April 22, 2014
Guests: Horace Cooper, Rick Tyler, Dana Milbank
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: The Supreme Court strikes again.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Joy Reid in New York, filling in for Chris Matthews.
Leading off tonight, the Supreme Court`s blow to Affirmative Action. In a
case that could have implications for other states around the country, the
court sided today with the state of Michigan, whose voters amended their
constitution in 2006 to ban affirmative action. A lower court of appeals
had overturned the state`s action, saying the majority could not place
unique burdens on minorities.
But today, in a 6-to-2 decision, with Justice Elena recusing herself, the
Supreme Court disagreed. While not taking a position on the
constitutionality of affirmative action itself, the court said states have
a right to vote on whether or not to ban it.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority, quote, "There is no
authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this court`s
precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this
policy determination to the voters. Deliberative debate on sensitive
issues such as racial preferences all too often may shade into rancor, but
that does not justify removing certain court-determined issues from the
voters` reach. Democracy does not presume that some subjects are either
too divisive or too profound for public debate."
In other words, the majority of the citizens of Michigan should be able to
decide whether or not affirmative action is right for their state. In
addition to Michigan, seven other states ban affirmative action, including
California and Florida. Today`s ruling could embolden more states to do
And for more on this heated case, I`m joined by Eugene Robinson, a
columnist for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst, and
Horace Cooper, co-chairman of Project 21, the National Leadership Network
of Black Conservatives.
And Horace, I actually want to start with you on this decision. Why should
a majority in a state, who presumably are not minorities, be able to
decide, You know what? We no longer want to assist racial minorities
who`ve suffered past discrimination. Why should they be able to do that?
HORACE COOPER, PROJECT 21, NAT`L LEADERSHIP NETWORK OF BLACK CONSERVATIVES:
Well, absolutely, the question is the framing problem. It`s not the case
that a decision was made to no longer help minorities. In fact, when the
referendum ultimately passed, there were blacks, browns, whites, a number
of people on both sides of the issue.
And the court makes this clear. We can`t assume for litigation purposes
that a policy is pro-black or pro-white by assuming all parties in that
group support or oppose. In this particular case, a community can decide
that this technique is a divisive one, one that is not effective, and that
they would rather pursue others. And I think that`s what they did.
REID: But Horace, the actual practical impact of that decision was that in
Michigan, minority enrollment, black enrollment specifically, went down by
30 percent. So the practical impact of it was that minorities have less
access to higher education in Michigan. You can`t say to me that you think
the majority of African-Americans in Michigan assented to and affirmed that
COOPER: No, no. I didn`t say that a majority did. But you also can`t say
that the minority of blacks who supported this policy shouldn`t have the
right to participate in the political process and make decisions.
REID: Should they have a right...
REID: If you have 30 percent less enrollment...
COOPER: You shouldn`t be able to say -- you shouldn`t be able to say if
black Americans are 15 percent of the population, that 6 percent of that 15
percent ought to be able to drive all of the public policy. And the court
flatly rejected that, including Justice Breyer.
The truth of the matter is, the policy is looked upon skeptically by a
majority of the population, and as Justice Breyer and the rest of the 6-2
majority made clear, there was no showing that the state of Michigan had
been affirmatively going out of its way to engage in segregation or any
form of discrimination. In fact, they had no plaintiffs that were saying,
I tried to go to this school and I wasn`t let in because of my race.
REID: Let`s go to you, Eugene Robinson. Is that the issue, that you need
to be able to find someone to say that, I myself was not let into school
because of my race? I mean, the majority of people in Southern states
didn`t want to have the Voting Rights Act imposed on them, either, but we
used to have a Supreme Court that looked out for that minority regardless.
EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
exactly. This is essentially a states` rights decision, or that`s the way
the court has framed it. This should be up to the states. Well, states`
rights in the context of race in this country has a very specific meaning.
I remember it from when I was growing up in South Carolina. States` rights
meant, We have the right to continue legal segregation in South Carolina.
Now, that`s not what we`re talking about here in Michigan, but I think,
given Brown versus Board of Education, given the landmark Civil Rights
legislation of the `60s, and frankly, given the long run of American
history, there should be a special burden on states in regard to issues of
And if -- as -- if you saw Affirmative Action, as I do, as a remedy that
helps redress those many hundreds of years of American history, then I
don`t think the ruling is justified. I don`t think the court was justified
in saying Michigan can void that. But obviously, this court disagrees.
REID: Yes, the majority on this court. Well, this case was -- it was
obviously contentious, but it was also personal for some of the members of
the bench. Justice Clarence Thomas has long opposed affirmative action.
In the past, he`s reflected on it personally.
Back in 1982, he told "The New York Times," quote, "I watched the operation
of such affirmative action policies when I was in college, and I watched
the destruction of many kids as a result."
On the other side, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent which
she actually read from the bench today. On the subject of race, she wrote
the sentiment of some of her colleagues was out of touch with reality.
Quote, "Race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that
cannot be discussed any other way and that cannot be wished away. Race
matters to a young man`s view of society when he spends his teenage years
watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he
grew up. Race matters to a young woman`s sense of self when she states her
hometown and then is pressed, No, where are you really from, regardless of
how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters
because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce
that most crippling of thoughts, I do not belong here. In my colleagues`
view, examining the racial -- racial impact of legislation only perpetuates
racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race
matters is regrettable."
And Horace, I`ll go to you because I note that Clarence Thomas made those
observations about the destructive force of African-American from inside of
a college where those students were attending, including at Yale. Horace?
COOPER: Well, my organization actually put forward an amicus brief asking
the court to not only take up this case but to issue a ruling similar to
the one that it did precisely because we`re trying to embark upon what
Martin Luther King said 50 years ago, that we shouldn`t let the race or
skin color or even the chromosomal genotype, the gender of the individual
be the decisive factor on whether they get to go to school.
Segregation as a policy actually sought to use gender and race as the
talisman for whether people got to go to school. It was wrong then, it is
wrong today. But it`s important to understand that the six people on this
court agreed there was no claim that Michigan was engaging in a remedy.
You have to have an identified violation in order for the remedy to be
REID: Horace, I have to...
COOPER: Even Justice Breyer disagreed with that.
REID: Horace, I have to ask you a question. Are you saying that Dr.
Martin Luther King, when he was in Chicago fighting against housing
discrimination, would have assented to the idea of letting Illinois voters
vote on whether or not they preferred to keep housing -- anti-
discrimination laws in housing, or that he would have preferred to let
Mississippi voters vote on whether or not they wanted to have the Voting
COOPER: We can try to pretend to opine about what Justice -- what --
excuse me -- what Dr. Martin Luther King would have done...
REID: You just did!
COOPER: ... or thought. But what he did say -- and we don`t have to opine
about it -- is that one day, people would be looked upon not based on their
color of their skin but on the content of their character. Today`s ruling
moves us closer in that direction because there isn`t any showing in the
state of Michigan that, in fact, this remedy is a response to some past
injustice. No such effort was put on the record. And when you have
jurisdictions that simply say diversity is its own goal, the court said
today clearly that`s something for any community to be able to decide how
they would like to implement diversity...
REID: Let`s let Eugene talk.
ROBINSON: There is a context here. There`s a context here in Michigan.
For well over a decade now, administrators at the University of Michigan,
where I went to school, by the way, have -- have been trying their best to
keep a policy of affirmative action in order to have a diverse campus
because they believe that`s important. They believe that`s important not
only for the education of black students but for the education of all
students. They believe it makes the University of Michigan campus at Ann
Arbor and the other campuses a better environment.
So first Lee Bollinger, now president of Columbia, was president of the
University of Michigan -- he`s the plaintiff in one of the Supreme Court
lawsuits over this issue. Mary Sue Coleman, who then became the president
of the University of Michigan, has followed it up.
This is something the university wants to be able to do and believes is
justified not only on the grounds of what it means for society, but on the
grounds of what it means for their campus and what it means for that
REID: And I`m wondering what message...
COOPER: And my point is...
REID: Quickly, Horace.
COOPER: My point is just simply the court said that that kind of
determination is open for all of society to participate. And it doesn`t
implicate any constitutional concern.
REID: Well, let me -- Horace, let me ask you what message you think is
being sent by the majority on this court. First you had, in a case of
eviscerating the Voting Rights Act, the statement from Justice Roberts
that, essentially, Hey, you know, discrimination is over. That`s the past.
We don`t have to worry about that anymore. And this notion from Justice
Scalia of "racial entitlement."
When you combine that with this judgment, which essentially says the
majority can decide whether or not the minority in its midst can have the
protection of affirmative action law, what is the message being sent,
particularly to African-Americans, to other minorities by this court?
COOPER: OK, that`s been the problem all along, and that`s the reason why
so many of these cases are losing. Instead of following the appropriate
predicates, bringing forward prosecutions for voting rights discrimination,
bringing forth plaintiffs who say, I wasn`t allowed in, we have created the
chimera of the institutional racism. No federal court has ever accepted
that, left, right, middle!
REID: OK, we`re out of time...
COOPER: None of them have ever accepted it!
REID: I want to let Eugene Robinson in. Is the idea of racial
discrimination a shimera (sic) -- or kymeera (sic), depending on how you
ROBINSON: I don`t think it`s a chimera or a chimera, Joy!
ROBINSON: You know, it`s very real. And look, find me the academic study,
find me the evidence that racism is gone, that it`s gone, poof, and no
longer plays a factor in American life. I challenge you. I can`t find it.
I can find lots of evidence to the contrary. And as long as we can find
lots of evidence to the contrary, I believe these kinds of remedies are
needed. And I think the federal government has an interest in making sure
that they are -- that they are applied and they are -- they are used to the
extent they ought to be used throughout the country.
REID: All right, well, Eugene Robinson, Chief Justice John Roberts says
it`s over, and it`s over because he says it`s over. So thank goodness.
Racism is done. Horace Cooper...
ROBINSON: I didn`t get the memo.
REID: ... Eugene Robinson, thank you very much for being here, both of
COOPER: Thanks for having me on.
REID: All right, coming up, big developments in the "bridge-gate"
investigation. The New Jersey legislative panel that`s looking into the
scandal has issued four new subpoenas in the case, including to the New
York head of the Port Authority. We`ll have the latest.
Also, the crisis in Ukraine started with Benghazi? The Iranian nuke deal
happened because of "Obama care"? Sounds like Tea Party madness, but these
gems are from establishment Republicans fighting off Tea Party challengers.
Tonight, how the Tea Party may be winning even when they`re losing.
And some of the political ads this season are brutal, some are charming,
some are a little bit of both. Here`s a taste of one from Tea Partier Matt
Bevin, who`s challenging Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitch McConnell is telling a bunch of lies about my
dad. Don`t be fooled.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the cost of cheerleading for
the side that`s already won.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
REID: It`s Earth Day today, but you wouldn`t know it from listening to
Republicans in Congress. According to the League of Conservation Voters,
not one Republican has uttered the words "Earth Day" on the House floor or
the Senate floor since 2010. In contrast, Democrats mentioned Earth Day
150 times in April of 2010.
So who made the Republicans` last stand? It was Tennessee senator Lamar
Alexander, who used the occasion to support, of all things, nuclear energy.
We`ll be right back.
REID: Welcome back. As we told you yesterday, the legislative committee
investigating Chris Christie was readying a new batch of subpoenas in the
Christie bridge scandal. Late this afternoon, they filed -- they pulled
the trigger. The committee has handed down a total of four subpoenas for
testimony, and they include some of the most critical figures in this
investigation. If they comply, the committee will hear their testimony
during two separate hearings on May 6 and another one a week later on the
And here`s who they are -- Pat Foye, the New York appointee to the Port
Authority, Michael Drewniak, Christie`s spokesman, Christina Renna, a
staffer in Christie`s office who served under Bridget Kelly, and Bill
Schuber, a Port Authority Commissioner.
Now, here`s why some of these names are important. Pat Foye appears to be
the only high-level official at the Port Authority who actually sounded the
alarm during the lane closure, and it was his scathing letter to Port
Authority officials about the lane closures which leaked to "The Wall
Street Journal" and which Christie himself read that said the move likely
broke state and federal laws and could have caused deaths because of
And you might remember Michael Drewniak`s name. He was one of the most
colorful people in Christie`s inner circle, and he wasn`t afraid to talk
about payback in vivid ways. For instance, in a message to a colleague, he
called Pat Foye, quote, "a piece of excrement." And when the bridge
scandal exploded, he said this about Christie`s Port Authority appointee,
David Wildstein. Quote, "I could claw his" -- that`s David Wildstein`s --
"eyes out, pour gasoline in the sockets and light him up." And he was
known to hold a grudge or two with the reporters, at one point telling a
colleague that he was upset with a reporter at "The Star Ledger." Quote,
"Expletive him and `The Star Ledger.`"
Then there`s Christina Renna. She`s the high-level staffer who worked in
Bridget Kelly`s office, the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, known as
IGA. It was Renna`s interview with Christie administration lawyers that
provided evidence of Christie`s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, giving
orders to Christie`s team in Trenton to send a message to certain mayors.
This is how the Christie administration lawyers summarized Renna`s
interviews. Quote, "Christina Renna believed Bill Stepien kept track of
mayors who were not in favor with IGA. IGA staff would receive mandatory
directives along the lines of, Do not rush to return this mayor`s phone
call, which was enough to send a message to the local elected official."
A whistleblower, Christie`s top communications guy and Bridget Kelly`s
close colleague -- they are sure to be part -- there`s sure to be plenty of
questions not just about them but what about their boss, Chris Christie,
and how he was running things.
Kendall Coffey is an MSNBC legal analyst and Mark Halperin is an MSNBC
political analyst and co-author of "Double Down."
And I want to start with you, Coffey, Kendall Coffey, because this is a
legislative committee, obviously, but of the four people that I mentioned,
if you`re the U.S. attorney, which of their pieces of testimony, assuming
they comply, would you be most interested in?
KENDALL COFFEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I would actually be interested
in Christina Renna.
I say that because we pretty much know what Foye is going to -- Foye is
going to say. Foye is going to say that he found out about the lane
closings, he was furious, he writes the scathing e-mails. He has an
opinion that federal and state laws are violated. But I think U.S.
attorneys are going to have their own opinion and are not going to need him
to say what the law is.
And I think we can also expect that Drewniak is probably going to be pretty
protective of Chris Christie, notwithstanding his fascinating language at
times, which, of course, is something that paints a picture of a mean
spirit that could be relevant at some date, other dots that are connected.
I think what`s important is Christina Renna. She said some things that I
think I have prosecutors absolutely intrigued. She talked about a bad
mayor list, my words, not him. She talked about 100 towns that Stepien,
the campaign manager, was keeping track of, perhaps based on voting data.
She apparently indicated that there was a role that the campaign had in
certain decisions that were happening in the governor`s office. So, I
think what they would like to do is see not only what more she can tell
them to follow those areas, but see if very aggressive questioning of
Christina Renna could take it even farther than the direction that was
managed by the attorneys appointed by Chris Christie.
REID: And, you know, Mark, just to take it up to the political just a
little bit, because this idea of having these kinds of communications
between the campaign, the Christie reelection campaign, and his office,
even though it doesn`t directly implicate Christie in Bridgegate itself, it
does paint a picture of a campaign operation that certainly was
infiltrating the political, the day-to-day operations of his office.
MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Almost any governor running
for reelection is going to have this kind of interaction. But the rocks
are being turned over and we`re seeing it.
All four of these people are interesting as potential witnesses to that
question of the politicization of the governor`s office and the Port
Authority, a pretty political place. We don`t have any reason to believe
any of these four are targets of the criminal investigation.
We don`t know for sure that they`re going to comply with these subpoenas.
We have not had very much live testimony. What`s interesting about all
four of them -- and I agree with the counselor that Renna is the most
interesting potentially -- is all four of them have nothing to lose in
terms of legal jeopardy, except if they perjure themselves.
HALPERIN: They don`t have any threat that we know of. And so it`s going
to be interesting to see.
If they do testify, if the questions are good, it puts the story in a
different place in terms of political -- politics and also in terms of the
legislative investigation, which is still a threat, not as big as the
criminal, but still a threat to him.
REID: Well, I mean, let`s just tie these two together just a little bit,
because Christina Renna, what makes her very interesting, obviously,
Kendall, is that her boss was Bridget Kelly.
Now, we did have two subpoenas that were attempted to be served to Bill
Stepien, the campaign manager, and Bridget Kelly, both of which were thrown
out by the court. But if your -- if her second in command does comply,
does that in a sense increase the likelihood that maybe Kelly gets
something like let`s say immunity?
And if she were to be immunized by the legislative committee, what would
that do to the criminal investigation?
COFFEY: Well, the legislative committee can only give immunity for limited
purposes, such as their own purposes.
What they can`t do -- they`re a state political body -- is give immunity
that has any applicability to the feds. And that`s the giant gorilla in
the room that everyone is deeply concerned about right now. So if you get
immunity from the legislative committee and their powers or even state
immunity, that`s not what you need right now. You need -- the only
immunity that you deeply care about is from the federal authorities.
And I don`t think they`re anywhere close to making decisions about giving
immunity to David Wildstein, to Bridget Kelly or any other of the key
players. And if, as and when they have an immunity discussion, they`re
going to want those kinds of folks to plead guilty to something.
So, it`s a protracted negotiation to get the only kind of witness immunity
that will truly matter to those witnesses.
REID: But, I mean, Kendall, if you could just put on a defense attorney
hat for me for a second, if you`re Bridget Kelly and your underling is
potentially going to cooperate in this investigation, aren`t you making a
phone call literally every hour trying to go ahead and get that immunity
and make yourself available to testify if necessary against other people?
COFFEY: I`m in touch all the time. I`m trying to work that deal.
Remember, David Wildstein, he was practically in the newspapers begging for
immunity. So, the folks that have the bullseyes painted all over their
backs are deeply reaching out and trying to get it. But the feds are not
in a rush. They want to see how a lot of things play out and they want to
see what exactly is the kind of information that Bridget Kelly is going to
provide that`s of great interest, because they want to go as high up the
ladder of implication and potential exposure as they possibly can.
And, Mark, if we`re just using the words immunity, if we`re just using
about it in this context, really isn`t this just another kind of nail in
the coffin of Christie`s political viability? We`re having a conversation
about top aides getting immunity or not.
HALPERIN: Well, it ain`t great for him politically. I`m willing to say
But, look, we don`t even know if the federal prosecutor has a theory of the
case about what crimes would be. So, that`s in part why we`re so far away
from the immunity, at least as far as we know. What crime did Wildstein
commit? Politically stupid, bad for Governor Christie`s future, as you
HALPERIN: But until we know where someone can be charged, until we know --
see what kind of plea agreements or trials there are, it`s hard to say that
this is politically deadly for Governor Christie.
But it`s not good. And it shows it`s going to go on for a while. My
suspicion is, there is coordination of more than we`re seeing between the
two investigations. And there`s a little bit of a ballet. Why were these
four people chosen to go first? None of these four are going to be good
witnesses for Governor Christie, I suspect.
REID: Yes, not at all, and the ongoing conversation isn`t either.
Mark Halperin, Kendall Coffey, thanks to both of you for being here.
COFFEY: Hey, thank you.
REID: All right.
And up next, Jon Stewart takes on the welfare cowboy and one particularly
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS")
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Yes, I like to call Vladimir.
SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Sure. Of course, yes.
MCCAIN: Doesn`t Vladimir understand that there`s nothing that could do me
more good politically than be sanctioned by Vladimir Putin?
MEYERS: Yes. No. Yes.
MCCAIN: Duh. You know?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Back to HARDBALL and time for the "Sideshow."
That was Seth Meyers with Senator John McCain, who is still clearly
enjoying the honor of being sanctioned by Russia`s Vladimir Putin.
So, last week, Cliven -- cattle rancher Cliven Bundy got a lot of media
attention after confronting federal officials with a band of armed gunmen
in Nevada. Otherwise known as the welfare cowboy, Bundy was illegally
grazing his cattle on federal land in Nevada for 20 years at the taxpayers`
Despite that, he is considered a hero by folks on the right, who apparently
think he should be able to use public land for free.
Take a look at what "The Daily Show"`s Jon Stewart had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": That land is going to stay vacant whether
your cattle are on it or not. Right?
HANNITY: And, by the way, when your cattle graze there, that keeps the
price of meat down for every American consumer.
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Yes, most goods are
cheaper when you steal the raw materials necessarily to make it.
STEWART: In fact, have you seen the prices at Fell Off a Truck Mart?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Now, Bundy has staked his claim to the land on the pretense that his
family has been raising cattle on the property since 1877, before the
Bureau of Land Management existed.
But new reporting shows that the Bundy family purchased the ranch in 1948.
Next up: Conspiracy theorists on the right were hard at work last week
with the news of Chelsea Clinton`s pregnancy. So-called Hillary birthers,
like radio talk show host Steve Malzberg, actually think Chelsea decided to
have a baby to help her mother win the White House in 2016.
While Newsmax reprimanded Malzberg for his claims, it didn`t stop Stephen
Colbert from jumping on the Hillary birther bandwagon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Clearly, folks, Hillary
Clinton has engineered the birth of her first grandchild in a craven
political play to seem endearing.
COLBERT: Not even Barack Obama ever stooped to becoming a grandmother.
COLBERT: It`s so obvious, folks, Bill and Hillary clearly sat down with
their daughter and synched up Chelsea`s ovulation cycle with Hillary`s
COLBERT: There`s no other possible motivation for a couple in their 60s to
want their daughter to give them a grandchild.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
And, finally, here`s one way to show your support for the Second Amendment.
Alabama State Representative Steve Hurst is turning a lot of heads with a
handgun parade float, which he`s been towing around ahead of his July 3
primary. It may sound strange, but the gun is actually a barbecue grill in
the shape of a revolver.
Just be careful where you point that thing, man.
And up next: how the Tea Party is losing all its battles with the GOP
establishment and still may be winning the war.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
President Obama is in Washington State, where he toured the scene of last
month`s deadly landslide. He also met with victims` family members and
first-responders. The president says there`s still a difficult road ahead
and that the government will continue to help.
In South Korea, the death toll in the sunken ferry disaster has risen to
113. About 190 others are missing.
And underwater and aerial searches continue today for missing Malaysia
Airlines Flight 370. A cyclone forced crews to suspend their work
yesterday -- back to HARDBALL.
REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
All across the country, it appears as if the mainstream forces within the
Republican Party are successfully beating back the more radical insurgent
wing of Tea Party. Just look at the map. In Texas, incumbent Senator John
Cornyn trounced Tea Party challenger Steve Stockman in last month`s
Senator Lindsey Graham has a comfortable lead over a crowded field of Tea
Party challengers in South Carolina. According to Republican polling,
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a commanding lead over Tea Party
challenger Matt Bevin in Kentucky.
And establishment candidates also have the early advantage in states like
Georgia and North Carolina.
But if you think the Tea Party is losing, think again. Establishment
Republicans like McConnell, Cornyn, and Graham are doing just about
everything they can to kiss up to the Tea Party base, sometimes
Case in point, Mitch McConnell took the stage at the conservative CPAC
conference last month, holding a shotgun over his head, which he followed
up with a speech chockful of zingers aimed squarely at the hard right, many
of which completely died in the room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The president of the United
States is treating our Constitution worse than a place mat at Denny`s.
I have spent so much time over in the Supreme Court trying to stop these
guys, I`m practically on a first-name basis with the bailiff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That was awkward.
Also last month, Lindsey Graham sounded the Tea Party bugle horn by blaming
Russia`s invasion of Ukraine on Benghazi.
He wrote: "It started with Benghazi. When you kill Americans and nobody
pays a price, you invite this type of aggression."
And John Cornyn fed the Tea Party beast with this epic tweet after the
administration struck a deal to halt Iran`s nuclear program last fall --
quote -- "Amazing what White House will do to distract attention from
He would later tell his constituents, "I think the current administration
has taken lying to a new level."
In each case, it isn`t hard to see what`s happening. While the Tea Party
might lose some primary battles, they`re clearly winning the war for the
soul and direction of the conservative movement and the GOP.
So, just how much further to the right can the Republican Party continue to
bend until at some point something inevitably snaps?
Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer with "The Washington Post" and Rick
Tyler is a Republican strategist.
So, Rick, I`m going to start with you.
Is it the case that having benefited from the energy of the Tea Party, now
in order to survive the Tea Party, Republicans essentially have to become
the Tea Party?
RICK TYLER, FORMER NEWT GINGRICH AIDE: No, I don`t think so.
I think the Tea Party is actually -- it`s -- as you know, it`s not one
thing. I mean, the Tea Party here in Southwest Florida is different than
the Tea Party two counties over. It has loose affiliations with the state.
So -- but I think, overall, the Tea Party has really mostly, in large part,
over the last several years, has assimilated into the Republican Party.
And that is, they have made it more conservative. And they have educated
themselves and they have taken county positions and they have recruited
candidates. And they have gotten good candidates elected. And sometimes,
they win. Sometimes, they lose.
Now, look, with McConnell, Graham and -- and -- and Cornyn, I mean, those
are well-established candidates. You`re not likely to draw credible
candidates against those guys anyway. But I think, overall, the Tea Party
has done phenomenal things for the Republican Party, because we can`t be
like the Democratic Party and expect people will vote for Republicans if
they can just vote for the real thing.
REID: Well, Rick, you make them sound like Rotarians.
The party`s -- the party`s...
REID: ... lurch to the right actually means that the Tea Party candidates
have actually kind of gone off the reservation.
I want to play you three Tea Party candidates. OK? They`re running for
REID: Now, first up is Mitch McConnell`s primary challenger, Matt Bevin,
who found himself standing up for the principle of free speech by defending
Here`s Bevin earlier this month.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MATT BEVIN (R), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I`ve never been to a
cockfight. I don`t condone cockfighting.
But here`s the thing -- I`m not going to disparage people for exercising
their First Amendment rights. What is interesting when you look at
cockfighting and dog-fighting as well -- this isn`t something new. It
wasn`t invented in Kentucky, for example. I mean, the Founding Fathers
were all, many of them very actively involved in this and always has been.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
REID: Now, "Mother Jones" unearthed audio of Greg Brannon, the Tea Party
Senate candidate in North Carolina, sympathizing with 9/11 truthers.
Here`s Brannon fielding a question from a caller on his radio show back in
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CALLER: My purpose is I want to know if he`s a 9/11 truther and then he
can continue on.
GREG BRANNON: I still believe that Lee Hamilton was the one I`m reading,
his stuff, and he`s the one that wants more investigation. He just said
the details are not there. There`s not everything that`s supposed to be in
that commission supposed to be there.
I want everything exposed. Everything.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
REID: And Martin Wolf, the Tea Party challenger in Kansas, loves gun to
truly disturbing levels. Earlier this year, the "Topeka Capital Journal"
dug up some of Wolf`s social media clippings when he was a practicing
radiologist. And one of them included gruesome pictures of a patient with
a comment, "What kind of gun blows somebody`s head completely off? I`ve
got to get one of those." And then when he was confronted with those
posts, Wolf basically defended them.
So, you know, I`d go to you, Jonathan. I mean, is this the standard issue
Republican Party? Or is this what some people use to call sort of Joe the
butcher turns into the GOP?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think it`s the latter there,
Joy. The Republican Party has moved so far to the right. And I pinpoint
that to be whenever Utah had its Republican convention in May of 2010 when
Senator Bob Bennett, a tried and true conservative, no one questioned his
Republican bona fides or his conservative bona fides. He went down in
defeat seeking the nomination to run for a fourth term.
That was a shot across the bow of the Republican Party. And the
establishment of the Republican Party that this Tea Party, that these folks
out there within the party base who are riled up and willing to take them
on could take them out.
And so, that`s why you see not only Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham,
John Cornyn moving even further to the right, you then made it possible for
candidates such as the ones you just showed who actually think it`s
possible for them to run and be a member of Congress. What they`ve said,
what they`ve done in their past isn`t wholly disqualifying. And that
person who put up those Facebook postings there, I would dare say 10 years
ago, even 20 years ago, someone like him wouldn`t even be considered
plausible as someone representing -- running for Congress and certainly
representing the Republican Party.
REID: No, I mean, and Rick, isn`t it true that now in order to survive as
a Republican, you really have to begin to sound like the far right. You
have to be willing to shut the government down. You have to do the
Benghazi conspiracy theories.
If you don`t do it, if you don`t buy the blue plate special on the far
right, you will be primaried, you will be a RINO.
RICK TYLER, FORMER GINGRICH ADVISOR: Look, there are two different views.
And we can debate about Benghazi. We can debate tax cuts. We can debate a
lot of thing.
There`s a debate about the Keystone oil pipeline, which I assume is not
being opened because of Barack Obama responding to the radicals on his
left. You see, we could get three radical leftists --
REID: Do you really believe that the president responds to the left of the
REID: Really? Because I don`t think they think that.
TYLER: Yes, of course he does.
CAPEHART: That`s exactly right, Joy.
TYLER: Well, why isn`t the Keystone pipeline open? I mean, Keystone
pipeline would provide cheap energy, lower prices, that`s the function of
manufacturing and yet he`s not opening it. Even though his own State
Department says there`s nothing wrong with it. And we`ve got tens of
thousands of pipeline all over the place. Yet we can`t have this pipeline
because for some reason, which nobody can identify, because everyone says
REID: Rick, you`re talking a lot about the Keystone pipeline.
TYLER: We can find three other examples.
REID: Rick, you`re talking about the Keystone pipeline. That`s standard
issue sort of Republican fair on tax cuts. Your party is talking about
IRS, Benghazi conspiracy theories about 9/11. That`s not what your party
is by and large talking about.
TYLER: Talking about dog fights conspiracy theories, those comments are
nutty. And I would agree with you they`re nutty. But we can find nutty
comments on the left. They`re not talking about --
REID: Tell me about three, find me three. Name three.
TYLER: Well, I`ll tell you about T.W. Shannon in Oklahoma.
REID: Who`s that?
TYLER: He`s running for U.S. Senate. He`s supported by the Tea Party.
REID: Here in southwest Florida, who will be the next congressman because
he`s also supported by the Tea Party. Mike Lee, Rand Paul. It goes on and
on and on. There are great candidates supported by the Tea Party. You
found three who said nutty things.
So, what? What`s the point?
REID: An entire party that actually shut down the federal government in
order to show how conservative they are. That wasn`t three people.
REID: I`ll give you the last word, Jonathan. Quickly to you, last word,
Jonathan. Is this the future of the Republican Party?
CAPEHART: Look, I`d say, until the Republican Party starts sending people
to Washington who are interested in the lost art of governing, the party is
going to be in a bad way. And that snapping point that you talked about in
your intro, I bet you that snapping point will be election night 2016 when
the entire nation goes to vote and the Republican nominee on the ballot,
that person has the future of the party in its hands on that day.
REID: All right. Indeed.
And, Jonathan Capehart and Rick Tyler, thanks to both of you for being
TYLER: Good to be with you.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Joy.
REID: All right. And up next, why watching political ads this year could
be dangerous to your health.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, two new ads in a pair of high-profile Senate races shows the 2014
Senate campaigns are answering all the buttons to answer critics and set
their candidates apart. The 2014 cycle has been full of standout ads like
these which reflect both the state of the race and the candidates
I`m joined by "Washington Post" columnist Dana Milbank, and "Huffington
Post" Washington bureau chief, Ryan Grim, who`s also an MSNBC contributor.
OK. We`re going to start be you, Ryan. The first ad is from Matt Bevin
who`s challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky
Republican primary. The ad features all nine, yes, all nine of Bevin`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Mitch McConnell is telling a bunch of lies about my
dad. Don`t be fooled.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Matt Bevin`s my dad.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: My dad was an officer in the army.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: My dad loves God.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: And he leads by example.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: He plays with us.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: And he prays with us.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: He loves our mom.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Matt Bevin is my dad. He`d make a great U.S. senator.
And I should know. I`ve known him my whole life.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: My dad`s awesome.
BEVIN: I`m Matt Bevin and I approve this message, and I approve these
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Ryan, that ad is adorable. You also wouldn`t believe that was the
same cockfighting guy.
RYAN GRIM, HUFFINGTON POST: Sure, it is. And it also kind of goes to --
you know, to his evangelical bone fides. There`s a strain of the movement
that really believes in -- Michele Bachmann has had more than 20 foster
children. There`s something about expanding the circle of love in the
family and spreading the word of God that way.
And I think that, you know, this reminds Tea Party voters that he is part
of that Christian evangelical movement.
But, you know, the trouble for him is much deeper than that. Mitch
McConnell has a lot of favors he can call in over decades of experience in
And, you know, Republican primary voters also know that because Democrats
have such a formidable challenger in Lundergan Grimes that if Bevin wins,
very good chance that Republicans would lose in the general, whereas
McConnell has a slight edge over Grimes right now.
So, you know, it`s still a huge climb for him.
REID: Yes, indeed.
All right. Well, the Republican Governors Association just dropped a
brutal ad on the Democratic challenger to Republican Governor Nikki Haley.
It`s so rough it makes you wonder whether Republicans are concerned that
Haley isn`t a slam dunk to win in November.
Here`s part of the ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: It`s a fact. Trial lawyer Vincent Sheheen made money off
criminals, got a sex offender out of jail time, defended a child abuser,
and representing others charged with violent acts, threatening to kill,
punched in the face. Sheheen defended violent criminals who abused women
and went to work setting them free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Dana, this is positively Willie Horton-esque. Why do that with
somebody who`s a virtual unknown?
DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, this isn`t just an attack on the
candidate. It`s an attack on our system of criminal justice where you`re
not seen as -- it`s not seen a character flaw to actually uphold the
justice system by representing the accused.
But, yes, I think it has developed there in South Carolina. There`s an
independent, a former Republican in the race. That Haley`s people are
worried that will split the vote there, potentially giving some more
momentum to the Democrats.
So, yes, it`s a little surprising that the RGA sees the need to assault the
criminal justice system in South Carolina of all places.
REID: Yes, indeed. Let`s go over to Michigan. In that Senate race,
Republican Terri Lynn Land faced criticism from Democrats from comments she
made in 2010 that women prefer work flexibility compared to higher pay. In
ad released today, she took on her critics and her Democratic opponent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRI LYNN LAND (R), MICHIGAN SENATE CANDIDATE: I`m Terri Lynn Land.
Congressman Gary Peters and his buddies want you to believe I`m waging a
war on women. Really? Think about that for a moment.
I`m Terri Lynn Land. And I approve this message because as a woman I might
know a little bit more about women than Gary Peters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: All right. Ryan, your thoughts first, and then Dana.
GRIM: What this shows is that there`s real value in Republicans
successfully recruiting women to run for office. They`ve had a very
difficult time doing it, but this is what they can do if they can actually
pull that off.
REID: All right.
And, Dana, your assessment. Quickly.
MILBANK: There`s no question she has a biological advantage refuting the
war on women charge here. But it`s going to take more for them to defeat
that accusation nationally.
REID: All right. Ryan Grim and Dana Milbank, thanks to both of you.
MILBANK: Thanks, Joy.
GRIM: Thanks to you.
REID: And we`ll be right back.
REID: Let me finish tonight with the Supreme Court and affirmative action.
The Roberts court decided today that states have the right to end
affirmative action if the voters wish to do so. If this court has a
central narrative, it could be that those who have held the advantage for
most of this country`s history deserve to have it back if they could find
the legislative or political means to take it back. If they do, the court
won`t stand in the way.
Whether it`s states that once were blocked from passing restrictive voting
rules by the Voting Rights Act are now free to do so. Or the rich who from
the robber baron era to Watergate were free to spend unlimited sums of
money to buy a candidate or two, or 20. Or states whose voting majorities
have had enough of affirmative action but don`t mind a few legacies getting
a leg up at their family alma mater.
The Roberts court has had moments of siding with the victims of
discrimination. They struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and let the
Affordable Care Act in place. But even those decisions left some people
And the Obamacare decision left millions of Americans vulnerable to a
refusal by their state`s leadership to expand coverage to the poor. And
the courts with conservative majority have a novel means of explaining why
they feel duty-bound to side with the haves and have-mores. Time has
passed they say.
And unless discrimination is violent and obvious, and in-your-face, it`s
gone, passed and over. That`s something only the privileged could believe.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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