Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 10/11/15

Ned Sublette; Grace Meng; Julian Zelizer; Robert George; Christina Beltran, Vivian Nixon, Marjorie Liu, Jamie Broadnax, Drew Grant

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: And Comicon in all its feminist glory.

But first, is there anyone who can bring this house to order?

Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.

And the House of Representatives is in chaos with no idea who its next
speaker will be. On Thursday, house majority leader Kevin McCarthy who was
supposed to be a shoe in to replace John Boehner as house speaker stunned
everybody by announcing he would not seek the speakership. McCarthy said
he couldn`t get to the 218 votes necessary to win.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The one thing I found in talking
to everybody, if we`re going to unite and be strong, we need a new face to
help do that. So nothing more than that. I feel good about the decision.


HARRIS-PERRY: So who will be it be in 218? Well, nobody really knows.
Party leaders like speaker Boehner and former presidential nominee Mitt
Romney are reportedly asking if not downright pleading with Congressman
Paul Ryan, Romney`s 2012 running mate, to seek to speak. They say only
Ryan with his budget slashing prowess and national profile can win over
both the party`s moderates and its right-wing. But all Ryan can say to
their pleas is, not it. Not it.


I haven`t changed anything. I`m just –


RYAN: Nothing changed. Right now I`m just going to catch my flight so I
can make it home for dinner.


HARRIS-PERRY: Well, at least publicly he is saying no. There are reports
that amid all the praise, Ryan is now reconsidering. But there is really
no other contender that stands out. The congressmen who have thrown their
hats into the ring like Daniel Webster of Florida who only sponsored one
bill this Congress are all pretty low profile. And speaker Boehner was
planning to split at the end of the month, but now says he`ll stick around
until a new speaker is chosen. And who knows when that will be. Sorry,

So who is responsible for all this chaos? Well, we here at MHP show have a
theory about one man in particular – this man. Don`t start tweeting me
angrily saying that I`m blaming President Obama for the house`s dissent
into chaos. That`s not what I`m saying.

What I`m saying is this, McCarthy was derailed by one group of 38 or so
hard right representatives, the house freedom caucus. To its members,
McCarthy would have been another Boehner. Just too darn accommodating to
the president. They said they would all vote against McCarthy. So even if
every other Republican voted for him, it would leave him short of the 218
need for a majority.

Now, here is the thing you really need to know about the freedom caucus.
Four-fifth of its members have been elected since President Obama took
office on the anti-Obama, anti-Obamacare tea party wave and its aftermath.
A third were elected in the tea party heyday of 2010. And its members
include David Brat who defeated house majority leader Eric Cantor in a
shocking primary win by claiming that Cantor was not fighting President
Obama`s agenda hard enough.

This is Eric Cantor who led house Republicans to oppose just about every
last thing the president tried to do starting the very day the president
was inaugurated. Cantor was Boehner`s prot‚g‚ and very likely would have
been the next speaker if Brat hadn`t stepped in. Without President Obama,
there`s no Obama backlash. And there`s no world in which John Boehner,
Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy are somehow too liberal to lead house

So, you know, thanks, Mr. President.

Joining me now, Christina Beltran, professor of social and cultural
analysis at NYU, Robert George, associate editorial page editor at the “New
York Post.” Congresswoman Grace Meng, Democrat representing New York`s
sixth district and Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs
at Princeton University and the author of “the fierce urgency of now,
Lyndon Johnson, Congress and the battle for the great society.”

OK. So let me start with you, Congresswoman, since you actually work in
this maddening little location down there in D.C. What do you see as kind
of the root causes of the particular leadership chaos?

REP. GRACE MENG (D), NEW YORK: Well, I was fortunate enough to have a
front row seat to all the chaos that was going on in Washington, D.C., and
it was truly amazing and almost historical week.

I think it`s really just emblematic about something that has been happening
and has continually been bubbling up. The stagnancy caused by these 40 or
so members, these freedom caucus members, who essentially even in the
pledge for what they want the next speaker to adhere to, one of the lines
is to literally a promise to derail Obamacare. So 60-plus votes wasn`t
enough. They want to continue what they`re doing.

HARRIS-PERRY: So this idea that there is, you know, just under 40 members
of a party who are at this point causing chaos in the entire house, you
know, I keep wondering if this is the moment. I`ve been wondering it for
five years. So maybe it`s not. But is this the moment when we finally see
that partisan realignment that we were actually due sort of 20 or 30 years
ago? Is this the moment when the Republican Party splits along this sort
of fraction line?

think there is as much of a difference between where the freedom party is
and where a lot of the leadership is in the GOP. And I think we talk about
this great civil war going on. They`re all pretty conservative.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right.

ZELIZER: So part –

HARRIS-PERRY: What makes it so stunning, right? Like Eric Cantor, John
Boehner, too liberal for the freedom caucus.

ZELIZER: So part of how right do you go? And part of what the freedom
caucus wants is to strip the speaker of his power. And they`re demanding a
series of reforms right now saying you take the job, but you only take the
job if you`re going to have even less control of the rank and file. And so
that`s a hard deal to swallow for a lot of the leaders.

HARRIS-PERRY: Have we seen something like that historically before?

ZELIZER: In the 1970s, Democrats did it. Then the committee chairs were
the ones with power. In 1975, the Watergate babies passed a series of
reforms and they give power to the speaker. So now they want to reverse
what happened in the 1970s.

think A lot of this has to do with it`s a sort of a - first, it is a lot of
this have to do its process. Yes, they are all very ideological. But
Boehner, however, stripped actually some of the members of the power, some
freedom caucus members who had either chairmanships or subcommittee
chairmanships for not voting on procedural matters.

And so, that`s one of the reasons, as you said, they want to strip the
speaker of the power to do that. But the thing is if you were a leader, if
you are speaker, you need to figure out ways to discipline your members.
That`s true whether you`re a Republican or a Democrat. And for them to be
doing this, I think, is kind of overstepping their bounds.

HARRIS-PERRY: So it then – it does make me wonder then because I have
been wondering, why wouldn`t you want to be speaker of the house, right? I
mean, I get it. I get that it`s kind of a tough time. But if you are
somebody with presidential aspirations, it`s kind of like Jordan with –
like give me the damn ball. Like just don`t you want to lead?

GEORGE: It`s because you – it`s because somebody like a Paul Ryan has
presidential ambitions is why he wouldn`t want to be speaker. I mean,
there is only one person in history who managed to go from president to –

HARRIS-PERRY: We don`t let congressmen as presidents anyway. He is still
have to go through VP.

think this speaks to a larger - and actually, this is a longer history of
this. I mean, I always think of Goldwater`s conscious of a conservative.
And when you read that, there has been a long history of the Republican
Party turning on its establishment. And I mean that text says almost as
much about Eisenhower as it does about Democrats. So I mean there is
actually – you have 1994 and the contract with America. There is a long
history here of going after their own leadership.

But I also think something we have to really think about is that this is
the freedom caucus doesn`t measure political success right now in term of
legislation passed, but in terms of leadership taken down. And so their
sense of political agency is really on breaking things. It`s a logic of
sort of throwing a wrench in the works. That`s when they feel powerful.
That`s when they feel empowered. And it`s the pleasure of breaking things.
So who wants to get in the middle of that? Why would Paul Ryan want to get
into that?

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, because leaders lead. I mean, so the answer for me is
because a job is hard, give it to me.

BELTRAN: The most vital part of the electorate is the tea party, the most
energized segment.

HARRIS-PERRY: But congresswoman, is this what your experience is
particularly with the freedom caucus numbers that it isn`t about sort of a
policy agenda they`re trying to pass, but actually about the seizing

MENG: I agree. This is a group that does not believe in the traditional
function and role of the Congress and of government. However, I think that
the moderate Republicans as the centrist can use this opportunity like we
did at the end of last week where 218 Republicans and Democrats signed that
this charge petition we got together. And this hasn`t happened since 2002.
And that was tremendous. And if we can do that on other pieces of
legislation, like comprehensive immigration reform –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Export and import bank.

MENG: Correct, yes.

HARRIS-PERRY: I`m also just feel like poor Boehner now, he has to like
stick around the job longer. We need to get him, you know, free John
Boehner bracelets. I promise more.

Up next, Donald Trump took credit for Kevin McCarthy exiting the speaker`s
race. But we have a different theory on a different presidential candidate
behind the whole thing.


HARRIS-PERRY: On Thursday, when house majority leader Kevin McCarthy
pretty much blew the collective mind of the political world by dropping out
of the speaker`s race, he was asked about the time he said this.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Let me give you one example.
Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put
together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee, what are her
numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.


HARRIS-PERRY: That was McCarthy answering Sean Hannity`s question about
what his party has accomplished in Congress.

And so in choiring minds want to know, could that moment have had anything
to do with his decision to step aside?


MCCARTHY: That wasn`t helpful. Yes. I mean, I could have said it much


HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Because Hillary Clinton was able to take McCarthy`s
parent admission of politicizing at the Benghazi committee and turn it into
a weapon against not only McCarthy but the whole Republican Party.


they have admitted for the purpose of making a partisan political issue out
of the deaths of four Americans. I would have never done that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Do you think it should be disbanded? That`s
what Nancy Pelosi has called for.

CLINTON: Well, I have to say that now that they`ve admitted it`s a
political partisan committee for the soul purpose of going after me, not
trying to make our diplomats who serve in dangerous areas safer, that`s up
to the Congress.


HARRIS-PERRY: Hillary Clinton en Fuego! I mean, she was just about it,
right? We haven`t really seen - but you want to make Hillary Clinton
angry, get a special commission like that. Right-wing, you know,
conspiracy. And all of a sudden, this very strong candidate we haven`t
seen emerged.

GEORGE: Yes. This wasn`t the only issue that took down Kevin McCarthy.
It was a big issue because you don`t give – you don`t give your enemies a
sword. And that`s exactly what –

HARRIS-PERRY: And show them exactly where to stick it.

GEORGE: No. That`s exactly right. And for those of us over the years who
criticized Hillary Clinton for her, you know, vast right-wing conspiracy
kind of things, you think great. You know, you manifesting on exactly what
- exactly what she did. I will say this.

HARRIS-PERRY: Just because you`re paranoid does not mean that people are
not out to get you.

GEORGE: There is another issue, too. Back in the day when I was working
for Newt Gingrich, Newt was a very, very smart guy and very, very tactical.
He would occasionally just, you know, go over the line in making certain
statements which would then come back and bite the other members on the
butt. And they would have to kind of defend what he had to say. And I
don`t – I think some members didn`t want to go into that direction again
where you have – if you`re a speaker, you have to speak very, very clearly
about what the aims of the conference are.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. In fact, let`s take a listen to some of the
Republicans talking about precisely where they want Ryan to be speaker
which I think is reflective of the comments here.


REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: If Paul Ryan got into the race, of course I
would support him. He would be the kind of person that I could get excited

MCCARTHY: Paul is looking at it, but it`s his decision. If he decide to
do it, he would be an amazing speaker.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: He has stature that nobody else has right

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did everything except carry his gym bag this morning
trying to get him to do it.


HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, it sounds to me, Julian, like that is a
reflection of an idea that whatever else is happening, you still – the
speaker needs to carry a certain gravitas.

ZELIZER: For sure. You know, since the 1980s, the speaker has been a
public figure. It`s not just about back room deals and whipping the vote.
And so he or she is the party spokesperson. And Kevin McCarthy, you know,
there is one article in the “Washington Post” that this is the best thing
to happen to the Republican Party as he couldn`t whip the vote. He
couldn`t get votes as majority leader. He`s not good on television. So
now there is actually an opportunity to get someone like a Ryan who could
be much more effective in the public domain as well.

HARRIS-PERRY: Is there any chance – I always feel like sometimes you
think critique things that happen in the media and I`m like that is just
not how it works, right? And so, whenever I`m talking about Congress,
there is part of me that thinks I might be getting this wrong because I
haven`t served time.


HARRIS-PERRY: But I guess one of the questions I have is whether or not
this is all genuinely happening or if some of this is stagecraft in order
to produce, for example, a Ryan speakership which is, you know, kind of
don`t throw me in the briar patch which that is precisely where you want to

MENG: It`s true. I think what I`ve been seeing on the media is pretty
accurate about - and you can see the development of the events as they`re
happening on hour by hour on Capitol Hill. It`s real life Republican civil
war. It`s a real life soap opera drama unfolding the - in front of our
eyes. And so, you know, time will only tell in the next few hours, next
few days what will happen.

ZELIZER: The real house members of Capitol Hill.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Well, so, honestly though, it does make me wonder
because it is not a small thing to run for the U.S. House of
Representatives. It`s expensive. It`s time consuming. It`s
extraordinarily difficult on your family. And then to show up and have it
feel like that, it always makes me wonder if, you know, to have someone
like John Boehner say, you know, I`m out. I just can`t anymore. It makes
me worried for the kind of quality democracy in a broader sense.

BELTRAN: Yes. I think it is a real issue because I mean there is no sense
of leadership here. There seems to be such a pandering and anxiety about
the electorate. But in the way they behave in term of how they talk about
governing or not governing, is actually produced the very electorate they
fear. Like there is a way in which they made this monster by promising
that they can just stop, you know, the Democratic process. So they are
kind of playing on the civic illiteracy of a lot of voters and then kind of
producing a really dangerous electorate but then they pander back to.

HARRIS-PERRY: We are going to take a quick break. But I want to come
right back on the topic of Hillary Clinton`s strategy though because she
may have just boxed out Joe Biden from the race.


HARRIS-PERRY: Tuesday, the Democratic presidential candidates will finally
face off in their first debate. The one person getting the most attention
in the Democratic primary race right now, won`t even be on the stage.

Vice president Joe Biden is spending the weekend huddled with his family in
Delaware trying to decide if he will or won`t run. And there are enough
signs pointing in either direction that at this point it really is
anybody`s guess. What is even more unclear is what aspects of the base he
can tap into to drum up support. After all, Hillary Clinton had already
picked up endorsements from nine governors and at least 30 senators and
more than 100 from the House of Representatives, including influential
congressman John Lewis.

Hollywood is also jumping in line. Katy Perry announced she will rally
supporters at a Clinton campaign stop in Iowa later this month. She joins
stars like Beyonce, Amy Fuller, (INAUDIBLE), Carol King and Jennifer Lopez
who all said that they are ready for Hillary. That`s on top of Bernie
Sanders whose campaign last month pulled out a letter signed by more than
100 celebrities who are feeling the burn and Sanders` success could be
pushing Clinton further left. She`s come out against keystone, pushed
further left than Sanders on guns. And this week she flipped on the Trans
Pacific Partnership, the TPP.

So Biden thought he could make a play to Clinton`s left as almost as if the
current front-runner has infectively boxed him out before he`s even had a
chance to step on the court.

I mean Katy Perry and John Lewis? Is she now unbeatable?

BELTRAN: I think that`s a lovely combination. It`s a 1-2 punch.

You know, I think one of the really interesting things with Biden is that
he`s incredibly likeable. And people feel this fondness for him and after
what he`s been through. But at the same time, our policies right now are
so polarized and so divisive that I just think that it`s not about
compromise and finding a middle ground. It`s really about build majorities
that can defeat majority and the minorities.

I mean if you want to win on climate change, if you want to win on women`s
reproductive rights, if you want to win on gun issues, it`s not about
forging a compromise as much as defeating a far right minority. So I think
in that sense, Hillary can sort of talk about herself as – she`s a
terminator. I mean, she can describe herself as relentless and sort of I`m
the general for this battle. This is going to be a war and I`m the
general. I don`t think she can frame herself that way.

HARRIS-PERRY: But doesn`t it to pan a little bit on where do we think the
battle is? So a recent Quinnipiac poll was showing in Florida, in Ohio, in
Pennsylvania, vice president Joe Biden and oddly enough, Ben Carson are
actually the best general election candidates. We saw some similar data
from a somewhat less reputable organization out of North Carolina and some
other southern spaces. I`m wondering if we actually are confused about
where the battleground is.

MENG: Yes.

ZELIZER: Everyone likes the guy who is not there - who is not running.
And Biden actually ran twice and didn`t do well. He wasn`t a good
candidate. He had many gaffes and he didn`t energize any electorate.

MENG: But he wasn`t Obama`s vice president.

ZELIZER: No, he was. And obviously, that`s a great asset. But I don`t
think Biden is polling now isn`t the Biden we`ll be thinking about after

BELTRAN: They could build on him. His Senate history is something they`ll
go back and really look at.

GEORGE: I think there are two things you can take a look at. First of
all, keep and remember people like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan both ran
twice before they finally pulled through. So there is that.

And look. One area that I think on the Democratic side where I think Biden
may have an edge over Hillary and may do to her what Bernie Sanders has
done on economic issues is actually foreign policy. If you go back, Biden
was the one who said, you know, Iraq should be, you know, split in three
and things like that and was against the war whereas Hillary was supportive
of it. She is possibly vulnerable in the Democratic primary.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. This was the article in the “New York Times”
yesterday. They were saying exactly this. That the one place where Joe
Biden can come in and split is around foreign policy. And given that there
is some sense of consensus about the Obama administration having lots of
successes around foreign policy, right, that he can kind of – on your
point about gaffe though, I have to play this moment of the vice president
making a joke about secretary of state and then recognizing he had done a
bad thing. Let`s take a moment.


don`t move, I`ll be demoted to secretary of state or something like that.
That`s a joke. That`s a joke. That`s a joke. Thank you.


HARRIS-PERRY: He was like, no, no, no, wait a minute. What did I just
say? And, yet, that`s also it feels like to me in a moment when Donald
Trump is leading the Republican side, it may be that what we think of as
gaffes is now actually the things that make an electable candidate.

MENG: Well, make no mistake, the comments that are coming out of the mouth
of Donald Trump and Ben Carson are not mistakes. They`re intentional

HARRIS-PERRY: That is a very good point.

MENG: Joe Biden is a great man. He is loved as a vice president.
Everyone adores him. Hillary Clinton is on the right track. She is on the
right side of the issues that she needs to show what her stands are for the
Democratic primary which is the first hurdle that all of them have to
clear. She`s on the right side. She is someone who is not taking any
vote, any constituency for granted.

HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I keep thinking that Hillary Clinton constitutes
far and away the best primary candidate in the Democratic race. Right?
For a wide variety of organizational reasons and everything else. But I
keep being worried that come general election time, so you know, you`re
point about that Biden in his previous runs had not been able to energize a

But similarly, the ease with which Hillary Clinton has been under mind by
various folks over the years with key constituencies among Democratic
general election voters including black women, young people. You know,
right now young people are feeling the burn and I just like I`m worried she
can`t do it.

GEORGE: Even with McCarthy`s Benghazi gaffe and so forth and her
aggressive push-back on that, her numbers kept falling over the last couple
of weeks. And you saw she`s underwater in a number of key swing states.
And that`s a big problem in the general election.


BELTRAN: I actually do think, I mean, I think that`s a concern. It`s a
real one. But I also think that this election is so much about who you`re
against. This is not a romance election. This isn`t like I love my
candidate. I think this is an election about I`m scared of the other guy.
And so I think in that sense, this is going to be about voting against
them. And I think this sends her as kind of relentless. I think she`s a
terminator. No matter what you hit her with, she comes back. And I think
people will sort of say, you know what? She`s a fighter. And we need a
fighter. I do want to have lunch with her? Maybe not. I don`t care.

HARRIS-PERRY: I`ll tell you who I don`t want to have lunch with, I do not
want to have lunch with Dr. Ben Carson and the Popeye`s, that`s for sure.

When we come back we`re going to talk about why.


HARRIS-PERRY: Last week was a busy one for Dr. Ben Carson. The Republican
presidential just saying that brought a joke. The presidential Republican
presidential candidate took a break from the campaign trail and made the
rounds giving several interviews to promote his new book.

Now, they came an opportune in time as Carson continues to rise in the
polls. But each event brings new controversy especially regarding his
various comments about guns and the recent shooting in Roseburg, Oregon.

On Monday, during a Facebook Q&A, he replied to one question writing, there
is no doubt that this senseless violence is breath taking. But I never saw
a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to
arm ourselves away.

The following day Dr. Carson appeared on FOX News where he was asked what
he would do in a situation similar to what the Oregon shooting victims


BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not only would I probably not
cooperate with them, I would not just stand there and let them shoot me. I
would say hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can`t
get us all.




HARRIS-PERRY: Later that evening, he was back on the network where he
elaborated on his remarks.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In a time of great stress like that, one might not
know exactly what to do. And to judge them, to sound like you`re judging
them –

CARSON: Not judging them at all. But, you know, these incidents continue
to occur. I doubt that this will be the last one. I want to plant the
seed in people`s minds so that if this happens again, you know, they don`t
all get killed.


HARRIS-PERRY: Then on Wednesday, came an interview with Sirius-XM radio.
Carson recounted the story in which he says he had a gun pointed at him.


CARSON: I had a gun held on me when I was in a Popeye`s organization. A
guy comes in and puts the gun in my ribs and I just said, I believe that
you want the guy behind the counter. He thought I was –

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In that calm way?

CARSON: In that calm way.


CARSON: He said OK.


HARRIS-PERRY: Then on Thursday, it was on to CNN whether Dr. Carson
invoked the holocaust when asked about gun control.


CARSON: The likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would
have been greatly diminished if the people were armed.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: They have a powerful military
machine, as you know, the Nazis.

CARSON: I understand that.

BLITZER: They could have go in and they did wipe out whole communities.

CARSON: But realize there is a reason they took the guns first, right?

BLITZER: So you believe that if they had guns, maybe it could have been
eased. Is that what you`re saying?

CARSON: I`m telling you, there is a reason that these people take the guns


HARRIS-PERRY: I just – I have nothing.

ZELIZER: It`s become the say anything primary. And, you know, I think the
phenomena, the horrendous remarks and either remarks we`ve seen from
various candidates, there is no barrier anymore to what candidates are
saying. Part of this is driven by twitter environment where these
candidates know they have to get the pop just like headlines. They`re
looking for. That but part of it is just an internal check on what is
legitimate and what is not legitimate. And we saw some of this with Trump.
We have now seen it with him. And I think the party has to kind of take
hold of this.

HARRIS-PERRY: So Congressman, let me ask about that. Because, you know,
Julian, I`m with you that there are clearly structural incentives now built
into our media and social media for kind of aggressive overreach. But then
I also take very serious what you said, congresswoman, that these do not
appear to be gaffes. These appear to be reflections of very clearly
thought out ways of seeing the world. And, in fact, perhaps seeing Dr.
Carson across that whole week sort of repeating it in different spaces,
looks like, no, that`s what he thinks.

MENG: I know this is politics. But part of what a leader says and does
especially a candidate for the office of the president of the United States
is to be a good role model. To say things that show your conscience and
what you would do under stress. Now whether it`s the words that he said at
Popeye`s which is basically kill the other person or his advice on what to
do at a shootout, would he have given that advice to the little children
from Newtown?

HARRIS-PERRY: Actually, yes. So hold on for a second because let`s play
that. Because that was – right. So let`s play what he said about


CARSON: I personally, if I had a little kid in kindergarten somewhere
would feel much more comfortable if I knew on that campus there was a
police officer or somebody who was trained with a weapon. I would feel
more comfortable.


CARSON: If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had
access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they


HARRIS-PERRY: Kindergarten teachers.

ZELIZER: I think, you know what? The congresswoman said is true. This is
a message about opposition to gun control. It comes at a moment we`re
having this debate because of the shooting. And he says this in dramatic
ways. He says it in ways which just got him a bunch of clips on TV. But
he is saying a policy which is deeply rooted in Republican policy is right

BELTRAN: I know. I agree. And this is something that is really
important. The politics of gun control right now, I was saying before
there is about building majority that can defeat minorities. When the
politics at the right of this point is really about guns, I mean any effort
to do any kind of baseline level gun control is a form of dictatorship,
akin to Nazi Germany coming and disarming the population. If that`s the
debate we`re going to have about gun control, then no kind of legitimate
reform is even possible.

HARRIS-PERRY: I want to interject one other aspect it to. Because
wherever one sits on gun control, in terms of policies, let`s just say that
the immorality of a leader in particular, really of any person saying I had
a gun pulled on me and my response was to redirect that person to another
innocent bystander is so – like I don`t really know how you talk about
having values or morals or ethics when your response to – like again, if
you are the leader, then your response is to stand in front of innocent
people, not the to put innocent people in front of you!

GEORGE: I don`t have – I have less of a problem with Ben Carson having an
absolutist position on the second amendment. That`s not the real problem
here. Something that what Ben Carson`s problem is, and it`s actually
surprisingly something that`s a problem that Donald Trump does not have.

Ben Carson doesn`t know as a first time candidate, he doesn`t know how to
get into the media position and then stay on message. He ends up going off
on these weird fantasies bringing in the gun control and the holocaust and
things like that.

Donald Trump, you know, say what you want about him. When he goes – when
he goes on, he stays on his message. He may say some outrageous things
that people kind of shocked at. He knows what he wants to talk about.

HARRIS-PERRY: I can understand why from a strategic position saying, you
know, not being able to stay on message is a problem. But I got to tell
you. This is the actual substance of what Dr. Carson said that I find most

Christina and Robert will be back in our next hour. But I want to say
thank you to the congresswoman Grace Meng and to Julian Zelizer.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is weighing in on another key
topic, voting rights. Here`s what Jeb Bush had to say when asked at a
campaign event in Iowa whether he supported reauthorizing the voting rights


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that if it`s to reauthorize
it to continue to provide regulations on top of states as though we`re
living in 1960, because those basically when many of those rules were put
in place, I don`t believe that we should do. That there is dramatic
improvement in access to voting.


HARRIS-PERRY: No. No, sir. Actually, the trend is going in the
opposition direction. According to the Brenan center for justice, since
2010, 21 states have put new voting restrictions in place. But there is
some good news in voter expansion. Yesterday California governor Jerry
Brown signed a law that would allow Californians to be automatically
registered to vote when they go to the DMV to get or renew a driver`s
license. That could have major implicates in the nation`s most populist
state for the six million Californians who are eligible to vote but are
currently unregistered.

The process will be offered after work on a new registration data base is
completed which should be around June of next year, right around the time
of California`s presidential primary election.

Up next, what it means to be a real black president.


HARRIS-PERRY: Media mogul Rupert Murdoch set the Internet on fire with his
tweets Wednesday in support of GOP presidential contender Ben Carson,
tweeting quote “Ben and candy Carson, terrific. What about a real black
president who can properly address the racial divide and much else?”

Murdoch followed up the next day with apologies, no offense meant.
Personally find both men charming.

Also this week, “New York” magazine asked quote “as the historic
administration nears its final year, African-American leaders` debate, did
Barack Obama do enough for his own community? His own community?

Raise your hand if you think this article is an assessment of how Hawaiian
schoolchildren or Ivy League undergrads or university law professors of
residents of the state of Illinois have fared during the Obama
administration. No hands? Of course not. Because you and I both know
that “New York” magazine has defined the president`s own community as
African-Americans. And they, like Mr. Murdoch are measuring President
Obama using a metric of blackness.

Here we go again. Back in 2004 while campaigning against then state
senator Obama, Allen Keys, that paragon operation authenticity told ABC`s
George Stephanopoulos quote “Barack Obama and I have the same race – that
is physical characteristics. We are not from the same heritage. My
ancestors toiled in slavery in this country. My consciousness who I am as
a person have been shaped by my struggle, deeply emotional and deeply
painful with the reality of the heritage.”

So authenticity, suspicious followed senator Obama to the president primary
contest against Hillary Clinton prompting responses like that of columnist
Stanley Crouch who wrote, when black Americans refer to Obama as one of us,
I do not know what they`re talking about. While he is experienced some
light versions of typical racial stereotypes, he cannot claim those
problems as his own nor has he lived the life of a black American. If we
then end up with him as our first black president, he will have come in the
White House through a side door.”

Side door? Look, it is flawed political logic to assume President Obama
has unique responsibility for addressing America`s legacy of racism and
racial inequality because he`s black. Indeed as a black man, he does have
the historic opportunity to simultaneously occupy the nation`s highest
office and to wholly embody blackness with all the dis-privilege and
tumultuous history and disquieting symbolism.

And the President Obama has done that repeatedly. When he outlined the
tenants of liberation theology in Philadelphia, when he stooped to let a
preschooler rub his head just so the young man could see if his president
had hair like mine. When he reminded America I could have been Trayvon
Martin, when he is saying amazing Grace over the slain bodies of the
Charleston nine.

But these symbolic opportunities are different from making a claim to a
special policy responsibility. I mean it is a little hard to imagine Mr.
Murdoch asking whether or not Mr. Trump or Miss Fiorina can properly
address the racial divide. And I still can`t find the “New York” magazine
piece produced about the racial legacy of President Bush or Clinton or
Reagan in the final months of their administrations.

Yes, President Obama`s affordable care act, federal minimum wage increase,
extension of fair housing rules and sentencing reform have
disproportionately and positively affected black communities. At the same
time, his administration has been unable to erase the yawning unemployment
earnings and wealth gaps affecting black folks.

And this is the lesson of the Obama years. Even though president Obama is
black enough and does genuinely care about black people, he has not been
able to simply magically fix racial equality in America. It turns out that
it is basically criminally naive to believe that systemic racial
inequality, reinforced by centuries of entrenched white supremacy and
perpetuated through complicated interlocking systems of oppression can be
wiped away if only we would elect a president black enough to fix it.

Addressing America`s racial divide is not the unique responsibilities of
its black president whether that be Mr. Obama or maybe someday Mr. Carson.
Untangling the intergenerational evils of racism rests firmly with every
president, every elected official, and every citizen. The question isn`t
whether President Obama`s black enough. The question is whether or not we


HARRIS-PERRY: Last week, Coby Burn, a high school student in Texas noticed
something odd in his world geography textbook. A caption on the section of
immigration said that the Atlantic slave trade quote “brought millions of
workers to labor on southern plantations.” Well, once his mom, Ronnie Dean
Burn, caught wind of it, she put it on Facebook creating a social media
firestorm that pushed the textbook`s publisher McGraw Hill educations to
take action.

McGraw-Hill, one of the largest text book publishers in the country issued
a statement saying they would change the digital version and provide
corrected textbooks upon request, admitting that they made a mistake. But
it wasn`t their only mistake. The idea that the slave trade brought
millions of Africans to the United States is in fact false. The true
number was closer to 389,000. So how then did the country`s population to
enslave people come to reach four million by the dawn of the civil war?

Breeding, systemic forced breeding used to destroy black families and to
increase the capital of the ruling slave holder class. It`s a part of the
American story that often falls by the way side but a new book places it at
the very center of our nation`s history.

Joining me now is Ned Sublette, co-author of the book “the American slave
coast: a history of the slave breeding industry.”

Thank you for being here. This text created a circumstance for one of my
producers who was reading through it to just write across it, nothing is
clean. Everything is slavery, right? Just that sense that the centrality
of the economic aspect of slavery to the contemporary American system.

is at the center of American history. It`s not a sidebar. But people
often talk about slavery as though it were only labor. And slaves were not
just workers. They were merchandised. They were collateral. They were
credit. They were money.

HARRIS-PERRY: That idea of human beings being money, being actual
currency, talk about what that looks like because you talk about it in
depth in the text.

SUBLETTE: Well, you know, an economist would tell you there are three
categories of – three things that something has to – three classes that
you have to satisfy to be money. Means of exchange, retains its value over
time. Unit of account. Slaves were often used to settle a debt when there
was no gold or silver around. So they were a means of exchange. They
weren`t the most common money. But you could always sell a slave if you
have to. Retains the value over time. That`s why slave owners had to have
the children.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And so this – this purpose around breeding and sort
of the Jeffersonian piece of it, you write Jefferson framed ending
importation of persons. So ending the slave trade as a humanitarian act
and many historians treated it that way, but it was not. Ending the
African slave trade was protectionism on behalf of Virginia. It kept out
the cheaper African imports so as to keep the price of domestically raised
people high. I mean, it is an appalling sentence in the sense that we
thought about kind of domestic importation in this way around humans. But
it`s also so critical to see that.

SUBLETTE: That`s right. That`s right. I think Jefferson who wrote at the
age of 77, I consider a woman who brings a child every two years as more
productive than the best man of the farm. What she produces is an addition
to the capital or his labors are disappearing mere consumption.

HARRIS-PERRY: How much when we talk about slavery do we fail to think
about its gendered nature and the very specific experiences of horror than
in slaved women experienced?

SUBLETTE: This is where race meets gender meets the logic of capitalism.
Enslaved women were expected to be pregnant constantly as early as
possible, as long as possible until their bodies gave out from child
bearing. And it was expected that the children could be sold.

A child, an enslaved child is worth $75 or $100 at birth depending on place
and time. That didn`t mean that a baby was going to be sold. There was no
market in babies. But it meant that the slave owner was worth $75 or $100
more on paper. And could borrow that much more which was so to say new
money was created. So the world from 389,000 Africans to four million
enslaved April can Americans in 1960 was itself an economic expansion.

HARRIS-PERRY: The book when you sat down I was saying the book is
enormous. It is literally hefty. But that is a physical manifestation of
how hefty and weighty this issue is.

Thank you for the text, “the American slave coast.” Thank you to Ned

And coming up next, the 6,000 federal prisoners who will soon be released,
but then what happens?

And the sheoes (ph) rocking comi-con this year.

There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour.


I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. As the Obama administration continues to forge a
new course on criminal justice. The issue of our overcrowded prison
population has reached a flash point. Last week Senate Republicans and
Democrats introduced a broad measure that would make sweeping changes to
criminal justice in the United States. Sentencing reform remains a key
issue in the presidential election and this year both the President and the
Pope visited prisons. This week, another key development. The Justice
Department is preparing to release roughly 6,000 inmates from federal
prisons over a three day period later this month.

Now the release are the result of new guidelines by the U.S. Sentencing
Commission which in 2014 voted to retroactively apply an amendment reducing
the penalties for many nonviolent drug crimes. So, who are those soon to
be released inmates? According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission data
report, they are mostly Black and Hispanic men, many in their mid-30s,
about seven percent are women. The average time served is nine years. But
some have been behind bars for as long as 25 years. Seventy nine percent
of the cases involved either cocaine or methamphetamine.

And they are most likely to be returning to southern states led by Texas
with more than 2,000 released inmates. After their release, about two-
thirds of them will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being
put on supervised release. But about a third of the inmates are actually
foreign citizens and are likely to be deported. Though the large one time
release is an important step in our depopulating prisons, the long term
impact is yet to be seen. Just last week on our show, we featured an MSNBC
original report on a former inmate using his crucial first three days of
freedom. Now very rarely do we get to see a newly released civilian adjust
to life outside. Here`s Gregory Finney leaving Louisiana`s Angola prison
after 16 years.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s beautiful.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s beautiful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That beeping, is letting me know I don`t have my seat
belt on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn`t doing that when I left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, that`s a remote that lets you in the car and also
as long as it`s close to the car, it can start the car up. And this is the
backup camera for folks who can`t back up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you can see what is behind you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This must be a very expensive car?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a regular car, bro.


HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Finney is far from alone in his effort to re-enter.
More than 10,000 ex-offenders are released from U.S. State and Federal
prisons every week. And more than 650,000 ex-offenders are released from
prison every year. A five year study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics
found that nearly 68 percent of prisoners released were rearrested within
three years and many state prisoners also leave prison in debt. According
to a Brennan Center for Justice report by 2004, approximately one-third of
county jails and more than 50 percent of state correctional systems had
instituted, quote, “pay to stay fees,” charging inmates for their own

Joining me now, Cristina Beltran, professor of Social and Cultural Analysis
at NYU. Robert George, associate editorial page editor the New York Post.
Ari Melber, MSNBC`s chief legal correspondent and the Reverend Vivian
Nixon, executive director of College and Community Fellowship. Her
organization helps women with criminal histories and their families to gain
access to higher education. How big a deal is this, Ari?

is something of a cease fire in what we`ve seen in a federal war on drugs
for many years. As you point out, the numbers don`t suggest any drastic
difference in the approach when you say someone who is in on like most of
them cocaine or methamphetamine, a large enough amount to have a lengthy
sentence. You say instead of a roughly 11 years you get roughly nine. So
that change isn`t going to change their lives. But the step from a policy
perspective shows we are for the first time arguing a generation going in a
different direction.

HARRIS-PERRY: Six thousand sounds like a huge number. But in fact, it is
actually not in the sense that many thousands of Americans are getting out
of jail or out of prison on a regular basis. We often don`t think about
the process of re-entry. I wanted to listen to former Attorney General
Holder testifying in front of the Sentencing Commission about this for a
Second Amendment and then I come you to, Vivian.


ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: In recent years new fewer than 17
states supported by the department`s justice reinvestment initiative and
led by officials from both parties have directed significant funding away
from prison construction and toward evidence-based programs and services
like supervision and drug treatment that are proven to reduce recidivism
while improving public safety.


HARRIS-PERRY: So, have you seen those changes on the ground, are there
resources for this kind of, sort of at the back end, in order to reduce

more resources recently. Those resources are largely geared to making sure
that people get access to job training, transitional jobs, transitional
housing. Substance abuse treatment. But that`s been going on for many,
many years. The game changer, my organization focuses on, is postsecondary
education which up until 1994 was available while people were incarcerated,
giving them the ability to re-enter society with some type of real
knowledge, educational background that would help them get jobs.

HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, that great story about the prison debate team that
beat the –

NIXON: – that was incredible story this week.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Incredible.

NIXON: Because when people get opportunity to get education, they`re mind
is no longer on survival in the street. It`s about how can I use this new
found education to provide a long term life in the community that`s really
meaningful? So while these initiatives are great, I hope that you ask
later whether or not we`re doing enough because I think there is more that
we can do.

HARRIS-PERRY: Clearly. And, in fact, my biggest concern, I mean, are we
saying, okay, this is a kind of moment where we`re seeing a change. It`s
not everything. You`re saying, okay, we do have some more resources. But
they`re not quite enough. At the same time, my biggest fear is that right
now there`s this discourse about policing and there`s a discourse about
arising crime and in an election year and, again, 6,000 people is actually
tiny but I just keep thinking if I`m on the right, I am tracking everybody
because what I want to be able to do is say they`ve released these
criminals on to the street.


HARRIS-PERRY: From a pure political –

BELTRAN: Think about what happened with Donald Trump.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right. It`s already in your inbox. Right? Somebody
is – they`re looking for the next –

BELTRAN: Donald Trump right away that, that was the whole idea. That one
undocumented person that committed a crime.


BELTRAN: So, I mean, there are still a deep logic of deportation and then
the attention that we have to think about here. And the fact that some of
these folks are going to be deported.


BELTRAN: And there`s a story there of the ongoing criminalization of
populations and the kind of punitive logics. The thing that really
concerns me is, are we going to invest in people afterwards? I mean, one
reason why conservatives are so committed to this right now is because it`s
cheaper. And so, the question of, can we actually have a public commitment
to something? But I do think higher education is key in it. At NYU, we`re
doing a prison program through my department and through Gallatin. And
it`s a university wide program. But it`s being spearheaded by my colleague
Michael Singh (ph) and my department. And it`s one of those really
exciting moments where prison education is becoming a social justice issue
that is really resonating with multiple populations. And it`s really

mind, the one deportee – the one deportee that (INAUDIBLE) – it was a
murder in San Francisco, so it`s another highlight. But that was a major


GEORGE: But you`re actually right that what`s kind of interesting on this
is that the President is sort of in a sense the trailing actor in this,
because some of this changes were happening at the state level even Texas
which of course has a reputation of, you know, being the big executer in
the country. They actually started changing some of these issues in terms
of –

HARRIS-PERRY: But I think it matters for the President to show up in
federal prison and, I mean, you know, Reverend if we were together at the
White House recently when the vice HBO thing came out about the president
and, like there is a language coming out of the Department of Justice
coming out of the White House and surprisingly coming out of both of the
republican and democratic sides saying, we see something here.

GEORGE: Mike Lee and Corey Booker and the Senate have both been leading
this. You know, Lee who is like on the far right in the Senate works with
Ted Cruz on a lot of the things. Working with Corey Booker. So, it`s kind
of – it`s somewhat ironic that given all of the anarchy that`s going on in
Congress the last few years that prisoner reform is the one area that
they`ve actually been able to come together.

NIXON: It`s the one place. Yep.


NIXON: The thing is that while we are coming together, we`re coming
together on – in a very limited way.


NIXON: Now, I appreciate everything that has been done.


NIXON: I think the Obama administration has been very good on these
issues. But this conversation about only the nonviolent –


NIXON: – drug offender is so misleading.


NIXON: Six hundred and fifty thousand people coming out every year.
They`re not all nonviolent drug offenders.


NIXON: And when you look at the data in sections, actually the people who
recidivate least are the people who have the most violent crimes. Because
often one time crimes of passion or self-defense or –

HARRIS-PERRY: And I also just want to point out, Ari. I mean, one of the
things that we have talked about is that idea of violence. We immediately
presume murder, rape, sexual assault or something. But often it`s just a
legal designation of, so, if you take somebody`s backpack but you push them
down while you do it that, that can constitute what would then look like

MELBER: Or a capital murder charge where you were in a car and someone
else got out of that car and killed someone which is terrible and that
person you might want in for a very long on murder. But we have a federal
system right now where if you sat in that car while that happened inside,
you`re charged with.


MELBER: So when we say under the law you`ve been convicted of a violent
crime, it does not actually mean that you as an individual did an act of
violence. Interestingly to your point, that`s something Senator Hatch was
saying that he wanted mental requirements in this criminal reform bill to
deal with some of that. That is something that conservatives have said,
well, if you don`t have the mental intention of that act, maybe you
shouldn`t be on the hook for it. There`s a lot more to do for sure.

HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Before we go to break though, in Cleveland, the
Cuyahoga County prosecutor`s office has released two reports in the Tamir
Rice investigation. The two separate reports were done by witnesses chosen
as experts by the Prosecutor Timothy McGinty. They found that Officer
Timothy Lowman acted reasonably under the law when he shot and killed 12-
year-old Tamir Rice last November. Rice had what turned out to be an air
or pellet gun. The entire encounter took less than two seconds and the
prosecutor says, his office is, quote, “Not drawing any conclusions from
these reports.” And it will ultimately be up to a grand jury to evaluate.
The prosecutor also says his office has commissioned additional reports and
those will also be released in the public at some point.

Stay right there. Because up next, a case that sparked national outrage.
Why did a judge berate a domestic violence survivor?


HARRIS-PERRY: Video has surfaced of a Florida judge berating a domestic
violence survivor for failing to show up to a previous court hearing to
testify against her alleged abuser. The video was taken during a July
contempt of court hearing before a Seminole County Judge Jerri Collins.
Now, back in April the alleged victim called police after she says her
husband choked her, came at her with a knife and slammed her head into a
microwave oven. The husband was to face trial but the alleged victim who
is the mother of a one-year-old child did not appear to testify. Here`s
some of her exchanged with the judge and we should note that the woman`s
voice has been altered to protect her identity.


JUDGE JERRI COLLINS, SEMINOLE COUNTY: Why didn`t you show up to court?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just – my anxiety and I was just –

COLLINS: You think you have anxiety now? You haven`t even seen anxiety.
We had a jury, six people there ready to try Mr. (beep) who has a prior
criminal history of domestic violence.


HARRIS-PERRY: Now the woman continues to explain that she had attended a
class for domestic abuse survivors and dropped the charges in the attempt
to, quote, “move on with her life.” And here is the judge`s response.


COLLINS: I hereby find you in contempt of court and sentence you to three
days in the county jail.


Turn around.


HARRIS-PERRY: So we want to engage this video in part because it feels to
me like it goes – like the one who was celebrating this release of federal
prisoners and this idea of nonviolence, but even three days in a county
jail for a woman who is a domestic violence survivor with a one-year-old at
home who presumably did not expect to go to jail when she arrived at court.
So who knows where her one-year-old is in that moment. Just everything
about it is – feels revealing about the problems in our system.

NIXON: For me, it reveals how addicted we are in this society to


NIXON: It`s really part of the air we breathe. And the work that we`re
doing in the criminal justice system right now doesn`t feel to me like it`s
about public safety at all. It feels about identifying people we don`t
like, people we`re mad at and punishing them. And even people who don`t
deserve to be punished, this woman didn`t – did all right. So she didn`t
show up to court.


NIXON: But she`s a human being and there were real extenuating
circumstances here that the judge totally ignored.

HARRIS-PERRY: And it felt to me, honestly, that we say that, like people
were mad at and the fact this is about contempt of court, not about any
belief about an act of violence or drugs or anything on her part.


HARRIS-PERRY: That it feels to me like had some of the interactions that
we have seen in tapes with some officers where the issue is about, are you
sufficiently subservient to my role? And if you are not, then you`ll be
punished for that.

BELTRAN: Yes. This is a culture of sort of a culture of subservient in a
kind of incredible hostility if people are not immediately obedient. So,
this is something about a real culture of poor people and a desire to
police what is seen as certain kinds of marginal communities that they have
to be rigorously and aggressively policed. And this is one of the
interesting thing you see on conservative media. Where they say, why
didn`t that person just get on the floor? But, you know, people shouldn`t
be losing their lives for this kind of thing. But there is a kind of logic
of just, if you don`t –


BELTRAN: – there`re a culture of obedience that is clearly part of the
culture of policing that has to be fundamentally changed or we`re not going
to get anywhere.

HARRIS-PERRY: And I will say – so I`ll throw to you. But I feel like
that is precisely what we saw for example in the Sandra Bland videos. That
part of what makes that so difficult to watch is the sense that this is a
kind of, you know, low level interaction that for whatever sense of reason
end up with this young woman dead because what she`s doing is simply
disrespectful. And that is enough. Right?

GEORGE: I don`t know why that judge still, you know, still in that

HARRIS-PERRY: I think she is an elected judge.

GEORGE: Well, I mean, in that case, well, of course Florida. That`s a
problem. Because, I mean, yes, the woman should have shown up for court.
But she is a witness. Two, she is a – she`s a victim. So in the interest
of justice, the judge should be trying to figure out a way to get her, you
know, yes to get her to testify. But to contempt of court, I mean, it`s

BELTRAN: One more quick thing I would note though, it that it`s
interesting is, that`s a woman judge. And I think this tells us something
about the importance of changing a culture and not just changing the faces.

HARRIS-PERRY: Uh-hm. Ahah. Right. You can`t just put new bodies in the
same system and expect it to be fundamentally different.

GEORGE: And sometimes elected women want to show that they are as tough as
a man would be in that same position. Some of them are running for
president. Sorry.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. That seems like too much. We don`t know that
that is –


HARRIS-PERRY: So all right. But all right, I do want to come you to on
this in part. Because, you know, I think respect for the law, for systems
matter. But again, to listen to a judge say we have these six people
sitting here as though the inconvenience to six people for serving on a
jury is somehow more relevant. And I think, again, it betrays our sense
that, like what courts are meant to be is about the pursuit of justice and
then feeling as though that`s not what`s happening.

MELBER: People around the country are outraged by this result.


MELBER: The notion that this woman is a victim of domestic abuse and the
response in the court system is to put her behind bars.


MELBER: I get. I also would dissent from this outcome. Having said that,
it`s not exactly black and white. This judge who I think acted
inappropriately was coming from a position which was they went well down
the path of convening a jury to try to hold a trial of the defendant who
allegedly, physically abused her. Very serious. And so the judge`s
frustration, I think, taken out completely wrong way and more of the video
is available online if people see it, will see more inappropriate conduct
from a judge. However, wasn`t coming from nowhere. It was coming from her
attempt to say it is difficult to get participation of domestic violence
witnesses. The system doesn`t work well.

HARRIS-PERRY: And, in fact, this is –


MELBER: That`s the content.

HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to say –

MELBER: I don`t think there`s no content.

HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to say. So, that survivor then – this woman
actually did speak to NBC and said, “I knew I did wrong when I missed the
trial. But I wasn`t expecting her reaction. I think after everything
that`s happened, I would most likely not call the police at all.” And so,
if her goal was to get compliance of the domestic violence survivor, then
actually her actions do exactly the opposite.

MELBER: And so, briefly this goes to that point about, is punishment the
only response.


MELBER: In the particularly these kinds of difficult cases, the court
system should adjust to try to encourage and support testimony knowing how
difficult it can be, knowing as you point out on this show that women take
a risk when they do it.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.

MELBER: And there`s got to be a way to incent that other than –

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Cristina Beltran and to Reverend Vivian Nixon.
All right. Sticking around. Still to come this morning, the big changes
to the Comic Con and nerd culture. But first, Ari Melber`s original report
on how one man turned his wrongful conviction into a life dedicated to
changing an entire system.


HARRIS-PERRY: About 6,000 people will be released from federal prison at
the end of the month, this part of the Justice Department`s effort to
reduce overcrowding. This worth noting that some men and women in those
overly packed prisons are people who maintain they have been wrongfully
convicted. People like Jarrett Adams, a man in his 30s who was wrongly
convicted at the age of 17 after serving nine years in prison and appeals
court overturned his conviction.

MNBC`s chief legal correspondent Ari Melber spoke with Adams about his
experience with the legal system and the work he hopes to do as an


MELBER (voice-over): For Jarrett Adams, leading a clinic on criminal
justice at Loyola Law School goes beyond the professional, it`s personal.
When he was 17-years-old, he visited a college campus with two friends
where they were accused of sexual assault.

from the beginning because I was innocent.

MELBER: But Adams court appointed lawyer did not offer a defense a trial.

ADAMS: It`s as if, you know, I`m looking at myself in a courtroom, you
know, while the train is coming down the tracks. You know, getting ready
to hit me head on.

MELBER: Living behind bars, a cell mate told him to stop playing
basketball and to fight for his freedom and justice instead. Adams taught
himself case law and wrote to the Wisconsin Innocence Project.

in time to allow us to do a federal appeal. We had powerful new evidence
that had none been presented to his jury.

MELBER: After nine years in prison, Adams` case finally reached the top
federal court in the Midwest, in a unanimous vote, the justices threw out
his conviction ruling he didn`t receive an adequate defense.

ADAMS: The day that they overturned my conviction, I was taken down out of
my cell to a phone room. They said, Jarrett, you won. And hearing that
brought tears to my eyes.

FINDLEY: This is a human system. It`s fallible. It`s bound to make
mistakes. But it also tells us that when we make mistakes, they are

MELBER: With Adams forcefully maintaining his innocence and refusing a
plea deal, prosecutors decided not to retry him. He was free but he was a
26-year-old man with a life paused at 17.

ADAMS: When I went to prison, there was no Google, there was no e-mail.
There was none of this stuff. So, I had to figure out a way in which I
could catch up with the world to be able to just have a shot at life.

MELBER: He set a lofty goal. Law school in public service.


MELBER: He earned that law degree this past spring.

DEAN DAVID YELLEN, LOYOLA SCHOOL OF LAW: Jarrett has his passion for using
his legal education and his talents to right wrongs in society.

MELBER: And his mission didn`t stop there. Adams won a fellowship to
clerk on the Seventh Circuit Court of appeals. The very court that
overturned his conviction. We asked former federal prosecutor Mike Monico
if he`s ever seen that happen.

Jarrett is remarkable.

PATRICIA BROWN HOLMES, TRIAL ATTORNEY: For someone to argue before that
court is a really big deal. For someone to clerk for that court is an even
bigger deal. I`m very proud of him. I`m as proud as if I was his mother.

MELBER: Adams says his story is just getting started.

ADAMS: I say to myself, the story of Jarrett Adams won`t be remembered as,
you know, personal wrongly convicted got out. No. Story of Jarret Adams
is going to be person wrongly convicted got out and worked each and every
day until he gasped his last breath to change the criminal justice system
for the better.


HARRIS-PERRY: All right. What is next for Jarrett?

MELBER: Jarrett is doing this clerkship at the court of freedom. He has
another clerkship lined up in a federal district court in New York. And
when we spoke about was his desire to change the way the prison systems
operate, the re-entry programs. He makes the point that he`s now able to
do public service but we`re locking up so many people who can`t contribute
to society. Another thing I wanted to raise as we look at this was
something his lawyer Mr. Finley talked about. What it means to fight for
long shot odds in this terrain. Take a listen.


FINDLEY: Jarrett`s story has affected me in a number of ways. One of
which was it has sort of reconfirmed this notion that it`s very hard for
people to hold on to that despite all odds, it`s worth the fight. It`s
worth continuing. I will admit that when my students came to me and said,
let`s file this habeas petition, I said I know what the standards are in
federal habeas. I know what a long shot it is. We had very little time.
I thought it probably wasn`t worth the effort. And I learned from this
that it`s – that`s not an excuse we should rely on very often. And you
never know when you`re going to be successful in achieving justice.


HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean it`s extraordinary insight. As is just
recognition of how incredible this young man is and it`s just a reminder
how many other people like him and their brain power and their capacity and
their passion were just locking up.

MELBER: Exactly. I mean, one of the points he made to me is he said, you
know, you can be locking up to cure for HIV. You could be locking autopsy
all sorts of people because you don`t have the re-entry. And another part
of the story that we touch on there is while he was incarcerated, he also
did disciplinary appeals for other inmates. He won 17 of them. Helping
people get lost wages.


MELBER: Helping people get taken out of solitary confinement. And he
said, he believed in that work but he also said he had the mindset that
that would help him practice as the lawyer he wanted to be for himself and
hopefully for others. He also, Melissa, is someone who obviously has seen
the dark side and the fallible side of our criminal justice system. But he
is, as I think you saw there someone who says he`s not defined by that
anger or that problem.


MELBER: He wants to go out and make positive change. It`s nice sometimes
in our system to see a story like that.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, plus, it`s going to be nice to watch that story
unfold. I have a sense we may someday be voting for Mr. Adams. Thank you
so much, Ari Melber.

MELBER: Thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: And tomorrow, Ari and Jarrett Adams will host a Twitter
chat, 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Be sure to join in and to tweet any questions you
might have with the #JarrettAdams.

Up next, the center of the Nerdland universe this week. We`re going to
take you inside New York`s Comic Con.


HARRIS-PERRY: Here in Nerdland, we`re not just political nerds or history
nerds. We are large and have nerdlicious multitudes. We are all around
nerds. So when the nerdiest conference came to New York City, we sent our
producers and MSNBC contributor Dorian Warren to check it out. That`s
right, Nerdland went to New York Comic Con.


DORIAN WARREN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Hey Nerdland, it`s me, Dorian Warren.
And I`m standing here at day one of New York Comic Con. As you can see,
the streams of participants coming in, the lines are all the way down the
block. Expected attendance over 151,000 people. The largest pop culture
convention of its kind in North America. All of these folks are here
coming to see over 500 exhibitors, panelists, actors, artists, everything
around Sci-Fi, fantasy, comic books, all here for the next four days. New
York City`s Comic Con.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re going to go see Comic Con.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my first time coming, so yes this is my first

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really love super heroes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I`m like kind of part of this group. I don`t

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s really important for young girls to have people
to look up to, women to idolize for things other than just their
appearance. For their strengths, for their power, for their intelligence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As women, would you like to see more women represented

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I`d like to see a lot more people of color and
know that they can dress up however far they want. Like it doesn`t matter
because it`s costly. Like this is time for you to act crazy and do what
you want.

WARREN: Why is representation important?

feel that there is something wrong with you if you don`t see yourself
reflected. You feel like the only one. I mean the characters that I`m
printed on are the characters who had flaws that I had. Nothing had, you
know, virtues that I also had. You don`t feel alone.

with the world. And our characters have been growing along with the world.
So I think it`s an amazing thing to see. And you can see it no better
place in this show which is reflected all around you. You know, we used to
come to these shows and it would be 80 percent men.

Minorities and comics have changed. A lot more – there`s a lot more
inclusion now than there was when I was reading comics. And, you know,
there`s just a sea of white dudes making and reading and stuff. Now it`s a
lot more different. You know, it`s like now they – the industry suddenly
woke up and it`s like, 51 percent of the audience don`t look like 49
percent of our audience and we could be getting their money as well.

up, kid of color, most of your entertainment is very white. In that lack
of reflection, it`s omission and through that omission it becomes a level
of oppression. And that level of oppression comes in the form of young
people not being able to activate their dreams, see themselves as super

WARREN: What does the industry need to do to actually fully reflect the
experiences of people of color and women of color?

there and you see we`re doing a good job, take a mental note. Send us an
e-mail. Send us a paycheck. I`m really serious. We`re out here. We
represent what other people want to see. So I think it`s the smart thing
is to hire us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I approach comics, videogames, all things relates to
that medium the same way as a white male or Mexican male, whoever. You
know, because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is a good


HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, the colorful gender inclusive and utterly changing
nature of our super heroes.



UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Well, it`s my first day in Comic Con. I really want to
go. It seems –

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at the camera, baby.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: – seems packed with it. So it`s really fun. I heard
it`s really fun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it`s my first time to New York Comic Con and
really excited. I like all things like Marvel and Avengers and stuff like.
So it`s just a fun time to nerd out and enjoy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you guys consider yourself nerds?



UNIDENTIFIED BOY: We`re more like geeks.


HARRIS-PERRY: You know, more like geeks. Right? So, those are the fans
attending New York`s Comic Con. The largest pop culture convention in the
country. And the name of the game of this year`s conference was diversity.
And featured a list of panels of red Comic Con image pea show (ph) rundown.
There was from black face to black panther, the evolution of the depiction
of people of color in comic books, graphic novels and film, women in geek
media, secret identities creating transgender characters in comic books
just to name a few. So, I condemned (ph) a panel of wonderful nerds to
talk about why it is important that our pop culture reflects our
increasingly diverse society?

Joining me now is Marjorie Liu who is “New York Times” bestselling author,
attorney comic book writer for image and marvel and whose new title
“Monstress” is set to be released in November. Robert George, yes, you saw
him earlier but he has changed. The associate, editorial page editor of
the New York Post. Jamie Broadnax who is managing editor of podcaster of
Black Girl Nerds, we`re like social media besties. And Drew Grant who is
senior editor for the New York Observer. Thank you guys for being here.


HARRIS-PERRY: So Marjorie, what has changed in the land of comics?

Well, when I first started writing comics in 2007, I was one of a handful
of women writing mainstream comics. And by mainstream, I mean marvel D.C.
super hero comics which is a very narrow genre. But I was probably maybe
one of the only women of color. And so – and girls would come up to me at
conventions and they would say, oh, you know, I really want to write comics
but people tell me I can`t because I`m a girl.


LIU: And that was heartbreaking. And so fast forward to 2015 and because
of social media, because of, you know, women like Jamie, you know, because
we`ve got this increased discussion about representation, women, people of
color, folks from all different backgrounds are standing up and saying,
okay, we exist. Our voices must be heard. And we`ve seen changes. We`ve
seen real changes.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, I love hearing you sort of give that description at the
same time that you were sitting next to Robert George.

LIU: Uh-hm.

HARRIS-PERRY: Now, there are things we learn about our regular guests
sitting in the make-up room. And I remembered last year that you were
like, okay, I am here and then there`s Comic Con. And just so you know,
this is how much I appreciate your show but I`m out of here.


And I`m thinking, wait a minute, how many are like black eyes over at Comic
Con, right? But then I also think that about the Republican Party.


So talk to me about –

GEORGE: Why I was mannered conservative reporter by day?



Talk to me about sort of what it is, what this thing is, why is it so
attractive and interesting and compelling?

GEORGE: Well, I`ve been a comic book geek, nerd, whatever you want to call
it for a lot longer than I`ve been a republican. But, no, it`s just
something – I was – when I was like seven or eight years old, I was like,
you know, jumping up on the bed with my Batman cape. It was just attracted
me into it. And I was – and I`ve been – back then, when I would go to
comic bookstore actually, I was usually like the only black kid who was
picking up the comics. That`s definitely changed over the decades.

HARRIS-PERRY: And so a part of what is interesting to me is the idea that
you say in my Batman cape. Right? So, you`re able to reflect and
associate with Batman despite the fact that Batman is not sort of racially
the same. But I can remember all these feeling like the girls were the
sexy kind of add ones to the super heroes. They weren`t the super heroes
themselves. And part of what is been so exciting to me as an adult raising
girls is now the girls are the super heroes. Right? They don`t have to
just, you know, be the adornments of the super hero.

true. I think one of the biggest changes in Comic Con is the change in
diversity. But that change is becoming more apparent as more and more
franchises and more studios come in and they`re looking for seats to fill
their theaters. Marvel is looking for people to watch their TV shows. And
they`re alienating a large swath of their audience without, you know,
without good female strong female lead or a strong female director. So you
know this year we have Jessica Jones.


GRANT: You know, we have Agent Shield, we have a bunch of shows. We have
“Super Girl” coming up. We`ll see how that does. You know, you walk into
Comic Con now and you see it`s a Jurassic World. What does that have to do
with comics? Not very much.


GEORGE: I`m sorry.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, I just want to pull you in on this. Because I think
that was one of the things, some of the producers here are real comic nerds
and some of my producers like, what in the world of Comic Con? And so,
part of what my nerdy producer was saying is, oh no, it`s pop culture in
these broadest sense.

BROADNAX: Right. Right. I think what`s really important about Comic Con
is it shares phantoms for all different kinds of people. It`s not just for
comic fans. It`s people that`s into Science fiction fantasy. It`s people
that into anime. So it brings in people from all over diverse backgrounds.
And that is very important to illustrate. Because, you know, before when
we saw a lot of these Comic Cons, it was white male predominantly, you
know, being represented. But now you see women of color. You see people
of LGBTQ backgrounds. And it`s go to see comic books illustrate those
kinds of folks in the images but also what`s really important with the
dialogues was showing them behind the scenes as creators.

HARRIS-PERRY: And everybody also seems to be an Atlantic reader. Because
the number one name drop that was going on at Comic Con was Ta-Nehisi
Coates –


Everyone like go, go, go. Because of course he`s now going to be doing the
new panther. And this idea that Coates who is kind of the, you know, he`s
the voice off our generation. He is the kind of, you know, public
intellectual is doing panther, right?

BROADNAX: Yes. He`s doing panther. And then also David Walker and
Sanford Green is doing the iron fist and power man comic. So it`s great.
I would love to see some black women names being added to the list.


BROADNAX: I would love to see – I know that one of the comics that are
coming out soon is Blade is going to be having a comic with his daughter.
So a good friend of mine, Atora (ph) Richardson, she`s going to be working
on that. And then we featured in the segment Ashley A. Woods and Amandla
Stenberg that is doing the Niobe comic. So, I definitely want to see more
women in the background doing things and shout out to Regine L. Sawyer and
the women in comics New York City Collective. Black women, women of color
illustrating, writing, editing, creating their own comic book companies.
It`s important.

HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Stick with us. Because coming up next, the
reinvented Miss Marvel.


HARRIS-PERRY: In 2013 Marvel revamped one of their classic characters Miss
Marvel. From the set of the statue as blonde haired, blue eyed Carol
Danvers that introduced this 16-year-old Muslim teenager from New Jersey.
Her name is Carmella Cann. And we spoke with one of her creators Sana
Amanat who is the director of Content Development for Marvel.


the industry I was one of the few women working in comics and definitely
one of the few brown women working in comics. I really wanted to make sure
that, you know, we were telling stories that were, you know, not only
interesting and entertaining but also, you know, diverse and
representative. Carmella Cann is a young South Asian Muslim girls from
Jersey City. And she is the only daughter in a very conservative
household. She doesn`t know who she is and she sees these really amazing,
beautiful, powerful heroes flying all over and saving the world every
single day and she wants to be just like them.

We wanted to make sure that we were vending or, you know, disrupting
stereotypes, if you will, but at the same time we wanted to make sure that
this wasn`t a story just for young Muslims or young south Asians. It was
truly a story for anyone who felt like they were going through their own
sort of identity struggle.


HARRIS-PERRY: The new Marvel series has received critical acclaim. A top
spot on “The New York Times” bestseller`s list. Miss Marvel`s bestselling
digital comic of 2014. So, what is everything we should know about what`s
good and exciting coming up?

GRANT: Well, it`s really good to hear about stories like this. I was
talking to an executive of a very high level executive from one of these
production houses that put on these types of super hero movies about what
has changed, why in 2006 we only have two super hero movies like in the
entire year and this year, we have 2014 had six of them.


GRANT: And he said, you know, the big thing about franchises and doing
these marvel DC super hero franchises is really the international market
and putting an eye towards international markets, what kind of stories do
they want to see? You know, they want to see good versus evil, they want
to see easily translated. This might be the only entertainment they`re
going to be able to do with their family all week. So, you have to pick a
kind of story that`s going to play internationally and maybe think, yes,
but it`s all about like white guys.

GEORGE: To that point. It`s no longer just Marvel and DC, you`ve got
image which does a lot of creator owned work, such as Marjorie`s working
on. Also, in fact, valiant for example, has a completely separate super
hero universe. They have one great title out there called divinity where
the star of it is a black cosmonaut who has come back to earth and has all
of these powers. And he`s been away for decades. So, he thinks communism
is still a thing but it`s translated into powers. So, you`re seeing a lot
of the diversity that is coming in. Definitely a lot of women but a lot of
African-Americans or Russian-Americans or Black Russians.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. But this is part of the possibility, right? That
if, like, if we`re not constrained by having to even – I mean, if people
want to fly, if all things are possible, then really all things are
possible in space where we can start to open up our imagination of what the
world can be?

LIU: Well, yes. And I have to say the one beautiful thing about the
segment you just showed is that it proves how important structural change
is because it`s one thing to have it`s awesome that we have, you know, a
female swords. Awesome they had a black Captain America. But those are
optics. And it`s great to have optical change. But if we don`t have
structural change behind the scenes, then these optics will not last.

HARRIS-PERRY: Everything there is to know about American politics.



HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, American culture but this is –

LIU: American politics, film, television, books. I mean, everywhere we go
I turn them on TV, I don`t see Asian-Americans reflect – well, now am`
beginning to.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right.

LIU: But it`s required time and a lot of push.

GRANT: Yes. I mean, one of the biggest things was into the Bad Lands this
year which is going to be what – kids hoping will do for martial arts,
what the Walking Dead did for zombies and it is entirely an executive
produced. Starring a Chinese American backstage. Like you said, it`s
being produced and directed by these people of diversity and that`s so
important because women doing TV shows, they`re so much less.

GEORGE: The comparison –

HARRIS-PERRY: Let me let you go.

BROADNAX: Also in the digital age I think it`s really important to
acknowledge the fact that there are bloggers, there are podcasters. You
mentioned that we`re social media BFFs. People on social media that`s
actually bringing attention to these underserved communities and these
independent comic creators that are doing the stuff.


HARRIS-PERRY: This is part of the structural change, right? When those
barriers to entry are lowered and you don`t have to wait for a marvel or DC
to hire you, right?


HARRIS-PERRY: You can actually build audience ground up with social media.

GEORGE: There`s another –

BROADNAX: Absolutely. Yes. And you mentioned like, you know, there`s not
enough Asian-American, you know, representation there. But then you`ve got
like websites like Nerds of Color that are doing really great things.

HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely.

GEORGE: Another thing to make that comparison between politics and pop
culture overlap. The author of Miss Marvel, G. Willow Wilson happens to be
a Muslim convert.


GEORGE: Actually. So she hasn`t – she`s got an authentic voice that
she`s bringing to – and just like say Bernie Sanders –



GEORGE: Authenticity, yes.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Yes. Yes. I`m with you. I`m with you.


Thank you to Marjorie Liu and to Robert George and to Jamie Broadnax – and
to Drew Grant. That is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for
watching. I`m going to see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.



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