Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 02/21/15
MELISSA HARRIS PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, what do the
president, Rudy Giuliani and I all have in common?
Plus the daughter of Malcolm X on the anniversary of his death.
And the fight over just who runs this place. But first, once again, the
GOP offense is all about framing defense.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Nerdland, we begin with news. But
it`s not exactly breaking news. But it is a phenomenon tens of millions of
us are experiencing this morning. Teeth-chattering, face-numbing, bone-
chilling cold. It is no joke. Yes, it`s winter and yes, it`s supposed to
be cold and snow is not uncommon in the northeast this time of year. But
this? This relentless stretch of winter storms grouping much of the U.S. is
something else. The air mass responsible for much of it arrived from
Siberia. Gee, thanks, Putin. Yeah, we`re talking really cold. Now, sure,
we can try to embrace it like these red pandas at the Cincinnati Zoo, but
let`s face it, we`re not equipped like they are. See those bushy ring
tails? They use those as a wraparound blankets. But these are pandas are
natives of the Himalayas. I mean I`m just saying. We, humans, are left to
deal with the brutally brutal cold in other ways like in Kentucky where the
Harland City police department tried to arrest Elsa from “Frozen.” And
this shady character under fire for being the harbinger (ph) of freezing
OK, not really. Both of those cases were just attempts to make the
situation a little more bearable. It`s our human nature. I mean we`re
trying to find the silver lining somehow, because the reality is this
series of winter storms has been merciless.
Meteorologists say this week ranks among the most intense arctic outbreaks
so far in the 21 Century for the eastern U.S. At least 25 people have died
in this latest cold snap. 18 of them in Tennessee. At least 500 daily
record lows have been broken over the last few days and more record lows
are expected today. Below average temperatures will continue in much of
the Midwest and northeast and the weather channel forecast shows more than
a dozen locations in the northeast and mid-Atlantic that could shatter
record lows this morning. Now, we`ll have more on this dangerously cold
winter weather later in the show. So stay inside, stay warm, turn on the
TV, because you`ve got a lot to get to this morning.
This week it was hard to distinguish the real headlines from “The Onion`s”
satirical headlines. When Vice President Joe Biden made news for his
behavior of the swearing in of the new Defense Secretary Ash Carter. It
wasn`t quite diamond Joe, the inappropriate uncle alter ego who makes
frequent appearances on “The Onion,”, but he was exhibiting some major
boundary issues with the secretary`s wife Stephanie resting his hands on
her shoulders and leaning in close, I mean really close to whisper
something in her ear.
Now, among the Internet means and mockery of Biden`s hands on approach, it
was his daily collar headline. News sec Def can`t even defend his wife
from Joe Biden. OK, it may be a joke, but this notion that by leaving his
wife exposed, the secretary has failed in one of his most basic duties of
his position. And actually, it gives it the heart of American
expectations, for those we hold responsible for safeguarding national
Americans have long equated a robust national defense with a paternal great
protector standing between us and whoever or whatever might cause our
nation harm. And we have historically imagined the vulnerability of that
threat as distinctly feminine. That narrative that was used during both
world wars and U.S. military propaganda that sold recruits on the idea that
their service abroad was needed to protect women and children back home.
In American leadership it was most fully embodied by President Theodor
Roosevelt who projected his beliefs about masculinity and military might on
to the national identity and foreign policy under his ideology of speak
softly and carry a big stick.
In fact, some of Roosevelt favorite manly man pursuits, hunting and
horseback riding and war making give him a lot in common with a foreign
leader who attracted a devoted following from fans in American government
who believe that our current foreign policy approach really needs a shot of
Russian President Vladimir Putin`s own fondness for slaying wild beasts,
bare-chested horse play and invading other nations made him an attractive
alternative last year for critics of President Obama`s approach to foreign
policy. The same President Obama who in matters of domestic policy has
been accused by opponents of an aggressive overreach, that amounts to an
imperial presidency, but in all matters foreign is cast as a weak leader
who emboldens our enemies with his inability to man up. “New York Times”
columnist David Brooks distilled that critique down to a single question
last April on “Meet the Press.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID BROOKS, “NEW YORK TIMES”: And let`s face it. Obama whether
deservedly or not, does have I`ll say it crudely, but a manhood problem in
the Middle East. Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad,
somebody like Putin?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: With the improving economy leaving few easy domestic targets
for Republican presidential contenders, foreign policy is likely to become
a recurring theme in the 2016 election. And in this moment, where a strong
foreign policy is equated to a strong performance of masculinity, we can
expect candidates competing to answer that question. Is he tough enough?
But what does that mean in an election where one of those he`s is very
likely to be a she? Hillary Clinton may be entering the race bringing
along all of her secretary of state credentials, but she`ll also be
dragging the baggage from her failed attempt at winning a presidency by
invoking the image of vulnerable women and children to make the case for
herself as great protector.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep.
Who do you want answering the phone?
HILLARY CLINTON: I`m Hillary Clinton and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And to make things even more interesting, she might be
facing a Republican opponent who is carrying his own baggage. A
presidential legacy that includes a spectacular failure. That was
swaggering approach to foreign policy. It`s in association with the former
Florida governor Jeb Bush is clearly very well aware of as this week he
tried to carve out a masculine identity distinct from his brother`s while
also painting the current administration as weak kneed and incapable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH: I have doubts whether this administration believes American
power is such a force. Under this administration we are inconsistent and
indecisive. We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends. We
definitely no longer inspire fear in our enemies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is Heather Hurlburt, director of New Models
of Policy Change at the New America Foundation. Jim Arkedis, who is
president of 4dpack.com. Jamal Simmons, consultant for the Raben Group.
And Christina Bellantoni, editor-in-chief of “Roll Call.” So, Christina,
I`m going to start with you. Is this election going to be a tough enough
foreign policy election in part?
CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, ROLL CALL: Yeah, in some ways. I
think that it was in 2008 as well. I mean think about the very first
distinction between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama when they got on the
debate stage in South Carolina in 2007. Who would sit down and directly
have conversations with our biggest enemies. And Barack Obama says, yes, I
would. And that became the biggest flash point in that campaign and it was
Hillary Clinton who was saying Barack Obama wasn`t tough enough. And then,
of course, fast forward, she becomes his actual global ambassador to carry
out his foreign policy. But the conversation here is just so bizarre
because it`s not as if – as the leader of the United States you`re ever
going to have hand to hand combat with somebody. Like are you ever going
to physically instill fear in someone?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, but this actually came up. Right? I mean in this
sort of discourse about ISIS and whether or not our president was as
powerful and manly as the king of Jordan, who basically was like, hey, I
want to go, get in the fighter jet, right? I mean there was a way where
initially that idea of being a veteran was a standard for running for the
U.S. presidency in a post-Vietnam world that, you know, basically after
Clinton it hasn`t been true. But I guess I`m wondering whether or not
we`re going to return to a moment where we see foreign policy as a kind of
masculine swagger as opposed to an Obama philosophy that has been about a
willingness to have conversation in.
JIM ARKEDIS, CO-AUTHOR, “POLITICAL MERCENARIES”: Well, it`s mostly about
the mix between the masculine and the feminine, right? Like there are
times when we have to be tough and there are times when we have to talk,
right? And we have to use some of the soft power elements of our national
power. And this is everything from economic aid to ensuring that
democratic institutions are built abroad. These are the elements of our
national power that don`t get – kind of get short shrift in our national
debate. We have to get to a point where we understand as a country that we
have to have the institutional fortitude to endure, building these
capacities abroad over the long-term and as Americans we don`t necessarily
have that patience all the time.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so but it`s one thing to talk about what the actual
policy is and it`s another thing to talk about what the strategy in the
context of a campaign is. And I guess part of what I`m constantly
surprised by is this sense that Americans still think Republicans are
better at foreign policy. That they are stronger and tougher.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Well, right. I think you started to
get to it a second ago, which is this hangover from the post-Vietnam era.
I mean this is particularly an issue for the baby boomers, I think. Right?
So, you start – I`m old enough now to remember when Bill Clinton was
running for president, when I worked for him, and he was being called the
draft dodger. He got attacked for going to Russia when he was a student.
That tried to imply he was a Russian covert spy that was, you know, sleeper
agent. I was in his room the morning he found out about it. He was just
baffled. And I worked for (INAUDIBLE) who got attacked this way, and I
worked for, you know, I saw John Kerry get swiftboated this way. I mean
this is particularly a thing that Republican baby boomers go after
Democrats on. I`m not sure it has the same resonance in generations after
SIMMONS: But Giuliani really speaks for a very different generation when
he goes after the president on this. Of this sort of older, white, middle
class guys who are used to seeing a president, you know, kind of swing the
flag around and show how big it is. Around every .
HARRIS-PERRY: Swing that flag and how big is your flag pin?
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting that you said it, because Jeb Bush is in a
different category. I want to listen for a moment. Because here`s Jeb
Bush, who is going to have to because his last name is Bush, account for
the fact that his brother was president during a time that many people
think of as a bad foreign policy time. Let`s listen for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH: There were mistakes made in Iraq, for sure. Using the
intelligence capability that everybody embraced about weapons of mass
destruction was not – turns out to not to be accurate. My brother`s
administration through the surge, which was one of the most heroic acts of
courage politically that any president has done because there was no
support for this and it was hugely successful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, the language here mistakes were made,
intelligence capabilities and everybody embraced at the time. I guess part
of what I`m wondering then, when we think about like the actual worker of
foreign policy and we think about the politics of it, how we can smoosh
away some of the politics so that we are making decisions in our elections
based on what is reasonable foreign policy?
HEATHER HURLBURT., DIR., NEW MODELS OF POLICY CHANGE: Well, the reason
these politics have been so hard to smoosh away is that they really are
coming from our sort of rat brains. And it turns out frustratingly it`s
even bigger, frankly, than just post-Vietnam, that we do at some very
primal level you still have 40 percent of Americans and 32 percent of
Democrats saying that men are better leaders on national security. That we
are primed in some way about the daddy party and the mommy party. And, you
know, the way we can deal with that is for women candidates and progressive
candidates to be very aware that that`s an issue and find their own way of
saying, hey, I`m the pioneer woman with the gun at the door or whatever it
is. But .
HARRIS-PERRY: When Hillary did that, when she did, I`m sorry, when now –
did that. What she became the Annie Oakley, it actually didn`t work for
In fact, what we most needed from her to have won that primary was – I`m
sorry about that Iraq vote.
SIMMONS: But see, but here`s the thing about Hillary, which is different.
Hillary Clinton tried to run .
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, hold.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re going to talk more about .
HARRIS-PERRY: News developed overnight with this country`s brand new
secretary of defense. I want to bring that story to you - when we come
HARRIS-PERRY: Just days into his very first week in office, new Secretary
of Defense Ash Carter traveled overnight to Afghanistan where today he`s
meeting with U.S. troops and talking with Afghan leaders about how to
ensure lasting stability as those troops withdraw from the country. In a
joint press conference with Afghan President Ghani, Secretary Carter said
one possibility maybe to extend the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASH CARTER: Our priority now is to make sure this progress sticks. That
is why President Obama is considering a number of options to re-enforce our
support for President Ghani`s security strategy, including possible changes
to the time line for our draw down of U.S. troops. That could mean taking
another look at the timing and sequencing of base closures to ensure we
have the right array of coalition capabilities to support our Afghan
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, there`s the secretary of defense, we`re
reminded that the Obama administration is still going on, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: But we`re already gearing up for 2016. And so, talk to me
about the Hillary Clinton of it all here.
SIMMONS: So, I have a little bit of a different take on Hillary, which
that I think that Secretary Clinton had a very different problem in 2008
than other people. Her campaign was particularly worried about running her
so that she looked strong. She`s going to be the Margaret Thatcher in this
race, right. But it`s – down, Americans already knew Hillary Clinton was
tough. They already knew she was strong. What they didn`t know was what
drove her, what passions she had. And it wasn`t until she had that moment
in New Hampshire where she started to tear up that everybody said, oh, wait
a minute, there`s a person inside of there that we might actually connect
with. I think that changed the trajectory of her campaign. So, she
actually doesn`t have to worry about. Nobody is tougher than Hillary
Clinton and nobody is going to be. The question is what does Hillary
Clinton want to do for the country and make it a better place?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it`s interesting, you know. I keep suggesting that I
think there`s going to be a woman on the Republican ticket, probably not at
the top, but likely as a VP candidate. And I`m wondering are there models,
particularly if the Republican Party is the daddy party, I wonder if those
models of women running in the Republican Party who do this defense think
HURLBURT: Well, the first person I would point to is Joni Ernst, who
frankly struggled at the beginning of her campaign to attract women. By
the end, pulled 50 percent of the female vote. Talks about – she is –
veteran, talks about her military service. Looks tough, but also looks
very feminine. And you remember as Jamal said, she - the Clinton folks
have always been worried that somehow looking tough makes you look
unfeminine. And the difference, frankly, between being a boomer and an X-
er, is you don`t agonize about that anymore.
HURLBURT: Ernst is a big one. Kelly Ayotte, who is a military wife. And
again, I don`t love her positions on issues.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, right, that`s a different question.
HURLBURT: She sits on Armed Services. She does a great job.
ARKEDIS: She`s from a swing state.
HURLBURT: She`s from a swing state.
ARKEDIS: Even if it`s a smaller swing state.
BELLANTONI: Martha McSally. So, she just won this very contested Arizona
House race and she used her experience to really make it a local race about
this Air Force jet at the horizon, it`s got like a weird name. And this
is exactly what she put down and the Republican leaders all point to her.
And to Joni this can be the future. And it`s a generational change more
than it is a shift in who the types of people are.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, I want to pop back just a little bit on this idea of
how we use the military. Because (INAUDIBLE) for the key insight that our
foreign policy has been entirely militarized. Ebola outbreaks, send the
military. Earthquake in Haiti, send the military, tsunami in South East
Asia, send the military. I guess I`m wondering, so, you know, if I`m
sitting here trying to say, let`s have a more complicated way of thinking
about what our foreign policy is, or even what our notion of defense is,
but now the military is the one thing that can globetrot for the U.S.?
ARKEDIS: Yeah, of course. I mean think about how we got here, right? The
Cold War ended and, of course, it was all military all the time after the
Cold War as it should have been.
The Clinton administration came in and there was a peace dividend. They
had the opportunity to draw down the military budgets. And then 911
happens, and then all of a sudden, the military basically gets a blank
check to do whatever we want. Now, any time that there`s a crisis around
the world, military or otherwise, just as you said, it`s sort of the
globetrotting logistical expertise. It`s almost like it`s the UPS of the
United States foreign policy where you have a problem. The military has
somehow, somewhere, everything that you would need to try and solve that
problem. So, it`s easy to call on.
SIMMONS: This is exactly what – this is right. And as a politician what
you want to go after is you are looking for somebody with credibility. So
in all the other pieces of government, the American public feels like they
can`t do anything. The military functions. So, you can – and you know
why people believe that? Because the military advertises. They spend
millions of dollars advertising every day.
HARRIS-PERRY: I have to say, I have all the feelings about the “American
Sniper” movie, I try to be very calm, when we had talked about on the show,
but I do keep wondering in part like “The American Sniper” film and, you
know, sort of what it`s doing – right now is in part contributing to where
we`re going to in 2016 around this idea of like the sole man who will
protect us all. More to come, I promise, just on this topic and also about
the most monumental thing that happened all week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When people spew
hatred towards others because of their faith or because they are immigrants
it feeds into terrorist narratives. If entire communities feel they can
never become a full part of the society, in which they reside it feeds a
cycle of fear and resentment and a sense of injustice upon which extremists
pray. We need to build and bolster bridges of communication and trust.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama speaking Thursday at a White House
conference on violent extremism in a speech that advanced his foreign
policy doctrine of approaching radicalism as the question of diplomacy and
human rights. How womanly of him, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean it did - it felt like that`s precisely the thing that
comes into critique. But when I hear it, I`m like, well, yeah, I mean if
you keep engaging only in this military way, then you will keep sort of
creating the underpinnings of the violence.
HURLBURT: And if you talk to four star generals, you know, Petraeus will
tell you day and night, you can`t kill radicalism. You have to do this –
we, the military, is the smallest piece and this stuff Obama is talking
about is the bigger piece. And yet our politics has gotten so detached
from military reality that we have had - you have had generals out there
saying this stuff. You have had generals out there saying close
Guantanamo, saying don`t torture. And it has no dent, because we have
created this bizarre political culture of machismo that reality doesn`t
BELLANTONI: And at the same time like expert after expert will tell you
that if you go to some rural community in a country that might hate America
and you educate the women and you get the women to get out there and
contribute to the economy or make sure the girls stay in school, that tamps
down violent extremism 25 years from now.
ARKEDIS: Here`s the crucial link between America`s domestic policy and our
foreign policy and our values and our interests, right? We`re talking
about equality of opportunity and freedom of expression. Those are the
core values that basically this country holds near and dear. And so, those
values should form key parts of our interests in foreign policy because
when we spread those values, we should do it subtly and slowly and work for
change over time as opposed to at the barrel of working under a howitzer,
as we did in Iraq. Like the idea is, that basically, stability spreads and
stability ultimately creates a safer world.
SIMMONS: So, it`s also a political reality here, too, though, which is
that Americans want a strong protector sitting in the Oval Office who will
do what it takes, slay any dragon, to keep the country safe.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean literally, President Obama ran on, it`s like the
second time, I killed Osama bin Laden. Like, you know, yes, I`m going to
talk to my enemies, but then I killed Osama bin Laden and he just kept
reminding of it.
SIMMONS: So, he has to .
HARRIS-PERRY: I killed Osama bin Laden.
SIMMONS: He has to keep doing that. And sometimes he can lean a little
more on the intellectualism side and I think that starts to make people
feel like oh, wait a minute, is he really tough enough? Because you put on
remember what you did four years ago – what you did, you know, four days
HARRIS-PERRY: But the intellectualism - I guess this is part of my point
about my worry about the kind of renewal of masculinity discourse. Is it -
to be intellectually tough is to be tough. To do this kind of work, to
plant the seeds with women, that is potentially even harder work than doing
the work – I mean, certainly. The work of the military is extremely hard
work. But like that this is a kind of foreign policy that I think we have
to start to respect as tough.
HURLBURT: Well, look, we`re going through a cultural moment in the U.S.
about what toughness is, what masculinity is, how, you know, as we`re a
more diverse society, a more open society, how do people who have defined
themselves in a certain place by what it means to be male, how does that
fit with us? And those folks are really uncomfortable.
HARRIS-PERRY: When you say, we are in a cultural moment, I just want to
underline that this is a true fact that you have said. Why do I know this?
Because Shonda Rhimes is doing this right now on “Scandal.” If you have
been watching “Scandal” I know – you want “Scandal,” you know that Olivia
Pope has been like kidnapped by these people, so in this week it all came
to ahead. And the big question was, should President Fitz have sent people
to war? To save Olivia, and here`s what she had to say about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UF: When the true test came along, when I was taken because of you, you go
to war? You sent thousands of innocent soldiers into harm`s way, some of
them to their death, for one person.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to save you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You didn`t save me! I`m on my own!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s just no question the woman is more powerful.
HARRIS-PERRY: And she was like don`t go to war for one person. This is
like – I mean on the one hand you have to say, you know, in evening TV
show, but this does seem to be like a cultural moment we`re grappling with
SIMMONS: And we may be grappling with it a little bit more in the costs,
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, I see.
SIMMONS: When I go home to Michigan, I mean some of the .
HARRIS-PERRY: I live in North Carolina, I feel you.
SIMMONS: They are a little more kind of – the lines are a little more
starkly driven. And I think, you know, somebody is banging on it. This is
where Hillary Clinton is right. If someone is banging on your door, trying
to get in your house, somebody has to get up and figure out what`s going on
while, you know, the police .
HARRIS-PERRY: But if somebody is banging on the door .
SIMMONS: That might be your mom.
HARRIS-PERRY: If somebody is banging on the door .
HARRIS-PERRY: Banging on your door, you just run out - and don`t talk
first. And particularly in Michigan they should be clear about this. You
might shoot the wrong damn person, you might shoot the innocent young woman
standing on your front porch. Quite lively. Thank you to Heather Hurlburt
and the rest of the panel is all sticking around. We have so much to say
today. If you`re watching us, and the Nerdland, hashtag on Twitter right
now, you know that Obama loves America is trending all thanks to New York
City mayor, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: On Wednesday night Republican Governor Scott Walker was
supposed to be the headliner at a Manhattan dinner. But a former New York
City mayor and 2008 GOP alpha ran Rudy Giuliani stole the headlines when he
said “I do not believe and I know this is a horrible thing to say, by I do
not believe that the president loves America. He doesn`t love you and he
doesn`t love me. He wasn`t brought up the way you were brought up, and I
was brought up through love of this country.”
Giuliani was right. That was a horrible thing to say. And he got called
on it. But rather than apologize or moderate his tone or just back up off
my president a little, Giuliani decided not only to double down, but to go
in on the president`s mama. To “The New York Times” Mr. Giuliani
explained, “Some people thought it was racist. I thought that was a joke
since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to
white schools and most of this he learned from white people.” And then to
CNN, “There`s a real attempt to make it a racial criticism. It has nothing
to do with race. He was brought up by the – by a white mother and white
Again, Mr. Giuliani is right. President Obama`s mother and grandparents
were white. But it might be worth noting that in this country, a person
born to an African parent and a white parent could be legally enslaved
until 1865. Then in 1896, the Supreme Court established that doctrine,
that separate but equal in the case of Homer Plessy, a New Orleans creole
of color, whose ancestry was only a small fraction African. And from 1877
until 1965, a person with those two parents would have been subject to
segregation and public accommodation, schools, housing and employment. In
other words, having a white mother is not an automatic shield from the
effects of racial injustice, but Mr. Giuliani`s school yard taunt of your
mama don`t love America gives us an excuse to learn more about the woman
who bore and raised our president and the lessons she taught him about this
The president`s mother was in the words of her biographer, a singular
woman. Joining me now is author of “A Singular Woman: the Untold Story of
Barack Obama`s Mother”, Janny Scott. So nice to have you back in Nerdland
to talk about Ann Dunham.
JANNY SCOTT, AUTHOR “A SINGULAR WOMAN”: Nice to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: You write about Ann Dunham as an anthropologist and a global
citizen. Someone who did community organizing on behalf of the poor around
the world. Is it possible that she contributed to a kind of jaundice eye
for her son looking back on America?
SCOTT: I would not say that. I mean it`s very hard to know how any parent
influences their child. You can talk about the parent, you can talk about
the child, but to make the link is difficult. But Ann Dunham never – she
lived half of her adult life abroad, mostly in Indonesia, but she never
renounced her citizenship. She`s never been on the record in any way as
being critical of the United States. And I think in many ways her
experience abroad led her to an appreciation of what was in the United
States. So, what she grown up with. She had a very American childhood in
many ways. Her parents were from Kansas, she moved around the country and
lived in different places, ended up in Hawaii. And from there became an
anthropologist and ended up in Indonesia through – a series of life
events, not a conscious decision to depart from the United States and leave
it behind. So, I would be very surprised if that experience that he had
with his mother in any way jaundiced him towards this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: As we were talking about, your experience as a child leaving
abroad, now in a far less communist country .
HARRIS-PERRY: You were in London, after all. But I just thought it would
be useful to reflect on that.
ARKEDIS: No, it`s absolutely true. And obviously, I will thank my parents
until the day I die. I lived in London for four years as a 10 to 14-year-
old, very formative years, and that gave me the perspective and my interest
in the international relations and politics. I was saying earlier, I
remember my very first political moment was when Ronald Reagan came to the
United Kingdom and had a state visit with Margaret Thatcher. And they gave
a press conference in front of Number 10 Downing Street, and I was
captivated by the issue. And then also through those four years, my
parents took me around Europe and I got to see new countries and experience
new cultures and experience new languages. And that was wonderful. And
that`s helped make me who I am today.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I thought it might be worth listing. President Obama
talks about his parents a lot, actually. So, I want us to listen to
President Obama talking about his mother in 2008 before he was president
and then I want to pop and listen to him talking about his father and the
ways that they thought about the country. Let`s listen for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while
she worked and earned her degree. Who once turned to food stamps, but was
still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of
student loans and scholarships.
Through hard work and perseverance, my father got a scholarship to study in
a magical place, America that shone as a beacon of freedom and opportunity
to so many who had come before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, in 2004 he`s talking about his dad coming as a student
from Africa to a magical place, America, and his mom who endures a lot of
difficulties, but seems to come out on the other side of it as saying
therefore this is a place where hard work pays off.
BELLANTONI: In addition to that, all the things we talked about in the
last segment about laying diplomacy and understanding other cultures that
comes from understanding other places and exactly what you were getting at.
But think about how many Americans brag they have never been anywhere and
don`t even have passports, right? You know, I`m married to someone who was
born in Singapore, raised in Australia, lived in London when we met. And
he understands the world in a different way. He`s seen many, many
different things and places and cultures. And that`s the same thing about
Barack Obama. He`s able to have understanding of the places where he lived
in Indonesia, of some of his family in Africa. This is a very different
kind of understanding of the world that helps you relate to other cultures
and maybe expand your diplomatic interests. And that`s the key to how
we`re supposed to run a strong foreign policy.
HARRIS-PERRY: So on the one hand, I love this notion of kind of an
experimental nature, but there`s also it seems to me, a kind of
cosmopolitanism beyond experience that`s simply about saying having a
critique of one`s nation does not mean not loving it.
SIMMONS: Right. And when you`re listening to Rudy Giuliani, not to talk
about him too much, but he is really a voice for a very particular segment
of the United States that`s really wrestling with what`s happening in this
HARRIS-PERRY: How right. This is not the America .
SIMMONS: This is not the America we were promised, right? This is not the
America they were raised in. And I think when they see Barack Obama he is
a living, breathing example of what`s happening to the country that they
thought was going to exist. And he`s reacting to that.
HARRIS-PERRY: But now, I want to dig in on that a little bit more.
Because still to come, President Obama on how his parents helped provide
him the path for the Oval Office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped my life,
and it is on behalf of them that I intend to win this election and keep our
promise alive as president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My parents shared not only an improbable love. They shared an
abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an
African name Barack, or blessing, believing that in a tolerant America your
name is no barrier to success.
OBAMA: They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though
they weren`t rich because in a generous America you don`t have to be rich
to achieve your potential.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Senator Barack Obama, so young, back in 2004
delivering the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. And,
you know, I wanted to go back to `04 because it`s the first time that most
of the nation meets the man who is going to become President Obama. And he
puts his parents right at the center of that narrative and he says, in
giving me this name they are suggesting that America is a good place. And
in, you know, dreaming big dreams for me, they nonetheless see America as a
good place. And I wonder about how he deploys them politically. Because
we`re all there irritated with Mr. Giuliani for having the words about
people`s mama. But on the other hand, President Obama has always asked us
to think about his parents when we think about him.
SCOTT: Yes, it`s true. In the campaigns they have always been carefully
packaged to serve a certain purpose. The notion of a new kind of America,
an America that combined the old America of Ann Dunham`s family with the
new America of immigration and, you know, Africans and whatever, of his
father`s family. But it`s - there are far more complicated story than
that. You know, she`s always been a bit of a problem for him. You know,
she`s this anthropologist who lives half of her life in Indonesia and even
now in the end of his second term Giuliani is bringing her up as a kind of
weapon against him. So, they are a very sort of volatile situation for
HARRIS-PERRY: I also feel like – and maybe this is just – maybe this is
me reading too much of my own self into it, but I have a mother who is a
white woman who grew up in out west in Washington, in Spokane, Washington,
went to Burgham (ph) University, grew up as a Mormon girl. And you`re not
a white woman who raises an African-American child who has a strong racial
identity without confronting American inequality. Like there are a few
people who could tell you more about race and inequality and what`s wrong
and good about America but my mom, because to be a white mother of a black
child is to confront that. So I feel like when you bring up Ann Dunham,
those are fighting words because we know what those women had to confront.
BELLANTONI: And from his own telling in “Dreams from My Father,” it`s more
his grandparents in that influence.
BELLANTONI: But the conversations come from them and he went right at this
also during the campaign of how his grandmother said things that would make
him uncomfortable and that his grandfather would sort of guide him along
and confront this very different place. And in Hawaii where he spent a
good amount of his life as well, you`re confronting like a different sort
of, you know, the tribes, the native population there and then how that
feels so distanced from the mainland. I mean it`s all distanced.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s listen to him talk about his grandmother here for a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think about my grandmother who worked her way up from the
secretarial pool to middle management despite years of being passed over
for promotions because she was a woman. She`s the one who taught me about
hard work. She`s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for
herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIMMONS: You know, what`s really interesting, I always – I have a
suspicion. I haven`t seen data on this, but I have a suspicion, that a
part of the reason Barack Obama was able to get elected president was
because there was so many families like yours, where all of a sudden there
are these brown children sitting at the table that these parents and
grandparents who never had to face these issues in a very personal way, but
when a fight for the loved one at their table. And now they saw Barack
Obama as sort of the kind of growing up of these people and their families.
And so, this level of integration that`s happening at a very familial level
in a country, causes people to ask questions about who we are and what we
are dealing with that they never really had to ask.
HARRIS-PERRY: Not unlike marriage equality and the ways, in which as in
communities where people come out and they realize that their cousin and
their brother and their sister are in a community that is in a circumstance
of inequality. And they are like, well, for my people, here we go. Thank
you to Janny Scott and to Jim Arkedis. Also, thank you to Christina
Bellantoni. Jamal is going to be back in our next hour.
50 years ago on this day, we lost Malcolm X. And in today`s “New York
Times,” his daughter says of today`s movement he would bemoan the lack of
sustained targeted activism. She joins me next.
HARRIS-PERRY: 50 years ago today, the man Davis called our living black
manhood was assassinated. El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, or Malcolm X was just
39 years old. In those brief years, he had actively and purposely
transformed himself from a young hustler to a charismatic spokesman for the
nation of Islam to a serious man of faith and an independent global
revolutionary. Malcolm spoke at universities around the world. He debated
foundational for the rights activists - He addressed worshippers in mosques
and crowds on street corners in Harlem. But history may best remember him
for these words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALCOLM X: We want freedom by any means necessary.
MALCOLM X: We want justice by in means necessary. We want equality by any
means necessary. We don`t feel that in 1964 living in a country that is
supposedly based upon freedom and supposedly the leader of the free world
we don`t think that we should have to sit around and wait for some
segregationist congressman and senators and a president from Texas in
Washington, D.C. to make up their mind that our people are due now some
degree of civil rights. No, we want it now, or we don`t think anybody
should have it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Less than a year after that speech on this day in 1965,
three gunmen rushed the stage at the Audubon ballroom in Harlem where
Malcolm X was speaking and shot him 15 times. Legendary actor Ozzie Davis
eulogized Malcolm as our own black shining prince. Malcolm`s legacy is the
subject of a new book, “X: A Novel” by his daughter who was only three
years old at the time of his death. Ilyasah Shabazz joins me now.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ, AUTHOR, “X: A NOVEL”: It must be a hard day. You were
three years old in there.
SHABAZZ: Actually I was 2 1/2.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, and your father was killed. That`s very young. Do
you have memories, even just visceral ones of him?
SHABAZZ: I talk about it in one of my books. I think in “Growing Up X”, I
just have flickering images. You know, I remember this big, tall man. You
know, obviously, and these big beautiful pearly white teeth that would
pierce through an enormously beautiful smile.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wonder in this moment, you pend these pretty intense op-ed
for “The New York Times,” in which you suggest that your father would have
both support and also critique for the current black lives matter. You
right, in part, “He`d agree that black lives matter, indeed, but also note
that the uniform police officers who disagree are not likely to be
persuaded by a hash tag.” What are the things that he would offer as
critique of the black lives matter movement?
SHABAZZ: Well, I think that, you know, my father was a result oriented
person, clearly. And I think, you know, this is what we get to recognize
and appreciate in Malcolm today. So I think that he would want to see what
is our end goal and how have we resolved institutionalized racism? You
know, this - the injustice that continues even 50 years later.
HARRIS-PERRY: This idea you wrote about, that hands up on the one hand, is
indicative of that very strategy of making a black body unprotected.
SHABAZZ: Right. Right. That`s right. We just have to have solutions. I
think that we all need to come to a roundtable, have a discussion, a plan,
organize, strategize, have some resolution.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I thought a little bit about the legacy of your
father in these past weeks as we have been, of course, talking about the
legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in the context of the “Selma” film. Even
the legacy of LBJ, because of the context of “The Selma” film. And so, you
know, here you have, it`s a young adult novel. It`s written in your
father`s voice as young person. And I think, OK, autobiography of Malcolm
X is one of those must reads and then we have Manning`s text, on which, you
know, offers a different kind of academic historical. What does this
novel, “X-Novel” do for your father`s legacy?
SHABAZZ: First, I want to say that the young lady that I wrote the book
with, Kekla Magoon, is just amazing. She`s just amazing. But what this
book does it allows – because it`s historical .
HARRIS-PERRY: Historical fiction.
SHABAZZ: Historical fiction. Because it`s historical fiction, it allows
the reader, the young reader to go on the journey with Malcolm`s, you know,
Malcolm`s trepidations, Malcolm`s - just his conscience, his thoughts, and
ultimately Malcolm coming into grips with his own self and understanding
that we all have a purpose in life. And so, you know, if anything, we want
young people to understand that they have a purpose in life. That life
isn`t just about, you know, existing and accumulating a lot of wealth or
material possessions. It`s about giving something back. And so we find
that Malcolm, you know, goes on to become this amazing dynamic dynamic
human rights activist.
HARRIS-PERRY: He would have had this critique that you suggest that black
lives matter, I wonder what would he say about how America right now is
talking about world Islam.
SHABAZZ: Oh, my gosh, I couldn`t tell you. I couldn`t tell you right now,
but, you know, I`m actually happy that President Obama, you know, he said
that this isn`t about Islam when we have all these terrorists killings.
It`s about individuals who happen to be Muslims.
HARRIS-PERRY: I so appreciate the book. I appreciate your presence here
on what must be a tough anniversary. And I do have to tell you I met Ms.
Betty Shabazz, Dr. Betty Shabazz, on the day I graduated from college, and
it has such an impact on me for exactly the words you just said. Life is
about some sort of purpose. You`re supposed to be doing something.
SHABAZZ: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I appreciate hearing that from you on this day.
SHABAZZ: It`s an honor, I have to tell you. I love you, I admire you and
I`m so happy that I could be here today on my father`s memorial day.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. Thank you, too, Ilyasah Shabazz, and coming up
next, the new power struggle between the White House and the courts and the
millions of people caught in the middle.
And a former NFL player, Ray Davis is here to talk about his new campaign.
This is Love. There`s more at MHP show at the top of the hour. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Here`s a head line for you. It`s cold. Tens of millions of you are waking
up staring at your phone`s weather app in disbelief. Minus 5 in Johnstown,
New York. Minus 16 in Massachusetts.
This recent slew of winter storms has delivered a double-edged sword.
First, the good, sledding like my little girl AJ here. Many of us have
grabbed our snow gear and headed outside for some fun. She`s like what in
Now, North Carolina rarely sees much snow, especially the kind that really
sticks. So, my older daughter, Parker and I, made the most of it.
NBC News wanted in on the fun too pushing #itssocold. The news network
asked folks to finish that system with their own personal deep freeze
story. And the results were cooler than cool, ice cold. Check out this
hitchhiking snowman. Can we catch a ride too? This woman found her iced
coffee had been frozen solid. Or how about this snow-dusted playing a game
of where`s Waldo?
So, that`s the good. What about the bad and the ugly?
Well, the winter storms have pummeled some areas, one right after the
other. Places like Boston are still struggled to dig out. The dangerous
conditions are being blamed for the deaths of at least 25 people, 18 of
them died in Tennessee.
Officials say more than half of those deaths were due to hypothermia. The
others were car accidents on icy roads. Parts of the south are bracing for
more ice and freezing rain. Areas that are unaccustomed to such unusual
And it is not over yet. Another winter storm is incoming and it`s expected
to be widespread, impacting parts of the south, northeast and even Midwest.
You stay with us. We`ll have more on this record-shattering weather later
in the hour.
But right now, we turn to the latest challenge to President Obama`s action
on immigration. The ongoing battle over immigration reform has raised an
important question that has little to do with actual immigration policy.
Just who runs this country? I mean, is it Congress? The president? Some
judge at the border city of Brownsville, Texas? What happens when all of
those folks disagree?
In this case, immigration – one Chamber of Commerce passed an immigration
reform bill that would create a pathway to citizenship for millions of
undocumented immigrants. That was in June of 2013. The other chamber, not
So, the president acted on his own after warning Congress repeatedly that
he would do so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you don`t do it, I`ve got
legal authority to make improvements on the system, I`d prefer and still
prefer to see it done through Congress.
In the absence of congressional action, I intend to take action because
it`s the right thing to do for the country.
If House Republicans are really concerned about me, taking too many
executive actions, the best solution to that is passing bills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Last November the president announced executive actions that
would allow up to more than 4 million undocumented immigrants to stay in
this country without the fear of deportation. The new rules would apply
mostly to the parents of U.S. citizens, as well as more immigrants who came
to this country as children known as dreamers.
It`s an important and big change, one that would affect a third or more of
the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S., the
one that the president performed this act unilaterally. And that left many
in Congress in an uproar, claiming that the president was far overstepping
his executive power, and trampling on the separation of powers.
Now, the president`s opponents in Congress are trying to exert their
constitutional power. Republican lawmakers are attempting to dismantle the
president`s executive orders with amendments to a $40 billion piece of
legislation that would fund the Department of Homeland Security.
Senate Democrats are filibustering the bill until Republicans take out
those riders, and Republicans are blaming Democrats for the delay. A bill
for funding the Department of Homeland Security is going to expire in a
But according to Republicans, this fight over immigration reform isn`t
really about immigration reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is not about actually
the issue of immigration. What it is, is it`s about the president acting
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: We`re going to bring legislation to
reestablish the rule of law, make it clear that it`s the Congress, not the
White House, who writes immigration laws.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: This issue in this lawsuit is not about
immigration. The issue in this lawsuit is about abuse of executive power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: If you`re with us in the first hour, you remember the
Republicans say the president is too weak and now he`s too strong.
But anyway, this week, Republicans scored a victory when the third branch
of government weighed in.
On Monday, a federal judge in Texas blocked the president`s executive
actions, putting the program on hold just before immigration officials were
going to start accepting applications. The judge said that the president
and Department of Homeland Security had stepped far out of bounds. He
wrote, quote, “The DHS secretary is not just rewriting the laws, he`s
creating them from scratch.”
The White House is wasting no time trying to undo this, and on Monday,
they`ll ask the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to block the district
Joining me now: Adam Cox, professor of law at NYU, Cesar Vargas, who is co-
director of the Dream Action Coalition and a contributor for the Hill.
Jamal Simmons is back, Democratic consultant for the Raben Group, and Sayu
Bhojwani, who is founding director of the New American Leaders Project.
Thank you all for being here.
Adam, walk me through the judge`s decision just a little bit. What`s he
claiming that the president did wrong as a legal matter?
ADAM COX, PROFESSOR OF LAW, NYU: Well, so, the most important thing to
recognize about the decision is the difference between what the court did
and what he said. So what the court did is legally small and technical.
He didn`t say that the president`s program oversteps his executive
authority, or tramples on the powers of Congress.
All he actually said was that the administration is supposed to go out and
get public comments before they actually initiate this program. That`s the
holding. But what he said was much broader because the opinion is laced
with rhetoric suggesting that he does, in fact, think that the president
you usurped his authority.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, I just walk me through before we move on because the
other thing I found fascinating is apparently they kind of shopped around
for this particular judge. I guess I – being not a lawyer, I didn`t know
this was a thing one could do.
COX: Yes. So, in a case like this, you know, when off large number of
states suing the federal government, they have their pick of fora. And
that means they can go out and pick a judge who they think is going to be
sympathetic to their case. That`s precisely what happened here and it`s no
different in what happened in the lower court litigation about the
Affordable Care Act.
So, there are striking parallels between both contexts where, you know,
partisan politics gets converted into a crisis in the lower courts can
generate an opinion that then drives the political debate and changes the
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, on the one hand, we had the Republicans
saying this is not about immigration. This is about this imperial
president who is so weak – but whatever. This is about this imperial
president, this is about an overstepping, this is about a constitutional
crisis. But the effect is, in fact, on immigrant families.
CESAR VARGAS, CO-DIR., DREAM ACTION COALITION: Yes, absolutely. For me,
last time when I was here, it was – I told about how excited my mom was
that she was going to be able to qualify. And, you know, it was very sad
actually telling them the day of the decision that she had to wait. My
sister had to wait. So many other immigrants had had to wait because, you
know, to be with their families.
So, for us it was about making sure they knew this is all about
immigration. Republicans are using the courts to fight this political
battle on immigration reform. The fact is, 11 presidents have taken
similar action, Republicans and Democrats. And all of a sudden, it`s about
the constitutional crisis.
So for us, we`re going to make sure that our communities are protected and
reality is that for us, it`s great to see my mother, my sister and so many
immigrants out there that they are resilient, that they`re ready. They`re
going to say, this is something temporary and we`re going to continue to
fight and we`re going to continue to apply.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this really does leave me with a bit of a question. I
want to think of myself as a political scientist who cares about a set of
principles, about how things get done in the context of politics, in
addition to the outcomes. So, but I do find myself in a reality where, for
example, progressives will cheer the court when it basically upholds ACA,
but then hate the court when it got the voting rights amendment, who will
say we really want to make sure that these lower court judges don`t do
something unless it`s marriage equality in Alabama and then we`re thrilled.
Is there a way to separate out our politics and whether or not we think
it`s a good decision base on what we want for a policy, from sort of what`s
good practice for a constitutional democracy?
SAYU BHOJWANI, FOUNDING DIR., NEW AMERICAN LEADERS PROJECT: Well, I mean,
I`m so glad you brought up the ACA because that is one element of this
practice that has been in place. There`s an overlap of 21 states between
the 27 that sued around ACA and the 26 that sued around the executive
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, really? I wonder what that overlap is. Could it be
BHOJWANI: But this 26-state lawsuit also includes five states that have
the whitest population in our country, including Maine. What does Maine
really even care about what`s happening around immigration since such a
small portion of their population is immigrant?
And to some extent, I think there is a general concern that we do need to
have as liberals about where immigration and issues of people of color fit
into our broader agenda, right? Like what – how can we create better
bridges around the immigrants rights movement, the gay rights movement and
other social justice issues. Where do we create greater consensus around
what we need to do about black lives matter and all lives matter and
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m surprised at how much support there is.
I mean, Jamal, I see when I look at this, I see that when we do this
immigration poll, December of 2014 from Pew Research, 70 percent allowing
undocumented immigrants to stay in this nation. But only 46 percent
support executive action. So, if I`m a Republican, no wonder I say this
isn`t about immigration.
Of course, you`d say that because there`s 70 percent support for it. This
is about the bad president because only 46 percent support for him.
SIMMONS: Right. And this is what gets them in trouble and why they can`t
win the White House, because they don`t –
HARRIS-PERRY: To the end, I love it.
SIMMONS: They don`t listen to the 24 percent of people, the delta between
that 46 percent and 70 percent of people who support immigration. So, in
fact, what you have is a country that`s already ready to make this
decision. It`s ready to move.
And here`s the thing. What we`re talking about is we`re talking about
Latin American immigration, because I grew up in Michigan. The place is
overrun with Canadians. Nobody is worried about those Canadians, right?
Nobody is worried about waitresses and East European waitresses in New York
City nightclubs who are overstaying.
Those aren`t the issues. People are talking about the fact they are
concerned about having so many other Hispanics in the country. And that is
what we have to sort of grapple with. There`s a racial element to this
that Republicans don`t want to have to deal with but until they do, they
won`t be able to win.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, fascinating. I love you win the nerd award for calling
the difference between the 70 percent and 46 percent, the delta.
Up next, President Obama is not standing alone. The attorneys general do
have his back. We`ll talk to one of them when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Twenty-six states led by Texas sued the Obama administration
to stop it from enacting the president`s executive orders on immigration.
They claim the executive orders will hurt the states financially. For one,
by flooding their DMVs with new applicants for driver`s licenses.
But not all states agree. The attorneys general of another 12 states and
the District of Columbia shot back with their own brief in the case,
arguing that the executive actions will benefit their states plenty. Thank
you very much.
The leader of that effort is Washington state Attorney General Bob
Ferguson, who joins us live from Seattle.
Attorney General, tell me how, how does your state benefit from president`s
BOB FERGUSON, WASHINGTON STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: First, thanks so much for
having me on your show. I really appreciate it.
And there`s multiple ways in which Washington state and then other states
benefit. First and really foremost, in my state alone, there`s 100,000
individual who stand to benefit from the president`s actions. I`m their
lawyer, and it`s important they have a chance to come out of the shadows
and earn those wages that they are entitled to. The types of jobs they can
work for, not under the table as well.
So, it`s important on a human level as well to get them out of the shadows
and back in our democracy in the full way.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, we were looking at the data post-DACA, which was the
initial deferred action, that 79 percent of the DREAMers are actually
earning more in better jobs, which likely means paying more taxes to their
states and also that 41 percent of them returned to college after dropping
out. So, yes, there`s a human side there, but it also feels like that`s a
substantive social and economic piece.
FERGUSON: Absolutely. We laid that out in the brief that we put before
the court was that economic benefit that you`re referring to. In Texas,
for example, in the next five years, if the president`s actions are allowed
to go forward the state of Texas will generate hundreds of millions of
dollars in additional tax revenues in the same way that my state will as
well. We thought it was important for the judge to hear those benefits all
around the country from that standpoint as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting when you invoke Texas because former Texas
A.G., now Texas Governor Greg Abbott, had something different to say back
in December on “Meet the Press.” Let`s take a moment and take a listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBOTT: If this abuse is not stopped, it will erode the Constitution that
has attracted so many people to this country for generations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. A.G., do you believe that this will erode the
FERGUSON: No, quite the opposite. I think the action taken by the
president is fully consistent with our Constitution and fully consistent
with having folks who have come to our country get them the legal status
that will bring them in to get the jobs, the wages they can participate in
and fully contribute back to our society. I think that`s what`s critical
I do think General Abbott, now Governor Abbott has it wrong. I think when
he was attorney general, he was once asked to describe his job, he said, I
get up in the morning, I go to work, I sue the Obama administration, I go
This was the most recent of those actions. And I`ll leave it to your
viewers to decide what the motivations were behind that.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, hold one minute, Mr. Ferguson.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to come out to you because that idea, we heard
Ferguson say early on I`m their lawyer. And then we compare that to Mr.
Abbott saying, oh, I get up and go sue the Obama administration.
Is there a way to make this about immigration, about people, but also about
the law in this sense? This is the job of folks.
VARGAS: For us, it`s really bringing it back to the story. And I think
the attorney general really said it precisely. This is about the families,
about the people working, about the people who are paying taxes.
I don`t know about you, for me, since I get excited, on April 15th I have
to pay taxes. I get excited to pay taxes because it`s me contributing to
the country. This is my country, I`m an American, I`m undocumented now.
But for me, I came here when I was 5 years old. This is my home. I want
to make sure this Constitution continues to provide freedom and liberty to
generations to come.
So, Texas definitely got it wrong. But at the same time, we know that the
nation is way ahead of what Texas is, is way ahead of how we`re going to
proceed this nation for generations.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Adam, you know, algebra and the law are different. Help
us to understand how 26 attorneys general could be on one side. Another
group could be on – is there not just a legal answer here?
COX: Well, unfortunately, I mean, as we have been discussing, like the
legal arguments have been used so much in the service of politics that that
explains the divide among the attorneys general. It is really Republican
states, it`s red states versus blue states.
But the law is actually pretty clear here, right? The law makes clear that
because the government is as immigrants know not actually providing legal
status, right? It`s huge practical benefits for immigrants who can come
out of the shadows, but, fundamentally – and this is what some folks are
afraid of, these actions could be reversed by future administration.
COX: And given that fact, it was just wrong of the district court to say
what the president did was legal benefit on 4 million immigrants.
HARRIS-PERRY: A.G. Ferguson, just to come back to you before we have to
take our break here.
Is there one – is there one piece of this ruling that makes you more
optimistic or more pessimistic about what`s likely to happen next?
FERGUSON: I think at the same level, there`s nothing about the ruling that
surprised me. I think your guests talked about this judge being selected
by the plaintiffs. I agree with that. And to be perfectly honest, I`m not
surprised by the ruling at all. This will ultimately be decided by the
Fifth Circuit. Or even ultimately by the United States Supreme Court
before we`re done. So, it was not a surprise from my standpoint at all.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in
Seattle, Washington, this morning.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, just who is welcome and who is not? I`m bringing
the rest of the table back in.
HARRIS-PERRY: The United States immigration policy has long made judgments
about what kind of people we allow in and which we turn away. And it`s not
all your tired and poor and wretched, teeming on the shore, President Obama
frequently points out that he only wants to help those that are worthy
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We`re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual
threats to our security – felons, not families, criminals, not children,
gang members, not a mom who is working hard to provide for her kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I get the politics of it, I really do. For those of us
that have criminals in our family, I don`t know that distinction between
families and felons, just initially struck me as, whoa, so now you have to
be better as an immigrant than an American has to be simply by being born
BHOJWANI: Well, and knowing obscure facts that you have to know to pass
the citizenship test.
I mean, I think that –
HARRIS-PERRY: Not that I wouldn`t be happy for American citizens to also
know those things. I mean, I think that –
BHOJWANI: Right, exactly.
I mean, look, I think that you`re right on target, right. The president
needs to use some certain type of rhetoric, but then that rhetoric does
perpetuates certain images that he`s walked a really fine line for a very
long time. I think it`s important also for us to remember who is welcome
changes over time, like once we really welcome low wage labor and all of a
sudden, it was like shut it down and we needed high skilled labor and 1965
opened up the doors to many people.
Now, we`re upset about who is here for low wage labor. So, there`s a
moving target about who is welcome and who is not. And so, it`s really
dangerous to play that rhetorical line to perpetuate the imagery that we`re
already problematizing, you know?
HARRIS-PERRY: And in part because it`s not the Canadian nurses, right,
overrunning the Detroit hospitals because there is a racialized aspect to
SIMMONS: There`s absolutely is.
It`s helpful to pull back and get historical perspective. I was struck by
a column in “The New York Times” about George Washington`s slave catcher
and an African-American woman who had gone up north to New Hampshire to get
away from him. The similarities of the struggle of these escapes Africans
brought here to work and left and they started families and had
communities, but they were always living in the shadow of being shut down
by these folks who want to return them to another place –
HARRIS-PERRY: Did I tell you how much I love that you quoted that? I just
met her on Thursday night at the University of Delaware and was asking her
about the fact that this woman married, right, she married a free man of
color, but it did not protect her as a matter of status and it was very
much like being an undocumented who could at any point just kind of be
captured and set back.
SIMMONS: So, here`s a Founding Father who we all look at as this great
American, but he`s shrouded by this dark legacy. The question is in our
era, are we going to be shrouded by the legacy of how we treated
undocumented citizens or undocumented people in our country and not
welcoming them in and giving them a chance to live their lives.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m so happy you brought that up.
OK, that said, I want to look at the new DACA requirements, because you
talked a little about it. So, how does it feel to pay taxes, a very idea
of exciting thing, of thinking of yourself as an American. So, DACA
requires that you`d be in school, that you graduated from high school,
obtain the general GED, or honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or
Armed Forces, have not been convicted of a felony or a significant
I get it, right? I do. But I also feel like – but given that we know how
likely those kinds of policings are in precisely these vulnerable
communities, it continues to feel to me like we`re setting up a kind of
multitier system of who gets to be here.
VARGAS: It`s such simplistic rhetoric, right, when you say felonies, not
felonies. The reality that some states like Arizona, Sheriff Arpaio, one
of the most anti-immigrant sheriffs who pretty uses the law to target
felons. He charges them with felonies for just working with a fake paper
or fake identification.
So, now, this person who – this woman who was working to pay for school,
to pay for her family is now charged as a felon and convicted as a felon –
HARRIS-PERRY: Even though it`s a status offense. It`s not some kind of a
crime that is likely to harm another person.
VARGAS: And really, that`s why it`s so important the rhetoric, the
politics and when we go back to the stories. We`re talking about a mother
who was recently deported for that. So, I think the president has a tough
job, but at the same time, it`s about making sure we`re not simplistic to
say families or felons, because our immigration is so messy, that we need
to clarify, we need to clean it.
The president took this action to elevate as many people out of the
shadows, but making sure that we implement and give opportunity not just
for the dreamers, but for the law students, for all workers, the parents
who couldn`t go to school.
HARRIS-PERRY: I guess part of what I`m wondering here is part of what
happens is because immigration is under the Department of Homeland
Security, this is that kind of post-9/11 moment where we begin to see every
foreigner as a threat on our shores.
SIMMONS: No, absolutely true. And I think what the president is doing, as
you alluded already is he`s dealing with the politics of this. And the
politics of this is, if we try to save everybody, we could lose the
opportunity to save a lot of bodies.
So, he`s going for what he can do at this particular moment and it is –
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I wonder if there`s a state by state strategy given
there is so much pushback against this president. I mean, one of the
things progressives had to do is take it out of the president`s hands, not
because they don`t think it`s good at it, but just because it causes such
pushback. Is there a state by state strategy?
BHOJWANI: Yes. Since 2006, there`s been an increase in the number of
bills in order to address integration, right? States can`t technically do
anything, but they can do a wide range of things. They can when allowed
undocumented immigrants to get driver`s license. They can provide in-state
tuition to undocumented students.
And we are very concerned about seeing – we want to see more voices like
ours in-state legislatures to push for that agenda because this was a very
conservative action on the part of the president, and even when we have
immigration for all, and we fix the system, there`s a huge range of
activities that is needed for integration to happen so that everyone can
feel like they can access what is available to them in America.
HARRIS-PERRY: To be part of the big American story.
Thank you to Adam Cox and to Cesar Vargas. Also, thank you to Jamal
Simmons and also to Sayu Bhojwani.
A quick programming note: something you absolutely will not want to miss.
This Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m., MSNBC and Telemundo will present an
exclusive town hall with President Obama on the issue of immigration hosted
by MSNBC`s own Jose Diaz-Balart.
Now, something monumental happened this week. I`m so excited. That story
HARRIS-PERRY: On Thursday, President Obama made a monumental announcement
when he launched an initiative called Every Kid in a Park.
The program will allow all fourth graders and their families to visit
national parks free of charge for a full year. Additionally, three new
national monuments will be created including the Pullman National Monument
which the president dedicated Thursday afternoon while visiting Chicago`s
Pullman Historic District. President Obama spoke about the town`s origins,
industrialist George Pullman and the men who worked on his trains.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This site is at the heart of what would become America`s labor
movement. And as a consequence, at the heart of what would become
America`s middle class.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, at the heart of the labor movement and the country`s
middle class were the Pullman porters, the men who left the Jim Crow South
to work on Pullman Company trains, serving passengers in first class
sleeping cars between the 1860s and 1960s.
The porters work became a movement. They joined together as the
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925, and it became the first
African-American labor union. The porters were also an integral part of
the civil rights movement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It was those Pullman porters who gave the base by which A. Philip
Randolph could convince President Truman to desegregate the armed forces.
It was those porters who helped lead the Montgomery bus boycott, who were
the central organizers of the march on Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And now, those porters deservedly so, will be honored in
Chicago`s first national park, a testament to their legacy, their
leadership and their labor.
Up next, pushed out, overpoliced and underprotected. A new report on the
lives of black girls.
HARRIS-PERRY: Consider these recent head lines. A 6-year-old girl
handcuffed for throwing a temper tantrum inside a classroom in
Milledgeville, Georgia. In Dearborn Heights, Michigan, a high school honor
student suspended for carrying a pocket knife. And in Henry County,
Georgia, a 12-year-old nearly expelled for writing on a locker room wall.
These are the harsh punishments delivered to students who are black girls
and their stories are not uncommon. Twelve percent of black girls are
suspended from school versus just 2 percent of white girl girls. And
although black boys are more likely to be punished in school, black girls
are more likely to be suspended.
A new study highlights these discrepancies and implications, “Black Girls
Matter: Pushed out, Overpoliced and Underprotected”, was co-authored by
Kimberle Crenshaw, who joins me now. Crenshaw is a professor of law at
Columbia Law School and founder of the African-American Policy Forum.
Kim, it`s so nice to have you here. We were just talking about how the
report on the one hand is beautiful but also very troubling. And I`m
wondering – are there any particular findings that were surprising for
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW, FOUNDER, AFRICAN-AMERICAN POLICY FORUM: Well, Melissa,
we knew that there were dis-proportionality in terms of suspension and
expulsion that African-American students suffered from overall. What we
weren`t prepared to see was how great the disparity between girls.
So, we looked in New York City and we saw that black girls were ten times
more likely to be suspended or subject to discipline than white girls, and
in Boston, it was 11 times. Now, that`s consistent overall, but let`s
recognize that the disproportionality between girls is actually greater
than the disproportionality between boys.
So, to the extent this is a racial problem or a problem of racial
discrimination, girls should be front and center in this conversation
because they are experiencing high rates of racial disproportionality.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what do you say to someone who says, well, maybe the
girls are just badder, and they just deserve to be punished?
CRENSHAW: Well, that was one of the things, of course, we had to consider.
It was why we decided, in addition to looking at data to actually sit down
and talk to some young women who had been pushed out of school to get some
of their stories. They told us precisely these kinds of stereotypes. That
we are perceived to be loud, to be aggressive, to be unladylike. Teachers
aren`t invested in us. Their basic role is to discipline us.
And that`s consistent with some of the research that suggests that black
girls tend to be viewed as unladylike, and so, some teachers, black as well
as nonblack, see their role as trying to shape their behavior into more
appropriate behaviors for women and girls.
So, in that way, they are facing both gender kind of norming, which comes
from a gender project and racial stereotypes because blackness is
associated with aggressiveness. So, it`s an intersectional problem that
they are facing.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to take a listen to the attorney general of the
United States talking about this issue, not specifically around girls, but
around the racial disparity and the effects that it has on longer term.
Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will continue to work with allies,
like the Department of Education and others throughout the federal
government and beyond to confront the school to prison pipeline and those
zero tolerance school discipline policies that really do not promote public
safety and that transform too many education institutions from doorways of
opportunity into gateways to the criminal justice system. A minor school
disciplinary offense should put a student in the principal`s office and not
a police precinct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, is that what`s happening? They are being put in a
principal`s office, but instead in a police precinct?
CRENSHAW: Well, actually, sometimes, the police precinct is in the school.
I think people don`t realize that police are now in the school. When you
have police in the school, it`s like if you`re a hammer, everything looks
like a nail. If you`re police officer, you saw indiscretion, the kinds of
things that happen between students look like a criminal justice problem.
So, we have seen some of the consequences of that. I think one of the
things we don`t realize is how girls are particularly positioned. We
talked to one girl who had had gotten arrested for a fight, then she was
put on probation, so every time she came to school late, she got a ticket.
When the ticket accrued, she ended up being arrested and eventually wound
up in solitary confinement.
So, these are the kinds of – we`re talking literally –
HARRIS-PERRY: For being late at school?
CRENSHAW: Yes. We`re talking literally about the school to prison
pipeline. It`s not, you know, a metaphor. It`s real.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s so much more in this report that at the core, it is
this idea that black girls matter, too. We can`t just assume there are
girls programs and race programs. But we have to look specifically at that
Kim Crenshaw, thank you so much for this report and for helping to get this
information out there.
Before we take a break, I do want to get an update on the record-shattering
cold that`s creating dangerous conditions for millions of people across the
country this weekend.
At least 25 deaths are blamed on this latest arctic blast and another
widespread round of ice, snow and freezing rain is on the way.
Joining me from Perrysburg, Ohio, NBC`s Kerry Sanders.
Kerry, we`ve got a condition on your scene. I mean, it`s snowing like on
you right now. My goodness!
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it`s been coming down since
early this morning. It`s certainly picked up. We have about an inch on
the ground and it`s possible we could see according to forecasters, up to
six, maybe nine inches all the way over from this area near Toledo over
The good news is that temperatures are up, 23 degrees, still cold, but the
temperatures are up. It was negative 12 yesterday before you factored in
the wind-chill, that took it down to negative 21.
There are some folks who are finding a little bit of upside to all of this
and those are the ice sculpture folks that have gathered here for the
international competition. This is Neptune or, I guess you would say,
frozen Neptune from the frozen right now.
But, Melissa, you know, there are some people who are actually saying, this
is great because the temperatures are up. I`m thinking – 23 degrees, not
so great and really kind of put a punctuation on the end of that, it`s not
going to get above freezing until next month.
They are in for a little chill here for the coming days and beyond.
SANDERS: So, they`re in for a little bit of a chill here for the coming
days and beyond.
HARRIS-PERRY: Man, am I ready for spring.
Kerry Sanders in Perrysburg, Ohio, doing the hard work today while the rest
of us are warm and toasty right here in 30 Rock. But enjoy the ice
SANDERS: I will, and you know what? There`s a sand sculpture contest in
Mexico. I think I`ll go there, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, you can go there, next.
Still to come this morning, the hit show “Empire” is playing to a
particular stereotype about the African-American community. But a friend
of this show former NFL player Wade Davis is working to change all that and
HARRIS-PERRY: “Empire”, the hit new show on FOX, keeps getting bigger,
drawing in 12.5 million viewers Wednesday, coming in a close second to the
highest rated drama on TV, AMC`s “The Walking Dead.”
Now, devoted fans know it`s a primetime soap opera filled with glamour,
music and cash, but the heart of the story is Terrence Howard`s character,
Lucious Lyon, the hip hop mogul pitting his sons against each other, one of
whom he rejects because he`s gay.
Now, the story line and the reaction is generated head lines focusing on
how show creator Lee Daniels wants to expose homophobia in the black
But a new campaign is challenging the notion that African-Americans are
more resistant to same-sex relationships than other groups. “This is Luv”
is a multimedia campaign accepting LGTBQ acceptance in the black community
and it is culminating in a town hall discussion tomorrow at the Human
Rights Campaign of Washington, D.C. The events will feature retired NBA
star Jason Collins, son of Magic Johnson, E.J. Johnson, and Nerdland
favorite Michael Denzel Smith, Aisha Moodie-Mills and many more.
Joining me now, one of the people behind the campaign, “This is Luv,”
former NFL player, Wade Davis.
You know you are in intersectional space when like the whole Nerdland crew
is there, you know, who is down for this. But talk to me a little bit
about this campaign as a way to push back against this powerful stereotype
that black folks are more homophobic than others.
WADE DAVIS, FORMER NFL PLAYER: You know, one of the big issues for us is
that there`s such a pervasive narrative that we don`t love each other. And
it was really shocking to me that people only focused on Terrence`s
relationship with Jamal –
HARRIS-PERRY: And not Cookie. Or baby boy?
DAVIS: Exactly. Or his brothers, right?
So, 75 percent of his family structure loves and embraces him. And we
said, you know what? We have to control the actual narrative. There`s an
African proverb that says, until the lion has a historian, the hunter will
always be the hero.
We don`t have a historian. So, our goal with myself and Darnell Moore (ph)
and (INAUDIBLE) is to say, how can we change the narrative, add to it. And
“This is Luv” campaign has just been blessed by so many different people.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when you talk about narratives, this is literally people
telling their stories. And instead of these being the stories of “I came
out and was rejected and abused,” these are stories of “My family has
embraced and loves me.”
DAVIS: Oh, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me a favorite story or a surprising one.
DAVIS: So, there was a young girl that I used to work with at the Hetrick-
Martin Institute, and she was a young lesbian. And based on her gender
expression performance, I`m pretty sure that her mother that she was a
But she said, I`m going to run away from home because my Caribbean mother
who`s black will never accept me.
So, I see her six months later and I said, how`s everything going? She
says, oh, ciao, my mother knew I was a lesbian the whole time and she loves
That speaks to the fact that our young kids are growing up never believing
that they will be loved. So, we have to change this narrative. We have to
add to the narrative, because what lead to this is showing is true, but
what everyone is writing about is also true as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is so interesting, this idea that that is in part
is what is at stake for LGBTQ youth of color in particular, that if we keep
perpetuating that you will certainly be rejected, then in fact, you may be
more likely to closet or shield yourself than if we say, well, you are more
likely to find some space, some made family or some actual family, kind of
bio family that, in fact, does love and support and find a pathway with
DAVIS: Yes, and also the LGBT community in general is rather racist, if
I`m being honest, right? So, if you have black kids who are leaving their
black family and can`t find family in the LGBT community, where do they
actually go, right? So, our goal is to say that hey, there is someone in
our community that will love you and embrace you.
And even in the “Empire” show, you can even see Lucious Lyons is growing
and evolving around his love for his son, just like our president did, just
like my mother did. So, there is love there, and it just may not happen
overnight, but it`s a process.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wonder, in fact, you know, we were just talking to
Kimberle Crenshaw about the ways in which black girls are overpoliced, how
they`re pushed out. And I also wonder if there are sort of notions about
masculinity, notions about femininity and particularly high stakes for
black folks about being a real man or being a real woman. How is it – and
it sounds kind of silly – but how is it that love helps you to navigate
those rigid notions about what is the right way to be?
DAVIS: I always say that love erases that space between you and me, right?
So, if we can show each other love, if we can show off vulnerability,
right, and know that vulnerability is a strength, right, that showing
someone in your intercommunity is actually a space of love and kinship,
then we can move past these sexist notions of femininity and masculinity.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me more about what`s happening to tomorrow`s event.
DAVIS: Yes. So, we have Darnell Moore, Aisha Moodie-Mills is going to
moderate the panel. We have a town hall of young people there who are not
just going to be talked to by our special guests but can talk with. We
want it to be a conversation, an actual sharing, where people can say, my
family, my community, people who look like me actually really do love me.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s nice. You know, February is that intersection between
the month where we celebrate love, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: On Valentine`s Day. It`s also Black History Month. But
sometimes as we`re doing our black history thing, we`ll fail to talk about
the heroes and sheroes in our community who are also part of the LGBT
Any names we want to call as remembering in Black History Month, of queer
folks who have made such a difference? You know, Bayard Rustin comes to
DAVIS: James Baldwin, there are just so many. But I want to celebrate our
current ones –
DAVIS: – like you. It is such a pleasure to have you be such an ally to
me and to everyone else who is doing this work and to celebrate us in such
a public way. So, thank you so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
And I will give that love right back to the members of my family, who loved
at every point. And to my – particularly too my niece, Chris, who I know
is a young lesbian African-American living in Chicago right now, is
navigating her space. And I see her doing it. She should know – we all
love you deeply, Chris.
Thank you to Wade Davis. And don`t forget to check out his campaign at
Now, that`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m
going to see you at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
And OMG! Tomorrow`s show will be on Fleak. We`ve got a table of
millennials. Now, these young people are undergrad and they`ve agreed to
look up from their devices just long enough to join us on set. And let us
know whether or not they plan to change everything or not.
So, grab your bae and tune in Sunday morning. After all, YOLO.
Now, it`s time for a preview with “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT.”
LOL, Alex, do you have any idea what I just said?
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