Guests: James Clyburn, Joan Walsh, Mark Halperin, Robert Wexler, Chris Van
HOST: Targeting Democrats.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Base politics. It‘s getting even uglier out there. Angry opponents of
health care reform are targeting Democratic House members with death
threats. Some Democrats have had their office windows smashed. National -
Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine said today the Republicans
have stoked that anger and now he‘s going to make them own the bad
Plus, Senate Republicans are not giving up on killing the actual
health care bill itself. They‘re offering up amendment after amendment,
hoping to pass at least one of them and send the bill back to the House and
then out of existence. One proposal, no Viagra for sex offenders. Now,
who could be against that one? Republicans want to force Democrats to vote
against this kind of common sense measure, then attack them for it in
November. A great example, I‘d say, of politics for the purpose of
Next, the spoils of victory. America loves a winner, and President
Obama just got a big “W” on the board. Let‘s see what happens when he
tries to reform No Child Left Behind on education or he goes after the big
banks with financial regulation. Do Republicans look forward to being Wall
And Rudy Giuliani says just give Republicans a chance to reform health
care. Oh? You mean the way they did when they were in charge all those
years? That story‘s coming up in the “Sideshow,” where it belongs.
I‘ll finish tonight, by the way, with some thoughts about Vice
President Joe Biden.
We start, however, with the big story, health care politics. It‘s
getting dangerous. Joining me now is U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen,
Democrat of Maryland, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Congressman Van Hollen, these stories are growing. We‘ve got a lot of
them out there now. Congresswoman Slaughter had her office windows
smashed. Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford‘s office, the same deal. Windows
were smashed at DNC or Democratic headquarters in Rochester, New York, in
Pleasant Ridge (ph), Ohio, in Wichita, death threats to Congresswoman
Slaughter and to Congressman Bart Stupak, vandalism at other lawmakers‘
This doesn‘t look like it‘s going to stop, and it looks to me like
there‘s going to be more copycats as we get to the weekend, and then we
have booze on top of this craziness coming Friday and Saturday night. I
would expect more trouble from the red-hots on the right. Your thoughts?
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD), DCCC CHAIR: Yes, these are not isolated
incidents, Chris. You‘re seeing patterns. You‘re seeing this happen
across the country. You know, during the protests over the health care
bill up here on Capitol Hill, we heard a lot of ugly slurs. We heard a lot
of homophobic epithets thrown around. And that was outside the Capitol.
But unfortunately, some of that also took place on the floor of the
House, with the Republican member shouting out, “Baby killer.” And what‘s
happened here is the Republican leadership, instead of saying to its
supporters around the country, Calm down, that this is a time to try and
put down the flames, they‘re pouring more and more gasoline on the flames.
And that is irresponsible.
It‘s time that there be some adult supervision within the Republican
Party, that some Republican leader say this is not acceptable, that we can
disagree with one another without this kind of outrageous conduct.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s what your leader, your party, Democratic
National Committee chair Tim Kaine—he‘s, of course, the outgoing
governor of Virginia—he told The Huffingtonpost, quote, “They‘re going
to—they‘re going to own part of the slurs cast at members of Congress,
people vandalizing members of Congress‘s offices. Twice Republican members
of Congress sitting in the well of the House have behaved in rude and
outrageous ways. When it‘s OK for leaders to do the rude, outrageous stuff
like that, it sure sends a signal that the followers should do it, too.”
I get a sense that there‘s real license out there, Congressman, and it
began with that guy in the House who yelled, “You lie,” the guy from South
Carolina, and—you know, Wilson. And I just wonder whether—can you
smell it on the floor? Do you sense this derision, this contempt for the
president of the United States and the Democratic Party, that‘s gotten
almost to the point of this sort of, I don‘t know what the word,
primordial, it‘s so deep?
VAN HOLLEN: Yes, no, this is the same kind of thing that happened
after the “You lie” comment. There was a brief apology and then people
went out and tried to raise a whole lot of money off it. Just like the
“Baby killer” comment, the guy says he‘s sorry, and then he goes and put
the a YouTube video together to try and raise money off it.
The fact of the matter is, they‘re playing a very difficult double
game, or at least they were. They were trying to say, Look, we want to be
able to use this energy that‘s being fueled by some of the—on the far
right here, and yet we want to be able to try and distance ourselves when
They‘ve lost all pretense. These guys are united together. This is
now the face of the Republican Party. They have not taken responsibility.
They‘ve not led by example. In fact, they‘re doing the opposite. I mean,
they‘re becoming examples of irresponsible behavior themselves. And when
they do that, I think most Americans, whether you‘re a Democrat or an
independent or a Republican, say, Wait a minute. This is out of bounds.
There‘s a time for people to disagree in a civil manner, but this kind of
behavior‘s gotten out of control.
And I think the danger is the Republican Party has been so kidnapped
and hijacked by the right that they‘re afraid that if they criticize this
outrageous behavior, they‘re going to lose the support that they‘re now
banking on. But I think it will boomerang on them because the price of
getting the support...
VAN HOLLEN: ... from the far extreme right is to lose the sensible
MATTHEWS: You have people—Congressman Neugebauer from—he‘s a
real birther from down in—down in Texas. He‘s one of these guys doesn‘t
believe Barack Obama was born her, not one of us. He‘s gone all the way to
that extreme. He‘s the one that yelled the other day “Baby killer” on the
floor against Bart Stupak. Bart Stupak has gotten death threats.
Would you say that this incitement from the Republican leadership is
criminal? I mean, seriously. If people are going to have windows thrown
bricks at, if they‘re going to get their lives threatened, if we‘re getting
criminal behavior resulting from their incitement, is the incitement itself
VAN HOLLEN: Well, it‘s a very dangerous game, Chris. I mean, I don‘t
know whether—look, people have to draw their conclusions as they want.
But I think the big giveaway here is that they are not coming out and
forcefully condemning these statements, and through them...
VAN HOLLEN: Not just—they‘re not just being silent, they‘re also
making highly heated remarks that, obviously, in the case of “Baby killer,”
crossed that line. And so they have, in fact, joined in this kind of
activity. So people can characterize it how they want, but there‘s no
denying the fact that they are stoking the flames here and they are not
trying to separate themselves. In fact, they‘ve embraced the benefits—
what they consider to be the political benefits from these activities.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. I don‘t
know whether you put her on the fringe. I think she‘s close to it. She
certainly appeals to those people on the fringe. I don‘t know if she‘s or
not. But she‘s put out a map targeting Democrats with these crosshairs
over it, these red crosshairs, I mean, the kind you do with target
practice, I guess, where they, you know, a mounted—what do you call
those things, sight on the top of your gun. She‘s put these things out.
There‘s a picture of it out there. What do you make of that, her putting
out this picture of Democratic seats and where you got to target them?
VAN HOLLEN: You know, I really think that in this environment, that
that is crossing the line because it‘s not the folksy sort of, “You betcha”
kind of thing that, you know, she‘s trying to portray, at least she tried
to when she was running for vice president.
In this particular environment, I think it‘s really dangerous to try
and make your point in that particular way because there are people who are
taking that kind of thing seriously. We‘ve heard from a whole lot of
members who‘ve received death threats not just to themselves but to their
families. We had to have a meeting today with the Capitol Police to go
over security procedures.
And again, we should be able to disagree on the floor of the House and
we should be able to have emotional debates, but when it crosses the line
into threats to the lives of people and their families, this has gotten out
of control. And this is why someone—someone needs to step up on the
Republican side and say, Enough is enough, rather than trying to play this
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe this violent language and violent behavior is
the result of the fact that the polls seem to be switching against the
right, at least temporarily. Let‘s take a look. I know that you know
these polls. The new CBS poll has a 7-point swing under way right now in
favor of health care—it‘s still not the most popular game in town,
obviously, but the approval number‘s gone up dramatically, from 37 percent
to 42 percent, and disapproval‘s come down a bit.
Do you sense that out in your Maryland district, which I‘m quite
familiar with, since I live in there—do you have a sense that the
president has made his case this week, or is there a lot more selling to do
down the road for health care reform?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think both. I think the president has made his
case and I think he needs to continue to sell it and get that information
out there. But our members are sensing a big turnaround and boost on this.
It‘s reflected in the poll you mentioned. It‘s also reflected in the “USA
Today” poll. And people are beginning to feel it. I can tell you that the
morale and energy on the Democratic side has gotten an incredible boost.
There‘s a lot of invigoration going on as a result of this.
And here‘s the question I would have, Chris, for our Republican
colleagues, because they stopped debating the merits of health care a
little while ago and they began to focus on two things—one process, and
then the second one was polls. They kept saying, How can you be ramming
this thing down the throats of the American people?
Well, I have a simple question for them. Now that the polls seem to
show that the American people like this idea, if this trend and these polls
continue, we have to ask them, Are you supporting this bill now? Because
that became their whole argument.
VAN HOLLEN: Again, it wasn‘t on the merits because we know that when
you devote—when you debate the pieces of this legislation, they were
very popular. And now that they‘re being implemented, people are going to
begin to like it. So they doubled down on this argument that we were
somehow ramming something through against the will of the American people,
when, in fact, the polling now suggests the American people like what we
see. So I hope our colleagues will—will come around and say they made a
MATTHEWS: Is it harder to recruit members to run for Congress now
that they‘re facing death threats, even though the polls may be slightly
turning into your direction? How‘s recruitment going?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, recruitment‘s going very well. And in fact, this
kind of new energy will give us a boost. As you know, there was a fair
amount of uneasiness that we weren‘t going to be able to implement
important parts of the agenda that we‘d all run on. Especially after the
Massachusetts Senate race, a lot of people were, you know, feeling
dispirited. There were some people who wanted to throw in the towel on
health care reform or just take little baby steps. And the fact that we
were able to regroup, get this together and have the president sign into
VAN HOLLEN: ... an historic piece of legislation has given everybody
a big boost.
MATTHEWS: Are you glad Scott Brown won that race? He seems like he
woke up the Democratic Party from a long sleep. Would you say, all things
considered, that was a help?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, I‘m not saying I‘m glad he won it, but there was
that silver lining that everyone got an early wake-up call in time to rally
the troops, and also in time to send the message to the Senate that we
don‘t need to try and get 60 votes on every single piece of legislation...
VAN HOLLEN: ... that a majority can get stuff done. And that was a
very important lesson, and I hope they will continue to recognize that
lesson as we go through other issues this year.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen,
head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Coming up, much more on the anger on the right we‘re seeing out there,
lots more evidence. It‘s not talk, it‘s actions, and they seem to be
intensifying as this health care reform bill heads towards reality.
Democratic members of Congress have received death threats, as I said.
They‘ve had their offices vandalized. And the brother of one congressman
has had his gas line on his home barbecue severed. What a strange way to
scare people. I don‘t know what this is, scary stuff. We‘ll talk to
Congressman Jim Clyburn, one of the leaders of the House, about whether
Republicans will own this behavior by their supporters.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: The incidences of threats,
either in person or over telephones or through other communications devices
(INAUDIBLE) great concern to members for the safety of themselves and their
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. House Majority Leader Steny
Hoyer—you just saw him there—he says he‘s concerned that at least 10
House members have received threats, serious threats—some of the ones
that you know about already, death threats to members, smashed windows in
members‘ offices and at local Democratic headquarters around the country,
vandalism at the homes of members‘ relatives.
Well, James Clyburn is the House majority whip, the top man.
Congratulations. I‘ve never seen you so happy. I‘m watching you there a
minute ago there, Mr. Clyburn, and you haven‘t seemed this happy since I
met you. So congratulations. You‘ve won.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And in America, winning counts. Let me ask you about the
dangers of winning. You‘ve incited some anger out there on the floor of
the House, lines like “Baby killer,” “You lie,” is inciting people out in
the streets to get violent.
CLYBURN: Well, thank you so much for having me, Chris. And yes, I am
pretty happy right now. You know, I think that one of the things we have
to be very, very careful of in our society is that we don‘t ruin the
possibilities of us operating the civil manner. I think that when you see
people on the floor, as we saw, cheering those people who are up in the
balcony jeering, there‘s something wrong with that. It violates the
decorum of the House, but it also helps to incite people.
And I think that what we saw on Sunday and Saturday is a throwback to
a time that all of us thought we had behind us. All of this is not about
health care. These people were ginned up in such a way, and had posters
that went far beyond whether or not this bill ought to not pass. Those
kinds of things we have got to stop, and they are being egged on by people
who ought to know better.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, there‘s a lot of talk about whether tea
partiers are a separate partier or they‘re just Republicans at a meeting.
Let‘s take a look at these latest numbers. The Quinnipiac poll,
Congressman, shows that 74 percent of tea partiers are self-described
Republicans. Well, that‘s three quarters, Only 1 in 6 -- 16 -- say
they‘re Democrats. They must be conservative Democrats, I guess.
What do you make of that? I mean, are they—is this just another
name for Republican, tea party?
CLYBURN: Oh, I think so. Oh, there‘s no question about it. They are
an arm of the Republican Party. No question about that. And I think that
people should understand that more than anything else. If 75 percent of
them identify themselves as Republicans, I suspect that in that other 25
percent or 26 percent, whatever it is, you‘ll find a few Republican
leanings in there, as well.
So I believe we know that they came here to try to intimidate, try to
stop this vote. They had to know that we were not going to be intimidated.
I hope they know that. So there‘s something else going on here that‘s
churning up people for other activities down the road.
Look, we‘re going to soon get to deal with this issue of immigration,
and I‘m afraid that if we don‘t tamp this down now, that controversial
issue could very well...
CLYBURN: ... generate something that could lead to some catastrophic
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk to a case in point. Here‘s the brick thrown
through the window of that Rochester, New York, Democratic headquarters.
The note attached says “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.”
That‘s, of course, the Barry Goldwater slogan from way back in ‘64 in a
different, more frightening context.
Now, the person who‘s apparently egged that person on, the person who
took credit for encouraging people to smash windows, said this in a radio
Let‘s listen to this fellow. Has name is Vanderboegh.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE VANDERBOEGH, FORMER MILITIA LEADER: There are rifles being
cleaned right now. Do you folks understand that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being what? Claimed, from where?
VANDERBOEGH: There are rifles being taken out of the closet and
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it.
MATTHEWS: He‘s talking about people, you know, locking and loading
and all that sort of stuff, and getting their rifles cleaned for action.
And he‘s encouraging it, this blogger. He‘s apparently the guy who got
behind this brick-throwing.
People are coming out of the closet, if you will. And they‘re saying
that they‘re dangerous people and they want to make other people dangerous.
CLYBURN: Well, you know, when you hear that kind of talk, and then—
and you look on Sarah Palin‘s Web site and see that she‘s got crosshairs
there targeting people who voted for this bill...
CLYBURN: ... now, why not put a star there or a check mark? To put
the crosshairs there of a rifle tends to give credence to this sort of
And then we heard the head of the Republican Party, Mr. Steele, saying
something about shooting the speaker down. I forgot what it was, but it
implied a violent action.
CLYBURN: This stuff is beyond the pale.
And they need to stop this, because, I can tell you, I have seen how
these things escalate. People out there in the streets get their signals
or what they think are their signals from the people in positions like we
hold. And, so, if we don‘t disown that and go get our people to move
beyond that, if we participate in it, either from the balcony or on the
floor of the House, you are aiding and abetting this kind of terrorism,
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, you‘re getting language from Bill McCollum,
the former member now running for governor of Florida. You know, he‘s
referring to the health care bill that you got passed, helped to get
passed, as an invasion of the sovereignty of Florida.
They‘re using secessionist language. I thought the Gadsden flag from
South Carolina flying over the balcony of the Capitol being waved by
members of Congress. The Gadsden flag was the “Don‘t tread on me” flag of
MATTHEWS: ... that we used to fight the British with. They‘re
treating our central government in Washington as the enemy, as if it‘s a
foreign government. And that‘s the way Bill McCollum‘s talking. They‘re
using the language of—of nullification and even of secession in Texas.
MATTHEWS: And now Bill McCollum‘s using it. There it is, the Gadsden
flag. That was the flag we used to form our republic when we were fighting
the British. That‘s the way the—what‘s the—what‘s going on here?
This is real symbolism of—of a—almost a mutiny.
And, as you know, Bill McCollum is a former member of this body. And,
so, that, in and of itself, signals something to me. Let me tell you, I
think that the attorneys general that have been filing these lawsuits, it‘s
somewhat reminiscent, you know, of those people who resisted the
fundamental rights like voting.
CLYBURN: All we‘re trying to do here is get rid of discrimination
against people with preexisting conditions, stop discriminating against
women, who are paying twice for their premiums that men pay for them, stop
discriminating against people who get catastrophic illnesses.
That‘s all we‘re doing, trying to say, let‘s put health care on an
equal footing for everybody, make it accessible, make it affordable, make
it accountable. This is not about anything that‘s foreign to what a
democracy ought to be.
MATTHEWS: You know, I‘m just amazed. I‘m like you. I study history.
And I realize that Richard Nixon, who was hardly a left-winger,
advocated an employer mandate back in the ‘70s. You know, it—I—and
Mitt Romney up in Massachusetts signed a bill that requires people to have
Out in California, Schwarzenegger‘s done it. I mean, this isn‘t left-
wing politics. This is—well, at most, it‘s center-left, if not center.
MATTHEWS: How do they get away with this socialist thing they keep
throwing at you guys?
CLYBURN: You know what‘s so interesting? I have had my staff chart
Bob Dole‘s plan back in 1994 that he offered up in alternative—as an
CLYBURN: ... to the plan being pushed by President Clinton. We
tracked it. Except for Medicaid expansion in our plan and the absence
CLYBURN: ... of medical malpractice, there are exactly the same
CLYBURN: This plan is so close to Bob Dole‘s plan, it ain‘t funny.
And, so, this is nothing that‘s not been put on the table by
Republicans time and time again. It‘s just that these people have
CLYBURN: ... to try to deny this president.
MATTHEWS: And now they have resorted to rock-throwing.
Anyway, thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn.
CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.
MATTHEWS: Again—again, I know you are happy and proud because...
MATTHEWS: ... this is history that was made this week. And if you
are opposed to it, you still have to recognize it as history.
Anyway, thank you, sir, for coming on.
CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.
MATTHEWS: ... another whopper from Rudy Giuliani. He said
Republicans are ready to reform health care if they can just get control of
the White House and Congress again. Of course, the former mayor may want
to ask why the party that he‘s from now has never done anything on health
care when they were in control under President Bush and, before that, under
President Clinton, when Newt Gingrich was calling the shots on Capitol
How come the Republicans never do health care when they get the
chance? The “Sideshow,” where Rudy gets to be—coming up next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the “Sideshow.”
First: Rudy‘s revisionism.
Yesterday, on FOX, Rudy Giuliani took a whack at Democratic health
care reforms. His point? That Americans should give Republicans a chance
at governing and doing things like that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “YOUR WORLD WITH NEIL CAVUTO”)
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: You‘ve got nothing
to lose. You give us a chance. Let us do the things that we wanted to do
that Obama completely stopped us from doing and Pelosi stopped us from
They keep accusing us of being the party of no. Put us in power, give
us a chance, and we will pass a major tax deduction for health insurance,
$15,000 for an individual—for a family, $7,500 for an individual.
We will pass the ability to buy insurance in every state, so you drive
down the price of insurance. We will pass tort reform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wait a second. Republicans had control of the White House
and both houses of Congress for four years, between 2003 and 2007. Why
didn‘t they try any of these reforms Rudy‘s talking about now?
Oh, by the way, here‘s some the things Republicans have given us in
recent years. Bush Sr. gave us Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court.
Speaker Newt Gingrich gave us a government shutdown. Bush Jr. gave us the
war in Iraq and eight years of deficit spending and nearly doubling the
Next: making amends. Though the Republican—though the president
delayed his months—this month‘s trip to Indonesia to work on health
care, he did take time to do an interview with Indonesian TV.
Here our president is talking about the four years he spent growing up
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it true you wrote a poem stating that your
dream is to become a president?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That‘s not true. I
think that I—I remember reading one of my teachers saying that I was
planning to be president when I was 6. You know when I was 6, I wanted to,
I think, to be a fireman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fireman?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you, all boys wanted to be a fireman when
they grew up. I certainly did.
Finally, power to the people—that‘s apparently not the slogan
Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas, a big states‘ rights guy,
was trumpeting on the House floor yesterday. It looks like the congressman
is nostalgic for the old days, the time before the 17th Amendment. That‘s
right, before the popular election of U.S. senators, back when they were
picked by state legislatures.
Here he is, Louie Gohmert.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS: Since the 17th Amendment took out the
last check and balance on usurpation of states‘ rights, it‘s time to get
the balance back in place.
We have 39 states upset, wanting to do something, and not have another
unfunded federal mandate coming down their throats. This will do it.
Let‘s get an amendment that gets the balance back into the country and the
Constitution, before this Congress destroys what‘s left.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Louie, I know just what you‘re talking about. I remember
when the Texas State legislature threw Sam Houston out of the U.S. Senate
because he believed in the Union.
Now for the “Number.”
Statistician Nate Silver, the guy who predicted the 2008 popular vote,
is out with a new model about the midterm elections coming up this
November. Per his calculation, what are Republicans‘ chances of winning
back the U.S. Senate? Ten percent. Republicans have a 1-in-10 shot at
taking back the U.S. Senate, according to our expert, tonight‘s not-so-“Big
Up next: How does President Obama‘s big victory on health care reform
help him going forward, and what lessons can he bring to the looming fights
coming up ahead on other issues?
You‘re watching HARDBALL now, only on MSNBC.
MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Mike Huckman with your CNBC
And stocks slipping today, as a downgrade on Portugal‘s credit rating
sent the dollar higher and commodities lower—the Dow Jones industrial
average falling 52 points, the S&P 500 down six points, and the Nasdaq
sliding 16 points.
Fitch Ratings cutting Portugal‘s credit rating one notch and warning
that another downgrade could be on the way. That sent the dollar higher
against the euro, while oil prices fell and gold slid to a six-week low.
Here in the United States, new home sales falling to a record low in
February. Investors are increasingly concerned about the still struggling
housing market, with the Fed about to end its purchases of mortgage-related
And another report showing durable goods orders—in other words, big
stuff that‘s made to last a long time—ticked up half-a-point in
February, with January‘s numbers revised sharply higher.
And, in stocks, options broker M.F. Global soaring more than 10
percent today—its stock, that is—after naming former New Jersey
Governor, Senator and Goldman Sachs executive Jon Corzine as the new
chairman and CEO.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
President Obama got a health care bill signed into law, so now what?
What can he do with his win and his party for the next issue? What will be
his issue, in fact?
Well, today, “The New York Times” reported—quote—here is the
line from “The Times” today—“Buoyed by passage of landmark health care
legislation, the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress said
Wednesday that an overhaul of financial regulations was the next
Financial regulation reform, is that what the people want, what voters
want? Are they going to hear it as getting close to them and their
pocketbooks as we get closer to November? And what about the Republicans?
Will we hear them? Well, we will hear a lot more nos from them, perhaps.
Joan Walsh is editor in chief of Salon.com. And “TIME” magazine‘s
Mark Halperin is the co-author of the bestseller “Game Change.”
Here is the question. How do you put bite into financial reform, so
it sounds like tough on Wall Street, something like the old Teddy Roosevelt
trust-busting, where the American people feel that the politicians, at
least some of them, are out there fighting for them against the guys who
screw around with their money on Wall Street and always end up rich, while
people end up poor.
JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM: Well, I think, you know,
Timothy Geithner came out today and has begun to sound—to sound a little
bit tougher on the issue of really having a specific agency that looks out
There‘s a lot of pressure to collapse it. Why can‘t the Fed do it,
FDIC? There are all these different agencies. And he‘s sounding—he‘s
sounding a little bit more populist. You know, he doesn‘t like that. He
doesn‘t like that word. He doesn‘t like to be a populist. But he‘s really
making the case in terms of consumer protection, protecting the little guy,
protecting the—protecting American families.
That—that can sell. You know, I—I think that—I think people
are waiting for them to get back to jobs. That‘s what I would like to see
them tackle. They did that jobs bill, and they actually got some
WALSH: That was because it was mainly a Republican bill. It was
mainly tax credits. And liberals would have liked to see more direct
spending for jobs.
But I—I think that‘s going to come up again, and—and we will see
if they get any Republican help. I doubt they will.
MATTHEWS: Well, Mark, there‘s a lot of retired people, people with
401(k)s, not rich people, but people with—with some money in the bank,
some money in stocks, and they do get the word, if they don‘t get it
I got it from a wealthy friend of mine once, who said, you know, all
the money is made before somebody gets on the stock market. You don‘t
really make money in the stock market. And that seems to be increasingly
the theory people have. They‘re not making money out there. They don‘t
trust the system to protect their money and they—when they do invest it.
Is there political pay dirt in this president going after financial
MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, “TIME”: I think there‘s
three ways this could be political pay dirt for him.
One is to be more populist, to get not just people on the left, but
some people in the center, and even some people on the right, to frame the
the attack on Wall Street or the critique of Wall Street in a way that
gets people to think Obama understands their everyday problems.
And then, three, he was got to make this part of talking about jobs.
Joan‘s right, that‘s where they should be. There‘s obvious ways to connect
doing this with jobs, not just investments. I think if they do those three
things, they‘re in a much stronger position and can take advantage of the
momentum off health care.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s gets to jobs. I‘m with Joan. I think we‘ve got big
construction jobs, people working out there, lots and lots of jobs. I
don‘t understand why he hasn‘t done this. I think Republicans, who love to
appropriate for these kind of things, would jump their claim. They‘d love
to be part of this.
Here‘s President Obama, by the way, on Tuesday with a larger point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There‘s still the work to do to rebuild this economy. There‘s
still work to do to spur on hiring. There‘s work to do to improve our
schools and make sure every child has a decent education. There‘s still
work to do to reduce our dependences on foreign oil. There‘s more work to
do to provide greater economic security to a middle class that has been
struggling for a decade.
So this victory does not erase the many serious challenges we face as
a nation. Those challenges have been allowed to linger for years, even
decades. And we‘re not going to solve them all overnight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Joan, what do you think, in your reporting, tells you why
they haven‘t gone for some big WPA jobs bill, you know accelerate public
works? Take all the bridges that need to be fixed in this country, all the
potholes that need to be filled, roads that need to be redone. They‘re all
out there. These roads have gotten in terrible shape because of this
winter. And fix them.
WALSH: Yes. There‘s all of the infrastructure spending. The other
thing they could have done with the stimulus bill, Chris—they did a
little bit, but they didn‘t do it enough, in my opinion—is go to the
cities, go to the states, and prevent these awful layoffs of firefighters,
policemen, police officers, teachers. You know, really, really losing not
make work jobs, but jobs that are the backbone of our small societies, our
They put out the stimulus at the same time that certainly California
was laying off teachers, furloughing people. I didn‘t understand why they
didn‘t do that either. But I think they didn‘t do it because they didn‘t
think they had the votes, and that was very early in his presidency, when
he believed in bipartisanship. And he cut that stimulus back, remember, to
hope to get some votes. And he didn‘t—you know, he got none in the
House and two in the Senate from the Republicans. So that‘s why he didn‘t
Now what I‘m hoping as a Democrat—I‘m going to say that right out
front. I‘m hoping that success breeds success. They‘ve learned what they
can do with a simple majority. They‘ve learned what they can do with an
They‘ve also learned how to message better. The messaging in the last
weekend of that health care reform was better than any messaging that you
and I had watched in the last two years. It was really about how does this
help you now? I think they‘ve learned to how to sell themselves better.
And I‘m a little bit optimistic that success will build on itself.
MATTHEWS: I think that the real message was from Massachusetts a few
weeks ago, when the voters up there said, it‘s not working. And they voted
for a Republican. Here‘s an interesting little fight along your lines. I
want Mark to respond to this. There‘s a really good talent in the White
House these days for dealing with John McCain, the guy they beat in the
Here he is, John McCain, telling an Arizona radio station about the
health care vote and saying “there will be no cooperation for the rest of
the year, that they have poisoned”—the Democrats have. “Poisoned the
well because of how they‘ve done this.”
Let‘s listen to Senator McCain. Oh here‘s—I‘m sorry, here‘s White
House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reacting to McCain. Let‘s listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I find it curious that the
that the—that not getting your way on one thing means you‘ve decided
to take your toys and go home. I don‘t think—it didn‘t work well for my
six-year-old. I doubt it works well in the United States Senate because we
have—we have issues that—that are important for his constituents and
for all of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Mark, you‘re an expert at games and game change. Your book
is unbelievable. Let me ask you this, what game is being played here?
Twice now in a row, White House staffers, starting with Axelrod and now
Gibbs, are referring to John McCain, the man who ran against their
candidate, the president of the United States, as a child. The other day,
Axelrod referred to him as being in the sandbox. Now they‘re referring to
him as a six-year-old. Are they systematically trying to drive John McCain
into being Mr. Wilson next door, trying to get him so mad that he starts
What are they up to with these patronizing comments about the senator
from Arizona, from the White House?
HALPERIN: Well, first, Chris, thank you about the book. Look, with
John McCain, he‘s a special case because they have practice from the
campaign of painting him as petulant and erratic. And the more they can do
that to any Republican leader—they‘ll do it to Rush Limbaugh and others,
as well—they want to do that because they want the public to see the
Republican party led by people who uncooperative and emotional and
I think, Chris, the biggest story in politics right now, in the wake
of health care, is the White House calculation for the rest of the year.
Do they things, substantively and politically, to try to build bipartisan
cooperation or do they do what I think Joan was suggesting, which is to
learn that they can ram things through with Democratic-only majorities.
On education, on financial reform, on economic development, they could
make the choice, rerunning the choice they faced in the beginning of the
administration, and they went the other way. they went with the all-
Democratic—to go for Republicans. I think they will.
MATTHEWS: By the way, to correct you, Joan didn‘t say totally
partisan. She knows that big works projects, jobs bills, are very hard for
Republicans not to join onto.
HALPERIN: No, but she also said --
MATTHEWS: -- love to appropriate just as much as the Democrats.
HALPERIN: She also said they learned how to ram things through.
WALSH: Ram things through—I shouldn‘t have said that because
that‘s really a Republican talking point, Mark. I don‘t think that they
rammed things through. They worked and they worked and they worked to try
to get Republican support. Obama turned the whole caboodle over to the
Senate Finance Committee with those three Republicans. He really believed
that he was going to get some support, and then he didn‘t.
So I don‘t say ram it through. I think he had no cooperation, not
even from Olympia Snowe, in the end, which shocked me.
HALPERIN: Joan, would you like to see him work with Republicans on
education, on financial reform, and economic development or not?
WALSH: You know what? You know what, Mark? Actually not for the
sake of working with Republicans. I would like to see some Republicans
walk forward and work with him.
MATTHEWS: Got to go.
HALPERIN: I‘d like to see Scott Brown make good on his campaign
promises, but not Obama working with Republicans just to do did.
MATTHEWS: Got to go. Out of time. Thank you, Joan. Thank you,
Up next, President Obama holds not one, but two closed-door meetings
with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. What‘s going on between Bibi and
Barack? We‘re going to find out in the thick of this biggest-ever diplomat
fight between the two countries. Can they get together and find common
ground. We‘ll be right back with that one. This is HARDBALL, only on
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. President Obama held two face to face sessions
with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House last
night, without cameras or public reception. Late today, the president‘s
special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, met with the Israeli
head of state to try to get—actually the head of government—to get
the peace talks back on track.
Robert Wexler is a former democratic Congressman from Florida. He‘s
now the president of Center for Mid-East Peace and Economic Cooperation.
I‘ve got a faith in you, sir. I want to know, what‘s the best interests of
Israel, best interest of the United States? Can we get together?
ROBERT WEXLER, CENTER FOR MIDEAST PEACE AND ECONOMIC COOPERATION: I
think we can get together. We can get together because the bond between
the United States and Israel remains secure, unshakeable. We here in
America understand that in order to get to peace, the security interests of
the state of Israel must be secured.
But what it requires is both the Palestinians and the Israelis, also
the broader Arab world, to take risks for peace. The Palestinians can‘t
continue to name squares after terrorists. They can‘t complain about
synagogues being rebuilt when it‘s appropriate to do so. The Israeli
government cannot continue to build in the face of Palestinian complaints,
if they want to go to proximity talks or negotiations and create that kind
of dynamic that is required: trust and confidence.
MATTHEWS: Is it in the interest of Israel—forget the politics,
left wing, right wing, Likud labor, Khadima—for Israel to have a country
living next door to it called Palestine? Is that in the interests of
WEXLER: It is not only in the interests of Israel. I would argue
it‘s essential. It‘s essential if you believe, as I do, in a Jewish state
of Israel, that there be a Palestinian state.
MATTHEWS: Why? Explain that to the non-Jewish person, the person who
doesn‘t study this issue.
WEXLER: Because if there‘s no Palestinian state, then demographically
the numbers of people who are not Jewish within what would become the
broader Israeli state will begin to balance so that Jews are no longer the
majority. If you believe in a Jewish state of Israel, there must be a
Palestinian state, demilitarized one, created.
MATTHEWS: If that‘s obvious to you, why isn‘t it obvious to Bibi
Netanyahu, the prime minister?
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know that it isn‘t yet. He did come out for a two-
state solution. It was obvious Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister. It
became obvious to Prime Minister Sharon. It was obvious to the previous
Israeli prime ministers. Even those that started way strident on the
right, when you look at the demographics, it‘s a requirement. That‘s why
Sharon got out of Gaza.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. We‘ll have you back again with more time.
Robert Wexler, former congressman from Florida, knows his stuff.
When we come back, I‘m going to have some thoughts about Vice
President Joe Biden. He‘s in the news. He may not want to be, but he is.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a serious comment on Vice
President Joe Biden, a serious one. Last week at the annual dinner of TV
and radio correspondents he joked that, quote, “at least when I get caught
with my foot in my mouth, it‘s my own foot.” It was a wonderful shot at
one of his critics, who was discovered several years back to have purchased
a somewhat unusual service from a Washington, D.C., sex worker.
It was, of course, also an admission by the vice president of his own
past embarrassments, that have tended to land more in the area of simply
that, personal embarrassments. You see, the great thing about Joe Biden‘s
gaffe is their lack of malice. If no harm, no foul were rule of the day,
the fellow would not have suffered so much grief.
There was, of course, that time when he singled out a certain African-
American candidate for president as, quote, “articulate and bright and
clean and a nice looking guy. I mean, that‘s a storybook, man.”
Well, the man whose story that was, Barack Obama, got him off the hook
on that one, saying he had no problem with Biden, even though it was not
accurate to say he, alone, Barack Obama, met that positive description for
African-Americans that Biden had given him. By the way, he picked that
fellow as his vice president and running mate.
Then there was when Biden said he told members of his family during
the Swine Flu threat that he didn‘t want them going into confined spaces.
When he kidded Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court about getting the
presidential oath a bit it off on that day, Inaugural Day, or yesterday
when he used a locker room idiom, he just wanted the president to know and
feel, obviously, what an historic moment they were sharing, one that this
president had achieved so downright remarkably.
It was a classic Biden, innocent embarrassment with no malice
intended. Indeed, the opposite. With all the chuckles about the VP‘s bad
language, nobody pointed out the most obvious, how when the president came
out yesterday to sign the health care bill, he had Vice President Biden at
his side, just as he did when the bill passed Sunday.
Other presidents didn‘t do that. They were somewhat touchy about
having their vice president so close, so visibly their official deputies.
Eisenhower never even had Nixon upstairs to the White House to visit.
Kennedy was simply uncomfortable in Johnson‘s distance. Nixon kept Agnew
at a distance, which was smart. Carter and Mondale got along alright, but
were certainly cut from different cloth.
The Reagans and the Bushes were oil and water. Clinton and Gore
hardly ended as a duet. And Dick Cheney looked like he was young Bush‘s
This team makes sense. For all Joe Biden‘s over-enthusiasms, for all
his “wish I hadn‘t said thats,” he balances well the president‘s coolness,
and they both know it. He‘s Barack Obama‘s liaison with regular people,
people like Joe Biden.
At that moment in the sun, when he picked Biden out there in
Springfield, Illinois that summer day, I was taken with the fact that a
regular guy with his heart on his sleeve had risen so high. Joe Biden,
bless his heart, hasn‘t changed a bit.
I was fortunate to travel with the vice president on that difficult
trip to Israel. I can say, having interviewed him on the record there and
chatted with him off the record on the way home, there‘s no more loyal
partner to this president, no more stalwart defender abroad, no better
representative to his fellow Americans. He‘s as loyal a number two as any
president could have. For my money, as good an American as they come along
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Catch us again
tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. Right now it‘s time for “THE ED
SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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