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Supreme Court Says Times Have Changed; Debating The Voting Rights Act; No Shoes, No Shirts, Big Problems

Aired June 25, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In other national news, two years after Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech during the March on Washington, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, forcing areas of the country with a history of racial discrimination to get approval or pre- clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to voting laws.

But this morning, almost half a century after it was first passed, the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the law.

Chief Justice Roberts' position is that the world does not look the same as it did in 1965. According to Roberts, "Our country has changed. And while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions."

Congress had overwhelmingly extended the Voting Rights Act as recently as 2006, for another 25 years.

In a statement today, President Obama said he is deeply disappointed with the ruling, saying, quote, "Voting discrimination still exists and while today's decision is a setback, it does not represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. And I'm calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls."

But as Justice Roberts points out in his opinion, black voter turnout was higher than whites in last year's election, including in five out of the six states originally included in the Voting Rights Act.

Joining me now is the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr.

He's founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

He was obviously at the "I Have A Dream" speech.

Reverend Jackson, thanks for joining us.

Reverend, Chief Justice Roberts writes in the opinion that, "Yes, voter discrimination still exists, but this section of the law particularly singling out states that have been under this rule since the '60s and '70s is outdated.

What is your response?

JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: Well, it's not true. The fact of the matter is that we have more voter participation because of voter oversight. When oversight leaves, then the increases actually stop.

We got the right to vote in 1965. It took us until 1990 to deal with the impact of gerrymandering, annexation at-large, roll purging.

And I might add, Jake, it was not just for blacks. When the blacks could not vote, but white women could not sit on juries. There were no white women on the Supreme Court. Eighteen year olds who were serving in Vietnam could not vote. Students could not vote on college campus. They had to vote absentee or go home to vote. You could not vote bilingual.

This was a whole democratizing of democracy. It's a 48-year journey that was stabbed in the heart today.

TAPPER: What do you say to those who say African-American vote, according to a Census study, was higher than the white vote last year?

We have an African-American president. This is just a different world than in 1965 and these states and counties that were singled out for special scrutiny don't deserve the same scrutiny?

JACKSON: You know, in 1865, we had the right to vote, but the compromise of 1877, you removed the federal troops, you removed protection, by 1896, we were set back for another 58 years.

So without federal oversight, it's like removing the troops in 18 -- 1877.

These state legislatures like Alabama, like Louisiana, they tried last year to use redistricting and they tried to use voter suppression tactics and schemes to limit the voting and make voting more difficult. They now have full reign, for states rights has now replaced federal protection. That's very dangerous setback.

TAPPER: Your organization, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, says it will not stand idly by after the decision.

What does that mean?

What do you and other civil rights organizations that you speak to, what do you plan to do?

JACKSON: I think, first of all, the president has taken a very strong position today, because he knows that without the put -- protected right, would -- he would not have been president in the first place. He must use his power to convene the Congress and make a case to the nation, as Lyndon Johnson made a case to the nation, President Obama make a case to the nation of why we must stop any scheme that suppresses or limits voting access or the right to vote to vote and to win. The second thing, we must go back to the streets in great numbers and demand and create a broad-based public consensus bottom up. The right to vote is too precious. We bled too much. We've died too young and the price has been too great to now watch it stabbed in the heart by the Supreme Court today.

TAPPER: Before you go, Reverend, Nelson Mandela is in critical condition right now in South Africa, as you know.

As somebody who knows him, as somebody who has fought for civil rights, what does Nelson Mandela mean to you?

JACKSON: Well, I talked with his grandson just yesterday. He is in very grave condition. There are prayers for him around the world. But he was the symbol of the force that brought down racist apartheid South Africa, with the help of those here in America and around the world.

Now, a lot of us here (INAUDIBLE) for it, but then he suffered for it -- 27 years in jail, much of it in isolation.

But beyond that, he not only was a world historical figure, he came out and he became a transformative figure. He had awesome power when he came out of jail. He chose reconciliation and re--- over retribution.

He chose to build a new and greater South Africa and not go to a divided one based upon the ancient fears.

So his choice of reconciliation over retribution makes him the statesman of our time and a great moral authority. And no matter what happens, Jake, death cannot rob us of essential Mandela. What he has given -- his worth -- his work and worth will long be remembered and long we'll all benefit from it.

TAPPER: Reverend Jesse Jackson, thank you so much for your time.

CNN will bring you live coverage of the Supreme Court decision tomorrow on same-sex marriage, that's tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

Coming up on our political panel, so what's the fallout for the Supreme Court's decision? It could potentially all come down to Florida and those long voting lines we saw back in 2012.

And coming up in our "Pop Lead," Kenny Chesney fans could be forgiven for thinking they had accidentally bought tickets to an ultimate fighting match after the country star's concert turned into an all-out brawl. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The "Politics Lead," it was a corner stone at the civil rights movement, but now in a split decision by the Supreme Court, a key portion of the voting rights act has been struck down. Let's bring in our panel. Journalist Jonathan Alter, author of "The Center Holds, Obama and His Enemies," CNN political contributor and former deputy campaign manager for the Obama 2012 campaign, Stephanie Cutter, and CNN contributor and columnist for the "New York Times," Ross Douthat.

Jonathan, let's start with you. First of all, congratulations on your book. Everybody out there is very jealous. What do you think the political ramifications of this ruling are on a state like Florida?

JONATHAN ALTER, AUTHOR, "THE CENTER HOLDS: OBAMA AND HIS ENEMIES": Very harmful to the Democrats. In 2012 Florida passed and the governor signed what could only be described as a voter suppression law that was struck down by the courts. It was actually a deposition where the author of the bill says -- somebody else says in the deposition that he explicitly said this is intended to hold down black turnout in Florida. And the bill was overturned by the courts as unconstitutional. Now with this new ruling, when it comes up again, if they try to do other things to suppress the vote, they'll probably get away with it.

TAPPER: Ross, there are those who say, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, this is not 1965 anymore, blacks voted in greater percentages than whites in 2012. We don't need this anymore. What do you think?

ROSS DOUTHAT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's a good argument. I think it's an argument that's actually better made in a legislature rather than the courts. I think the biggest problem with this decision from the point of an American governance is probably the same as whatever the court decides on gay marriage tomorrow namely that we basically that we have a court that swings back and forth between conservative activism and liberal activism and likes to overrule Congress on both fronts more than it should.

But on the substance, you know, I mean, we can -- I think that all of us on this panel would agree that the situation in the south is substantially different than it was 40 years ago and that the provisions of the bill that were written with those 40 years in mind, it maybe wasn't the wisest thing not only to renew them in 2006, but to renew them in 25 years in the future.

ALTER: Why were they renewed in 2006 by a bipartisan majority? Because people understood that some of these problems, and we saw this in 19 states that enacted voter suppression bills in 2011 and 2012, I tried to bring them all together in one place in the book so people can get a full picture of what went on. It was a concerted effort to suppress the vote. This is still a problem in the United States.

DOUTHAT: But, first of all, nothing that's happened with the Supreme Court ruling makes it impossible to file suit against those provisions. The question is whether states have the right to -- to -- it's essentially an issue of previous clearance basically, whether there's an assumption that states in the Deep South can't be trusted to make the laws before you sue against them. And in those 19 states, I mean, your argument basically implies that the preclearance requirement should be extended to all 50 states, right?

TAPPER: I want to bring in Stephanie for one second. You actually helped run a campaign in 2012. If this decision had been made let's say in 2010, do you think that could have changed the election?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know if it would have changed the election because, you know, as Jonathan has written, we put a lot of effort into monitoring what was happening at the polls and to ensuring everybody had access to vote. And that included knocking down some of these restrictive voter I.D. laws, knocking some of the things that states were doing to make it more difficult to vote or educating people on what the new requirements are.

But you know, I don't think anybody is saying that the challenge of ensuring access to vote for everybody is over. And whether it just exists in the south, I don't think it just exists in the south. I mean, 30 states just this year have entered legislation to restrict the ability for people to vote.

So this is an ongoing problem. I agree the Supreme Court should not have overstepped and done Congress' job for them, but they shouldn't have thrown it out. They shouldn't make our jobs that much harder.

DOUTHAT: But the argument that's being made here is an argument against voter I.D. laws, which is a reasonable argument to make, but it's arguing that legislation designed to deal with the problem of the Jim Crow South, a specific, horrific problem, is well suited to deal with debates over voter I.D. laws in say, Indiana in 2012 or 2013, right? That's the implication that you're saying, that the voter I.D. law should be dealt with through the same mechanisms that were designed to crush Jim Crow.

ALTER: They could to those mechanisms and by the way, Jim Crow was -- because we're in this new phase where these bills are being introduced actually originally in 43 states to make it harder specifically for democratic constituency groups to vote.

DOUTHAT: You're voting for more federal activism than Jim Crow did?

TAPPER: We'll have to continue that in the break room where you were.

DOUTHAT: We'll take it off stage.

TAPPER: Ross, John, and Stephanie, thanks so much for joining us. Please keep going.

Coming up in our Pop Culture Lead, his country music hits are all about cold drinks and good times so why are Kenny Chesney's fans so angry?

And the "Sports Lead," as if being a layup away from another title, the NBA rubs it in to the San Antonio Spurs by running the wrong ad for championship gear.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the "Pop Culture Lead." You and tequila make me crazy. It's not just a Kenny Chesney song. It's also apparently words to live by for some of his fans who completely lost it after a concert in Pittsburgh. They trashed the parking lot and police made dozens of arrests when fights broke out. Not exactly what you'd expect from fans of a guy known for his laid back lyrics. But it turns out the so-called no shoes nation has developed a bit of a reputation.


TAPPER (voice-over): Today cleaning crews in Pittsburgh are still recovering after an estimated 50,000 Kenny Chesney fans attended his concert at Hynes Field Saturday and left this behind.

MERRILL STABILE, PRESIDENT, ALCO PARKING: The Kenny Chesney crowd is the most difficult crowd for our employees to work with of any events of the year.

TAPPER: It seems the 45-year-old country star may have underestimated his fans' energy levels when he spoke to CNN last year.

KENNY CHESNEY, COUNTRY ARTIST: It's going to be a fun, very energetic, very fast, probably loud night of music.

TAPPER: After all, most of his shows are day-long events where tailgating is encouraged. Unfortunately, this parking lot brawl was just one of at least 10 large fights that broke out at the stadium Saturday. With more than 70 people either arrested or cited for their behavior.

STABILE: We had a hard time getting police. A lot of police didn't want to work this event.

TAPPER: Police shying away after similar fights like these posted on YouTube broke out at Chesney's concerts in 2009 and 2012. Earlier this month, there were 68 arrests at a Chesney concert in Indiana, but wait a second, isn't Kenny Chesney music all about guitars and Tiki bars and a whole lot of love? Isn't he the likable Kenney Chesney who once played for George W. Bush at the White House?

Yes, he is. The muscle shirt wearing wonder has sold more concert tickets than any other artist in the last 10 years, $9.8 million worth since 2003 to be exact. But with these new images of the tour emerging, negative opinions are gaining momentum, even spawning a "Ban Kenny Chesney from Pittsburgh" Facebook page this week.

BLAINE MCEVOY, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, ROLLINGSTONE.COM: Despite Kenny Chesney's historically wholesome image, here fans are not necessarily a number one Kenny Chesney fan, but just may be interested in the party more or less.

TAPPER: Despite the thousands who are letting their blues melt away responsibly, the rowdy few have drawn the most attention.

STABILE: Even 20 percent of 50,000 people getting out of control is pretty bad.

TAPPER: But the revenue from stadium-filling concerts is immense and Chesney is scheduled for at least 20 more shows nationwide this summer. MCEVOY: When the event finally does come, there's a massive release of energy, which in a group think kind of setting can spin in a negative direction.

TAPPER: So just like the crying Beatles fans, the hysterical Elvis lovers and, well, anyone at Woodstock, Chesney mania may have its moments of hysteria. But for his fans, it's always summertime.


TAPPER: Clean-up crews say it took 15 hours to clean up the more than 50,000 pounds of garbage after the concert. The worst part they say, take a guess, makeshift port-o-potties.

While Edward Snowden is singing give me shelter, the "Rolling Stones" are saying, you, get off my cloud. The band stopped in Washington, D.C. last night as part of its 50-year anniversary tour and Mick Jagger took a shot at the White House over NSA surveillance saying "I don't think President Obama is not here tonight, but I'm sure he's listening in." The president was not there, but the guys from One Direction were interestingly enough.

Coming up, NFL punter Chris Kluwe on his new book, his fight for same- sex marriage, and the meaning of sparkle ponies. We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Welcome back. It is time for the LEAD Read, Chris Kluwe is a record breaking NFL punter and until last fall that was his claim to fame. And then Kluwe heard about a letter Maryland State Delegate Emmett Burns wrote to the owner of the Baltimore Ravens criticizing one of the Ravens for supporting same-sex marriage.

Kluwe's open letter response became legend. I can't read most of it to you because Kluwe gets a little liberal with the obscenities, but this part gets his point across. He asks the delegate why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you? How does gay marriage in any way, shape or form affect your life?

Now with the Supreme Court decisions of Proposition 8 and DOMA looming, Chris Kluwe is out with a new book where he explores his thoughts on gay marriage and more. It's called "Beautifully Unique Sparkle Ponies on Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football and Assorted Absurdities." He joins me now from New York. Chris, thanks so much for joining us.


TAPPER: So this is a book of essays and letters and I know part of the title comes from one of those essays where you've substituted nice terms for not-nice terms that you wrote to that Maryland delegate. How did you specifically come up with beautifully unique sparkleponies, which I know is a substitute for narcissistic stain of some sort, but how did you come up with beautifully unique sparkleponies?

KLUWE: I don't know. It just arose in the somewhere dank and recessed corner of my mind. I went with it. It flowed well.

TAPPER: So now writing that open letter to Maryland State Delegate Emmett Burns to defend another NFL player's right to support same sex marriage, it started this whole chain of events that led to this book. A few of the book's essays talk about same-sex marriage, including a letter written to the Supreme Court justices on two cases.

We're going to likely hear decisions tomorrow on the defense of marriage act and prop 8. I want to read part of the letter, "if you decide to overturn the appeal of Proposition 8, if you decide to uphold the tenets of the defense of marriage act, a lot of professional athletes will take their cues from that and it will cause a ripple effect as even more people follow their role models, their leaders, their heroes."

Could you talk about what you think is professional athlete's general attitude towards same sex marriage and to gays and lesbians in general?

KLUWE: Well, I think that the majority of professional athletes really don't care that much because they're younger guys. They've been raised in a society that's becoming more and more tolerant and they don't understand why other people are being forced to live their life under someone else's rule. They don't get what the big deal is and, you know, there are professional athlete who is don't get it, just like there are people in society who don't get it but I'd say the vast majority of professional athletes are pretty much live and let live.

TAPPER: But, Chris, if that's true how come there are so few openly gay and lesbian professional athletes especially in the NFL?

KLUWE: Well, it really is a generational issue and a societal issue. And the fact is until someone takes that first step, until someone like Jason Collins come out and shows you can play your sport and be openly gay, then it's very hard for other people to risk losing that career. In professional athletics -- I know in football the general average career is three and a half years.

And you're talking about millions of dollars worth of opportunity. And it can be very hard as a gay person to say I'm going to risk losing all of that because I don't have to. You know, I can hide myself for those three and a half years and afterwards live my life. That's a tough decision to make.

TAPPER: All right, NFL punter and author, Chris Kluwe, thank you so much.

Better get them before they're all shipped off to a developing nation. After losing the NBA championship in heartbreaking fashion, NBA TV added insult to injury accidentally airing a commercial for Spurs championship gear last weekend not once but several times throughout the day. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much.