Guests: Jonathan Alter, Michael Smerconish, Amanda Drury, Clarence Page, Eric Boehlert, Steve Israel, Horace Cooper, Judith Browne-Dianis
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Born in the USA.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
You can‘t handle the truth. That‘s what we learned yesterday about some people when President Obama released his long-form birth certificate. They don‘t want the facts. They want to deny the facts. The president went out and practically hand-delivered just what they‘ve spent months saying they wanted. They wanted it. They got it. They kept on yelling.
Now they‘re scrambling, questioning the birth certificate itself, asking for more documents, more paper—This can‘t be true! -- staring wildly into the headlights of the 21 century. They just don‘t like the reality of who‘s in the White House, let‘s face it.
Yesterday, the doubters got cut off from the haters. Let‘s face it, the skeptics in the middle politically now got the old, original birth certificate and are satisfied. The haters, on the other hand, are still out there, and they have a party to call all their own, the GOP.
Plus: Party with a fringe on top. How did the right-wing fringe manage to take over the Republican Party? The Democrats hope to cook the Republicans in this birther stew. Can the GOP stop the weirdness on their part? Does it want to?
Also: Touche, Harry Reid. He‘s going to force Senate Republicans to vote on the Paul Ryan‘s killer Medicare plan. They had hoped to avoid the vote, the Republicans. It‘ll be fun watching some of them who are up for reelection squirm over this one.
And buried under all the birther news yesterday is the effort Republicans governors and legislators around the country have been making to make it harder for minorities, the young and the poor to actually vote in our republic. In other words, Democrats. They‘re going to have a harder time voting if these bills get passed. For example, a bill in Texas would reject student ID cards but accept handgun licenses if you want to vote. Who do you think Texas Republicans are trying to keep in and keep out from voting?
And “Let Me Finish” tonight with how this birther thing‘s going to say something very bad about them, about them, the birthers, and all those who pander to them.
We start with the birthers who won‘t quit. Clarence Page is a columnist for “The Chicago Tribune” and Eric Boehlert is a senior fellow at Media Matters for American. Eric, thank you for joining us. Clarence is here with me.
I want to look at some of these amazing conversations. I have to tell you, I‘m stunned. Let‘s look at Fox Business here—Fox Business. They‘ve got an anchor there named Eric Bolling yesterday with Pamela Geller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC BOLLING, HOST, “FOLLOW THE MONEY”: You see this fold? This has clearly been photocopied from a book. You see that? It kind of folds back to, like, almost, like, the binding of a book.
PAM GELLER, BLOGGER: Yes.
BOLLING: And then for some reason, there‘s green—there‘s a green border around it that had to be Photoshopped in. I‘m trying to figured out why (INAUDIBLE)
GELLER: Well, this whole border is suspect. I mean, if you‘re taking a scan of something, it would—to your point, it would be white. Why is this the color of the same...
BOLLING: Note this. Note this, here, guys, April 25th, 2011, two days ago was when this was—when this was requested from the state registrar, Alvin Ornaka (ph). So we‘ll keep our eye on it. We‘ll keep digging. Hey, listen, it may or may not be, but certainly opens up the can of worms that there are at least questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What absolute garbage! Eric, you know, after all that sort of, you know, forensic effort and the efforting there and all this serious checking out of the nuances of this, then they say, Well, it may be good, may not be, covering their keisters. It‘s so obvious. And they get—and they‘re—one of the people‘s supposed to be a news person. I don‘t know which one. What‘s going on there with this Fox News, this business network, rather, this Fox News—what are they doing here?
ERIC BOEHLERT, MEDIAMATTERS.ORG: Well, that‘s Eric Bolling. I mean, he‘s literally trying out for Glenn Beck‘s old slot. I mean, he filled in for a couple of days when Glenn was on vacation. There‘s a bit of a bake-off going over—on at Fox News for the 5:00 o‘clock slot. I think Eric Bolling is in on that bake-off, and he wants to prove he‘s got the—you know, he‘s got the crazy niche.
You know, look, everyone at Fox News, every other anchor the last couple of weeks was saying, Why won‘t Obama release his long-form birth certificate? Then yesterday he does, and you turn on Fox News—How dare he release his long-form birth certificate.
BOEHLERT: And I‘m laughing but—and we are laughing, but this is sad. This is a game that‘s being played, a very dishonest, hateful and disturbing game that the right-wing media is playing, and they‘re playing with the American politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think the president did what he felt he had to do yesterday, put this out of (INAUDIBLE) I think there are people in the middle. We saw them (INAUDIBLE) My role model for this is if you live in New York and you live in Brooklyn and somebody on television every night is saying, There‘s something wrong with the Brooklyn Bridge, it might be creaky right now, take the 59th or one of the other bridges, it may be more trouble, but be careful here—eventually, a number of people are going to say -- (INAUDIBLE) tell a cabbie, Would you go to the other bridge?
CLARENCE PAGE, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Right.
MATTHEWS: So there were some people at the edges who were buying this who have the document and are satisfied and they don‘t think there‘s an issue here, but the haters keep going.
PAGE: Well, yes. You know, even on this show, I vividly recall getting into an argument with you about whether Obama ought to just, you know, release the darn thing. And I said, I hope he doesn‘t because it was just, you know, helping to churn up (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Maybe you were right with some of these people.
PAGE: Well, no. In fact, you know, there were a lot of people like yourself who were saying, Well, why doesn‘t he just release it? Well, now Obama has just wiped that aside and...
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t it like “Columbo” we grew up with, a guy always knew
like, the guy...
MATTHEWS: He always knew he had the document.
PAGE: Well, of course he did...
PAGE: ... nobody talks about, Chris, the fact that his mother was a natural-born citizen, made him a natural-born citizen. Nobody talks about that.
MATTHEWS: I know that—no, he‘s actually an American. The question of whether if you‘re born—if you‘re born—look, he‘s a natural-born citizen.
MATTHEWS: Move on there.
MATTHEWS: I‘m not going off into crazy-land.
PAGE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s Orly Taitz. I watched this. I‘m telling you, Lawrence really did it with this woman. I think he was even amazed at her absolute refusal—I know you‘re not, Eric, ever amazed by these people, but I‘m amazed. At some point, don‘t you, like, as a kid, say, OK, you got me? I‘m it. You tagged me. Eventually, you say, You tagged me. Not her! Here it is, Orly Taitz, the unstoppable Orly Taitz, with Lawrence O‘Donnell last night. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ORLY TAITZ, ATTORNEY: And I believe that Obama‘s statement today is nothing but a preemptive strike. We do have a court hearing coming Monday morning 9:00 o‘clock in the 9th circuit court of appeals. And the reason he is talking about this issue—if I can have a close-up? -- is because at this hearing and two other hearings (INAUDIBLE) providing documents. Can I have a close-up, please, sir? Sir? Are you there?
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE LAST WORD”: Tell us what the document is.
TAITZ: OK. This is Barack Obama‘s—can you do a close-up? I need to show this...
O‘DONNELL: Tell us what the document is.
TAITZ: This is Barack Obama‘s Selective Service certificate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, this is only in America, Eric. It‘s a woman who‘s, you know, fair enough, (INAUDIBLE) immigrants. She‘s an immigrant trashing this other guy who was born here for not meeting up to her latest standard, her latest documentation.
BOEHLERT: More American than American.
MATTHEWS: You know, this—what is—what is—well, I don‘t even want to get into motive, except she doesn‘t like this guy.
BOEHLERT: No, obviously. I mean...
MATTHEWS: She doesn‘t like the president. It‘s—period. It‘s not complicated.
BOEHLERT: Right. And you know, she‘s moving the goalposts, obviously. I mean, that‘s what conspiricists do. I mean, this is the textbook example, what we saw yesterday. As you said, it wasn‘t just the hard-core professionals like her, it was the right-wing media, it was AM talk radio, it was (INAUDIBLE) the Internet, and obviously, it was Fox News. Nobody apologized. No one conceded the facts. They just kept spinning and spinning. And it‘s amazing...
MATTHEWS: Did you see—did you see Trump the other day? He‘s out on the stump specifically running on this issue. Let‘s be honest about it. This has been his main—this has been his maypole since he started here.
BOEHLERT: Thanks to Fox.
MATTHEWS: And then somebody tried to show it to him, and it was like tissue rejection, like wolfbane!
MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s like the vampire, Don‘t point that cross at me! And then he spent the day acting like it never happened. And then he was beautifully asked by John King the other night, Didn‘t you propose a deal that you would show your tax returns? Big mistake, Donald, right? Are you guys going to stay on it at Media Matters to show what he promised to show?
BOEHLERT: Yes. I mean, he‘s made several outrageous statements just
within, I think, 48 hours before yesterday, he was on the media, saying he had heard the birth certificate was missing. His investigators had uncovered all this great stuff.
MATTHEWS: We found out his source. His million dollars he spent on these investigators he sent out there, these sleuths, turned out to be “The Globe,” the tabloid that you get at the Safeway.
MATTHEWS: ... pushing that story.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s Trump yesterday. Let him talk. We will let him talk from New Hampshire. It won‘t be too informative, but here he is. Let‘s listen to Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I think if he wants to release it, that‘s fine. And if he doesn‘t want to release it, that‘s fine, too. But the word is—you know, you think you‘d want to release it, actually, because the word is he wasn‘t a good student and he ended up getting into Columbia and Harvard.
QUESTION: Whose word?
TRUMP: And I‘d like to know—I‘d like to know—well, this is what I read written by some of the people in this room. I‘d like to know, how does he get into Harvard, how does he get into Columbia if he isn‘t a good student? It‘s an interesting thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: How do you take that, Clarence?
PAGE: I think he‘s got his presidents mixed up. He‘s talking about George Bush.
MATTHEWS: The legacy (INAUDIBLE)
PAGE: But no, I‘ll tell you how black folks feel about it. It sounds like he‘s saying he‘s an Affirmative Action baby.
PAGE: I mean, after all that Obama has done—and I mean, you haven‘t got to be, you know, a black American just to be proud of the fact that this fellow was able to work his way up and make it through Harvard and make it to the White House, you know? But here Obama—or rather, here Trump is just pouring cold water on that whole thing, and I think now he‘s embarrassing the party.
MATTHEWS: How many white kids who are smarter than him didn‘t get into Harvard? I don‘t think there are any! I don‘t think there are any. I mean, this guy—I‘m sorry. I‘ve watched him. (INAUDIBLE) the end of my show. When I first heard there was a fellow named Barack Obama running for president, I said, That‘s going to be a long shot.
PAGE: Thank you!
MATTHEWS: Joe Brown would be one thing. You know, a name like Barack
Obama—and then I listened, I read part of his book. I said, This is—
this is beautifully written. There‘s texture here. It‘s American, great
writing. And then I look at—I listen to his speeches. I was obviously
I‘m famous for having been taken with him. But the fact is, the guy grabbed me for what he was in his presentation.
PAGE: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: You met him and knew it‘d be great.
PAGE: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: And it doesn‘t surprise me if he‘s 700 on his college boards and all this other stuff. But this accusation that there‘s a prima facie argument he wasn‘t worthy, and that prima facie argument is he‘s African-American. That‘s the prima facie argument that Donald Trump‘s using.
PAGE: You got it.
MATTHEWS: He wouldn‘t say it to anybody else who went to Harvard or -
go ahead, Eric.
MATTHEWS: Why would you assume anything—there‘d be no reason to assume this guy didn‘t have the right numbers, except he‘s black.
BOEHLERT: Well, yes. And the larger picture here is the total effort to delegitimize the president. And we‘ve seen this—we‘ve seen this act before. I mean, when Clinton was elected, far right wing absolutely refused to accept him as legitimate. They went into overdrive with all the conspiracy theories. I mean, he was the one who gave the orders to open fire at Waco, he was murdering members of his administration. I mean, the far right tinfoil crowd, they went crazy over Clinton.
MATTHEWS: What does that mean? Help me with that phrase.
BOEHLERT: But now—but now...
MATTHEWS: What‘s a tinfoil crowd?
BOEHLERT: Yes, but they did not...
MATTHEWS: What‘s a tinfoil hat mean?
BOEHLERT: Oh, just, you know, total conspiracy. I mean, you know...
MATTHEWS: Oh. Well, where does it—where does it derive from?
Where does it derive from?
BOEHLERT: I think it‘s because the people didn‘t think we actually landed on the moon. That might have been it. But you know, it‘s the old far-right...
PAGE: ... “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”
MATTHEWS: OK. Grassy knoll types.
BOEHLERT: But when they did it with Clinton, they didn‘t have the—you know, the media that they do now. They didn‘t have a Fox News. They didn‘t have the AM-type radio.
BOEHLERT: They didn‘t have the Internet.
MATTHEWS: ... penetration, saturation (INAUDIBLE)
Here‘s MSNBC‘s Contessa Brewer with a Tea Party host named Tony Katz (ph). Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY KATZ, TEA PARTY: Contessa, he has spent millions of dollars hiding the birth certificate and other things!
CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Where are you getting that?
KATZ: Listen, I‘m a—hold on!
BREWER: Where—where are you getting that?
KATZ: Hold on! I‘m a Tea Party guy. I am not a birther. He shows the birth certificate, I move on from that and move on to the rest of the failed policies, which is the story.
BREWER: Wait, wait. No, no, no!
KATZ: But the fact that he hides...
BREWER: You just said he spent millions hiding it. I want to know where you‘re getting that.
KATZ: What do you mean, where do I get that? Go—go take the search. He has spent unbelievable amounts of money to hide who he is and what‘s happening!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you love the way they drop back on you, Eric? First of all, millions of dollars—he drops that. Then he knows Contessa‘s a journalist because she nails him on (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Where do you get that stuff from? And then it‘s unbelievable amounts. I mean, he just goes from the specific...
MATTHEWS: ... to the rather general “unbelievable,” like 50 bucks...
MATTHEWS: ... spent a dollar?
BOEHLERT: And then he...
MATTHEWS: Has he spent a dollar defending his record...
MATTHEWS: Not a dollar.
BOEHLERT: This is a total lie. The $2 million that got tossed around by Trump, got tossed around on Fox News is a complete fabrication. And right, so when this—this Tea Party person was pressed, basically, his answer was, I Googled it. And this is what sustains this conspiracy because you can Google whatever you want.
BOEHLERT: And frankly, you can turn on Fox News and hear whatever you want to hear.
MATTHEWS: OK, you‘ve hit Fox News now 50 times. I got to put a bell on every time you nail it. Anyway, thank you. Thank you, Eric Boehlert, and thank you, my pal, Clarence Page, who I will see on a weekend show called “THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW.”
MATTHEWS: Coming up: The party with the fringe on top. How did the right-wing fringe get control of a major political party? Now, this is amazing. How did it happen? It wasn‘t like this when I was growing up. They were sort of a middle-of-the-road to right party. How did they go—
I think Civil Rights Act 1964. Just guessing. Is it too late now for the mainstream Republicans to stop the birther zanies?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Oh, a big dilemma for possible presidential candidate Mitch Daniels of Indiana. Daniels, the Republican governor of that state, has to decide whether to sign or veto a measure that would make Indiana the first state to cut off all government funding for Planned Parenthood. Well, the Indiana legislature passed the measure just yesterday. Daniels riled conservatives last year when he said there should be a truce on social issues like this one. So signing this bill may be an olive branch, if he does it, to the far right, which could help him if he decides to run for president. It won‘t help him in the general if he runs.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: From day one, I said I hope he gives his certificate because I don‘t want this issue clouding a campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he also said it was the biggest con in history. Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Donald Trump changing the story yesterday, claiming he didn‘t want the birth certificate to become an issue in his possible presidential campaign. But of course, it became his issue over the past several weeks.
So when did the fringe right who thrive on this stuff seem to take hold of the Republican Party? It‘s certainly not an issue that will attract independent swing voters in the 2012 election. Is it time for the GOP to simple say good-bye to the birthers?
For more, I‘m joined by two MSNBC political analysts, Jonathan Alter and Michael Smerconish. And these are big questions, and I just want to ask you that general question. First of all, Michael, will they get rid of the birthers? Will they say, No more pandering, no more applause lines at the convention, no more feeding the crazies?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
No. That‘s not going to happen, and the reason it‘s not going to happen is because of the 2012 election and the power that these folks now have in a very conservative-dominated primary process. Think about it. Who‘s the most establishment Republican type among them? It‘s Mitt Romney. But Mitt Romney is in jeopardy if he alienates that conservative bloc. These folks, Chris, are good for primaries, horrible for general elections.
MATTHEWS: So Jon, the fact that Mitt Romney had the—I think, the nobility to come out and say, There‘s nothing to this birther thing, he‘s as American as I am—is that going to kill him with these people?
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don‘t think it will because I think this issue will be in the rear-view mirror by then. In some ways, the president did the Republican Party a big favor yesterday. If he had just let this go on, it would have continued to fester and hurt that party. And by essentially...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think he thought it might be hurting him in the middle, as well?
ALTER: No, I don‘t think so.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at the polls.
ALTER: I think...
MATTHEWS: ... challenge you. Here‘s “The New York Times” poll, just last week before the president issued his full birth certificate from the old days, the old original. It found that 57 percent of all Americans said Obama was born in the USA—that‘s 57 percent -- 25 said born—blah, blah, blah, blah -- 57 percent.
Let‘s look at the Republican—when you broke it down to just Republicans, registered voters, only 32 percent believe the president was born in the U.S., 48 percent thought he was born in another country, and another 22 -- so a total (INAUDIBLE) so a total of, like, 69, 7 out of 10, Jon...
MATTHEWS: ... Republicans believed—they—they weren‘t sure he‘s one of us at all.
MATTHEWS: That‘s a lot.
ALTER: Well, that says a lot more about them than it does about the president.
MATTHEWS: The Republican Party?
ALTER: You know, this is not your father‘s Oldsmobile. This is not your father‘s Republican Party. This is not the party of Bob Dole and Howard Baker.
MATTHEWS: Is this because—OK, I‘m going to get very ethnic here.
Is this because of ‘64? I think it is.
Once the—LBJ, we were talking about him during the break.
MATTHEWS: Once Lyndon Johnson, a man of the South and the Southwest, said, once they pass the civil rights bill, you can forget the white South, the Democratic Party.
ALTER: Right. He said for a generation, but it‘s really going to be several generations.
Look, there‘s always been a “Looney Tunes” element in the Republican Party, same on the Democratic side. You had the John Birch Society folks that were an irritant to the Republican Party of the ‘50s, the early ‘60s.
MATTHEWS: OK. Who are the Democrats‘ “Looney Tunes”?
MATTHEWS: Come on. Fess up.
ALTER: They have had plenty of them over the years, you know, at those conventions. They go to 3:00 -- 3:00 in the morning.
MATTHEWS: ... if you want to go all the way over.
ALTER: Nowadays, they‘re a more moderate party. But they have had their innings.
My point is that you‘re right that—that a lot of this is about race. And this is something that has given the Republican Party a foothold in the South, but a lot of this is—is fear of the other. There is a racial subtext here.
Like, when they talk about a guy who is obviously terrific on his feet, gives more spontaneous interviews than anybody else, and they talk about him as somebody who depends on the teleprompter, why are they saying that? They‘re basically saying he is a black man and he‘s not that smart. He needs a teleprompter. And the birthers...
MATTHEWS: Well, what about Trump? What about—Trump...
MATTHEWS: ... saying now, Donald Trump is now questioning his application to Harvard...
ALTER: Well, of course.
MATTHEWS: ... and Harvard Law and to Columbia, that he didn‘t really deserve to get in. You would never say that about a white person. Right off the street, you wouldn‘t say it.
ALTER: Right. This is race. This is race, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know why you would say it.
ALTER: That‘s why the 1964 point is critical. The Republican Party decided that it was going to—after being the party of Lincoln and Jackie Robinson in the ‘50s...
ALTER: ... decided it was going to go...
MATTHEWS: .. Nixon.
MATTHEWS: Michael, you are so good at this.
I have always believed intuitively, as a student of politics, like you, that the one reason—well, people don‘t like being racists anyway. Nobody wants to admit they are, even if they are.
But suburbanites, people that went away from the city to get away from the old ethnic politics, the old tribalism, they get out in the burbs. And they may go out there for all kinds of reasons. But they are proud of the fact they have got some status. And part of having status is not being considered Archie Bunker, that you‘re not considered to be a troll on race.
Is this what hurts them? If the Republican Party gets a troll-like image, we hate black people, is that something Republicans will push away from and say, you know what, I‘m voting for Obama, I‘m sick of this image?
SMERCONISH: Yes. And let me give you some data that supports your case.
Chris, you know where well where I sit in the Philadelphia suburbs and to a nationwide audience.
SMERCONISH: We elect presidents. This is the ultimate swing district, just like that I-4 Corridor down in Orlando to Tampa.
MATTHEWS: In Florida, yes.
SMERCONISH: Listen to this now, Chris. New data has just come out in our area. Since the 2008 election, in the Philly burbs, 29 percent of new registrants are independents.
In Montgomery County, where your brother is an elected official, that number is 43 percent.
SMERCONISH: And the reason, I would argue, that these people are turning away from the GOP, because most of them are Republicans, are exactly what you and I and Jonathan are discussing right now.
MATTHEWS: And that tells you how they‘re—that they don‘t feel comfortable being what? Republicans or Democrats, or more they don‘t want to be Republicans? What‘s it tell you?
SMERCONISH: More Republicans—more Republicans, because they used to be Republicans.
SMERCONISH: And I think to say it accurately, they‘re not comfortable being a part of this Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: Yes. That‘s probably going to give a big shot to Josh Shapiro in that race out there.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, your thoughts?
ALTER: It‘s independents day.
ALTER: And because these—a lot of these are Republicans—they were Republicans.
But, remember, the Republican Party from 1856, when it was founded, until 1980 was the party of fiscal discipline. If they had to choose whether to raise taxes, to balance the budget, they did it over and over and over again.
MATTHEWS: Pay as you go. It was very Rockefeller.
ALTER: Right. That was—that was the DNA—not just Rockefeller, every Republican going back...
MATTHEWS: Jerry Ford.
ALTER: ... through the whole 20th century and late 19th century.
That‘s what they believed. So, then they got this idea that their religion was tax cuts, even if it meant you couldn‘t close a loophole that gave ethanol subsidies, that that—that would be raising taxes in their book.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the Reagan era. That‘s the Reagan belief system.
ALTER: They started to believe that.
ALTER: And I think there are lot of moderates in the Philadelphia suburbs and elsewhere who go, you know what? If we have to choose between balancing the budget and—and raising taxes on certain people, we will raise taxes.
ALTER: They‘re willing to go for that, and the polls show that.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s amazing.
Michael, you are very educational. To be in politics, as Arthur Schlesinger once said, is a learning profession. And we‘re always learning.
Thank you so much for that, Michael. I want to know these things.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
I think it‘s embarrassing to them to be surrounded by birthers. I think birthers are crazy, hateful people. At this point, there‘s no excuse. He gave you the document. You forced the president of the United States to be carded, to card the guy. It‘s unbelievable. And they got—and he did it.
Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Alter.
ALTER: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michael Smerconish.
Up next: Sarah Palin still bitter about botching that interview with Katie Couric with that curveball of hers: What newspapers do you read? Anyway, she won‘t forgive her for that one. That‘s ahead in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First, if you show yours, I will show mine. Well, here‘s Donald Trump getting called out by CNN‘s John King to deliver on a deal that he, the Donald, put together himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “JOHN KING, USA”)
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: I think I really did a great job in getting him to—I mean, first of all, I haven‘t seen it. You‘re just—I‘m looking at that...
JOHN KING, HOST, “JOHN KING, USA”: Here it is.
TRUMP: It doesn‘t—I will look at it later.
KING: You said your investigators told you it was missing or it wasn‘t there.
TRUMP: Excuse me.
KING: What was that based on?
TRUMP: Excuse me. Very simple. I had people looking into it. Now I don‘t have to have the people. I can call them back, I hope. I mean, I haven‘t seen this.
KING: You told Eliot Spitzer this week that, if Obama released this, if the president released this, you would release your tax returns.
TRUMP: Well, I don‘t know what I told Eliot Spitzer. I look at Eliot Spitzer...
KING: You told George Stephanopoulos the same thing.
TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. I will be doing my tax returns at the appropriate time. I haven‘t even announced yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think he ought to release his tax returns, if he promised to. He said he would them when the president released his birth certificate. That was the deal.
Next: Old battles die hard for Sarah Palin. She‘s still angry about flubbing that nasty question Katie Couric asked her, you know, the one about, what do you read?
Well, here‘s Palin with FOX‘s Greta Van Susteren on the word that Couric is leaving her chair at CBS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ON THE RECORD WITH GRETA VAN SUSTEREN”)
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST, “ON THE RECORD”: What do you think about her retirement from CBS, at least?
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Right, right, right, right, right. Yes, I think I read that in a newspaper, one of many newspapers that I read online.
Yes. And I hear that she wants to now engage in more multidimensional storytelling vs., I guess, the straight on read into that teleprompter screen storytelling. So, more power to her. I wish her well with her multidimensional storytelling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I don‘t know. I think—I think it‘s Vaudeville at this point. I‘m getting a little tired of that act.
Anyway, Couric‘s question was brilliant, of course, in its simplicity:
What do you read? Two-and-a-half years later, and all Palin can do is say, oh, yes, I read newspapers online. So sophisticated.
Finally, a modest proposal. Former Republican State Senator Vincent Leibell of New York pled guilty last year to charges of tax evasion and obstruction of justice. Well, he now faces up to 18 to 24 months in prison. Leibell has proposed an alternative to going to prison.
In a four-page letter to the courts, he‘s graciously offered to instead do his time as a diplomat in the Middle East. He‘s offered to be an ambassador, instead of going to prison. Leibell writes: “I have spoken with people in the court system and told them of my great willingness”—I love this—“to serve during the current difficulties our nation is experiencing. While I recognize that I‘m somewhat older and not fluent in those languages...”
MATTHEWS: “... I would be nonetheless be honored to serve on one of our civilian nation-building teams.”
Well, good for him. If he pulls that one off, this guy can do anything. Sentencing is in two weeks. I imagine prosecutors may decline the offer, as good as it is, though. I wish him well, though. What nerve.
Up next: House Republicans voted to kill off Medicare, of course, and replace it with a voucher or some kind of $10 subsidy. And now Harry Reid wants to force Senate Republicans to do the same. He wants them on the record. Touche, Harry. Can the Democrats make the Republicans actually write their names on this bill, I want to get rid of Medicare?
Congress Steve Israel impresses me with how he presents this argument. He‘s responsible for getting Democrats elected to the Congress. He is chairman of the Election Committee. He joins us next—with Steve Israel coming right here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Amanda Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Another mid-sized rally, making it three in a row, the Dow Jones industrials gaining 73 points, the S&P 500 adding four, and the Nasdaq struggling with some mixed tech earnings, up about 2.5.
Well, today‘s rally coming in spite of pretty modest first-quarter GDP growth. The economy grew at 1.8 percent. Compare that with a 3.1 percent gain in the fourth quarter of last year. Analysts are blaming high gas prices and bad weather.
In earnings news, ExxonMobil dragging oil companies lower after delivering better-than-expected profits, but coming up shy on revenue. Health insurers extended their own rally after Aetna posted very strong results on lower-than-expected medical costs. Microsoft reporting after the closing bell, beating estimates on the top and bottom lines.
And Research In Motion shares plunging in after-hours trade, after the BlackBerry maker slashed its first-quarter earnings guidance.
That is it from me at CNBC. We‘re first in business worldwide. Let‘s hand it back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to take a publicly administered program such as Medicare and turn it over to a private corporation. Tell me how my grandma is going to benefit from that, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s a fair question.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re asking the elderly to take on the insurance companies, when we can‘t take on the insurance companies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, so—right, so...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know anything about Medicare?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I‘m not on it, no. So...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s what I‘m driving at.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: “Do you know anything about Medicare?”—what a brilliant, tough shot against a member of Congress.
Welcome back to HARDBALL. Those were some of the questions U.S. Congress Paul Ryan, the chairman of the Budget Committee, faced this week about his budget plan, which has been adopted by all but four of the House Republicans.
Here‘s freshman Florida Congressman Allen West from Boca Raton explaining Medicare reform. This video was shot by one of the West—one of his constituents, a progressive radio talk show host. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALLEN WEST ®, FLORIDA: We are talking about a defined contribution. We are talking about putting the American citizen in charge of their health care decisions. And we are talking about bringing in competition and free market solutions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want the know how a profit motive makes Medicare more efficient. How is a 75-year-old who‘s obese with high blood pressure going to get insurance?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. I guess somebody moved in on there.
Anyway, can Democrats win back the House in 2012 by tying Republicans to the Ryan budget plan, which is, as I said, adopted by all but four of all the 200-some Republicans?
Steve Israel of New York is a congressman. He‘s chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is—he has the job of getting Democrats to—can you fellows and women win back the House of Representatives with this issue?
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Absolutely.
We are holding Republicans accountable for the defining vote in this Congress. And that vote was to end Medicare in order to fund tax cuts to big oil companies. These Republicans who beat us in the last election beat us by saying that they would come and protect Medicare.
And, in fact, what they did is, they came and they terminated Medicare. They ended Medicare. And what you are seeing at these town hall meetings across the country is Republican members of Congress trying to defend the indefensible, and the American people are on to them. They‘re angry. And they‘re going to make a change in November.
MATTHEWS: Well, it seems to me there‘s three kinds of older people. There‘s people that feel old, people 65 and older. And then there‘s people 85. Elderly is the word we usually use for them.
I wonder about an elderly person who may be getting help from their kids or may be at a home somewhere, getting help also from their kids, trying to figure out how in the world they‘re going to be able to buy health insurance at their age with all kinds of conditions at the age you get. You have got perhaps the onset of Alzheimer‘s. You have got all kinds of heart problems. You may have diabetes by then.
How do you go out and buy a policy with this stipend the government gives you? How would that even work is what I can‘t figure out.
ISRAEL: Well, most Americans know that it doesn‘t work. Most Americans know that an $8,000 voucher that goes to an insurance company isn‘t going to come close to paying for your medical needs as a senior citizen.
I mean, if, God forbid, you have cancer, what‘s $8,000 going to do for you if you have cancer, if you have a prolonged stay in the hospital? So, they know that this doesn‘t add up.
MATTHEWS: Would you be able to buy a policy? Could you even buy one? Congressman, could you even buy one at that age, in that condition, because it‘s almost guaranteed to cost the company more than the money you pay in the premium?
ISRAEL: Well, that‘s exactly right. It is going to be almost impossible to buy it.
Now, what I find staggering is these Republicans who say at these town hall meetings, well, it‘s OK. If you‘re 65, we‘re going to protect you. This isn‘t going to kick in for another 10 years.
What they‘re really saying is this. What they‘re really saying is, we know this is a—such a bad idea, that we‘re not willing to implement it now. We are going to implement it in 10 years.
Well, you know what? If it‘s a bad idea now, it‘s a bad idea in 10 years.
And the other issue is this—for people younger who are 55. I‘m 52. I‘ve been paying into Medicare since bussing tables at the Jones Beach Restaurant on Long Island. I‘ve paid into Medicare.
Now, when I get to be 65, what this Republican plan tells me is, my money was for nothing. I don‘t get on Medicare. It‘s terminated. What I do get is the ability, a voucher, that lets me shop for insurance with insurance companies who get a profit from that. It is just absurd on its face.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Let me give you some addresses where this message will go over well. Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Lackawanna County—go up to where all the Democrats got beaten last time and win back the seats because you‘ll win every one of them with this issue. I don‘t know how you can lose.
Here‘s Republican Congressman Pat Meehan as an example. He got the Sestak seat in Delaware. Sestak could have it for life if he wanted. But here he is, Meehan. He‘s a U.S. attorney. He has no idea—he‘s not an ideologue. He‘s a midde-of-the-roader.
Here he is defending the far right on Medicare. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONSTITUENT: If you voted to abolish Medicare, how will you explain that to people who are in their 50s who are out of work that they will have not the Medicare that I have?
REP. PAT MEEHAN ®, PENNSYLVANIA: You said in your comment that I voted to abolish Medicare. And that‘s factually wrong.
CONSTITUENT: How is that wrong?
MEEHAN: Let me answer that question, and then I‘ll talk to you.
CONSTITUENT: I will.
MEEHAN: Thank you.
I voted for the Ryan plan. What Paul Ryan has put out is a blueprint, a sense of what we would like to do, a direction that we‘d like to go in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me help you out with a visual there, Congressman. Pat Meehan is a good guy. He‘s wearing a French blue work shirt. Do you think it will help? He‘s—
MATTHEWS: -- trying to explain he didn‘t vote for the killing of Medicare. He voted for a plan to kill Medicare, a blueprint. Nobody buys a blueprint unless they‘re going to build the house. What is he talking about?
Anyway, your thoughts?
ISRAEL: All of—Chris, all of the flip flopping, the side-stepping and the back-pedaling in the world is not going to make up for the fact that he voted to terminate Medicare. And you know—
MATTHEWS: Does he know it?
ISRAEL: And, you know, you‘re actually right about—I‘m sorry?
MATTHEWS: Do these guys know what they did when they put the noose around their neck? You got over 200 Republicans, a lot of moderate districts, swing, suburban districts. They were in a bad mood because of the economy last year. They voted Republican because they‘re angry.
Well, they‘re going to be even angrier next year and vote Democrat.
What are your thoughts? Does he know what he did?
ISRAEL: We need 25 seats to win the House back. You‘re absolutely right. In Pennsylvania, three of those districts are in the suburbs of Philadelphia. We‘ve got two additional Pennsylvania districts.
And in those districts, this vote to kill Medicare is enraging people. Absolutely enraging people, particularly because the candidates, Meehan and Fitzpatrick and Barletta, promised to come to Washington to support Medicare, strengthen Medicare. Killing Medicare is neither supporting nor strengthening it and their constituents know it full well.
MATTHEWS: You know what? These are seats even I could win. You know what? This is Tip O‘Neill politics. This is basic bread and butter, work and wages, Democratic issue and the Republicans have stepped in the goo on this one.
Thank you, Steve. I watched you, Congressman, on of the other shows. I thought you were the clearest expositor of a very clear message that I‘ve heard some of your colleagues get confused with distractions and too many words. You eve got it down. Just, just teach them how to do what you do and you‘ll get 218 next time, sir. Thank you for coming on HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a great DCCC chair.
Up next, Republican governors and legislatures are trying to make it harder for African-American students and the poor to vote. Guess why? In other words, they‘re trying to keep down the traditional Democratic vote. The old way—well, they don‘t have a poll tax this time. They don‘t quite have a literacy test. They got some new ideas.
The Republican assault on voting rights is coming up next.
MATTHEWS: I figured this was coming. A majority of Republicans—actually, a majority of African-Americans have now ruled out voting for Donald Trump or Sarah Palin for president. Majority of Americans, that is. A new Gallup poll shows nearly two thirds of voters, 64 percent, say they will definitely not vote for Trump if he runs and a similar number, 65 percent, say the same about Sarah Palin.
They‘re not doing well. They made up their minds, the voters. All the American voters they‘re not voting for either Trump or Palin.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
A widespread Republican push in nearly 30 states now is targeting traditionally Democratic constituents like college students and African-Americans and making it more difficult for them to vote. Twenty-nine states have adopted already or considering adopting laws that would require citizens to show a government-issued form of identification before they cast a ballot. The problem, approximately 20 million people do not have a current government photo ID.
Judith Browne-Dianis is a co-director of the Advancement Project, an advocacy group of civil rights lawyers. And Horace Cooper is a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute who specializes in electoral reform.
Sir, for the affirmative, why do we have to have government ID cards as a requirement to vote when we haven‘t had them before?
HORACE COOPER, HEARTLAND INSTITUTE: Well, it‘s a very useful way to make sure that the person that shows up to vote is registered and lawfully allowed to.
MATTHEWS: So, you would require government ID cards?
COOPER: I think it‘s a good policy, is a very effective way to make sure—
MATTHEWS: So, you would require government ID cards?
COOPER: It‘s a very good way—
MATTHEWS: Help me out. You would require government ID cards?
COOPER: Where there are fraudulent examples of this and there are quite a few places where that is the case, this is a very effective solution.
MATTHEWS: But why are you hesitant to say that these laws --
COOPER: I didn‘t say it has to be a federal law from everywhere.
MATTHEWS: OK, should states --
COOPER: But states should, yes.
MATTHEWS: OK, should states require a government-issued ID card?
COOPER: Yes, they should.
COOPER: Yes, they should. They absolutely should.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the problem with that with people being asked, people of all ages, college students? You can vote at 18 under our Constitution now. What will be the requirement, what would it do to people?
JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, THE ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: It will block voters from voting. This is all a concerted effort setting up what‘s going to happen in 2012. We‘re going to see a lot of voter suppression efforts moving forward.
MATTHEWS: This is voter suppression.
BROWNE-DIANIS: I mean, clearly. I mean, within the first two months of this year, after the Republicans took over houses across the state, they pushed these voter ID bills. Twenty-one million Americans do not have government photo ID.
MATTHEWS: Do any Democrats push bills like this?
BROWNE-DIANIS: No. They‘re not pushing it because --
COOPER: That‘s absolutely not the case.
MATTHEWS: Let me --
MATTHEWS: Any Democrats do you know pushing one of these --
COOPER: I said it is not the case. When you look at these legislatures, those bills are also being supported by Democrats and Republicans.
MATTHEWS: No, are there any Democrats—are there any Democrats ever introduced a bill such as this, that you know of?
COOPER: Not that I know of, but I don‘t know the names of Republicans that introduced these bills. The point is that this is a bipartisan issue—in the state of Virginia which also moved on this front and state of Arizona.
MATTHEWS: How come everything I know about it tells me Democrats don‘t like these bills?
COOPER: You mean Washington Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Democrats I know.
COOPER: Washington Democrats aren‘t the same thing as Americans across the board bipartisan, Republicans and Democrats, agree that this is a problem and this is an effective way to solve it.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the way most people voted. Remind people how they normally vote right now in America. They walk up and, luckily, just a couple blocks away, it might a school or a community center.
They walk in. There‘s a line. You check in. You give your name.
You sign something, right?
BROWNE-DIANIS: You give your name. You sign something, and you go and vote.
MATTHEWS: OK. It‘s usually something recognizes you from the neighborhood. Hi, Marge. You‘re here. Nice to see you today.
BROWNE-DIANIS: That‘s right. You‘ve been here for 20 years voting.
MATTHEWS: OK. And they don‘t have to show an ID card.
BROWNE-DIANIS: You don‘t have to show ID.
BROWNE-DIANIS: There‘s probably about four states that require
MATTHEWS: OK. Here‘s my question what happens when that person, 85 year old, 50, whatever, and they‘ve always voted the same way. They vote, they walk and they vote. And the person from across the table says, “Hi, Marge, where is your government ID card, Marge?” And they said, “Well, you know me.” “Yes, I know you but you still have to have the card.”
What would you do then? Would that person be allowed to vote?
COOPER: That‘s the same thing the bank says. That‘s the same thing that the grocery store said. That‘s the hospital says.
MATTHEWS: Would that person be allowed to vote?
COOPER: Every single one of these transactions. That‘s part of the reason why I challenge this notion that there‘s 20 million of these people out there. The lion‘s share of Americans must have ID for all—
COOPER: A government ID to carry out their responsibilities.
MATTHEWS: Well, city people generally. Not to generalize. But if you live in a big city, you don‘t necessarily have a driver‘s license.
COOPER: No, you don‘t, but you still have an ID—
MATTHEWS: What would be an ID card?
COOPER: You would need for accessing the library. You would need
it for getting your electricity services turned on. There are a number of
reasons and this
COOPER: This is a reason why most jurisdictions, they actually will let you have a government-issued ID. And, in fact, increasingly across the country, if you have some kind of financial hardship, you can still get the ID at a discount or free.
The truth is organizations like this one simply don‘t want to ensure
MATTHEWS: Why not?
COOPER: -- the person who shows up to vote because there are people who are double voting. There are people who are cross-voting.
MATTHEWS: So, she‘s a con (ph)?
COOPER: There are people that she enables, if she wants to enable.
BROWNE-DIANIS: I‘m about protecting voting rights. That‘s what I‘m about.
COOPER: You‘re not protecting anyone‘s right to vote if you cancel out the vote—
MATTHEWS: I want to ask you about reality because I‘m not an expert on this, except I vote. And when I vote, it‘s almost always a community I‘m lucky enough to live in, Maryland across the border here. And when I walk in there to vote, they sort of know everybody. You have people with signs give me trouble, whatever, whatever they‘re up to. But it‘s pretty much a community involvement.
If you tell some woman who walks in, a male who walks there, and say, you‘re not voting because you don‘t have a government ID. And first, I have driven in years, or I don‘t have a government ID, you tell them they can‘t vote, what‘s going to happen in that moment? What will happen in that moment?
COOPER: At that moment the same thing that will happen when people show up and they‘re in the wrong precinct. You‘re not allowed to vote. It could be presidents on Election Day. You are not allowed to vote.
MATTHEWS: You walk down the street in your own neighborhood and you can‘t vote. Everybody knows you.
COOPER: Even if they know you, you can‘t go to the wrong precinct.
MATTHEWS: You won‘t let a person vote if they don‘t know you?
That‘s crazy. That‘s crazy. You have to let people vote.
COOPER: That‘s the law of the land.
BROWNE-DIANIS: That‘s not the law of the land. The law of the land
MATTHEWS: This is an incredible idea. You can‘t tell people from their own neighborhood they can‘t vote.
Horace Cooper, go see him if you want to vote.
When we return, “Let Me Finish” with some thoughts about the birthers. I think they discredit themselves and those who still pander to them.
We‘ll be right back with my final thoughts on HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with the baby the Republicans just threw out with the bathwater.
The baby was reputation for seriousness. By pandering to the haters and nut cases of birther land, the Republicans might just have kissed away their credibility as a practical alternative to the Democrat now running the White House.
I was stunned to see today how many are still pushing the birther angle. Newt Gingrich is still saying there‘s something strange afoot. The whole thing he says is strange. Trump, who said he suspected the president of the biggest con in history by claiming to be born here continues to bam out charges about the president‘s upbringing. Others demand to see his grades from school, anything to keep the weird music playing. And now, in crazy land, the bloggers are still saying the birth certificate is a fake.
So, it‘s not about a birth certificate, is it? It‘s not about the facts, is it?
No, we know what it‘s about and so do the people still hot on digging up something on Obama that will weed him out from the list of presidents. That‘s the angle here: find something that says he never really was elected our president because the very idea bugs this crowd.
This isn‘t about skepticism. I was a skeptic myself. I‘m not talking about where he was born but about this fellow Barack Obama‘s chances early on to even get elected president.
When I first heard his name maybe 10 years ago, I was convinced a guy name Barack Obama whose father was from Kenya didn‘t have a chance. This country has been electing mostly WASPs to the presidency ever since the beginning. We had simple names like Truman and Ford and Bush. Yes, once in a blue moon, we elected an Eisenhower. But he was a great hero of World War II. Usually, it‘s names like Jackson and Adams and Carter and Clinton, no “Baracks” or “Obamas” or had I known his middle name “Husseins.”
I just didn‘t think it was possible for this guy with all those three names to get elected to the high office in this country.
And then I found out more about him. I started reading his book and found a rich American texture there—a bit of Mark Twain really—and then I heard him speak, and then watched him campaign and deal with people. I said this guy has got something. That‘s right.
Then I said, this guy might just be our president some day if he can deal with the challenge of Hillary Clinton and the media and John McCain.
And he did.
Some people never let him get past his name and his background. They never did. No way were they going to let this guy into the living room to be their on the television, being the elected leader of our country. They were simply going to deny him.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
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