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The Chris Wallace Show

Colorado State Supreme Court Bans Former President Trump From Being On Republican Presidential Primary Ballot; U.S. Supreme Court Denies Special Counsel Jack Smith's Request To Decide On Former President Trump's Immunity From Criminal Prosecution; Former President Trump Criticized For Campaign Rhetoric Against Immigrants And Political Opponents; Congress Remains In Gridlock Over Immigration Reform As Texas Passes State Law Criminalizing Illegal Immigration; Study Shows Current Congress Least Productive In Recent History; Majority Of Americans Feel U.S. Economy Performing Poorly Despite Good Economic Indicters; Panelists List Their Favorite Christmas Movies, Songs, And Traditions. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 23, 2023 - 10:00   ET




CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again and welcome. It's time to get together with some smart people to break down the week's big stories. Today, we're asking, on the heels of the Colorado Supreme Court's decision that he engaged in insurrection, should Donald Trump be kept off the 2024 ballot?

Then Texas has an answer to the mounting crisis at the border. Does it go too far?

And Santa's got his list and we've got ours for best Christmas movie, song, and tradition, and we'll tell you who's naughty and nice.

The panel is here and ready to go. So sit back, relax, and let's talk about it.

Up first, forget the campaigning, speeches, and commercials. The real action in politics now is inside the courtroom. Four Colorado justices throwing a big monkey wrench into next year's election and shining an even brighter spotlight on the Supreme Court, which made a decision in another Trump case Friday that will also reshape the presidential race.


WALLACE: A stunning decision by the Colorado Supreme Court banning Trump from the state's Republican primary ballot for his actions on January 6th.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.

WALLACE: Trump shot back with, "I am not an insurrectionist," while his campaign appeals the decision. Even his opponents criticize the ruling.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: It's unfair. They're abusing power 100 percent.

WALLACE: The Colorado court citing the Constitution's 14th Amendment which disqualifies officials who engage in insurrection from holding office again, an argument already denied in a handful of cases, with legal action pending in several other states.

JUDGE J. MICHAEL LUTTIG, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR FOURTH CIRCUIT (RET.): The Supreme Court of the United States ought to affirm this decision today.

WALLACE: And the court will likely have to decide the issue, adding yet another controversial case to its docket, which could determine Trump's legal and political future.


WALLACE (on camera): Here with me today, Catherine Rampell, opinion columnist for "The Washington Post," Reihan Salam, president of the Manhattan Institute and "National Review" contributing editor, "New York Times" contributor writer Jane Coaston, and author and conservative pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson. Welcome to all of you, especially on this holiday weekend.

Kristen, let me start with you. Should Donald Trump be barred from the 2024 ballot?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, FOUNDING PARTNER, ECHELON INSIGHTS: Absolutely not. What happened on January 6th was terrible. And as this plays out in the courts, if Donald Trump is charged and found guilty of engaging in insurrection, then maybe we can begin having this conversation. But right now, taking Donald Trump off the ballot is not really going to ultimately change things, at least in Colorado. Even if it's just for the primary, he's still likely to be the Republican nominee in the general. He was never going to win Colorado anyway. But if this spirals out of control and other states begin doing the same, you have taken the decision out of voters' hands, which is, in my view, pretty anti-democratic.

JANE COASTON, CONTRIBUTING OPINION WRITER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": But in 2020, he rejected the decision of the voters. I think it's important to remember how we all got here. He rejected and has continued to reject the decisions of voters. People democratically said we want Joe Biden to be president, and Donald Trump said no. He has said it repeatedly. And on January 6th, he attempted to, and with the efforts of a bunch of people in a bunch of states, including Michigan --

ANDERSON: And he is facing charges in court regarding all of his actions leading up to the election.

WALLACE: Wait a second, I want to follow up with you, Jane. Are you saying therefore, going by the letter of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution that he engaged in insurrection, and forget the question of the ballot. What they're really saying is he should be disqualified from being president again.

COASTON: The challenge here is that Section Three of the 14th Amendment does not apply to presidents. They were thinking about people in Congress who were acting as insurrectionists during the Civil War. So it's a challenging question because I don't think it specifically applies to him. I also kind of wish it did, because he did attempt to fight against this country. He did reject a democratic election.


And so I think that the challenge here is that if you are a strict constitutionalist, you'll say that this doesn't apply to him. But if you're me, it's complicated because I think it should.


WALLACE: All right, Justice Coaston.

REIHAN SALAM, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Jane, I think you deserve a lot of credit for that. I think you deserve a lot of credit for being honest and forthright in giving it that close reading.

My own view is that, look, there actually is a deliberative process that involves due process regarding this insurrection claim. That is an impeachment, which has been attempted, and also a criminal prosecution. Jack Smith, the special prosecutor, is not a wallflower. And at two-and-a-half years after January 6th, he did press criminal charges against the former president Donald Trump. He did not press charges on insurrection. Had he done so and had he been found guilty, he would have been automatically disqualified from serving as president.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, OPINION COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It's not just insurrection. It's also aiding and abetting insurrection and enemies of the United States, to be clear.

SALAM: Guess what. And that is something that is used routinely in our politics, a charge that's used all the time. If partisan secretaries of state can say because you, Catherine, have aided and abetted enemies of the United States because of something you wrote in a "Washington Post" column, do we want a free-for-all of that kind, as opposed to due process under the rule of law. I think that's a big mistake.

WALLACE: I want to bring up another issue because the Supreme Court took a big step Friday rejecting Special Council Jack Smith's request to jump ahead of the court of appeals and decide quickly whether Trump has immunity for any crimes allegedly committed while he was president. Reihan, this is going to slow down, which is exactly what Trump wants, the obstruction trial that Jack Smith is bringing, because it's going to go first with the court of appeals, and then it'll go to the Supreme Court, this question of presidential immunity. In a sense, is it an early indication that the court, the conservative majority in the court is going to side with Trump on the merits of the 14th Amendment and immunity?

SALAM: This is a tricky one because I actually think that when you're looking at the so-called conservative majority, you have a range of different views. For example, Justice Neil Gorsuch is a wildcard. And I think when it comes to the 14th Amendment case, I think it could come down in a totally different direction than if you're looking at Justice Barrett. They could all go in different directions, and you could have some of the Democratic appointees who are not in the conservative block actually voting with Donald Trump, quote-unquote, in this instance.

WALLACE: Catherine, it is worth noting that this conservative majority in the court back in 2020 and early 21 really dismissed all of the claims by the president and his supporters to overturn the 2020 election, and they also found against him about turning documents over to Congress. So can he count on a friendly hearing from the conservatives on the court or not?

RAMPELL: I think they will be friendly than potential alternatives, certainly, particularly Democratically appointed, Democratic president appointed alternatives. Whether or not he can expect a blank check from them, I think we just don't know at this point, particularly on this set of issues. There are a range of issues that could come before the court. I think on the 14th Amendment case, the 14th Amendment, I think there's sufficient ambiguity there that they could easily, subconsciously or otherwise rule in his favor. On the other issues about whether he has immunity, I think it's less likely they're going to be as sympathetic to him, particularly given prior rulings, including by Gorsuch himself.

WALLACE: The other big Trump story right now is the language that he's using on the campaign trail, which this week is being compared to Adolf Hitler. Take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.

He says you're not going to be a dictator, are you? I said, no, no, no, other than day one.

They're poisoning the blood of our country. That's what they've done, they've poisoned.


WALLACE: But far from hurting him, a "Des Moines Register" poll found among likely Republicans caucus goers who were asked about Trump's line, "radical left thugs that live like vermin," 43 percent, this is quite astonishing, said they were more likely to support him because of that, 23 percent said less likely, and 32 percent said it doesn't matter. Kristen, why doesn't Trump's base seem to care at all about anything he says? ANDERSON: Because for the most part, either they genuinely agree with

the sentiment that he is expressing or they simply believe that if it comes out of his mouth, it's oh, everybody's going to always compare him to dictators and bad people, and I don't buy it. Sure. That kind of a poll question when you asked people, does this make you more or less likely to vote for someone, if you already like them, you're typically going to say more likely anyway, just as a show of support.

But this is really, I think, an interesting breakdown of Trump's base in that you have almost half of them are the type of folks that say yep, he says this thing, everybody says it's offensive, but I don't care. I believe it. The other half, meanwhile, says, yes, I don't like it, but he wants to build the wall, cut taxes, all of the other things, and they vote for him despite it.


WALLACE: Jane, what's going on here?

COASTON: I think what we're seeing, once again, is the sunk cost fallacy. If you are a part of Trump's base, you've been probably a part Trump's base since, what, 2016. That means eight years of your life. Think of where you were eight years ago. That was a while ago, for many people. And so I think that there's a real sense of why jump off now? You didn't jump off when he was ridiculing gold star veterans. You didn't jump off when he was screaming at women. You didn't jump off for January 6th. Why would you jump off now?

I think that it's a real sense of -- we do this for a lot of people. We do this for celebrities that we like, musicians we listen to, famous people we've decided to randomly become huge fans of. If they say something we like, that's great. And if they say something we don't like, we just sort like, eh, it's fine.

WALLACE: I hope they feel that way about us. Give us a free pass.

Up next, what is going on at our southern border? We've all seen the pictures of those thousands of migrants crossing over from Mexico, but is it a crisis or not?

Then perception versus reality, economists say things are going great, but most of us don't think so. So who's right?

And later, we're letting chestnuts roast on an open fire and as we discuss everyone's favorite Christmas song, and there's only one right answer.



WALLACE: Now to a story that has political, economic, and real live implications. A record number of migrants on the southern border waiting to be processed by federal agents who are overwhelmed. And this week, Texas came up with a solution that some say is dangerous.


WALLACE: An unprecedented scene as tens of thousands of migrants overwhelm Texas border towns. This week, Customs and Border Protection encountered almost 10,000 migrants every day, a 34 percent jump from last month. The record-breaking influx fueled by what CBP says is smugglers peddling disinformation and limited resources in Mexico. Now, Texas Republicans taking matters into their own hands.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R) TEXAS: Senate bill four is now law in the state of Texas.

WALLACE: Governor Abbott signing a law that makes it a state crime to enter Texas illegally, and gives police the authority to arrest those suspected of being undocumented. They can then be ordered by a court to return to Mexico.

ABBOTT: Biden's deliberate inaction has left Texas to fend for itself.

WALLACE: The law already facing legal challenges and plenty of backlash from Texas Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to create racism. It's going to create profiling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Abbott is usurping federal power and has just signed into law a very dangerous bill.


WALLACE: Jane is our southern border in crisis?

COASTON: Yes, and no. I think it's interest when you think about immigration because it has become another issue, and especially border security, another issue in which both Democrats and Republicans are operating largely based on vibes, and all of the solutions seem kind of like vaporware. Build a wall, or why don't they come in legally? Just all of these issues that I don't think address why so many people are coming at this particular time, why these ports of entry are facing so many challenges, especially after the end of Title 42. And I think that what we're seeing right now are people making economic and, in many cases, decisions, economic decisions and in many cases decisions based on their own security, and we're seeing Democrats and Republicans fight each other to perform being most concerned about the border, and not really doing anything about it.

RAMPELL: I think it's way worse than vaporware. I think it is actively subverting the goals that a lot of these politicians claim to be supporting. A number of the policy proposals, particularly at the federal level, but including in Texas, that are ostensibly about curbing immigration or reducing chaos on the border would actually have the opposite effect. If you look at what Republican lawmakers are demanding right now as a condition of the Ukraine and Israel aid package, it includes a number of measures that would reduce legal pathways to the United States and push more to those unlawful pathways, i.e., coming to the border unannounced. WALLACE: Reihan, do you agree with that? Ultimately, isn't it a

question of we've got a border, and if you're going to be a country, you've got to be able to enforce the border and who comes across it?

SALAM: That is my view. If you're looking at legal immigration and when you can have a political consensus for legal immigration, it is when you establish that you're going to have an orderly system that is lawful. You see this in country after country. And in the United States right, we have a problem which is not dissimilar from what Europe saw back in 2015. In Europe you had this massive refugee migration wave. And yes, some of it was from Syria and Iraq, but a lot of it was from Morocco and Bangladesh and points beyond. People saw that there was a moment of chaos. They could exploit that opportunity to come in.

Over the last eight years, Venezuela has lost 30 percent of its population. Last two years, Cuba has lost four percent of its population. Cuba is poor today, it was poor yesterday. It's a violent, awful, authoritarian place. But why have you suddenly seen this huge surge in migration? It's because people have determined that if they come to the country, the United States, they claim asylum, right now, they're getting court dates in the 2030s.

RAMPELL: Again, this is why --

SALAM: It's 2023 right now. So 2030, that means you can enter the country, you can be here with work authorization for seven years not going through the legal channels. That is a massive magnet, a massive inducement. And if you want to have lawful, orderly immigration, you need to do something about that massive inducement.


RAMPELL: That is exactly what the Biden administration has set up. It has set up lawful pathways, advanced humanitarian parole for Cubans, Venezuelans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans. This is a lawful pathway where people get screened and vetted in advance. They get sponsorship in the United States. It has actually been shown to reduce the number of people who come to the border. In the Venezuelan example, the number of Venezuelans who have come to the border between the time that this program was announced and like six months later was down 66 percent. This is what Republicans are trying to get rid of.

SALAM: And then look at the surge in extra-continental migration. Look at the number of people coming from South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa.

RAMPELL: Then create similar lawful pathways for them.

SALAM: And humanitarian parole for the entire world, that is not going to be a process that is going to work. It has to be Congress moving in a way that is in line with democratic --

RAMPELL: Are you hearing Republicans propose that? No.

SALAM: I am hearing them propose that.

WALLACE: Timeout. Wow, this is good.

We've also got Texas now, which is very much taking Reihan's point of view in saying what the federal government is doing isn't working. We're the ones who are most affected by it, and we're going to pass our own laws. What do you think of that, Kristen?

ANDERSON: I can understand why Texas authorities would say if the federal government is not going to do anything about this, we have to take matters into their own hands. I know that there was a lot of controversy around the laws in Arizona when many years ago they pursued their own policies. It seemed to potentially subvert things like due process, make it easier for, say, law enforcement to pull someone over because they were suspicious that you might be undocumented.

But at the same time, I am very sympathetic to leaders who are looking at things like the southern border. They feel a sense of responsibility to do something about it, and are trying to figure out what possibly they can do.

WALLACE: Jane, I think that Kristen might be sugarcoating this a little bit. In fact, it went to the Supreme Court and they said --

COASTON: No. They said don't do that.

WALLACE: They said, it's not a state issue. It's a federal issue.

COASTON: It's a federal issue. And also, we've seen Texas attempt this type of thing before, even earlier this year. "The Wall Street Journal" talked about Operation Lone Star on which they have spent billions of dollars and only managed to secure about one percent of the number of illegal undocumented migrants that the Border Patrol has. So Texas is likely going to wind up spending billions of dollars. This is going to go to court. And it's not, probably not going to do anything. This is performance. This is performance as politics. Politics isn't supposed to be performative.

ANDERSON: So what I'm very interested then, for all of the folks that are very opposed to enforcement measures, actually doing the sorts of things that would be -- they're uncomfortable, right? Law enforcement being more tough on this. What's the answer? Because right now, clearly, the Biden administration's policy --

RAMPELL: I have an answer. I actually write about this.

ANDERSON: -- has taken things in the opposite direction. Normally, you do see surges in migrants at different times of year.

SALAM: Humanitarian pathways for everyone.

WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait. You asked a question. Catherine, you have a answer?

RAMPELL: OK, I would have, yes, more legal, lawful, orderly pathways where we screen people in advance. I would also give a lot more resources to the asylum system so that they can actually screen people, and to immigration judges so that they don't have the seven- year wait. And yet for some reason, Congress has been dragging its feet on doing those things, too. We need to be able to screen people at the border so that we can separate the legitimate asylum seekers from those who are not eligible for asylum. And we don't do it.

SALAM: I agree with that. I agree that --

RAMPELL: We're denying people the right to even apply.

SALAM: You need more asylum judges. You do need more resources there. But at the same time, humanitarian parole is not meant to be lawless, executive authority to do everything without any bounds.

RAMPELL: It's not. It's absolutely not.

SALAM: And that is how the Biden administration has used it, and it's incredibly discomforting.

RAMPELL: That's absolutely untrue. That's absolutely untrue.

SALAM: Let's see how the American public feels about it, and let's see how that's --

RAMPELL: Republicans are trying to take away the executive authority due to class-based parole, period, by the way, which is how we got our Afghan allies evacuated into the United States. It's how we got our Vietnamese allies evacuated into the United States. It's how we got Jews in from the USSR. It's how we got Hungarians in after the 1956 revolution. This is a critical national security tool that Republicans are trying to rip away entirely.

SALAM: Jackson-Vanik was passed by Congress, and I that think Congress can be trusted and ought to be trusted under our system of government to do the right thing.

COASTON: This Congress?

WALLACE: All right, I'm glad to see that we solved that problem.

Congress certainly can't seem to solve the border problem or, frankly, any problem for that matter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just going to be the same stupid clown car.


WALLACE: Up next, a lot of fighting with very little law making. We dig into just how little Congress got done this year and ask, can they get their act together?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look like a Smurf here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a clean shot to the kidneys, and I turned back and there was Kevin.


WALLACE: It's been a year of bickering sometimes approaching near brawls on the House floor. And now there's solid evidence all that fighting has kept lawmakers from their main job, which is making law. Take a look. This year, the Republican-led House passed only 28 bills. That's that little bar on the far right there, 28 bills that have been signed into law. For the first year of a new Congress, that is historically unproductive. Catherine, what is the matter which this Congress and specifically this House?

RAMPELL: I think the problem is that the modern Republican Party doesn't really stand for anything. There is no core set of policy objectives that they are really trying to achieve. I think I've seen student council candidates that have a deeper and more thoughtful platform than these guys. And you have you know the Matt Gaetzs of the world who are just running around trying to cause chaos and get on TV. And it's really hard to negotiate with people who don't have serious policy objectives. They're nihilists, essentially.

WALLACE: Kristen, are the Republicans in the House nihilists?

ANDERSON: This takes two to tango. And this, in my view, is just what happens when you get really divided government in really polarized times. If the House had been on vacation, if they had been taking no votes, I would be more sympathetic to this argument. But they've actually been voting on quite a lot. It just goes into either Chuck Schumer's woodchipper, the Senate, where dreams go to die, or it's never going to have any realistic chance of passing Joe Biden's desk. And so with divided government comes gridlock.


So for sure, I will not say that the Republican caucus is, say, a picture of unity. If the hundreds of votes they've taken this year, it feels like a couple of hundred of them have been just for speaker of the House.

RAMPELL: I was going to say.

ANDERSON: But this is not just a Republican problem.

WALLACE: But we've had divided Congresses before. Back in 2013 you had Republicans controlling the House, Democrats controlling the Senate, just like now. And in the first session, they passed 72 bills, House did, that were signed into law. The fact, 28 bills for a year, it's a pretty extraordinary.

ANDERSON: I don't deny that is very, very, very little law making. But at the same time, I do not place blame solely on one party for this outcome.

WALLACE: So, Jane, will House Republicans get their act together?

COASTON: No. Why would they? What's the impetus? Environment needs -- if you're going to get them to do something, you need to provide them a reason for doing so, and they have no reason to do so. I think we've seen again and again -- I spoke with Tim Alberta, he's a writer from "The Atlantic," about his new book about American evangelicals, and he talks a lot about how members of Congress, specifically House Republicans, constantly talk about how we know what time it is. This is a 1776 moment. If this was a 1776 moment, would they be doing any of this? No. They would not be vaping at productions of "Beetlejuice."

And so I think that we've seen again and again that House Republicans, their performance of politics is the point. I spoke with Representative Don Bacon earlier this year, and he talked about how --

WALLACE: A Republican from Nebraska.

COASTON: A Republican from Nebraska who talked about how his colleagues are playing for clicks. He talks to them all the time about how they don't actually know what they're voting on but they know what gets a lot of response online. And that's not to say they're not sometimes making good decisions or stumbling into them. But I do think the performance of politics is what matters now.

ANDERSON: This dynamic that she talks about is exactly why you're seeing so many people with seniority decide that they're out. If you did come to Washington with any hope of making change, you are not looking at the current environment on the Hill and thinking, yes, I can do a lot of good.

WALLACE: Is there something inherently wrong with the Republicans in the House right now that it is all nihilism, performance, clicks, is that the problem?

SALAM: I think that there is definitely a bad dynamic in the conference. I think there's a lot of division. But let's not forget the fact that between 2020 and 2022, you had a very active Congress that was spending literally trillions of dollars. It is now routine to have deficits that are five, six, seven percent of GDP. And so it's not crazy to me that the country and Congress would want to take a breather from that level of hyperactivity and say that let's take stock, let's pushback, let's establish guardrails, and let's slow things down.

WALLACE: So yours is the classic conservative view, which is if they're doing nothing, great.

SALAM: I think that actually Catherine made a pretty good point. It's true that the Republican Party is not animated by some vision of transforming the federal government right now. Maybe it should, but it's not. It's motivated by resistance to the progressive left right now. You saw a lot of Republicans winning in Biden-held seats. They did not win, for better or for worse -- I think it's for worse -- with some positive reformist agenda for the country, but they did win saying we've had enough. We want to slow it down.

What we've seen is a surge in inflation. We've seen a surge in spending that wasn't always especially accountable or wise. And we want to turn down the temperature. I don't think they're doing a great job, by the way, but I do think there's a lot of activity, It's kind of like a snake swallowing a rabbit. It's got to take time to digest.

RAMPELL: I think that argument -- I agree that deficits have been a major issue and both parties are very guilty of ignoring the long-term consequences of deficits. However, I don't think that the only -- you're suggesting that the only thing lawmakers could do would be to spend money. And in fact, there are things they could do to address deficits, for example, both on the tax side and on the spending side, on the entitlement side, which neither party wants to touch. Not to mention that there are plenty of nonfiscal measures that Congress could tackle at this point, regulatory issues. So there's plenty of other stuff that --

WALLACE: The interesting thing is that with all of their failure to get anything done this year, one thing that House Republicans, and we should also say Democrats in the Senate did, was to put things off until next year. I want to put stuff up on the screen. Here's the to do list for early 2024. January 19th, pass the first spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. February 2nd, pass the second spending bill to avoid a shutdown. And sometime in those first two months, approve more aid for Israel and Ukraine along with new border policies. Catherine, has bad as 2023 was, is January of 2024 going to be even worse?

RAMPELL: I think so. They have precious little time to get, at the very least, that first tranche of spending through before we potentially have at least a partial government shutdown.


There's going to be a manic effort to get that bill through, and they've done very little on it, as you point out. There's also the gridlock over the spending bill for Ukraine and Israel and potentially these very contentious border issues which House Republicans, excuse me, Senate Republicans have demanded things that, in my view, are pretty extreme that the White House is going to fight. We haven't even gotten the House Republicans involved, and they're likely to say these are not extreme enough.

WALLACE: Well, it's time to lighten the mood a little, especially with Santa getting ready to take off. Up next, get your list ready. We're talking Christmas favorites from movies to songs so yuletide treats.


WALLACE: Normally at this point in the show we have our gang vote yea or nay on buzzy stories. But in keeping with the spirit of the season, we've decided to change things up and find out what are their Christmas favorites.

[10:40:03] First, best Christmas movie. Catherine, your pick?

RAMPELL: "It's A Wonderful Life." It has bank runs. It has a great message. No man is a failure who has friends.

WALLACE: Only an economics writer would like a bank run. Kristen, best movie?

ANDERSON: "A Muppet Family Christmas." This is a bit of an underrated one in the Muppet Christmas move category, but it is the most ambitious crossover of our time. "The Sesame Street" gang and "Fraggle Rock" both show up with all of the Muppets. It's all Jim Henson.

WALLACE: That's very persuasive. Jane, best Christmas movie?

COASTON: "Blazing Saddles," a Christmas Eve tradition in the Coaston household for decades.

WALLACE: Is there a Christmas scene in that movie?

COASTON: No. But there is a scene in which you get to say, what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here? And it's fun every time.

WALLACE: Reihan?

SALAM: The 2019 adaptation of "Little Women" is one of the best movies of all time. It's a beautiful story about a family sticking together through thick and thin. I recommend it highly to everyone.

WALLACE: Well, all interesting choices, but in the immortal words of the Grinch, John McLaughlin, you're all wrong. The best Christmas movie is "Love Actually," and here's why.




WALLACE: Do you think the Muppets can keep up with that? I don't think so.

All right, let's discuss the right song to get you in the holiday spirit. Catherine, best Christmas song?

RAMPELL: I'd like to see a reenactment of that little routine. But my best Christiane song is "White Christmas." Love that rich Bing baritone, and like all the best Christmas songs, written by a Jew.

WALLACE: It is actually true, isn't it. Kristen?

ANDERSON: "Oh, Holy Night," specifically the a cappella version performed by NSYNC on their Christmas album. I will defend this to my death.

WALLACE: OK, Jane? COASTON: "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." I love a song that also has a lot of rhyme scheme to it. It's fun. It's enjoyable, livens it up.

WALLACE: Reihan, best Christmas song?

SALAM: You know how much I love Snoopy. I've got to go with "Christmas Time is Here" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Just music to my ears.

WALLACE: You know, I am also a big fan of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, so here is a clip of that song.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christmas time is here, happiness and cheer.


WALLACE: Again, very worthy nominees, but again, all wrong. The best Christmas song is "The Christmas Song" specifically as performed by Nat King Cole, and here it is.



NAT KING COLE: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose.


WALLACE: I truly believe that Christmas does not begin until the first time you hear that song on the radio.

Finally, everyone's got their own tradition or favorite thing to eat. So Catherine, what is the best yuletide treat?

RAMPELL: I love driving around to the blocks where everyone's gone totally nuts with their Christmas decorations and they have millions and millions of lights out. That's my favorite thing.

WALLACE: Kristen?

ANDERSON: Grandma A's molasses cookies. We make hundreds every year at my house. They're delicious.


COASTON: Opening one present on Christmas Eve, and then begging to open more presents and being told no.

WALLACE: I have to say. That is -- I like that. I really do like that. Reihan?

SALAM: My birthday, sadly, is shortly after Christmas. and I love nothing more than cracking open a big old bucket of KFC to celebrate my sad, sad birthday.


WALLACE: Well, I'm not going to say any of you are wrong there, but I'm also not a dope. So my favorite Christmas tradition is my wife Lorraine and the beautiful way she decorates our house, and I hope I get brownie points for this this weekend.

Up next, experts say, and the numbers show the economy is in great shape. But most Americans say it stinks. So who's right? We'll find out after this.



WALLACE: There's a big debate now about the economy. Experts say it's doing great. Here's the evidence Inflation has cooled from last year's highs, hovering just above three percent. And Americans keep buying stuff, spending a record $38 billion between Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year.

But in a recent CNN poll, 71 percent of Americans think the economy is in bad shape right now with just three percent saying it's very good. And here are some reasons why. A gallon of orange juice costing $11 bucks in some places, and rents remain too damn high after a major spike last year.

Catherine, as someone who writes about economics, did for "The Times," does now for "The Washington Post," you're our expert here. Are you bullish or bearish on the economy for 2024?

RAMPELL: On paper, the U.S. economy actually looks pretty great. Not only the inflation numbers that you mentioned. Inflation has been coming down, obviously. It's still not where we want it to be, but it's doing much better. Employment has been doing better than anyone expected. Many people expected, professional forecasters expected that we would have had a recession by now, and we have escaped that, fortunately, so far.

And in fact, not only are the numbers better than people expected a few months ago, they're even better on many dimensions that had been forecast before the pandemic began. If you look at the Congressional Budget Office's expectations for where employment would be, for where GDP would be right now, we have blown those numbers away.


WALLACE: So why do people feel so bad about it?

RAMPELL: I don't think people are making it up that they feel lousy about the economy. We have had once in a generation level of inflation to date, and we are still dealing with really high price levels. I think part of the problem is that Americans are expecting, unfortunately wrongly, that prices will start to go back down. In fact, what the Fed is hoping for is that price growth will slow but continue growing. So I think there's a lot of frustration about how much price growth we've had to date.

We've also seen a lot of consumers spend down their savings. So maybe people have gotten raises, and in fact, now, wages are outpacing price growth. But they think their wage growth is something that they've earned, the price growth is something that has been inflicted upon them.

WALLACE: Kristen, bull or bear on the economy?

ANDERSON: I'm a bear if only because I don't look at 2024 and see a year of great stability both domestically and geopolitically headed our way. And so it would not surprise me if events intervene, whether it is a rise in global conflict. These are the sorts of things that just make me very concerned in general that don't seem to set the stage for a great economic moment.

WALLACE: You look at the polls. I saw a poll recently, two-thirds of Americans, of the people polled, said that Biden's doing a bad job on the economy. How do you think the economy plays in the 2024 election, particularly if it's Biden-Trump?

ANDERSON: Right now, it's a huge advantage to Republicans. And the fact of the matter is that even though Trump still had an advantage on the economy in the last election, other things overrode that. Voters didn't want Trump because they thought he was crazy. They wanted to put the hands of the country in someone they thought was more stable in Joe Biden. That dynamic has changed now. And so the economy has risen in people's level of concern. I think if people still think it's bad, regardless of what the economists say, I think it's going to be a problem for Biden's reelection.

Next, I ask the panel for their best shots, hot takes and predictions. That's right after the break.



WALLACE: And welcome back. It's time for our panel's special takes on what's happening or predictions of what we should be looking out for. So Kristen, hit me with your best shot.

ANDERSON: Well, we know that lots of things are getting more expensive, especially housing, especially college tuition. And so housing on college campuses is a combination of those two things. Fueled by these unlimited spigot of money that is often available in the form of student loans, colleges have begun increasing the luxury amenities in many of these dorms. "The Wall Street Journal" out this week with this really eye-popping analysis of things like granite countertops and all sorts of other fancy stuff. I imagine consumer pressure is going to have to put backlash against this at some point and say --

WALLACE: Did you not have granite countertops when you went to college? ANDERSON: I did not. And I was lucky, I was in a new dorm on the

campus of the University of Florida. But no, it was not luxury accommodations.

WALLACE: Jane, what's on your mind?

COASTON: It's not so much a prediction but a personal promise. I refuse to care about any viral TikTok, tweet, or skeet. If you are a moused, if you are a person with two incomes and no kids, that's great. I don't care. I am tired of the take artists, taking a video from TikTok and writing six response articles about it and calling that content. I'm out. I'm done. No more.

WALLACE: Briefly. It almost sounds like a New Year's resolution. Are you saying that the next time next year that there is a great video everybody's talking about on TikTok, you're going to say, no, I'm not looking?

COASTON: I will not be looking, unless it has to do with sports, because sports are always content.

WALLACE: Reihan, best shot?

SALAM: Republicans in Congress aren't united by much, but they are united by, building on what Kristen said a moment ago, their deep concerns about what's happening in higher education. And I think there's going to be a big push not just on hiking taxes on enormous endowments, but also looking at administrator student ratios. Harvard, for example, has as many administrators on staff as it does undergraduate students. And I think there's going to be a push to say, hey, look, if you pass a certain ratio, we are going to start looking at your federal funding.

WALLACE: Catherine, it's Christmas time. You couldn't tell from this conversation. You have something to get us into the holiday spirit?

RAMPELL: Yes. I wanted to put in a plug for a recent video that was released by the first lady featuring Dorrance Dance, a fabulous tap group doing a tap rendition of "The Nutcracker" set to an arrangement by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington. And it is wonderful. It is exuberant and joyful. There has been some controversy about it from some of your former colleagues included, but a number of rightwing media personalities because they think it's too woke and anti- American, or something. I would point out the original nutcracker was Russian. Whatever. I think it's lovely. It's so charming, and everyone should go watch it.

WALLACE: I do find it amazing. Some of the comments, and you're talking about FOX News, that shows that people hate America or hate Christmas, how can you object to that?

RAMPELL: I don't know.

WALLACE: Tap dancing in the White House.

RAMPELL: How can people get so triggered by tap dancing? I don't get it.

WALLACE: Tap dancing and jazz, which is what it is. You say Duke Ellington. A uniquely American form of expression.

RAMPELL: Absolutely. I think tap dancing is among the most American artforms there is.

WALLACE: So they're really unpatriotic, aren't they?.

RAMPELL: Absolutely. Absolutely.


WALLACE: Well, I've watched the whole thing after knowing that you were going to bring it up today, and it is terrific.

Thank you all for being here and sharing our pre-Christmas spirit. Even though you were wrong about the song and movie, but you did pretty well.

And thank you for spending part of your day with us. Merry Christmas, happy holidays to all of you. And we'll see you right back here next week.