The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/09/10
CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thanks a lot. Have a great weekend.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: You, too.
HAYES: Thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour. I am Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation,” in for Rachel Maddow. We’ll have more of her reporting from Afghanistan coming up this hour.
But we begin tonight with President Obama back on the campaign trail in Nevada, attempting to save the seat of the top Democrat in the Senate, Harry Reid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He doesn’t always do what’s easy. He doesn’t always do what is popular. But he always does what’s right for the people of Nevada. That’s why you have to send him back for one more-for one more term.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Over the next four months, as we creep towards November’s midterm elections, prepare to see a lot of that from Barack Obama. High energy campaign rallies, big donor fundraising events, desperate pleas to get out there and vote Democrat in November.
Right now, the task facing President Obama and elected Democrats is a pretty daunting one. Find a way to hold off what looks to be a Republican electoral tidal wave. Doing that involves finding a message that will resonate with voters and Mr. Obama now appears to have settled on one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There is a real choice here. We know how the movie ends if the other party is in charge. You don’t have to guess how they’ll govern because we’re still living with the damage from the last time they were governing. And they’re singing from the same hymnal. They haven’t changed. They want to do the same stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So, broadly speaking, that’s the strategy for Democrats:
argue that if Republicans take back power, things will get worse.
Republicans on the other hand have an easier task. Their only objective at this point is to make these elections a vote of no confidence against the Democrats.
Take the race in Nevada. The Republican running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is, of course, one Sharron Angle. Perhaps you’ve heard of her. Sharron Angle has made herself famous over the last month by advocating, quote, “Second Amendment remedies to take Harry Reid out,” for arguing impregnated rape victims should make lemonade out of lemons, and most recently, for calling the BP compensation fund for oil spill victims a Democratic slush fund.
And yet, Sharron Angle still has a pretty good shot at beating Harry Reid because she gets to run TV ads like this.
(VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
HAYES: It goes on from there-on and on like that, lots of ominous music and lots of staggering unemployment headlines from Nevada. On the surface, what’s about to happen in November is sort of obvious, right? I mean, just look at the unemployment numbers in the country right now and you can make all of the Republican landslide predictions that you want.
But if you actually scratch the surface, it’s a fascinating moment in American politics. Here’s why: over the past decade or so, this country has gone through such a series of failures that there’s now this serial discontent with whoever happens to be in power. The last two elections, 2006 and 2008, have essentially been elections of discontent. They’ve been elections of frustration, and the party in power has paid. And this election, 2010, will be the third consecutive election like that.
Democrats now inherit that discontent and the Republicans stand to benefit from it. For Republicans, being the challenger is unifying, necessarily. It’s easier to keep together a coalition when you’re in the opposition. That was certainly true of the center-left during the Bush years. Everybody was more or less pulling in the same direction. And now, that’s happening in a similar fashion on the center-right.
Earlier this week, Sam Stein of “The Huffington Post” uncovered this chart that’s been making the rounds in Democratic circles. It shows the staggering amount of money that center-right groups are prepared to spend on the midterm elections: more than $200 million for Republican candidates. Conservative groups are mobilized in a big way right now.
And as much as Democrats might want to believe that the rise of the tea party might help fracture the right and siphon votes towards Democrats, as Dave Weigel notes at Slate.com today, the evidence doesn’t quite bear that out. The tea party is much more aligned with the Republican Party than Democrats would like to believe. In a lot of ways, what’s happening on the center right amongst conservatives and Republicans right now at this moment is an exact echo of what was happening on the center-left during the Bush years. It’s all these outside groups prepared to spend unprecedented amounts of money to get their candidates elected. It’s a mature and savvy grassroots focused on pragmatic victories, willing to bite their tongues in some cases in order to win back the majority.
And what conservatives are adopting what’s worked for-are adopting what has worked for the center-left in recent years: coordination, activated grassroots, big, independent expenditures, and a simple message that amounted largely to a referendum on the party in power based on people’s discontent.
OK. So, now, it’s your move, progressives. It’s your move, Democratic Party. It’s your move, Barack Obama.
The progressive infrastructure that swept Democrats into power came together under conditions of opposition. And it now faces the first election which its own tactics are pointed against it. So, the question right now for the left is: what does that infrastructure do in its first time defending incumbency?
Joining us now is the former Democratic governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine. He’s now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Chairman Kaine, thank you so much for joining us at 9:00 on a Friday night. We really appreciate it.
TIM KAINE, DNC CHAIRMAN: You bet, Chris. Glad to be with you.
HAYES: So, as Democrats learned during the last two elections, it’s a lot easier to be the party in opposition, particularly when times are bad. And I’m wondering how you see this progressive infrastructure that was built up during those elections? How is that going to be mobilized over the next few months?
KAINE: Well, Chris, you do have a good point. I mean, it is-I learned early as a city councilman that it’s often easier to organize around the no than a yes. But here’s what we have going for us. We do have a battle-tested coalition of voters who turned out heavily to change the direction of this nation in 2008 and at the DNC, what we focused on especially is continuing that coalition through Organizing for America, a grassroots effort of community organizers and volunteers around the United States that were activated around the stimulus, and also around health care and now, we are turning that coalition to the midterms.
In addition, there are a lot of allied groups as you know where we are working in tandem with them as well. It’s going to be tough. Midterms are always tough for parties in power, but the Republicans are showing their hand. They are adopting a game plan that is basically bringing back the architects of the lost decade-Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and others-and Americans, they might not be happy yet, but they don’t want to go backward, and I think we’re going to have a very easy time pointing out that’s where the Republicans will take us.
HAYES: OK. So, there’s some sort of organizing aspect of this, or some message aspect of this. As I mentioned before, conservative groups are also-there’s a money aspect, right? Conservative groups are poised to spend more than $200 million during this election cycle. How concerned are you about the prospect of Democrats just getting spent out of the water here?
KAINE: Well, we definitely are concerned about the dollars that are coming in. Look, the Republicans are apologizing to BP for a reason and so that they can go and get money from oil companies. They’re going into the closet with Wall Street lobbyists for a reason, plotting to vote against Wall Street reform so that they can get money. And so, we have to be very concerned about that.
But the DNC, on our side, we’re raising historic amounts, vastly more than, for example, we raised in 2006. We probably raised 40 percent to 50 percent more this year than we raised in 2006 when we were that energetic offense trying to take back the Senate. We’re raising it all from individuals. We don’t take PAC and lobbyist money so that we can tell our supporters that it’s not the big guys and the special interests that are buying up the seats at the table.
HAYES: Well, but, let me-
KAINE: The money concern is one that we have, but look, we’re going to have the resources to be successful.
HAYES: Let me just follow up on that, because, I mean, individuals
there are individuals and there are individuals, right? I mean, the fact of the matter is, a party in power is raising money partly on what it’s doing legislatively, and there are-there are people that are donating to the Democratic Party-
HAYES: – because they’re the party in power, right? I mean, I just want to be clear-even without PAC money, it’s possible that special interest money is coming into the Democratic Party.
KAINE: Well, again, we’re not taking PAC money and we’re not taking lobbyist money. You know, you can’t necessarily tell why anybody gives, but we do this. We turn away checks from PACs and we turn away checks from federal lobbyists. That’s new for the DNC, and the fact that we’ve done that because the Obama campaign did it and we want to be able to look our donors in the face and say, hey, you’re an individual. There’s room for you at the table.
Where we’ve seen the greatest increase in our donations has been in low dollar donors giving over the Internet, hundreds of thousands of them giving for the first time, and they are not just donors. They’re going to be energetic supporters of our candidates come November.
HAYES: There’s an interesting silver lining here for Democrats, and that’s that no matter how discontented people are with the economic situation of the country, there is not a whole lot of faith from Republicans right now either. And it’s actually a sort of fascinating zero-trust atmosphere that I think is permeating the country.
HAYES: You know, it really is-and I wonder how you-how do you operate politically?
KAINE: Yes, well, Chris, that’s a funny way of putting it and I’m chuckling. You’re describing-you’re describing my life as I travel around the United States.
It is a very-a very unusual political environment. I’ve just done a three-day swing in California, Idaho, and Wyoming. It is a tough political environment. People are hurting and when they’re hurting economically, they’re going to have all kinds of questions and they’re going to have discontent.
However, elections still are choices. And we think that the choice between the party, the Democrats that are doing heavy-lifting. I mean, look, we had a shrinking GDP when President Obama came into office. It’s growing. We were losing jobs a month. We’re gaining. We’ve gained private sector jobs in each of the last six months.
We are climbing a ladder that we built with no help from the other side and the right answer for America is to keep climbing, not to go back in the ditch, and by bringing back the Karl Roves and others who are the architects of the lost decade, the Republicans are demonstrating that they’ll take us right back to that time that cost Americans jobs by the millions, that wiped out private savings of folks, that wiped out home equity.
Americans-again-they may have concerns, but they don’t want to go backward and that’s what this election is about.
HAYES: Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee-thank you so much for your time tonight.
KAINE: You bet, Chris. Thanks so much.
HAYES: You’re welcome.
Still ahead, if Senator David Vitter’s predilection for hookers didn’t give the Louisiana Republican enough of a woman problem, what he’s got now is much, much worse. I’ll explain, next.
And later: Rachel in Afghanistan, finding out how the troops there feel about the dismissal of General McChrystal.
Stay with us.
HAYES: Can a person be convicted of stabbing his girlfriend and still have a job as a U.S. senator? You can if that senator is David Vitter.
HAYES: Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana is running for
re-election this year. Without any primary challengers, he was going to
sail through to the general election in November. The deadline for qualification in the Republican primary was today. It seemed as though Mr. Vitter was in the clear, but then, when the secretary of state’s office opened its doors this morning, 16 people qualified to challenge David Vitter, 16. That’s a baker’s dozen plus three.
They include a prominent political figure and a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice, Chet Traylor, and an orthopedic surgeon who has run for public office twice before.
So, why? Why would 16 different Republicans think they have a chance against the incumbent senator like David Vitter? Why would they decide to launch a campaign now?
Well, if you know one thing about Senator David Vitter and his career in public service over the last couple years, it’s that he has a hooker problem. Senator Vitter ran for office as a family values guy and called on President Clinton to resign for his indiscretion.
And then he admitted to being a client of the D.C. madame.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DAVID VITTER ®, LOUISIANA: I am completely responsible and I’m so very, very sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Classy to bring your wife there, dude.
Senator Vitter did not resign. He stayed in office but that does not explain why so many Republican challengers came out of the woodwork today to run against him. So why now?
Well, perhaps it’s because David Vitter is no longer just the senator with the hooker problem. Senator Vitter now has a much bigger and more serious women problem-a really, really big women problem.
And here’s why: senators have a lot of people working for them, office aides and staffers, people who are experts on certain issues, who can assist their bosses on legislation and policy.
One of Mr. Vitter’s long-time aides, a guy named Brent Furor, has had a string of legal problems, reportedly including a number of drunk driving convictions. Now, that’s awkward since the senator has publicly advocated on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. After one such conviction, Senator Vitter’s regional director in Louisiana personally oversaw Mr. Furor’s court-ordered community service.
Then things got worse. In 2008, Mr. Furor attacked his ex-girlfriend at his apartment. According to the police report, quote, “The complainant and the suspect became involved in a verbal dispute about the different telephone numbers inside her cellular phone. He threw the cable box into the glass table smashing it to pieces.”
Then Mr. Furor refused to allow his 27-year-old ex-girlfriend to leave and when she tried to walk out, he pushed her to the floor. She screamed. He covered her mouth with his hand. She tried to call the police. He broke her phone.
Again, reading from the police report, quote, “The suspect grabbed a
knife from the knife stand and stabbed her in the left hand. The suspect
grabbed an unknown object and placed it underneath the left part of her
neck. The suspect asked the complainant, ‘Do you want to die?’ The
complainant replies and she stated, ‘No, I don’t want to die.’”
The object? Presumably the knife, that Senator Vitter’s aide held to the throat of his ex-girlfriend cut her chin. She needed eight stitches.
Now, unlike so many others, this domestic violence incident was actually reported to the police and Mr. Furor pled guilty to three charges.
So, how did Mr. Furor’s boss, a United States senator, deal with this serious offense? What happened to Mr. Furor’s career as an employee in Senator David Vitter’s office?
I’ll tell you what happened. He was assigned to cover women’s issues in the senator’s office. No, really, women’s issues. This week, for the first time in weeks, Vitter appeared in public and was forced to answer questions about his newest women’s problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) your women’s affairs aide, the media thinks the women’s affairs aide (INAUDIBLE)
VITTER: That is absolutely incorrect.
REPORTER: He just resigned and you let him stay on staff since the events happened in 2008.
VITTER: Well, the event was two years ago. The discipline in my office was two years ago.
REPORTER: What kind of discipline?
VITTER: Hhe handled issues including abortion issues, including several other issues, but not women’s affairs.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HAYES: Hey, you catch that? He handled abortion issues but not other women’s issues.
So, in addition to being totally offensive, the statement is also an untrue statement. “Talking Points Memo” dug up this official congressional guidebook from the 111th Congress, that’s this Congress which convened after Mr. Furor assaulted his ex-girlfriend.
So, if you want to discuss women’s issues with someone in Senator David Vitter’s office, it was Brent Furor you would talk to.
Think about this. If Brent Furor had stabbed someone on the steps of the Capitol or in a bar, would he have been let back on Vitter’s staff?
It’s really hard to think he would have been. Like I said, Senator Vitter
huge women problems.
Joining us now is Terry O’Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women and a long time Louisiana resident.
Terry, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
TERRY O’NEILL, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: Thank you for having me.
HAYES: You are a law professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, an amazing town. You did some work for the Louisiana chapter of NOW.
As a Louisianan, do you think Senator Vitter has a women problem?
O’NEILL: I think he has a terrible women problem. I think he doesn’t belong in the United States Senate. And my organization, the National Organization for Women, has called for the Senate to censure him and expel him.
HAYES: Now, Senator Vitter is defending himself now by saying, look, this is sort of an old issue. It was two years ago and this is water under the bridge. We have to move on.
And I take it that you don’t agree. But why not? Why is this relevant now?
O’NEILL: This is-it’s rank hypocrisy for him to say that it’s two years old. He got rid of this guy only when ABC News reported the fact that Mr. Furor was still on his payroll. So, it’s very much a present issue. He has had this man on his payroll for years, knowing apparently David-Senator Vitter knew that Mr. Furor had committed this crime and knowing that he keeps him on his payroll and has him working on women’s issues. This is very current. It’s not two years old.
HAYES: You know, having people close to me that work in domestic violence and reading the incident report, I’m just struck by how much this is a classic, textbook case of a domestic abuser-all of the behavior, the phone incident, the controlling not letting her leave. You know, what action-this is someone who clearly has a problem I think-what action should the senator have taken when this was brought to the office’s attention?
O’NEILL: Well, the first thing that should have happened is the man should not be working in the senator’s office and being paid with taxpayer dollars. As a survivor of domestic violence myself, I can tell you it is in fact a completely classic incident of domestic violence.
And whatever the man may feel that he did something wrong, perhaps he is sorry he did it, that’s fine. That doesn’t give him a right to work in a United States Senate office on women’s issues. He needs to be separated from that job. He should not be representing the public.
HAYES: I want you to address the thought experiment, the end of the intro there. I mean, do you think that this is a case in which had it been him stabbing someone in a bar or stabbing someone on the Capitol, that this would have been handled in a more serious fashion? I mean, does this represent a sort of un-seriousness toward domestic abuse?
O’NEILL: You know, it’s really a problem. Domestic abuse is not taken as seriously as it needs to be. There are many states including, for example, New York, where choking is not even a felony. Choking can cause death. If you murder someone by choking, that would be a felony, but just choking is not. We need to have better laws to protect women against domestic violence.
But even more importantly, Senator Vitter’s protection of the man in this case shows such a disdain for the women of Louisiana and such distain really for the women of the entire country and that is why we have called for him to be expelled from the Senate.
HAYES: OK. Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization of Women-thank you so much for joining me.
O’NEILL: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Coming up: when rich corporations default on loans, the attitude is: that’s just business. But when lower and middle-class Americans default on a home loan during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, call out the dogs. This will not stand.
That’s next. Stick around.
Let’s try that again. I’m Chris Hayes. I’m filling in for Rachel Maddow.
Now, why you might be asking did I start the segment wearing a snorkeling mask? And I’m glad you ask, because I’m wearing it to make a point about one in four homeowners in America are currently underwater on their mortgages.
What does underwater mean? That means they owe the bank more than their home is worth. Now, think about that for a second. If your home is worth $350,000 and you owe the bank $400,000, the rational, money-saving thing to do is simply stop paying your mortgage. Why break your back to hand the bank $50,000 when you can just cut your losses and move? Deciding to do that, to intentionally walk away from an underwater mortgage, is called, in the mortgage business, “strategic default.”
Today, “The New York Times” had a fascinating article about just who it is that seems to be doing the strategic defaulting. From the data we have, it appears that affluent homeowners are the ones most likely to pursue this strategy.
Quote, “More than one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of a million dollars are seriously delinquent, according to data compiled to ‘The New York Times’ by the real estate analytics firm CoreLogic. About one in 12 mortgages below the million-dollar mark is delinquent.”
OK. But at the same time that rich people are making use of the impeccable economic logic of strategic default, the federal government has decided it should be off-limits for everyone else.
Here’s Alan Grayson, congressman from Florida, speaking to secretary of housing and urban development, Shaun Donovan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: Do you think that people should continue to pay their mortgages or should they just move across the street and start over again?
SECY. SHAUN DONOVAN, DEPT. OF HOUSING & URBAN DEVELOPMENT: I-I
believe that we have a system that depends on consumers paying their mortgages and I would not, here or elsewhere, recommend to people that they not pay their mortgages.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Now, that’s pretty mild condemnation, but you might want to look at the full fledged campaign being waged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac against strategic defaulters. Those big government-backed mortgage lenders have decided to go after people they believe have intentionally stopped paying their mortgages to get them to pay up.
It’s unclear exactly how they can tell who has intentionally defaulted unless they’ve purchased very good mind-reading software. Nevertheless, they have announced they are going to, quote, “take legal action to recoup the outstanding mortgage debt from borrowers who strategically default.”
The announcement goes on to say, “Terence Edwards, executive vice
president for credit portfolio management said, quote, ‘Walking away from a
mortgage is bad for borrowers and bad for communities and our approach is
meant to deter the disturbing trend toward strategic defaulting.’”
House Republicans even managed to put an amendment into the recent bill reforming the Federal Housing Authority that would forever ban strategic defaulters from FHA-insured loans in the future.Now, this is really important. Keep this in mind. FHA loans are generally in low income neighborhoods, and Fannie and Freddie cannot hold mortgages over $729,000. What does that mean?
It means the whole campaign to brow beat drowning homeowners isn’t targeted at the wealthy folks that “The Times” reported on. The same people “The Times” suggests are most likely to make use of it. No.
Instead, we now have a moral landscape in which the wealthy can, guilt-free, walk away from their mortgages and buy a new, cheaper home, while the U.S. government wages a propaganda campaign to shame middle-class and working class homeowners into doing the irrational thing, the thing that will make their personal balance sheets worse.
When companies default on loans or rip up pension agreements during bankruptcy restructuring, we are told that any moralistic chiding is sentimental rubbish. This is the market at work. They are profit-maximizing entities responding to incentives.
But as soon as some bus driver or accountant or waitress decides it doesn’t make sense to hand over thousands of dollars to their bankers for no reason, well, heavens to Betsy. Call in the virtue police.
I remember from childhood here in New York, the old Leona Helmsley line, “Taxes are for little people.” Well, apparently so are contracts.
HAYES: Tonight, we’re hearing from the former transit police officer who shot and killed an unarmed African-American man in 2009 and who just yesterday avoided a guilty verdict on the most serious charge against him. Johannes Mehserle was found guilty yesterday of involuntary manslaughter instead of the more serious charge of second-degree murder for shooting 22-year-old Oscar Grant in the back on a train platform in Oakland, California, last year.
Mehserle’s lawyer released a statement today handwritten by Mehserle himself which read in part, quote, “I have and will continue to live every day of my life knowing that Mr. Grant should not have been shot. It saddens me knowing that my actions cost Mr. Grant his life.”
Mehserle has said he didn’t mean to shoot Oscar Grant. He testified in court that he thought he had reached for and was firing his taser and not his sidearm.
Of course, much of the incident was caught on camera by onlookers at the train station. That’s the video you’re seeing here. Transit police had at this point detained Oscar Grant and four others in the platform after responding to reports of a fight on the train.
At the moment when Johannes Mehserle pulls his gun out of its holster, stands up, and shoots Oscar Grant in the back, Grant was lying face down on the ground with another officer’s knee pressed against his neck.
Needless to say, especially given the existence of that video, a lot of people are outraged with a conviction of involuntary manslaughter and not murder.
Police in Oakland made around 80 arrests in the protests that followed the announcement of the verdict, but fears of violence and rioting were the exception to the mostly peaceful demonstrations. Speaking outside the courtroom just after the verdict was handed down, Oscar Grant’s uncle enunciated the much larger problem that his nephew’s shooting death is a very small but tragic part of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNETH JOHNSON, OSCAR GRANT’S UNCLE: This wasn’t just Oscar Grant’s murder. This is for all the murders that they committed on young black men for a long time. So they won’t-they don’t want to change what’s been going on, what they’ve been doing. They haven’t changed a thing.
So, all we can do is hope that the next family, or should I say, the next black family that goes through this has enough strength like my little sister, like my brother, to fight it all the way to the end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The big problem here is the relationship between police and African-Americans, particularly young African-American men in this country. Even if you’re just looking at the oscar grant shooting in isolation and even if you believe Johannes Mehserle’s defense that he thought he was pulling out his taser instead of his gun, just look at what happened before the shooting. Look at this scene. Look at what this confrontation was like even before it became a deadly shooting.
The fact is, for every incident like this, there are thousands and tens of thousands of incidents that look just like it, except for the shooting at the end-in other words, not tragic but still humiliating and acrimonious. If you’re not a young black or Latino man in this country, the odds are, this just doesn’t happen to you.
Aside from being an example of injustice in pure form, someone being killed for nothing, what happened to Oscar Grant was an example of the cost of the routinization police confrontations with communities of color in this country.
A 2007 investigation of fatal police shootings in the country’s 10 largest cities conducted by Color Lines and the Chicago reporter found African-Americans were over represented among police shooting victims in every city they investigated. A 2007 study by the nonprofit Rand Corporation found that African-Americans and Hispanics in New York City were more likely to be frisked, searched or arrested than whites.
A study released earlier this year found that race even plays a role in mistaken identity police-on-police shootings with officers of color increasingly the ones being killed by other officers who mistake them for criminals.
Joining us now is Jakada Imani, executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.
Jakada, thanks so much for being here. I really appreciate it.
JAKADA IMANI, ELLA BAKER CENTER EXEC. DIR.: Thanks so much for having me here.
HAYES: The Justice Department announced today that its civil rights division will review the Oscar Grant shooting. I’m wondering what you make of that, what in practical terms that means for this case.
IMANI: It means there’s still hope of justice, you know? In California, we’re used to seeing these kinds of cases. All around the country where, you know, D.A.s and police officers who traditionally work very close together, D.A.s have a very difficult time getting convictions on cops so we sadly know these kinds of things happen and it’s the federal government that can stand up for Americans regardless of race, color, or creed, and demand justice.
And so, we are-we conduct a very important step. In fact, on our Web site, at the EllaBakerCenter.org, there’s a place where your viewers or anybody can go and e-mail the attorney general’s office and tell them to stand with Oscar Grant’s family and to stand with all the victims of police brutality around the country.
HAYES: It’s interesting you bring up the sort of difficulty of convictions. We were looking through this data yesterday. Los Angeles prosecutors have not won a murder conviction against a police officer since 1983.
Do you-I guess I ask-do you think these are prosecuted in good faith and they are difficult to convict because of the juries? Or are you saying the convictions aren’t pursued with the same kind of zeal and vigor as other prosecutions?
IMANI: Yes. It’s a very complicated issue. I think there are a number of factors.
One is, jurors are really hesitant to believe that people who are hired to protect and serve our communities would use their authority under the color of law to abuse every day other citizens. Such to the fact that in this case, in the case of Oscar Grant, where, you know, there’s dozens and dozens of witnesses, video from four different angles, you know, if any other incident on any corner in America you saw a man shoot another man who’s laying on the ground in the back, you would charge that as murder and that person would be convicted and spend a long time in prison.
But jurors disbelieve their own eyes because that man wore a blue uniform, was a white officer, shooting a black man. And so, therefore the trial became as much about Johannes Mehserle’s action as the life Oscar Grant had lived up until now, what grades did he get in the sixth grade, what kind of father was he-as opposed to the actions that led to this innocent man losing his life on that BART platform.
HAYES: I want to talk about the actions that led up even before the shooting because to me, in some ways, it sort of captures so much of what’s fraught about the relationships between communities of color and police officers.
HAYES: What do you make of that scene? Because that scene to me, I’ve seen that scene a lot and it was very confrontational and very aggressive, and I think that people don’t necessarily have a sense of what it’s like to be on the other side of that if they haven’t been in that position. How typical was that scene from the experience you’ve had in Oakland and the people you work with for the Ella Baker Center?
IMANI: Well, sadly that scene is so typical in the experience of young men of color and throughout this country. That, you know, police officers arrive on the scene and they’re escalating instantly, right? They’re yelling at you to get down on the ground, to move away. They’re putting their hands on their guns or their tasers, they’re rushing up and putting their hands on you instantly-oftentimes before you have any idea who they are or what they want.
What was remarkable about this case was how many witnesses were there.
IMANI: What was remarkable was how instantly it was on the Internet because folks had cell phones there and were able to record it. What was remarkable about the case was the officer was actually charged with murder. You know-yes, please.
HAYES: Yes, you mentioned the tasers and I just-since we have a little bit of time, I want to ask you about that because, obviously, that was the nature of the defense, but I can’t help but think why-why are we equipping police officers with tasers and guns that look at all alike, first of all. And, second of all, we have seen an epidemic of a lot of questionably justified tasing.
HAYES: And I wonder if that’s an issue you’re seeing as well and what you make of that?
IMANI: Well, we’re concerned that even the idea that a man laying on his stomach-
IMANI: – I mean on his back, excuse me, with two officers on him, somehow that it was reasonable to pull out a taser.
What we were told when tasers came into use was that these are less than lethal weapons and they’re going to mean that there’s less confrontation. And what we’ve seen, I think what the data shows is that police are now quick to tase and ask questions later.
The U.N. came out in 2007 and said, these are actually weapons of torture that can kill. And police departments are still using them as this idea of less than lethal and we think they’re sometimes lethal.
But it’s-we have too many toys and too many weapons and not enough reason, not enough logic. Not enough de-escalation in talking to people and actually solving problems.
IMANI: And we think that’s a huge problem.
HAYES: Yes, absolutely.
And I hope that we can revisit the taser issue perhaps with you again, because I think it’s an important story.
Jakada Imani, executive director of the Ella Baker Center-thank you so much for joining us.
IMANI: Thanks for covering this, Chris. Thank you for covering this.
HAYES: Coming up: A 2010 Republican campaign video guaranteed to appeal to young voters in 1985. Word to your mother. Stick around.
HAYES: This Sunday, Spain takes on the Netherlands in the final match of World Cup soccer. But I got to be honest with you, there’s really sort of no point in watching the game. We already know who’s going to win.
We found out at about 6:00 Eastern Time this morning when Paul the octopus used his pretty natural powers of clairvoyance to pick the winner from inside his tank at a German aquarium. As he has throughout the World Cup, the psychic cephalopod-thank you for writing that in, fine producers-had a choice of two boxes, each with a tasty mussel inside, each decorated with a flag of one of the competing teams. So far, he’s been right in every match he’s predicted in this World Cup.
And this morning, Paul chose the mussel from-drum roll-the Spanish box. It was broadcast live on television in three countries. So now, Paul is a hero in Spain.
But, you know, nobody talks about the little mussels that gave their lives for this story. Let’s all take a moment.
HAYES: Earlier, I talked about Republicans gaining ground in this fall’s elections. In order to accomplish that, they will have to reach younger voters who may have switched to the Democrats in 2008. Savvy campaign advertising targeted at first-time voters will be key.
Our own Kent Jones found a Republican candidate in Florida with a very unique approach to reaching the young people.
KENT JONES, JUST ENOUGH: Hi, Chris.
That candidate is Congressman Mike Weinstein of the 19th district of Florida. Now, Weinstein commissioned his own son Scott to write and produce and choreograph and star in this funky, funky fresh video.
And just so we’re not confused here, this spot is for him. This is for him. For real.
HAYES: This is not an attack ad.
JONES: This is for him. Go ahead.
(VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
JONES: State Rep. Mike Weinstein and the video of the year, I think, right?
HAYES: That was the funkiest thing I’ve seen in a long time.
JONES: Mike, Mike, Mike Weinstein.
HAYES: I want to thank you for bringing such funkiness.
JONES: Powerful. Powerful.
HAYES: Thanks, Kent.
HAYES: Coming up: More from Rachel’s amazing week in Afghanistan.
Stay with us.
HAYES: Rachel’s now back on U.S. soil after her very first trip to Afghanistan, where among other things, she got a tour of the capital city, Kabul, and a chance to ask the head of the Southern Command, who is spearheading the current counterinsurgency offensive, exactly how troops on the ground feel about the abrupt change at the top of the U.S. military command in Afghanistan.
RACHEL MADDOW, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” HOST: Do you have a sense of how people feel about General Petraeus coming back, General McChrystal leaving?
BRIG. GEN. BEN HODGES, REGIONAL COMMAND SOUTH: There’s three parts to that. First, General McChrystal was somebody, he and his wife, thousands of people in the Army have known for a long time and, you know, not only personally admire him, but have professional respect for him as a professional soldier. Nobody sacrificed more than him-certainly he and his wife, over these last several years.
I thought the way the president very appropriately acknowledged that when he made his announcement was appreciated. I certainly appreciated it. It’s sad to see what happened to General McChrystal.
But that’s done. Soldiers are not sitting around wringing their hands. They’re very busy.
MADDOW: I know this is a difficult question, but if over the next year, it doesn’t essentially work to establish better government in Kandahar, if the police efforts, the policing efforts, security efforts, don’t combine to create enough space for Afghan government to step up in a way that is working, I don’t get the sense that there’s a plan B. Is there a plan B? Is plan B just more time?
HODGES: There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be successful if the Afghans do their part. I mean, we have-I’ve never met an officer that didn’t want more capability, so I would never turn away more engineers or more military police. But we have enough to do what we have got to do in Kandahar, assuming that the Afghans step up and do their part.
MADDOW: If they don’t?
HODGES: Well, we will have-we will have given them the best chance they’ve ever had.
MADDOW: So, we’re in the neighborhood now called (INAUDIBLE).
Talking about the distribution of wealth in Kabul and the effect of-
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: There is no distribution of wealth. There is where it is distributed. This is where it ends up. All of the money from contracts and association with the government and association with the U.S. military has ended up here.
ENGEL: Because this was originally, you can see there’s no real pavement or anything like that-this was originally just empty land.
And when the Americans came in with the northern alliance-the northern alliance, which was the allies against the Taliban, took this land and then gave it away to all their cronies.
MADDOW: Oh, OK. So, they created-
ENGEL: They created-
MADDOW: – a new war wealth neighborhood out of nothing.
MADDOW: And so, we still got open sewers and we still got no pavement, but we have rococo-
MADDOW: – nouveau riche castles.
ENGEL: That lease for $10,000 to $25,000 a month, because it’s a safe area.
But here’s the irony: Most of the government officials-and these are almost all owned by government officials-don’t live in them. They rent them out to foreign companies, contractors, and they live in Dubai or have their families in Islamabad. So, they are purely investment property.
I think this neighborhood is actually very symbolic of a lot of the problems with this entire war, frankly. And here, next to an incredibly big house is an open garbage pile, because no one cares about the common space. Nobody-it’s not anybody’s problem.
MADDOW: This corner is like the microcosm of the war-this and this.
ENGEL: And these kids.
MADDOW: And us, too, because we’re here as Americans covering this because of the American initiative here that created the economy that made this all possible.
We are here on chicken street as you can-or approaching chicken street. The chicken street district.
MADDOW: Chicken-I suited up again. Everybody always says this is where the tourists come.
I’ve never had the opportunity to buy a carpet with guns on it before. And I’m not sure when I’ll have it again. I mean, unless I hang out with you.
ENGEL: All right.
MADDOW: They come up all the time.
ENGEL: I have $20.
MADDOW: All right. Good. This is $20 as well. Same as this. My mom’s going to be really excited.
Thank you, sir. Thank you very much. Good luck. Thank you.
ENGEL: Have a nice day.
MADDOW: You don’t have a gun carpet?
ENGEL: I don’t have a gun carpet. You know what? $25, I’ll give you for that gun carpet right now.
MADDOW: I’m asking you five questions about it. You’re still ready to leave. You still can’t even grasp the fact that I would want to buy it.
ENGEL: I-I was shocked. I’m shocked. I have never seen anyone buy one of those.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK?
MADDOW: Yes. This here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one. OK. Like this.
MADDOW: Like this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Perfect.
MADDOW: They’re new.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You picked that.
MADDOW: This is you-took the safety off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It’s ready.
MADDOW: I think I’m a bad shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good.
MADDOW: I do OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not me.
MADDOW: Thank you. Did I hit you with a country –
MADDOW: Very sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
HAYES: Much more from Rachel’s trip to Afghanistan when she returns next week.
And this programming note, Rachel will be a guest on “Meet the Press” this Sunday. Check your local listings, if they still exist. You should probably just google it.
That does it for us tonight. I’m Chris Hayes, in Rachel. She’ll be back Monday.
You could read more of my work at TheNation.com. Follow me on Twitter, username: ChrisLHayes.
Have a great weekend. Thank you so much for watching and good night.
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Copyright 2010 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>