updated 12/9/2008 12:36:39 PM ET 2008-12-09T17:36:39

Guests: Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tim Carpenter, David Corn, David Corn, Tim Carpenter, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, Roger Simon, Margaret Carlson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: You've seen the layoffs. Now watch the protests. Let's play HARDBALL. Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. Leading off tonight: Workers of the world unite. For the first time, workers in Chicago today showed their solidarity against layoffs. And will Americans be stuck with a lemon if they loan billions of dollars to the auto industry? Congressional Democrats sent the White House today its $15 billion plan to rescue auto makers. The proposal is basically a bridge loan to help the car industry survive until President-elect Obama takes office next month. We'll talk to two members of the House of Representatives in a minute.

Also: Change who can believe in? We've heard it before, but the grumbling is getting louder on the left, liberals wondering whether-or whatever happened to that progressive Democrat they thought they'd elected president. My feeling is Obama's hiring from the right so he can move to the left. But we'll see. We're trying to tell-we're trying to figure out-those progressives are trying to figure out, like blogger Chris Bowers, who wrote this, "Isn't there ever a point when we can get an actual Democratic administration into office?" More on the thunder on the left in a moment. Plus, whatever happened to that Democratic wave? This weekend, two Democrats lost House elections, including William Jefferson of Louisiana. Throw in the Georgia Senate race, the Democrats are 0 for 3 since election day. Are the Democrats really on a roll, or can they only win when Barack Obama is at the top of the ticket? And speaking of the Democrats, members of the Kennedy family are pushing to get Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late president, to take Hillary Clinton's seat in the U.S. Senate. Will Caroline emerge as Hillary's successor in New York? That and more in the "Politics Fix" tonight. And if you missed "SNL's" Amy Poehler take on Hillary Clinton, two words. She's back.


AMY POEHLER, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": We Clintons are here to stay. You may think we're down, but like the South, vampires and Britney Spears, we will rise again.



MATTHEWS: I'll tell you, Darrell Hammond, who's standing there to the left of Amy Poehler, has the very soul of Bill Clinton when he walks on that set. Anyway, there's a lot more that came from on the HARDBALL "Sideshow" tonight. But we begin with the auto bail-out plan with Democratic congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. I want to start with you, Congresswoman Schakowsky. Let's look at this now. Look at this church in Detroit. Well, let's start here. Let's start with a look at the beginning here. Let's look at this rally in Chicago right now. Look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) our community. As has been shown, we have a broad array of people here today.


MATTHEWS: We got a problem here right now, Congresswoman Schakowsky. The workers who are getting laid off are starting to get angry about it. Here they're protesting that the Bank of America won't give a line of credit to the Republic Windows and Doors company, which is laying off people. And they're very angry. Is this the beginning of a workers' revolt in this country against these layoffs, which are, by the way, in this industry as well as every other industry?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Well, I actually went to that plant yesterday and met with the workers, who realized when they were told on a Tuesday that they were done on Friday-they said, If we leave on Friday, we really are finished. We're not going to get our severance. We're not going to get our health care benefits or our vacation pay. And so they are sitting in there, and they are firm and they're not going anywhere. And we gave bank of America $25 billion, and we think that, yes, that there ought to be the saving of this plant. You know, they make Energystar windows, the exact kind of jobs that we want to create for our environment.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I've noticed one thing, Congresswoman. I've noticed it's cold outside right now in a good part of the country. Those people look cold. They're out in the cold right now. They're going to get laid off. And nobody knows how deep this depression or recession or whatever we're going to call it at the end of it, because we don't know how deep it's going to go or how long-how bad it's going to be. What are you going to do as a member of Congress to get these people relief from what's growing, growing, growing as more and more unemployment in this country?

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, I'm going to be sending a letter to Treasury this week that says, Look, if we can give that kind of money to Bank of America, then we ought to be able to bail out these workers in this plant for exactly the kind of jobs that we need. Bank of America could come out smelling like a rose if, for a fraction, a tiny, tiny fraction of the money they've gotten, they make this-they extend this line of credit. This company has customers. They're ready to roll with making-going into greater production. And to shut it down is absolutely inexcusable. This is 300 jobs and thousands of family members.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Congresswoman Blackburn, to the auto industry question. There's talk now of the Democrats leaving town this week, and before they leave, dropping a $15 billion check, basically, on the auto industry to help them survive Christmas. Are you for that check being written, Congresswoman?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN ®, TENNESSEE: Chris, I tell you, I voted no twice on the financial markets bail-out, and so far, what I am hearing on the auto industry bail-out, I am having a tough time supporting that. What I would like to see the auto industry do is move to a Chapter 11 reorganization so that they can become healthy, so that they can become viable and so we can keep those jobs in this country and keep the domestic auto manufacturing industry here and keep them working. Now, in Tennessee, you know, this is of concern for us because we do have the presence of General Motors. We have some Ford Motor Company in our district. We also have Nissan and Toyota, and Volkswagen is just opening a plant on the east end of Tennessee. And so keeping a domestic manufacturing component working and viable is very important to us. Now, one of the things that I continue to point out is that there are things that should be done to help the auto industry. Helping them retool for next-generation automobiles is what's important. And Jan and I both are on Energy and Commerce and participated in the conversation and the legislation where that $25 billion was originally put in place to help them retool for the next-generation auto.

MATTHEWS: Do you think, Congresswoman Blackburn-and then Congresswoman Schakowsky, same question to both of you. Do you think we need a union shop where we have autos being produced in this country? Congresswoman Blackburn first. Do you believe in a union representing workers or do you believe in workers not being represented in collective bargaining? Where do you stand?

BLACKBURN: You know, I am for the workers having the opportunity to work in the environment in which they are most comfortable. In Tennessee, we have the UAW presence in Spring Hill. We also have other plants, which are both just-in-time suppliers and also manufacturing plants, that are non-union shops. And individuals get the opportunity to choose which environment they like best. What we need to do is make certain we put this industry on the road to health. And I think reorganization, renegotiating those contracts, restructuring their debt and becoming healthy and viable is the way to do it.

MATTHEWS: OK. Congresswoman Schakowsky, is it important that we have the UAW representing these workers?

SCHAKOWSKY: Absolutely. And I think that the...

MATTHEWS: So you're for unions to prevail here.

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, yes. Nine out of ten of the most efficient auto plants in this country, from an objective report, are union plants. And they have made lots of concessions. They're partners in this bridge loan and are willing to make even more concessions. But you know, Spring Hill would lose over 29,000 jobs if GM goes under. And look, who is going to buy a car from a company that's in bankruptcy? That's just not going to happen. This is the way that we're going to get the kind of restructuring. It's required in the deal. Viability of the company is where we're heading. If they're not making the kind of changes that they need to make to be viable by March 31, they will not get a penny more. But there's $25 billion for working people. Look, 3.3 million American jobs are related to the auto industry. We can't let them go under, and bankruptcy is not an option.

MATTHEWS: But you know, isn't the problem product? And isn't the problem-I'm not going to do this again. I'm not going to keep doing it. We had a couple members of Congress on the other day, and I asked if they bought American cars or they bought Japanese cars, or foreign cars. And they said-three out of four bought-there were three out of four purchases Japanese cars, rather than American cars. Fine. That's normal American behavior. But if that's the pattern of American consumer decisions, isn't that at the root of the problem, Congresswoman Schakowsky? It's not the failure of our economy, it's the failure of the auto manufacturers in America to produce cars that people choose to buy when their own family incomes and well-being-and the daughters and sons, the cars they recommend they buy are at stake?

SCHAKOWSKY: There's no...

MATTHEWS: Isn't that the problem, that people aren't buying American cars? That's the problem, isn't it?

SCHAKOWSKY: Yes, although I love my Ford Focus wagon. But I would agree that we have to make those kind of changes. The auto industry has to be forced into them. And clearly, in doing this $25 billion bridge loan, we will be able to do that.

MATTHEWS: OK. You've said the magic word. The fact that the federal government has to force the auto industry to produce cars that the American people will buy, and you still trust their leadership to make decisions, but you really don't trust them because you're telling them what to do. And that's the question. Why do guys make seven-figure salaries to do what they're told to do? I thought they could get the big money by being smart entrepreneurs. Congresswoman Blackburn, isn't it the problem that Washington has no idea how to design cars, has no idea how to market them, produce what people want to buy, because that's the magic of brilliant engineering and marketing, and Washington doesn't have that know-how?

BLACKBURN: Chris, you and I are going to agree on something, and that is I doubt that you could give me-and I certainly can't think of the last time the federal government stepping into an industry caused that industry to be more successful or more efficient.


BLACKBURN: And what we know is that there are some things that we in Congress can do, addressing the issue of trade. I think that 61 percent-if my memory is correct, 61 percent of GM sales last quarter were international sales. That global business has grown for them every year. And we need to look at some of those issues. Taxation is an issue here that we can be looking at. I have a proposal...

MATTHEWS: So what's your point? I'm sorry. How do we help-do we increase free trade or reduce free trade?

BLACKBURN: What we need to do is look at how trade affects the auto industry, and I think that that is an issue where we need to put a little bit more attention with GM and with Ford and the exports that they have. We need to pay a little bit more attention to that probably and say, How do we help you grow that part of your market, as well as keeping these jobs here? That's what we want to do, is make certain that we keep those American manufacturing jobs here, that we have all of the tool and die industry and the plastics and the rubber industry that do the...


BLACKBURN: ... the just-in-time suppliers...


BLACKBURN: keep those people working.

MATTHEWS: So it looks to me like, Congresswoman Schakowsky, the Congress-a Democrat Congress-Democratic-controlled Congress is going to pass the bill by the end of the week that basically carries this story over to the next administration. You're kicking the can down the road. Nothing wrong with that, perhaps, if it's the best you can do. But it looks to me like this $15 billion retooling of that money that was going to creating green jobs by retooling the industry is now going to go to pay the bills, pay the rent.

BLACKBURN: That's right.

MATTHEWS: That's the solution, right?

SCHAKOWSKY: Yes, but with a lot of strings attached. And if they haven't used that $15 billion well by March 31 of next year, not a penny more. But Chris, you're-certainly, you're not saying that we ought to let 3.3 million jobs, after 550,000 jobs last month, go down the drain. We simply can't do that.

BLACKBURN: Chris, there's a great analogy on this...

MATTHEWS: Well, that's the Socratic method that you've just employed, Congresswoman, which is the tough way to answer my questions, which is hit me back with a Socratic question. If you ask tough questions, you ought to be able to take tough questions back at you. And you've just asked me a tough question. Despite the problems of this industry, despite the lousy management, the bad engineering, the bad marketing, the piggish way of selling huge cars that aren't good for the environment, all those decisions are terrible, yet we're stuck with the fact if we let this thing go down, we're killing average people and probably starting a ripple effect that could be incredibly difficult for any government coming into office to fight. Is that what you're saying?

SCHAKOWSKY: I'm saying that if we let these companies go down, absolutely, that there'll be this huge ripple effect in an economy that's already in trouble. But we're not just giving a carte blanche, as, by the way, we essentially did to Wall Street.


SCHAKOWSKY: We are putting strings attached.


BLACKBURN: Chris, there's a great analogy in Delta Airlines...

MATTHEWS: Last thought, Marsha-Congressman Blackburn?


MATTHEWS: Your thought?

BLACKBURN: Yes. There's a great analogy in Delta Airlines. After 19 months of restructuring, going in and preserving most of their 60,000 jobs I think they preserved over 45,000, 48,000 jobs...


BLACKBURN: ... they moved themselves to health. Now, they did that by going to Chapter 11 and restructuring and reorganizing and renegotiating contracts. Now, this is a great example for the auto industry, and I think there are a lot of lessons learned there that the auto industry could apply. We need to be...


BLACKBURN: ... very serious and diligent and focused on making certain that they are healthy, they're competitive, that they're producing next-generation cars, and that they're being produced here in the United States of America.

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, the families in Spring Hill, Tennessee, won't be happy to hear that.


SCHAKOWSKY: They want us to do this bill.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think that now that we've discovered that the auto industry is a national treasure and we have to keep it alive for national purposes-not for profit purposes, for national purposes-those companies have a responsibility to start producing cars in the national interest that may not make the biggest bang for the buck-in other words, not the biggest possible car they can sell per unit, but maybe the best car per unit. And I think that's the question. How do we introduce the public interest into the private sector? It's a great challenge. I'm not sure we're going to do it this time around. But thank you very much-thank you very much, Congresswoman Schakowsky...

SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: ... and thank you very much, Congressman Marsha Blackburn, who's on this show so often.

Coming up: Some liberals are losing patience and growing increasingly nervous right now that President-elect Barack is leaving the left out in the cold. In other words, he's building a centrist government of moderates and backing off campaign promises that got him elected, in many ways, because the liberal side of voters all loved this guy. As Obama moves to the center, can he keep his base happy? You're watching HARDBALL. We're going to have that tough tussle (ph) when we come back here on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Liberals are accusing President-elect Barack Obama of breaking his promise and stacking his new administration with center-right appointees. The left helped get Obama elected, and political pressure is building for him to start picking progressives for cabinet positions. But is President-elect Obama perhaps doing a head fake here-that's what I think he's doing-picking center so he can go to the left? David Corn I think agrees with me. He's Washington bureau chief of that centrist magazine, "Mother Jones." And Tim Carpenter is the national director of Progressive Democrats of America. You're going to get to start here, Tim, because you're angry. You think he's selling out to the center and the right, right?

TIM CARPENTER, PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS OF AMERICA: Well, I'm not saying he's necessarily selling out. I think we are at Defcon 3 right now, Chris. I think what we're seeing is Barack Obama, as you said, making some smart political decisions to play to the center. Our hope here in the closing days of what he will appoint will, hopefully, before we're done, get us a real progressive like Raul Grijalva into the interior committee (SIC). We're anxious and we're waiting and we're looking right now to see right who is going to be the next appointment. We And Hope we get an authentic progressive like Raul Grijalva. That would help us. But we're certainly very concerned.

MATTHEWS: Well, I'm not-I don't get as excited about the Interior Department as you do, Tim.


MATTHEWS: Well, we'll get to your issue interest in a half hour. But let's start with the one I'm interested in, foreign policy. I'm looking at this slate that this president has put forward, like a political slate, a New York Democratic Party slate-General Jim Jones, national security adviser, Republican Bob Gates held over as defense secretary, Senator Hillary Clinton, who voted to authorize the Iraq war-they are at least centrist and probably center-right as a team. Where is he going to hear from the left when he gets in that room?

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "MOTHER JONES": Now, that's a good question. And I think I disagree with Tim in that I would put it at DEFCON 4, not DEFCON 3.


CORN: But, Susan Rice, who is the most liberal foreign policy adviser in his inner circle, has been given a top job, the U.N. appointment, but she's been shipped off to the United Nations in New York City.


CORN: I mean, I-I hate to agree with you, Chris, but I do think that what he's done is, he's trying to drape a bipartisan-a left-tilting agenda with centrist and bipartisan...


MATTHEWS: That's a hope. Well, it's the politics of hope talking.

CORN: Well, that is. That is.

MATTHEWS: What about the politics of evidence?


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. He's sitting in a room.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He thinks, I don't think we should bomb Iran this week. I think we should try another route. Who in that room will say, that's-I have got this other way to go about; we're not going to bomb Iran? Tim, you get in here. Tim, I'm wondering-let's talk about foreign policy, because it is what drove the beginnings of this election. I mean, he won because he was against the war and Hillary Clinton voted to authorize it. That's how he won the primaries, at least. The general election was about the lousy economy. We know that. But let's stick to foreign policy. Who do you see in here that you like who's been appointed so far?

TIM CARPENTER, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS OF AMERICA: Well, I agree with you, Chris. Your question was, who is he going to hear from? Here's going to hear from the millions of Americans right now who are flooding his Web site to tell him to appoint those progressives. We're not done yet. We are going to see what the finished Cabinet will look like.


CARPENTER: My hope is, there will be one. But he's going to hear from the folks that walked the precincts, the majority of Americans who want to get out of Iraq, the majority of Americans who want single-payer health care. He's going to continue to hear from us of us that have continued to mobilize since the election. This has been a busier time in the grassroots since Barack Obama won the presidency. And I think what we're seeing right now, Chris, and the opportunity to be on the show-and I'm glad to be on with David-is that the American people have been more busy since the election to make their voices heard. And, to Barack Obama's credit, the Web sites...


MATTHEWS: Well, let me-I will check that.

Let me ask you guys. Let's look at some of the big jobs that have left to have been filled. These are big jobs: Labor, Education, Energy.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Let's go with those big three. We know energy is huge in this country. It's about getting back or getting-getting back to an independent America and getting off fossil fuels, which are destroying our environment. OK, who's going to do that? Who's going to lead the way?

CORN: Well, it's interesting. We know that position hasn't been discussed. On the labor front, a lot of progressives are hoping that David Bonior, who says he doesn't want the position-he's a former member of Congress. He's been a populist skeptic on trade accords, a critic of them.


CORN: And he's been on the show. I think, you know, a lot of people are hoping that he's going to get in there somehow.

MATTHEWS: I know. He's a Dorothy Day liberal. I know...


CORN: ... your politics, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe.



MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you this. Is he going to get it or is it going to be somebody to the right? Or is it going to be somebody that Labor sort of likes as a sort of a patronage appointment?


CARPENTER: You know, if I could just...


MATTHEWS: Yes, go ahead, Tim. I want to know who you think would make a difference in terms of labor policy, which obviously influences trade. It influences card-check, all those issues. It involves education. Labor sets in the just-in fact, in a troubling time like this, when people are losing their jobs, it seems to me somebody ought to be talking...


CORN: The Labor job has always-the Labor in a lot of Cabinets has always been sort of a second-tier position.



CORN: That's why also what-it should have been announced...


MATTHEWS: OK, Tim, get in here.


MATTHEWS: Who's a heavyweight that he could put in there who would sit at the Cabinet and say, how about the workers who are getting screwed right now? How about the workers who are losing their jobs?


MATTHEWS: Who's going to make that point?

CARPENTER: No, I agree with David. I think David is right. Bonior would be a great appointment. But I disagree with your analysis, Chris, when you say the top three. There's the top four, the environment. The majority of Americans who went to the polls and voted, many of the youth, want to see this country moving in regards to the issues that are very important of a green economy and moving to link Labor with Interior. So, I begin this argument with you to move Interior up into your top four.


MATTHEWS: What are you looking at, Tim?


MATTHEWS: What are you looking at right now?

CARPENTER: I'm looking at Raul Grijalva, who is a Congress member from Tucson.

MATTHEWS: No. You're looking at somebody down at the desk there. I don't know who you're looking at. Look up. Look straight at the camera.



MATTHEWS: Are you looking at the camera?

CARPENTER: Yes. No, I'm certainly looking at the camera right now. Raul Grijalva...


MATTHEWS: Good, now. I'm just talking-I thought you had some other voice down there you were looking at.


CARPENTER: No, no, no, no. We're right here. We're right here.


CARPENTER: Thanks for letting me into the discussion.


MATTHEWS: No, I appreciate this. Let me...


CARPENTER: So, Raul Grijalva is the one that I would put in the top four that I think is important for this discussion, Chris. That is who will be at the room against the war. Who is for labor? Who's for single-payer?


CARPENTER: It will that out of a-with Bonior that David already mentioned.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Look, let me get back to the central question. Do you believe, Tim, that this president has picked a lot of centrists, like Senator Clinton, like Jim Jones, like Bob Gates, to make it look like he can build or sell himself to the American people, who are usually in the center, so that he can be a progressive liberal leftist with that personnel? Or do you believe he has really won an election as a liberal and has faked it with people; he's really a centrist? Which is it?

CARPENTER: No. I think, Chris, right now, we're at a teaching moment. I think, if you go back to FDR, when FDR first was elected, he met with the progressive community. The progressive community challenged him and asked FDR to move in a certain direction. And FDR said, flat-out to the progressive community, those are all great issues. Go out and make me do them. Barack Obama, when he was in the Senate in the state of Illinois, supported single-payer. Barack Obama supported us to get out of Iraq before he even ran for the presidency.

MATTHEWS: So, he's a liberal?


CARPENTER: I believe he's surrounding himself to put together-we have no illusions that he's going to be a progressive at this point in time. He's made it very clear which direction he's going to move.


MATTHEWS: OK. You're confident he's a liberal. You're confident he's a liberal?

CORN: I am.


CARPENTER: Center to left, Chris, to answer your question.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.


CORN: But one thing that's interesting here, Chris, is that the center has moved.

MATTHEWS: That's for sure.

CORN: So, if you talk about...


MATTHEWS: Big stimulus packages are not liberals anymore.


CORN: That's right. Regulating Wall Street, that's not a liberal position. That's a consensus position. Getting out of Iraq, doing something on global warming, multilateralism over militarism, all these issues are now centrist issues.

MATTHEWS: Avoiding a war with Iran.

CORN: Avoiding a war, exactly.


CORN: So, while I would like to see greater progressive voices in the Cabinet, the people who he's picked on his-let's stick with on foreign policy for a second. Most of those people, I think, are more or less with that program. There are still some big issues...


CORN: ... on trade, what to do about the bloated Pentagon budget, where I think a progressive presence would change the internal debate in the Obama administration.

MATTHEWS: Well, one thing you two guys do for a living the next year or two is come on this show and keep the guy where he ought to be. He ought to be where he said he was going to be.

CARPENTER: That's our job, Chris.


MATTHEWS: Fair enough?



CARPENTER: That's our job, Chris. That's what we're doing tonight.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Tim.


MATTHEWS: Well, that is, it seems to me, a reasonable request, that a president be asked to be what he promised to be.

CARPENTER: Well, it's our role to keep him honest, Chris, just like we have to keep you honest.

MATTHEWS: And if he is going to change his politics, he better make it-well, you won't be on the show again.


MATTHEWS: I'm just kidding, Tim.


MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. That's very true. I'm as vulnerable to review as anyone. Thank you, David Corn. And, thank you, Tim Carpenter.

CARPENTER: Thanks, Chris. Thanks, David.

MATTHEWS: Up next: What is Hillary Clinton thinking now that she's heading to the State Department? Here's "SNL"'s Amy Poehler. Watch this.


AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS: It has been such an honor to serve you, the citizens of my home state of New York.




MATTHEWS: Anyway, more of that coming. It's a funny skit-much more ahead of the cold open from Saturday night. You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow." "Saturday Night Live" this weekend took yet another whack at the traveling road show that is Bill and Hillary Clinton. Here's the great Amy Poehler doing her take on Hillary Clinton.


POEHLER: While I'm excited about the opportunities ahead, I also have a heavy heart. My appointment means that I will be leaving my post as New York's junior senator. It has been such an honor to serve you, the citizens of my home state of New York.


POEHLER: Who am I kidding? This is not my home state.


POEHLER: It never was my home state. Pack up the house in Chappaqua, Bill. What's that? We never unpacked? Even better.



POEHLER: Oh, hello, Bill.



HAMMOND: You voted for change, but you ain't never going to change this.



POEHLER: We Clintons are here to stay.


POEHLER: You may think we're down, but, like the South, vampires, and Britney Spears, we will rise again.




MATTHEWS: Well, I will say it again. Amy Poehler is great, but Darrell Hammond is the very soul of Bill Clinton. Also, live from New York, Mike Bloomberg. The New York City mayor was over at Capitol Hill this morning, where he weighed in on the speculation surrounding Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be empty Senate seat. Bloomberg ended up giving one contender a big boost, saying: "Caroline Kennedy is a very experienced woman. She's worked very hard for the city. I can just tell you, she's made an enormous difference in New York City." Next, with just 43 days to go before he's out of office, President Bush on Saturday displayed some of the self-awareness that's been lacking for much of his term. You can see the president there watching the traditional unveiling of his portrait at Philadelphia's Union League, which has paintings of every Republican president going back to Abraham Lincoln. Here's President Bush's take on the historic event.




BUSH: Welcome to my hanging.



MATTHEWS: "My hanging." Huh. Nothing like a little gallows humor from the guy on his way out. Anyway, President Bush last night got an unexpected kiss on the cheek from one of his most vocal critics, actress Barbra Streisand. The singer and bit-time Democratic activists was one of the six artists honored at this year's Kennedy Center honors. Streisand had promised to make nice before the event, saying-quote "Art transcends politics this weekend." It actually does. I remember being at a Barbra Streisand concert years ago when she asked the audience who had voted for who and was stunned to hear that a substantial applause came from the crowd on those people who had voted for Bob Dole against her hero. Barbra is great. And she doesn't know how great. Millions of people who don't share her politics love her singing. And that's a fact. Anyway, now for tonight's "Big Number." Just one year ago, former Senator Fred Thompson was a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Today, he's renting out his D.C. condo for president-elect Barack Obama's inauguration. According to "The New York Post," how much is Thompson asking for a five-day stint at his one-bedroom apartment? Thirty thousand dollars. Well, times are tough when Fred Thompson is renting out his apartment for $30,000 during the long inaugural weekend-tonight's "Big Number" fresh from the Volunteer State. Up next: The Democratic Party enjoyed big wins all over the country when Obama was at the top of the ticket, but in the races decided since the election-there's been three elections for Congress-they have lost them all. So, how strong are the Democrats, really? Let's take a look at the big three losses they have suffered since Obama won. You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bertha Coombs with your CNBC "Market Wrap."Stocks surging for a second day as an auto industry bailout takes shape and after president-elect Barack Obama pledged yesterday to stimulate the economy with a huge public works spending package-the Dow Jones industrials gaining nearly 300 points, the S&P 500 up 33, and the Nasdaq up 62 points. The White House and congressional Democrats are reportedly trying to work out final details of a short-term auto industry rescue plan. Democrats sent a plan to the White House that reportedly provides about $15 billion in emergency loans. It would appoint create a presidential appointment of a car czar to oversee restructuring of the auto industry. The Tribune company has filed for bankruptcy protection. It owns "The Chicago Tribune," "The Los Angeles Times," other newspapers, 23 television stations, and the Chicago Cubs, but the Chicago Cubs reportedly not part of that deal. And oil rising $2.90, closing at $43.71 a barrel. That's it from CNBC, first in business worldwide-now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. This Saturday was Election Day, believe it or not, for Louisiana, which does everything different. They had two House seats at stake. Louisiana had postponed the election because of Hurricane Gustav. And the big surprise was, the Republican Anh "Joseph" Cao, a 41-year- old Vietnamese-American, who beat longtime incumbent, the somewhat irascible, somewhat, well, corrupt-corrupt-I think it's fair to say - William Jefferson. In Louisiana's 4th District, Republican John Fleming beat Democrat Paul Carmouche. And add in last week's Georgia Senate race, where Republican Saxby Chambliss won-he beat Jim Martin, a Democrat-there's zero for three, the Democrats, now. After winning big on November 4, the question, is there a postseason letdown for the Democrats? What is the new political lay of the land? We have got Steve McMahon joining us right now and Todd Harris. Gentlemen, thank you. I just guess you have different views of this.


MATTHEWS: But let me talk. Is there any loss to the republic that Bill Jefferson, in whose refrigerator was found $90,000 in apparently ill-gotten goods, in cash, somewhere wrapped in tin foil, is there any doubt that he's no loss?

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think democracy will continue churning without William Jefferson.


MATTHEWS: Is it possible that justice will grind finally here; they will catch some of the bad guys?

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The question, though, is whether the Supreme Court will declare the Jefferson case moot, because, of course, there's the big-there's the big case about whether or not the executive branch can go in and search a legislative branch office after they have-after they have invoked the speech and debate clause.


MATTHEWS: Technicality.

MCMAHON: Yes, yes, yes.


HARRIS: Millions of Americans are on pins and needles waiting for the resolution.

MATTHEWS: Isn't that what conservatives always say? Technicality. Well, they did go in, and they used the executive authority to go after Congress, which is protected by-since we're getting into the Constitution-speech and debate clause, which some people argue protects all congressmen at all times from any surveillance or any



MATTHEWS: Technicality. Well, they did go in and they used the executive authority to go after Congress, which is protected by, since we're getting into the Constitution, speech and debate clause, which some people argue protects all congressmen at all times from any surveillance or any investigation by the executive branch. Is that your belief, all times?

MCMAHON: It's actually not my belief.


MCMAHON: I think it's a pretty flimsy reason...


MATTHEWS: If somebody gets stopped for drunken driving and they claimed they're on the way to a debate.


MCMAHON: Remember that Iowa senator who actually invoked the speech and debate clause?

MATTHEWS: It happens all the time.

HARRIS: And the vehemence with which you believe that is directly proportional to how many thousands of dollars you have stashed in your freezer.


MATTHEWS: Yes, OK. How about the congressman who is heading over to Virginia to get-meet his other wife and his other family that didn't-his current wife-his legal wife didn't know about.

MCMAHON: Former congressman.

MATTHEWS: . and he explained to the police in his drunken stupor that I'm going over to see this woman I'm living with even though she's not my wife, she's back in Brooklyn-or in Staten Island, I'm not sure which.

MCMAHON: That would be like a screech and debate clause.


MATTHEWS: OK. Let's get back to my question. Is there a pattern, Todd, against-is their postpartum blues here, a-well, whatever, because you see three races, two in Louisiana and one in Georgia, or are they just the usual-let's take the Georgia one, we know Saxby Chambliss was going to win because a lot of African-Americans didn't even bother voting for Jim Martin, the Democratic candidate for the Senate, the day they voted for Barack. They didn't come back and vote for this special election.

HARRIS: Yes. Saxby Chambliss held onto a larger percentage of his actual Election Day vote. I think it was 65 percent.

MATTHEWS: Who were white.

HARRIS: Overwhelmingly, I'm sure. And Martin got, I think, 51 percent of-he held onto 51 percent of his vote. So what it shows is that there was significant diminishment in Democratic turnout without Barack Obama on the ballot.

MATTHEWS: OK. Here we go back to the age-old advantage.

HARRIS: But that's no surprise.

MATTHEWS: The age-old advantage of the Republican Party. When there's a lot of charisma out there, and obviously an African-American could become president, the Democrats can vote as well as Republicans. But in an average election, just showing up out of duty or habit or ritual patriotism if you will, Republicans are better at voting. More of them show up. Why is that the case?

MCMAHON: Well, I'm not sure it's a partisan thing as much as it is the normal falloff between a presidential election year and a non-presidential election contest. And I think what's interesting here.

MATTHEWS: Well, why do Republicans vote better in non-presidential elections?

MCMAHON: Well, when the turnout is lower, the better educated, more affluent people tend to show up.

MATTHEWS: It's class.

MCMAHON: It's a little bit of class, it's education, it's affluence, it's a lot of things. It's probably paying attention to current events. A lot of people in Louisiana apparently didn't know that there was an election this weekend.

MATTHEWS: I heard that.

MCMAHON: And so that would have.

MATTHEWS: In Louisiana, that was the case, yes.

MCMAHON: In Louisiana, I'm sorry. That's what I meant.

MATTHEWS: They thought Bill Jefferson had been reelected despite he was indicted on all of those counts. They thought he was back in. I read some accounts where people said, I didn't bother voting because I thought he was in.

HARRIS: Right.

MCMAHON: But there are two things I think that are going on here. One is a normal falloff. But the other side of the coin is, Democrats and voters in particular turned out in record numbers for this race in Georgia and in these other races where the Democratic candidate in an area where President Bush and Republicans typically get 58, 59, 60 percent of the vote, did very, very well. And so the question is really, does this prove a theory of Howard Dean's, frankly, that Democrats can compete anywhere if they put good candidates on the field, if they run a good campaign, if they draw sharp contrasts, and if they turn out their vote? I think Jim Martin proves Howard Dean's theory that Democrats can compete everywhere. What happened over the weekend is that things settled back down to where they normally are.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) it seems like the Republican Party has been very successful at finding people like Bobby Jindal, or Jindal finding the Republican Party, or this fellow who is a Vietnamese-American, Cao, it seems like it often does become an ethnic issue. And a Democratic candidate is African-American, and the Republican candidate is something else, and it's only if it's something else the Republicans are happy with that candidate. Is that too brutal?

HARRIS: I think-yes. I think it's.

MATTHEWS: I'm just throwing it out as a Socratic question.

HARRIS: I think it's far too brutal.

MATTHEWS: Far too brutal, OK.

HARRIS: What I think we're seeing here is this is-and this is not, I don't think, a controversial statement. This is Barack Obama's Democratic Party. And when he is on the top of the ticket, on the ballot, you're seeing turnout because of Barack Obama, and in the case of November 4th, President Bush's unpopularity.

MATTHEWS: So he's a one-shot wonder?

HARRIS: In 2010, if Barack Obama is still riding high, then I think the Democrats have every reason to be hopeful.

MATTHEWS: But if he's not on the ticket, he may not be quite as.


HARRIS: If he's not on the ticket, and he's-his popularity has taken a hit.

MATTHEWS: Do you find the fact that he could become like General Eisenhower was in the '50s where only he can win, and only he can drive the vote, the minute Ike wasn't on the ticket-we're not old enough to know that, but I vaguely remember it, Ike wasn't able to drive a party success, only a personal success.

MCMAHON: I don't buy that at all. I think what you see is, in presidential elections more people turn out because the interest level is greater. This year more people turned out because of the dislike for President Bush. There were sharp contrasts between the parties. I think you're going to see in 2010, Democrats who won in 2008, some of them were not going to be successful, but most of them will be.

MATTHEWS: Again, is Bill Jefferson's loss any loss to the country?

MCMAHON: Well, I mean, he was only an alleged felon.


MCMAHON: But he did have $90,000.

MATTHEWS: What was the $90,000 doing in the fridge?

MCMAHON: He did have $90,000 in his refrigerator.

MATTHEWS: I used to keep cigars in the refrigerator, but I'm not sure why. I think it was I thought they were like a humidor, it didn't work. But why would you keep money in the fridge? And why would you have 90 in cash?

MCMAHON: Don't you have $90,000 in cash in your refrigerator?


MATTHEWS: . wallet, what are you talking about? I'm just kidding. Steve McMahon, gentlemen, thank you, Todd Harris, it's always interesting. Up next, and this is always interesting, any Kennedy conversation is magic, and Caroline Kennedy, is she running for the Senate in New York, for that appointment? New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a big fan. But will she get the nod to replace Senator Clinton? The "Politics Fix" coming up. And there's Caroline Kennedy. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Coming up, Barack Obama's victory was huge for the left, but is he doing enough to keep the base happy? HARDBALL returns with the "Politics Fix," coming up next.


MATTHEWS: We're back now. Time for the "Politics Fix" with Roger Simon of the Politico and Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson. Just a year ago-or two years ago, your organizations didn't exist. Times have changed. Let's talk about Caroline Kennedy, a story that never goes away because Caroline Kennedy just got a big boost from the mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, he said-a friend of yours, Mike Bloomberg has now endorsed-in fact, I think he's your immediate employer, somewhere, Bloomberg. You look at her, there she is, Caroline Kennedy. Everybody has a strong appeal-affection for her as the survivor of the Kennedy family, the only one. Caroline Kennedy, does she want this job, senator from New York, to replace Senator Clinton?

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: I think if she wants it, she has certainly got it. The question is.


SIMON: I mean, everyone wants an appointment. Appointment is the easy way to get in. The question is, does she really have it in her to campaign for the job?

MATTHEWS: If she gets appointed.

SIMON: If she gets appointed.

MATTHEWS: Because she has to run in two years.

SIMON: Exactly. It's a rough and tumble-you don't associate her with that. On the other hand, you know, there is a great deal of affection out there for Caroline Kennedy. I don't see that she has any political enemies. I think her.

MATTHEWS: Does she have to take positions, Margaret, like a regular candidate? Like would she-I remember years ago, Bobby Kennedy Jr., I hope I'm not speaking for him, because he once said this to me that he wants to be a specialist in what he cares about, the environment, you know, Riverkeepers, he doesn't want to be out there having a position on everything you have to have a position on, you know, all of the issues that cause trouble and force to you take positions you really don't have. Do you think Caroline Kennedy wants to have a position on card check, a position on abortion rights, a position on gay marriage? Does she want all of the issues you have to take-guns, does she want to take those fights?

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG: Well, the beauty of getting appointed is that you have two years to find your positions on things that you never thought about before. But then you have them. At least they're more considered than a candidate who comes and immediately is asked questions they were never asked before, even presidential candidates.


CARLSON: And the thing about Caroline Kennedy, it will be a long distance to go from the Camelot to the Dirksen Senate Office Building. I mean, she's at the top of society and politics in a certain way.

MATTHEWS: She is not doing this for publicity.

CARLSON: . without ever-she has everything she wants.

MATTHEWS: Why would she want to be a senator, except to vote on each bill?

CARLSON: I'm told it is because President-elect Obama really inspired her. It was an act of the heart. And she's smart. As Roger says, you can't find an enemy. And everybody who has worked with her, including the people in Mayor Bloomberg's office, in the education where she has raised about $100 million, says she is a workhorse, not a show horse. This is unimaginable for a person of her...

SIMON: Also, to put it mildly, there is a strong tradition of public service within the Kennedy family.


SIMON: I would think the default in the Kennedy family is you go and you serve. I mean, there are two strange things about the Kennedy women. One, they never get in trouble. And two, they never get elected to higher office. Those two should go hand in hand.



MATTHEWS: But they never had problems as kids?


MATTHEWS: None of them?


CARLSON: No, the girls are good.

SIMON: The girls-you never see.

CARLSON: It's the boys who are bad.

SIMON: You never see girl scandal headlines for the Kennedys. Now Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was lieutenant governor of Maryland. I don't know if that counts really for higher office. She ran for governor and she lost.

MATTHEWS: Bobby's oldest.

SIMON: Bobby's oldest. And Caroline should study that campaign if she's going to do this and run again, because it's.


MATTHEWS: But Kathleen is a pal of mine, and Kathleen ran a rather middle-of-the-road campaign. She let her opponent, Ehrlich, have an African-American running mate, Michael Steele, and got beaten by being cautious. That can be a danger.

SIMON: That's-the lesson that Caroline has to take from this is that being a Kennedy gets you a lot of automatic support, but it gets you a lot of automatic opposition. And if you ever look like you think you're owed this job, which some people thought Kathleen Kennedy Townsend looked like, then you're doomed.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think that Kathleen didn't run the sharpest campaign. I think that was-but I think Mark Shriver ran out here in Maryland, right here, and lost. I mean, Frank Mankiewicz, a Kennedy guy, lost. I think a lot of Kennedy aides have lost over the years, because they thought they could win on that mantle. Ted Sorenson ran and lost, Adam Walinsky, all of those Kennedy people. Droves of them have lost. Kenny O'Donnell up in Massachusetts lost for governor. It is an amazing fact. John Tunney eventually lost out in California. There is a big losing record of the Kennedys.

CARLSON: Caroline has kept her standings by not getting into the fray.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know, I'm wondering.

CARLSON: But by being appointed, she doesn't, you know? And Andrew Cuomo, unlike Robert Kennedy, has not taken himself out. He is just a Kennedy in-law. But I imagine.


MATTHEWS: . anybody you want to have come to your next J.J. Dinner besides her and a Barack, maybe-her or Barack. Anyway, we'll be-I meant-that's Jefferson-Jackson. We'll be right back with Roger Simon and Margaret Carlson. I think everybody likes Caroline Kennedy and a lot of people want to protect her from the dirty business of-well, this show.


MATTHEWS: Coming right back with HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. Who wants to be taken apart here?


MATTHEWS: We're back with Roger Simon and Margaret Carlson, two pals of mine. And the topic is politics. And the question is ideology. A lot of people who voted for Barack Obama voted for a shift from what we have. The theme was not just hope, change. Change. And now we've got Senator Clinton, who represents the votes supporting the authorization of war in Iraq; Robert Gates, the current secretary of defense, and who else? General James Jones as national security adviser. What happened to the victory of change, and I hate to use the phrase, the left? Who won this election?

SIMON: The guy who won the election is Barack Obama, who has promised change by appointing people who know how to get things done. He didn't promise ideology. He didn't promise.

MATTHEWS: Are you saying this because you didn't agree with him?

SIMON: No, no, no. I mean, he really.

MATTHEWS: I never thought of you as a lefty. Roger Simon, you're no lefty.


SIMON: I'm a journalist.


SIMON: He really put together-or is putting together a cabinet of people who are going to accomplish things. He doesn't have an ideological checklist. So the left is mad at him this week, OK, the right will be mad at him...

MATTHEWS: OK. Who is in the room advising him on-along the way that he got elected, Margaret? You're sitting in the room, I always ask, who is in the room when somebody is making a decision? And if you know that answer, then you know a lot about the person. Who is advising him? And if all of his advisers are centrists like Senator Clinton and Bob Gates and General Jones, who in the room says, let me remind you.


CARLSON: . Jones.

MATTHEWS: Well, because I'm trying to (INAUDIBLE). It's called television. Margaret, I give...

CARLSON: I thought you knew something.

MATTHEWS: No, I just think-well, remember Indiana Jones? "Dr. Jones, Dr. Jones!" Now...

CARLSON: You did know something, see?



MATTHEWS: Why do we have no lefties in this cabinet?

CARLSON: Because you have pragmatists in the cabinet.


MATTHEWS: Why no lefties? Why nobody that talks like Barack Obama talked when he got elected?

CARLSON: I don't think Obama talked like a lefty. He talked like a person who wanted to change the way things were done.

MATTHEWS: Total difference on fiscal policy, total difference on tax policy, total difference energy policy, and total difference on foreign policy. That's how he beat the Bush party.

CARLSON: The tax and fiscal policies are determined by events. On the war, I think he still want to get out of Iraq and he still wants to concentrate on Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS: Did he put together a team for changing?


SIMON: Are you arguing that Hillary Clinton is some raving moderate now? That she is not in the progressive wing of her party?

MATTHEWS: No, just talking about her foreign policy.

SIMON: I think her foreign.

MATTHEWS: . which was the same as Bush's, wasn't it?

CARLSON: Her foreign policy will be Obama's foreign policy.


MATTHEWS: I'm waiting for change.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Roger Simon, thank you, Margaret Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now, it is time for "1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE."



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