Friday, December 17, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, December 17th, 2010
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball

Guests: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alex Nicholson, Zahra Billoo, AriRabin-Havt



CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The president signs the tax cut deal. But the spirit of bipartisanship is yet to come.

The omnibus bill yanked from the floor after Republicans' demands were met and then they yanked support.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: They want to ram this gigantic trillion-dollar bill through Congress and they're getting - and they're using once again the Christmas break as an inducement to vote for it.


HAYES: Dropped on them, Democrats call shenanigans.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: What hasn't been said by Senator McConnell and Senator Kyl - that's exactly the amount that they asked for. So, to stand back in horror and look at $1.1 trillion and say where did this figure come from? It came from Mitch McConnell in a motion he made before the Senate Appropriations Committee.


HAYES: What happens next? Saturday vote on DADT and DREAM. Our guests: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alexander Nicholson.

The incoming Republican House's plan for investigations: Peter King of New York's first priority? Muslim Americans.

Something you could hit your crazy relatives with over dinner this weekend - a study that shows everything we believed about the effects of watching FOX News. Of course, FOX viewers won't know about the study.

Jon Stewart calls out the senators blocking the 9/11 first responders health bill, all to get those tax cuts.


JON STEWART, TV HOST: That is astoundingly good news for firefighters that make over $200,000 a year.



HAYES: And in this season, a way for you to help - children and parents asking Santa not for toys, but for food, for coats and shoes, for jobs.

All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.






HAYES: Good evening, from Washington. I'm Chris Hayes, in for Keith Olbermann. This is Friday, December 17th, 690 days until the 2012 presidential election.

Breaking one of his signature campaign promises, President Barack Obama did not kill the Bush tax cuts for household income over a quarter million dollars today, but extended them for another two years. In return, he got a two-year extension of the Bush middle class tax cuts which Mr. Obama had promised to make permanent. And he got a one-year extension of unemployment insurance which will provide no benefits for any of the unemployed, those who have been without work and without pay for longer than their state limits.

So, in our fifth story tonight: who won?

Today's bill signing was Obama's first to be attended by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. The president hailed McConnell's support and assured America that Republicans care about creating jobs.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some elements that members of my party don't like. There are some elements that Republicans here today don't like. That's the nature of compromise - yielding on something each of us cares about to move forward on what all of us care about. And right now, what all of us care about is growing the American economy and creating jobs for the American people.


HAYES: Here's what the new bipartisanship looked like last night. Senator McConnell, after supporting and contributing to the annual spending bill, which was worked on for months by members of both parties and the appropriations committee, after coming to a bipartisan agreement for $1.1 trillion on spending next year, yanked Republican support, opening the door for Republicans, old and new, to laugh about the defeat of what used to be a bipartisan bill.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, for economic conservatives, a 1,924-page bill just died.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: A 1,924-page bill just died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And 6,000 earmarks will not now move forward.

MCCAIN: Yes, and I feel so badly about some of these earmarks because I had so much fun with them.



HAYES: Let's bring in Democratic Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Thanks very much for sticking around tonight and talk to us. Really appreciate it.



HAYES: So, the government will shut down by midnight tomorrow if there is no new spending bill passed. The House today sent the Senate a three-day extension up through Tuesday.

What is it you want to see the Senate do by Tuesday?

SCHULTZ: Well, I would like to at least -



HAYES: It's a burning question, isn't it?

SCHULTZ: We're going to be here a long time if I go through the list of things I want the Senate to do by Tuesday.

But for starters, we should at least make sure that the government doesn't shut down. You know, what is an absolute travesty is that hypocrisy and the Tea Party have such a stranglehold over the Republicans in the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives.

I mean, for them to have killed the omnibus that they helped craft to try to suggest that somehow they were doing - they had an opportunity to do a victory lap over a bill that they actually put together and supported and then hit the panic button when they realized that their right wing overseers are essentially driving the train that they count on to succeed politically, means that you're going to have cancer patients who are going to get the short end of the stick. You're going to have seniors and children and the most vulnerable in America really in trouble as a result of not having an omnibus pass and having a stopgap measure like the C.R. will be to hold this over until when we actually can get it passed. It's a huge disappointment.

HAYES: Since the president signed the tax cut bill today and you voted for it, I wanted to ask you what your feelings on that bill in its final forms were. Al Franken wrote something for "The Huffington Post," saying it was his hardest vote as a member of Congress.

Was this a hard vote? Was it an easy vote? How did you approach this vote?

SCHULTZ: No, it was - it was a hard vote especially - you know, any time you have a choice between competing principles, which isn't all that often, actually, it makes it very tough. I mean, I absolutely, in principle, opposed both the estate tax limits that were in this bill and the extension of tax cuts to the wealthy. But, on the other hand, making sure that right before the holidays, we weren't yanking unemployment benefits from 7 million Americans, that we were going to make sure - and that we had an opportunity, Chris, to extend the earned income tax credit, the child care tax credit, the employment opportunity tax credit which gives education tax credits for students who want to go to college.

I mean, any time you have an opportunity to extend those and get twice as much in this bill for Americans in need and give more Americans an opportunity than we're trading off in tax cuts for the health wealthy, then to me that was a deal that I thought was worth casting my vote for.

HAYES: You mentioned the unemployed. I think a lot of concern is two fold, right? There's a concern about the actual contours of this deal and the money towards the top 2 percent, but there's also a concern about the precedent, right? There's this hostage-taking metaphor that's being thrown around a lot.


HAYES: And what - 13 months from now - I mean, what are we going

to go through this? And isn't it going to be even worse? I mean, Lord

knows what they're going to demand from Democrats and the White House to

re-up unemployment 13 months from now, right?

SCHULTZ: Well, look, one of the things that was critical about this bill passing was that we need to make sure that we can continue to inject resources into the economy, put money into people's hands through these tax cuts, through the payroll tax cut that went into this bill that was new for employees, that puts another $1,000 next year into the hands of families that they didn't have before. So, that will hopefully serve as an additional bridge to get people who are getting their unemployment benefits extended, get them a bridge to when they actually can get their next job.

And because we're continuing to focus on job creation and turning the economy around, Chris, getting that $231 billion in tax cuts that are stimulative in nature and that will help us jump-start the economy, that was critical. You know, it really - it pains me to have to hold my nose and I watched the president at the bill signing, you know, noticing it pained him to have that stuff for the wealthy on the other side of the ledger.

But politics is the art of the possible. And one thing that we proved today is we're not the party of no. We won't hold the American people hostage.

They are - the Republicans continue to have a stranglehold on the needs of Americans, they talk tough about the deficit, yet they support tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which explodes the deficit even further.

They are willing to hold the safety of the world through the nuclear arms -

installing of a nuclear arms treaty hostage to hold out for tax cuts for the wealthy. Their irresponsibility is shocking.

And we need to continue to talk to the American people about where our priorities are and how Democrats are focused on creating jobs and turning this economy around. We did that by fighting for and getting twice as much in this tax cut compromise as they got for holding out for tax cuts for the wealthy, which we know does little to nothing to stimulate the economy.

HAYES: Their irresponsibility is shocking - I agree be that very much.

Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida - thanks so much for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.

SCHULTZ: Thank you. Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: The Senate does emerge from the spending defeat, able to move ahead on several big issues, or at least move ahead until Republicans block them from moving ahead.

The DREAM Act, creating a path to citizenship for otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants, expected to come to the floor this weekend and die without the support of the Republicans who voted for it when Bush was president. But enough Republicans do appear willing to break ranks, let Democrats appear poised to make history this weekend.

That's right, congressional observers predicting that Democrats will muster enough Republican support to beat a filibuster by conservative Republicans and finally repeal "don't ask, don't tell" - which when signed by President Obama will make it the law of the land that anyone in this country can serve their country without having to hide their sexual orientation, or without serving in fear of being found out.

Senator Joe Lieberman leading the charge to get the vote done, telling "Talking Points Memo" he is confident he has at least 60 votes for this, including Republican votes, despite the Republican threat to block any votes until they approve the spending we mentioned earlier.

The move is a big victory for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who salvaged the repeal by getting it through the House as a stand-alone bill.

Republicans said today that voting on "don't ask, don't tell" this weekend will mean defeat for something that has nothing to do with it - talk about hostage-taking, the START Treaty for nuclear arms reduction, protection of Russia's loose nukes.

Republican Senator Bob Corker told "Talking Points Memo" that Reid's scheduling of the "don't ask, don't tell" vote, quote, "being thrown into the middle of this debate is causing many Republicans to want to see START push back and candidly is causing them to oppose it."

Lindsey Graham, McCain and others who once supported START pulled their support today.

Joining us on the "don't ask, don't tell" vote is Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, which advocates for gay and lesbian troops and veterans.

Alex, good evening.


HAYES: All right. So, I guess the first question is: is this going to really happen? I'm almost in the sort of state of sustain disbelief because I think the disappointment would be so massive and holiday destroying that I want to like not get people's hopes up.

So, how is this looking?

NICHOLSON: Well, we've certainly had our fair share of disappointment this year with two failed Senate votes so far.

But things are actually looking really good right now. We know we have more than 60 votes to favor repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" in the Senate. We know we have our Republican votes. The conditions for those votes have now been met.

So, things are looking very, very good for the cloture vote in the morning on "don't ask, don't tell." There's always a couple of tricks in the bag that someone has, we're a little bit, you know, guarded because of that. But things are looking very good at this point.

HAYES: I'm wondering, if - let's say it does end up happening this weekend, and we won't be doing shows on Saturday and Sunday night. So, let's just put that as a premise. When you look back at the history of these two years of fighting for this repeal, who do you think gets the credit for it? Who have been - who gets the sort of MVP award of "don't ask, don't tell" repeal?

NICHOLSON: That's a good question. I think a couple of people share it. Senator Lieberman has certainly been an outstanding champion on this issue in the Senate. Patrick Murphy in the House - Congressman Murphy has been a phenomenal advocate and he actually got this through in the House. Of course, you know, it's a little bit easier to get things through in the House sometimes than in the Senate. But those two champions in their respective chambers have been phenomenal.

There's been a couple of unsung heroes, though. Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has basically said, we're going to drive through on this despite tepid support from other elements at times. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado has been fantastic behind the scenes on this. Senator Gillibrand, of course, has been very vocal on this and active.

But you know who never gets credit on these things, who really deserves to be recognized and thanked - are the staff of these senators and members of Congress. Senator Lieberman's staff has been absolutely phenomenal. Senator Udall's staff has been absolutely phenomenal, and no one would ever know that because they're not out there, you know, on camera, talking about it. But I think they're really the unsung heroes of this victory if should we achieve that tomorrow and moving into next week.

HAYES: That's a great staff shout-out, Alex. I hope we set some precedent there.

Explain why if this doesn't come together for some reason and I would - I would - if I was going to bet on why it wouldn't, some arcane Senate procedural quirk that none of us even know about right now, why is it so important it happen now?

NICHOLSON: Well, I think we're sort of at a critical point right now where we have the Pentagon report out saying that here's the road map, it can be done. We have a unique legislative situation set up for next year where, you know, of course, the House is under the control of one party, the Senate is under control of another, and the White House, obviously, is still in the hands of President Obama.

But, you know, the party that's going to control the House - and, you know, we're of course nonpartisan, but we look at, you know, just sort of the facts on the ground with respect to this issue, and the party that's going to control the House starting in January does not favor repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." And, of course, the leadership in both of these chambers really determines what's going to happen. And so, you know, it's really important to get this through.

The Pentagon wants it. Secretary Gates says please pass this bill in the lame duck, we need it and if we don't get it, the courts are going to impose their solution on this issue. And, of course, I'm the lead plaintiff in the court case that got it declared unconstitutional. If the Senate doesn't it, we absolutely are going to get the courts to move forward on that and do it.

So, you know, we're in a very period right now, a very narrow window, you know? And if it doesn't happen by the end of the year, really, by Christmas, you know, you're going to see some more drastic solutions. You know, Congress can choose, do they want this more moderate solution to this issue, the legislative solution? Or do they want, you know, what they consider, a lot of them, a radical court-imposed solution? We're prepared provide both. You know, it's up to them to choose.

HAYES: Alex, final question here. I want to ask you what lessons you have learned about Washington and the legislative process from this battle. Because it seems - from one perspective, you can say, you know, it's Saturday night, you're popping champagne and celebrating this accomplishment which really is historic. You can say, look, this system did work.

On the flip side, it does seem like this is such an obvious policy, there's such overwhelming public support, the amount of effort that it took to get this changed can also be interpreted as dispiriting.

And I wonder what your takeaway lesson is from this battle.

NICHOLSON: You know, that's a good point. I think this is a very unique issue, though. I don't know if it would apply to some other issue areas. This is a very unique issue because, you know, although most people, I think, view this in terms of civil rights and gay rights, we always hear about the gay community wanting this issue, the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal.

You know, this also straddles the realm on defense personnel policy. And anything that straddles defense policy issues always has a little bit of a twist on it. And, you know, the court - this is why we have had so much trouble, I think, over the years, with the courts, with Congress, with, you know, a lot of other sectors - everyone tends to defer to the military and to professional military judgment when it comes to defense issues.

And so, that's one of the reasons I think we have had such an uphill battle on this particular issue, despite overwhelming support from the American people, despite, you know, solid majorities of conservatives, independents, churchgoers, even Tea Partiers, we still have to deal with the defense policy issue in the Pentagon and the defense leadership is a lot more conservative sometimes than the average American.

And so, we see a lag behind sometimes on issues like this. But, you know - I mean, in addition to that lesson, you know, there's been the organizational politics that have been involved. You know, those can be ruthless unfortunately.

You know, dealing with the White House is a unique set of - you know, a unique circumstance. You know, the White House, I think, they want a lot of things and they're not always able to line up their priorities, trying to please various interest group communities.

There's a lot I've learned, believe me. But hopefully, we'll be at the end of this ride in the coming days.

HAYES: Alex Nicholson is the executive director of Servicemembers United - many thanks for your time this evening.

NICHOLSON: Of course. Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: I should also note, since Alex mentioned the White House, my wife works in the counsel's office there. Full disclosure.

An undercover FBI informant sent to a California mosque to find extremists. He's so extreme, the mosque turns him in to law enforcement. Happy ending, right? Not for the mosque and not for the incoming Republican chair of the House Homeland Security Committee. He wants the investigations into what he calls the radicalization of Muslim Americans. Next.


HAYES: The incoming chairman of homeland security in the House thinks priority one needs to be investigation into Muslim-Americans.

Meanwhile, Jon Stewart thought priority one would be paying for health care for 9/11 responders. His eloquent display of disappointment - up ahead.


HAYES: Evidently, there just wasn't enough anti-Muslim hysteria created by the opponents of the downtown Manhattan Islamic community center. Now, Congressman Peter King, one of its most vocal critics, has a really great idea.

In our fourth story: The Republican congressman from New York wants to open a House inquiry into the so called radicalization of Muslim community in America. And you will be able to do just that when he becomes the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Congressman King claims that, quote, "When I meet with law enforcement officials, they are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders."

Right. That's why we heard the story just a few weeks ago how the work of an undercover FBI informant in Irvine, California, came to a swift end. Why? Because the Muslim community he was trying to infiltrate was so shock by the informant's talk of jihad that they actually obtained a restraining order against him.

The informant, Craig Monteilh, is also now suing the FBI, claiming that he was trained to entrap Muslims. The informant was also a convicted forger.

It almost goes without saying that the Muslim community in California was offended because a degree of trust between law enforcement and Muslim-Americans is absolutely vital. Indeed, 10 terror plots have been foiled with the help of the Muslim-American community since October 2001 according to a report from the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

But Congressman King doesn't seem to be aware of that. This is what he said in a late October after - this is what he said in late October after making the pro forma statement that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are good people.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: It's not just people who are involved with the terrorists or the extremists, it's people who are in main stream Islam, leaders of mosques, leaders of Muslim organizations, who do not come forward and denounce, officially denounce, officially cooperate with the police against those who are extremists and terrorists. So, it goes beyond the terrorists and the extremists, and it also includes those in what others call mainstream Muslim leadership.


HAYES: As for Congressman King's proposed hearings, the executive director of the American Muslim Affairs Council expressed obvious concern. "He basically wants to treat the Muslim-American community as a suspect community."

Joining me now is Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the San Francisco Bay office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Thank you so much for your time tonight.


HAYES: So, Congressman King has also said that he will seek the opinions of Muslim leaders so these hearings won't be one-sided. I'm wondering how persuaded are you by that?

BILLOO: Unfortunately not persuaded at all. Congressman King has a history of selecting and screening individuals who are going to re-enforce his predetermined conclusions. And so, I hope these hearings don't happen, but if they do, he'll actually utilize legitimate mainstream Muslim voices that can recognizable by the American-Muslim community and can speak on their behalf, as opposed to a handpicked group of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam individuals.

HAYES: You know, what's interesting about this - I mean, aside from the fact that it's sort of obviously demagogic - is the fact that, you know, everything you read about, the sort of problems of - in Europe, right, in mosques and radical mosques in the U.K. have to do with the sort of alienation that's grown up between certain subsections of the Muslim communities in Europe and the state and authorities. And that alienation seems to generally not be the case in the U.S.

Is that your sense of the kind of status quo?

BILLOO: Absolutely. Time and again, as you mentioned, you know, just a second ago was that the American-Muslim community has shown a willingness to cooperate with law enforcement. FBI Director Robert Mueller has testified about this before Congress, so has L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, that they have said over and over again that Muslims are cooperating across the country.

Now, Congressman King is concern about organizations like CAIR advising American Muslims of their rights, I would argue that he has a misunderstanding of what it means to be a patriotic individual.

HAYES: What's your sense? I mean, given the fact that we have this whole craziness around the Park 51 Community Center in New York this summer. We see this with King. And we have seen, I feel like, an increase in this sort of rhetoric, particularly from the right and Republicans.

What is your sense of what is driving that? And where do you think this is headed? And how can we cut it off? That's three questions.

BILLOO: You know, I would argue that Representative King is a perfect example of what is driving that. We see this with his sort of fueling the rhetoric around the New York controversy and how he was willing to use that for his own political gain. And my concern is that this is headed towards the red scare era and towards, you know, McCarthyism.

What's to stop this from becoming the next Muslim-American activities committee hearing, right? This sounds like a witch-hunt to me.

HAYES: I'm wondering also if there's anything to - I don't think there's anything to this radicalization - but at the same time of this kind of rhetoric is escalating, do you think there's sort of alienation that is beginning to develop? Or do you think there's a possibility of a kind of blowback in which the alienation itself sort of precipitates a reaction in which there is this sort of breakdown in trust?

BILLOO: Right. I mean, I think that if Congressman King goes forward with these hearings and if he uses anti-Islam and anti-Muslim experts to legitimize his own personal views for his own personal gain? Absolutely, the alienation will be exacerbated by this, right?

American Muslims are saying time and again we want to work with you, we want to cooperate. We see them reporting instances of concern in Irvine, but also, for example, the New York Times Square incident where the first one to report that bomber was a Muslim street merchant.

But if this continues with individuals like Congressman King saying we don't want to work with you, we want to, you know, treat you as a suspect class, then the concern is that the divide will become aggravated and that cooperation will be undermined. And then, who's safer?

HAYES: Zahra Billoo from the Council on American-Islamic Relations

I really appreciate your time tonight.

BILLOO: Thanks for having me.

HAYES: If ever a story was wrapped in a bow and handed to MSNBC as a present, it would be this one. A new study shows the effect of watching FOX News - it's what you thought and much worse. Next.


HAYES: Watching a station that doesn't use facts leaves you misinformed? The shocking revelation next.

First, it's time for the sanity break. On this day in 1989 premiered what I think is safe to call the most popular spin off in the history of television. Based on the creator's family, this show has run for over 20 years and won more awards than I can name.

So to Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and the little one, Maggie, happy birthday to "The Simpsons."

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Dayabakir (ph), Turkey, with security footage of an attempted robbery. Two thieves walk into a jewelry store, one brandishing a gun and demand money and all the store's cubic zirconiums. But this owner fights to protect his family jewels, and lunges at the crook. The fight moves towards the door and crash. After being tackled through the glass door, the thief attempts to escape, but a slew of passers by restrain him until the police can come. He will have plenty of time to nurse his shattered dreams in the big house.

We stay with the law and order theme, but travel back to America. And just a bit of advice to any robbers out there. Before you attempt to rob a store, take a look around and make sure a police officer is not standing right behind you. This man crucially fails to do that and surprisingly is unsuccessful in his burglary attempt. Maybe next time this scofflaw will learn to keep his head on a swivel.

Finally to the Internets, and some people take the idea of drive through restaurant too literally. And boom goes the dynamite.

The passenger thinking they have just scored a killer parking spot, attempts to get out. She is shocked - shocked to see they're in the wrong restaurant. Fortunately, no one was hurt by this wayward driver, but from now on, they may want to stick with ordering in.

The signs that someone you love might be watching too much Fox, up next.


HAYES: You suspected it all along, but now proof. Consider our third story a public service announcement, as a new study shows that greater exposure to Fox News will leave you increasingly misinformed. A poll out of the University of Maryland finds that 90 percent of voters say they encountered information in the past election cycle that was misleading or false; 56 percent say that happened frequently. And those encountering the highest levels of spin just so happened to be frequent viewers of Fox News.

If you're worried about a loved one's consumption of Fox News, the study has identified potential side effects. Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely to believe that the stimulus caused job loss and didn't include any tax cuts. They their income tax has gone up, health care reform will worsen the deficit, most scientists don't think climate change is occurring, and that Tarp legislation - I really love this one. Tarp legislation, created and passed during the Bush administration, was opposed by most Republicans.

Gee, I wonder where those ideas came from?


ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: If the bailout goes through, and it looks like, from what I have been seeing, the Republicans aren't going along with this.

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Now we seem to have revised this math to include jobs created or saved. That's kind of hard to prove.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people argue that's what health care reform is going to do exactly, that it's going to add a lot of money to the debt.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Climatologist, scientists - and there are hundreds and hundreds of them that disagree. Why don't they get the same, you know, amount of attention as, say, Al Gore?


HAYES: A lead researcher for the project says Fox viewer syndrome doesn't just afflict those who identify as conservative. Quote, "even Democratic voters who watched Fox News were more misinformed than others. Fox displays a particular pattern of misinformation. The more you watch, the more inaccurate your views."

Although the bright side, if you're a Fox News viewer, you're probably really well informed on the subject of body language and chalk boards.

One side note, the study also finds that MSNBC viewers were more likely to believe the Chamber of Commerce had been, quote, proven to donate cash received from foreign sources to Republican candidates. Yes, it is not proven that the money the Chamber takes in from foreign services went directly to the candidates.

So here are the facts: the Chamber took money from foreign sources. They also donated to Republican candidates. And they did not open their books to prove that foreign money did not go to those candidates.

Time to call Ari Rabin-Havt, vice president at Media Matters. Thanks so much for your time tonight.

ARI RABIN-HAVT, MEDIA MATTERS: Thanks for having me, Chris.

HAYES: So, I was thinking when I was reading this today of this phrase this Democratic operative used once. He said - talked about post-truth politics. And he was talking about how you try to conduct politics in an environment in which you want to have a climate change debate and a massive percent of the population just simply is living in an alternate reality about what the evidence is.

RABIN-HAVT: This isn't just about lying. This is about an organized political strategy. This week, Media Matters released a memo from the Washington bureau chief of Fox, Bill Sammon, ordering their news reports, not Glenn Beck, not Bill O'Reilly, not Sean Hannity - their news reporters to say - everything they talk about the Earth warming to say there are people on the other side of the issue.

So it's no wonder that Fox News viewers say scientists are split. Scientists aren't split. 2000 to 2009 NASA says is the warmest decade on record. These are facts. But as a political strategy, Fox decides, hey, let's ignore the facts and push our spin. And that comes directly from the top of the organization. This is a political strategy directed by the organization to help Republicans.

HAYES: OK, but it doesn't - I mean, the dispiriting thing, right, is that this poll seems to suggest that as a political strategy, it is working, right? It is effective. So what is the remedy?

RABIN-HAVT: Right. And that's the danger of, frankly, the Fox effect, that people believe this, that - you know, I was down on Capitol Hill the day before the health care vote and they had the Tea Party rally. Every single speaker who got up from the Republican party lied to that crowd. They said death panels. They said this is going to raise the deficit. Every single one.

I'm sitting there thinking the leaders of the Republican party are either chronically stupid, willfully ignorant or pathological liars. And the fact is that's the message they're carrying to their base. And we can only respond with the truth. And we have to fight back at every single juncture against these lies.

HAYES: You mentioned health care. Politifact announcing that the lie of the year for 2010, this year, the government takeover of health care. What's interesting about that is that it originates in a Frank Lutz memo. Frank Luntz, of course, the notorious Republican pollster. And there's this very strong bridge between a Frank Luntz memo, the talking points that we come to see on the floor of the House of Representatives and what Fox News said.

RABIN-HAVT: In fact, a second e-mail we leaked from Bill Sammon ordered their news people not to use the term public option. Government option. This is an organized political strategy to harm progressives by Fox News, led by Roger Ailes, executives like Bill Sammon and Michael Clemente, to misinform the public, to help the Republican party win elections.

It's that simple. They donate to candidates. They support the Tea Parties. And they're the messaging vehicle for elections.

HAYES: I want to read this here, because Fox News also has this great tactic whenever they get attacked. They go crazy on the person. They take out the metaphorical baseball bat.

Fox News' statement on this report says, "the latest Princeton Review ranked the University of Maryland among the top schools for having students who study the least and being the best party school. Given these fine academic distinctions, we'll regard the study with the same level of veracity it was researched with."

For the record, the best part of this is the University of Maryland ranks among the best colleges in the northeast. And they're the 19th party school.

RABIN-HAVT: Well, here's what's really interesting about that to me:

Michael Clemente, the executive who made that statement to the "New York Times" today, he had the opportunity to say, look, Fox, we're going to try to do better. We're going to try to inform our viewers to the facts. He had the opportunity to say this study was wrong; here's how it was flawed, the question they asked. Like, as you explained on behalf of MSNBC, here's the facts about the question.

But instead he decides to attack the study. That's not what a journalist does. That's what a political institution does. This is further proof that Fox isn't news. It's a political operation. Their executives behave like the spokesperson for a campaign.

HAYES: For a campaign, that's exactly right. Fundamentally a political institution. Ari Rabin-Havt, thanks, from Media Matters. Great to have you on tonight.

RABIN-HAVT: Thanks a lot.

HAYES: The U.S. Postal Service brings out some of Santa's letters for us. And children from parents in need, how you can help.

The 9/11 First Responders Health Bill didn't make it through the Senate, thanks to a block by Republicans. Jon Stewart is not amused. And neither is Congressman Anthony Weiner. He's Rachel's guest tonight.


HAYES: After supporting huge tax cuts for the wealthy, Senate Republicans say we can't afford to help 9/11 rescue workers who were sick from toxic exposure at Ground Zero.

Last week, Senate Republicans blocked the Zedroga Act, named after a first responder who died of lung disease. In our number two story, Jon Stewart points out the hypocrisy of the situation.


JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": I want to talk one last time about something called the Zedroga bill. He was an NYPD detective who died in 2006 from respiratory illness thought to be caused by the dust he inhaled while working at Ground Zero in 2001.

This bill would provide seven billion dollars in medical and financial benefits for Ground Zero workers who get sick. And they're going to pay for it by closing a corporate tax loophole. It's a win, win, win, win. Just (EXPLETIVE DELETED) do it.

The House passed it.

Sorry. The House of Representatives passed it. And it would pass in the Senate, if it came to an up-or-down vote. They have more than the 50 votes they need. But the Senate Republicans have filibustered it, won't allow the bill to come up for a vote. Luckily, yesterday there's good news from the Senate. The logjam broke.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, the Senate passed that bill to extend tax cuts to all Americans, including the wealthiest by an overwhelming 81 to 19 vote.


HAYES: Yes. That is astoundingly good news for firefighters that make over 200,000 dollars a year.

Apparently, the party that turned 9/11 into a catch phrase are now moving suspiciously into a convenient pre-9/11 mentality when it comes to this bill.

This is an outrageous abdication of our responsibility to those who were most heroic on 9/11. You know what? I hate to say this; here's a job for Fox News, the nation's leading source of 9/11-based outrage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those dots, that's where remains were found. And where does the arrow go? Right to where the mosque would be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I watched the second plane fly into the building, I was there. I had a safety deposit box in the Chase Bank underneath. You can still see the outline of the dollars. You want to know why I have passion for this thing? This is why.


STEWART: Yeah, we lost a lot of good cash that day. So you can imagine - you can imagine how outraged Fox must be to find out that the health care for those who risked their lives to recover that charred money is being held up by a Republican filibuster. And I know they have access to 9/11 first responders.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 9/11 responders taking matters into his own hands by suing the developers for 350 million dollars.


STEWART: Yet somehow they have been unable to find even one 9/11 first responder to speak about the Zedroga bill. In fact, only Fox's Peter Johnson Jr. seemed perturbed by it at all. Although he railed against the filibuster, he never mentioned that it was the Republicans holding up the bill.

What party was it? Maybe it was the Bull Moose Party or the Greens or the Wigs or -

Yet, there was one network that gave the 9/11 responder story the full 22 minutes of intense coverage that it deserved. But that network unfortunately was al Jazeera. Our networks were scooped with a sympathetic Zedroga bill story by the same network that Osama bin Laden sends his mix tapes to.

This is insane. I would like to see one of these senators have the balls to explain why somehow getting a tax extension for wealthy Americans is more important than serving Ground Zero workers.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: We need to get the issue addressed for the firefighters and the 9/11 victims. And we will. The difference I think with the tax bill is there is a deadline, January 1st. We have to get this done. Taxes go up on January 1st.


HAYES: Yes, there are only two sure things in life, death and taxes.

Apparently, the only one this cat cares about is taxes.


HAYES: Nice Bull Moose joke there. Letters to Santa, asking not for toys but for basics. How you can help, next.


HAYES: Christmas is just over a week away. And for many of us, that means getting together with family and friends and of course the exchanging of gifts. As it was immortalized in the great Christmas classic "Miracle on 34th Street," it also means the Post Office is getting an enormous amount of mail addressed to Santa Claus.

In our number one story tonight, we find out that due in large part to the economy, many of those letters have a different tone this year. You will notice that tone as an elf from the Chicago Post Office reads from several of them. They are heartbreaking. But there's hope. We'll tell you how the Post Office helps, how we intend to help, and how you can too.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dear Santa, hello, my name is Jeanette, and I'm going to make this very short. I need help to make this Christmas a wonderful Christmas for my children. I can't do anything on my own due to the fact that I am disabled.

I realize someone is worse off than I am, so I just say that I am OK. I hate that I can't do nothing for my kids. This Christmas isn't going to be no Christmas, seeing that I don't have no money. Once I pay all of my bills, I have nothing left.

My son is on the honor roll, with perfect attendance. I am so proud of him, because last year he hated school. And I prayed every day that he would like it and now he does like it. What I need for my son is a school uniform. He wears black jeans, a black top with logo on it, and black gym shoes.

He is a big young man and he wears size 14 shoes, 40 waist in pants and an extra large in tacks. My son is 15, and he will be 16 on the 18th of December.

My daughter, she is 27, and she likes Hello Kitty. She is a size 13 pants, 11 shoes and large tops. If you can help me Santa, I would be grateful. So thank you again and merry Christmas. Ms. Dorsey.

Dear Santa, my name is Dynasty. I'm 13 and I have two sisters, Diamond - she is 10 - and Divana - she is eight. We stay with our 67-year-old grandma and she can't get around too much. But she cooks, washes and keeps us happy.

Our mother is 33 years old and paralyzed. She is in a wheelchair. She got hit by a train. She will be home from the hospital on December 18th. Could you send our grandma a comforter for her king sized bed? That is all she is talking about. Would you send us some clothes, sizes 12, 10 and nine, shoe sizes three and nine. Our grandmom's shoes is a 9.5.

Send us some school supplies. We love you, Santa and Mrs. Santa.

Have a merry Christmas. Dynasty, Diamond and Divanna.

To whom it may concern, I am a single father of three small kids, two girls, ages seven and five, and a boy aged two. I am a very proud man, a Marine Corps vet who fell on hard times, and is just barely scraping by, by doing any and all jobs I can while finding something full-time. I do have a permanent job, but due to inflation, I am only receiving one guaranteed day a week.

By the grace of God, I have been able to provide my kids with the necessities. But they're great kids and I believe they deserve so much more than I can provide for them. I am swallowing my pride and writing this letter with hope that someone can find it in their heart to lend a small hand and put a smile on these wonderful kids' faces.

May God bless and keep you, and I send you my sincere thanks.

Sincerely, Eddie Jr.


HAYES: On behalf of MSNBC and its employees, we're donating 10,000 dollars to not only adopt the families whose letters we just read, but additional families we have learned about but were unable to tell their stories. A list of Post Offices participating in the Letters to Santa program can be found on our website on

Figuring out solutions and taking action is what Lean Forward means to Countdown.

That's December 17th. I'm Chris Hayes, in for Keith Olbermann. You can read more of my work at, follow me on Twitter, user name @ChrisLHayes. Have a good night and a great weekend.