updated 12/2/2013 10:45:48 AM ET 2013-12-02T15:45:48

UP with STEVE KORNACKI
November 30, 2013
Guest: Josh Barro, Raul Reyes, Emily Heil, L. Joy Williams, Basil Smikle,
Marty Van Ness

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Your holiday weekend might be over on
Monday, but it looks like Congress is going to go on and on.

At the start of this Thanksgiving weekend, we`re finding ways to question
the status quo. Congress is on track for one of its least productive years
ever. In just a minute, we`ll talk about whether it has to stay that way.

Also, the story behind one handwritten letter from President Obama to a
concerned citizen that I believe has been little misinterpreted by the
right. Plus, it will give an excuse to tell you my story about having a
president as a pen pal.

And what the heck does the Iran contra scandal have to do with the annual
pardoning of the White House turkey? Well, pretty much everything, as it
turns out. We will explain that ahead.

Plus, this is how we, too many Americans, have been spending their holiday,
including it seems on Thanksgiving, itself. Here to make a plea for us to
stop the insanity.

And finally, (INAUDIBLE) helping me, I usually call finding ways to
humiliate me. In this week, they have found a new way to do it on national
television. Today, they`ve apparently arranged for me to learn how to cook
a turkey on the air. And since I only recently learned how to turn an oven
on, this could get a little ugly. You may want to stay tuned for that.

Speaking of recipes for disaster, though, we begin this morning with what
Congress is doing or rather everything that Congress is not doing. We`re
about to reach December. There are some serious budget issues to work out
and some key deadlines looming. The Congress is right now scheduled to be
in session this coming month for a grand total of four days.

NBC News ran the numbers this week and reported that in the 11 months since
Speaker John Boehner gaveled 113th Congress into session back in January,
Congress has passed a near 52 public laws.

And if you take out the ceremonial measures, the bill calling for the
creation of a baseball hall of fame commemorative coin or the honorary
namings of local post offices, all of the stuff like, take all of that out,
and Congress has passed only 44 actually substantive bills this year. Now,
to put this in some perspective, Congress has averaged about 70 substantive
bills per year since 1999 which means the current Congress is achieving a
little more than 60 percent of what an average session does.

Not much more than half. This isn`t really an aberration or a statistical
quirk anymore. It`s not an accident t. The last Congress, the 112th
Congress, which ran from 2011 until 2013, it managed to do even less. It
passed only 41 substantive bills the first year when it was in session.
That`s three fewer than this one.

That 112th Congress, which was elected in the 2010 Tea Party midterm wave
went on to make the old do nothing Congress that Harry Truman railed
against in 1948 looked prolific by comparison. 112 Congress came to an end
back in January. It passed the fewest number of bills in history. And
more than a quarter of them were symbolic. They were gimmicks. They were
not substantive new laws.

The headlines in news stories that flow from statistics like these, current
unproductive Congress is even worse than previous unproductive Congress.
Those sorts of headlines help explain why you have been hearing this pretty
much for years now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If America`s elected officials got report cards,
they`d be flunking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten percent approved of the job Congress is doing while
82 percent disapprove.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This Congress has now officially passed the fewest
bills --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s a higher percentage of dentists who recommend
sugary gum than people who approve of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No wonder Congress has got an approval rating of a
toilet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KORNACKI: And to be fair, part of this isn`t surprising. Congress as an
institution has never really been that popular. It is best in history its
numbers have been mediocre at its best as worst or you`re probably locking
at it right now. It`s not like we`ve ever had a golden age where people
were walking around saying, you know what I think is really great,
Congress.

But there`s something else going on here, too, because the bottoming out
Congress` numbers is part of a broader trend, a trend of declining
confidence in major institutions. Confidence in banks and the criminal
justice system, the media, labor unions. It`s dropping for them, too. The
Congress is at the very, very bottom of that bottoming out. You might
think there`s an easy solution to this.

If everyone in Congress is sick and tired of being hated, sick of all the
stories about the vacation days and the chronic inaction and the record
shatteringly low output, you think maybe they`d come together and you know
do something. But here`s the thing. It actually makes perfect sense from
the standpoint of both parties that they don`t right now because we`re
caught in a trap.

This has to do with something we talk about on the show a lot. Over the
last generation or two, the two parties have basically sorted themselves
out ideologically. The Republicans are the conservative party. The
Democrats are the left of center party. The American people sorted
themselves out, too. The parties these days are almost like tribes.

There are deep, clear, obvious cultural, geographic, racial, and
ideological divisions that separate the Republican Party and the Democratic
Party. Just about every voters decided which side of that divide they`re
on. That old notion of moderate swing voters jumping back and forth
between the two parties.

That doesn`t happen much anymore. And those two parties with those vast
deep lines of division separating them, they have since the Tea Party wave
of 2010 been forced to share power in Washington. Democrats have the White
House in the Senate, Republicans have the House. And now, throw in this.
It`s not just that Republicans are the conservative party and the Democrats
are the liberal party, Republicans have moved much farther to the right
than Democrats have moved to the left.

Center of power in today`s Republican Party is primarily interested in
dismantling government in opposing the White House on basically everything.
There`s not a ton of natural space for compromise between the parties to
start with, but that pretty much does away with whatever space there is.
And so, you have gridlock. And so, you have record setting gridlock.

And the question is whether there is a solution. Well, back in Harry
Truman`s day, it was Democratic president, Truman who launched a campaign
against the do-nothing Republican Congress. He called Congress back into a
special session to put their votes where their mouths were. When they kept
right on doing nothing, Truman called them the worst Congress ever and then
voters side with him.

They re-elected him in 1948, and, at the same time, they gave Democrats
control of the House. It was a seismic gain, 75 seats for Democrats that
year. President Obama tried pretty much the same trick last year, though,
while the voters did side with him over Mitt Romney and did keep Democrats
in charge of the Senate. They also re-elected a Republican-led House for
two more years.

Whatever their motives, voters in 2012 did not break the gridlock. They
sustained it. And if you look at how the district lines are drawn, how the
population is distributed in America these days, how midterm elections tend
to favor the party not in the White House. Well, it`s hard to see a
scenario on the immediate horizon where one party is rewarded with what now
is apparently the essential ingredient to get real things done in
Washington.

Total control of the White House, of the Senate and the House at the same
time. That`s why a memo from a former Bill Clinton pollster named Doug
Sosnik (ph) attracted so much attention this week. If you look at the
futility Democrats faced trying to pass meaningful legislation through a
Republican-led House, it looked at the political landscape and he concluded
that we`re probably stuck with this maddening state of gridlock politics
through the end of the decade at least.

Is he right or is there a way around it, a way to break the law (ph), to
jerk American politics out of this funk?

Well, joining me to discuss these questions, we have Emily Heil of the
"Washington Post" who writes for the paper`s "Reliable Source Column," Raul
Reyes, he`s an NBCLatino.com contributor and a columnist with "USA Today,"
Josh Barro, he`s politics -- editor at BusinessInsider.com, and L. Joy
Williams, she`s a political strategist and founder of the public affairs
firm, LJW Community Strategy.

So, first of all guys, thanks for taking your holiday weekends, your
Thanksgiving weekends and spending them where I`m sure you love to 8:00
a.m. --

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: Coming into this cold studio. I really appreciate that. So, we
talk about that Doug Sosnic (ph) memo. It got printed in "Politico" this
week. There was a lot in it. He talks about how he thinks maybe even
theoretically there`s room for a third party in this country, something
that might spring up over the next decade because the two parties aren`t
necessarily keeping up with all of the changes in the electric.

But I thought for the sake of our discussion today, we would look at, he
itemized in his mind a list of the specific challenges that each party is
facing right now, is going to be facing for the years going forward. And I
thought we would go through a few of those for each party and just talk
about sort of the state of both parties right now. We`ll start with the
Republican Party.

You know, we spent a lot of time since 2012, since they lost the election
in 2012, trying to diagnose things, but let`s look at a few things that
Doug Sosnic (ph) cites right now is challenges for the Republican Party.
The immediate one that comes to mind here is no post-2012 consensus.

And when he writes in this memo is he says it would have been better for
Republicans if Rick Santorum and not Mitt Romney had been the nominee in
2012, because in his view, if you give sort of the far-right of the party,
the candidate that it wanted.

You don`t give the sort of mushy moderate, you give the far-right
candidate, then there`s a little more clarity in the results, then you lose
election and then you can say, all right, look, the Tea Party wing, it`s
not electable. Now, you can really have a movement in the party to move
back to the middle. What do we think of that as a --

JOSH BARRO, BUSINESS INSIDER: I don`t think that will work.

(LAUGHTER)

BARRO: Look what happened in Virginia. The right wing of the party got
the candidate they wanted and they lost. And what`s their story
afterwards? Oh, the party establishment abandoned us. The media was so
unfair. Ken Cuccinelli didn`t focus on Obamacare enough.

RAUL REYES, USA TODAY: Right.

EMILY HEIL, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s a blowout.

BARRO: It wasn`t a blowout, but there`s always a theory about why if you
nominate the ultraconservative candidate next time you`ll do things right,
he`ll be able win. I think the problem for the Republican Party is its
base has gotten in such a media bubble that it repeats its own stories to
itself about how the world is the way it wishes it was.

And so, I think yes, they should have learned a lesson from (INAUDIBLE)
failures, but they also should have learned the lesson from the fact that
they thought Mitt Romney was going to win the 2012 election because they
all thought the polls were wrong.

For about two months after the election, you had a period of reflection
where people in the Republican Party said, gee, we seem to have
misunderstood this. What can we figure out in order to make better
predictions going forward? And yet, they`ve gotten back --

KORNACKI: And so what happened in those -- because I remember that around
this time last year, you know, Karl Rove had this meltdown on Fox News at
election night, yet, Megyn Kelly, she`s now a prime timer on Fox News, she
was basically telling him, you`re doing math that Republicans do to make
themselves feel good. So, there seemed to be this -- what happened to
change that?

REYES: They had that movement where they were examining their losses.
They produced that autopsy report. Now, remember, that was something done
by the so-called party establishment, by the elders. The passion that
drives this party is very much inward looking. And as a result of that,
you know, when things do not go their way on the outside, they become so
increasingly obsessed with the ideological purity test.

You know, in a sense, I wonder, have they nominated someone like Rick
Santorum if that base would have just demanded that they shift further to
the right, if that`s possible.

(CROSSTALK)

L. JOY WILLIAMS, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: It makes them more embolden, right?
It`s like, well, we did run the presidential but we elected more
Congressional folks so we re-elected our folks. And so, what we need is
more of them, right? And so, how do we get out? And so, it`s mainly a
vocal and a state game that they`re playing as opposed to the national game
of having a president. And so, we didn`t win the president, so what? On
the local level and state legislatures in Congress, our Congressional
representatives are who we want and that`s what they`re pushing for.

KORNACKI: And along those lines, what Raul was talking about, the lack of
party elders right now is -- seismic sites. As an example of what this
kind of looks like, you think of -- if you had to say who is a Republican
Party elder (ph) right now? A name that might -- somebody might - like Jeb
Bush. Well, this is Jeb Bush on Twitter this week. This is --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: You may have heard him emerge the embassies, the Vatican and
Italian embassy -- "why would our president close our embassy and the
Vatican? Hopefully, it`s not retribution for catholic organizations
opposing Obamacare?" This isn`t --

(LAUGHTER)

HEIL: Obamacare is the answer to everything, I think. If you ask a
republican what, you know, what the weather is like, they`ll tell you that
Obamacare stinks. I mean, that`s just the line that they use for
everything. So, I don`t think that`s a surprise that that was what Jeb
Bush has to say. It seems like the code to everything a Republican says --

WILLIAMS: It`s what gets you re-tweets, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS: -- people are looking for, right, is what gives me more (ph)
attention, right? What gets me the sound clip that`s going to play on news
that we can say, oh, it`s crazy, but at least, you know, you get that clip
now --

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: The question, too, though, because we talk about a lack of a
party elder, the Republican Party has been in this mode of like since the
Affordable Care Act was active in 2010. This law is pure evil and it needs
to go. And we are willing to shut down the government as we -- we`re
willing to flirt with a debt ceiling issue.

Where is the party elder who can say, it`s the law of the land, and now, we
got to work at tweaking it and here`s an example of party elder who`s
playing the same --

REYES: The party elder, I think, is pandering, because I mean Jeb Bush is
supposed to be the grownup. He is supposed to be that role (ph), but I
think, in this case, he is just, you know, weighing the political calculus
and just going further to the right as he did on immigration where he, you
know, he put a book out saying that we should have immigration reform.
Then, as soon as it was out, he was already backtracking. I think in his
sense, it`s purely a political move.

BARRO: I think, though, with Jeb, he`s trying -- he`s breaking with the
party on certain issues. For example, he`s a big proponent of the common
core curriculum for education which a lot of Republicans think is an evil
federal plot to take over state education systems. He has been a kind of
all over the map on immigration.

But lately, he`s sort of in a reformist direction on it. And so, I think
when you break with the party on certain issues, you look for other
opportunities to connect with the base and say, you know, I`m one of you.
I hold the same suspicions about the naked political motives of the Obama
administration --

(CROSSTALK)

BARRO: And there was an interesting set of Democratic run focus groups on
different parts of the Republican base that looked at Tea Party
conservatives and social conservatives and moderates. And one thing they
found was that the moderates were leery of the extremism and the Republican
Party, but they were nearly as negative about the president as the more
conservative parts of the party.

So, they don`t want to run so far to the right, but it probably works just
as well for them to they can this kind of suspicion.

KORNACKI: We got one more here and the republicans I want to get to, and
then, we got a few on the Democrats. Still a little time to talk this
around, so we will pick it up with more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: So, we`re going through -- we`re talking about this memo that
Doug Sosnic (ph), a former pollster to Bill Clinton put about the
challenges facing the parties, ways that potentially break the gridlock.
And one more here on the Republicans I wanted to get to. He calls this one
the end of conservative think tanks.

The idea here being -- there`s a big article that new Republicans speak
(ph) about, the Heritage Foundation, one of the staples of sort of think
tanks on the right and the idea being that these used to be ideas
factories, genuine ideas -- the Heritage Foundation had the original idea
for the individual mandate basically like a generation ago.

Now, they become sort of vehicles for partisan warfare. As an example,
this is the guy, Michael Needham, excuse me, he`s the CEO of today`s
Heritage Foundation. This is his message right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL NEEDHAM, CEO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: President Obama`s re-election
is a devastating blow, but it`s not a decisive defeat. Over the next four
years, he will seek (INAUDIBLE), continue exploding federal spending to
hollow out our nation`s military and seek to impose a cap and tax scheme
upon our nation`s economy. We are in a war. We`re in a war to save this
nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: The thing that strikes me about this --

WILLIAMS: We`re being invaded?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: Right is you need to be scared. They are taking something from
us. They are taking this country from us. They are everyone who don`t
agree with us. Be scared. Give us money so we can to protect you.

KORNACKI: And it probably --

REYES: But that, you know, that fear mongering approach, what you`re
saying, I saw the article, they talked about how that -- I think that`s the
heritage action arm.

KORNACKI: Right.

REYES: That has overwhelmed everything else, because they did used to have
or more renowned for its just conservative, you know, the articles, the
white papers, different things that they were producing. And now,
everything is so centered on the fundraising. I think if this ad -- works
with the base the messaging that`s coming out from the conservatives is
increasingly so negative, doom`s day. Be afraid.

WILLIAMS: And it`s tied to the economy, right, because people don`t have -
- you know, there are millions of people who are unemployed. There are
small business who aren`t making the much money as they were before. All
of those things, and so people feel the squeeze and also people feel the
doom of my tomorrow, my next month, my next year is not promised because of
all of these things.

And so, that feeds into that as like I am already scared because of my
economic status of about taking care of my family. And here are these ads
and things telling me --

(CROSSTALK)

HEIL: I think that the lack of a think tank is probably not the biggest
problem for --

(LAUGHTER)

HEIL: And as you mentioned in your intro with the do-nothing Congress, a
lot of the Republican agenda right now is stopping things from happening.
So, it`s not like, you know, they need some white --

KORNACKI: Well, I would tell -- the line they sort of used in Obamacare is
repeal and replace.

HEIL: There`s no replace.

(CROSSTALK)

BARRO: I think the death of the think tank is overstated and I say this as
someone who`s worked for a couple of different conservative think tanks.
First of all, this is not an entirely new phenomenon. Heritage was founded
to be more political alternative to think tanks like the American
enterprises to -- and their fundraising mail (ph) is always look like this
messaging now.

It`s getting out more publicly. Heritage definitely has a shift toward the
political. But there are people, you know, deep within the bowels of AEI
and other groups like this putting together conservative health care reform
plans and just nobody is interested in talking about them, because
Republican elected officials don`t want to enact them.

But I think you see an interesting split at a lot of these think tanks
right now where you have some people doing really serious policy work. And
then, there`s a lot of money for these more political types of -- it`s also
often the state versus federal split. At the state level, there`s still
room to do substantive policy research on education policy and crime and
various things like that.

WILLIAMS: And to implement that, because that`s what`s happening in state
legislatures, right, is that where a lot of that work is going is in the
states.

BARRO: So often, you see the state level work is better than the federal
work, and the staff is there with the ability to produce real policy
research at the federal level if the party is ever interested in using it.
So, I agree. The think tank infrastructure is there if Republicans are
ever willing to listen. The question is, will they listen --

KORNACKI: Let`s get the democrats in here, too, because these are some of
the challenges the Democrats are facing. One is this is sort of one is
motivating the Obama coalition in sort of a post-Obama America. We have
all the stories but the new voters who turned out in 2008. We`re not there
in 2009. We`re not there in 2010. We`re back in 2012.

The question is, is this a block of voters sort of the rising coalition
that Democrats will be able to depend on in future elections? Some would
say maybe we got a preview in the 2013 race in Virginia just this year.
The answer is yes, that Terry McAuliffe was able turn out a lot of that
coalition, but is that long term? Is that sustainable, do you think --

WILLIAMS: Yes. So, earlier, during Obama`s first race, one of the things
I would always say is, you know, the Obama machine has only proven that
they can re-elect Obama, because remember in 2010, even the states and
other places that they were helping in trying to turn people out, they
didn`t -- that same population that came out and voted for him did not do
so in 2010 and that`s why we got the Congress that we have now.

But moving forward using Virginia as the case, the difference is going to
be in what the state of the economy is and do we have a candidate that will
speak to that population to encourage them to come out? That is going to
be the difference is will we be able to educate and mobilize that
population? That`s already registered, right? So, we don`t have to do
that step of registering people.

It will be, do we have a candidate that speaks to that population and that
we can educate or mobilize. We`ve proven already in Virginia that that can
happen. And so, as we go throughout the states in looking to the midterm
elections coming up and into the governor`s race, what is it, 28 states --
28 or 29 states in terms of the governor elections where we can speak of
that population pullout, because their vote is already there.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: We got a few more and the other factor and -- to squeeze in for
Raul when we come back.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: I want to get to a few more of these challenges Democrats are
facing, but Raul, your point quickly about the Obama coalition?

REYES: We`re talking about the term (ph). I think one thing that can
drive is these voters` suppression efforts that we`ve seen at the state
level all across the country.

I know for Latinos in the 2012 elections, more Latino voted then than in
2008 in certain states like Florida, Nevada, Colorado and as well for
African-Americans at different states and part of that was just the
motivation, a backlash among people of color when there was, you know,
grassroots effort to make people aware of these voter suppression attempts.

KORNACKI: Another one here is sort of a -- what Sosnic calling like a
rising populist block in the Democratic Party. You know, in the Clinton
years, the story was that the Democratic Party sort of had a marriage with
Wall Street and a lot of money was raised through Wall Street. Wall Street
people were brought into the Clinton administration and the Obama
administration for that matter.

And he`s saying sort of a backlash now taking place and that`s going to be
one of the stories of next year. As an example you can listen to this
Bernie Sanders, technically independent from Vermont, caucus with (ph)
Democrats. This is a taste of that backlash a little bit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: The reason we`re in a deficit today is
two unpaid wars, Medicare Part D program unpaid for, large tax breaks a
trillion dollars which went to the wealthy. And I only say that is that as
we go forward to figure out where we want to be as priorities, you got to
remember that fact as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And small things. I mean, we get to this if you hear, too, just
sort of like anger at the banks, anger at the financial institutions. In a
lot of cases -- you know, in the Clinton years, Democrats were friendly
with -- he`s saying this could be coming to ahead in the next few years.

HEIL: Absolutely. And that sort of anger plays very well on social media
and that particular group of voters is very active with social media. I
think progressives have done a very good job of capitalizing on that
medium. And you know, I`m sure that video we just watched has been, you
know, shared many, many, many times on YouTube.

And so, they`re very adept at using those medium to sort of spread their
message and to keep the members, you know, like their heroes, like
Elizabeth Warren, you know, and to keep their members or their elected
officials pure. You know, they use this as purity test in the same way
that you see conservatives do.

BARRO: I think you`re going to see divide on this between Congress and
state local governments, because in Congress, you can sort of do what
Bernie Sanders does and stakeout as far left a position you want.

And there`s a clearer ability to develop an activist base from that. At
the local level, particularly with Bill de Blasio here in New York City, I
think de Blasio is going to come into office having raised all these hopes
and he`s going to be facing exactly the same budget pressures that Mike
Bloomberg did and have to make more or less the same decisions at least on
fiscal policy issues.

There`s only so much you can do to actually remake the American economy as
a governor or as a mayor. So, I think as these populist candidates get
road test at the state level, there might be a reality check for some
people on the left, but I think you could see an increasing -- a move to
the left in the Democratic caucus in Congress and that will be an
interesting challenge for a Democratic president --

KORNACKI: The other question and this has been asked since we started
talking about the Tea Party now, you know, four plus years ago, the idea
of, could there possibly be some kind of common ground between the
progressive movement and the democratic side that`s angry that not enough
was done about the banks and big financial institutions and the grassroots
and the Tea Party rights.

It`s angry about the bailout -- people have been asking about this. We
haven`t seen any evidence of it for plus years. is there any reason to
think that could change in the future?

WILLIAMS: And particularly, if you boils down to the polls, right, people
have this extreme partisanship of I`m conservative, I`m progressive, and
you know, which party you`re going to support of. But then, if you boil
down and ask them questions about what are you actually upset about, you
can see some common ground in terms of the Tea Party upset about it is
unfair, you know, that these corporations can pay less of taxes and small
business enough and progressives agree, right?

So, if you go down to the actual issues, there`s some agreement. The
question is whether or not you can get them in the room to agree on this
and agree to not keep these partisan monikers and sort of come together on
the issue. And I agree with you, I don`t see that yet.

(CROSSTALK)

REYES: You know, they`re so toxic towards anything with our president, you
know, with his name attached to it. And you know we`ve seen different
examples in polling on Obamacare when they ask far right conservatives, Tea
Partiers, if they live certain ideas of Obamacare without calling it that,
calling it the health care law, Affordable Care Act. They do like it. But
as long as his name is attached to it or anything with this president.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: That is why I am a little -- tribalism plays such a big role.
The red tribe does not want to ever help the blue tribe.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: Maybe when President Obama is not the president, maybe there
will be, because there`s also the issue of not only his name but his face.
And so, maybe if those things are removed, you`ll have people --

KORNACKI: Well, I always say like, you know, in the Clinton years, they
impeached him. Now, the Republicans say, oh, Clinton was the by-gone era.

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: The moderate Obama we already like. So, I`d probably mention it
out his ear once or twice, but I`ve never exactly been a fan of Aaron
Sorkin shows, but our team here forced me to watch this cliff clip this
week, and I have to say that, yes, when it comes to Thanksgiving in turkey
and presidential pardons, the west wing did get it right.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need you to pardon a turkey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I already pardoned a turkey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need you to pardon another one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn`t I do it right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do it great, but I need you to come out here and
pardon another one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aren`t I going to get a reputation for being soft on
turkeys?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, can you come out here and just get this over --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I`m not going to just get -- what the hell is
going on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They sent me two turkeys. The more photo friendly of
the two gets a presidential pardon and a full life at a children zoo, the
runner-up gets eaten.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the Oscars were like that, I`d watch.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: What if I told you that the custom of a presidential pardon for
a turkey in the Iran contra scandal are linked. You`d say, oh, that`s
interesting. And I`d say, I`m going to tell you exactly how right after
this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: It`s as much a part of the ritual leading up to the holiday as
cramming on to packed trains or passing through airport security or waiting
in a grocery checkout line that wraps around the store. On a Wednesday
before Thanksgiving, the president of the United States pardons a turkey.
This past Wednesday was no exception.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Eighty turkeys on John`s
farm competed for the chance to make it to the White House and stay off the
Thanksgiving table. It was quite literally the "Hunger Games."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: President Obama actually solicited a little help in making his
choice. He turned the social media with the question, which turkey gets
the pardon, Popcorn or Caramel? Popcorn won, in case you`re wondering.
But don`t worry, they didn`t kill Caramel. So, I guess, it was actually a
pointless contest. There were real no stakes there. Anyway, this entire
business got us wondering where did this whole pardoning thing come from in
the first place?

Some folks think it all began with Abraham Lincoln, the president who
established Thanksgiving as a regular annual holiday in 1863 to promote
national unity during the civil war. Honest Abe did spare a turkey that
year originally intended for the dinner table, because young son, Tad, had
come to love as his pet, but that holiday dinner was Christmas, not
Thanksgiving. So, it didn`t start with Lincoln.

Others think the turkey pardon began with Harry Truman who did, in fact,
begin receiving ceremonial turkeys back in 1947. But actually, they`re
wrong, too, because Truman didn`t issue pardons. And actually, he let
reporters know that the turkeys were destined for his family dinner table.
So, he was going to eat them.

This photo from 1949, which will give them hell Harry (ph) accepted a
turkey that was already wrapped up in tin foil. So, there wasn`t much
subtlety there. In 1955, when Dwight Eisenhower was president, the turkey
was actually presented to Vice President Richard Nixon. It was still a
ceremonial bird. It ultimately ended up on the dinner table for Mamie and
Ike (ph).

President John F. Kennedy reportedly looked down at this bird the week
before Thanksgiving in 1963. This was just days before he went to Dallas,
and he said, quote, let`s keep them going, perhaps the earliest stage of
compassion for these presidential birds or maybe he just wanted some time
for that turkey to grow a little fatter.

Lyndon Johnson known to be a man of many great appetites except that this
turkey in 1967 with the wish of good eating. You can see the theme here in
1975. Gerald Ford was presented with a live turkey right next to one that
was all wrapped up for the supermarket. It wasn`t until Ronald Reagan. It
was morning in America for America`s turkeys. In 1982, Reagan assured
observers that the bird of honor was actually headed to a petting zoo
instead of a dinner platter.

And it was only because Reagan tried to dodge a the question that we`ve
seemed to have gotten to the idea of actually pardoning turkeys enter the
Iran contra scandal when members of the Reagan administration secretly
arranged for sale of weapons to the Iranian regime in order to fund anti-
communist militant groups in Nicaragua where he could hardly make any
public appearance back then without reporters asking him questions about
it. Turkey photo ops were no exception.

So in 1987, Reagan said, as expected, the 55-pound bird would be heading to
the petting zoo. And reporters did their jobs and started shouting
questions about the possibility of pardons for the former aides involve in
the Iran contra scandal. Reagan would only say, quote, "If they`d given me
a different answer on Charlie and his future, I would have pardoned him."

He wasn`t talking about Caspar Weinberger or Bob McFarlane or (INAUDIBLE),
he was talking about the bird. With that bit of classic Reagan evasion may
have given his vice president, his successor as president an idea, because
it was George H.W. Bush who in 1989 offered the first official presidential
pardon to a Thanksgiving turkey. He also pardoned several Iran contra
conspirators on his way out of office in late 1992. So, there`s also that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: If you`ve been watching our weekly current events game show "Up
Against the Clock" you know we take our inspiration from the heyday of the
television game show, the 1970s and the 1980s, "Sale of the Century," "Card
Sharks," the "$25,000 Pyramid," maybe you remember them. Here just in time
for the holiday weekend is a special blast from the past Thanksgiving
greeting from the host of what may have been the best classic game show of
them all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo, hey, pilgrim, you want to get off my rock?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, what do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m an idiot. You know what I mean? I want to say
happy Thanksgiving to everybody out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: That`s Peter Tomarken, the late great Peter Tomarken from "Press
Your Luck" thing. And just like those pesky whammies on "Press Your Luck,"
we hear it up against the clock, do not rest on the holidays. It`s a
special Thanksgiving edition and it`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from Studio 3A in Rockefeller Center, U.S.A. It`s time
for a special holiday edition of "Up Against the Clock."

Originally from Hancock (ph), Virginia from the beautiful eastern shore of
the commonwealth, it`s Emily Heil.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: From Monterey Park, California, home of the first sealed potato
chip bag. Please welcome, Raul Reyes!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: And returning champion, from Brooklyn, New York four-day
winnings total $13 in cash and sweet potato casserole, say hello to L. Joy
Williams.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: Your host, Steve Kornacki!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KORNACKI: Thank you, our special guest announcer on this holiday weekend.
We thank you to studio audience.

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: And thank you, everyone, tuning in at home. Raul getting a
little anxious there for another special holiday edition of "Up Against the
Clock." And welcome contestants, Raul you`ve already found your own way of
saying hi to me. I say hi back. I think you all know the rules of this
game by now.

But just a quick refresher, three rounds of play, wrong answers will cost
you, and there are a few instant bonuses scattered in here. And to our
studio audience, I beg you as always, please no outbursts. These
contestants demand and deserve absolute concentration when they`re "Up
Against the Clock." And with that, I will ask you contestants, are you
ready to play?

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: They sound anxious to me. Hundred seconds on the clock, we`re
going to start with the 100-point round and with this we go. Huckleberry,
peach, pecan, strawberry rhubarb, which one of these pies was not served at
the White House for Thanksgiving.

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Raul.

REYES: Peach.

KORNACKI: Incorrect.

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: L. Joy.

WILLIAMS: Rhubarb.

KORNACKI: That`s correct. Strawberry rhubarb was not served. 100 points
for Joy. 100-point question, this former Massachusetts senator dropped the
state abbreviation MA from his Twitter --

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Emily.

HEIL: Scott Brown.

KORNACKI: Scott Brown dropped Massachusetts from his twitter handle this
week. That`s correct. 100-point question, this conservative former
presidential hopeful announced on Wednesday that he is ending his
nationally syndicated radio show --

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: L. Joy.

WILLIAMS: Huckbaee.

KORNACKI: Mike Huckbaee, the former governor of Arkansas. That`s correct.
100-point question, an article in the new issue of Forbes, states that
which former vice president has become a vegan.

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Raul.

REYES: Gore.

KORNACKI: Gore. Al Gore is a vegan now. That`s correct. Instant bonus,
Raul. Chance to double your winnings. No penalty for a wrong guess. When
Al Gore was elected vice president in 1992, who was his opponent?

REYES: Could you repeat that question?

KORNACKI: When Al Gore was elected in 1992, who was his opponent?

REYES: Dan Quayle?

KORNACKI: Dan Quayle is correct. Spoken confidently. 100-point question,
on the heels of a two-day Iowa tour, this southern governor who is not shy
about his 2016 presidential ambitions will begin a trip this week to the
early primary state of South Carolina.

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: L. Joy.

WILLIAMS: Santorum.

KORNACKI: Incorrect. Time. It was Rick Perry. 100 points, Democratic
control of the legislature in this swing state was preserved this week when
a Democratic state senator resigned instead of facing a recall.

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Raul.

REYES: It`s Colorado.

KORNACKI: Colorado it is. 100 points for Raul.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KORNACKI: That brings us to the end of the 100-point round. Emily 100,
Raul into the lead with 200 after an early slip-up, and now Joy with 100
points. And this brings us to the 200-point round questions start to get a
little more difficult. Stakes get a little higher. You still have 100
seconds on the clock. We will put it up there. And as soon as it is, we
will go with this.

This former Connecticut senator who vowed never to become a lobbyist filed
paperwork this week to represent a Libyan politician in U.S. government
relations.

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Emily.

HEIL: Lieberman.

KORNACKI: Joe Lieberman is correct. 200 points, 135, 165, or 185, how
many votes separated Mark Obenshain and Mark Herring as the race for
Virginia attorney general --

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Emily.

HEIL: 135.

KORNACKI: Incorrect. 135, 165 or 185, how many votes separated --

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Raul.

REYES: 165.

KORNACKI: 165 is correct. Raul, this is an instant bonus question.

(APPLAUSE)

KORNACKI: Raul, who was the last Virginia attorney general to be elected
governor?

REYES: To be elected governor.

KORNACKI: I need an answer. Time. It`s Bob --

REYES: I`m going to cry.

KORNACKI: 200 points. No penalty. That`s an instant bonus. 200-point
question, captured in 2007, retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, became one
of the longest held overseas American captives in history this week. He
was kidnapped almost seven years ago in what country?

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Raul.

REYES: Somalia.

KORNACKI: Incorrect. The answer is -- time. It was Iran was the correct
answer there. 200-point question, quote, "trickled down" theories were
criticized in 224-page document released on Tuesday by what world figure?

Time. The answer is the pope. 200 points, in a new bio-pick opening in
theaters this weekend, this former star of "The Wire" portrays Nelson
Mandela.

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: L. Joy.

WILLIAMS: Idris Elba.

KORNACKI: Is correct. 200 points for L. Joy at the wire. Ends the second
round. L. Joy pulls into the lead with that. She has 300 points. Raul at
200, Emily at 100, and that brings
us to the round where champions are made. This is the Ph.D. level. 300-
point questions. 100 seconds on the clock. The game will be decided
starting now.

Senators Al Franken and Dick Durbin have teamed up to introduce legislation
aimed at reducing the cost of this college necessity --

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: L. Joy.

WILLIAMS: (INAUDIBLE)

KORNACKI: Incorrect -- of this college necessity to this skyrocket in
price in the last decade.

WILLIAMS: Can I answer again?

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Emily.

HEIL: Textbook.

KORNACKI: Textbook is correct. 300 points for Emily. The resolution
officially designating the fourth Thursday In November as a federal holiday
was signed into law by what president?

Time. It was Franklin Roosevelt. 300-point question, amid delays in
getting their insurance market off the ground, the executive director of
this very blue state, a state close to President Obama`s heart, announced
her resignation last Friday.

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Emily.

HEIL: Illinois.

KORNACKI: Incorrect.

And the answer. Time. The correct answer is Hawaii, the president`s birth
state. 300-point question, the state department announced this week that
the embassy to the Holy Sea will now share the same complex as this
existing embassy.

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Emily.

HEIL: Rome.

KORNACKI: Rome. The Italian embassy. That`s correct. And this is an
instant bonus question, Emily, for 300 additional points. Formal
diplomatic relations and the appointment of the first official U.S.
ambassador to the Vatican came under what president?

HEIL: Kennedy.

KORNACKI: Incorrect. It was Ronald Reagan. No penalty, though. 300
points, this former Reuters journalist and frequent American cable news
guest won a special election on Monday to represent a Toronto district in
Canada`s parliament. Time. It was Chrystia Freeland.

President Obama told ABC News this week that -- Washington after his
presidency so that his daughters could stay in their school, which would
make him the first president to stay in town since this president who was
famous for his 14 points. An answer? We will call it time. The last
president stayed in Washington is Woodrow Wilson.

That ends the round. And Emily Heil with 400 points, congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

KORNACKI: You have won today`s "Up Against the Clock." We will now tell
you all about.

(LAUGHTER)

ANNOUNCER: -- sharpee on the coveted "Up Against the Clock" gold cup. And
you`ll get to take the trophy home with you and show it off to friends,
family, and local school children for exactly one week. You`ll also
receive an appearance this coming week on MSNBC`s "The Cycle" airing
weekdays, 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. eastern time.

You`ll also get to play in our bonus round for today`s grand prize of $50
gift certificate to Red Pot (ph) in Princeton, New Jersey, coming up the
best franks (ph) in the greater meadowlands area. (INAUDIBLE). Back to
you, Steve.

KORNACKI: That is quite a prize package. Emily, we have some unfinished
business, though. For that gift certificate for those hot dogs, here is
your question. We all know that the pilgrims left England settled in
Plymouth, Massachusetts and held the first Thanksgiving in 1621. But after
leaving and before making land in North America, what modern day European
country did they first live in?

HEIL: Can you repeat the question?

KORNACKI: What modern day European nation did the pilgrims first time
settled in before arriving in North America?

HEIL: Spain.

KORNACKI: It was the Netherlands, Holland. I`m sorry. The gift
certificate is safe. You are still our champion. Raul and L. Joy you get
the home edition. Thanks for playing. Emily, you might be back for our
tournament of champions.

And we will be back right after this with the real show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: You`re obviously familiar with Thanksgiving, but what about
Franksgiving with an "F." Unless you`re in your 70s or older, chances are
you`ve never celebrated that particular holiday. It`s from 1939 when
President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to move Thanksgiving up a week.
There is an extra Thursday in November that year and because the great
depression times were extra tough.

So, FDR wanted to make sure there were still be plenty of shopping days
between Thanksgiving and Christmas to get the economy going a little bit.
So, he switched the date of Thanksgiving. He messed around with American`s
notions of turkey and gravy and tradition and the people, they were not too
happy with this.

FDR`s political opposition would denounce it. Senator Styles Bridges, a
Republican from New Hampshire, prestigiously argued that Roosevelt should
go ahead and cancel winter. But letters also came into the White House
like this one from Shelby Bennett (ph) from Shinnston, West Virginia.

Shelby wrote, "Dear Mr. President, thanks for moving Thanksgiving up. And
while you`re at it, would you also move Sundays to Wednesdays, turn Mondays
into Christmas. Reserve Friday and Saturdays as days for fishing trips
down the Potomac."

But among all the outrage, mock or sincere, there was simply general
confusion. Telegrams from a restaurant in Alliance, Ohio, asked simply,
when shall we serve our Thanksgiving turkey?

The whole affair also turned into a very bipartisan issue. Some states,
some FDR-friendly states chose to acknowledge the date set by President
Roosevelt while others didn`t. A nation with two Thanksgivings just didn`t
work. So, in 1941, two years later, the holiday was changed for good, and
Congress officially declared the Fourth Thursday in November a national
holiday, Thanksgiving.

Roosevelt admitted his experiment had failed. And that was that.
Thanksgiving and not Franksgiving.

But now, more than 70 years later, we are once again grappling with the
idea of a holiday that is changing on us. This is what Thanksgiving looked
like for many Americans this year. Not just shoppers trying to get a jump
on holiday shopping bargains, but also, all of the people who work in the
stores for which Black Friday has morphed into, starts a day earlier on
Thanksgiving Thursday. Old Navy, Macy`s, Target, Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us,
they are just some of the stores that were opened on Thanksgiving Day this
year.

To me, Black Friday never made much sense. Big stores all across the
country slashing their prices and opening their doors earlier and earlier
every year, only to be descended upon by throngs of shoppers searching for
40-inch TVs for under 200 bucks. The idea of spending a day dealing with
all of that grief and that misery, and the traffic, and the parking lots,
and the crowds, and the lines, trying to pull yourself out of bed with a
turkey hangover at some ungodly hour -- it just sounds like misery to me.

Even worse, instead of all this happening after Thanksgiving, the fact that
this is beginning to happen on Thanksgiving, itself. The holiday season is
starting earlier and earlier -- music, more decorations, more chaos. I
have my own reasons for thinking this is ridiculous.

But it also raises a lot of other questions, like when do workers get to
hang out with their own families, to have their feast, to watch football,
whatever families do on Thanksgiving? Why is it that so many people are
apparently ready to spend their Thanksgiving roaming the packed aisles of a
Wal-Mart instead of staying with their nieces and nephews and their coach?

FDR may have recognized the error he made in trying to change the date for
Thanksgiving, but it seems the definition of when Thanksgiving begins and
ends, or what that holiday actually still represents continues to morph.

Here to discuss this, we are still joined now by Josh Barro from
businessinsider.com, political strategist L. Joy Williams, Emily Heil is
reporter and columnist with "The Washington Post", and Basil Smikle, Jr.,
he`s political strategist and professor at Columbia University.

Thanks, everybody, for being here at the table for this.

So, I guess I just start with what our own sort of experiences were. It`s
Saturday now. We`ve been through Thanksgiving itself. We`ve been Black
Friday. Did anybody here do any shopping on Thanksgiving or on Black
Friday?

L. JOY WILLIAMS, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: At the drug store. But mainly, I
spent two days leading up to Thanksgiving cooking like I was going to have
an army at my house and there is only six of us, because that is what my
view of thanksgiving is. You cook a bunch of food no matter who is coming.

But I found it interesting about this story that we`re so surprised that
companies who exist to make profits and exist to money will try earlier to
get a jump on their competitors. I mean, particularly online site, that
are 24/7. Amazon doesn`t close, eBay doesn`t close, Web sites don`t close
where you can shop online and, you know, other companies have opened on
Thanksgiving in the fast. So people are trying to make money.

What was concern for me are people who work at these retailers going to be
penalized for not wanting to come in on this holiday and whether or not the
stores will use seasonal workers who want to work, you know, or not, in
making sure that people aren`t penalized for doing that. But I don`t
understand why we are so surprised. I mean, the reason why diamonds are a
girl`s best friend is because a company got together with the movie
industry, they went into high schools saying that diamonds are for girls
and you need one to get married. So, this is what companies do.

KORNACKI: That`s part of the question. Obviously, I get it from the
company`s standpoint. If there`s money to be made, if there are customers
out there, which is -- personally I have never gotten the particular misery
of going out shopping. You are packed like sardines in these places. The
lines take forever. And I`m like, you know, if it means paying 20 extra
bucks or something, I can save $20 money spent to not have to deal with
that horrible grief.

But I don`t know, are you a part of the people who want to go to Best Buy
and buy, you know --

EMILY WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely not. My idea of ideal Black Friday is
at home on my sofa, fuzzy slippers.

KORNACKI: Right.

HEIL: You know, "It`s A Wonderful Life" on TV on repeat.

But I think that this idea, you`re right, we shouldn`t be surprised.
American consumers are encouraged to consume. There`s nothing more
American than that. And remember, Congress, when they voted to, you know,
on a deal that ended the government shutdown. They purposely left a
deadline out to January so that it wouldn`t affect consumer spending during
the holidays.

I think consumers are encouraged every turn to spend, whether it`s by FDR
or whether it`s by this particular Congress. So, you know, the fact that
they`re out in stores shouldn`t --

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: It is. I mean, we have the statistic here. Holiday sales
represent nearly 20 percent, 19.3 percent of all total retail sales in 2012
just from this Thanksgiving to Christmas season.

JOSH BARRO, BUSINESSINSIDER.COM: We shouldn`t be surprised. I also think
we shouldn`t be bothered. I mean, there are all sorts of jobs that
involved working on Thanksgiving. Nobody says when their NFL games on
Thanksgiving, oh, you know, the poor concessionaires who have to work at
the stadium on Thanksgiving.

I think it`s a cultural thing that you have -- I mean, all of us around the
table, none of us shop, or on Black Friday. I don`t think I know anybody
who does this. I kind of feel like Pauline Kael who reportedly said in the
lead up of 1972 election, she couldn`t believe Nixon was getting elected
because everybody she knew was rooting for McGovern.

Everybody I know thinks Black Friday is a bizarre tradition and don`t
understand why anybody would go shop. But people do it.

But I think this is a part of why you have this negative reaction to the
media, where people say, oh, it`s so terrible their opening, it`s because
none of us actually want to go shop. There is no loss to any of us if the
retailers decide they`re going to close on Thanksgiving. And that`s why
you don`t have the same negative reaction to soup markets being opened on
Thanksgiving, which many of them are. You know, nobody is angry that
Starbucks is opened on Thanksgiving in some locations.

I think it`s sort of a cultural superiority thing where people, they think
Black Friday is distasteful and therefore, they think it`s inappropriate.
So --

KORNACKI: But I find myself thinking about it more this year than I have
in the past. And I think about what you`re saying, hey, look, I came back.
I went to see some family in Connecticut. It was a day trip at the
beginning of this show. I came back Thanksgiving night, and there are
still buses running, the subway is still running on a reduced schedule.
There are -- the drug 24, the drugstore in the corner is still open.

It`s a question of where that line is drawn. I mean, you talk about the
football teams. I know the NBA used to be like one game on Christmas.
Now, it`s five games on Christmas. Jeff Van Gundy used to coach the nets.
Stan Van Gundy, (INAUDIBLE) Van Gundy bros.

Van Gundy now just saying like, NBA, knock it off. I mean, it`s the
players, it`s the concessionaires -- everybody should get that day off to
have with their family. It seems like, there will always be something
opened. But where do you draw that line?

BASIK SMIKLE, JR., POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Yes, I`m still waiting for the
big wheel I wanted from my mother from way back. But it`s this
inconspicuous consumerism. And I think some of the negative reaction that
we have is because on the one hand, we`re seeing all these folks a day
after giving thanks, for what we have go with these sharp elbows to try to
get more. We are hearing all these stories about the disparities in
income. You talk about the folks actually going to work that day.

The median income for the folks behind the register is $20,000 a year.
We`re looking also at the fact that with the November 1st food stamp cuts,
you have millions of families losing a lot of their benefits, 72 percent of
those families have children and a quarter of those households are elderly
and disabled.

So, while we are looking at pictures of people rushing into go boy a lot of
stuff, we are also hearing all these stories of families that are losing so
much at the same time. So, we`re wondering how corporations could be
pushing all of this consumerism.

KORNACKI: Which raises to the question that we have, that this picture got
a lot of attention in the last couple of weeks, this is from a Wal-Mart in
Ohio -- Canton, Ohio, here -- where basically Wal-Mart put out on a place
where you can donate to your fellow employees, you know, canned goods and
just basic food items so that they can exist. But basically, they don`t
have enough money from what they`re getting paid there which raises a
question, when Wal-Mart starts opening on Thursday and early morning on
Friday, these are the sorts of employees, who maybe it`s a choice. They
don`t feel a choice, right, because they don`t have money for food --

(CROSSTALK)

HEIL: You said you give up that $20 to be able to stay at home and not
shop. But for some people, that $20 is a real amount of money. If they
need to go buy presents, and, you know, they want to buy presents for their
kids, then they`re going to be out to save that $20. And they`re going to
elbow that person --

WILLIAMS: And also people who can`t afford the normal prices for which the
TV is and want to get something for their family, you know, they go out and
do that. And it was interesting also seeing people, you know, being
interviewed in front of the store saying this is ridiculous that we have to
shop in this time, whether in the line themselves. And you know, this is
ridiculous for them.

So, I think -- I agree with you, those of us who think it`s crazy will stay
at home, with our slippers and put our feet up. And those who want to go
out there and do it can. But I`m not completely surprised.

What I think should have gotten more attention and although it was a couple
of stories, were all of the protests about Wal-Mart and other stores who
they are not being paid wages to allow them to feed their families. And it
only got some attention, but I think that should have been more attention
in terms of how much of these people who work in retail, who work in these
stores are getting paid. They`re not getting benefits. I think that
should have been more of the story that took play on Black Friday.

BARRO: I think that`s right, but I think if we want the labor market to
improve and wages to rise, we need to get back into a situation like in the
1990s, where the economy is growing strongly. If that`s going to happen,
we need people going out and consuming and spending. So, I don`t think we
--

WILLIAMS: Not only that, but we also need banks to lend to people. We
need banks to lend small business. We need banks to lend to people that
buy houses.

We need all of those things. It`s not just about the American people
shopping. That is not what fixes the economy.

BARRO: It`s close. It`s a number of things. I mean, I think I would
rather have an economy that`s driven by consumer spending than have an
economy that`s driven by another housing bubble. I think that -- I think
we want the only -- you can have laws that impose higher minimum wages and
that sort of thing, and that will raise the standard to an extent. But to
get us a sustainable labor market where you get real returns to workers,
not just to capital, we need to close this demand gap that we had in the
economy in the last --

SMIKLE: It was interesting, is that if you look at some of those numbers,
I mean, there is some silver lining for the president, if you will, because
there are some suggestion the economy is doing a little better. I mean,
the Dow is over 16,000, NASDAQ reached 4,000 for the first time I think in
13 years. Gas prices are down, which is why some retail establishment
actually think that people are -- do have great opportunity to go out and
actually spend in the season.

So, some of those numbers actually do -- fare well for the president. But,
again, I think it goes back to this disparity we are hearing about these
folks doing better, again, because you`re bringing in Wall Street and so.
But there are so many people who are sort of at the lowest rungs
economically of our society that are just still doing much --

KORNACKI: Well, that`s part of -- we talk about Wal-Mart, part of all
those protests taking place at Wal-Mart, yesterday, we were just trying to
draw attention. It wasn`t just the fact that, hey, they are opened on
Thanksgiving, they are opened at midnight on Black Friday. It`s about the
wages at Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart workers are being paid and what states are
setting as the minimum wage.

There is some movement on the state level right now when it comes to
minimum wage and we`re going to pick that up right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: So we started talk before the break how the attention to Wal-
Mart stories in the last few days partly ties into the companies now to
raise the minimum wage. You know, President Obama called for the minimum
wage increase in the State of the Union Address back in January. There`s
no reason to think with the Republican Congress. That`s going to be
happening anytime soon. But that does leave a lot of potential at the
state level.

You have -- you can look at the screen here. There are 19 states and the
District of Columbia currently that had minimum wages that are higher than
the federal level. A lot of those not coincidentally I guess blue states.
But that seems like that might be -- this is sort of the next story at
least as long as there is a gridlock in Washington we`re talking about when
it comes to minimum wage. The push will take place at the state level.

HEIL: I would say there`s not just gridlock in Washington on this issue.
I think that the House Republicans are not in favor of this. You won`t see
this in Washington. So, your point about it being a state and local issue
is absolutely right.

BARRO: I think it makes a lot of sense to do this at the state level.
Now, I think a higher federal -- a modestly higher minimum wage would be
good policy to somewhere around $9. But you have different costs of living
in different states. So, it makes sense to have a higher minimum wage in
somewhere like in Connecticut, than you would have somewhere like in
Alabama.

So, I don`t think it`s necessarily a problem that states are taking this up
in addition to the federal government.

KORNACKI: The other thing I just -- I wonder too, to get back to Black
Friday and whatever you call it is it Gray Thursday? Is that what we call
the shopping on Thanksgiving?

So, we talk about Old Navy, Macy`s, Target, Wal-Mart. These are stores
that opened up on Thursday and it took a lot. We`ll see how much money
they actually brought in from those days. I don`t know. Let`s see, maybe
this is one of those things where they don`t take in what they expected and
this is a one year wonder or something. I don`t know.

It also struck me a list of stores. Here`s a list of them, like Apple, the
Home Depot, Marshalls, Nordstrom, Costco, they made a statement of saying
we are not opening on Thanksgiving. And I also wonder given a bit of a
backlash in the air over this, if a company like that makes a statement
like that and gets rewarded in a way.

BARRO: I think it`s worth nothing, a lot of those lists -- the stores on
that list aim at an upscale audience, like Nordstrom. Costco, actually,
has a surprisingly high average annual income for people who shop there. I
think it points to the fact that Black Friday is this quite middle class
tradition. Wealthy people are not rushing out to the mall. So, it`s
Nordstrom can say, oh, we care about giving our workers the day off, but it
may just be that Nordstrom customer base is not interested in coming in and
shopping on Thanksgiving.

WILLIAMS: And it`s also important to note that a number of the companies
that are -- the shops that were opened, the reason why they were opened is
not only competitive, you know, the competition of their competitors being
opened, but also, they did some research on this, right? They asked their
membership, you know the business cards or whatever that you get, you know,
if we were opened on Thanksgiving, would you shop?

You know, they ask people in terms to do this, and like you said, they
don`t make money, all right, we`re not going to do it next year. The trial
and error of seeing what people come. But we saw the line that were there,
people came as many of them that said it was ridiculous, they were in line
to say it was ridiculous.

SMIKLE: And I think you`re absolutely right. I think there is no backlash
with some of those high end stores. If you go for the Wal-Mart, I think 40
percent of their client base of their customers make under $35,000 a year.

So, you know, they know -- they know their client. And they`re going out
there marketing and bringing back lay away. They are trying every
opportunity to get people to come into the store. But the middle class,
upper middle class, folks that are buying these luxury items, they -- it
doesn`t affect them at all. There is no backlash and there will be buying.

KORNACKI: No, it`s one of those things, too, I get it from the stand point
if there are items your family needs and you are going to get a deal on
Friday or on Thursday that you are just not going to get any other day of
the year. I get it. You`re sort of in a trap there. It`s like, what do
you do?

At the same time, I got to say on my own, you know, I have been very lucky
the last couple years ago I grew up middle class. It was a different point
in my life. I probably wouldn`t, the fiscal responsible thing would have
been to go shopping on Thursday or Friday. I still always wait until
December 24th to get the Christmas gift, (INAUBIBLE) lazy but --

BARRO: But you probably actually didn`t pay extra. There have been some
interesting stories about they -- the retailers create a frenzy around
Black Friday. But very often, the prizes are actually lower in December
than they are.

And I think, to some extent, the shoppers don`t realize that. But partly,
I think people are going because they`re counting their pennies and they`re
saying, this is the day that my dollar will go farthest.

I think for some people, this is a real cultural experience where they
enjoy going with their families and getting into this scrum. I don`t fully
understand it. But I don`t think this is about people who are desperate
for the lowest price they can get lining up at the time.

KORNACKI: There are people, too. It`s not even a question of desperation
for the lowest price. It becomes I knew some of these people growing up,
parents who would just -- I was a game. It was their sport.

Some dads played golf, others look for, hey, I spent three weeks. I got an
extra 200 bucks off the new Ford I bought, whatever. It wasn`t that he
needed to save $200. He wanted to brag he had found 200 bucks.

HEIL: There is also a time element, too. I mean, there is a time element
to this. You have the day off. You have all day off and if you don`t have
anything pressing to do, if you didn`t have to make a turkey, then maybe
you would use that time you don`t necessarily have when you are running to
soccer practice or working to use that time to shop. It`s something you
have to get done. It`s another errand on your list.

KORNACKI: How about just going online? Can this going online free us all
from the madness?

HEIL: Cyber Monday.

SMICKLE: Small Business Saturday.

WILLIAMS: Even yesterday, I talked to family members and I asked, you
know, did you eat already? What are you doing now? Shopping, you know?
You are online buying shoes or something like that.

I think also there is also that -- you mention in terms of the culture,
that is what has been drilled into us. All of the commercials, all of the
-- you know, everything in terms of the culture is you eat, you go
shopping. You eat -- that`s what Christmas is about. We see that from the
drug store turning over from Halloween to Christmas stuff, right? It`s
just earlier and earlier to make you consumed.

KORNACKI: Yes, I remember from the government, I remember covering state
government in New Jersey, at the end of the year, we will always be talking
about the budget is coming out in a few months, what will they be calling
for? The state treasurer, every year, in November and December would say,
I`m not going to get into that until I see what the receipts are for the
Christmas shopping season. It`s such a big part, too, of the revenue for
the government, what comes in. So, the government is sort of invested in
this, too, of getting that shopping frenzy out there.

I`m still --I`m still going to wait until December 24th. So, attention,
family, you`re going to get the leftover gifts this year again, but my love
comes with it.

So, anyway, doctors are known for their poor penmanship. No one really
knows why. It`s something we`ve all gotten used to, the same maybe goes
for presidents. At least that is based on my experience of getting a
really long, really thorough and almost completely indecipherable
handwritten letter from an American president. I will tell you who and why
he was writing to me, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORANCKI: So, I want to tell you about the time me and Bill Clinton became
pen pals. Sort of. I`ll explain. I think if I`m going to explain, you
probably first need to know about where I`m from.

This was the paper that me and my family got every day when I was kid, "The
Lowell Sun". Lowell, Massachusetts. It`s a tough, old mill city on the
Merrimack River in Massachusetts. If you remember the movie "The Fighter"
from a few years ago with Mark Wahlberg playing the boxer Micky Ward,
Christian Bale as his troubled brother, that movie was set in Lowell and
they pretty much got it right.

Now, I didn`t actually grew up in Lowell itself. I`m not that tough. I`m
from one of the towns outside of it, one of the towns that`s a lot less
tough than Lowell.

But still, when I was growing up, Lowell was the closest city to us. We
were connected to it in a lot of ways. It was a city that had seen better
days.

When it got attention from anybody outside our area, it was usually for the
wrong reasons. Mostly, though, the part of Massachusetts where I`m from
just didn`t get any attention.

But when I was 12 years old, it suddenly got a lot of attention, and for a
very positive reasons, a very exciting reason. It`s because of this guy --
Paul Tsongas. He was born in Lowell. He`d come back to Lowell after
college and Peace Corps. He`d gone into local politics.

And now, in 1992, he was running for president. This is just when I was
starting to get interested in politics. I didn`t know much about the
difference between the parties. But I did know that it was really cool
that someone who lived a few miles from our house was now running for the
White House, for the most important job in the world, a guy from Lowell.

So, I became kind of obsessed with his campaign. Every afternoon, "The
Lowell Sun" would land on our doorstep. I would devour the latest updates
from the campaign trail.

I wanted Paul Tsongas to win. And for a brief minute there, it actually
looked like he might. He won New Hampshire. He won Maryland, he had
momentum, and then, well, and then Bill Clinton overwhelmed him. And that
was that.

There were a lot of reasons why Clinton beat Tsongas that year, reasons I
didn`t fully appreciate or understand when I was 12 years old. But one
thing I did know was that he`d gotten rough. He`d pushed the line in some
of his attacks. He crossed the line.

I was mad at Bill Clinton then. I`ll admit, I held a bit of a little bit
of grudge.

Now, fast forward to 2007. I am writing a column for "The New York
Observer". It`s a freelance column. I`m getting paid almost nothing. I`m
not doing TV. I`m in thousands of dollars in debt. I`m a nobody. Not
that I`m anybody now, but I was really a nobody back then.

But with Hillary Clinton back then setting out to run for president, I find
myself thinking back to that 1992 campaign, to how the Clintons had beaten
Tsongas. And I decide to write a column about it.

It was a warning I guess to Hillary`s Democratic opponents of what they
might be in for. And like all of my columns back then, it ran and nothing
happened.

I think one woman from the Upper West Side wrote to me, but she always
wrote to me, usually to tell me how much she didn`t like me. But besides
that, I got no response.

And then, a month or so later, this comes in the mail.

It`s from Harlem. It`s from Bill Clinton`s office. Look at the upper
right. When you are an ex-president, I guess your signature counts as a
stamp.

So, I opened it. I figured it`s some kind of a form letter. I must have
been added to a mailing list. Maybe it`s some kind of offer to meet him
for a round of golf, if I donate $50,000 to his charity, something like
that, I don`t know.

But it turns out it was this. It was a personal letter, handwritten, four-
page personal letter. And also, it`s kind of indecipherable. His
penmanship was a little sloppy. It looks like he used a thick pelt marker
or something to write it. But, fortunately, it also came with this, a
typed translation.

"Dear Mr. Kornacki," Clinton wrote, "I rarely answer articles like yours,
but it was so selective in its use of the facts, I can`t resist pointing
out a few things you overlooked."

I read the whole thing feeling a weird mix of emotions. I was flattered to
get it. Some of points resonated with me. Some of them kind of irritated
me.

Mostly, I was confused. Did the former president of the United States
really take the time to write to me, a complete nobody, a four-page
handwritten letter to litigate details of the 1992 presidential campaign?

I realized I had really gotten under his skin with what I wrote. And as I
thought about it, I kind of started to get it. I mean, the Clinton/Tsongas
race had become really personal.

Tsongas died in 1997. And one of his friends told me that when he did, he
had still never forgiven Clinton for how that `92 campaign went down.

I was saying about Clinton in that column things he probably never stopped
hearing from Tsongas` friends, from people who devoted themselves to Paul
Tsongas. I couldn`t deny, too, that a lot of the media in 1992 had painted
Tsongas as the good guy and Clinton as the villain. I had no problem with
that when I was 12 years old because I believed it.

But now, I can see some more of the complexity.

"I wish the conflict hadn`t become so personal", Clinton wrote to me. "But
as your article demonstrates, the premise of your campaign was, in part,
its purity and the fact that anyone who disagreed with you was a pander
bear."

I also realized at that moment that Bill Clinton apparently thought I was
around 40 years old and I`d been a staffer for the Tsongas campaign.

Anyway, I decided to write him back, to tell him the story I just told you.
Like I said, though, I basically had no money, I had no printer, I had no
fancy stationary or anything like that. I figured that my letter to
Clinton had to look professional.

So, I went to Kinko`s and I paid to print it on fancy paper. And I tried
to cut the paper into the same small size that Clinton`s note was written
on it. I wanted to make it like my official stationary or something.

But I ended up botching that and the paper was all uneven. It was slanted.
It was diagonal, and I didn`t have pay for any more fancy paper. So, I
sent it anyway. I sent that disastrous of a note anyway.

And a few weeks later, I got another note back from Clinton. This one was
shorter. There was no translation.

"Dear Steve," it read. "Thanks for your letter. I read it carefully and I
was very moved by how deeply Paul Tsongas touched your life. He was lucky
to have a supporter like you and to have his commitment to public service
live on in you. I hope we get to meet someday. Sincerely, Bill Clinton."

Well, I`m not sure how much he meant the last part because I have put in
more than a few interviews for interviews with him in the years since then.
The answer still keeps coming back no. But I`m trying not to take that
personally.

But anyway, the reason that I`m sharing this is because of this. It`s the
latest outrage prop for the right. It`s for the supposedly a handwritten
note from Barack Obama to a Texas man named Thomas Ritter, who wrote to the
president to argue against the health care law and to say that, quote, "any
citizen that disagrees with your administration is targeted and ridiculed."

Obama`s response is respectful. He tells Ritter that he welcomes dissent.
He understands the health care law isn`t that popular, but he still
believes it`s the right thing to do.

Now, the right is all upset about this because Obama uses the word
teabagger in that note. But he is using it to address Ritter`s claim in
his own letter that you, quote, "you make fun of teabaggers." That`s what
Ritter wrote to Obama.

Anyway, we don`t have official word that this is an authentic word from the
president, but Ritter is now trying to sell it online for $24,000. "The
letter is just words on a paper", Ritter told "The New York Post". "It
doesn`t mean anything to me because Obama doesn`t mean any of it."

And I really got to disagree with him there, because to me, this is a very
healthy thing. When a former president like Bill Clinton or a sitting
president like Barack Obama sends a note like this, it`s proof that they
really aren`t quite as insulated as we fear they are. Criticism does get
through to them. They hear it. They feel it. They carry it around with
them. And they`re human.

And sometimes, they just can`t help letting someone know that.

By the way, you may feel like you are having deja vu right now. If you saw
me guest host Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night, you heard me tell the story
then. But we felt it was fitting to tell it again this morning because
there was some sad news overnight.

The man who was the editor of "The New Observer" back when I wrote that
piece, back when I had that exchange with Bill Clinton, he passed away last
night. His name was Peter Kaplan. He was a legend in the New York media
world. "The Observer" was an incubator of young, hungry writers who are
thrilled to be there for the chance to write for a very smart newspaper and
to learn from and to work with a truly one of a kind character, Peter
Kaplan.

Others were a lot closer to him than I was, I hope you a minute today, you
will read their recollections of him. But I do know that if it weren`t for
him, and if it weren`t for one of his deputies talking his ear off about me
all those years ago when I was a nobody, I wouldn`t be here now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Catherine, this turkey tastes half as good as it looks.
I think we`re all in for a very big treat.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Save the neck for me, Clark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Eddie.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you crying?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I told you we put it in a little too early.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s just a little dry, it`s fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Pretty sure I couldn`t have done better than that. There`s a
reason I`m on MSNBC and not the Food Network. But the Turkey is the bird
of the season. There is a good chance a lot of us will make one before the
New Year.

Al Gore may be a vegan now, but most of us still aren`t. So, I`m going to
put that C-plus I earned in 6th grade home economics to use and I`m going
to learn or try to learn how to cook one of those birds next with the help
of an expert.

So, stick around, and save the neck for me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: One thing I never really got was cooking, combing the
supermarket to find all those ingredients, standing in line to pay for
them, tediously measuring them in the kitchen. Standing at the stove or
over a frying pan or whatever you have for all that time. And the reward
of finally eating whatever it is you make, you have to clean it all up.

Plus, I don`t exactly have a refined palette. My diet for years has been
something like this -- crackers and Gatorade in the morning. Chips in the
afternoon. A sandwich from a sub shop on the way home or maybe a salad,
but not really a salad, just lettuce with cheese and sour cream and
dressing in a delicious taco shell bowl. There`s a place near me that used
to serve it.

Really, I know nothing about how to cook and how to eat right, and I`m
getting to the point where it`s a little embarrassing. I had to admit.

So, I made it my goal a few months ago to learn and it`s been rocky. I
tried to cook chicken this summer, and here`s what it looked like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my.

KORNACKI: I made this a few weeks ago. Some kind of grounded beef with
chucked up vegetable, kind of vegetable that I still struggle not to gag
on.

I thought I would try hard boiled eggs as a snack. I hear those are good
for you. So, I asked my friend how`d how to make tell. And they laughed
at me.

What a dumb question, they said. Everyone knows how to do that, they
thought I was just trying to be funny. But I wasn`t, because I tried to
make them, and this is what happened.

But damn it, I`m not giving up. It`s Thanksgiving weekend. Christmas is a
few weeks away. If there`s the bird of the season, it would be the turkey.
Of course, I have no idea how to kill, capture or cook one. And maybe
there are more people like me than I realize because the Butterball Turkey
Company actually has a hot line to talk you through cooking a turkey.

So, we figured in the spirit of this holiday weekend, let`s give them a
ring. Let`s see if I can actually cook one of these things. Maybe it will
help you, too, who knows?

So let`s give this a try. We have L. Joy Williams, a cooking
extraordinaire with us. We have Marty Van Ness. She is the supervisor of
the Butterball turkey line on the phone to take us through this process.

Marty, if I can call you, Marty, can you hear me? Are we connected here?

MARTY VAN NESS, BUTTERBALL TURKEY TALK LINE (via telephone): Yes, I can
hear you fine, Steve.

KORNACKI: All right. Great. Well, first, I want to confess something. I
apologize. We`re not actually using a Butterball here. There is something
about defrosting. We have a Butterball at the side of the table. So,
we`re getting product placement in for you guys, but there is a rival
slaughtered turkey here in front of me. But hopefully, it`s still going to
hold.

So, let`s begin. I guess it`s frozen or -- not frozen, Joy?

VAN NESS: Fresh, thawed?

KORNACKI: What is it?

WILLIAMS: Turkey.

KORNACKI: How would you describe it to Marty? Fresh, OK.

WILLIAMS: Fresh, thawed out turkey.

KORNACKI: Fresh, thawed out turkey. So, what are we trying to do here,
Marty? Take us through with our first step.

VAN NESS: Wonderful. Well, by the way, at 1-800-butterball, we take calls
regardless of what type or whose turkey they have in front of them. So, we
are happy to help anybody. I always at the end of the call, I say, OK,
now, you owe me one, you know? Next year, it`s got to be Butterball.

KORNACKI: Right.

VAN NESS: But if you have this turkey, whether it`s fresh or a thawed out
frozen turkey, what you want to do is -- somebody has really opened it for
you, which is a good idea. But I recommend people open it in the sink.
Clean the sink first, open the turkey in the sink, because there will be
raw juices, those -- just drain down the drain.

KORNACKI: You see the juices you`re talking about. We are --

(CROSSTALK)

VAN NESS: Then, take it out, put it on a pan on a roast rack inside a
roasting pan. So, you probably have that in front of you, a roasting pan?

KORNACKI: Yes, we got all the juice in the pan. We got the plastic bag
which I`m going to put aside.

WILLIAMS: So, you did everything we said not to do, which is not open it
in the pan.

KORNACKI: But we have no sink.

VAN NESS: Yes, if you have no sink, you can open it in the pan. All those
juices can be blotted up with paper towel, because you`re going to be
cooking in that pan. So, it will remain safe throughout the cooking
process because of that turkey safe and the heat in the oven.

KORNACKI: Yes, go ahead.

VAN NESS: OK. So if you padded patted it dry with paper towel inside.
Now, there are two cavities. There is a place to put stuffing two places
in the turkey, the large cavity between the drumsticks --

WILLIAMS: This way.

VAN NESS: -- is usually where you will find the neck of the turkey.

KORNACKI: What do we do?

WILLIAMS: This way.

VAN NESS: Put your hand in there.

I don`t use gloves, some people use plastic gloves.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: Sitting there.

WILLIAMS: Inside.

KORNACKI: OK. Like a treasure there or something. OK.

VAN NESS: Some people like to coo the neck.

KORNACKI: Right.

VAN NESS: I don`t anymore. But some like to simmer it in water and broth
and use it in their stuffing or make gravy.

KORNACKI: So, we got the neck. I`m seeing other, it looks like vital
organs. Should they be removed as well?

VAN NESS: Yes, if it`s in the large cavity, something it`s in the opposite
end in a small cavity.

KORNACKI: I see.

VAN NESS: That would be a container or a bag of giblets, which is the
heart and the gizzard and the liver and some people like to cook those
organ meats and chop them up and put them into gravy or stuffing. I kind
of drop them in the waste can.

KORNACKI: This is --, this is just, I got my hands in something here. It
could be the appendix.

WILLIAMS: Oh, Lord.

VAN NESS: I don`t think so.

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: It`s got a lot of tendons on it.

VAN NESS: Don`t look real closely. I tell callers, don`t really inspect
it. If it smells like fresh poultry, it`s fine.

KORNACKI: What do be we do now? We`ve gutted the turkey.

VAN NESS: OK, neck and giblets are out?

WILLIAMS: Yes.

VAN NESS: All right. Now, the next thing you want to, do it`s already in
the pan the roast pan. You will want to maybe stuff the turkey. Do you
have stuffing there or do you want to stuff the turkey?

KORNACKI: Yes, we got a plate of stuffing.

WILLIAMS: But most people don`t do that anymore.

VAN NESS: OK. We recommend lightly stuff because that bread will expand
even more once it is in the hot cavity the juices are into it.

KORNACKI: I thought you serve it on the side.

WILLIAMS: You can. Some people cook it inside, but you have to make sure
to cook it well.

If you don`t cook it all the way, then you can have bacteria in the
stuffing and the chicken and you can get food poisoning.

VAN NESS: L. Joy is a wealth of knowledge.

I was going to get to that, about the thermometer.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

KORNACKI: You can stuff the little cavity at the other end.

VAN NESS: Yes, so a lot of people cook it separately and cook the turkey
all the way and cook --

KORNACKI: So we remove like the real insides of the turkey. We are giving
it like an artificial inside here?

WILLIAMS: Yes, for the pretty picture.

KORNACKI: That`s kind of insulting to the turkey. You are saying your
internal organs aren`t good enough.

WILLIAMS: Not too much.

VAN NESS: The other things that you took out, you can cook the other
things and use them as well, which would honor the turkey I suppose.

WILLIAMS: Its part in the after life.

KORNACKI: We got the stuffing in. What are we going to do now?

VAN NESS: Then you want to place a meat thermometer. We request have you
brush with oil or place meat thermometer.

KORNACKI: Yes, got it.

VAN NESS: Now, the thermometer if you have a stuffed turkey, you should
probably just put the thermometer right in the stuffing. It will most
likely be the best place to get finished cooking. And with the
thermometer, you have to remember, you can make -- you know, we can send
information from our butterball.com e-mail.

But the temperature has to be 165 in the stuffing for food safety. That`s
a USDA guideline and because you have a product that you inserted into the
turkey and it is in a raw area. That`s why it needs to reach at least a
minimum of the 165. Now, the breast meat is done at 165 or 170. It`s
perfect between that range of temperature.

But the thigh meat needs to cook even higher. That dark meat needs to cook
higher because it`s a little more muscular and it needs to tenderize. So,
180 is done in the thigh meat.

WILLIAMS: OK. Then you baste it, right?

KORNACKI: Yes, what`s the season, we got a minute here --

VAN NESS: You can brush with oil or spray with oil. I put it in naked --

KORNACKI: We got butter.

VAN NESS: You can wipe butter on it. Sometimes the milk solids cause
little burn spots. I would spray with oil or -- whatever you have.

KORNACKI: I dumped the tray of butter on it. Then, we put seasoning on
it.

WILLIAMS: Now, this is all if you haven`t brined it. You know what
brining is?

VAN NESS: I think it gets tomorrow`s list, you know, Joy.

KORNACKI: Marty, they told me our time is up. You`ve got us halfway
through and we really --

WILLIAMS: That is nowhere halfway.

KORNACKI: That is good enough for maybe a quarter --

VAN NESS: The last thing, the most important, after two thirds of the
cooking time tent with foil. Turkey goes in naked and 325 oven. After
about two hours on a 12-pound turkey tent with foil and cook until the
thigh temperature is 180 and the stuffing is 165.

KORNACKI: All right. I got almost 10 percent of that.

Marty, thank you so much. I will take this turkey home. I`m going to try
to fit it on the subway. Put it in my oven if --

VAN NESS: Steve, go to butterball.com and look at the videos online.

KORNACKI: OK, there it is. And I`ll let you know how this turns out
tomorrow if I survive or if the turkey reanimates and attacks me.

I want to thank Marty Van Ness.

What do we know now that we didn`t know other than how to -- I still don`t
know how to cook a turkey. I`ll be honest with you. But our answers
coming up after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: All right. Time to find out what our guests know now that they
didn`t know when the week begun.

Emily?

HEIL: Let`s see. Look out Bo and Sunny. There is a new dog in
Washington. Secretary of State John Kerry adopted a yellow lab and he is
adorable.

KORNACKI: All right. And, Basil?

SMIKLE: Cowboys alone at the top of the NFC East, and 9 million people get
access because ever Medicaid expansion next year, but not enough doctors to
take care of them.

KORNACKI: All right.

BARRO: Well, now, I know not to go to Steve Kornacki`s for Thanksgiving
dinner. And I know you don`t have to make a turkey on Thanksgiving. My
mom made a delicious crown roast of pork. In addition to tasting better
than turkey, there are no giblets in a crown roast of pork.

KORNACKI: There you go.

And, Joy?

WILLIAMS: A recent high court ruling in the Dominican Republic is causing
a lot of fear and misinformation regarding citizenship for Haitians in the
country. So we should be on the watch for that what`s going on in the
country because there is some fear and violence on the ground even though
both countries Haiti and Dominican Republic are in talks to hammer this
out. So, we should be on watch.

KORNACKI: And you also learned valuable cooking tips from me.

WILLIAMS: No, I did not.

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: You`re welcome.

I learned Basil has something in common with Chris Christie. You`re one of
two New York area Cowboy fans apparently that I know of.

So, anyway, my thanks to Emily Heil, Basil Smikle, Josh Barro, and L. Joy
Williams, also to Raul Reyes.

Thanks for getting up today and thank you for joining us for today`s up.
Join us tomorrow. We will find out if my turkey experiment actually proved
to be anything close to edible. My guests say no. Stay tuned.

We`ll talk about politics and your family. How did it go on the
Thanksgiving table on Thursday.

But coming up next is "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY". Wal-Mart and its workers
demonstrators fanned out nationwide on Black Friday, protesting the
retailer`s practices. How is Wal-Mart reacting?

Plus, how to be happy. It might sound simple, but it is anything but.
Melissa and her panel of happiness experts help you sort out how to achieve
it.

It is a holiday weekend, so be happy. Stick around. Melissa is next.

And we`ll see you right here tomorrow at 8:00. Thanks for getting up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning my question, what makes you
happy?

Plus, what your college tuition dollars are really buying.

And, the young entrepreneur, building a business and rebuilding lives
through lobster.

But first, a new holiday tradition -- the Wal-Mart wars.

(MUSIC)

HARRIS-PERRY: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.

Diehard Nerdland fans who have been watching MHP show since last
Thanksgiving should be prepared to feel a bit of deja vu today, because
this morning, we are beginning with Wal-Mart, the world`s largest private
employer, and why during the biggest shopping season of the year, instead
of ringing up your discount purchases --

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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