updated 1/3/2011 5:46:13 PM ET 2011-01-03T22:46:13

Guest Host: Cenk Uygur

Guests: Harold Ford, Jr., Maria Teresa Kumar, Brent Budowsky, Ernest

Istook, Todd Webster, Jane Hamsher, Lizz Winstead

CENK UYGUR, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening, America.  Welcome to THE ED

SHOW.

I‘m Cenk Uygur, in for Ed Schultz.

These are the stories that are hot tonight.

President Obama is hanging out in Hawaii after getting some of his legislation passed.  But look out.  There‘s some serious danger ahead.  I think the Democratic priorities are as dead as they can be as of January, and the Republicans will be to blame. 

And Newt Gingrich is just getting more and more crazy as time passes.  The Gingrich who stole Christmas blames the unemployed for the bad economy and the lack of jobs.

And it looks like Sarah Palin‘s gearing up for a presidential run, but that doesn‘t scare Obama supporter Oprah Winfrey.  Wait until you hear how the queen of daytime insulted the queen of clown-time. 

But we start tonight with danger ahead for the Democrats. 

After what was considered legislative victories in the lame-duck session, the president seemed hopeful yesterday.  He got the START treaty passed, the 9/11 Responders Act passed, and he got “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” repealed. 

In my opinion, all those were no-brainer, incredibly easy victories, with 80 percent of the country behind him.  But the way that the Washington media scores it, they were major accomplishments.

But listen, look, credit is where credit is due.  At least he got them passed.  I‘ll take it. 

Now, it would had been a disaster if he hadn‘t, because he‘s about to run into a brick wall in the form of the Republican House starting next year.  He claims he‘s still hopeful for more bipartisan agreements. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s time to find common ground on challenges facing our country.  That‘s a message that I will take to heart in the new year.  And I hope my Democratic and Republican friends will do the same. 

If there‘s any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it‘s that we are not doomed to endless gridlock. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  All right, the guy is continually hopeful on bipartisanship.  But when you listen to the Republican leadership in the Senate, you realize how naive that sounds. 

Just this week, Senator Mitch McConnell put out this threat to the Democrats: “There‘s much for them to be angst-ridden about.  If they think it‘s bad now, wait until next year.”

Now, does that sound like someone who wants to work with the president?  As Obama hopes for compromise, obviously the Republicans don‘t seem to be similarly inclined. 

Incoming Speaker John Boehner flat-out said it.  Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER:  I am not going to compromise on my principles, nor am I going to compromise the will of the American people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Come on.  How stark are those differences? 

So what happens in a political environment where one side says they will never budge and the other side says they can‘t wait to budge?  Well, I will tell you what‘s going to happen.  The side that‘s willing to compromise is the one that‘s going to be doing all of the compromising. 

This is simple, basic, irrefutable logic.  So I hate to break it to you, unless something notably—President Obama‘s attitude, most of all—changes, all of the Democratic priorities are now dead. 

It turns out the Obama administration lasted two years.  Who in their right mind thinks a Republican-controlled House will agree to any of the Democratic priorities? 

But that doesn‘t mean that no legislation will pass in the next two years.  It just means only Republican priorities will be considered. 

So you will start to hear a lot about cutting spending and making sure the balance budget is passed, even though they just blew a $850 billion hole in that budget with huge tax cuts.  They‘ll also start talking about cutting Social Security.  That‘ll be on the block, and so will other ways of cutting programs aimed to help the middle class now that the rich have already gotten their payday through the tax cuts. 

Now, that sounds pretty disastrous, right?  But it doesn‘t have to be that way. 

We can do something different, and that could be that the president can choose to do something else.  Although it seems to be against his core nature, he could fight back. 

As Congressman Weiner has pointed out recently, votes are not static. 

They can be changed through political pressure. 

The one ray of hope is the DREAM Act.  Look, it failed to pass recently, but the president promised to make a big issue out of it in the next two years.  Why? 

I thought he said if he doesn‘t have the votes for something, then that issue is over.  That‘s always what he says. 

Well, honestly, on this one, he‘s going to fight because he really needs those Latino votes in 2010 (sic).  Remember, he is a politician, after all. 

But this can turn out to be something great for those of us who think he should fight harder for the middle class.  Why?  Because he might accidentally win. 

I don‘t think he expects to win on this, but—and I think he‘s doing it as a matter of politics, but I‘ll tell you, starting to apply political pressure, he might be surprised at how quickly the Republicans buckle.  You know why?  Because they also need those Latino votes. 

So my hope for the next year is that the president accidentally teaches himself a lesson he didn‘t expect, that if he fights on any given issue, he might actually change those votes he previously thought were unchangeable, and that the path to achieving Democratic and middle class priorities is not through constant compromise and capitulation, but through an aggressive battle where you take the fight to the enemy. 

How‘s that for an ironic bit of hope? 

All right.  Now get your cell phones out.  I want to know what you think. 

Tonight‘s text survey is: Do you think President Obama will fight Republicans harder in 2012?  Text “A” for yes, text “B” for no to 622639.  And, of course, I will read those survey results later in the show for you. 

Joining me now for a different point of view is former congressman Harold Ford Jr., a political analyst for NBC News. 

Welcome. 

HAROLD FORD, JR. (D), FMR. CONGRESSMAN:  Good to see you.  Merry Christmas to you. 

UYGUR:  Now, Congressman, I know you don‘t think—oh, absolutely. 

Merry Christmas to you, too, Harold. 

Now, I know that you don‘t necessarily agree that some of these compromises were so bad.  You kind of liked the tax cut deal, right? 

FORD:  Well, I think in light of what happened in early November, as you recall and we both know, our party—or my party—and I assume your party as well—took, in the president‘s words, a “shellacking.”  The deal that was struck around taxes, we got just about everything that we wanted except an extensions of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. 

We enjoyed a new tax cut, a payroll tax cut, and a 13-month extension, as you know, for unemployment benefits.  In addition, the cuts that the president wanted around, accelerating business tax breaks, all will hopefully stimulate job creation and give—and give big business and small business in this country some sort of stability and a sense of certainty.  So I think that deal was a good one. 

Deals by nature, Cenk, as we both know, are not always what we ideally want, nor do they reflect the purity of our designs.  But I think real leadership is when you enter a room with some who may not agree with you and get the absolute best deal you possibly can.

And as much as I respect Anthony Weiner, and as much as I respect your point in quoting him, I dare to say, in light of a 60-plus-seat loss in the House, a six-seat loss in the Senate in November, I think this is a darn good deal.  And the president has every right to be proud of it and should brag about it. 

UYGUR:  OK.  Let‘s focus on that for a second then.

FORD:  Sure. 

UYGUR:  Look, he passed a payroll tax that I think a great majority of Americans would had been in favor of.  He viewed that as a victory for himself.  He passed the unemployment extension, which I think that an overwhelming majority of Americans would have agreed with. 

DREAM Act, 80 percent Americans.  START treaty, nearly everyone in the country agreed with it.  And then, finally, the 9/11 responders bill.  My God, other than a couple of Republican senators, you couldn‘t find anyone who disagreed with that.

So are those the great compromises that he got for blowing an $850 billion hole in the deficit, through gigantic tax cuts?   

FORD:  Look, the majority of Americans supported the deal, or the compromise, that was reached by the president and Republicans and Democrats in Congress.  A majority of Americans believe that government should work and must work, and they support the idea and the concept of what has happened.

Now, to your point about the three other significant pieces of legislation, “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” the DREAM Act—I wish it passed.  It should have passed.

And I think the most brilliant part of your intro was that the president, I wouldn‘t say, would accidentally get the DREAM Act passed.  I think that he will get it passed because the politics of the matter, both Democrats and Republicans want as many Hispanic and Latino votes heading into the next election cycle. 

But if the things were so easy, if all these accomplishments over the last two to three weeks—and I don‘t think you‘re minimizing them, but you‘re certainly not elevating them like some of us are—if they were as easy as you suggest, or as minor as you suggest, how come the Democratic Congress over the last two years couldn‘t win for us New Yorkers here on the 9/11 compensation fund?  How come we couldn‘t get “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” passed before? 

Why is it that at the beginning of this Congress, we couldn‘t have gotten an extensions—or I should say a New START treaty?  Remember, just two weeks ago, Jon Kyl said he would not support the START treaty.  Mitch McConnell went on one of the national TV shows, on “Meet the Press” with David Gregory, and said he would not support it. 

Here we are, a few days later.  The president wins their support by—wins support of a wide margin of senators, and we now have a new START treaty, which I think is critical in light of—in the face of some of the WikiLeaks disclosures and in light of the fact that the president made a promise to the Russian leadership that we would get this done. 

UYGUR:  All right, Congressman.  First of all, you know, I was asking the same exact questions you were.  Why can‘t a Democratic Congress do the simplest things until Jon Stewart pressures them on the 9/11 responders bill?  I thought that was amazing. 

So I often feel that frustration.  But let‘s turn to the next two years, right? 

FORD:  Right. 

UYGUR:  Now, do you really think that we can get Democratic priorities through with the idea of compromise?  Because, I mean, you‘ve seen those clips and you have seen the Republicans over and over.  It doesn‘t look like they have any intention of compromising whatsoever. 

FORD:  I think the president has a unique chance to divide a big part of the Republican Party.  You and I know the Tea Party, for better or for worse, animated and colored the political cycle this last go-round.  I think there are some in the Tea Party who are genuine to the notion and are true to the notion that reducing spending and reducing our national debt should be the priority of Congress. 

The president, I think, had a good set of recommendations laid out by his debt commission.  If he‘s able to pick and choose the best ideas from the debt commission, cobble that into a plan, and try his hardest to win Democratic and Republican support, I think he can actually score a victory there. 

Now, you and I may disagree on the Social Security cuts, and even other entitlement cuts.  But I think if this was an easy question about how you balance the budget and lower the long-term debt, we wouldn‘t—you and I wouldn‘t be having this conversation, Congress would have passed it, and there would be no debate about it.  The reality is this is a tough question. 

UYGUR:  No, but Congressman—but of course—

(CROSSTALK)

UYGUR:  No, but listen, that‘s not—in my ideal world, that‘s not a win for progressives, it‘s not a win for Democrats, to get a cut based on Social Security cuts, based on cuts on the middle class, when we just passed a giant tax cut for the rich.  Why do we do that, and then we‘re going to turn around and say, oh, it‘s time to reduce the deficit and we‘re going do it on the back of the middle class?

That‘s not a Democratic win. 

FORD:   But, Cenk, remember, the deficit commission proposal around Social Security was to means-test it.  So, the wealthiest of Americans, those earning over $1 million a year, will likely not see Social Security until they‘re 70, and would have reduced benefits under the plan that was outlined by the deficit commission. 

But, look, the details of this can be worked out.  I don‘t think there is any doubt that there‘s a better way to do entitlement reform than perhaps Paul Ryan and some of the others have proposed.  As a matter of fact, I don‘t think that there is any doubt about that.

But to suggest that we‘re not going to have to make some sacrifice, middle class and upper-income Americans, particularly upper-income Americans—and, in fact, some of them may have to forfeit their Social Security for those who are in the top 1.1 percent of earners in the country.  So I don‘t disagree with you there, but for the president to be successful I think over the next two years, the model that he has pursued in the last two to three weeks is a model he‘ll have to pursue going forward. 

There will have to be some compromise.  It was painful to watch my friend and former colleague, John Boehner, said he can‘t compromise.  I hope perhaps he just didn‘t understand the question fully.

Compromise is how you get things done in Washington.  It‘s not a bad word.  And you can only hope that President Obama can win for Democrats and for the country like he did when he struck, I think, I still believe, a terrific deal on taxes, on tax cuts for all Americans. 

UYGUR:  I think Congressman Boehner is fully aware of what he says and what he means when he says he‘s not willing to compromise.

But listen, we differ on how we want to get things done, but we hope some of the same things do get done.  For example, later in the show we‘ll talk about how I think the president can win on the DREAM Act. 

But former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., thanks so much for joining us. 

FORD:  But I think—but Cenk, the way you laid it out, I think, in your intro, is the way the president and the White House should follow.  And I hope they‘re watching, and I hope they adopt a measure—or I should say the approach that you outlined earlier. 

UYGUR:  See, another thing we agree on. 

(LAUGHTER)

FORD:  Merry Christmas to you, brother. 

UYGUR:  I hope they‘re watching too.  All right.

FORD:  Happy holidays. 

UYGUR:  Thank you.  You too. 

All right.  Coming up, President Obama is basking in the glow of his big wins, but so are the bankers on Wall Street.  They got huge breaks when they didn‘t need any. 

We‘ll talk about how the president can focus on the middle class instead when we come back. 

And crazy televangelist Pat Robertson is acting like a progressive.  You won‘t believe what the Christian conservative preacher just said.  I‘ll play you the tape. 

Plus, Fox News blames the NBA for a war on Christmas; Sarah Palin takes aim at Rudolph—don‘t do it, Sarah—and Lizz Winstead roasts Tom Coburn in “Club Ed.”

You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I am very disappointed Congress wasn‘t able to pass the DREAM Act so we can stop punishing kids for the actions of their parents and allow them to serve in the military or earn an education, and contribute their talents to the country where they grew up. 

I‘m going to go back at it.  And I‘m going to engage Republicans who I think some of them, in their heart of hearts, know it‘s the right thing to do, but they think the politics is tough for them.  I am persistent.  If I believe in something strongly, I stay on it.  And I believe strongly in this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  All right.  President Obama might claim to be persistent, but is this all smoke and mirrors? 

If he couldn‘t get the DREAM Act through Congress with a Democratic House and Senate, if he pursues the same strategy, he‘s definitely not going to get it through the new Tea Party-saturated Congress. 

Even Republicans who used to support the DREAM Act have flipped on it like Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.  He originally sponsored the act.  And as recently as July of this year, he praised it at a town hall meeting. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  With regard to the DREAM act, a lot of these kids are brought in as infants.  They don‘t even know that they‘re not citizens until they graduate from high school.  And if they have lived good lives and they‘ve done good things, why would we penalize them and not let them at least go to school? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  That was this year.  But now Hatch has done a complete 180. 

Two days ago, he said the bill was just a way for Democrats to appeal to their “far-left political constituencies.”  So what happened since this summer? 

Hatch now is a potential Tea Party challenger in 2012.  Of course.  And he doesn‘t want to be taken out in the primary.  That‘s what happened to his colleague from Utah, Senator Bob Bennett, earlier this year. 

Obama won‘t get the DREAM Act through Congress with guys like Hatch in the way, but with an increasing Latino population, it might not be a bad fight politically for the president if he wants to win in 2012.  And if he does it right, he might even be able to get the Republicans to bend to his will. 

Now, to help us explain how, let me bring in Maria Teresa Kumar, MSNBC contributor and executive director of Voto Latino. 

All right, first, is Obama right about this fight on the DREAM Act? 

Does it make sense for him politically? 

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, VOTO LATINO:  Well, welcome to the 2012 presidential elections.  It‘s starting. 

He kicked it off with the DREAM Act, recognizing that, as you just mentioned, that we just found from the Census that you have a huge percentage of population growth in the Latino community, and you‘re going to see big, huge redistricting.  In Texas alone, we expect four new seats.  In those four seats, two of them are going to be Latino. 

The same thing in South Carolina, Utah.  You go down the list. 

So what Obama is trying to do, strategically, is he wants it front and center.  The Republicans, in order for them to make sure that they get the Latino vote eventually, and get the White House—because let‘s not forget, they need at least 40 percent of the Latino vote to win a presidential and to capture the prize—they‘re going to have to figure out how to be nice to the Latino community.

And what was surprising, though, was that we did have—you mentioned Orrin Hatch, but we also had Senator Snowe and Senator Collins, who have both been very sympathetic to the DREAM Act.  And so what we need to do is take a step back, and say, well, what made Obama move, you know, the conversation forward? 

And one was a very aggressive grassroots campaign.  And I think what you‘re going to see is that you‘re going to see a lot of these organizations take their gloves off and start targeting these members of Congress, and saying you know what?  We have a shot. 

UYGUR:  But, Maria, we‘ve had huge grassroots campaigns on other issues, whether it was the public option, whether it was—you know, you name it.  And it never moved the president.  And as soon as the Republicans said they were going to vote, he threw up his hands and said, I don‘t have the votes.  What can I do?  I don‘t have the votes. 

Right.  I mean—

(CROSSTALK)

KUMAR:  Listen, but don‘t forget “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  That was exactly what—I mean, “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” was dead in the water until about two weeks ago, and all of a sudden a whole new breath of life.

UYGUR:  Yes.  I don‘t believe that. 

KUMAR:  I do.  No, from internally, even the White House was surprised.

And so one of the reasons is that you have an impressively grassroots movement, and you had to find a way for the president to figure out, what are my easy wins?  And you are right, part of it was, you had incredible pressure within the Pentagon saying, we don‘t want the courts to decide this, we want us to decide this, on how to make that transition.

But you did have an incredible grassroots movement.  And I think this is a nascent movement that just basically started about two years ago, three years ago, with the DREAM Act.  And you‘re seeing these kids getting more and more sophisticated.  You have, for the very first time, Evangelical folks on the right saying we have to pass it.  That‘s incredible pressure. 

UYGUR:  Yes.  Look, I‘ll tell you what I mean I don‘t believe it. 

KUMAR:  Come on, Cenk.  OK.

UYGUR:  Every show I‘ve ever hosted, whether it‘s here, it‘s on “The Young Turks,” I always said “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is definitely going to pass, all right?  Because, look, 80 percent of the country‘s in favor of it.  Two-thirds of the troops are in favor it.  The Pentagon is in favor of it. 

I mean, how inept do you have to be as a politician not to be able to get that passed? 

KUMAR:  Right, but—

UYGUR:  So, I knew it.  Look, anybody who was following it knew that was going to pass.  That wasn‘t the issue.

Look, he doesn‘t fight on things that he doesn‘t think he has the votes on.  He‘s doing it here.  He‘s doing it because—not because he thinks he‘s going to win, but he‘s doing it for the votes, so he can turn around to what you called grassroots and say, hey, Latinos, I‘m on your side.  Right? 

KEENE:  I don‘t disagree with you.  I said, you know, again, the presidential race started when he‘s mentioned that for 2012, the race for the White House.

But, conversely, Latino groups and advocates that are also participating—that actually agree with the DREAM Act are starting to galvanize and saying, OK, Mr. President, you just said that this is going to be a top priority.  We‘re going to make sure that it‘s a top priority front and center. 

Look, 60 percent of Americans, both Independent and progressive-leaning, actually agree with the DREAM Act.  And the more people start learning about what the details of the DREAM Act are, the more the American public is convinced that it‘s the right thing to do. 

UYGUR:  All right.  So let‘s go back of how to get it passed, right? 

And it involves putting pressure on the Republicans. 

How do you do that?  Because a guy like Hatch and Lindsey Graham are not going to be able to move because they‘ve got Tea Party guys that are challenging them in the primaries, and they‘re more worried about the primaries than they are about the General election.  But there are a lot of Republicans who can be moved, right? 

KUMAR:  Right. 

UYGUR:  Who are they, and do you think if you put enough pressure on them, they get worried they‘re going to lose the Latino vote and they flip?  Do you think that that can happen?  And who are they? 

KUMAR:  I think we do.  First of all, you have Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is right now the senator from Texas.  She wants the governorship. 

I mean, even Governor Perry is for the DREAM Act, and he actually believes—he‘s actually against SB-1070, the Arizona law basically doing racial profiling for immigration.  So if she has a contender and she ever wants that governorship, she has to make sure that she‘s courting her base, which happens to be, at the same time, the Latino vote, increasingly, in Texas. 

You also have Senator Collins and Senator Snowe from Maine, who have a lot less to lose because they don‘t have a large Latino population, but they also have demonstrated they‘re increasingly much more liberal than the rest—and much more moderate, I should say, than the rest of the Republican Party.  And now you have the new Independent senator from Alaska, Murkowski, who also is saying, you know, this is something that‘s reasonable, and, again, I don‘t have that much to you lose if I actually vote for the president. 

So those are four votes right there.  And then the last one, that‘s a little up for grabs.  So we‘re still trying to figure out who that person would be.  Again, they just need five votes right now. 

UYGUR:  Right, that‘s true, although they also now need the House.  So they‘re in a little bit of trouble over there. 

KUMAR:  Right.

UYGUR:  But I think this strategy can still work. 

Maria, thank you so much for coming on and discussing it with us.  I really appreciate it. 

KUMAR:  Thanks so much, Cenk. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Now coming up, the crew over on Fox are expanding their war on Christmas.  Now they‘re bashing the NBA.  And is the NFL committing the same crime in their eyes? 

They‘re in “The Zone” next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  In “Psycho Talk” tonight, every December Fox News likes to bring a touch of holiday fear to their viewers with endless coverage of the completely bogus war on Christmas.  This year was no exception. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS:  Are Democrats waging their own war on Christmas to make sure Santa delivers everything on their wish list? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a grinch? 

GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX NEWS:  Ho, ho, ho?  Well, how about no, no, no? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why is it mum the word when it comes to mentioning Jesus in Christmas coverage on network newscasts. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s a phrase (ph) that‘s been the topic of national controversy.  That‘s because the word “Christmas” has been removed from the title. 

DOOCY:  Christmas is a federal holiday.  It‘s not like you can just pretend it doesn‘t even happen. 

CARLSON:  I mean, take away the nativity scene, and now you‘re going to take away red and green?  It‘s crazy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Their brand of crazies, endless. 

And now, today, our right-wing friends found a new enemy in the war on Christmas—basketball.  Fox just posted a story with this headline: “The NBA‘s War on Christmas?”

The story attacks the NBA for scheduling five games on Christmas Day.  News flash for FOX, the world doesn‘t stop turning just because it‘s Christmas.  You know who else works on Christmas?  Cops, firefighters, doctors, priests, are they all part of the war on Christmas?  Did you know NBA teams have played on Christmas Day since 1949? 

This has apparently been a very long war on Christmas.  One particular team, the Los Angeles Lakers, have played on Christmas Day 36 times including the last 11 years.  Does that make Kobe Bryant the most sacrilegious man in America?  And it‘s not just basketball.  The Dallas cowboys are playing this Christmas, A2 Dallas.  Could America‘s team be waging a war on Christmas as well?  And incidentally, 66 NBA games tipped off during Hanukkah this year.  I didn‘t hear FOX News complaining about those.  Let alone how many games were played during Ramadan.  My sense is that FOX might not mind a war on Ramadan quite as much.  This FOX News obsession with a nonexistent war on Christmas is the very merry psycho talk.  

All right.  Now, coming up, Newt Gingrich is taking a page right out of the republican playbook and blaming victims.  Yes, he‘s blaming all of the problems in this country on the unemployed.  My commentary on him coming up. 

And what happened to the so-called maverick?  John McCain is off the deep end lately and a new report reveals, he‘s still angry and bitter over his big 2008 loss.  I‘ll get rapid-fire response on that. 

Plus, Pat Robertson stirs the pot.  Steven Spielberg says no to Nancy Pelosi.  And “Daily Show” co-creator Lizz Winstead talking about Obama‘s Hawaiian vacation in “Club Ed.”  You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.  Stay right with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Cenk Uygur of “THE YOUNG TURKS” in for Ed Schultz.  Now, for the “Battleground” story tonight. 

President Obama has signed a lot of legislation recently, but the major problems in this country remain unresolved.  The unemployment rate has been near 10 percent all year.  But the guys on Wall Street who cause the recession just keep getting richer.  They‘re set to take home record profits again this year.  And it‘s not going to get any better if the Republicans have anything to say about it.  Potentially presidential candidate and bad guy extraordinaire Newt Gingrich went down to South Carolina, and blamed the unemployed for America‘s problems.  Yes, he‘s actually blaming the unemployed. 

He said the country spent $134 billion on unemployment compensation, and, quote, “got nothing for it.”  By which he means, of course, his rich friends got nothing for it.  He also said the government shouldn‘t be wasting money, quote, “paying people to do nothing for 99 weeks.”  And while Newt is blaming the victims of this recession, his republican colleagues just broke off from the fiscal crisis inquiry commission and wrote a report of their own on what caused the crash on Wall Street and you‘ll love this part.  They refuse to even put the phrase Wall Street in the report.  It was an effort to deflect blame from their banker donors and put it on the government and the poor. 

But the Democrats need to share in the blame, too.  Time and time again, the Obama administration has failed to crackdown on Wall Street.  In fact, he just had a meeting with the top CEOs in the country to ask them what he could do for them, again. 

Joining me now is Brent Budowsky, a columnist for “The Hill” newspaper.  Brent, first of all, it appears that fighting for the middle class and not constantly appeasing the bankers would be the most obvious political strategy of all-time, so why doesn‘t the president do that?

BRENT BUDOWSKY, COLUMNIST, “THE HILL”:  Well, I think you‘re going to see a lot more of that, when we have a republican house and the new Congress comes back.  What Newt Gingrich needs to do and our friends at FOX News need to do as well is spend Christmas Eve turning on and be seen and watching “It‘s a Wonderful Life,” where Jimmy Stewart and that great Frank Capra Movie with the small time banker who actually knew his neighbors, knew his customers and cared from.  And he was up against Mr. Potter, the crooked banker who was trying to rip everybody off and put Stewart out of business. 

That‘s real America, the Jimmy Stewart America.  That ought to be our America.  That ought to be what we‘re fighting for and I think when the Congress comes back, the president is on a roll, there‘s no question about that.  Harry Reid and the Democrats in Congress are on a roll.  They have a new fighting spirit that I think came out of the last election.  And what we need to do is to reclaim Christmas.  Reclaim Jesus.  Jesus said, Cenk that you should sell your possession to give the proceeds to the poor.  Jesus said that the poor are blessed and we should feed the hungry and clothe the needy.  I don‘t need any right wingers from FOX telling us, or Newt Gingrich, that Christianity means letting people suffer for 99 weeks or more on unemployment.  Newt Gingrich, let‘s buy him a copy of the New Testament and the Sermon on the Mount when we celebrate Christmas.  That‘s my Christmas present to Newt.  If Democrats make that case, we win. 

UYGUR:  All right, well, you know that‘s a curious thing, Brent, because you know I—first of all, I think that they got their fighting spiriting a little bit, not fighting the Republicans but fighting the president when he caved in on the Republicans on that tax cut deal.  That‘s where I sensed a little uprising the house on the democratic side but let‘s talk about why the Republicans never pay that political price.  I mean, here‘s Newt Gingrich blaming the poor, the powerless, the middle class, the people who lost their jobs, shouldn‘t the  Democrats be able to punish the Republicans for these, you know, points as you rightly point out, Americans would be outraged by?  And how come they can‘t, it seems, for a long time.  

BUDOWSKY:  Well, I think what I hope the president does when they come back, is take a look at Ronald Reagan‘s old playbook.  Reagan could play parts in politics and Reagan could cut the deal at the same time.  But Reagan had convictions and Reagan went to the country with those convictions.  I‘d like to see the president say that it is a great moral issue for America that anybody‘s jobless at all for 99 weeks, I‘d like to see Democrats say, like Frank Capper said, that we should care for our neighbors, that we don‘t—we‘re not a country of Mr. Potters, that people who pay themselves huge amounts of money and rip off the average American.  I would like to see Democrats talk about the Sermon on the Mount about helping the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the needy, as Jesus said, as we celebrate on Christmas Eve. 

As we‘re going to see on NBC with “It‘s a Wonderful Life” again, we should paint a portrait of America that Americans relate to and go to the country aggressively and boldly and say, no one in America should be jobless for 99 weeks and then left out in the cold.  And if Newt Gingrich says otherwise, he doesn‘t know much about Jesus, he doesn‘t know much America, he doesn‘t know much about the bible and he never with the Sermon on the Mount, if we make that argument, Cenk, we win.  And I hope the president does it.  There has to be a balance between reaching out for honorable Republicans as the president and John Kerry and Dick Lugar and Harry Reid did to get the START Treaty through, “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  It was a really good week.  The 9/11 heroes bill, these were victories we won but we have to fight and we have to talk to the people in ways they relate to.  

All right, well, it sounds like you‘re asking the Democrats to be Democrats, that seems to be a tall order but good luck with that, Brent.  And thank you for joining us.  We appreciate it.  

BUDOWSKY:  Thank you.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Now let‘s get some rapid-fire response from our panel on these stories.  What happened to John McCain?  He‘s turned into a real curmudgeon.  “The Daily Beast” reports McCain still angry over his 2008 presidential loss.  And he‘s voting against positions he had supported earlier to spite the president, he was even overheard saying it, why don‘t these pesky democratic kids get off of my lawn?  OK, he didn‘t say that but you get the point.  

Steven Spielberg‘s spokesman is denying a report saying, his client is advising Nancy Pelosi on how to rebrand the Democratic Party but he didn‘t actually deny the Pelosi reached out to the director.  Drama.  

And it looks like Sarah Palin is gearing up for a presidential run, but Oprah isn‘t worried at all about her  actually making it to the White House.  

All right.  With us tonight, Todd Webster, the democratic strategist and former communications director for Tom Daschle and Ernest Istook, former republican congressman and fellow at the Heritage Foundation. 

Congressman, let me start with you.  McCain has flip-flopped on a lot of his positions.  START Treaty can argue.  Certainly, the Dream Act which he was happy to support before and the list goes on and on.  Is this out of spite?  Is “The Daily Beast” right?

ERNEST ISTOOK, FORMER GOP CONGRESSMAN:  Well, the “Daily Beast” is trying to do a little bit of amateur psychoanalysis.  I think that you could have a good time saying, has Barack Obama changed positions for political reasons as well?  It‘s interesting, when people come to Washington, they drift leftward, then the little choice of terms is to say.

UYGUR:  Really?

ISTOOK:  They‘ve grown in office but if they listen to what the electorate is saying and they move to the right, then you know the media likes to say, oh my goodness, what‘s wrong with him?  Are they crazy?  Are they changing positions and so forth?  The real problem here is that people want to applaud people if they drift leftward, but condemn them if they drift rightward. 

TODD WEBSTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Now, look, I think that. 

ISTOOK:  A pretty simple equation.  

UYGUR:  When is the last time that somebody in Washington drifted leftward?  I don‘t know maybe we‘re seeing a different Washington.  But Todd, go ahead.  Go ahead, Todd.  

WEBSTER:  No, I think this is an issue of him drifting bitter and old and delusional.  Look, he‘s a patriot.  He has sacrificed enormously for this country, and everybody is grateful for that, but I thinking now, the twilight of his career, he can take one or two paths.  You look at a guy like Senator Ted Kennedy who was, who was a liberal democrat, but was agreeable, was willing to make compromises and get things done.  He is the man who enabled the prescription drug benefit to get enacted with President Bush.  He‘s worked with Senator Hatch, the health care bill is really his legacy, but John McCain is becoming Wiley Lowman instead of an elder statesman.  He‘s becoming delusional and bitter and feeling like life passed him by.  So, hopefully over this Christmas holiday, he‘ll go back to Arizona and sort of rethink things, because he has an opportunity to be an elder statesman, to be an elder leader in his party, and to get things done in the Senate, and I think that‘s what he should be thinking about for his legacy. 

UYGUR:  Congressman, let me go back to you for a second.  Come on.

ISTOOK:  Sure.

UYGUR:  You can‘t just sit there and not say that John McCain didn‘t get affected by the right-wing challenge that he got in the primary.  I mean, you can see for yourself, right?  I mean, he has drifted way, way to the right from where he used to be.  

ISTOOK:  He got affected by listing to the people.  In particular, the people in Arizona as well as the people in the country as well.  He found the he‘d been doing some things that was out of touch with the people who were electing him and to his credit, he changed positions to reflect what the people were saying.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Now let‘s go to Nancy Pelosi—Pelosi apparently reached out to Steven Spielberg.  There‘s some, you know, denials going on about what happened there.  But Todd, doesn‘t she have to do work on rebranding here, given the losses that happened?  And is it sensible to reach out to a movie director?

WEBSTER:  Well, I think suffering some of the losses that we did, it‘s a markup strength to go and get advice from a wide range of perspectives and counselors on what to do going forward.  What I have great admiration for in my republican friends is their ability to stay on message to parrot talking points delivered to them by their message guru.  A guy named Frank Luntz for 20 years has been helping, and poll testing, and focus grouping republican policies to sell unpopular policies to unsuspecting constituents.  So, I salute my republican friends for their ability to stay on message and be disciplined and to parrot what Frank Luntz tells them.  I wish Democrats would for a pr standpoint to be able to have some of that same message.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Congressman?

ISTOOK:  If Frank Capra were around today, I think he would enjoy Steven Spielberg‘s movies.  You know, Budowsky was talking about that before.  You know, he‘s great at putting his finger on the pulse to the American people at reflecting things that people enjoy.  And you know, trying to do another makeover for Speaker Pelosi and such, they tried the Democratic Party makeover in 2006 say, oh, we‘re focusing on.  

UYGUR:  The Democratic Party.  

ISTOOK:  .trying to reduce deficits and pay attention to more responsible governance, it worked for them in the elections of 2006 when they won the majority in the House and the Senate, but once people found  out the difference between the Hollywood presentation they were making, and what they were actually doing in office, they got turned out in 2010.  I‘m not saying the Republicans have a great reputation right now, OK?  But the Democrats have the worst and they need that makeover. 

UYGUR:  All right, now we‘re running short on time.  Let me give you guys the Oprah quote real quick and get your quick response to it.  Here‘s what she says on Sarah Palin, “It does not scare me because”—when asked whether she was going for president and win.  “It does not scare me because I believe in the intelligence of the American public.”  Drums.  OK, so what do you think congressman, is she right?  Are the American people smart enough not to elect Sarah Palin?

ISTOOK:  Read the entire quote from Oprah.  She said that Sarah Palin is charming and very likable.  That her new TV show is—is going great.  So give the whole quote.  Oprah threw some bouquets at Sarah Palin as well as indicating that she disagrees with her politically.  After all, Oprah was a big supporter of Barack Obama.  

WEBSTER:  Well, look, but let‘s.

UYGUR:  All right. 

WEBSTER:  Who else—who else is charming and personable and attractive and has got a great television presence?  Kim Kardashian, but there is no reason why she should be elected the next president and I think that she has about as much chance of being elected president as does Sarah Palin. 

ISTOOK:  But don‘t give a one life sided aspect.  

UYGUR:  OK.  All right.  We‘re going to have to leave it right there. 

ISTOOK:  Thanks, Merry Christmas.  

UYGUR:  All right.  We‘re going to have leave it right there.  Thank you very for us the full quote.  Thank you both of you guys.  Merry Christmas.       

WEBSTER:  Thank you.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, coming up, this American soldier is accused of leaking classified information to Wikileaks.  But what he‘s going through in jail is sickening, un-American, and some thinks it‘s torture.  The United Nations is investigating.  Jane Hamsher, founder of the firedoglink.com Web site has a petition to the commander to stop the mistreatment of manning.  She sounds off ahead. 

And Sarah Palin doesn‘t have a clue on how to shoot a caribou but she had no problem on firing away on Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer.  I have got the tape.  Kind of.  I‘ll show it to you, next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  It‘s not too late to let me know what you think.  Tonight‘s text survey question is, do you think President Obama will fight Republicans harder in 2011?  Text A for yes.  Text B for no to 622-639.  The results are coming up.         

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW and in the “Playbook” tonight, private first class Bradley Manning was arrested for allegedly leaking classified documents to Wikileaks.  He‘s been held to military prison for seven months without a trial.  And what they‘re doing with him is sparking outrage with human rights organizations. 

For more on this, let‘s turn to Jane Hamsher, founder of firedoglink.com.  Jane is petitioning to stop the mistreatment of Manning.  Jane, first, tell us what is going on with Manning, how are they confining him?  So that people understand what he‘s going through.   

JANE HAMSHER, FIREDOGLINK.COM:  Well, David House who is one of the people who visit Manning, wrote and—late today about his trip to go visit Manning in Quantico last weekend.  And he‘s being held basically in isolation.  He‘s not allowed to have any newspapers to watch any news on TV.  He doesn‘t have bedding.  He‘s not allowed out of his cell except for very limited time.  He can‘t exercise except for walking around in circles in chains.  And according to Jeff Kaye (ph) who is a psychologist who also writes for us today who works with torture victims, he says this is how you break someone. 

And this week in “The New York Times” Charlie Savage just said that the government is trying to break Manning to get him to roll over on Julian Assange because they don‘t have enough evidence against Assange or Manning without a confession.  And so everybody is very concerned that Manning—the only evidence that‘s been provided against him has come from a guy named Adrian Lamo, a former hacker, who‘s story doesn‘t even match up with his own story.  So there‘s something that‘s going on here.  It‘s really wrong.  And we want the brig commander to lift this stuff that‘s being done to him because he hasn‘t been proven that he‘s done anything yet.  

UYGUR:  Right, you know, 23 hours in isolation, for people to understand how extreme that is, we don‘t do that to anyone outside of our most dangerous criminals, the guys we have in Supermax, the Unabomber, the  World Trade Center bombers, et cetera, et cetera.  So, this is really extreme and the guy hasn‘t been convicted or even tried, so it‘s really strange but you know, Assange went further in that interview that I had with him and he said that Manning might in his words, be a political prisoner.  Does that go too far or what‘s your thoughts on that, Jane?

HAMSHER:  No, I absolutely agree with that.  Look, the guy who‘s provided the only evidence against him, Adrian Lamo was in a mental institution, a forced institutionalization by the police two weeks before he said that he had these chats with Manning.  And the only proof they have is in these chat logs that Manning turned over to “Wire” magazine and to “The Washington Post” back in May.  Now this week “The New York Times” is publishing that oh suddenly, Manning remembers that in these chat logs that he—those actually a moment when there was a physical disc turned over from Manning to somebody from Wikileaks.  Did “Wire” and “Washington Post” not notice this in the chat logs?  Why did the “New York Times” gets the chat logs, well because Manning says that his disk was seized by the FBI.  Charlie Savage who won a Pulitzer Prize.  Didn‘t he say, well, let‘s go to Washington Post to Wire.  Are they sitting on this story?  I mean, it doesn‘t make any sense.  Adrian Lamo‘s story doesn‘t even mix with the one -- mesh with the one that the military has.  So you know, this is not enough to hold this guy with.  

UYGUR:  Right.  All right.  Jane Hamsher, thanks for joining us.  It is a powerful story.  Now, coming up, co-creator of “The Daily Show” Lizz Winstead is coming up in “Club Ed.”  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  It‘s Thursday and the Christmas break starting for us tomorrow, it‘s time for a special edition of “Club Ed” with “Daily Show” co-creator Lizz Winstead.  All right, Lizz, Pat Robertson just said that we should legalize pot.  Since I agree with him, I believe that hell has frozen over.  What do you make of Robertson‘s statement?

LIZZ WINSTEAD, CO-CREATOR, “DAILY SHOW”:  You know, it‘s pretty incredible and when I read that, too, I was thinking, how awesome would it be if he decided to just to change the name of the 700 club to the 420 club?  That would be my dream.  I mean, just take it that much further.  

UYGUR:  That‘s funny.  That would be change that we could all believe in.  

WINSTEAD:  Exactly.  

UYGUR:  Obama has taken a—they‘ve taken a change.  They‘ve gone to Hawaii on vacation.  What do you make of that?

WINSTEAD:  Well, I hope that they‘re wrapping all of their gifts in his birth certificate and sending them back, and once and for all.  I think that could the smartest thing they could do.  A little holly over the date to send it off.  You know, I‘m from Minnesota, so when people travel to tropical places for Christmas, I completely don‘t get it.  And they did it last year too.  And then that guy blew up his, you know, junk on a plane so I hope nothing like that happens again.  I‘m a little nervous. 

UYGUR:  Right, well, he tried to blow up his junk.  But fortunately or unfortunately. 

WINSTEAD:  He singed, he singed his junk.  An ill-fated junk attempt. 

UYGUR:  All right.

WINSTEAD:  I‘m blowing you off completely.  

(CROSSTALK)

All of the time.  

UYGUR:  How about DeMint?  Speaking of junk, how about DeMint? 

WINSTEAD:  Whining about Christmas? 

UYGUR:  Yes.

WINSTEAD:  You know the whining is so insane that—that you can take these extremes, you know first it‘s, I just want to go home for the holidays and then it‘s—you know, I don‘t even understand how anybody can tolerate between he and Coburn, you know, it‘s maddening to me because Coburn, the fact that it took him this long to understand the profundity of getting help for 9/11 first responders.  And sensibly, he is the last responder.  I mean, that‘s the thing.  And he‘s a doctor.

UYGUR:  Right.

WINSTEAD:  The guy is an OB/GYN, basically putting the no in Gyno. 

(CROSSTALK)

UYGUR:  OK.  We‘ll have to leave it right there, Lizz.  

WINSTEAD:  Putting the no in Gyno.  

UYGUR:  All right.  We‘ll leave it right there.

All right.  Look, tonight in our text survey I asked you, do you think President Obama will fight Republicans harder in 2011?  Sixty nine percent said yes, 31 percent said no. 

That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Cenk Uygur, and thanks for watching. 

“HARDBALL”  with Chris Matthews starts right now.

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