July 2, 2014
Guest: Dan Stein, Raul Reyes, Jennifer Palmieri, Zerlina Maxwell, Charlie
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Border wars.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.
"Let Me Start" tonight with the growing humanitarian and political
crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, where the situation looks to be
deteriorating, and quickly. Border facilities are being inundated by a
flood of unaccompanied minors trying to cross into the U.S. More than
50,000 have been apprehended since October. President Obama is openly
pleading with undocumented immigrants not to send their children to the
border. His message, even if they do make it, they will get sent back.
Things have only been made worse by gridlock in Washington, with
Republicans officially killing any hopes for immigration reform on the
grounds that they cannot trust the president, an issue which could
potentially hand the White House to Democrats on a silver platter in 2016.
But it`s hardly quiet on the left, either. President Obama now faces an
agitated Hispanic base that has lost patience with the situation, has begun
to blame him for the increase in deportations.
Everyone and everything seems to be near a breaking point, and things
got a little scary yesterday afternoon when crowds of anti-immigration
protesters surrounded three buses that were attempting to transport roughly
140 undocumented immigrants to a processing center in southern California.
What followed was a tense standoff between police ordering the crowd
to disperse and activists refusing to step aside and chanting things like,
"Go home. We don`t want you here. " With tensions simmering, the buses
eventually gave up and turned around. With the situation only growing more
tense, you might be seeing a lot more of those kinds of confrontations.
Raul Reyes is an attorney and columnist with "USA Today," and Dan
Stein is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
So Dan, you know, you`re one of those groups that`s been, you know,
sort of hitting the president from the right on immigration. So look,
whatever side you`re coming from on this, when you look at all of these
issues and all of these problems relating to immigration right now in this
country, doing nothing is not going to resolve or improve the situation.
So specifically, what is it that you want the president and you want
Congress to do?
DAN STEIN, FED. FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: Well, it`s important
to understand that nothing in the Senate-passed immigration bill would fix
the problem we see at the border. In fact, the president has said, We need
Congress to fix this Victims of Trafficking Act because it creates a level
of procedural process that actually allows smuggling and cartel operations
to abuse the process, and that`s what`s going on here. There`s outright
KORNACKI: Well, so -- OK, but so, specifically, there`s two issues
here. Let`s start with the children at the border, the children -- you
know, trying to bring them to these processing facilities. What are you --
are you just saying that turn around, send them home, that`s it, no
questions asked, no hearings?
STEIN: Well, look, ultimately, the executive has broad emergency
powers. They need to hold short hearings very quickly at the border and
repatriate people within 48 hours. The unaccompanied minor law requires
that young aliens be released within 72 hours to HHS, and then they have to
try to find a custodial parent or guardian.
But that law that Senator Feinstein was the architect of never
envisioned this kind of crisis. And of course, what we know at FAIR is
it`s very foreseeable that if you set up a loophole, smuggling operations
are going to figure out how to take advantage of it. The president has
asked Congress for a change in the law, but we believe the president
already has authority under the immigration law to declare an immigration
emergency and detain people at the border and then hold very rapid hearings
and repatriate people summarily.
Now, the ACLU and other organizations want to have the procedural
process. It will take years. What it effectively means, nobody ever goes
home. And one of the reasons why we have 12 million people here illegally
is that we have an immigration system that no longer functions.
STEIN: Now they`re moving immigration judges into emergency
proceedings to have hearings, and as a result, the rest of the entire
immigration control apparatus is crumbling around our ears.
KORNACKI: Well, OK, so I -- I want to -- Raul, I want to have you
respond to that. So you know, Dan is (INAUDIBLE) saying, basically, Get
them out of here within three days -- you know, quick, expedited hearings,
get them out of here.
There`s an argument to be made here, though, looking at where these
children are coming from, the countries they`re coming from -- isn`t there
an amnesty argument here? Isn`t that part of the procedure that we`re
RAUL REYES, "USA TODAY": Certainly. Not necessarily amnesty, but
many of these children, because they are...
KORNACKI: Asylum. Excuse me.
REYES: ... from such violent countries, they could be eligible for
temporary protective status, refugee status, asylum. The president is
seeking to change this law with Congress, and we`ll see how that plays out.
But aside from that, there`s another complication. The U.S. has
multiple, multiple international agreements with nations all over the world
specifically relating to children and asylum and refugees. So even if
Congress did say and grant the authority -- the president authority to send
these children home, we couldn`t do it without being in violation...
KORNACKI: So -- yes, so Dan...
KORNACKI: So Dan, what do you -- what do you say so that, though, I
mean, because the United States has existed for so long as this is a place
-- you know, people, you know, fleeing trouble spots around the world,
people fleeing life-threatening, you know, political upheaval or whatever
around the world can come to the United States to save their lives,
literally. Isn`t there a case to be made here when you look at the
conditions in some of these countries?
STEIN: Look, this is obviously a manipulated crisis. The president
needs to lead, and he needs to reassure the American people that as the...
KORNACKI: Wait a minute. Manipulated crisis...
STEIN: It`s being manipulated by cartels and smuggling operations.
They want the border patrol to be changing diapers and being distracted so
they can run drugs through the border. This whole thing is being
orchestrated -- it`s not normal for young people to be coming across the
border unaccompanied unless it`s being manipulated. Nothing about the
situation in Central America has so radically changed that it would
represent a major crisis of that kind.
Ultimately, the president has created the crisis by sending a message
around the world the U.S. immigration law is not being enforced, we`re
going to pass a big amnesty. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
has been interpreted to mean if you`re young and you get in, you won`t have
And then, of course, he`s now about more executive -- unilateral
KORNACKI: So -- so...
STEIN: You can`t keep sending a message around the world that our
immigration laws aren`t going to be enforced and not expect people around
KORNACKI: All right...
STEIN: ... to take advantage of it.
KORNACKI: I know Raul wants to respond to that (INAUDIBLE) Raul.
REYES: Well, a couple things. First of all, this whole narrative
that -- it is true that the cartels are promoting a type of disinformation,
misinformation campaign to facilitate these kids getting here. But the
whole notion that that -- because of that, that it`s the fault of the Obama
administration that this is happening is -- that is completely false.
Now, you have to remember many of these young people -- these are --
these are kids. These are kids who are 5, 6, 7, 8. They don`t know one
thing about our immigration system. No one told them anything about DACA.
They just did what their parents told them to do because their parents are
so desperate for them to get a better shot, you know, at leading a safe and
And it`s interesting because Mr. Stein was just saying that the
president -- he wants the president to take unilateral action, that he
needs to act. And yet at the same time, he`s saying that if the president
does something, it`d be a violation, with his executive action. So it
seems a little bit inconsistent that he wants him to act, and yet if he
does act, he says that`s a violation of the law.
KORNACKI: I do want to ask you this, though, because the argument
here about, you know, not just sending, you know, the kids back, not just
sending the undocumented kids back, it does raise the question, if they are
let in, if a substantial number are let into this country permanently,
doesn`t that encourage it? How do you say no to the next wave? How do you
say no to the wave after that?
REYES: That`s the challenge that our president has right now. I
think -- you know, obviously, it`s an evolving situation. I think he is
doing the right thing, going to Congress, trying to thread the needle
between what he can do on his own and also working with these governments
in Central America because we have to attack that part of the problem, as
But what does not help this -- this whole crisis is on the Republican
side, they`re really not doing anything other than finger pointing,
grandstanding, blaming the president for the situation, very little in the
way of solutions.
And to me, I have to say, when I see these images of the people
yelling at the bus and screaming "Go home," I think pretty much most
reasonable people would agree with me, that`s not America. That`s not who
we are as a nation. That`s a group of misguided people.
And by way, just as a counterpoint, in Texas, which is -- because it`s
-- south Texas has been where so many of these kids are entering. That`s
the largest point of entry for these unaccompanied minors. In Dallas --
this has been reported in "The Dallas Morning News" -- the city has been
flooded with offers of -- you know, charitable offers, religious groups,
clothing, people who want to help. And these are not necessarily...
KORNACKI: There are people who against this...
REYES: ... these are children fleeing for their lives.
STEIN: The problem is, Congress set up a specific law that now has an
elaborate financial process for children who are judged abandoned. That
means public education, health care, housing. This is clearly a sap (ph)
to the taxpayer. How does this crisis help public education, going to help
American people actually meet their domestic priorities? We cannot be the
home of last resort for all the world`s displeased and dispossessed!
STEIN: The administration has to recognize it`s time to stop playing
politics with our immigration policy! This idea of polarizing the
KORNACKI: I want to -- I want to...
STEIN: ... has got to stop!
KORNACKI: I want to broaden the conversation out here, too, because
we are talking about the broader subject of immigration, as well. The
crisis on the border has forced President Obama to denounce the sudden
influx of undocumented children, as we say, forcing him to sound more like
an immigration hawk than the dove that he is.
This is the president in an interview with ABC News on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Once those kids come
across the border, there`s a system in which we`re supposed to process
them, take care of them, until we can send them back. But once we
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So is your message, Don`t come?
OBAMA: Oh, our message absolutely is, Don`t send your children
unaccompanied on trains or through a bunch of smugglers. That is our
direct message to the families in Central America, Do not send your
children to the borders. If they do make it, they`ll get sent back. More
importantly, they may not make it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And on Monday, he doubled down on that message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Children who are fortunate enough to survive it will be taken
care of while they go through the legal process, but in most cases, that
process will lead to them being sent back home. I`ve sent a clear message
to parents in these countries not to put their kids through this. And
understand, by the way, for the most part, this is not a situation where
these children are slipping through. They`re being apprehended.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Dan, the context for all of this is, you know, the
president has been saying -- he said it this week -- that he intends, if
Congress doesn`t -- doesn`t, you know, turn around and act on immigration
reform this summer, he intends to act on immigration reform on his own
through executive power to the extent that he thinks he has that power.
What -- you know, what is your solution -- when we get beyond the
question of these kids, what is your solution when you look at the
immigration crisis in this country, look at the millions of people who are
undocumented? What do you want done there?
STEIN: Well, keep in mind, Bill Clinton understood this and past
presidents have understood this. Nothing is more devastating politically
to an administration than the appearance of loss of control of our national
borders. Bill Clinton lost his only election, in his view, because of his
mishandling of Cuban detainees at Ft. Chaffee in Arkansas. George Bush
understood this. You have to detain and interdict. You have to require
aliens to apply from outside the country. The ACLU and others...
KORNACKI: But Dan -- but Dan (INAUDIBLE) the reason I`m asking this
question, the way I ask it, is the millions who already here -- that`s at
the heart of immigration reform. That`s at the heart of what Congress...
KORNACKI: What do you do with them?
STEIN: Look, we`re not going to achieve a political solution to
immigration until we address the question of how do we control future flow
and effect (ph) enforceable limits. The question of what do you with all
these people here now depends ultimately on the reforms that are
KORNACKI: Do you have...
KORNACKI: You haven`t answered the question. Millions of people...
STEIN: Well, obviously, many people here illegally need to be
deported or encouraged to go home. There are other people who might be
allowed to stay under certain conditions. But in the end, you have to
craft a legislative compromise that...
KORNACKI: Isn`t that...
KORNACKI: Isn`t that what immigration reform is, though?
STEIN: No, that is not...
KORNACKI: That`s not addressing...
STEIN: What passed the Senate would actually have made the whole
situation worse. That`s why the House won`t bring it up. It`s actually a
legislative policy disaster. If your only solution is accommodate
everybody who wants to come in, then pass the Senate bill. But if you want
to have enforceable limits, you have to start over in 2015.
KORNACKI: Very quickly, Raul.
REYES: OK. Steve, I know you`re asking Mr. Stein for, you know, a
solution. He doesn`t really seem to have one, other than more deportations
or mass deportations. We`ve seen that that was a disaster for the
Obviously, the solution is, you know, some type of comprehensive
reform. Barring that, the president take executive action, which maybe
it`s not perfect. It`s not permanent. But at least it`s action. That`s
what the American people want.
And just FYI, you know, Mr. Stein represents a group that is really on
the radical fringe, that has been designated a hate group by...
STEIN: Oh, come on.
REYES: ... the Southern Poverty Law Center. So that`s where he`s
KORNACKI: Dan, I`ll just give you quick -- quick response to that,
STEIN: Look, we love -- we love group (ph). We love America. We
certainly like the idea that immigration, properly controlled, can help
this country grow. But look, out-of-control immigration, violating the law
-- name calling and smears are going to advance the agenda. Working
together as a common national community is. Let`s all work together to
solve the immigration crisis.
KORNACKI: All right, thank you, Raul Reyes, Dan Stein. Appreciate
Coming up, a tough new poll has some rough news for President Obama.
The question is, is this permanent or can the president fight his way out
of this mess? We`re certainly seeing signs he wants to do battle.
Plus, it was 50 years ago today that the Civil Rights Act was signed.
Race relations in the U.S. are immeasurably better today than they were in
1964. So why is it that the Civil Rights Act might not be able to have a
chance of passing if it were introduced today?
And we`re marking another, less celebrated anniversary. Twenty-five
years ago, a show supposedly about nothing debuted and changed what we
expect out of a television show. And one of the show`s semi-regular stars
will join us later. Can you say J. Peterman?
And finally, you checked your Wikipedia yesterday, you may have
noticed a change in the president`s cabinet. Chuck Hagel was out as
secretary of defense, replaced by a national hero who emerged just
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: Pennsylvania`s Republican governor Tom Corbett is among the
most vulnerable in the country, and we got more evidence of his
vulnerability today. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."
According to a new poll from Franklin and Marshall College, Democrat
Tom Wolf leads Republican Tom Corbett by 22 points. It`s Wolf 47, Corbett
Back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`m not going to apologize for trying to do something while
they`re doing nothing.
I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious
issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Obama isn`t taking
attacks from his GOP critics lying down anymore. Yesterday, while urging
the gridlocked Congress to reach an agreement on highway and transit
funding, the President ribbed Republicans, who claim to be furious over a
series of executive actions he`s taken and suing him for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Middle class families can`t wait for Republicans in Congress
to do stuff. So sue me!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The president called their lawsuit a stunt, refused to back
down, and instead announced more plans to take action on immigration, on
LGBT workplace discrimination, and perhaps respond to the Supreme Court
ruling against "Obama care," contraception mandate.
The president has a big challenge ahead of him, though. A new poll
out today from Quinnipiac University shows President Obama in bad standing
with the American people. Thirty-three percent of respondents, 1 in 3, say
President Obama is the worst president since World War II. George W. Bush
was the second worst at 28 percent, followed by Richard Nixon and Jimmy
Jennifer Palmieri is the White House communications director. She
joins us now. So Jennifer, let`s just start with that poll, the headline
from that poll, all the presidents since World War II, 1 in 3 Americans in
this poll say it`s President Obama. What`s your response to that?
JENNIFER PALMIERI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: I think you can
take -- you can take numbers and polls and do really interesting analysis
and charts that would say all sorts of things. What I would say about...
KORNACKI: But that`s -- but Jennifer, that`s a -- that`s a strong
statement, though, I mean, 1 in 3 Americans saying worst president.
They`re saying this, the pollsters. I mean, that`s a strong statement
they`re making, isn`t it?
PALMIERI: You know, I`m just not going to comment on any one poll.
There`s -- they are -- that`s not how we -- that`s not how we live our day-
to-day lives here at the White House because if you -- if you focused on
the short term, those, like, short-term metrics, you`re not looking at a
We -- you know, we`ve had -- Americans have gone through a lot --
Americans have gone through a lot of tough times during the president`s
presidency, and you know, what we`ve seen that he`s been able to do is pull
us out of a bad recession, create 9.4 million private sector jobs. The
country`s not doing as well as we would like, but it`s getting better.
KORNACKI: (INAUDIBLE) I mean, polls are polls. I understand that.
But I mean, doesn`t this tell you something about -- you know -- you know,
I can change from week to week or whatever, but it -- when you -- when 33
PALMIERI: No, it just -- I mean, Steve...
KORNACKI: ... this, doesn`t that tell you something about the mood of
the country you`re trying to govern.
PALMIERI: I don`t think -- you know, one poll, I don`t think really
speaks to the mood of the country in a vacuum like that.
And, you know, we saw a lot of polls in 2012 that ended up being
wrong. You know, it`s something that we have learned to -- we have learned
to -- we don`t live by them.
We are concerned -- obviously, the president is concerned about where
the American people are and how they feel about the economy. He thinks
that -- he is very concerned about having the American people feel about
the economy. That`s why you saw him go out to Minnesota last week and
where he wanted to sit with some real people, someone who wrote him a
letter to say, I hear you. I know you`re going through a hard time.
You`re having a hard time paying your mortgage. You`re having a hard time
paying your student loans.
And I want you to know that, despite the dysfunction you see in
Washington, I hear you. I`m fighting for you. And he -- it is -- he is
unsatisfied with the state of -- for middle-class America. And that`s why
he is going to have these kinds of conversations.
KORNACKI: I can understand that.
I guess the question is, to be trying to communicate that, vs. what
the message is the American people are receiving. And, again, I know it`s
just one poll, but some of these findings are so stark. Here is some more
evidence from that Quinnipiac poll about President Obama and the confidence
of the public; 54 percent of respondents in this poll say the Obama
administration is not competent in running the government.
So, again, he is out there sending the message that you`re just
talking about, but the message that 54 percent of the people, more than
half, these are people who even voted for I`m sure in some cases. The
message they`re getting from what is happening in this country is, they say
he is not competent. Doesn`t that disturb you?
PALMIERI: No. We don`t live by polls. I will say it one more time.
KORNACKI: But this is the mood of the public, isn`t it?
PALMIERI: But he is concerned -- he is concerned about the state --
he`s not -- he is concerned about the state of the country. He`s concerned
about the fact that middle-class people still feel like they don`t have the
opportunities that they think they -- that he wants them to have and that
they need to have.
He is concerned about all of those things. We are coming out of
really five difficult years. And we have had some problems that we have
dealt in the last few months that`s gotten a lot of attention. So, he
wants -- his -- what he is -- what is he doing to make sure that the
American people understand that he is with them and that he is fighting for
That`s why you see him going out in the country to have these kinds of
-- to have those sorts of conversations. So, yes, he is concerned about --
he is concerned about the mood of the country; he is concerned about people
losing hope. He feels that people have -- that they have become more
cynical and they have because of the dysfunction that they see in
PALMIERI: And that`s what he`s -- I don`t -- we don`t pay a lot of
attention to any one metric of it. But that`s what he is trying to battle
against and have people understand, what he -- the kind of work that he is
doing everyday here, what he wakes up -- the people he wakes up worrying
That`s what he said last week in Minnesota, is that you are the people
that I think about everyday and that I`m fighting for. And he wants them
to know that that`s what is on his mind.
KORNACKI: All right, thank you, Jennifer Palmieri from the White
House. Appreciate that.
David Corn is an MSNBC political analyst and the Washington bureau
chief for "Mother Jones" magazine.
So, David, I can understand the White House`s mentality here. You
don`t live by the polls. I understand that.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
KORNACKI: But at the same point, this is -- there`s a message here,
isn`t there, coming from the people? These are the people they are
governing. This is a message here.
CORN: Well, yes and no, Steve.
We have all heard the term junk science. This is kind of a junky
poll. It doesn`t mean there is no trouble for Barack Obama in terms of
public opinion, which is definitely sour as it looks as dysfunction here
and mess overseas, and of course blames the president more than anyone else
for that because he is the guy in charge, whether he is responsible for
these problems or not.
But if you go back and look at some of the numbers here, both George
W. Bush and Jimmy Carter ended their presidencies at 34 percent in the
approval ratings. And, afterwards now, they are at 47 percent for George
W. Bush and 56 percent for Jimmy Carter.
KORNACKI: Yes, but Bush is also a pretty close second there on the
worst presidents list.
CORN: People always like either the dead or gone presidents more than
the current one.
But, more importantly, if you look at numbers on Obama in this poll,
the Republicans, 63 percent of them say that Obama is the worst president
ever. And only 14 percent picked Carter, who they used to hate. So right
there, that counts for most of the poll. It`s mainly Republicans saying
Barack Obama is the worst president ever.
KORNACKI: David, so I take that point. Look, obviously, you are
going back to World War II, and it just so happens the two most recent
presidents are one, two on the list of worst president ever. That tells
you something about our -- how we think with these things. It`s what is
right in front of us. I get that.
At the same time, that question I just asked Jennifer about -- though
about competency, you go over 50 percent there, over 54 percent, you aren`t
just talking about Republicans there. You`re talking about people who
voted for the president there. And on a very, very basic question there
about competency in running the government, a majority are saying no.
KORNACKI: ... saying there`s message here, that`s what I`m talking
CORN: I think there`s the message of the approval rating, which is
sort of the gold standard for these polls, still is in the 42 to 44 percent
range that he`s been in for months, if not years.
So, that hasn`t shifted much. But I do think, with the troubles in
Iraq and Syria and with absolutely nothing in Washington, that people are
looking to Washington and looking at him and saying, what is going on? And
he can`t make Congress pass an immigration bill. And I think the problems
that he was -- that he inherited in Iraq may be beyond solution.
Yet they still blame him. And that`s why I think he`s done not a
tremendous job in defining the narrative to really cast more culpability
upon the Republicans. He has been far too nice to them, except recently.
Well, now he is finally getting snarky and sarcastic. But it may be too
I think people look to him. And I don`t think he`s done a good enough
job of telling story of why he can`t do more in Washington.
KORNACKI: That`s what I`m wondering. Let`s -- we will see maybe in
another month or two this strategy now and see if it changes the numbers at
But, thank you, David Corn. Appreciate that.
Coming up, why a lot of people are saying the Reagan National Airport
outside Washington should now be named after this man, the U.S. goalkeeper
who set the record for saves at the World Cup next.
That`s next in the slide show -- the "Sideshow." Excuse me.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: Back to HARDBALL. Time now for the "Sideshow."
America`s loss to Belgium in the World Cup yesterday was tough to take
for many of us, but despite the disappointment, team USA`s goalie, Tim
Howard, nevertheless emerged as a victor, making a record number of saves
yesterday, more than any single World Cup game in recorded history.
Now he is being hailed as -- quote -- "a human wall" for his
extraordinary performance. But the defensive powerhouse also found some
extra acclaim in some unlikely places. Yesterday, some of Howard`s fans
edited the Wikipedia entry for the U.S. secretary of defense, removing all
mention of incumbent Chuck Hagel from the page and replacing him with Tim
While clearly a tongue-in-cheek joke, many on Twitter agreed with the
title secretary of defense was a fitting tribute to the now famous
goalkeeper. And today we learned Hagel actually called Howard to thank him
for -- quote -- "defending the United States." Additionally, some die-hard
fans are now petitioning the White House to rename Ronald Reagan Washington
National Airport after Howard. It`s a long shot, a very long shot.
Supporters have until July 31 to collect 100,000 signatures necessary to
get an official response from the president.
And, finally, Russian President Vladimir Putin has found himself at
odds with the international yet again. No, this time, it is not over
Russia`s occupation of Ukraine. This latest disagreement is over the
Netflix series "House of Cards." Producers for the hit series submitted a
location request to the United Nations, asking the international body for
permission to film a scene in the chamber of the U.N. Security Council.
While Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon agreed and even recommended the 15
member nations allow filming to take place in the historic room, Russia was
the only country unwilling to go along, effectively vetoing the idea late
So, it looks like Frank Underwood has a new enemy. I guess we will
see how that plays out in season three.
And 50 years ago, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into
law. Coming up, why civil rights wouldn`t have a chance of passing
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
FRANCES RIVERA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Frances Rivera. Here`s
Tropical Storm Arthur continues to gain strength as it turns off the
Florida coast. It is expected to become a hurricane some time tomorrow.
North Carolina`s governor has declared a state of emergency for 25 counties
ahead of the storm.
Enhanced security measures are being implemented as some overseas
airports with direct flights to the United States because of terrorism
And a federal judge has ordered Benghazi suspect Ahmed Khattala held
without bail until his trial -- now back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congress passes the most sweeping civil rights
bill ever to be written into the law and thus reaffirms the conception of
equality for all men that began with Lincoln and the Civil War 100 years
ago. The Negro won his freedom then. He wins his dignity now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark
Civil Rights Act surrounded by lawmakers and civil rights leaders including
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was a Herculean legislative effort that
required cooperation from Republicans and Democrats.
And recalling that effort 50 years ago just makes today`s legislative
paralysis seem all the more frustrating.
Here is President Johnson addressing the nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, I
urge every public official, every religious leader, every business and
professional man, every working man, every housewife, I urge every American
to join in this effort to bring justice and hope to all our people and to
bring peace to our land.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The events of 50 years ago are a far cry from today`s
In a sobering assessment of our political times, Todd Purdum`s article
in today`s Politico is headlined, "Why the Civil Rights Act Couldn`t Pass
Today." He points out that the Civil Rights Act passed the Senate by 73-
27, with 27 out of 33 Republicans voting yes.
It`s hard to imagine anything close to that happening today.
Joining me now, Congressman Charles Rangel of New York, who marched
alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for civil rights and was a
founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Also joining me,
political analyst Zerlina Maxwell, who is a contributor to TheGrio.
So, Congressman, I will start with you. That premise, that
proposition that Todd Purdum put out there, the Civil Rights Act, passed in
1964, wouldn`t pass in 2014, do you agree with that?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I don`t see how anyone who
followed the history -- first of all, the strongest opposition to President
Johnson came from Dixiecrats.
He had the support of Republicans. Johnson said that it would destroy
the Democratic Party as we know it. And it did. So as soon as blacks had
the right to vote, the Dixiecrats changed parties.
KORNACKI: Southern conservative Democrats switched over to
And if you take a look at where the Dixiecrats are and take where the
Tea Party people are, it is hard to distinguish. Find out where the
Confederate flag is that they wave with the Tea Party. Find out which
states hated Lincoln and which states have representatives that hate Obama.
Find out which states held the slaves.
KORNACKI: But do you think -- so, when you say that, when you look at
the Tea Party today, and I think you can say, this is a movement with a lot
of support, from -- it`s heavily white, heavily Southern, very
conservative, certainly back then heavily white Southern and all of that.
Is race the motivating factor, are you saying, for the Tea Party,
RANGEL: I don`t have to say a darn thing, except you can see where
they come from. You can see what the opposition has been to voting rights
and integration and all of those things.
You know it came from the South, right? Now, if you see the same
people changing their name, are you asking me, should I call the Tea Party
KORNACKI: The Tea Party would say, like, those were our grandparents
or our parents, a different generation. Our generation has nothing to do
RANGEL: I am only saying what history would record.
Now the Confederate flag didn`t belong to them. It belonged to their
grandparents. They still wave it.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, THEGRIO: It`s true.
RANGEL: And the opposition to voting didn`t belong to the Republican
Party. They brought that with them to the Tea Party.
So, I don`t know why people even have to discuss the difference
between the makeup of the House of Representatives.
KORNACKI: Well, so but if you look at it this way, though, in
Zerlina, 1964, there was opposition. It was from -- they were basically
Democrats at the time.
You know, so, today, though, there are certainly plenty of Republicans
who aren`t from the South. And if we`re saying it won`t pass today or it
couldn`t pass today, something else is -- what is missing? What was there
in 1964 that could break the Southern filibuster in `64 that is not there
Well, I think the political will to get something done, so to respond
to public pressure and really the international embarrassment that followed
the bombing -- the burning of the church in Birmingham and all of the
violence that was, you know, really on public display all over the world
and really shamed America to finally act. Also, you know, Kennedy`s
assassination in there, that fuelled pressure.
We don`t have that right now. You know, I`m thinking about this as
you heard President Obama yesterday talk about pass a bill, solve a
problem. And that is something we just don`t see right now, because there
isn`t that pressure that the public that isn`t putting on members of
KORNACKI: Yes. And let me ask you about that, Congressman, is that
we talk about, in present day, we talk about like the Voting Rights Act.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruling and, you know, can there be some kind
of amendment, can there be some kind of legislative fix pass for what
happened in the Supreme Court last year -- I wonder, just practically
speaking, if you need to get Republicans on board for this.
You`re looking at Republican Party, back in 1964, it`s hard to believe
now. But, you know, like 1960, Republicans won a big share of the black
vote. Since 1964, since Barry Goldwater got elected, they basically got 20
percent or less in every election.
Republican Party it seems has basically said, we can win elections
without winning the black vote.
REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Not Thad Cochran.
KORNACKI: But beside the Cochran example, what`s the incentive?
What`s in it for us? What`s in it politically?
RANGEL: Whatever you`re willing to give up, whatever you and I are
negotiating. If I had been with her for years and years and years, and
she`s not treating me right, and you give me a better deal -- you know, we
weren`t born with Democrats stamped all over us. And all we want -- you
know, and the fact is, when we talk about the past, I just want to digress
for a moment, we don`t have President Johnson, who was an extraordinary man
that was ready to make the political sacrifices.
KORNACKI: Would it have passed in `64 without LBJ?
RANGEL: No, no, no. I wish I had a time. I sit next to a guy named
Jake Finkel (ph), he`s passed. And he was the congressman from -- that
Johnson had in seat, he would tell me all these sexist stories.
But one was very interesting. He said when the president called him
and said, Jake, you know, you have to vote for it. He said, Mr. President,
you know, I could lose my seat. He said, you know what he told me? I
said, no. He said, Jake, I gave you that seat and I can take it away.
He had extraordinary power. He used the FBI. He used everything he
had. And he knew what people need.
And Congress people at that time, believe it or not, difference of
parties, they talked with each other.
MAXWELL: All right.
KORNACKI: All right. Thank you, Congressman Charles Rangel from New
York. Appreciate that, Zerlina Maxwell.
Up next, a change in tune. Twenty-five years ago, "Seinfeld", a TV
show about nothing, turned out to be very big. We`ll be joined by John
O`Hurley, the actor who played J. Peterman on the show.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: "Seinfeld," hard to believe, it`s been 25 years. Back
KORNACKI: We are back.
Twenty-five years ago this week, a little show about a group of New
Yorkers who didn`t do much of anything debuted on NBC. And it didn`t
exactly set the world on fire at first, either. In fact, they almost
didn`t make it past the pilot. "Seinfeld" would go on to become one of
TV`s all time greatest hits. The series finale in 1998 was watched by 76
million people, almost every critic`s list of the greatest show of all time
includes at or near the top.
I think catch phrases like "No soup for you" made it into our lexicon
to this day. Even though it became a cultural phenomenon, its creators
Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David never gave up on the show`s darker impulses.
"New York Magazine" television critic Matt Zoller Seitz writes, quote,
`Seinfeld was never content nearly to amuse. It seemed to loathe the idea
that audiences might get too comfortable with it. David admonished the
writing staff that there would be no hugging, no learning in the script.
And there wasn`t. Ever. Seinfeld went out of its way to provoke, baffle
and offend. It was often blasted adds show offy, cold, even hateful. When
George`s fiancee died from licking toxic envelopes, he seemed to get over
it in seconds.
Seinfeld was, to quote a phrase from the Grinch`s theme song, as
cuddly as a cactus and as charming as an eel."
Matt Zoller Seitz joins me now, along with, been excited for this all
day, John O`Hurley, you know him as Elaine`s boss, J. Peterman on the show.
So, John, I`ll start with you because I love sitcoms. I love
television. I remember growing up, I watched -- I watched "Cheers", I
watched "Family Ties" in the `80s, I watched "Seinfeld" in the `90s. The
only one from back then that if it`s on TV now and I see it`s on and I make
sure to tune in and watch, "Seinfeld." It does not seem old.
Why has "Seinfeld" aged so well compared to other sitcoms?
JOHN O`HURLEY, ACTOR: Well, first of all, it does have that kind of
comfort food type of feeling.
Here`s another observation I made about it. It`s very much like
Disney. It replicates its audience every few years. Disney every seven
years has a brand new audience to watch all of their entire library. In
the same way that every four years, a brand new group of kids get shuffled
off to college and they all sit around and they watch the same shows
together for the first time that they`re all together, I have a feeling
that that`s part of the ratings success of "Seinfeld", the fact it keeps
going and going and going.
And from what I understand from conversation I had recently, that they
are renewed now to 2020, I think.
KORNACKI: Oh, good, because every late night, you know, if I`m up
late, I can`t sleep. That`s what I watch.
O`HURLEY: You have your cannon father (ph) --
KORNACKI: No, I mean, we all have our favorite episodes. One of the
things, one of the things that I noticed is how -- it holds up because
there are so few episodes that are just as plausible today as they were
when they first aired. It doesn`t -- you know, it doesn`t feel dated the
way like, I guess if you watched "Murphy Brown" today, there`d be
references to the first Bush administration and John Sununu, and the things
that are old. It doesn`t really feel old when you watch "Seinfeld."
MATT ZOLLER SEITZ, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, I would say there are
probably a few things here and there that maybe don`t have a reference
today like that. The episode where Kramer is the AOL movie phone guy.
Just tell me the name of the movie you want to see.
But aside from that, yes, it`s pretty universal because so much of the
humor comes out of social discomfort, out of putting up a false front or
manipulating other people who are being passive aggressive, in order to get
what you want. And it ultimately comes back to selfish, self-centered
behavior, and how hilarious it is to watch it if we`re not involved.
KORNACKI: That`s the thing I want to ask you about, I mean, I know to
me, the show was never that mean. The characters to me were never that
mean. I found that pretty relatable. Yes, George got over his fiancee`s
death very fast. So, that`s very cold, that`s very dark.
But, generally, the appeal to me was, maybe it says something about me
being a mean dark person, but to me, they were very relatable and very
O`HURLEY: Oh, I think they were and there were the unsociable sides
of all of us. There was not a nice person on the show. There really
wasn`t. All of the characters, they -- and the four of them would have
sold each other out. In any particular episode, they all -- that true,
everybody threw each other under the bus all the time. But it was
KORNACKI: They would say it to their faces a lot, right?
O`HURLEY: Yes, it was a little like the character that jumps off the
cliff in the cartoons back in the `30s and the `40s, always crashes. And,
you know, he doesn`t die somehow. He doesn`t die.
So, there`s a little bit of the recoverability of the injured souls on
"Seinfeld", I guess.
KORNACKI: Is that what made it work in part, there were no sort of
pretenses, they weren`t putting on airs or anything? I mean, it was sort
of transparent. They were what they were.
SEITZ: Yes, to build on what we were talking about. That`s a big
part of the appeal. I was telling a friend of mine, "Seinfeld" is the
perfect definition of comedy, the difference between comedy and drama.
That drama is about how people grow and change or they don`t because of
their tragic flaw. But comedy is about how people always revert to type.
That it`s almost impossible to change, and most people aren`t inclined to
do it, that`s what`s funny, and all the greatest comedies you can think of
are about people doing what you would expect of that character to do and
what they always do ultimately.
KORNACKI: My favorite episode I always say, the marine biologist
episode, if you anyone remembers it. They`ll know exactly what it is.
What was your favorite episode?
O`HURLEY: My favorite was always the wedding cake episode. Elaine
swiped a priceless piece of wedding cake from the duke and duchess of
Windsor and replaced it with a $2 of Entenmann`s. And at the end of the
show, I turned to her and I said, Elaine, do you have any idea what happens
to a butter-based frosting after six decades in a fully ventilated British
basement? I have a feeling what you`re about to go through will be --
KORNACKI: During the commercial break, John O`Hurley has the voice.
It is, I mean, you sound like yourself.
Hey, quickly, did you think Larry David -- did you ever see this
coming, the second act of Larry David, the career he`s on?
O`HURLEY: No, no, not at all. I really kind of -- when we did
"Seinfeld", I always thought of Larry as a frustrated performer, because,
you know, he was the voice of Steinbrenner. So, I always felt that was his
release and that was his -- you know, it was never a kind of front camera
guy. Boy -- the resurrection, his rebirth during "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
and if you close your eyes you will hear the genius of "Seinfeld" in "Curb
KORNACKI: I was just going to say, you can watch that show and it`s
like, yes, there`s echoes of "Seinfeld" in there and that`s one of the
reasons I love that one, too.
Anyway, thank you to Matt Zoller Seitz and John O`Hurley. Great
pleasure to have you here.
We`ll be right back after this.
KORNACKI: And, finally, let me finish tonight with the 50th
anniversary of one of the most prophetic statements ever made by a leader.
As we talked about earlier, it was 50 years ago today that Lyndon
Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While he was signing that
bill into law, LBJ supposedly turned to someone and said, "There goes the
South for a generation."
History has proven LBJ dead right on that. Actually, if anything, he
was guilty of understatement. It`s almost unimaginable right now, but the
South before 1964 was a Democratic bastion, it was the most reliably
Democratic part of the country. This was because of reconstruction that
brief interlude after the civil war when civil rights and racial equality
were imposed on the newly reconstituted South. But the resistance from the
white South was furious. When the reconstruction ended with the Hayes-
Tilden election of 1876, and the Jim Crow era began. Segregation, and poll
taxes, and literacy tests, and all the other forms of legal oppression.
Reconstruction had been a Republican project, a project of liberal
Republicans from the North. They existed back then. Because of that,
almost every white Southerner of the Jim Crow was a Democrat,
conservatives, segregationist Democrats. The National Democratic Party
relied on them.
Just how Democratic was the Jim Crow South? Well, look at this, in
1936, FDR won 99 percent of the vote in South Carolina, 99 percent. You
got 97 percent in Mississippi, 87 in Georgia.
Essentially, there was no Republican Party in the south back then, but
the civil rights movement changed everything. Blacks couldn`t vote in the
South, but they could in the north. With their white allies up there, they
turned on the pressure of the northern Democratic leaders to stop appeasing
the Jim Crow Democrats, to make the National Democratic Party chose sides
in this basic, fundamental issue. There was a walkout at the 1948
Democratic convention when northern Democrats led by Hubert Humphrey pushed
through a civil rights plank.
And Democrat who led his fellow Southerners out of that convention,
his name was Strom Thurmond. In 1964, LBJ made the ultimate choice. As
an up and coming Texas politician, he`d been pro Jim Crow, but his heart
was somewhere else.
When fate made him president, in November 1963, LBJ made civil rights
his priority, he did what no president had been able or willing to do. He
broke the Southern filibuster, he got the vote through and signed it 50
years ago today, that shift that he predicted took shape right away.
To run against LBJ that year, Republicans picked Barry Goldwater, who
joined the Southern Democrats in their filibuster. Goldwater got clobbered
nationally, but in the South, the solidly Democratic South, it was a
different story. He won five southern states outright. In South Carolina,
the same state where FDR had once racked up 99 percent of the vote,
Goldwater got 58 percent. In Alabama, he had 69 percent. In Mississippi,
in Mississippi, he got 87 percent of the vote.
And it`s only gotten more hopeless for Democrats in the South,
especially the Deep South in the 50 years since then. LBJ had no idea just
how right he was.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Have a safe and happy 4th of July weekend.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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