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

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/16/11

Guests: Kristen Welker, Wayne Slater, Max Rameau

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, my friend. Have a great weekend. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: You bet. You, too. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us. We have breaking news out of Washington, where congressional negotiators faced a midnight deadline to keep the lights on in the federal government. Without a spending agreement today, at least a temporary one, we once against faced the prospect of a government shutdown. It`s the third time we`ve come to the last-minute government shut down precipice since Republicans won control of the House of Representatives and installed Ohio Republican Congressman John Boehner as House speaker. Late tonight, a deal appears to have been reached. The multipart deal includes the overall spending bill for the government as well as a short- term extension of a cut in payroll taxes, a cut in payroll taxes that Americans have enjoyed for the last year. Had that not been extended, every American who gets paid by paycheck would have seen a pretty substantial increase in your taxes come January 1st. The deal today also reportedly includes a short-term extension of unemployment insurance benefits for Americans who are out of work. Each of those policies has major economic implications for the whole country. Unemployment benefits are thought to be among the most stimulative dollars that the government can spend through any policy. And even just on the payroll tax, itself, had that been allowed to expire, estimates of the ding that would have caused to the economy ranged as high as 1.5 percent of the entire GDP. Barclays at one point earlier this year said if the payroll tax were not extended, they would revise their quarterly statement for the country`s economic growth next quarter for the whole country. They would revise it from 2.5 percent economic growth down to 1 percent simply because of the payroll tax. But again, the breaking news tonight out of Washington, is that a deal has been reached in Congress to keep funding the federal government. To stop unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut from expiring. But we`re also told, we`re also told, that in terms of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits thing, it is only a very short, temporary extension. It is not a full year. It is not even half a year. In fact, it is only two months. Further, because Republicans in Congress have been disinclined toward keeping that payroll tax cut going, because Republicans were sort of meh on that idea, even though they want to be known as the lower taxes party, Republicans insisted on adding other things that they wanted to this agreement in exchange for the terrible, awful, horrible vote they would have to take to keep middle class Americans` taxes from going up in two weeks. Among the things they added was a provision related to the Keystone XL pipeline. That`s a pipeline that runs through the Ogallala aquifer in the high plains. The idea of a tar sands oil pipeline running from Canada right down through that crucial source of fresh water in that part of the country has just unnerved all sorts of people in that part of the country, including farmers, including the very Republican Nebraska state legislature, and that state`s very Republican governor. As well as lots of protesters from all over the country who made their concerns about that pipeline known at the White House and elsewhere over the course of this year. Now, the White House last month decided that pipeline decision needed more time -- needed more time for environmental review and other reasons. The White House declared last month the decision on the pipeline would be put off until after the 2012 election. Now, when congressional Republicans threatened to force the Keystone pipeline decision into the payroll tax negotiations somehow, the White House responded by saying, that would not be acceptable. The White House responded by saying they would veto any such extraneous thing being tacked on to the payroll tax question. Well tonight, word that included in the deal passed is language to get rid of the pipeline delay, language that would force the president to make a decision on the Keystone pipeline permit within 60 days. Since the White House already said that isn`t enough time to properly review this pipeline idea, presumably what has just been agreed to in Congress just means that President Obama will decide on the permit and he`ll decide no. It`s not enough time. We`re not going to go ahead with it. That said, the word "presumably" is a dangerous place to be hanging out in. When you`re in a breaking news reported deal situation like we are in tonight on this news from Congress. So, for clarification and help, we go now to Kristen Welker, NBC News White House correspondent. Kristen, thanks for joining us on late notice tonight. Appreciate your help on this. KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: Let me ask you first if I got anything wrong there in explaining what we know what`s been arrived at tonight. I fully expect that I got something wrong there. WELKER: No, you got everything right. The one thing I would just add, I`ve been speaking to my sources over at the House. They say, look, they`re not saying there is a deal yet for them. They want to introduce this to their members before they sign off on this. We expect the Senate to vote on this on Saturday. If the House does approve this, Rachel, it could be voted on as early as Monday. So the house, the White House -- or the Senate, I should say, and the White House right now, saying there is a deal and they`re ready to move forward. But members of the House saying we need to show it to the folks here before we`re ready to sign off on it -- Rachel. MADDOW: What exactly is the provision that is related to the Keystone pipeline? Obviously, that`s transactionally important here because the White House had threatened to veto if that had been tacked on to the payroll tax extension. What kind of constraint is implied by this language we know that`s been agreed to so far? WELKER: Well, Rachel, as you point out, this has been a huge lightning rod, this issue. So, basically, the language says that under this bill, it would basically tell the administration to grant a permit to move forward with the Keystone pipeline within 60 days. Now, here`s the catch. The White House is saying it doesn`t mandate that the Keystone pipeline get built. The language basically says, if the president decides that this is not in the national interest of the country, that he can say, I`m not going to move forward with this. The Republicans essentially trying to make the buck stop with the president. As you point out, the State Department is going to say, we don`t have enough time to review this, so our answer is no. But the White House tonight is saying that -- their language has softened on this a bit for that reason -- because it doesn`t mandate that the Keystone pipeline gets built -- Rachel. MADDOW: So, it sort of seems like -- I mean, I don`t want to put words in the White House`s mouth here -- but it seems to me like if somebody forced me to make a decision, and the only thing they can force me to is make a decision on something I already said, I need more time to look into to make sure it`s safe, that`s a very easy decision to make. You sign this bill they agree to and immediately say, and I`m saying no to Keystone, thanks for forcing me to do it. WELKER: Right. MADDOW: I don`t know. Is the White House signaling what they will do if they`re forced into this decision? WELKER: Well, again, they`re basically saying the State Department will come to the conclusion that 60 days is not enough time to review the Keystone pipeline. What`s interesting, though, as you point out, Rachel, White House -- the president about two weeks ago was pretty adamant in saying he would reject a bill that included this. White House officials saying this is pure ideology. It doesn`t belong in the extension of the payroll tax cut. But today, we were in the briefing. Their language softened a bit during the briefing. And tonight, apparently, the argument is that because this bill doesn`t mandate, doesn`t actually require the Keystone pipeline to be built, that the White House is saying OK. They`re basically saying, this is a fight we`re willing to have. We in two months will just say, we`re not going to move forward with this because there`s not enough time to review it. But interestingly, Rachel, environmentalists are already coming forward and saying that the White House has backtracked, they`re disappointed. So, we`re already seeing some of that ire come to the surface. MADDOW: Kristen Welker, NBC White House correspondent -- thank you for helping us figure this out tonight. It`s been a hard one to watch. We appreciate your time. Thanks. WELKER: Thanks. MADDOW: I will say that if there is a decision made on this, if the president does decide to sign this with the Keystone language in there, environmentalists may be angry that the veto didn`t happen that he was promising, but if the result of this whole process is that the president just says no to that pipeline instead of saying I`ll decide on it in 2013, I can`t imagine that people are still going to stay angry about that outcome from an environmental perspective. I will also say that Democrats are probably not all that bummed out to have the opportunity to keep fighting about the payroll tax extension which they believe is great politics. And to have the opportunity to force Republicans to vote on that again; to say yes to a president Barack Obama endorsed lower tax rate for middle class people again in two months -- I would imagine that Democrats are excited about that outcome. But at this point, it`s still a deal in progress. We`re going have to watch to see what happens. All right. Still to come, the return as everyone`s favorite mad as H- E double hockey sticks, lose the election by 30 points, Republican bombshell candidate. Now, he`s getting involved in the presidential race. Oh, goody. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Happy Friday. There will be a cocktail moment tonight right at the end of this very show. Practice makes perfect. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: America, meet Mitt Romney. I mean, Rick Lazio. Rick Lazio was a Republican member of Congress representing the great state of New York from 1993 to 2001. Rick Lazio was not really a high profile member of Congress, but he served in various leadership positions. He was the assistant majority leader for a time, as well as the deputy majority whip. Even though Rick Lazio was never exactly Mr. Excitement, he did manage to put together a solid resume for himself in the House, which he then tried to parlay into a run for the United States Senate in the year 2000. And that`s where little Rick Lazio ran into the political juggernaut that was the former first lady, Hillary Clinton. And Rick Lazio just kind of blew it in that race. There was nothing, I mean, technically wrong with him as a candidate, at least on paper. He was a boilerplate establishment Republican with a reasonable record. But it really just didn`t work at all. At times, it was even awkward or creepy. And in the end, he got just absolutely crushed. Hillary Clinton beat him by 12 points on Election Day in the year 2000. There`s one thing you might remember about that race. It`s probably this famously off-putting moment where Mr. Lazio awkwardly, creepily invaded the personal space of Hillary Clinton during a nationally televised debate broadcast here on MSNBC. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK LAZIO (R), THEN-U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Let`s get this deal done right now. Right here. Here it is. Let`s sign it. It`s a New York freedom from soft money pact. I signed it. We can both sit down together, we can get all the media in here, we will make sure it`s an ironclad deal, and I`m happy to abide by anything we all agree on. Let`s get it done now. Let`s not give anymore wiggle room. MODERATOR: Mrs. Clinton, you want to respond? HILLARY CLINTON (D), THEN-SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I certainly do. You know, I -- I admire that. That was a wonderful performance. LAZIO: I want you to sign it. CLINTON: And you did it very well. LAZIO: I`m not asking you to admire it. I`m asking you to sign it. CLINTON: Well, I would be happy to when you give me the sign letters -- LAZIO: Right here, sign it right now. CLINTON: We`ll shake on this. LAZIO: I want your signature, because I think that everybody wants to see you signing something you said you were for. I`m for it. I haven`t done it. You`ve been violating it. Why don`t you stand up and do something important for America? While America is looking at New York, why don`t you show some leadership? But it goes to trust and character. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was basically it for Rick Lazio in that campaign. Good- bye creepy in my space Congressman Lazio, hello Senator Clinton. But Rick Lazio, God bless him, he wouldn`t go away. He had put in his time in the Republican Party. He was seen as a generally respectable middle-of-the-road, sober choice as a politician. He was always the guy in the Republican Party in New York state who you thought was -- maybe his time was about to come. He`s the next guy in line. Maybe he ought to get the next job. And in 2009, when that next job came up, Rick Lazio gave it another shot in New York. This time, he ran for governor of New York. Again, he was seen as the obvious candidate for the Republican Party. He was the next in line. He was the mainstream guy. He was kind of supposed to be the Republican nominee. I mean, he`s not exactly exciting but he`s Rick Lazio, he`s a known quantity. And best of all, he was up against this guy, crazy Carl Paladino, a candidate who was very energizing to at least parts of the Republican base, but who absolutely horrified the Republican Party establishment, and for good reason. Carl Paladino brought with him into that campaign a raft of personal baggage that brought up all sorts of ethics issues for us even trying to cover it. Like, for example, the racist and crude e-mails that he liked to forward around to his buddies. Pornographic, bestiality, racist -- yes, policy positions like sending welfare recipients to live in prisons where they would receive personal hygiene training from Carl. But what was the result of that election between Carl and Rick, between Carl Paladino and Rick Lazio? The result of that was that Newt Gingrich -- I mean, Carl Paladino won and he won by a lot. Carl Paladino beat Rick Lazio in the Republican primary by a 24-point margin. When Carl Paladino came out today, from wherever he lives now, and he offered his endorsement of Newt Gingrich for president, when Carl Paladino said, quote, "I`m a Newt Gingrich guy," it rang true it more than a direct way, because even more than Newt Gingrich and all his baggage and the put the poor kids to work cleaning toilets stuff, more than Mr. Gingrich might be like Mr. Paladino. It has to be noted that in this analogy, Mitt Romney is a lot like Rick Lazio, a guy who has built a solid resume in the Republican Party as an elected official. He ran for senate and didn`t win. He`s sort of a perennial candidate for office. He looks the part of the mainstream politician. There`s nothing wrong with him and yet he does not inspire enthusiasm. There`s a sort of awkwardness about him at times, a general failure to thrive about him as a politician. But he`s the guy seen as being next in line. He`s the guy who seems like he ought to have worked his way up to whatever the next political job is. But getting into a Republican primary in this era, sometimes means that guys like Rick Lazio and Mitt Romney sort of I`m next in line guys, they run up against forces of nature like Carl Paladino and Newt Gingrich. And the way Republican voters have been inclined to American politics for the last few years, what were the results again of the Carl Paladino/Rick Lazio primary? Oh, yes, Carl Paladino 62 to Rick Lazio`s 38. Yes! And that wasn`t the end of the story, though. The important point here is that Carl Paladino did steamroll Rick Lazio. What that earned him was the privilege of running in the general election against a Democrat. And in that general election against the Democrat, Carl Paladino got steamrolled himself, worse. Paladino lost to Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat, by 30 full points. He lost in the general election by a bigger margin than the huge margin in which he crushed Lazio in the primary, which is why Democrats are so excited about the prospect of Carl Paladino -- I mean Newt Gingrich, winning the Republican presidential nomination this year. As Newt Gingrich`s poll numbers seem to be stalling a bit, there has not seemed to have been a game-changing performance of any kind at last night`s Republican debate in Iowa, the hopes of Gingrich files and frankly liberals everywhere that he might be able to sustain his seemingly now fading surge against Mitt Romney, those hopes were bolstered yesterday by news from that a zillionaire casino magnate named Sheldon Adelson might be about to give Newt Gingrich`s side $20 million to play with -- $20 million. That`s roughly triple the amount of money Newt Gingrich raised in his entire campaign so far. He`s going to get it in one check from one guy. Sheldon Adelson has since walked that back, not saying that he won`t do it, not saying he won`t necessarily give Gingrich $20 million, but he is saying that he hasn`t come to a decision to specifically do it for that specific amount yet. That walk-back was probably heartening news for the Romney campaign today. Romney campaign was also excited today to announce the endorsement of the Republican governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Today is the day I`m throwing all of my support behind Mitt Romney for president. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That endorsement is particularly important because a self- proclaimed moderate Mormon, former Massachusetts governor, is exactly the kind of candidate who is thought of as having no chance in a Republican primary in South Carolina. Newt Gingrich, himself, said that he`s not banking on doing well in Iowa or New Hampshire. He says his firewall is South Carolina. So, for Mitt Romney to lock up the South Carolina governor, the South Carolina Republican governor`s endorsements, on the surface, that is a great thing for Mr. Romney. But because nothing is simple or conclusive in this most awesome of all Republican primaries this year, it should also be noted that Nikki Haley`s approval rating in her home state of South Carolina right now is 34 percent. She is down there with Rick Snyder and Rick Scott and all of these other super, super unpopular Republican governors. South Carolinians do not seem to like her very much. Plus, she`s in the middle of a scandal right now over not turning over really damning e-mails about a million dollar federal grant in her state. E-mails that have been made public but for which she has yet had no explanation. Plus, her endorsement of Mitt Romney today led to a huge backlash among South Carolina conservative Republican Tea Party types. So, Mitt Romney got her endorsement. That will be awesome if she isn`t impeached over the e-mail thing by the time of the South Carolina primary or she isn`t forced to change her mind by the Tea Partiers getting so mad at her about the endorsement. But it is hard to escape the fact Mitt Romney is the Rick Lazio of 2012. On paper, he ought to have this thing wrapped up. And maybe he does. Maybe he`s inevitable. But there`s something beyond what a candidate is like on paper. There`s something about a candidate`s intangibles that can sometimes defeat every other rational on paper tangible thing about them. Here`s one. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Medicaid. You wonder what Medicaid is. Those that are not into all this government stuff. I -- you know, I have to admit, I didn`t know the differences between these things before I got into government. And then I got into it and understood Medicaid is the health care program for the poor by and large. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s Mitt Romney trying to be folksy. This darn government stuff, I don`t get it. I`m not a government guy. Medicaid? I didn`t even learn about what that was until just recently. I don`t know anything about this dumb government health care. That may be folksy, it is not at all true. Mitt Romney brags now about spending the 1970s as a consultant to a health care company. In 1983, Romney described himself as having done a top to bottom intensive Q tip by Q tip cost analysis of all the income and outlays at a hospital in Morristown, New Jersey. In 1989, Mitt Romney led his company, Bain Capital, through the purchase of a $300 million hospital company that derived half of its income from Medicare and Medicaid. We`re supposed to believe he never looked into what they were? But now he is telling this folksy story that he`s to seem authentic about how he doesn`t understand this darned health care stuff until a bunch of years later when he had to learn about it because he was running for Senate and it was bad government-y types who made him pay attention to it. He would have just preferred to stay on the porch, picking his banjo and eating cracklings, you know, shooting varmints. When Mitt Romney told that Iowa audience that he had not never really understood all that Medicaid stuff until after he worked as a professional health care consultant and did multimillion dollar deals on companies that involve Medicaid, that`s sort of thing is not a cardinal political sin. That isn`t, you know, him saying he`d been brainwashed in Asia, like his dad said when he was running for president. It wasn`t something that cut and dry. But something like this and the repeated incidents of things like this from Mitt Romney may be just as damning and just as finite. When Mitt Romney talks, people don`t believe him. Everything works on paper but the parts don`t add up to the sum of anything. You don`t believe he believes what he`s saying. You believe he`s telling you what you want to hear. And in a normal Republican electorate, a Rick Lazio, Bob Dole-type guy like Mitt Romney can win. You`re next in line, you get to win. In a normal year with a normal electorate, Republicans do that. But this year, this is not a normal Republican electorate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARL PALADINO (R), FMR. NY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: If we`ve learned anything tonight is that New Yorkers are as mad as hell. And we`re not going to take it anymore. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Joining us now is Wayne Slater. He`s a senior political writer for "The Dallas Morning News." Mr. Slater has traveled around Iowa these past few weeks following the Republican candidates on the campaign trail. He`s headed back to Iowa in just a couple days. Wayne, it`s good to have you with us here tonight. Thanks for being here. WAYNE SLATER, THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Great to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: I wanted to check in with you because I know you have been out there and you were sort of in touch with the internal dynamics between the candidates. Do you think that Mitt Romney is earning any new converts at this point? No, not at all? SLATER: Not many. MADDOW: OK. SLATER: He basically is, from what I`ve learned talking to folks, he`s staying pretty much where he is. That`s where he`s been the whole time. There is this surge now for Newt Gingrich, one part of the party. I don`t think that Romney is really doing much. There`s an interesting dynamic out there. And unlike four years ago and two years ago with the rise of the Tea Party, where people were kind of excited and interested, I have a sense that people don`t like anybody. They don`t like Obama, but they don`t like Mitt. They don`t like Rick. They don`t particularly like Rick Santorum. They don`t like anybody out there. It`s as if the Tea Party has produced a group of folks -- none of whom are acceptable -- and folks I talk to in places like western Iowa wonder, is this what all our effort was about? MADDOW: Do you think that the electorate is in its dissatisfaction that you were describing there, do you think the electorate is angry in the same way that we saw Republican electorate in New York state in 2010 that picked Carl Paladino to be the Republican nominee for governor? He wasn`t much qualified and he horrified a lot of the establishment. But he did channel people`s anger. SLATER: That`s a wonderful comparison you you`ve drawn, you know, with Lazio and Paladino. I think the difference this year is that two years ago with the rise of the Tea Party, there was not only -- there was a certain dark element to it. But there`s also an exuberance. There`s novelty to it. It was almost like Mickey and Judy were going to the barn to put on a show. This year, I think there is kind of more dyspeptic quality among the voters looking at the field. They don`t want to put on a show in the barn. They don`t want to build something. They want to burn the barn down. I get a sense that like two years ago, people didn`t like Obama, and early on. They want to beat Obama on the Republican side. But it`s more than that now. They don`t want to just beat Obama. They want to beat up Obama. There is a kind of really dyspeptic mood there that I think is a product of sort of the continued economic distress in the country, but also the fact that this is the field that the Republican Party has come up after all that sweat and equity. MADDOW: Do you think that that emotional content in the electorate that you`re describing is something that is consistent between Iowa and the rest of the country? I mean, in previous years, we have seen Iowa pick people like Mike Huckabee which is an interesting thing about Iowa but has absolutely no effect on the presidential race at all. The real race gets started after the Huckabee thing is done with. Do you think that Iowa is going to be representational this year or do you think they sort of stand alone? SLATER: So far, it`s not been representational. Look at who won the straw poll -- Michele Bachmann. Look who`s in the lead right now in Iowa. It appears, Newt Gingrich. Is this really -- I mean, who`s going to do very well in Iowa this year? Ron Paul. If Ron Paul beats Newt Gingrich, then Iowa doesn`t really represent anything in terms of really the direction of the Republican Party I think. I don`t think we`re going to know much until South Carolina. And frankly by the time we get to Florida, I think you`re going to see the more complex electorates, groups within the Republican Party. At that point, the teavangelicals -- the evangelicals and Tea Party types -- may have understood Gingrich is not their guy and will coalesce around Romney. But we`ll see. MADDOW: Wayne Slater, senior political writer for "The Dallas Morning News" -- good luck in Iowa. Tell them I said hi. We`ll see you again soon, Wayne. Thank you. SLATER: See you soon. MADDOW: All right. It is Friday. We have not done a cocktail moment in a couple Fridays, but we will do one tonight. It will cure what ails you because I know what it is. It`s a folk medicine thing I designed specifically for Congress tonight, but I think it might be of help to you, too. Cocktail moment coming up right at the end of the show tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSINS: This is Madison, you know, full of the `60s liberals. Let them protest. It`s not going to affect us. And as long as we go back to our homes and the majority of people are telling you the right thing, let them protest all they want. That`s my gut reaction. I think it`s actually good if they`re constant, they`re noisy, but they`re quite, nothing happens, because sooner or later, the media stops finding them interesting. GUY PRENTENDIGN TO BE KOCH: Well, not the liberal bastards on MSNBC. WALKER: Oh, yes, but who watches that? (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Welcome, everyone, who watches the liberal bastards on MSNBC. That was Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaking with someone he thought was conservative billionaire David Koch. Governor Walker looked out at giant crowds marching against him in the streets in Madison and the Capitol Building and he said, what the heck, what the heck. It`s Madison, let them protest all they want. Protest, everyone, you can even protest me, Scott Walker. Governor Walker changed his mind about the protest. Changed it quickly, in fact. The Web site Buffalo Beast posted a reporting of the prank fake David Koch call on February 23rd. By the middle of March, this was the scene as police cleared the capitol. Meanwhile, efforts started to coalesce to recall Governor Walker later this year. The governor started to codify his new position on protesting., which is that maybe protesting should not happen nearly so much after all. Under a new set of rules that took effect in Wisconsin today, the state will require protesters in groups of four or more to get a permit three days ahead of time before showing up in a state building. If the state decides the event requires extra security, whatever that means, the state will now charge protesters $50 per hour per police officer. The Walker administration unveiled a few exceptions to this new law. They say families and lobbyist will not need a permit under the new revisions to the new rules to turn up at a state building. So, families and lobbyists are exempt. Mom, dad and the kids, if they are more than four people and even if they oppose Governor Walker`s policies, they will not need a permit to show up in the capitol and say so. Also lobbyists. Lobbyists don`t need a permit. Lobbyists in a group larger than four don`t need a permit to show up when everybody else does. A group -- what do you call a group of lobbyists? A herd of cattle, an Abramoff of lobbyists? A snuffle of pugs, a Haley Barbour of lobbyists? A gaggle of geese, a grovel of lobbyists? I don`t know. Another funny exception to Governor Walker`s new rules. These guys, this solidarity singers show up in the capitol in Wisconsin every day at noon and sing. They sing for union rights and for economic justice. The singers announced that they would not seek this new permit that the governor said they had to be required to get -- and Governor Walker caved. His administration said today that it will work with the solidarity singers and will not arrest them. That`s mighty nice of them. Three hundred of these solidarity singers showed up today. Governor Walker apparently decided that he will not endorse the law for these people, or for anybody else. He`d be too embarrassed to haul away for peaceably assembling, or for lobbyists. But Wisconsin is still stuck with new regulations on protests. And the protests notably continue. And that`s because protests work. Look, I have been to street protests in my day. I know everybody derides street protests, right? They laugh at demonstrations and at demonstrators and people chanting in groups. Three-word chants! Three- word chants! But if protests did not do anything, you would not see politicians like Scott Walker tying themselves into pretzels trying to stop protests. You would not see them passing rules against protests that they`ve been inclined to force when it comes to any enforcement they might find too embarrassing to carry out. If protests did not work, you`d not see this. This is from Nevada County, California. It`s about an hour`s drive from Sacramento, which means it`s kind of out in the middle of nowhere, no offense. This is Occupy Nevada County marching for economic justice really in the middle of nowhere. Occupy Nevada County is a lot like the Occupy movement everywhere, with the gloriously and insistently vague demands that make the movement so hard to pin down and frankly so hard to stop. Rise up against the corruption. How about this one? Support fellow Americans. They also sometimes, though, get specific. Occupy Nevada held a protest outside the courthouse a week or so ago when they learned that a dozen homes were being auctioned off in a single day. Funny thing happens when you start calling for everybody to support fellow Americans. Those fellow Americans start calling you on the phone when they need help. On Wednesday night this week, around 10:00 at night, a man named Steven Merryweather called Occupy Nevada County and said he was about to get kicked out of his home. Mr. Merryweather told them the sheriff was coming to kick him out the next day at 6:00 in the morning. Before dawn the next day, five occupiers arrived at Mr. Merryweather`s house. It was dark, it was cold, and it was snowing a little. Mr. Merryweather has a tenant, single mom with four kids. The youngest of them is a baby 4 months old, and sick. Mom had been up all night packing. She seemed to have nowhere to go. The locksmith had already began changing locks when the occupiers began trying to negotiate with the sheriff and with the man who was there from the bank. The woman in purple here, the Reverend Sharon Delgado told us that she started talking with the sheriff who told her to talk to the real estate broker. She told us today that she, quote, "appealed to him on the basis of his humanity." In the end, the occupiers got the eviction delayed until after the holidays, which gives everybody more time to get ready. Mr. Merryweather is in guy in the middle with the bright white Santa Claus beard who looks happy to be there. He told us, quote, "It was so cool, the people didn`t know me and it came to help me. It was such a neighborly thing." It was also I think kind of radical. Joining us now is Max Rameau. He`s a veteran of many foreclosure defenses and he`s co-founder of a movement called Take Back the Land. Max, thank you so much for joining us. It`s nice to have you here with us. MAX RAMEAU, TAKE BACK THE LAND: Thank you. MADDOW: Can you explain the strategic idea of physically showing up to stop an individual foreclosure? Is it an act of direct intervention to buy people more time? Is it a political statement? Is it both? RAMEAU: I think it is both. It, of course, the immediate thing it does is buys people more time because we`re able to physically prevent the eviction from happening in many instances. And at least we`re forcing the police and the city to consider whether or not they want to use resources to create another vacant home in their community, while people are actively opposing that. So that`s on the one hand. On the other side, however, in a real way, we`re reimagining our society and world and saying that we could organize a society in a way where human beings are protected rather than banks being protected. And in a real way, we`re implementing our own public policy, the public policy people think the government should be implementing, but it`s not because it`s at the control of corporations. MADDOW: By going out and doing that bodily, by showing up and doing it in person, is it dangerous? I mean, you are in many cases dealing with a sheriff or somebody else from law enforcement who is charged with carrying this sort of thing out. In many cases, you`re in the middle of people who are in a very emotional situation on both sides of it. And it`s confrontational. Is it dangerous? RAMEAU: Well, I think anyone who watched the Occupy Wall Street protests, anyone who watched what happened in Madison in May of this year, knows there`s some inherent danger. However, you really can`t gain anything significant particularly in this time, and with the forces who want to keep things the way they are without coming under some level of danger. So people are going to get arrested. In the civil rights movement, people were arrested. And there are people who are not going to get arrested, people who should not get arrested and stay out of harm`s way. But if we bring enough people and we do it frequently enough, and if the media does its job, then I think it`s significantly reduces the amount of danger as it were. And even if people were to face arrests, they would not face physical harm, hopefully. MADDOW: My sense for a perspective of somebody who`s an observer of these events, somebody who reports on it, there is a lot of increased interest in doing the kind of thing you have been doing for a long time. A lot of people`s attention who have been intrigued by or involved in or inspired by the Occupy movement are starting to think about doing foreclosure defense. Does that -- I imagine you think that`s a good thing because it`s something you`ve been working on for a long time. But I wonder if you sense you`re going to get an influx of people who have never done it before who are going to start doing it. Do you wonder about people doing it right, about jeopardizing the work you`ve done already? RAMEAU: Well, I`m not so much worried about jeopardizing the work. We do think that it has to be done right. So, I think there are several issues which inside of the movement we need to properly delineate. So, for example, taking over a home, vacant home or doing an eviction defense, that`s primarily for public space use. Like if you want to have meetings there, you want to have open space meetings there. It`s different than like happened in many occupies, for example, whether it`s in an open field or whether it`s at a home, is different than protecting someone`s home -- protecting human beings and their right to live somewhere. So there is a difference between the two. We just need to understand the difference and move accordingly. MADDOW: Max Rameau, the co-founder of Take Back the Land -- I want to have a longer conversation with you about this with more time to spread out because I have more questions for you. Would you mind coming back on the show sometime soon? RAMEAU: I would love to do that. Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks very much. Thanks for being with us tonight. All right. Just ahead on the cocktail moment, there`s a cocktail moment. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Let`s say you are a felon. Let`s just say, for example, you`ve killed people. You`ve killed people, you went to prison, you served your time and now you`re out. Federal law in this country says you may not legally buy a gun. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, our federal laws are supposed to keep felons like you or people with a history of severe mental illness from purchasing guns. Those laws don`t always work, but that`s what they`re supposed to do. If a felon tries to buy a gun anyway, from a federally licensed firearms dealer like a gun shop, that dealer has to run a background check on you. And if you are a felon, you will fail that background check. However, if you`re buying a gun not from a federally licensed dealer but just from a guy, just from somebody who took out an ad on a site like or or on Craigslist, the private person you`re buying your gun on Craigslist isn`t responsible for background checking you. They can sell you a gun but don`t have to check your background, you felon. However, if that private person has reason to believe that you would fail a background check, it becomes illegal for them to sell you the gun. So, you can think of it as an honor system. An honor system for convicted murders. If we as a country have agreed that felons give up their right to purchase a gun, do we agree that this is a reasonable way to enforce that law? The honor system for felons and people with severe mental illness? If you ask the gun rights people about this honor system for felons, if you ask the NRA for example about closing this loophole, actually making private sellers have to check to see if they are selling it to a felon, actually making them run the background check, the NRA says, that is a solution in search of a problem. There`s no problem of people selling guns to people who couldn`t pass background checks. This week, New York City`s Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a report from a New York City undercover investigation into how people buy their guns online. City investigators posed as people looking to buy guns from online Web sites, right? And in the course of negotiating the purchase, the investigators openly admitted that they couldn`t pass a background check. And they taped what happened in response. This is amazing. Remember, the law here is if you, the seller, has reason to believe that the customer couldn`t pass a background check, it`s illegal for you to make the sale. Listen to how this goes. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIPS) INVESTIGATOR: So, no paperwork or anything? SELLER: No, no, no, no. Just as long as like you`re like a Kentucky resident, I don`t care. INVESTIGATOR: OK, yes. So, no background checks, right? SELLER: Right, right. INVESTIGATOR: That`s good, because I probably couldn`t pass one. (LAUGHTER) INVESTIGATOR: Yes, $400 cash? SELLER: Yes, I`ll take $400 cash. INVESTIGATOR: You`re not like a licensed guy, are you? SELLER: No. INVESTIGATOR: OK. So no background checks anything like that? SELLER: No. I`m just a private person. INVESTIGATOR: Oh, that`s good because I probably couldn`t pass one. So -- SELLER: Yes, I probably couldn`t either. (LAUGHTER) INVESTIGATOR: You know, you`re talking my language there, Fred. I like that. SELLER: Yesiree. INVESTIGATOR: So there ain`t going to be no background checks or nothing like that then? SELLER: It`s your problem if it`s not legal for you to buy it. That`s how that works here in Tennessee. INVESTIGATOR: OK, because I probably couldn`t pass one, background. SELLER: Well, you shouldn`t tell me that, though. (LAUGHTER) SELLER: That`s OKI. I don`t know all the letters of the law, but I`m pretty sure if someone said I can`t pass a background check, you`re not supposed to give it to them, but it`s OK, I would. (END AUDIO CLIPS) MADDOW: These New York City investigators tried to buy guns from 125 sellers in 14 states, 62 percent of the time, these private sellers agreed to sell a gun to somebody who said he probably couldn`t pass a background check. Again, according to New York City, this is the air tight legal process by which 40 percent of guns are sold in this country -- 40 percent of guns are sold through private sellers. How good a job do you feel the background check system is doing making sure that felons don`t buy guns? If it`s all on the honor system 40 percent of the time? Same goes for people who have a history of severe mental illness. We count on them to hold up their end of the honor system. But remember, the NRA says there`s no problem here. Among the many things the gun rights lobby is out of touch with, you can count the views of their own members on this. When a Republican pollster Frank Luntz asked NRA members if they favored closing the other big background check loophole, when he asked them if they favored requiring background checks for people buying guns at gun shows, 69 percent of NRA members said, yes, we should do that. The NRA says we shouldn`t do that. The gun rights lobby, the NRA, is surrounded by a force field, a force field that is impenetrable. It`s a force field that even their members are not inside with them. If you think convicted felons, convicted murders, mentally ill people should be allowed to buy guns, we should debate that. But if you think the laws we`ve got now are keeping those people from buying guns, you are high. Or you work for the NRA. And that`s who dominates the discussion of gun rights in this country -- which is why that discussion usually makes no sense. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Cocktail moment. `Tis the season for a whole lot of stuff we don`t usually do. Holiday parties, decorating, travel, doing extra work to cover for your co-workers who are traveling, hosting family, buying gifts - - which means spending money you don`t usually have to spend. There`s a lot of stuff we do around the holidays we don`t usually do and that can be awesome but it can also be stressful. Particularly when you don`t get enough time off of work to do all the extra holiday stuff you have to do. Consider for example our Congress. They all thought they`d be home by now. Nevertheless, Republican senators held a post-6:00 p.m. Friday night news conference tonight to talk about the deals they are working on and more work we`re told is expected to come this weekend. The holiday season is nice. It`s also a lot of extra work. And that does mean stress. If you are like me, that stress sometimes means not sleeping. And so, tonight`s cocktail moment is a holiday appropriate cocktail I like to think of as the poor man`s Ambien or the drunk man`s Ambien. It`s called a whiskey skin. It`s a hot drink. A variation -- I`m turning on the kettle because it`s a hot drink. There`s something going on. It`s a variation on the drink called the hot toddy. There`s something going wrong in America right now. And everybody this holiday season is trying to make hot buttered rum. Don`t do that. Hot buttered rum is disgusting even when you do it properly. Don`t do that. Do a hot toddy or do this instead, which is even better. This is from David Wondrich`s book called "Imbibe!" A spectacular book. We start by setting the water to boil. You want a heat-proof mug. David Wondrich calls for about a teaspoon of sugar. I like a little less than that. You can use either white sugar, or like sugar in the raw or something, depending on what you like. Then you want a long, thin piece of lemon peel. If you are following the recipe properly, you want it to be sort of as long as you can. Following the recipe properly, you just drop the lemon peel in there. Nice and thin. You don`t want too much on there. The recipe says just drop it in there. But if you`re like me, my variation on this is that you actually want as much of the lemon oil. Use the sugar as an abrasive with the muddler to try to get the lemon peel and the sugar all ground up there, lots of lemon oil. And then the -- oops. Sorry. Two ounces of good scotch. You want a nice single malt, a nice petey one if you can, like an Islay, this is an Ardbeg. Scotch, two ounces. Scotchy, scotchy, scotch. And then boiling water. You pour the boiling water in on top of the scotch and the lemon peel and the sugar and you drink it and then you fall asleep and you wake up in January and you are much less stressed. Recipe is at Prison is next. Have a good weekend. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END