Guests: Barney Frank, Joan Walsh, Ernest Istook, Bill Maher.
HOST: Tea time.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Tea for who? What are the tea party people up to? Good question. They
rallied into Boston today, home of the original party. And Sarah Palin got
the crowd going by saying she doesn‘t mean to say President Obama‘s
downright un-American, just that his policies are.
You know, Richard Nixon was good at this sort of thing—There are
those who say the Supreme Court is communist, I wouldn‘t say that. She‘s
playing the same old trick, like saying it‘s time to reload but saying, I‘m
not really talking about guns. Just keep throwing out the red meat, but
denying she‘s got her brand on it. So again, what are these tea party
leaders actually up to? That‘s our top story tonight.
And perfect timing. Bill Maher‘s here with us tonight. You know he‘s
got things to say about ex-governor Palin and her unmerry cotillion of tea
Plus: Are Republicans pretending to protect Main Street while being in
bed with Wall Street? Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell slammed the
Democrats‘ financial reform plan as a perpetual bail-out but only after
meeting with a claque of hedge fund guys up in New York. So who‘s fooling
And let‘s get our heads around these big three primaries coming up May
18th, Specter versus Sestak up in Pennsylvania, Lincoln versus Halter in
Arkansas, and Paul—that‘s Rand Paul—versus Grayson (ph) in Kentucky.
And “Let Me Finish” tonight with what I really think of people who
start third parties.
Let‘s talk about the tea party. Ernest Istook is a former Republican
congressman from Oklahoma. He was a guest speaker at the tea party rally
up in Boston today. And Joan Walsh is editor of Salon.com.
Mr. Istook, thank you very much for joining us.
EARNEST ISTOOK (R-OK), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Hey, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen to Sarah Palin. I know you were a speaker,
but I‘d like to hear your thoughts about what your companion said today in
Boston at that tea rally. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE: All of this makes us
more of beholden to foreign countries! It makes us less secure! It makes
us less free! And I‘m not calling anyone un-American, but the unintended
consequences of these actions, the results are un-American!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Mr. Istook, that‘s Nixon stuff, to say, I‘m not calling
anybody anti-American but the policies are anti-American. Why would she
bring up the phrase “anti-American” if she‘s not calling him that?
ISTOOK: Well, because so many other countries have benefited from
things. The fact that we have not used our energy resources and developed
them—for example, Russia‘s resurgence militarily—they‘ve benefited to
the tune of something like $600 billion a year because they‘ve been
developing their oil and gas resources, and we haven‘t been. So yes, that
helps other countries at our expense. And yes, that hurts the cause of
MATTHEWS: So it‘s un-American.
ISTOOK: It hurts America. That‘s the point.
MATTHEWS: Well, why do you use language—we used to have a House
Committee on Un-American Activities that went out after the communists back
in the early ‘50s, late ‘40s, using the term “un-American.” I just wonder
about her language here. Well, let me ask you, do you think it‘s that
fundamental, that she‘s (SIC) un-American and you folks who are from
Oklahoma and the oil patch states are pro-American because you‘re pro-oil?
ISTOOK: I think what you‘re doing here, Chris, is you‘re trying to
quibble over your choice of words. You know, other people...
MATTHEWS: No, her choice.
ISTOOK: ... can quibble—well, I understand, but the point...
MATTHEWS: Her choice.
ISTOOK: The point is people could quibble about your choice of words,
words—and you know, spend all the time about your word selection, rather
than upon the issues...
ISTOOK: ... you‘re talking about. Now, the tea party is issue-
MATTHEWS: Because her applause line—because—let me ask you
about the applause lines at all these tea parties. They‘re inevitably
about freedom, about the notion of being “real Americans,” about American
exceptionalism, these fundamental arguments with Barack Obama. They‘re not
about the nuances of tax policy or trade policy or energy policy, which we
can all argue about. They‘re fundamental charges against the
administration as being un-American.
She uses phrases like, It‘s time to reload, and then says, I‘m not
really talking about guns. I‘m not saying he‘s un-American, I‘m saying his
policies are un-American. You don‘t see—you don‘t hear this lingo. You
don‘t hear this charged-up language that she‘s using to turn on these
crowds. You don‘t hear it.
ISTOOK: Sure, well, you know, when you talk about American
exceptionalism—a lot of people disagree with the basic concept that
Barack Obama seems to have about America‘s place in the world. Now, I may
not use the term “un-American.” I may say that it‘s not in America‘s best
interests, and so forth. But again, I‘m not going to quibble over the
The big issue—and I think that you correctly pointed it out, Chris
is there is a fundamental difference in how President Obama and the
liberals who are running Washington, D.C., see the role of America in the
world, see the role of America in history. It‘s a fundamental difference
between, frankly, not just the tea party, but I think between them and a
vast number if not the majority of Americans.
MATTHEWS: So what is that difference?
ISTOOK: Well, the difference is—for example, President Obama talks
about—we had one of his people talking about lowering expectations. You
ISTOOK: ... the positive notion—and it was presented today by
Sarah Palin at the tea party to say that America‘s best days are ahead of
us and appealing to people‘s sense of individual involvement.
You know, this—this report that 47 percent of the American people
do not pay federal income taxes—now, they‘ll pay into payroll taxes for
which they will get something back for Medicare and Social Security, but
they‘re not helping with national defense. They‘re not helping with the
federal government‘s role in public lands or the environment. They‘re not
helping with a lot of country‘s role.
And we‘re reaching a tipping point in America. The tea party is hard,
I know, for the media to get its hands around because it does not originate
Washington, D.C., it‘s not centralized.
ISTOOK: It is genuine community organizing but not bankrolled by, you
know, like, Moveon.org was...
MATTHEWS: OK, I think...
ISTOOK: ... by George Soros.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Oh, come on!
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you—Joan Walsh, I think the charge there
is that the poor people who don‘t make much money in this country aren‘t
paying their fair share of the federal income taxes. Is that a fair shot?
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: No, it‘s not. This country is rigged for the
rich. The tax code is rigged for the rich. Some of those people who don‘t
pay taxes, Chris, are people with great tax attorneys who get them out of
all their tax liability. So don‘t start with me about what the poor don‘t
pay. The rich don‘t pay their share, either.
And you know, Mr. Istook can say this isn‘t about words, but words are
how we express our differences, our beliefs. We discuss policy with words.
The choice of “un-American” is a typical Sarah Palin divisive thing to say.
The idea that Barack Obama is un-American, the idea that he does not
believe in American exceptionalism is ridiculous. The idea that he thinks
or has said or anybody in his administration says or believes that our
better days are behind us?
This is a man who campaigned and has also run the country with a
tremendous amount of optimism. Now, you can disagree about his policies.
That‘s fine. We can have debates about taxes. But they are trying—they
don‘t want to get into the nitty-gritty of taxes. My God! They just want
to stay on, It‘s un-American, It‘s unconstitutional, They don‘t like the
Constitution. And these are loaded words. These are words...
WALSH: ... that are whipping people up with fear.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Congressman, it seems to me back in 19 --
or 2004, when I first heard him speak and I was taken with his speech, he
talked about his story, Barack Obama, and he said only in this country is
my story possible, where a guy comes in here, he‘s an immigrant. He‘s
basically—he‘s not an immigrant but his father was. He‘s got a mixed
background. He gets to go to Harvard law. He gets to go to Columbia. He
gets to be a lawyer. He gets to be a United States—he just talks about
this country is uniquely open to people who have opportunities only here
and wouldn‘t have them anywhere else, given their kind of background, their
mixed background in his case. And he said, Only in America is my story
He paid tribute to the uniqueness of America, to the exception which
we are, where you really become in this country who you are because of what
you can do, not because of who your grandpop was. This country is truly
exceptional that way. Truly exceptional. You can make your thing here in
this country—people don‘t ask you what you are, who you are. They say,
What can do you? This is American exceptionalism.
What‘s your notion of it, sir?
ISTOOK: Well, Chris...
MATTHEWS: If it‘s not his? You‘re saying he‘s less American because
he doesn‘t have some sort of notion of optimism.
ISTOOK: Well, Chris, first of all, I agree with you that that story
in which President Obama presented on the campaign trail was a big part of
his victory. It‘s a big part of why he started off with about a 70 percent
or so approval rating when he took office.
But he doesn‘t have that today. He doesn‘t have near it because it‘s
not about how President Obama came up through the ranks in that sense.
It‘s about how he is governing. People admire his background story. They
do not admire the policies that he‘s pressing and imposing upon the country
the level of national debt that we‘re having, the trillion—multi-
trillion dollars of deficits that are having (ph)...
ISTOOK: ... things that are being pushed off on the next generation.
And don‘t tell me that 47 percent of the American people are poor. They‘re
MATTHEWS: Right. OK. Well, I just think that the Republicans, who
talk a good line about fiscal responsibility, doubled the national debt
ISTOOK: But Chris, you know, you‘re right—you‘re right, a lot went
wrong that shouldn‘t—too much spending under Republicans...
ISTOOK: ... but that is no excuse for spending far, far more. If
Republicans spent too much...
MATTHEWS: OK, that‘s an argument...
MATTHEWS: OK, I love fighting about spending and tax policy. I want
Joan to respond to something here. I think there‘s some very interesting
language, dangerous language being used at these rallies. Here‘s former
governor Palin talking about the president tonight, playing—or today,
talking about Alinsky. I think she likes this word. Let‘s go. Let‘s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Is that what Barack Obama meant when he promised the nation
that they would fundamentally transform America? He warned us—he warned
us with a playbook that sure seems to me like it‘s all Alinsky all the
time. Is this what their change is all about? I want to tell them, Nah,
you know, we—we‘ll keep clinging to our Constitution and our guns and
religion, and you can keep the change!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Joan, what do you think of that, all Alinsky all the time?
She‘s charging the person with being un-American, the president of the
United States, all Alinsky all the time. I‘m hearing Trotsky myself. I
think this language...
WALSH: Alinsky, Trotsky...
MATTHEWS: ... she uses is brilliant. I think I know what she‘s
doing. I know what she‘s doing.
MATTHEWS: She‘s making a foreigner out of our president. That‘s what
WALSH: He‘s a foreigner. He consorts with radicals. You know, the
funny thing is, a bunch of tea party people last year—I think you had
them on your show, Chris—talked about how they read Alinsky, too, and
they took principles from Alinsky. There are organizing principles that
different organizers use on the right and the left. Some of them came from
But the point is, again, you know, we had people this week claim that
the president was pursuing nuclear arms reduction in order to make us less
safe on purpose. There is a consistent depiction of him as a traitor, as
someone who‘s weakening our national defense, as someone who‘s spending
And I really have to ask, Mr. Istook, where were you when George Bush
spent the Clinton surplus and drove us into this ditch? Why no...
WALSH: ... tea parties in 2006? Why—why did they start right
after the election?
ISTOOK: Joan, I just mentioned—I agree with you that Republicans
spent too much during the years we had the majority.
WALSH: But there was no tea party.
ISTOOK: But—but we hadn‘t—you see—because the new expense
has piled on top of the old expense. You take a plateau and you put a
mountain on top of it, it makes it worse than it ever was. So the point is
not that Republicans were totally responsible in spending. I‘m not making
any such claim. But to take it even levels of magnitude farther, to pile
trillions of dollars more expense...
ISTOOK: ... on top of what you‘re saying was excessive spending...
WALSH: He inherited...
ISTOOK: ... that‘s inexcusable.
WALSH: He inherited...
ISTOOK: He did not inherit that level of spending!
WALSH: ... a recession...
ISTOOK: Don‘t give me that!
WALSH: He inherited a recession that was going into a depression.
ISTOOK: And made it worse!
WALSH: He did not make it worse.
ISTOOK: He did!
WALSH: Are you saying the economy is worse than it was?
MATTHEWS: OK. I just want to...
WALSH: Please, Mr. Istook, there are facts there.
ISTOOK: ... to pay back the stimulus?
MATTHEWS: Mr. Istook...
ISTOOK: Where are we going to get the money to pay...
WALSH: You‘re going to lose that battle, buddy.
MATTHEWS: I got—I think we should debate policy on taxes and
spending and keep doing it, and the whole thing is fair game. And I love
this debate. But I want to ask you, Mr. Istook...
MATTHEWS: ... do you think that Barack Obama‘s less an American than,
say, Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann?
ISTOOK: No, I think...
MATTHEWS: Is he less an American?
ISTOOK: I do not consider one, quote, “more American” in that sense.
Now, I think that some of them have more views that are consistent...
ISTOOK: ... with the traditional views of America. But they‘re all
American. I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: OK, I‘m asking you. They‘re just—OK, great. Thank you.
I think that you‘ve made yourself fairly clear.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ernest Istook. Thank you for coming on HARDBALL
ISTOOK: You bet. Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a very articulate spokesman for your point of view,
and I did get a lot out of it. Thank you, Joan. I know where you stand
and I agree with you.
Coming up: Comedian Bill Maher will give you his take on the tea
parties and Sarah Palin, and I hope he gets into Michele Bachmann, too, and
the whole phenomenon we‘re talking about. I think it has a lot more to do
than just taxes and spending and the usual stuff we argue about. It seems
to be pretty frickin‘ fundamental, what they‘re saying against our
president. Anyone, in one minute, he‘s going to be here right in the
break. By the way, we‘re going to have the results of the first election
contest since the health care bill was passed coming up right after this
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: So folks, from now until November, when they say, Yes, we can,
we‘re going to all say, Oh, no you don‘t!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Sarah Palin today
rallying her supporters to show their strength in November. How much
influence does this lady have?
Bill Maher hosts “Real Time With Bill Maher” Friday nights on HBO, and
I can‘t wait to get on that show April 30th, in a couple weeks. Bill,
thank you. I just wonder about Sarah Palin, and she seems to operate in a
different area than most of us are used to, but in a different octave, as
well. Your thoughts?
BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”: Yes. The...
MAHER: (INAUDIBLE) chalk, fingernails on a chalkboard comes to mind.
But I don‘t know why the mainstream media is always taking her so
seriously. The conservatives had another one of their, seems to be, weekly
conventions last week. And again, they polled the rank and file, who I
would think would be her biggest supporters. Isn‘t this supposed to be
who‘s for Sarah Palin? If not them, who? And she comes in third, as she
did at CPAC. I think she got 18 percent. She got less than that at CPAC.
I understand why I want to talk about her. I‘m a comedian and a
rationalist. But I mean, what are her qualifications? Why is she this
political rock star? She was the governor of a state with no people for
half a term. She quit. You know, I don‘t know what qualifications you
need to have to be a presidential figure, but I would think it has to be
something more than just a—having a FaceBook page. So I don‘t know why
they take her this seriously because she is a manifestly unserious person.
MATTHEWS: Well, that windshield wiper wave of her attracts 10,000
people in Boston today on the Common. I don‘t think Mike Huckabee could
draw 10,000, or Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney in Boston, his home town. She
can draw a crowd and she turns them on. And every time we watch a rally,
the people in front her seem to go into some sort of a frenzy. So what‘s
that about? Do we ignore that? Because it seems rare in politics today.
MAHER: Yes, you should ignore that. I mean, you can get 10,000
MAHER: What? I mean, you have—you have a section on your show
called the “Sideshow.” It is a—it is a sideshow. This is a person who,
when Glenn Beck asked her to name her favorite Founding Father other than
George Washington, she couldn‘t come up with one. You know, she gave the
same answer she gave to Katie Couric about magazines, I like them all, you
MAHER: You know what? Let‘s not even go into specifics about that
MATTHEWS: But when you read it...
MAHER: You know, I mean...
MATTHEWS: ... the thing is, Bill, when you—she doesn‘t know
answers to questions, but—and apparently, according to our “Sideshow”
element tonight, the deal is, when she gives a speech, all questions have
to be screened and approved by God knows who her camp. But yet when she
gives a prepared speech from the stump, she‘s talking about the Crimea.
She‘s talking about Ukraine, about Chechnya. She‘s got opinions about
Iran. It‘s absolutely worldwide, the areas she‘s touching on. My own
belief is she‘s got neocons scribbling all this stuff in crayon for her,
and she‘s reading it out like she knows what she‘s talking about. But if
you ask her one question, she doesn‘t know any answers.
So, I am a little bit puzzled. But I‘m not really.
MAHER: Yes. I would like to see her on “Jeopardy,” Chris.
MAHER: I would love to see her and Michele Bachmann on “Jeopardy.” I
think it would the all-time low score.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of those two ladies when they came out and
did sort of a competition? They showed up together looking—well, they
were attractive ladies. Let‘s say that. And they very good at drawing
that crowd up there in Minnesota, which I used to think was Hubert Humphrey
and Gene McCarthy country. And now it‘s that country.
MAHER: Well, I think you‘re right.
I think you—you hit on something there. They‘re attractive,
especially to the Republican Party, which is not known as a party that
really does well with the opposite sex.
MAHER: Usually, they‘re doughy white men. And I think they look on
Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin as, you know, MILFs. And I agree.
They‘re morons I would like to forget.
MATTHEWS: Oh, my God.
Well, let‘s take a look. Here‘s Sarah Palin leaving the stage today
in Boston. Here‘s what the announcers said along those lines, Bill. I
think you will have some material here. Let‘s listen to what the
announcers said as these—as this—as Sarah Palin left the stage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you hear that, my lefty friends? You see that?
Conservative women, they‘re smarter than you and they‘re hotter than you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Did you pick up on that little sidebar there? They‘re
hotter than you, they‘re smarter than you. So, now they do claim an
advantage in that department of glamour for the first time, I guess, in a
while. The Democratic Party used to have that edge. Now the conservative
party, the—the tea partiers are claimings the glamour edge.
MAHER: Right. And this is the—this is the criterion we‘re using
to judge our field for national candidates?
MAHER: You know, we have a terrible deficit in this country. You
know what else we also have a deficit in? Female role models.
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t know about that. We have got—we have got
the secretary of state. We have got a couple of senators from California.
They‘re pretty impressive. We have got a very impressive senator from
Missouri and from Minnesota.
I have gotten to know a lot of them, and they‘re very impressive.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the people that bother you. Last time
I was on the show—or the second-to-last time I was on your show, these
birthers and these truthers, they don‘t go away. The birthers are not
going away, Bill. They still think this guy‘s not one of us and they would
love to prove it.
Well, you know, they‘re just another sort of strain of something we
have seen many times from the right wing, who are, if anything, sore
losers. You remember when Al Gore was fighting for the election in 2000
and they had those signs, “Sore Loserman”?
MAHER: If anybody is “Sore Loserman,” it‘s these people. They do not
accept any Democratic victory as legitimate.
They did it with Clinton. Remember Paula Jones? They didn‘t care,
anything to get them out of office. The birth certificate stuff is their
version of Paula Jones. It‘s just something to get this man out of office,
because, when they win, it just doesn‘t count.
And, of course, it‘s also based a lot on racism. Of course, if you go
to a birther and say that, they hate that. If there‘s one thing they
absolutely cannot stand, it is being called racist. If there‘s another
thing they absolutely cannot stand, of course, it‘s black people.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s—let‘s connect the dots. The governor of
Virginia‘s talking about bringing back Confederacy celebrations, and—and
forgetting slavery, of course.
MATTHEWS: The governor of Texas is talking about secession. And his
opponent is talking about nullification and interposition. The A.G. down
in Florida‘s talking about, what, the invasion of the state‘s sovereignty
because of the health care bill.
A lot of pre-Civil War antebellum lingo coming out, dripping from the
lips of these Southern Republicans. I think there is a connection, myself.
You know, I—we talked about this on our show about a year ago. And
I thought I was making a joke, and I said, you know, somewhere along the
line 20 or 30 years ago, the left in this country moved to the center, and
the right moved into a mental hospital.
MAHER: I said they were just a bunch of religious...
MAHER: ... religious lunatics, flat-earthers and Civil War
But that‘s actually kind of true. They—they are Civil War
reenactors. And this—this sleazy idea that comes up over and over again
now, that somehow we‘re going to recast this Civil War as a states‘ rights
thing or something about economic differences, you know, forgetting the
ultimate elephant in the room, the slavery issue, that little thing.
Yes, it was an economic issue. It was the original, “It‘s the
economy, stupid,‘ because that was very cheap labor they had, Chris, very
cheap labor. And that was very important to their economy.
But there was that other little issue, and they—they kind of forget
the fact that, when you are nostalgic for a period in history that was very
bad to a certain group of people, it‘s sort of insulting to that group of
people, the same way, if you‘re nostalgic for the ‘50s, you‘re kind of
forgetting the fact that the ‘50s wasn‘t a good time if you were a woman,
so much, or black or Hispanic or gay or mentally disabled. Lots of things,
it wasn‘t good for.
So, you know, you know, when they sing that song, “I wish I was in the
land of cotton,” yes, because you didn‘t have to pick it.
MATTHEWS: OK, Bill Maher.
“Real Time With Bill Maher” is on this Friday night, as always, on
HBO. And I will be on the 30th.
And, by the way, you are going to be up in Upper Darby on the 25th,
Upper Darby right outside Philly, the home of Tina Fey. She went to Upper
Darby High School. What are going to say to those people? Do you have a
Philly accent figured out?
MAHER: No, but, Chris, that‘s your—that‘s your area, right? You
can give me some tips.
MATTHEWS: I will explain to you off the air. It‘s very—it‘s
always adding an extra syllable. It‘s Huntington Park and Saint Joe‘s.
It‘s Villanova. Just add an extra sound in there, it will work great with
the people. They will love you more.
MATTHEWS: Up next—Bill Maher, thank you.
MATTHEWS: I will see you out there.
Up next: Which senator from the Democratic side of the aisle is now
saying, thank God for the Republican momentum? Wait until you catch—
catch the latest from Joe the bummer.
It‘s coming up in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And time for the “Sideshow,” mentioned
earlier by Bill Maher.
First: Joe the bummer. The independent senator from Connecticut, Joe
Lieberman, continues to twist the knife into his Democratic colleagues. In
a recent interview with the conservative “NewsMax” magazine, Senator
Lieberman appears to—says to—actually say, thank God for Republican
momentum. Let‘s listen to the senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: There were a lot of people,
particularly Democrats, who were declaring, after the 2008 election, that
we were beginning a period of Democratic dominance that would go on for
decades. Now, all of a sudden, the momentum is with the Republicans. And
and that‘s—thank God. That‘s the way the—the people have spoken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: “Thank God.”
Lieberman‘s spokesman says the “thank God” simply referred to the fact
that the United States is a democracy.
Well, as if it were necessary, the senator said he‘s probably not
running as a Democrat the next time around.
Next: a run through the right-wing spin machine. Last night, Jon
Stewart did a fantastic job of explaining how the federal income tax system
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tax day‘s only a week away, but a study from the
Tax Policy Center finds nearly half of all households don‘t pay a penny to
STUART VARNEY, FOX NEWS: Forty-seven percent of households pay not a
single dime in taxes. And some of those households actually make a profit
from the Treasury.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That‘s because either their incomes are too low
or they qualify for enough credits and deductions to eliminate their
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”: Those
STEWART: So, who are these scofflaws? Generally, they‘re a bunch of
lowdown, unlovable no-accounts, single mothers making minimum wage, heads
of households making less than $30,000 a year, and the worst of the worst,
grandmothers on fixed incomes.
STEWART: Hey, granny, want any Grey Poupon with your cat food?
STEWART: Well, don‘t worry. Glenn Beck has a plan for these
GLENN BECK, HOST, “GLENN BECK”: How about, if you pay nothing, you‘re
the one who has to serve in the military?
STEWART: Yes, let‘s see how you like the grub in Fallujah, Nana.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I have no idea what Glenn Beck was talking about who is
going to fight in the military because they don‘t pay taxes, but the
interesting fact here is how progressive, when you think about it, the
American income tax system really is.
Finally, looking to book Sarah Palin? Guess what? It doesn‘t come
easy. Students at Cal State Stanislaus dug out of the trash can a
contract dealing—detailing Palin‘s specific requirements for an upcoming
speech at the university.
Among her demands? Well, either first-class tickets or a private jet
to the event, deluxe hotel rooms, two waters at her lectern with bendable
straws. And here‘s one I have never heard before, ever, by anybody: a
guarantee that audience questions are going to be pre-screened.
How‘s that for democracy? How‘s that for the Tea Party, pre-screened
questions from the people? Although Palin‘s speaking—Palin‘s speaking
fee wasn‘t in the document, California Attorney General and would-be
Governor Jerry Brown announced last night that he‘s launching an
investigation into how much money that public university intends to pay the
Up next: Are Republicans really protecting Main Street, like they say
they are, or do they have other interests?
Wait until you catch this. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC
Stocks extending gains in a big way today to finish in the green for
the fifth straight session—the Dow Jones industrials rallying more than
100 points, the S&P 500 adding 13 to finish above 1200 for the first time
since the financial meltdown in 2008.
And a big day for the Nasdaq, after a blockbuster earnings report from
Intel, soaring more than 38 points. A blockbuster day for financials
across the board, after J.P. Morgan Chase posted better-than-expected
quarterly earnings and revenues and announced plans to hire 9,000 new
Better-than-expected reports on retail sales and consumer prices as
well adding to the bullish atmosphere, retail sales jumping more than 1.5
percent in March, while inflation remained tame, but consumer prices rising
And stocks also getting a lift from an upbeat Beige Book. That‘s the
report from the Federal Reserve on a number of its regional reports,
showing steady improvement in most areas of the economy.
That‘s it from CNBC. We‘re first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
A showdown may be coming between the White House, the Barack Obama
White House, and Republicans over financial regulatory reform. Senator
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell met with top hedge fund executives last
week before coming out against Wall Street reform.
Here he is today slamming the Democrats on their bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The American taxpayer
has suffered enough as a result of the financial crisis and the recession
it triggered. They have asked us for one thing.
Whatever you do, they say, don‘t leave open the door to endless
bailouts of Wall Street banks. If you need to know one thing about this
bill, Mr. President, it‘s that it would make it official government policy,
official government policy, to bail out the biggest Wall Street banks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s what President Obama had to say in retort to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘m absolutely
confidence that the bill that emerges is going to be a bill that prevents
bailouts. That‘s the goal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the big question a lot of people are asking is pretty
intuitive: Are Republicans pretending to protect Main Street, when they‘re
really in bed with Wall Street? People ask this question all the time.
Democratic Barney Frank of Massachusetts, chairman of the Financial
Mr. Chairman, thank you for joining us.
I guess this is so complicated that most American people say they have
got to trust somebody, because they don‘t get it. It‘s a lot of
responsibility. Can you fathom what they do on Wall Street to make
billions of dollars without accomplishing much for the public?
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We
can stop it from happening.
I—I have to say, let me get right to it with Mitch McConnell. What
you heard him say is either willful ignorance or absolute dishonesty. It‘s
the exact opposite of the truth.
The bill—in fact, here‘s the problem with the Republicans. As
people will remember all this past year or so, they were finding death
panels where they don‘t exist in the health bill. In fact, we have had
death panels in our legislation all year. They‘re in the financial
The bill that passed the House—and this is similar to what Senator
Dodd is doing in the Senate—says very clearly, no funds can be used—
and they‘re not taxpayer funds, by the way—they‘re funds that would be
contributed by financial institutions—but none of them can be used to
deal with a crisis until the institution that caused the crisis is dead.
It is very clear in the bill. There‘s no bailout of a firm.
MATTHEWS: All right.
FRANK: The firms die.
In fact, the Federal Reserve has used power under Section 133. It‘s
what Alan—it‘s what Ben Bernanke used to bail out AIG. The bill that
passed the House rescinds that. It repeals it. It no longer exists.
So, yes, you—you had Senator Shelby, the senior Republican, go to
the American Bankers and boast how they were going to kill this bill. John
Boehner, the Republican leader, went and talked about the little punk
staffers, don‘t pay any attention to them; we‘ll stop reform.
This is the most cynical distortion of the truth imaginable. Let me
just stress again, under the bill that we passed, in the first place, no
taxpayer funds would be involved. In the second place, as Secretary
Paulson from George Bush‘s administration asked, in some cases if there‘s a
crisis, you may need some funds to stop things from getting worse. There
will be funds that will come from the financial institutions and they can
only used, quite flatly in the bill, after the institution that may have
caused the problem is put out of business, the shareholders are wiped out,
the executives are fired.
MATTHEWS: Well, again to my question—let me get back to that
question that you made. Are the Republicans basically in bed with Wall
Street? Are they getting paid? Are they getting paid protection money to
are they getting paid—go ahead, I‘m sorry.
FRANK: Let‘s change the metaphor. They are serving Wall Street
breakfast in bed. Wall Street‘s in bed, the Republicans are serving them.
They‘re trying to kill an Independent Consumer Agency. We have in there—
on the grounds that we might over-protect consumers from credit card abuses
and overdraft fees or check cashiers or whatever.
Here‘s an example, we say in the bill that passed the House, if you‘re
advising people about how to invest in money, you have what we call a
fiduciary responsible. You have to have their interests. The Republicans
want to kill that. We say that if you are going to be making loans, and
then you sell those loans right away, you don‘t have any real
responsibility for those loans. That‘s a large part of the subprime
crisis. So we say if you make loans and then sell the right to be paid,
you have to hold onto some of it.
You know, if you‘re an insurance company and you want to get
reinsurance, you have to retain some of the risk. We say that you have to
retain five percent of the risk. The Republicans are against that. So on
every issue in dispute, yes, they are serving breakfast in bed to the
Republicans, and then claiming, very perversely, oh no, we‘re protecting
Again, let me stress, in the bill that we passed, we repeal the
ability of the Federal Reserve do things like AIG, and we say if funds are
needed to stop a crisis from going forward—we‘re borrowing this from
what the FDIC does with banks—then we will assess financial institutions
for that money, and we will use it to pay as little as we have to to stop a
crisis, but only after the bank or investment household, whatever in
question, is dissolved, the shareholders are wiped out.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that big shots on Wall Street are circling
around Capitol Hill even as we speak tonight, looking for staffers who‘ve
worked on the inside, that they can buy to use, to stymie effective
FRANK: Some of them were trying that. As you know, a couple of weeks
ago, I—I expressed my deep anger because someone who had worked on the
committee that I chair—and I hadn‘t hired him but he was—he came as
someone who seemed to want to do the right thing—went directly to work
for one of the institutions affected by the bill.
But I don‘t think they think that works. I must say, in terms of the
Financial Services Committee, which I chair, the two most prominent people
to get those jobs in the last couple of years are not allowed by me to
speak to anybody who works for the committee. So if that‘s what they were
trying to do, it was very ineffective.
It is a case of the Republicans—the most cynical thing I have ever
seen. They‘re doing the bidding of the large financial institution.
They‘re against a consumer agency being independent. They‘re against the
fiduciary responsibility, against risk retention. They‘re trying to
restrict forcing derivatives onto exchanges, to a great extent. And now
they claim to be doing this in the interest of the average citizen, when
they‘re doing it because of financial institutions and they happen to
MATTHEWS: So is this ideology, Mr. Frank? In the end, when you sit
down with these guys in a mark-up, or you get them eyeball to eyeball, do
you sense on the other side that they‘ve been tanked because they‘ve got
campaign contribution or they‘ve got friends, or do they honestly take this
laissez-faire attitude, even after all of the hell we‘ve been through as a
FRANK: The dominant Republicans are the very conservatives ones. And
they believe it ideologically. They also get some money for it. But you
have people—look, Alan Greenspan admitted this in 2008, at least he
admitted it, that his total deregulatory philosophy was wrong. These are
the people who said, don‘t regulate subprime loans. Don‘t regulate
derivatives. Others have said that, by the way, and have now admitted they
This is the view that the market always knows best. They have this
one thing going for them politically, when they were in power for six
years, having both the Congress and the president, for a very long period
of time, you know, they so discredited the notion of government that they
now benefit by saying oh, now you can‘t have the government do anything.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, U.S. Congressman, Chairman of the
Committee on Banking, Barney Frank of Massachusetts. Thank you, sir, for
Up next, we‘re going to get our heads around these three big primaries
coming around May 18th. Lots of politics. Big fight in the Republican
party. Are they going all the way to the Tea Party types? It could tip
the boat. We‘ll be right back. Big races in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and
elsewhere. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We are back. Just one month from now, we‘re going to be
watching the votes come in on May 18th in three big Senate primaries, in
Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Kentucky. NBC‘s political director and chief
White House correspondent Chuck Todd joins us now for more on these fights.
Chuck, I want you to look at this latest poll from Pennsylvania. I
know you‘ve been watching it. It‘s Specter versus Joe Sestak. It‘s got
Specter holding on to a lead now of about 15 points. It‘s narrowing
somewhat. But, first of all, I want you to watch Rick Santorum, the
senator who got beaten last time by Bob Casey. Here he is getting in this
race in a big way. Here‘s Rick Santorum in New Orleans on Saturday. Let‘s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM, FORMER SENATOR: I wanted a pro-life judge, at least
two of them, to the United States Supreme Court because I knew they were
coming. So for me as I pro-lifer that was the most important issue. And I
got a commitment out of Arlen Specter that no matter who George Bush would
nominate, he would fight and defend that nominee, and get us moderate
Republican and moderate Democrat votes. We have Justice Roberts and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: There you have it. You have admission by Santorum, he cut
a deal with Specter to keep him alive as a Republican. He‘s obviously not
happy with what he‘s done. The “Wall Street Journal” is now reporting that
Specter has said, quote, “I never made any promise to Senator Santorum. I
would never make a promise on a vote like that under any circumstance.”
That‘s kind of hard to believe, “I would never make a promises.”
But what do you make of this? Is this going to matter politically,
that shows Specter in bed with the right wing?
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It does look like an attempt
by Santorum to mess around in the Democratic primary. I mean, the fact is
Sestak has had a hard time gaining traction. He has raised a ton of money.
I haven‘t seen a lot of evidence that he‘s put together a full state-wide
campaign in the same way that Specter has. Specter had a lot more work to
I can tell you this: the bigger picture on this is that if you talk to
Democrats privately, national Democrats, both in and out of the White
House, and up there in Bob Menendez‘s office, who has handled the DSCC,
they don‘t care who wins the Democratic primary. They think ultimately
Toomey is too conservative for the state, and once they make the case
against Toomey, it doesn‘t matter if it‘s Sestak or Specter, they can win
It does looks like Specter just has the upper hand. He has all the
establishment, labor. If you‘re going to challenge an incumbent from the
left, you need somebody to help you, labor or somebody like that. They‘re
not there for Sestak.
MATTHEWS: He‘s the toughest pol around, and he‘s very much connected
to the Democratic party, led by Governor Rendell. Let‘s take a look at
Arkansas. This is a hot one. The people in the netroots are going at it,
Blanche Lincoln. They have a candidate now, Bill Halter, a firebrand of a
candidate. Is it possible he could win an upset, win that nomination, and
lose the general dramatically or is he as good a candidate as she in the
TODD: I think he‘s a better candidate in the general than people give
him credit for. That said, you know, at the end of the day, if he wins,
it‘s going to be tough. He‘s going to be branded as somebody who won by
beating her from the left. And that‘s going to be a tough sell in the
When you actually look at his campaign messaging, he‘s trying not to
get boxed in that way. He‘s trying to run as more as an outsider populist.
MATTHEWS: How does he—it‘s a right to work state and he‘s a card
check guy. It sounds like he‘s carrying water for the SEIU.
TODD: Ultimately, Chris, I don‘t believe there are not enough self-
described liberals in the Democratic primary electorate. I have one other
factor for you, Bill Clinton. He will engage in this race. When he
engages, he‘s for Blanche Lincoln. When he engages, that‘s going to be a
big deal in the Democratic primary. I ultimately believe that‘s what saves
Lincoln here. But Halter is running—look at the way Halter is running
his race against Lincoln, versus Sestak running his race against Specter.
It‘s night and day. Halter is a very good candidate.
MATTHEWS: We already reported during the break that Jim Bunning, the
current senator, has endorsed Rand Paul in that primary. He‘s endorsed the
outsider against the favorite insider. Let me go to—you got a scoop for
us from Florida. Right, Chuck?
TODD: Not a scoop. I‘m telling you this, this Charlie Crist
independent stuff is moving a lot faster than I think people realize.
There‘s a lot more buzz about this. He seems to be—Crist, himself—
every time you think they put the fire out, he does something to keep it
alive. He‘s got until the end of the month to make this decision. And he
may, if he does this, say, I‘m a Republican, just like Joe Lieberman said
when he ran as an independent, but I‘m not running in the Republican party.
I‘m running as a Republican, as an independent or something like that.
That seems to be the door he‘s leaving open. Go back to this Rand
Paul thing. This is Jim Bunnings‘ final shot.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. I love when people get even. Thank
you, Chuck Todd.
When we return, I‘m going to have some thoughts about why third
parties are a recipe for suicide. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a hard knock on those whose
brilliant idea it is to go start a third party. You know the drill. You
get mad at, say, the Democrats or their current candidate, so you start a
separate party. You‘ll show them. What happens?
What happens is that your third party loses and so do the Democrats.
I just love it when a friend of mine tells me he didn‘t like Jimmy Carter
in 1980, so he voted proudly—it‘s always proudly—for third party
candidate John Anderson. The Anderson voter is inevitably, I think you‘ll
agree, the angriest that a fellow named Ronald Reagan even managed to get
elected president. But no, you can‘t blame him. He didn‘t vote for
Reagan; he voted proudly for third party candidate John Anderson, who
drained all those votes away from Jimmy Carter.
I‘m thinking of North Carolina today. The service employees are out
there gathering petitions right now to start a new party. North Carolina
First they‘re calling it. They want to punish those three North Carolina
Democratic congressmen who voted wrong on health care.
Well, they have to get 85,000 signatures, and there are only about 100
of them out there gathering them. So they probably won‘t make it by the
deadline next month. After all, North Carolina is a right to work state.
But I‘m sure they‘re going to say it‘s the thought that counts. Well, it‘s
not much of a thought, actually.
Does anybody have any memory of how these things turn out? Anybody?
I remember back in 1972, the Democrats had a veteran U.S. senator in North
Carolina named B. Everett Jordan. The liberals in the state dumped him in
the primary for a fellow named Nick Galifinackis (ph).
Guess who won the election in November? Jesse Helms, who remained the
senator from North Carolina for the next three decades. Brilliant move
dumping old Jordan, wasn‘t it?
Primary challenges that lead to defeat in November are bad enough.
But third parties are the worst. I have a good deal of respect for Ralph
Nader. I‘m proud to have worked for him in his reform efforts back in my
But Nader ran for president in the year 2000 as a third party
candidate. He won 97,488 votes in the state of Florida. Al Gore wasn‘t
perfect, but he sure could have used those 97,488 votes when they did that
recount there for five weeks. Come to think of it, there wouldn‘t have
been a recount. There wouldn‘t have been a Supreme Court decision,
wouldn‘t have been a Bush/Cheney presidency for the first eight years of
this century, or a U.S. war with Iraq.
I guess those people voted for Ralph Nader were proud of their votes.
Excuse me for saying this, third parties suck. That‘s HARDBALL for now.
Thanks for being with us. Catch us 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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