tv Meet the Press MSNBC March 31, 2013 11:00am-12:00pm PDT
th this easter sunday the culture war over guns, gay marriage, abortion, and immigration. they're dominating the political debate. after chilling new details emerge from the newtown shooting that left 20 children dead in december, the president responds to some who claim the push for tighter gun control has stalled. >> the entire country pledged we would do something about it and this time would be different. shame on us if we've forgotten. >> has the moment for action already passed? plus, congress is out but a bipartisan group of key senators is preparing to put forward a highly anticipated plan for
comprehensive immigration reform in the days ahead. we'll talk to two members of the so-called gang of eight, democratic senator from new york, chuck schumer, and republican senator from arizona, jeff flake. and it was a historic week of intense oral arguments at the supreme court as it considered the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. we'll hear from both sides and get insights and analysis on the implications moving forward in a special discussion that includes actor and gay rights supporter rob reiner. >> announcer: from nbc news washington, the world's longest television program, this is "meet the press" the david gregory. substituting today, chuck todd. good easter morning. pope francis celebrated his first easter mass it at the vatican encouraging those who have strayed from the faith to return. here at home it's divisive issues as washington grapples with guns, gay marriage and immigration.
we have two key members of the so-called bipartisan gang of eight, senators working on a compromise immigration proposal. word coming this weekend that an agreement is near. we'll ask senators schumer and flake about has in just a moment. first, i want to go around quickly with our first of two political roundtables to frame what's at stake in these debates. joining us the former senior adviser to president barack obama, david axelrod. former congressman and chair of the national republican campaign committee, former virginia james davis, peggy noonan of the washington street journal. jeanne, welcome to all. we'll talk about two hours of show into one hour. david axelrod, on immigration, a lot of republicans don't believe the president wants to sign immigration bill this year. they believe that he wants the politics, he wants the political issue, because it's been so successful for democrats. >> i understand their paranoia because it was a terribly difficult issue for them and continues to be. he wants this accomplishment. this is a legacy item for him. there is no doubt in my mind he wants to pass comprehensive immigration reform. >> tom davis, can republicans
even start talking to hispanics on other issues if this issue isn't put behind them no matter how it turns out? >> first of all, they'll get a vote. you may get like we did it in 2006, a house version and senate version. very, very different. not reconciled. at that point everybody will have their talking points. the answer is, sure. i think the conversation will continue, and i think you'll have a good republican midterm. >> you know, peggy, what's been interesting about this week is all of the big polarizing issues of the last two generations culturally all popped up in one week, and one had to do with the supreme court with gay marriage, with abortion. this culture war normally when it comes back is normally something that is helpful for republicans. is it good for the conservative movement to have these issues out there? >> i don't know. i think all of these cultural issues as i guess we call them have been major issues in america for almost half a century really. the abortion argument was going on 50 years ago.
roe came 40 years ago. it is hard to resolve these issues, because therapy not just cultural issues. they are moral issues and americans feel differently about them. so i think one way or another, they'll probably be bubbling out there for a long time, and it's not the worst thing. >> so maybe a resolution in the law but not in the way people feel. is it also a sign the economy is coming back? >> it usually is, isn't it, when people can think about other things other than jobs. but, you know, i think some of these cultural issues are being resolved. gay marriage before the supreme court, obviously a hot button issue. but you look at the polls and you see 58% and our poll, "the washington post" poll, in favor of it. 80% of adults under 30. that sounds like a decision rather than a question on that issue. >> all right. so we've framed the discussion. i want to pause it here. i want to talk about immigration. so joining me now from new york, one of the leaders of the
so-called gang of eight, democratic senator chuck schumer. senator, welcome back to "meet the press." let me get to the news of the morning. is a deal at hand for immigration reform? we know about this issue having to do with visas and wages between the business lobby and the labor lobby. is a deal done? >> well, with the agreement between business and labor, every major policy issue has been resolved on the gang of eight. now everyone, we've all agreed, that we're not going to come to a final agreement until we see draft legislative language and we agree on that. we drafted some of it already. the rest of it will be drafted this week, and so i am very, very optimistic that we will have an agreement among the eight of us next week. senator leahy has agreed to have extensive markup and debate on the bill in april, and then we go to the floor, god willing, in may. so i think we're on track.
>> you were quoted as saying the deal is near, the deal is at hand, and all of that coverage got senator rubio, the republican, part of this gang of eight to say, whoa, whoa, whoa, no deal yet. that we're closer. so is there disagreement between the two of you on how close you are to a deal? >> no. it's semantics. business and labor have an agreement on the future flow which has been the issue that has undone immigration reform in the past. so this is a major, major obstacle that's overcome. each of us has to look at the language and approve it. i don't think on the business/labor side there's any disagreement. there's lots of -- but as senator rubio said, until we look at all of the language, he's correctly pointing out that that language hasn't been fully drafted. they'll be little kerfuffles, but i don't think any of us expect there to be problems. >> if you lost senator rubio in this gang of eight, if he walked away from the negotiations,
would that put the entire immigration bill in jeopardy? >> well, first of all, i don't think he'll walk away. he's been an active and strong participant. he's had a lot of input into the bill. obviously his views are not the same as the other seven of us. every one of us has different views, but i expect that we're going to have agreement -- >> but you need it. if you don't have him, this bill is suddenly in jeopardy? >> i'm not even going to speculate about that. i talked to marco yesterday. we had great conversations, and he is protecting some of the things that he thinks are very important in the bill, but i don't think that will stand in the way of any final agreement. i think we're all on track. >> you say this issue between business and labor was the last major hurdle, but is border security solved, this issue of metrics and border security solved? i want to play a little bit of what president obama said in an interview with telemundo earlier this week on that issue. >> regardless of how much
additional effort we put in on the borders, we don't want to make this earned pathway to citizenship a situation in which it's put off further and further into the future. there needs to be a certain path for how people can get legal in this country, even as we also work on these strong border security issues. >> you spent last week on the border with some of your members of the gang of eight including jeff flake who will be on the show here in just a minute. this issue of border security and the metrics involved before launching the pathway to citizenship, that's been resolved? >> well, i was very glad to go to the border, and you see the expanse, and it's huge, and the terrain is different in many different places and it gave me, someone from new york city, a real appreciation of the different problems in arizona so, look, we've come to a basic agreement, which is that, first, people will be legalized. in other words not citizens but they will be allowed to work, come out of the shadows, travel. then we will make sure the
border is secure, and we have specific metrics that are in the bill. i'm not going to get into what they are, to make sure that that happens, and after that happens, there's a path to citizenship, and i think there's agreement among the eight of us on that, and i think most of the american people agree with that, that we should certainly do -- we made a great deal of progress in securing the border. i'm sure jeff would say that. but i would join him in saying we have to make more progress. >> i want to ask you about some controversial comments made by a former colleague of yours when you served in the house. alaska republican don young, about something he said this week about mexican immigrants. here is what he said. >> my father had a ranch. we used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. >> that derogatory term was something that don young had issued two apologies. the first one thursday night, he said this. i used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in central california. i know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and i meant no disrespect.
well, that didn't seem to suit some people. so he issued a new apology on friday night. quote, i apologize for the insensitive term i used. there was no malice in my heart or intent to offend. it was a poor choice of words. that word and the negative attitudes that come with it should be left in the 20th century, and i'm sorry that this has shifted our focus ay way from comprehensive immigration reform, unquote. the fact that that was in his vocabulary, does that fact th that -- senator young, does that make him fit to serve? >> i was disappointed in his first apology. it didn't seem full. i hadn't seen the second apology until you read it. there should be a full and complete apology. look, bigotry has always been the poison of america, and we ought to do everything to eradicate it with no excuses or explanation. >> so that second apology satisfies you. >> you just read it to me. it seems much fuller than the first one, yeah. >> i want to move to guns very quickly. we've seen the polling.
we know the president came out and urged, noted it was less than 100 days. we've seen the polling that support for stricter gun laws is slipping. it was over 50% right after newtown. it's now below 50%. what's possible anymore? in january you said on "meet the press" the expanded background check bill was probably, you called it the sweet spot, which a lot of people interpreted as the only piece of legislation that had a chance of passing. is that still your assessment? >> well, i wouldn't say the only piece of legislation, but i called it the sweet spot because it would do a whole lot of good and had a good chance of passing. i'm working very hard with both democrats and republicans, pro-nra and anti-nra people, to come up with a background check bill that will be acceptable to 60 senators and be very strong and get the job done. it's very hard. we're working hard and i'm very hopeful we can get this passed. >> it's a fragile coalition. new york city mayor michael bloomberg is running ads, not just against some republicans on this issue, but against your
fellow democrats in the u.s. senator, including heidi heitkamp in north dakota and other red state democratic senators. is michael bloomberg being helpful to your cause as you try to put this coalition together? >> i respect mayor bloomberg's passion on this and let's not forget the argument -- the ads and the sort of field organization has always been on the other side, on the pro-gun side. and so to have a counter there is very helpful. obviously each senator is going to have to make up his own or her own mind and i respect that. >> but does this hurt your cause as you try to recruit a heidi heitkamp on your side? >> as i said, each senator is going to make up his or her own mind and i have a great deal of respect for that. >> senator schumer, i have to leave it there. we have a busy morning and a packed show. i thank you. >> thank you. nice to talk to you. >> happy passover. now for the republican perspective, another member of the so-called gang of eight, jeff flake. senator, welcome. senator, let me start -- >> thanks for having me on. >> sir, let me start with the same question that i started with senator schumer at the
beginning. how close are we to a deal? are you guys there? is it just dotting an "i" and crossing a "t"? >> well, we're much closer with labor and business agreeing on this gesuest worker plan. that doesn't mean we've crossed every "i" or dotted every "t" or vice versa. we've still got a ways to go in terms of looking at the language and making sure that it's everything we thought it would be, but we're closer certainly. >> if there is a deal that you agreed to with this group of eight but you can't recruit more republicans on your side, would you walk away? . you know, we're committed to this, if we can get the language right, and i think that we'll stick together as a gang, and i hope that we can pull some republicans our way. i think a number of them are with us already. so i don't want to talk about walking away. i don't intend to do that. >> how important is senator rubio to the cause? he is seen to the bridge to some of the more conservative members of the senate conference if he
wasn't in the coalition? would it hurt your cause to get a large vote? >> you bet. he's extremely important as senator schumer said, he's had great input, a lot of input into the language already. he's making the point now that we immediate to go through regular order which i certainly support, so he's extremely important to this effort. >> when you say regular order and i heard senator leahy, the senator of the judiciary committee, would have hearings. experiencive hearings. expanser hearings. there's been a criticism of some other republicans not involved in these negotiations. the fact is we just had two special interest groups negotiate part of this deal. no elected officials were involved in it. is that healthy for this process? >> well, i can tell you elected officials were involved in this. we were involved every step of the way -- but the point is, every senator has his own or her own franchise here, and we want to see this bill move through regular order. it will be amended in the judiciary committee. it will be amended certainly on the floor. so there will be input.
there should be input. it will make it a better product, and certainly if people are going to buy into it, there has to be further input from the senate and obviously the house will move its own bill. >> senator schumer would not tell us what this metrics and border security, your home state of arizona. you've talked about -- you've said there are two sort of border sectors in arizona. one is the yuma sector. one is the tucson sector. and you say yuma has got it right. what does that mean? that there's is operational control. can you explain what that means in layman's terms to the viewers out there? >> yes. i was in both the yuma sector and the tucson sector last week and there is a difference. in the yuma sector, people still get through, but our border patrol and other agents have a reasonable expectation of catching them. that's probably the best explanation of what operational control means. you'll never stop everyone from coming through, and you have a lot of commerce, legal commerce,
that happens at the border as well. so when people talk about having a sealed border, weigh don't we don't need a sealed border. we need a secure border. that's what we have in yuma. we're quite a ways from that in the tucson sector. >> and when that is done, that would trigger the pathway to citizenship? >> yes. first, we've got to get, as you mentioned, some kind of metrics from the department of homeland security. in a recent report that they had, increased apprehensions was used in one part of the report to indicate that we had a better situation and in another part of the report increased apprehensions did -- decreased apprehensions was used to demonstrate the same. so we've had trouble getting a good metrics out of the department of homeland security. we're going to have to have that before we move it further. >> let me ask you about guns, background check bill. is there any part of the extended background check that you would support? >> sure. i've actually introduced legislation with senator graham, senator begich and senator pryor
with regard to mental health issues. we do need to strengthen the background check system but universal background checks i think is a bridge too far for most of us. >> why is that? why shouldn't -- why shouldn't law -- we have to go through tsa checkpoints, law abiding citizens have to do that. what's wrong with law abiding gun owners -- what do they have to hide? what's wrong with going through an expanded background check? e. the paperwork requirements alone would be significant, and even if there are exemptions for a father passing on a gun to his son or daughter, you'd still have issues with people in a private setting transferring or loaning a gun for somebody -- loaning a shotgun to go on a duck hunt, for example. i think in this universal buckground sheck system, there would be issues with. so i think universal background checks we can scale back and still make significant progress by strengthening our background checks system without going too far. >> let me ask you on gay
marriage. could you support a republican presidential candidate some day who supported same-sex marriage? >> oh, i think that's inevitable. there will be one and i think he'll receive republican support or she will. so i think that -- that, yes. the answer is yes. >> and where are you on this issue? you say it's inevitable. are you -- lisa murkowski called it evolving on the issue. a colleague of yours. are you evolving, to use her word, on this issue? >> i believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. i still hold to the traditional definition of marriage. >> is this something that you thought -- are you thinking about? could you imagine changing your position before you left the u.s. senate? >> i can't. i tell you, in the past i supported repealing don't ask/don't tell. i supported the nondiscrimination act as well.
but i hold to the traditional definition of marriage. >> all right. senator jeff flake, i will leave it there. thank you, senator, for coming on. coming up, reaction to what you coming up, to what you just heard from the two senators on immigration and guns in the particular plus sorting out the politics of all the issues on guns. is time running out for the president? could he see his democratic majority, by the way, in the senate slip away in 2014 meaning he can't get anything done after that. and later, a special discussion on a historic week at the supreme court and what it all means. all of it right after this. around the world that sell stolen identities? >> 30-year-old american man, excellent credit rating. >> announcer: lifelock monitors thousands of these sites 24 hours a day. and if we discover any of our members' data for sale, lifelock is there with the most comprehensive identity theft protection available. [♪...] [squealing, crash] call 1-800-lifelock or go to
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comg up, ctor and producer rob reiner will join coming up, actor and producer rob reiner will join us as part of our special discussion on the historic week at the supreme court on marriage. speaking of celebrities and seeing as it's opening day tomorrow, what might hollywood and baseball have in common? we'll dig deep into the "meet the press" archives for this one. you won't want to miss it all coming up later on the show. pd d to breathe, but with advair, i'm breathing better. so now i can be in the scene.
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the president has used the bully pulpit for is to re-energize the issue of gun debate. the polls are sort of speaking pretty loud here. the public doesn't seem to have the same desires? >> well, yes and no. if you look at the same cbs poll you cited 90% still support background checks. i heard senator flake say it's a bridge too far. 90% of americans have crossed that bridge. 86% are republicans. and many of them, by the way, are in suburban swing districts that are currently held by republican members of congress. so i think the politics isn't all that clear on this, and if i were on the republican side, i would be looking hard at a way to find something that i can vote for that would satisfy that desire to deal with this problem. >> tom davis, you did this for a living. what part of gun control is good politics for any republican? >> it's tough. it's an intensity issue. polls measure one thing but the people who vote on it don't want the changes at this point. and in the republican base which is largely rural, there's no percentage voting for this in many of these districts. >> peggy?
>> i think a big part of this story is that people don't trust congress. after newtown there was a great bubbling feeling of, my goodness, there must be at least some things we can do legislatively to make this whole gun situation better. if the congress, if the senate had moved quickly on discreet, small bills having to do with background checks. i mean quickly, in the weeks after newtown -- >> these are small bills. >> move it quickly, do it. don't put it together in this big thing and then talk about these different kind of guns you're banning and having all these hearings. they failed to move quick and small. >> is she right? >> well, the senate moving quickly -- those two things don't go together. >> they don't go together. >> and never have. >> sometimes you've got to. >> my question is whether michael bloomberg with his money and his enthusiasm can manage to
turn this into a voting issue on the pro-gun control side -- >> a voting issue in november. i get that in -- we had mark pryor, we're not going it to let somebody from new york city tell me -- mary landrieu, heidi heitkamp, democrats who don't seem to like the role. >> i think he's a good foil for them to certify their authenticity. >> their independence. independents. >> in states like new jersey, pennsylvania, california, new york, there are members for whom i think this could be an issue especially if bloomberg turns up the heat in the upcoming campaign. >> you used to do his suburban district. you -- that's the one you represented. there is a different type of voter there than in the majority. >> the problem is, there aren't that many districts like that that are still republican. there are some. they'll have a vulnerability and these republicans that are most likely to cross on background chec checks, and i think the mayor and others add pressure on these
members to vote that way. >> peggy, what did you hear on immigration between the two? chuck schumer, the deal is at hand. we're close. jeff flake, whoa, whoa, whoa. hold on a minute. what did you hear? >> i heard a lot of interest in marco rubio. look, i think there's a broad sense that we've been talking about immigration reform in a very big way for almost ten years, and in congress they do want to move forward, but there are anxieties certainly on the republican side. i think rubio said something in the past 24 hours or at least i read it, that seemed to me kind of smart. he said, make this transparent. let everybody know. let the voters know what we're doing. maybe hold hearings. but don't just have these quiet little deals again. nobody truchts us. trusts us. >> wait a minute. you're contradicting yourself. on guns you said move fast, move quickly, get it done. >> move fast and move quickly on immigration is now impossible.
please. this has been going on for ten years, but i'll tell you something -- i read something in a book the other day that i think has a little bit to do with what's with the general mood pushing immigration forward. it is the quote from calvin coolidge, it's in a book about him, it's about 1922, and he said of immigration, whether your people came over on the mayflower or they came over last week in steerage, we're all in the same boat. that's an old american point of view. he explained afterwards the boat you're in is made magical by a feeling of americanism, which we all have to communicate to each other, which we don't communicate so well these days. but i think there's just a general sense normalize and regularize this thing. don't make it punitive and nasty. >> she does bring up a point every two generations. >> oh, my goodness. >> and eventually -- >> it was chinese in the 19th century.
>> exactly, and eventually we do get through it, and, guess what? we do communicate americanism very well. still after immigration. i think a deal gets done because of the impetus for the republican party to do something, to move. marco rubio has been preaching this since he got to the senate that we've got to do something, people, or else they're not going -- latinos are not going to listen to the republican party on other issues. so i can't imagine him walking away. >> brass tacks, the senate vote has to be large, right, tom davis? to force the house and senate to come to an agreement that has a path to citizenship. the house bill does not have the that. >> most of these house members got re-elected even while the democrats were getting a majority of the vote for the house. they're from pretty safe districts. they were about primary elections and this does not help those particular members. it helps the party. >> it gets to the central point. does the republican party want to be a regional congressional party, or do they want to be a national party? if they want to be a national party, the trends are
unmistakable. the vote in november was very clear. they have to do this if they want to be a national party, if they're satisfied being a regional congressional party then they will block it. >> i don't disagree with you but you have to put yourself in the minds of the members. >> and i do, and i think you have to have the national party leader saying one thing and the congressional leaders saying another. >> if it wasn't for gay marriage this week, what happened in north dakota on abortion -- and i want to get all of your takes on this -- would have been, i think, the big social issue. north dakota's republican governor dalrymple signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country six weeks to ban abortions. when he signed it he admitted legally it probably is not going to stand up to a legal challenge. i want to show you there's been a lot of movement and they're all in red states on this issue of banning abortion at certain times, at 20 weeks or less. that's the map we have on the board of all the states that have done 20 weeks or less, an abortion ban.
every single one of them, by the way, states that were carried by mitt romney. peggy noonan. this issue of abortion. as gay marriage falls as an issue that maybe it's now splitting republicans a little bit -- you can see jeff flake, he was uncomfortable just talking about the issue. abortion and the life movement could be what motivates evangelicals again, could it not? >> i don't know. actually that's not my question. here is the thing. this issue will not go away, abortion. it is a constant agitating of the american soul. you mentioned the legal move that was made in one of the states to cut off abortion after six weeks. the real story this week is the haunting and disturbing story of this doctor in philadelphia who is being tried this week. and if you wanted to watch the testimony, it was hard to find, but if you wanted to have a sense what was happening, you
could find it on the internet or in the local papers. this was a man who had an abortion mill that was, in fact, a death mill for babies essentially born. being tried now. we'll see how it goes. this is a story that is haunting about the implications of decisions made by courts. the abortion issue will not go away if you think it is the taking of a human life, and so it's going to stay there and get itself worked through in the courts again and again. >> it does seem there is a strategy now that republican governors and legislators are basically trying to push the supreme court to retake up the issue. >> i think peggy is right that abortion won't go away the way gay marriage i think will go away in a few years and we'll get past immigration. the best we ever get to on abortion is a truce. the country is -- >> what's the new truce? >> well, we're in one of those
periods where maybe the sort of truce line people are trying to move it one way or the other. but ultimately, people who are opposed to abortion, because they believe it's murd it's very hard to compromise on that. it's very hard to say, well, you know, you go ahead and murder if that's what you believe. that's not what i happen to believe but it is what people -- >> and yet, david axelrod, the issue of rights was in colorado and virginia in particular. >> yes. that's probably -- >> that's why you carried those two states in your opinion, right? >> and you look at the gender gap in the election. these were motivational issues for people on our side as well. let me make a final point on your first point about all these social issues. what's interesting to me these were once wedge issues for republicans. now some of them are working as wedge issues against republicans. and it shows a shift of absence. now abortion is a separate discussion for the reasons that
gene just mentioned, but generally there's been a drift on some of these other issues. >> that does seem as if every other time the culture war has percolated, it was something that would favor republicans. does it? it's not necessarily -- >> race, ethnicity, culture before you get to economics at this point, and even many groups who agree with republicans on some of these social issues, branding on ethnicity, we talked about immigration, is so bad they won't even look at republican candidates so it works in the democrats' favor in many of these cases. abortion is a different matter. you look at abortion, the country moves slightly right. americans are very conflicted. >> technology had moved the country. >> of course. >> the question is are republicans pushing the envelope too much and is there going to be -- you saw it as a snap back. >> look, ruth bader ginsberg herself last week was quoted as saying she thought roe versus wade, i missed the word, was a bit of an overreach in terms of
the way the court did it. leaving this issue not settled democratically, not settled in legislatures and by the people and referendum, but being imposed on them. when you have a great, terrible, moral issue and you want to put a certain thing on people, impose a certain thing on people, you will cause a half century of violence. >> it's a polarizing issue. it's a difficult and troubling issue but i think the politics are more complicated and there will be a backlash to those kinds of initiatives. >> and it's polarizing within the party sometimes as well. thank you all for part one of this roundtable. coming up, we have the legal fight surrounding another polarizing issue, same-sex marriage. it reached a historic marker as the supreme court heard arguments for the first time on two cases involving the constitutional rights of gay couples, and while the high court has yet to rule, has the argument already been won in the court of public opinion?
we'll talk about that next in a special discussion. peggy gets to stay with us. also joining me msnbc's al sharpton, brian brown, nbc's justice correspondent pete williams who was at the court reporting on all the latest developments this week. we'll have actor and gay rights advocate rob reiner who was inside the court for those arguments. first in line. he'll join the conversation as well. that's all coming up next on this brief commercial break. ask
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two landmark cases in two days as a topic that is moving quickly in terms of public opinion comes before a court that tends to move slowly. >> forces are colliding. joining us now to discuss the politics of same-sex marriage the host of msnbc "politics nation" and president and founder of national action network reverend al sharpton. president of the national organization for marriage, brian brown. nbc news justice correspondent, pete williams. sticking around, who survived the vote as a panelist survivor, wall street news columnist peggy noonan and joining us from new york, actor and activist rob reiner. mr. reiner, thank you. >> thank you for having me. >> pete, i want to make you do your correspondent job. what happened this week? where's the court? >> well, what i think we're not going to get is some sort of sweeping ruling on same-sex marriage. we're probably not going to get some sort of sweeping ruling on prop 8. on the prop 8 case, the case from california, this is the proposition passed by 52% of voters that stopped same-sex
marriage in the state. it seemed like the supreme court is just not ready to rule one way or the other on it. they're going to find some way to send this case back to california stamped incomplete either by saying that the prop 8 proponents did not have the correct legal standing to enter the court in the first place, or they're just not ready to decide it. now, you know, people may think that's weird but the security doesn't have to take any case and there are sometimes situations where they say we're just not ready. on doma i think they will. >> the marriage act? >> the defense of marriage act, passed by congress, signed by president clinton in 1996. it says the federal government cannot recognize same-sex marriage even in the states now numbering nine plus d.c. that recognize same-sex marriage. i think the court will find some way to strike doma down, with it, but that will not affect any state in terms of whether it has to allow same-sex marriage. >> you know, you talk about the first issue whether they should have taken the case. we heard them, the justices, almost debating that issue amongst themselves. i want to play audio between justice kennedy and justice scalia on that fact.
>> i just wonder if the case was properly granted. >> it's too late for that now, isn't it? >> that's essentially like asks, why did we grant cert. that's essentially asking, you know, why did we grant cert. we should let it percolate for another -- you know, we've cross that had river, i think. >> rob reiner, you worked really hard to get this prop 8 case in front of the supreme court. the supreme court agreed to take your case. if they say, never mind, and send it back, is that still a victory to you, because it does overturn prop 8 on a state level? >> yes. it is a victory because the reason we set out to do this to begin with was twofold. one was to strike down prop 8 which, if they send it back as pete williams described, we will have accomplished that. the other reason we did it and the big reason was to educate the country, was to put this on a national platform, to have
this national discussion which we've had and we've seen the polls move dramatically. so we were at somewhere in the 40s when we started four years ago and now as you cited we're at 58% with 80% of people under 30 accepting the idea of same-sex marriage. so this conversation that we've had, this education process, has been very, very effective and i believe there's an inevitability now. the snowball is rolling down the hill, and it's inevitable. >> brian, i want to get you to react to something. it was an exchange between justice kagan and charles cooper, the lawyer, defending prop 8. what's the point of federal recognition of marriage? take a look. >> if you're over the age of 55, you don't help us serve the government's interest in regulating procreation through marriage. so why is that different? >> your honor, even with respect to couples over the age of 55, it is very rare that both
couples, both parties to the couple are infertile and the traditional -- >> no, really, because if a couple -- [ laughter ] i can just assure you if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage. [ laughter ] >> it became a laugh line. that is among, brian, the issues that traditional marriage advocates have been making. if it's a laugh line in a courtroom, does that mean that argument is no longer valid? >> well, the truth is the truth. and the truth is marriage is based upon the distinction between men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. marriage is the one institution that a brings together the two great halves of humanity, male and female, in one institution to connect husbands and wives together and to any children they may bear. the question before the court is not only of this issue of what is marriage?
marriage is, by definition, the union of a man and a woman and apart from all of this inevitability talk, 31 states have voted to say that is the truth. they've embedded it in their state constitutions. only four have voted against it. there's a myth that somehow this is inevitable. look, north carolina passed its constitutional amendment -- >> very low turnout election. >> eight months ago by 61%. the polls in california had us at 36%. support for traditional marriage. but when people came out, they voted by 53% to support traditional marriage. so the real issue is, is the court going to launch another culture war by trumping the votes of these states and of the duly elected members of congress who passed doma. >> let me ask you this -- if they punt -- if they punt prop 8, is that a vict trin or a loss for another day? >> well, again, i disagree with pete. i don't think the court is going to punt. the court is going to answer the question.
the question is simple. do the people of the state of california, do the people of the states of this country have the right to have their voices heard? or is the court going to trash over 50 million votes? the lower court ruling wasn't just about proposition 8 and what is being brought forward is the myth that somehow embedded within our constitution something the founders didn't see and we haven't seen up until now, there is a right to redefine the very nature of marriage. >> reverend sharpton, i want to put up a poll number. this is from 1968. this was public opinion on interracial marriage. do you approve of marriage between whites and nonwhites was the way the question was worded. the supreme court ruled anyway and they got rid of those laws that they said discriminated. there were still a few remaining state laws. public opinion played no role. should public opinion matter in this case? >> public opinion and votes have nothing to do with this. the challenge of the court is not what they're going to do with votes.
the challenge of the court is are they going to protect people's rights? when you look at the doma case and you look at miss windsor who was not able -- who was forced to pay over $350,000 in estate tax because she did not have the right of a partner who had passed on, who they had built this wealth together, her rights were violated. so there are many people who may agree with traditional marriage as people define it but feel they don't have the right to have an unequal situation with others and, therefore, define for them their life. my battle with brian is not over marriage. my battle is, he doesn't have the right to impose his definition of marriage and, therefore, make inequality on other people. >> can you, peggy, can society handle the court basically
agreeing with both of them that, okay, you have traditional -- a traditional view of marriage but somebody in a same-sex civil union or marriage shouldn't be denied the rights that married couples between men and women get when it comes to financial situations and things like that? >> people were thinking in the past few years the civil partnerships, not marriage, but legal civil partnerships that conferred the protections sought by the woman who brought the suit might be a preferable ray to go, but that's a legal question. i'm not really qualified to speak of it. but two things struck me about the past few days in the court. one savannah that this is an epic, big, cultural debate that's supposed to be happening. and yet it was a short, sometimes weirdly comic sort of shallow debate. did you find it that way? i mean, i was really struck that they were not talking about big issues but sort of dumb stuff that you talk about in college dorms. forgive me.
that's how it seemed to me. >> no, no. >> or is this the norm of the court? >> i would say this was not -- despite the efforts by lawyers on both sides -- not, in terms of the justices, a fundamental discussion about, shall we have same-sex marriage or shall we not? is it a good thing for the country or isn't it? the court just for whatever reason doesn't want to go there at this point. now, to be clear, there are certainly some conservatives who are prepared to uphold prop 8 and some of the court's liberals who are prepared to strike it down. the problem is the middle, justice kennedy, who is the key vote here. he's the author of the two most important gay rights rulings in the court's history, for whatever reason isn't ready to go there. >> rob reiner, how important has hollywood been? has hollywood played the same role on same-sex marriage that baseball basically played on integration when they were essentially a decade ahead of the country's politicians on civil rights? hollywood -- you know, "all in the family" did the first-ever show
featuring a homosexual character. >> i don't know about whether or not hollywood has played a role or not, but, you know, here is the thing. we're talking about a civil right. i mean, to talk about, you know, polls and public opinion when it comes to civil rights, you know, where was the public? like you said in loving vs. virginia. where was the public, our founding fathers, when they said slavery was okay, or women weren't allowed to vote? these are civil rights issues and there is one group of people in this country that is not regarded equal under the law. and until we have everyone, all of our citizens, regarded equal under the law, we're not realizing the precepts of our country. so this debate, i agree with pete williams. i think the supreme court was scared to take this on, but the fact of the matter is, it has been taken on, and there will be gay marriage in this country without
question, because we cannot look at our fellow citizens and say that they deserve less than we in the heterosexual community. it just doesn't square. >> and something we found in the "meet the press" archives having to do with the civil rights movement in this issue of "patience or not." jackie robinson was a guest on "meet the press" in 1957. and i want to play an audio excerpt of it and you will hear jackie robinson asked about this issue of whether african-americans should be patient when it comes to certain rights issues. take a listen. >> how do you answer those people who insist that the naacp is moving very, very fast to get the rights for the negro but seems to be doing not enough to impress upon the negro his own responsibility as he gets these rights? >> when they say that the naacp is moving too fast, you know, i heard that, mr. spivak, when i was out in pasadena, california, trying to get into the ymca.
take your time. be patient. patience is fine. i think that if we go back and check our records the negro has proven beyond a doubt that we have been more than patient in seeking our rights as american citizens. be patient, i was told as a kid. i keep hearing that today. let's be patient. let's take our time. things will come. it seems to me that the civil war has been over about 93 years, and if that isn't patience, i don't know what is. >> brian, you've been critical of whether same-sex marriage is part of the civil rights argument. >> well, i think it's a slur on the americans, the majority of americans who stood up to vote for what president obama a year ago agreed to what secretary clinton agreed to two weeks ago that it takes a man and a woman to make a marriage. it's a slur on them to somehow say that opponents of redefining marriage are in the same boat as those who oppose interracial marriage. that is just a slur. it's an assertion. what we are fighting about is, is there a civil right to redefine marriage?
we say, no, there is no such civil right. the laws against interracial marriage were about keeping the races apart. marriage is the union of a man and a woman. it's about bringing the sexes together. that is a good and beautiful thing, and i think it's a slur to say that it's bigotry to stand up for this truth. >> reverend sharpton? >> it was a battle on interracial marriage of people saying that traditional marriage in this country was between people of the same race and that others that were supreme had the right to decide what the tradition was. they had the right to tell others that were inferior they couldn't marry who was superior. what we are fighting here is the rights of people to be protected. it is not the same thing as racial, but it's the same thing when you have others decide the prerogative of people's lives and you cannot fight for one's rights without fighting for everyone's rights, and i think it is absurd for people to say
we're going to stand for people to have the right to determine their lives irregardless, rather, of race. but they can't do it regardless of sex and it's a cop-out to have a civil union. just shack up. don't get married. just shack up. >> people have rights but they don't have the rights -- >> gays and lesbians have the right to live as they choose. >> they have the right as long as it meets with your moral standard. >> that's not right. marriage comes before the states. the state does not create it and now we know why this is before the supreme court who will see if they have the guts to make a stand one way or the other. i want to thank you all for your patience on this. we're going to take a quick break. we'll be back with more in just a moment. [ male announcer ] i've seen incredible things.
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with visa prepaid. more people go with visa. available at ace cash express. thanks to all of my guests and a very packed show. we are, unfortunately, out of time. now you see why the supreme court has some work to do. we'll see if they actually make a decision or do they punt and let the rest of us talk about it forever. before we go, are a quick programming note. you can watch david gregory's press pass conversation with author of the new book "happier endings: a meditation on life and death." that's at firstname.lastname@example.org. check back this afternoon for my take two web extra in honor of march madness. i geeked it out a little bit calling it senate madness with the political unit put a bracket together with some of the most influential and consequential senators throughout history and matched them up head-to-head. david axelrod and tom davis will talk about their picks on that. that's all for today. happy easter. happy passover. david will be back next week.