Guest: Douglas Brinkley, Willie Brown, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, Melinda Henneberger
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Living history.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
President Obama will go down in history as the man who achieved what so
many presidents before him wanted to, tried to but couldn‘t, extend health
care coverage to Americans who didn‘t have it. That will be the remarkable
first line of accomplishment in all his biographies and schoolbooks. The
president proved he had the muscle and courage to push through major change
in America. And we‘ll talk to a presidential historian tonight about this
political and legislative feat and what it means for the Obama presidency
and to both political parties.
Plus, more threats against members on both sides of the aisle. A
photo of a noose was faxed to a district office of House majority leader—
or House majority whip, rather, James Clyburn. And Republican
Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida received a voicemail message
threatening her life. Republicans are accusing Democrats of using these
threats to their political advantage, but who‘s really responsible for
fanning the flames of rage?
Also, Republicans want to campaign on the pledge of repealing health
care reform. President Obama says, Be my guest. So can the Republicans
ride that strategy to victory in November, even if it‘s a far-fetched
promise? Our strategists will battle that one out here tonight.
And reunited. It‘s the moment some people have been waiting for for a
while. Sarah Palin campaigned for John McCain today, the man who plucked
her from obscurity. There they are out there in Arizona today. We‘ll see
if she can get hard-right conservatives to rally behind a man that they‘ve
often considered suspect.
And I‘ll finish tonight with some thoughts about how the Democrats
proved this week that things here in Washington can get done.
We start with the history made this past week. Doug Brinkley‘s a
presidential historian. His latest book is “The Wilderness Warrior” about
Teddy Roosevelt. And Willie Brown was mayor of San Francisco, and before
that, speaker of the California Assembly.
I want to start with Doug and then go to Mayor Brown for your
thoughts. But first, I want to show you an interesting montage our
producers have put together. Here‘s some presidents throughout our modern
American history, in the 20th and then the 21st century, on health care.
Let‘s listen and let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have
accepted, so to speak, a second bill of rights under which a new basis of
security and prosperity can be established for all, regardless of station
or race or creed. Among these are the right to adequate medical care and
the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
HARRY S. TRUMAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must also act
promptly to improve the health of our nation, for women in the country
particularly know that in many areas, there are not enough doctors or
hospitals and that many families cannot afford the medical care they need.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, PRESIDENT OF THE
UNITED STATES: The fact of the matter is, is that what we are now talking
about doing most of the countries of Europe did years ago. The British did
it 30 years ago. We are behind every country, pretty nearly, in Europe in
this matter of medical care for our citizens.
RICHARD M. NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will establish a
new system that makes high-quality health care available to every American
in a dignified manner and at a price he can afford.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today I am
announcing the formation of the president‘s task force on national health
reform chaired by the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it, Doug Brinkley, that socialist SOB,
Richard Nixon, the far lefty guy, pushing for the employer mandate, which
is even more dramatic than what this president has just accomplished in the
Congress. But it‘s finally happened. History‘s been made, I guess. But
I‘m asking you, the expert. Will this be the first line on his list of
accomplishments in the history books?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, without question. I
mean, it‘s—any time you have the largest of something—people remember
big things, Lyndon Johnson signing Medicaid and Medicare, or FDR with
Social Security. The fact that Barack Obama was able to get this major
reform done, when all these other great political leaders that you just ran
tried to do it, too. It is a big moment for Obama. It is the first line,
and it‘ll be—people will have a second and third line on what a fight it
was. But it also shows, at the end, he‘s victorious. And you are going to
see an Obama presidency now run on health care in the mid-term election.
That seemed almost unthinkable a month ago.
MATTHEWS: Mayor Brown, you‘ve been at the forefront of Democratic
Party politics for what, four decades at least, that I can think of. How‘s
this place in your—well, your pantheon of historic events you‘ve
WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: I think this is the
most incredible event, frankly, in my entire history of being associated
with politics. I arrived in California in 1951 from Texas and began the
quest for the kind of things that I‘m associated with now. And believe me,
health care for all people—it‘s unbelievable, unimaginable. Three weeks
ago, I would have said it could not be done.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s the president on Tuesday of this week at the
signing ceremony. Let‘s listen to his account.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘m signing this bill
for all the leaders who took up this cause through the generations, from
Teddy Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, from Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson,
from Bill and Hillary Clinton to one of the deans who‘s been fighting this
so long, John Dingell, to Senator Ted Kennedy. I remember seeing Ted walk
through that door in a summit in this room, a year ago, one of his last
public appearances. And it was hard for him to make it, but he was
confident that we would do the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he was right to put Hillary Clinton there, as well as
her husband, Bill Clinton, because she was out front in that effort.
Well, let me go to Doug Brinkley on the negative side. Every time
history is made, I think of the election of Abraham Lincoln that certainly
stirred this trouble in this country. It caused the Civil War. When
things like this happen, they do stir bitterness on the losing side. Your
thoughts about the relatively peaceful reaction to this so far, in terms of
some broken windows, some threats over the phone.
And by the way, in all honesty, anyone in public life is familiar with
the phone calls. Thank God the phone calls often don‘t mean violence, they
mean somebody is venting their spleen, somebody‘s trying to scare somebody,
you know, spook somebody. It makes them happy. Fortunately, it doesn‘t
lead to violence, only to a bit of a stir.
Your thoughts about the reaction so far, Doug, on the negative side?
BRINKLEY: Well, I mean, the point of American history is to remind us
that our times are not uniquely oppressive. When you get some hate
literature going on or people being angry, this is nothing new in American
history. During the Civil War, congressmen were bashing each other with
canes, debating issues. My friend, Hunter S. Thompson, used to say during
Vietnam—he was against the Vietnam war—that every good American
should throw a bag of dead rats over the White House fence, and meaning
just get out there and make a lot of noise. So I think it‘s been fairly
mild this week.
I do think, though, that the leadership of the Democratic Party and
the Republican Party might want to do a joint message to the American
people that we‘re going to still—you know, there are going to be appeals
of health care. There‘s going to be fights. But we don‘t want the
rhetoric to get out of control. So I think there needs to be some bit of
Right now, it‘s a little too shrill. And so it‘s—we‘re on a bit of
a red alert, but I think it‘s going to dissipate fairly soon, at least for
that potential violence.
MATTHEWS: Mayor Brown, you probably heard late this afternoon, there
was word that Jim Clyburn, the great House majority whip, the number three
guy in the leadership with Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, got another one of
those faxes of a picture of a noose, a photograph of a noose. Obviously,
that carries all kinds of history with it. Where do you place the violence
level so far, with the broken windows and the threats of death, even?
BROWN: Well I—I have been in the business long enough to know that
these things do occur. Seldom, if ever, are they translated into actual
action. There will be sufficient security provided to everybody who needs
it, on the congressional side and otherwise, whether they‘re Republicans or
Democrats. And I agree, I think there should be a dialogue uttered for the
whole, all of America, by the leadership of America, both Republicans and
But let me say this, Chris. I don‘t think the business of health care
is going to generate the same kind of reaction, let‘s say, that even the
war in Vietnam did, or even the Civil Rights passage of the bills and the
Voting Rights Act. I do think health care is so personal, and as it
unfolds, it will be so personal that there will be a dampening of the
enthusiasm of people to criticize. And of course, people will praise, just
as they did with Medicare.
MATTHEWS: And I suppose you‘re saying—well, let me suggest to you
you can follow this. They‘re going to check and see what impact it has
on them. If they‘re a senior, they‘ll know they can get prescription drugs
without interruption, depending on how much drugs they need—obviously,
prescription drugs their doctor has prescribed. They‘re going to discover.
if they‘re a young family or an empty nest family, have got young adult
kids, like we do, that those young adult kids can stay on your health care
plan. I think they‘re going—I think they‘re going to look at it
piecemeal, right? They‘re going to look at it and say, What‘s this do to
BROWN: Absolutely. There is a sufficient amount of benefits in this
bill that has now been signed into law that will come on line between now
and November of this year. And when that happens, the criticism, the
misrepresentation and all the information that has come from the opposition
will go by the wayside, and people will become more focused on their other
needs, jobs and things of that nature.
MATTHEWS: Well, I especially—Doug, you know, when my parents—my
father‘s a pretty conservative Republican, in many ways, though I think he
is a pragmatist. He loved Medicare, OK? I mean, these people that said
they didn‘t like the idea of government getting a little bigger when it
affected their lives positively—I mean, a lot of people—you know,
Doug, the weird comment people make is, I don‘t like the government getting
involved in health care. I‘m on Social Security and I‘m on Medicare. Wait
a minute. You‘re on—you‘re involved with a government program, which
you kicked into in your working years. You have a certain right to all the
benefits. It comes with having kicked in all your working years. But it
is a government program. It‘s not the enemy. Your thoughts.
BRINKLEY: Well, part of the Republican strategy has been to create
fear, fear in senior citizens, and it worked to a degree. It was able to
get rid of aspects of public option, on and on. But the truth of the
matter is, what President Obama has going for him is we‘re not going to
know the effects of this historic legislation for three years, maybe not
even the six years. It‘ll will be really two more election cycles until
historians are going to be able to say, Did it work?
BRINKLEY: Did it break the back of the economy? And so while it‘s a
definite giant political and historic victory for Barack Obama now, we
won‘t really know whether this worked for American history for about six to
eight, ten years.
MATTHEWS: I love the way that kid was, who lost his mother because
she couldn‘t get health treatment, watching the president‘s signature and
watching him signing something. It‘s amazing to watch that history.
Here‘s President Obama Thursday in Iowa. That‘s yesterday. Let‘s
listen to what he said along these lines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When I came here three years ago, I told the story of when
Lyndon Johnson stood with Harry Truman and signed Medicare into law. That
wasn‘t perfect, either. I‘m sure there‘s somebody who was dissatisfied
with it at the time. And as he looked out over the crowd in Independence,
Missouri, that day, he said, History shapes men, but it is necessary—it
is a necessary faith of leadership that men can shape history. What this
generation has proven today is that we still have the power to shape
history. In the United States of America, it is still a necessary faith
that our destiny is written by us, not for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, gentlemen, I think one of the heroes of this—
there‘s a couple of heroes. I want you to talk about them. It wasn‘t just
the president and the big people like Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, or Harry
Reid. There were some staff people involved. Somebody came up with the
idea of using reconciliation not as an alternative to passing this bill
with 60 votes, which they did last December, but to use it to complement
it, to tweak it so that it could correspond to the House bill. And
somebody figured out, whether it was Rahm Emanuel or somebody, that the
executive order on abortion funding would somehow ameliorate the
differences on that issue.
Mr. Brown, Mayor Brown, sometimes smart politics requires some
technicians along the way who help make this thing work.
BROWN: I would say at all times, it is technicians who come forward
with the great ideas. And believe me, this effort demonstrates great
ideas. Over the last three weeks, there‘s been a dramatic change in the
attitude of the people on the Hill, as well as the people throughout this
country. When it became clear that it could be achieved, even some of the
Blue Dogs resorted to the whole business of looking at it from their
personal standpoint. And they got lots of assistance from retired members
of Congress to do that.
So not only was it staff people, it was retired members, some on the
Blue Dog side, who really said, You‘ve got to do it and here‘s the
technique, and don‘t worry about the criticism about the technique. At the
end, the product will dictate whether or not it‘s acceptable to the general
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you, Mayor Brown. Thank
you, Doug Brinkley. Congratulations on your latest book. You‘re just an
amazing guy. You keep—you keep putting us all to shame with your—
your historical ability.
Anyway, coming up, much more on the threats against members of
Congress. With Republican leaders talking about Armageddon and the death
of freedom, to what extent is that kind of rhetoric, over-the-top heated
rhetoric responsible for this violence we‘re hearing, this so far not
horrible violence, just there? We don‘t know what it‘s going to lead to
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The reports and threats of
violence out there against members of Congress keeps growing, although it‘s
not horrific yet. Someone faxed a picture, as I said, of a noose to South
Carolina Democrat Jim Clyburn‘s office. Of course, he is coming out of the
Civil Rights movement. That kind of picture carries a lot of sad
information and memory. And Florida Republican Ginny Brown-Waite received
a death threat in her voicemail. I heard it‘s pretty rough. When will
these things calm down? This weekend may get worse. And who‘s to blame
for fanning these flames?
I wants to talk to U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She‘s
chief deputy whip for the House Democrats. She really gets the vote out.
Thank you so much. I want you to watch something. We won‘t talk a lot
about this because I want to talk about you and your experience with the
health care system in this country.
Here‘s Sarah Palin today, just a few minutes ago, actually, talking
about the threats we‘ve seen this week and her—well, her take on it.
Let‘s put it that way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE: We know violence
isn‘t the answer. When we take up our arms, we‘re talking about our vote.
We‘re talking about being involved in a contested primary like this—and
picking the right candidate, too, John McCain (INAUDIBLE) But this BS
coming from the “lame-stream” media lately about this—about this
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PALIN: Don‘t let—don‘t let the conversation be diverted. And
don‘t let a distraction like that get you off track. Keep fighting hard
for these candidates, who are all about the common sense conservative
solutions that we need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I think she took a risk there. I think, if
something really bad happens this weekend, and she‘s saying this stuff
didn‘t matter, she will be pulled into it. I don‘t think she should be
pulled into, but she put herself into it.
Your thoughts about the kind of rhetoric, the noose being sent, the—
the windows being broken, the threats to Stupak? I would have thought that
the people on the right would be sort of sympathetic to him. They‘re mad
of him, as an apostate, because he ended up signing the bill. What do you
make of all this?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, honestly, the
threats to Stupak, the threats to Jean Schmidt, who‘s a Republican, any of
the threats and violence is really just totally out of place, outrageous.
And what we need to be doing is condemning violence and bullying and
threats at every level, every opportunity we can, because we can—we can
disagree, but, in America, we disagree through civil discourse, not through
bullying and violence.
MATTHEWS: Well, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, my friend, who I really
like, I will now tell you I‘m so impressed with you all these years, and
you faced a lot bigger threat in your life than somebody breaking your
MATTHEWS: So, tell us about what you have learned about health care
and what you have been through and to the extent you want to talk about it,
because it‘s personal, but it‘s also now—you‘re a public figure.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I tried to use my own personal experience with
breast cancer through this health care reform debate as a way to show that
there are many different faces to the need to reform our health care
system, many different faces of who is the uninsurable.
I, after being diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, at 41, hit
with an illness out of the clear blue sky, never thought that I would
become sick for any reason, became a person who, if I lost my job tomorrow,
you know, I‘m essentially uninsurable on the individual market, even though
I have taken all the steps I need to, to avoid a recurrence of breast
cancer in the future.
And there are thousands of Debbie Wasserman—millions of Debbie
Wasserman Schultzes around the country. And health care reform was so
essential because we need to put patients and doctors back in the driver‘s
seat and end the abusive insurance company practices.
And that‘s what we did. That was—you know, personally, for me,
it‘s just incredible that I know for my—for myself, but also for
millions of children who face illness, it‘s incredibly important.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, compared to me, I really think of you as a very
young person. And the fact that you have a term—you‘re subject to what
they call a preexisting condition.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Right.
MATTHEWS: And, usually, you think of an older man, for example, like
that, you know, very old.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Or a poor person or a homeless person.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But you have a condition which would prevent you from
going on the market and buying—and now—and how does the law affect
you, the Obama law?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Now, the way the law affects me, the way the
health care reform law affects me is that—well, this year, we will
immediately end the preexisting condition exclusions for children.
Then, by 2014, no one will be able to be denied coverage based on a
preexisting condition, whether they have a job, whether they‘re unemployed,
whether they‘re in between jobs. If you have a preexisting condition, you
will be covered. Your insurance will be guarantee-issue.
MATTHEWS: When you go back home to Florida, you have a middle-class
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes. Really middle-upper, but yes.
MATTHEWS: In some places, better-off people. Some people are better
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Mm-hmm.
MATTHEWS: When you talk to them about this, it seems to me the
president is trying to address this to voters. You represent voters,
older, better-off, wealthier, whiter—white people. They tend to vote
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes.
MATTHEWS: They vote when there‘s no voting going on. They get out
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That‘s the favorite pastime in my district, to
MATTHEWS: And kibitzing about the voting, too.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Right.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about it.
MATTHEWS: So, they have to be reached if you‘re a Democrat this year,
because they will have the votes more so than in a presidential year.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, absolutely. They...
MATTHEWS: So, what‘s the president have to say and what do you have
to say to people who are not working poor? They‘re not the people that are
getting these subsidies, these 32 million people? These are the people who
are in the mainstream, who have some health insurance.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Right. What we talk about to those people, those
85 percent of Americans that had health insurance, is that this legislation
will provide you with the security and stability that you need to make sure
that you don‘t face those skyrocketing premiums.
And I had small-business owners all over my district stop me and say,
you know, I faced last year, 30, 40, 50, 70 -- somewhat told me they had a
172 percent premium increase with 30 employees because one of them is sick.
Those are the kinds of things that we are—we have stopped as a
result of this bill being signed into law on Tuesday by President Obama.
MATTHEWS: Are you confident this bill will look as good as it did
their, week when you passed it, five, 10 years from now?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I think it‘s going to look better. I really do.
I think, as we phase in the really wonderful reforms, and make sure that we
can reduce costs, provide that security and stability and cover the 32
million Americans that this bill covers, we are going to make sure that
people with health care challenges are going to be able to get the coverage
they need, but, more importantly, shift the focus from a sick-care system
it a prevention and wellness system.
MATTHEWS: It‘s great to have a real person on.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Nice person.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ... one of the leaders of the House, probably a bigger
leader in the years to come.
Up next: Michele Bachmann—different story—takes credit for
seeing the future.
MATTHEWS: Wait until you hear this. It‘s—I can‘t write this
Back in 2008 here on HARDBALL, she said she was concerned that Barack
Obama was an anti-American. Well, wait until you hear what she has to say
right now. She‘s no longer in the apologetic mode. She‘s back to full,
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now for the “Sideshow.”
Tonight: The congresswoman says she was right. Here‘s what
Republican Michele Bachmann said here just over a year ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You believe that Barack Obama may—you‘re suspicious
because of this relationship—may have anti-American views. Otherwise,
it‘s probably irrelevant to this discussion.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: So, you believe it brings into...
BACHMANN: Yes, I absolutely—yes.
MATTHEWS: So, you believe that Barack Obama may have anti-American
BACHMANN: Absolutely. I‘m very concerned that he may have anti-
What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose
and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take
a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they
pro-America or anti-America? I think people would be—would love to see
an expose like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Barack Obama has anti-American views? The media
should do an expose on members of Congress? Well, those remarks caused
serious concern out in her home state of Minnesota. At the time, she told
a local newspaper that she regretted using the term “anti-American.” That
But, Wednesday night, at a closed-press—closed-to-the-press fund-
raiser, Congresswoman Bachmann was offering another assessment. She said
her HARDBALL appearance was in fact prophetic. That was her word,
prophetic—quote—“I said I had very serious concerns that Barack Obama
had anti-American views. And now I look like Nostradamus.”
I can‘t beat that. Enough said.
Next: to Russia with love. This morning, at the White House briefing,
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked—talked up the new arms
reduction agreement with Russia and the United States. She also offered
some special help in getting the Russian legislature to approve the treaty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Just as we have to
go to our Congress, President Medvedev has to go to the Duma. And I think
President Obama has said that he would send Rahm Emanuel to Moscow.
CLINTON: And—and we all immediately endorsed that offer.
CLINTON: So, if—you know, if President Medvedev wants to take us
up on it, we‘re ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, talk about product placement. I guess Rahm‘s
reputation for getting votes rounded up is going global.
Finally, a look behind the curtain. This week, the White House posted
this photo to their online album. It‘s President Obama on September 9 of
last year with chief speechwriter Jon Favreau, a Holy Cross grad, editing
the health care speech he‘s about to give to a joint session of Congress.
Take a look at the edits on there. Look at them all. You can see the
president doesn‘t just read what‘s put in front of him. Look at all that
editing. He may use the teleprompter, but he likes to have his words
printed on it.
Now for the “Number.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi celebrated yet another milestone today.
You can see there she was signing into law the new package of health care
fixes with her colleagues. They brought in a birthday cake. That‘s George
Miller there, her fellow congresswoman—congressman from California.
It turns out that Nancy Pelosi is 70 years old today, 70. That‘s
Nancy Pelosi. Pretty amazing, don‘t you think? Congratulations to the
speaker. She‘s 70 today. Is 70 the new 40? Tonight‘s not so “Big
Up next: Republicans are campaigning on the promise to repeal health
care reform if they gain back power. Well, President Obama says, go for
it. By the way, is repeal a winning strategy for the Republicans? We will
ask the strategists next coming here on HARDBALL, both of them, R‘s and
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Mike Huckman with your CNBC
And stocks pulling back from early gains again today, as the incident
in South Korea rattled the markets, the Dow Jones industrials up just nine
points, the S&P 500 gaining almost a point, and the Nasdaq falling two
South Korea now saying it is unlikely that the North had anything to
do with the sinking of one of its navy ships, but that initial report was
enough to trigger a moderate knee-jerk sell-off around midday. A couple of
economic reports appearing to balance each out—other out, consumer
sentiment came in slightly better than expected, but fourth-quarter gross
domestic product numbers revised a bit lower than originally estimated.
And, in stocks, RadioShack was the surprise standout on reports it
could be looking for a buyer. A merger with Best Buy is one option
reportedly being discussed.
And Pfizer took a hit after a Boston jury found the company guilty of
marketing fraud related to one of its epilepsy drugs. The company plans to
appeal the verdict.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now that they passed—
now that we passed it, they‘re already promising to repeal it. They‘re
actually going to run on a platform of repeal in November. You‘ve been
hearing that. And my attitude is, go for it.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Obama, there he is, telling Republicans that, if they want
to run a—repeal health care reform, that it‘s a good time to go for it.
They would should want to have to do it. That‘s their plan, go for it.
Anyway, with health care reform now signed into law, what strategy
should Democrats and Republicans use in the midterm races?
Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist. And Sweeney Todd Harris is
also with us. He‘s with the—he‘s a Republican strategist.
Anyway, Mr. Todd, since it‘s your turn to attack, what do you make of
this repeal and replace? The replace part sounds pretty namby-pamby to me,
like, gee whiz, I wish we had a health care plan, but we don‘t, so we‘re
going to pretend we do. And, by the way, it takes 67 votes in the U.S.
Senate to override a presidential veto.
What‘s this repeal talk? It‘s unrealistic. Your thoughts.
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, the—well, we do have a
health care plan that the Republicans have been pushing for all year.
But the—look, the repeal part of this, there‘s a two-pronged
approach. The first is repeal. And the second one is replace it with
something that the country actually wants and that we can afford. And
whether or not we can repeal the existing trillion-dollar bill this year is
Our campaign message is going to be vote Republican this November, and
help us replace this bill that the country doesn‘t want, that the country
can‘t afford, with something that will lower the costs, medical costs, for
every American, but will do it in a way that doesn‘t bankrupt the country
and doesn‘t cost jobs.
And that‘s a winning message for Republicans. It‘s a winning message
for independents. The only people that it probably isn‘t a winning message
for are people who are already voting Democratic anyway.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Todd, actually, it‘s not
a winning message for Republicans, because what‘s happening right now is
the newspapers and television outlets that people trust are telling people
what‘s in this bill, and they‘re telling them that, if you‘re a child, you
can‘t be denied for a preexisting condition. You can stay on your parents‘
policy until you‘re 26.
If you‘re somebody who is worried about an annual or lifetime limit on
health care coverage, you can‘t be capped anymore. And I‘m wondering what
Republican wants to repeal which pieces of this legislation that people are
now starting to look at and they‘re saying, this is a pretty good idea.
There are tax breaks for 4,000 small businesses to—that want to
provide health care for their employees to provide it. And Americans are
sitting there saying, well, now that I‘m getting this information that I
trust from people that I trust, and not hearing these—this noise about
how the government is going to take over the health care system, this is
looking and sounding pretty good.
“USA Today” yesterday had a poll that showed 49 percent of Americans
thought it was a good thing this was passed. Only 40 percent thought it
wasn‘t. So, the numbers have already started to flip. And I think
President Obama is right. I hope the Republicans run on a repeal strategy.
HARRIS: Well, I think that we will make the president quite happy,
because the plan is not to run on a repeal strategy, but the plan is to run
on a strategy that says we‘re going to shelve this bill that the country
can‘t afford, and we‘re going to replace it with something that will lower
the costs, medical costs, for every American, but do it in a way that we
can afford that doesn‘t expand our government.
And Steve is right about preexisting conditions for kids. What he
leaves out is the fact that the bill waits for four more years to do
anything about preexisting conditions for parents.
MCMAHON: Todd, it would have waited forever. It would have waited
forever, if it had been up to Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Aren‘t you lying to the voters when you say you can repeal,
when it takes 67 senators to repeal? I look at all the races, as you guys
do. There‘s no way in hell that you guys can win 67 Senate seats this
fall. No way. You can win the greatest year in history, you could pick up
maybe ten and take you to 51.
You‘re at 41 now. How do you get from 41 to 67? You‘re promising
something that manifestly you can‘t deliver. That‘s the repeal of health
care. So why are you promising it? Why are you saying something you can‘t
HARRIS: There aren‘t going to be 67 Republicans after the fall
election, you are correct about that. But there are going to be a whole
lot more Republicans in Washington. And if people want Congress to do
something about this bill, that the country doesn‘t want and the country
can‘t afford, they can vote Republican. And once Republicans take over
control of Congress, we can sit down with the president and actually hash
out something that we can afford, that will lower the costs—medical
costs of every American.
MCMAHON: Todd, the president tried to get Republicans to sit down
with him and have this conversation that you‘re imagining for 13 months,
and they wouldn‘t participate.
HARRIS: No, he didn‘t. No, he didn‘t.
MCMAHON: Then, on the day he invited them to the White House, they
said no again. And he even included two or three of their ideas in the
final health care bill and they still said no. Not a single Republican in
either chamber voted for this health care bill. Why in the world would
anyone believe that the Republicans are serious about health care reform?
MATTHEWS: Your party had power in the White House. His name is
George W. Bush. You had control of both houses of Congress from 2002 to
2006. You had it. This thing about replace—you keep putting up this
Harvey character of yours, this imaginary character of a Republican health
care bill, when you had all the time in the world to pass it. You had all
the votes notice world to pass it. Why does it exist now and it never
existed when you had the power?
This is bogus, you keep saying, if we had the chance. You‘ve had the
chance and never pushed a big health care bill. Why didn‘t you do it
HARRIS: We also had the small issues of 9/11, the war in Afghanistan
and the war in Iraq. But your point is well taken. Perhaps Republicans
MATTHEWS: We still had those wars, if you haven‘t noticed.
HARRIS: Perhaps Republicans should have pushed for some of these
market-based solutions when we were in power. I think what you‘ll see over
the next several months is Republicans across the country talking about
common sense market-based solutions that will lower medical costs for every
American. And they can be sure that when Republicans take control of
Congress this November, that it‘s something we‘ll be pushing.
MATTHEWS: This doesn‘t make—I‘m getting into this fight. It‘s
your fight to make. But the leading candidate for the Republican
nomination—forget the fact you had four years to do it and didn‘t do it.
And, by the way, there‘s about 300,000 to 400,000 troops right now fighting
wars overseas, that we‘ve all overlooked, unfortunately. They‘re out there
on post right now, facing the enemy. So there is wars going on right now.
We‘re just not fighting them personally.
Secondly, you‘ve got a candidate out there named Mitt Romney. Mitt
Romney pushed through the biggest health care plan in the world up in
Massachusetts on which this bill was based. He‘s now leading in the polls
to be your nominee to run against Barack Obama. How can you run a guy as
your chief spear-carrier, your chief champion who has done already what
Barack Obama has done, and you say he‘s a socialist? I‘m just asking.
HARRIS: I‘ll let—Governor Romney‘s not the nominee of our party.
But I think if he were on this program right now, the first thing that he
would talk about is the fact that, as Republicans have been saying all
along, there are state-based solutions to these problems. And Governor
MATTHEWS: State socialism. So that‘s your fall-back position. It‘s
socialism, but it‘s local. Is that—
HARRIS: All socialism is local, right?
MATTHEWS: So feeble. You‘re stuck with Romney and you‘re stuck with
your record and you can‘t win this argument. I‘m sorry, I shouldn‘t get in
here. I should be a ref in these things. But Steve—
MCMAHON: Todd is making a valiant effort, and he‘s very good at this.
But what he‘s talking about simply is fantasy. The Republicans had a
chance—they had a chance—
MATTHEWS: Todd, you win some weeks on this show. You win some weeks
on this show, not this week. Thank you, Steve McMahon.
HARRIS: I thought I just won.
MATTHEWS: Maybe, in your own mind, in your own heart. By the way,
your mom thinks you won.
Up next, together again, Sarah Palin campaigns alongside the man who
made her famous, John McCain. Politics makes strange bedfellows, ladies
and gentlemen. Can Palin convince hard-line conservatives to stick with
McCain in his fight against J.D. Hayworth. This is HARDBALL. That‘s
HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: It was such a privilege to be asked do run alongside him in
2008. And it‘s an honor to stand beside him now and ask that you, Arizona,
for the sake of your state and the sake of our country, that you send the
maverick back to the United States Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Senator John McCain launched Sarah Palin‘s
political career on the national stage. And now she‘s trying to help save
his. The former running mates reunited for first time today since losing
that presidential election in 2008. Here‘s Governor Palin stumping for
McCain, who is fending off a tough primary challenge from J.D. Hayworth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Everybody here today supporting John McCain, we‘re all part of
that Tea Party movement, because I‘ve had the privilege of traveling around
the U.S. and meeting with everyday Americans who are that great Tea Party
movement. And folks always ask me about my friend John McCain everywhere I
go. When you think about that first Tea Party, shoot, some may claim that
John was there at that first Tea Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: MSNBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell was at today‘s rally in Tucson,
Arizona, and Melinda Henneberger is editor in chief of PoliticsDaily.com.
Norah, you‘re laughing. I just want to know. We watched the whole
thing today on television. What couldn‘t we see? What was the smell of
the crowd? Were they pro-McCain, pro-Palin? Did they understand there was
a rift between them or what?
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: There was a bit of awkwardness, not
just because of that joke, where she was making fun of John McCain‘s age,
but also because it was clear that Sarah Palin was the main attraction.
John McCain may have been at the top of the ticket in the last presidential
election, but Sarah Palin is now the star of the Republican party.
And so while most of the people here were excited that John McCain was
here, they were ebullient that Sarah Palin was here. They were cheering.
They wanted their books signed. They loved Sarah Palin. I think that‘s
what John McCain wanted, in part, some of that star power to rub off on
Also, he needed Sarah Palin to vouch for his conservative credentials.
That‘s why she was talking about the Tea Party. She said John McCain is
just like someone that‘s in the Tea Party movement because he has been
campaigning against reckless spending in Washington for four decades,
according to her. Trying to sort of say, yeah, he‘s like one of us. He,
too, is angry at Washington. He, too, is going to change Washington. So
he‘s OK, guys. He‘s OK to vote for.
MATTHEWS: You know, Melinda, it must be embarrassing to have to get
an endorsement, if you‘re John McCain, from anybody out of state, but to
have to get it from somebody you pitched—you plucked from obscurity, and
you probably believe belongs there, as someone who has to vouch for you.
MELINDA HENNEBERGER, POLITICSDAILY.COM: And somebody who you think
ruined your campaign and may be a major reason you‘re not president of the
United States today.
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t carry Florida. There were a lot of states that
couldn‘t vote for her.
HENNEBERGER: A lot of conservatives said they had to be national
security concerns and health concerns about her, so -- to have voted for
the ticket. But sure it‘s got to be galling. Just to see the body of
language like him looking like he‘s in pain, and Cindy McCain was not even
trying. I mean, she was just standing there looking.
MATTHEWS: Norah, you‘re very good with observation, obviously. Give
us a report on your sense of the McCain reaction, physically, to the
presence of this star.
O‘DONNELL: I think there was—it was like he had to do it. I don‘t
think he was happy about it. I think he‘s not happy that he is about to be
thrown out of office after 24 years in the U.S. Senate. I mean, facing
this very tough primary challenge, and that is led by Tea Party supporters.
It should be pointed out, there are four major Tea Party groups here in
this state. They‘re not endorsing. That‘s a big win for John McCain.
Nevertheless, they‘re a powerful force. And people don‘t think he‘s
been doing a good job. They don‘t trust him. Remember, he voted for the
Tarp, that multi-billion dollar bailout of Wall Street. Voters remember
that. They‘re angry about that.
As far as the atmospherics, you‘re right, Cindy McCain gave a very
lukewarm instruction to Sarah Palin, and John McCain didn‘t seem to be
paying attention for many parts of that. When she was talking about the
Tea Party, he was sort of looking away. He reached down into his pocket to
grab his notes to go over his own remarks that were going up.
Nonetheless, this party goes on, if you will, because Sarah Palin is
holding a fund-raiser for John McCain tonight. She‘s going to be
campaigning again for him tomorrow in Mesa. This is all part of his
effort. He brings in a lot of people. It was Scott Brown just a couple
weeks ago. He‘s invited Jeb Bush and other people to try and help him win
this Senate race.
MATTHEWS: I can‘t wait to hear what you tell me about that race out
there when you get back. Norah O‘Donnell, thanks for that report. I want
to get the skinny on this. Your thoughts on this? In the end, is he going
HENNEBERGER: I don‘t know. It‘s a long way until then. Hayworth,
what does he have even to say to these Tea Party people? He has ties to
Jack Abramoff. He spent a lot of money, himself, when he was in Congress.
MATTHEWS: Melinda Henneberger, thank you.
When we return, we‘re going to have some thoughts about this amazing
week. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: The American people saw history made this week. They saw a
president, a speaker of the House and a Senate majority leader enact a long
promised reform of the country‘s health insurance system. It happened
because the president had the intense support of both the Speaker and the
Senate leader through grueling months of argument, courage, compromise, and
then more courage.
It happened because one party, in this case the Democrats, agreed to
carry the ball, to fight off every effort by the other side to cause it to
fumble, to sustain all the attacks that came across the aisle before,
during and after the voting.
What just happened offers an object lesson in how to have a
functioning government, in other words. You vote for a candidate and a
party that promises to do something and then they do it. We just saw
Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid do what
they deeply believe is good for the country.
So if the country wants government to act it should vote in way that
allows that to happen. This is true no matter which party we choose. In
1980, the country voted overwhelmingly for Ronald Reagan. It voted to give
him a partisan majority in the U.S. Senate, and the kind of huge pickup of
seats in the House that allowed him to push through his big changes in
federal tax and spending policies that became the Reagan Revolution.
Today‘s polls show the public is conflicted on all this. While it
wants political figures to do what they promised to do, it‘s not at all
sure it wants to give them the power to do this. Those polls out there
today show that 60 percent of this country, believe it or not, prefers
having government divided between a president of one party and a Congress
of another. In other words, a prescription for log jam.
What I think the people most detest is government ground down by
conflict, by finger pointing and blame gaming and inaction. When Congress
rejects what the president proposes, or when the president refuses to back
what the Congress wants, you get government by standstill. You get loud
complaints, one side blaming the other, and nothing to show for it.
So the big question for voters out there watching right now is do you
want government to deal with the challenges of health, of energy
dependence, illegal immigration, bad education, or just keep kicking the
can down the road? If you do want government to act, pick the party you
trust to do it. If you don‘t, if you truly think the way things are in
this country are as good as they‘re going to get, split the vote up, divide
up the government, make sure neither party has the power to do anything.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Catch us again
Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. Right now it‘s time for “THE ED
SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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