updated 11/18/2008 10:36:13 AM ET 2008-11-18T15:36:13

Guests: Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rep. Dan Burton, Lynn Sweet, Cynthia Tucker, Jeffrey Sachs, James Gattuso, Christopher Hitchens, Peter Beinart

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A bridge too far? Would bringing Bill and Hillary onto the team be too hard even for Abraham Lincoln?

Let's play HARDBALL. Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL, tonight from Los Angeles. Leading off tonight: When I first heard that the president-elect could pick Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, my impulse was, Trouble. The Clintons are drama. They have ambition and they also have a story to tell and to be just by themselves. Why, I asked, does Obama, who has the nickname "No drama Obama," want to marry himself to drama? My second thought was that Hillary Clinton really did her best for the Obama effort, that she really did give an extraordinary speech in Denver, that her very soul seemed to be, at the end, for his actual election. Finally, I thought, Obama really does want to be Abraham Lincoln and assemble a "team of rivals."

Last night on "60 Minutes," Barack Obama was asked if Hillary was on his short list for secretary of state.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: She is somebody who I've

needed advice and counsel from. She is one of the most thoughtful public officials that we have. Beyond that, you're not getting anything out of me.


MATTHEWS: Not much of a clue there. Much more on the possible pick of Hillary Clinton for secretary of state and all its varied consequences in a minute.

And speaking of a team of rivals, what are we to make of today's meeting out in Chicago between Mr. Obama and the man he beat for the White House, Senator John McCain, the Republican? Could there be a place for McCain in the Obama operation?

Also, if you're GM, General Motors, and you want the federal government to give you $25 billion, it's not good when your CEO, Rick Wagoner, says this when asked whether he would step down in exchange for the $25 billion bail-out. Quote, "I don't think it would be a very smart move. I think our job is to make sure we have the best management team to run GM. It's not clear to me what purpose would be served." Well, one purpose that would be served might be to get rid of the executives, including him, who helped drive the company into a ditch. Should we bail out the auto industry with the same team aboard, the same captain aboard? We'll debate that in a little later time.

Plus, the possibility that Barack Obama might pick Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state has a lot of people asking, Whatever happened to change, the change we can believe in? And one of the people asking that big question is the always outspoken and provocative Christopher Hitchens. He'll join us later in the program for what we sure to know will be a lively "Politics Fix" tonight.

And how many people watched the Obamas on "60 Minutes" last night? We'll have that "Big Number"-and it is a big number-in the HARDBALL "Sideshow."

But first: Two for the price of one. That's what the Clintons said in the past, and it's true today. Congressman Gregory Meeks is a New York Democrat and Congressman Dan Burton is a Republican from Indiana. Let's start with both of you gentlemen. I assume the views will be different.

Here's Barack Obama on "60 Minutes," a bit more of that interview right now.


STEVE KROFT, "60 MINUTES": You met with Senator Clinton this week?

OBAMA: I did.

KROFT: Is she on the short list for a cabinet position?

OBAMA: You know, she is somebody who I've needed advice and counsel from. She is one of the most thoughtful public officials that we have. Beyond that, you're not getting anything out of me, Steve.


MATTHEWS: Well, let's see what we get out of former president Bill Clinton. He was caught in Kuwait. Here he is, offering his opinion on a possible selection of his wife as secretary of state.



or doesn't happen is between-most important, is up to President-elect Obama. And it's between him and her. She worked very hard for his election after the primary fight that they had, and so did I. And we were very glad that he won and we have a lot of confidence that he can do a good job. But she did not do what she did with the hope or expectation of getting any kind of job offer, much less having this discussed.


MATTHEWS: Congressman Meeks, you're a big Hillary booster. Do you think she's willing to be a subordinate to Barack Obama, a political subordinate who accepts his policy rulings, his nuances, what he wants done, she will be his agent? Does she want that kind of job?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: I think that she wants to be an asset to the United States of America. And I think that President-elect Obama wants to make sure that he has the best team and the best qualified individuals in the key positions. And so if you look at Hillary Clinton and look at the great job that she did when she was in the White House as the first lady and the great job she's doing as a member of the U.S. Senate, and her vast knowledge worldwide and relationships with individuals worldwide, there's no question in my mind that she would make a great person to put in in the State Department as secretary of state. She would be an asset.

MATTHEWS: Well, that's the question-that's not the question I asked. She's an independent person. She's her own person and has been now for eight years-not first lady, not a derivative, but her own political figure. As secretary of state, she has to go along 99 percent of the time with the boss, the president of the United States. Can you see Hillary Clinton under the leadership of Barack Obama totally, accepting his premiership of her policy? He sets the policy. She carries it out. Could she do it?

MEEKS: I can see Hillary Clinton-she's played team ball in the Senate, not as an individual senator. She's played team ball when she worked with the New York delegation. And I can see her being part of an administration with Senator Obama. And I think what Senator Obama wants is -- he doesn't want yes people in his administration. That doesn't help. I mean, then you don't need anyone else.


MEEKS: He wants someone that can be provocative and be a thinking person, that can really make recommendations to him. But he will be the individual that ultimately makes the final decision.

MATTHEWS: Do you think Hillary Clinton has given up her presidential ambitions?

MEEKS: Yes, I think that Hillary Clinton has decided that, you know, she wants to figure out what best way-what's the best way for her to serve the people of the United States, and that's what she's doing.

MATTHEWS: But has she given up her presidential ambitions?

MEEKS: Well, I know that she's given them up for eight years.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, that's a long time. Thank you-that's a good answer, actually!


MATTHEWS: Congressman Burton, you're no fan of the Clintons. In fact, I think you think the Clintons had something to do with killing Vince Foster. What do you say?

REP. DAN BURTON ®, INDIANA: Well, I'm not going to go back and rehash that again, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, rehash it for a minute, sir. You do...

BURTON: No, no, no.

MATTHEWS: ... believe they had something to do with it.

BURTON: No, I'll be glad to answer questions from you about...

MATTHEWS: Well, it does give me a sense...

BURTON: ... how tough she is and...

MATTHEWS: ... of what you think of the Clintons that you won't even say they're free of a murder charge. Won't you do that at least?

BURTON: Chris, I know you want me to be controversial. Let me just say she's a very talented woman...

BURTON: No, you're the controversy, sir. Let me ask you this. Do you believe the Clintons are innocent of any foul play with regard to the death of Vince Foster? Let's start from there and we'll move on to your bona fides in this topic.

BURTON: Chris, you heard what I said. I'm not going to go back and cover that ground again.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we just did. Let me ask you this. Do you think Hillary Clinton would be an asset to Barack Obama as a-not just as a team player, but let's be honest about-at some point, somebody's the president and somebody's the secretary of state. After all the collegiality and sharing of opinion, somebody has to set the policy. Will she go along with Barack Obama's policies?

BURTON: She's a very strong woman. She's very tough. And she'll give her opinions in a very, very tough way and strong way. But I think Barack Obama, being the president of the United States, will rule the day on foreign policy and he'll take her advice under consideration in a very serious way.

MATTHEWS: Why are hawks like Henry Kissinger and Jon Kyl, who's a real hawk-why are they so thrilled by Hillary Clinton? Do they think if they get her in there, that she'll somehow employ a lot of neoconservatives and bring them aboard? Why do they want her as secretary of state? I'm very suspicious what their motives are because of their ideology, which is far to the right of Barack Obama. Are they hoping they'll split the difference here and get her in the middle somewhere?

BURTON: I think Henry Kissinger is a realist, and I think he's the kind of guy that wants to get things done. And I don't think he worries too much about political philosophy. And I think he views Hillary Clinton the same way.

MATTHEWS: He doesn't see her as more hawkish than Barack?

BURTON: Oh, I think she'll be hawkish in some areas, and I hope she is. I hope she has the attitude John McCain did toward the Middle East and we'll just have to wait and see if she does.

MATTHEWS: OK, what do you think of the Clintons? Do you think they would be a distraction over the next eight years or they would play-they would be boring, they would become boring?

BURTON: I don't think the Clintons will ever be boring!


BURTON: But I do believe...

MATTHEWS: Well, isn't that something Barack-you're from out in the Midwest. You know Barack's reputation, "No drama Obama." He doesn't like anybody on his staff being interesting. He doesn't want even any interesting personalities on his staff like George Stephanopoulos. He doesn't want anybody interesting. He doesn't like any sideshows, period. The Clintons are always an interesting show, if you will, positively or negatively. Why would he want them aboard?

BURTON: Well, I think that he wants to unify his party and solidify his base and...

MATTHEWS: Did he do that?

BURTON: ... do the job that he thinks...

MATTHEWS: Did he do that?

BURTON: I think that he's-I think he's a realistic guy. I think he probably will. I don't agree with an awful lot that he's doing...


BURTON: ... in fact, a great deal of it, but I think he's a political smart guy and I think he'll unify the Democrats.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Meeks, Bill Clinton, the former president, has done wonderful work in the world with his Global Initiative, but it does involve raising money from international sources. Can he give that up? Can he give up shaking the cup for money, even for good extraordinarily causes like fighting AIDS in Africa, which are wonderful causes-but doesn't he look like he's taking baksheesh or dash or payoff if he takes money while Hillary Clinton is secretary of state? Isn't that a problem for him? Even though it shouldn't be, doesn't it look like a problem?

MEEKS: No, I don't think so. I mean, there's room...

MATTHEWS: Well, you mean he could still take money if she's secretary of state?

MEEKS: Yes. Well, look what the causes are. You're talking about, you know, fighting HIV and AIDS. On NBC this morning, I saw the "Today" show...


MEEKS: ... where everybody-different parts of the world, talking about the environment. And if the money's being used to save our planet, I think people will understand that.

MATTHEWS: Well, it's great. But if there's some potentate somewhere giving him millions of dollars, he's not doing it because he loves the cause. He loves the influence.

MEEKS: Well, no...

MATTHEWS: You know, you're a political guy. If somebody gave you a million bucks for the best purposes in the world, they still gave you the million bucks.

MEEKS: Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative has virtually gone, you know, without publicity until Senator Clinton...

MATTHEWS: OK. You're just...

MEEKS: ... was running for president.

MATTHEWS: You're just covering for the...

MEEKS: No, I'm not covering...

MATTHEWS: How can the president of the United States...

MEEKS: I'm covering...

MATTHEWS: ... hire a secretary of state whose husband is taking international money? That's all I'm asking.

MEEKS: Because what I'm saying is you're looking at what the cause and what the money is for. And if the money is for the greater good-for example, George Bush, Sr. He raised international money when we had the tsunami, along with Bill Clinton...

MATTHEWS: All right.

MEEKS: ... for the betterment of people. And if the people can see that the money...


MEEKS: ... that's being raised is for the betterment of mankind, who would argue against that? Not even you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Because it comes from-because a lot of sleazeballs give money to good causes to get influence with good people because they like to get influence with good people by giving them money. And that's how it works in the third world. It's called baksheesh.

MEEKS: And we have ethics rules to follow the money and what is taking place.

MATTHEWS: Would they cover Bill Clinton-OK, should Bill Clinton be covered by the ethics rules?

MEEKS: Absolutely. Everyone should be covered by the ethics rules.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Congressman-Congressman Burton, should Bill Clinton be allowed to take money in the world from any source while his wife is secretary of state?

BURTON: I don't think there's any rule that I know of that would prohibit him from giving speeches around the world and...

MATTHEWS: You just can't-you're-this is entrapment! You guys, like Kissinger and Jon Kyl, can't wait for the Clintons to come aboard so there'll be pot shots. You'll be shooting at them like cantaloupes! They will be their target zone again! You can't wait, Congressman, to get them in the target zone, can you. Be honest.

BURTON: Our target zone...

MATTHEWS: You want them there!


BURTON: Well, they were always entertaining. Let me just say this. Our target zone is lowering taxes and keeping spending down and getting the economy moving again. And as far as the Clintons are concerned, if Barack Obama hires her to be his secretary of state, he's going to have to deal with her, and we're going to have to deal with Barack Obama and his policies, Chris, because he's going to be the boss.

MATTHEWS: What were you-Congressman, what were you shooting in the backyard, were they cantaloupes or pineapples? What were they you were shooting, something to do with the Vince Foster death?


MATTHEWS: You were shooting at something!

BURTON: All right, Chris. I figured you'd want to go there again. I love you, man. I'm not going to talk about that.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, I just wonder whether you're shooting fish in a barrel here. You can't wait to get the Clintons in that-look at you! You're laughing your butt off! You can't wait to get the Clintons in the target zone. You guys-Congressman Meeks, I know what you want. You want to help the Clintons out. By the way, do you want her seat, if she leaves it?

MEEKS: All I want to say is...

MATTHEWS: Do you want her seat?

MEEKS: ... change is coming to Washington, and it's coming...

MATTHEWS: OK, I hear you want her seat.

MEEKS: ... with Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: I hear you want that Senate seat.

MEEKS: No, I enjoy representing the people of the 6th congressional district.



MEEKS: But I'll do just like...

MATTHEWS: You guys are amazing!

MEEKS: ... Joe Biden.

MATTHEWS: You guys are unbelievable!

MEEKS: If called, I'll serve.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Meeks, you've already been on record as saying you'd like that Senate seat to represent...

MEEKS: No, I said...

MATTHEWS: ... the entire Empire State. Isn't that your dream?

MEEKS: If called, I'll serve. But I'm very happy doing what I'm doing.

BURTON: We don't want to lose you, Greg. We don't want to lose you in the House.


MATTHEWS: Oh, I love politicians. Hey, guys, you've been great tonight. It's an interesting subject. We'll see if-I'm of mixed mind, to put it lightly, about this baby. Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressmen Gregory Meeks, a big Hillary supporter, Dan Burton who loves the Clintons. He likes having them to kick around.

Anyway, the victor and the vanquished, President-elect Barack Obama meets Senator John McCain today in Chicago. What's going to happen to the -- look at those guys! They love each other! Look at that picture! Boy, is that love? That's like one of those Middle East meetings between the Israelis and the Arabs! Up next, how McCain can help the new president, even if he doesn't want to.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Barack Obama and John McCain met today in Chicago, the "windy city," and like meeting foreign leaders, the one-time presidential rivals released a joint communique that reads-I love the way they did this, like leaders meeting in the Middle East-quote, "We hope to work together in the days and months ahead on critical challenges, like solving our financial crisis, creating a new energy economy and protecting our nation's security."

Well, that's the end of the communique, and the fact is-or the question is, Does Barack Obama and McCain need each other to save their places in history or to make them? Cynthia Tucker's with the editorial page editor-she's editorial page editor of "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," and she's a pal of mine, and so is Lynn Sweet, who's the Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun-Times." Ladies, it's great to have you on from the two different cities, Atlanta and Chicago.

But let's start with Chicago. Lynn Sweet, you are the expert on Barack Obama. What does he want to do-I want to get to Hillary Clinton in a minute. I got to get back to that baby-that issue, rather. What do you make of his relationship-is he trying to turn him into Everett Dirksen, that great Republican leader of the Senate from Illinois who worked so well with Lyndon Johnson on passing voting rights?

LYNN SWEET, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, what he wants to do is get his place in history. He puts an immediate stamp on the administration by bringing Obama (SIC) into the tent. It's not a Democratic or Republican tent. This is the Obama tent. McCain's better off in it than out of it. That's what it's all about. Don't expect him to have a cabinet or official position. The "team of rivals" is conceptual, and the membership's pretty open right now. The door may close...

MATTHEWS: Well, that's the...

SWEET: ... and that's...

MATTHEWS: Cynthia, that's the strangest body language I've ever seen on television. It looks like those Middle East photo ops where they sit along the walls in those straight-backed throne chairs. They're sitting on throne chairs, first of all, which is odd, not exactly easy chairs. These aren't exactly Laz-y-boy recliners they're in here. They're sitting like they're enthroned next to each, looking away to the cameras, not at each other. What do you think is going on here, Cynthia? Do you think this is for show, or he really considers this a real partnership in the bud?


so far as to call it a partnership, Chris. And the body language was a little odd, a little bit awkward. They started out talking about sports, of course, as guys often do to break the ice. But I think that this is an opportunity not just for Obama to deliver on his campaign promise about reaching across the aisle, but also for John McCain to end his career on a high note...


TUCKER: ... to end his last years in the Senate with some accomplishments to his credit. And who else is Obama going to reach out to among the Republicans? There are not that many Republicans with whom he has...


TUCKER: ... any agreement on policy issues. But with McCain, there are a few areas of policy on which they agree.

MATTHEWS: I always wonder about body English. Let me go to Lynn Sweet. Barack's got his foot practically on the other guy's shins there. I don't know what that's about. But look-that earlier picture-let me ask you this about the deal here. Do you really think Barack Obama is hopeful-now, you always talk sports with your cab driver, somebody you don't even know. But having them start a conversation over sports suggests there is some ice to be broken here. How hard is that ice between the two of these?

SWEET: I think these guys will work it out. If they get new chairs, it might be a little easier, too, because that was-that was a horrible chair.


SWEET: You know, usually they're pretty good on that, but...

MATTHEWS: Not good chair diplomacy there.


SWEET: This is real. This is real.

MATTHEWS: It's real. It's real. OK.

SWEET: It is real, Chris, because McCain goes back into the Senate and he's just another senator. If he and Lindsey Graham form the nucleus of the go-to people to kind of figure out what to do, they're the channel to the Obama administration, that's not a bad place to be in. Remember, Rahm Emanuel is pretty close to Lindsey Graham. Rahm helped put this meeting together because even though on election night...


SWEET: ... Obama and McCain said they should get together, it fell to Rahm to talk to Lindsey Graham to actually set up the meeting as it was.

Obama wants his own coalition. He doesn't want to be dependent on the House or Senate Democratic leaders.


SWEET: This is the start. This is how it goes.

Obama can send McCain as an envoy. He could dispatch him with Joe Biden to a trouble spot in the world. And what McCain gets in return, if he's truly a member of the team, he will get the props and respect, I bet, knowing how Obama operates.

MATTHEWS: Well, I love the history. I love the history.

SWEET: And that will give him more-this is more history-making.

MATTHEWS: I love the history, because Franklin Roosevelt...


MATTHEWS: Franklin Roosevelt sent Wendell Willkie overseas as his emissary to Britain after he beat him in '40 on the way to World War II.

But let's talk Lincoln history here, "Team of Rivals."Let me go to Cynthia first.

"Team of Rivals," this man, the new president, our president-elect, is very Lincolnesque. We know that from the beginning. Does he really believe that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton can be in the tent, in other words, total Obamaites, really rooting for his historic success? And, if so, how does he test that motive before making the final decision?

TUCKER: Well, certainly, he believes Senator Hillary Clinton can be in the tent.

You know, Hillary Clinton was never the Clinton that Obama had to worry about most. She has still a long political career front of her, which can be very successful. She has everything to gain by cooperating with the Obama administration in whatever position in which he wishes for her to serve. Secretary of state would be a great plum appointment to her if indeed it has been offered.

But Bill Clinton is out there doing his own thing. His financial ties are a problem. He brings his own drama. That's a problem. And, for heaven's sake, he could be out there creating his own foreign policy on the side. So, the difficulty for Obama is not Senator Hillary Clinton, keeping her in the tent, but how do you get her in the tent and then keep the former president under control as well?

MATTHEWS: That's a question for Lynn as well.

Do you think that she can get some kind of deal, whereby Bill Clinton

and he's done wonderful work overseas-to basically suspend some of the more pecuniary aspects? How can he bring in millions and millions of dollars from other world leaders and potentates, including those in the Middle East, and, at the same time, keep his wife independent of them?

SWEET: I'm not sure exactly how it could be done, but it could be done. And think of it this way. If-if the Obama administration, the incoming administration, can't think of a way to contain Bill Clinton and - - and-and his fund-raising, but still give a useful, important mission to the former president and Senator Clinton, then how can he possibly deal with far more complex world crises?


SWEET: This is a problem that has a solution. I'm not sure in the back and forth. But part of it is transparency and disclosure.

As long as the-here is how I think the deal could work, Chris. If you don't demand a lot of past disclosure, and the deal is, from now on, you disclose everything, that's the kind of compromise I think the Obama team can work out with the Clintons to make it work. Maybe...


MATTHEWS: I think you're right.

SWEET: ... less money, but they could figure it out.

MATTHEWS: Exactly. That's my thinking. If it's-if it's prospective, great. If it's retrospective, you're just looking for trouble.

But, if he says, from here on out, you have got to clear this stuff with the State Department, you have got to clear it with the administration...

SWEET: Go do it.

MATTHEWS: ... any deal you make, fine.

By the way, I don't know how Eliot Spitzer got in that B-roll we just showed a minute ago. Eliot is not quite in the business anymore.


MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Cynthia Tucker and Lynn Sweet.

Great to have you both on.

SWEET: Thank you.

TUCKER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Now that he's headed to the White House, what's the one big vice Barack Obama is giving up? Well, it's the BlackBerry. I'm going to tease that way. That's next in the hard-in the "Sideshow."

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow." With the election over, and Sarah Palin back up there in Alaska, what's "Saturday Night Live" to do? Well, vice president-elect Joe Biden had a tip during "SNL"'s opening skit this weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I feel some of you are disappointed.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Sure, it was an entertaining election, and no one was more entertaining than Sarah Palin.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: But I want to make you a promise. I can be as entertaining as Sarah Palin.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You don't think I can give a train wreck interview to Katie Couric?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Just name the time and the place...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: ... and Joe Biden will bring the train.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: So, look, here's my promise to you, the American people. I will be a better vice president than Sarah Palin, just like I would be a better president than Barack Obama.









MATTHEWS: Next: President-elect Obama may have given up cigarettes on the trail last year, but there's at least one thing he's still addicted to. Look at it. There he is. His BlackBerry. According to this Sunday's "New York Times," however, concerns about security will likely force Obama to give up his beloved e-mail habit come January. It's not the first time this happened. I love this story. Back in 2001, then president-elect George W. Bush was forced to give up his personal e-mail address.

Here it is, for those who are interested in these things: G94B@AOL , G94B -- .com. That was three days before inauguration, he had to give that up. I guess it was his run-for-governor number. Speaking of new beginnings, it turns out that the celebration surrounding Obama's victory may not have ended the night of November 4. According to "Newsweek," Obama's win proved to be a powerful of aphrodisiac to many supporters, a phenomenon that could lead to an Obama baby boom. That means a rash of babies could be born next August, exactly nine months after Obama won the presidency. "Newsweek" points out that such a boom would be fitting. President-elect Obama himself was born in August 1961, about nine months after Election Day in 1960, when John F. Kennedy won the White House. Interesting story.Time now for the "Big Number." There's no question that, with just 64 days now until inauguration, Americans are excited by the new first family coming to Washington. Look at the audience for Obama's "60 Minutes"-the Obamas' "60 Minutes" interview last night. That was Barack and Michelle. Twenty-five million people watched that last night. That's "60 Minutes"' biggest viewership in a decade. Twenty-five million people tuned in to watch the new president and the new first lady. And, apparently, they really loved them.

Up next: Should tax dollars go to help bail out General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, or should the big three be forced to sink or swim on capitalistic tendencies? That's the big debate tonight. Should we help or not?

And it's next, right here on HARDBALL.



CNBC "Market Wrap."

Stocks tumbled once again at the end of today's session, with the Dow Jones industrial average finishing lower by 223 points, the S&P 500 down 22-and-a-half, and the Nasdaq lower by nearly 35 points. Citigroup announced it's cutting another 53,000 jobs worldwide. And it has already cut 23,000 jobs earlier this year. The latest cuts will leave Citigroup with about 300,000 employees. Citi has lost $20 billion over the past year. Oil prices split again, falling $2.11, with crude closing at a 22-month low of $55.49 a barrel.

And Swiss banking giant UBS has joined Goldman Sachs in announcing, their top executives will forgo year-end bonuses, potentially adding up to tens of millions of dollars back to their balance sheet. UBS received a $60 billion bailout from the Swiss government last month. That's it from CNBC, first in business worldwide-now back to Chris and HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We're going to get back to that question of Hillary Clinton for secretary of state in about a minute.

But let's go to a substantive economic issue. Should the automakers deserve a-should they get a bailout? That takes the center stage in this debate right now. Twenty-five billion dollars in emergency aid-that's the question-should it go to Detroit?

Here's what Obama, the president-elect, said about an auto industry bailout last night on "60 Minutes."


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: It's my belief that we need to provide assistance to the auto industry. But I think that it can't be a blank check.

So, my hope is, is that, over the course of the next week, between the White House and Congress, the discussions are shaped around providing assistance, but making sure that that assistance is conditioned on labor, management, suppliers, lenders, all the stakeholders coming together with a plan: What does a sustainable U.S. auto industry look like?


MATTHEWS: OK. Should taxpayer money go to bail out the American automakers? That's all those three million jobs out there in Detroit and around the country, Indiana, Illinois, et cetera.

Jeffrey Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia. And he's author of the book "Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet." And James Gattuso is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Let's get the issue here. Professor Sachs, thank you. You are very well-respected.

Do you think we need to give this money, federal money-it's going to be either borrowed or taxed-it has got to come from the federal treasury-to the auto industry?


PLANET": I think it would be reckless not to do it, Chris.

What are we going to do, gamble with a depression in this country? It would just be a huge mistake, in my view, not to do this. We-we have got $700 billion we have allocated, and $25 billion of that would be 3.7 percent. I can't think of a better, more practical bargain right now. Otherwise, we risk a cascade of-of real disaster. And I-I don't see why we're gambling this way.

MATTHEWS: So, you say that, if we don't contribute to the survival of those big three, that that will have a macroeconomic and national economic explosion that will bring down, through a multiplier effect, a loss of all kinds of jobs, up to the point where it will really endanger our economic security?

SACHS: Well put.


SACHS: I think that is exactly the point. I mean, this is our biggest industry. And...

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me-let me go to...

SACHS: And I think, Chris, the important point is, this isn't normal times. No one can borrow. Their-their customers can't borrow. They can't borrow. Their suppliers can't borrow. This is the worst since the Great Depression. So, what are we doing? Playing games?

MATTHEWS: Let me hear the other view. Professor Gattuso, let me hear your views, from the Heritage Foundation. I know you're a free marketeer. Can we go to free market on this? Can we let them sink or swim at this point?


HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Look-look, it's not a matter of doing nothing at all or-or providing taxpayer money.

We-we know that the companies need to restructure. They need major change. The question is, how do you get that change? I don't think that giving government bailouts, giving government money, will-will do anything to force that change, to-to make that change possible. It will delay it. It will extend the status quo. What we do have in place is a system of bankruptcy. And bankruptcy is not the end of the line for a company. It is not-it doesn't mean the vaporization of all the assets. It-it provides protection from-from creditors. It reduces the debts. It lets them renegotiate contracts, and reform themselves, so they can be viable. That's the purpose of bankruptcy. That's what is there. And we should use it.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Jeffrey Sachs, what would bankruptcy, the statement of Chapter 11 from one of our-you know, what's good for GM is good for America. What happens if GM is in bankruptcy? What's the statement to the-the car buyer? Will the car buyer buy a car from a bankrupt company, even if it's the Volt, the new car?

SACHS: Chris, you know, when Lehman went under, the Heritage Foundation that day said, OK, markets are back to normal. Lehman's Chapter 11 turned out to be the biggest economic shock in the world since the Great Depression. Do we really want to play this again?

If they go into bankruptcy, it's the end of their customer base and it's the end of their suppliers. And the chances of a meltdown-Who can be sure? -- but the chances are at-very high, and it's simply playing with fire. I can't understand how anyone in the current situation, with financial markets that don't work, would even dream of this. You know, bankruptcy, when it does work, depends on so-called debtor and possession financing, Section 364. There's no financing right now.



MATTHEWS: You know, Mr. Gattuso, you know, for a while there, when I was a regular person, before I got green, before I worried about the price of gas going to four bucks and the problems we face on this planet from fossil fuels, I used to think, well, the auto company in America has lost out to Europeans because they didn't come out with sexy cars the kids all wanted to buy.

I have argued-I used to think that, if a kid wanted to buy the car, his parents would buy it, because it was good-looking car. It looked right. It seemed right. And in the days, the cars used to have symmetry, and the front looked like the back. And they were good-looking cars everybody wanted. Then they got ugly. The American car got ugly. At least, it stopped being the kind of thing that we rooted for as kids.


MATTHEWS: I'm serious about this. Kids loved cars like they did baseball teams in the old days. Something went wrong. Now we have got to pick cars that are going to be reasonable. My wife has got a smart car. She traded in a big car for that, a station wagon.

Why doesn't the American auto industry get with it and start producing cars that people want to buy when it's three or four bucks a gallon?

GATTUSO: You know, it's not just the cars they produce. I-I don't know why they're behind the other-the other-the rest of the industry. Toyota, Nissan always seem to be one step ahead of them. That's the way the marketplace works. And I can't second-guess. And, certainly, Congress doesn't-can't second-guess...



GATTUSO: ... the best way to build cars. Washington knows even less about how to build cars than Detroit.


GATTUSO: But there are other problems, too, that have been going on through-for-for decades. The costs are too high. The-the union contracts are-are increasing the price and the availability of-of vehicles. The legacy costs, that they're almost impossible to get out of, the cost of paying for retirees, the health benefits and pension benefits. They're out of control.


MATTHEWS: Can we agree on one thing?

GATTUSO: You need...


GATTUSO: ... to get past that.

MATTHEWS: Can we agree? I only have a minute now. I want to ask you both if you agree with me, yes or no.

Professor Sachs, Mr. Gattuso, do we benefit from dumping the leadership of the auto industry right now, the people that took us into this ditch? That's my question. No matter what we do in terms of bailing them out, should we set, as a condition, as taxpayers, that the team that took you in the ditch, that failed to sell cars, that couldn't keep up with Toyota, couldn't keep up with Honda and everybody else, they shouldn't be there if we're going to give you taxpayer dollars? Why should taxpayers pay multimillion-dollar salaries to anybody? Jeffrey Sachs, your answer?

SACHS: I think, first of all, on the kind of cars-just what you were saying-we're about to leapfrog technology. People need to understand this. GM, with its Chevy Volt, is going to be in the lead of Toyota because we're going to have plug-in hybrids. We're going to be number one.

MATTHEWS: Does it exist?

SACHS: It's coming in the 2010 model.

MATTHEWS: Does it go up the hill, to top of the hill yet, sir?

SACHS: Yes, it does. And this is really the key right now.

MATTHEWS: Have you bought yours yet? Have you bought yours, professor? Have you bought your Volt?

SACHS: Chris Matthews, I walk in New York City. There you go.

MATTHEWS: What an cut out. What an invasion. Mr. Gattuso, would you buy an American car today?

GATTUSO: Sure, I'd buy an American car, if the price is right and it provided what I wanted. You know, this idea that we're just one model of car away from Detroit solving all of its problems is ridiculous. It's Lucy and the football. They're going to grab the football away from us one more time.

SACHS: It is not.

MATTHEWS: Professor, Sachs, you've got a lot of hope for the industry. I tell you, I do notice this, that foreigners especially in Russia, places like that, still buy American cars. There's something hot about American cars. People still like the brand. We've got to start living up to that brand, because there's a lot of auto workers that need these jobs. I'm with you, Professor Sachs. We can't afford the industry to fail. But I do hold it against the designers and the planners to not put forth the kind of car that every American kid should look up to and say, daddy, mommy, buy this car. Until that comes back, we're not going to win this fight. The kids set the standard for what's cool. Thank you, Jeffrey Sachs. Thank you, James Gattuso, of the wonderful Heritage Foundation.

Up next, Bill Clinton says Hillary would be a great, a really great secretary of state, as Barack's person on the world. Let's see what "Vanity Fair's" Christopher Hitchens has to say, a man who is not ready to canonize the Clintons. He's coming next with plenty to say in the politics fix. And today in the U.S. Senate, an interesting and wonderful moment, the return of Senator Ted Kennedy. There he is using his dad's cane. He's coming back. He's going to work on health care for the country. He's got a brain tumor, but he's, boy, back to work. There he is. It's come to this, but look, he's come to work. Good luck, senator. We're delighted to see you back. We wish you well as you try to do what you can for the country in the U.S. Senate. HARDBALL returns after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix. Tonight, we're joined by Christopher Hitchens of "Vanity Fair" and Peter Beinart of "Time Magazine," whose cover story "the New New Deal" is out this week. Thank you, Peter, and thank you, Christopher. What do you make of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Mr. Hitchens?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, "VANITY FAIR": Look, this is the woman who played the race card on Barack Obama. This is the woman who, if you were for change that you can believe in, whichever change it was, you were voting against. This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consists of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia. This is the woman who, with her husband, have so many fund raising connections over seas, Indonesia, China. Just look up the Senate report on their fund raising activities, the people they pardoned, the amazing brothers of hers who nearly got the-was it the monopoly in Kazakhstan or something farcical like that. Just look it up. It's a ludicrous embarrassment for the president and for the country.

MATTHEWS: Why is he-look, we all know that Barack Obama has got a lot of candle power. He's a smart guy. He's politically adept. He won the presidential election as the first African American. He's gone over hurdles nobody thought he could do. Yet, here he is with the biggest news story since the election. Everybody is buzzing about it. Why would he let this toothpaste out of the tube if he's not going to do this thing?

HITCHENS: Well, it's clear from what we've gleaned that the job is hers if she wants it. So it's Clinton redo, not just Rahm Emanuel. Whatever this is, it's not change.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Peter Beinart. Peter, where are you on this?

PETER BEINART, "TIME MAGAZINE": I just totally disagree. I think she'd be very good. Bill Clinton's foreign policy was very good, particularly in the second term. I think his second term of foreign policy was about the best four years of foreign policy America has had in a very long time.

MATTHEWS: Well, that's OK. But this is a subordinate position she's accepting. Do you think she would fit in a subordinate position, in other words advocating Obama's foreign policy, not hers?

BEINART: It would be in her interest for the Obama administration and her secretary of stateship to succeed. She has a history of when she-she's incredibly hard working, very tough, very smart person. She made a success of the senatorship of New York. I think she'd make a success of it, yet.

MATTHEWS: Well, I probably disagree with Hitchens on this, but I'm very suspicious when Jon Kyl, a major supporter of the war in Iraq, a complete hawk, a neo-con in some ways, complete hawk, supports her for this. Henry Kissinger has come out of the woodwork. He supports her for this. Why do these establishment conservatives want her? What are they up to? Why do they want her? I don't know what they want.

HITCHENS: Don't compare Kissinger to Kyl. Kissinger is a critic of the war and a so-called realist, someone who likes-

MATTHEWS: Why do they both want her? They're both Republicans. Why do they want her.

HITCHENS: Because she's a status quo type and they know they can, so to speak, trust her. She's a member of their club. Just to comment on what Peter said a moment ago. If you remember-I'll drag you back to this Bosnia farce that she inflicted on us during the campaign. Actually when with there was pressure on Clinton administration-Les Aspin was secretary of defense, you remember-to do something about Sarajevo, to stop the killing, to prevent the ethnic cleansing, Hillary Clinton moved in hard on her husband and said, don't you do a thing about Bosnia. It will spoil my wonderful health care plan, which should be front and center. You remember how beautifully that worked out too.

BEINART: I'm not sure I think that's an entirely accurate accounting of her role in Bosnia. In the reality that the Clintons-albeit very late, the Clinton administration acting very well in Bosnia in 1995. I'm not sure it was over her objections.

HITCHENS: Yes, it was.

BEINART: You can't have it both ways. You can't accuse her of being too hawkish and also attack her for being the dove on Bosnia.

MATTHEWS: Peter, let's talk drama here. No drama Obama is his nickname, because he doesn't like side shows. He doesn't even like interesting staff people or colorful staff people like James Carville and people like Stephanopoulos. They never would make it on his team. He likes quiet, gray-suited people, like Axelrod and Plouffe. You don't even know what Plouffe looks like. He doesn't like personality around him. Why would he bring the two biggest personalities in our lifetime into his cabinet, into his world, where anything Bill Clinton does is interesting to him? Why does he want Bill Clinton to-

BEINART: I disagree. Rahm Emanuel is quite a character and that was his first choice. He's not a quiet, retiring guy. I think Obama likes talent. I think he likes really smart people.

MATTHEWS: Why does he want drama?

BEINART: I think he thinks that it's better to have the Clintons inside his administration than out, and I think he thinks she will do a very good job, and that her interests and his interests will be basically aligned.

HITCHENS: As you know, there's a verb missing from what Peter just said. When people say you want them inside, rather than out, there is a very important word that I can't use on your --

MATTHEWS: I know the word. But the question is this-

BEINART: That's smart politics.

HITCHENS: Before we leave the Kissinger point, remember, Kissinger had to decline the honor that Bush wanted to give him of being chair of the 9/11 Commission because it would have involved mentioning the names of all the people who he had business dealings with all around the world. He wasn't willing to do that with Kissinger Associates. He didn't want to expose his clientele. The same thing-believe me, the same thing is going to come up with --


MATTHEWS: Gentlemen, Lynn Sweet of the "Chicago Sun Times" had an interesting question. In fact, she proposed it; if it's about prospective deal making, he'll accept the fact whatever it takes to get his wife the secretary of state job. If we go back into last week what he did, who paid for his airplane travel to Kuwait, for example, or anything like that, he won't go along with it. Will he accept a prospective deal, Peter, whereby he won't take any money from any foreign leader from now on or foreign interests? Will he accept such a deal?

BEINART: I think so and I think it would be a good deal. Look, if you believe, as I do, that Hillary Clinton would be a good secretary of state, I think the best of the group that have been mentioned out there, then I think that's a perfectly acceptable deal to make.

MATTHEWS: Who's going to pay for Bill Clinton's next airplane trip abroad? Peter you've got to answer that question. Who is going to pay for the next trip abroad?

BEINART: Whoever it is, it should be publicly disclosed. I completely agree with you.

HITCHENS: We would also like a full accounting from all the Chinese and Indonesian witnesses, who were fugitives from justice rather than testifying in the last Clinton fund raising hearings. We need to know-

BEINART: I really don't think most people, besides Chris, with all due respect, are interested in rehashing all of the scandals of the 1990s.

MATTHEWS: It's a question of whether they're all coming back, sir. That's the question. Rehashing or reliving is a bigger question. Do you want to relive them all?

HITCHENS: Who owes who for what? We now need to know.

MATTHEWS: It's a good question.

HITCHENS: It'll have to come back up.

BEINART: I don't really think we need to know. I think we need to have full disclosure about what Bill Clinton does in the future, and I think we have to have a debate about whether we think Hillary Clinton would be a good secretary of state.

MATTHEWS: I'm going to come back on that point, because I think you can make the case that if Bill Clinton is willing to really play ball with this, it might be the smart, Lincoln-esque move. We'll be back with Christopher Hitchens and Peter Beinart. More about the Hillary prospect. Boy, it is the hottest story. This campaign isn't over. You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: We're back with Christopher Hitchens and Peter Beinart to talk politics here and Hillary Clinton. You know, both you guys support the war in Iraq, right? Let me ask you this. Fair enough.

HITCHENS: It's an intervention in Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Well, that's great.

BEINART: I think I recanted but-

MATTHEWS: OK. Recanted is good, but it's not effective. Let me ask you this about this question. When I first heard about this thing-I've been of two minds about this Hillary appointment for secretary of state-

I thought one thing he might be up to is really Machiavellian politics, not the old thing, keep them in the tent, instead of outside the tent, but he may have to cut a deal in the Middle East, bringing in Syria, cutting some deal where Syria separates itself strategically from Iran, perhaps Syria separates itself from terrorism, which would be the deal with Israel, getting back the Golan but getting something like 67, some kind of big deal that makes history and good for everybody.

But the only way to do that, if you're going to be a little bit tough on Israel, is to have someone who is a little bit to your right. You start with this, Christopher. You really know the region. Somebody a little to your right, a notch or two to the right on the issue of Middle East politics. Hillary would give him cover in such a deal. Is that the Machiavellian piece here?

HITCHENS: Well, now you make me think about it, I mean, her speeches in favor of intervention in Iraq were pretty good, because she had followed what her husband and Vice President Gore had been saying and doing about Iraq. She knew the case that the Baathists were linked to al Qaeda, that they were dicking around with weapons of mass destruction privately. And so it was a very strong one, stronger than most people still believe, and her vote was a more impressive one for that reason.

She's been very, very, very, very uncritically pro-Israel, though, at all times.

MATTHEWS: Is that helpful to him? That pro-Israeli-Does that help him cut a deal that's never going to make everybody happy? We know any Middle East deal is unpleasant, to put it lightly. It's also a security threat. Every deal where you give an inch of territory away makes your security that much more difficult, in fact, your existence more perilous. Does he help her in that regard, if that's what he intends to do, make history in the Middle East? Is that the plan? I don't know what the plan could be, Peter, if it's not that. Why else put her aboard?

BEINART: Well, I actually think that he may well think that she's a very smart, tough, competent person. But I also agree that you make a good point. I think it's probably less relevant with the Palestinians right now, because it's simply hard to imagine a deal with Hamas. But vis-a-vis Syria and Iran, I think there's a reasonable point.


BEINART: They're not powerful enough to make a deal.

MATTHEWS: You're making my life trouble. I'm talking about, if you can do the deal, is she the deal maker?

BEINART: I think on Iran, which is the big player here, making the deal which would change the regional calculus on Iran, and end the stand-off between the US and Iran since 1979, I think you're right. I think she would help to give political cover. That's also the reason you have people like Dennis Ross very much in the orbit, because I think --


MATTHEWS: That's why I'm surprised at Hillary, because you have a mixed mind here. You don't trust the Clintons, but you are a bit more hawkish than the Clintons, Christopher. So I'm wondering why it wouldn't be in your interests to see the Clintons in there, because it would move Barack to the right, maybe.

HITCHENS: On the crucial issue that we've all been afraid of for years, that a Messianic regime, a fanatical regime will get a hold of apocalyptic weaponry-we're now very close to finding out what that is going to feel like, and to live with a regime that even if it won't go mad and use them, will be able to use those weapons to blackmail us. Now both the senators, Mrs. Clinton and the president elect, have said that will never happen.

MATTHEWS: Got to go. Can you come back, Christopher? This is too big. We have to come back and talk about this. Thank you, gentlemen, Peter Beinart and Christopher Hitchens. We're out of time. Right now it's time for 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE with David Gregory.




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