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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, December 22, 2011

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest Host: Melissa Harris-Perry
Guests: Alex Wagner, Richard Wolffe, John Heilemann, Alwin Collinson, Evan Puschak

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST HOST: Quick game of word association:
Boehner, fold.


CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST: We begin with the massive game of
political chicken that is going on right here in our nation`s capital.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: A flurry of words today from all sides.

Republicans have refused to support this compromise.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC ANALYST: Sorry, but the president`s like,
y`all are in this mess.

TAMRON: This handling or this chaotic handling by the House
Republicans may, in fact, help President Obama`s re-election.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Minority leader Mitch McConnell has even
broken his silence, urging Speaker Boehner to pass the short-term payroll
tax deal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When McConnell comes out and separates himself
publicly from Boehner, there`s never been daylight between the two of them
politically until today.

OBAMA: I mean, has this place become so dysfunctional, that even when
people agree to things we can`t do it?

CILLIZZA: You got Senate Republicans, the White House, the "Wall
Street Journal" editorial board, essentially saying cut bait, make the two-
month deal and let`s move on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Boehner is now establishing a track record of
not really being somebody you can kind of deal with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They better care about the politics of it. If
they don`t care about the politics of it, they are going to end up losing
their power.

CILLIZZA: It certainly feels like House Republicans are on an island.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea of, oh, yes, we are against taxes. We
forgot that, now it is too late.

OBAMA: Enough is enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just move on. Get this thing finished.

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: Why are you going to continue this fight
where you`re losing the optics, you`re losing the messaging, and now you`re
just confusing people on top of all of that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you know in politics and also in poker, off bad
hand, you actually need to fold.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, "HARDBALL" HOST: Surrender. John Boehner and the
House Republicans finally realized there was no way out of the corner they
painted themselves in on the payroll tax cut and they have caved. Score
one, a big one, for the president and the Democrats.


HARRIS-PERRY: I`m Melissa Harris-Perry, in for Lawrence O`Donnell
this evening.

The breaking news of the day, the standoff over the temporary payroll
tax cut extension is over. For those of you playing at home, it is
President Obama, one, House Republicans, zero.

Now, here is how House Speaker John Boehner, who wanted to take the
compromise deal last week, started the day.


bill that would extend these policies for a year, and it just kicked the
can down the road because, oh, my goodness, we are getting close to
Christmas is not the right thing for the American people.


HARRIS-PERRY: And here is where Boehner ended up.


BOEHNER: Senator Reid and I have reached an agreement on payroll tax
relief on behalf of the American people. Key parts of this agreement are
that on January 1st, no American worker will see an increase in their
taxes. We will ensure that a new complex reporting burden is not
unintentionally imposed on small business.

We will ask the House and Senate to approve this agreement by
unanimous consent before Christmas. Middle class families and small
businesses are struggling and they are making sacrifice and I think this
agreement will help our economy.


HARRIS-PERRY: I want to be really clear about this: I know Speaker
Boehner was trying to make it sound like something changed, like the House
Republicans won something in this six-day stand off, they started. But
this is basically the same deal. It`s pretty much what Senate Republican
leader Mitch McConnell told Boehner do in the statement he released today.

"The House should pass this as an extension that locks in the
thousands of Keystone XL pipeline jobs, prevents any disruption of the
payroll tax holiday or other expiring provision and allows Congress to work
on a solution for the longer extensions."

Now, Boehner`s 180 turnabout came a day after being hammered by the
Democrats, members of his own party, and by President Obama.


OBAMA: Nearly every Democrat in the Senate voted for that compromise.
Nearly every Republican in the Senate voted for that compromise. Democrats
and even some Republicans in the House voted for that compromise.

I am ready to sign that compromise into law the second it lands on my
desk. So far, the only reason it hasn`t landed on my desk, the only
reason, is because a faction of House Republicans have refused to support
this compromise.

This isn`t a typical Democrat versus Republican issue. This is an
issue where an overwhelming number of people in both parties agree.

How can we not get that done? I mean, has this place become so
dysfunctional that even when people agree to things, we can`t do it?

The House needs to pass a short-term version of this compromise and
then we should negotiate an agreement as quickly as possible to extend the
payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance for the rest of 2012.

This is exactly what the Republican leader of the Senate said we
should do.


HARRIS-PERRY: And the pile on keeps on coming, from Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid today, "I`m grateful that the voices of reason have
prevailed and Speaker Boehner has agreed to pass the Senate`s bipartisan

And from President Obama, "I congratulate members of Congress by
ending the partisan stalemate by reaching an agreement that meets that
test. I want to thank every American who raised your voice to remind folks
in this town what this debate was all about. Today, your voices made all
the difference."

To talk about this, joining me now are: Alex Wagner, host of "NOW WITH
ALEX WAGNER" on weekdays at noon Eastern here on MSNBC; and MSNBC political
analyst Richard Wolffe, author of "Revival: The Struggle for Survival
Inside the Obama White House."

Thank you both for joining me.

WAGNER: Thanks, Melissa.


HARRIS-PERRY: So, Alex, you and I were talking about this earlier
today on your show on now. It looks like we now have a deal.

But here`s what Boehner said when asked if he had the votes.


REPORTER: Do you have assurances from your conference nobody will
object to unanimous consent on the House side? Do you have everybody on
your line?

BOEHNER: I don`t know that, but our goal is to do by --



HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. It doesn`t feel very convincing.

WAGNER: It doesn`t. You kind of like you could almost see his
fingers and toes crossed, Like I hope I do I really can`t have any more egg
on my face.

We just got information that if the House doesn`t pass this, it will
cost American taxpayers $4 million to fly the House back again to have
another vote, assuming tomorrow`s vote fails. You`ve got to assume that
there is some kind of accord in the House they can pass this because
literally -- I mean, John Boehner`s speakership has been under yet entire
year in terms of rounding up his caucus up together. This I think has been
the most pronounced split.

And not only did he show -- you know, was it a split between House
Republicans, but a split between the Republicans in the Senate and the
House. You had literally Mitch McConnell, John McCain, the "Wall Street
Journal" editorial board against John Boehner, and effectively position the
Republicans as the party against a tax cut, which is an anathema to this
current wave of Republicans.

I think, you know, Boehner is weakened. If he can`t get the House to
pass this bill, I don`t know what that means for his speakership.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well -- so, let me turn to you, Richard, on exactly
that question, because part of this was the optics. I mean, there was
President Obama standing surrounded by kind of ordinary American taxpayers
and there was John Boehner literally all by himself.

WOLFFE: I know. And at Christmas, too.

Look, he`s zombie speaker. He is. It is over. He agreed to deal,
had to back track from the deal.

And, honestly, if you were a betting person, you would say he`s not
got unanimity. That`s not the word would you apply to this Republican
caucus. So it just takes someone, Tea Party freshmen, to want the
limelight and say, you lie, it`s over.

And then he has to call everyone back for a vote, no to say he won`t
get it through, but it`s another round of embarrassment. And, by the way,
then has to go into the negotiations for the year-long deal and how weak is
the negotiating position from the get-go on that?

So, he really doesn`t have much of a leadership position after all of
this. And the president`s numbers keep on rising.

And he -- you know, Bill Clinton used to say you could be strong and
wrong because that always beats weak and right. In this case, John Boehner
has come out being weak and wrong.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask about this new idea, for example, of Tea
Party freshmen who want the limelight. I mean, it`s supposed that the most
exciting battle right now, you know, is the kitchen fight between Newt and
Mitt. But is this -- is the real battle between Eric Cantor, and Boehner?
Does Cantor simply dislike this man? Is there -- what is going on
politically in this story?

WAGNER: Well, I think there`s definitely a power grab. I mean, you
know, some people say Eric Cantor, you haven`t seen as much of Eric Cantor
as you have seen of John Boehner because Eric Cantor is busy driving the
knife into John Boehner`s back. Eric Cantor has sort of taken himself to
be the representative of the rowdy Tea Party caucus and has been apparently
the thorn in Boehner`s a side every time he thinks he has a grand bargain.

But I think, Melissa, to your point about Gingrich v. Romney -- I
mean, we talked about this on the show. This is evidence of the larger
cleave in the Republican Party. You have a group of very archconservative,
you know, deficit above all else, incredibly right-wing Republicans against
the establishment -- and that`s exactly what you see in the candidacies of
Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, and the split in their supporters.

HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Richard, if we were to ask Boehner and someone
did, whether or not he caved, here`s what he said.


BOEHNER: Sometimes it`s politically difficult do the right thing. It
may not have been politically the smartest thing in the world. But I`m
going to tell you what, I think our members waged through a good fight, we
were able to come to an agreement, were able to fix what -- what came out
of the Senate.


HARRIS-PERRY: Am I -- am I crazy or is this position I tried do the
best I could but things were just tough. Is that not the corner they have
about trying to put President Obama in for a while, going on four years

WOLFFE: Right. Well, actually, really, this has really been playing
out as let`s punish the president. It`s not actually -- I know there`s all
this language they use about deficits and spending, and being responsible
and all of that. But remember, they don`t want to pay for tax cuts
normally. They don`t think tax cuts have to be offset and yet tried to do
it with this one.

This isn`t about ideology. It`s not about a deficit. It`s about
sticking the president with something he didn`t want to have to deal with.
And they came off on the wrong side of it.

So, they can try and put the best face in it, but they ended up really
undermining their brand, undermining what they stand for, undermining their
ideological principles all because they have been driven crazy by this
president. And they end up on the losing side of it, too.

So, you can only imagine that coming out of this, they are going to be
even more upset. We really are talking about the Tea Party folks who are
driven not by ideology, but of hatred for this president.

HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, on -- let`s pretend there was an ideological
position here or a policy position here. I mean, just because I want to
pause and think about what happened today, what was the actual policy that
looks like will now go into effect, particularly on the -- so, we have been
talking a lot about the tax cut piece, but on the extension of unemployment
insurance, what kind of difference does this substantively make for the
American people?

WAGNER: Well, Melissa, I would take issue with what Richard said, I
don`t often take issue with the wisdom of Richard Wolffe.

WOLFFE: Please go ahead.

WAGNER: I do think there some ideology here and I don`t -- I mean, I
think sticking it to President Obama is the gilding of the lily. But at
the end of the day, this whole argument speaks to a part of the Republican
Party that fundamentally believes that the takers, those at the bottom, the
poor and those on -- you know, those getting the tax credits and those
getting unemployment insurance are taking an unfair share from the makers.
And this whole idea of the stratification of wealth in this country and the
way in which the poor have been getting a free ride.

And so, this is an opportunity to ensure that -- you know, this is an
opportunity to tackle up employment insurance and cut back from 99 weeks to
79 weeks to 59 weeks. This is an effort to cut back, you know, on a tax
incentive that would largely benefit the middle class. And this is part of
a broader re-envisioning of the American social compact which has been at
the heart of this Republican Congress.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Richard, you got a challenge here, in the heat of
the kitchen from Alex Wagner.

WAGNER: Oh, Alex Wagner`s hell kitchen.


HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. Is there some ideology here? I mean, is
that what`s going on, particularly with the unemployment insurance element?

WOLFFE: On unemployment, sure. And on Keystone XL pipeline, sure.
Yes. They`re trying to add some pet projects into this, and certainly they
hate unemployment insurance.

But really when you`re looking at the tax cut position, it`s not

I want to roll back to the tape to the 1980s, when there was a
concerted free market ideology, consistency was really important for
conservatives. There is no consistent position on tax cuts here. That`s
why politically, it`s been so awful. That`s why the "Wall Street Journal"
editorial board doesn`t like what the Republicans are doing here.

So, just on the issue of taxes, I don`t think they have a big enough
strategy in mind for punishing the middle class at this point.

Yes, a year would be better is what everyone wants. Two months is not
satisfactory to anyone. They haven`t been able to get enough concessions
to justify in their minds a two-month thing. So, they try to get more and
it didn`t work.

So, on the politics, on the short-termism, it didn`t work. I don`t
think is there a bigger game plan, other than let`s make life difficult for
the president.

And what they have ended up doing, Alex is right there, they ended up
hurting the middle class people, actually not in the middle class, people
earning less than the average wage in this country, $1,000 a year makes a
huge difference. This isn`t peanuts.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. It makes a big difference to those
households as well as the broader economy.

Alex Wagner and Richard Wolffe, I thank you so much for joining me.

WAGNER: Thanks, Melissa.

WOLFFE: Thanks, Melissa.

HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, will Tina Fey`s famous imitation of Sarah
Palin be overshadowed by Julianne Moore`s portrayal of HBO`s "Game Change"?
The first preview is out. And we`ll have that and the day`s 2012
headlines, next -- including another endorsement for Mitt Romney.

And later, how our society`s declining trust in government
institutions is slowly killing Santa Claus.



DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Now, if you`re not one of the front-
runners, you don`t get the front line Secret Service. I mean, everything`s
fine, nothing to worry about.

Well, the guy`s back there. This is Jon Huntsman`s Secret Service.
Is he back there? There he is. That`s him. Everything`s fine.


HARRIS-PERRY: Last night, HBO Film released a trailer for movie "Game
Change." And here in the world of political news, we are really excited.
That`s going to premiere in March and it`s based on the must-have best-
selling book about the 2008 presidential campaign entitled "Game Change:
Obama, the Clintons, McCain and Palin, the Race of a Lifetime."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama just changed the entire dynamic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a changed year, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to create a dynamic moment in this
campaign. Or we`re dead.

REPORTER: Senator McCain today reshuffling his most senior campaign

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We desperately need a game change pick. None of
these middle-aged white guys are game changers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, find me a woman.

CROWD: Sarah. Sarah. Sarah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will be honored to accept your nomination for
vice president of the United States.


HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now, co-author of the book, "Game Change"
and consultant on the film, John Heilemann. He is also the "New York"
magazine national affairs editor and MSNBC political analyst.

Nice to see you, John.


HARRIS-PERRY: I am great. And part of it is because we`ve all been
talking about this trailer all day. We`re actually very excited about it.

And I wanted to ask you -- you know, obviously, 2008 is an
extraordinary election. But what is it that makes it a game-changing
election? In other words, what are the elements that are actually
impacting these Republican candidates in Iowa right now in 2012?

HEILEMANN: Wow. Well -- I mean, look, the biggest game change of
2008 was the election of Barack Obama. And I think, you know, everything
that has happened over the course of the 2012 cycle, so far, has been
through the prism of the intense desire on the part of the Republican Party
to get rid of Barack Obama as president.

We have seen the conservative wing, the most conservative wing of the
party that is driving these -- the primary caucus system looking for an
alternative to Mitt Romney throughout 2011. And it`s all motivated by this
very intense desire to have a Republican candidate who can beat the
president in November 2012, but also one who can beat him up along the way.
And that`s why I think you see so many Republicans who are a little bit
hesitant to get behind the nominal front-runner, former Massachusetts
Governor Mitt Romney.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, there is somebody today willing to get behind this
nominal front require and that is President George H. W. Bush.

Now, granted, President Bush was one of the only one-term Republican
presidents since World War II, but that said, he seems to be saying exactly
the opposite of what we saw in that trailer which is that we don`t need a
game changer, we need this best choice because he is mature and reasonable
and I think the president said not a bomb thrower.

So, what does that mean? Has President Bush not learned the game
change lessons from `08?

HEILEMANN: Well, I think that president bush is an arch-
establishmentarian, for sure, some ways embodies the Republican
establishment -- not surprising to see him fall in behind line behind Mitt
Romney. The Romney campaign rolled out a series of establishment
endorsements over the course of the last five or six days, including Bob
Dole, the 1996 Republican nominee.

I think there are a lot of Republicans who believe in the
establishment that they don`t want someone who is a pugilist, someone who
is going to try to take big punches at Barack Obama. A lot of Republican
professionals, again, establishmentarians, think that the key to winning in
2012 is try to make the race as much as possible a referendum on Barack
Obama`s leadership. And for that, in some ways, Mitt Romney is the ideal
candidate because he`s not going to offend swing voters as much some of
these other candidates might. He is going to allow Republicans to keep the
focus on the president and the president`s record. That`s why I think they
think that even though Romney is not an exciting you candidate, he might be
the best chance they have to win.

HARRIS-PERRY: Speaking of exciting pugilist, there is one possibility
out there, and is the vice presidential position.


HARRIS-PERRY: The possibility of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
And when he was asked whether or not he kind of closed the door on
accepting the V.P. nomination, here is the response he had.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: The fact is if Governor Romney
wants to come to me and talk about that, we`ll have a full complete
conversation about it and Mary Pat and I will make a decision what we want
to do with our future.


HARRIS-PERRY: So, is he their game changer this time? If you put
Christie on the ticket with Mitt, do we have a pugilist in there, a

HEILEMANN: Well, certainly, you have a pugilist and a fighter. You
have a guy who is very -- not only following fight with you but willing to
spit on you as he fights with you in Chris Christie. I think that, you
know, Chris Christie at the top of the ticket in Republican Party would be
a game changer because he would open up states that Republicans have a hard
time with in the Northeast and so on.

I don`t think vice presidential candidates, by and large, and Sarah
Palin was an attempt to disprove this rule, but vice presidential
candidates don`t generally change the game. I think Chris Christie, like
everybody else, no matter what he says, no matter what any of them say, if
they are offered the vice presidential nomination, almost to a person they
will accept. You never close the door on that. It`s very hard when the
nominee of your party comes to you and says, I need to you help me get
elected president -- very hard to say no.

And I think Chris Christie actually was very frank there. I mean,
that to me sounded like -- yes, of course, I will consider it, you know,
unless my wife says no, I`ll probably take it. That is are really true for
all of them.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. So, one last possibility, has the game changed
so much that a reality TV star in the person of Donald Trump could mount a
serious third party campaign here?

HEILEMANN: I don`t really think that anything Donald Trump does is
serious. I want to put that off the table. But I do think the likelihood
of a serious third party candidacy in 2012 is very high and it`s higher
than it has been since the time of Ross Perot, and I think it is all the
higher if anybody but Mitt Romney gets the Republican nomination.

If Newt Gingrich somehow gets the Republican nomination, I`d say the
odds were better than 50/50 there will be one or more third party
candidates. There`s a lot of interest in that out there in the country and
there are a lot of people with a lot of money who are thinking they want to
get someone who represents a third way, who is not a far right person or in
their view you accurately or not, a far left person in Barack Obama.

And I think the centrist impulse is very strong you will see that

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks so much for joining me tonight, John Heilemann -
- co-author of "Game Change" and national affairs editor for New York
magazine and MSNBC political analyst. I appreciate it.

HEILEMANN: Thanks, Melissa.


The Olympic Games have been cancel and the communists are the ones to
blame. More on that later.

And I`ll tell you what happens to democracy when we stop believing in
Santa Claus.


HARRIS-PERRY: Up next: a 24-year-old is bring the past back to life
through Twitter. We`ll step inside our LAST WORD time machine and have him
takes back to World War II in 1939. Stay tuned.

And later, one of our viewers created his up video for our Kids in
Needs of Desks program. His video was uploaded five days ago and has more
than 200,000 hits. That`s coming up.


HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so this guy in London has the coolest idea; he`s
bringing World War II to life for the Twitter generation by live Tweeting
the entire war. You can follow it at all @RealTimeWorldWarII. And I think
this is actually a really worthwhile and important exercise.

America is, right now, a country at war. How many Americans know what
happened in Afghanistan today? There are families in America whose only
wish this year is that their loved ones fighting overseas will be safe, but
how connected are we as a country to their sacrifice?

Everybody in every country that was part of the Second World War lived
it. No one was untouched. And no one, on any given day, knew how it would
end. Now the real time Tweeting of World War II captures the immediacy and
realty of that lived experience.

The Internet has made the world much smaller today than it was for the
people living during World War II. They would probably be shocked to know
that people in countries on opposite sides of the war and people from all
over the globe are all virtually living the war together in 2011.

So we are going to step back in time and follow right along.


cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings a peace, how thankful we will
all be. If it brings us continued struggle, we shall remain undaunted.

All are members of the great family of nations, which is prepared to
sacrifice everything that freedom of spirit may be saved for the world.


HARRIS-PERRY: That was the Christmas message from King George to the
British empire, broadcast all across the globe, including to our neighbors
in Canada. We are on the eve of a new decade, the 1940s here in America.
We don`t know quite what the New Year will bring. For our friends in
Europe, it seems certain to bring continued fighting.

There were hopes that this new, strange war, as British Prime Minister
Neville Chamberlain has called it, would be over by Christmas. But
Hitler`s aggression has been persistent since invading Poland four months
ago. And the people of Finland are fighting desperately to hold off the
advancing Soviet Army into their country.

British soldiers have joined the French on the Maginot Line, while
back in England, families celebrating an anxious holiday under the threat
of air raids.

Joining me now from London is Alwin Collinson, who is covering all the
developments of the war. Good evening.


HARRIS-PERRY: Tonight, the world is thinking of the people of
Finland, who have been trying to hold off the Soviets. How is their
resistance going?

COLLINSON: Well, Finland has stunned Europe with their astonishing
resistance. Three weeks ago, when Russia attacked Finland, they had
450,000 men, over 300 tanks, planes, everything, a modern army. And the
Fins, 30,000 men, less than 30 tanks.

And in the last three weeks, the Fins have not only stopped that
Russian juggernaut rolling down on them, but they have actually
counterattacked. They are using the cold weather. They are using their
familiarity with the terrain. And they`re breaking deep into the Russian

They`re trying to chop up the Russian forces into what they call
firewood battles. So they are chopping up the Red Army. And they are
getting ready to destroy it, in front of their defensive lines drawn all
across their border with Russia.

HARRIS-PERRY: Now, it seems not so important in the face of that kind
of reporting. But the fact is, all around the world, we are so
disappointed to hear that the 1940 Olympic Games, scheduled to be held in
Finland`s capital, have been canceled because of the fighting. What is the
relationship between Stalin and Hitler right now?

COLLINSON: Well, it is extremely cordial. Stan and Hitler, of
course, agreed have agreed a secret -- sorry, not agreed a secret, but have
agreed a public pact, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which means that they
have non-aggression between these two countries of the Soviet Union and
Hitler`s Germany.

And they`ve actually just sent each other birthday messages. It was
Stalin`s birthday yesterday. Hitler sent him a telegram congratulating him
on his 60th birthday and hoping that Germany and the Soviet Union would
remain firm friends in the future.

HARRIS-PERRY: That is a chilling response to that question. Now,
lord of the admiralty, Winston Churchill, has created some controversy by
suggesting that Britain invade Norway. What is his intention with a
preemptive war?

COLLINSON: Well, what Winston Churchill would like do is to cut off
German access to Swedish iron, which is sent down through Norway and
through Norwegian waters. Now, of course, a preemptive invasion would be
illegal under international law, but Winston has said that we should think
about humanity and not legality in fighting Nazi Germany.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, tell us -- tell us about what`s happening right now
on the continent. The situation is very bad for Jewish residents in
Occupied Poland. What do you know about this?

COLLINSON: Well, of course, it is not only bad for Jewish resident.
Poland itself has been split in half by the two invading armies, the
Soviets and the Germans. So, now Polish residents must be forced to choose
between living under Nazi oppression in the west or under Soviet oppression
in the east.

As you said, for Jewish residents, it is particularly bad. We have
got reports coming in of synagogues being burned with flame terrors, of
people being marched out of the towns and the ghettos where Jews are now
being forced to live, to be shot in the fields.

It is possible that several thousand people may already have died. We
can only hope the situation gets better.

HARRIS-PERRY: Is there reason to believe that this attack on Jewish
residents is specifically because of their identity as Jewish citizens?

COLLINSON: Absolutely. As we all know, the Nazi regime is based on
racialist theories. So they believe that the Jews lie at the bottom of the
pyramid of races, that they are subhumans. And really what they would like
to do is to force all of the Jews who live in Poland and, indeed, in
Germany, east and into the Soviet sphere of influence. They want the Jews
gone from the greater Reich.

HARRIS-PERRY: Now, in this moment, British soldiers are on the front
in France. And they have been visited by a prime minister, Neville
Chamberlain, and King George. Is there fighting there yet?

COLLINSON: Very little. Very little indeed. As you said earlier,
Neville Chamberlain has declared this a "strange war." Other people are
calling it a phony war because really, there has been almost no combat. On
the other hand, France does lie safe behind the Maginot Line. So we can be
confident that those defenses will at least put the Germans off from

HARRIS-PERRY: Now there is, of course, a unique relationship between
those of us here in America and those of you on the home front in London.
What will this Christmas be like with the threat of air raids and food
rations and, of course, the expanded conscription rules for British men?
What kind of holiday are our British brothers facing?

COLLINSON: Well, I think most British people are hoping to get all
the holiday cheer they can out of this Christmas because it may well be the
last one they are going to enjoy for some time. As you said, rationing --
butter and bacon are both going to be rationed from January the 1st.
Conscription, all men between the ages of 18 and 41 are going to be

Already hundreds of thousands of British men have been called up.
Yes. Absolutely. So everyone between ages of 18 and 41 who is not in a
protected occupation will have to join the army, or at least have to
volunteer and be fit or unfit.

And also, of course, London and all other major British cities are
blacked out. So, there`s no light whatsoever. All of the public lights,
including street light, are off. And it really is chaos out there.

You know, people are bumping into each other on the streets. People
are coming home with black eyes. People are having car accidents at rates
that are just unprecedented. It really is a Christmas that looks a little
gloomy. But the British people will soldier on, I`m confident.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it certainly is difficult to imagine Christmas
without lights or butter. Alwin Collinson, thank you for your efforts to
keep us up to date on the war.

THE LAST WORD will be right back.


HARRIS-PERRY: In 1897, Virginia O`Hanlon wrote this to the editorial
page of "The Sun," "Dear Editor, I`m eight years old. Some of my little
friend says there is no Santa Claus. Papa says if you see it in the sun,
it`s so. Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?"

Virginia got her answer from Frances Church, a former civil war
correspondent and a hardened journalist, who had seen suffering and
hopelessness up close, telling Virginia to reject skepticism, small
mindedness and joyless empiricism, Church tells her, "yes, Virginia, there
is a Santa Claus."

In 2011, it is easy to think of Santa Claus as a symbol of
unrestrained commercialism. Many think he is a dangerous myth, driving us
into debt despite national economic insecurity and widening inequality.
But let me make a case; believing in Santa Claus is a litmus test of
Americans` faith in our political institutions.

In 1897, "The Sun" assured Virginia of Santa`s existence. Fifty years
later, the U.S. Postal Service did the same thing in 1947`s "Miracle on
34th Street." At the film`s climax, Santa`s attorney, Mr. Gaily, proves
that Kris Kringle is Santa Claus by showing that the Post Office delivers
to him Santa`s mail.

Gaily waxes eloquently about the history and scope of the Postal
Service, even getting the prosecutor to concede --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your honor, the state of New York is second to
none in its admiration of the Post Office Department. It is efficient,
authoritative and prosperous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every one of these letters is addressed to Santa
Claus. The Post Offices deliver them. Therefore, the Post Office
Department, a branch of the federal government, recognizes this man, Kris
Kringle, to be the one and only Santa Claus.


HARRIS-PERRY: The judge agrees. Santa`s existence and identity are
confirmed, because of the Post Office. We the people have faith in the
federal government. The government is embodied by the Post Office. The
Post Office says Santa is real, he is real.

Nearly 50 years later, Santa`s existence was again questioned in a
popular remake of "Miracle on 34th Street." Kris Kringle again finds
himself in a mental competency hearing and must establish his identity in

In 1994, his defense attorney turns to the U.S. Treasury. Attorney
Bedford arranges for Susie to present the judge with a one dollar bill.
The judge looks at the dollar, sees the inscription, "in God we trust" and
declares --


UNIDENTIFIED MALEHARRIS-PERRY: Federal government put its trust in
God. It does so on faith and faith alone. It`s the will of the people
that guides the government. And it is and was their collective faith in a
greater being that gave and gives cause to the inscription on this bill.

The state of New York, by a similar demonstration of the collective
faith of its people, can accept and acknowledge that Santa Claus does
exist. And he exists in the person of Kris Kringle.


HARRIS-PERRY: In 1897, there is a Santa Claus because "The Sun" said
so. American print journalism had such authority that an unsigned
editorial could verify the existence of a mythical being.

In 1947, there is a Santa Claus because the Post Office delivers his
mail. The will of the people is verifiable through its faith in its
government agencies.

In 1994, the collective faith of the American people rests firmly in
its financial system, literally printed on its money.

Imagine American media declaring Santa`s existence today. Any such
editorial would be Politifacted, Drudged and Daily Kosed to shreds. The
Post Office couldn`t save Santa. They can`t even save themselves.

Very soon, the idea of a federal Postal Service may seem as mythical
as a Santa himself. In this economic crisis, no one is turning to American
currency for security.

Americans no longer trust Congress or the president, so neither
institution could simply declare Santa`s existence by law or executive
order. To whom would Virginia turn today to verify the claim of Santa`s

Not the press, not the government or the financial system. As our
ideological, partisan and identity differences grow, we lose an ability to
adjudicate our collective claims. The 1994 version of "Miracle on 34th
Street" offers this visual montage of belief.




HARRIS-PERRY: In 2011, what do nonprofits, small businesses, city
workers, unions, major corporations and kids all believe? Santa exists if
we make him real through belief. And honestly, the American project in
democracy is similar.

Even as we challenge it to be better, fairer and more honest, we still
have to believe that democratic governance by the people, through their
institutions, can and should exist.

Like Santa Claus, democracy requires us to believe that collective
faith can be greater than our individual doubts. Now, our faith has been
badly damaged by governors who crush unions, by a Congress that will not
govern, by a military that still tortures, by campus police with pepper
spray, by coaches who prey on kids, by CEOs that slash jobs even as profits
rise, by a system that seems irreparably broken.

But building a country requires investment in one another, hope that
we can be better tomorrow than we are today, and faith that our failures
are not definitive.

In these final days before we enter the 2012 election year, it is time
to ask, do you believe?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not just a whimsical figure who wears
charming suit and affects a jolly demeanor. You know, I -- I`m a symbol.
I`m a symbol of the human ability to be able to suppress the selfish and
hateful tendencies that rule a major part of our lives.



HARRIS-PERRY: Lawrence has been telling you about the KIND Fund, Kids
in Needs of Desks. The joint program with UNICEF raises money to buy desks
for school kids in Malawi. Now we take things like desks for granted here.
In that part of the world, students spend their day on the dirt floor. And
you have graciously tried help us give the gift of a better education this
holiday season.

Since last night, viewers raised an additional 93,560 dollars, making
the new grand total an amazing 3,350.876 dollars. Few.

Some of you have been contributing not only through your pocketbooks,
but also through the power of your creativity and the Internet. One
viewer, Evan Puschak, made his own KIND video.


It goes around the Sun. This is what it looks like up close.

This is America. This is Los Angeles. This is a school. This is a
classroom. These are desks.

Here are some American children. Here they are in class. Here is
their teacher. Here is one student being told that the Earth goes around
the Sun.

Here he is being told that there are 300 billion stars in the galaxy.
Here is he being told that one thimble full of a neutron star would way
over 100 million tons.

Here he is getting into MIT. Here he is graduating magna cum laude.
Here he is unraveling the mysteries of quantum entanglement. Here is the
boy receiving the Nobel Prize. Here he is thinking back over his life
about how everything he has done, everything he is he owes to that first
science teacher who told him about the Earth and how it goes around the

But the boy who is now an old man would be wrong. He is forgetting
something, something he would never think of, something that predicated the
Nobel Prize and the solar cells and the physics and MIT and his excitement
that day all those years ago about a thimbleful of neutron star. The boy
is forgetting the desk.

This is the Earth again. This is Africa. This is a country in Africa
called Malawi. This is a school. This is a classroom. There are no
desks. Here are some children in pain from sitting on the dirt floor for
eight hours day. Here is one being told that the Earth goes around the

Here is how much it would cost to get that boy a deck. Here is how
much it would cost to get the whole classroom desks. Here is how much you
have to donate.


HARRIS-PERRY: The creator to that have Youtube clip, Evan Puschak,
joins me now to talk about it. Hi, Evan, how are you?

PUSCHAK: Good, how are you, Melissa?

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, we were absolutely blown away by your video. Can I
tell you, we have been e-mailing it to one another and playing it over and
over again. What inspired you to make it?

PUSCHAK: Well, I was watching last night when Lawrence said, you
know, it was the simplicity of the idea. And I completely agree with that.
But I think it`s that plus the fact that it`s something that you -- you
don`t think of, you know. And that`s what struck me when I originally
heard him announce it a year ago on the show, is it is something you never
think of.

So it sort of hits you in that feel bad organ, whatever that is. And
you -- you get that reflexive feeling, like he said last night, to donate.

HARRIS-PERRY: So it was uploaded five days ago. You have gotten more
than 200,000 hits. What has been the reaction you have been getting from
people online who have seen it?

PUSCHAK: The reaction has been I use the word aggressively generous.
It is -- the comments just on the video have been like, donate it, they
just say donate or they say I took a kid off the floor in Malawi. And to
know that you could possibly kind of do -- make that effect in the world by
making a video is truly incredible.

HARRIS-PERRY: Now, speaking of that, I mean, a small thing, desks.
It`s a small thing to make a video. So, why what is your ultimate goal
though? You have is small thing, but then a video that crescendos to
winning the Nobel Prize. What`s your crescendo here? What would you like
this video to do?

PUSCHAK: What I would like it to do is -- it was -- it was a video
for the Project For Awesome, which is a Youtube charity event that happens
every year, where people make videos on the charity of their choice. They
submit them. The community watches them.

It is hosted by John and Hank Green of "The Blog Brothers," who just
have a lot of people at their disposal online. And we all donated to the
Project For Awesome. I think it raised about 71,000 dollars. What we are
waiting for now is the top voted charities are going to get some of that
money. It`s going to be divvied up based on what the votes are.

And the ultimate goal for this is to get some more money for the KIND
Fund because we could actually make a huge difference getting -- getting
classrooms, you know, not just kids, but classrooms off the floor.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, Evan, the video is indeed awesome. And --

PUSCHAK: thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: Although I have absolutely no authority to do so, I got
to tell you, that`s a good enough video that, I don`t know, maybe somebody
ought to be talking to you here at MSNBC.

PUSCHAK: I know.

HARRIS-PERRY: That was a great video.

PUSCHAK: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks. Evan, Lawrence, the entire LAST WORD team, all
of us, thank you for your help.

Now, you can find information on how to donate on our blog at THE LAST I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Lawrence will be back. And
"THE ED SHOW" is up next.


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