UP with STEVE KORNACKI
January 5, 2014
Guests: Jeffrey Reynolds, Lizz Winstead, John Fugelsang, Allen St. Pierre, Rich Sommers, Dave Itzkoff, Michael Shear, Perry Bacon Jr., Michael Cohen, Miriam Elder, Spencer Ackerman, Al From
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Legal marijuana comes to Colorado. Where is
it going next?
Much of the country`s locked in a deep freeze this Sunday morning. But if
there is one thing we`re learning, it is that things are always changing,
including some things that many people thought would never change.
Prohibition against pot has ended in Colorado. That state became the first
in the country this week to legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational
use. So what happens next in the movement to make marijuana legal
everywhere? The New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, the definition of a new
liberal, he was sworn into office this week by a man who a generation ago
famously declared the era of big government is over. President Bill
Clinton. So what exactly does it mean to be a liberal these days? And as
an added challenge, can you define it in four words? That`s ahead.
Also, the most prominent editorial board in the country started off the
year by asking for some form of clemency for Edward Snowden. But is there
any reason to think President Obama would want to grant leniency to someone
who stole countless secret highly classified documents? We`ll get to that.
And President Obama boarded the RedEye last night heading to D.C. after his
Christmas vacation in Hawaii. He hasn`t been able to sleep. What might he
be watching on that flight? Well, in the past reporters have spotted "Mad
Men" DVDs on his plane. We are going to talk about all of the president`s
favorite TV shows and the actor who plays Harry Crane on "Mad Men," he is
going to be joining our panel. So, you`re going to want to stick around
But, first, Barack Obama is a social media savvy president. The idea for
his January 2011 town hall was pretty simple. It went like this. People
would submit questions on YouTube and then the rest of America would get to
vote on those questions. What would be asked to the president. But when
it came time to answer them, the president didn`t end up responding to the
most popular questions. He answered what his team described as, quote, a
selection of them. And there was a reason for this. The reason why Obama
didn`t want strict majority rule when it came to question selection for his
town hall. Because when all of those votes were counted up, 99 of the top
100 questions were about the same politically sensitive subject. Marijuana
and the war on drugs. And there were plenty of pot questions in the second
100 too. As "Huffington Post" pointed out, the president was barraged with
questions on YouTube about legalizing pot. This wasn`t the first time the
White House solicited questions on the Internet. Nor was it the first time
they were bombarded with pot questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There was one
question that was voted on that ranked fairly high. And that was whether
legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation.
OBAMA: And I don`t know what this says about the online audience ...
OBAMA: But the answer is no, I don`t think that is a good strategy to grow
OBAMA: So, all right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Legalizing marijuana for recreational use has been a top
priority for pot aficionados and criminal justice reformers for a while.
And for years now, they have been doing a lot more than just submitting
questions about it. Not just pushing for medical marijuana to help ease
the symptoms of those with debilitating illnesses, their goal is to
legalize and regulate the purchase of pot by anybody of age. To make that
perfectly legal. And just last year, 2012, they had their biggest
breakthrough ever. Placing legalization referenda on three state ballots
and prevailing in two. Colorado and Washington, Oregon as a state, they
lost in. In Washington, the measure passed with 55 percent of the vote.
And in Colorado, true swing state, maybe the biggest swing state we have
out there, the referendum actually got more votes last November than
President Obama did. But election night was only the first step out there.
Proponents of legalization in these states had won over the voters, but
they still had to win over the Obama administration. Marijuana is still,
of course, illegal under federal law. It was unclear how the Department of
Justice would react. They would crack down on medicinal marijuana
dispensaries in states like California and Montana in the past. And when
the initiative passed last November, Colorado`s Democratic Governor John
Hickenlooper, he deposed legalization, he was quick to release the
statement that declared, quote, "Don`t break out the cheetos or the
goldfish too quickly." But in a boon to the snack food industry, I guess,
the Obama administration then announced that they would not be interceding
in Colorado or in Washington and at least for the time being they would be
monitoring implementation to see if the states were safely regulating
sales. Which made this a very special new year for all the many people who
lined up outside of Colorado`s brand-new dispensaries, waiting to legally
purchase marijuana for their own recreational use. Some shops had to close
early because they ran out of supply. Now, under the new law, adults over
21 can buy up to an ounce of marijuana, that`s if they`re in-state
residents, which they cannot consume in public or take over state lines.
The laws regulating marijuana are based on how the state controls alcohol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was hoping they would have like a little sampler pack
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My plans are just basically to pick up a quarter bag
and go home, smoke some weed, watch some stupid movies and play some video
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is just tremendously huge, just like
prohibition back in the day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: There was a lot of excitement in places like Denver and mountain
ski towns, not all of Colorado is excited about the new law. Communities
have the option of deciding not to allow the marijuana shops if they want.
Many places like conservative Greeley in Colorado Springs, that`s home to
the socially conservative group Focus on the Family, they said no, thank
you. But despite pockets of resistance, marijuana legalization seems to
have momentum. Last year for first time in history a majority of Americans
said that they do support legalizing it. The Senate held its first ever
hearing on legalization in September.
"New York Times" reported yesterday that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo,
went an executive action this week. It will allow the use of medical
marijuana in the state for the first time. The ballot initiatives and
legislative efforts to expand recreational marijuana are advancing in
states like Alaska, Oregon and California, which adds to the 21 states and
the District of Columbia where medical marijuana is already legal. So it
looks like in addition to red states and blue states, we`re maybe heading
toward a collection of green states. And while maybe some not so green
states as well. But even if more states legalize marijuana, what will
happen after Obama leaves office, and there is a new administration and a
new Justice Department to enforce the federal drug laws that are still on
Well, to talk about all of this, I want to bring in Allen St. Pierre, he`s
the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws, political comedian and liberal commentator John Fugelsang
is here, Jeffrey Reynolds, he is executive director at the Long Island
Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and Lizz Winstead, she is the co-
creator of "The Daily Show" and she is the author of the book "Lizz Free or
Die." Still, it`s a great title, Lizz.
KORNACKI: Welcome. Thank you all for joining us. I guess we`ll start,
just on Colorado, what exactly is happening out there and just to make this
sort of clear for everybody what exactly the sort of the rules are. So we
said in the introduction, you can buy up to one ounce, that`s if you`re a
resident of the state of Colorado, at one of these dispensaries. I think
it is a quarter of an ounce if you`re an out of state resident. There is a
little bit of a dispute here about where people can actually -- once they
buy it, where they can actually use it. Because if you live in the state,
you can go to your home. And you can do it, but you can`t do it in a
public place. So, if you`re, you know, if you`re from New York and you fly
out to Colorado and you buy it, no one is quite sure where you can legally
use it. And in fact, we have this funny -- this is a border state, this is
Wyoming, this was a tweet that I guess was the Wyoming Highway Department
put out as soon as the new year rolled around. If we can put that up.
They`re basically warning, do not bring your Colorado purchased marijuana
into Wyoming. So there is some issues here. But, Allen, obviously, just
in general, for your group, this is something you`ve been involved with for
a while, this seems like a landmark moment for you.
ALLEN ST. PIERRE, NATL. DIR., FOR REFORM OF MARIJUANA LAWS: Absolutely.
When the voters voted for this, we knew that the law - the Rubicon had been
crossed, but to actually see people line up and purchase the marijuana and
to have the federal government largely allow it, I think we largely on our
TV saw the end of prohibition this past week.
KORNACKI: So, what is the -- how big a test, I guess, the question Then is
Colorado. I mean is there potential [ that something could go wrong here,
that might stall the momentum this seems to be getting?
JOHN FUGELSANG, COMMENTATOR & COMEDIAN: Oh, much like the ACA rollout, it
is inevitable, something will go wrong, someone is going to smack their car
into a bush and that will be used as a bloody scalp to say this was wrong
all along. But the fact is, this is capitalism, regulated capitalism, this
is democracy, this is conservative values. Washington grew hemp.
Jefferson grew hemp. You could pay your taxes for over 200 years in this
country in industrial hemp. I think that`s where we get the expression
"joined return". When cannabis was criminalized in the `30s, the AMA went
on the record against it, because they knew of its health properties as a
painkiller. It was used in colonial days as a painkiller. So, I say
decriminalizing cannabis and not locking people up for a flower that grew
here long before white people arrived is the conservative point of view.
KORNACKI: Though there is -- the American Medical Association, in a report
from November 2013, it`s just, I guess, two months ago, basically warns
that heavy cannabis use in adolescents causes persistent impairments in
neurocognitive performance and I.Q., and use is associated with increased
rates of anxiety, mood and psychotic thought disorders. So, Doctor, I mean
there is case - at least when it comes to adolescents, I know the law here
in Colorado is, it`s basically you have to be 21 to buy it. I think that
in Denver, at least, they`ve decriminalized it if you`re 18. But I guess
there is an issue here, too, of are you encouraging young people to be
JEFFREY REYNOLDS, LONG ISLAND COUNCIL ALCOHOLISM AND DRUG DEPENDENCE: You
know, I think those of us who work in addictions and our centers are filled
these days with folks who are struggling with opiate addiction worry about
the fallout. What the cleanup look like. What are the public health
consequences of moving towards legalization? And in the past 30 or 40
years, we have gained a lot more knowledge about the developing brain,
particularly as it relates to adolescents and its impact on young people.
So at a time when we`ve made historic gains related to smoking, reducing
car crashes, secondhand smoke, I worry that we give all of those gains
Look, you know, I`m probably the sole guy here set out to defend the war on
drugs. That`s crazy. We all know that hasn`t worked. But what I`d say is
as we move towards this and we run towards legalization, we have to be
mindful of the potential public health consequences and the fallout for
families and, quite frankly, the impact on the health care delivery system,
which we have seen has been really monumental when it comes to alcohol.
KORNACKI: Do you think that we should be moving towards the legalization
of marijuana or do you think that`s something that should stay illegal?
REYNOLDS: Look, I think our experience with the criminal justice system
and marijuana has not been successful. At the same time, I worry about
legalization not only for those adult users. And, look, no one disputes
that legalization will increase use. You see people lined up outside ready
to do it. I worry about the message that it sends young people. Are we
saying to young people, look, it is legal and, in fact, it is medicine and
good for you and do we begin to pay the consequences for that? Are we
leading them down a false road? So, no, I`m not for legalization. I think
it will have a huge impact on young people. At a time when we`re trying to
find a way to better educate young people, have them do better
academically, compete better as a country, I look at this and say, what is
the potential gain, people can get high, what is the potential downside,
you have a whole bunch of young people who wind up addicted, you have a
whole bunch of car crashes you didn`t have before, and you suffer some
public health consequences along the way. The world will not stop spinning
on its axis as a result of this, but there is going to be some downside and
are we prepared to deal with that downside.
KORNACKI: One of the other upsides of this, I guess, at least according to
the state of Colorado, we should just put it, they`re estimating, they have
slapped a 25 percent sales tax at these dispensaries, as on top of -
there`s already an existing 2.9 percent sales tax in Colorado. They`ve
added a 25 percent tax on this. They`re estimating they`re going to get
$67 million a year in revenue because of this. $27.5 million of that
revenue was going to go to schools. So, we just put that piece out there.
But Lizz, how do you think about what the doctor just said?
LIZZ WINSTEAD, AUTHOR & COMEDIAN: Well, first of all, I would say all of
the statistics about, you know, marijuana, reducing the I.Q. and all that
kind of thing also happens to people who listen to Ted Cruz. So, let`s
just be clear on that. But I think that when I hear these arguments, a lot
of times it sounds like people have never started smoking pot before, and
we`re at this new place. And I know for myself that the strains of pot,
what is happening with pot, like I smoked pot in high school, and then I
haven`t smoked pot for a long time and I smoked pot a couple of years ago
and it was really different. And to be able to regulate how it is grown,
the strains of it, I think regulating any substance and then being able to
tax it is a good thing.
REYNOLDS: But it hasn`t worked with alcohol. So when we talk about the
potential windfall here, alcohol costs this country $224 billion per year.
That a buck 90 per drink. We`re spending - we are not getting that back in
KORNACKI: You mean across country.
REYNOLDS: Across the country. Health care costs, lost productivity,
treatment cost. Alcohol has had a huge impact on public health in this
country. So, when we use alcohol as a model, and ...
KORNACKI: I think the question, for anybody who watches like boardwalk
empire right to be right now, is - is we have a lot of problems in this
country caused by alcohol, but didn`t we have more under prohibition?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
REYNOLDS: Maybe, although, times have change - so we can`t second guess as
to what that would look like. The point is, the notion that taxes will
help us clean up the wreckage hasn`t shown it with alcohol and quite
frankly folks who provide addiction services typically underfunded
nonprofits, are struggling to keep up with the demand for services. We
look at this and say, OK, so what does this mean to what we do? What does
it mean to school based education? What does it mean to addiction
services? Well, some folks can pick up a joint and have no issues with it,
one in ten adults will develop an addiction, when you talk about
adolescents, one in six. Relatively small percentage, but those folks will
suffer consequences and are we educating them to the potential downside to
ST. PIERRE: The fulcrum, for which I think this entire discussion rests
upon regarding alcohol since we`re not going to ban alcohol again or for
that matter tobacco, is that the use versus abuse. You`re right. For
those of us who use these products safely on our homes or in private
settings, this should not be a concern to the government. But nobody,
certainly, advocates, don`t advance the idea of misusing and abusing these
substances and we should certainly have morals and values and civil and
criminal penalties that deter such.
FUGELSANG: And the banner in the footage, which you just showed said 21
and over. No one is encouraging or enabling use of young people lawfully.
And I do think that it is not quite the same as in terms of a public health
menace as alcohol has been, back in the colonial days, the biggest drug
problem then is the same as today, alcohol. But no one has ever died of a
cannabis overdose. And by the way, great brownies today, Steve.
REYNOLDS: Allen brought those.
KORNACKI: Some kind of Starbucks or something. We will -- I want to pick
this up. Because there was an interesting -- some interesting columns,
some interesting commentary appeared this week on this issue and it set off
a round a sort of interesting admissions from people. So, I want to talk
about how sort of the pundit class thinks about this issue a little bit and
we`ll talk about that when we come back.
KORNACKI: So the -- with these -- the dispensaries opening in Colorado
this week, it sort of reopened the national debate about legalization of
marijuana. A lot of national sort of opinion leaders weighed in. And I
think the column that got the most attention this week was from David
Brooks in the "New York Times." And he was against it. But just to play a
clip of -- read a clip of it, he said in healthy societies, governments
want to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate prudent self-governing
citizenship n those societies, government subtly encourages the highest
pleasures like enjoying the arts or being in nature and discouraging lesser
pleasures like being stoned. And so he was - you know he was basically
saying, he started this column, he kind of admits, he says in my, you know,
in my early years, I admit my friends would ...
WINSTEAD: Scroll it.
KORNACKI: Smoke marijuana.
KORNACKI: But the he just sort of discovered it wasn`t compatible with
what he sees as sort of responsible, mature adulthood. I know the argument
got mocked a lot, but is there -- there is something to that, in general,
about we do set -- we do have a whole series of laws that are designed to
say, well, we don`t want people using crack cocaine, we don`t want people -
- there is something to the argument, isn`t there, Liz?
WINSTEAD: I think that as many David Brooks` columns proves, David Brooks
take his life and then purports it to be everyone`s experience. And being
someone who works in the arts, and having there be an either/or thing, I
would say that that`s ridiculous, and I think it is ridiculous also for
David Brooks, it is very -- it shows his privilege, and his privilege
should be checked in this article by saying, I was able to just put it down
and do this and that and the other thing. I outgrew it. And all of this
stuff. It is, like, you want to know what? Lucky you, then. You can`t
make it both ways. It can be a gateway or it can -- I was lucky enough to
FUGELSANG: I think David would benefit from a quick junket and a stop - a
junket to the Netherlands and a stop at a coffee shop and a Van Gogh
museum, and see what he says afterwards.
KORNACKI: For -- there is - the issue that you are raising there for -- it
gets to the class system in this country, where if you grow up privileged
in this country, chances are you had your years of experimentation with
marijuana or whatever, and you`re probably not going to get caught, you are
probably going to be able to look back like David Brooks does in his
column. But if we have -- we have two graphs that are telling. Use of
marijuana by race. You see it is basically even. Now look at this.
Marijuana arrests, and you see when you look at the arrest rate, just - I
guess, Jeffrey, that is one of the questions that`s raised here, by the
idea of keeping this illegal, you`re also sort of supporting and propping
up the system that has been grossly unfair in terms of who pays the price
REYNOLDS: Look, as a treatment professional, we never advocated
incarceration as the solution to what we now know is a brain disease. And
clearly we have a long way to go. When it comes to marijuana, it is a
tricky question, because there aren`t good service structures in place to
educate people about marijuana use. So it`s almost like if you`re an
Oxycontin or Vicodin user, you go to treatment and other than that, we
leave you alone. We need something in the middle that says to the chronic
marijuana user, who is 17, who is smoking every day, that person won`t
necessarily qualify for treatment, but that person needs something.
Without intervention, they`re going to run into problems.
I would say, you know, we should be reinvesting into the treatment system,
take all the money we`re wasting on incarcerating young black men, and put
that into the treatment system. That`s one of the things we all agree
upon, to say look, the war on drugs has been a failure. The law
enforcement response to a public health problem is inappropriate and
wasteful. How at this point though do we begin to reprogram some of those
dollars into a system that provides support and care for young people who
KORNACKI: Is your idea -- I`m just trying to piece together what it would
look like. Someone who still wants marijuana to be illegal, doesn`t want
to see people getting arrested, doesn`t want to see their records for life
ruined for this. Are you saying you pay a civil fine, mandatory --
REYNOLDS: Civil fines and education. There was a mind-set years ago that
mandatory treatment didn`t work. It does. We now know that it does. It
is not even so much treatment, it is education. We have got a program we
take young people who get jammed up on low-level marijuana charges and
educate them about marijuana use and do some goal setting with them. It is
not treatment per se, but it is some intervention along the way. Someone
taps them on the shoulder and says this is the road you`re on, is this
really the road you want to be on? Sometimes the answer is yes, and
sometimes it`s no. Not enough community support for those folks who want
to make some different choices. And as the economy has tightened up, those
kinds of services in communities are less and less and less. So I worry
about let`s run toward legalization, let`s lift the ban on this, without
having some support in place for young people who struggle.
FUGELSANG: Much like alcohol, what support systems do we have in place for
17-year-olds who are drinking every weekend?
REYNOLDS: Not enough.
FUGELSANG: I agree. I think it is great that all of us, and I`m sure
David Brooks would agree, incarceration is not a viable option, that
treatment should be available. I enjoyed the David Brooks piece. It took
me about three reads before I realized it wasn`t by the Onion, where
(inaudible) no one is ever proud of anything they did on marijuana -- I
think when McCartney hears "Sergeant Pepper," he feels some pride, quite
frankly. But I think David Brooks doesn`t offer any other solutions. One
of the greatest critiques of the Obama administration in the first term was
that the single greatest broken promise was that they would not interfere
with the California dispensaries, and of course we know the DOJ did exactly
the opposite. So considering we haven`t heard this president yet use the
words, "prison industrial complex," I think the graphs like the one you
just showed shows the inherent morality in not locking people up.
ST. PIERRE: At the same time, this president has taken the foot off the
gas on the drug war and marijuana more than any president.
FUGELSANG: Indeed he has.
ST. PIERRE: Much to the chagrin of some. But there is no doubt that he`s
the most progressive president on cannabis since Carter.
KORNACKI: We`ll pick that point up after the break, about where the
politics of this are going at the federal level and in some interesting
state developments. We`ll pick that up and play a clip from Obama on this
subject right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA WALTERS: Do you think that marijuana should be legalized?
OBAMA: I wouldn`t go that far. But what I think is that at this point
Washington and Colorado, you`ve seen the voters speak on this issue. And
as it is, you know, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to
criminal prosecutions. It does not make sense from a prioritization point
of view for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has
already said that under state law, that`s legal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, a pretty important statement by the president, just over a
year ago, it was right after Colorado and Washington passed those ballot
initiatives to legalize recreational use and sale in their states, the
question is, of course, what Obama is basically talking about and what the
administration is doing right now, it is almost like prosecutorial
discretion. He`s basically telling the DOJ, you know, kind of look the
other way on this one. It`s not an official change of law. What is
interesting is, there is a House bill right now, it has got a bipartisan
list of sponsors that would basically stop all federal law enforcement
action against any state that chooses to legalize marijuana. If you look
at the list of sponsors on this, you go, Steve Stockman from Texas, you
know, probably the most conservative member of the House, is on this, Dana
Rohrabacher, California, Justin Amash of Michigan, Don Young, Alaska. You
do not think -- it seems like there is some very weird kind of bipartisan
coalitions forming on this issue that we ...
ST. PIERRE: In the 20 years I`ve been working on this, people used to try
to cast this as a liberal issue. And we are nonpartisan as we - by
necessity have to be. But this is now a truly nonpartisan issue. The
Brookings Institute paper, white paper came out this past April from E.J.
Dionne and Galston and they indicate that not only this is a trend that`s
going to keep moving forward like gay marriage, but it is bipartisan and it
cuts across all demographics.
KORNACKI: What is the appeal to somebody like Steve Stockman in Texas? Is
it just like a states` rights issue?
ST. PIERRE: It`s purely states` rights. Liberty, personal autonomy, self-
WINSTEAD: If you`re high enough, he seems sane.
FUGELSANG: Less government regulation.
ST. PIERRE: Yeah.
KORNACKI: So, because you have that -- Rand Paul is teaming up, another
piece of legislation just working the way -- working its way through right
now. But I don`t know if it will get through, this Rand Paul and Pat
Leahy, Democrat from Vermont, had teamed up, and it`s not for legalization,
but it`s just to give judges discretion to make sure that this sort of
arrests are not part of somebody`s criminal record. There are things
happening at the legislative level federally. Do you expect we`re going to
see, you know, in the wake of Colorado and Washington, John, do you think
that`s the next step, that there`s going to be some federal action?
FUGELSANG: I think the next step will be seeing what happens with Alaska
and Oregon this year, actually. But I do think that in the case of Rand
Paul, I applaud him consistently for what he and his dad had both said,
although there were reports, he told the group of evangelical ministers he
doesn`t support full decriminalization.
KORNACKI: No, he says he does ...
FUGELSANG: Interesting question for him on the campaign trail in 2016.
WINSTEAD: Well, and I think you have to consistently - you know,
decriminalization seems to be the way to go, because why should your
criminal record be tainted because you smoked pot in an area code versus
another area code.
FUGELSANG: That language is the way to go. I mean stop saying
legalization. When you say decriminalization, you`re saying let`s stop
locking people up for something that was a consensual ...
KORNACKI: Right. And 17 - 17 states have that, what it actually means
practically in most of these states, I mean Alaska, there is no fine right
now for it. In other states, though, it means it is a civil penalty,
you`re fined 500 bucks, you`re fined a thousand bucks, you get a ticket,
something like that. I think 17 states have gone in that direction. We
have the news this morning, the big news this morning is here in the state
of New York, Andrew Cuomo moving now towards medical marijuana, but it
looks like the proposal, it is a very sort of conservative version.
ST. PIERRE: I would suggest this is the political blowback from the West
Coast. Here on the East Coast, all of the medical marijuana programs are
very limited in scope, like New Jersey only allows five retail outlets and
Connecticut, they`re going only sell it through pharmacies. And here the
governor is talking about 20 hospitals. So, it is a honing of the program,
but an acknowledgment that marijuana is medicine.
REYNOLDS: It is a gateway law to much bigger ...
KORNACKI: That`s what I kind of wonder about Jeff, you know. We can think
back to the late `90s, when we started seeing the idea of medical marijuana
take off. I think California might have been first.
ST. PIERRE: `96.
KORNACKI: It was `96 in California. So, here we are, 18 years later. And
you look at the momentum on this issue. How it has kind of grown. It`s
not just medical now. Now, it`s states saying you can sell this
recreationally. Is this -- do you -- I know you don`t want to see it
legalized, but do you see long-term momentum on this that makes it
inevitable that we`re going to get there, and this is a 50-state thing?
REYNOLDS: Yeah, look, I think there has been a significant change. I
think the issues around medical marijuana are somewhat different because it
is my belief that this emphasis on smoked pot is medicine, has stymied our
research around pharmaceutical grade high CBD low THC medications that are
approved by the FDA. And I think the California experiment, I mean here in
New York, when we talk about medical marijuana, all I`ve got to do, is hold
up the posters from California and say this is coming to a town near you.
So I think had that been done differently it might have changed the
outcome. My concern here is that we kind of go full scale ahead with this.
I hope in states like Colorado that there are resources to do the kind of
evaluation that we need to say, OK, so, look, we did this.
What were the consequences? Positive or negative? I think there are some
potential negative consequences, but I want to make sure that we`re
measuring that and that we don`t repeat whatever mistakes we have made, for
example, in California, here in New York, any mistakes we make in Colorado
in other states. There is always a downside to policy proposals and
there`s going to be downsides for this. The question is, do we have the
ability and political will to measure them and do something about them, and
I will say, that while this is being cast as an ideological shift, this is
about business. There is a ton of money to be made around the legalization
of marijuana. We`re not losing this fight because Alan and I are going toe
to toe. This fight is evolving because there is a huge amount of money
behind this, none of which Allen or I ...
KORNACKI: And it is money that is shifting, too - it`s money that`s going
to - it`s going to be taxes and regulated in a way. That was in the black
market before, so there might be some black market losers on this. But
anyway, you`re right.
WINSTEAD: The industrial complex, how much are they fighting against this?
You know that that money is getting poured in, you know ...
FUGELSANG: Well, those poor white and black guys are going to lock
themselves up ...
KORNACKI: Please. Go ahead, it`s the last one.
FUGELSANG: It is a great front in the propaganda war. We grew up being
told pot makes you violent and lazy, which is the only anticrime plan that
works, by the way, making violent people ...
FUGELSANG: What we`re going to see now is how much do we talk about
liberty, how much do we talk about actual freedom and how much do we talk
about not locking people up for nonviolent consensual behavior? Of course,
there will be negative consequences as with any new revelation - as with
any new law. But the fact is, we have to stop putting people in jail for
ST. PIERRE: That`s going to unite our conservatives and liberal brothers
KORNACKI: That does seem to be the consensus here, even among most people
I`ve heard who want to keep this illegal. They say, look, there are gross
disparities here that need to be addressed in terms of the criminal
ST. PIERRE: Conservative point.
KORNACKI: There is common ground, anyway. I want to thank Allen St.
Pierre with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws,
Jeffrey Reynolds, from the group Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug
Dependence. And shifting gears now, can you sum up liberalism in just four
words? One of our guests says he can do it in just two. That`s next.
KORNACKI: There is 1992, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was on his way to
the White House and there was a lot populism in his message that fall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON: I have news for the forces of greed and the defenders of the
status quo, your time has come and gone. It`s time for a change in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But after a big Republican resurgence in the 1994 midterm
elections, Clinton famously triangulated and distanced himself from his own
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: The era of big government is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And fast-forward 18 years this past week and it looks like there
is no hard feelings on the left about that. Bill Clinton was swearing in
New York`s progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio this week and if Clinton now
wants to be more identified with the left, that`s probably a sign that
liberalism within the Democratic Party is resurgent. We will talk about
KORNACKI: I know it is not often on this show that I reference a classic
game show. But I promise there is some political relevance here. "Name
That Tune." It aired for a long time in the `50s, in the `70s. It was
revived in the `80s, and the premise was simple: the contestant who could
name that tune in the fewest notes won. Kathie Lee Gifford was even one of
the people who is saying those notes on that show for a while. Well,
Twitter doesn`t deal in musical notes, it deals in characters, 140 or less.
More broadly, the words those characters create, and on Twitter this week,
one of the most fascinating means that developed was the trending
As thing often go, there`s both an excuse for conservatives to define how
they see liberalism, like Senator Ted Cruz who tweeted, "tax more spend
more." Lots of progressives also used it as a chance to define who they
are. This Democratic consultant defined liberalism as, quote, "moving
America forward together." And our guest, John Fugelsang said he needed
only two notes to name that tune. He tweeted that he needed only two words
to define liberalism. Those two words, "prematurely mainstream," but then
he actually used 32 words to explain it.
KORNACKI: Quoting John, "Ten years ago I was called a liberal because I
supported gay marriage and medical marijuana while opposing the Iraq
invasion and Bush`s economic plan. It turns out I was prematurely
mainstream." There is that two words. "The Washington Post" E.J. Dionne
used the hash tag when he sent out this column this week, in which he
explained that moderates need not be afraid of a liberal resurgence. He
wrote, "the re-emergence of a Democratic left will be one of the major
stories of 2014, moderates don`t be alarmed. The return of a viable vocal
left will actually be good news for the political center. For the long
time, the American conversation has been terribly distorted because an
active, uncompromising political right hasn`t had to face a comparably
influential left. As a result, our entire debate has been dragged in a
conservative direction, meaning the center has been pulled that way, too.
So, to create a real center, you need a real left. Talk about all of this,
I want to bring in Al From, who founded the Democratic Leadership Council,
group he led for nearly a quarter of a century. His new book is, "The New
Democrats and the Return to Power," about that era, comedian and author
Lizz Winstead is back at the table. MSNBC contributor Perry Bacon Jr.
joins us. And he`s the politics editor at the Grio.com. I should tell
people where you are from.
KORNACKI: And a median and liberal commentator John Fugelsang is back.
So, John, we`ll start with you, because you`ve inspired this segment in a
way. But do you see -- you mentioned those, you know, three or four issues
in your tweet there, you say -- you and people who sort of share your
values felt ahead of your time, you`re looking pack right now. Do you feel
we`re living in a moment that is different than ten years ago where
liberalism, there is more wider acceptance, openness to liberalism, is
there a liberal resurgence going on or is it just now that there is a whole
new set of issues that you feel ten years from now you`ll be saying I was
ahead of my time?
FUGELSANG: Well, there sure isn`t progressive talk radio, I`ll tell you
that, things are worse than ever for progressive talk on the air. But I do
think that the entire history of progressive social values in this country
and elsewhere are that which is radical then becomes controversial and
debated and then becomes acceptable and finally becomes taken for granted
from ending slavery to desegregation to Medicare. You know, I think if I
were to pick a different two words to describe liberalism, I would say
Eisenhower Republican. More and more I find myself going to Ike in the
1956 GOP platform when talking with our Republican friends, big government
spending programs ...
FUGELSANG: Highway plan, a high taxation rate on the wealthiest of
Americans, who could afford that high taxation rate, riding the socialist
wave of the G.I. bill. Eisenhower was a pro-union, pro-infrastructure, pro
-working man Republican and I think that that`s the sort of example we need
to shine back and remind our friends that, you know, you want liberalism in
four words, Lincoln, MLK, Jesus, Springsteen.
KORNACKI: Well, out from - but you know now -- people know the Democratic
leadership, the basic history, you guys started this in 1985, this was a
few months after Walter Mondale had lost 49 states as the Democratic
nominee. It began as a group of primarily of southern and western
Democrats. And Bill Clinton came out of the Democratic Leadership Council
and a lot of what the DLC was about at that time, was about giving people
an idea of, hey, what you associate with liberalism, what you -- you know,
you associate George McGovern and Walter Mondale, and things - these sorts
of things, you are saying, you wanted to move the party away from that. Do
you -- did you consider what you did with the DLC? Sort of do you consider
yourself a liberal and where do you assess liberalism now?
AL FROM, FOUNDER, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: First of all, I came out
of the war on poverty. I consider myself a liberal. What I think we did
is really saved the liberalism. You got to remember where we were in the
1980s. Democrats suffered the three worst elections in the history of any
party in the history of our country. We won a lower percentage of
electoral votes in three consecutive elections than any party has ever won
since the advent of modern parties in 1828. Liberalism was about ready to
go the way of the Whigs. So, we tried to modernize it, we tried to
reconnect it with what I think are the main values of the Democratic Party.
Opportunity for all. Make it a party of upward mobility again. That`s why
we grew the economy, created 22.5 million new jobs. Moved more people out
of poverty than I think any decade, but one. And probably the decade I
work (inaudible) poverty in American history. Restoring John Kennedy`s
civic responsibility, the idea that you have to give something back to the
country, national service was a big part of it, moving people from welfare
to work, but also modernizing government and that`s a really important
point. Liberals, I believe, believe in government. We`re not -- we don`t
want to get rid of government. And Clinton you showed the clip of Clinton
saying you`re a big government and so -- I hope the era of big ideas isn`t
But what I believe for liberals, government is the agent of our collective
wills, it`s the way we help people help themselves and each other. And so,
it is incumbent on us to make government work. That was one of the main
tenets of Franklin Roosevelt. In the beginning of liberalism. And
whenever government loses credibility, we are in trouble. The liberal
movement is in trouble and we`re in trouble as a party.
KORNACKI: One thing and, Perry, that I kind of wonder about, in terms of
how liberals define themselves now, where liberalism is going within the
Democratic Party and just as a political force in general, is sort of -- it
is ironic because we have Bill Clinton this week at the inauguration of,
like, the preeminent liberal in the country right now, one of them, Bill de
Blasio here in New York. And Bill Clinton was the guy`s president - it`s a
complicated legacy. I don`t want to say he was just a conservative
Democrat. I mean there were liberal and conservative aspects to his
presidency, but this was a president who declared the era of big government
over, who forged a real partnership between the Democratic Party and Wall
Street, that, you know, Glass - Steagall deregulation occurred on Bill
Clinton`s watch. There were a lot of things that I think liberals today
look back at and say, we didn`t like that part of the Clinton years. Is
liberalism moving in a more sort of populist direction on economic issues
now? Is that taking ...
PERRY BACON JR., POLITICAL EDITOR: I think that`s the way I was saying.
As I mean Bill Clinton was a reaction to the 1980s and Ronald Reaganism.
So, that`s part of why - that`s why his movement to the center looked that
way. Versus now you`re seeing as Bill de Blasio, Elisabeth Warren reaction
to the Tea Partyism. Like 2010, 2010 saw this big shift toward
conservative economic values and now you`re seeing a bit of a backlash
toward that. The Republicans ran on the sequester a few months ago and
you`ve seen more Democrats, more comfortable talking about populist style
ideas. What you`re seeing now is the 2012 Obama campaign was pretty much
about Mitt Romney is bad. Versus now you`re seeing a real kind of a
formulation around this idea of inequality being the center of what
Democrats talk about. This is our new kind of -- if you`re going to --
Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio I think are going to be thought leaders
of the party right now and they`re definitely driving a message of - and
the president is saying this in some ways too, inequality is a defining
challenge of the Democratic Party. And that is a shift from recent times.
WINSTEAD: And I guess I would just like to ask or throw in, we talked
about Elizabeth Warren being the reaction to the Tea Party and the Clinton
administration being the reaction to Reagan. But what about, like,
progressives like me sometimes look at the DLC and say it allowed this
corporatization and power to be taken out of the hands of, like, real
citizens. And I feel like one thing that happened in that move was that
corporations and the Democratic Party really, really left in bed together
in a way that was positive in some levels, but then also kind of negative
on some levels.
KORNACKI: I want to get that Al`s response to that. I want to take a
break first and then we will.
KORNACKI: All right, Lizz was just talking about how sort of the DLC
Democrats, the Democrats of the `90s under Bill Clinton and sort of this
alliance with corporate America and Al just to get your response to that.
FROM: Well, first of all, there was a lot of focus on inequality in our
message. Key principle of the new Democrat movement is nobody works full
time year round to support family ought to be poor. And in 1993, we passed
the expansion, the earned income tax credit, which was the largest
antipoverty program in the history of the country, with more people out of
poverty into the middle class than any program in history. Did we have a
close relationship with business? We worked with business because you`ve
got to grow the economy. The challenge for Democrats is to grow the
economy and then make sure government works. Because we want to be the
party of upward mobility. When I grew up in Indiana, if you wanted to get
ahead, you were a Democrat, we had to restore that again. And you got to
do that by growing jobs in the private sector. Paul Tsongas once told me
that the problem with Democrats is that we spend so much time worrying
about passing out the golden eggs, we forget to worry about the health of
the goose. In the 1990s, the challenge was to get the goose healthy again
so we would have more to pass out. And to me that`s sort of the predicate
for what is happening now.
KORNACKI: You get bonus points in the show for bringing up Paul Tsongas.
KORNACKI: First of all.
BACON JR.: But the real tension here. Hillary Clinton gave a speech a few
weeks ago to the executives of Goldman Sachs, in which she talked about how
all this bank bashing, we need to stop doing that. You know, it`s too much
of that. We`re too populist right now. And I think this is a real tension
between her. She is basically saying, Elizabeth Warren, is saying, is sort
of wrong. And that is a real debate here. I don`t think you can run -- be
the candidate of the party of inequality while telling executives of
Goldman Sachs, that things are not as - things are not as bad ...
BACON JR. And that`s a real debate ...
KORNACKI: That`s what people are trying to figure out about the Clintons,
also Bill and Hillary are at the Bill de Blasio inaugural, and is this, you
know, Bill is sort of trying to ....
FUGELSANG: And that`s the wrap. I mean I appreciate you point, Mr. From
about, you know, Carter, Mondale and Dukakis not getting in those horrible
victory -- losses, those may have been more about the charisma of the
messengers than the actual validity of the message itself. But in the case
of the Clintons, the one thing I noticed watching Bill Clinton back in the
`90s and embracing NAFTA, which I get it, it helped him get elected, I`m
glad we don`t have President Dole as well, but also in the repeal of Glass-
Steagal, the more Bill Clinton moved to the right, the more the right hated
him, the more the left loved him. His popularity increased as he got away
from tradition liberalism which for a lot of young people of my generation
was a way of saying, so, it is not really about ideology, it is about who
has got the job.
KORNACKI: Well, that`s a fascinating thing too. I think we have the stat
here somewhere. But it was -- they look at Bill Clinton`s approval rating,
rating among Democrats right now. It`s like 94 to 4. And you wouldn`t
expect him to be unpopular, but, again, given where the Democratic Party
seems to be, where the energy in the Democratic Party seems to be coming
from on economic issues and given that - it`s a complicated legacy, I
KORNACKI: We`ve got to go. Ten seconds, Al. Last word.
FROM: You know, NAFTA and a number of the trade agreements and his budget
policy and his investment policy, public investment policy were all about
growing the economy and creating 22.5 million new jobs and creating more
opportunity. That`s why liberals liked it.
WINSTEAD: But the telecommunication bill was really, really a problem.
That`s all I have to say.
KORNACKI: And hat is the essential conflict, I think that liberals have
right there, you just heard it, with Bill Clinton and his legacy, we are
still arguing about it now. I want to thank - and we`ll have plenty of
chances in 2016. I want to thank Al From, author of "The New Democrats,"
for joining us today. We`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: Maybe it seems colder than normal to you this Sunday morning.
If it does, there is a reason for that. It turns out it has not been this
cold for decades. In fact, meteorologists say that if you`re under the age
of 40, you have never seen or felt it this cold before.
Take a look at this map. This is just how cold it is in the country right
now. The deep freeze the country is locked in, all because of something
that is called a polar vortex. This is what it looks like right now in
Indianapolis, where the prediction today is the low will be 15 degrees
below zero. That is also the predicted low for Chicago, too, where we can
see that is a balmy 17 degrees right now. Windchills in the purple parts
of the country, Grand Forks looks to be at about 21 below right now, might
reach 70 degrees below today. We wonder how it will be in Green Bay.
There is supposed to be a playoff game in Green Bay, Wisconsin, later this
afternoon. See how many fans actually show up and bear that cold. We
suggest staying in as much as possible today, watching lots of television,
preferably cable news. There is a suggestion for you. Including a freeze
of another kind. Because if you opened up the New York Times editorial
page on New Year`s Day, you may have encountered a name, a prominently
featured name, that no one had heard of a year earlier, a name no one had
heard of well into 2013, a name connected to a man who recently as June was
known only as a mysterious figure who provided the Guardian newspaper and
the Washington Post with information, with top secret highly classified
information about invasive and potentially illegal spying programs the
United States government was engaging in. Programs with names like Prism
and Boundless Informant -- huge data mining operations, collecting phone
records and personal information on millions around the world and in the
And then this mysterious figure revealed himself. His name is Edward
Snowden, and at 29 years old, he was a computer systems administrator for
Booz Allen Hamilton, it`s a contractor for the National Security Agency.
In the months that followed, he continued to leak information about
America`s intelligence gathering operations, explosive secrets, secrets
about how the NSA may have broken federal privacy laws, may have misled the
courts overseeing intelligence operations, about how the director of
national intelligence seemed to mislead Congress in this exchange with
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden in March of last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WYDEN, D-OREGON: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on
millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: No, sir.
WYDEN: It does not?
CLAPPER: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently
perhaps collect, but not wittingly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And more, much more. The revelations produced by Edward Snowden
didn`t just implicate the NSA in questionable domestic spying, he spilled
all sorts of secrets about intelligence operations overseas. Some
involving America`s enemies. A presidential panel was even formed to
review the leaked information and to suggest reforms. Practically
everything we learned about America`s surveillance infrastructure this year
we learned because Edward Snowden stole the information and made it public.
And to do this, he has paid a real price. He fled the country, initially
to Hong Kong, then to Russia, where he`s evading U.S. charges of espionage
with a temporary one-year grant of asylum. While there, he has continued
to leak information, much to the consternation of American authorities.
Much of it to journalist and activist Glenn Greenwald, who said that
ratcheting up pressure on them only steels their resolve to publish more
damaging information. The president has clearly been frustrated by
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Because of the manner in which these disclosures took place, in
dribs and drabs, oftentimes shaded in a particular way, and because some of
the constraints that we have had in terms of declassifying information and
getting it out there, that that trust in how many safeguards exist and how
these programs are run has been diminished. So what is going to be
important is to build that back up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: This past Wednesday, New Year`s Day, the New York Times issued
their first editorial of the year, and it was about how the Obama
administration can start rebuilding that trust in the intelligence
community by going easier, somewhat easy on Edward Snowden. It says,
quote, "considering the enormous value of the information he`s revealed,
and the abuses he`s exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of
permanent exile, fear and flight. It is time for the United States to
offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow
him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment."
They got some support from high places. Anne-Marie Slaughter, who from
2009 to 2011 served as director of policy planning for the State
Department, took to Twitter Thursday morning and wrote, "I agree with the
New York Times on Snowden." Others have reservations. They feel that here
is someone who took damaging intelligence, made it public, ran into the
arms of hostile powers, who are not any friendlier to free speech and
political dissent. And the bigger concern many have is for the precedent
it all sets, how would such a decision affect the country`s ability to keep
and maintain secrets in the future. Unless his position has changed, the
person in position to show leniency toward Snowden does not seem so
inclined. In August, the president said he thinks of Snowden much more
like a fugitive than a hero.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I don`t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot. Mr. Snowden has been
charged with three felonies. If in fact, he believes that what he did was
right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before
the court with a lawyer, and make his case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And to discuss what is next in the Snowden saga, I want to bring
in Michael Cohen. He is the fellow with the Century Foundation and
columnist for "The Guardian." Miriam Elder, she is the foreign editor for
Buzzfeed.com. MSNBC contributor and political editor of TheGrio.com, Perry
Bacon Jr., is still here. Spencer Ackerman, U.S. national security editor
for "The Guardian" is here as well. "Guardian" heavy crew this morning,
but that`s a big part of this story, so that only makes sense.
Spencer, I`ll start with you. I think we can all acknowledge that when it
comes to sort of the revelations about domestic surveillance that have
gotten so much attention this year, that have caused so much debate, we
wouldn`t know anything about that if it wasn`t for Edward Snowden. You can
make a strong case I think there was a valuable service provided by that.
At the same time, he released the documents that he released, got into
international -- secrets about international spying. That had nothing to
do with domestic surveillance. Some people make the case had no business
being out there in public at all. He went to a country, Russia, with a
horrible record on human rights and on free speech and actually sort of
praised their record on human rights, and there`s an open question about
how much information he shared with Russia. So when you think of Edward
Snowden right now and you think of these calls for some kind of clemency or
some kind of leniency, how do you balance it?
SPENCER ACKERMAN, THE GUARDIAN: Well, first, I think I would be under
presumption of inconsistency or lack of candor if I didn`t say obviously I
support clemency for him. He was our source. So I can`t not. Let`s get
that out of the way.
On a personal level, when you look at the totality of what Snowden has
leaked, it speaks to something that I think the American domestic political
establishment often wants to sort of rule out of discussion, which is the
question of whether the U.S. has the right and the ability -- outside of
whether it`s legal, because it is -- to spy on vast amounts of the rest of
the world. And there, it seems like politicians, journalists and others
sort of just want to say, like, let`s write that off.
A great deal of the rest of the world is not willing to write that off. I
think you do have to factor that in to your assessment of Snowden, that it
is a little bit tricky to -- in parochial to say that only the leaks about
domestic surveillance are quote/unquote, legitimate leaks. There are some
open questions about the legitimate scope as a policy decision for the vast
amount of information accumulated from all over the world.
And one other thing, something that also tends to get left out of political
discussions of Snowden is the revelations he`s put out about the state of
the Internet, that the NSA surveills, that the level of collection, how
deep it is, how embedded it is with certain companies, sometimes wittingly
and oftentimes not, which when you look at people from the tech sector,
when you look at people from the tech business sector, they find
tremendously disturbing and are trying to curb. Sometimes for their own
interests and other times not.
KORNACKI: We had, so Fred Kaplan, who writes a lot about national security
for Slate, he wrote on Friday, basically why Edward Snowden won`t get and
shouldn`t get any kind of clemency. One of the things he said was he
looked at -- said among other things, Snowden leaked information about the
NSA`s interception of communications of Taliban fighters in Pakistan`s
Northwest Territories, about NSA e-mail intercepts for intelligence, and
what is going on inside Iran, and he revealed that the NSA routinely hacks
into hundreds of computers in China and Hong Kong. And he concluded from
that, he said "these operations have nothing to do with domestic
surveillance or even spying on allies. They are not illegal, improper or
in the context of the 21st century international politics, immoral.
Exposing such operations has nothing to do with whistle-blowing." Spencer
was just talking about this a minute ago, but Mike, I imagine you have a
different take on that.
MICHAEL COHEN, THE CENTURY FOUNDATION: The thing is, you can`t look at
this in a vacuum. The argument that he should receive clemency because he
revealed information about domestic spying ignores all the other material
that he released. The fact is the NSA, the vast majority of what they do
is foreign intelligence signals gathering. That`s what they do. Small
part of that is anti-terrorism. A very small part. And if you look at the
leaks, a small part of the leaks had to do with terrorism. Most of it had
to do with legitimate intelligence gathering by the U.S. government. To
sound parochial, I hate to be overly parochial here, but I would actually
disagree with Spencer.
I think Snowden worked for the U.S. government, he signed an oath saying he
wouldn`t release these secrets, and he did. He should face prosecution
like anybody else should for that. The idea of giving him clemency in
advance, before we even know what he released, before we understand the
full scope of the impact of what he`s done, it is sort of like saying in
some sense that he committed six murders, one was in self-defense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Murder?
COHEN: I`m not saying he`s a murderer. Let`s be clear on that. To
everyone out there, I`m not saying he is a murderer. But let`s say as an
example, that if someone committed six murders and one was in self-defense,
he should have passed the other five. It doesn`t work that way. You can
get -- I certainly think there is a mitigating circumstance here that he
released information that I think is really important to be out there. The
bulk metadata material. But the flip side of it is that he also released
material that, you know, is legal, that the Congress has approved. That
(inaudible) has the right to conduct this kind of intelligence gathering.
I think in that sense --
KORNACKI: One of the issues here is the NSA official who sort of been
deputized to deal with the Snowden issue kind of put out there the idea of
maybe having some kind of plea agreement with him, maybe opening some kind
of discussions with him about returning him here, and I think President
Obama has distanced himself from that idea. But, Perry, it seems to me
that realistically speaking, if the country were to go down that road,
there needs to be substantial cooperation from Snowden in terms of exactly
how many documents does he have, who has he shared them with, what
conversations has he had with the Russians. I got to say, that`s what I
imagine the government would be looking for. Everything I have heard from
Snowden tells me he`s not going to want to cooperate at that level.
BACON: We are so far from any kind of clemency happening. Those are some
of the (inaudible) right there. Also the politics of it, for -- in my role
in the world is also this impossible, if the president did something like a
plea bargain within Edward Snowden, the House would start talking about
impeachment hearings is my guess. We`re so far away from - there is such a
strong disagreement among Republicans about what -- there is very few
Republicans that defend Edward Snowden at all. And then you have -- you
have the president himself, you look and listen to what he says very
carefully, he may change his policy about the NSA because of Edward
Snowden, but he doesn`t really sympathize with him at all. If you look at
his body language, there seems to be almost a visceral dislike of what
Edward Snowden has done, abuse, he`s violated the rule of law. In some
way, I just don`t see how maybe January 19TH, 2017, he`ll think
differently. But until then I think we`re very far from any kind of real
discussion of plea bargains or clemency.
KORNACKI: (inaudible), I also want to get Miriam in. I want to find out a
little bit too just about what life is like right now in Russia for Edward
Snowden and what will happen when the year long -- the clock is ticking on
his year over there. We want to find out more about that. We`ll pick it
up after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SNOWDEN: While the U.S. Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my
government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not
permitted to see, somehow legitimizes an illegal affair. These nations,
including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, have my gratitude
and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations
carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Edward Snowden in Russia a few months ago, and when he
said that, that caused a lot of people in the United States to sort of
wince a little bit, I think. Even people I think sympathetic to him. We
know the human rights record of Russia. We have these Olympics coming up,
we have been talking about the human rights record of Russia just on issue
of gay people, and it extends way beyond that. But Miriam, can you tell us
a little bit about, as sort of our resident Russian expert here, what life
has been like and is like for Edward Snowden in Russia right now, and what
we can expect, because he`s been granted this one-year stay there. Is it
expected they`ll boot him after a year, is it expected he can just extend
that and stay forever, what is his status over there like?
MIRIAM ELDER, BUZZFEED.COM: I don`t think there is a public discussion
started about that. But I wouldn`t be surprised if they extended his
asylum there. Putin hasn`t really given any indication he wants him
urgently out of there. As for what life is like for Snowden in Moscow, we
know incredibly little. Whatever we do know is leaked through a news
source that has incredibly close contacts with the security services, so
they present this picture that they want us to see, so there has been a
snapshot of him outside a supermarket or on a boat. Other than that, we
don`t know anything. We don`t know, is he in Moscow, is he outside of
Moscow, is he living in a hotel, does he live with minders. There`s
incredibly little that we know.
KORNACKI: What is it for Putin and the government of Russia in terms of
their domestic politics, is this something, is this like a lingering source
of kind of pride for them to have an American almost sort of defector in
ELDER: Yes. Absolutely. The Putin administration has - the Putin regime
or administration, whatever you want to call it - has lived for years with
American criticism about how it treats its own dissenters and its sort of
human rights advocates. And I think they take a lot of pleasure in
sheltering someone who they see as presenting that challenge to the U.S.
KORNACKI: It is a propaganda victory for them, if nothing else. Spencer,
you wanted to clarify something we said in the intro. I`ll just let you
get to that first.
ACKERMAN: When we talk about Snowden continuing to leak information, that
points to a fact not in evidence. Snowden has said through -- the people
who he`s closest to said he doesn`t possess these documents anymore.
Journalists have the troughs of information. We continue to mine them for
stories that we think are in the public interest or raises points
(inaudible) public debate. That does not mean that Snowden is like on
Tuesday, handing us another document and saying go publish this or
something like that.
KORNACKI: Do we know exactly who he shared all this information with and
who has had access to all this information? I think he said, in Russia he
hasn`t shared anything. There is some open questions about what -- he was
locked in that airport for a month, he was in Hong Kong for a few days. Is
it clear exactly who he had contact with in that time, who he might have
shared -- whether it is the Chinese government, whether it`s the Russian
government? That seems to be one of the questions.
ACKERMAN: He said that first, he didn`t take any documents with him.
Second, that he didn`t have any contact with Chinese intelligence, with
Russian intelligence, and so forth. Who he actually was in contact with
during, like, these sort of blackout periods is an open question. But it
kind of conflates whether we`re speculating about during that time, he gave
access to his information in exchange for asylum, and I don`t think there
is any evidence of that.
KORNACKI: I think one of the issues too that people have who are against
the idea of any kind of clemency, any kind of leniency, Michael, is the
idea of he went to work for this contractor for three months. And he`s --
he claimed I think he tried to signal some of his concerns to higher-ups.
That hasn`t, as far as I know, really been substantiated yet. So I think
there is sort of a suspicion that this -- maybe this would feel different
to some people if this had been a career guy, who had been there for 30
years, and after 30 years of seeing this and understanding the bureaucracy,
raised these concerns, there is nothing else I can do with it. Instead, it
is a guy that kind of comes there for three months, and has the appearance
of a guy who kind of went there under false pretenses to get as many
documents as he could and then to share them with the world. I wonder if
that changes people`s opinion.
COHEN: I think that has a lot to do with it. I also think the nature of -
again, I think if he had just stuck to -- stuck to material that related to
domestic surveillance, which I think people have -- people should know
about that. That stuff should be out there and certainly that had has been
considered legal by the FISA court, and there weren`t many options for him
to put that information out there. I think where people get upset, and I
think this is especially inside the bureaucracy, and by the way I think
that`s why there will be no clemency, I think, because inside the
bureaucracy, inside the Department of Defense, inside the intelligence
community, there is an enormous anger about this. Because there is a sense
that this is undermining legitimate U.S. intelligence gathering activities,
undermining U.S. diplomacy. And I think that sense of anger and
frustration has a big effect on what the president will do as far as
clemency. And a big reason why it won`t happen.
KORNACKI: If we can all sort of sit here and I think agree, I think there
is probably a consensus around this table that there won`t be any clemency
coming from the Obama administration, what happens? What happens? He`s in
Russia. Indefinitely. He`s talked about maybe wanting to go to Brazil or
something. Can he even get from Russia to Brazil? Does he come back to the
United States at some point and say, fine, I`ll face the music and maybe a
huge prison term?
BACON: There is also a question, okay, so President Obama is not going to
give him clemency, we assume. There is still a question of if you end up
changing the NSA programs, changing how they work in the next month or so,
which the president has signaled he`s going to do, the situation changes a
little bit in that I don`t know how much you can keep condemning Edward
Snowden the person while changing the policy. Like, Edward Snowden has
been saying, I won, we`re changing, and it seems to me that he`s right, and
he has to force the president to change his policy. So down the line, does
the president`s rhetoric about Edward Snowden change, is his thinking about
this change at all? That`s what I would like to see. When the president
announces policy changes that Edward Snowden initiated, it does make the
case a little bit different. I don`t think it means clemency, but it has
to mean some kind of change.
KORNACKI: Although (inaudible) the difference I think between the domestic
and the international.
KORNACKI: -- domestic changes, but then there`s this international stuff
that`s out there.
ACKERMAN: I wouldn`t discount the cynicism of the Obama administration in
this regard. They`re happy to have the politics of it work in such a way
that they never, ever praise or even acknowledge that Snowden has done this
clear public service that I think does merit a full pardon for him,
speaking for myself, and yet they`ll accept that the change occurs, they
get to reap all of the credit, and have none of the blame of actually
coming out and admitting, yeah, this is because of Edward Snowden, that we
have transformed this debate, we have come to terms with the legitimate
public anger about aspects of these programs, and we`re going to make some
COHEN: I agree. I totally agree with that. I think they`ll never in any
way will they -- their own credibility is at stake here to some extent. To
admit this -- because of Snowden`s leaks would be to give credibility of
validation to what he did, and they don`t want to do that. I agree,
they`ll never do that for that reason also.
KORNACKI: And Miriam, just quickly, life for an American expat in Russia,
do we have a general sense, you know, what that -- are there good
experiences with that or do they generally want to come home after a while?
ELDER: I think everybody has different experiences. But Snowden certainly
isn`t living life of, like, a regular expat in Russia. He has, like, a
lawyer who is basically an adviser for the FSB, he is under constant watch,
I would imagine, even though the journalists who have - Barton Gellman
(ph), who met him there recently said he didn`t seem to see any minders. I
can`t imagine him just like chilling in the streets of Moscow and going to
like American burger places.
KORNACKI: See if he shows up in Sochi in a few weeks, watches some
bobsledders or something. I want to thank MSNBC contributor Perry Bacon,
Spencer Ackerman from the "Guardian," the Century Foundation`s Michael
Cohen, and from Buzzfeed, Miriam Elder. Still ahead, politics meets pop
culture. Sterling Cooper (ph), Draper Price (ph), Blake Underwood (ph)
and Nicholas Brody (ph) all have something in common, and we`re going to
tell you what it is and who it is. That`s next.
KORNACKI: So look, I`ve made it clear when it comes to the show "House of
Cards," I`m not the biggest fan in the world. I have a feeling though that
the CEO and the other big wigs over at Netflix are not too worried about
that. Not when they have friends like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`m just wondering if Reed brought an advance copy of the "House of
Cards. " I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient.
OBAMA: That`s true. I was liking Kevin Spacey, this guy is getting a lot
of stuff done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So the president of the United States is a "House of Cards" fan,
and there he was, asking Netflix CEO Reed Hastings for a sneak peek at the
second season. That show isn`t the only Golden Globe nominee the president
considers must-watch TV. We`ll discuss the president`s favorite shows and
their influence on politics, that`s next.
KORNACKI: If the real-life drama of the CIA, the NSA and the White House
and Congress weren`t compelling enough, as if all the news that D.C. serves
up wasn`t enough to digest on a daily basis, there is also a mini explosion
these days of entertainment that is set in Washington. Particularly there
seems to be a lot of TV shows that like to use the nation`s capital as
their backdrop and their inspiration. "House of Cards" launches its second
season next month, not my favorite show, I have said that before. But I
know a lot of people who swear by it, it is a hit, I get it, I`ll stop
complaining. There is also the CIA spy thriller "Homeland," wrapped up its
third season last month. And tonight marks the fourth season debut of the
show that has absolutely nothing to do with Washington, "Downton Abbey" or
as I like to call it, "Downtown Abbey," but my producers love it, and it
did inspire them to come up with our best graphic of 2013. There you see
it. And since that was about the government shutdown, I think we`re safe
mentioning it here.
Something else all three of those shows have in common, in addition to
critical acclaim, is they also boast the president of the United States as
an avid viewer. This according to a New York Times piece this week by
Michael Shear. The president`s favorite shows may not have been a surprise
to those who closely observe the guest list at the 2012 state dinner for
British Prime Minister David Cameron.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMIAN LEWIS, ACTOR: I sat opposite him at the same table at a dinner at
the White House, which was extraordinary. Because I was sure I would be
sitting next to the toilets. But I was put on the table opposite the
president, and I asked him when he watched the show, he said, well,
Saturday afternoon, I tell Michelle, I`m going into my office to work. And
I bring out the TV and watch "Homeland."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s "Homeland`s" Damian Lewis, who was not the only actor to
attend that dinner. There was also "Downton Abbey`s" (inaudible). Idris
Elba and Wendell Pierce, both from the gritty Baltimore crime series, "The
Wire." President Obama has praised that show on multiple occasions.
Overall, it seems like the president doesn`t spend a lot of time watching
comedies unless he`s with his family. He isn`t unwinding with
"Sportscenter," he`s tuning into dark, highly produced dramas, shows like
"Breaking Bad" was also on the list. So what does the president`s taste in
television tell us about him? Do the shows he watch have any influence on
him and what kind of impact they have on us in the political culture of our
For that, I want to introduce our panel. We have culture writer with "the
New York Times," Dave Itzkoff. Comedian and frequent television watcher,
Lizz Winstead. There is a great description. John Fugelsang is back. He
once hosted a show about must-see watercooler television shows for the TV
Guide Channel, and in Washington, we have Michael Shear, he is the White
House correspondent for the New York Times who wrote that article this week
about the president`s edgy TV picks. Welcome to all of you.
Michael down there in Washington, I`ll start with you. I`ll just say first
of all, I`m reading through your list, obviously there was an error in your
reporting because "Up with Steve Kornacki" was not on the president`s list,
clearly an oversight. But I`ll let that one go for right now. You write
in this article, that maybe it is obviously difficult to discern what any
of this really means or tells us about the president`s psyche or his
politics or anything like that. But you wrote the most sort of notable
entry on the list might be "Homeland."
MICHAEL SHEAR, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, yeah. I think the thing that struck
me, some of these have been known in the past. You start assembling the
whole list, the thing that struck me was the point you made earlier, which
is that he -- this guy goes into the Oval Office in the morning, comes back
at night, dealing with war, terrorism, you know, economic calamity, all
sorts of problems that you got to assume for me if it were me coming back
that night, I would be watching some "Real Housewives" or something that
would make me laugh a little bit. But instead, he seems to gravitate
towards essentially shows that depict the kind of same weighty, heavy
issues that he`s dealing with all day.
KORNACKI: And what do you think? Do you get any sense -- what does that
tell you about the president?
SHEAR: Well, I mean, look, I think part of it, it has to do with the fact
that, you know, we have known sort of for a long time this is a guy who
sort of thinks seriously about issues. He`s not a light-hearted guy. He`s
not a back-slapper like President Bush seemed to be with people. There are
moments, sure, he likes sports and he will get together with his friends
and watch a basketball game or a football game. But this is a kind of
fundamentally serious guy who thinks about these issues. And you got to
assume, when he watches a show like "The Wire," that sort of depicts the
kind of America that is sort of the underbelly of America, that he`s
thinking in part about, you know, what can I do to address some of these
KORNACKI: That`s an interesting point. Some of the shows, "House of
Cards" is an explicitly political show. "Homeland" has lots of political
themes, but we can go back, when we think about presidents and television,
the story that always jumps out at me is it`s 30 years old right now, but
there was this made-for-TV movie in 1983 called "The Day After," and it
depicted a nuclear attack in Lawrence, Kansas. And Jason Robards is in it.
Ronald Reagan as president actually watched this. This was hawkish Ronald
Reagan, who came with all this stuff, to fight the communists, fight the
Soviet Union, he recorded in his diary after watching "The Day After," he
says, "Columbus Day," this is when it aired, "in the morning at Camp David,
I ran the tape of the movie ABC is running November 20TH. It`s called "The
Day After," in which Lawrence, Kansas, is wiped out in a nuclear war with
Russia. It is powerfully done. All $7 million worth. It`s very effective
and left me greatly depressed. So far they haven`t sold any of the 25 ads
scheduled, and I can see why. My own reaction, we have to do all we can to
have a deterrent and to see there is never a nuclear war." As the Reagan
presidency progressed, and historians have written about this, this was if
not the turning point, this was sort of a key turning point in turning
Reagan`s approach more towards negotiation and sort of openness with the
Soviet Union, and television having a real impact.
FUGELSANG: Gorbachev coming to power had a bit to do with it, too.
KORNACKI: Gorbachev, too, gave him an opening, sure, sure.
DAVE ITZKOFF, NEW YORK TIMES: That was an era also when TV was a kind of
monoculture, when you only had the three networks to choose from, and that
everybody was probably watching the same thing each night. President
Obama`s choices speak more to a fragmented era, the era of binge viewing,
that he can actually -- who should have a busier schedule, fuller plate
than the president of the United States? He should have no time to watch
television, theoretically, but he`s finding ways to kind of sneak in
viewing, to sneak in programming by watching multiple episodes at the same
time. It is a huge win for the Netflix business model, the Hulu business
FUGELSANG: I don`t think it is grim considering the man`s job. I would
come home and I unwind to heavy dramas all the time. I unwind to Leonard
Cohen albums. When I saw a list of the TV shows he likes, "The Wire,"
"Downton Abbey," "Breaking Bad," the most terrifying thing, Steve, was that
I realized according to OK Cupid, the president is my perfect romantic
FUGELSANG: I can just have a beer and watch a three-hour Arthur Miller
play with him.
KORNACKI: Lizz, in terms of when you look at this list of some of these
shows, does anything jump out at you and does it say anything about who
WINSTEAD: A couple of things. It would be weird to me, I love "Just Say
Yes to the Dress." I just wind down, I just watch, I love it. What I
really think it says more is dramas are better than the comedies on air
right now. And the comedies that are great are also comedy dramas, like
"Girls" and stuff. So is it that it says something about him gravitating
towards these really dark dramas or is it that the best shows on television
right now are pretty dark dramas?
FUGELSANG: We`re in the golden age of one-hour drama, but it also means
the guy has taste. You can love George W. Bush, but his favorite drama was
the Weather Channel.
KORNACKI: That is an interesting point too, when you look at past
presidents. Michael, I think you wrote about this a little bit, George W.
Bush liked the Biography Channel or A&E`s biography, Ronald Reagan wanted
to be on "Family Ties," the quintessential family sitcom. They wouldn`t
let him on "Family Ties." He wanted to be on. This is a break from past
presidents, isn`t it?
SHEAR: Yeah. I think it is. I think, you know, the point about there is
probably more ability for a president to watch TV now than before because
he can watch it on his iPad, he can, you know, probably stream it to a
bunch of devices, and he`s not locked into the schedules that previous
I do think, you know, one of the things that is interesting is to wonder,
and I don`t think we know this, but to wonder how much he does draw
inspiration, how much of a connection there is between public policy and
what he watches as, you know, as you mentioned with the Reagan moment.
They`re very closed at this White House. I asked them probably a dozen
different ways to give me better insight into that question, and I don`t
think we know. But there is something about the kind of realness of the
shows these days, right, they`re not -- they`re not kind of fantasies.
They`re rooted in kind of the real problems, and there is this cross-
pollination between real life and the shows that goes back and forth. You
have to assume when he goes to sleep at night, there is a part of his mind
that is at least kind of mixing that entertainment and reality.
KORNACKI: I tell you, I love most of the shows on the list too. Although
I`m still a sucker, if I see a "Family Ties" repeat on TV, I`m going to
WINSTEAD: You`re such a child of the `80s. You`re so funny.
KORNACKI: You know what they used to do in the `80s, they had real theme
songs for sitcoms. (inaudible). They don`t do that anymore. I would
watch it just for the theme songs. I want to thank Michael Shear from the
New York Times for joining us from Washington today. We`ll pick this up
when we come back with a star from one of President Obama`s favorite shows.
He`s the head of the television department in a 1960s advertising agency,
toiling away among all the smoke and booze. I`ll give you a hint, the
show`s name rhymes with sad ten. And the actor from that show will join us
next. Try to figure it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a seat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that`s okay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you should have a seat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, I think you know that we like to think of this
place as a family. And there are certain ways a family behaves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did she say? You have to hear my side of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your side of what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re always up to something, aren`t you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s "Mad Men," another great television show in the New York
Times list this week of President Obama`s favorite shows, it`s apparently
been on his list for a while too. A 2008 article said, a "Mad Men" DVD was
sitting on a side table on Obama`s campaign plane. Two years later, he
even wrote a letter to the show`s creator to say how much he enjoys the
show. So President Obama does not hold it against them that the folks at
Sterling Cooper worked on advertising for the 1960 Nixon campaign. It`s
been a while. He can forgive that, I`m sure.
Joining us now from Los Angeles, may not be up to something, but he is
certainly up very, very early, Harry Crane himself, or at least the actor
who plays him, Rich Sommer. Rich, really appreciate you taking the time to
join us this morning. And I guess the first thing I got to ask you as an
actor, knowing that you are performing and the president of the United
States is watching, how does that make you feel? Is there an awareness of
that on your part?
RICH SOMMER, ACTOR, "MAD MEN": There is, you know, not awareness on the
day, obviously, but we have been fortunate enough to have some very
exciting people tell us they watch the show, and it has been kind of an odd
ride in that way. But I`m not sure any of them top hearing that President
Obama had it on his campaign plane. That DVD story was sort of -- became
instant legend on set and it became very exciting for us.
KORNACKI: And I imagine too, one of the things that in this New York Times
article we`re talking about, apparently his interest in the show or part of
why he likes the show so much is that it looks at sort of the sexual
politics of the 1960s, and he says he can understand his grandmother, who
was a middle-aged woman in the 1960s, and the sort of the struggle she was
facing, what she was facing from society and what she was facing from
culture of that time by -- through Peggy. Right. It seems like your show
has some value. Not just for the president, but for a lot of people to
help understand what the 1960s were like.
SOMMER: It seems to resonate with people, obviously in very different
ways. Some people say they can`t watch the show because it so reminds them
of a time that was awful and upsetting, because socially it was awful and
upsetting. But it does also seem to give people a little bit of insight
into what maybe their relatives were going through, their parents or their
grandparents. And it has that resonance for me as well.
FUGELSANG: I think he watches it because it makes him feel better about
smoking, Rich. Nothing personal.
SOMMER: That`s also true. We have driven a lot of people way off the
cliff in that regard.
KORNACKI: We`re talking to you two a lot about the influence that
television could have on politicians and maybe in shaping their views. The
flip side of it too, is when politicians use television shows as part of
their political messaging. Famous example of this, this happens all the
time, but a famous example, if we can play some clips here, was in 1992,
from the show called "Murphy Brown," one of the top sitcoms in the country,
Murphy Brown decided -- the character Murphy Brown was going to have -- was
going to be a single mother, she was going to have a child out of wedlock.
And Dan Quayle took issue with this, and family values became the big issue
for the Republicans, and George Bush Sr. himself was weighing in. We`ll
just play two clips to remind you of what that was like in 1992.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN QUAYLE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn`t help matters
when primetime TV has Murphy Brown, a character who supposedly epitomizes
today`s intelligent, highly paid professional women, mocking the importance
of fathers, by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is time, high time
that we change America. Time to turn our attention to pressing challenges,
like how to give a pink slip to our slow-growth economy. It is growing but
far too slow, how to make our families more like the Waltons and a little
bit less like the Simpsons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WINSTEAD: I also want to say I was waxing back on the days when single
women were rich and successful. Those were good times when that happened.
ITZKOFF: Which show is still on the air, the Simpsons or the Waltons?
KORNACKI: Right, The Simpsons (inaudible) still out there originally.
But, Dave, there is also that strain of it, we can talk about, Hollywood
influencing presidents, but Hollywood, television, the entertainment
industry, it`s an easy punching bag for politicians too.
ITZKOFF: Absolutely. I could just say two words, "Duck Dynasty," on this
program, and think of the fistfights that will potentially erupt. I mean,
certainly presidents have figured out that pop culture can be a kind of
proxy war to get your values across. And it`s almost a safe place to exert
that, rather than to come out, say exactly what you feel, let the pop
culture have that fight for you.
FUGELSANG: Every time the president releases his favorite songs on his
iPod, I know we`re up for some new demographic roulette. Jay-Z`s tune -
(inaudible), but there`s a lot of positives to come from this. Now,
especially when you have your right-wing troll friends say, Barack Obama
hates white people, I can say, Barack Obama is a huge fan of "Downton
Abbey." You don`t watch that unless you really like white people.
KORNACKI: Let me ask you this, Rich, though, because you talk about sort
of the excitement just on the set there, of knowing that the president of
the United States is a fan, is there anything that you or the people you
work with, when you realize that not just President Obama, but other
people, sort of prominent people watch the show, is there anything in
particular you hope that they get from this show?
SOMMER: I mean, for me, I know that there`s probably, maybe a greater
truth to the show that our boss, Matt Weiner, would hope for people to get.
For me, I would hope for them to be entertained. And I hope President
Obama thinks I`m funny. That`s all I`ve got. That`s my only hope.
KORNACKI: Well, I`m not President Obama, but I do think your character is
SOMMER: Thank you, thank you.
KORNACKI: I want to thank "Mad Men`s" Rich Sommer for getting up very
early on the West Coast this morning for us. The first half of the final
season of "Mad Men" returns this spring. I can`t wait, on AMC. Coming up,
what should we know today. Our answers from the panel, they`re right after
KORNACKI: All right. It`s time to find out what our guests think we
should know. We`ll start with you, John.
FUGELSANG: Well, I have been spending the past couple of months working on
a documentary about the American dream, and I recently was in a prison in
Florida talking with a guy who got 20 years for his first nonviolent drug
offense, under the mandatory minimum sentencing laws. And I say that
because this is the week that Florida`s own congressman, Trey Radel,
returns to Congress from his rehab. Of course, he escaped jail on a
technicality, because technically, he`s white. There`s already been a huge
contention amongst the GOP. We can look for some real splits. Connie Mack
has suggested that he might run against Trey for his seat. So I think
we`ll see some real congressional fireworks. It`s also hilarious that this
guy`s favorite band is Public Enemy, proving he listens to the lyrics the
way Chris Christie listens to Springsteen lyrics. But watch for some real
drama when Trey Radel gets back to Congress.
KORNACKI: All right, Dave.
ITZKOFF: Not going to drop any Public Enemy lyrics on this show. You
know, we have alluded to the return of "Downton Abbey," which is happening
tonight, and it`s just going to be an explosion of serialized appointment
TV from here on out. Next weekend, you`ve got "Girls" coming back, HBO`s
"True Detective" episodes on Showtime. If you own a DVR, buy three more
and set one up in every room in the house. You`re going to need all that
free space just to keep up with the really good shows that are coming your
WINSTEAD: Tomorrow in Louisiana, a horrible panel will be ruling on the
Texas reproductive rights law. Edith Jones in particular is a woman you
need to know. She`s a horrible judge, she has horrible records on race, on
women`s quality. Google her, look her up, and realize this is what we`re
fighting. And I also want to say, my dear, dear friend, RT Rybak, who was
the mayor of Minneapolis, had a heart attack yesterday and he`s recovering,
and I want to say, RT, get better, you`re awesome.
KORNACKI: I`ll second that. And the New Orleans Saints won last night,
keeping alive my dream of doing a Super Bowl tailgating shows with the
Patriots, Saints, me and Melissa, in Meadowlands in about a month. We`ll
see about that. I want to thank all of our guests, including John
Fugelsang, Dave Itzkoff and Lizz Winstead. Thank you for getting up and
thank you for joining us. We`ll be back next weekend, Saturday and Sunday
at 8:00 Eastern time, and a newly minted "Way Too Early" host, Thomas
Roberts, is going to join the panel. He`s going to play along, get a spot
on contestants (inaudible) up against the clock, so come back for that.
And stick around right now, because coming up next is Melissa Harris-Perry.
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