Guests: Howard Fineman, Bertha Coombs, Michael Isikoff, Sen. Kent Conrad, Sen. Orrin Hatch, David Corn, Melinda Henneberger, Charles Blow, Chris Cillizza
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A Snowe day in Washington. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
14 to 9 -- that was the big vote as the Senate Finance Committee approved the Democratic health care bill today with Maine Republican Olympia Snowe aboard, a measure that‘s now headed for passage. This is a huge victory for President Obama on two big counts. First, the bill passed with unanimous Democratic support, complete party unity, thanks to the solidarity of liberal-leaning Ron Wyden of Oregon and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, who thought the bill too cautious, and Blanche Lincoln, who has to meet the concerns of more conservative Arkansas voters.
But the big headline was Maine‘s Olympia Snowe. The senator from Maine voted yea, giving bipartisan support for the first time to health care reform. This gives cover to moderate Democrats and means reform has a much better chance of final passage. We‘ll talk to two top senators about how close today‘s vote brings health care to President Obama‘s desk.
Plus: Chutzpah. That‘s a Yiddish word describing someone who kills his parents and then begs for mercy on the grounds he‘s an orphan. And chutzpah describes yet another right-wing front group being put together by the ex-vice president‘s daughter, Liz Cheney, and William Kristol, the neo-conservative propagandist who‘s used others as front men in the past, such as Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin. He loves those people out front.
Now he‘s got Liz Cheney out there pushing the old line and selling the old gang that pushed the U.S. invasion of Iraq using talk of nuclear weapons and bogus Iraq ties to 9/11, and are now pushing for war with Iran and more war in Afghanistan. Here they come again with a new face, the gang that couldn‘t shoot straight. Their new face, Liz Cheney.
Also, let‘s play some HARDBALL politics, the five most exciting election races coming up. And with the health care bill now passed by the Senate committee, it‘s President Obama‘s turn to say what he wants done to it. What the president has to do now in the “Politics Fix.”
Finally, let‘s play word association. When I say Rush Limbaugh, you say? What until you hear what I say. Rush says word association—he actually plays it on the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
Let‘s start with the Senate Finance Committee vote today on health care reform. We have two committee members with us now, beginning with Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, who‘s chairman of the Budget Committee. Let me start with Senator Conrad. This is fascinating now because now, after your committee has passed a bill 14 to 9, there‘s going to be a little group meeting, Chris Dodd of Connecticut speaking for the labor committee, health committee, and speaking for your committee will be Max Baucus, the chairman of the committee, and then a little group of people from the White House.
Does this mean that now President Obama‘s going to have to put his stamp on this bill, no more hiding back, playing cheerleader, he‘s got to get in there and play the teamwork?
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D-ND) FINANCE COMMITTEE: Certainly, the president will become more involved as this bill advances. It‘s jumped the committee hurdle, but as you know, Chris, it‘s got a long way to go.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s what I‘m saying. “The Washington Post”
reported today that the meeting is going to include Baucus, Dodd, and a
handful of top White House officials. Is this crossing the line between
the executive branch and the legislative branch? I mean, all of a sudden -
· you‘re not going to be in that room, even though you‘re chairman of the budget committee, but probably Rahm Emanuel is going to be in there, Jim Messina‘s going to be, former staffers of you guys are going to be in that room with Harry Reid, the boss, the Senate minority (SIC) leader. What kind of deal is that?
CONRAD: Well, after all, they‘re representing the president of the United States. So this has happened many times. I‘ve seen it repeatedly. And as legislation advances, the White House is represented in the discussions. Nothing unusual about that.
MATTHEWS: Does this mean the president has to say what he stands for, finally?
CONRAD: I think we know what the president stands for. He‘s made very clear that he wants to expand coverage. He wants to improve quality. He wants to contain costs. He wants to do it in a way that‘s paid for, that bends the cost curve in the right way. So I think he‘s been quite clear. But obviously, there are hundreds of details, and he‘ll have to get more involved in the details as it proceeds.
MATTHEWS: Well, one big detail, of course, and it‘s a large detail, is the public option question. Your committee bill doesn‘t contain that. I‘ve agreed with you on this. I don‘t think it would clear the Senate. I think it‘s smart to do what you can do to get 60 votes. But the president now, won‘t he have to show his hand to the House side by helping you guys write a final bill?
CONRAD: Well, the president is certainly in a position to help craft a final compromise, but you know, really, a long way to go before you have discussions between the House and the Senate. The first thing you have to do is merge these bills in the Senate, get the Senate to take action. Then comes the point at which you‘re firing with live ammunition. That‘s when you write a conference report that actually becomes law.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s going to vote first, the U.S. Senate or the U.S.
House of Representatives, on health care?
CONRAD: You know, I don‘t know. I thought for a long time that the House would move first. I‘m not so certain now. They, as you know, have a Rules Committee. It‘s much easier for them to advance legislation than it is in the Senate. In the Senate, you‘ve got to have 60 votes if you‘re moving under regular order, so a bit more of a challenge in the Senate. So I wouldn‘t be surprised if the House still goes first.
MATTHEWS: See, the reason I asked that question, it‘s really important, because if you‘re one of the 40 or 50 moderate to conservative Democrats over there, you don‘t want to be out there voting for a more liberal or more left-leaning bill if you know it‘s not going to pass conference by the Senate. There‘s no sense sticking your neck out, exposing yourself for a liberal bill if what‘s going to come out of both houses is a moderate bill.
And I say that in all concern about people that are going the lose their seats forever if they vote for something too left-wing in the House, only to see it knocked down in the Senate-House conference. Don‘t you see the reason why they may want to have you guys vote first, so they know what reality they‘re facing politically?
CONRAD: I do, absolutely. And look, I‘ve thought for a long time the only bill that really has a chance to get through the entire process is the bill that would come out of the Finance Committee, that would be paid for, that would bend the cost curve in the right way. Yes, it expands coverage. It improves quality. Those are all critically important components. But a bill that‘s not paid for, a bill that doesn‘t bend the cost curve in the right way really has no chance of commanding 60 votes in the Senate.
MATTHEWS: What was the importance of Senator Snowe joining your majority today?
CONRAD: I think it gives confirmation of the effort here to reach out in a bipartisan way. Chairman Baucus—I‘ve never seen a chairman in 23 years make a more sincere, dedicated effort to bring both sides together, hundreds and hundreds of hours of meetings, Republicans and Democrats. In our group of six, three Democrats, three Republicans. We met 61 times. So there has been an all-out effort here to involve and engage members on both sides, and I think Senator Snowe‘s vote indicates that at least with respect to some of our colleagues, it‘s a success.
MATTHEWS: Congratulations, Senator. I know, having worked on the Hill as a staffer, that the best work on the Hill, on the Senate side, is done quietly and without fanfare and without credit oftentimes. And you put a lot of work into this bill. Thank you very much for coming here, and congratulations on putting together that 14 to 9 vote today.
CONRAD: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: That‘s Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
Let‘s listen now to what Republican senator Olympia Snowe of Maine said today as she joined that majority.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R-ME), FINANCE COMMITTEE: Is this bill all that I would want from it? Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls, history calls. And I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress. That is what my vote to report this bill out of committee here today represents, is to continue working your process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, what you just heard was Senator Olympia Snowe. She could be the key to possibly—tomorrow, we‘re going to have Susan Collins, her fellow member of the Senate from Maine, who‘s also a Republican moderate, as well. She might also vote for this bill. We‘re going to find that out, perhaps as early as tomorrow night on HARDBALL. Senator Collins is going to be a guest here.
But I think the key thing, politically, for those of you who have followed this health care bill all the way through and will follow it in the weeks ahead, is watch those moderate Democrats because they may feel now that because they have a Republican member joining them, that it‘ll be easier for Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Blanche—well, Blanche Lincoln‘s already aboard—people like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas to join now that you have a Republican aboard.
Anyway, let‘s bring in a Republican member on the Finance Committee who voted nay today, Utah senator Orrin Hatch. Sir, you‘re watching this bill proceed despite your objections. What are your feelings tonight watching this?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), FINANCE COMMITTEE: Well, I expected them to pass it out of committee. That‘s step number one. And I commend Max Baucus and Senator Conrad for the work that they‘ve done. I don‘t agree with it. I think it‘s going to cost an arm and a leg. If you put this over a full 10 years, it‘s $1.8 trillion, and that doesn‘t even count the doctor fix. See, they only took care of the doctor fix for one year so they can make this claim that they are balancing the budget. The rest of those nine years, they‘re not taking care of the doctor fix. And of course, they don‘t even—the program doesn‘t even start until 2014. That‘s the only way they could get it down under the $1.8 trillion.
MATTHEWS: The Republican Party was in office and controlled for a while there both houses, as well as the White House, and you have enjoyed periods during your tenure as a senator when the Republicans had the upper hand. Why didn‘t you take the opportunity when you did to extend health coverage to a larger number of Americans?
HATCH: Well, keep in mind, I think a lot of us wanted to do that. But I‘ve been in the Senate 33 years, we‘ve never had a fiscal conservative majority in the Senate in my whole time, other than through great presidential leadership, Reagan, Bush I, Bush II. Even Clinton from time to time would do some fiscally conservative things. But we never really had the votes to really do what would really be a health reform bill that I think would work.
MATTHEWS: Well, it seems like with all their flaws, the Democrats, at least, have tried. Now, Richard Nixon tried it back when he was president. He went for an employer mandate. That went nowhere because Ted Kennedy didn‘t want to help him with it. You‘ve had Democrats who have failed in the past because Carter and Kennedy couldn‘t get along. Jim Cooper, Dingell, Moynihan and the rest, they all couldn‘t get their act together.
But isn‘t it fair to say that the Republicans have not been aggressive enough in trying to find free-market, fiscally conservative ways to bring health care to a large number of Americans, that your party has not done that? You‘ve sort of said it just now.
HATCH: Well, there are six Republican bills. But to be honest with you, with only 40 votes in the Senate, we don‘t have a chance of having any of those succeed at this particular point unless the Democrat bill fails. If it fails, then I think we can do something. Personally...
MATTHEWS: Senator, we‘ve got to go. We just see the president beginning to speak. Thank you so much, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, for joining us.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... the fifth and final committee responsible for health care reform has passed a proposal that has both Democratic and Republican support. This effort was made possible by the tireless efforts of chairman Max Baucus and the other members of the Senate Finance Committee. It‘s a product of vigorous debate and difficult negotiations.
After the consideration of hundreds of amendments, it includes ideas from both Democrats and Republicans, which is why it enjoys the support of people from both parties. And I want to particularly thank Senator Olympia Snowe for both the political courage and the seriousness of purpose that she‘s demonstrated throughout this process.
Now, this bill is not perfect and we have a lot of difficult work ahead of us. There‘s still significant details and disagreements to be worked out over the next several weeks as the five separate bills from the Senate and the House are merged into one proposal. But I do believe the work of the Senate Finance Committee has brought us significantly closer to achieving the core objectives I laid out early in September.
Most importantly, this bill goes a long way towards offering security to those who have insurance and affordable options for those who don‘t. It reins in some of the worst practices of the insurance industry, like the denial of coverage due to preexisting conditions. It also sets up an insurance exchange that will make coverage affordable for those who don‘t currently have it. And as the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has certified, it will slow the growth of health care costs in the long term and it will not add a penny to our deficit.
The committee‘s progress over the past several weeks is the culmination of work by all five committees and numerous members of Congress over the better part of this year. We‘ve reached out to stakeholders across the spectrum, doctors and nurses, businesses and workers, hospitals, and even drug companies. And we‘ve considered a wide variety of ideas and proposals in an effort to find common ground. As a result of these efforts, we are now closer than ever before to passing health reform.
But we‘re not there yet. Now‘s not the time to pat ourselves on the back. Now‘s not the time to offer ourselves congratulations. Now is the time to dig in and work even harder to get this done. And in this final phase, I hope that we will continue to engage each other with the spirit of civility and seriousness that has brought us this far and this subject deserves. I commend the chairman and the committee‘s members for their achievement and the example that they‘ve set and, I look forward to continuing to work with Congress in the weeks ahead. We are going to get this done.
Thank you very much, everybody.
MATTHEWS: That was, of course, President Obama at the White House, taking credit, of course, and saluting the passage by 14 to 9 in the Senate Finance Committee of the big health care reform bill. Tomorrow, we‘re going to have that other Republican senator from Maine, Susan Collins, joining us here and find out whether she‘ll be in a position to support the health care bill, as well, as the second Republican. We‘ll see that tomorrow night right here at this desk.
Coming up, Liz Cheney, the—the—I was going to say the wife—the daughter of the former vice president is joining another one of these neo-con front groups. She calls Barack Obama‘s foreign policy radical. That‘s saying something from here point of view. Anyway, she‘s launching this new group called Keep America Safe. By the way, the world of Washington is littered with these front groups. They‘re all over town. They‘re basically all the same. I don‘t know who funds these groups. We‘ll find out, perhaps, the same old right-wingers, the same old propaganda. She‘s joining the time. Let‘s find out some more about this when we come back with HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president, is taking on a higher-profile role these days. She‘s the face of a new group, Keep America Safe they call themselves, that plans to take on President Obama for reversing Bush-era foreign policy. And the man behind the new group, William Kristol, who relentlessly pushed for the war in Iraq and was wrong in his predictions of the war‘s outcome. So what‘s the real goal of Keep America Safe?
David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine and Michael Isikoff is an MSNBC contributor and “Newsweek” investigative reporter.
Well, I‘m a fan of that great book by Ayn Rand, “Fountainhead,” and there‘s a guy in there named Ellsworth Toohey. He‘s an old lefty, and all he does is create these front groups one after another. Now the neo-conservative crowd, some of them accused of being just old Trotskyites, but the names are American Enterprise Institute, the Project for the New American Century, Americans for Victory Over Terrorism, Coalition for Democracy in Iran, Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, Committee on the Present Danger—I love that one—and Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Here we got another one. They love creating these groups. Why do they do it? Why don‘t they just write their op-ed pieces in the newspaper and move on?
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”: Well, it‘s Keep America Safe. Who‘s against that, Chris? You know...
CORN: But you nailed it on the head. This is a tactic that comes out of left-wing politics in the ‘30s and ‘40s that these guys come from, genetically speaking. Their fathers and grandfathers...
MATTHEWS: Were all lefties!
CORN: ... were all lefties. And so it‘s one committee...
MATTHEWS: But these committees...
CORN: ... after another, and it just—you create a different funding stream. You make it seem like there‘s more than 20 guys in the phone booth.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I always wonder are there—is there one per committee? I mean—let me ask you this. Liz Cheney, a very delightful young woman—I don‘t want to be—delightful.
MATTHEWS: I have known her socially. She‘s great. You can chat with her and talk with her. There‘s nothing strange about her at all.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, “NEWSWEEK”: Right.
MATTHEWS: Her father, different story, maybe.
But why is she out there teaming up with Bill Kristol? Kristol‘s had an interesting career. He‘s a brilliant guy.
MATTHEWS: He was an op-ed—he was a columnist for “The New York Times.” That didn‘t work out. He was a commentator on ABC for a while. That didn‘t work out. He runs a magazine which I do read every week, “The Weekly Standard.” He—what else does he do? He does all kinds of...
ISIKOFF: Committee on the Present Danger...
CORN: ... Dan Quayle.
MATTHEWS: Dan Quayle‘s brain.
ISIKOFF: Look, I—I...
MATTHEWS: And he discovered Sarah Palin up there on that—that river trip.
ISIKOFF: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Those guys—Fred—Fred Barnes and he were on a trip up there and they found her. She swam out to the boat or something. I don‘t know what happened.
ISIKOFF: Liz Cheney is the softer, gentler face of her father. But the views she has...
CORN: That‘s not hard to be.
ISIKOFF: Not hard to be.
ISIKOFF: Views she‘s espoused are identical to those of her father.
Neither her father or Bill Kristol has ever acknowledged error for anything, any of the misstatements they made about the Iraq war, about the war on terror during the entire Bush administration. They have never acknowledged that they might have gotten some things wrong, that they might have overstated some things. And—and neither has Liz Cheney. But that‘s...
MATTHEWS: OK. Just to give you an example, here‘s...
MATTHEWS: ... here‘s Kristol‘s comment in 2002, before the Iraq war.
ISIKOFF: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: “We can remove Saddam Hussein, because that could start a chain reaction in the Arab world that would be very healthy.”
And let me read the next quote from him.
MATTHEWS: Keep going here. In February of 2003, Kristol said this of Saddam Hussein: “He‘s got weapons of mass destruction. At some point, he will use them or give them to a terrorist group to use. If we free the people of Iraq, we will be respected in the Arab world. I think we will be respected around the world for helping the people.”
We were hated for that war.
MATTHEWS: And nobody called us liberators.
MATTHEWS: That‘s complete nonsense. Here he is talking about we—this is Iran. He wants to go to war in Iran. “We might consider countering the active Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear”—three years ago, he‘s doing it. And he says: “Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran”—he‘s such a hawk.
MATTHEWS: And these guys never served in the military, and they‘re always pushing for war.
CORN: Well, he‘s gotten—he‘s gotten everything wrong up to now.
And—and the announcement they put out today of this new group, Liz Cheney said that the problem with Barack Obama, said his policies are too radical. This is a guy who has already put 21,000 more troops into Afghanistan.
CORN: Every day, he‘s sending Predator drones into Pakistan. And they have already picked off in the last couple of months the Taliban head in Pakistan, al Qaeda guys.
MATTHEWS: How many wars do Cheney and Kristol want us to be fighting at the same time? They want Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, just fighting everybody.
ISIKOFF: Cheney clearly wanted—Cheney clearly wanted more aggressive action against Iran, and lost during the second Bush—Bush‘s second term.
But, that said, look, this is a real political vulnerability for Obama. It‘s something they in the Obama White House are worried about, not so much this group, per se, but the—Guantanamo, the whole cluster of issues of national security.
MATTHEWS: How so? Tell me how it hurts against them in the middle politically, in the political middle?
ISIKOFF: Well, look, they have already—well, they have already pulled back on Guantanamo. They—it is very unlikely they‘re going to meet their deadline of closing it by—by January.
And why? Because of the congressional opposition and their fear of going up against the hard right, talking about Obama letting terrorists into the country. That spooked them. That spooked them from the very first weekend that they were going to send...
MATTHEWS: By the way, while you‘re on that subject, I agree. But, on that subject, there‘s two kinds of prisoners.
MATTHEWS: They‘re the kind of prisoner you can make a case against in court.
MATTHEWS: And you don‘t worry about habeas corpus or anything else.
You‘re going to put this guy away for 20, 30 years for terrorism.
MATTHEWS: Then there are those people who have sworn allegiance to al Qaeda, but haven‘t done anything wrong yet.
MATTHEWS: They‘re hard—what do you do with those guys? And that is a legitimate question.
ISIKOFF: Well, they are wrestling with that, and they haven‘t figured it out.
CORN: Well, the issue, also, is that you can put them in supermax facilities in the United States.
CORN: No, no, you could—you could transfer them, the way you‘re holding them in Gitmo, as you come up with a legal solution to this.
CORN: I mean, the argument that they can‘t be brought to our shores because of our—because it would endanger us is silly. But I think...
MATTHEWS: No, just legally, they would have rights once they got ashore.
CORN: But I think, politically, putting Liz—putting the Cheney name on any attack on Barack Obama is good for Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: I think so.
CORN: Cheney is so discredited. I mean, Bill Kristol probably has better approval ratings these days than Dick Cheney or Liz Cheney would. So, it doesn‘t really...
MATTHEWS: He‘s called Darth Vader. Even Bill Kristol was calling him Darth Vader in a column the other day.
But he‘s a Dr. Strangelove character. He‘s a guy that salutes every war effort. He always wants to fight, always seems to want to torture. I mean, without—it‘s hard not to caricaturize him.
ISIKOFF: Who‘s that, Kristol, Bill Kristol, or Cheney, or both?
MATTHEWS: Either one, Cheney more...
MATTHEWS: ... cartoon.
MATTHEWS: Kristol is more sophisticated about it.
ISIKOFF: Here‘s where I think this—this can make a difference.
I talked to one of their strategists today. They are going to be raising money. They have got some seed money from wealthy donors. They do want to run targeted TV ads in congressional districts. You know, if they get some traction, they can be effective. They can be a political force to be reckoned with.
So, I don‘t think that the Obama White House is going to so easily write this off.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that the Obama team still would prefer to fight with the right wing than fight with elected Republicans?
CORN: Well, sure.
MATTHEWS: They would rather talk to three guys and fight with a Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck—or Glenn Beck—or these guys, go after all them? He would rather go after them, fight them, than fight Boehner? Because the Republicans are getting close as competitive forces on these votes coming up.
Look at these numbers. That vote as to how you‘re going to vote for Congress next election, it‘s very close.
CORN: It‘s so—it‘s so much easier for them to run against the talk show hosts...
CORN: ... and Dick Cheney and anybody connected to the Bush era than it is to go against generic Republicans.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you Mike. You seem to be challenging this. Do you think it‘s smart for the right, center-right, whatever you want to call the coalition, hawkish right, to be identifying with Bush and Cheney going into next year?
ISIKOFF: No, I don‘t think that they to be identified with Bush and Cheney, but I guarantee that, if they do get a little traction, if they‘re raising money, it‘s not going to be the faces of George Bush and Dick Cheney on the TV ads.
MATTHEWS: Do we ever get a list of where this money—by the way, do ever get...
MATTHEWS: You‘re an investigation reporter. Do we ever get disclosure on where the money comes from? Not that it would prove anything.
ISIKOFF: You know, you get—you get it piecemeal. There are a number of wealthy donors that have funded groups like this, very similar to this.
ISIKOFF: ... Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas...
ISIKOFF: ... in Florida.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I know him. He‘s the big gambling guy, yes.
ISIKOFF: There are people who put money behind these kind of groups.
They‘re likely the same kind of people who are putting money behind this...
CORN: Now, they tried to do it. They did try to do it in 2008.
CORN: And it completely fizzled. It didn‘t work.
MATTHEWS: He‘s an amazing guy. I met him one time.
I said, how do you get involved in the gambling industry? He said, buy my stock.
MATTHEWS: He‘s amazing, a very successful businessman and a man of the right, obviously.
Thank you, guys, very much, David Corn and Michael Isikoff.
MATTHEWS: Up next: word association with Rush Limbaugh. Wait until you catch this. Jamie Gangel started it. We‘re going to finish it. It‘s next in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First up: Who‘s on top? “GQ” magazine is out with its list of the 50 most powerful people in Washington who aren‘t named Obama or Biden. Well, here‘s some of the persons that caught my eye. At number 33, presidential speechwriter and my fellow Holy Cross alum Jon Favreau. Come a long way, lad.
Further up the list, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at 18. And this is where the list gets really limp, and, to be honest, ridiculous, former Vice President, out of office politician—hey, this is a man‘s fashion magazine—let‘s be real—Dick Cheney, right up there next Hillary Clinton. I don‘t think so.
And the top woman on the list—you don‘t need a list to do this one
· Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, way up there. Anyway, at number two and three, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the top guys lead—dealing with the economic crisis and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They belong up there.
Number one, an amazing statement, who else, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. “GQ” says he has an innate sense of how and when to twist arms and he‘s—quote—“ruthlessly pragmatic.”
Hmm. Again, this is a fashion magazine.
Next up: mouthing off. Here‘s Rush Limbaugh sitting down for a game of word association with our colleague Jamie Gangel of NBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
JAMIE GANGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I say, President Obama, you say?
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Disaster.
GANGEL: Michelle Obama.
LIMBAUGH: Yes. Plants a garden out there.
GANGEL: Jimmy Carter.
LIMBAUGH: An utter disgrace and embarrassment. Sorry for the four words, but I needed them all.
GANGEL: Sarah Palin.
LIMBAUGH: Misunderstood and underestimated. I admire her. People have tried to destroy her. She‘s got more of a backbone than any man in the Democrat Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You say Rush Limbaugh, I say phone sex for the traveling salesman. Think about it.
Up next: the five hottest faces—five hottest races in 2010 that matter most to me. We have got big primary fights coming up on both sides of the political aisle in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida. We have got the biggest battles—coming up next on HARDBALL. You‘re watching it on MSNBC.
BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC
Stocks ending slightly lower today as earnings season, well, was a little bit less good than expected—the Dow Jones industrials down almost 15 points, the S&P losing three, but the Nasdaq was up just a fraction. Intel shares, though, are setting the tone for better trading tomorrow.
Shares are soaring in after-hours trading—the chipmaker posting a blockbuster third-quarter earnings report just after the close. A minor dip in profit and revenue was much smaller than Wall Street had expected. Intel is also raising its fourth-quarter sales forecast.
But, before the close, investors were focused on a disappointing report from Johnson & Johnson. Now, the consumer products giant and drugmaker beat earnings expectations, thanks to cost-cutting measures, but its sales were weaker than expected, and folks are getting punished for that this season.
Cisco also announcing its second major acquisition in less than a month. The networking giant will buy the wireless support provider Starent Networks for about $3 billion.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We‘re barely a year away from the 2010 election, but we‘re going to talk about it.
MATTHEWS: Before we go to that election, we‘re going to get some important primary fights before the big general elections next year. So, let‘s tonight look at some of those five hot races. I‘m fascinated with these races. I‘m not kidding.
“Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman shares my excitement. He‘s an MSNBC political analyst. And Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix‘ for TheWashingtonPost.com, a straight, young, brilliant analyst.
Let‘s go first to Massachusetts.
On December 8 of this year, less than two months from now, Democrats have to pick a U.S. Senate primary Democratic winner to replace Senator Ted Kennedy. You have got a leader there on the left. That‘s Martha Coakley, the A.G. of Massachusetts, Congressman Michael Capuano, who has the famous 8th District that Tip and Jack Kennedy, and Michael Curley before that, James Michael Curley before that. You have the City Year—City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, and the Boston Celtics co-owner Steve—well, I could do it the Italian way—Pagliuca.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Do it the Italian way. I‘m always in favor of that.
MATTHEWS: Pagliuca. OK, Pagliuca.
MATTHEWS: So, what do you think? Pagliuca has a shot.
Let‘s go to the top two here, Capuano and...
MATTHEWS: ... Coakley. Who wins?
CILLIZZA: I think Coakley wins. I think what this race is more about more than anything else is who didn‘t run. Joe Kennedy II didn‘t run. No one with the last name Kennedy...
MATTHEWS: Ed Markey didn‘t run.
CILLIZZA: Ed Markey didn‘t run.
MATTHEWS: And Barney didn‘t run.
CILLIZZA: None of the big names—didn‘t run.
And, so, I think what you‘re left with is one candidate who‘s the woman in the race, no other women in the race, and one candidate with the name I.D. and the money. That‘s Coakley. She‘s ahead.
MATTHEWS: Is there any way anybody can make a case against her, since there‘s three or four guys against one woman here? It‘s hard to make that case.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is hard to make the case, but the others are going to try based on the idea that, in some way or other, by some argument or another, they‘re closer to the spirit of Kennedy than she is.
MATTHEWS: Can you get to the left of Martha Coakley?
FINEMAN: I think it‘s possible.
FINEMAN: I think it‘s possible. I think that‘s how at least a couple of them are running.
MATTHEWS: I know.
FINEMAN: I mean, that‘s how Capuano is running.
CILLIZZA: Capuano is...
FINEMAN: ... that way.
MATTHEWS: He‘s trying to get to her left. On what issue?
FINEMAN: He doesn‘t have the money. He doesn‘t have...
MATTHEWS: How do you get to the left of the A.G. out there? She‘s pro-choice. She‘s pro-all these different things.
FINEMAN: But she‘s focused on the law and order side of things more than on the human services side of things, shall we say.
FINEMAN: Capuano is saying: I‘m mayor of Somerville. I can bring you the services.
MATTHEWS: I get you. I don‘t want to ruin her chances, but I really like Kay Bailey Hutchison. She‘s running against the governor of Texas, who seems like a whack job to me. Rick Perry, he‘s talking about succession, all this crazy stuff. He‘s kind of a fancy guy with blazers. I don‘t like his style. I don‘t like what he talks like.
What do you think?
MATTHEWS: Can she beat him?
CILLIZZA: Oh, she can absolutely beat him.
MATTHEWS: Is this about brains and responsibility, and a sense that Texas ought to be responsible and be a little prouder than itself than just having whack jobs as governor?
CILLIZZA: To be honest, I...
CILLIZZA: If I agreed with that sentiment, I wouldn‘t have a job.
FINEMAN: Remember, he‘s a straight brilliant young reporter.
CILLIZZA: I think that—I think that what you see here is, Senator Hutchison has long been interested in running for governor. Perry has stayed on. Hutchison, I think, was willing.
She let him—in 2006, she thought about running. She took a pass, thinking, in 2010, he definitely will be gone.
MATTHEWS: But is he a little silly? Can‘t even state that objectively, he‘s a little silly to be governor?
CILLIZZA: But, Chris, silly or not, he is in line—he is in line with many—you‘re talking about a Texas Republican primary electorate. That is the conservatives of the conservatives. So, while it may seem wacky in a general election, it‘s a small electorate, many of whom agree with him on the 10th amendment and succession...
MATTHEWS: God, he looks like Oliver Stone there.
What do you think?
FINEMAN: He‘s right for a lot of reasons, one of them being that, if you‘re going to attack Perry through the base of the conservative Republican Party in Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison isn‘t necessarily the way to do it.
FINEMAN: And the interesting thing is, Karl Rove, who—who created all these figures, is kind of hanging back. He‘s trying to stay out of the way here.
But he‘s responsible for the careers of both Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think they—she was the treasurer of the state.
FINEMAN: And Rick Perry was hired specifically because he would give the adoring glances to George W. Bush.
MATTHEWS: I look at her and I look at Meg Whitman out in California as women of the future. Let‘s take a look at the Pennsylvania race, where I grew up. Pennsylvania‘s long time Republican Senator, now Democrat, Arlen Specter faces US Congressman Joe Sestak, the former admiral. That‘s a race that‘s not close yet.
FINEMAN: Well, to me, one of the—it‘s not close yet. Specter has the name recognition. But Sestak is a fighter and I think he‘s an interesting character. What‘s interesting to me about this is Barack Obama took a big position early on in Specter and the White House is going to have to really get involved in this to make sure it stays that way.
MATTHEWS: Will the Clintons stay out of that race? Because he‘s a real Clinton guy, Sestak. He‘s done a lot for them over the years, worked for them in the White House at NSC. Won‘t Bill Clinton be called upon at some point to get in there and help them?
CILLIZZA: My guess would be he will. And if you look at what Bill Clinton‘s done since the election, he‘s rewarded friends. He‘s gone and endorsed Gavin Newsom in a very --
MATTHEWS: Because he‘s mad at Jerry Brown.
CILLIZZA: He‘s done four events for Kendrick Meek in Florida running for the Senate. Bill Clinton is someone who is fiercely loyal.
MATTHEWS: And the only thing you‘ve got to say for Bill, he‘s a relationship politician. He‘s not a transactional guy. He sticks to his old loyalties.
FINEMAN: And by the way, both of them are going to have a race on their hands.
MATTHEWS: Toomey could beat either one.
FINEMAN: The Republican could beat either one of these.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s the better bet against Toomey, ironically?
FINEMAN: I‘m going to guess that Sestak might be a better bet.
CILLIZZA: I think what you‘re going to see from Arlen Specter is what you always see from Arlen Specter. He‘s going to raise a ton of money and he is going to hammer his opponent.
MATTHEWS: By the way, I‘m not taking sides on that one, because I would love to moderate that debate. I think that is going to be one of the great debates. Sestak has to go in at him. Arlen is unbelievable on defense.
Let‘s take a look at California. You mentioned it. There‘s a great race between Jerry Brown, who was the youngest governor in the history of the state, wants to be the oldest governor in the history of the state, 30-some years later, against a very attractive, almost too attractive, mayor of San Francisco.
FINEMAN: You didn‘t call him fancy.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m not going to knock him.
FINEMAN: You called Rick Perry fancy.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
FINEMAN: I think Jerry Brown is a master politician.
MATTHEWS: Extremely popular.
FINEMAN: He‘s 20 points ahead in the polls right now. He‘s going to be able to run circles around this guy—
MATTHEWS: Have you ever walked around the streets with him? They love him out there.
FINEMAN: There‘s no better experience as a political reporter than covering Jerry Brown, I‘ve got to tell you.
CILLIZZA: Gavin Newsom was supposed to be the guy who was going to create a generational choice. Jerry Brown was elected in the early 1970s. The problem for Gavin Newsom is he is this huge national profile, leader on gay rights issues, gay marriage. He‘s raised 1.7 million dollars. In California, that gets you about a 15-second—
MATTHEWS: Why southern California, which is where all the votes are -
· three quarters of the people watch southern California television on cable or broadcast. Why would any of those people vote for the mayor of San Francisco?
CILLIZZA: The one option that Gavin Newsom may have, and I don‘t think this is going to happen, Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, a Hispanic, looked at this race very seriously, decided not to run. Now, I would be stunned if he endorsed Gavin Newsom. I‘d be even more stunned if, all of a sudden, southern --
MATTHEWS: Villaraigosa is very likely to back Jerry, because then he still has a chance to follow.
FINEMAN: Of course.
MATTHEWS: How can you say that before I go there. You know stuff before I think it.
FINEMAN: Of course. Jerry Brown, I don‘t care how old he is, reads much younger and cooler than anybody else on the scene. He‘s a cool guy.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to vote for Jerry Brown. Let‘s take a look at Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who is a very popular guy in the media. He faces former statehouse Speaker Marco Rubio, who has the support of people, I believe of Pat Buchanan, people on the right. That‘s a Cuban American guy on the political right against a man of the center right, Charlie Crist. Can he beat Charlie Crist with all the media attention of the governorship.
CILLIZZA: Maybe. I‘ll tell you why I think maybe. Two weeks ago, Chris, I would have said no. He raised almost a million dollars in the last three months. Charlie Crist is an amazing fund-raiser, raised four million dollars, already well known. Marco Rubio—
MATTHEWS: He‘s got a guy who comes around with a fan and a tan.
CILLIZZA: If Marco Rubio—he‘s already doing it—can turn this into a fight for the future and the soul of the Republican party, he can win.
FINEMAN: That‘s what it is already. Karl Rove, who I mentioned before, is backing Rubio. The Club for Growth people I think are going to back Rubio. It‘s going to be—more than any other race, that primary is going to be about the future of the Republican party in the Obama era.
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s going to be fascinating.
MATTHEWS: I would love to moderate the debate. That‘s a fascinating debate to watch. Down there, Rubio, a lot of talk from the right. This is going to be an election, in many ways, on the Republican side, between the organized right, the activist right and the establishment right.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard. I love this stuff and it‘s just beginning. There‘s so much of this left.
CILLIZZA: A year left.
MATTHEWS: Howard Fineman, Chris Cillizza, thank you.
Up next, now it‘s President Obama‘s turn to say what he wants from health care. White House aides are going to be involved now in fashioning the Senate version of the bill. They‘re going to take what came out of the Finance Committee today, meld it to what came out of the Kennedy Committee, the Health and Labor Committee, and put together the bill.
The important thing is, for the first time, White House staff people will be in the room as they work on this bill. The president can‘t stand on the sidelines any longer. That‘s what happened tonight. That‘s the big development. It‘s now Obama‘s game to win. We‘ll be right back to talk about that.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now for the politics fix. Tonight, Melinda Henneberger is the editor of the PoliticsDaily.com and Charles Blow is a columnist—did I say that right—for the “New York Times.” Charles, thank you.
This thing today, Snowe—it was a snow day in Washington today, Charles. As we used to say in Catholic school, a day off. An exciting day for the Democrats, 14 to nine—I have to give them credit and I will give them credit. The Democratic party was united today. The men on the left moving to the left, Jay Rockefeller, Ron Wyden, good liberals. They went with the committee. They stuck with the solidarity of the committee. Blanche Lincoln, who has to represent a very difficult re-election challenge down there in Arkansas, she stuck with the committee.
Democratic loyalty and unity is not something we‘re used to saying, but it was powerful today.
CHARLES BLOW, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: That‘s true. But it‘s powerful on a bill that has been significantly watered down from what many Democrats wanted. And I think that today‘s victory for the Democrats represents both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you know, you did see the unity of the party. You saw them win over Snowe, which is—for all the attention and energy that has been lavished on her, you had to win that vote. If you didn‘t, that would really have been a crushing defeat.
The problem is now you‘re stuck in a situation where the bipartisanship that most Americans say they want, you‘ve achieved on a bill that is not exactly what you want in the end.
MATTHEWS: How do you have both? How do you have bipartisan support for a liberal bill? It seems like an oxymoron. Don‘t you need bipartisan support for a moderate bill? That‘s how you do it in politics.
BLOW: Here‘s the thing. You‘re not going to get much bipartisanship anyway. I mean, what we‘re calling bipartisanship these days is one vote. When it goes to the floor, it may get one vote and maybe more than that. But, you know, if—is that what we mean by bipartisanship, we‘ve lost good policy and good politics. By wanting to appease the—you know, people who want the bipartisanship, we‘ve lost what we think was a good policy.
The public, by far, wants a public option. The president has said it‘s a good idea to have a public option.
MATTHEWS: How come—I don‘t want to argue with you all night. Only 30 senators support that position. You talk it up. Ed Schultz talks it up every night. Fair enough. It‘s a good position. It‘s a progressive decision. I just saw as recently as a couple days ago, only 30 Democrat, Melinda—only 30 Democrats of the 60 Democrats in Senate support it. Why do we keep talking about something that half the Democrats don‘t support? Do you think Evan Bayh is for it? Do you think Blanche Lincoln is for it?
Ken Conrad? Max Baucus? No, they‘re not.
MELINDA HENNEBERGER, POLITICSDAILY.COM: They can‘t afford to be for it politically. But the public is for it. And I wonder how much—
MATTHEWS: Why aren‘t they for it, then, if they‘re reading their districts right, states right?
HENNEBERGER: Part of it I think is that the media—the way it has presented—in an AP story today, AP, supposed to be as neutral as you can be, presented the public option as a divisive measure put forth by liberals. That‘s an AP story explanation for what the public option is.
I agree with Charles. This bill that went through today with one Republican, and that‘s what passes for bipartisanship, is a very Republican bill. It‘s a bill that they—
HENNEBERGER: I think they‘re going to get the 60 votes for something very much like this—
MATTHEWS: How would you get 60 for something you like? You and Charles are blowing the horn here for the liberal solution. I‘m just asking you a political solution. How do you get 60 votes for it? If you‘re not, it‘s another failure going back to the days of Harry Truman. I know how the Democrats fail in health care. It‘s been done in every administration I‘ve lived through. I know how to fail: stick to what you want, and you don‘t get it. Then you say you really tried. Give me credit for trying.
HENNEBERGER: That‘s absolutely right. That‘s why Jay Rockefeller is going to go for this. He‘s going to vote for a bill without public option, as he has to. He‘s been waiting for this moment for 40 years, and he‘s not going to want to have history judge him as the guy—
MATTHEWS: Charles, why not try it, get a bill through, and then see if it doesn‘t work because it doesn‘t get the insurance companies to lower their rates to affordability. Then you go, now we‘ve made our case. What‘s wrong with that approach?
BLOW: First of all, I liked how you say I‘m blowing the horn. That‘s great. I think what you have to—
MATTHEWS: Like a word game?
BLOW: Exactly. No.
MATTHEWS: I didn‘t mean to do that.
BLOW: Here‘s the thing. You know, people were cowed by the political environment going to the summer. The summer is over. A lot of people were turned off by the loud noise of the summer. I think that‘s why you got into a position where you have 30 Democrats against it. That said—
MATTHEWS: The polls prove you right, because September was a much better month for the president than was August. It‘s hard to believe it could have been worse. You‘re right. There‘s a calming spirit in the country this fall that has emerged that wasn‘t here this summer.
We‘ll be right back. I‘m out of time. We‘ll be right back on that thought with Melinda Henneberger and Charles Blow. I want to talk about the return of the Cheneys, too, the much received—well-received return of the Cheneys. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Politics Daily‘s Melinda Henneberger and Charles Blow of the “New York Times” for more of the politics fix.
Charles, did you have a thought you wanted to continue there? Or else, we‘ll go on to Liz Cheney and her new coalition with the neocon crowd. Bill Kristol is back with a new face. It was Dan Quayle. Then it was Sarah Palin. Now it‘s Liz Cheney. He loves to get these front faces up there for his organizations. The latest one is called Safety For America or something. It joins a long list of neocon front groups by the names of—do you listen to these committees? They usually write op-ped pieces for major newspapers. The Americans for Victory Over Terrorism, the Coalition for Democracy in Iran, the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, the committee—this is my favorite—the Committee on The Present Danger, said breathlessly, the project for the new American Century—I think that‘s what had it—and, of course, the phony, phony, phony title, the American Enterprise Institute. It has nothing to do with American Enterprise. It‘s a front group for the neocons.
What do you think of this? Why do they keep organizing these groups? What‘s Liz Cheney going to do with Bill Kristol, your former colleague there on the op-ed page of the “New York Times?”
BLOW: We actually didn‘t overlap. At least I don‘t think we did. I think—the Cheneys give me no—you know, no end of, kind of, amusement and enjoyment. After Dick Cheney ran around for the last ten months doing his best impersonation of the Grim Reaper, now his daughter is out being the Grim Reaper Jr. or Mini Me.
It‘s hard for me to even take it seriously. I can‘t even believe that someone is advocating the failed policies—the failed war policies of the Bush administration. The American public overwhelmingly rejected that idea in November. Nothing has changed since then other than, you know, they say that, you know, disastrous Obama policies. Well, the administration is trying to get us out of the disaster that is Guantanamo Bay, the disaster that is Iraq, Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS: Melinda, your thoughts about Liz Cheney? Why is she doing her father‘s business here?
HENNEBERGER: I think she believes it. Obviously she‘s not a centimeter to the left of her dad. When she says the president has such radical views, she has some pretty radical views, herself, like, you know, what—this waterboarding can‘t be torture, because American soldiers have been trained in it.
MATTHEWS: Bring back torture and war. The Cheneys live again.
HENNEBERGER: She has a big future I think in their party.
MATTHEWS: Put her in your blog. Melinda Henneberger has a new blogee (ph). Charles Blow, thank you, sir, for joining us. Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.>
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or
other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>