UP with STEVE KORNACKI
June 2, 2013
Guests: Amanda Terkel, Norm Ornstein, Sahil Kapur, Sarah Posner
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning from New York. I`m Steve
Kornacki. 12 people are now confirmed dead from this weekend`s storms with
tornadoes and flooding. There are nine in Oklahoma and three in Missouri.
In northern Los Angeles County, firefighters and emergency personnel are
battling a raging fire that has scorched 19,500 acres since Thursday.
Right now I`m joined by Amanda Terkel, senior political reporter and
politics managing editor of "The Huffington Post," Norm Ornstein, co-author
of "It`s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System
Collided with the New Politics of Extremism." Also, a resonant scholar of
the American Enterprise Institute and columnist for "The National Journal"
and "The Atlantic Magazine" Sahil Kapur, congressional reporter at Talking
Points Memo, Sarah Posner, a frequent contributor to "The Nation" magazine.
The nuclear option is back. And a path to detonation has been established.
That is the upshot of this week`s biggest news out of Washington. The
President Obama is poised to make three simultaneous nominations for United
States court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, the second
most powerful court in the country. This is an unmistakably aggressive
move by the president. One designed to test the limits, the Republican
obstructionism that has stalled his agenda, and (inaudible) his efforts to
make crucial appointments. And one that could bring about the demise of
the filibuster as we now know it. That`s the nuclear option. Republicans
in the past four plus years have perfected the art of bending the Senate`s
norms to filibuster, to filibuster, delay and otherwise derail Obama`s
nominees. Particularly when it comes to judges. The new study from the
Congressional Research Service shows that the wait time from nomination to
confirmation for the average federal circuit court pick has radically
increased. A process that took about eight days under former President
George H.W. Bush now takes more than 138 days under Obama. The trend is
similar with district court nominees. By appointing three nominees at
once, President Obama will be picking a very intentional fight.
An idea is to shine a light on Republican obstructionism and to cement the
kind of public outcry that might break the nomination logjam. If that
doesn`t work, if the GOP still won`t approve his court fix, well, then
that`s where the nuclear option comes in. The possibility that a simple
majority of Democratic senators will vote to permanently end the filibuster
on nominees. Republicans for their part had a very different plan. Iowa`s
Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, last
month said he would rather shrink the D.C circuit court to just eliminate
altogether the three seats that Obama is trying to fill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R ) IOWA: I have introduced legislation to
reallocate two unnecessary seats to circuits around the country with much
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Administration official tells NBC News that the nominations
could come, quote, as early as this week. And when it does, how the Senate
operates could change forever. As Norm Ornstein wrote in "National
Journal" this week, "It would be far better to return to regular order and
to the use of filibusters as rare events. Not routine ones. But if
senators who know better continue to obstruct nominations, they should
expect to reap the whirlwind."
So let`s start on this -- there`s a lot of different pieces to this. But I
think let`s start on the question of judicial nominations because that`s
the -- immediate fight that`s looming here. If and when and it looks
imminent Obama makes these three simultaneous picks. This is -- this is --
this is the D.C Circuit. He -- he had a nominee confirmed to the D.C
circuit recently. It was the first time his entire presidency that one had
gotten through. I guess the first thing -- I guess for people to
understand, maybe Norm we can start with this, is why is the D.C Circuit so
particularly important? Why is it such a particular source of Republican
opposition and obstruction?
NORM ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Yes, Steven, there are 14
circuits, but there is no question that the primary one that the -- court
that`s just below the Supreme Court is the D.C Circuit. It handles all the
complex cases involving federal power and especially executive power. And
these are - there aren`t as many cases, you know, Republicans are saying
the workload is lower. It is ridiculous they have fewer cases, but they
are much, much more detailed and in depth. And what we have seen in the
last few years because you have a preponderance of Republican appointed
senior judges, including the notorious David Sentelle, who may be the most
political of all judges, this is the one who fired Robert Fiske, a very
good independent counsel and replaced him for no good reason with Ken
Starr. They`ve slapped down executive power with Obama. So it`s an
important circuit and we have had vacancies now for a substantial number of
years. While we did get one confirmed, Sree Sreenevasan, and that was
unanimous, before that, Caitlin Halligan, who is the superbly qualified
nominee, twice was blocked. Waited for over a year in effect for no good
reason and that has -- as much as anything has precipitated this conflict.
KORNACKI: Well, so the -- you mentioned the senior judges. This is
fascinating to me to learn about. You know, I have a legal background, but
when you look at this, it`s kind of -- it`s amazing. There are now four
confirmed judges on the D.C circuit who were appointed by Democratic
president and four from Republican presidents. And there are three
vacancies, but like Norman said, there are basically these six retired
judges who still end up hearing cases, who still end up making decisions,
and I think five of them are conservatives. This is a circuit that`s just
used hard to the right.
Amanda, I wonder, the Republican strategy on all of this, that basically
what is, let`s just -- we`ve got the advantage on this highly important
court, let`s just lock it in and wait till we get a Republican president?
AMANDA TERKEL, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Yes. Absolutely. I mean President
Obama has suffered a lot of defeats with this court. They said that he -
his recess appointments to a labor relations board, they ruled them
unconstitutional. That was a huge blow to President Obama. They also said
that him trying to crack down on power plant pollution, can`t do that
either. So, right now Republicans see that they have a huge advantage of
this court. They want to keep it. Chuck Grassley and other Republicans
had no problem approving President Bush`s nominees to this court. But
suddenly they say, well, the court shouldn`t have as many people. Let`s
get rid of them.
KORNACKI: And what about this case? The idea that Grassley is putting out
there that OK, we`ve got these three vacancies, he says. The workload
isn`t that intense for the D.C. Circuit. We don`t need these three extra
seats that we refused to, you know, confirm nominees for. Why don`t we
just eliminate those three seats and continue as ...
Is there any traction behind that idea?
SAHIL KAPUR, TALKING POINTS MEMO: I don`t think so. I think this is --
this is Grassley. And there are a number of other Republican senators
who`ve sponsored this bill. This is them setting down their mark, and
trying to make a strong opening bid to say we don`t want these seats
filled. And we don`t believe they need to be filled even though the --
White House would point out that Grassley voted to confirm the tenth and
11th active judge to the court under President Bush. It has been not a
single nominee has been confirmed since 2006. So, we`re going well beyond
-- well before President Obama was even elected. The only thing I add to
what Amanda and Norm said about the D.C Circuit is that a lot of -- a lot
of President Obama`s second term is going to run through the issues that
this court has jurisdiction over. If you talk about consumer protection,
financial regulations, EPA, a lot of this is - a lot of these are items
that he is not going to be able to do much more through Congress, through
the Republican controlled House. So he needs to rely on executive power
and the - a number of upcoming cases that the court may or may not hear
will have a huge impact.
KORNACKI: Yeah. And as (inaudible) Jonathan Chait this week in "The New
York Magazine" wrote about -- the climate change, right, efforts to curb
emissions, you know, by the administration will go through this court.
This court will decide. You know, Sarah, I know you -- you write about the
intersection of religion and politics. We can necessary -- (ph) write a
lot about the evangelical movement and Christian movement. I remembering
when there were battles, we`ll get to this more a little bit in a minute
because there were battle last decade, with Democrats stopping, you know,
judiciary nominations from George W. Bush and I remember how successful it
seemed to me, the right was at mobilizing evangelical Christians behind the
effort to get George W. Bush`s court picks confirmed. I haven`t seen
similar outrage, I think, to that level on -- of left yet. What were the
keys to getting the right so motivated to go?
SARAH POSNER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, I think -- you are referring
back to these Justice Freedom Sundays that was - were organized by Tom
DeLay who was then in the House and groups like the Family Research
Council. And I think that in the religious right and in the conservative
evangelical movement people have a very definite sense of the courts being
a pivot point. They look at Roe v. Wade, for example, and they look at
same-sex marriage. Things like that coming up. And they are in viewed
with this sense of urgency that I think the left has not had since Robert
And I don`t know whether this is something that they are going to be able
to get traction on because a court reviewing regulations is not maybe as
POSNER: ... or mobilizing as these more hot button social issues. I don`t
know. I think it remains to be seen.
KORNACKI: Yeah, I mean what do you make of it, Norm? Because I mean the
idea here for President Obama, obviously is to shine a spotlight, you know,
on something that`s been - that the story this week defined his presidency
in a lot of ways that has not maybe gotten a lot of attention and has not
mobilized the left. Do you see this as something that is possible to sort
of mobilize a grassroots outcry or whatever?
ORNSTEIN: I do think you can get a larger outcry. I think you need to go
beyond the left, though. And a part of what needs to happen here is to
shine the spotlight on what is unprecedented obstruction. And if I were
Harry Reid, I would bring these nominations up on block. But then I would
go around the clock. I would do -- traditional filibuster. And let it go,
bring the Senate to a halt for a period of time and make it clear that what
had been a deal between the two parties that was crafted after the last
threat of the nuclear option by Bill Frist in 2005, where they said, we`ll
filibuster only where there are extraordinary circumstances. That we`ve
gone beyond that. And you need to create a larger sense that this is
unjust and unprecedented and that`s why you are going to be taking a larger
step. And I make one of the point here, Steve, that -- kind of reinforces
what we have been talking about.
If -- it is always fun to go back and read "Wall Street Journal" editorials
when Republicans are president and when Democrats are president. You had
no group of people because it reflects the right in a lot of ways. Nobody
more conscious of and supportive of the use of executive power,
contemptuous of Congress than "The Wall Street Journal" and a lot of people
when there was a Republican president. What they see now, two terms for a
Democratic president, the electorate moving against them. We may be moving
into a period that is the flip of what we had for decades where Republicans
dominated the White House and Democrats dominated the Congress, where the
Republican hope of power comes in Congress and all these judges who used to
uphold executive power are going to be slapping it down. And so that`s why
they have made the stakes here so high. And what`s different really now,
too, is you -- you had Democrats in the last year of the Bush
administration and this is kind of tradition. The fourth year, the eighth
year, you are going to try to hold off on filling nominations because it
may be your turn. To do it in the fifth year, right after a president has
been re-elected and re-elected overwhelmingly and block all of these
nominees, it is what`s truly outrageous and unprecedented.
KORNACKI: Yeah, I want to take up that point, too, because the Republicans
sort of counter-argument here is that anything we`re doing, Democrats did
when George W. Bush was president, Democrats would do if there is now a
Republican president. I want to get more into what is so impressive about
what is happening here after this.
KORNACKI: I want to play -- this was recently Mitch McConnell, a Senate
Republican leader on the floor talking about the accusation that Republican
senators are blocking and are obstructing on the president`s nominees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I don`t know what the
majority leader (inaudible) thinks advise and consent means. Listening to
him it means shut down, shut up, don`t ask any questions, and confirm
immediately. I don`t think that`s what the founding fathers had in mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: You know, I mean I guess this gets to one of the criticisms that
I`m hearing a lot of Republicans sort of echo about the idea of Obama
appointing three - or nominating three judges simultaneously. The term
that keeps getting thrown around is court packing. This sort of
historically loaded term, it`s what FDR tried to do in the `30s when he
tried to expand the size of the Supreme Court for ideological purposes.
And what you hear with McConnell there and I think what you hear in the
court packing charges, the idea that this is sort of some wild
unprecedented overreach on the president`s part and that`s Republicans were
simply trying to fulfill their constitutional obligation to, you know, ask
some reasonable questions.
TERKEL: Right. That`s not true at all. Court packing was when FDR tried
to increase the number of court seats. So, if President Obama said, look,
11 seats on a district court is not enough -- D.C. Circuit court is not
enough, let`s make it 15, so I can put all my people on. That`s court
packing. All Obama is saying is, now there are three vacancies, I`m going
to nominate three people. That`s his right as the president. So, Chuck
Grassley, who has been making this claim needs to watch the history
TERKEL: I know (inaudible) history for him. But I think he needs to do
that to sort of understand that this is not court packing. This is what
every president does.
KORNACKI: And what Chuck Grassley is saying of let`s shrink it by three
seats, but we -- Republicans, conservatives have an ideological advantage
right now, let`s shrink it by three seats, that seems a lot closer to ...
TERKEL: Yes. It`s a court unpacking.
KORNACKI: Court unpacking. Exactly, that`d be a term.
KAPUR: Inverse of it, exactly, what they are accusing the president of
doing. Except what the minority would do it, you know, on the ...
KORNACKI: Right. For ideological reasons. I also want to come back to
what happened, though, in the last decade because -- as I said before the
break, you know, Republicans will also make the point that look, when
George W. Bush was president we had this big showdown. (ph) asking about a
lesson. But we had this big showdown in 2005. Where Democrats were
refusing to confirm a number of George W. Bush`s judicial nominees and then
there was this - there was a gang of 14 deals. This was in the summer of
2005. That guy -- through that Congress, the bend in 2007 and 2008 towards
the end of the Bush years, there was more resistance from Democrats to
confirming George W. Bush`s picks.
So, I guess, there is probably a qualitative difference here. But
Democrats were essentially blocking some - the judicial picks. What`s the
difference that you see between where we are now and what Democrats were
doing last decade?
POSNER: Well, I think what Democrats were doing was trying to protect the
judiciary from radical ideologues. Who had a very particular political
point of view, but also a particular view of the judiciary and
jurisprudence that would return us to an era of, you know, before -- before
the new deal, before the Great Society and also before child welfare laws
and regulations that protected people in the workplace and so on and so
forth. So when you look at a candidate -- a nominee like Janice Rogers
Brown who currently serves on the D.C Circuit. She was one of the
nominees, Bush nominees, that Democrats tried to block. She was also rated
unqualified by bar association. And so there were reasons for doing it.
Here president Obama is nominating very mainstream legal thinkers. These
are not people who are going to radically rewrite legal precedents from a
politic -- an ideologically -- a politically ideological point of view and
the Republicans are portraying them as some sort of threats.
KORNACKI: Well, that seems to be -- you know, we -- we can get into this
in a minute, to the idea of filibuster form, the idea of reforming the
Senate. It seems to me this is really a subjective question. And the
Senate, you know, we always talk about the Senate sort of functions on
norms. It`s not so much hard and fast rules, it`s sort of courtesies, it`s
traditions, it`s norms. And what you are describing, Sarah, is sort of a
role for - a Senate that functions, that sort of thrives on norms where if
there is a radical or extreme nominee and -- and a minority party really
feels this is overreach, there is an ability for the minority party to
block it using the filibuster. But when the filibuster becomes standard
and when the nominee clear, it`s like, you know, Caitlin Halligan, as you
were saying a minute ago, was a nominee that is clearly qualified, there is
no real, you know, extremist red flags or anything, and the filibuster is -
the threat of the filibuster is still being used to derail it, then the
norm is completely blown up.
ORNSTEIN: Yeah, you know, it is watching McConnell. I was just kind of
chuckling a little bit because if you went back to the debate on the Senate
floor in 2005, you would have seen Harry Reid saying exactly what Mitch
McConnell was saying and what Reid said in response to McConnell, you would
have seen McConnell saying then as well. So -- you know, there -- nobody
has entirely clean hands here. At the same time, it is different now. And
it is different in a way - I think Sarah is exactly right. And we can go
back to Bill Clinton who picked basically mainstream nominees and in
contrast, it didn`t matter. They wanted the slots kept available. We have
seen both parties play games with this. But then you see at least the
center holding in the past. And that`s the challenge now. Is there a
center left? Do you have senators who are a part of that Gang of 14, who
are still there willing to step up now and say we don`t want to really blow
up the Senate as a consequence of this. We`ve got to move back to
something that`s more reasonable.
KORNACKI: Well, let`s play -- we played here -- we played Mitch McConnell.
Let`s play what Harry Reid is saying now, this was him recently on the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: I take the Senate charge advise
and consent very seriously. But Republicans have corrupted the founders
intent talking qualified nominees for the slightest reason if no reason.
President Obama deserves to choose his team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The President Obama deserves to choose his team. This was just
over a week ago. And the sort of the - the bigger story to this was as
reported by Greg Sergeant, you know, of "The Washington Post," that --
Reid`s team is now putting out with the idea of the nuclear option,
filibuster reform, potentially back on the table later this summer, because
of frustration of Republican refusing to clear picks of Obama`s picks. Is
that real? Is this nuclear -- the threat of (inaudible) is real?
KAPUR: I think it is absolutely real. And I think part of the reason we
know it`s real - and just to add to what Norm said, the clear -- there are
two numbers that illustrate very clearly the difference between then and
now. In 2006, before Democrats took over the Senate, the average
filibusters for Congress were about 70 -- (inaudible), which was really the
signal, you now that the filibuster threat is being mounted, were 70 for
Congress. Now, it is 140 for Congress. So it has doubled. It has gone
from being the standard thing is you -- let the Senate majority conduct
their business and under an extraordinary circumstance you filibuster. Now
it is exactly the opposite. The filibuster is standard. It`s expected,
it`s what -- it`s what the minority does by default. As far as the
nominees goes -- I`m sorry, as far as the nominees go, the D.C Circuit
nominees, the site that President Obama is picking right now, is
indicative, I think of Democrats finally waking up to the importance of the
KORNACKI: So, there are a lot of -- there are a lot of ways this can go.
I think what`s interesting here is so -- if Obama succeeds in putting
pressure on Republicans and they came and they confirm his picks, then he
wins on that front. I think what has a lot of people on the left who hate
the filibuster and just anybody in general hates the filibuster, what has
them hopeful right now, is that hey, maybe Republicans will block these
picks again, and this time it will create the kind of movement among
Democrats to invoke this nuclear option. We will talk about the different
options. Because there are a lot of different ways potentially of doing
this. There are a lot of potential consequences. Some not so obvious that
could happen if they do this. We`ll get into that after this.
KORNACKI: So, the big story at the start of this year in the Senate back
in January was that Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid had struck a deal. And
it wasn`t going to - it wasn`t going to avoid any talk of the nuclear
option. This was a deal that was going to speed up and smooth out the work
of the Senate. Particularly when it came to nominations. Here we are now,
it is the start of June. It looks like the deal was completely worthless.
TERKEL: Yes, because Republicans have been less cooperative, I think, than
both Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell thought. I mean right now Harry Reid
is indicating that if Republicans refuse to budge not only on the judicial
nominees that we have been talking about, but President Obama has three
other big nominations. To the EPA, Gina McCarthy to the EPA, Tom Perez to
the Labor Department and Rich Cordray to the CFPB. And Republicans have
not been budging. They have been - you know, throwing thousands and
thousands of questions at them to stall the process. And Harry Reid is
indicating that he`s going to bring them all up after immigration reform,
and Republicans don`t budge, he may invoke this nuclear option where
nominees will only need 51 votes. Then they won`t need the 60 votes to
KORNACKI: Right. And so that`s -- there are a lot of issues here. I mean
one is when the - there was talk of this nuclear option being invoked back
in January, again, it was like a simple majority of the senators which in
this case, you know, Democrats could plausibly get a simple majority would
change the Senate rules and say that the -- filibuster is no longer going
to apply, you know, maybe it would just be for nominees. There are lots of
different, you know, permutations of this. But there was resistance, the
news back in January, there was resistance from a number of Democrats, like
Carl Levin from Michigan, Dianne Feinstein from California. Sort of more
old school traditionalists, I guess, you could say. Is that resistance --
have we seen any indication that that resistance is changing the Democrats
- like Levin, like Feinstein, who are looking at this now and saying, yeah,
maybe we should revisit this.
KAPUR: I think they are facing a lot of pressure. I think Democrats are
facing a lot of pressure from progressives who are organizing and run
filibuster and form and realize that none of their initiatives, nothing the
progressives really want and care about and want to get done, is going to
happen as long as the Republicans have this kind of filibuster power. The
dirty little secret about the January -- about the January deal is that
Reid did not have (inaudible) on votes. He suggested at times he did he
was bluffing. Feeling it now. Or his office will pretty much - that they
didn`t have 51 votes and between then and now a lot has changed. The
obstruction has continued unabated. And that the pressure is just
mounting. So, the Democrats who have concerns, the only one who is on
record saying that he is not going to vote to change the rules with 51
votes would have been a majority`s Carl Levin. None of the other Democrats
are on record. Behind the scenes they do have concerns.
KORNACKI: Well, and certainly now -- the issue in January as I recall was
about this idea of a talking filibuster, right? The idea that you could
change the rules and it would mean if you want to have the filibuster, do
it Rand Paul that a few months -- you go to the Senate floor and you talk
to -- you have to go to the bathroom. That`s, you now, basically -- now,
what they are talking about now is potentially related to these
nominations, that forget the legislative filibuster, the filibuster on
legislation. Let`s look at nominees, let`s look at the pics for the court
list, like a judicial nominees, let`s look at picks for the executive
branch, you know, like Amanda said, whether it`s Tom Perez from Labor or
Gina McCarthy for EPA. These - the idea -- here with this nuclear option
would be you can no longer do a filibuster on nominees whether it is
executive, judiciary or both. Is that a norm -- do you think that is -- is
that an easier sale to a traditionalist like Levin or Feinstein?
ORNSTEIN: It`s a slightly easier sell. But there`s still great concerns,
and there are concerns on two fronts. One is people who have been around
for a long time know the long terms. And, you know, part of the problem
here is just what Sarah raised. If and when you get a Republican president
and a Republican senate, then they are going to pick a Senate nominees very
likely who were even more to the right and there will be no resistance to
them. So there is that concern. The second concern, which is a real one,
is there are many ways to block the Senate from acting to blow it up, to
create enormous difficulties that go beyond rule 22 cloture in the
filibuster. And if you -- anyone individual can drive the Senate crazy,
actually the deal that they struck in January was in part McConnell and
Reid working together to remove some of the headaches that come from Mike
Lee and Ted Cruz and people like that. But if you`ve got 40-plus who are
really upset, you can create enormous turmoil. So, everybody basically
knows that you don`t want to do this if you can avoid it. You rather have
the Senate that operated with the same filibuster rule for 30 years without
enormous problems, and the question is, how do you get past this impasse?
Part of what is happening now was bringing up the three nominees, too, and
with what is going on with the executive nominees, is to convince Carl
Levin or Max Baucus, who are not now going to face much pressure from the
left, they are retiring, along with the Feinstein and others that this is
going beyond any reasonable way of operating and the only option we have,
if they are not going to be reasonable, is to be unreasonable.
KORNACKI: Well, the other thing, it seems like there has been a -- little
dance here between Reid and McConnell. And it is -- you know, you talked
about how, you know, Reid did not actually have the 51 votes back in
January. But it does seem like this pops up every now and then. This idea
of a nuclear option and Reid will dangle, let people around -- we will
dangle it, and you do get a little bit of a brief kind of break from
Republicans. They`ll let a nominee through here that they wouldn`t, you
know, let go through before. It is almost like McConnell is sort of
constantly testing how far he can push this until Reid puts the serious
threat up there. So, do you think there is a chance here that this renewed
threat, you know - I guess, you look at these three nominees, these three
executive branch nominees, we`re talking about these three judicial
nominees, do you think there is a chance that I don`t know, like, you know,
four or five of these get through now just because of the threat of the
KAPUR: I think the more Harry Reid threatens it. And so, just let me just
back on that. I have always said that the best way to determine how likely
this is to happen, how seriously McConnell`s taking the threat, is how much
he is talking about it. In the run-up to the January rules agreement that
he struck with Reid, he was saying very little about it on the Senate
floor, which means that he was not really concerned that Reid was going to
change this. He values the filibuster a lot, it`s very clear. So, I think
the fact that he`s suddenly raising the volume again, he`s suddenly pushing
back so forcefully. means that he -- he realizes that this (inaudible) is
credible, he realizes that if he continues business as usual, then Harry
Reid is going to have a tremendous amount of support. And he is going to
be able, to probably going to be able to convince the majority of the
country that he would be doing the right thing. If you were changing the
rules. As far as how many of these nominees are going to get through, it`s
very difficult to know.
Rich Cordray is going to be - that`s conceptually that`s probably the
toughest one because the Republicans are promised to filibuster anybody to
this position. And that`s another argument the Democrats are using. This
is practically nullification, they are saying, you don`t like an agency, so
you`re going to block anyone who run it. You can`t do that. As far as
Gina McCarthy and Tom Perez go, I think they have concern for the nominees.
Somebody is eventually going to have to fill those roles, it`s not clear
who. As far as the D.C Circuit goes, nominating three at once and
especially the way the White House likes to do it, relatively non-
controversial people, Republicans are going to look very bad if they try to
pick out little things here and there on each of the three nominees to
oppose. I think people are going to see through that.
KORNACKI: And Sarah, I want you to get in, and she will, as soon as we
KORNACKI: All right, Sarah, and do you want to get in there (ph)?
POSNER: Well, I`m sure that the Democrats in the Senate are thinking
about what will happen if President Ted Cruz got to nominate people to the
judiciary. And considering that Ted Cruz thought that Harvard Law School
was crawling with communists, it points to, again, the ideological
extremism and so I`m sure that this is in the back of their minds. What
will happen under a Republican president who is the Tea Party favorite, who
is going to think like a Ted Cruz? I`m not saying that Ted Cruz is going
to run or get elected, but if he did. And I`m sure that that`s something
that they are thinking about. Because they want to have a board (ph)
KORNACKI: Wait, and only that, I wonder if you set maybe a precedent here,
if you invoke the nuclear option, if you change the rules of the simple
majority and you do away with -- let`s say they did away with the
filibuster on executive and judicial nominees, what`s to stop Republicans?
I mean that we look at the map for 2014. They are not in bad shape for the
Senate in 2014, they still might blow it again. They`ve done it in the
last two elections. But they could very conceivably get to the Senate in
2014. They could get the White House in 2016, and what`s to stop them then
from saying you know what, we are going to get rid of the filibuster
altogether by simple majority vote?
TERKEL: And I think that`s what worries people like Carl Levin. And also,
getting rid of the filibuster for nominees won`t solve all of the
Democrats` problems with President Obama`s nominees. I mean the norm,
another norm that has been overturned is that traditionally when there is a
judicial vacancy in a certain state the president works with those home
state senators to come up with a nominee. And part of the reason right now
is that there aren`t a lot of nominees is that in states, especially with
two Republican senators, they are just refusing to put forward someone and
work with the president. So even in the beginning, they are stopping
president Obama from moving forward.
KORNACKI: And that`s one of the -- that`s an interesting point because if
one of the criticisms I hear most about Obama from the left is that if
there is one area where he`s really lagged, or he`s really not shown the
leadership where he could show more leadership, it is on being more
aggressive about making these nominations and about making nominations a
ORNSTEIN: It`s, in fact, inexplicable as to why at the beginning of the
Obama administration in 2009 the professor of constitutional law who had
been in the Senate, who -- knew better than anybody else the importance of
the judiciary, wasn`t ready to go with a set of nominees to fill vacancies
in district and appeals court positions. If you put them up early, even
where there are long delays and a lot of the problems here are not just in
blocking confirmation, but delays of hundreds of days, there would have
been a number of these slots filled. There are still executive branch
positions, important policy positions, five years in that have not been
filled. Look at the IRS. You go for three years plus with the Bush pick
for the head of the IRS, good guy. He leaves. You don`t fill the
position. Except you have an acting director. Yet, you know there`s no
defense for this, frankly.
KORNACKI: I want to talk a little bit about the - we played, you know,
Mitch McConnell`s clip earlier. Mitch McConnell was the face right now of
Senate Republican obstructionism. I want to talk a little bit about the
role he`s playing in the Senate, how much of this is Mitch McConnell, how
much of this is his hand being forced by, you know, other Republican
senators and how much of this is being forced by external pressure on those
Republican senators that Mitch McConnell responds (ph). I want to talk a
little bit about Mitch McConnell`s role n all of this and his vulnerability
next year. There`s a very interesting poll that came out this week. I
want to get into Mitch McConnell after this.
KORNACKI: If there`s one line that`s most closely associated with Mitch
McConnell, one thing that people when they think of -- when they think of
the name Mitch McConnell, one thing maybe that`s haunted him politically
for the last few years, it was early in the Obama presidency when he said
that the top priority for Republicans would be making President Obama a
one-term president. He reiterated that right -- a couple of years ago
after the 2010 mid terms. In case you`ve forgotten how this kind of goes,
but let`s play an example of it right here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: Some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top
political priority over the next two years should be to deny President
Obama a second term. But the fact is if our primary legislative goals are
repealed and replaced the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut
spending, and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do
all of those things is to put someone in the White House who won` t veto
any of these things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, McConnell is a really interesting character. Mostly
because of his electric personality.
KORNACKI: But also, now, because of the -- he has been in the Senate for a
long time. He has been in the Senate long before anybody heard of the Tea
Party. He was elected back in 1984. And when I look at how Mitch
McConnell has sort of conducted himself for the last years, and I wonder -
you know, does this guy really believe that this level of obstructionism
really is the most important thing he can be doing as minority leader or is
this a guy, really, who`s more about managing as best he can the coalition
of Republican senators who are elected to serve with him and sort of
dealing with the sort of -- absolutist views about government that they
bring in. Is Mitch McConnell really invested personally in obstructionism
or is he just sort of a figurehead for something a lot bigger than that?
TERKEL: Well, Mitch McConnell said I think it was early on at the federal
society that, you know, the most important thing what we should be doing is
trying to get a new president. And getting -- making sure there is a new
president in 2012. He failed. But -- Mitch McConnell has been focused on
obstruction very early on. He seems like a very genial man. He seems a
little less extreme that some members of the House. But at the same time,
I think that he benefits in many ways from having these sort of Ted Cruz,
Mike Lee, Rand Paul figures to sort of give him room on the right so he can
maneuver and sort of say look, my hands are tied, I can`t do this. And so,
he benefits from some of that extremism in the Senate.
KORNACKI: But is he -- I mean his hands really are tied, right? Like I
mean you`ve got these -- it seems in today`s Republican universe, you know,
Ted Cruz calls him all bunch of squishes, calls his fellow Republican
senators a bunch of squishes. Being, you know, say, they are selling us
out here on guns, you know, on questions of principle or whatever. But,
you know, what Ted Cruz is saying is what is resonating with the Republican
masses. It`s what`s resonating with the conservative masses. The energy
in the conservative movement is behind what Ted Cruz is saying and when I
look at, you know, sort of -- I think the same thing when I see John
Boehner in the House, this sort of - you know, D.C lifers who are
Republicans. I`m not saying I feel sorry for Mitch McConnell. But it
seems to me like the problem here is much bigger, it`s about the culture of
the Republican Party that leads to Mitch McConnell doing what he does and
saying what he does.
POSNER: I don`t see him at all as someone who is a favorite of the base.
I mean I spent a lot of time reporting and talking to people -- religious
right activists and people who are part of that, part of the Republican
base. And Mitch McConnell is not sort of this heroic figure to them. In
fact, I don`t get the sense even that they paid that much attention to his
maneuvering in the Senate. They are much more moved by seeing somebody
like Ted Cruz pontificate at a hearing around the Senate floor and so I
think that he`s -- like you say, reading his colleagues -- the pressure on
his colleagues from their base. And perhaps also from his own base in
Kentucky. But I just -- I don`t see him as a true believer. I`ve always
sort of read him as a functionary.
KORNACKI: Well, and he is -- the great, he is sort of, you know, maybe in
a depressing way, he is the great hope right now for anybody who wants to
get immigration reform through, right? If there is going to be any kind of
a deal that can force the House to do anything right now, the model that we
have seen this year, is it`s got to get through the Senate, and Republicans
have to sort of drop the obstructionism, not filibustering, you need to get
like his big bipartisan majority in the Senate. We saw that in Violence
Against Women Act, fiscal cliff deal. That seems to be the idea behind
immigration like get 70 votes in the Senate, isolate the House, force them,
you know, force them to act. How do you think? You know, you`ve even
watching him for a while. I mean how do you think McConnell either sort of
manages his role as minority leader?
ORNSTEIN: I have known McConnell for a long time. And he`s a ruthless
pragmatist. For a long time in the Senate he was a Senate guy and he used
to do some compromises. But you know, what`s happened in the last few
years is - he wanted to make Obama a one-term president, he wanted to
protect Republicans. But when that meant you cut a deal, you would cut a
deal. Another of his -- famous comments was at the time of the debacle
over the debt limit. He basically said, you know if we breach the debt
ceiling, we are going to have economic catastrophe. And we will get blamed
for that because that`s what happened when they shut down the government in
1996. And it will damage the Republican brand. So he cut a deal. He cut
a deal on the fiscal cliff, because not to cut a deal would damage the
Republican brand. Now -- what we have to take into account here and we
will talk about it a little bit more in a minute is I think he would be
more accommodating now if he weren`t up for re-election and concerned, the
same is true of John Cornyn, who is up for re-election, a number two leader
in the Senate, the pressure from the right now is much more meaningful on
McConnell and that`s why beyond immigration, on any of these issues where
you might say OK, now you have accomplished the next goal, you made Barack
Obama a two-term president, time to deal, we are not seeing those deals.
And we are seeing a much harder line from him.
KORNACKI: You have just successfully and that`s what he set up our next
segment because Mitch McConnell is, I believe the most endangered and most
vulnerable Republican senator up for re-election next year. The Republican
leader. We will talk about it after this.
KORNACKI: In 2008, the year of the big, you know, Obama national victory,
it was not surprisingly a very big year for Democrats at the Senate level,
which means that in the 2014 when that class of senators is up, there are a
lot more vulnerable Democrats next year than there are vulnerable
Republicans. Which in turn means that I think as a tease at the end of the
last segment, the most vulnerable - excuse me, vulnerable Republican in the
map next year is probably Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader from
Kentucky. He did not have the easiest re-election in 2008. He only won by
a couple of points. And there`s some very interesting polling out this
week. Let`s put it up. First of all, his approval rate. This is from
PPP, you know, it`s a Democratic aligned firm. But they have been pretty
accurate. This is his approval rating in his home state. 44 approved. 47
disapproved. Now, here is a head to head. Let`s put a name on his
opponent here. This is -- the Secretary of State Alison Grimes. Remember,
we were talking about Ashley Judd. She is not running. The Democrats are
trying to get Grimes to run. And PPP has this race now, 45-45. You know,
Norm, you know, you were talking about what this does. It is, first of
all, the possibility that he has to fit into - he has to deal with the
general election problem. It`s also - that this is Kentucky. This is Rand
Paul`s state. This is where Rand Paul beat Mitch McConnell`s protege in
the Republican primary in 2010 and where - I imagine Mitch McConnell spent
the last two years saying I don`t want that to happen to me in 2014. And
so, you know, we can say how is he going to respond to 2014 right now. I
think also (inaudible) the idea is he`s -- he`s spent the last few years
preparing for 2014.
KAPUR: He absolutely has. And I find it really ironic that conservatives
don`t like him more. Why don`t -- why don`t they like this man who has
been so unbelievably successful at (inaudible) the president`s agenda? I
don`t think there has been anyone in Washington who has had anywhere near
that kind of success. And, you know, contrary to I think what we were just
discussing before, I don`t think he is a functionary. He`s used the powers
of the Senate in a way that no minority leader in the history of the Senate
ever has. He has been so successful at disciplining his members to get
behind him on the health care. On the health care bill. There are a
number of Republican senators, including Grassley, not just, you know, the
two women from Maine, who wanted to support the bill in the beginning. He
cracked the whip and said, you`d better not do this. We`re going to keep
our fingerprints entirely off of it. And, you know, another thing about
him, as -- you were mentioning before, he does have these occasional lapses
into brutal honesty where you really see where it is coming from.
POSNER: I don`t think the base sees him as a spokesperson for their
causes. I don`t think he -- they see him as -- as a champion of what they
would call their values. I mean, I just don`t think that he comes across
that way to them. That might be part of the danger to him in Kentucky. It
also may be the economy and there was a lot of poverty and unemployment in
Kentucky. There is a host of reasons why he might be facing a tough re-
KORNACKI: Well, you know, I kind of wondered about how this plays, how the
being the face of Republican obstructionism plays in the state like
Kentucky, because -- it is - it`s a Republican friendly state. I know they
voted for Clinton twice, you know in the 1990s. But it solidly went for
Romney, solidly went for McCain. There is that -- there is that belt of
sort of Appalachia, you can kind of go from Oklahoma up through West
Virginia where even between 2004 and 2008, when (inaudible) from Kerry to
Obama. This is the area of the country that actually became less favorable
to Democrats between `04 and `08. So, I think there`s a particular sort of
rejection of President Obama in that region of the country. So -- how does
it play in a state like Kentucky to be the face of Republican
obstructionism against Obama? Is that like an asset for McConnell there?
TERKEL: I think that right -- I mean, again, I think the right kind of
obstruction with Rand Paul, for example, he is incredibly popular in the
state. And Mitch McConnell knows that. I mean behind the scenes he is
hiring Mitch -- Rand Paul`s people. And Rand Paul is starting to be known
as sort of the shadow minority leader. He even recently tried to put
something into the farm bill, pro-hemp legalization provision which is
something Mitch McConnell does not care about.
TERKEL: But being -- he does care about -- he tried to sneak it in. Pat
Leahy, and (inaudible) two Democratic Senators, said no, if you want to do
it, you have to go to the floor of the Senate and you have to do it and
stand up there and say you want pro-hemp legalization and he did not do it.
But he was doing it on behalf of Rand Paul, because he knows how popular he
is. And he wants to be on this side.
ORNSTEIN: You know, there is some interesting cross-current here. I mean
the most disturbing thing that I see in the Senate now is they want a
majority. And one way to get him to lose a majority is if the economy is
going really well, the health care plan rolls out reasonably well. People
are happy with Democratic incumbents. So, you are seeing active efforts to
undermine economic progress and even to blow up the exchanges, you know, if
there is anything that Republicans ought to like, it is competition, right?
They want none of this to work well. But from McConnell`s personal
perspective, for just the reasons that you suggested with all the poverty,
if things are not going well, he`s an incumbent who then will have to
justify that. So -- he`s got some interesting cross pressures going on in
his own behavior.
KORNACKI: In other -- if he comes out for hemp and stimulus he is going to
be helping himself in 2014.
KORNACKI: Is that what we are looking at?
KAPUR: You know, I think his campaign has decided that the best thing he
has going for him is the obstruction factor. They think Republican
obstruction plays very well in Kentucky. And you can see this with the --
e-mails he sends out to his -- to his -- supporters. He constantly
highlights the fact that he is blocking President Obama. He is sticking it
to the Democrats. He bragged in January about killing filibuster reform.
He said we protected the filibuster and you should like me for it. That
was a message from his campaign. So, I think he`s using his, you know, his
status as the minority leader and he`s -- you know, accurately touting the
things he has done to maintain that obstruction. I think that`s the best
thing he has going for him.
KORNACKI: Well, speaking of sticking it to Democrats, a woman named
Michele Bachmann was in the news this week. We are going to talk a little
bit about her announcement that she is not running for re-election, but
really what she represents in terms of what has been happening in the
Republican Party and across the country, you know, for the last four years.
4 1/2 years. We will talk about that after this.
KORNACKI: Hello from New York. I`m Steve Kornacki here with Amanda Terkel
of "The Huffington Post, " Norm Ornstein, co-author of "It`s Even Worse
Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the
New Politics of Extremism." He`s also with the American Enterprise
Institute. Sahil Kapur of Talking Points Memo and writer Sarah Posner.
So, I mentioned before the break there, Michele Bachmann made a little bit
of news this week. You might have heard about it. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELE BACHMANN: I will continue to do everything that I can to advance
our conservative constitutional principles that have served as the bedrock
for who we are as a nation. And I will continue to work vehemently and
robustly to fight back against what most on the other party want do to do
to transform our country into becoming, which would be a nation that our
founders would hardly even recognize today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, I guess I have mixed feelings about the departure of Michele
Bachmann. I do want to (inaudible) her for doing something very important,
I think. I think she potentially killed the Ames, Iowa, straw poll.
KORNACKI: Which has become increasingly ridiculous ritual American
politics -- you won it, it meant nothing. I think the emperor has no
clothes. I think people kind of realize that -- realize that now. But,
you know, I think there was -- Michele Bachmann, obviously, was a favorite
-- she made a very good target for Democrats. And so they raised a fortune
off of her in terms of fundraising. She -- she can rile up their base --
Michele Bachmann said this. She was good for -- I will tell you what. I
did the politics editor at Salon, you know, Web site, and, you know, if we
had Michele Bachmann said X in the headline, boom, there was traffic. So,
you know, I -- she is a very - she`s just a very sort of live wire, I
guess. But at the same time, I think there was a tendency, Amanda, to
treat Michele Bachmann sometimes as more of an outlier than maybe she was,
because, I think , the way she said things, the way she expressed herself,
was sort of way out there. But I think what she was expressing, you know,
I think like the debt ceiling, for instance, she was somebody who was
really -- really insistent on making the debt ceiling a priority for
Republicans and making the showdown in 2011 a Republican priority. I think
a lot of what she was saying is a lot more mainstream than maybe we
TERKEL: Yes. I mean she might say it in a way that ....
KORNACKI: That mainstream of the Republican Party, I`m sorry, I should
TERKEL: Right. She may say something in a way that raises a lot of
eyebrows, but it`s something that does pick up in certain sectors of the
Republican Party. And it surprised me, I remember, when she was warning,
you know, don`t cooperate with the census because they are going to take
your information and it is a big conspiracy. And a lot of people laughed
that up. But its certainty gets some traction, and then people have to
actually start to speak up and say, look, that`s not true when she was
going after, for example, top Hillary aide, Huma Abedin and saying she is a
secret Muslim. And -- sorry, not a secret Muslim, a secret sort of
terrorist, basically. You know, again, that was ignored for a little while
and started to flicker. And people actually had to start to address this.
So, she -- she was in -- in touch, I think with a certain segment of sort
of the evangelical far right part of the Republican Party. And she did
catch on, which is, you know, part of the reason she ended up running for
KORNACKI: Well, Sarah, you I mean, again, you have - written about -- and
wrote this for Salon, I think for us a couple of years ago, about Michele
Bachmann, evangelical politics and there has sort of been this fusion in
the last four years of evangelical politics and Tea Party Republicanism.
And we`re interested about the history of how evangelicals became part of
the Republican movement and how they joined the Tea Party, because the
thing -- the thing that always stands out in Bachmann`s biography to me is
she was a Jimmy Carter volunteer in 1976. And a lot of evangelicals and a
lot of the evangelical movement went from being non-political to kind of
getting into politics through Carter and to now being sort of the dominant
force in the Republican Party.
POSNER: Well, it`s interesting because this whole question is very much
tied to the IRS quote, unquote "scandal" right now because one of the main
impetuses for evangelicals getting involved in politics and in Republican
politics in the 1970 - late -- mid to late 1970s, early 1980s was the IRS`
revocation of Bob Jones University`s Tax exempt status. And that was seen
as an assault by the government on Christian schools. Now, the reason why
the IRS yanked the university`s taxes and status was that it had a racist
policy against interracial dating on campus. But it was - it very much
mobilized the religious right because they saw that as the government
interference with Christian schools. So, when you look at something like
that, you see very much how the Tea Party is tied with religious right. I
mean they are part of the same movement. The idea that not all Tea
Partiers may be religious, but the idea that the government is intrusive in
your life and suppressing the free speech or the free exercise or the free
enterprise, of patriotic Americans, are themes that tied a religious right
and the Tea Party together.
Now, Michele Bachmann before the Tea Party was a movement called the Tea
Party, obviously, those strands were there before, she was very much part
of the religious right. She was a product of the infrastructure that the
religious right built in the 1980s, she was one of the first graduates of
Oral Roberts University Law School, which was a Christian law school, the
first Christian law school, that taught students to view the law through
the eyes of biblical law. So, when you look at Michele Bachmann as a
product of that, it makes sense that she`s part of the religious right and
when the Tea Party comes around those things are linked together. The idea
that the judiciary overreaches, they did if the government overreaches and
for her, and much of the religious right the idea that religious law and
religious morals, should replace what should be in place of what the
KORNACKI: And it is - make, you know, another Republican who made
headlines in the last this week-was Bob Dole. You know Bob Dole basically
saying -- I forgot the exact words that we should basically hit the pause
KAPUR: Closed for repairs.
KORNACKI: Closed for repairs. (inaudible) the pause button, I said,
sorry. So, you know, Bob Dole is saying - you know, think of the arrow
when Bob Dole was a permanent Republican. I mean, it was over decades but,
you know, think of like the 1980s Bob Dole was running for president, 1988,
and Pat Robertson also ran that year. And Robertson was clearly a fringe
candidate and Dole was clearly a serious contender for the nominee. And I
just think that the -- evolution of the Republican Party towards what
Bachmann sort of represents that -- that evangelical Tea Party fusion, that
really is. That`s the center of the Republican Party now, isn`t it?
ORNSTEIN: Yeah. What I took from Bob Dole as well, though, is, you know,
he was saying Ronald Reagan couldn`t make it in today`s party. And, you
know, strikingly, Richard Nixon couldn`t make it. He was an ideas man.
What you`ve got is a nihilist movement in the Republican Party. And
Michele Bachmann reflected not just Christian conservative principles,
willingness to say things that were demonstrably untrue, but also this --
let`s just blow the whole thing up. There are no positive ideas there.
When it comes to health care, it`s all let`s get the 37 vote to repeal
Obamacare. Nothing positive. When it came to the debt limit, it was just
let`s blow the whole thing up and then we will start over again. But with
no ideas. And that is the most disturbing part of all of this. It is one
thing if you have conservative ideas about how you are going to implement
policy to change America. It is another to basically just say let`s block,
let`s blow up. And I think that`s -- reflection of her is probably the
most significant and most disturbing part. Not just the same things that
are just plain wacko untrue.
KORNACKI: I want to tell you -- you know, and Amanda, you alluded to it.
One of the sort of infamous Bachmann moments was when she was questioning
or she was suggesting that there were ties between Huma Abedin, you know,
Hillary Clinton aide. She is Anthony Weiner`s wife as well. And the
Muslim Brotherhood. And actually but that -- that even caused Republicans
to say enough, and say, way too far. And here is John McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-ARIZONA): When anyone, not least a member of Congress,
launch a specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the
basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they
stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation and we all grow poorer
because of it. Our reputations, our character, are the only things we
leave behind when we depart this earth. And unjust acts that malign the
good name of a decent and honorable person is not only wronged, it is
contrary to everything we hold dear as Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I think my question is -- how much of what we just saw there we
see in that clip from McCain is sort of the exception versus -- is that a
preview of something that might happen in the mere future through
Republican Party where voices like McCain, whether it is Chris Christie or
somebody else who represents a supposedly more moderate, more pragmatic
instincts of the Republican Party, where they say finally they have had
enough of this and they feel safer, they feel the need to speak out against
it. Do you think that`s something we might end up seeing more of or is it
going to continue to be sort of relegated to just the most extreme moments
KAPUR: I think that`s absolutely from John McCain, what you just played --
it`s absolutely a preview of where Republican would like to go and how they
would like to start dealing with people like Michele Bachmann. And she was
pretty much proof that there is no amount of crazy that`s incapable of
getting traction with (ph) swamps. The biggest winner for Michele
Bachmann`s retirement is the Republican Party. And you get that, you get
that amazing stark contrast when you talk to Republican strategists and
when you talk to Tea Party activists. Tea Party activists are
disappointed. They are full of sorrow, they love her. Republican
strategists are just relieved. They are grateful, they are happy she is
KORNACKI: We say -- she got out on I think the same day that Joe Miller
got in the Senate race in Alaska.
POSNER: And speaking of Joe Miller, I mean that speech was made by the man
who picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. I couldn`t help but think that
when I was watching that just now.
KORNACKI: Right. And then you wonder -- John McCain that`s something he
will never admit, but you wonder if that`s one. That was like George bush
Sr. with Dan Quayle. But, you know, the other thing I wanted to just
mention quickly was Michele Bachmann had an opponent who was planning
running against her in 2014. And this was -- his name is Jim Grace. He
had ran against her last June in 2012, he nearly beat her. I thought this
was kind of amazing -- she made her announcement, and basically within
hours, she did one interview to the site MinnPost.com , the news site out
in Minnesota, he said he`s dropping out of the race, he`s basically
dropping out of sight. He said, I have been talking to my friends and
family and frankly, the feeling is mission accomplished. She was not
representing the people of the sixth district appropriately and now she
won`t be representing them. There is no way anyone could run and win who`d
be worse than Michele Bachmann.
It`s- that`s his way of - you know, it`s the old Vietnam thing, to clear
victory and go home. But the other reality here is that, you know, this
was a seat that was available for Democrats. Because Michele Bachmann was
so demonstrably extreme. If you take somebody like her out, this seat is
not winnable probably for Democrats, because it`s so Republican friendly
and yet the Republican who goes in there will probably vote basically the
exact same way that Michele Bachmann did. And this gets to, I think, a
bigger problem -- a bigger issue in the American politics, and that is --
that is why the Republicans have such a grip on the House. There are so
many districts like Bachmann`s where you can take Bachmann out and you
could still vote like Bachmann and you`re going to win.
ORNSTEIN: And that`s certainly the case. And it is a reflection of
recruitment of both ends. Jim Graves is a very impressive guy. But -- who
wants to run for the House now given, which you have to go through to run
for the House? And then you get there and -- what have you got? So it is
getting -- more difficult to recruit really good people who are
institutionalists on the Democratic side and on the Republican side it is
one crazy after another. I mean the one thing I would take issue with
Graves` statement is you could get somebody who is even more extreme than
Bachmann and in that district, I`m a Minnesotan, I know it. It could
KORNACKI: Right. Right. We will start the Marcus Bachmann for Congress
right now. Anyway, I want to thank journalists Sarah Posner. And I want
to tell you how Bill O`Reilly made Al Franken a U.S. senator. That`s next.
KORNACKI: In news I learned from a recent Google search -- yesterday
marked the final day of Book Expo America. It`s an annual convention for
publishers and booksellers that bills itself as the largest such event in
North America. Convention apparently took place about a half mile from the
studio here in New York City, but the fact that it was going on was news to
me, because, well, because Book Expo America never really makes news.
Well, except once. It did make news once. Exactly ten years ago this
weekend when Bill O`Reilly did something that was instrumental in making Al
Franken a United States senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY: All he has gotten in six and a half years, is that I
misspoke, that I labeled a Polk award a Peabody. He writes his new book,
he tries to make out of ...
AL FRANKEN: No, no, no, no. That`s not ...
O`REILLY: Shut up! You had these 35 minutes, shut up!
FRANKEN: This isn`t your show, Bill!
O`REILLY: This is what this guy does!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Book Expo 2003. May 31, 2003 in Los Angeles. O`Reilly
was there to promote his forthcoming book "Who Is Looking Out For You."
Franken was there to promote his. "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them:
a Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." Now, the melee itself lasted for
maybe a minute, but the ripple effect that it set off is still being felt
today. First, where that moment came from. The Bill O`Reilly of 2003 was
pretty much like the Bill O`Reilly of 2013. But the Al Franken of 2003 was
still basically known as an entertainer. He left "Saturday Night Live" a
few years earlier. He made waves with the political book "Rush Limbaugh Is
A Big Fat Idiot." But he`s also been keeping a foot in show business.
There was "Stuart Saves His Family." That was the movie version of his
most famous "SNL" character. There was also "Late Line." There was a
short lived sitcom, in which Franken played a political reporter in
Washington, D.C., 1998 to 1999, NBC.
The key is that Al Franken on that day in 2003 was not exactly seen as a
future political candidate. But his book really, really bothered O`Reilly.
In the green room before that panel, O`Reilly apparently saw a preview
version of the cover of Franken`s book. Now, remember that book still
hadn`t been released. Anyway, the cover that O`Reilly saw feature a very
unflattering image of O`Reilly, his face was all splotchy, he looked angry,
he was jabbing his finger. He didn`t like it. He thought he was doctored
and he got upset. So, when his time came to speak at the panel a little
while later he couldn`t keep it all inside. He alluded to Franken, he
alluded to the title of his book.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`REILLY: I don`t call anybody a liar. I`m not doing that. And I got too
big on that kind of stuff. You know, I`m trying to elevate the discourse
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, then it was Franken`s turn and he told the crowd about
something he discovered researching his book. That O`Reilly had claimed to
win to Peabody Awards, the very prestigious price in journalism, where it
was actually a show he had been part of, that didn`t won one Polk Award and
that`s what triggered the explosion we saw a minute ago. Where it really
gets interesting, though, is what happened next. Because O`Reilly wouldn`t
-- couldn`t let it go. There were widespread reports that O`Reilly
personally lobbied for Fox to sue Franken and sure enough, a lawsuit was
soon filed in federal court in New York. The claim that fair and balanced
was Fox`s trademark and that Franken and his publisher had no right to use
it on their book cover. And it took a judge all about 12 seconds to
declare that suit, quote, wholly without merit. That it does not mean that
the lawsuit was a total failure because it achieved something very
important and very life changing. For Al Franken. Remember, in 2003, the
left was in retreat. The war in Iraq had just started. Bush was still
popular. The Democratic base was demoralized. And here, in the middle of
all of this though was a defiant liberal.
Al Franken happily taking it to the number one voice of the number one
conservative media outlet. And not only that he was winning. This was the
turning point in the public life of Al Franken. All of this was priceless
publicity for him and he knew it. Publication of the book was sped up.
The ugly O`Reilly photo stayed in place. And new chapter was even added.
One that chronicled the book show "Showdown." The title of that chapter -
"Bill O`Reilly: Lying, Splotchy, Bullying." It was a hit. A huge hit,
and the new grassroots liberal hero had been born. And like all grassroots
political heroes, it was not long before people started asking when is this
guy going to run for office. Franken was on his book tour when stories
started appearing. And when "Newsweek" asked him in November of 2003 he
gave an answer he had never given before. "I used to say, " Franken told
the magazine -- I would never run because I would be a terrible office
holder. Now I don`t want to say that because it would look bad if I ever
did run. Within months Franken had a national radio show. When he named
it, he was practically daring Fox to sue him again. "The Old Franken
Factor." Originally, the show was done in New York. But soon, Franken
moved back to his old home state of Minnesota. And by then it was obvious.
Senator Norm Coleman was up in 2008 and Franken wanted to challenge him.
By early 2007, he was officially a candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: I`m running for the United States Senate here in Minnesota. I
may be a comedian by trade. But I`m passionate about the issues that
matter to your family because they matter to mine, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And O`Reilly still couldn`t help himself devoting time on his
show to ridiculing the Franken candidacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`REILLY: The Stuart Smalley AKA Al Franken is running for a Senate seat
in Minnesota. Of course, the far left is thrilled sending the small man a
lot of money, but his campaign does not have a slogan yet. So here are
some intriguing possibilities. "It is a small world after all, so why
shouldn`t Minnesota be a part of it?" Or "Vote for Stuart Smalley. He
will do for Minnesota what he did for Air America."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And you know the rest. It was a tight race. There were two
months of recounting, there were six months of litigating. And then
finally in June of 2009 the result was certified by a margin of 312 votes
out of nearly 3 million ballots cast, Minnesota had elected to the United
States Senate Al Franken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: To those Minnesotans who worked for me, volunteered for me, voted
for me, I can`t tell you how grateful I am. When you win an election this
close, you know that not one bit of effort went to waste.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And what about the guy who helped start all of this? What did
Bill O`Reilly think?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`REILLY: In a sad day for America, Al Franken is now a U.S. senator.
Franken is a blatantly dishonest individual, a far-left zealot, who is not
qualified to hold any office. With people like Franken on the Hill this
country is in deep trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: There are probably a lot of lessons from all of this, but for
his own sake, Bill O`Reilly probably should have taken his own advice ten
years ago this weekend and just shut up. You know Mark Twain`s old advice
about never picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, Eric
Holder could probably learn from it. That`s next.
KORNACKI: Attorney General Eric Holder met with representatives of some
major news organizations for the second day in a row on Friday to discuss
possible changes to the Department of Justice`s treatment of journalists in
leak investigations. Meetings come after revelations about DOJ`s probes of
the Associated Press and a Fox News reporter probed in about seizures of
private phone records and emails of journalists. Holder has said he
recused himself from the A.P investigation, in which the idea of DOJ`s two
months of phone logs of journalists last year as they investigated a leak
about the CIA operation in Yemen. Last week it was revealed that Holder
had personally approved a search warrant for Fox News reporter James
Rosen`s private emails in 2010. After Rosen published a story the previous
year detailing - with details about North Korea`s nuclear program. Not
only that the warrant even named Rosen as a co-conspirator under the
Espionage Act of 1917. A startling act, that hits press freedom. Holder`s
meetings with members of the press this week were part of an internal
Justice Department review ordered by President Obama. Many news outlets
including NBC News declined to attend the first day of talks with Holder on
Thursday because the administration said media outlets could not report on
the contents of the discussion. Restrictions were relaxed on Friday and
participating journalists shared their reactions after they met with
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN GOLDBERG, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG NEWS: We thought it was a
constructive conversation, good first step. They did talk about wanting to
revise these guidelines and make some constructive changes. But let`s --
now we`ve got to see what happens. What happens next. And will changes
really be made and will people feel less chilled about what has been going
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The Root.com is reporting that Holder plans to hold more
meetings on Monday with organizations that represent journalists of color
and the LGBT community, the Native American Journalist Association has
already declined the invitation because meetings are off the record.
Republicans say they are not satisfied with DOJ`s internal review. Some
are calling for independent special counsel to investigate. Republicans in
Congress are suggesting that Holder may have perjured himself when he
testified under oath last month that he had not been involved in any
prosecution of journalists for disclosing government information.
Department of Justice responded on Thursday saying that Holder`s testimony
was, quote, "accurate and consistent with the facts." That day Texas
Senator Ted Cruz became the latest Republican to call for Holder`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The degree of
willingness of this administration to target -- to target a reporter for
this network, as an unindicted co-conspirator, I mean, that is without
precedent and, unfortunately, I think it is part and parcel of a pattern
from this administration of not respecting the Bill of Rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I want to bring in Krystal Ball, she is the co-host of the show
called "The Cycle," which ...
KRYSTAL BALL: Is that like Netflix?
KORNACKI: Like a Netflix or something.
BALL: It was on three daily. You should check it out.
KORNACKI: Maybe one of these days I will take a look. But thanks for
BALL: My pleasure.
KORNACKI: Krystal, so there is -- this is a very, you know, obviously, a
complicated story. I`m glad we have a couple of journalists here, too.
But it seems to me that of these three, you know, sort of so-called
scandals, and with Benghazi, I could say it`s not really a scandal, the IRS
thing I think is a complicated scandal, that affects within agency more
than it affects the White House, and we have the A.P and now Fox News issue
that the sort of the media First Amendment. This is the one that I think
has attracted probably the least amount of public outcry. But it`s the one
that I think goes farthest up the chain. We`ve got Eric Holder right now
personally signing off on a search warrant of the reporter, of James Rosen
from Fox News and - and a warrant that listed him as a potential co-
conspirator. What, you know, Holder did there, I guess, t is not illegal,
but it seems to be crossing - there seems to be a line maybe that he
crossed there, Amanda. No?
TERKEL: I mean, this scandal really gets at sort of the heart of
democracy, the First Amendment. And what troubles a lot of journalists is
-- is naming James Rosen, the Fox News journalist, as a co-conspirator,
simply for doing his job, I guess he was flattering his source. And asking
for information and saying he would like to break news. This is something
we do every day. Really is -- essentially criminalizing journalism and I
don`t know if the public completely understands the chilling effect this
could have. When they open a newspaper they won`t hear what`s going on.
And think about, you know, the administration thinking about getting into
war or something like that. You won`t get the same information if you
know, what was in the warrant goes forward. And I think Eric Holder is
trying to now assure the media that he is not trying to criminalize
journalism, but the scandal is really, really important to keep covering.
ORNSTEIN: At last, we can have a little disagreement around the panel. I
-- tend to agree with Walter Pincus, who I think is the best national
security reporter on this in a couple of ways. First, if you look both at
the Yemen disclosures and at this one, involving North Korea, this is not
whistleblowing. This is not reporters uncovering wrongdoing in government.
In fact, these are really serious secrets and what they did in both cases,
was to compromise the sources we had inside hostile governments or groups
endangering their lives but also blowing up our ability to follow what was
going on in North Korea or with terrorist groups in the Middle East. So,
these were journalists acting as conduits for people inside government who
are releasing the most sensitive secrets that really endangered American
lives. And what Walter also pointed out is and -- nobody has more
experience than him, it was a relatively routine thing, if you are going to
get a subpoena of the records of James Rosen, to call him and - a co-
conspirator. Didn`t mean you were going to charge him with anything
criminal. It was a way to get at those records. And they were desperate
at that point to find the mole inside of the U.S. government, intelligence
KORNACKI: So, I think there is a lot of complexity here. But when I hear
that argument that well, they weren`t actually going to charge him, they
just listed him this way, this is -- this is an apple. This is a search
warrant application. And you are basically by listing him this way as a
potential co-conspirator. You are saying we could, we could if we wanted
to. We are asserting that power. Isn`t that troubling? That the
government is even asserting that it`s possible to be prosecuting a
journalist this way?
ORNSTEIN: I also think, though, as Walter said, you know, there are --
when you are talking about releasing the most sensitive secrets of the
government, not because there is something wrong going on here, or there`s
wrongdoing, but you are just acting as a conduit.
BALL: Just trying to get a scoop.
ORNSTEIN: Just trying to get a scoop, and this wasn`t James Rosen
passively getting information. He was actively seeking this sort of stuff.
There is a line where journalists can cross as well. And I`m not sure that
journalists can cross that line.
BALL: And I agree with that. And I think the two distinctions that you
are pointing out here are really critical and have been missed in a lot of
the conversation. One is the difference between a leaker and a whistle
blower. Right. Both Rosen and the intelligence officer here, they were
doing this for their own vanity, for their own, you know, career and
prestige to get a scoop. And that`s entirely different from the Pentagon
papers, for example, and Daniel Ellsberg, where that really was a public
interest clearly. The other thing that you are drawing a distinction
between is an actual prosecution of the journalist. And a search warrant
with a recitation, this is in response to the Privacy Protection Act of
1980 where in order to subpoena those emails, they needed to list him as an
aider, abettor, or co-conspirator. Now, I get what you`re saying, doesn`t
that mean that they could -- but we should also remember, journalists are
not exempt from criminal prosecution. And the First Amendment does have
limits. So, let`s say this is maybe not the case in this particular
example, but let`s say that the North Korean asset that Rosen basically
exposed, let`s say that person had been killed. You know. Let`s say that
their family had been killed. There is a lineup, which I think you could
prosecute that journalist. And if there is a chilling effect on people
like Kim, who are exposing national secrets, that really are a detriment to
our national security, I don`t particularly have a problem with that.
KORNACKI: Here`s -- well, here`s what I have a problem with that argument
and -- we will pick this up after the break. But the basic problem I have
with that is, I don`t automatically accept the premonition either of these
cases, whenever we are talking about the Yemen story from the A.P or we are
talking about the North Korea story from Fox News, the vital national
security was compromised in these cases. I know the claim is out there.
I`m not willing right now to say - we`ll talk about more -- more about that
KORNACKI: So, I just started to respond to what Krystal said. Because I
do get the idea that, you know, there are cases where there is legitimate
national security reasons for, you know, reporters not to report things and
for the government to be very concerned about this, (inaudible) reporters,
and we think about the Plame case, you know, last decade. But I`m not so
sure -- I haven`t seen in part of this -- part of this is -- tough to
establish this because so much of this information is classified. But I
haven`t seen anything that conclusively says to me that the reporting about
North Korea, I mean basically I think Jon Stewart ridiculed this in his
show, the reporting was basically, hey, North Korea intends to pursue
another nuclear test. Well, you know, I can, you know, say that right now.
And we all kind of know that. We kind of assume that right now. To me
that gets to a bigger issue, which is -- there is an ability of the
government to basically classify everything.
KORNACKI: ... to treat - to overclassify. So that, you know, when in
doubt let`s classify it. Let`s classify it. Let`s classify it. So there
was an op-ed in "The Washington Post" today from somebody who used to work,
I think at the State Department and talked about New Yorker articles, they
had clips from "The New Yorker," they will be treated as classified
information. And then you have these employees sort of - you know, working
employees who would sign these - you know, the confidentiality agreements
and everything and, you know, technically they could be, you know, co-
conspirators on the Espionage Act for putting a "New Yorker" article out
into the press. That`s what I`m (inaudible) and just overclassification
here and just simply say, oh, it is a national security risk, I think we
have to think both more closely about this.
KAPUR: And I think Democrats have to be really careful on their defense of
the president and the administration here on where they want to draw the
line and what`s acceptable and what`s not. Because what`s happened, you
know, right now, I think, I think a lot of supporters that the
administration will say, look, whatever we think about this, we trust the
president not to abuse this power. What happens when President Ted Cruz
decides to investigate journalists who are reporting on his administration?
What can be -- what can and cannot be passed as the national security, as
the, you know, an extremely important piece of information that should not
get out there and is legitimate to investigate? Beyond that I think the
fundamental debate goes back, way back to the federalist papers, to bounce
(ph) between liberty and security, in today`s world it`s a much more
BALL: Well, and I take your point about overclassification and I think
that is an issue. I think there is -- you know, a tendency for all
administrations to want to expand executive branch power. It`s one of the
reasons actually the president`s speech on drones was so remarkable because
he was indicating an almost unprecedented willingness to curb his own power
which like never happens. But in these particular cases, and this is not
my area of expertise, but with the North Korea case in particular, the
problem was not the information that North Korea was going to conduct
another nuclear test. The problem was exposing the fact that we have a
source inside of North Korea who had that sort of information. So whatever
subpoenas, whatever searches that we did here, I`m sure were nothing
compared to what the North Korean government was doing to try to figure out
who their mole was and deal with them appropriately. Which not only has
consequences in terms of that person`s and their family`s lives, but also
in terms of future information that would be, you know, it was accurate
information that we could get from the North Korean government. So, in
that particular instance, you know, to me, there is a logical case to be
made that this was an important breach of national security.
KORNACKI: I guess -- I guess one thing that bothers me, though, is you --
you have what you had here with North Korea is the government can assert --
horrible violation of national security, compromise national security in a
terrible way and it`s coming from the leak itself, it`s coming from
basically like a mid-level, you know, employee at the State Department.
This is the same - now, the government will tell us that and we`re supposed
to say all right, no. We are not going to go there, but this is the same
government where high level officials will leak things to top reporters
about, you know, the operation for bin Laden. I mean, you remember all the
leaking that was going on after bin Laden thing. They`ll put that out
there without regard to, is this compromising national security at all?
So, we are supposed to accept those leaks, but then when a leak for a mid
level person comes out we are not. I have a problem with that statement.
ORNSTEIN: Yeah, well, and I think we all do. And I think some of those
leaks, which were sensitive information ought to be pursued and prosecuted
as well. I think there is a larger point here. You can`t just take trust
us as the standard here. Because -- no administration could be trusted
completely. They will overclassify. They will leak themselves. So we may
get a useful dialogue out of this that could result in it -- and it already
is. And that with some additional checks and balances where you do have to
go to a judge and hopefully you will be able to go to an impartial judge
before you can move forward on some of this stuff.
BALL: But let`s keep in mind, I`m sorry, Amanda, just quickly, that the
search warrant that we are talking about for James Rosen was approved by a
judge. So there was -- there is a check there in place. So - in that way
the slippery slope argument doesn`t make sense because there is a check
from the judiciary in that instance.
KORNACKI: All right, Amanda, you were about to say?
TERKEL: Well, I think it is important to point out that the A.P and Fox
News aren`t the only journalism and media organizations that the Obama
administration has gone after. In Jeremy Scahill`s new movie "Dirty Wars,
" the Obama administration -- there`s actually many journalists who had
ties to and sources within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and he
reported a U.S. missile strike that the Yemeni government had been taking
credit for. And -- there was a lot of -- he was arrested. There was a lot
of public outcry. The government was going to release him and they were
going to pardon him. But President Obama actually personally intervened.
Called the Yemeni president and said that I have concerns about him being
released. I don`t think he should be. And he remains in jail to this day.
And that is another -- where he was a reporter. He did have ties. And he
may have even had sympathies with, you know, al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula, but he was acting as a journalist reporting on a U.S. strike
that had not been reported and was being falsely reported. And yet, he was
arrested and that was at President Obama`s personal intervention that he
was not released.
KORNACKI: I want to put up a -- some polling on this. Because I do think
this raises an interesting question that the -- the question was asked
recently, it`s a Quinnipiac poll, about whether government has the right to
investigate media over leaks. And the partisan breakdown on this - was --
look at that. There is no difference. There is 78 percent of Democrats
say they have right, 74 percent of Republicans. That`s sort of --
(inaudible) us bipartisan.
ORNSTEIN: Here it is!
KORNACKI: And it`s your -- you know, what it`s united against journalists.
We really are the ones that they hate. But, you know, it`s again, I said
at the top of this -- at the top of this chunk of segments that of these
three sort of scandals that have been making news the last week, this one
to me is the most serious, this is the one that I think, you know, sort of
goes the farthest up the chain. And yet, what you are -- if you are -- you
know, trying to address this at all in the court of public opinion, you are
coming up against the public that it is -- very instinctive, very
reflective sensibility is no, these journalists here, they are a threat to
national security, whatever you`ve got to do. The -- you know, error on
the side of protecting national security against press freedom. And I
don`t know if you can ever break through that.
KAPUR: I think the problem is for one, this -- a topic like this does not
really break through the kitchen table when there are much bigger concerns,
KORNACKI: This is a kitchen table.
KORNACKI: And we have food right here.
KAPUR: ... the kitchen table. But, you know, just as you mentioned about
what poll reveals and that other polls of that -- also reveal that distrust
in the media, is at an all-time high. The public does not like us. They
don`t trust us. And for that reason we have to -- you know, we have to be
-- we have to be humble and we have to be modest in the way we approach
this. And not assume that the public is going to be on our side. We have
to make the case why journalists should be protected simply for doing their
BALL: It`s also I mean -- it`s also just tough when you are the person as
a journalist who is being affected by the story. So, I think there`s also
an instant human instinct of, well, of course, you care about this.
KORNACKI: Well, I get that. But I also see -- I see an irony here.
Because I think there was a shift, I think, we have been talking for
decades now about how much the public hates journalists and doesn`t trust
KORNACKI: I think the shift was sort of a post-Watergate thing. And it`s
ironic because it was because of journalism that we learned about
KAPUR: No, that`s certainly ...
BALL: They hate politicians more, though. They do.
KAPUR: Right after the Iraq war, too. That`s when it exploded.
ORNSTEIN: There are interesting political implications from this. One,
the -- journalists and the Obama administration have not exactly had warm
relationships to begin with. No, that`s -- it is never true that an
administration has warm relationships with journalists at least since Jack
Kennedy. But this is going to escalate those tensions and it probably
means that there will be a lot of stories now that get tilted a little bit
more against Obama. And if you put that together with the fact that
journalists now, especially love scandals. In the political driven age you
want people to go to your Website ten, 12, 14 times a day. Every little
iteration here, he said this, she responded with that, will get more
coverage. You add to that the additional hostility here and it adds to the
headaches of Obama trying to shift the agenda back to policy issues away
from scandals that may not be huge deals, but that are going to be
KORNACKI: Something to talk about. What should -- so, what should we
know? I`m going to get this right. Let me try it again. So, what should
we know? And before it. My answers are after this.
KORNACKI: So, what should we know for the week coming up? We should know
that Larry King and his famous suspenders are coming back to television.
Television channel R.T. America has announced that starting this month they
will be broadcasting King`s current online show "Larry King Now." R.T.
America, that`s the English language station of the Kremlin-owned channel
Russia Today. It`s also launching a new Larry King-based show: "Politics
with Larry King." RT says King will "not shy away from causing
controversy." And according to King`s new promo, he will also not shy away
from dramatically swiveling in his chair.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING: I would rather ask questions to people in positions of power
instead of speaking on their behalf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And now if they would just bring back that "USA Today" column,
might be a happy man.
We should know that Mitt Romney plans to return to public life according to
"The Wall Street Journal." The failed presidential candidate might write a
book. Might write some op-eds. And even hit the campaign trail for
Republican candidates in 2014. Reflecting on his campaign in an interview
with the journal, Romney said that his party hasn`t done enough to appeal
to minority voters. "We have not been able to effectively translate our
message in a way that minorities understand that it is designed to be of
the greatest benefit for them." Romney`s return begins next week when he
hosts a three-day summit at a resort in Utah. The event, which Romney
refers to as "experts and enthusiasts retreat." It will bring together 200
of Romney supporters and friends to talk about the agenda for the country`s
future. The guest list reads like a 2016 Republican presidential ballot
with the names of Paul Ryan, Rand Paul and Chris Christie, but this event
is not exclusively for Republicans. Colorado`s Democratic Governor John
Hickenlooper will be there as will President Obama`s chief 2012 strategist
David Axelrod, who`s also an MSNBC analyst.
According to the journal, the retreat`s itinerary includes events like a
national vet lecture by Alan Simpson and Erskin Bowles, hiking with Meg
Whitman, golfing with Rand Paul and skeet shooting with Paul Ryan. And
finally, we should know that according to the San Diego "Union Tribune,"
this week marks the end of the 100 month prison term for former California
Republican Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham. Cunningham pleaded guilty in
2005 to wire and mail fraud accepting over $2 million in bribes from
defense contractors. Years after being convicted, he said that he
regretted pleading guilty. Cunningham served the majority of his time in
an Arizona prison, but has been in a halfway house outside of New Orleans
since December. Once freed, Cunningham reportedly plans to move to a cabin
You want to find out what my guests think we should know. Start with you,
TERKEL: Well, we learned that new Congressional Research Service study
found that in the past decade 20 percent of the bills Congress has passed
have been to name post offices and that`s in part because Congress has
become so unproductive but they have continued to name post offices.
ORNSTEIN: Well, this is a good time to announce to the world the birth of
Joseph Franken Greenwald. Actually, Joseph Bryce and Franken Greenwald.
Al Franken`s first grandson.
ORNSTEIN: The next generation of Frankens in public life.
ORNSTEIN: I am sure and also, I think for anybody who is interested in
California and major figures of the last century, Jim Fallows has a piece
in "The Atlantic" on Jerry Brown in California, that is one of the most
fascinating articles I have read in years.
KORNACKI: Yeah, I`m trying to start with Jerry Brown 2016 rumors already.
KAPUR: Every one should know that this month is going to be a blockbuster
month for the Supreme Court. Four major cases are coming down.
Affirmative action, how far can colleges go to use race as one of many
factors in determining admissions. The Voting Rights Act, session five.
Do states with a history of racial discrimination have to get pre-clearance
before they change their voting laws or not? Then two cases on same-sex
marriage. One is the Defense of Marriage Act, can the federal government
define marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of federal
benefits and can states legalize or can states ban same-sex marriage for
BALL: I wanted to highlight another level of the problem of sexual assault
in the military as reported in "The New York Times." Now investigations at
the Naval Academy into sexual assault there. And they are reporting a
culture of bullying, intimidation, misogyny, certainly. And also other
women like the rest of the military saying that it is a highly
underreported problem that there are many more incidents than there are
reports. So, just another level of that problem.
KORNACKI: Yeah, there`s a story that we talked about last week and
unfortunately that`s one we`ll have to deal with for a little bit here.
Anyway, I want to thank Amanda Terkel of "The Huffington Post", Norm
Ornstein, co-author of "It`s Even Worse Than It Looks" with the American
Enterprise Institute, Sahil Kapur, with Talking Points Memo and MSNBC`s
Krystal Ball. Thanks for getting up to all of you. And thank you all for
We`ll be back next weekend Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 eastern time. The
guests will include author and journalist Jonathan Alter. And coming up
next is Melissa Harris-Perry. On today`s "MHP", the necessary partnership
between the United States and China. Chinese are looking to buy American
ham for billions of dollars but is U.S. ham for sale? Countries` two
presidents are set to meet later this week and their relationship could
shape the world for years to come.
That is Melissa Harris-Perry. She`s coming up next and we will see you
next week here on UP.
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