Guests: Dara Brown, Andrea Mitchell, David Gregory, Chuck Todd, Michelle Kosinski, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, Manuel Roig Franzia, Laura Blank, Susan Defrancis
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Secretary Clinton heads to Haiti.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Leading off tonight: race against death, people need water sooner than they need food in hot climates they need it much faster. For this basic human reason the situation in Haiti is growing more tense and desperate as the hours go by, as aid organizations struggle to distribute water, food and supplies to the injured and displaced. Two to three million people are in dire need of help right now.
Looters have begun taking to the streets and fear of widespread violence is gripping the city at Port-au-Prince. The longer it takes for aid to get to the people the worse the situation is likely to become.
Haitian government workers have buried some 7,000 corpses in mass graves and hundreds of bodies are strewn along roadsides and outside the city morgue. No one can really be sure what the death toll is already. The Pan-American Health Organization now estimates it could be as high as 100,000 but that‘s just the latest estimate.
U.S. military cargo planes arrived at the airport today; more than 100 Para-Troopers as well from the 82nd Airborne. They landed overnight, and up to 10,000 U.S. troops are expected to be in Haiti by Monday.
200 Haitian patients have been evacuated from the devastation; they‘re presently at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
President Obama pledged long-term reconstruction aid to Haiti‘s president today. And he urged patience in getting immediate relief supplies distributed to suffering Haitians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARAK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are going to be many difficult days ahead. It will take time to establish distribution points so that we can ensure that resources are delivered safely and effectively and in an orderly fashion.
But I want the people of Haiti to know that we will do what it takes to save lives and to help them get back on their feet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And late today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that she will travel to Haiti tomorrow, that‘s Saturday.
Our other big story of the day: that stunning senate race up in Massachusetts, the bottom may be dropping out for Democrat Martha Coakley, so much so that President Obama has now said to make a last minute—you might say last gasp—visit to the state on Sunday to stump for her on behalf of the Democratic ticket. They may face defeat up there which would embolden Republican candidates of course all across the country if they can win in Massachusetts, they can win anywhere.
It could discourage Democrats in the same way and it could weaken the president politically. It would most certainly deny him that 60th senate seat, that 60th vote on the health care bill he desperately needs to pass it.
Let‘s face it the stakes couldn‘t be much higher politically here at home.
But let‘s start with the latest on the Haiti disaster. NBC‘s Michele Kosinski is in Port-au-Prince right now at the airport. Thank you so much, Michelle. You‘ve been working all day this story.
What is the situation now with regard to our aid supplies getting to the people who are potentially about to die of thirst over there?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It‘s great to see they are working more efficiently that I mean, day by day there have been obvious changes in the efficiency and just the ability based on infrastructure of getting things in to the airport here in Port-au-Prince and then getting them out to the people who need them the most.
But right behind us we have a foreign military camp that just set up today. There‘s also a field hospital set up here, where people with crush injuries who have been pulled from the rubble were being treated and then evacuated out, many of them to the United States.
You know the military has already evacuated more than 500 people to the U.S. Some of them badly injured. We‘re told a lot of them with broken bones and injuries of that sort and some of them pretty critically injured, too.
Planes have been taking off more frequently. A lot of military planes here, choppers, transport planes, it just seemed like during the day there was a constant coming and going. And that‘s not to say that it‘s making an enormous dent at this point, because we all know just how big this disaster is—Chris.
MATTHEWS: What do we make of this side story, which could become the main story, the violence potential, the looting potential. We‘re looking at pictures now stock footage right now, Michelle of some kids who are obviously jumping on some kid it was in a flight there and grabbing what they can.
The question of 4,000 prisoners and criminal prisoners released from prison there when that prison was blown up, on the streets now, the desperation of regular people who were non-criminal but in their desperation anything can happen.
What will be the role of the U.S. military with 10,000 troops in that regard?
KOSINSKI: Well, they‘ll probably work right alongside the U.N. peacekeepers whose role that has been for years now. But we haven‘t seen any of that violence ourselves but we know that there are reports coming out from people who‘ve been on the ground a little bit longer or of citizens piling up bodies as a roadblocks in an attempt to stop the transport trucks so that they can get some supplies to them.
You know, disturbing images and stories coming out. There‘s always an issue in this country whenever there is a state of upheaval be it a natural disaster or political turmoil that there will be violence, fires, rioting in the streets.
So far it hasn‘t been widespread. It seems to be just in pockets.
But I‘ll tell you just like this island is a place of many different worlds, Haiti itself is also a place of different worlds. Here at the airport, totally different world than it is out in the streets just a couple of blocks away. And out in the countryside, hours away from Port-au-Prince, we saw absolutely no violence.
And we knew that the people were hungry. We knew they were thirsty and desperate, because they were telling us so. But they were treating one another and visitors with nothing but politeness and graciousness as we talked to them and we really couldn‘t help them and they understood.
It‘s just one of those situations where everyone is eyeing that possibility, they‘re concerned about it. Of course the military is planning that and keeping fingers crossed that it doesn‘t really erupt after several more days of this misery—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. Michelle Kosinski there at the airport‘s airbase at Port-au-Prince for NBC News.
Manuel Roig Franzia is reporting for Haiti—from Haiti for “The Washington Post,” he was on earlier with us. Let‘s check in with him. Manuel, the latest at 7:00 Eastern now, this is the fourth night of this disaster. What can you report to us as you‘re reporting for “The Washington Post” tonight?
MANUEL ROIG FRANZIA, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, darkness has fallen here; it‘s a brief moment of calm. So many people are living out in the streets. It‘s a very noisy place right now. Port-au-Prince is a loud place during the day. We just heard a big grinding noise, for instance, just to give you a sense of the sights and smells, right. Nobody knew what it is, but people screamed.
People are on edge. There‘s paranoia, and at night, because we‘ve had tremors and aftershocks, people are on the edge about that.
MATTHEWS: Sights and smells, give us the full picture with this amount of death. It must be getting close to this situation where you‘re going to have a stench in that city that‘s just overwhelming with all the bodies decaying, with the horrendous destruction of everything including all whatever sewer facilities did exist, it seems to me that they‘re up-ended to put it lightly. What does it smell like, to be blunt?
FRANZIA: Chris, it‘s an unbelievably horrible smell. I walked today through something that I could only describe as an apocalypse on the face of this earth. A morgue outside the General Hospital of Haiti, where hundreds—and I‘m talking about hundreds of human beings were lying there dead. Their bodies were bloated, they were entering rigor mortis, some of them were not to offend your viewers too much, but some oozing strange substances. And this was a smell that came up from that area that was impossible to block out.
I was wearing a surgical mask. I had my arm over my nose and I had my shirt across my face and it still almost knocks me off my feet. It was so bad.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I went through something like that years ago in Ethiopia during the famine over there.
Let me ask you about your sense of the logistics now. We have a country that was a basket case to begin with, a fourth-world country politically and economically.
Will it be able to benefit, I mean, will people just have their hands out asking for aid or will there be any possibility of enterprise, of community effort, of building? I mean, how do you get to even—well, let‘s talk about the first stage, feeding all those people and keeping civil order. What‘s that challenge about to be like as we bring in the food supplies?
FRANZIA: That‘s going to be extremely hard. Under the best of circumstances, Haiti can become very chaotic. I can remember being here for the election in 2006, when people nearly rioted just to enter polling places. And this was just to cast their vote in an election, when there was really no doubt that they would be able to do that.
I think it‘s very possible that you will see pushing and shoving and punching and all sorts of aggressiveness when more food supplies come out. You know, some of the aid agencies at the airport here, which is in a staging area and because of bureaucratic chaos there, a lot of the materials have not been getting out into the city.
FRANZIA: As that starts to trickle out people are going to get much more intense.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a great report, though, on a sad situation. It seems like it will get worse before it gets better. Manuel, thank you very much.
Manuel Roig Franzia, for “The Washington Post” and for us luckily tonight in Haiti.
Much more coming up about this colossal challenge of getting the aid to the victims of the earthquake. That‘s just the first step. What about creating a country again there and there hasn‘t been much to start with all these hundreds of years; a disaster upon a disaster in Haiti.
Relief workers face huge obstacles obviously in that country. We‘re going to get a front line report from aid workers in just a minute.
You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get an update now on the relief effort in Haiti and whether the big organizations, the aid organizations are making progress already in getting help to the victims of the earthquake. We‘ve seen the devastation, there are more pictures.
Let‘s go now to the phone from Haiti, by Laura Blank she‘s joining us now. She‘s the spokesperson for the group, well-known group, the World Vision Organization.
Laura, thank you for joining us. Can you give us some specifications on what you‘ve been able to get in there and what you‘re hoping to get in there, what kind of need there is—Laura.
LAURA BLANK, WORLD VISION ORGANIZATION (via telephone): Sure, well, you know, today was a really big day for us. We started the morning with the realization that we had about one days‘ worth of supplies for the people that we are trying to help. That‘s one day worth of water, a little bit of food, some medical supplies and blankets.
By the end of the day tonight within about an hour actually we‘re expecting that flight in that will have 18 metric tons of additional supplies. We also are expecting more throughout the weekend; we‘re expecting to get food and more water. We‘re also going to be setting up the tent right on the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti so we‘re starting to get some momentum with our relief efforts but the scope of what‘s happened here is just massive.
It‘s hard to explain it, but once you‘re here it becomes more of a reality every day. There‘s just so much work to do and we need a lot more help.
MATTHEWS: Well, we just got a report that even in the best of circumstances when people are allowed to vote and that‘s free, and when there‘s an ample opportunity to vote people get antsy, anxious and they start pushing and shoving. How do you produce a setting and you create a camp somewhere, you set up a line, how do you make sure people just stand in line?
BLANK: That‘s a great question. That‘s actually what we‘re doing tomorrow. We‘ve been working with these camps. There are two specific camps in neighborhoods near our offices in Port-au-Prince. We‘ve gone down there once before, we go in, we ask for the leaders. A lot of times in these communities a body is formed kind of unofficial groups, they may have a local minister or a local community leader.
So we‘ve met with them, we‘re talking with them, we‘re asking them to nominate essentially other community leaders in these camps...
MATTHEWS: That‘s right.
BLANK: ... we‘ll form groups, we‘ll get registration cards. World Vision has been doing this for a long time and we‘ve got this down to a science but it definitely takes a lot of work.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about what you could give people. You give them bottles of water, that‘s clean water, which is essential, and then what do you give them to eat? What is the food supply you‘re bringing in there? Is it corn? What is it?
BLANK: Right now because people don‘t have the capacity to cook we do have things that can be cooked like corn blends, turns into a kind of porridge but we‘re getting ready-to-eat meals. Food that we can just hand out that people can eat quickly. Also we‘ll be giving them some sort of high energy, high protein biscuit or cracker. It‘s not much but it‘s better than what they‘ve had.
We‘ve spoke to people who haven‘t eaten since the earthquake or even before and they‘ve had no food and now heading into five days.
MATTHEWS: We‘re looking at some stock footage from today I believe of people rushing over apparently one person had something and everybody else wanted it, that‘s what I‘m worried about here today.
What is the next two weeks look like for your World Vision
Organization? You begin to feed people, they begin to rely on you, they come back every day for more food. Where does it stop? Does this just go on?
Now, it looks to me like there‘s no enterprise in the country left. No commerce, no community organization, no potential to create food or even to find water. It seems to me that this is going to be a complete relief operation for months, if not years ahead.
BLANK: Well, that‘s true. This is certainly a project that or a relief operation that will be going on for a long time. This won‘t be over in just a few weeks.
But World Vision has been in Haiti for more than 60 years. So we‘ve been working with these communities and a lot of people lost their homes but they still want to fend for themselves. They still want to try to provide for their families so we‘re committed to finding sustainable solutions for them and not just giving them a handout for the months and years to come.
Many of our own staff have lost their homes so this devastation is happening in our own community and (INAUDIBLE) they might want to do well.
MATTHEWS: Have you been living down there, Laura?
BLANK: Pardon me?
MATTHEWS: Have you been down there for awhile? Is this not unfamiliar to you this whole world you‘re helping?
BLANK: Well, you know, I was actually here in Haiti just a few months ago and it‘s incredible to see how different it is in just a few months, even just to walk through the airport. There‘s no customs, no security, we‘re just walking in and out.
It‘s pretty chaotic right now but we‘re hoping we can start to bring a little bit of civility into some of these communities once again up and running with food and water. And these are just some of the basics to start felling a little bit more stable.
MATTHEWS: Well, take care of yourself. Laura Blank is with World Vision. Thank you. It‘s a great organization to be down there.
Susan DeFrancis is chief public affairs for the Red Cross. Susie, thank you so much for coming back on tonight. Give us an update. This is the fourth night of this disaster.
SUSAN DEFRANCIS, CHIEF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, RED CROSS: Well, Chris, as you mentioned, there is some progress today and we‘re all glad to see that. It‘s not going as fast as we‘d like. Humanitarian organization like us, we want to be rushing in there but we‘re seeing progress.
We‘re getting people in by land now through the roads and they‘re able to go out through the streets, begin to administer first aid. We put together some kits for about 1,500 families that has some basic necessities for them. We got a makeshift ambulance up and running to take people to field hospitals which we‘ll be setting up.
So we‘re making some progress by land, by air. We finally got clearance for two of our big supply planes. We haven‘t got confirmation yet. They‘ve landed but we did get clearance and that‘s great, because they bring such needed supplies, a whole field hospital, water and sanitation equipment, telecommunications equipment.
So and then we‘ve got a cargo ship that we want to get in, too, but that port is not going to really open they said until the 18th of January, and it‘s only got a few forklifts and a crane that‘s broken, so it‘s going to be hard to figure out how we move the supplies from there once we get in the port.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get practical now with the donors. We‘ve been advertising on this network as much as we can. The fact that all you had to do is text “Haiti” and then 90999 to send $10 automatically to the Red Cross. What will $10 do? In your effort?
DEFRANCIS: Well, sure, I mean $10 can go a long way in Haiti, Chris. I mean that can help provide water, food, basic tarps; things like that. I mean, it‘s a great program, the texting. I think it‘s brought in a lot of people that may not be able to contribute in large amounts, but feel that they want to do something. So we are really thrilled at the success of that program.
In fact, the NFL announced today that they‘ll be promoting it at their playoff games this weekend.
MATTHEWS: Good for them and good for you.
Let me ask you, we don‘t have much time here, let me talk about Red Cross. You guys are always very good when there‘s a crisis and the question of course is right now, when you go into that situation, we‘re looking at a pretty troubling situation, not just immense poverty to start with, not just one of the worst earthquakes in 100 years in that country, the worst one in 100 years, not only the devastation and demolition of all the buildings from the palace to the cathedral to everything, the prison, everything‘s blown up, it‘s like a nuclear event there.
On top of all that, you‘ve got a criminal element out there. You‘ve got 4,000 prisoners now throughout that area now who have been released by not exactly by judicial fiat, they were released because their prison was blown out, they‘re out in the streets. What‘s going to happen? Are you going to be able to have security as you deliver these supplies?
DEFRANCIS: Well, security is going to be a problem. It is right now, and we‘ll rely on the authorities there to help keep the security, but this is going to be part of a massive long-term operation, Chris. This is going to take years.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Ok.
DEFRANCIS: We just went through five years on the tsunami recovery, and it could be every bit as long as that.
MATTHEWS: Ok, it‘s great having you on, Suzy Defrancis from the Red Cross. Thanks for joining us. Good luck this weekend.
DEFRANCIS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: let‘s turn to politics. That senate race up in Massachusetts is so tight right now the Republican Scott Brown is surging, a lot of people think he‘s going to win this next Tuesday.
One of the people who doesn‘t want him to win, the president; he‘ll be up there on Sunday. You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It‘s big news and it‘s a big deal. President Obama will go to Boston on Sunday to campaign for Martha Coakley. Here‘s White House press secretary Robert Gibbs today. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don‘t think Scott Brown will win. One of the reasons the president accepted the invitation of the Coakley campaign to go, I think the president sees a pretty clear distinction between a candidate in Martha Coakley who will fight for Massachusetts and a candidate on the other side who feels comfortable fighting for the insurance industry and big banks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW: Chuck Todd joins us now, he is of course NBC‘s chief White House correspondent and political writer. Chuck, it‘s hard to call these but which way is it headed right now? Up in Massachusetts the race between Martha Coakley, the Democratic nominee and Scott Brown, the Republican?
TODD: Well, based on all the data I‘ve gotten my hands on and heard about and reported on over the last 12 hours if the election were today Brown would win and if this weren‘t Massachusetts we‘d be calling him the favorite to win but because of the Democratic bent of Massachusetts because Boston is a machine town when it comes to getting out the vote and because it‘s a special election you don‘t know what turnout is going to be like.
And I‘ll tell you this, the White House political operation if they didn‘t think that the president could make a difference between winning and losing they wouldn‘t be sending him so it‘s a very tight race, but right now all the momentum‘s with Brown.
I mean, listen to this stat, Chris. Brown has raised over $1 million every day this week through yesterday, for a total of $6 million in four days. He is getting grassroots money.
By the way, he‘s not gotten hardly any money from the national party. They‘ve kind of, there‘s been sort of a mutual decision here, you know, he doesn‘t want to run as a national Republican. He wants to run as an independent, so he‘s really tried to keep his ties with the national party as distanced as he could.
Today was the only time, for instance, that we‘ve seen him with a national Republican figure when he campaigned with Rudy Giuliani, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What struck me are a couple of numbers in the Suffolk poll. First of all the Suffolk University poll has it 50-46 for Brown, pollster.com‘s trendlines have crossed on Brown‘s favor. I talked about it the other day and people questioned that but it looked like it was headed that way, clearly it‘s headed now towards Brown‘s direction.
Two national implications I wanted you to talk to, one is the independents. Based on the Suffolk poll I read late last night it shows independents breaking heavily for the Republican candidate.
MATTHEWS: That seems to be a national situation you‘re facing now if you‘re Democrat.
TODD: We‘ve seen this in our own national polling, that‘s where the president‘s approval rating has eroded the most. We saw it in Virginia; we saw it in New Jersey. There‘s plenty of anecdotal evidence it‘s the middle, it‘s independents that are moving away from Democrats right now and frankly moving away from all incumbents.
And again Brown‘s been able to grab the outsider mantle and we‘ve seen this pattern, the outsider candidates have had a better shot in all of these races that we‘ve seen and there‘s not been a lot but boy to be anti-Washington right now, to be anti-incumbent is a big deal even in supposed deep blue Massachusetts.
And I thought, Chris, the national implications for this, I mean, on the last day of the president‘s first year in office to lose your 60th senate seat and it‘s Ted Kennedy‘s senate seat, the health care senate seat. You don‘t want to say it‘s crippling to the president‘s agenda but it certainly hobbles him and boy does it make him look politically a lot weaker on the first day of his second year than he was any day in his first year in office.
MATTHEWS: Ok. A lot of other people out there where that would take (INAUDIBLE) word in Pennsylvania, Russ Feingold, Patty Murray, the whole bunch of them have imbibed him. But here‘s the question. If the polling‘s right up there and you and I are students of this—if the polling‘s right and 99 percent of people have made up their minds in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, isn‘t the president risking an awful lot going up there and asking people who‘ve already made up their minds to change their minds just because he shows up on Sunday?
TODD: Well, this is about energizing and getting Democrats out. He‘s not talking to swing voters on Sunday. This is about talking to voters who approve of him, who are favorable to him.
Look Coakley has run a dreadful campaign. There‘s no part of her campaign that anybody would say is a model. I had one Democrat say that Martha Coakley‘s campaign is so bad it makes Creigh Deeds look like the Obama campaign and obviously whenever Democrats...
MATTHEWS: Has she campaigned at all. Has she gone out and walked up and down the triple-deckers? Has she gone door-to-door?
TODD: In the last two weeks, yes, but she took off about a month, and look, everybody did it. People in Washington, I mean this is, everybody‘s going to blame Coakley that she wanted to coast, and everybody was whispering in her ear once you won the primary you‘re the virtual senator, you‘re the senator-elect, you might as well start thinking that way.
And you know the Republicans didn‘t and this guy Brown, he‘s not a neophyte. This has been a candidate the Republicans have identified for the last few years in Massachusetts, wanted to get him to run for Congress, believed he was a rising star so when the spotlight got turned on, he performed and she‘s turned out, you know, across between sort of a technocrat a little bit, I think doesn‘t seem to have this automatic warmth, hasn‘t been able to connect and now they‘re grasping for messages. Today it‘s all about Wall Street and the bank fee, just shows you they never had a consistent message about why not Brown. Elections are about choices. They‘re not always just a referendum on one party or the other.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: You know in the old days, maybe I shouldn‘t be harkening back to the old days, the Democrats faced this kind of a disaster in the works, you‘d go back to your ones, the people you were sure going to vote Democrat and you‘d make sure they got to the polling place, you‘d get them lunch, you‘d get them a car.
MATTHEWS: You‘d make sure they got there and in some cases you‘d be buying people to get them, not officially buying them but getting them there, there‘s block secretaries, block captains, you‘d be getting them there with street money, legitimate but it‘s a little bit old school.
MATTHEWS: But I hear talking to somebody today there aren‘t people up there in Massachusetts like that anymore. There aren‘t the automatic Democrat votes those ones anymore. You can‘t count on anybody. You go to the regulars and they say well, I‘m ticked off about taxes, too. Is that right?
TODD: No. It is and it doesn‘t help that Coakley didn‘t have a great relationship with sort of the Democratic hierarchy there in Massachusetts, so all of a sudden she‘s in panic mode and everybody‘s going uh-huh, but we‘ll see. You‘re right, Chris, it isn‘t the old machine that‘s up there.
MATTHEWS: Well the street corner guys are probably getting called on a bit too late perhaps. We‘ll see. It could be very close. Thank you, Chuck Todd. It‘s a great to have a pro.
So how big of a defeat would it be if the Democrats lose Ted Kennedy‘s seat? First of all they‘re down to 59, they don‘t have 60. They can‘t pass health care, they can‘t beat the filibuster. That‘s the math. We bring in Steve McMahon coming back to tell us what the dems could do given the possible disaster on their hands up in the bay state.
You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
DARA BROWN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Dara Brown. We‘ll return to our continuing coverage of the disaster in Haiti in just a moment, but first a look at some of the other important stories making news today.
A Pentagon investigation into the shootings at Ft. Hood finds several doctors failed to use appropriate judgment when conducting performance reviews of the alleged gunman. Investigators say his security clearance may have been revoked if proper procedures had been followed.
Suspended NBA star Gilbert Arenas pleaded guilty today to carrying a pistol without a license. A felony conviction could land him behind bars for up to two years.
Johnson & Johnson is widening its voluntary recall of some of its most popular over-the-counter brands including Tylenol, Motrin, Rolaids and Benadryl. Consumers complained of an unusual odor coming from the products.
And Wall Street had its worst day of the New Year, the Dow plunging more than 100 points and a lackluster earnings report from JP Morgan and a soft reading on consumer sentiment.
Now it is back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Republican Scott Brown‘s poll numbers are heading upwards. President Obama is headed to Boston Sunday facing the loss of that 60th Democratic vote in the Senate. Does the president have to do something big or does he have nothing to lose right now? Let‘s bring in the strategists, Democrat Steve McMahon and Republican Todd Harris.
Todd you‘re smiling again. That means I have to start with you.
This looks like a big win for you. What would you do to lock it down? There‘s still a chance that Scott Brown isn‘t going to win even though he‘s moving up in the polls. How would you lock it in the last three days?
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, the one thing that I think you‘re going to see a continued focus on is independent voters. The reason why Democrats are having such a hard time in Massachusetts right now is because I‘ll share some internal private polling that I‘ve seen by a 3-1 margin independents are breaking toward Republicans. You‘ve got President Obama obviously coming in this weekend, but for voters, independent voters in particular in Massachusetts, who are looking to send someone to Washington who is going to have an independent voice, not tow the party line, President Obama who right now has about a 40 percent approval rating among independent voters that may not be the best message for independents. It‘s great to rally the Democratic base, but the reason why she‘s having problems is not because she‘s not getting the Democratic base, she‘s not getting those independent voters.
MATTHEWS: What would you do, exploit her base, make sure they all turn out? What would you do in the last three days?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Democrats still outnumber Republicans in Massachusetts by 3-1 so what you really need to do is take those Democrats who seem not very interested in the race right now and try to gin up that turnout and usually it doesn‘t work because usually you don‘t have a 3-1 advantage. If President Obama can go in there and get Democrats who are apathetic excited and if Bill Clinton who was there today can get those Democrats excited and get them to turn out, then the natural advantage will help her quite a bit.
MATTHEWS: How do you get people excited about a candidate they‘re not excited by?
MCMAHON: That‘s a good question. I think that‘s what ultimately they have to figure out. She has not run the best campaign.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s go. How did your party figure out that the key to winning in Massachusetts, now this was a real tricky one, was to run on the Kennedy legacy, especially Jack Kennedy? Your candidate ran a very effective ad during Christmas and New Years showing Jack Kennedy coming up for tax cuts as a way to grow the economy back when he was president. This guy used Kennedy, Martha Coakley, the Democrat, never mentions apparently the Kennedy legacy. What‘s going on?
HARRIS: I don‘t think it was a question of Republicans being able to sort of seize the Kennedy legacy for our own, but Brown was able to neutralize the Kennedy legacy or the Kennedy effect, if you will, so it wouldn‘t actually hurt him. They have focused like a laser, Steve‘s absolutely right, Republicans are outnumbered in Massachusetts wildly, so if you run to the Republican base in Massachusetts, you‘re going to get, you‘re going to lose really badly. They focus like a laser on those independent voters and so far they‘ve run a very, very successful campaign that private polling I‘ve seen shows the race really trending Brown‘s way.
MATTHEWS: How can you lose an election in the state where only 15 percent of the people are Republican?
MCMAHON: You know we‘re talking about this before—
MATTHEWS: Steve, how do you lose an election where only 15 percent of the people are Republican?
MCMAHON: There are two lines you can run on, there‘s a left/right line and you can either be more left or more right. In a Democratic state the left/right line seems to make perfect sense to run on. The second line, which is the insider/outsider line and the insider/outsider line isn‘t a partisan line. What Scott Brown chose to do was run on that line and make himself the outsider in this race and what you could see from Virginia earlier last year to new jersey, and everywhere in between the outsiders have an advantage, an anti-incumbent, anti-elected official year. Martha Coakley chose to run the left/right campaign.
MATTHEWS: How is that an argument?
MCMAHON: More important left/right voter this is year is inside/outside, they‘re tired of politicians and want change.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s extrapolate this nationwide. You‘re looking at this in Florida the Rubio race as one of your clients. Do all Republicans run as outsiders, do all of them say I‘m an outsider, the Democrats are running the show I‘m an outsider. I‘ve been in office for 20 or 30 years I‘m an outsider. Is that the game that will be played coming out of Massachusetts?
HARRIS: There‘s no question that the lesson learned not just from Massachusetts but from New Jersey as well, and to some extent Virginia is exactly what Steve is saying you want to be an outsider this year. Marco Rubio one of the greatest gifts that happened to this campaign is the man hug of Charlie Crist with Barack Obama because there‘s no way, it‘s difficult for Charlie Crist to paint himself as an outsider with that photo circulating around. This is a real problem nationally for Democrats. Charlie cook, who was about the best handicapper of Congressional races that there is, has released his list of the 50 most competitive house races in the country, 40 of those are held by Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Right, let me ask -
HARRIS: It‘s a real problem.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll give Steve the chance. You have the high hand, let‘s go to the hot head. What do Democrats do if you unaccounted? Suppose you‘re Arlen Specter, a brand spanking new Democrat, what do you do to run, knowing the wind‘s blowing against the incumbent Democrats?
MCMAHON: You have to first unravel why the wind is blowing that way. In Massachusetts, for instance, there‘s a 35 percent approval rating for the notion of health care reform and I presume that‘s pretty consistent across the country, if it‘s 35 percent in Massachusetts, it‘s probably about that elsewhere. One of the things that has to happen since the Democrats and the Congress have spent a year in health care reform is they‘ve got to get that bill passed, got to get it signed and they have to explain to people why it‘s good for them, even if they have insurance—
MATTHEWS: So they must pass. What do they do if they don‘t have 60 senators?
MCMAHON: That‘s a good question. The only way they can do it is if the house is willing to accept in the name of greater health care reform the Senate version of the bill without any change because then it doesn‘t have to go back to the Senate. If we go to the conference, if there‘s not 60 votes and comes back to the vote in the Senate it‘s a problem.
MATTHEWS: What a torturous route that is.
MCMAHON: It‘s a torturous route but the house is basically accepting most of the Senate bill already.
MATTHEWS: In your full grin tonight, my friend, Todd, do you see the Republicans being able to win the house and the Senate if this trend is that thank started in Jersey and certainly did in Virginia, and if it picks up in Massachusetts one of the most liberal states ever, if you can win there, you can probably win just about anywhere, right?
HARRIS: Look, if we‘ve won Ted Kennedy‘s old seat, I think that all bets are off. It is still numerically going to be a very tough climb, I think, for Republicans to take back either chamber, but I think at this point, anyone who is willing to put a lot of money against that happening, it would be a pretty foolish bet but I‘m not ready to quite predict—we‘re going to pick up a lot of seats in both chambers, not quite ready to predict that we‘re going to take control.
MCMAHON: I‘m not even ready, by the way to predict that Massachusetts is going to go Republican, because there is this advantage, there was a poll today that had Martha Coakley up eight, there‘s another poll had her down four. It‘s hard to construct a model of a turnout there that you can‘t really predict.
MATTHEWS: The irony is the bigger the turnout will probably help the Republicans for the first time in history, in that kind of race. Anyway, thank you, Steve. Congratulations on your happy face, Todd Harris. You‘re doing a lot better tonight. I still had a question for you last time, I can‘t remember what it was, but you weren‘t too—
HARRIS: I can‘t remember either.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the biggest Republican accomplishment in 50 years?
We‘ll answer that the next time we get back.
When we return, it‘s back to Haiti. Secretary of state Hillary Rodman Clinton is head there had tomorrow and how is President Obama handling this overall? NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell and David Gregory, they‘re both coming here next.
This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well the big news tonight is that Hillary Clinton is heading to Haiti tomorrow to help with the earthquake response. Andrea Mitchell‘s NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent and David Gregory, moderator of “MEET THE PRESS.”
I want to start with you and the secretary of state. This decision for her to go over there in that very troubled area, what‘s it about?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: First of all president Preval asked her to come down and to bring Dr. Ravsha, who‘s the head of A.I.D. She‘s going in. She‘s only going to be at the airport. She‘s going to stay at the airport. She said she would not go, I just came from a briefing at the state department, she would not go if she were going to impose any kind of stress on the facilities down there, so they don‘t have to bring extra security, they don‘t have to bring anything extra, no cars, no motorcades. She‘ll stay there. There is a hospital unit there, she‘s going to bring supplies in and bring Americans out and get a better assessment. Also it‘s a chance for her to put her stamp on it. She‘s just flown back from Hawaii to take charge of all this and to also be able to tell other leader this is what they need, this is what Haiti‘s government needs.
MATTHEWS: Explain the chain of command here. The president of course is chief executive and Rod Shaw is definitely head of A.I.D., the agency for national development. Does he report to the secretary of state or is he independent? I can‘t tell.
MITCHELL: He reports to the secretary of state.
MATTHEWS: Operations as well as policy in.
MITCHELL: On operations as well as policy.
MATTHEWS: OK. Fine, let me ask you about the president bringing in the bipartisan effort. I‘m very impressed he reached back not to just George Herbert Walker Bush who had been paired very successfully and in many ways in a celebrated way with the former President Bill Clinton. He‘s brought back for first time in public life back into action George W.
DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: This is the kind of thing that a former president could do, should do, and President Obama had said privately before he assumed office to President Bush, hey, I‘m going to call on you and Bush had said I‘m going to stay off the stage here, but if there‘s something I can help you with, I will, and this is just that moment. President Bush did the same thing with his father and Bill Clinton after the tsunami. So they can be put to great work here.
The coordination function, that sense of common purpose is what‘s really important right now. You‘ve talked about it in terms of not only galvanizing the international community, private community. But think about Haiti, and I was thinking about what Andrea said about the secretary of state, 10,000 non-governmental organizations. As her husband former President Bill Clinton has said getting them organized with a common goal is a huge—
MATTHEWS: Who is going to do that? A.I.D.? Is that going to be Rod Shaw?
MITCHELL: That is what A.I.D. does. What David is pointing out brings me to the fact that and you know that George W. Bush better than anyone, you covered him for so many years. No matter what the strains among presidents and politicians, there is a club of presidents and former presidents, we saw that when Bill Clinton and Bush 41 jumped into the tsunami relief. They had a lot of rivalry. You know that Bush 41 was very angry about things Bill Clinton had said about his son, but there is a way of coming together in common purpose. And I think because of prior conflicts, it gives greater impetus to the need to bring everyone together. That‘s the symbolism.
GREGORY: That is also politically intriguing. We know that President Bush was not going to come out and say anything until his book comes out. He has really been off the stage, unlike Vice President Cheney.
MATTHEWS: And it‘s important for him not to get involved in public life?
GREGORY: Absolutely. He‘s been determined in that way. I don‘t know if there‘s a real split between him and Cheney, but they‘ve run in different directions as we all know in all of this. There is a tension here and I don‘t mean an actual sort of fighting tension, but this question of long-term commitment becomes important because you have in a Republican administration and in somebody like George W. Bush who dealt with the Haiti issue real concerns about whether global poverty can be alleviated through international aid. And we face the prospect of another nation building exercise in Haiti. And in fact, the Obama administration—
MATTHEWS: We start from scratch.
GREGORY: That‘s the issue. And they were making such progress in the minds of so many.
MITCHELL: What Bill Clinton had said and what Hillary Clinton said at the state department is they thought under this president, this administration in Haiti over the last four years with Bill Clinton being the U.N. coordinator, they thought they were turning a corner. Only on Monday Clinton just pointed out on PBS, Monday night there was a big story about the progress in Haiti. That Bill Clinton was about to have this big conference or just had this big conference with 500 American business organizations willing to invest in Haiti. And now it‘s all destroyed. They have to start over. And, you know, for those of us who have been down there a lot and been down through the Clinton administration‘s experiences with Haiti. It was a place where young Americans of a certain generation would go.
MATTHEWS: On a honeymoon, right?
MITCHELL: Exactly. This was a very emotional part of their DNA. And I think that she had to go. She has to show she‘s not imposing on the stresses, the incredible burdens, and it‘s also a very important point. Even though there‘s a lack of communication, the symbolism of her being there, at least in the immediate area and we have a word of mouth can be communicated, that will help, perhaps. As we reach the stress point where it could turn violent.
MATTHEWS: And I always worry as we all do having been through Somalia that when you go in for even a totally compassionate effort to feed starving people, very quickly, you discover the local political situation and the crime situation. In this case is probably crime not political, right?
GREGORY: And chaos prevention. I think by the weekend, that‘s going to be a big story. As more of these relief supplies actually make their way in. The scale of human suffering becomes more clear, and then the desperation and the lawlessness comes to the surface. We‘re going to have 9,000 or 10,000 troops there by Monday. Are we temporarily going to be taking over Haiti? And—
MATTHEWS: And by the way, relief, reform, reconstruction. You can‘t just do relief, relief, relief. At some point the government has to be created over there to deal with that. It can‘t be our government. Thank you. “MEET THE PRESS” comes here on Sunday as always. We‘ll return. I have some thoughts on Haiti. You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, the pictures as you‘ve seen are just plain terrible. Nothing good to see or to say about them. I‘ve never seen the media show pictures of so many bodies, but I guess that‘s the story that needs covering.
But as we watch these pictures from Haiti in the newspapers or right here as we are now in television watching them. Something‘s happening here in America, as well. One of the really good things about this country is our ability to act quickly. We‘re not the greatest when it comes to the long-term stuff like keeping the debt under control or fixing up our mass transit systems. But we‘re very good, maybe the best anywhere getting off the dime at reacting to an immediate crisis. That‘s not always true. Example, Katrina, but it‘s historically true. Look at us after Pearl Harbor, the Manhattan project or after the soviets beat us with spudnik and how we beat them to the moon. We‘re also a generous country as we all know. Look at the Marshall plan. Look at what President Bush did, George W. Bush did to fight HIV over in Africa.
Oh, yeah, we‘re good at least for much of our history of getting together in groups. I mean, not government groups, voluntary organizations to get things done, like the people doing the good work already in Haiti.
So as we look at the pictures, wondering how far the media will go in showing them, how much we can take in watching them. We also have to cover this story of what we Americans are doing these past few days and meeting what‘s happening in Haiti. We‘ve moved fast, we‘ve been generous and we‘re once again showing our power to work together in non-government organizations from the Red Cross, the Catholic Relief Services to meet an urgent need.
Maybe some people in the world will notice how we‘re doing on this, maybe not. It doesn‘t really matter. What matters is we notice it and learn from it. This is a great and good country. It‘s got some weaknesses, again, like long-term thinking about spending, taxes, and fiscal good sense. But we‘re also really something else when it comes to acting quick, acting charitably and acting as individuals and together voluntarily to help a neighbor, a very poor one that needs help.
Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 eastern for more
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Transcription Copyright 2010 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET