November 26, 2013
Guest: Steve McMahon, John Feehery, Donna Gentile O`Donnell, Michelle
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Fear itself.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. No sooner than the president declared
his deal to avert a third American war front in the region, the new
initiative with Iran, the knee-jerk right of this country began tweeting
its call to arms.
The mere word alone that an American president wanted to avoid yet another
bloody, open-ended conflict in the Middle East or thereabouts was enough to
send the usual suspects, right-wing war hawks and neocons, charging to
their keyboards, screaming surrender, appeasement, Munich.
Would someone explain to me the danger in at least trying to avoid carrying
out yet another American attack on an Islamic country, another bugle call
to the cakewalk that ends up a decade-long death march? Can`t we learn
that it`s a lot easier to get into a war than to get out of one? Can`t we
learn that those who make the promises of how easy war can be are the same
folks you can`t find them on television or anywhere else, who go headed
back to their warrens and carrels and senior fellowships at the American
Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, and all those other home
front hideaways, the second the first real bullets fly?
Don`t listen to these people, not when there`s a chance we can avert a war
with a real country like Iran, a country capable of major military action,
one with an ally like Hezbollah that would end no -- would actually have no
problem whatsoever in launching and prosecuting an endless campaign of
unpredictable action around the world the second we arm it with the moral
authority of having been victim to a unilateral attack by the United States
An honest person will tell you you can`t predict the future. The one
prediction we can believe is the relentless desire of so many on the
foreign policy right to see every conflict as the chance to unleash
American firepower before nightfall.
Eugene Robinson`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington
Post" and an MSNBC political analyst. Sam Stein, who`s joined us, as well
-- he`s with the HuffingtonPost and an MSNBC contributor.
I must say, I got up this morning and read "The Washington Post" and began
laughing at the black humor, if you will, of these people, the knee-jerk,
in Dana Milbanks`s column. The second there was word that there was a deal
with Iran that would avert a war --
EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly.
MATTHEWS: -- they started saying Munich, appeasement, sellout,
surrender. Who are these people?
ROBINSON: Not just before they knew the details, before they knew the
outlines, before they knew anything about --
ROBINSON: The one that drives me nuts, and I don`t have that great a sense
of humor about it, actually, is Munich --
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.
ROBINSON: -- which has become a sort of an all-purpose word devoid of
meaning that`s meant to criticize any agreement -- any agreement short of
war with any adversary or enemy is automatically Munich.
And so what does that mean? And the answer is it`s used to mean everything
and nothing. There`s no content there that applies to this situation at
all. It`s just ridiculous.
MATTHEWS: You know, I`m a Churchill guy, Sam, all the way. I`ve been in
the Churchill Society all my life. I love the guy. He`s my one great
enduring hero. But the complications of 1938 were real. They`d just come
out of World War I, the worst war in history up until that date. They saw
a chance to avoid it. It was wrong, there`s no doubt about it, but it was
based upon the other side being completely and utterly deceitful.
If that`s the rule, that you always assume that the other side is lying all
the time, that you`re always up against Hitler, it is smart to avoid a
Munich, but to use it as a template to avoid any way to avoid war, it seems
to me, is not very smart.
Jack Kennedy, my other hero, agreed to trade the Turkish missile bases, the
Jupiter missiles in Turkey so we wouldn`t go to nuclear worldwide war with
the Russians over Cuba. He blinked, and so did Khrushchev, and we avoided
nuclear war. This idea that blinking and the dealing to avoid a war is
somehow chicken is really high school stuff. Your thoughts.
SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, in addition to
that, Nixon went to China. Reagan talked to the Soviets. I mean, there is
a template for diplomatic, as well, and includes Republican president.
But obviously, Gene`s right. Munich is a stupid analogy. We`re talking
about Czechoslovakia in 1938.
MATTHEWS: Yes, how --
STEIN: We`re talking about something much more complex.
MATTHEWS: How about Castro and Begin? Begin!
MATTHEWS: Did he commit Munich because he made a deal with Egypt? Was
STEIN: Of course not. Of course not. And the other thing that`s worth
pointing out, obviously, is that there is a timetable here. It`s a six-
month timetable. We`re not talking about a permanent pact or treaty.
We`re talking about a treaty to open up an option for more treaties.
And so this is a delicate process. This is how diplomacy works. It`s not
maybe suited for the 21st century media and Twittersphere, but it`s
certainly a possible outcome to avoid what everyone wants to avoid, which
is a nuclear Iran.
And when Obama was elected, he said all options would be on the table,
including talking to our adversaries. So if people are surprised that he
went on this path, they weren`t really paying attention to the 2008 or the
MATTHEWS: You know that, Gene -- I just got to step back because I know we
all see the real problems. By the way, we all work on the same page. Even
right, left and center, we see the same news, the problems with "Obama
care." These things are obvious, the dangers of this deal. We all see
them. It`s a question of this.
The American people voted in 2008 in the primaries and the caucuses for
Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, both extremely well qualified
candidates. I believe the central issue differentiating the two of them
wasn`t anything else except that Obama had tilted clearly against any more
wars in the Middle East --
MATTHEWS: -- and said so about Iraq. And it signals, as Sam just said,
I`m going to in a totally different director, where Hillary Clinton then,
Senator Clinton then, had made it clear she was going to a much more a
centrist traditional path. He said, No, let`s try something different.
ROBINSON: Yes, no, that`s absolutely right. It`s what people voted for,
and it`s what they`re getting. And look, only a fool goes to war if he or
she doesn`t have to. If you can get it without going to war --
MATTHEWS: Explain that -- explain why.
MATTHEWS: -- where it`s leading.
ROBINSON: No, because you don`t know where it`s leading. People die. You
know, not just Iranians die, Americans die. It`s -- now, if you -- if you
had a strike, a military strike, and you were able to eliminate half of
Iran`s more highly enriched uranium, if you were able to shut off their
enrichment to that level at least for six months, if you were able to get a
concession that they would only enrich up to reactor fuel status and an
agreement for daily verification to make sure this is true -- if you got
that after a strike, you`d be ecstatic!
MATTHEWS: In other words --
MATTHEWS: -- without gunplay, we got this.
ROBINSON: Exactly. We got all that without gunplay. So --
MATTHEWS: OK, here`s one other thing we know. Sam, before we get into the
crazy stuff tonight, I want to go with what I think is the sane stuff. I
think everybody, the three of us certainly agree, that if we bomb there or
clearly allow the Israelis -- nobody`s going to believe the Israelis did it
on their own. We`ll be working with them. I think that`s true. It`s a
The Iranian portion of the public, whether it`s a majority or less than a
majority of the people who want to try to join the world, they`ll be on the
nationalist side then, joining the mullahs. They`ll be all out against us,
right, and they`ll go right full speed ahead with as much nuclear weapons -
- as many as they can build as fast as they can build. So we know for sure
if we strike, that will be the reaction, right?
STEIN: Sure. And this is the thinking in diplomatic circles in the State
Department, as well, which is that the election of President Rouhani really
provided an opening. And if you would have clamped now, whether it`s
through military action or additional sanctions, you would essentially
nullify his legitimacy, his credibility within the country of Iran.
And so you have to take this opportunity as it presents itself. And you`re
right. I mean, there is a very small window here. If you react too hardly
(ph), you essentially turn all of Iran against us and against Israel. And
if you react too softly, well, that`s what you have right now, is that you
have domestic political critics howling at the president.
But essentially, what this comes down to is that these critics assume that
Barack Obama is going to get duped. And I just don`t see any reason --
STEIN: -- at this juncture, within a week of this thing, within days of
this thing being out that they can jump to that conclusion. They need to
let this thing simmer for a little bit.
MATTHEWS: I think they ought to read Barbara Tuchman, too, about "The Guns
of August," how we got into those world wars in the 20th century, by not
doing what Obama is trying to do now.
Anyway, "surrender" -- that was the other buzzword from neocons and the
right wing after the Iran deal was announced. John Bolton wrote, quote,
"This is not, as the Obama administration leaked before the deal became
public, a compromise on Iran`s claimed right to enrichment. This is abject
surrender by the United States."
Conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin tweeted, quote, "Obama`s
destruction spreads worldwide. We surrender to Iran."
MATTHEWS: Michele Bachmann, another genius -- she calls herself a genius,
I`m not being sarcastic -- quote, "U.S. gets nothing in return for easing
sanctions on Iran. Total surrender by Obama administration that puts our
security at risk."
I`d love to give her a map sometime and see if she can find Iran.
And Rush Limbaugh accused the president of giving Iran the go-ahead to
build a bomb. Let`s listen, from Rushbo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Now Obama has Iran, who are Syria`s
masters -- he`s given them the green light to go ahead with their own
weapons of mass destruction program!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Gene, you like the way he stretches out words when he really
wants to make the point?
ROBINSON: Yes (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Well, what is -- what is these people -- do they have -- did
they study the record here, looking at anything more than an easy metaphor?
ROBINSON: Well, it`s an easy metaphor. They think of it as an easy
attack. Obama did it, therefore it`s wrong! It must be something wrong.
It must be appeasement. And by the way, he`s probably a Muslim, too. You
know, I mean --
MATTHEWS: What would they say to --
MATTHEWS: Well, actually, I got to say in this case, the neocons are
MATTHEWS: I mean, if W had dared break with Cheney --
ROBINSON: Yes, right. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: -- for five minutes --
ROBINSON: Exactly. They would have been all over him, too. But look,
what is the surrender supposed to entail? I guess it`s supposed to be
acknowledgment of some sort of right to uranium enrichment. The document
is deliberately ambiguous on that point. The Iranians are claiming that
they have established that right and we say that they haven`t.
But step back for a second. The Iranians know how to enrich uranium.
They`ve been doing it for a while.
MATTHEWS: I know.
ROBINSON: They know how to do it. How do you take that away? How do you
take away the knowledge of how -- of the uranium cycle? And the answer is
you don`t. What you do is you figure how to keep that from progressing to
a weapons program.
MATTHEWS: Can I interrupt just for a second, Sam? I think we`ve got to
get ready for a bulletin here. I assume in the next 24 hours, we`ll hear
that the Cheney family is reunited around the issue -- if not same-sex
marriage, they`re reunited around the issue of Iran. We`ll probably have
Mary, Liz, Lynne and Dick Cheney on one of the weekend shows this weekend
declaring war on Iran and blaming Obama for everything that`s gone wrong.
Anyway, your thought? Because I think it`s coming.
STEIN: Well, I mean, listen, this is a very easy political attack. What
you left out was John Cornyn`s tweet that this was all a distraction from
"Obama care," as if they`d been planning this out eight months in advance
for this very moment.
But you know, Gene`s not -- you know, Gene`s right, but if you read the
document, what they`re talking about with enrichment levels is a mutually
defined enrichment levels, which -- "mutually" is an important word there.
It`s not like we`re just leaving Iran to their own devices. There`s going
to be independent inspectors of what`s happening in the country. There`s
going to be an international microscope over Iran.
Again, this goes back to the idea that somehow, Obama will enter this
agreement and get duped by the Iranians, and in six months` time, we`ll
find ourselves in a worse position. There`s nothing in this treaty that
says this is permanent. They can always reverse the sanctions. If they
determine that Iran is cheating, they can go back on them.
So again, I`m not sure why everyone`s rushing to condemning it as
surrender, when there`s literally nothing that`s permanent about it.
ROBINSON: Right. Exactly. It gets monitored. It -- daily, as a matter
of fact. And in six months, we`ll be a better position. They`ll have less
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, guys --
ROBINSON: -- uranium than they have today.
MATTHEWS: I`ll give a map to people that want something besides Munich to
think about. We bombed them with everything we got, they react. They go
after the Straits of Hormuz. They start making moves on that. We have to
go in by land. We have to stop them somehow. We use sea battles. We see
sea-launched aircraft and bombing raids. And that won`t work. And then
we`ll keep at it and it`ll escalate.
Anybody who thinks Iran`s not a real country hasn`t studied history. It`s
not one of these British-created portions of the map, like Iraq or Jordan.
It`s a real country, and it`s going to fight because, you know, we don`t
like what they`re doing and they don`t like what we`re doing.
We`re making the demands, by the way. Hitler was making the demands.
We`re making the demands. Stop building a nuclear weapon. We`re the ones
putting a demand on them, and I hope we can enforce it this way, rather
than the other way. Either way, I believe we`re going to enforce it.
No American president will survive right, left, or center with a nuclear
weapon in the hands of those ayatollahs. That is the deal. Listen
carefully. That`s the deal. The question is how do we get to it?
Thank you, Gene Robinson, and thank you, Sam Stein.
Coming up: No more Mr. Nice Guy. President Obama stays on offense. Not
only is he talking taking on the neocons on Iran, he`s fighting the
Republicans on the filibuster. So how`s he doing in this offensive?
Also, a new challenge for the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court will
decide now, they said so, whether the law`s contraception of (ph) insurance
mandate -- in other words, requiring the companies to carry contraception
coverage as part of their policy -- could violate the religious beliefs of
corporations. Are corporations people?
And the GOP is quickly becoming the party of 30 percent. Roughly 30
percent of Americans agree with them on immigration, on gay marriage, the
deal with Iran and more. How long before that wave hits them? By the way,
only 20 percent of the country supports the Tea Party.
And there`s a new spin on what used to be a life-or-death decision at the
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s some unsettling news for progressives. Republicans
have jumped ahead in the generic 2014 congressional ballot. Take a look at
the latest CNN/ORC or O-R-K (sic) poll. When people were asked what --
what -- who they want to represent them in the House of Representatives,
Republicans now have a 2-point edge over the Democrats. That`s a sharp
reversal from just a month ago, when the Republicans shut down the
government and trailed Democrats in the generic ballot by 8 points. That`s
a 10-point switch.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My top priority is making
sure that this country remains a country where everybody who`s willing to
work hard can get ahead. And we`d be a lot further along without some of
the dysfunction and obstruction we`ve seen in Washington. We would be a
lot further along!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, President Obama,
but -- today, just a while ago, talking to workers at Dreamworks Animation
out in California and leaving no doubt there is not -- they`re not -- he`s
not for the obstructionists in Washington, also known as Republicans. The
country, he said, would be in better shape without them.
Anyway, the president has been unquestionably on offense lately (INAUDIBLE)
what I see it (ph) in just the past week. He told Congress, enough, no
more blocking his nominees with filibusters -- just gumming up the works.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Today`s pattern of obstruction -- it just isn`t normal. It`s not
what our founders envisioned, a deliberate and determined effort to
obstruct everything, no matter what the merits, just to refight the results
of an election is not normal. And for the sake of future generations, we
can`t let it become normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And on Iran, the president drew a distinct contrast with the
Bush-Cheney years and used a muscular foreign policy to break new
diplomatic ground in the Middle East.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We cannot commit ourselves to an endless cycle of conflict. And
tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically, but it`s
not the right thing for our security.
OBAMA: It is not the right thing for our security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was yesterday. The president`s been struggling in the
polls, of course, and while (ph) no doubt hopes his more aggressive stance
will do him some good politically.
Well, Steve McMahon`s here to talk about that. He`s a Democratic
strategist. And John Feehery`s a Republican strategist.
You know, I noticed a change in the direction, the president was like in a
boxing match, I guess that`s as good a metaphor as any, given politics, the
way it is today, and he was in the corner. He was on the ropes. And
finally, he decided to stop whatever rope-a-dope may have been going on,
and he`s out there punching away.
No more filibusters, no more putting holds on the budget, no more Ted Cruz
running the place. We`re going to war. Let`s talk about that first thing,
his decision to go out there and say, No more filibusters on appointments,
especially of lower court and cabinet appointments. No more of that.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You remember that scene from
"Rocky," where he sits in the corner, he says, Cut me, cut me, I`m going
out there! The president --
MCMAHON: Adrian! I`m going out there!
MCMAHON: Listen, the president did what only presidents can do. He took
the bully pulpit. He packed it up on Air Force One and he went on the
road. And he went to states and he had a different message almost every
day. He talked about immigration reform. He talked about filibusters.
He`s taking the Republicans on in their home turf. He`s going to
Republican states where the Republican governors have not expanded Medicare
-- or Medicaid to bring people into the health insurance system, and he`s
challenging them to do it. He`s doing what presidents do so well and what
only presidents can do, and he`s doing it out in the country where --
MATTHEWS: Yes, but his message is offensive! Which was the great football
coach that said the best defense is a good offense?
MATTHEWS: Woody Hayes, someone like that --
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: -- Vince Lombardi or --
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that?
FEEHERY: Well --
MATTHEWS: He`s out there punching. He`s not flinching anymore.
FEEHERY: I think it`s a valiant --
MATTHEWS: This president --
FEEHERY: -- effort by the president to kind of change the subject off of
"Obama care" --
MATTHEWS: Oh, God!
FEEHERY: -- which has been a disaster.
FEEHERY: Let me say -- now, I don`t think the Iran thing is part of that,
but I do think that --
MATTHEWS: -- because that`s what Cornyn said.
FEEHERY: I do think that the filibuster thing was part of that. What it`s
going to do is it`s going to unite Republicans, which is good thing for
FEEHERY: And as we know, it`s not going to distract from "Obama care."
And if we look at -- if Republicans can avoid closing down the government,
they`re going to keep on -- their ratings are going to keep going up as we
MATTHEWS: I saw it!
FEEHERY: -- and the president`s ratings are going to keep going down
because "Obama care" is extraordinarily unpopular!
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s no way not to say that Obama -- the president`s
health care plan hasn`t been the main catalyst of this drop in the generic
number. We know that.
But here`s the question about the one we just talked about. Is the
president smarter to just take the punches, to play rope-a-dope, just let
them keep pounding him on court appointments? He can`t even get Richard
Stengel through undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. He hasn`t
been able to get Cabinet officials through, appellate court level.
He`s had to put up with people on the other side saying we don`t need that
many judges, accusing him of court packing.
FEEHERY: And the Democrats did the same thing in the same district court
when Bush ran the White House. The fact of the matter is, the best thing
for the president and his legacy is to cut deals with Republicans and get
MATTHEWS: What do they want?
FEEHERY: A big budget deal. Something on Social Security and entitlement
MCMAHON: How about this for a deal? Have a vote. Just put them on the
floor and have a vote. You know what happens now in the Senate. You
actually have to get 60 votes to move something to the floor. And then you
have to get 60 votes to move it off the floor.
FEEHERY: This power playing is going to unify Republicans and make it
harder for Republicans to cut a deal.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question. Just take off your political gloves
for one second.
Is the Senate a better body to have this filibuster used relentlessly or to
have it used only once in awhile?
MATTHEWS: What is better for the Senate, once in a while -- look, Clarence
Thomas, probably the most controversial nominee of the Supreme Court in a
long time, got in with 52, not 60. Should the Democrats have required 60
for him? He never would have gotten in.
FEEHERY: The best thing for the Senate to do is to have choke points so
you get deals and have the process work. Harry Reid has been a terrible
majority leader. He will not negotiate with Mitch McConnell.
MATTHEWS: Should a Supreme Court or any court appointment be a compromise
pick or should it be the president`s pick?
FEEHERY: Well, the Supreme Court -- this is not including the Supreme
MATTHEWS: But should the president be allowed to pick his Cabinet?
FEEHERY: Of course he should.
MATTHEWS: Or that should be a compromise with the Republicans?
FEEHERY: I think that`s right, although the picking of Mel Watt, he was
not qualified for that job.
MATTHEWS: I know a senator now who has gotten all the ink lately. His
name is Ted Cruz. He`s voted against, Steve, everybody.
MATTHEWS: Everybody. He votes against everybody for everything. Is that
the way the Constitution`s meant to work?
And in fact if you look at the history of the filibuster and the number of
times it was used in the first 175 years of the country vs. the number of
times it`s been used in the last 25 years or so --
FEEHERY: And --
MCMAHON: Hold on one second, John.
MATTHEWS: The filibuster used to be for big stuff.
MCMAHON: The big stuff, huge stuff.
When I worked for Senator Kennedy, it was probably six or eight filibusters
a year. And now it`s six or eight per day. It`s ridiculous.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, a Politico article today pointed out that the
establishment Republicans, you folks, efforts to get a grip on the party
wing has so far proved fruitless.
Former RNC Chair and MSNBC political analyst our friend Michael Steele is
quoted here. "The establishment thought" -- that`s you -- "oh, once they
get to Washington, we will wrap our arms around them. We will put a shrimp
in one hand" -- I guess that`s from cocktail parties -- "and a committee
assignment in the other and they will be ours. And they were like sheep.
Keep your shrimp. And they were like keep your shrimp. I don`t want your
committee assignment. And I`m not voting for the same old crap you guys
put up every year."
Is the Tea Party under the control of the establishment or the other way
FEEHERY: I would say think the House is more unified than it ever has
MATTHEWS: Who is calling the shots?
FEEHERY: Now, the Tea Party leaders, per se, the Club for Growth and
Senate Conservative Fund, those guys are just trying to raise money for
their own pocketbooks.
If you`re talking about what is happening in the House and Senate, they`re
more unified than they ever have.
MATTHEWS: Come January 15, when we have the next choke point on a
government continuing resolution to avoid another shutdown, will the Tea
Party reign or will John Boehner`s establishment wing, your wing, reign?
FEEHERY: I think that the conservative Republicans will reign and they
will have a deal that will not shut down the government.
MCMAHON: OK. Well, hold on a second, John, because we just saw this play
There are 50 or 60 Tea Party members who control the Republican Caucus in
the House of Representatives.
FEEHERY: John Boehner --
MCMAHON: John Boehner couldn`t control them last time. And there`s no
reason to believe he`s going to be able to control them next time.
FEEHERY: I think there`s plenty of reason to believe.
MCMAHON: Give me one reason to believe it.
MCMAHON: why are they more likely to follow Boehner now than before?
FEEHERY: Mitch McConnell put it the best way. They`re not going to shut
the government down again.
MCMAHON: Mitch McConnell is in the Senate. What about John Boehner?
MATTHEWS: You worked for the speaker and I worked for the speaker.
Why doesn`t John Boehner, who -- he`s a very likable guy in a sort of
empathetic way. Why doesn`t he just call a vote, a division, call all the
Republicans into a big room, shut the media out of the door and say I want
to vote right now? Am I your speaker? Can I make decisions for this body,
or do I got to kiss butt for the rest of my time here? Which way is it
going to be? Am I your leader?
And if a bunch of right-wing crazies raise their hand and say, we have the
right to veto everything you do, say fine. Run somebody against me. Run
somebody against me. And I will beat them.
FEEHERY: Well, listen, nobody within the Republican Conference right now
could beat John Boehner in a one-on-one, and he knows that.
MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he show that?
MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he shove it at them?
FEEHERY: This was a learning process for a lot of new members. They went
through it. It was a little bit painful.
MCMAHON: What did they learn? What did they learn?
FEEHERY: They learned not to shut down the government. They`re not going
to do it again.
MCMAHON: They didn`t learn that.
FEEHERY: And when you watch that -- when the government doesn`t shut down,
their ratings go up.
MATTHEWS: Have you noticed?
FEEHERY: I know. That was my --
MATTHEWS: Remember the guy with the hammer? They said, why are you
hitting yourself in the head with the hammer so much? He said, because it
feels so good when I stop.
MATTHEWS: Maybe that`s your party`s rule.
Anyway, thank you, John Feehery. Thank you, Steve McMahon.
My dad told me that.
MATTHEWS: Up next: the old White House tradition with a very new twist.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Over the weekend, the
U.S. signed a deal with Iran to stop their nuclear program for six months.
And if Iran breaks this agreement -- this is serious -- if it breaks this
agreement, the U.S. will impose even more crippling sanctions.
Yes. And the Iranians, oh, they -- they know this is serious. In fact,
well, they see what our government did to our economy when we shut it down.
Just think what we could do to theirs. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON")
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": Obama was finally able
to get this deal with Iran. Basically, what happened was, Obama got tired
of trying to fix health care and said, oh, give me an easier problem.
Iranian nukes, I`m on it. Yes, that`s great. That`s much better than what
I have been dealing with the past couple weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome to the "Sideshow."
That was of course Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon reacting to the interim
agreement with Iran over their nuclear program.
Well, David Letterman, however, handled the recent news a bit differently.
Anyone who`s seen Miley Cyrus` bizarre feline-inspired performance at the
American Music Awards will get the joke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": We got a big
deal, nuclear deal with Iran. They say it`s some kind of an agreement.
They will give up their enrichment program, and -- but something`s not
right at the White House. Did you see the president?
PAUL SHAFFER, BAND LEADER: No. What do you --
LETTERMAN: I think it`s the wear and tear of the office. President Obama
is announcing the big nuclear agreement with Iran.
LETTERMAN: Something is not right.
LETTERMAN: Take a look at this. Then we will talk about it.
Here he is.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Diplomacy opened up a new
path for the world and it`s more secure.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: A future in which we can verify that Iran`s nuclear program --
LETTERMAN: See, he`s got a giant cat there.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Finally, it`s the time of year that the White House used to have
make a life-or-death decision, choosing which turkey will receive an
official presidential pardon at the national Thanksgiving turkey
While the sermon itself back down -- goes back to Harry Truman`s
presidency, George H. Walker Bush was the first president to officially
pardon one. But this year, the White House is putting a new spin on that
tradition. They are allowing voters to decide which turkey will get the
special privilege in an online poll on their Web site. Voters can choose
between two finalists, each with their own profile.
One`s named Popcorn. The other turkey`s name is Caramel. Only one will
get the title. But giving to the fact that this is a liberal White House,
a progressive White House, it assures that both will be spared. Both
turkeys will live.
Anyway, the deadline for the competition is 8:00 p.m. tonight. And the
ceremony will be held tomorrow.
Up next: The Affordable Care Act goes back to the Supreme Court. That`s
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins.
A massive winter storm is bearing down on the East Coast threatening travel
plans for millions ahead of Thanksgiving. Parts of the Northeast could get
up to 12 inches of snow on Wednesday.
Thirty Haitian migrants were killed after their sailboat capsized off the
coast of the Bahamas. More than 100 survivors were rescued.
President Obama toured DreamWorks Animation. And while there he praised
the entertainment industry for helping shape world culture by promoting
values like tolerance and diversity -- and now we`re going to take you back
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The president`s health care law is headed back to the Supreme Court. Not
exactly great news less than 18 months after the highest court in the land
handed down its landmark ruling upholding President Obama`s health care
law. The court announced it will take up another critical challenge to the
law. This time, the focus will be on the explosive issue, potentially
explosive, contraception, specifically whether or not private companies out
there can legally refuse the law`s mandate that they cover some of the most
widely used forms of birth control for women, forms of birth control like
the pill or the patch.
But, at its heart, this is a case that will tackle rights and issues
fundamental to the law`s core, all wound up in a potential cocktail, if you
will, of religion, women`s rights, medical care, and, of course, politics.
In a highly toxic political environment we`re in right now, the law has
struggled to find its footing. The president`s enemies will look at any
chance of course they get to divide its supporters and chip away at its
The question is, can the coalition that supports it continue to hold
together under this latest assault?
Dr. Donna O`Donnell is a Democratic strategist up in Pennsylvania, and John
Heilemann is an MSNBC political analyst and co-author of "Double Down."
Well, first of all, let me -- Dr. O`Donnell, you`re a specialist.
I want to start with John Heilemann and the way you handled this in your
new book, in "Double Down," the book about the 2012 campaign. When the
president was getting ready for the campaign and worried about keeping his
coalition, including Catholics, who tend to be centrist in the coalition,
how did this come up?
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it came up in the fall of
Chris, you remember when the Affordable Care Act was -- when they were
thinking about moving forward with the -- the act has been passed and the
quickly was what the rules were going to be in terms of what would be
included in the coverage. Secretary Sebelius came out with a rule that
said that there was going to be a relatively limited exemption for
religious freedom for religious institutions.
The Catholic Church was unhappy about that. There was a lot of internal
debate inside the administration, Joe Biden and Bill Daley on one side
arguing for a much broader exemption for the Catholic Church, though almost
everyone else in the president`s inner circle and many of the women around
him saying that the original ruling was the right ruling.
The president unhappy with both options, not wanting to sacrifice the
support of the Catholic vote, but also recognizing that single women were a
hugely important part of his coalition., he ended in a middle ground,
adopting a kind of center course modeling on what the Hawaiian -- the state
law in Hawaii was.
And he ended up getting through the -- kind of threading the needle at
least when it came to the Catholic Church, largely because the Republicans
in their nomination fight veered so far to the right on contraception that
he was able to kind of avoid a lot of the potential problems that he might
have encountered had the Republicans not been quite so extreme on this
MATTHEWS: You know, Donna, this whole fight, as I remember it now, was
whether you should say a religious organization is a church or a religious
organization is a church that has a school next to it which includes the
school, or a religious organization is a Catholic hospital, for example, or
Jewish hospital, in other words, any kind of institution which is owned by
a church or synagogue or religious organization.
And then of course it goes out to some guy who runs a corporation, maybe
runs a pizza company doesn`t believe in contraception, whatever it is, and
they can say, well, no, my conscience as CEO of this corporation or chief
stockholder says, I don`t believe in birth control so I`m not going to have
that covered in our insurance policies.
Where do you think this is going to end up politically, this latest fight
that`s going to the court, whether they have standing? It`s a Mennonite
company, it`s a toy company, basically got standing before the court to say
we do not want to have our health care employee coverage cover
DONNA GENTILE O`DONNELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Chris, you make a
really important point in citing the Mennonites. There`s lot of players.
Most people are talking about the Catholic factor here. But what about a
Christian-scientist-owned company that decides they don`t want to provide
any health care or a Jehovah Witness-owned company that doesn`t want to
provide for the payment of blood transfusions?
They`re stepping into really uncharted territory.
O`DONNELL: With respect to the Catholic issue, I think that it`s awfully
important to remember Catholics are not a monolith. I mean, there are many
Catholic women who have used birth control.
And the hierarchy of the church is very different than the people that are
walking in and out of those churches. So there are an awful lot of
Catholics that voted for this president knowing full well where he stands.
And to your very good point on single women and really all women who over
the course of their lifetimes -- I mean, 90 percent of all women have used
birth control at some point in their lives. So this brushes well past the
domain of just religious exception.
Well, after the court`s announcement, both sides of this fight unleashed
predictable broadsides. In a statement, the White House said -- quote --
"Our policy is designed to ensure that health care decisions are made
between a woman and her doctor. The president believes that no one,
including the government or for-profit corporations, should be able to
dictate those decisions to women."
On the other side of the aisle, Speaker John Boehner put out this
statement. Quote: "Faith-based employers, including Catholic charities,
schools, universities, and hospitals, shouldn`t be forced to provide
services that contradict their faith. The administration`s mandate is an
attack on religious freedom, and I hope it will be reversed by the court."
Now, there, John, the -- the speaker is smart enough not to defend
corporations but to go out there and defend Catholic charities.
And, of course, the danger of this situation is, some organizations will
simply stop offering health care if they can. I don`t know if that`s legal
now. Is it? I mean, is that one alternative? If you can`t discriminate
in what kind of coverage you want to offer, you just don`t offer any?
HEILEMANN: Right. You`d be faced with huge fines if you decide to do
HEILEMANN: And, look, that is what this issue is about.
What the court is taking up right now is, in fact, not so much to do with
what the previous controversy and the Catholic question. This is really a
question about corporates -- about how corporations are defined. And it`s
really interesting --
MATTHEWS: Is a corporation a person?
HEILEMANN: Well, that is the question. That`s the question. And in fact,
the appeals court that ruled in favor of the company in this case that said
it didn`t, that it shouldn`t have to provide health coverage plans that
included contraception said that its reasoning was based on Citizens
It said, if you were going to call -- if you were going to say that
corporations have the right, the personal right of free speech, there`s no
reason why they shouldn`t also have the personal right of expression of
religious rights, right? And --
MATTHEWS: I`m wondering what G.E. have or Comcast? Do they have a
religion? I mean, I didn`t know I was subscribing to one, Donna. I didn`t
know when I took, well, I`m glad I have the position here, but I don`t
think I sense any incense burning anywhere around here, any religious
events occurring here.
These corporations are totally secular. How does an organization say in
its charter, in its basic organizational documents that it subscribes to a
religious principle or not? I didn`t know that happened. But your
thoughts, or what is the information?
DONNA GENTILE O`DONNELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I`m a little
astonished by it to -- as I think you are, Chris. I can`t imagine how one
could knit into a corporate fabric a set of beliefs that would dictate the
terms of what kind of health care you`re going to provide for your
employees. I mean, I have to wonder about the motivations that are driving
MATTHEWS: Well, I guess they`re political.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Donna O`Donnell and John Heilemann.
Up next, how the Republican Party became the party of 30 percent -- a
minority party representing the opinions of an even smaller minority.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Pressure`s mounting on Florida Republican Congressman Trey
Radel. He`s the guy who was arrested and pled guilty to charges of cocaine
possession. Now, the Republican Party chairman in Florida wants him to
resign, and he was quickly echoed by a couple of local Republican officials
who said the same thing.
Now, the question is how long until the national party leadership and
Speaker John Boehner make the same request of Congressman Radel?
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
The Republican Party`s become a minority party of minority opinion because
of the tidal wave of demographic changes in this country, and opinions
working against them. It`s no wonder the Republicans have lost the popular
vote in five of the last six presidential elections.
Well, the perception revealed through polling is that Republicans support
policies held by only a minority of voters. And those views are
insensitive to or alienate a large portion of the public.
For example, 49 percent of those polled feel the laws governing law sales
should be more strict. While just 37 percent agree with Republican
position that the law should be kept the same. On immigration, 57 percent
of those polled say illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the
country and apply for citizenship while just 12 percent said they should be
able to stay without applying for citizenship. And 26 percent says they
should be required to leave the U.S., simply put.
When it comes to those who favor or oppose an interim that would ease some
economic sanctions on Iran, in exchange for restrictions in greater
inspections of their nuclear program, a strong 56 percent support the deal,
while 37 percent oppose it.
And immediately following the Republican`s government shutdown in October,
which was inspired over appeal of the Affordable Care Act, more Americans
opposed repealing the law than supported it.
James Peterson is director of African-American studies at Lehigh. And
Michelle Goldberg is a writer for "The Nation."
Let me start with Michelle on this.
Michelle, if you look at these numbers on guns and the chance at least for
peace or avoiding a war with Iran, a strong substantial number there. And
yet the debate swings the other way too often.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, THE NATION: Right. I mean, part of the problem is that
the Republican Party or at least Republican candidates are incentivized
against being responsive to the majority of the people in this country.
So, there`s no pressure on individual candidates to respond to the fact
that their views are unpopular. Actually, quite the opposite, the
pressure`s all coming from the other direction, to become more extreme, to
cater more to this small but very firmly entrenched fringe.
And so, essentially, what we have is a breakdown of majoritarian democracy
in this country both because of campaign finance and the way that these
kind of big money groups are able to pump so much money into these races
and also just because of gerrymandering and the kind of small state and
rural advantage in our legislature.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about hawks and war and the gun people, James.
Pennsylvania, where you have to live, where you teach, I`m sure you love it
up there, but it is a pro-gun state. And if you go to the question there
of war, if you look back at the numbers, will we win the war in Iraq?
Nobody noticed this, I noticed it, a thin plurality of the American people
supported going to war to Iraq or taking a military action against, which
became war, which became occupation, which became a long occupation, which
Only -- and they said, only if there are no significant casualties, which
was the part of this cake walk malarkey they were putting out at the time,
like, hey, we can actually get in there and get out without any problems.
And a lot of people said, OK, if that`s what we`re going to do, we`ll do
it, OK, especially if they might have the bomb.
And with guns, it`s all about zealotry. If you have a majority of people,
or even a small minority of people in Pennsylvania, for example, who are
gun crazy, don`t mess with my Second Amendment rights, they have far more
power politically than the majority for example that might think, well, a
little gun safety might help these days.
JAMES PETERSON, LEHIGH UNIVERSITY: Yes. Well -- so, Chris, some of the
incentives that Michelle is talking about are financial. That`s why
campaign finance reform is so important because it`s not just that the
Republican Party is a minority party.
MATTHEWS: Yes, let`s talk about what we`re talking. We`re talking about
war. We`re talking about going to war and everybody having a gun. What`s
that got to do with money?
PETERSON: Well, because -- yes, I`ll tell you exactly what it has to do
with money, is that there are moneyed interests that support the neo-con
and the hawks that are in our government. There are moneyed interests,
including the NRA, that support gun manufacturing, which is translated
politically as gun rights and the Second Amendment.
So, in the state of Pennsylvania -- yes, there are a lot of gun owners.
There`s a lot of hunting in the state of Pennsylvania. We also have a
couple of major cities that have challenges around gun control issues, and
the illegal sale of second sale of guns. You know, you have to inform
people about all the issues and sometimes, the minority because they`re
well resourced can get messaging out there that distorts what the actual
political issues are.
So, yes, Pennsylvania has a lot of veterans, we`re pro-veterans in the
state. That doesn`t mean that Pennsylvania is pro-war. But, too often,
wars are sold into constituents as not what they really are. I think the
Iraq war was that. Afghanistan was that.
And part of the reason why we can`t get the proper sort of political cache
around like the Iran deal or not making offenses in Syria is people
convolute and confuse some of these issues for political gain, for the --
MATTHEWS: Let me ask -- Michelle, my question now, because I think we were
sold into the Iraq war by a less than articulate president, a less than
ingenious president, George W. Bush, which scared me, by a very hard-nosed,
hawkish V.P., by some great editorial op-ed writing by the people in "The
Washington Post" --
PETERSON: And very trustworthy General Powell, too.
MATTHEWS: Powell got dragged into this.
I think it was an intellectual argument they made and they won with. I
don`t think it was a big propaganda campaign paid for with people like
(INAUDIBLE) or someone like that. I think it was sold to the people
intellectually, not with money.
Your thoughts? Just to campaign for war, why were we so hawkish back in
2002? Was it just 9/11? What was it?
GOLDBERG: I think it`s a combination of things. I mean, I -- you can`t
just attribute it to money, but there clearly was moneyed interests, and
like you said, intellectual and ideological interests, that took the
widespread anxiety, you know, kind of widespread outrage in the wake of
9/11, and were able to channel it into a war that they wanted to fight even
MATTHEWS: Well said.
GOLDBERG: And you see, I think, something similar in terms of some of the
same people who thought it was such a good idea to go into Iraq are now
kind of mobilizing a torpedo in hope with negotiations with Iran.
MATTHEWS: Is it gun money or is it just gun membership and enthusiasm?
What is it? I think it`s membership --
PETERSON: No, Chris, it`s also NRA and gun lobbying money. Remember, most
of the people in the NRA are in favor of common sense gun safety in the
state of Pennsylvania as well. People are in favor of background checks.
But because of the politics around it is well-resourced, to talk about the
distortion of the Second Amendment, to talk about the fact that the
government is trying to come and take your guns -- those are the ideologies
that inform and help the moneyed interests sort of make their political
But at the end of the day here, we have to do a better job --
MATTHEWS: -- I don`t like doing. I don`t like doing, I might be wrong.
But I may be wrong on that, because I think you`re right. I think if the
NRA were to say, officially, you know, a little bit of gun safety about
background checks to keep the insane at least, and the really criminal
element from getting guns, I think that would sell with the membership.
Do you think that`s true, Michelle, that there`s a clear case for -- the
membership would be open to a little more leniency and a little more
liberalism, if the money people at the top who paid for the ads didn`t
agree with that?
GOLDBERG: That`s certainly what the all the polling said, and also it`s
the kind of people at the top didn`t tell them that any small gesture
towards gun sense was the first step in Obama coming and taking away your
MATTHEWS: Yes. The army of syringes, I like the latest nut case out
there. We`re going to have armies of people to go around with syringes to
somehow dismember people, anyway, or to knock them out, invasion of the
body snatchers is the latest case.
Anyway, thank you, James Peterson. You`re educating me. It was very
Anyway, thank you, Michelle Goldberg.
And we`ll be right back after this. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish with this:
Those who watch HARDBALL know my faith in politics. I believe what the
founders of this country believe -- that people who love this country can
work together to make self government work, we can meet the goals we set,
build the solutions to our challenges, resolve the problems we face by
reasonable debate, compromise and good faith.
I have spent the last two years working on a chronicle of how it`s done.
How the leadership -- real leaders -- of the right and left can argue with
passion, but also govern with patriotism. I believe it can be done because
I saw it done.
I am so thankful to Simon and Schuster for publishing my book, heroic book
I`d say, about a recent time in American history when political fair play
won out, where we took a very conservative president closer to the center,
when we had a great liberal leader to do it.
Thanks to my publisher. This Sunday`s -- coming Sunday`s "New York Times"
book review has a full page spread on "Tip and The Gipper: When Politics
When you go out this Friday, this Black Friday and off to the weekend,
please take the opportunity to pick up a copy as gifts or as simple gifts
for yourself to remind you what American politics can be. It`s the story
of my coming of age, politically, and I`m very proud to have you who watch
this show regularly to read it and discover where I came from.
As I said to young readers who didn`t get to live through the story, it`s
And that`s HARDBALL for you. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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