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updated 12/14/2009 11:03:42 AM ET 2009-12-14T16:03:42

Guests: Julia Boorstin, Michael Feldman, John Feehery, Howard Dean, Charles Blow, Ron Brownstein, Brenda Ekwurzel

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The president guards the center.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:

Where‘s Obama, left, right or center?  Some out-loud conservatives liked Obama‘s support for just wars in yesterday‘s Oslo speech.  They like his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and oh, yes, his proposed tax breaks for small businesses.  A lot of them are now strutting, bragging that they‘ve pushed the president to the center.  Some on the left say, No big deal, he was never one of us.  Well, let‘s debate that tonight, who‘s right, at the top of the show.

Plus, Howard Dean and the health care issue.  Is it possible that the man who was once full steam ahead on the public option is willing to compromise and take an alternative in the health bill?  Howard Dean, the man himself, joins us later.

And what about those leaked e-mails from global warming experts that the deniers are using to cast doubt the science?  We‘ll look at what climate changers are up to in Copenhagen.

Also, remember how candidate Obama struggled to get the votes of white working class voters, you know, the people he lost to Hillary Clinton in big state Democratic primaries from New York all the way to California?  Well, now that same blue collar crowd poses the biggest threat to Democrats in next year‘s mid-terms.  More on that in the “Politics Fix.”

And think politics is personal in this country?  Just take a look at this scene today in the Irish parliament.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  With all due respect, in the most unparliamentary language, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you, Deputy Skye (ph)!  (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you!  I apologize now for my use of unparliamentary language.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Nothing funny about that fight.  Well, we‘ve got the tape and the story behind it to show in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Let‘s begin tonight with our strategists on whether President Obama‘s moving to the right or that‘s where he always was, in the center.  Michael Feldman‘s a Democratic strategist and John Feehery is a Republican strategist.

So let‘s get to the bottom line.  Does the president have ideological integrity, John Feehery?  Is he what he says he is?  Is he consistent?  Is he a man of the center-left, or the left, or the center?  Where would you put him? and is he real?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I think he is a man philosophically on the left.  I also think that on some things like Afghanistan that he campaigned on, he‘s been consistent.  He said he was going to increase the troops in Afghanistan to win it, and that‘s what he‘s doing.  He‘s been very consistent on that.  He actually promised some things—I think the best thing he could do, if he really wanted to govern as a centrist, is get control of the Democratic Congress...

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t tell me what you want!  I‘m asking you one simple question.  Is he—you‘re not here to sell.

FEEHERY:  He is a man of the left...

MATTHEWS:  Is he a man of integrity?

FEEHERY:  He‘s a man of the left who is trying—who‘s—I think he‘s keeping consistent with his philosophy.

MATTHEWS:  OK, so he‘s a man of integrity.  He is what he says he is, he‘s not pretending.

FEEHERY:  I think he‘s man of—yes, I think he‘s a man of integrity. 

Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, wow.  OK.  Your thoughts?

MICHAEL FELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I‘m not going to disagree with that, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  But then, OK, what is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Now that‘s the easy part.

FELDMAN:  Look—look, I think as—I think...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is he?

FELDMAN:  I think as much as some people in John‘s party—and I‘m not going to say John is, but as some people in John‘s party would like to call him a socialist or a communist, or whatever the term of art is, and try to paint him into a political...

MATTHEWS:  What do you call him?

FELDMAN:  Look, the guy ran from the center, he governs from the center, he remains in the center.  That‘s where he was elected.

MATTHEWS:  How do you explain the fact he had, like, 100 percent ADA rating when he was a senator?

FELDMAN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  I mean 100 percent.

FELDMAN:  He‘s—he was...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... center?

FELDMAN:  Well, that‘s his voting record, but the fact of the matter is, he was elected in states like Indiana not because he had a 100 percent ADA record but because they liked what he had to say and they...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s—you‘re changing the subject again.  Is he a man of the left or the center left or the center?

FELDMAN:  I think he‘s a moderate Democrat, moderate progressive, centrist left.

FEEHERY:  There‘s no...

MATTHEWS:  Centrist left?

FEEHERY:  There‘s no evidence that he‘s actually in his own beliefs a moderate.  He‘s—almost consistently, he‘s said he‘s—he‘s on the left wing of the party.  And he campaigned on that, especially when it came to Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  Is he a big-government liberal at home?

FEEHERY:  He‘s a big-government liberal at home and he...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... foreign policy?

FEEHERY:  I think in his heart of hearts, he‘s a dove.  But I think with Afghanistan, he had no choice because he campaigned that he was going to win—that Afghanistan was...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look at the president here because I think this is going to be part of the argument for the next couple of years.  I think he sounded the other day in Oslo like Jack Kennedy.  Not Teddy Kennedy, not Bobby Kennedy, who was very hard to read, but Jack Kennedy, someone who we‘ll forever try to figure out, was he a classic cold warrior or was he a revisionist of some kind who was really pushing for peace more than, say, a Nixon was?

Let‘s take a look at him speaking yesterday in Oslo and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize—the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this, the United States of America has helped to underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.  The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans.  We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will, we have done so out of enlightened self-interest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Newt Gingrich liked that.  Sarah Palin apparently liked that.  Peggy Noonan liked that.  Is that real?  John, again, a man speaking in defense, full-throated defense of America‘s defense of the West, basically, for all these years since World War II.

FEEHERY:  Good for him.  I think he‘s—I think, myself, he‘s been mugged by reality, and with the power of the presidency, he sees the threats that they‘re encountering—he‘s encountering.  But good for him.  I think that American power is an essential part to worldwide peace, and I think he‘s starting to project that.  And that‘s good.  I think that‘s an important (INAUDIBLE)

FELDMAN:  Let‘s be clear about something.  There was nothing terribly new substantively in that speech.  It was beautifully given.  I think it was hard to imagine a wartime president going to...

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you a question.  Would he had given that speech in the Iowa caucuses last year?

FELDMAN:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Would he have given that speech in the Iowa caucuses, when he was contending among those populist, somewhat—well, largely anti-war Democrats in the Democratic caucuses...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... that speech?

FELDMAN:  I think it would have been an odd venue to give that speech.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think so!

(LAUGHTER)

FELDMAN:  But look, the fact of the matter is...

MATTHEWS:  So in other words, he‘s changing his emphasis from what he was as a candidate.

FELDMAN:  I think—no, no.  I think it was brilliantly executed in Oslo, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize as a wartime president, trying to talk about our foreign policy.  I think that was very well done.  But the fact of the matter is, he talked about Afghanistan as a war of necessity a year ago.  He talked about it in the campaign.  He has governed that way.  And the fact is that the timing of this speech obviously wasn‘t perfect...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

FELDMAN:  ... politically for him, but he handled it very well.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—let‘s get back to facts here.  I think there‘s a big difference between this president, Barack Obama, and a hawk or a neocon, a group of people I don‘t agree with because I think they are too hawkish.  Iran—we haven‘t gotten there yet, but everybody figures we‘re going to get there.  When the time comes, would he ever pull the trigger and support a military campaign to blow out those bases or those missile sites over in Iran?  Would he ever do that, ever?

FEEHERY:  I think the only way he would do something like that is to make certain that the Israelis wouldn‘t do it.  I don‘t think he would do it willingly.  I don‘t think it‘s something—he‘s not someone like a Dick Cheney or—that says we‘ve got to go in there.  I think he‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Well, Cheney has a hair trigger.

FEEHERY:  Well, I‘m just saying he‘s not...

MATTHEWS:  Cheney‘s Dr. Strangelove!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You made my point.  He‘s not Cheney.  He‘s not one of those guys.

FEEHERY:  And I think the only way I think if we get in Iran is if he was forced into it.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he would ever attack Iran?  I think a lot of Republicans would.  I think Nixon would have behaved totally different than Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis.  I think there‘s a big difference in foreign policy between the parties.

FELDMAN:  Look, I don‘t think a president ever takes the military option off the table.  I‘m certainly not going to do it for him.  But...

MATTHEWS:  Would he do it?

FELDMAN:  But—but...

MATTHEWS:  Would he ever attack Iran?

FELDMAN:  What he has said is...

MATTHEWS:  Why are you being so careful?

FELDMAN:  He has said...

MATTHEWS:  Would he ever attack Iran?

FELDMAN:  Just go back to what the president has said.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think he would.

FELDMAN:  Well, first of all—wait.  What he said is...

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... and I don‘t even understand why he would do it (INAUDIBLE) Israel do it because if Israel wants to do it, Israel wants to do it.  You can‘t stop them if they want to do it.

FEEHERY:  Well, I think if there‘s a situation there where...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Israel‘s fundamental national interest and they have to do it...

FEEHERY:  ... is so dire—is so dire...

MATTHEWS:  ... they have to do it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t tell them what to do.

FELDMAN:  But he‘s not likely to shoot first and then try to build a coalition around it afterwards.  He‘s the kind of guy who‘s going to use all the tools...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you‘re just—you‘re so—you‘re so technical.  I wanted a philosophical answer.

FELDMAN:  Well, that‘s true!MATTHEWS:  Is he a hawk?

FELDMAN:  I think he‘s pragmatic in his foreign policy as he is in his domestic policy.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s take a look—I‘m not getting an answer.  You say he‘s not a hawk, he‘d only be doing it if he was forced to do it.  He would never...

FEEHERY:  I think he‘s—I think he...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... I think he‘s different, very different than Cheney.

FEEHERY:  I think he‘s a dove.

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree he‘s different than Cheney?

FELDMAN:  I think he‘s a lot different than Cheney.

MATTHEWS:  How so?

FELDMAN:  Well, first of all...

MATTHEWS:  In effect.

FELDMAN:  ... the entire—the entire...

MATTHEWS:  In reality, where would there be a difference in how they would act?

FELDMAN:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Would he have gone into Iraq?

FELDMAN:  I think in...

MATTHEWS:  Would he have gone into Iraq?

FELDMAN:  No, I don‘t think he would have gone into Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  Would he have gone into Iraq?

FELDMAN:  And he wouldn‘t have taken...

MATTHEWS:  Would Reagan have gone into Iraq?

FEEHERY:  Maybe, depending on...

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think so.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think only Cheney would have gone into Iraq!

Let‘s take a look.  Here‘s the—let‘s go to domestic policy, where I think we might find clarity here.  Let‘s listen to the president, where he‘s speaking on the economy this week, another example where people think he‘s moving to the center or to the right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  That‘s why it‘s so important that we help small businesses struggling to stay open, or struggling to open in the first place, during these difficult times.  Building on the tax cuts in the Recovery Act, we‘re proposing a complete elimination of capital gains taxes on small business investment, along with an extension of write-offs to encourage small businesses to expand in the coming year.  And I believe it‘s worthwhile to create a tax incentive to encourage small businesses to add and keep employees, and I‘m going to work with Congress to pass one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think he would have gone a lot further successfully, but he‘s starting to move towards tax cuts for business...

FEEHERY:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... write-offs.

FEEHERY:  Well, I—I...

MATTHEWS:  Capital gains cuts.

FEEHERY:  Listen, I think that the—I would support that.  I would support a lot of other tax cuts to get...

MATTHEWS:  Well, that sounds very Republican.

FEEHERY:  It does, but it‘s not going to go anywhere in the Congress.  The principal thing he‘s got to do—if he wants to be like a Bill Clinton and actually be in the center, he‘s got to triangulate against the Democratic Congress.  And right now, he doesn‘t want to do that.

FELDMAN:  I don‘t think he‘s doing this politically, I think he‘s doing this because there‘s 10 percent unemployment in this country.  That‘s not a shift to the middle, that‘s a shift from Wall Street to Main Street.

FEEHERY:  Well, I think—I think you‘re—I think you‘re right in the sense that he wants to do something that works, which would be Republican ideas.

FELDMAN:  Look, there are a lot of Republican ideas in his proposal, and I actually give John credit for saying that he agrees with them because a lot of people are looking for a reason to carp on what he‘s doing, as opposed to saying, Let‘s get something done.

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) makes sense if you want to keep a balanced presidency, to go from center left on health care and now going a bit center right on tax cuts for small business.  It‘s a natural kind of way to keep things balanced, right?

FEEHERY:  Well, but...

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) just good politics?

FEEHERY:  But actually, what he‘s doing, he‘s proposing a lot of

things and letting the Congress work out all the details.  And the Congress

·         Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are pushing it far to the left!  So he‘s not actually doing anything on the domestic...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look.  Here‘s—we talked about that.  I think he is moving a bit to the right on this tax cuts for small businesses.

FEEHERY:  Rhetorically, sure.

MATTHEWS:  The minute you start going about capital gains cuts, you‘re driving the left crazy.  Kucinich is not going to like this approach.

FEEHERY:  He‘s not going to like anything (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, let‘s...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look.  Here‘s the president on Wednesday talking about health care and the compromise which looks to be looming right now.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  The Senate made critical progress last night with a creative new framework that I believe will help pave the way for final passage and a historic achievement on behalf of the American people.  I support this effort, especially since it‘s aimed at increasing choice and competition and lowering costs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  This isn‘t the Ed Schultz health care bill they‘re talking about, my colleague who really wants the public health care—the public option.  This is not the Jay Rockefeller, this is not the Sherrod Brown.  There‘s a big slew of liberal Democratic senators who aren‘t going to be thrilled by this approach, which is reduce Medicare eligibility down to 55 and have people pay for it.

FELDMAN:  This is not a shift on his part.  He‘s been saying from the very beginning, How do we get health care done?  How do we get meaningful health care done?  He‘s never said public option...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re really...

FELDMAN:  ... or nothing...

MATTHEWS:  ... flacking here tonight, aren‘t you!

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY:  Let me agree with Michael on this...

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s the Ron guy we had on the other day for—for Cheney?  What was the guy‘s name?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Ron Christie?  I‘m going to give you the Ron Christie award here!

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY:  He‘s never really said anything—he‘ll sign anything that the Congress comes up with on health care.  Anything.  He‘s never said—he‘s never used a...

MATTHEWS:  Anything?

FEEHERY:  Anything.  The problem is, is that the Congress...

MATTHEWS:  Why would he do that?

FEEHERY:  Because he wants (INAUDIBLE) accomplishment on health care!  He—on that, he has absolutely no ideological barriers whatsoever.  He‘ll sign anything.  The problem is, the Democratic Congress can‘t get anything done because they‘re incompetent.

FELDMAN:  Well, the Democratic Congress can‘t get anything done because there‘s a committed majority—a committed minority in the Congress...

FEEHERY:  Oh, we have (INAUDIBLE)

FELDMAN:  ... that will oppose...

FEEHERY:  Come on!  Give me a break!

FELDMAN:  ... that will oppose anything.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, isn‘t it true that the Republican...

FEEHERY:  You got 60!  You got 60 in the Senate!

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it true that the Republican Party would be thrilled if health care died?

FEEHERY:  Well, this health care plan, yes.  We would like to get a health care plan that would actually fix the problem.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why don‘t you offer amendments.

FEEHERY:  It‘s a—well, they have offered amendments.  This is...

MATTHEWS:  I never hear about them.

FEEHERY:  Well, of course you don‘t because...

MATTHEWS:  How come when you guys are in power, you never do health care?

FEEHERY:  We do health care!  I was there...

MATTHEWS:  What do you do?

FEEHERY:  I was there—we did prescription drug...

MATTHEWS:  No, that‘s not health care reform.

FEEHERY:  That is health care reform!

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY:  Tell all those senior citizens that didn‘t have prescription drugs...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Tell the people sitting in the emergency rooms right now for basic medical care that the Republican Party‘s their best friend on health care.  Tell them that.

FEEHERY:  I will tell them that.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re waiting to hear from them.

FEEHERY:  Well, we‘ve done a lot of health care.  We did portability. 

We—when I was in Congress...

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) fight for you here.

FELDMAN:  And you‘re doing a great job.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Every time the Democrats have health care...

FEEHERY:  We are not...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... the Republicans have an alternative.  Every time the Democrats don‘t do something or aren‘t in power, the Republicans go silent.

FEEHERY:  We are not for government-run socialist health care.  We‘ve been very consistent...

MATTHEWS:  Socialist health care?

FEEHERY:  We are not for that.

MATTHEWS:  Is Medicare socialist?

FEEHERY:  Has some tendencies to socialism.  I know it‘s a very popular program...

MATTHEWS:  Is Social Security socialist?

FEEHERY:  It has some—well, it‘s going to drive us broke unless we do some changes.

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) socialist.  Well, you didn‘t have a better—what was your alternative to Social Security back in the ‘30s?

FEEHERY:  You know what?  I‘m not that old!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  It was called the Great Depression.  It was Hoovervilles.  It was—that was your alternative, Hoovervilles, those little shacks people lived in.  That was your plan, by the way.  That was Hoover‘s plan.

FEEHERY:  Social Security?

MATTHEWS:  Wait for the market.

FEEHERY:  Well, it wasn‘t only his plan.  Hoover did a lot of things...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he...

(CROSSTALK)

FELDMAN:  Just let‘s agree on one thing.  If it were political expediency that mattered, if it were just making sure you locked down votes, health care would not have been the first bill.  Health care would not have been the priority.  He made it his priority.  I give him credit for doing it.  We‘re going to get a bill.

FEEHERY:  It‘s still a mess.

MATTHEWS:  I think he‘s following Reagan‘s advice, Get a big win your first year.  Thank you, Michael Feldman, for flackery.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Feehery, for a while there, you were pretty reasonable.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  John Feehery, thank you.

Coming up, the Senate‘s compromise on health care reform.  The great Howard Dean himself, the man who is health care reform, is showing up here in about a minute to tell us what‘s good and what‘s bad.  And I think he might surprise us by being Mr. Pragmatic.  We‘ll be right back.  He‘s coming here, Howard Dean, the governor, the doctor.  He‘s everything!

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Democrats are closer than ever, some think, to getting a health care plan signed by the president.  Will expanding Medicare and opening up access to the same health care plans as federal employees have be the way for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to get the votes they need?

I‘m going to the reality check now with Dr. Howard Dean.  He‘s the former governor of Vermont and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a real expert on this legislation and the policy question itself.

I mean this, Governor.  I really respect what you‘ve been doing on this all these months.  And if it gets through, it‘s because people like you have cared a lot and thought a lot about it.

I want to give you a couple minutes because people who watch this show do want to know how it looks from here.  So give us the color of the game, if you will.  How does it look now, on December 11th, 2009?

HOWARD DEAN (D-VT), FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN:  Well, that mostly depends on whether the Democrats who had been opposing the public option are willing now to try to do something to get health care through.  I think the Senate Democrats, the majority of Republicans—I mean, excuse me, the majority of the Democrats, have given a lot to get these four folks on board.  And what they‘ve given is actually very good.

Medicare is a much better way to have a public option or have people sign up than creating a new bureaucracy.  So although the House bill is much more comprehensive, using Medicare is the right thing to do.  And it‘s going to have a couple of benefits.  One is that you can sign up as soon as the president signs the bill, or within a few months afterwards, because it‘s an existing bureaucracy.  That‘s going to make a big, big difference.

Two, Senator Jay Rockefeller has a piece of this bill which requires health insurance to pay out 90 percent.  Now, Medicare itself pays out 96 percent of all its premium dollars to pay for health care.  The private insurance industry today pays out only 73 percent.  There‘s a lot of waste there from the health care system‘s point of view.  That would be fixed with Senator Rockefeller‘s amendment.

So I think the Senate bill, while not as comprehensive as the House, is real reform and it‘s a big step forward towards real reform.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it going to cost a person at the age 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare?  Claire McCaskill, the senator from Missouri, last night was optimistic, saying it‘d be about $400 a month.  And then “The New York Times” today said, quote, “This much seems clear.  Anyone who wants to buy the same health care benefits as members of Congress or to buy coverage through Medicare should be prepared to fork over a large chunk of cash,” seeming to indicate it would be more expensive than, say, $400 a month.

DEAN:  No, it‘ll be—it‘ll—it won‘t be as cheap as $400 a month unless there‘s a subsidy, and I think there needs to be a subsidy.  We need to get these 55-year-olds and up signed up.  That‘s the most vulnerable population...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m with you.

DEAN:  ... of Americans that don‘t have it.  But it won‘t be—it certainly—it‘s going to be expensive.  It‘ll be between $400 and $600 a month.  I don‘t think you can get it down to $400 without some kind of subsidy, and I think there needs to be a subsidy.

Remember, this bill, once it gets past the Senate, God willing, is going into conference committee.  And there will be plenty of room for compromises and for improving the bill.

But I do think it‘s a major step forward to use Medicare as a substrate.  And I think the insurance regulation is a major step forward.  And if you don‘t think it is, the insurance companies are squealing like stuck pigs, which means it‘s got to be a good bill someplace. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I‘m thinking about the social costs, the social benefits.  If you just look at this as a budget issue, you may not get the right answer, you know, cost/benefit on 55 to 64. 

But if people between 55 and 64, when your bad health in life tends to start to set in, the diseases start to catch up with you or show up on your checks, if those people don‘t do anything on their health care, it seems to me they arrive at 65 in really bad shape, and they‘re going to be very expensive. 

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN:  There‘s another issue.

MATTHEWS:  And it seems to me, isn‘t that true; you‘re better off starting to treat people earlier, if you can? 

DEAN:  Yes, you are.  And people who are insured do better under Medicare than people who are not insured prior to getting into Medicare.

But there‘s another issue -- 55- to 65-year-olds who have been laid off find it really tough to get a job, because people don‘t want to pay their insurance. 

MATTHEWS:  Exactly. 

DEAN:  So, this is going to be a get-back-to-work program for people who are 55 to 65 and can‘t get insurance. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DEAN:  It is a big deal.  This is going to reduce the jobless rate among people who have got teenage kids.  And that really is going to make a big difference. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said. 

Let‘s go to Joe Lieberman, who‘s been problematic, to put it lightly, on a lot of fronts, not just war.  Joe Lieberman, the senator, the independent senator, from—who organizes with the Democrats, has said, basically, if there‘s any chance of there being a public option, because there‘s a trigger put in this bill, because, if certain things don‘t happen in the health industry, we‘re going to get a public option, he doesn‘t even want to chance it. 

He‘s bargaining so tough right now.  Do you think he‘s going to become irrelevant and they‘re going to go after Olympia Snowe and try to get a substitute vote? 

DEAN:  I actually—this is one of the few things I agree with Senator Lieberman on.  I don‘t think there should be a trigger.  I think a trigger is essentially an insurance company gimmick to avoid real reform.

Look, I think Harry Reid has a good relationship with Joe Lieberman.  And I think they can work this out with using the Medicare.  It was originally proposed as a compromise. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DEAN:  And I think that—I think we‘re going to get this thing done.  It‘s hard.  Harry Reid‘s got the worst job in Washington.  He‘s got all the responsibility and none of the powers of the speaker, for example. 

I was very pleased to see the speaker move towards the Senate plan.  Look, the Senate plan is not perfect.  It‘s far from perfect.  But with the speaker‘s insistence on affordability, I think marrying that to the Senate plan using Medicare as the base is a good step forward. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you think now looking at this?  We have been debating and watching this.  I have been sitting in the corner watching this fight for months now.  Ed Schultz does it.  Everyone else on this network watches it with a very positive attitude.  We all want something done, because all of us know about the tens and tens of millions of people, 30 to 40 million people out there, who don‘t have health insurance. 

And we think—I think, speaking for everybody in this country who thinks about it, we‘re better off with an insured public than with people waiting in the waiting room or the emergency rooms. 

DEAN:  We are, Chris, but I don‘t want—sure, I join an awful lot of Americans saying let—any old bill is not a good enough bill. 

If all we do is give tons of money to the insurance companies, this is a waste of money. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, where is the control going to be in it, as you see it, as a necessary piece?  What is your holdout issue on cost control? 

DEAN:  Well, there‘s two pieces that are really important.  One is using Medicare as a substrate, because they do a much better job on cost controls than the private sector.  They‘re not perfect, but they do a much better job. 

Two is Senator Rockefeller‘s proposal, which really does begin to use private insurance to insure other people.  Look, there are two countries in Western Europe that have universal health care without having any kind of public money in it, Switzerland and the Netherlands. 

And the way they do it is to treat the insurance industry as a regulated utility. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s great.

DEAN:  Now, if put that in the bill, the insurance companies would scream and yell and shout. 

MATTHEWS:  I would love that. 

(LAUGHTER)

DEAN:  But that—in fact, if they want to be responsible—and they have been grossly, disgracefully irresponsible for the last 15 years—just look at Aetna.  Last week, they announced...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think your friend Joe Lieberman would go for that up in Hartford, Connecticut?  Not in a billion years. 

DEAN:  Probably not.

MATTHEWS:  No.

DEAN:  But, look, 600,000 people are going to get kicked off the Aetna rolls next year for them—so they can make more money. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DEAN:  This is not a responsible industry and it‘s not an industry that cares about their clients.  And we need to do something about that, and—if our system‘s going to work and remain in the private sector.

Otherwise, we just should have a single-payer and be done with it, like everyone over 65 has. 

MATTHEWS:  How has the president been doing in terms of leading this? 

It seems like he‘s waited for Congress.  Is he leading Congress? 

DEAN:  Well, you know, I—we would all like the president to be as forceful as he could—as we could. 

But, you know, the president, when he was campaigning, people would yell and carry on about how he ought to do this and how he ought to do that.  And at the end of the day he came in and did what had to be done. 

So, we‘re going to have to wait and see.  I have a feeling behind the scenes he‘s being pretty forceful.  But, you know, this is tough.  It‘s been a long, hard fight.  The American people are tired of it.  They want this fight to be over.  They want a decent bill, and they want to move on to jobs and taxes.  And I see the president is moving on to jobs and taxes, but we can‘t leave this behind, or there are going to be an awful lot of Democrats that lose their seats in 2010 because they are not going to show up without Barack Obama on the ballot. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  Well, happy holidays, Howard Dean.

DEAN:  Same to you.

MATTHEWS:  Dr. Dean, Governor Dean, thanks for joining us. 

Congratulations, if it works. 

Up next:  If you think Washington has become less than civil these days, wait until you see what‘s happening in the Irish parliament, known as the Irish Dail.  Wait until you catch this guy.  I like him already, by the way.  He‘s taking on that guy is giving him the hard time over in the corner there.  That‘s ahead in the “Side”—oh, there he goes.  I think you can read this guy‘s lips.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.”  And what a “Sideshow” tonight.

First up: the fighting Irish.  Catch this great scene today from the Irish Dail, today.  Here‘s Paul Gogarty, a member of the parliament over there who doesn‘t like having his integrity challenged.  We have to cut out a bit of the sound, but you will have no problem reading Mr. Gogarty‘s lips. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL GOGARTY, IRISH PARLIAMENT:  I respected your sincerity.  I would ask you respect mine. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (OFF-MIKE)

GOGARTY:  With all due respect, in the most unparliamentary language, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you, Deputy (INAUDIBLE) (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you.  I apologize now for my use of unparliamentary language.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Deputy Gogarty, that is most unparliamentary language. 

GOGARTY:  It is most unparliamentary language. 

(CROSSTALK)

GOGARTY:  And I now—I now withdraw it and apologize for it.  But I‘m outraged that someone dares question my sincerity on this issue. 

I don‘t like what has to be done, but I‘m going to take the responsibility and get it on the chin, and get the unpopularity, and lose my seat, because it‘s the only thing we can do to get this country out of the state we‘re in. 

I firmly believe that.  I firmly believe that.  And you respect my view.  I didn‘t cause the economic mess.  I didn‘t take money from developers or leave—or leave the... 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Deputy Shartal (ph).  Deputy Shartal (ph). 

GOGARTY:  That‘s the point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Deputy Shartal (ph).   

GOGARTY:  The point is—the point is, we‘re screwed..

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:   Deputy Shartal (ph).

GOGARTY:  The point is, we‘re screwed as a country because of the wrongdoing of others. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Deputy Costeno (ph)...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The name is Paul Gogarty of the Green Party.  You can send your campaign checks directly. 

Did you notice that the other deputy didn‘t complain about what he was saying, even his language, until he named him, the other guy, for taking money from developers.  Sound familiar?  Now, that‘s hardball.

Next:  She‘s just not into you.  This morning, Jenny Sanford filed for divorce from South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, citing—quote—“many unsuccessful efforts at reconciliation,” but not before she got in an appearance with Barbara Walters, of course, de rigueur there, and got her book deal all together.  I suppose she‘s right in all this and he‘s wrong, but I‘m not making any judgments.

I have said before, I kind of like that governor. 

Now for the “Big Number.”

Last week, we learned that Democratic Senator Max Baucus nominated his girlfriend for a top job at the U.S. attorney‘s office.  Today, this minor tale of hanky-panky took another turn.  The Politico reported today that Baucus, in the summer of 2008 -- that‘s the summer before this—gave the same girlfriend who was working for him in the Senate office at the time a big raise.  How big? -- $13,687.  That‘s not a bad raise. 

Baucus‘ defense for giving her the raise?  He gave the entire office raises that period.  Anyway, Senator Baucus gave a $13,687 raise to his girlfriend last year—well, tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Anyway, up next: the truth about climate change.  Conservatives are out there trying to throw cold water on global warming after e-mails showed scientists massaging some of the data to make their case.  We‘re going to get a reality check tonight about why climate change is real and it‘s serious next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks ending the day mostly higher on strong readings on retail sales and consumer confidence—the Dow Jones industrials gaining 65 points, the S&P 500 adding four, and the Nasdaq off just half-a-point. 

American consumers are not as bashful about pulling out their wallets as many had believed.  Retails sales rose 1.3 percent last month, about double what economist had expected.  Consumers are starting to spend a bit more and feeling better about doing it as well.  The survey found a larger-than-expected jump in consumer sentiment at the end of November. 

Consumer discretionary stocks rallying on those reports, Lowe‘s Home Improvement soaring more than 3.5 percent, Macy‘s, Best Buy, and RadioShack also seeing strong shares today.  But shares in video game giant Electronic Arts falling after a report showed game sales tumbling more than 7.5 percent in November. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is going to stir the blood.  Welcome back to

HARDBALL. 

Evidence of global warming includes that this has been the hottest decade on record, that ocean temperatures are the highest on record, and that Arctic sea ice is shrinking.  Yet, on the eve of the United Nations climate change conference over in Copenhagen, some leaked e-mails have given deniers fresh ammunition to argue that global warming is a hoax.

Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel is a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy organization that employs registered lobbyists, we should say, although Dr. Ekwurzel is not one of them. 

Doctor, I just want you to help viewers out who have common sense.  We‘re not going to appeal to the far right.  We‘re not going to appeal to the deniers watching tonight, because they do not want to hear anything that gets in the way of their piggish attitudes. 

But let‘s talk to those who would like to save this planet for future generations, and don‘t just want to eat it up between now and their own personal retirements.  OK?  I‘m serious about that.  There seems to be a real problem out there with thinking.  So, let‘s go with this now. 

What is the significance of these e-mails and what looks to be people playing games with facts, and the real facts, and the important facts, about climate change? 

DR. BRENDA EKWURZEL, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS:  That‘s right. 

Let‘s keep in mind that people stole e-mails that were private communications over a decade between scientists, and they released them on the eve of a United Nations meeting to address climate change.  And what this is, is a distraction from the real facts on the ground.  As you said, this is the hottest decade on record, and sea level is rising, faster than previously expected. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at the e-mail from—this one from November 1999, experts talking about it: “I have just completed Mike‘s nature trick—nature trick—of adding in the real temperatures to each series for the last 20 years, from 1981 onwards and from 1961, for Keith‘s to hide the decline.”

So, what does that mean?  Explain what that says. 

EKWURZEL:  Yes. 

Trick is a trick of the trade that was published in the open

literature.  And that was used as a technique to understand better using

weather stations to make sense of past climate.  And hide the decline was -

·         to be honest, they were talking about a few trees in Siberia, which really wouldn‘t make the national news.  But that‘s what they were talking about. 

And there was nothing hidden.  No one hid anything, because these discussions were published in the peer-reviewed literature. 

MATTHEWS:  So, why are they important to the debate?  Why are people on the deniers‘ side of the climate change using them to say, you guys are all playing games? 

EKWURZEL:  I would have to say, people who are opposed to action on climate change have been for years trying to misrepresent the science. 

But the mountain of evidence is clear.  Thousands of researchers around the world have been researching climate change for decades from the bottom of the ocean up to the top of the atmosphere.  And it‘s overwhelming that burning cars, fuel, gasoline, oil, burning our forests is overloading carbon in the atmosphere, trapping heat and causing sea level to rise.

And this is what people are negotiating in Copenhagen right now, is how to solve the problem.  And that is where people should be focused, and not be distracted by this little e-mail story. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you think when you read these miserable people in “The Wall Street Journal” op-ed pages?  And I—I picked “The Wall Street Journal.”  I don‘t get it.  There‘s some kind of culture out there that sits around and talks to itself, and pleases—pleasures itself, I should say, over the argument that there isn‘t any climate change. 

What is in their breakfast that makes them do this?  Why do they

ignore science?  Maybe they‘re the same people that ignore the evidence of

evolution and millions of years of bones.  What is it about them that just 

·         and they‘re—and they‘re pandered to by the editors of “The Wall Street Journal” and other organs, like FOX News. 

EKWURZEL:  Well, what we have is really a coalition of allies that aren‘t ignoring the science. 

For example, General Electric is a company that wants to stick around for 100 years, and they want to think into the future.  They want to reduce emissions.  Generals are advising the U.S. government to protect itself from some of the ravages of climate change impacts, which can be severe and affect global security.  These are folks that are looking forward thinking, and want to invest in 21st century technology, and not be harnessed by old-fashioned technology of the 20th century. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s get away from style and aesthetics, to the simple question: if nothing is done, significantly, over the next 20 years or so about climate change, what‘s going to happen to this planet, on which all our children live, and some of us will still be here?  What will happen if we don‘t do anything?  Seriously, draw me the picture now for those watching this Friday night. 

EKWURZEL:  What‘s very important to remember is that the carbon dioxide we‘ve emitted to the atmosphere, scientists have shown that it will take about 1,000 years for the Earth to absorb this excess carbon.  That means that we will be trapping heat for our children, ourselves, our grandkids. 

And this is something that has long-term consequences.  Sea level rise can be profound for some small island nations, the Gulf Coast of New Orleans, Florida, parts of the Bay Area of San Francisco.  And we also see that heat waves and human health is at risk because we will have longer droughts.  Our crops are going to be grown in different ways, as we have to adapt to climate change. 

And also, these are costs that are going to be borne.  In fact, some economists talk about the costs of inaction are much higher than doing something to solve global warming.  Some people are making money in some of these green solutions. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s assume that for the next ten years you don‘t win the argument.  I don‘t think you‘re going to win it in the Senate.  I hope you do, but it may not happen like it did in the House.  If nothing gets done, will it be—when will it be evident to even the “Wall Street Journal” types and the Fox News types, where they can‘t lie anymore—I‘m sorry, you never know about motives—they can‘t deny anymore.  At what point will that happen? 

EKWURZEL:  People are already ignoring the fact that we‘ve had immense change up in the Arctic Ocean, up in Alaska. 

MATTHEWS:  They‘re still denying it.  They can still deny it.  How can they get away with denying it then? 

EKWURZEL:  To be honest, it must be not looking at the data with an open mind.  Because if you look at the mountain of data that‘s out there, from the bottom of the oceans all the way to the tops of mountain glaciers that are melting rapidly—the city of Le Paz is losing its water supply as its glacier is disappearing.  We‘re seeing profound change in the fisheries that we depend—it‘s the base of the food chain. 

These are things that really matter to all of us, in our world, and what we eat, how we live, how we move around, and what we enjoy.  And really, we would be bequeathing a world that is very different to our children if we do not do something now to stop climate change. 

MATTHEWS:  Maybe the kids will start talking to their parents when

they sit around at the men‘s grill at the golf course, and sit around the

train and the commuter train and agree with each other.  They ought to

check in with the reality of the world.  So far they‘ve not.  I look at

people now in such powerful denial.  They are beating you, Brenda—doctor

·         in this fight.  They are beating you.  The voices of inaction are beating the voices of action.  I just wait to hear when the evidence is going to be so profound they can‘t deny it anymore. 

Anyway, thank you.  It‘s going to be an unpleasant world we live in

by the time they admit it.  Anyway, thank you Brenda Ekwurzel

Up next, it could be President Obama and the Democrats biggest problem; they‘re losing support among working people, white working class people who didn‘t go to college.  That is their biggest problem.  And the numbers—talk about the data—that‘s a problem.  He had a problem carrying those people in the election.  He had 40 percent of them in the election.  He‘s got less of them now.  What can he do about it?  The fix is next.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the politics fix, with Ron Brownstein of the “National Review,” and Charles Blow, op-ed columnist—“National Journal,” I‘m sorry.  “National Review” is the conservative magazine.  “National Journal” is down the middle.  Charles Blow also joins us.  He‘s the visual op-ed for “The New York Times.”

Let‘s take a look at some of these numbers.  I‘m always impressed by your analysis.  It‘s been pretty consistent through the campaign.  If you wanted to predict who was going to win a caucus state or a primary on the Democratic side last year, all you had to do was listen to you, which is basically what percentage of the voters went to college for four years.  If a high percentage went, like up around 50 percent or 60 percent, slam dunk.  If it was down around 20 or 30 percent, slam dunk for Senator Clinton.  Here it is in 2008: 40 percent of non-college whites—I love the way we talk in this country.  It‘s so tribal—whites, and 47 percent of college educated whites voted for Obama.  So there was a real advantage among the four-year college people. 

Right now, I see your numbers show that only 38 percent of the non-college people are with him, whereas 40 percent were with him in the campaign.  I would have thought the falloff would be a lot more dramatic. 

RON BROWNSTEIN, “THE NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  Well, when you‘re at 40, there isn‘t that much further down to go.  You do have union members in the non-college white. 

MATTHEWS:  You also have a Clinton—Bill and Hillary Clinton coalition with this president. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Yeah. 

MATTHEWS:  A team of rivals. 

BROWNSTEIN:  There are a lot of different ways to look at the electorate.  One way that I have found useful to think about it is to divide it into three big clumps, especially in the age of Obama.  One is non-white voters.  They‘re now about a quarter of the electorate, double the share they were when Bill Clinton was first elected.  Barack Obama won 80 percent of them in 2008, and he‘s still very strong with them.  His approval rating is almost at 75 percent in Gallup. 

Next clump, the non-college white voters, the blue collar whites, people who work with their hands, used to be the backbone of the Democratic party.  They have been trending Republican since the 1960s.  Obama only won 40 percent of them.  As you say, he‘s down to 38 percent now.  That is trouble for those Democrats that are in districts that are predominantly white and predominantly downscale. 

The last piece are these college educate whites, who are about a third of the electorate.  Barack Obama, as your graphic showed, won 47 percent of them.  His approval is dipping.  That is important, Chris, because right now, Democrats have about a two to one advantage over Republicans in the districts where the percent of whites with a college education exceeds the national average.  They‘re going to lose a lot of those blue collar, fear track seats, if the fire kind of crosses the fire-break into these more upscale districts.  That‘s when the difficult election I think could get catastrophic.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Charles.  We‘re talking about wine drinkers and beer drinkers here.  But I guess it‘s ethnic.  I guess that question abides here now, and the future of our politics, the rest of the time we‘re all going to be covering politics—it looks like class differences, as well as ethnic differences, are going to be abiding here and powerful. 

CHARLES BLOW, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  I think that‘s right.  But I think one important distinction to make is that you kind of have to separate the presidential election years from the midterm.  And I think we kind of conflate those a lot.  The voting patterns in the midterms are dramatically different from presidential elections.  Minorities don‘t show up in nearly the numbers.  They don‘t vote as monolithically as they would. 

So people—the people who are elected in red states and a lot of those red districts, you get a lot more of them in the Congress and in the Senate, particularly in years when you don‘t have a statewide election, because they‘re really not representing the minority vote, because the minorities don‘t show up nearly as much as they would. 

BROWNSTEIN:  I would differ a little.  In the last two cycles, we have seen the non-white votes for Democrats be comparable to what Obama got in ‘08 in the House races.  Eighty four percent—

MATTHEWS:  In ‘06. 

BROWNSTEIN:  In ‘06, it was three quarters of non-white voters voted Democrat. 

MATTHEWS:  But did they show up—

BLOW:  I‘m not talking about how they vote when they get to the polls. 

BROWNSTEIN:  First of all, you said they don‘t vote as monolithically.  I just want to say, they have been voting as monolithically.  And who shows up?  The evidence on that is kind of mixed.  There is generally a fall-off, but -- 

(CROSS TALK)

BLOW:  The people who show up are older.  The people who show up are whiter.  That‘s just a fact. 

BROWNSTEIN:  There is not—in fact, if you look at the exit polls in the last two presidential to the off year, the fall-off in minority hasn‘t been nearly as big as the fall-off in age.  In fact, in New Jersey this year—there was a fall-off in Virginia.  In New Jersey, as you probably know, non-whites were the same percentage of the vote this time in the governor‘s race as they were in 2008. 

There is that problem.  The general problem that you‘re describing is a boom and bust coalition for Democrats now, because their two best pieces, non-whites and young people, will come out more in a presidential than a non-presidential year. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s always a great question to put to people.  I just spoke to some kids up at Harvard.  I said, if you want to vote one way, vote the way your parents vote or your grandparents vote.  If you‘re middle aged, you vote the way your kids vote.  It‘s so totally different.  If you vote the way your kids vote, you‘re a liberal.  If you vote the way your conservative parents vote, you‘re the other directional altogether. 

We‘ll be right back.  It‘s so generational, as well as class, and ethnic and all that stuff.  Do we even have to—the way it sounds like with you is you don‘t even have to say how you vote.  Just show up and they‘ll know how you vote. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Each generation is getting more diverse, too.  Don‘t forget that factor.     

MATTHEWS:  The person at the booth will know how you‘re going to vote, based on these numbers.  We‘ll be right back with Ron and Charles to talk about the president of the United States.  Is he a centrist?  A center-leftist?  A leftist?  Or we‘ll see?  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Ron Brownstein and Charles Blow.  Charles, you wrote a very tough column a couple of days ago.  And you know, my heart is with this president, generally, even though I criticize him daily on particulars.  You were very tough.  And you suggested he had let down people on the left, minorities. 

BLOW:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You were tough. 

BLOW:  Well, I‘m not backing away from it.  I think that that‘s right.  I think there was an expectation, particularly among African-Americans, that the first African-American president would at least be vocal about feeling their pain.  And I think that that has not been the case.  The president had given a couple of speeches and he has been very heavy on the stick and not very heavy with the carrot.  And I think just in the ability for him to commiserate with that group of people, people feel a bit deflated, because he has—last week, with “USA Today,” he basically said he‘s not going to focus separately on African-American issues at all.  I think that let a lot of people down. 

MATTHEWS:  You understand, though, because you have to deal intellectually every day with this debate—you‘re right in the middle of it, Charles—that people on the right see this thing absolutely asymmetrically from you.  They see him as an absolute secret lefty, who snuck into the White House like some kind of Trojan Horse, and is some kind of European socialist. 

Let me give Ron a chance.  How can he be right in his perception, which is true, from that perception of economic real empathy, and the right saying, this guy‘s a damn socialist; he snuck in here as a Democrat; he‘s no Democrat.  That‘s what they say. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Empathy and kind of feeling your pain is not Obama‘s strongest suit with any group.  But if you look at the agenda and what they‘re actually doing, in a way very much like William Julius Wilson, the great black sociologist, wrote 20 years ago, they have race-neutral policies that can disproportionately benefit minority communities. 

For example, health care reform; no president has ever gotten as far as Obama has gotten toward achieving universal coverage.  Twice as large a percentage of African Americans as whites are uninsured.  Twenty percent of blacks are—

MATTHEWS:  He never walks into a Harlem emergency room and stands up on the old people waiting for treatment. 

BROWNSTEIN:  But, ultimately, the question is: are you going to deliver for that community.  Areas of the stimulus, education reform—for example, this Race to the Top Fund primarily going to benefit urban schools.  The attempt to provide more college aid, expand community college.  Who are going to be the principal beneficiaries of that?  

MATTHEWS:  I agree. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Probably going to be more in the minority than in the white community.  But that is the actual tangible delivery.  I think Obama would say, that is where you should judge me, perhaps more than these other symbolic gestures, which do matter.  And I think Charles is right.  There‘s never been, though—

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re making a deeper critique here, aren‘t you, than just once more with feeling? 

BLOW:  I think it‘s much deeper than that.  I think that, yes, some of the policies will, in effect, disproportionately help African-Americans and minorities in general.  But I think what‘s being skipped over is dealing with this structural kind of racial issue that you have in America.  So if, you know—it‘s one thing to say if we do something about unemployment and the boat rises for everyone—but the boat didn‘t go down at the same rate for everyone.  That gap widened in this recession.  And it won‘t lift at the same time for everyone.  That is part of a structural problem in the country. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much. 

BLOW:  -- deals with that or even broaches that, it‘s a problem. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  When you start talking structural change, you scare some people.  I like it.  But anyway, thank you, Ron Brownstein.  Thank you, Charles Blow.  I used to talk structural change in the ‘60s.  Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz. 

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