tv Meet the Press MSNBC July 21, 2013 11:00pm-12:01am PDT
this sunday, the president seeks to ignite a new conversation about race in america. >> trayvon martin could have been me 35 years ago. >> the president's deeply personal remarks about the aftereffects of the george zimmerman trial add to the debate about the stand your ground laws, racial profiling and the plight of african-american boys in the criminal justice system and our society. >> if trayvon martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? >> this morning a special discussion about race relations and the impact of the president's remarks on the black community and beyond. with us, the president of the national urban league, marc morial, chairman of the congressional black caucus,
congresswoman marcia fudge. author and pbs host tavis smiley, former chairman of the rnc, michael steele, and harvard law professor, charles ogletree. plus, the remarkable financial collapse of a major american city. detroit files for bankruptcy. what's next for its residents including thousands of city employees and retirees. and what does it say about the plight of america's cities in this fragile economic recovery? we'll hear from the current and former governors of the state. the man now in office, republican rick snyder and his predecessor, democrat jennifer granholm. plus insights and analysis from david brooks of "the new york times" and nbc's chuck todd. >> announcer: from nbc news in washington, the world's longest-running television program, this is "meet the press with david gregory." >> good sunday morning. a week after the not guilty verdict for george zimmerman, justice for trayvon rallies held outside federal buildings yesterday in 100 u.s. cities
including new york, here in washington, chicago, los angeles, and dallas. the message of rally organizers, trayvon's death should focus more attention on race, crime and justice in america. and that's where we begin this morning. we've got a special group assembled to talk about this issue, particularly after the president's remarks on friday afternoon. joining me, democratic congresswoman and chair of the congressional black caucus, marcia fudge of ohio. former chair of the republican national committee, now msnbc analyst, michael steele. harvard law professor who taught both barack and michelle obama at harvard, charles ogletree. author and pbs host tavis smiley and president and ceo of national urban league, marc morial. welcome to all of you. >> thank you. >> what a unique moment friday was for this presidency, for any presidency, and congresswoman, i want to start with you. describe the impact of the president coming out at the white house, speaking about race in such a personal and frankly off-the-cuff way. >> i was very proud, quite frankly. i think that it was timely, but
more importantly, i think that he could feel the anger that was going around across this country, and he felt that he needed to respond in a way that i think took a lot of courage. for him to basically say that we have a situation where a young man is basically convicted of his own murder, that someone can hunt you down and then say, i'm afraid and kill you. he made it clear that trayvon martin had rights as well. and he made it clear as well that african-american men, for history, for a very long time, have had to deal with this problem. >> you know, as i talk to people inside the white house, there was a sense that he wanted to provide context for this debate. and i think it's important for people who may have missed the comments to hear a little bit more from the president on friday, again, comparing himself to trayvon martin. i want to show a portion of that. >> 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. >> a history that doesn't go away. and yet tavis smiley, you were critical of the president. you said on twitter, his comments were as weak as pre-sweetened kool-aid. he took too long to show up and express outrage. >> i appreciate and applaud the fact that the president did finally show up. but this town has been spinning a story that's not altogether true. he did not walk to the podium for an impromptu address to the
nation. he was pushed to that podium. a week of protests outside the white house, pressure building on him inside the white house pushed him to that podium. so i'm glad he finally arrived. but when he left the podium, he still had not answered the most important question, that keynesian question, where do we go from here? that question this morning remains unanswered, at least from the perspective of the president. and the bottom line is, this is not libya. this is america. on this issue, you cannot lead from behind. what's lacking in this moment is moral leadership. the country is begging for it. they're craving it. and i disagree with the president respectfully that politicians, elected officials, can't occupy this space on race. lincoln did, truman did, johnson did, president obama did. he's the right person in the right place at the right time, but he has to step into his moment. i don't want him to be like bill clinton, when he's out of office, regretting that he didn't move on rwanda. i don't want the president to look back and realize he didn't do as much as he could have in this critical moment.
>> to tavis's point, professor, there has been criticism, it's been building through the week. there was an article in "the washington post" that he had imposed himself in the silence about race. and she wrote this. "during this period of self-imposed silence, we have watched our criminal laws become radicalized, our race criminalized. blacks continue to be faced with punishing unfairness and inequalities. soaring rates of unemployment, discriminatory drug laws, disproportionate prison sentences, unhealthy food, unfair stop and frisk policies and unarmed shootings of unarmed men by the police. these are treated with more indifference or contempt. we're told to stop complaining or no one cares. tav tavis's argument. >> i disagree with tavis in a profound way. president obama has been talking about race and doing things about race in for a long time. and the reality is that he walked to the podium. he wasn't pushed to the podium. he walked to the podium. he's been trying to have this conversation. and this was the event in the criminal justice system that pushed him over the level.
what he said about trayvon is a continuation about what he said when he was shot. he said in 2012. i think he said -- his whole statement, he said let's have a conversation on race. let's talk about we made some progress as a society, but we still have a long way to go. and i think that what he said and what he did and what he represents to us is a sense, people keep making him as if he's the black president. he's the president who happens to be black. and he can do whatever he can do for all of us, but not simply focus on one community or one issue. >> david, what the president did is open the door to begin a conversation. one speech can't outline every single action step that needs to be taken. and i think the president agonized. it's not difficult to be a carry the burdens of history in a nation with so much history. but what he did, i think, is start the process and sort of sanction, if you will, the need for there to be a discussion and action steps. and i expect that there will be
more because one thing is certain. the emotional court and the response, the vigils on yesterday, the civil rights continuation march on august 24th, the urban league conference that will take place this week in philadelphia, this conversation at the grass-roots level, at the community level, within boardrooms and suites also has just begun. and i think what i hope it leads to and what i hope we will see is not only a discussion that started and ends quickly, but a discussion that will lead to serious action steps by the nation. >> but that's the key piece, the discussion that starts and ends quickly. i harken back to the gun debate. and the president bootstraps the gun argument with his initial comments the day of the jury verdict. in a way that was disconnected. and if you look at the momentum behind that discussion coming off of sandy hook and the raw emotion from the american people
saying we want something done here. let's move on this. what happened? the discussion dissipated. and this was something that the president came in in the beginning and heralded but then let the steam fall out of it. my concern is it's great to step to the podium. i agree with tavis. it's great to step to the podium to be in that moment, but then it's not so much leading but continuing to inspire the conversation so that it doesn't die on the vine. that it does get life of its own because this is a conversation, quite honestly, folks, we need to have first in the black community before you start putting it so much on the president. >> but look. it is -- the president must lead, but the president needs cohorts. he needs assistance. he needs help. wait a minute. tavis, tavis, let me make my point because my point is is that in order to move a piece of legislation, in order to move action steps, the president can, in fact, lead. and the president is also in an environment of continuing
obstruction, that you know well, that you report on. >> respectfully, marc, nobody has argued that he has been up against a headwind. the obstructionism is real. but with all due respect to charles ogletree, the professor is wrong. i would ask you, lay on the table right now the evidence of how the president has been trying, tree, to have a conversation about race -- no -- >> action. >> i'm talking to professor ogletree. let me finish my point. >> that's just a conversation. >> i don't think that we have a litany here of things, of moments, where he's tried to have the conversation. to the contrary, respectfully, he's tried to avoid the conversation, number one. number two, when he says a politician can't have an impact, so yes, he gives a wonderful spe speech, but he basically kicks it back to community leaders, business leaders, celebrities and athletes, and that's real, but the president can't absolve himself of it. and number three, i don't believe the president doesn't believe that he can have a role in leading us in a moral conversation. this is not a political issue. this is a moral issue. i don't know how he can't lead us in a conversation on this,
but he can on gay marriage? he can on a litany of other -- he can on israel and palestine and not rice? >> okay, but what is this in particular? i mean, the president spoke about ringing bias from our lives. these are infinite conversations between plaques and whites that are very difficult to have in a big public setting. but i think when you start boiling it down, it is the question i thought he was asking which is what is the this? there is no federal program that can deal with this. so how does he lead and on what does he lead? >> there is no federal program on this. when he gave the state of the union address this past year, he talked about the idea that we have to do something about guns. he talked candidly about that. he talked about gabby giffords, about all of the victims. he said we simply want a vote. that was him saying i want this to happen. there was a vote. and it failed, right? so he's been pushing that issue on and on again. in terms of what he's done for the community, it's obvious when you look at the things that make a big difference. he's been pushing a jobs plan from the beginning, without success.
he believes in that. and i think the reality is that we are expecting all of these things from barack obama as if he's the man who can do it. there's a congressional role. there's a judicial role. >> we agree on that, charles. >> it's not just him. there's more that needs to be done. >> professor, let me see if i can help put some of this in context. you look at what's happened in 2013. we've got obviously trayvon martin that everybody's talking about. this is happening to black boys across this country every day. you look at the fact that we have a supreme court that just gutted the voting rights act. you look at -- and i'm trying to do the same thing with affirmative action. you look at a house of representatives who just last week took food stamps out of the farm bill. you look at this past week where they have decided to block grant title one. we are being attacked from so many sides. that you have to at some point decide where you can have the most impact. now, i think that the president said what he believed. he tried to make people understand that this is not just about some kid with a hoodie.
but i think also we have to look at the fact that there is a broader discussion that we need to have. yes, we need to have a discussion on race, but we also need to have a discussion on how we are treating poor and minority people in this country. >> how about the particular issue of the law that seemed to loom so large over this situation? and that is the stand your ground law. in florida, 21 other states -- that really redefine the concepts of what we consider to be self-defense. the attorney general was in florida this week. and he spoke about it in a way that the president echoed later. here's what the attorney general said. >> it's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and so dangerous in our neighborhoods. these laws tried to fix something that was never broken. there has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if -- and the if is important -- if no safe retreat is available. >> now, michael steele, some
republicans have immediately politicized this into the gun debate and said -- when i say politicized, i'm not making a judgment, but they are putting this into the gun argument about the ability to defend oneself. in this particular case, you have the police officers who told george zimmerman, don't pursue this young man. >> right. >> don't do that. he gets back into his car. he says he feels threatened. and he follows him. >> anyway. >> that's what the attorney general, what the president's talking about. >> and that's what the facts -- that's what the facts tell us. but the question now becomes, is this a proper role for the federal government to go in versus the states to go into all 21 states now and tell them how to rechange -- or change their laws or to remake their laws? no. this is something that's going to have to get worked out state by state. you have 21 states, other states out there as well. it's not just florida. so when we start this conversation, you have people talking about, well, i'm going to boycott florida. i'm not going to perform there. i'm not going to go there. well, you're not going to go to 21 other states? there's got to be some level of consistency, number one.
number two, on the political side of it, again, the facts of the trayvon martin case, this was not brought into it. this was not the underlying argument that was made. the defense backed off of that, as a defense. >> however, however -- >> can i ask you, professor, there was a jury instruction, and people have missed the fact that the jury instruction was cited by one of the jurors as the reason for the acquittal. so it was an issue in the case. and these stand your ground laws, what's striking about them is how they got on the books. they got on the books because of an effort by the nra in conjunction with the american with alec to introduce them and pass them in states across the nation. it is the role of the nation's chief justice officer who is the attorney general. >> you know who views the stand your ground law the most in florida? it's african-americans. but i'm just saying. >> the reality is that another group pushed stand your ground, but african-americans have been
using it around the country. >> it's also led -- >> the hypocrisy, marc mentioned the nra -- the hypocrisy of the nra is on full display here. we have not yet heard and i predict you'll never hear the nra say that if trayvon martin had a gun, he'd still be alive. they haven't said it yet, tree. they haven't said that. >> let's put it out there. right here. the most important thing is that the stand your ground law is one of the things that has incited and ignited i believe this movement across the nation which i think, david, is the beginning of a new civil rights movement, to challenge these issues. because of what the congresswoman has said, the landscape has changed. the voting rights act decision by the supreme court which was striking in its superficiality. the trayvon martin incident and everything from the police officers not arresting george zimmerman at the very beginning to the need for a special prosecutor to the fact that the
special prosecute are himself did not participate in trying the case, to the composition of the jury, to the way in which the case was tried all the way to the verdict strikes people as just mountains of evidence -- >> let me ask this. professor, the attorney general is looking at this as a potential civil rights violation against george zimmerman. i heard the president, to me, sort of lower expectations. >> exactly. >> on what basis? >> the reality is that this is not a federal issue. it's a state issue. and states have moved forward and talked about stand your ground and a lot of other issues as well. i think he's saying the federal government can't do anything. we can be behind that. rodney king. it was the state that started and didn't do well. and then the federal government came in. in a lot of these cases, people being killed, being beaten, the federal government is there in response to that, but not the ones -- >> i think, david, that's what the protesters -- and i celebrate them. i applaud the efforts across these cities yesterday, but i think what they missed is what you astutely pointed out. the president basically said to
us without saying to us, this ain't going no further. you can march and protest and rally -- >> i don't think he said that. >> i didn't say he said it. >> let me say this. the mistake that people make is to prejudge an investigation before it takes place. >> well, the attorney general will decide. but the president -- >> we talk about legislation. i understand about the stand your ground laws. but there are some things we can do. we as a congressional black caucus have put in place, at least drafted over the last couple weeks racial profiling. that's what this was. i don't care what they say it was. that is what it was. if we start to do things from the congressional level, maybe that can help. let me just say this. i don't care how many laws you put in place. you cannot legislate against prejudice or bias or racism. you cannot do it. and so all we can do is the best we can. >> but that goes toward the morality of the question. >> can i put something else on the table that goes to the racial profiling debate that is provocative. it was from bill cohen in "the washington post," his column on monday. i'll put it up and get your
reaction to it. richard cohen, excuse me. "where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males? this znlt mean that raw racism has disappeared and some products are the product of stereotyping. it does know that the public knows young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime. in new york city blacks make up a quarter of the population, yet they represent 78% of all shooting suspects, almost all of them young men. and tavis, the president made a point of acknowledging that. >> he acknowledged that, number one. number two, most blacks are killed by other blacks and most whites are killed by other whites. i'm sick of having this debate. that's how it works, number one. all i'm saying is this. this is not a kronos moment. the president, again, is the president is at the right place and the right time to do more. i am not a part of that anything
is enough generation. i want the president to step in this moment, as coleman just pointed out, and lead us in a complex conversation about these very difficult issues. i don't want him to shrink from the calling of this moment historically. and we are going to regret this later on. >> tavis, we found something we agree on. >> one of the reasons that african-american men tend to make up a disproportionate number is because of profiling. you've got two kids on a street in new york, in particular, with their stop and frisk policy, they're going to pick up the black kid. not to say that the white kid wasn't committing a crime, but that kid gets in the system and never gets out. or they decide, he's from a good family. let's put him in the diversion program. but the black kid gets a record. profiling has a lot to do with those numbers as well, and they are skewed based upon the perception that black kids -- >> but one thing that's going to have to be on the table is the economic opportunity. >> absolutely. >> for there to be jobs and the obstructionism about summer jobs, jobs plans, jobs training that's taking place in this nation, after the recession when
this unemployment rate is so high, it can't be done with a law enforcement approach alone. it has to be done with an economic opportunity. so i hope that this conversation is going to confront the very challenging issue of economic opportunity. >> i'm struck, going back to the president's notable 2008 speech as a candidate, the extent to which he was saying in advance, i, as a black man, even if i become president, can only do so much. because he talked about the country being stuck on race. this is what else he said back in 2008. >> contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, i have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle. or with a single candidate, particularly -- particularly as
a candidacy as imperfect as my own. >> i want to wind this up, professor ogletree, by asking you, was that self-imposed sense of limitation appropriate, and did he go beyond it on friday? >> it was appropriate and i think he's gone beyond it. trayvon martin will be with us in eternity. that's what he's done. the president has moved trayvon martin up to be a symbol of racial profiling in america. and i think whether he's here or not, we're going to be die baiting that and discussing that. and i think we're going to have a real conversation about race moving forward. >> as long as he stands his ground and leads us into a moral conversation about this moment. >> is this the wrong issue? is it wrong to inject race into the martin case, michael steele, as some conservatives and others have argued, that this is the wrong moment? >> i think it's not the wrong moment to inject it. race is a part of it. there's an underlying theme or feeling that particularly the african-american community takes away from that, and it has to be addressed. you just can't leave it on the table because you don't believe it's there. >> i realize this scratches the surface, but it was still a good conversation.
i appreciate you all being here very much. marc morial, former mayor of new york city, you're going to stick around. we're going to talk about detroit. excuse me. new orleans. new orleans. we're going to talk about detroit coming up. my apologies. we're going to talk about detroit in distress. the city becomes the latest and the largest to file for bankruptcy. did the politicians fail the motor city? i'm going to talk to the republican governor of michigan, rick snyder, also his predecessor, former democratic governor jennifer granholm. she'll weigh in on our roundtable. is there something detroit can tell us about america's fiscal future? that's coming up after this short commercial break. >> announcer: meet the press is a febreze car vent clip. which comes out on top? we brought real people to the texas desert to find out. it's just nice. very crisp. cool and fresh. that's what i was thinking! fresh.
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our political roundtable is here. i'll talk to them in just a moment. but i want to begin with michigan governor rick snyder. filing of bankruptcy by detroit is such a big story. i was immediately drawn to something you said back in june to 11. i'll put it up on the screen. the headline, "bankruptcy not an option for cities." governor snyder said that he won't let detroit or any other michigan cities declare bankruptcy. detroit's not going into bankruptcy. snyder told reporters, we're going to work hard to make sure that we don't need an emergency manager and bankruptcy shouldn't be on the table. so what happened? >> well, we worked hard on the process.
again, that's something to be avoided. and it's not something i'm happy to be in this situation. this was a very tough decision. but it's the right decision. because ultimately the issue we need to do is to get better services for the 700,000 people of detroit. the citizens of detroit deserve better than they're getting today, in addition to dealing with this crushing debt question. we went through all the other processes we could. there were no other viable options. and once you go through every other option, then you should consider bankruptcy. we're at that point. i believe it's the right thing to do now because the focus needs to be dealing with this debt question. but even more importantly, david, the citizens of detroit deserve better services. 58-minute response times on police calls. absolutely unacceptable. >> 58 minutes, average response time for high-priority calls. 50% of the park s closed since 2008. 40% of the streetlights don't work. how do politicians let the motor city down? >> again, if you look, this is 60 years of decline. this has been kicking the can down the road for 6 of 0 years. and my perspective on it, enough is enough.
i think there needs to be more accountability in government. and part of the issue here is let's stand up with and deal with this tragic situation and take care of the citizens. and that's what this is all about. this is drawing that line to say let's stop going downhill. because if we hadn't declared bankruptcy, every continuing day, detroit would have gone farther downhill. this is an opportunity to stabilize detroit. and even more importantly, longer term, i'm very bullish about the growth opportunities of detroit. there's many outstanding things going on in the city with the private sector, with young people moving in the city, it's got great opportunity. the last major obstacle is the city government. >> you've got $18 billion in debt. a friend of mine i talked to said, you know, is this america? look what's happened. how do you recover? you've got some 20,000 retirees there who rely upon pension checks which is grossly underfunded. how do you find a way back? how does a city like this turn itself around? >> well, you get honest about it to start with. again, that's about accountability and putting the fangts on the table. that's been a big part of this exercise is in many cases for
the on years, we've ignored the facts. and the retirees, i empathize with them. >> can you possibly make good on all those commitments, major retirees? >> let me put it in perspective for you. one of the things that bankruptcy does allow is a positive in the sense that we were talking with a lot of creditors. but one of the issues that weren't being represented well enough were the retirees. so proactively in the bankruptcy petition, one thing that we're asking for is the judge, right up front, to appoint someone to represent the retirees. they need to be at the table. they need to have a voice. and the other thing i want to really speak to the retirees themselves now is to the degree the pension plans are funded, that doesn't affect us at all. the bankruptcy is about the unfunded portion of the pension liability, which is still significant. i don't want to underestimate it, but the funded piece is safe. the real question is how do you address the unfunded piece. and if you go back in history, it's an ugly history of how this pension fund was managed. >> as is the case in a lot of
different cities. the role of federal government is an obvious question because the federal government has intervened when the auto companies needed a big bailout. you go back to the 1970s and that famous headline in the "new york daily news" when new york was in trouble, "ford to city: drop dead." here are some of the facts about the auto bailout and about the current debt detroit has. you had 80 plus billion dollars that flowed to the auto companies when they needed help. now you've got a total debt in detroit of $18 billion. is there not some money that should be available even from that initial bailout to the auto companies to help the city? >> i'm not going to speak to the federal government. what i want to speak to is a solution, an idea of being a partner in solving problems. tangible things we're doing. this isn't about just writing checks. this is about improving detroit. one thing i'm proud of, we're partnering with the federal government, the city and the state working together is blight removal. we're going to be starting to implement $100 million program to remove some of those 78,000 blighted structures in detroit hopefully within the next 30
days. that's one of the positive steps. so we don't need to wait for all of bankruptcy to end. we're moving now to improving detroit and getting better services for those great people. >> governor, we'll be watching. thank you very much for your time here with us today. as i'm going to make my way over to our roundtable, we will hear from, among others, the former governor of michigan, democrat jennifer granholm. i want to consider and try to understand the way politicians speak about detroit. how they've always done it. consider this. from president obama from october of last year. >> we refuse to throw in the towel and do nothing. we refuse to let detroit go bankrupt. i bet on american workers and american ingenuity and three years later, that bet is paying off in a big way. >> and good morning to all of you. governor granholm, when the president speaks about detroit, he doesn't mean the city of detroit. >> right. >> he means the auto companies. they got better. detroit did not. >> right. and that's a really important distinction because people are assuming that when he said we're not going to let detroit go
bankrupt, that he meant detroit, the city. it's two different entities. but the city of detroit is the poster child for the deindustrialization of america, david. since 1950, which was the heyday of detroit's burgeoning auto industry, there were three -- almost 300,000 automotive or manufacturing jobs in the city. 300,000. today, it's 27,000. that's a 90% decline in good-paying manufacturing jobs. so the real question is, not just about tearing down blight. it's what are we going to do as a nation to create good-paying, middle-class jobs in a country that has a policy of being completely hands off with the economy. we have to have a manufacturing policy, an advanced manufacturing policy, and give the ability for states to develop clusters that will help them compete. >> some of the criticism, governor, from conservatives who say, look, you've had 50 years of democratic rule in the city of detroit.
you've had unions, not only in detroit, but in other cities who are pursuing pensions and retirement policies that are completely unsustainable. and that there has been some level of denial. even you, in 2009, "time" magazine interviewed you. and the question was, will detroit ever really recover in your honest opinion? you said absolutely. we have great bones in the city and as a state, we have more engineers in this region than in all the other states plus canada and mexico combined. we're in a tough period because we have an auto crisis and a financial crisis so we're hit harder than any other state in the country. today you're saying it's much bigger than the financial crisis that happened in this country. >> it is bigger. my whole point is that detroit does have great bones, but what we need is a strategy nationally, like other countries have, to keep and create good-paying, middle-class jobs here. and we need a congress that would support that strategy. let me just quickly say, david, you talked about the pensions. cities across the couldnntry ha
$2 million of unfended pensions. this is not just detroit. there are 50,000 communities across the country that have lost factories since the year 2000. this is not a democratic problem. this is a problem across the country. >> chuck todd, who let detroit down? which politicians let them down? >> i think there was poor governance in detroit for a very long time. this turned into a machine political town, if you followed that. in my 25 years of following politics, you know, it was a city -- and i remember the first reform movement of detroit, when dennis archer got elected mayor, sort of when they replaced in the coal man young era, it was that first attempt. and there was a lot of cities that did that. you saw here in washington, d.c., and you saw these attempts. you know, one mayor couldn't change things because you had 30 years of cronyism. it was a machine. >> but if i told you -- i'm sorry, if i told you that a city on the border of america's largest trading partner couldn't figure out how to diversify its
economy, you have to sit there and say it was not just poor city government, poor business leadership, poor governance -- it is sort of remarkable that detroit, where it's located, it ended up in this position. >> you know, the bigger issue here because this detroit -- and what the governor has mentioned, and other communities and other urban cities is the result also of public policies at the national level when it comes to trade, when it comes to the fair investment and manufacturing to watch all of our jobs go abroad and not have a response. the second thing that grates many, many people is that we could bail out the automobile companies at a very hefty price. we could bail out the banks at a very hefty price. but when it comes to urban communities, where the poor are, when it comes to the deteriorating construction of urban communities, we have excuses. we have an effort to simply say, well, the problems are in city hall. get your government straight, and then we'll help you. what i hope this means is that there's going to be a renewed interest in american urban
communities. and for the national government to recognize we need a concerted effort if we're going to compete with china and india to bring back good-paying jobs. >> is that a fair comparison, though? i made it with governor snyder about the bailout and detroit. >> listen, we've got two narratives. the one is deindustrialization. the other is institutional failure. deindustrialization didn't only happen in detroit. it happened in san francisco and most other places. >> pittsburgh. >> pittsburgh, really, probably the best parallel because they had economic diversity. they had education. and they did not have institutional failure. detroit, to me, is decline 101. whether it's the roman empire, british empire, spanish empire, entrenched interests. they're together forever and forever. they get a culture of mediocrity, cronyism and collapse. >> you think about major institutions, whether washington is broken, schools, cities. george packer, we discussed the book he's written called "the
unwinding and inner history of the new america." and he writes this, in part. no one can say when the unwinding began, when the coil that held americans together in its secure and sometimes stifling grip first gave way. like any great change, the unwinding began countless times, countless ways and at some moment the country always the same country crossed a lane and became different. if you were born around 1960 or afterward, you would spend your adult life in the vertigo of that unwinding. you watched structures that had been in place before your birth collapse like pillars of salt across the vast visible landscape. you think a lot about this concept of whether this is american decline or if this is something much more temporary and narrow. >> these are -- it's not american decline. it's class. we've had a lot of discussion about race on the show today. to me the class divide is bigger than the race divide. if you're in the educated class, college-educated communities, you're not seeing decline. you've got family structures, rising incomes, you're doing fine. if you're in the less educated,
whether you're african-american, latino, white, asian, you're seeing collapsing social skrurkts. 70% african-american kids born out of wedlock. so what you're seeing is this collapse of order on the bottom. if you're born into a certain class, there are certain railroad tracks, you just go along the tracks. >> you know what, david? that's inconsistent with what the 20th century was about. because what the 20th century was about was the rise of the middle class. and the opening of doors of economic opportunity. and i think that the class divide combined with the race divide is america's greatest 21st century challenge because what's changed is the world in which we live. the world in which we live with new competitors all across the globe. and we're in the changing dem graph demographics of america. we've had substantial progress in the 20th century when it came to closing the class divide. we've departed from that. and what i'm concerned is that we, in many, many polite circles, do not think that that
class divide is a challenge to americans' economic competitiveness. >> and governor, my mother, born in detroit, grew up at a time when a middle-class job in detroit was possible, that you could really think about sustaining a family on. >> well, that's the whole point. is what is -- if we want congress to act on anything, it is on a strategy to keep and create middle-class jobs in america. you're right. but we are seeing the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and that large scope of poor, the group is getting larger. so how do we create, in a global economy, middle-class jobs in america? other countries are doing this. we have not. we can learn from germany. we think that because we are exceptional as a nation, that we ought not be borrowing best practices from other countries. but in fact, the other countries have figured out how to crack the code, to create advanced manufacturing jobs in their nation. why can't we? it's because we have gridlock in congress that refuses to have any hands on when it comes to
the economy. >> let me get a break break in here and come back. i want to get to the president and his comments on race. where he's choosing to really make an impact in his second where he's choosing to really make an impact in his second term with ♪ don't you ♪ don't you wanna, wanna ♪ don't you ♪ don't you want to see me flaunt what i got? ♪ oh. ♪ don't you ♪ don't you wanna, wanna ♪ don't you ♪ don't you wanna, wanna stress sweat is different than heat and activity sweat -- it smells worse. secret clinical strength gives you four times the protection against stress sweat. live fearlessly with secret clinical strength.
i'm paraphrasing here -- that once the president reached the white house, now quoting, it appears his intense interest in the subject of race diminished, he would be judged by the content of his presidency, not the color of his skin. race seemingly became unimportant, if not irrelevant, to the first black president of the united states. he rarely spoke about it. this, a big departure. >> yeah. it seemed superficially unimportant, but it's important to remember race is his first subject, as it would be if you had a black father and a white mother. he brings to all the other issues, the way he framed race and the way he started thinking about race, his tendency to do on the one hand, on the other, his desire to reconcile opposites, his ability to see different points of view, all the stuff we've seen him come to apply to every other issue, it started with race. i thought this speech was one of the highlights, i thought it was a symphony of indignation, professionalism, executive responsibility, personal feeling. it had all these different things woven together. i thought beautifully. but it's important to remember, race is how he started. >> again, i come back because i
want to make sure to represent that other side as well. some conservatives have said, look, this was the wrong moment to inject race into the trial, their view, and for the president to speak out in this way. >> yeah. i guess i would disagree with him. i think if the young man had been a white kid and the older guy had been a black guy, it would be a different story. and the president said that. and i think that happens to be true. >> i think this was the president speaking as a witness to white people. it was really a conversation to explain to white people why there was so much angst in the african-american community about this. and the reason why this was an important moment is because we have not arrived. and those in the conservative community that would say that this was not about race need to understand that the moment they can say that i would trade places with an african-american person and feel like i've not lost any of my benefits or privileges, that's the point we will have arrived. but we haven't gotten there yet.
>> i will say this. this is a moment for the obama presidency. and barack obama, the person. because i believe that he addressed something that i know was -- that had been deep in his consciousness for the first five years of his presidency. i think what he may have thought is that actions speak louder than words. that in fact, if you confront health care disparities through the health care law, predatory lending through dodd/frank, that if you, in fact, enforce the civil rights law, that would be enough. but i think what this may be a recognition of is that the power of the presidency is the bully pulpit. the power of shape hearts, minds and ideas. the power to lead the nation ---ist important to look at barack obama's presidency as a transformative presidency in terms of what the nation will become in the 21st century. we've got to see this moment as a nation. and i think barack obama opened the door. and my prayer and hope is that it's going to be a conversation
that's going to lead to concrete steps and action, not just by the president, but that it's going to spur others. >> and chuck, but if you look at other areas, how does the president use his second term? where does he intervene on some of these key issues? we see how he's done it here. and as the mayor points out, we'll see where he goes with that, whether it's immigration or the implementation of health care. he also is now starting to use that bully pulpit. >> what was interesting about that conversation at the beginning of the show and the debate particularly with tavis, too much caution. >> yeah. >> that actually -- that in many ways, that description of president obama on many issues is too cautious. he waits too long to speak out and use the bully pulpit. one other observation that i wanted to give on the speech that he made on friday, that was also the son of an anthropologist. people always forget that. his mother was an anthropologist, "a," an observer of communities, interacting. she did it obviously overseas in indonesia. and you see that as always been the sort of intellectual way he
looks at this, it bit him politically, cling to their guns and bible, again that was obama the anthropologist. >> and a law professor. charles ogletree said before the program, he poses the uncomfortable question and lets people grapple with that. >> and enhe backs away. when he was thinking about running for president, one of the greatest assets of him winning the president. he could be a total failure. winning the presidency meant he was going to have cracked a ceiling, broken a ceiling for young african-american men. he knew that just the action, not the words, the simple action was going to make him a role model and say you know what? this is no longer -- african-american -- young african-american men have -- you know, it's not just about getting out of poverty, athletics or through entertainment. there are other ways that he was going to be a role model. >> gene robinson said, "no caption necessary." >> remember, he's pushing immigration reform, among
americans under 5 years old, whites are a minority. and we're going to have a very different conversation in a few years when it's much more multiethnic, latinos, asians and all these other groups, i'd be fascinated to see how the race discussion will look. it's not just two things. >> and i was at the national council yesterday, and the discussion is already changing about the dynamic of the nation. but the important thing is, we are at the beginning of this transformation. and we've got to seize the moment. >> david and i come from cities where this has already happened, miami and los angeles. where it was blacks and whites. it's a complicated conversation. >> let me get a break in here. we will do that. we'll come back with more including a tribute to the pioneering journalist helen thomas who died yesterday at the pioneering journalist helen thomai like a clean kitchen. the i don't do any cleaning. i make dirt. ♪ i'm not big enough or strong enough for this. there should be some way to make it easier. [ doorbell rings ] [ morty ] here's a box, babe. open it up. oh my goodness! what is a wetjet? some kind of a mopping device.
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thanks to all of you. before we go, "meet the press minute," as we remember a pier in in our business, legendary journalist helen thomas who passed away yesterday. in 1960 she became the first female reporter to cover the white house full time and quickly became known for keeping presidents and their administrations on their toes. >> helen. >> who was to blame? where did the buck stop? >> reporter: she made her mark from the very first time she was on "meet the press" back in 1976 with a pointed question that had a top adviser to president gerald ford's re-election campaign, defending the president's image. >> you have said that president ford has an image portrayal problem. what is -- >> i have? >> you said that at your briefing at the white house.
or that there is some question about the image that's being portrayed to the president. >> well, i said that i didn't think that he was being accurately portrayed. i think a great to-do was made, for example, of tripping going down a set of stairs. and this seems to have triggered a whole lot of little phrases that i don't think accurately portray him. >> reporter: and in her last appearance here new year's weekend, 1993, with a nod toward her tenure in the white house press corps, she made it quite clear there would be no letting up on president george h.w. bush even though he had only three weeks left in office. >> joining us now is helen thomas, white house correspondent for upi and someone who has covered every president since john f. kennedy, is that fair? >> right. >> president bush, post-election day funk, seems to be hitting his stride again.
helen, you've watched him a long time. what do you think? >> i think he is going out of office with all flags flying. certainly his policy, and he's had some big successes. but on the other hand, he'll come back tonight and on monday we're going to ask him about the special prosecutor. >> happy new year, helen. >> tough all the way through. by the time i was in the white house covering president bush, she became a columnist, more opiniona opinionated, courted controversy as well. in a statement yesterday, president obama said, in part, that it wasn't just helen's long tenure as a journalist that made her the dean of the white house press corps but rather her, quote, fierce belief that our democracy works best when we ask tough questions and hold our leaders to account. amen. helen thomas was 92 years old. and that is all for today. we'll be
rescue workers battle to save a man teetering at the brink of niagara falls. >> we've got to go. we've got to go get him. a daredevil attempts a stunt that goes up in flames. >> my life was in perilous danger. this guy pummels his own lawyer. and a twist in the story an investigative reporter never saw coming. >> you hear him scream to his wife, honey, get the gun. >> videos that don't get any more shocking -- >> video shows i pushed your kid. what are you going to do about it? >> -- or more strange -- >> i remember standing there in disbelief. >> or any more sinister. >> the puppy could have died, he could have broken the dog's neck.