IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 1/4/2016

Guests: Rick Santorum, Jess McIntosh, Ben Jealous, Matt Welch, Jonathan Alter

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: January 4, 2016 Guest: Rick Santorum, Jess McIntosh, Ben Jealous, Matt Welch, Jonathan Alter (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN -- WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Believe it or not, it`s kind of scary this year. HAYES: Decision 2016 is upon us. And Donald Trump is debuting his first ad. AD NARRATOR: He`ll quickly cut the head off of ISIS and take their oil. HAYES: Less than 30 days until voting, the last man to win in Iowa is taking aim at the front-runner, and he joins me tonight. AD NARRATOR: You want someone to read one hell of a bedtime story? Ted Cruz is your guy. HAYES: Then, Bill Clinton does some expectation setting for Bernie versus Hillary in New Hampshire. CLINTON: No candidate who borders New Hampshire has ever lost a primary here. HAYES: Plus, the politics of the president`s action on guns. And as the one-sided standoff continues in Oregon -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s still plenty of parking right here on the outside. HAYES: How would the country react if black lives matter activists seized a federal building? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only violence that if it comes our way will be because government is wanting their building back. HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. And for the very first time ever tonight on ALL IN, we are reporting on the 2016 election from the year 2016. The sprint to the Iowa caucuses just 28 days from now has very much begun. There are 15 presidential candidates left, 12 Republicans and three Democrats. And between them, they are holding a mind-blowing 29 campaign events today. That`s not even counting Bill Clinton, who hit the campaign trail today for his first solo campaign trip for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 cycle. More on that shortly. On the Republican side, the man who currently holds the lead in Iowa polls, Ted Cruz, today kicked off his six-day, 28-stop cruising to caucus Iowa bus tour, a schedule which included a final event tonight at 10:45 p.m. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My running joke is that I sleep on alternate Thursdays. There`s not a lot of down time. It is relentless. We`re basically running about 18 hours a day six days a week. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Meanwhile, the double-digit leader in national GOP polls, Donald Trump, who is currently addressing a rally in Massachusetts, today released his first TV ad, which he is spending $2 million to air this week in Iowa and New Hampshire, and which embraces Trump`s most controversial positions. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD) TRUMP: I`m Donald Trump, and I approve this message. AD NARRATOR: The politicians can pretend it`s something else. But Donald Trump calls it radical Islamic terrorism. That`s why he`s calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what`s going on. He`ll quickly cut the head off ISIS and take their oil. And he`ll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for. TRUMP: We will make America great again. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Now, you may not be surprised there are some issues to take with that spot, starting with this. As the narrator talks about Trump`s desire to build a giant wall on the southern U.S. border, the footage shows people running towards a border. The clear implication, those people are trying to cross into the U.S., hence the need for the wall. But no, as PolitiFact pointed out today, the footage actually comes from Italian television and shows Moroccans crossing the border into a Spanish-held enclave called Malia. Asked to explain the misleading footage, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski gave a statement to NBC News reading, quote, "No bleep it`s not the Mexican border but that`s what our country`s going to look like. This was 1,000 percent on purpose." The campaign stood by that claim in a more measured statement later in the day. Today also brought a slew of new ads from Trump`s rivals and their backers most of them negative, as the candidates began attacking each other in earnest in an attempt to diminish their competitors in a still very crowded field. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know I have a debate but I`ve got to get this fantasy football thing right. OK. AD NARRATOR: Chris Christie. High taxes. Weak economy. Scandals. Not what we need in the White House. AD NARRATOR: Ted Cruz is wonderful at reading children`s fairy tales on the Senate floor. CRUZ: Sam I am. (END VIDEO CLIPS) HAYES: That last spot attacking Cruz comes from Rick Santorum, who declared victory in the Iowa caucuses four years ago and finished second to Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination, but who has yet to gain significant traction in the 2016 race. Santorum, a staunch social conservative is competing with Ted Cruz for Iowa`s evangelical voters. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AD NARRATOR: If you want someone to read one hell of a bedtime story? Ted Cruz is your guy. If you want to protect America and defeat ISIS, Rick Santorum`s your president. Because serious times need serious people. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Joining me now is former Senator Rick Santorum, Republican candidate for president. Great to have you here. Thanks for being here. RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s good to be here. HAYES: What`s changed in four years? You`re seeing it up close campaigning in Iowa. I think there`s been a lot of changes in the way American politics works. I`m curious what you see firsthand as a candidate in Iowa. SANTORUM: Well, I can tell you the most difficult thing, at least from my perspective, is the nationalization of this campaign. I think the debates have been a bit of a -- well, not a bit -- a disaster. The way that it`s been -- they`ve sort of set up a hierarchy of candidates based on numbers that -- HAYES: On national polling. SANTORUM: On national polls which have proven to be pretty much irrelevant when it comes to actually who the nominee is going to be. I think that stratification -- and then you have this unusual factor. You have I think Rubio and Christie calling him the entertainer in chief. But Donald Trump has been a factor in this campaign that I don`t think we`ve seen in politics in previous primary elections. So, I think there`s just a lot of different dynamics. I think the underlying thing is just this -- even more so than in 2012, I think people are really angry and frustrated not just at Washington but within the Republican Party, there`s a lot of anger and frustration about the fact that Republicans promised a lot of things and delivered very little. HAYES: You know, you -- I think about this a lot in terms of social conservatives. And it seems to me, there`s a theory -- I think if you look at the states, I think you can say that social conservatives have elected politicians who then do things that social conservatives like. So, if you look at abortion restrictions at the state level, this has been something that social conservatives have been extremely successful at, right? They run, they get elected, they do it. At the national level it sure looks like a bait and switch from where I stand. Vote for us and then what you get is like the Ex-Im Bank and stuff like that. SANTORUM: No, that`s -- again, that`s the frustration. I think there`s as much anger -- maybe even more so this time around. There`s more anger at the Republican establishment even than there is against Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I mean, people don`t like Hillary Clinton, but I will tell you, that`s not -- the biggest applause lines when I`m out there in Iowa or the other states is when you go after the recalcitrant establishment of the Republican Party who seems unwilling to understand how much change we would like to see done in Washington, D.C. and I think one of the reasons -- HAYES: That`s the biggest applause line? SANTORUM: Absolutely. People are ticked off. HAYES: Why, though? SANTORUM: Because they`ve been sold a bill of goods that things are going to be different, that they were going to take things on, they were going to fight the fight, and it looks like in case after case, not only don`t they win but they don`t even look like they`re fighting the fight. HAYES: But isn`t that argument -- I remember fights -- go around to the other side because there`s a somewhat similar dynamic. I remember Democrats won the House in 2006, right? There was the -- one of the first fights was the funding fight over the Iraq war. OK? And Democratic activists said you guys just won the house, stop funding the Iraq war. You ran on this. This thing`s a disaster. And the argument from the leadership was basically -- SANTORUM: Can`t do it. HAYES: Yes, you`ve got to win the presidency. SANTORUM: Here`s the problem. HAYES: Is it -- is it a con job or is it there`s some real strategic problem? SANTORUM: The answer is in both cases, in `06 and also in `12 and `14, there was a con job and the con job is this. That Republicans in 2014 as well as Democrats in 2006 went out and claimed they could do things they couldn`t do. HAYES: So, you`re saying the con job happens in the run-up as opposed to what they`re saying after. SANTORUM: They went out and said, you give us the majority and we can do all these things. And I`m sure the Democrats said the same thing in `06. I happened to be one of the victims of that `06 election. HAYES: Yes, I remember that. SANTORUM: And so they got in there and you`re right, they weren`t able -- but that doesn`t make anybody feel any better. They feel in fact worse that they`ve somehow been used. And you have a couple of candidates out there who have been sort of the leader of those saying, "oh, we can do this, we can do this," when in fact they can`t do this. So they`ve actually gotten a lot of support because they said, well, at least we should try when the reality is that it wasn`t doable in the first place. HAYES: What role has the change in money played, too? Because obviously there`s a huge -- there`s, you know, Citizens United is pre-2012 but it`s played out in more extensive ways. SANTORUM: Look at the guy who`s spent the most money in this race. It`s Jeb Bush. How`s that working out for him? Look, a lot of this has to do with the kind of candidate you are. Whether your message and who you are and what you`re about is resonating with the voter. And in 2012, we were outspent five, six, seven, ten to one in some states and we were able to overcome that in many cases. HAYES: Not entirely overcome. SANTORUM: I said in many cases. I didn`t say most cases. I said many cases. HAYES: If I waved the magic wand and said would you rather have more money or less -- SANTORUM: Yes, do you have a check? I mean, I`ll be happy to -- the answer is of course. You`d rather have the resources. But it`s not the determiner. If there`s anything I took out of the 2012 election, it is not the determining factor that the American public sees the impact of money, but they realize they`re looking for the candidate that -- HAYES: I think that`s particularly true in this environment, which is large-scale national elections and primaries, right? Where there`s a lot of sort of horses to back. I think when you start moving away, you get a different scenario. Let me just sort of ask you finally about this standoff in Oregon, which feels weird to even call it a standoff because it`s only a one-sided standoff. There`s these folks occupying the sanctuary. It`s not like -- SANTORUM: Yes, I mean, people are talking about violence. There`s no violence. Nobody`s threatening any violence. Everyone`s -- HAYES: Well, they`re all armed, right? I mean, it`s a little different -- look, I watch protesters sit in Rahm Emanuel`s office in Chicago, right? It would have been different if they were all packing. Let`s be honest. SANTORUM: Well, you had the Occupy Wall Street people and you had no idea what the heck was going not in those places. HAYES: But they -- SANTORUM: You don`t know what was going on there. HAYES: But it would have been very different if they all had long guns on them. I mean, if they were saying, we`re here armed, right? SANTORUM: But the point is no one`s threatening -- just because they have those guns doesn`t mean they`re threatening to do anything with those guns. HAYES: Well, do you support what they`re doing? SANTORUM: I support the cause. I mean, what the cause is, that the federal government is through eminent domain and through regulation basically robbing these people of their ability to make a livelihood. Yes. I mean, this is a huge issue in the West. It`s not just an issue in the West. It was an issue in Pennsylvania. This is a huge problem of government overreach. And I think at some point, people are just saying, you know, hey, if you guys aren`t going to pay attention to us, we`re going to do something to make you pay attention. Now, do I support the fact that people are sitting there with guns? I`d probably feel a little more comfortable if they didn`t have guns. And I don`t think frankly they need to have guns. But the bottom line is they have every right to protest this. They have every right just like -- HAYES: Protest, of course. Yes. SANTORUM: Just like the Occupy Wall Street people. I didn`t agree with everything they wanted to do, but I agreed with their right to protest. HAYES: Well, we should just make a distinction. There was a protest and then there was this occupation. There were folks who did the protesting thing, right? That`s the sort of majority. Then there`s a small group of people that are actually occupying a sanctuary. SANTORUM: And the same thing. Well, they were occupying Bryant Park or whatever -- HAYES: Zuccotti Park, yes. SANTORUM: Yes, whatever the park was here, they occupied and they did so for a long time, and the government did what I think the government should do here. Practice restraint. HAYES: Yes. SANTORUM: And understand -- and try to understand the problems -- we had a big discussion. I know on this network because I came on it during that time. We had a big discussion, let`s -- OK, let`s set aside whether we agree with the tactics. Let`s talk about the issues these people are talking about. HAYES: We`ll talk about this later in the show and I`ll go on record saying the five-year mandatory minimum for this arson seems preposterous for me. SANTORUM: Point of agreement. HAYES: Rick Santorum, a great pleasure. Come back anytime. SANTORUM: Thank you. HAYES: All right. Joining me now is MSNBC political analyst Michael Steele, former chair of the Republican National Committee. Jess McIntosh, spokesperson for Emily`s List, a group which supports female Democratic candidates. And, Michael, let me start with you. You know, Mr. Santorum just said something I think really interesting. He talked about the nationalization of this race, which I think in some ways has been one of the key factors. This is a pro-ethanol group that`s going after Ted Cruz today and this is a mailer that went out sort of attacking him on -- that he doesn`t support ethanol. Now, this is of course a tried and true means of Iowa campaigning. STEELE: Sure. HAYES: But I think what we`re seeing in this race is those sort of local issues, essentially their salience has entirely evaporated. Do you agree with that? MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, in many respects, that`s right. I mean, I`ve said for some time, one of the problems going into this cycle by relying on national polls, whether it is to determine who`s going to stand on the stage to debate or where they are in the poll position leading up to the vote in a few weeks distorts the outcome, distorts the way this race would naturally unfold. This is really the first time we`ve seen this injection of national polls where folks around the country, not just Republicans and Democrats but everyone, just kind of get into this thing. So, when you take an issue like ethanol, farming subsidies, things that are pertinent to the folks in farming parts of the country like in Iowa, yes, it kind of blows it up into a national conversation that everyone kind of scratches their head and go who`s Ethel? You know. That`s kind of where we find ourselves. HAYES: Jess, you know, we`ve seen all this sort of focus on national polling. There`s a good piece in FiveThirtyEight about basically national polling`s correlation to the victor in those states isn`t actually that strong. And it does create a really -- a different dynamic where we`re sort of caught in between in which you`re using national polling, but then you`re also -- the earliest states are broadly unrepresentative demographically of what the country looks like. And particularly on the Democratic side, you wonder how that affects essentially how you run this race with the Democratic coalition that exists. JESS MCINTOSH, EMILY`S LIST: Yes. Aside from "Star Wars," there was actually very little interesting or good about 2015. I think we go into 2016 with Hillary Clinton being the presumed front-runner. It`s a close one. We know that New Hampshire is going to be super interesting. On the GOP side, we`ve really seen the fracture of the Republican Party here. I think if you had told any of us at the beginning of 2015 that we would have Donald Trump in the position that he is largely because of national polling and how much -- I agree with Rick Santorum on how much the debates played a role in creating that monster. I think anybody would have been shocked and drummed out of Washington for suggesting such a thing could happen. And yet here we are. So, regardless of whether the national polls are the right way to go or whether we ought to localize elections, what we`re stuck with is a likely Trump nominee at this point. Even if Cruz takes Iowa, even if Christie takes New Hampshire, Trump is leading in South Carolina. He`s likely to take Florida. He`s likely to take Super Tuesday states. He`s likely to be the Republican nominee. And I think that that`s something that we all sort of spent the holiday break, Republican Party, Democratic Party and the press coming to terms with. This is happening. And if somebody other than Trump -- STEELE: Well, some of us have been there for a lot longer than others. (LAUGHTER) HAYES: Well, so, Michael, that`s the question, right? I mean, when you hear that, I`ve heard what Rick Santorum just said. And I actually heard that from a bunch of people. I heard that from Republican consultants I`ve talked to, you know, off the record about, you know, the number one -- enemy number one in many cases is not Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton, enemy number one is essentially who people perceive as the leaders of the Republican Party. STEELE: Yes. HAYES: The Republican establishment. And, you know, we`ve been talking this whole time about the race is ultimately going to have to come down to establishment, anti-establishment, two-person race. But if that`s the dynamic, I don`t see how the person who wins that establishment slot has a shot unless the dynamic shifts. STEELE: Well, the dynamic has to shift in a way that we haven`t seen right now. Look, since -- for seven months, Chris, Trump has held this poll position, this number one spot. And yes, he may -- he may lose Iowa. But I`m not even banking fully on that at this point. As we know, Iowa can be a little fickle. Everyone`s concerned about turnout. But Trump has got an organization there. He`s playing hard in New Hampshire. As Jess just said, when the focus turns to the South, that`s virtual clean sweep for him potentially. HAYES: Right. STEELE: So there`s a lot of reconciliation the parties have to come to grips with, and this idea they`re going to somehow manufacture an opportunity for the establishment candidate who`s going to wrestle control back away from Trump, that moment is lost. I don`t see how that happens going forward. HAYES: And, Jess, I think also as much as -- what you were saying is really true. I remember talking exactly a year ago to someone in the Clinton circle off the record who was basically saying, look, it`s got to be -- it`s going to be Jeb Bush. I mean, really who else? MCINTOSH: Right. Of course. HAYES: I mean, that was the assumption. That`s been the operative assumption. MCINTOSH: Of course. HAYES: Not just on the Republican side. The laws of gravity will apply. MCINTOSH: I mean, I won Donald Trump in the fantasy draft on your show several months ago. HAYES: And you gave him away. MCINTOSH: I was really bummed about that. HAYES: And it was restored through an act of the beneficent judge. (CROSSTALK) HAYES: No, that`s right. MCINTOSH: I think it`s important to remember, Trump just aired his first commercial. I mean, yes, he`s trailing right now in Iowa and New Hampshire. But he just aired his first commercial. That is unheard of. HAYES: That`s a great point. And also, it`s also -- here`s one thing to look for. A lot of talk about ads aren`t working in this cycle. Most of those Jeb Bush ads have been positive ads, which tend not to -- like let`s see how when the ad barrage starts and people start tattooing each other on the airwaves in Iowa and New Hampshire you will see numbers move. STEELE: That`s coming. HAYES: Michael Steele, Jess McIntosh, thank you both. STEELE: Yes. MCINTOSH: Thanks. HAYES: All right. Still to come, the Democrats are ramping up for Iowa but is Bernie`s new ground game good enough to catch Hillary? Plus, President Obama starts off 2016 with his next big political fight. A look at his executive action on guns. And later, why an armed occupation of a government building which we just mentioned has been allowed to go on for three days. The politics in Oregon, and more ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: We have a very early and frankly tough to beat entry in the contest for most shameless pandering of 2016. It comes from Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, who on New Year`s Day tweeted the following, "Love my alma mater but rooting for a Hawkeyes win today #rosebowl." Hawkeyes as in the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa as in the state where Carly Fiorina is polling at 1 percent ahead of the caucus there, which is less than a month away. The Hawkeyes went on to lose the game to Fiorina`s beloved alma mater Stanford 45-16, prompting some to accuse Fiorina of cursing the team. Cue the #carlycurse. In an interview yesterday, Fiorina defended her tweet. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was tongue in cheek. For heaven`s sakes, a girl needs to have a little fun sometimes. I guess it was a slow news day for the media. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Best part of that defense, though, was the lead up to it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FIORINA: Ted Cruz is just like any other politician. He says one thing in Manhattan. He says another thing in Iowa. He says whatever he needs to say to get elected. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Not that she would know anything about that. Go Hawkeyes. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: As Hillary Clinton kicked off a two-day trip in Iowa today, her husband hit the stump solo for the first time in this election cycle. He held a campaign rally in Nashua, New Hampshire where he played down expectations of an easy primary win. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Can Hillary win this one? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; Thank you so much. B. CLINTON: Sure. Win here? Sure. But it`s going to be hard. REPORTER: What`s your advice to her? B. CLINTON: I believe -- she`s been here a lot, worked hard. It`s all you can do. These people are really fair. No candidate who borders New Hampshire has ever lost a primary here except when Howard Dean lost to John Kerry because they both did. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Turns out that`s not quite right. As MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki pointed out on Twitter, actually Jimmy Carter beat Ted Kennedy by ten points in New Hampshire in 1980. Now, there`s a reason Bill Clinton is downplaying Hillary Clinton`s chances in New Hampshire. With 36 days left until the nation`s first primary, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is topping many of the polls there, even while Hillary Clinton is in the lead nationally. According to his campaign, Sanders has raised $33 million in the last fund-raising quarter, which is just $4 million shy of the $37 million that Hillary Clinton reported. Joining me now, Steve Kornacki, MSNBC host and political correspondent. I thought it was sort of interesting to see Bill Clinton explicitly doing expectation setting in New Hampshire. STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST AND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They`ve tried this a couple times. They`ve been doing this in Iowa too, and they`ve got a whole sort of complicated formula to lower the bar to under 50 percent for how Hillary Clinton will do out there. Now, you have New Hampshire. The other one he mentioned out there, 2004, Howard Dean from Vermont lost, but, of course, Kerry from another border state, Massachusetts won that year. But, yes, obviously, look, Hillary Clinton is the favorite in New Hampshire. I know the polls show a very close race there but the expectations in the political world, the expectation in the media world, the expectation certainly, people in her campaign is they know they need to win the state. It`s going to look bad if she doesn`t. HAYES: Yes, everything changes to me about the dynamics of this race if Bernie Sanders wins the state. I mean -- and New Hampshire is probably his best shot right now in terms of early -- KORNACKI: It is. Although, I mean, look, I don`t know if this -- it`s tough to see this cascading into something bigger but the great unknown here is what happens if this scenario plays out. Take New Hampshire for a second. Start in Iowa. In Iowa right now, Sanders is only ten points behind Hillary Clinton. That`s striking distance. HAYES: Yes. KORNACKI: Caucus state, activist-driven. Sanders, grassroots support and everything. Let`s say he pulls out a shocking upset in Iowa. You`ve got that eight-day window. Does the momentum give him a win in New Hampshire? And then suddenly, if Bernie Sanders is sitting there winning the first two contests, what kind of world are we living in? HAYES: Well, we`re living in a very different world. The question becomes getting from there, A to B. I mean, what that $33 million buys frankly, right? I mean, you`ve got a situation where the Bernie -- the Sanders campaign has clearly been quite well-organized. But the big obstacle it`s faced are two, right? Voters of color in the Democratic primary. Particularly when you get into Nevada and South Carolina. And also, you know, Bernie Sanders` brand. And not just his brand, his personal belief system is he`s not going to go negative on Hillary Clinton. But it is difficult to make up that kind of ground if you don`t. KORNACKI: Yes, I`m not sure -- I mean, you hit on the first one, though. Voters of color. You talk about the firewall that exists right now for the Clinton campaign. They`ll talk about this if you give them a little bit of truth serum. HAYES: Yes. KORNACKI: But basically when you get past Iowa and New Hampshire -- I mean, to underscore what we`re talking about here, you look at South Carolina. Half the electorate in South Carolina in the Democratic primary is going to be black, maybe 55 percent. She is winning among black voters by 60 to 70 points right now. HAYES: Right, right. KORNACKI: That is staggering. I mean, you think back to 2008. The Hillary-Obama primary in South Carolina, we talked about this, the problems that supposedly existed between the Clintons and black voters because of that primary. Well, that`s all washed away right now and the concern for Sanders there is he really has been trying for the last -- HAYES: He has. And what he has seen is his numbers have come up a bit but they`re just still -- KORNACKI: From 7 to 17 or something. HAYES: Exactly. Still so far away. KORNACKI: He needs 30, 40-point growth there because -- the other thing is you look at white voters in South Carolina, it`s basically even right now. It looks a lot like New Hampshire and Iowa, which are basically all white states, overwhelmingly white states. But that added dimension when you bring in a more diverse voting poll, it changes. HAYES: Do you think what we`ve seen in this sort of I think emerging conventional wisdom about the campaign so far not being -- very untouched by ads. Do you think that`s going to pertain and continue particularly on the Democratic side in the next month or so? KORNACKI: What we`ve seen so far if you want to fold the Democratic and Republican sides together is positive advertising doesn`t seem -- HAYES: Has done nothing. KORNACKI: Right. But the question is -- and maybe this is more on the Republican side because you`re talking about sanders not wanting to run negative ads. It`s a talking point. I`ve never run a negative ad in my life. HAYES: Right. KORNACKI: But on the Republican side will the negative ads -- because we saw in 2012 with Mitt Romney, the super PAC that -- excuse me, Mitt Romney himself, his campaign, the super PACs, when they dumped money into negative ads, it worked against Newt Gingrich, worked against their opponents. HAYES: Yes, negative ads happen for a reason. All right. Steve Kornacki, always a pleasure. Thank you. Coming up, President Obama prepares to announce his executive actions on gun safety. And Republicans are already denouncing it. What they said, ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: America`s close ally in the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia, ushered in the new year with the country`s largest mass execution in 35 years. 47 people were executed, perhaps most notably, judging by its consequences, a prominent Shiite cleric who`s a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia`s Sunni government.

On Saturday, the day the executions were announced, protesters in Iran ransacked and set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran. They also attacked the Saudi consulate in Mashad, Iran.

Iran`s supreme leader condemned the attacks. The Iranian government did make dozens of arrests of suspects in the assault. But the Shia regime in Iran has basically been in a proxy war with the Sunni Saudi Arabia now for years.

Saudi Arabia responded to those attacks on its diplomatic facilities by cutting diplomatic ties with Iran. And the Iranian government responded to that by accusing Saudi Arabia of exploiting the attacks on its embassy to divert attention from its own issues.

The back and forth included Iran`s supreme leader posting this on his website, a white ISIS/black ISIS graphic in which the Saudi government is equated with ISIS.

Most of the Saudi executions were reportedly by beheading. The normal practice of beheading in that country is by use of a sword.

Today, the conflict widened as Bahrain and Sudan joined Saudi Arabia in cutting diplomatic ties with Iran. The United Arab Emirates downgraded its diplomatic relations with Iran.

But in Bahrain, which is a Shia majority nation ruled by a Sunni monarchy and supportive of the Saudis, protests have erupted against the Saudi government`s executions. And protests in Tehran have continued.

What we have seen over the last several years from iraq to Syria to Yemen is essentially a series of proxy wars between the Sunni Saudis and the Shia Iranians for dominance in the region. It is one of the underlying drivers of the bloodshed in the region, which doesn`t show signs of getting better.

Saudi Arabia has also now ended air traffic and trade links with Iran, according to its foreign minister.

Between these two regimes, of course, it is Saudi Arabia that is allied with the United States. That is our friend. The U.S. State Department responded to Saudi Arabia`s mass execution with a statement, which read in part, "we have previously expressed our concerns about the legal process in Saudi Arabia and have frequently raised these concerns at high levels of the Saudi government. We reaffirm our calls on the government of Saudi Arabia to respect and protect human rights and to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings in all cases."

All in all, frankly, pretty weak tea.

Now, keep your eyes out for how long it takes for the U.S. to sell the Saudis more weapons, because that`s always a true test of concern.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not going to solve every violent crime in this country. It`s not going to prevent every mass shooting. It`s not going to keep every gun out of the hands of a criminal. It will potentially save lives in this country.


HAYES: President Obama is kicking off his last full year in office by picking a political fight with Republicans over guns.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI director James Comey meeting with the president earlier today to offer their recommendations for executive actions, measures that would not need the approval of congress on the matter.

The president noting he`ll be announcing these actions over the next several days. And tonight, the White House is offering a glimpse into what those actions will entail including plans to narrow the so-called gun show loophole, which will force more gun buyers to get background checks.

The FBI will add hundreds of more employees to process those checks. These actions, as The New York Times notes, stopped short of the extensive changes Mr. Obama sought unsuccessfully in congress a few years ago with the president choosing to put political capital behind the issue in an election year itself is pretty significant.

It`s an issue that Democratic presidential hopefuls from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders and Martin O`Malley have all put their political capital behind as well.

Predictably enough, Republican Presidential candidates offered their pre-buttals, condemning the actions that have yet to be officially announced.


CARLY FIORINA, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama has been lawless in his use of executive orders, whether those executive orders are around immigration or whether those executive orders are around gun control.

JEB BUSH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His first impulse always is to take rights away from law-abiding citizens and it`s wrong. And to use executive powers he doesn`t have is a pattern that is quite dangerous.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: Now this president wants to act as if he`s a king, as if he`s a dictator. The fact is if he wants to make changes to these laws go to congress and convince the congress that they`re necessary. But this is going to be another illegal executive action which I`m sure will be rejected by the courts. And when I become president will be stricken from executive action by executive action I`ll take.


HAYES: Donald Trump stated his opposition more simply noting that if Mr. Obama takes executive action on guns Trump will, quote, "unsign that so fast, so fast," once he becomes president.

While the substantive reason to be concerned about guns seems clear, in a country where in 2015 at least 265 kids under the age of 18 picked up a firearm and accidentally shot themselves or someone else with that firearm, the politics of it seem less clear.

Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter.

Jonathan, it seems to me that the argument that pertained for years, right, particularly after the assault weapons ban, the sort of gun fights in the `90s, was the asymmetry of the intensity here is too much to overcome. The folks that are single-issue gun voters will be alienated by attempts to do this. And the folks on the side of gun safety legislation, it doesn`t animate them enough, there`s not enough of them to sort of make it in the political interest.

And I`ve got to say, even if it`s substantively the right thing to do, which I think it is, I don`t see the political landscape having changed that much. Maybe I`m wrong. What do you think?

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: So what`s changed is the landscape inside the Democratic Party. And there`s much more intensity on this issue than there used to be.

HAYES: That`s a good point, right.

ALTER: And it`s being led by the president. He`s doing this out of principle. So when I asked people recently in the White House what has been the greatest frustration in seven years, they all say guns. What was the worst day of the Obama presidency? Sandyhook. Him having to go there, meet those families, see those 6-year-olds stacked up like cordwood. This is going to change a person and it changed Barack Obama.

And he decided that after that he was going to do everything that he could -- he hadn`t been very interested in it in his first term. But after that he was going to do everything in his power and if people don`t like it, his attitude is see you in court. And that is -- you know, that`s one way for a president to act.

The emancipation proclamation was an executive order, right. The president is as big a man as he can be, as Woodrow Wilson, not very popular now, used to say. So you can expand the powers of the office if you feel strongly enough about it. And that`s what Obama`s doing. And he`s bringing the Democratic Party with him.

HAYES: And my understanding of having sort of talked to some folks that know this in the legal terrain pretty well that this stuff is -- it`s fairly clearly within the kind of portfolio of what he can do.

The other question to me, it`s interesting you make that point, right, because this is in some ways a political play. Like there isn`t much political up side. This is really a play for from principle, right?

ALTER: Right, from his perspective. I think for Sanders and Clinton it`s about competing for Democratic primary voters.

And remember, Hillary Clinton went to Sanders` left on guns and she started going after him for not -- for voting against the right to sue gun manufacturers. He`s responded by kind of backing and filling and saying no, he really is a strong supporter of gun safety legislation.

All of that talk will end after the convention because the Democrats aren`t going to want to do anything to jeopardize, say, Pennsylvania, which is a very pro-gun state.

So you`re going to hear a lot of talk about this in the Democratic Party right up until the primaries end. And then it will be interesting to see if the next president, if it`s a Democrat, feels as strongly about this as Barack Obama.

HAYES: Right, that`s going to be the interesting test.

Jonathan Alter, thank you very much.

ALTER: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Still ahead, how would the armed occupation in Oregon be handled by authorities if they were, say, Muslim or Black Lives Matter protesters? We`ll look at that coming up.


HAYES: It is safe to say this is probably not how Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel thought he`d be starting 2016. As we`ve reported last week, the mayor had planned to ring in the New Year on vacation in Cuba, but with another fatal police shooting in Chicago and calls growing louder for him to resign, he cut his trip short.

Today, the chorus of Emanuel critics picked up a major voice. Illinois` Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, a long-time friend of the mayor who vacationed together with their families told reporters he is very disappointed in Mayor Emanuel`s handling of police shootings in his first press conference of the year.

And he said he would sign legislation that`s been introduced to allow voters to recall the city`s mayor.

The governor did note, according to his attorneys, he believes a recall bill would only apply to future mayors and not Emanuel`s current term.

That recall bill is currently being considered by Illinois lawmakers. The mayor has maintained he will not resign.



SHERIFF DAVID WARD, HARNEY COUNTY, OREGON: I want to talk directly to the people at the wildlife refuge. You said you were here to help the citizens of Harney County, that help ended when a peaceful protest became an armed occupation.

The Hammonds have turned themselves in. It`s time for you to leave our community, go home to your families, and end this peacefully.


HAYES: Tonight, a local Oregon sheriff is asking a group of armed anti-government activists who seized control of a federal building in a remote wildlife refuge to leave the community in peace.

The call comes just hours after the two ranchers at the heart of the occupation turned themselves in to federal authorities, Dwight and Steven Hammond, who were convicted of arson in 2012, served time and then were re- sentenced to five years in prison, something that has made them a cause celebre for the far right-wing group who after a peaceful protest Saturday took control of this wildlife refuge headquarters.

The almost 200,000-acre refuge borders the Hammond ranch, hence the occupation. The Hammonds are seeking clemency from the president. They`ve said that self-described militia members do not speak for them.

That has not stopped the occupiers, led by Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who had an armed standoff with federal government last year, from invoking their name.

The group, who wants the government to cede control of federal lands to local authorities, said they`re willing to occupy the building for years.


AMMON BUNDY, ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTER: It has been left to us to decide whether we allow these things to go on, or whether we make a stand so they will not happen to other people across this country, so they will not come into our homes and take away our rights, and they will not come into our children`s home and take away their rights.


HAYES: It`s unclear exactly how many people are with Bundy as he refused to give a concrete number earlier today. But his fellow anti- government activists have taken social media to urge people to join their cause.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: there`s still plenty of parking here on the outside. So don`t feel you that can`t get in.

There`s no road blocks, OK? All the rumors that are running rampant out there just need to be put to rest. We need you to get here and stand with us, that`s what we need more than anything. That`s what`s going to prevent any bloodshed. The more people that get here, whether you`re armed or unarmed, you get up here.


HAYES: Leading Republicans, perhaps learning from their experience with Cliven Bundy, seemed fairly eager not to be sucked into the Oregon occupation, calling for a peaceful resolution.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: It is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably, that there will not be a violent confrontation. Our prayers are certainly with those in law enforcement that are risking their lives right now, that they be safe.


HAYES: Just moments ago, presidential candidate Rick Santorum told me he supports the cause.


HAYES: Well, do you support the -- do you support what they`re doing?

RICK SANTORUM, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I support the cause. I mean, what the cause is, that the federal government is through eminent domain and through regulation basically robbing these people of their ability to make a livelihood, yeah.

I mean, this is a huge issue in the west. It`s not just an issue in the west, it was an issue in Pennsylvania.

This is a huge problem of government overreach. And I think at some point people are just saying, you know, hey, if you guys aren`t going to pay attention to us we`re going to do something to make you pay attention.


HAYES: The takeover over of the federal building, which so far has not been met with any significant law enforcement response, has led to questions about what would happen if the armed occupiers were different, if they were Black Lives Matter activists or, say, armed Muslim occupiers? We`ll discuss that next.



JASON PATRICK, ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTER: I think they said it best back in World War II, I think there`s a gun behind every blade of grass.

JASON PATRICK, ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTER: I would like to say that let us be civil and let us be as gentle as possible, but we shall be as firm as necessary.


HAYES: Joining me now, Matt Welch, editor in chief of Reason magazine, Ben Jealous, former president NAACP who is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Ben, let me start with you. I saw a lot of folks over the weekend as this was unfolding I think feeling a little bit like these people just seized a piece of federal property. No one seems that exercised about it. And would that look the same if it were, say, Black Lives Matter protesters? What was your reaction?

BEN JEALOUS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, look, it can`t be lost on you. On the one hand, you have an armed group of protesters threatening to shoot the cops if they come and try to take back this office building. On the other hand, you know, whether it`s Baltimore or Ferguson, we see unarmed protesters protesting their neighbors being shot by the cops and yet it`s not the group that`s armed that`s treated as the most dangerous.

You know, throughout our history -- you can go back to the 1960s when the Black Panther Party was formed, and there was a law in California that said that anybody could carry an armed shotgun, for instance, a loaded shotgun in public. Right away, as soon as they step out, you have some of the first special legislation passed against any group in California, passed by the California state government to get those guns out of those black men`s hands.

And so yeah, there has been just frankly a different standard for black protesters for a long time, and this is what that evokes.

At the same time I`d just like to say, Chris, that you know, the answer isn`t to necessarily treat these white protesters the way that black protesters have been treated. The answer quite frankly is just the reverse. To say hey, if we don`t need the National Guard to deal with armed white men, maybe we don`t need the National Guard to deal with unarmed black men.

I mean, that`s the type of conversation that we should be having.

HAYES: And to this point, right? I think there`s something sort of profound here, right? About this idea of them being armed. Because at one level I think that`s part of the reason that there`s a little bit of reticence, right you? You don`t want to precipitate bloodshed.

And obviously there`s Ruby Ridge and there`s Waco. There`s actual precedent here.

But also, that`s -- that is the argument that a lot of people marshal for the second amendment, that basically that`s why we should be able to have guns, so we could do something like this and scare off the federal government.

MATT WELCH, REASON MAGAZINE: I think it`s more that we should -- we should be able to have guns to protect ourselves when somebody gets all up in our grill. It`s not necessarily so we can trespass armed and take over a shack in eastern Oregon...

HAYES: But no, but I think that is.

I mean, look, when you trace the roots of arguments about the second amendment to the sort of -- their base, which is about the idea that like the government should be scared of the people rather than the people scared of the government, it comes down to the fact that this is a way of essentially breaking the state`s monopoly on violence so we have a possibility of insurrection in this bird sanctuary.

WELCH: I mean, taking Ben`s comment, which is a very interesting moment in our history, when Ronald Reagan and the NRA were in favor of gun control a lot of people in the civil rights movement, and not just the Black Panthers, believed in armed self-defense...

HAYES: For the same reason.

WELCH: For the same reason. TRM Howard, a very important NAACP guy in the civil rights movement, he made sure that stuff was armed as much as humanly possible out there.

So yes, that is part of the idea and the concept.

I would also, though, caution us for a second here. If Black Lives Matter took over an unused shack in eastern Oregon, people wouldn`t storm it. I mean, there`s been a lot of different standoffs in the government, including the American Indian movement in 1972 took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs with Molotov cocktails and guns. They beat people up. They held it in the last waning days of the election of 1972, and that ended without anybody getting shot.

The vast majority of these standoffs do not end up in this situation, thank god.


JEALOUS: But Chris, you know, at the same time, to the list with Waco and Ruby Ridge is Philadelphia in 1985.

HAYES: Move. Right, of course.

And the Move headquarters and the children who were incinerated in that basement.

And so the fact is that look, I think the caution here is good, but the conversation needs frankly to be had about what can we learn about how we respond to armed white protesters that should inform how we respond to unarmed black protesters.

HAYES: And Ben, I want to ask you this, too. Because the underlying issue here, which is a sort of fascinating one. I mean, they were convicted of this arson. There`s differing accounts about f why they set the fire. They burned 136 acres of federal land. They possibly endangered firefighters.

It was pretty clearly against the law. But there was a mandatory minimum. The judge said this is a ridiculous mandatory minimum, they should serve much more time. That was reversed upon appeal. They`re being sent back. As someone who opposes mandatory minimums, Ben, it seems like the underlying issue is actually they`re sort of right that it`s a pretty unjust sentence for what these guys did.

JEALOUS: That`s right.

But at the same time it`s the same sentence that we`ve seen countless teens get for having like two rocks of crack.

HAYES: That`s right.

JEALOUS: Right, the five-year mandatory minimum is notorious in urban areas because you had an entire generation that was -- and quite frankly oftentimes that was two rocks at a party and then they said it was a conspiracy and that everybody there could be charged with the same five- year mandatory minimum around a conspiracy to distribute.

So yes, it`s absolutely unjust. But quite frankly, where is the outrage, you know, most of the time.

WELCH: There are people, libertarians chief among them, and people who`ve been fighting for criminal justice reform the last ten years, a Rand Paul, they`ve been talking about giving local judges leniency to waive these things. And that`s what happened in this case. And the local judge was overturned.

We should be reducing mandatory minimums in all cases.

HAYES: All right, Matt Welch...

JEALOUS: And that`s where frankly liberal and libertarian tend to agree and somebody who has been out there for 20 years that`s been great to see Rand Paul, you know, get out there on this issue in the last 10.

HAYES: Matt Welch, Ben Jealous, thanks for joining me.

That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.