Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 1/17/2016
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: January 17, 2016
Guest: Nina Khrushcheva; John Nichols; Katon Dawson, Symone Sanders,
Rebecca Traister, Alicia Garza, Henry Fernandez, William Barber
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, I question just what is
the future of the movement?
Plus the democratic showdown going down in South Carolina.
And the doctor trying to save kids from Flint`s water.
But first, the latest on the diplomatic breakthrough in Iran.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And we continue to follow the
breaking news out of Iran, where earlier this morning, three of the five
Americans who had been imprisoned in Iran left the country own a plane,
reportedly bound for a military base in Germany. One of the men on the
plane was “Washington Post” correspondent Jason Rezaian, who will be
detained in the country for more than 500 days.
A U.S. official told withers that one of the men released along with Jason
Rezaian in a prisoner swap deal was not on the plane that left Iran. A
fifth American whose release was unrelated to the deal departed Iran
yesterday. The release of the prisoners came as the U.N. verified that
Iran has scaled back its nuclear program, triggering the removal of
international economic sanctions against the country.
Now, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani today declared the nuclear deal a
golden page in the history of Iran and a turning point in the country`s
NBC`s Keir Simmons joins us now from Germany, a possible stop for the free
Keir, what can you tell us about where the Americans are headed now?
KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we think that they are coming
here to this U.S. medical facility in Germany. It is the biggest outside
of the U.S. This is where generally in these kind of cases be it military
victims or injured military, or whether it be civilians in this kind of
case, they quite often do come here for medical evaluation and
psychological evaluation before they head home. This is where we think
they are coming.
Right now it appears they are in Switzerland. And it may be that with
those two planes on the tarmac, the U.S. plane and the Iranian plane, some
kind of a prisoner swap is happening there now. But what we do know,
though, is that most of those U.S. prisoners are now out of Iran. Their
families, the “Washington Post” who of course employed the Tehran
correspondent, he was one of those prisoners, celebrating their release,
while at the same time, as you mentioned, this news that one of the
prisoners appears to have chosen not to get on the plane, not to leave.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. We are going to obviously continue to follow that
story throughout the morning as we learn more details.
Thank you so much for joining us this morning, Keir Simmons in Germany.
Now, the news out of Iran, this release of American citizens, including a
“Washington Post” journalist who was help in prison for more than 500 days,
it echoes with historic resonance because of the undeniable parallels with
the headlines out of Iran 35 years ago this very week.
January 20th 1981, the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th
president of the United States. Just minutes after he takes the oath of
office, 52 Americans held hostage in Iran board a plane in Tehran and fly
to freedom after being held captive for 444 days.
Now, the timing was of course no coincidence. Reagan`s predecessor,
President Jimmy Carter, had spent the last night of his presidency working
with his predecessors on 11th hour negotiations to free the hostages. But
the Iranians had orchestrated the hostage release to ensure that history
would not record the long-awaited moment as a victory for the Carter
situation. It was a final insult added to injury because the Iranian
hostage crisis had ultimately cost Jimmy Carter a second term in office.
Carter had considered the safe return of the hostages his personal
responsibility and made it the top priority of his administration since
they were first captured on November 4th, 1979. That day, a group of
Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and seized more than 50
Americans on the staff. They were protesting U.S. support of the shah of
Iran, the former leader who was ousted in Iran`s Islamic revolution. And
before the uprising, (INAUDIBLE) had risen to power and led Iran with the
help of the CIA and U.S. military.
Now, after his exile, he was allowed into the United States on humanitarian
grounds to receive treatment for cancer. The Iranian students refused to
release the hostages until the U.S. sent back the shah to stand trial.
They also demanded the return billions of dollars they said had been stolen
from the people of Iran.
President Carter, concerned that a military strategy could endanger the
lives of the hostages, initially exhausted every option available for a
negotiated resolution. But economic sanctions freezing Iran`s assets and
effort to diplomacy all failed to produce any results. And in April of
1980, with the Iranian giving no indications of giving in, Carter
authorized a high risk rescue mission that failed spectacularly when a
military helicopter crashed and killed eight American soldiers.
By that time the story of the Iranian hostage crisis had become an American
obsession. The subject of daily wall to wall national news coverage. And
in the midst of a presidential election, it became one of the biggest
liabilities as president carter tried to hold on to his presidency. Public
sentiment, which initially favored Carter`s diplomatic approach, turned
against him as the crisis continue with no in sight and crystallized after
the failed attempted rescue.
Carter`s failure to free the hostages during the election prompted many to
brand Carter as feckless and incompetent and a sharp contrast to Ronald
Reagan`s aggressive approach to foreign policy.
On November 4th, 1980, one year to the day after the hostages were taken,
Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter by a landslide in the presidential
election. In the end, the hostage crisis was ultimately resolved by
President Carter and his patient, persistent diplomacy. But history
remembers the event as one of the great failures of his administration.
And it would come to define decades of hostile relations between Iran and
the United States.
Fast forward. Today, another presidential election year. Another group of
American citizens and during month after month of captivity in Tehran.
Another American president who is remain committed to his own strategy of
patient and persistent diplomacy to secure their release. This time,
success of the strategy will leave as part of a presidential legacy, a
victory instead of defeat.
Joining me now is Nina Khrushcheva, professor of international affairs at
the new school, an interim dean at the Melona School of international
affairs, management and urban policy. Katon Dawson, a national Republican
consultant and former South Carolina GOP chair. Dorian Warren, fellow of
the Roosevelt Institute. And John Nichols, Washington correspondent for
It is so nice to have you all here.
Nina, I want to start with you because for me, yesterday, it was actually
something that the king said that remind me I said, yes, right. This is
not the first moment. This actually is a reminder that there has been a
cold war of sorts between the U.S. and Iran that really goes back to this
moment almost exactly this week, since 1980.
NINA KHRUSHCHEVA, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, NEW SCHOOL: It was a
cold war. And it`s really interesting that the relationship that has been
tried sort of slightly thawing for the last year-and-a-half, maybe two
years. I mean, we all remember that our goal got the Oscar and that always
a great indication that the relationship will be turning around because
Hollywood tells us these things first. So I think it is an important
understanding that in the cold war, that kind of very subtle diplomacy
ultimately brought the end of the Soviet Union.
And it is interesting that you mentioned that Reagan took credit for
carter`s achievements because in some ways Reagan was very good that way,
in diminishing his achievements, yet it was the same thing, Gorbachev was
ready to change policy and Reagan took advantage of it and really argued
that he was the one ending those crises. So Reagan was great at taking
credit for other people`s doing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the Iranians helped him to do so, right. I mean, the
Iranians, by waiting literally, they kind of like watching the
inauguration, they are like, OK, Reagan`s president, now they can go.
KHRUSHCHEVA: No. And I think that what makes him a good president, made a
media-savvy president, is that you know that you use other people`s –
other countries` necessities, political necessities to your advantage. And
I think Reagan was really very good that way. But I cannot help but think
that this kind of undercurrent relationship between Iran and the United
States is very similar to those undercover relations between the USSR and
America 20 years ago.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, part of I think what we would say about the sort
of thawing of the cold war between the U.S. and the USSR and the U.S. and
Russia is that the world is safer as a result. And the question that you
asked yesterday, Katon, was, is the world now safer as a result of this
decision, this pact, not so much about the hostages, but that the hostages
are part of this larger deal.
I just want to listen to what secretary of state John Kerry said in
response to your question yesterday. So let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Today marks the first day of a safer
world. One where we believe it is possible to remain safer for years to
come, and particularly with the compliance of this agreement. I think we
have also proven once again why diplomacy has to always be our first
choice, and war our last resort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Kerry says we`re safer.
KATON DAWSON, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: He says we`re safer. And in
the middle of this election, I`m going to pivot back to June of 1980. I
was working for Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter was beating us by double
digits. We had a communicator that was our nominee in June. And
obviously, He had electoral votes, had a pretty good fight in `76. We all
participated in where the sitting president beat him. And I understand
that Reagan takes credit.
But if you look at Reagan`s rhetoric, he was playing off of the crisis, he
was playing off – a lot of similarities, a weak military. A lot of things
are real similar. So we have got Clinton who looks like the nominee, but
we will talk about that later.
So when you look at it, are we going to be safer next week? I don`t like
I`m going to believe we are safer. A country that said they are a nation
builder of terrorists, a sponsor of state terrorism, a country that
wouldn`t let us inspect, we think we`re going to have inspections, a
country now that has won this, in our opinion, the ayatollahs now have won
the negotiating. They let our hostages go which they should have before.
So we will see a lot of this on the trail, about the size of our military,
the current state of our military, from the Republican candidates.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. But I do want to just - because I do think rhetoric is
part of what matters, positioning is part of what matters. And so, I do
want to say that on the one hand, you know, the president clearly has been
100 percent clear about the relevance, the importance of diplomacy. And
this is maybe the clearest victory around diplomacy.
But diplomacy has not been the only foreign policy strategy. And I just
have to point out that there was that fully boss moment when the day after
the national press club, after he had just had that sort of sunny moment
with Donald Trump about birtherism, he walks to the podium, right, he in
fact he actually preempts “the Apprentice” on NBC, walks to the podium,
shows up and lets the country know that Osama bin Laden, not has been
negotiated with, right, but has died, right, has been killed by the U.S.
military. And in fact he brought that up in the state of the union on
Tuesday, before then finishing and enacting this. I see them as both parts
of what the Obama strategy is.
We are going to say so much more about all this when we come back because
up next, remember, when they said that senator Obama was crazy for
promising to negotiate with Iran? I bet President Obama does.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Saturday, “the New Yorker” reported that the prisoner
swap which secured the release of four Americans from Iran was a deal 14
months in the making. Writer Robin Wright reports that President Obama
authorized a top secret second diplomatic channel with Iran to negotiate
freedom for Americans who had disappeared or been imprisoned in Iran.
Those were more than a year ago. President Obama has long been committed
to opening channels to countries like Iran with whom the United States has
had hostile relationships. Think back to this moment from the CNN You Tube
Democratic presidential debate hopefully back in 2007.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to meet separately, without
precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington
or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and
North Korea in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would. And the reason is
this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment
to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this
administration, is ridiculous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The “Washington Post” reported on the immediate resistance
to then senator Obama`s claim, citing quote “older politicians who
questioned the wisdom of his proposed action,” and rival Hillary Clinton,
who called it quote “irresponsible and frankly naive.”
His owned future VP, Joe Biden, even called it quote “the wrong answer.”
And by the general election, Senator John McCain filed on saying quote
“Senator Obama`s desire to meet unconditionally on his first year at the
presidential level with Iranian leaders is reckless and demonstrates poor
judgment that will make the world more dangerous.” The rest is history.
And now, at least, for four or five freed Americans, their world just
became a whole lot safer.
Dorian, how will we know whether or not the president was right?
DORIAN WARREN, FELLOW, THE ROOSEVELT INSTITUTE: I think, you know, there
are some Silicon Valley terms that come to mind, disrupter, innovator. In
terms of foreign policy, I think that`s what ultimately that`s what this
president`s legacy will be because he is sort of taken you might say the
best from Carter and Reagan and remixed it with diplomacy and a different
showing of strength.
So last year, speaker of the house John Boehner said, no deal is better
than this deal. He is wrong. And actually the Republican party is now in
a bit of crisis when it comes to foreign policy and diplomacy, because this
is a real world example of diplomacy working, versus, say, ten, 15 years
ago, remember the axis of evil when Iran was part of that access of evil
that George W. Bush announced? Well, W.`s former high level administrator
was one of the negotiator worked on the negotiations in this case. So this
is an interesting use of diplomacy, both in terms of the hostages, but more
importantly, ending Iran`s nuclear program ultimately.
JOHN NICHOLS, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: What is interesting,
when Barack Obama was given the Nobel Prize at the start of his presidency,
there were an awful lot of people in the United States who said, well, this
is – what the heck is this about, why is this happening?
HARRIS-PERRY: He himself said, I don`t think I deserve this.
NICHOLS: I`m a little shock. And I understand. And I was one of those
people who said, you know, boy, maybe wait a year or a few. However, what
you just showed, there`s a very interesting dynamic here. If we imagine
that the Nobel Prize was given not for the acts of a presidency but for
that possibility of shifting toward diplomacy, and what we now see in the
last year of this presidency is a realization that the arc of diplomacy,
and tough military actions at times, some of which I`ve disagreed with, but
where we see is this president has gotten to a place where in effect he
has, I would argue, legitimized many of the hopes and dreams of a lot of
people who put their faith in him.
But let me – if I could just throw one other element in here too. We were
talking about all this, and I think one of the biggest challenges in this
moment is that we have a wholly different media system today than we had in
1980 and 1981. Now, what started in 1980? CNN. What went on late night
TV around, “Nightline.” we started to expand 24/7.
HARRIS-PERRY: “Nightline” literally happened, began in order to keep up
with the Iranian hostage crisis. That`s why it existed. Which in part is
interesting to me because as huge as this is, it is also true that for most
Americans, I suspect that they have forgotten that there were Americans
many hundreds of days still being held hostage in Iran.
Now, Katon, the thing that is not different, the thing that is very much
the same, is that Hillary Clinton continues to break with the president on
his foreign policy strategy, which is a little stunning given that she was
his secretary of state.
DAWSON: It was amazing to me yesterday, when I saw the clip that Hillary
Clinton was going to push for more sanctions. That might be the exact
HARRIS-PERRY: And there are still are sanctions in place, which is
important to understand.
DAWSON: But I don`t think the public knows about that, OK. So what I saw
yesterday, and I`ve had a great time watching Democrats tell Republicans
what`s going on in their primary, I`m going to reverse and tell you what`s
happening in South Carolina among Democrats. I saw the numbers from a
credible pollster last week that came out. And Hillary Clinton looks like
she`s got trouble in Iowa. Looks like she has got trouble in New
Hampshire. She`s going to hit the firewall of South Carolina that
President Obama wiped her up in 2008. Huge organization, big turnout.
She`s got to have African-American President Obama loyalists to vote for
her to win, because Bernie Sanders is picking up the democrat white vote.
And you will see it by pretty good numbers. So now I say there`s going to
be a contest.
HARRIS-PERRY: They aren`t – don`t take my 11:00 hour, but yes, I think
we`re – real quick, just super fast. The other thing that was important,
it seems to me about this, I want you to weigh in on this, 15 seconds, how
important is it that all of this happened in secret? That we didn`t in
fact that it was happening and why it was happening.
KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, that`s what diplomacy is all about. You announce your
diplomatic achievements when they are actually ready to be announced. And
I think that`s where Obama was very, very good, because as with Osama bin
Laden, as you said, they keep it in secret and then they say, hey, we have
this, and it worked for us.
One very quick point on Hillary Clinton and sanctions. I think she`s
channeling Reagan. I mean, she does this trust but verify thing, we`re
lifting some but we want to make sure you remember, if anything goes wrong,
sanctions are going to be there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Man, we have said Reagan a lot more for a Nerdland morning.
Up next, the president declares a state of emergency for an unnatural
disaster in Flint, Michigan.
HARRIS-PERRY: The release of American hostages in Iran has been dominating
headlines, so you might have missed the other big news coming out of the
White House this weekend.
On Saturday, President Obama declared a federal emergency in Flint,
authorizing FEMA to coordinate responses and federal funding for city
grappling with ongoing water crisis.
A federal emergency. So according to the president`s statement quote “the
president authorizes action with the department of homeland security and
FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of
alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local
population and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency
measures authorized by title V of the Stafford act, to save lives and
protect property and public health and safety and to lessen or avert the
threat of catastrophe in to this county. A disaster, an emergency, the
threat of catastrophe.
But you know what did happen in Flint? A hurricane, a tornado, an
earthquake, or any other natural disaster that happens from time to time
when mother earth decides to remind us that she makes the rules. No, the
crisis in Flint is an entirely man-made disaster. And not just man-made in
the sense of mankind. This is a man-made disaster that can be traced to
one particular man. Michigan governor Rick Snyder.
The reason Flint, Michigan is in a state of emergency is because the city
manager, who was appointed by governor Rick Snyder, not elected by the
people of Flint, made a cost-cutting decision to change the water source
for the city. When the water from the cheaper Flint River corroded the
city`s pipes and tainted the city`s water with lead and potentially
poisoned the people of the city, well, none of the officials in charge,
officials who report to Governor Rick Snyder, did much of any damn thing
So yes, there is an emergency in Flint. And the emergency is Michigan
governor Rick Snyder, who has spent weeks denying, evading, minimizing, and
offering ill-fitting water filters to the tens of thousands of people who
are being poisoned by choices of officials he appointed and who reports to
On Saturday, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders added his voice to that
of Flint residents calling for Governor Snyder`s declaration. Thankfully,
as a result of President Obama`s emergency declaration, the federal
government will now help provide water and other emergency items for the
people of Flint.
But this where occasion when a disaster is not just caused by some sort of
tragic set of forces we can`t control. This time the disaster has a cause
and a name, Rick Snyder.
Back with me at the table, Katon Dawson, national Republican consultant and
former GOP South Carolina chai. Dorian Warren, fellow at Roosevelt
Institute and John Nichols, Washington correspondent for “the Nation.”
Time for Governor Snyder to go?
NICHOLS: Yes. But I would suggest to you that we need to put this in
perspective. These water wars have been going on for a while. Last summer
in the city of Detroit, people were marching through the streets of Detroit
demanding that Detroit stop shutting off water for people in the most low-
income and hardest hit neighborhoods. And they did finally get that turned
around. But Detroit also has been under an emergency manager system.
I cannot emphasize enough, when you combine austerity economics with a
shutting down of local democracy, you end up in a situation where for
purposes of cost cutting, you put people`s lives in jeopardy. This is not
something that a local elected government would do. And to my mind, when
Rick Snyder decided that he would deal with the economic challenges of a
state that has suffered a lot of de-industrialization, it has taken a lot
of hard hits from trade policy, by taking power away from the people who
care the most for their neighbors, who are elected by their neighbors, and
putting it in the hands of technocrats who look for the way to cut costs,
you end up with disastrous situation after disastrous situation. It isn`t
just Flint. I`m not diminishing Flint. But I`m saying that this is an
And to my mind, Rick Snyder has shown – he should have woken up to this a
year ago, with Detroit. You don`t mess with water. It hasn`t happened.
And I do think it comes to a resignation moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Katon, this feels to me like one of those moments where,
within the context of a national partisan election, folks can distinguish
themselves and their identity, so everybody who is running as a Republican,
but you can show that you are a different kind of Republican by saying, you
know what, that right there is unacceptable, right?
So for me, Democrats can do it around, for example, Governor Nixon in
Missouri and the way that he handles Ferguson and say, all right, we may
all be Democrats, but that right there in Missouri, in Ferguson, that is
not acceptable. And so, you know, Democrats are not, we`re not standing
behind and beside Governor Nixon.
So similarly, is it time for GOP candidates to be asked about the flint
situation in a GOP debate, and what kind of answers would you like to see
DAWSON: Well first, I don`t think they will be asked that. Maybe, maybe
not. And second, Governor Nixon is still there and Governor Snyder will
still be there. They are not going to move. They are not going to change.
It`s a disastrous situation. Anybody who has been, like I was during the
flood in South Carolina, where FEMA came in provided water (INAUDIBLE) that
we did it for weeks.
Understand the discomfort that the citizens are going under. And then the
tragedy of a bad situation and some bad managers. But he is the governor.
These are his appointees and he is responsible for it. Go back to Nathan
Deal when they blocked the interstate down with the highway with the big
storm, and his election looked like he was in trouble. He came back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Look, I get you. You know, New Orleans, right? I get what
a hurricane does. I understand needing the water, filling up the tub.
Lead poisoning is forever.
DAWSON: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is not about the problems that come from the short term
water boiling situation. This is infants and children who have been
poisoned, who will have behavioral and cognitive consequences for life,
DAWSON: It`s a tragic, systemic failure of an organization that he runs.
Does that mean that they call for him to resign or he does resign? I just
think realistically that`s not going to happen.
WARREN: He like to think that humanitarian crisis are somewhere abroad.
This is a humanitarian crisis in the great state of Michigan. It has been
going first in Detroit. The access to clean water, it`s a fundamental
WARREN: With fresh water, largest fresh water body, a fresh water. So
there should be criminal charges. This is going to go down as one of the
worst social experiments in history. It is up there with Tuskegee. One of
the worst social experiments in the history of this country. This is
genocidal. This is criminal. Someone needs to be held accountable. As
you said, Melissa, we have now, the governor has poisoned thousands of
kids. Poisoned thousands of kids. How are we not infuriated by this?
HARRIS-PERRY: It is. I just - like again, I get bad things happening, FEMA
coming in, disaster. I just we need a different word for this one.
NICHOLS: It`s not a natural disaster.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not a natural disaster. It`s not a tragedy.
NICHOLS: It`s a political choice.
WARREN: To offer another element here.
HARRIS-PERRY: You can, but not after the break.
Stay with us as we await President Obama`s remarks. That`s right,
President Obama is planning to speak very soon on the Iran nuclear deal and
the prisoner swap.
Don`t miss the democratic debate for candidates tonight at 9:00 p.m.
eastern on NBC.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are waiting for the president to speak any minute now
from the White House, as three of four Americans released in a prisoner
swap with Iran are on the way home.
A U.S. official has now confirmed their plane has left Iranian
jurisdiction. “Washington Post” reporter Jason Rezaian and his wife are
among those on board the plane which left Tehran this morning. In exchange
for their release, the U.S. is offering clemency or pardons for seven
The prisoner swap was part of a dramatic day that also included the
implementation of a landmark deal on Iran`s nuclear program and the lifting
of economic sanctions against Iran.
Right now, I want to go to NBC`s Ron Allen, who is joining us now from the
White House where we expect to hear from the president very soon.
Ron, I know yesterday we were expecting to hear from the president. I know
we actually are going to hear from him today. Any insights on what he
might say to us?
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We are going to hear from him very
soon, Melissa, in the next few minutes perhaps. We have just been told
that he`s going to make a statement about Iran. You are right, we thought
we would hear from him yesterday when the prisoners were released, but
apparently the White House waited until the entire situation had been
resolved and the former prisoners were out of Iranian airspace and safely
on their journey.
We believe their first stop is going to be Geneva, Switzerland, and then on
to Germany to a U.S. military base and hospital there for checkups before
continuing on to the United States. That`s what the president is likely to
Senior administration officials have been saying on his behalf that this
has been a significant, a huge, an historic diplomatic accomplishment,
emphasizing diplomacy. The president himself said that this Iran nuclear
deal helped the world avert another war. It is that important. It is that
serious. And they are adamant as you head from Secretary Kerry that this
deal, and the monitoring system that`s in place, will stop Iran from
getting a nuclear weapon any time in the near future, in the next decade or
There`s also been criticism from Republicans and others about the prisoner
swap, some saying the U.S. gave up too much. The administration officials
have been saying that about 14 months ago, a new channel of communication
opened up whereby they saw a way to begin discussions about the release of
these Americans who were now headed home. They continued it, and they say
there were fits and starts. And by the summer, when the Iranian nuclear
deal was in place, momentum picked up in the discussions about the
prisoners. And they said that as these two tracks came together in the
final two to three weeks, they saw an opportunity, and they took advantage
of it. They say it was the right thing to do, to exchange the Iranians for
the Americans because they did not want to leave the Americans in Iran once
they saw that there was a way to bring them home, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you know, Ron, whether or not the president has in fact
spoken with any of the released hostages?
ALLEN: No, I do not. I`m not sure exactly where they are at the moment.
I believe that we know that they are on their way to Switzerland. When
they land and what they do when they get there is unclear. But no, I don`t
know whether the president has spoken to any of those individuals directly.
I know there has been some reporting that state department officials and
others have been in touch with families here in the states. And there is a
delegate of U.S. officials waiting for them in Geneva. Hopefully, I would
expect they`ll be landing there shortly.
HARRIS-PERRY: Great. Thank you to NBC`s Ron Allen at the White House.
Stay with us, because the president is expected to address this issue any
HARRIS-PERRY: Earlier today, presidential candidates from both parties
appeared on NBC`s “Meet the Press” and weighed in on Iran. Here is some of
what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They need to know that this
is a good step forward with respect to the nuclear weapons program, but
there are other areas of their behavior that we`re going to continue to be
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question was asked of
Obama and said, would you sit down and talk to the Iranians? And he said,
yes, I would. Point being that you talk to your adversaries. You don`t
run away from that. That`s Secretary Clinton I think called him naive.
Turns out that Obama was right.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I become president of
the United States, our adversaries around the world will know that America
is no longer under the command of somebody weak like Barack Obama. And it
will be like Ronald Reagan where as soon as he took off the hostages were
released from Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Man, it`s like they were watching the show this morning. So
obviously, we have been talking about both these issues of sort of how was
connected back to the 1980 moment. But also sort of how this end - going
to end up playing in our partisan politics? What do you make of some of
KHRUSHCHEVA: I think actually it can go both ways. It can actually be –
I mean, it is very good for Barack Obama, unless they make it not good for
Barack Obama, because one of the problems I think with this administration
is that yes, they do go for diplomacy, but then somehow they get off
message. And then their opponents kind of take advantage of their getting
off message and reinterpret it in different ways.
Another thing, when she says when we talk about Barack Obama is a great
diplomat in this regard. Yes, he does talk to his adversaries. He doesn`t
talk to less adversaries, like Vladimir Putin, for example. So one of the
problems here again is that it`s not really consistent. And I think that`s
the problem of this White House. It`s not entirely consistent.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, you know, it`s interesting, because you know, part
of what we were talking about in the break is whether or not now, as the
president, you know, is going to come to the podium the next few minutes,
whether or not he`s going to behave – John, I heard you say, as explainer
in-chief. And ever since the new year we have been saying this president
in his final moments, in his final year as president, is now the no Dems
Obama, right. That he is got a certain kind of discursive freedom that
maybe is different, until maybe not only explainer in chief but also like
standing up for his own positions in a way that we haven`t seen previously.
NICHOLS: I think these things go together. Now, we just saw a state of
the union address which had a very, very strong, confident president with a
HARRIS-PERRY: A much more no Dems.
NICHOLS: Yes. So this is not – this speech yesterday is not a time for,
you know, like popping champagne corks or being celebratory. This is a
time to be an explainer in chief. It is a time to be the competent,
strong, despite what Marco Rubio says, the confident, strong, president of
the United States, intervening in a bit of a problem situation, which is
that our media, until a couple of days ago, wasn`t even paying any
attention to the fact that we were at this pivot point that some things
were going to happen. We have had a lot of things happen very fast.
This president will, I suspect, slow it down, take us back and say, look, a
long time ago we started working on one arc, which was to dial down this
nuclear threat. Then more recently, we started working on another arc, we
wanted to get these hostages out, we`ve been trying to get them out for a
long time. These things, of course, you know how diplomacy works. Things
start to interweave. We understand all that.
Bottom line is, we had some really incredible things happen over a period
of the last 24 hours. He should put that in perspective. And then, to get
to your point, he should say, or he I suspect will say, and this shows us
what we can do when we try to treat our enemies, our challenges, seriously
rather than simply, you know, come out bombastically.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Katon, will Mr. Trump be live tweeting the event?
DAWSON: I`ll tell you what Mr. Trump will do. We called it yesterday.
HARRIS-PERRY: Didn`t we, though? There`s the president of the United
States. We`ll go straight to the White House to listen as he speaks about
the Iran deal.
OBAMA: Because once again, we are seeing what`s possible with strong
American diplomacy. As I said in my state of the union address, ensuring
the security of the United States and the safety of our people demands a
smart, patient, and disciplined approach to the world. That includes our
diplomacy with the Islamic republic of Iran.
For decades, our differences with Iran meant that our governments almost
never spoke to each other. Ultimately, that did not advance America`s
interests. Over the years, Iran moved closer and closer to having the
ability to build a nuclear weapon.
But from presidents Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan,
the United States has never been afraid to pursue diplomacy with our
adversaries. And as president, I decided that a strong, confident America
could advance our national security by engaging directly with the Iranian
We have seen the results. Under the nuclear deal that we, our allies and
partners, reached with Iran last year. Iran will not get its hands on a
nuclear bomb. The region, the United States, and the world will be more
secure. As I`ve said many times, the nuclear deal was never intended to
resolve all of our differences with Iran, but still, engaging directly with
the Iranian government on a sustained basis for the first time in decades
has created a unique opportunity, a window to try to resolve important
issues. And today I can report progress on a number of fronts.
First, yesterday marked a milestone in preventing Iran from obtaining a
nuclear weapon. Iran has now fulfilled key commitments under the nuclear
deal. And I want to take a moment to explain why this is so important.
Over more than a decade, Iran had moved ahead with its nuclear program, and
before the deal, it had installed nearly 20,000 centrifuges that can enrich
uranium for a nuclear bomb. Today Iran has removed two-thirds of those
machines. Before the deal, Iran was steadily increasing its stockpile of
enriched uranium, enough for up to ten nuclear bombs. Today, more than 90
percent of that stockpile has been shipped out of Iran, meaning Iran now
doesn`t have enough material for even one bomb. Before, Iran was nearing
completion of a new reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb.
Today, the core of that reactor has been pulled out and filled with
concrete, so it cannot be used again.
Before the deal, the world had relatively little visibility into Iran`s
nuclear program. Today, international inspectors are on the ground, and
Iran is being subjected to the most comprehensive, intrusive inspection
regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program. Inspectors will
monitor Iran`s key nuclear facilities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For
decades to come, inspectors will have access to Iran`s entire nuclear
supply chain. In other words, if Iran tries to cheat, if they try to build
a bomb covertly, we will catch them.
So the bottom line is this. Whereas Iran was steadily expanding its
nuclear program, we have now cut off every single path that Iran could have
used to build a bomb. Where is it would have taken Iran two to three
months to break out with enough material to rush to a bomb, we`ve now
extended that breakout time to a year. And with the world`s unprecedented
inspections and access to Iran`s program, we`ll know if Iran ever tries to
Now that Iran`s actions have been verified, it can begin to receive relief
from certain nuclear sanctions and gain access to its own money that had
been frozen. And perhaps most important of all, we achieved this historic
progress through diplomacy, without resorting to another war in the Middle
I want to also point out that by working with Iran on this nuclear deal, we
were better able to address other issues. When our sailors in the Persian
Gulf accidentally strayed into Iranian waters, that could have sparked a
major international incident. Some folks here in Washington rushed to
declare that it was the start of another hostage crisis. Instead we worked
directly with the Iranian government and secured the release of our sailors
in less than 24 hours.
And this brings me to a second major development. Several Americans
unjustly detained by Iran are finally coming home. In some cases, these
Americans faced years of continued detention. And I have met with some of
their families. I have seen their anguish, how they ache for their sons
and husbands. I gave these families my word. I made a vow that we would
do everything in our power to win the release of their loved ones. And we
have been tireless.
On the sidelines of the nuclear negotiations, our diplomats at the highest
level, including Secretary Kerry, used every meeting to push Iran to
release our Americans. I did so myself in my conversation with President
After the nuclear deal was completed, the discussions between our
governments accelerated. Yesterday, the families finally got the news that
they had been waiting for. Jason Rezaian is coming home. A courageous
journalist for the “Washington Post” who wrote about the daily lives and
hopes of the Iranian people. He`s been held for a year and a half. He
embodies the brave spirit that gives live to freedom of the press. He has
already been reunited with his wife and mom.
Pastor Saeed Adedini is coming home. Held for three and a half years. His
unyielding faith has inspired people around the world in the global fight
to uphold freedom of religion. Now pastor Adedini will return to his
church and community in Idaho.
Amir Hekmati is coming home, a former sergeant in the Marine Corps. He has
been held four and a half years. Today his parents and sisters are giving
thanks in Michigan.
Two other Americans unjustly detained by Iran have also been released.
Nosratollah Khoshawi and Matthew Trevithick, an Iranian who was in Iran as
a student. Their cases were largely unknown to the world, but when
Americans were freed and reunited with their families, that`s something we
can all celebrate.
So I want to thank my national security team, especially Secretary Kerry,
Susan Rice, my national security adviser, Brett McGurk, Admiral Haynes, Ben
Rhodes, our whole team worked tirelessly to bring our Americans home, to
get this work done. And I want to thank the Swiss government which
represents our interests in Iran, for their critical assistance.
And meanwhile, Iran has agreed to deepen our coordination as we work to
locate Robert Levinson, missing in Iran for more than eight years. Even as
we rejoice in the safe return of others, we will never forget about Bob.
Each and every day, but especially today, our hearts are with the Levinson
family and we will not rest until their family is whole again.
In a reciprocal humanitarian gesture, six Iranian-Americans and one Iranian
serving sentences or awaiting trial in the United Stated are being granted
clemency. These individuals were not charged with terrorism or any violent
offenses. They are civilians and their release is a one-time gesture to
Iran, given the unique opportunity offered by this moment and the larger
circumstances at play. And it reflects our willingness to continue to
engage with Iran when it advances our mutual interests even as we ensure
the national security of the United States.
So, nuclear deal, implemented. American families reunited. The third
piece of this work that we got done this weekend involved the United States
and Iran resolving a financial dispute that dated back more than three
decades. Since 1981, after our nations severed diplomatic relations, we
worked through an international tribunal to resolve various claims between
The United States and Iran are now settling a long-standing Iranian
government claim against the United States government. Iran will be
returned its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than
the amount Iran sought.
For the United States, this settlement can save us billions of dollars that
could have been pursued by Iran, so there was no benefit to the United
States in dragging this out. With the nuclear deal done, prisoners
released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well.
Of course, even as we implement the nuclear deal, and welcome our Americans
home, we recognize that there remain profound differences between the
United States and Iran. We remain steadfast in opposing Iran`s
destabilizing behavior elsewhere, including its threats against Israel and
our gulf partners and in support for violent proxies in places like Syria
We still have sanctions on Iran for its violations of human rights, for its
support of terrorism, and for its ballistic missile program. And we will
continue to enforce these sanctions vigorously. Iran`s recent missile
test, for example, was a violation of its international obligations. And
as a result, the United States is imposing sanctions on individuals and
companies working to advance Iran`s ballistic missile program. And we are
going to remain vigilant about it. We`re not going to waiver in defense of
security or that of our allies or partners.
But I do want to once again speak directly to the Iranian people. Yours is
a great civilization with a vibrant culture that has so much to contribute
to the world, in commerce, science, the arts. For decades, your
government`s threats and actions to destabilize your region have isolated
Iran from much of the world. And now our governments are talking with one
another, following the nuclear deal, you, especially young Iranians, have
the opportunity to begin building new ties with the world. We have a rare
chance to pursue a new path, a different, better future that delivers
progress for both our peoples and the wider world. That`s the opportunity
before the Iranian people. We need to take advantage of that.
And to my fellow Americans, today we`re united in welcoming home sons and
husbands and brothers who in lonely prison cells have endured an absolute
nightmare. But they never gave in and they never gave up. At long last
they can stand tall and breathe deep the fresh air of freedom.
As a nation, we face real challenges. Around the world and here at home.
Many of them will not be resolved quickly or easily. But today`s progress,
Americans coming home, an Iran that has rolled back its nuclear program and
accepted unprecedented monitoring of that program. These things are a
reminder of what we can achieve when we lead with strength and wisdom, with
courage and resolve and patience. American can do and has done big things
when we work together. We leave this world to make it safer and more
secure for our children and our grandchildren for generations to come.
I want to thank once again Secretary Kerry, our entire national security
team led by Susan Rice. I`m grateful for all the assistance that we
received from our allies and partners. And I am hopeful that this signals
the opportunity at least for Iran to work more cooperatively with nations
around the world to advance their interests and the interests of people who
are looking for peace and security for their families. Thank you so much.
God bless you. God bless the United States of America.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, “MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY”: That was
President Obama, of course addressing the nation on the Iran nuclear deal,
and the prisoner swap, starting his remarks by saying, this is a good day.
Joining me now from Tehran is NBC`s Ali Arouzi.
Ali, we just heard from the President, what can you tell us about the
reaction there in Tehran today?
ALI AROUZI, NBC NEWS TEHRAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Melissa, the Iranians are
very, very excited about sanctions being removed. They`ve been awaiting
for this day for a long time. The deal happened in August. And now it`s
been implemented today. And I think it`s going to spell a lot of relief
for ordinary people here. The last eight years in Iran, when the sanctions
have been particularly difficult, have been very, very hard for the Iranian
people. They`ve been squeezed out of the international banking market.
Their currency is devalued. Their courtesy power has seriously gone down.
And now they`re hoping to change all of that to join the international
community to revive the economy.
Joining the international community has also been very important for
Iranians. Iranians felt like they were pushed out into the cold, that they
were a global pariah, and they didn`t like that. They said this was a
misrepresentation of who we are, and they want that desperately to change.
We were out in the streets today, we were in the bazaar, we were talking to
people, and they were very happy. They said, we hope that this is a new
chapter for Iran, we hope this is a new chapter for Iranian-American
relations. We have to be also careful not to overstate that.
We`ve seen new sanctions being imposed on Iran. President Obama pointed
out a whole host of other issues that the United States still has with
Iran. So there`s still a very long way to go before there`s normal
relationships with these two countries. But this is certainly a step in
the right direction. This has really been a triumph for diplomacy since
this nuclear deal. And we`ve seen the culmination of it here with the deal
coming through, the prisoners being released, and the incident with the
U.S. sailors not spiraling out of control. So, the two sides may not be
best friends, but they are talking, and they`re not letting the situation
deteriorate out of hand, which has got to be a good thing – Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: It felt to me like the President made a really important
distinction towards the end of his remarks there between the Iranian
government on the one hand and the Iranian people and the ancient Persian
culture and the contribution of arts and the sciences and kind of the
possibilities for young people. Is that the same kind of distinction
you`re seeing on the ground there?
AROUZI: Definitely. The Iranian people, I mean, that would be music to
the Iranian people`s ears. For the most part here, Melissa, the Iranian
people like America, they like American culture, they don`t have any
animosity with the American people. When you`re out in the streets here,
shooting people are always asking you, what`s America like, how can I get a
visa to go and visit there. So, I think there`s a lot of common ground
between regular people here in America and I think a lot of Iranian people
would like the opportunity to study and visit America. They would like to
see American tourists here. Now, that`s all easier said than done.
The two Iran`s – elements of Iran`s hardline government are ideologically
opposed to the United States. But when an idea comes to fruition, it`s
very difficult to get in its way. So, we have to see how that all pans out
over the course of the next few months and years. But it`s also a very
delicate situation. As President Rouhani came into power and President
Obama was in power, I think the stars aligned for this deal to happen, but
it could also very easily fall apart. I mean, Iranians here talk about if
Donald Trump became president, what would the situation with Iran be, or
somebody who was very anti-Iran, would everything fall back into the way it
was before and become possibly worse? So, it`s always predictably
unpredictable, relations between these those two countries – Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Ali Arouzi in Tehran.
NBC`s Keir Simmons joins us now from Germany. Possible stop for the freed
Americans. Keir, what can you tell us about the status of those Americans
KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we expect them to come here to
this American medical base in Germany to undergo a medical examination and
psychological examination. The President there confirming that at least
one of those Americans, the “Washington Post” journalist, has met with some
members of his family. But even in the statement from the “Washington
Post,” we are hearing about some of the treatment that he underwent. The
“Washington Post” saying, we are relieved that this 545-day nightmare for
Jason and his family is finally over, after enduring such deplorable
conditions and inhumane treatment, the top priority now must be for his
health and well-being, other families also, you know, just say how
delighted they are that their family members will be headed home soon.
We don`t know how long that will be, it could be a number of days perhaps.
If they do come here to this medical center, they will want to expedite
those examinations, psychological examinations as quickly as possible. But
plainly they will need to go through all of the questions they need to ask
before those folks can head back home.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Keir Simmons in Germany.
And back with me here in New York, Nina Khrushcheva, Katon Dawson and John
Nichols and they are all joined by the Reverend Al Sharpton, host of
MSNBC`s “POLITICS NATION” and of course founder of the National Action
Network. What did you hear from our president?
REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST, “POLITICS NATION”: Well, I think that I
heard a statement of one who had achieved something, that he was in some
circles viciously attacked while he was proceeding the negotiations that
have now resulted in bringing these Americans home. Let`s not forget that
he was roundly attacked, as was Secretary of State John Kerry, saying they
didn`t even bring the American prisoners up.
SHARPTON: And they were at that time negotiating the release which now has
apparently happened. So, I think that what we saw was a self-restrained
victory lap by President Obama.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. He was totally doing his –
SHARPTON: Yes. Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: – nuclear deal, done.
SHARPTON: Done. Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: American families, done, financial deal, done.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I mean –
SHARPTON: All the things that they said wouldn`t get done.
SHARPTON: He did everything but he`s –
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That`s right. Right. And I mean, again, you don`t
want to do a victory lap because it`s at the beginning of a process.
SHARPTON: Absolutely. Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: But there was, Katon, and I think this was an important
though, was a sort of like, you all kept yelling at me about this. And it
was happening but I could not talk about it while it was happening because,
you know, real G`s move in silence.
KATON DAWSON, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: You know, the President had
a good day today. The proof is going to be in the pudding for the next
administration. But what we`re going to have in the next two or three
weeks is the position of Syria and what Iran does there. And then maybe
the President will surprise me, that that`s been a big negotiating tool the
entire time. The Ayatollahs are high fiving, much like the Castro brothers
high fiving if we open Cuba. There`s a lot of –
HARRIS-PERRY: But opening Cuba is the right thing to do.
DAWSON: Iran, we just gave them legitimacy in the Middle East. They`ve
now got their economic power. I will give the President the most credit of
anybody, when he threw these financial sanctions on them, we had them by
the throat. We wouldn`t be here today. And everybody applauded that. The
big conversation came when we eased the sanctions, versus Republicans,
versus the Democrats, and the President. And we don`t know about that
sanctions making. For 20 years, we get lighter until we get to read the
news. What I want to see is, when the next president has to deal with,
much like Iraq, the inspections, and they turn us down and says, I`m sorry,
you can`t see them, and I want to see what happens in Syria in the next
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, this is the big question I think in the foreign
policy, the front for us, is does this strengthen the fight against ISIL,
does this give us a space to go in and cope with what is happening, that is
a humanitarian crisis in Syria, and does this ensure a kind of ability long
term for visibility of this program, because there will be a new president,
Democrat, Republican. There will we be a new president, are we going to be
able to see this program in Iran?
NINA KHRUSHCHEVA, SENIOR FELLOW, WORLD POLICY INSTITUTE: And I think
that`s exactly – that`s a big question. I mean, I think the President did
a very good job, as John said, he was explainer in chief, he did a very
good job explaining, for them to question is, how it plays out. I mean, I
would like to go back again since we started this conversation with the
cold war. It was the same thing. I mean, the reports in Iran were exactly
the same way that the soviets felt when suddenly the borders were opening,
suddenly America is a country that you can visit to and look what happened.
You know, now probably Russia has the lowest relationship with the United
States ever since then. Oh, fine, Iran does have ten more years or 20 more
years. But what I really would like to see is that how then not only
diplomatically but in structural terms, in systemic terms, that does play
out, whether this White House and this president and this State Department
is capable of playing many games at the same time and consistently.
HARRIS-PERRY: But it`s got to be that on ISIL, on Syria, and on the
question of sort of transparency of the program, that it will be better
than it would be if we were at hot war with them, right?
KHRUSHCHEVA: Of course.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I`m not sure that it will be perfect, but it`s got to
be better than if we were in active aggression.
JOHN NICHOLS, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “THE NATION”: I`m with the
American people on this one.
NICHOLS: I don`t want another war in the Middle East. And so, the bottom
line was that where the President came from. But one thing in this
conversation, I just want to counsel, people keep saying the next
president. We have a long year ahead of us.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
NICHOLS: This president, who is in some ways freed to not have politics
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
NICHOLS: And there are going to be economic challenges. That oil is
coming online, and that`s going to be a factor in the Middle East. There
will be diplomacy challenges. But right now you saw a strong president –
NICHOLS: – talking about how he`s going to deal with the rest of the
world. And so while I`m very interested in what the next president will
do, I`m also extremely interested in this president`s next year.
HARRIS-PERRY: And he just – he had strength, he addressed the ballistic
missile question which has been the other one on the table.
NICHOLS: And Mr. Levinson.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And he just bought himself a relationship.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, we do get to see that play out. But in the
meantime, we are still going to be talking about the next one. Because
coming up next, we`re going to be talking about 2016, Hillary and Bernie.
Are you feeling the “bern” or climbing up the hill?
Up next, don`t miss the democratic candidate debates tonight, 9 p.m.
Eastern on NBC. More when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And tonight at 9
p.m. Eastern, the three contenders for the Democratic Party nomination will
square off in a debate on NBC. Now, I`m going to say something that in all
honesty, I absolutely would not have expected to say three months ago.
I`ll be watching with keen interest because it turns out there actually
seems to be a primary contest happening in the Democratic Party. No, not
for you, Martin, sorry, that`s still not actually happening. But I`ll let
you know if that changes. I`m talking about the relatively surprising and
durable “bern” surge that is showing up in poll after poll in the early
primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
When Senator Sanders first announced his candidacy last May, his efforts
felt admirably quixotic. A kind of – of democracy to ensure that Clinton
wasn`t simply coronated. But shortly someone would an actual chance of
winning would throw their hat in the ring, someone with a solid foreign
policy record, proximity to the, you know, popular two term president,
someone who had long been on the national stage, who could introduce
themselves to the American people with respect in Washington or among
ordinary folks as well. So, we waited for the real primary to begin. But,
you know, that didn`t so much happen.
So when it was clear and the field was set and plenty of observers took a
deep breath and assumed that all the action, the only action was the very,
very unusual action happening over in the other primary. And that has been
honestly kind of uniquely fascinating. But amid the breathless
anticipation of the Biden bid and the open-mouthed awe about Trump`s
supremacy has been a little progressive campaign chugging along. And now
ahead of tonight`s debate in South Carolina, televised by NBC and sponsored
by the Congressional Black Caucus, we have evidence that Senator Bernie
Sanders is an actually contender.
And NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll shows Clinton with a 25 point lead
nationally over Sanders. But the NBC “Wall Street Journal” poll is a bit
of and outlier. Last week`s “New York Times”/CBS survey has Sanders within
just seven points of Clinton. And in that poll, Clinton has 48 percent of
the democratic primary voters while 41 percent support Sanders. And those
two national polls, well, let`s be clear, they matter very little in
primary season. And in Iowa and New Hampshire though, it`s an even closer
race. Because these candidates are effectively tied there.
And whether or not you believe that Bernie Sanders is a long term threat to
the Clinton nomination, I can tell you one person who does seem to think
that he is. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Because the shift
in her strategy is clear. Clinton has been sharpening her criticism of
Sanders and doing a media blitz that we have not seen from the secretary,
whose interviews are typically few and far between.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Secretary Hillary Clinton joins us now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton is here right now joining us live.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re so glad to have you on the phone. Welcome back
to “Morning Joe.”
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, thank you. Thanks,
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW”: Tonight we`re joined
by a special guest who is hard to get. She was here in the building to do
“The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” And we asked if she could swing by.
It turns out, she could. So, joining us for the interview is democratic
presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this morning Clinton and Sanders are getting in their
debate prep with some major Sunday morning news program warm-ups. Sanders
managed to appear on four morning new shows, “Meet the Press,” “Face the
Nation,” “This Week” and “State of the Union.” Hillary Clinton was also a
guest on those four shows. And Hillary Clinton is not just telling her own
story, she`s also taking jabs at Senator Sanders. This is her on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I wish that we could elect a democratic president who could wave
a magic wand and say we shall do this and we shall do that. That ain`t the
real world we`re living in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m sorry. Because I think maybe I just had some deja vu.
Because Clinton just said something remarkably similar to something that
she said during the 2008 primary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: The celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we
should do the right thing and the world will be perfect. Maybe I`ve just
lived a little long. But I have no illusions about how hard this is going
to be. You are not going to wave a magic wand and have a special interest
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: – with that magic wand. Right. OK. At this point in 2008,
then-Senator Barack Obama was down in the national polls by nine points,
with a 33 percent compare it to Clinton at 42. That was an even wider gap
than the seven-point lead Clinton currently has on Bernie Sanders in the
“New York Times”/CBS poll.
Joining me now are Rebecca Traister, New York Magazine writer at large.
Alicia Garza, co-creator of #Black Lives Matter. The Reverend Al Sharpton,
host on “Politics Nation” on MSNBC. And founder and president of the
National Action Network. And John Nichols, Washington correspondent for
“The Nation.” And joining us from Charleston, South California is Symone
Sanders, the national press secretary for the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Nice to have everybody here. Symone, how are you this morning?
SYMONE SANDERS, NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN: I`m
great. I`m feeling good. How are you guys doing?
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re doing pretty well. So, I got to say, you guys are
making some really interesting national press this morning. I`m wondering
about whether or not you realistically believe that Mr. Sanders`s campaign
can go the whole distance here and actually challenge Hillary Clinton for
the democratic nomination for the presidency?
SANDERS: Melissa, yes, I do believe it. Look, our campaign has the
resources to fight all the way through to the convention, and we plan to do
so. We have state directors and operations in almost all of the March 1
states. And I, people shouldn`t forget that we raised $33 million in the
last three months of 2015. And we raised $73 million last year. I think
we`re in pretty good shape.
HARRIS-PERRY: So one of the claims is that the kind of stunning
fundraising that`s occurring right now, like just over the past week, has
happened in part because the Sanders campaign has made a claim that the
Clinton campaign has gone negative and the Clinton campaign said that the
Sanders campaign went negative. Has anybody actually gone negative at this
SANDERS: Look, we haven`t gone negative, Melissa. Senator Sanders has
been very clear, he has never ran a negative campaign in his life and he
wasn`t going to start with this presidential election. What we have done
is we`ve been very clear about the Senator`s record. He has a great record
to stand on, whether it`s talking about, you know, advocating for better
trade policies in America and leading the fight against the Trans-Pacific
Partnership, or whether we`re talking about leading the fight against the
Keystone Pipeline, because the Senator believes that climate change is one
of the greatest threats to our national security. Advocating for hard-
working every day Americans, standing up to Wall Street.
So, that`s what we`ve been talking about in our campaign. And I think a
few folks are getting nervous. Look, our fundraising I think has been
strong from the beginning, because the Senator`s message is resonating with
Americans. We are speaking to the life and death issues that people care
about. You know what, Americans across the country, they want to know how
you`re going to put more money in their pockets, how you`re going to help
keep food on their tables, keep their families and communities safe. They
care about education. And those are the issues that Senator Sanders is
speaking to. I think our average contribution right now is $27.16 cents.
We have over 1.3 million individual contributors to our campaign. And less
than 200 of our folks had already maxed out. That means that of those 1.3
million folks, they can continue to give again. So, this isn`t just
because, you know, the Clinton campaign has gotten nervous. This is a
HARRIS-PERRY: Damn, girl –
SANDERS: We are getting behind.
HARRIS-PERRY: You are good, you have – that is what you were supposed to
do on a cable TV show. But stick with me, stick with me, stay for a
second, don`t go away, I want to give you a chance to respond Reverend Al.
When you hear that, and I`m not kidding, you`re actually good at your job,
right, in the role that she`s in right now, you take that mic and you go,
SHARPTON: And don`t stop.
HARRIS-PERRY: And don`t stop, right? Unless somebody says, you must now
stop. Right? But I`m interested here, because this is the kind of, you
know, one of the things in particular, when I think about African-American
voters, that black voters are looking for is not only the question of
whether or not someone, you know, meets their interests and coincides with
their concerns, but also, you know, the vote is precious and you want to
feel like when you go to vote, that you`re not throwing it away, that this
is a candidate who is viable and viable in the long term. How are you
reading what`s currently happening in this case?
SHARPTON: I think that they are missing hitting it dead in the center,
from my view. When I look at South Carolina, and I ran 11 years ago, so
I`m not just talking.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, sir.
SHARPTON: When you are debating in North Charleston, Walter Scott was
killed by policemen in North Charleston, a little over a year ago. And I
went down. Ironically, when we went down and dealt with that, and we stood
with – young and old, some of us couldn`t even agree on tactics, but
everybody was outraged, it was on video. Reverend Pinckney led the prayer
for us, at the rally that day, who was then later killed in Charleston at
his church Emanuel. So, I want to know, are you all going to seriously
deal with policing and guns tonight? Because you`re there where in North
Charleston and Charleston where this happened. And I don`t think we have a
clear policy or commitment from the Democrats. One of the reasons I ran 11
years ago is –
HARRIS-PERRY: So when you say you all –
SHARPTON: Let`s not forget triangulation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes.
SHARPTON: We went through Reagan eight years, four years of Bush, and
triangulation of Clinton which was a mixture.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
SHARPTON: And then eight years of Bush before we got to Obama.
HARRIS-PERRY: Who is the you all –
SHARPTON: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders –
HARRIS-PERRY: So, the whole party?
SHARPTON: – and O`Malley need to address that –
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, the whole party –
SHARPTON: – need to address that in North Charleston. He didn`t even come
up the other night in North Charleston.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I`m asking you that, we don`t have a representative from
the Clinton campaign. We`ll talk more about Clinton as we come back. But
let me ask you, since we do have you here from the Sanders campaign, will
Mr. Sanders be able to address directly that question of police violence
SANDERS: Definitely. And furthermore, Reverend Al, I mean, Senator
Sanders talks about addressing police-community relations, police violence,
police brutality all the time. So, this is not an issue that he`s shying
away from. And you can expect him to speak to that from the stage tonight.
This morning –
SHARPTON: No, but Symone, and you`re doing a great job, I wish I had you
when I ran. But let me say this. I`m not talking about addressing police-
community relations. I`m talking about criminality. A man shot in the
back. We`re not talking about a relationship here.
SANDERS: And he has spoken to that. And –
SHARPTON: We`re talking about locking up people that break the law,
whether they are dealing from blue jeans or blue uniforms.
SANDERS: Senator Sanders has been extremely clear, more than any other
candidate, Democrat or Republican, that when a police officer breaks the
law, he or she must be held accountable, before anybody else was talking
about Sandra Bland, Senator Sanders was talking about it. He invokes her
name because it matters. He wants no one to forget that police violence,
police brutality in America is a real thing. He believes criminal justice
reform is the civil rights issue of the 21st Century. And criminal justice
reform is not just ending the mass incarceration of African-Americans in
this country. It`s talking about, again, police-community relations and
police brutality and police violence.
Look, the Senator has been all across the country. And when he travels,
he`s not just having these rallies. We`re having small group meetings, and
we`re meeting people on the ground, young people, activists, people that
have been affected by this communities by gun violence, by police
brutality. So, if the question is, who is the candidate on that state
tonight? That is best positioned to speak to the issue of addressing
police brutality in America, that candidate is United States Senator Bernie
Sanders. And he is going to go on that stage tonight and demonstrate that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Symone Sanders, no actual relation, in Charleston, South
Carolina, thank you for joining us this morning.
Everybody else is sticking around on the panel. Oh, thank you to John
Nichols or why don`t you stay around for just one more second. OK.
Up next, Bernie Sanders and the voters who could hold the key to debate
this campaign. Bernie Sanders is on, next. (INAUDIBLE)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So “The Nation” magazine, they`ve only ever endorsed
three candidates in a democratic presidential primary. Jesse Jackson in
88, Barack Obama who is a senator at the time in 2008. And now Senator
Bernie Sanders, you all know Bernie Sanders is not black, right?
NICHOLS: It has dawn on us but then you had Symone on. So –
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what`s happening, why Bernie?
NICHOLS: The editors of “The Nation” went through a long process on this
one. And it actually related – I think it relates to a lot of the
questions that are on this table about electability, about viability. And
but what happened at the end of the day was that in the conversations, and
I won`t speak for all the others, I will say that it is my sense that what
happened was, there was an excitement about the extent to which Sanders
had connected to a lot of movements that are out there, not always as well
as he should, not always as fully as people are going to want him to, but
bringing in the $15 wage, strongly supporting it, bringing in the fair
trade movements, bringing in a lot of these economic movements.
And then when confronted by Black Lives Matter activists, rising to that
and bringing a lot of that into his dialogue, into his speeches. And I
think that – I don`t want to be glib about this, but I do think there are
times when you endorse a candidate and a movement, and movements. And I
think that was a big part of this editorial. If you read it, you`ll going
to see a lot of emphasis on the many movements that Sanders has been
affiliated with, some going back to the early `60s, and also the extent to
which his campaign seems to have energized some of these.
HARRIS-PERRY: Rebecca, one of the things that`s interesting to me in this
moment, going to South Carolina tonight, to a Congressional Black Caucus
led event. So Bernie Sanders is not Senator Obama. He just isn`t, right?
I mean, like I love all the comparisons and the polling and all of that.
And he may even win the nomination, who knows, right? He may become
president, stranger things – well, no stranger things have happened, but
strange things happen. But he just isn`t Senator Obama. And yet, there
are these weird resonances occurring.
One of them is from me, the CBC once again, and many of the kind of like,
members of, you know, the black establishment lining up once again with
Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder in a very odd sort of
timing moment, showing up to get this endorsement, this week is like what
Iowa voters care, who Eric Holder endorses, yes. So, what do you think is
going on around Hillary Clinton`s sort of clear must be understanding about
the need for African-American voters and the way that she is pursuing them
in this moment?
REBECCA TRAISTER, WRITER AT LARGE, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, I mean, I
think that there`s a real race. There`s a tight race. As you say, this is
great for everybody, I think it`s great for Hillary Clinton, it`s great for
Bernie Sanders, and I think it`s great for the Democratic Party and for
America that we`re engaged in this, right? And so it`s forcing both
candidates to sort of keep working, right? Nobody is lazing into this.
Right? And when it comes to issues of racial and economic inequality and
injustice, it is forcing both candidates to grow. So, we`re talking about
how Bernie has grown from this sort of summer paralysis in the face of
Black Lives Matter –
TRAISTER: – to suddenly, Symone Sanders doing this amazing job of
articulating this tremendously important argument. And I believe he`s
going to historically black colleges this week. Right? I mean, great.
You know, I have got to say this, you don`t often get to say that Hillary
Clinton is sort of leading in some radically progressive area, but she is.
And I get to say this for the first time, this woman who has a history of
being cautious on reproductive rights issues, ten days she is been out
there campaigning against the Hyde Amendment –
TRAISTER: And not just – that is radical my friend.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right.
TRAISTER: And that was – issue actually five minutes ago.
It`s not that she`s invented it, but OK, Barbara Lee has – I don`t want to
pretend that like Hillary Clinton was like, I just gave you the Hyde
Amendment, but she`s running for president, a major presidential candidate
and a woman who has a history of being, you know, with her language around
reproductive rights, very strong record of supporting them. But language
has been iffy, she is out there articulating, not just saying I oppose
Hyde, she is saying in interviews publicly, I don`t think we should give
more money to Planned Parenthood, not less, and articulating that this
issue is key to economic equality for poor women, women of color. That is
a radically progressive thing to do. You can`t tell me that these
candidates wouldn`t be making these moves if we did not have this really
robust fight going into a real primary. And so I just think it`s good news
HARRIS-PERRY: Honestly, the panic that I have – was feeling when I
thought there was going to be no primary on the democratic side, was that -
- and you know, you and I had this conversation 100,000 times in 2008,
right – was that the one thing the Democrats benefit from is more
registrations, and registrations happen in primaries when people feel like
their vote is going to matter because the primary is going to go on long.
And I just thought, oh, my gosh, if this is over by Super Tuesday,
Republicans win in a low turnout election, because there just is – that
said – so – is Bernie Sanders going to HBC but – is Bernie Sanders and
Hillary Clinton, is that the thing that is actually going to activate an
electoral arm of this already intense social movement already exiting among
young people of color around the country? I mean, it`s not a movement that
needs to be born, it exists. But there`s not necessarily an electoral arm
ALICIA GARZA, CO-CREATOR, #BLACKLIVESMATTER: I think what we`ll going to
be seeing over this next year is a real push to transform the way democracy
happens in this country. And Black people have always had a very
complicated relationship to American democracy, because we`ve consistently
been locked out of it. So, we consistently participate, we give a lot to
the Democratic Party and we get very little back. And so I think what
we`ll going to be seeing is people pushing around, it`s not so much a
question of whether it`s Hillary or Bernie. The question is, what are we
going to do to transform society and what are we going to do to make sure
that Black Lives Matter.
HARRIS-PERRY: That question for me, will that show up tonight, will Lester
Holt ask that question tonight at the CBC?
SHARPTON: Well, I mean, I don`t think that we know if Lester Holt will ask
the question. But I think that people are going to demand that answer. So
if I`m running, or if I`m representing one running, I need to get to that
answer. Because not only do you not have the lack of enthusiasm of young
blacks or older blacks. I mean, because this is uniform. This is across
all demographics. Because we`re all living in the same reality, even
though we may see it from different prisms.
SHARPTON: You also have 15 states that have new voting laws that are
impediments for the first time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sir –
SHARPTON: We don`t even know in some of these states how that will impact
black and other voter turnout. So you`ve got – for the first time you
have 15 states this year that did not have voting laws before that we`ve
got to overcome. So to go to her point, I`ve got to have a real reason to
go through all of this and to vote for a candidate, if you are not
addressing my reality and what I`m against. And you can`t do that without
dealing with the whole transformation of the body politic, not just
narrowing it to your political candidacy.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet there is this moment that will occur when, with all
this transformation that`s going to happen, there will be a moment when
people have to cast a ballot, right? And they`re going to have to overcome
whatever a set of concerns. And I guess I`m still wondering whether or not
there`s going to be a generational divide, part of what we saw happen, in
2008 particularly among African-Americans, with CBC, with, you know, sort
of institutional leaders showing up for the Clintons again, and potentially
young folks showing up across the institutional divide for the opponent.
And I`m just wondering what that may end up looking like.
SHARPTON: But let me just say this quick, I don`t even know if it`s
generational. Because don`t forget Reverend Joe Lowery and others –
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That`s true.
SHARPTON: And I were with Obama.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes. That`s right.
SHARPTON: So, I think you`re going to see an ideological and a tactical
divide, and you`re already seeing that. And I think that Bernie Sanders is
74-years-old, he`s older than Hillary, and he`s appealing to young people.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Here in New York, I have to say thank you to
Rebecca Traister and John Nichols. Alicia Garza and Reverend Sharpton are
going to return a bit later. Stay with us. Still to come, we`ll going to
talk about activism in America.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tomorrow we celebrate the federal holiday set aside for Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. And the nonviolent social movement of which he was
a part. When we come back after the break, we talk about the continuation
of that movement today.
HARRIS-PERRY: The voting rights act of 1965 was a crowning achievement of
the midcentury civil rights movement, a hard-fought victory that was
supposed to finally force open the doors of American democracy for all
people. It proved to be impermanent. The Supreme Court`s 2013 decision in
Shelby v. Holder struck down the formula to determine which jurisdictions
needed federal preclearance before changing their voting laws. And now in
2016, 15 states have new voting restrictions that will be in effect for the
first time in a presidential election this year.
More than 50 years ago, was an organized movement of activists committed to
racial justice who ushered in the voting rights act. But do the activists
of today continues to see the franchise and as an essential tool from the
beration? Where has the era of the vote ended?
Here to help me answer that question, Henry Fernandez, senior fellow at the
Center for American Progress, focusing on state and municipal policy and
civil rights. Alicia Garza, co-creator of Black Lives Matter. The
Reverend Al Sharpton, host of “POLITICS NATION” on MSNBC and founder and
president of the National Action Network. And the Reverend William Barber,
president of the North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP, leader of the Moral
Mondays Movement and author of the new book, “The Third Reconstruction:
Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement.”
Reverend Barber, what does the vote matter these days?
REV. DR. WILLIAM BARBER, PRES., NORTH CAROLINA NAACP: We have to put this
in some serious context. This is the first time since 1965 that an
attorney general has not had the power that an attorney general had in
1965. That is the power to enforce Section 5 of the voting rights act.
We`ve had a Congress that has had a two-year filibuster. Longer and strong
term with filibuster – rise up in 1964. Republicans haven`t wanted to fix
it. Democrats really have a push to fix it. We`re going into an election
now where we are engaged in what we call retrogressing. It`s not just
BARBER: We are seeing votes being taken to take away the very things that
brought us Obama, like in North Carolina, same day registration, take it
away. Out of precinct voting, take it away. Straight ticket voting, take
it away. And finally, the reality is, when it comes to voting, Black Lives
Matters is on the ballot. Healthcare is on the ballot. Education is on
the ballot. That means life or death are on the ballot. Because in each
of those policy areas, when you don`t have access to healthcare, don`t have
access to money, you don`t have access to control of the criminal justice
system, people die.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me frame it just a little bit differently.
HARRIS-PERRY: So you said the things that brought us Obama.
HARRIS-PERRY: So on the one hand, I am with you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Alicia, let`s also talk about the fact that in the era of
an African-American president, of an African-American attorney general, a
second African-American attorney general, not their fault, not because they
caused this, but simply because it turns out that the levers of power are
as difficult to use as it turns out they are, is also the era of the death
of Trayvon Martin and the death of Walter Scott, that these things happened
simultaneously and we learn something about the limitations of electoral
politics. Again, not that these office holders are responsible for these
but that we simultaneously learn about the power of the vote, that we put
these people into office and we learn about the limitations of the vote
because them holding this offices do not keep these injustices from
occurring. So what does that then tell us about the continuing needs of
GARZA: Well, what it means for us is that we need to create alternative
structures where we`re governing in local and state areas in a different
kind of way. And it also means eventually that we have to actually disrupt
and transform the electoral system which systematically keeps black people
from being able to make decisions on our own behalf.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what is that looks like as a local level? What kinds of
policies are the policies that are disruptive?
HENRY FERNANDEZ, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I actually
re-read Dr. King`s message from the Birmingham jail. Given that it`s the
king holiday coming this morning and I was struck by the – this is the
message that he`s delivering to seven liberal clergymen, white clergymen in
Alabama. He`s sending this message. They`ve said that he should not be
engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience but instead should be waiting for
the courts. And so to what Alicia said, I think we`re now in a moment in
time where we need to recognize as Dr. King did that we both need strong
policies, but we also need those people who are willing to stand up and
protest. Willing to create, as Dr. King called it, the tension that would
make it possible for powerful people to feel the need to come and
negotiate. And so I think we`re seeing that. And the policies that that
delivers are essential. Whether it`s the issues of Black Lives Matters,
racist or immigration issues. That`s what will get out voters.
SHARPTON: But see, one of the things that, and I`m glad that he said that
I`m glad we`re having this discussion because one of the myths the media
has is it was not a one-dimensional movement then and it`s not one now.
Martin Luther King was not the only one moving at that time. So even
though I come out of the king tradition, I`m proud of it.
SHARPTON: But there was a black power movement. There was a movement that
didn`t believe in voting at all. There were young people that sneak, that
felt that King was wrong. There was Malcolm. There was – and it created
a creative tension –
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
SHARPTON: – because by everybody not being on the same page it kept
everybody accountable in moving toward an end goal. And I think this
perception of a monolith is unhealthy.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
SHARPTON: And also is saying that we`re stupid and unhelpful and I think
it`s very important that we understand that when you see disagreements and
different tactics and different tensions today, that is no different than
it was then. It`s even probably less now because some of them got a little
violent. So, I mean, when I was growing up under Julian Barnes generation
and Jesse – there was always fights. Then we came about. But going back
to his point, when I was a kid and read, “Where do we go from here,” Dr.
King`s book – when I was 13 when he died. He said dislocate transit
systems and all that. That`s where we got the day of our rage from when we
closed the subways.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
SHARPTON: I`ve got that from Dr. King.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re going to come back. I`m going to give you the last
word Reverend Barber.
HARRIS-PERRY: Reverend Barber.
BARBER: Look, together we have to fight. The people that are fighting us
are together, we need to stay together. We need reconstruction. We need a
moral fight. He need to hold arms together. Different tactics. We can`t
throw away anything. Protest or voting. It`s not either/or. It`s
both/and. Let`s go get this done because we`re strong together.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are strong together in all of our tactics. Thank you to
all of our guests today. Thank you to all of you for tuning in. Come back
And tune in tonight at 9:00 NBC for the democratic debate.
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