Guests: Jack Conway, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, Rob Simmons, Michael
Brune, Joan Walsh
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: About last night.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington. Leading off
tonight: Cannons on the left, cannons on the right, volleyed and
thundered! One of the biggest stories of this anti-incumbent political
season is the death of the big political machines. The old liberal
machine in Massachusetts couldn‘t save Martha Coakley. Kay Bailey
Hutchison, Jon Corzine, Alan Mollahan, Robert Bennett, Trey Grayson, and
biggest of all, Arlen Specter have all been dumped despite the political
apparatus that backed them. At the top of the show tonight, what last
night tells us about what‘s coming in November.
Also, Democrats are smiling a bit today because they think last
night may have given them a road map to avoid the killing fields this
fall. Meanwhile, Republicans are trying out their “He‘s too liberal”
line of attack on the hot Democratic challengers, Sestak of Pennsylvania
and Halter of Arkansas. We‘ll look at both parties‘ strategy for the
Plus, believe it or not, there are some Democrats who are still
clinging to Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the “I served in Vietnam”
pretender. One Republican who did serve is his possible rival, former
congressman Rob Simmons (ph). He joins us tonight.
And it‘s hard for Rush Limbaugh to top himself, but as we reported
yesterday, he‘s now blaming environmentalists for the BP disaster down
in the Gulf of Mexico. We‘re going to take—take on that one tonight.
He‘s unbelievable, Rushbo. Anyway, we‘re inviting any Republican, once
again, who wants to come on HARDBALL and say that Rush is wrong, that he
is not, in fact, the intellectual leader of the Republican Party. Any
And “Let Me Finish” tonight with some sad and sobering reminders
about the war in Afghanistan and the costs.
We start with the lessons of last night‘s primaries. MSNBC News
political director Chuck Todd is our chief White House correspondent,
and he starts off the program. Chuck, last night—I‘m just looking at
these numbers in Pennsylvania, just to look at a little capsule of what
happened there. In the Philadelphia region, no big break for Specter—
47 for Sestak, 53 for Specter. And that was his crowning powerhouse.
CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.: There it
MATTHEWS: It just didn‘t do much. That little thing down in...
TODD: The little thing...
TODD: ... Scranton.
MATTHEWS: By the way, that‘s my Pennsylvania, that part I lived in
MATTHEWS: That‘s where most us lived down there. We‘d never leave
the city. And then the rest of the state was overwhelmingly for Sestak,
something like 65 counties for him. And then you had the total, 54-46.
What struck me looking at the map in “The Philadelphia Inquirer” this
morning is this dramatic map we just saw. It was an the air game.
There was a thought about Arlen Specter. He switched parties. He never
took. It was tissue rejection right across the state.
TODD: Well, it was, and it was because he was—it‘s all—all -
he encapsulated all this anger that you hear on both sides right now
with Washington, with his own words, when, you know, he said why he
switched parties. You know, it was political expediency and it was sort
of—so it was just—he was trying to do something in the exact wrong
Party switchers in general do have a tough time. There‘s—
there‘s a long list of them that haven‘t won reelection. You know, we
know a few them that have, but there‘s a long list that haven‘t won
reelection, and he now joins that. He‘s now probably the biggest name
on that list of party switchers who ended up immediately losing.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think—I mean, you‘re an expert on
politics. Why do you think people don‘t like party switchers, per se?
TODD: Well, I think it gets to this sense of right now,
particularly this authenticity issue—you know, you‘re bringing up the
Blumenthal story and why there‘s a whole bunch of Democrats wringing
their hands about Blumenthal. Well, because of all years to try to—
to try to fix a flaw as a candidate, a character flaw as a candidate,
the issue of honesty and authenticity—this is the absolute toughest
year to overcome some sort of chink in your armor on this idea that you
aren‘t who you say you are.
So here was an Arlen Specter who for 29 years said that he was one
guy, and then said, Well, boy they threw me out, and didn‘t even—you
know, didn‘t even pretend. And look, I remember I was impressed with
fact that at the time of his party switch, he didn‘t pretend that it was
some sort of, Oh, the Republican Party pushed me out, or da-da-da. No.
He said, Hey, I want to win, and I thought my only shot at winning—
because I can‘t do it as a Republican—my only shot of doing it is as
a Democrat. So he was honest about it.
But maybe he got too cute at the end. Maybe he should have been
even more—you know, at this point, the voter wants to have—know it
all, get it all out there. And that‘s why there‘s something about...
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe the truth just was unacceptable. Maybe the
reason he switched...
TODD: And that‘s possible, as well.
MATTHEWS: ... was he wanted to survive and keep the Senate seat,
and that was the truth that came out and there was no BSing it. There‘s
just no way.
TODD: And that‘s what it was. And there was...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about this other issue across the country
because this country‘s got bigger problems than the character flaws of a
couple politicians. It looks to me like if you had to say there was one
big story last night is, Don‘t tell me how to vote, that the big shots,
whether it‘s Mitch McConnell out there in Kentucky or it‘s Blanche
Lincoln and the Clintons down there in Arkansas...
TODD: Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: ... the big shots in Pennsylvania...
TODD: You know, the—look, Barack Obama had a TV ad for
Pennsylvania, as well as Ed Rendell. No, I think you‘re right. They‘re
saying, Hey, you know, I‘ll make this decision. And in many ways, it‘s
now a kiss of death.
You know, I remember one of the things a Republican said to me, a
Washington Republican said to me right after the Scott Brown victory,
and they said, You know one of our secrets of success? We didn‘t give
him money. Everybody says, Well, why didn‘t you get involved? Because
we were afraid he would get tarnished with Washington.
Well, what happened to Trey Grayson? I mean, as somebody joked on
my Twitter feed, they said his first name was no longer Trey, it was
Establishment Candidate Trey Grayson. His first name had become almost
establishment when you saw write-ups about the guy. So...
MATTHEWS: I think President Obama has been tainted by his contact
with Specter. I think—that was the first sign to me of, he‘s just
like a lot of other politicians. He cuts deals to further his power.
And when he came in and said, I‘ll take Arlen Specter as a Democrat
because I get one more vote out of him and I don‘t care what his
motivation is, I don‘t care how desperate he is to leave his political
party, it‘s good for us, let‘s cut the deal...
TODD: Well, look, this is a lesson (INAUDIBLE) there‘s a whole
bunch of change agents are going to come to Washington after November,
that are going to win, whether it‘s a Rand Paul, whether it‘s a Sestak
or a Toomey that comes out of Pennsylvania or some other places. That‘s
a—look, Obama was the change agent, right? In his Democrat primary,
you know, he was the change agent. And we were always wondering, you
know, How is he going to be able to balance being the outsider but then
also have to be the leader of his party?
And look, the leader of the Democratic Party, when a 30-year
incumbent Republican senator from a key state says they want to be a
member of your party and it‘s going to give you the 60th vote, you‘re an
idiot if you don‘t say yes. So—and in many cases, Specter did
MATTHEWS: Yes, but he made all kinds of deals. It wasn‘t—you
could tell there was a deal struck there. He wasn‘t completely clean
about this in saying, OK, join my party, if you want to. No, you can
join my party and I‘ll give you the following things.
TODD: And he did...
MATTHEWS: ... I‘ll give you the endorsement. I‘ll support you.
TODD: He didn‘t—wait a minute.
MATTHEWS: No, he said...
TODD: They didn‘t give him the seniority.
MATTHEWS: ... I‘ll support you for reelection. That‘s different
than just accepting a guy into a party.
TODD: Sure, but didn‘t give him the seniority on that front,
MATTHEWS: You should have heard Arlen on this show the last couple
times he‘s been on.
TODD: He claimed it...
MATTHEWS: He swears he was given a promise of full seniority twice
TODD: What committee—what committee was he chairman of?
MATTHEWS: Well, he was going be—he was going to get...
TODD: He had nothing.
MATTHEWS: ... the Judiciary.
TODD: They had given him nothing.
TODD: He claimed he was going to get a lot of stuff. I mean, we -
you know, I...
MATTHEWS: I‘m just telling you, he looked me in the eye and told
me twice that Harry Reid promised him all this stuff. If he was not
telling the truth, I can‘t help you. Chuck Todd...
MATTHEWS: I can only go by what...
TODD: I know, but...
MATTHEWS: ... the people tell me at this table.
TODD: But I‘ll say this...
MATTHEWS: I‘m just kidding.
TODD: One thing I want to—you talk about the political machine.
One other point I want to make. We now have seen, I think, three
incumbent senators lose primaries. Kay Bailey Hutchison lost the
gubernatorial primary. Bob Bennett couldn‘t even get on his ballot to
lose the primary...
MATTHEWS: Alan Mollahan lost.
TODD: Right. We‘re going to have Blanche Lincoln‘s probably not
going to survive this runoff...
MATTHEWS: Why do you say that?
TODD: The law of sort of the physics of run-off politics...
MATTHEWS: Even though Morrison, the third candidate down there, is
to her right?
TODD: But here‘s the thing. Fifteen percent of the Democratic
electorate showed up to the polls to vote “none of the above.” They
knew that guy had no chance. But they voted—they showed up to vote
“none the above.” Normally, we say there‘s apathy. No, no, no, no, no.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re betting—you‘re betting...
TODD: They‘re angry.
MATTHEWS: ... on Halter.
TODD: They‘re angry. And I‘ll tell you, I would be shocked if
those votes somehow said, oh, no, no, no, no. We want status quo again.
We want her. That‘s going to be a tough thing for (INAUDIBLE) My
MATTHEWS: So your (INAUDIBLE) is now don‘t bet on the incumbents.
TODD: My point is this...
MATTHEWS: On any...
TODD: I wouldn‘t bet on an incumbent. But my point is this. We
saw this—the last time we saw this many Senate incumbents lose
primaries was 1980. And at the beginning of ‘80, there was a lot of
tumult for both parties. But by November, there was one party that paid
the price. Democrats can be relieved by what happened last night, but
they shouldn‘t assume they‘re out of woods.
MATTHEWS: Outside chance they can lose the House and the Senate
TODD: Still is.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thanks.
TODD: There still is.
MATTHEWS: Chuck Todd, thank you.
TODD: All right.
MATTHEWS: Attorney General Jack Conway is the Democratic nominee
for Senate in Kentucky. He‘ll face Republican Rand Paul in November.
Congratulations, Governor. You won that tough fight from Mongiardo.
Let me ask you this. What do you got on—to put it bluntly, you must
have your notion of beating Rand Paul. What‘s your best case, that he‘s
outside the mainstream, that he‘s too flaky, too tea party, whatever?
What would you say?
JACK CONWAY (D-KY), ATTORNEY GENERAL, SENATE CANDIDATE: I‘d say,
just look at the statements he‘s made here in the last few weeks, Chris.
He‘s stated that he would like to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
He said that he would like to repeal the Americans With Disabilities Act
and let the private marketplace take care of it. In a state like
Kentucky, he wants to do away with the Department of Agriculture, wants
to do away with the Department of Education.
That‘s not what Kentuckians want. I mean, Kentuckians are angry,
like the rest country. They have fear. They have anxiety. They‘re
concerned about jobs. But I‘m frustrated, too, Chris, and I think the
question, the central question here is, How do we use that passion? How
do we use that anger? Do we use it to heat the building or do we use it
to burn the building down?
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, you just said something so incredible to
me, having grown up during it. You‘re saying that this fellow running
for Senate—from Kentucky, the United States Senate, wants to repeal
the Civil Rights Act which says you can‘t deny—you can‘t deny an
African-American a chance to use your bathroom at a gas station. You
can‘t deny them the right to sit at your lunch table, your lunch
counter. You‘re saying he wants to get rid of that law and let people
be discriminatory again?
CONWAY: He made a statement in his editorial board interview with
“The Louisville Courier-Journal,” Chris, said that we don‘t need a Civil
Rights Act, that the commerce clause was interpreted too broadly and
that the private marketplace could take care of the Civil Rights needs
of this nation. He said something to that effect. It‘s on—it‘s on a
streaming video at “The Louisville Courier-Journal.”
And Kentucky‘s come a long way. We have people who have bled and
fought for the right to sit at lunch counters, for example, and that‘s
not going to be acceptable in a place like Kentucky. And it‘s not going
to be acceptable across the country.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the president of the United States,
Barack Obama. Is he a help to you in this coming November election?
CONWAY: Well, I think I‘m going to have to win this election. I
don‘t think Barack Obama‘s going to—going to be able on win in
election in Kentucky. I understand that Rand Paul is going to—he‘s
going to taunt and he‘s going to—he‘s going to ask how many times
Obama‘s coming in. I think you welcome the president of the United
States from either party anytime he wants to come to your state. If you
disagree with, him you tell him that. But I‘m going to have to go out
and win this election, and I‘m going to be an independent Kentucky
Democrat, if I get elected.
MATTHEWS: What‘s this say about the power of your state? I was
trying to figure out Kentucky. It‘s always an interesting state. I
think it‘s a bit more Republican than Democrat historically, at least
the last 50 years. But—but what‘s this whole crazy fight in the
Republican Party in your state, where Mitch McConnell dumps Jim Bunning,
and then the people who vote on the Republicans‘ side, who will vote in
your election, they dumped Trey Grayson. All this dumping going on.
They‘re getting rid of everybody.
CONWAY: Yes, well...
MATTHEWS: They don‘t like Mitch McConnell much, either,
apparently. They like Trey—they like the guy you‘re running against
more than they like Mitch McConnell, according to the polling last
CONWAY: Kentuckians are fiercely independent. You know,
Kentucky‘s traditionally been a Democrat state. It still enjoys almost
a 2-to-1 advantage in registration, Democrats over Republicans. They‘re
just—the conservative Democrats, particularly in the western part of
the state that Mitch McConnell helped engineer a change, where they‘re
voting Republican in federal elections. The majority of our state
officeholders are still Democratic.
CONWAY: So I think—I think—I think you have a lot of
Republicans that may be recently registered or recently switched, or
just didn‘t want to be told how to vote by Mitch McConnell. Mitch
McConnell‘s been in Washington now since—since 1984. He is the
epitome of the establishment. And I just don‘t think that his
endorsement meant much in this particular race.
And then you have the phenomenon of Sarah Palin coming in and
endorsing my opponent in the general, and then you had Jim Bunning
sticking it to Mitch McConnell. So they‘ve got a lot of healing to do
over on the other side of aisle.
MATTHEWS: You know, I grew up when there were moderate Republicans
or centrist Republicans in your state, and now the tea party‘s taking—
I think of Thruston Morton. I used to love Thruston Morton growing up.
He was a real personality. You just liked him, no matter what his
CONWAY: And people like...
MATTHEWS: And John Sherman...
CONWAY: ... Marlo Cook (ph), too.
MATTHEWS: And John Sherman Cooper. Are they all gone and dead?
Has that Republican Party just been swamped now by the tea partiers?
CONWAY: I think so. I think that the idea of the liberal to
moderate Republican is long gone, for the most part, in places like—
in Kentucky. A lot of business establishment—the business
Republicans, as I call them, in the cities consider themselves now to be
independents or vote both ways.
CONWAY: So I think it‘s changed considerably.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, you‘ve got a good argument there against
I didn‘t know that about Rand Paul. I now know it. If he‘s against
Civil Rights bill and wants to get rid of it, he‘s not on my list of
favorites for my Christmas card this year.
Anyway, thank you, Jack Conway. Congratulations on winning the
nomination to fight Rand Paul. It‘s going to be one of the national
races we watch night after night here. Thank you so much. And
congratulations again. Coming up...
CONWAY: Good to be with you again, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... our strategists on what it will take to beat the tea
party in Kentucky and how Republicans will now try to run against Joe
Sestak up in Pennsylvania.
But in one minute, why Senator Blanche Lincoln could be the next
incumbent to go.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Wow, Arlen Specter‘s the third big-time incumbent in 10
days to go down to defeat. Could Blanche Lincoln be the fourth?
Senator Lincoln‘s in a runoff with Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, and
the numbers don‘t look too good for her. She took 44 percent of vote
last night to Halter‘s 43 -- that‘s one vote difference, with 13 percent
going to a third candidate. And those people who voted for that third
candidate could go for Lincoln based on ideology or they could vote
against Lincoln, the incumbent, like so many of others have done so far
this year. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Is “incumbent” just a dirty
word in this country? Well, obviously, it is. Which party can take a
harder hit last night and continue, and who‘s feeling better today about
Let‘s bring the strategists. Steve McMahon is a Democratic
strategist and Todd Harris is a Republican strategist. Todd, you‘re not
here. I‘ll give you the away game opportunity. Which party took a
bigger lickin‘ last night? Come on. Be honest.
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well...
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Try.
HARRIS: I don‘t think that it was even a party thing. It‘s—if
you are running for office and you‘re viewed as someone who‘s going to
come to Washington and rubber stamp what‘s going on in Washington, you
are in deep trouble this election cycle. And as it happens, you know,
obviously, the Democrats control all the levers of power, and because of
that, I think that they are in real, real deep trouble.
If you are—if you‘re running for office saying you want to
continue President Obama‘s spending policies, his growth of government
policies, cap-and-trade you are in real trouble.
MATTHEWS: What‘s that city behind you, by the way? I‘m curious
about the skyline behind you. It‘s very impressive.
HARRIS: I‘m in Miami.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
HARRIS: Down here with Marco.
MATTHEWS: He makes a good—he makes a good point mathematically.
There are more Democratic incumbents. If it‘s an anti-incumbent year,
the Democrats have more exposure. They can take a bigger hit.
MCMAHON: He‘s right. He‘s right that there are more Democratic
incumbents. But the bellwether last night was Pennsylvania 12, where
the Democrat in what looked like...
MATTHEWS: The congressional seat held by Jack Murtha.
MCMAHON: The congressional seat held by Jack Murtha. Looked like
it was going to be nip and tuck, and the Democrat won it going away.
That was the only general election on the ballot last night. And I
think Todd is in denial right now, frankly, because if you look at
what‘s going on in the Republican Party...
MCMAHON: ... you‘ve got the tea party on the far right running
people, moderate Republicans...
MCMAHON: ... out of the party.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
HARRIS: Let me make a quick point about Pennsylvania 12. If that
really is the bellwether, Steve, you guys are in deep trouble because
your candidate ran against Barack Obama the entire time, especially
against the Obama health care plan.
MATTHEWS: Oh, OK, let me...
MATTHEWS: I want to go right now to Todd. Todd, how do you beat a
real hot-ticket maverick like Joe Sestak, who‘s just come off a big
victory against (INAUDIBLE) establishment? He‘s beaten the president,
the vice president. He‘s beaten the governor, the mayor of Philadelphia
and the political machines and all the labor unions. You can‘t tag him
as an incumbent, can you?
HARRIS: Well, he was certainly a maverick in the world of
Pennsylvania Democratic politics, but in Washington, he‘s a rubber stamp
for Nancy Pelosi.
HARRIS: This guy votes 98 percent of the time with Nancy Pelosi.
This is a guy who said the only problem with the stimulus plan is that
we didn‘t spend enough money. So I don‘t think in this environment,
Pennsylvanians are going to be looking for someone who‘s going to rubber
stamp the Obama agenda.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Pelosi was the target, by the way...
MATTHEWS: ... in the 12th in Pennsylvania. It didn‘t work.
MCMAHON: It didn‘t work, and it‘s not going to work in November,
either. Todd, Sestak was recruited to run for Congress precisely
because he was the kind of moderate independent Democrat that can do
well with independent voters. Now, the Republicans have nominated
somebody who‘s a Club for Growth conservative Republican, the kind of
person, frankly, that‘s running moderates like Arlen Specter out of the
party. If you think that‘s recipe for electoral success in a blue state
like Pennsylvania, then I think that‘s delightful.
HARRIS: Well, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party
said, if Joe Sestak wins the nomination, it would be—and I‘m quoting
here—cataclysmic for Democratic chances this November.
MATTHEWS: He will be changing those remarks.
HARRIS: I am sure he will be.
MCMAHON: Yes, he will revise and extend those remarks very, very
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Todd. I know I‘m pushing for perfection
and honesty here. Perhaps that‘s too much, but how do you beat a guy
with a 31-year-record of military service to the country, when your
candidate, Pat Toomey, has no military service? He‘s a Club For Growth,
you know, intellectual.
How do you challenge a guy with 31 years? I think one of the
things Sestak had going for him, he put his 30 years of military up
against Arlen‘s 30 years of politics, and that‘s not even a contest.
HARRIS: Well, obviously, Sestak‘s military record is something to
be admired and something to be praised. But that doesn‘t mean, when he
goes to Washington...
MCMAHON: However, he says...
HARRIS: Well, look, just because you were an admiral in the Navy
doesn‘t mean that you‘re going to Washington and take on the Obama
And that‘s what this election is going to be about. Who is willing
to fight the Obama agenda?
MCMAHON: Why would you suggest that Sestak owes a thing to Barack
Obama, after Barack Obama dissed him and supported his opponent? This
is the most liberating thing for—for Joe Sestak...
MATTHEWS: OK, that‘s the question. You have got the question.
What‘s the answer? He is an independent. He‘s taken on the Barack
Obama issue. Can you beat a guy who‘s already beaten Obama, Todd
HARRIS: Look, if the White House—those guys are pretty smart.
If they thought that Joe Sestak was going to be the strongest nominee
against Pat Toomey, you know what? They would have backed him a long
time ago. The fact is, the White House...
MCMAHON: They had a political obligation.
HARRIS: ... the White House and the Democratic Party...
MATTHEWS: I love this. I love this.
HARRIS: ... did everything they could to defeat Joe Sestak.
MATTHEWS: OK. I have got a great question for you. I have got a
great question for you. I have been very nice to you for the last five
minutes. I‘m changing now. I‘m changing.
MATTHEWS: How do you beat a wild—wild candidate with tremendous
pizzazz, nationwide pizzazz, like Rand Paul, who beat the establishment,
beat the incumbent, basically, the incumbent in Kentucky, beat Mitch
McConnell‘s name—main man, and came out with like a 2-to-1 victory
out there, and looks like he‘s not afraid of anybody? How do you make
him into the bad guy in this atmosphere?
MCMAHON: Well, I think that you just saw what‘s going to happen to
him very, very quickly.
You saw the Democratic nominee just on your show a few minutes ago
talking about some of the extreme positions he‘s taken. I know Kentucky
is a state that—that—I know Kentucky is a state with a mixed
history on racial matters. But the fact that this candidate, Rand Paul,
said recently that he thought the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be
repealed suggests that his views are outside of the mainstream, that the
Americans With Disabilities Act should be repealed, that the Department
of Agriculture in a state like Kentucky should be repealed, I don‘t
think that‘s going to play very well with most voters.
And I don‘t think that most voters know that. They‘re going to be
finding that out very shortly.
MATTHEWS: Todd, I didn‘t know that. I learned it tonight. It
disturbs me. Can you defend a candidate who wants to get rid of the
Civil Rights Act?
HARRIS: Well, look, just because the Democratic nominee says that,
that‘s the first I have heard of it. As far as I‘m...
MCMAHON: Go to the “Louisville Courier” Web site, and it‘s
streaming there, apparently.
HARRIS: Well, what this—what the election in Kentucky is going
to be about is exactly what Rand Paul has been talking about, which is
creating jobs for Kentuckians, cutting spending in Washington, and
reining in the size and scope of the federal government. This is a
state that Barack Obama, you know, carried—or lost. He got 41
percent of the vote in 2008.
I think for Conway to be running as a Obama Republican—or an
Obama Democrat, it‘s going to be very tough for him.
MCMAHON: I don‘t think that...
MATTHEWS: But, you know, most Republicans back in ‘64 in the U.S.
Senate, which is the job he‘s running for, voted for the Civil Rights
Act. You know that, don‘t you?
HARRIS: Look, it...
MATTHEWS: The Republican Party in those states was very pro-civil
rights, before the—sort of the right-wing turned the party. So, you
would support the civil rights bill, wouldn‘t you, Todd?
HARRIS: Yes. Of course I support the civil rights bill. And I
have no idea what Rand Paul has said about it.
But, you know, for anyone to suggest somehow that he‘s a racist I
think is just absurd.
MATTHEWS: No, just that he wants to repeal the Civil Rights Act.
MCMAHON: That‘s right. He just wants to repeal the Civil Rights
Act. He may or may not be a racist.
MATTHEWS: That may be enough. That may be enough for some people
to make certain assumptions. But I wouldn‘t make that. But I do think
he may have a problem here.
But we will continue to follow this one. If this guy is for
getting rid of the Civil Rights Act, he will either have to change his
position or give up this election, my guess.
Anyway, thank you, Steve McMahon.
Todd, you have done a great, masterful job, both of you, after a
night where all the experts were pretty much wrong.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Think how Rand Paul‘s going to play down the
Tea Party for the general election? Wait until you catch this. This
guy‘s riding on tea. He‘s coming in on tea bags next on the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the “Sideshow.”
First up: border patrol. Remember Steve King of Iowa? He‘s the
Republican congressman who said in 2008 that terrorists would be—
quote—“dancing in the streets” if we elected Barack Obama our
Well, Congressman King has just gone after the president‘s aunt who
came here from Kenya on a visa 10 years ago, and has been granted
asylum. In a statement out today, the congressman criticized her for
overstaying her visa, writing—quote—“The American people deserve
to know if Ms. Onyango was objectively granted asylum. No one is above
the rule of law, and we should not be granting an individual amnesty
based solely on that person‘s relationship to public figures.”
MATTHEWS: Well, Ms. Onyango was actually—she argued, through
her lawyer, that if she returns to Kenya, she could face danger because
of her relationship to our president. The White House says that the
president and his aunt had no contact over the matter.
Next: Tea Party candidate Rand Paul makes the rounds. On “Good
Morning America,” Robin Roberts pressed the would-be Kentucky senator
about the site of his victory rally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”)
ROBIN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”: You said that your
victory last night was, you know, people saying that they‘re tired of
how Washington is, they‘re tired of how the big politics in that.
Some people find it a bit ironic that your victory party last night
was at a private country club in Kentucky. Doesn‘t that kind of send a
mixed message there?
RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think, at
one time, people used to think of golf and golf courses and golf clubs
as being exclusive. But I think, in recent years, now, you see a lot
people playing golf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. He then said something about Tiger Woods having
changed the image of country clubs. I don‘t think anyone surprised that
country club people are rooting for the Tea Party types. The Tea
Party‘s not about poor people, after all. It‘s about the middle class,
including, I assume, a lot of better-off middle class.
People who make more, and therefore pay a higher percentage in
income taxes are, seems to me, likely among the loudest tax-haters.
Anyway, speaking of Rand Paul, it‘s time for the “Big Number”
Last night, during that victory speech, Mr. Paul made sure to thank
the movement that got him there, the Tea Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: I have a message, a message from the Tea Party.
PAUL: The Tea Party movement...
PAUL: ... is about saving the country.
This Tea Party...
PAUL: ... movement...
PAUL: The Tea Party message is...
PAUL: The Tea Party.
PAUL: The Tea Party.
PAUL: The Tea Party.
PAUL: The Tea Party message.
PAUL: The Tea Party movement is huge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that Tea Party bell was hours, by the way. There
it is, nine mentions of the Tea Party. By the way, Rand Paul mentioned
Kentucky during that speech only once. I guess this is one case where
politics isn‘t local—nine Tea Party mentions by the winner, tonight‘s
“dance with the one that brung you” “Big Number.”
Up next: Can Connecticut Democratic Senate candidate Dick
Blumenthal survive after lying about saying he served in Vietnam, when
Rob Simmons, one of the Republicans running against Blumenthal and
a Vietnam veteran himself, joins us next on HARDBALL.
You‘re watching it, only on MSNBC.
SCOTT COHN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Scott Cohn with your CNBC
Another day, another decline, this time on Germany‘s move to ban a
technique known as naked short-selling, where you sell assets you don‘t
have possession of. The Dow Jones industrials slid 66 points, the S&P
500 falling more than five points. The Nasdaq lost nearly 19 points.
A big spike in volatility today. Investors are still trying to
figure out what lies ahead for the euro. Germany‘s ban on naked short-
selling was aimed at reining in some of that volatility, but Wall
Street, as always, uncomfortable with any new regulation.
And speaking of regulation, Senate Democrats today failed to reach
a 60-vote majority on ending debate on a sweeping overhaul of the
financial system. That leaves the door open for more negotiations. And
that was seen as good news for banks and credit card companies, who were
among the day‘s few winners, Visa, and Capital One, J.P. Morgan, Bank of
America all finishing in the green, despite the overall market decline.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, lying about military service is an offense that has ended
political careers. Should it end Connecticut Attorney General Richard
Blumenthal‘s run for the Senate?
There‘s video evidence of his lie and newspaper articles touting
his service in Vietnam that went uncorrected by him over the years.
Here‘s Blumenthal speaking to veterans in March of 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have
learned something very important since the days that I served in
Vietnam. And you exemplify it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But he didn‘t serve in Vietnam. And newspaper articles,
all of which went uncorrected by him, describe him as having served in
For example, a “New Haven Register” article about Blumenthal
swearing in the new postmaster general describes him as a veteran of the
Vietnam War. Another “New Haven Register” article about his send off
for local troops going to Afghanistan said Blumenthal—quote—“has
served in the Marines in Vietnam.”
An article in “The Connecticut Post” about Memorial Day
celebrations described Mr. Blumenthal as a Vietnam veteran.
Rob Simmons is a Republican running for the Senate in Connecticut.
He did serve in Vietnam, and he says Richard Blumenthal should
What do you make—well, let me ask you, what do you think he
should do or just get out of way? Is he just unfit for the Senate or
any other public office at this point?
ROB SIMMONS ®, CONNECTICUT SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, this is a
character issue, and the voters are going to have to decide—his
party‘s going to have to decide this weekend at the convention. If
there‘s a primary, his party is going to have to decide, and, in the
general election, the voters are going to have to decide.
But the—but the point is pretty clear. You can be a Vietnam-era
veteran. I was a Vietnam-era veteran. The Vietnam era went for about
12 years. You can be a Vietnam-era veteran and serve in Vietnam or not
serve in Vietnam.
Now, I served in Vietnam for 20 months or so with the U.S. Army and
another 20 months with the Central Intelligence Agency. So, I‘m a
Vietnam-era veteran, but I actually served in Vietnam. He did not. But
he said he did. And that‘s wrong. And he should apologize for that.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this? There‘s two possibilities.
He‘s just a liar and he said something that he knew wasn‘t true. He‘s a
high-I.Q. guy with his background. You can‘t assume he is mentally
deficient. He knew what he was saying. He chose to say it. It‘s not
slipping up by mispronouncing somebody‘s name or getting a fact wrong.
He knew it was wrong. He knew he didn‘t serve, and yet he said so.
There‘s only two logical possibilities. Maybe somebody will think
of another. One, he‘s a liar and said so to build up his resume, like
some people who do who have real character problems, or he‘s got a
mental problem of some different kind or psychological disorder we‘re
not familiar with.
What‘s your make?
SIMMONS: Well, I‘m not a psychoanalyst or a psychiatrist. He said
he misspoke. Now, this is a guy that went to the...
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t know what that means.
SIMMONS: I—you go to the best law school in America, you serve
for 20 years as the attorney general of the state of Connecticut, you
choose your words very carefully.
I think he misled. He didn‘t misspeak. He misled. He misled
people, because there was a pattern that occurred over a period of time,
a period of years, where he apparently made these misstatements or he
misled on numerous occasions.
For that, he owes an apology to the veterans who served in Vietnam
and to the families of those who never came back.
MATTHEWS: Well, it seems to me—just check me on this,
Congressman, but it seems to me, if you meet somebody who has served in
Vietnam and was actually in the fighting, you often ask them what it was
like or you say, “Were you in it?” and they will tell you yes or no and
they will nod their head in a somber way, and then you thank them for
that particular service.
But to be able to have somebody walk around and have people give
them that kind of respect and that kind of devotion, really, when it‘s
unwarranted, is unimaginable to me personally.
Is it unimaginable to you, that you would let someone say thank you
for your service in Vietnam, if you hadn‘t had that service in Vietnam?
SIMMONS: When I—when I meet veterans and they say they‘re
Vietnam veterans, I say, welcome home.
That‘s what we do. I say, welcome home. And, frequently—not
always, but, sometimes, they will say, well, I was just a Vietnam-era
veteran. I was at Guantanamo or I was in Germany or I was in some other
You know, there‘s a special bond among those who served. Some of
those who served in Vietnam served in combat units. Others, like myself
served, in headquarters units or with MACV, on the MACV teams.
But there‘s a special bond of those of us who served over there.
And I think he was encroaching on that bond for whatever reason. And,
for that, he needs to apologize.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the—what you want him to do now.
Now, it seems to me, personally, I think that he ought to get out
of politics for a while and pay his price for this, and maybe run later.
It‘s one of those things that you just can‘t really deal with, because
it has to do with your character.
But you say you—are you happy if he simply issued a statement of
I don‘t like political apologies, because they‘re all done under
duress, and they simply mean: Somebody wants me to say certain words.
I will say those words. They mean nothing to me. I got caught. You
caught me, so I say the words. It means like—it‘s almost like being a
P.O.W. in saying things that you don‘t believe.
Why would you want him to apologize if you don‘t think that he did
this by accident? If he did this on purpose, do you really think that
an apology is sufficient to deal with this situation, sir?
SIMMONS: I think that there‘s probably more to be learned about
this case. Just in the day or so that the case has been in the press, I
personally have been approached by people who have heard things that
they claim he has said. So I think there‘s going to be more to this
case. But at the very least, at the very least, he should not show up
at a VFW post—that‘s a Veteran of Foreign Wars post—surrounded by
a cheerleading crowd and say he misspoke.
He didn‘t misspoke. He misled. And apology would begin to diffuse
the issue from him. I think it‘s foolish for him to pursue this. He
can‘t win this battle. And either he‘ll drop out of the race or his
party‘s going to abandon him. So if it was me, and I was in that
situation, I‘d apologize immediately. At least that would make some of
the veterans feel better.
MATTHEWS: OK, by the way, thank you for your service in Vietnam.
SIMMONS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And thank you Congressman Rob Simmons for coming on this
Up next, Rush Limbaugh wants the Sierra Club to pay for the cost of
the oil spill down into the Gulf. Really? We‘re going to talk to the
director of the Sierra Club ahead. But in one minute, the biggest loser
last night wasn‘t even on the ballot. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: One big loser from last night, Senate Republican Leader
Mitch McConnell. Not only did McConnell‘s hand-picked candidate, Trey
Grayson, get beaten badly, by nearly two to one, by Rand Paul, but he‘s
now zero for three in endorsements this cycle. Kay Bailey Hutchison in
Texas, Utah‘s Robert Bennett and now Trey Grayson have all lost, despite
being endorsed by McConnell, the big shot Republican. More proof this
election may shape up to be about dumping the insiders, even those—
perhaps especially those who have the endorsements of the big shots.
HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Oil continues to gush from that Deepwater
Horizon disaster, despite efforts to siphon off some of it through a
pipe. A tide of sludge has settled on Louisiana‘s marshlands. An ocean
current threatens to carry the oil slick around Florida and up the East
Coast, through the Loop Current. And who does Rush Limbaugh want to pay
for all of this catastrophe? He wants the Sierra Club. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: When do we ask the Sierra
Club to pick up the tab for this leak? Everybody‘s focused on BP and
Halliburton and Transocean. Well, let me connect the dots here for you.
The greeniacs have been drive our oil producers off the land, from
offshore to way offshore, to way, way, way out there offshore.
Obviously it‘s going to be a much more expensive, problematic
proposition to get oil from that depth than elsewhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Before we get to the guest, we want to again
invite any Republican who wants to come on HARDBALL and say that Rush is
wrong on anything, and he‘s not the leader of the Republican Party.
Michael Brune is the director of the Sierra Club, and Joan Walsh is the
editor in chief of “Salon.” Thank you both for coming on.
Let‘s all take a look at the CEO of BP, earlier this week making an
extraordinary comment about the extent of the damage caused by this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HAYWARD, BP CEO: I think the environmental impact of this
disaster is the likely to have been very, very modest. It‘s impossible
to say, and we will mount, as part of the aftermath, a very detailed
environmental assessment as we go forward. But everything we can see at
the moment suggests that the overall environmental impacts of this will
be very, very modest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Perhaps modest over in England, but in this hemisphere
over here, the Gulf of Mexico is turning to oil. Let me—look at that
map. We‘re showing how it could follow the Loop Current, as it‘s
called, up the East Coast and destroy the East Coast as well.
Let me bring on an expert before you join. Let‘s hear from Michael
Brune. What do you make, first of all, of the politics of this, Rush
Limbaugh, who seems to be, as of this moment still the recognized head
of the Republican party on matters everywhere? What do you make of him
blaming you for the oil spill?
MICHAEL BRUNE, SIERRA CLUB: You know rush Limbaugh‘s always good
for a good belly laugh. You know, we think that the issue here is what
BP is saying, it just shows that their recklessness doesn‘t extend—
extends well beyond their oil drilling. I was down in the Gulf, and the
pollution that we‘re seeing there, this—the oil plume that‘s just on
the surface goes for miles and miles and miles. And it is a disaster
through and through.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about this—about the—do you
think they‘re doing a good job? I mean, I don‘t think that they‘re
doing anything. But what do you think they‘re doing? Is there
technology available, perhaps at great cost, dumping huge amounts of
cement, for example, on that site? Isn‘t there something that we would
do we thought that there was a nuclear bomb ready to go off down there?
Wouldn‘t we take extreme steps.
I don‘t sense they‘re operating as if this is an extreme problem.
They‘re sort of doing their best, I suppose. But they‘re not doing it.
BRUNE: No, they‘re not doing it. But to be fair, there are—
there are workers for BP and for others right now who are working around
the clock to try to fix this. The reality is that you just—you can‘t
contain a mess of this size. It‘s very difficult because it‘s never
been done before. And that‘s why the Sierra Club has been arguing for
decades that offshore oil drilling in shallow or deep water is highly
risky, and we can‘t drill our way to energy independence. And so we
need to be focusing on a real solution to America‘s oil addiction. And
hopefully that will come as a result of this disaster.
MATTHEWS: OK, look, I‘m worried about what‘s happening and what
we‘re watching now, and not the long-term problem. I want that fixed.
I don‘t know why we can‘t fix it. Joan, why can‘t we fix it? Are they
doing it, their best?
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: I think they are doing their best. I have
no evidence, Chris, that anybody is, you know, holding back, that
there‘s more that could be done. And I kind of defer to Michael on this
one. I think that they‘re trying very hard. I think that people are
But it‘s too late. And you know the really horrible thing in all
this is there‘s been evidence that there was an accident coming. “60
Minutes” did an amazing segment on this, showing that they knew there
was some defect with the blowout preventer, and they didn‘t fix it.
They just kept drilling deeper and deeper.
For Rush to say that the Sierra Club wants them to drill deeper is
just preposterous. Deeper drilling is riskier drilling. BP pushed to
drill deeper without safety controls, and they‘re completely culpable
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t they fill it with drilling mud instead of sea
water right off the bat? Michael?
BRUNE: I‘m sorry. What was your question?
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t they fill it with drilling mud before they
capped it? They‘re blaming this on the BOP, the blowout preventer. Why
didn‘t they jam all the dirt in there? They used to do it that way.
That‘s the recognized way to do it. Why didn‘t they do it?
BRUNE: It‘s standard operating procedure. Because BP is trying to
maximize profits from this particular operation, like they try to do
everywhere else. They‘re cutting corners. Now we see what the
consequences of that are.
The problem—one of the problems—just one of the problems here
is that there‘s not effective oversight. There‘s not an effective
regulatory mechanism. Obama was right in saying that the relationship
between government regulators and the oil industry is far too cozy. We
have to separate oil and state.
There‘s no oversight on a highly risky, a very dangerous, and what
we now see as a deadly process. It‘s a tragedy for the environment, but
it‘s a tragedy for the families of the workers who were killed.
MATTHEWS: My work—Joan, I have no confidence we have regulation
by the government. I have no confidence that we have self regulation
here. I have no confidence that they‘re going to fix this problem. I
have only the fear that this is going to go on and on and on, and we‘re
going to destroy our East Coast. It‘s just going to keep going. And
the president is going to sit and watch it like he‘s a Vatican adviser.
At some point we either move in there, bring the CDs in, bring the
Army Corps, whoever we have at our disposal, and put—I‘d like to put
all those—I‘ve said it before. I‘d like to take those CEOs and put
them down there a mile and make them stay down there until the problem‘s
fixed. I know that sounds a bit extreme. But nothing seems to be
getting done here. They‘re sitting at home chomping on their steaks and
their profits. And this is still getting worse. And it‘s getting worse
WALSH: It‘s getting worse and worse. And ridiculously, they‘re
pointing finger at one another, and saying it‘s not my fault, it‘s his
fault. You know, I don‘t want to be cynical about this, Chris. I
believe that good government oversight can happen. And I believe that
when government pays attention, corporate America pays attention, too.
They don‘t want people to die. They want to make money.
I know this sounds naive of me. They don‘t want people to die.
This was a horrible thing. And I think it‘s also unfortunate that
President Obama has recently come out and said he supports oil drilling
when he knows better. The only way to make sure this doesn‘t happen is
to really crack down on oil drilling. It is unsafe. It is unnecessary.
And we‘ll see more accidents like this if we keep it up.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you, Michael, are they going to open the
cap? Are they going to let these guys off with 75 million?
BRUNE: No, I can‘t imagine that would happen right now. What we
expect we‘ll see tighter safety regulations. There will be a much
higher cap. What we should be seeing is executives like the BP CEO
prosecuted and thrown in jail. This is—what‘s happening in the Gulf
is criminal, and there better be accountability.
MATTHEWS: What do you think we should do? The CEO—who else
should go to jail? The board of directors? The management? Who?
Somebody decided not to follow the regular procedure. It‘s management.
I‘m tired of hearing technology being blamed. Management presides over
the use of technology. Everything that‘s ever gone wrong in this
industry has gone wrong before, and they have set up protocols to deal
with it. They didn‘t follow the protocols. They didn‘t follow the
management procedures. That‘s what happens when things go wrong.
This idea this is the first time this has ever happened is crazy.
This happens around the world. Joan, this is a political problem for
the president. I don‘t like his laissez-faire attitude for this. I
don‘t like him stepping back and letting the heat go on the oil company
when the damage is done on us, not the oil company.
WALSH: I think he needs to step back in. He had a few days of
sounding resolute and very much leaning on the oil companies. But, you
know, it‘s the Republicans—I‘ve got to say here, Chris, it‘s the
Republicans who are opposed to lifting the liability cap. After they
railed against bailouts, because Frank Luntz told them Americans don‘t
like bailouts—if it were up to the Republican party, the taxpayer
would be bailing out BP, not the other way around.
So I think they have to fight to make sure that they pay—that
they‘re responsible for paying for the cleanup. And then they‘ve got to
fight for better regulation.
And you‘re right. I do want to see President Obama out more on
MATTHEWS: I want to see Harry Truman in the White House right now.
I want Harry Truman to come back and do the job. If this was the coal
companies or something else we really depended on, the president would
intervene. Thank you, Michael Brune. Get on the stick, Michael, by
the way. You don‘t seem that excited about this. We‘re counting on
guys like you. Joan Walsh, thank you.
When we return, I‘m going to have some thoughts about a grim
milestone in Afghanistan. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re at war this evening in Afghanistan. This week,
the number of Americans killed in that theater passed 1,000. The “New
York Times” today showed the faces of those killed just during the past
two years, which is half the number lost since the war began in 2001.
When you look at these pages, you see the ages of these men and
women. You learn how young they were when they gave up lives for their
country, their lives for our country. You see the varied backgrounds of
all the states they represent. I noticed the large number of Hispanic
names below the faces, and realized how many of them may have come from
recent immigrant families.
But it‘s the youth, the 20-year-olds, the 19-year-olds who stun
you. The faces seem so young. You realize, looking over these so many
faces, again, as if you‘re just rediscovering that we are, indeed, at
Men and women are dying every day out there, especially from
improvised explosive devices, bombs that can be exploded underfoot that
take no account of courage or a soldier‘s daring or even cunning. So
it‘s a good time, before the weekend of Memorial Day comes at us, and
when that holiday atmosphere casts too much sunshine on the day and
pushes aside the mortal sacrifice, that we look head on at the loss of
life in these pictures, even as we see therein the full flower of youth.
We all hope that our president was sending our young troops to
Afghanistan, more of them now, has a plan, both military and political,
which offers hope and human joy over there and security here at home, at
all equal or even greater than what‘s being lost, already lost, by these
men and women, and their dear families.
I want, knowing the hard question that involves to offer—to
salute those who gave to our country. I thank the loss—for those who
gave their loss and their service. Also to their parents, I could offer
only the honoring words here of Shakespeare: “Your son, my lord, has
paid a soldier‘s debt. He only lived but until he was a man. To which
no sooner has his prowess confirmed, in the unshrinking station where he
fought, but like a man, he died.” Wow.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for watching, thanks for being
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 BE UPDATED.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any
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