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