updated 1/6/2014 12:43:56 PM ET 2014-01-06T17:43:56

UP with STEVE KORNACKI
December 22, 2013

Guests: Donita Judge, Hendrik Hertzberg, Wendy Weiser, Christina Bellantoni, Richard Socarides, Stuart Milk, Mike Pesca, Nick Acocella, John Wisnievski, Kate Nocera, Dave Itzkoff, Chrisk Wilkinson

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Happy Sunday morning, everyone. If you
celebrate Christmas, there are now only three more days to go. And those
of us who do mark the holiday find ourselves wondering what is actually
real this weekend, and what is actually coal. We`ve heard the term voter
fraud a lot in 2013. It is the supposedly huge problem that has been used
to justify all of those voter I.D. laws and other voter restrictions that
have been passed in state after state. But there are new definitive
numbers that show just how much of a problem that this really isn`t a
problem actually after all. Also, President Obama sent a big message this
week to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin by announcing who he`ll be
sending to the Winter Olympics or rather who he won`t be sending. All it
seems because of Russia`s policies on gay rights and the strategy already
seems to be paying off. The latest details on how. We`ll have a bit of a
confession to make as well, something I`ve been wanting to get off my chest
for a number of weeks now, says a lot about me and what I believe most
passionately in when it comes to politics. I`m hoping you`ll stick around
for that.

And we`ll also be taking a look at how much of the new movie "American
Hustle" actually happened. It`s based on an amazing real life political
corruption scandal of the 1970s, but like "Argo" before it, how much of it
has been changed for dramatic effect. We`ll be taking a closer look at
what it takes to make a really good political movie when you only have two
hours to make one. But first, because we only have two hours of big
investigation wrapped up this week when on Wednesday Ohio`s Republican
Secretary of State Jon Husted announced that his office had uncovered 17
cases of noncitizens voting during the 2012 election in that pivotal swing
state. That is 17 cases out of more than 5.6 million people who voted in
Ohio last year. This is in a presidential election that was decided by
over 100,000 votes in that state. 17 entire people who voted when they
shouldn`t have. Similar search by another Republican Secretary of State,
Iowa`s Matt Schultz, cost close to $150,000, took about 18 months, and it
discovered just about as many cases in that state. 16 instances of
supposed voter fraud in that state. Yes, these are comically small numbers
in the grand scheme of things. But don`t discount the power of such
seemingly trivial news, because in the conservative media world, this is a
huge, huge scandal and a story that viewers have been hearing about all
year long.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But now there are some new voter fraud cases.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New concerns over voter fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A string of voter fraud allegations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Widespread instances of voter fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly intentional voter fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fraud, voter fraud, the disenfranchisement of every
legitimate voter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Voter fraud is a very real concern for a certain segment of
American society and also, for the lawmakers who represent that segment of
American society. This year eight states passed new laws making it harder
to vote, including stricter photo I.D. requirements, cuts to early voting
and limiting registration efforts. Total of 34 states nationwide have
passed voter I.D. laws since huge Republican gains at the state level in
the 2010 midterms. Now, all of the laws are in full force at this moment,
because they haven`t been fully implemented yet or because they`re being
challenged in court. But the intent is there and the laws are on the books
to make it harder for more than two-thirds of the country to vote.

And that`s not even the full extent of it. In June, the Supreme Court
ruled in Shelby County versus Holder to gut a key section of the 1965
Voting Rights Act, the section that required areas with a history of voter
discrimination to get prior approval from the Justice Department before
changing their voter laws. As soon as that barrier was removed by the
court, Texas enacted its new voter I.D. law, which a federal court had
previously called "the most stringent in the country." Another state that
had been subject to that prior approval requirement, Florida, began to
purge its voter rolls too, flagging some as potential noncitizens. "Miami
Herald" found that the voters being removed were predominantly Hispanic and
actually mostly American citizens.

We don`t know if it is the legislation and the courts and the media
coverage about voting I.D. stories that are driving public opinion. If
that`s what makes people believe there is a problem, which needs to be
fixed, but in a Washington post poll last year, 74 percent of Americans
said that photo I.D. like a driver`s license should be necessary to vote.
And 48 percent said that people casting fraudulent ballots in elections is
a, quote, "major problem." While 33 percent said it is a minor problem and
only 14 percent said it is not a problem. Question is whether these
extensive new laws and restrictions are actually legal. It`s that part of
the story which has drawn the attention of President Obama`s Justice
Department.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And some of them,
by the way, may be illegal, may violate Voting Rights Act even after the
Supreme Court`s recent ruling, and our Justice Department is going to be
staying on them. If we have evidence that you have mechanisms that are
specifically designed to discriminate against certain groups of voters,
then the Justice Department will come down on them and file suit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And a new academic study released this week shows that the
Justice Department has a case. And that, in fact, the Voting Rights Act
still matters. Two University of Massachusetts at Boston professors
performed a study of voting laws in the five years preceding the 2012
election. And they found that new restrictions went hand in hand with race
and class. Quoting from their report, the more that minorities and lower
income individuals and the state voted, the more likely such restrictions
were to be proposed. Minorities turned out at the polls at higher rates,
the legislation was more likely enacted. Study took into account a number
of factors and found that voter restrictions passed when more Republicans
were elected to the state legislatures or when a Republican was elected
governor of a state.

Even among states that were becoming more competitive in the presidential
election, if there were larger Democratic majorities in those states, it
was less likely that they would pass a restrictive voting law. And in a
competitive state with bigger Republican majorities, it was more likely
they would pass a restrictive law. So, clearly it has been a tough year
with setbacks for voting rights. What will the coming year, a big midterm
election year bring, for more on all that, I want to bring in Donita Judge,
she is an attorney who`s worked on voting rights - voting issues in
communities around the country with the Advancement Project, Hendrik
Hertzberg, he is the senior editor and staff writer at "The New Yorker" and
Wendy Weiser, she is director of Democracy Program at the Brennan Center
for Justice, and Christina Bellantoni, she is soon to be the editor-in-
chief of "Roll Call." I used to write for "Roll Call." Congratulations on
that, Christina. She`ll be starting next month.

Thank you, all, for joining us this morning. So, we`re looking sort of
here at the year in voter I.D., the year in voting rights, maybe to put
this in perspective, we can just put some numbers on the screen to start
the conversation. And that is, in the year 2013, this is from -- this is
information courtesy of the Brendan Center. But as of December 19th, at
least 92 restrictive bills have been introduced in 33 states. That`s this
year. Of those, 13 restrictive bills are still pending in five states. Of
those, five restrictive bills are currently active in two states. That
means they are in hearings, there is committee activity, there is votes
taking place, that sort of thing. And eight states have already passed
nine restrictive bills this year. So, that`s just in the year 2013. This
is something we have been talking about for a few years now. This
explosion in restrictive voting laws. When you look at where we are right
now, how concerned are you going forward that this is just the start?

DONITA JUDGE, THE ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Well, I am very concerned that it
is just the start. After the Supreme Court struck down that important
provision of the Voting Rights Act, we saw states in the South who have
been covered because of their history of discriminatory practices. We saw
that right away they started to enact bills that were going to make it
harder to vote. It was going to certainly be burdensome. And the
individuals that I am meeting with and talking to do not have the type of
I.D. that is going to be necessary for them to vote. And when we look at
these polls and the polls say that overwhelmingly many people in the United
States believe that photo I.D. is important, when we start to talk about
those same individuals about the restrictive underlying documents that are
needed to get these I.D.s, then those numbers drop significantly. And I
think that - we`ve got to remember that and that it is -- so it is not just
about many people believing that individuals have to have photo I.D., we
have to really ask the right questions of those individuals.

KORNACKI: Well, and so the story this year, I think in terms of voting
rights, the biggest single story this year was the Supreme Court decision,
the Supreme Court decision, which basically gutted section five of the
Voting Rights Act and you had a number of states, as we said, in the intro
there, that historically had to have prior approval from the Justice
Department, before they could change any of their voting rights laws. As
soon as that was taken away by the court, for instance, you had Texas, we
can - you know, we can, yeah, read this right here, actually, this is the
story of Texas this year. When Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott went to
vote earlier this year, he had to sign an affidavit because the name on his
driver`s license is slightly different than his name on the voter rolls.
This is why Texas`s voter I.D. law may be the toughest in the country. For
in Abbott`s cases probably Democratic opponent in next year`s election and
state senator Wendy Davis also had trouble voting. She sponsored a bill
that would allow Texans to sign affidavits and vote and not be turned away
completely. The law is proven especially tricky for women whose names
often have changed due to marriage. So, this is a law that went into
effect that prior to the Supreme Court ruling would not have gone into
effect and it`s threatened to radically change the way elections play out
in Texas.

WENDY WEISER, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: Absolutely. And Texas is a
really good example of why it is that section five of the Voting Rights Act
is so critical. In the lead up to the 2012 election, courts blocked that.
They found that it was discriminatory, this most stringent voter I.D. law
in the country. Even though it is discriminatory, it is now in effect.
Texans went to their state elections in 2013, having to show I.D. under
this law, and unless and until a court blocks it under another provision of
the Voting Rights Act, it`s going to stay in effect. And that`s just the
tip of the iceberg. Texas wasn`t the only state that was covered by
section five that moved forward immediately after the Shelby County
decision to put in place restrictions. And we`re seeing this play out not
only in states across the country, but even in counties, in localities
across the country, which have also pushed forward restrictions that were
previously blocked by the court and Department of Justice.

KORNACKI: And so, what is the legal strategy - I mean we have the Obama
Justice Department in a couple of these states, I think Texas is one of
them, North Carolina is another - the Obama Justice Department is now
trying to pursue a legal strategy. What is the -- what does that strategy
look like? Can you describe that to people?

WEISER: It is still illegal to discriminate on the basis of race in voting
across the country. It is just a lot harder to get those laws blocked.
Once you have a discriminatory law, you have to go to court. It used to
happen automatically. We used to have a streamline system. We had made
this very easy to prevent discriminatory voting laws from going into
effect. That`s no longer the case. But there are a lot of ways that you
can block them. There is section two of the Voting Rights Act, which
applies nationwide, every state and county in the country cannot
discriminate on the basis of race. And could be sued under that section.
There are state constitutional provisions, federal constitutional
provisions and other federal laws that are still in effect. So we still
have strong .

KORNACKI: Voters need help here in a way, right, because previously the
burden was basically on the state. That`s what the preclearance
requirement called for when you start talking about section two, that
basically puts the burden on the voter or somebody helping the voter to
say, hey, there is a problem here and I`m going to proactively seek .

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, PBS NEWSHOUR: You should be able to prove that they
were trying to discriminate and put in the wrong place, which is not
necessarily an easy thing to do in the courts. And what the Supreme Court
did, is they asked Congress to come up with new guidelines here and, of
course, Congress isn`t getting a whole lot done. The CBC, the
Congressional Black Caucus, came up with some recommendations, but we have
seen no legislation. I mean it`s been more than six months since this
decision and they`re not necessarily talking about coming in and doing it
immediately when they`re back in January. So, this is a long time. And
you might not see anything in place before the 2014 midterm election.

KORNACKI: Let`s talk about another one of these. One of the most high
profile curbs in voting rights came in North Carolina this year. That`s
where Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed new restrictions into law over
the summer. Among them were measures to shorten the early voting period
from 17 days to ten, also ending same day registration during early voting,
and also banned the extension of voting hours due to long lines at the
polls. And on top of that, McCrory also implemented a stringent voter I.D.
law to go into effect in the 2016 presidential election and he took issue
with critics in this video statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. PAT MCCRORY, (R ) NORTH CAROLINA: Let me be direct. Many of those
from the extreme left who have been criticizing photo I.D. are using scare
tactics. They`re more interested in divisive politics than ensuring that
no one`s vote is disenfranchised by fraudulent ballot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Rick, he says divisive politics. And I can think of little more
that has been divisive this year than a lot of stuff that`s happened in
North Carolina, but particularly this push on voter rights in North
Carolina.

HENDRICK HERTZBERG, THE NEW YORKER: Well, the background of this in a way
is that the Supreme Court and jurisprudence has suggested that it is OK to
discriminate on the basis of political belief. That`s been true in
redistricting cases. And what the -- all of these laws are being adopted
in states to the -- at the expense of Democrats. They`re all Republican
laws. And they`re designed to suppress not fraudulent voting, but
Democratic voting. That`s what they`re about. And, of course, the racism
of it is kind of a byproduct of that. That`s - those are the groups,
blacks, Hispanics, those are the groups that are likely to be -- to be
disenfranchised by these laws. And the giveaway is, well, what does
shortening voting hours and eliminating voting days have to do with alleged
voter fraud. No, that`s nothing to do with that. That`s only about one
thing, as all these laws are. Suppressing the votes of Democrats.

KORNACKI: Keeping the turnout low among the most Democratic friendly
constituencies that are out there. Let`s - we`ll pick that up in a second.
Because I teased it a little bit, in the Senate there was this really
interesting study that came out of UMass Boston this week that looked at
exactly where these laws are popping up, demographically speaking. We`ll
detail that a little bit and talk about it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You can`t say you
take pride in American democracy and American constitutionalism, American
exceptionalism, and then you do everything you can to make it harder for
people to vote as opposed to easier for people to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: So, this study from UMass Boston that came out this week, the
two authors of it wrote sort of in the preface to it, that they went into
this with open eyes. They wanted to look at every state around the country
that had enacted some sort of limits on access to polls over the last five
years and they had no judgment going in what they were going to find, the
just wanted to see if they could find some common variables. And what they
found was that these laws were going into effect in states where minority
turnout was increasing, where the portion of the Republican control of
legislatures was increasing, where Republicans themselves got elected to
the governorships, there is a lot of common ground here. And what it
included -- this is their concluding statement. Ultimately, recently
enacted restrictions on voter access have not only had a predictable
partisan pattern, but also an uncomfortable relationship to the political
activism of blacks and the poor.

JUDGE: Well, I would certainly say that they targeted and they got it
right because if you look at the 2008 elections and who came out to vote,
and the -- what we saw is that increasingly numbers of people of color,
young people, women, this was the -- the group of individuals who voted.
And so, now, when you put in place these type of laws that will
intentionally make it harder for individuals to vote, and especially that
group, we can say that it was done for the benefit of suppressing the voter
Democrats. But we all know what that really means. Democrats, it is
historically Democratic voters have been voters of color, women emerging
groups, and so we have to stop and look at really what is happening in
these type of laws when they use the word Democrat voters, we`re going to
suppress that group.

KORNACKI: What you were saying, like, in North Carolina, for instance,
there are some statistics here, when you talk about - it`s not just about
the photo I.D. issue, it`s about, you know, early voting periods, there are
some statistics that show how this disproportionally affects Democratic
voters and .

WEISER: Yeah. And minorities and low income voters in particular as the
researchers at the University of Massachusetts found are actually hardest
hit by all of these restrictions and they do hit all Americans, they make
all Americans have a harder time to vote in the states where they`re
enacted. But if you look at North Carolina, for example, the days that
were targeted for removal of the early voting period, that`s when 25
percent of African-Americans voted in the 2012 election. If you look at
the same day registration provisions that were removed, African-Americans
were twice as likely as white voters to vote during that -- using that
mechanism. So these are very discriminatory in their targeting, you know.
These photo I.D. laws also are targeting very particularly, some I.D.s are
included, some I.D.s are excluded. In Texas, for example, student I.D.s,
even from state schools are not allowed, but concealed handgun carry
license are allowed. You know, these are very targeted bills.

BELLANTONI: These are political battlegrounds too. I mean North Carolina
is the state the president very narrowly won in 2008, very narrowly lost in
2012. There is a competitive senate race coming up. And it does matter.
I mean 2.5 million people early voted in the last election in North
Carolina. And what is interesting to me is Republicans have long tried to
get people to early vote, but it`s somehow become that`s a Democratic
thing. I`m really watching to see what political organizers do. If they
decide, maybe, to help people get their I.D.s and make - you know, drive
people to the other county where they need to go get their birth
certificate to get their I.D., to be able to do that as a new part of
organizing around that, because you have to get people to show up if the
laws are still in place.

KORNACKI: It`s - the thing that seems so unseemly to me is I get the idea
of, like, you know, one party gets control of a state government, gets
control of the federal government. And they`re going to try to do things
that will keep them in power. And that`s sort of standard for American
politics. But when you just start talking about the right to vote and you
start talking about building up restrictions, that`s the sort of thing that
just seems like it should be off limits, you know, for either political
party to be playing those games. And the question I have for Republicans
is, you know, is there a backlash potential here where, sure, that they can
look at the numbers and say, hey, maybe, you know, ten percent less black
turnout, we have a better chance. But overall is the effect of the
negative attention. I guess we won`t know until 2014, 2016, but is there a
backlash? I don`t want anything to do with this party.

HERTZBERG: One thing these laws do is forces Democrats to divert resources
that might otherwise be used for targeting undecided voters, that kind of
thing, just to overcome the effects of these laws. The reverse or the flip
side of that is that in the last election, in 2012, these laws and these
efforts angered -- caused so much anger and so much indignation that
turnout in the targeted groups actually increased. And the question is, is
that kind of motivation going to slop over, is going to continue in the
next election. And if it does, then these laws could backfire.

JUDGE: What I`m seeing certainly in the rural areas is that these
individuals don`t even know about these laws. And so it is important that
groups like Advancement Project and other groups are on the ground, that
we`re out there, and that we`re -- we`re educating the communities about
these -- the new laws that are passing. Particularly in North Carolina
where it is a monster voter suppression bill. It is not only photo I.D.,
that is only one piece of that bill. But to get those individuals to make
sure that they know that they need this type of I.D. In certain counties,
there is no DMV. These individuals have to go outside, they don`t have
transportation. They don`t have mass transportation systems certainly that
we have in other areas throughout the country. And so, certainly we have
got to be even more -- before we even start talking about trying to get
I.D., we have to educate individuals about the fact that they need the I.D.
And so, you know, in that instance, it is important that we`re on the
ground and that the groups are out there doing the work.

KORNACKI: I want to pick that point up. Because we`re talking about, you
know, in the sort of vacuum that the Supreme Court created with the ruling
this summer, it sort of defaulted the Congress to do something, if Congress
wants to do something. The consensus here seems to be with the Republican
House right now, with the exception of Jim Sensenbrenner, it doesn`t seem
like any Republican in the House wants to do anything. So, are there any -
or what are the other practical solutions? Is there anything happening
positive at the statewide level to counteract this in the next year? There
are a couple examples. And we`ll talk about that when we pick it up after
the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You saw the lines that we have not only in `08, but then in `12.
Some of these folks might have stood in line. And I said on election
night, that`s not acceptable in a democracy that has been around as long as
ours and that the world looks to. So, we actually immediately assigned my
chief election lawyer and Mitt Romney`s chief election lawyer to sit down
with a group of experts and come up with a whole series of voter reforms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: So that commission, the Romney and Obama lawyers, we all
remember the images of those long polling lines, Rick, do you have any hope
when they report back that that`s going to lead to anything meaningful?

HERTZBERG: Well, not legislatively. I don`t have a whole lot of hope for
that. At least in the present Congress. And the way things are set up
now. But it does -- it does at least suggest that there is a hope, a
little bit of a hope that part of the Republican Party, I suppose what you
call the Old Eisenhower wing of the Republican Party, shrunken, though it
is, plus Democrats could conceivably form a coalition that would make some
small steps to undo some of this awful stuff.

KORNACKI: Wendy, you were telling during the break, a little more
optimistic. Take us through that.

WEISER: Absolutely. The president, after the long lines, had put in place
a bipartisan commission to come up with recommendations for the states.
They`re going to issue their findings in early January, and that,
hopefully, will lead to, you know, some bipartisan movement in the states
to make the voting system easier.

KORNACKI: What do you think might be in there, in terms of
recommendations? What kinds of recommendations do you think we`ll be
looking at?

WEISER: Yeah, I think we`ll see recommendations to streamline and
modernize our voter registration process. That is currently our most
significant barrier to voting and our biggest embarrassment. I think we`ll
see more emphasis on early voting, on better ballot design and some minimum
polling place standards to eliminate long lines. I expect -- one thing
that is really hopeful that hasn`t been reported as much is that the same
time as we have been fighting these huge massive struggle over the rights
to vote in the number of states, even more states have been quietly moving
forward in 2013 for the first time in a new momentum to actually make the
voting process easier. And we saw ten states pass laws in 2013 that
actually eased up restrictions, and improved voter access. And this was
not only Democratic states, it was states that were controlled by
Republicans or at mixed control. There is a consensus among Americans that
we want to see our voting system work, stay the (inaudible) of the world,
and they don`t like seeing our politicians manipulating the voting system.

BELLANTONI: It gets back to the idea that elections have consequences in
your question a little earlier about whether there would be any backlash on
this. And particularly if Republicans have a strong year in the midterm
elections, that sweeps in legislative Republicans in every single state.
And that`s what you really saw in 2010. Matt Schultz you quoted earlier,
the Iowa secretary of state, he was elected on the voter I.D. platform in
part because that Tea Party wave, a lot of legislatures flipped hands, you
have Republican governors coming in. So those numbers were strengthened
and in some cases you had super majorities. So, if Republicans are having
good year, that momentum could come. There may not be a backlash in either
direction.

KORNACKI: Well, that`s - we have that map up on the screen, and Wendy was
talking about states where there actually have been efforts to make voting
easier. One of the state that pops up, there is New Hampshire. I think
it`s almost like a ping pong game going on there, where Republicans swept
to control New Hampshire in 2010, they passed a lot of laws in 2012, the
presidential year, Democrats took back control, they undid a lot of it.
So, that`s - there is a lot of that going on. But Donita, I guess - and we
talked about this a little earlier, that challenge of public opinion on
this. And you said, you know, when people start to realize that, for
instance, on the question of voter I.D., that voter I.D. is a more far
reaching thing that affects more people than maybe instinctively realize it
themselves, those numbers start to change.

That said, it still is striking to me when you ask questions about just the
basic issue of voter fraud, we put them up at the top of the show. You can
find 17 cases, maybe, in Ohio, out of millions of ballots cast, maybe 17
cases, and yet you can find in a poll almost half the country says this is
a major problem. Where does that come from?

JUDGE: Well, certainly -- with regards to Ohio, Ohio you always are guilty
until proven innocent. Which is certainly in opposition to where we are in
our country. 17 -- you know, none of us want people who are ineligible to
vote to vote. None of us want that to happen. But on the same -- in the
same vain, we do not want hundreds of thousands of people disenfranchised
because of 17 people, potentially, who voted and were not permitted to
vote. We have laws in place to stop those things. Obviously they did.
They caught those things. And so, you know, at the end of that, that`s
really the crucial piece here, is that we don`t need to do that. And the
other thing that I just really would like to touch on, in terms of the
changes in our country, we have a more Monday movement in North Carolina
that is huge. It is huge because the people in the community, the
grassroots groups decided to take back their state. And so, that along
with the legislature, they`re going to be pushing legislatures and it is
not only going to be in North Carolina. We`re going to start to see it in
places like Ohio, and Texas, and other places. Because other states, other
people are watching. Grassroots groups are watching these types of
movements. And they want them in their states. They want the right to
vote, they don`t want to make it harder. They want to make it easier for
people to vote. And that`s what we saw in 2008. That`s why we saw so many
people come out. It`s because people felt for the first time they had a
reason to come out, but also there was not a burden to vote.

KORNACKI: Well, and there was that. We mentioned it earlier, about that
powerful statement in Ohio, I think, in 2012, by the voters who were
willing to stand in those lines.

JUDGE: That`s right

KORNACKI: You know, as onerous as that was, the African American share of
the overall vote in Ohio went from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in
2012. It made a powerful statement. If that statement gets made in a
number of other states in 2014, 2016, that could certainly change the
momentum on this. I want to thank Donita Judge with the Advancement
Project, "New Yorker`s" Rick Hertzberg and Wendy Weiser from the Brennan
Center.

Shifting gears, the Cold War lives on in the passive aggressive gestures
and the subtle diplomacy of who the White House just chose to send to the
Winter Olympics in Russia and who hasn`t chosen to do that. That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: A funny thing seems so happen whenever Russian President
Vladimir Putin takes to the ice to play against the very best ice hockey
professionals in Russia, a country with some of the best ice hockey players
in the world. He always wins. Putin finds a way to score again and again
and again. Almost as if they`re letting him win. Not that I`m trying to
suggest anything there.

In just a matter of weeks, though, I have a feeling Russia`s best ice
hockey players will be trying just a little bit harder when they face off
against the best players from all around the world at the 2014 Winter
Olympic Games in Russia. The big story this week is who will be staying
home from Russia to send a message over that country`s anti-gay laws.
Those details are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: The U.S. made big news this week by announcing who it is sending
to the Winter Olympics in Russia in seven weeks. Not the athletes. They
have to earn their spots. I`m talking about the official U.S. delegation.
You know, the kind of folks who wear lanyards with laminated passes on
them. People who get to hobnob with the members of other official
delegations and get the best seats at the best events because they`re
official, I guess. More on who those people are going to be in just a
moment. But the bigger story of all of this isn`t who is on that list, it
is who the U.S. left off the list. VIPs who you would normally expect to
lead an American Olympic delegation, but who will not be going to Sochi.
President Obama, for instance, is not going. Vice president Joe Biden, he
isn`t going either. Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, they are also staying
home. Nor will a delegation include any members of President Obama`s
current cabinet.

This isn`t the way it is usually done. Michelle Obama went to the 2012
Summer Olympics in London. Here is one of the wrestlers giving the first
lady a lift. Both president Bushes attended the 2008 Summer Olympics in
Beijing. Same with Bush, the younger, in Salt Lake, in 2002. Although I
guess he had to go and open the games as the official host that year.
Which maybe explains why Queen Elizabeth faked a parajump into the London
opening ceremonies with James Bond, it was just at least a strange kind of
amazing thing to look at there. President Franklin Roosevelt was
criticized for not boycotting the 1936 Berlin Olympics by those who
questioned the morality of participating and supporting games hosted by
Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. FDR and the head of the American Olympic
Committee were able to defeat the boycott calls and the great American
track star Jesse Owens went on to win four gold medals in Berlin. In 1980,
the United States did boycott the Summer Olympics, President Jimmy Carter
made the call that all American athletes would sit out the games in Moscow
to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. And the USSR returned that
favor four years later, boycotting the Summer Games in Los Angeles, which
brings us back to Russia right now.

This past summer, country that already had a spotty history on gay rights,
the Russian parliament unanimously passed a new law against so-called gay
propaganda. It makes it illegal to say straight relationships and gay
relationships are equal, the law that says the distribution of any kind of
material about being gay is a crime. Just this week, a court in Russia
convicted a gay rights advocate for breaking that law. Because he held up
a sign saying that being gay is normal. In response to Russia`s human
rights crackdown, the United States is not boycotting the games, not this
time. But that doesn`t mean it isn`t protesting. That official U.S.
delegation to Sochi will include Janet Napolitano, she`s the former
Homeland Security Secretary, not a current member of the president`s
cabinet, Michael McFaul, he is the U.S. ambassador to Russia. And among
the athletes, we have tennis legend Billie Jean King, Olympic hockey
medalist Caitlin Cahow, and 1988 figure skating champion Brian Boitano.
King and Cahow are both already openly gay and Boitano came out this week
after his inclusion in the delegation was announced. The White House said
that President Obama "knows the delegation will showcase to the world the
best of America: diversity, determination and teamwork."

Here now to talk about the U.S. decision to compete in Sochi and the
message the White House is sending by who it is and who it is not sending
to Russia, I want to bring in Stuart Milk, he`s an LGBT rights advocate,
president and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation. Christina
Bellantoni, she is from the - she was with the PBS Newshour, she will be
the editor-in-chief of "Roll Call" very soon, sorry about that. Richard
Socarides is former senior advisor in the Clinton White House, now writer
for theNewYorker.com. And Mike Pesca, sports correspondent for NPR.

So, Richard, I know we had you on here a few months ago, when that - that
whole issue was should the U.S. boycott, or maybe the U.S. shouldn`t
boycott. OK, the U.S. chose not to boycott. In terms of making a
statement then, short of boycotting, what do you make of this decision this
week?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, NEWYORKER.COM: Well, I think what the president did
sent an important and very valuable symbolic message. I personally
continue to be a little frustrated that what the president is doing is
mostly symbolic, it`s mostly symbolism and that we have yet as a country to
take any real diplomatic measures to send a formal diplomatic protest as
far as I know of about these laws. And essentially, you know, Putin is in
charge in Russia, like never before. These Olympics are an important
vanity project for him. And it is very important that they go off without
a hitch and it looks like he will have got the IOC, despite their
nondiscrimination charter and the Olympic sponsors and most everyone else
to go along with an Olympics that is not disrupted in spite of the fact
that they are -- they have serious human rights violations on their hands.

KORNACKI: Well, Stuart, I remember a few months ago, when the president
canceled a planned sitdown meeting with Vladimir Putin. And part of the
story there was that he was denying Putin prestige, and within Russia this
was an insult to Putin as a foreign leader. And especially (inaudible) to
actually the American president would do this. I wonder if in that same
vain, you know, Putin`s Olympics, something Russia spent all this money
for, they are heavily invested in, not having the president of the United
States, the vice president of the United States, the first lady of the
United States, is that something that to the average Russian is going to be
seen as sort of an insult to Putin? Did the United States succeed in maybe
insulting him that way?

STUART MILK, LGBT RIGHTS ADVOCATE: I think that that does send a potent
message, that there is no senior member of the administration there. But I
actually think the more potent message is who he is sending. And I can`t
tell you the -- enough the importance of having kitchen table dialogue in
Russia. I spent time in Eurasia, in Eastern Europe, in Central Europe.
There is not a lot of conversation that goes on. It is almost going back
35 years here in the U.S. when people who were LGBT were quiet. You don`t
talk about it. So having Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano, having Caitlin
there, it is going to -- we`re going to have conversations and we`re going
to have important conversations in Russian households, there is no way that
Billie Jean King is not going to make a statement. There is no way she`s
not going to talk about what it was like to live basically in an
environment that Russia has today. And this makes a huge difference to the
young people in Russia, that there are role models, people who have really
accomplished so much in the athletic arena, who are clear role models, that
they will be able to look up to and start a conversation. That`s where you
change hearts and minds.

BELLANTONI: And it really gets to what we take for granted here in the
United States. You know, if you don`t like state`s laws, maybe you would
like to move to a state where same sex marriage is legal, you can move.
But if you`re in a country where you can`t just cross borders, it is not so
easy, and it does send a dramatic message, and not just the United States,
but France and Germany are sending a signal as well. And it gets to the
question of how much influence does the United States have right now.
Especially at a time when the relationship with Russia is so tenuous and
also very important given everything that we have seen with Syria and
chemical weapons and on and on.

KORNACKI: Well, what do we know, Mike, about - you know, when this
controversy first came to a head a few months ago there were sort of
assurances were kind of offered by Russian officials that, oh, yeah, these
laws won`t really apply to the athletes themselves, it doesn`t mean they
are not going to apply, continue to apply to tens of millions of Russians,
but what is your sense of what the atmosphere is going to be like for gay
athletes? And just in general, the atmosphere is going to be like at these
games?

MIKE PESCA, NPR: Yeah, well, they`re going to have protest zones which
seems un-American except, you know, America has used them for political
conventions and stuff. They are going to obviously if American athletes
speak out, and there is some indication that they will, some athletes are
saying, you know, it is not my place. Some athletes are saying I have to
be a good guest. But then others like (inaudible) - I mean he finds what
Russia is doing unconscionable. I think the whole thing - NPR did an
interview with Masha Gessen, who is a writer who wrote a biography of
Putin. She`s gay. She is leaving Russia - I think she left Russia two
days ago because she`s essentially been targeted. She wrote the best
biography I read of Putin and she called it a brilliant snub.

And so, I think, using soft power like this is actually the best way to get
at Putin. I think Putin, from what I understand about him, is a man who
understands force, who understands crushing the opposition, but if you can
use a little jujitsu, if you could be a little bit clever and use his moves
against him, you`re probably making a statement that he doesn`t know how to
deal with. So that`s why maybe what these moves does gains the upper hand
for the United States or people who are agreeing with us, that these are
rules in Russia are unconscionable.

KORNACKI: When he seems that there are a couple of indications in the last
few weeks, including one that is sort of breaking news this morning, that
maybe some of this international scorn is getting to Putin a little bit,
some moves we wouldn`t normally associate Putin he`s now making. We`ll
update you on one of - and about a few others as we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: So we`re talking about how much these Olympic Games mean to
Russia, how much they mean to Vladimir Putin. The news out of Russia this
weekend, some of the news out of Russia, at least, is that the release of
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and he was one of the - he was the richest man in
Russia about ten years ago, one of these Russian oligarchs. He was
imprisoned, he lost all of his money, he was a threat to Vladimir Putin`s
power, Vladimir Putin took care of him by getting him thrown in jail.
Well, he`s been granted a pardon. And he`s been released. He`s now in
Germany. And he actually - he issued a statement. I think we have the --
I think we have the statement for you. This is the statement. And this is
just this morning. He says that the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi are
"A celebration of sport, that should not be damaged," however, he also said
the event should not become a great party for President Putin.

Certainly, Richard, when I see news like this, this is -- we had earlier
this week these Greenpeace activists who were in jail for the last couple
of months in Russia, suddenly they`re free. It seems like Putin is
starting to say, I mean try to do everything I can to minimize the black
eye that again, my country gets over the next few months.

SOCARIDES: Well, not everything he can.

KORNACKI: Something they can do.

SOCARIDES: Fundamentally, Russia is a place that doesn`t respect human
rights. And there are, you know, very serious human rights violations
occurring on a daily basis on Russia, not just directed at the LGBT
community, obviously. But he would appear to be taking the symbolic,
clever political symbolic steps to kind of take the heat off. And, you
know, I think it is working. And, you know, we talked in the previous
segment about whether or not any of the athletes, former athletes that
President Obama is sending to Russia as part of the official U.S.
delegation will engage in conversation with everyday Russians, will embark
on symbolic acts of protest while there. And I hope they do. Because I
think, you know, it is a personal decision, do you go and participate or do
you stay back as a way to protest? But I think it is important for people,
if they do go, to do something symbolic.

KORNACKI: Will they have that opportunity because there will be like that
Olympic village will be set up, I`m sure heavily fortified with security.
I mean do we even know, will they have the freedom to travel into the .

MILK: Well, the Russian government has banned the pride house. The
previous two Olympics we`ve had a pride house, which is outside the
village. But all of the nation`s most regions do a cultural house. And so
there has been a movement to actually have LGBT pride within these national
cultural houses. I think it is a wonderful opportunity. We have got a
movement going ahead, I would love to see the U.S. doing that as well. And
then you can have people like Billie Jean King going into those houses and
talking about LGBT issues. This would definitely hit the press there and
this also hits real people. And so, I think this is a perfect opportunity.
It is a way to have conversation. It is certainly a protest. But it is a
dialogue. And that dialogue is very important.

PESCA: I don`t know if that will happen. Because the Olympics, I mean,
we`re focusing on Russia. But the Olympics themselves have a Rule 50,
which says you can`t engage - an athlete, you can`t engage in any protest.
And I was at the Buenos Aires conference where they elected the new
president. And we asked them what about a tiny little lapel pin that has a
rainbow flag, would that be considered protest? He laughed diplomatically,
we`ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. So, we don`t even know
what the Olympics are going to do to enforce this you must be a good guest
rule.

BELLANTONI: And don`t forget, it is hard to control the Olympians, anyway,
right? You`re always hearing stories of whether that is parties or just,
you know, getting -- saying things maybe they shouldn`t or getting into
trouble. But it is also interesting from the international dialogue about
human rights. Like you`ve got Uganda, which just passed this really
restrictive law, life in prison if you`re caught, in a homosexual act,
seven years in jail for someone who performs the same sex marriage. I mean
these are big things that are happening globally that the United States is
putting the spotlight on, that there is an opportunity for a conversation.

MILK: In India, right now, I mean just last week, also, in India, they --
the Supreme Court reinstated a law that said to have -- to have gay sex was
illegal. In that very populous country. So, you are right - there are all
kinds of things. And, you know, overall, though, the White House and the
United States has really been a leader on this during President Obama`s
administration. I mean he and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry have put
international LGBT rights on the map in a way that has never before
existed. But this will be a real test. I mean I don`t know exactly what
will happen. And maybe it will turn out like we are able to make an
important statement, with Billie Jean King and others. Certainly, she
could be a very powerful advocate.

KORNACKI: Well, you know, it is a reminder of how far in advance these
Olympic Games are rewarded - are awarded and handed out. Because I doubt
in the current political climate if Sochi was up, had a bid, that it would
be rewarded with the Olympics. Anyway, I want to thank former Clinton`s
White House advisor Richard Socarides and Stuart Milk with the Harvey Milk
Foundation for joining us. Still ahead, a story I have my own deep and
personal connection to. That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: So if you happened to catch me sitting in for Rachel Maddow
earlier this week, then you saw me offer one wail of a personal disclosure
statement. I had to do it before I could talk about one of the biggest
stories going on in politics now. Stories been percolating for weeks,
that`s gaining steam. It could be coming to a head soon. A story I`ve
been dying to talk about because it is about New Jersey. And if you`ve
watched this show or followed me in my career in any way, you know that New
Jersey politics is one of my very favorite subjects to discuss. I`m about
to explain why. Because the story involves Chris Christie in an only in
Jersey kind of scandal that is now threatening his national image. I`ll
spare you the full unedited version of the disclosure I offer on Wednesday,
but we`re going to talk about the story in a minute. And so, if you missed
it before, I do want to explain why I wasn`t talking about this story until
this week. This is me almost ten years ago, this is back in 2004. I was
co-hosting a weekly show on New Jersey politics. The reason I was co-
hosting that show was because I had been working as a political reporter in
New Jersey for an online site called PoliticsNJ.com.

And that website basically teamed up with that show and so there I was
writing about New Jersey politics, talking about it on TV, and basically
living and breathing nothing but New Jersey politics. My life for three
years, three great years from 2002 to 2005. And it was an accident that I
ended up there in the first place. In the summer of 2002, I graduated from
college, I moved to L.A. with some friends, I had failed miserably there as
back in Massachusetts trying to break into political journalism. But to
every outlet I reached out to, I just didn`t exist. There were no returned
phone calls, no replies to my letters, nothing in my e-mail inbox. I was
getting nowhere in a hurry and I was thinking of giving up. And then one
person, one outlet actually did acknowledge me. And it was that website,
politicsnj.com, and remember, this was 2002.

So, the idea of a website devoted just to covering state politics was new.
It was a novelty. Newspapers themselves were barely in the game when it
came to online content. So this site had sprung up in New Jersey,
developed a lot of credibility, because it had dead on accurate insider
information, and it was written with unmatched institutional knowledge.
There was also a catch. It was an anonymously owned and edited site. The
guy who ran it went by the pseudonym Wally Edge. That was taken from a New
Jersey governor from a long time ago. He knew he had a good thing, he
wanted to go more mainstream with it, so wanted a real reporter to do real
reporting, to have a real name on the site, someone to answer for in real
time, in real life. So I applied for the job, not knowing anything about
New Jersey, or who Wally might be. But I was hungry and I was desperate
and I pretty much poured my heart out to Wally in an email and I got the
job. And I never regretted it. Wally offered to share his identity with
me, but I refused. I knew everyone would be asking me who he was and I
wanted to be able to tell them with a straight face that I didn`t know. So
he helped to show me the ropes, he told me who the key players were, he
filled in the back stories, sent me suggested stories, all of this was
always done on instant messenger, of course. Mostly, though, Wally gave me
autonomy. I picked it up fast, I learned what I wanted to cover, how I
wanted to cover it, I developed my own style, my own voice. I didn`t cover
politics out of the state house like most reporters. I covered the county
bosses, I covered the turf wars, the machine battles. It`s for the real
action was, for the real action is, where the real decisions that mattered
are made. Every state is unique, but they don`t play politics anywhere
else the way they do it in New Jersey and I loved it.

And finally, when I was ready to leave for a job at "Roll Call", I gave in
and I told Wally I was ready to meet. So, we met at a state house. He
introduced himself and well, his name didn`t mean anything to me. I`ve
been expecting an old guy, somebody in his 70s. Maybe a retired reporter.
But Wally was in his 40s, he said he was a life-long politics junkie, that
he`d been in politics since his 20s, but now that he worked in a family
business, he did the site as a hobby. It was a nice dinner, we shook
hands, I went off to Washington and that was eight years ago. And why am I
telling you all of this? Because Wally Edge has been in the news a lot
lately. Except now it`s under his real name, David Wildstein. A few years
after I left New Jersey, he sold the site and went back into politics, he`s
a Chris Christie appointee at the Port Authority, which runs the George
Washington Bridge. And it was David Wildstein who gave the order this fall
to shut down several George Washington bridge lanes. I know you`ve heard
about it. It caused days of horrific traffic delays in the town of Ft.
Lee, right across from Upper Manhattan, it fueled suspicion that it was
part of an effort to punish that town`s mayor for not endorsing Chris
Christie`s re-election. Anyway, I haven`t spoken to Dave Wildstein since
the story exploded, but I do want you to know that in many ways I owe my
career to him, that I`m and I will always be grateful that he took a chance
on me when no one else would. But we also need to talk about this story.
Because there are a lot of unanswered questions. We know that when the --
we know that when the lanes were closed, Wildstein said it was for a
traffic study. But we know that other officials from the Port Authority
have now contradicted that. We also know that the mayor of Ft. Lee, a
Democrat, initially suggested political retribution was at play. But later
seemed to back off of that a little. We know that Wildstein and the other
top Christie appointee at the Port Authority Bill Baroni have both now
resigned and that their records should have been subpoenaed by a state
assembly committee looking into the situation. We also know that the U.S.
Department of Transportation and Democrats in the U.S. Senate are also now
starting to sniff around. And we know that Christie at a press conference
on Thursday dismissed the whole matter as, quote, "not that big a deal" and
claimed that the mayor of Ft. Lee never notified Port Authority officials
that supposed - the traffic study was causing chaos in this town. As a
claim that the mayor then forcefully denied. ". Lee incessantly called,"
the mayor said, "We called the context, we always called whenever there was
an event, we did not depart from protocol that has been established for 20
years, we called everybody we were supposed to call." That was on Friday.
What we don`t know now is what everyone is wondering, was this all part of
a political payback scheme that Christie himself had any knowledge of?
Well, here to discuss this we have Nick Acocella he is the editor and
publisher of Politfax New Jersey, it`s a weekly insider news report of New
Jersey politics and we have New Jersey state assemblyman John Wisnievski,
and he`s heading that transportation committee investigation into what
happened with these lane closures. So, Assemblyman, I`ll start with you.
You`ve subpoenaed Port Authority records from Wildstein and Baroni. You`ve
not yet asked them to testify under oath. Can you just tell us exactly
what the status of your investigation is and what is coming in the next few
weeks?

JOHN WISNIEWSKI, (D) NJ ASSEMBLYMAN: Sure. We had Pat Floyd, the
executive director, come in and testify under oath as well as the man who
manages the bridge and his boss. And they both have disputed Bill Baroni`s
assertation as to how this happened. We recently on Friday received
document in the Port Authority. We`re going through those, and we hope to
receive - pursue into subpoena documents from Baroni and Wildstein on
Monday.

What this points to, I mean everybody, the governor included, tries to make
this about moving traffic cones. What it really is, it`s about an abuse of
power. It`s about two men put into important positions of trust, who abuse
that power. Not sure why. Everybody is suspecting it is political
retribution, but they abuse that power and, worse, then they try to cover
it up. They tried to make it as if it were a routine matter, although
everybody has disputed that it was anything but routine.

KORNACKI: And describable for people, so, I mean the George Washington
Bridge, everybody knows, connects New York and New Jersey and Ft. Lee is
one of these towns, right on the New Jersey side. The effect of these lane
closures just described what happened in that town.

WISNIEWSKI: It shut down Ft. Lee. The Ft. Lee is a town of about 50,000
people on the New Jersey side of the bridge. You could not move through
the town. They had a missing child, the police department had a hard time
getting from one side to the other because of the traffic that just
engulfed Ft. Lee. There was a heart attack call, the police were trying to
get to, they were delayed to that. It really just totally messed up Ft.
Lee. And when you put the politics into it, Ft. Lee is run by Democratic
mayor, the Port Authority, every year, has given $70,000 to Ft. Lee for
street cleaning near the bridge, that contract was up for renewal, there
were discussions about that contract being up for renewal, now it starts to
get into a political context. But whether this was about a failure of an
endorsement or not, it is really about an abuse of power. Two men without
any accountability shut down two lanes on the busiest bridge in the world,
and they thought they can get away with it.

KORNACKI: But do you suspect, two men, both appointed by Chris Christie,
do you suspect that this is something that Chris Christie himself had had
knowledge of?

WISNIEWSKI: We don`t have any proof of that yet. We do have at least one
or two emails that go back to the governor`s staff, but beyond that we
don`t know whether it is because they had foreknowledge or this was just an
email after the fact. But what is clear is, look, you don`t get to be on
the Port Authority, you don`t get these big jobs without being really close
to the governor and having the governor`s absolute confidence. And so,
these two men get the two prized appointments that the governor can make at
the Port Authority and they close down these lanes. It is not like they
did it as lone rangers. You don`t get to that position by being a
freelancer.

KORNACKI: Well, Nick, I talked to you on Rachel`s show on Wednesday night,
and you were expressing skepticism that the governor himself would have had
any knowledge.

NICK ACOCELLA, POLITFAX NJ EDITOR: Oh, I think this was so dumb that we
have to give the governor credit for not being that dumb. So, I - one of
things I don`t understand, and I hope maybe John`s committee can get at
this, what did they think they were going to accomplish? This was to
punish the mayor of Ft. Lee. Everybody in Ft. Lee hates the Port
Authority. Everybody. So you think you`re going to blame the mayor for
these traffic -- all he`s got to do is point the finger and say, no, no,
the Port Authority did this. And it`s just going to re-enforce all the
hatred. I mean mayors in Ft. Lee get re-elected by criticizing the Port
Authority. That`s their staple. I just -- I just don`t understand what
they were trying to accomplish.

KORNACKI: Well, so, and actually that - have you talked -- has your
committee spoken with the mayor himself. Because initially some of the
information that came out made it sound like he suspected there was
political retribution, then he seemed to back off it. What have you
learned from him?

WISNIEWSKI: His initial letter to Bill Baroni said this smacks of
political retribution and then a day or two later he backed off that
position. But internal emails show that the Port Authority, some of the
lower ranking people who were involved in the cleanup operation after this
broke also suspected political retribution. And so, there is clearly some
air of political overtones that somebody wanted to get to Mayor Sokolich in
some way.

KORNACKI: Are you going to call him to testify?

WISNIEWSKI: One of the people we`re considering calling, I mean I don`t
want to go through the whole list of who we`re going to call, but one of
the people we`re considering calling is Mayor Sokolich, obviously we`re
going to consider calling back Bill Baroni, and David Wildstein for
testimony because clearly the three of them are at the center of this and
we need to get answers on how in such a large organization that has so much
responsibility, two men could shut a bridge lane, violate the Federal
Bridge Act, and try to get away with it.

KORNACKI: How do you think this plays to -- we look at Chris Christie and
we will maybe find out in the next two weeks if there was knowledge on
Chris Christie`s part, whatever it was, that may come out in the next few
weeks, but just in general, when you look at Chris Christie as a politician
with national aspirations, trying to connect with voters in states where
the political culture is a little different than New Jersey, how do you
think a story like this .

ACOCELLA: It certainly doesn`t help him. It certainly doesn`t help him.
The thing that he and his people have to avoid is getting involved in any
way -- if they had nothing to do with the original scheme, getting involved
in any way with covering it up is the disaster. Look, we know that Richard
Nixon really didn`t order the break in at the Watergate. He got the -- he
got in trouble for covering it up. I`m pretty sure that Ronald Reagan
didn`t order Iran/contra, covering it up was the problem. That`s where
they always get in trouble. So the best thing -- I think he`s been
handling it pretty well. I know nothing about this. My hands are clean.
I`m staying out of it. Let it play out.

KORNACKI: But also, I think people have been surprised, that sort of - the
public loyalty he`s shown, if he`s saying he knew nothing about it .

ACOCELLA: That doesn`t surprise me. That doesn`t surprise me. He`s a
loyal guy. He does not leave dead soldiers - wounded soldiers on the
field. So, that doesn`t surprise me at all. But they got to walk a very,
very fine line here, very fine line.

WISNIEWSKI: The governor has defended them.

ACOCELLA: Yes.

KORNACKI: Which I think - right, I think that`s -- to people sort of
casually watching, that has been a surprise, they say, well, if he hasn`t
known, why is he defending them? But you say that is sort of the way .

ACOCELLA: That`s really the way he is. That doesn`t surprise me at all.

KORNACKI: I want to thank Democratic New Jersey State Assemblyman John
Wisniewski. Some people have an easier time than others when it comes to
gift ideas for the holidays. Those some people are never Al Franken who`s
amazingly talented. This video is relevant. We`re going to explain to you
how it is relevant when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: I`ve actually gotten quite a bit of holiday shopping done this
year. I have to admit that`s a rarity for me. Normally I`m one to run out
on Christmas week or Christmas Eve even and wildly grab things to check
people off my list. But I`ve really gotten a lot done. Started giving out
my gifts earlier this week. I got my team here on "UP" Fitchburg State
sweatshirts. It was Fitchburg State College, when I was a kid growing up
near that school, now, I guess, it is Fitchburg State University. Either
way, go Falcons. I`ve given a few gifts some of my other friends, too, and
my parents are in town, and it has been nice. All been nice. It also felt
really great this week that Senator (inaudible) and Senator Al Franken
conducted his third annual Senate Secret Santa on Tuesday, reaching new
levels of bipartisanship. 65 senators participated this year. 23 of them
were Republicans, 42 of them were Democrats. Senators had to keep their
gifts under $15 and, of course, in complete secrecy until the party on
Tuesday night. The gift giving reached across party lines with Republican
Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah presenting Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth
Warren with doughnuts and coffee from the Massachusetts-based Dunkin`
Donuts. I`m not sure that`s how it`s supposed to work. He`s supposed to
give her something from Utah, I think. She can get Dunkin` Donuts anytime
she wants.

Anyway, they reached across continental lines as Arizona Senator Jeff Flake
gave Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono a fake rattlesnake egg. That`s more like
it. That`s something from Arizona that they probably don`t have in Hawaii.
I think Flake got it more than Hatch did. Anyway, sometimes within very
well defined lines as Al Franken himself showed off his talent of being
able to draw a map of the United States from memory, as his gift to Senator
Joe Donnelly from Indiana. You can see it there. So, to stay in the
holiday spirit, we here on "UP" thought we would do our own political
secret Santa with no spending limits. No rules and most importantly no
wrapping paper. Actually, most importantly these hats. They`re all
wearing them, so I`m going to have to put this thing on me now too.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: Now I`m one of them. So, we`re going to spin the wheel. We
have it behind me. We`re going to see who our -- who we`ll get assigned to
a secret Santa, go around the panel and then we`ll give out our gifts to
whoever we land on. We are all going to play Chris (inaudible) there, to
do that we have Kate Nocera, she is the Capitol Hill reporter with
Buzzfeed.com. This is the height of her reporting year right now.

KATE NOCERA, BUZZFEED.COM: I wear this all the time.

KORNACKI: She`s got to do this. NPR`s Mike Pesca is back here. So is
reporter, columnist, writer, New Jersey extraordinary Nick Acocella. And
Christina Bellantoni, soon to be the editor-in-chief of "Roll Call,"
currently playing Secret Santa. So, thank you guys for doing this. We`re
going to spin the wheel and see who our first gift recipient is. Let`s
give this a good whirl. Round and round it goes. And it is going to stop
on - look at that. It stops on the president of the United States. Barack
Obama. So, Kate, Barack Obama, you`ve got to give him a gift. What is it
going to be?

KATE NOCERA: A lot of pajama clad young people buying health insurance in
the next day or two.

(LAUGHTER)

NOCERA: Right? Because he`s going to need a lot of them to get the old
Obamacare up and running.

KORNACKI: And the pajamas are key this week because of the whole pajama
boy saga that gripped America.

NOCERA: It was huge.

KORNACKI: It was - in his teeth.

NOCERA: Yeah.

KORNACKI: Mike, what is your gift to the president?

MIKE PESCA: First of all, I`m going to insist you call me crumpet for this
segment.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: I`d give him a faster Internet connection, like a really fast
Internet connection, but maybe one faster than actually currently exists.

KORNACKI: 24 that bps hasn`t been getting it done.

PESCA: No, I don`t think the old dialup is really going to get enough
people signed up.

KORNACKI: Yeah, I know, that`s probably a good one. Nick, what about you?

ACOCELLA: New book I saw on the shelves called "Websites for Dummies."

KORNACKI: Same line. So, you can - get the book, you can get the high
speed modem. And Christina?

BELLANTONI: I would send him a URL, and the URL would be to
calmingmanatee.com, which is one of the most calming, wonderful gift sites
that there are out there. Not even a gift site, it`s just a site where a
calming manatee comes to you, gives you a nice little friendly message,
puts you in a good mood.

KORNACKI: Really -just explain - I haven`t seen this before. You just
type calmingmanatee.com, and a manatee - on screen .

BELLANTONI: It is a different image - no, no, it is just a still image.

KORNACKI: Right.

BELLANTONI: And every time you load it, it is like a friendly nice message
that can put anybody in a better mood.

PESCA: I just want you to know, within the manatee community, that is
considered hardcore pornography.

(LAUGHTER)

NOCERA: They are definitely make it.

ACOCELLA: What species is it? I mean you`re abusing the manatee .

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: Using them for public .

KORNACKI: That`s a cheap - I got a couple of people to scratch off my
list. I think calmingmanatee.com is a cheap -- what is my gift to
President Obama? My gift, this is really great, the up against the clock
home edition. Always say if you have children under 12, you know, small
parts, be careful. If you`re old enough now to enjoy the up against the
clock home edition. Let`s spin the wheel and let`s see who else we`re
giving gifts to. Who else in the news this year needs a Christmas present?
It is Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin, always in the news. When is she not?
Let`s start with you, Kate, what is it going to be for Sarah Palin?

NOCERA: I think a reality show with the cast of "Duck Dynasty," just bring
the Palins and "Duck Dynasty" together, it would be epic.

KORNACKI: It`s like when the "Flintstones" and the "Jeffersons" met, not
the Jeffersons, the Jetsons.

(CROSSTALKK)

KORNACKI: Come to think of it. Mike? What about you?

PESCA: I would give her a $5,000 gift card to a store like Blockbuster or
Books a Million or Borders. It seems really impressive but has no value
when you really think about it.

KORNACKI: Well played.

ACOCELLA: I would give her 15 more minutes of fame.

KORNACKI: You want 15 more minutes of fame?

ACOCELLA: Sure, I love her. She`s great.

KORNACKI: Hasn`t gotten old for you?

ACOCELLA: Oh, no, that never gets stale with me.

BELLANTONI: Union Station, I waited for my train to get here yesterday,
there is this store called America they have them at airports, and they
have all kinds of stuff. There is a lot of t-shirts that say, "don`t blame
me I voted for Mitt Romney," and there is also Barack Obama toilet paper.
So maybe I can give her a gift certificate to that. I`m sure she`ll find
something she likes.

KORNACKI: I`m still trying to figure out if she actually voted for Mitt
Romney last year. I know she didn`t vote for Obama, but some of the
comments she made, I wonder if she voted for Obama. My gift to Sarah
Palin, this is -- we`ll give her the "Duck Dynasty" DVD collection. She
probably has it at this point, but Sarah Palin --

NOCERA: My present is better.

KORNACKI: I think so, Kate.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: Being the host, you know, you have the home graphic advantage.
We have a few more names up here, a few more faces up here. We`ll keep the
silly hats on for one more segment, we`ll be back and spin a few more times
and a few more gifts after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: We`re playing Santa Claus here, my head is starting to itch.
The ten minutes every year I wear a hat like this, but we`re going to keep
spinning here and playing Secret Santa for big political media figures of
the year. Who is next, getting a gift from us? Oh, wow. It is! Toronto
Mayor Rob Ford. I have no idea what to get him. But, Kate, a gift for the
mayor.

NOCERA: I would get him a congressional seat in Congress, mostly so I
could cover him. Selfishly, so I could cover him.

KORNACKI: The one -- and (inaudible) gets the team in Canada, and Congress
gets one representative from Canada.

NOCERA: Or even just an exchange program, just for like a week, so we
could cover him.

KORNACKI: He would be a nonvoting delegate, give the floor speeches.

Mike.

PESCA: What to get for the man who gets to ingest everything? I would get
him a Hamilton Tiger Cat jersey. He wears the Toronto Argonauts jersey to
the dismay of that Canadian Football League team. So get him signed up
with the Hamilton Ti Cats. They made the CFL Great (ph) Cup this year.

KORNACKI: So some relief for Toronto fans.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: You`re always thinking of Hamiltonians. That`s your
contribution to this.

Nick.

ACOCELLA: I`m always thinking of what people might need, so I`m going to
buy him a hookah.

KORNACKI: I`m sure he needs it.

Christina.

BELLANTONI: I was going to say he just deserves a book contract or a TV
show.

KORNACKI: Didn`t he already have one?

BELLANTONI: You know-

KORNACKI: He had the show for one episode, right? I think it was
immediately canceled. My Rob Ford gift actually is a football helmet,
which could be Argonauts, could be the Tiger Cats, because this keeps
happening with Rob Ford walking around.

Imagine if he had had a football helmet then. That would not have been
quite so painful, or there was running back Rob Ford. Maybe she actually
needed the helmet there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s 15 years, he got in under the shoulder pads on
that one.

KORNACKI: That`s my gift for Rob Ford. So let`s give it another spin
here. Nick wants him in the New Jersey legislature, forget about Congress.
And we have got -- that`s Sarah Palin, we have done that before. Let`s
keep going. And we`ve got, it looks like John Boehner, speaker of the
House, John Boehner. Kate, you`re the Capitol Hill reporter, be careful
you don`t offend him here. What do you want to give him?

NOCERA: So we learned this week that John Boehner rents his apartment from
a tanning lobbyist, but the lobbyist said that there wasn`t actually a
tanning bed in the apartment and there never would be. So maybe we could
get one for him.

KORNACKI: He certainly looks like he needs one.

NOCERA: He does. He`s looking a little pasty.

PESCA: Did he get that from the (inaudible) site, it seems a little too
perfect.

(CROSSTALK)

PESCA: I would get him a DVD boxed set of "Harper Valley PTA." That
starred George Goble (ph.). And George Goble once said I feel like a pair
of brown shoes in a world of tuxedos. That`s what I think of John Boehner.
He`s got these crazy politicians he`s trying to wrangle in. Everyone loves
Mike Lee, everyone loves Ted Cruz in his party. He`s just trying to get
them all together. He`s just, like, some normal, nonflamboyant slightly
orange guy. I feel for him.

KORNACKI: Nick.

ACOCELLA: I had a lot of trouble with this. I wanted to get him a legacy,
but I can`t imagine what it would be.

KORNACKI: Ouch.

BELLANTONI: In the same vein as my gift to President Obama, a little
calming for the holidays, I would give John Boehner a spa day. He can get
a seaweed wrap, a facial, nice foot massage. It has been a rough year for
this guy. You think about how it started, they were in session on New
Year`s Day, fixing the fiscal cliff. He goes out with them, finally coming
to an agreement on the budget. But this was not an easy task.

KORNACKI: Does he get to smoke at the spa?

BELLANTONI: Sure, why not.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: All of the health benefits will go away. I was trying to think
of a gift for the speaker, and I went to my favorite site, oprah.com, which
I`m checking all the time. We found this essay which I suggested he read,
"Confessions of a Chronic Crier." And it is advice to people who struggle
not to cry at inopportune moments. So I think that might be a good one for
John Boehner. That`s my gift to him. It is a really cheap gift because it
is just a URL. But I guess --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just crashed their server, by the way.

KORNACKI: This is great. We have got some gifts for the political class
and maybe some gift ideas here for -- if you`ve got a few shopping days for
your loved ones, maybe we helped you with that too. Hamilton Tiger Cats
jersey are going to be selling like crazy.

That`s all the time we have in our little edition of Secret Santa. I want
to thank NPR`s Mike Pesca for playing along, Christina Bellantoni, soon to
be the editor in chief of "Roll Call", thank you for playing along. And
shifting gears, we have got suitcases full of cash. That`s another great
Christmas gift. Hidden cameras, a convicted con man on the FBI payroll.
What does all that have to do with the United States Congress? We will
tell you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: The highly anticipated film "American Hustle" opened in theaters
everywhere this weekend. It tops the list for the most nominations for
next month`s Golden Globes. David O. Russell is up for best director, Amy
Adams for best actress. It also snagged nominations for best picture and
best screenplay, among others. What it is not up for is best documentary.
Even though "American Hustle" is based on one of the most amazing political
corruption stories in U.S. history. Abscam, played out in the late 1970s
and early 1980s. Undercover FBI agents slipped tens of thousands of
dollars of cash to one congressman after another in an elaborate sting, and
it was all caught on tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) only two people involved, you and I.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If that`s all right with you, that`s the way we`ll do
it. It is up to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know whether I can --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ll tell you what, let`s put that in there, I guess
you can stick those in your other pocket, back pocket or something like
that, just leave your jacket open and you`ll be in good shape.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: That was the FBI`s secret recording of Republican Congressman
Richard Kelly of Florida, taking $25,000 from an undercover agent in
January of 1980. He along with five other congressmen, one U.S. senator, a
big city mayor from New Jersey, a Philadelphia city councilman and an INS
inspector were all ultimately convicted in the scandal. A truly riveting
story. It is a story that "American Hustle" tries to tell. Sort of. One
of the most fascinating parts of the movie for me is what they put up on
the screen right at the beginning. Some of this actually happened. Some
of it.

New plot elements are invented, individuals are morphed into new
characters, given new names. The legacies of some politicians involved are
even rewritten. "American Hustle" doesn`t pretend to be a documentary. It
tells you upfront that only some of it is true. But since so few people
read political histories and so many more watch movies, "American Hustle"
will now become the defining history of the Abscam scandal for millions of
people.

This isn`t the first time Hollywood has gone head to head with history.
The same thing happened last year with the hit film "Argo." The Oscar
winning best picture will be the defining account of a covert operation to
get six American diplomats out of Iran at the height of the 1979 hostage
crisis. Ben Affleck directed the film and played the part of American CIA
agent Tony Mendez, who was portrayed as the sole hero of the American-led
mission. But the real Tony Mendez had a partner in real life and in the
movie. The six Americans hide out in the Canadian ambassador`s residence,
but nothing is said about all the Canadian diplomats who also worked to
secure the Americans` release behind the scenes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE US: I saw the movie "Argo" recently.
I was taken aback by its distortion of what happened. Because almost
everything that was heroic or courageous or innovative was done by Canada
and not by the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: What President Carter is saying is true, but it is also true you
only have two hours to tell a story. Hard choices have to be made.
Nevertheless, "Argo" will be the version of what happened that most
everyone remembers. This happens again and again in Hollywood. The recent
50TH anniversary of JFK`s death saw Oliver Stone`s 1991 film "JFK" back in
theaters for a short time. A very controversial take on the events of the
president`s murder, re-released to an audience of millions. Steven
Spielberg`s "Lincoln," "Charlie Wilson`s War," "All the President`s Men,"
the list goes on and on, telling great stories on screen is one of the
things that America does best. But when politics is involved, are we doing
disservice to history if we aren`t totally faithful to it?

Still with us to talk about it, we have Nick Acocella and we have Chris
Wilkinson, producer, director and Academy Award nominated screenwriter for
the movie "Nixon." He also co-wrote the script for "Ali." Buzzfeed`s Kate
Nocera and culture writer for the New York Times, Dave Itzkoff is here as
well.

Chris, I`ll start with you. You have written, been a part of movies that
attempt to tell political history. And what is your -- just in general,
what is your sense of that balance? How to strike that balance between you
want to tell a good story, you want to tell an entertaining story and you
want to be faithful to history. How do you balance that when you make a
movie?

CHRISTOPHER WILKINSON, SCREENWRITER: Look, when I go to the movies, I like
to have a feeling that what I`m seeing is happening. I think -- for a
writer, you know, everybody has got that balance for themselves. You have
-- you`re obligated to the fact, depending on the historical importance of
the character and the story, but you have to tell a good story. So it`s --
I can only speak for myself. As to where that balance -- where that line -
- where you`re crossing that line into what is total BS and what is --

KORNACKI: Yeah.

WILSKINSON: -- a good story.

KORNACKI: I noticed it watching "American Hustle." I really -- I love the
movie. I recommend everybody go see it. But one of the things that struck
me is they start naming the members of Congress in the movie, and they are
fake names. They are not the actual members of Congress who were taken
down. You have Harrison T. Williams (ph) as the senator from New Jersey,
went down to this thing, that`s not the senator`s name. There is a whole
story line involving the mayor of Camden, New Jersey. The mayor of Camden,
New Jersey, in the real Abscam scandal essential to this. They create this
whole story of who the mayor of Camden is and how this guy who is helping
the FBI falls for him as, like, you know, feels really bad helping to
entrap him and everything. But the story, the personal story they create
wasn`t actually the personal story of the mayor of Camden. I was just -- I
love watching a movie about Abscam, I love watching a period movie, but I
wonder how - (inaudible) I wonder how much of this is even true.

DAVE ITZKOFF, NEW YORK TIMES: There was a real - the figure that Christian
Bale plays is based on a real life figure. I am going to try to get the
names correct. The Bale character is named Irving Rosenfeld, there is a
Mel Weinberg, who was a real sort of low level, you know, player, dealer,
he did do those kinds of mini scams you see in the film, he was who the FBI
sort of recruited to help them in the real life Abscam scandal. He did
have a hair piece not unlike the comb-over that Christian Bale wears in the
movie.

Once you get past that, I think that is really just David O. Russell`s
vehicle to tell a lively tale about people in this period of time, what the
era was like, this sense that everybody is kind of conning one another, not
only on the grand scale, but in their day to day lives. And that`s the
story he wants to tell.

KORNACKI: You mention Mel Weinberg, who is this sort of con man, based on,
there is this classic interview, Mike Wallace on "60 Minutes" interviewing
the real Mel Weinberg. This is like 1982 or something. We`ll just play a
clip of this, and give you a taste of who Christian Bale`s character is
based on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE WALLCE, CBS: You`ve said I`m going to be delighted to let the people
of this country know what their politicians are really like.

MEL WEINBERG: That`s correct.

WALLACE: What are the politicians really like?

WEINBERG: Well, I personally think they`re a bunch of perverts, drunks and
crooks.

WALLACE: Conceivably, it takes one to know one.

WEINBERG: That`s true. No argument. I`m not a pervert. I may be a
crook. There is nothing greater. You know, you take these politicians,
they come in there and they sprout how good they are, how powerful you are,
and you sit back and laugh. And they think you`re stupid, and you sit and
laugh and you`ll get yours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And the funny thing is, in the movie, I don`t want to give it
away too much, one of the -- that character in the movie ends up sort of
looking at one of the politicians and feeling guilty about taking him down
and saying there is a lot more gray here than the FBI allows. I don`t know
if that`s what the real Mel Weinberg felt, but that was one of the things I
left that movie wondering, if they`d been faithful to it.

ACOCELLA: I think we need to get over this. After what the movie industry
has done to literature, why would we be surprised they do it to history? If
it is entertaining, that`s their goal. It works in a lot of these things.
Sometimes it doesn`t work. I think it has to be judged -- judged for what
it is, not what we want it to be.

KORNACKI: What do you want it to be?

ACOCELLA: I want it to be entertaining, that`s all I want.

WILKINSON: That`s my point. It is not a documentary. It is a story.

ITZKOFF: You didn`t think that guy was a dead ringer for Christian Bale? I
thought it was--

ACOCELLA: He may be more entertaining than the movie.

KORNACKI: Christian Bale does come close to it, with the makeup job they
did in the movie.

NOCERA: If you remember when "Zero Dark Thirty" came out, they made a big
point, that they had done all this research and they had done all this
reporting, and then Senators Dianne Feinstein and John McCain came out and
said, you know, we know what actually happened, and it -- you need to
clarify that a lot of this is actually fiction, contrast with this which
says this is -- some of this is real and some of this is not. So it
depends kind of how the filmmakers want to put out what exactly they have
put into the movie.

KORNACKI: I guess the thing is, I have read so many -- first of all,
covering New Jersey as I talked about earlier, I`ve seen stories in New
Jersey where I had the -- Nick, I`m sure it is true for you too, where you
just said, this is a movie. This by itself could be a movie. And I`ve
read in political history so many episodes, I`m like this could be a movie.
So to me when I start -- you see like Abscam being made into a movie, I`m
like I don`t know how much fictionalization is required, because I think
you have just a great story.

We`ll pick it up on the other side. I want to talk to everyone and get
their sense of when Hollywood has gotten it right, not just with an
entertaining political movie, but a political movie that really did get
politics and history right. If you have any examples in mind, what you
think of as a great political history movie. We`ll talk about that when we
come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: So I`m trying to think, political and historical movies we have
seen that get that balance right, that we at least think that get that
balance right, between actually getting the history mostly right, getting
the politics mostly right and still being entertaining. One that comes to
mind to me is "All the President`s Men," Woodward and Bernstein, their
story of Watergate, I thought that was an entertaining movie, and I think
they told -- they`re telling their story very well. Are there any you guys
think of --?

ACOCELLA: That may be the best of them. But I`m partial to "Amistad,"
which tells the story -- it invents a character, but so what, and it tells
the story very, very clearly, and poignantly about African slaves who are -
- who bring a case before the United States Supreme Court. Very, very well
done.

KORNACKI: What about you?

ITZKOFF: I would actually go back to "All the President`s Men," not only
because all newspaper reporters do look like either Robert Redford or
Dustin Hoffman.

(CROSSTALK)

ITZKOFF: We know that`s a factual truth. But there is sort of an honesty
in how the reporters build their case in that movie, that they don`t just
go right to Nixon`s doorstep and nail him. A lot of reporting is about
starting at the sort of atomic level. You get handed a little bit of a tip
or maybe you see something in a local courtroom and slowly that builds, and
it leads them, you know, to the scandal that is beneath all of that.

ACOCELLA: It is very honest about the big mistake they make too, where
they misunderstood what somebody says.

ITZKOFF: Right. And that --

ACOCELLA: What Hugh Sloane (ph) says, and that cost them badly.

KORNACKI: What about you, Chris? What do you think of?

WILKINSON: There have been some good ones. "Last King of Scotland," you
know, about Idi Amin. "Frost/Nixon." I don`t know that much about the
situation, but it seemed truthful. That, for me, is the key. There is a
difference between the truth and truthful. And I think that if you`re
truthful, part of the drill of being a screenwriter is you have to love
your characters. Even Richard Nixon, you have to -- that`s part of the
job. And if you present somebody`s humanity, if you present somebody`s
truth, you can`t stray too far, I think. That`s --

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: Nixon is such a fascinating historical -- there was a movie
called -- I think it was called "Secret Honor" about Richard Nixon in -

WILKINSON: Philip Baker Hall.

KORNACKI: Philip Baker Hall played him. And you don`t know if any of it
is true, it`s just Richard Nixon sort of walking around, it felt true to
everything we have learned about the character of Richard Nixon. I thought
it was a great expression of Richard Nixon, at least as I understand him as
a political figure, as a character, as a person, but you don`t know if any
of it is true. It is just a monologue, sort of.

WILKINSON: I`ve written - I worked on "Nixon," and I can tell you that we
were really scrupulous about it. You recognize the importance of the
historical character. Richard Nixon is on a different level than Abscam or
"Argo". These are side shows, in a way, you know, I mean, massively
entertaining, wonderful movies.

KORNACKI: But he is a central historical figure.

WILKINSON: Exactly. I think it depends on the story that you are telling.
I think there is -- the bar is different.

KORNACKI: What about you, Kate?

NOCERA: "All the President`s Men." You can`t just think of anything
better, and as a political reporter, it`s like one of those movies that I
watched when I was a lot younger, and then you imagine that Washington is
going to be just like that. It is not, unfortunately. You know, we love
to just run across an Abscam or a Watergate kind of scenario. But that was
a movie that certainly got me interested and wanting to come and be a
reporter.

KORNACKI: And take down the next president.
*
NOCERA: Sure. I haven`t done that quite yet, but I`m working on that.

KORNACKI: No, but that`s .

NOCERA: I`m going to wear my Santa hat.

KORNACKI: That`s what makes you so extraordinary here, because everybody
then, I think, it`s sort of we talk about this like post-Watergate media
culture. And everybody`s trying to have everybody - but there is a certain
strain of reporter. Maybe that won`t visit big grasping for the next
Watergate. But what made all the president`s men so extraordinary was -it
doesn`t happen every day. It doesn`t - it may be happening once or twice
in history and here it is. And you`re actually seeing these reporters
piece it together from scratch. Anyway, what should we know today? Our
answers from the panel, coming up after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: All right. It`s time for - to find out what our guests to think
we should know for the Christmas week ahead. Kate, I`ll start with you.

NOCERA: Jeff (inaudible) wrote a powerful thing that`s - took off on
Friday, which means they are not going to confirm Fed Chair Janet Yellen
until January.

KORNACKI: Okay.

NOCERA: So.

KORNACKI: Look for that.

DAVE ITZKOFF, NEW YORK TIMES: We have been talking about movies and the
Oscar race is still going to be coalescing this week. We`ve got a big
release from Martin Scorsese. It`s about the - for "Wall Street." And
you`ve also had the film adaptation of "August: Osage County", which could
produce nominations for Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and many others.

KORNACKI: Yes. That Scorsese - DiCaprio teaming, is every movie now that
both of them together.

ACOCELLA: 51 days from today. The first pitchers and catchers report to
spring training. That`s important.

KORNACKI: He`s already counting down. Of course .

WILKINSON: All right, as we go into the Christmas movie season I think
it`s - you should know that movie stars have gigantic heads.

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: Really?

WILKINSON: Shocking. Huge, humungous.

KORNACKI: You have shattered illusions there that have lasted for decades.
Well, I have - I just - Merry Christmas to everybody out there celebrating
this week. Hope you`ll get to spend some time with your family, with your
loved ones. And we will be back next weekend with a new "UP". I want to
thank Kate Nocera, David Itzkoff, Nick Acocella and Chris Wilkinson for
getting up this morning. Thank all of you for joining us. AS I said, we
are going to be back next weekend Saturday and Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m.
Eastern time. Our guests will include Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and
Jackie Kucinich. Stick around for Melissa Harris Perry this morning. How
to turn the minimum wage into an effective political weapon. You`d be
amazed to find out how effective it can be. Plus, who is afraid of
Elizabeth Warren? So, don`t go anywhere, because Nerdland is next. And
again, we`ll see you next week, here on "UP." Happy Holidays.

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

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