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updated 7/20/2011 11:38:11 AM ET 2011-07-20T15:38:11

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Hampton Pearson, Martin Bashir, Joe Walsh, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, Robert Moore, Martin Sheen, Robert Russell

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Performance art.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in San Francisco.

Leading off tonight: “Cut, cap and balance” caper. It‘s been a huge day in the debate over the economy. First, in the next few hours, House Republicans will vote for something they call “cut, cap and balance.”
This is performance art, of course, the stuff you see on sidewalks on the weekends. They‘re miming, pretending to be doing something, you know, like bumping into walls that aren‘t there. The Republican plan has no specifics on what to be cut. He (ph) calls for a cut to just below 20 percent of GDP by 2021, 10 years from now, and demands a two thirds vote in both houses to back a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. It has no chance whatever of being a bipartisan deal.
Second, President Obama announced this afternoon to (ph) the “gang of six” and said it‘s come up with a plan of spending cuts, changes to Medicare and Medicaid, and taxes. At the top of the show, we‘ll talk to a Tea Party Republican who says no to taxes, and don‘t worry about default spiking interest rates or an American downgrade.
Plus, how‘s all this playing politically? Our new poll shows the public is taking sides in this Democrat versus Republican fight.
Also, what a day it‘s been for Parliament‘s investigation into the Murdoch scandal. At one point, as Rupert Murdoch was explaining that he knew little of the phone hacking and didn‘t try to cover it up, a man tried to hit him with a plate full of shaving cream. Murdoch‘s wife, there in the pink, came to his defense and he was unhurt.
And Texas representative Louis Gohmert, a man who believes President Obama isn‘t really an American, has come up with an epically irrational explanation of why the August 2nd debt ceiling deadline isn‘t really a deadline.
Finally, “Let Me Finish” with the performance art of the Republican House.
We start with the debate over the economy right now. U.S. Congressman Joe Walsh is a Republican from Illinois.
Sir, I want you to go through a couple of the details of the bill you‘re voting on this evening. I read through the text today. Here‘s what I learned. The plan doesn‘t say what exactly has to be cut, but it has a special exemption for war on terrorism spending. The cap reduces spending of the federal government to 19.9 percent by the year 2021, 10 years from now. And both the House and the Senate would need a two thirds vote on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, and then it would go to the states to ratify. And if the House and Senate both did not get that two thirds vote, the debt ceiling could not be raised.
Let me ask you the most fundamental question, most people, I think will ask after hearing what I just said. Your side, led by Grover Norquist, has criticized the president for not calling for specific budget cuts. Why does the bill you‘re voting on today not mention any specific cut?
REP. JOE WALSH ®, ILLINOIS: Hey, Chris, let me just correct you. I‘m not an artist, so this isn‘t performance art. And Grover Norquist, great guy, isn‘t leading my side, all right?
MATTHEWS: Oh, he isn‘t? OK.
WALSH: No, he‘s not, Chris.
MATTHEWS: He thinks he is. Go ahead.
WALSH: He‘s not—well, he may think so, but he‘s not, all right?
And you know better than that. Look—
MATTHEWS: Did you sign his petition?
WALSH: -- we are passing—I‘ve signed—
MATTHEWS: Did you sign his petition?
WALSH: Yes. I‘ve signed—
MATTHEWS: Why?
WALSH: -- a number of petitions, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Why his?
WALSH: Because I do not want to increase taxes and I won‘t increase taxes. Hey, Chris, let me answer your first question.
MATTHEWS: Who wrote his petition?
WALSH: Hey, Chris—
MATTHEWS: You didn‘t write it. He did.
WALSH: Hey, Chris—
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
WALSH: Hey Chris, let me answer your first question. Let‘s try there, my friend, all right? Yes, the House is going to do something historic tonight. We will for the first time pass a plan out of the House. Now, you may not like this, but this is a plan that‘s going—
MATTHEWS: There‘s no plan there.
WALSH: This is a plan that‘s going to pass—
MATTHEWS: It‘s not a plan.
WALSH: -- out of the House—
MATTHEWS: It‘s not a plan.
WALSH: -- and the key aspect, Chris—the key aspect of this plan is the balanced budget amendment, forcing members of Congress to balance their books every year. Yes, there‘ll be some flexibility with the cuts when this goes over to the Senate, and there may very well be some negotiation and flexibility on the caps. But look, I‘m a freshman who came here to change the way this town does business.
MATTHEWS: Right.
WALSH: And we‘re going to do that by structurally, Chris, reforming spending.
MATTHEWS: OK. You signed Grover Norquist‘s petition. He says there should be specificity in the cuts. Why does your bill you‘re talking about today—you‘re saying it‘s a plan—have no plan for cuts?
WALSH: It calls—
MATTHEWS: Where are the cuts?
WALSH: It calls for—
MATTHEWS: It doesn‘t have any cuts. I‘ve got the bill right here.
It‘s not in here.
WALSH: Hey, Chris, it calls for $11 billion in cuts. But again, my friend, I also signed a pledge that said I will not raise—and by the way, this wasn‘t Grover‘s pledge.
MATTHEWS: But why don‘t you answer my question?
WALSH: Hey, Chris, let me answer your question.
MATTHEWS: OK, where are the cuts?
WALSH: I also signed—hey, Chris, I also signed a pledge that said I‘m not going to vote to raise the debt ceiling unless we pass a balanced budget amendment.
MATTHEWS: I know.
WALSH: That is—that, Chris—I know you want to get away from this—that‘s the key aspect of this plan. And unlike you, I‘m pretty optimistic. I think we‘ve got a great chance, a great chance to pass a balanced budget amendment, Chris, out of both the House and the Senate this year and send it to the states.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me just ask you three questions. The bill you‘re going to vote—you‘re going to vote for this bill today, right?
WALSH: Try one at a time, Chris.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: I can‘t get the first answer.
WALSH: Yes, I‘m going to vote—
MATTHEWS: Will you tell me why it doesn‘t name the cuts?
WALSH: -- for this bill.
MATTHEWS: Why doesn‘t it name the cuts?
WALSH: It calls for $111 billion in cuts, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Where?
WALSH: And again, in the bill, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Where are the cuts?
WALSH: In the bill. In non-defense discretionary spending.
MATTHEWS: What‘s that?
WALSH: It‘s $111 billion. Chris, you know what that is! Again, you want to harp on this. I‘m telling you for the first time—where‘s the president‘s plan, Chris Matthews?
MATTHEWS: Right. That‘s a great question.
WALSH: Where‘s the Democrats‘ plan?
MATTHEWS: Right.
WALSH: No! But wait a minute!
MATTHEWS: You‘ve criticized the president for not having a plan, and you don‘t have one. I‘m looking at your document. Have you read it?
WALSH: I‘ll criticize the president for not having a plan. He‘s not serious and he‘s playing politics.
MATTHEWS: OK—
WALSH: For the first time in this town, Chris, the House is going to pass a serious plan to get spending in this town under control! And you want to ignore the most important piece of that, which is a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. And I got to tell you something. The American people are beyond you on this—
MATTHEWS: OK—
WALSH: -- and they‘re beyond the president.
MATTHEWS: OK, let—
WALSH: They want us to do something dramatic.
MATTHEWS: OK. Your bill doesn‘t specify cuts. It calls in 10 years for reduction in government spending to 19.9 percent of the economy. Are you happy with that number, that would reduce it to, basically, $3 trillion from $3.75? It really doesn‘t change it much. But my point to you is, do you really think you‘re going to get two thirds vote in the House for a balanced budget amendment, a two thirds vote?
WALSH: Hey, Chris, the fiscal situation now—this president—
MATTHEWS: Will you get a—you said you‘re going get a two thirds vote.
WALSH: Yes. Yes! Is so severe that we have a great chance this year to pass this out of the House. Look, 80 percent of the American people believe in a balanced budget amendment. Most states have to live according to one.
MATTHEWS: Right.
WALSH: All households do. This is something Americans understand.
MATTHEWS: Well, OK—
WALSH: And I‘m telling you, all these Democrats, Chris, that have not put forth a plan or a budget, they are going to have to sign on, as well.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK, just to repeat what‘s obvious to everybody watching. Your plan does not have any cuts in it. It doesn‘t explain—
WALSH: Hey, Chris, what‘s—
MATTHEWS: -- where the cuts are.
WALSH: -- the president‘s plan? Hey, Chris, explain—
MATTHEWS: That‘s not the point.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: I pointed out that your party has said—
WALSH: No, it‘s not.
MATTHEWS: -- the president doesn‘t have a plan. Your plan doesn‘t have any cuts in it.
WALSH: Hey, Chris—
MATTHEWS: Would you explain that to me?
WALSH: Your president, who sends a tingle up your legs—
MATTHEWS: He‘s our president, first of all.
WALSH: -- has—your president—
MATTHEWS: Here we go.
(CROSSTALK)
WALSH: -- serious in six months.
MATTHEWS: OK—
WALSH: Why do you ignore that, Chris?
MATTHEWS: OK, I think—
WALSH: Why do you ignore that?
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s our president.
WALSH: He is our president. Our president—
MATTHEWS: And most of all, “tingle” is your word. So let‘s go on.
WALSH: He doesn‘t—
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go on—
WALSH: He doesn‘t send a thrill up my leg, Chris, all right?
MATTHEWS: OK.
WALSH: And has not been serious about this debt crisis.
MATTHEWS: OK—
WALSH: And why don‘t you jump on that?
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about the word “lying.” You‘ve accused our president—you‘ve said he‘s my president—accused him of lying. Do you—
WALSH: Our president.
MATTHEWS: Do you like the word “lying”?
WALSH: When he speaks a mistruth, Chris, and he‘s not truthful, he‘s lying. And when he says on August 3rd that the lights in the country are going to turn out—
MATTHEWS: Right. OK.
WALSH: -- and he doesn‘t know if he can guarantee Social Security checks, he‘s lying because he‘s—knows that‘s not the case, and he, Chris, has the discretion to make those payments.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me just ask you this. If we hold up this process so that you can have your balanced budget amendment today and you can go through all measures you‘re not going to pass the Senate—
WALSH: Oh, I think they will.
MATTHEWS: -- and waste a lot of time on this—two thirds of the Senate‘s going to vote for a balanced budget amendment? Two thirds?
WALSH: Chris, we have a historic chance—
MATTHEWS: OK.
WALSH: -- to get this done. And don‘t talk about wasting time with me! What has his president done for six months?
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you—
WALSH: Come on, Chris!
MATTHEWS: -- August 2nd—let me ask you this. If we do have spiking interest rates, if we do have a drop—a downgrade of our bond rating in this country, and we do have a financial crisis because we haven‘t done this on time, which you say is not important, will you resign?
WALSH: August 2nd‘s not important, Chris. Solving this debt crisis is important. And if we—
MATTHEWS: If we have a crisis—
WALSH: Chris—
MATTHEWS: -- in August, will you resign?
WALSH: Chris—hey, Chris, will you resign? Will you leave your show?
MATTHEWS: I don‘t hold public office.
WALSH: Chris, what kind of a silly question is that.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t have fiduciary—you know what? Because you‘re saying it doesn‘t matter.
WALSH: Hey, Chris—
MATTHEWS: Because the silliness is on the part—
WALSH: -- that crisis will grow.
MATTHEWS: -- of those who say—
WALSH: The silliness is on—
MATTHEWS: -- we don‘t have to act.
WALSH: -- the questions you‘re asking me. If we raise this debt ceiling without real spending reform, Chris, that‘s when the markets are going to react negatively. We have got to change the way this town does business.
MATTHEWS: OK.
WALSH: I know you don‘t acknowledge that, but we have to, and we have a great chance to do it.
MATTHEWS: One last question. Are you concerned that this is going go on through August and we‘re not going to get this done quickly? Are you concerned about that?
WALSH: Chris, my biggest concern is that—
MATTHEWS: OK.
WALSH: -- every single day, we‘re placing trillions of dollars of debt on the backs of your kids and my kids!
MATTHEWS: Right.
WALSH: We have to stop that, Chris. Come on!
MATTHEWS: What‘s the size of the U.S. economy right now, sir?
WALSH: We -- $3.7 trillion this year.
MATTHEWS: What is the size of the U.S. economy?
WALSH: It‘s—hey, Chris, let me ask you a question. Why are you—
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking what‘s the size of the U.S. economy?
WALSH: Chris, why are you asking a question like that? Why?
MATTHEWS: Because I thought you might know the answer.
WALSH: And let me ask you this. What‘s the president‘s plan?
(CROSSTALK)
WALSH: Let me hear it.
MATTHEWS: The president‘s plan is to sign a debt ceiling bill before August 2nd, which you say is not important.
WALSH: What will that debt—what is his plan?
MATTHEWS: What that will do is avoid default and avoid a crisis in the world, which everyone recognizes who understands the situation.
WALSH: Hey, Chris—
MATTHEWS: You challenge that, and that‘s your right. You‘re a congressman.
WALSH: Chris—
MATTHEWS: Therefore, I think you should think about your responsibilities.
WALSH: Hey, Chris—Chris, how serious a job has he done with government spending?
MATTHEWS: Sir, this is—
WALSH: Are you happy with—
MATTHEWS: I want to see both sides look at government spending. He has proposed—
WALSH: Chris, are you happy with the job he‘s done?
MATTHEWS: And today he supports the “gang of six” with—
(CROSSTALK)
WALSH: Today he supports.
MATTHEWS: -- $4 trillion debt reduction. You oppose it.
WALSH: What did he support?
MATTHEWS: You have said you will do everything—
WALSH: What did he support—
MATTHEWS: -- you can to stop that.
WALSH: -- during the Speaker of the House?
MATTHEWS: You, sir—
WALSH: Did he support—
MATTHEWS: -- are playing brinksmanship here.
WALSH: -- his own commission, Chris? Chris, did he support his own debt commission?
MATTHEWS: Did you?
WALSH: Did he—no. Did he mention debt—
MATTHEWS: OK, well, let‘s stop the absurdities.
WALSH: -- in his State of the Union?
MATTHEWS: -- sir.
WALSH: Come on!
MATTHEWS: Every time you make a challenge to him—
WALSH: No!
MATTHEWS: -- I ask you, do you have specific cuts—
WALSH: Hey, Chris—
MATTHEWS: -- No.
WALSH: This is what you do on your show.
MATTHEWS: What‘s that?
WALSH: This is what—you bully—you know what you do, you bully guests. Answer me a question. Did the president ignore the debt situation in his State of the Union address?
MATTHEWS: The president and the debt—
WALSH: Why did his—
MATTHEWS: We have seen this issue coming, sir—
WALSH: Chris—
MATTHEWS: -- and you‘ve seen it and planned for this kind of—
WALSH: What kind of budget—
MATTHEWS: -- obstructionism from the beginning. You guys have been organizing yourselves—
WALSH: Oh, got (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: No—organizing yourselves to bring this to a crisis, and you‘ve succeeded, sir.
WALSH: Hey, Chris—
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking you—
WALSH: Hey, Chris—
MATTHEWS: -- will you play by the rules—
WALSH: Actually—
MATTHEWS: -- and quit if you‘re wrong?
WALSH: Here‘s how out of touch you are. You said Grover Norquist is my boss—
MATTHEWS: Well, I think he is.
WALSH: -- to start the show. Oh, come on! How silly is that?
MATTHEWS: He wrote the petition—
WALSH: Let me ask you a question—
MATTHEWS: -- you signed it the way he told you to, verbatim.
WALSH: Chris, I signed—
MATTHEWS: You did what he told you to do.
WALSH: Chris, I‘ve signed a number of petitions.
MATTHEWS: Why?
WALSH: Why did the Senate vote 97 to nothing, Chris, 97 to nothing against the president‘s budget? Why?
MATTHEWS: Sir—
WALSH: Why? Why?
MATTHEWS: -- you signed—
WALSH: Why?
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking—well, we‘re not getting anywhere. This is childish. Sir, I‘ve asked you why your budget proposal—
WALSH: And this, Chris—
(CROSSTALK)
WALSH: This is why a lot of people don‘t come on your show because it tends to get childish. You don‘t let people answer, my friend. Look, the House is going to do something historic tonight.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, well—
WALSH: You may not like it, but let‘s see how this plays out. And I think there‘s a fighting chance this year to pass a balanced budget amendment out of both houses.
MATTHEWS: You know—
WALSH: By way, do you support that, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Let me just ask you—
WALSH: Do you support—
MATTHEWS: Sir, you started this conversation. You called the president of the United States a liar. Then you said he‘s my president—
WALSH: No, I said he‘s lied.
MATTHEWS: -- not yours.
WALSH: I said he‘s lied, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, well—
WALSH: Our president has lied.
MATTHEWS: OK, your pal, Joe Wilson, says he‘s a liar. You say he‘s lying. You‘re all in the same game. I think it‘s bad, the behavior—
WALSH: We‘re all in the same game. You know, you—
MATTHEWS: Yes.
WALSH: Before you got so caught up—
MATTHEWS: Yes. You‘ve got to improve your language a little bit, sir
--

WALSH: -- in this president—no—
MATTHEWS: -- and we‘ll be better off.
WALSH: You need to be—
MATTHEWS: But please come back on the show.
WALSH: You need to be more objective—
MATTHEWS: I appreciate you coming on.
WALSH: -- but I love it, Chris. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thanks for coming on, sir. Congressman Joe Walsh.
WALSH: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Good news for the president. A majority of the public‘s behind him in the debt ceiling fight, believe it or not. We‘ve got the numbers from a new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS: Not so fast, says Texas governor Rick Perry. One day after saying that he was comfortable that a presidential campaign is what he has been called to do, he‘s now walking it back a bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS: There‘s a lot of different ways to be called. My mother may call me for dinner. You know, my friends may call me for something. There are people calling from all across this country in to either me directly or people that they know, and saying, man, we wish you would consider doing this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, look for Perry‘s real answer about a presidential run in the next two or three weeks.
We‘ll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
We‘ve got a new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll and hot numbers on the debt ceiling fight. And the numbers look good for the president on whether the Congress should raise the debt ceiling. Thirty-eight say Congress should it, thirty-one say Congress shouldn‘t. Thirty say don‘t know enough to make a judgment. Well, there‘s a smart person.
But in April, only 16 percent said Congress should raise the debt ceiling, 46 say Congress should not. So things are moving in a definite direction now for the president. He‘s educating the country on the importance of getting this thing done by early August.
Let‘s take a look at this. Fifty-eight percent support President Obama‘s grand plan to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade by basically cutting government spending, but also increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy and cutting the level of spending on things—boy, these are tough—Medicare. Just 36 percent, by the way, support the president‘s proposal which would cut the deficit by $2.5 trillion over the next decade. Republicans, by the way, by cutting (INAUDIBLE) and would not raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
And finally, who would get the blame if the debt limit is not raised? Thirty-five percent say President Obama would get the blame and the Democrats and Congress together. Thirty-nine percent say the Republicans in Congress. So that is one close call. Seventeen percent say both the president and his critics.
Here to break it down, we‘ve got the strategists, Democrat Steve McMahon and Republican Todd Harris. Todd, since you‘re laughing so heartily, I have to believe you‘re laughing at something. It beats me what it is. We just had a little kerfuffle there with the congressman.
What do you make of this Republican strategy to, basically, pass a bill today that has no specificity in it, somewhere down the road cap the spending down to about 20 percent of GDP, and then try to get this two thirds vote for a constitutional amendment in the heat of battle? Your thoughts about that?
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I like the plan that Congressman—the House is going to pass today. I liked Senator Coburn‘s plan. I liked Congressman Ryan‘s plan.
The point is, Republicans time after time are actually introducing plans. And I agree with Congressman Walsh entirely. The president—there is no piece of paper, no document that exists anywhere that says President Obama‘s plan to fight the debt, to reduce the debt and curb spending—it doesn‘t exist. He barely even mentioned the debt in his State of the Union. For six months he was AWOL in the discussions, and now is—and now he‘s talking about, Oh, it‘s Armageddon.
(CROSSTALK)
HARRIS: Hold on.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve got your bill here. It‘s got no cuts in it. All this talk about your vainglorious greatness—
HARRIS: Oh, oh! Chris! Chris!
MATTHEWS: -- about naming cuts, there‘s no cuts in here.
HARRIS: Chris, the Ryan plan, the Coburn plan, individual—
MATTHEWS: No, the cuts that you‘re voting on today has no—
HARRIS: Who cares about the—
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: Steve, help him out here. He‘s just bragging about something that has nothing on it.
HARRIS: No. This is absurd.
MATTHEWS: There‘s nothing on this paper.
HARRIS: Where is the president‘s plan? Where is --
(CROSSTALK)
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Todd, can I answer your question?
HARRIS: Yes. Where—where is it?
MCMAHON: So, let me—let me just explain to this Todd, because he‘s apparently been away from the news lately.
The vice president of the United States had Republican members of Congress, the leadership up at the vice president‘s mansion at the White House repeatedly over the last several months to try to do a deal that was outlined in the NBC poll that 58 percent of the public supports, that would close the deficit or cut spending by $4 trillion, including doing things that the president and Democrats don‘t want to do on Medicare and Medicaid.
And it would be a balanced plan that would take something from the wealthiest Americans and from corporations. And the Republicans said no. They walked away from the table. And now they have their bumper sticker that they‘re going to pass in the House of Representatives tonight, Chris. And you‘re absolutely right. They are going to send it over to the Senate.
It‘s not going to get two-thirds votes. They know that.
And in the meantime, we‘re going to be another week closer to America defaulting and going off the ledge, the debt—our debt rating being called into question, interest rates rising, and the American people are going to pay the price. And it‘s really just for the gamesmanship and showmanship of the Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives, because John Boehner wants a deal.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s watch John Boehner. Here‘s his description. You follow this up, Todd. Here‘s John Boehner‘s description what they‘re doing today. I think he‘s overstating the reality of this. It‘s the cut, cap and balance plan, which has no plan in it if you actually read it. But let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This will week, the House will pass a plan that addresses our debt in spending while taking action on the debt ceiling.
And while the House once again acts responsibly, the administration still won‘t present a plan or even say what cuts it‘s willing to make to end Washington‘s spending binge and the economic uncertainty that it‘s creating.
This unfortunate veto threat should make clear that the issue is not congressional inaction, but rather the president‘s unwillingness to cut spending and restrain the future growth of our government.
(END VIDEOTAPE)
MATTHEWS: You know, I‘m reminded of Tokyo Rose, here played by John Boehner, and Tojo as played by Eric Cantor. Is he reading something that Cantor wrote for him or what? He is about as excited about that, Todd Harris, as a POW is.
Your thoughts.
HARRIS: Well, I think he is—
MATTHEWS: Did you see it?
HARRIS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: It looks like he had a knife in his back. But go ahead.
(CROSSTALK)
HARRIS: Well, I think he wants to get something done.
(CROSSTALK)
HARRIS: I think he wants to get something done that‘s going to actually help solve the debt problem.
I would give your arguments today, Chris, a whole lot more credence and credibility if for the past six months you had been pounding on the president, saying, where is your plan? Where is the leadership out of this White House to guide the country out of the debt mess that we are in?
The fact is, the president outsourced this entire thing to the vice president. The president barely—
MCMAHON: Who had a plan, presented a plan.
(CROSSTALK)
HARRIS: There was no plan. They supposedly—supposedly behind closed doors, they said OK and, yes, there are some things that we will put on the table.
MCMAHON: Well, that‘s a plan on the table.
HARRIS: No, that‘s not a plan.
(CROSSTALK)
MCMAHON: How did they get to $4 trillion? They somehow added it up -
-

(CROSSTALK)
HARRIS: There‘s nothing that can be scored. All the president does is give speeches.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: Nobody wants to cut spending. Nobody wants to cut spending, Todd. And you know it.
I‘m looking at this right now, the plan that you‘re voting on tonight. And it‘s very important we talk about what‘s happening today. You‘re passing a bill. And you know it. It doesn‘t have anything in there about Medicare or any of Ryan plan stuff. All this is, is a cheap thing to say you‘re going to cut discretionary spending.
And it does not even say what the actual spending is. This is bogus. It‘s an empty piece of paper. And you‘re bragging about this thing? This big cut, cap and balance has nothing in it. And I was amazed. I had a hunch it wouldn‘t be there. I got copy of it. And I actually did something nobody is doing in your House, in the Republican side, reading it.
There are no cuts here. Where are the cuts? It doesn‘t say anything.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. I‘m sorry. Your turn.
HARRIS: Senator Coburn—Senator Coburn—Senator Coburn introduced a plan that was extraordinarily detailed.
MCMAHON: It‘s not the Coburn plan, Todd. It‘s the bumper sticker that‘s being voted on tonight.
(CROSSTALK)
HARRIS: The House has plan. Coburn has a plan.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: Why do you keep saying that? Have you read this, Todd?
Have you read it? Have you read it?
(CROSSTALK)
HARRIS: No, I haven‘t read it.
MATTHEWS: Well, how do you know you‘re saying there‘s something in here, and I can‘t—I‘m reading it right now. I can‘t see it. Where is it?
HARRIS: At least you‘re holding on to something. You know what? This is the president‘s plan right here. This is it. Nothing. It‘s vapor. There is no plan, because there‘s no leadership, period.
(CROSSTALK)
MCMAHON: Todd, the president‘s plan outlines $4 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years.
HARRIS: There is no plan, Steve.
MCMAHON: And to the speaker‘s credit, that was a hostage video and he is being held hostage by the Tea Party Republicans. The speaker wants a big deal.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: Can we go? We‘re not getting anywhere.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to the outlet pass, as they say in football.
Here‘s the outlet pass.
Former President Bill Clinton has weighed in on the debt ceiling with an interview with The National Memo‘s Joe Conason. He writes—quote—
“Clinton says that he would invoke the so-called constitutional option to raise the nation‘s debt ceiling—quote -- ‘without hesitation and force the courts to stop me‘ in order to prevent a default.”
That‘s the nationalmemo.com.
Do you make a thought—you‘re close to President Clinton, Steve? Do you think that is really true, that he believes the president has the executive authority to pay the bills?
MCMAHON: Well, I think there are a lot of constitutional experts out there who believe the president does have the authority.
And I don‘t think this president is interested in pursuing that route because it doesn‘t really do anything but kick the can down the road. He wants the big deal. The speaker wants the big deal. And the Tea Party Republicans are holding it up.
I do think you‘re right, though, Chris, that the president—
President Clinton has thrown the outlet pass here, because Barack Obama can in the interests of avoiding the debt collapse and the calamity that could befall us on the 3rd of August—
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: OK, Todd, nonpartisan, is it better for the president if this thing comes to hell in early August, and nothing is happening, and the House leadership is saying no deal unless you give us our two-thirds balanced budget deal, we‘re not going with you? What‘s the president supposed to do at that point, when he‘s up against a hard place?
HARRIS: Well, if the question is, is it better politically for the president to send out letters that say, we‘re sorry we can‘t pay your Social Security, yes, that‘s going to aggregate better for the president.
I don‘t think that it‘s going—I certainly hope that it does not come to that, not just as a partisan, but as an American.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, what would you do if you were the
House leader right now and you wanted to end this deal with the best
possible—the old deal was, if you got the hot hand—and the
Republicans do on the spending issue. You guys are ahead on the spending.
issue
Most people say you‘re the party of less taxes and you would probably cut spending better. I think that‘s generally the assumption when people vote. So you get a 4-1 swap or even a 3.5-1 or a 5-1 swap. Whatever the swap is, why don‘t you take a really good deal, give the president some revenues as a face saver and say deal and move on?
That way, you have got $4 billion in cuts, maybe a billion in new revenues. Isn‘t that a better deal than holding up the government like this? Why don‘t you do it like that?
(CROSSTALK)
HARRIS: Two points. Number one, no one‘s opposed to increasing government revenue. The question is how you do it.
And if we‘re talking about reforming the tax code, lowering rates and then getting rid all of these ridiculous exemptions, I think the overwhelming majority of Republicans will sign on to that. If you don‘t do it that way, the problem is what history has shown is that every time we raise taxes, Washington just spends the money.
You know, anyone who thinks that we would raise taxes and then that money would automatically get applied to the debt hasn‘t spent much time looking at history.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: Well, the money has already been spent, unfortunately. We are running, what is it, a $2 trillion debt right now—anyway—deficit right now.
Thank you very much, Steve McMahon.
Thank you, Todd Harris.
We see the situation.
MCMAHON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: What does it say about the Republican presidential field when another group of party insiders is trying to recruit Chris Christie to run? They still don‘t like the list that is in front of us. They‘re still looking to this guy. Hasn‘t he said no enough already? Stick around for the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the “Sideshow.”
When the deadline for an agreement on the debt ceiling was set for August 2, most of us assumed—correctly, I might add—that this date was the result of projections made by the U.S. Treasury Department.
But wait. Another theory is on the horizon. Texas Representative Louie Gohmert has his own reasons for questioning the August 2 deadline. Why does he think the president wants to get the whole debt ceiling debate squared away on that day?
Listen to Mr. Gohmert.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS: I can‘t help but be a little cynical here, because, you know, we find out the president has a big birthday bash scheduled for August the 3rd, celebrities flying in from all over. And lo and behold, August 2 is the deadline for getting something done, so that he can have this massive, maybe the biggest fund-raising dinner in history for a birthday celebration.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Louie Gohmert is actually a birther. The fact is, he believes the president wasn‘t born in America. And suddenly now he‘s an expert on his birthday.
Up next, I guess Chris Christie wasn‘t able to get his message across the first few times he was asked about running for president. Let‘s listen to the variety of ways he‘s tried to answer the question: Are you running for president?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY: I‘m not running to president.
I don‘t want it that badly.
I‘m not ready.
Not going to happen.
I‘m going to just continue to sit back, do my job in New Jersey.
What do I have to do, short of suicide, to convince people I‘m not running?
(LAUGHTER)
CHRISTIE: My God, I‘m not running for president.
There is no chance, zero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it seems pretty adamant there to me.
But at least someone seems to think Christie could still be wooed. This time, it‘s the co-founder of Home Depot leading the charge. He treated Christie to an afternoon in Manhattan today, where he and other influential Republicans attempted to change Christie‘s mind about 2012.
Well, the solution for those who couldn‘t make it to the meeting, dial in via speakerphone, quite an effort there. But from we have seen so far, they weren‘t dealing with someone known to cave under pressure.
Coming up, Rupert Murdoch tells Britain‘s Parliament he knew nothing about that phone hacking scandal and never tried to cover it up. But the most dramatic moment of the day, a man tries to his Murdoch in the face with a shaving cream pie—the latest from London when we return.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
A huge rally today on strong corporate earnings and a bipartisan plan to lower the deficit, the Dow Jones industrials soaring 202 points, the S&P 500 jumping 21, the Nasdaq surging 61 points.
Coca-Cola, IBM, Wells Fargo, Harley-Davidson just a few of the big names moving higher today on better-than-expected quarterly earnings. But we also had Goldman Sachs falling far short of estimates on sharp drops in trading revenue. And Bank of America posting a loss, that $8.5 billion settlement with mortgage investors.
Gains accelerating after President Obama backed the gang of six proposal that would cut the deficit by more than $4 trillion. And two big tech names reporting after the closing bell. Yahoo! delivered mixed results a disappointing outlook, but we‘re running out of adjectives for Apple‘s earnings, blowout results again last quarter boosted by soaring sales of the iPad.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, no. Oh! Oh!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was the scene of course earlier today. It wasn‘t quite caught by the camera, but a protester interrupted Rupert and James Murdoch‘s testimony before Parliament, attempting to throw a pie in the face of the elder Murdoch.
For more, we turn to MSNBC‘s Martin Bashir, who is in London, and ITN senior Washington correspondent Robert Moore.
Martin, I guess that pie thing, would you tell me why they don‘t use real pie anymore, why they use shaving cream?
(LAUGHTER)
MATTHEWS: It seems like a nicer way to do it.
(CROSSTALK)
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: It might be, but it also means that it‘s easier to get in. You can get one of these minuscule shaving foam tins, and you can take a paper plate in.
And so it‘s slightly easier to get in through security. I guess that was why. It was an awful thing. And it really was embarrassing for the British Parliament, because I don‘t think anybody wanted that. They wanted to continue what was a fairly excruciating experience for Mr. Murdoch Sr. and Jr. But they didn‘t want it to be painful in anything other than the content that they were putting to him.
MATTHEWS: Right.
BASHIR: They didn‘t want that to happen.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s Rupert Murdoch‘s response when he was asked who was to blame—boy, that‘s the question—for the problems at “News of the World.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Murdoch, have you considered resigning?
RUPERT MURDOCH, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, NEWS CORPORATION: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not?
R. MURDOCH: Because I feel that people I trusted—I‘m not saying who—I don‘t know what level—but let me down, and I think they behaved disgracefully and betrayed the company and me. And it‘s for them to pay.
I think that, frankly, I‘m the best person to clean this up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask Robert about this.
Is that going to work? Is that going to be part of his confessional tour, if he doesn‘t confess? It seems like one of these classic apologies without a confession.
ROBERT MOORE, ITN REPORTER: Yes.
Look, I think this whole defense is pretty problematic. It‘s all very well somebody of sort of Murdoch‘s stature saying that, you know, he just didn‘t know what those on the “News of the World” were doing, that it only represents 1 percent of his global business.
But then it just raises questions about just how in charge he is, just how much in control of his organization he is, and whether he‘s fit to be the chief executive as well as chairman of News Corporation.
So, it‘s a defense I think that flies very far. Look, he survived today. I think most people in Britain would give him a sort of five, six out of 10.
But, realistically, it raises many questions. It will come up in investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, of course.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, again, my colleague, it seems like one of those medieval dunkings to see whether the guy is a witch or not. Or are we really going to—is this supposed to be cathartic enough and humiliating enough to the people and enough Schadenfreude to hear for people to say, OK, he‘s had what‘s coming to him and now it‘s sort of behind him and his troubles?
BASHIR: I don‘t any it is, Chris, because he—it was a pitiful and painful experience to see and octogenarian subjected to this kind of withering questioning, and, you know, he couldn‘t remember times, place, names. His son had to keep interjecting to save him and to help him.
But they all maintained a particular line, and that was that they didn‘t know anything. That they obfuscated when it came to payments and settlements, and they repeatedly blamed nameless individuals much lower down the food chain.
Is that really satisfactory, to people, for example, like the parents of a 13-year-old child who had been murdered, but whose cell phone had been hacked repeatedly by “News of the World” journalists so they could listen to messages that were being left on her phone? I don‘t think they‘re satisfied by that kind of answer at all.
I think a lot of people also are wondering, as Robert Moore was just saying, how was it possible for a man to be chairman and chief executive, and yet carry with him not a scintilla of corporate governance responsibility? He repeatedly says he doesn‘t know what‘s going on in his companies. Well, if he doesn‘t know what‘s going on in his companies, should he really be in a joint senior position over them?
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let‘s take a look at some of that testimony today. Here‘s Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, his son, and Rebekah Brooks all apologizing for “The News of the World‘s” behavior.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
RUPERT MURDOCH, NEWS CORP. CHAIRMAN & CEO: This is the most humble day of my career. The say I‘m sorry story is not enough. Things must be put right. No excuses.
JAMES MURDOCH, CHMN., NEWS CORP. EUROPE/ASIA: It‘s a matter of great regret of mine, my father‘s and everyone at News Corporation, and these are standards—these actions do not live up to the standards that our company aspires to everywhere around the world. And it is our determination to both put things right, make sure these things don‘t happen again.
REBEKAH BROOKS, FORMER NEWS CORP. CEO: I would like to add my own personal apologies and to the apologies that James and Rupert Murdoch made today. Clearly, what happened at “The News of the World” and certainly the allegations of voice intercepts, voicemail intercepts of pictures of crime, is pretty horrific and abhorrent.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MATTHEWS: As I said, Robert, it‘s an apology without a confession. What does that mean? We‘ve seen it in the States here so many times, mistake was made. We know exactly the way that the grammar that‘s used, in fact.
Here we have somewhat of an abject apology but absolutely no specificity to the confession, if there was one. I didn‘t hear one.
MOORE: Remember, This is a multilevel scandal. This doesn‘t just involve News Corporation. You know, tomorrow, there‘s going to be an emergency session of the House of Commons and the scandal is going to lap just a little bit closer to David Cameron on Downing Street, that big question continuing to haunt the British prime minister. Why on earth did he hire a former “News of the World” editor Andy Coulson as his chief spokesman?
I remember when that news broke—I was stunned that Andy Coulson was going into the heart of government.
So, that raises a big question about the judgment of David Cameron and then we‘ve got the whole question about the police accepting payments from “News of the World,” and News International journalists. So, almost every institution is involved in this scandal, multiple investigations are underway. It‘s going to be a very difficult few weeks and months ahead for all of them.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s Rupert Murdoch himself responding to questions about the time he spent with Britain‘s prime minister and how he went in the back door and why he did so. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you enter the back door of number 10 when you visited the prime minister from the last general election?
RUPERT MURDOCH: Because I was asked to, to avoid photographers in the front, I imagine. I don‘t know, I was asked. I just did what I was told.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Martin, did he save his job today?
BASHIR: No, he didn‘t. But let me tell you something else, Chris. Tony Blair‘s press secretary, Alastair Campbell, wrote in his own diaries that we got Rupert Murdoch through the back door. So, here was a chief of a media conglomerate, international conglomerate who was repeatedly going in through number 10 through the back door, regardless of the shade of the prime minister. He had enormous influence and power.
And it‘s very interesting to have seen what‘s happened in the last two week because until two weeks ago, Chris, every politician in this country was fawning over this man. They kissed his ring as it were, sought his patronage, they tried their level best not to stop him from growing his organization. Now, they‘re treating him like a man who‘s got virulent leprosy, because they know that what has happened at News International has been criminal. And they‘re fawning over this man has come to a tragic and catastrophic end.
MATTHEWS: Well, as Michael Kingsley once said, the best flattery is insincere flattery and this guy has had a lot of insincere flattery going his way for too long, perhaps. Anyway, the world‘s getting even.
Thank you, Martin Bashir. Thank you, Robert Moore, for staying with us on this one.
Up next: he played the president on “The West Wing.” And now, Martin Sheen is leading a different campaign. He‘s coming here next.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS: Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann says she suffers from migraine headaches, but they wouldn‘t interfere with her ability to serve as president. “The Daily Caller,” the blogger, is the first to report that Bachmann suffers from migraines, quoting anonymous former aides who said that her migraines could incapacitate her for days at a time.
We‘ll be right back after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
Drug courts have been used as an alternative to the criminal justice system for nonviolent offenders since 1989. But supporters say we need more of them.
Earlier I spoke with actor Martin Sheen, a big advocate for drug courts, along with the judge of the drug court up in Buffalo, New York, Robert Russell.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
MATTHEWS: Mr. Sheen, it‘s an honor to have you on. I think you‘ve done more to inspire people about American politics with “West Wing” than a lot of politicians have ever dreamed of doing. So, it‘s a great honor to have you on.
MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR & ACTIVIST: I‘m delighted.
MATTHEWS: I want to ask you—and you‘ve come one for a good cause. You‘re on to make money. You‘re not on to be an actor. You‘re going to talk about something you care about that I‘ve never heard about and that‘s drug courts.
Tell us about them.
SHEEN: Yes. Yes. Well, I‘ve been a supporter of drug court for nearly 20 years. And I had some very personal involvement in 1996 up in the Bay Area in Berkeley, as a matter of fact, where I was instrumental in beginning a program called Options founded by myself, Father Bill O‘Donnell, God bless him and Dr. David Coady, who is an addiction specialist.
We started this program mainly for homeless people, street people, in Berkeley. We got the support of Bobby Miller, the police chief of Berkeley, and Judge Carol Brosnihan (ph). And with this form, we started bringing people off the streets and bringing them back to their health.
We established in the beginning three sober living houses. We have six now, where 6,000 people have gone through the program. There are 105 beds available on any given night. It‘s a tremendous success.
And so it‘s something I‘m terribly proud of, all in large measure, thanks to drug court.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk to Judge Russell, you‘re the judge. And a lot of people go to jail for possession, of course, different kinds of drugs.
How is this program different in terms of what it does to the person who gets picked up, and also to society? How is it better to deal with the drug court approach than the regular criminal court?
JUDGE ROBERT RUSSELL, DRUG COURT, BUFFALO, NY: Thank you very much for having me on and asking that question. And having been a drug treatment court judge for the last 16 years and also doing mental health court and veterans treatment court, we realize in the justice system and in the criminal justice system that we can‘t continue to do the same thing over and over again and somehow believe that the results are going to be different.
We‘ve seen a tremendous increase in our prison population, and one way to address that is through drug treatment court. How does it differ? It differs by having someone engage in their treatment counseling program under strict judicial supervision.
What I mean by that is, they come back to court every two weeks in the court itself, we work on drug testing, we work on supervision, we work on getting that person clean and sober, that person becoming employed, and that person becoming a contributing member of society rather than taking away from society.
In addition, we reduce crime. Seventy-five percent of those who complete graduate from drug treatment courts around the country. They do not reoffend.
In addition, when I think about it now, we‘ve got close to 2,500 drug treatment courts across the United States, working hard each and every day to impact on the inappropriate behavior, get people clean, sober, reunited with their family, taking care of their children, and being productive in our communities.
MATTHEWS: Martin, I‘ve been close to this in our family. I‘ve got to tell you—what do you do to a kid, a good kid, who‘s at school, he‘s having trouble because he‘s on drugs? Maybe coke. And he‘s got bad guys trying to push it to him all the time.

Tell me how you deal with those situations in your—how do you keep the kid at 20 years old, in a bad crowd, that‘s pushing the stuff at him, and he‘s trying to get off of it. How does this help?
SHEEN: Well, if he‘s made contact with the law, if he‘s broken the law, he‘s going to land in somebody‘s courtroom and he‘s going to have to face the consequences for his behavior. I‘ll let Judge Russell take it from there.
MATTHEWS: OK, Judge, how do you save this kid and keep them away from the bad guys?
RUSSELL: I think what‘s important is what we work on in drug treatment court is not only having the person engage in treatment counseling program, but we work on relationships. We constantly talk about people, places and things, them not putting themselves in the company of certain people.
MATTHEWS: Yes.
RUSSELL: We work on having probation, community supervision, closely watching and monitoring the activities and behavior of that person. In addition, if the person are not doing the things that they‘re supposed to do, we work on behavior modification, consequences, sanctions, and in addition to incentives to help that person stay on track and do the things that they need to do to be productive, educated and move forward in their life rather than caught up in the criminal justice system.
MATTHEWS: Martin, how can people find out more?
SHEEN: Just go to www.allrise.org.
MATTHEWS: It‘s great to have you guys on. Judge Russell, thank you both for coming on HARDBALL.
RUSSELL: Thank you so much.
SHEEN: Thank you so much, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
(END VIDEOTAPE)
MATTHEWS: When we return, “Let Me Finish” with the street theater, the performance art of today‘s Republican Party.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with a bright picture we all know so well. You know when you‘re in the city on a weekend down near the art museum where the big downtown park, and there‘s this guy in a Marcel Marceau costume who‘s doing mime, you know, pretending that he‘s pushing up against the wall. You must have seen that one maybe too many times.
Well, that‘s what the Republicans in the House are doing this week, engaging in performance art, miming out there on the sidewalk, pretending like Marcel Marceau, to be pushing up against the wall. All that‘s missing are the clown costumes, unfortunately, although everybody knows what they‘re watching.
Performance art, street theater—a joke.
The Republican bill that went to the floor today has no specifics. It just deals with an overall spending cut numbers. No mention of what‘s to be targeted.
By the way, the cap proposal supposedly only cuts below 20 percent a decade from now. And the balanced budget amendment to the Constitution takes a two third vote in both houses which everyone on earth knows isn‘t going to be the basis for any bipartisan deal and isn‘t going to pass and isn‘t going to solve anything, in other words.
And anybody who believes that the balanced budget amendment would do us any good, even if it were a fact today, well, would anybody agree with the economy already weak that it would be smart right now to cut federal spending by $1 trillion? To cut from 25 percent of the GDP which we‘re spending now? Down to, say, 18 percent, when the balanced budget amendment would require?
So, I wonder what good all this street theater we‘re watching is going to accomplish, except perhaps waste one more week fiddling around, waiting for the fire to start.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Al Sharpton.


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