Guests: Scott Cohn, Chuck Todd, Anne Kornblut, Charles Blow, Fred Wertheimer, Ben Ginsberg, Alan Grayson, Ron Brownstein, Rep. Anthony Weiner
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Campaigner-in-chief.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Course correction. Massachusetts sent a message this week and Obama replied. The cool President Obama today became the passionate fighting candidate Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So long as I have some breath in me, so long as I have the privilege of serving as your president, I will not stop fighting for you!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Mr. Obama‘s populist tone may be just what he needs. Can he ride the wave of voter anger, rather than get drowned in it? That‘s our stop story tonight, and a hell of a question.
The president said he‘s not giving up on some form of health care reform, but will the Republicans just say no and just say no again and again and again? Is that their strategy?
Plus, winners and losers. Does yesterday‘s Supreme Court decision on campaign finance mean weakened political parties and bought and sold candidates by corporate America? We‘ll debate that hot one later.
Plus: When it comes to presidential candidates, the Republicans have always been a “wait your turn” party. Is it time for the old guard to step aside so the GOP can feed the hot hands, like Sarah Palin or Scott Brown, for president?
And what did Arlen Specter say to Michelle Bachmann that has her predicting his career is over? Check out the “Sideshow” tonight.
We start with President Obama‘s populist tone. Chuck Todd is the political director and chief White House correspondent for NBC News and Ron Brownstein is the political director of Atlantic Media.
Gentlemen, I want you to watch—here‘s what the president had to say today. Let‘s take a look at some more of President Obama today. It‘s an amazing turn of tone here, change of tone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I understand that why after the Massachusetts election, people in Washington were all in a tizzy, trying to figure out what this means for health reform, Republicans and Democrats. What does it mean for Obama? You know, is he—is he weakened? Is he—Oh, how‘s he going to survive this? But I want you to understand this is not about me.
OBAMA: This is not about me. This is about you. I know there are some folks who think, you know, If Obama loses, we win. But you know what? I think that I win when you win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Chuck Todd, let me ask you about that. This president is an incumbent president, chief executive, runs the government, heads the state. He is now acting like he‘s running for president. Can he turn around and ride that surfboard of public anger in the direction he wants to go, or is he simply back-pedaling, if he gets on there and has to pretend he‘s a critic of government, when, in fact, he‘s leading it? Will it work? Will it be good politics, but more importantly, will it work? Will it get him done what he wants to get done as president by posturing now as a critic of the way things are?
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR./WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, it‘s clear what they decided they believe the message out of Tuesday was, which was they had somehow looked out of touch with average—with the average economic problems of America, period. They do not believe it was a referendum on health care. They believe it‘s a referendum on this idea whether the president was in touch with the day-to-day problems that Americans were facing when it comes to their pocketbook. That‘s where this change in tone is coming from. That‘s why the decision to go to ramp up the campaign rhetoric.
But I can tell you this also, Chris. Look, we don‘t know if it‘s going to work until we see it, but this White House has made it clear they‘re going to be more in more campaign mode for this year. Number one, there isn‘t the stomach on Capitol Hill to have a big legislative fight on anything. It‘s an election year. That just doesn‘t happen.
And two, he‘s better at campaigning. Clearly, they need to get better at delivering a message because they were terrible about dealing with their message issues throughout most of 2009. He talked about it himself today. He said, people—he claims that they‘ve misread the recovery act, don‘t understand what‘s on health care. Well, OK, that‘s also a repudiation of this White House‘s ability to concoct a message.
MATTHEWS: You know, he says that the—according to Chuck‘s reporting there, this president doesn‘t believe that the vote in Massachusetts on Tuesday was about health care. But we know it was. The voters saw a candidate who said, I‘m for health care, they saw one who said, I‘m set against it, I‘ll kill it. They voted for the one who said he would kill it. And all the polls taken by the polling organizations said it was about health care.
RON BROWNSTEIN, ATLANTIC MEDIA: Well, first of all, my son is a surfer and it‘s very hard to back-pedal and surf at the same time.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well...
BROWNSTEIN: Going forward and backward. Well, the polling is actually quite disparate on this. There are several polls, including one out just today from “The Washington Post,” and Kaiser and Harvard, that, in fact, say that voters did not believe they were sending a message on health care specifically.
But look what they did, not what they say. And I agree with you that this was clearly—voters understood that they were throwing an enormous monkeywrench in the prospects of health care reform.
What the president is doing is—and which they were already moving, Chris, in this direction before Massachusetts—I mean, it was very clear, talking to David Axelrod about 10 days ago, that they were focusing on trying to make this election more of a contrast than a referendum. What they‘ve got now is a situation in which there is an enormous well of populist discontent about the direction of the country. Republicans have had great success at channeling it toward Washington in general, toward the Democrats in particular. It‘s clear the White House wants to shift that focus back toward the financial institutions and other...
MATTHEWS: Well, what do the polls show?
BROWNSTEIN: ... maybe other aspects of the business community...
MATTHEWS: Are people angry at Wall Street with the big money or big government?
BROWNSTEIN: They‘re angry at both. And they‘re angry at government largely because of the belief that all of the activity that‘s been undertaken in the past year to rescue the economy has primarily benefited the same institutions the believe...
MATTHEWS: Well, it has.
BROWNSTEIN: ... wrecked the economy, financial institutions, big companies...
MATTHEWS: By the way, what is this idea that people don‘t know...
BROWNSTEIN: ... and the affluent...
MATTHEWS: ... what‘s going on? Let me go back to Chuck. People know what‘s going on.
BROWNSTEIN: That‘s what (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: They got Geithner, who looks like Wall Street. The whole organization—the White House looks like it‘s run by Wall Street types that are like the people that work on Wall Street, Geithner leading the pack. They bailed out the institutions up in—the Wall Street people‘s cry for help, they gave them everything they wanted.
How—what‘s the public getting wrong here? The government—the
president does want a big government health care reform. What‘s the public
why do we keep acting like the public doesn‘t know what‘s going on, and if we only yell louder, give more speeches, they‘ll get the story right?
TODD: Right. Well, I‘ll tell you, Chris...
MATTHEWS: Where‘s that coming from?
TODD: I mean, clearly, the public does view—does see what you see in this respect, which is that the bail-out seemed to make Wall Street better before Main Street got better. Now, the issue was, when you talk to all these economists over the last two years, they would say, Well, Main Street‘s not going to get better until Wall Street gets better.
TODD: Even the president sort of tried to do that. But to get back to Ron‘s point, it is fascinating to watch this. Basically, the Republican message of 2010 is to run against Washington, and now the White House is hoping that the Democratic message of 2010 is to run against Wall Street, which is why he did what he did yesterday with the banks, which by the way, was a bit of a repudiation of Treasury Secretary Geithner and of Larry Summers, who both argued against this sort of punitive policy against the banks, in a way, to sort of curb their ability to basically become...
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at that. We don‘t want to get in a tizzy. What does he call this? We‘re getting into a tizzy.
MATTHEWS: So let‘s not get into a tizzy. I don‘t want to do what he says not to do. I‘m just teasing.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at the president going after Wall Street. He has turned his attack on Wall Street, joining the attack, I guess, of people that don‘t like anybody with power in America, hoping he can divide and conquer, perhaps. Here he is going after Wall Street. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We‘re having a fight right now because I want to charge Wall Street a modest fee to repay taxpayers in full for saving their skins in a time of need.
OBAMA: We want our money back! There are people who are going to say, Why is he meddling in government—why is he meddling in the financial industry? It‘s another example of Obama being big government. No, I just want to have some rules in place so that when these guys make dumb decisions, you don‘t end up having to foot the bill. That‘s pretty straightforward. I don‘t mind having that fight!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Is it possible—Mike Huckabee—I want to show a bite of this- but before we go, I want to ask you guys if it makes sense. Some people believe that this—they‘re putting the best possible lining on this cloud—that what happened on Tuesday, this amazing election of a relatively conservative Republican in a relatively liberal state of Massachusetts, was a message that the Democrats will gain from. It‘s a warning shot that they will be able to use between now and November to either trim their sails or move on a course that‘s more appropriate to the current conditions. Do you buy that?
BROWNSTEIN: It‘s certainly a warning shot. One thing that was clear. In the best post-election poll that was done, by Peter Hart for the AFL-CIO, Scott Brown won almost two thirds white voters without a college education. In New Jersey and Virginia, at least 70 percent of white voters without a college education voted for the Republican in the gubernatorial race. It was those voters who were the key to the Republican landslide in ‘94.
Democrats have to figure out how to reach them. And I think part of the way Obama wants to reach them between now and November is to say, Look, I am standing with you against Wall Street, and there are the Republicans, whereas the Republicans want to draw a different Venn diagram. They want to say, It‘s government and Wall Street together, and I‘m with you, the people. That is, I think, the fundamental political contest right now.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s watch Mike Huckabee. He‘s doing a good job as a pundit here. I guess he‘s not running for president anymore because he seems to be very sharp in making this prediction. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS: Let me go out on a limb tonight, Greta, and tell you that this is probably the beginning of the reelection of Barack Obama because he‘s going to have to make course corrections that will likely put him in a much better position in his reelection bid than he would have been had he continued on this Pelosi/Reid-led disastrous trip off the cliff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Your read on that, Chuck?
TODD: Well, look, I believe that he‘s got to figure out how to run
against Washington again. He has got to figure this out. That‘s what they
they realize that they‘ve looked too cozy with Congress. Presidents are always somehow in a little bit better position when they get to say, It‘s, you know, them against, you know, those guys on Pennsylvania Avenue, or those other guys up on Wall Street. So you know that they are trying to get this.
And I‘ll say this. Huckabee‘s right on this point. This is an opportunity that Bill Clinton didn‘t get this early, where you see—it‘s like the warning shot‘s right there. You know, it‘s not as if—if somehow, Republicans win back control of the House and Senate, or come close in November, no one can say, Well, we didn‘t see this coming, you know.
MATTHEWS: You know, here‘s a great...
TODD: You saw it coming in January.
MATTHEWS: I tend to be a cynic. And Ron, maybe you‘ve seen this line before. Here‘s president of the United States saying today, It‘s always nice to get out of Washington.
MATTHEWS: That could be Ronald Reagan.
BROWNSTEIN: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: That could be Jimmy Carter. That could be George W.
MATTHEWS: Even George, Sr., used to do this.
BROWNSTEIN: As soon as he got in trouble. But look, you know, going back to...
MATTHEWS: By the way, they asked to come here.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Right.
BROWNSTEIN: And they spent a lot of money and time to get here.
Going back to Chuck‘s point, though, I mean, there‘s a separate issue here
beside what‘s good for Obama over the next three years. And the issue is -
the other issue is what we can accomplish as a country on the big problems we face. And the lesson of this health care fight, again, is that in a world where you need 60 votes to do everything...
BROWNSTEIN: ... because everything is filibustered and you cannot get any votes from a minority party on anything, it is virtually impossible for any president...
MATTHEWS: Oh, you‘re so depressing.
BROWNSTEIN: ... from either party...
MATTHEWS: You‘re so depressing.
BROWNSTEIN: ... to tackle big problems. I mean, that is...
MATTHEWS: You‘re so depressing.
BROWNSTEIN: That is a...
MATTHEWS: You are depressing me.
BROWNSTEIN: That is...
MATTHEWS: You are depressing me.
BROWNSTEIN: You know...
MATTHEWS: You‘re saying no new president can do new things.
BROWNSTEIN: We are—we are...
MATTHEWS: No president can lead.
BROWNSTEIN: We are moving toward a parliamentary system without majority rule.
BROWNSTEIN: That is something that no country in the world tries because it simply does not work.
MATTHEWS: OK. You know what? I want presidents to lead and not just to check the polls and do what everybody wants them to do.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, on health care...
MATTHEWS: Take a chance.
BROWNSTEIN: On health care, they have not been doing what everybody wants them to do.
MATTHEWS: Well, lead. The president should lead, tell us what the country needs and blow the trumpet and let‘s go.
TODD: Well, look, health care is very hard...
MATTHEWS: It‘s tough. It‘s tough, but it‘s better than just...
TODD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: ... saying, I want to go back to a diner, like Scott Brown. Here‘s the president—I just wish I could go to a diner, just like—I mean, you know, if he wanted to go to a diner, he wouldn‘t have ran for president! I want to go out of Washington. I want to get out of this town. Don‘t tell me you want to get out of this town! Don‘t tell me you miss going to the barbershop and the diner. The guys out of power do that kind of thing.
Chuck, your last thought quickly. I‘m sorry.
TODD: No, just to go back to health care. You know, the thing is, did they work hard enough to, like, figure out how to have 65 votes on this thing?
TODD: You know, you do wonder, why didn‘t they work outside the Republican leadership. You go back to that—I mean...
BROWNSTEIN: Chuck, they did spend 23 months over the summer with Baucus, with Grassley, Enzi and Snowe.
TODD: OK, but where were...
BROWNSTEIN: ... that‘s now the reason they‘re in this problem...
MATTHEWS: How can you do it?
TODD: There were nine Republicans that supported them on that children‘s health care initiative. They didn‘t reach out to at least four of them...
TODD: ... that they could have done, brought them in here and wooed them. It‘s hard work. It‘s hard.
MATTHEWS: No one...
BROWNSTEIN: ... not be possible anymore.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know what we need? Good politicians, not people denying they are politicians.
Thank you, Chuck Todd. Thank you, Ron Brownstein. Be what you are, a politician. Lead.
It‘s a big week next week. On Wednesday, the president‘s going to tell us where he wants to go. He‘s delivering the State of the Union address. It‘s not just the latest polling, by the way, it‘s where he wants us to go, not a read on where he thinks we want to go. That‘s 9:00 o‘clock Eastern here on MSNBC next Wednesday night.
Coming up: With 59 votes in the Senate, how should Democrats move forward on health care? They don‘t have 60. What do they do with 59? It‘s what you do with what you got that counts. Walt Disney. We‘ll debate that with two Democratic members of Congress.
You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There are certain things that members just cannot support. So in its present form, without any change, I don‘t think it‘s possible to pass the Senate bill in the House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday—that‘s yesterday—effectively killing the prospect of the House of Representatives buying the Senate health care bill. Are there any other options out there? Should Democrats push something they really think the Republicans could buy at this point, or push something they think that won‘t pass but it‘ll look good?
With us now, Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. Congressman Weiner, my old—favorite old expression is it‘s not what you got, it‘s what you do with what you got that counts. What power do the Democrats actually have now, with 59 senators and the House majority, to actually get something done this year?
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Well, I hope the 59 is in a static vote that we‘re never going to exceed. I think one of the things that we‘ve done wrong here is we‘ve been focused so much on getting individual senators on board, we focused so much on the sausage making that we lost sight of the fact that hundreds of millions of Americans were out there wondering what the heck we were doing.
Look, I think what we should do now is we in the House of Representatives, we should start this reconciliation process. We should put our list of things that we think are necessary to improve the Senate bill. We should pass it out of the House and send it back to the Senate. The Senate, which is supposed to be the cooling saucer of our democracy, has been like the meat locker of our democracy, how slow-walked they‘ve done everything. And they‘ve been the problem all along. Let‘s get it back to them. And I think that if the president gives a good, strong, advocacy of a scaled down and simpler program on—at the State of the Union, I think maybe we can get this thing going again.
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s to stop the Republicans—they‘ve got 41 senators now—from filibustering that and stopping it?
WEINER: Well, I‘m not sure that there‘s anything. Look, it‘s a given that we are going to have to do this without the help of any Republican. As much as they may say that they‘re in this and want to be helpful, every step of the way, they‘ve done everything possible to stop it. It‘s tough.
But one thing is for sure, that, you know, the president‘s tone today
I actually liked it a lot. I think, finally, we do need to realize we are in a fight here. And we can‘t just view this as a legislative back-and-forth. We have a...
MATTHEWS: OK. I get you.
WEINER: ... public fight that we need to wage.
MATTHEWS: So you might come out ahead in terms of the argument, even if you come up short in the Senate, you‘re saying? Even if you get through the House and pass a big vote on the Democratic side of the Senate and it gets stopped by the Republicans by filibuster, you think you could take that argument to the people?
WEINER: I think that, in fact, many elements of health care reform are popular, and they‘re the same things that we have tossed aside throughout this process.
And we have to realize that perhaps digging in on things like the public option, on expanding Medicare, on closing the doughnut hole maybe is a better strategy for winning over that 60th vote, but at least we win over the country on this debate. We can‘t do any big thing like this without muscular, clear leadership on—outside the beltway, which we just haven‘t had.
MATTHEWS: So, what are you going to do different? You tried to pass the bill in the Senate. You couldn‘t get more than 60 senators. And now you have got 59.
What can you do different going ahead that you didn‘t do before?
What‘s the change? I don‘t get the change here you‘re proposing.
WEINER: Well, here‘s what I think. I think here‘s the difference that we need.
We have been obsessing recently, what is Olympia Snowe do, what is Joe Lieberman going to do, what is Ben Nelson going to do?
MATTHEWS: She‘s going to vote no.
WEINER: No, fair enough.
But the point that I‘m making is, in all of that machination of trying to get to 60, we lost sight of the fact that that‘s not the way Americans look at this challenge. They want to improve health care with lower costs and things like that.
I think that the president of the United States, at his State of the Union address, should do similar for health care what he did today, which is say, look, we‘re not pussyfooting around anymore. We need to get these four or five basic things that everyone can understand, we need to get them passed.
And I think that‘s the way. If you are going to go into a conversation with senators, at least you have to raise the temperature for them a little bit. Up to now, this has been entirely this insider conversation, which has lost the American people. And that‘s regrettable.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.
Let‘s bring in Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida.
Look, I‘m not sure. I think I know what that means. Make the good fight. Make your big pitch. They have lost sight of the sales pitch in trying to get the thing made. But you still are faced with the realities. You don‘t have the 60 votes to break the filibuster in the Senate.
REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: I don‘t think we need them.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t need 60 votes?
GRAYSON: We have had a Congress now for 222 years. How long has there been a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate? How long? You tell me. You‘re a student of history.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s been a long time. And let me tell you, that‘s why nothing ever gets through Congress.
GRAYSON: Well, that‘s not true.
MATTHEWS: Name me a major bill that Congress ever got through that was partisan.
GRAYSON: We got tax cuts for the rich from the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Easy. Anybody can cut taxes. That‘s not hard.
GRAYSON: No, tax cuts for the rich, 51 votes.
MATTHEWS: It‘s easy. That‘s easy.
GRAYSON: Well, it turns out that, in the 222-year history of the Congress, we have had a filibuster-proof majority for all of 14 years. And, somehow, we managed to pass legislation on all those other occasions for over 200 years.
MATTHEWS: But you haven‘t created a major new program like health care for everybody. Can you pass a major new program like Medicare in the current environment, where there‘s such division?
GRAYSON: We not only can. We have to. We have to do that.
MATTHEWS: But you can—you‘re just talking. How do you do it?
GRAYSON: It‘s not talking. There are people are dying in America every year because they have no health care.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. OK. You know, this show is about reality.
MATTHEWS: Tell me how you pass this bill with 41. You just got a guy elected in Massachusetts who said he signs his name 41, because it means enough to stop this bill.
GRAYSON: Reconciliation needs 51 senators.
MATTHEWS: Well, what are you talking—what procedure do you know that Harry Reid doesn‘t know, that Dick Durbin doesn‘t know...
GRAYSON: What makes you think Harry Reid is not going to do it? I was calling for this six months ago.
MATTHEWS: ... that all those top guys, that Ted Kennedy didn‘t know, the secret route to the Indies that only you know about?
GRAYSON: Have they said they‘re not using reconciliation? What are you talking about?
MATTHEWS: These senators can‘t do it. They have said they can‘t do it.
GRAYSON: Why do you think they can‘t use reconciliation?
MATTHEWS: Because you talk to any one of these senators, you talk to any of them lately, and what do they tell you? What do the Democratic senators tell you?
GRAYSON: What do you think, I‘m their confessor? No.
MATTHEWS: OK. You ever call up a Democratic senator and say, why don‘t you do this by reconciliation?
GRAYSON: What makes you think they‘re not going to do it?
MATTHEWS: They‘re not going to do it.
GRAYSON: What do you know that I don‘t know?
MATTHEWS: Because they have refused to do it because they cannot get past the filibuster rule. The United States is different than the House. You‘re allowed to talk as long as you want in the Senate, unless you get cloture.
GRAYSON: Not with reconciliation. Reconciliation is 51 votes, not 60 votes.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean, reconciliation? You can‘t create a program through reconciliation.
GRAYSON: You can create an amendment through...
MATTHEWS: Nobody‘s ever done one.
GRAYSON: The bill has already passed with 60 votes.
MATTHEWS: Name a program.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, just name me the program that‘s ever been created through reconciliation. Name one, one.
GRAYSON: As I said, tax cuts for the rich was...
MATTHEWS: That‘s not a program. That‘s—under reconciliation...
MATTHEWS: ... you‘re allowed to do two things, change fiscal numbers. You‘re allowed to raise taxes or cut programs‘ spending. You cannot create something.
GRAYSON: You‘re saying that. You don‘t know that. Nobody else thinks that.
MATTHEWS: I just spent three years on the Senate Budget Committee when I was kid. Let me tell you, you can‘t do it.
And you can ask—by the way, have you asked any senator this question, this program—this plan you have?
GRAYSON: I‘m in the other place. I‘m in the House, not the Senate.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you run for the Senate and try to—that‘s why you‘re not in the Senate.
GRAYSON: Oh, that‘s why I‘m not in the Senate. OK, now, I understand.
MATTHEWS: In the Senate, you have to get 60 votes.
GRAYSON: OK. Well, we got that clear.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think the Democrats fought like hell to get 60 votes? Why do you think they really—the president and everybody else is dying over the fact they lost Massachusetts? Because it didn‘t matter? You think they‘re all crazy over there, but you‘re smart?
GRAYSON: No, I didn‘t say that.
What I‘m saying is that everybody has been talking about reconciliation, and nobody has had the guts to do it.
MATTHEWS: Name a United States senator that is willing to do this.
You keep talking about it.
GRAYSON: I think that‘s what you will probably see at this point.
MATTHEWS: Want to bet?
MATTHEWS: Do you want to bet they‘re going to do this? In other words, they killed themselves to get 60 votes, but now they‘re going to say, all we need are 50, and have Joe Biden break the tie?
GRAYSON: They shouldn‘t have killed themselves to get 60 votes. This is something they could have done six months ago.
MATTHEWS: This is netroots talk. This is outsider talk.
MATTHEWS: And you‘re an elected official, and you know you can‘t do it. You‘re pandering to the netroots right now. I know what you‘re doing. You are pandering.
GRAYSON: You are wrong. This is something that we talk about the leadership in our caucus meetings every week.
Tell me how you convince the United States Senate Democrats, 59 of them, to do what you want them to do. How do you change their minds? Because they have made up their minds.
GRAYSON: They want to pass the bill.
GRAYSON: The only way to pass the bill now is to use reconciliation.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And they‘re going to do this?
GRAYSON: I think they will.
MATTHEWS: When will they do this? Because I want to write this down. When are they going to do something that has never been done before, create a program through this reconciliation process?
GRAYSON: You know, they have used reconciliation time and time again. You‘re saying create a program, as if that‘s something that is dramatically different from everything else the Senate does. It‘s not.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me tell you, the purpose of reconciliation is to take measures, cutting taxes, or raising taxes, or cutting spending, to reconcile actual government spending and tax policy with previous legislation that you have passed.
You haven‘t passed a bill to create a health care plan.
GRAYSON: When did you become a Senate parliamentarian? Did I miss that?
MATTHEWS: Well, I worked over there for many, many years. And I worked for the speaker for six years. I worked 15 years up there.
MATTHEWS: And I know what I‘m talking about. And you ask anybody in the Senate right now—go call the Senate Legislative Counsel‘s Office and ask them if you can do this. Go ask the parliamentarians if you can do this. You haven‘t bothered to do that.
GRAYSON: No, the leadership—my leadership has done that. And my answer is yes.
MATTHEWS: OK. This is just a moot point.
OK. So, in other words, there‘s going to be a health care bill and it‘s going to be passed by reconciliation? You predict that?
GRAYSON: I think that there will be an amendment passed by reconciliation. We already have a bill passed. We just have to merge the two bills.
MATTHEWS: And when will this happen, so that we will get this thing done and we will stop arguing about it?
GRAYSON: Thirty days or less.
MATTHEWS: Thirty days or less, we will have a health care bill passed through the process of reconciliation?
GRAYSON: I believe so.
MATTHEWS: You believe so?
GRAYSON: And I certainly hope so, because America need it.
MATTHEWS: Do you predict it? Do you predict it?
GRAYSON: I think it‘s the most likely option at this point.
MATTHEWS: This is the problem, Congressman, in this problem.
MATTHEWS: Every night, we deal with two worlds, the real world of Congress that has to do things and get things passed, and this outside world represented by the netroots and other people out there, like yourself, who play this game, and it doesn‘t get done.
GRAYSON: What are you talking about? I sit in meetings with the Democratic Caucus week after week.
GRAYSON: You talk about netroots, netroots, netroots.
I‘m telling you, this is what we‘re talking about. This is what the leadership is telling us.
MATTHEWS: OK. We will make a side bet. It‘s not going to happen.
Anyway, Congressman Alan Grayson, a true believer who believes you can get things done by willing it to get done.
MATTHEWS: Up next: a radio kerfuffle between Arlen Specter and Michele Bachmann. Place your bets. What is she doing, by the way, on a Philadelphia radio show? Is this going in after Arlen?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First, remember Michele Bachmann, that Minnesota congresswoman who told us here on HARDBALL that the media should investigate all Democratic members of Congress for possible anti-American attitudes? Well, here she is getting into a kerfuffle with Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I asked you a question as to what you voted for, and you didn‘t say anything.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: I voted for prosperity.
SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. I will stop, and you can talk.
SPECTER: I will treat you like a lady. So, act like one.
She said, “I voted for prosperity.” Well, prosperity wasn‘t a bill, wasn‘t...
BACHMANN: Well, why don‘t we make it a bill?
SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Don‘t interrupt me. I didn‘t interrupt you. Act like a lady.
BACHMANN: Well, I think I am a lady.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she has said...
SPECTER: Well, I think you are, too. That‘s why I‘m treating you like one.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the Vikings aren‘t playing the Eagles this playoff season, but that was pretty rough.
Next, is Hillary in it for the long haul? The secretary of state herself answered the question on a PBS special set on—to air in full this Wednesday. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, PBS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see how tough the job is.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you imagine yourself doing all four years, and, if asked, doing it for another four years?
CLINTON: No, I really can‘t. It is just...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No to what, all four or eight?
CLINTON: The whole—the whole eight. That would be very challenging.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
CLINTON: But, you know, I don‘t want to make any predictions sitting here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Actually, that‘s the way Hillary Clinton is in person.
She‘s very news.
But is that news? I don‘t know. For her to say she intended to serve as secretary of state for two terms would have been presumption.
Supposed she had said to that interviewer, I‘m going to stay for eight years? It‘s really up to the president to decide that.
Now for the “Big Number” today.
This afternoon in Ohio, the president came out swinging. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I won‘t stop fighting for an economy where hard work is rewarded. I‘m not going to stop fighting until we have jobs. I won‘t stop fighting to open up government. I will not stop fighting for you. I won‘t stop fighting. Never stop fighting. Fighting. Fights. Fight. More fights. Fighting. Fight. Fighting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: All in all, at least 14 uses of the word fight or fighter. Can‘t call that a coincidence. President Obama used the word fight 14 times today—tonight‘s very telling “Big Number.”
MATTHEWS: Up next, that‘s big Supreme Court decision on campaign finance changes the game of politics completely. Wait until you hear this. It gives corporations free rein to spend billions of dollars, if they have them, on campaigns to help the guy they like or don‘t like. What can we expect from this brave new world of corporate power? And can Republicans really cry foul over judicial activism by liberal judges, when, in this decision, you saw reversal of decades of precedent?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
SCOTT COHN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Scott Cohn with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Another big sell-off on Wall Street today, with the Dow having its worst week since March. The Dow Jones industrials lost 217 points, more than 2 percent. The S&P 500 off 25 points, that‘s a drop of 2.25 percent. And the Nasdaq down 60 points, that‘s 2.5 percent lower.
China, the banks and Bernanke creating a triple threat of uncertainty today. China‘s stronger-than-expected economic rebound has investors worried about what steps the government is going to take to manage inflation there. Meantime, the Dow Jones bank index fell 2 percent to a six-month low this week. Investors are still unnerved by President Obama‘s vow to crack down on risky trade practices.
And a successful reconfirmation for Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke now looking less and less like a sure thing. Democrats are scrambling to lock in a 60-vote supermajority to insure his confirmation to a second term.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Well, remember how conservatives used to hate those close 5-4 Supreme Court decisions? Well, they like this. By 5-4 on Thursday, the Supreme Court voted to change finance—campaign finance rules that have been around for decades. What does it mean for the future? Who lines? Who loses?
Attorney Ben Ginsberg was the national counsel for the Bush presidential campaign in 2000 and again in 2004. Fred Wertheimer is the president of Democracy 21, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group focused on money and politics.
Fred, the way I read this thing, it means corporations can spend as much money as they want, as much they have got, and can get past their stockholders to knock off a politician they don‘t like, or get one in they like.
FRED WERTHEIMER, PRESIDENT, DEMOCRACY 21: To knock off a politician who is not prepared to vote for their interests.
This is a disaster for citizens. It gives corporations a predominant role on the outside in buying influence, in corrupting...
WERTHEIMER: ... decisions.
MATTHEWS: How far does it take us back, Fred? When could you do this before?
WERTHEIMER: In—this take us back more than a century.
The effort to prevent corporate wealth being used in federal campaigns started in 1907. It was strengthened in 1947. It‘s a century of history thrown out the door. It‘s three Supreme Court precedents overturned by the most radical decision we have ever seen in the campaign finance...
MATTHEWS: You guys used to hate 5-4 decisions back in the Warren days. They were not really good law. Now you‘re giggling because you have thrown out all restraint on corporate power over American politics by 5-4.
BEN GINSBERG, FORMER BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: I wouldn‘t describe it as a giggle -- 5-4 is beauty in the eye of the beholder. I think we ought not to be quite so afraid of free speech breaking out.
MATTHEWS: By—do corporations have voices and souls?
GINSBERG: Corporations—corporations and unions have points of view that are part of the political debate.
What the First Amendment is based on is the marketplace of ideas, with lots of voices singing loudly. You have some problems with this decision because of the way the system now becomes, but it‘s not because of letting people speak.
WERTHEIMER: But this isn‘t—this isn‘t free speech. Corporations have all kinds of ways of speaking.
This comes down to whether corporations can corrupt government decisions by basically threatening elected officials or candidates with unlimited expenditures if they don‘t vote the right way, from their standpoint.
Now, that‘s been prohibited for a century. And all of a sudden this court comes in here, with no track record before it, throws out three decisions. And the only change in circumstance that‘s occurred is the new makeup of the court.
So you‘ve got new court members, and if that‘s the way Supreme Court decisions are going to be made, then we‘re going to see the court decisions change every week.
MATTHEWS: -- can give how much money to a candidate?
GINSBERG: As of now, you can give 108,000 dollars a year.
MATTHEWS: No, actual hard money, federal money.
GINSBERG: Federal money, a total of 108,000 dollars a year.
WERTHEIMER: Per candidate, 2,400 for a primary ---
GINSBERG: A total of 108,000 per year per individual in an election cycle.
MATTHEWS: -- you can do?
MATTHEWS: How much can you give to a particular candidate?
WERTHEIMER: Twenty four hundred per election.
MATTHEWS: But the corporations, under this ruling, can give any amount—
GINSBERG: Not give, spend.
MATTHEWS: Suppose somebody doesn‘t like Barbara Boxer and they represent the United whatever—United Fruit, if they‘re still around. And they want to give a ton of money to get rid of Barbara Boxer as senator; they can do it, right?
WERTHEIMER: You mean like individuals have always been able to --
GINSBERG: Not give, spend.
WERTHEIMER: Individuals have always been able to spend unlimited amounts. What the court said was that you can‘t distinguish between an individual and a corporation or union.
MATTHEWS: So I can give an unlimited amount of money to the person running against Barbara Boxer?
GINSBERG: No. You can spend. You can spend.
MATTHEWS: Can you guys keep it simple?
WERTHEIMER: We‘re agreeing here.
MATTHEWS: -- to help a candidate get elected, to pay for TV ads, they can‘t do it, but a corporation—
GINSBERG: Yes, they can. An individual can spend an unlimited amount of money on ads about an election candidate.
MATTHEWS: Just one candidate.
GINSBERG: Yes. They can do independent expenditures in unlimited amounts now.
MATTHEWS: So I can pick a candidate, as an individual, and give all I want to help them win?
GINSBERG: Absolutely. Not to them, you can spend it on them.
MATTHEWS: Buy ads for them?
WERTHEIMER: You can on your own buy ads.
MATTHEWS: You can?
GINSBERG: The courts said the corporations—
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t people do that instead of giving to candidates then?
WERTHEIMER: Some do. But most haven‘t, since they‘ve been able to do it for a long time. Look—
MATTHEWS: I admit I‘m wrong. Maybe it is fair. In other words, this really is just a big—huh?
WERTHEIMER: Corporations and individuals are not the same. Corporations don‘t vote. They should not have the same kind of capacity to influence our elections. You use an example, I‘ll take one, AIG. Let‘s suppose AIG is mad at you because you weren‘t willing to bail them out. They‘re now free to take you out.
MATTHEWS: Is that true?
WERTHEIMER: -- with five or 10 million dollars. And every corporation, banks, drug companies, insurance companies—
MATTHEWS: How about all the energy that don‘t like the cap and trade can kill it, right?
GINSBERG: Unions are far more organized today than corporate America. They‘ve been spending money on unlimited independent in their own particular ways. And this—the court said that individuals and corporations should be on an even field.
MATTHEWS: So this basically kills McCain/Feingold, right?
WERTHEIMER: No, not—it kills a part of McCain/Feingold. It doesn‘t kill McCain/Feingold‘s prevention of soft money.
MATTHEWS: Sounds like a lurch to the right, isn‘t it?
GINSBERG: I‘m not sure if I would agree with that. I think you‘ve got a problem, as Fred was starting to say, candidates and political parties are now the softest voices in the political process.
MATTHEWS: I have learned something I never knew, that an average person could go to a network like this and spend all the money they want advocating some candidate.
WERTHEIMER: But it hasn‘t happened. It hasn‘t happened.
MATTHEWS: Like Donald Trump‘s, I like this guy—I‘ve never seen this happen. Anyway, I‘ve learned something tonight. Ben Ginsberg, Fred Wertheimer.
Up next, who loses the most in Scott Brown‘s victory this week? It might be Sarah Palin. All of a sudden, she has company on the Republican hot list. Well, political hot list. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Two of the Republican party‘s most charismatic members right now are Sarah Palin and newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown. Could either be the 2012 presidential candidate? Here‘s Senator-elect Brown at his press conference on Wednesday. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think you‘re presidential temper?
SEN. SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS: Listen, I don‘t want to be disrespectful, but I have had no sleep right now. I haven‘t even been down to Washington yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Today, Sarah Palin appeared on Oprah Winfrey and was asked what her new job at Fox News means for her political future. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, “OPRAH”: This means that you‘re abandoning any future presidential bid? Or does this mean that you‘re creating a platform where you can be even more visible, and just gearing up for politics in the future? And the answer is?
SARAH PALIN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I‘m not closing any door that maybe I find open in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Joining me now, “New York Times” columnist Charles Blow and the “Washington Post” White House reporter Anne Kornblut.
Charles, you first. It seems to me that the Democratic party, historically, goes with the hot hand, as we say in basketball. Kennedy in ‘60, McGovern in ‘72, Carter in ‘76, Clinton in ‘92, Obama in 2008. They go with the guy who seems to be the hottest, the youngest, the coolest. Republicans picked the guy whose turn it finally had come around to, whether it‘s Nixon in ‘68, Dole in ‘96, Bush Sr. in ‘88, and then, of course, McCain—Dole again in ‘96, and then McCain, by the way, in 2008. They wait around. If you lose a few times, they give you a shot.
Democrats give you a shot when you‘re shot. Look at the Republican parties. Suppose they start acting like Democrats and run Scott Palin—rather Scott Brown. I‘m sure there‘s a Scott Palin somewhere. Scott Brown.
CHARLES BLOW, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Listen, I mean, you‘re asking us to pick—
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking you to do yourself harm here.
BLOW: I know you are. I know you are. And we‘re three years out. It isn‘t going to happen. I think we have to see how this Tea Party thing shakes out within the Republican party. It may be a different, more energetic, more fleet footed, agile party come 2012. They may want to take a bigger risk.
I don‘t see that right now. I just saw a poll on Palin out last week. Most Republicans don‘t even want to see her run. So I don‘t see it now. And as far as Scott, all I know about the guy is he‘s trying to hawk his daughters. I don‘t know anything about him.
MATTHEWS: Oh, come on. Never mind. Let me go back to Anne. Anne, we all know the cycle here. By the way, they all start running next January, a year from now. Barack Obama has a big announcement on that freezing cold day out in Springfield, Illinois, in ‘07. So this will be ‘11. They do start two years ahead. Your thoughts now about who they are going to do. Are they going to go with the hot hand? Is there any chance it will be Palin?
ANNE KORNBLUT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Now, we started the day after the last election.
MATTHEWS: OK. Fair enough.
KORNBLUT: This has been going on since then. I think the question you ask is a perfect one, which is who would the establishment candidate even be for the Republicans at this point? Maybe Mitt Romney, I guess. Is it really his turn though? It‘s not like he‘s been in the Senate a long time or—he was a governor.
In some respects, Palin is as establishment as they are going to get. She was on the ticket. By the logic of the 2000 race, she‘s the one who was last on a ticket and might run again. I think in that formula, that‘s good news for Palin. I think Scott Brown is obviously going to be the flavor of the moment for a little while. But once he gets down here, he‘s going to be under a kind of scrutiny he hasn‘t ever been in before. We‘ll see how long his star lasts.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with Charles and Anne for more of the politics fix. Back in a minute to finish up the week. We‘re going to talk about President Obama‘s new populism. He‘s acting like a candidate again. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is not about me. This is about you. I didn‘t take this up to boost my poll numbers. You know the way you boost your poll numbers is not do anything. That‘s how you do it. You don‘t offend anybody. I‘d have real high poll numbers. All of Washington would be saying what a genius.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Charles Blow of the “New York Times,” and “The Washington Post‘s” Anne Kornblut. President Obama today was out in Ohio. He spoke like he was on the campaign again. What do you make of this, Anne?
KORNBLUT: He has to. He‘s got to do something to turn this around. I think he‘s probably previewing the State of the Union a little bit. In the “Washington Post,” we have a new poll out about what really what went on in Massachusetts. It will be in tomorrow‘s papers. People are frustrated with the direction in Washington. So he‘s got to turn this, like he did in that clip, back to the voters and away from him.
MATTHEWS: But, Charles, reality bites here. People didn‘t like his health care bill. They voted against his candidate up there in Massachusetts. Very liberal state, a very conservative candidate won. It‘s reality, isn‘t it? Can he change that with a good speech or two?
BLOW: Well, not with a good speech or two. But with a different kind of direction and tone from the White House and from Democrats. Listen, the Democrats went to sleep after they won in November of 2008. That‘s a problem. Into that void swept the Republicans, the right wing, and they became the energy. The pendulum of energy swung in their direction and Barack Obama and the rest of the Democrats sat back and let that happen.
They cannot afford to do that. People are now voting out of anger, voting out of frustration, not necessarily for something, but against something. And he needs to give people a reason to vote for—to be with him, and not just be against him.
MATTHEWS: Well, Anne, the question is can he propel his agenda forward by being negative, by blaming Washington, attacking Washington, attacking business? Does that propel him forward? I know it sounds popular, but will it propel what he wants to get done done?
KORNBLUT: I don‘t know that it will actually make things happen on Capitol Hill, but it‘s always popular. People running against Washington, even Washington insiders. Nobody has ever lost an election running against Washington, running as an outsider. I would fully expect to see him turn that back again, yes.
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s eating the seed corn if he runs against what government can accomplish for people. Charles, if you don‘t believe in the possibility of government, I don‘t see any reason to be a Democrat? Do you?
BLOW: I don‘t think that‘s what he‘s doing. I think that what he has to do is recapture the momentum and to better articulate what it is that he wants to do, why he‘s doing it, what it costs. And I think in that clip it was really important to say what it costs to have an aggressive agenda.
MATTHEWS: Remember that old line, I‘m here from the government and I‘m here to help you? The skepticism with which people greet that, will that work? Can he change that around? Can he get people to believe in what he‘s doing again? That‘s my question. Charles and then Anne?
BLOW: I think yes. I don‘t believe in lost causes. I think that—
I actually think that he has a pretty good agenda. And I think that if he can articulate that agenda and get people to buy—get people to even understand it—the health care bill, most people don‘t understand it. That goes a long way.
KORNBLUT: I think Charles is right, that as a Democrat, he can‘t run against government, but he can run against the current system that isn‘t working in Washington, the lack of bipartisanship. He did that so well during the campaign. There will be no better opportunity than Wednesday night, the State of the Union. We keep referring to every speech he gives as the most important speech of his career. Well, this really is the most important, at least of the last few weeks.
MATTHEWS: I agree. I think it sets direction for the country. It‘s got to have a certain trumpet on Wednesday night. Thank you so much. Here on MSNBC, of course. Charles Blow, “New York Times,” Anne Kornblut, “Washington Post.”
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.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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