tv Tavis Smiley PBS January 14, 2015 11:30pm-12:01am EST
good evening, from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. tonight, part one of a two-night exclusive conversation with the only two african-americans serving in the u.s. senate. corey booker and tim scott. they are the only ones to serve simultaneously in the senate in the nation's history. glad you joined us for conversations with cory booker and tim scott, coming upright now. ♪ ♪
and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ u.s. senator tim scott was appointed by governor nikki haley in 2013 to vacate the seat by jim demint. he won a special election to hold on to the seat. i started the conversation recorded live in washington and the pbs affiliate whut by asking governor scott what his agenda is for the congress which is now just convened.
>> i would love to tell you why my agenda is what it is. growing up in a single parent household, i lost my way. i was a kid not doing well in high school. i flunked out of geography. they don't call you bilingual. the choice is education. i learned the wrong way how to find the right way. the wrong way was not paying attention and focusing. the right way was learning to focus my attention to my future. part of my agenda in the senate is to help kids like myself grog up in single parent households, struggling in school unfocused and drifting, to know there's a better way and give their parents more choices so the child has a better chance. the choice of education, i go on
to something about the energy economy we have. >> when you say choice, what do you mean by that? >> number one, i want parents to have more choices. whether it's public school or charters or alternative schools or online schools, whether it's private schools, i want parents to be empowered when the schools are under performing to be empowered to make the right decision. in charleston county we have a partnership working right now. it's going to raise the outcomes of the kids trapped in underperforming areas and do the public/private partnership. i believe they will have a brighter future and take advantage of the american dream. >> is there a predominant reason why public schools are failing certain children? >> i think there's a number. there's no question about that.
i think part of the reason is that the child that shows up on day one is something underprepared or unprepared for what they are looking at. what i hope to do is take a serious look at how do we improve the outcome of education by focusing on getting the parents and the children more engaged, more involved and integrated into the system. i think we'll improve the outcomes and the economyies as well. >> the second part of your agenda is? >> focuses on more energy exploration. in the end, i realize izeized personally the more time we focus on energy economy, the more i realize stem education, science, technology -- we are so underrepresented in that arena. one of my pieces of legislation we focus on connecting with
hbcus and the stem industry and working tolgt. we have a real opportunity to investigate our offshore opportunities at the same time, create a pathway to our hcbus as well as other colleges to make sure our kids have a better chance. i like the concept of earning while you learn. when you think about that you really think about the ability to work at a job where you can get trained and, at the same time, not only earning a living you are learning skill sets. if you look at the future economy, one of the things we know is that the middle skills, more than a high school diploma, but not quite a college degree. so the leaf act focuses on programs that are a wonderful opportunity for us to actually seize the opportunity. those three parts of it really leads us in the direction of a
better economy for every single american. the final component of it is the skills act. it's part of the law on the work force and innovation act. what we see in the skills act is opportunity for us to see more people going into the field where they use their head and hands at the same time. we want to explore more opportunities for kids and for young adults to find their path in the work force. >> we are going to speak with cory booker in a moment. what you laid out, that could be a democratic agenda. i didn't hear anything republican about that. what part does cory booker help you with? >> should be something with all four. i think where cory and i have paved a common ground is we'll have a large conversation on a number of topics.
the truth of the matter is he brought the leap act in founding principles from south carolina to me. you have a new jersey guy with a program in south carolina and said let's get together on this and make it a national model where folks get tax credits to hire folks take a chance, put people back at work. by doing so, he gave me a chance to uncover greatness in my state and together, we have promoted it. i think we will see amazing things happening over the next decade. >> after a few minutes of conversation with senator scott i asked corymñ booker about his bipartisan approach and his partnership with senator scott. booker won election to a full six year term after winning a special election in 2013 after the late frank lautenberg. >> i came down watching a mayor watching washington and
frustrated with how it wasn't working. a mission we came down and campaigned on is we are not going to be the democratic senator from new jersey, but new jersey's senator to get things done. one thing is look at red states and what are they doing that is good and interesting and making a difference? so from red states moving on criminal justice reform to his home state the best state in america, really in many ways to advance apprenticeships. as senator scott said frankly, we live in a world that has changing skills demands. you are going to start seeing a lot of people living very good middle class lives not necessarily graduating from college. high school is not quite enough. having a set of skills whether it's machinists or medical profession, skills in training they can only get on the job.
he said you can earn while you learn and get a skills set that is marketable in a 21st century economy. other countries are way outstepping us. they got better a long time ago. germany has a very very high skilled population and uses apprenticeship as a main thrust to the economy. canada, our neighbors to the north way out step us. when i went around new jersey, people in the medical profession, people in a wide variety of industries saying what do you need, i thought i was going to say access to capitol, which i did. i thought i was going to hear government regulation, which i heard, challenges with that. one of the biggest things i heard is the ability to find skilled folks. they are not finding them graduating from college, they are finding them with training on the job. >> that's something you are going to work on. we have the rest of the program to talk to both of you together
and we do it tomorrow night. tell me what your focus is going to be. i talked about your criminal justice work and how it didn't work out. what do you hope to get done in this session of congress? >> i'm excited. i landed with a year left, was elected to a special -- to fill the remainder of the term from senator lautenberg who tragically passed away in office. a guy who was a mayor struggling to deal with challenges in urban community is this outrageous reality we have in america, offensive to american sensibilities, singular in the globe in the history of humanity and the fact we have 5% of the globe's population but incarcerate 25% of the people. over 70% are there for non-violent offenses.
this is a massive drag on the economy. upwards of a quarter trillion dollars a year and taxpayers are paying for a prison population that exploded. 800% in the last 30 years alone. if you look at it and see that it is not only punishing taxpayers, it's actually making our economy worse because once you get out of prison say you have a non-violent drug charge for possession of marijuana for example, something the last three presidents admitted to doing that now, suddenly you have collateral consequences. itis harder to do what we want you to do which is get a job. people don't want to hire you. can't get training or education. you can't get a pell grant to go to college. this is a system that has hurt america, undermining possibilities for people, hurt taxpayers and made racial realities in the country far
worse. we know african-americans and whites have no difference in drug usages but an african-american is three times more likely to be arrested for doing it. if you go further this over incarceration of americans in general, african-americans in particular we have a higher black incarceration rate than africa. you have weird realities like the state of new jersey, this progressive state where blacks are 12% 13%, somewhere around there but over 60% of the prison population. what i'm going to do legislatively and what i'm excited about, again, red states are leading in mississippi and georgia. guess what is happening. crime is going down.
making common sense changes that the federal world hasn't done. there are good legislatures, people like rand paul, people like mike lee. senator cornyn, senator scott. even senator ted cruz and i talked about this and believe we should be doing things. it's the idea time should come. newt gingrich, norcross. fiscal conservatives can change things. that's one of my things. >> i want to ask senator scott to come back and join us for the rest of the hour. i want to start the conversation with the three of us on whether or not you think america has the will to do that with all that we have seen dividing this country around the shooting deaths of eric garner and michael brown and all we saw come out of that and howdy vid divided the country was. we'll do that in a second when
we ask senator scott to join us. glad you are with us. >> thank you. we are talking about criminal justice reform. give me your best argument why you think the country is interested in advancing on criminal justice given the fallout we have across america. >> it's already being done. that's the exciting thing. you have states like georgia who have gun reforms over the last five years reduced their prison population. black prison population, 20%. states are realizing with state taxpayer money we can lower the crime rate and allow people to enter the work force. when i have conversations, fruitful
fruitful conversations with fruitful peers of mine. before i left for the holidays, grover norcross and i had a great conversation and met on "the colbert show." you are going to see this being led not only by the people you would suspect, but really led by republican leaders and leaders on the right. >> senator scott i'm sure you were asked about this, but in my research, i didn't see this. this may be the first time people have seen a republican senator who is an african-american share the killing process of the unarmed black men. how did you process that? what did you make of it? >> tears were perhaps my first response. the devastation of the loss of life. hard to digest from ferguson to garner in new york. the video in new york tragic. i thought that was a clear
opportunity for an indictment if i ever saw one. for me i also thought about where i come from, growing up in the place where i grew up and knowing some of my friends i grew up with were killed. black on black crime. for me it's looking at the issue wholistically and looking for real solutions. not just an outcome but the process of giving to the outcome. for me, i focus on my agenda, education. a powerful tool. look at the incarcerated population you'll find that being functionally illiterate, single parent households and poverty drive who is in prison. i want to change that. i listened carefully to the conversation y'all had of the interesting and necessary conversation. i look forward to engaging with cory. folks like cory to ted cruz and rand paul and the koch brothers
all focusing in on this issue of incarceration and looking for ways to reduce it. criminal justice will be on the table not just for the next couple years, but the next decade. this should be good news for those who want to see a transformation in america. >> explain to those persons watching right now who are still feeling more than trepidation about giving the republican party a try when they have stories in their papers about representative scalise he apologized. i'm not sure i buy that. he is the number three leader in the house. all the republican leadership rallied around mr. scalise, nobody asked him to step down. how do you explain to african-americans anybody of
good conscience and good will, how the party who had the opportunity to do good work on criminal justice wraps around a guy who speaks to a group like this? >> i would start a conversation with people who know him best. the congressional black caucus who said very clearly, knowing, knowing scalise for more than 12 years said that he doesn't have a racist bone in his body. for me, that was good enough. the fact of the matter is if we are going to make a pave the path going forward we are going to do it together. i remember back in the days when elected members of the senate were democrats. let us not put in place the fact that somehow the republican party or the democratic party has the strongest position on the issue of race. we know for sure is that the
issues of flaws are issues of people. it's a human condition not a republican condition or a democrat condition, it's a human condition. so, i was very surprised and interested to see the response that steve scalise received from folks like that and others around the nation who knew him the best. >> i always want to say cory because i have known you so long. >> i can't wait -- >> i have known cory booker so long, we have been friends many years. i'll ask you, senator booker, what is it like being one of two. this is a historic conversation. you have never sat for a conversation on national television. what is it like being in that body of 100, being the only two who look like you do? >> look, you know the first thing i did before i got sworn
in about a year ago, my mom was with me. she took me to see john lewis. we sat in his office in the moments before i took the oath. his office is like a museum of the civil rights movement. it was like a reminder my mom wanted me to have before i became the fourth ever popular elected. it took the conspiracy of love of all americans to make this country such that i could have enjoyed the kind of privilege i have to serve. i love what my mom said to me, she said never forget the title doesn't make the man, the man has to make the title. i'm conscious of the context i stand on the floor and feel a calling every day to prove worthy of that. it is you know, i still remember a staffer in the senate who broke down crying when they
saw me when i first came in because it was so rare for them to see someone others call senator in a position as an african-american in this position. you get those reminders. i think something that senator scott was alluding to, at the end of the day what matters is what you get done and that's really the sense of urgency and i understand a bit about how other major pieces of legislation, civil rights act and other things i care about passionately about from funding for autism research to science and technology. you have to find ways to create relationships to do the bigger things. so, what sort of pleased me in senator scott and a number of other republican colleagues is how willing they were to break down away from a partisan analysis and focus on, hey, what
can we agree on enough? >> the timing of this conversation is proficient and sad. i had the honor of interviewing ed brooks on my television radio program. it occurs to me now you sit here as a black republican and brooks a black republican out of massachusetts. have you head much about him? >> what an inspiring life story. a man who helped, really, blaze the path going forward. it's so important for us to remember the giants that came before us and senator brook was a good man, served well and accomplished much. >> do you feel any particular pressure to deliver, whatever that means, given that you are one of two african-americans? >> i think it's important for us to deliver for the country. it's important for us to bring the country together. here is an opportunity to show
lead by example. you can see in us the spirit to do so. we are interested in finding common ground to cooperate. neither one of us will abandon our principles but we find common ground issues important to every american. whether it's my opportunity or to focus on education, the skills we discussed on your show, whether it's looking a t the leaf or the education programs, we need to deliver. having a conversation is a wonderful thing. having the result in the fruit of that conversation manifest in such a way that it moves america forward and specifically says to those folks who seem to be trapped outside the economic opportunity of america yes, the door is open. yes, the rungs on the ladder have been replaced. this is a part of the conversation. >> we have one minute left. senator booker, you have the last word. do you have pressure that black
folk around the country have been looking to you for years for this kind of leadership. >> on the wall street journal, i'm the 21st congressman who went straight to being a senator. seeing urban america and a lot of things not focused on or talked about enough in the united states senate. whether it's why is it when my kids walk into a community with overwhelming levels of obesity, they can walk in and find a twinkie product cheaper than an apple? we are subsidizing that sure gar and corn. my experience as a mayor helped inform the urgencies that i feel here in the united states senate and the desire, just to get to work. that's why, when i find folks across the aisle who are so firm in who they are and willing to reach out and share with you that sense of urgency, see what we can figure out together and move things forward until life
gets better for people in south carolina and new jersey. that gives me hope. >> we'll leave it there tonight. tomorrow night, part two of our exclusive conversation with the only two african-americans serving in the senate. my thanks to whut in washington for letting us use their new set. it will be the home of "new view with ed gordon." thanks for watching. as always keep the faith. announcer: for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. i'm tavis smiley. join me for part two with an exclusive conversation with cory booker and tim scott. that's next time. see you then.
rose: welcome to the program. we begin this evening with senator marco rubio from florida on immigration and the 2016 pam pain? >> i believe the next president of the united states and i hope the next republican of thecandidate for the republican party will make the case i have tried to make: the 21st century is here. the 20th century is over and never coming back. the nature of our economy is transformed. we must transform with it in our apologized and outlook. reportsrose we continue with al hunt with the junior senator from colorado, cory gardner? >> we have to prove to the american people we can governor responsibly and maturely. >> that's something i have talked about. >> means that we put ideas practical ideas of the desk of the president ideas that have support of republicans