Guests: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Michael Scherer, Nate Silver, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Chuck Schumer, Phillip Dennis, Colin Goddard
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Choose your weapons.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington.
Leading off tonight: Gentlemen, start your engines. Progressives and conservatives may not agree on anything President Obama said yesterday about how to rein in the deficit, but there‘s one thing we can all agree on. The president‘s speech yesterday was the first of his reelection campaign.
He tagged Republicans for wanting to end Medicare while give tax cuts to the rich. He promised new investment to satisfy his electoral base and vowed to find common ground in an appeal to independent voters. Well, tonight we‘re going to look at the big campaign themes of the president, themes he hopes will carry him to reelection next fall. U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the incoming Democratic national chairman, joins us at the top of the show.
Then, Donald Trump‘s leading the Republican presidential field right now by leading the birther jamboree, and that could mean big trouble for the Republican establishment.
And speaking of trouble, the right wing is already promising primary challenges for Republicans who dared to vote for the budget deal today. Well, the bill passed with bipartisan support, even though Tea Party Republicans largely voted against it. So how big a problem does Speaker Boehner have now on his rightward flank?
And catch this. Rick Santorum is actually trying to defend that wonderful statement of his—I‘m being sarcastic—that compared gay marriage with “man on dog sex.” Well, Rick‘s got a hard time with that one, and he always will. Senator, welcome to the “Sideshow” tonight.
Finally, “Let Me Finish” with that rare Republican presidential candidate that‘s actually willing to say something unpopular in GOP circles about President Obama—the truth. He‘s an American!
We start with President Obama and his reelection campaign. Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been nominated to lead the DNC. Congratulations, Madam Chairman!
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIR NOMINEE: Thank you!
MATTHEWS: I can hear it reverberating through the convention hall in Charlotte next year.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a great honor to have known you as you‘ve risen through the ranks to the chairmanship of your party.
SCHULTZ: Thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: I‘m going to ask you a funny question. I didn‘t prepare this, but I have to ask you. Last night, I was going to bed, I heard this crazy story that Donald Trump doesn‘t want to be nominated by a political party or doesn‘t have to, he‘s going to go all the way and pull a—what‘s his name, a—what‘s that guy‘s name? Perot, Ross Perot number.
SCHULTZ: Ross Perot.
MATTHEWS: How can I forget—who got 19 percent.
SCHULTZ: Or John Anderson.
MATTHEWS: He was certifiable. He was certifiable. So do you think Trump would help President Obama get reelected by having two people on the right run against him? Doesn‘t that split the vote? Is that good news for you?
SCHULTZ: Well, you know, I mean, I heard Donald Trump say today, Chris, that his wives had a hard time living with him. I think that means the country would probably have a pretty hard time living with him, too.
But you know, we‘re going to be focused on making sure that we talk about the president‘s accomplishments, about the fact that we‘ve turned this economy around and we‘re creating jobs and we‘re focused on making sure we solve—
SCHULTZ: -- our long-term fiscal challenges. We‘re not concerned about who gets in the race. We‘re focused on making sure we can talk about the president.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK, let‘s leave the “Twilight Zone” and go back to planet earth. Here‘s President George W. Bush—here‘s the president—the president today, President Obama, on George W. Bush. Let‘s listen to what he said about his predecessor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program, but we didn‘t pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts, tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country, tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So fresh in my mind, it was actually yesterday. That‘s the big speech we‘re talking about. We seem to think here at HARDBALL that the president was really laying out the big messages. Is this going to be a fight, really, between Republicans who basically boxed in this government, the United States government back in the ‘80s and have done it ever since under George W. Bush by saying, We‘re not going—we‘re going to squeeze this beast. We‘re going to cut taxes for the rich, so there‘s nothing for government to do but either have the Democrats squeal for higher taxes or cut every program they believe in. Is this the box that this president came in?
SCHULTZ: Well, I think what President Obama talked about yesterday, down the road, when we‘re in the thick of the campaign, it‘ll give us an opportunity to demonstrate the dramatic contrast between the direction that the Republicans want to take this country and the direction that President Obama and congressional Democrats have been taking our country.
And I mean, I think you couldn‘t—the contrast couldn‘t be more clear. The president called for shared sacrifice, for tax reforms that make sure that everybody pays their fair share, make sure that we don‘t balance our fiscal—our fiscal repairs on the backs of frail, elderly seniors and the most vulnerable, as compared to the Republicans, who have proposed to end Medicare as we know it, who have proposed to block grant Medicaid and are going to leave seniors potentially out in the cold.
It‘s a pretty dramatic contrast, and I think it‘s something that any candidate should be out there talking about, and I‘m sure President Obama will continue to do so, as well.
MATTHEWS: Well, here he is on taxes, the president. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Everybody pays, but the wealthier borne (ph) a little more. This is not because we begrudge those who‘ve done well. We rightly celebrate their success. Instead, it‘s a basic reflection of our belief that those who have benefited most from our way of life can afford to give back a little bit more.
But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. We can‘t afford it. And I refuse to renew them again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Are you confident the president will stick to his position this time? He didn‘t last fall. A lot of us believe he should have compromised last fall. Will he do it again? Will he stick now and say, No more Bush tax cuts for the very rich?
SCHULTZ: Well, what I‘m—yes, and what I‘m also confident about is that President Obama is going to make sure that the proposals that he put forward, like he did yesterday, when it comes to turning our—getting our fiscal house in order, are going to be balanced and that everything‘s on the table, unlike the Republicans who clearly said right from the get-go that, We‘re not going to put everything on table, that talking about revenue is a non-starter. And that‘s irresponsible.
I mean, the bottom line is that we have to make sure that we bring all the grown-ups to the table, that we get everybody, as President Obama called for yesterday, to sit down, Republicans and Democratic leadership alike, and hammer out a compromise for our long-term fiscal health.
You know, I hope the grown-ups in the Republican Party show up to participate in that process because it‘s very important. I mean, for me as a mom with three young kids, Chris, I‘m a little worried. I‘m quite worried about our fiscal future, and I want to make sure that we can all come together to fix it.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at the president. Here he is on the Ryan plan, which may well soon be the Republican Party‘s plan. They‘re about to adopt it, it looks like. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Ronald Reagan‘s own budget director said there‘s nothing serious or courageous about this plan. There‘s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don‘t think there‘s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don‘t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That‘s not a vision of the America I know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I‘m trying to figure this out, Congresswoman, and you had to figure it out as a part of your job, is to figure out where do you draw the line on wealth and who pays a bigger chunk of their income as it gets more progressively higher. Now, the president talks about the well-off, but you know, you talk to people like Senator Schumer, who‘s coming on tonight, and basically, it‘s easy to sell much higher taxes, no tax breaks for people who are millionaires.
But there‘s not a whole lot of money if you just tax people who are millionaires. If you want to balance the budget or begin to balance the budget, you‘ve got to tax people who make, say, a quarter million a year. Politically, can you draw that line at $250,000 and say people who make over a quarter million a year are going to have to give up their Bush tax cuts, period? Can you make that case politically?
SCHULTZ: I can, and I can make it in the same way that President Obama did yesterday, when you‘re talking about what Paul Ryan under the Republican plan proposed, which is to have 33 seniors each pay $6,400 more in health care costs for Medicare to give another $200,000 in tax breaks—
MATTHEWS: I got you.
SCHULTZ: -- to the wealthiest Americans. That is crazy! No one would think that‘s fair. I have a—I actually have a district that‘s on the wealthier side, Chris, and when I go home, at town hall meetings, people who make that much money are not begging me for more tax breaks. Small business owners are—
SCHULTZ: -- and the middle class folks are, and that‘s who we have to focus on so we can broaden the tax breaks for everyone.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not my job, but I do think something‘s not getting through. They talk about vouchers to replace Medicare. They‘re not talking about vouchers, they‘re talking about subsidies that will never cover the cost of any—
SCHULTZ: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: -- any health insurance premium you could possibly buy in your 70s 80s.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s going to insure somebody against illness in their 70s and 80s and think they‘re going to make a profit?
SCHULTZ: That‘s right. And you‘ve got 60 percent of the seniors in nursing homes on Medicaid. So what are they going to do when there‘s no enough money provided by the federal government to give the states to keep those folks on Medicaid in nursing homes. What happens to them? I‘m worried that they‘re going to get left out in the cold.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at the president on—I think this is the hottest issue for the Democrats. Everybody turns 65. Everybody likes Medicare. It is enormously popular because it‘s the one time in your life you get a break. Let‘s listen here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs. I will not tell families with children who have disabilities that they have to fend for themselves. We will reform these programs, but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment this country has kept for generations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: How do you tell somebody who‘s 80 years old, Here‘s your Starbucks gift certificate, go get yourself some health insurance to pay for your heart transplant? What are we—it‘s crackers! It‘s crazy to talk like that! Health care costs are enormous. You can‘t give somebody some check—Oh, here‘s a couple hundred bucks, get yourself health care squared away.
SCHULTZ: Right, go fend for yourself.
MATTHEWS: What are these guys like Ryan talking about?
SCHULTZ: What they‘re talking about is telling seniors, You know what? You‘ve got to go fend for yourself. We‘re going to pay X amount, up to X amount, and then we‘re going to leave you to the perils of the private insurance market. And the insurance companies are going to be put back in the driver‘s seat, where you‘re no longer covered, your safety net is gone, and you‘re going to have to, you know, fight your way through the complexities of the private insurance market. And maybe they‘ll cover you, maybe they won‘t.
Well, we ended that angst for seniors 40 years ago, and the Republicans are proposing to restore it. I already have seniors who have to score their pills, cut them in half, and because of the donut hole, which we‘ve finally closed in the Affordable Care Act—
MATTHEWS: I know.
SCHULTZ: -- and now we‘re going to leave them with even more worry and concern.
MATTHEWS: Well, congratulations to the Democratic Party for picking you as their chairman. I‘m going to call you Madam Chairman. I‘m going to mix it up the old way—
MATTHEWS: -- because I like that old sound—
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: -- from the conventions. Madam chairman! I love it!
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you.
SCHULTZ: Thanks, Chris.
SCHULTZ: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, now chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Coming up: Donald Trump says America‘s become a, quote, “laughingstock to the world.” I wouldn‘t use that word, if I were you. Anyway, I think it‘s a great country. He‘s talking like a candidate, I guess, but what kind of candidate who trashes—well, he says we‘re a laughingstock. What‘s that about?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Obama trails in yet another battleground state, Florida. According to a new Suffolk poll, Obama‘s behind Mitt Romney by a single point. That doesn‘t really matter, but that‘s a tie, not good news, 43-42. Another poll earlier this week had Romney up 5 over the president in Florida, a better poll for him. He carried it, of course, back in 2008 and he needs it. One bright spot for the president in a new poll, Romney is the only candidate to lead him down there in Florida.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back—HARDBALL. Rumors swirled today that Donald Trump would use the finale of his TV show to tell viewers on NBC, I guess, what day he‘ll announce his candidacy for the 2012 presidential race. But today the Trump Organization released a statement leaving the door open by saying, quote, “On the May 22nd season finale of ‘Celebrity Apprentice,‘ Mr. Trump, quote, ‘may,‘ close quote, announce the time and place of a press conference, at which time he‘ll make a statement as to whether or not he will run for president.”
What—is he dangling this? So should he decide to run, will Trump be a net positive for the GOP or not? Michael Scherer is—he interviewed Trump for “Time” magazine, a big story in the magazine just came out today, and Nate Silver writes for “The New York Times.” I just read Nate‘s, of course—I always read what Nate says.
Let me go to Michael, this whole question here—is he chopping up the GOP by just driving everybody out of this business?
MICHAEL SCHERER, “TIME”: I think right now, he‘s having a lot of fun.
MATTHEWS: Newt Gingrich is dying.
SCHERER: He‘s grabbing all the headlines. Right now—
MATTHEWS: Sarah‘s gone.
SCHERER: No one in the Republican primary is really running yet. And in that vacuum, he has stepped in, and he every day is throwing bombs, new bombs in new directions, and he‘s grabbing the headlines and getting people‘s attention.
MATTHEWS: Were you surprised he wouldn‘t engage in pop quiz with you when you asked him, How many members of the Congress are there, a pretty basic question?
SCHERER: Basic, but it was a gotcha question, but—
MATTHEWS: But that‘s why he set up so easy, though, because he should know it.
SCHERER: He should know it. He said—he claimed to me he did know it, but he said, I‘m not answering those questions. You‘re trying to do to me what—
MATTHEWS: Yes, but what‘s wrong with trying to do that?
SCHERER: -- they did to Sarah Palin. No, that‘s a good question. It was in the context—
MATTHEWS: It‘s a citizenship question! It‘s what you got to know to because an American! He‘s saying Obama‘s not an American! Shouldn‘t he have to answer the citizenship test?
SCHERER: It was in the context of me saying, Look, why can an entrepreneur do well in Washington? You know there are different rules down there.
SCHERER: And he acknowledged it.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think that was a trick question, by the way. It‘s sort of basic.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Michael—Michael, he told you in your interview that—in “Time” magazine, quote, “I can make this country great again. This country‘s not great. This country‘s a laughingstock for the rest of the world.” I don‘t think we‘re a laughingstock. I‘ve seen numbers. Some people resent us for the usual reason, jealousy. That‘s what most of the world thinks of the United States. They‘re jealous of us.
SCHERER: Here‘s the interesting thing about that quote. He took out full-page newspaper ads in a number of national papers in 1987 that said, The world thinks America‘s a laughingstock.” But the Trump line has not changed since 1987. He was criticizing President Reagan for his dealings with OPEC and Japan in 1987.
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you—
MATTHEWS: -- my little bicentennial moment. This is the country
you‘ve got to put fences up to keep people out of, OK? I mean, you might -
I don‘t think we should, but we do. A lot of people want to get in this country.
Let me go to Nate Silver. Your assessment here. You‘ve broken these candidates into categories, the serious ones, you might call them, the “Fairfax five,” the establishment candidates, and then the “factional five.” Tell me about your division there.
NATE SILVER, “NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, I mean, so you have certain candidates who are approved by people in the Beltway who are probably electable, I think, if they were to, you know, (INAUDIBLE) against Barack Obama, but don‘t seem to be resonating so much with—with voters, you know? So you have Mitch Daniels and Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty. And you know, apart from—apart from Romney, who, you know, is about 15 to 20 percent in polls, you haven‘t really seen one of these candidates yet to really—to really break through, and some of them might not run.
And so, you know, they‘re—they‘re being a little bit spoon-fed, I think, to Republican voters right now. And certainly, Romney and Pawlenty have a decent chance, but they have to, you know, go more kind of viral, so to speak, and get out there, and you know, move at least from being at 4 percent in the polls to 8 or 9 or 10 percent—
SILVER: -- that can be taken a little bit more—more viably.
MATTHEWS: Weren‘t you impressed—I don‘t know if you ever say your impressed. I‘m allowed to say it here, it‘s part of my job description, when I‘m impressed. I‘m impressed that Mitt Romney had the cojones, to use a Spanish word, to come out and say, Barack Obama‘s president of the United States legitimately. He‘s a citizen. He was born here in this country. Stop talking about that stuff, talk about the issues. He has drawn a line in the sand between him on this issue of birtherism with Donald Trump, and it looks like a line he‘s going to have to honor. He can‘t go jumping over to the birther side.
Is Trump locked into the birther position to his disadvantage or advantage?
SILVER: Well, you know, I think there are—it‘s a very conservative electorate, but at the same time, you do have some independents who vote in those primaries, especially in New Hampshire, Michigan, states like that, for example. You know, Mitt Romney kind of ran to the center right of that field four years ago, and it looks like a run to the kind of left or center left this time around just because everyone else is more conservative also.
But you know, Trump, I think, is filling the space that was formerly occupied by Newt Gingrich in some ways—
SILVER: -- just like kind of Bachmann might have replaced Palin. So you‘re kind of getting the same scenario but with a slightly different cast than we might have expected a few months ago.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go over to the personality part here. I like Donald Trump, like most people. I mean, I went to his wedding. I think he‘s—as a person—I think this is a ludicrous thing he‘s doing here.
But here he is. It‘s a free country. Here‘s Trump telling Christian Broadcasting Network‘s David Brody, his new friend, about his churchgoing habits, such as they are. This is a strange thing. I don‘t believe in religious tests, but this is interesting stuff. He‘s getting grilled by these people. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK)
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: Well, I go as much as I can, always on Christmas, always on Easter, always when there‘s a major occasion. And during—during the Sundays—I‘m a Sunday church person—I will go when I can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I go when I can. Fair enough.
In his interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump tried to explain what he‘s learned from being married three times. Let‘s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK)
TRUMP: I‘m a very hard worker. And I have always said, it‘s very difficult for a woman to be married to me, because I work. I work all the time.
DAVID BRODY, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING
NETWORK: And is there a lesson you have learned in those two failed marriages?
TRUMP: Well, I think the lesson is—and they were both wonderful women—I think the message is that, you know, you do have to devote the requisite time to your marriage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t he good? He‘s better than Newt, who said he was so patriotic and loved his country so much, he messed up his marriages.
SCHERER: He‘s entirely self-obsessed, and yet still somehow charming.
I have never been with somebody who everything he said was about how great he was—
SCHERER: And, still, I kind of enjoyed my time with him.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t he something?
Well, let me ask you this. Do you think he‘s—what is he doing? Is he running for president? Is this a reality show? Is he just trying to get in the debates, so he can be a star all summer long and come back and do “Apprentice” again, or what?
SCHERER: What we know about Donald Trump is that, all his life, he‘s been about promoting Donald Trump. Right now—
MATTHEWS: But he‘s a three-time billionaire. It works.
SCHERER: Right. And he‘s not done winning. So he‘s going to keep promoting himself. Now, whether that takes him into the debates is one question. Whether that takes him actually to primaries—
MATTHEWS: Did you go after the hair? Did you dare bring up the hair?
Or is that a no-no in these interviews?
SCHERER: No, I didn‘t bring—
MATTHEWS: The hair is distinctive. I‘m not sure—
SCHERER: It‘s real. I wasn‘t that—
MATTHEWS: Oh, I know it‘s real. I think he has a good hairline, too.
I don‘t know what is going on.
Here‘s Donald Trump. He‘s going to be in Boca Raton this weekend at a Tea Party rally with Congressman—I don‘t know Allen West, but there‘s the big poster for it, the run sheet.
Let‘s—Nate, take a minute here. You‘re an expert. You‘re one of the people we really look up to. What is his involvement? Is he like Gresham‘s law, driving out people like Newt, driving Palin away into the sunset, killing the chances for a debut by Bachmann, who seemed to be on the road about two weeks ago? Is he just blowing away everybody for a couple months here?
SILVER: Well, I would not discount Bachmann, because she knows how to
actually win a close race, where she had a lot of money thrown at her in
Minnesota. It‘s kind of a swing district she won. So I think she will be
run a real campaign.
But for Trump, it might have kind of started out as a joke, but if he wakes up now and sees himself—and he‘s a very competitive guy—kind of tied for the lead or running a solid second or third in polls, maybe he has to take it seriously now. He does have some obstacles. I don‘t think he‘d do very well in—
MATTHEWS: Are the voters serious?
MATTHEWS: Voters voted for Ross Perot, after he had said that North Koreans had run across his lawn, after he was making incredible statements that suggested he was certifiably nuts.
MATTHEWS: And after doing that, 19 percent of the country, which is basically the only part—if you take—there‘s 40 percent of the country is liberals, 40 percent conservatives, there‘s only about 20 percent in the middle. He basically grabbed them. He grabbed all the available votes, pretty much, 90 percent of them, after proving he was crazy.
So is it possible that Trump, who is not crazy, even saying crazy things, could win the presidency as a third-party candidate?
SILVER: As a third-party candidate? I mean, the way he‘s branding himself now is making it more difficult, I think. Maybe he can pivot a little bit within the Republican field, and having gone to the birther side, tout his business credentials later on.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he might pull back from the crazy stuff once he‘s gotten some traction?
SILVER: I think a little bit. I think he‘s made a splash now, and that it would behoove him, as you get into New Hampshire, for example, a state where it would more threatening than most, to pull it back a little bit, because he‘s going to have anyway at some point, if he wants to actually win the nomination and run against Obama.
MATTHEWS: By the way, working at FOX has turned out to be kind of the roach motel.
MATTHEWS: I mean, anybody who‘s gone over there to work seems like they haven‘t been able to get the sticky stuff on the floor over there—they haven‘t been able to come back from it.
I‘m going through these people. Gingrich is not doing well. Palin seems to have vagued out into the sunset. The people that work over there don‘t seem to be doing too well as presidentials.
SCHERER: And Trump‘s an NBC guy, so we will see—
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s why I have sort of been nice to him, if he has noticed that.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. Do you think he will backtrack from the birther stuff once he‘s gotten himself—feet on the ground. And he sent out some investigators? Some guys here, producers, think all he has to do is say, I sent some investigators out there, the guy‘s clean, let‘s move on.
SCHERER: I don‘t think he will say that. I think he may stop talking about it as an issue.
Every time he talks about it now—and it‘s true—I have talked to a number of people who have been talking to him—he says, everybody I talk to says I should stop talking about it. But I‘m going to keep talking about it.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I‘m one of those guys. I was on the phone with him a couple weeks ago. Stop it.
SCHERER: Right. And—but he keeps talking about it. It‘s working for him now.
MATTHEWS: I can‘t tell him what to do.
SCHERER: I think Nate is right. By the time he gets to New Hampshire, he‘s got to stop talking about it.
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe he will have cleaned it up. He‘s a smart guy.
I will just say—well, I hate giving advice.
I‘m not giving advice, Donald. I‘m not giving—do what you want to do.
Anyway, thank you, Nate Silver. We are always watching what you are thinking.
And thank you, Michael Scherer. Great reporting, a lot of color.
“TIME” magazine, very interesting.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Rick Santorum is actually trying to defend his comment that being gay is sort of like, you know, bestiality. Big mistake, and he won‘t backtrack. That‘s ahead in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And time for a big “Sideshow” tonight.
First up, Santorum defends his comparison of gay marriage with—quote—“man-on-dog sex.” Well, for the record, here‘s how Rick put it back in 2003 -- quote—“In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever, to my knowledge, included homosexuality. That‘s not to pick on homosexuality. It‘s not, you know, man-on-child, man-on-dog, or whatever the case may be.”
Well, former Republican Senator Alan Simpson took on that Santorum comment on HARDBALL this Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN SIMPSON, FORMER CO-CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL COMMISSION ON FISCAL
RESPONSIBILITY AND REFORM: We have homophobes in our party. That‘s disgusting to me. We‘re all human beings. We‘re all God‘s children.
Now, if they‘re going to get off on that stuff, Santorum has said some cruel things, cruel, cruel things, about homosexuals. Ask him about it. See if he attributes the cruelness of his remarks years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, former Senator Santorum then defended those views on Glenn Beck‘s radio show today.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM”)
RICK SANTORUM ®, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Unfortunately, folks like Alan Simpson saw that as homophobic. It‘s not homophobic. It‘s a legal argument. And it‘s a correct legal argument.
And, in fact, that‘s exactly what‘s happening. We went from Lawrence vs. Texas to now a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. And they‘re going into a constitutional right to polyamorous relationships. This is the slippery slope that we‘re heading down. And I can‘t buy it.
GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, “THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM”:
(END AUDIO CLIP)
Well, this is the reason why people concerned about fair treatment of gay people became so active against the reelection of Santorum back in 2006.
Well, next up: Was FDR, Franklin Roosevelt, actually seeking policy advice from Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union? Well, that was the claim made by Republican Congressman Paul Broun this week on the House floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL BROUN ®, GEORGIA: Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent his advisers, his close-held friends, his Cabinet people to go visit with Stalin in communist Russia to study what he was doing, what Stalin was doing there, so that FDR could replicate it here in the United States. And he did everything that he possibly could to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you say about that?
Anyway, we checked with David Woolner just to make it clear here. He‘s a senior fellow up at the Roosevelt Institute up at Roosevelt‘s house up at Hyde Park. His verdict? The claim is ludicrous.
Up next, the House passed a 2011 spending bill this afternoon, despite threats from the right that any Republican voting for it will face a primary challenge next year. Well, that‘s ahead tonight here on HARDBALL.
You‘re watching it, only on MSNBC.
MICHELLE CARUSO-CABRERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Michelle Caruso-Cabrera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
We had another choppy low-volume session. In the end, the Dow Jones industrial average added 14 points, the S&P 500 finished flat, and the Nasdaq lost one point.
Financial stocks were in focus again today after J.P. Morgan‘s solid earnings yesterday. When you drill down, however, investors did find some concern about bad mortgages and a decline in consumer lending. And that may be why financials were lower again today.
Goldman Sachs ended lower on a Senate report accusing it of misleading on mortgage clients. And Bank of America and Citigroup lower as well, after the SEC launched an investigation into whether they conspired with other banks to manipulate the Libor rate.
Computer and chipmakers fell on a surprise drop in P.C. sales in March. And in IPO news, car-sharing service Zipcar surged 55 percent. McDonald‘s franchisee Arcos Dorados—that‘s Spanish for Golden Arches—that moved 24 percent higher on their first day of trading. There are also rumors that Dunkin‘ Donuts and Toys “R” Us could be planning their own IPOs this summer.
That‘s it from CNBC. We are first in business worldwide—now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, 179 House Republican members voted to pass the budget resolution hammered out by the president and Speaker Boehner. And the Tea Party is furious now. Leaders say they want a primary—that means challenge them in the primaries—all Republicans who voted for the compromise, including the speaker, John Boehner.
We‘re going to get to the Tea Party anger in a moment, because I think it‘s real.
Let‘s go to the Senator from New York Chuck Schumer.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Hi, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Senator, thank you for joining us.
MATTHEWS: This—it seems like the 2012 election has begun, your party, the Democrats, looking out for people who depend on good government like Medicare. They depend on these programs that were created in the ‘60s.
The Republicans are out there defending people that make a lot more than the members of Congress do. They‘re out there defending people that make a lot of money. Is that going to be the fight, that tradeoff between Medicare and rich people?
SCHUMER: I think it‘s going to be a big part of the fight.
The basic ideas, we‘re focused on the middle class and what they need. We know we have to reduce the deficit. We‘re not denying that. But we also know we have to grow this economy to create jobs and protect our middle-class folks in their older age, after they have worked hard.
And I think the contrast couldn‘t have been drawn better by the president. I think, for the first time in a while on these budget fights, we have the high ground. And their idea that they should reduce Medicare and other services, college loans, road building, and things that help middle-class people, so they can give greater tax cuts to people who make over $1 million a year, it‘s just not going to fly.
And as long as we stick with that, we‘re going to win this fight, because we have the high ground.
MATTHEWS: You‘re from New York, and proudly so. What about the folks out there, like Claire McCaskill, facing reelection in Missouri—
SCHUMER: Let me tell you—
MATTHEWS: -- and Montana? How are they responding to this thing, this fight?
SCHUMER: They‘re responding very well. And that‘s because we do, Democrats, have to show that we‘re willing to cut the budget. We did.
But, as the House vote shows, you can never go far enough for the Tea Party. Speaker Boehner depended on Democrats to get the vote through, and it ought to be a lesson to him. If he‘s going to rely on the Tea Party on this big budget debate, he is not going to get anywhere.
If he‘s going to rely on mainstream Republicans and Democrats, and come together somewhere in the middle, we can accomplish a great deal for the country. And I think the vote today was kind of a lesson. If Speaker Boehner hadn‘t kept trying to please the Tea Party to no end in the hard right, we would have had a deal much earlier. And with the debt ceiling, we can‘t wait that long. It‘s too dangerous.
MATTHEWS: Are the Republicans in the Senate going to ask the Democrats to pass the debt ceiling by not using the filibuster, saying, you guys have got over 50 votes; use them?
SCHUMER: Well, look, I think neither side should play games with the debt ceiling, because it‘s so vital. We ought to come together like grownups and come somewhere in the middle.
We Democrats believe that we have met them part of the way. We have heard the message that we need to cut waste, inefficiency, and even some programs that are good, but maybe have outlived their usefulness.
SCHUMER: But we also say that you have to grow the economy and help the middle class, not decimate Medicare, not just cut to smithereens things like cancer research and food inspection and things like that.
And we‘re on the road now to winning this fight for the first time in a while. When we did the C.R., it was uphill terrain. Now I think we have evened the playing field. And I think you could see in the president‘s speech yesterday he almost relishes this kind of discussion about what kind of America we want.
Senator Chuck Schumer, thanks for coming on HARDBALL tonight.
SCHUMER: Thanks, Chris. It was nice to talk to you.
MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is a Tea Party guy, in fact the founder of the Dallas Tea Party, Phillip Dennis.
It‘s great to have you on, Phillip.
Tell me about how you looked at that vote today. I was just checking number of the Tea Party-supported candidates. They‘re freshmen, most of them. Most of them voted for this compromise. What are you going to do?
PHILLIP DENNIS, TEXAS TEA PARTY: Yes. You know, I think it‘s up to the people that live in their districts to decide if they need to face a party challenger.
I think the Tea Party as a whole is pretty overwhelmed right now with the performance of the Republicans since they were returned to power. I don‘t know what they missed about the November elections, when 63 big-spending Democrats in the House were sent home.
I think, on November 12, you are probably going to see a lot more big-spending Republicans, as well as a lot big-spending Democrats that are friends of Senator Schumer there sent at home as well.
MATTHEWS: What‘s your standard on loyalty to the party? Is any deal with a Democrat a bad deal?
DENNIS: No. No.
MATTHEWS: Any deal with a Democrat is a bad deal? Because that seems to be the lingo. For a while there, Boehner, the speaker, was saying, compromise is a bad word.
Is it a bad word to you?
DENNIS: Well, let me ask—let me answer your first question first.
DENNIS: Are we loyal to the Republican Party or the Democratic Party?
We‘re not loyal to politicians or parties.
MATTHEWS: Well, I didn‘t ask that. That wasn‘t my question. My question was, is any compromise bad?
DENNIS: Well, the first thing you asked me was that. But is any compromise bad? It depends on what the compromise is.
Look, the Republicans campaigned on they were going to cut spending by $100 billion and we have a $1.65 trillion deficit this year, Chris. And then they immediately backed off of that after gaining power and went to $61 billion. They settled for $38.5 billion.
And then—let me—the CBO today released a report saying that only $352 million, with an M will be saved.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I read.
DENNIS: Now, hold on. Here‘s the fact—that results in, they are cutting back 51 minutes of federal spending over the next six months. That is not why the Tea Party sent them back into power, the Republicans. That equates to a family with an income—an average American family with $50,000 of income over the next six months not spending $4.76. If the Republicans think that‘s going to do it for the Tea Party and the massive people out here who want fiscal responsibility, it‘s not going to get it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s take a look at Boehner, the speaker of the House, encouraging House members today to vote yes for the budget deal that you don‘t like. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: Every dime in this bill that is cut is a dime that Washington will spend if we leave it on the table. And if you vote no on this bill, you‘re voting to do exactly that—leaving this money on the table to be spent by unelected bureaucrats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Phil, your reaction to that, to the speaker?
DENNIS: Well, my reaction is: $352 million, why even bother?
Congress spends more than that on Diet Cokes and catering each year.
DENNIS: It‘s absolutely ridiculous. We have a $1.65 trillion deficit this year alone, Chris. We will create more debt in this year than was created from 1787 through 2009 combined.
And those people in Washington, D.C. just don‘t seem to think, maybe they‘re just hoping the Tea Party is going to dry up and go away, but we‘re not. This is our economy. This is the children—our children‘s future.
And we‘re, quite frankly, very tired of the demagoguing coming out of the Democrat Party. It‘s either tax the wealthy who create the jobs or old people and children and baby ducks are going to die. How can you have an open, honest debate like that? Why don‘t we talk about cutting the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, the Department of Agriculture and the EPA and some of these huge—
MATTHEW: Because if you add them—if you add them all up, they don‘t get anywhere near cutting a $1.61 trillion deficit. You‘ve got to get rid of big—I‘m not going to tell you what to talk about, you‘re the expert, you care. But I know government.
There‘s huge programs that are enormously expensive, like Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security. You‘re going to have to go after one of these programs. Big—you can‘t just chisel around—you‘ve got to get rid of the whole thing if you‘re going to cut the deficit down to where you want it, right? Don‘t you have to get rid of things, just not chisel them?
DENNIS: No, absolutely not. I don‘t want chisels, I want chainsaws. We want—I would take everybody, including the Pentagon, everyone should have to take across the board cuts to reduce the deficit we have this year.
Look, the Tea Party calls on our government to spend $1 less or one penny less than it takes in revenue. And what we have found and we believe is that we don‘t have a spending problem—or revenue problem, we have a spending problems. Politicians in Washington, D.C. cannot not spend.
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘ve got a good argument there, and I think a lot of people are listening to you. Thank you very much, Phillips Dennis, for coming on from the Tea Party in Dallas.
Up next, America‘s often violent relationship with guns. This is a serious discussion and it‘s not going away. We‘re going to talk about it.
Nobody wants to talk about gun control. We‘re going to do it. We‘re going to talk to a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre.
It‘s part of a new HBO documentary about, well, reducing gun violence in this country if we could do it. It would be nice to do it, wouldn‘t it? A safer country.
Well, this is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, lost amid the budget fights this week, the presidential race is clearly on. We started the show talking about how President Obama‘s speech yesterday was his first of the campaign. Well, tonight, he‘s in his hometown of Chicago for three big fundraisers.
On the Republican side, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania announced he‘s formed, there he goes, an exploratory can committee—the first formal step in establishing a campaign for president. And Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour made his first trip to the first of the nation primary state, New Hampshire. I think they‘re going to like him up there.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This Saturday‘s the fourth anniversary, believe it or not, of the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech. A new HBO documentary called “Gun Fight” looks at the issue of gun control and gun violence. Let‘s listen to a piece of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GUN FIGHT”/COURTESY HBO)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, ask yourself—are you comfortable with this being allowed in your state? That‘s I really want people to see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before calling the shot, I think we were like most American who didn‘t have much involvement with gun violence, it had never touched our lives and we really weren‘t involved in the issue and didn‘t know a lot of the facts. I knew that there were a lot of deaths in the newspaper attributed, and that many were attributed to guns, but I didn‘t really realize how big the problem was.
I‘ll tell you, my son was sitting in French class in a small college town and he got shot four times. That makes—to me, it makes it—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could be anywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anybody could get hurt at any time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It could be anybody.
Colin Goddard was shot four times in that Virginia Tech classroom and now works at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Welcome, Colin. Thank you for your case and coming on here to make it.
You went undercover to buy guns. What did you learn?
COLIN GODDARD, VA TECH SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I learned it was pretty damned easy, Chris. I learned, as you go—as long as you got the money, they‘ll sell you a gun. And if you go a private seller, they‘re not going to ask you for ID or any paperwork or any background check. They‘re just going to be concerned with the 500 bucks they can make and that‘s about it.
MATTHEWS: You mean, if you come in drunk or loony tones, they‘ll still sell you the gun? If they think you‘re unstable, you think it‘s easy you look like an organized guy. But somebody comes in and doesn‘t look clean-cut and everything, looks a little dangerous—you think it‘s just as easy?
GODDARD: Well, some people might take the personal responsibility and not do that, but, unfortunately, other people won‘t. And we need some sort of standard.
Most of the guys that are selling guns at these gun shows are doing legit business. But there are these other crew that aren‘t. And they are selling them without background checks. And they‘re selling the same product, the same group of people. Why are they not held to the same standard? That‘s the question.
MATTHEWS: Well, what happened to the Brady Law? Where does it stand right now? The background check, the waiting period, all that, where‘s that in the law right now? Is there in the law left? Is anything—any restrictions now in buying a handgun?
GODDARD: Yes, absolutely. If you buy a gun from a licensed dealer, you run through a background check. But the problem is, there are millions of records missing from that background check, from states all over the country. So, the first thing we need to do is upload all those records from every state into the background check system. You want to look at a problem a result of that? That‘s Virginia Tech.
Then once you get all the records there, you need to apply that check on the broader scale. It doesn‘t make in the sense in the world if you give all the records and you never run a check to begin with.
So, we have to hold every seller to the same standard. And every time a gun is sold, there should be a background check there. You want a problem as a result of that? That‘s Columbine High School.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s look at another clip here from the documentary. It‘s called “Gun Fight” on HBO. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GUN FIGHT”/COURTESY HBO)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was my first handgun I ever bought. It‘s Snowsville General Store in Braintree, Vermont. It‘s a Smith & Wesson, .38 caliber revolver. And I always keep a few guns around. There‘s a gun some my bedroom as well. And, yes, they are loaded, because when I‘m home, they‘re in use. It doesn‘t happen very often, but somebody drives up the driveway, it‘s almost always someone properly here. But if I don‘t know who they were, I‘m going to greet them with a gun in my hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of that, greet somebody with a gun in the hand, the pizza guy shows up, and you got a gun in your hand? I mean, what—maybe that‘s not what he‘s talking about, but he seems like he‘s ready to have that available for even the most casual visitor.
GODDARD: Right. I mean, people are afraid. I mean, I understand their fear. I was in French class and got shot, you know?
But instead of trying to carry a gun with you everywhere to shot someone before you shot you, how about we make sure that every time a gun is sold, there‘s a background check is there? How about we make sure that the weapons that are created for the military for active war zones are not being sold to the general public? You know, that‘s where people should be afraid. That‘s where people should be nervous.
You know, I think this—you know, his is a free country. We‘re supposed to be able to walk down the street without worrying about pulling a gun out how shoot someone before they shoot you. That‘s freedom.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about police officers. You‘re experienced now with the gun control movement. Do—I want to know, do most police officers who have to deal with dangerous people, with sometimes semiautomatic weapons, heavily armed people, where are they? Because most people sympathize with the cop who has to keep law and order.
GODDARD: Yes, all the cops that I‘ve dealt with said, you know, some of the people that I arrest and pull over, I don‘t know how these guys have guns. I don‘t know where are they getting them from. I mean, they look at the initiatives of the Brady Campaign that we‘re trying to promote here, and they realize that it‘s going to make their jobs easier. It‘s going to have less interactions with people are pulling out guns and shooting them and less cops killed.
So, cops support us, and we have a lot of support from organizations across the country. And that‘s what we‘re trying to build together, build the law enforcement support, build supports from other constituencies, and bring all those voices together and bring them to Capitol Hill.
MATTHEWS: Colin, before and after, Colin Goddard, how did you change on this issue once you were shot four times?
GODDARD: Oh, I mean, I think my buddies still think I‘m the same guy from high school. But, you know, I did get much more aware of the problem, you know? When I saw that 32 people are killed in my school, I couldn‘t believe that number.
But then when I learned that there‘s actually an average of more than 32 Americans murdered by a gun every single day in this country, that‘s a Virginia Tech that happens every single day, I was blown away. And that‘s why I do what I do—
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much.
GODDARD: -- is to try to reduce that number. Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: OK. Colin Goddard, thank you very much. We‘re joining us, survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting.
“Gun Fight,” by the way, is airing on HBO. Catch it if you care about this issue. And most people should.
When we return, “Let Me Finish” with the good, the bad and the ugly in American politics today—and the ugly especially.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the good, the bad and, of course, the ugly of American politics.
OK. Let‘s just talk about the ugly. People who can‘t win an argument usually get personal. You‘re fighting as a kid about some sports things or whatever, and outcomes, “Yes, you ought to know”—and then the direct shot at the other person‘s height, appearance, ethnic group, parents, whatever—whatever sticks out as the cheapest, nastiest, and, of course, easiest target.
Well, ugly politics is just like that. In the old south, you could say someone was pro-black, using a term that made it sound weak and somehow perverted. You could say a person was a communist in the early ‘50s because they didn‘t think about the Cold War the way you did. Pinko, fellow traveler—there were all kinds of phrases that got the message across.
Anyway, today, the ugly line, if you‘re looking to nail the president, is play on his background—his African father, his white mother, his growing up in Hawaii, and those few years he spent in Indonesia—and say he‘s a foreigner, someone who was born somewhere else, someone whose parents or grandparents snuck him into the country after having him born somewhere else, off in Kenya, or wherever.
It‘s a cheap number, of course, and it‘s not even a schoolyard bet guys like Trump are making—they‘re covering the loose talk with all kinds of hedges, like, yes, OK, he could be American-born, he could be a legitimate president, but I‘m still right to make the charge because it ticks people off. It bothers people.
Right. It does. People don‘t like have been high school Harry talk going on where there should be—needs to be a serious decision about who‘s actually going to lead this country in the years ahead.
So, here‘s my salute to the guy who‘s got the guts to say the truth as he knows it and not shoot spitballs. His name is Mitt Romney. The other day, he says the president was born here, and that‘s the end of it as far as he‘s concerned. He wants to debate the issues, the issues—the issues important to the country.
Mitt‘s going to have to deal with the fringe out there on this. He‘ll have somebody raise their hand in a meeting after meeting, making some charge or innuendo about Obama not being an American—and it will get a hand from the angry people out in the crowd. And when Mitt Romney disagrees and tries to deal truthfully with the issue, he will take heat and some guffawing, and maybe, here and there, some loud booing.
But he will be a candidate, a proud and serious one. And if it‘s not too old-fashioned to say so, he‘ll be a man.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
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