tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC July 19, 2013 4:00pm-5:01pm PDT
at vigils and rallies tomorrow in 100 cities. you have the power to do that. you have the power in your churches, in your homes, wherever you are, to do whatever you can do to move this country forward. to move this country toward a more perfect union. when i was growing up in church, we used to sing the song "this little light of mine, i'm going let it shine." let's all take the darkness on by shining our light on a better way and a way to make this nation what should it be. thanks for watching. i'm al sharpton. "hardball" starts right now. >> the president, the zimmerman trial and race. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm michael smerconish in for chris matthews. what we saw at the white house
today was something that many people have been waiting for, president obama speaking out clearly, forcefully, and emotionally about the trayvon martin case. it was the president addressing race in a way that only he, uniquely among american presidents, could giving his first on-camera comments about a story that has sparked a national dialogue over the last week. president obama today said the country needed to do some soul-searching, and he spoke about the case in starkly personal terms. >> you know, when trayvon martin was first shot, i said that this could have been my son. another way of saying that is, trayvon martin could have been me 35 years ago. and when you think about why in the african-american community at least there's a lot of pain around what happened here, i think it's important to
recognize that the african-american community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences. and a history. that doesn't go away. >> nbc news reports that the president decided yesterday afternoon to address this weighty topic after talking with friends and family. he called together a few members of his senior staff and told them he wanted to make comments. we're going to spend the next hour talking about what the president said this afternoon and what it means going forward. to start with, i'm joined by the grio's joy reid, the washington post's jonathan capehart and mother jones magazine's david corn. all three are msnbc political analysts. in addressing what happened to trayvon martin, the president related his own experiences as an african-american man. >> there are very few african-american men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store.
that includes me. there are very few african-american men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. that happens to me at least before i was a senator. there are very few african-americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. that happens often. and i don't want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the african-american community interprets what happened one night in florida. >> jonathan, i heard the president say that he respects the process, that he respects the rule of law, but that this
is the context in which african-americans are interpreting the verdict and everybody needs to appreciate that fact. >> yes, absolutely. and that's what -- that's the power of what the president did and said today for me and for me personally. i think the american people need to hear that. i think sometimes we can talk about race in abstractions because no one of any big power can say this has happened to me. and when the president of the united states can say that he's been followed in stores and that he has heard people click the locks on their doors, when he crosses the street, comes near their cars it suddenly makes it real. it's no longer something that oh, jonathan capehart or eugene robinson or reverend sharpton or toure or any of the other folks, our audience knows it's not just them, it's the leader of the free world who has this personal experience and that he's sharing in the pain, in the frustration
and in my case, the aggravation that these things happen. and folks don't seem to quite understand why it irritates and frustrates and depresses african-americans so much. >> you know, joy, there are so many aspects of this i find fascinating and worthy of conversation. not the least of which is that the president essentially set the table for a conversation about race. but at the end of the speech, he was very clear in saying he really didn't have much faith in the ability of politicians to conduct that conversation and instead, suggested that we do it in our families and in our workplaces and in our churches. >> yeah, i mean, think this would have been a lot less effective as a formalized speech if he had gone in the oval office. dwaifnd sort of a formal speech to the nation. >> why? >> that inherently closes certain ears. this is a country in which this is the first president of the united states ever to be told to show his birth certificate. the first president of the united states ever to be called a liar from the well of the house of representatives to his face.
this is a president who when he talked about his friend being wrongfully arrested for breaking into his own house. let's recall what the situation was. this was an august professor of history at harvard university being corralled and dragooned by local police officers for supposedly trying to break into a house that was his own home. this is the context that obama has been operating. race is drizzled all over everything he says and does. >> was it acknowledgement of sorts on his part he doesn't recognize his own ability to be able to lead that dialogue? he can only bring us so far. >> he can only talk about his experiences. unfortunately, there is a part of this country on the right which is so closed to anything that comes out of the mouth of barack obama, anything he touches, he can't talk about an issue or else it becomes toxic. there are people who are so hateful i have to say toward him that he really couldn't join hands and have everyone make this dialogue about race.
>> we have a good example of that. we have a good example of that a little bit later in the program. president obama said that it was time for americans to look inward and do some soul searching. >> and then finally, i think it's going to be important for all of us to do some soul searching. you know, there have been talk about should we convene a conversation on race. i haven't seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. they end up being stilted and politicized and folks are locked into the positions they already have. >> on the other hand, families and churches and workplaces there's the possibility that people are a little bit more honest. and at least you ask yourself your own questions about am i wringing as much bias out of
myself as i can. am i judging people as much as i can based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character. that would i think be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy. >> david corn, interpret that methodical reasonable presentation that was informal at the same time. i think that joy makes an interesting observation in saying she thinks it's probably more effective than had he been behind the desk in the oval office. >> well, he's done it both ways. if you go back, which i did and look again at the speech he gave on race in 2008 which was much more formalized he made some of the same points. in a lot of ways, i look at barack obama as, you know, as trying to be white america's guide to the black american experience. and that's a pretty hard task for anybody let alone the president of the united states has other things on his plate. you used one of the key words,
michael, early on -- context. the president came back to that again and this is what the 2008 speech was about, as well. that you know, particularly he wants white americans to understand the context in which african-americans view some of these issues and how the anger on each side, racial anger on each side sort of exists within a context, particularly if you deny that for african-americans and i think jonathan got to this. you get to the -- to frustration and you don't really give people their due. people have experienced what the president has experienced. and i was just still aghast at the end of the trial regardless of what the outcome was in terms of whether it was right or wrong legally how people on the right, people who are antagonistic to barack obama were out there celebrating this trial as if it was nothing but a political campaign and wasn't ultimately and above all a tragedy, but yet right away became political fodder.
so i think the president at the end somewhat justified in saying no matter how good he is in presenting some of these very sophisticated and nuanced points, there are people who are just not going to want to listen. >> here is another aspect, important aspect of the president's remarks. listen to how he spoke about violence within the african-american community and the need to look at the historical context. >> now, this isn't to say that the african-american community is naive about the fact that african-american young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system. that they're disproportionally both victims and perpetrators of violence. it's not to make excuses for that fact. although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context. they understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a
very violent past in this country. and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history. >> jonathan capehart, i thought that was the president addressing a subject that one of your colleagues, mr. cohen addressed when he got into some of that crime data a couple of days ago, and there's huge blowback to it. this was the president saying look, african-american men are largely the victims and largely the perpetrators, but you have got to put that in a historical context to appreciate and understand it. >> yeah. yes. i think the president was directly addressing richard cohen's column but also if you look at my inbox and i haven't talked to joy about this but i'm sure her inbox is if i had with with people from the right crowing about why are we paying so much attention to this one case when there is all this black-on-black crime out there that we're not paying attention
to. and this is the president's way of pushing back and saying, look, it's not like we don't know this is happening. it's not like we don't know that this is an issue. but you have to understand that what happened to trayvon martin and what's happening to african-american men in general and young african-american men in particular is happening not in a vacuum but in the midst of a whole lot of other things that are happening that the country as a whole has to come to grips with and face if we're going to solve any of these problems. >> there's plenty more forever all of us to discuss. so please, our panel is sticking around. when we come back, we'll get reaction from both sides of the political spectrum. this is "hardball" the place for politics. >> kids these days i think have more sense than we did back then and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did and that along this long difficult journey, we're
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and for those who -- who resist that idea that we should think about something like the stand your ground laws, i'd just ask people to consider if trayvon martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? and do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting mr. zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened? and if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws. >> welcome back to "hardball." the scene of president obama's surprise comments on race was casual, informal, a sharp contrast with the gravity, the magnitude, the importance of the words themselves which could well mark a defining cultural moment for his political legacy. the question of course is why did the president choose to get
in front of this very complex topic then and there, and what will it mean for the future of politics, not only for him, but for both parties. not surprisingly the reaction from some conservatives has already been critical with todd starnes, a conservative radio host with fox news saying "president obama is now our race in chief. his remarks on the trayvon martin tragedy are beyond reprehensible." eugene robinson wrote a column yesterday entitled obama is the wrong person to lead the discussion about race where he says "we should talk honestly about unresolved racial issues such as those exposed by the case, but president obama is not the best person to lead the discussion through no fault of his own, he might be the worst. the record indicates that honest talk from obama about race is seen by many people as threatening. we're rejoined now by our panel along with republican strategist john feehery. john, if your phone rang with a call this afternoon by a gop
operative, somebody who is running for office or in office and they say how should i as a republican respond to what we just heard from president obama, your advice would have been what? >> very carefully. listen, i think that it was important for the president to step up and talk about this. i think that this has been a festering wound. i wish the president would have put it in broader context talked a little bit about the role of the media, talked a little bit about the role of the media in fostering fear, in all kinds of different ways. i think the president hit on some things exactly right. i think in many ways when he talked about george zimmerman, i thought he was off base. from the republican standpoint, what you're trying to do is trying to grow your base. so you don't really want to get involved too deeply in a tit-for-tat kind of explosive discussion on this. i don't think you want to play to your base. you want to grow your base. so for republican consultant, what i would say, tread on this carefully. >> joy, it seems already the
statement that's being seized upon by opponents of the president is the comment where he questions the outcome had the race been different of trayvon martin. >> yay, absolutely. >> that was predictable. >> i probably laugh a little bit because i don't see any context in which republicans are trying to grow their base in any policy matter. >> i don't think that's right, joy. i don't think that's right, joy. >> really? on immigration their base is saying hell no and double hell no. >> i think a lot of republicans are trying to grow their base. >> really? because on this issue, what i've heard is absolute vitriol towards trayvon martin and his family and george zimmerman is almost a folk hero on the far right. i haven't seen any responsible voices in the party saying that's a bad idea and not sympathy for the family. what i've heard and seen in my twitter where i've been called the "n" word every 30 seconds i feel like since the verdict came down and its far right voices. i don't see a moderating influence in your party right now that is saying we need to stop constantly overdoing our attacks on barack obama, because it's turning people off.
and i'm just telling you right now, it's turning people off. >> joy, the question to me by michael was what would i advise a politician. >> it's great advice. i don't know that they're listening to smart people like you. >> that's the advice i would have said. that being said, i do think that this particular george zimmerman trial has been overly played by the media and overly played by some people in a way that has been very destruct alternative the country. and i do think -- i do think that if you look at the trial and you look at the facts, there is no way that the jury could have reached any other conclusion. >> sure there was. >> oh, i don't think so. >> sure there was. >> i looked -- >> sure there was, john. if they had decided that they could see trayvon martin as a child and as a victim and if that cultural gap could have been bridged, of course they could have found -- but because they couldn't, it didn't happen. >> the scars on george zimmerman's back of his head. the jury looked at -- i see your point. >> no, you're proving my point.
>> guys, i don't want to relitigate the facts of the case. i want to look forward and talk about race. jonathan capehart, is the president the appropriate individual to advance this conversation, or because he himself has become for better or worse such a lightning rod, he can't properly lead this dialogue? >> look, the president of the united states is the perfect person to, as i say in a piece just out now, to jump start this conversation. we always have this conversation after after some racial conflagration. >> it's true. >> and think this is the moment where we will have this national conversation and where we will move forward. and what ends up happening is there is a flurry for a week or a few days, and then we go about our business until the next time. i think because the president felt personally he had to say something about it that it was something that he could just feel palpably after talking to friends and staff and family that it was something he needed to talk about, that he went out and did it. the thing that he did was what janet langhart cohen called on
him to do in an op-ed in the "washington post" on wednesday where she asked account president to talk about race and racism. not just to black americans but to all americans because it is an issue that is facing the country. it is an issue that is tearing the country apart. and whether the president is black or not, the president of the united states is someone who should address these issues, and the fact that the president now is an african-american makes that even more powerful. unfortunately, gene wrote that column. i would love to hear what gene has to say now that the speech is over. >> michael? >> yeah. >> real quick comment. we've got to move. >> but we need to get past this conversation. and that's what the president tried to point to in terms of what to do about policies. we can have conversations till we're literally blue in the face and i don't think we're going to change a lot of people's mind-set. but hen he talked about the policy elements, whether it's about the disparities in drug laws, death penalty, you know,
doing something about stand your ground laws, those are the things that we need to move on so this doesn't just stay in the region -- in the region of abstraction, and we can actually try to have some policy and political fights over there. this. david, i'm glad you brought it up. we're going to go there next. thank you, joy reid. thank you jonathan capehart, david corn and john feehery. up next, the president's statement took us all by surprise. we'll go to the white house for the details how it came about. and a reminder. you can listen to my radio program weekday mornings at 9:00 a.m. eastern on potus channel 124. this is "hardball," the place for politics. he's an actor who's known for his voice. but his accident took that away. thankfully, he's got aflac. they're gonna give him cash to help pay his bills so he can just focus on getting better. we're taking it one day at a time. one day at a time. [ male announcer ] see how the duck's lessons are going at aflac.com
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and is there more that we can do to give them a sense that their country cares about them? and values them? and is willing to invest in them? >> welcome back to "hardball." it's been nearly a week since the george zimmerman verdict. what motivated the president to speak so personally now about race and his own experience as a black man in america, six days after the verdict? for that i turn to two white house reporters peter alexander and april ryan of the urban radio network. peter, i was watching andrea mitchell. all of the sudden they broke out of her program. they go into the press room. it looked to me like the president was joking with you as he got to the podium. and then delivered this very serious set of remarks. paint the picture from your perspective. >> well, we were sitting back in our small offices in the white house. we got no warning that this would take place. we usually get some warning even if off the record.
there was a two-minute warning that the briefing would begin. and then i got word that the president was out there. so i made the sprint up front. that shot of my back side, i apologize if you saw it, and i said to the president, mr. president, that was only .90 seconds. that wasn't two minutes. he smiled before beginning his remarks to the group as we talk about this day, i think what's so striking is that he encouraged america to do some soul searching on this topic. i think it's pretty obvious now that the president over the course of the last six days and really over the course of his presidency has done his own soul-searching as well. >> april, i'm caught up in the fact there couldn't be a more serious subject matter going on in the country right now. there was no teleprompter. it didn't look like he was referring to notes and yet speaking in full paragraphs on a matter of the utmost importance. speak to me about the style as you interpreted it. >> well, as i interpreted it from being in the room and from white house sources, this was a heart and soul matter. this was a personal conversation he wanted to have.
we didn't see this president that stands before the podium thus thou, where art. we saw a very somber barack obama talk about trayvon martin, talk about the issues of black america, which we never heard before, things that have happened to him that we've never heard him say before. we heard him talk about the way forward. this president gave his personal opinion. he stepped into the conversation and wanted to start the conversation, even though he said we will not have this public conversation emanating from the white house, but said we're going to have this conversation, and he became, really, the moral leader in chief at this point. >> here's what i was referring to, president obama shocked the press corps when is he showed up with press secretary jay carney. this was how he greeted the group of surprised reporters. >> nobody showed up. oh. >> how you doing? >> that's so disappointing, man. jay, is this the kind of respect that you get?
you know, on television it usually looks like you're addressing a full room. >> is this a mirage? >> they're generally not on time. >> that was the 90 secs. >> piling on the detroit story. >> i got you. all right. sorry about that. do you think anybody else is showing up? >> well, they did show up. these two showed up. peter, maybe it's because there have been other efforts made to start the conversation about race and unfortunately, they haven't advanced us as far as we would like to go. so the president took this out of the box approach of being far more informal and casual and much more personal than anyone could ever have been in the past. >> yeah, i think that's exactly right. this started with a conversation we're told by white house advisors of the president that the president had had with members of his own family and friends over the course of the last several days that have passed since the verdict in the george zimmerman trial. the decision we're told was made late yesterday, late thursday where he gathered some advisors, brought them together and said
he wanted to make these public remarks, and made it clear he wanted the remarks to be extemporaneous, as april said, he wanted to be speaking from the heart. and for a man criticized i think so often for speaking off of the teleprompter where there's not that window into who he is, the fact that he used words like i and me to personalize the pain and the angst and anguish that's felt within the african-american community acknowledging his own experiences being followed around when he's in a department store i think really struck people. >> there were no speechwriters. not only that, the white house i think really we saw something that the white house really welcomed because earlier this week, there were four hispanic journalists who had exclusive interviews with the president, and the white house was waiting for the question, and none of the reporters asked. >> strange. >> well, i'm not going to say strange. maybe that was strategic for them. but for the white house, this was great. the president was able to have his own narrative on this, create and give the story the way he wanted without having
questions or interruptions. so for the white house, this was a perfect moment to set what the president wanted to say on the zimmerman verdict. >> thank you so much to both you have for painting the backdrop for us, because of course, everybody wonders. thank you, peter alexander. thank you, april ryan. >> thank you. coming up next, the simple question without any answer, where do we go from here. you're watching "hardball," the place for politics. >> you know, when i talked to malia and sasha, and i listen to their friends and i see them interact, they're better than we are. they're better than we were on these issues. and that's true in every community that i've visited all across the country. [ mom ] with my little girl, every food is finger food.
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i know that eric holder is reviewing what happened down there, but i think it's important for people to have some clear expectations here. traditionally, these are issues of state and local government. the criminal code. and law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels. that doesn't mean though that as a nation, that we can't do some things that i think would be productive. >> welcome back to "hardball." with the dust barely settled on obama's surprise speech about race in america, the question now turns to, where do we go from here? as you heard there, the president said there are some things we can do, although he was quick to clarify that there's no five-point plan from the administration on race. but here's what he did outline as possible paths forward. they include the possibility that states consider racial
profiling legislation, that they examine state and local laws like stand your ground. he laid out the challenge that we need to find better ways to bolster and reinforce the young black community and finally, lots of soul searching as a nation. was his speech the stuff that creates a movement for real change? was it meant to? and where do we go from here? i'm joined by former congressman kweisi mfume who was also the president of the naacp. sherrilyn ifill the president of naacp's legal defense and education fund, and msnbc political analyst ronald reagan. congressman, let me start with you. what now? >> i think what now is that we take the conversation beyond the newsrooms into the communities, into churches and synagogues, around the dinner table, in neighborhood associations everywhere people want to discuss this. to be able to talk about something, quite frankly, we should have talked about long ago. we keep getting to these pivotal points. i know there are a lot of people who think there's been too much discussion on in.
let me say this, for a race of people hole have suffered, endured and survived three centuries of slavery, oppression, deprivation, degradation, denial and disprivilege, they see this through a lens oftentimes filtered by disparities in sentencing, by disparities in the justice system, and by disparities in education. and so the effort here from most of those people, myself included is to have the larger discussion and to take what the president has done and to finally build on it. >> sherrilyn, if there was a nutshell within the trial as to the differences in terms of how people bring their own background and experience and interpret things differently, it would have been rachel jeantel's testimony. i remember on my radio program taking calls from african-americans and whites and how there was such a dramatic difference between whether they found her credible and whether they found her testimony to be compelling. so i guess we're trying to move beyond that and understand one another's experience. >> yeah, i think you heard so many people responding to how
she spoke. you heard juror 37 talk about whether she thought miss jeantel was educated rather than listening to what she was saying and what she was conveying. i think for many of us looking at her, she was a teenager. and that's how we saw her. so we were not put off by her communication style at all. and this is precisely the problem that happened on that fateful night when george zimmerman did not see trayvon martin as a child. and we saw that again with the jury, where they weren't thinking about him as a child who was frightened because somebody was stalking him. whatever was the bravery of the words that he might have said, he was a teenager who thought he was in peril. and the inability to see trayvon martin as a child and you've heard his mom talk about this, they didn't see him as a child really speaks to the way in which we allow race to kind of convey or cover, you know, our sense of who we are in our interactions with each other. >> you know, the juror to whom you make reference who has done the interviews expressly said race wasn't a factor in the determination. when the president today at the
white house questions whether the outcome would have been different had the race of martin been different, he's coming to a different conclusion. >> well, i think he is being honest. here's what's really important. the juror's able to say that in large part because race was excluded, the explicit discussion of race was excluded from the presentation of the evidence in this case. the judge remember said you cannot say racial profiling. you can say profiling. exactly. so when you exclude race but it's there, right. it allows juror 37 to believe or to say that race is not a part of it. but race is a part of it. when a young african-american man is killed under those circumstances we know race is a part of it. part of what we have to do is we have to equip that judge, we have to equip the prosecutors to be able to present evidence about race, not the prejudice the jury, but to allow the jury to manage this critically important issue, to manage how they might react to it as well,
and to recognize it's important in the interaction that happened that night. >> ronald reagan, is there anything you wanted the president to say today as you leonardo listened to his remarks that you didn't get from him? >> no, i don't think so. i think the president was right on point. he said very important things when he talked about how he could have been trayvon martin 35 years ago, and repeated that if trayvon martin could have been his son. it's very important i think, michael, for those of us in the white community, you and me, for instance, to recognize that we couldn't be trayvon martin. our sons could not be trayvon martin. you -- i don't know if you have a son or not. i don't. if you do -- >> three. >> three, okay. i'm sure you've never lost a moment's sleep wondering whether somebody was going to assume that your kids were criminals, track them down with a gun, shoot them dead and then get away with it and have the police barely investigate this at the beginning.
that is not something is that white parents generally live with, but black parents as we are hearing now do every day. >> hey, congressman. >> that's something that white people have to come to grips with. >> let me pursue something ron raises. the president, and i feel this in my own home. we have four children and three of them are boys. the president said you know, the kids they're better. he talked about his daughters and said they're better than we were. do you have that kind of faith? i mean within a generation or two, are we going to be in a much better place? when you speak in the context of 3,000 years, you know, by that math those generational changes haven't gotten us where we need to be. >> well, 300 years, and i do feel the same way. >> pardon me, 300. >> my youngest son is 23 years of age. i've got six boys. and every parent has at least -- particularly in the black community, and i appreciate mr. reagan's comments on this. you develop this fear that something is going to happen to your child because of the way they look. first and then secondly, because of where they may be or what they may be doing. so this generation today really
they -- they're going to make things much better than we ever did. i think our generation dropped the ball in many respects. they want the dialogue, whether they're white, hispanic, latino, black, they want the discussion. so we should never stifle it because it's out of that discussion that we're going to form action. i applaud the president. i think he spoke clearly from his heart today both as an american and as an african-american. and i think more than anything else, it gives us a great opportunity now to broaden the conversation to export it into communities and other places and to involve young people in the decisions because persons my age and older are not going to figure this out. it's going to be the next generation and they want desperately to move beyond this situation because of trayvon martin crime and the trayvon martin tragedy has hurt every one of them. >> allow me to show this. here's the president's comments on how younger generations are better. >> i don't want us to lose sight that thing are getting better.
each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. doesn't mean we're in a post racial society. it doesn't mean that racism is eliminated. but you know, when i talk to malia and sasha, and i listen to their friends and i see them interact, they're better than we are. they're better than we were on these issues. and that's true in every community that i've visited all across the country. >> sherrilyn, that resonated with me. because we talk a lot of politics at my dinner table. and when i present cases oftentimes i'm speaking to three sons who are 12, 15, and 17 who just don't get the kind of divide that surrounds so many of the issues. >> you know, that was very powerful. and the president did a great job today of really personalizing it for all of us because our kids are better.
the reality is that they are. >> i agree with that. >> they are having communications in ways and at younger ages than we ever did across race. and so they're growing up with greater facility to do the kind of conversation that is often very hard for us to do. what the president did today was he took responsibility for helping the nation having this conversation. we keep waiting for this big conversation on race. i got news for you. we're having it. we have it every time one of these situations happens. he did a great job. >> he made it clear we need to be self-starters in this regard in our homes, workplaces and churches and not look to politicians to do all the work for us. that's true. >> it's one of the best things he said because the idea of this national conversation on race as though we're going to rent out the convention center and have this giant conversation, it's what you do in your family, your church, it's what you do in your school, it was absolutely right on target. >> i agree with that. stay where you are please. kweisi mfume, cheryl lynn ifill and ronald reagan are sticking around. this is "hardball," the place for politics.
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you gotta take care of your baby? oh yeah! welcome back to "hardball." we're back. tell me something to take away from this conversation. >> i think this was an extraordinary important moment. the president waded into a conversation that was already happening. he didn't create the conversation. this has been gripping this country for the last week. he recognized he needed to be a leader. this is what leaders do. by talking in this way, by talking off the cuff, without prepared remarks, not having an evening speech, the president showed you don't have to be an expert to talk about this. you have to talk about it, however, with real feeling. his willingness to put his personal experience on the line was tremendously healing to the martin family. i think what's what we heard in that statement. also to african-americans who are really struggling with their own families, what we tell our sons, nephews and brothers an
what they should do when they go out on the street and face this kind of circumstance. it was the beginning of the conversation. he was right to tamp down on what might come out of the federal investigation, but he at least tried to point us in the direction of real action. >> you make a good point. shame on those of us who don't use this as a conversation starter at home. ron reagan, your takeaway thoughts. >> well, i thought the important thing, one of the important things was this generation point you were addressing just a few moments ago. and this has to do with ignorance. yes, the kids today are less ignorant than we were, and when you defeat ignorance, you defeat bigotry. when ignorance goes into the ash heap, bigotry follows. that's the important thing we have to keep in mind, i think. >> congressman, your final thoughts? >> i think the president has provided a service to americans. he's allowed us to exhale on this. something that has gripped our homes and our conversations for the last several days. he's also challenged us. i don't want that to go lost. when he talks about looking at the things that might serve as
impediments, those things that could exacerbate this kind of violence, the issue of state and federal laws, that might be need to be changed because they're punitive in the wrong way and biased. the fact that unemployment among black men is 19%, if it was that among any other group, we'd be jumping off the roof trying to draw attention to it. the criminal justice system with respect to sentencing disparities and other things tamp down the enthusiasm that every young person has because they want to believe that they're as good as anybody else. they want the opportunity to prove that. we have to find ways to move the barriers out of their way and reduce this kind of violence through conflict resolution, through fairness and through a genuine concern i think the president clearly expressed today. >> is there a legislative initiative that comes out of all of this or is there more informal conversation that needs to take place? >> i'm not ready to trust elected officials on this. this is an american conversation among families, as i said before, they take places in
churches, synagogues and community organizations. to those who are peer mentors and working with young people on the ground. i don't think you can legislate yourself out of this. however, you can correct legislation, as i said before, that exacerbates this notion of violence by creating this duality based on the color on one's sin. >> thank you, all, to our guests and all the guests we've had for a serious and enlightening conversation about race. at least i think it has been. congressman, sheryl, and ron reagan. an only in america story that happen to me after barack obama's 2008 speech about race. you're watching "hardball." the place for politics. [ male announcer ] come to the golden opportunity sales event
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the president gave an important speech about race today. aly l more than five years ago, i was in the room at the national constitution center, when senator obama gave a similarly serious address. this son of eastern european was anxious to hear the remarks of the man who self-described as the son of a black man from kenya and a white woman from kansas. i was driven that day to the speech by my radio producer, a may flower bred harvard educated mainline mom driving what else, a volvo station wagon. afterwards in the parking lot she got into a fender bender. the parked car she hit had a puerto rican flag hanging from the rear view mirror.
she couldn't leave the lot until his manager arrived. just then i saw a latino man with close cropped hair and low hanging jeans cross the lot and upon seeing the damage to his suzuki he was instant lly anguished. manny i later learned his name was, he was understandably upset to learn this happened in his absence. an hour earlier i'd been watching barack obama and now i was caught up in an episode of "curb your enthusiasm" with more metaphors than i could keep track of. the lot attendant with the african accent returned to tell the waspy woman and puerto rican man not to worry bought his manager was en route. out popped mr. trann, the asian supervisor who had come to sort out the unfolding drama of the fender bender. all parties spoke civilly, cooperated, party company with handshakes all around which reminded me of something else i heard that day from barack
obama. he said we may not all look the same and may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction toward a better future for our children and our grandchildren. that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "all in with chris hayes" starts right now. good evening, from new york. i'm ezra klein in for chris hayes. the white house pressroom, it is the most staged predictable room in washington. it is where spontaneity and surprise and things you didn't already know, it is where they go to die. but today, today something remarkable happened there. president obama made an unannounced appearance without warning and without a script. no script at all. to speak about race in america following the george zimmerman verdict. this was a genuinely important moment in obic