front of people still saying, my
concern is this is going to become a registry when we know that she knows
that that is an absolute lie.

KORNACKI: You talk about the importance of activists keeping this on the
agenda. And I do think for gun control advocates, there`s some reason to
be optimistic here because I think there was something that struck me as
very different about the debate we`ve had over the last few months. We`re
going to talk about that after this.


KORNACKI: So, I was saying something struck me as a little different about
this sort of episode in the gun control, you know, saga. And that is sort
of the engagement and the very public visibility of women, in particular
mothers. A lot of this, I think, came out of Sandy Hook, but I`ve seen a
number of mothers from past, you know, shooting -- you know, shooting
tragedies. We had a mother from Virginia Tech on the show a few weeks ago.

And you know, I saw an ad, there was an ad that`s being run, a radio ad in
New Hampshire clearly aimed at women, you know, going after Kelly Ayotte
for voting against background checks. What was interesting is the NRA has
picked up on this. It is now trying to win back some of these -- some
women, some mothers out there. And this is an ad they were running about
Kelly Ayotte defending her in New Hampshire this week.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kelly Ayotte is not just a senator, she`s also a mom
who cares about protecting our kids. She knows the only way to prevent
tragedies like Sandy Hook is to fix our broken mental health system.
That`s why Kelly Ayotte brought Republicans and Democrats together on a
bipartisan solution and it`s why Kelly had the courage to oppose misguided
gun control laws that would not have prevented Sandy Hook.


KORNACKI: So, fix the mental health system don`t keep guns out of
anybody`s hands, but it does strike me, look, the NRA sort of sees a clear
threat here in terms of the engagement of mothers on this issue and it`s
trying to respond. It strikes me. Maybe that`s something a little
different this time. If mothers are mobilized, that`s a group that gets

HODES: You know, that`s especially true in New Hampshire. We have an all-
female federal delegation. Women voters are a powerful force in New
Hampshire. You can really look to the voter women to see why people who
got elected in 2012, who got kicked out in 2010, it was around women`s
reproductive rights, so as big wave (ph) in the other direction. So, in
New Hampshire, women really matter.

ARMAH: I just want to add as well that I think this is a crossroads
movement thinking about women, not has been (ph) mobilized against guns
particularly in urban communities all over the country for a long time but
minus the national attention that Sandy Hook received.

So, in terms of sustainability and how does the movement maintain the
pressure, this could be a really important movement to connect the dots
between mothers and also kids who are losing folks in the urban communities
together because what you have had is the privileging of location in terms
of this should never happen in an area like this, like language around
Sandy Hook.

And the kind of -- the absence of national outrage at the vast majority of
killings which is so often done on the streets of south side of Chicago, in
New York, in Detroit, in L.A. But what you do right now is have a moment
when you connect those spaces. Bring the young people who`ve lost so many
extraordinary friends.

Like I said, I was watching a documentary called "Triggering Wounds." The
young man who made the film, in the two years it took him to make the film
lost eight friends to gun violence. They are a mobilized focused group who
are putting down guns and picking up cameras. And so, that capital should
also be harnessed and marginalized.

And for too long, they have been outsiders because this country, in too
many ways, practices the policy of the privileging of one set of lives
versus another set of lives. But in this gun safety legislation moment is
an opportunity to connect those spaces.

So, mothers have been organizing for a minute, but to marry those spaces,
it`s to potentially create the kind of movement that cannot be -- it
doesn`t have the investment in political capital and power and money that
the NRA does, all the politicians and they just don`t care. They`re like
tunnel vision, focused, let`s do something more than accept this rhetoric
of paralysis and, quote/unquote, "mental health."

KORNACKI: Well, I can say, it`s -- at the beginning, it really comes down,
I think, to just changing incentives in the political system and that`s
why, I think, 2014 -- gun sets up so critically because if we leave that
election and the message that politicians have taken is, you know what,
there`s also a price to be paid if I vote against gun control, that`d be a
major change from what`s define politics for last generation.

Anyway, I want to thank former Democratic congressman, New Hampshire, Paul
Hodes, Esther Armah from New York`s WBIA radio, and George Zornick at "The

What happens when one party rules a state for Decades? That`s next.





KORNACKI: Do you remember this commercial? Come on -- I think you do.
It`s the famous Big Brother ad from when a new company called Apple
launched this thing called the Macintosh personal computer. The ad was a
pretty big deal, actually. Apple spent a fortune on it. They got a famous
director to make it, Ridley Scott (ph). They even screened it in movie
theaters. It actually only aired on television once, though, but just
about the whole country saw it, because it happened to air during the Super

Really, it was the ad that made Super Bowl commercials a thing. That Super
Bowl, the Super Bowl when tens of millions of Americans watched the Big
Brother ad and collectively asked, what was that? It took place in January
of 1984. It was back when the Raiders were in Los Angeles and back when
the raiders were actually good.

They crushed the Red Skins in the Super Bowl that year, 38-9. Marcus Allen
was the MVP. Barry Manilow sang the national anthem. So, yes, that was a
long time ago. And if you`re wondering what it`s got to do with today,
well, that was the same month, January 1984, that Massachusetts
congressman, Ed Markey, first started running for the U.S. Senate.

Markey was a young up and comer back then, 37 years old, in his fourth term
in Congress. Base state`s freshman senator, Paul Tsongas, maybe you
remember him, he`d just been diagnosed with lymphoma and he wasn`t running
for election in 1984.

So, Markey saw a chance to move up, be jumped in the race, and so did a lot
of other Democrats, which is why a couple of months later, when Paul showed
him way behind the two frontrunners, one of them was another young
congressman named Jim Shannon, the other, you might have heard of, he was
the ambitious lieutenant governor named John Kerry. Few months after that,
Markey decided it was better to stick to his safe Congressional seat.

So, he dropped out and he waited for another day and waited and waited and
waited a little more until, finally, three decades later, just last
December, Kerry, who`s now almost 70 years old, was picked for secretary of
state and gave up his Senate seat. This time, Markey didn`t have much
trouble with Democratic primary which he won this last Tuesday by 16

And so now, all he has to do, all the standing in the way of Ed Markey and
his three-decade dream is to be his Republican opponent, Gabriel Gomez, in
the June special election. And that`s just special election that`s playing
out in one of the bluest states in America, which is a state where even the
favorite son, Republican, last year couldn`t correct (ph) 40 percent in the
presidential race.

Democrats hope this race will be a slam dunk and it should be. But hey,
when you`re talking about a state where only 13 percent of the Republicans
-- voters are republicans, every election is supposed to be a slam dunk for
Democrats. And yet, every once in a while, we`ll get moments like Bill
Weld, winning the governor`s race in 1990 and again in 1994, Paul Cellucci
winning in 1998, and Mitt Romney in 2002.

And also, there was that guy with a pick-up truck who talked about the
people seat (ph) in 2010. This is the kind of thing that happens in states
where one party runs everything. Every so often, there`s something in the
air or something about a particular candidate that for some reason triggers
a popular revolt against the idea of one party rule.

When weld won, he did it by playing up his Democratic opponents`
connections to Billy Bulger. That was Whitey`s brother. He was the mega
powerful president of the state Senate. Romney did it a decade later by
railing against what he called the Gang of Three, they were insiders,
Democratic insiders, who supposedly ran the state. Now, there`s Ed
Markey`s opponent, Gabriel Gomez, who is running against Markey`s


GABRIEL GOMEZ, (R) SENATE CANDIDATE: I want to take you back in time. The
year was 1976, 37 years ago. Gerald Ford was president. Me, I was just
playing little league baseball. And that was when Ed Markey first got
elected to Congress.


KORNACKI: Now, that may seem like a trivial attack and not necessarily a
very well-delivered one. But I wouldn`t be too quit to dismiss its
potency. Thirty-seven years is a long time. As best I can tell, no one
has ever served in the House that long and then gone on to win a Senate
seat. If you follow politics closely, you know Ed Markey is a leading
voice on environmental and consumer (ph) in Washington.

But if you`re a more casual voter in Massachusetts, that may not be what
you think of when you see him. He`s been in Washington since the 1970s.
He has a house in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He bears some of the markers of
entrenchment and insiderdom that can trigger those revolts that, sometimes,
happen in Massachusetts. And there were hints of it in this week`s

You see all those greens if he`s in towns, those are the ones that Ed
Markey lost this week. Those are blue collar working class areas. The
voters there tend to be Democrats, but they can be more on the
conservative side. Democrats who are willing to turn on their party,
Democrats, in fact, who have turned on their party. They are the Democrats
who helped elect Scott Brown in 2006. Look, the same places that Markey
lost in this week`s primary are the ones that Brown carried when he beat
Martha Coakley.

And look at this, the first new poll since the primary released just
yesterday afternoon by PPP, Markey`s lead is only four points, 44-40. I`m
not saying Democrats should panic. They shouldn`t. There were some
special circumstances in that Brown-Coakley race that aren`t there now.
There`s a candidate, as you know, Gomez just isn`t in Brown`s league, at
least, not yet.

If you made me bet, I`d still put all of my money on Ed Markey, but think
of the Markey candidacy as a by part of one-party rule. When every
officeholder in the state belongs to the same party, that party`s bench
tends to freeze in place. And then, when you finally get an opening, that
party`s best bet ends up being someone who was first elected to Congress
when Barney Miller was still on the air.

Democrats are betting that voters in Massachusetts won`t be too bothered by
that and it`s probably a good bet, but this week`s poll numbers are a stark
reminder, it`s still a gamble.

All right. President Obama said some things this week that may have been a
lot more revealing about his presidency and our politics than most people
realize. We`ll talk about it next.


KORNACKI: In two major statements this past week, Barack Obama offered
sweeping statements of the state of his presidency and the political
paralysis that has halted some of his biggest legislative priorities now
100 days into a second term. First, there was last Saturday when the
president spoke at the Annual White House correspondents` dinner.

What grabbed the headlines, of course, were his jokes, which were very
funny (INAUDIBLE) Conan`s probably. But what got much less attention was
the message he closed with a high minded exportation (ph) to the political
class in the media to reach for a (INAUDIBLE) purpose.


tonight, we are incredibly lucky. And the fact is, we can do better. All
of us. Those of us in public office, those of us in the press, those who
produce entertainment for our kids, those with power, those with influence,
all of us, including myself, we can strive to value those things that I
suspect led most of us to do the work that we do in the first place,
because we believed in something that was true.

And we believed in service and the idea that we can have a lasting,
positive impact on the lives of the people around us.


KORNACKI: So, that part of the speech, which went pretty much unnoticed
caught the attention of "National Journal" editorial director, Ron
Fournier, who wrote on Monday, quote, "It may stand as one of the best
rhetorical moments of Obama`s presidency, a clearheaded indictment of four
national institutions, the media, the entertainment industry, big business,
and the political system coupled by a prescription for revival."

But by Tuesday, Obama was dragged down again into the mire of Washington
politics. The press conference to mark the first hundred days of his
second term, Obama was asked whether he still had the juice to get his
agenda through Congress where Republicans had killed his proposals on such
major issues as gun control and the budget.


OBAMA: You seem to suggest that somehow these folks over there had no
responsibilities, and that my job is to somehow get them to behave. That`s
their job. They`re elected, members of Congress are elected in order to do
what`s right for their constituencies and for the American people.


KORNACKI: All right. Here at the table, we have Jamelle Bouie of the
"American Prospect," he`s still with us. Joining us are Anna Holmes,
founder of the women`s blog,, Noreen Malone, staff writer with
the "New Republic, and Monica Potts, she`s a senior writer at the "American

It`s all "American Prospect," I`m surrounded here. So, the -- I guess,
there`s a disclaimer on the clip we played from the correspondent`s dinner
last week. I know it`s sort of customary, you know, the people who go to
those things and president who speak at them take a lot of, you know,
chiding for being at this really clubby, insider thing. So, there`s always
that moment where they sort of have to step back and speak about, you know,
something grander, something more purposeful.

So, in a way that was kind of an obligatory part of Obama`s speech, but I
guess, when you contrast that with the press conference this week, it
really seemed to me to be the contrast between the Obama who presented
himself to the country in 2004 with the famous convention speech, the Obama
who inspired so many people in 2008, and sort of the realities of modern,
you know, partisan polarized Washington national politics that he`s just
kind of butted up against, you know, for more than four years now where,
you know, he still is this sort of inspiring guy.

He still can be this inspiring guy. And, he`s almost saying at that press
conference, what do you want me to do?

BOUIE: I think -- I think the two things actually fit together quite well,
right? Because part of the problem of the last four years is that the
political press, I think, hasn`t done a great job of quite identifying why
things aren`t happening. Ron Fournier in a column later that week, I
think, even said, you know, what you need to do, Obama, is basically going
to knock some heads together. They got to get those Republicans -- you`ve
got to beat them. And there doesn`t seem to be any real push from many
reporters at all to simply say, Republicans have agency.

They have their own agendas. They have their own reasons for doing things.
And, they should be held responsible, too, for when they don`t act. And I
think Obama, in his own way, at the correspondent`s dinner, was trying to
say, listen, I`m not the only person in government. There are these --
there`s this entire other political party, this entire other institution of

You should cover them more and you should pay more attention -- not pay
more attention but also acknowledge that they, themselves, have agency.

KORNACKI: Yes. I guess what you`re talking about is it`s known -- a lot
of people refer to it as the Green Lantern theory of the presidency. This
is the -- Ron Fournier has managed (ph) this a lot and Maureen Dowd
famously does where basically is the president`s the leader. We`re viewed
the president as the sort of singular all-powerful figure.

And then, if the Washington is not working, it`s automatically the
president`s fault. It did strike me this week the number of people in the
media. Jamelle, you heard about a lot of other people wrote about exactly
what you just said.

And I wonder if maybe we`re seeing a bit of reassessment among media and
opinion-shapers in this country of exactly what the presidency is and maybe
it isn`t and maybe we`re starting to get to a place where there`s more
realistic understanding that, hey, we live in a system where Congress is
pretty powerful. And if Congress is controlled by the other party and the
parties are so polarized right now, how much is really possible?

MONICA POTTS, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT: I think one of the problems that the
press faces is that a lot of what`s happening is actually hard to explain.

The rules of Congress are arcane and uninteresting. And so, when you`re
talking about people on a news cycle every day where they have to have
stories that are actually exciting and interesting to normal people, I
think that`s actually a real challenge. And I think that`s why you see
them slipping into kind of a horse race or leadership kind of story.

NOREEN MALONE, THE NEW REPUBLIC: And it`s a lot easier to just pick one
person, which is why you have the executive office so you can have one
person who is, you know, not a figure head but someone on whom hopes can
rest. And it`s a lot harder to pinpoint which senators are not doing what
they should be doing, which senators are not playing nicely.

ANNA HOLMES, JEZEBEL.COM: Yes. When telling a story, you know, you
usually want to have a couple of lead characters. In this case, Obama is
considered to be the lead character where is Congress is kind of this
nebulous entity. I think it might be more effective for media -- for the
media, for the White House, to explain more of Congress` intransience if
they named names more often, instead of using (ph) the word Congress.

I`m not sure that really means that much to the American people. I mean,
they understand what Congress is, but naming real names, Mitch McConnell,
John Boehner, et cetera.

KORNACKI: But even when you start talking about the leaders, I mean, what
strikes me about John Boehner over the last, you know, couple of years is
he is sort of, to me, uniquely unpowerful speaker. And that he`s got the
title. He`s got everything, you know, they give him a chauffeur, I`m sure,

All the perks that come along with the job, but we were talking about this
in the gun segment when it comes to actually doing what the Green Lantern
people ask Obama to do, you know, cracking heads together and saying, you
guys are going to do this. He can`t do that to his own Republican
conference these day,s but he`s led by them much more than he leads them.

So, there`s this whole other wrinkle, too, which is probably difficult to
explain, too. But I want to get into -- I sort of teased the Maureen Dowd
thing, and there was an informal back and forth between the president and
Maureen Dowd. It makes me laugh, so I want to share it with you. That`s
after this.



OBAMA: Of course, everybody has got plenty of advice. Maureen Dowd said,
I could solve all my problems if I were just more like Michael Douglas in
"The American President." And I know Michael is here tonight. Michael,
what`s your secret, man?


OBAMA: Could it be that you were an actor in an Aaron Sorkin liberal


KORNACKI: OK. That`s the president at the correspondents` dinner last
week. And I am now going to read what amounted to Maureen Dowd`s response.
I`m going to try to do this with a straight face. "How can the president
star in a White House correspondents` association dinner satirical film
pretending to be Daniel Day-Lewis playing Barack Obama in Steven
Spielberg`s movie "Obama" and not have absorbed the lessons on Lincoln?

So, the lessons of Lincoln, we`re going to invade the south, drive members
of our own party. We`re going to -- the parallel she`s drawing there, you
know, I can`t tell which one I -- annoys me more, there`s the Obama should
learn from Lincoln, Obama should learn from LBJ. Make Lincoln, make LBJ
deal with the partisan polarization that Obama is dealing with now and see
if they can get a grand bargain.

BOUIE: I think the lesson of Lincoln is actually the exact opposite of
what Dowd thinks it is. I mean, look at the scenario presented for
Lincoln. There`s a war. He has claimed tons of executive power. His
party controls both chambers of Congress by huge margins and he still
struggles to pass a bill that`s broadly popular, pretty popular with this

Like, that is a case study in institutional constraints. And Lincoln was
lucky enough, I think, to be able to get past them, but those are the sort
of things that foil presidents all the time. Even LBJ. Everyone forgets
that LBJ, the Democratic Party had huge majorities in both chambers of

After Democrats lost seats in the 1964 -- 1966 elections -- eventually, I
was going to hit the right number.


BOUIE: LBJ`s -- just ran into a wall. And, I think, not enough people
want to recognize in which these presidential figures were themselves
achievement a product of the fact that their party controlled Congress.

MALONE: To me what the Dowd column really highlights more is how obsessed
we`re getting with the narrative. Like, she can`t -- you know, this is
maybe a particular Maureen Dowd tick, but she`s more obsessed with finding
the right metaphor than actually figuring out the problem, which is
actually what I think Obama was getting out in the sort of heartfelt end of
his White House correspondents (INAUDIBLE) you know, maybe that`s what he
meant when he was sort of indicting the media and when he was getting out
problems with big business.

He was alluding to the way that our obsession with the narrative can get in
the way of the actual process.

KORNACKI: And it creates this -- I think, as a (INAUDIBLE) this week where
we treat the presidency the way Maureen Dowd did, not to pick on Maureen
Dowd, lots of people treat the presidency, it creates expectations. It
creates unreasonable expectations. And it leads people to sort of invest
so much hope and so much energy in the success of the individual president
they`re electing. You probably saw a lot of that in the movement to elect
Obama in 2008.

And then, when the president sort of comes up against what Obama has come
up against, the result is disappointment and maybe disillusionment with the
system. As recline (ph) to, maybe that`s -- that becomes a permanent cycle
at certain point where, you know, George W. Bush is going to change the
culture of Washington, doesn`t change the culture of Washington.

Barack Obama comes in and that it`s wait a minute, hasn`t -- not nearly as
much as we thought.

Anyway, we`re talking about all of this polarization, though. The
president this week, also, talked a little bit about how he might get
around that polarization and still get something big done. He used a
phrase that got a lot of attention this week. We`re going to talk about
that and dissect it a little bit after this.


KORNACKI: Hello from New York. I`m Steve Kornacki here with Jamelle Bouie
of "The American Prospect ," Anna Holmes with,Noreen Malone of
"The New Republic," and Monica Potts, also from "The American Prospect."

So, we were talking last hour about, basically, the reality of the partisan
grid lock is the term in Washington and how that is sort of stalled Obama`s
agenda, being up against a Republican Congress, which basically decided
it`s in our (ph) best interest not to work with him on anything , not to
negotiate with him on anything, not to negotiate with him or anything, and
if we don`t do that, he can`t pass anything. And, therefore, not get any
wins -- anything that will be described as a win.

So, with that in mind, the president this week at his press conference
talked about a little bit about that and described how he thinks he might
be able to get around it.


with me is somehow a betrayal. They`re worried about primaries. And I
understand all that. And we`re going to try to do everything we can to
create a permission structure for them to be able to do what`s going to be
best for the country.


KORNACKI: OK. That phrase "a permission structure" -- permission
structure to allow Republicans to do what`s best for the country -- got a
lot of attention this week. I`ve seen a lot of interpretations of it. The
Republicans have had some very cynical ones, this is something about big
government and permission, I don`t know.

But what does it mean? Do we know?

HOLMES: Incentive? I mean, it`s a kind of difficult phrase and doesn`t
mean much to me and I assume the average American. So I find it a bit
confusing. I understand what he means by it but I don`t think it`s
particularly compelling way to get his point across. I think he should
just use the word incentive.

BOUIE: I think what he`s trying to describe is it means a way for
Republicans to be able to vote as they feel or vote as they think would be
best and not worry about a primary. And that doesn`t have to mean they
have to support the president`s agenda in every circumstance or even most

But, you know, come on, right now, the mere act of Barack Obama signing a
piece of legislation means Republicans can`t vote for it, which is -- I
don`t -- I don`t know how you run a government like that. I mean, someone
can explain that. But --

KORNACKI: Well, Brian Boller (ph) from "TMP" wrote about this week. His
read from what permission structure meant was basically it had to do with
grand bargain. You know, Obama is pursuing this balanced deal with
Republicans where, you know, more tax revenue for entitlement cuts, that
sort of thing.

He`s saying basically, that the idea here is to get Republican and
Democratic senators talking. That`s what these dinners are all about that
Obama has been hosting to get reasonable seeming Republicans and Democratic
senators talking and to basically let them do the work, to let them
negotiate it and to keep as far away from it as he himself, Obama, can, so
that they strike a deal. It doesn`t have Obama`s fingerprints over it and
Republicans, I guess, then have permission to side with the Republicans who
negotiated with it, which I guess we`re talking about the Green Lantern
theory and power of presidency. This was sort of be a complete opposite of
that, the less the president does, the more he has a chance of enacting

POTTS: I think that`s right because to the Republican base, Obama is just
so toxic, so just the fact of him supporting anything would really rile
them up. At the same time, I`m a little skeptical of this idea that
Republican and Democratic Congress people just need to get together.

The Tea Party caucus is just so ideological, and they know how Washington
used to work and they know there were back room deals and camaraderie.
They`re not interested in doing that. They`re interested in following what
they believe to be their ideals and what`s best for the country, which is
not allowing government to work. I think that`s really where the problem
going to rest.

MALONE: Well, if you look at the phrase "permission structure," it just
implies you have no power, right? Why would you want -- and there`s an
article in "The Times" today saying that there are 13 senators who aren`t
going to run for re-election. And people aren`t really stepping up to fill
those jobs. Those aren`t attractive jobs anymore. If you just, like, game
it out, why would you want a job where you aren`t able -- not only do you
not have power, you aren`t able to get done what you to want get done for
your constituents.

KORNACKI: I read that article as Republicans are scared if they get in
these races, you know, if it`s the party leadership that`s enticing them
in. Like in Iowa, there`s this race where Tom Harkin is retiring, if they
get in the race and the party leaders entice them, the party leaders can`t
deliver anymore because we now live in the era where Christine O`Donnell
beats a, you know, 20-term congressman, in primary where Sharron Angle wins
in Nevada and all those things.

We have a chart that I think kind of -- I think puts the partisan
polarization in perspective. This is the House. Now, if you take a look
at this. This breaks down the Democratic and Republican members according
to, you know, did their party`s presidential candidate carry the district
they were elected in. You see that 217 of the Republican members of the
House, which is one short of majority, 218 is the magic number, 217 of them
come from districts that Mitt Romney carried.

So that just screams to me, there`s your problem right there, because if
President Obama is pursuing any kind of a deal with Republicans, in 217 of
the 218 districts that make up a majority, that`s not the majority position
of the voters.

BOUIE: Right. There`s no reason for those Congress people to support
President Obama`s agenda, and they don`t. I can`t -- I can`t really blame
them. I keep on coming to the fact that maybe what`s needed to make
Washington work is a full-scale overhaul of the rules.

I think I`m like a lot of liberals, I really like the Constitution.


BOUIE: All right, OK.


BOUIE: What I mean is there`s often a lot of talk about how there are
parts of the Constitution that are completely antiquated and we need to get
rid of -- and I`m not sure that`s the case. I think it more or less works
OK. But there are particular norms and rules within the institutions that
are extra constitutional that probably need changing and probably need
updating for a more modern era.

And there`s just no -- I mean, there is the conversation about filibuster
forum and that sort of slowed down. It pops up every once in a while but
there probably needs to be more than just filibuster reform to get this --
to get things moving smoothly begin. I do not mean to impugn liberals.

MALONE: Jamelle, can you look at other more recent -- I mean, isn`t the
iNFLux of huge money which comes from, you know, recent Supreme Court
decisions, hasn`t that had just as much of an impact? And, you know, the
Constitution has had the same structure for however many years and that`s
what`s new, you know?


MALONE: Maybe that`s a place to look.

BOUIE: I think money plays a part but I think it plays a part in sort of
the permission structure, the incentives of individual lawmakers, but not
all of them. I`m sort of -- I`m also a little skeptical that money is the
driving thing because these trends -- these trends for polarization started
before the era of big money in politics. It`s sort of a long -- a long-
term thing that`s happening that we as a country have not really tried to
deal with or even understand what it`s doing to our politics.

POTTS: Well, we also have other really broad scale changes in society. We
have an increasingly urban society. We have a society that`s becoming
blacker and browner as everyone noted after 2012.

And so, this is really a situation in which the Republican Party is still
the party of a constituency that really isn`t as powerful or as there as it
was. It`s rural, white, older voters. And so, they really have to decide
whether they`re going to continue to be that party or be a party that can
compete on a national level.

KORNACKI: Well, and it seems to me like there`s an even more fundamental
decision that needs to be made by Republicans. Are they interested in
governing? And I think what it means, we were talking about this a little
bit in the break, but I think it`s a good discussion to have.

If you think back to when we had a similar situation working the other way,
when George W. Bush first became president in 2001 and Democrats a few
months later were able to get control of the Senate, with (INAUDIBLE),
Democrats were willing to cooperate. They still opposed George W. Bush.
There were still a lot of heated things said about George W. Bush.

But you got No Child Left Behind. For better or worse, you got No Child
Left Behind. You had Democrats who cooperated with him on the tax cuts.
You had Democrats who -- Democrats had sort of put together an agenda that
they were interested in implementing.

And so, if you have a president of the other party who`s willing to extend
a -- saying, you know, I`m willing to maybe compromise with you on
education issue you care about, Democrats are willing to work with it.

If you look on the other side, Republicans seem to be just operating with a
pure basic political calculation here. If we don`t do anything, he can`t
accomplish anything and then we can blame him for accomplishing nothing.
And there doesn`t seem to be any room there for a policy agenda.

HOLMES: What do you think the difference is between then and now? Is it a
temperament issue? Isn`t it just that Republicans think and feel that much
differently than Democrats?

KORNACKI: To me, it`s like, you can look back to the Clinton presidency
and you can almost find the same thing we have now in terms of Republicans
just dug in their heels. In 1993 and `94, Democrats had overwhelming
majority but Republicans dug in their heels. There were a few issues where
they had incentives to work with Bill Clinton. You had like welfare reform
come about in the same way that I think Republicans today maybe have
immigration reform.

I guess what I`m struggling to see is besides immigration reform, where is
the policy agenda from Republicans?

BOUIE: It`s not just that they don`t to want work with Obama, it`s what do
they want to do? Like what does the Republican Party really want to do
with its power? And it`s not clear what that is. If there`s nothing they
want to do, then it`s hard for the president to able to extend olive

And if there`s nothing you want to do and they hate the president, it`s
hard to see how anything gets done. This is actually a question I have,
too, and I don`t really have an answer is. I don`t want to psychoanalyze
individual Republicans, but at a certain point, you just have to -- have
you to struggle to figure out what`s going on.

Like why -- why don`t they want to make movement on anything at all? Is it
because of Obama in particular? Is it because, you know, you can make a
lot of money on the right hawking your opposition to things? Again, look
at Ted Cruz who has made himself into a star by doing exactly this. He`s
been there for four months. Yes, I don`t know.

POTTS: Well, I think it`s also a question you can ask of Democrats, too.
It`s like, is there anything they`re willing to sort of put on hold for
political gamesmanship purposes, right? We saw it the air traffic
controllers bill to get rid of the impacts of that, the sequester, I`m
sorry, on that.

So, you know, they could have held out and said, no, we have to deal with
the whole sequester before we deal with this air traffic controller issue
that`s impacting the entire country and that people feel and see, but they
actually do care that people feel and saw that. And they do care that hurt
businesses and hurt people.

So, they cared about governing and maybe lost a political chip.

KORNACKI: All right. I want to thank Jamelle Bouie of "The American
Prospect," Anna Holmes with, Noreen Malone of "The New
Republic," and Monica Potts from "The American Prospect".

Jason Collins became the first active player in a major sport to come out
of the closet this week. We`ll talk to one of the few people in the world
who knows what that experience is like, next.


KORNACKI: American culture changed on Monday and it changed with 12 simple
words -- I`m a 34-year-old NBA center. I`m black. And I`m gay. Those
were the first words of a "Sports Illustrated" cover story written by Jason
Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, most recently with the Washington Wizards.

Now, for the first time ever, there`s an openly gay athlete in one of the
four major pro sports leagues. Not, of course, that Collins is the first
gay man to play a professional team sport. It`s been almost four decades
since the now defunct "Washington Evening Star" ran a story there were
several prominent gay players in the NFL -- in the closet, of course.

And then a retired running back named Dave Kopay came out. And that was in
1975. Two years later, Kopay wrote a book and talked about it with
sportswriter Dick Schaap on the "Today" show.


DICK SCHAAP, SPORTSWRITER: Let`s talk about teammates, generally speaking,
and specifically, how did they react?

DAVID KOPAY, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Well, they don`t react in a public sense.
They have in a private sense. And it`s been a very quiet kind of support.
It`s like, so what? Hopefully, that`s what it should be, like, so what?


KORNACKI: "So what?" was largely the reaction from Kopay`s fellow gay
players in major team sports. For decades after his announcement, not of
them publicly joined him.

But one who did not remain silent was John Amaechi, who in 2007 became the
first male professional basketball player to reveal he`s gay. Amaechi had
retired four years earlier, but there was still a strong reaction in the
sports world.


JOHN AMAECHI, FORMER NBAPLAYER: I knew that this would happen. I knew
that there will be some fuss. I didn`t quite realize there`d be the
magnitude of fuss, but at the same time, the debate has been for the most
part in life, the one it hasn`t been, it`s been informative.


KORNACKI: Amaechi has a few things in common with Jason Collins. Like
Collins, he was a center, and also a journeyman playing for multiple for
multiple teams, always with the knowledge that this next contract could be
his last. And like Collins, Amaechi spent plenty of time hiding who he
really was from his teammates and from the fans who cheered his team on
every night.

So, joining us now is a man who knows better than anyone on the planet what
life has been like for Jason Collins, and that is John Amaechi.

Welcome and thanks for -- I know you flew over from England for this. We
really appreciate it. We did really have to search the globe to find you.

But -- so, you`ve been quoted all over the place this week. But I guess
one thing that jumped out of me was you actually had been talking to Jason
Collins before this story came out for a few weeks.

AMAECHI: Yes. He contacted me about -- I`ve known about him for some
time. I`ve known his family for some time. I played with his brother in
Utah. But about a month ago, he got in touch. I got a call out of the
blue. I`m still wondering how people get my number, but asking -- not
really for advice. I think people have overblown the idea that I`m some
kind of wise Yoder (ph) on this.

It`s simply reflections from someone who`s been on what to expect, how to
steel himself and make sure that he does the maximum -- this I think is
key, he wanted to do the maximum amount of good right off the bat and make
sure that his impact was positive.

KORNACKI: And so, what was the advice -- or not advice, but to do the
maximum amount of good. What --

AMAECHI: Really, I told him -- I wanted to hear his story. I said, you
tell me what you`re going to tell everybody. And he recounted his story,
what he planned on saying. I said, this is going to have an amazing
impact. Young people especially are going to look at this and be
transformed by your words.

It`s absolutely what happened. I mean, I gave -- I sent him a text the
other day. It can`t have be six hours after he made the announcement,
after the article was online. And I sent him a text because I started
getting e-mails, Facebook messages, Twitter messages from young people from
all over, literally from a young man in Doha, from a group of people from
Eastern Europe, as well as from, obviously, North America saying they felt
safer and more hopeful because of what Jason had done.

And I thought he needed to know that he was already having the kind of
impact that he`d hope.

KORNACKI: And what you make of a reaction. You came out I think six years
ago. Your playing career ended 2003, so basically a decade ago. If you
had revealed this, say, in 2003 versus 2013, do you think it would have
been a radically different reaction?

AMAECHI: I think so. I`m heartened by the changes I`ve seen. So, the
fact that the response from players has been so positive, and not
contrived, either. The tweets that I`ve seen from players don`t look like,
oh, dear, I better check with my PR agent and say something. They actually
look like they`re from the heart. And I believe that to be true.

I spoke to David Stern about three or four days ago before Jason came out
officially about another player. But they were talking about -- he was
talking about his absolute support for this, and not for a warm and fuzzy
reasons. He wants the best league in the world. He wants the best
athletes in the world. He knows the best athletes in the world can only
perform at their peak if they feel safe, secure, supported and if they
don`t have to hide.

So, that`s why he`s interested in this quality issue on the whole.

KORNACKI: And you`ve been quoted this week saying you`ve been aware of
them and you`ve talked to other players who are sort in Jason Collins`
situation. I mean, do you expect now sort of the flood gates are going to
open, or are we going to see more of this soon?

AMAECHI: Yes, the flood gate question is one I struggle with because Jason
is just one part of this equation. The NBA and what I think is their warm
and positive response is just one part of the equation, especially with the
back drop of America. There was a difference for me when I could run away
home to England where we don`t have laws that criminalize gay people, where
we`re about to have marriage equity in total fullness.

The idea that Jason alone is going to lead this is part of it. I think he
sits on the crest of a wave of public opinion. I think when you look at
the pulse, it`s very clear that the kind of inequality, the kind of
prejudice against the LBGT community that`s been happening is seen more and
more as unacceptable.

So, he`s a positive be vanguard but there are legislative hurdles we need
to overcome as well.

KORNACKI: The other piece of this is the reaction has been, like you say,
overwhelmingly positive this week. He`s 34 years old. He`s a journeyman.

His statistics -- he`s not going to be in the Hall of Fame, we can say, at
least not for his stats on the playing floor.

And now the question is, will a team signed him for next year? And you got
the basic basketball consideration, I guess somebody of his profile, if you
take this issue, aside from it, it`s probably iffy whether he`d be signed

How important do you think it is to this being seen as successful that he`d
get signed somewhere (ph)?

AMAECHI: I think -- this is key, I think, exactly your language. To be
seen as successful, I think some of the media require him to be re-signed.
I think he will be resigned, and not for any reasons of his sexuality. The
biggest challenged to him being resigned is not his sexuality being known
now. It`s 20 years of wear and tear on his body. It`s the fact that there
are 18-year-old Croatians who take the NBA minimum and to take his spot.
That`s the real challenge.

But the fact is he does bring other things to the table. Like he`s telling
people that if we were having this conversation a week ago before the news
was known, he has qualities that we surely wish our athletes had. He`s
dedicated and passionate about his sport. He works hard, always. He
brings it every day.

At the same time, he`s a settling influence. If you ask his teammates, a
settling influence in the locker room. These are not inconsiderable
qualities for a basketball player. If you know about how teams are
successful. If you want to look and dissect the Lakers, outside of their
injuries and the reason that team never really came together and stop being
fragmented, people like Jason Collins help with that.

I believe he`ll be re-signed for those reasons.

KORNACKI: I want to ask you about the sort of the culture of sports and
the culture of basketball because a big issue in sports in the last few
months has been the story of this ex-coach now at Rutgers, Mike Rice, who
was fired when these videotapes of practices were shown where he was
throwing basketballs at players, saying all sorts of nasty things.

One of the aspect of the video was he was shouting homophobic slurs at his
players. And if you look at the video, nobody seems to be, you know, taken
aback by that. It seems to be a regular occurrence.

Is that something, in your experience playing, were you exposed to that a
lot? And I wondered how you responded to that. Obviously, no one knew
about your situation.

Was it something that you really felt, or did you just kind of go off your
shoulders because you hear it all the time?

AMAECHI: There is an element -- I don`t think people realize quite how
fully the language of misogyny, the language of homophobia is the language
of sports. If you watch the way sports are portrayed, even when it`s not
the words that we cannot publish, the language around women, the language
around gay people is always derisive.

For me, personally, I always felt it was a death by 1,000 cuts. Each
individual insult in of itself was nothing. But at the end of the day, I
wondered sometimes why I felt so exhausted after practice.

I was in great shape. It wasn`t the fact that practice had been that
onerous. It was just listening to those words again and again and again
weighed on you. It meant that you constantly had to reserve bits of energy
that should have been available for last-second layups, boxing out, the
minutia of basketball, but that energy itself had to be passed off to
protect your ego against these constant assaults. And that`s another
reason why it`s important to create these atmospheres.

It`s not for politically correct reasons. It`s because if you have players
on your team, you`re going to be impacted by those words and have to pass
off resources. That`s not available for going to the playoffs, and you
need that.

KORNACKI: All right. I want to bring in some other folks, including a
black state legislature who just came out on the floor of the state Senate,
right after this.


KORNACKI: We`re talking about the Jason Collins story this week, with Mary
Curtis. She`s a contributor to "The Washington Post" "She the People"
blog. Democratic State Senator Kelvin Atkinson of Nevada, who just came
out last month on the state Senate floor during a debate on gay marriage.
Former NBA player John Amaechi, and Mike Pesca, sports reporter at NPR.

And Kelvin, by the way, I said Nevada, I also get flack from people from
saying Nevada. So, I`m going to say Nevada from here on in.

I guess I want to lead it off by playing some sound from President Obama
this week who was asked about Jason Collins and had this to say.


OBAMA: I`ll say something about Jason Collin. I had a chance to talk to
him yesterday. He seems like a terrific young man. And I told him I
couldn`t be prouder.

You know, one of the extraordinary measures of progress that we`ve seen in
this country has been the recognition that the LGBT community deserves full
equality. Not just partial equality. Not just tolerance, but a
recognition that they`re fully a part of the American family.


KORNACKI: So, obviously, it`s great to see the president, you know, being
supportive of him like that. But a couple things struck me about that.
One, you know, he went out of his way to answer that question. He was
leaving the room, wanted to answer it, came back.

He had personally called Jason Collin. And, of course, this came on the
heels in President Obama`s inaugural address back in January, he
specifically invoked Stonewall rights, sort of the iconic moment for gay
rights in America.

It strikes me that in politics how much has changed so quickly really in
the last year, because if we were having this conversation a year ago, if
Jason Collins came out a year ago, that`s when President Obama didn`t
support gay marriage, when he was still evolving on the question. When I
think the calculus of the president and a lot of other politicians on this
party and everywhere was we have to keep a certain amount of distance in
this issue.

And what I really though I`ve seen this week was that distance is just
completely melting away.

MIKE PESCA, NPR: Yes. Or when he said he didn`t support it, right?
Because it seems apparent now, if you look at the reaction, I think a lot
of us thought -- well, this shouldn`t be a huge issue but I`m sure we`ll
see a lot of negativity. There wasn`t a lot, at least officially phrased

It got to the point we were so, as a culture, the NBA establishment or
people who wanted to defend Jason Collins were so eager to jump on anyone
who said anything wrong, that they were pulling out people from pretty
obscure places who said boo about Jason Collins` reaction and condemning

I think what we saw out of the president shows not just how much we`ve
changed in the last year -- remember in 2004 the Bush administration put a
lot of gay ballot measures on the ballots in Ohio. I don`t see that stuff

I began this week to question the entire idea of the culture war. I don`t
know if it`s over or just overblown.

KORNACKI: It`s certainly evolved in a big way.

Kelvin, you just lived it in Nevada.

STATE SEN. KELVIN ATKINSON (D), NEVADA: Absolutely. You know, going back
we did that too. I mean, in 2002 and 2002 there were a lot of measures to
ban marriage equality in Nevada. And now, here we are, 2013, and actually
reversing it or down the road to reversing it. The Senate passed it in
Nevada. Now it`s in the House.

So, we are looking at a huge shift as well.

MARY C. CURTIS, THE WASHINGTON POST: The political calculation really has
changed. You see, I`m based in North Carolina and just last year, they had
the amendment to the state constitution which reaffirmed the only domestic
legal union being between a man and a woman, and then just this year,
Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat who`s going to be having a pretty tough re-
election race next year, come out for same-sex marriage, I think that
realizing the political calculation has changed and it will probably her in
the state, particularly among grassroots.

KORNACKI: Well, you know, Mike, you talk about how maybe the culture wars
are over a little bit. One thing that struck me this week, within the
sports world, was there was a comment I kept hearing repeated over and over
again. It wasn`t hostile to Jason Collins, it wasn`t overtly hostile to
Jason Collins, but I noticed a number of prominent commentators going out
of their way to say, I don`t know why we`re talking about this, I don`t
care at all.

I think there are a couple of different readings on this. I want to play
an example of this. This is Mike Francesa who is a sports talk radio host
here in New York, used to work for CBS. He`s a big-timer in the sports
world. Let`s play him.


MIKE FRANCESA, SPORTS TALK SHOW HOST: Now, we have a player in Jason
Collins who has been a -- you know, a journeyman player in the NBA, now
admitting, as he looks to stay in the league, and now, if he doesn`t stay
in the league, it will be considered he`s been run out of the league. But
admitting now that -- or at least now coming forward with the fact that he
is homosexual.

Why? I have no idea. I guess I`ll have to read the story. I guess I will
when I get a chance. I mean, I have the story here. I have no -- I`m not
compelled to run and talk about it or read it. I really don`t care.


KORNACKI: I have something to say about this and I want my guests`
reaction, and I want time to do it. So, we`ll do it right after this.


KORNACKI: All right. We just heard from Mike Francesa, on radio here on
New York, sports radio host. He`s basically he`s making -- I don`t want to
talk about this. You know, there were a couple of different readings on

You know, the charitable on is, this is where it should be, right? This
shouldn`t be an issue. This shouldn`t be something that anybody has to
talk about. The other issue, though, I mean, I can`t remember who wrote
this, but a good column on this, this week, somebody who basically said,
this is the new way for people who used to say, I don`t like this, I don`t
want this around me, now to say sort of -- where political correctness is,
it`s kind of move to this is what you have to say to not be excoriated by
the public.

PESCA: That column was written by John Lavigne (ph) of "Slate" who I co-
host a podcast, a friend of mine.

And, yes, and that`s the new thing. And why do you put it in my face? And
it`s a total -- it might be ignorant, maybe if you said a few things to
people who said that. They would say, oh, yes, I never thought that.
There`s a huge difference between the de facto assumption of the
heterosexual world and what it means to be homosexual.

But what I heard Mike Francesa saying there just speaks to demographics.
He`s in his 60s. He`s uncomfortable with it. I don`t think we should
necessarily jump down the throats of people who express honestly being
uncomfortable with it.

The average age of the NBA is 26.7. I think that`s why we see a lot of NBA
players saying, not only I don`t care about homosexuality but I would
support a teammate who are homosexual.

AMAECHI: I actually think it`s more damming to suggest that he talks like
this because he`s old. Than it is the truth -- than to say the truth which
is, this is a translation -- a passing off of the language of, I don`t like
this, into a different thing.

You know, the idea that somehow old people -- older people don`t keep up
with the times, can`t accept their grandchildren, et cetera, is just
nonsense. He`s simply refusing. He`s a dinosaur who refuses to evolve.
Fair enough.

KORNACKI: We do like the polling. I`ve never seen polling so
generationally stark, when you ask like about gay marriage. I mean, like,
70 percent, 80 percent for young people but there is still widespread
opposition -- not to say the whole generation is bigoted or something.
There does seem to be a real generation problem.

AMAECHI: I wouldn`t dispute the difference in the polling. I would say we
have to really question, is it -- it`s simply the fact that people are
digging their heels in as opposed to just learning, because right now,
there are older people using iPads and iPods and all kinds of technology.
The idea these people cannot come up with the times is not the truth. The
idea they may be resistant to that, I get that. His language is

KORNACKI: The other issue Jason Collins raised, we had the 12 issues, you
know, "I am gay" get all the attention. I am black was also part of this.

And he talked about, you know, first being raised in a religious family as

But, you know, Kelvin, maybe you can speak to this a little bit. There`s a
sort of a particular struggle there within the black community being gay.

ATKINSON: It`s a huge struggle. I think that the black community is one
of the last communities to embrace it. And I use those same terms, but I
used them before Jason Collins, but it is.

It wasn`t necessarily calling attention to I`m black. I think it was just
dealing with the fact that we have dealt with so much, and now this is
something else. And now this is something else the black community is one
of the last to embrace while every other community has already begun to
embrace it. We`re kind of late at the table.

And, you know, as John said earlier, well, I`ll have to go back and say
that I do find more of age differences with accepting it because older
African-Americans are really, really not as accepting.

CURTIS: I do think there`s a nuanced view about that. I think that many
African-Americans look at the civil rights struggle. In his own column in
"Sports Illustrated," he talks about his grandmother being afraid that he`s
going to have people attack him because of that, because she has seen that.

And also I think to give the black community credit, you can`t say the
black community, but many people felt that Obama`s support of same-sex
marriage would hurt him in the vote. And you saw a lot of folks said, no,
not really. We may have disagreements with him on some issues.

Even places where there have been referendums on same-sex marriages, there
have been a nuanced view. Even some black ministers saying, you know what,
maybe I wouldn`t marry a man to a man in my church, but this is an issue
about discrimination and I cannot be for something that would be
discriminating against any group.

So, I think -- and many black homosexuals are forced to live in the black
community, so they`re dealing with things everyday and I don`t think they
feel shunned in certain ways.

So, I think it`s simplistic to say black folks are homophobic.

KORNACKI: No. And it should be noted like last year, after President
Obama, you know, completed his evolution on gay marriage, there was a
ballot issue in Maryland, which has a large black population. It`s almost
like 30 percent in the state, and public opinion among black voters in
Maryland swung dramatically in the wake of that.

It seemed to almost like it was a moment not just necessarily following
President Obama`s lead but to say that the issue is really -- we were
forced to confront the issue more directly maybe than they had been before.

PESCA: I think people want to be decent and I think people want to believe
history bends towards justice. And I think maybe someone of an older
generation or maybe the black community, there`s more baggage to overcome.
How much of the messaging that people who grew up with in the `50s or `60s
about homosexuality being deviant doesn`t exist with the millenials, where,
you know, people under 32, 74 percent accept homosexuality.

So, that`s a huge general difference, and probably difference within the
culture, too. People, when -- if you`ve never been told that this was bad
or if you have a lot of messages that people are people, you`re very
willing to accept a gay teammate, a gay person, a gay politician.

KORNACKI: There`s one other issue I do want to here as well, because Jason
Collins talks about being a Christian. And I know in the sports world,
Christianity plays a very large role. I want to ask a little about how
Christianity and the religion of many of his teammates will mix with his
revelation this week.

We`ll talk about that after this.


KORNACKI: So, I did want to get into Christianity a little bit here,
because, I mean, anybody who`s ever watched the scene at the end of a
football game, an NFL football player, where you`ll have dozens of players
gather midfield, get down on a knee and pray together. You know,
Christianity is a big part of the sports culture. It`s got to be, I
assume, represented in every locker room that Jason Collin has ever been
in. I sort of wonder how those two things are going to mix.

AMAECHI: I think it`s difficult because a lot of Christians don`t
recognize the kind of hyperbolic Christianity that happens in sports. They
don`t see that as real, because it`s inconsistent.

You look at some of the Jason Collins` teammates and just in sports in
general, he`s not the distraction. They are. I sat in locker rooms with
people talking to me about how homosexuality is disgusting while telling me
the two women they slept with last night who weren`t their wife.

So, for me, I`m interested in consistency of conviction. So, for people
like Chris Broussard and others who have made a statement, it`s not that I
don`t think they should be allowed to have an, it`s the idea that where was
your outrage at the gambling, at the man who beat up his partner, at all
these other events we could rattle off and run a line below us, where is
the outrage there and why now at this time?

It`s consistency of conviction. And surely if you`re a Christian, that`s
what it should be all about. Not cherry-picking bits from the Old
Testament to sort your particular quibbles.

ATKINSON: That`s a great point and I`ve heard that a lot over the last two
weeks as well. Why do we choose one, you know, as some folk`s sin to focus
or hone in on when there`s so many other things going on. And so, why do
we choose one to demonize folks over? Let people live their lives.

And so, it is this whole Christianity thing but also Christianity teaches
we shouldn`t judge. And so, it`s kind of a mixed pot but one that will
continue even after this discussion.

CURTIS: And also, anyone with an ounce of Christian or whatever feeling,
you could look at that article in "Sports Illustrated" and see the toll it
took for him to hide and to keep his true self from the people he loved,
from his twin brother, he was engaged. And you see when he can talk about
the person he is, how he`s free, how he`s relaxed. He is his true self.
He can be honest.

How can you not be moved by that if you say you have an ounce of Christian

ATKINSON: And people have said -- real quick, people have said that even
to me the last two weeks, gosh, you seem so much happier. I didn`t notice
there was a huge difference in me but other people have.

You know, again, if you`re Christian, how do you not embrace that?

KORNACKI: Well, it does -- you know, there was a poll, now it`s probably
two years old but I remember, it jumped out at me, surveyed attitudes, the
generational thing we were talking about earlier, you could see it there,
too. When you talk to evangelicals over 50, there may have been one
person in the country (INAUDIBLE), but when you talk to evangelicals age 18
to 29, the stats stuck with me, 44 percent say they support gay marriage.
So, you`re seeing generational movement there, so maybe that will be
reflected in sports.

Anyway, so what do we know now that we didn`t know last week? My answer is
after this.


KORNACKI: In just a moment, what we now know we didn`t know last week.
But, first, a quick update on two stories we told you about last weekend.

In North Carolina, where Republicans have taken control of the governorship
and both houses of the legislature for the first time since reconstruction,
the GOP is advancing a number of hard lined proposals, including a
requirement for residents to show photo ID at the polls. Those already
passed the statehouse. It appears likely to become law.

On this program last Sunday, Reverend William Barber (ph), the head of the
North Carolina chapter of the NCAA announced plans to protest the voter ID
bill at the state legislative building. The next day, protesters led by
Barber held a pray in there. After ignoring demands to disperse, 17 of the
demonstrators were arrested and taking away in handcuffs, including
Reverend Barber. They were all released the next morning on $1,000 bond
each and have been charged with second-degree trespassing and other related

Last week, we also told you about a hunger strike by detainees in
Guantanamo Bay. More than 100 are now refusing to eat and could soon
starve to death. Some of the detainees have been held at the prison are
so-called enemy combatant without trial for more than a decade.

President Obama was asked about the hunger strike at the White House on
Tuesday and reiterated his call to close the prison.


OBAMA: It lessens cooperation with the allies on counterterrorism efforts.
It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.


KORNACKI: So far, Congress has blocked the president`s attempts to do just
that. And there are no signs the congressional leaders have changed their

So, what do we know now that we didn`t know last week?

We know that President Obama -- excuse me -- screwed this one up. My first
major flub on the air.

One more thing. What do we know now that we didn`t know last week? Let`s
start that over.

We now know that President Obama supports the FDA`s recent decision to make
Plan B One Step commonly known as the morning-after pill available over the
counter to women and girls 15 years older. At a press conference on
Thursday, Obama said, quote, "I`m very comfortable with the decision
they`ve made right now based on solid scientific evidence."

While this decision and the president`s support is a positive step for
reproductive rights, we know that just a day before, the Obama
administration announced they would appeal a federal court`s order that the
FDA provide emergency over the counter contraception to women and girls of
any age. The decision was also based on solid scientific evidence.

The ruling dates back to an unprecedented and politically move by the White
House and the Department of Health and Human Services during the 2012
presidential campaign where they blocked the FDA from allowing women under
17 from getting emergency contraception without a prescription. We know
the morning-after pill is safe for women of all ages, and if the president
is serious about making policy decisions based on science and facts, then
he should not make exceptions for political convenience.

We now know the fight for real filibuster reform is not over. Facing
unprecedented from the GOP, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, champion of
reform, is proposing legislation that would force filibustering senators to
speak on the floor, as Senator Rand Paul did with drones recently. Merkley
has joined with grassroots group Democracy for America and launched an
online petition called Reform the filibuster.

The renewed fight after a January bill championed by Harry Reid and Mitch
McConnell made modest adjustments to filibuster rules which have
unsurprisingly done little to end unnecessary gridlock. We know that a
minority party has the right to oppose legislation, but when it repeatedly
blocks the will of the public in a majority of senators, then at the very
least, they should have to tell the American people why.

And finally, we now know that April was the deadliest month in Iraq in
nearly five years. The U.N. mission to Iraq says that in April 712 people
were killed and 1,633 were wounded, most of whom were civilians. We know
that sectarian violence is increasing across Iraq and igniting fears of
civil war.

We know that as the drum beat for American intervention in Syria gets
louder, we should consider the reality of Iraq today, because wars don`t
just end when our troops come home.

Now I want to find out what my guests know that they didn`t know when the
week began. Survive that had screw up barely.

Mary, we`ll start with you.

CURTIS: What do we know? Well, if we didn`t know it already, North
Carolina is the center of the political universe. On Monday, you had
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx nominated to be transportation secretary.
Congressman Mel Watt has been nominated to his federal Housing Finance
Agency. You had Governor Pat McCory who was featured in your segment, is
delivering the Republican address this week and there is pushback in the

So just because we have great competition from South Carolina with that
race coming up this week with Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert-Busch,
America -- North Carolina hasn`t given its up -- it`s place in the

KORNACKI: We forgot to say as North Carolina resident, Mary Curtis.


ATKINSON: What do we know we didn`t know last week in Nevada, is that this
marriage equality issue is going to continue. And that we have a lot of
work to do. That it is going to our Lower House and we have to support it
and it will be coming back in 2015 to the legislation for us to pass again
before it goes to voters. And I think that we learned that our state is


AMAECHI: What we know is that the stereotypes that exist around identity,
it`s something we probably should have known before this, that can be blown
out of the water by an individual. Jason Collins has managed to do that.
His eloquence, his thoughtfulness are the antithesis of what a lot of
people think of black people. And certainly, he isn`t the poster for what
you would think of for gay person. I think it`s really good to have these
people who blow these boxes out of the water.

PESCA: While we`ve been talking about tall people, I`d like for a second -
- I`m sitting next to one. I`d like for a second to talk about tall
buildings, because this week, the number One World Trade Center was topped.
That was used to be called the Freedom Tower, and it`s topped by a spire,
only it`s a spire that functions as an antenna and looks like an antenna.
But it`s sort of this architectural platypus.

Why is it an antenna? And here`s the reason, if it`s an antenna, the
1,776-foot height is not official. If it`s an antenna, the committee on
tall buildings and urban habitats will not consider that an official
height. So, this is why you have to call it a spire and not an antenna.

I watched the people from Chicago trying to call it antenna because they
want the Sears Tower and now the Willis Tower to maintain the status as the
tallest building in the United States. The spire versus antenna issue will
not go away.

KORNACKI: I can hear them working in Chicago right now for the Sears

I want to thank Mary Curtis from "The Washington Post," and Democratic
State Senator Kelvin Atkinson, former NBA player John Amaechi, and Mike
Pesca of NPR -- thanks for getting up and thank you for joining us today
for UP.

Join us tomorrow, Sunday morning, at 8:00, when we look at the GOP`s latest
hope for 2016, Senator Ted Cruz.

And coming up next is "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY." On today`s MHP, presidential
politics, Big Bird and public schools. Is President Obama having the
second-term blues? Is the Pigford settlement with black farmers being
manipulated? And should creationism be taught in Louisiana schools? That
is all on "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY". She is coming up next.

And we will see you right here tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. Thanks for
getting UP.




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