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updated 7/25/2011 3:15:19 PM ET 2011-07-25T19:15:19

Guest Host: Michael Smerconish
Guests: Michael Steele, Michael Isikoff, Hampton Pearson, Kelly O‘Donnell, Benjamin Cardin, Robert Moore, Lester Brown, Robert Engelman, Michael Bamberger

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Debt and taxes.
Let‘s play some HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Matthews.
Leading off tonight: Cliffhanger moment. One by one, the plans to avoid a debt crisis are going down, the Republican cut, cap and balance bill rejected by the Senate today, the McConnell-Reid fallback plan dead for now. So what‘s left? The Obama-Boehner bargain that would cut spending, and somehow, at some time, under some mechanism reform taxes. But Republicans don‘t like the tax increases, and Democrats are even angrier over the depth of the spending cuts. And now everybody‘s going home for the weekend as the clock ticks down.
Plus: Just when you thought it couldn‘t get any worse for the Murdochs, we learn that James Murdoch may have been less than truthful when he told Parliament he was not aware of how extensive the phone hacking was until recently. And now the U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether U.S. laws were broken.
Also, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, you don‘t need a weatherman to know that it‘s hot out there. How hot is it? So hot that we‘re going to ask tonight, is overpopulation partly responsible for global warming?
And caddy sacked. Few people closer than a golfer and his caddy, and Tiger Woods‘s firing of his caddy of 13 years is beginning to look like an ugly divorce. Matter of fact, the caddy has already said five words that must terrify Tiger and thrill his critics. Those words, “When I write my book.”
Finally, “Let Me Finish” with the end of an era in your neighborhood and mine.
We start, however, with the debt crisis. Senator Ben Cardin is a Democrat from Maryland. Senator, thank you for being here. You were with the president in your state today. Tell us the latest on the deal.
SEN. BENJAMIN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Michael, it‘s good to be with you. We got to pass the debt ceiling by August 2nd. And really, it‘s the Republicans in the House that are holding this up. And the president‘s working very hard with Speaker Boehner, trying to come together with an agreement. The bottom line is, look, we‘ve got to increase the debt ceiling. We can‘t jeopardize the credit of America. And quite frankly, we need a credible plan, a balanced plan, a comprehensive plan to get the deficit under control, and it needs to include revenues.
SMERCONISH: Is it clear to you, Senator, that the difficulty is on the GOP side of the aisle? I ask because here‘s the president with you this morning at a town hall in Maryland explaining the situation and who still needs convincing. He says what you‘ve just told us. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I‘m willing to sign a plan that includes tough choices I would not normally make, and there are a lot of Democrats and Republicans in Congress who I believe are willing to do the same thing. The only people we have left to convince are some folks in the House of Representatives.
In 2010 Americans chose a divided government, but they didn‘t choose a dysfunctional government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So he‘s making reference to the House, which I assume he means the GOP leadership in the House. Meanwhile, Speaker Boehner today was still playing politics with the president. He made some comments where he talked about the difficulty being with the president. Here he was on the House floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We‘ve done our job. The Democrats who run Washington have done nothing! They can‘t stop spending the American people‘s money. They won‘t, and they have refused! President Obama talks about being the adult in the room. Where‘s his plan to cut spending and to raise the debt limit? Listen, we‘re in the fourth quarter here. We‘re fighting for jobs. We‘re fighting for the country‘s future and we‘re fighting for the American people!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So Senator, where does the problem lie? Who poses the greater impediment to getting this deal done?
CARDIN: Well, let‘s go back and realize how we got here. It was the Republicans, the Republican administration. They used a credit card for two tax cuts, then went to war in two countries, used the credit card again, rather than paying the bill. Now the credit card‘s coming due, and the Republicans in the House don‘t want to live up to our obligations.
This isn‘t about more spending. This is about paying for what we already have incurred. We get it in the Senate. That‘s why the Democrats and Republicans have worked together. We could come up with a plan. We do have a plan. We want a comprehensive, balanced approach to deal with the deficit. But we‘re not going to be dictated by the Republicans in the House, who really are looking more towards a default than they are solving the problem.
SMERCONISH: Well, does the plan, as you understand it, sir, include tax increases?
CARDIN: It includes enhanced revenues. No one‘s talking about—
SMERCONISH: What does that mean?
CARDIN: No one‘s talking about rate increases. What we are talking about is eliminating a lot of the loopholes, a lot of the shelters, a lot of the tax expenditures that we believe are not efficient. So we are talking about getting more revenue through the tax code by eliminating the loopholes and these deductions.
SMERCONISH: Would the Bush tax cuts expire, as currently intended, as currently planned?
CARDIN: Well, I certainly hope so as it relates to the higher-income people. We do believe that at this time, when you‘re asking students to make sacrifices, asking our seniors to make sacrifices, that the least we can tell them is, the most well-off in our community, that they shouldn‘t be getting a continued tax break that was intended to expire.
SMERCONISH: Senator Cardin, your colleague from Maryland, fellow Democrat Barbara Mikulski, told “The Washington Post,” quote, “When we heard these reports of these mega-trillion-dollar cuts with no revenues, it was like Mount Vesuvius. Many of us were volcanic.”
What‘s she referring to, as far as you know?
CARDIN: Well, I talked to them today and the president was very, very clear that revenues need to be part of the final package. And I think—look, we know there‘s going to be spending cuts. We understand that. We‘re prepared to support a comprehensive, balanced approach to get our debt under control, but we need to make sure that it is fair. And to be fair, we need to have the revenues to pay our bills.
SMERCONISH: Would you agree if there are no revenue increases, no tax hikes, then it would be perceived as a capitulation by the administration to the GOP-controlled House?
CARDIN: I wouldn‘t use the word tax hikes, but I would tell you, you have to have more revenue if you‘re going to have a credible plan to bring our deficit under control.
SMERCONISH: And your understanding, having been with the chief executive just earlier today in your state is—
CARDIN: He agrees.
SMERCONISH: -- that this is a plan that‘s going to include both?
CARDIN: Absolutely. The president couldn‘t have been more clear today that if you‘re going to have a comprehensive plan, it must include enhanced revenues. We must make sure that it‘s balanced, it‘s fair, and that it invests so that we can create jobs. We‘ve got to invest in education, innovation, infrastructure. The president was clear. The Democrats are clear about this. We want to make sure that our recovery stays on track and we create the jobs necessary for our economy. And by the way, that will also help our budget.
SMERCONISH: Senator Ben Cardin, thank you, sir, for being here. Have a nice weekend.
CARDIN: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst and former RNC chairman Michael Steele. Can we get into Grover-gate, Michael?
(LAUGHTER)
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Have at it!
SMERCONISH: All right. I‘m trying to read these tea leaves, and I know you‘re the guy who‘s going to take me to the answer. Now, Tuesday, Grover told Ruth Marcus and “The Washington Post” ed board that, quote, “Not renewing the Bush tax cuts wouldn‘t violate”—
STEELE: Right.
SMERCONISH: -- his anti-tax pledge. Here‘s the audio from that interview.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GROVER NORQUIST, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM PRES.: Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase.
RUTH MARCUS, “WASHINGTON POST”: So it does not violet the pledge?
NORQUIST: We wouldn‘t hold it that way. It would be a very bad thing to do. It would raise taxes from where they are today. Would it technically violate the pledge? No.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: OK, seems straightforward—
STEELE: Right.
SMERCONISH: -- but then he backed away in the comments here on MSNBC.
An then today in “The New York Times,” he tried to clarify things further. He said he remains opposed to any tax increases, but then he went on to write, “My position and the implications of the pledge regarding such temporary tax cuts is clear. If there were no vote in Congress and taxes rose automatically, then no politicians would have voted for higher taxes and no elected official would have broken his or her pledge. But that‘s different from supporting a plan by some Democrats that would end some or all of these the lower tax rates.”
Candidly, I still don‘t get it. Explain it to me.
STEELE: Well, I think the nuance, the Washington nuance there is the difference between letting the Bush tax cuts expire on their own versus having a formal vote that would probably include not just the Bush tax cuts plus additional taxes. That‘s the closest I can get to understanding exactly where Grover was trying to get back to.
And I think, you know, when you look at the whole thing in toto, I think he started off in the right position in making the argument that if there is no vote, then you have not actively participated in the repeal of the Bush tax cuts, or more importantly, raised taxes from the current rates to a new rate.
And so yes, you kind of step in it on—when you get down that road a little bit if you‘re not precisely clear as to what you mean.
SMERCONISH: Well, and Michael, it‘s important stuff because, as you well know, 236 members—
STEELE: Yes.
SMERCONISH: -- of the House have signed this. And you‘ve got this freshman class with—largely there with Tea Party support. You know, the question is, can they go home again if they vote for something that allows the Bush tax cuts to expire? Are they going to be able to go back and say, Well, you know, I violated the pledge or I didn‘t violate the pledge?
STEELE: Well, and that—and that—I think that is something that Grover‘s going to have to with ATR really get clarified with the members. If a bill is presented that has in it the automatic expiration of the Bush tax cut, is that considered, when you vote for that bill, you know, a vote to increase taxes? And by what he said on Monday, the answer was no. By what he said today, the answer is, well, maybe.
SMERCONISH: What happens to the caricature, the Republican caricature of the president as a big spender if, in the end, he puts together a deal with Speaker Boehner that has with it a lot of spending cuts?
STEELE: Well, I think that changes, certainly for the Democrats, the argument about the president‘s spending habits. Certainly, Republicans then would counter with, Well, let‘s look at the $2 trillion that were spent before, you know, Speaker Boehner and Mitch McConnell in the Senate tried to bring some sanity back to the process.
So you‘re going to have—the political argument‘s going to continue into 2012. So if you think, Michael, that this thing is going to end once they sign a bill by August 2nd, no. The hot rhetoric just continues.
SMERCONISH: Well, I just—I just think—and you know—and you know this turf well. It just—it just puts Republicans, I think, in a difficult spot to be pointing a finger as, He‘s such a big government guy, if, in the end, he embraced and negotiated a plan with John Boehner that calls for the kind of spending cuts that are now being discussed, whether it‘s $3 trillion or $4 trillion.
STEELE: Well, that—go ahead.
SMERCONISH: Let me show you something, if I might.
STEELE: Sure.
SMERCONISH: The president penned something in “USA Today” this morning. I don‘t know if you made it to the last line, but here‘s what he said in the last line. “This debate offers the chance to put our economy on stronger footing, restore a sense of fairness in our country and secure a better future for our children. I want to seize that opportunity and ask Americans”—here‘s the key part—“of both parties and no party to join me in that effort.”
I‘m not accustomed to seeing political leaders, particularly the president, you know, put on the same pedestal, although I like it, independents with Rs and Ds. That told me something.
STEELE: Well, what it—
SMERCONISH: It told me that he thinks, and probably accurately so, that‘s what‘s going on with this negotiation is going to play very well with independents. What do you think?
STEELE: Oh, absolutely. Oh, absolutely! That was a very political piece. It was sort of his homage to what‘s happened over the last couple of weeks that has given him, really, the kind of leg up in this debate. So in the last 24 hours or so, you‘ve seen sort of a chipping away at that among Democrat leadership who are concerned about exactly what is the president negotiating.
I think Republicans still have some high ground to stand on, as well. But for the Republicans‘ insistence that we focus on spending and that we focus on looking at those programs that need to be cut, we would be spending much more as opposed to talking about how much we‘re cutting. So both sides will have a little bit to crow about. The question (INAUDIBLE) what the president is doing is trying to give himself a better position to crow a little bit louder than Republicans.
SMERCONISH: Michael Steele, thank you for your time.
STEELE: You got it, buddy.
SMERCONISH: All right. Coming up: Rupert Murdoch‘s son, James Murdoch, may have been less than truthful when he testified Tuesday before a Parliamentary committee in Britain. And now the Justice Department in this country is investigating whether the Murdoch empire broke the law. That‘s ahead.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SMERCONISH: Texas governor Rick Perry‘s still deciding whether to run for president, but a couple of new polls already show him closing in on Mitt Romney.
Take a look at the new CNN poll, where Perry gets 14 percent, just 2 points behind Mitt Romney. Perry‘s polling strong among Republican men. He wins one in five. And he‘s first among Tea Party supporters. When will he make up his mind? Well, aides say that he‘s still two to four weeks away from a decision.
We‘ll be right back to HARDBALL.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: There have been members of Congress in the United States who have asked us to investigate those same allegations, and we are progressing in that regard, using the appropriate federal law enforcement agencies in the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Attorney General Eric Holder exactly a week ago admitting the Justice Department had begun preliminary investigations into the hacking scandal. Now it appears the investigation is moving more swiftly.
Today, “The Wall Street Journal,” which is owned by News Corporation, reports the DoJ is preparing subpoenas in an attempt to gain access to more information related to the alleged hacking of voicemail messages both here and in Britain, while across the Atlantic, James Murdoch is being accused of misleading Parliament in his testimony earlier this week.
Joining us now, NBC News national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff and ITN correspondent Robert Moore.
Michael, why does the Department of Justice care about a New Jersey civil case that was settled in 2009?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you‘re talking there about the Floorgraphics (ph) incident in which the company alleged That news America, which is the advertising division of News Corp., had hacked into its computer system on repeated occasions to steal information for competitive reasons.
Now, that‘s computer hacking. It‘s not phone hacking. But the question is, is it part of a broader pattern of conduct here?
SMERCONISH: On our shores?
ISIKOFF: On our shores. If, in fact, proven, there would be a U.S. jurisdictional hook, which is something prosecutors in the United States would need.
Now, look, this is still at an early stage. There‘s a lot of moving pieces to this, and there‘s a lot we don‘t know. The central allegation that triggered Attorney General Holder‘s directive last week was the claim that 9/11 victims in the United States had their phones hacked. As of now, we have no hard evidence that anything like that took place. We have one report from a rival newspaper in Britain, based on anonymous sources, that this was done, nothing concrete.
SMERCONISH: Well, as I read—as I read your reportage on the New Jersey case—
ISIKOFF: Yes.
SMERCONISH: -- and just a hunch, but to me, it said perhaps this is DoJ trying to establish a beachhead with an investigation here in the States to find out if there were some pervasive practice where this was taking place here.
ISIKOFF: Exactly. That‘s what they‘re looking at and trying to see if they can find that broader pattern. There‘s a third piece to this, and that‘s the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which is something that has been very vigorously prosecuted by the Justice Department. And the issue there is, were these bribes paid to Scotland Yard officers by “The News of the World”—could that be construed as an illegal foreign payment under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?
SMERCONISH: Frankly, the way this is unfolding thus far, nothing seems like it‘s beyond the realm of possibility. Robert, let me follow up with you on something that Michael raised. Of course, it‘s unproven. It‘s a single allegation. But of course, everybody wants to know whether 9/11 victims were hacked.
Now, here‘s what the spokeswoman for News Corporation told “The Wall Street Journal” about the Justice Department‘s investigation. “We have not seen any evidence to suggest there was any hacking of 9/11 victim phones, nor has anybody corroborated what are clearly very serious allegations. The story arose when an unidentified person speculated to ‘The Daily Mirror‘ about whether it happened. That paper printed the anonymous speculation, which has since mushroomed into the broader media with no substantiation.”
And thus far, that‘s true, Robert. But you think about that Milly Dowler case, where the 13-year-old teenager has been murdered and her voicemail has been hacked, one wonders if that‘ll be proven.
ROBERT MOORE, ITN REPORTER: Well, that‘s absolutely true.
I think Michael is right to say, look, it comes from a rival newspaper. There‘s no substantiation at this stage. But clearly the core strategy, legal, political, corporate strategy by the Murdochs is to contain this scandal to the United Kingdom, to Britain. So, if it moves, if it migrates across the Atlantic, then that raises all sorts of questions for News Corp. and for its leadership.
So that‘s why it‘s so critical I think to both Rupert and James Murdoch to try and contain it to Britain. Clearly there are multiple investigations. And what we have learned in Britain is no one knows where these investigations lead.
SMERCONISH: I have got footage I want to show you both of James Murdoch being asked a question about the so-called Neville e-mail and Murdoch denying, in effect, that he knew of widespread phone hacking at “News of the World.”
Of course today this is front-page stuff because questions are being raised as to whether he was being forthcoming. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you signed off the Taylor payment, did you see or were you made aware of full Neville e-mail, the transcript of the apt voice-mail message?
JAMES MURDOCH, CHAIRMAN, NEWS INTERNATIONAL: No, I was not aware of that at the time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So why on Earth was it so—that you paid an astronomical sum and there was no reason to?
MURDOCH: There was—there was—there was every reason to settle the case given the likelihood of losing the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Robert Moore, give me the Cliffs Notes version. What‘s that business all about, the payoff of the footballer?
MOORE: Oh, this is absolutely critical to the integrity of James Murdoch now.
This is a 2008 e-mail. And, now, it clearly was evidence that there was systematic phone hacking. It was nothing to do with a rogue reporter, but there was systematic phone hacking orchestrated by the newsroom or the news desk of the “News of the World.”
Now, did James Murdoch see that? He says he didn‘t it. There are those very close to him, a former lawyer and a former editor of the “News of the World,” who said, hang on a second, this Neville e-mail, we actually showed to James Murdoch.
So I think that is why this weekend in Britain it‘s widely regarded that James Murdoch is clinging on to his position by his fingernails. If it‘s shown that he had seen this e-mail, then clearly he did not tell the truth to that parliamentary committee. The ramifications of that politically are very obvious.
SMERCONISH: Michael Isikoff, to what extent do you think the credibility is already being damaged here on our shores of those related Murdoch entities?
ISIKOFF: Oh, I think that there‘s been an enormous credibility hit to the Murdochs and News Corp. Look, this was one of the most powerful and feared companies in the world. And certainly in political circles in the United States, it‘s hard to underestimate the clout and—of News Corp.
I mean, FOX News Channel, Murdoch himself, $1,250,000 to the Republican Governors Association which News Corp. contributed last year, hundreds of dollars funneled mostly to leading Republicans, but not exclusively. This—and in New York State politics, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, all of them have cultivated the Murdochs.
And I think that there‘s a taint now over the company and over Murdoch himself that‘s going to be very hard to erase early on.
SMERCONISH: Well, and you wonder—you wonder if all of a sudden now there will be more of a willingness by politicians on both sides of the pond to stand up to him.
Robert Moore, earlier today, Martin Bashir told me a story about how Murdoch entertains on an annual basis, and anyone who is everyone in the Parliament, they are there. And they were all scared to death to ever speak out in opposition to a perceived position of Murdoch‘s, but the tide has completely changed in the last three weeks.
MOORE: Oh, I mean, the political culture in Britain has just been turned on its head.
I mean, these—there were politicians from the Conservative Party and from the Labor Party who were in thrall to Rupert Murdoch. They would not only socialize with him. They would beg him for favors. He was a frequent visitor to Number 10 Downing Street. Now of course the political currents are exactly the opposite. Everyone is attacking him.
So, right, there‘s a major change there. And the political culture has changed, not just for the politicians, but also for the police and journalists.
SMERCONISH: And, Michael Isikoff—
ISIKOFF: And, Michael, could I just add one—
SMERCONISH: Yes, please, sure.
ISIKOFF: -- one—one point about that—the challenge to James Murdoch‘s testimony?
Tom Crone, who was the lawyer for “News of the World” and who signed that statement yesterday, said, oh, yes, we did tell James Murdoch about—about this e-mail, he—it seems to me he‘s a critical player in this, if you‘re looking for a John Dean who is not going to be the fall guy, who is not going to allow himself to be thrown under the bus on this. He‘s the guy. He knows all. And you saw that first sign of it.
And I think that‘s—I think he‘s the guy to watch in this.
SMERCONISH: Michael, I happen to have that—that quote. Let me show it to everyone.
ISIKOFF: Yes.
SMERCONISH: You‘re talking about Colin Myler, a former “News of the World” editor, and Tom Crone. They served as legal managers for News International.
And it‘s this joint statement to British papers today. It refutes Murdoch‘s testimony. And it reads in part: “We‘d like to point out that James Murdoch‘s recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken. In fact, we did inform him of the ‘For Neville‘ e-mail, which had been produced to the U.S. by Gordon Taylor‘s—to us”—pardon me—“by Gordon Taylor‘s lawyers.”
That‘s what you‘re talking about. And—
ISIKOFF: Right. Exactly.
And while that might seem very internal to the U.K. to a U.S. listener, remember, James Murdoch is also the heir apparent to—in News Corp. He‘s the deputy chief operating officer. He‘s effectively the guy who has been designated to take over from Rupert Murdoch.
And if he goes down, that undermines Rupert Murdoch‘s hold over the whole company.
(CROSSTALK)
SMERCONISH: Well, you say there‘s a John Dean character. Hopefully, there‘s no Rose Mary Woods involved thus far. That‘s my attempt at humor on a Friday, guys. Come on. It‘s the best I can do.
ISIKOFF: OK. We will let it pass.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Michael.
(LAUGHTER)
(CROSSTALK)
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Michael Isikoff and Robert Moore.
Up next: No question it‘s hot outside. But, to Rush Limbaugh, it‘s just another plot of the government. So stick around for the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL, and now for the “Sideshow.”
First up: the weather. Let‘s be clear. The fact that most of the country is in the grips of a record heat wave is not by itself proof of global warming. It does tend to get hot in the summer.
Still, just to be sure we don‘t get the wrong idea, here comes Rush Limbaugh to helpfully tell us that what we think is record heat is really no more than a government plot.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: They‘re playing games with us on this heat wave again. Going to be 116 in Washington. No, it‘s not. It‘s going to be like 100, maybe 99.
The heat index, manufactured by the government, they tell you what it feels like when you add the humidity in there, 116. When‘s the last time the heat index was reported as an actual temperature? It hasn‘t been. But it looks like they‘re trying to get away with doing that now.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: All right, Rush, I have got a question. By that logic, is the wind-chill factor a government plot to deny global warming? Thank you for that one, but all it takes for me is a walk outside here in New York to question the logic.
Next up, it‘s no secret that the country is getting fed up with the fact that there has yet to be a deal reached on the debt ceiling. Well, two union leaders in West Virginia took it upon themselves to come up with their own solution to paying back the nation‘s debt and making a point at the same time.
They sent the following e-mail to Speaker John Boehner—quote—“In support of your effort to continue millionaires and corporations‘ outrageous tax cuts, at the expense of destroying our nation‘s social safety net programs, meaning Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, we‘re advising you of the West Virginia AFL-CIO plan to reduce the debt of our nation while protecting the rich and tax-dodging corporations.”
So what‘s the plan? Get this. To celebrate the 76th anniversary of the Social Security Act next month, the AFL-CIO will host a hot dog fund-raiser in 14 West Virginia cities. They plan to donate all the proceeds to the Bureau of Public Debt.
Now, there‘s something to consider, although I don‘t think they should hold their breath waiting for Speaker Boehner to accept the invitation.
And now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” We want you to know how far back our government‘s debt really goes. Believe it or not, back to 1790, when the first government bonds were issued to pay off the Revolutionary War. So how much is still owed back to the folks back in the George Washington administration? Would you believe $55,757? I wonder what the founding fathers would have to say about that one. That‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next, record heat all across the country. Is overpopulation partly to blame for global warming?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks finishing mixed for the day, but higher for the week—the Dow Jones industrial slumping 43 points, the S&P up a point, the Nasdaq adding 24. A couple of solid session rallies this week leaving the markets in the green, with the Nasdaq looking especially strong on the back of robust earnings in the tech sector.
In techs today, chipmaker AMD surged on an upbeat forecast. That gave Intel a boost as well, Microsoft higher after beating earnings expectations last night, and Apple said to be considering putting in a bit for Hulu.com.
GE finished fractionally lower, despite a 21 percent jump in profits, boosted by strong demand for its heavy equipment. McDonald‘s hit an all-time high after earnings showed stronger-than-expected sales growth in all regions. But it was Caterpillar dragging on the Dow after missing profit expectations, despite beating on revenue and raising its full-year outlook.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Extreme, intense. It‘s like—it‘s literally like hell on Earth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s a lot better than a blizzard, but it‘s still not good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really, really hot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very, very, very hot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
I just read a provocative piece in “The L.A. Times” that got me thinking, what if this heat wave that is baking a good part of the country is happening because our planet is overpopulated?
The article by Mary Ellen Harte and Anne Ehrlich reads: “The effects of overpopulation play a part in practically every daily report of mass human calamity, but the word ‘population‘ is rarely mentioned. Wildfires threaten ever more people because expanding populations are moving nearer and into forests. Floods inundate more homes as populations expand into floodplains. Such extreme events are stoked by climate change, fueled by increasing carbon emissions from an expanding global population.”
Lester Brown is president of the Earth Policy Institute. Bob Engelman is the executive director of the Worldwatch Institute. Both organizations are environmental think tanks in Washington.
Lester, I took a walk in Central Park last night. I was so moist, when I came back and dropped my clothes in the corner of my hotel room, this morning, they were still soaking. Does that have something to do with how many people are on the face of the planet?
LESTER BROWN, PRESIDENT, EARTH POLICY INSTITUTE: Well, the—the driving force in climate change is carbon emissions, from burning fossil fuels, from deforestation and so forth.
And the more people there are, the more fossil fuels we burn for generating electricity, mostly coal, for running cars, mostly oil. And—and so, as population grows, carbon emissions rise and climate changes faster. So, the more of us there are, the more—the more climate is going to change.
SMERCONISH: Bob, it‘s a frightening thought when one considers that the world population increased from three billion in 1959 to six billion by 1999, a doubling that occurred over 40 years. World population now expected to grow from six billion in 1999 to nine billion by 2044. That‘s a 50 percent increase.
ROBERT ENGELMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLDWATCH INSTITUTE: Well, we don‘t really know what will happen between now and 2044, but we can say with very high confidence—at least we‘re told by demographers, the people who count people—that this year, on October 31, there will be seven billion people on the planet. Whether that‘s coincidence or not, that happens to be Halloween. I don‘t know whether someone is trying to tell us we should be very afraid of this number.
But it‘s a phenomenal increase in a very, very short period of time, particularly in the context of the rate that climate usually changes. Look, I don‘t doubt that, when you were walking in Central Park, you were experiencing temperatures that have been experienced on the planet before we were numerous on the planet.
But the fact is we‘re continually breaking climatic records in terms of storms, in terms of droughts, in terms of temperatures. And we have altered the atmosphere in a way that one species has never altered the atmosphere before.
SMERCONISH: Well, and not just—not just heat.
ENGELMAN: It‘s a matter of scale.
SMERCONISH: I mean, with record—with record snowfalls as well.
I look at Syracuse, by way of example. I know they had a big winter. I know they also broke 100 degrees yesterday. So, the—the erratic nature, Lester, of the weather pattern is—is really the big story.
Am I wrong?
BROWN: One of the things that meteorologists have been warning us of for decades is that with climate change will come many more extreme climate events. And we‘re experiencing them in this country. I mean, when I‘ve been watching the news channels on the major networks, I wonder sometimes if I‘m watching the Weather Channel by mistake, because so much of the news now is weather related, whether it‘s tornadoes, or floods or wildfires or what-have-you.
So, for those who doubt that climate is changing, you need not go beyond the news reports. And we‘ve soon some extraordinarily extreme things like last summer, the drought and the heat wave in Moscow. If someone had told me early last year that the average temperature during the month of July in Moscow would have been 14 degrees above the norm, I would have—I would have said, you know, I‘m not a climate denier, but that‘s beyond anything we can expect. But that‘s exactly what happened.
We‘re lucky that heat wave was centered in Moscow and not in Chicago because if we had lost 40 percent of our grain harvest, as the Russians did last year, there would have been chaos in world grain markets.
SMERCONISH: Let me pursue the population argument again, Bob. I don‘t often here the climate change matter debated with the word population as part of the mix—which is why I that “L.A. Times” piece so provocative. Am I missing it, or is there a reason why that‘s something that not normally is discussed in this context?
ENGELMAN: No, there‘s an overwhelming silence on the topic—
SMERCONISH: Why?
ENGELMAN: -- and it‘s somewhat understandable.
Well, one of the things is that consumption is a big part of this, how much each of us consumes. So, typically, when people like myself, a well-to-do male person living in the United States of America brings this issue out, someone is likely to say quite accurately, well, the people having the greatest number of children in the world are emitting very few greenhouse gases. So, what is exactly the connection?
And what they fail to realize is that, yes, there are tremendous differences in per capita emissions and we should be more aware of them and we should be addressing them in climate change. But everyone engages in activities that releases greenhouse gases—every one of us.
SMERCONISH: But does it also raise family planning matters? I mean, is lurking in the background some kind of choice debate that people don‘t want to tie to this issue?
ENGELMAN: People haven‘t realized yet that women want to use family planning. And one of the reasons we have the number of people we do in the world is that women historically and still today have not been able to choose for themselves when, who with and how often to have children.
Look, people have sex a lot more often than they want to become new parents. And we still aren‘t able to deal with that fact and make it easy for people to make decisions about child bearing. Paradoxically, if we did, population would probably stop growing before that 9 billion number in 2044 and gradually start declining.
But we face a lot of obstacles to make that available to people.
SMERCONISH: Lester, what‘s my takeaway relative to population and the heat wave we‘re experiencing all across the country?
BROWN: If you‘re concerned about climate change, you have to address, among other things, the population issue. Bob was talking about the women in the world who want access to family planning services and don‘t have them. The latest survey is that 215 million women who want to plan their families but lack access to family planning services.
One of the things we can do is press for more assistance. That family planning gap, filling it would take very little in the way of resources. But the benefits would be huge to the women, to their families, and to the world as a whole. It would help very much, as Bob implied, to move us toward population stability much sooner.
SMERCONISH: I appreciate the time of Lester Brown and Robert Engelman
thank you, men.

BROWN: Thank you.
ENGELMAN: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Up next: why did Tiger Woods abruptly fire his long-time caddie, a guy who‘s been with him through the good times and the bad? And what does it say about Tiger? That‘s ahead.
And you can follow me on Twitter, as long as you can spell Smerconish.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SMERCONISH: Could we be in for another wild House election in 2012? Control of the House of Representatives flipped to the GOP last year four years after Democrats won it. And new polling suggests there‘s widespread dissatisfaction with those in power on Capitol Hill.
According to a brand new ABC News/”Washington Post” poll, 63 percent of registered voters say they‘ll look into voting for someone other than their current representative. That‘s a record high for that poll. Anti-incumbency is alive and well.
We‘ll be right back to HARDBALL.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SMERCONISH: Hey, welcome back to HARDBALL.
This week, Tiger Woods fired his long-time caddie, Steve Williams, with this short statement on his Web site. “I want to express my deepest gratitude to Stevie for all his help, but I think it‘s time for a change. Stevie is an outstanding caddie and friend and has been instrumental in my many accomplishments. I wish him great success in the future.”
After a tumultuous two years of infidelities and injuries, what does this shakeup to Tiger‘s team tell us about the player?
Michael Bamberger knows. He‘s the senior writer at “Sports Illustrated” and the co-author of a hit new book called “The Swinger.”
Michael, tell the rest of us, because you know the answer to this. What‘s that caddie-golfer relationship like? Is it a penitent-preacher/lawyer-client kind of thing? In other words, does the caddie know where the bodies are buried?
MICHAEL BAMBERGER, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: He does. The caddie really—the more the caddie understands the player, the better a caddie he can be. In this case you‘re talking about the best caddie-player relationship in the history of golf. Tiger has won 14 major championships and won 13 of them with Steve Williams, the guy who is fired the other day.
SMERCONISH: And is Steve doing more than just handing to him and recommending a club?
BAMBERGER: Way more than that. He‘s interpreting wind and rain conditions. And more importantly, he‘s interpreting the psyche of his boss and whether he‘s feeling aggressive or nervous. There‘s a lot that goes into it. And it takes years to build it up.
So, the fact that he fired Steve Williams is a big deal.
SMERCONISH: But would you also think it was natural—I mean, I know what it‘s like if I‘m out there hacking with my buddies. Everything gets discussed. Do you figure that discussed between these two were the infidelities?
BAMBERGER: Well, you can only take Steve Williams at his word. He says he knew nothing about it. I have no reason to doubt him on that.
Having said that—they were extremely close friends. Each was in each other‘s wedding. The wives were close friends. But Tiger has an incredible ability to put things in little boxes that other people don‘t go in. So, I take him at his word when he says he didn‘t know.
SMERCONISH: Are Tiger‘s problems today in your estimation physical, mental, a combination of both? And if so—I‘m going to make you give me a percent of much mental and how much physical?
BAMBERGER: Combo platter, 92 percent mental and 8 percent physical.
SMERCONISH: Wow!
The media, how do they treat Tiger Woods in your estimation? In your book, “The Swinger,” which is tremendous, and, obviously, it‘s based on a Tiger Woods character, you have a lot to say on that issue.
And I couldn‘t help but wonder, what are you trying to tell us about the media handling of Tiger?
BAMBERGER: Well, I appreciate those nice words, Michael, very much.
Let‘s separate the tabloid media from the regular sporting press that‘s covered Tigers whole career. In my own personal view and the one that Alan and I, my co-writer Alan Shipnuck, expressed in the book, is that it was an outrageous act to start spying on Tiger‘s private life as the “National Enquirer” did. That was the first step in the fall from the high shelf that he was on.
In terms of the golf press, he‘s been treated with a great deal of respect for a long time. There‘s been a lot of revisionist history about how bad the relationship is between the golf press and Tiger. Almost like it‘s Ted Williams and the Boston newspapers, you know, back in the 50s.
It was really nothing like that. Tiger was reserved but he showed up for press conferences. He answered questions. There was no warmth. There was little humor. There was very little insight. It was boring but it was professional.
SMERCONISH: But you believe, Michael Bamberger, that in taking a big check from Nike, that does not give carte blanche to the media to trail a woman all the way to Australia or wherever the heck they followed her?
BAMBERGER: Yes, that‘s right. They got a tip—in “Sports Illustrated,” we got the same tip. And we really didn‘t follow it because we don‘t believe in paying for news, or just paying sources.
But that‘s right. “The National Enquirer” paid a source to find out who Tiger was seeing on the side, stepping outside of his marriage. They basically followed this one, Rachel Uchitel, from her apartment in lower Manhattan to Melbourne. That‘s where this whole thing unfolded.
And my own personal view is, that‘s an outrage. And, yes, when you talk about the money, people are going to say, oh, he took these $100 million from Nike and all these other big contracts and starting holding himself of some virtue that he had to be held to a higher standard. And my point is, who are we to judge, you know, what standard --
SMERCONISH: Understood.
Hey, the Tiger Woods character in your book is named Tree or nicknamed Tree. He rehabilitates himself. Do you believe that Tiger Woods is in the pros receives rehabilitating himself with the public? I mean, I‘m rooting for the guy. But you‘re out there following him around hull to hull.
What‘s the vibe?
BAMBERGER: Right. And I think we share that same view. You know, I think we both have this view that this is a very forgiving country and we love second chances and I would personally love to see Tiger redeem himself and the way to do it is by coming back and playing great golf.
When he is contended twice since the scandal last year in the Masters and U.S. Open, there was almost pandemonium on the golf course. There is such a rooting interest in seeing this guy come back and you might say rooting for Tiger is like rooting for General Motors, you know, in the ‘50s. But people love to see a difficult thing done at a very high level, and Tiger did that better than anybody.
SMERCONISH: I just have 30 seconds left with Michael Bamberger. I know you want him to do it—will he be able to do it?
BAMBERGER: I don‘t we‘ll ever see him compete at the level that he did in 2000. But I think we will see him win again.
SMERCONISH: I hope that we do. I hope that we do. And I agree with you about the American people. Unfortunately, gleeful, little Schadenfreude, and taken him down, but would love to see him come back.
Congratulations, Michael Bamberger, on “The Swinger.”
BAMBERGER: Michael, thanks for having me.
SMERCONISH: OK. Appreciate you being here.
President Obama is going to make statement on the debt talks at the top of the hour. We‘ll will get the latest from the White House when we return.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SMERCONISH: Breaking news: President Obama will be making a statement on the debt talks in just a moment. NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell joins us with the latest from Capitol Hill—Kelly.
KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS: Well, good evening.
We expect that there will be a major change announced in how these debt talks will go forward. We all know the deadline is pressing and we‘ve learned from House GOP leadership aides that the speaker has sent out a letter to members, has contacted Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, to talk about changing how this is being done.
That‘s prompting the president to come forward and make his own statement about where things stand.
As you know, the big, big divide has been over key issues: taxes and entitlements. Republicans don‘t want to see any tax increases. Democrats do. And on the other side, there has been a lot of discussion about how could there be shared pain for both parties to get a deal where there would be some changes to entitlements. That‘s tough for Democrats and there would be some change in the tax code that would increase how much the government takes in, but do it in a way where they would change the systems so rates could actually go down. That can be tough for Republicans to sell.
This is a major development. We expect it could have significant ramifications on the country‘s ability to meet this deadline, because there is so much time involved in actually turning whatever agreement were to be reached at some point into legislative language and then getting it passed.
What I can tell you is this is not a positive development. We know that there will be some very stern words coming from both the White House and we certainly heard that from here on Capitol Hill from aides close to Speaker Boehner.
This is what I would describe as something of a serious break in talks and we‘ll have more information shortly. But members of the House are learning about this now as they head home.
As you know, the House side went home to be in their districts. They will be hearing a lot from constituents as well. And the Senate has adjourned as well.
So, it appears we have a major stall in talks at a time when people thought there was going to be some sort after breakthrough. We don‘t have that, Michael.
SMERCONISH: I guess when they said there‘s no deal, there‘s no deal, there‘s no deal—they meant it.
O‘DONNELL: They meant it. And the divide is significant. And we expect there will be more details coming about how this will all change very quickly with the weekend being so crucial.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Kelly. That‘s Kelly O‘Donnell on Capitol Hill.
Again, President Obama will be making a statement shortly. Right now, Al Sharpton picks up our coverage.


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