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Naughty and Nice; Christmas Around the World; The Good Stuff!

Aired December 25, 2013 - 06:30   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Time now for our political gut check on this special morning. We have a case of the holiday giggles. So let's have fun with our list now. It's been a busy year in Washington, as you all know.

Let's list it out: a government shutdown, the disastrous website launch for ObamaCare and now a surprising bipartisan budget compromise. Who knew?

So who was naughty and nice in the Capitol this year? We've made our list and checked it twice. Our Santa is CNN political analyst and executive editor of "The Daily Beast," John Avlon, here to break it down for us.

Merry Christmas.

JOHN AVLON, CNN HOST: Merry Christmas.

BOLDUAN: So let's talk about what everyone wants to know, who's on the naughty list, but let's first have some holiday cheer and talk about who's on the nice list of politicians this year.

CUOMO: Quickly. It will be short.

AVLON: (INAUDIBLE) on this, so I feel pretty good about the results.


AVLON: Right at the top, you've got to lead with Paul Ryan and Patty Murray coming together late in the year, full of Christmas cheer, coming up with a bipartisan budget bill. That's a big deal in this environment. That definitely puts them on the nice list.

BOLDUAN: We'll see if they can carry that holiday cheer, that bipartisan spirit into the new year. We'll see.

AVLON: Let's hope. Here's hoping.

BOLDUAN: All right. Who else is on your nice list?

AVLON: I think forgotten but earlier this year, Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, again, a Democrat and a Republican, came together in the wake of the Newtown shooting to put forward gun control legislation. Pretty modest stuff, really all about a bipartisan universal gun check bill. It was not successful ultimately but that really showed a profile in courage at a point where the vast majority of Americans wanted to see something done. And they found some common ground. That deserves credit.

BOLDUAN: You continue to see the challenges they face because the chances of that passing, there was hope and then that fell so quickly and we haven't seen anything since in terms of gun control.

AVLON: We haven't.

BOLDUAN: I see a governor on your list.

AVLON: Yes, there is a governor. Some not always called nice. But Chris Christie deserves credit, I think a nice list for his re- election win. Here's why: he won this -- the margins of his re- election victory were stunning.

And very positive for a Republican Party that's looking to get itself out of the diversity deficit it faces, winning women by 15 points, winning Hispanic voters overwhelmingly. So he really showed an ability to reach across the aisle in the wake of his leadership for Hurricane Sandy and pulled together a bipartisan coalition.

That's a big deal. That wins get to the nice list (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: Strong choice. Next one, I take exception to the next one.


AVLON: Why the exception?

CUOMO: Oh, you'll say that. I'll let you say it first.


AVLON: He's not technically a politician at all, but a moral leader who has political sway, Pope Francis. In one year this pope has come in and he's really been able to change feelings about the Catholic Church. And I think actually not to reduce his moral leadership to politics but the Republican Party could learn a lot from Pope Francis.

CUOMO: That's exactly what you did by putting him on the list.

AVLON: Yes, I did.

CUOMO: You put him among all these other people.

AVLON: I did. But you know what? But we're throwing it all together this Christmas.

CUOMO: This guy is preaching love and forgiveness and trying to get rid of all the trappings of institutionalization and you put him with these other people, they live by all those things.

AVLON: But you know what, honestly if the Republican Party could take a note from Pope Francis about focusing on core messages and not getting bogged down by divisive social issues, it is a huge shift. It's a real moral leadership. And honestly all leaders in every sphere could learn a lot.

CUOMO: I was going to say, (INAUDIBLE) --


AVLON: Yes, they do.

BOLDUAN: Both parties can learn from him.

CUOMO: Everyone could learn --

BOLDUAN: Noticeably absent from the nice list, any -- either of the national political parties. Shocker.

OK. Who's on the naughty list? You cannot say all of Washington. That is a copout.

CUOMO: That would be terrible.

AVLON: It would be terrible.

I think we'll start off the naughty list, the big bag of coal, delivered straight to Kathleen Sebelius.


AVLON: For the failure of This was a major faceplant for the administration. It made the president's core campaign promise of if you like your plan, you can keep it, seemed to be called blight of the year by PolitiFact. So there's a lot it answer for.

Not in the person of Kathleen Sebelius but the failure of to get off the ground, that gets you on the naughty list.

BOLDUAN: That's true. Many people didn't know her -- I would say, argue a lot of Americans didn't really even know the Health and Human Services secretary's name until this happened and landed (INAUDIBLE) --

CUOMO: And arguably they did not handle it well. And that may get you on the list just for that. Fix is about spin, it's about getting out with the message. Certainly took a beating on both levels.

BOLDUAN: Green eggs and ham on the naughty list? What?

CUOMO: Green eggs and ham?


AVLON: (INAUDIBLE) and Senator Ted Cruz who quoted from Dr. Seuss during his near filibuster of 21 hours, trying to defund ObamaCare. A total faceplant, a con pushed by conservative activist groups, on the Congress, leading directly to the government shutdown.

Had a 0 percent chance of success and yet Cruz just encouraged the charge into the bayonets. He's really burned bridges. He's raised his name ID, but burned a lot of bridges and (INAUDIBLE).

BOLDUAN: Maybe burned some bridges but there's a large and very vocal section of the Republican Party who thinks -- who have put him squarely on their nice list this year.

AVLON: Yes, yes, yes, but this is where we did the reality check. Christmas Day reality check, because even Boehner and McConnell, the Republican leaders, have come to realize that they have got a real problem with extremists in their own camp, who aren't interested in governing, just grandstanding. And Ted Cruz is Exhibit A.

CUOMO: Marketplace of ideas, though sometimes you have to hear from the outside to build yourself on inside. This is coming from a guy and a senator who tried to take me down bah, humbug, style on my own show.

AVLON: (INAUDIBLE), you're the (INAUDIBLE) member in Ted Cruz's family.

CUOMO: I want to be on the naughty list. (INAUDIBLE) renegade.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about another renegade. We're going to go north, though, to find your final person on the naughty list, a man named Rob Ford.


CUOMO: We're going to step over Anthony Weiner? (INAUDIBLE)?

All right, fine. But that's a no-brainer.

BOLDUAN: Which one?

CUOMO: Poor Anthony Weiner's going to wind up on the naughty list.

BOLDUAN: He's on the naughty list. But I wanted to get --


CUOMO: Hopefully he makes it to the nice list in the future.

BOLDUAN: There's hope for everyone. OK, Rob Ford, the mayor.

AVLON: Yes. Hope for everyone? I don't know. Rob Ford really turned -- this is like performance art self-debasement at this point. This guy, he basically ticked off every single box on the naughty list from doing crack and quote, unquote, "forgetting about it," to consorting with criminals at time and multiple episodes of public drunkenness. Yes, I don't see -- I mean, he basically owns the naughty list forever. He's just given out chits in the future.

BOLDUAN: I think he sets the bar pretty high if you want to get on the naughty list. He is -- or low.

CUOMO: You know how he can get on the nice list going forward? Find help for himself. Because this (INAUDIBLE) well beyond politics. AVLON: Chris, I like the way you're reaching for the silver lining but Mayor McCrack is still Mayor McCrack.

CUOMO: That's true. And he'll probably have to stop being mayor at some point, but dealing with the crack problem is certainly more important than his political pedigree.

BOLDUAN: And the political gut check on the crack. Thank you so much.


CUOMO: A little eggnog for you. Watch the calories.

AVLON: Oh, thank you.

CUOMO: What is that about?

BOLDUAN: Chris doesn't believe it.

CUOMO: No, I don't. Christmas is about calories. Does it say that? Google it. I think that's what it says.

Coming up on NEW DAY, Christmas in this country usually means a tree, gifts, a big meal, hopefully a little bit of spirituality in there, giving to other. But not so in some other places around the world. There are different holiday traditions. So from overseas, we'll show you what there is on Christmas, coming up.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): This is the sound of Christmas. The Young People's Chorus of New York City is here under the direction of Francisco Nunez. Take a listen.



BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Merry Christmas, everyone. Let's go around the world now starting in, appropriately, Bethlehem, where many have gathered to mark one of the most important days for Christians.

Karl Penhaul is there.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tradition has it that this church is built above the stable where Mary and Joseph took lodgings and the manger where Baby Jesus was laid.

And from those humble beginnings, Bethlehem has become a magnet for tourists from across the world, a giant Christmas tree, carols and on Christmas Eve, a midnight mass.

Tradition also has it that the end of that street shone the star of Bethlehem, that guided the wise men bringing gifts.

Back to you, Kate.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: I'm thinking what a special place that would be.

BOLDUAN: Little town of.

CUOMO: How about that snow?

PEREIRA: I know.


CUOMO: What's the likelihood of that?

BOLDUAN: Let's go to China now, where tradition is giving way to celebrating Christmas like we do here in the West. Ivan Watson explains that.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Welcome to Christmas in Beijing. Now, Christmas is not traditionally an important holiday in China, but over the past 20 years, many businesses have embraced its colors, its pageantry and especially its sales and marketing.

Most of the Chinese we've talked to, they say, that they don't engage in the exchange of gifts on the 25th of December but they do like to take advantage of the sales and discounts in Chinese shopping malls. That basically makes Christmas a commercial festival in China.

Back to you, Kate.


BOLDUAN: All right, Ivan. Thank you.

CUOMO: Which makes it so different.


BOLDUAN: Which makes it just like us.

PEREIRA: Good to know things are universal.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Let's go to Spain now where Christmas is just the beginning for those celebrating the holidays, Al Goodman is in Madrid.


AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christmas is just the preamble to a long holiday season in Spain that continues right through January 6th, Epiphany or Three Kings Day, the day when Spanish kids get most of their gifts. In between is New Year's Eve, a family event with big dinners at home that culminate when Spaniards eat 12 grapes at midnight to usher in a prosperous new year. After that, the parties really begin and they go all night.

Back to you, Kate.


BOLDUAN: That's what I'm talking about. Extend the holiday as long as possible.

PEREIRA: Dr. Caudle will be glad to see the fruit.

CUOMO: Natural sugar (INAUDIBLE).


BOLDUAN: Let's go to Brazil now where, of course, it's summertime but that doesn't take away from the holiday cheer. Shasta Darlington is in Sao Paulo with more.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, Americans would feel right at home in Sao Paulo during Christmas, even though it's the opposite season, it's the summer here. This time of year is all about Christmas trees and Santa Claus, turkey dinners and, you guessed it, shopping. Back to you, Kate.


PEREIRA: They say Feliz (INAUDIBLE) or (INAUDIBLE) Festivus.

CUOMO: Also happens to be opposite season but that's the largest population of Catholics in the world.

PEREIRA: Yes. That's right.

BOLDUAN: Big celebration there.

Let's go to London now for a different take where many are chowing down on mince pies to mark the holidays. Erin McLaughlin with that.


ERIC MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A welcome break from all the Christmas shopping going on here at Covent Garden in London, a glass of piping hot apple cider and a mince pie.

Now the ingredients in one of these dates all the way back to the 13th century. It used to have meat in it but now it has this gooey fruit- based center and buttery crust. (INAUDIBLE) any excuse to eat one of these during the festive season. British retailer Marks and Spencer says they expect to sell over 31 million mince pies this year alone. Back to you, Kate.


BOLDUAN: You got a little in your teeth, Erin. PEREIRA: What was that?

BOLDUAN: My mom makes some amazing butter tarts.

PEREIRA: I've never had a mince pie.

BOLDUAN: They're delicious.

CUOMO: I always stayed away from it because of the word mincemeat.

PEREIRA: Well, yes.


PEREIRA: I can make a wonderful rum ball.

Next up on NEW DAY, we'll going to take a short break here, a little girl helping her parents get into the holiday spirit through sign language. It is our holiday good stuff on this Christmas morning.

BOLDUAN: And 24 Christmas trees and a thousand yards of ribbon, the secrets behind decorating, you guessed it, the White House.

CUOMO: Is it ribbon or red tape?




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: If that doesn't give you hope, I don't know what will. The beautiful voices we're all treated to this morning from the young people's chorus of New York City. It's great to have them here with us. Everything today is the good stuff, but we do have a little bit more for you.

'Tis the season, Christmas, pageants, concerts, school, you know, the whole deal, special moments for parents everywhere, but what if those parents can't hear those special moments? Enter kindergartener Claire. Take a listen.




CUOMO: Kindergartener Claire, five years old, she's signing. Wow! That's precocious just there. But why even more special? Both of her parents are deaf. She was signing to them during a Christmas carols and all their holiday songs as a surprise. Her folks didn't even know, so they could enjoy it as well.

Enjoy the concerts just like everybody else. Boy, what a surprise. Mom says she's very proud of her little girl. She says, quote, "She's a much better interpreter than Nelson Mandela's --


CUOMO: That's her quote. But there's no reason to bring that mess into the discussion.


CUOMO: Five years old, OK. Little contents (ph). Not only does she know how to sign, you know, and speak, which is great, but she thought to do this for her parents as a surprise at that age.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (ph): You can see it on her face. She's literally like beaming with pride. I can watch that over and over again.

BOLDUAN: Think of what a special Christmas present that is for her parents. I can't even imagine how proud -- their hearts are probably bursting.


BOLDUAN: Yes, exactly.

CUOMO: It's a beautiful thing. You know, as an interpreter, we all had to learn too much about it given what happened at the Nelson Mandela Memorial. Expressive face, using her hands, pointing herself out to her parents. Just such a beautiful gift for them. and you know, imagine, the parents' pride, that their daughter at the age of five already thinks of them that way.

BOLDUAN: We all know a 5-year-old, it's hard enough for them to stay on with the songs they're going to be singing, let alone everything she's doing. That's why's it's just so amazing.

PETERSONS (ph): You can pick her out of the crowd -- which one because she's so happy.

CUOMO: My kids didn't even know who I was at that age.



CUOMO: But it is great. Thank you, Claire. You're not just a kindergartener, you're a great kid already. Thank you for this little dose of the good stuff.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Mich, what do you think?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: I'm feeling the good stuff over here. In fact, the artistic director of the young people's chorus of New York City, Francisco Nunez is here. You were just appreciating the beauty of that simple moment, the child signing a Christmas carol so her parents could enjoy it as well.

FRANCISCO J. NUNEZ, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/FOUNDER: That's incredible, you know, many children --


NUNEZ: Children always waiting for their parents to say something for them. For a child to give back to the parents, it's a great gift.

PEREIRA: We are so -- the gift that you and your chorus have brought us today has been exceptional. Thank you so much for doing this.

NUNEZ: Thank you.

PEREIRA: You're not just a holiday seasoned chorus.

NUNEZ: No, we're not. We're a full-year program. We have close to 1,400 children from all over New York City. And these kids come from every neighborhood, all walks of life. All socioeconomic diversity representing this great city.

PEREIRA: And what I really love is that last number you performed for us. You told me a very special note about that specific music number.

NUNEZ: Well, it's very dear to us. We've been singing it since 1999. And just this year, the 9/11 memorial has adopted the piece as part of the -- when you walk through the memorial you'll hear "Give Us Hope."

PEREIRA: And that's what we all need and now especially this time of year. Everybody has their favorite holiday song. Is that a problem for you or do you just pick your own favorite or does the chorus come and say, but what about this song, Mr. Nunez? Can we add this to our repertoire?

NUNEZ: First of all, they call me Francisco.


PEREIRA: Very well. Good job.

NUNEZ: And because the children come from such different backgrounds, very different religions, we actually learn from each other. So, just the other day, a young lady said, I have some music -- to share with you. So, she's bringing music from there. So, we adopt music from everywhere.

But we've done recently is that we were able to take very familiar tunes from Christmas and from the holidays and put a real urban feel to them. And that's giving it a much more New York feeling on the piece.

PEREIRA: OK. So now, there's a few of us, Indra and I, are transplants from the west coast. What do we need to know about an east coast Christmas? Give us an idea. what do we need to know about --

NUNEZ: It's cold.


PEREIRA: Yes. Indra is on that one. She's got that one figured out.


NUNEZ: And the rhythm is a little different here in New York, you know?


NUNEZ: Because we have a mixture of the Latino, the African-American and then all the other wonderful backgrounds that are here, the melody of all different kinds of people. So, you have a funky urban style Christmas. You have to have a little bit more syncopation in the music.

PEREIRA: Francisco, are you going to get funky with us now? Are you guys doing something for us before we go to break?

NUNEZ: I guess we can do "Deck the Halls" --

PEREIRA: All right.

NUNEZ: -- with a little bit of a twist.

PEREIRA: I love it. The Young People's Chorus of New York City. Take it away. I will not sing. I will mouth the words alone.




PEREIRA: Fantastic!

CUOMO: How do you make don we now our gay apparel a funky line? They did it.



BOLDUAN: That's great. Thanks, guys.

PEREIRA: Love it.

CUOMO: Very nice. I have to learn some of those moves.


CUOMO: We don't have enough time, but we'll give you --


CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, Christmas is all about being home with family, but for some who've just returned from fighting overseas, it could be one heck of a tough transition. We're going to take a look at the good work being done to make that transition easier, coming up.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, no home celebrates Christmas quite like the White House. We'll talk to the woman who wrote the book on getting the executive mansion to look its holiday best.



CUOMO: Merry Christmas from our home to yours, let us help you kick off this special day.

BOLDUAN: We have all the day's news plus great music, good holiday cheer and so much more.

CUOMO: A very merry NEW DAY starts right now.



CUOMO: Young People's Chorus of New York City, beautiful, beautiful, with us all morning. Good morning to you. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's December 25th, seven o'clock in the east. A warm Merry Christmas to you all. We are honored to have the choir here with us.