December 28, 2012
Guests: Joy Reid, Clarence Page, Robert Costa, Sam Stein, Josh Green, Michael Nutter; David Edelstein
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC ANCHOR: Deal or no deal. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Richard Wolffe in for Chris Matthews. At the 11th
hour, just when people were starting to lose hope on the edge of a fiscal
cliff, the president met with congressional leaders this afternoon and
declared he was modestly optimistic about a deal on taxes.
Speaking in the White House Briefing Room, President Obama condemned
Congress for failing to resolve its differences in any normal way. Firm to
middle class tax cuts for families making up to $250,000 per year.
Joining me now from the North Lawn of the White House is -- is NBC`s
Kristen, let`s take a listen to what the president said about the up-
or-down vote on what he expects to emerge from the Senate.
KRISTEN WELKER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just had a good and
constructive discussion here at the White House with Senate and House
leadership about how to prevent this tax hike on the middle class. And I`m
optimistic we may still be able to reach an agreement that can pass both
Houses in time.
If an agreement isn`t reached in time between Senator Reid and Senator
McConnell, then I will urge Senator Reid to bring to the floor a basic
package for an up-or-down vote. I believe such a proposal could pass both
Houses with bipartisan majorities as long as those leaders allow it to
actually come to a vote.
If members of the House or the Senate want to vote no, they can. But
we should let everybody vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: Kristen, this up-or-down vote seems to be the big news of the
day. Isn`t this what the White House wanted all along?
WELKER: Well, it is. And it`s President`s Obama`s way of saying,
look, vote on his basic proposal. The proposal that would extend middle
class tax cuts for those making $250,000 or more, would extend unemployment
insurance benefits and also deal with some of those spending cuts. It`s a
basic plan that the president is calling for. Something similar has
already passed through the Senate so the White House feels confident that
what the president is calling for would again pass through the Senate and
could potentially get through the House.
In order for that to happen, though, Richard, that would involve every
single Democrat in the House voting for it as well as about 30 Republicans.
So the question is, could they actually get that many Republicans to vote
for this package that the president is calling for?
But politically, what he is doing is essentially saying this is the
plan that I`m putting forth. Let`s get it through the Senate and if it
fails, it will fail in the Republican-led House. Essentially having
Republicans own that failure. Putting them in a box, if you will. So
President Obama, though, giving lawmakers here two options. One, to come
up with their own alternative proposal, of course that is something that
Senate majority leader Harry Reid and minority leader Mitch McConnell will
work on. And if not, he`s saying put my basic plan to an up-or-down vote.
WOLFFE: Kristen, I didn`t hear much talk today about the sequester,
the big spending cuts that people are talking about as part of this fiscal
WOLFFE: Didn`t hear also about the debt ceiling that Tim Geithner,
the treasury secretary, was just saying we need to raise pretty much any
Is this going to be the next couple of months in terms of this debate?
Does the White House have a strategy for dealing with both in the next
WELKER: Well, they`re quite clear that there`s probably just too much
at this point to put that in this initial package, specifically the debt
ceiling. That they`re saying there`s probably no way that they`re going to
be able to address that right now. So they know that that`s sort of the
next big hurdle that they`re going to have to face once they deal with the
immediate issue of the tax hikes and spending cuts. So I think you`re
absolutely right. In terms of their strategy, if they have one, they
haven`t revealed their details about that quite yet.
But President Obama today, I thought what was interesting, really
using the power of his bully pulpit to put pressure on Congress to get this
basic deal done that he`s calling for.
And, Richard, one of the things that he said at the end of this
remarks was essentially that this is not how the American people do
business. And just to remind you.
WELKER: He said ordinary folks do their jobs. They meet deadlines.
They sort out disagreements and the fact that the lawmakers can`t do it is
boggling to many of them. So the president really trying to ramp up public
pressure. This is something that we have seen him do in the past. A
tactic that he has taken in the past to really try to get the public on his
side to put the pressure on House Republicans. Richard?
WOLFFE: Kristen Welker, thank you very much for all your work tonight
from the White House.
WELKER: Thank you.
WOLFFE: I`m joined now by the Grio`s Joy Reid and "Chicago Tribune`s"
Clarence, let`s just take a listen to what Kristen was talking about
because I thought the president was getting impatient today. Maybe. Let`s
roll the tape.
I think we`ve got a bit of trouble there. But, you know, the
president seemed to be much more comfortable in the White House briefing
room today using the bully pulpit, saying enough is enough.
CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: He did. I thought he sounded like a
man who knows he holds, if not all the cards, a lot of them. He has the
advantage here, the polls indicate, as with Bill Clinton and this showdown
with Newt Gingrich. The two sat down back in the `90s. The public tends
to blame Republicans when this happens. Especially now at a time when over
on the House side, you have so many Republicans who are so far right and
worried about somebody even farther right running against them in
primaries, that John Boehner is having a hard time getting them to agree to
his package as well.
PAGE: Like plan B last week. I don`t know -- we don`t know out here
in the public how much has changed since last week. But President Obama
sounded like he was saying something that he`d been planning to say all
PAGE: That just came down to the last few days.
WOLFFE: Joy, I think we have this tape ready to go now. Take a
listen to the president`s tone and tell me if you think somebody has
changed here tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Outside of Washington, nobody understands how it is that this
seems to be a repeat pattern over and over again. Ordinary folks. They do
their jobs. They meet deadlines. They sit down and they discuss things
and then things happen. If there are disagreements, they sort through the
disagreements. The notion that our elected leadership can`t do the same
thing is mind boggling to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: Joy, is this is same kind of negotiator we saw in the first
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know what, I`ll tell you,
Richard. One of the things that you notice that the president didn`t do
was offer any new plan. And I think that he is laying this debacle
squarely at the feet of Congress. It is for all to see where the
dysfunction lies. And the president, I think, helped himself by previously
making some offers that even his base was uncomfortable with because it is
now clear to everyone watching that he`s been reasonable, that he`s tried
to make offers and that the intransigent is on the other side. I think
he`s expressing properly the frustration of the American people.
WOLFFE: Clarence, the game seems now to move to Mitch McConnell and
Harry Reid. It`s almost like the White House is stepping out at this
WOLFFE: I think we have some sound here from Mitch McConnell on the
Senate floor and Harry Reid talking about the next steps. Let`s see if we
can run that out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: We had a good meeting down
at the White House. We are engaged in discussions, the majority leader,
myself and the White House, in the hopes that we can come forward as early
as Sunday and have a recommendation. That I can make to my conference and
the majority leader can make to his conference.
SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I`m going to do everything that
I can, I`m confident that Senator McConnell will do the same.
But everybody, this is -- whatever we come up with, this is going to
be imperfect. And some people aren`t going to like it. Some people will
like it less. But that`s where we are. And I feel confident that we have
an obligation to do the best we can and that was made very clear in the
White House. We`re going to do the best we can for the caucuses that we
have and the country that`s waiting for us to make a decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: Clarence, you`ve seen this movie before.
WOLFFE: It sounds like something is in the works here, right?
PAGE: Yes -- well, something is in the works at least on the Senate
side. On the -- on the House side, we still don`t know about those hard
core intransigents and -- even if the Senate does come up with something,
if the House can agree to go along with it, if -- as Kristen said, you`ve
got to have all the Democrat and about 30 Republicans. There`s only about
six Republicans who come from districts that are fairly Democrats. The
rest don`t seem to lose any points, as far as they`re concerned, by
appearing to be as much of a roadblock as they can, even if it means going
over the fiscal cliff.
So if Harry Reid and Mr. McConnell can`t come up with something, then
you`ve got Barack Obama`s proposal and he wants that up-or-down vote and
one way or the other he`s going to try and get people on the record.
WOLFFE: Joy, even before it gets to the House Republicans, there are
plenty of Republicans in the Senate who can mess this up, right? Even if
McConnell and Reid have a deal, there`s no guarantee that there isn`t a
single Tea Party-backed senator who would stand in the way of this and say
it`s not going to pass me.
REID: Are you giving Rand Paul the side eye here, Richard? Is that
what we`re doing here?
I mean, look --
WOLFFE: (INAUDIBLE). It`s true.
REID: Well, I mean, at the end of the day, look, Mitch McConnell is -
- let`s just face it, a much better leader of his caucus than John Boehner
is, and McConnell has really controlled the levers of the filibuster
process. The fact that he`s meeting with Harry Reid means there isn`t
probably going to be a filibuster. I mean, I`d find it very surprising if
he could win his caucus.
The problem here is that never have we seen, not in my lifetime, a
weaker speaker of the House of Representatives than John Boehner. John
Boehner has essentially thrown up his hands and walked away from this
process. He`s walked away from the constitutional mandate that spending
and tax bills emerge from the House, not the Senate. And he`s essentially
said you guys pass something. But you know what, they were going to pass
something anyway. It`s the House that`s the problem. It`s always been.
And this is the same Congress that has been behaving this way for two
WOLFFE: Thank you, Joy Reid. Thank you, Clarence Page.
PAGE: Thank you.
WOLFFE: We have a great programming note. On Sunday, President Obama
will be David Gregory`s guest on "MEET THE PRESS." I think you can bet
that David will ask Mr. Obama all about the fiscal cliff talks. That`s
this Sunday on "MEET THE PRESS."
But coming up next, whatever became of John Boehner. Remember him?
Not too long ago, he was the leader of an increasingly powerful Republican
Party in the House. Now he can`t even get his own caucus to approve his
celebrated plan B and he`s mostly on the sidelines. A largely mute
observer watching the fiscal negotiations with the rest of us.
And later, through the magic of digital recording, Chris Matthews
himself will be back to talk about why the NRA refuses to back even the
most common sense proposals to limit the availability of assault weapons.
And with his annual list of the best political movies of the year.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
WOLFFE: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The president has made clear he
wants a deal. But just how will a deal get done?
Joining me now from the Hill is NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell.
Kelly, I`ve heard a lot today about the House bill going from to one -
- to the Senate and getting amended. Is this some kind of smoke screen for
House Republicans or is there some legislative need to use the vehicle
that`s already been passed?
KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, at the risk of this
being the eyes glazed over a moment, one of the big issues here is you`re
dealing with something that is about essentially taxes. And the
Constitutions and the laws make it a requirement that that originate in the
House of Representatives. They have the power of the purse. So one of the
challenges beyond the political arguments and the handshakes dial deal
making that we hope will happen over the next few days, there are the
mechanics of getting it done and getting it done in time.
Now I`m always surprised by procedure that there is a way to pull a
rabbit out of a hat when they have an agreement. But there are steps that
need to be taken. Will they allow for much debate? Will the House simply
take a look at what the Senate has done.
The big power shift here, Richard, is that we have been so focused on
the House and what Speaker Boehner could or could not do. And the talks
were focused between the president and Speaker Boehner.
When he was unable to get enough votes for his idea to have the income
tax threshold be at a million dollar -- when that didn`t work, he insisted
that the Senate begin to act. Politically, that`s important because they
want to see how many Democrats are on board. Will all of them join in?
And how many Senate Republicans, especially the more conservative members,
members who were up for reelection in 2014. How many of them would be
prepared to go forward.
And then, that gives Boehner more muscle to try to get enough of his
Republican members to go along.
In the House, they`ll need House Democrats and they`ll need
Republicans. And so there is a mechanical part of this. There is a
political arm wrestling part of this and there is -- what will unfold over
the next 24 hours in how can they reach a deal. Sources in both parties
are telling me that part of the sticking point right now is where to set
that income threshold and what happens to estate taxes.
Speaker Boehner is also saying the sequester, that big ugly word for
automatic cuts, that he wants to make sure that at least some of that stays
in, meaning there would be spending cuts and that would certainly change
the game going forward. Because those big spending cuts could lead to jobs
and issues that will probably be some of the maybe unforeseen consequences
of what happens here.
The cuts were important because if taxes are raised, Republicans want
to be able to argue they were able to cut government spending. So while
this is an important part, there are many chapters that are going to be
happening over the next 24 hours. And we`ll see if they can get it done.
The goal to have something ready to look at by Sunday. Richard?
WOLFFE: Many thanks, Kelly. And my eyes didn`t glaze over, honestly.
This has been a rough couple of weeks for House Speaker John Boehner.
And it`s not hard to conclude that he`s the first casualty of this war. As
Kelly just said, Boehner put forward his plan B only to have to withdraw it
when he couldn`t wrestle up enough Republican votes. Since then he`s been
more of an observer than a player in this crisis.
Joining me now to discuss Boehner`s fate is "National Review`s" Robert
Costner and the "Huffington Post`s" Sam Stein.
Robert, I just want to start with you a second here. John Boehner, as
we heard from Kelly O`Donnell, is going to be faced with needing Democrats
to get this deal through if we indeed do have a deal. Then he`s got to go
back to his caucus and say reelect me as speaker.
How does he do that?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think these are two separate
questions, Richard. On one point -- on the first point, Boehner is going
to have a very tough time corralling some Republican votes to vote for
Obama`s plan. If the president brings his 250 plan to the House floor and
that gets through the Senate, you`re not going to see many Republicans go
after that. But at the same time, I think Boehner is pretty safe when it
comes to his speakership.
You had guys like Tom Price or Kevin McCarthy or Eric Cantor. If
those gentlemen were making noise against the speaker, I think there`d be a
huge ruckus on Capitol Hill that Boehner is in trouble. But I don`t hear
that. I`m on Capitol Hill every day. And I`m not hearing that. I think
Boehner is pretty safe because there`s not a challenger.
WOLFFE: Sam, if John Boehner is safe in his job, that doesn`t mean to
say he`s at all relevant here because the White House seems to be
negotiating past him. He`s just not a factor at this point. Isn`t that
SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: I think that`s right. But it`s in
large part because Boehner proved that he couldn`t get his plan through the
House. And now the ball is obviously in Mitch McConnell`s corner. You
know, I can only imagine how angry McConnell and the McConnell staff are
with John Boehner because they put him into this bind in which he has to
negotiate with Harry Reid get a deal that will get predominantly Democrat
support, because the Senate is run by Democrats.
And it will also get House Democrat support. All the while, Mitch
McConnell has got an eye towards 2014 when he`s up for reelection.
But to your point, yes, House Speaker Boehner has shown that he`s
largely, not entirely, but largely, ineffectual when it comes to this
stuff. But I agree with Robert, I don`t see anyone else who`s there
waiting for him to fall. Remember, House -- his deputies, Eric Cantor,
McCarthy, were both there with him when plan B was introduced and failed to
pass. So the logical successes aren`t actually there.
COSTA: Paul Ryan is another guy to watch, right?
COSTA: So Paul Ryan is the guy who has the real support of the House
conservatives. A lot of people who don`t like Boehner, they don`t love
Boehner, they love Paul Ryan. And now Ryan, at the final minute of plan B,
remember, he was with you for plan B, he came out in support of plan B. So
Paul Ryan, probably the most high profile guy, who could be a consensus
candidate against Boehner, he`s not running against Boehner. He`s not even
WOLFFE: But Robert, if the president gets this through, and I know
that`s a big if, doesn`t this mean that going forward, he just has to
negotiate with Mitch McConnell? What`s the point of even talking to the
House Republicans at this point?
COSTA: I mean, you always are going to have to include John Boehner
at the table. He`s the speaker of the House, and Republicans control the
House. But I think you`re making a fair point that the power of House
Republicans to drive the debate is being under questioned right now. We`re
not really sure how Boehner can do it moving forward when it comes to the
debt ceiling. People are going to look to this experience right now on the
fiscal cliff as an example of how John Boehner may or may not be able to
drive that discussion.
WOLFFE: Sam, on this kind of deal, there`s always a last-minute horse
trading, things get thrown on to the table, and then the base finds out and
they get upset.
What is a president`s base going to get upset about that gets traded
out of this last minute when they`re trying to get this deal done before
the end of the year?
STEIN: The likely thing that will get them ticked would be probably
be a threshold movement on the tax rates. So, for instance, Obama has
stated repeatedly that he`d be comfortable and prefers a $250,000
threshold, my guess is that in the process of trying to hammer out this
deal, it gets raised to somewhere around $400,000, maybe $500,000. I think
the base would get angry at that.
Now it will be offset by satisfaction that some of the entitlement
reforms that the president have signed off on earlier on these negotiations
such as changing the benefit structure for Social Security. That likely
will not be in this deal. Well, I mean, obviously, everything remains to
be seen. But those two things will offset the estate tax, as I understand
it, is a big sticking point.
Obama wants to see it go up. The Senate Republicans will insist that
it stays at its current rate. So yes, there are going to be chips traded.
And this is what happens when you make deals with very little time to
spare. You basically force your respective party bases to swallow what you
WOLFFE: OK. Thank you, Robert Costa. Thank you, Sam Stein.
WOLFFE: We`ll be back in a moment. This is HARDBALL, the place for
WOLFFE: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
What will a deal look like, if there is one, and who`s -- who`s going
to wind up giving up more on the tax cuts for wealthy Americans? Harry
Reid insists $250,000 is a threshold, but that may not hold.
Joining me now, Josh Green of Bloomberg Businessweek.
Josh, for the markets, for the business community, whether it`s
$250,000, I know it`s a big deal for politicians in Washington, but
$250,000, $400,000, $500,000, is there any real difference?
JOSH GREEN, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: Absolutely none. The business
community have said, CEOs have said, go ahead, raise our taxes, we just
want a deal, we don`t want to go over the cliff because it`s going to
imperil the recovery. That`s why they`re worried that any deal is better
than no deal.
WOLFFE: And the markets have been moving in a pretty volatile fashion
in the last few days. I don`t know if we can show that chart that we had,
but every piece of new news, whether it was up or down, you can see from
the peeks and the troughs here, just -- a tweet, a Facebook post would send
the market into turmoil.
GREEN: Exactly. Wall Street all along has expected that Washington
will do what it always does. And -- you know, last minute, everyone will
come together and they`ll stave off disaster. And only over the last
couple of days has the possibility entered their mind that we won`t stave
off disaster. And so when Reid came out yesterday and said we`re going to
the cliff, the market plunged. When McConnell came -- when Boehner came
out later in the day and said, we`re going to reconvene the House on
Sunday, the market shot up because they thought there`d been a deal.
When words leaked from the White House today Obama wasn`t offering a
new plan, the market fell again. So if we don`t reach a deal by Sunday
night, you can bet that when the market is opened, the stock market is
going to plunge.
WOLFFE: And it`s the end of the year, you know, that`s the marking
point for how people perform through the year. The expectations -- you
know, the markets are closed now but the expectations are high and they`ve
got to stay high, right?
GREEN: And that`s the real danger. As you said, this optimistic tone
coming out of today`s discussion which raises the perception that OK, they
are going to work this out. And it will make the backlash, the whiplash
even stronger if we get to Sunday it turns out if these talks fall apart.
There`s not going to be a deal.
WOLFFE: And does the market find -- or business community, do they
find any of these characters reassuring? I mean do they want even
(INAUDIBLE) of these people?
GREEN: I think -- I think they want to hear reassuring things from
all of the characters. I think anybody in Wall Street who`s smart, any CEO
doesn`t put a lot of faith in any of these guys. But I want to make one
other point. The deal that`s being discussed does not include the debt
limits. So regardless of whether we strike one or not this weekend, we`re
going to have an even bigger show down two months from now over the debt
And from a market stand point and an economy standpoint, that is much,
much scarier than anything that`s happening on fiscal cliff.
COSTA: So who gets history to that? Anyone? Is there anyone left?
GREEN: Your guess is as good as mine. You know, White House people
will tell you that Obama refuses to negotiate. He thinks the public is
behind them but as we`ve seen that`s not exactly a compelling argument to
House Republicans. So I think that that`s the huge danger that nobody is
focusing on right now is the debt limit. Because that is not part of the
discussions and that means we`re going to go through this all again in 60
days and 90 days.
WOLFFE: And Tim Geithner said we`re already at the limit. So do we
even have 60 days?
GREEN: We do. Because the Treasury can pursue extraordinary
measures. And one irony is if we do go over the fiscal cliff and tax rates
arrive -- rise that gives the government more money and will put off the
actual kind of D-day for the U.S. defaulting on its debt, only by a week or
so. But, again, the real -- the real thing that should be scaring
everybody is the thing that`s coming in a couple of months. Not the thing
that may be coming on Tuesday if we go over the fiscal cliff.
WOLFFE: You know, we heard the president talking today about how mind
boggling this is.
WOLFFE: You know, that normal people don`t resolve their differences
this way. I don`t know how you can shuffle around money when you`re coming
up to a debt limit like that. But that really is mind boggling.
Josh Green, thank you very much from Bloomberg Businessweek.
Up next, the NRA`s response to gun violence? What else, more guns.
The new battle over gun violence with Chris Matthews.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MELISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC ANCHOR: I`m Melissa Rehberger. Here`s
The fiscal cliff standoff is dragging down Wall Street like a steel
anchor. The Dow tumbled 158 points. The S&P fell 16. The NASDAQ shed 26.
Police have charged a 26-year-old woman with buying guns for the ex-
con who`s accused of luring in and shooting New York firefighters. They
say William Spengler could not have legally bought guns on his own.
And a strike that would have crippled business at ports along the East
Coast has been averted for now. Both sides agree to a one-month contract
Back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, has put renewed
focus, of course, not just on the guns, but on school safety itself. The
NRA`s Wayne LaPierre had this suggestion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: I call on Congress today
to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police
officers in every single school in this nation. And to do it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But here`s what it looks like when you run the numbers.
State magazine -- actually, Slate magazine took a look at what a program to
put armed guards in every school might cost.
There`s nearly a hundred thousand public schools in the United States,
and the average police officer makes about $55,000 a year. So a lowball
estimate would be about $5.4 billion a year.
What can we really do to keep our children safe from guns when they`re
at school? Good question.
Joining me now, an expert, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and
the "Washington Post" columnist, Eugene Robinson. Eugene is also an MSNBC
Mayor Nutter, thank you so much for joining me, because you`re on the
MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA: Sure.
MATTHEWS: Every time there`s a death, a homicide in Philadelphia, you
know all the facts and figures.
MATTHEWS: And you certainly know about the school district.
MATTHEWS: But let`s just look at this as if it came from Pluto, this
idea. It didn`t come from the NRA.
What value does it have to have an armed police officer, say, a 50-
year-old guy with police training, maybe an ex-police officer, retired
police officer, standing somewhere near the lobby of the main door of a
high school in Philly? Would it have any value?
NUTTER: Well, here`s the deal, Chris. In many instances, as we saw
in Newtown, certainly, the person doesn`t always come in the front door.
And while in very specific situations, in certain schools, whether it`s
officers patrolling nearby or as a part of their regular duties coming into
schools, this is really not a serious idea.
The issue is less guns. And certainly, less semi-automatic weapons,
rifles of this type. The issue is about the type of weapons that should be
accessible and available to civilians.
And that no one has made any legitimate argument or case as to why
military-style, converted weapons -- I`m not going to go through the
splitting hairs argument about it`s not really that; it`s been converted to
something else. It`s a semi-automatic weapon of mass destruction. And the
issue is, is that most civilians should not have them in the first place.
They`re for military or law enforcement. Bottom line.
MATTHEWS: Gene, what`s your thoughts about this in writing about it?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I say amen to just
what the mayor just said. I mean, this is what I have written. There is
no reason to have these sorts of assault weapons in civilian hands. They
are designed to kill people. They`re designed to kill a lot of people
quickly. And -- and that`s not for hunting. You don`t need one of those
MATTHEWS: When you get bombarded -- I don`t know if you read your
ROBINSON: Yes, I do.
MATTHEWS: When you write a column along those lines, who do -- do you
hear from principle Second Amendment people who just like the idea of a gun
to fight their government with? Or do you hear from deer hunters? Who do
you hear from?
ROBINSON: I hear from all of those people. I also hear from police
officers, from responsible gun owners, from self-described NRA members who
say, "You`re absolutely right. You know, yes, I want my hunting rifle, but
I don`t need the AR-15 knock-off or the AK-47 knock-off. I don`t need
ROBINSON: And that`s -- that`s the only thing. Remember, there were
armed guards at Columbine who engaged the shooters in -- in gunfire. And
it did not stop the massacre.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Mayor, what are your police officers, Charles Ramsey
and the rest, what do they -- what do they say, the top officials and the
officers, they need? What kind -- are they concerned about having to face
superior fire power in the streets?
NUTTER: We`re always concerned about that. And unfortunately, Chris,
as you well know, five months into my tenure as mayor, back in May of
20008, Sergeant Steven was basically -- was confronted with a person who
had an AK-47, shot him, killed him and with massive injuries to him. And
so, of course our officers are concerned about people who have this level
of fire power. But why would a civilian need body armor?
Again, the guy in Newtown, we`ve had other people in situations across
this country. Why should any civilian be able to purchase or get this kind
of weaponry to get ready for a massive conflict?
I`m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. But I do believe I
have a First Amendment right not to be shot. I think I have a First
Amendment right to peacefully assemble, and there is no real conflict here.
But the ability to protect the Second Amendment should not interfere
with my ability as a citizen and my First Amendment rights.
And we have to be smarter about this. The president is absolutely
correct. We don`t -- we need to ban the assault weapons, the high magazine
clips and cartridges. We need to improve our background system, the
checking system, close the gun -- gun show loophole and further provide
better mental-health services for a variety of people. Not just related to
this particular incident. And the nuttiest part of this whole thing is
mental-health services are on the chopping block as it relates to the
I mean, all of these issues are interrelated. And we just need to get
our act together and stop messing around. This is a simple idea from a
simple guy that we need not to spend any time talking about.
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look with somebody who agrees with you on the
right. That`s Republican pollster Frank Luntz. He said this about the
NRA`s proposal. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: The public wants guns out of the
schools, not in the schools. And they`re not asking for a security
official or someone else.
I don`t think the NRA is listening. I don`t think that they
understand. Most Americans would protect the Second Amendment rights and,
yet, agree with the idea that not every human being should own a gun. Not
every gun should be available at every time, anywhere, for anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, back, I`ve mentioned this before on the air,
because it meant a lot to me at the time Bobby Kennedy was killed. And it
hit a lot of us really hard. And I wrote my congressman (ph).
But, you know, it seems Mayor Nutter and Gene, what happens is
everybody gets reactive. We all react. And then notice how Wayne
LaPierre, who`s a brilliant professional about this, waits a couple weeks.
A couple weeks from now, he`ll be the only one. The pro-gun people are
relentless. The anti-gun people have other interests.
ROBINSON: Right. So people who are interested in sane gun control
laws have got to keep up the pressure, have got to keep up the focus. And
not do what you just said. Not conform to this general pattern of, you
know, it wears off. We forget about it.
MATTHEWS: Yes, we`re worried about the fiscal cliff. The gun guy...
MATTHEWS: ... is never not focused on guns. Mayor, isn`t that the
You`ve got guys of men, mostly in Philadelphia...
NUTTER: That`s part of the challenge. I think...
MATTHEWS: ... not all living out in Reading or somewhere, or way out
in the country in Pennsylvania; they live right in the city. They think
about the Second Amendment all the time.
NUTTER: Absolutely. But I think there are many responsible gun
owners, again, who are hunters, who know about gun safety and training.
They put locks on their guns. They put them in a locker so that they`re
not accessible to children or others who should not have them or don`t know
how to use them.
The work that Mayor Bloomberg is doing and Mayor Menino, Mayors
Against Illegal Guns, the Demand a Plan activity and Web site, people
should check that out. They should get engaged and involved. I saw an ad
in one of the New York papers asking people to sign up.
This issue is not going away. And we, as a country, damn well better
figure out how to do more than one thing at a time. Fiscal cliff? Very
important. Public safety and gun violence? Very important. Getting
people back to work in America? Very important. We can actually do more
than one thing at a time. Mayors across the country do that every day.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you very much, Mayor Michael Nutter.
Happy New Year to you, sir.
NUTTER: Same here.
MATTHEWS: And Eugene Robinson, my colleague here.
Up next, the best political movies of the year. I love this segment,
of course. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This is a big time of year to catch up on the movies you`ve missed
this year. And as 2012 winds down and awards season begins to ramp up,
we`ve seen a lot of movies with political themes this year. Here to
discuss them is "New York" magazine film critic, David Edelstein.
David, thank you so much. Let`s take a look at this. As I said,
there`s a lot of politics in movies this year, especially "Lincoln,"
starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the Civil War president. Let`s take a look at
that film, a piece of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, ACTOR: The first common notion is this. Things
which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. That`s a rule
with mathematical reasoning. It`s true because it works. Has done and
always will do.
In his book, hmm. Newton says this is self-evident. You see, there
it is. You see, even in that 2,000-year-old book of mechanical law, it is
a self-evident truth that things which are equal to the same thing are
equal to each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you think, David, of that movie? As a movie and
then also as history. Just educational to Americans about their own
DAVID EDELSTEIN, FILM CRITIC, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: Well, it`s
fascinating, isn`t it? It`s like a sort of epic "inside baseball" movie,
because it doesn`t take the piece of Lincoln`s life that we`re most
Instead, the Civil War is almost done. And here is a man who is
weighing how to translate this horrific, horrific war and the Emancipation
Proclamation, freeing the slaves; how to turn it into policy, into
government policy, to say that all things are equal under the law.
So you know, you watch this movie and it makes you think Lincoln
wasn`t just some guy who sat on a pedestal, whom we know from the memorial.
He was a guy, he was out there playing hardball. He had these three
lobbyists, you know, in the film. I wish we could take John Hawkes and
James Spader and Tim Blake Nelson...
MATTHEWS: No, they were sharpies (ph). They knew how to do it.
EDELSTEIN: ... and put them on the fiscal cliff. The fiscal cliff
guys, with blackmail and bribe, and it says...
MATTHEWS: No, they`re the best lobbyists I`ve seen.
You know what I liked about it? It showed that the Democratic Party
of that day, the northerners, were pretty much copperheads. They did not
want to end slavery. That just blew me away, how the northern guys who
were Democrats were playing ball with the war ending, thinking they could
let the south keep slavery, basically.
EDELSTEIN: Right, right. And you know that everything didn`t really
change until the so-called southern strategy. And then -- then we have a
new political role.
I had to keep doing back flips in my mind whenever parties were
mentioned. Because one party seemed to stand for one thing that -- the
complete opposite of what it stands for now.
MATTHEWS: Well, the Republican Party picked up all the Dixiecrats, of
course, in the `60s. They played that game.
Let`s take a look at -- here`s Ben Affleck. He stars and also directs
"Argo," a story of six Americans rescued by the Canadians and CIA agent
Tony Mendez in 1980 by pretending to be producing a Hollywood movie. Let`s
take a look. I love this movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN ARKIN, ACTOR: OK. You`ve got six people hiding out in a town of
what, four million people, all of whom chant "Death to America" all the
You want to set up a movie in a week. You want to lie to Hollywood, a
town where everybody lies for a living. Then you`re going to sneak 007
over here into a country that wants CIA blood on their breakfast cereal.
And you`re going to walk the "Brady Bunch" out of the most watched city in
BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: Past about 100 militia at the airport. That`s
ARKIN: Right. Look, I`ve got to tell you. We did suicide missions
in the Army that had better odds than this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Alan -- the great Alan Arkin in this role. What did you
think? I was at a movie theater in Washington, and everybody cheered like
mad, at a movie, when that was over, "Argo."
EDELSTEIN: Oh, I know. I mean, I think it`s a hustle of genius. In
fact, I think Ben should take that -- that Senate position opened by John
Kerry. It might put a crimp in his love life, but he proves that he is
just a consummate showman in this movie.
You know, everything about this movie is real. Absolutely real.
Fetishistically real, except for the climax, which is straight out of a
Hollywood cliff hanger from the 1920s. It`s -- but it`s a terrifically
entertaining movie. I agree with you. And it just shows you how much we
didn`t know way back when.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I know, I remember that as a side story and what a
great role the Canadian ambassador played. In fact the guy they picked to
play the Canadian, looked like him. It was really an amazing performance.
Anyway, now back to politics and Bill Murray`s portrayal of FDR in the
years just before World War II and his relationship -- I never knew about
it -- with his cousin Daisy, played by the great Laura Linney, while
welcoming the king and queen of England before World War II in "Hyde Park
on Hudson." Let`s watch a bit of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MURRAY, ACTOR: You were wonderful tonight, young man.
SAMUEL WEST, ACTOR: What do you mean?
MURRAY: Just what I said. You were graceful. You were confident.
You`re going to be a very fine king.
WEST: I don`t know what to say.
MURRAY: Your father would be very proud.
WEST: I`m not so certain about that.
MURRAY: If I were your father, I`d be proud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Bill Murray playing the charming FDR, laying it on
the king of England. What did you make -- I haven`t seen that movie yet.
I will definitely see it. What did you make of it, David?
EDELSTEIN: It`s a strange little movie. It`s kind of shapeless. But
there is something very interesting going on now. As you learn more about
the lives of great men, you see that sexually, they were -- they were more
twisted than even, you know, Bill Clinton could conceive of on his kinkier
To think that, you know, so much was going on behind the scenes of
FDR, from his polio, from, you know, from the fact that the country was
never allowed to see him in his wheelchair, being pushed around. And --
and the idea that he had this entire harem of lovers, some of them his
cousins, it just, you know, it sort of -- it makes you realize just how
naive we are in terms of how we`re able to understand our...
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m -- put me down as a skeptic about all of that,
except Lucy Rutherford. And the Lucy Rutherford relationship was very
real. I don`t know about these other ones. I wouldn`t call it a harem.
Who else is in this harem of yours, David? I think you`re overstating
this. Give me some names.
EDELSTEIN: You know what? There are a whole bunch of them. In fact,
they trade -- they trade tips about how to please him in the film. Now...
MATTHEWS: OK, we`re stopping right here. OK, thank you. We`ll be
right back with David. Getting a little too kinky for me. We`ll be right
back in a moment with more of the best -- let`s stick to politics here --
best political movies of the year.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics, not kinkiness.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Back with more on the political movies of 2012, with "New
York" magazine film critic, David Edelstein.
David, let`s talk about something really hot right now, the movie
that`s getting all the buzz, dark and positive, some of it not so positive,
and it`s this movie "Zero Dark Thirty," about the killing of bin Laden.
What do you make about the buzz about the fact that the torture stuff has
not been proven, in fact, has been pushed back against it, torture did not
get us to bin Laden.
EDELSTEIN: Well, I -- look, the movie takes a position, despite the
fact that Kathryn Bigelow, the director, and Mark Boal, the screenwriter,
say they`re not taking a position.
There`s no question in my mind that Mark Boal drank the Kool-Aid given
to him by his CIA sources and really believes that one of the key links in
the chain that led us to Osama bin Laden was obtained through torture.
That`s what happens in the movie. I don`t know if it was right. I wasn`t
there. Nobody knows if it was right, except those people high up in the
But let`s agree that this is what the movie is saying. The movie
might not like it. They might say, it`s ugly as hell, this torture thing
is just terrible. They might de-romanticize the violence in the movie.
They might show you...
MATTHEWS: How will that affect the awards? The awards -- will it
help them get an Academy -- her again an Academy Award again? Because it
makes the case that torture works, and it seems the liberals in the Academy
might not like that. In a way, some of them were neocon right-wingers
might say, "Yes." The Dick Cheney types might say, you know, well, that`s
how you win these awards.
How`s it going to affect the politics of winning the Academy Award?
Because I think she`s up for it.
EDELSTEIN: I don`t know. I would think it would put the kibosh on
EDELSTEIN: Because I do think that`s how people lean out there. And
you have a much more liberal choice in "Lincoln," if you will. A Tony
Kushner certified choice.
MATTHEWS: You`re right, Kushner`s going to help.
EDELSTEIN: I`m very ambivalent about this movie myself. I`m very
wishy-washy about it.
On one hand, I think it`s the most phenomenally made movie of the
year. I think it`s, you know, a great piece of filmmaking.
On the other hand, I -- I think it`s amoral. I have strong questions
about the use of the information.
MATTHEWS: We`re about to disagree, though. I think "Les Mis," I saw
it last night? Your view, as an expert, "Les Mis"?
EDELSTEIN: "Les Mis" is a monster; it`s a monster hit. It`s an
Do you know in "Alien" those face huggers that went -- and then they
sort of impregnate you through the mouth? You know, that`s how I felt
after I saw "Les Mis." There`s a movie that is so in your face for three
hours. When it was over, I -- there`s no question why I was applauding.
They were shouting at me for three hours. I wanted to shout back.
MATTHEWS: You know, I agree with you. It was tough as a movie,
because it still belongs on the stage. My son was in it in high school. I
love this play, I love the music.
I thought that Hathaway was great and Hugh Jackman was great, and I
thought everybody tried, even poor Russell Crowe, who shouldn`t have been
in that part, because he should have -- in a film drama, he would have been
great, but the singing part, he`s not Rex Harrison. He couldn`t pull it
But didn`t you -- have you ever seen actors work harder and be more
passionately committed to a movie?
EDELSTEIN: Listen, I want Anne Hathaway to get that Oscar, do you
know why? Can you imagine having to lose all that weight, having to have
your hair plucked off, so that you looked like a chicken when you sang, and
then having the camera in tight on your face as you`re trying to sing an
octave higher than your natural register and pull it off, that`s some
mighty fine Oscar bait right there.
MATTHEWS: Somebody told me -- somebody told me people really
applauded that right in the middle of the movie. I`ve never seen that in a
EDELSTEIN: I did. I did, too. I did, too.
Look, I hated the movie, but you know what? Respect where it`s due.
You know, those guys earned their paycheck.
MATTHEWS: There it is. I agree with everything that you said, except
in the end, everybody should see it, because it`s passionately about the
way we ignore poverty, and the way we look down on poor people below us.
And it kept saying, look down, pay attention to those below you on the
food change, who are having it much tougher than you. Don`t play the cop
here. Don`t be Javert.
MATTHEWS: Be Jean Valjean. And what a great man, Jean Valjean.
EDELSTEIN: It`s a great story.
MATTHEWS: What a man. What a man.
EDELSTEIN: And all those cockney French revolutionaries, you know,
are people that we can believe in.
MATTHEWS: You are so tough.
EDELSTEIN: I am.
MATTHEWS: You are so tough. Where`s the romance? I go to the movies
for the cathartic romance. Anyway, thank you.
I want to see all the movies. I want to see the Roosevelt movie. I
want to see the Hitchcock movie, the good one, with Anthony Hopkins.
There`s so much to see this year. Don`t do this to me.
Anyway, thank you. That`s HARDBALL for now with David Edelstein.
EDELSTEIN: Thank you. Happy New Year.
MATTHEWS: It`s great (UNINTELLIGIBLE). From "New York" magazine.
Happy New Year.
"THE ED SHOW" with Ed Schultz starts right now.
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