Guests: Howard Fineman, Trish Regan, Rep. Jim Moran, Frank Gaffney, Sen. Dick Durbin, Ron Reagan, Roger Simon, Dick Cavett
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: So many battles.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Leading off tonight: Front-line president. President Obama dropped into Afghanistan today and all kinds of noise—amid all kinds of noise about how corrupt Hamid Karzai is, what a weak, paranoid man we‘ve got as our ally over there, how incapable of governing. Well, thanks to WikiLeaks, those bleak assessments popped into the world‘s headlines and mental bloodstream just as the president has to decide about war strategy this month.
So let‘s get it straight. Are we going or staying? Would President Obama even think of delaying the start of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, or will he speed it up and join the growing American push for getting out?
Plus, is there a chance Democrats can come out on top of this pre-Christmas fight over taxes and jobless benefits? How can Republicans win trying to kill jobless benefits for workers who can‘t find jobs because everyone knows now there aren‘t any? By the way, when the Republicans get even moderately red-faced for standing out there as fighters for the rich?
Also—and this is a real thumb-sucker—Why do Republicans get away with sleaze, real, obvious, recognizably cruddy behavior, like the two U.S. senators, one of whom buys sex in D.C. and also back home, and the other one who cheats with his top staffer‘s wife and then uses his Senatorial influence to buy the guy off? Imagine if Democrats behaved like this. And by the way, who‘s refining this thing anyway?
And next Wednesday, it will be 30 years after we learned the horrible news that John Lennon, a hero to so many of us, had been shot and killed in New York City. Tonight, TV legend Dick Cavett talks about Lennon‘s famous appearance on his show and lots of political stuff, too.
And you say you want a revolution. Well, you know Michele Bachmann may want one against her own party leadership now. Is this lady out there in the solar system or what? We‘ll give you the latest of our lunar update in our HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
Let‘s start tonight with something really important, the president‘s visit to the troops in Afghanistan this morning. U.S. Congressman Jim Moran‘s a Democrat from Moran—from Moran, also from Virginia—
MATTHEWS: -- and Frank Gaffney is a former assistant secretary of defense. He now works for the Center for Security Policy.
Congressman Moran, you were over there in Afghanistan recently. We‘re going to look at the president right now. I want you to check him here about whether you think he‘s got it right here. Here he is today, the president of the United States, the commander-in-chief with the troops. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of the service of the men and women of the United States military, because of the progress you‘re making, we look forward to a new phase next year, the beginning of a transition to Afghan responsibility. As we do, we continue to forge a partnership with the Afghan people for the long term.
And we will never let this country serve as a safe haven for terrorists who would attack the United States of America again. That will never happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow, that‘s a heck of a statement, Congressman Moran. That says we‘re going to stay there for a while, and then we‘re going to find some way, once we leave, through targeting of some kind, I don‘t know what kind, from the air, to prevent the use of that country as a base to use against us, as they did on 9/11. How does he meet that commitment and politically stay alive here at home?
REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: I think he‘s got a political problem at home. Now, maybe not with the Republican Congress because they want him to stay the course. The problem is this is not a winnable war, Chris. Even our combatant commanders know that we can‘t win this militarily. But secondly—
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry, Congressman, explain that to people now. That‘s a heck of a statement. The president just said it‘s a winnable war, we can achieve our mission over there of preventing that from being used as a base against us. You say that mission can‘t be achieved, or what are you saying? I‘m sorry. What are you saying?
MORAN: I‘m saying that we can‘t win it militarily. We can‘t capture or kill or convert enough young people in the Afghan population from siding with the Taliban because we‘re backing a government that is inherently corrupt, that doesn‘t relate to the people, that doesn‘t deserve the people‘s respect and is unsustainable.
But secondly, with all the money that we‘re pouring in, about $120 billion this year, we‘re exacerbating the corruption problem. That government is about a $13 billion economy. We‘re throwing in about 10 times that. And that‘s why, you know, billions of dollars is leaving that country in graft, why the vice president was—of Afghanistan was found with $52 million in his pockets in the United Arab Emirates.
But thirdly, Chris, Afghanistan is not the source of the threat. It‘s in Pakistan. There are only about 50 to 100 Afghans—excuse me—al Qaeda in Afghanistan. They‘re in Pakistan. And the more successful we are, they‘ll move to Pakistan.
You know, we were congratulating ourselves that we caught the second in command of the Taliban with the help of the Pakistanis. We tried to get hold of him to talk with him. Turns out the Pakistanis caught him because he was talking with the Karzai government about some reconciliation plan. They caught him because they want to control anything we do in Afghanistan. They started the Taliban. They control the Taliban. The Taliban suits their purposes, but not America‘s purposes.
MATTHEWS: So we have a president of the United States, a commander-in-chief, Frank, who—I‘m with Frank Gaffney here, Congressman—and basically, the president of the United States‘ position seems to be somewhat middle of the road, between where Congressman Moran is—and he‘s with the progressives in the Democratic Party, who want to get out of there pretty quick—he wants to begin to get out of there next summer.
What‘s the conservative view? What‘s your view about how long can we politically stay in there under any administration? Because I know a lot of people, conservative business types, who are making a lot of noise in your party now, the Republican Party, want to get out, just like the Dems do.
FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: I wouldn‘t presume to speak for anybody but myself, Chris, because I think there‘s lots of different views within a community that might be called conservative. My view of it is that nobody wants to stay if we‘re not going to try to win.
And I think what the president has clearly signaled, despite the noises
that he‘s making today on the ground there, is we‘re not going to try to
win past a certain point, and that point is rapidly approaching. And worse
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s win? I guess people want to know—if you‘re a real hawkish American, fine. What‘s a real hawkish American say is a reasonable goal in Afghanistan? A reasonable goal. What is it? Can you wipe out the Taliban and then leave?
GAFFNEY: Let‘s start with what the president just set himself as a goal which is this country will never be used as a base of operations for attacking the United States again.
MATTHEWS: How can we do that militarily if we leave? Can we?
GAFFNEY: I‘m not sure you can.
MATTHEWS: Can we do it with Predators, like we‘re doing in Pakistan?
MATTHEWS: We‘re not in Pakistan.
GAFFNEY: More to the point—
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. How can we do it in Pakistan, to make Congressman Moran‘s point—if we‘re effectively dealing at least as much as anybody can going after the bad guys, from our perspective, in Pakistan with Predators and modern warfare, why do we have to be on the ground occupying, basically, Afghanistan?
GAFFNEY: Because it‘s not working in Pakistan. The congressman has just said we‘ve got all kinds of problems in Pakistan, and he‘s right. The question is, can you continue to whack-a-mole in Pakistan or in Afghanistan or in Yemen or in Somalia or other places? Yes, you can. But the problem is—
MATTHEWS: But people are getting killed, and I‘m not sure we have a clear answer from you about how long—
GAFFNEY: If you don‘t—you‘re not giving me a chance to give you an answer.
MATTHEWS: When are we going to get out of there?
GAFFNEY: I‘m telling you right—
GAFFNEY: -- now that—
MATTHEWS: Can we leave?
GAFFNEY: -- if the president‘s view is we‘re going to get out starting next summer—
GAFFNEY: -- you‘re going to have an awful lot of people on both sides of the aisle, on all sides of the political spectrum saying if we‘re going to lose this thing, better lose it sooner at less cost than lose it now.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you want to do?
GAFFNEY: I would like to see us recognize the nature of the enemy, which I think is defined by the ideological program they follow called Sharia. That‘s on the Pakistan side of the border. That‘s on the Afghanistan border. That‘s—that‘s all over the place.
MATTHEWS: So we‘re fighting Islam.
GAFFNEY: We‘re fighting Sharia.
GAFFNEY: No, we‘re fighting—a lot of people who are calling themselves Muslims, who practice it, and we‘re not fighting—
MATTHEWS: And how do you beat them?
MATTHEWS: Kill them all?
GAFFNEY: -- we‘re not fighting the Muslims themselves.
MATTHEWS: But how do you kill an idea?
GAFFNEY: I‘m not—I‘m suggesting to you that you‘ve got to start by understanding that the idea‘s what‘s animating the enemy, Chris. And if you don‘t get that right, you‘re not going to defeat anybody.
MATTHEWS: Well, no, but wait a minute. You keep using—mixing old-time military terms like “winning” and then recognizing we‘re up against an idea, which is not something you can win with tanks or warfare, is it?
GAFFNEY: It‘s part of the solution. But you also have to work at the information level. You have to work it at the political warfare level. You have to work at it at the economic level.
GAFFNEY: This is the Reagan strategy. It actually worked against the last terrible totalitarian ideology that wanted to destroy us, the communists.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) because it failed from within. Let‘s take a look at the president today—
GAFFNEY: No, it was destroyed.
MATTHEWS: By whom?
GAFFNEY: -- without a doubt. By Ronald Reagan and his strategy.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s take a look—well, we‘ll—Congressman Moran can respond to that hit (ph) point of history there. Let‘s take a look at the president today because I think he is somewhere in the middle. You‘re right. Let‘s look at him here. He‘s somewhere in the middle between the progressives who want out and the hawks who want to stay in permanently, it seems. Let‘s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We said we were going to break the Taliban‘s momentum, and that‘s what you‘re doing. You‘re going on the offense, tired of playing defense, targeting their leaders, pushing them out of their strongholds. Today we can be proud that there are fewer areas under Taliban control and more Afghans have a chance to build a more hopeful future. We said a year ago that we‘re going to build the capacity of the Afghan people, and that‘s what you‘re doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: There‘s the president of the United States making, I guess, as good a case as he can for his policy. But Congressman Moran, here‘s the problem. I think, Frank Gaffney, although I don‘t agree with him ideologically, has a very good point here. If we‘re going to leave in a year after a lot of American GIs get killed, why don‘t we leave now?
MORAN: Well, I actually agree with Frank, as well, Chris. That‘s the problem. See, I don‘t see us prevailing over any period of time, even if we extend this to 2014. We‘ve lost 1,400 troops. We‘ve spent $345 billion. And we really are not prevailing in this conflict because I don‘t think we can win militarily.
And what he‘s saying, while it‘s a morale booster for the troops and I think in parts of it was inspiring, the speech today, it‘s eerily reminiscent of some of the things that Lyndon Johnson said, but more troubling, some of the things that President Bush said during the Iraq war. Now, you can say that we prevailed in the Iraq war, but I think it‘s Iran that won the Iraq war. And I‘m afraid Pakistan is going to win this conflict in Afghanistan—
GAFFNEY: It‘s going to be Sharia that‘s going to win this and—
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘ve argued—
GAFFNEY: And the problem is—the problem is, if you persist in thinking that we can retreat from all of these places and not have the guys who adhere to this ideology thinking they‘re winning and they are going to then pursue us here—I understand—
MATTHEWS: Are they going to try to establish Sharia law here in the United States?
GAFFNEY: They‘re doing it right now.
MATTHEWS: They‘re doing what in the United States?
GAFFNEY: They‘re trying to establish it right here, right now.
MATTHEWS: Who is establishing Sharia law in the United States?
GAFFNEY: We have a new book, Chris, called “Sharia, the Threat to America,” produced by a team of—
MATTHEWS: How does our Constitution—
GAFFNEY: -- national security experts—
MATTHEWS: -- get trumped by Sharia law?
GAFFNEY: By a whole variety of things, which I‘d love to dedicate a program to you, if you‘d like. Take, for example, the fact that we, as American now citizens, own the largest purveyor of Sharia-compliant insurance products in the world. Did you know that? AIG. Did you know that you‘ve got courts that are deferring to Sharia law?
GAFFNEY: In family court matters, for example, a state judge up in New Jersey said a woman who was being systematically raped and brutalized by her husband—
GAFFNEY: -- couldn‘t get an injunction—
MATTHEWS: And what happened in appellate court?
GAFFNEY: In an appellate court, they reversed it, but not before this judge said, Hey, it‘s just his religion. The problem is—
MATTHEWS: Do you think there‘s anybody on the Supreme Court right now
GAFFNEY: -- we‘re not—
GAFFNEY: -- going on here as well as violence.
MATTHEWS: Has any high court in the United States ever recognized foreign law?
GAFFNEY: The Supreme Court of the United States.
GAFFNEY: Harold Coe (ph), the guy who‘s international lawyer at the State Department, says we‘ve got five, sometimes four at least judges who believe international law, transnational law, as he likes to call it, should be considered on par with the Constitution of the United States. The fifth is Justice Kennedy and depends on what side of the debate—
MATTHEWS: The United States Constitution is dominant in all our legal affairs in this country.
GAFFNEY: Not under Sharia.
MORAN: Oh, you know, a lot of this is—
GAFFNEY: This is the problem.
GAFFNEY: Watch this space, Chris! You‘re going to find out more about it.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Moran, would you respond as a lawmaker what this man is talking about? Because sometimes he loses me. We‘re under the threat of Sharia law, which is the most traditional of Islamic law. It threatens us with beheadings, behandings, all kinds of things because—
GAFFNEY: Sedition (ph). Most impressive—
MORAN: Well, I respect Frank‘s intellect terrifically, and his father‘s, as well. But some of this is paranoid nonsense. I think our most potent weapon against terrorist extremism is the Muslim population in the United States, which is extraordinarily moderate, secular. If we want to find a real ally in the war in Afghanistan, we need to look to the secular Muslim nation in Turkey. That‘s the kind of—that‘s what we need to do. We need to look at Afghanistan‘s neighbors, determine where we can get real helpful allies, not Pakistan, who‘s saying one thing and doing another. And we need to look at what‘s happening in Yemen and some of these other rogue nations and not get ourselves bogged down in Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS: I can‘t wait for the first guy like Frank Gaffney‘s talking about to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee and propose that we use Sharia law to decide cases in the United States. That person wouldn‘t last five minutes in the witness chair. But anyway—
GAFFNEY: I hope Elena Kagan‘s not that person.
MATTHEWS: -- thank you. Thank you, U.S. Congressman Jim Moran and Frank Gaffney, who gets a little spookier every day.
Coming up: Is it time for our president to stop letting the Republicans pretend they‘re compromising? We‘re getting back to politics in our land right now, and perhaps back to the real world. I‘ve got an idea. The Democrats should force the Republicans to publicly vote against extending jobless benefits for people unemployed right now, with a 10 percent jobless rate out there. Go ahead, make them vote against unemployment benefits on the floor, like they did on taxes. Go ahead, Steny!
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, a setback for the White House today, obviously, as the economy may be recovering more slowly than expected. The nation‘s jobless rate ticked up to 9.8 percent today. That‘s a seven-month high. And employers only added a net total of 39,000 private sector jobs last month. Economists had predicted strong job growth with gains in the range of 150,000 jobs. Didn‘t happen. We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: If they think it‘s OK to raise taxes for the embattled middle class because they‘re going to pout if we don‘t give more money to millionaires, it really is time for the people of America to take up pitchforks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, a tough political fight coming up right now. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Senator Claire McCaskill from Missouri today showing the Democrats‘ frustration, I think, on the vote to extend the Bush tax cuts.
Joining me right now is a real leader of the Senate, Illinois senator Richard Durbin. Mr. Durbin, Senator, thank you so much for—and by the way, congratulations on your courageous support for the bipartisan push to try to deal with long-term debt.
Let‘s talk about the current situation now. If you were to be able to control the Congress and all its voting, what‘s a better vote for you, to show that Republicans don‘t care about people who are unemployed and would vote against extension of the jobless benefits right now, up or down, or to get into this question of the tax equity in terms of the Bush tax cuts? What‘s a better fight?
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: You‘re talking about a political fight? I‘d have to say—
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) what shows the difference in the parties better?
DURBIN: Well, I think both really demonstrate it. The unemployment really hits home, particularly in a holiday season. You know, Chris, we‘re at a point now where two million Americans are going to lose their unemployment benefits. They‘re in the process of losing them this month, before Christmas, and 127,000 in my state. You know, $300 a week, you can hardly live a comfortable life with.
DURBIN: And the idea of cutting that off, at a time when you‘re calling for tax cuts for the wealthiest people in America, boy, that‘s really an Ebenezer Scrooge scenario, if I heard one.
MATTHEWS: But why not force the Republicans to go up or down, the way that Steny Hoyer did, the leader in the House did, force them to go up or down on jobless benefits and celebrate that distinction, so the public gets it better? I don‘t think they get it yet.
DURBIN: If they don‘t come around and make this part of any agreement on taxes, I couldn‘t agree with you more. I think Steny Hoyer is right.
Let‘s have an up-or-down vote and let‘s let some of these Republicans decide whether or not they want to stand on the side of eight million people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the difficulty of being a leader in dealing with good fiscal policy for America. It seems to me it‘s easy to be for tax cuts, as you know, Senator, and it‘s easy to be for spending that‘s popular.
The hardest dam thing in the world is to be for some reasonable balance in the two, so that we‘re not becoming one of those countries, like Ireland, unfortunately, or Italy. They‘re basically bankrupt now. They‘re in receivership.
How do you make the case to the voters that you have got to be balanced about this thing? Business people, rich people, average people, get everybody thinking about being reasonable again, instead of just a class war of some kind? How do you get that?
DURBIN: Well, it‘s a good point.
But look back in history. When we have really faced crises in America, our leaders, usually the president, have been able to rally the American people with the idea of sharing in the responsibility, sharing in the sacrifice.
There‘s a feeling today that many Americans are exempt. I think some should be, because they‘re so vulnerable and helpless.
DURBIN: That—that‘s a reality. But many of those folks who want to be exempt from this conversation are very well-off.
Can you imagine anyone being able to stand up and say, listen, if you make a million dollars a year—that‘s $20,000 a week—you deserve a $100,000 tax cut? For goodness‘ sakes, at this time in our history, with this recession and this deficit, the people who are millionaires ought to be protesting, saying, leave us alone. We‘re doing quite well, thank you.
And this notion that we‘re demanding additional tax cuts just is unconscionable and unsustainable. So, this really, I think, is what we need, a call for shared sacrifice and for people to believe that they‘re part of the solution.
MATTHEWS: How do the Republicans get away with saying they‘re in the same boat, that people making millions of dollars a year, or billions in some cases, are in the same boat as a woman or man whose combined income is $100,000 or $150,000 a year?
They do it all the time. They always say, let‘s have no tax increases. Let‘s have all the Bush tax cuts, as if everybody—they seem to make that case over and over. Boehner is a classic. He just—there he is. He‘s just a classic at this. He acts like he‘s looking out for the little guy, when, in fact, the only fight here is whether you‘re over $250,000 a year or over a million, as your colleague Chuck Schumer is talking about, making the million-dollar distinction.
DURBIN: Well, I can tell you, we ought to get back to reality, defining what America is really like off of Capitol Hill, where the average salary in America is $60,000 a year or less, where people are falling further and further behind in terms of their purchasing power and the demands on their own personal budgets.
We have got to translate this into reality. And let me tell you, members of Congress don‘t necessarily live in the middle class. We make more money than 95 percent of Americans. So, to say that we‘re a good barometer of what‘s going on in the economy is not an accurate statement.
I will tell you one thing, though, that, Chris, you ought to keep in mind. One of the reasons there‘s such a warped view of the economy is the way we finance campaigns. Members of Congress in both political parties spend an inordinate amount of time around some of the wealthiest people in America—
MATTHEWS: I know.
DURBIN: -- who are kind to us and support our campaigns. And we come to believe these are just average Americans.
They‘re good folks. Many of them ask for nothing in return. But they don‘t represent real America—
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
DURBIN: -- where people who struggling.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for reminding of that, where the—he who pays the piper sets the tune.
Thank you very much, Senator Richard Durbin.
Again, thank you, as an American, for standing up for balancing the debt, or getting rid of the debt down the road. Thanks for joining us tonight.
DURBIN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Howard Fineman now joins us The Huffington Post. He‘s senior political editor. And he‘s also of course our analyst here at MSNBC.
It is kind of frustrating. It‘s easy to go out there and be Boehner. Not to say that one party is always right and the other party is wrong, but it‘s a lot easier to say cut taxes for everybody.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That sounds great on the surface.
But, if you look at the polls, the fact is, even though John Boehner called the vote in the House that the Democrats staged in which they cut off the continuation of tax increases to $250,000 -- Boehner called that chicken crap.
FINEMAN: But the fact is, in the new poll, three out of four Americans are in favor of that chicken crap.
FINEMAN: They want the tax cuts for the middle class. They don‘t think it‘s reasonable or fair to have it continue or productive to have it continue for the wealthiest Americans. So, that was—
MATTHEWS: But let‘s be tough, Howard.
MATTHEWS: It‘s Christmas. It‘s Hanukkah. It‘s the season.
MATTHEWS: And everybody is saying, yes, give me my tax cut.
But once they get their tax cut, will they really care if the rich people get it, too? Will the average person say, yes, I got my tax cut, but, damn it, they got it, too? Will they really care? And that‘s what—
I think the Republicans are banking on that, that they won‘t really think about it more than a week after the fight.
FINEMAN: Well, they‘re also banking on the fact that the Democrats have just had such trouble with the tax issue in recent years. The Republicans are incredibly disciplined about describing this, the Democrats‘ position, every time as a job-killing tax hike.
MATTHEWS: Everyone is.
FINEMAN: They market-tested that, and they repeat it every time.
FINEMAN: And the Democrats are scared of their own shadow on taxes. At least enough of them are to make it possible to get the thing passed in the Senate that the House passed.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you‘re so right.
But they‘re screwing the country, too, in a very deep way that has nothing to do with partisan—
FINEMAN: Who is screwing the country?
MATTHEWS: The Republicans with this rhetoric, because if you take the rhetoric, that the government shouldn‘t raise taxes to pay for what the government is making commitments to do, like fighting these wars in Afghanistan, paying for Social Security, paying—the government makes commitments the public is happy with. And they say, yes, make those commitments, and then says, but we won‘t keep them because we‘re not going to tax to pay for them.
FINEMAN: Well, if—
MATTHEWS: And that is not really American.
FINEMAN: If my arithmetic is correct here, Chris, two years of continuing the tax hike for everybody, including the way—if you include just the portion for the wealthiest, that‘s $140 billion over two years.
FINEMAN: Current estimates of the war in Afghanistan, maybe $100 billion a year.
So, that‘s 200 -- that‘s $340 billion right there, if you change policies on the war and if you change policies on taxes.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But no Republican—the Republicans want the tax cuts and the war.
FINEMAN: Yes, that‘s my point.
MATTHEWS: It‘s the same people.
FINEMAN: And at the same time, they‘re going to wring their hands about how we have to get rid of the national debt and balance the budget.
MATTHEWS: So, they‘re lying to themselves or to somebody? If you say
I want a big, boisterous American war plan all around the world, and
protect Afghanistan and Iraq and fight here, fight there, fight Sharia law
that‘s the latest thing we‘re fighting—and—
MATTHEWS: -- I want lower taxes, you‘re lying to yourself.
FINEMAN: Well, also, they had the temerity to attack the Democrats during the campaign about the health care plan, which would result in some cuts in Medicare, $500 billion over 10 years.
MATTHEWS: You know what I call that? Chicken crap.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. I just learned that new word. It‘s kind of nice. But I‘m sure it‘s offensive to somebody.
FINEMAN: It‘s the word of the week, for sure.
MATTHEWS: But it certainly is pulling it back.
Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman.
Up next: U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is talking about—well, she‘s at it again—an insurrection this time against her own leadership. She‘s already pulling a—wanted to pull a Joe McCarthy act against the Republicans—against the Democrats. We will tell you the latest of Michele Bachmann‘s zaniness—next in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the “Sideshow.”
First: Michele Bachmann talks revolution, her cause, repealing health care. This time, though, the Minnesota congresswoman is not threatening President Obama or the Democrats, but her own party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: Are you confident that the Republican leadership in the new Congress will allow members to have a straight up-or-down vote on the complete and utter repeal of Obamacare?
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: If they don‘t, I think there needs to be an insurrection here in Washington, D.C., against our own leadership.
JEFFREY: You don‘t sound totally confident that the Republican leadership will allow a straight up-or-down vote—
BACHMANN: Well, I take them at their word. I believe the best in them. And I take them at their word when they say this is what they‘re going to do. But if they decide they‘re going to cave or go weak in the knees, there—you will see members of Congress that will stand up against our leadership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s like Terry Jeffrey being her psychiatrist there.
Anyway, weak in the knees? What is with this machismo lingo? Is everything a manhood deal? Could it be that the Republican leadership has more brains than she does and thinks an up-or-down vote on Obamacare would, A., fail, and, B., show that getting rid a way to insure people with preexisting conditions or of insuring older children and other popular elements in Obama‘s health care plan might be a nutty idea, or, if you will, a Michele Bachmann-type idea?
Up next: Why can‘t Democrats play hardball as well as Republicans? Republicans seem to be much better at going for the jugular than Democrats do.
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TRISH REGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, everyone. I‘m Trish Regan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks bouncing back in the final hour of trading to extend the December rally, the Dow Jones industrial average climbing 19 points, the S&P up three, and the Nasdaq adding 12 points, to finish at a three-year high.
Heads, you win, tails, you win here. It was that kind of day. Investors pretty much shrugging off that disappointing jobs report on the belief that it will encourage the Federal Reserve to continue stimulating the economy, employers adding 39,000 jobs in November. And that was way lower than anybody had anticipated, and bumps the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent. Nonetheless, analysts are looking at the big picture here and the bright side of things.
We have had a flurry of upbeat economic reports this week, capped by today‘s better-than-expected report on service sector growth. Materials and energy stocks, those moved higher today, as the dollar fell more than 1 percent. And, at the end of the day, stocks are closing out their best week in a month, with analysts fairly confident that this rally is pretty sustainable. We shall see, but so far so good for the first few days of December.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Big question. We could ask this any night, but it‘s getting hotter.
Do Democrats go for the jugular, the way Republicans do?
John Ensign escaped a federal investigation, is now seeking a third term. David Vitter got reelected last month. Charlie Rangel got censured. And just look at how the right-wing press played up Rangel‘s censure yesterday. Well, look at it today.
“The New York Post,” look at it, front page. They blew it up on their front page with the headline, “Charlie Goes Down Fighting.” Great. That‘s great stuff, made him miserable.
“The Washington Times,” a real right-wing paper, put it above the fold
look at this—with a big, happy, miserable picture of Charlie Rangel looking dejected.
In contrast, look at “The Daily News,” a liberal paper, relegated it to one line at the very top of their front page. “The New York Times,” the gray lady, put the story in their first column on the left side, no picture, just no painful exploitation of the thing. They buried the thing inside the paper.
Look at “The Washington Post.” They have no point of view anymore.
They put it below the fold.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t even know what “The Post” stands for.
Ron Reagan is a political commentator and former radio host.
I‘m talking about, Ron—you‘re chuckling, because the right wing seems to know how to put your heel into the back of the guy‘s head when he‘s down, whereas the Democrats feel a little compassion. When they see Vitter caught with a hooker in D.C. and then caught later apparently down in Louisiana, they say, hey, he‘s just human. Give him a break.
The other guy buys off the husband and top staffer of the woman he had the affair with, with federal largess, and he‘s probably going to get reelected out in Nevada.
Republicans are meaner, I think. I think. Your thoughts?
RON REAGAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think you‘re probably right. I think they‘re better at this sort of all‘s fair in love and war kind of stuff.
We saw it again. I think there was a real watershed this moment—this week between the White House and Congress, where they had the Slurpee summit. And, afterwards, President Obama comes out and says the usual things you say about a private conversation: Don‘t want to give away anything, but we had a nice conversation. We‘re all going to work together for the American people.
Republicans come out and say, well, we congratulate the president for basically—I‘m paraphrasing—apologizing to us for not giving us what we want.
REAGAN: And, then 24 hours later, they issue the ultimatum: Give us everything we want, or we shut down the government.
So much for, you go and then I go.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me let Roger get in here.
Is there a difference in the way they behave?
ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM: Oh, sure.
MATTHEWS: I argue that the Republicans put their heel in the back of your head, like in a schoolyard fight in a tough neighborhood.
SIMON: Yes. Well, they always bring a gun to a knife fight, the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Like Jimmy in your town.
SIMON: Right. The Democrats show up with little butter knives.
I don‘t think the right wing is meaner than the left wing. I think they‘re just better at it.
MATTHEWS: Oh, aren‘t you Chicago?
SIMON: No. Well, they‘re a lot better at it. I mean—
MATTHEWS: Tell me why that‘s good. Well, just make the case. Why is it better to be nastier or to be more personal? Because we‘re talking personal issues here.
Everybody knew Charlie Rangel broke the rules. The question was how much to smash his face in with this, whether to make it a reprimand or a censure and how much to put on the front page and really humiliate him. The right-wing press said, let‘s really stick it to him. And they did.
SIMON: Well, that‘s what the right-wing press does. I mean, they have more experience at it.
Look, you talk about mean people. You talk about mean campaigns.
You‘re talking about Willie Horton. You‘re talking about—
MATTHEWS: Using race, using everything.
SIMON: Yes. You‘re talking about Swift Boat Veterans. You‘re talking about real game-changing things.
Democrats don‘t have stuff like that. You‘re talking about—you want a good mean guy, when Glenn Beck says, Barack Obama is a racist, he has a deep-seated hatred for the white people or the white culture. That‘s a direct quote.
MATTHEWS: There‘s not much like that on the Democrat side, I think.
SIMON: There‘s not. You get wise, sardonic, witty people like Stephen Colbert, like Jon Stewart. Now, I think they‘re more effective because they can persuade persuadable people. But they‘re a whole different league than people who just hit you in the face and keep hitting you in the face. That‘s whole they got.
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re saying it so well, Roger. I don‘t know you beat what I just heard there. I don‘t know about you, but a great memory for the details of evil.
MATTHEWS: Ron Reagan, we‘re in tough competition here because Roger remembers what I forget occasionally, the stuff like Glenn Beck accusing a president who is so—whatever you think of his politics—has so gotten beyond this country‘s racial history, so good at dealing with everybody on equal terms. I mean, I don‘t think we‘ve had a president—Clinton was pretty good, but this guy is better. Just get beyond race, and to call him a racist—
REAGAN: Yes, can you imagine if Nancy Pelosi had called extending middle class tax cuts “chicken crap,” you know, what would the right wing press do with that? But I think there‘s a bigger issue here and it‘s the Republicans are altogether on their agenda. They are serving corporate America. It‘s what they do.
The Democrats would like—the leadership anyway would like to serve corporate America. That‘s where the money is. And money is the path to power.
MATTHEWS: You just heard that from Richard Durbin.
REAGAN: But they‘re divided as a party.
REAGAN: Yes, they‘re divided as a party. They have constituents and even members who aren‘t down with that kind of program, who actually are interested in social justice.
MATTHEWS: OK. Does the end justify the means, Ron? You‘ve got the mic here. In other words, does the point of view—and some of my colleagues, I think, think this, too. I‘m not sure it‘s true. Does the purpose of social justice, the purpose of equity of a better America justify bear knuckle politics, not just hardball?
REAGAN: Yes. Yes, it does.
REAGAN: If you‘re in a knife fight, you bring a knife, or bring a gun. If you‘re fighting for social justice, you do what you need to do to win. You know, the Republicans will do what they need to do to win representing corporate America. So, why not fight the same way?
SIMON: But, in the end, you only win the battles, you don‘t win the war. You have a more degraded America. You have an America that now we‘re worried about. You have an America—
MATTHEWS: Who‘s winning right now, the right or the left?
SIMON: Oh, the right is winning right now.
MATTHEWS: With their dirty—not dirty—but nasty tactics. You want to argue?
SIMON: I‘ll tell you—
MATTHEWS: By the way, I called a couple campaigns on this election on the Democratic side that I thought nasty. I thought the Conway shot on Rand Paul about his religion was a nasty shot. I called it three or four times. So, I don‘t think, I don‘t know that one party is guilty of all transgressions here.
SIMON: No, that‘s absolutely true. But it‘s getting scary. Maybe I‘m the only one in America who was scared when that guy showed up at a Barack Obama rally with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, and it was not that big of a story. It was about a 24-hour story.
SIMON: People can show up with guns—
MATTHEWS: Zealotry and guns—political zealotry and guns together.
SIMON: My God, I mean, you could just imagine what‘s going to happen.
MATTHEWS: We could do a whole show on this. The whole question on what‘s fair in love and war, and what‘s better for America.
Thank you, Ron Reagan. Thank you. I got an advanced copy of a certain book today, by the way, Ron.
REAGAN: Oh, you did.
MATTHEWS: A very interesting book I‘m looking at. I think it has something to do with your writing skills. We‘ll be talking to you. I hope we get you first.
REAGAN: Thanks, Chris. I think you will.
MATTHEWS: Roger Simon, as always, sir. OK.
Up next: the great talk show host Dick Cavett is coming here talking about some big history that he was part, that great interview with John Lennon before he was killed. What a story that was. Boy, that was 30 years ago this week, the assassination of a cultural icon. But what do you think about cultural icons being assassinated? He was.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: One Republican senator the Democrats are hoping the beat in 2012 is Scott Brown of Massachusetts. But early polls show Senator Brown in good shape against several high-profile Democratic challengers, potential challengers. Vicki Kennedy, widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, would trail Brown by seven points in a hypothetical match-up. Don‘t count on that number not changing, 48-41.
And Governor Deval Patrick who just won re-election lags behind Brown by the same a seven-point margin. That‘s going to move this election. I disagree with some of these numbers, as future indicators.
Senator Brown is one of the Republicans with the highest appeal among Democrats. The only other Republican senator to poll as strongly among Democrats are Maine‘s Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and South Carolina‘s Lindsey Graham.
HARDBALL will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN LENNON, CULTURE ICON: I dream of us being an old couple on the south coast of Ireland or something like that. I remember when we were on Dick Cavett, you know. And being a nice old couple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. We‘re back.
Dick Cavett began in comedy as a writer for some of the greats, Jack Parr, Johnny Carson. But he broke out on his own as the host of “The Dick Cavett Show” where he interviewed the likes of Katharine well, Katharine Graham perhaps, Katharine Hepburn, John Lennon, Truman Capote.
Today he‘s sharing his stories in his new book “Talk Show:
Confrontations, Pointed Commentary and Off-Screen Secrets.”
Welcome, Dick Cavett. Thank you, sir, for joining us
DICK CAVETT, AUTHOR, “TALK SHOW”: Thank you, sir.
MATTHEWS: I wanted to go right now to this interview, because it‘s a 30-year anniversary. Your book is coming out at a good time in terms of—
CAVETT: Yes, it is.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s John Lennon and Yoko Ono on “The Dick Cavett Show,” 1971, when you asked him about the Beatles. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAVETT: Do you ever wish it hadn‘t all happened, John?
LENNON: Well, I don‘t regret anything in my life really because I‘ve met Yoko and I‘m very happy with her. And I feel as if I didn‘t go through all I went through, I wouldn‘t be with Yoko now. So, I don‘t regret the past. I‘m always just trying to live for this moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I used to keep a list, Dick, of my people I looked up to most in the world. I think today, people would put politicians up there, some of them. And he was on my list. I don‘t know about you. But I always put Lennon up there, maybe with a few other people, some of your other friends, like Norman Mailer, people like that, top of my list.
CAVETT: Oh, he is.
MATTHEWS: What was it like to have these guys in your world every night? These major figures?
CAVETT: It was certainly—well, it was a dream that a boy from Nebraska didn‘t even dream when he was out in Nebraska worshipping Bob Hope who came to Lincoln and he said—I said, “Fine show, Bob,” and he said, “Thank you, son.” And I told all my friends I‘d been chatting with Bob Hope the night before. I wanted to go east with him. An announcer in Lincoln said to me one day on a kid‘s radio show was on, “I‘m old, I didn‘t get very far,” he said, “but you‘re going to get up and out of here the way Johnny did.”
CAVETT: It was sort of poignant. And I never—
MATTHEWS: Yes. You know, I met Bob Hope one time when Tip O‘Neill retired, and I was his A.A. and we‘re in the men‘s room at that Capitol Hill, in the Washington Hilton, down about four urinals from me was Bob Hope. And he gave me a wink, because he knew that I‘d tell that story some day, because it‘s one of those manly experiences when you‘re in the same place together doing the same thing. It was a riot, but you got him to say what.
CAVETT: Well, Hope, you mean?
CAVETT: Yes. Well, I got him to say a lot of things, when came on one of his books once, he said, hey, you know, I printed on fly paper. Once people put it down, the camp put down. In other words—but you don‘t want to write a book which once you put it down, you can‘t pick it up.
And but I got Hope to talk once as a person, not to do gags. And right in the middle of one, I said, why do you have that scar on your lip? He explained it. He was defending his dog when he was kid. And he felt a little funny just talking and e said, hey, do you want a gag on that? And I said - hearing him talk is fun.
MATTHEWS: You know, quickly, because I want to get the Nixon in here and then Haldeman went after you. But that Hope thing really opened up—
I‘ve heard that Hope never opened up, that he would sit on shows like this and was all performance, and he was one of those guys you cannot get to as a human being. Was that true?
CAVETT: No. In fact, I did on this one show that I don‘t want to make another plug here, that‘s on a DVD of mine called “Comic Greats.” But I did on that, and he said that it really rattled him because his wife Dolores said that‘s the best you ever were on television.
CAVETT: You talked like a human being.
MATTHEWS: But he didn‘t want to.
CAVETT: And he said, I don‘t know what she thought I was up to that point.
MATTHEW: Yes, he never wanted to do.
Let‘s take a look at Nixon. Nixon went after you. Here he is speaking to the guy, his number one henchman and I worked on a book on Nixon. I wrote it.
CAVETT: I know.
MATTHEWS: And I notice one thing, whenever he was with Bob Haldeman, he was not good.
CAVETT: He had a sense of a caldron boiling between them.
MATTHEWS: Yes, these guys were not good chemistry. Here he is talking about you, let‘s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: What the hell is Cavett?
BOB HALDEMAN, NIXON AIDE: Oh, Christ, he‘s—he‘s—
NIXON: He‘s terrible?
HALDEMAN: He‘s impossible. He loads every program automatically, he‘ll—
NIXON: Nothing you can do about it, obviously?
HALDEMAN: We‘ve complained bitterly about the Cavett shows.
NIXON: Well—well is there any way we can screw him?
That‘s what I mean. There must be ways.
HALDEMAN: We‘ve been trying to.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What was that like? Did you than you‘re under surveillance by H.R. Bob Haldeman and Chuck Colson and the whole band of these guys?
CAVETT: I had a couple of hints that I was once when they put a guest on the show, forcibly about the SST, but that‘s another matter. But, Chris, it‘s spooky to hear the leader of the free world and the most powerful man in America say, in his witty way, how can we screw him? You know? I mean, it was to be—to be chastised by the great unindicted co-conspirator is also a strange kind of thrill for a boy from Nebraska.
CAVETT: I referred to Haldeman in the piece in the book as Nixon‘s lick-spittle. It‘s OK to say that because it‘s a Shakespeare word and so you‘ll answer the letters to that.
MATTHEWS: OK. Dick Cavett, the name of your show is “Talk Show.” I want to ask you one—you used to have the greatest debates in the world. I wish I knew how they set them up. You had like Norman Mailer, Truman Capote. You had these people going after each other‘s machismo or lack thereof.
MATTHEWS: You had graphic comments like, stick that where the sun doesn‘t shine. I think that was your line once. How did you—
CAVETT: Well, let me presume—let me presume to correct you.
CAVETT: The correct wording of that and I don‘t know where it came from was when he annoyed me so I finally just said—when he said, read the next question off of the sheet, and I said, why don‘t you put it—why don‘t you fold it five words and put where the moon don‘t shine? It‘s got to be the moon and it‘s got to put it because stick it would be vulgar.
MATTHEWS: Well, I want to ask you this, what has changed in talk since you did it fulltime?
CAVETT: There‘s much, much more of it. It seems to me that like so many things in America, the quality has diminished. There are some fine people. Two of them were mentioned earlier by a previous guest, Colbert and Steward, of course. But since I know them all, it‘s difficult to talk to them.
You know I feel funny being on with you because I once said to the member of the Chicago Seven who said to me, you got to do nothing with politics, Cavett. And I said, politics bores my ass off and got the biggest laugh—
MATTHEWS: What time is our show on? What time‘s our HARDBALL come on in New York where you live? What time does it come on?
CAVETT: It comes on twice in fact in New York.
CAVETT: And I always watch it both times and then TiVo it and watch it again in the morning.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a great man, Dick Cavett. Thank you, sir.
CAVETT: It‘s on in New York, isn‘t it?
MATTHEWS: Every night you know it, you‘re just teasing me. Thank you so much -- 5:00 and 7:00 New York and everywhere in the East Coast.
Any way, the book is called “Talk Show,” a great book about a great guy, by a great guy, Dick Cavett.
CAVETT: Yes, we wanted to call it “chicken crap,” but they wouldn‘t accept it.
MATTHEWS: Better title.
CAVETT: When we return, let me finish with how the attacks on the political right have become personal and nasty, as I said.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with that question we raised earlier. Is the right just playing nastier than the left? Are they more ready to stomp on the other guy‘s head when he‘s down?
Look at those front pages I mentioned earlier. Let‘s not forget what we see here. Here‘s “The New York Post” glorying in the personal humiliation of Charles Range, gushing with the portrait in his days in dignity. Here‘s “The Washington Times” loving the story right up there at the top.
How did the story get played in “The New York Times”? Off to the side a solid news story. No picture. The love of the agony—just the news, straight and important, not glorying in the agony of a public official, even a local one. Also not hiding the story.
Now, let‘s look at “The Washington Post,” what used to be a liberal paper back in the old days, it‘s a big dull right now. It put Charlie at the bottom, a perfect statement of a newspaper without a clear point of view.
What‘s the pattern here? Well, have you seen the liberals dancing in the streets at humiliation of Governor Sanford of South Carolina or David Vitter, the senator from Louisiana who got caught buying sex in D.C. and back home? Have you seen a lot of political hot-dogging in the end zone over John Ensign who got caught in all kinds of trouble? Not really.
I‘m not the first to say this, certainly not the first to notice it, but the people on the right are just a lot more personal in their attacks, a lot nastier in going after people who disagree with them. You might call this great or you might call this OK. I don‘t think that you can call it being nasty and personal with your partisan rivals more American or depending on your beliefs, better morally. Think about it.
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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