Guests: Chuck Todd, Julia Boorstin, Harold Ford., Jr., Howard Fineman, Willie Brown, Michelle Bernard, Morgan Freeman, Kweisi Mfume
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A failure to communication.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews up in Philadelphia. Leading off tonight, troubles for Harry. Of all the revelations in the new book “Game Change,” the one that has excited the political world most is Nevada senator Harry Reid‘s curious comment about Barack Obama being “light-skinned” and talking with “no Negro dialect.” My question is this. What‘s the focus here? What‘s hot here, what he said, who said it, how it was said? Reid responded this afternoon to the storm of criticism he‘s received, and we‘ll get to it right at the top of the show.
Beyond Reid, some of the best stuff in this new book involves Hillary Clinton. Why did so many U.S. senators publicly support her while quietly in the back room urge Barack Obama to run against her?
Plus: From “Driving Miss Daisy” to “Invictus,” Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman takes on roles that tackled that old American challenge of race relations. Can‘t we just get along? The star will be here tonight.
Also, what did Bill Clinton say about candidate Obama that so bothered Ted Kennedy? And finally, B-Rod. What did he mean when he said he‘s blacker than Barack Obama? That‘s in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.
Let‘s start with the political firestorm over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid‘s comments. Former U.S. congressman Harold Ford is an NBC News political analyst, and Kweisi Mfume was the chairman of the NAACP. Gentlemen, thank you for joining me. I want you to watch right now what Harry Reid had to say today. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I am very proud of the fact
I can still remember the meeting that took place in my office with Senator Barack Obama, telling him that I think he could be elected president. And I‘m sure there were others. But he was kind of surprised that a Democratic leader was calling this new senator over to suggest that he could be elected president. I‘ve apologized to the president. I‘ve apologized to everyone that‘s in the sound of my voice that I could have used a better choice of words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman Ford, what‘s your reaction to all this, from the beginning of the day to the end of the day? Your reaction?
HAROLD FORD, JR. (D-TN), FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
The president has accepted his apology. His colleagues in the Senate still have confidence in his ability to lead on health care, jobs and the many other issues confronting the nation in the Senate.
It was an unusual choice of words, but I know Harry Reid and know him to be a decent and good person. There‘s no record or other instances of racial animus expressed by him, either through his work in politics and public policy and certainly not him as a person. And I take his apology and take him at his word.
And I think he understands, as well as any, that he and the Senate will be judged more on how they perform and how they conduct themselves around creating jobs, passing a good health care bill, and addressing the nation‘s security issues as we head into this election season.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Mr.—former congressman Kweisi Mfume. You were head of the NAACP. What‘s your reaction about this whole thing, the kerfuffle from the beginning of the day to now?
KWEISI MFUME (D-MD), FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN, FMR. NAACP HEAD: Well, I‘ve got to tell you, Chris, it‘s sad and humorous at the same time. I mean, people have tried to compare this to Trent Lott. I mean, the similarities are that both were crude, clumsy, calculated remarks that at the end of the day proved embarrassing to both men. I think the similarity is in there because in this instance, Mr. Reid said has something about an aggrieved party who happens to be the president, who granted him immediate absolution...
MFUME: ... and absolved him of all wrongdoing, focusing on his record instead of his remarks. And in the other case, it was Senator Lott who reminded us that Strom Thurmond ran on a segregationist platform in 1948, that he supported it, that he voted for him and that we would be better off as a nation if he had got elected on that platform. So they were two different things. But I think in each case, they‘re both extremely embarrassing to both men.
MATTHEWS: Well, for people who came into this story a bit late, here‘s what Senator Reid was quoted as saying in this new book, “Game Change,” which just came out. Here‘s the direct quote. He said Obama—that he was wowed by—that was Senator Reid was—“wowed by Obama‘s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama, a, quote, ‘light-skinned,‘ close quote, African-American, quote, ‘with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one,‘ close quote,‘ as he later put it privately.”
I have to tell you, gentlemen—let me start with you, Mr. Ford. What‘s very important to me is the context of this conversation. This guy, Reid, called Barack Obama into his office back in 2006 and blew his mind by saying, I think you ought to run for president. I think you can win. You‘d be a great candidate, completely wowing the young candidate, who was thinking of running, obviously. But this really turned him around the corner and said, God, Harry Reid, the leader of the Senate, thinks I ought to run. This is serious business.
I was overwhelmed by that part of the story. Is that a bigger story than the words he used, like “Negro,” which are so out of date?
FORD: Well, they both are big stories. I would align myself with my colleague and my former colleague and friend, Mr. Mfume, it was certainly embarrassing for the leader. But the overall sentiment expressed by Leader Reid was that he believed that the nation was ready and willing to embrace then Senator Obama‘s message and would likely be willing to elect him president.
Again, I think there‘s one other difference between, if I might add, with Senator Lott—former Senator Lott and Senator Reid. There were other instances and other allegations of racial animus and racially charged language from organizations back in Mississippi leading the way, suggesting that this was not the first time that Senator Lott might have aligned himself with the Dixiecrat ticket or that he might not have wished or—wished the nation had aspired more closely, or realized more actually what Senator Thurmond had run on some decades ago. So there are multiple differences here.
But the main thing is that President Obama said this chapter—the book is closed. The issue is closed. Let‘s move on. And there are no other instances of Senator Reid behaving this way, conducting himself this way. As a matter of fact, it‘s just the opposite.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Mr. Mfume, who I respect—I‘ve respected you for years, sir, your service to the Congress and also as head of the NAACP. Is what he said, who said it here—a white guy, to be blunt about it, a white politician of very superior leadership position—or how he said it? What‘s the fact here that concerns people?
MFUME: I think the fact is all of it, Chris. I mean, that‘s why we‘re talking about it. That‘s why it‘s been leading the headlines. That‘s why it‘s gotten more attention in the book than some other things that were in the book. It was just very, very clumsy.
And Harold Ford is right. When you look at the record, I mean, there is a divergent path here. Trent Lott voted against Dr. King‘s birthday, voted against many of the Civil Rights bills. Harry Reid did not.
But the clumsiness of the remarks tells us that we‘ve got to work harder to try to get those images, those beliefs, those biases...
MFUME: ... out of our head so they don‘t come out as words.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you—it seems to me—this is all sensitive territory, and all three of us know that, so I‘m going to be very careful here. But he was obviously talking not about the ability of Barack Obama to appeal to the black community, the African-American community. For them, it would be a common ethnicity and it wouldn‘t mean much. And maybe complexion would mean something. I doubt it. But here he‘s talking about whites and their openness to someone of darker or lighter complexion within the African-American community.
Was that the part that was offensive, or is it—well, let me just ask you, was that offensive, the fact that a white guy‘s talking to another couple white guys about this in a back room, about the ability of whites to accept people of different complexions? You first, Mr. Mfume.
MFUME: I didn‘t find that offensive because it happens every day.
MFUME: I mean, people for some reason think that if you‘re dark, you‘re threatening, you know?
MFUME: And if you‘re very light, maybe you‘re not threatening. It‘s a conversation that goes on in the white community. It‘s a conversation that has found its origin, in many instances, in black life, where light-skinned people at the end of segregation or at the end of slavery got more privileges than others. So it‘s—it‘s really twisted.
I mean, the bottom line is that racism, sexism, anti-Semitism are all wrong, that black bigotry is just as cruel as white bigotry, and that gay bashing or union bashing or immigrant bashing...
MFUME: ... all those things deplete us as a nation and rob us of our ability to advance the cause of this country, a free, open democratic society where everybody is judged by the content of their character.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you—I don‘t want to get into this argument because I‘m a white guy and I want to stay out of it right now because it is—to be honest with you, it‘s so sensitive.
MFUME: It‘s very sensitive.
MATTHEWS: But Congressman Ford, it seems to me that you‘ve been in
political back room discussions where people talk about ethnicity and
people who are more ethnic than others, people who may have the same
background but come across a different way, they have a different accent,
they‘re able to speak in different accents. We all can speak in different
the closer I come to Philly, the more I pick up Philly again after a couple of hours.
MATTHEWS: I mean, you know how it works. I mean, let‘s not get completely crazy about this. You can pick—I start saying “watter” again. I mean, it‘s just how you talk when you—I‘m talking again this way.
Anyway, to make it a little lighter subject here, is it the conversation about complexion or was it that old world—that word “Negro”? But even the word “Negro” is in the United Negro College Fund. I mean, it still exists in the vocabulary in some cases.
MATTHEWS: Is—go ahead. I‘m sorry.
FORD: If Harry Reid could take the comment back, I‘m sure he would. I‘m not sure he applied this level of thought. I think what Congressman Mfume stated earlier, that, you know, this reveals that a lot of this is an issue of race still bubbles on people‘s minds.
FORD: I mean, we have—continue to have conversations about it in the nation. I noticed this morning that of all of the quotes in the book, this is the one that has gotten the most attention. So there‘s still a fixation with it.
But I think the larger issue is this, that Reid has never had a problem before, never accusations made before about his public policy positions. I think Congressman Mfume touched on it well, in addition to other allegations being made against Senator Lott involving race and racially charged language. His voting record is very different.
We all make mistakes, and we can overanalyze mistakes, and we can overanalyze and overanalyze. I think in Senator Reid‘s position—Senator Reid‘s—with respect to what he said, I think he regrets it. He‘s apologized for it. And let‘s hope that it doesn‘t happen again.
MATTHEWS: OK, we‘ve dealt with the nuances here and we‘ve gone to the issues of what exactly is the problem. Here‘s the pure partisanship coming up. I want you guys to analyze these now, gentlemen. Here‘s some Republican reaction these last several hours to this comment by Senator Reid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: There‘s a big double standard here. And the thing about it that‘s interesting is that when Democrats get caught saying racist things, you know, an apology is enough. There has to be a consequence here if the standard is the one that was set in 2002 with Trent Lott.
SEN. JON KYL ®, ARIZONA: I agree with Michael Steele‘s comment that there is a double standard. I‘d like to see the same standard applied to both.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN ®, TEXAS: Trent Lott resigned. Harry Reid should resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go back to Congressman Mfume. What did you make of the Republican commentariat?
MFUME: Well, first of all, there‘s no double standard. I mean, I didn‘t call for Trent Lott to resign. I didn‘t call for Harry Reid to resign. I mean, Trent Lott did it as a result of a political reality. He knew that he was just losing a lot as a result of that. So there wasn‘t a double standard necessarily here.
The other thing that has to be talked about are the records of both men. Now, I‘ve got problems with the comments. I want to say that up front because I think in 2010, we‘re a little further ahead than that, hopefully. But there‘s this notion about a double standard. I just don‘t buy into that. I think both were clumsy, calculated and callous remarks, as I‘ve said. They both were embarrassing. But when you go beyond that and consider the source, there‘s a huge difference.
FORD: Can I add one last thing about that, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Yes, quickly.
FORD: After Trent Lott made his comments, the White House began—the Bush White House began the whisper campaign that it was time for him to move on.
MATTHEWS: Yes, they were after him to...
MATTHEWS: Congressman, you know that there was a lot more to that than what Trent Lott said. They were out to get his scalp a lot earlier than this. They were after that guy.
Let me ask you—now we‘re going to make some news tonight, Congressman Harold Ford. Would you like to be the senator from New York?
FORD: I‘m giving a lot of thought to it. I‘m absorbing a lot of advice and getting a lot of encouragement from people across the state who believe that New Yorkers deserve a fair election and a free election. And we‘ll make a decision in the coming weeks. I might add, no Negro dialect here tonight, Chris, between Kweisi and me.
MFUME: In the words of the old social scientist, Rodney King, can‘t we just all get along?
MATTHEWS: You know, that was in my script tonight. I took it out. Let me ask you—I was going to—I did put it in for a while there. Let me ask you, Congressman Ford again, will you run even without the White House blessing? Even if the president says he‘d like to see Gillibrand win, would you still run?
FORD: I have great respect for President Obama. And if I run and win, I look forward to working with him. But I will listen to voters in New York as I make this decision, above all.
MATTHEWS: Are you a New Yorker?
FORD: I live in New York. My wife and I plan to start and raise a family there, and I pay taxes there. And once you pay taxes there, you feel like a New Yorker.
MATTHEWS: But are you a New Yorker?
FORD: I am.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a New Yorker. Say, “I am a New Yorker.”
FORD: I am a New Yorker.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you...
FORD: I am a New Yorker. I am a New Yorker. I am a New Yorker.
MATTHEWS: OK. I love to hear—that‘s how it works in politics.
Thank you very much.
FORD: Good to see you.
MFUME: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: We have to lighten up this thing a little bit. Thank you, Harold Ford, Jr., and good luck with your decision.
FORD: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Mfume, as always, great respect to you, sir.
MFUME: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
MFUME: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And to the NAACP.
Coming up, much more on Harry Reid‘s comments and the other gems, a lot bigger gems perhaps in the book. They‘re not getting the attention. Why did so many U.S. senators publicly support Hillary Clinton, their colleague, but secretly push Barack Obama to run against her? What‘s that all about? NBC‘s Chuck Todd and “Newsweek‘s” Howard—we‘ve got the pros coming here—join us again in about a minute.
And tomorrow night, we‘re going to have the authors of the book, here it is, “Game Change,” the hot book, number one on Amazon right now, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, to explain their decision-making in putting this book together.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Harry Reid‘s remarks aren‘t the only headlines coming out of that new book, “Game Change.” I have it here in my hand, an advance copy. It just came out, actually. The book is—the authors are Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. They‘ll be on HARDBALL tomorrow night to talk about their book. But tonight, as a preview, let‘s look at some of the fascinating behind-the-scenes relationships described in the book.
Chuck Todd is NBC News chief White House correspondent and political director and co-host of MSNBC‘s new 9:00 AM show, “THE DAILY RUNDOWN,” which started today. And Howard Fineman is “Newsweek” senior Washington correspondent and an MSNBC political analyst.
Gentleman, you first, Chuck, then Howard. How long is this story going to last, the days that which are going to harry Harry Reid?
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR., WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I‘ll
tell you this. I‘m always hesitant to try to predict how long a political
a race-driven political story is going to last. I think a lot of us thought, for instance, the Henry Gates story was going to go away after 24, maybe 48 hours. That thing drug on a week. I think Reverend Wright proved how long that story could drag on. So I think sometimes we forget just how potent this issue is still, how raw race is in American politics. And these things can just keep going a lot longer than we all—than all the smart people in this town think.
That said, there aren‘t many ingredients there that indicate this story is going to keep going. Number one, there isn‘t a single Democrat publicly coming out against Harry Reid. That was not what happened, for instance, to the Trent Lott episode, right? There were a whole bunch of Republicans looking to throw that guy under the bus before he made those comments.
The second thing is it looks like Reid‘s statement today was pretty contrite. You know, had he been a little argumentative, a little feisty, he could have drawn some other problems. And then, of course, the other issue here is this. The White House needs him there.
TODD: They have no plan. As someone had said to me, they don‘t have a plan Z, let alone a plan B...
TODD: ... when it comes to...
MATTHEWS: You heard what I said a minute ago, that the White House, under the case of—in the case George W. Bush, wanted to get rid of Trent Lott...
TODD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: ... and they saw that as their opportunity. They need this guy. Howard, your thoughts, quickly. How long will this story last, the fight over this one?
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don‘t think it‘s going to last that much longer, in part because of lucky breaks like the one that Harry Reid got this morning. Rahm Emanuel was scheduled to be Chuck‘s first guest on his show. What a great opportunity for Rahm to try to put the thing to rest, which I thought on Chuck‘s show he did very, very forcefully, sending a signal to all other Democrats that however damaged Harry Reid may be, the White House needs him. Health care is hanging by a thread. They need whatever Harry Reid has got.
They couldn‘t stand the tumult of trying to get rid of Harry Reid while they‘re trying to pass this controversial health care bill with only a few weeks left before the State of the Union.
OK. Let‘s go to Steve Schmidt and the other part of the story, the Republican part of the story. Here is Steve Schmidt, who obviously has a lot to say about Sarah Palin. Here he was voicing his thoughts on “60 Minutes” last night. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “60 MINUTES”)
STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: I said, you know, if this project goes forward, you will be one of the most famous people in the world by Friday. Will you be able to live with that? She said she would be able to. She was very calm, nonplused.
I said, you don‘t seem nervous at all about this. And she said, no, it‘s God‘s plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Why is that controversial, Chuck?
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Oh, I don‘t know if it‘s controversial. I think what stupefies a lot of people in Washington is sort of like, how is it that she didn‘t have at least some—you know, any other person in American politics would have shown a little bit of nervousness, and she wasn‘t showing any.
TODD: But let‘s remember the context of this. I think Steve Schmidt, he‘s been keeping his powder dry ever since the release of Palin‘s book.
And I think he saw an opportunity to try to answer quietly and subtly some of the critiques that she threw his way.
TODD: This is a feud that isn‘t going to go away between Steve Schmidt and Sarah Palin.
MATTHEWS: OK. This is what I like about politics, catching politicians not knowing what they‘re talking about. Howard, you know this is my bread and butter.
Here is—according to the authors of this new book...
MATTHEWS: And they‘re incredibly credible authors, Heilemann and Halperin. Here is what they said.
“Palin”—this is a quote—“Palin couldn‘t explain”—this is getting ready for her big debate with Biden—“couldn‘t explain why North and South Korea were separate nations.” She had no idea what the Korean War was, apparently, never heard of it. “She didn‘t know what the Fed did, the Federal Reserve did, that it‘s our central banking system. They asked who attacked on 9/11, and she suggested several times it was Saddam Hussein.”
Is she the target of the misinformation campaign? And she was asked to identify the enemy that her son would be fighting in Iraq, and she drew a blank. Now, maybe that last one‘s not so hard to explain. I mean, it is hard to know who the latest insurgents are.
FINEMAN: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: But the fact is, not knowing the Korean War—I understand she didn‘t also really didn‘t get quite the First and Second World War.
I mean, this is tabula rasa here.
FINEMAN: Well—well, a couple things. Chris, first of all, what this book provides, and I have read most of it now, is a lot of novelistic detail on an overarching story that we already knew.
Those are devastating details. I‘m assuming they‘re true, because these guys worked hard on this thing. The level of ignorance is astounding. But the other thing that Steve Schmidt and others are doing, perhaps without fully realizing it, is that they‘re further underscoring their own, I think, borderline irresponsibility in picking her.
FINEMAN: I mean, even Dick Cheney said, in another passage in the book, this woman is not qualified. And yet they were willing to go ahead with the ticking time bomb that she was at that point.
FINEMAN: Maybe she‘s learned a lot since. Maybe she will learn a lot if she runs. Maybe she will learn a lot being a pundit on FOX News.
But at the time they picked her...
MATTHEWS: How can she be a pundit? She doesn‘t know anything.
Let me go back. Let me go to Chuck.
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, you see, that‘s my point. It was a dangerous thing to do.
MATTHEWS: And you‘re—you make it well. You make it well.
MATTHEWS: Chuck, what grabbed me was that great phrase by Steve Schmidt, and I know we all this business heard it before, when he says this put-away line: She doesn‘t know anything.
TODD: It was—look, this is where—it came from Steve Schmidt. This isn‘t a quote—I mean, the fact that he chose to basically underscore the Halperin-Heilemann reporting—you know, they had it. Obviously, they had spent a lot of time with him—and he went ahead and did that “60 Minutes” interview, that‘s less about doing a favor for promoting the book, and more about, I think, settling a score with Governor Palin a little bit, but, also, it may be just a confessional of his own right.
It goes to Howard‘s point going, you know, boy, we may have made a strategic—not a strategic mistake...
TODD: Actually, Steve corrected himself. Strategically, he made the case that Palin...
TODD: ... actually—that McCain lost by fewer percentage points because of Palin than if she hadn‘t been on the ticket.
FINEMAN: Yes, but I—but also...
TODD: I happening to agree with that, but I think he feels guilty...
FINEMAN: Yes. But having talked to Schmidt myself about this within the last 24 hours, Chris, you know, I think he is, at best, ambivalent—at best, ambivalent—and, probably, as Chuck says, regretful, remorseful...
FINEMAN: ... that the way things came down heading into Saint Paul, Minnesota, was to pick Sarah Palin in that condition, at that time, given what she was, given what she...
FINEMAN: And I think he regrets it.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to the Democrats for more of this inside stuff.
Here is the book describing Clinton and Obama as Senate colleagues—quote
“Their conversations with Barack were surreptitious, a conspiracy of whispers. Keen as they were for Obama to run, they would never be able to bless him with an early endorsement. Coming out against Hillary would pose grave risks. The Clinton had long memories and a vindictive streak 10 miles wide.”
Chuck, what stuns me is the number of United States senators, the Nelsons, Conrad, Kent Conrad, Jay Rockefeller, Daschle when he—Former Senator Daschle, Chuck Schumer from New York, all these senators who were for Barack Obama secretly without—well, in the case of Jay, he came out and said so—all of them for Barack Obama. Is Hillary liked in the Senate or not? What‘s the story?
TODD: Well, no, look, I think, remember, at the time that this was all happening, sort of there were two campaigns, right? There was the early Clinton campaign in ‘06, frankly, and early ‘07 that was trying to lock this up, so that an alternative to Hillary couldn‘t get any traction and it wasn‘t there.
TODD: Well, remember what happened early on. She only could get about a dozen senators early on. She only could get about those 200 superdelegates early on. And then there was—and then everybody else stayed neutral, waiting to see how things played out.
TODD: And that‘s where Obama was able to pull this off.
But it was—I mean, it was something I think we all saw was potentially out there. They all came. Daschle—look, Daschle made this happen.
TODD: I remember senator after senator—it started with Claire McCaskill, but then it became a domino effect, and it broke right along...
MATTHEWS: Were they being straight with Hillary?
MATTHEWS: Were they being straight guys, with Hillary?
TODD: Yes, by not endorsing. Yes.
TODD: Schumer is the only one in here that comes across a little bit sort of maybe—oh, not double-crossing—that‘s a little harsh—but, clearly, he endorsed her publicly...
TODD: ... working behind the scenes.
FINEMAN: Let‘s say playing a complex New York game.
FINEMAN: But I don‘t this part of it is a little—I don‘t doubt the reporting at all. I think it‘s a little heightened, shall we say. I don‘t think Hillary was reviled in the Senate at all.
I think people were—I think her work ethic was respected. I think people were concerned about Bill Clinton as a political liability, which is a theme throughout the book.
But there was interest in Obama from the very beginning, you would have to say.
FINEMAN: And, also, you have to realize that certain people‘s memory in retrospect about how deeply they were supporting Obama from the beginning...
FINEMAN: ... may be slightly amplified by the result that Obama is president of the United States.
TODD: I would underscore that. I would underscore that.
MATTHEWS: All right, guys, we have to go.
TODD: Bill Nelson, on “60 Minutes” last night, who was a Hillary supporter, he came across as if he was like in the...
FINEMAN: With him all the way.
TODD: “Yes, go Barack.” It was very fun.
MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, Harry Reid‘s definitely was—the way they document it, Harry Reid looks like he was for him.
FINEMAN: He was.
TODD: And he was.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much, Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman.
It‘s a lot of fun.
As I said, tomorrow night, we have the authors of game change, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. This is the big number-one book on Amazon right now, the top political kibitz topic of our world right now.
Up next: Now B-Rod‘s getting into the act. The ex-governor of Illinois says he‘s—quote—“blacker than Barack Obama.” His explanation, which is worth a minute or two to listen, coming up where it belongs, in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First up: Rod Blagojevich, or, as Jimmy Durante used to say, everybody‘s trying to get into the act.
B-Rod told “Esquire” magazine: “I‘m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. Saw it all growing up.”
B-Rod later called his comment stupid, that he was speaking metaphorically.
Next: Remember Rick Perry, the Texas governor who claimed his state‘s right to secede from the union? Well, “Texas Monthly” is out with a cover story hyping a Perry 2012 presidential run. Guess he‘s changed his mind on secession.
Now for the “Big Number.”
It‘s going to be a tough week for Wall Street. On Wednesday, a commission that is investigating the financial crisis will hold hearings with heads of the major bailed-out banks. Figures like this next one will be hard to explain.
Last year, how much did Goldman Sachs employees pull on average per person? -- $595,000. At a bank that took taxpayer money to stay afloat, the per-person compensation at Goldman Sachs over half-a-million dollars, $595,000, tonight‘s “Start the revolution” HARDBALL “Big Number.”
Up next: Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman comes here. He often takes roles that address race relations. He‘s coming on HARDBALL.
You‘re watching it, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks rallying in late trading to close mostly higher as the earnings season gets under way, the Dow Jones industrials almost 46 points higher, the S&P 500 up just a couple of points, and the Nasdaq falling 5.5 points.
Aluminum giant Alcoa kicking off earnings season after the closing bell today, profits of 1 cent a share falling well short of estimates, but revenue coming in ahead of expectations, down only slightly from last year. Shares are up 2.5 percent in regular trading, now moving sharply lower after-hours.
Caterpillar leading the Dow—investors hoping some encouraging economic data from China will lead to increased demand for construction equipment.
But a rough ride for the tech sector today—Amazon and chipmaker AMD leading the retreat. Major software-makers like Microsoft and Adobe also on the decline, and hardware giants Apple, IBM and Hewlett-Packard all finishing in the red.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “INVICTUS”)
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: A rainbow nation starts here. Reconciliation starts here.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Reconciliation, sir?
FREEMAN: Yes, reconciliation, Jason.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Comrade President, not long ago, these guys tried to kill us. (INAUDIBLE) guys in my office tried and often succeeded.
FREEMAN: Yes, I know. Forgiveness starts here, too. Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Morgan Freeman in the powerful new movie “Invictus.” He plays Nelson Mandela, for which he‘s already been nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best actor. His roles have included “Driving Miss Daisy,” the great movie “Glory,” “”Invictus,” of course now, exploring, all of them, the question of how we get along between the races.
Welcome, Mr. Freeman. It‘s an honor to have you on. I have seen it twice now. How is it doing out there in South Africa?
FREEMAN: Well, it was very well received in South Africa, Chris.
How are you? Happy new year and all that.
MATTHEWS: Happy new year to you.
Let me ask you about these roles. I have watched you in two roles now where you really have a powerful role. It‘s a Spencer Tracy role, almost like the judge in “Guess Who‘s Coming to Dinner” or one of those other Tracy roles, where you have to sort of decide things for us all and lead us all.
In “Glory,” you talked about the Civil War. And you were a soldier, an ex-slave fighting in the Civil War. And you were fighting with Denzel Washington, who was a militant guy. And you‘re talking about race relations.
And here you are in this movie talking to a very militant guy, your bodyguard. What is your soul doing all during this? Because this is about America, too, not just the world in South Africa.
FREEMAN: Well, you know, there was a belief factor that‘s very strong there.
I think Madiba was absolutely right in his approach to that situation and all situations like that. We have to—if we know we have to live together, then we should be making positive moves in that direction all the time.
MATTHEWS: And what‘s the role of leaders in all this?
FREEMAN: ... I think everybody should go see the movie and take a little lesson from Madiba here.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about an American, because I know, from talking to Clint Eastwood last summer, that it was your idea. He directed the film, but it was your idea, as an American, to go over to South Africa, which has had a tremendous racial history, obviously, with white supremacy all those years, and as an American go over there with your background in the American South, where you live and have chosen to live.
What do we have to contribute as Americans on the racial front worldwide? Have we learned a lesson that the world could benefit from, even in our difficult path through racial relations for all these centuries?
FREEMAN: I think that we do have something to show the world in terms of race relations. We‘re not done. We‘re not finished. I don‘t know if we ever will be finished. But we seem to be way ahead of a lot of other places in the world in that.
In terms of going to South Africa, we only went to South Africa to do the movie because it‘s set in South Africa, and I was anointed by Mr. Mandela to play the role. Otherwise, maybe somebody else should have done it.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about what‘s going on now. When we have these discussions—let‘s talk about the election of Barack Obama. We‘re going to have a big MSNBC show next Monday night at 10:00 on Martin Luther King‘s Day. And we‘re going to talk about how we stand a year into this administration. I know you‘re not political, but how do you feel as an American a year into this presidency? Has it changed the way we look at black/white relations just having an African-American president?
FREEMAN: I think we‘ve stopped looking at white/black relationships, by and large. When Barack was elected president of the United States, I, along with I‘ll bet half of the people in this country, shared a tear for our growth. And I think that we‘re not going to go backwards. I think we‘re going to continue marching ahead as we‘re doing. This is a great political time for us, actually.
MATTHEWS: What do you think it‘s like to be a kid today, an African-American kid, a white kid today, as opposed to what we were when we were kids?
FREEMAN: I think today being a kid, you have a world of promise ahead of you. There‘s nothing to tell you that you can‘t do whatever it is that you want to do, that you can‘t be whatever it is that you want to be.
MATTHEWS: How is this movie going to do?
FREEMAN: I think it‘s going to do well. I think this movie‘s going to have legs, as it were. You know the saying, long legs.
FREEMAN: Like “Shawshank Redemption,” didn‘t do well at the box office because they pulled it early. But it went on to do quite well. Warner Brothers I don‘t think is going to pull this movie. I think it‘s just going to sit there and do well over time. The word of mouth is good.
MATTHEWS: They‘re putting good ads in the paper, too. Nice full page ads.
Mr. Freeman, you‘re one of my heroes. You are the Spencer Tracy of today. I appreciate you coming on HARDBALL. I mean it. Damn it, I mean it. I mean it when I say things. I‘m not acting. I‘ve got my own scripts here.
Number two, I‘ve seen the movie twice. I don‘t tell everybody what to watch, but if you care about this country, and you care about how we can get better, and you want to see what a leader looks like, go see this movie. You‘re going to see Mandela played by Morgan Freeman. What an inspiration, sir. Thank you for coming on HARDBALL. I really appreciate it.
FREEMAN: Thank you, Chris. That was very well said.
MATTHEWS: It‘s true, too. It has the advantage of being true.
Up next, is Harry Reid‘s problem what he said, who said it, or how he said it? This is HARDBALL. We‘re going to get back into that gristle in a minute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: If I said that the “Washington Post” was more comfortable with Jonathan Capehart in the editorial room because he was light-skinned, that is racially insensitive. If I said I would dream of the day that they didn‘t have blacks in the editorial room at the “Washington Post,” that‘s a whole other world. Trent Lott was musing on how America would been a better place if a Dixiecrat candidate had won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘re back now. That was Reverend Al Sharpton today on “MORNING JOE.” We‘re back with the politics fix, with MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
I want Mayor Brown in here on this right away. What did you think about what happened today in this fight and what Reverend Sharpton had to say?
WILLIE BROWN, FMR. MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: I think Al Sharpton is trying to put Harry Reid‘s comment in the proper perspective. After all, Harry Reid said what he said. I don‘t think he intended to be public at all. I don‘t think—he didn‘t mean it from a mean-spirited standpoint. He didn‘t mean it from a racist standpoint.
He‘s from a small town. He‘s from a time in America when, in fact, terms like Negro was being used. And he was discussing what is a reality in America. And that is that light-skinned African-Americans have been traditionally treated differently. After all, they are the end product of a white father.
MATTHEWS: Well, look, I‘m not—I am afraid to talk, because I can‘t even talk about this without saying something that‘s interesting. You can‘t say something interesting on this topic. But I go back to you. I agree with you, Mayor Brown. Lena Horn (ph), go way back when.
Let‘s go. Michelle Bernard, you‘re a younger person here. What do you think of this whole discussion? A lot of this is generational. My mom used the term Negro. It was a common term, United Negro College Fund 30, 40 years ago. I don‘t know why Harry Reid still uses old-time language.
MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The first thing I thought
Harry Reid really needs to just get his act together. This, of course, Chris, Mayor Brown, is coming on the heels of him comparing people who question health care to people who were against slavery and civil rights and women‘s rights. I can‘t imagine anyone who is younger than 100 years old using the term Negro, or using the term colored.
But that, you know—that being said, I don‘t think necessarily that what Harry Reid said was wrong. We talked about this all throughout the campaign season. I don‘t think it has anything to do with Barack Obama‘s complexion. There are black men that—
MATTHEWS: These words are old. The National Association for the Advancement of Color People is still the official nail. The United Negro College Fund is still the official name of the fund raising operation. These are major, front line, wonderful organizations. They haven‘t changed their names. Harry Reid hasn‘t changed his vocabulary. Is that the limit of this problem? Or is it worse?
BERNARD: It‘s not the limit of this problem. But it does make you wonder two things. One, what does Harry Reid think about African-Americans in general when he thinks that—you know, when he is also, again, talking off of the record? What would he say behind people‘s backs?
But secondly, it really does talk about—and I hope you‘ll discuss this in your special next week, what is it that makes people feel safe around black men, for example? We talked all throughout the campaign about the angry black man versus that somebody feels comfortable with. There was a reason that Barack Obama was elected by a majority of people, most of whom were white, rather than Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or even Shirley Chisholm. There is a reason for that.
And I don‘t think that what Harry Reid said was necessarily completely off the reservation. It was the terms that he used. Negro is a ridiculous word. None of us consider ourselves—
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know anybody that uses the terms either. But let‘s get back to the—to Mayor Brown and to what we‘re really talking about. Is this thing about light skinned—
Let‘s get back to the thing that really bugs me. I know you can‘t say you‘re for reparations because it drives people crazy. But if Thaddeus Stevens had has his way after the Civil War, and we had 40 acres and a mule, and a black male had had some capital, had some chance to be on his own feet and build a family with some money, if we had come out of this Civil War in a positive way, instead of a negative way, maybe we wouldn‘t have all of this fear and the racial tension of the last—whatever, the last 100 years.
My thoughts. You know what I mean? Really get back to it. Let‘s get back to what went wrong in our history and why we have this conversation. It‘s not about color. It‘s about our history and what we got involved in because of slavery.
BROWN: And there‘s no reason why we should not constantly remind people of exactly that, Chris. I‘ve got to tell you, the United Negro College Fund is still the United Negro College Fund. And I don‘t care what anybody says today, that is what it‘s called. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. It is not somebody who is living 100 years ago. It is, in fact, a reality of the day.
Neither of those things takes away from the magnificent function and responsibility that has gone on, and it creates an opportunity for dialogue. And I do hope with Tom Joyner, you will have that conversation, because it‘s ridiculous to conclude that those words are not relevant today.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you—go ahead. Your response.
BERNARD: The only thing I was going to say is I in no way want to give the impression that they should change those names. Those are very important historical organizations, and never would I fathom that the name of those organizations would be changed. However, individuals referring to one another as Negro or colored or any other type of word that is so passe just doesn‘t seem to make sense. It‘s like “Gone With the Wind” and Scarlet O‘Hara. It‘s absolutely ridiculous.
The other thing I was going to say, Chris, the points you make about how we got here today, the history and legacy of slavery are all very, very, very important. But one of the things that I‘m sure will come up in your meeting—in your town hall meeting next week is also the role for personal responsibility within the African American community.
Again, some of the things that Harry Reid said are absolutely true. We cannot blame all of it, some of the sentiment expressed, on the man or on white racism. Some of it has to do with things that are endemic to the black community as well.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s think about the fact that the president of the United States did not come personally, in terms of his personal family history, from slavery. Certainly, Michelle Obama, the First Lady, did. And I think that comes to white fear and white guilt. There‘s so much wrapped into this on both sides of the color line. So much wrapped into white feelings about slavery and guilt about it. It goes so far back.
We‘ll be back to talk about this in a minute with Michelle Bernard and, of course, former Mayor Willie Brown. We‘ll be back with the politics fix.
And tomorrow on HARDBALL, the authors of “Game Change,” Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. I keep pushing their book because it‘s numero uno on the best seller list right now. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Harry Reid is a friend of mine. He has been a stalwart champion of voting rights, civil rights. He‘s spending a lot of his political capital in the middle of an election to provide health care to every American. And that‘s going to have a great impact on African-Americans and Latinos around the country.
This is a good man, who has always been on the right side of history. For him to have used some inartful language in trying to praise me and for people to try to make hay out of that makes absolutely no sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s a pretty thorough going comment by the president endorsing Harry Reid. Basically exonerated him of any wrongdoing in that comment the other day for this book. Anyway, that was said on the TV show “Washington Watch” with Roland Martin.
We‘re back with Michelle Bernard and Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco, and the former speaker of the House in California. There‘s another quote in the book I have to get to. Michelle, I know from people talking to you, you are concerned about it. This is in the book “Game Change,” quote—this is from a conversation between the president and Ted Kennedy, the late Ted Kennedy, recounting the conversation later to a friend, “Teddy fumed that Clinton”—that‘s Bill Clinton—“had said, quote, a few years ago this guy would have been getting us coffee.”
MATTHEWS: I think it is absolutely revolting. This was not the first time that we heard this kind of statement from Bill Clinton. And if anyone is guilty of being close to saying something racist, it‘s Bill Clinton. It‘s almost as if he was thinking that Barack Obama should be walking up to him and saying, “yes, massa, can I get you some coffee?”
That is a horrendous statement. And rather than harping on Harry Reid, who, as the president said, used some very inartful language, black Americans in particular need to think about what Bill Clinton said, and remember that there is a reason that so many people say to black Americans that we need to make the Democratic and the Republican party compete for our votes. Because this is an example of what a lot of, quote, unquote, progressives believe about black Americans.
MATTHEWS: Can I tell you, I don‘t believe Bill Clinton has a racist bone in his body. What do you think, Mr. Mayor? I don‘t know if what he met was he wasn‘t up to the level of this competition, but the idea that he had something to do with race is beyond me. What do you think?
BROWN: I think you‘re absolutely correct, Chris. I don‘t think Bill Clinton has a racist bone in his body at all. And his history and his record is probably more distinguished than almost any other politician at his level in the history of this country, black, white, otherwise. Bill Clinton has been a pioneer on the issue of race. Even when he was that governor of that very small, he had a whole history of doing things right.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Mayor, got to go. Thank you very much, Michelle Bernard and Mayor Brown. Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. The authors of “Game Change,” Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, will be with us then tomorrow.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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Transcription Copyright 2010 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
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personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
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Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET