'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
Guests: Jonathan Capehart, Baratunde Thurston
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST HOST: If it feels like politics is more
childish than ever, you`re not alone. Tonight`s show is brought to you by
the letters W, S, J and the number 40.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: John Boehner is defending himself this
morning after a blistering article in "The Wall Street Journal" asserts
House Republicans may be handing the election to President Obama.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Basically, House Republicans are making
sure that President Obama gets another four years.
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: The article in "the Wall Street Journal"
really slamming them for this fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s "The Wall Street Journal." This is not a
liberal opinion page.
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: I think "The Wall Street
Journal" has it exactly right.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Buckle up, Republicans, "The Wall
Street Journal" is coming at you, water is coming on the ship.
WAGNER: We have John McCain who said that this is harming the
Republican Party. We have Mitch McConnell silenced which is deafening.
Did John Boehner fumble this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to see Republicans are in a corner.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What this underscores is the war within the
Republican Party right now.
TAMRON: The House Republicans initially were against a one-year
extension, now they`re for this one-year extension.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: Is this because Speaker Boehner can`t
count, or is it simply that he is now utterly powerless because the
Congress is run by extremists and will pursue their agenda even if it ruins
the lives of 160 Americans?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of these neophytes in Congress, it`s not
that they don`t get it. They don`t care. I mean, they literally were
elected on the idea that they were going to come here and just blow the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boehner has been in trouble since the day he
walked in the door with this group.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here`s Boehner`s biggest problem. He`s got his
number two which undercuts him every day, Eric Cantor. Eric Cantor is
stabbing that guy in the back.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: We`re just a little ways
away from the White House where the president sits. Why doesn`t he come
join us here to try and make this happen?
BASHIR: This from the same individual whose conduct over the last
year has virtually ruined every attempt at compromise. What is the
president supposed to do in these circumstances?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a tax cut. This is what the Republicans
are supposed to be for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a dog and pony show. It is embarrassing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Until this weekend, it seemed like a compromise on the
payroll tax cut had been achieved. And then, House Speaker John Boehner
took that completely reasonable, temporary compromise, passed in the Senate
with the support of 39 Republicans back to Doofenshmirtz. Yes, that`s my
new nickname for the Republican caucus.
Dr. Doofenshmirtz is a character on one of my favorite children`s
television series, " "Phineas and Ferb."
Now, Doofenshmirtz is a failed inventor who`s constantly unleashing
his useless machine on the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. HEINZ DOOFENSHMIRTZ: Behold, I give you the very, very badinator.
It`s made up of my most evil parts hobbled together without any rhyme or
reason, loaded on my floating platform, bring it above the tri-state area
and, you know, turn it on and see what it does. I have no idea, but it`s
sure it`s going to be bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The House Republicans pulled out their own very, very
bad-inator this weekend when they rebelled against a temporary extension,
unleashing yet again the 11th hour manufactured crisis showdown. But this
time just days before the Christmas holiday, a holiday that most of them
would undoubtedly prefer to be spending with their families, just like
President Obama would prefer to be with his family in Hawaii instead of
hanging out in Washington with Bo and ordering pizza, waiting to sign a
payroll tax legislation.
But the House Republicans very, very bad-inator is in full effect.
And although even their allies are confused about what this bad-inator is
trying to accomplish.
Here`s what "The Wall Street Journal" editorial said today. "The GOP
leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for
imposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going
to pass. Now, this is no easy double play. Republicans have also achieved
the small miracle of letting President Obama positioning himself as an
election year tax cutter although he spent most of his presidency promoting
tax increases, and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax
increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible."
Now, the backlash against those House Republicans, and their very,
very bad-inator, Speaker John Boehner scrambling to attempt some kind of
post-facto strategy. For that, he pulled out another Doofenshmirtz
invention, the least likely-inator, and made the least likely claim of all,
that House Republicans actually want to help President Obama.
Now, the president called Boehner today, and here`s how Boehner`s
office described the conversation. "The speaker reminded the president
that the House is the only body that had done what he asked for by
providing a full year of payroll tax relief and extended unemployment
Unsurprisingly, this latest manufactured crisis drags on. The
Republican presidential candidates are now, you know, being asked to talk
about it. And Mitt Romney pulled out his own Doofenshmirtz invention in an
interview with Chuck Todd on MSNBC`s "DAILY RUNDOWN" today. He pulled out
the look away-inator, designed to make everyone look in another direction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, "DAILY RUNDOWN" HOST: I wonder what we`re seeing going on
in Washington right now, this is what your senator, Scott Brown. He called
what the House Republicans are doing with this payroll tax holiday
irresponsible and wrong. Charlie Bass is going to be on your bus trip. He
voted against the Republican bill that essentially killed the Senate
What say you in this?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we`re deep in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Look away. Look away. But chuck was still looking for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Well, we`re deep in the weeds. I mean, should it be a two-
month extension? One-year extension? Which element should be involved?
I hope that both the House and the Senate, Republican and Democrats,
are able to get this resolved as soon as possible.
I`d like to see the payroll tax cut extended. Two months is not very
Look, come together. I`m not going to -- I`m not going to throw
gasoline on what is already a fire. What we really need is a president
that`s a leader that can stand in with the members of both parties and work
together on finding a common solution.
But this president had been intent on attacking -- and attack mode is
not the way that a leader tries to get people to work together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, that Romney answer reminds me of the episode where
Dr. Doofenshmirtz doesn`t come up with a crazy invent-inator, he just says
he`s in charge and hopes no one will stop him. That`s pretty much what
Romney did in that answer, demanding leadership while refusing to define
what that leadership would actually look like or do.
But in fairness, this isn`t a Mitt Romney-exclusive problem. It`s a
Republican Party problem.
In the 20th century, certainly for the second half of the 20th
century, the Republicans knew what they were and what they supported. They
defended private property. They believed in a competitive economy as the
best solution to collective problems.
They were practical rather than imaginative. They were managers.
That was really their brand. They were also executives.
Just look at the Republicans` overwhelming dominance of the White
House throughout the second half of the last century. Nixon, Reagan and
Bush 41 won with enormous margins.
They were strategic. Look at Newt Gingrich`s orchestrated takeover of
the House in 1994.
Now, do any of those descriptors, practical, managerial, executive
describe what you`re seeing right now with the payroll tax cut fight?
The House Republicans have walked away from a tax cut. And they`ve
walked away from a tax cut because they just want to give Democratic
President Obama what he asked for? Which begs the question: what defines
the 21st century Republican Party besides Doofenshmirtz?
Joining me now is Eugene Robinson, columnist for "The Washington Post"
and an MSNBC political analyst.
Nice to see you, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So what has happened to the Republican brand? I mean,
if they are not the tax-cutting small-government get off your back guys,
who are they?
ROBINSON: Well, that`s a good question. They are at least -- there
are at least two Republican Parties. There`s the Republican Party or
what`s the remnant of the Republican Party that you described with those
positive adjectives, executive and strategic, the kind of establishment
And John Boehner is kind of a holdover from that era, although,
obviously, he`s not the most adroit executive or manager that they have.
And there`s the other Republican Party which is the Tea Party, the
extremely ideological Republican Party that did come to town to blow the
town up, essentially, and that does not care -- does not care that it is
inconveniencing and perhaps really damaging the party`s electoral
prospects, both long term and potentially short term.
HARRIS-PERRY: But if there are two parties, then Romney is certainly
of that older and orderly kind of GOP Republican Party. So what do you
think of Romney`s response to Chuck Todd today? I mean, he`s got cover
from plenty of Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, Scott Brown, "The
Wall Street Journal."
Why take this position instead of a more reasonable, responsible one?
ROBINSON: Because look at Romney`s numbers. Romney`s trying to win
this nomination. And the energy and enthusiasm is in the Tea Party wing of
the party. And Romney`s numbers for months and months now have been
essentially flat-lined at around 25 percent of Republican primary voters.
They are sold. They are going to vote for him. But the rest of the
party is looking around. And they`ve looked at all the non-Mitt candidates
And he`s got to be concerned that even as some of the air starts to
leak out of the Newt Gingrich bubble, that who knows? Somebody else might
pop up. This may not be the end of that. He doesn`t have this wrapped up
And so, he has to be careful essentially in this sort of fight that
they`re having to say as little as possible. To give as anodyne response
as you could possibly imagine, and that`s kind of what he did.
HARRIS-PERRY: Look, I mean, given that this, in fact, you know, feels
like a congressional battle, Congress eating itself, particularly the
Republicans in Congress battling one another -- is this an early holiday
gift for the president? I mean, could he ask for anything better than
what`s happening at this moment in terms of thinking about his own re-
ROBINSON: I think, you know, he would say Santa has already been
very, very good to President Obama. What`s really significant about this
fight is that, look. Over the last couple of years, especially,
Republicans have been so unified, so in lockstep, at least when it comes
time to vote.
We all know that they have different views and that there are these
two wings, but they have voted as a bloc in both houses of Congress.
They`ve been very successful at essentially imposing their will.
And now, for the first time, you have prominent Republicans in the
Senate and some in the House who publicly disagree with the direction of
the party, saying this is damaging, this is awful.
The split coming out in the open and potentially becoming sharper and
more pronounced, I think, is the best sort of Christmas gift the Democratic
Party could have wished for, actually. It lays bare something that was
already there, but it changes the dynamic in Washington potentially in a
very significant way.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And the next thing that will be happening are
these early primaries and caucuses.
Eugene Robinson, thank you so much for joining me tonight.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Melissa. Happy holidays to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks. To you, too.
Coming up, the direct impact of the payroll tax cut on everyday life -
- $40 a week can make a big difference to families that are struggling to
make ends meet.
And heckled today in Iowa, down in the polls -- Newt Gingrich`s new
political struggles. E.J. Dionne has been in Iowa, and he predicts there
could be a big surprise for the caucus. He joins me later.
HARRIS-PERRY: If the payroll tax cut isn`t extended, the typical
household making around $50,000 a year will see about $40 less every
Now, if you`re living in John Boehner`s congressional district, that`s
about a tank of gas.
Now, think about what $40 means to you. That`s what the White House
has asked people to do via Twitter. Tenia (ph) tweeted, "$40 means getting
my insulin monthly and my husband his inhaler."
Todd said, "$40 fills a prescription for a senior who needs it."
And Hugo from Monrovia, California, wrote, "$40 means one less dinner
or purchase at a Monrovia store. It ripples negatively from there."
Hugo`s right. It does.
This isn`t just about an individual having an extra $40 in a paycheck.
This is money that`s spent in communities.
In Jackson, Mississippi, for example, and this is rough math, with
about 9,700 households in the $50,000 to $75,000 income range, that extra
$40 means $389,000 into the Jackson economy every two weeks. Every year,
it`s about $10 million -- $10 million in a local economy every year. $40
doesn`t sound like much, but I bet $10 million does.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have to confess, the
Iowa race has gotten to be a real mess. My good friends have brought about
$7 million or $8 million in advertising. We`ll just keep going forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That, of course, was Newt Gingrich speaking in New
Hampshire today. And the speaker is right, the Iowa race is a mess.
Attack ads against Gingrich and his opponents have helped to create an
environment in Iowa where less than two weeks until the caucuses,
Republicans still have yet to coalesce around a candidate. They are still
searching for that principled Republican who possesses that certain
something, that Huckabee that captures the imagination of the median Iowa
Now, last month, Iowans thought they had found that candidate in
Herman Cain. That`s right, in early November, Herman Cain led the field
with 25 percent support.
Then, of course, Iowans and the rest of us found out that he liked to
hit on women who were not his wife, and he also didn`t know which one
So, Iowans gave Newt Gingrich a spin. In late November, he surged to
the top of the polls in Iowa. Then Iowans learned he profited from Freddie
Mac, and they remembered that the House of Representatives reprimanded him
for ethics violations.
The results today, a new poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers shows Ron
Paul leading Gingrich. Romney polled third with 18 percent and Perry,
fourth with 11 percent.
Guess what happened today. Reports resurfaced that Ron Paul published
newsletters in the late 1980s and early 1990s that contained controversial
and often racist statements.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn`t write them. I
didn`t read them at the time. And I disavow them. That is the answer.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN: Well, it`s just a question -- I mean, it`s
legitimate. It`s legitimate. These things are pretty incendiary, you
PAUL: Because of people like you.
BORGER: No, no, no, no. Come on. Some of the stuff was very
incendiary. And, you know, saying that in 1993, the Israelis were
responsible for the bombing of the World Trade Center, that kind of stuff.
PAUL: Good bye.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Cain, Gingrich, now Paul. Iowans might soon realize
that they aren`t going to find their principled Republican, and they`ll
just have to settle for the most handsome, most sober, and most electable
guy at the bar, Mitt Romney.
Now, another Iowa poll, this one more recent, although automated, has
Mitt Romney leading Iowa with 25 percent. Paul is second with 20 percent
and Gingrich is third with 17 percent.
Newt has spent his last few days on the campaign trail going after
Romney for not telling pro-Romney super PACs to stop telling Iowa voters
the various reasons not to vote for Newt. Today on MSNBC, Romney
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I know that the speaker would like to say, look, we shouldn`t
have any negativity. But, look, if you can`t handle the heat in this
little kitchen, the heat that`s going to come from Obama`s hell kitchen is
going to be a heck of a lot hotter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Later, Newt responded to Romney in the most Hulk Hogan
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: If he wants to test the heat, I`ll meet him anywhere in
Iowa next week, one on one, 90 minutes, no moderator, just the timekeeper.
So, let`s test this kitchen. I`m happy. I`ll go to the kitchen.
Go back and ask Governor Romney, would he like to come and play in the
kitchen? I don`t think so. I can take the heat plenty well. I think I`ll
do just fine with the heat from Barack Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: One on one here in THE LAST WORD`s hot kitchen is"
Washington Post" columnist, Brookings Institution senior fellow, and MSNBC
political analyst, E.J. Dionne - just returning from Washington after three
days covering candidates in Iowa.
Thanks for being here.
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Good to be with you. Literally just
off the plane. It was late.
HARRIS-PERRY: Wow! I`m glad you made it, E.J.
DIONNE: I am, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you wrote in "The Washington Post," apparently
filing as you were landing that Santorum has going for him what`s been
going against him until now which is that he hasn`t yet emerged as a top
So, are you telling the American people at this moment that Rick
Santorum might, in fact, end up winning or placing in the top couple of
candidates in the Iowa caucuses?
DIONNE: Well, first of all, in this race anything you say is both
questionable and plausible. So I should say that right up front.
But I think a couple of things have happened to Santorum. First,
precisely because he has been running behind, he hasn`t had to take the
attack ads. He obviously hasn`t had the same kind of scrutiny. And he`s
just been chipping away, going to every county in Iowa, running a very
Christian conservative-oriented campaign, and he picked up the endorsement
of two very prominent Christian conservatives yesterday.
And so, it feels like in Iowa, and you see some movements in the
polls, one of those polls you showed has him in double digits. I think
that`s really happening in Iowa is that everyone is bunched. The
difference between the top and the sixth place candidate is really quite
small right now.
So, for example, in Romney`s case, the conservative vote or the non-
Romney vote could get so split up that he actually has a chance of winning.
It`s also the case that if he loses a little ground, he could come in,
say, fourth. It`s that fluid right now in Iowa.
And I think most of the political people I talked to including a lot
of caucus-goers at these events who are kicking around one, two, maybe
three candidates, everybody feels it is just not settled yet.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, I know you know Iowa extremely well.
When I think about Iowa caucus-goers, both on the Democratic and Republican
side, it`s always my sense that they take it very seriously. This role is
kind of first in the nation.
And that one of the reasons Paul moved up to the front was this sense
that, you know, even if you don`t agree with him, this guy is principled.
We know what he stands for. He`s not a flip-flopper. He will give
But this sort of re-release of these clearly racially inflammatory
newsletters from a couple of decades ago, how is that playing in Iowa now?
Is that undercutting the sense that he is the principled candidate?
DIONNE: You know, to be honest, those were released as I was making
my way out on this extended plane fight. But what you do have are a lot of
more establishment or more hawkish Republicans going after Paul, because
what he`s got is a very enthusiastic organization. Everybody in every
campaign acknowledges that he may have the best organization in the state.
He`s got this rock-solid group of libertarian Republicans who just won`t
And now, he`s been adding to that some of the Tea Party Republicans
who like what he says -- the anti-government stuff he says, and a handful
of people who actually do agree with this noninterventionist foreign
policy. So, now, you`ve got the establishment hitting back. WHO is the
big conservative radio station in Des Moines, and caller after caller is
calling in to trash Ron Paul`s foreign policy.
So, you clearly have one wing of the conservative movement very
worried about Paul right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: So there is one last candidate, and that`s Huntsman.
Is there any possibility there, you think, for him to rise to the front?
DIONNE: Well, not in Iowa. I think Huntsman has a real shot of
surprising us in New Hampshire because in New Hampshire, independents can
cross over into the Republican primary. And there is no competitive
Democratic primary this year. So, I think Huntsman could have a surprise
Perry, as your numbers showed, is also creeping up a little bit
because he`s spending a ton of money in Iowa on both radio and television.
And he`s working the state very hard. Iowa`s his last chance.
HARRIS-PERRY: E.J. Dionne, as always, thank you for your insights.
DIONNE: It`s good to be with you.
DIONNE: Now, a young man from Iowa has the honor of being the most
viewed political video of the year. And in his case, being on the list is,
in fact, an honor. We`ll analyze the good, the bad and the ugly from 2011
with (INAUDIBLE) "The Onion."
And Sarah Palin and FOX News are now attacking President Obama over
his family`s holiday card. I so wish I were kidding, but I`m not.
HARRIS-PERRY: FOX News is taking the war on Christmas to a whole new
level. Now, the Obama holiday card is the problem because it features a
picture of first dog, Bo. Sarah Palin doesn`t like the message that that
sends. And we`ll have a big, big Christmas surprise to reveal to Lawrence.
He`ll join us later when we reveal the latest news on the efforts to get
desks to school kids in Malawi.
HARRIS-PERRY: Take a look at the 2011 Obama family holiday card.
Inside it reads, "from our family to yours, may your holiday shine with the
light of the season." After seeing this obviously subversive greeting, Fox
News published an article titled, "No Christmas in White House Holiday
And the first line of the article reads, "the official White House
holiday card makes no mention of the word Christmas and instead focused on
Bo, the first dog, based on the wishes of the First Family."
No love for Bo, Fox News? Let`s take a look at how Fox News
celebrated the holidays on air this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Merry Christmas, Allegra.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you plan to do over the holidays, Maryann?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m going to be spending it with family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very nice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Allegra will be there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m looking for one of these. Love the dog.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Sarah Palin weighed in on the Christmas card
controversy, telling Fox News that she found the card, quote, "odd," and
that it doesn`t represent American traditional values like family, faith
I`m sorry, what exactly does freedom have to do with Christmas? The
Biblical story is about a young Jewish woman, pregnant out of wedlock,
traveling with her partner to take part in the Census. In fact, the story
says more about submitting to government authority than political or
Now, Palin went on to say that what most Americans really want for
Christmas is "American foundational values, illustrated and displayed on
Christmas cards and on a Christmas tree."
Ah, yes, the Christmas tree, Pagan symbol of Winter Solstice, co-opted
by early Christians in the Seventh Century. It is beloved, but not exactly
Now I like the card, and not just because I think Bo is adorable.
This card seems aware of the obvious fact that President Obama is the
president of all Americans. Perhaps this card is an invitation to think
about the White House as the people`s house and as a place to gather in
The card encourages us to put ourselves by that fire, to see ourselves
in the White House, the symbolic home for all Americans. Instead of an
ostentatious tree, the card celebrates with modest gifts beneath a
poinsettia. That seems appropriate in a time when so many American
families can`t afford a tree or many gifts under it.
Joining me now is Jonathan Capehart, MSNBC contributor and opinion
writer for the "Washington Post." Nice to see you tonight, Jonathan.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Hey, Melissa. Great to see
HARRIS-PERRY: So can we pause for a moment?
HARRIS-PERRY: I notice that the dog on Fox News was blond and Bo is
black. Do you think this is a racial?
CAPEHART: Let`s move along.
HARRIS-PERRY: You don`t think it is. Let`s -- I just wanted to ask
for the Twitterers.
CAPEHART: No, no, no.
HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe what we should do instead is take a look at some
of the previous president`s holiday cards. Here are some of them. Here`s
Ronald Reagan`s card from 1984. Where is the Christmas in that?
CAPEHART: Yes, faith, family, freedom. I don`t see it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here`s President George W. Bush`s card from 2005. No
faith, family or freedom there.
CAPEHART: You got Barney and Mrs. Beasley. What is the other dog`s
HARRIS-PERRY: There are definitely --
CAPEHART: And a rabbit. I see a rabbit in the background. That
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, the hop. So what do you think is going on here,
Jonathan, seriously? Is this just about Fox News silliness? Or is there
something substantive here in why they choose this as a moment to attack
the White House on this question of the holiday and of Christmas?
CAPEHART: There`s nothing substantive here, but it does play into
this mantra, this theme out there that President Obama and the First
Family, but particularly the president, is outside of the American
mainstream, that the president is an other.
Remember, we just went through an entire year where lots of people
thought -- believed the conspiracy theory that President Obama was not an
American citizen and therefore occupying the Oval Office illegally. We`ve
spent a lot of time talking about whether the president is not a secret
closet Muslim, you know, like part of a sleeper cell, if you will.
It`s all part of -- part and parcel of a project to portray the
president as somehow un un-American. This is also part of an effort. This
is not an effort, but Sarah Palin is unbelievably petty. This is not the
first time she`s taken off after President Obama, or I should say the Obama
Remember, she went after the First Lady twice. Once during her
reality show, talking about how -- going after the First Lady and her Let`s
Move Initiative, or her anti-childhood obesity initiative, by saying, oh,
well, we better eat this, because Michelle Obama wants to take away our
And then another time, she said no wonder the First Lady -- no wonder
Michelle Obama is trying to get women to breast-feed, because -- maybe it`s
because milk prices are so high. This is someone who is petty, vindictive,
really like the mean girl in high school.
HARRIS-PERRY: But -- so -- but let`s pause on that, though, this idea
of sort of this -- you know, Christmas as the symbol of the iconic American
moment and Sarah Palin representing this in the Christmas Tree. So we did
a little bit of research and found that, according to the National
Christmas Tree Association, the average real Christmas tree costs 36
dollars and 12 cents, which is just about 40 bucks, which is just about the
money that the average family would and enjoys right now from the payroll
CAPEHART: For the next 12 days at least, or something like that.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. So is it, in fact, actually sort of the
-- a way of being out of teach with what it actually takes to do something
like put a Christmas tree in your house?
CAPEHART: Sure. Well, look, it shows -- Sarah Palin is out of touch
on a lot of things. She picks and chooses her battles in a very strange
way. Why she and why Fox News are going after the president and the First
Family on this is beyond me.
And quite frankly, they`re focusing on the card and not actually
what`s in the White House itself. Right now, the president and the First
Family and the White House staff, for the last month, have had people in
and out of the White House, and there Christmas trees all over -- all over
the main floor of the White House. So this is a non issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. In fact, one of them is a veteran`s tree, right,
that is -- that is really focusing on the women and men and the families
that are contributing to our efforts.
CAPEHART: That`s faith, family and freedom, if you ask me.
HARRIS-PERRY: There you go. Jonathan Capehart, thanks for joining me
CAPEHART: Thanks, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Youtube clip of Zach Walls defending his two
mothers beat out President Obama`s announcement of Osama bin Laden`s death.
And the Republican presidential campaign ads.
Baratunde Thurston of "The Onion" will joins us to talk to us about
the best and worst of 2011.
And later, Lawrence will join me on his own show. And he`s in for a
big surprise. The response from our viewers, from you, has been
overwhelming. And we`ll have that update.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZACH WALLS, IOWA VOTER: Good evening, Mr. Chairman. My name is Zach
Walls. I`m a sixth generation Iowan and an engineering student at the
University of Iowa. And I was raised by two women.
My family really isn`t so different from yours. After all, your
family doesn`t derive its sense of worth from being told by the state,
you`re married, congratulations.
No, the sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each
other to work through the hard times, so we can enjoy the good ones. It
comes from the love that binds us. That`s what makes a family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That video of Zach Walls making the case for marriage
equality was uploaded in February of this year. Youtube says the video has
been viewed nearly 16 million times. Even Iowa`s Republican legislature
took notice, halting their attempt to reverse the Iowa Supreme Court
decision to make gay marriage legal.
It also makes it the number one political video on Youtube this year.
Now on the opposite side of this same issue, an ad released by Rick
Perry`s campaign on December 6th has rocketed all the way to number three
on the top ten list, with seven million hits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You don`t need to be in
the pew every Sunday to know there`s something wrong in this country when
gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can`t openly celebrate
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Rick Perry actually made the list twice. His debut
presidential campaign ad, Proven Leadership, is at number seven. And you
can probably guess which other presidential campaign ad made it onto the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m sorry. Herman Cain`s smoking ad was uploaded on
October 19th and comes in at number nine, just ahead of Republican attack
ad aimed at President Obama which came in at ten.
And the president makes the list twice. At number four is the
announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden. And at number two, the
president`s remarks at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATESPERRY: In an episode of
"Celebrity Apprentice," at the steakhouse, the men`s cooking team did not
impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go
But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of
leadership. So ultimately you didn`t blame Little John or Meatloaf. You
fired Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me
up at night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now, of course, is Baratunde Thurston,
comedian, digital director of "The Onion," co-founder of Jack and Jill
Politics, and author of a book I enjoyed so much, soon to be released, "How
To Be Black."
BARATUNDE THURSTON, "THE ONION": Hello, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is so nice to have you here.
THURSTON: Good to be back with MHP.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a good thing. That`s a good thing. So look, I
was enjoying and cracking up particularly on the Cain ad. But, you know,
looking at this list of top ten political Youtube videos, almost all of
them are funny, even when they weren`t meant to be.
And I`m wondering, does this mean that our politics is simply absurd
at this point?
THURSTON: We have definitely entered a new phase. Maybe it`s a
height, maybe it`s depth. I`m not sure. It depends on the day of the week
where reality sort of challenges comedy for the absurdity title.
This summer, during the debt ceiling crisis, you saw some real tension
around what it means to be American and how serious our leaders would be.
And at "The Onion," we ran the story, "Congress Continues to Debate Whether
or Not to Economically Ruin United States."
It was a serious question about whether or not we should sink
ourselves into a major depression for the next several generations or not
do that? And we`re going to talk about it and see.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. I mean --
THURSTON: Even the payroll tax stuff that`s happening right now, it`s
-- it`s farcical and somewhat comedic, but also a little disheartening. I
think what I take from that list is that number one was something positive.
HARRIS-PERRY: So number one was something positive and serious. But
I wanted to ask you about this as well, because there`s -- there`s at least
two vides there also about marriage equality, the Perry piece, which is
apparently children can`t celebrate Christmas.
THURSTON: The Grinch is back. It`s called liberal America.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to say, my kid is openly celebrating, like
really no problem.
THURSTON: Then you`re a real American. I congratulate you on that.
But most of these other kids are suffering in a Christmas-less America.
And we have gays running rampant in the military. It`s terrible.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the military.
HARRIS-PERRY: So is there some reason, though, that this is being
asked on Youtube and in comedy, rather than by actual debate moderators.
So here is a serious issue. Why is it not showing up in the serious place?
Why are we more comfortable having the marriage equality conversation on
THURSTON: I think from the comedian`s perspective and from the
artist`s perspective, you want to reach the people directly, if at all
possible. We don`t have to necessarily go through major media channels to
I think from a politician`s perspective, they have the same -- they
have an evasive interest in that. So why would I subject myself to
significant questioning from someone who is educated on the matter, when I
can just say my piece, post in Youtube and disable comments?
So that`s the Rick Perry method. And also wear a "Brokeback" mountain
jacket while you do it, just for the insiders to really understand. I
think it was a coded message. I think he`s super pro-gay marriage, but
this was his way of wrapping in a nice cinematic package.
THURSTON: Only for the super media savvy. It`s a way of evading
scrutiny. And I think there is a chance to do a real sort of engaged
conversation with your constituents, your potential voters, using these new
It`s also less accountable. You know, there`s no moderator there to
call you on it. So you throw it out there. You say my staffer did it or
you disable comments or rates. And you say oh, move on to the next one.
Our attention span is so short, you can fire off a bunch of these crazy
things and people kind of forget that you`re the same person that had N-
word head on their hunting routes.
That was last week. We already forgot about it. It was this morning.
It was this morning he did something crazy. And now we`re this evening,
it`s like, oh, that`s old news. Why are you talking about that?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, Baratunde Thurston, I hope that people take the
time and have the attention span to read your new book, "How To Be Black,"
when it comes out. Now, of course, your book isn`t yet out.
Mine, however, "Sister Citizen," is.
THURSTON: It`s on my Kindle.
HARRIS-PERRY: People could feel free to put that in the stockings for
THURSTON: Thank you so much for having me. Happy holidays. Happy
New Year. Merry Christmas. Happy Kwanzika, Hanukah, everything. Just do
THURSTON: Kwanzika. Let`s do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s do it.
THURSTON: Let`s make up some new stuff right now. Innovation.
Up next, Lawrence will join us and we will talk about something
slightly more serious, as we reveal the total amount that has been raised
for KIND, Kids in Need of Desks.
The response from our viewers, from you, has been much more than KIND.
And Lawrence is in for a big surprise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I be an accountant, I also do the same what
Mr. O`Donnell has done, to help the poor, needy in my country, my life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you see yourself as becoming a leader?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe I will -- I will be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Those are the Malawi children you are helping when you
donate to the KIND Fund. KIND, Kids in Need of Desks, a special
partnership between MSNBC and UNICEF that works to provide desks for Malawi
students who sit on dirt floors for up to seven hours a day just to learn.
Now House Republicans claim that 40 dollars doesn`t mean much. Well,
for 48 dollars, you can pick up a child off the floor and put them into a
desk. To give the gift of a desk, go to TheLastWordDesks.MSNBC.com and
click on the link to donate, or call 1-800-FOR-KIDS.
Joining me now is Lawrence O`Donnell himself.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hi, Lawrence. How you doing?
O`DONNELL: I`m great. How are you?
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m great. And I`m particularly excited, because now
that you`re here, I can give you the big reveal, your big surprise. So
since your last report on last night`s program, the KIND Fund has raised
305,274 dollars just overnight and today.
And that brings the new total of the KIND Fund to 3,259,316 dollars
since the program started.
O`DONNELL: Well, that`s the biggest overnight we`ve had since we
started this year. That`s an amazing number. You know, the truth is, as
you do this normally over time, the overnight numbers decline. We just had
a huge surge last night.
We were -- I knew we were less than 50,000 away last night from three
million dollars. And I went to bed hoping for the three million, but it
easily could have not happened.
This is astonishing. This is 3,250,000. I -- this is incredible.
This is really -- you know, that boy you saw at the beginning who talked
about wanting to become an accountant? I haven`t seen that video. I first
met him over a year ago. He was much smaller. He`s a great, healthy year,
year and a half or so.
He told me a then that he wanted to be an accountant. When I met him,
he was sitting on a floor trying to write and trying to his math on paper,
on his legs. There was no hard surface under him. He had never seen a
desk in a classroom before.
Now he`s spent a year in a classroom. It`s really an amazing change
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, your insights there of just thinking about
what it means for a young man to have grown -- what this must mean about
sort of what kind of year he`s having, I think this is part of what
resonates about this story. My own daughter, who is 10, gets this story.
She actually cried watching you make the appeal last week, like in a very
honest, open way.
She got what this story is. So what is it that you think kind of
strikes people about this story of kids trying to do the work, trying to
learn, but sitting on the floor to do it?
O`DONNELL: You know, I think it`s the simplicity of it. And kids get
it completely, obviously, Melissa. They -- your daughter spends her whole
day at a desk,.so -- in a classroom, as does mine. So they get it easily,
high school students, elementary school students.
And the rest of us do, too, because we all did that. We all know what
it was to be there.
And it`s a simple and pure and undeniable good that we can do. These
desks will be made by workers in Malawi, using Malawi and African
resources. And they will be delivered. And these kids will work on these
desks. And it will instantly change their lives in the classroom.
It`s real. And so there are other things that you can donate money to
where you kind of hope it will work. You hope that the objective will be
reached. People should be donated to those kind of causes. I think what
makes this a reflexive for many people, quick, easy give is the clear
understanding that what they`re going to send the money for is really going
It really is going to do what it hopes to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to go back to your point about the workers who
are making these desks. We are seeing some of that video right now,
because we were talking about the kind of economic butterfly effect of not
having the 40 extra dollars in the payroll tax cut.
Well, this is the economic butterfly effect of providing the
opportunity for jobs here. Talk to me a little bit about who`s actually
making these desks?
O`DONNELL: Well, these are a couple of factories that are churning
out the desks. And they`ve had to hire -- they were small little
woodworking shops, really. One of them is expanding to a whole new
location, taking on many, many, many more workers.
And I`ve been to some of the workers` homes. It really does
completely change their world. They`re not the only people who have been
busy with this. UNICEF has actually been overwhelmed with calls and with
the online ordering. So they`ve had to hire extra workers to take on this
load of donations that`s pouring into their customer service lines.
And the people who have been working at donation services and customer
service at UNICEF have just been fantastic this last week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Lawrence, thank you for having a heart, for encouraging
all of us to do this. Thank you for letting me hang out on your show
tonight and for being a guest on your own show.
O`DONNELL: Thank you for the night off, Melissa. Thank you very,
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks. Now you can have THE LAST WORD online at our
blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. You can follow my Tweets @MHarrisPerry. And
"THE ED SHOW" is up next.
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