Guests: Rebecca Jarvis, Clarence Page, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sen. Kent Conrad, Rep. John Campbell, Susan Page, Jim Vandehei, Michael Eric Dyson
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Deal or no deal? That‘s the health care question.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Let‘s make a deal. Can President Obama get a health care deal? Today, the president said we‘re closer than ever to overhauling the country‘s health care system. He‘s trying to create momentum for the bill, but there‘s still no agreement on how to pay for the total price. In just a minute, we‘ll talk to two U.S. senators who will have a lot to do with what the final bill‘s going to look like and who and what‘s going to pay for it.
Plus, we‘re going to look at the so-called “birther” movement, the people who somehow believe that Barack Obama does not have a birth certificate and therefore isn‘t a U.S. citizen, certainly not a natural-born U.S. citizen. Most of those birthers are Republicans, and this is becoming a big problem for the party.
Take a look at this incredible video from a recent town hall meeting in Delaware with Republican congressman Mike Castle, in which a woman brandishing her own birth certificate makes her case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) January 20th. And I want to know, why are you people ignoring this (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is not an American citizen! He is a citizen of Kenya!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think we‘re in an insane asylum. Anyway, it gets worse. The real problem is that what‘s left of the Republican base is very open to this kind of fringe talk. We‘re going to talk and show you more about that video, more of what you just saw from that person later in the show tonight.
And how did a prominent Harvard professor get arrested for breaking into his own house? Well, the scholar was an African-American, the great Henry Louis Gates, and though the charges have been dropped, the incident raises that old question of racial profiling.
Also, how do President Obama‘s approval ratings stack up six months into his presidency compared to those of other presidents at this point? That‘s our question for the HARDBALL “Politics Fix” tonight.
And finally, would Groucho Marx refuse to be part of any health plan that would accept him as a member? What Groucho Marx does do to this health care bill. We‘ll get to that in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.” We mean it.
We begin tonight with two members of the United States Senate who are at the heart of the fight for health care reform. Senator Orrin Hatch is a Utah Republican and a member of the Finance Committee. Senator, you‘re one of the “coalition of the willing,” so-called, one of the seven senators—four Republicans and three Democrats—who may well decide this health care bill. What will it take to get it into a conference with the House?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH: Well, as you know, both the House bill and the health committee bill in the Senate were very, very partisan bills. So it would take a real bipartisan effort to try and get something that I think everybody could support. And there‘s a wide disparity of what we should do. And almost everybody is for improving access, reducing costs, promoting prevention, but when you get into the details, that‘s where you get into trouble.
And of course, we‘re finding that they‘re pushing government mandates. Those are job killers—you know, a government plan, in other words, a government control of health care, and Medicaid expansion. These are all very, very difficult issues that have to be examined or we‘ll put this country on its backside.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s listen for a second, Senator, to President Obama. Here‘s what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that there are those in this town who openly declare their intention to block reform. It‘s a familiar Washington script that we‘ve seen many times before. These opponents of reform would rather score political points than offer relief to Americans who have seen premiums double and costs grow three times faster than wages. They would maintain a system that works for the insurance and the drug companies while becoming increasingly unaffordable for families and for businesses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Is that helpful, Senator?
HATCH: Well, I like the president. You know, he‘s a very fascinating and interesting man, a very bright guy, charismatic, good speaker, and all that. But let me tell you something. He hasn‘t rolled up his sleeves and gotten involved in this thing, and that just sounds like criticism that is general in nature but really doesn‘t hit what‘s really going on here.
Look, we‘re worried about having the government take over health care in this country. And if anybody believes that the government is going to do a better job than the private sector, they‘ve got to be nuts. Look at Medicare. Medicare is now facing a $39 trillion unfunded debt, and that‘s because government‘s running it. Medicaid—look, they‘re talking about Medicaid expansion. If we go with either the House bill or the health committee in the Senate‘s bill, my gosh, you‘re talking about moving all kinds of people into Medicaid, which would destroy the private competitive market. And not only that, but in the end, you wouldn‘t be able to cover the 47 million people they claim have to be covered.
The fact of the matter is that, is that there would be about 33 million not covered if you take the health committee plan without moving them into Medicaid. If you move them into Medicaid, you‘d still have 15 to 20 million people who would not be covered.
You know, to be honest with you, we need to work in a bipartisan way. This is one sixth of the American economy, and all we‘re hearing from the president is more taxes, more government, more spending, and more budgetary deficits. And that‘s why when the budget committee chairman, Doug Elmendorf, who was appointed by Democrats, by the way, and who‘s a terrific guy, very honest—when he came out and said, Look, all you‘re going to do is add more to the deficit, you‘re going to have to have more spending, and in the end, you‘re not going to do as much as you‘re doing now—I mean, in all honesty, we‘ve got to work together in a bipartisan way if we‘re going to solve one sixth of the American economy‘s problems.
MATTHEWS: If you‘re going to get a lot of young people and healthy people to join this health care system—and I‘m for it myself. I mean, my kids should join. They‘re in their 20s, two of them are. If they would join, they‘d be healthy and young and they‘d be a good bet for a health care system.
What about tying that together with something like you have on the Hill, a credit union, something—it‘s a cooperative without a lot of—it would have full transparency. You‘d go into it via shared risk. A lot of healthy people in it. It might be a good deal, in fact, for everybody. What about that kind of a cooperative as a compromise between no public option and a public option?
HATCH: Well, Senator Conrad from North Dakota has come up with this co-op approach. It‘s much easier spoken of in generalities than it is in -you know, putting it into practice.
But you know, the Democrats are insisting that there has to be what they call a public option or a government-run health care system. And they may be willing to go with something like co-ops, but Senator Schumer, who seems to have a lot of control on the Democratic side, indicated that—from New York—he indicated that he would not go along with it unless—and he‘s speaking for the liberal Democrats as a whole—they would not go along with that unless there was a federal co-op plan run right here in Washington. He said, We would agree to—the Democrats would agree to appointing the board, giving them the money, and letting them be on their own. Now, if anybody believes that, they got to be nuts, is all I can say!
HATCH: I mean, that‘s—and you know that—they—what they want to do—and let‘s just be brutally frank about it. They want to come up with a system that pushes you towards a singer payer system. Single payer means that the government decides everything. Now, like I say, we see how the government has fouled up Medicare, Medicaid with the debts and the debt structure and the unfunded liabilities. If you think government‘s going to do it, my gosh, you haven‘t looked at the past.
MATTHEWS: OK, Senator. Thanks for coming on. Can you throw me a bone by saying that you‘re headed towards voting for Sotomayor for the Supreme Court?
HATCH: Well, I‘m still undecided. Literally, it‘s one of the most difficult problems I‘ve had because I want to be fair. I like her very much. I like her family. She has a great life story. But I got to admit there are very—there are a lot of troubling things about her testimony that have really bothered me. So I‘ll have to make up my mind by next Tuesday, and I‘m going to—I‘m reading the cases. I‘m doing everything I can to be fair. You know, I want to be fair, but on the other hand, I got to say, there are a lot of things that bother me.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.
Joining us now, North Dakota‘s Democratic senator, Kent Conrad, who‘s the Budget Committee chairman, and of course, a member of the Finance Committee itself.
I was asking just a moment ago—I was asking Senator Hatch, a Republican, about the idea of having some kind of a co-op or credit union model, like you have on the Hill for all the employees on the Hill. I used to be a member of that, the credit union where everybody kicks in and you get a lot of young people involved in it, so it‘s a healthy business. How do you flesh out that option, sir?
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: We‘ve been doing a lot of discussion about that. I think it‘s developing in a very comprehensive way, that you have a cooperative approach so it‘s not government-run, government-controlled. It‘s membership-run, membership-controlled, just as you described with the credit union here on the Hill. So I think it is a very much a live option.
We see group health out in Washington working very well, 600,000 people, performing extremely well in an unreformed insurance market. And what the experts have been telling us the last two days, in a reform market, those cooperative models could even be more effective.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the other piece that seems to be the problem, the general financing, the plugging of the hole, if you will, fiscally here. Have you found the $200 billion?
CONRAD: You know, we‘ve got a number of pieces that could completely fill that hole. This afternoon has largely been dedicated to an analysis of those various options. We have had today some of the leading actuaries in the country helping us analyze these options, as well as the Joint Committee on Taxation. I think it‘s been an outstanding day. I think we‘re getting quite close now to a comprehensive agreement.
MATTHEWS: When does the schedule look like it‘s going to reach fruition? Do you think you might have a deal by tonight, late tonight?
CONRAD: You know, we have said all along that we can‘t impose these kind of artificial deadlines. We‘ll be ready when we‘re ready. So much of this is out of our hands because we come up with options, they go to the Congressional Budget Office for analysis and scoring, and we don‘t know when they will come back with an answer, just like we don‘t know when Joint Tax will come back. We keep sending them variations to try to meet concerns that members have, and we just have to let that process play out.
What‘s most important here is not that we meet any specific deadline, it is that we get this right. We‘ve got lots of time left in this year to pass meaningful health care reform. The critical test is, will it be right? Will it stand the test of history?
MATTHEWS: Is the president and are his people doing the right thing these days? Are they helpful to you in getting a deal?
CONRAD: Yes. The president had me down last Friday. I spent almost an hour with him. We had a very, I thought, constructive discussion about the options before us. I think they‘re doing a very good job of keeping the pressure on because, you know, they‘re quite right, work expands to fill the time, and if there‘s not somebody pressing to reach conclusion, you never do reach conclusion around here. So I think they‘re playing it about right, and I think they‘ve been very constructive.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve got four Republicans in the “coalition of the willing”—Senator Hatch, of course, Senator Grassley included and Snowe included. How do you guarantee to them that whatever deal they go along with for the Senate version, that it will largely be protected in conference, that this won‘t be a bait-and-switch with the liberals in the House?
CONRAD: Well, that, Chris, is a great, great question because that is very much on their minds, as you can imagine. And what they‘ve been promised is a place at the table, that there‘ll be a real conference committee and they will be there and they will be fully represented and they‘ll have a chance to, just as they have throughout this process, contribute fully to the discussion and the debate.
MATTHEWS: You know, you‘re a great guy. I really appreciate it, as an American, the work you guys are doing out there trying to get this finished. Thank you so much, Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
Coming up: Remember when John McCain had to correct a woman at a campaign event who said that Barack Obama is a Muslim? Well, it‘s getting a lot worse out there. You won‘t believe it. You thought the election was over. It‘s not over yet for some people. Wait until you see what happened in Delaware, the state of Delaware, when a Republican congressman, Mike Castle, the former governor, had a woman stand up and basically waved her birth certificate, claiming—well, you got to watch and see what she says. And how big a problem is this out there in crazyland? We‘ll be right back with the lunatic fringe.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. You think right-wing conspiracy theories about President Obama calmed down after he was elected? Well, think again. Moderate Republican congressman Mike Castle, the former governor of Delaware, held a town hall meeting in his state and he got more than he bargained for from some of his constituents. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman Castle (INAUDIBLE). I have a birth certificate here from the United States of America saying I am an American citizen, with a seal on it signed by a doctor, with the hospital administrator‘s name, my parents, my date of birth, the time and date. (INAUDIBLE) January 20th, and I want to know, why are you people ignoring his birth certificate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is not an American citizen! He is a citizen of Kenya! I am an American! My father fought in World War II, one of the greatest generation, in the Pacific theater! (INAUDIBLE) And I don‘t want this (INAUDIBLE) I want my country back!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) He is a citizen of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This man is a citizen of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) present time! I think we should all stand up and give the Pledge of Allegiance (INAUDIBLE) They sacrificed their lives for our freedom! (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Pledge of Allegiance (INAUDIBLE) I pledge allegiance to the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘re just giving the Pledge of Allegiance apropos the sort of the nut case going on there. Anyway, nutty questions about the president‘s birth certificate are being raised not only at Republican town meetings, but also in Congress, where a group of Republicans are sponsoring a bill to require future presidential candidates to provide their birth certificates. One of those Republicans is Congressman John Campbell of California.
Congressman, thank you for joining us. The reason this is fascinating is that meeting. But let me tell you, the prime sponsor of this, your colleague, Bill Posey of Indiana—here‘s what he said. “I can‘t swear on a stack of Bibles whether he‘s a citizen or not.” He‘s talking about the president of the United States. His spokesman says, If the guy would produce an authentic birth certificate, an authentic birth certificate, we could stop all this. And then Congressman—Congresswoman Blackburn says people in her district in Tennessee are losing faith in the American system because they don‘t believe this guy is a citizen.
What is going on that so many Americans doubt the obvious, that Barack Obama is a citizen, to the point that you felt it necessary to co-sponsor this crazy proposal?
REP. JOHN CAMPBELL ®, CALIFORNIA: First of all, Chris—we‘ll get to the proposal in a minute. The proposal is not crazy. The proposal is just looking forward, and I want to get to that. But wouldn‘t you like to put all this to rest? That‘s what this proposal is about.
MATTHEWS: How does this put it to rest?
CAMPBELL: This controversy—let me first say this controversy is not new. Remember there was questions about John McCain. Had John McCain become president—I remember then Senator Obama had to come out and say, Look, I don‘t think John McCain‘s eligibility to be president is an issue, and he was able to put it to rest. But the fact is, if John McCain had become president, you‘d be having this issue on the other side. If you want to go back, people thought that Barry Goldwater was not qualified because he was born in the Arizona Territory and that Mitt Romney‘s father, George Romney, was not eligible to be president because he was born in Mexico.
So, this is not a new issue. What this bill does is very simple.
It‘s only looking forward, as you suggested. It‘s 2012 and beyond.
CAMPBELL: And it just—it—well, let me back up.
You know, the Constitution, as you know, there‘s lots—most elements of the Constitution have implementing legislation. This particular element of the Constitution does not. And this is just implementing legislation...
CAMPBELL: ... just saying, look, before you run for president, let‘s make sure—let‘s have you substantiate that you meet the constitutional requirements, that you‘re 35 years old...
CAMPBELL: Why is that crazy though, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Congressman, nice try.
But what you‘re doing...
MATTHEWS: It‘s a nice try, what you‘re offering. And I‘m laughing with you only to this extent, because I know it‘s a nice try.
MATTHEWS: What you‘re doing is appeasing the nutcases.
As you just pointed out, this won‘t prove or disprove whether Barack Obama is a citizen. By the way, let me show you his birth certificate.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the way to deal with it. Mail this birth certificate to the wacko wing of your party, so they see it and say, I agree with this. It‘s over.
What you‘re doing here is doing what the Republicans did after Roosevelt got elected to a third and fourth term. You said, you can‘t do it again. You‘re verifying the paranoia out there. You‘re saying to the people, you‘re right. That‘s a reasonable question, whether he‘s a citizen or not.
MATTHEWS: Is it a reasonable question, Senator—Congressman? Do you believe it‘s a reasonable question whether Barack Obama is a legitimate native-born American? Is that a legitimate question?
CAMPBELL: Chris, isn‘t it a legitimate question?
And, let me ask you, isn‘t it a legitimate question to know...
MATTHEWS: Is it? Here is his birth certificate.
CAMPBELL: Chris, Chris, if—anybody who runs for president, you, me, whoever, that we meet the constitutional requirements, 35 years of age, been a resident of the country for 15 years, whatever it is, and a natural-born citizen.
Don‘t you think anybody that who runs for president should—wouldn‘t you want to know that, that they meet those requirements before they run? What‘s wrong with that?
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you this. Do you have any doubts, Congressman, about the authentic native birth in this country of our president? Do you have any doubts?
CAMPBELL: Chris, my—it doesn‘t matter whether I have doubts or not.
MATTHEWS: Do you have any doubts?
CAMPBELL: It doesn‘t matter at all.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you won‘t answer the simple question. See, that feeds this.
CAMPBELL: I agree with what...
MATTHEWS: No, no. You are feeding the wacko wing of your party.
Do you believe that Barack Obama is a legitimate native-born American or not?
CAMPBELL: That is not what this bill is about, Chris.
MATTHEWS: No, what do you believe?
CAMPBELL: As far as I know, yes, OK?
MATTHEWS: As far as you know?
MATTHEWS: I‘m showing you his birth certificate.
CAMPBELL: Oh, I can‘t—I‘m looking at a camera right now.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you want me to mail it to you?
MATTHEWS: It‘s on the screen now. Take a close look.
MATTHEWS: It says Barack Hussein Obama. He was born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu. Is that a state? Yes, it is. His mother was Caucasian. His father was African. What more do you want?
MATTHEWS: He‘s male. He was born, by the way, at 7:24 p.m. in the island of Oahu.
But what more do you want? I‘m serious. You say as far as you know.
You are playing to the crazies.
CAMPBELL: Chris, what is wrong...
MATTHEWS: Just tell me—OK, give me...
CAMPBELL: No, you tell me what—that—because that bill is not about Barack Obama. The bill is about anybody—the bill is about anybody who runs for president.
MATTHEWS: Well, then what about you? What are you about? I‘m asking you, Congressman. You know what? You have a lot of authenticity. You‘re a U.S. congressman. Say it now. He‘s a legitimate president of the United States. He was born in this country.
CAMPBELL: He is president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: No. Was he born in this country?
CAMPBELL: Yes, I believe so.
MATTHEWS: OK. You‘re—I‘m glad we‘re making progress here.
MATTHEWS: You know, your colleague who put this bill in a—no, but the reason your colleague—you co-sponsored a bill by this guy Posey.
Posey‘s spokesman said, we want to see an authentic birth certificate from this guy. His people said, he—his—this is what the congressman said. “I can‘t swear on a stack of Bibles whether he is or is not a legitimate native-born American.”
You guys are playing to the wacko wing. Now, I‘m glad that you have just left the band of merry men and women who are out there jumping up at hearings of people like Mike Castle, who is a normal person, and raising what is really not a good question to raise.
Now, the reason I bring this up with you is, you say this will put the issue to rest. Do you think barring a president from serving more than two terms put to rest whether Franklin Roosevelt should have been elected a third and fourth term? Do you think it really put that to rest, or was it a way of whacking the guy on the way out the door?
CAMPBELL: No. It—he did serve more than two terms. You mean...
MATTHEWS: And why did you guys on the Republican Party side pass a constitutional amendment to say you couldn‘t do that again?
MATTHEWS: Because you wanted to say, let‘s not have this happen again.
CAMPBELL: And what we‘re saying here is, let‘s not have questions about it again. As I said...
MATTHEWS: There are no questions.
CAMPBELL: No, no, but...
MATTHEWS: Here is his birth certificate. Where are the questions?
CAMPBELL: But, Chris, the questions, even those questions will go away if there‘s a process, because, if John McCain had been elected, people would be questioning him, too.
MATTHEWS: OK. Congressman, one last question.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe, by passing a bill, that no more presidents, no future president can be elected without showing a birth certificate will put to rest whether Barack Obama was born in the United States or not?
CAMPBELL: I believe...
MATTHEWS: Do you think that will put it to rest?
CAMPBELL: It—yes, it probably will. Yes, it probably will.
MATTHEWS: How will it put it to rest? How will it put it to rest?
CAMPBELL: Because—well, because he will probably run again in 2012. Is that what you mean, or what?
MATTHEWS: OK. You‘re saying that he has to show a birth certificate to get reelected president? Is that what you‘re saying?
CAMPBELL: Chris, it‘s about going forward, OK?
CAMPBELL: It is about ensuring that anyone who runs for president meets the constitutional requirements, so we don‘t have that problem.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. OK.
CAMPBELL: You have a major in the United States Army now saying he‘s not going to serve because—there‘s a lot of this rippling out there, and this would put it to rest in the future, not now. You‘re correct.
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you how to put it to rest.
CAMPBELL: OK. I‘m listening.
MATTHEWS: Get a copy of Barack Obama‘s birth certificate, which, by the way, you didn‘t have to have—to be on this show to get a copy of it...
CAMPBELL: No, I know. I know.
MATTHEWS: ... if you had any interest in finding it, because, before you signed onto this bill, I would have recommended to you, if I were one of your staffers, find out if Barack Obama has a birth certificate that shows he‘s born in this country before we proceed in this wacky direction, because this will send a signal to the whole world—if the U.S. Congress passes a bill and asks the president to sign it, that says no future president can get in the door without proving he‘s a citizen, I think he might get the message that he‘s just been profiled as a suspect in this case.
CAMPBELL: Chris, let me let you think about who is—whether it‘s wacky to say that you shouldn‘t have to prove you meet the constitutional requirements before you run.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
CAMPBELL: Why—what‘s—I‘m not sure that‘s not a wrong thing to say.
I want to see the letters that you send to your constituents. And I want to know whether you tell them, you know, sir, I have a copy of his birth certificate. We really don‘t need it for this president, but I understand the need for future presidents.
But I just don‘t want to see people playing to the nut wing, and you say you‘re not doing that.
CAMPBELL: Absolutely not doing that.
CAMPBELL: In fact, it‘s the opposite, Chris. It will shut this stuff down.
MATTHEWS: No, it won‘t.
CAMPBELL: All right. Well, we can disagree to disagree on that.
MATTHEWS: No, no, it won‘t, no.
MATTHEWS: If this shuts it down, I will be shocked.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for—you‘re a great guy to come on the show, Congressman John Campbell, who does believe—watch the rerun at 7:00 -- he does believe that Barack Obama is a native-born American.
So, those wackos in your district out there, don‘t vote for this guy, because he fundamentally disagrees with you.
Anyway—I‘m just kidding.
Up next: What does Groucho Marx have to do with the debate over health care reform?
Stick around. You will find out in the “Sideshow.” I think we just had a sideshow.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the official “Sideshow.”
First up: If Barack Obama has to bet his life—or has bet his life, as Groucho Marx used to say on health care, well, his enemies are out there playing a different brand of Groucho.
Paladins of the right, like Bill Kristol, who pushed Dan Quayle, the Iraq war, and Sarah Palin on us, and who led the assault on the Clinton health care plan 15 years ago, he now says to kill this year‘s attempt. Literally, Kristol says kill it.
Joe Romm of the Center For American Progress posted this little ditty on his “Huffington Post” blog, likening such sentiments as Kristol‘s to the great Groucho himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HORSE FEATHERS”)
GROUCHO MARX, ACTOR (singing): I don‘t know what they have to say. It makes no difference anyway. Whatever it is, I‘m against it. No matter what it is or who commenced it, I‘m against it.
Your proposition may be good, but let‘s have one thing understood.
Whatever it is, I‘m against it. And, even when you have changed it or
condensed it, I‘m against it
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s how some on the right are operating these days.
By the way, for those who want to get the DVD out, that‘s “Horse Feathers.”
Time now for tonight‘s “Big Number”s. If you think Republicans always represent the rich and Democrats the working-class poor, well, here is an interesting trend line for you to look at. It started back in 1995. Just one-fifth of the country‘s top 25 richest congressional districts were represented by Democrats. That‘s the top 25 were all Republican.
Today, in 2009, how many of those top 25 money districts are held by Democrats? Fourteen of the 25. The significance of this right now, this Democratic crowd could prove an obstacle to the White House‘s plan to raise rich people‘s taxes to pay for health care. They‘re going after the people that—well, they‘re biting the hand that fed them.
Think about it. You can bet the rich who voted for Obama in that 25 richest districts, 14 districts now controlled by Democrats, might have some food for thought, in terms of supporting the latest health care plan. That‘s tonight‘s biggest number.
Up next: What does it say about race and justice in this country when Henry Louis Gates himself, a prominent African-American professor at Harvard, is arrested trying to break into his own house—well, get into his house?
We will get to that next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Rebecca Jarvis with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks clawed out another win on some better-than-expected earnings and cautious optimism from the Fed. The Dow added 67 points. The S&P 500 gained about 3.5, and the Nasdaq was up almost seven points.
In testimony on Capitol Hill today, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke repeated that the economy should start growing again in the second half, but he warned it would be modest growth, and unemployment would continue to rise.
Shares of Apple are climbing in after-hours trading, after second-quarter earnings and revenue beat expectations. Apple‘s report came out just after the closing bell.
Starbucks also reporting after the bell—right now, shares are up almost 10 percent after-hours. The company reported stronger-than-expected earnings and sales there as well.
And Internet search engine Yahoo! reported, after the bell, profit there above expectations, but Yahoo! shares have turned lower in the extended after-market trade.
That‘s it for CNBC. We‘re first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Henry Louis Gates is a prominent black scholar, and he‘s a Harvard professor, a pretty well-known fellow. I know who he is. I guess somebody in the police department doesn‘t know who he is, or a neighbor doesn‘t know who he is. Last week, police responded to a call that his house near the university was being broken into.
It turns out it was Gates himself, just returning from an overseas trip. During the incident, the officer and Gates both contend they were being mistreated by the other person involved. That was the officer blaming him, and him blaming the officer.
The officer arrested Gates for—quote—“exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior directed at a uniformed police officer.”
Here is a picture of professor Gates in handcuffs—wow—outside his house. But, today, the charges were dropped. By the way, they agreed to drop—both he and the police agreed to drop it.
And the release reads in part: “This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department. This is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances.”
But does this incident shed light on how African-American men especially are treated by our police, by our justice system generally?
Clarence Page is a friend of ours, always here, pal of mine going way back.
CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Way back.
MATTHEWS: A “Chicago Tribune” columnist. There still are newspapers.
And Michael Eric Dyson is a professor at one of the great universities in the world, Georgetown.
Sir, thank you.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Thank you, my friend.
MATTHEWS: So, we don‘t—we weren‘t there.
CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Right.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s agree none of us were there, but what do you think this is about, Clarence?
PAGE: None of this makes sense, first of all. We know Skip Gates.
He‘s 58 years old. He‘s about 5‘7“. He walks with a cane. He...
PAGE: Like he put up a fight with the police?
MATTHEWS: He‘s got a neighbor that doesn‘t recognize him. She called in 911.
PAGE: Well, yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Got a cop in there saying there‘s a burglary in progress.
MATTHEWS: He shows up. Officer Crowley—I love the fact that everybody is Irish—he shows up...
MATTHEWS: ... and is told that the guy inside the house is a burglar by the neighbor. So, it isn‘t all his fault, by any means.
PAGE: This man is a superstar, not just in Cambridge.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
PAGE: It must have been the only person in the neighborhood who didn‘t know who it was.
MATTHEWS: Clarence, you guys are—you‘re academic, and you‘re lettered. You know what the guy is.
The neighbor didn‘t know who he was. The cop didn‘t know who he was. What do you think happened? And what does it say about America? Does it say anything at all, Michael?
First of all, your neighbor doesn‘t know you. You don‘t have to be famous. It‘s just your neighbor.
MATTHEWS: Well, she‘s the one that called 911.
DYSON: That‘s my point. You don‘t know the guy that lives next door to you?
MATTHEWS: She was profiling him.
DYSON: Yes. Yes. She saw his profile and called in: “Yes, this guy with the cane looks like he‘s going to beat me down.”
But the point is...
MATTHEWS: See, what I don‘t understand is, she knew her neighbor was African-American. He had a certain look. She sees a guy with a certain look. She wasn‘t profiling, or what—what was going on here?
DYSON: Here is the point: America profiles though, Chris. The thing is the guy—the cop going to the house when told—if we‘re to believe Professor Gates that he showed him his ID. He told him he lived in the house. I think what it was about is an uppity Negro syndrome. Let me be real with you; I think the fact that Gates had the temerity to signify on this guy—
MATTHEWS: He did say, I want to see your badge number. He did challenge him.
DYSON: Of course. I‘m saying black men don‘t challenge white policemen. Skip himself has said in an interview—
DYSON: There are not many.
MATTHEWS: I‘m trying to think this through as a white guy. I have had my kids leave, or whatever, there‘s no key. What happened to the key? I went through a window. If a Montgomery County cop saw me going in my own window and—
PAGE: I have—
MATTHEWS: And asked me for my ID card, it wouldn‘t have offended me probably. It would have ticked me off slightly, but probably not, because I would be glad he was on the job.
DYSON: It might not have been the same thing.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what I want to know. In other words, it wasn‘t the action, it was the signal.
DYSON: When police people show up at your house, racial profiling is dangerous because they can‘t distinguish the criminal from the guy who calls the police on the criminal.
MATTHEWS: Play god here. Play god. Play ACLU. What should have happened here?
DYSON: I think, first of all, this should shine a spotlight on a bigger problem. Maybe it‘s HWB, housing while black. Maybe—
MATTHEWS: Don‘t just arouse—add to this.
DYSON: What did Skip Gates say? A million black men are in jail every day; I just became one of us. It forces us to see that there are a lot of black guys who don‘t deserve to be treated the way Professor Gates was. And because he was famous, he was able to get the charges removed. There are a lot of guys—
MATTHEWS: OK. You‘re saying prisons are filled with people who didn‘t commit the crime they‘re accused of.
DYSON: There are a lot of people who have not committed the crime. There are a lot of people who are—let me flip the script. There are a lot of white guys committing crimes who never get profiled and therefore get away with it.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s narrow it. I think you can do what you want here, professor. But let me ask you this; this situation here, what do we do about it? I have talked to people I know here who have said to me, you get stopped for speeding, everybody occasionally in their life, excuse me, generally might speed. Some of those might get caught, OK?
MATTHEWS: They don‘t always ask you to open your trunk. I hear in case of an African-American that‘s very likely to happen.
PAGE: Oh, sure. It‘s happened to him on I-95.
DYSON: Exactly right. I got pulled over—exactly right.
Pulled over, walk the line. I‘m a teetotaler. I‘m Baptist minister. I told him was a PHD student at Princeton. He said, yes, I‘m the freaking president.
MATTHEWS: The trooper or a policeman?
MATTHEWS: -- and I‘m the president of the United States?
DYSON: Because I told him I was a PHD student at Princeton. This was in 1986. And before that I was beat down in Detroit, Michigan. And since then in Princeton and other places.
My point is, as Clarence can testify, as I can testify, this happens repeatedly. I‘m going to tell you this, if you want to know; white America would not stand by if this happened to their kids, to their husbands, to their children, to their men folk, who are constantly being herded up, looked at—
MATTHEWS: What is this you‘re saying happened here?
DYSON: I‘m saying that Skip Gates, a famous black professor—
MATTHEWS: What did the police officer do wrong?
DYSON: What he did wrong is, first of all, when Professor Gates showed him he lived where he lived and—
MATTHEWS: This is in dispute, whether he agreed to give him the ID card.
DYSON: When he steps out on his porch—
MATTHEWS: No, let‘s get back to the facts.
DYSON: Here is the fact—
MATTHEWS: If you want to play lawyer here, fine. But I‘m asking you as an academic what we‘re learning from this thing. The question I‘m asking, if he cooperated with the police officer, he didn‘t. If he said—
DYSON: Wait a minute.
MATTHEWS: -- when the guy asked for it, that‘s a problem. Is the cop entitled to ask you for an ID card?
DYSON: He is. But I‘m saying to you, now you‘re asking about a matter of trust. I‘m saying a guy with a PHD from Cambridge—
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t know that. The cop didn‘t know that.
DYSON: I‘m telling you you know this though.
MATTHEWS: I know it now. This is last Thursday.
DYSON: I‘m saying to you this is my point—
DYSON: A black guy with all that credentials can still be mistreated or assumed not to have—
MATTHEWS: I‘m trying to be clinical. You don‘t know what the cop did wrong. What did the cop do wrong?
PAGE: Chris,you have six cops on the scene at a professor‘s house, 5‘7, 58 years old. Don‘t you find—
MATTHEWS: Let me try this. How about the police got a call from Gates‘ house and they didn‘t respond. You‘d read that as they‘re not looking out for the property of a black guy.
DYSON: I‘m not going to be grateful because the police are doing their job.
MATTHEWS: They‘re doing their job. They showed up in force and he wouldn‘t show his ID.
DYSON: Sip kept asking him for his ID, according to him. I have reason to believe him.
MATTHEWS: Because you know him. Cop doesn‘t know him. You‘re a colleague of the guy.
DYSON: You know what, we always have these stories on black guys, not white guys.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think they both agreed to drop the case?
PAGE: We‘re trying to dissect something where we weren‘t even there. What does common sense tell you? That Skip Gates refused to show his ID to a cop at his own house? No. Chris, the whole point is this is a racial eruption of the sort that gets America talking about what we‘re normally --
MATTHEWS: Let me try this by both you gentlemen, friends of mine. Could it be we‘re all carrying a lot of baggage. The cops are carrying the baggage because they got crime statistics and stuff like that in their head all the time, and he‘s carrying the baggage of I‘ve been mistreated one too many times and this or that one too many times?
PAGE: We all carry baggage. I have had people say, well, why aren‘t you concerned about black on black crime that is killing black folks? But the fact is we are concerned about it, but people really get concerned though when it‘s a black/white or white/black, because that‘s what we‘ve not resolved.
DYSON: And if white guys were being mistreated this routinely and being murdered as they are, by policemen, this would not be acceptable. That‘s why President Obama needs to use his bully pulpit to explore race, not run from it, not avoid it, but to engage it.
MATTHEWS: I think he engaged it by getting elected last year.
DYSON: Not enough.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know. He‘s off. He‘s free.
DYSON: I got brothers in prison.
MATTHEWS: And they are—well, tell them to get a good lawyer.
Up next, new poll shows President Obama trailing other modern president at the six-month mark. We‘ll see why. Well, he‘s trying to do some things and sometimes causes trouble. Anyway, we‘ll get back to that and what is it going to do to his health care reform bill, how his numbers are doing? The politics fix is up next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Time for the politics fix with “USA Today‘s” Washington bureau chief Susan Page, and “Politico‘s” executive editor Jim Vandehei.
Let me ask you about the president‘s numbers. “Politico‘s” new poll shows trust in the president to solve these big problems we‘re facing has dropped since March, a couple months ago. Just over half trust him to find the right answers now. That‘s compared to two-thirds in March. No surprise there.
Let me go to you, Jim Vandehei. Your news noes; is the health care bill, the last couple hours, headed towards greatness and possible conclusion in a solution, or is it headed towards the dumpster of history?
JIM VANDEHEI, “POLITICO”: You know, I think we‘re not going to know until September. They‘re not going to be able to get this stuff through and get real clarity on these bills, I don‘t think, going into the August break. And what happens in August is what matters. There are going to be millions of dollars spent, and most of it‘s going to be aimed at moderate to conservative Democrats, who are very uneasy with more government spending and too big of a health care plan.
If you look at almost all the polling, including the one at Susan‘s paper that‘s out today, he is losing a lot of support among moderate conservative Democrats. And those are the people that he‘s got to be concerned about, because he needs that group of members to get a good bill I think through the House and get something through the Senate that everyone can vote for. Because he‘s not going to get any Republican support. Or if he does, it‘s going to be very minima minimal.
MATTHEWS: Susan, how does it looking for that coalition of the willingness, those four Republicans and three Democratic moderates putting it together in the Senate to get to the House/Senate conference?
SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”: We have been waiting, holding our breath for about a month now for them to come out with a deal that‘s acceptable to them. I think it‘s still possible. If there is going an abruptly bipartisan bill, a bill that gets any Republican support or not, it will come from those Finance Committee members. But as each day goes by, it‘s clear how hard that is going to be, and how more likely it is that we‘ll end up with a package where the real effort is to hold both moderate Democrats, fiscally conservative ones, and some of liberal Democrats who would like a much more far reaching bill than they‘re likely to get.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s look at the approval numbers for the president six months in and how they compare to other presidents since World War II. You can see Truman was at the top. He was mighty at 82 percent when he came in. Of course, he came in right after Roosevelt was killed, basically, or died, rather. But then you see the numbers dropping down precipitously down into the last really good one was Nixon at 65 percent.
Are we just in an era right now where it‘s tough—if you want to do something as president, like Obama is trying to do, Jim, that it‘s hard to keep up that 60 percent?
VANDEHEI: It might be. Listen, he‘s not lacking for power right now or popularity. He has it still in the polls and he still has tremendous power in Washington. The problem for him is money. With deficits recently going over a trillion dollars, you‘ve seen a big shift in polls. And I‘m not talking one or two polls. Virtually every single poll where people are growing uneasy about the size of deficits. They don‘t want more spending. They don‘t understand why people have to move so quickly on such a big health care plan.
And he‘s trying to do all of this while people are trying to digest whether or not the stimulus bill, which the public was told has to happen, has to be big, has to move quickly, why that hasn‘t worked, why that hasn‘t cured the unemployment problem.
MATTHEWS: Susan and Jim, we‘ll be right back with more of the fix to talk about Sarah Palin. She‘s about to be let free on the lower 48. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with “USA Today‘s” Susan Page and the “Politico‘s” Jim Vandehei. Susan, you first. Sarah Palin going to be out of office in a few days, heading down to the lower 48. Your hunch as to how well she‘ll do.
PAGE: You know, we‘re going to hear from her at the Reagan Library in first week of—August 8th, I guess. She says she is going to Tweet a lot. But I think the question is, does she—is she going to set up a kind of structure with advisers and staff and people she listens to, beyond her husband Todd, so that she seems to have kind of a coherent strategy going forward? I don‘t think that‘s clear. That‘s one of the raps on her right now.
MATTHEWS: Jim, will she become a force in the Republican party between now and the next election?
VANDEHEI: Who the heck knows? She is maybe the most unpredictable person in politics right now. She undoubtedly could be a force if she chooses to. I think what Susan‘s talking about, whether or not she actually puts together an infrastructure to allow her to do that is a big open question. She is extraordinarily popular with Republicans. She can raise a lot of money. So she has a lot of the attributes that could make her a big, big player in Republican politics.
But she has to make that decision on herself. Like, what does she want to do with this political career? And it‘s not clear that she knows what she wants to do right now.
MATTHEWS: Susan, it seems to me that she has the power, maybe not to get elected president, but to set the direction. I mean, we just had a discussion on this show tonight about the whackos out there that are still questioning the citizenship of Barack Obama. There is a big piece of that 25 percent of the country that are calling themselves Republicans now who are only—narrowly sane right now in terms of—I mean, in terms of the relations we discussed, who honestly think that Barack Obama somehow snuck into the presidency, that he is a foreigner.
PAGE: You know, I think Sarah Palin may see her base as somewhat different than kind of the nutty fringe. You know, the fact is, one of things we like about Sarah Palin, that makes her appealing, is that she doesn‘t stick to the Republican line. She is going to be—I assume she is going to continue to be unpredictable in that way. She‘ll be able to get a lot of attention. And the Republicans in Washington will not be able to control what she says. And that is why she‘ll be worth listening to.
VANDEHEI: And let‘s be clear. Her support doesn‘t only come from the fringe of the Republican party. Most polls show most of the Republican party likes her.
MATTHEWS: Well, we hope she comes to HARDBALL, sits right here. Thank you, Susan Page. Thank you, Jim Vandehei. Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL and the president‘s news conference. Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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