tv The Last Word MSNBC February 21, 2012 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
best new thing in the world today. it's finally worth something. mr. santorum, we'll renew the offer. if you want the url for yourself, dog pee can't stop our big get tonight is pastor robert jeffress him. >> mitt romney is a good moral person. mormonism is not christianity. it's always been considered a cult by the mainstream of christianity. >> let's see if he agrees with franklin graham. >> are republicans trying to use religion as a political weapon against president obama? >> franklin graham, the evangelist. >> franklin graham was on "morning joe". >> and refused to say president obama is a christian. >> you have to ask him.
>> is this a new low for people to question the president's faith? >> graham said the president has not done enough to protect christian minorties overseas. >> this one has gotten a free pass under obama. >> is this a case of oh no here we go again. >> the same old seed. >> all the crap debunkde-bunct over a period of years. >> this is franklin graham going there as rick santorum did. >> president obama is talking about the economy, rick santorum is talking christian dominionism. >> what was he talking about? >> what in the world were you talking about? >> talking about contraception, talking about theology. >> only theologytheology. >> this is vintage rick santorum. >> unplugged, unfeathered. >> it's more of a suicide pact. >> is this a trap? is he going where mitt romney cannot go?
>> santorum seems to have all the momentum in michigan. >> if mitt romney loses michigan to rick santorum, romney is done. >> it's about as ugly as politics gets. >> if he does not win on tuesday, he is in trouble. >> that won't happen. >> that's not going to happen. >> that's not going to happen. >> win michigan, game over. reverend franklin graham, son of evangelist billy graham likes to talk politics but he's not very good at picking presidents. here he is on this program last april. >> we need god to give us a leader who will take this nation back to the road of integrity and prosperity and we need somebody like a donald trump. >> during that interview last year, i wrestled with reverend graham on the question that came up again today on "morning joe." >> do you believe that president obama is a christian? >> i think you have to ask president obama.
>> so you don't take him at his word when he says, i'm a christian? >> no, of course i don't. he said he's a christian, so i have to assume he does. islam sees him as a son of islam because of father was a muslim, his grandfather was a muslim, great-grandfather was a muslim. under islamic law, the muslim world sees barack obama as a muslim. >> you do not believe he's a muslim? >> no. >> categorically not a muslim? >> i can't say categorically because islam has gotten a free pass under obama. the muslims of the world, he seems to be more concerned about them than the christians that are being murdered in the muslim countries. >> willie geist then asked about the republican front-runner. >> do you believe that rick santorum is christian? >> oh, i think so. >> how do you know? if the standard is only the person knows what's within them, how do you apply to the president, how is it different to rick santorum? >> well, because his values are
so clear on moral issues. no question about it. >> and here is reverend graham's take on mitt romney. >> is he a christian? >> he's a mormon. most christians would not recognize mormonism as part of the christian faith. >> joining me now, dr. robert jeffress, senior pastor of the 10,000 member first baptist church of dallas. he is the author of "twilight's last gleaming: how america's last days can be your best days." thank you very much for joining me tonight, pastor jefress. >> thanks, lawrence, i'm usually in my pajamas with a bowl of popcorn watching you, so this is a real treat. >> that's good to know. i'm going to picture you now every night in those pajamas. >> no, no, don't do that. >> you heard reverend graham today saying he's not sure if president obama is a christian. it's an answer he gave me last year saying i can't look into someone's heart. when he's asked about rick
santorum, he said, i'm sure he is. in fact, he said he definitely was. he said he's pretty sure that newt gingrich is a christian. what is your reaction to that set of reactions by franklin graham? >> look, lawrence, we love franklin graham. his father, billy graham, was a member of our church for 50 years. we love franklin graham. i think he should have stuck with his original premise and that is that president obama claims to be a christian. in my book, i quote an interview with president obama in which he says he has trusted in jesus christ for the forgiveness of his sins. and by that definition, he's a christian. you know, if you were to say, lawrence, you're a democrat, i could take you at your word, i believe you're a democrat,but i don't know for sure unless i go to the voting booth and see you vote. i take you at your word and have no reason to doubt you and no reason to doubt president obama is a christian. >> what he said about mitt romney and mormonism, what is your reaction to that? >> well, i do agree with franklin.
of course, as you replayed it at the beginning of the program, my comments about mormonism. mormonism is not historic christianity. when people say, well, mormons and christians, say all believe the same things, my response is if that's true, why are they always on my front doorstep trying to convert me? i mean, obviously they don't believe the same things that we believe as historic christians so they are different. i believe you can be a good, moral person and be a mormon, but you know, christianity, lawrence, is about trusting in christ for the forgiveness of your sins. when we say mb is not a christian, we're not saying they don't love their mother, the flag, or apple pie, but they don't embrace the tenet of christianity which is faith in jesus christ, alone. >> you're a baptist. how many different branches of the christian faith do you accept and recognize as christianity? >> look, nobody goes to heaven in a group, okay? we all go one at a time. i don't believe all baptists are
going to heaven, all methodists are going to heaven. it's what we have done individually with jesus christ, whether we trusted in him as our savior. i don't believe, for example, lawrence, that the baptist church is the only church. i believe that there are christians in many different denominations. the key is, have they trusted in christ, alone? >> and i just want to refer you to a november pew poll that asked, is mormonism christian? and a majority, 51%, said yes. by the way, the largest religious group to say yes individual denomination catholic 54% then we had so-called mainline protestants at 62%. white evangelicals, white evangelicals, only 39% of them say that, yes, mormonism is christian. 47% say, no. what do they know that the other christians don't know? >> well, lawrence, let me add one more poll that "usa today"
published right after the flap i was involved in last october. that is that 75% of protestant pastors, not evangelical necessarily, 75% of protestant pastors say mormonism is not christianity. i think if people look at what mormons believe, they historically have not embraced christianity. they believe the christian church was a postate from the time of the apostapostles. as people study more of the mormon faith, believe me they will do so if romney becomes the nominee, they'll understand why mormonism is not a part of mainstream christianity. >> we invited representatives of the mormon church to join us tonight to join in this discussion to clarify points that might come up, and they do have a third book. there's the old testament, the new testament, and mormonism there's a third divine book they believe written by god, the book of mormon which contains things in it that have absolutely no bearing and no conceivable connection to any christianity
known before that book was revealed. including the notion that jesus christ came to the united states of america after the resurrection. that kind of thing, along with many other items that mormons believe, is the kind of thing that it seems to me that franklin graham was probably referring to. >> i think it is. and it's been interesting, lawrence, ever since i got involved in that back in october, i've heard from so many ex-mormons what i said was saying is absolutely the truth that mormonism is not christianity. and so, again, we're not saying they're bad, evil people. you can be a good, moral person without being a christian. you can't be good enough, none of us is, but that doesn't mean you're a bad person if you're a mormon. we're just saying we shouldn't confuse mormonism with christianity. >> and you also have some very harsh words for the religion that i was baptized into, the
catholic church. you said the early church was corrupted by this babalonian, most of what you see in the catholic church doesn't come from god's word but from a cult like pagan religion. there you are referring also to catholicism as cult like, a word you've used for mormonism. so it seems to me, dr. jeffress, you have a fairly narrow definition of what is acceptable christianity, if you can't include catholicism in there. >> let me be quick to say, there are many catholics who are christians who trusted in christ as their savior. by the way, lawrence, we were all part of the original catholic church. you remember, any religion becomes corrupted over a period of time. >> let me just get -- any religion gets corrupted over time? >> if it doesn't stay true to the word of god. martin luther was a catholic priest who started reading his bible and said, you know, what
i'm reading in the book of romans doesn't square with what i've learned as a catholic priest, and therefore, he started the protestant reformation. the fact is if catholics and evangelicals believe the same thing, there wouldn't be a protestant reformation. i want to be very clear, i believe many, many catholics are christians because they have trusted in christ as their savior. >> i just want to ask you something you've been asked before, if mitt romney is the nominee, can you vote for him? >> lawrence, i'm going to hold my nose and do it, but that's hardly a ringing campaign endorsement. i don't think that will make a slogan, hold your nose and vote. but i've said in my books "twilight's last gleaming" that given the choice between a nonchristian like mitt romney who at least embraces some biblical things like the sanctity of life and sanctity of marriage, as opposed to barack obama who takes unbiblical positions, there's a merit in choosing the non-christian over
the christian. >> thank you very much for your time tonight. >> thank you, lawrence. joining me eugene robinson and associate professor of religious studies. and thea butler. thank you for joining me tonight. professor butler, i have to start with you. a lot of religion has been thrown around this morning on "morning joe" and tonight in the last few minutes. let's go to this thing that reverend graham brought up this morning that islam is something that you are born into. if your father and your grandfather were muslims then you don't have to check with anybody, you're a muslim. >> well, you know, what's so funny to me about this is franklin graham is in the business of being a missionary. part of what's going on with him is that he's trying to be an evangelist to do this. that's just not true. one of the things he said this morning that needs to be corrected is that president obama's grandfather's actually
christian before turning muslim. okay? so he was a convert. so to make up this whole strain of because his dad was a muslim, he's a cryptomuslim or however you want to put it is hog wash. it was appalling this morning to see him selling the memory of his father this way. >> gene robinson, there was this theory out there in political land last week that some religiousoity getting into the campaign was helpful to rick santorum because it highlights in some ways mitt romney's mormonism, which as we've seen evangelical christians are uncomfortable with and it brings the strength of rick santorum's hardcore conservatism to the fore. is -- have they now crossed a line into something that is alienating to the vast majority of american voters, this kind of i'm a christian, you're not a christian, who is a christian? >> i think they certainly have. this drawing of lines and
closing of the door against some who would profess to be christians but i don't think they really are. and that's -- that gets out into kind of loony territory in the minds, i think, of many independents. and i think it's ill advised if rick santorum were to win the nomination and would like to win the general election. i don't even think it's that much of a help in the primary. he obviously thinks it's going to help him with evangelicals. but i think he's gone too far with this. >> well, let's listen to the white house reaction to it today with jay carney. >> he firmly believes that getting an extra $40 in every paycheck is a vastly greater significance to most americans than someone's opinion expressed on cable television about his personal faith.
>> professor, what would you like to hear in a political campaign about religion? my own feeling has been if you want to hear about religion, go to church. i don't understand why it's ever discussed by politicians at any time. what -- so i'm an extremist over here on -- i don't want to hear a word about it. then there's people who say, i need to know everything about you religiously in order to decide how i'm going to vote, i don't care where you are on taxes, i just care about where you are on religion. where do you think the balance is here? >> i think the balance is you state upfront what you are and that's it. you don't use it as a wedge or a divider, to use president obama's words. i think what's happened is that all of these candidates have forgotten that there's a clause that says, there is no religious test to be the president or for public office. this is just ridiculous. and further, you know, what i really think is -- what franklin graham did this morning is the kind of grandstanding he does
every time he tries to latch on to the person he thinks who is the christian values candidate. so the kinds of things he said this morning were just total disconnect. i mean, he knows that mormons -- in his opinion at least -- mormons are not christians. catholics wouldn't have even been considered to be christians by most evangelicals and certainly not southern baptists. this whole thing is just ridiculous. what has happened is they've used this as a way to sort of try to set another betting point. i don't believe it's helping at all. >> let's listen to how franklin graham this morning distinguished his understanding of the faith that president obama has versus the faith that rick santorum has. >> i asked president obama how he came to faith in christ. and he said, i don't go to church. >> have you had that conversation with rick santorum? >> i talked to rick santorum, yes. >> he was more depth on the sincerity of his question? >> i think so. you have to look at what a person does with his life.
>> gene, it seems that reverend graham would be well advised to stay away from politics on television. >> he really should, or else he should pay closer attention. didn't president obama back during the campaign get into serious trouble for going to church? for going to a church that many people thought was the wrong church? you know, i think what most voters who are people of faith pay attention to is whether politicians walk the walk. i don't think they necessarily want to hear them talk the talk. and so for many catholic voters, if a politician votes for or against abortion, that's important. for many evangelical voters, i think political stances and official actions that a politician takes can be important. but i don't think anybody is listening for a president to be kind of a theologian in chief.
you know, we like to hear our sermons on sunday and not potentially from the oval office. >> msnbc political analyst eugene robinson. and associate professor of religious studies at penn. anthea butler. thank you both your joining me tonight. >> thank you. coming up, there will be more of franklin graham in the "rewrite." i will reveal the most important thing you need to know about franklin graham. and former senator russ feingold is here. i'm going to ask him how he and a group of senators found themselves on the senate floor one day whispering about thongs. and later, with 259 days to go before the presidential election, i'm going to skip over 258 reasons and give you the number one reason to vote for president this year. to those wh. [worker 1:] we need to produce r own energy. [announcer:] and, to those who say...
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look at what it is today. under president bachmann, you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. that will happen. >> do you think that will happen? >> i just -- i just don't know what world that comment would come from. you know, we live in the real world. it's grounded in reality. and gas prices just aren't going to rebound like that. >> gas prices are back in the campaign, and without huntsman in it, the candidates aren't getting any smarter. >> because of the mismanagement of the president's policies overseas, because of his mismanagement of the persian gulf and our friends in the state of israel, we see a tension in rising prices. i was talking to folks in chicago the other day, and they are anticipating $5 a gallon for gasoline in chicago. >> that brings us to president
obama. you believe that he wants to see more expensive gas, you have said? >> of course, he does. his policy has been outrageously anti-american energy. the high price of gasoline is a direct result of obama. >> he said outrageously? he loves his adverbs. there are no magic solutions to rising oil prices and the pain that americans feel at the pump. this is a -- the fact is that the president is very aware of the impact that the global price of oil has on families, and this is not something that this administration discovered or rediscovers every spring as some politicians do. a rise in the price of oil globally often results in, you knows, magic solutions being put forward by politicians who may or may not know what their talking about. >> joining me, jared bernstein, he's a senior fellow at the --
newt gingrich believes the president of the united states wants gas prices to go up which would make president obama the very first president in history who wanted rising gas prices during his re-election campaign. what about this don't i understand? >> yeah, he'd have to be very masstistic to go in that direction. look, interestingly, what you don't hear from these candidates is that they really can't go after this president on domestic production of oil and gas. he's actually done quite a lot. in fact, i would suspect there are environmentalists who are worried we're doing too much drilling and fracking. i know that for a fact. last year, 2011, was the first year in decades that the u.s. actually exported more petroleum
products than we imported. a few years back, we were importing 60% of crude oil to serve our energy needs. last year, it was 50%. so actually the president has great street cred on domestic production. what obviously is going on now with gas prices has little to do with domestic production. has to do with geopolitical forces that as you heard some rational people say in the clips, there's no president who can do anything about that in the near term. >> let's listen to the president talking about more generally about the economic picture today. >> we're coming out of the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes, but where we stand now looks a lot different than where we stood a few years ago. over the last 23 months, businesses have created 3.7 million new jobs. manufacturers are hiring for the first time since the 1990s. the auto industry is back on top. our recovery is gaining steam. our economy is getting stronger. so we're headed in the right direction.
>> and not long after that, the dow went over 13,000 today. ev this is the president we want to ay with. >> i think that's right. by the way, a little factoid here, if you actually look at how wall street has done under democrats versus republicans, much better under democrats. >> yep. >> look, i think the thing with the -- it really ties into the gas story quite tightly here. i mean, obviously this is an election that is going to have a lot to do with the direction in which the economy is headed. not just the levels, not just, you know, where we were, but the momentum of how the economy is trending. and so you're going to see the pposition look for anything they can. i saw a press release before i came on tonight that was from a republican group saying, let's look at the labor force participation rate. that's been trending down for a while. i guarantee you that there aren't a lot of people out there scratching their heads about that one. people are focused on
employment, on unemployment, they're focused on some of the larger indicators. gdp has obviously been, you know, getting closer to a trend growth rate like we want to see. so it's -- you're going to see a lot of grasping at things like gas prices and as you said earlier, lawrence, it is tough for a president to be facing rising gas prices, even if part of what's going on is, as jay carney said, is the seasonal factor, just prices go up in the summer. >> msnbc contributor jared bernstein. thanks for the reality check tonight, jared. >> my pleasure. coming up, former senator russ feingold is next. we have a lot to talk to him about, and he has promised to share secrets that senators whisper to each other on the senate floor. and in the "rewrite" everything you need to know about franklin graham. well, okay, not exactly everything, but the single most important thing. the key to understanding franklin graham. that's in the "rewrite."
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franklin graham is in the "rewrite" tonight. he, himself, will tell you everything you need to know about his view of politics. and later, dorian warren joins me to discuss the number one reason why you should vote for president. and next, former senator russ feingold joins me to discuss how mccarthyism is creeping into the republican presidential campaign and the kinds of secrets senators secret to each other on the senate floor including one about a very famous thong. in fact, the most famous thong in the short history of the thong.
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senator of wisconsin, russ feingold author of "while america sleeps: a wake-up call for the post-9/11 era." thank you for joining me tonight, senator. >> good to be on your show, lawrence. >> can you believe in 2012 we're hearing that kind of mccarthy talk from someone who was a former speaker of the house, disgraced, himself, on the way out the door like joe mccarthy, in a different kind of way? but to say the president of the united states is a danger to this country? >> you know, the only good news is it's going to make sure that barack obama gets re-elected. in the meantime, these republican candidates are dumbing down our foreign policy at a time when we really need to reach out to the rest of the word and understand it. to me, that was the lesson of 9/11. that's what my book is about. these guys talk about pretending the president is always apologizing for america, making fun of foreign trips that he takes to india which are very important. and once in a while screaming out the words, american exceptionalism. we all believe america is exceptional. that's the whole entirety of
their foreign policy. to me, that's what's dangerous. not the kind of thoughtful presidency president obama has brought us with regard to international policy. he's doing a great job in that area. >> it would seem the president would want to be talking about foreign policy in the campaign. i can understand why the republicas wouldn't. because the president has done a great job of it. if the president finished reading your book tonight, what would he get from it that he can take out on to the campaign trail? and how could he make sense of foreign policy to the american people? >> he's already doing a good job. i mean, here's a president that made a very important speech to the arab and muslim world in cairo. who went to india and made important connections there. who's emphasized indonesia, the largest islamic country in the world. here's somebody that's been effective in making sure we don't have to deal with osama bin laden or moammar gadhafi anymore. he's gone after the people who've tried to harm us. most importantly, barack obama
has caused us to have a better reputation in the world. people feel much better about the united states because he is our president. they sense that he understands the rest of the world. compared to gingrich. gingrich recently said the palestinians weren't a real people because they are part of the empire. some people said, that sounds really smart. you want to know how many places people wouldn't be real peoples if that was the test? there wouldn't be greeks, wouldn't be russians, wouldn't be bulgarians, wouldn't be iraqis. that's what passes for common sense on the republican side now, and barack obama is just the opposite. >> senator, i want to read a passage from page 14 of your book. now, please don't get the idea that page 14 was as far as i got in your book, but there's a very compelling passage there that i want to read. >> absolutely. >> it sa, "the senate trial ofg tedious six-day weeks. monday through saturday. this is, of course, the clinton impeachment trial. i was engaged in casual
conversation with paul wellstone of minnesota and bob kerrey of nebraska at the back of the chamber. we became aware carl levin of michigan, most distinguished member of the senate, was making his way toward us. carl is a meticulous lawyerly member of the senate who does a superb job of carefully examining both proposed and sac statutory language. he said, i'm a little embarrassed to ask you guys this, but what's a thong? you left it to bob kerrey to explain to senator levin was a thong is. that's about as weird as it could get on the senate floor, the impeachment trial. >> bob kerrey was the obvious choice. as you know, you were on the floor of the senate with me many times. the senate is not a real wild and crazy kind of place. this was an unusual conversation because we were spending seven weeks worrying about some kind of a thing with regard to
president clinton in an impeachment trial. one year after our embassies were bombed in africa by al qaeda, just before the "u.s.s. cole" was attacked, not long before 9/11, we were asleep, we weren't paying the attention. the theme of my book, i think we've gone back to that, especially with the help of our friends on the other side of the aisle in the tea party. we're not thinking about the rest of the world. that story was my way to kind of point out maybe we could have been spending our time on critical issues involving international terrorism and that type of thing instead of worrying about the question that the very lawyerly carl levin asked us. >> find out why bob kerrey explained thongs on page 15 of your book. russ feingold, thank you for joining me tonight. columbia professor dorian warren is my next guest. we'll see if he agrees with my number one reason for voting for president this year. before that, we'll do the rewrite and see video of
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he was a guest on this program last year, the day after he said this -- >> donald trump when i first saw that he was getting in, i thought, well, this has got to be a joke, but the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself, you know, maybe the guy's right. so there's -- >> so he might be your candidate of choice? >> sure, yeah, sure. >> and so that's where i began our interview. well, you got very, very close to endorsing a presidential candidate yet on abc. you've never endorsed a presidential candidate before. what made you come so close for donald trump? >> well, lawrence, i answer reporters' questions like i'm answering your questions and maybe you can give me advice. >> i would advise you if a reporter asks you who you're going to report for president, you say, i don't discuss that. franklin graham obviously hasn't taken my advice. he still doesn't say, i don't want to discuss that, wherever he's asked on television about politics and politicians.
this morning he was on "morning joe" trying to explain how he can't tell if president obama is a christian but can tell that rick santorum is a christian. and he must have been able to tell that donald trump was a christian. i'd already played that game with him here. only god knows who the christians are, and saying you're a christian is not good enough for you. right? >> no. you're trying to put words in my mouth, lawrence. that's not correct. i'm just saying nobody knows a man's heart except god, and he knows your heart, he knows why heart. >> all right. >> i'm not going to judge whether he's a christian or not a christian. >> so as far as you know, the only person you know who's a christian is you because you know what's in your heart, you don't know if anyone else is a christian? >> only god knows a person's heart. >> then i decided to use jesus christ's definition of a christian to try to figure out if franklin graham is really a christian. i want you to listen to what you know is jesus christ's definition of a christian.
jesus christ said, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. have you given up everything you have to be a disciple of christ? >> i have given my life to christ when i was -- i was 22 years old. i got on my knees one night and asked god to forgive me of my sins. that night, i told god that i believe jesus christ was his son, that he died for me on calvary's cross and god raised him to life. i asked christ to come into my heart. when i gave christ my life, i meant is. i said, take my life, spin it however you want to spin me, my life is yours. it's the greatest decision i ever made. >> and the greatest thing about that decision is that franklin graham gave up absolutely nothing to be a disciple of christ. remember christ's words. any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
that is why some catholic orders of priests and nuns and brothers take a vow of poverty. they own nothing. they have virtually zero income. they aspire to no wealth. they do that because of those words that jesus spoke. any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. franklin graham, just like his daddy before him, is very rich and very famous. if he's given up anything to follow christ, it sure isn't money. he makes a minimum, minimum of $750,000 a year and possibly vastly more than that that we can't easily trace. to make that kind of money as a semicoherent preacher who is not nearly as dynamic in the pulpit as any randomly selected below average baptist preacher, he needs fame. franklin graham, like his father before him, turns fame into money. that means franklin graham needs a way to get on television.
no one's going to book him on political talk shows to talk about god. and so franklin graham stops on the line between church and state and repeatedly gets attention on television by saying he doesn't know if the dually elected president of the united states is telling the truth when he says that he's a christian. franklin graham certainly could have said the same thing about president george w. bush and he certainly could have said the same thing about the first president bush who never claimed to be born again like his son. but franklin graham never questioned their self-professed christianity. and now we have arrived at the key of knowing everything franklin graham says about politics and why he says it. the key to that. we've established that he uses politics to get on television to maintain his fame in order to maintain his very, very, very high income, but what guides him in what he says about politics? here is that key.
here is what guides franklin graham's every word about politics. have you ever voted for a democrat for president? >> no. i've never voted for a democrat for president. with 259 days to go until i got this one. oh hey. [ male announcer ] spit it out. or yeti will find you. [ grunts ] i like him. thanks ryan. [ male announcer ] new stride whitemint. the ridiculously long lasting gum. our machines help identify early stages of cancer and it's something that we're extremely proud of.
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with 259 days to go until the presidential election, tonight i am going to skip over 258 reasons to vote and tell you the number one reason to vote for president of the united states. over the course of the campaign, we will have plenty of time to return to the discussion of the couple of hundred reasons to vote for the president and it is very likely that we will discuss the number one reason several times before the end of this campaign. and, of course, the number one reason to vote is the same number one reason you always have to vote for president. the supreme court of the united
states. the president chooses justices for the supreme court subject to confirmation by the senate. choosing a supreme court justice is the most mementos decision a president can make. supreme court justices stay in power longer than any war we have waged. they can stay there for the rest of their lives if they choose. they are the final arbiters of fairness and justice in our society, and today the supreme court agreed to hear a challenge to the university of texas austin's admissions policy. the university says it is firmly committed to a holistic admissions policy that isnarrow ly tailored to achieve the educational benefits of a diverse student body. abigail fisher contented she was not admitted to the university in 2008 because she is white and that was a violation of her civil and constitutional rights. in greta versus bollinger in 2003, the supreme court said
race could be used as a factor in the admissions process at the university of michigan's law school. joining me now is dorian warren, assistant professor of political science at columbia university and a fellow at the roosevelt institute in new york. dorian, i want you to do this thought exercise tonight. i want you to imagine the republican won the last presidential campaign which means that the two appointments to the supreme court made by president obama, justice sotomayor and justice kagan, would have been two republican appointments to the supreme court. there would have been seven republican appointed justices, three democratic appointed justices. what would be the fate of this case, a case like this, in front of a court like that? >> in front of a court like that, lawrence, i think there's no question they would be eager to strike down the bollinger case. as you mentioned from 2003, which said that race could be one of many factors used in college university admissions.
i'd like to point out that in that case, that case drew the most amount of amicus briefs in history in the supreme court from fortune 500 companies to the military who all agree that diversity is an important national -- it's an important national interest to advance diversity, especially when it comes to leadership. >> and sandra day o'connor was the decisive vote in that case. she's been replaced by a much more conservative republican justice on the court, alito, who i don't think there's much doubt about which way he's going to go on this. the thing i think gets lost in any affirmative discussion is the understanding of what makes for the dynamism in education that produces the net result of what we might call the educated man, the educated woman. i know that in college, the student body was educating me as much as the faculty was.
>> yes. >> all due respect, professor. but it's those conversations at 2:00 in the morning. and the fact that i got to know bobby sims from mississippi, whose father grew up a sharecropper, was a very, very important opportunity for me. and that's what i think is lost in this is that it's not all about tests and numbers. >> that's right. the court in 2003 argued that a critical mass of underrepresented students was important to have on college campuses. again, for the purpose of advancing an open pathway to leadership for all people in this country. it's important to point out, also, that, you know, texas excluded explicitly nonwhites from admissions at all levels of their university system until 1950 when the supreme court then had to intervene to, for the first time, allow blacks to enter the law graduate school there. there's a long history of racial exclusion in texas. today when you look at the numbers, roughly three out of
the four students at university of texas are white, though whites make up 50% of the high school graduates. so they're already overrepresented arguably at the university and blacks and latinos are still underrepresented relative to their numbers in term of who's graduating from high school. >> it seems to me these kinds of cases are trying to invade the admissions process and say, we know what criteria you should use and the criteria for admission is purely a set of numbers and letters called grades. >> yes, you know, the last thing to say about this is it's still unclear if fisher even has standing to sue because she went to another university and she's graduated, i believe, or she's about to graduate. so by the time the court hears the case, it's unclear that -- they'll have to decide this question. it will be interesting to see how they decide it. it will be interesting to see if she has standing because of receiving some kind of harm from the texas admissions policy. >> professor dorian warren,