UP with STEVE KORNACKI
May 5, 2013
Guest: Amr Al-Azm, Michael Hanna, Andrew Tabler, Joan Walsh, Abby
Rappaport, Nia-Malika Henderson, Nate Cohn, Maria Teresa Kumar
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning from New York. I`m Steve
Kornacki. Seven U.S. troops were killed Saturday in two separate incidents
in Afghanistan. And President Barack Obama this morning is on his way to
Ohio where he`ll give his first commencement address of 2013 at Ohio State
University. Now, I want to start today with the latest developments in
Syria this morning. Israeli warplanes conducted an air strike inside Syria
early this morning. The second such strike in just about two days. A
senior U.S. official tells NBC News that the target was a military research
facility north of Damascus. This follows an Israeli attack overnight
Thursday that was directed at a suspected shipment of weapons Israel said
was headed for the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Israeli
strikes come amid an intensifying civil war in Syria in mounting pressure
for the international community to intervene. In an interview during his
trip to Costa Rica yesterday, President Obama would not comment on
Thursday`s strike, but said in general that he supports Israel`s attempt to
disrupt the flow of weapons to Hezbollah.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The Israelis
justifiably have to guard against the transfer of the advanced weaponry to
terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. And, you know, we coordinate
closely with the Israelis, recognizing that they are very close to Syria.
They`re very close to Lebanon. Hezbollah has repeatedly said that they
would be willing to attack as far as Tel Aviv, and so the Israelis have to
be vigilant, and they have to be concerned. And we will continue to
coordinate with Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Obama`s remarks come as the international community and the U.S.
specifically weigh the possibility of some sort of intervention in Syria
after U.S. officials said last week that the regime of Syrian president
Bashar al-Assad had likely used chemical weapons against its own people.
In response to those reports in the same interview yesterday, the president
virtually ruled out the possibility of sending U.S. troops into Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I cannot see a scenario right now, in which American boots on the
ground would make any sense, and I cannot see a scenario, in which actually
the Syrian people would benefit from American boots on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The president`s caution reflects a dramatic shift in how
Americans think about war from just ten years ago when similar calls to
intervene in Iraq produced an intractable and ultimately deeply unpopular
conflict. The chilling horrific reports from Syria are likely to prompt
many a people to ask what the U.S. can do to alleviate the suffering of the
Syrian people. But the poll suggest that Americans are weighing that
natural human response against the very real consequences from a decade of
war in Afghanistan and Iraq. A "New York Times"/CBS poll published on
Tuesday found that 62 percent of Americans do not believe the U.S. has a
responsibility to take action in Syria. Only 24 percent, the U.S. does
have that responsibility. NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard
Engel is in Antakya, Turkey with more on the overnight developments.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Steve, this is the second time in just
about 48 hours that Israel has carried out an air strike in Syria. This
time in Damascus. A witness we spoke to in Damascus told us that it began
around 2:00 this morning, that there was a huge fireball, something that
people across the city could feel. They also felt a giant shock wave. And
that after this initial explosion that one person said lit up the night sky
turned the night sky into day briefly, there were a series of secondary
explosions and that those explosions lasted for about four hours. Most of
the blasts took place in a very small area in the Qassioun Mountains. The
Qassioun Mountains are right on the edge of Damascus, and the entire area
is a network of military bases. It is an area where people aren`t allowed
to go. Heavy security presence. According to rebels, there were at least
ten different targets that were hit. A U.S. official said this was an
Israeli air strike, although there`s been no official confirmation from
Israel itself. Some of the different targets that were struck according to
rebel sources we`ve been speaking to, a Syrian Republican Guard base, a
missile base, a weapons depot, and it seems that it was as these munitions
were exploding. That`s why the explosions lasted for so long. The
apparent air raid and people witnesses did hear low-flying aircraft may
have been very brief, but then as the explosions continued and continued,
people said there was ash and dust raining down on the city. There has
been some comment from Syrian government officials, Syrian state TV blamed
the attack on Israel, said that Israel was working in alliance with the
opposition, an opposition it calls terrorists. Steve?
KORNACKI: NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel reporting
from Antakya, Turkey. Right now I`m joined by MSNBC political analyst Joan
Walsh, she is the author of "What`s The Matter with White People: Why We
Long for a Golden Age That Never Was." She`s also editor-at-large for
Salon.com. Amr Al Azm, he is professor of Middle Eastern history and
anthropology at Shawnee University and a member of the Day-After Project, a
coalition of Syrian opposition groups planning for a post-war transition.
Andrew Tabler, author of "In the Lion`s Den: An Eyewitness Account of
Washington`s Battle of Syria" and senior fellow with the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy. And we have Michael Hanna, senior fellow
at the progressive think tank the Century Foundation.
So we`re all just sort of digesting the latest overnight. You hear that
report from Richard Engel there, fireballs, ash raining down on Damascus.
You see, I know we`ve had Israeli air strikes earlier this year, I think
back in February, but now we`re talking about Damascus. We`re talking
about something that to me seems like -- at least it feels like wow, are we
entering into something that`s rapidly escalating here? I guess the
question everybody is asking is what`s going on right now?
AMR AL-AZM, SHAWNEE STATE UNIVERSITY: I think this is quite a significant
escalation in that now we see direct strikes against, you know, Damascus
itself, Qassioun Mountain where you have some of the heaviest
concentrations of the elite forces of the regime. And just by looking at
the pictures and talking to some of our colleagues inside Syria, inside
Damascus, it`s not just the Gimraya (ph) research facility, but obviously a
much wider spread of targets that have been hit there. And all this is --
now we need to assess how significant this strike, and this will be
reflected in whether the regime is able to continue its ongoing activity on
the ground in terms of pounding the positions of the opposition in the
outskirts of Damascus and inside Damascus itself.
MICHAEL HANNA, THE CENTURY FOUNDATION: And the target status, I mean,
reports are sketchy at this point, but it does appear to be somewhat
different. It`s not just the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah, which has
been the pattern in previous strikes, but potentially degrading the
capacity to deliver chemical weapons, targeting missiles. And so that`s --
you know, that`s the difference in kind, and I think a much greater
escalation than anything we`ve seen in the past.
KORNACKI: And that point interests me, because speaking as a layman here,
my understanding has been, you know, we have all this talk about red lines,
and we`ll get into that a little bit with how the U.S. and how President
Obama have used that term. But my understanding has been that the red line
the U.S. has been drawing has basically involved chemical weapons, and the
red line that Israel has been drawing has basically involved, like you say,
the transfer of weapons, sort of the use of Syria as a conduit. So, now
we`re getting these reports, and again, it`s always unnamed officials and
everything, but we`re getting these reports saying this is Israel. This is
munitions. And I`m trying to sort of square that.
ANDREW TABLER, "THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE": Well, what we`re looking at
here is, you know, chemical weapons, and the reports we`ve seen, that`s a
type of strategic weapon. There are other kinds of strategic weapons,
surface to surface missiles, Scud missiles, patawat (ph) tents and
sophisticated anti-aircraft systems. So, our red lines are different than
the Israeli red lines. I mean for the Israelis, they`re worried about not
just the chemical weapons, as fact, but also the delivery systems. And so
that`s why we`re seeing these strikes now. What`s very interesting is that
over the last few months, Israel has been enforcing, laying down and
enforcing red lines with Bashar al-Assad, and true to form, he hasn`t
responded after the strike has occurred. And this goes back, you know,
very early in his presidency, also when Israel bombed a nuclear reactor.
Now we have a massive -- I mean, really unprecedented attack, and certainly
in Bashar al-Assad`s presidency. It will be very interesting to watch,
does Damascus continue just to do nothing, or do they actually respond in
kind? One of the deputy ministers called last night`s strike an act of
war. And we`ll have to wait and see what Damascus does in response.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Do we have any reports on casualties? I mean
Richard didn`t mention that, but it just seems like just looking at the
pictures and the scope of the bombing, it seems like it`s going to be more
than just munitions systems. There`s going to be ...
KORNACKI: Yeah, there haven`t -- We should say there have not been any
reports that we have received.
AZM: There are un -- sort of -- you know, unconfirmed reports of
casualties of up to 2,000, but ....
KORNACKI: Unconfirmed. Just to stress. You know. Yeah, we haven`t ...
AZM: We don`t have anything official.
AZM: Yeah. But just to add one thing here as well, I think, you know,
when we look at this sort of Israeli action, to me, it kind of ties in with
what you`re talking about, Obama`s red lines. I mean the way I am reading
this, is that I think that the Israelis have looked with concern,
increasing concern, at the shifting red line that the Obama administration
has pursued with regards to these chemical weapons. And in a way they`ve
basically taken now their own action. In essence, you can interpret this
as the Israelis saying well, you know what? We`re not waiting for you to
sort of step up to the plate. We`re going to take care of this problem
ourselves. We have serious concerns. And like Andrew pointed out, they`re
slightly different, and we`re not going to wait for anything. We`re going
to start acting now. We`re going to ensure that these weapons and the
delivery systems do not come anywhere near what we consider to be a serious
threat to ourselves.
KORNACKI: Well, you mentioned -- and we`ve teased this a couple of times
now -- Obama`s statement on the red line. And this came -- this came about
a year ago. I do want to play it just for context. This is when Obama
originally sort of issued the red-line statement last August.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are
falling into the hands of the wrong people. We have been very clear to the
Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground that a red line for
us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or
being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And so now we`re in the situation where in the last few weeks we
have reports from, you know, senior U.S. officials saying that they suspect
chemical weapons in some way have been used. Now the president saying we
want a fuller investigation of that. And we have a report in "The New York
Times" today that sort of suggests that maybe that statement last August
was more an off-the-cuff statement. And the White House is just sort of
trying to find a way out of it right now?
WALSH: Well, that was fascinating. And who once known or believed that it
was an off-the-cuff unscripted statement that`s going to be puzzling
everyone for a few days, because it does seem to imply that there`s some
attempt to walk away from it and also some division within the
TABLER: There`s definitely a division. But I think the reason for this
red line is not just because, of course, you know, loading chemical weapons
into bombs, which eventually happened last autumn according to the White
House, you know, that`s a big worry. But by and large here, we`re looking
at a situation that Bashar al-Assad has been moving up the escalation chain
over the last two years. It went from using snipers in the beginning, now
to firing Scud missiles on his own population. And this kind of, you know,
this kind of developments, this is all taking place in a context, right? I
think Obama wanted to put a cap on it. But at that time it was a faraway
cap, right? We didn`t think Bashar -- we thought that he was deterrable.
Bashar al-Assad isn`t like that historically. Bashar al-Assad is a man who
isn`t deterred. He pushes red lines. And right now he`s pushing Obama`s
red line, and there`s a real division on what does America do to respond
and not move up our own escalation chain and get sucked into a conflict in
a fuller sense.
KORNACKI: And you have just asked the million-dollar question. And we`re
going to get into it right after this.
KORNACKI: So, Michael, I know you want to get in. Andrew had just raised
the point, you know, of basically the red line was set as sort of this
almost more abstract-feeling thing, you know, maybe a year ago, and now the
administration`s being confronted with it in the way -- to believe "The New
York Times" today that maybe they didn`t think they were going to be.
HANNA: I think that`s right. But I would add a note of caution. And
there are -- these are sketchy allegations, reports. There are tests that
indicate a likelihood of usage, low-level usage of chemical weapons. There
are big questions still about chain of custody, perhaps about command and
control and how decision-making is being made within the Syrian military.
So, you know, I think we`re not perhaps at a point where we can draw far-
reaching conclusions. And of course, there are lots of other red lines
that have been crossed. War crimes, crimes against humanity, usage of
chemical weapons is a very important international norm, and it needs to be
protected. But, you know, I don`t think we should see this in isolation as
the linchpin that should shift U.S. policy and U.S. strategy.
KORNACKI: Although we should say so more recently now when you have the
senior -- the suspicions now that chemical weapons have been used, the
president sort of clarified, maybe even, you know, moved the goalposts a
little bit, I think this was a week or two ago where he said now it`s the
systematic -- the systematic use of chemical weapons on civilian
populations. So he`s sort of qualifying it. And the feeling I`m getting
listening to this is basically this is a guy who does not want to be
intervening and is looking not to be drawn into it at almost any cost.
AZM: But it`s worse, because he said we don`t know when and we don`t know
where. As if, you know, using chemical -- does it matter when and where
they were used if they`ve been used? They`ve been used. And then the last
one, by who? I mean the regime - using -- you know, delivering chemical
weapons is not something that you can just, like, you`re sprinkling sort of
frosties on a cake. It`s a very complicated, very delicate process.
There`s, you know, and it requires very high certain type of technology,
and only the regime has it. So, to even ask the question of who used it -
KORNACKI: And this is where it gets interesting, I think and very
complicated because you`re right, at a certain level, we can document all
sorts of horrible things, all sorts of atrocities that have played out over
the last two years.
AZM: Look at Banias just a few days ago.
KORNACKI: Two years in Syria, but I think then the question becomes, when
we start saying that the natural human instinct is to do something, but
there can also -- I think there`s a compelling case to doing something that
could make it worse.
TABLER: It`s possible that it could it make it worse, but it`s hard to see
how doing less or the same as we`re doing right now, we could hope to
arrest the current situation, right? I mean the trajectory of the conflict
on so many different levels is getting so bad. I mean if the dead polls
continue at this rate, we`re going to reach the 100,000 mark killed in
Syria. That`s roughly the number that was killed in Bosnia in two and a
half years of fighting, whereas it took three and a half years of fighting,
you know, in Bosnia. That`s also the second anniversary in August of
President Obama saying that Assad has to step aside, right? So to continue
what we`re doing now, it`s important to know what was used, right? It`s
important to go up that chain. But then we have to look at, well, what is
the investigative structure here? It`s the United Nations. The
investigation being to come and look at the site is being blocked by the
Assad regime. And even the scope of that investigation can only
investigate one site. And when they go to that -- after they go to that
one site, they`re not allowed to assess who used the weapons. How is that
going to help us solve this problem? So I think the United States needs to
look at how else can they go about, you know, trying to solve this problem,
find out what happened and then keep Assad from moving up the escalation
chain. And I think that`s what the White House is asking right now. And
how do you not get then sucked into a conflict very quickly where you`re
forced to escalate and do something that could make the situation worse and
could also hurt the president politically?
HANNA: No, we shouldn`t get stuck in a sort of false binary, perhaps
influenced by the Israeli air strike, that the choices here are what we`re
doing now versus direct U.S. military intervention, perhaps a la a no-fly
HANNA: I mean there are a lot of other options, and I think that`s where
we need to focus at the moment.
KORNACKI: But what are -- so, what are some of those options? I think
that`s, you know.
TABLER: I think it`s fairly simple. First of all, we have to -- an
investigation into what happened. But most importantly, the White House
itself leaked a story to "The New York Times" a few months ago saying that
they knew that the regime loaded a binary agent, we think sarin, into bombs
on or near sarin airfields, right? You could hit those bombs. I mean
those are as you loaded guns, right? You could hit that, like the Israelis
do oftentimes and lay down that red line. But there are lots of other
things you could do, too. No one is talking about putting troops on the
ground in Syria. The president has said that himself. The American public
won`t tolerate it.
TABLER: But there could be pinpoint air strikes, there could be missile
strikes, there are a lot of other options here that could enforce this red
line and keep Bashar from moving up the escalation chain.
KORNACKI: Well, and there`s -- and there`s -- there are arguments, I`ve
heard very compelling arguments saying that when you start talking about,
you know, tactical or focused air strikes, that practically speaking,
that`s very difficult to do. And I think in a lot of the arguments for
intervening, people hear -- we mentioned the polls, I mean people hear a
lot of echoes of the debate we had in this country ten years ago heading
into Iraq, and I think that`s shaping the conversation here a little bit.
I do want to talk about the Iraq angle of this after this.
KORNACKI: So, I was talking about sort of the echoes of the Iraq debate
from a decade ago maybe being a little evident in the Syria debate we`re
having now. And I want to play Lindsey Graham, this is from last week on
"Face the Nation."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM. (R-SOUTH CAROLINA): If we keep this hands-off
approach to Syria, this indecisive action towards Syria, kind of not
knowing what we`re going to do next, we`re going to have a war with Iran
because Iran`s going to take our inaction in Syria as meaning we`re not
serious about their nuclear weapons program. We need to get involved. And
there`s a growing consensus, Bob, in the U.S. Senate that the United States
should get involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So when I hear that and when I hear other sort of arguments for,
you know, taking a more aggressive approach to Syria, I think of, in the
run-up to Iraq, we heard all about the atrocities that Saddam Hussein had
committed against his own people. And we were all horrified by that,
rightly. And we heard about that, you know, we cannot allow a mad man like
Saddam Hussein to defy the U.N because it will embolden him and it will
embolden others like him. That was -- those are the two arguments I
remember resonating (inaudible) besides the WMD before Iraq. And now we`re
hearing, you know, all of the atrocities, we`re rightly horrified about,
that Assad`s committed and we`re hearing that we have this red line and if
we don`t stand behind it and back it up, then he will be emboldened, and
North Korean will be emboldened, Iran will be emboldened. And I`m just --
if we fell for it in Iraq and it didn`t work, you know.
AZM: Well, there is two sites -- I mean there`s obviously our national
interest. Do we have national interests in preventing Syria from
collapsing as a state, becoming a failed state, and what implications that
would have on the region as a whole, and our strategic interests in that
region. But there`s also a humanitarian side as well. But I`ll let maybe
Andrew talk about the strategic side, but for me the humanitarian side is
also very important. There is a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding there.
And we hear constantly of ethnic cleansing and the dangers of what might
happen if, you know, the opposition wins and what will happen to the
minorities, and so on and so forth. But right now if the so called -- if
we refer to the Sunni population, part of the -- as the majority, they`re
being massacred. We had horrible, horrible scenes coming out of
(inaudible) and Bayda (ph) and near Banias, you know, terrible massacres
being perpetrated, and basically, parts of the population are now moving
out of those areas because they`re the wrong, you know, they`re the wrong
sect. And this is also something that is moral that we, if we are able to
do something, then we should try and do something about it. Let alone the
strategic interests that we have and the catastrophe that would happen if
you would allow a state like Syria to collapse.
HANNA: We do have -- I mean we do have interests in Syria, right? There`s
the humanitarian angle. There`s the question of regional spill over, which
is becoming increasingly clear with Hezbollah and other actors that are
directly involved. Iran is directly involved in this fight to a great
extent. We have the issue of growing radicalization within the rebel
movement. These are all very serious concerns, and we do have interests.
I think the question is how do you best vindicate those interests? And
again, you know, we don`t -- the escalation ladder of potential U.S.
actions I think somewhat obscures the debate. And I worry that we`re going
to see an Israeli air strike and immediately extrapolate as to what the
U.S. can do, not contextualizing the sort of limits that face the United
States that don`t face Israel. And of course, the United States getting
involved isn`t a one-off raid.
The United States would have to be seriously concerned about political
ramifications and the sense of responsibility for the aftermath. So I
think we can talk about things like intelligence sharing, you know,
targeting fuel depots, logistical supply chains, perhaps air crews. And
these are all things that could have an impact. But more importantly, I
think we also have to think about this as a multiyear protracted conflict.
There is no -- there`s no indication at this point that there is any kind
of silver bullet, even if we imagined American involvement in setting up a
no-fly zone. This is a resilient regime. We don`t see many defections
anymore. It`s clear that this is going to be with us for some time. And I
think we have to shift accordingly.
TABLER: I think we`re looking at a situation here where I think Michael`s
absolutely right. I mean, the initial thing is how do you keep Assad from
using the full lethality of his arsenal? OK, but that conflict has already
generated essentially the meltdown of Syria, right? We have it in three
general parts, one is what`s left of regime control towards the coast and
there is a lot of it, and there we have Hezbollah, terrorist organization,
very, very active. In the center, in the Sunni areas, it`s atomized, Sunni
Arab areas, but also we have Jabhat al-Nusra, an al Qaeda affiliate also
very active. And then the Kurdish areas, we have the PYD, which is an
affiliate of the PKK, another (inaudible) terrorist organization. Three
Syrias, three terrorist organizations active. And with -- and this
conflict is pushing people over the borders, right, you know? Hundreds of
thousands of people going across the border into Jordan. If the numbers
continue, we`ll have about 770,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan by June 1st,
OK? These countries can`t handle that number of people. Half the Syrian
population on the move, right? It`s time to deal with the disease itself
and not just the symptoms of the disease. But how do you do it in a smart
way that keeps you from getting completely sucked in to a conflict that
America is not willing to fight? So how is America willing to be more
assertive to try and help arrest the situation and shape an outcome in
Syria, some of the things that Michael was talking about here in the
KORNACKI: And you get the idea of America not being willing to have that
fight. And I want to look a little closer about that because it`s really
striking to me if you take the last ten years and the ten years before, how
dramatically public opinion towards the idea of intervention has changed.
And we`ll get into that after this.
KORNACKI: So, major ingredient in the discussion here, and we talk about
potential U.S. involvement, potentially ramped up U.S. involvement in
Syria, is public opinion here. And it really is striking to me. You know,
I talked about the parallels to Iraq earlier. And I just remember, you
know, ten years ago we were in the wake of 9/11. So obviously there was a
lot of -- there was a lot of fear in this country. But also, just -- we
had a reaction to the stories of Saddam Hussein gassing his own people,
Saddam Hussein killing his own people. And I think it was very human and
very understandable that these stories just absolutely horrified us. And
so the idea of hey, we can do something, we should do something I think was
very appealing to people. And it also came after a decade -- I can
remember, you know, in 1991 when we had the first Gulf War, relatively
speaking, there weren`t a lot of casualties in that, you know, if the
United States. And I can remember the drumbeat throughout the entire
1990s, it was the only mistake that the first Bush administration made in
Iraq, in Kuwait, was not finishing the job, not going into Baghdad and
taking out Saddam Hussein. And it really kind of fed this idea in my mind
that war was easy, because the 1991 Gulf War was easy.
WALSH: And there was a concern that we hadn`t acted in Rwanda, that we
didn`t act fast enough in Kosovo. And that then there were humanitarian
things that we could do that would be not easy, but doable and didn`t
destabilize whole regions. And so, you kind of carried that lesson into
Iraq where it turned out not to have any validity whatsoever.
KORNACKI: An intervention, there were successful interventions in the
1990s, you know.
WALSH: Right. So, so -- that`s what I worry about here. I mean we talked
about, well, there are certain things that we can do in targeted air
strikes, and it might be easier, nothing`s easy, but really nothing is
easy. And if it was easy, the administration would be doing it. I don`t
want to give them too much credit. There`s obviously disarray over there.
But when I see Lindsey Graham, you know, beating the drums for more war and
I see this becoming a partisan battle where Republicans are trying to paint
themselves as hawkish, I think that the American skepticism about where
this is going is very valid. The American people are very smart about
HANNA: Yeah, I mean I think the American public should know at this point
the limitations of American military power.
HANNA: There are real, real limitations in what -- in sort of the efficacy
particularly of air power alone, you know, how does this link up to
achieving any of the political objectives that have to be part of the
discussion when we were thinking about Syria. And I think people are
AZM: But let me jump in here. I mean, let`s look at this. I mean what
we`re trying to do is, in effect, take away from Assad his most potent
hitting power, and that`s the air power and the Scud missiles that he`s
using to flatten his cities. And I think to do that is not as complicated
as some would like to say. You can, you know, you don`t have to have a no-
fly zone simply to stop planes flying. You can do this by taking out the
airfields. You know, targeted cruise missile strikes or a similar ordnance
against these air airfields could knock them out. And then you take -- you
know without the air power, without the Scud missiles, and that would have
a very, very significant impact on the ability of the Assad regime to
pursue its war at the level, at the escalated level it is pursuing it now.
And might actually provide the sort of game changers that we want and open
doors to areas, possibly even, you know, to a political negotiated
transition because that might then force Assad to reconsider their
calculus. Right now with those resources available to them, they`re not
going to change. They`re not going to change their behavior.
HANNA: But let`s put it in perspective, too. Air power is probably about
ten percent of the mix in terms of what the Assad regime is using. This
isn`t the linchpin. I think it`s important in terms of harassing areas
outside of its control, but, you know, this isn`t a regime that is reliant
solely on air power.
AZM: No, but you talk to the guys on the ground and why some of their
offensives fail, it`s always because the air power -- as soon as the air
power comes into play, it stops any offensive. It stops everything that in
its tracks. And also its indiscriminate use against civilians has caused
the most horrific of casualties. (inaudible) is really significant here.
KORNACKI: Isn`t there -- isn`t there another issue here? I think it was
Juan (inaudible) again, who made this point, that if you really want to
disable chemical weapon capability, that`s something that almost
necessarily requires ground troops.
TABLER: I think that it would depend on, you know, are you trying to keep
trying to deter Assad from using them and make him responsible for using
them or you`re trying to destroy the depots? You know, that`s -- that`s one
way of looking at it. But I think by and large we`re confusing a couple of
things here. One is, there`s a difference between being assertive and
being aggressive, OK? What the world -- I just came back from a long trip
to the region, all of Syria`s border regions with the exception of Iraq.
All of our allies, and we have tons of people on our side with lots of
money, right?. They want us to do one thing, they want us to be more
assertive. They want us to follow through on our words in saying to get
Assad to step aside, right? And they want us to lead a coalition. When I
asked them, why don`t you just do it yourselves? They say, we have too
many cross-purposes. We back different clients inside the country. They
want our leadership, right? That`s different than -- I think it`s very
good to be cautious about the use of military power, right, and how you use
it. It`s part of the mix. We need to do a lot more. We need to focus and
have a coalition to get rid of the Assad regime and to try in that process
to have relations with the opposition on the ground in all of the areas and
to try and gather them around a common cause so that after the war is over,
that they can then get together and form -- reform the Syrian nation in a
more democratic way and in a way that is more in keeping with the sort of
zeitgeist of the overall revolution as a whole. I think if we do that, if
we focus on doing that and then we focus on some of the other stuff later
on, the post-Assad Syria things, I think that we will be able to accomplish
WALSH: But can we really do that and how do we do that?
TABLER: We can help shape it, right? But we are not -- and this is --
like I`m not talking about unilateral action.
TABLER: But I think what we can do is, we can help lead this coalition in
various ways, whether it`s politically at the U.N. I mean look, a deal
with the Russians or to try to get Assad to leave, it`s a great idea,
right? Maybe we can pursue it at the end of this process, try and help
pursue it from the ground up instead of from the top down. You know,
Secretary Kerry is going to Russia next week. I don`t -- we don`t expect
him to walk away with anything. But if we could get him to walk away with
something at the end of the year after working with the opposition on the
ground and trying to convince -- trying to work with them to have a viable
alternative to Assad that`s more organized, that`s more coherent. But, you
know, like Michael said, this is a multiyear, you know, conflict that`s
going to go on, and it`s going to involve a political strategy at the end
of these military means.
KORNACKI: It won`t be the last conversation we have. I want to thank Amr
Al-Azm from Shawnee State University, Andrew Tabler with the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy, Michael Hanna of the Century Foundation.
Can the voters who made Obama president make his agenda reality? That`s
KORNACKI: The new coalition that powered Barack Obama to the White House
in 2008 and it kept him there in 2012 has so far proven one thing. It will
show up at the polls when Barack Obama`s name is on the ballot. But the
long-term future of the president`s agenda and of the values that move his
supporters hinges on whether that coalition will become a permanent, full-
fledged participant in electoral politics. Whether, in other words,
Obama`s voters begin treating every election like it`s 2008 or 2012. There
are two new reports this week that offer a revealing glimpse into whether
that coalition will, in fact, be the change they`ve waited for. One study
of the 2012 election conducted by a demographer at the Brookings
Institution for the Associated Press found that despite widespread
Republican-led efforts to suppress their turnout, African-American voters
last fall participated at a greater rate than white voters for the first
time in history. Their mobilization and that of other non-white
constituencies proved decisive in securing Obama`s re-election. According
to the Brookings analysis, if white and black voters had voted in the same
proportion last year that they did in 2004, we would actually have
President Romney today. At the same time, another study this week from
Harvard`s Institute of Politics found that young people, another crucial
part of the Obama coalition, are as distrustful of the political system as
they`ve ever been. While a slight majority of people under 30 say they
approve of the job President Obama is doing, just 39 percent say they trust
him to do the right thing, that`s down from 44 percent in 2010. And just
18 percent of young people say they trust Congress, again, that`s down from
25 percent in 2010.
Those numbers pose a challenge for Democrats and for the president. As
Obama said in his speech to Organizing for America in March, he`s hoping to
keep those voters engaged in the years between elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What we want is to make sure that the voices of the people who put
me here continue to be heard, that they`re not just heard during election
time. That they`re not just heard in terms of dollar solicitations, that
we are helping to build or sustain a network of citizens who have a voice
in the most critical debates that are going to be taking place over the
next year, year and a half. And if it works, potentially beyond.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I want to bring in MSNBC contributor Maria Teresa Kumar. She`s
president and CEO of Voto Latino, Nia-Malika Henderson, national political
reporter at "The Washington Post," and Nate Cohn, staff writer at "The New
Republic", he is basically the numbers guy there. So, I guess we listened
to the president there, and he could have said, in my mind, he could have
drawn a distinction between presidential elections and then, say, midterm
elections because that`s sort of the story over the last four years. The
president and his party were empowered by the 2008 election with massive
majorities in both chamber. And you had in 2009 and 2010 the most
productive sort of legislative session this country`s had since the great
society, the LBJ days back in the 1960s. Then in 2010, the Obama coalition
did not show up. You had a Republican revolution in the House. They
nearly got control of the Senate as well. And the Obama agenda has largely
been stalled since then. And that`s what we`re living with right now. So
the real question for this coalition -- I mean, there are two questions.
One is will it ever show up again, if President Obama is not on the ballot,
but secondly, will it show up in those midterm elections when the
legislative branch is chosen?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Probably not. I mean, history
shows that they haven`t shown up. You had women in 2010 pretty much
reverse a course, and they backed Obama greatly in 2008, backed Republicans
to a greater extent in 2010. They haven`t been able to figure that out.
You had the Obama coalition - and -- or the Obama supporters go out and
plead with black people, you know, have his back again. They were on black
radio, for instance, with those young folks, African-Americans, Latinos
just haven`t shown up. I think one of the things you see Obama doing at
this point is the whole gun-control debate. I mean that`s one of the ways
they want to try to keep folks engaged, urban folks, African-Americans,
suburban moms. But if you look at what`s happened at the legislative
agenda so far, I mean you still have a Republican House that doesn`t care
about the Obama coalition. They weren`t elected by these folks. So, they
don`t -- they`re not having to be held accountable in that way.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, VOTO LATINO: Yeah, but I think, actually, I think from
2010 to today, we actually have one big player that is not actually backing
a lot of the Tea Party, and that`s the media. The media for more than
anything has actually backed away from supporting a lot of these
candidates. Because I think a lot of folks on the conservative side have
realized it`s not good business. Number one. Number two, I think a lot
what`s going to motivate the voters in 2014, which is a lot of the local
legislative fights that are happening. When you start talking about gun
control, yes, but then you start looking at this whole rash of legislations
that are against a woman`s right to choose. More than anything, that`s
actually what`s mobilized people. So the more that they can go and start
talking about local legislative races and how this is definitely still very
personal, you have an opportunity. And again, it`s going to be a different
-- it`s historically people don`t turn out for the 2010, but -- for the
midterm elections, but because there`s so many things on the ballot that
are so personal for individuals like gun control, like a woman`s right to
choose, that actually might mobilize the base.
KORNACKI: In a way, I guess it`s sort of an age-old question, right?
Because if you look at midterm elections, it`s not like we have lots of
presidents whose parties suddenly gained 30, 40 seats in the midterm
elections. There`s always -- it`s like a miracle when Bill Clinton and the
Democrats got five seats in 1998. Oh, my God! This is like, you know, put
him on Mt. Rushmore. So, at a certain level, it`s sort of unfair. But I
also see, it`s very tantalizing for Democrats, I would say, to look at like
the results in 2012, to look at the demographic trajectory of the country
to say this is a country that`s becoming less and less white, and these
non-white constituencies, millennial voters, younger voters, college-
educated women, all of these voters, are now overwhelmingly breaking for
the Democratic Party. So, you know, if you look at those trends and if you
could get that turnout, you know, you`re looking at a long-term majority
that could really do things.
NATE COHN, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": And it is eventually going to filter down
into the congressional elections. Between 2006 and 2010, the white share
of the electorate declined from 79 percent to 77 percent. If that
continues in 2014, you`re down to 75 percent, which is basically the `08
electorate at that point.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
COHN: The problem, though, is with even the 2012 electorate, Democrats
didn`t win the House because of the way these congressional districts are
drawn. And so, even if Democrats get the turnout they need, there`s not
much prospect for them to actually regain the chamber.
KORNACKI: And that`s an interesting point because a lot of people talk
about the word here is gerrymandering.
KORNACKI: The Democrats didn`t win the House because of gerrymandering.
That was -- It seems -- it`s more complex than that.
KORNACKI: There really -- it`s population distribution, isn`t it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
COHN: Democrats do better in cities than Republicans do in the
countryside. And since we assume that our districts should preserve
geographic integrity and be demographically homogenous, when you draw these
urban districts, they waste more Democratic votes ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
COHN: ... than the Republicans waste in their rural districts.
KUMAR: And to Nate`s point, I think one way that the Democrats can
actually start picking off a lot of these folks out within gerrymandering
districts, is identifying those individuals, those politicians that
actually want statewide office, whether senators or governorships. Because
all of a sudden, it opens it up to the whole demographics and they have to
be very careful where they stand on their policies if they do want a long-
term national platform.
WALSH: But we`re still seeing -- I mean we`re sill seeing those
Republicans, if we`re talking about Republicans, more afraid of either Tea
Party or right-wing challengers than of liberal Democrats that they might
have to face down the road.
KUMAR: But I think that what they`re doing is that this is what happened
with the Romney campaign. If the Romney campaign was running as if they
had a Tea Party backing and they were going to have this major turnout of
the 2010 elections midterms. Again, the conservative media platform is
just not backing them anymore. So, I think they`re -- they keep -- and
this is the same thing with Cruz. They keep making these calculations that
they`re in a different time. Where the rest of the country is not.
KORNACKI: Well, I remember -- I was in Virginia on election day last fall.
I remember talking to Republicans that day. And they believe they`re going
to win the state, people (inaudible) in the country. And what it would
really come down to, they were very friendly about this. There wasn`t any
maliceness. But what it come down to, is they were saying, the black
voters who turned up in 2008 are not going to come out today.
KORNACKI: And I want to get -- I want to look very closely because that
statistic was sort of astounding in the report this week about how black --
that participation rate of black voters this year -- last year outpaced
whites for the first time ever. I want to get into that a little bit more
KORNACKI: So we`ve mentioned the very high participation rate of African-
American voters last year. And from this Brookings study last week we`re
basically outpaced white voters. I know, Nate, there`s sort of an
implication in there that you took issue with this week. We`ll get to that
in a second, but on the broader question of that very high African-American
participation, I mean I remember there was a statistic right after the
election. You look at Ohio, swing state of Ohio, where the African-
American share of the vote went from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in
2012. And obviously that ended up being the state, you know, where Karl
Rove went crazy and the Democrats won the election.
KORNACKI: That was the key state. And you can really look at the big
impact there. And I guess what I`m kind of curious about is what is
driving that? Is it a response to having an African-American leading the
ticket? Is it a response to that African-American being sort of under real
attack from the right for four years and really rallying around him? Is it
a response to voters suppression? Is it a permanent mobilization? Is it
all? Is it some? Is it something else?
WALSH: I think it`s clearly all of those things. I mean, it`s clearly
having our first African-American president, clearly having him being
treated really horribly with so much racially tinged and racist opposition.
And, you know, I totally think that the voter suppression efforts
backfired. You know, voting, once again, became a civil rights movement.
And the response of organizations on the ground was unbelievable and
excellent. They didn`t -- people didn`t just whine. They mobilized. They
said, these are the problems. These are the laws that need to be changed,
but we`re also going to work within these terrible laws and we`re going to
get our people to the polls. Whether we`re going to see all that again,
when we`re obviously not, at least in the next -- well, we could have Deval
Patrick. I don`t want to rule anything out.
KORNACKI: That`s a question -- that`s the question I kind of asked. Is
the lesson of 2008 and 2012 for Democrats, you need to have a non-white
presence on your ticket going forward?
HENDERSON: I think it is ultimately about the candidate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
HENDERSON: And maybe it`s Deval Patrick. Maybe it`s Hillary Clinton. I
don`t think it`s Cuomo, I don`t think it`s O`Malley, no offense to those
governors, but I do think it is about Obama and some of the things you just
said. All the sort of racially tinged language. I think Republicans
misjudged the coalition. They look at the coalition and say, we`ve got to
really peel away Latino voters. They are misjudging the fact that the
coalition is about African-American voters as well. And that you can
reasonably argue that Bush doesn`t win the presidency in 2004 if he doesn`t
do well among African-Americans, not only in Ohio, in Florida, in North
Carolina, in Virginia. He was able to double his share of the black vote
in those two states. Nationally he didn`t do great, ten or 11percent.
Mostly people look at that and they say, oh, it`s about the Latino vote,
but he was only able to increase his share of the Latino vote mostly in the
Republican south and Texas.
KORNACKI: Well, speaking of 2004, I just want to make sure to get to
things. We said this earlier, that there`s the Brookings study sort of
says that in 2004, if the election had been held with the turnout figures
from 2012, that -- excuse me, if you had it in 2004, that Romney would have
won. But Nate, I know you did the numbers and you came to a different
COHN: Yeah, I think that that conclusion is premature. That study
compares the 2012 exit polls with the 2004 current population survey from
the census. And by mixing those numbers together, you end up exaggerating
the amount that turnout changed over those two elections. In reality, the
amount that turnout increased among minority groups is much more modest.
So, take Colorado, for instance, where whites were 78 percent of the
electorate according to the exit polls, but the current population survey
is probably going to say it was something like 84 percent. And that big
gap in the Frey (ph) study winds up being attributed to changes in turnout
rates when in reality it`s due to the different methodologies of these two
One thing I want to say, that was that while it`s true that Latinos alone
are insufficient for Republicans to take back the presidency, it`s also
true that changing black turnout rates isn`t sufficient for the Republicans
to enact the presidency. According to the census, Democrats got maybe an
additional 1.5 million votes to the black turnout. Obama won by five in
the electoral college. There are a lot of critical states where the black
vote doesn`t play nearly as big of a role it does in Ohio or Virginia. If
you think Colorado is the most important state as you certainly could argue
because it was Obama`s 270th electoral vote, black population there is very
KORNACKI: We`re up against a break, but we`re going to get -- I want to
get into also the other components of the Obama coalition. We`re talking
about Latinos, I want to talk about young people, I want to talk about
women. Talk about a lot of things after this.
KORNACKI: Hello from New York. I`m Steve Kornacki here with MSNBC
political analyst Joan Walsh, she`s also with Salon.com. Maria Teresa
Kumar with Voto Latino, Nia-Malika Henderson from "The Washington Post" and
Nate Cohn with "The New Republic." And we`re talking about the Obama
coalition, it`s also been called the coalition of the ascendant. I think
it was Ron Brownstein who coined that term. But I`ve been ripping it off
for months ...
KORNACKI: ... so I`m going to keep using it. So, but I want to get into a
little bit the issue of Latino voters. Because obviously that`s sort of at
the heart of the immigration today we`re having right now, this effort by
Republicans to cut into the huge advantage that Democrats have racked up
for a couple of straight elections now. You know, in excess of 70 percent
among Latino voters. You know, Maria, how permanent do you think the
Democratic advantage with Latino voters is that they`ve sort of developed?
KUMAR: Well, I think that the interesting thing about the Latino voters
very much is they`re issue-based voters. And I think that`s -- that`s -- I
think that`s when you start talking about how they`re going to go, it
really is going to hinge on the immigration passage about legislation. And
it has to include a pathway to citizenship, because short of that what`s
going to happen is that if they don`t pass the pathway to citizenship for
the majority of Latino voters, they`re going to say you just don`t think
we`re American. And there is still -- the Republicans are still going to
have a voting problem within this group. But let`s -- but taking a step
back of what`s happening with the 2016 election and you start talking about
is the Obama coalition going to stay fierce, is it still going to come out?
And I think what`s going to happen is that if the Republican Party still is
anti-gun regulation, is anti-women, anti-immigration, anti-health, all
those things and voter suppression, all those things together, it`s going
to make this election very personal once again. And I think once again,
they are counting on a pop star not being on the Democratic ticket, but
their policies, at the end of the day, is what`s mobilizing folks locally.
KORNACKI: The -- when we talk about the Latino vote, you know, the -- the
sort of white whale for Democrats has been Texas. For 20 years I`ve been
hearing, you know, we have the changing population in Texas. And that is
going to lead to -- that`s going to lead to a permanent Democratic majority
or a Democratic majority there.
KUMAR: Yeah. What`s interesting is Texas, that they`re actually
developing a deep bench of leadership, of Latino leadership that they
didn`t have -- that the Democratic Party didn`t have before. And we can --
obviously you can start with the Castro brothers, but you also have Pete
Gallego, also that. He won by less than 4,000 votes in a district that
80,000 Latinos weren`t unregistered. You`re talking about 2.4 million
Latinos that are unregistered in Texas. So we need to talk about the
possibilities, the great white whale, people are literally looking at it,
district by district, recognizing that there is an incredible opportunity.
But they also have the lowest turnout for all 50 states. And that`s the
KORNACKI: The other issue -- Nate wrote something really fascinating about
this. What we forget about when we talk about sort of the rising
prominence of Latinos in Texas, is there`s sort of been maybe a backlash
among white voters in Texas. You said that`s why Republicans have sort of
survived the wave so far. Can you explain that a little bit?
COHN: I`m not sure whether the backlash among white voters is causal if
you were suggesting that, but it is the case that Democrats have done worse
among white voters in Texas in each of the last four presidential
elections. And to the point where there are counties in Texas where Romney
is winning 90 plus percent of the vote. And that has allowed Republicans
to basically balance the changing composition of the Texas electorate.
Now, with Romney winning Texas by 16 or 17 points, it`s going to be a long
time before enough Hispanic voters are registered to turn out to vote
before you can overcome Republicans winning something like 75 or 80 percent
of Texas white voters.
HENDERSON: You know, I think -- I think that`s right. I mean, you have
efforts down there, I think some of the Obama folks are down there probably
right now trying to figure this issue out. And if you look at other
states, I think Democrats are also looking at Georgia, talking to Kasim
Reed, he is an up-and-comer, there, the mayor of Atlanta. So, Democrats --
I do think are looking at this demographic shift, but I think, they do, I
think, need to be cautious because ultimately it would -- will come down to
who the candidates are at the top of the ticket. And also, if you look at
somebody like Rubio, Rubio doesn`t need to run the board if he runs for
president. He doesn`t need to run the board on with Latinos. He really
needs to get, you know, maybe 15, 20 more points over what Romney was able
to do. And then he has a pretty good chance. I mean I think the problem
there, if Clinton runs, I mean Clinton -- the only candidate that Latinos
love more than Obama is Clinton. So, but again, I do think Democrats do
need to figure out how to deepen their bench. You talk about Texas. But
nationally, they certainly don`t have a deep bench compared to what
KORNACKI: And especially when we talk about maybe if one of the lessons of
`08 and `12 for Democrats is to have, you know, a non-white presence on the
ticket, and we could talk for, you know, blacks who are in the pipeline,
Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, and that`s where ...
HENDERSON: Yeah, maybe Kamala Harris who is really attractive, apparently
KORNACKI: Afterward, we`re not going to get into that. But the other
group that I also want to make sure we get into here also, is young voters.
And we have a statistic that really -- I want to put this up. This is a
graph of voter turnout in 2008, 2010, 2012. This is among young voters.
And you can -- this is -- this illustrates it perfectly. They`re there for
Obama in 2008. They disappear in 2010. They`re back in 2012. And it
seems like, again, this is something that Democrats look at and say if we
could make this a regular part of our coalition, there`s a lot of potential
here. But how do you do it?
WALSH: Well, I think one of the worrisome things is that the Republicans
have figured out that if they can just thwart the president, it`s not just
about thwarting the president for the fun of it -- it is fun for them --
but it`s also about blocking his agenda and making this generation that`s
coming up in his era very cynical about government. And you`re seeing that
there`s also that recent poll that showed they are -- they are losing hope.
They are worried that things can`t change. And, you know, they may not
entirely understand why. And they certainly blame the Republicans more
than they blame Obama, but they blame both parties. And so I have a little
bit of fear about the lesson of this gridlocked second term if that`s the
way it turns out.
KORNACKI: And we talked about this a little bit on the show yesterday
where you enter into this cycle in Washington, I think Ezra Klein wrote
about it this week. Where, you know, a candidate like Obama comes along
promising to change Washington. People invest so much hope in the
individual forgetting that -- or not realizing that Congress isn`t --
doesn`t belong in the same party.
KORNACKI: You`re going to have that kind of gridlock. I want to play a
back-to-back set of clips here that I think speak to what you`re saying.
Let`s go back. You might remember this. This is from 2008 when Hillary
Clinton was running against Barack Obama. And she took a lot of heat for
this at the time. I want to play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NEW YORK), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: None of the
problems we face will be easily solved. Now, I could stand up here and
say, let`s just get everybody together. Let`s get unified. The sky will
CLINTON: The light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing.
CLINTON: And everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world
will be perfect!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: You seem to suggest that somehow these folks over there have no
responsibilities and that my job is to somehow get them to behave. That`s
their job. They are elected, members of Congress are elected in order to
do what`s right for their constituencies and for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I mean it feels to me like Barack Obama has learned in his time
in the White House what Hillary Clinton learned in her time in the White
House with her husband, and maybe that contributes a little bit to the
cynicism among young voters.
KUMAR: Yeah, but the difference between the cynicism of young voters today
and even about ten years ago, 15 years ago, was that the cynicism passed
before -- is that they weren`t participating in politics. They weren`t
paying attention to the messages, they weren`t -- so they weren`t going to
the polls. Now, what you`re seeing is contributes to it today and even
10, 15 years ago was that the cynicism happened before is that they weren`t
participating in politics. They weren`t paying attention because they
weren`t going to the polls. Now what you`re saying is that re-election of
Obama wasn`t an anomaly, that they are paying attention, and they`re
starting to understand how the process works. What you find, too, pew did
a study, if you have a voter that votes three times, they become a lifetime
voter. You`re actually going into a group of folks that are becoming
third-time voters, hopefully, and they`re engaged. So yes, they may be
cynical, but they`re starting to understand the process and at least
they`re engaged and recognize what they need to do to move forward with
HENDERSON: But yeah, I think they`re engaged, but they`re also unemployed
in a lot of ways. A lot of folks coming out of college have a B.A. degree,
a liberal arts degree like maybe we all do at this table, just not worth
what it used to be. Also, you have, I think this generation of voters who
had so much hope when they went to the polls and voted for Obama and then
just see, what does this mean for their lives? What sort of changes has
what he`s done in office actually meant for their fortunes?
KORNACKI: I guess the political science on this is that voter preference,
like party preference, gets locked in place around the time people are in
college, and the hope for Democrats, obviously, is that with that
enthusiasm for President Obama, that translates into a long-term advantage.
I guess the risk is that it translates into disillusionment instead, and
it`s people who could be engaged, but aren`t.
KUMAR: Well, one of the things - we actually started looking at the young
voter coalition, the ones that are the easiest ones to pick off are
actually young white men. They`re the ones that are more receptive to the
Republican agenda. And when you start looking at what`s actually going to
move them, it`s definitely jobs and this idea that they feel almost
hopeless because they are not fulfilling the American dream that their
parents and grandparents have.
KUMAR: So, I think that for the Republican Party there`s an opportunity
for them to actually speak directly to them. Whereas when we start looking
at young women, you start looking at people of color, that`s a lot harder
to do. And one of the demographics that folks don`t talk too much about,
but that really proved critical was the Asian vote and the fact that they
are increasingly growing. And you ask them why are they participating in
politics for the first time? A group that historically has not. And a lot
has to do with the tone of immigration as well and the fact that they want
to be seen as Americans.
KORNACKI: An (inaudible). All right. I want to thank Maria Teresa Kumar
from Voto Latino for joining us this morning. What you don`t know about
Anthony Weiner that has nothing to do with Twitter, that`s next.
KORNACKI: For the record, I really didn`t think it was fair that Anthony
Weiner`s political career blew up two years ago because of some exchanges
with women on Twitter. Exchanges that were lewd definitely, but they were
also consensual. But I have to say, I also didn`t think it was that fair
that he made it so far up the political ladder in the first place. This is
something that`s been in on my mind, because, as you may have heard, Weiner
is eyeing a political comeback in this race - this year`s race for mayor
of New York. It has to do with where, when and how his career was
launched. A devious choice that Weiner made in getting a -- in the
interest of getting ahead in politics.
Let`s set the scene, it was Brooklyn, August 1991, the Crown Heights
neighborhood where African-Americans and Hasidic Jews had been living in
increasingly uneasy co-existence. The seven year-old boy, a seven-year old
black boy, Gavin Cato was struck by a van driven a Hasidic Jew. Gavin is
killed. It`s an accident. There`s no malicious intent. But tensions that
had been simmering for years boil over. Some of the outraged black
residents turned to violence. Yankel Rosenbaum, an Orthodox Jew from
Australia who is in the U.S. to pursue a graduate degree and had nothing to
do with the car accident is stabbed to death. A full-scale riot ensues.
Stores are looted. Cars and homes are destroyed. 129 arrests are made.
There`s panic around the city. Race relations are ripped apart. The
rioting lasts for three days until a very fragile peace is established.
At the same time that all of this is happening, a race for New York City
Council is heating up just a few neighborhoods away. And Anthony Weiner is
one of the candidates. He`s young, just turning 27, he`s been working as a
staffer for the local congressman, Chuck Schumer. Weiner is ambitious,
very ambitious. He previously thought about moving to Florida, thinking
there might be more of a chance to run for office there. This is his big
moment. If he can win the Democratic primary, he`ll win the city council
seat. If he can win the city council seat, then he can go somewhere bigger
from there like, I don`t know, Congress. But he`s the underdog. He
doesn`t have the endorsements, the money, the deep local ties that his two
opponents do. He`s been outhustling them, but it might not be enough.
Which brings us to the flier. The district winner is running in his
largely white blue collar and middle class white. You called them Ed Koch
Democrats back then. They`re terrified by Crown Heights, and furious at
the city`s mayor, David Dinkins, convinced he`s been soft to the rioters.
Soon enough, these voters, thousands of them, open their mailboxes and
discover the flier. It invokes Dinkins, the city`s first black mayor, it
invokes Jesse Jackson and invokes Weiner`s rival candidate Adele Cohen and
urges voters to, quote, "Just say no to the Jackson/Dinkins agenda." It`s
unsigned. No one wanted to be associated with it, but the message couldn`t
be clearer. When the Democratic primary is held, there`s a surprise
winner, young Anthony Weiner beats Adele Cohen by just 195 votes. Only
after that, only when it doesn`t matter anymore, does Weiner admit that the
mailer was in fact, his. "We didn`t want the source to be confused with
the message," was his explanation. "The New York Times" chastises Weiner
for his, quote, "hit-and-run" tactics in an editorial, but no one reads it.
And just like that, the whole episode is forgotten, lost to history which,
of course, is exactly what Weiner was counting on. He joins the city
council, makes a lot of noise, gobbles up media attention and campaign cash
and he`s perfectly positioned to inherit Schumer`s congressional seat in
1998. And from there, well, you know the rest of the story.
Forget all that Twitter stuff. This is the story that reveals something
important about what Weiner`s been willing to do in his public life. He
made an ugly appeal to voters` worst nature. He did it at a very sensitive
time. And in an dishonorable way. He did it to get ahead and he did it
because he figured no one would catch him. And really, he did get away
with it. If it hadn`t been for the Twitter silliness, he`d be well on his
way to being mayor right now and maybe more.
Earlier this week, when the site I write for, Salon brought up Weiner`s
1991 campaign, Weiner himself contacted them to express his irritation with
what he called, quote, "a completely made-up report." But when the editor
asked him for specifics, he didn`t refute any of the key elements of the
story. This morning in a story in the "New York Post," Weiner offers a
more fulsome apology. Whether his contrition is genuine or obligatory, is
an open question.
The point here isn`t just to single out Anthony Weiner, although as he
flirts with getting back into politics, it`s well worth remembering the
full story of his career. But there`s a bigger lesson here, one that maybe
should inform our thinking about all of our leaders. Because while we
spend so much time judging them by what they`re saying and doing right now
when they`re in the spotlight, the most revealing lessons about who and
what they are, are often found in places no one ever thinks to look.
I want to talk about one of the most conservative politicians in the
country who could be the GOPs next presidential nominee. That`s next.
KORNACKI: In less than a year, Ted Cruz has gone from little-known former
Texas official to national Tea Party icon. And now he`s being touted as a
serious contender for the White House in 2016. "National Review" this week
cited sources close to Cruz saying that he`s very seriously considering a
run, despite only having been elected to the Senate last year. On his
Facebook page, Cruz downplayed what he called "wild speculation," but he
didn`t actually deny the report. On Friday, he headlined two major
conservative events in two separate states. At the NRA convention in
Houston, he challenged Vice President Joe Biden to a debate on gun control.
And later that night in South Carolina, he spoke at a Republican fund-
raiser that`s been a traditional stop for GOP presidential hopefuls.
Because his Senate seat is the only elected position Cruz has ever held, he
lacks a long legislative track record. There`s plenty we already know
about him. He opposes gay marriage, he supports overturning Roe v. Wade,
he supported the full extension of the Bush tax cuts, he opposes the
bipartisan effort on immigration reform. He voted against both John
Kerry`s nomination as secretary of state and Chuck Hagel`s nomination as
defense secretary, calling them quote, "less than ardent fans of the U.S.
military." Both men, we should note, served in Vietnam.
And on President Obama`s gun-control push in the wake of the shooting in
Newtown, Cruz released a statement saying, quote, "I am prepared to use any
procedural means necessary to ensure that Congress does not pass any laws
infringing on the Second Amendment." Cruz`s opposition helped spur the GOP
movement to filibuster background checks. And in a statement that raised
even Republican eyebrows over the past week, Cruz ridiculed his fellow
Republican senators who criticized the filibuster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: Look, there are a lot of people that don`t like to
be held accountable. But here was their argument. They said, listen,
before you did this, the politics of it were great. The Dems were the bad
guys, the Republicans were the good guys, now we all look like a bunch of
squishes. Well, there is an alternative. You could just not be a bunch of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Joining us now is Abby Rappaport, staff writer with the American
Prospect, and not a squish, for the record.
ABBY RAPPAPORT, AMERICAN PROSPECT STAFF WRITER: Definitely not.
KORNACKI: But you know, this Cruz question is so interesting to me,
because we`re talking about maybe he`s going to run in 2016. And my
theory, by the way, we`ve talked a little bit about the invisible primary
before on the show. My theory is he`s running until he says otherwise. He
might in 2015 hold a press conference and say I`m not running, but right
now we might as well treat him as somebody who`s interested in running for
the nomination in 2016.
So we talk about what his prospects are. Maybe he could be the nominee,
maybe he couldn`t be the nominee. But more broadly, when I look at Ted
Cruz, I say this is somebody every -- this is the embodiment of the fear
that every sort of more pragmatic-minded Republican member of Congress,
Republican senator, sees, because this is a guy who was basically nobody a
year ago, came up and beat the Texas establishment in the primary, and now
by going as far to the right as possible, embracing this image of purity, I
would say, has made himself a national star. And you can hear, he`s giving
his very, you know, self-indulgent view of that meeting with Republican
senators, but, you know, he conducts -- he opens his mouth in that room,
and they`re scared of him.
WALSH: Right. Yeah, and then you come out of a meeting with your
colleagues, and you reveal what was said in a meeting, and you call them
squishes. I mean, he`s making no friends on that side of the aisle.
Challenging Joe Biden to a debate, I mean, that`s just classic Ted Cruz.
He really thinks a lot of himself. But Democrats have to be saying run,
Ted, run. Democrats are really looking at this and thinking, this guy
would be a very easy guy to beat. It would be a very interesting -- it
would be a real choice. You wouldn`t have any of that Mitt Romney, is he
or isn`t he? He was a Massachusetts moderate. Now he`s pretending to be a
conservative. You would have a true blue conservative, and the Tea Party
would get their test. The Tea Party has been saying for a while, the
problem with McCain and the problem with Romney is they weren`t
conservative enough. Pollsters and demographers and other people say
that`s not the problem, but this would be the test. Let them have their
candidate and let`s see what the nation does.
HENDERSON: That`s right. At the very least, it seems very hard for him to
actually get through a primary, because typically, I mean, as much as there
is this clamoring for conservative candidates, the moderate always wins. I
mean, George Bush was the compassionate conservative --
WALSH: The only reason I`m not sure that`s true this time is there`s no
front-runner. And there is no -- Republicans often give it to the guy who
came in second. Nobody came in second in 2012, really.
KORNACKI: Isn`t the other question, I mean, we called Mitt Romney the
moderate last year because that was his reputation. And conservatives
suspected he was a moderate in a very negative way. And I think non-
conservatives maybe hoped he was a moderate in a more optimistic way. But
when you look at the platform that Mitt Romney sort of embraced and ran on
last year, that was about the most conservative Republican platform I`ve
COHN: And I`m not sure if I can come up with anything where Cruz is that
much farther to the right than Romney. He`s temperamentally much more
conservative, but I`m not sure whether on the issues he`s taken any stances
to Romney`s right.
KORNACKI: He`s the force that pulls a guy like Romney to the right.
COHN: Yes. Exactly.
KORNACKI: And makes him say, this is where I have to be.
RAPPAPORT: And I think the other thing that`s kind of hard about assessing
Ted Cruz is that he`s able to, you know, there was the kind of exchange
with Dianne Feinstein, for instance, right, where she kind of comes out
saying I`m not a sixth grader. And I think she walks away feeling like she
won that, right? But so does Ted Cruz. And I think there`s kind of this
strange gap in, you know, in kind of perceptions about Ted Cruz, where
Democrats are like oh, he`s going to be easy. We`re going to be able to
beat them, et cetera. But the base and the Tea Party makes up, you know, a
majority of the Republican Party at this point. They dominate activism in
the Republican Party. They are so pumped about him, and he`s doing exactly
what he said he`d do. He`s kind of -- you know, and I mean, you mentioned
he beat the establishment Republicans in Texas. Establishment Republicans
in Texas are not squishes, let`s just say.
KORNACKI: They like their guns, too.
RAPPAPORT: I mean, it really was a kind of masterful campaign performance,
something nobody expected to kind of overcome the Perry regime.
HENDERSON: And I think he`s been masterful so far in really elevating his
name, elevating his status among Tea Party folks, not only the fight with
Feinstein, but sort of implicit fights with McCain and these other
moderates in the party or establishment folks.
I think he -- I think of a Ted Cruz as almost like the Hispanic Huckabee.
He taps into this, like, evangelical, he`s a Southern Baptist. I believe
his dad is a preacher at this point in his life. He understands the
language of evangelicals. He understands sort of the body language. He`s
a fantastic speaker. He`s a fantastic debater. He`s obviously a smart
guy. He went to Princeton and Harvard. So I think he feels a lot of these
slots that Newt Gingrich had in some ways as sort of the quasi-
intellectual, that Huckabee had, that Santorum had. So I think he could be
a real force. He fuels a sui generis in a way, that Rand Paul doesn`t.
He`s sort of the second edition of Ron Paul. And Rubio seems like he`s
just following behind Rand Paul in some ways.
WALSH: Rubio is probably going to get himself in trouble with his
immigration leadership. We think oh, they`ve got to get that Latino vote.
This is a no-brainer for them. It`s not a no-brainer for them, and there`s
a lot of white conservative pushback on this idea. And so in the Robert
Costa story that talked about why Cruz is likely to run and why he`s got a
strong chance, a lot of party figures feel like Rubio has hurt himself and
Rand Paul is a flake.
KORNACKI: And I think Republicans are enhancing sort of the legend of Ted
Cruz. We played that clip of him talking about hey, here I am in the back
room meeting with Republican senators. We`re talking about gun strategy
and they`re a bunch of squishes because all they`re saying is this is a bad
vote politically. And you know what, I listen to that and I say in a way
he`s right, because what the Republican senators are arguing with him is
basically hey, don`t do this, Ted, this will look bad politically. They`re
right, by the way, it will look bad politically, but their argument is not
no, it`s not a violation of conservative principles to have a universal
background check. Their argument is no, don`t do this, we`re scared of
political implications. So it makes him, it allows him to go in public and
say, hey, look, I`m the only one who`s willing to stand on principle.
They`re a bunch of squishes.
COHN: And at the moment, there is not another Republican candidate that is
positioned as well to be the candidate of the Tea Party. I think Scott
Walker is maybe his biggest threat in that regard. But I think it`s
unclear whether he could command the support necessary to challenge Ted
Cruz. And as long as Marco Rubio is not able to consolidate the right, Ted
Cruz is going to have a pretty clear route to being the candidate of the
KORNACKI: Go ahead.
RAPPAPORT: I was just going to say, one other thing, I think a lot of the
other Tea Party candidates, kind of Tea Party-endorsed candidates haven`t
quite been ready for primetime. Rick Perry kind of comes to mind, right,
as an example. Wasn`t quite ready for the national media. You know, Ted
Cruz was going to be a pro by the end of the year, he`ll have had more
national media attention than almost anyone on his side.
KORNACKI: In some way, that will help them, probably with the Republican
base. In other ways that may not help him. We talk about this, Joan
brought up sort of the issue of general election viability. David Plouffe
tweeted this week basically, you know, this would be a total electoral
tsunami. And I tend to basically agree with that conclusion, but I want to
look a little bit more at it, because I kind of wonder if we talk about Ted
Cruz in 2016 if we`re asking the wrong question when we talk about
electability. That`s after this.
KORNACKI: We were talking a little bit about the potential electability of
Ted Cruz or somebody like Ted Cruz. And I guess the disclaimer you always
have to put on all these discussions is, 1980, people said Ronald Reagan
could never be elected. Far too conservative, another Goldwater, all
right. We got that out there. I don`t think Ted Cruz would win the
general election. I think he would - I think there would be too much
damage there having to be seen as that extreme and that kind of
Anyway, we talk about electability. I said maybe we`re asking the wrong
question. I want to put a clip up here. This is what David Frum wrote
this week at the Daily Beast. And he says, "As a newly self-conscious
minority, conservatives are turning their back on the executive branch and
rediscovering a base of operations in Congress. The contest for the
presidential nomination thus becomes less a vehicle for choosing a
potential national leader and more a theater for arguing movement themes."
It`s kind of a provocative claim, that basically he`s saying they are kind
of concluding we don`t really need to worry about winning the presidency
anymore. We can use Congress as our base, and we can starve the beast
within, you know, by using Congress, and they sort of are right now.
RAPPAPORT: I was going to say, it helps when you don`t have, like, a big
RAPPAPORT: Like the agenda is stopping things. And Congress is a great
place from which to do that.
RAPPAPORT: It`s not a great place if you want to enact legislation. But,
you know, if you look at Ted Cruz, part of his rise has been exclusively in
stopping different things. I think he`s introduced a couple of gun things.
But on the whole, what he`s made headlines for is his opposition.
COHN: I actually think that the Republicans have a more proactive agenda
than Democrats in some ways right now. Now the Democrats have passed
health care reform and suppose they get immigration reform done. The only
big thing left on the Democratic docket then like is cap-and-trade and
preserving the welfare state against the Republicans` big opportunity over
the next two decades to reduce the size of government to account for
demographic changes. And Republicans can`t get that done unless they elect
a president. And that, to me, seems like something that`s potentially
achievable over the next two decades and something that requires the
KORNACKI: Requires -- you talk about reducing the size of government. The
main blueprint Republicans have put out for that would be the Paul Ryan
plan, which would require not just the presidency, but in our current
system they`d have to have the House, they`d have to have probably 60 votes
in the Senate to do it. It seems to me like what Frum is kind of arguing
here is, that was the bet for 2012 for Republicans. We got the House.
We`re close in the Senate. There`s no way they`re going to re-elect Obama
with unemployment near 8 percent. So then we`ll implement the Ryan plan.
They said if we couldn`t get it then, maybe we retrench --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chip away.
KORNACKI: These continuing resolutions that keep funding the government.
We hold up the debt ceiling a bunch of times. It seems right. What Abby
said seems right to me in that, you know, this concern about the deficit
that wasn`t there for all those years that they had the presidency?
COHN: If the Republicans shed a bunch of cultural issues, though, is it
not possible that they could take the presidency, have this huge advantage
in the House of Representatives, and then can you imagine a scenario where,
say, the economy falls back into recession between now and 2024 and
revenues are down and the debt is larger than projected? And they have an
opportunity to ram something down? I don`t think it`s inconceivable.
Maybe not the Ryan plan.
HENDERSON: I mean, I think -- you know, the Republicans do have to figure
out a way how to actually sell getting the deficit under control, right? I
mean, it still isn`t a sexy issue. There`s still not a real connection
that Americans have reducing between the deficit and jobs, right? And maybe
that you`ve had a party, I think, that used to be the party of big ideas.
Now it just seems to be the party -- a very effective party at stopping
things in Washington, but I think so far, they still don`t have a real
pulse for what people are talking about around their kitchen tables.
WALSH: And in large measure, the deficit is coming under control. It
already isn`t the issue that it once was. And it never was the big issue
to voters. So, you know, it`s an ideological determination to slash the
welfare state, to slash Social Security and Medicare. It`s not necessarily
all deficit-related. And I think they do need the presidency to do big
things, but they`ve proven that they don`t need it to do small things, and
also, again, to frustrate that Obama coalition into saying -- out of being
lifelong Democrats towards being I don`t know what.
HENDERSON: And what it comes down to, when Obama says, hey, let`s put
chained CPI on the table, what do they do? I mean, they are sort of
saying, what are you trying to do? You`re trying to take the safety net
away from seniors. So this idea that there is this widespread support
among folks for slashing Medicare and Social Security, there`s not. I mean
KORNACKI: And that`s sort of the essential thing to me about Tea Party
ideology and sort of current conservative ideology. It`s based, it`s
really rooted in the Democrats won in 2008. And now we`re going to use the
deficit as a political tool, you know, now we`re going to -- the issues
that were ignored completely when Bush was president, issues that were
ignored when Reagan was president, having to do with the deficit, suddenly
come back into focus. And it does - it does make me wonder if Republicans
ever got the executive branch back again, and as Nate suggests, let`s say
they were hit with a recession. Past Republican presidents had been fine
with stimulus during recessions. They`re against it when it`s the
Democratic stimulus. But would the definition of conservatism suddenly
change again if Republicans got the presidency back?
RAPPAPORT: I think one thing that`s interesting is if you look at state
legislatures, right? We haven`t seen that. So state legislatures are
dealing with actually governing their states, and a lot of them are
Republicans -- Republicans still dominate at the state level. You know,
what we`re seeing is folks sticking with the conservative, you know, kind
of national agenda. So you know, slashing things, not expanding Medicaid,
not doing things that, you know, another era of Republicans might be much
more amenable to doing. So I mean, I think that gives some indication when
Republicans are in control what, you know, kind of where their governance
KORNACKI: And Abby wrote about this, this week. There`s a new study out
that attempts really to understand the Tea Party. And whether you like it
or not, the Tea Party right now is driving the Republican Party in
Washington. The Republican Party in Washington is preventing the Obama
administration from doing pretty much anything at this moment. So I want
to talk a little bit about that study and understanding what the Tea Party
is and where it`s going. That`s after this.
KORNACKI: We`ve been talking about to sort of the average Republican
member of Congress, Ted Cruz embodies the threat of the Tea Party, the Tea
Party movement. If you don`t conform to a Tea Party ideology, you will be
challenged by somebody like Ted Cruz, you will probably lose your seat in
the primary. But I think, Abby, there`s research out this week, and you
wrote a lot about it, about exactly what the Tea Party`s role is and sort
of size is within the Republican Party, or maybe you could just tell us
RAPPAPORT: I mean, it`s fascinating because if you look at something like
what percentage there are of activists in a party, in Republican Party
activities, it`s over 70 percent of active folks. And so that to me
indicates that this isn`t a group you can ignore, that you can kind of say,
well, the rest of the Republican Party, that`s not a sizable group. And
the other really kind of key thing to me is the fact that these folks don`t
necessarily identify all that strongly as Republicans, nor do they care
particularly what happens to the Republican Party.
So for instance, almost a quarter of people identified as other, not
Democrat, not Republican, not independents, but other. 70 percent
identified as Republicans, and yet if you look at kind of the breakdown of
would you rather have someone who is likely to beat the Democrat and agrees
with you on most key issues versus someone who agrees with you on all key
issues, the vast majority prefer someone who agrees with you on most
issues. Vast majority prefer someone who`s less willing to compromise
versus, you know, and stay true to beliefs.
It was interesting. I actually was on the phone last night with a
representative from the Texas - Texas state rep who was elected through the
Tea Party wave in 2010. I was kind of asking him what his thoughts were.
And he was really fascinating, because he said, well, I can`t stay a
Republican if they decide to elect somebody who doesn`t conform to kind of
a conservative platform. And I`m thinking, this is a person elected as a
Republican official, who`s telling me he`s really ready to leave if the
party doesn`t stay hard conservative. And I think the number of people
that are of that position are significantly higher than certainly I
thought. And just to give details, it was a survey of about 12,000 Freedom
Works members. So a pretty representative group, I think, of the Tea Party
KORNACKI: And all the discussions we can have about the different policy
debates in Washington right now really come back to you until the
incentives change within the Republican Party, I mean, you have a number of
true believers -- the office holder you`re describing -- in the Republican
Party, who -- this is just what they believe, they`re totally far out on
the right, and that`s it. But you have Republican members who are more
responsive just to basic political incentives. I want to keep my seat. I
do not want to lose a primary. And until that incentive system changes,
where it`s not 60 percent of the people voting in my primary, you know, are
nihilists when it comes to the government, we`re stuck with this.
WALSH: You know, we saw this with the Priebus autopsy that talked about,
well, we have to be open to -- we have to attract young people, and the way
to do that is to be less anti-gay and homophobic, but then immediately
walking back, well, no, that does not mean we support Rob Portman on gay
marriage, and really gradually having to walk back anything that sounded
the least bit substantive in the autopsy, because they can`t come out for
real immigration reform now. They can`t come -- of course they can`t come
out for gay marriage. I mean, as Nate said before, I do think that there
is a pathway forward. It may be a very long-term pathway, but if they can
take away those edges that really drive away young people and be more
tolerant on gay marriage and be less misogynist and less anti-women, there
is a gradual way forward. But when you`ve got the Tea Party exercising
this kind of almost veto power, at least in the red states.
HENDERSON: But I do think, I mean, if you look at the Tea Party, they are
also hungry for some diversity. They were the party that pushed forward
Herman Cain. That`s why when you look at somebody like Ted Cruz, I mean,
they can take the same argument that says, oh, we need a Hispanic vote, and
so they back Ted Cruz in that way. And I do think, again, if you look at
their bench, somebody like Kelly Ayotte. She might be able to close the
gender gap. I mean, she`s had her issues among, I mean, around gun
control. But I do think they got -- they are sort of figuring him out. I
think we sort of underestimate the importance of candidates, and we also
forget the Democrats also went through this long sort of, you know, trial
in the wilderness about their party and were able to turn it around.
KORNACKI: But we haven`t seen, when the Republicans in the Tea Party have
been nominating the few Latino candidates they`ve nominated for statewide
office, they have not outperformed other Republicans when it comes to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ted Cruz only got 35 percent.
COHN: Better than Romney, at least.
WALSH: Ted Cruz is complicated because he can call himself anything he
wants. I`m not going to judge his ethnicity, but he does stress that he is
Irish and Italian as well as Cuban. So he`s not somebody -- again, I don`t
think that the surname is going to really drive Latinos to say oh, we`ve
got a Republican hero when his policies are so right wing.
KORNACKI: He could stress Canadian and talk about single-payer health
WALSH: Then there`s that.
COHN: One mistake I think the Republican establishment is making is not
taking more advantage of the Hastert rule. I think you`re right that the
Republican establishment knows that it can`t force moderate policies down
the throats of the Tea Party, but they have an opportunity to let some of
these tough issues go away just by letting Obama pass a few things.
Background checks might be inevitable. Immigration reform and a pathway to
citizenship might be inevitable. If you can get it off the table without
your members voting for it, you save yourself an issue that you don`t
really care that much about, and it improves your chances electorally.
KORNACKI: And that (inaudible) is exactly what we`re talking about. We`re
at a state here in May of 2013 where to get universal or near universal
background checks, it`s basically can Republicans do this without risking a
mass rebellion within their party in 2014, and that`s really the question
driving the policy debate, which gets to the dysfunction in the Republican
Party, which gets to the rise of the Tea Party. Which gets to -- it
frustrates me. That`s the story in Washington right now.
Anyway, what should we know for the news week ahead? My answers after this.
KORNACKI: So what should you know for the week coming up? You should know
that tomorrow the Senate will vote on the Marketplace Fairness Act, the
bill that would let state governments collect sales tax from large online
retailers. Supporters say the bill will boost state revenue and help small
brick-and-mortar business owners struggling to compete against online
retailers. The bill is expected to pass the Senate tomorrow and the House
soon after. And you should know it`s expected to do so with significant
bipartisan support. But you should also know that some conservatives are
balking at the idea of leveling the sales tax playing field, even though or
maybe because the bill is specifically designed to make competition easier
and more fair for small business.
You should know that on Thursday, the president nominated Penny Pritzker
for commerce secretary. Pritzker is a long-time Obama friend and fund-
raiser whose family owns the Hyatt hotel company. You should know that
Pritzker has a reputation as a philanthropist, but has also been criticized
for the behavior of some of the companies she and her family have run,
regarding labor disputes and tax havens.
Finally, you should know that the special election between former South
Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch is two days
away. And even in a district as historically conservative as South
Carolina`s First, there have been independent polls that put Colbert Busch
ahead. You should know that since returning to politics, there`s been no
shortage of challenges for Sanford. Shortly after accusations from his ex-
wife that he trespassed in her home, the National Republican Congressional
Committee ended all support to his campaign. Then in their debate, this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH COLBERT BUSH, (D-S.C.), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: When we talk
about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it
doesn`t mean you take that money we saved and leave the country for a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody needs -- she went there, Governor Sanford.
FORMER GOV. MARK SANFORD, R-S.C.: I couldn`t hear what she said.
SANFORD: Repeat it, I didn`t hear it. I`m sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The good news for Sanford is that on Tuesday, he got a big
national endorsement. The bad news is, it came from Larry Flynt, the
publisher of "Hustler," who said Sanford, quote, "has done more to expose
the sexual hypocrisy of traditional values in America today." On that same
day, AshleyMadison.com, a website for married people looking to cheat on
their spouses put up a billboard in Columbia, South Carolina, with
Sanford`s face reading quote, "next time use AshleyMadison.com" to find
your, quote, "running mate."
Want to find out what my guests think we should know for the week ahead,
and we`ll start with Joan Walsh.
WALSH: I think people should know that there`s no evidence that the NRA is
moderating its stance or looking to reach voters that it doesn`t already
have in its fold. Its new president actually calls the Civil War the war
of northern aggression, and has referred to President Obama as a fake
president. So the culture war, the political war, the partisan war that
they`ve been fighting is not going to ease any time soon.
RAPPAPORT: I had a similar fight coming up on common core, which I think
went kind of largely unnoticed last week. But several teachers unions who
had kind of offered tentative support for the Obama kind of endorsed set of
curriculum standards for states has now kind of called for a moratorium and
said we need to really look at this more and be more prepared before we
implement it. Which is a big deal, since I believe at this point 48 states
are signed on to deal with common core.
HENDERSON: That district in South Carolina that will be decided on Tuesday
isn`t as conservative as people think it is. In 2008, an openly gay woman
who campaigned with her partner almost won that seat. She lost by only
about four percentage points. So when you look at that race, I think, A,
if Colbert Busch wins, she could be sort of a template for how Democrats
can run in Republican states. And also look for how black voters, if they
are able to turn out, and what that might portend for 2014.
COHN: We talk a lot about demographics under the assumption that
Republicans did historically well among white voters last November. But
although that`s true in the aggregate, the reason why Romney did so well
among white voters is because he did exceptionally well in the South.
Outside of the South, Romney actually ran well behind Bush. And as a
result, it cost Republicans key states like New Hampshire, Iowa and
Colorado, that were carried by Bush in 2000 or 2004.
KORNACKI: All right. My thanks to MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh,
author of "What`s the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden
Age that Never Was." Abby Rappaport from the "American Prospect." Nia-
Malika Henderson at the Washington Post, and Nate Cohn at the "New
Republic." Thanks for getting UP, and thank you for joining us. We`ll be
back next weekend Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern time. Coming up
next is "Melissa Harris-Perry." On today`s MHP, a glimmer of hope in a
decades-old war on drugs, and Martina Navratilova weighs in on the Jason
Collins coming out story. That`s "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY," coming up next,
and we`ll see you next week here on UP.
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