Guests: Julia Boorstin, Tony Blankley, Ron Reagan, Mark Potok, Anne Kornblut, Jonathan
Martin, Con Coughlin
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Cheney attacks Obama.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in New York. Leading off tonight:
Stuck in the middle. What is President Obama to do, now that his attorney general has ordered an investigation into prisoner abuse by the CIA? If his people don‘t pursue the investigation wherever it leads, liberals will be furious. Conservatives are already after him. Dick Cheney has released a statement saying the president can‘t keep the country safe. Do you believe that, Can‘t keep the country safe? We‘ll hear the fight.
Also, danger on the right. We‘ve seen the gun nuts near the Obama rallies, claiming they‘re just exercising their constitutional rights. Now we‘re witnessing a sharp uptick in the growth of conspiracy-obsessed right-wingers who hate the federal government, especially one headed by an African-American. We‘ll talk to the head of the Southern Poverty Law Center about how serious this threat is.
And it‘s safe to say that no one left, right, or center was happy about this picture, the hero‘s welcome the Lockerbie bomber received when he returned to Libya. Let‘s get into that one.
Plus, the stock market is up, the housing market is coming back, a depression has been avoided. So how come President Obama isn‘t getting any respect? At least not yet. That‘s in the “Politics Fix.”
And what bugs Obama? We‘ll have the list in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
But we begin with former president—former vice president Dick Cheney criticizing President Obama over the attorney general‘s investigation into prisoner abuse. Tony Blankley is a syndicated columnist who was Newt Gingrich‘s press secretary, and Ron Reagan is with Air America radio.
Tony, I want to know what is the angle here that you‘re looking at this through. What is the case that we don‘t investigate what happened with those prisoners?
TONY BLANKLEY, GINGRICH‘S FORMER PRESS SECRETARY: You know, it‘s times like this that I think we conservatives and you liberals are like different species because we view this so differently. For me, and I know for the vice president and conservatives, we are terribly concerned that we‘re going to go through the 1970s and the Church commission, that we‘re going to demoralize the people who have been fighting to protect us.
On the other hand, I think you folks tend to see, We‘ve got to enforce our higher standards. They‘ve been violated. The law must be vindicated. And so we sort of have, I think, a strategic view of our national security and focus on that, and others focus on what they think are violations of either ethics or law.
MATTHEWS: So basically, Tony, you don‘t see anything wrong with CIA operatives doing things like making prisoners think they‘re about to be executed, making prisoners believe they‘re about to have their mothers raped in front of them? That‘s—I mean, I‘m just asking an open-ended question.
BLANKLEY: I know, but look...
MATTHEWS: Is that OK with you?
BLANKLEY: I think there are a couple things. First of all, lying to suspects when you interrogate is what, like, police do.
BLANKLEY: I mean, you should have a big-city policeman come in, a detective. I used to be a prosecutor. I mean, it‘s perfectly standard for them to lie. You tell them, you know, Your partner‘s already confessed. You tell them all kinds of things. That‘s never been considered a war crime, to lie to a criminal suspect as you interrogate them. That‘s different from doing the thing. Obviously, if they were actually raping and killing, that would be felonies. They ought to be prosecuted.
MATTHEWS: So the threats are OK with you, just to get it straight.
BLANKLEY: Yes. But the big point is that once you start the process of investigating people after the fact, who thought they were following procedures, then you undermine the whole process. You know what happened to the CIA in the ‘80s, after the ‘70s. It took a long time to get it back to a force. And I think we‘re looking—we‘ve got a big war build-up in Afghanistan. We‘ve got a tremendously dangerous world.
BLANKLEY: And the idea of debilitating the CIA now is abhorrent. But I understand that if you think you‘ve seen a violation, you want to see it enforced.
MATTHEWS: OK. Since you used the word “you folks”—and that‘s fair enough on this program—I‘m one of—I guess I‘m at the end of the target of your term, “you folks.” Let me tell you what I think...
BLANKLEY: It‘s not a target.
MATTHEWS: I think everything here comes from above. I think the fish rots from the head. I think leadership is key in American life. You used the word “strategic.” (INAUDIBLE) I completely agree with you. I don‘t think operatives do things they don‘t expect to get rewarded for or expected to do by their bosses.
Here‘s Dick Cheney a couple days after 9/11 -- or actually, here he is today. “President Obama‘s decision to allow the Justice Department to investigate and possibly prosecute CIA personnel and his decision to remove authority for interrogation from the CIA to the White House serves as a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this administration‘s ability to be responsible for our nation‘s security.”
Ron Reagan, your witness. That‘s what Cheney says.
RON REAGAN, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Yes, well, it‘s rich that Dick Cheney should be talking about Obama not protecting the United States. After all, it was on his watch that 9/11 happened, despite repeated warnings from the intelligence community that Osama bin Laden was “determined” to strike in the U.S.
He also accused the Obama administration of politicizing the Justice Department by doing this investigation. That‘s rich, too, since we‘re finding out a lot about how the Bush administration politicized the Justice Department in terms of state‘s (SIC) attorney firings and that sort of thing.
You know, we‘ve had a long tradition in this country, Chris, over 200 years, of not torturing captives. George Washington didn‘t do it. Abraham Lincoln didn‘t do it. General Eisenhower, when he was running World War II, wouldn‘t have any of it. Even Ronald Reagan, when he proudly signed a U.N. declaration requiring countries to prosecute people who engaged in torture, whether our own people or others, called the practice abhorrent.
The sort of thing that Tony Blankley and others will defend now and euphemistically call “enhanced interrogation techniques,” somebody who shares my name knew it was torture and found it abhorrent, his words.
MATTHEWS: Tony, I want you to look at the vice president a couple days after 9/11. Here‘s what he said. I think he was giving guidance to all these agents and operatives. I don‘t think they were operating on their own. Here we go. Here‘s the vice president a couple days after 9/11.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We‘re going to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we‘re going to be successful. That‘s the world these folks operate in. And so it‘s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Tony, “any means at our disposal.” If I was an operative and I heard that back after 9/11, I would feel fairly liberal in what I was allowed to do to get info from the bad guys.
BLANKLEY: I agree with you. Now, I don‘t know what happened, but I presume—I think most of this town presumes that the vice president took a very active role in overseeing the whole security side of the operation. And of course, as you remember, there were tremendous battles between him and some elements of the CIA that were opposed to the policy and other elements, and he was trying to set up alternative, you know, venues for advancing various intelligence efforts.
So yes, I don‘t think there‘s any doubt. I mean, we‘ll find out when he comes in with his book. But of course, he was deeply, deeply involved at trying to do that, and I‘m glad he was, obviously. I think that we were in an extraordinarily dangerous situation.
BLANKLEY: Remember, in the months and year or two immediately after September 11...
BLANKLEY: ... we had no idea. Now we at least have some kind of a context.
MATTHEWS: So if anybody‘s prosecuted, it should be him, is what you‘re saying, because he‘s the one leading the operation.
BLANKLEY: I don‘t think—I don‘t think anybody...
MATTHEWS: If these guys get prosecuted for what they did, you‘re saying he was the leader, he should be prosecuted. That‘s what you‘re saying.
BLANKLEY: I don‘t think—I don‘t think anybody should be prosecuted, but...
MATTHEWS: No, but if anybody is...
MATTHEWS: ... should it be him?
BLANKLEY: But I always believed that responsibility is at the top.
BLANKLEY: And the people who are doing what they‘re told to do by their superiors, with the exception of, you know, the Nazi precedent of just obeying orders—but as a general proposition in a democratic society, if you‘re doing what the lawyers say you can do, you shouldn‘t be the one...
BLANKLEY: ... but the policy maker is the one who‘s responsible for the policy.
MATTHEWS: Right. Well said. Ron, here‘s the problem for the president. He has said, basically, he doesn‘t want to prosecute any operatives, any low-level or middle-level guys or women, who were doing what they thought they were told to do. No, if you listen to the vice president, they were told to do just about anything. Isn‘t that the problem here?
REAGAN: That‘s right. Well, the problem with this investigation, as it looks like it‘s being outlined now, is that it‘s very narrowly focused and it does, in fact, center on the people who were actually doing the interrogations. You‘re quite right, they were following orders. They got their marching orders from somewhere, and the investigation ought to be wide-ranging and it ought to follow wherever the path leads. And if that leads to the White House, if that leads to Dick Cheney, if it leads to George W. Bush, then they should be investigated. They should testify under oath.
REAGAN: And if necessary, they should be prosecuted, and they can be fighting over the top bunk.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t it interesting, Ron...
BLANKLEY: You know...
MATTHEWS: ... that the previous administration believed in trickle-down benefits like tax cuts, but torture—but trickle-up punishment. In other words, start from the bottom when you want to punish somebody for something, but if you want to give them anything, start from the top. Your thoughts, Tony?
BLANKLEY: Yes, look, I think that it‘s a very dangerous precedent to talk about criminalizing what I think are policy issues. Now, you may think it‘s not, but keep in mind, at some point, the next—the other party gets back in and there will be fierce contentions. I think it‘s a very, very dangerous precedent.
MATTHEWS: OK. Can I set a syllogism up for both of you? Maybe you‘ll agree. If there‘s any prosecutions of anybody for the way in which they got information from these suspects, all of whom were bad guys, I presume, really bad and dangerous guys, then it should be the punishment leveled at the top or not at all. What do you think? Your thoughts, Ron? Should we punish operatives if we don‘t punish Cheney? And the same question eventually to you, Tony. Same question.
REAGAN: Everybody is culpable here. The people who were doing the interrogations should have known it was wrong. Many of them apparently did know it was wrong. There was a lot of discussion within the CIA about, Geez, what‘s going to happen a few years from now, when all of this hits the fan and comes back in our direction?
But absolutely, you‘ve got to treat the lower-level people just the same as you do the people at the top, although I would argue the people at the top deserve greater punishment since they were directing this policy.
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts, Tony, on the same question?
BLANKLEY: Yes. As I said, I don‘t think anyone should be prosecuted, but I think the responsibility is at the top and I hate seeing the little guy having to walk the plank when other people don‘t. And I don‘t think in this situation anybody should, but I agree on the principle that the person in charge should be responsible.
MATTHEWS: You said it should stay at the top. What do you think of the administration policy—you were downgrading it—of taking some of these decisions to the White House? What do you think? Under this administration.
BLANKLEY: Oh, the—I think—you know—you mean the president having—the White House having sort of operational responsibility to oversee...
BLANKLEY: I think that reminds me of Iran-contra. It‘s a terrible idea to have operational activity in the White House. That‘s what...
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
BLANKLEY: ... Ollie North and the guys...
MATTHEWS: We agree.
BLANKLEY: ... were doing.
MATTHEWS: You agree, don‘t you, Ron?
REAGAN: I would agree with that, too.
MATTHEWS: I agree with that.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s keep the White House away from operations totally!
MATTHEWS: It‘s a bad—we do agree on that. I think it reminds me of when they put Bob Strauss in the White House, Tony and Ron, as head of inflation back when we were in the White House. You don‘t want the White House with operational responsibility over just about anything except...
BLANKLEY: It‘s very dangerous.
REAGAN: Yes, it is.
MATTHEWS: ... except the president‘s commander-in-chief, ultimately.
Thank you, Tony...
BLANKLEY: For the White House as well as others, to give them operation. That‘s not what they should be doing there.
MATTHEWS: I know. They‘re too ethereal for that. Thank you, Tony Blankley.
BLANKLEY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ron Reagan.
REAGAN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: What‘s at the root of the anger we‘re seeing at the extreme far right? By the way, there‘s an uptick. And how dangerous is this climate out there? The temperature‘s rising on the right. We‘ve got evidence of that. We‘ve got violent activity out there. We‘ve got people carrying guns, people talking about the president not being a legitimate president. Is this wing-nut militia country coming back again? And are we going to have some trouble?
We‘ll be right back to talk about the possible trouble coming with the bad mood when HARDBALL comes back on MSNBC in about a minute.
MATTHEWS: Over the past month, actually, we‘ve heard people—we‘ve watched people armed with guns and we‘ve seen people waving their own birth certificates and talking about their constitutional rights out there. A new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center paints a frightening picture of what‘s going on in the country right now.
Wait‘ll you catch this. “Almost a decade after a largely disappearing from public view,” the report says, “right-wing militias, ideologically-driven tax defiers, and groups called sovereign citizens are appearing in large numbers around the country. A key difference this time is that the federal government, the entity that almost the entire radical right views as its primary enemy, is now headed by a black man.”
Mark Potok is the man who wrote that. He‘s a Civil Rights expert and head of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Mark, put it together—men carrying guns to presidential rallies, people denying the authenticity, the legitimacy of this president we have, people talking about their sovereign rights as citizens, the governor of Texas talking secession. What‘s given? What‘s going on in our country this August 2009?
MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, I think, as you‘re suggesting, Chris, really, you know, that kind of talk, what we‘re hearing out there, may not be specifically coming from militia men, people actually involved in these militias, but it‘s quite remarkable to listen to the rhetoric out there, the guns, the rhetoric, the talk of death squads and FEMA concentration camps and all the rest of it.
You know, I think what we‘re really seeing is how this ideology has sprung out of the patriot movement, and kind in a lot of ways, aided and abetted by, in certain cases, mainstream TV commentators, that kind of thing, and some politicians...
POTOK: ... it has really made its way into the minds of, you know, literally tens of thousands, if not, more Americans. It‘s quite something.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s my concern. I don‘t mind—I love free speech. It‘s what I do. I‘m lucky to be able to take advantage of it every night here, and I try to be responsible about it, although I‘m provocative, like some other people and I—well, we have to keep it in limits.
But let me ask you what I‘m concerned about. And you‘re the expert on this. And I‘m not going to be too verbal here or too literary because I don‘t want to give anybody the wrong idea. So I‘m going to speak in a bit of code. Back in ‘63, when we had a terrible situation happen in this country—we never got over it, November of ‘63, most of us who lived through it—it was a violent act against someone and a violent act we believe was carried out by someone in the—sort of the far left, if you will, the communist sort of oriented world. But the atmosphere in which that occurred was far right and horrible. The hatred of the target of that violence was so much from the right that I worry that a mood is created, a license almost for violence. And I‘m afraid we‘re getting into it. Your thoughts?
POTOK: I think it‘s a legitimate worry. I think the tone out there is really something remarkable. You know, I lived through, as a reporter, the militia movement of the ‘90s, and you know, some of the rhetoric out there was quite astounding. But you know, I think the fact we‘re hearing it so much more in the mainstream from people who were, you know, among others, a candidate for vice president of the United States, is really quite scary.
And you know, I mean, nothing I‘m saying is an attempt to suggest that people‘s speech ought to be limited. I mean, as you said, it‘s a great thing in this country. But you know, when you get these people who are relatively mainstream, who have television shows or who are Congress people and who are saying things that are just absolutely false, made up out of whole cloth, you know, the sad reality is, is that this gives a feeling of license to people out there.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you. Let me ask you...
POTOK: You know, there are a lot of studies that show that...
MATTHEWS: What‘s the connection between carrying guns...
POTOK: I was going to say, there were a lot of studies that show...
MATTHEWS: ... carrying guns, flaunting them, basically flashing them like this guy in public—not right to carry, this isn‘t about constitutional rights, it‘s about flaunting your right to carry a gun—in public events, this claim that a lot of people on the right are saying the president wasn‘t—isn‘t an American, really, he shouldn‘t be president, obviously, he‘s not an American—that‘s what they‘re arguing—and this anger about health care. How does it all fit together with the militia movement and the things you‘re worried about?
POTOK: Well, I mean, in some cases, there‘s a real through line that we‘re seeing. You know, this fellow Ernest Hancock (ph), who is the radio talk show host who put up the fellow named Chris (ph) in Phoenix who appeared with an All right-15, you know, strapped to his back at the town hall that President Obama was giving, was very much a militia man. This guy came out of not only groups that were support groups for militias, but went public in a big way.
You know, the same is true for the several people we have seen and heard from, talking about watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants. You know, I think it‘s worth remembering, that was a central slogan of the militia movement. And at the end of the day, that was—those were the very words that Thomas Jefferson paraphrased that were on the back of Timothy McVeigh‘s shirt when blew up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. So I think...
MATTHEWS: What role do you think—what role do you think...
POTOK: ... the fear, it seems to me, is twofold...
MATTHEWS: What role do you think Glenn Beck plays in all this? Open question.
POTOK: Well, I think he plays a very nasty role. I mean, Glenn Beck will tell you with great indignation that, you know, he didn‘t float the theory of FEMA concentration camps, he debunked it. But of course, the reality is, is that for three shows, Beck went out there and speculated about whether FEMA was secretly running concentration camps into which to slam good patriotic Americans, you know, and then the fourth show announced to the world that he had debunked it.
I mean, look, to me, that is the same as positing for three television shows that the Earth is flat, and then announcing with great aplomb at the end that, indeed, it is not flat.
You know, the reality is, is there are thousands and thousands of people who listen to a Glenn Beck and who believe that he is an authority figure, and, therefore, there‘s probably something to it. FEMA really is out there setting up concentration camps to do in good Americans.
MATTHEWS: We had Phil Gingrey—he‘s a congressman from Georgia—on the other night, and I asked him, would you tell—maybe I shouldn‘t do this, but I said, would you tell your constituents not to bring guns to public meetings involving the president, or even congressional meetings, because you shouldn‘t have a gun at the meetings?
And he said: I‘m not going to do that. I‘m not going to tell my people not to bring guns.
What‘s that about? What—that seems like a minimal requirement...
POTOK: I—you know, to me, it‘s a simple...
MATTHEWS: ... of going into any meeting. Don‘t come in armed.
POTOK: No. I mean, it‘s a pandering to the far right, if not the radical right.
I mean, they‘re—obviously showing a gun or displaying some kind of semiautomatic weapon to a crowd of people with whom you‘re arguing about health care has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of sane or rational or democratic discussion of health care or any other issue.
You know, I think that‘s the bottom line. You know, somehow, this is being portrayed as people standing up for the Second Amendment and the First Amendment. And, to me, that‘s simply absurd. None of this is related to the Second or the First Amendment. You know, what we‘re really discussing here—or trying to discuss—are real issues that face the country, you know, bailouts of various industries, the health care industry and so on.
You know, and—and this not only doesn‘t advance us as a country or as a group of people having a debate; it puts us back.
MATTHEWS: What scares me is that politics is always behind assassinations, to be blunt about it. It‘s not crazy—there‘s people like Hinckley that are nuts, but, generally, it‘s people like Lee Harvey Oswald, who was a—he had a fantasy about Castro. He was disillusioned with the Soviet Union, having lived there, but he fell in love with Castro. And he thought Kennedy was being too tough with him.
You had Sirhan Sirhan, who didn‘t like Bobby Kennedy‘s Middle East policy. He was too pro-Israeli. It‘s not—it‘s not entirely insane, this behavior. It is horrible. It‘s tragic. It‘s—you could certainly say it‘s evil, but it does have a basis in politics.
And I wonder whether people like the birther movement aren‘t giving people a license, to use your term, to do something awful. Look at the guy who shot the—the guard at the Holocaust Museum and killed him. He was a birther. He is a birther. He‘s standing trial. That‘s his motive.
POTOK: Yes. I mean—yes, that‘s absolutely true.
I mean, yes. The answer is, yes, I think there is a kind of license-giving in all of this. You know, I mean, what are you really saying? I mean, it seems to me that a—a lot of people who are raising the—the so-called issue of Obama‘s country of birth really are talking about race.
I mean—now, I‘m not suggesting that every person who questions his birth certificate is the Klansman in disguise, but I think it‘s hard to get past the idea that, at the end of the day, these are people—or a great many of them are people who are looking at a president who is a black man, and they are feeling that this country somehow has been stolen from them, that, you know...
POTOK: ... his appearance in office shows that the country has been lost in some sense.
And there‘s a huge amount of anger about that, about other very major changes happening in this country. And, you know, yes, I think all of that anger and frustration, especially when it‘s channeled in this way by politicians and various others...
MATTHEWS: Yes. I—I fear, like you do.
POTOK: ... is dangerous.
MATTHEWS: I fear the man with the gun in one hand and Constitution or the Bible in the other. I do. I do.
Mark Potok, thank you very much for this report.
Up next: What peeves the president? We will have a little fun now, get away from that grave conversation.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: I love that syncopated music there.
Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First up: pet peeves. You know, the weird little things you don‘t like, but nobody quite gets why you don‘t like them so much?
Well, here are President Obama‘s pet peeves. He hates missing his daily workout.
OK, Mr. Perfect.
Two, he doesn‘t like wearing baseball caps, except that of the Chicago White Sox.
He doesn‘t like getting makeup before doing a TV show.
OK. So, don‘t get makeup.
Fourth, he doesn‘t like anything that gets in the way of his being a father to his two daughters.
Fair enough. He got really ticked off, apparently, when his schedule kept him from attending one of his daughter‘s concerts.
And, best known, he doesn‘t like drama. But wasn‘t it Harry Truman who said, if you don‘t like the heat, stay out of the kitchen?
One new pet peeve, apparently, according to David Axelrod, he doesn‘t like it when aides share his list of pet peeves with reporters.
Next: a presidential re-read. Yesterday, we got a look at President Obama‘s vacation reading list, so-called, which included the global warming book “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” by “New York Times” columnist Tom Friedman. Well, the thing is, a sharp-eyed “Daily Beast” writer notes that a book, well, then candidate Obama quoted in the trail last year was that book he claims to be reading now.
Well, hell, I re-read books like “The Great Gatsby” and “Movable Feast” by Hemingway every couple of years, and I just re-read “Advise and Consent,” which I first read in high school. I re-read books all the time.
By the way, it‘s easier to re-read a book than to read it the first time. It‘s especially easy to read a book after you have seen the movie, which I recommend always.
And, finally, stop in the name of love. One topic on the agenda when Republican state lawmakers meet this weekend in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is whether to impeach their party‘s governor, Mark Sanford. Sanford initially, as we all know, got into trouble after disappearing to visit his mistress after claiming to be hiking in the Adirondack, or wherever, somewhere on the trail. He‘s been found in Argentina, of course, with his lover.
He has since faced questions about his use of state resources for personal travel. Some Senate Republicans, 10 of them, in fact, have already called for him to resign. Well, they‘re going to decide this weekend down in Myrtle Beach. There‘s a fitting place to decide it, whether it dump him or not.
Time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
The Politico points out that, if you want to understand President Obama‘s reappointment of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke today, just take a look at where the stock market stands right now. How much higher is the Dow Jones industrial average from where it was on inaugural day for this president? Fifteen hundred points higher. How is that for performance evaluation?
Since both President Obama and then Fed Chairman Bernanke have been in office, the Dow Jones has shot up 20 percent, more than 1,500 points. By the way, why aren‘t the Republicans happy about this? Aren‘t they in the stock market, mostly? What do they want from this guy?
Up next—he doesn‘t get any respect—up next, was the U.K. right to release a terrorist so he could go home and kiss the ring of Moammar Gadhafi? What lousy P.R. They get the guy out. Then they make fun of the Brits for letting him out by treating him like a hero. This guy is a killer.
He killed the people in that on that airplane, blew it up, got convicted of it, and they let him off out of sympathy. And now he‘s some kind of hometown hero. Look at these bums.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
The Dow rose for a sixth straight session today, thanks to an encouraging report on home prices and the unexpected jump in consumer confidence. The Dow Jones industrials are up 30 points. The S&P 500 added about 2.5 points. And the Nasdaq is up 6.25 points.
An improving outlook on the U.S. job market in the overall economy led to a surprise rebound in consumer confidence this month. The consumers are still worried about their own personal incomes, which could be a drag on future spending.
And more signs of recovery in the housing sector—prices of single-family homes rose for the second consecutive month in June, beating expectations.
President Obama officially nominated Ben Bernanke to a second term as Fed chairman today, but even pro-Bernanke lawmakers are promising a thorough confirmation process.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, the outrage continues to grow for Scotland‘s release of the man involved in the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing that killed 189 of us, Americans. Today, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown broke his silence to tell the “Telegraph” newspaper that he‘s angry and repulsed at the way Libya gave this guy a welcome home.
With us now, “The Telegraph”‘s Con Coughlin in London.
Con, tell us this. I am stunned by this. Do we have a deal in the West with Libya? Are they supposed to be out of the terrorism business? And, yet, there they are treating this guy like he was Lindbergh coming home from crossing the Atlantic.
And he was a goddamn—I‘m sorry—can‘t use that phrase—an evil person. He was involved in killing people who were innocent.
CON COUGHLIN, EXECUTIVE FOREIGN EDITOR, “THE TELEGRAPH”: Well, Chris, this whole—this whole episode really stinks.
As you said, Megrahi is the only man who has been convicted for the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. And now the—the Scottish authorities, where he was jailed, when he was originally convicted, have now decided he should go home on compassionate grounds.
COUGHLIN: ... you would say, well, where was—where was the compassion when he put the bomb on Pan Am Flight 103?
But it‘s caused an enormous political row here. It‘s also caused an enormous political row in the United States. Britain and America are supposed to be close allies. They are supposed to be joined at the hip fighting the—the global war on terror. And here is a key ally releasing one of the world‘s most wanted terrorists to go back to be fated by one of the world‘s most—biggest pariah regimes.
MATTHEWS: Well, this makes us look pretty stupid, too, because we have a deal now. We allowed the Gadhafi government to get back into the international oil business, on the grounds that they had dropped weapons of mass destruction. Well, it seems like it‘s a pretty cold peace out there.
Well, of course, the—the—the thing that‘s really concentrating a lot of minds, Chris, is the 44 billion barrels of—of oil that Libya is sitting on. And the world‘s oil companies are basically desperate to get in there.
COUGHLIN: And then all of the speculation here in London is that the real reason the British government has sanctioned the—the—the return of Megrahi is because BP, the—the British oil giant, wants to get into Libya in a big way and get—get developing those untapped oil reserves.
MATTHEWS: OK. Who made the call? I mean, I hear a lot about Scottish devolution, that they‘re going to have more independence. Was this a judicial decision, an executive decision, a British decision, or a Scottish decision?
COUGHLIN: Well, that‘s a very good question, Chris. I mean, technically, this has been...
MATTHEWS: That‘s why I put it to you, Con. You ought to know the answer. What is the answer?
MATTHEWS: Who is responsible for this embarrassment to us all?
COUGHLIN: I have been doing my research.
And Scottish devolution happened under Tony Blair 10 years ago. So, Scotland has its own government, its own parliament, and its own law system. And, according to Scottish law, which is different to English law, if a—if a—a convict, a prisoner, is terminally ill, then he can go back to his—to his home to die.
This is a Scottish law. And the Scottish government says that, according to Scottish law, they had no alternative, other than to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds.
But this is where it gets murky, because a letter has turned up from the British government, the British Foreign Office, to the Scottish government, advising the—the Scot—the Scots to let Megrahi go.
So, clearly, the British government, despite what Gordon Brown said today about having had no role to play in this, the British government basically encouraged the Scots to let Megrahi go. Why?
Because the British trade minister, Peter Mandelson, in the summer met with Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, who is the heir apparent to Colonel Gadhafi. He‘s the power behind the throne. Saif told the British trade secretary, Lord Mandelson, that there would be no oil deals with Libya so long as Megrahi was in jail. And, hey, presto, Megrahi goes back to Libya.
COUGHLIN: And, yes, watch this space, Chris. Yes, the Brits are going to be into Libyan oil in a big way in the coming months.
MATTHEWS: Well, I have got to tell you, this guy, Lord Mandelson—I love the way you give titles over there—I knew him as Peter Mandelson, a regular staff guy, like me, years ago, when I hosted him over here.
This guy has got more lives than Lazarus. I mean, this guy, how does he stay—he‘s now involved with this trade deal that allowed, you know, you guys in Britain—well, somebody to get a trade deal going, with the idea of letting a terrible person like this guy go back home on compassion leave, or whatever it is. And he‘s still there.
COUGHLIN: Well, Peter Mandelson‘s political career has—has been killed off several times.
COUGHLIN: He was sacked—he was sacked because Gordon Brown pushed for him to be sacked...
COUGHLIN: ... twice when he worked for Tony Blair.
COUGHLIN: But, suddenly, he‘s back, because he‘s—he‘s a very skill
skillful political operator.
In fact, Gordon Brown is facing a very difficult stretch here in London as prime minister, wouldn‘t be in office were it not for Peter Mandelson, who somehow persuaded the Labor Party...
COUGHLIN: ... to keep him in office.
So, Mandelson, whenever there‘s something bad going on in British politics, Peter Mandelson is not far away.
MATTHEWS: I know. I know. I know.
Con Coughlin, thank you, sir.
Didn‘t you do the profile on Michael Collins years ago? I think you did.
Anyway, thank you, sir.
COUGHLIN: I did, yes. I did, yes.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, do I look like Boris Johnson, do you think? I think I do.
Anyway, thank you, sir.
COUGHLIN: A little bit.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
COUGHLIN: See, you have got—you have got the haircut, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.
COUGHLIN: You have got the haircut.
MATTHEWS: ... Con Coughlin of “The Guardian.” Thank you.
COUGHLIN: See you.
MATTHEWS: Well, the Thursday, this Thursday, coming up in two days, is the premiere of our big documentary on the Kennedy brothers, all four of them.
And it features something you have never seen before, audiotapes, actual audiotapes, of President John F. Kennedy the year before he was killed dictating his memoirs. Wait until you hear this.
And here now is a look at how Kennedy won that ‘60 presidential election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: With a theme song by Frank Sinatra, the Kennedy campaign was far more glamorous than Nixon‘s. It also put Lou Harris‘ scientific polls to work in a way that had never been done before.
Team Kennedy focused like a laser on winning big states and their electoral votes, while Nixon campaigned in all 50 states.
LOU HARRIS, KENNEDY POLLSTER: : We surveyed 38 states for Kennedy, and wrote off about half the states. He had the guts to write off whole states and say, OK, I‘m going to lose them.
MATTHEWS: In the end, just 100,000 votes separated Kennedy and Nixon, out of some 70 million cast, one-tenth of one percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 7:19 a.m. Eastern time, Senator Kennedy was elected president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: But true to their big state strategy, Kennedy had an overwhelming majority in the electoral college.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kennedy has won 296. That alone is enough.
MATTHEWS: In those big states, many of the voters were Catholic.
Kennedy had turned a historic negative into an electoral positive.
PETER FLANIGAN, NIXON CAMPAIGN AIDE: Kennedy played the Catholic issue extremely well, making sure that he got all the Catholic votes and had a minimum reverse effect among non-Catholic voters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: “The Kennedy Brothers” airs this Thursday and Friday, but debuts on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on MSNBC.
Up next, the stock market is up. The housing market is bouncing back. And there are sign this is recession is ending. So why isn‘t President Obama getting any respect? The politics fix is coming up next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the politics fix. Joining me now is “Politico‘s” Jonathan Martin and the “Washington Post‘s” Anne Kornblut.
Anne, you‘re first, because I haven‘t seen you in a while. You‘re back from working on a book. What do you make of this whole thing about the good economic news out there the president gets no credit for? I‘m in the stock market. I have suffered like others before, and I have seen this comeback, back up to almost 10,000 now. He gets nothing for this. The fact that consumer confidence, which was once closer to the bone, is way up. The fact that the Fed chair has done jump a good job in pumping up the money supply and pumping back the economy, and averting a Great Depression; no credit.
ANNE KORNBLUT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, I don‘t know if he gets no credit, but I do think people are kind of a lagging indicator, people‘s feelings about their job security, about their portfolios. I mean, it takes a while for people to really feel like that‘s secure. And additionally you‘re sort of proving a negative here. They‘re saying what we did is—it could have been a lot worse. We don‘t know how bad it would have been had we not done all this.
There‘s actually no way for them to demonstrate that. There‘s no way for people to feel it. People only feel the pain they really feel.
MATTHEWS: Well, anybody who studies economics, Jonathan, knows that we are still suffering from a huge drop in consumer spending, a huge drop in investment by business, that had to be offset by an increase in government spending. And it was. And however sloppy it was, it seems to have done the trick of keeping us out of a Great Depression.
JONATHAN MARTIN, “POLITICO”: Chris, to Anne‘s point, nobody in the history of politics as ever won a campaign based on a slogan of it could haven a lot worse. That‘s a tough argument to make.
The fact is, look, I think the president reappointing Bernanke today to me says that he sees light at the end of this tunnel. If he was still concerned—if President Obama was still concerned about the state of this economy, he would not have ratified one of the sort of chief faces of the current administration, of the current sort of economic status quo.
I think the president by doing this today, it‘s a signal that he does see some signs of hope here, some glimmers out there.
MATTHEWS: You know, Anne, it‘s amazing, you have been away, but the failure of the Democratic party to unite in voice is so powerful. They argue over whether he‘s doing enough or not enough on this or that. There‘s no sort of chorus out there for this guy, in terms of the horrible challenge he faced coming in January 20th, what he‘s done with it.
He gets no credit for the stimulus package, passing it. Despite the fact that the evidence is it‘s working to offset, again, a Great Depression.
KORNBLUT: Well, that‘s the beauty of being in the majority, right? Now Democrats are now free to disagree because they‘ve gotten back to the place they wanted to be. I think, look, he does have his supporters and Democrats—it could get a lot worse with the Democratic criticism. But I think you‘re right. There are—there‘s a wide range of Democratic feeling. We‘ve got, you know, the range of liberals to moderates in the House, in particular.
So, look—and this is what Democrats do, right?
MATTHEWS: I know. I know. They love to argue. I want to stay with you, Anne. I missed you so long here. You‘ve been away. What is your book about that you‘re working on? What is this book you‘ve been working?
KORNBLUT: This is shameless. It‘s about women in politics. It‘s called “Notes From the Cracked Ceiling.” It‘s about the Clinton campaign, the Palin campaign and all the other women who are in office and might run for office in the future.
MATTHEWS: I want to read it. Let me ask you about this about Rudy Giuliani. He‘s running for governor of New York it looks like.
KORNBLUT: That‘s pretty amazing. What‘s really incredible about this
and I don‘t know if Jonathan will agree or not—is he can‘t really run on 9/11. That was sort of his gambit when he was going to run for president. It was certainly his gambit when he was in New York and still in office.
That‘s a long time ago now. So I think he will have to figure out what he‘s going to run for, what kind of Republican he‘s going to be, and develop a new platform.
MATTHEWS: Is he the Fonz of American politics? Has he jumped the shark, as they said on “Happy Days?” Jonathan, I want you to say yes or no. Has he jumped the shark, like the Fonz did?
MARTIN: Only time will tell.
MATTHEWS: Come on, what are you, Hugh Sidey (ph)? Come on, give me an answer. I‘m sorry.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
MARTIN: If David Paterson is the governor of New York, with the numbers he has right now, then Rudy Giuliani or anybody that has an R after their name and is facing him head to head on the ballot, and is mildly competent, will probably have a pretty good shot.
That said, I‘m not totally convinced that Mayor Giuliani is going to run for governor, especially if Paterson is not a sure thing. Look, if David Paterson does not run for re-election, or he loses in a primary to Andrew Cuomo, that changes the calculation, and it makes this race a heck of a lot tougher for Rudy.
If it‘s a Paterson/Giuliani race, I can see it. If it‘s a Paterson or maybe Cuomo/Giuliani race, I‘m much more skeptical. As for Anne‘s point about 9/11, I don‘t think he can—
MATTHEWS: Buddy, I think you‘re wrong. I think Rudy‘s going for it. You‘ve got some crazy talk coming up, by the way. Hold on there, we‘ve got the hottest thing on the show so far tonight. It‘s coming in right now. Wait until you see this, as a World War II vet tells a Republican senator that President Obama is acting like Hitler. We‘re going to get back to what happened at a town meeting. We‘re right back with Jonathan and Anne for more of the fix.
MATTHEWS: I told you it‘s coming, and here it is; a quote from a World War II vet today at a town meeting with Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Ohio. Quote—catch this quote—in a public meeting today in the United States, quote, “the president of the United States, that‘s who you should be concerned about, because he‘s acting like a little Hitler. I‘d take a gun to Washington if enough of you would go with me.”
That‘s now reached the level—we‘ve talked about this birther movement. We‘ve talked about the gun carrying of people to these public meetings. We‘ve put it all together. It‘s getting weird. And now someone has put it together verbally.
The question is when will they put it together actually. Jonathan Martin, Chuck Grassley stood through that, apparently did not demure.
MARTIN: Well, this was the second time that he has basically enabled this kind of rhetoric out there. Previously, of course, he had someone talk about the whole death panel and he basically added fuel to the fire by talking about not wanting to pull the plug on grandma.
This though—I was in Florida for two days last week. This is the kind of stuff you hear increasingly at these town hall meetings, especially in sort of red America. People are really upset. The rhetoric is increasingly out of control. And I think this is only representative of what‘s happening, Chris, in a lot of places around the country.
KORNBLUT: Yes, but there‘s a big difference—we have to draw the distinctions between talking about death panels, standing by while people maybe misrepresent death panels, and talking about bringing a gun to Washington. That‘s the kind of talk that I would hope has the Secret Service on high alert.
And, frankly, I think it‘s pretty shocking—forget partisan stripes. That‘s the kind of talk that I don‘t think anyone finds acceptable, whether or not you agree with what Obama is doing. And comparing him to Hitler, certainly not good. But talking about bringing a gun I think that is really certainly pretty shocking.
MATTHEWS: It‘s getting close to law breaking. What I was struck by, Jonathan, is the fact that the guy who shot that armed guard, that great American who was defending the Holocaust museum, that guy was a birther. These things are overlapped. These people are sovereign power people. Not every Second Amendment person, obviously. My brother is a Second Amendment person. A lot of people believe in that right.
It‘s how it‘s used. To bring guns to public meetings makes a statement about your sense that the government is the enemy. Enemy, not potentially, but is the enemy. Your thoughts, Anne.
KORNBLUT: And especially after we just had an actual election. This is not—it‘s sort of unimaginable at this point that he is seen in just a short span of time from eight—however many months he‘s been in office, that he‘s gone from being the president who is elected, elected with a higher percentage than previous presidents has been, is now being compared to a Nazi—compared to a Fascist at some of these town halls events, and is the subject of kind of violent talk.
It‘s kind of a stunning development over such a short span of time.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you Jonathan—you study politics, both of you two. When does—at what point does the Republican party have to be a party, and not just a grab bag of crazy people to the right of center that‘s open to everybody? When the big tent becomes a war party, when do you draw the line and say we‘re not in the same party anymore? Those people are outside?
Bill Buckley, to his credit, said good-bye to the John Birch Society. He said goodbye to the anti-semites on the right. He said you can‘t be calling yourselves conservatives if you believe those things.
MARTIN: Look, here is the issue: if the Republicans ride this wave of conservative, of sort of center right unhappiness right now, and win these two governors races this fall, if they make gains next year in the House and Senate, Chris, I don‘t think you‘re going to see any effort on their part to separate themselves from the anger we‘re seeing. I think they are going to embrace it.
Now, obviously, they are going to have problems with the fringe, with the kind of folks that are talking about Hitler and bringing a gun to Washington. But I don‘t think they are going to learn any kind of lesson if they are gaining politically, Chris, in the next years ahead.
MATTHEWS: Anne, they are dancing on the edge of big danger for the country.
KORNBLUT: I mean, I think Jonathan is exactly right. If it works, why would they stop doing it?
MATTHEWS: Because it‘s un-American. It truly is, to talk about bringing down an elected government, bringing down our republic, basically. That‘s not conservative. That doesn‘t maintain our society. That doesn‘t hold us together. That‘s insurrectionist. And if that‘s what conservatism is today, they have it wrong. There is a difference between being a revolutionary and a conservative. There just is.
KORNBLUT: I would think that members of both parties would have respect for the office of the presidency, regardless of who is actually in it. But I think you‘re absolutely right.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Jonathan Martin. Thank you, Anne Kornblut. Let‘s hope our concerns are not fully justified.
Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Watch Hardball each weeknight
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Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or
other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>
Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET