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PoliticsNation, Friday, December 19th, 2014

Read the transcript from the Friday show

December 19, 2014

Guest: Nicholas Burns; Jim McDermott, Jason Johnson, Dana Milbank, Liz
Plank, Josh Zepps, Michelle Bernard

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR, THE ED SHOW: All right, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson,
good to have you with us tonight here on "the Ed Show." I appreciate it.
Thank you.

That`s "the Ed Show." I`m Ed Schultz. "Politics Nation" with Reverend Al
Sharpton starts right now.

Good evening, Rev.

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you
for tuning in.

Breaking news tonight from President Obama`s final press conference of the
year. In a wide ranging press conference, the president spent 50 minutes
fielding questions. He talked about the economic recovery, foreign policy
changes with Cuba and working or not working with the future Republican

But he also confirmed, North Korea is behind the Sony hacking attack. He
vowed the U.S. will respond and we saw a passionate and powerful response
to Sony pictures for pulling the movie the interview in the face of


suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I
am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes,
I think they made a mistake.

We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start
imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody is able
to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they
start doing when they see a documentary that they don`t like or news
reports that they don`t like.

That`s not who we are. That`s not what America is about. Again, I`m
sympathetic that Sony is a private company, was worried about liabilities
and this, that, and the other. I wish they had spoken to me first. I
would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you`re intimidated
by these kinds of criminal attacks.


SHARPTON: The president basically saying, we`re not giving in to ransom.
That`s not who we are. And he also had a stern warning for North Korea.


OBAMA: They caused a lot of damage. And we will respond. We will respond
proportionally and will respond in a place and time and manner that we
choose. We have been working up a arrange of options. They will be
presented to me. I will make a decision on those based on what I believe
is proportional and appropriate to the nature of this crime.


SHARPTON: But what will that proportional response be? Just hours before
the press conference, Sony executives were emailed another apparent threat.

Quote, "it`s very wise that you made the decision to cancel "the
Interview." It will be very useful for you. We still have your private
and sensitive data. We ensure security for your data unless you make
additional trouble."

But today President Obama`s vowing we won`t be intimidated by these kinds
of criminal attacks. So what will the response look like?

Joining me now is Nicholas Burns, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, now a
professor at Harvard University and "Washington Post" E.J. Dionne.

Thank you for being here tonight.



SHARPTON: Ambassador, the president said Sony made a mistake. What do you

BURNS: I think the president is right. You know, Sony, had a tough
decision. As the president said, you can imagine what it would be like as
a Sony executive, you get the threats, you`re worried about your own
people, you are worried about public safety in theaters. It was a big
decision for them. But ultimately, the United States, whether it`s our
government or a corporation, can`t back down to the type of dictators who
run North Korea. So the president, I think, spoke for a lot of people when
he said that we have to defend freedom of expression.

The difficult thing, Reverend Sharpton, is going to be what do we do now?
Because North Korea is about as isolated as any country in the world, they
are fully sanctioned by the United States.

I think two things, first, make sure that film does get out to be seen
publicly and find a way for the U.S. government and Sony to work together
to make that happen and to defy the North Korean regime. And secondly,
call on China to put the brakes on the North Korean government. If any
country has influence with North Korea, it`s the Chinese government and
they ought to use that influence because --

SHARPTON: So you would call on China to use their influence. Interesting,
because the president said, E.J., that he wished that he had spoken with
Sony before they made the decision. The CEO of Sony pictures responded by
saying, quote, "we definitely spoke to senior advisers or a senior adviser
in the White House to discuss the situation. The White House was certainly
aware of the situation."

But it seems like the president would have liked to talk to them himself,

DIONNE: Well, first of all, I agree with the ambassador Burns that you
want the president of the United States out there defending freedom of
speech. You couldn`t have him saying any other thing. And to be honest,
when I heard the president say that, I couldn`t tell if he was talking as
president of the United States or as Barack Obama, perhaps former law
professor who believes in constitutional rights.

I mean, as a matter of sort of general principle, I`m not sure you want TV
studios or movie studios checking with presidents in the first place. But
I think the really tricky thing is, what is the proportional response?
Again, I think the ambassador is right. We got to go through China. China
has a lot of influence what trade Korea has. A lot of it passes through

But, what can you do? Would you not want a full-scale and war on the Korean
peninsula? It would be great if we could take out the hackers, but what
does "take out" mean? Could we, they don`t have enough tech going on in
that country for an attack on their cyber to be significant. Although, you
wonder if they could do it with their military and their government.

I think it`s going to take a lot of very fine, technical minds to figure
out what is an appropriate response that could really send a message --

SHARPTON: What could this proportional response be? And a lot of it is,
North Korea, what kind of nation is North Korea? The president said the
nature of the attack reveals a lot about the North Korea regime. Listen to


OBAMA: I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they
decided to have the state mount, an all-out assault on a movie studio
because of a satirical movie, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. I love
Seth and I love James. But the notion that was a threat to them, that then
gives you some sense of the kind of regime we`re talking about here.


SHARPTON: Ambassador, what kind of regime are we talking about here?

BURNS: We`re talking about a mafia-style regime. One family that`s ruled
the country for, you know, since the late 1940s. The most absolute
dictator in the world is probably Kim Jong-un. No prior management
experience, no prior work experience. He`s 31 years old and he owns a
nuclear weapons program. And there`s the problem that E.J. was talking

President Obama said it`s going to have to be proportional response and he
was right because they do have nuclear weapons. We have American troops
guarding, defending South Korea. The last thing we want to do is start a
war on the Korean peninsula. The president is not going to do that.

So, is there a way to go after the North Korean hackers? Is there a way to
use our own capacity to neutralize them? That`s one option that may be in
play. And I would go back to the China question. Put the heat on China
and the pressure on China to finally do something about this regime and,
you know, put some barriers on this regime. I think the administration
will think about a range of options.

SHARPTON: But what`s appropriate, E.J.? I mean, the president said
America can`t let the threat of cyber attacks interfere with daily life.
Listen to this.


OBAMA: All of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be
breaches like this, but we can`t start changing our patterns of behavior,
any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the
possibility of a terrorist attack, any more than Boston didn`t run its
marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to
cause harm.


SHARPTON: I mean, is this the new normal, E.J., that Americans are going
to have to live with? What`s the appropriate response to send a signal
that we won`t tolerate this?

DIONNE: Well, first of all, there`s an enormous amount of hacking now. I
think they figure, it may have been on MSNBC, that something like 61,000
hack attempts on the U.S. government.

There`s a lot of hacking going on already. And that the whole point of
terrorism is to try to force people out of their normal behavior. And this
does take it a step further because it`s a government using the power it
can get from hacking to try to affect the behavior and limit the speech of
another party, in this case, an independent party like Sony.

And this just is intolerable to anybody who cares about a free society. If
you -- if somebody hacks your show and if you don`t say certain things, the
"New York Times" or "the Washington Post" get hacked because they report
something bad about a country or a dictator. I mean, this is a very
dangerous thing. And I think that the North Koreans seemed to have raised
this to a new level and we are going to have to figure out how to deal with

SHARPTON: Ambassador, isn`t that the point, they have raised it to a new
level, a movie during the Christmas season, they were successful in getting
a major movie studio to pull the movie? This has everyone`s attention.
Doesn`t it almost require a response from us and what kind of response
could be appropriate here?

BURNS: Well, I think defiance is the right response from the United States
government and from Sony and from the American people. Todd (INAUDIBLE)
from "Politico" had a really good article this morning where he said this
happened in the 1930s when Hollywood made anti-Hitler movies, there was
actually a theater burned down in Wisconsin by people who thought that
Hollywood shouldn`t make fun of Adolf Hitler.

And so, we have to defy the North Korean regime. And there`s a larger
issue here. It`s about Internet freedom and freedom of speech. It is
really a serious of authoritarian regimes. North Korea, Russia, China, all
arguing for state control of the Internet, to put clamps on the Internet.
And I think this is a big issue for President Obama, for his last two years
in office to be the standard bearer, protecting freedom of expression and
freedom of speech, and freedom of thought in the world today.

SHARPTON: All right, Ambassador Nicholas Burns and E.J. Dionne, thank you
both for your time tonight.

DIONNE: Thank you.

SHARPTON: And have a great weekend, gentlemen.

DIONNE: And defiance is the right idea. Thank you very much, Reverend.

SHARPTON: All right.

Straight ahead, President Obama on a year of action and pressing ahead with
his agenda.

Plus, what the president said today about his talk with Speaker Boehner and
Mitch McConnell.

And George Clooney, slams the North Korea attack, demanding Hollywood get
behind Sony.

And Stephen Colbert and a few close friends send him off in style.

It`s all coming up, please stay with us.


SHARPTON: Social media reacted to the president saying Sony made a
mistake, canceling the interview over threats from North Korea.

Atems wrote on our facebook page, I agree. Why were they fearful?

John tweeted, it`s so easy to say that Sony did what they thought was best
for their company.

Coming up, more on how this debate erupted today and what George Clooney is
saying about North Korea and Hollywood`s response.

But first, please keep this conversation going on our facebook page and
tweet us, at "conversation nation."



OBAMA: My presidency is entering the fourth quarter. Interesting stuff
happens in the fourth quarter, and I`m looking forward to it.


SHARPTON: President Obama looking ahead to the rest of his second term.
Today the president went big, making a full-throated case for his agenda
and his achievements from what he says was a breakthrough year.


OBAMA: In last year`s final press conference, I said that 2014 would be a
year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America, and it has

The steps that we took early on to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a
new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the

In a hopeful sign for middle class families, wages are on the rise again.

Our investments in American manufacturing that helped fuel its best stretch
of job growth also since the 1990s. America is now the number one producer
of oil, the number one producer of natural gas. We`re saving drivers about
70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas.

Thanks to the affordable care act, about ten million Americans have gained
health insurance just this past year.

We have every right to be proud of what we`ve accomplished. More jobs,
more people insured, a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling
industry, booming energy. Pick any metric that you want and America`s
resurgence is real. We are better off.


SHARPTON: We are better off. And the president made it clear to
Republicans, he`ll continue to use executive action to fix problems when
they refuse to act.


OBAMA: I`ve never been persuaded by this argument that if it weren`t for
the executive actions, they would have been more productive. There`s no
evidence of that. So I intend to continue to do what I`ve been doing,
which is where I see a big problem and the opportunity to help the American
people, and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, I`m
going to do it.


SHARPTON: Joining me now is Congressman Jim McDermott, Democrat of
Washington. First, thanks for being here.

REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: Good to be here, Al.

SHARPTON: So, Congressman, today the president made a big case for his
record. What do Republicans have to brag about, Congressman? What do they
bring in the table in the new congress?

MCDERMOTT: I think that`s the funny part about this whole thing. They
have nothing to bring to the table. And they`re facing an election in 2016
where they`re going to have nothing that they`ve accomplished.

This is a big year for them. They`ve got to get together and work with the
president to get anything accomplished, so they can say, this is our
record, this is what we`ll offer to the American people.

And the president is in a very strong position, if he uses his power
carefully and thoughtfully, and he`s done that in the past, he`s got issued
like, what does he do with Iran. Iran is going to be out there in front of
him. He`s got the whole question of what the Supreme Court does to his
health care bill. And he`s got what`s going on in Iraq. Those three
issues, he`s going to have to work with the Republicans and they with him,
to make it a good year for everybody.

SHARPTON: You know, it`s true, but you know, many have called, as you were
outlining that, I was thinking, many have called the president after
midterm election, a lame-duck president, but it looks, with all he`s
accomplished, that he`s anything but a lame duck.

Look what he`s done since the elections. Executive action on immigration.
Climate change deal with China. Historic agreement to normalize relations
with Cuba. Airstrikes that killed three top leaders of ISIS.

I mean, do you think there`s a lot of past presidents who would want to
have that kind of lame-duck record, Congressman?

MCDERMOTT: You know, the president has done very well. And one of the
interesting thing is, they never give him credit for anything that happens
good. But the economy is coming back. There`s more jobs. The wages are
going up. There`s all kinds of evidence that the things he put in place
four or five years ago are now coming to bear fruit. And it`s really --
the president has really had a very good year. And I think this can be
another good year, as long as he`s careful and doesn`t let them bully him
into a corner.

SHARPTON: You know, the president addressed Republicans` concerns about
his use of executive action. Listen.


OBAMA: If executive actions on areas like minimum wage or equal pay or
having a more sensible immigration system, are important to Republicans, if
they care about those issues and the executive actions are bothering them,
there`s a very simple solution. And that is, pass bills.


SHARPTON: Is it put up or shut-up time for the Republicans, Congressman?

MCDERMOTT: It sure is, Al. The American people are going to see what the
Republican Party is really all about in the Congress. Because now they
have no one to blame. They can`t blame the Democrats in the Senate. They
can`t blame this. They can`t blame Nancy Pelosi. They can`t blame anybody
but themselves.

So now it`s put up or shut up. What you going to do about Medicare, what
you going to do about taxes, what you going to do about all these things?

If I were the president, I would sit back and say, you guys put it on the
table. I put lots of stuff on the table, and you haven`t done anything,
and I`m going to keep doing what I have to do. But if you don`t like what
I`m doing, pass a bill. He`s absolutely right.

SHARPTON: Congressman Jim McDermott, thank you for your time this evening
and happy holidays to you.

MCDERMOTT: Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, the GOP plan of attack. Today President Obama
threw down the gauntlet. How will Republicans respond in the New Year?

Also George Clooney`s fight for free speech, and why Hollywood backed down.

And what have you -- what you haven`t heard about the amazing finale for
Stephen Colbert? It`s ahead on "conversation nation."


SHARPTON: On this day back in 1998, millions of America turned on the TV
to see this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an NBC news Special Report. The impeachment

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: William Jefferson Clinton has been impeached by the
House of Representatives on at least one article. It will go to the United
States Senate.


SHARPTON: But the GOP vote to impeach President Clinton totally backfired.
His approval ratings went way up. And theirs went way down.

Flash forward to today. Republicans are plotting their plan against
President Obama in this new congress. They`re talking about defunding,
sensor, some are even talking impeachment again.

We will talk about that, next.


SHARPTON: The fight ahead. Today President Obama said he knows next year
won`t be easy. With a republican Congress. But he also won`t let
republicans tear down his biggest achievements.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I think there are going to be some
tough fights on areas where we disagree. If republicans seek to take
health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff
resistance from me. If they try to water down consumer protections that we
put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no. And
I`m confident that I`ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of


SHARPTON: Considering the GOP`s agenda, the President might have to use
that veto pen a lot. Republicans say one of their first priorities would
be approving the Keystone XL Pipeline. The President hasn`t decided what
he`d do on that issue yet. But they also want to roll back the Affordable
Care Act, target his executive action on immigration, and curtail the EPA`s
regulations on coal. Those last three have no chance of getting the
President`s signature. But even with their disagreements, President
Obama`s hopeful for 2015.


OBAMA: I`m being absolutely sincere when I say, I want to work with this
new Congress to get things done, to make those investments. To make sure
the government is working better and smarter. We`re going to disagree on
some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement. And we`ve got
to be able to make that happen. And that`s going to involve compromise
every once in a while. And we saw during this lame-duck period that
perhaps that spirit of compromise may be coming to the fore.


SHARPTON: On a lot of issues, the President wants to reach across the
aisle and get things done. But will republicans reach back?

Joining me now are Jason Johnson and Dana Milbank, thank you both for your
time tonight.



SHARPTON: Dana, we heard the President talk about using a carrot and stick
approach with Cuba. Will he try the same thing with republicans?

MILBANK: You know, Reverend, I think the President this afternoon was
saying, game on. And he was saying, yes, he`ll give them a little carrot,
but he`s really ready to use the stick. And I think John Boehner, you
know, back home in Cincinnati for the holidays should, you know, uncork a
nice bottle of merlot and sip his wine now, because it`s going to be no
cocktail party when he gets back to town. This president is clearly
reinvigorated and ready to fight and he`s going to have an easier time of
it now that it`s not this mish mash of a republican House and a democratic
Senate, and he can draw clear lines and distinctions with this republican
Congress, and it looks like he`s eager to do it.

SHARPTON: You know, Jason, it`s been funny to watch republicans react to
the President`s recent actions on Cuba and immigration. One day they say
he`s a tyrant, the next he`s an appeaser. I mean, take a look at this.


before that he`s not king, and he`s not an emperor, but he`s sure acting
like one.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Consistently, what President Obama has
endeavored to do is to show weakness and appeasement towards our enemies.

This man dictates by his pen and his phone.

surprising that the President would agree to make all these concessions to
this murderous tyrannical regime.

He believes somehow that he`s become a monarch or an emperor that can
basically ignore the law and do whatever he wants.


SHARPTON: I mean, Jason, do you think they`ll make up their mind by the
time the new session starts?

JOHNSON: You know, Obama is either the most incompetent dictator, or the
most weakest bully that we`ve ever seen in the presidency. And I don`t
think the republicans can decide one way or another. And that`s going to
be the real challenge heading forward. If they`re going to resurrect
Congress, if they`re going to do anything to get our government working,
it`s going to be CPR. It`s going to be Cruz, it`s going to be Paul, it`s
going to be Rubio. It`s going to be those guys who are running for
president in 2016, wrestling the rest of Congress and saying, we`ve got to
get something done with this president. Name-calling hasn`t gotten us

SHARPTON: But do you agree, Jason, with Dana`s point, that in some ways,
it would be easier for the President to deal with the republican Congress,
just go at them?

JOHNSON: I don`t think so. Not if we`re looking in terms of getting
things done. I mean, the truth of the matter is, the President doesn`t
have much help either in the House or the Senate now. And if he just wants
to fight for the next two years, which is pretty much what`s going to
happen. You know, there may be things he can accomplish with executive
orders, but honestly a split Congress was much better for the President
getting through some legislation. So I don`t think things are going to be
anymore productive over the next two years, unless those senators running
for president decide that they need to be productive.

SHARPTON: Well, one thing Dana republicans have talked about doing next
year is blocking President Obama`s nominee for Attorney General, Loretta
Lynch. Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee said, Ms. Lynch she should release a
statement whether or not she believes the President`s executive amnesty
plans are constitutional and legal. And Senator David Vitter says, I`ll be
working to get the new Congress to block this nomination. Don`t
republicans realize the more obstruction that they engage in could backfire
on them next year, Dana?

MILBANK: Yes. Absolutely. And that`s the point that I`m making. And
also you have Marco Rubio already saying, we`ll block the new ambassador to
Cuba, we`ll block funds for the embassy there. So, that`s where I think
the President has an advantage as he can call them out on this. And they
can`t hide. They`re going to be seen out there as obstructionist. They
can`t sort of do a filibuster and hide in Harry Reid`s skirts anymore. It
doesn`t mean necessarily that anything more is going to happen, hardly
anything has happened up until this point. So, I`m not predicting that
suddenly we`re in for some new era of bipartisan compromise, but at the
very least, the President is going to enjoy drawing very clean lines and

SHARPTON: You know, you had an interesting night, Dana, the speakers
Merlot, Harry Reid`s skirt. I don`t know.

MILBANK: I`ve got a bottle opener, Reverend.

SHARPTON: The President`s recent actions though, on a serious note Jason,
has begun to show divisions within the GOP. You know, especially around
Cuba. Senator Rand Paul said yesterday, he agreed with the policy. Watch
how Senator Marco Rubio reacted.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator, your thoughts on Senator Rand Paul`s
comments supporting the President?

RUBIO: Well, like many people that are been opining here, he has no idea
what he`s talking about.


SHARPTON: Now, hey, Marco Rubio, if the embargo doesn`t hurt Cuba, why do
you want to keep it? And Senator Marco Rubio is acting like an
isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat.
I reject this isolationism. That`s why Rand Paul tweeted and fired back
today. I read, I`m sure people thought that was me talking. This is Rand
Paul talking about Marco Rubio. I mean, has the President stoked some
serious divisions within the GOP here, Jason?

JOHNSON: Yes, it`s great. This lunch room slap fight that they`ve got
going, this is just par for the course. Because the moment these guys
realize that they have to really stake out some territory over the next
couple of years, you`ll going to see Rubio fight, you`ll going to see Paul
fight and you`re going to see a lot of internal conflict. And the real
thing that they`re worried about, is that the President`s actions, his
executive orders, have made a lot of their agenda irrelevant. What the
President has done with sanctions and oil deals has lowered gas prices.
The Keystone Pipeline isn`t valuable anymore. You have oil companies who
say, it`s not worth the money given how low gas prices are. What the
President has done with Cuba already has said, look, we`re going to improve
the economy, we`re going to do somebody foreign policy things. So, he`s
eaten into their territory so all they can do is fight with each other,
because they can`t go after Obama.

SHARPTON: Well, take out the popcorn, it`s going to be fun. Jason Johnson
and Dana Milbank, thank you both for your time tonight. Have a great

MILBANK: Thank you, Reverend.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Straight ahead, President Obama shows his swagger and his sense
of humor today. Plus, did Sony make a mistake? What is George Clooney
saying today?

And the final reports, Stephen Colbert goes out in style.

"Conversation Nation" is next.


SHARPTON: Time for "Conversation Nation." Joining me tonight,`s
Liz Plank, HuffPost Live host Josh Zepps and Michelle Bernard, president of
the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy. Thank you all for
being here.



POLICY: My pleasure.

SHARPTON: We start with President Obama`s swagger at today`s press


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I`m energized. I`m excited about
the prospects for the next couple of years. My presidency is entering the
fourth quarter. Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter. And I`m
looking forward to it. I`m confident that I`ll be able to uphold vetoes.
Where I see a big problem and the opportunity to help the American people
and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, I`m going to do


SHARPTON: Liz, he`s ready for the final quarter of his presidency. What
did you make of his demeanor today?

PLANK: I mean, he was relaxed, right? The mood was positive. And you
know, if I was going to Hawaii for two weeks and it was the day before I
left, I`d probably be in the same mood. And he`s ended really well,
exactly to his point about the last quarter. You know, we averted a
government shutdown. And he`s going to be passing the keys to the
republicans, or at least republicans will be taking over the hill in two
weeks. So I think he`s trying to just smooth sailing, take advantage of
the time he has left, and just, you know, show his humorous side.


ZEPPS: Well, it`s just such a breath of fresh air, isn`t it? Because the
crown does not always sit easily on the head of a president. We remember
George W. Bush and he just never seemed like he was the presidential type.
And I feel like lately Obama has been a little bit like that. He seemed a
little bit just out of it, he hasn`t been wanting to be there. And it`s
lovely to see him come back. And you know, yes as he says, it`s the final
quarter, it`s the opportunity for him to say, screw it, I don`t give a damn
anymore. This is me again, come on, what`s to lose?

SHARPTON: Or Michelle, maybe he`s going to be doing things about what he
does give a damn about.

BERNARD: Well, you know what, this is what I loved about it. You remember
in 2008 after right after one of the debates in North Carolina, then
candidate Obama had a squabble with Hillary Clinton and George
Stephanopoulos, et cetera, et cetera. And the President gave this fabulous
talk and he basically did the Jay-Z, you got to get the dirt off your
shoulder thing. And he was telling us, you know, I`m done with that
negative energy. I don`t care what you`re doing and I`m ready for battle.
I think that`s what the President was telling us today and he was a man of
the people today. People looked at him. We knew what he was saying and
he`s going to come back and he`s going to be ready to go.

ZEPPS: And Reverend, just to clarify, I`m not saying that he doesn`t give
a damn because he doesn`t care about what he cares about anymore. I`m
saying, he doesn`t give a damn about what other people think anymore.


ZEPPS: And that`s the opportunity of the final two years of a presidency.
You don`t have to give a damn because you`re not for reelection anymore.
It doesn`t matter what republicans say, it doesn`t matter about focus
groups and polling and all of that stuff, you can just finally relax and
say, okay, this is why I originally got into the game.

SHARPTON: But, Liz, most presidents in their last two years, after having
a bad midterm election, don`t do that. Most of them are looking for the
exit, are lame duck, are back in the shell, and this president has acted
like anything other than that.

PLANK: Yes. I mean, he`s brushing his shoulders off. I mean, let`s
remember also that this is, you know, the most watched press conference of
the year. And in terms of attendance for the press, I mean, it was a jam-
packed house. So his mood reflected that. I mean, everyone`s looking to
him and watching him and he certainly delivered. Go ahead, Michelle.

BERNARD: Reverend, I think this is a great precursor to the State of the
Union Address that we`ll be being looking at in January. As you said, so
many presidents in their last two years are lame duck and they don`t go
about doing anything. This president, if you think about what he`s done in
just this week alone with Cuba, for example --


BERNARD: How he`s dealt with ISIS, and how he`s dealt with Ebola and on
and on and on and on, I think that what he is telling us, is whether it`s
through executive order or otherwise, he`s not a lame duck, he`s going to
govern this country and he`s going to govern it in the way he sees fit,
regardless of republicans who might for example want to sit in an open
chamber of Congress and yell, "you lie" as they did during the first year
he was in office.


SHARPTON: Now, let me move on. Let me move on. I want to go back to
President Obama`s powerful statement on Sony`s decision to pull "The
Interview" movie. I don`t want to run out of time without going back to
that. Listen to this.


OBAMA: Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were
threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they
faced. Having said that all, yes, I think they made a mistake.


SHARPTON: Now, Sony`s CEO disagrees, saying it did not make a mistake, and
it follows the unofficial president of Hollywood saying, the movie must be
released. George Clooney saying, do whatever you can to get this movie
out. We cannot be told we can`t see something by Kim Jong-un. Josh, do
you agree that Sony made a mistake?

ZEPPS: More than Sony`s mistake, it`s the mistake of the theater owners
who refrained from being willing to release the film. You know, this
reminds me a little bit of 1989 and Salman Rushdie, this is one of those
watershed moment. We cannot underestimate the importance of this kind of
stuff. Freedom does not come from above. It comes from all of us engaging
in a free manner and sticking up for what we believe. If I`m the owner of
a mall in the Midwest somewhere and there`s a theater that is going to play
this movie, I should not be encouraging that theater from pulling the
movie. This comes from the ground up. Really, this is going to frame the
21st Century in a way that is just as important, I think, as 9/11 was. I
mean, you know, obviously, the humanitarian catastrophe is not the same,
but we`re going to look back on this as being the first salvo in the 21st
Century framing of both warfare and also free speech.

SHARPTON: There`s no doubt about it. Michelle, as you know, I met with
the co-chair of Sony yesterday and her statement to me, we were meeting on
the e-mails, but her statement on this was, the theaters were saying
they`re not going to show it. So it was more than Sony.

BERNARD: And she was absolutely right. I mean, Sony withdrew the picture,
but even if they released it, who were they going to release it to? Who
was going to actually show the movie? The theater owners should have, you
know, said that they were going to accept the movie and let the public
decide with the power of their purse. People were either going to go to
the movie knowing that there is probably a not too very credible threat, or
they would not do so. But I mean, democracy and our belief in freedom of
expression is what makes this nation the greatest nation on earth, and this
is going to have a terrible, chilling effect. I think everyone should look
at the interview that George Clooney did, because he makes an excellent,
very learned argument for why we should be showing this movie.


PLANK: Well, look, I actually don`t think it`s about free speech. I think
it comes down to money. Sony`s decision was based on money and there was a
monetary incentive for them to cancel the film entirely. Because if they
would have even released it on DVD, they wouldn`t have gotten the insurance
to cover the cost of the production of the movie.

ZEPPS: But Liz, Liz, this is about the future that we`re going to be
actually living in.

PLANK: Oh, I totally agree with you.

ZEPPS: Do we want to be living in a world in which basically the things
that we say and the things that we consume are dictated by the biggest
bully in the room?


This is fundamental --

SHARPTON: One at a time.

BERNARD: The biggest bully in the room might not always be, you know,
might not always be a dictator. For example, what happens if you want to
put out a movie and some corporation decides that they don`t like it?

ZEPPS: Right. Yes. Here, here, absolutely.

SHARPTON: All right. Well, clearly this is a talker. Everyone, stay with
me. When we come back, Stephen Colbert`s epic sign-off.


SHARPTON: We`re back with our panel, Liz, Josh, and Michelle. And now to
Colbert`s final report. Stephen Colbert signed off but not before bringing
together an epic assortment, some of the biggest names in Hollywood, the
media, and politics.


Don`t know where don`t know when but --




SHARPTON: Josh, you look at the faces on that stage, Samantha Power,
Claire McCaskill, Mike Huckabee, Cory Booker, Eleanor Holmes Norton, what
does that tell you about the impact that Steven has had on politics?

ZEPPS: Well, Reverend, I must have just missed you there because you
missed out on my boss Ariana Huffington, who was also there. But forget
about that. We`ll get over that. I don`t think you can overestimate the
impact that Stephen Colbert has had on politics satire over the past nine
years. Like, seriously, all of that stuff is fun, like the singing in the
final show. But his ability to integrate both political sort of meaning
and also laughs and to be able to contextualize what`s going on in the
country in a way that ordinary people can understand and can appreciate and
can actually get humor from, as well as being educated, I don`t think we`ve
had something like this since Mark Twain and I don`t think that`s an

SHARPTON: Michelle, a cameo from even former President Clinton.

BERNARD: Look, I love it. I love the Colbert report. Love Stephen
Colbert. He was sort of like, you know, the fancy shmancy cliff notes of
politics. It was a great send-off. No one can ever underestimate the
impact that he has had in terms of mixing pop culture and politics and
making politics something where we don`t feel alone.

SHARPTON: Well, I`ve got to leave it there, Liz, Josh, and Michelle.
Thank you all for your time tonight.

BERNARD: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Have a great weekend.

We`ll be right back with America solving problems.


SHARPTON: One final note from the President`s news conference. I was
struck by how hopeful and optimistic he was about making progress on race.
He talked about how the Michael Brown and Eric Garner decisions have
sparked a new debate in this country, a debate about policing and justice
that we needed to have.


OBAMA: I actually think it`s been a healthy conversation that we`ve had.
These are not new phenomenon. The fact that they`re now surfacing, in part
because people are able to film what have just been in the past stories
passed on around a kitchen table, allows people to, you know, make their
own assessments and evaluations. And you`re not going to solve a problem
if it`s not being talked about.


SHARPTON: And we must have this conversation. The marchers and the die
in, the demonstrations of the last several weeks, some in which I was
involved, is all to force a conversation that has too long gone without our
having it, and the conversation must lead to concrete results where
Americans feel that we have equal protection under the law. If it doesn`t
lead to results, then what are we doing? But if we don`t do that, how do
we get to results? Let`s try to make sure change happens for everybody.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. Have a great weekend. "HARDBALL"
starts right now.


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