Guesst: Chris Cillizza, Andrew Romanoff, Lynn Sweet, E. Steven Collins, Peter Galbraith
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Anti-war Democrats.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Who‘s got our back? The release of the Afghanistan papers have reignited the debate. Is Pakistan our ally or our enemy? Should we be fighting in Afghanistan? That‘s at the top of the show.
Also, for weeks, Fox News and its friends have been whipping up white hysteria over allegations that members of the New Black Panther Party, two of them, intimidated voters in Philadelphia two years ago. The Justice Department found insufficient evidence to investigate the case, and now all seven Senate Republicans on the U.S. Judiciary Committee of the Senate want the Justice Department to investigate itself. Is this yet another example of a rightist strategy to stir up racial resentment among whites by portraying whites as victims of black rule in the country?
Plus, you knew there would be a Republican blowback once Tom Tancredo announced a third-party run for governor of Colorado. Well, it happened last night. Wait until you hear the tape of him going after the state‘s Republican chairman.
Also, what would make someone‘s own daughter take out an ad to say he‘s not a good father and please don‘t vote for him? That family feud coming up in the “Sideshow.
But “Let Me Finish” tonight with thoughts of a profile in patriotism, Marjorie Margolies, a congresswoman who voted for her country.
Let‘s start with all seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who sent a letter to Democratic committee chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont on Friday pushing for a hearing, a big public hearing, on a 2008 election day incident in Philadelphia involving two members of the New Black Panthers and whether they violated any voter intimidations laws.
In their letter, the Republican senators write about their concern. Quote, “concern about the politicization of the Civil Rights Division within the Department of Justice.” What‘s this latest push about?
Michael Smerconish is a syndicated radio host and MSNBC political analyst. And E. Steven Collins is a Philadelphia radio host. I want—
Michael, you‘ve written about this. I want you to start, then E. Steven, jump in here. I want to try to get a thoroughgoing presentation of what happened two years ago, as best we can understand it. Give us a sense of the neighborhood involved, the voting division involved, what happened, Michael, on that day when we all voted, or most of Philadelphia, I should say, voted for—and certainly that division voted for—Barack Obama for president?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, it‘s the 14th ward. It‘s the 4th division. It‘s a public housing development. And as I wrote, it is a division where there didn‘t need to be any voter intimidation in support of Barack Obama of any kind. In 2004, you‘re talking John Kerry 501 votes and George W. Bush 24. So it was a foregone conclusion, because of the minority composition of that voting locale, that Obama was going to clean house.
I have always said this was a case that was about TV and not about turnout. These are a couple of knuckleheads. They are well known to anybody who walks adjacent to City Hall in Philadelphia. They are always looking to create a spectacle. So therefore, I think that their mission was accomplished. They are on HARDBALL yet again tonight.
SMERCONISH: Having said that—having said that, I still think you need an investigation because you‘ve got a Department of Justice lawyer, now former Department of Justice lawyer, who is saying under oath that there was some blowback because there was some...
SMERCONISH: ... political appointees in Justice who didn‘t want this case prosecuted.
MATTHEWS: OK. Before—in other words, we‘re talking about a classic Civil Rights case, where the—where the Civil Rights of the voters in this case were violated, allegedly, by a group—by the fact the government did not investigate. In other words, the Justice Department itself, you say, has to be investigated. That‘s what you‘re saying right now, Michael, the Justice Department of Eric Holder has to be investigated.
SMERCONISH: I am saying that where you a Department of Justice lawyer who under oath is, My colleagues would not pursue this...
SMERCONISH: ... because they didn‘t want a colorblind...
SMERCONISH: ... application of the law, you‘ve got to go to the next step.
MATTHEWS: OK. Who would do the investigation?
SMERCONISH: Well, in this case, I think that the criminal prosecution should have been permitted to continue...
MATTHEWS: No, no. Who investigates the investigators?
SMERCONISH: There should have been a trial in this case! I—
MATTHEWS: OK, what do you want now? What do you want now, Michael?
SMERCONISH: What I‘d like now is a continuation of the criminal
process, the criminal process in this particular case that was forestalled
by Justice because, frankly...
SMERCONISH: ... I think it‘s a worse reflection on the administration...
SMERCONISH: ... if it comes to a close now instead of running to its end...
MATTHEWS: OK, OK.
SMERCONISH: ... because, Chris, this was a one-off case. I‘m not looking to whip anybody into a hysteria.
MATTHEWS: All right, let‘s go...
SMERCONISH: These were two guys in one polling place.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me—let me go to E. Steven on this. Your thoughts? You know this story better than I do. This is a Philly story. It‘s gotten a lot of swirl. The right wing is loving it because...
E. STEVEN COLLINS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Only—only-
MATTHEWS: ... it‘s white-black. Your thoughts?
COLLINS: But Chris, the only people who are concerned about it are people that watch Fox TV. I mean, African-Americans, first of all, were not intimidated by a couple of guys, one who wore some jackboots, another guy with a—with a bat. I mean, I‘ve seen...
MATTHEWS: You‘re looking at them right now.
COLLINS: I‘ve seen—I‘ve seen worse things happen on election day, first of all, in Philadelphia. Second, this is inner-city Philadelphia, where nobody—people waited in lines to vote. And it didn‘t work, if they were attempting to intimidate...
COLLINS: ... someone. Now, that‘s number one. Number two, there was an investigation, Michael, and they concluded there was no evidence. So there was no criminal behavior. There was no criminal conduct.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
COLLINS: And so what are we talking about?
MATTHEWS: E. Seven, I don‘t care about Milton Street 20 years ago out in front of the gallery, telling the white people to go back to the suburbs. We‘re all used to that crap. I‘m worried whether the Republican precinct workers, the division workers there. Were they intimidated by these guys? Was there any intimidation by poll watchers, any illegality here?
COLLINS: If there was...
MATTHEWS: You say none.
COLLINS: ... illegality—it wasn‘t just a matter of the federal government. You had Philadelphia police and the district attorney‘s office in Philadelphia, and they looked at it, and nothing came of it. So...
MATTHEWS: And they let that guy stand there with a nightclub, looking like a policeman.
COLLINS: Well, was that—did it stop anybody from voting?
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking. No, but did it intimidate the Republican precinct worker there, the division worker there?
COLLINS: Did he file a complaint?
MATTHEWS: If there was one.
COLLINS: I didn‘t see a complaint.
MATTHEWS: Well, OK. I‘m not a lawyer. I‘m asking these questions, E. Steven...
COLLINS: Well, I...
MATTHEWS: ... because a lot of people are wondering.
COLLINS: And I‘m suggesting to you this is small potatoes...
COLLINS: ... as the columnist has written about. This is another attempt...
MATTHEWS: OK, if I went to vote and I saw those two guys there, I would not think it was small potatoes. Anyway, Abigail Thernstrom‘s the Republican vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and here‘s what she wrote for “The National Review.” “Forget about the New Black Panther Party case. It is very small potatoes”...
COLLINS: Very small.
MATTHEWS: ... as E. Steven Collins just said. “Perhaps the Panthers should have been prosecuted under section 11-B of the Voting Rights Act for their actions on November 28th. But the legal standards that must be met to prove voter intimidation, the charge, are very high. In the 45 years since the act was passed, there‘s been a total of three successful prosecutions.”
So OK, let‘s go back to Michael on this. You say there ought to be an investigation. You don‘t think this is just right-wing swirl...
MATTHEWS: ... this is just an attempt by the people on the right, I guess especially Fox, to just keep pushing this—this beach ball in the air until it finally creates some noise.
SMERCONISH: There‘s a lot of swirl associated with this case. I will grant you that. I remember very well on election day when there were individuals who were trying to spin this as indicative of what was going on across the city, or indeed, across the country. And it‘s all very clear now it was a one-off incident. My position is there‘s no such thing as small potatoes.
SMERCONISH: One instance is enough that needs to be prosecuted. Wait a minute, Chris. How about this. What if there were a white hood and a sheet involved and someone—and otherwise, the facts were the same? Would there then be the prosecution of the Klan? Hell, yes, there would be. And there should be in this case.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to E. Steven Collins. I get—I mean, E. Steven, I think there‘s a challenge here to the administration of Barack Obama that may well be ethnic. He‘s president of the United States, the first African-American. Eric Holder‘s the first African-American, I guess, attorney general, actually.
MATTHEWS: And I hadn‘t thought about that, but I guess it‘s the case. We‘re trying not to think about these things all the time. But there‘s some people that like to—would like us to be thinking about race all the time. Is that what‘s going on?
COLLINS: Yes. It appears. That‘s what we saw in the Sherrod case. It was such an over—over-examination of everything that happened and every decision that was made. Somebody edited a tape. It was a bad decision to fire her, to force her resignation. They retreated. They offered her a better job.
COLLINS: They learned something. I mean, people make mistakes, Chris. You can‘t use crucify the president and his staff for making a decision. The bigger issue here is the Republicans, the right wing, continue to...
COLLINS: ... attack and attack and attack. And this is small potatoes.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go back to Michael. Michael, I appreciate your thinking because you do try to come down the middle here, and I wonder if there‘s a middle. And here‘s my question. Could this be, since it‘s two years later and on the eve of the big elections coming up this November—and they know a lot of older white voters are going to run this election because they‘re the people that show up in mid-term elections. Michael, you know darn well who the target could be of this campaign. They‘re the people who vote in mid-term elections, older white people, because minorities and kids don‘t tend to vote as heavily around the country as older white people do in these elections.
Now the question is, is this aimed at Sestak? Is this aimed at Democratic candidates in the burbs and the rural areas, to scare them with big-city black politics, to say the Democratic Party is the party of big-city blacks? Is that what‘s going on here?
SMERCONISH: It might be.
MATTHEWS: Even though you may be right about the facts, could that be the motive behind this push?
SMERCONISH: It might be. I mean, Chris, you may thinking three levels beyond where my head is on this issue because I...
MATTHEWS: Oh, come on!
SMERCONISH: ... because I will grant—I will grant you this...
MATTHEWS: You talk about this on the—Philadelphia talks race. I know we know the issue. We try to get past it. We have a great black mayor. Whites voted for him heavily. The city really tries to get past its old problems. I know all about that. Is this an attempt to rip the scab off?
SMERCONISH: I don‘t know what the motivation might be of those senators. Call me naive. I hope that it‘s not what you‘re insinuating, but I‘ll say this...
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking.
SMERCONISH: The more this footage is shown, the more it benefits a turnout campaign for the type of voter that you have described. And therefore, my advice to the Justice Department, to the Obama administration, would have been, politically speaking, prosecute these guys. The best thing you can do politically is lock them up!
MATTHEWS: OK. Right. I agree.
MATTHEWS: ... there‘s nothing the Republican Party likes better than a nice, scared white voter. Let‘s be honest about it.
COLLINS: You‘re implying there was a crime that was committed. And I‘m not sure that the Justice Department...
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about...
COLLINS: ... and the local district attorney...
MATTHEWS: ... the white sheets...
MATTHEWS: Suppose those were white folks with white sheets.
COLLINS: Sure. Then you have a legitimate case. I mean, that‘s intimidation.
MATTHEWS: Now, wait a minute!
COLLINS: I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: Where‘s the symmetry here? You got a bunch of—two black guys, big guys, wearing big boots and wearing—it looks like uniforms to me. And one guy is carrying a pretty dangerous stick there, that he could break some heads with, and that wouldn‘t intimidate you if you had to walk past them and those were—just think about the symmetry what your argument is creating—the problem...
COLLINS: I would. But Chris, honestly, wouldn‘t you need to have someone making a complaint and someone saying, We were, in fact, intimidated, we were not allowed, there was undue pressure put on us? No one...
MATTHEWS: No. No.
COLLINS: ... said that.
MATTHEWS: No. I looked at the voting numbers. I looked at the voting numbers. You got 8 votes in that division for the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, in 2000. You had about 24 votes for him again the second time, in 2004. This time, you had something like 13 for the Republicans, about the average of the last two times. So it didn‘t look like there was any bottom—Michael, go back to you—no bottom line repression here. No bottom line suppression. The voting totals came in about what you‘d expect, given the nature of that election in 2008. What evidence do we have, bottom line, of voter intimidation or suppression?
SMERCONISH: We don‘t have anybody that I‘m aware of...
SMERCONISH: We don‘t have anybody that I‘m aware of that stands up and says, you know, But for the presence of these two knuckleheads, I would have gone in and pulled the lever. But as a lawyer, I would say to you the way in which they appear and their mannerisms and the billy club is a prima facie—on its face—case of voter intimidation, in the same way that Steven acknowledged if they were there wrapped in sheets and hoods, it would be a prima facie case on the part of the Klan.
MATTHEWS: OK. I want to thank you both, gentlemen. I hope we don‘t have to revisit this. I hope something gets done. Well, maybe it shouldn‘t get done, but I hope we don‘t have to talk about this one again! Anyway, thank you, Michael Smerconish and E. Steven Collins. I think it was a fair debate.
Up next: Is President Obama committed to a war strategy in Afghanistan that won‘t work? And is Pakistan really our ally, or have we got a problem over there? That‘s next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: New York Democratic congressman Charlie Rangel is making a last-minute effort to settle his ethics case and prevent a trial, a House ethics trial, that could embarrass him and damage the Democratic Party. The House Ethics Committee chairman, Democrat Zoe Lofgren of California, says secret talks are going on right now between Rangel‘s attorney and the non-partisan staff of the Committee on Ethics. That would be very much like—they‘d very much like to resolve this matter involving—look at him—the very popular man in the House of Representatives who‘s gotten himself into some serious trouble.
HARDBALL will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The leaking of the Afghanistan papers the other day has refocused attention on the war strategy of our country and whether Pakistan is truly our friend in this fight or is, in fact, underneath the surface our foe.
Peter Galbraith‘s a former U.N. envoy to Afghanistan. He is now at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. Mr. Ambassador, thank you for joining us. Should we trust the country of Pakistan in its innermost power zones? Are they on our side or against us?
PETER GALBRAITH, FMR. U.N. ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN: Well, we should trust the government of Pakistan, the elected civilian government headed by President Asif Ali Zardari, because he is very committed to the war on terror. His wife was killed by the same terrorists that we are battling.
But as Pakistani leaders often say, or the democratically elected ones, they can be in office but not in power. And power is held by the army, and in the case of Afghanistan, by the Inter Services Intelligence, Pakistan‘s super-powerful spy agency. These are the people who created the Taliban in the 1990s, who—without whose help, the Taliban would not have taken power. they—President Pervez Musharraf, the military dictator, told President Bush that he had broken ties with the Taliban, but the ISI continues them. The Taliban leaders are in Pakistan. So at least from that agency or parts of that agency, there‘s definitely double dealing and deception.
MATTHEWS: One of the central arguments for our continued war in Afghanistan, our American war in Afghanistan, is that we cannot let that government, such as it is, fall because then the government of Pakistan would be threatened, in jeopardy, and it has nuclear weapons. How do we get out of this conundrum that we‘re defending one government in order to defend another government from toppling, when that other government is infested with spies who don‘t support our position on any of this?
GALBRAITH: Well, it is a phony argument. Pakistan is an incredibly
important player in Afghanistan. As I said, the Taliban are the people who
as I said, the Pakistani ISI are the people who helped create the Taliban. The Taliban leaders operate out of Pakistan.
But Afghanistan is not a big player in Pakistan, which is a country that is five times the size of Pakistan. The ethnic composition is very different. And the Punjabis, who are the largest group in Pakistan, 60 percent of the country, are not going to let Pashtun radicals grab those nuclear weapons. So this is—this is simply a phony argument.
GALBRAITH: That said, the—parts of the government are very Islamic. These are the people that the Reagan administration supported in the 1980s through the dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq. They‘ve helped transform Pakistan. They have—the Pakistani Islamists who operate within the government, they control or have access to that nuclear—or those nuclear weapons, and they‘re the people who spread nuclear technology to Libya, to North Korea, to Iran, and to other countries that have not been mentioned yet.
MATTHEWS: OK, we‘re over there—our soldiers are fighting with their lives, some of them losing those lives in this month of blood over there, to defend a government of Karzai. Karzai has been accused of being corrupt. He‘s been accused of having not won this election, having stolen it, and of being a drug user. Is he guilty of all three?
GALBRAITH: He‘s certainly guilty of being corrupt. He‘s guilty of being ineffective, and he did steal the last election. So he is illegitimate. There are credible...
MATTHEWS: Is he a drug user?
GALBRAITH: There are credible reports that he uses hashish, which is actually quite commonly used by people from his part of the country, and that may explain some of his very weird behavior. But I want to emphasize we cannot prove that. But what we do know is, absolutely, he stole the last election. He himself has admitted that. And this is the problem that we have in Afghanistan. We are engaged in a counterinsurgency strategy.
General Petraeus, the general in charge, and everybody else in the U.S. military and foreign policy establishment will tell you that in order for a counterinsurgency strategy to work, we have to have a credible local partner.
And speaking privately, they will also all tell you that a corrupt, ineffective and illegitimate Hamid Karzai government is not such a partner.
MATTHEWS: OK. I‘m going to put you in two positions professionally. You‘ve been in a high position. If you were an American soldier right now in our volunteer army in an officer‘s capacity with decisions to make every day about the lives of your troops, would you stay in the military and fight the war? Do you believe it‘s a war we should be fighting? Do you believe in this war, fighting the insurgency?
Or would you be saying, damn it, these insurgents are a terrible people , but this government is terrible, too; we shouldn‘t be in this war?
GALBRAITH: The fundamental problem is that we cannot accomplish the mission. We have committed 100,000 troops, $100 billion to a strategy that cannot work by the terms of its own authors.
MATTHEWS: What should a soldier do? What should a soldier fighting now do over there? What would you do if you were a soldier?
GALBRAITH: Well, I think we need to change the mission. We need to focus on what it is that we can achieve, because we don‘t have such a partner, a credible Afghan partner.
And there are three things. And I will be very quick. First, half the country is not Pashtun. And Taliban is entirely a Pashtun movement. We can protect the north, those non-Pashtun populations.
MATTHEWS: I have heard that, yes.
GALBRAITH: Second, we can protect Kabul, which is again mostly a non-Pashtun city, which is relatively stable.
And, third, we can strike a terrorists where we get good intelligence, which isn‘t actually all that often. To accomplish the missions which are achievable, we would need 10,000 to 15,000 troops.
Remember, when we commit 100,000 troops, Chris, to Afghanistan, that means those military resources are not available to deal with other national security challenges. Al Qaeda is much more of a threat in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen. And then, of course, there is the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.
MATTHEWS: If you had to vote right now as a member of Congress aye or nay on continued funding of this war with its current mission, would you vote aye?
GALBRAITH: No. I would vote no because the mission cannot be achieved. And I think it‘s a waste of resources to put people in a mission that can‘t be achieved. And, frankly, it‘s immoral to send young men and women on a mission that cannot be succeed.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well said. I get your position here.
Let‘s bring—stick with us, Mr. Ambassador.
Here‘s Andrea Mitchell, the chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News.
Andrea, the administration has been confronted here with a lot of evidence now, some of it supporting the challenges just ventured by Ambassador Galbraith there, that the ISI, the spy agency of the Pakistan government, is not really our friend, and then secondly we have got a corrupt government over there in Kabul.
And my question is, does it surprise this administration, what they‘re reading in these documents, or did they always know all of this?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They knew all of this. They have spoken out in fact very strongly about all of this. Even last week in Pakistan when I was covering Hillary Clinton, she spoke out about again all of this, both very strongly to the officials, to the head of the Pakistani spy agency and the top military leaders there, and publicly to the Pakistani public.
The problem is that what the administration would say is we have been speaking to this. There has been improvement. And there has been improvement in the last few months. Month by month, in fact, they say, there has been improvement, and that these documents which ended in December of 2009 do not acknowledge that.
That said, they are aware of these problems. And they have not really addressed the problems again with Karzai, but they‘re certainly well aware of them. And they‘re aware of the problems that Ambassador Galbraith brought to them when he was still in government.
MATTHEWS: But these are deadly serious issues. But when you have the charge that this government in Kabul that we‘re defending against the insurgency over there is corrupt, unelected and perhaps led by a drug addict, or a drug user, that‘s a hard case for a soldier in uniform to say I‘m out fighting the bad guys. He has to assume that the good guys who are on the other side—or not.
Andrea, is that the problem this president faces into sending more people into fighting this war? And that‘s what he‘s doing. He‘s sending more people into fighting a war on behalf of Karzai, when we have an ally over there we‘re supposedly defending, Pakistan, who may not be deep down loyal to us.
MITCHELL: What the president said today is that he took all of this into consideration when he changed the policy and most recently brought General Petraeus in to continue the new policy that had been articulated and had been led by General McChrystal.
MATTHEWS: Right. OK.
MITCHELL: So, their argument is that they knew that Karzai was a bad actor and that he‘s not been able to extend his reach beyond Kabul, really.
Having just been there last week, I can tell you that it is limited to Kabul. That is the reach of Hamid Karzai.
MITCHELL: But the whole point of what they‘re doing in the next few months leading up to this review in December and of course to the beginning of the withdrawal they hope next July, is to change that game.
I think what they‘re going to end up doing, though, is acknowledging that it is regional and provincial in nature, and that there never will be a national government or a state the way we would define a national government.
MATTHEWS: Is that edging towards a Biden strategy of counterterrorism?
MATTHEWS: Let me back to Ambassador Galbraith.
You have advocated a policy of limited turf protection, basically taking Kabul, the north, and some other areas that are not Pashtun, and limiting our operations in the rest of that country, I assume, to antiterrorism.
GALBRAITH: Yes, that‘s right, because the whole premise of the new strategy is that you need a partner, which we do not have.
I want to come back to something that Andrea said about Pakistan, because it is a very important point. The administration‘s policy in Pakistan has made progress. And in many ways they‘re dealing with the problems that were left by President Bush.
President Bush could have been tough on General Pervez Musharraf, the military dictator, who did control the ISI. But he wasn‘t. He basically let the ISI lie to us and Musharraf lie to us.
Obama is working with a civilian government that doesn‘t really control the ISI, but which is very much on his side. He‘s followed a strategy of supporting that civilian government, building it up economically, and that has produced results.
GALBRAITH: The ISI has turned over some of the Taliban leaders.
Cooperation is greater. They‘re still playing a double game.
MATTHEWS: OK, Ambassador, we have to go.
Thank you so much, Andrea Mitchell, for joining us, our chief foreign affairs correspondent.
And, thank you, former Ambassador Peter Galbraith.
Up next: Is it a bit undignified for President Obama to appear on “The View”? Well, one prominent politician and a good friend of this show, it turns out, thinks the president should not show up on “The View.” Well, we are going to get to that hot one.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First tonight: Governor Ed Rendell offers a verdict on “The View.” The Pennsylvania governor doesn‘t think President Obama should show up on “The View” this Thursday. Here he is on the “Morning Joe” today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MORNING JOE”)
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I think there has got to be a little bit of dignity to the presidency, and that you wouldn‘t go on...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you saying, Ed?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: What a horrible insult to “The View.”
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ed Rendell, what are you saying?
RENDELL: Well, I think there are some shows—I wouldn‘t put him on “Jerry Springer” either, right?
I think that the president of the United States has to go on serious shows. And “The View” I think is a serious—you can make a case that “The View” is a serious show.
RENDELL: But it also rocks and rolls a little bit. And I‘m not sure he has to go on “The View” to get—to be open to questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, I think he should do HARDBALL.
Mr. President, consider yourself invited.
Next: a family feud in Oklahoma. Judicial candidate John Mantooth is getting attacks on his character from a very close source, his own daughter. That‘s right. This corner-page ad in a local paper, “Do Not Vote For My Dad,” was paid for by Mantooth‘s daughter and his son-in-law.
The ad says that Mantooth is not a good father and that he would not be a good judge. Adding insult to injury, the ad lists a Web site that the couple created, donotvoteformydad.com. Mantooth says his daughter‘s political attacks have been influenced by a rival—and this is certainly audience—the bad feelings stem from his divorce from his mother. That‘s what he says, the dad says.
Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Gallup came out today with its survey of the major political figures nationally. Who comes out in the highest favorability? No surprise, Michelle Obama with 66 percent. Tied for second police, Bill and Hillary Clinton with 61 percent, followed by General David Petraeus in fourth, and President Obama in fifth place at 52 percent.
The first lady, by the way, outshines the whole field -- 66 percent for Michelle, tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: rocky times for the GOP in Colorado. Tom Tancredo‘s decision to run for governor out there leads to a talk radio screaming match.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks hobbling to a mixed finish, as investors take a breather after three straight days of triple-digit gains, the Dow Jones industrials adding 12 points, the S&P 500 losing a point, and the Nasdaq slipping eight points.
Strong earnings from chemical maker DuPont not enough to offset concern about a big drop in consumer confidence. Worries about a stagnant job market are weighing heavily on shoppers‘ minds. Consumer discretionary stocks taking a hit on that report. Best Buy, The Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch shares all shedding between 3 and 4 percent.
But there were a few bright spots. Hewlett-Packard led the Dow after the company unveiled a new fab data center that it says can cut up-front construction costs in half.
Pfizer up 1.5 percent after signing a deal to distribute its new drug osteoporosis drug in Spain.
And GM finally revealed the price tag on its new electric Chevy Volt.
Prices will start around $41,000.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Colorado is full of fights for the midterm election. The latest clash is in the governor‘s race, where former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo plans to run as a third-party candidate.
Here he is fighting on the radio with state Republican chairman Dick Wadhams. By the way, its on “The Peter Boyles Show” Monday.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TOM TANCREDO ®, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: We have had a number of discussions about the problems we had, because you hate the people you‘ve got on the ballot. You dislike them both. You don‘t trust either one.
You‘ve told me on more than one occasion that your opinions on Scott McInnis are—let‘s say—let me think of the exact term—untrustworthy. Your opinion of Dan Maes, a joke. Those were your words.
PETER BOYLES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And you know what? You said the same thing to me on more than one occasion that Tom is saying you said.
BOYLES: I‘m not lying to you. You said that.
I have no idea.
DICK WADHAMS, COLORADO REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: I have been very open that these two guys have problems.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK. Sounds like one guy is talking about school.
Anyway, it‘s getting pretty rocky in the Rockies. In a minute, I will be joined by Democratic Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff.
But let‘s go to “The Washington Post”‘s Chris Cillizza, who is managing editor of the PostPolitics.com.
You‘re becoming very TV-ready, Chris, I must say. You are looking very natty tonight.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: People in the newsroom are going to deeply resent you, because you look really good for television these days. And that‘s not a small point.
CILLIZZA: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: No, you‘re looking good.
Let me ask you this question.
What is going on out there? Tancredo is going in as obviously anti-immigration guy. That‘s who he is. And he‘s trashing the Republican candidates, apparently quoting back to party chairman negative things that he told him apparently in private.
CILLIZZA: There‘s nothing better than publicly airing things that were said in private. It‘s kind of a reporter‘s dream.
But, look, Chris, the broader context here, Scott McInnis, former congressman, presumed front-runner in the August 10 primary, has been involved, embroiled in a plagiarism scandal. He plagiarized an essay on water issues for which he was paid $300,000. I need a gig like that at some point.
Dan Maes, the other candidate in the problem, has a campaign finance problem. So, what Colorado Republicans are left with heading into this primary, with is in a week, basically, is two really, really flawed candidates.
I think Tom Tancredo has wanted to get back into the political mix for a while. Remember, he ran for president in 2008. Immigration kind of the issue he wants to bring to the forefront. I think he‘s using the problems of McInnis and Maes to put himself back in the mix.
MATTHEWS: Simple question, why doesn‘t he just run in the primary?
He‘s a Republican.
CILLIZZA: Well, filing deadline has passed by a long shot.
CILLIZZA: I‘m surprised, to be frank, Chris, he didn‘t run before. I thought he might have filed and ran for this.
MATTHEWS: He could have run.
MATTHEWS: ... hot with that immigration issue.
CILLIZZA: He put himself in the mix.
Don‘t forget, too, immigration in a Republican primary, we have seen what it has done. Look at Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona. She wasn‘t even close to winning that primary before she signed the immigration law in that state. Now she‘s the overwhelming favorite.
So, had he gotten in back then, he might well have wound up as the Republican nominee.
MATTHEWS: I think immigration is a huge voting this year, especially in the Southwest, but all across the country.
Let me ask you about Romanoff. We‘re going to have him in and the a minute, Andrew Romanoff.
MATTHEWS: He‘s one of the two top candidates for the Senate nomination in Colorado. He has apparently—just the other day, he sold his house, didn‘t just mortgage it, sold the house he lives in for cash to contribute to his campaign.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s putting your money where your mouth is.
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts on a guy doing this kind of thing.
CILLIZZA: I have two thoughts.
One, you‘re not going to be able to question his dedication at this point. Two, the one it reminded me of—Chris, I know you‘ll remember this—Ron Klink, former weatherman from western Pennsylvania running against Rick Santorum back in 2000. Three hundred thousand dollar mortgage on his home after that race looked like it was already lost and he wound up losing convincingly to Santorum.
Obviously, Andrew Romanoff is hoping he‘s not following in Ron Klink‘s footstep. Look, it‘s a big investment. I think it‘s—I think the race is somewhat close. I do think—excuse me—Michael Bennet, the appointed senator in the state, has something of an advantage. He has significant financial advantage.
But in a small turnout primary, Romanoff is the former speaker of the statehouse. He‘s got strong showing among the grassroots. It‘s not unfathomable on an environment like this—
MATTHEWS: Good reporting. Good reporting, Chris. Thanks so much.
CILLIZZA: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Chris Cillizza of “The Washington Post.”
With me now is Democratic Senate candidate, Andrew Romanoff. He faces senator—appointed senator, Michael Bennet, in the August 10th primary. Why would you have a primary in August? How‘s—what sort of clown decision was that when people are on vacation? They‘re not really thinking politics? Is this an attempt to keep votes—the vote down? Or what—is this a Republican thing or what?
ANDREW ROMANOFF (D), COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE: It does have that affect, Chris.
ROMANOFF: You couldn‘t probably pick a worse time to ask people to participate in this process. The good news, a lot of Coloradans are voting by mail. Our law allows candidates to conduct the primary entirely by mail. It allows unaffiliated voters in the state to pick a party and participate in the primary and then shed their affiliation the next day. We got a lot of that going on, too.
MATTHEWS: OK. You sold your house for $300,000. That‘s like burning the ships when people used to arrive in this country from Europe to make sure they‘re definitely going to stay. Is that what you‘re doing? Is this a dramatic statement to your people, “I‘m in this to win”?
ROMANOFF: Well, it‘s expensive to advertise on television, as you know. And I‘m running against a guy who‘s taken more than $1 million from special interest groups. What I‘m putting in is about a quarter of that.
MATTHEWS: Who doesn‘t? Doesn‘t everybody do that?
ROMANOFF: But look—
MATTHEWS: What are—by the way, what are the special interests?
What are the special interests?
ROMANOFF: Drug companies, big Wall Street banks, oil industry.
MATTHEWS: And you‘re not taking any of that money? And you‘re clean in that department—all those departments? You‘ve not taken a nickel from any of those crowds?
ROMANOFF: I‘m the only candidate in this race—one of the very few in America, Chris, who doesn‘t take a dime in special interest money?
MATTHEWS: You don‘t take any money from any executives in any of those companies, period? You don‘t do what the usual, the trick—
ROMANOFF: We‘ve decided not to take a single dime from any political action committee or any political interest group.
MATTHEWS: I know. But do you take it the other way?
ROMANOFF: They got enough politicians on their payroll.
MATTHEWS: No. Do you take the other way where you got—where you go around and dun the executives of the companies and they get paid back later, so they don‘t go through the PAC money?
ROMANOFF: No, that‘s not.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t do that either?
ROMANOFF: No. I‘ll tell you, 95 percent of our donors live in Colorado, and a 100 percent—
MATTHEWS: So, in other words, you‘re not taking any money from insurance companies, medical officials, hospital officials, nobody works in those industries has given to your campaign?
ROMANOFF: You know, we‘ve decided—
MATTHEWS: Just to get the—
ROMANOFF: -- from special interest groups, from political action committees.
MATTHEWS: You‘re repeating yourself.
ROMANOFF: And I think what people are saying is—
MATTHEWS: That‘s what people do when they don‘t want to say something.
Are you taking money from those people who work on those fields, but getting it directly, rather than through a PAC? Yes or no?
ROMANOFF: I understand your question. Look, if—
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you want to answer it?
ROMANOFF: I‘m assuming that a lot of the folks we‘re taking money from work in lots of fields. You have to raise money somehow. If you say, we‘re not going to take any money from anybody who works for any industry, I don‘t know where the money would come from. How would you fund your campaign?
MATTHEWS: No. It‘s just that what happens in Washington, there‘s a lot of people that keep themselves appearing clean, take money from industries and the special interest, but don‘t do it through the political action committees. They go around and take the money directly from the people working them, and those people get compensated later. That‘s how the game works. And then you say it doesn‘t work in your case.
ROMANOFF: And we actually talked about this. We—yes, we thought, what kind of line can we draw? Should we say we‘re not going to take any money from the groups themselves? That‘s the line we drew. Should we say, we‘re not going to take it from anybody who works for any field, we couldn‘t figure out a way to fund the campaign if we turn down contributions from anybody who has a job.
MATTHEWS: OK. You seem like, I know.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t—you don‘t need to get sarcastic with me. I get you.
By the way, I recognize your courage in selling your house, by the way. Was that a hard decision to watch your house go up on TV commercials? I mean, you‘re watching your house disappear in TV commercials.
And by the way, are you still a resident of the state once you sell your house? Are you a resident once you no longer own the house?
ROMANOFF: I am a resident of the state. I still live at my house for the time being.
MATTHEWS: But where do you reside?
ROMANOFF: My dog does, too.
MATTHEWS: OK. In other words, having sold your house, you still reside there.
MATTHEWS: Therefore, you‘re still—you‘re still eligible to run. It‘s just a funny question, I thought. I never heard of a guy selling a house he‘s used as his residence to run in the election. You sell the basis of your candidacy in a way, don‘t you?
ROMANOFF: Well, it shows you how crazy the system has become. Look, you know, 2/3 of the members of the U.S. Senate are multi-millionaires. I‘m not. Ninety-nine percent of the American people are not. And I will work on reforming the way we finance campaigns.
MATTHEWS: No, you‘re homeless. You‘re homeless, buddy.
ROMANOFF: Not quite.
MATTHEWS: Ha! I‘m just kidding around. By the way, good luck in your campaign.
What‘s the biggest issue between you and Bennet—the realest issue, the issue that really matters to voters that separates you two guys?
ROMANOFF: Well, as I said at the outset, I‘m the only candidate who isn‘t funded by special interest groups. We need a senator for the rest of us. And when it comes to protecting the profits of big banks, to the tax breaks for oil companies, my opponent has said yes. I‘ll say no.
MATTHEWS: So, he‘s in the tank with the special interest, and you‘re not.
ROMANOFF: Well, I want to be clear. He is one of the top 10 recipients of Wall Street cash. He‘s one of the biggest recipients of big oil money. He has voted along those lines.
MATTHEWS: So, he‘s in tank.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re saying he‘s going to be driven—you‘re saying if he gets elected—you‘re saying, if he gets elected, he‘s going to be driven by the people who paid for his campaign. He‘s going to be directed by how he got the money from the oil people and the insurance business.
ROMANOFF: And where he‘s taken his money.
MATTHEWS: And does that corrupt him?
ROMANOFF: All I can tell you is how he‘s voting and where he‘s taking his money.
ROMANOFF: And I can also tell you, these groups wouldn‘t spend millions of dollars on congressional campaigns if they got nothing from anybody in return.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much. Andrew Romanoff who sold his house but still is in the state. In fact, he‘s hanging in that house until they come to take it away from him. Up next—thanks for coming on. You got good heart.
Up next: nothing goes as planned when it comes to Rod Blagojevich, including the closing arguments. He did not defend himself in court. He had the lawyer offer a rhetorical defense against the state‘s case, which is pretty heavy.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: There‘s a fire storm over religion down in Tennessee. Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, who‘s also running for governor down there, suggested at a town hall this month that Islam is a cult, not a religion. It started with an attendee‘s question about the, quote, “threat” that‘s invading our country from the Muslims. That was the questioner.
Here‘s Ramsey‘s response. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON RAMSEY ®, TENNESSEE LT. GOVERNOR.: I‘ve been trying to learn about Sharia law. I‘ve been trying to learn what it is—not good, if that‘s what‘s going on. Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion or is it a nationality, a way of life, or cult, whatever you want to call it. But certainly we do protect our religions, but at the same time, this is something that we are going to have to face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. We‘ll be right back. That‘s trouble.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
The prosecution and the defense both made their closing arguments today in former Governor Rod Blagojevich‘s corruption trial.
Joining us right now with more of what happened is “Chicago Sun-Times” Lynn Sweet, and who‘s also with Politicsdaily.com; and an MSNBC contributor, Jim Warren, who is in the courtroom today.
Lynn, you first and then Jim.
I want you to give your summations of how that trial ended today.
LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: It ended as it started. The defense said no crime ever happened. The defense said that Blagojevich is not the sharpest knife in the drawer but he‘s not corrupt, and the prosecution said, hey, the man is smart, been elected governor twice, and the man has excuses for everything. Convict him.
MATTHEWS: OK. Jim Warren, is that—is this the dumb defense?
How do you see it?
JIM WARREN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think if you‘re in the courtroom, you would have thought that the Blagojevich defense ended absolutely disastrously with a very flamboyant theatrical and very competent chief defense attorney unable to give the defense the summation he wanted to because of some evidentiary rulings by the judge.
So, he really did it with one hand tied behind his back and I think correctly so, given the rules, and had to ultimately portray his client as kind of an indiscreet, big-mouth guy, led astray by aides. And, unfortunately, the day and a half essentially of a government closing really I think on the law totally rebutted that as they showed this clear absolute chronology, this quest to obtain, retain—obtain and retain power—
WARREN: -- and reward loyalists. And, remember, they do not have to show a quid pro quo, but they showed clear intent.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this, Lynn. When everybody watched this nationally, let—let‘s assume he gets convicted. Will that teach the country that you can‘t sit around with your staff and plot ways to steal money?
SWEET: Maybe, maybe not, Chris. It should only be so easy. You know, people have plotted corrupt places. There‘s—you know, they might be investigated. There might be wires. Look at all the congressional investigations that are always ongoing.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But when a guy goes into the can, it does have a certain message to the people. At least the big shots go.
SWEET: It says that you don‘t have to pull off the crime, as Jim said, in order to do something wrong.
Jim Warren, the way you described it, is there going to be an appeal here? If he gets convicted, will there be an appeal?
WARREN: Oh, yes. Absolutely. So, a lot of it will be based on what he was unable to do in this closing argument.
Will there be a big message sent to American politicians? I don‘t think so—other than just assume you‘re being wiretapped because if every American politician was wiretapped the way this guy was, I think we‘d have to quadruple the budget of the Justice Department to handle all the prosecutions.
MATTHEWS: What are you, Mr. Chicago? Are you like saying, don‘t hold it against Chicago, the way we do business, because everybody does it?
MATTHEWS: You are defending your city.
SWEET: And add e-mails, right, Jim, to whatever you should be careful.
MATTHEWS: Is that a Chicago point of view? They all do it?
SWEET: I think—
WARREN: No, it‘s not a Chicago point of view. But, Chris—
MATTHEWS: I do understand what you‘re talking about. You‘re saying in orders, pay-to-play is a normal political phenomenon in this country, play-to-pay.
WARREN: The union guy, the Service Employees International Union, gives him about $2 million over the years, is one surprised they have total instant access anytime time they want it, is one surprised that the White House is using SEIU as an intermediary as they try to push and not so subtly Valerie Jarrett as Senate replacement for Barack Obama?
WARREN: The masses of money in power. It‘s everywhere.
MATTHEWS: Can‘t wait for the jury. Thank you, guys.
Lynn Sweet, thank you.
Jim Warren, I do want to hear what the jury of Chicagoans thinks.
When we return, thoughts about former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies who was the key vote in the 1993 vote for the Clinton economic plan that made all the difference.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a story about a congresswoman who made a difference. Marjorie Margolies was the key vote in 1993 for the Clinton economic plan that created millions of jobs, more than balanced the federal budget, gave our country a government surplus and began shrinking the national debt.
Margolies cast the decisive vote, 218, that decided whether the new president and Congress could prove to the Federal Reserve board and the country‘s money managers that the government could be trusted to get the country‘s fiscal house in order and keep it that way.
For Congresswoman Margolies, it was a brutal vote for her personally. With Republicans chanting, “Good-bye, Marjorie,” she put her House I.D. card into that slot and cast her vote “aye.” Quote, “I was pressed by all sides, by my constituents, my president needing a victory and Republicans promising my demise. I was in the country‘s most Republican district represented by a Democrat. I voted my conscience, and it cost me.”
Well, she was defeated in the next election by a candidate whose most discernible quality was that he was not Margolies. In one of the wealthiest counties in the country, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, it was not a heavy lift to be a member of Congress that had voted for a budget that while holding the line on spending, also included tax hikes.
The great thing Margolies did was cast the vote that made possible, though she couldn‘t have known it at the time, a chain reaction of very good things. The budget got balanced, indeed went into surplus, and the economy of the 1990s roared and, yes, the rich got richer.
Marjorie did suffer the voters‘ mood. She said not long ago that, “I‘d do it again, I‘d do it again.”
But the important thing is the realization, even at the time of that difficult killer vote that as Humphrey Bogart put it in “Casablanca,” the problems of a few little people don‘t amount to a hill of beans compared to the dangers facing this country.
It‘s now 17 years later and this Saturday, Marjorie‘s son, Marc, will marry Chelsea Clinton. Sometime, I‘m sure someone in that rehearsal dinner at the wedding, I‘m sure we‘ll remember back to that vote on the House floor at the beginning of the Clinton economic era and say, not good-bye, Marjorie, but hello to what this country needs. Now, again, as much as ever, the guts to vote, to cast votes, you‘ll be proud of the rest of your life.
Anyway, isn‘t it nice once in a while when nice things happen to nice people?
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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