updated 3/25/2009 9:41:23 AM ET 2009-03-25T13:41:23

Time: 17:00Guest: Ron Brownstein, Roger Hickey, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, E. Steven Collins, Tom Defrank High: President Obama will hold a primetime press conference this evening.Spec: Politics; GovernmentCHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Ready for primetime.Let‘s play HARDBALL.Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. And leading off tonight: Pumped and ready. President Obama has timed it the way he wanted. Tonight he‘s capping his media blitz—Jay Leno, “60 Minutes” and all that—with a big primetime news conference. He‘s toughened up his popularity numbers even amid public outrage at those Wall Street bonuses. But how long can he ride the tiger? Let‘s get to that and to a quartet of tough questions we‘ve cooked up for the president tonight, hardball questions I want someone to ask at that press conference and I want the president to answer.And the Blue Dog Democrats are about to be dogged themselves. I‘m talking about those nervous Democrats who are skittish about President Obama‘s big agenda of health, education and energy. Now a coalition of liberal activists, pro-Obama folk, led by the group Campaign for America‘s Future is launching a media campaign to target moderate and conservative Democrats who might just block the president‘s budget proposal. The target list includes Indiana‘s Evan Bayh, Colorado‘s Michael Bennett and Arkansas‘s Blanche Lincoln, all of whom are up for reelection or election in 2010.But can the activists gin up the same level of support for President Obama now that they did during the campaign? The head of the group Campaign for America‘s Future will be here to answer that very question.Plus, Democratic congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is known for being a rising star in the Democratic Party, and now she‘s gone public with her personal fight against breast cancer. She quietly underwent seven major surgeries in the past year while running for reelection, stumping for Hillary Clinton during the primaries and campaigning for Barack Obama in the general. U.S. Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz will be here tonight.And what do the lawmakers think of former vice president‘s Dick Cheney‘s recent criticism of President Obama? Well, it seems his fellow party members are not too happy about it. They want him to return to his undisclosed location and stay there. That and more in the “Politics Fix” tonight.And finally, we have a new HARDBALL awardee tonight. It goes to a lawmaker who worked incredibly for her party while she was in the fight of her life.Let‘s begin with what President Obama has to say in tonight‘s press conference. Before we start, let‘s look at the numbers. The new CBS poll has a 64 percent approval rating for President Obama. That‘s 2 points better than a week ago. So he‘s riding pretty well there. And the Gallup poll has him with a 63 percent approval rating, up a point from a week ago.Pat Buchanan‘s an MSNBC political analyst and Ron Brownstein‘s with “National Journal” and Atlantic Media. Gentlemen, first question to you two. Is he looking good or what? The president‘s numbers are holding up there amidst all this furor over those bonuses and all the hell people are going through economically, yet his numbers ride high. Your theory?RON BROWNSTEIN, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”: His numbers are strong, and in fact, they are in some ways stronger than even the raw numbers suggest because not only is he over 60 percent but he‘s over 60 percent after having achieved—gone through an intense legislative fight on several fronts, particularly the stimulus bill. To hold this level of support with the level of activity that he‘s undertaken I think is pretty impressive.MATTHEWS: Pat Buchanan?PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: American people want him to succeed. A lot of people voted for him. They‘ve got a vested interest in him. Nobody I know of—I think, almost nobody—wants him to fail. And I think, quite frankly, they see his problems as a lot of them involved with administration figures and not him. They think he‘s made some foot faults, but he‘s out there, and they say, We‘re behind you and we‘re going to stay with you.MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go to some of the questions. I want to go over four questions we‘ve cooked up here, the producers and I at HARDBALL, we think ought to get asked tonight. And some are them are fun and some of them are damn serious.Here‘s the first big question. Does President Obama want one big filibuster-proof vote on the whole shebang this spring? I‘m talking about health care, education and his big climate change measures. Does he want it all to be part of what‘s called reconciliation, a vote that can occur and he can win with only 50 votes in the Senate?BROWNSTEIN: I think they want that as a club in the closet. I think they want to hold open the option of at least health care and certainly education in the overall budget going through what‘s called reconciliation in the fall as a means of trying to leverage more flexibility from moderate Democrats and Republicans as they go through the negotiation. But I think health care is within the realm of possibility, ultimately, that you could see it there. I think it‘d be very difficult to do cap and trade within a reconciliation bill.MATTHEWS: But education and...BROWNSTEIN: Eight Senate Democrats—eight Senate Democrats have...MATTHEWS: Pat, will that...BROWNSTEIN: ... already said not.MATTHEWS: ... start a war against the Republican minority in the Senate, the fact the president jams through with a majority vote that cannot be filibustered under the rules a budget reconciliation vote which includes what he wants?BUCHANAN: If I were him, I‘d do it.MATTHEWS: Go for it?BUCHANAN: Sure. I don‘t care what the Republicans say.MATTHEWS: Good for you, Pat.BUCHANAN: Go for it. But I will say this. If you‘re going to ask that question, Chris, and I were a reporter, I would get up and come at him this way. I would say, Look, your Commerce secretary, Judd Gregg, says you‘re going to bankrupt the country. You got new numbers...MATTHEWS: Your former Commerce—almost Commerce...BUCHANAN: Yes, former. You got your normal—your Congressman Budget Office numbers. You got Kent Conrad saying you‘re gone too much. Are you willing, Mr. President, to draw back a bit from a $1.8 trillion deficit?MATTHEWS: So you‘d pose it negatively?BUCHANAN: Yes. I‘d pose everything negatively, Chris!(LAUGHTER)MATTHEWS: But it‘s still a question which I hear from the grapevine from people who‘ve talked to the president on background that he‘s seriously considering. I mean, this is big casino, to say, like Ronald Reagan did...BUCHANAN: Sure.MATTHEWS: ... I‘m putting it all on the line because my popularity we‘re talking about isn‘t going to last forever.BROWNSTEIN: Rahm Emanuel has described it privately as an insurance policy, the prospect of using reconciliation. I think what you might see is the House leaving open the door to it in its budget resolution, the Senate not necessarily. And then again, it‘s hanging out there as a possibility in the conference committee.And you also—don‘t forget, I think if Obama does go this route, he wants to first signal to the country that he is offering a chance for inclusion, for negotiation, and he will only—a position that he will only do this if the other side will not be reasonable in reaching...MATTHEWS: Well, all I can say is...BROWNSTEIN: ... reaching back when (INAUDIBLE)MATTHEWS: ... in my commentator role, all history says do it while you got the heat behind you, while you have the wind at your back, go for it now. You ain‘t getting nothing done in your second year. Your third year is highly problematic. Your first year is when you get things done. Ronald Reagan proved that. Lyndon Johnson proved that. I guess you could say Roosevelt proved that.BUCHANAN: If you have to go for the sword, go for it.MATTHEWS: OK, here‘s the second question for the president, a little more fun here. Pat, you can start with this because I‘m never sure about your views about this thing.(LAUGHTER)MATTHEWS: I‘m serious. I‘m not ironic all the time! Are you, Mr. President—this would be great if somebody like Chuck Todd asked this to him right to his face. I don‘t think he will because it‘s a little bit wild. Are you purposely baiting former Vice President Dick Cheney? Do you want a fight with this guy?BUCHANAN: No, no. That‘s too easy. What you...(LAUGHTER)MATTHEWS: What do you mean by “That‘s too easy”?BUCHANAN: You come at him this way. What you say is, Look, Mr. President, you really think you were fair to President Bush and Vice President Cheney the other night, who kept us safe in seven years from those attacks, when you went and attacked him the way you did? Do you really think you‘re being fair?MATTHEWS: Well, did he attack him or did he...(CROSSTALK)(LAUGHTER)BUCHANAN: You‘re on defense yourself!MATTHEWS: Robert Gibbs referred to him as part of the Republican cabal.BUCHANAN: All right, well...MATTHEWS: I was here with you. You didn‘t like it.BUCHANAN: I want Obama to respond to that question, though.MATTHEWS: OK.BROWNSTEIN: Well, the reality is that in both of the cases—I mean, Dick Cheney did throw the first punch here. I mean, and Cheney wants—but I think—I think you‘re right. On election day, 71 percent of voters said they disapproved of George Bush‘s performance on his way out the door. There is no contrast with this former administration that seems to be disadvantageous.BUCHANAN: And the war on terror...MATTHEWS: So it‘s good for him to always battle the past?BROWNSTEIN: I think—I think the key—look, I guarantee you, whatever else is going on in 2012...MATTHEWS: OK, I think...BROWNSTEIN: ... Obama‘s argument will be...MATTHEWS: OK, here‘s my theory.BROWNSTEIN: ... We cannot go back.MATTHEWS: It worked for the first question, Pat. They don‘t want to build up Mitch McConnell, the head of the Republicans in the Senate. They don‘t want to build up John Boehner, head of the House Republicans.BUCHANAN: Right.MATTHEWS: They‘d rather—because those guys are going to have to go to war with him. They want to build up these outriders, these people like Rush Limbaugh and the former VP. It‘s like old Chicago politics. There‘s only one governing party. It‘s us. And we got these crazies out here we like to fight with.BUCHANAN: No, it‘s much better—I mean, I think Obama was right, where I think Gibbs was wrong. Obama‘s right because the vice president, whatever you say about it, is a serious man. He is Mr. Republican Security. He was there for seven years. And it was a high-toned response that President Obama gave. But I would still come at him and ask him, Are you being fair, sir?MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s go to the third question here, and I think this is a constitutional question. I certainly think so. Here‘s the third one. Is that 90 percent tax that the House threw on those AIG bonus takers constitutional? We—and by the way, the president of the United States, sir, you are a constitutional professor at, what, University of Chicago.BROWNSTEIN: University of Chicago.MATTHEWS: Here‘s a fair question. Is it constitutional to write a tax law for the very purpose of nailing certain groups of people?BROWNSTEIN: Well, he might think the answer is now, but I‘m not sure he would even get up to that question because before he gets up to the constitutional question, I think he views it as practically...MATTHEWS: Moot?BROWNSTEIN: ... harmful. No, not moot, but really actually moving in the wrong direction in terms of...MATTHEWS: OK.BROWNSTEIN: ... impeding his ability to implement the broader financial...MATTHEWS: Pat, you‘re a strict constructionist.BUCHANAN: Right.MATTHEWS: So you think it‘s right for the Congress of the United States to pass a tax law, punitive in purpose, to nail a group of people they don‘t agree with?BUCHANAN: It would be unconstitutional if they went after AIG‘s financial products division, but by going after all the executives, I think they‘ve got an arguable case that we‘re not after...MATTHEWS: Not a bill of attainder, as we learned in civics?BUCHANAN: I would have—I would have voted against it as a bill of attainder, but I think—I heard Boies the other night, and he‘s a bright guy—he says they may have covered themselves by...MATTHEWS: Where are you on this? Do you think it‘s constitutional? You‘ve been begging this question.BROWNSTEIN: No, no. I think—I think—I think that they may have, in fact, defined it in a way that it would pass constitutional muster. But at a more basic level, I think the Obama administration has pretty clearly signaled that they view this as something that would be kind of a...MATTHEWS: I got to tell you...(CROSSTALK)MATTHEWS: I‘m no friend of those bonus babies, but I think it smells unconstitutional.BUCHANAN: It stinks.MATTHEWS: I don‘t think Congress should be floating around, passing laws...BUCHANAN: Right.MATTHEWS: ... just to screw people they don‘t like.BUCHANAN: The next guys will be talk show hosts.BROWNSTEIN: Yes, well, there you go.(CROSSTALK)(LAUGHTER)BUCHANAN: He can work on that one, right?(LAUGHTER)MATTHEWS: I think Floyd Abrams...BUCHANAN: We could work on Rush!MATTHEWS: I think Floyd Abrams is ready up in New York to defend us when the time comes, Dan‘s father, and I‘d be glad to be his client.(LAUGHTER)MATTHEWS: Let‘s go right now—it‘s a good 1st Amendment issue. Let‘s take a look at the other question. It is of interest in this area of Washington, D.C. Is the D.C. Voting Rights Act, which has been passed, which says that they‘re not a state, they‘re not a commonwealth, but the District of Columbia has a right to representation in the Congress and eventually probably the Senate—I don‘t quite get the argument under the law.BUCHANAN: It‘s flat-out unconstitutional. They had to pass a constitutional amendment to get three electoral votes in a presidential election. They can do it with a constitutional amendment, but that‘s what they need.MATTHEWS: And they won‘t go that route.BUCHANAN: It won‘t make it. That won‘t make it through.MATTHEWS: Does anybody think this is constitutional, except those who advocate for the district?BROWNSTEIN: I can‘t answer. I mean, I—I mean, I‘m not a constitutional lawyer myself, but I think that...MATTHEWS: You‘re smiling at your chicken-ness!(CROSSTALK)BROWNSTEIN: I don‘t even play one on TV! But I will say...MATTHEWS: You don‘t want ACORN on your doorstep, that‘s what you don‘t want!(LAUGHTER)BROWNSTEIN: I will say that, you know...MATTHEWS: ACORN will be here tomorrow morning if you take the position...(CROSSTALK)MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Take a position.BROWNSTEIN: Look, I was going to say that, you know, the challenge here is still fundamentally more political, as it is on the AIG...MATTHEWS: I don‘t see how it‘s constitutional.(CROSSTALK)MATTHEWS: I don‘t see it. Somebody‘s going to have to make this case.BUCHANAN: It‘s right in the Constitution, D.C.‘s a federal district. And if you...MATTHEWS: It‘s not a member of...(CROSSTALK)MATTHEWS: The states are represented by the Congress.BUCHANAN: States are represented by...(CROSSTALK)MATTHEWS: They had this weird deal with the Utah vote and...BROWNSTEIN: Right, right.MATTHEWS: Come on! It just smacks of (INAUDIBLE)BUCHANAN: They shouldn‘t do it anyhow.BROWNSTEIN: I‘m willing to guess that this will not be one of the questions tonight, however.MATTHEWS: But I do think it‘s a good question.(CROSSTALK)BUCHANAN: The president doesn‘t have to deal with that.(CROSSTALK)BUCHANAN: That‘s insane, statehood. It‘s not a state, it‘s 64 square miles!(CROSSTALK)BUCHANAN: It‘s not a state!MATTHEWS: How big is Delaware?BUCHANAN: Delaware—I mean, there‘s—Rhode Island is almost a thousand...MATTHEWS: How big is Alaska? Sarah Palin...BUCHANAN: Alaska, for God‘s sakes, is a big—twice as big as Texas!(CROSSTALK)BUCHANAN: There‘s 600,000 in Alaska. It‘s more than D.C. now. It‘s only more than Wyoming, D.C.BROWNSTEIN: I‘m guessing—I‘m guessing Obama—President Obama feels like he has enough polarizing issues on the plate right now that he‘s not going to worry about D.C. statehood.BUCHANAN: Yes, he‘d be getting in a fight over that, Chris.MATTHEWS: So (INAUDIBLE) District of Columbia. What‘s your home address, sir?(LAUGHTER)BUCHANAN: Listen, I‘ve always been against...MATTHEWS: Jesus, Pat Buchanan, I think...BUCHANAN: It was a well-run district until...(CROSSTALK)MATTHEWS: So biggest question tonight, I still think, is the one we started with.BUCHANAN: Right.MATTHEWS: President Obama, are you going to push as hard as you seem to be pushing for a big vote on the budget, as you call it, a big vote that‘s up or down, and use the rules of the Senate, which allow you to get this passed with 50 votes? No more complaining about 60. And you think he‘ll do it or won‘t do it?BUCHANAN: I think, ultimately, he will do it, if he has to.BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I think so, too. But the answer will depend on things that have not yet happened. And two, Chris, I don‘t think they could do it today because they don‘t have a consensus on what they want on health care that they could try to force through even within their own party.BUCHANAN: He could get a...(CROSSTALK)BROWNSTEIN: That‘s going to take a while.MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back—we‘re going to be right back and talk about that group out there. By the way, Pat Buchanan, thank you for taking that strong position against voting rights for the District of Columbia.(LAUGHTER)MATTHEWS: Patrick J. Buchanan...(CROSSTALK)(LAUGHTER)MATTHEWS: ... District of Columbia, and Ron Brownstein, who‘s being a little diffident here.(LAUGHTER)MATTHEWS: Coming up: Some conservative Democrats—they do exist—threaten to stand in the way of President Obama‘s ambitious agenda, which were talking about, his budget. And now a group of liberal activists are on the attack against those conservatives and moderates. They‘re going to nail these guys and try to intimidate them, of course, into voting with the president.You‘re watching HARDBALL, and this is HARDBALL, on MSNBC.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. A coalition of liberal activists is gearing up to target conservative and moderate Democrats in the Congress who could block President Obama‘s big budget fight. Roger Hickey‘s coordinator—actually, director of one of these groups, the Campaign for America‘s Future.Roger, this is HARDBALL. You guys now believe there are some Democrats out there—Evan Bayh, oh, Michael Bennett, Blanche Lincoln, U.S. senators on the Democratic side, among those three—who might be off base during this big fight over the budget for the president. They‘re not going to be with him. Is that what you think?ROGER HICKEY, CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA‘S FUTURE: Well, some of them have raised questions about whether they‘re going to be with the president or not. And so we have a secret weapon that we‘re rolling out, that‘s democracy in their states and districts. We don‘t have a lot of money that we‘re going to spend...MATTHEWS: How much have you got?HICKEY: We don‘t have money to spend.MATTHEWS: How much have you got?HICKEY: We‘ve bought in five districts around the country, very small buys.MATTHEWS: How much?HICKEY: It‘s not about money.MATTHEWS: How much money do you guys have to...(CROSSTALK)HICKEY: It‘s $100,000. It is nothing.MATTHEWS: Total.HICKEY: Total. I‘m talking democracy, people in this districts and states talking to them about...MATTHEWS: Do you have access to the Obama list of people who swore to...HICKEY: No, this is not coordinated with anybody.MATTHEWS: You don‘t have access to that list?HICKEY: This is an independent effort.MATTHEWS: OK, so how do you activate people who are pro-Obama to scare these Democrats into supporting his program?HICKEY: Chris, do you remember when many Democrats were not willing to stand up for Social Security? They thought it was going to pass under George Bush. We‘re the groups that taught the Democrats how to fight on Social Security. We‘re the groups that said it was OK to be against the war. And gradually, the Democratic Party came around, even the more conservative ones. So that‘s what we‘re doing. We‘re using democracy, calling, knocking on doors, e-mailing. We‘re using the Internet and the bloggers to send a message to members of Congress.MATTHEWS: Name some names. Who do you want to scare?HICKEY: Well, you know, we‘ve got ads going—U.S. Action is running ads in Marion Berry‘s district, in Chet Edwards‘s district...MATTHEWS: That‘s in Arkansas.HICKEY: ... in Texas. Allen Boyd and Bob Etheridge, who had some ads running in their district, just came out and said that they‘re strongly in support...MATTHEWS: With the president.HICKEY: With the president.MATTHEWS: Very good. Are you going to encourage or discourage the president from betting that he has to—to succeed, has to have one big vote, like Reagan did and like other presidents, George W.—in other words, put it all in one filibuster-proof measure that can go before the United States Senate, no BS here, passes with a majority, in fact, with 50 votes plus Biden‘s, the vice president‘s vote? Are you going to encourage him to go that route or to sit around and mess around with this stuff for a couple of years and never get anything passed? I mean, I‘m loading this question...HICKEY: Now is the year.MATTHEWS: ... because I think there‘s only one—thank you.HICKEY: Now is the year.MATTHEWS: So you‘re basically—your groups, generally, your mindset is...HICKEY: And we‘re talking about...MATTHEWS: ... he‘s still popular.HICKEY: We‘re talking about things that are popular—energy, health care, education. These are things that the American people know will help the economy. So...MATTHEWS: Put it on the line. This is the green party. This is the Democratic Party. They‘re green...HICKEY: A 51 percent vote...MATTHEWS: ... they‘re for health care and they‘re for higher education.HICKEY: A 51 percent vote is what democracy means in the U.S. Senate.MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you start teaching that around Capitol Hill? That would be a great education. You know—you know, Chris Rock once said during the primaries, How come we never heard of super-delegates until the front-runner was African-American? That was a wiseguy comment, but everybody knew what it meant.How come we have to have electoral votes? Why can‘t we just have popular vote? How come we have the Supreme Court? Every time we think the majority‘s going to rule in this country, there seems to be an impediment, whether it‘s the Supreme Court, it‘s the Electoral College, it‘s super-delegates, and now it‘s yet again 60 senators. How come we can‘t have democracy?HICKEY: Chris, I think most Americans think 50 percent, 51 percent is the way you win. That‘s the way...MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) getting anything done.HICKEY: That‘s the way you do it if you use the budget process. And people support what Obama‘s trying to do. So we‘re telling them—we‘re telling senators, Get ready to vote...MATTHEWS: OK, let me play devil‘s advocate. Although I don‘t want to be devil‘s advocate here, I will.Aren‘t there truly people who identify themselves as moderate to conservative Democrats, and, without them in the party coalition, you would never get a majority? Aren‘t those people entitled to their “yes, but” attitude about certain things? HICKEY: Oh...(CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Like Evan Bayh. He says, “yes, but.” He apparently doesn‘t want cap and trade on this. He doesn‘t want the energy piece in this. HICKEY: Chris, there‘s no doubt there‘s going to be some compromise, give and take.The question is whether Democrats are going to prevent this president from being successful. That‘s the question. And we are—we‘re being very sincere with these guys. We are talking to them. Many, many Blue Dogs, for example, are strongly in support of the president and his budget, because they know, back in their districts, people are losing their jobs...MATTHEWS: Yes. HICKEY: ... they‘re losing their health care. They need stimulus.And I kind of view this as the second stimulus, the—the budget that‘s being passed. MATTHEWS: Yes. HICKEY: So, it‘s a very, very popular thing to be talking about in places like Indiana. MATTHEWS: The president tonight is going on national television. He‘s got to reach, you know, 20 million, 30 million—who knows how many millions of people are watching him at 8:00 tonight on the East Coast and across the country. It will be repeated and talked about all night. Do you think he can stir the country enough that those recalcitrant Democrats, those skittish Democrats, will get back on base? HICKEY: I think this game is still wide open, and the president is a very, very powerful speaker, and he‘s—he got elected with a mandate, a mandate to move the country forward.MATTHEWS: What do you do for a living? Is this something you do for a living, this—this group called...HICKEY: I run the Campaign for America‘s Future. MATTHEWS: ... the Campaign for America‘s Future?HICKEY: Yes. MATTHEWS: And you‘re here in Washington? HICKEY: That‘s right. MATTHEWS: And you raise—how do you raise money? I‘m just asking him. I‘m like Brian Lamb here, like where do you go to high school?(LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Because a lot of people want to know where this money comes from.You say you have got 100 money to -- 100,000 bucks to splash around and scare these Democrats back into line again, right? I understand what you‘re doing. HICKEY: Yes. But...MATTHEWS: But where do you get the money from? HICKEY: But, Chris, key is not money. The key...MATTHEWS: But where do you get the 100K from? HICKEY: Normal sources, foundations, individuals...MATTHEWS: Name your big supporters. HICKEY: It‘s—it‘s a lot of little supporters is really what it is. We are like MoveOn.org. We get our money from—from average, small donations. So, our job is not to weigh in, like the lobbyists do in the—the big-money game. Our job is to activate democracy and make it work and to get people out in the districts to tell the candidates—the candidates and their members of Congress people are going to have to...(CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. So, I have got you on record, big casino, go for it, right? You want him to go for it...(CROSSTALK) HICKEY: Go for it right now, this year.MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Roger Hickey, very straightforward. I heard you were a quiet guy. You are not a quiet guy. Up next: The HARDBALL Award goes to a member of the United States Congress who fought all year for Hillary Clinton, for Barack Obama, for her own reelection, and all the time was in the fight for her own life, unbeknownst to just about everyone. What a great story coming up.You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Tonight, I have the honor to present the HARDBALL Award to someone I have come to know on this show as a bright, sometimes feisty, but always clear voice of South Florida, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 2009, 2008) REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: I‘m a Floridian. And I‘m a Floridian first.MATTHEWS: OK. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No matter what candidate I support, I fight to make sure that my voters get their votes counted. (END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 24, 2008) MATTHEWS: How would you describe yourself if you had a book?WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, I‘m—I‘m right—right up there with fire-breathing—breathing liberal Democrat Robert Wexler. (LAUGHTER) WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No question.(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPTEMBER 4, 2008) MATTHEWS: On—on what Barack would do for the future, I‘m talking 20, 30 year From now. How is it going to be different because of him If he gets in? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, what we‘re not going to do is constantly push the scare me button, which is what the Republicans consistently do.MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz...WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Working families., that‘s what we‘re all about. MATTHEWS: ... of Florida...(CROSSTALK)REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: It‘s about Americans and children and grandchildren. MATTHEWS: You guys are the fastest-talking people, next to me. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I have...(CROSSTALK)MATTHEWS: Anyway, I think we got a lot of thoughts in there, if people were picking up on this, but there‘s a lot for them to observe. It‘s like listening—it‘s like drinking out of a fire hydrant with you two. (LAUGHTER)(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCTOBER 2, 2008) MATTHEWS: How much would you like to be debating her tonight?(LAUGHTER) WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, I—it‘s extremely tempting. It would be an exciting opportunity.But Joe Biden...MATTHEWS: I think you‘re right.(LAUGHTER) WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ... is—is going to be ready. And I think he will do just fine.(LAUGHTER) WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But I‘m champing at the bit, I have to admit.MATTHEWS: I think I got you blushing. I think I have got you to blush, Congresswoman, because you know you would be dying to be in there. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Anyway, so, I knew she was gutsy. I just didn‘t know how gutsy. This weekend, U.S. Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, as part of her push for breast cancer awareness, revealed the fact and told the world that she herself has privately battled the disease.While running the roll call votes, winning a reelection campaign, cementing her reputation as a top-drawer campaign surrogate for Hillary Clinton, then for Obama, fighting for the interests of her constituents, not to mention being a mother of three, this remarkable woman underwent seven major surgeries for cancer. So, the rules still apply. To win a HARDBALL award, you need to show political moxie, tenacity, strength of will, and an ability to make yourself heard in a busy, noisy, distracted world. To Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the HARDBALL Award for all that, and being a great person, besides. We have the honor here, by the way, in the next HARDBALL segment tonight of hearing from the congresswoman herself. We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”Stocks sliding, after yesterday‘s big gains. The Dow Jones industrials fell 115 points. The S&P 500 shed 16 points. And the Nasdaq dropped 38 points. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before Congress that the government needs broad new powers to regulate non-bank financial companies like AIG. Geithner said those powers should include authority to take control of financial companies whose collapse could jeopardize the economy. Amid tougher scrutiny in the outrage over bonuses, Goldman Sachs is reportedly in talks to give back the $10 billion in taxpayer bailout money it received.And General Motors began cutting white-collar jobs today, handing pink slips to about 160 people. GM plans to lay off 3,400 salaried workers as part of 47,000 job cuts by the end of the year. That‘s it from CNBC, first in big worldwide—now back to HARDBALL. Welcome back to HARDBALL. As you heard earlier in the program, Florida U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, one of our familiar guests here on HARDBALL, and certainly one of our more popular, spent the past year battling breast cancer. Along the way, she managed to run for and win reelection from Florida, to work for Hillary Clinton, and to work Barack Obama, and to make although nine appearances on HARDBALL, where she always came ready to play.She joins us once again. Congresswoman, thank you for joining us. It‘s great to...WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thanks for having me, Chris. MATTHEWS: Well, you look nice today, as always. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Thank you. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: So, you decided to come out and tell the country what you have been going through privately. Why? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, because I—I always knew that I would do that, because I wanted to be able to use my position in Congress to be able to fill whatever gaps there were in breast cancer advocacy, because it‘s a disease that continues to kill thousands—millions of women across this country. It is now the number-one killer of young women under 40. And, you know, once I got through my battle privately and was able to protect my children, I wanted to make sure that I could use the position in Congress to be able to help move the ball down the field. MATTHEWS: You had to make a big decision about radical mastectomy. And that‘s a decision—when does that decision confront the average person who gets—woman who gets affected by this? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, it really depends. I mean, for me, I—I caught my tumor early and was initially only expected to need a lumpectomy and radiation. But, then, because I‘m a Jewish woman of Ashkenazi descent, I was encouraged to get the blood—a blood test that would tell whether I was a carrier of the BRCA1 or 2 gene, which would make it more likely...MATTHEWS: Wow.WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ... that I would have a recurrence.And, so, I have that gene. I have the BRCA2 gene. And, at that point, all my decisions were—were—were turned upside down. And a double mastectomy was recommended highly, because it was about a 65 percent likelihood that I would have a recurrence in my—in my healthy breast tissue.And, then, on top of that, I needed to have my ovaries removed, because there is a much higher incidence of ovarian cancer when you carry this gene. MATTHEWS: And you must have been thinking about your family, as well as yourself, the whole time? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Oh, yeah. I mean, my focus was—I have young children, as you know, and my focus was to make sure that—that I protected them. You know, cancer‘s a very scary thing. It‘s a scary thing for anyone, but especially for 8- and 4-year-olds, which my kids were when I was diagnosed.And I wanted to make sure that I could get all the way through it and be able to come out the other side and confidently tell them that mommy‘s going to be OK, and I‘m going to be around to torture for you for a very long time.And, you know, I was able to sit down with them very casually the other night and—and share the news with them. They knew I had surgery, but they didn‘t really know the details. And now they do. And I was able to answer their questions. And...MATTHEWS: Well, I like you so much. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: And I‘m just so glad you‘re getting through this. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this—how you keep the energy up, because I have watched you on this program battling it away with Wexler and the rest of the gang...(LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: ... battling with me. And I think you have always been out there trooping out there for—for—first for Hillary, who was your first choice, and then for Barack Obama, your second choice. You enthusiastically—you‘re one of those people who really did make the turn, when you had to, when you saw the option you had to play. And, yet, all the time, I sensed that you were at the top of your game. How do you deal with the energy problem, the personal energy loss when you had to go—go all this therapy? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I was...MATTHEWS: I mean, the surgery and all the loss of energy that goes with it? A lot of people think, you know, if you‘re going to have to engage in all this kind of radiation and all this stuff and whatever else you had to endure, it wears you down. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I was fortunate. I didn‘t have to have chemo or radiation. So, those debilitating treatments, I—I didn‘t have to go through. MATTHEWS: OK.WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But seven surgeries is definitely a challenge during the course of a year.But, honestly, you know, what—what got me through was being able to be—have so many balls in the air, not having to dwell on what was going on for me personally. I have faith in medicine, and faith in my doctors, and—and faith in God. And I, you know, kind of combined all of those, and just—you know, just point me in the right direction, tell me what I need to do, and I—I just moved all the way through it. So...MATTHEWS: Well, I have a lot of faith in doctors, too, but you had to make a big decision. You know, there‘s a lot of dispute in “The New York Times” the other day, a big medical report out of New England, that some of these prostate -the way people deal with it, just not to give anybody bad medical advice on this show, but a lot of questions raised, by the way, about prostate exams and things like that.Apparently, the numbers in the case of breast cancer are still very good on the side of early detection and early action, right?WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: They really are, absolutely.And that‘s why I—I‘m filing the EARLY Act this week, which is the Breast Cancer Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young Act of 2009.And it‘s—it‘s targeted towards an education campaign that will try to make young women under 40 more aware of their risk factors, more aware of the at-risk populations that they might be in, in terms of their risk of carrying the genetic marker, making sure that young women have the opportunity to get some assistance through a grant program, because there are unique issues, Chris. When you‘re a young woman and you‘re diagnosed with breast cancer, if you‘re single, or if you haven‘t had children yet, if you go through chemo and radiation, your fertility is—is almost certainly compromised. What are you going to do about preserving your fertility? What about you‘re not going to be able to—if have a double mastectomy, you can‘t breast-feed your children. There‘s so many unique challenges that young women face.MATTHEWS: Yes. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And we have to live through our lives much longer than—than older women do when we‘re diagnosed.So, the EARLY Act is designed to help focus on the needs of and risk factor for young women, in particular. And I‘m hopeful we can pass it this year.MATTHEWS: What about these ethnic factors, like—we grew up knowing about Tay-Sachs and other diseases...WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Right. MATTHEWS: ... that affects African-American.And you mentioned that that particular background you have, Ashkenazi, which is, your family comes out of Europe.WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Right. MATTHEWS: How—how—are there any other aspects to that, that people ought to know about that, just the background issues with regard to probability of—of facing a problem? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: African-American young women are also much more likely to carry the gene. It is still—you know, it is a small percentage of people in the population that are carriers of this gene. But, among those populations, it‘s much higher. Like, for example, the numbers for Jews is one in 40, one in 40 Jews.Because our population has shrunk since the Holocaust, we—we, you know, tend to marry in—marry within the faith. And, as a result, the gene spreads in a more concentrated way. And it‘s important to know the risk factors, important to know, if you have breast cancer in your immediate family, it makes you more likely.If you present with breast cancer as a young woman, that‘s—that‘s a warning sign that maybe you should get the blood test. So, we‘re trying to get this legislation passed, so that we can make sure young women are more aware of their risk factors, that they would perform breast self-exams. The critical thing for me, Chris, was that I was aware of my own body. I did breast-self-exam regularly. I caught my tumor early. Early detection, like you said at the beginning of this, is absolutely key to survival. MATTHEWS: Well, it was amazing seeing you down in Alabama commemorating the great fight for civil rights all those years ago. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That was incredible. MATTHEWS: You are a multitasker from heaven. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you. MATTHEWS: Congratulations on winning our HARDBALL Award...WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thanks, Chris. Thank you so much.MATTHEWS: ... a small charm on your otherwise busy bracelet of success in life. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But very meaningful. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much for joining us...WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you. MATTHEWS: U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thanks for joining us.MATTHEWS: Up next: President Obama‘s press conference coming up tonight. The American people are still with the new president. His numbers are still riding high, despite the anger against Wall Street and everybody else in politics, but he is up there. What does he need to say tonight? He‘s going to get some questions tonight. The HARDBALL “Politics Fix” is coming up. We‘re going to figure out what he is going to get asked and, again, try to nail him on what he should be asked. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Time for the fix, with the “New York Daily News” Tom Defrank and Philadelphia radio host E. Steven Collins. Gentlemen, I didn‘t think that the Republicans had a problem with Vice President Dick Cheney speaking out so vociferously lately against the president. But they do. “The Hill” newspaper talked to Congressional Republicans about former Vice President Cheney and here‘s some quotes—Here‘s the big one, Tennessee‘s Congressman John Duncan said, quote, on the record, “Cheney became so unpopular while he was in the White House that it would probably better for us politically if he wouldn‘t be so public. But he has the right to speak since he‘s a private citizen.”Tom Defrank, are you surprised that the Republicans are now saying to Cheney, to use a crude term, shut up? TOM DEFRANK, “THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: Chris, I‘m not, because, remember, at the Republican Convention in Denver in September, Bush and Cheney canceled their appearances because of Hurricane Gustav. And the McCain forces were ecstatic. They were thrilled that Bush and Cheney did not appear because they knew that both of them, but especially Vice President Cheney, was toxic to McCain. McCain never asked Cheney to do a single event the entire campaign. And so, he has—as you well know, he has approval numbers far less than Bush 43. So this doesn‘t surprise me at all. MATTHEWS: But he doesn‘t care, does he? Cheney doesn‘t care what you or I think, or anybody thinks, does he? That‘s his strength or weakness or weirdness. But he doesn‘t care. DEFRANK: I think you are right about that, Chris. I thought about this a lot. In ‘77, when he left the Ford White House as chief of staff, and ‘in 93, when he left the Bush 43 administration as secretary of Defense, he left and kept his mouth shut until the next campaign, which is which is the normal protocol for people who are out of office. The unwritten rule is you shut up until the next campaign, which—next election, in which everything is fair game. And so he did it in ‘77. He kept quiet. And he kept quiet in ‘93. So why he‘s changed his tone and tune this time is beyond me. MATTHEWS: E. Steven Collins, up in Philly, I remember back in the days growing up that Perle Mesta was the Dick Cheney of her day. She was sort of the big Democrat who hung around having parties and was sort of the toastmaster of the party, without portfolio. It seems like Dick Cheney wants that role. He wants to stick around Washington. He let Bush go back to Texas, both Bushes. He wants to be around here, holding late-night salons and having sifters of brandy, as they sit around and toast the old days. He seems like he doesn‘t want to go away. E. STEVEN COLLINS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, it is kind of surprising, Chris. If you remember, Dick Cheney was one of the most invisible people during all the misery that we have seen across this country for the economy and what‘s been happening, as was Bush. Now, all of a sudden, you see a president who‘s available, who‘s omnipresent, who‘s on Jay Leno, who‘s on “60 Minutes,” who‘s available tonight, not making a speech, but standing up answering these tough questions that you know we are going to expect tonight. And Dick Cheney is there, curiously, raising a lot of past tense issues. He is the politics of the past. And it‘s not helping the Republican party. As a point of fact, I think it is really helping the Democrats, the Congressional Democrats and, of course, the White House. MATTHEWS: Well, look at this one, Tom. Tennessee‘s Congressman Zach Wamp said this about Vice President Cheney, “interpret it however you want to, but what I‘m saying is, we should focus on the people that will lead us tomorrow, not the people who led yesterday. With all due respect to former Vice President Cheney, he represents what‘s behind us, not what‘s ahead of us.”Your thoughts, Tom? This is getting very tough. DEFRANK: Well, you know, Chris, as you well know, we have talked about this. I‘ve been dealing with the former vice president since we both had hair in the Ford administration. And he has—he‘s changed. He‘s—his persona has changed. I can remember once in those days he said, this is a town, when you stick your head up, it gets shot off. So he‘s always tended to operate below the radar. That‘s another reason why this far more visible, far more public role, after the fact, surprises me. I don‘t think—I don‘t think it helps him I just don‘t think it helps him. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question, E. Steven. You don‘t know him as well as Tom does. And I don‘t know him as well as Tom does. But he seems to be the kind of guy who gets older. You get older, you say, the hell with it. I‘m going to say what I think. I‘m only here far awhile. I‘m going to enjoy life. Why should I sit around and wait to say something I‘m never going to get a chance to say? If I think Barack Obama is blowing it and I want to be Mr. Republican, I‘ll enjoy my myself and say it. Why not? Older people—he‘s not that old, but older people tend to do that. COLLINS: Chris, then you get the impression when he was vice president, he was among the most arrogant people in that position. MATTHEWS: Hah hah! COLLINS: I got the impression that he really—like you said, I don‘t think he really—MATTHEWS: It doesn‘t bother him that you‘re calling him arrogant. COLLINS: He and Halliburton have done so well, I don‘t think any of it matters to him. MATTHEWS: I have to get to my favorite conspiracy theory, Tom Defrank. Maybe you know more than I. I‘ll ask you now. His rear guard defense of his chief of staff, Scooter Libby, who did receive a commutation on his sentence, when he was convicted on those four felony counts, never could get a pardon from President Bush. I have the belief, unfounded perhaps, that what Cheney wants to do is convince his former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, that he really did make the good fight for him., because he doesn‘t want Scooter feeling betrayed. It‘s not that it‘s helping Scooter at all. He just keeps saying it to make himself look good in the eyes of Scooter. What do you think? DEFRANK: Well, I think that‘s part of it, Chris. Cheney is a very loyal guy. And I think he sincerely believes Libby got a raw deal from the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, from the jury, and from President Bush, who refused to pardon him. I think Cheney is sincere about that. I also believe—I‘ll never believe that Libby did anything that the vice president didn‘t know about either. MATTHEWS: Yes. I get the feeling, in the testimony we heard, that the vice president basically told him to clam up and he did. I don‘t think the vice president told him directly—directed his perjury at all. But he certainly knew there was general loyalty there. Thank you, Tom Defrank. The on-going story of Dick Cheney—by the way, that‘s the way the family pronounces it, Cheney, in that Dickensian fashion. We‘ll be right back with both gentlemen to talk about tonight‘s press conference and the word we‘re getting on it. We‘re getting some leaks out of the White House, directed leaks, of what he is going to talk about tonight, the president in his opening statement. We‘ll get a look at that a few minutes ahead of time. In fact, a little more than—a few minutes ahead of time. We‘ll be right back with a preview of the president‘s press conference tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Tom Defrank of the “New York Daily News,” and E. Steven Collins of Philadelphia, the radio talk show host, to look at some excerpts of the president‘s press conference. Here‘s something from the opening statement tonight, we got a lead on. Quote, “we‘ll put in place a comprehensive strategy designed to attack this crisis”—that‘s the economic crisis—“on all fronts. It‘s a strategy to create jobs, to help responsible homeowners, to restart lending and to grow our economy over the long term. We‘re beginning to see signs of progress.” How do you read that, Tom Defrank and E. Steven? I think it means we‘re going for a big vote on the budget and he‘s putting everything he‘s got an a big, coherent, comprehensive solution. COLLINS: He said rigorous transparency, Chris. He said he wanted to have a clear message that was transparent and full accountability. I think he has a start there. I think a part of what he‘s going to get into tonight is to explain—you got to remember, this package has a lot of different pieces. He‘s rolling out, it seems to me, a major piece every day, every other day. I think for a lot of Americans, they want to understand what is the totality of this package? How will it impact all of us? MATTHEWS: I don‘t think, Tom, he wants people to look at this thing peace meal. I think he wants the members of the Congress, this Democratic majority in the House and the Senate to belly up, vote for or against it, put the pressure on them, and get a big win. That‘s my hunch. DEFRANK: I think that‘s right, Chris. But I think the real, over-arching subliminal message tonight is going to be it‘s working. He‘s basically going to say, without saying, forget about this chaos over the bonus thing, over who knew what and when. We‘ve got a plan, it‘s in place and it‘s starting to work. He‘s trying to puncture the psychology of fear, which is still very strong in the country. I think you‘re going to have the politics of optimism tonight. COLLINS: I think Tom is right there. Go ahead, I‘m sorry. MATTHEWS: Here‘s a piece. I want to give you—here‘s a tease of what‘s coming tonight. More from the president‘s opening statement tonight. Quote, “it‘s with a budget that leads to broad economic growth, by moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest. That‘s what clean energy, clean energy jobs and businesses will do. That‘s what a highly skilled work place will do. That‘s what an efficient health care system that controls cost and entitlements, like Medicare and Medicaid, will do. That is why this budget is inseparable from the recovery, because it is what lays the foundation for secure and lasting prosperity.” E. Steven, he‘s putting it all together, health, education, and energy, the whole shebang into one big thing. I‘ve got to do it all. That‘s what will work, he seems to be saying. COLLINS: I think he knows he‘s going to be measured on how this works. After all, in our state here in Pennsylvania, Chris, we‘re going to get 18 billion dollars. Ten billion is going to go to the state for highways and transit and big projects. Eight billion of that allocation is coming to individuals, so that people get jobs, can further their education, can actually improve their life and immediately begin to sustain their homes and so forth. That‘s kind of complicated and no one has really taken the time to explain it, because most of us are so caught up in the AIG furor. We have to refocus it here. I think that‘s what he‘ll do tonight. MATTHEWS: That‘s the question. How does he ride the tiger? Do you think, Tom, that he‘s decided to ride the tiger of anger or try to get away from it, mute it a bit? DEFRANK: I think he‘d like to do both. He has the luxury at the moment, Chris, of strong support in the polls. I was really astounded at this latest “USA Today”/Gallup poll that shows that while people are still very angry about the AIG bonuses, only seven percent of the country blame Barack Obama. More blame Geithner, more blame Congress. Seven percent is nothing. So I think he‘s—I think he‘s trying to do both. I think he‘s trying to turn the anger to his benefit. But I think he‘s also trying to go back to the politics of optimism. It‘s going to be OK. By the way, we know what we‘re doing. MATTHEWS: What about the press corps tonight, Tom? You‘ve been out there for years covering Washington. Do you think we‘re going to get to the point where the press is going to be tough on him in the way that press the press tends to get in a mature administration? Point by point, tough questions, demanding and follow-up the answers. DEFRANK: I think there—MATTHEWS: No generalities. DEFRANK: I think there will be some tough questions tonight, Chris. But I don‘t know about the—I don‘t know about the follow-up. So far, the honeymoon continues for the president. Republican the other day was saying, this isn‘t a honeymoon, this is a magic carpet ride. I still think at the moment people are—people are—people are sticking with him, including a lot of Republicans at the moment. They‘re still scared to death out there. I think even Republicans know that if it doesn‘t work out, then we‘re all in bigger trouble. COLLINS: Tom, you‘ve got to also remember, he‘s only been in office 63 days. He‘s done—everything that he has tried to do, he‘s pretty much done. I mean, a number of those things, it‘s almost—my head is swimming at the announcements day in and day out. MATTHEWS: E. Steven, 63 days is 1,000 years in today‘s time. In this ADD universe, 63 days is a long time. That‘s all the way back to Blagojevich, all the way back to Burris. Think of the stories we‘ve covered that are incidental. There‘s been so much water under this bridge. Thank you very much, Tom Defrank. Thank you, E. Steven Collins. Join us again in one hour for a live edition of HARDBALL. Than at 8:00 Eastern, President Obama‘s prime time news conference. I‘ll be back afterwards at 11:00 Eastern tonight for an analysis. That‘s all here. Coming up right now, “1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE” with David Shuster. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET


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