April 22, 2014
Guests: Jeffrey Rosen; Sherrilyn Ifill; Donna Edwards, Goldie Taylor,
Richard Wolffe, Stephanie George
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR, THE ED SHOW: That`s "the Ed Show." I`m Ed
Schultz. "Politics Nation" with Reverend Al Sharpton starts right now.
Good evening, Rev.
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you
for tuning in.
Tonight`s lead, a devastating blow for equal opportunity. Today, the
Supreme Court upheld Michigan`s ban on affirmative action on public
colleges. The 6-2 decision sets a dangerous precedent on protecting
minorities, and it has wide reaching implications for race in America.
The court ruled that Michigan did not violate the constitution when its
voters banned affirmative action back in 2006. Judge Anthony Kennedy wrote
for the majority, saying, quote, "this case is not about how the debate
about racial preferences should be resolved, it`s about who may resolve
But justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote a blistering dissent saying quote "the
stock reality is that race still matters. The way to stop discrimination
on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race
and to apply the constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate affect of
centuries of racial discrimination. We ought not sit back and wish away
rather than confront the racial inequality that exists in society."
Sotomayor went on to write that her colleagues were, quote, "out of touch
At the university of Michigan, we`re already seeing the consequences where
black enrollment has falling. And Michigan isn`t alone. Eight states now
have bans on affirmative action in higher education. Today`s decision
clears the way for many more to join them. And it rips open disturbing
questions about diversity and opportunity in America. If race can be voted
out as a factor in education, what`s next?
Joining me now is Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director council of the
NAACP legal defense fund and education fund, and Jeffrey Rosen, professor
at George Washington law school and president and CEO of the national
Thank you both for being here tonight.
SHERRILYN IFILL, PRESIDENT, DIRECTOR COUNCIL, LEGAL DEFENSE FUND AND
EDUCATION FUND: Thanks for having me.
JEFFREY ROSEN, PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON LAW SCHOOL: Thank you,
SHARPTON: Let me go to you first, I mean, you`ve helped lead this fight
for diversity in higher education. What`s your reaction to today`s ruling?
IFILL: Well, obviously, I`m disappointed in today`s decision, not entirely
surprised, but disappointed. I do want to dial back the predictions of,
you know, devastation, because it`s very important that we recognize what
did not happen today as well as what did happen today.
What did not happen today is that the Supreme Court left untouched its
decision from 2003 in the Gutter case, meaning that affirmative action is
still alive and well. What the Supreme Court did do today was it did say
that it is constitutional for a state, as in the case of Michigan to
essentially alter the political process, to require those who are seeking,
to ensure that this is opportunity and access and inclusion of racial
minority, of ethnic minorities, of national origin minorities at University
of Michigan to essentially, if they want to influence that process and have
race or any of those factors be considered, they would have to actually
amend the constitution to overcome this referendum.
But if you are a representative of the university`s alumni association, if
you are a representative of athletes and you want those considerations to
weigh more heavily on the admissions process, you can simply lobby, use
your influence, engage in the political process like any other group. Only
if you want race, national origin or ethnicity to be considered do you have
to face this constitutional hurdle.
And so essentially, what the court did today was that it licensed Michigan
and essentially our federal constitution, there is nothing in our federal
constitution that stops voters in a state from being able to create this
higher hurdle for those who are trying to press for opportunity and access
when it`s based on race, national origin or ethnicity.
SHARPTON: But Jeff, this means and you study courts and you have covered
this, I don`t know if you saw this coming, maybe you can tell me, but
essentially, it does not define where race and race is, but it does give
authority for the states to vote with referendums against race will then
puts it on people that have my feeling that they need to get referendums
and mobilize to put race back in which is an awesome task, but it leaves
the door open, a little crack, a little light. I just hope this is not the
ROSEN: Well, that`s a good way to put it, Reverend. But I do agree
Sherrilyn. The decision is neither a surprised nor does it really change
the legal status quo. As she said it does not revisit the decisions that
say affirmative action is permitted. However, it says it`s not
And for better or for worse, Justice Sotomayor wrote a passionate dissent,
one of the most important of her career. And she powerfully lays out the
long history of attempts to circumvent formal guarantees of racial equality
and she says we can`t close our eyes to what`s really going on here in
terms of the effects on minority enrollment.
However, the cases on which she was relying, decided mostly in the 60s and
`70s have been so narrowed by the Supreme Court that court watchers are not
surprised really that they weren`t relied on here. The big surprise it
should be small comforting (ph) in fact is that only Justices Scalia and
Thomas wanted to formally overrule those decisions that say when a decision
is clearly is intended to and has the effect of injuring minorities then
you can`t decide it at the state level.
Justice Kennedy and Justice Roberts and Justice Alito wanted to preserve
those decisions. They just said it`s not clear that bans on affirmative
action harms minorities, reasons where people can disagree about that. And
we think that should be decided at the Democratic level.
It was very interesting that Justice Stephen Brier, a liberal justice
joined the conservatives in this respect. He cares a lot about of our
democracy. And he said look, basically liberals are going to be better
putting their faith in the ballot box than not. And I think because the
people decided to ban it here, the courts should defer. It doesn`t change
the status quo that much.
SHARPTON: Sherrilyn, when we take this out of the court into the real
world, when we look at the fact that when this case was first heard in the
court last October, I was inside Justice Scalia made the comment that
really took me by surprise. I know you all are veteran court watchers and
listeners but listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIN SCALIA, JUSTICE: We`ve held that the 14th amendment protects all
races. I mean, that was the argument in the early years that it protected
only -- only the blacks. But I thought we rejected that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Only the blacks. I mean, it was startling. But then, when you
look at the fallout, here`s the impact on the ban of affirmative action at
the University of Michigan. In the year before the ban, the school`s
freshman class was seven percent African-American. The year after the ban,
it fell to five percent.
The same pattern in California at Berkeley. Before affirmative action ban,
the freshman class was at 14 percent, Sherrilyn, African-American. The
year after the ban, it fell all the way to nine percent.
So even though this court has not made a decision in terms of race, it now
has opened the door to other states now that could now put up referendums
and really ban race by using referendums which this court has now opened
the door wide to, which makes voting even more imperative, because you can
have a state by state banning of race. And never have to have the Supreme
Court do it now.
IFILL: Yes. Reverend Sharpton, I think your point is very well taken.
And that is why voters have to be awake and alert to the kind of rhetoric
that`s going to be used as was used in Michigan. The disinformation, the
fear mongering, the idea of, you know, others coming in, to take what is
ours. The idea of demonizing minorities as being ill equipped to take
their place at university level.
And I think, Reverend Sharpton, we actually have to extrapolate the figures
that you gave, you know, into what this means for the future in these
states. State universities educate the leaders of their state.
The university of Maryland educates most of the leaders in Maryland. If
you look at the general assembly in Maryland, if you look at upwards of 90
percent of the judges on Alabama`s appellate court went through the
university of Alabama system. Seventy eight percent of the legislators in
Florida went through the University of Florida system.
Those state institutions are educating the leaders of tomorrow. And it is
the reason why so many state institution actually want to use affirmative
action because they want to create a diverse learning environment for the
futures so that leaders that they`re developing for tomorrow.
So, it is not just the figures that we see today which are bad enough, as
you say, in University of Michigan, African-American students a month and a
half ago has to sleep in overnight to protest what they say is the racially
hostile environment on that campus. But it is also the future leadership
within the states in this country that is at peril.
SHARPTON: You know, Jeffrey, when you look at Robert`s court, it has a
history of decisions that negatively impact minorities. In 2007, they
limited the use of races, school integration efforts. 2008, they upheld
Indiana`s photo ID voting requirement. Last year, they cut into voting
rights act. Today, they upheld Michigan`s affirmative action ban. This
court has a pattern that is disturbing at best.
ROSEN: Well, it`s absolutely true, Reverend Sharpton, that the
conservatives on the Roberts court embrace a vision of color blindness
that`s not sympathetic to any kind of racial classification, even those
that are intended to help minority. And that sort of decision inspired
passionate dissents from liberal justices like Justice Brier and Justice
Ginsberg saying they were ignoring history and that really finally when
minorities get a break, when they have universities or state legislatures
to enact policies in their favor, then the conservative courts strike them
That`s what made this court -- this case so interesting, even someone like
Justice Brier, who wrote a 77-page dissent from the court`s decision
striking down affirmative action a few years ago said this case is
different. I really feel that, Brier said, that as long as these decisions
are made democratically, school boards should be allowed to adopt
affirmative action as many are doing, but if the people of the state want
to ban it, then the constitution doesn`t speak to that.
That`s why Sherrilynn is so correct, that it`s important both to stress the
effectiveness of these policies and decreasing enrollment. It is important
to stress that every time the court has tried to ban affirmative action,
state legislatures and university have responded by trying to preserve it.
So there is a strong constituency for affirmative action in universities.
What is necessary now is for supporters on the affirmative action to
convince the people of the state, the people of each state, that these
policies are necessary. You know, the polls are quite close on this. So I
think there is a fighting chance. There`s no reason --
SHARPTON: It`s going to have to be a fight, though, Sherrilyn. And these
referendums can pop-up everywhere. It`s going to take a lot of
mobilization. Let`s not forget in 2006, this was called the civil rights
initiative in Michigan. And a lot of people voted for it, thinking they
were voting for affirmative action and in fact, it wasn`t because it was
entitled the civil rights initiative.
IFILL: That`s exactly right. That`s when I mean when I say voters will
have to be alert and awake to recognize that this will be wrapped in the
cotton wool of color blindness and will be described as civil rights
initiative, but this is what it means.
And this is why Justice Sotomayor`s dissent is so important. I challenge
your viewers to read her dissent. Because what she has done is she has
articulated a reality that is too rarely spoken in the public domain and
certainly by leaders. And her insistence that we deal with the reality of
race, recognizing all the progress that we`ve made, we`ve made
extraordinary progress, but she articulates a very powerful personal, not
personal to her, but a recognition of the way race plays out in the lives
of real people in this country.
And I think her decision, and actually her statement that you read,
Reverend Sharpton, that the only way to deal with discrimination is to talk
about it openly and candidly, is a direct response to justice -- chief
justice` Roberts articulation in 2007 that the only way to stop racial
discrimination is to stop discriminating based on race.
She rejects that and offers a powerful narrative that counters what she
would regard as a kind of fantasy land of race that the majority engages
SHARPTON: And in fairness, he land as a good way of putting it. I have
more to say later in the show on this. But I must say, Jeff, there is a
difference between those who say color blindness and those that cover their
Sherrilyn Ifill and Jeffrey Rosen, thank you both for your time tonight.
IFILL: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton.
SHARPTON: Ahead, a new sign of the Republican vision that guts from the
poor to give to the rich is widening the inequality gap.
Plus, senator Elizabeth Warren is fighting back, blasting a Republican
congress, fighting for corporations that keep the playing field tilted in
Plus, the Obamacare fight Democrats are going on offense as new numbers
reveal it`s very popular in very red states.
A day after the Obama administration makes a big move forward on correcting
the injustices of our legal system, we hear this woman`s remarkable story
of hope. It`s a big show tonight.
Please stay with us.
SHARPTON: A new report shows the brutal new effects of Republican economic
policy. But Democrats are fighting back. And Senator Elizabeth Warren is
helping lead charge. That`s next.
SHARPTON: Today, another stark reminder of the growing divide between the
rich and everyone else in this country. "The New York Times" reports the
American middle class is no longer the world`s richest. Instead of being
the backbone of this country, American families are paying a steep price
for high and rising income inequality.
That`s right, in this country, the rich keep getting richer but the middle
class is struggling. And the poor, they`re just barely getting by. And
yet, the GOP`s sole priority seems to be protecting the top one percent
from paying their fair share.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The economy needs the
certainty of the current tax rates.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Don`t raise taxes on small
businesses because they`re our job creators.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Don`t raise taxes on
small businesses because there are job creators.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Protect the one percent, I mean job creators. But as for
everyone else? Well, apparently they`re on their own.
Back in December, House Republicans cut off the extension of unemployment
benefits. Back then, $1.3 million Americans lost vital assistance. But
that was just the beginning. Democrats on the house ways and means
committee have unveiled a running clock to show the growing number of
people affected by the GOP`s heartlessness.
As of today, more than 2.5 million Americans have lost jobless benefits.
It certainly makes you wonder why do the rich deserve a hand up and not
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wish there was work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A cut in unemployment benefits takes hold, making it
even tougher for those who are out of work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a lot of people looking for work and not enough
jobs to go around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sam (INAUDIBLE) is one of 355,000 Michiganders who
can`t find work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Financially, next month is it, I`m done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sandra`s unemployment payments are set to run out soon.
Whenever she afford the gas to make it into town, she spends the day here
at the Colorado workforce center IN Montros (ph) searching desperately.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You feel like the biggest failure. You feel like the
biggest loser that walked the face of the earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Democrat of
Maryland and Jared Bernstein, former chief economist for vice president
Thank you both for coming on the show.
JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, rev.
REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Congresswoman Edwards, let me start with you. "The New York
Times" report is alarming. There is a growing income inequality crisis in
this country. How much do Republican policies factor into it?
EDWARDS: Well, you only have to look at the Republican budget, the latest
Ryan budget, that makes middle class families pay an additional $2,000 in
taxes and cuts $200,000 in taxes for millionaires. And so their policies
really speak for themselves. Cuts in Medicare, in education, in head
start. I mean, the list is long. And that goes right at the heart of the
middle class. Not only do we not want education benefits anymore for
middle class families, but also not extending unemployment benefits, a
budget that says we`re going to reward the millionaires and we`re going to
punish people who just get up and try to get up every single day and go to
work for a living.
SHARPTON: Jared, you know, the GOP talks about creating solutions to help
the economy, but why don`t they back solutions that already work? I mean,
just look at the extension of unemployment benefits. Each $1 of
unemployment benefits generates $1.55 in economic activity. People put
that money right back into the economy. Knowing this, why are 2.5 million
people without benefits?
BERNSTEIN: It`s a great question. And you actually made a point that I
was going to make. Let me underscore it.
When you increase the extended period for which people can get unemployment
benefits, one of the things you do is, of course, help them. We have never
had such high long-term unemployment rates for so long. And every time we
have had rates anywhere near what they are today, Congress has extended
such benefits. So it`s unprecedented for them to cut it out.
But that is at the macro level. As you correctly point out, at the macro
level, there are multiplier effects because guess what, unemployed folks go
out and spend the money. And that helps on the growth side.
To answer your question, I mean, I thought Congresswoman Edwards said it
quite eloquently. There is a real serious lack of consciousness, lack of
empathy, lack of understanding. The idea that you can kind of walk in the
other guy or gal`s shoes and understand what middle and low income people
are going through is very foreign to many of these members. While they
seem to be extremely tuned into what millionaires need.
SHARPTON: You know, Congresswoman, you talked about the Republican budget.
Well, the architect of the brutal GOP budget, Congressman Ryan, recently
came under fire for this comment. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: We have got this tail spin of culture in our inner cities in
particular of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking
about working or learn the value and the culture of work. And so, there`s
a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, we learned the day that Congressman Ryan is going to meet
next week with the congressional black caucus. What do you expect to come
out of that meeting.
EDWARDS: Well, I don`t know. I mean, the congressman already said he was
inarticulate. No, he wasn`t inarticulate. He was quite clear. He was
just wrong, dead wrong. Millions of people all across this country
actually do go up and go to work. And it doesn`t matter what their culture
is. The fact is that his budget is taking a sledge hammer to the middle
class, is hammering poor people and doing great damage to this nation.
SHARPTON: You know, Jared--
BERNSTEIN: Let me make a point about that. Let me just make one point
about that. I got to weigh in here, because what Representative Ryan said,
it really makes me very angry in the following sense.
He has no idea what a generation of men are thinking about, OK? He just
doesn`t know. I don`t know either. Neither does Congresswoman Edwards.
We`ve not gone out and talked to a generation of men.
What we do know is that they face an extremely tough job market. What we
also know is that when they face a better job market, they do what anybody
else does who wants to improve their lives and that of their families, they
go to work.
So to blame them for the fact that the economy hasn`t been producing a
welcoming job market for low-income people is completely upside down.
SHARPTON: That`s a great point, Jared. And we do know stereotyping when
we hear it as well.
You know, Congresswoman, increasingly, Democrats are pointing out the
growing income inequality in this country. And Senator Elizabeth Warren
writes in her book, and I`m going to read from it. Quote "today, the game
is rigged. Rigged to work for those who have money and power. Big
corporations, hire armies of lobbyists to get billion dollar loopholes into
the tax system and persuade their friends in Congress to support laws that
keep the playing field tilted in their favor. Meanwhile, hardworking
families are told that they`ll just have to live with smaller dreams for
their children." Congresswoman?
EDWARDS: Well, I mean, you know, it`s startling. And she`s right about
that. The political system is rigged. And the Supreme Court is actually
just exacerbated that by expanding ways that millionaires can participate
in politics and sway the game and sway the market against working people.
And so, you know, I think we have to fight back on this one. Change the
politics, change the dynamics and change the elected class in this country
so they really do understand, as Jared pointed out, what it means to walk
in someone else`s shoes.
SHARPTON: Congresswoman Donna Edwards and Jared Bernstein, thank you both
for your time this evening.
BERNSTEIN: Thank you.
EDWARDS: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, Democrats are going on offense on health care and
it could mean big trouble for Republicans. I`ll explain.
Plus, one day after President Obama and attorney general Holder took a
powerful step forward in the fight for justice, I`ll introduce you to a
mother who`s gained an incredible second chance thanks to them.
Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Right now, more than five million people are being denied health
care because Republicans are playing politics. Just listen to the stories.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Jared Ash is an out of work mechanic from Aurora who
hopes Missouri expands Medicaid.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I`m a type 1 diabetic. I would like to be able to
provide for my family.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I`m in favor of the Affordable Care Act, and I was
excited when it came. I thought maybe I will finally be able to get
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: But the most inexpensive plan costs as much as she makes
in a month.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: She -- for Medicaid but received a letter saying, there
were no eligible plans for her through the state.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Makes too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little
to qualify for discounted plans in the healthcare marketplace.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It just makes me feel like how am I supposed to get
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The help is right there waiting for her. The only thing
standing in the way is politics. But today, more signs Democrats are going
on offense. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I don`t think we should apologize
for it. I don`t think we should be defensive about it. I think there`s a
strong, good, right story to tell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The right story to tell on health care. And more Democrats
running for office are starting to tell those stories. Here`s a new ad
from Pennsylvania`s Allison Schwartz who is running for governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I worked with President Obama on the Affordable Care
Act and getting health care coverage to all Americans. It was my
legislation that said, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage for
kids with pre-existing conditions. As governor, I will take the Medicaid
expansion because 500,000 Pennsylvanians need health coverage.
SHARPTON: She`s going on offense. Taking the governor to task for denying
care to thousands of people. And he`s not just in Pennsylvania. In
Louisiana, a red state, democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is slamming
Governor Bobby Jindal for blocking the Medicaid expansion. Democratic
groups and candidates from North Carolina to Michigan and Kentucky are
exposing the republican health care plan to go back to the way things used
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Senate candidate Thom Tillis sides with health insurance
companies. He let them deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. Barr
along with Mitch McConnell voted to end connect and let insurance companies
drop coverage, deny care and charge women more.
With land, insurance companies will be able to deny you coverage when you
get sick. Women`s access to preventive health care would be cut while
their costs would increase.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Republicans want to attack the law, and Democrats are starting
to make sure voters know it. Joining me now Goldie Taylor and Richard
Wolffe. Thank you both for being here.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Richard, are more Democrats going to take the President`s
advice? Are we going to see more running on the health care law?
WOLFFE: Well, it`s all striking that this is rare enough that we pay
attention. You know, at some point we`re going to get to the stage where
Democrats start thinking like Republicans. Republicans have been terrified
by the prospect of ObamaCare really taking root in American culture.
WOLFFE: And what they`re terrified by is that once you give people these
benefits, just read Charles Krauthammer, once you give people these
benefits they don`t want them taken away. That`s what you`re seeing with
this first ass. People say, don`t take away the coverage for pre-existing
conditions. Then you`re seeing Democrats take on this question of Medicaid
expansion. That`s about people getting health care coverage. It`s not
about the expansion of a program. The next stage, the question is, does
that happen before or after the midterms. It`s going to happen by 2016.
Will Democrats wake up to in 2014?
SHARPTON: You know, Goldie, several red states are pushing a new plan to
block the health care law. Talking points memo reports, quote, "Under
bills passed in Georgia and Kansas recently, even if a democratic candidate
were to pull off an upset and take the governor`s seat, they would not be
able to expand the Medicaid program without the consent of the state
legislature, which will almost certainly remain republican." Now Goldie,
you live in Georgia, what`s your reaction to this?
GOLDIE TAYLOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Governor Deal has been
ironically, the guy who would not expand Medicaid coverage, but watched
rural hospitals in the state close down. And so people under governor deal
have less access to quality, accessible health care in this state. You
know, the expansion of Medicaid doesn`t cost states but I think 10 cents on
the dollar. The federal -- really picks up the rest of the tent. And why
they would not a state expand Medicaid roles to include 130 percent of
poverty, so those people caught in the middle, those people who don`t earn
enough money for the plans that are inside the marketplace but, you know,
earn, you know, don`t earn too much for the current Medicaid allotment.
And so I wonder why -- well, actually I know why this state legislature
passed this kind of legislation. It`s because, you know, in Georgia, at
least, there is a competitive governor`s race. Jason Carter is running a
very strong race against Governor Deal who has, you know, ironically faced
some ethics charges on the other hand.
SHARPTON: And Deal is the republican that will not expand Medicaid.
TAYLOR: And he will not expand Medicaid. And if, you know, Jason Carter
wins this race, you know, the Georgia legislature has already said even if
you win, we`re not going to let you expand Medicaid.
SHARPTON: Which changes the rules, Richard. And, you know, a new poll
from public policy shows that support for Medicaid expansion is there in
Georgia. Fifty four percent want Medicaid expansion. In Kansas, 52
percent support it. And 59 percent of Pennsylvania residents are in favor.
So most people in Georgia and Kansas want Medicaid expansion. But the
legislators are doubling down on blocking it. It can`t last.
WOLFFE: Rev, I`m confused. Because I`ve been hearing for years now about
how people hate the Affordable Care Act.
WOLFFE: And here we have polls that have 20, 30-point advantage for the
democratic position. That`s what they call in high paid political
consultancy, a no brainer. Democrats who are running for office need to be
running on an issue with a 20-30 point margin. So, yes, these state
legislatures may be out of touch. Maybe they don`t care. Maybe they are
safe. But if you`re running statewide and you need to go to the middle,
those numbers point in the right direction.
SHARPTON: You know, this number Goldie really caught my eye today. In
Arkansas, a red state, nearly 70 percent of those eligible to sign up for
plans through the state`s Medicaid compromise, which is called private
option, so they`re signing up in a very red state. What does that say?
TAYLOR: Well, the same thing happened in Kentucky where that democratic
governor opened up a marketplace, expanded Medicaid and nearly 500,000
additional people had access to health care in the state of Kentucky. But
you`ve got Rand Paul, who is from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell who is from
Kentucky, all fighting against this on the national level. When people in
their very own state are getting the health care that they need because of
this new cast of laws.
And so you`ve got to wonder what`s happening in states like Arkansas,
states like Georgia, where people are over-indexing in terms of their
polling in favor of Medicaid expansion, in favor of wanting a marketplace.
And by the way, when there`s a marketplace, the premiums inside of the
TAYLOR: And so, rather than having to go to the federal marketplace. And
so it makes the competition at the local level makes it cheaper. If
Republicans say they`re about marketplaces and competition, let competition
SHARPTON: You know, Richard, the Republican National Committee is out with
an ad going after the President for saying it`s time to move on from the
fight over the law. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I know every American isn`t going to agree with this law. But I
think we can agree that it`s well past time to move on.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We`re seeing denials of care, disruptions in care.
We`re seeing a great deal of confusion and at times anger and frustration
on the part of these families who bought insurance thinking that their
children were going to be covered and they`ve, in fact, found that it`s a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: You know, with eight million people enrolled, isn`t the
republican argument tougher and tougher to make Richard?
WOLFFE: Eight million, plus millions more in Medicaid expansion. But you
and I both know that the President isn`t on the ballot in 2014 nor in 2016.
Even the RNC video makers know that. They are making a bet that this
election is about turning out that base. This fires up the base. And it`s
true, the polls show that. Democrats have to play something bigger. They
have to pay to an expanded electorate, hoping that those people will show
up. That`s why that ad -- scores, the Republicans are going small because
they think this election is going to be decided just by that base.
SHARPTON: Goldie Taylor and Richard Wolffe, thank you both for you time
WOLFFE: Thanks, Rev.
TAYLOR: Thank you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, we have developing news in the Chris Christie
bridge investigation. More people are being called to testify tonight.
Plus, one day after President Obama and Attorney General Holder made a
major announcement to correct injustices of our legal system comes a
remarkable story of a woman whose life has been changed because of it.
She`s here to tell that story. Next.
SHARPTON: President Obama and Attorney General Holder are continuing to
fight for justice and second chances. The Justice Department announces
it`s broadening the criteria for certain nonviolent federal drug offenders
seeking clemency. Many of those impacted by this decision will be men and
women sentenced under harsh mandatory minimum guidelines. The sentencing
laws that have been changed by President Obama and Congress. Back in
December, the President took a big step forward by commuting the sentences
of eight men and women, all serving time for nonviolent drug offenses. One
of the commuted sentences was for Stephanie George. She was 26 years old.
And a mother of three at the time of her arrest. She hid her ex-
boyfriend`s drugs in her house, a claim she denied. And she was sentenced
to life in prison. Think about that. The rest of her life was to be
behind bars for a nonviolent offense. But after 17 years in prison,
Stephanie found out her sentence was commuted by President Obama on
December 19 of last year. Five days ago, she was released from jail. It
was a remarkable home coming. Now she`s talking about her second chance on
life and she doesn`t plan on wasting a minute.
Joining me now is Stephanie George. Thank you so much for being here
STEPHANIE GEORGE, SENTENCE COMMUTED BY PRESIDENT OBAMA: You`re welcome,
SHARPTON: What was your homecoming like last week, Stephanie?
GEORGE: It was marvelous. I mean, I can`t even explain it in words.
Everybody was there, my whole family from my mother side to my father,
friends, people I don`t even know. They were so supportive of being there
SHARPTON: Let me ask you this, when President Obama commuted your
sentence, you got a call from your lawyer. What was your reaction?
GEORGE: Actually, I had been dealing with my lawyer from Crowell & Moring
from Washington, D.C. I had been dealing with them for a year and a half
on my computation day, that fit me with. And I was expecting -- I`ve
always had hope that one day, I would come home to my family. And I got
this call over to the loud speaker in the -- stating that they needed to
see me at the front office.
So, when I got up there, I didn`t understand why. And they said that they
needed to do a conference call and it needed to be recorded. So it never
dawned on me that it was my attorney, because I have, like, multiple access
for them contacting me.
GEORGE: So she never told me who it was that was calling. So when he
called in she handed me the phone. And he said Stephanie, this is Tim, how
are you? And I said I`m fine, Tim, how are you? He said fine. He said I
was just calling to give you a little information about what`s going on
with your case. Still never dawned on me what he was calling about,
because we talked all the time. So he said that he had got some
information that morning at 9:00 and he wanted to give it to me. And I was
like what happened?
And he said, what were you doing just now? I said well, I was at the
commissary spending money. And he laughed about it. He said well, you
might want to save that money. And I said what`s going on? He said I just
wanted to call and let you know that I want you to have a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year. Obama signed your computation. When I say that was
the biggest day, I was so stunned that I couldn`t even speak. And he was
like Stephanie, are you there? And I said yes, I`m here, Tim. And he
said, I just want to wish you a Merry Christmas. And I was just crying and
thanking him and praising God, you know?
SHARPTON: Let me ask you something. Seventeen years and you`re not a
violent crime. Sentenced to life. Did you ever lose hope, Stephanie?
GEORGE: Never. I never lost hope.
SHARPTON: What keep you having the hope and faith that you`d get out?
GEORGE: My family, praying, standing my word, I have a very supportive
family, everyone. When I said they really pitched in and kept my spirits
up. And you know, just knowing that I had -- out there, they were really
supportive for me.
SHARPTON: Now, the judge in your case even disagreed with the sentence
saying it didn`t warrant a life sentence, but he had no choice because of
the mandatory minimum guidelines. What was your response to that?
GEORGE: Actually, I knew that they wanted to sentence me to life but I
didn`t want to believe that actually they were giving me life for something
so minor. And he asked the prosecutor and my attorney, is there anything
else they can do? And they were like no, it was part of the guidelines.
And he couldn`t go under it.
SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you this. Your mother of three.
GEORGE: Yes, sir.
SHARPTON: And I understand your son was killed while you were away. And
you said, you don`t even hold any animosity or ill will towards the killer
of your son.
GEORGE: You`re right, sir. I made that statement. My son was killed
October of last year, my baby boy. And I know I have to be able to earn my
blessings, I know I have to forgive people. But I can`t even say that I
wish that on anybody, not even to do a little time, to go through the times
that I`ve endured in prison.
SHARPTON: Well, our condolences are with you for your son. What are your
futures plans? Quickly tell me, what are you going to do now that you`re
GEORGE: Well, I`m trying to get back into society. It`s very scary how
things are so much changed. I mean, I`ve been to prison all my life, it`s
just so different. Even with me just going out to the store, it`s so
overwhelming too. I can`t handle it. So, I have to take my sister or
somebody with me because I get anxiety attacks. It`s so weird.
GEORGE: But I do want to speak out to America and let them know how unjust
the system is. Because I love a lot of good people there that are serving
the same sentences for the same thing.
SHARPTON: Mandatory time for a nonviolent offenses, just hiding something.
GEORGE: Yes, sir.
SHARPTON: Wrong. But certainly not worth someone spending the rest of
their life behind bar. I thank you so much for coming on tonight and
speaking up. Stephanie George, thank you for being here and sharing your
story. Again, our condolences on your son. We`ll be right back.
GEORGE: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Developing news tonight in the Chris Christie bridge
investigation, the New Jersey Committee issued four new subpoenas,
testimony from Christie aides and board authority officials. Subpoenas
were issued to Michael Drewniak, Governor Christie`s press secretary
Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority, Christina
Renna, a former aide to Governor Christie and William "Pat" Schuber, a Port
Authority board member. We`ll keep following this story.
SHARPTON: Finally tonight, today a Supreme Court decision and why it
matters. It upheld the state of Michigan`s ban on affirmative action at
public colleges. Two years ago, civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis
talked about affirmative action on NBC`s "Meet the Press."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: You know, affirmative action is a simple
process, a step to include people that have been left out and left behind.
The anticipation of all American citizens, not just African-Americans. But
Whites, Latinos, Asian-American, Native American and women. We must create
a society based on simple justice that will --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: A society based on simple justice. As I travel the country,
many say to me, Reverend Al, why do we need government intervention? Why
do we need government laws to bring that about? Because it was government
laws that helped to make it unequal. These were not just customs of
certain segments of the country. It was the law that people couldn`t go to
higher schools of learning. It was the law that we couldn`t use public
accommodations. It was the law and enforced laws that made the playing
field uneven. And the government must bring laws until the feel is even
for everyone. The government must undo what the government helped do.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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