December 6, 2013
Guest: Bill Keller, Ron Dellums, Lizz Winstead, Dean Obeidallah
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The mind of a leader.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Boston.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. President Obama continues his
offensive, getting great help from a 7 percent jobless rate, the best
number since the historic financial crisis he inherited back in 2009.
And if there`s a single powerful insight I got from our time
yesterday, it`s that those of us looking at President Obama and the man
himself are looking at the same reality. We see the right wing attacking
and obstructing him relentlessly, he certainly sees it. We see the goal of
economic justice as the big stakes of our time, so does the president. And
so, as he said, does Pope Francis over in Rome.
And this big goal, greater economic justice, the president told me, is
what`s driving him, letting him weather the relentless assault from the
right. It`s that he wants to help those most in need, but he also said,
this man who wanted to be a transformational president, that great historic
change generally comes when one party controls the government, times like
the early New Deal, the Great Society, and even the early months of the
Is that what he`s calling for, a big upset victory in next year`s
congressional elections? Let`s find out. Robert Gibbs is an MSNBC
political analyst and a former White House press secretary under President
Obama, and David Corn is an MSNBC political analyst and Washington bureau
chief at "Mother Jones."
Robert, you know better about him than most people. You`ve worked
with him in tight situations. I hope you got to see our program last
ROBERT GIBBS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, MSNBC POLITICAL
ANALYST: I did.
MATTHEWS: We had a huge audience of 1.3 million. I mean, it`s a very
big audience for us of people who tuned in just to hear the president.
Even on a night when so many hearts and minds were focused on the loss of
Nelson Mandela, they took some time out to watch our program with the
He said at that time, when I asked him, How do you do big deals, and
he said, Well, history says that you only get a big program through,
something really important, when one party controls the government, the
House, the Senate and the presidency.
Does that mean to you he`s still holding out hopes that he can pull a
big upset in the sixth year of his presidency next November?
GIBBS: Well, I was certainly struck by the answer in which he was
reminding those college students that a lot of them that might vote in a
presidential year don`t tend to vote in a non-presidential year, but
sometimes, who`s the speaker of the House is a job that`s just as important
as any other.
So I think it`s clearly something that`s on his mind, and it was
clearly something he wanted to be on the minds of those students yesterday.
MATTHEWS: Well, can the brilliant Plouffe, et cetera, and your
operation, that great get-out-the-vote operation that blew everybody`s
socks off last November -- can you replicate that in a midterm without his
name on the ballot, at least not technically on the ballot?
GIBBS: Yes, and certainly, that`s always been quite difficult. I
will say, in the recent election in the governor`s race in Virginia, you
did see turnout that didn`t appreciably drop in terms of the percentage of
the electorate that was made up by certain segments of that population that
you would normally see in a non-presidential election.
So I definitely think there is some hope for that and there`s
certainly some evidence for that. It`s clear that that is going to have to
happen in order to see change in a government that might well be determined
because of redistricting and the real estate of the political environment,
as much as anything else.
MATTHEWS: Yes. David Corn, he was very careful, Robert Gibbs, to say
the people that don`t normally show up at midterms, meaning minorities and
young people. But there he was talking to a young people`s crowd and
trying, I think, project to a larger number of young people across the
country using that audience.
Did you hear -- because the only implication could be either he`s
given up on doing big things, which I`m not willing to admit he has, or he
still hopes to get a governing majority in both houses, where he`s able to
get big things done, like immigration, like ENDA, like a lot of things, and
implementing fully "Obama care"?
DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: To me, there`s -
- the interesting thing here, Chris, is what comes between those two
points. If you look at the speech he gave on economic justice on
Wednesday, clearly, the president has big ideas, has a big agenda. He`s
not done with that. These are things that he`s discussed from the very
beginning when he first started began running in 2007.
To me, what was interesting in watching your interview yesterday is
when he talked about the Republicans. You know, it`s not that he`s
completely resigned to the obstructionism that they`ve presented, but I
didn`t get a sense of a lot of fight.
He talked about being persistent, but I think if he wants to rally
those segments of the electorate that Robert just talked about and that he
referred to at the interview, that he has to be very concrete in what he`s
asking people to rally behind, take some of these grand ideas that he
talked about on Wednesday, that he`s talked about before, whether it`s
raising the minimum wage, expanding Head Start, an infrastructure bank to
get investment going, whatever he talks about, because he has a lot more
credibility now with these new employment numbers, and making it concrete,
putting -- sending bills to Congress and saying, This is what we`re going
to fight for, to give the people next year motivation to go to the polls to
support him, even if he`s not on the ballot.
MATTHEWS: You know, today`s poll numbers remind me of the old
argument, If you want to live like a Republican, vote like a Democrat...
MATTHEWS: ... because the stock market, Robert, is double what it was
he inherited, basically, in the spring of `09.
GIBBS: Don`t I remember.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, as I mentioned, President Obama -- I know you do.
President Obama`s continuing the offensive against his enemies today.
Yesterday, we witnessed yet another escalation in his ongoing war against
his enemies and the hard obstructionist wing of the Republican Party.
During the interview with me and the president of American University,
he didn`t pull any punches when it came to the issue of right-wing gridlock
in here Washington, D.C.
Let`s listen to the president. Lay it out -- as I said a few minutes
ago, just the way we see it here and you see it at home, he sees it the
same way from the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think you can look at
it and you can say that the big challenge we`ve got is you`ve got a faction
of the Republican Party that sees compromise as a dirty word, that has
moved so far to the right that it would be difficult for a Ronald Reagan to
win the nomination for the Republican Party at this point.
I actually think there are a bunch of Republicans who want to get
stuff done. They`ve got to be embarrassed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he said, though -- he`s reminding people there -- in
fact, we can remind them what the president`s talking about here. This is
the reality of obstructionism for the president. He didn`t lay it all out.
Let`s do it here.
House Republicans have torpedoed immigration legislation that passed
with a super-majority over in the Senate. So the House is holding it up.
It`s the same with a recent piece of legislation on workplace
discrimination that sailed through the Senate. This stops you from being
prejudiced in the workplace against people of different orientations.
Boehner refuses even to bring it to a vote over there.
They derailed in the House multiple attempts to put together a budget,
and of the simplest kind of budget tasks. And they`ve shown zero interest
in doing anything constructive on health care. In fact, they`ve voted more
than -- it`s hard to keep count on this baby -- 45 times to kill what the
president produced, without ever producing an alternative of their own.
Robert -- rather -- Robert, in addition to all the things he wants to
do, you know, there`s the stuff he just can`t seem to get done from the
past, including getting judgeships approved. And you know what? I got the
feeling from him -- we`re going to get to it today in a few minutes, but it
looks to me like the Republicans think their cash cow is "Obama care."
Just keep milking that baby for all it`s got, over and over again, the
problems with the rollout.
GIBBS: With the rollout. No, I -- look, I think the list you had is
pretty instructive, and my guess is that`s what you`ll see him spend the
bulk of the time on, certainly in the next few months. I think immigration
reform is something -- obviously, there`s a real political pinch there for
Republicans. They can`t go into the next election in 2014, and certainly
into 2016, without having made some progress on that.
If they don`t do that, we know one thing, that the Republican
obstruction that you spoke of and that the president spoke of -- they`ll
never grow to being a national governing party. They`ll be a regional
congressional party based primarily in the South.
GIBBS: They`ll never be a national governing party. And that`s
certainly a big difference. I do think that you will see, my hunch is,
when the calendar changes, a very focused agenda to do a lot of the things
that David mentioned in terms of pushing economic justice, whether it`s
something like expanding the minimum wage and things like that, going into
next year`s State of the Union, as both an agenda for the year and also
that rallying cry that will get people motivated as we head into these off-
MATTHEWS: Well, one thing that`ll motivate people to vote is when the
people realize that people are trying to stop them from voting. Here`s the
president`s opponents, including zealots like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas,
have made it their mantra that the president`s policies, experience the
Affordable Care Act, are killing the economy.
Well, the economy isn`t dying at all. In fact, there are more and
more signs that it`s under -- it`s actually thriving under the president`s
leadership. According to the new monthly jobs report out today, the
economy added more than 200,000 jobs in November, and the closely watched
unemployment rate, of course, is down to 7, its lowest level in five years.
The president`s enemies responded to the news the only way they know
how, by attacking the Affordable Care Act. Well, here`s only a sampling of
their reactions to the good jobs news. Keep in mind, these are statements
supposedly about the jobs report.
Speaker Boehner said, "We need to protect all Americans from the
fundamentally flawed health care bill." His number two, Eric Cantor, had
this to say. Quote, "Stop "Obama care" from reducing hours and eliminating
jobs." Republican Peter Roskam of Illinois, another Republican, basically
ignored the report, saying, "We continue to see the lost coverage, cost
spikes on the strain (ph) of the president`s health care law."
And then there`s this sugar plum from Tom Price of Georgia, who dug up
the old refrain that millions of Americans are going to see their policies
David, it seems to me no matter what the news, it`s like they used to
do with 9/11 and Rudy. Remember that?
MATTHEWS: Every sentence needs a predicate and 9/11. It`s like they
have to say -- whatever you`re talking about, it`s back to that.
CORN: Yes. I`m surprised they didn`t mention Benghazi because that
seems to be the only other thing they have to talk about. I mean, they`re
going to just -- they won`t -- they`re going to out of "Obama care" attacks
eventually because either, you know, millions of people will get new
benefits, will sign up in the next month, in the next couple of months, and
this won`t be a good path to take outside of the Republican presidential
primary of 2016, or the law won`t work out well, in which case they`ll have
this bonanza, the Republicans, politically speaking.
So this is going to run its course. But they have nothing to talk
about on the economy, which gives the president this great big opening. I
mentioned this a moment ago. The numbers that came out today show that he
has a lot of credibility to talk about how we make things better than they
And he has lots of ideas. He needs to make those things very concrete
at this point in time and start rallying people and winning back some of
the people in the middle who he`s lost in the last week or two because of
the botched rollout. So he has a big opening here.
MATTHEWS: One thing -- I know. One other opening I think he began to
take a -- exploit it a little bit -- and I want to keep doing here because
it`s un-American -- is this effort to suppress the black vote around the
country in 36 states.
By the way, as Robert Gibbs said, if you want Hispanics, people come
here from Mexico and Latin America and anywhere else in the world, to feel
like they have a little -- they need a little break on immigration, they
may vote for him as long as they -- against him as long as they live.
African-Americans keep getting the message from this administration, (sic)
We don`t want you voting. And I think that`s one great encouragement for
people who are grownups to say, If they don`t want me to vote, I`m
guaranteeing you I`m voting.
Anyway, thank you Robert Gibbs. Thank you, David Corn.
Coming up: Getting personal. This is a rare moment we had yesterday.
The president really opened up. As Howard Fineman said it best, never
before have we heard a president talking about being president, what it
feels like while you are, and what we`ve never heard before from a man
still in the White House. Boy, the way he got very personal for a guy who
can be a bit distant, as we know.
Plus, as we remember Nelson Mandela, we`ve got my interview with him
on the eve of his 1994 presidential victory in South Africa, one of my
great opportunities and great -- actually emotional feelings of my life to
get to see him on his way to the presidency.
And a little light-hearted action tonight from the comedy central
otherwise (ph) known as the clown car of the right. It keeps on rolling.
One congressman has decided that the way to end Iran`s nuclear program
would be to drop a small American nuclear bomb on Iran. What a nice guy he
is. What a smart future thinking -- you think they might want to have an
atom bomb after we drop one on them? You think they`d guarantee it? Yes.
You drop an atom bomb on Iran, they`ll spend the rest of their history as a
country making sure they`ve got something to shoot back.
And speaking of the clown car, let it be Rick Santorum to compare
Nelson Mandela`s fight against apartheid to Rick Santorum`s personal fight
against "Obama care." That`s snoopy fighting the red dragon (sic).
Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi isn`t backing down
from the Tea Party. He`s decided to run for reelection next year, which
means facing a primary challenge on his right flank. Cochran, who`s served
six terms in the U.S. Senate, has become a target of the Tea Party for his
vote to end the government shutdown and avoid default.
His primary opponent, state senator Chris McDaniel, announced his
candidacy the day after that vote and will likely be well funded by
national Tea Party types across the country.
We`ll be right back.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
First of all, I would like to say, Chris, that you and the students here
from AU got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see in person a president
talking about what it`s like to be president while he`s actually president.
FINEMAN: The last 15 minutes of this interview were extraordinary.
I`ve never seen anything like it, where a president kind of unburdened
himself to you about why he`s in the ball game. And I thought he made a
very compelling case for his own decency, whatever the screwups were
managerially, and they were real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. In the second part of my
interview with the president of the United States yesterday, a tempered and
reflective Barack Obama talked with me about what it`s been like to be
president, to be him to be president, and how it`s changed him in five
years in office.
Howard Fineman`s an MSNBC political analyst and editorial director of
the HuffingtonPost, and Jonathan Capehart is an MSNBC contributor, and of
course, a "Washington Post" opinion writer.
Howard, I was really taken with your perception there. I actually
missed it because I was so busy trying to prepare myself to follow up on
his thinking. But you hit something -- in your years of experience,
presidents don`t -- as you said, don`t talk about what it`s like to be me,
if you will.
FINEMAN: No, they don`t, and they don`t do it in public. I mean,
I`ve covered a lot of presidents, Chris, and I`ve gotten to know them
pretty up close. And they are sometimes self-reflective, but usually in
private and usually only momentarily. They don`t let their guard down very
But I think in this case, in that interview yesterday, which I still
think was extraordinary, the president was kind of thinking out loud and
talking out loud about his situation.
Let`s face it, he`s at a time where his poll ratings are down, where
his number one program is controversial. He`s got three years in a second
term that he`s not quite sure what he`s going to do with. And sometimes, I
think, he wonders how he`s going to muster the motivation to muscle
through, as he puts it.
FINEMAN: That`s a phrase he uses. But here he was saying, Look, as
long as I`m in touch with the people, as long as I still can imagine in my
mind, as long as I can still remember average folks that I`m fighting for,
I`ll be OK.
And as long as I remember now -- he said, I understand now that things
don`t happen easily, that I`m just part of the long sweep of history and
that I`ve got to try to push the boulder up the hill one inch at a time,
and there`ll be somebody who comes after me.
Now, a cynic might say he`s just trying to sort of, you know, extend
responsibility to all of history and not just to himself. I don`t take
that interpretation. I think you saw a guy trying to -- you know, trying
to remember why he became president in the first place after he`s been here
in Washington for five years, and how he`s going to handle and motivate
himself for the next three years, which I thought was utterly fascinating,
and I think pretty convincing.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Instead of saying, Some big-name historians have said
nice things about me, which keeps me going, he`s saying...
MATTHEWS: No, I`m serious!
FINEMAN: Yes. Right.
MATTHEWS: I met somebody the other day whose kid I -- whose -- whose
kid`s life I saved, rather than, whether, you know, Jon -- you know, Jon
Meacham thinks I`m doing well, or Walter Isaacson.
MATTHEWS: No, I`m serious!
FINEMAN: Yes, I agree!
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) role in history but what people mean (ph) --
(INAUDIBLE) to you, Jonathan. Take a look at this. The president
reflected on his job, of course, and how his view of the presidency`s
evolved over the last five years. It`s important, he said, to remember who
he`s working for.
And here it is. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If you feel those folks in your gut every single day, that
will get you through the setbacks and the difficulties and the frustrations
and the criticisms that are inherent in the office. And I think -- you
know, the interesting thing about now having been president for five years
is it makes you humbler, as opposed to cockier about what you as an
individual can do. You recognize that you`re just part of a sweep of
history. And your job really is to push the boulder up the hill a little
bit before somebody else pushes it up a little further, and the task never
stops of perfecting our union.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Jonathan, I was just thinking, didn`t -- isn`t he
the guy that went like this when somebody criticized him? Dust off my
shoulder, like it doesn`t mean anything to me? Somehow, I remember that,
and now he`s basically saying, it hurts.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
MATTHEWS: The criticism has hurt me.
CAPEHART: I agree with everything...
MATTHEWS: It`s a burden to carry.
CAPEHART: Yes. I agree with everything that Howard said in terms of
his assessment of the president and what he had to say in your interview.
The thing that I took away from it in addition to that was that what
the president was telling you and telling the students there and telling
the American people is, I know what`s going on. I know my poll numbers are
down -- are bad, are horrendous. I know that you`re upset with what`s
happening with the healthcare.gov and the economy and a whole lot of other
things. I know that you see that I can`t get anything done because of
Republicans on Capitol Hill. I know all these things. I`m not running
away from it. I`m not trying to pretend that it`s not there. I know it
has an impact on how I am as president, on how I am able to govern as
president. So I get that.
But the other thing that I took away from that part of the interview,
Chris, is that it took me back to that guy who spoke to the Democratic
Convention in Boston in 2004, a very reflective person at the time...
CAPEHART: ... someone who had a vision of where he wanted to take the
country. And that person is still there. That person -- if you go back
and read his 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic Convention, a shiver
will go down your spine because you will realize that Barack Obama, then
the candidate for Senate, was basically laying out the road map for what he
would do as president.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let`s take a look.
The personal and professional assault this president has faced cannot
be understated. Still, President Obama spoke yesterday about the virtues
of public service itself. And this is true not just of presidents, but a
lot of other people in lesser offices, if you will, will tell you this.
What`s best about the jobs is not the money or the fame -- although it is
for some -- but, for many, it`s for helping people. I mean that. And here
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It continues to be a way to serve that I think can be noble.
It`s hard. It can be frustrating. You got to have a thick skin. And
I know it`s tempting to say, you know what? Why would I want to get in the
mud like that and get slapped around and subjected to all kinds of
But I tell you, the satisfaction you get when you have passed a law or
you have taken an executive action and somebody comes up to you and says,
you know what, my kid`s alive because you passed that health care bill,
because he was uninsured, he got insurance, got a checkup, and we caught a
tumor in time, or you see somebody and they say, you know, you helped me
save my house, and I can`t tell you what that means, it`s pretty hard to
get greater satisfaction than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, we went back. We had two parts to the interview
yesterday, gentlemen and people at home watching it.
And then we came back for what we thought would be just a few minutes.
And in order to -- actually, to be honest with you, to keep him going, I
asked him a question I was hoping would perk him up and really get him into
So, I said, as a Roman Catholic, it`s hard not to think of the link
between him and what he`s been saying about economic justice as of the day
before yesterday and what the new pope, the Holy Father in Rome of my
religion, has been saying about moral responsibilities ever since he became
Fascinating response here, and the president was quick on the uptake.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think Pope Francis is showing himself to be just an
extraordinarily thoughtful and soulful messenger of peace and justice.
I haven`t had a chance to meet him yet, but everything that I have
read, everything that I have seen from him indicates the degree to which he
is trying to remind us of those core obligations.
And that we should take pride as a nation in our ability to work in
concert, and if, in fact, we are helping to assure that that kid over there
who`s not my kid has a chance at a good education or that guy over there
who I`m not related to has a chance at a decent job and a decent
retirement, I`m going to be better off. I`m going to be living in a
society that is more cohesive and is going to create the kind of future for
our kids that we all want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, it was so powerful. He`s not a Catholic. He`s
obviously been paying attention to what the pope has been saying about
social justice, and not talking about abortion so much or the issues that
have been dominating the discussion in my religion so often, but talking
about the old Christian principles that Jesus himself stood for, looking
out for poor people, saying for those who you -- the lowest person you meet
who is in the worst trouble, if you do it for him, you`re doing it for me,
that basic Christianity.
And I -- I was taken the fact he`s been paying attention to that. He
CAPEHART: Yes. Well, right.
The key thing is, while the president`s not a Catholic, he is a
Christian. And when you listen to his speeches, when you listen to what he
says, whether it`s health care or the economy, a lot of it is based in
taking care of the least of these, the ones who are struggling paycheck to
paycheck, the ones who are one illness away from bankruptcy, the people who
are just trying to -- they`re -- they`re playing by the rules, they`re
doing everything they`re supposed to be doing, and yet they`re still being
left behind, and left behind in an economy that`s -- that`s rushing faster
than any of us can keep up with.
So I`m -- I`m not surprised that the president`s paying attention to
Pope Francis. And I`m not surprised that the president feels some sort of
kinship with him, because they both seem to be -- and I have never met Pope
Francis, and maybe I will one day -- but I think the two of them have at
their core this idea...
CAPEHART: ... this spiritual calling to look at -- not to look after,
but to do things to help people better themselves.
Howard, I will have you back to tell me how he puts together the
Machiavellian with the Franciscan here.
MATTHEWS: It`s going to be a challenge.
MATTHEWS: Because there were two parts to that speech. And one was
Barbarossa, I`m going to win this damn thing next year, and the other part
was, I am a nice person.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much, Howard.
And, by the way, great insight last night.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I will keep playing that tape.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And thank you, Jonathan.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: a look at my 1994 interview with Nelson Mandela
-- yes, I`m old -- on the eve of his presidential election back in 1994.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, and now for the "Sideshow."
Nelson Mandela`s death yesterday has caused this country to pause and
reflect on the legacy of a man whose imprisonment helped to turn world
opinion of South African apartheid. In this country, that started with a
historic measure that passed with such bipartisan support that it was able
to override President Reagan`s veto.
It the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, which imposed hard
economic sanctions on South Africa and also called for the release of
political prisoner Nelson Mandela. Bob Dole voted for those sanctions. So
did Mitch McConnell, and so did Newt Gingrich.
But among those who put themselves on the wrong side of history was
Wyoming Congressman and future Vice President Dick Cheney. He voted
against the measure repeatedly that year and stuck to that position. In
2000, Cheney said he had no regrets opposing the measure.
Last night, on FOX television, Bill O`Reilly and former presidential
candidate Rick Santorum took a weirdly different approach in assessing
Nelson Mandela`s legacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
BILL O`REILLY, HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": I have spent some time in
South Africa. He was a communist, this man.
RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Yes.
O`REILLY: He was a communist. All right? But he was a great man.
What he did for his people was stunning, the sacrifices that he made. He
could have repudiated and got out of that prison. He wouldn`t do it. He
was a great man. But he was a communist.
SANTORUM: You`re right. I mean, what he was advocating for was --
wasn`t necessarily the right answer, but he was fighting against some great
And I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on
right now in this country with -- with an ever-increasing size of
government that is taking over and controlling people`s lives. And
Obamacare is front and center in that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What O`Reilly said just then really is 180 from the charge
others have made that, as the first president of South Africa, Mandela
leaned too much toward businessmen and capitalists and big corporate
leaders in encouraging them to invest and stay invested in South Africa.
As for Santorum, equating the fight against the Affordable Care Act
with Mandela`s fight against an organized system of white supremacy is
Much more on Nelson Mandela`s legacy, including my interview with him
on the eve of his presidential victory back in 1994.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
At least nine deaths are blamed on a winter storm that has left
hundreds of thousands without power across much of the nation.
The economy added 203,000 jobs last month, beating economic forecasts
and pushing the national unemployment rate down to 7 percent.
And joined by the first family, President Obama lit the National
Christmas Tree this evening in Washington. Because of the rainy weather,
the president started the countdown at 5:00, instead of 10:00 -- back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My very first political action, the first thing I ever did
that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Nelson
Mandela will be remembered for many things. He will be certainly
remembered for the way he led, his dignity, his extraordinary
understanding, not just of how to bring democracy and freedom to his
beloved South Africa, but how important it was that he first brought
freedom to himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton there recalled the
remarkable influence of Nelson Mandela and his work to end apartheid in
South Africa and on the influence it had obviously on the whole world.
Well, back in 1994, on the eve of his presidential victory back then,
I interviewed Nelson Mandela for ABC`s "Good Morning America." And I asked
him about America`s role in stopping apartheid. And I tell you, he was
very generous here. Let`s listen to a piece of that interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1994)
MATTHEWS: What is the appropriate role, generally speaking, of the
United States in helping you realize your dreams for South Africa?
NELSON MANDELA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As you know,
the United States is regarded as the leader of the Western world.
And the very first head of state who welcomed me when I came out of
prison and invited me to his country was the president of the United States
of America, George Bush, and pledged the support of the United States of
America to our struggle.
President Clinton has continued with that policy. He is one of those
who listens very carefully to our requests, and he responds very
positively. The amount that he has allocated for South Africa is a source
of great encouragement to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, U.S. political support for Nelson Mandela has
fostered -- was fostered by and grew in the Congressional Black Caucus for
nearly 20 years, starting in the early 1970s. The Congressional Black
Caucus pushed legislation to enact sanctions against South Africa for
Finally, in 1986, under the leadership of this man, Ron Dellums, the
Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act was passed, which was a resounding show of
support for Mandela and really the beginning of the end of white rule in
Former Congressman Ron Dellums of California joins us right now, as
does "The New York Times"` Bill Keller, who I met in 1994 over there, whose
magnificent obituary, it was majestic, of Mandela dominated the A section
of the paper today. There it is beginning on A-1.
Bill Keller, you were over there in Joburg. I remember meeting you
over there with Paul Taylor. And I just wonder, did you see all this
coming from over there? Could you sense this -- it was all leading up to
`94 were, of course. But what do you think made de Klerk make the
decision, as the last white leader, that things had to change?
BILL KELLER, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, look, I
think sanctions were the right thing to do, and they sent a message. And
they made some difference. But sanctions were not what convinced de Klerk
to -- to change course and -- and become the bargaining partner that
There were at least two other more important factors. One of them was
the South Africans themselves organized by African National Congress and
its allies set out to make the country in their word "ungovernable" and
they pretty much succeeded.
And de Klerk realized genie was out of the bottle. He could not put
it back in. And the only question was how are they going to navigate the
The other thing that happened is communism collapsed. You know, the
South Africans enjoyed the support of the Reagan administration and Dick
Cheney and all of those people solely because they were sort of posturing
as a bulwark against communist influence in Africa. When the Soviet Union
collapsed and China went capitalist, I think F.W. de Klerk realized the
game was up
MATTHEWS: What -- could they have fought on? Could the whites have
said, we`ll put up with the trouble in the townships, we`re going to put up
with some bloodshed but we`re keeping control? Other countries have hung
in there saying we`ll take the heat, but we`re staying.
KELLER: Well, some of them did fight on --
MATTHEWS: Did the whites feel they could --
KELLER: Some of them did fight on. Even, as you know, even as -- and
not just whites either. Some of the black opponents of ANC fought on. One
of the first stories I covered in South Africa was this massacre in the ANC
township called Boipatong where it`s sort of cadre of Zulu warriors from
the workers hostile marched into town in the dead of night with machetes
and slaughtered 40 people, women and children among them.
So, you know, it was not a simple matter of de Klerk deciding to
negotiate and everything got easy. You know, white bitter enders
assassinated Chris Hani, the head of the communist party, one of the most
promising young black leaders around that time. A bunch of kind of
Africana resistance types tried to storm one of the African so-called
homelands, you know? So, there were people who tried to keep the fight
going. But the balance just had had shift so dramatically that, you know,
de Klerk was a realist. And they desperately needed a realist on the other
side of the table.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Dellums, when I was talking about Nelson Mandela right
before he was officially elected, he gave a lot of credit to the United
States. I thought he was being very generous in saying our country was the
most implacable enemy of apartheid in the world. And then afterwards, he
gave credit to you. And also, to be candid, you really did like Bill
Do you think United States as major player in getting him liberated
and getting his party majority rule?
RON DELLUMS (D-CA), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I think he did, Chris.
And with all due respect to the gentleman on the show with me, and I don`t
discount his comments, but a journalist did come to the United States
several years later and he said he had done research and that his research
indicated that a telephone call took place between F.W. de Klerk and
Margaret Thatcher wherein he asked her, what should I do?
Margaret Thatcher`s response was, the Dellums bill passed on a voice
vote two years ago. It passed just recently on a record vote. The
Democrats now control the Senate. It will pass the Senate. It will become
He said, then what should I do? Her response was, free Mandela and
begin to negotiate a new South Africa while you have leverage, because that
divestment bill calls for global cooperation and you will have no leverage.
Whether he`s right or wrong, history is history, and he said that
while that bill never became law, it hung over South Africa like the sword
MATTHEWS: Well said, gentlemen.
Thank you so much, Ron Dellums, and "The New York Times`" Bill Keller.
I love your obituary, sir.
KELLER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And we`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: You might have missed it, but the right wing clown car
keeps on chugging along. We`ve got some great funny examples of right wing
absurdity from just this week coming up next.
HARDBALL, back after this.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
And it`s been zesty week here on HARDBALL, of course, including my
interview with the president yesterday.
But it`s also been a busy week in the world of right wing absurdity.
We couldn`t let the week go by without giving you some of the low lights.
From arguing the benefits -- did you know there are some? -- of global
warming to making an unbelievable analogy between car crashes and pre-
existing medical conditions. Well, the clown car not only continues
rolling along, it went into overdrive.
Let`s start with this outstanding comment from U.S. Congressman Duncan
Hunter on C-Span Wednesday. Congressman Hunter made it clear he did
support the president`s efforts to engage Iran in talks over nuclear
weapons. But he also adamantly insisted there shouldn`t be another ground
war in the Middle East like Iraq or Afghanistan.
Congressman Hunter, who`s a military vet, suggests another tactic if
the need arose. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: I think a ground war in Iran with
American boots on the ground would be a horrible thing. And I think people
like to toss around the fact that we have to stop them in some way from
gaining this nuclear capability. I don`t think it`s inevitable, but I
think if you have to hit Iran, you don`t put boots on the ground, you do it
with tactical nuclear devices and you set them back a decade or two or
three. I think that`s the way to do it, with a massive aerial bombardment
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Did you catch that? He suggested the use of nuclear
weapons against Iran`s weapons sites and rather, in other words, do it with
tactical nuclear weapons.
Well, this is scary talk, I`d say, having lived through the Goldwater
Anyway, Lizz Winstead is a comedian and a co-creator of "The Daily
Show," and Dean Obeidallah is a comedian and columnist for "The Daily
Gentlemen -- I want to start with Liz.
You know, nuclear weapons are not small. You don`t carry them in your
pocket. They`re not pea shooters. They kill lots of people.
And once you use them against an Islamic country, do you think that
people in the rest of the Arab world, the world around Iran, would say, my
God, they`re willing to use nuclear weapons in this region, they might do
it again? And wouldn`t Iran say we`re going have frickin` nuclear weapons
to make sure this never happens again? They are putting them guaranteed on
the road to nuclear weapons if you hit them with one.
Is this guy -- I don`t want to say crazy. I want to support mental
health. But this guy, what is he?
LIZZ WINSTEAD, COMEDIAN: You know, making friends wherever they go,
this new GOP. You know, this is just, Chris, another example of tm proving
that they have never negotiated anywhere ever. They wouldn`t negotiate on
health care, immigration, anything. And it makes me wonder, are they in
relationships? Like what is it like at home?
Like, you know, your wife disagrees with you and just --
MATTHEWS: Nuke her.
WINSTEAD: Nuke her! Exactly.
MATTHEWS: That will stop the argument.
Anyway, Dean, welcome to the show.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, COMEDIAN: Thanks.
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts about a guy who has obviously not lived
through the cold war where we did avoid using nuclear weapons. He has not
lived through discussions of what nuclear weapons do. And he acts like
they`re pea shooters like we`ll just shoot about five or six people, blow
up a couple tunnels and that will be the end of it. Nobody will ever
notice we used nuclear weapons and might think I`ve got to get me one.
OBEIDALLAH: He talks about it like he`s ordering a side dish at a
restaurant. Like I`ll take the French fries and the nuclear weapons. It`s
like the guy`s in the Republican caucus, we hang out, like, yes, nuclear
weapon, that makes sense. He said it with no sense of like, hey, I`m going
to say something really insane right now. He said it like it was an actual
And I love the irony, though. He says we can`t just Iran because this
are extremists who run that country. Guess what, kettle, black, meet each
other. Are you crazy? I mean --
MATTHEWS: I know.
OBEIDALLAH: I don`t say crazy in a mental way. I say it in a way of
how irresponsible of a leader can you be?
MATTHEWS: It`s like the one flaw, guys, in C-Span, it`s a wonderful
phenomenon. You get everything straight. There`s no commentator to say,
you`re crazy! You`re crazy! Because all ideas are equal on C-Span.
Anyway, let`s move ahead. Anyway, most conservative critics of the
new health care law at least pretend to sympathize are those 40 million
Americans who have -- many who have preexisting conditions out there and
are currently or have been denied coverage by insurers. But when Georgia`s
insurance commissioner, Ralph Hudgens, he`s a Republican, appeared at a
Republican meeting recently, he used an unbelievable analogy to explain why
forcing insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions is a bad idea,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RALPH HUDGENS (R), GEORGIA INSURANCE COMMISSIONER: Let`s say you`re
going along and you have a wreck. And it`s your fault. Well, a
preexisting condition would be then you calling up your insurance agent and
saying, I`d like to get collision insurance coverage on my car. And your
insurance agent said, well, you`ve never had that before. Why would you
want it now?
And you`d say, well, I just had a wreck, and it was my fault. And I
want the insurance company to pay for my -- to repair my car. And that`s
the exact same thing on preexisting insurance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And he`s supposed to be one regulating the insurance
industry. It sounds like he`s pretty close to their thinking.
Anyway, he`s since conceded it was a poor analogy. He said today that
as the prostate cancer victim himself, he can sympathize with other people
who have preexisting conditions.
Lizz, I don`t know why people are talking that way because people do
have car insurance before they have wrecks and then like to have insurance
before they have existing conditions, but oftentimes they lose their job,
they lose their insurance, they have to go get another job with new
insurance, right? That`s what we`re usually talking about, Lizz. No
sympathy from this guy who looks like the insurance company`s best friend
WINSTEAD: Well, I just -- I was born with a spinal curvature. And
it`s not --
MATTHEWS: How did you do that? How did you do that?
WINSTEAD: Well, clearly, I was drunk and did something horribly
But, I mean, it`s like that`s the whole thing. Sometimes these people
say things that are so kooky that we all sit -- I`m surprised, actually,
Chris, that you`ve been in the news business so long that your broadcast,
you don`t have a big purple bruise on your forehead from going "I can`t
believe I`m watching!"
MATTHEWS: Well, I do. Let`s go to another one. One more.
Do you have time for one more here? No, we don`t have time.
Thank you very much, Dean, for joining us.
OBEIDALLAH: Sure. Thanks for having me.
MATTHEWS: It`s the clown car. I have promises for you and one of
them is there will be more news from the clown car and you`ll be back.
Unfortunately, about the clown car, fortunately for you. Have a good
Thank you, Lizz Winstead, and Dean Obeidallah.
We`ll be right back after this. Obeidallah. We`ll be right back
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.
As I said earlier, in 1986, I traveled with an American congressional
delegation to South Africa. The purpose was to encourage action on that
Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. What we called then the CAAA.
I`ll never forget sitting with a largely African-American delegation
led by Philadelphia`s Bill Gray as the last white South African holdout,
the Prime Minister P.W. Botha rejected the very notion that the United
States should take a hand in forcing an end to white supremacy down in that
country. Nor will I forget that Ronald Reagan vetoed that sanctions bill
Congress passed by the House that June and the Senate that August. Nor did
I forget that there was an overwhelming bipartisan vote in both houses that
October to override Reagan`s veto.
It was all part of my political coming of age, the story I tell in my
new book out there in bookstores this weekend, "Tip and The Gipper: When
Politics Worked." It would be great for you, me and the country if you
went out there and got a copy and maybe several copies for HARDBALL fans
out there. You know and love those people. Give them a HARDBALL book.
Anyway, you HARDBALLers, go at it this weekend.
Up next -- well, that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.
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