Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball

Guests: Garrison Phillips, Zoe Dunning, Manning Marable, E.J. Dionne, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Carlin Phillips



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



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie or look over their shoulder in order to serve the country that they love.



HAYES: "Don't ask, don't tell," the repeal is law.

And it's not just DADT.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The resolution of ratification is agreed.


HAYES: START is a go.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Our Christmas miracle has arrived.


HAYES: And the 9/11 bill goes through with unanimous consent - but not without concessions.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: This is $4.3 billion better than nothing.


HAYES: And not without the Republicans trying to say they were for it before and after they were against it.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: There was never any doubt about supporting the first responders.


HAYES: The 111th Congress, the first two years of the Obama administration.

Red states pick up seats in Congress, blue states lose them - but those seats may not come with Republican voters.

And banks accused of sinking to new lows in the foreclosure mess, locking out homeowners before foreclosures are complete and throwing away their stuff.

All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you going to do, foreclose on them?




HAYES: Good evening from New York. This is Wednesday, December 22nd, 685 days until the 2012 presidential election.

And today, this was change you could believe in.

Our fifth story tonight: President Barack Obama, the nation's first black commander-in-chief, with the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," lifted a burden of suspicion and discrimination from secretly gay service members, and for all gay Americans now and in the future, threw open the doors of America's armed forces.

The repeal will not take effect until 60 days after the president and the Pentagon certify their implementation process which the President Obama told "The Advocate" newspaper will be a matter of months, not years.

Though he was joined on stage by gay and lesbian veteran and service members - one of whom joins us presently - Mr. Obama took pains to recall that gay soldiers have fought for America since before there was an America.


OBAMA: There can be little doubt there were gay soldiers who fought for American independence, who consecrated the ground at Gettysburg, who manned the trenches along the western front, who stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima. Their names are etched into the walls of our memorials. Their headstones dot the grounds at Arlington.


HAYES: In fact, it was under General George Washington on March 10th,

1778 that Lieutenant Frederick Gotthold Enslin was tried by a court-martial

for sodomy - first known gay person to serve in the U.S. military but not

Mr. Obama repudiatedly emphasized - the last. A gay veteran of the Korean War joins us presently.

Mr. Obama related the story of one who served in World War II.


OBAMA: During a firefight, a private named Lloyd Corwin tumbled 40 feet down the deep side of a ravine. And dazed and trapped, he was as good as dead. But one soldier, a friend, turned back and, with shells landing around him, amid smoke and chaos and the screams of wounded men, this soldier, this friend scaled down the icy slope, risking his own life to bring Private Corwin to safer ground.

And for the rest of his years, Lloyd credited this soldier, this friend, named Andy Lee, with saving his life, knowing he would never have made it out alone.

It was a full four decades after the war when the two friends reunited in their golden years that Lloyd learned that the man who saved his life, his friend Andy, was gay. He had no idea. And he didn't much care.

Lloyd knew what mattered. He knew what had kept him alive, what made it possible for him to come home and start a family and live the rest of his life, it was his friend. And Lloyd's son is with us today. And he knew that valor and sacrifice are no more limited by sexual orientation than they are by race or by gender or by religion or by creed. That what made it possible for him to survive the battlefields of Europe is the reason that we are here today.


OBAMA: That's the reason we are here today.


HAYES: The president encouraged gay Americans to enlist, encouraged the 14,000-plus discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" to return, and spoke specifically to the current generation of gay service members, the last generation to serve in fear.


OBAMA: As the first generation to serve openly in our armed forces, you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models to all who come after. And I know that you will fulfill this responsibility with integrity and honor, just as you have every other mission with which you've been charged. And you need to look no further than the servicemen and women in this room, distinguished officers like former Navy Commander Zoe Dunning.


OBAMA: Marines - Marines like Eric Alva, one of the first Americans to be injured in Iraq.


OBAMA: Leaders like Captain Jonathan Hopkins, who led a platoon in to northern Iraq during the initial invasion quelling an ethnic riot, earning a Bronze Star with valor. He was -


OBAMA: He was - he was discharged only to receive e-mails and letters from his soldiers saying they had known he was gay all along.


OBAMA: And thought that he was the best commander they ever had.


HAYES: Ultimately, the president said repealing "don't ask, don't tell" was an act of promises - his promise to those who serve and the promise of the nation they serve.


OBAMA: A young woman in uniform was shaking my hand and other people were grabbing and taking pictures, and she pulled me into a hug and she whispered in my ear, "Get 'don't ask, don't tell' done."


OBAMA: And I said to her, "I promise you I will." For -


OBAMA: For we are not a nation that says "don't ask, don't tell." We are a nation that says, out of many, we are one. We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal. Those are the ideals that generations have fought for, those are the ideals that we uphold today and now it is my honor to sign in bill into law.



HAYES: With us tonight on this historic occasion, our historian, Manning Marable, director for the Center for Contemporary Black History at Columbia University.

And also fresh from the signing ceremony today, the only person to serve openly after winning her court battle against "don't ask, don't tell," now retired U.S. Navy Commander Zoe Dunning.

And Garrison Phillips, who served his country in the closet and saw combat as a private in the 5th Army Regiment in the Korean War. He is now a blogger for

Thank you all for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.


HAYES: Mr. Phillips, I'd like to start with you. Having gone through the experience in Korea of serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and not being able to be honest about who you were with the men you served with, what was going through your mind today as you watched the bill signing?

GARRISON PHILLIPS, KOREAN WAR VETERAN: First, almost disbelief, and, of course, great joy. And as if somebody had just taken a big load off of my shoulders. To finally - to finally be able to be open about serving my country, to stop lying, which is against every principle we're taught as children by our parents, by churches, by schools. Yet, gays and lesbians do this all the time. And it ain't easy.

And this was - it was just - it was wonderful.

HAYES: Commander Dunning, you were in the room today and you got to experience that moment.

What was it like in that room? I know that usually the White House does the signings in the Oval Office or a small room in the White House, but it looked like they had the biggest auditorium they could find in Washington today.

CMDR. ZOE DUNNING, U.S. NAVY (RET.): Well, the energy was electric, for sure. I mean, there were hundreds of people there, many of them longtime advocates for repeal. Many service members in the audience, many staffers who served on the Senate and congressional offices that helped push this through.

And so, it was like a victory party in many ways. And the energy was absolutely wonderful. And the president seemed relaxed, joyous and proud.

HAYES: Professor Marable, I want - I want to get a sense of you of the sort of significance of this in the long sweep of social progress in this country. People have called this one of the most significance pieces of civil rights legislation in decades. And I know it's hard sometimes to sort of figure out the analogy, the civil rights struggle against segregation, particularly, so iconic - sometimes, those analogies can seem very fraught.

But this seems like a place where it might be warranted. I wonder what do you think.

MARABLE: I think, clearly, this is a day that is not unlike the momentous occasions where we mark the march on Washington in August 1963 or the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, because we have broken yet another barrier that restricts the boundaries of democracy. And that's why there was such joyous celebration that occurred in Washington, D.C., and all over the country, because this step was long overdue.

HAYES: One of the things that was interesting, just to stay with this for one second, is that there was an interesting dynamic between the White House and groups that were advocating on this. There was a lot of tension. There was a lot of conflict. Advocates were not quiet, they were noisy, they were chaining themselves to the fence and people felt like maybe the White House was slow-walking this.

And in the end, they both seem sort of borne out, because there was a kind of productive tension. I wonder, in historical context, is that the kind of thing you generally see from the successful social movements?

MARABLE: Absolutely. I think that what - this occasion reminded me today of the sacrifices of a social rights icon named Bayard Rustin. Rustin organized the beginnings of what became known as the Journeys of Reconciliation, that later became the Freedom Rides in the early 1960s. He was the architect with Martin Luther King, Jr., organizing the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, '56, and then organized the civil rights march, the march on Washington in August '63.

Bayard Rustin was a leader of the civil rights struggle, but he was also gay. And at the end of his life, Rustin realized and understood that the message of the civil rights movement which was to abolish all forms of stigmatization and exclusion also extended to our brothers and sisters who were lesbians and gay.

HAYES: Mr. Phillips, this is part of a long journey. And I think you had been involved in a battle, in a fight - a political fight in the 1970s and '80s around marching in an American Legion parade, right, even before "don't ask, don't tell" was on the table.

PHILLIPS: Yes, that's correct.

HAYES: And what had happened in that?

PHILLIPS: Well, every year, we faced opposition because some of the other soldiers, particularly officers, would say, why do you have to march behind a gay banner? It's OK to be gay, but we don't want you to advertise it. They say it's - we would say this is part of who we are and we're proud of it.

And even one year, a man dashed out from the crowd and slashed the gay banner. The police arrested him right away. I don't know what happened to him.

But, for people to understand that just to be who you are is part of your life, and most people can do that openly. And gays and lesbians up until now have not been able to do that.

HAYES: Commander Dunning, you're one of the few people, perhaps the only person, who has been able to do that - a successful challenge to your discharge under "don't ask, don't tell" led to that. And I think you are in a unique position to kind of tell us what the next six months and the next year or two as this policy is implemented or going to look like based on how your experience has been being when you were an out gay woman in the armed forces.

DUNNING: I think that's a great point. My experience serving as an open lesbian in the military can kind of sort of show how it can be successful. And if anyone can implement change, the military can.

We have seen - demonstrated from the highest leadership, from the commander-in-chief, from the defense secretary, from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, you know, and he gets it. He talked at the hearings about how this is a matter of the integrity. It's about the integrity of the individual and it's about the integrity of the institution.

And when I watched that, it brought tears to my eyes, because to see the most senior military officer get it - not, you know, not theoretically in his head, but get it in his heart where really he seemed to understand what this is all about. And so, I do have faith in the military leadership that they are going to be able to implement this change successfully. And it comes from top down, messaging, leadership and reinforcement.

HAYES: You actually experienced it, lived it day-to-day. I'm wondering how much social resistance you think there will be just at the sort of peer-to-peer level or whether the structure of the military is sort of equipped to be able to kind of overcome that?

DUNNING: Well, we'll see what happens. I'm sure there may be isolated incidents of, you know, disturbances or folks that, you know, may not be open to this idea of serving alongside a gay or lesbian that they're aware of, because today, everyone is serving alongside a gay or lesbian pretty much. And they just now will have the opportunity to know it for sure.

But I think that my experience shows that it's an opportunity to have a conversation. It's an opportunity to educate.

And as the Pentagon study showed, those who reported actually having served alongside somebody they knew to be gay or lesbian or suspected gay or lesbian, 92 percent of them said that it was not a problem at all, and that their units were able to perform admirably and successfully with no incidents.

HAYES: That was I thought the most striking figure in that whole report, and in some ways, the kind of a game changer of it.

Mr. Phillips, I'm going to give you the last word. And you've watched the politics of this over a long period of time. I wonder if you ever really thought that you would see the day that we're seeing today.

PHILLIPS: I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime, no. But it has. But I just say, like the commander, I have great faith in the training that our armed forces gives us.

And I think we'll have some difficulties, some things to overcome, but it will be - it will make us stronger, just like the integration that President Truman did of black forces into the armed services. It will be a positive, a positive thing that happens.

HAYES: Professor Manning Marable, Commander Zoe Dunning and Mr. Garrison Phillips - many thanks for your time on this historic day. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

DUNNING: Thank you.

MARABLE: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Thank you so much.

HAYES: Today's signing just one of many - many successes for this

president and this Congress in just two short years. The political effect



HAYES: The successes, both legislative and politically in just two short years, president's wins and losses.

And the congressman whose fight for the 9/11 health bill helped make it a reality. He joins us.


HAYES: It would have been considered monumental had it been passed over a few weeks or months. But in our fourth story, once again, this Congress and this president defied the odds. Just hours after President Obama signs the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," Congress ratifies the START nuclear arms treaty, followed by legislation for the 9/11 first responders.

The president holding a news conference before heading off to Hawaii for the holidays, measured and thoughtful as per usual, but nonetheless a hard-earned victory lap.


OBAMA: A lot of folks in this country predicted that after the midterm elections, Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock. And instead, this has been a season of progress for the American people.


HAYES: Today, a cap to the season of progress, START ratified with the help of 13 Republicans. The 9/11 first responders bill followed with unanimous consent - more on that later in the hour.


OBAMA: And so, one thing I hope people have seen during this lame duck, I am persistent. I am persistent. I - you know, if I believe in something strongly, I stay on it.


HAYES: Mr. Obama not surprisingly scoring high marks in the latest CNN poll. Fifty-nine percent approve of his efforts to work across the aisle. Of course, people always approve that. Only 28 percent believe Republicans were trying to work with the president.

Nevertheless, Mr. Obama was able to score crucial Republican support for key legislation - a feat not to be overlooked.


OBAMA: I think it's fair to say that this has been the most productive post-election period we've had in decades. And it comes on the heels of the most productive two years that we've had in generations.


HAYES: While the past two years may have seemed like a never-ending GOP obstructionist dead zone, while wars continue to rage across continents with little oversight or plan for withdrawal and what Congress remains infected with an improper dependence on big money and entrenched interests, this has probably been the most productive Congress since the days of the Great Society in the 1960s.

Thirty-two million Americans got health insurance, will get it soon; a sweeping attempt to rein in Wall Street's worst abuses; new hate crime legislation; credit card reform; student loan reform; equal pay for equal work; General Motors brought back from the dead; a Recovery Act that saved the country from abject economic Armageddon; creating and saving jobs across the 50 states. It also included billions for anti-poverty programs; the largest investment in clean energy on the record; and tax cuts for working families.

This Congress brought us the most expansive food safety bill since the 1930s. It also confirmed two female Supreme Court justices, including the first Hispanic to serve.

That's just a list of partial list of accomplishments.

So, how do the president's opponents feel about all this? Ask Republican Jeff Sessions. His opinion on the 111th Congress is unequivocal. "I think it was a disaster."

Time now to call on "Washington Post" columnist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, E.J. Dionne.

Good evening, E.J. How are you doing?

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Good to be with you. Happy holidays, Chris.

HAYES: Happy holidays.

So, well, here's my big question: why did this all happen in this lame duck Congress? I'm still - I asked Howard Fineman the other night. I'm still trying to work towards like a good explanatory theoretical model that can tell me why these outcomes were produced in such rapid succession.

DIONNE: Toward a theoretical model of a duck.


DIONNE: The - you know, first, I think the first thing that happened is Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi made a decision, which is they were going to use their majority that expires, that full Democratic control expires January 3rd. A lot of people said, oh, you can't get much done, we lost the election. Let's do some housekeeping and go home.

They said no. They realized it was like having one of those gift cards that expires in 12 months and you better use it. And so, that was the first decision.

On the START Treaty, President Obama had a deep commitment to this. And he really reached outside the administration, got all those Republican secretaries of state to support it. And he had a base of Republican support to work with.

On the tax cut, in all honesty, it is not really hard for Congress to give away $858 billion, you know, a little bit for Republican priorities, tax cuts for the rich; a little for Democratic priorities.

And then you had two other things. You had the "don't ask, don't tell," where I think what's really important is that's become a popular position.


DIONNE: And there were a lot of moderate Republicans who realized that their moderate credentials wouldn't be any good if they opposed it. And then, finally, they were shamed into - the Republicans were shamed into ending their obstruction of the help for the 9/11 responders.

And FOX News - I hate to say that on this network - probably played a role, along with Jon Stewart.

HAYES: Specifically Shep Smith.

DIONNE: Right.

HAYES: You know, so you're not giving me a nice, neat you know, cable-ready monocausal theory of this. But I want -

DIONNE: I don't - I don't think there is one.

HAYES: Right. And I think a lot - I think you're right. A lot of things got sort of passed at different times due to different contingencies. But to sort of step back for a second, as we look at these two years, what is your sense of these two years? Because I have my own kind of feelings about what are successes and what are failures.

How would you characterize in two years of both the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress, which was pretty unprecedented?

DIONNE: It was an enormous amount of achievement. They came in. They could have played it safer. They said, no, we're not going to get this shot again. And we're going to take some chances.

Where I would fault them is that they did not, and the president did not, make a consistent case for why he wanted to move the country in a certain direction. So, they never adequately sold the health care bill. They never really explained to people why the stimulus was so important. He's got to get much better at making a case. He's really good at dealing with legislation and getting it through.

They've got to spend two years explaining where they want to move the country now.

HAYES: Yes. And I think - I think the real issue here is I think these two lenses I think for viewing what's going on. It seems to me like this Congress and the president on domestic policy have done about as well as you can possibly do within the system as currently constituted, but the system itself seems badly, badly broken and corrupt to me.

DIONNE: Well, if you could abolish - I could abolish the Senate, I would. I mean, it's not only that you have now the permanent filibuster, but it is a deeply unrepresented body when you look at the biggest state and smallest state, a ratio of 68 to one. There's something fundamentally wrong. So, that's true.

Plus, the money system, which you mentioned -


DIONNE: - in your setup piece.

But if you keep pushing and you keep pushing and you actually persuade people, you can still get things done even within the framework of this very messed-up system. hope they get some reform in the next time around. I'd still love them to pass the Disclose Act, but there doesn't seem to be any chance of that.

HAYES: Or the Fair Elections Act, from your lips to Barack Obama's ears.

E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post" - thanks for your time and happy holidays.

DIONNE: Great to be with you. Same to you.

HAYES: The last thing on Congress' plate: something that seems like it should have been first, the 9/11 health bill, it passes - but not without a $2 billion cut and the same refrain of "we haven't had enough time with it." Next.


HAYES: The 9/11 First Responders Bill finally makes it through the Senate, next. First, time for the sanity break.

A happy 67th birthday to loyal Bushie Paul Wolfowitz, which I mention only for one reason, so we have occasion to show the video of him licking his comb. That's good stuff. Let's play Oddball.

We begin with what will be - always forget that cue. We begin with what will soon be our robot masters. A new restaurant has opened in Ginan (ph) City, China where the entire wait staff is composed of robots. Using special sensors to avoid obstacles, the robots range move from a simple moving tray to a bike riding bus boy. They can deliver food, but still fail to comprehend human emotions. So far, the restaurant has 21 tables, so the robots have their work cut out for them. I still wouldn't send a dish back. Might end up with motor oil in your Moo Goo Gai Pan.

We move on to sports, where last night, the UConn Lady Huskies won their record 89th straight game, eclipsing the record previously held by the 1971-'74 UCLA men's team. After the game, Coach Auriemma received a congratulatory call from President Obama, which from the sounds of it came in just the nick of time.


GENO AURIEMMA, UCONN WOMEN'S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH: No, you're not interrupting anything. You're taking - you know, if I was calling you when you had all those reporters in front of you, you'd be dying to take my phone call, right?


HAYES: Either take the call or get another former president to take the questions.

Finally we go to Spokane, Washington, where old man winter has struck yet again. Once again, we follow the plight of some helpless drivers as they struggle against gravity and snow. Car after car comes flying down the hill, only being stopped by another car. One truck driver tries in vain to floor it and go back up the hill. Not so good.

None of the drivers in the clip were hurt. And I think the organizers of the local demolition derby just get a new obstacle for their show.

Senator Chuck Schumer thought when he got up this morning the 9/11 Health Bill was all but a lost cause. It wasn't. What got it through and why it had to be two billion dollars slimmer, next.


HAYES: It really says something about the obstruction in the 111th Congress that a last-second compromise agreement to give aid to 9/11 first responders is being characterized as a Christmas miracle. In our third story, 9/11 responders don't care what you call it, because they're finally getting the support the federal government owes them.

Yesterday, we told you about Tom Coburn leading the Republican blockade of the Jane Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The Oklahoma senator complained the 6.2 billion dollar bill wasn't funded properly. He also complained there were no Senate hearings to discuss the bill, even though an exclusive Countdown investigation discovered, via the Google, there was indeed a hearing in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last summer. Senator Coburn is on that committee, but was absent that day.

Until today, Coburn's obstruction on behalf of Republicans was in stark contrast to the tidal wave of bipartisan support for the bill outside of Congress. The unlikely coalition of Rudy Giuliani, Jon Stewart and Shepard Smith was joined yesterday by the Oklahoma city firefighters, who released a statement urging their senator to quit playing politics. Quoting the release, "the Oklahoma firefighters urge our two senators to stand tall with America's first responders. Instead of employing procedural tactics of delay, vote to give the heroes of 9/11 the protection and benefits they've earned."

This morning in Coburn's office, the bill's co-sponsors and Harry Reid made a last-ditch appeal for compromise. To Senator Chuck Schumer's surprise, he found a willing partner.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The minute, as I said, that Senator Coburn listed his first concern, and we saw that he was being reasonable, we knew that we had gotten it done. All the changes that were made does not betray a single worker who got ill for rushing to the towers.


HAYES: According to the agreement, the compensation fund will be kept open for five years instead of ten. The dollar amount will shrink form 6.2 billion dollars to 4.2 billion dollars. When the compromise bill finally made it to the floor of the Senate, it was passed with unanimous consent. Senator Coburn issues a statement that read, in part, "every American recognizes the heroism of 9/11 first responders, but it is not compassionate to help one group while robbing future generations of opportunity."

In fact, no one was ever getting robbed here. The bill was fully funded before and after Coburn got involved. Of course, the Senate changes required another vote in the House, where the Zadroga bill was again passed, this time with 168 members not voting. Among those splitting early for Christmas vacation, Republican Speaker-Elect John Boehner.

Here's hoping he enjoys his Christmas as much as 9/11 responder John Feal.


JOHN FEAL, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER: We've gone eight Christmases without federal assistance. This Christmas, while you might not get a check by Friday morning, we'll open a box that says the government helped you; you can have rest and peace of mind knowing that help is on its way in 2011. This Christmas will be the best Christmas that I've ever known.


HAYES: Joining me now is one of the champions of this bill in the House of Representative, Anthony Wiener of New York. Congressman, thanks for being here.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: My pleasure. Thanks.

HAYES: I'm tempted to make a "this congressman will be interviewed" joke, but I'm guessing you get a lot of that, huh?

WEINER: I'm relieved. Look, you were right. There was a lot of cynicism throughout this process. It took nine years for really crummy reasons. First, we had the Bush administration that refused to do anything to help these people. Then the last two years, just about every obstacle was thrown in the way.

All that being said, this really is remarkable that we got this done, because if you think about it, the very idea that Senator Coburn could stop this entire program dead in its tracks, despite what is really a national consensus around it, shows you the dysfunction of the Senate.

But this got done. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, that guy, John Feal, who brought busloads of people down, again and again. We had 20-some-odd hearings. I'm glad it's getting done.

It doesn't change the fact that all around our city, all around the country are people with that distinctive hacking cough because they're dying slowly by degrees. Hopefully now at least they're going to get some health care they deserve.

HAYES: I wanted to get your take on the actual final package that was approved. There were a few things that changed from the original bill that you championed in the House. The time horizon, there was - it was a smaller amount, a cap on lawyer's fees, and some sort of additional regulations to make sure there wasn't double dipping, in the words of Senator Coburn. What's your general sense about this?

WEINER: Look, the biggest change was the one that took a ten-year program and made it a five-year program. We're going to start almost immediately making sure that it gets expanded.

The bottom line is this: if someone discovers six years from now that their heroism is leading them to have these problems, we should take care of them. The irony is, when we passed the Victims Compensation Fund after September 11, to take care of the families of those that were lost on September 11th - if any of us knew that people would be steadily dying by degrees with the after-effects of this, we would have included it. I think, by bipartisan measure, we would have included it.

So the only question is how are we going to deal with people who are steadily getting sick? The fact that it went from ten to five - Chuck Schumer is right. It doesn't deny anyone who has these problems today. Hopefully in years four, five and six and seven, we're going to stop seeing people coming down with these symptoms.

But unfortunately, the tragic truth is this is the worst type of entitlement program, in that the group is getting smaller and smaller every day, because people are getting sick and dying. This was not a moment too soon. It's a very good thing that's happened. And a lot of people deserve credit.

HAYES: Finally, I want to ask you - because I'm always looking to take away happy lessons of legislative progress.

WEINER: That's never been your M.O., but I'll go with it.

HAYES: Well, no, I mean, because when you have a successful battle like this, you want to know what worked. It seems to me like there was a number of things here. You had - but one of the things was the voices of the people that were speaking out on behalf of this.

WEINER: Right.

HAYES: We had one on the ho show last night. They were on. How important do you think that was to the ultimate passage of this?

WEINER: Sometimes, legislation happens because of really hard work and elbow grease and a brilliant idea of members of Congress or in the legislature. More often than not, it happens because just an unstoppable pressure comes from without. Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, you know, the bus loads of people from the Feel-Good Foundation. That guy, John Feal, coming down.

It was hard for my colleagues, at the end of the day, looking out at a hearing or at a markup of people who were literally their embodiment of this problem. And also, at the end, people like Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Harry Reid, to his eternal credit, said, you know what, we're not going to leave town until we get this done.

So I think people like Senator Coburn said, you know what, if my

objective was to stall until this thing died, the House of Representatives

we literally stayed around, to the credit of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer and a lot of my colleagues. We stayed in session with nothing to do but wait for the Senate to act. Usually, that's a fool's errand. It turned out to be just right this time.

HAYES: Congressman Anthony Weiner, who is a fellow product of New York City's outer boroughs, it's a pleasure. Have a great holiday.

WEINER: Nice to see you. Thanks.

HAYES: Congressional redistricting; Texas and Florida win seats, Ohio and New York lose. But those red states may be getting those seats through blue voters.

A new source of woe in the housing crisis: banks accused of breaking into homes. And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, live from the 92nd Street Y, her guest will be "New York Times'" Paul Krugman. Can't imagine the crowd there will be that into that.


HAYES: Yesterday, the Census announced the result of the 2010 head count, giving us a preview of how next year's Congressional redistricting battles might play out. Our number two story tonight, at first glance, this year's seat shuffle appears to be a clear-cut win for the Republicans. But it's not so simple as red and blue.

States that voted for Obama in the 2008 election incurred a net loss of six seats in Congress. While those in the McCain camp picked up an additional six. Texas emerged as the big victor this decade, adding four to their Congressional delegation, which brings their total to 36. Florida is now up two more seats in the House. And New York and Ohio are each down two.

Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington State gained one seat apiece, while Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania lost one.

On the face of things, it appears that Republicans have a distinct advantage. But only in the short term. The relatively fresh memory of Tom Delay's redistricting shenanigans in Texas, its blatant violation of the Voting Rights Act, and ensuing cascade lawsuits, state lawmakers are wary of being too aggressive in their partisan redistricting agendas.

Lynn Westmoreland, the Georgia Republican in charge of redistricting for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said when we push for an overreach, it can backfire. The overreach is a danger that sometimes states with complete control try to do. We're going to discourage any kind of overreach.

Furthermore, while more people are living in so-called red states, the people moving there tend to vote for Democrats. Although we won't know for sure until February when the census bureau releases more detailed information about each district. Early figures predict large increases in minorities and college graduates, two groups that overwhelmingly went for Obama in the 2008 elections.

In Texas, for instance, an estimated 85 percent of the added population is black or Hispanic. Furthermore, the new residents have moved toward areas that are already solidly blue, the big cities and the heavily Hispanic Rio Grande Valley. Which means that Texas, despite GOP control of every statewide office and both state legislative houses, will most likely not lose any Democratic seats in Congress.

As for the big question, what does all this mean for the electoral college and the 2012 presidential elections? It's unclear. What we do know is a whole lot can change in two years.

A foreclosure lawsuit over not just wrongfully losing a house, but everything in it, next.


HAYES: Christmas-time is always a good occasion to revisit the Dr. Seuss classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." In our number one story tonight, a real life version of the tale. You'll remember the illustrated fable that the Grinch, out of petty jealousy and equipped with a heart two sizes too small, decides to run a reverse Santa Claus on the Whos down in Whoville, breaking into their houses in the dark of night and stealing the presents and Christmas trees.

The very first time it aired on CBS, it was sponsored by the Foundation for Full Service Banks. In a version of the tale reported in today's "New York Times," the role of Grinch is played by - wait for it - a bank. In a lawsuit filed in California, homeowner Mimi Ash says that Bank of America not only wrongly foreclosed on her home, they tossed out everything in the place.

All of her possessions were gone, reported the "Times," furniture, her son's ski medals, winter clothes and family photos. Also missing was a wooden box, its top inscribed with the words "Together Forever" that contained the ashes of her late husband Robert.

Crazy as it sounds, Ash's story is not an isolated incident. The same article in the "New York Times" accounts several similar tails. And across the country, homeowners are discovering the banks' records of who owns what mortgages are either shot through with errors or, in many cases, simply nonexistent.

As we speak, thousands of years of the legal basis of property rights are being undermined and nobody in Washington or Wall Street seems to care.

Joining me now is Carlin Phillips, attorney for Mimi Ash and others suing over these foreclosure statements. Mr. Phillips, thanks so much for joining us.


HAYES: I just want to say, first, we asked Bank of America for a comment on this story. They responded with, quote, "Bank of America generally does not comment on pending litigation. We take the allegations made by Ms. Ash very seriously and are thoroughly researching her claims."

Mr. Phillips, I want to ask you this because I think that the story is so remarkable and outrageous, but I think you can read it and say to yourself, well, there's a lot of foreclosures in this country and crazy stuff happens. So is this an isolated incident?

PHILLIPS: Absolutely not. We've been handling these cases since February of this year. We must get between two and ten inquiries a week of illegal lockouts and trash outs, primarily in the states of Michigan, Arizona, California and Florida. And it's a rampant problem, cutting the corners and undermining the law throughout the country, and proceeding and breaking into homes and disposing of possessions.

HAYES: What's the root of the problem here? I think the banks will tell you it's a paperwork problem. But is that what's the problem? If you're getting that many complaints - and I'm sure there's lawyers around the country who probably are - is there something deeper going on?

PHILLIPS: Yes, the common denominator in all of these cases is the loan servicers. There's no more brick and mortar banks any more. The mortgage industry is run by the loan servicers. They're a dysfunctional mess at this point all across the country. The only rule they seem to be following is foreclose first and ask questions later. They see homeowners as the collateral damage of this great mortgage meltdown.

HAYES: Finally, I want to ask you what you want to see policymakers at the state and federal level do to make sure these abuses aren't happening. I mean, what kind of intervention do we need to see legislatively to rein in this monstrous problem?

PHILLIPS: Well, first, we've seen this issue before. A booming industry with no internal checks and balances. Well, it's the same industry that got us into this mess and it's going on again. We need an A to Z shakedown of the loan servicing industry. We see attorney generals in Nevada and Arizona have stepped up and filed cases just last week against Bank of America and its servicing entity, challenging some of their services practices.

So there needs to be the spotlight shined on these servicers.

HAYES: Attorney Carlin Phillips, thanks so much for your time tonight. Really appreciate it. Have a good holiday.

PHILLIPS: Thank you. Same to you.

HAYES: We'll end where we began tonight. One of the most tireless advocates of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is Lieutenant Dan Choi, who was discharged under DADT. You may be familiar with him from his many appearances on this show.

Back in July, at the Net Roots Nation Conference in Las Vegas, he gave his West Point graduation ring top Senate Majority Leader Reid.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This morning, Dan Choi gave me this to give to you. That's his West Point ring. He says it doesn't mean what it did mean to him anymore.


HAYES: An accountability moment came on Saturday with Senate passage of the bill and was signed into law today. On Capitol Hill, Senator Reid made good on his promise.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: It's a beautiful ring. You remember that? Did you ever think you would get it back?



HAYES: Lieutenant Dan Choi is not done fighting for equal rights for all Americans. On his Twitter feed today, Choi had this to say: "the next time I receive a ring for a man, I expect it to be for a full, equal American marriage."

That's December 22nd. I'm Chris Hayes in for Keith Olbermann. You can read more of my work at or you can follow me on Twitter. My username is @ChrisLHayes.

I want to thank the wonderful staff of Countdown for having me this week. They were fantastic and kept me looking not terrible.

Rachel is live from 92nd Street Y up next. Have a great holiday and a happy New Year.