Guests: Alex Wagner, Michael Isikoff, Hampton Pearson, Dana Milbank, Joe DiGenova, Ed Rollins, John Heilemann, Rep. Jan Schakowsky
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: What happens in Vegas doesn‘t stay in Vegas anymore.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews up in New York.
Leading off tonight: Don‘t look now, it just got worse for Weiner. The drip, drip, drip of revelations may in the end be what topples Anthony Weiner. This afternoon, a tabloid Web site published racy and explicit Facebook exchanges between Weiner and a Las Vegas blackjack dealer. Even before that, Democrats were backing away from Weiner, and it‘s not at all clear he can survive this storm or that the Democrats can continue to separate themselves from it.
Plus, Weiner patiently answered countless questions at that amazing news conference yesterday afternoon, but many of his answers themselves may have gotten him into more trouble. Let‘s go to the videotape tonight.
Also, I said it yesterday, if she doesn‘t run, Sarah Palin would wind up being the Republican kingmaker. It‘s her mission to stop Romney and stop, I think, Bachmann, as well. But with whom? With anybody?
And here‘s one from “I told you so.” Remember the Bush tax cuts that conservatives insisted against all evidence would somehow increase revenue for the federal government and help balance the budget? Well, it was 10 years ago today that they were signed into law, those tax cuts. Let‘s see how wrong the people pushing them were.
Finally, get me rewrite. Apparently, it wasn‘t enough for Sarah Palin to rewrite the midnight ride of Paul Revere. Now her allies are trying to rewrite Wikipedia to fit her view of the universe into actual history. Check out the “Sideshow,” where I think she belongs.
We start with the Congressman—well, Weiner‘s political future, such as it is. MSNBC political analyst Alex Wagner‘s here with me in New York. She‘s with The Huffington Post‘s “Social Impact.” And Dana Milbank is a “Washington Post” reporter.
I want you to read right now something on Radaronline. It‘s released e-mails between a Las Vegas woman, a blackjack dealer named Lisa Weiss (ph), and Congressman Weiner. Radar is the only source of these e-mails, and NBC News has not confirmed their authenticity, but here they go.
Weiner, his voice, “I hear liberal girls are very, uh, accommodating of others.” Woman, “Of course, it is all about taking care of the little guy.” Weiner, “Little? Ouch! You‘d be surprised how big.”
Now, this is the conversation. You get the drift of this.
You know, let me go right now to Alex. This kind of conversation
being carried on by a 45-year-old married man—in September, by the way,
to continue this point of view, the second woman—here it is, the second
this is an e-mail last—let‘s see, where this one was in—also in September, of last fall.
“Am I allowed to drunk dial a U.S. congressman? I think U R so totally hot and are lucky I don‘t have your number right now.” Weiner replied, “How did I miss this chance to rock your world by phone? Give me another chance. Stalk me, baby, very hot.”
I guess we get enough of this. Let‘s go on. Alex, you‘re—maybe this is age group stuff. I guess I don‘t get sexting or texting or why people communicate in this little boy, little girl language, using words like “Ouch” when you‘re 45 years old. Apparently, when he was talking to someone the other day, he says, “Ugh.” He speaks in almost comic book, cartoon language—
ALEX WAGNER, HUFFINGTON POST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
MATTHEWS: -- in the midst of all this sexual conversation.
WAGNER: Yes, well, I think that‘s part of protocol on social network communication and shorthand. And it‘s, you know, intimate, and so forth.
But you know, I think the real issue here is this is an elected representative who has positioned himself as a champion for liberal causes and has conducted himself in manner that won him a lot of accolades from certain corners. At the same time, he‘s been very strident and he‘s been very purposeful. And in the background of all this is carrying on in his office, apparently, having phone sex conversations, having Facebook conversations, having Twitter conversations. I mean, really, you talk about a double life, and he seems to have been living one.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Mike Isikoff. I‘ve got great respect for you, probably after Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, up in that league—no Isikoff? Well, you can‘t have a great respect for him this second anyway.
Back to you, Alex. Let me go back to one at the end here. We want to show you something that‘s probably far more trouble for the congressman from Brooklyn than what we just showed you, that kind of (INAUDIBLE) Just last week, that Las Vegas woman, the blackjack dealer, wrote him on the e-mail again here, Twitter, I guess, “U”—with a “U,” just the letter—
“owe me big time for keeping this all quiet. I am defending U”—again with the letter “U”—“to the death on every blog and to everyone”—everyone you ever—never—just a minute, let me get this right here—
“telling everyone U would never send dirty messages to women. I know U haven‘t been on here since U were hacked, but I need to talk to U. Someone contacted me about U. Call me or something.”
Now, here‘s somebody who‘s heard about another kind of communication, gross kind of communication. And I don‘t know what this stuff is about, but it looks like—he said the other day in that press conference that went on forever—and we‘re going to talk about all the things he opened up there—a half dozen—now, maybe that‘s a minimum notion of the number.
MATTHEWS: But he carries on these relationships. He‘s a married man, as we pointed out. I don‘t know what to say. I mean, here he is talking about—the sort of—what—what is this stuff?
WAGNER: Well, I think—I think the—
MATTHEWS: I‘m a political guy. I don‘t know what really to do in this territory.
WAGNER: Well, I mean, look, Chris, there are so many levels to this.
There‘s the betrayal. I think there‘s the lying to, I think, his Congress
fellow members in the caucus. The lying and the deceit is really unpalatable. I mean, here‘s someone who‘s saying he hasn‘t done anything wrong, and then it turns out he‘s done everything wrong. And as you said, we‘re getting dribs and drabs of this information.
Today it‘s revealed that he may have tried to enlist his PR people to help write up a whitewash press release denying that—on behalf of one of these women, denying that she had anything to do with Rep. Weiner.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go to that—let‘s go to Dana Milbank on that one. Dana, why don‘t you jump in here. On June 2nd, Weiner e-mailed Ginger Lee, one of the people he corresponds with in this way on Twitter, “Do you need to talk to professional PR type person to give you advice? I can have someone on my team call.” Bracket, “yes, my team is doing great. Ugh,” close bracket.
What is the significance of all this—this stuff?
DANA MILBANK, “WASHINGTON POST”: Well, look, Chris, we had last night
Anthony Weiner threw down the gauntlet and said, I‘m going to survive this, by having that press conference apologizing 50 times. And he was gambling that he could get through this stuff. Now, had he resigned yesterday, you probably wouldn‘t be reading these things, although I love it when you talk dirty, so I‘m glad that you are.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m reading dirty.
MATTHEWS: I think you got to say it that way. Give me a break here, buddy! Milbank, you‘re on my list of most respected people. Let‘s keep it that way!
MILBANK: Glad to be there, Chris. But he has invited this sort of thing now, so these things are going to continue to come out. So if this thing on Radar is true—I mean, you read some very tame excerpts from that. It takes a great deal to get me to blush, and that is some really gruesome stuff in there. So I think it‘s—yes, there‘s a question of—
MATTHEWS: What I didn‘t read—in other words, in all fairness, we sat with our producers this afternoon when all this came in and decided what I could say, given who I am and what I have to be on television. And I don‘t want to read some of this stuff. It‘s—I guess it‘s sex talk. I don‘t know what else you call it, phone sex, but it‘s done on e-mail or Twitter. I don‘t—what do you call it?
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the Texas woman who received the photo of Weiner shirtless, described her interactions with the congressman. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEAGAN BROUSSARD, HAD ON-LINE RELATIONSHIP WITH REP. WEINER: Real risky.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much of it was sex talk?
BROUSSARD: I mean, he would attempt all the time. Didn‘t understand why he wanted to talk to me so much. And I—even in our exchanges, I did say, like, Why are you so open, things of that nature. So it wasn‘t like I was chasing him at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, it‘s amazing what I was saying in the opening, the old line—I changed it around, I paraphrased, what happens in Vegas doesn‘t stay in Vegas—starts out with a blackjack dealer out there. Then we go to a Texas woman. Then we have the woman, of course, that started all this, the person out in—out in Seattle.
I mean, this is going to be one of those—there‘s a local angle, Dana, for every local reporter. Every local affiliate‘s have a piece of this action. This is permeating and getting around to people in Congress, who now have to explain it and defend it in their own districts.
I‘m thinking about, is any Democrat really safe in this? Fifteen Democrats, a list the Republican campaign committee‘s just put out of people who‘ve gotten several thousand dollars apiece from Weiner, and they‘re demanding they give it back. So they‘re—it‘s metastasizing. It‘s going out there—
MATTHEWS: -- in a political way—so many Democrats. When are they going to call him into the caucus and say, This has got to end?
WAGNER: Right. And that‘s why I think—you know, there is the ethical consideration, there is—of what he did with his congressional resources, the legal consideration. But I think that‘s all secondary here to the political considerations.
MATTHEWS: Right. I‘m with you.
WAGNER: First of all, he lied to his colleagues. You know, I was at a breakfast with Steve Israel last week, the head of the Democratic House campaigns, and he said, Hey, look, the guy was hacked. He‘s done just the right thing. And now he has to, of course, come out with this forceful statement, you know, saying it should be sent to the Ethics Committee.
But the fact of the matter is, he‘s really embarrassed his colleagues here. And when—you know, even a little bit of this sort of sex talk gets out there, people are going to say the judgment of this man is just completely unacceptable. It has nothing do with ideology, it‘s just—who could sit next to this guy in the committee room or the caucus room?
MATTHEWS: Yes, and also the—I said last night the Republicans have been very good over the years of finding somebody from one of the coasts, whether it was my old boss, Tip O‘Neill, or Ted Kennedy or Pelosi or Barney Frank, or you know, Bella Abzug, usually an ethnic person from the coast is a good target, a liberal—and then they just pound them in every district in the country.
MATTHEWS: It looks like it‘s going to be Weiner everywhere.
WAGNER: And you‘ve seen how the NR—and the national Senate campaign—the—the Republican committee—
MATTHEWS: The NRCC.
WAGNER: The NRCC and the NSCC (ph) have launched in. They‘re attacking 16 Democrats, telling them that they need to return funds that they received from Weiner in the 2010 election.
MATTHEWS: And of course, they‘re going to forgive them when they give the money back.
MATTHEWS: They‘re going to say he took—no, he was forced to give money back to Weiner. It‘s going to—right, Dana? It‘s going to be like you admit you did something wrong the minute you give the money back.
Let me read something that I think is relevant to what—and I want you to comment, too, Alex. This is in the rules of the House. It‘s the ethics rules. It‘ one of these overreaching statements which truly captures, I think, what you said in a kind of codified way.
In the first sentence of the House ethics manual, which you get as a new member of Congress, it says, “Members, officers and employees of the House should conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects credibly on the House.”
Now, this is the kind of language I believe—going back to even Joe McCarthy, for a totally different reason, they got him censured. You can‘t behave in a way that embarrasses the institution, that brings it down. Is this what Weiner really is facing here, Dana Milbank?
MILBANK: Well, arguably, you know, 435 members could be guilty of that at some point or another. But this is so beyond the pale here that, certainly, he‘d be up against that. I suspect—I mean, look, these ethics investigations go on forever.
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘re—you‘re not talking about going into a committee. Do you really think that Pelosi really expects—
MATTHEWS: -- six or seven non-partisan people to sit in a room and go over the details of this for months?
MILBANK: No. That‘s why all that nonsense is secondary to the political consideration here. Is this completely intolerable for the Democrats? I would have to think that having these things out there is completely intolerable for Weiner himself and that he—
MILBANK: -- would want to just put an end to this and—
MATTHEWS: No, but his alternative—his alternative is going off into nowhere and being a former member of Congress, admitting your guilt.
WAGNER: Like being Chris Lee.
MATTHEWS: Look, if he sticks it out—I mean, that‘s his call because in his own personal interest, once he puts the—basically goes down on this and says, I did something wrong enough to quit over, he‘s saying, I did something wrong enough to quit over. He‘s self-indicting. If he hangs in there, he has at least a job, a position, a staff and a role to play in American society, even if he‘s hated.
WAGNER: Chris, you have to wonder what are the dynamics in Congress -
MATTHEWS: Well, how can—
WAGNER: I mean, Harry Reid is asked today about Weiner and says, Ask someone else. I mean, his own caucus—
MATTHEWS: How much clout does Weiner have in Brooklyn? I mean, how much does Harry Reid have in Brooklyn? None.
WAGNER: Yes. Well, no. I mean, as a—as a Brooklyn resident—
MATTHEWS: If the people in that district stand behind him—
WAGNER: As a Brooklyn resident—
MATTHEWS: If people in your district stand behind you—I‘ll go back to you, Dana. If the people in your district stand behind you, despite all the crud thrown at you and you‘ve thrown it yourself here, why not stick it out and say, Look, in the long run, Bill Clinton—different situation—stuck it out. He did OK. He‘s still there. Vitter, a somewhat similar situation down in Louisiana, he‘s a senator for life.
MILBANK: Well, it‘s possible. Look, Weiner—this is a placeholder position for him. You know, he‘s made no secret he wants to run for mayor in 2013. You have to think that‘s now a pipe dream, as well, but—so his audience is the people of New York there. Now, are they going to be that, you know, flexible? I mean, I‘m a New Yorker, but I don‘t think—I don‘t think they‘re going to tolerate—tolerate that much. So his whole being in the House was, in a way, to get into—into Gracie Mansion.
MATTHEWS: You say he stays or leaves, Dana?
MILBANK: I think he leaves voluntarily or involuntarily. There‘s only—those are the only two options.
WAGNER: I think he‘s out.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Alex Wagner. Thank you, Dana Milbank. It‘s great having you both on the show.
Coming up: U.S. Congressman Weiner answered dozens of questions at that press conference yesterday. We thought maybe too many of those led to too many more questions. And now we may have opened up—he may have opened more trouble for himself, as we‘re seeing with this latest dispatch from Vegas.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Congressman Anthony Weiner‘s press conference yesterday may be a prime example of what not to do when embroiled in scandal because his answers merely raised more questions, as I said.
Here‘s where he ran into trouble. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I‘ve exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.
Listen, I‘m—I‘m going to try to tell you everything that I can remember was—my BlackBerry‘s not a government BlackBerry. My home computer is usually where I—I did these things.
WEINER: I don‘t have a knowledge of every—of every last communication, but I don‘t believe that I used any government resources.
QUESTION: Andrew Breitbart was standing where you‘re standing not more 20 minutes ago, and claimed that he has an X-rated photo of you. Can you say that is not true?
WEINER: No, I cannot.
QUESTION: Did you have phone sex?
WEINER: I never was in the same room with them. I was never—had any physical relationship whatsoever. I am reluctant to—for their privacy and since their names are coming out, of characterizing our exchanges, except that they were consensual.
I don‘t know the exact ages of the women, and I don‘t know if—if you do. I‘m going to respect their—their privacy, but they were all adults, at least to the best of my knowledge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Michael Isikoff is on the show now. He‘s NBC News national investigative correspondent and the best in the business. Joe DiGenova‘s a former independent counsel and federal prosecutor. He also served as chief counsel to the Senate Rules Committee. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.
Let‘s go over these stories that seem to be, as we say in journalism, created legs for this story. First of all, this question of multiple women that have been discussed now that are coming out. Mike Isikoff, is this going to be one of those stories where you just get more and more information as the days go on, where you have to just keep reporting it? Is that his biggest problem?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Sure. First of all, I mean, he said a half a dozen in the press conference. Now, remember, there‘s going to be an electronic trail of all his messages. Now that we have an Ethics Committee investigation, the committee is going to be—is going to be duty-bound to, like, Let‘s see the electronic trail. Let‘s see all your Twitter messages, all your Facebook messages. And they‘re going to hold that up against what he said in the press conference yesterday.
The line that leapt out at me from the press conference was he said, In some cases, I initiated them.
Now, if he is initiating these exchanges, including sending lewd photos of himself, it does make you wonder if that half-a-dozen figure he used was just those who reciprocated or whether there were others out there who got these lewd photos or lewd messages and didn‘t reciprocate at all.
And as I said before, presumably, there is going to be an electronic trail that‘s going to answer that question. And I think that is potentially extremely dangerous for him.
MATTHEWS: Joe DiGenova, wide-open question right now, as a former prosecutor. Do you see this as a prosecutable case or is it just bad behavior, immoral behavior for most people, unethical? Is it a criminal situation here potentially?
JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I—I don‘t see anything criminal yet, unless some of the recipients of his lewd pictures were underage. And we don‘t know the answer to that question.
MATTHEWS: And he doesn‘t either.
DIGENOVA: And neither does he, apparently. Neither does he.
But it‘s clearly an ethics issues. I don‘t think it is criminal yet. But it is clearly an ethics question. And that‘s why Nancy Pelosi dove for the Ethics Committee as quickly as she could.
MATTHEWS: Are you confident that an Ethics Committee won‘t bury this?
DIGENOVA: Oh, I don‘t think they can now. That‘s—that‘s literally impossible.
After that news conference yesterday—and, of course, you know the really awful photographs really will be available on the Internet shortly, no matter what Andrew Breitbart says he‘s not going to publish. He isn‘t the only possessor of those photographs. They are going to be sold to tabloids and other people on the Net. Those pictures will be out. Once those are out, he‘s done.
MATTHEWS: You say that because Breitbart has said that they‘re not—they weren‘t pictures that he got off—he was given to them secondhand, so, therefore, somebody else has them firsthand. That‘s right.
DIGENOVA: That‘s correct. And they‘re going to come out because they are going to be bought.
And once those pictures are out, he cannot stay in Congress.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to something I do find a little bit tangential. Here is Weiner yesterday when he asked if he used any government resources, like telephones, e-mails, that kind of thing.
Let‘s—I don‘t think this is important, but let‘s check it out with you guys. Here he is talking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Listen, I‘m going to try to tell you everything that I can remember. It was—my BlackBerry is not a government BlackBerry. My home computer is usually where I did these things.
WEINER: I don‘t have the knowledge of every—every last communication, but I don‘t believe that I used any government resources.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Mike Isikoff, let ask you about that, because, I mean, I listened to someone on the—on the TV this morning, very early this morning. I think it was “MORNING JOE,” where someone was saying, you know, congressmen can—to be blunt about it, can call up their girlfriends, their mistresses, if they‘re married. There is nothing illegal about it or professionally unethical—obviously, a moral problem issue.
But is there anything in the rules that says you can‘t use your electronic equipment of any kind of for whatever you feel like using it for, basically, as long as it isn‘t criminal?
ISIKOFF: Well, I mean, you started out with the line from the House ethics manual, which is sort of this broad generic you can‘t do anything that does—brings dishonor upon the House.
And I think using any government—look, if—if there is any government equipment here used at all, a telephone, a computer, I think that‘s one more nail in the many nails in his coffin at this point.
MATTHEWS: Really? You mean—
ISIKOFF: I don‘t think it‘s going to change much.
MATTHEWS: -- it doesn‘t matter whether he is yelling into a Dixie cup, does it?
MATTHEWS: I mean, does it really matter?
ISIKOFF: This was sort of a textbook example of how to inflict maximum political damage on yourself.
He took what was a pretty bad situation and made it so much worse by the way he handled it, starting out with sort of his arrogance last week, attacking the press, lying brazenly, and then having to sort of come before the press yesterday and admit almost everything he said last week was a complete lie.
That doesn‘t give you a lot of confidence that everything he said yesterday is going to hold up against that electronic trail that‘s going to be available.
MATTHEWS: Joe, Joe, old buddy, I haven‘t talked to you in long enough. I have got to have dinner with you soon, because you are always rich in seeing this things for what they are.
But let‘s just put this in a little perspective for so much—for the older viewers like me watching right now.
MATTHEWS: Suppose this was a more traditional kind of British scandal, where there was girls involved, rather than money, a kinky scandal of some kind, like the famous (INAUDIBLE). Suppose it was just—without Soviet spies, suppose it was just a congressman who had a lot of girlfriends, he was married, but he had a lot of girlfriends.
That‘s not unheard of, no virtual use of electronic equipment, no e-mailings, no Twitters, no weird conversations on the phone or on anything, no phone sex, the real kind of sex. Would that be at all an ethics issue? Let‘s be blunt.
DIGENOVA: You know, that‘s a very interesting question, Chris.
I think it would depend on who the congressman was, because one of the things that is at work is who Weiner was. He was the lead attack dog for the Democrats in the House, if not in the Senate. He was a nasty, arrogant, vicious attack dog.
And part of his problem is, is that because he was the lead dog that way, when you fall from that, you fall very hard. And look at the absence of supporters.
And whether or not he had girlfriends, that probably would not have made a difference. What does make a difference are the photographs, the actual realistic photos of body parts.
MATTHEWS: And that‘s worse than having girlfriends, you‘re saying?
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s interesting.
DIGENOVA: Absolutely, because it also reveals, Chris, a very serious psychological problem. And everybody knows it. This guy has a very serious psychological problem.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is strange, Michael, because this is like avatar sex. It‘s the strangest thing, because I‘m thinking of like a case like a celebrated role model like Tiger Woods.
Everybody looked up to him. He‘s on the Wheaties box.
MATTHEWS: Maybe he‘s not on the Wheaties box anymore, but he was.
And we all looked up in there for that, something he shouldn‘t—a world champ, going back to that old case. But here is a case of a guy that just seemed to like—it‘s an exhibitionist.
Is that what you‘re saying, Joe? And I would go on to—is that the problem, of just putting it out there on pictures, so that everybody is sharing? Is that the problem?
DIGENOVA: It is. But, remember—it is partly that, but, remember, Chris, part of the problem is, you know, you hear from people about the way he treated his staff in public, how he would yell at them, the bullying, the kind of thing.
And I think that‘s part of this.
DIGENOVA: You have to look the at entire character of a guy like this. This guy has a series of deep-seated problems. And I don‘t think he has a lot of friends right now on the Democratic side of the aisle. And you need them in a crisis like this.
MATTHEWS: What are you, Dr. Drew tonight?
MATTHEWS: How do you—are you sure? I guess that‘s common sense.
I shouldn‘t be sarcastic.
Obviously, this guy shouldn‘t be doing what he‘s doing.
MATTHEWS: And we can attribute it to all kinds of brain soup, I guess is the phrase we use these days.
MATTHEWS: Who knows what our brains are doing.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Michael Isikoff.
MATTHEWS: You‘re the best.
Thank you, Joe. We have got to get together. I miss you.
DIGENOVA: It‘s a deal. It‘s a deal.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Which Republican presidential candidate is now saying we stormed Normandy on D-Day so that we would be free of Obamacare? These people remind me of that old show on—Bullwinkle when the—the Wayback Machine. They‘re using history for the craziest reasons.
Where are we going today, Mr. Sherman?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
Lost in yesterday‘s Weiner story was this incredible whopper from newly announced presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM ®, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: On this day, D-Day, June 6, in 1944, almost 60,000 average Americans had the courage to go out and charge those beaches of Normandy. Those Americans risked everything, so they could make that decision on their health care plan.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. World War II was about health care options? Well, that‘s an interesting reading. I heard—we haven‘t heard that one before.
By the way, President Franklin Roosevelt, who was our commander in chief in World War II, was for national health care. So were the British who stormed those beaches, who had national health care within a year or so.
Next up: history in action. Sarah Palin‘s revisionist take on Paul Revere was given a wonderful ride by Stephen Colbert last night, one of his best ever. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE COLBERT REPORT”)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”: For those who say it‘s implausible for Revere to have ridden a horse while ringing a bell and firing multiple warning shots from a front-loading musket, all I have to say is, prepare to eat historical reenactment.
COLBERT: First, we insert a farthing to activate my steed.
COLBERT: There we go. Hey!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COLBERT: Hey, British! Hey, British!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COLBERT: You, you, the British are coming. Here is a warning shot.
OK. Now to warn the next town, the British, that they‘re are on their way.
I just have to reload.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COLBERT: I just have to --
COLBERT: I certainly hope Paul Revere was wearing a cup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Palin supporters are now going after the messenger, Wikipedia. They are trying to change the Paul Revere entry in Wikipedia, which brings us to tonight‘s “Big Number.”
As Palin fans edit Revere‘s Wikipedia page to reflect her bizarre retelling, others are revising those edits back to reflect the real history. So, how big is this war of words? Well, consider this. Before Palin‘s comment the other day, Paul Revere‘s page on Wikipedia averaged 2,000 views a day. How many did it get yesterday? -- 140,000, 70 times as many.
Sarah Palin drives up the traffic and the road rage on Paul Revere‘s Wikipedia page -- 140,000 page views and tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next, Sarah Palin is running, if not for the president, to be the Republican kingmaker for 2012. Either way, she needs to stop Mitt Romney. She also wants to stop, I believe, Bachmann. She wants Pawlenty, I think, or somebody to beat the people she doesn‘t like. We will see what she is up to.
We have got Ed Rollins, the brand-new campaign manager for Michele Bachmann, coming here next.
You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks dipped at the close, after spending most of the day in positive territory. The Dow slipped 19 points. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gave up about a point each.
Strength in health care—material stocks were moving the markets higher until the final hour of trading. That‘s when financials began to slip as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke acknowledged a slowing recovery, but didn‘t hint at further stimulus. The Fed blames high gas prices and disasters in Japan for the economic sluggishness, but predicts growth will pick up in the second half of the year.
Oil prices are higher on expectations OPEC will bump its production quota this week for the first time in two-and-a-half years.
In stocks, car service Pep Boys tumbled 17 percent on earnings that came in way below expectations. And women‘s retailer Talbots plunged 40 percent after warning its revenue would fall for the fifth straight quarter.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM PAWLENTY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now gas is $4 a gallon. Home prices are in the gutter. Our health care system, thanks to Obamacare, is more expensive and less efficient. Unemployment is back over 9 percent. Our national debt has skyrocketed. Our budget deficit has grown worse. And the jobs and manufacturing reports are grim.
Now, if that was a recovery, then our president needs to enter economic rehab. And the American people need to stop his policies cold turkey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That‘s Tim Pawlenty reading that somebody could write rote, but he can‘t read it, today in Chicago, spotlighting President Obama‘s biggest enemy in the 2012 election, the economy. Of course it is.
A new “Washington Post”/ABC News poll just out today says how bad it is -- 59 percent of the country disapproves of President Obama‘s handling of the economy. It‘s an even split, by the way, on the questions of whether the president understands the problems of people like you, the person being polled, or whether he shares your values. He does OK on those issues, but not on the economy.
The president is now statistically tied with Mitt Romney in a head-to-head.
here‘s Romney rating his chances last night on CNN. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT”)
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, they‘re all serious contenders. I think it‘s too hard to predict who‘s going to become our nominee, who will be the two finalists? I think usually you have two people that end up battling it down the—down the stretch. I don‘t know who they will be.
I—I believe I‘m going to be one of those two and that I will finally get the nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Romney is on the mark, according to an ABC poll. Again, he needs leads with 22 percent, with Palin right behind him at 17 percent. Everyone else is in single digits.
But will Palin be that second person Romney is waiting for, or does she have someone else—something else in mind? Here is she on FOX on Sunday about whether she will run or be a kingmaker. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”)
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Whether it‘s me throwing my name in the hat or just supporting the right candidate, the response has been great confirmation of the need for real positive change in this country.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: But—but—but—and you‘ve always been really straight with me. After this week—and, obviously, you got a lot of attention. There was a big response. Does it make you lean more towards running?
PALIN: I tell you, the response has—I haven‘t interpreted it as being about me, about being me as a candidate or a potential candidate. It‘s been about the message, Chris.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, is that—she wasn‘t talking to me, obviously. Is that the endgame, to be the 2012 kingmaker?
Republican strategist Ed Rollins is planning to be deeply involved in Michele Bachmann‘s campaign as a strategist. And John Heilemann‘s latest piece for “New York” magazine is about Palin and Bachmann. It‘s called “Tea Party for Two.” It‘s—well, look at that beautiful cartoon.
Let me go to my friend Ed Rollins.
I haven‘t seen you in a while.
Ed, you are amazing. You‘re always going to go into the breach, the dangerous campaign. Here‘s what I think you‘re facing, tell me if I‘m wrong—Sarah Palin doesn‘t want Romney, a lot of reasons. We can make the list. She‘s not him and he‘s not her.
She doesn‘t want Bachmann because I think she thinks Bachmann is imitating her. She wants someone else even if it‘s somebody as deadly boring as Pawlenty. She wants a nominee that she can claim she made.
ED ROLLINS, BACHMANN CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Well, she‘s not going to make anybody. I think, obviously, if she wants to run, she can be a credible candidate and can raise money and will have some support. But, you know, you got to win these things. And at the end of the day, that‘s going to—
MATTHEWS: She can‘t be the tiger in somebody‘s tank?
ROLLINS: No. We haven‘t played that game in a long, long time. And my sense is Romney said last night—it probably comes down to two, maybe three. He may be one of the ones. I‘d give it a 50/50 chance.
MATTHEWS: So, you‘re saying, if work with Bachmann, which you will do, right? You‘re working for Bachmann?
ROLLINS: I‘m working for Ms. Bachmann.
MATTHEWS: Right. Congresswoman Bachmann. Did you say on the record here, Palin doesn‘t matter?
ROLLINS: Well, obviously, if she runs, she matters.
MATTHEWS: No, if she doesn‘t run, she doesn‘t matter?
ROLLINS: She doesn‘t matter, no.
MATTHEWS: She doesn‘t matter if she doesn‘t run?
ROLLINS: She doesn‘t matter if she doesn‘t run.
MATTHEWS: Well, there‘s a statement for the record. Let‘s tell everybody about that one. Ed Rollins said she doesn‘t matter if she doesn‘t run—because she just said on Chris Wallace‘s show on Sunday, she will matter if she doesn‘t run.
ROLLINS: There‘s no kingmakers anymore. We don‘t have any kingmakers any more.
MATTHEWS: No Tammany Hall, no Boss Tweed?
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts about that. Is—can she play a role if she doesn‘t run?
JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I am loathed ever to disagree with Hall of Fame political strategist Ed Rollins about anything. But I think if you look, last week --
MATTHEWS: You need access. He just needs to be a candidate.
HEILEMANN: Look, last week, we were all—a lot of reporters were up in New Hampshire. And we watched Sarah Palin come to New Hampshire while Mitt Romney was trying to announce his presidential campaign. We watched her suck up all of the media oxygen. We watched her attack his health care plan as he was about to announce—
HEILEMANN: -- and end up on the front page of “The Union Leader” with him relegated to page A3.
HEILEMANN: As I said with all due respect to Ed—
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s her motive?
HEILEMANN: -- she may not be the kingmaker, but by dissing candidates, she can hurt people in a variety of ways.
MATTHEWS: Fair enough. Go back to my motive, my sense here. She doesn‘t want Romney because she‘s afraid he might win and be president for eight years. She doesn‘t him to be president. And the other thing is she doesn‘t want Bachmann who she sees as an imitator. She wants somebody else.
HEILEMANN: I think on the first, I would agree with you. I don‘t think she is ideologically or in any other way aligned with Mitt Romney. And I think she‘s already demonstrating that she‘s trying to do things to hurt him.
I don‘t know what her feelings about Michele Bachmann. She did endorse Michele Bachmann.
MATTHEWS: Seen any warmth?
HEILEMANN: She endorsed Michele Bachmann in the past. And they are much more aligned. If she doesn‘t run, Chris, I don‘t know there‘s any reason why she wouldn‘t necessarily want to be on Michele Bachmann‘s team.
But the big question still remains—as Ed said—is she going to get in? And I think there‘s no—right now, I‘m back to thinking it‘s 50/50. She could—she, I think, looked that bus tour and said, hey, you know, this is --
MATTHEWS: How can she run --
HEILEMANN: But I think I might be able to pull this off and just say, I‘m going to deny all of the old rules and I‘m going to do it my way. You might think that‘s crazy. But I think she might be thinking that.
MATTHEWS: Can you win a nomination of a major party without knowing anything? I mean, we have a candidate—I‘m not talking about intelligence. She‘s intelligent. Most people in politics are above average intelligence.
Not about intelligence. It‘s about doing your homework and learning some basics. She is challenging Wikipedia.
MATTHEWS: She is having a hard argument over Paul Revere now when every kid in America knows one if by hand, two if by sea. She‘s talking some NRA commercial out of this thing.
ROLLINS: As a historian, I‘m sure there have been some presidents that didn‘t know very much when they got elected. Lots of candidates.
But I would say this—she has not over the last couple years done the serious stuff that most people have done.
MATTHEWS: Why not?
ROLLINS: I don‘t know. She‘s gone out. She‘s made a lot of money.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not hard to study American history. It‘s not that long.
ROLLINS: She had a lot of fun.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not that hard.
ROLLINS: What she will be able to do, though, as you said when she went to New Hampshire, she will attract the media attention. She will attract the crowds. It‘s why she could be a credible candidate whenever she decides to get in.
ROLLINS: I do think she ends up being very much like Fred Thompson the last time. She has all the attention. She‘s got the movie star quality, but it doesn‘t go very far.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s take a look at this. “The Washington Post”/ABC News poll just out, found 64 percent of registered voters overall and 40 percent of registered Republicans said they would definitely not vote for Palin in 2012.
HEILEMANN: Well, you asked—the earlier question is whether she‘s going to run as opposed to whether she can win. But even in that instance, you know, depending on how this field works out and what splits are, you know, Chris you made this argument before. Sarah Palin could get in. And Michele Bachmann will make it harder for her to get that.
MATTHEWS: I always thought Bachmann would run. And I think she‘ll run well.
HEILEMANN: It was important for Sarah Palin if she was going to have a path nomination, winning in Iowa was very important. And with Michele Bachmann there for a lot of reasons having to do with Michele Bachmann‘s ability to raise money, being from Iowa, having the connection with social conservatives and Tea Party activists, that will make Palin—that will make it harder for her to win the nomination.
MATTHEWS: We dug (ph) up it. Here is Palin on Sunday talking about Bachmann, the very point we‘re making. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Is there room in the race for the two of you or would you split the same base of voters?
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: No, we have differences, too. I have many years of executive experience, too, and she has her strengths that she will add to the race. But no, yes, there‘s certainly room. The more, the merrier. More competition, the better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, if Bachmann has to win in Iowa, can she win?
ROLLINS: She can go the same footprint that Huckabee won last time.
MATTHEWS: OK, (INAUDIBLE) of your candidate, she is what she is.
ROLLINS: She is what she is.
MATTHEWS: I‘m absolutely convinced. Whenever disagree with Bachmann on this show, I disagree with her on a lot of things, she is Michele Bachmann. I don‘t know who Mitt Romney is this week.
MATTHEWS: I think it changes. And you can‘t say that, can you?
HEILEMANN: Ask Ed whether if she can win—if Sarah Palin gets in, can she still win in Iowa?
ROLLINS: It gets hard. I think at the end of the day, people are going to—it‘s not going to be a split vote. People are going to watch. You know, we got several months before the Iowa caucuses. They‘re going to watch and make choices.
MATTHEWS: Let me just explain (ph). This isn‘t “MORNING JOE” tag team you get to ask questions, you get to answer. And you still aren‘t answering questions. Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president?
HEILEMANN: I think Sarah Palin has some significant substantive deficiencies.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You snagged out (ph) the interview.
Thank you, Ed Rollins and John Heilemann.
ROLLINS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Because you won‘t understand what you just said.
Up next, 10 years since the Bush tax cuts. Conservatives said they would actually increase revenues.
Boy, remember the old Reagan line? He cut taxes and more money comes in. It‘s magic. It‘s loafs and fishes. No, it ain‘t. You‘re going to see.
We‘re coming back on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We just saw my new poll that has Mitt Romney edging out President Obama. Well, here‘s the number the White House can take some comfort in. Back in 1995, a “Newsweek” poll found Bob Dole leading then-President Clinton by—catch this -- 49 to 40. I think the actual results were the opposite and went on, of course, to win reelection the following year by eight points.
We‘ll be right back -- 49-41.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
Ten years ago today, President George W. Bush signed his historic tax cuts. Today, the U.S. faces a mounting national debt, $2.6 trillion of which are from those Bush taxes enacted 10 years ago, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Democrats are looking at millionaires and billionaires to shoulder the burden and pay higher taxes once the tax cuts expire next year.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky is a Democrat from Illinois.
Let me ask you about this, Congresswoman -- $2.6 trillion added to the national debt according to these groups, a couple of them, by the way, including the joint economic committee. Would we be better off without the Bush tax cuts, never been enacted, period?
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: You mean for middle income as well as for upper income?
MATTHEWS: No, for all, over all. If we had to choose between no tax cuts at all or what we got, would we be better off with not having passed that 10 years ago?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, we may be better off. But, certainly, the bulk of the tax cuts went to the wealthiest Americans and created the biggest gap in income between the very rich and everyone else that we‘ve seen since 1928. So—but you may be right, but certainly --
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking. I don‘t know. I‘m asking still, I‘ll ask you one more time. Would we be better off without having passed the Bush tax cuts?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, I think the tax cuts for mild income people are appropriate and the bulk of the tax cuts should be repealed.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the future. Do you think that the president, when he gets in these negotiations with Joe Biden, the vice president, et al, is this on the table? Is Medicare on the table? Is everything on the table? Or not?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, John Boehner said that no revenues are on the table at all. And, of course, we know that Medicare is on the table, both the Republicans in the House and the Senate overwhelmingly. Only four Republicans in the House didn‘t vote for it. This is the way they want to solve the debt and the deficit problem.
SCHAKOWSKY: While 81 percent of Americans say tax millionaires and billionaires.
MATTHEWS: So, what is it—the last time we had this fight, Congresswoman, we had a proposal by the Democrats to begin to take back the tax cuts for people who make over $250,000 a year, $250,000.
MATTHEWS: And now, you‘re moving that up to $1 million, it seems.
Why are you moving it up to $1 million as the cut line?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, actually, I support the president‘s proposal at $250,000. But, in addition --
SCHAKOWSKY: -- I‘m creating new tax cuts in my Fairness and Taxation Act that start at $1 million earners per year, 45 percent would be their new tax rate, ratcheting up to people who earned in one year, and they do, $1 billion, and that would be a 49 percent tax rate—and that‘s lower than during the Reagan years.
So, I‘m giving them a bargain and yet asking them to pay their fair share.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe the president agrees with you?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, I don‘t know what he thinks is possible, but I certainly think that he does agree that the very richest people—and he said it in his speech at G.W. last moment—
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
SCHAKOWSKY: -- when he said he believes that rich people actually believe in this country and believe that paying their fair share of taxes is the right thing. I had a millionaire at my press conference this morning who said he doesn‘t think it‘s moral for him to have his taxes low while seniors are being asked to pay more for Medicare.
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re on the popular side of this issue.
Let me ask you this sticky business with your colleague, Weiner—
Anthony Weiner. Should he leave the caucus? Should he leave the Congress?
Or is this going to go on and on and on?
Are you comfortable with him deciding to stay in Congress as long as he can? Or should he leave?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, you know, you know, Anthony Weiner is my friend and I think he is a great congressman. I know that Nancy Pelosi, and I think correctly, asked for an investigation to see if any of the resources of Congress --
MATTHEWS: Yes, but that doesn‘t prove anything against him, should he
if that doesn‘t prove he broke any ethics laws, should he stay?
SCHAKOWSKY: H said he wants to stay and let the people of his district decide. I think fair enough. But I‘m not sure that the pressure, you know, if the pressure mounts anymore that that‘s going to be possible. But I understand where he‘s coming from. Put it to the voters in that district.
MATTHEWS: So, it‘s not up to the House?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, it is up to the House, I think. And --
MATTHEWS: Well, you just said it is up to the voters of his district. Which is it? Is it up to the House or is it up to the voters in his district, which is it?
SCHAKOWSKY: If he violated—if he violated rules in the House, that‘s a different matter. If he didn‘t, I think it is up to the voters of the—his district.
MATTHEWS: OK. I know where you stand. Thank you very much for coming on HARDBALL, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.
SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: When we return, “Let Me Finish” with why Sarah Palin wants to—well, she wants you to hate government. This is what it‘s about. This is not about making better government. It‘s not about liking the government, treating it as the British back in the colonial period.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight—“Let Me Finish” tonight with Sarah Palin‘s midnight ride with American history.
I have a theory about this person. I don‘t think she‘s at all interested in American history. If she were, she would know more of it. What she wants is bad news about America.
What excites her isn‘t politics, the debate of one side against the other, Republicans versus Democrats, liberals versus conservatives. What she wants, as I said, is bad news about America.
What excites her is not the chance to participate or lead in government. She quit government, dump it really. She had other interests.
No, Palin is out to cause trouble. She wants people to be mad at politicians, mad at government, mad at the people who report on government. She wants unhappiness with politics and government that dominate the airwaves, dominate the conversation, dominate the country‘s mood.
She wants us to think about government the way the early colonists thought about the British back in England. She wants us to arm ourselves that we can fight the red coats. She wants us to live in a state of relentless simmering rebellion—every angry, ever distrustful, ever detesting the people we‘ve elected to run the government, the people who cover the people in government.
She wants us to believe toward the government the way angry middle-aged bikers look at government—as the enemy.
This is why the 2012 election is not about who will lead us, but whether we are ready to vote against the belief that we are governing ourselves. What a negative self-defeating proposition she makes—what a strange reason for remaining in public life.
She gets the history wrong because she gets the United States wrong. We are self-governing country and the people who matter are the ones who help us do it—not the ones who attack, but do not lead.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
CENK UYGUR, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everybody. I‘m Cenk Uygur.
Have I missed anything while I was gone? Oh, we had a bit of a Weiner scandal, did we? Fascinating.
Well, here‘s what I think of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: It is a shame! A shame!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Nonetheless, my new defense of Anthony Weiner‘s career is our lead story tonight.
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