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Democrat Doug Jones Wins Alabama Senate Race; Senator Gillibrand Calls Trump Tweet a 'Sexist Smear'. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired December 13, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: We have shown the country that we can be unified.
[07:00:50] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president looks like a loser.
ROY MOORE (R), LOST ALABAMA SENATE SPECIAL ELECTION: We've been painted in an unfavorable and unfaithful light.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans are going to blame Mitch McConnell.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: They were going to have an ethics investigation against him. They've avoided a disaster.
CHARLES BARKLEY, NBA HALL OF FAMER (via phone): They wanted to see if we were stupid enough to vote for Roy Moore. I'm just so proud of the people of Alabama for rising up.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: It was totally sexist. It was a deliberate takedown.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He was obviously talking about political partisan games that people often play. This isn't new.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all know what he was trying to say, and it's beneath the office of the presidency.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We are following breaking news.
Alabama voters delivering a setback for President Trump and the Republican Party. They elected Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate. Jones becomes the first Democrat representing this deeply red state in 25 years.
Jones defeated the GOP's scandal-plagued and controversial candidate Roy Moore. Roy Moore, however, is refusing to concede, at least he was last night. But Jones is clearly the winner. Republicans' narrow majority in the Senate is now down to just one seat, which could of course, impact President Trump's ability to get some of his legislative wins.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And we have the secretary of state in Alabama on the show later this morning. It is his job to certify this election, and we'll get the reality, the finality of this race from him directly.
President Trump this morning is conceding that he knew Roy Moore was going to lose. He says he was right. But that's what last night was about, his being right. This is the second candidate in Alabama backed by the president to lose there.
Meantime, the president is defending another one of his tweets. This one attacking a Democratic senator, arguing that reporters' minds are in the gutter. That's what the press secretary says. That's what -- that's where your head has to be in order to think that his tweet was sexually suggestive and demeaning.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand doesn't agree. She's firing back, saying that it was a sexist smear and that it won't work; she won't be silenced. We have it all covered.
Let's begin with CNN's Kaylee Hartung, live in Montgomery, Alabama. One for the books down there.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris. Despite that latest tweet from President Trump, we saw him throw the full weight of his presidency behind the accused child molester Roy Moore in the final stretch of this campaign. And in the end, it wasn't enough.
This wasn't just a loss for Moore. This was a stinging defeat for President Trump who broke with much of the GOP leadership to back this controversial candidate.
JONES: I think that I have been waiting all my life, and now I just don't know what the hell to say.
HARTUNG (voice-over): Democrat Doug Jones becoming the first Democrat in decades to win a Senate seat in Alabama, stunning the country by defeating embattled Republican Roy Moore in the deep-red state.
JONES: As Dr. King liked to quote, the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
HARTUNG: The Moore campaign refusing to concede.
MOORE: When the vote is this close, it is not over. What we've got to do is wait on God and let this process play out.
HARTUNG: Doug Jones's campaign telling CNN Moore did not call Jones to congratulate him. But the Alabama Republican Party declaring the race over.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you expect anything other than Mr. Jones being the next senator from the state of Alabama? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would find that highly unlikely.
HARTUNG: A source close to the White House describing Moore's defeat as an earthquake, telling CNN that the results are devastating for President Trump, who gave Moore a full-throated endorsement in the final stretch of the campaign.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Get out and vote for Roy Moore.
HARTUNG: The president claiming this morning that he predicted that Roy Moore would not win a general election and that the deck was stacked against him, after citing the impact of the write-in votes last night.
A GOP official close to the White House tells CNN Moore's loss should be a wake-up call for Mr. Trump, who was advised by many to stay out of the race but instead, followed the advice of his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, to back the accused child molester.
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: If they can destroy Roy Moore, they can destroy you.
HARTUNG: The conservative Senate Leadership Fund super PAC, which refused to back Moore even after the RNC renewed their support, blaming Bannon for the loss, saying in a statement, "Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the president of the United States into his fiasco."
[07:05:17] Fingers also being pointed at the president's political director, Bill Stepien. A source close to the White House calling on Stepien to resign, despite the fact that he urged the president not to back Moore, criticizing his inability to influence Mr. Trump.
The president ultimately siding with Bannon, who a source says warned Mr. Trump that a Moore loss could embolden Democrats to go after Mr. Trump over the sexual harassment allegations he's facing, allegations that Mr. Trump has vehemently denied.
HARTUNG: Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill tells us it will take a couple of weeks to certify these election results. That means it is very likely that Jones won't be sworn into the Senate until the new year. That gives a new sense of urgency to Republicans trying to get their tax bill passed before Jones gets to Washington. And Chris, Alisyn, we do not know when we will next hear from Roy Moore.
CAMEROTA: OK, Kaylee, thank you very much.
CUOMO: All right. Let's bring in CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman and CNN political commentator and the host of CNN's "SMERCONISH," Michael Smerconish. Did you have Jones winning last night? MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I didn't have either
of them winning last night. I think the indicator that I had as to how it would end up was when the exit polls showed that Moore believed the accusers by a margin of 49-45.
CUOMO: More people.
SMERCONISH: Than disbelieved, right.
CUOMO: Moore certainly does not believe the accusers.
SMERCONISH: I say this, Chris. I said yesterday and heading into this election this was very unusual insofar as each national party needed to root for the other guy. And so I believe that last night was a big victory for the GOP.
SMERCONISH: They have rid themselves of Roy Moore. Others have noted this. Every Republican in the 2018 midterm would have been saddled with this guy for the next year. And so they have vanquished themselves of this individual.
SMERCONISH: But there are a lot of people in the White House who do feel that way.
CUOMO: But they lost a seat.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, but you know what? I mean, they would rather lose the seat. But again, "they" meaning some of these advisers we're talking about. And certainly, I don't think Mitch McConnell didn't want to lose the seat, but he didn't want to have to own this.
They don't want to be answering questions about this over and over and over again. I think the main issue right now is whether this impacts a vote on the tax plan. And the belief from the White House is that the vote's going to come in the next few days and therefore, it won't matter.
These things have a way of sliding and kind of falling apart. So we'll see. They are happy that they do not have to basically have every single question begin with the words "Roy Moore" for the next however many months of this.
CAMEROTA: Let's delve into the numbers, because they're interesting to look at. So the voter turnout was much higher than people predicted. The experts were saying it was going to be 20 percent. It was this strange election. You know, people might not turn out for it. In fact, it was 40 percent. People were motivated to come out.
And the black vote just cannot be overstated here. Jones got 96 percent of the black vote. It was higher than what Barack Obama got in his election.
SMERCONISH: What struck me about the constituencies that did turn out is that often those that you see only every four years. People of color, women, minorities, they were there to be counted, millennials I meant to say. So the constituencies that don't show up all the time and consequently lead to so many blowout verdicts in non-presidential years, they were there. And I think that was the margin.
CUOMO: Well, look, the struggle for the president had been from jump to grow the base, right?
CUOMO: So now you've had Virginia and Alabama. And the message is troubling for him for the same reason in both. Which is his base is shrinking in these elections, and his ability to grow seems to be nonapparent.
Put up the numbers for women in Alabama. OK? The president did better than this. But last night, female voters, Jones, 57; Moore, 41. Write-ins negligible. The president said the write-ins were a big role last night. We don't see any indication of that.
But -- and then when you go with college-educated women, the number more pronounced. When you go into independent women, more pronounced.
How much concern is there that the growth they need to see to be viable in the next election isn't there yet?
HABERMAN: There is concern. Look, I think there is concern on two fronts. This is -- as Michael said, this is a motivated Democratic base that everybody has said wasn't going to happen. There were more than a few White House advisers last night who raised the Scott Brown race from early 2010. I mean, that was a real harbinger in Massachusetts when you had a Republican win of what was going to come in those midterms. They are very concerned about this year.
And the president's own advisers have been saying to him about his own numbers for months now, "Your numbers with Republicans just across the board are tracking down in a bad way. And you do need to pay attention to this. That is still a long way off. A lot could happen. If there are third-party candidates in a number of states, that will likely help Donald Trump.
But this is an electorate that is clearly restless and is going to be hard to keep with the president.
[07:10:10] Also, look, we are seeing there is just a limit to this cult of personality appeal that the president has. Right? I mean, it is not transferable, always what we said about President Obama. The Republicans have won in special elections over the last year more than they've lost. And they're feeling very good about that. But this is a -- this is a dangerous harbinger.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the allegations and what role they played. So exit polling suggests that 52 percent of the people who voted felt that the allegations were definitely true or probably true. Forty-two percent probably false, definitely false.
And then this is interesting also, Michael. That women with children who are teenagers -- under the age of 18. So the age of the accusers.
CAMEROTA: You know, went overwhelmingly for Doug Jones. Sixty-six percent of them voted for Doug Jones. Thirty-two percent of them voted for Moore. So the allegations, they were a huge factor.
SMERCONISH: Sure. And not rocket science to determine that those women were saying, "My God, that could be my daughter."
Had the race gone the other way, and by the way, it was a razor-thin margin. Had Roy Moore pulled this out, then I would have said he can send roses to Gloria Allred. Because I thought that what came forth relative to the yearbook, even though it didn't disprove the legitimacy of his signature in that yearbook, could have been outcome determinative. But any critical thinking that applied to all of those women, eight or nine, whatever the final number was, I think allowed people to draw a very reasonable conclusion that this had taken place. And I think in the end, that mattered most.
CUOMO: And yet, you did see another troubling sign, though, there. The truth of the allegations is seen completely through a tribal prism.
CUOMO: People who went for Roy Moore don't believe the allegations. People who went for Doug Jones do believe the allegations. And that's upsetting. Because it means that the truth is becoming a function of political ideology, which is always dangerous.
But do you think it's a fair statement that it's not just who they voted against? It's what they voted for and that maybe this call to decency that was really bigger than Doug Jones in terms of the campaign message worked, matters?
HABERMAN: I think to a point. But I think that Roy Moore -- the accusations against him -- and we have to remember that with the "#MeToo" movement there is -- there is a spectrum in terms of what people have been accused of. Everything is not the same. Not everybody is Harvey Weinstein. Not everybody is Roy Moore. I mean, this is what he was accused of. It involves children.
And that is a -- that is -- the president's own daughter said that goes to a different place. And I do think that people recognize that. But I do think that people who wanted to look at this race, and a lot of people did, as there is a bottom, right? I mean, just in terms of how far things can go. That has been the complaint about the president for many months. Is there's just no bottom on how -- how -- what he can say, what he can do, what can be gotten away with. There was a bottom here. It doesn't mean it's necessarily applicable for other people. And remember, this is less than two points. So it's not like this was some huge landslide. I do think, though...
CUOMO: Although it was two points in a state where the Republicans have been hugely outsized registration. HABERMAN: Which is why it was not actually, I think, that partisan
lens that everybody was looking through. I think there were a lot of Republicans who didn't vote.
CUOMO: Who didn't vote.
HABERMAN: Because they didn't believe Roy Moore's denials. Because they did think the preponderance of evidence was concerning.
By the way, even the president -- and this is important to note -- I mean, he's clearly been all over the map on where he -- where he was on this race, as he often is with these things. And he will pick whichever position is more convenient for him in that moment.
But he was, according to an aide that I had spoken to, put off by the way that Roy Moore handled that Hannity interview, where he seemed to allow for the possibility that maybe this all did happen. You know, I mean, there were enough red flags here for people to give them pause. You know, Roy Moore did not -- was not exactly unwavering in his denials.
CUOMO: He didn't follow the Roy Cohn playbook. I mean, he kind of did. He denied it but not the way Trump does, which is deny everything on every level at all times.
HABERMAN: And by the way, this is a point that my colleague, Alex Burns, made, and it's dead-on. Not only did he not follow that playbook -- and to be clear, this is not an endorsement of it.
CUOMO: That's right.
HABERMAN: It's an analysis. When -- when Trump was facing accusations from women following the "Access Hollywood" tape, Trump essentially not only refused to get thrown out of the ring; he refused to even falter. He kept going and kept going. And he showed up in public, and he continued talking to the media. Not all media but -- but media.
Roy Moore was basically invisible for the final days of this race. And there's a reason why. And it's because they were concerned that the more he was seen he would shed support. That's not the Donald Trump playbook. That's not the Roy Cohn playbook.
CAMEROTA: That's really interesting. Because everybody had speculated about why wasn't he on the campaign trail. Where was he that last weekend? And you're saying it was a calculation.
CAMEROTA: He wasn't just MIA.
CUOMO: And he showed up with a 12-year-old girl. Doing that interview.
[07:15:00] SMERCONISH: It goes back to my original premise which is to say, if he had to go into the witness protection program, because they were so fearful that he would become a gaffe reel, just imagine what we'd be entering now, had he won and people were waking up to Roy Moore, United States senator. That would have been a disaster for the GOP.
CUOMO: There's a little bit more of a challenge now for Democrats. They had some low fruit if Roy Moore won. They would have been able to hit Republicans over the head with it. What will they do now? They do have an extra seat. We'll see.
Michael, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Maggie.
HABERMAN: Thank you.
CUOMO: All right. So coming up in the next hour we're going to talk with Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. He is very important. He certifies the election. What does he say? Is it over?
CAMEROTA: By the way, we're also going to have Beverly Nelson of the yearbook thing, how she feels this morning, and what is the final answer on that yearbook signature?
Meanwhile, President Trump under fire for his provocative Twitter attack against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who called it a sexist smear. The White House is pushing back, saying it's us who have our heads in the gutter.
CNN's Joe Johns is live in the White House with more. What's the latest, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
So much of this is about the backdrop. You have the controversy over the president's treatment of women, which was a big issue in the campaign last year, coming roaring back now here, front, center stage in Washington, D.C.
An insult in the president's tweet yesterday insinuating Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the junior New York Democratic senator, essentially would come begging to the president's office -- obviously, he wasn't in office at that time -- asking for donations, begging for donations and would do anything for them. This was seen as innuendo, sexual innuendo by the critics of the president.
Of course, the view from the briefing room here at the White House was that people were reading things into the president's tweet that simply were not there. Listen to Sarah Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: I think all of your mind is in the gutter if you have read it that way. He's obviously talking about political partisan games that people often play and the broken system that he's talked about repeatedly. This isn't new. This isn't a new sentiment. This isn't new terminology. He's used it several times before.
(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHNS: Senator Gillibrand, for her part, said this was an attempt by the president to silence her, and she was not about to give him the benefit of the doubt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GILLIBRAND: It was a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice. And I will not be silenced on this issue. Neither will the women who stood up to the president yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Controversy coming in the midst of the "#MeToo" movement that is now on ascent here in Washington, D.C. There are a number of Democrats, including Senator Gillibrand, calling for the president to step down, however unlikely. And some other Democrats are asking for an investigation of the president's treatment of women.
Chris and Alisyn, back to you.
CUOMO: All right, Joe. Thank you very much.
So Democrat Doug Jones certainly pulled off a huge upset in Alabama. But it's an interesting question here about what it means. Is this in some way the better outcome for the GOP, even though their candidate lost? Let's debate that next.
[06:22:27] CUOMO: Republicans lost a key seat in the Senate with this Alabama race. And now some party leaders are pointing fingers. That happens.
Republican Congressman Peter King here in New York, he tweets this morning, "After Alabama disaster, GOP must do right thing and dump Steve Bannon." I didn't know that Bannon was a GOP official. But "His act is tired, inane and morally vacuous. If we are to make America great again for all Americans, Bannon must go and go now."
Was this a Democratic victory? Was it also a little bit of a win for the GOP overall? Confusing? Let's discuss.
CNN political commentators Ed Martin and Margaret Hoover. Great to have you both here. If I don't see you, merry Christmas to you and your families.
All right. So Ed Martin, you lost. That's bad. You lost a seat. That's bad. But you do not have me beating you over the head with Roy Moore from now through the midterms. Is there a little bit of a plus and minus here?
ED MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think you're right. I heard, I think, Smerconish say that or say something like that. I think there's something to that.
Look, it was -- the president used a good word, hard-fought election last night in his tweet. I think the details that are coming out, and this is why I think people like me are going to look at the party. Now it turns out that the Democrats and the outside groups, you know, Priorities USA spent millions to turn out the vote. And so we were outspent, meaning the Republican side, I don't know, 3, 4, 5 to 1. And when you get outspent, you lose.
So I think the party is going to have to regroup. But look, I -- I was someone who said Roy Moore deserved a chance. The people should speak. The people spoke. I think Roy Moore should not -- not drag this out. It should -- we should move on. And we will. And the president will -- his vision will be a part of what's the future.
CUOMO: Casting Roy Moore as an underdog is unusual. And it's interesting, because the president got outspent, but he won. How do you take this?
MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, first of all, we had a -- if the Republican Party had fielded a candidate that had any sense of moral decency, and if the Republican Party establishment had really taken a consistent stand and been morally courageous, we wouldn't have had this issue anyway. OK?
The funding problem resulted from the fact that we had a terrible candidate. That this was an embarrassment; it was an outrage.
And by the way, this was not all Democrat money that went into this race to support the -- Doug Jones. There was Republican money on the sidelines that was, frankly, maybe not helping Doug Jones but certainly not helping Roy Moore.
Bannon also, for Republicans who are not Bannon Republicans, which by the way, until the last two years, had been the majority of the party, Bannon takes a significant beating here, too, on the money side. Because not only had he lost a serious Republican funder in...
[07:25:05] HOOVER: -- Mercer, but there were big Republican CEO donors who had supported the Conservatives Principles PAC, which is the PAC supporting Roy Moore, big CEO, Dick Uihlein, Dick Uihlein from Chicago, put six figures, at least, into this race. Bannon is going to have to look to a new source of funding. He is not going to be able to do what he says he's going to do the Republican Party, which is uproot it and be a complete insurgent and change the direction of the Republican Party if he doesn't have his funding. So this seriously sets back the possibility of Bannon changing the course of the Republican Party.
CUOMO: What's your take on that? And what's -- first, start with the idea of Peter King giving so much legitimacy to Bannon. I mean, you know, I've always just seen him as kind of an outlier, you know a character. He wormed his way in there with Trump. Trump, that he had some kind of a bond. But is he that important to your party?
MARTIN: Well, I think -- Margaret brings up a good point. And we still are going to -- we still are going to fight this. She pointed out, two years ago we would not have had a party that said they were against trade deals, against amnesty for illegals, against the immigration. And that is a big fight. It's a fight against -- from the old guard establishment called and the new way.
Look, Bannon is the first one to say he's not on the ballot. What he has done, though, is he's focused a bunch of people on those issues of nationalist, populist. And that's not going away.
CUOMO: Moore was his guy. He was down in his field jacket. He made it about himself in these harangues to the voters.
MARTIN: Mo Brooks was his guy, actually, initially.
But let me say one thing. I texted with him this morning with Steven. And the fact is that he has said often to many people that it's -- you're going to have good days and bad days. But this is a fight to take back America. And that's how people like me out in the country really feel. This is a question of...
CUOMO: That's the proposition. Was this a good day for a bad day? Because some people say it's not just what they voted against down in Alabama but what they voted for. That it was a call to decency. And I know that's upset by the evangelical vote that broke so hard in Moore's favor. That's a conversation for a different day.
But it takes us to the Trump tweet about Kirsten Gillibrand. And I want to -- because I see this as a metaphor for what we were just dealing with in Alabama. If you want to put it up to remind people, but he seemed to make suggestions in there that were insensitive, if not overtly sexist.
Now first of all, how did you see it, Margaret? Did you see this as something where Trump was playing with a sexist line when he was talking about she would do anything, that she was begging for money? Or -- you know, because the "USA Today" says it was tantamount to calling her a whore. That's the "USA Today" editorial board.
CUOMO: Or do you think he was doing what Sarah Sanders says, which is just talking about the rigged system?
HOOVER: He was not doing what Sarah Sanders says. That's her job, is to spin it as best as she can. Because everybody knows this is consistent with everything he's done, starting with Megyn Kelly's blood coming out of her wherever. Right, but this is consistent.
He was doing the exact same thing he's done all the way along, trying -- and then trying to claim plausible deniability: "Oh, your head is in the gutter." That's absurd. We all know that.
And there really needs to be a no tolerance policy from Republican women on this kind of language from the head of their party and the president of the United States. CUOMO: Ed Martin, do you want to endorse what the president wrote?
MARTIN: Oh, of course. Look, Chris, you said earlier, I grew up in New Jersey. You grew up in New York. Trump grew up where he's from. Here's what you do. If Kristen Gillibrand wants to stand up and be toe to toe and call for resignation, she's stepped into the ring. Now whether you...
CUOMO: You call her a whore?
MARTIN: No, I didn't call her anything. You did the same thing as Maggie Haberman said. This is what he does all the time. He pushes...
CUOMO: Denigrates women?
MARTIN: -- up to the line. No. He pushes close to the line. He did it to Ben Carson, Marco Rubio. Now Kristen Gillibrand.
CUOMO: It's different with women. When you say this kind of thing about a women, it's different than saying it about a man. If you say about me and that I would do just about everything to get money, nobody is going to say, "Oh, the president is making a sexual suggestion about Chris Cuomo."
HOOVER: He's very clear. It is harassment intended to take away power.
MARTIN: If you play big-league ball, you're going to get fastballs right by your head. That's how Trump's shown for two years. Nobody should be surprised. Maggie Haberman said earlier, that's how he plays...
CUOMO: Maggie Haberman did not say that this tweet is just the state of play for Trump in general. She said this is the state of play for how he talks about women.
MARTIN: No. I think she was -- I think she was...
CUOMO: Trust me, Ed. I got it right. You got it wrong on that. But Maggie [SIC], it's still the same point. That Ed is saying this is who Trump is with everybody. It's not -- it's not geared towards her as a woman. Do you buy that?
HOOVER: It is geared towards her because she's a woman. That is a statement that he would not have made to a man. We all know that. Let's not pretend that's not otherwise.
But also, in this moment, look, Trump maybe -- maybe he gets away with it today. Maybe he's gotten away with it in the past. But there is now a moment, as we all know, and we have been talking it ad nauseam, about what is going to be acceptable with how you treat and talk about women moving forward. And you saw in Alabama last night that, while it wasn't a referendum
on sexual harassment, it certainly informed many, many of the voters, these allegations against Roy Moore.
There may be a ticking time bomb on what voters are going to consider is acceptable coming from the president of the United States and this kind of language. And Republicans -- I cannot say this more clearly -- Republican women need to draw the line for their party and their party leader that this kind of language is not acceptable anymore.
CUOMO: All right. Ed Martin, Margaret Hoover, thanks for both of your perspectives as always here on NEW DAY and keeping it decent, as well. Merry Christmas to you and both your families.