Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 12/6/2015
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: December 6, 2015
Guest: Brian Levin; John McWhorter; Hallie Potter; Janelle Wong; Ari
Berman; Janai Nelson, Noah Shachtman, Deepa Iyer, Beth Fouhy, Dorothy
Holmes, Michael Oppenheimer, Salamishah Tillet, Mychal Denzel Smith
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my question. How will
Chicago respond to a video of yet another police shooting?
Plus the Supreme Court takes up affirmative action.
And the fight for voting rights in Alabama.
But first, President Obama prepares to address the nation.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And tonight, for only the third time in his presidency, President Obama
will address the nation from the oval office. He is expected to discuss
the shooting in San Bernardino, California that left 14 people dead. The
fight against terrorism and the steps the government is taking to help keep
This morning attorney general Loretta Lynch appeared on NBC`s “Meet the
Press” with Chuck Todd and gave an update on the FBI`s terrorism
investigation of the San Bernardino shooting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Four days, over 300 interviews,
several locations searched. A lot of information being processed, being
analyzed, and being gathered, and more to come. So what I would say to
people is that this investigation as has already been stated is a marathon
and not a sprint but it is one of great concern to the American people and
so we`re committed to keeping people informed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC`s Ron Allen is at the White House and joins us now.
Ron, what are we expecting to hear from President Obama tonight?
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we are expecting to hear
the latest on the investigation, more about what secretary attorney general
Lynch had to say there. I think the American people want to know exactly
what happened in San Bernardino and what this means to America in the fight
The attorney general also said that the threat has changed, saying that
essentially this was an attack that we believe was probably carried out by
a lone wolf, by an American citizen. It was not attack planned in a
distant place like 9/11 over a long period of time, an elaborate plan like
Al-Qaeda planned. This is something different. And what we want to hear,
what the American people want to hear, I believe, is, what is the
administration going to do about that?
As you know, the president has been widely criticized for being slow, for
being reactionary, for underestimating the threat of ISIS abroad and in the
United States. And so, I believe now he is under some pressure to step
forward with a bold plan, to say exactly what his strategy is, and to
essentially defend it because so many people think that it`s not working.
There`s the aspect of it overseas where there have been some 8,000 air
strikes against ISIS, yet they were able to essentially orchestrate that
attack in Paris. The president has said that they were contained
territorially but apparently that is not the case.
Here at home though again, the threat is – the concern is this threat of
home grown terrorism now, something different, a new phase. And it raises
all kinds of questions about how the government will respond, how the
American people will respond. There are calls for more vigilance in
different neighborhoods, the Muslim community for example. There are
questions about privacy and surveillance. So mostly, we hope the
president, we expect the president to try and reassure the American people
that the situation is under control but there are a lot of questions that
he has to answer.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Ron Allen in Washington D.C. this
And a note for our viewers, MSNBC will have live coverage of the
president`s address hosted by Chris Matthews being tonight 7:00 p.m.
Now, I want to turn to the latest investigation in California. The FBI is
trying to track down clues about the shooters in the San Bernardino
attacks, Tashfeen Malik and her husband, Syed Farook.
Yesterday, the FBI raided the home of a man in Riverside, California. Now,
officials believe the man was the original buyer of the assault rifles used
in the shooting. According to the FBI that man is not a suspect in the
attack but was an acquaintance of Farook.
NBC`s Chris Jansing is in San Bernardino this morning.
Chris, what more can you tell us about this raid?
CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was really something quite
dramatic. What we know is that they used a blow torch to get into Enrique
Marquez` garage and then brought in bomb sniffing dogs. He is said to have
been so distraught that it was very difficult for them to get information
from him and in fact, he has now checked into a mental health facility.
But he did buy those guns apparently legally in 2011 and 2012, did have a
relationship with the suspect, with the shooter, apparently over cars.
They both, you know, really liked cars and according to neighbors talked a
lot about that. And obviously, at some point also talked about a mutual
interest in guns. And so, those assault rifles apparently came from him.
They also very briefly detained his brother and another family member but
apparently they were let go.
Meantime, we know that there was also an interrogation of his mother, and
it went on for nine hours. According to the “New York Times,” members of
his family say that they absolutely suspected nothing, but as of now the
six-month-old baby who had been staying with the mother as well as the
parents is still in the custody of social services officials.
Finally, more coming out of Pakistan. And the questions about who
radicalized who and Tashfeen Malik and when she may have been radicalized.
Well, it turns out that in 2009 when she went back to school to study
pharmacology, she became much more interested in Islam even in her studies.
Reports from there suggest that that`s when she started wearing a Burqa.
Not only did she refuse to have photographs taken but collected a series of
I.D. cards and got rid of those because they had her photo on it.
And one really interesting thing, Melissa, while we have heard from friends
of his, no one has come forward in this entire community to suggest that
they knew Tashfeen Malik at all or had anything to say about her
personally, including his sister I talked to who said she was very shy,
very quiet, and very difficult to get to know - Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s tough. Can I ask one last question for you? Have we
learned anything more about the question of motive? I mean, obviously, you
know, you are pointing out that there`s lots of different investigations
happening in multiple different places, but do we have any sense about
JANSING: Over the last 24 hours I talked to a couple of people who are
close to this investigation, and they echoed what we heard from the FBI
director, Melissa. That is the key question here. I mean, was she
radicalized in Pakistan? Did she come over here specifically for this
purpose? But even if that`s true, what was the motivating factor.
One of the things that is so confounding to people in this investigation is
why in that building behind me, why go into the workplace. So these are
key questions that have to be answered. Obviously, to get a handle on this
case, but also to give them a sense of more information as they look at the
possibility of self-radicalization and lone wolf attacks in the future,
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Chris Jansing in San Bernardino,
Now, I want to bring in counterterrorism analyst Brian Levin in Irvin,
California. He is a professor at Cal State, San Bernardino, and the
director of the center for the study of hate and extremism. Nice to see
you this morning.
BRIAN LEVIN, PROFESSOR, CAL STATE, SAN BERNARDINO: Thank you for having
HARRIS-PERRY: I actually want to start by backing up a little bit and
talking first about what we might expect to hear from the president.
Yesterday, I had a guest who was talking about the fact that this form of
terrorism can`t be fought in quite the same way that we typically think
about sort of war making. And I`m wondering whether or not the president
is going to need to lay out a nuanced argument about how counterterrorism
will look in this case.
LEVIN: I think that`s a great question. Twenty years ago I testified
before Congress about the danger of leaderless resistance or inspired-type
terrorism. Twenty years later, just several weeks ago, I testified before
Congress again. This is a different kind of threat.
And to be sure, ISIS or Daesh (ph) is a hierarchical organization. If they
can get trained fighters into the United States to murder in a spectacular
attack, they would. But they have a bifurcated plan and that includes
inspiring people on the ground where they are to commit acts of violence
that will kill many but not necessarily be as spectacular as, for instance,
a 9/11. And what we have seen is an evolution with respect to ISIS first
focusing on the mere enemy, their co-religionists in the Middle East. Now,
they are focusing on the far enemy to build their caliphate.
Here is the thing. President Obama who I have great affection for, I am
not an Obama basher, but what he has failed to do is to assure the American
public that we are safe. Seventy-one percent of Americans, according to
the latest polls, do not believe he has a clear path with respect to our
fight against is. And that is very bad. It allows folks like Donald Trump
who has an insane kind of approach to paint the president as someone
detached and aloof and nuanced, which unfortunately, he might be to a
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, let me push on that just a little bit because this
strikes me as a question in part about kind of political discourse and
rhetoric on the one hand and on the other hand about counterterrorism as a
strategy. So one might, for example, use a public/political discourse and
say I have got it, we are safe, don`t worry, I have a strategy that is not
nuanced but really actually need a strategy that is maybe hard to explain
to people for example on a Sunday night at 8:00.
So talk to me about how one balances that being honest with the public
about how difficult something like this is while at the same time being
LEVIN: Yes. Look, this is the threat and guess what, you are part of the
response. Knowing the fact that we can stop certain people who we know are
evil from coming in, we can`t stop the evil ideas from coming in. And I
think he has to be honest about that and recruit Americans to if they see
something say something but also give a clear plan about what he`s going to
He said that ISIS was contained which to some degree was technically
correct but it was a political disaster. He called them in 2014 the JV
team. And just on the day of the attacks in San Bernardino which hurt our
community, he was talking about how safe America is.
As someone who is a professor, I think he should be less professorial. And
what it allows are people who have really no knowledge, like a Donald
Trump, to come out as strong saying, I will tell you. I don`t know what we
are going to do but we are going to do it.
So I think it`s one of those things where a fool with a plan looks better
than a genius with none. But I think someone like Donald Trump looks like
a fool with a bad plan.
HARRIS-PERRY: I hear you, Dr. Levin, but as much as maybe the president
should be less professorial, maybe we as the public should be more
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Brian Levin in Irvine, California.
And once again, a reminder that MSNBC will have live coverage of the
president`s oval office address beginning tonight at 7:00 p.m. anchored by
Up next, the big affirmative action case about to go before the Supreme
HARRIS-PERRY: All eyes will be on the Supreme Court this Wednesday when
the justices begin hearing a major case that could put an end to race
conscious admissions programs in higher education.
Fisher versus the University of Texas is the latest (INAUDIBLE), the
decades-long debate over race policies, one that is raising new questions
over the meaning of diversity and just who gets to benefit from affirmative
Now, the case arose when Abigail Fisher, a white Texas resident was denied
undergraduate admission for the University of Texas at Austin for the fall
2008 class entering class. Fisher claims she was not admitted because she
is white and that the university`s race conscious policy violated the
constitution`s equal protection clause.
Now, this is the case`s second trip to the Supreme Court in three years.
The case challenges one small part of the university`s two tiered admission
program. You see, UT, University of Texas, is a public education
institution that guarantees admission to all in-state applicants in the top
ten percent of their high school class as mandated by the state`s quote
“top ten percent law.” UT accepts 75 percent of its students through this
policy and the remainder UT`s entering class is selected through quote
“holistic review,” a process that evaluates each applicants based on
achievements, experiences and background including race and ethnicity.
This holistic review portion is what is at stake. Fisher versus UT could
potentially undo the 2003 decision in Bollinger where the Supreme Court
ruled that public colleges and universities could not use a point system to
increase minority enrollment but could consider race as one factor among
many to ensure educational diversity.
Justice Sandra Day O`Connor who wrote the majority opinion for the 2003
ruling said at the time quote “we expect in 25 years from now the use of
racial preferences will no longer be necessary.” Today, more than a decade
later, the Supreme Court could, in fact, end them.
Joining me now, Janai Nelson, associate director council for the NAACP
legal defense fund. Halley Potter, fellow at the Century Foundation where
she researches public policy solution for addressing educational inequity.
John McWhorter, associate professor of English and comparative literature
at Columbia University and Janelle Wong, professor and director of Asian-
American studies at University of Maryland. So nice to see you.
I want to start with the case a little bit before we get into the question
of affirmative action. Why is it going back, you know, within three years
like help folks to understand why Fisher is in front of Scotus again.
JANAI NELSON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Yes. If only
we knew really why but I can tell you technically the reason that it came
back to court. The court remanded it in 2013 which basically means they it
sent it back to the lower courts to decide whether in fact the Texas plan
was narrowly tailored. So, whether the use of race which has been
concretely decided as a permissible factor to consider in admissions,
whether this particular use of race was narrow enough to meet
constitutional standards. And that was the question before the fifth
circuit. The fifth circuit said for the second time, yes, this is narrow
enough, yes, this is appropriate, and it`s now up before the court to
decide whether the fifth circuit made the right decision.
HARRIS-PERRY: For me part of what is interesting about this coming out of
Texas, Halley, is that the top ten percent plan was in many ways heralded
initially as a solution to exactly the problem of race-based analysis
around affirmative action. OK, everybody in all the schools, if you are in
the top ten percent, recognizing that there are all of these inequities and
even racial segregation within the schools, we are going to take you
because there`s a state system. And I think there`s a way in which folks
feel a genuine sense of how that feels fair as a percentage question, and
yet you only fill 75 percent of the class that way. You got to make
choices on the rest of it. So does this reconsideration also impact the
ten percent plan? What`s at stake here?
HALLEY POTTER, FELLOW, THE CENTURY FOUNDATION: Well, I do think that the
reconsideration of this case is going to have socioeconomic and race
neutral alternatives at the center. In Fisher, one that was set up as a
legal test that universities are required to show that race neutral
alternatives are not sufficient to create the racial diversity that they
need on campus before turning to race-based solutions.
We haven`t really seen any universities or the University of Texas
adequately show that. That`s not to say that socioeconomic affirmative
action plans necessarily will get you all the way. And I think what the
University of Texas is doing is a great example, the socioeconomic
affirmative action plan using the top ten percent has yielded some racial
I think a key question here is as the University of Texas continues to use
race, are there other socioeconomic factors they should also be using.
There are more sophisticated ways that they could be doing this.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it is so interesting, as you talk about socioeconomic
affirmative action. I mean, in certain ways it goes, John, to the
fundamental question of what we think affirmative action is doing, right.
So Bollinger left for us diversity as a basis for using race, right. It
said, OK, this isn`t about reparation. This isn`t about correcting the bad
of the past. It is about saying that a diverse classroom matters. And yet
when we start talking about socioeconomic affirmative action, it feels like
what we are saying is, no, this is about providing opportunity for people
who might not otherwise have it. You have been a critical race-base and a
supporter of socioeconomic ideas over the years. Tell me a little bit
about why that decision, why that position through you.
JOHN MCWHORTER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, it is
pretty simple. Originally, affirmative action was based on the idea that
you wanted to repair, that you wanted to compensate for disadvantage.
After about ten years that seemed not to be working for various reasons.
And so then, after the (INAUDIBLE) decision, there was a new emphasis on
the word that we now use for it which is diversity.
And the fact of the matter is the diversity argument has always been
extremely fragile, including in the original writings. I`m not sure that
it seems to be working out very well as we have seen from recent events on
college campuses. And to adjust for this advantage seems to me less
controversial, less fraught, something more immediately justifiable by a
student as well as a faculty member or an administrator than using race
which on top of that today it`s so much more complicated than it was in
1966 or 1976.
So as far as I`m concerned, affirmative action is wonderful, but you base
it on disadvantage, which will include an awful lot of people of color, not
on just the color of a person`s skin and I mean by that race, and race is
important. Yes, race matters, but I don`t think that the diversity
rationale by itself is strong enough that we need to keep preserving it
after all of this time.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, at the core always of this debate then is a question
about merit and how we measure and what we think merit is which is always
then get evoke both around socioeconomic status and around race. Talk to
me about that.
JANELLE WONG, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: OK. So, I think all of
us at this table really do agree that a more diverse classroom is better
than a racially segregated classroom. I think we can all kind of agree on
that major point. But I also think that we disagree about how to get there
and how to measure merit, right.
And so, one of the issues is that there`s an assumption that there is a
race neutral kind of admissions policy that might be there for us to
implement. And when you look at the dominant ways in which universities
might think about what is race neutral, they often go to test scores,
right. And that is a primary measure of merit.
But test scores are not necessarily race neutral. In fact, there`s recent
research that shows from UC Berkeley that shows that test scores, the
biggest predictor of test scores is race and that has actually race as a
part of test scores. And predicting test scores has grown over time and
has become more important than both socioeconomic status and parents`
And so, I think we need to just step back and think about the measure we
use for merit. People are very complicated, as John says. They grow up in
these complex environments and we need to take into account every part of
HARRIS-PERRY: So we have got everybody`s positioned staked out here. And
when we come back, let`s fight about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Supreme Court is preparing to hear a case that could put
an end to race conscious college admissions programs as renewed the
affirmative action debate. There was time when students across the nation
are vocalizing in math that they feel racially marginalized and isolated on
their campuses. Though the Supreme Court case and the student protests are
not directly linked, legal experts expect the campus protest could affect
the way the justices consider arguments.
Michael Dofr, a law professor at Cornell told the “New York Times” that it
is quote “possible that the way the court frames the discussion will be
colored by the justices` views of the campus protest.” A list of formal
demand made it 51 U.S. campuses can be found on the Web site, the
demands.org, the most common demands call for an increase in diversity.
So, I`m just going to throw some things out here and I want you guys to
jump on them. So here is the first one. Thinking about student diversity
in admission is the wrong way to think about it. The real question is
universities as contractors and employers and what we really should care
about is faculty diversity, staff diversity and the way that universities
contract with staffers and that this is all just kind of sideline work.
NELSON: No. That completely abdicates the mission of the universities and
makes it an economic issue. We`re really talking about producing this
nation`s next generation of leaders. I mean, we are talking about
producing this nation`s next generation of leaders. We are talking about
preparing our young nation to compete in a global marketplace. And they
can`t do that without diversity. They can`t do that without being exposed
to other viewpoints and other individuals who are different from
themselves. And we do that by looking at so many different factors in the
One of the things that is incredibly important to understand that we do
look at socioeconomic factors in the UT admission system. We do look at
whether you speak another language at home, whether you come from a
particular region of the country that`s underrepresented. So there are a
variety of factors that go into this complex holistic admission process and
race is but one of them. A factor of a factor of a factor as the court
MCWHORTER: If the question is, though, and I understand everything you
mean. But if the question is whether or not it should be the case that
most of the black students in the student body were admitted with grades
and test scores that a white person wouldn`t have gotten in with. And the
big debate about affirmative action is not taking everybody with the same
grades and test scores and then deciding on a diverse class. I wouldn`t
have any argument what most people wouldn`t. But the issue is whether it
can be said that the black and usually the Latino students have been
admitted under different criteria if that`s justifiable is what we`re
talking about. And my feeling is that to do it that way for longer than
about generation isn`t worth it especially because the students who are
admitted that way could get perfectly good educations at different schools.
HARRIS-PERRY: So then let me ask this argument then. Is college a reward
for having done well in high school, or is it an opportunity that we ought
to make available to as many young people as possible for greatness in the
WONG: I mean, I think I agree with your second point that we know that
race affects people`s life chances and education is one of the greatest
contributors to how people succeed in life. And going back to this point,
are we – can we compare two people of different racial backgrounds that
have the same test scores or different test scores. Everyone is complex,
and all the proponents of affirmative action of race admission policy is
trying to do is to say to recognize that. That race is but one factor
among an array of factors such as geography, such as socioeconomic
I don`t know any proponent of affirmative action who says, well, we should
focus on race and not class. Proponents of affirmative action want to see
it all. We want to see the broad array of what makes up a complex student.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So here is another argument. We already take
mates in class into effect and we take it, I mean, into account and we do
it at the top. Our universities have become whiter and they have become
wealthier, especially since the 2008 downturn because the way that we take
economics into effect is we ask can you pay and if you can pay you are more
likely to get admitted.
POTTER: I think there`s so much more we could do to have a sophisticated
understanding of socioeconomic status and factoring that in when we think
about disadvantage and when we think about merit. If you`re measuring
students` academic performance so far and the potential that they have,
understanding the obstacles that they have overcome related to both race
and socioeconomic status are so important. And you are talking about
wealth and what it takes to actually pay for an Ivy League education these
days, that`s one area where universities could hone.
We know there`s a huge income gap based on race in the country, but there`s
an even wider gap based on wealth. The average median wealth of a black
family is just five percent of the median wealth of a white family. If we
started to factor that in we can have better affirmative action.
HARRIS-PERRY: Much more to come on this issue.
But first, I do want to remind viewers as we have been reporting this
morning, President Obama is planning to address the nation tonight on the
issue of keeping Americans safe. He will speak live from the oval office
at 8:00 p.m. eastern. MSNBC`s coverage will be anchored by Chris Matthews
beginning at 7:00 p.m.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think tools such as affirmative
action are useful to help us rub out and sand down this inequity that
continues to haunt the president that came from the past. Some say we
don`t wallow around in history. Why not? We wallow around in the beauty
of the constitution and the declaration. That`s our history. Let`s wallow
in all of it, the black people for all those years. Therefore, I think it
is appropriate to use tools such as affirmative action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was former secretary of state Colin Powell speaking on
affirmative action in an interview conducted by the academy of achievement
in 1998. John?
MCWHORTER: You know what? I think that if we want there to be more black
students who are eligible in terms of the general criteria for selective
institutions and that`s what we`re really talking about. There`s a very
small pool and the arguments start because there`s no few and so what do
you do to have a representative population. I just want to recommend
there`s a book, that`s getting old, people don`t read it much anymore,
“ways with words” by anthropologist Shirley Price Heath, makes it quite
clear why black American students often are not in that place. It has to
do with the ways that we use, language and questions and various other
aspects of child rearing. It`s not a condemnatory book in any way. And it
shows that we can fix this. We can make it so that especially black
American students have those rather arbitrary kinds of credentials that get
you into those schools simply because, I`m very much finished, simply we
could say that we`re going to change what merit means. That we are going
to change whether or not the test scores matter, but I like the idea that
before we have any discussions about changing those things, that black
America has managed to jump through that hoop because so many other people
did. I know that many people don`t agree with me on that but I want to do
NELSON: So I might be one of those people who doesn`t quite agree with
this idea. We have been fighting for 75 years that end the systemic
inequities in this country that feed into what we see to be so many
disparities when students are trying to enter into higher education.
What we are saying in this case is something quite different. We are
saying that for the benefit of this country for all Americans, for our
global competitiveness, it is crucial that we maintain the diversity that
the Supreme Court has ratified four times in four different cases and said
this is a rich and essential part of our progress as a country. That is
separate and apart from all of the inequities that occur in early education
and in many other spheres of our society. So I don`t want to conflate the
two at all. This is a very different discussion.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I also want to make one other point which is that I
think actually talking about what we mean by merit is a meaningful values
conversation to have as a nation. And you know, part of the reason I
wanted you at the table is I know you have spoken very carefully about the
idea of the ways in which this set of definitions about merit allows Asian-
American students to be used as a wedge over and against other students
when in end it fails to reflect the diversity within the context of who
Asian-American students are.
WONG: Well, I really appreciate that being raised because this case is
different because of the context. And in the past this has been an issue
that didn`t really involve Asian-Americans in the way it does now. Now
we`re seeing some Asian-Americans suing universities like North Carolina,
like Harvard, saying that the admissions policies are unfair. And I think
that`s for a couple of reasons.
The main one is that they think Asian-Americans are hurt by race conscious
admissions policies. But what we really see is that a big chunk of the
Asian-American community is actually directly benefitting from affirmative
action. For instance, Cambodians, Burmese, Bangladeshis, Mong, American
see smaller Asian-American groups who have higher rates of poverty than
almost anyone in the country, who have dropout rates in high school of
almost 40 percent, 40 percent.
These groups actually benefit directly. For instance, the University of
Wisconsin names these groups in its race conscious admission policies.
That`s huge for 20 percent of the Asian-American populations. And so, I
think Asian-Americans themselves are resisting this narrative that they are
hurt by affirmative action policies and in fact we see ten years of
surveys, a solid majority of Asian-Americans support race conscious
HARRIS-PERRY: Hallie, 30 seconds here.
POTTER: The complexity of race exactly that Janelle is talking about is
one of the reasons why it`s important to bring socioeconomic status into
that conversation. If you start looking at the rate of poverty in which a
student is living in their neighborhood, if you look at the wealth that
their family has, if you look at their parents` educational background and
you consider that student`s race, you are able to come up with a much more
robust understanding of that student`s background, the disadvantage and the
context through which you should view their application and their
achievement so far.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it is interesting because it is a little bit of – part
of what I heard you say Janai is, and for middle class students of color
they actually also bring a diversity story that is different than students.
And so, if you are talking diversity, right, it is in part about addressing
these inequities but it is also about saying, we need a class that we need
This is obviously complicated and we will be watching this case very
I want to say thank you to Hallie Potter and to Janelle Wong. Janai and
John are going to return a little bit later in the program.
But coming up, even as President Obama plans to address the nation tonight,
in the wake of the shooting in San Bernardino, a look at how he has been
addressing mass shootings and domestic terrorism throughout his presidency.
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama will address the nation tonight in a speech
of the top that the White House says is his top priority, keeping America
The oval office address comes in the wake of the shooting in San Bernardino
that left 14 dead and 21 wounded. And sadly, it`s become a recurring theme
in recent years. Gunman shoot and kill innocent people in a headline
making mass shooting. We recoil in horror, and then our president tries to
make some sense of it for the nation.
In Tucson, he appealed to the best of us, defiant in the face of agony,
choosing to honor the memory of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to live up to her
expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it.
I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us, we should do
everything we can do to make sure this country lives up to our children`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But then, after Newtown, we saw the depth of his sorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I know there`s not a parent in America who doesn`t feel the same
overwhelming grief that I do. The majority of those who died today were
children, beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten years old.
They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations,
weddings, kids of their own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In Charleston he appealed to divine grace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Amazing grace. Amazing grace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: After the massacre at Umpqua community college, we
experienced his utter frustration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My
response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in
the aftermath of it, we`ve become numb to this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: This week after 14 people were killed in San Bernardino, the
president made one more pitch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Right now people on the no fly list can walk into a store and buy a
gun. That`s insane. If you are too dangerous to board a plane, you`re too
dangerous by definition to buy a gun. And so, I`m calling on Congress to
close this loophole now. We may not be able to prevent every tragedy but
at a bare minimum we shouldn`t be making it so easy for potential
terrorists or criminals to get their hands on a gun that they could use
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: No soaring rhetoric, no defiance, no tears, no singing, just
a plea to his colleagues in government to do something. But if history is
any guide, we already know they won`t and we`re left to wait until the next
time, the next time there is a senseless, horrific act of gun violence and
our president is left trying to find the words, maybe words that he will
give us tonight from the oval office.
HARRIS-PERRY: Wednesday, the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit against the
state of Alabama for its 2011 voter ID law. The organization says the law
violates the 14th and 15th amendments as well as the 1965 voting right acts
because it disproportionately disenfranchises minority voters. So the
state bill requires voters to come equipped with driver`s licenses or
special photo IDs and it passed in 2011, it wasn`t implemented until 2014
election cycle. After the Supreme Court struck down VRA`s provision that
subjected Alabama`s voter I.D. laws to pre-clearance review.
Now, the law is thought to be discriminatory because according to the
NAACP, 25 percent of black citizens across the country do not have
government issued IDs. Sixteen percent of Latino-Americans and eight
percent of white Americans also lack comparable identification. And in
September access to the ballot became even more difficult for citizens in
28 counties in Alabama after the Alabama state house decided to close 31
satellite DMV offices located primarily in minority neighborhoods.
Back with me, Janai Nelson, associate director council for the NAACP legal
defense fund. And joining us also Ari Berman, reporter for “the Nation”
magazine and author of “Give us the ballot, the modern struggle for voting
rights in America.”
Janai, they want to close the DMV where you get the ID but then require you
have the ID to vote.
NELSON: Yes. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Alabama, as we
know, has a long and sordid history of race discrimination in voting. And
this is just the latest (INAUDIBLE). But is it one of the extremely
concerning, it`s part of a three-part attack really on voting rights in
this state that has happened since 2008. The Supreme Court ruled on a
racially discriminatory redistributing plan last year. They put to bed a
really racist measure to try to require documentary citizenship for a voter
registration that was aimed at Latinos. And now this photo identification
law is aimed at disenfranchising what we have estimate to be upwards of
250,000 people in Alabama. So we are greatly concerned. There is a
disproportional impact on African-Americans and Latinos based on the very
stats that you mentioned. And there are also some really peculiar parts of
this law that I think deserve some real attention.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this isn`t the only madness going on. I mean, I just
want to point out that on the one hand, there`s a kind of direct attack
here to each individual person`s capacity to cast a vote. There`s also
another case coming forward (INAUDIBLE) that as you write about, Ari,
attacks the very concept of one person one vote through the issue of
ARI BERMAN, AUTHOR, GIVE US THE BALLOT: Absolutely. And it`s a really
important sleeper case. Because the one person one vote case has worked in
tandem with the voting rights act of 1965 to really democratize this
country to give us a representative democracy. And now they`re trying to
change how districts are drawn instead of total population looking at
eligible or registered voters. What that will mean is that districts will
become older, whiter and more conservative in terms of how they are drawn.
But also the very communities that are most impacted by the gutting of the
voting rights act, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans. They
will then see their representation further diminish. So the same people,
the very same people that went after the voting rights act are now going
after one person one vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let`s remind folks, would think of this be happening,
would these cases even be coming forward if the VRA had not been gutted?
NELSON: Well, certainly not Alabama`s law. Alabama as we know is an
entire state that was subject to preclearance which means that before
Alabama could have any voting change go into effect, it had to make sure
that the federal government approved in that it would not create a racially
discriminatory impact against minorities.
Now that section five is no longer, you know, in effect, Alabama has really
gone buck wild. I mean, it`s really continued its history of
discrimination. And it`s funny, if you just look at the timing of it,
Alabama held onto this law, it enact it in 2011. It just sat and waited.
It did not seek preclearance. It did not try to get, you know, the
approval from the federal government. The day after the Shelby county
decision or the day of I believe the Shelby county decision came down,
Alabama said we are free to go. We are implementing this law.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask this. If I wanted to believe that the
Supreme Court was acting in true good faith and that they looked at section
four and said, look, there just isn`t any reason – I know there`s a lot of
evidence, but there`s no reason to think that these states and localities
still ought to be covered under preclearance, does this kind of madness
actually now allow for an argument that says actually Mr. Robert, sir, this
is precisely why we need it. Is there any chance this kind of think could
get our formula back?
BERMAN: Well, what we are seeing is a lot of evidence for the need of a
new voting rights act. Because you look at not just Alabama, but North
Carolina a month after the Supreme Court`s decision. They go and they
repeal or curtail every voting reform in the state that encouraged people
to cast a ballot.
Alabama right now, you mentioned not just the voter ID, but closing all
these DMVs in the majority of black counties. And it is interesting, they
have now back pedaled a little bit. They said, well, we are going to keep
these 31 DMV offices open one day a month.
And before the voting rights act of 1965, voter registration offices in
places like Selma were only open two days a month. So it was one of many
ways in which access to the ballot was restricted for African-American.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is fascinating that in fact it is now, we are now talking
about a proposal that would make it worse than in a pre-Selma context.
And, you know, I just have to point out that today is the 150th anniversary
of the passage of the 13th amendment that ends slavery in this country and
begins the pathway to the 14th and 15th. And it is, you know, we just
expect to find ourselves in a different place.
Thank you to Janai Nelson and Ari Berman.
Still to come this morning, Chicago braces for another police shooting
video release. And I`m going to talk to the mother of the young man who
was killed. She has already seen the video.
There`s more MHP show at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And President
Obama will address the nation tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. The White
House says, the President`s oval office address will focus on the nation`s
counter-terrorism efforts in the wake of the shooting Wednesday in
California by two people who may have been influenced by ISIS. This
morning, Attorney General Loretta Lynch appeared on NBC`s “MEET THE PRESS”
with Chuck Todd and gave an update on the FBI`s terrorism investigation of
the San Bernardino shooting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Four days, over 300 interviews, several
locations searched, a lot of information being processed, being analyzed
and being gathered and more to come. So what I would say to people is that
this investigation as it has already been stated is a marathon and not a
sprint but it is one of great concern to the American people and so we`re
committed to keeping people informed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC`s Ron Allen is at the White House and joins us now.
Ron, what kind of specifics do you think we`ll hear from the President
tonight about the kind of counterterrorism strategy?
ALLEN: Well, hopefully we`ll hear more specifics about the investigation
because I think the American people really want to know exactly what
happened in San Bernardino. There are also be – but I think the main
mission of the President is to just reassure the American people that
everything is being done to protect the homeland. That`s the message. We
understand the President made this decision to speak from the Oval Office
because he`s very conscious of the fear factor out there, the anxiety that
this attack in San Bernardino has produced.
The question is, will he also reveal specifics about a change in strategy
or will he just talk about intensifying the existing strategy to defeat
ISIL and terrorism generally in the world. Now, there`s the overseas part
of this, the air campaign with the coalition partners and the ground troops
from the local – from Iraq and Syria there on the ground that has been
widely criticized as not being effective. There`s also the question of
what`s going to happen in the United States because there`s every
indication that the couple in San Bernardino were at least inspired by ISIS
if not directly orchestrated or directed by ISIS. What`s going to happen
But I guess the main point I think the President wants to make is that the
country is safe. He`s doing everything possible to keep the country safe,
but of course the President has a lot of questions to answer about this,
because especially after the attacks he came out and so forcefully or so
clearly suggested that this was a workplace shooting and the emphasis was
on gun control, not terrorism. He`s not really even said the word
terrorism directly in connection with what happened in San Bernardino. As
I said before, his strategy in countering ISIL overseas has been widely
criticized as not being effective, robust, strong enough. So, he`s got a
lot of territory to cover. He`s going to emphasize the safety factor, the
security factor saying, is it at most concern. But he`s also going to have
to address some of these other issues, this new form of terrorism, this new
threat that the American people face and what`s going to be done about it -
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to say thank you to NBC`s Ron Allen in Washington, DC
this morning. MSNBC will have live coverage of the President`s address
hosted by Chris Matthews begging tonight at 7:00 p.m. And the very fact
that the President is giving only his third oval office address is a
reminder of how different the world feels today than it did just a month
ago. After the attacks in Paris three weeks ago and in California this
past Wednesday, there`s now a heightened sense of insecurity and a
vulnerability. And it is a change reflected not only in our current
presidency but in our political world in regards to the 2016 presidential
campaign which has now taken on a new focus as candidates taught their
national security bonafides.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bring to the table experience, knowledge and
proposals that will keep this country safe at a time when that is the
preeminent issue before us.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: When I`m president of the United
States, they will feel safe and secure every night that they go to bed
knowing that they have a strong, resolute leader making the decisions that
put America`s interests first.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I will, as president, do
everything I can, every single day to keep our country, our communities and
our families safe and strong.
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The military is the first priority.
Keeping us safe should be the first priority.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are seeing the evil of
radical Islamic terrorism here at home murdering innocent Americans. And
it underscores the need for a strong and serious commander-in-chief who
will keep this country safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: How many people were shocked that Rick Santorum is running
for president? Okay. Some candidates are particularly well positioned to
make their claims about experience and capacity relative to the question of
national security. For example, Chris Christie, republican governor of New
Jersey was endorsed by the influential New Hampshire newspaper specifically
for his experience on security issues. The Union Leaders Publisher wrote,
“Governor Christie is right for these times.” And the paper`s sites of
Christie`s experience prosecuting terrorists as a U.S. attorney and dealing
with natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy. Of course, it remains to be
seen whether that translates into a bump for Christie in New Hampshire
where he`s currently polling in 7th place.
It also remains to be seen whether political outsiders like former
neurosurgeon Ben Carson or long-standing Republican front-runner Donald
Trump will lose standing in the race as voters become more concerned with
issues of domestic and international security. In theory, voters in
dangerous seeming times should prefer those candidates who make them feel
safe, but voters don`t always react the way that we think they will.
Hillary Clinton`s 2008 campaign positioned her as the national security
candidate, the only one who could keep us safe in a dangerous world.
Remember the 3:00 a.m. ad released in the middle of the primary season?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep,
but there`s a phone in the White House and just ringing. Something`s
happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call,
whether it`s someone who already knows the world`s leaders, knows the
military, someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In 2008, Hillary Clinton had a legitimate claim on having
more experience as a security candidate, but in the end the primary voters
did not choose her. So, although it`s attempting to conclude that
terrorism at home and abroad will turn voters towards more establishment
candidates, that conclusion is far from certain.
Joining me now is Noah Shachtman who is executive editor of “The Daily
Beast” and a longtime reporter of the Security and Foreign Affairs. Deepa
Iyer who is senior fellow at the Center for Social Inclusion and the author
of the new book, “We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh
Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future.” Cultural and social critic John
McWhorter who is an associate professor at Columbia University and Beth
Fouhy, political reporter and senior editor at MSNBC.com.
Okay, is this the moment when Donald Trump is now done as a candidate and
Chris Christie and other establishment candidates emerged because after all
they can make a claim towards this experience?
NOAH SHACHTMAN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, “THE DAILY BEAST”: No. This is the
moment where Donald Trump taps into these xenophobia racism and desire for
a strong man that also comes out of these uncertain times. And I think
he`s playing those cards incredibly and kind of scarily well.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, but that presumes that the way that – presumes maybe
something very nice in a democratic little d sense that the way that we end
up with candidates for the American presidency is a direct line from what
candidates say to voter preferences, but there are these intermediary
institutions like those who are in the media or the establishment of the
parties who really say, okay, for real, we cannot have this person in these
BETH FOUHY, SENIOR EDITOR, MSNBC.COM: Yes. I mean, Donald Trump though,
he said this morning on television, when things get bad, I get stronger,
and it`s true. So, to your point, I mean, I don`t see that this is hurting
him at all. In fact, it`s making him stay right where he is which is very
much firmly atop the polls on the republican side but we do see evidence of
other people moving up. Chris Christie as you mentioned in your intro, he
has been very, very smart about emphasizing this fact that he was a former
prosecutor. He`s not talking about being governor anymore. This has not
been a good election for governors.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. It`s weird. Yes. Yes.
FOUHY: We`ve seen Scott Walker go away. We`ve seen Bobby Jindal go away.
The former governor of Texas Rick Perry. All governors gone away. So,
Christie has stepped away from acting as governor and he`s talking about
being a law enforcer and that`s definitely given him a little bit prompt in
the polls whether that`s going to take him all the way to the top, we don`t
know but it helps.
SHACHTMAN: But Chris Christie doesn`t really know anything about national
security in a way, you know, we`ve had candidates in the past. I mean,
this isn`t a John McCain kind of figure who`s had experience in the
military or had experience overseeing the military. I mean, Chris Christie
had some terrorism bust when he was a U.S. attorney but he focused much
more on political corruption.
SHACHTMAN: During his ran there. So, it`s – I don`t know –
HARRIS-PERRY: A senator on the foreign relations committee might be able
to make an equal set of claims about capacity relative to National
SHACHTMAN: Sure. I mean, I guess the guy with the most experience is
Lindsey Graham but Lindsey Graham is not going to be president, vice-
president, you know, secretary of the treasury.
HARRIS-PERRY: Secretary of the treasury. Wow.
MCWHORTER: What these things really come down to ultimately, especially in
our age, is a certain kind of charisma. The reason that Obama beat Hillary
Clinton despite ads like that one was because he had a way at a podium and
played frankly. I think that a great many people liked the fact that he
was black, both white and black, that put him ahead. Well, this time in
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, over and over again being black will going to get
you like the President.
MCWHORTER: It did that time. I think it certainly did that time and it
didn`t help the second time. But at this point it will be Hillary Clinton
and then somebody else. And I think that Hillary Clinton in this case will
have the edge because of those visceral reasons, no matter what kind of
cute things a Chris Christie or Marco Rubio even at this point says about
being more in control of the military, what in the world would they have
done about what just happened in San Bernardino?
FOUHY: But can I disagree with you on that point? I mean, think about the
2008 election. That was the end of the Iraq war. People were so weary of
overseas conflict and Hillary had vulnerability on that. Obama was the guy
who is going to get us out of war. And that what was people care about
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right.
FOUHY: We`re in a very different climate right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I was actually going to say. I don`t think that it was
at all that the President`s position on foreign policy was irrelevant. I
should think particularly in the primary, it was key, this notion of I
would not have supported it. But interestingly enough, it was also because
he didn`t have to take a vote on it. Right? I mean, he was not at that
time in a position where he would have taken a vote on it. His position
was one that in many ways was a consensus position in Hyde Park, right? I
Hyde Park in Chicago, right? And so actually in certain ways, having been
an establishment person that Mrs. Clinton was meant that she was on record
for things that voters have changed their minds about.
DEEPA IYER, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION: But right now I
think it`s important to think about the fact that the mainstreaming of
xenophobic rhetoric, the mainstreaming of racial anxiety is something that
a lot of voters are concerned about. And we are living in challenging
times. I mean, we`re surrounded by this climate of violence right now.
Paris, gun violence reported every day, San Bernardino. But I do think
this brand of National Security language where it`s become a blanket
justification in a way to engage in any sort of policy that profiles,
surveils communities, especially those that are Muslims, South Asian, Arab.
I think voters are seeing through it.
And, you know, you talk about Chris Christie, he`s actually done an about
to turn in terms of his national security language. This is a governor of
a state that has a very large South Asian, Muslim, Arab population and he`s
actually been lauded at times for talking about how we shouldn`t taint
communities with a broad brush of Islam. And he criticized the NYPD for
surveilling Muslim institutions in a state. But over the last few weeks
we`re hearing something very different. He`s saying things like, well, we
don`t want to open our doors to Syrian refugees, even orphans under the age
of five. But I think voters are seeing through it. Definitely voters who
look like you and me are making up the rising share of American electorate
are seeing through this mainstreaming, this brand of xenophobia that`s
really permeating the National Security language in our policy.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, stick with us. Because you took us right to I think
what is perhaps the central question, particularly in the context of the
republican primary where voters that look like you and me are much less,
right, sort of making up the preponderance of it. So, just when you though
Donald Trump couldn`t go any further, well, he did.
HARRIS-PERRY: For Republican primary voters worried about terrorism,
Donald Trump is their guy. According to a new Quinnipiac poll among
Republicans and Republican leaders who say terrorism is the most important
issue to their vote, 29 percent of them say they would choose Trump more
than any other GOP candidate by at least ten points. And among those who
say strong leadership is the most important trait in a candidate, 30
percent say that they would vote for Trump. I`m going to go out on a limb
and say that this might actually have something to do with his rhetoric.
In recent days, Trump has called for attacking the families of terrorists
and claimed falsely that he was the only person who saw Osama Bin Laden as
a threat before 9/11.
He`s also continued to make not so subtle dog whistle references to
President Obama. In remarks to the Republican Jewish coalition on
Thursday, Trump said now our president doesn`t want to use the term radical
Islamic terrorism, and I`ll tell you what, we have a president that refuses
to use the term, refuses to say it. There`s something going on with him
that we don`t know about. Your point was that this kind of language could
actually be appealing and I think for me this is part of why I`m actually
been looking to hear from the President tonight. Will the President make a
claim that National Security requires not just guns, bombs and surveillance
but also a less xenophobic, more open, more diverse way of engaging in
SHACHTMAN: I haven`t been privy to the President`s remarks yet.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right. Sure. Right. Just, you know, random
speculation. This is cable news. Okay.
SHACHTMAN: Yes. Okay. Randomly speculating, yes, I think he`s going to
do that. We do have a little bit of reporting at the “Daily Beast” by the
way that he`s not going to announce any big troop initiatives right at the
top of the issue.
SHACHTMAN: So, yes, he can say that but unfortunately it`s a moment when
we need to hear that but it`s a moment where at least in the GOP primary
electorate, they don`t seem to be very receptive to that, they seem very
receptive to this kind of strong man, you know, blame the browns kind of
IYER: But we need the President I think tonight to set a tone for our
country. And I know that that`s what especially people who are from Muslim
Salvation (ph) Arab Communities, immigrant communities are looking for.
Because what this sort of heightened level of political rhetoric does and
we`ve seen this over the 14 years since 9/11 is that it sets up this
climate that fosters suspicion by anyone. Right?
IYER: So you see people like a Sikh American mother boarding a plane and
you are questioning her. You are kicking off people on a plane who speak
Arabic or Urdu and people are also getting hurt. I mean, we have seen
especially since the Paris attacks an unprecedented level of reports about
people who are assaulted, mosques that are getting vandalized. So, there
are some real life or death consequences for the type of rhetoric that we
use and I hope that President Obama actually sets the tone tonight to help
us understand how we should be talking about counter-terrorism but also
send out the message that we should not be engaging and scapegoating of
communities whole sale.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s an interesting question this idea about sort
of how rhetoric emerges because there`s not just a GOP primary, it turns
out there`s actually sort of a democratic primary going on. I want to
listen to Bernie Sanders talk about the Iraq war and ask you about it.
Bernie Sanders, do we have Bernie Sanders?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me have one area of
disagreement with the secretary. I think she said something like the bulk
of the responsibility is not ours. Well, in fact, I would argue that the
disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has
unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al Qaeda and to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it sounds like Bernie Sanders is sort of blaming the
rise of ISIS on Hillary Clinton.
FOUHY: Well, I mean, there`s a real vulnerability there for her among the
left. It`s not like it was in 2008 when the war was a pungent issue. But
nonetheless, there are plenty of people who have never forgiven that vote
and Bernie Sanders is tapping into that. So, I think it`s probably smart
for him to do that at least in terms of the democratic primary. But let`s
remember she`s been secretary of state since then. She has stepped out
into the world in a way that has perhaps reassured some of her doubters
that she has the capacity and the leadership to take on a dangerous world
but nonetheless she still has some of that vulnerability.
SHACHTMAN: But I mean, some of her actions during her time as secretary of
state actually did encourage some of the growth of ISIS, no doubt. Right?
Overthrowing Libya, you know, and allowed a lot of Jihadists to pour in
there. And not sort of like their biggest affiliate is in Libya. So,
she`s got record both in the Senate and as Secretary of State that she`s
going to need to answer for.
FOUHY: Yes. And the republican nominee Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio will
almost certainly go after her on that.
MCWHORTER: You know what? She could do something though because part of
the way that Donald Trump is talking. And I do hope that the President
speaks against this kind of xenophobic language. Islamic radicalism rather
than terrorism. I agree that he should speak against it, but I like trying
to do end runs around reality. People are going to still keep thinking
what Trump is saying. Trump is kind of keep playing into it. What he`s
doing is he gives political speeches the way that people talk casually.
It`s not so much about a specific thing as repetition or being angry.
He`s on a bar stool. And I think that there`s something to be said for
Liberals and leftists to start trying to do the same thing. Sanders is
good at doing that. If Hillary Clinton could let her hair down a little
bit, and talk in that way that people talked, she could make her points
more effectively just as somebody like Trump makes it seem like he`s saying
something correct by just speaking the way we talk at each other on the
HARRIS-PERRY: I love it when you go to linguist on me. Right? Because I
love that idea of he talks like people are speaking when they`re sitting
around a bar and they`re just kind of saying things that seem to resonate
with something that makes sense to us. It`s the problem in part of that,
the things that make sense to us often are simply incorrect. Like what we
feel in our gut may not actually be an accurate way of understanding how a
complex world operates.
IYER: Right. And I think there should also be a heightened level of
responsibility and the words that you choose if you`re running for office.
And Donald Trump should know this better than anyone else. You know, in
his xenophobic rhetoric around Latinos in particular just a few months ago,
we saw these two attackers attacked and assault a homeless Latino man
saying, we agree with Trump, let`s deport all, quote, “illegal.” And so,
there is a real again consequence for using language like this. But I also
think with Trump what we are seeing is some resistance.
You know, in his recent rally in North Carolina he was protested,
interrupted ten times by undocumented dreamers many of those times. So, I
think that people are against stepping up. The GOP is not doing that in
terms of Trump. Other presidential candidates are not doing that in terms
of stepping back and pushing back on his rhetoric but I do think that
ordinary folks who get it, who are the victims of this sort of rhetoric are
FOUHY: And I think we need to keep it in perspective that Donald Trump is
talking to a republican primary electorate and still only getting 30
percent there. I mean, it`s significant. He`s in the lead. But he`s not
growing. And it`s already a small pool to begin with.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it`s an important question about whether or not – I
mean, you know, do all the establishment guys need to get together and
figure out which one it`s going to be. Because you`re right, there`s
obviously a clear majority who don`t prefer Mr. Trump. But up next, the
thing that Senator Ted Cruz did a couple of days after the shooting death
of up to 14 people in San Bernardino.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the wake of Wednesday`s mass killing in California, 2016
candidates are talking not only about terrorism but also about access to
guns. Democrats say they will fight for better gun regulations and
Republicans say that they will fight to protect open access to guns.
Senator Ted Cruz held a Second Amendment rally at a gun store in Iowa on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: Folks in the media think you should not be discussing Second
Amendment rights in the wake of a terror attack. You don`t stop bad guys
by taking away our guns. You stop bad guys by using our guns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And just to understand where Senator Cruz is coming from on
that, you know, to understand a bit about the base about which he`s
speaking, let`s take a listen to Jerry Falwell who is the president of
Liberty University at a convocation on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY FALWELL, JR., PRESIDENT, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: I`ve always thought if
more good people had conceal carry permits that we could end those Muslims
before they kill us. I just want to take this opportunity to encourage all
of you to get your permit. We offer a free course. And let`s teach them a
lesson if they ever show up here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, I will say Mr. Falwell, Jr. said later that he was
clarifying when he said those Muslims that he was responding specifically
to Islamic terrorists is the language that he used. And said that that was
the one thing he would clarify. But then this morning, Senator Clinton on
“This Week” had a response to Mr. Falwell`s words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: He also went on and don`t forget he said this, George. He said
that way, we can take out the Muslims. He said that, okay? This is the
kind of deplorable not only hateful response to a legitimate security issue
but it is giving aid and comfort to ISIS and other radical jihadists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yep. And so there it is. I feel like just in that we saw
kind of the whole framework. It`s guns. It is a question of the
xenophobic language and a question of how all of that language that impacts
who we are in a global world.
SHACHTMAN: Look. ISIS 101 is Terrorism 101. There`s a very standard
playbook here which is promote an overreaction from the power that you`re
trying to attack. Right? And so ISIS wants America to clamp down in
irrational ways. It wants us to go crazy.
SHACHTMAN: And I mean, it`s succeeding to some extent. And so, I think
pushback, I`m not the world`s biggest Hillary Clinton fan, far from it, but
I thought that kind of pushback is exactly what we want to see.
HARRIS-PERRY: Such an interesting point. So, I want to be very careful on
how I say this. That is not unlike what the civil rights movement strategy
was. The civil rights movement is not a terrorist activity, but similarly,
if you are trying to demonstrate that a power is an illegitimate power,
then what you do is you push on it and then you try to get an overresponse
to it. Right? So clearly marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge is not
the same thing as killing 14 people, right? But the capacity to use the
overreaction of the state to serve one`s own ends, right? And so, we ought
to know even from our own history, right, the extent to which by being
careful in our response, measured in our response, effective in our
response, rather than kind of discriminatory and over reactive, right? We
could actually meet our ends.
IYER: Right. And I think it`s also so irresponsible for Mr. Falwell to
talk about, you know, radical Islamic terrorism and then he later on said,
well, I didn`t mean all Muslims, right? But who is going to actually see
the difference. And what this whole rhetoric is around, let`s kind of give
good guys guns so that they can take care of national security, and I mean,
that`s a form of vigilante justice and we`re actually seeing people who are
armed with guns show up at mosques around the country and seeing
spokespersons for Islamophobia saying, well, I`m going to travel from
Arizona – there`s a man who just made his way to New York City to say he`s
going to target Muslim communities. Right? So, there`s really a real
danger in using this sort of language because for our communities, it looks
like people showing up at our temples and mosques because they don`t
distinguish between kind of the right National Security ends.
MCWHORTER: And yet there`s all this talk that somehow despite everything
that`s just been said and shown, we need to say that we`re going against
Muslims or at least radical Islam, somehow that`s better, that the
President and Hillary Clinton are wrong in not being more direct. And from
what I can see, the only justification would seem to be a kind of a sandbox
or what we might call avoiding contest, the idea that we`re supposed to
give in to certain fifth grade red meat intentions and really I imagine
that that`s to get certain people elected or really is just a kind of
smallness. And it should be dismissed, definitely.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do better than fifth grade. Thank you to Noah Shachtman, to
Deepa Iyer, to John McWhorter and to Beth Fouhy. A reminder to our
viewers, tonight President Obama will address the nation from the Oval
Office at 8:00 p.m. on the issue of keeping Americans safe.
And MSNBC`s special live coverage anchored by Chris Matthews will begin at
7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Up next, the effort to get another Chicago police shooting video released.
HARRIS-PERRY: On October 12th, 2014 in the early hours of the Sunday
morning, Chicago police responded to a call of shots fired on the city`s
south side. A preliminary statement from the Chicago Police Department
said that when officers arrived, they saw a man who fit the description of
the offender. Police said that when officers approached the man, he
resisted arrest and ran away. At that point, according to the police
statement, a foot pursuit ensued during which time the offender pointed his
weapon in the direction of the pursuing officers. As a result of this
action, an officer discharged his weapon, striking the offender. That man,
25-year-old Ronald Johnson, was struck twice by the officer, one in the
knee, in the back of the knee, and the other, a fatal shot that according
to autopsy reports entered his shoulder, severed his jugular vein and
exited through his eye.
Following the shooting, a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police said,
the weapon police said Johnson was carrying was recovered at the scene.
And for the last year that was the final word on how Ronald Johnson died
until now. Because on Thursday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that
the city which has fought the release of a police dash cam recording of the
shooting will allow the video to become public this week. The mayor`s
announcement came a week after the release of a video showing police
shooting Laquan McDonald also after a year of opposition from the city that
directly contradicted the story police told about McDonald`s death.
Now, one woman who has been fighting for the public to see the dash cam
footage of Ronald Johnson`s shooting says that that video will rewrite the
end of his story as well. She says the recording shows something very
different from what the police say happened that night, and that woman is
Ronald Johnson`s mother, Dorothy Holmes. And I`m going to speak with her
and her family`s attorney, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Within weeks after Chicago police shot Ronald Johnson, his
mother, Dorothy Holmes, began her fight against the city of Chicago on
behalf of her son. In October of last year, Miss Holmes filed a wrongful
death lawsuit against the city alleging that police shot her son without
lawful justification or excuse. According to the Chicago Tribune, the
judge in that case granted a request from the city to prevent the release
of footage of the shooting. In a separate lawsuit, Miss Holmes attorneys
asked the judge to order the video`s released under the Illinois` Freedom
of Information Act. And this week Miss Holmes will win a victory in her
fight when the city dropped its opposition to releasing the video of her
Dorothy Holmes and her Attorney Michael Oppenheimer join me now from
Chicago. Good morning.
MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF RONALD JOHNSON: Good morning.
DOROTHY HOLMES, SON KILLED IN CHICAGO POLICE SHOOTING: Good morning.
HARRIS-PERRY: You`ve both seen the video. Miss Holmes, can you tell me
why you want the public to see it?
HOLMES: Because the night when my son was killed, the spokesperson for
Emperor, Pat Cayman (ph), whatever his name is, stated that my son turned
around, pointed a gun at the police, and in that video, it doesn`t show
none of that, what they said he did. It just shows him running.
HARRIS-PERRY: Attorney Oppenheimer, can you walk us through a little bit
more of what that video shows? I understand that unlike the video that
we`ve just seen of Laquan McDonald`s death, this video is actually police
dash cam. So, can you tell me a little about the angle, what it shows?
OPPENHEIMER: Sure. This is a police dash cam video, it is not a Hollywood
production. It`s grainy. It happened at night. There`s artificial
lighting. It shows, however, that Ronald Johnson is running. He`s running
from the police. He`s running because the car he was in had just been shot
at. The police arrived. He was afraid. The video shows him running full
speed. There are many police officers on the scene. You can see that they
have weapons and guess what, they`re not shooting those weapons. Officer
George Hernandez arrives on the scene a little bit late, he gets out of his
car with his weapon drawn.
Ronny Johnson runs by the other side of the car. You see Officer Hernandez
take a few steps, take aim, aim at Ronald Johnson`s back and fires. He
fires five times. Ronald Johnson, as you said, was struck in the back of
the knee. He was struck in the back shoulder. It went through his jugular
vein and then out unfortunately through his eyeball. He then fell to the
ground and ironically enough, as you see the officers surrounding his body,
the dash cam video and the car contain that video turn away and goes
HARRIS-PERRY: Ms. Holmes, we talked a bit about this story yesterday, and
we know that you have been so passionate, so passionate as to even reject a
multi-million dollar settlement from the city. So, can you talk to me
about what justice would look like for you?
HOLMES: You know, clear my son name and let me know that I fought a battle
to prove his name and his innocence. He shouldn`t have been killed.
HARRIS-PERRY: And why has the city been so reluctant, fighting you for
more than a year, to allow this video to be released?
HOLMES: To be truthful with that, it was around election time when we went
to Rahm Emanuel office for him to come out and talk to us about our kids
being murdered by the police, me and several other mothers went to his
office. And we never got a response back from him.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the police chief has recently been removed. What is your
position on what should happen with the mayor?
HOLMES: He should have left with the police chief, him and Alvarez.
HARRIS-PERRY: Attorney Oppenheimer, if, in fact, the video shows to the
public that what the police reported and have maintained is quite different
than what, you know, people may be able to see with their own eyes, what
does that tell us about what`s going on in the Chicago Police Department?
OPPENHEIMER: There has been a massive cover-up of not only of this video
and that`s obviously they`re covering up, why are they hiding this video if
it shows what they want you to see? They have fought us every step of the
way now for 14 months. There has been no investigation by the district
attorney`s office. Their state`s attorney`s office. In fact, I received a
call Friday night after all of this press, after all the attention that we
have drawn to this, after we won our battle from the city to get this video
released. I received a call Friday night from the state`s attorney`s
office asking me what evidence do I have that the gun was planted by the
police and Officer Hernandez. There has been no investigation. They`re
playing catchup once again like they did before. There has been a constant
culture of cover-up. What don`t and they want the public to see and that
means to stop.
HARRIS-PERRY: Talk to me then about how this video is likely to interact
with what Chicago is currently coping with in the aftermath of the Laquan
McDonald video. Do you expect protests? Do you expect folks to be held
accountable? What are the next steps once this video has been released?
OPPENHEIMER: Dorothy has fought this fight. He has fought this fight for
14 months and this victory of getting the video released is a small battle.
In fact, the city still says in the foil lawsuit that they are not official
withdrawing their objection through exemption. They are still actually
fighting this. That video has not been released yet. Their lawyer has
just indicated on Friday through a letter to us that they have not
withdrawn their objection yet. So they are still fighting us every step of
the way. Dorothy wants and so do I peaceful demonstrations. We don`t want
anybody else to get killed. We don`t want anybody else to get hurt. We
don`t want police officers or citizens to be hurt. But something needs to
be done. There has to be a change. This is just one step.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ms. Holmes, none of us knew your son`s name before he was
killed. Tell us one thing that you would want us to know about your son
when he was a living man.
HOLMES: When he was here on earth with us, he was loving, he was caring.
He loved his kids. He loved me. He never will say mama. It was always
Dorothy. He was my oldest child. And I just need his name cleared and I
need justice for him because he wasn`t a bad kid and he shouldn`t have been
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Miss Dorothy Holmes and to Attorney Michael
OPPENHEIMER: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, the new film, “Chi-Raq.”
HARRIS-PERRY: Violence in Chicago is real and has very real consequences
especially for the city`s African-American residents. An illegal gun is
recovered every 75 minutes in Chicago. And more than 2200 shootings have
occurred in the past year. Many on the city`s predominantly African-
American Southside. A part of the city that is become the embodiment of
the nation`s gun crime at the Demeca (ph) place where the per capita murder
rate is comparable to some of the world`s most murderous nations. This
week, American filmmaking entered into this deeply challenging space with a
new offering by an award-winning director, Spike Lee.
Now Lee has never shied away from the tight rope of socially incisive big-
budget film making. And his controversial new film “Chi-Raq” is no
exception. Taking excuse from the ancient Greek – excuse me, the ancient
Greek comedy “Lysistrata.” “Chi-Raq” imagines a Southside where women who
are the lovers of rival gang members decide to use sex or rather the lack
of sex to bring peace to the city`s streets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody here got a man banging and slanging and
fighting for the flat risking that long zipper, the cadaver bag. All to
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) A woman like no other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just try taking away their guns.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What else do they love?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Repeat after me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will deny all rights of access or entrance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lysistrata had them, take a solemn oath.
Rock it up! Rock it up!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s right. You get snubbed.
What? Oh, snap!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now, Salamishah Tillet, associate professor of
English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and author
of the recent “New York Times” piece In Spike Lee`s Chi-Raq It`s Women vs.
Men, With a Vengeance. And Mychal Denzel Smith, contributing writer for
The Nation who went to see the movie for us yesterday.
I want to say thank you both for being here. Let me start with you,
Salamishah. Obviously, the central question here is kind of the revamping
of this particular satirical tragic comedy Greek space for this
conversation. Ultimately, how well do you think it gets pulled off?
SALAMISHAH TILLET, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF PENSSYLVANIA: Well,
I mean, Lysistrata is from 411, the anti-war play for excellence. So,
that`s the premise that Lee is using there. So, on the one hand, you know,
he`s trying to make a commentary about the ways in which hyper masculinity
and in particular in urban communities is its own form of violence akin to
war. Both Chi-Raq and then the use of, the title Chi-Raq and obviously the
play itself. But the hidden story, I think, and this is not I don`t think
Lee`s intention but ways in which black women`s sexuality are foregrounded
because the play originally and now the movie, it`s a sex drive that the
women now are deploying in order to create peace in their community and
peace in the nation. So, you have black women staging a sex strike and
using sexuality as the primary mechanism to create political change is an
already vex and already controversial issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think for me, part of what`s hardest about kind of the
Lysistrata narrative brought into this moment is the presumption that sex
is always consensual and, therefore, if women choose not to consent, then
there will be no sex. And that seems like an odd claim to make.
MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, “THE NATION”: Right. And I
think that`s the biggest hole in this whole thing is it doesn`t consider
any repercussions for this sex strike. If you are critiquing this hyper
masculine like culture of violence, you have to consider the consequences
of living inside of that and these women then embarking on a sex strike.
The dumbest comment that Spike Lee has ever made in his professional career
as recently when he`s talking about women on campuses doing sex strikes to
prevent sexual assault on campus. I mean, that`s what sexual starts with
is the no. Like what do you mean? You are completely fundamentally
misunderstanding the whole issue and then not taking into consideration
this idea when you are trying to, you know, bring forth this social
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me back up one second and suggest that as a
filmmaker, Lee has often been kind of purposefully – creates kind of art
artifices on purpose that aren`t meant to be realistic. Right? There
meant to do certain kinds of workings so there is a kind of rhyme pattern
that occurs here. There`s a kind of performative aspect that`s almost
stage-like even though it`s clearly a big budget film. And I wonder if,
therefore, this consent claim is part of that. Right? If it`s an artifice
or if you think this is a serious kind of public policy organizing claim.
TILLET: But I mean, I guess I think because the goal of the film – I
mean, the other way to look at it is the goal of the film is to talk about,
quote-unquote, “black on black violence.” So, that`s already a
controversial topic. Now for those of us who think about violence in
African-American communities, through a feminist lens, obviously gender
based violence is part of that.
TILLET: So, there`s that. But I think to his point, when I interviewed
him about this, he did say that, you know, there is no rape in this film
partly because Aristophanes doesn`t have sexual assaults based in his
original play. The women talked about that in the original conceit. But
also I don`t think based on his – the critiques of Spike Lee from she`s
got to have it, and the rape scene there. I think he`s really
hypersensitive to depictions of rape. So, that`s on him. That`s where the
vulnerability I think for him as a filmmaker with this particular topic.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me also ask about “Chi-Raq” as a title which, yes,
okay oh – just go, don`t worry.
SMITH: Because one, I mean, does a couple of things. It normalizes war
zones in other countries and doesn`t examine the U.S. role in creating the
sort of violence that exists in a country like Iraq. Right? And then it
obscures our American history and present of violence here. We have our
own to unpack. We don`t have to go overseas and try to depict them as
somehow other and somehow that violence that exists there is natural when
we are dealing with this very problem right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you know, the language that he`s using from the young
people themselves in the city.
TILLET: Yes. I mean, I think this is the controversy, whether we can
compare this to a war zone or not. I think is, you know, and without
including state violence as part of that is the biggest challenge I think
that the film has for people.
HARRIS-PERRY: My producer literally said, we have to go now. The show is
over. So unfortunately, the show is over. Somehow I feel like we`re going
to keep talking about this as we even go into the break.
Thank you Salamishah Tillet and to Mychal Denzel Smith. Apparently, the
show is over, but thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll see you next
Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Right now it`s time for a preview of
“WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT.” Hi, Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST, “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT”: I don`t know, I`m sorry.
HARRIS-PERRY: No. No. Fine.
WITT: I mean, it was all good. But I`ll tell you, we`ve got good stuff,
Coming up, a preview of the President`s national address tonight. I`ll
talk to the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee on what he
expects to hear from President Obama and about what the government will do
to keep Americans safe.
Also, I will talk to someone who lives in the neighborhood where police had
a huge gunfight with those San Bernardino attackers. He has quite the
fascinating story to tell including how two parked cars may have saved
people`s lives. Don`t go anywhere. I`ll be right back.
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