Guests: Bertha Coombs, Pat Buchanan, James Traficant; Joan Walsh, Jonathan Martin, Dee Dee Myers, Sam Tanenhaus
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: James Traficant.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews up in Boston. Leading off tonight:
He‘s back. James Traficant, the former congressman who was found guilty of bribery and racketeering, is now a free man. And fresh off his seven-year prison sentence, the expelled politician, who was known for being one of the more colorful characters on Capitol Hill, is coming here to HARDBALL.
Plus: President Obama is considering scaling back American forces in Afghanistan, which could satisfy some Democrats but infuriate some Republicans who‘ve been supportive of his hawkish policy in the region. The political perils of Afghanistan.
And Republicans are still hawkish on Afghanistan, but the party‘s also going to war with some of its own members who don‘t stick strictly to the conservative message. Case in point, South Carolina Republicans are on the hunt for what they call “RINOs,” Republicans in name only, their current target, Bob Ingles of South Carolina. Is the risk in becoming the pure Republicans carrying the risk of becoming the small party?
Also, the Democrats are getting 60 senators. Massachusetts has acted to let the governor pick an interim senator, to pick someone to fill Ted Kennedy‘s seat. Looks like it‘s going to be long-time Kennedy ally Paul Kirk. That‘s coming up tonight in the “Politics Fix.”
And finally: Moammar Qaddafi today called President Obama a Kenyan who he‘d like to see president for life. What will the right wing make of that stuff? Qaddafi‘s words on Obama in the “Sideshow.”
Let‘s start with the former U.S. Congressman who made these words his trademark.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES TRAFICANT (D), OHIO: Beam me up!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Jim Traficant, thank you very much for joining us. You‘re a colorful guy. I appreciate you coming on the show. I assume after these seven years out of the political business and in prison that you‘ve learned something about life, something important that you didn‘t know before. I‘m just guessing. What are your attitudes now? How are they important for us to learn from? I assume you‘ve learned something.
TRAFICANT: First of all, I‘m glad to be here, Chris. I‘m glad to be anywhere. I still have federales swarming around me. They won‘t admit that, but they‘re looking for any opportunity to send me back.
The main thing I learned is when I come back that I wasn‘t the only one in prison. It seems like this whole valley had been in prison. And I‘m very upset with the fact that we have 12,000 Delphi retirees and hourly workers, salaried and hourly workers, who are going to lose their pensions, lose (INAUDIBLE) into their health care, and they‘re going to pick up a $60 million-a-year factor (ph). And when you look at the multiplication factor for this area, it‘s almost going to be a quarter of a billion dollar a year, just in this area alone, with a $1.5 billion loss throughout the state of Ohio.
Now, let me say one thing on that. This is very important, this Delphi issue. It hit us harder than the closing of steel mills almost. But second of all, if we can give billions of billions of dollars to banks who won‘t even lend it to our people unless they have $3 in the bank for every $1 they borrow, I said, Why not take care of our own people? So I‘m tired of seeing this money going all over the world, all this stimulus money. Stimulate this! That‘s what I‘m saying.
MATTHEWS: Well, what—you still talk like a politician, like you‘re running for office again.
TRAFICANT: You never know. I may. I want to get the IRS, kick them in the crotch real good. I want to reform the Justice Department, who investigates themselves when they commit crimes, as they did in my case. And it‘s going to explode before it‘s over.
But most importantly, I think the problem with America that no one‘s talking about, while they‘re talking about health care and these other issues to basically camouflage what I think is the systemic problem, we have a tax code that cannot be reformed. It must be replaced. They got to throw the tax code out, abolish the 16th Amendment, Chris, and come with a 25 percent fair tax, retail sales tax.
Now, Dr. Dale Jorgensen (ph) up there at Harvard did a study and says there wouldn‘t be an appreciable cost factor added because of the heavy burden of the tax code that‘s penalizing investment, killing investment, awarding dependency in this country. It‘s crazy. And I think we‘ve got to start with the rudimentary problems. No one‘s talking about them. And they better be careful. We‘re all going to have clean air. We‘re all going to have health care. And no one‘s going to have a job and everybody‘s losing their home, especially around here. And I expect them to do something, or I will come back own there.
MATTHEWS: You sound like a Republican.
TRAFICANT: Well, if a Republican program is good, I support it. If a Democrat program is good, I support it. If it‘s good for America, I‘m for it, period. And this is the problem in Washington. Too many of these people walk like little lemmings over the cliff with so-called leaders. And Chris, I got to tell you something. I‘ve never seen such weak leadership in my life. Tip O‘Neill is rolling over in his grave. And now, Jim Wright may have had his problems, but I personally he was railroaded. Jim Wright is another one. He was the Speaker. When he said something, he did it.
I think it‘s time that the Democrats now lead and quite disguising all these problems. Look at that tax code. We need a border-adjusted (ph) tax. These imports are coming in. Our trade deficit, Chris, is $700 billion-plus. Beam me up! How can we overcome these problems?
MATTHEWS: You know, you‘re talking with this...
TRAFICANT: Go ahead.
MATTHEWS: You‘re talking with this populist fervor, Jim Traficant, and yet, you know, the Democratic Party and the Congress voted you out. They voted to kick you out. I mean, how do you go back into a room of politicians now and say, You guys were all wrong, I was right? All wrong. I‘m the only guy in the room that‘s right.
TRAFICANT: I don‘t have to tell anybody—I don‘t have to tell anybody they‘re wrong or right. I was targeted by the Justice Department since 1983, being the only American in history to defeat the Justice Department in a RICO trial pro se without being an attorney, and they couldn‘t live with that.
Finally, I was the number one target in the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. And let me tell you something. People are scared to death in Washington to say what‘s wrong with the country because if you rile some big, big people, you‘re done. They‘re more concerned with perpetuity than what‘s good for the country, and the country‘s going to hell in a handbasket, Chris.
TRAFICANT: ... serious problem.
MATTHEWS: Look, without getting into the specific charge against AIPAC and the others, when you sit in Congress—I want your perspective on this because you were in stir for seven years. You were in Congress for nine terms. You‘ve got a—are you saying that members of Congress are basically prostitutes, that they‘s basically scared to death of the interest groups, scared to death of the people that buy their campaigns?
TRAFICANT: You know, Chris...
MATTHEWS: What are you actually saying about the system?
TRAFICANT: Chris, years ago, on the House floor, on a foreign aid debate, I called the members of the House of Representatives a bunch of political prostitutes. They demanded my words be stricken. They jumped up like 100 wounded TV evangelists. So finally, I said, OK, I apologize to all those people who were offended, and to those who were not offended, I commended them.
But when I went outside, there was this little stringer group, and they said, Tell us what you really feel, Jim. And here‘s what I said, Chris. I said, I want to apologize to all the hookers in America for having associated them with the United States House of Representatives. Yes, I think it‘s a big whorehouse, and I think they better start taking care of America and forget about the Mideast and start worrying about the Midwest, forget about the borders overseas, start working on our borders, take a look at the trade deficit and throw out this tax code. It‘s killing America!
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about—let me ask you about...
TRAFICANT: That‘s what I stand for.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve been missing a few chapters in American political life, the election of Barack Obama while you were inside. And when you got out, you were watching all these tea bag parties, all these town hall meetings, the birther movement. What‘s your reaction to the world you missed, this sort of angry—angry American right out there? Are you part of that?
TRAFICANT: Number one, I‘m speaking at a lot of these tea bag party -
tea party rallies. I think that they need a little bit of direction, but they mean well. They‘re upset with the country.
As far as Obama is concerned, I tell these tea party groups and say, Look, I don‘t think you should be going after President Obama. I think his hands are pretty much tied and I think his heart‘s in the right place. And I‘ve said that when I‘ve spoken. But the bottom line is, no one‘s dealing with the problems, Chris, because if you deal with the problems, the real problems in America, you get targeted. And you know what I‘m talking about. Now, I don‘t want to give you chills up your leg again here.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, that‘s...
TRAFICANT: ... that was below you. Jim Traficant, that was below you. You can do better than that. Let me ask you about your personal situation. I‘m going to ask you one time only. It‘s a free country. You‘re a free man now. Let me ask you, do you believe you were in any way guilty as charged—in any way guilty as charged, in any way.
TRAFICANT: Number one, I‘m not a free man. And no, I was not guilty.
And now you have a juror who‘s come forward...
MATTHEWS: In any way? You were a totally innocent man?
TRAFICANT: In any way. In any way! And when it‘s all over, it will come out, Chris. I didn‘t mean to give you...
MATTHEWS: How are you going to establish...
TRAFICANT: ... a low blow on that.
MATTHEWS: How are you going to establish that fact so the people listening right now will believe it? I‘m serious. How are you going to make your case?
TRAFICANT: No, I‘m not trying...
MATTHEWS: You didn‘t make it seven years ago.
TRAFICANT: Chris, I‘m not trying to convince anybody to believe it. Now you have juror number eight, Leo Glazier (ph), to come out, and he‘s giving a lot of revelations about that whole issue. Four of the seven people who testified against me, now it‘s come out that they lied. You have a young man, a black man in Nigeria by the name of Ocolo (ph) said his life was ruined, he was deported because he wouldn‘t commit a crime for the Justice Department and lie against Traficant. Now they‘re deporting his 79-year-old parents.
And I‘m going to say this to Washington. You should be looking into the Ocolo matter. They‘ve destroyed this man‘s life, and they‘re now attempting to destroy his 79-year-old parents because of the governments zeal to convict me. They broke every law to convict me. And before it‘s over, I just want them to know I‘m coming back at them, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you a final question...
TRAFICANT: This is the bottom line!
MATTHEWS: Jim, I want to ask you a final question, Congressman. You are under the law, Ohio law, permitted to run for office...
TRAFICANT: Don‘t call me names.
MATTHEWS: OK. Jim, you‘re running—you can run for office.
There‘s no legal reason why you can‘t, right?
TRAFICANT: I‘m 25 years old, I‘m eligible to run.
MATTHEWS: What would...
TRAFICANT: There‘s no restriction on me running.
MATTHEWS: What would get you to run for office again?
TRAFICANT: Number one, I‘d have to look at—I‘d have to look at the variables on it, Chris. There‘s a thing I can‘t imagine as (ph) I come back, how well I was received. But what I never realized, how well I was received around the country. And there‘s some talks about a possible movie and several things. I don‘t know what‘s happening here.
But my case is beginning to explode. People are starting to admit
they were pressured to lie. Now there‘s going to be a microscope put on
that thing. So I don‘t know what I‘m going to do. I may run. And if I do
I want to say this right on your program—I‘m going to try to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, appeal the 16th—repeal the 16th Amendment and go right at the Justice Department, who investigates themselves when they commit a crime.
Finally, if I am subpoenaed to Germany in the Demjanjuk (ph) case, I‘m going over. And I am appalled that not one politician in America has even looked into this man‘s plight, period.
MATTHEWS: So Demjanjuk...
TRAFICANT: I‘ll go right over there, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You‘re sticking to your defense of Demjanjuk. You believe he‘s innocent.
TRAFICANT: Well, the first time, Chris, it was my Freedom of Information Act request that proved he wasn‘t Ivan. And it came from the Justice Department. And they let the Justice Department go without even being charged. This man was convicted, sentenced to death when I brought him back from Israel. Now he‘s over there in Germany. Israel wouldn‘t even charge him on this second offense.
And let me say this. I want to give Israel credit because the sixth circuit court in Cincinnati wouldn‘t accept my evidence. Congress wouldn‘t hold a hearing. I send it over to the supreme court in Israel, and they gave America a lesson in justice. They said, Take him home, Congressman.
TRAFICANT: So let me tell you something. This man is not what they‘re saying he is, and it‘s a shame that no one‘s even looking at his plight.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Jim Traficant.
TRAFICANT: I will, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Jim Traficant, thanks for coming on HARDBALL tonight. It‘s great having you. Seriously.
TRAFICANT: This is hardball. Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You speak your mind, sir.
Coming up: What‘s the mission in Afghanistan? Can we meet that mission? President Obama is considering using fewer troops in that country to target al Qaeda terrorists. Well, can he win with that one without losing in Pakistan, as well? We‘ll be there—we‘ll be right back with the question, Can he sell it to his own party?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Obama is weighing whether to send more troops to Afghanistan or scale back our operations to simply hunt down al Qaeda in the region. According to the new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll, a troop build-up would be a tough sell to the American public, and especially to his fellow Democrats. Fifty-one percent of Americans oppose sending additional troops to Afghanistan. That‘s a slight majority. Broken down by party—catch this—two thirds, 67 percent of the Democrat oppose a troop increase, and while Republicans, 3 out of 5, 60 percent, support. So there‘s is a real difference in the parties. So what are the political perils of sending more troops to Afghanistan versus cutting back?
Pat Buchanan‘s an MSNBC political analyst and Dee Dee Myers is a former White House press secretary to President Bill Clinton. I want to start with Pat. I know you‘re of two minds about this, but speaking as a man of the Republican Party—the Republican Party says it‘s for a troop build-up. Is that a deep-seated belief or what? Or is that just hawkish impulse? Do they really think there‘s a win to be had in Afghanistan, given the Karzai corruption over the dishonest election, the rest of it?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Republicans have to have their doubts, Chris—I‘m getting a little feedback in the ear. Republicans have to have their doubts, but at the same time, it is quite natural for Republicans. They do tend to be hawkish. They do tend to believe in the efficacy of military power and of fighting. They do think, people like McCain, they‘re honest, they do believe that if we press down and we keep at it, we can win this war, that perseverance counts. But they have to have their doubts also, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I just wonder—let me go to Dee Dee on the Democrat side so we get this balanced here. It seems to me that Democrats are instinctively anti-engagement in that part of the world. They don‘t like deeper military involvement. These are somewhat instinctive reactions. Obama seems to be off base with his party on this.
DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY: Well, The lessons of history are not that encouraging, whether you‘re looking at the history of Afghanistan, where many powers have, you know, gone in to their peril, or lessons like those drawn from Vietnam, where you get into a war that is in many ways unwinnable and it becomes a quagmire. And you know, people have said Obama worries rightly that this could become his quagmire.
So there are lessons of history and some of instinct that make Democrats very wary of this. And we‘ve seen how things have gone in recent months, and as you pointed out, the elections in Afghanistan, not having a stable partner to fight the insurgency makes this very difficult.
BUCHANAN: Chris, I think the problem Obama got is this. If he draws down troops, as Biden seems to be suggesting, I think you lose Afghanistan to the Taliban and he loses the country. If he maintains the present level of troops, he‘s got McChrystal, the commander, saying, in effect, we are losing the war, or we‘re headed for mission failure unless we get more resources, i.e. 45,000 more troops, or somewhere up toward that number.
BUCHANAN: I think the political imperatives and the imperatives on the ground and his own lack of knowledge and the fact that he‘s being boxed in by his secretary of state and by the Republicans and by the generals and by McCain, I think that probably argues for a temporizing decision to send more troops, but not the 45,000.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about—well, that doesn‘t sound like a thoughtful thing. Dee Dee, it seems to me that he walked back into this. He said, I don‘t want to fight for Iraq. That was a mistake. But I will fight for Afghanistan. It reminds me—I‘ve said this before—of Jack Kennedy saying, I‘m not going to fight for Laos, even though Eisenhower said to do it. I‘ll fight for South Vietnam. And Kennedy didn‘t really believe in the South Vietnamese struggle that much. He was very indecisive.
So is this the problem, when a president‘s not even following his own hunch, he‘s simply making a political move, and then he finds himself in a real situation, which is hellish, and he‘s got to make a real decision, not a PR or a political decision? Isn‘t there something more important here than politics? Should we be losing lives in Afghanistan right now?
MYERS: Well, I mean, I...
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Dee Dee?
MYERS: I think that‘s the question on the table. Look, in March, you know, barely six weeks into his presidency, Obama decided to send additional troops, a new strategy, into Afghanistan. He had talked about throughout the campaign and in the early weeks of his presidency that Afghanistan was kind of the good war. We took our eye off the ball in Iraq. We should have sent more troops to fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan and nipped that in the bud. We didn‘t do it.
Now, you know, things have deteriorated a great deal in the last six months. You‘ve had, not only escalating casualties this month. We had, you know, the—the—the debacle of the elections in Afghanistan.
Things have gotten a lot tougher. And the president, rightly, has said, hey, let‘s—let‘s take a look. Let‘s—let‘s not send resources after a bad strategy. Let‘s reevaluate our strategy.
On one level, that is a solid thing. You want the president to rethink these things and to be clear before we make a plan.
MYERS: On the other hand, it‘s making him look indecisive. And, as Pat said, he is being pushed around by the generals, by the secretary of state, and by others.
BUCHANAN: Well, Chris—Chris, if this is not a wise war or a winnable war, he ought to say, we‘re going to have to turn around and we‘re going to have to come out of this.
But he himself is a bit of the problem, because he escalated with 21,000 troops.
BUCHANAN: He said, as of about a week ago, this is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity.
So, he has laid down all these markers. And the question is, is Barack Obama—if he doesn‘t believe this is a winnable war, is he a big enough man to say, we are going to turn around and walk out, the way Reagan did, on a much smaller level, after he put those Marines into Beirut, and they got all killed?
BUCHANAN: And he eternally regretted it. But he came out.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, he made the right decision in the second instance.
Let‘s take a look at the problem you pointed, Pat. Here is the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, his former rival. You‘re right. I think she is putting up a situation here that he is going to have to contend with.
Senator, here is Secretary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Some people say, well, al Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan.
If Afghanistan were taken over by the Taliban, I can‘t tell you how fast al Qaeda would be back in Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Dee Dee, she is his ally. She works for him as his top foreign policy minister. She is dictating policy here. And I‘m not being tough here. I‘m just stating the fact. How does he respond to that?
MYERS: Yes, I—I don‘t think she made a secret out of what—what she thinks.
Look, this is a very difficult situation. What the McChrystal calls for, in essence, General McChrystal‘s plan, is nation-building.
MYERS: And I think the president ought to consider that very carefully before he gets in there.
He says, look, the way to win here is not to just go out and kill all the insurgents and—and take on the Taliban. It‘s to protect civilians and it‘s to enhance their lives through better governance and economic development. That is a very tall order in a country that is very primitive.
MYERS: It has very few resources...
MYERS: ... and no infrastructure.
BUCHANAN: That is not worth a lot of American lives, though.
I think, Chris, look, Somalia is a, you know, no-man‘s land. Yemen is a no-man‘s land. The al Qaeda can move into there. They could move back into Afghanistan. But I think people have got to remember it wasn‘t the guys in Afghanistan. They plotted this thing in Delray Beach, in Arizona, in Virginia...
MATTHEWS: You‘re right.
BUCHANAN: ... getting driver‘s license in Germany and a lot of democratic countries. They may even have been trained there.
We can‘t run around everywhere al Qaeda is, and take over the country, rebuild it, turn it into Vermont, and hope...
BUCHANAN: ... that, somehow, they are going to take care of keeping al Qaeda out.
BUCHANAN: We can‘t do that.
MATTHEWS: And, Dee Dee, apart from the politics is the question of time.
I mean, I have always had a mixed view about Richard Nixon, but one thing I didn‘t like about Pat and that—that administration, between ‘68 and ‘72, is, we weren‘t going to win that war, but we stuck it out, because nobody wants to lose a war.
MATTHEWS: ... if this president stays in Afghanistan simply because he doesn‘t want to have an L. next to his name, that is bad. That‘s my view.
MATTHEWS: He has to believe in the mission. Just a minute.
He has to believe in—the mission can succeed, or we shouldn‘t be there. How can we be the allies of Karzai after he steals an election? How can we justify the loss of another soldier in the defense of a government that is corrupt?
My question. It has got nothing to do with politics. It has to do with morality as our leader.
MATTHEWS: Can he justify that?
MATTHEWS: First Dee Dee, then Pat.
MYERS: Because we don‘t have a choice.
I mean, the first thing is, you know, you have to kind of wait on some level for the outcome of this commission which is going to review the election. And, despite the corruptions, it may say that Karzai won, in spite of all the things that were going on, in which case, you don‘t have another choice if you are going to build an anti-insurgent operation there.
You have to have a government partner, because, as General McChrystal says, you know, you have to do more than just fight the bad guys.
MYERS: You have got to make life better and protect the safety of the civilians there. So, you can‘t do that without a government partner.
MYERS: You‘re between a rock and a hard place.
MATTHEWS: We don‘t have George Washington here.
BUCHANAN: Chris, if you don‘t believe this is a—if you don‘t believe this is a wise and winnable war, you shouldn‘t fight it. You should have the courage to turn around and say, we may have made a mistake in going in for nation-building. We did enough in just knocking these guys over.
But I‘ll tell you this. You go back and you listen to LBJ talking to Richard Russell, 1964...
MATTHEWS: I know. He knew it.
BUCHANAN: ... he didn‘t believe it was a winnable war, and he put them in there for five years.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think—I think...
MYERS: And, you know, the other—the other...
MATTHEWS: Johnson and Nixon kept us in a war we couldn‘t win.
Anyway, thank you, both.
I think that‘s the issue. Should we stay in a war we can‘t win just for political or P.R. reasons?
Pat Buchanan, Dee Dee Myers, you got to the right question.
Up next: Don‘t be so helpful. Moammar Gadhafi talks up Barack Obama at the U.N. You don‘t want a pal like this in the United States.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First up: pitching a fit. Remember the hero‘s welcome Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi gave the Lockerbie killer earlier this summer? Well, Gadhafi has had a hard time finding a place to pitch his tent for the U.N. Assembly meeting in New York. He had already been denied permission to hoist tents in New Jersey and in Central Park. Most recently, Gadhafi tried to pitch a tent on property rented from Donald Trump.
As you can tell from today‘s “New York Post” cover, that bid was a no-go. Trump and town officials have ordered the tent dismantled.
Anyway, while the Libyan leader delivered an hour-and-a-half diatribe at the U.N. podium, he had only good things to say about our president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): We Africans are happy, proud, that one son of Africans governs the United States of America.
Now, the American people, the black African Kenyan, young voted for him and made him a president.
We are content and happy if Obama can stay forever as the president of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Did you hear. He called him a Kenyan, our president, a Kenyan. He wants Obama to be president for life.
Birthers alert: another chance to go crazy.
Up next: art imitating life. Last night was the premiere of CBS‘ “The Good Wife,” a series that revolves about the very public fall of a cheating politician.
Catch this scene between Julianna Margulies, who plays the politician‘s wronged wife, and the mentor at her new law firm played by Christine Baranski.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE GOOD WIFE”)
CHRISTINE BARANSKI, ACTOR: I got one great piece of advice. Men can be lazy. Women can‘t. And I think that goes double for you. Not only are you coming back to the workplace fairly late, but you have some very prominent baggage. But, hey, if she can do it, so can you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. That was Hillary Clinton in that framed photo.
By the way, it‘s a great show so far.
Time for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
According to a new study of Congress, there are 57 Democratic members on the social networking site Twitter. But catch this. How many Republican Twitterers are there in Congress? One hundred and one, almost twice as many. One hundred and one Republican lawmakers are a Twitter as we speak—nice “Big Number.”
Up next: Will the Republicans win by going hard right, by ideologically purifying themselves? And is Sarah Palin their new hero? We are going to look at what is next for the R‘s, the Republicans, we when come back.
You are watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Bertha Coombs, and this is your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks give back big gains late in the day to finish in the red. The Dow Jones industrials closed the day down 81 points. The S&P 500 was off 10 points, while the Nasdaq lost 14.
Markets rallied around midday, as the Fed delivered its most optimistic outlook yet on the economy. The Fed says economic activity has picked up and household spending has now stabilized. For now, in fact, the Fed is going to leave interest rates unchanged at historically low levels.
The Fed is also extending, not adding to, its program to buy back toxic mortgages. They say, in fact, though, right now that are going to slow the pace of those buybacks, though they will keep the program alive until the middle of next year.
But investors started cashing in on the rally late in the day—hardest hit, American Airlines—its parents company is AMR—down almost 8 percent, after announcing that it planned to raise about $250 million in cash.
That is it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
A South Carolina Republican with conservative cred to spare is facing four primary challengers because he is not right-wing enough. It‘s an effort by conservatives to purify the party, distill down to its core.
And speaking of the conservative core, Sarah Palin addressed bankers and business executives in Hong Kong today, during which—a speech during which she criticized President Obama‘s policies and decisions, and praised Ronald Reagan. Is this a step back to the big stage for her?
And with the polarizing Palin back in action and efforts to purify the party in the South, what is the future of conservativism in this country?
Well, Sam Tanenhaus is editor of “The New York Times Week in Review” and “The New York Times Book Review.” He‘s the author of the great new book, “The Death of Conservatism.”
Sam, thanks for joining us.
Your book points a traditional threat in conservativism, which is to preserve what is good and fight for what is good and correct what isn‘t, not to be an constantly insurrectionist troublemaking party.
No one is listening to you.
SAM TANENHAUS, AUTHOR, “THE DEATH OF CONSERVATISM”: I guess not, Chris.
By the way, Gadhafi does a great Borat imitation, I think.
Look, what is going on here in South Carolina is, you‘ve got a guy who doesn‘t need to be purified. He is true blue, or true red, ideological conservative. Why are they going after him? Because he was one of those who thought Joe Wilson dishonored the House that he is a member of.
Conservatism is supposed to be honoring and respecting political traditions and institutions. That is what poor Inglis did. And now they are saying he is not pure enough.
It is interesting, too, because what we see is the old culture war coming back.
TANENHAUS: Nobody is looking at poor Inglis‘ record. They‘re saying he piled on the other guy.
This isn‘t about policy or—or even politics. It is a kind of verbal war that they are waging against this guy. Also, notice how, when you see a party reduced to its kind of minority core, as this group is, everybody runs to the right.
You might think, when they have been kind of pushed over to...
TANENHAUS: ... the side there, that they would want to crawl back to the center, because that‘s how the Republican Party got into power in the first place, by capturing the center.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me report to you another way of looking at this.
So, I will challenge you.
TANENHAUS: All right.
MATTHEWS: You are something of an intellectual and have written great books about Whittaker Chambers.
TANENHAUS: Hey, don‘t call me names. Don‘t call me names on TV.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m going to call that you because—I‘m going to refer you to P.T. Barnum, one of my heroes, who said, if you want a crowd, start a fight.
MATTHEWS: That is how they used to get people to come to the circus. They would have a fistfight on the street corner. And, then, after everybody came up, they handed the bills and said, come to the circus. it was before they had marched the elephants through the streets, another Republican reference.
The Republican Party has climbed back to within—well, within beating distance of the Democrats. Look at the new NBC poll we just have out today in “The Wall Street Journal.” Forty-three percent prefer the Democratic-controlled Congress. Forty percent prefer the Republican.
They are now, having had their rear ends kicked last election and the one before, are now within three points of taking back the House, perhaps.
I‘m just asking you this.
MATTHEWS: You advise them to be tame and civilized. It‘s the crazies, the birthers, the flags, the nuts...
MATTHEWS: ... the—the crazy charges against Barack Obama that seem to be working.
TANENHAUS: You know, Chris, it is a great way to draw a crowd and get people into the tent.
But we have got a tent—we have got a country with 300 million people in it. And what we are seeing is very conspicuous thousands who are calling a lot of attention to themselves, some people on cable TV, your—maybe not your network, but some others, who are also making a lot of noise.
MATTHEWS: You can take out the maybe.
TANENHAUS: The great William F. Buckley said, the conservative movement has—has always had its share of noise-makers and pyrotechnicians. That‘s who we‘re hearing from now.
But the fact is, much of the country isn‘t there. Another point, too, to remember, Chris, is, if we look back to the last period on our history, where politics was conducted at the street level, it was the left that was doing it in the late 1960s. That is what gave conservatives and the Republican Party the ticket to get back into office, because they were the defender of institutions...
TANENHAUS: ... of social order.
MATTHEWS: Although there is one point that I‘m looking at, because I‘m a practical guy, not a theoretician, like you, Sam.
MATTHEWS: And I will do this.
TANENHAUS: Not a theoretician.
MATTHEWS: I‘m looking at Eric Cantor, who is a very sharp number-two guy in the House, very smart, from Richmond, Virginia. The guy is acting very cautious.
He had a town meeting the other day that was not a bunch of fireworks and crazy people yelling crazy things. It was very civilized, on the mark. I think he has got the polls that show Republicans, if they want to get back into power, have to be—even though they have got to be conservative, they have got to be conservative grownups.
TANENHAUS: Well, sure, that‘s—that‘s exactly right.
You know, even when you—when you had that great little statistic about Twitter, we kind of forget, if you look at the reporting on this, it is actually older people, and not younger people, who use Twitter. Sure.
And, you know, it is interesting, too, that one surprisingly strong demographic for the Republican Party—it emerged in the 2008 election, and everybody looked away because of the raptures about President Obama—was the elderly.
TANENHAUS: There‘s a Census Bureau report that shows their numbers are growing. They are a major constituency. The same people who are worried that their Medicare is going to be taken away are the same ones who said to George Bush, don‘t cut into our Social Security. I think we are actually looking at a demographic shift in the country that may have as much to do with age as it does—
MATTHEWS: I think the older people, without any slight against them, because I‘ll be there soon—I want to tell you something, they are so happy with socialism, they don‘t want anybody else to have it. They have Medicare, which is free. They deserve it for working all their lives. But when everybody else wants it, a lot of Democrats want it, they say, no, no, we can‘t have that kind of government-run program.
Let me ask you about this thing about foreign policy. Is the Republican party three years from now, when they have an election—are they going to be the hawk party, the neo-conservative party? Are they going to be a party that is raising the flag of war? Or are they going to be going the other way? It looks like they are still the hawk party.
TANENHAUS: It does look that way, Chris. I thought you made a great point, and Pat did too, about the ideological, or rather political bind that Barack Obama has put himself in. During the campaign, it was very easy. It was a great line to say we took our eye off the ball in Iraq. We should have been in Afghanistan.
All the while forgetting, Afghanistan is even worse. It‘s even harder. We‘re learning now that we didn‘t even have decent intelligence coming all through the Bush years. They don‘t even know where to fight the battles right now.
What Obama was able to do politically was to set himself up in a position where he looked as if he had the more rational answer. It may not look that way in the months ahead. We know historically, the country tends to trust Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Are we going to knock off Karzai the way we knocked off Diem in ‘63?
I‘m serious. That is a deadly, awful question. How do we get out of the bind of backing a guy who stole an election? How do we get around this. This is like Garland in North Africa. We cut a deal with someone who shouldn‘t be there. Remember Garland? It is a problem.
TANENHAUS: We have made those mistakes many times. Diem too was a huge mistake. We ended up assassinating the guy, and then we do it in the name of democracy. We alienate the people. I think Dee-Dee Myers is right. It sounds like a bad old movie we‘ve been through before.
MATTHEWS: I know. I don‘t know who big Mien is going to be this time. Anyway, thank you Sam Tanenhaus. Good luck with the book, “The Death of Conservatism.”
Up next, the Democrats are getting 60 senators it looks like pretty soon. The big question is who is it going to be? My money is right now it‘s going to be Paul Kirk. You heard it here. Paul Kirk is going to be the next senator from Massachusetts in a couple of hours. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Time for the politics fix with Salon.com‘s Joan Walsh. Joan, I‘m up here in Massachusetts. I am going to give a speech at my college, Holy Cross, and I‘m thrilled that we are going to have a new senator from Massachusetts within perhaps a few hours. The word I‘m getting is Paul Kirk, who was chairman of the party, the Democratic party, a long time Kennedy ally, head of the Kennedy Library, basically, the Foundation.
Apparently, the Kennedy people were ticked off at the “Boston Globe” goo-goos who tried to jam Dukakis down their throat. You know what a goo-goo is. We don‘t like them.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Yes, these good government people. Look, Mike Dukakis would have been a fine choice. This is really a political and sentimental action, Chris, as you know. And to have gone to this trouble and then defy the wishes of the Kennedy boys and Vicki Kennedy would make no sense. That‘s just not something Devall Patrick could think about doing. I‘m hearing all the same things. It sounds like you might have another senator during your trip.
MATTHEWS: We will have some charisma at least this time. Dukakis may have been a little deficient in that department. But Paul Kirk has a lot of it. What about this whole question of 60 votes? Will the reality of 60 Democrats change the thinking of you and people like you, like Ed Schultz, my colleague, who are tough and very militant. I use that word positively in your case.
WALSH: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And also in Ed‘s case. Who believe the Democrats can rule because they wish to, in a ram-rod sense. Damn it, if have the power, you take it and you use it. You don‘t wait for 60 votes. You do it the hard way. You jam it through with reconciliation. I‘m talking about health care.
WALSH: I understand.
MATTHEWS: Is 60 votes make it more likely they will wait and try to get it the usual way, rather than jam it through?
WALSH: Look, I think they have to wait and try to get it the usual way, if they get a senator. We also have the sad situation of Senator Byrd. So we are dealing with a situation that is very much in flux. Look, I think everyone prefers at this point, if Barack Obama and his allies in the Senate can twist some arms and can bring along Kent Conrad and some of the other people who have doubts about thorough going public option—I think everybody prefers that he do that, rather than going reconciliation.
In the end, if it has to go through reconciliation, I would prefer that than a bad bill. We‘re not there yet. I think 60 votes is a great shot in the arm to get the party back together. We‘ve never had those 60 votes. There was no Franken and then we lost Kennedy.
MATTHEWS: Why not invite everyone to a room, close the door, and say nobody leaves the room until we agree on a bill. You have the president in that room. I‘m serious about this. Get the staffers out of the room, if you have to. Get them in the room and say, yes, you‘re not leaving. This is a party vote. OK? Ladies and gentlemen. This is a party vote like the budget. You are not going to vote against it.
So what is it that your problem is? Let‘s fix it. We can all leave together and enjoy life as a victorious political party.
WALSH: A victorious political party. We have the power to do that. We are going to define our party. Sure, there is going to be horse trading. But why can‘t we come together and really—if they could do that, they would really help their chances in 2010, Chris. That is the political win, as well as I think it would probably result in a good bill. But we‘ll see.
MATTHEWS: Is Rahm Emanuel the person to do this or does it take someone who is not there yet? Rahm Emanuel is a tough customer. He knows the Hill. He could have been Speaker some day. Does he have that kind of grasp and that kind of scope of attack to reach these moderates, or is he too big city? I‘m wondering if he can talk turkey to Blanche Lincoln. Can he talk to Mary Landrieu?
I‘m serious. Can he sit and talk to a moderate. I‘m not sure you can. I‘m not sure I can. You can‘t talk to these moderates. They are Democrats. If you‘re a Democrat, you say, look, we have a common interest in success here. We have a president whose life is on the line as a political leader here. If he goes down, and fails on his number one objective, he will be a failure. That‘s going to hurt the party.
WALSH: We will all be failures. He will take down the party. To come to this point where we have a decisive margin in the House, to have an actual 60-vote margin in the Senate, and then lose; no, it‘s got to be the president. I don‘t think it‘s Rahm.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s bring in Jonathan Martin. The big question we‘ve got
it looks like we have Paul Kirk as the next senator from Massachusetts.
Let‘s make that assumption, put that on the table. Does the presence of 60 Democrats now make it more likely they‘ll go the usual route, get 60 Democrats, maybe Olympia Snowe for 61, to replace maybe Ben Nelson or whatever? Can they do it now?
JONATHAN MARTIN, “POLITICO”: Yes. I think it‘s more likely. But Chris, I‘m not sure how much more likely it actually is. Keep in mind, that 60 is not a real 60 because they‘re not all true liberal Democrats who will vote the party line. You‘ve got a lot of red-state Democrats in the south and the west who are going to want to take a long look at this bill and are not going to automatically be a Democratic vote when that roll call is called, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but the roll call ultimately is called, and whether you‘re the party that wants to win or the party that wants to lose. Does anybody in the party think they‘re better off losing on health care? Jonathan Martin? You‘re with “Politico.” Tell me, does anybody think it‘s a win if you lose?
MARTIN: Talk to Blanche Lincoln. Talk to Kent Conrad. They may think it‘s a tougher vote to vote for it than vote against it in their states. Now, you‘re right in the sense that shooting it down is a big, big step. I‘m not sure those Democrats are going to want to be responsible for ultimately killing a health care bill that then hurts their party in the long run. But they‘re looking out for their own state, 60-40 sort of Bush red states.
MATTHEWS: OK, this isn‘t the only problem Barack Obama has as president. His biggest problem is much more real. It‘s about life and death on this planet. It‘s the war in Afghanistan. Was he right to double down and put more troops in there? Will he keep fighting for Afghanistan? We‘ll be right back with Joan. Big question, is he willing to pull the plug? Pat Buchanan asked the question; if he‘s decided he‘s wrong, and we‘ve got Karzai in there, the wrong guy, do we have to leave and he has to say so? Back in a minute with the fix. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Joan Walsh and Jonathan Martin of “Politico” for more of the politician fix. Joan, what did you make of Traficant tonight in his return to greatness there?
WALSH: I think he‘s a legend in his own mind. I don‘t think he‘s returning to greatness any time soon, if he ever was great. It was pretty hilarious. You did a good job asking him questions. But what an amalgam of populist but also flat tax. It‘s all about Traficant. It‘s not about political—
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s about anger in Youngstown.
MATTHEWS: He‘s still running for something. You, first, Jonathan, on this one. This is a tricky one for both of you, for un-opinionated and opinionated journalism. It‘s tough. Afghanistan is real. It‘s not just a campaign issue. It‘s not a public relations issue. It‘s not an Obama issue. It‘s a reality. We have people—I don‘t about you folks, but I was taken by the sight of that young Italian kid over the coffin. Maybe because you see it.
There‘s so many Americans getting killed every day. When you see a young kid leaning over his father‘s coffin, and realizing the total finality of that, the final, final forever loss of your father, for a young kid—and you go, wait a minute, Italy‘s not that far away from America. Afghanistan‘s really far away. And it‘s different culturally. And can we really, countries like Italy and America, really affect what goes on in a country that‘s not just Islamic, but zealously Islamic in some quarters, where people really believe in Sharia and are not going to change if we stay there 100 damn years.
My question to you, Jonathan, how does the president defend a campaign, a war, that isn‘t going to change anything?
MARTIN: Well, it‘s not an easy task, Chris, especially with the base of his own party. You see Vice President Biden now, reports coming out about his own influence. He wants to have a smaller footprint there, move more American troops, and sort of do insurgent work in Pakistan.
MATTHEWS: Anti-terrorism. They want to go from anti-insurgent to anti-terrorist. Yes.
MARTIN: Chris, you know the House very well. There‘s a lot of Democrats in the House of Representatives who have grave concerns about what the plan of action here is in Afghanistan. You can be certain that those folks are getting louder and louder. It‘s not a huge coalition now, but it‘s a growing coalition of folks on the left wing of his party who are not going to stand for a long-term sort of occupation in this country.
MATTHEWS: You know, Joan, you could have Ike Skelton from Missouri, and the rest could be Republicans. He could have a few conservatives on the Middle East, hawkish people on the Middle East. Generally, I think Jonathan‘s right. It‘s an easy vote to say Afghanistan‘s not working. We‘ve got a crooked government over there that stole the election. What are we doing there?
WALSH: You know, I‘ve heard people describe him as seeming weak because he‘s taking his time. I disagree with that, Chris. The facts on the grounds have really changed. I think the weakness of Karzai and this shady election have really changed the nature of our understanding and our commitment to Karzai. So if we don‘t have a Karzai government, and we‘re not fully behind them, then what are we backing?
I also think that, you know, we‘ve got George Will, we‘ve got a few conservatives also expressing doubt. Really, the issue here is, you know, the Biden versus Hillary debate, where Biden is saying, yes, counter-terrorism, fight al Qaeda, and Hillary is saying, but if you get the Taliban back, good luck getting al Qaeda out.
That‘s in the Democratic party. That‘s a Democratic party battle right now.
MATTHEWS: What do you think the president thinks of Senator Clinton, Secretary Clinton making such a strong statement of policy at this point?
WALSH: I was surprised to see that. I don‘t know if it‘s with his blessing because it‘s what he thinks or—
MATTHEWS: Has she boxed him in?
WALSH: No, I don‘t think he‘s boxed in. This is a supremely, supremely self-confident man, a supremely smart man. He‘s got his two closest advisers. They differ. He‘ll make the decision.
MATTHEWS: I love the way you do this, Joan. He‘s a self-confident man. He can take a punch from a woman. Anyway, thank you very much, Joan Walsh. I love the way you do this. You can‘t win these arguments. You always win. Jonathan Martin, thank you for joining us. Thank you, Joan Walsh.
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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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