UP with STEVE KORNACKI
December 7, 2013
Guest: Maya Wiley, Sean Jacobs, Pedro Noguera, Eleanor Clift, William
Cohen, Isaac Chotiner, Sally Kohn, McKay Coppins
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Nelson Mandela long walk to freedom
took him right through the United States Capitol.
At the start of this Saturday in December with much of the country
locked in a deep freeze, we are thawing out this morning with questions
about some of the new things we`ve discovered. Did you know that as
recently as five years ago, Nelson Mandela needed a special waiver just to
travel in the United States. We`re going to talk about why that was and
why it took so long for that not to be the case anymore.
There are also all the things we know this week from Chris Matthews`
wide ranging conversation with President Obama, with his frustration and
disappointment with Congress, and his hope in the young people, political
leaders of the future or maybe not political leaders. He seemed a little
hesitant about what he wanted them to do. Let`s talk about that more
And progressive leaders of the Democratic Party are pushing back,
fighting back against center`s (ph) voices that want them to give in on
things like cutting Social Security and Medicare. There was no mistaking
that this week.
And finally, we want everyone to know that our weekly current events
quiz show, "Up Against the clock," moving to the second hour of our show.
So, keep an eye out for that. New time slot, same classic 1970s game show
schmaltz. Did say that right?
But first, we begin with this story of how this indelible image of
Nelson Mandela being released from prison after three decades in captivity
came about. President Mandela is being rightly memorialized for his
service to his country and for advancing the cause of freedom around the
world, the difficult period, the long period, the maddening political
struggle leading up to his release is the story that is not as widely told.
Part of it that I want to focus on this morning is the political
debate that was taking place here in the U.S., what lessons should we be
taking away from that -- what lessons should we be taking away from that
because the reception that Mandela received from Washington wasn`t always
like the one that greeted him on his first trip to the capitol in June of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members of the congress, it is my great privilege
and I deem it a high honor and personal pleasure to present to you Mr.
Nelson Mandela, deputy president of the African National Congress.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It was a news Congress on that trip back in 1990, crowds of
Americans, Black Americans, White Americans, Brown Americans, all sorts of
Americans turned out in droves for the chance to be in the presence of, to
be in the remote vicinity of men of rare courage, character and compassion.
You probably heard of a Bronx cheer, well, check out what happened when
Nelson Mandela showed up at Yankee Stadium back then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NELSON MANDELA, FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: You now know who I
am. I am a Yankee!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And I don`t even think a Red Sox fan would mind that. And
I speak as a Red Sox fan. You would never know, though, looking at that
scene, for Nelson Mandela to be there at Yankee Stadium that day, for him
to stand on Capitol Hill and be hailed by Democrats and Republicans in
Congress. For that trip to the United States to happen back in 1990,
Nelson Mandela had to receive a special waiver from the U.S. department of
Otherwise, he never would have been allowed in the country. That`s
because he was a member of the African National Congress, the ANC, the name
of the liberation movement that fought apartheid in South Africa for
decades. Movement that the White apartheid rulers to South Africa threw
Mandela in prison for being a part of, giving him a life sentence before
releasing him after 27 years in captivity, and even then, even in the
summer of 1990, those first months after Mandela had finally been let out
Even as South Africa was finally starting to take those first frazzled
steps away from apartheid in toward real genuine multi-racial democracy,
even then as Nelson Mandela was being hailed as a hero all across the
globe, the United States government officially considered him a member of a
terrorist organization. They forced him to endure the indignity of
receiving a waiver of being told in effect, sure, come on in, we`ll give
you some rewards, we`ll call you a hero, but you`re the exception.
The rest of that group you`re a part of, the rest of the ANC, we still
kind of think they`re terrorists. But it wasn`t until 2008 that Congress
finally passed and President Bush, President George W. Bush, not his
father, it wasn`t until five years ago that the U.S. government finally got
around to signing legislation that formally exempted Mandela from needing a
That designation of the ANC, of Nelson Mandela`s ANC, the ANC that
governs South Africa today and that has now done so for two decades, the
designation of the ANC as a terrorist group by the United States is a
reminder that, sometimes, our government, our political leaders, certain
political actors, sometimes, they get important things wrong. They get
hugely important things very wrong.
Our country from the president, to the vice president, to members of
Congress, to pundits (ph), every day citizens, right now, our country is
mourning the loss of Mandela, remembering the life he lived, the way he
changed the world. But our country in the western world wasn`t always this
united in viewing Mandela as hero. Apartheid, literally, apartness in the
Africano language, and the government that supported apartheid was voted
into office in South Africa in 1948.
Over the next couple of years, that government set about passing a
series of oppressive laws that imposed racial segregation, including that
all Black South Africans carry passbooks with them at all times and won`t
even considered citizens. In 1960, when demonstrators went to the police
station in the Black town of Sharpeville and demanded to be arrested from
not carrying their passbooks, they were protesting the need to have to
carry them in the first place.
In response to that small act of rebellion, South African police
officers opened fire on the crowd and 69 people were killed that day. The
young liberation leader named Nelson Mandela said it was that moment that
radicalized him in the fight against apartheid, to be(ph) the ANC in armed
insurrection and it wouldn`t be long before he was arrested. He was
convicted of treason and he was sent away to prison for life.
He recalls in America, in Britain and across the west for governments
to speak up, to use their power, to use their influence in a country where
the west had huge investments in mining interests, to use that influence to
free him and to fight apartheid, but that didn`t happen. Years passed,
decades passed, an international grassroots movement sprung up to boycott
companies, but did business in South Africa, to divest from them, to
impose, to try to get governments to impose formal sanctions on that South
The boycott movement took hold on college campuses here in the United
States in the 1980s. A young student at Occidental College in Los Angeles
asked his school`s administration to stop investing in South African
companies. That student`s name was Barack Obama. Free Mandela became a
popular rallying cry and the message seeped in to pop culture.
Not everyone in America was on board with freeing Mandela and fighting
the apartheid regime. A bill was introduced in Congress, the comprehensive
anti-apartheid act of 1986. It would require the complete withdrawal of
U.S. business from South Africa and create a trade blocking. Nelson
Mandela had been in prison for nearly a quarter century at that point, for
24 hour years, when that bill was erupted (ph).
Apartheid had been the law of the land in South Africa for 40 years
and the bill did pass the House. It did pass the Senate, and then the
president of the United States wouldn`t put his signature on it. Ronald
Reagan vetoed the South African sanctions bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Night after
night, week after week, television has brought us reports of violence by
South African security forces bringing injury and death to peaceful
demonstrators and innocent bystanders. More recently, we read of violent
attacks by Blacks against Blacks.
Then, there is the calculated terror by elements of the African
National Congress, the mining of roads, the bombings of public places,
designed to bring about further repression, the imposition of martial law
and eventually creating the conditions for racial war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Reagan was the biggest name of American politics who was on
the wrong side of history, but he wasn`t the only one. Seventy-nine
Republicans and four Democrats in the House voted to sustain Reagan`s veto
of the sanctions bill. Republican from Wyoming named Dick Cheney was one
of them. Twenty-one Senate Republicans voted to sustain that veto. Some
of them are still there, Orin Hatch, Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
There weren`t quite enough votes to uphold that Reagan veto, though,
and so the sanctions against South Africa did go into effect. But for some
on the right, Nelson Mandela remained a punching bag.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JESSE HELMS, (R) NORTH CAROLINA: We didn`t meet with one
representative of the African National Congress, the ANC.
HELMS: You know, Bishop Tutu`s crowd which has orchestrated and
financed by the Soviet Union. Winnie Mandela, the wife of Nelson Mandela,
has boasted we have the tires and we have the gasoline and we have the
matches. That`s the way the little (ph) folks orchestrated by the soviet
union act and the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post" and CBS and
ABC and NBC and all of the rest of the big media and a liberal politician,
Mr. Kennedy and all the rest, they say, well, we got to deal with these
folk. We got to meet with them. And I say, baloney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It`s understandably maddening right now. You want to try
to think back to all of that, to think back to how many leaders in this
country dragged their feet and made excuses in the face of South Africa`s
apartheid crimes. But it`s important to remember, because it wasn`t that
long ago. It was less than 30 years ago when the president and the United
States knew all about apartheid, all about Nelson Mandela`s ordeal and
still said no to sanctions.
That was a real actual political debate in this country in the very
recent past. Politicians were asking not only if apartheid was a serious
problem, but wasn`t even America`s problem to worry about. The story of
the demise of apartheid, the freeing of Nelson Mandela, of South Africa`s
march to democracy is an inspiring one. It`s also a chilling one. Why did
it take the United States so long to get it right?
Did we, did our leaders, did our political system, have we learned
anything from that? And are we learning anything right now as we watch, as
we take part in a global memorial to a humanitarian icon who was recently
as five years ago had to have a waiver if you wanted to set foot in this
We`ll talk about that. I want to bring in Maya Wiley, she`s the
founder and president of the Center for Social Inclusion, Sean Jacobs, who
was born and raised in Apartheid South Africa. He is a writer and
professor of international affairs at the New School. Pedro Noguera is a
professor and executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Research on
Equity at New York University, and Eleanor Clift, she`s a contributing
editor with "Newsweek" and "The Daily Best."
And Mia, I`ll start with you, because you know, it`s sort of this
universal memorial that`s taking place here in the United States and
everywhere around the world right now, totally deserved for Nelson Mandela,
but I can`t help but think how recent it was in history that Nelson Mandela
was very much a contested political figure.
And we were playing some of the clips there in the intro. How do we
get in such a relatively short time from the late 1980s, even the early
1990s, we have William F. Buckley writing here in 1990 upon Mandela`s
released from prison that this is going to be a day of infamy, maybe. How
do we get from there to here? What`s happened?
MAYA WILEY, CENTER FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION: Well, part of what`s
happened was Mandela, himself, was so effective at demonstrating that he
was a leader of peace and reconciliation. So, the fact that people have
stereotyped him into a particular type of violent, dangerous person,
thanks, greatly to the propaganda of the apartheid regime, by the way.
He was able to transform himself by his very acts. I mean, one of the
quotes that he gave which is one of my favorite is the courageous, do not
fear forgiveness for the sake of peace, and that`s really what embodied his
KORNACKI: So -- and Sean, maybe take us back, because I think for
people who maybe didn`t live through and don`t remember the political
debate we just outlined there that took place in this country, you know, in
sort of the Reagan years ago, how did that idea of Nelson Mandela is this,
maybe he deserves to be in jail? Maybe apartheid is more complicated than
we think it is?
Maybe this isn`t our fight? How prevalent was that and how did that
view take hold among such significant part of the American, you know,
SEAN JACOBS, THE NEW SCHOOL: I think what people forget is that
American involvement in South Africa was quite deep, economic involvement,
IBM, (INAUDIBLE) company, Coca-Cola, Kodak. So, it was OK to do business
in South Africa. It was fine. Lyndon Johnson said that he was one with
the African regime -- regime.
It was only Nixon the same, it was perhaps only Jimmy Carter who said
the United States is a different kind of engagement with, you know,
countries like South Africa, Angola, et cetera. Reagan then pushed back.
So, I can imagine -- you can imagine, Reagan was very popular, you know, in
sort of mainstream opinion. It was fine to term (INAUDIBLE). They did
engage in arms struggle. They weren`t like non-violent.
It`s very difficult to sell that. The cold war is going on. And you
can use that as a bogey to say they support it. As you can see from the
clip, they support it by the Soviet Union. But I think what happens here
if I was watching it from the outside, you know I was a teenager at the
And so, you`re getting sort of this word in the United States on
college campuses, the African-Americans, particularly, I think the people
underestimate how hard it was to get people here to realize that this
wasn`t just struggle and a moral struggle through church groups had begun
to complain and point out these contradictions, and particularly insisting
on this economic angle, because what Reagan did was to use the cold war as
an alibi to say, you know, we can`t free South Africans, because, you know,
South Africa is important to us.
And by insisting that, no, this is (ph) about economic interest, it
meant that people eventually come around to that struggle.
KORNACKI: And Pedro, you are a veteran of that movement, that college
campus movement that we`re talking about. Tell us a little bit about what
it was you were doing, what the roots of that movement were, and how it
really was hugely successful -- became a hugely successful grassroots
movement. What set it apart and made it so successful?
PEDRO NOGUERA, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I think that what happened here
was many Americans, particularly, on the college campuses but also on --
elsewhere responded to the mass protests that took place in South Africa.
It was the first time in 1984 after the boycott of the elections that we`d
seen mass protests in the country and that triggered I think a response
It was particularly felt on the campuses, and it took time, but I
think, gradually, many Americans started to change their attitude and
realized that we were supporting a government that was apathetical to
everything we were supposed to believe in.
And you know, it`s really amazing in our own history of this country,
because there are so few times when people, progressive people feel as
though they were a part of something that actually led to a change, a
concrete (ph) change, not only the release of Mandela but change in
government and the end of apartheid. And we played a role in that in a
very small but significant way in this country.
KORNACKI: He talked a little bit of what it was -- we have the
political system and the debate over the sanctions in 1986 that played out
in this country, but more broadly, what were especially in the early days
of the movement, of the boycott movement in this country, what is it you
were up against? What was the backlashed you were facing?
NOGUERA: Well, I think Sean spoke to it already, economic interests
at stake were powerful, right? So, we had major corporations invested in
South Africa, universities and other institutions in this country invested
in those corporations. They were not willing to readily give up those
investments. The University of California where I was at the time had $4.2
billion investment corporation (ph) in South Africa.
And so, when we began to take on the regions and push for this
investment, we were taking on Reagan`s appointees who were on the board of
regents. The political symbolism was very powerful. And so, initially,
there was quite a bit of resistance. But gradually, as that movement built
and were sustained over several years, we were able to sway public opinion.
As you pointed out, the sanctions were overturned by the Congress, by
Reagan`s veto was overturned, and the tide began to change. And it became
a movement many people from across the spectrum wanted to be associated
with, because they could see they were on the wrong side of history.
KORNACKI: And Eleanor, we have a couple of quotes here that a lot of
these were floating around this week, which again, to give you a taste of
the time, 1985, George Will, who`s still a very active voice in sort of
conservative punditry these days, in 1985, "clearly, some the current
campaigning in south Africa is a fad, a moral hoola hoop, fun for a while.
Regarding interest in the foreign crisis, even altruism is not fuel for the
It is amazing when you look at the conservative movement, we think of
the failure of the conservative movement and the civil rights air in this
country in the 1960s. Now, you`re advancing into the 1980s and we can look
back and say that would be a huge --
ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: It was an extraordinary time in
Washington. The Republicans controlled the Senate. The Republican Party
stood up to President Reagan. Nobody had overturned a presidential veto on
foreign policy in the 20th century.
And you had 37 and 53 Republicans, including Richard Lugar who`s still
there today -- Mitch McConnell who said he was in college during civil
rights movement, and then -- he was on the side of civil rights and then it
got all complicated with affirmative action and bussing and sanctions he
said made it all clear again.
I mean, he stood up again against the president. And, I was covering
the White House then, and occasionally, they would bring in small groups of
reporters to chat with the president on the theory that, you know, we -- to
know each other and - that ever happened. This was already in 1986, but it
was cookies and coffee one afternoon. And it was during this period and
the president said that more Black people drive and own cars in South
Africa than there are cars in the Soviet Union.
And to him, that sort of rationalized, this was, you know, communism
is the evil system. And you had to do everything to stand up to communism.
And, I remember so clearly because then he reached for two cookies and said
he only had half a sandwich for lunch.
CLIFT: But Pat Buchanan was a speech writer in the White House then,
and I recalled this memory to him yesterday. And he said he wrote that
line. And he got it from commentary magazine. And he said Reagan loved
it, but the secretary of state, George Schultz, was furious at him for
putting it in because it seemed -- made the president look like a simpleton
KORNACKI: But that was part of -- anything that could be linked to
CLIFT: He believed in that, and he had -- the assistant secretary of
state was Chester Crocker who developed what he called constructive
engagement which basically rationalized the continuation of trade,
especially an arms embargo which Jimmy Carter had gone (ph) along way.
KORNACKI: All right. Well, coming up in just a minute, we are going
to be joined by a former Republican member of the Senate. He was one of
the Republicans who did vote for that override vote to override that veto
by Reagan of the sanctions bill in 1986. The vote was the culmination of a
long cultural campaign against apartheid in 1980s, here is a taste of it
from the specials out of England in 1984.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was the song, "Sun City," one of many ways that Nelson
Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement permeated pop culture in 1980s from
all-star music videos to "The "Cosby Show." The oldest daughter on the
show named her newborn twins Nelson and Winnie. It wasn`t just pop
culture. It was also politics, organized labor united behind the cause of
boycotts, the investment sanctions.
After years of debate, as we said, Congress passed a sweeping
sanctions law in 1986. President Reagan took out his veto pen and he sent
it back to the Congress. And I now want to welcome in former Maine
senator, William Cohn. He was among the Republicans who joined with
Democrats to override that veto in 1986. He also later served as secretary
of defense during Bill Clinton`s second term.
And Mr. Secretary, we thank you for joining us this morning, and I
wonder if you can just take us back to that moment. Eleanor Clift in the
last segment set up what a historic moment that was to have a president`s
veto overridden (ph) on a foreign policy question, the question of
sanctions in 1986.
Can you take us back to the debate that was playing out in your party,
because there were plenty of Republicans who voted to override that veto?
There were also plenty of Republicans, you know, Jesse Helms, Orrin Hatch,
Thad Cochran who wouldn`t do it. It`s surprising to people now that it was
contested politics back then, but take us back and tell us what that was
FMR. SEN. WILLIAM COHEN, (R) MAINE: Well, I think there were two
things at work. Your guests talked about this being really a vote and a
debate about foreign policy, about the ANC being a proxy for the Soviet
Union, and certainly, there was the element of communism involved and this
was really a support for a communist group. But deeply underlying that was
really the issue of racism and the evil of racism, and the discussion about
communism I think was just an overlay of that.
If you look at our own history, how long it took us to try to
eliminate the evil of racism in our own society, and I was watching the
pictures earlier that you were showing. And, I was thinking of the same
scene. It could be a scene in Alabama with Bull Connor and Lester Maddox
and George Wallace. And so, the underlying issue of race was always
involved in this and the notion that somehow the Black majority was
inferior to the Whites who were trying to bring civilization to that
And so, that was part of the debate at least in my mind, and I felt so
strongly about this that I didn`t hesitate for a moment to say this speech
had to be overridden given our own history in this country and the fact
that that racism still persists.
WILEY: This is Maya Wiley. Thank you so much for your role in
upholding sanctions, but can I ask you a question about the history? I
mean, racism was such a big part of it, and at the same time the U.N.
Security Council actually passed the first sanction`s resolution in 1962.
So, it was really a long walk to sanctions, not just a long walk to
freedom. What`s your take on why it took so long given the overt racism in
South Africa to get to that point?
COHEN: Well, as I just mentioned, why did it take us so long to get a
voting rights bill passed under Lyndon Johnson? How could we, a country of
200 or 300 years, allowed slavery, Jim Crow segregation to have persisted
for so long? And I think that that`s just another example of it that over
time, finally, the morality and the immorality of racism was able to be
But it`s not easy and I think many feelings are still there. You can
see there`s still a divide in our country. We still divide up red state,
blue state. We still have those who are fighting the civil war in many
ways in their own minds, whether it`s northern aggression or the
interruption of a way of life in the south, et cetera.
So, I think it`s a part of the human drama that we have to fight this
evil of discrimination based on either race, ethnicity, religion,
preference, any of the signs of bigotry have to be addressed and fought.
And I think it just takes time, and we`re learning. We`re still evolving.
We`re a better country today than we were 20 years ago, 30 years ago. But
we still have a way to go.
KORNACKI: And very quickly, when you cast that vote in 1986, you can
look back now and say, well, within four years, Nelson Mandela is released.
Four years after that, Democratic elections, he becomes the president. Did
you see, did you think history was going to play out like that in 1986 or
did you think the struggle was going to take even longer than that?
COHEN: I had no idea. In fact, I had no way of knowing how Nelson
Mandela once being freed would react. My wife and I had the opportunity to
visit Robben Island and stand in his cell and look out into the courtyard
where he spent so many years crushing rocks. And I felt a sense of rage
welling up inside of me and to think that Nelson Mandela having spent so
many years in prison could come out and walk tall and straight and say that
he wanted to seek reconciliation.
That`s an extraordinary statement, but I had no way of knowing whether
or not he would seek revenge or to try to rally his people against the
White minority that exists in this country. I don`t think any of us had
any notion how that was going to turn out.
KORNACKI: All right. Well, former secretary of defense, William
Cohen, former senator as well, thank you for joining us. And we will pick
up that point with the panel in a minute. Nelson Mandela after he was
released in that transition to democracy, we`ll pick that right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: These are Nelson Mandela`s first words, basically his first
public words, after being released back in 1990. And Sean, we pick up the
point that Bill Cohen was making in the last segment about how he didn`t
know, and I think a lot of people didn`t know as the anti-apartheid
movement gained force in light to the Nelson Mandela`s release.
He didn`t know how Nelson Mandela would react to being out of jail, to
being a political leader day-to-day in South Africa. Did you have a sense
back then how he was going to react and his supporters within the ANC, is
this what they expected when he came out, this sort of tone of
reconciliation that he offered?
JACOBS: I mean, people forget that in his very first speech, he was
very, you know, clear about the fact that he was representing this mass
movement that had emerged in the 1980s that he represented this long
tradition of struggle against racism, but not just racism but also economic
justice. If you were growing up in South Africa in the late 1980s, it was,
you know, state censorship was kind of total. I remember personally, I
only saw a photograph of Mandela by about 1985, and it was a grainy
photograph of him, you know, the mug shot.
And that`s what most people I suppose in the west also saw. The state
was very good at not making us see what he looked like, but I remember when
he came out of prison, that moment, the clip we just saw, I was at home
watching that with my parents. And I just remember everybody in South
Africa was really expectant. They were hoping that we`d have a different
kind of country, more humane, that was about dealing with the racism of the
Unfortunately, I think it has become a very ordinary country in which
the state is not as -- doesn`t care about, I think, dealing with these
massive inequalities. The South African state right now is often murdering
its own citizens like last summer, they`ve murdered 34 miners who are
protesting against low wages.
So, those are the kind of things about that legacy. I think people
waiting for Mandela to be free, I think, had high expectations. And as the
time went on, we realize that, you know, what we`re going to get was
something very ordinary.
KORNACKI: How do you think about that, Pedro, somebody who was so
active in seeking his release, seeking the democratization of South Africa?
As you look at where South Africa is today and where you were in the 1980s,
how do you think about that?
NOGUERA: Well, mix feelings. On the one hand, you know, we never
really knew that Mandela would be released. So, when he was released, it
was just amazing. We were, you know, just shocked by it. And then to see
him and then to see him then transition to the presidency, it seemed like
just a dream come true. However, I have been back to South Africa on
several occasions now, and it is a disappointment.
You see the stark inequality, the conditions of the majority of Blacks
have not improved very much. And I think this great disappointment in the
leadership of the ANC now. And, that I think posed a major problem for the
country, because you`re going to, I think, increasingly see tensions within
the society over the direction it should take.
And I think there`s an awareness that South Africa is a very wealthy
nation, that it has to do something to create a more inclusive, more
equitable society than it has so far. And right now, I`d say it`s a great
disappointment. I was there in the township outside Port Elizabeth this
past spring and the conditions people are living in and their frustration
and anger with the ANC, I think, is growing. And I think it poses
tremendous challenges for the future.
WILEY: I think these are really important questions. I want to flag
two things. One, the leadership actually knew what kind of man Nelson
Mandela was, because the negotiations started in 1985. So, what became
public in 1990 was actually five years in the making. And it was very
clear that Nelson Mandela was an elder statesman, even while he was in
prison. And the other thing to remember is that the disinvestment movement
was very much in touch with nelson Mandela.
So, that those two things were actively the ANC organized a lot of the
divestment movement. So, we should remember that. But moving -- just to
go to this important point about where South Africa is now in equities is
the structure of what Nelson Mandela inherited when he walked out of
prison, including an incredible apartheid era death.
The fact that 15 percent of the population plus multinational
corporations own 90 percent of the economic activity of the country and
what Nelson Mandela and the ANC negotiated was the polls not the purse,
assuming that the purse would follow the polls and that`s not exactly what
happened. You know, it`s a very complex --
KORNACKI: Twenty years can be a long time and 20 years can be a very
CLIFT: But how much can you lay on the shoulders of Nelson Mandela?
I mean, we were just talking about inequity in this country as well. I
mean, it`s a worldwide problem. I think if I heard President Obama, it`s
worse in this country than anywhere else. But I just want to give a salute
to Congress as it existed back then.
We so look at today`s Congress it`s so lame, it can`t do anything.
The Congressional Black Caucus was on the divestment strategy. It took
years, Maxine Waters, Ron Dellums, and they really fought for it and they
got college kids interested and the movement was created. And you could
almost say it started on Capitol Hill.
KORNACKI: It is true. We talked about -- there were conservatives
who opposed it, but there were -- You saw coalitions emerge in that vote in
1986 that would be unthinkable today.
Anyway, I want to thank Pedro Noguera with New York University,
Eleanor Clift from "Newsweek" and the "Daily Beast," Maya Wiley with the
Center for Social Inclusion, and Sean Jacobs, a professor at The New
Switching gears now, President Obama goes back to college, and he
takes Chris Matthews along with him. There can`t miss conversation at
American University this week. We`re going to play a little from it.
We`re going to talk about it. That`s next.
KORNACKI: Hey, it`s that familiar music again. That means it`s
Saturday and it`s time for another edition of "Up Against The Clock."
We`ve got three brains warming up and flexing their current events, know
how (ph) backstage in the isolation booth, but we all have to wait just a
little bit longer. It`s the same game you know and love that we`re going
to bring it to you during the next hour of UP. So, stick around for that a
And before we get to that, Congress has passed fewer laws this year
than ever before. When President Obama played hardball this week, he tried
to diagnose the reason for the inaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The big challenge we`ve
got is you got a faction of the Republican Party that sees compromise as a
dirty word, that has moved so far to the right, that it would be difficult
for a Ronald Reagan to win the nomination for the Republican Party at this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: We`re going to be playing more from that very revealing
Chris Matthews interview with the president, and we`re going to chew it
over with our panel right after this.
KORNACKI: Barack Obama won the presidency by appealing to one age
group above all others, young voters, especially new voters who never cast
a ballot before. They turned out in force to send Obama to the White
House. In 2008, he won 66 percent from 18 to 29-year-old voters compared
to 32 percent for john McCain. Number was down a little bit in 2012 to 60
percent, but still, an overwhelming majority, far above the 37 percent that
Mitt Romney got from the same age group.
This constituency has been a key part of the coalition that put Barack
Obama in office. So, it wasn`t surprising when it came time to discuss his
presidency, his legacy and the challenges he`s been facing in the second
term. President Obama did it before an audience of college students.
Talking to MSNBC`s own Chris Matthews at American University in
Washington, key part of their discussion was voting itself, specifically,
the efforts under way in Republican-controlled states to make it harder to
vote. Chris asked the president what he plans to do to stop voters`
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Early next year, we`re going to put forward what we know will
be a bipartisan effort or a bipartisan proposal to encourage people to
vote. You can`t say you take pride in American democracy, American
constitutionalism, American exceptionalism, and then, you do everything you
can to make it harder for people to vote as opposed to easier for people to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Well, here to talk about that and more of what the
president had to say, we have MSNBC contributor, Jonathan Capehart, he`s a
columnist at the "Washington Post." Isaac Chotiner is a senior editor at
the New Republic. Sally Kohn is a political columnist and progressive
activist. And McKay Coppins is a politics editor at BuzzFeed.com.
Jonathan, let`s peck up that quote we just played for Obama there
saying, you know, "next year, we`re going to have some sort of bipartisan
plan on voting rights. I took a step back. Are we sure it`s going to be
bipartisan? Are we sure there`s going to be some meaningful bipartisan
plan, because everything that I`ve seen for the last five years tells me
there may be a plan next year, but I`m hard pressed to see where it should
be (ph) bipartisan.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: In that quote, what we`re
saying is an eternally hopeful president, an eternally optimistic president
who knows full well that whether, and especially if he`s for it, it`s going
to be impossible to get anything done. The Republicans have made it clear
on any issue from the budget, economy, jobs, health care, immigration, you
name it, they will stand in the way of quote "giving him a win."
They don`t want him to succeed. And as we know, there`ve been two
books written that Republicans colluded before he was inaugurated to insure
that he would not be successful. So, a president`s job is to be hopeful
and optimistic and that`s what the president is being here, but that`s not
to say that he shouldn`t try, because the president, while hopeful and
optimistic and he`s dealing with all these obstruction and impediments, he
has to try, otherwise, why be in the job?
KORNACKI: What`s the point of the job? Right. Isaac, when you
watched the interview this week, it was sort of interesting to watch a
president sort of expound at length about what it`s like to be president
while he`s president. It is sort of an interesting experience we don`t
always get to see. What were you seeing? What were you taking away from
what you heard the president talking about this week?
ISAAC CHOTINER, NEW REPUBLIC: You know, this was the first interview
that Obama has done in a few weeks now where he really seemed back on his
game, he seemed confident, he seemed a little feisty, he seemed happy. The
last few times we`d seen him, he was at his press conference, he was
apologizing about health care, and he really seemed to be enjoying it.
KORNACKI: -- about the crow, do you think? Is it being in a room of
reporters? It`s a room of -- I mean, Chris Matthews is a journalist, but
he`s in a room of college students.
CHOTINER: Yes. No, they were cheering for him and he started with a
joke about American University. And when he talked about health care, he
said that students could get coverage for contraception which I thought was
funny. It did not get a huge cheer.
CHOTINER: -- were pleased by that.
CHOTINER: So, he definitely seemed better than he`d seemed in a long
KORNACKI: Let`s play you another clip of this. He was telling you
about some of the qualities, the way he`s learned his president about some
of the qualities that are useful to be president. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The most important qualities of any president, I`m not
necessarily saying I have these qualities, because I`m speaking
historically, I think it has to do with more than anything a sense of
connection with the American people. That`s what allows you then to have
that second quality which is persistence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: How was it? That was a really striking moment to me,
because it`s almost like he`s sort of looking at some of his predecessors
and saying maybe he feels they had something he didn`t have. It`s
something he feels. He seems one reading of that is he`s saying there`s
something I feel that I lack here.
MCKAY COPPINS, BUZZFEED: Yes. it was interesting because he said --
you know, he admitted, he said, "I don`t know necessarily if I have those
qualities I`m looking back at predecessors." Right. I mean, I think that
connection with the American people, it`s probably what bothers him most,
you know? When he was elected, he rode this wave of being this champion of
And people felt especially after eight years of the Bush presidency
like he understood them, like he was -- and that he, you know, was willing
to consider all sides of an argument and that he was intellectually honest.
There were all these various attributes that made him really connect with
voters. And then, since then, he`s struggled to regain that.
I don`t know if it`s possible to regain that kind of connection when
you`re actually, you know, grinding through the day-to-day of governance,
right? But I think that he probably misses it from the campaign.
Obviously, the 2012 campaign was nowhere near the 2008 campaign in that
regard. And you get the sense that he wishes he could kind of capture that
KORNACKI: -- Mario Cuomo, you can`t pay in poetry and you --
KORNACKI: Sally --
SALLY KOHN, COLUMNIST & ACTIVIST: Yes.
KORNACKI: We`re going to use the ultimate teaser, because I want to
hear what you say about this, and we`re going to do it right after the
KORNACKI: So, we heard President Obama talking in that interview with
Chris Matthews about the importance of the connection with the American men
people. He`s speaking historically, Sally, but what was your take on that?
KOHN: Well, look, I thought it was a fascinating interview. Of
course, I always like hearing the president when he gets to sort of -- you
know, expand on his terms on some level. But I`m going to be honest, I`m a
big Chris Matthews fan. That was the softest voice I think I`ve ever heard
Chris Matthews speak in.
KOHN: And you know, look, I imagine, you know, these interviews when
they`re done on the other side, you know, the folks on the right want to
hold the president accountable, you know, especially and the president
actually made an illusion to the fact that a lot of MSNBC viewers, he said
that, are frustrated with him from the left.
I would have liked an interview where it wasn`t just sort of sitting
down and letting the president really, you know, say what he wanted to say,
which is most (INAUDIBLE) but actually holding him accountable to some of
the frustrations from the progressives in his own party who feel like he
hasn`t done enough, whether it`s on inequality, whether it`s on, you know,
holding the banks accountable. Things that he actually has the power to
do. I would have liked to have seen more of that.
KORNACKI: Let`s play another clip from this. This is -- you talk
about how he maybe was energized by the college audience that he was in
front of there. He was asked the question about whether he thinks the next
generation should go into politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many kids here want to go into politics?
OBAMA: That`s a pretty good number.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they right?
OBAMA: It continues to be a way to serve that I think can be noble.
It`s hard. It can be frustrating. You got to have a thick skin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: He`s not exactly like, yes, go.
KORNACKI: I want to inspire you like JFK did 50 years ago, and it`s
hard not to say maybe that`s the product of five years of experience in
this kind of gridlock and obstructionism.
CAPEHART: Right. If anything, the president is a realist. And so,
if you`re going to ask him this sort of utopian question, he`s going to
look at you and say, OK, yes, it`s a noble calling, but be prepared, be
very prepared, because I wasn`t. I mean, think about it. I mean, you said
while he was speaking, you said, he looks beaten down.
And I couldn`t help but agree. Remember, the Barack Obama who was
introduced -- who introduced himself to the American people in 2004 in
Boston, young, dark hair, hopeful, optimistic, is completely different from
the Barack Obama who sat -- President Barack Obama who sat before Chris
Now, that being said, he`s still, if you go back to that 2004 key note
address at the Democratic convention in Boston, the -- you will hear the
same Barack Obama who`s president now. There is a consistency there.
KORNACKI: Every president in a way seems to have greyer hair --
KORNACKI: The Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party is under
attack, and it is not from Senate Republicans. That`s next.
KORNACKI: In the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, a Harvard law
professor had the idea to create a federal agency that would protect
consumers from predatory lending and other unfair business practices to
keep people from being taken advantage of in ways that had the potential to
sink the American economy all over again.
After President Obama announced that he liked the idea of that federal
agency and that he wanted that Harvard professor to lead it, Senate
Republicans said no, as they blocked her confirmation. They blocked her
nomination, really. They were against not just her but also the very
existence of the agency, consumer protection, itself, a regulating big
So, when President Obama grew convinced that she couldn`t win
confirmation, he nominated someone else instead. And when she couldn`t
head up the agency that she conceived of, she, instead, declared her
candidacy for Senate in Massachusetts. She decided to take the seat won by
Republican Scott Brown after the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. She would
try to bring back real genuine populism, kind of populism that makes big
banks genuinely nervous. She tried to bring that back to the United States
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: There is nobody in this
country who got rich on his own, nobody. You built a factory out there,
good for you. But I want to be clear, you moved your goods to market on
the roads the rest of us paid for.
You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in
your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us
paid for. You didn`t have to worry that maraud bands would come and seize
everything at your factory and hire someone to protect against this because
of the work the rest of us did.
Now, look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific,
or a great idea. God bless, keep a big hunk of it. But part of the
underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for
the next kid who comes along.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That Harvard law professor won her Senate race for the
Senate. She is now Senator Elizabeth Warren. Not only that, her populist
message defined 2012 election as a whole.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you are successful,
somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher
somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable
American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested
in roads and bridges.
If you got a business, that -- you didn`t build that. Somebody else
made that happen. The Internet didn`t get invented on its own. Government
research created the Internet so that all the companies could make main I
money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our
individual initiative, but also because we do things together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But if President Obama and Elizabeth Warren`s message of
succeeding because Americans do things together, investing in each other,
if that message was resonating with Democrats, Republicans thought they`d
be able to win the election in 2012 by running against it. Mitt Romney and
the RNC adopted "We Built It" as a theme of their convention in Tampa. You
could see it everywhere, on signs, and on screens in the arena. It was
even chanted by a crowd of delegates.
But the sentiment never seemed to gain that much traction with the
electorate, never moved polls. The message that did seem to find an
audience was this one, the one in which Mitt Romney said 47 percent of the
public believe they are victims, believe they are dependent on a government
and believe the government has a responsibility to care for them. The Mitt
Romney 47 percent video that some believe cost Mitt Romney the race for the
The 2012 election was in some respects a referendum of big business
versus big government which competing ideas from the Republican and
Democratic parties of what the balance of power between them should be. As
we get ready to enter another election year, that fight is still being
waged, only this time, it isn`t taking place between, among Democrats and
Republicans. This time, Democrats are fighting among themselves about
The centrist think tank Third Way authored an op-ed in "The Wall
Street Journal" this week, warning Democrats not to follow Senator Warren
over a, quote, "populist cliff" headline. Economic populism is a dead end
for Democrats. The author is arguing that unlike the reckless, their word,
policies, Senator Warren supports, other Democrats should be looking to cut
Social Security and Medicare.
The Third Way was looking to pick a fight with Elizabeth Warren.
They succeeded. But in the process, they also managed to enrage other
members of the Democratic Party, some of them affiliated with Third Way.
The office of Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania, she is
running for governor there next year. She`s an honorary chairwoman of
Third Way. She told Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times" that, she
quote, "read" the op-ed, thought it was outrageous. Disagrees strongly and
told Third Way that.
Spokesman for Congressman Joe Crowley of New York, he`s an honorary
co-chairman of Third Way. He added -- the spokesman said that Congressman
Crowley has worked with Third Way on a rage of issues, such as immigration
reform and the Affordable Care Act, but on this matter, they strongly
Senator Warren herself told "Huffington Post" that Third Way is,
quote, "flatly wrong in saying the Social Security has an undebatable
solvency crisis. Quote, "We could make modest adjustments and make the
system financially stable for a century and to make somewhat large
adjustments to make the system pay more for seniors who rely on it. The
conversation for far too long has been about whether to cut Social Security
benefits a little bit or a lot and that is flatly the wrong debate to have
She challenged the Wall Street banks to be transparent about
donations that they have made to think tanks like Third Way. Warren also
said this week she is taking herself out of contention for the 2016
presidential race. She made an effort to stop talk of a run. And she is
trying to put a stop of speculation of what a race between a populist like
Elizabeth Warren and someone with a more centrist reputation like Hillary
Clinton would like. The race between those two competing ideas between
populism and centrism is already alive and kicking and likely to remain a
huge part of what Democrats will be fighting on voting on both in next
year`s midterms and in 2016.
So, here to talk about that now, I want to welcome back, MSNBC
contributor Jonathan Capehart, Isaac Chotiner with "The New Republic,
columnist and activist Sally Kohn, McKay Coppins with BuzzFeed.com.
So, Isaac, let`s take up what happened this week, because I want to
first sort of define for people what the fault loans are here the centrists
versus the progressives, the populists within the Democratic Party, this
Third Way versus Elizabeth Warren.
In the op-ed that sort of kick this off, Third Way is talking about
specifically this plan that Elizabeth Warren has put out there and couple
of other progressives on the idea of expanding Social Security. Let`s stop
this debate over whether it should be cut and how much it should be cut.
They`re saying let`s expand it. So, that`s issue that Third Way is putting
out there. It seems that Medicare is a part of this.
What are the fault lines that are sort of dividing the Democratic
ISAAC CHOTINER, NEW REPUBLIC: Well, you mentioned Social Security
and Medicare, which are two of the big ones. But I think really this is
about Wall Street and you played clips of Elizabeth Warren and Obama
sounding rhetorically somewhat similar in their approach to how the
American economy works and how capitalism should work best and so on. But
there are actually real fault lines between, say, Warren and Obama.
I think you saw glimmers of what we will see going forward in the
fight between Janet Yellen and Larry Summers about who will be the next
chair of the fed. Substantively they`re close. Sort of more Wall Street
friendly Democrats and people in the White House were fairly support of
Summers. As for Yellen, she is much more support among the grassroots.
And that ultimately she got the nomination.
But I think those are the real issues -- the Wall Street issues, how
to regulate the banks, rather than Social Security and Medicare, which are
going to be the fault lines for the Democrats.
KORNACKI: So when we say regulating the banks, we say there is a
divide there between Obama and the centrist for what Obama has done, what
Dodd-Frank kind of represents and what Warren and Janet Yellen, those types
are pushing for, what specifically -- what are we talking policy-wise?
SALLY KOHN, ACTIVIST: Well, let`s be clear about, before we get
there. Let`s talk about sort of where that divide exists? Because the
divide doesn`t exist with the American people.
This is the really fundamental thing that Third Way op-ed totally
missed the boat on, is the American people support a more economic populist
move in politics. And incidentally, a lot of Republican voters.
KORNACKI: The banks are not popular?
KOHN: Well, it`s broader than that. Yes, they think a majority of
voters, including in swing districts and a strong number of independents
believe the president, for instance, hasn`t done enough and to hold banks
accountable including for their criminal acts. That`s one example. But it
goes beyond that, a majority of voters think we should raise taxes on the
wealthy to increase investments that will support the middle class and spur
That`s also part of this economic populism that Third Way didn`t take
on directly. But it`s really what they`re about. They`re just sort of
about 1 percent status quo.
KORNACKI: What Elizabeth Warren is getting at and one of those sort
of sub-debates that emerged this week is she sent this letter out
challenging sort of the six big banks, disclose all of your -- you know,
who are you funding think-tank wise? They haven`t done that.
But the leaders of Third Way I think it was Jonathan Chait with "New
York" magazine, they said les than 1 percent of our funding comes from Wall
Street. But what they were also left opened was the possibility that a lot
of money comes from people who make their money on Wall Street. So, it`s
not directly coming. But it is still in a way Wall Street money.
MCKAY COPPINS, BUZZFEED: Well, what strikes me about the internal
Democratic debate versus the internal Republican debate, at least in
Washington, is that the debate on the left seems much more substantive,
right? There are genuine disagreements over policy that are taking place
and shaping this debate.
On the right, the Republican civil war that we talk about, in
Washington at least, it`s more about tactics and strategy and how
aggressive. They`re shut down, for example. The government shutdown,
there was a lot of disagreement in Washington about that. But that wasn`t
a policy. That was all about how much hard ball to play, right? And so,
Republicans disagree about that.
Now, when you expand the Republican debate to governors and to people
across the country, there are substantive differences.
But in Washington on the left, there is a real policy divide that`s
taking place and that`s going to be important.
KORNACKI: We talked about this, Jonathan. Can we illustrate, are
there numbers, are there names we can put on it? How is the party divided,
how is the Democratic Party divide right notice when it comes to questions
of economic populism?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, I think -- I
think we are seeing it right now. I mean, all this talk about whether
Senator Warren is going to run against former Secretary Clinton. I mean,
that`s where you see the dividing line. But think McCain brings up a very
good point, and that is -- I`m glad you set it, because I was just about to
jump in, that there is a policy difference here battle that`s happening
within the Democratic Party.
And Third Way as a matter of full disclosure -- I talked to folks at
Third Way all the time. I mean, they are, yes, they`re centrist, they`re
clear-eyed States. But they`re looking at it not looking at issues as rah-
rah Democrats. They`re looking at it for what`s good for the country from
a centrist -- from a center-left point of view.
Now, that`s not going to go over very well, Sally gives me this side
eyes. It`s not going to go over well with you. But there is a legitimate
debate to be had about what to do about Social Security. Just because
Social Security is fine now doesn`t mean that it`s going to be fine in 2031
and something needs to be done.
Folks at Third Way are looking at this as 2031 is going to get here
whether we like it or not. And so, let`s get things in place as they would
say save Social Security, save Medicaid and Medicare.
KORNACKI: That`s what`s interesting to me -- if we want to talk
about Social Security, what`s interesting to me about this moment is the
debate about Social Security, as long as I have been alive and as long as
I`ve been hearing this has been framed in those terms. Save Social
Security. Salvage Social Security in 1983, in 19 -- we always had these
There is an attempt right now that I`m seeing, at least by Elizabeth
Warren and others on the left, to just change the terms of the debate.
It`s not about Social Security`s future is always on the line, there are
steps we can take that could actually make this a much bigger program which
raising the tap on the payroll tax, something like that.
I haven`t seen anybody pushing for that debate to take place in the
Democratic Party. Now, I`m seeing that for the first time.
KOHN: It`s incredibly refreshing. Look, I don`t want to argue with
Jonathan as, though, he`s the proxy for Third Way.
KOHN: I will say this much, what`s fascinating to McKay`s point as
well about the Republican Party. They keep losing, right? I mean, we
talked about the voter suppression, all of that, the reason they`re trying
to suppress votes is because they know that their demographic is getting
older, effectively, you know, going to that great polling box in the sky.
You know, we have the country with us. We are winning larger and larger
majorities on the left and yet and yet Republicans remain very steadfast
about these incredibly unpopular views, whether it`s social issues or
And here you have Democrats --
KOHN: The point is the Democrats win. We won. We still won`t say
hey, let`s actually preserve the social safety net that made this country
CAPEHART: Democrats are winning outside of Washington. Senator
Warren is the only one of Senator Warren on Capitol Hill. When you look on
the right, the Tea Party, you can look, since 2010, there are a lot of Tea
Party people on Capitol Hill. So, until -- unless and until Senator Warren
reinforcements of new people coming to Washington and some of these folks
who are now speaking out against Third Way, if they then back up their
criticisms of Third Way by standing directly behind Senator Warren and
giving her some back up, then I think what you are talking about --
KORNACKI: That is perfect -- we will pick this up after the break
because there were some on the left are saying they sensed a change, a
pivot in a way from the president this week closer to the Warren campus --
some of the things that he said in a speech this week. We`re going to play
clips about that. We`re going to talk about that, and also the idea of
maybe the equivalent grassroots movement towards the Tea Party cropping on
the left that`s going to try to go after more aggressively the Third Way
types. There`s some news about that this week.
Long tease there, but that`s what`s we`re going to talk about next in
the next segment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: A relentlessly growing deficit of opportunity is a bigger
threat to our future than our rapidly shrinking fiscal deficit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The president on Wednesday speaking at the Center for
American Progress. He talked -- he invoked the fast food workers in there.
He talked about raising the minimum wage in that speech.
Paul Krugman, liberal economist writing in "The New York Times",
responded during the week by writing, "Finally, our political class has
spent years obsessed with a fake problem, worrying about debt and deficits
that never pose a threat to the nation`s future, while showing no interest
in unemployment and stagnating wages. Mr. Obama, I`m sorry to say bought
into that diversion. Now, however, he is moving on."
Isaac, do you share that reading that Paul Krugman had, that two,
three years ago, everybody in Washington was all sold on a deficit
reduction, including the president, himself, and now even President Obama
is showing publicly an inclination to move closer to that Warren style
populism we`re talking about?
CHOTINER: Yes, I think the rhetoric has changed. And just to go
back to the last segment, I think that Jonathan was saying that the Tea
Party has people in Washington. There are a lot of Tea Party congressmen,
and there is Elizabeth Warren in Washington, but there isn`t this
grassroots progressive movement.
And I think if it`s going to come, it`s going to come in the next few
years, because you have the thing with the Tea Party rhetoric. It was
followed by some sort of electoral victory. And now, you got the rhetoric.
The question is whether people can be elected to Washington.
KORNACKI: Next, you know, the Tea Party -- the power of the Tea
Party the president talked about this in his interview, we kept plugging
his interview with MSNBC this week with Chris Matthews, where he talked
ability how they scare, the Tea Party has scared Republicans in Republican
So, let`s about Third Way here. Give me an idea first of all. We
say this term Third Way, this group, here are Democratic members of
Congress, I think we have a list here, who are affiliated with, who are
aligning with, they are the honorary co-chairs, Democrats in the Senate,
Democrats in the House, they associate themselves with Third Way.
And Third Way is a part of this sort of centrist tradition that
sprouted up around the DLC, around Bill Clinton in the ``80s and `90s.
Third Way is the latest incarnation of that. It was founded in 2005, in
the wake of this whole flap with Elizabeth Warren this week, Jonathan, I
think it was "Daily Kos," the site of "Daily Kos" basically promised, they
would go out and they would support and they would help raise money for any
Democratic candidate who promised not to join Third Way if elected.
So I saw a little hint of the Tea Partyism right there in terms of
enforcing discipline to primaries.
CAPEHART: You know, look, "Daily Kos", if they want to do that,
great. If they`re successful -- well, I guess that`s great, too. If you
can knock out a sitting long-term member of Congress so that someone to the
left of that person, more power to them.
But the danger here is what we`re seeing on the right. The fact that
you`ve got people in the Senate and the House who are wildly conservative
who are not considered conservative enough and being knocked out and
bringing in people who are recalcitrant, who don`t know anything about
compromise, I don`t know if I want the see the party and the left become a
mirror of the right.
KOHN: I`m sorry, Jonathan. I love you. I think that`s a false
equivalency. Elizabeth Warren, right, is no sort of extremist. She`s
CAPEHART: I`m not trying to do a false equivalence. I`m worried
about the tenor and tone of debate in the country. But I`m also worried
about the fact that we can`t get anything done now because of crazies on
the right. So, you want to then bring not the equivalent but folks on the
left who are just as recalcitrant.
KOHN: First of all, we can`t get anything done, so what a great time
to actually at least make rhetorically a case for real progressive
populism. And second of all, again, this is actually where the American
people are at. That what kills me in all of this, is that the entire
political system, including the mainstream of the Democratic Party, is
actually to the right of where the American people are, the sort of bread
and butter, Main Street populism that resonates with the American people.
And let`s not forget, some of which got co-opted, but some of which
drove the Tea Party to power is their opposition to TARP and the bank
bailouts, and all of that. That resonates right and left, actually.
COPPINS: To the way you know if this economic populism on the left
has made real advances is if President Obama fully embraces it, right? We
actually recently interviewed Al Fromm, (INAUDIBLE), the founder of the
Democratic Leadership Council, early iteration of Third Way. And one of
the things he said, he`s never been a huge ally of President Obama`s.
But one thing he said, he feels throughout Obama`s presidency, he has
been a counter puncher was his word, and that he`s -- because he has always
been reacting, whether to the Tea Party or the left or to various events.
He has failed to really outline a strong and unifying ideology for the
Democratic Party and you see in that speech, he says, I kind of walked the
line between the economic populist and more establishment, Wall Street
So, the way you`ll know that this economic populism is taking hold of
the Democratic Party is really succeeds in winning over President Obama in
his second term, right? He`s a lame duck. He doesn`t have to run again
for re-election. This would be a time to embrace it.
KORNACKI: Well, does it set the terms for debate for 2016? Does
Hillary Clinton, if she`s going to run, does she start embracing some of
these themes? Does it open up space on the left if she doesn`t? I wonder
if we are sort of that at a turning point. When you look at in 1980s,
Democrats kept losing presidential elections, the DLC, the Democratic
leadership, Al Fromm.
Spring out of that, Bill Clinton came from that. Bill Clinton --
this was this instinct Bill Clinton formed this alliance between the
Democratic Party and Wall Street.
You know, there was a Third Way moment for President Obama when he
brought in Bill Daley as his chief of staff. Bill Daley is a Third Way
guy. He tried to have the grand bargain for Republicans in 2011.
Now, I wonder post-grand bargain, you listen to Obama this week, I
wonder if we`re at a turning point. That DLC generation that defined the
Democratic Party, if that is fading off in the scene.
CHOTINER: You mentioned 2011, when Obama brought in Bill Daley. And
I think, just to go back to the Third Way op-ed, I think a lot of the
objections about are strategic as well as substantive, which is one of the
critics of Obama during this time in 2010-2011, is that his manner of
negotiating is to say I will offer you this. And it didn`t work auto very
And I think a lot of liberals, when they read things like the Third
Way op-ed, they say, OK, here are people ostensibly a part of the
Democratic Party, part of the liberal coalition. And they are starting the
conversation by saying, we`re going to cut Medicare, we`re going to cut
Social Security. And today`s Republican Party, even if you think
substantively that`s correct, which a lot of liberals do not, that`s really
not a good way to go about it.
KORNACKI: We`ll pick it up on the other side, because I do want to
talk about that issue of where the Democratic Party is going. It`s not a
question of whether Hillary will or won`t she? That`s what she says when
she runs. I think that`s part of why we`re having this discussion now. We
will pick it up right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We know that there are airport workers, and fast-food
workers, and nurse assistants, and retail salespeople who work their tails
off and are still living at or barely above poverty. And that`s why it`s
well past the time to raise a minimum wage that in real terms right now is
below where it was when Harry Truman was in office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It`s more from President Obama on Wednesday. Now, he`s
speaking in front of liberal audience there, the Center for American
Progress. But he`s touting some, you know, populist themes. And,
Jonathan, when you look at the Obama presidency, I see you got pastry in
your month --
KORNACKI: I may have picked the wrong time.
CAPEHART: Go on, I`ll wait.
KORNACKI: But when you look at the Obama campaign in 2008, there was
a lot of populist appeal in the Obama campaign in 2008. Would you -- do
you think he has any of the instinct, has he shown you his instinct in
terms of the populist?
CAPEHART: OK. Well, therein lies the difference.
I think that speech in the Center of American Progress is very
similar to the speech he gave in Kansas, which I think is very similar to
speeches he has given throughout his national political career.
And so, I think his heart and mind are in the right place, but when
you are sitting in the Oval Office, when you are the president, all of a
sudden I realize I can`t exactly do everything I`d like to do. These folks
here won`t let me do things, even if I want to do them, whether it`s good
for the country, good for my party, I can`t get a lot of these things done.
And like chew on my head, but I mean -- you know, I feel for the
president because you cannot listen to that speech or the Kansas speech, or
any time he speaks about the pain and suffering and the hardships that the
American people are going through and he can`t do nearly as much for the
country as he would like to.
Remember, he put forth the American Jobs Act in September, 2011.
Republican ideas, Democratic ideas and couldn`t get it done. So, I think
from that point on, it`s like, you know what, they`re not going to let me
do anything. This is leading up to the presidential campaign.
So, remember he went around the country hammering Republicans for
basically abandoning the American people. I mean, I don`t know, Sally,
what more can the president do --
KORNACKI: That`s one of the questions.
CAPEHART: -- to make you happy.
KORNACKI: That`s one of the questions. So it`s about the limits of
the political system. Isn`t it?
KOHN: No question.
KORNACKI: I mean, it`s about if the Republicans are running the
House, and obstruction is the rule --
KOHN: Yes. So, look I agree that there needs to be and we should
talk about -- I want to applaud the Progressive Change Campaign Committee,
which helped get Elizabeth Warren elected, which has been behind this
attack of Third Way and is changing that by trying to get more progressive
Democrats elected. So that`s the right direction.
I want to go back, you know, when the president even was first
nominated, right, he put a bunch of Rubin, Larry Summer acolytes into his
inner circle. He put in Clinton people. He put in Rahm Emanuel. When he
had both houses, this was not, oh, look at me, I`m a big old progressive,
right? He can do things with the Department of Labor, with the Department
of Justice to hold banks accountable, to make the situation better for
And, you know, this example of the minimum wage, he just, this week,
he made news -- let`s not forget -- by announcing he was in support of a
higher raise of a minimum wage than he had previously been. Now, if you
can`t get stuff through, at least you can make rhetorical cases, especially
when a majority of American people support.
CAPEHART: And remember, second terms are very liberated things.
CAPEHART: I tease that point. I wonder, too, when you look at that,
we talked about the Bill Daley moment, the Third Way moment for the Obama
White House, it came right after the 2010 midterms, right? It came right
after Republicans won 60-something seats in the House. Would have won back
the Senate if it hadn`t been for like the Christine O`Donnell types.
There`s a horrible drubbing for Democrats in 2010. And part of what
was the root of that was Democrats taking action, having power in the
House, having power in the Senate, to take action on a major progressive
agenda, right, health care reform.
I mean, Democrats always won in polling for years, which party do you
want to have oversee health care reform? Democrats. Who has the better
plan? Democrats. Obama versus McCain -- Obama, definitely.
They went in and they implement it. They used their power to
implement and they faced a backlash. They faced a backlash for doing
something that in the polls in 2008 would have been very popular.
So, I think -- I wonder, Sally, I wonder if you talk about how
popular each of these individual agenda items re. I wonder if some
Democrats say, you know, health care was supposed to be popular, too.
KOHN: Yes. Here`s my favorite political point of all time, which is
made by I think brilliant Michael Tomasky, which is that both parties fear
their flanks, their far right flank and far left flank, but they fear in
The Republicans fear the far right, have always feared the far right
in the sense of oh, no, we better appease them, we better not piss them of
KORNACKI: They lose primaries.
KOHN: Democrats fear the left of their party, oh, we don`t want to
be associated which them, right? And you see how, you know, you can see
this sort of play out in election after election. This sort of like, ooh,
we don`t want to seem like we are which those people, right? When, in
fact, that is who elects presidents. That is who elects senators in this
country. That is the Democratic base and increasingly, every poll shows
they are representing more and more of this sort of populist unmet need
KORNACKI: What you`re describing there, though, is right. When
Democrats start losing primaries, when the -- I don`t want to see
equivalent of Christine O`Donnell. But when somebody like Mike Castle
loses a primary --
KOHN: And not be afraid to criticize the president, right? I get
that the right is criticizing him. That stinks. They always have. But we
can still hold him accountable and push him --
COPPINS: It`s fascinating five years into Obama`s presidency, we are
still arguing over what he really believes and where --
KORNACKI: Coming up, maybe because he`s a good politician.
Coming up next, America`s favorite hit, a trivia made for cable news,
political and/or country events quiz show "Up Against the Clocks" don`t
adjust your clocks. It is happening this hour. It`s happening in minutes.
KORNACKI: In 1961, five years before he was elected governor of
California, Ronald Reagan appeared on the game show "I`ve Got a Secret" to
reveal something big to the American public, oh, sort of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: The real test of a good announcer
is whether he can keep from breaking up, whether he cannot laugh or go to
pieces no matter what`s going to happen while he`s on the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) what it is you`re going to give Henry
and Steve when announce this test to see if they can pass it without
laughing or breaking up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Believe it or not, I had to pass that same test before I
got this dig. If you think it is hard to concentrate while Ronald Reagan
is blowing a horn at you, then wait until you see what we have in store for
our contestant on "Up Against the Clock", a weekly current events quiz
show. It`s coming up next.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Studio 3A in Rockefeller Center USA, it`s time
for "Up Against the Clock."
Our first contestant, the pride of Allentown, Pennsylvania, where
they even named a day after her, Sally Kohn.
From Holliston, Massachusetts, the home of Major League first
baseman, a career .254 hitter Mark Sweeney, please welcome, McKay Coppins.
And our returning champion from Oakland, California, his two-day
winnings total $10 in leftover Hanukkah Hills, say hello to Isaac Chotiner.
Right now, the host of "Up Against the Clock," Steve Kornacki.
KORNACKI: Thank you, Bill Wolff. Thank you contestants. Thank you,
studio audience. Thank you for joining us as home for another action-
packed edition of "Up Against the Clock."
Contestants, welcome. We are glad you are here today. I think you
all know the rules. By now, we have three round of play. Wrong answers
will cost you. And there are a few instant bonuses scattered in these
As always, I must remind the studio audience, please, no outburst.
These contestants demand absolute concentration when they`re "Up Against
And with that, I will ask you, contestants, are you ready to play?
COPPINS: We are ready.
KOHN: We`re ready, Steve.
KORNACKI: Sounds ready.
We have 100 seconds on the clock. We`re going to go to the first
round, 100-point round. We have 100 second on the clock. And we go.
Unemployment fell this week to exactly 7 percent. In what year was it last
lower than 7 percent?
Need an answer.
KOHN: I`m going to go which 1730.
COPPINS: In 2008.
KORNACKI: 2008 is correct, 100 points for McKay.
A hundred-point question, 8, 5, or 4, how many days is the House of
Representatives scheduled to be -- Sally.
KOHN: I`m going to go with 26, Steve.
KORNACKI: It wasn`t one of the choices, incorrect. A hundred-point
question, William Bratton. I`m sorry, that question is on the floor for
everybody else. So, I`m floored by that answer. Eight, five or four, how
many days is the House of Representatives scheduled to be in session
between now and the end of the year?
KORNACKI: Four is correct, 100 points for Isaac.
A hundred point question -- William Bratton who was tapped this week
by incoming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to serve as police
commissioner. Once held the same post under Rudy Giuliani and in this West
CHOTINER: Los Angeles.
KORNACKI: Los Angeles is correct.
KORNACKI: He`s first, Sally.
A hundred-point question, Christie FOX who was appointed this week to
the number two position in the Pentagon was also the inspiration for the
female lead opposite -- Isaac.
CHOTINER: Opposite Tom Cruise in "Top Gun."
KORNACKI: In "Top Gun" is correct. Hundred points, and this is an
"Top Gun" was the top grossing movie in 1986. What Down Under comedy
finished as a close second that year?
CHOTINER: "Crocodile Dundee".
KORNACKI: "Crocodile Dundee", it is 100 more points.
That brings us to the end of the run. Isaac, with that bonus, goes
to 300. McKay at zero. Sandy, with some unorthodox guessing work at
But this takes us to the 200 point round. Value doubles on these
questions. We put 100 seconds on the clock.
And with round two, we now begin. Speaking Friday the GOP opening of
an African-American outreach office, Senator Rand Paul said it`s, quote,
"the beginning of a new Republican Party" in what city? Sally?
KOHN: I`m going to go with "Crocodile Dundee," Steve.
KORNACKI: I`m not sure how you are. But that`s incorrect.
In what city did he make those remarks? McKay?
KORNACKI: Detroit is correct. Two hundred points for McKay.
Two hundred-point question -- the man who managed Bill de Blasio`s
successful campaign for mayor of New York abruptly quit his new role as the
campaign manager for this Florida Democrat running for governor -- Isaac.
CHOTINER: Charlie Crist.
KORNACKI: Charlie Crist, 200 points for Isaac.
Two hundred-point question, filing for re-election on Tuesday this
scandal-plagued D.C. mayor announced he would seek a second term -- Sally.
KOHN: I`d like to call McKay part (ph)? Can I get McKay --
KORNACKI: Not on option. The two seem to want to play the game.
CHOTINER: Marion Barry.
MCKAY: See, he can play.
KORNACKI: Vincent Gray is running for re-election as the mayor of
Two hundred-point question. This former NBA star who has made
several high profile visits to North Korea is recently -- Isaac.
CHOTINER: Dennis Rodman.
KORNACKI: Dennis Rodman for 200 points.
This is another instant bonus question. When he played in the NBA,
Isaac, what was Dennis Rodman`s nickname?
CHOTINER: Dennis Rodman`s nickname. Oh, the Worm.
KORNACKI: The Worm, it was. Two hundred more points for Isaac.
He`s running with this right now.
Two hundred-point question -- this prominent Catholic University
filed suit on Tuesday opposing birth control provisions in it.
CHOPPINS: Notre Dame.
KORNACKI: Notre Dame, it is. University of Notre Dame.
Two hundred-point question, it was recorded this week one day after
he leaves New York city hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will travel to this
state to raise money for U.S. Senator Brian Schatz?
KOHN: I`m going to go with Dennis Rodman.
KORNACKI: Incorrect. He`s out to Hawaii for a point to Senator
Brian Schatz the day after he leaves office, the end of round two. Isaac
has pulled ahead 1,000 point. McKay at 200. Sally at negative 600. She
is down in Lawrence O`Donnell territory there.
We have 300-point round, though. This is the PhD level. Lots can
change. With the 300-point questions. The game will be decided here. We
put 100 seconds on the clock, 300-point round begins now.
Saddled which the worst credit in the country, this blue state
enacted sweeping pension reforms that will cut benefits for state workers
and save an estimated $160 billion over the next 30 years.
We`ll call it time. Illinois is the answer to that, 300-point
What embattled red state Democratic senator launched a television ad
this week invoking religion and calling the Bible his, quote, "North Star"?
KOHN: The music in my ear is really nice.
KORNACKI: We`ll call time. It`s Arkansas`s Mark Pryor. We watched
that ad this week.
Three hundred-point question, after months of speculation, reports
surfaced on Friday that this long serving Mississippi Republican senator --
CHOTINER: Thad Cochran.
KORNACKI: Thad Cochran will seek a seventh term in 2014. Three
hundred more points for Isaac.
Three hundred-point question. This former New Hampshire Republican
senator announced last Sunday that he will seek to challenge Democratic
incumbent Jeanne Shaheen.
KOHN: Thad Cochran.
KORNACKI: Thad Cochran is incorrect. I notice a pattern here.
The former Republican senator who would like to challenge Jeanne
Shaheen, Isaac, or McKay?
KOHN: At least I had an answer.
KORNACKI: The answer is Bob Smith. Former Senator Bob Smith.
Three hundred-point question. As a government budget deadline
approaches, what program according to "Politico" emerged Friday as the
possible derailment in any compromise between congressional budget
negotiators, Democratic Patty Murray and Paul Ryan? What program is
CHOTINER: Unemployment benefits.
KORNACKI: Unemployment benefits is the answer for 300.
Three hundred-point question. Congressman Randy Forbes, according to
an article in "Politico", is pressuring the National Republican
Congressional Committee not to financially support Republican candidate who
KORNACKI: Gay is correct. Three hundred points for McKay. That
brings us to the end of the game.
The final score, Isaac has tied the all time record with 1,600
points. McKay with 500. Sally has set a record as well with negative
Isaac, we have prize package for you and Bill Wolff is going to tell
you all about it.
ANNOUNCER: As our champion, we`ll have your name printed in
exquisite Sharpee, on the coveted "Up Against the Clock" gold cup. And
you`ll get to take the trophy home with you and show it off to friends,
family and local school children for exactly one week.
You`ll also receive an appearance this coming week on MSNBC`s "THE
CYCLE," airing weekdays, 3:00 to 4:00 Eastern Time.
You will also get to play in our bonus round. For today`s grand
prize of $50 gift certificate to Rutt`s Hut in Clifton, New Jersey, serving
up the best franks in the greater Meadowland`s area, by the River Road
(INAUDIBLE) is on us.
Back to you, Steve.
KORNACKI: That is an exciting prize package. Congratulations,
Isaac. And now, we have your jackpot bonus question for that $50 gift
One question here, with everything on the line. Here it is, Isaac.
The last white South African president who oversaw Nelson Mandela`s
released from prison helped him and partnered with him to create the
country`s first democratic elections in 1994 and also went on to serve as
deputy president in Mandela`s administration was who?
CHOTINER: De Klerk.
KORNACKI: De Klerk is correct. F.W. de Klerk, the $50 gift
Isaac, congratulations, you are going Rott`s Hut, the best fried
hotdog place in the greater Meadowlands area. That is all yours, 1,600
points. As we said, that ties the all time record on this show.
You will definitely back for the tournament champions.
We can give you a taste of the leader`s board right now. Let`s put
that up on the screen.
Tying Brian Boyler (ph), 1,600, Isaac Chotiner. You see Krystal Ball
is way up there. Alice Siswald (ph).
Tournament of champions is coming up soon, folks. Isaac will
definitely be a part of it.
McKay and Sally, I don`t want you to think you`re leaving us empty-
handed. You`ll take the home edition back with you. Fun for everybody,
fun for kids of all ages. We accept those under 12.
We will be back with final thoughts right after this.
KORNACKI: All right. Just enough time left to find out what our
guests know now that they didn`t know when the week begun.
We will start with you, Sally.
KOHN: I know I can`t win a game show. Also, I have (IANUDIBLE) up
live on the Web site. People can find it at SallyKohn.com. Famous self-
promotion. Please watch it.
KORNACKI: But I think you knew that when we began.
COPPINS: Amid all the Nelson Mandela coverage this week, there`s an
interesting piece of it on "BuzzFeed" right now that goes through some of
the quotes that he gave that you won`t see in the U.S. media, talking about
Israel, capitalism, Gadhafi. There`s really interesting stuff. I would go
check it out.
KORNACKI: All right. Jonathan?
CAPEHART: Steve, something that I did know that I don`t think the
audience knows, Nelson Mandela was a big gay and lesbian rights supporter.
When he became president of South Africa, the new constitution of South
Africa, the first in the world includes discrimination protection for
people based on sexual orientation. That came within less than six months
of his becoming president.
KORNACKI: Well, I didn`t know that. That`s amazing. Thanks for
CHOTINER: Boris Johnson, the conservative mayor of London, got in
hot water this week. He gave a speech where he praised the lords of
finance praised greed, actually, ala the movie "Wall Street", and then he
said the reason we had inequality or the one of the reasons we have
inequality is because people are too stupid at the bottom. Their IQs are
Johnson then himself went on a London radio show and failed an IQ
KORNACKI: That is one of the greatest postscripts ever.
My thanks to columnist Sally Kohn, "BuzzFeed`s" McKay Coppins, "The
Washington Post`s" Jonathan Capehart and new "Up Against the Clock"
champion, Isaac Chotiner of "The New Republic."
CAPEHART: Reigning champion.
KORNACKI: All-time high score. Very impressive.
Thank you for joining us today on UP. Join us tomorrow morning at
8:00 for a look at the world`s love affair with Pope Francis. I will make
the case that he`d be right at home on Capitol Hill with the master of the
Senate. I`ll explain that tomorrow.
We will also be talking about carpetbagging, Liz Cheney, Scott Brown
and others. We`ve got five rules for what to do and not to do trying to
run in a state you`re not actually from.
But up next is Melissa Harris-Perry to talk about America`s
increasingly stark income inequality, what is becoming a defining issue of
President Obama has issued an impassioned call to action. Will the
GOP respond and if so how? That`s next in Nerdland.
We will see you tomorrow right here tomorrow at 8:00. Thanks for
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