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All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 12/23/2015

Guests: David Frum, Lynn Sweet, Matt Welch, Ruth Conniff, Mike Pesca, April Ryan

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: December 23, 2015 Guest: David Frum, Lynn Sweet, Matt Welch, Ruth Conniff, Mike Pesca, April Ryan STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Hayes. There are now just eight days left in 2015. It`s a year that we learn the rules of political gravity no longer apply, at least to the man whose presidency was greeted as a joke when he announced it but who has since managed to insult and offend his way straight to the front of the GOP pack. With less than six weeks now until the Iowa caucuses, a new poll today shows Donald Trump utterly dominating the Republican presidential field with nearly 40 percent support now. That`s more than double that of his nearest rival, Senator Ted Cruz. On Monday, Trump declared Hillary Clinton`s use of the bathroom at last weekend`s debate, quote, "disgusting". And he used what some say is a vulgar and sexist term to characterize her 2008 primary loss to President Obama. Now, Trump claims he wasn`t using the term in a vulgar way. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, to me, it always meant to get beaten badly. I mean, that`s what happened with Hillary Clinton. She got beaten badly. But to me, it`s a reference to getting beaten and pretty decisively. When I said it, nobody in the audience thought anything about it. They clap. They didn`t view that as being a horrible thing. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: In an interview with the "Des Moines Register" out today, Clinton says he is not surprise bid Monday night`s statements. She argues that comments like that are the reason for his success. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nothing really surprises me anymore. I don`t know that he has any boundaries at all. And his bigotry, his bluster, his bullying have become his campaign. And he has to keep sort of upping the stakes and going even further. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Since the launch of his presidential candidacy, Trump has been making the sorts of incendiary statements that prompted all sorts of predictions that his campaign was finished. Back in October, Jeb Logam (ph) of Think Progress tallied 33 different instances where pundits declared the beginning of the end of the Donald Trump candidacy. And certainly, there have been plenty more claims like that since then. None of them, of course, have come to fruition. Yet, since Trump entered the race in June, his support has only trended upwards with his most divisive statements not hurting him, some seemingly giving him a boost. Nothing has brought him down to earth, really not deeming some Mexican immigrants, rapist, criminals, not attacking John McCain`s war record, not feuding with FOX News, not insulting voters and rivals in strikingly personal terms, not his mockery of a disabled reporter or calling to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Through all of this and more, Donald Trump has not just survived. He has thrived. Joining me now are Robert Costa, national political reporter at "The Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor, Lynn Sweet, columnist and Washington bureau chief at "The Chicago Sun Times", and David Frum, former George W. Bush speechwriter and a senior editor of "The Atlantic". He`s also the author of the new story "The Great Republican Revolt." And, David, because of that, I want to start with you. I read this yesterday and thought this was the best explanation of the rise of Donald Trump and Trumpism over the last five, six years in the Republican Party. What I took away from your piece is that what Donald Trump is exploiting is the failure of the Republican Party and the failure of the media, for that matter, to understand what the Tea Party uprising was all about in the first place. DAVID FRUM, THE ATLANTIC: Right. Right. There was this big effort to sell the Tea Party as this mass movement in favor of "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page, free trade, deregulate banks, and that was never true. The Tea Party uprising was an uprising middle income Americans, whiter than most, older than most. People typically in their 60s were really worried about their claims on the state. They were looking forward to claiming Medicare, to claiming Social Security. Two, three years later they were much worse off in 2010 than they thought they were going to be back in 1990. Remember, the typical American household was making about $4,000 a year today than they were in the recession and less still than it was making in 1989. This was a movement of acquired rights of people who paid into the system against new claims, and the Republican Party then turned around and said, right, what you want is a Ryan plan. You want to have Medicare phased out for people under 55. And that`s not what they wanted. And they rejected in 2012, and the party did not get the message. It doubled down, offered them George Bush with $100 million to make them like George Bush -- Jeb Bush, beg your pardon. And Donald Trump turned over the table. KORNACKI: And, Robert Costa, that`s what he`s tapping into. When we look at these polls, Donald Trump may be in first place on the Republican side. Now, he also leads, when they ask that one question, is there one Republican candidate you absolutely couldn`t vote for. So, there`s still opposition in the Republican Party. How much opposition, at the end of the day, if Donald Trump starts winning primaries, how much opposition to him is there among Republican leaders to being their nominee and what could they do to stop him if he, say, wins New Hampshire? ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: There`s widespread opposition amongst the Republican leadership in Congress. When it comes to efforts to take out Trump, there`s not a focused plan or there`s a lot of money going toward that effort, because no one really wants to be the leader, the one who has to engage Trump. KORNACKI: So, I mean, can you play this out a little bit? I`m really curious. I mean, the skeptics who are out there, a lot of the numbers people look at this and say, ah, we`ve seen it before, the candidate propped up by the media, leads in the polls. Then they start the voting and it takes care of itself. I`m trying to imagine a world where Ted Cruz wins Iowa and Donald Trump wins New Hampshire. If these leaders are as scared of him as you`re saying and scared of him taking him on and do not like him being the nominee, at that point, is there anything they can do? COSTA: There`s a lot of hope in the Republican establishment that some kind of second or third place in Iowa takes Trump out. But if you look at the map, where is Trump strongest? He`s strongest in South Carolina. And regardless of what he does in Iowa and New Hampshire, that remains a strongest that state went to Newt Gingrich, another anti-establishment, media-savvy politician in the 2012 primaries. And then after that, you have the March 1st southern states. Cruz is very competitive there. So is Trump. His biggest crowd in the last year came in Mobile, Alabama, which has its primary March 1st. KORNACKI: Lynn, I want to ask you about the Trump style, which obviously is a big part of this. Look, we had the comments about Hillary Clinton going to the bathroom. He also had the word we`re not going to use here. I`m still -- to be honest with you, I`m trying to figure out exactly if he meant everything he is being accused of meaning by that. We can leave that discussion aside. It does seem to me, there is such a familiar pattern at this point, though, where Donald Trump says these sorts of things, Democrats are offended, the media is shocked, the media is outraged by it and it reinforces Donald Trump`s position with his target audience, the Republican base. LYNN SWEET, THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: That`s right. This is such a political phenomenon. Though, just to be careful it would seem someone may want to get Donald Trump the joys of Yiddish for Christmas because that word does have a meaning to it. Now, it might have other meanings. But I think the whole point is, when you`re running for president, you should be aware that you can`t use slang if you don`t really know all the different meanings of that slang. Now, having said that, Steve, this is an asymmetric candidacy. We talked about this so many times. He is immune to a super PAC attack at this point. There`s been -- one thing I do want to point out, there has been no negative advertising against him. I know there`s hesitation. But you can`t have a man with a track record of as many business deals and of enterprises that you can`t figure somewhere there that there may be some negative ads that will pop. Not so much about his personality or ideas, but just trying to get at his credibility of what has been his calling card, being a businessman. KORNACKI: David, I want to return to you, too, about just sort of the state and the nature of the Republican Party right now, because what you were saying earlier I find very interesting. We think about the debates in the last few years over austerity. You say the Ryan budget, the idea of cutting Medicare, maybe cutting Social Security. Cutting these entitlement programs, here is Donald Trump out there, saying, no, I want to protect Social Security. I want to protect the safety net. FRUM: Right. KORNACKI: It really seems like a big fail on the part -- we thought Republican, conservative, they want to attack government. They want to get rid of government. You`re saying there`s a big constituency out there on the right that doesn`t mind government. FRUM: They want to direct government to people whom they regard as deserving. They want to direct government to be aligned with their values of work and family. But who knows what the debt is? Who knows what the deficit is? These are very abstract concepts. And when you think about the Trump phenomenon -- this is the thing I`ve wrestled with -- and Donald Trump has behaved as badly as anybody in public life has ever behaved. He is supported by hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of your fellow citizens who are the same level-headed basically decent people with whom you go to the grocery store and community activities. They`re your fellow citizens. It`s the same people they always were. So the mismatch, the thing that has to be connected is why do people who are decent and level-headed, why do they respond to this? And maybe they don`t have better alternatives. Maybe they feel they`ve been left behind. And the challenge for Republicans, there`s a huge eagerness in the Republican Party. They`re just waiting to see the whites of his eyes to unleash the negative ads. But the challenge of saying go past Trump to the people who support him, understand them. Find out what`s bothering them. Find out, is there some way to take their unhappiness and direct it in a socially positive way? That is what the party is not doing. My article suggests some ways that the Republican Party might do it. But, frankly, there`s not a lot of evidence that`s going to happen any time soon. SWEET: Actually, that`s the job of -- (CROSSTALK) KORNACKI: Quickly, Robert, then you, Lynn. COSTA: One thing I`ve learned in my reporting is, and I think David brings up some provocative points. Trump has always cast the phenomenon as a reaction to President Obama. When I talk to conservative voters, they really see Trump as a reaction to Mitt Romney and George W. Bush. On intervention abroad, Trump is against it mostly. And when it comes to Romney and fiscal policy and long-term federal spending, he also has a position that`s totally different. That`s the reaction inside the GOP. KORNACKI: All right. And, Lynn, go ahead. SWEET: Well, I think the thing is that it`s not the job at the party at this point. It`s the job of the candidates to take into consideration everything we`ve been talking about on the Republican side. And they know what`s going on. I mean, that`s part of what these campaigns are about. Actually, that`s why I`m surprised, is how none of them can figure out a way to address this in a way that could address the concerns of people who feel disenfranchised, don`t like Washington, thinks there`s a lot of just words that politicians say that don`t ever translate into actions. It shouldn`t be that impossible to convey with all the talent that is out there of all these other rivals that they can`t even come close to figuring out a way to address these concerns. And that is the problems of the rivals right now is that Trump is allowed to just exist in this, you know, fact-free zone, Teflon, nothing sticks to him zone. But no one I think does believe this can last forever, and I think that`s why I want to go back to, I don`t think we really know how indestructible he may be until you see some ads against him. KORNACKI: All right. Well, I`m sure those are coming. Lynn Sweet, David Frum, thank you. Stay there, I really like that point you made. We made all these bold predictions in the media that this would be a short-lived phenomenon. The fact that there isn`t, we ought to be curious about understanding it, if nothing else. Robert Costa, stay with us. Still ahead, Ted Cruz issues a, quote, "emergency appeal for donations". We`ll tell you why. Plus, a look at some of the most shocking moments in politics from the past year. And, later, the unexpected and lasting strength of Bernie-mentum. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you please help me welcome to the stage, Kim Davis? (MUSIC) (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And that was the scene that played out in Kentucky this past September, Rowan County clerk Kim Davis emerging from the jail where she spent five days for defying a federal court order to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Davis returned to work at the time, still refusing to sign the licenses but saying she would not stand in the way of her deputies doing so. Now, yesterday, the newly elected Republican governor in Kentucky, Matt Bevin, issued an executive order removing the names of county clerks from marriage licenses all together. Of course, that showdown over marriage licenses in Kentucky stem from another unforgettable moment from this year. That, of course, was the Supreme Court`s June 26th ruling declaring marriage equality the law of the land. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a consequence of the countless, small acts of courage of millions of people across decades, folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts and stayed strong and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, listen, I mean, all of us learned in kindergarten, don`t hit little girls. It`s not complicated. Don`t make fun of a 5-year-old girl and 7-year-old girl. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Ted Cruz today slammed "The Washington Post" for publishing an editorial cartoon that depicted his two young daughters as dancing monkeys being directed by their father. The cartoonist said it was a response to a parody campaign that featured Cruz and his two daughters and the, quote, "when a politician uses his children as political props as Ted Cruz recently did in his Christmas parody video, then I figure they are fair game." The cartoon was pulled from "The Post`s" website with an editor`s note last night. But that didn`t stop Cruz from featuring the ad and what he called a, quote, "emergency appeal for campaign funds." Earlier today, I asked Rick Tyler, he`s Cruz`s national spokesman why it`s OK for the campaign to be raising money off a cartoon that they`ve condemned. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK TYLER, TED CRUZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here is the point about the money. When "The Washington Post and "The New York Times" or any other liberal media outlet tries to bash Ted Cruz unfairly, that has a price. That causes a lot of damage. We won`t raise anywhere near the amount of money that it would take to repair the damage of someone like the cartoonists at "The Washington Post". So, I don`t have any problem raising money to get our message out over liberal media. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Right now, Cruz is inching upwards in the polls. He is at 40 percent in Iowa. He is surging in Iowa. He`s leading the field there according to the latest CBS-YouGov poll. Nationally, he is polling at 18 percent, trailing a still dominant Donald Trump, according to a CNN poll out today. Ben Carson and Marco Rubio are the only other two candidates polling in double digits. A scenario that you could have predicted just less than six weeks until the Iowa caucuses. Joining me now is Matt Welch. He`s the editor in chief of "Reason" magazine. Still with me, Robert Costa, national reporter at "The Washington Post". So, Matt, let me start with you. The Cruz strategy -- we talked so much about this. He won`t say anything negative about Donald Trump. He`s drafting behind Donald Trump. It seems to me he`s waiting for a moment -- it`s kind of amazing when I think about this a little bit. But he`s waiting for a moment when Trump`s voters -- it`s not that they give up on Trump. It`s not that they turn on him. It`s that they basically say we like him, we like what he`s saying, maybe he`s not presidential enough or maybe he`s not quite general election material. So, we`ll go with Cruz. He`s a little more stable. Just the idea that Ted Cruz, when he got into this race, the question about him was, is he too extreme? Are his tactics too extreme? His strategy is actually to look like the mature alternative to Donald Trump. MATT WELCH, REASON MAGAZINE: Yes, and he`s going to put the GOP establishment in the pickle in that moment. I don`t think he`s going to say a mean thing about Trump or at least two mean things about Trump until it`s just the two of them left. Because why should he? Everyone else who has decided to be the anti-Trump guy has been road kill so far and the establishment has gone nowhere. I mean, for four months now, if you combine Bush and Rubio and Christi as a single person, they`ve gotten 20 percent of the vote. It`s flat. But there has been no flight to quality here. Every time Donald Trump says something new that outrages people there hasn`t been a -- oh, my God, we better back Chris Christi now. That hasn`t happened. So, Ted Cruz is the only person out there who`s figured out how to serve that anti-establishment energy while still being an elected office holder in this case. KORNACKI: Yes, meanwhile, if you add up the Cruz-Trump-Carson vote, you`re near 70 percent at this point. Robert, I want to put another poll up for you. This is another problem, the establishment, if we take the premise that the establishment doesn`t want Trump and, for that matter, doesn`t want Cruz to be their nominee, take a look at the latest New Hampshire poll. You got Donald Trump in first place there, you got Ted Cruz in a very distant second, but what I see there is Rubio, Christi, Kasich, Bush, all of them you would call sort of the potential establishment alternatives to Trump. And they`re kind of cannibalizing each other right now. They`re all getting just enough share of the vote to be relevant. Not enough to actually challenge Trump. If that vote could ever unite behind those candidates, they could give Trump a run for his money. But right now, in New Hampshire, Robert, which looks to me like a must-win state or must come close to winning these establishment candidates, you got four candidates who are hurting each other. COSTA: It`s been crowded for quite some time. And all those mainstream Republican hawks are looking for some way to break through. I think Senator Rubios focus in Iowa, strong showing there, he`s visiting Iowa in a few days is all about getting a launch into New Hampshire. And Christi has been rising in New Hampshire, he`s a town hall talent. But at this point, Kasich, Christie, Bush, Rubio, still second to Trump, still not having anyone coalesce around the other. KORNACKI: And how much you mentioned Christie. I mean, Christie doesn`t really register outside of New Hampshire when you do polling. But when in New Hampshire, he`s in double digits now, doing well with the town halls up there. Christie`s at his best in those town halls. He`s got "The Union Leader" endorsement behind him, big paper in the state that when they endorse you, man, they are with you till the end. How much is Christi going to complicate the potential? I`ve seen people write this today, the idea of Rubio can`t get ahead in New Hampshire as long as Christi is up there. COSTA: Christi has bet it all on New Hampshire. The establishment and donor class are watching Christi very closely. Some of them, privately, are lukewarm on Senator Rubio, wonder if he has it, to take the flight to Trump and potentially to Secretary Clinton, they love his profile, but as a candidate, there are some open questions. If Christi over performs New Hampshire, that`s the kind of moment -- his only moment, perhaps, to eclipse Senator Rubio and other rivals in that mainstream lane and really have a shot at a longer race. KORNACKI: Matt, I want to put another stat up on this screen. I love this one because we talk so much before this campaign, we always talk the importance of money and oh, we`re in the super PAC era. Now it`s about the billionaires. Well, look at this, if you add up the combined campaign advertising spending, television spending for the campaigns and their super PACs, a little small there. But, look, Bush is nearly at $40 million, Rubio is nearly at $20 million, Kasich is nearly at $10 million. Christie is close to $10 million. Between that, you`re talking $70 million, $80 million that those guys have spent. They`re not getting much traction. Meanwhile, Trump and Cruz have spent, combined, about $1.6 million. And they`re gobbling up 60 percent of the vote right now. WELCH: I`m glad that we`re relearning, because we`re going to learn at every single election cycle, that money can`t buy you votes. It just can`t. You know, how many people have tried to buy their way into the higher office in California and that didn`t exactly go anywhere? You know, it happens cycle after cycle. It`s passion that gets you there. Hillary Clinton is going to outspend Bernie Sanders by some ungodly sum of money, but it`s the passion behind the Bernie Sanders` people that get them there. So, it`s a good lesson to learn. Jeb Bush, I think every single marginal dollar he spends in New Hampshire makes him less popular at this point. He has really been flailing up there. He`s absolutely saturated that market with ads. KORNAKCKI: I remember that. I covered politics in New Jersey, Jon Corzine trying to buy office essentially. By the end, they were saying, every million he was spending cost him a point in the polls. People were sick of it. Anyway, Robert Costa, thanks for joining me. Matt, I`ll see you later in the program. Still ahead, the Bernie Sanders` campaign just made history. We will tell you why, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Bernie Sanders made history this week by breaking the fundraising record for most contributions at this point in the presidential campaign with, according to his website, more than 2.3 million donations. And he`s done this by sticking to his core tenets, advocating the expansion of Medicare to include all Americans and demanding the breakup of big banks. In an op-ed in "The New York Times" today, Sanders writing that we have a, quote, "rigged economic system" and that, quote, "we must break up the too big to fail financial institutions that threaten our economy." Win or lose, what`s happening in the Democratic presidential campaign is significant. An avowed socialist is far exceeding the expectations that were set for his campaign. While he remains a prohibited long shot against Hillary Clinton nationally, it`s a much different story in the first two states of Iowa and New Hampshire. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: I notice you said, you know what? Don`t use the word socialist. I`m going to say I`m a progressive. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. TODD: Are you pushing back on that idea or are you embracing I`m a European socialist? (CROSSTALK) SANDERS: Look, when one of your Republican colleagues get on this show, do you say, are you a capitalist? Have you ever referred them as a capitalist? TODD: Yes, are you a capitalist? SANDERS: No. I`m a Democratic socialist. (ENB VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Joining me now is Ruth Conniff, editor of the "Progressive Magazine". Ruth, thanks for joining us.

So, we set it up here, you look in the early states at least, if you look in Iowa, Bernie Sanders right now is within striking distance of Hillary Clinton. He`s about 10 points behind there.

If you look in New Hampshire, much closer race. There are some polls that put him ahead in New Hampshire, in fact. So, those two states look very competitive right now.

When you look ahead to this next year, to the Democratic primary season, what is the best case scenario, realistically, for Bernie Sanders?

RUTH CONNIFF, THE PROGRESSIVE MAGAZINE: Well, I think you put it very well. I think he has come farther than anybody ever could have thought. I think he`s in a very strong position in Iowa and New Hampshire and I think it`s going to be hard for him to overcome Hillary in the south where she is very strong.

But I think what`s really significant about Bernie Sanders` campaign is that nobody would have thought he would be here. And if you look at the Republican Party and the right wing populism of Donald Trump and look at Bernie Sanders and the left wing populism, the progressive populism of a Democratic socialist, you see a stark contrast but you see a huge yearning in the population for some real truth-speaking politics.

And, you know, Bernie is talking about things that people are really ready to hear. And that is why the Hillary campaign is now downplaying this next reporting period and saying that Sanders is likely to out raise her.

Without a super PAC and from $35 donors, that`s huge. You know, he has a ground swell of support that really speaks to small d democracy in this country.

KORNACKI: Well, you mention the staff, you mention the states that come after Iowa and New Hampshire. And let me ask you about that, because I think this is the reason why people still think Sanders is such a long shot to actually knock off Hillary Clinton. We take a look like in South Carolina, which will come after Iowa and New Hampshire. We say Iowa and New Hampshire competitive? Look at South Carolina. News poll this week, losing to Hillary Clinton more than 2-1 there.

And the real story there is South Carolina, much more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire, about half the in the Democratic primary is black. Among whites in South Carolina it`s basically a tie. Clinton is only up four points. Among African-American, Clinton is up I think it`s 78-19.

So, about a 60 point lead for Clinton among black voters in South Carolina.

Bernie Sanders has been trying for six months now -- he was criticized six months ago for not stressing racial issues as much as maybe he should be. He has really made this a focal point of his campaign. It does not seem to be getting any traction, measurable traction, with African-American voters. What`s going wrong there?

CONNIFF: Well, I think you`re right. I think that he took some hits from Black Lives Matter early on and he recognized that he needed to address their concerns very directly and he did so. And I think that the Clintons are really strong with the African-American community in South Carolina, including the electoreds there who can really get out the African-American vote. And that you see a formidable infrastructure of support in the African-American community.

And also a lot of pragmatic sense that, you know, Hillary is the winner, and the likely winner for the Democrats and you know really wanting to support in this incredibly racially tense and scary environment, political environment in the United States right now, wanting to support a Clinton who they think can win.

KORNACKI: All right, Ruth Conniff from the Progressive. Thank you for your time. Appreciate it.


KORNACKI: And still ahead, what Bernie Sanders has in common with Donald Trump.

Plus what the president managed to achieve when he finally had no campaigns left to run.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda -- I know because I won both of them.


KORNACKI: President Obama began 2015 with a bit of swagger and he spent this seventh year in office showing what at times felt like indifference toward his opposition. In an increasing willingness to engage with pop culture, poking fun of himself with Buzzfeed, giving sitting down interviews with green-lipped YouTube stars, and discussing why people would drink their own urine on reality television.

And while speaking and acting with an increasing forcefulness about the issues he cares about, pushing forward his climate agenda, despite strong Republican opposition, calling America`s epidemic of gun violence a, quote, political choice we make and speaking out about race in America.

Joining me now is Mike Peska, voice of Slate`s daily podcast The Gist, and April Ryan Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Network. She`s also author of the book "The Presidency in Black and White: My Upclose View of Three Presidents and Race in America."

So April, I`ll start with you. You`re in that briefing room every day. Whenever the president is in there you`re in there. So, the Barack Obama you`ve seen in year seven of his presidency, the guy who doesn`t have to run again himself, who doesn`t have to sit through any more midterm elections, did you see a difference this year?

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORK: I see a difference. I mean, this is -- we`ve talked about this before, Steve. Second term fourth quarter is huge. He is going to go down not being a lame duck, but, as you said -- you said he has swag. He had swag at that last State of the Union. He is going to walk out of here, out of the Oval Office, out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he`s going to go down swinging. And the White House has let me know that they are going to deal with the number one priority that`s facing this nation right now, keeping the homeland safe.

They`re also trying to work with congress on the issue of GITMO that`s tied to a lot of this jihadi terror that we are hearing and seeing, because they`re saying with -- every time they talk to someone or a suspect, it`s linked to what`s happening at GITMO.

Then you have other issues that he`s dealing with. As you said, climate change. He`s also going to talk about the positives and keep promoting the positives of ACA, the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Then you have criminal justice reform that both Democrats and Republicans are on the same page with. You have climate change. You have a whole host of other things that the president will be working on.

And then you also have those variables that those -- unseen variables that always play into something. So, we can expect for the next 13, 14 months that this president is going to be working hard and people are talking about the last presidential press conference, that there were no questions about Donald Trump. Well, there`s a lot that this president is dealing with. And that`s one of the reasons why you weren`t hearing about the wannabes, you were hearing about what was happening with the current president of the United States.

KORNACKI: Mike, it is interesting, though. The Republican character of Barack Obama that`s emerged as sort of its King Obama, it`s Obama the Emperor with all this executive power that supposedly he`s overusing.

But when you think back to the promise of the Obama candidacy back in 2008, which he is not the first one to run for president saying he is going to change the culture of Washington and bring the parties together. But now we`re looking at in this homestretch of his presidency, a guy who basically says look it is hopelessly gridlocked in Washington. If I`m going to leave a mark, I have got to find a way to do it on my own.

MIKE PESCA, THE GIST: Well, this gets -- there`s a little bit of it that the campaign in poetry and govern in prose things that Cuomo talked about. But I think it`s who he is. I think he is an incrementalist. And I think that actually makes him suited for the job. I don`t think that.

Yes, of course, you have to offer this bold vision of where you`re going to take the country, but given the realities of Washington and just how the constitution is written, so many people essentially have veto power, levers of power, there`s only so much you can do.

Obama a couple of times -- you played earlier in the show the speech he gave after the gay marriage ruling. And he said, you know, sometimes it`s one step forward, two steps back but then this lightning bolt strikes. So, he acknowledges that it`s about the incremental progress.

And in the interview he did with Mark Marin on WTF, he talked about the two degree change. I think he looks at power as just changing things ever so much and then one day the ship of state, the aircraft carrier, changes a little bit.

So, yeah, he has done these executive decisions. He would say he`s forced, they would say they`re not allowed to. But I think his soul knows you can`t do anything so grand and so sweeping.

KORNACKI: The WTF podcast, Comedians in Cars with Jerry Seinfeld. A couple of the other pop culture he took this year.


KORNACKI: Well, April, let me ask you more of a personal question about the president. I`m curious. You get to observe him up close. I think back to Bill Clinton. And I got the sense when Bill Clinton was president for eight years, if you told Bill Clinton at the end of those eight year, he could do this for 80 more, he would have signed up. He loved it. He loved every minute of it.

RYAN: Yes, he did.

KORNACKI: He loved everything about it.

RYAN: Yes, he did.

KORNACKI: I get the sense that this president is more of an introvert and has more conflicted feelings about his life in the bubble of the White House.

What`s your sense of his take how he feels as the end of the line approaches? Is he going to be relieved, ultimately, to get out of there?

RYAN: I think it`s a double-edge sword. I think there will be relief, but I also believe that this president feels that he has come and he has fulfilled his promise, his campaign promise -- an administration of change. And there has definitely -- whether you like it or not, there has definitely been change within this administration in this country from this administration.

But one thing I can tell you, we were on a plane, going to the 50th anniversary of -- we were on Air Force One, going to the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. And I asked the president a question. And he said you know long story short, he said basically his is -- this is on race. His is to close the gaps as it relates to issues of discrimination. And I believe he is working on that still. He`s working on closing the gaps in a lot of areas.

So, I think he believes that he has done the job that he believes that he was sent to do or he wanted to do. But there`s also a time that there`s life after. He has got kids. He has got -- he is a young man still. Once he leaves, he`s going to go out there to make some money now and take care of his family.

KORNACKI: There you go.

Plenty of money to be made for an ex-president, I`m sure about that.

RYAN: Yes, yes.

KORNACKI: April Ryan, Mike Pesca, stay with us.

Still ahead, one of the most shocking moments of 2015 as Speaker John Boehner suddenly steps down to the delight of the Republican base.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: Just a few minutes ago, Speaker Boehner announced that he will be resigning.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This whole thing is making me proud of our candidates and happy to be a Democrat this year.

CHRIS HAYES, HOST, ALL IN: So here`s one important thing, the thing that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have most in common is the way they pronounce the word that is spelled H-U-G-E, which is pronounced "uge." Look it up. It`s "uge." They both pronounce it "uge."


KORNACKI: As Chris Hayes pointed out earlier this year, two of the biggest stories in the presidential campaign are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

And while those two share nothing in common politically or personally, they both are shaking up the establishment. They`re both drawing big crowds. And they both share a pronunciation of the word the rest of us know as huge.


TRUMP: First of all, I`m a huge second amendment person.

SANDERS: Huge issue.

TRUMP: I`m a huge believer in clean air.

SANDERS: That`s a huge issue.

TRUMP: I`m not a huge believer in the global warming.

SANDERS: Huge problem.

TRUMP: I think NAFTA was a huge mistake.

SANDERS: You can`t get huge tax breaks. Huge tax breaks. Huge, huge tax breaks

TRUMP: And I get huge reductions.

They get pumped up with this huge pile of liquid.

And it`s a huge show for them.

And you know I`m a huge fan of your mother.

There is a huge problem.

It`s a huge problem.

It`s a huge problem.

That is a huge problem.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: So you think he has a bigger problem?

TRUMP: I think he has got a huge problem.

It`s a huge heroin problem.

SANDERS: So, that`s a fair issue. The issue is the huge amounts of money.

Huge amounts of money.

Huge amount of money.

Huge amounts of money.

TRUMP: Huge amount of money.

SANDERS: As Trump mentioned a huge amounts of money.

TRUMP: I have a huge company. And if I`m in New York I get like no bids.

SANDERS: And this is a huge breakthrough.

TRUMP: And I see a huge truck pulling up with sand which has to go to the driving range.

SANDERS: Huge victory.

TRUMP: He said I just put in a huge order for Kamatsu tractors.

SANDERS: That`s a huge issue.



KORNACKI: And Paul Ryan is about to celebrate his first Christmas in a job he says he never wanted, as speaker of the house of representatives. That`s a title that puts him third in the line to the presidency and it comes with enormous power as well as enormous headaches.

Those headaches came too much for former Speaker John Boehner who, facing the prospect of a full-on mutiny from the far right faction of the Republican conference, made this shocking decision in September.


BOEHNER: This morning, I informed my colleagues that I would resign from the speakership and resign from congress at the end of October.


KORNACKI: Ryan was then effectively forced into the job. And the early results are encouraging. Thanks in large part to Ryan`s deal making, congress last week passed a trillion dollar spending bill to avert a shutdown and keep the government funded through next September.

But just like Boehner before him, Ryan is facing significant conservative blowback for those efforts. One conservative outlet today dubbed him, quote, Boehner with a beard. And it wasn`t meant as a compliment. Ryan says is he taking the charges of betrayal in stride.


RYAN: None of this stuff gets to me. Look, I think the results are what matters. We made good on our promises. We advanced good legislation. And more importantly...

CHUCK TODD, HOST, MEET THE PRESS: Do you think this rhetoric is inappropriate? Out of line?

RYAN: I don`t really pay attention to it.


KORNACKI: We will see in 2016 how long Ryan can ignore the critics and keep the Republican conference together.

As for Boehner, he sure sounded happy back in September when he announced he was leaving it all behind.



I used to sing that on my way to work in the morning.




JERRY STILLER, ACTOR: Many Christmases ago I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man.

As I rained blows upon him I realized there had to be another way.

MICHAEL RICHARDS, ACTOR: What happened to the doll?

STILLER: It was destroyed.

But out of that, a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!


KORNACKI: Today, December 23 is Festivus for the rest of us, or at least some of the rest of us. Well, a new poll by Public Policy Polling found that 24 percent of all Americans have a favorable opinion of the Seinfeldian holiday. There is a partisan divide here. Only 13 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Festivus.

And you can include presidential hopeful, Senator Rand Paul, among them. Today, Paul got into the holiday spirit by engaging in the traditional airing of grievances, tweeting out things like, quote, "my friend, Ted Cruz, has still not pledged to issue exec order declaring Canadian bacon is not real bacon. Makes me suspicious. #festivus."

And GQ magazine today names Hillary Clinton the fifth worst person in the world. She should try harder next year. Aim for the top. #festivus.

Back with me now, April Ryan, Matt Welch, Mike Pesca and in our studio here in New York, look at this, an authentic...


KORNACKI: ...state of the art Festivus pole. So, we really got into the spirit this year of Festivus.

It`s December 23rd.

Let me just Matt, April, Mike, anybody have any grievances they want to air on this most sacred of days?

WELCH: I want to issue a grievance of all of us, a self grievance for dismissing the candidacy of Donald Trump the first time he escalated down into our lives. We all have egg on our face for that one. We we were all wrong. Who wasn`t wrong about Donald Trump...

KORNACKI: We all have egg on our face for that one.

RYAN: No, I don`t have egg on my face. I never said that he -- oh, no, no, no, no.

KORNACKI: April -- did you call it? did you call it, april?

RYAN: I said that we didn`t know any -- I said we have never seen anything like this before and I had predicted that he was going to last for a while.

I never said -- I never gave an end date. So you put all that Festivus stuff on somebody else.

KORNACKI: So, April, your Festivus grievance is with Matt for casting aspersions on your Trump prediction.

RYAN: That`s right. That`s right.

PESCA: I think Trump would say that of course Rand Paul is airing grievances because he`s not good at that other Festivus tradition: feats of strength which, of course, Trump has in spades.

And let me just say this pole, a little more balast, a little more weight than the PPP poll usually is. They use a lot of smoothing is what I`m saying. Big margin of error.

KORNACKI: I`m surprised -- 24 percent overall. Forget the partisan divide, only 24 percent of a favorable view of Festivus. Who doesn`t have a favorable view of Festivus? You can still celebrate Christmas.

WELCH: And it`s lower than the numbers that want to bomb a ficticious country.

KORNACKI: That was the other one they did this week.

PESCA: To be fair, though, Jaffar from Aladdin, he is an evil doer, like that`s not the worst place to bomb.

KORNACKI: You were one of the people who said yes in this poll, then?

PESCA: It didn`t say carpet bomb or even magic carpet bomb.

I`m just saying that there`s something.

Anyway, that`s a grievance of mine.

KORNACKI: Like that`s good for targeted bombing.

KORNACKI: Some other poll questions, though, the PPP asked -- we can run these by the panel.

so, they said, do you believe in a war on Christmas? We hear about this every year around this time. Well, look at this, in 2012, three years ago, it was nearly half of the country said yes. Now that number is down to 37 percent.

So the war on Christmas dying out maybe?

PESCA: Yeah.

RYAN: I don`t know.

PESCA: The cold war on Kwanzaa continues a pace. I think the war on Christmas was perhaps slightly overstated by certain news channels.

RYAN: The cold war on Kwanzaa? Oh, come on. Don`t do that.

KORNACKI: April, go ahead.

RYAN: Don`t do that. Purpose? Come on. I mean, let`s not do a cold war on Kwanzaa. Let`s do a cold war on the pocketbook or Donald Trump`s hair, not on Kwanzaa. Come on, now.

WELCH: I think the problem is that Christmas won the war. It got cocky. Christmas has become irredentist. It is going beyond its borders at this point and taking over Thanksgiving.

I think there`s a war on Thanksgiving in this country not just from you elite liberals telling us how to talk to our stupid uncle or whatever, but it`s actually -- there Christmas decorations up by the end of October.

KORNACKI: Oh, that`s right. Let me air my grievance now. You just reminded me of it, becuase at Thanksgiving time all over those how to convince your uncle he`s wrong about tax policy, the nine talking points. Please let`s not have those next year.

I think this was the year people finally got sick of those.

Here`s another one in this PPP poll. They said is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Overwhelmingly people saying no.

I know this gets a -- there`s a strong set of opinions on this. I firmly believe it`s not a Christmas movie. I`ll explain that one, but anyone want to disagree with me with me? Anyone want to call this a Christmas movie?

RYAN: It starts out at Christmastime. It starts out at Christmastime, so it might be Christmas.

KORNACKI: It does, April. But now I will give you my reason for saying it`s not a Christmas movie.

RYAN: why?

KORNACKI: Because it came out in July. You don`t release Christmas movies in July. I say it`s not a Christmas movie.

RYAN: All right, Steve, you got that one.

WELCH: That`s a technicality. That`s exactly why we need to make America great again, Steve.

KORNACKI: Christmas movies year round?

WELCH: Christmas movies are year around. It is a Christmas movie for crying out loud.

PESCA: How is it a Christmas -- that`s like saying the Naked Gun is a baseball movie.

KORNACKI: Exactly.

RYAN: Because the first Die Hard movie starts out at a Christmas party. And it`s Christmas trees, festivities. The man is running around, stepping on glass ornaments and stuff. Remember when his feet were being cut up -- or was that on another...

KORNACKI: I don`t they were ornaments and also it was Christmas in L.A. I don`t think that L.A. -- I know they technically celebrate Christmas.

RYAN: With no snow.

KORNACKI: But it`s too warm.

I would say the analogy is calling that a Christmas movie is like calling Aladdin a war film.

WELCH: Oh, no apparently it can be used that.

No, I just look at -- I think the backdrop for the movie was Christmas and certainly there`s nothing wrong with watching Die Hard in the Christmas season.

But I don`t think it was about Christmas. It wasn`t about the lessons of the Christmas season.

RYAN: Was Scrooge a Christmas movie?

KORNACKI: Sure, it was all about Christmas.

RYAN: Donald Duck? OK.

PESCA: It`s like calling Born on the Fourth of July a Fourth of July film.

KORNACKI: That`s right. That`s a better one. I`ve been going with this Naked Gun baseball thing all day, but I`m going to steal that one.

I want to mention this one first. I don`t know if we have time to play this. But we`re talking about Festivus here. Don O`Keefe, this is the guy who created Festivus. This is the inspiration for the Seinfeld episode all about it. He had a lot of negative things to say about Rand Paul tweeting about his holiday today. Can we play that?

Oh, we don`t have time for that.


DON O`KEEFE, CREATOR OF FESTIVUS: I`ve been tweeting back at him. I hate the guy. I think he`s some form of lizard that has somehow crawled into a suit and somehow been allowed into the senate.

I strongly dislike it when elected officials...


KORNACKI: Well, the you go. He doesn`t like Rand Paul.

Anyway, April Ryan, Matt Welch, Mike Pesca, happy Festivus to all of you. Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays.