Rep. Labrador Chastises Civil Rights Leaders For Being Too Negative

Rep. Raul Labrador attacks the panel on Meet the Press and civil rights leaders for not being adequately "hopeful" about the future of America.
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From this Sunday's Meet the Press, apparently the panel on this week's show -- which was criticizing the level of poverty, income disparity, lack up upward mobility and the fact that Congress has us gridlocked and won't help with job creation -- was just too terribly negative for Rep. Raul Labrador for him to let their comments go without criticizing them for it. I guess they weren't spending enough time chanting "USA! USA! USA! We're the greatest country on the planet!" to suit him.

LABRADOR: I spent the last 24 hours, I watched Martin Luther King's speech three times over the last 24 hours. And it was fantastic.

And the rhetoric that he used, the words that he used, and the message that he used was the message of hope. And unfortunately, what I've been hearing from your panelists is not a message of hope. It's a message of despair. And I think we need our leadership to actually be more hopeful.

He got plenty of push back on his revisionist history from a few of them, but that didn't stop him from getting another shot in with more of it just before he went off the air:

LABRADOR: We're still the greatest nation on the earth. If you listen to what Martin Luther King talked about, he talked about making sure that we were not bitter about what was happening in America, but that we had hope. It was a beautiful speech. And I think that the leadership, or the African American leadership needs to start thinking about that hope that Martin Luther King gave us instead of trying to get the community to think that everything is hopeless and without a future. I think when we tell our young people that in America they cannot succeed anymore, you will see more and more young people not succeeding. And what we need to do is tell them that they can succeed.

Maybe if Labrador and his fellow TeaBirchers in the Congress gave them a reason to believe our political leaders haven't lost their damned minds and want to put the priorities of working Americans ahead of the rich for once, they'd have more of a reason to be hopeful. As Labrador explained, he was given an opportunity to take advantage of what this country had to offer in upward mobility and the chance of making a better life for yourself if you grew up in poverty, but he's sure doing his best along with his fellow Republicans to make sure that today's children don't have those same opportunities as well.

I hate to break it to you Congressman, but complaining about how you and your ilk have governed not the cause of the problem, it's a symptom. And if enough people raise their voices and go out and vote, it's part of a cure.

I'll just wrap things up with something Joan Walsh posted on Twitter:

Rev. Raul Labrador closes @meetthepress with the same condescension as the moderators showed Roy Wilkins and Dr. King 50 years ago

I assume she meant Rep. Labrador, but anyway, ain't that the truth?

Full transcript below the fold.

DAVID GREGORY: You talk about today's Congress, Raul Labrador is joining us as well, a congressman, a Republican from Idaho. Congressman, good to see you back on the program. Part of what we're talking about here is the tension between what government should do to address the idea that the American dream is perhaps a little bit out of reach.

And as I ask you about the state of the American dream, I know your own unique story, born in Puerto Rico, you moved to Las Vegas, you became a Mormon, a single mother, and went to military school, you practice immigration law. I would argue that you would argue the American dream is alive and well for people like yourself.

REPRESENTATIVE RAUL LABRADOR: I would. And it saddens me actually to hear some of the things that I'm hearing here, because I think the American dream is alive. I was born four years after the March on Washington. I was born to a single mother who lost her job because she got pregnant by me, who decided to give me life. But the most important thing that she decided is that she was going to give me a good life.

I didn't go to military school when I was a young man because my mother was rich. I went to military school because she decided to sacrifice. She decided to go without some things in her life so she could put me in a military school. Then she couldn't afford that anymore, so she put me in another private school.

And eventually, when she wanted to move to the mainland, she decided to put me in a bilingual school because she thought that the only way I would be successful in life is by gaining an education, by being better educated, by learning English. I remember when we moved to the United States, she told me something that was so significant in my life.

She said, "In private, we can speak Spanish. But when you're in public, you need to speak English because I want you to speak English to the best of your ability." These are things that she thought about. I spent the last 24 hours, I watched Martin Luther King's speech three times over the last 24 hours. And it was fantastic.

And the rhetoric that he used, the words that he used, and the message that he used was the message of hope. And unfortunately, what I've been hearing from your panelists is not a message of hope. It's a message of despair. And I think we need our leadership to actually be more hopeful.

DAVID GREGORY: Sheryl, what is the optimistic case? Facts are facts, and again the challenges of the American dream being within reach are still facts that government has to deal with, that individuals have to deal with. What is the more hopeful case though about the American people?

SHERYL WUDUNN: Well, I think that the problem is government gridlock. It really is. Head Start, as the reverend said, 57,000 kids have been shut out of Head Start. And illegal immigrant children have no way to move up. The chances of an American moving up is worse. It's one out of 12, versus in Britain, it's one out of eight. So what does that mean? That means as Washington dithers, America burns.

And that's really important. The government used to be the provider of opportunity. Mass education, local community high schools, secondary and tertiary education. The president mentioned Head Start, and that may be the single most critical thing that actually could help us build the American dream again. But as Washington dithers, America burns.

DAVID BROOKS: Head Starts, not a successful program? Well, let me play the positives. Listen--

SHERYL WUDUNN: I actually-- the bill--

DAVID BROOKS: Well, let me play at the positives, because I want to ask you something Congressman Labrador just said. We are still an amazingly talented country. You go to schools, you've got kids named Juan Hernandez Goldberg floating around there, mixtures of all these different ethnicities. We're really tolerant compared to other countries. And we still have these fantastic stories.

I just had lunch with a woman named Katie who was from a not great family, she's homeless, spends part her time homeless, decides she's going to enlist in the navy, the enlistment officer says, "No, you shouldn't enlist in the navy, you should go to Annapolis." She graduates this year number one academically in her class, she gets a Rhodes Scholarship, she runs track, she's a Marine. You run across these stories all the time and they still are endemic to the way we live.

SHERYL WUDUNN: There's no question that those inspiring stories still exist. The question is, is there a generation where too many people are not having that inspirational moment? I grew up in the World War II generation. There's a reason why that generation-- my father had an eighth-grade education. He left work because he was orphaned. He had a mathematical ability, he became a bank examiner, we had a house in the suburbs.

I was part of a whole generation in the '50s that moved up together, why? There was full employment in World War II, there was the G.I. Bill of Rights, there was an income tax that was passed, there was a sense of commitment at that point to bringing that generation, going, "That's eroded." And it started eroding in the '70s and the '80s for the middle class and the poverty. It doesn't mean that you always have these wonderful people that come up.

But how many people with talent are not being realized? Lincoln used to be haunted about a poem of a person who had great talent and was in his grave in an unmarked grave because he never had the chance. And there's too many of those kids without chances.

DAVID BROOKS: All of these realities are true.

DAVID GREGORY: Yeah.

SHERYL WUDUNN: Very true.

REVEREND AL SHARPTON: Two small things quickly. I think that as you hear Dr. King's speech 50 years ago, is yes, it was of hope. But it was pointed at what we had to fight. He talked about governors whose lips dripped with the words of interposition and nullification, which is no different than we're talking about changing stand your ground laws today.

He talked about America gave blacks a better check. So let's not act like all he talked about was poetry. He directly went at issues that we're raising today. And I agree with David that we are tolerant more than other countries. The question is not to compare us on how we are to other countries, it's compare how we treat some Americans to other Americans inside our country.

DAVID GREGORY: Congressman, just a few seconds left. Some final thoughts from you on this?

REPRESENTATIVE RAUL LABRADOR: We're still the greatest nation on the earth. If you listen to what Martin Luther King talked about, he talked about making sure that we were not bitter about what was happening in America, but that we had hope. It was a beautiful speech. And I think that the leadership, or the African American leadership needs to start thinking about that hope that Martin Luther King gave us instead of trying to get the community to think that everything is hopeless and without a future. I think when we tell our young people that in America they cannot succeed anymore, you will see more and more young people not succeeding. And what we need to do is tell them that they can succeed.

(OVERTALK)

REVEREND AL SHARPTON: The quick response is that is why we must-- yes, and to tell them to do what Dr. King did. You can change America. You can fight what's wrong. And we are not hopeless. But we also know from the champion of hope, hope needs legs to it. And you need action.

DAVID GREGORY: All right, different perspectives here. Just the beginning of this conversation, I know. Thank you all very much.

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