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updated 2/12/2010 12:02:47 PM ET 2010-02-12T17:02:47

Guests: Savannah Guthrie, Robert Bazell, Andrea Mitchell, Anne Thompson, Pat Buchanan, John Harris, Bill Richardson, Andrea Mitchell, Robert Bazell, Christina Brown

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  How‘s the former president?  This is HARDBALL. 

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Bill Clinton has been hospitalized in New York City, as we have been reporting.  He underwent a procedure to replace two stents in one of his coronary arteries.  The former president is not in any life-threatening condition. 

He went to the hospital under his own power after a visit with his cardiologist.  His daughter, Chelsea, is with him at the Columbia Campus of New York Presbyterian Hospital and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headed to New York right now. 

President Clinton, who is 63 years old, had successful quadruple bypass surgery back six years ago in 2004. 

A statement released by his office, the former president‘s office, says he is in good spirits and will continue to focus on the work of his foundation—that‘s the Clinton Global Foundation—and Haiti‘s recovery efforts of which he‘s at the forefront. 

NBC‘s Savannah Guthrie is at the White House with the latest and Bob Bazell is NBC News‘s chief science and medical correspondent. 

We want to go first to Savannah with the president, and President Obama‘s role with regard to all of this. 

Is he in touch with the former president?  What‘s been going on where you‘re reporting? 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, of course, the president had a regularly scheduled meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this afternoon.  That meeting went on as scheduled and then after that, the president was told by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel about the former president being in the hospital. 

We don‘t know whether or not President Obama has spoken to any members of the family since learning that news. 

As you mentioned, Hillary Clinton on her way to New York City now.  She was supposed to leave for an overseas trip tomorrow night.  That‘s now been postponed but at this moment is still expected to go on probably a departure from Washington on Saturday. 

As you know, the former president had been here at the White House recently because of the work on the Haiti relief efforts with former president George W. Bush who also released a statement this afternoon saying that he had been in touch with Chelsea Clinton and that of course he and Laura Bush‘s prayers were with the family. 

So as best as we can understand it, the former president, according to a hospital source, had not been feeling well the last couple of days, called his cardiologist and said he wanted to come in.  That first doctor‘s appointment was actually supposed to be yesterday but then got postponed. 

He decided to postpone it.  He came in today and they decided to go forward with this stent procedure.  Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Savannah. 

Here is a statement from former president‘s office itself.  “Today, President Bill Clinton was admitted to the Columbia Campus of New York Presbyterian Hospital after feeling discomfort in his chest.  Following a visit to his cardiologist, he underwent a procedure to place two stents in one of his coronary arteries. 

“President Clinton is in good spirits and will continue to focus on the work of his foundation and Haiti‘s relief and long-term recovery efforts. 

“In 2004, President Clinton underwent a successful quadruple bypass operation to free four blocked arteries.” 

Former president—well, we‘re going to go to Robert Bazell right now. 

Robert Bazell, thank you.  Again, we‘ve been reporting or you‘ve been reporting throughout the afternoon here.  Give us a full sense of what the connection is between having had bypass surgery six years ago and the placing of these two stents today in his coronary artery? 

ROBERT BAZELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF SCIENCE & HEALTH CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, the connection is former President Bill Clinton has coronary artery disease and that means he has a buildup of plaque, the stuff that contains cholesterol, in his arteries and it keeps building up. 

For some reason, they haven‘t been able to control it with medications even after he had the bypass.  He has not had a heart attack and a heart attack occurs when that plaque ruptures and causes a complete disruption of the blood flow to the heart. 

So he‘s had these two procedures which are called revascularization, increasing the blood flow.  This is a diagram of how the stent works.  A tube is placed in the heart and that piece of metal is the stent and it reopens the arteries allowing flood flow to resume to the heart. 

This is such a common procedure, Chris.  One million Americans a year get this.  So almost everybody either had had one recently or certainly knows someone in their families who‘s had them on recently. 

There‘s been an enormous pushback in the death rate of heart disease in the last decades and because of procedures like this.  People used to die of heart disease in their 40s and 50s.  Now they die maybe in their 80s and 90s, but of course, it makes a huge difference in terms of the health of America. 

One of the great success stories of American medicine has been the treatment of cardiovascular disease, but there are some people like the former President Clinton, where you can cure one problem and the plaque keeps building up, and that is something that‘s either caused by genetics or possibly by a lack of exercise, but more likely to be just a genetic problem that doctors can‘t get under control with medication.  Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it‘s so fascinating because, of course, he is the former president and beloved by so many millions of people but also, he leads such a robust life.  I mean this guy—when you think of Bill Clinton, you think of a guy rounding into a room full of life, saying hello to everybody, shaking every hand in the room, giving autographs and then going off and doing important things every day of his life. 

If you were his doctor, if you were a doctor, and you were prescribing a treatment for him, would you say keep it up, Bill, or would you say go cool it somewhere and relax somewhere? 

BAZELL:  Absolutely keep it up.  I think the—there is a kind of stress that‘s been related to heart disease very repeatedly.  But that‘s the kind of stress of somebody who has lost a job and can‘t support his or her family. 

That kind of stress is well known to bring on heart disease but having an active life, being fulfilled, even if you‘re very, very busy, is not something that causes heart disease.  And I don‘t think there‘s a cardiologist who‘s going to tell this former president to slow down. 

He‘s going to be in the hospital overnight tonight for sure, maybe one more night, maybe not.  He may well go home tomorrow.  That would be standard procedure and he‘ll rest at home for a while to make sure that there isn‘t a re-closing of the artery immediately, which happens in a tiny percentage of the cases. 

And it‘s important to remember that former president—vice president Dick Cheney has had both of these same procedures and he‘s still living a very active life.  So—and we can see that not just with famous people but with people all around us in our own families and across the country. 

There‘s a lot of people who‘ve had these procedures who continue to be very healthy and active and there‘s absolutely no reason to think that Bill Clinton won‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s so interesting that some people, when they get the bad news, have a heart attack or have stents put in or something—a cauterization, which is serious, that they do change and others don‘t. 

Lyndon Johnson, when he was president—I‘m a student of history, as you know, and I—like so many of us are, and the fact that after he became—when he was taken out of office, he left office that last time, he replaced by Richard Nixon.  He lit up a cigarette right up there on the airplane and said I‘ve lived for the country all these years, now I‘m going to live for myself. 

And he didn‘t last more than, what, four or five years. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If you don‘t take care of yourself, you‘re going. 

BAZELL:  Yes, but it‘s very important and that‘s a really good analogy and he knew when he said that to everybody that he was going to die of heart disease because his father had it, and we know this runs in families.  But Lyndon Johnson lived in the era before there were bypass operations, before there were stents. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow. 

BAZELL:  Those just started, don‘t forget, in the ‘70s.  So in those times, there was nothing to be done for somebody who had progressive heart disease.  There was not statins to reduce your cholesterol levels.  There was no treatment other than for heart attack and Bill Clinton has not had a heart attack but there was no treatment other than bed rest. 

So we‘re really looking, with those two examples, of the progress that‘s been made in medicine.  We have now—now we have bypass surgeries, now we have these stents, all have one purpose, which is to reopen the blood flow to the heart and so that you can go on living a normal life. 

And if you haven‘t had a heart attack, and Bill Clinton hasn‘t had a heart attack, that means there was no muscle damage to the heart so there‘s no reason that his long-term outlook should be any worse than it was before but all that shows the progress. 

In Lyndon Johnson‘s day, it was just about the time, incidentally, my father got a heart attack so I remember it very well, it was—there was nothing to be done.  You just died of your heart disease.  People that were called cardiac cripples in those days in the 1960s because they would have repeated heart attacks, damage to their muscles, and live so and so. 

Now there are these treatments that are available and we see Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney and others who are not so famous undergoing them all the time. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s fascinating.  So if you‘re Bill Clinton today and you‘re getting good health advice and good medical treatment, you‘re basically on a path—there we see him running.  Stay in shape, don‘t have too many burgers, don‘t give up and don‘t get some fatalistic attitude that this is all genes, that this is something you‘re condemned by. 

BAZELL:  Absolutely.  And be aware of the symptoms, which clearly he was.  I think he—the symptoms weren‘t so bad that—don‘t forget, we had a big snowstorm here in New York on Wednesday, which was probably the reason that he put off his visit to the cardiologist that was planned out for a long time. 

He was probably feeling a little bit short of breath and it got worse.  We were just speculating on that.  So he decided to take him in and do this procedure called a cardiac catheterization, where they inject dye into the heart, and when they see that there‘s a blockage and they open it up with this—first a balloon and then a metal, a piece of metal called the stent. 

But all that—the Lyndon Johnson analogy is very important because none of that was available in those days and people just went off and died when they had heart disease of this kind. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Robert Bazell, thank you so much for joining us. 

Let‘s get back to the White House with Savannah Guthrie with the latest. 

Savannah, it‘s so interesting the way these presidents—well, our president today, President Obama, does increasingly keep up with the former presidents. 

GUTHRIE:  Well, yes, and they‘ve had a lot to talk about recently, of course, with everything going on in Haiti.  President Obama, of course, asked former President Clinton and former President George W. Bush to lead up the efforts, to coordinate aid efforts. 

And we talked about former President Clinton‘s active lifestyle, no more so than in these last few weeks.  He‘s been to Haiti and made those visits.  Those are tough visits, obviously.  The conditions are not—are not very accommodating and so he‘s been through that. 

And I think, you know, that may be one of the reasons he was feeling somewhat run down.  But there‘s no question about it.  President Obama has talked to former President Clinton over this last year.  They had lunch in New York City and they—you know, they do keep in touch. 

He‘s not somebody that chats on the phone with President Obama very much.  He‘s not an informal adviser, they don‘t want to overstate it, but they do have a good relationship.  And needless to say, former President Clinton‘s wife, Secretary of State Clinton, is a key adviser here. 

And as I said before, was just at the White House today.  Had that meeting 3:30 this afternoon, the meeting went on as planned.  She left and it was after that that President Obama learned about the former president‘s hospitalization. 

MATTHEWS:  You know it‘s so interesting from a political point of view, not just a medical point of view, but today the news—it reminds me, and you, Savannah, as well.  It seems that the amazing role that this coalition has played in our political life the last couple of years, the appointment of former senator now secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to that incredibly important position as our foreign minister. 

The presence of the former president—we‘re looking at him right now and watching his medical treatment right now.  The amazing role he plays in America and world life.  And it‘s been kind of an interesting domestic as well as foreign coalition.  The Democratic Party is united because of this coalition. 

GUTHRIE:  Oh, no question.  In fact, when the history books are written it may well be that people think that choice of Hillary Clinton, which we forget now was so surprising at the time, may have been to be one of the best strategic decisions that President Obama made because he obviously eliminated a potential political rival as he went forward. 

You know, the way aides say it here, he always considered Hillary Clinton for the most basic reason.  It‘s because he thought that she would be excellent in that job.  And knowing how much they face domestically on their plate, he wanted somebody who was very, very strong in foreign policy, who not only had the chops in terms of policy knowledge, the smarts, the quick study, but also somebody who had her own cache and her own high profile. 

So there‘s no question, she‘s a very close adviser here. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  Thank you so much, Savannah Guthrie, at the White House, and Robert Bazell, our medical and science correspondent. 

We‘ll have much more on President Clinton throughout this hour. 

And later, the Republican senator who could hold the keys to jump-starting health care reform, a big story coming up.  We‘re making some news tonight with Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. 

Wait until you catch his interview.  We just taped it right before this broadcast.  It‘s news.  We‘ll be right back after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  The Haitian people, despite sporadic outbreaks of violence, have been remarkably calm and remarkably positive in the face of unimaginable loss. 

Today, when I was in the hospital, the biggest hospital, and people in the hospital beds outside, this guy sits up on his bed and he says, “Welcome back, President Clinton, God bless you.” 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That was former President Bill Clinton in Haiti after last month‘s devastating earthquake.  Tonight, the former president is in a New York hospital, Columbia Presbyterian, after getting two stents put in his coronary artery. 

His office says he will continue to focus on the Haiti recovery.  In fact, they put that statement out right after the procedure.  Very gung ho positive statement coming from the former president‘s office right after that procedure. 

And late today, we had this statement from former president, George Bush III, that‘s—George W. Bush, quote, “President Bush spoke to Chelsea Clinton this afternoon and was glad to hear that her dad is doing well and that his spirits are high.  President Bush looks forward to continuing to work with his friend on Haiti relief and rebuilding.  President and Mrs.  Bush send their prayers for his speedy recovery.” 

NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell with us now, along with MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan. 

You know—and the Politico‘s John Harris.  There he is, John Harris.  He‘s author of one of great books of Clinton, “The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House.” 

I want to hear from all three of you. 

Andrea, one of the most interesting stories ever is going to be the appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and with her, this interesting coalition, I think I‘d call it, of the Clintons, in keeping the Democratic Party united at home, keeping the country united abroad and actually giving a lot of strength to this new president. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  After a bitter campaign and a campaign in which Bill Clinton seemed to hold whatever animosity there was more than Hillary Clinton and vice versa, the Obama camp against—

MATTHEWS:  Those were his Irish side, I think. 

MITCHELL:  It was a nasty campaign, let‘s face it. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MITCHELL:  He was more passionate about this in some ways than his wife. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  She was talked into it by Barack Obama.  He reached out to her.  She was persuaded to join the—the administration.  It seems to me, from all reporting that I do and that my colleagues do, that it is the perfect role for her.  And by doing this, he‘s brought her in and also Bill Clinton. 

Bill Clinton recently, visiting President Obama privately one-on-one, going to the Senate Democrats and to the House caucus, and arguing with them about why they needed to vote for health care, helping in ways that would you not have expected. 

MATTHEWS:  He has been a good soldier, Pat, from day one.  No problems, no distractions and more than that a positive influence in terms of the political mocks are saying, look, if you Democrats blow it on health care, you will have blown it, no matter what the nuances are.  You better play ball here. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, you know, I think all three have handled this extraordinarily well.  That was an enormously big play by Barack Obama.  I felt he should have picked her for vice president, but did he picked her for secretary of state, there was concern, even on her part, we read from “Game Change” about Bill. 

And a lot of folks said, good heavens, Bill is such a large figure. 

But he has handled this perfectly.  There has been no problem whatsoever.  She has had a—I think a fairly tough time, because you‘ve got all these czars, or whatever they are, these various areas of the world, but she‘s handled herself extremely well. 

So I think it‘s been a real success all around.  And you were right, Bill Clinton, after some real bitterness, I think, about how he was treated, the accusations of racism, all that nonsense, he has come out to be a solid, good soldier in Barack Obama‘s corner, really a lieutenant commander on his behalf. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Yes, and I think so.  Let me go to John Harris, who I really respect your book, “The Survivor” about Bill Clinton‘s amazing ability of survival.  Let‘s talk about the whole equation tonight. 

There he is getting two stents put in.  This is routine in modern medicine.  It‘s the wonder of modern magazine the way we deal with heart disease.  It‘s astounding how good these doctors are with the catheterization and how they handle it.  No threat to his life. 

But his ability to deal with this heart condition, after having a quadruple bypass, and then going out and not retreating into private life, not sitting around and reading or keeping up with events, but being the events.  Pretty extraordinary. 

JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO:  No.  There‘s no question about it.  And it‘s somewhat of a surprise, I think.  The sort of transformation in his personal habits.  You know the image we have of him dating back to the 1992 campaign is Bill Clinton knew—man of the people, stopping at a McDonald‘s, like fighting a little bit of a paunch. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HARRIS:  He‘s been kind of a health nut since then, by all accounts.  He doesn‘t jog anymore but he—as I understand it but he does walk regularly, really watched his diet so the title of the book is still good, I guess, for a while. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well—well, for many years, he was the sixth guy at five guys, right? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me -- 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  But this is a serious problem.  I mean, look, he has a progressive heart disease. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  He had four—four new arteries put in basically and now two of them have been reclogged or diminishing in size, so this thing is progressive.  The good news—

MATTHEWS:  How do you—I‘m sorry, that‘s new.  I didn‘t know that. 

Sure, I just thought there was the one artery that was developed. 

BUCHANAN:  No, he had a quadruple bypass. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  And then he‘s now—obviously something has gone wrong in one of these bypasses. 

MATTHEWS:  One is—it‘s narrowing.  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  If you declog -- 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s all we know. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, that‘s all we know but what that suggests is a progressive disease, although they got it early, and they set it up, and it took six year for this to happen. 

MITCHELL:  We should point out that he never, to this date, as far as we know, as far as the doctors have said, he‘s never had a heart attack as Bob Bazell—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s very important.  No weakening of the heart muscle itself. 

MITCHELL:  Muscles. 

MATTHEWS:  And this is something you hear about -- 

BUCHANAN:  Bursting, yes .

MATTHEWS:  The potential of the heart to pump blood is what a heart does. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And that ability is still there. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Hundred percent.  It‘s just a question -- 

BUCHANAN:  It‘s the artery. 

MATTHEWS:  This long-term progression, which has a lot to do genes and just the fates, of course. 

MITCHELL:  And one of the quick thing is that, although Hillary Clinton, as you would understand, rushed to New York to be there, Chelsea Clinton is already with him, she‘s just come from a meeting in the oval office with the president. 

She is still planning to go to the Middle East.  This is a big and very -- 

MATTHEWS:  He‘ll be back on his feet a day or two.  I think it‘s interesting. 

John, I want you to get more into this, don‘t be hesitant here.  There is a man here known as the comeback kid, because of his ability, perhaps he is always better in resilience than on the first shot. 

He was governor and he sort of blew it.  Then he came back and won four or five terms in a row.  He got—he made mistakes in the presidency. 

HARRIS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He came back.  He‘s now—I was saying he is almost a Joseph Conrad character, circling the globe, making up for the embarrassment of that impeachment, which is many—which is always going to be argued by historians whether that was fair or not. 

HARRIS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  But certainly something that he has had to deal with and he‘s dealt with it in big fashion. 

HARRIS:  Well, there‘s—there‘s no question about it.  Predating the presidency, all through the presidency, I would argue since the presidency, there‘s been that kind of cycle of disaster and recovery for Bill Clinton. 

On the one hand, it‘s part of his mystique.  That‘s why I called the book “The Survivor,” his ability to come back. 

Of course, it‘s enormously frustrating for his admirers, why does he end up doing things that mars his reputation and mars his legacy.  The latest frustration was a lot of people were disappointed in how he comported himself during the 2008 campaign. 

A number of graceless statements.  But as you point, he does always keep coming back.  He has comported himself well with a lot of discipline and I think a lot of grace during Obama‘s presidency, even though I think he still has some frustrations that he‘s not consulted more closely by this west wing. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, your thought, Andrea? 

MITCHELL:  My other thought was that we really saw when he went to North Korea.  He knew better than anyone on this earth how angry he was at Jimmy Carter for going in North Korea, not briefing the White House, not coming out, going public without -- 

MATTHEWS:  Back during his presidency. 

MITCHELL:  Back in 1993.  1993 or 1994.  And he therefore—not only went to North Korea and circled very carefully to make sure that the president wanted him to go, that Al Gore requested him to go, that it was not getting in her turf.  But then when—and brief them before doing it. 

MATTHEWS:  Got to go.  Andrea Mitchell, thank you so much.  Pat Buchanan, as always, thank you.  John Harris, it‘s great to have you aboard. 

HARRIS:  Thanks. 

MATTHEWS:  The author of “Survivor.” 

When we return, we‘ll get a live report from the hospital up in New York where President Clinton is spending the night.  I think this is somewhat optional but he‘s spending the night anyway after getting two stents placed in a coronary artery. 

Back with more after this 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Former President Bill Clinton is hospitalized tonight at Columbia New York Presbyterian Hospital.  He had two stents placed in his coronary artery after suffering some discomfort in his chest over the last couple of days. 

NBC‘s Anne Thompson is now outside the hospital in New York and joins us. 

Anne, thank you for being out there.  What can you tell us about the president‘s condition after getting these stents put in this afternoon? 

ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, his spokesman, Chris, says that he is in good spirits after undergoing this procedure, which we understand was not life threatening.  At least his friends don‘t consider it life threatening. 

And apparently, this has been a couple days in the works.  A hospital source tells us that the former president called his cardiologist on Tuesday complaining of chest pains.  Made an appointment to see him on Wednesday. 

Well, of course, on Wednesday, we had the big snowstorm here in New York so that appointment got canceled.  He went and saw his cardiologist today and it was during that visit that it was determined that he needed to undergo this procedure. 

And as you said, he had two stents placed into a coronary artery, stents that basically are these little wire mesh tubes that hold the artery open and allow the blood to go through and that should relieve his chest pain. 

We understand his daughter, Chelsea, is by his bedside.  And I‘m sure that‘s giving him comfort.  Most people who undergo this procedure spend a night in the hospital and then are released the next day.  But again, his spokesperson said he is in good spirits. 

And you remember that six years ago this is where the president—the former president came to undergo his quadruple bypass surgery. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the mood up there?  Is there a sense that this was routine or is there a sense that he was in danger?  What‘s the feeling around the hospital there as you stand there? 

THOMPSON:  Yes, you do not get the feeling that he is—that this is

you know, that his life is on the line.  It seems to be very routine, and other than the fact that we have all showed up and are creating, you know, some kind of security concerns, but Chris, if you hold on—oh, I‘m sorry, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we understand, just arrived at the hospital. 

She is not within my eyesight.  She went around apparently a side entrance and is going in here.  And so hopefully maybe we‘ll hear from her after she visits with her husband. 

MATTHEWS:  And Chelsea, the president‘s daughter, is already with him now.  Apparently at his bedside.  So this is going the whole family together now. 

THOMPSON:  Right.  Exactly.  And I think the other thing is, clearly he has felt, you know, some discomfort for a couple of days.  As you know that once you have had one incident of heart disease that it‘s something you become very attuned to. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

THOMPSON:  And that you pay attention to.  And we have seen in the last six years that he appears to be taking much better care of himself.  He‘s lost weight.  He looks healthier and he did the right thing.  Called his cardiologist and that‘s what you should do.  You feel discomfort, call the doctor and the doctor will make the decision. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Great reporting.  Thank you so much, Anne Thompson, who‘s up at Columbia Presbyterian right now where the—well, the former senator of New York and now the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has just arrived to be with her husband and their daughter, Chelsea. 

We‘ll have more on President Clinton doing well, apparently after getting two stents today at that New York hospital.  But up next, could there be a glimmer of hope for the whole country now?  Health care reform.  We are going to ask former—well, current, still Senator Judd Gregg in New Hampshire about the whole matter because he may be holding the key to it.  Senator Gregg, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We will have much more on the condition of former President Bill Clinton who is at a hospital in New York tonight after getting two stents placed in one of his coronary arteries.  But there is a glimmer of hope for a bipartisan planned to rescue health care reform itself.  Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire sent a letter to President Obama welcoming the idea of a bipartisan health care summit.  He says, he is ready to sit down and try to be helpful.  Could Senator Gregg find a compromise health care plan that wins the backing of other New England Republicans?  I spoke with Senator Gregg late today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Senator Gregg, I guess the big question is political before we get to substance.  Is it in the interest of the Republican Party that President Obama failed with his effort to reform health care?

SENATOR JUDD GREGG ®, NEW HAMPSHIRE:  Well, absolutely not.  No, it is in the interest of the Republican Party to put in place a plan that will bring down the cost of health care and make it readily more available and make our quality better in the this country, so that we can afford it.  I mean, we are on a path here to fiscal insolvency as a nation and a large part of the problem that we have relative to our finances as a country is driven by the cost of health care, especially in the Medicare accounts.  So, you can‘t address those unless you address them in a bipartisan way, in my opinion and as a very practical matter, we don‘t solve this, we are all going to be in the soup and we‘re going to end up passing onto our kids a country where their standard of living is less than ours. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the president won the election in 2008, he came into office last year.  He controls 59 seats in the u.s. senate, about the same proportion of the House of Representatives.  Should the ultimate health care bill reflect that pro-portion?  In other words, should this bill and would you accept a bill that was about 60/40 with a democratic slant?

GREGG:  Well, I don‘t look at it that way.  The way I look at it is what we need is a health bill, which is going to bend the—which is going to accomplish what the president wanted.  He wanted three things.  He wanted to make sure everybody had access to health insurance.  He wanted to make sure that the cost of health care went down, not up.  And the cost of government health care went down not up and then if you had your own insurance, you got to keep it, you didn‘t lose it.  I‘m 100 percent for all three of those initiatives and I believe that the direction we should take. 

And unfortunately, both the senate bill and the house bill failed miserably on three of those initiatives.  There are still 20 million people uninsured plus, it bent the health care cost curve up and it added $2.5 trillion of new spending to the federal government and a lot of people estimated in the tens of millions, were going to be forced out of their private insurance onto this exchange.  So, I think we can do a lot better and I think we can do it in a bipartisan way and I think we can accomplish much of the goal—much of those—a large percentage of the goals that the president seeks, my goal being number one to keep this country from going into bankruptcy over the cost of health care. 

MATTHEWS:  If the president‘s plan to use a metaphor were a car, would you want a new car or would you try to take some things off of it, put some more features onto it?  Is it something that has a core of strength to it or does it has to be taken apart completely and start all over again?

GREGG:  Well, that is a tough analogy but the engine of the car was horrible.  I would never have used it, because it expanded the government too dramatically.  I also didn‘t like the wheels on the car because they basically suggested that we should move down a road of government basically interference and dominance of the health care delivery system and move us out of the private market in my opinion, but there were parts of the car that I might have wanted to take out of the car, maybe the sound system or something.  You know, the ideas that you should significantly adjust Medicare and there was significant savings propose in Medicare, 60 democratic senators voted for that.  Now, unfortunately they took those savings and used they them to fund a brand new entitlement, which is outrageous. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

GREGG:  I mean, that was outrageous. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Deficit reduction.  Let me ask you.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGG:  The way should have gone to making Medicare more solvent.  Should have gone into a Medicare solvency fund.  That was a huge number, by the way. 

MATTHEWS:  The way a lot of people talk about this or their certain reform elements they talked about the president, pre-existing conditions shouldn‘t prevent you from being covered, would you like something like that?

GREGG:  Absolutely. That insurance reform ideas, I think there‘s consensus across-the-board on those, also selling insurance across state lines is important.  At one point, myself and Tom Harkin had agreement on how you would encourage companies to pay people for living healthier lifestyles and give them an incentive to do that through paying them cash.  Unfortunately, that was dropped in the senate bill but it was actually in the health committee bill.  So, things like that you can reach agreement on it.  And that is what we should do, we should step back, look at this and pick out the things we know we can reach agreement on, and there are bunch of things we can reach agreement on.

MATTHEWS:  Remember the old days, Walter Cronkite, he was so respect, he was able to bring Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem by simply asking the right question and getting an answer.  If you had an arbiter, someone to come in like mandatory arbitration and you were sitting there as the republican leader, or speaking just for yourself as the Senator of New Hampshire, could somebody broke with this deal in public?  Because, that is what it seems like the president is talking about.  Some kind of big summit meeting at Blair house in a week or so, where you sit down, he was a republican, some other republicans and he was with some others and actually hashes it out in public?  Is that possible?

GREGG:  Oh, that is a tough question, Chris.  You know, the way Washington works.  Once you start floating ideas, they are immediately attacked by all the different interest groups before the ideas can be brought to fruition. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

GREGG:  So, I guess, it‘s very hard to work an idea into a final resolution because even before—right at the starting line, they shot to death by the different interest groups.  I do think—I don‘t know what this meeting is going to be about whether it is going to be about political theater or whether it is going to be about political substance.  But if it is going to be about substance, what we should do is basically, start out with a white paper that is blank and then have people put up their concepts on that white paper, so what they think we need to do and a lot of different areas.  For example, I would throw up tort reform.  I would throw up, you know, abuse of lawsuit reform, I would throw up reform in an allowing employers to pay more to their employees who live healthy lifestyles.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

GREGG:  I would throw up the Dartmouth plan which says basically you reward providers for quality instead of quantity.  I would throw up a whole series of those things and see if we couldn‘t get at least a conceptual agreement around maybe five, six, ten of those ideas and then move from there.  The big idea is, you are not going to get conceptual agreement around. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

GREGG:  You know.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGG:  Or something like that.

MATTHEWS:  I go back to my first question, you are not going to get a republican plan out of a democratic president, right?  He is not going to sign on to Judd Gregg‘s health care plan.  He is asking you to find the amendments and the changes, substantive, central or peripheral that you would find that would allow you to join the bill.  I‘m going to ask you this question.  If you were to join and a couple of other senators would join, would you feel constrained to stay with your caucus? 

Now, I understand what happened with the president.  The president‘s point of view, I understand is, he couldn‘t get three republicans because he couldn‘t get ten.  He couldn‘t get ten because of your party‘s—the pressure on your party to stay very conservative and members don‘t like to move over to the liberal side of things.  Is it possible, even conceptually, for two or three senators to break from the pack and join the president?

GREGG:  I think it is possible for a fair number of conservative senators, like myself, be willing to sign onto a bill that unalterably bends in the odd year the cost of health care and uses Medicare savings to make Medicare solvent.  There is extraordinary fertile ground there.  We are talking not hundreds of billions but trillions of dollars of potential adjustments in the unfunded liability and Medicare just by doing what the democratic senators voted for in the senate and using that money instead of creating new entitlements to make Medicare solvent.  That could be the linchpin, I think of a massive—not massive but significant support for piece of legislation from our side of the aisle, I hope.

MATTHEWS:  So, thank you so much for joining us.  It is a sign of hope that you are willing to talk about a possible compromise between your position, a Conservative Republican position from New Hampshire and that of this president‘s.  Thank you so much, Senator Judd Gregg, of New Hampshire for joining us.

GREGG:  Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think Senator Judd Gregg made some news there, Senator from New Hampshire.  We have more by the way, coming up in a couple of minutes, we get back here, from Former President Bill Clinton about his hospitalization up there in New York City, he seems to be doing well.  He‘s going to spend the night but he doesn‘t really have to, we are going to be joined right now in a moment by New Mexico‘s Governor, Bill Richardson, who is served President Clinton‘s cabinet in a number of capacities.  This is hardball only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has now arrived at Columbia New York Presbyterian hospital where her husband, Former President Bill Clinton is spending the night, after getting two stents placed in one of his coronary arteries.  The Former President is doing fine, and he‘s said to be in good spirits.  Those phrases came from his staffer.  New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson joins us now by phone, he was Energy Secretary for the President Clinton.  Also, Ambassador to the United Nations. 

Governor, it‘s so great to have you.  You are one of my favorite political figures in this country, I‘m glad you called us up tonight.  What do you think about the president?  He really is the survivor, he‘s going through another one of these procedures and I guess he is going to be fine.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: (via the telephone):  Well that is great news.  I saw him about six weeks ago in New Mexico.  He came down for—to do the eulogy of a former new Mexico Governor, Bruce King, who had passed away.  And he looked good.  He gave a great speech.  He was moving well.  He looked healthy.  One thing he did tell me was that he had just come the same day, he was going to have dinner with his wife in Washington that evening.  It seemed that he was moving around a lot, that he was traveling a lot. 

Obviously, being the U.N. envoy on Haiti, being very active with the Clinton initiative, you know, his schedule probably hasn‘t got him to slow down.  So—but he looked good.  I‘m delighted he‘s in good spirits, he is in good shape.  You know, we had that difference during the campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

RICHARDSON:  I won‘t say we totally patched things up but we had a good conversation at this funeral.  And you know, we kind of made up a little bit.  So, I‘m just hoping he is fine.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about, you know, remember that old book, “What Makes Sammy Run”?  What do you think makes Bill Clinton keep up this pace?  This guy has won all the roses, he‘s the President of the United States for two terms, he‘s been the governor for five or six terms.  He is up there and yet he keeps moving.  What is it about, do you think that keeps the man on the move?

RICHARDSON:  Well, he wants to continue to make a difference and he is doing that, with the Clinton initiative with his work on aids, with his work on Haiti, with his work on revitalizing the American economy, with his foreign policy.  You know, he is hyperactive.  He has always been that way.  He always doesn‘t like to stand still.  And here is a guy who just in the day he was in New Mexico was in three states and he was looking forward to a dinner with his wife who had just come back from a foreign trip.  So, it‘s a very hectic lifestyle, but that‘s Bill Clinton‘s makeup. 

He has always been like that, as a governor, as somebody that was two-term president, as somebody that is trying to stay active with the Clinton initiative, with the special envoy for Haiti.  I can tell you, Chris, going to a place like Haiti with all the emotion, with all the tiredness, physical tiredness, the heat there, seeing all that devastation, I mean, that can get to you and possibly, that was a contributing factor.  So, I hope he is in good spirits.  I understand he is.  I think this is a procedure that‘ll be successful, that he‘ll get back going again, but I‘m delighted with the news that it seems he‘s back with his good spirits and hopefully he‘ll be out soon.

MATTHEWS:  You know, what I find fascinating, is this, I mentioned it a while ago on the program.  I‘m a Political Analyst and this is what I do for a living and I was looking at how the coalition really between this former president, we‘re looking at him now in some file footage here and the current president has really been a formidable uniter of the Democratic Party.  You and I remember how divided the party was, the democrats were, when you had Ted Kennedy in the senate and Jimmy Carter in the white house, a moderate democrat fighting with a liberal democrat.  You could have had the same kind of schism, it seems to me, had the Clintons says, stay out of this deal?

RICHARDSON:  Well, I do believe that President Clinton as he‘s gotten out of the presidency, this real, you know, he was also, Chris, a bipartisan president.  Clinton really did work with republicans.  I think you can see a lot of bills where he combined like NAFTA, like welfare reform that required bipartisanship.  So, I think him connecting with President Bush and President Bush want is something that he‘s always done.  And successfully.

MATTHEWS:  How about his connection with President Obama?

RICHARDSON:  Well, yes.  I mean, they‘ve been very close, they‘ve been very supportive.  They understand, they‘ve become very good friends and, you know, President Clinton is a trooper.  That‘s one thing you can say about him.  He‘s a team player.  He thinks long-range.  He cares about the country.  And here‘s a case where, you know, possibly intensive travel, a lot of very exhausting trip to Haiti, you know, may have slowed him up a little bit but thankfully he‘s fine. 

MATTHEWS:  You were at the U.N. for those years.  Let me ask you about Bill Clinton as a world leader.  Let‘s get outside the United States.  I have a sense that he‘s beloved in two parts of the world.  One, would be Africa and the other part would be south Asia and maybe there are other parts of the world.  He is—they don‘t have this Monica thing out, once you get out of the United States.  They don‘t talk about that, they just talked about him in a totally 100 percent way, don‘t they?

RICHARDSON:  That‘s right.  I was his U.N. ambassador Chris, and despite the fact at the time if you recall, we weren‘t paying our dues and America was not well thought of, in that sense that the U.N. President Clinton was loved.  I remember we‘d do events when he‘d address the General Assembly, the Africans, especially the south Asians would turn out.  They‘d want to see him, they‘d want to touch him and then Clinton‘s interest in those third world issues like aids, like development assistance, like the Sudan, like women‘s issues, were really connecting with the United Nations, so he was enormously popular with the 185 countries of the General Assembly despite the fact that if you recall the Congress was holding back the dues that the u.s. owed to the U.N. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, sure. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you have a tough job there.  I‘ll tell you, one guy is going to hear from tonight, he‘s going to hear from Nelson Mandela, his buddy.  What a friend to have. 

RICHARDSON:  Surely.

MATTHEWS:  Imagine having that figure as your buddy like he does. 

RICHARDSON:  Well, I‘ll bet you that‘ll really cheer him up because I remember President Clinton and he is probably the human being he most admired in the world.  So, I hope President Mandela calls soon.  I don‘t know what the time is in South Africa. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, don‘t we all admire him most.  Thank you so much, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico.

RICHARDSON:  Thank you very much, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  When we return—anytime, thank you—much more on President Clinton when we come back.  You‘re watching hardball.  Always on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We have Andrea Mitchell joining us right now.  NBC‘s Chief Science and Health Correspondent, Robert Bazell as well.  Let me start with Andrea, who‘s up there right now at the hospital?

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Well, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton has arrived.  Hillary Clinton left Washington after meeting with President Obama.  She rushed to New York, so she is there.  She is postponing only by one day, her departure for the Middle East and, in fact, they had a lot of down time, 20 hours of down factored in.  So, she‘s going to do her complete schedule and we‘re being guided to the fact that, that is an indication he is not at risk.  That she is still going to the—very important meeting. The other thing is that President Obama called Bill Clinton in the hospital, so he‘s obviously alert, has talked to the president.  He‘s got his daughter there.  He‘s got his wife there. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go to Robert Bazell for an update on the medical condition.  It seems like it‘s now, it‘s beyond—it‘s, now—it‘s just a matter of that he‘s got new information about his heart condition now to go forward with, right, Robert?

ROBERT BAZELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, yes.  There‘s all every indication that he is going to be just fine and in about a half an hour from now, the doctors are going to come out and tell us that at a press conference.  So, the fact that he‘s moving along so quickly indicates that everybody believes the same thing, that yes, this is well under control.  He‘s going to be perfectly healthy and go back in a week or so, he can be able to go back to whatever lifestyle he wants.

MATTHEWS:  And your sense, what would you think the physicians would tell him, that some of this is genes, some of it is lifestyle, some of it is stress?

(CROSSTALK)

BAZELL:  Well, most—they tell that most of it is genes.  They are probably going to take a harder look at the medications he‘s on.  Some people can get their cholesterol way down with drugs and that‘s very important as well as the lifestyle issues but if you have too little of the good cholesterol, HDL, and that‘s a common problem, there are no drugs really to get it up very well.  And that could be the problem here.  I don‘t know that.  I‘m just speculating a lot about that. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BAZELL:  There are people who have heart conditions that are not cardiovascular disease, that are not treated well with medications and those are the people who have this  progressive disease where they have to keep going back for this revascularization, opening of the blood vessel treatments.  But again, he‘s doing well and there is no indication that his life is in danger or even that his future activities are in danger.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you so much.  Andrea, thank you so much for all of the reporting tonight and thank you, Robert, for so much medical information.  Join us again, tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more “HARDBALL.”

“Countdown” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.

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