George Zimmerman declines ‘stand your ground’ hearing; how will history judge Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
This week’s Washington Watch roundtables features Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women; Angela Rye, principal of IMPACT Strategies, a political consulting firm; Armstrong Williams, host of “The Right Side;” and George Curry, syndicated columnist for the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome back, folks.
This week, George Zimmerman’s attorney said they’re waiving their “stand your ground” hearing for April 22nd. They say, “No need. We simply can plead self-defense.”
Actually, that’s actually b.s. I think they knew if they lost that “stand your ground” hearing, it would look bad, publicity-wise. They also would’ve had to lay out a lot of their case as well, and so I think they’re trying to say, “Let’s roll the dice in June.” They didn’t want to get embarrassed.
MS. BERNARD: Absolutely. They don’t want to taint the jury. George Zimmerman has a huge problem, and thank God for people like you who are not going to let the issue go. He murdered Trayvon Martin in cold blood. The American public knows it, and they want to just do as much as possible to keep the jury from remembering everything that happened, and that’s why they’re not having that hearing.
MS. RYE: I think also they waived this particular hearing, and that doesn’t mean that he’s waiving the defense. And it’s important to note that also this attorney has requested a continuance of the trial. It was denied –
OFF CAMERA: Right.
MS. RYE: — and so this was the next step. This just goes to show you they’re having a really tough time coming up with an adequate defense for this particular case.
MR. MARTIN: The trial is –
MS. BERNARD: Any defense.
MR. MARTIN: — yeah.
MS. RYE: Right.
MS. BERNARD: I mean what is the defense?
MR. MARTIN: Well, they’re going to use self-defense. The trial is slated to the begin June 10th, and so we’ll see what happens –
MR. WILLIAMS: [Crosstalk]- —
MR. MARTIN: — there.
Go right ahead.
MR. WILLIAMS: — you know, the thing that I’ve learned, especially if you remember the O.J. Simpson trial and Nicole Brown Simpson, is that you never [are] privy to all the evidence.
MR. MARTIN: True that.
MR. WILLIAMS: And, you know, I just want to say with caution that anything can happen with a jury –
MR. MARTIN: Oh, of course.
MR. WILLIAMS: — of your peers in a court of law.
MR. MARTIN: And I’ll say thi- —
MR. WILLIAMS: So, we’ll just have to wait –
MR. MARTIN: — of course –
MR. WILLIAMS: — and see.
MR. MARTIN: — but I’ll say this –
MR. WILLIAMS: Yeah.
MR. MARTIN: — here. If it wasn’t for the protests and it wasn’t for the pressure, we wouldn’t even be at this point.
MR. WILLIAMS: Absolutely.
MR. MARTIN: Wasn’t even a trial.
MR. WILLIAMS: Absolutely.
MR. MARTIN: I do want to get to this, though, before we run out of time, and that is Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died this week. And it was very interesting watching the reaction. So many Americans – I see a lot of these journalists: “He was a thug.” “He was shameful.” But then, of course, you had millions who were turning out for his funeral. Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., and others went down there for his funeral.
Last month, I talked to Danny Glover, and he actually met Chavez in 2009 for the first time. And this is what he had to say, and it was quite interesting. I want y’all to talk about that in terms of his legacy when we come back, but here’s what Danny Glover had to say.
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]
MR. DANNY GLOVER: — President Hugo Chavez, who embraced the idea around the issues of Afro-descendants. And one of the things that we’ve been working on, others – my friend James Early from the Smithsonian and others – is creating this relationship between what has happened with Afro-descendants in the hemisphere. There’re 150 million African descendants in the Southern Hemisphere – in this hemisphere. 90 percent of them live in poverty.
Hugo Chavez said, “Look at my hair. My grandmother was African.” [Chuckles.] You know what I’m saying? You want to talk to him and find out how can we find ways in which that experience translates into [the] kind[s] of changes that need to happen in your country, but also in the hemisphere as well.
[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]
MR. MARTIN: I’m always amazed when Americans talk about what are “American interests” in another country when their president dies. And I’m going, “It’s actually their country, so actually maybe they should be talking about what their future should be about versus what our future is.”
MR. CURRY: Of course! We’re the world’s policeman. Used to be. Not anymore.
I think the important thing is how the U.S. looks at him and how the rest of the world looks at him. When people look at him, Chavez, they look at it like, hey, this is a man who used oil money saying, “We’re going to deal with poor people. We’re going to deal with poverty.” “We’re going to deal with making sure” –
MR. MARTIN: Even poor people in America, when they offered –
MR. CURRY: Katrina.
MR. MARTIN: — lower gas to help with heating costs as well.
MR. CURRY: Yeah – and to help with Katrina. And then – so, they don’t look at him through the prism of America. They look at somebody who’s different – and somebody who would wave his finger at America, saying, “You don’t bully me.”
MR. WILLIAMS: You know, obviously, I’ve had many conversations with Congressman Gregory Meeks on this issue, who … got to know Chavez. And, of course, he was one of the reasons why they had that oil situation where he stepped in. And then if you talk to a lot of people, how he helped people in poverty and black[s] in that country with education, even many of them – if you look at the education, even the economic situation – the equality there – obviously, he did a good job. And that’s the Chavez – and that’s a part of his body of work also.
But you cannot forget the Chavez who allowed Hezbollah and Hamas to set up offices in Caracas also. That is still part of his legacy.
MR. MARTIN: Yeah, it’s all a part of the legacy.
MR. WILLIAMS: Yeah, that’s all a part of his legacy.
MR. MARTIN: Right, and that’s the point I’m making. It’s all a part of the legacy, just like – look, I believe in freedom of the press. Look, he was not a friend of the press as well.
But also, I think, Angela and Michelle, what amazes me [is] Americans have no understanding of even our own history when it comes to how our country, foreign policy-wise, has treated Latin American countries. This was a president who stood up to the United States, who said, “I have something you guys need: oil.”
And, frankly, the reason we were so cautious with Chavez was because of that very thing.
MS. RYE: Right. America is a country that traditionally – I mean we talked about this earlier – even when dealing with the DOJ “too big to jail,” it is all about its economic interests. We’ve seen war as a result of oil. So, I think that, again, you have to, yes, look at both sides of his legacy; but I think that, for communities of color that are in the most vulnerable situations, he will be sorely missed for the things that he did to create opportunity.
MS. BERNARD: You know, I feel like it’s a double-edged sword. I’m looking at both sides of the story; and I think, quite frankly, we’re just going to have to wait and see what history will tell us, because there were good things that he did, but this is a man who also decimated the judiciary in Venezuela.
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. BERNARD: And I think time will tell us what his policies actually did for the poor in his country. I don’t think that – sometimes we have a way of looking at revisionist history. There were people who thought that Joseph Stalin was a wonderful man, and he wasn’t. So, you know, time will tell.
MR. MARTIN: But I think, to me, though, when it comes to Chavez, you have to – you know, Paul Harvey always talks about “the rest of the story.” And as I watched all of these conversations this week, it was all “thug,” “thug,” “thug,” as if the people in the country didn’t elect him, as if [he wasn’t] their chosen leader.
I’m just saying that it’s amazing how Americans can talk about our sovereign right as a nation, but then don’t truly respect the sovereign right of another country.
MS. BERNARD: Well –
MR. MARTIN: If they choose to elect him, that’s up to them!
MS. BERNARD: — well – and you’ve seen it time and time again not just in Latin America, but in many countries in Africa, where the United States went in looking at what we believed our foreign policy interest to be at the time and putting in people who were despots, and then turning around and, quite frankly, kicking the United States right in the butt, and we end up destroying countries.
MS. BERNARD: We will see –
MR. MARTIN: Real quick.
MS. BERNARD: — what happens.
MR. MARTIN: Real quick.
MR. CURRY: Across the board, it’s a pattern. The United States always does this. And you have only one perspective of him, and all we’re saying in this case [is] show the other side anyway.
MR. WILLIAMS: And also, the United States is just as ruthless and just as corrupt as these countries that they condemn. I mean they cannot sit in [a] glass house. They really don’t even have the moral standing anymore. And Chavez was in their face. He despised America and what she represented, and the elite – the media – is punishing him for it now in death.
MR. MARTIN: All right.
MS. RYE: The moral of the –
MR. MARTIN: Mich- —
MS. RYE: — story is – sorry. The moral of this story is there’s always the good, the bad and the ugly when dealing with human beings; and we just need to see if – to Mr. Curry’s point – about the good side of this.
MR. MARTIN: — the good, bad and ugly when it comes to Chavez; the good, bad and ugly when it comes to America in [the] present day; also, when it comes to our history.
MR. WILLIAMS: Yes.
MR. MARTIN: Don’t ignore the facts, folks –
MR. WILLIAMS: Absolutely.
MR. MARTIN: — because they are what they are.
MR. CURRY: And the media elite. [Gestures toward Mr. Williams.]
MR. MARTIN: Michelle –
MR. CURRY: The media elite.
MR. MARTIN: — Michelle, Angela, Armstrong, George, we appreciate it. Thanks a lot.