Guest: Jack Conway, Errol Louis, Julie Menin, Errol Louis, Christopher
Dodd, John Harris, Douglas Brinkley
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Bunning throwing a shutout.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Mr. Bunning gives it to Washington. Senators both Democrats and
Republicans are attacking Jim Bunning for holding up a bill for
unemployment benefits extension and highway construction again today. He
says his fellow senators simply refuse to pay for such measures and are
just adding bill after bill to the national debt. We‘ll talk to a
Democratic candidate going for Bunning‘s Senate seat, Jack Conway, in just
Plus, the pressure‘s mounting on New York governor David Paterson to
leave office. “The New York Times” reports today that Paterson personally
instructed two state employees to contact the woman involved in a domestic
violence case against his top aide and even enlisted one of those employees
to ask the alleged victim to downplay the incident. It doesn‘t look good
when a governor‘s in the center of an effort to influence a domestic
And who‘s going to keep watch on Wall Street, and who should they
answer to? That‘s my question for Senator Chris Dodd tonight. He‘ll be
Also, what‘s all this focus on the press—or rather, in the press on
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Is he doing the job? Is he
keeping the president—is he helping the president with Congress? Is he
keeping the president focused on the key priorities he set when he ran?
And is he, most important, doing the job of protecting the president from
trouble? We‘ll get to that tonight.
And finally, Jay Leno makes a triumphant return to the “Tonight” show.
We‘ve got the jokes and we‘ve also got the audience numbers in the
Let‘s start with Senator Jim Bunning, who continues his stand against
the government borrowing another $10 billion for the latest spending bill.
Jack Conway is Kentucky‘s attorney general and a Democratic senator—
well, he‘s a candidate for Senate to replace Bunning.
Let‘s take a look at what happened today. Here‘s the Senate floor
today, where Republican senator Susan Collins of Maine tried to get past
Bunning‘s blocking. Let‘s watch what followed, and by the reaction from
Harry Reid and Bunning himself. Let‘s watch it all. It is getting a bit
theatrical in the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE: On my own behalf, and on behalf of
numerous members of the Republican caucus who have expressed concerns to
me, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate
consideration of the HR-4691.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I would hope that my friend,
the senator from Kentucky, would reconsider. There‘s—his point has been
made. It‘s been adequately made.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH), SENATE PRES. PRO TEM: Is there objection?
SEN. JIM BUNNING ®, KENTUCKY: There is. I object. And let me...
SHAHEEN: Objection is heard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. That‘s Jim Bunning of Kentucky. He‘s a lame duck.
He is not running again. He‘s not being back for reelection by his—
about to be former colleague and not his best friend in the world, Mitch
McConnell. This man‘s under attack...
JACK CONWAY (D), KY ATTORNEY GENERAL, SENATE CANDIDATE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... attack by his own party. He‘s being pushed out by his
fellow senator, Mitch McConnell. Do you like Mitch McConnell?
CONWAY: Well, I have a cordial relationship with him.
MATTHEWS: Well, do you think he should be—he should have muscled
Jim Bunning out of his seat?
CONWAY: No, I think the people of Kentucky should have been able to
decide that, and I think Senator McConnell...
MATTHEWS: You think he‘s been badly treated by his party?
CONWAY: Yes, he has.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about what happened today. Here he is,
Senator Bunning, standing up to his party and to your party, the Democrats.
Let‘s listen as he makes his case Jimmy Stewart-like, one might say,
against this $10 billion spending bill that hasn‘t been funded. Here it
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUNNING: We want a country that don‘t (SIC) owe everybody in the
world for our existence. I don‘t—and—and the question I‘ve been
asked mostly is, Why now? Well, why not now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, you wonder whether a guy on his way out, he‘s a
lame duck, hasn‘t been stricken by conscience that he never felt all those
years he was backing George Bush‘s latest war, for example. So I‘m a bit
skeptical. But I think he has a point. And I want to ask you what you
would do if you were a senator right now. There‘s a bill before the Senate
right now that he‘s holding up, and you‘re running against this guy.
CONWAY: Well, I‘m running to succeed him.
MATTHEWS: To succeed him. Well, you‘re running to get rid of—to
MATTHEWS: About $10 billion, $11 billion, a lot it‘s for highway
construction, for COBRA, the extension of health benefits, extension of
unemployment benefits, all good things that every member of the Senate
agrees should be paid for. But nobody wants to pay for it, but they just
want to borrow it. Should Congress continue to borrow for everything it
spends money on? That‘s his argument, it shouldn‘t.
CONWAY: Yes, where was Jim Bunning during the Bush years, when they
doubled the national debt? Where was Jim Bunning when he was voting
against pay-as-you-go just a few weeks ago? Now, all of a sudden, he has
pangs of conscience?
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m asking, do you think he does?
MATTHEWS: Why is he doing it now?
CONWAY: I think Jim Bunning...
MATTHEWS: Why is anybody on that Hill of hypocrites—nobody up
there spends the money. Look, we have a bunch of characters on Capitol
Hill, of senators, who will say yes to every spending bill, yes to every
tax cut, and when it ends up we‘re raising about $2 billion -- $2 trillion
in taxes and spending $4 trillion, which adds up to about a $1.6 trillion
deficit every single year now, they act like, How‘d that—whose deficit
is that? It‘s their deficit!
CONWAY: I understand. We need to cut spending, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. What would you cut? Here‘s the
federal budget. Tell me what you‘d cut.
CONWAY: I tell you what. Here‘s what you can do...
MATTHEWS: No, no. Here‘s the (INAUDIBLE) right here‘s the sheet of
all the government spending. Tell me how we reduce the federal deficit by
cutting the 1.6 deficit, in trillion dollars, out of the federal spending?
Where‘s your list?
CONWAY: OK. I understand. Let me tell you. I understand...
MATTHEWS: Use the list.
CONWAY: This is mighty small print, Chris.
CONWAY: Now, let me say this. The pharmaceutical companies wrote
provisions in the legislation over the last decade. There‘s $200 billion
in savings from letting Medicare use its full purchasing power...
CONWAY: ... $130 billion in savings by ending offshore tax havens.
Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning supposedly were behind the Conrad-Gregg
deficit commission, which I would have supported. All of a sudden, when
the president thinks it‘s a good idea, suddenly...
MATTHEWS: How much do your spending cuts add up to?
CONWAY: $330 billion...
MATTHEWS: Out of the $1.6 trillion debt we have.
CONWAY: I just listed $330 billion right there.
MATTHEWS: So how far...
CONWAY: We do have to get back to fiscal sanity, Chris. We do. And
you know, the Clinton administration...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go over them again. How do we cut down that deficit
again? How do we do it?
CONWAY: How do you do it? You end the offshore tax breaks. That‘s
$130 billion right there.
MATTHEWS: Offshore tax breaks, how do they work exactly?
CONWAY: How do they work? Well, we offer companies incentives to go
overseas and invest in job creation over there. They can take it as a tax
credit against their income tax here. And then you know else? We allow
them the offshore tax havens. And that‘s the type of thing that drives
people nuts. You know, we have...
MATTHEWS: And that would be money that would be raised here in this
CONWAY: $130 billion.
MATTHEWS: In other words, those businesses would come back to America
and pay taxes here, is that what...
MATTHEWS: You think they would?
CONWAY: Yes, sure. You think Citi‘s going to go offshore?
MATTHEWS: No, I think they‘re offshore for other reasons besides tax
benefits. They‘re offshore because it‘s cheaper wages. You know that.
MATTHEWS: You know that (INAUDIBLE)
CONWAY: Sure. Absolutely. But...
MATTHEWS: ... you‘re really talking about revenue that won‘t exist,
even though (INAUDIBLE)
CONWAY: Well, why are we going to allow them a tax break to go and
invest in jobs overseas? That makes no sense whatsoever. No sense
CONWAY: It‘s the type of thing that drives the American people crazy.
MATTHEWS: Good point.
CONWAY: And then $200 billion that we ought to be saving from
pharmaceutical companies that are not allowed to give us a discount because
of the way we wrote the part D benefit...
MATTHEWS: How does that work as a reduction in federal spending?
CONWAY: It works—it works in that the Medicare plan, CMS, can do
what the VA does and what the state Medicaid programs do, and that is to
use bulk purchasing to bring down the costs of...
MATTHEWS: And why isn‘t it being done now?
CONWAY: Because the pharmaceutical companies wrote a piece of
legislation in this most recent round of health care debate. The
pharmaceutical companies got in and they struck a deal, and they agreed not
to touch it.
MATTHEWS: So the Democratic Party controls the Senate. Why would
they go along with something like that? Why would your party do that?
CONWAY: I think you‘ve got to reach across the party aisle sometimes.
MATTHEWS: So your leadership is backing something you don‘t agree
CONWAY: On that particular provision, I don‘t agree with it.
MATTHEWS: So basically, you think that the government could save
money by doing what, by requiring mass purchasing of drugs by the
CONWAY: Bulk purchasing of drugs. We ought to have the deficit
reduction commission for an up or down vote. I could have supported that.
Listen, there‘s going to have to be some political...
MATTHEWS: And where has this been tried and succeeded?
CONWAY: What do you mean, where has it been tried?
MATTHEWS: Well, where have we tried to have bulk purchasing by
consumers, where the government funds that...
CONWAY: In the VA. In the VA, where you have 48 percent savings, in
state Medicaid programs. Listen, I run a Medicaid fraud unit as an
attorney general. And we have saved the taxpayers of Kentucky $100 million
MATTHEWS: So we can save...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get through the numbers again. You say we can save
how much money off the federal deficit? How much can you cut, as a
senator, if you could get your way...
CONWAY: On those—on those three issues I talked about...
CONWAY: ... that‘s $330 billion.
MATTHEWS: Good work. We want to hear here (ph).
Let‘s take a look at Harry Reid criticizing Bunning here today.
Here‘s your potential party leader going after Jim Bunning, the lame duck
senator that you would like to replace. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Now, my friend talks about the debt. He wants to make sure
that the debt doesn‘t go up. Where was he during the Bush years? Unpaid
wars, two wars unpaid for, taxes unpaid for, running up trillions of
dollars. But he‘s made his stand. I think it‘s wrong, as does the
American people, as does, I‘m sure, the people of Kentucky.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You see the problem here with the American people watching
this. Can you see the weakness in that argument of your leader? Which is,
his knock against Jim Bunning is not that Jim Bunning‘s not making a
reasonable statement, but that he should have made that same reasonable
statement against deficit spending when the president was a Republican.
CONWAY: I understand that, but...
MATTHEWS: See what I mean? In other words, when everybody gets on
the Hill, all of a sudden, they change to instead of doing the kind of
thing you‘ve done here, trying to develop ways to reduce the deficit, they
simply point the finger at the other party and they have a back-and-forth
enjoyment of, Oh, how come they didn‘t do it when those guys were in
charge? (INAUDIBLE) How about a better question to Harry Reid, How come
you‘re not doing it when you‘re in charge?
CONWAY: And that‘s...
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that a pretty good question?
CONWAY: That‘s a good question.
MATTHEWS: Yes. So...
CONWAY: It‘s the type of thing that drives the people of Kentucky
MATTHEWS: By the way, the people of Kentucky, what‘s their reaction
to Jim Bunning‘s statement against spending $10 billion more that they
haven‘t come up with the funding for?
CONWAY: Well, I think you have Rand Paul, who‘s running on the other
MATTHEWS: And he‘s with him.
CONWAY: ... and he‘s with him. And I‘m on the other side and I‘m not
MATTHEWS: And you think he‘s not—he‘s shouldn‘t be doing it.
CONWAY: No, I agree with Harry Reid on that point. Where was he?
MATTHEWS: Well, where are you now, though? Where are you now? Do
you think the government should be borrowing $10 billion more from abroad?
You‘re concerned about giving people tax breaks...
MATTHEWS: No! I‘m asking you. Are you happy about the fact that our
government—you‘re concerned about overseas reliance.
MATTHEWS: Are you happy about the fact that every time we sign a
check at the federal government now, it‘s basically a draw against our
debtor nations out there, the donor nations like China? Doesn‘t that
CONWAY: It does bother me...
MATTHEWS: That we have to pay our unemployment compensation out of
money we borrow today from China?
CONWAY: Yes, that does bother me.
CONWAY: These are extraordinary times. We do need to cut costs, but
we don‘t need to cut costs...
MATTHEWS: Do we need...
CONWAY: ... on the backs of unemployed people.
MATTHEWS: My question to you, bottom line, because it gets to what
Bunning‘s doing today—and everybody‘s making fun of Bunning. Do you
believe it‘s better—he says take the money out of TARP money, find other
places in the federal budget to draw this money, and you say it‘s better to
MATTHEWS: That‘s what...
CONWAY: I understand.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re against him. You say it‘s better to borrow.
CONWAY: I say it‘s better to borrow it right now and...
MATTHEWS: You know better, borrow it from abroad.
CONWAY: I understand that.
MATTHEWS: Even though your big way of raising money is to avoid
giving tax breaks for people doing business overseas.
CONWAY: These are extraordinary times...
MATTHEWS: So the very strength of your argument is undercut by your
current taking a position against the incumbent senator from your state.
CONWAY: And you know what...
MATTHEWS: ... inconsistency there.
CONWAY: He‘s acting in a very unsenatorial fashion.
MATTHEWS: But is there an inconsistency in your argument?
CONWAY: There is an inconsistency if we borrow...
MATTHEWS: In the fact that you want to borrow $10 billion more from
the Chinese at the same time you‘re campaigning on ways of not giving tax
breaks to companies who take jobs overseas. Your thoughts?
CONWAY: Well, I...
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking. I think you‘re pretty impressive, but I
think you‘re wrong about...
CONWAY: These are extraordinary times. These are extraordinary—
people in Kentucky are hurting. We have 10.7 percent unemployment. People
are out of jobs. They need this. They want to work. And so, listen, I
understand that this argument you‘ve got to go borrow it from overseas.
But we have to get back to fiscal sanity. But suddenly having pangs of
conscience right now, at this time, when you should have had them earlier,
I agree with Harry Reid on that on.
MATTHEWS: Well, you certainly do.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll see how Harry Reid does this election! Thank you,
Jack Conway. What a great name. He‘s running for Senate, and he‘s 4
points ahead of his opponent for the Democratic primary coming up in May.
Looks like a good candidate.
Coming up: “The New York Times” reports that New York governor David
Paterson had a much bigger role directing the effort to keep that woman
from bringing domestic abuse charges against one of his top aides. This is
trouble for Governor Paterson. He says he won‘t run for reelecttion, but
should he resign now?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. More questions swirl about New
York governor David Paterson‘s interference in a domestic violence a case
against one of his top aides. Today‘s “New York Times” reports that
Paterson personally instructed two state employees, one being his press
secretary, to contact the woman who accused his close aide of assault.
After the calls from one of the state employees and a conversation with the
governor himself, the accuser did not show up for a court hearing in
February and the case was dropped. “The Times” goes on to say that these
new accounts are evidence that Paterson, quote, “helped direct an effort to
influence the accuser.” How damaging is all this to Governor Paterson, and
could it mean criminal charges?
Julie Menin is the chairperson of Community Board One and a New York
cable talk show host. Thank you, Julie. And Errol Louis is a columnist
for “The New York Daily News.”
Errol, I want you to start on the news coverage of this story.
Anything breaking right now for tonight‘s story, anything new on this case
besides the fact that the two employees contacted the woman who stopped
being an accuser of assault after getting the calls?
ERROL LOUIS, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: Well, the latest appears to be
that the heads of the state legislature, of the state senate and the state
assembly, went and met with the governor today. They came out after lunch,
and of course, said that nothing of substance was discussed and nobody
asked him to step down. But the scuttlebutt was, of course, that that was
exactly why they went there. And there is talk that some legislators want
to start talking about impeachment.
So we‘re nowhere near out of the woods. And whether it‘s criminal
investigation or a political step like impeachment, we‘ve still got a
capital that is in absolute deadlock.
MATTHEWS: Julie, you know how bad this looks for New York. You had
Spitzer had the problems with the paid sex workers, and that was pretty
notorious. But he did get out quickly and I think he showed a bit of
class. Certainly, his wife did, in the way they handled it. It was over.
Good-bye, get out of here.
JULIE MENIN, NY TV TALK SHOW HOST: Exactly.
MATTHEWS: I‘m gone. Then you brought in David Paterson, the son of
Basil Paterson of New York legend up there, who came in with a pretty clean
record. He admitted he had had marital, what, whatever you call them,
infidelities, these days.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just kidding. We know what we call them. But that was
OK. People said fine with that. We‘re clean up front. So there was some
transparency. And now this. How does this fit in?
MENIN: This is terrible. This is a very bad day for New York. And I
think the governor really needs to be a bit more proactive here. We‘ve got
to remember that he directed two of his state employees, one being Marisa
Shorenstein (ph), his press secretary, to call Miss Booker, the victim of
the domestic violence. Why is the press secretary for the governor of New
York calling Miss Booker?
And the rationale that was given by the governor‘s office today was,
basically, because they wanted to get a public statement from Miss Booker.
The governor has no business getting a public statement from this victim,
and it‘s very, very troubling. And that‘s why I think you see women‘s
groups, such as the National Organization of (SIC) Women today, calling on
Governor Paterson to resign. He‘s got to get the facts out and he‘s got to
get them out quickly or he‘s going to be forever damaged.
MATTHEWS: Errol, this is one of the other added facts, is everybody
in America knows that Andrew Cuomo is gunning for that job. He‘s leading
in all the polls. He probably would have beaten Paterson in the primary, I
guess. And now he‘s in the position of chief law enforcer in the state,
and he‘s got to look at this case where there‘s criminality involved.
And what about this new wrinkle, a $40,000 Lexus SUV that was
purchased by the accuser right before she dropped the charges? What do we
make—is that something that Cuomo is looking at, do we know?
LOUIS: They are looking into it. And what I understand, in fact—
they—there‘s been no formal report yet, but it has been reported and the
sources are saying that the money for that probably came from a totally
unrelated settlement in an injury case, that she had the money from a
completely legitimate source to buy the car.
MATTHEWS: Yes. So there‘s no hanky-panky there, as far as anybody
MATTHEWS: ... that Cuomo‘s looking at it, he‘s not really looking at
it in depth?
LOUIS: Oh, no, he‘s—well, he‘s looking at it quickly because he‘s
got to get this all out of the way if he has any hope of starting his
campaign anytime soon.
MENIN: Well, that‘s really the key. And we also have to remember
that in New York state, we have an April 1st budget deadline. Most other
states in the nation go by June 1st. But here in New York, to add to this
dysfunction, we have April 1st. So people‘s taxes aren‘t even in, in time
for them to plan the budget. And it adds to the real level of concern
here. We‘ve got to get a budget hammered out. We have close to a $10
billion shortfall here in New York.
And is Governor Paterson so weakened that he can‘t really negotiate
with the assembly speaker and the Senate leader?
MATTHEWS: I want to mix it up here a little bit here.
It seems to me the New York media has always been something of a
pinball machine, to use an old mechanical reference. The lights are on.
MATTHEWS: You know, the bells are going off. You have to be ready to
live in that environment every hour at least.
Is Paterson able to deal with this heat right now, and this noise
level about—he said today, apparently—I read in the piece—that he
didn‘t feel good today.
Well, who would?
ERROL LOUIS, COLUMNIST, “THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: Well, yes, that‘s
I mean, look, there‘s—one lawmaker said, Chris, that he actually
longs for the days of ordinary dysfunction, because at least the word
function is in it somewhere.
LOUIS: And, right now, we have got nothing. We have got a bunch of,
in some cases, fairly well-paid state workers who are accumulating pension
time, and we‘re getting no closer to solving many, many different really
pressing problems right now.
MENIN: But we do have, Chris, an...
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. You‘re Andrew Cuomo and you‘ve had—let me give
Julie, I have got to move this.
MATTHEWS: Andrew Cuomo, everybody figured—I figure the guy‘s ready
for the job. He did a good job at HUD. He‘s doing a great job as attorney
general. And it‘s a great job to have these days, being attorney general,
catch the bad guys. You‘re in the news, always on the prosecution end.
Is this one time he should show restraint? Has he got to be careful
not to go for the kill here and be seen as the guy putting away the guy
that is in his way politically?
MENIN: Absolutely. I think he‘s got to tread very carefully here.
He‘s, first of all, got to wrap up this investigation very soon,
because he needs to announce quickly that he‘s running. So, I think...
MATTHEWS: Right. That‘s what—can he—can he take himself out of
the case, as attorney general?
MENIN: Well, he could. He absolutely could recuse himself. And,
personal, as a former regulatory attorney, I think he should consider
recusing himself, because he is self-interested here.
I don‘t know whether he‘s going to do that or not. But he‘s got to
wrap this investigation up quickly.
MATTHEWS: OK. Errol, you‘re shaking your head.
MATTHEWS: Can he get out—he can‘t get out of this, can he?
LOUIS: Not really, because the problem is, if he recuses himself, it
either goes to a special prosecutor appointed by the governor—that‘s out
of the question—or it goes to some—some—some fancy law firm here
MATTHEWS: What a pinball machine.
LOUIS: It goes to some fancy law firm billing 400 bucks an hour.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you, speaking of fancy law firms, Mort
Zuckerman running for the Senate? What‘s going on? Harold Ford pulled
himself out. The best thing he did in the whole campaign was the letter he
wrote to “The Times” today, Julie, saying why he‘s not running...
MATTHEWS: ... and how all the big shots in New York are terrible,
that the power players kept an honest race from occurring.
What did you think of ha?
MENIN: Well, first of all, I thought that this is actually good news
for David Paterson, the fact that Harold Ford is not running, because, if
Harold Ford would have run, it really would have been against—a mark
against the governor, basically questioning his judgment in appointing
MENIN: But I do think that we‘re going to see some strong Republican
We have got to remember there‘s obviously a very strong anti-incumbent
feel here, all across the country. And people that I talk to in New York
are particularly upset about the U.S. Senate health care bill, which would
sock New York State with an additional $1 billion in fees and cause the
closing of clinics all across the state.
So, whether it‘s Mort Zuckerman, whether it‘s Bruce Blakeman, whether
it‘s Dan Senor, these are the field of Republican candidates. And maybe
there will be someone that we don‘t know who will emerge.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that Campbell Brown‘s husband?
MENIN: That Campbell Brown‘s husband.
MATTHEWS: Well, it is getting so busy in this world, Errol.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know friend from foe here, colleague from subject.
LOUIS: One happy dysfunctional...
MATTHEWS: Your thought. Last word from you about New York. Go
LOUIS: One happy dysfunctional family.
But you know that part of the state. I think Gillibrand is going to
be no pushover. And those who think that they want to jump into the race
at the last minute are going to get a big shock from her.
MATTHEWS: Well, she wants to have lunch with me. I can‘t wait to
find out what‘s going on.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Errol Louis.
It‘s great to have both of you on.
MENIN: Thank you.
LOUIS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: New York just wakes me up, Julie Menin. It wakes me up.
MATTHEWS: Up next, our good friend Jay Leno is back on “The Tonight
Show.” We have got some of his jokes. We also have the numbers. He beat
the heck out of “Letterman” last night. We will have more of that, and
lots of political jokes from him, from Jay coming up.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. It‘s time for the “Sideshow.”
Jay Leno back in action last night. Here he was last night, his first
day back to “The Tonight Show.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)
JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”: Well, as you may
have heard, former Vice President Dick Cheney is doing fine, after
suffering his fifth heart—five heart attacks.
But the good news is, the former vice president is doing fine. And
his doctors said that sneer will be back on his face in no time.
LENO: President Bush said today he often turned to prayer during his
Hey, I think we all turned to prayer during his presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Jay, by the way, doubled “Letterman” in what we call
the demonstrators, the younger audience, grabbing a big young audience for
his first night back.
By the way, he‘s got Palin on tonight.
Now a blast from the past. Remember Mark Foley? He‘s the U.S.
congressman forced to resign in 2006 because of inappropriate contact with
underage male pages. Well, four years later, he‘s opened a furniture store
down in Key West—I‘m sorry—West Palm Beach, Florida, called—catch
this—Celebrity Consignment. He‘s put out for sale some old mementos
from his Washington days, along with some elephant-themed knickknacks.
He‘s a Republican, by the way. Another challenge to F. Scott
Fitzgerald‘s old line that there are no second acts in American life.
Finally, a story of light, harmless, yet undeniable irony. Bill
Clinton‘s spokesman has now confirmed that his former—well, his boss,
the former president, has called Tiger Woods to offer the golfer some words
Good for both guys.
Now for the “Number” tonight.
Thirty-nine House Democrats voted no, or nay, on the health care
reform bill back in November. Of those, how many say they‘re now open to
switching their nay votes to yea votes this time around, which would help
Pelosi get the 216 she needs? According to an Associated Press survey just
out, at least nine Democrats are ready to vote yea. You can bet they‘re
the most popular people in Washington on the Democrats‘ side of the aisle
At least nine Democrats open switching their nay votes to yea votes on
health care—tonight‘s big, important number.
Up next: Senator Chris Dodd is proposing a compromise with
Republicans that would create a consumer watchdog committee, but it would
be within the Federal Reserve. Would this put too much pressure on the
agency to go soft with the big boys? I will ask the senator when we get
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
He‘s coming up in a minute.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC
Stocks losing steam in the last hour of trading, giving back some big
gains, on weakness in the telecom sector—the Dow Jones industrial
average finishing just a couple of points higher, the S&P 500 adding 2.5
points, and the Nasdaq gaining a little bit more than seven points.
Tech giants Microsoft, IBM and Intel leading the retreat late in the
day. Flash memory-makers SanDisk and Micron Technology also finishing in
the red. Chipmaker Qualcomm one of the few standouts, after upping its
dividend and launching a $3 billion share buyback program.
Big automakers reporting today—GM kicked it off with an 11.5
percent increase in sales, about half what analysts were expecting, but
Ford posting a 43 -- that‘s right—a 43 percent jump in sales. That‘s
higher than expected and the first time Ford has outsold GM in nearly 12
Toyota saw sales fall more than 8 percent. That‘s not quite as bad as
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In a letter today to congressional leaders, President Obama outlined
four Republican ideas for Thursday‘s summit—or from last Thursday‘s
summit—that he says he‘s exploring right now.
They are Senator Coburn‘s suggesting to curb Medicare fraud by having
undercover investigators disguised as patients, the suggestion by several
Republicans to expand medical—medical malpractice reform pilot programs,
Senator Grassley suggestion to increase payment to doctors who treat
Medicaid patients, and Senator Barrasso‘s suggestion of expanding access to
to health care savings accounts.
Well, President Obama has also noted his proposal doesn‘t include
extra Medicare benefits for certain states like Florida. That‘s something
Senator John McCain had criticized at last night‘s—at last night‘s
summit—last week‘s summit.
Let me go right now to Senator Chris Dodd, who is up on Capitol Hill
right now. We just had a little misfunction there.
Let me ask you about—Senator, about these proposals.
Is this how we‘re going to have to do business as a country now,
with even the majority party, the Democrats now, having to favor some
Republican ideas, even when you‘re not going to get any Republican votes
for the bill?
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, I think it‘s important
that the—that the president—that was a very—it was very worthwhile
last week. I was part of that summit, Chris, as you know.
And I think, listening to ideas and offering to include some of them,
or to work on some of these ideas, is worthwhile. We did that, as you
know, last—last July, when I finished up a very long markup of our—of
Senator Kennedy‘s health care bill. And we included 161 amendments offered
by my Republican colleagues.
They, I think, made a very positive contribution to the bill.
Regretfully, they didn‘t vote for the bill coming out of committee. But I
think, if you can improve the bill and enhance the effectiveness of the
bill, that‘s worthwhile. So, I applaud the president for offering these
MATTHEWS: Why does it take a Republican to propose having people
check up on corruption in Medicare? You always hear these stories about
people abusing Medicare, grabbing whatever benefits and sharing them, or—
or exploiting them and fencing them?
I‘m not sure how it works, but I have heard there‘s so much corruption
in Medicare now. Why does it take a Republican to suggest putting people
undercover to catch it, sting operations?
DODD: Well, I‘m not sure that—you know, the author of it is not
In the past, I think people have been under the assumption that the
people who operate the Medicare program, or the people who operate the
Medicaid program is where the corruption resides.
DODD: That‘s not been the case.
And, so, it‘s always the people who are utilizing the system that have
been causing the problem. So, I think Tom Coburn‘s idea has merit.
MATTHEWS: So, who do you think—where do you think—by the way,
just to finish that point, where do you think the most corruption has been
in Medicare? Has it consumers who have abused it or have switched benefits
to other people somehow, I don‘t know, pills or whatever, or has it been
the facilities themselves that abused it?
DODD: I think the facilities...
DODD: ... if you had to say where the bulk of it resides, because you
and I never look. Even—you put aside Medicare for a second, Chris.
When you go out and have some sort of a physical problem or go to a
hospital, and they go through all the procedures, when was the last time
any of us who have insurance actually looked over the bill and said, well,
what does this item mean?
DODD: How much does that—why did that cost so much?
The assumption here that just the insurance is going to take care of
it, without ever questioning this—one of the things we do in the bill
is, we require a lot of transparency on these issues, so that people can
know what they‘re—what they‘re actually getting or not getting.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the Democrats, if you‘re going to have to come
up with the 50-plus votes even to do the reconciliation piece of this bill,
do you think that the Democrats are willing to do the heavy lifting against
the trial bar, to after the—the trial lawyers on malpractice, even if
you‘re not getting a single Republican vote for it?
DODD: Well, I think Dick Durbin, Senator Durbin, made an eloquent, I
think, case the other day at the summit about the dangers associated by
just eliminating the private litigation, of putting caps in these areas
that are too low.
The president has suggested, others have in fact, in the bill, trying
some pilot programs with states to see if we can‘t do a better job of
reducing the frivolous lawsuits where they do exist.
I think it‘s a major step forward. It needs some resources. The
president offered that today as one of the suggestions. And I don‘t—I
know of no one that objects to that. That makes sense. Even the trial bar
doesn‘t want to see frivolous lawsuits being brought.
DODD: But the idea you‘re going to wipe them out altogether doesn‘t
make any sense.
Look, one of the—we lose 100,000 people a year, Chris, because of
medical errors -- 100,000 a year because of medical errors in this country.
The idea that you‘re going to sort of excuse that or make it the exercise
or the—falling into those problems is going to be something you don‘t
have to pay a price for I think would be a mistake. So, having a sense of
balance about it makes sense. I think the president has done that.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the stock market, your area, your
bailiwick, trying to get some kind of consumer protection.
You talk about not understanding the bill you get at a hospital or not
paying attention to it. Most people don‘t understand what‘s going on
inside Wall Street. I don‘t. I don‘t know what derivatives are. I don‘t
get all that stuff. I trust the guy who advises me.
And the question comes down to, how do you house the consumer
protector? Is it right to put it in the Federal Reserve, where the
influence there is sort of a “Wall Street Journal” mentality? It‘s pro-
money. Can a pro-money organization, like the Fed, look out for the
DODD: Well, I think, Chris, the key issue here—and I have been at
this for 30 years on consumer protection. I wrote the consumer—the
credit card bill earlier this year. So, I care deeply about the issues now
for the elected time I have been in the Senate.
Where this is located is a debate that‘s going on back and forth.
What‘s really important are four points that I have been insisting upon
from the very beginning.
One, I want a presidentially appointed director of this operation. I
want it confirmed by the Senate. I want a separate funding source. And I
want it to have rule-making authority and enforcement authority. I‘m going
to insist upon those four points wherever this is located.
The debate about where it is, is not insignificant, but most
significant is, what powers will it have? Will we be able to do something
about what happened to consumers over the last few years? And that is, of
course, where mortgages and credit cards and a variety of other things,
abusive, fraudulent practices put many, millions, of our fellow citizens at
great risk in the country.
And this bill, in my view, needs to address those four critical
points. And I‘m going to fight for those points.
MATTHEWS: Why do Republicans, like Senator Corker, want to have it in
the Federal Reserve? Why do they want to house a consumer protection
agency within the Federal Reserve, which is really responsible for the—
you know, the—the quantity of money we have in this country, really?
It‘s the—it‘s controller of the amount of money we have.
DODD: Well, again, I will let Senator Corker speak for himself and others
on what they are advocating. Nothing has been decided, I will tell you,
first of all, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You used to be against this. Let me show you something
where you were against this, Senator Dodd. This is where you were against
having it housed in the Fed. Let‘s take a look at this picture of you
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DODD: I really want the Federal Reserve to get back to its core
enterprises, in a sense, to do what it‘s designed to do, monetary policy,
the dealing of obviously with a lender of last resort, the payment systems.
That‘s what they‘re designed to do.
We saw over the last number of years, when they took on consumer
protection responsibilities, and regulation of bank holding companies, it
was an abysmal failure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was Chris Dodd speaking there, saying it would be an
abysmal failure to have the Fed house a consumer protection agency. Your
DODD: No, no, Chris. Look, it was, no question about it. There,
of course, they never promulgated a single regulation. What we‘re talking
about here as an independent bureau, a division, however it‘s going to be
constructed, in whatever agency we‘re talking about—ideally what we did
last October was an independent one.
But the four points are the critical points: is it independent; is
it going to be confirmed by the Senate; is it going to have a separate
funding source; does it have independent rule-writing authority and ability
to have enforcement? Those are the critical issues. That didn‘t exist
under the previous system. We‘re arguing very strongly for something that
will include those four points.
MATTHEWS: You know the importance of these organizational charts.
You remember for years we fought to keep the Peace Corps out of the State
Department, keep it completely separate from the politics, right? So can‘t
you understand why somebody would want to keep—“Huffington Post,”
whoever, wants to keep this thing out of the Fed?
DODD: Well, I can understand why people have different points of
view on this. I‘ve got great committee members. I‘ve talked to all of
them about the ideas. So we‘re in the process of trying to determine
what‘s the best outcome to produce the bill.
There are other parts of the bill, Chris, that are very important.
One of the things in this bill we want to do—we never, ever, again want
to see some institution be called “too big to fail,” where it has an
implicit guarantee that the taxpayers are going to bail them out. We never
again want to have these exotic instruments which you talked about lack
transparency and accountability. We never again want to have a system
where there isn‘t an early warning system of systemic risk in the country.
This bill is a large bill. Consumer protection is very important.
But there are major, major other achievements in this bill that I think
we‘re going to be able to achieve common ground on.
MATTHEWS: Do you think as you leave public service—and I‘m a big
fan of yours—do you think it would be a good time to pass a law that
says, just a general rule, whenever your country—your company—there‘s
a mistake—your company gets a bailout, all the bosses have to leave?
There has to be some penalty automatic when a company has to get bailed
out. The big shots have to go.
DODD: Yes, one of the things we‘re talking about in this bill—
and again I‘ll reserve the final judgment until it‘s in. But we‘re going
to have a situation where you don‘t get resolution. If you fall into deep
trouble again, you‘re going into bankruptcy. You‘re going into
receivership. And all your leadership is going. We‘re going to make it so
MATTHEWS: People would love this. They would love it. People
would love it. Every time you get a nickel from the federal government,
the bosses have to go. No bonuses. No profits. Get out of here.
DODD: That‘s the best discipline. And that‘s a major part of this
bill. And there‘s a lot of agreement about that part of the bill. So I
know we‘re talking about consumer protection. Let‘s not lose sight of
other parts of this bill, which there‘s consensus developing.
And that‘s what really annoyed Americans the most. I‘m not going to
let this Congress end without us getting a bill that addresses those
issues. I think we have an obligation to deal with those questions.
Taxpayers were furious about that. I understand why we did it two years
ago. We ought to never, ever do it again, and particularly reward people
who got us into this mess as they did.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s a little early, senator, but Happy St.
Patrick‘s Day to you, buddy. Thank you for coming in. Thank you for
coming on my show. You‘re one of my favorite senators. Keep it going.
Thank you, Chris Dodd of Connecticut.
Up next, what‘s all this focus at the White House about the chief of
staff. He‘s getting a lot of ink. And I‘m not sure getting a lot of ink
when you work for somebody is a good deal. We‘ll get back into that in the
politics fix. This is a hot one. This is HARDBALL, coming up on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time for the politics fix.
What makes an effective White House chief of staff? For each president,
the qualities vary. So does Rahm Emanuel have what Barack Obama needs?
Joining me is the “Politico‘s” John Harris and historian—
presidential historian Doug Brinkley, who is author of “The Wilderness
Warrior; Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America.”
Gentlemen, thank you for being on. Let me go to John Harris for the
inside the beltway daily press look. Then I want to go to Douglas for an
historic look at this. Is Rahm Emanuel the man—or woman—or whatever,
he‘s not the woman—is he the right person, I should say, to be chief of
staff to the president we have right now? Looking at it from all sides,
you tell me first, John.
JOHN HARRIS, “POLITICO”: Well, obviously it‘s not for me to take a
MATTHEWS: Let me give you some standards. Is he doing a good job
getting his bills through Congress? Is he helping him keep focused on his
priorities? Is he helping the president avoid trouble? Is he keeping the
White House clean and avoiding the indignities that come to some White
Houses? Is he doing those objective jobs?
HARRIS: I think he‘s done a lot of those individual jobs well.
Obviously, the overall political health of the administration has been not
that great for the past couple of months, with health care foundering.
We‘ll see if the health care gets through. If it does, I think everybody
would suddenly take a new look at how well the Obama White House is doing,
in particular how well Rahm Emanuel is doing.
At the moment, with these questions in doubt, there‘s a big, big
debate, with people saying there are changes that need to take place in the
West Wing, and if so, should they take place at the top. Some want Rahm‘s
MATTHEWS: Who? Who? Who? I ask that because
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get some names. Anybody out there who is willing
to say—the guy from Illinois was speaking out against him in the Post
HARRIS: That‘s right. That‘s right. Then there‘s a whole lot of
background chatter, as you well know. You worked in—
MATTHEWS: I know there is. I‘m trying to figure out—
HARRIS: When you get the—the sort of background chatter gets
going, it can be really hard to tamp down.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he‘s stirring these positive pieces by Dana
Milbank in the Post, and the front page piece today by Jason Harowitz, the
main bar piece across the top? Do you think he‘s pushing these pieces? Is
that a fair shot at Rahm?
HARRIS: I doubt it. Rahm is many things. One of them is a smart
politician. I don‘t think these pieces are particularly helping him,
because they are making him more of the focal point, and they are enraging
a lot of other people around town, who don‘t think it is appropriate for
somebody who is—after all, it is a staff position, not a principle,
chief of staff—that say he shouldn‘t be out there making his case this
way. I doubt Rahm is.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve had staff positions. Let me tell you, John, I know
exactly the painful position of having positive pieces written about you.
It is not a smart thing to have it done. It is very painful with the boss.
MATTHEWS: It causes trouble at home with the boss. It seems to me,
Douglas Brinkley, that the most successful chief of staff in modern history
was Jim Baker. He was a Waspy elitist guy, but he was very good at knowing
-- as John just said, he was a staffer, even at a very high level.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: That‘s right. James
Baker was terrific. He also had the advantage of Nancy Reagan trusting him
fully, and Rahm Emanuel has that with Michelle Obama, too. I think we have
to remember these chiefs of staff aren‘t just guys slugging it out with
Congress, but you‘re having to manage a White House staff; you‘re having to
run the president‘s schedule; and you‘re in the trench warfare with the
president, day after day, hour after hour. So chemical friendship,
personality, bonding matters a lot for having a successful chief of staff.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to John on this. The question is, what‘s
happening? I saw Desiree Rogers is leaving. That tells me this president
is capable of making changes. She‘s not leaving because she was asked to
stay. She‘s leaving because she wasn‘t asked to stay, it seems to me.
Therefore the president—you lost Greg Craig. Now maybe it was Rahm
Emanuel that bounced him as counsel and brought in Bob Bauer. But the fact
is that there‘s movement going on. That tells me the president is open to
change. What do you think?
HARRIS: There‘s no question about it. Rahm Emanuel has a
constituency of one. I think he is on of those situations where for him to
go would be an admission that—of failure that they‘re not prepared to
embrace yet. Remember, early in the administration, people were calling
for Tim Geithner‘s head. Rahm Emanuel, as I understand it, was one of the
people saying, no, we can‘t get rid of Geithner because to do so would be
to admit we made a critical error in economic policy staffing.
I think Rahm might be in a similar situation, in some ways kind of
too big to fail, at least for now. I think Obama is likely to want to keep
the same team going into the 2010 election, rather than admit I screwed up
and we‘re getting rid of this team and replacing him.
MATTHEWS: Doug, it seems to me that—you know how the best
director wins best picture; the best picture is the guy that‘s best
director. Well, see if that works again Sunday night with the Oscars. If
you have a really good White House, you usually give credit to the chief of
staff. Of course, the president historically. If this administration
succeeds with health care, that‘s an—is that how you judge Barack
Obama‘s success of the boss? Or what kind of PR he‘s getting?
BRINKLEY: Look, a normal chief of staff, Chris, stays about two and
a half years. I agree completely with John Harris. There is no way in
hell Rahm Emanuel‘s going to be stepping down as chief of staff. He‘s
Barack Obama‘s alter ego.
The question is what kind of alter ego. Sometimes—you know,
Woodrow Wilson had Colonel House (ph) Sigmund Freud had to write a book
about their weird interactions with each other. You have chief of staffs
like Bob Haldeman with Nixon, who‘s just a thug.
Rahm Emanuel is somewhere in the middle. He‘s clearly one of the
president‘s closest friends. And they‘re going to run this together up
until the—I think for four years. Something like Andrew Card stayed for
five years, but remember, Karl Rove was ostensibly running the White House.
Rahm Emanuel has no real power contention within the White House. It‘s
Barack Obama and himself.
MATTHEWS: You know, gentlemen, back when somebody would attack me
when I was aide to Speaker O‘Neill, the speaker would very nicely say to me
in the back room, “what‘s that guy got against you?” I would say, it ain‘t
me he‘s aiming at, OK? Thank you, gentlemen, very much, John Harris and
When we return, my thoughts on Jim Bunning‘s one man blockade and
why he may just have a point. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with something nobody in this town
of Washington wants to hear. A good many years ago now, there was a
Massachusetts Congressman—Jimmy Burke was his name—who voted for
every spending bill that came along. He had an open government checkbook.
People wanted government to do things, he was all for it. Why not?
This friendly congressman also voted for every tax cut that came
along. Why not? People love tax cuts. So someone asked this popular
congressman how he wanted—if he wanted government to do so many things,
how could he vote for all those tax cuts? Why shouldn‘t I, he answered?
Today we have a Congress full of these guys, liberals who have lost
the guts to vote for tax hikes, conservatives who have lost the guts to
vote for unpopular spending cuts. Incumbents in both parties have just
become appropriators. That‘s why the government spends more money,
trillions more, than it taxes. Excuse me if I can‘t join the howling
masses of both parties now growling tonight at Senator Jim Bunning. The
guy is standing out there on the Senate floor and saying a simple, powerful
thing: if the Congress won‘t find money to pay for things like the
extension of unemployment compensation and highway reconstruction, purposes
that both parties agree are important, then when and for what will we
actually foot the bill?
If there‘s nothing that the American people find important enough to
pay for, does anything—does everything have to be borrowed from China?
Do we have to endlessly run up the debt to all those out there who are
still willing to lend the government of the United States money?
I‘m no fan of filibusters. They have only one purpose. That‘s to
wake people up to something they otherwise refuse to pay attention to. I‘m
talking about this growing willingness by our country to put everything—
I mean everything—on the tab.
Join us again tomorrow night, 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. Right now it
is time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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