updated 2/26/2010 11:57:41 AM ET 2010-02-26T16:57:41

Guests: Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie, James Clyburn, Willie Brown, Darrell Issa, Ezra Klein

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Now, it‘s up to the Democrats.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington and this is a special edition of HARDBALL.

Democracy is the worst form of government, the great Winston Churchill once said, except for all the others that have been tried from time to time.  And so, it was today at Blair House.  Lots of talk as a giant monster of a reality, a 2,000-page reality, loomed over the conference room.  It‘s a reality that the two sides, Democrat and Republican, simply disagree.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘ve put on the table now some things that I didn‘t come in here saying I supported but that I was willing to work with potential Republican sponsors on.  I‘d like the Republicans to do a little soul-searching and find out—are there some things that you‘d be willing to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance and dealing seriously with the preexisting condition issue.  I don‘t know, frankly, whether we can close that gap.  The truth of the matter is, is that politically speaking, there may not be any reason for Republicans to want to do anything.


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  That‘s how he ended the conference today after all those hours at Blair House.  So, now it‘s up to three people: the president, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Leader Harry Reid.  And it‘s time to act now—they seem to think.

Based upon my conversations this evening, the plan is as follows: The House and the Senate are to move in tandem.  The House to pass the Senate bill, the Senate to pass a reconciliation measure to meet the House‘s objections.  Much as in a kidnapping, the money and the baby have to be turned over as much as possible at the precise same time.

Between House and Senate Democrats these days, trust stands at a premium.

Tonight, we plot what could be the big fight to come with both parties on edge, Democrats worried they may have bitten off more than they can chew, and Republicans—heavy with the polls out there but wary they will soon be cast in the role not of key players but of historic observers.

Tonight, I‘m joined by NBC White House correspondents and co-anchors of “THE DAILY RUNDOWN”: Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie.  Together, we‘ll look at one of the most testy days in the country‘s history, the summit at Blair House.

Let‘s look at a moment from today that no one can take their eyes off, the face-off, redolent of the 2008 campaign between President Barack Obama and Republican Senator John McCain.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Mr. President, thank you for doing this, and I understand the four categories, but there‘s a big category that the people in my state and across this country are deeply concerned about.  That‘s not just the product that we are examining today, the 2,400 pages, but the process we‘ve gone through to reach that.

Now, both of us during the campaign promised change in Washington.  In fact, eight times you said that negotiations on health care reform would be conducted with the C-SPAN cameras.  I‘m glad more than a year later that they are here.

Unfortunately, this product was not produced in that fashion.  It was produced behind closed doors.  It was produced with unsavory—I say that with respect—deal-making: the Louisiana Purchase funding of $300 million for one state, the cornhusker kickback, which is, I understand now, been done away with.

One of the things that, as provisions of this legislation that was particularly offensive was the carve-out for 800,000 Florida seniors exempt from cuts in Medicare Advantage program.  There‘s 330,000 seniors under Medicare Advantage in my home state of Arizona.  They‘re deeply concerned about that.  They‘re deeply concerned about the carve-outs for Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Michigan, Connecticut.

$100 million for a hospital in Connecticut—why should that happen?  They don‘t understand it.  And at the town hall meetings that I conduct all over my state, people are angry.  We promised them change in Washington.  And what we got was a process that you and I both said we would change in Washington.

So then we got into the special interests, whether it be the Hospital Association or the AMA or others.  And one of them that was particularly egregious and I won‘t go through the whole list, was PhRMA.  PhRMA got an $80 billion deal, and in return for which they ran $150 million worth of ads in favor of, quote, “health reform.”

There are over $2 million a year lobbyist was here at the White House and was reported to say in the media, “a deal is a deal.”  And part of that deal was that there would not be competition amongst pharmaceutical companies for—for Medicare patients.  The other, among others, was that the administration would oppose drug re-importation from Canada, a proposal that you supported in the United States Senate.

OBAMA:  John, can I just say—

MCCAIN:  And Christmas—can I just finish please?

And then at Christmas Day, I believe it was Christmas, the majority leader said, quote, “A number of states are treated differently than other states.  That‘s what legislation is all about.  That‘s compromise.”

Compromise is not the word for that.

So, when my constituents and Americans now who overwhelmingly reject this proposal say, “Go back to the beginning,” they want us to go back to the beginning.  They want us not to do this kind of legislating.  They want us to sit down together and do what‘s best for all Americans, not just for some people that live in Florida or happen to live in other favored states.  They want a uniform treatment of all Americans.

So, I hope that that would be an argument for us to go through this 2,400-page document, remove all of the special deals for special interests and favored few and treat all Americans the same under provisions of the law so that they will know that geography does not dictate what kind of health care they would receive.

I thank you, Mr. President.

OBAMA:  Let me just make this point, John, because we‘re not campaigning anymore.  The election‘s over.

MCCAIN:  I‘m reminded of that every day.


OBAMA:  Well, yes.  So the—we can spend the remainder of the time with our respective talking points going back and forth.  We were supposed to be talking about insurance.  You know, obviously, I‘m sure that Harry Reid and Chris Dodd and others who went through an exhaustive process through the—both the House and the Senate, with the most hearings, the most debates on the floor, the longest markup in 22 years on each and every one of these bills would have a response for you.

My concern is, is that if we do that, then we‘re essentially back on FOX News or MSNBC on the split screen to start going back and forth.  So, my hope would be that we can just focus on the issues of how we actually get a bill done.  And this would probably be a good time to turn it over to Secretary Sebelius.

MCCAIN:  Could I just say, Mr. President—the American people care about what we did and how we did it.

OBAMA:  Well, they actually—they absolutely—

MCCAIN:  And I think we—and it‘s subject that I think we should discuss.  Thank you.

OBAMA:  They absolutely do care about it, John.  And I think that the way you characterized it, obviously, would get some strong objections from the other side.  We can have a debate about process or we can have a debate about how we‘re actually going to help the American people at this point.  And I think that‘s—the latter debate is the one they care about a little bit more.


MATTHEWS:  Well, Chuck, I thought (ph) that and everybody did that, personal aspect to that.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  It was, because the president didn‘t seem very annoyed about it the whole time.  Obviously, this relationship between Senator McCain and President Obama has been icy for a long time.

You know, we in the media I think assume these two guys, when they were running for president, were just going to become chums, that they were going to become buddy-buddy and that McCain was going to go into the Senate and be the guy he worked with all the time.  They don‘t work on anything together.

Now, there are disputes on who messed up the relationship more.  Whatever it is, you see this personal animosity that is there between the two of them.  You just do.  It‘s there.

And you said earlier, we were talking off-air, that maybe the most honest moment that we heard from anybody is when John McCain said, “I‘m reminded of that every day.”

MATTHEWS:  That I lost.

TODD:  That he lost.  Because it—every losing presidential candidate—

MATTHEWS:  Can you imagine—

TODD:  -- says they never get over it—what was it?  It‘s the George McGovern—Walter Mondale calls up George McGovern and says, “When does it stop hurting?”  And he says, “I‘ll let you know.”


TODD:  You know, that was John McCain sort of saying the same thing there with that moment.

What was interesting also, though, is that the president chose to sort of just dismiss McCain‘s criticism.  There were a couple there, particularly the deal on PhRMA, the deal they cut with hospitals, that the left and the right had been upset with with this White House because they did seem to do it behind closed doors.

MATTHEWS:  And he went—he went with his strong suit which is against earmarking, against special dealing, backroom dealing.  That‘s McCain‘s strength.

TODD:  And let‘s remember, to a bunch of other phrases there, and it is to remind people, he said, “People across my state, my constituents.”

MATTHEWS:  He‘s running for re-nomination.

TODD:  That‘s right.  He‘s got a tough fight, potentially, against J.D. Hayworth.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Imagine he almost for a while there was running even with President Barack Obama.  He ended up losing but was in the running for a whole time.  Now, he‘s got to fight it out with J.D. Hayworth.


MATTHEWS:  I have dropped in class.

GUTHRIE:  Well, it‘s interesting, because some people would look at that relationship.  We all remember that John McCain, he was one of the moderates of the Senate, and one could ask, who has changed here?  That McCain has changed because, now, he has the primary and so he feels like he has to move to the right or McCain‘s people would probably say, no, it‘s Obama who was a—


GUTHRIE:  -- more left of center president than we expected, and we don‘t have any common ground.

So, there‘s no question that it was apparent at the summit today that the relationship has deteriorated—or let‘s put it this way, never healed.

MATTHEWS:  Point to protocol, the president was addressed throughout the day as “Mr. President”—not as presiding officer, but president of the United States.

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  He called everyone by their first name.  No “Madam Speaker.”

TODD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  No “Senator McCain.”

It bugged me a little.  I don‘t know whether it‘s important or not, but why didn‘t he treat them with equal respect.

GUTHRIE:  Well, I think this is very interesting.  And Chuck and I know both know this—

MATTHEWS:  A little.

GUTHRIE:  -- from sitting across from the president.  He knows he has the power.  He knows the power differential.  He exploits it and uses it to his advantage.

That‘s not knocking the president.  It‘s just that he knows there‘s something that comes, the cache of the office, the fact that when people come to the White House, they‘re on his turf.  This is another example.


GUTHRIE:  He was running the show.  He spoke longer.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the public‘s thought that way?

GUTHRIE:  I don‘t know.  You wondered.  Look, on the one hand, you can look at the way he behaved as commanding presence.  Other people might have said, “Well, he was high-handed.”  I think it depends on your perspective.

TODD:  Yes, I don‘t—I don‘t think that was sort of a—but the other thing that was, I think, striking about this exchange and the fact that it was really the only one—there was one other exchange—


TODD:  -- between the two, is that John McCain had a pretty comprehensive health care plan when he was running for president that was probably closer to where this—where Obama is.

MATTHEWS:  Patients Bill of Rights.

TODD:  Yes.  There‘s a lot of stuff—and Obama never brought it up. 

You would assume with John McCain sitting there—


TODD:  -- that they would have, knowing he was coming—you know, what this goes to, the whole thing, Republicans were 10 -- seem 10 times more prepared for this summit than the Democrats were.

I was surprised the White House never brought up John McCain‘s health care proposal and said, you know, hey, Senator McCain had this—this was his health care proposal.  And, in fact, we‘ve taken X, Y, and Z from it.


TODD:  It would have been a more obvious way to say to the public you were trying to make this case, that I‘m taking Republican ideas.

MATTHEWS:  Was there any—I got the buzz somewhere that the Democrats were told to let the president be the hot hand today.

GUTHRIE:  Well, I don‘t know if they were told that, but it was clear that they were relying on that.


GUTHRIE:  Look, he‘s the master of the policy and seems to be the best tactician and they know he‘s a wonk and they he‘s able to hold for it.

TODD:  Who else could have gone toe-to-toe with some of those—

GUTHRIE:  Well, I don‘t know, but the president decried all the talking points on the other side, but there were a lot of talking points on the left as well.


MATTHEWS:  Savannah and Chuck had weeks to prepare.  There was very little spontaneity today.  We‘re going to see some of the real strategy from the other side from the president.  And you‘re going to hear the Republican strategy coming up.

Now, they did not want to play the villain today.  And wait until you see the way they set this fight up so they would have a positive voice to start the night off with as we review it.

Anyway, we‘ll be back with Chuck and Savannah.  They‘re staying for the next two hours.  When we return, we‘ll hear one of the more contentious moments from today‘s health summit and plot where health care reform goes from here.  I think we know now.  I think the signals have been sent.

You‘re watching a special edition of HARDBALL on MSNBC.


OBAMA:  So, Lamar, when you mentioned earlier that you said premiums go up, that‘s just not the case according to the Congressional Budget Office.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE:  Mr. President, if you‘re going to contradict me I ought to have a chance to—the Congressional Budget Office report says that premiums will rise in the individual market as a result of the Senate bill.

OBAMA:  No, no, no, no.  Let me—and this is—and this is an example where we‘ve got to get our facts straight.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL.  From the start of today‘s health care summit, there were heated moments between Democrats and Republicans beginning with this one between Republican Sen.  Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and President Obama.  Let‘s watch the back and forth. 


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  So Lamar, when you mentioned earlier that you said premiums go up, that‘s just not the case according to the Congressional Budget Office. 

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN):  Mr. President, if you‘re going to contradict me, I ought to have a chance to - the Congressional Budget Office report says that premiums will rise in the individual market as a result of the Senate bill. 

OBAMA:  No, no.  Let me - and this is an example of where we‘ve got to get our facts straight. 

ALEXANDER:  That‘s my point. 

OBAMA:  Well, exactly.  So let me respond to what you just said, Lamar, because it‘s not factually accurate.  Here‘s what the Congressional Budget Office says.  The costs for a family for the same type of coverage as they‘re currently receiving would go down 14 to 20 percent. 

But the Congressional Budget Office says that because now, they‘ve got a better deal, because policies are cheaper, they may choose to buy better coverage than they have right now.  And that might be 10 percent to 13 percent more expensive than the bad insurance that they had previously. 

But they didn‘t say that the actual premiums would be going up.  What they said was they‘d be going down by 14 percent to 20 percent.  And I promise you I‘ve gone through this carefully with the Congressional Budget Office.  And I‘ll be happy to present this to the press and whoever is listening because this is an important issue. 

ALEXANDER:  Well may I -

OBAMA:  Let me just finish, Lamar.  Now, the - what we‘ve done is we‘ve tried to take every single cost containment idea that‘s out there, every proposal that health care economists say will reduce health care costs.  We‘ve tried to adopt in the various proposals. 

There are some additional ideas that Republicans have presented that we think are interesting and we also tried to include, so let me give you an example.  You mentioned the idea of buying across state lines, insurance.  That‘s something that I‘ve put in my proposal that‘s actually in the Senate proposal. 

I think that it shows some promise.  You mentioned that Mike Enzi has previously said that he‘s interested in small businesses being able to pool in the equivalent of some sort of exchange.  So that‘s where there is some overlap. 

But I just think it‘s very important to understand that what we‘ve done is to try to take every single cost containment idea that‘s out there and try to adopt it in this bill. 

What I‘d like to do is to see if we can proceed and, you know, have a very concrete conversation about what are the ideas that you guys have that you don‘t think are in our bill to contain costs.  And what I want to do is to see if maybe we can adopt some of those or refine what we‘ve already done in order to further reduce costs. 

ALEXANDER:  Mr. President, I‘ve had -

OBAMA:  What I‘d like to do also is make sure that you maybe suggest some of the ideas that are currently in the bill that you think are good.  Because, Lamar, in your opening introduction, what I saw was, you know, sort of the usual critique of why you thought it was bad. 

But as I said, we‘ve adopted a lot of the ideas that we‘ve heard from your side of the aisle.  So I hope maybe you could say, well, “Those are the ones we think are good ideas.  Here are the things we think are bad ideas,” as opposed to just painting in a broad brush.  Go ahead. 

ALEXANDER:  Mr. President, let me show some respect for my colleagues here.  They‘re all here eager to speak.  I‘m sure they could do a better job than I could on any of these points. 

What I would like to do is get back directly to you with why I believe, with respect, you‘re wrong about the bill.  Your bill would increase premiums I believe.  You say it wouldn‘t. 

So rather than argue with you in public about it, I‘d like to put my facts down, give them to you.  Maybe other colleagues will say that.  As far as Mike Enzi‘s proposal - he‘s ready to talk about it.  Others are. 

So I appreciate the opportunity that Mitch and John gave me to talk.  You‘ve made some interesting points and why not let other members of Congress have a chance to talk? 

OBAMA:  I think it‘s a great idea.  I‘d like to get this issue settled about whether premiums are reduced before we leave today because I‘m pretty certain I‘m not wrong.  And you know, you give us the information and we‘re going to be here all afternoon.  I promise you we‘ll get this settled before the day is out.  All right? 


MATTHEWS:  So one thing to get settled today, Savannah and Chuck, is who won today?  And my question is, the president has had a need, I think, since he took office, to establish the fact that he‘s the boss. 

Ronald Reagan did that with the PATCO strike, breaking the air traffic controllers.  Even the Soviet communists who heard about that were impressed.  Kennedy took on big steel.  Roger Blough put them back in their place through Joe Bunning(ph). 

Can this president, by taking on the leaders of Congress, the Republicans, with the Democrats keeping quiet today - can this be his big chance to beat the other guys and show he‘s the leader? 

Is this - Chuck, even in his lack of charm with these guys, his lack of protocol, maybe in the end, by being a little tough today, he is showing who‘s boss.  Just a thought. 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think that that‘s what he‘s trying to do.  But look, I mean, the Republicans are the least of his problems.  Who he really needs to get in line are the other Democrats, so that‘s going to be the real test of it. 

I think that going back to the House Republican conference, what people have started to call question time a few weeks ago, really showed a president at his best who really knows the policy and was so agile with it and was the classic law professor able to respond to arguments. 

And I think the Republicans, as we said, came better prepared this time to respond to that president.  But I mean, the real test of whether he‘s gotten command of Republicans or Democrats or the Congress is what happens next, how to get this bill through. 

It‘s very much still in suspense.  I mean, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have had a dispute that‘s basically been stuck in the mud since January 19th, and it‘s the Massachusetts election, about who goes first. 

And the president made a bold move this week.  He said, “I‘m going to put my plan on the table.”  He called this summit together as much to deal with Republicans but also to get Democrats off the dime and say, “Let‘s get it done.”

MATTHEWS:  And by the way, the Republicans had a strategy today, too. 

I think that‘s brilliant.  I think it showed, “I‘m going to be tough with

the other guys, so you back me up, OK?”  We‘re going to -

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  I‘ll take the heat but you guys better stand behind me. 

MATTHEWS:  The Republican strategy was don‘t show your ugly faces

tonight.  Today, they kept all the crazies -

TODD:  But they led with Lamar Alexander. 

MATTHEWS:  All the crazies were in the closet and I will go through the list without calling them necessarily crazy although it would apply in some cases.  Michele Bachmann was not allowed to show up today.  Joe Wilson from South Carolina was not there in evidence. 

I can go through the list.  Eric Cantor was on good behavior today.  John Boehner was on pretty good behavior.  They weren‘t showing the angry kind of truculent look they like to show when they‘re on C-Span. 

TODD:  I want to talk about this Lamar versus the president dispute. 

This was a hugely fact-checked back and forth about the specific point

about this idea, you know, of where who was interpreting the Congressional

Budget Office scoring -

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

TODD:  The premiums going up or not.  I think most of the fact check - fact checkers out there scored this one for the president saying he understood the nuance.  But the fact is, we won‘t know for sure how it goes because it all depends on how many people get in the pool and all of this stuff. 


TODD:  But what this back-and-forth between the two really exposed is this philosophical divide between the two parties. 

MATTHEWS:  Fundamental. 

TODD:  Which is Democrats believe health care insurance is a right.  Republicans believe it‘s a privilege.  So for instance, on this back and forth over small businesses and putting them in pools and this whole, you know - it‘s, you know, the president is sitting there going, look, we have to do this because we have to get these people covered. 

And the Republicans are thinking, “Well, it would be nice if we

could do this but let‘s do it -“


It is a total - it just gets to the fundamental right versus privilege.  We had Michael Steele on today.  And look, the Republicans believe it‘s a privilege. 

MATTHEWS:  Joe Biden - he took too many words to say it as he sometimes does but he did make that point.  He said this is an echo of the old debate over social security. 

Do you think old people need to be taken care of by the public, by society in a communal way?  We all do it together or not?  Should it be every man or woman for themselves when they‘re 85 years old? 

And the same thing with health care here.  Should every person who can‘t afford health care be out there on their own?  Or should there be a societal public response to that need?  He said that it‘s a fundamental, philosophical debate.  I thought Joe Biden hit it on the nail. 

GUTHRIE:  Right.  And he said - he basically said you‘re either with us or against us on that issue.  I thought the president had a strong moment when he was basically called out - the Republicans on them saying this was going to be a government takeover and he said, basically, let‘s unpack it.  You‘re saying any government regulation amounts to a government takeover. 

MATTHEWS:  The food analogy. 

GUTHRIE:  And he used the analogy of a meat inspector and said, you know, we eat meat in this country.  We could get rid of all the meat inspectors, I suppose, and then we wouldn‘t have a government takeover of the meat industry. 

TODD:  Food would be cheaper.  He did say food would be cheaper. 

MATTHEWS:  But let‘s get rid of airline safety inspectors while we‘re at it. 

GUTHRIE:  It would be cheaper - right.  It might make it cheaper, but is that the result you want? 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s too many Frank Luntz terminology showing in these discussions, I think, from the other side, the Republican side.  Takeover - terms like that.  You know they‘re honed.  They‘re honed and planned. 

TODD:  You could tell because you heard the same phrases over and over. 

MATTHEWS:  You knew what was going on. 

TODD:  You knew what was going on. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a plenty.  Is that it again? 

Anyway, Chuck, Savannah, stay with us. 

Up next, we‘ll hear more from one of the Democratic leaders who was in that summit today, Democratic whip James Clyburn of South Carolina is going to be joining us in just a minute.  Plus, President Obama takes on Republican whip Eric Cantor for his use of what the president called props. 

Our coverage of the health care summit returns after this. 

You‘re watching a special edition of HARDBALL only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and to this special edition of HARDBALL.  Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina is the Democratic whip.  He is one of the top leaders of the House.  And he was sitting there.  Congressman, thank you for staying with us tonight and giving us your thoughts. 


MATTHEWS:  You were in the room.  We weren‘t.  Was there any special feel - were you surprised at the partisanship, the civility, what?  What did you get struck by as you sat there and watched and felt what we couldn‘t see really? 

CLYBURN:  Well, I was particularly struck by the substance that came from people like Sen. Coburn.  I think he just was right on with his understanding of what we are confronted with and with the reasonable proposals he laid on the table. 

Sen. Enzi - I always have a problem with his name.  I thought he was just absolutely good with his comments and proposals.  I really believe that there was a good spirit in that room.  Now, every now and then, it got punctuated with some disagreements because there are some significant disagreements between Democrats and Republicans on how to treat insurance companies.  But aside from that, I really was pleased with the way things went today. 

MATTHEWS:  Looking ahead, Congressman, as a leader, do you think it‘s doable?  I suggested that something - well, it‘s based upon some reporting today - I hope good reporting -that what‘s going to have to happen to get this bill through is the Democrats in the House and the Senate are going to have to put together a bit of a choreography, if you will. 

They‘re going to have to decide that the Senate is going to make some adjustments through reconciliation through a majority vote or with the help of the vice president, even a 50/50 vote and get something done over there to rectify the difference and that your side of the hill is going to have to pass the Senate bill as part of that to get it all done.  Is it doable? 

CLYBURN:  Yes, it is doable.  And I think it‘s very important for us to understand that the will is in the House to get this done.  Now, this whole question that‘s floating around as to who goes first - that‘s not important. 

What‘s important is to make sure that the final product does not have those special deals in there that the House finds so offensive that we have a very appropriate and fair way to pay for this and I don‘t think the House members will worry about who goes first with the vote so long as the process is one that will guarantee that we have a bill very close to what the president is proposing. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s news, Congressman.  Let‘s listen now to a Republican leader on your opposite side.  Republican Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia had a printout in front of him of the Senate health Care Reform Bill stacked on top of his desk at today‘s summit at Blair House.  And that became a point of contention with President Obama.  Let‘s watch and listen. 


ERIC CANTOR, (R-VA):  Mr. President, thank you, again, very much for

having us and for staying with us for the six hours.  Appreciate that.  I

don‘t know if you will after the six hours or not.  But -


OBAMA:  Let me just guess.  That‘s the 2,400-page health care bill. 

Is that right? 

CANTOR:  Well, actually, Mr. President, this is the Senate bill along with the 11-page proposal that you put up online that really, I think, is the basis for the discussion here. 

But I do want to go back to your suggestion as to why we‘re here and you suggested that maybe we are here to find some points of agreement to bridge the gap and our differences. 

And I do like to go back to basics.  We‘re here because we Republicans care about health care just as the Democrats in this room. 

And when the speaker cites her letters from the folks in Michigan

and the leader talks about the letters he‘s received - Mr. Andrews here is

all of us share the concerns when people are allegedly wronged in our health care system. 

I mean, I think that is sort of a given.  We don‘t care for this bill.  I think you know that.  The American people don‘t care for the bill.  I think that we‘ve demonstrated, you know, in the polling that they don‘t. 

But there is a reason why we all voted no.  And it does have to do with the philosophical difference that you point out.  It does have to do with our fear that if you say that Washington can be the one to define essential health benefits, there may be a problem with that. 

OBAMA:  You know, whether he we do props like this, stack it up and you repeat 2,400 pages, et cetera, the truth of the matter is that health care is very complicated.  And we can try to pretend that it‘s not, but it is. 

Every single item that we‘ve talked about on the Republican side, if we wanted to exhaustively deal with fraud and abuse, would generate a bunch of pages.  I point that out just because, yes, these are the kind of political things we do that prevent us from actually having a conversation. 


MATTHEWS:  Congressman Clyburn, what do you think when some member of Congress pulls one of these prop games and brings out a bill?  I remember speaker Jim Wright did that years ago and everybody - I mean, when is it going to be the last guy to hold out a big pile of paper and say, “I have an important point to make here.  This is long.”

CLYBURN:  Well, you know, the interesting thing about all of this is we have heard talk about what shape the room will be, how big the room will be.  Now, we‘re talking about how many pages the bill has got in it. 

That‘s not what this is all about.  Let‘s talk about what kinds of proposals, what kind of policy, what kind of programs.  What are we going to do for the American people to feel that they can have the kind of health care that will be affordable, that will be accessible and that will be accountable on behalf - on their behalf? 

This whole notion about how many pages we got in the bill - what‘s that got to do with anything?  If you can do it in one or two pages, fine.  But if you need 1,200 or even 2,400 pages, fine. 

The question is, when it‘s all said and done, do we have a policy?  Do we have programs?  Do we have procedures that will make the life of American people better for themselves, their children and grandchildren? 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much.  U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, one of the top Democratic leaders. 

When we return, Republicans continually raise the specter of reconciliation today in the summit.  There were several hot fights about that today.  And they‘re coming up here next on HARDBALL.  You‘re watching a special edition of HARDBALL only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Republicans talked a lot today about the reconciliation procedure which allows the Senate to vote 50/50 basically with the vice president and get a bill passed - certainly, that with the vice president going along. 

They don‘t like that, the Republicans.  In an opening statement Republican Senator Lamar Alexander asked Democrats point blank not to pursue it.  The majority leader Harry Reid responded quickly. 


ALEXANDER:  My request is this.  Before we go further today, that the Democratic Congressional leaders and you, Mr. President, renounce this idea of going back to the Congress and jamming through on a bipartisan - I mean, on a partisan vote through a little-used process we call reconciliation, your version of the bill. 

You can say that this process has been used before, and that would be right.  But it‘s never been used for anything like this.  It‘s not appropriate to use to write the rules for 17 percent of the economy. 

Sen. Byrd, who is the Constitutional historian of the Senate, has said that it would be an outrage to run the health care bill through the Senate like a freight train with this process. 

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), UNITED STATES SENATE MAJORITY LEADER:  Lamar, you‘re entitled to your opinion but not your own facts.  No one has said - I read what the president has online. 

No one has talked about reconciliation, but that‘s what you, folks, have talked about ever since that came out, as if it‘s something that‘s never been done before.  Now, we as leaders here, the speaker and I, have not talked about doing reconciliation as the only way out of all this.  Of course, it‘s not the only way out. 

But remember, since 1981, reconciliation has been used 21 times.  Most of it has been used by Republicans for major things like much of the contract for America, Medicare reform, the tax cuts for rich people in America.  So reconciliation isn‘t something that‘s never been done before. 


MATTHEWS:  I was watching Steny Hoyer, the Democratic leader of the House.  I look at him like, “What are you talking about?  I need you to pass reconciliation or we‘re never going to get the Senate bill through the House.” 

GUTHRIE:  That was a very -


MATTHEWS:  You just heard Jim Clyburn say they‘re going to have to do reconciliation. 

TODD:  Sure.

GUTHRIE:  That was a little bizarre because we all know -

MATTHEWS:  He‘s going to do it. 

GUTHRIE:  Of course.  That‘s basically -

MATTHEWS:  Why is he keeping his poker face there? 

GUTHRIE:  I‘m not sure.  I think because the way it‘s framed by Republicans.  They don‘t think it‘s a very appealing path.  In fact, I think some in the White House are trying to re-brand the name “reconciliation” majority vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Straight up or down vote. 

GUTHRIE:  Up or down or pass it by majority.  That is just an

interesting moment because everybody knows this is - if it‘s going to be

passed at all it‘s -


TODD:  How are they going to deal with the fact that two weeks from now or tomorrow morning when they say, “We are going to go on a reconciliation route”?  How does the leader there deal with the fact that they‘ve got tape on him saying he‘s not going to do it? 

GUTHRIE:  Well, I don‘t know.  The Republicans are going to clobber him with that. 

TODD:  Harry Reid and eloquence have never been in the same sentence very often.  He‘s not a very good public speaker.  But a little fact check on reconciliation - they‘re not trying to pass the entire health bill on reconciliation. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what he means. 

TODD:  However, that‘s how it‘s framed.  Correct, that‘s what he - what‘s happened here is the Republicans are saying, they already tried to pass out the bill.  They‘re going to pass health care through the Senate. 

They‘re trying to do these fixes, which is - the irony is, it‘s all of the - most of the fixes, about half of them are the ones that Republicans have been complaining about with the cornhusker kickback. 

They‘re going to get rid that.  They‘re going to do -


MATTHEWS:  Jim Clyburn just said they‘re going to get rid of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  We‘re on the record.  The great thing about tonight‘s show is we‘re getting the facts out here.  The facts are they‘re not going to use reconciliation to pass health care. 


They‘re going to pass the Senate bill in the House and then, right around the same time, they‘re going to pass the fixed bill with reconciliation which is basically dealing with the fiscal numbers, which is an appropriate way to use reconciliation.

TODD:  The parliamentarian is going to have an easy time (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that. 

MATTHEWS:  I think the Democrats are in good shape right now to get this thing through in a two-step.  Get the House to pass the Senate bill and get through the Senate reconciliation. 

TODD:  Probably very, very enthusiastic about - 

MATTHEWS:  Well, later in the same session today, the 2008 presidential candidates went at it again.  Here‘s the president going against his old Republican rival on that very question of reconciliation.  Here‘s the response from the president. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ):  I would just like to finally mention one other thing.  There‘s an issue that‘s overhanging this entire conversation.  We all know what it is.  It‘s whether the majority leader of the Senate will impose a, quote, “reconciliation” of 51 votes. 

Now, having been in the majority and the minority—I prefer the majority—I understand the frustration that the majority feels when they can‘t get their agenda through.  And it‘s real, and I understand it, and I have some sympathy.

But I remember—and I think you do, too, Mr. President—the last time when there was a proposal that we Republicans in the majority would adopt a 51-vote majority on the issue of the confirmation of judges.  There was a group of us that got together, said, no, that‘s not the right way to go, because that could deal a fatal blow to the unique aspect in the United States Senate, which is a 60-vote majority.  And we came to an agreement, and it was brought to a halt. 

If a 51-vote reconciliation is enacted on one-sixth of our gross national product, never before has been—there have been reconciliation, but not at the level like—of an issue of this magnitude.  I think it could harm the future of our country and our institution, which I love a great deal for a long, long time.

OBAMA:  OK, let me just address two of the points that you made, and then I‘m going to turn to Dick.

You know, this issue of reconciliation has been brought up.  Again, I think the American people aren‘t always all that interested in procedures inside the Senate.  I do think that they want a vote on how we‘re going to move this forward.  And, you know, I think most Americans think that a majority vote makes sense, but I also think that this is an issue that could be bridged if we can arrive at some agreement on ways to move forward.


MATTHEWS:  Well, there you have it.  Everybody is getting into the issue. 

But we all know, based upon what Jim Clyburn, the Democratic leader, just confirmed, they are going the route that a lot of people on the progressive have been saying you have got to do, get it through with a majority vote, and stop this pussyfooting around with the idea of maybe we will get 60 if we get a Republican or two.

TODD:  I still don‘t understand, though, how—how Democrats lost this argument on reconciliation, in this respect. 

They‘re not trying to put something large through.  It is...

MATTHEWS:  They‘re just fixing something.

TODD:  They‘re just throwing in fixes to it.  They already passed a health care bill, a big one, with 60 votes. 

GUTHRIE:  It‘s true. 

I mean, I think what they keep saying—the Democrats say reconciliation is not new.  This is a part of the rules of the Senate.  It‘s been used 21 times in the last 20, 30 years.  And then the Republican response to that, the classic response is, but never something so large as health care reform. 

And, to Chuck‘s point, this is—these are just a narrow settle of fixes for reconciliation. 

MATTHEWS:  To make both your points, it seems to me the purpose of today will be realized, and it‘s to convince the Democrats they‘re not going to get any help from the Republicans, but they made a college try. 

GUTHRIE:  But do they really need...

TODD:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s the key thing.


GUTHRIE:  No, no, no.  It‘s not to convince them, because was this news? 

TODD:  That‘s right. 

GUTHRIE:  I don‘t think Democrats were laboring under the misapprehension that the Republicans were going to help them along. 


GUTHRIE:  But what this doe, from the White House perspective, is...

MATTHEWS:  Nuance... 


MATTHEWS:  What...

GUTHRIE:  No.  It‘s to—it‘s to cleanse the process, right?

One of the things they have had a really hard time selling is this process, saying, oh, it wasn‘t transparent.

TODD:  Yes, right.


GUTHRIE:  There‘s all these dirty deals, these backroom negotiations. 

TODD:  Sure.

GUTHRIE:  Now Democrats can credibly say—go back to their districts

and say, hey, look, we tried.  We had this bipartisan forum.  We tried.  We

we have done our best to reach out to the Republicans. 


GUTHRIE:  We weren‘t able to do it.  And now we have proceeded to a straight up-or-down vote. 

So, I think that‘s the...

MATTHEWS:  This is kind of a rite of passage, yes.

GUTHRIE:  ... real purpose of the summit. 

TODD:  Well, and it—and, you know, look, I—I think he was able -

the president is probably able to go—and why—why was Jim Clyburn so confident with you? 


TODD:  Because it probably stiffened the spine of some wavering Democrats, who said, you know what?  We can‘t say he didn‘t try. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you hear how strong he was?

TODD:  He was very strong.  Now...

MATTHEWS:  He said, the Senate doesn‘t have to act first on reconciliation.  We can pass the Senate version first.  It‘s not important what the order is.

GUTHRIE:  That‘s news, because...

MATTHEWS:  That was strong.  That was news.

GUTHRIE:  That was a huge...


TODD:  It‘s a change.  It‘s a total change in tone, because they have been having this ridiculous...

GUTHRIE:  This was a stalemate for weeks. 

TODD:  It‘s ridiculous.  Reid and Pelosi have been having this little fight over...


MATTHEWS:  Well, I do think—I use the terrible comparison of like in the old movies, you know, ransom, the kid has to be returned, and somebody has to give the million dollars. 

TODD:  Not anymore.

MATTHEWS:  But you have got to do it at the same time. 

He said, it‘s not so important that you synchronize that.

Anyway, we will be right back, Chuck and Savannah.  This is fascinating stuff.  And we‘re making news tonight. 

It looks like the Democrats have got some confidence tonight.  They think the House can pass the Senate version and move this health care bill to the president‘s desk. 

And, coming up, where do Republicans go from here?  We are going to talk to California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa when our special edition of HARDBALL returns after this. 


REP. PETER ROSKAM ®, ILLINOIS:  This is not a prop.  This is the Senate bill.  And my district says, you know what?  That‘s sure looking like just—just something that‘s now being popped in the microwave, taken out, a little salt, a little pepper, some Republican bread crumbs on the top, and put it back in front of the public to say, well, do you like it now?



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL. 

U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa of California is the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Governor Reform Committee.

Congressman, thank you for coming back tonight and sticking around. 

We heard Jim Clyburn...


MATTHEWS:  ... the ranking—the—the Democratic whip, who basically confirmed the fact that the bottom—the plan for the Democrats now to get health care through is the House to pass the Senate bill, and the Senate to reconcile, through the reconciliation measure, the problems the House has with the Senate bill, and the public, quite frankly, has with it, and to fix the bill in a two-step. 

What will your side do? 

ISSA:  Well, Chris, I‘m from a state where it takes two-thirds majority in order to do budgets or tax increases. 

So, I will go back home, and I think most Republicans will go back home, and say, the democratic tradition of the Senate has been violated in this process. 

But, even if you get past that—and I don‘t have a Frank Luntz moment here—I think what we have is, we have a failure to see that the compromise that they‘re proposing is no compromise, except among themselves.  And the compromise that maybe Massachusetts told us, or certainly the American people told me last summer, is the one that‘s not there. 

And it‘s a shame.  Today was a lost opportunity.  And I think Republicans came prepared to hope for a compromise that they didn‘t see happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that sounds like a strategy of—of basically complaint.  Is that it?  Do you recognize that they have the numbers?  Do you recognize they have the numbers to do what I described it looks like they intend to do? 

ISSA:  Chris, you know, I ran for the Senate, and lost, but I have always respected the fact that the Senate was a democratic process.  It was a process in which everyone felt that the—they didn‘t have a vote when people didn‘t understand things.  They didn‘t have a rush to judgment. 

And, in fact, I think that that‘s—there are a lot of good things there.  Serving in the House, sometimes—and both sides have been guilty of it over the years—sometimes, basically, they throw something in at the last minute, and you report on it weeks or months later all the things that we wouldn‘t have voted for if we had known were in there. 


ISSA:  In this case, it‘s very clear that there are lots of easy gains, easy things we can do. 

We passed something out of the House, overwhelmingly bipartisan, last

yesterday that stripped away the limited antitrust exemption for health care insurance providers.  You know, that was a—that was a good idea of something that, although not universally liked, could be voted by two-thirds-plus. 

I have a bill, HR-3438.  All it says is, let‘s open up the system, if you will, the public option of letting people into the system that members of Congress and members of the federal work force are in, easy enough to do.  Put it on the floor, it will pass in the House and the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  I like that.

ISSA:  There are dozens of things like that...


ISSA:  ... that would be confidence-builders. 

And, you know, you have followed more than just politics.  You have followed the Middle East peace process.  You‘ve followed a lot of places in which you look and say there‘s so little trust or so little ability to trust that the outcome will be good that what you have to do is prove a few things. 

I think the president should take—I really believe he should take a good chunk of this that can be passed with at least some Republican support and put it out there, get the confidence of the American people that incrementalism to the left or the right is probably in the American people‘s best interests. 

You know, the health care system is not so broken that you must do all at once, even though the American people know—and Republicans had better start saying this in what we do—it is broken enough that it needs to be fixed, but it doesn‘t necessarily need to be fixed all at once. 

Let‘s do what we can agree to do.  That‘s what we didn‘t hear today from either side. 

MATTHEWS:  But the president said it in concluding the session today -

and I heard what you said, and it has great validity—but the president said today, in ending it, there‘s a fundamental difference between him, his party and your party. 

That is to cover the 30 million people that are not insured right now. 

Does your party have a plan to do that?

ISSA:  Well, I don‘t speak for my party.  I do speak for the 49th Congressional District.  I can tell you that, if we had a bill before us that said we would augment in all 50 states people who could not afford insurance through a means testing, we would come up with a scheme to augment them, like we do with SCHIP and some other areas, that that concept would fly through my district as it—look, as long as they really can‘t afford it, we‘re willing to help. 

And those who can afford it should be told they better buy it, and stop going to emergency rooms and saying they have no insurance. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you run that by John Boehner? 

ISSA:  I have.  And John Boehner is supportive that the poor need to be taken care of. 

Now, in fairness, unless we come together on a bipartisan basis, we‘re not going to work out the nuances of what can work.  Unless we get doctors and hospital executives in and insurance companies...


ISSA:  ... we‘re not going to come up with the most cost-effective way to do it. 

But, at the same time...


ISSA:  ... you know, both sides should admit that we need to deal with the fact that our health care cost, insured or uninsured, is escalating and making—and being less affordable...


ISSA:  ... while other countries are coming to grips with it.  We have to do that, too. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s just the problem is that I have watched for this.  As you said, for 30, 40 years, I have been watching politics.  And I have never seen the Republicans, with the exception of Richard Nixon back in ‘70s, really come out for a plan to provide health care for all the people that don‘t have it. 

But I accept the fact that you would do it.  So, Congressman, thank you very much, Darrell Issa from California. 

ISSA:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for joining us and staying around tonight.

We will be right back with much more on the strategy of today‘s health care summit. 

This is a special edition of HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL on today‘s health summit at the Blair House. 

I‘m joined once by NBC White House correspondents and co-anchors of “THE DAILY RUNDOWN” Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie. 

And with us, the former Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown. 

Mayor Brown, you‘re the sharpest knife in the drawer...


MATTHEWS:  ... so I want to know what you think about today.  Did you put in many hours watching the president duel with his adversaries at Blair House? 

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO:  I put in as many hours as I could spare, because I love to watch President Obama work.  He really does great work when his enemies are in his presence, as was the case...


BROWN:  ... when he appeared with the Republican Caucus and as was the case today at the summit.  He did a great job. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s watch—let‘s watch some of the prepared material.  It seems prepared, because, as you watch it, you will see the Republicans, who seem to have one overarching strategy, sort of a talking point.  They want to kill this bill and start all over.  Let‘s listen to what seems to be the Republican pattern here. 


ALEXANDER:  This is a car that can‘t be recalled and fixed and that we ought to start over.  

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN ®, TENNESSEE:  A lot of the people that I talk to want us to start over. 

ALEXANDER:  They would like for us to start over. 

REP. JOE BARTON ®, TEXAS:  We‘re talking about, as Leader Boehner said and Mr. McConnell—Senator McConnell said, let‘s start over.

ALEXANDER:  So if we can do that, start over...

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO ®, WYOMING:  It‘s time to start over. 

ALEXANDER:  But we would like to start over. 

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  What we simply want to do is start over, work on a clean sheet of paper. 

ALEXANDER:  Starting from a clean sheet of paper. 

BOEHNER:  Let‘s start with a clean sheet of paper. 

Let‘s start with a clean sheet of paper. 

ROSKAM:  Take the Etch A Sketch, go like this, let‘s start over.

BOEHNER:  Let‘s scrap the bill.

The American people want us to scrap this bill. 


REP. JOHN KLINE ®, MINNESOTA:  And we believe a better approach is to go step by step. 

ALEXANDER:  It means going step by step together. 

REP. CHARLES BOUSTANY JR. ®, LOUISIANA:  They want us to take a step back and go step by step.

RYAN:  Move through these issues step by step. 

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP:  That‘s why we continue to say, go step by step. 

BOEHNER:  Let‘s take a step-by-step approach. 

BOUSTANY:  What American families want is a common step—a commonsense, step-by-step approach.


MATTHEWS:  This is not a joke, Mr. Mayor, Mr. Speaker.  This is not a joke.  This is our brilliant producer putting together the actual facts of today. 

It‘s humiliating to this political side that they went in there with Frank Luntz‘s talking points, or somebody‘s.  It sounded like synchronized stalling, like they would all go—well, your thoughts.  It was—it was transparent what they were up to, to kill the bill, kill the bill. 

BROWN:  Well, first and foremost, I think Frank would be upset if he thought that you thought he actually gave them those childish comments that they were making. 


BROWN:  Step by step, and let‘s start all over. 

That was a very dumb idea on the part of the Republicans to do that.  They had an opportunity to clearly demonstrate what they stand for as it relates to health bill.  They had an opportunity to demonstrate how much they care. 

If they had addressed the issue, put in some tort reform, if they had said, yes, we want to cover everybody who isn‘t covered now, and this is how we would do it, it would have made a lot more sense. 

But to go in there with those phony talking points, it really sounded orchestrated, programmed.  And, therefore, by default, if nothing else, the Democrats won. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think our producers deserve credit for putting together one of the great videos there for all time to see why people are bored with politics, because they now realize it is, in fact, choreographed. 

Now, let‘s—to be fair, let‘s get to the Democratic side today.  As for the Democrats, they seemed to have a strategy of their own, insisting that the two sides really aren‘t that far apart, the Republicans and the Democrats, and they have already concluded—included a lot of Republican ideas in the Senate plan, the president‘s plan. 

Let‘s watch that performance by the Democrats. 


SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA:  Quite frankly, we may be closer together than people really think in actually getting agreement that we can move forward on. 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Many of the provisions that are in our bill are initiatives put forth by the Republicans. 

OBAMA:  There are some additional ideas that Republicans have presented that we think are interesting and we also tried to include. 

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY:  And I think there‘s a lot of agreement that the current insurance market really fails way too many people. 

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  I was glad to hear my friend Tom Coburn‘s remarks.  I think we agree with most of them. 


We are so close to national health insurance. 

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT), FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  The main point is, we‘re not really that far apart. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, I will give the Democrats credit.  They have a wider, richer vocabulary. 


MATTHEWS:  They don‘t use the same words, Mr. Mayor. 


MATTHEWS:  But I guess you would have to say the same theme there, that we‘re almost—we have—we are not only just begun; we‘re almost done here. 

BROWN:  Well, the Democrat performance obviously was better than the Republicans, because of the ability to at least be diverse in your speech and to occasionally offer a new idea. 


BROWN:  But it was clear, this was... 


MATTHEWS:  Or a new—a new vocabulary at least. 


BROWN:  At least. 

This was a—this was summit of not like the summit that Bill Clinton did in 1992, when he addressed the—the economy.  You recall that that summit produced a program that went forward, and it resulted in some dramatic changes in America. 

This particular summit did not do that.  What this summit really did was simply give America an opportunity to see the two sides at work.  And I think, objectively, on a substantive note, the Democrats were in better shape on this issue than the Republicans. 

But neither side was sparkling. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about a big story today.  The California attorney general, Jerry Brown, who is running for governor, today subpoenaed all the financial records of the top seven health insurance companies in the state of California. 

He is questioning whether they have unjustly raised premiums for people out there and are possibly denying payments of legitimate claims. 

Jerry Brown is a very smart political leader.  I just wonder if he‘s capturing the spirit of the times in California, Mr. Mayor. 

BROWN:  Well, it‘s clear that his choice of when he was to do this is consistent with his pursuit of the presidency.  Nevertheless...

MATTHEWS:  The—the governorship. 

BROWN:  ... it is a legitimate tool to be used.

I mean, not the presidency, but governorship. 

It is a legitimate tool to be used.  It should have been used by previous attorney generals.  And it should be used by this attorney general.  After all, a 39 percent increase by one company is just the tip of the iceberg.  And if they get away with it, it‘s clear other companies are going to have to do and will do the same thing. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk tough politics. 

It seems to me recent presidents of both parties—I talked about this earlier, Mr. Mayor—Ronald Reagan took on PATCO.  There was a wildcat strike by public employees who broke their contract.  He whacked them, fired some people.  Even the communists in the Soviet Union were impressed. 

Jack Kennedy back—my old hero—back in the old days took on big steel, Roger Blough, jawboned them into bringing prices down, after a wicked price increase, and basically stopped inflation. 

Does this president have to play tough guy at some point with the—with the Republicans and jam through health care, no matter how hard they squeal? 

BROWN:  I think he‘s on that track to do exactly that, now that he‘s talked about having the House vote with reference to the Senate bill, and then have the Senate correct whatever is there. 

Kick out Ben Nelson‘s preference, kick out the Louisiana Divide, or whatever it‘s called, kick out all those things that really make no sense, add some tort reform, and you‘re going to have what you need to jam the Republicans. 

And I think this president is in fact prepared to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Democrats could really challenge the trial lawyers on that point?  I have always known that one industry that is pro-Democrat, you know, the trial bench.  Do you think he will actually do that?  You said it.  Are you sure? 

BROWN:  I...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a tough move for a Democrat who is a president—a president who is a Democrat. 

BROWN:  Listen, I am a trial lawyer.  I have probably the reputation of being the most effective speaker for trial lawyers‘ interests in previous year. 

But I‘m also very practical.  It is now time to address some aspects of the whole trial bar activities.  And, believe me, you can do that, and you can do it in such a way that you do not in any way interfere with the consumer protections that are needed and enforced by trial lawyers‘ performances. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the chambers of commerce in every small town and big

town in America have heard you, sir.  And they‘re rallying to your surprise

to your...


MATTHEWS:  ... to your side in this fight. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Mr. Mayor.  Stay with us. 

Chuck and Savannah and the mayor are all staying with us throughout this second hour, as we cover what happened today, in probably the most important day so far in this big fight for health care, the moment that the president basically said the Republicans aren‘t with me on covering 30 million people; I‘m going to have to do it with just the Democrats. 

I think that is what happened today.

Up next:  House Republican leader John Boehner said the health care bill will bankrupt the country—his heated exchange with the president coming up next. 

This is a special edition HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


BOEHNER:  We have Social Security that‘s going broke.  We have Medicaid that is bankrupting, not only the federal government, but all the states.

And, yet, here we are having a conversation about creating a new entitlement program that will bankrupt our country.  And it will bankrupt our country. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL. 

Minority leader John Boehner drew some fire from President Obama today when he repeated the GOP talking point of the day.  The idea of scrapping the current bill and starting all over from scratch. 

We saw a lot of that, by the way, in that reel we just showed.  But here‘s the exchange, the big one, between Boehner, the Republican leader, and the president. 


REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER:  I tell you the thing that I have heard more than anything over the last six or seven months is that the American people want us to scrap this bill.  They‘ve said it loud.  They‘ve said it clear.  And let me help—help understand why. 

First thing is we just talked—we‘ve heard from the two budget directors about our fiscal condition.  We have Medicare that‘s going broke.  We have Social Security that‘s going broke.  We have Medicaid that is bankrupting not only the federal government but all the states. 

And yet here we are having a conversation about creating a new entitlement program that will bankrupt our country.  And it will bankrupt our country.  It‘s not that we can‘t do health insurance reform to help bring down costs, to help save the system.  This bill—this 2700-page bill will bankrupt our country. 

And secondly, Mr. President, I‘d point out that I think this is—this right here is a dangerous experiment.  We may have problems in our health care system.  But we do have the best health care system in the world by far.  And having the government take over of health care—and I believe that‘s what this is—is a dangerous experiment with the best health care system in the world that I don‘t think we should do. 

OBAMA:  John, you know, the challenge I have here—and this has happened periodically—is every so often we had a pretty good conversation trying to get on some specifics and then we go back to, you know,  the standard talking points the Democrats and Republicans have had for the last year. 

And that doesn‘t drive us to an agreement on issues.  There‘s so many things that you just said that people on this side would profoundly disagree with.  And I would have to say based on my analysis just aren‘t true that I think the conversation would start bogging down pretty quick. 


MATTHEWS:  I was just at the Panama Canal this weekend with my kids and I was thinking about man, a plan that can help Panama.  He‘s a man, a tan, a plan, a ban.  All he does is the same old thing. 

TODD:  Well, what was bizarre about that, it was the moment he chose to do that.  They were actually in the middle of a policy. 


TODD:  And look, this was a debate, not a negotiation.  You know.  I‘ll be honest.  I was a little naive.  I did think there would be a moment where you see let‘s take X. 

GUTHRIE:  Right. 

TODD:  And let‘s have a back and forth and let‘s see if we can get to an agreement.  Both sides made the decision to debate.  But then all of a sudden it was as if—it was as if Boehner decided, oh, wait a minute, I‘ve got to send a message to the base.  I‘ve got to say everything that we‘ve been hearing at those town halls and I‘ve got to make sure, I‘ve got to check those boxes so he used some really—you know, he used some really politically charged -- 

MATTHEWS:  Five hours. 

GUTHRIE:  It was very sound biting. 

TODD:  But it was weird.  And it was right at the end. 


TODD:  It was as if he was worried he wasn‘t going to get his -- 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s commercial. 

TODD:  Yes. 

GUTHRIE:  It had a feel of a closing argument or (INAUDIBLE) statement. 

TODD:  It was a 30-second ad for the Republican primary voter. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, and I get the feeling that that didn‘t show any genuine interest in trying something.  You know we just—let‘s go back to Mayor Brown.  I mean the idea that you suggested that they might put something in the Democratic plan and on tort reform, on trying to reduce the damages perhaps in some cases where you have frivolous lawsuits that cause, you know, specialists to leave their practices in states like Pennsylvania. 

We all know the problem.  Malpractice insurance can go through the roof.  But the Republicans didn‘t offer that.  They should—what you were saying a few minutes ago they should have used the whole four or five hours today to make one major improvement in the Democratic bill and they didn‘t do it. 

BROWN:  And they probably will not do it, because you‘ve got to understand, Chris, they do not want President Obama to succeed, period. 

I‘m surprised, frankly, that the (INAUDIBLE) six tonight didn‘t vote in the House that Nancy Pelosi spoke about actually happened.  I‘m surprised that the jobs bill picked up the five and six—seven Republican votes that it picked up. 

This is a designed program to create a problem for Barack Obama in his pursuit of his presidency as well as re-election.  This is not about taking care of problems existing in America if an opportunity presents itself. 

And it‘s unfortunate that the Republicans have chosen to go in that direction, as my good governor said in his comments this past week when the U.S.—when the governors conference was held.  So this is just a horrible performance by the Republicans on the substantive side. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I think they may have blown it in this sense.  The big threat they‘ve had, the cannon that they threatened to blow off, to explode, has been if the president goes with reconciliation, an up or down vote in the Senate, on majority vote with the vice president, then they‘ll stop all action in the Senate. 

What sounds to me when you listen to Mr. Issa tonight, and maybe the others, I get a sense of, including Mr. Boehner today, they‘ve already accepted the fact he‘s going to go with reconciliation and they‘re going to live with it.  They‘re not going to stop all action in the Senate.  They‘re not going to bring the house down. 

Is that your feeling or you think they might have the nerve to say, OK, you broke the rules, we‘re not going to pass any more bills this year? 

BROWN:  No, they don‘t have the nerve to stop all-America, even if they could.  Let me tell you, Chris, they are absolutely apoplectic with the idea that they may be forced to put up or shut up.  And that‘s kind of what the president said to them. 

He has said, very clearly, we are going to address this issue.  No matter what you say the political downsides are for Democrats seeking elections, we‘re going to do this.  And we‘re not going to do it because of Republican talking points or Democratic talking points. 

We‘re going to do it because these are issues that the American people have been in need of having them addressed.  That‘s the only reason why I raised the issue about tort reform, which is clearly what the Republicans should have done. 

They should have defined what they mean by tort reform.  They shouldn‘t let a trial lawyer remind them because it may not ultimately please their politics.  It probably won‘t.  Because it won‘t take away a legitimate victims right to get relief. 

That‘s what this is all about.  And the American people will follow the president‘s leadership on this issue. 

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re right.  I think they just heard you.  Here are four leaders, by the way, on both parties, Pelosi, Boehner, the two top leaders in the House, and Reid and McConnell, the top senators. 

They were less than friendly today.  Here‘s a sampling of sort of—what people believe is their sort of sour attitude today. 


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, MINORITY LEADER:  To this point, the Republicans 24 minutes, the Democrats 52 minutes.  Let‘s try to have as much balance as we can. 

BOEHNER:  This bill that we have before us—and there was no

reference to that issue in your outline, Mr. President—begins for the

first time in 30 years, allows for the taxpayer funding of abortions. 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  My colleague, Mr. Leader Boehner, the law of the land is there is no public funding of abortion and there is no public funding of abortion in these bills.  And I don‘t want our listeners or viewers to get the wrong impression from what you said. 

REID:  Again, Lamar, you are entitled to your opinion but not your own facts.  No one has talked about reconciliation but that‘s what you folks have talked about ever since that came out as if it‘s something that has never been done before. 


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  You know there‘s some personal aspects to this.  We were talking at the beginning of the last hour about the president and John McCain still having some bad blood.  It‘s certainly understandable.  One guy won.  One guy lost. 

But you see a lot of bad blood there.  A lot of fight goes on the hill and it‘s very hard to stay friends.  And maybe it‘s worse than it‘s ever been.  Because a lot of bad attitude there. 

TODD:  But Dole/Mitchell?  You know, when they were Senate Democratic leader, Senate Republican leader in that sense.  In fact, I‘ve been wanting to throw a question at Mayor Brown, which is -- 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead. 

TODD:  Because, Mr. Mayor, put your Mr. Speaker hat on.  And I‘ve heard this from a lot of Californians that has to do with when you and Pete Wilson would basically sit down in an office, cut a deal and get it done, and figure out that budget mess out there. 

But what I ask you this is in hearing the leadership of the Democrats and the Republicans just now, they‘re both having to play to their bases, could you have—can you today—the politics of today of the left and right these days, could you cut—you and Pete Wilson cut a deal and survive politically? 

BROWN:  Keep in mind the business of doing politics means that you rely upon relationships.  Those relationships do not start during the crisis.  Those relationships do not start during a confrontation.  Those relationships start when there are no things that divide you.  When you are developing mutual respect. 

Pete Wilson and Willie Brown had that.  You asked me specifically, could such a deal be cut today.  If you had the foundation of the relationship between a man with whom I served in the House before he became a mayor of San Diego, before he became the person who went to the U.S.  Senate. 

All those are things that occurred and we developed a friendship, a relationship and we had mutual respect for each other.  And our advocacy was based upon what we thought was in the best public interest. 

TODD:  But could your political parties -- 

BROWN:  Yes, we could cut a deal if that existed there.  The political party would not matter.  In today‘s group, however, there are no occasions when relationships have been allowed to develop in that way.  And that hurts the system. 

MATTHEWS:  It sure does.  You know, I was telling some people today—and this is a very important point for those who want to understand why it‘s screwing up these days in terms of just getting something done. 

Before we had jet travel which in a weird way, Mayor Brown, screwed up a lot of things in politics.  They used to drive home together.  So Dan (INAUDIBLE), the chairman of Ways and Means, and Bob Michael, the Republican leader, would drive to Chicago every weekend. 

In the course of what a long—a 10-hour drive you talk about your kids, your family, your problems with your wife, your problem with your kids.  You‘ve talked about so many things that a bill on health care sort of fits into the list of things you‘ve had to deal with. 

You‘re so right.  And you have to have had a friendship before you can have a deal.  At least a relationship. 

We‘re going to be right back with Chuck. 

It‘s so great having you here, Mayor Brown, having been speaker in the House in California for all those many years.  You know your stuff.  You‘re a great man.  It‘s great having you here. 

Up next, we have a better idea where health care reform goes from now certainly.  “Newsweek‘s” Ezra Klein is going to join us.  He‘s going to be with us right here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL only in MSNBC. 


PELOSI:  I think the insurance industry left to its own devices has behaved shamefully and we must act on behalf of the American people.  We have lived on their playing field all this time.  It‘s time for the insurance companies to exist on the playing field of the American people.. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL.  Joining me right now “Newsweek” columnist Ezra Klein. 

Ezra, I‘m going to ask you the big think questions now.  Did the president accomplish his goal today?  I guess the first question is, what was his goal and did he meet it? 

EZRA KLEIN, NEWSWEEK:  I think the president accomplished the goal two or three weeks ago.  So I think the secret importance of the summit was that three weeks ago and everybody‘s talking about Scott Brown and everything, the collapse and chaos for Democrats on health care, nobody knew what to do. 

And so the president set a summit that didn‘t have any particular power of its own but you and me and all of us in the media we began watching it.  Would the Republicans come?  Would the president have a plan? 

And it gave Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid time to start getting their people back in line.  Figuring out what reconciliation will look like.  Democrats are a lot further along now than they were then.  And I think it‘s substantially due to the space they were given by the summit. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you get that from the White House?  Is that reporting or is that conjecture? 

KLEIN:  That is a—that‘s a mixture of reporting and conjecture. 


KLEIN:  (INAUDIBLE) much further along. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you this.  Did you—were you impressed by Jim Clyburn there, the top—well, he‘s number three Democratic leader that came out and said it doesn‘t matter really at this point whether the House or the Senate moves first, whether the Senate acts on reconciliation, fixing its bill up to House specifications or whether the House moves to pass the Senate bill? 

He said it doesn‘t really matter which comes first.  I‘m not sure this is the final word.  In fact, we‘re getting word that it‘s not.  But he did go that far.  What do you think? 

KLEIN:  I was surprised to see him go that far.  So far House and Senate mistrust of each other has been one of the really big stories here.  It‘s been one of the real big problems for all of them. 

And on (INAUDIBLE), the question of who goes first shouldn‘t really be the question, right?  It‘s what do you need for the other one -- 

MATTHEWS:  Well, who says it should be -- 


MATTHEWS:  To a House member who‘s worried that the Senate may pull the rug out from under them, it does matter.  No. 

KLEIN:  Exactly.  And for the Senate who doesn‘t want to go back to reconciliation and see the House not vote for the bill, it matters, too.  And the question is, you‘ve really got a problem for the Democratic majority for these remaining, you know, however many months of it.  If the two bodies can‘t sort of hold hands and jump into the water at the same time. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that‘s what they‘re going to do based on my reporting today talking to leadership staff.  But they‘re going to get—they are going to move.  They‘re going to vote.  Whether one moves five minutes before the other—the Senate moves first, the House moves—they‘re going to get this thing, the Democrats, because it‘s the only way out of this trap. 

Let me ask you this question about the summit.  The president was a bit dismissive of the Republicans today.  I wouldn‘t say he was going for any kind of charm victory today.  He wasn‘t acting like Mr. Nice guy.  In fact, he was dismissive. 

You could argue—or arrogant if you‘re a Republican, but he‘s certainly dismissive the way he‘d go through his binder as McCain was talking, showing he had something else to do that‘s more important than listening to John McCain or that he (INAUDIBLE) test the guy. 

Little signs like calling them all by the first name.  Fine.  It‘s not big.  But he wasn‘t playing to charm—the watching audience at home it didn‘t seem.  What do you think was his audience today?  Was it the liberals on the Hill that are worried or was it the conservatives in the Hill that are worried? 

KLEIN:  The conservatives on the Hill who are worried I think are bigger than the liberals right now.  I think the president made a calculation here that he had to appear bigger than Congress.  It wasn‘t just bigger than Republicans but also than the Democrats. 

He took control of the bill here.  This whole week.  Right?  There‘s a White House proposal for—you know really the first time.  And today he pretty much took the whole thing over.  Rather than saying you guys are doing a good job.  I support what you‘re doing.  I‘m proud of the process. 

He came and he argued for pretty much every provision.  He made the argument against Republican provisions and they way he did it was he essentially shut them down.  He made this his bill and he said I know more than these guys.  You should trust me more than you trust them. 

MATTHEWS:  Does he meet the test that I was talking about throughout this evening?  Did he do something tonight equivalent or close to what Kennedy did with big steel, what Reagan did with the air traffic controllers?  Did he show his strength, his mettle yet, or is he about to? 

KLEIN:  I think what you could say with both of those, right, is that they were executive actions and the problem for Obama is he doesn‘t have that power over this process.  The real test of it, right, is going to come in a week.  How we all feel about it tonight is going to be much as important than the sense on the Hill next Thursday. 

And so that‘s going to be the trick, right?  Reconciliation is still going to be hard.  And we don‘t know exactly who those House conservative Democrats are who he needs to get and we don‘t know what they want.  They‘ve not been loud and they‘ve not been demanding the way senators were in the run-up up to their vote. 



MATTHEWS:  Some of them may want a promise of a separate vote to maintain the order and the commitment of the Hyde Amendment.  No federal funding of the abortion.  Period.  No way in hell. 

And some of them want that commitment ironclad more than they can get in this bill.  We‘ll see if that‘s part of the problem.  Pelosi has to get them anyway. 

Thank you, Ezra Klein, who‘s here from “Newsweek.” 

Much more ahead on today‘s health care summit as we continue our coverage.  You‘re watching HARDBALL only in MSNBC. 


SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA:  An d incremental approach is like a swimmer who‘s 50 feet offshore drowning and you throw him a 10-foot rope.  You say, well, it didn‘t reach him but we‘ll get it back.  We‘ll throw him a 20-foot rope next time.  Then we‘ll throw him a 30-foot—by that time, the swimmer has drown. 



MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s getting late, but here‘s a very contentious exchange between Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming and President Obama on the issue of catastrophic health care.  Let‘s listen. 


SEN. JOHN BARRASSO ®, WYOMING:  And Mr. President, when you say with catastrophic plans they don‘t go for care until later, I say sometimes the people with catastrophic plans are the people that are best consumers of health care in using the way they use their health care dollars. 

OBAMA:  Would you be satisfied if every member of Congress just had catastrophic health care?  Do you think we‘d be better health care purchasers?  I mean, you think—is that a change that we should make? 

BARRASSO:  Yes.  I think actually we would.  We‘d really focus on it. 

You‘d have more, as you say, skin in the game. 

OBAMA:  Because -- 

BARRASSO:  And especially if they had a savings account. 

OBAMA:  Will you -- 

BARRASSO:  A health savings account, they could put their money into that. 

OBAMA:  Would you feel the same way -- 

BARRASSO:  And if we‘d be spending the money out of that. 

OBAMA:  Would you feel the same way if you were making $40,000 or you had—that was your income?  Because that‘s the reality for a lot of folks.  I mean, it is very important for us when you say to listen, to listen to that farmer that Tom mentioned in Iowa. 

To listen to the folks that we get letters from.  Because the truth of the matter, John, is they‘re not premiers of any place.  They‘re not sultans from wherever.  They don‘t fly in to Mayo and suddenly, you know, decide they‘re going to spend a couple of million dollars on the absolute best health care. 

They are folks who are left out.  And this notion somehow that for them the system was working and that if they just ate a little better and were better health care consumers, they could manage, is just not the case. 

The vast majority of these 27 million people or 30 million people that we‘re talking about, they work.  Every day.  Some of them work two jobs.  But if they‘re working for a small business, they can‘t get health care. 

If they are self-employed, they can‘t get health care. 

And you know what, it is a scary proposition for them.  And so we can debate whether or not we can afford to help them.  But we shouldn‘t pretend somehow that they don‘t need help.  I get too many letters saying they need help.  And so I want to go to -- 

BARRASSO:  Mr. President, having a high deductible plan and a health savings account is an option for members of Congress and federal employees.  16,000 employees -- 

OBAMA:  That‘s right because members of Congress get paid $160,000 a year. 


BARRASSO:  -- did take advantage of that. 

OBAMA:  Because—

BARRASSO:  And so -- 

OBAMA:  Because members of Congress -- 

BARRASSO:  It‘s the same plan that the park rangers get in Yellowstone National Park. 

OBAMA:  John.  John, members of Congress are in the top income brackets of the country.  And health savings accounts, I think, can be a useful tool.  But every study has shown that the people who use them are folks who‘ve got a lot of disposable income.  And the people that we‘re talking about don‘t. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie and Willie Brown. 

Now, Chuck, you first, because you cover the president.  Everybody, I want a response especially the mayor. 

I don‘t hear that trust that we just heard the last three or four

minutes there.  That was wonderful.  He‘s talking about real people working

not working poor but working people who make 40 a year, who have to pay for health care. 

And speaking of health care account in a savings account and peeling off the dollars for dental and the regular health care costs.  This is what he‘s really talking about.  Peel them off as you go to the—fee for service.  That‘s a lot of money for people that need a health care plan to pay the regular cost of health care including dental. 

And he‘s saying you guys are making $176,000.  You don‘t know what it‘s like to be making 40.  That was a real life, I thought, explanation that anybody out there understands. 

TODD:  Well, and it goes to something -- 

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t he talk like that more often? 

TODD:  Well, we—those in the White House claim that they‘re going to put him out there more. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s not sappy.  It‘s real. 

TODD:  And it is not prepared remarks.  And it is showing him doing the—you know, when you hear that poll question cares about people like you. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the best question in the world. 

TODD:  Right.  And that always tells you a lot about -- 

MATTHEWS:  Does he care or she cares about someone like me? 

TODD:  It‘s answers like that. 

MATTHEWS:  And by the way, that 40k just happens to be the exact average income. 

TODD:  Right. 

GUTHRIE:  But it shows us him marshalling all those resources of an advocate to the defense of the American working people.  The people he was talking to on the campaign.  That‘s -- 

MATTHEWS:  And a lot of them vote Democrat. 

GUTHRIE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And let me go to Mayor Brown.  I don‘t see or hear that president very often.  I was impressed. 

BROWN:  I was impressed as well because you—that‘s his community organizing years.  That‘s his community organizing skills.  Those are the things that endeared him to most of the voters in this nation when they rejected John McCain and took Barack Obama. 


BROWN:  It was not a mistake on their part.  And Barack Obama is maybe, maybe eight to 10 months late in presenting his idea of how to solve the problem.  And he is certainly late in saying who the problem has to be solved for, who will benefit. 

And believe me, every single solitary person at all those town halls that‘s making 40 would have taken Obama‘s idea and not -- 


BROWN:  -- that fellow that was debating Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  And that fellow that was debating Obama didn‘t know how many houses he owned.  That was a John McCain problem. 


MATTHEWS:  And it was not a joke.  You are laughing but it‘s hilarious not to know how many houses you own.  And John McCain came off as a guy with a wealthy wife.  And whatever the situation was—look, everybody knows how many houses they have unless they have so many they don‘t need them. 

And this guy is saying—this president is saying 40k a year.  Let me tell you about being 40k a year.  That means you can‘t just peel off money and pay for health costs casually, that it hurts every time.  You know he didn‘t say -- 

BROWN:  And he -- 

MATTHEWS:  He said it pretty close.  This guy, Mayor. 

BROWN:  There was no question he laid it out.  He said to the people who were watching, who may have had a different view about health care.  Finally Barack Obama on message now and I hope the White House manages keep him on message, because every time he takes what he‘s attempting to do and hands it to the lady that cleans the hallway in the building that I live in, she gets that message. 

Because it resonates with her own experience.  And that‘s what Barack Obama was doing when he had that exchange. 

MATTHEWS:  And I‘m tired of him understanding the need to have bonuses on Wall Street to attract the best quality, you know, money managers.  You know he seems to understand through Geithner and Larry Summers the exact financial requirements of people on Wall Street, what they need in terms of million-dollar incomes to keep the best talent there. 

Why does he know that and not talk about the average person? 

GUTHRIE:  Well, wait a minute, I‘m -- 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s been the problem of this presidency. 

GUTHRIE:  Well, look, I think—

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, that has been a big problem.

GUTHRIE:  No, and I think—

MATTHEWS:  Geithner looks like one of the enemy—

GUTHRIE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- if you‘re a regular person.  And Summers thinks too much about Goldman Sachs and those guys and how well they‘re doing.  And it focused—is that—is that the home team?  The home team is the guy he‘s talking about right now, the regular person, I think.

GUTHRIE:  Well—yes, I think that his essential quality or the one quality we see a lot is his ability to see things from all sides of an issue.  He thinks that‘s one—that‘s in his core identity.  He thinks he‘s a consensus builder.


GUTHRIE:  And part and parcel of that is to say, you know, on the one hand, I don‘t begrudge success.  On the other hand—

MATTHEWS:  Well, what hand is he one?

GUTHRIE:  -- you cannot—right.

MATTHEWS:  What side is he on?

GUTHRIE:  That‘s the professor type.


GUTHRIE:  But what we saw today—you know, we‘ve heard him say these words before—we saw today was that advocate, somebody who showed a greater level of intensity to really try to take that—


MATTHEWS:  By the way, that‘s the Saul Alinsky in him—that is the committee organizer.  Because Saul Alinsky taught, understand both sides and all the nuances, but in the end, take a side.

TODD:  But on this issue, he spent more time talking about cost curves in the last 11 months because he was trying to—

MATTHEWS:  Sell to the audience.

TODD:  That‘s right.  He was trying to sell Congress.  He never did a

he never did try to sell to the American people as well as he tried to with selling Congress and trying to get sort of the wavering Democrats in the middle—



TODD:  -- which is why you always heard him say, bend the cost curve.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  When we come back, I want you, guys, to make a thought why didn‘t he get Mike Enzi?  Why didn‘t he get Chuck Grassley?  Why didn‘t he get the non-movement conservatives who are out there to talk to?  Why wasn‘t he able to use those arguments to build a bigger coalition than just the Democrats?

Because ladies and gentlemen, as we all know and heard tonight from Jim Clyburn and others, it‘s only the Democrats he has right now.

We‘re going to have some final thoughts from Chuck, Savannah and Mayor Brown when we come back to finish off the evening.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MCCAIN:  Can I just make one comment?  Why in the world then would we carve out 800,000 people in Florida that would not be—have their Medicaid Advantage cut?  Now, I propose amendment on the floor to say everybody will be treated the same.

And, Mr. President, why should we carve out 800,000 people because they live in Florida to keep the Medicare Advantage program and then want to do away with it?

OBAMA:  I think you make a legitimate point.

MCCAIN:  Well, maybe—

OBAMA:  I think you do.

MCCAIN:  Thank you very much.

OBAMA:  Yes.




MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with some final thoughts with Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown—of course, also former speaker of the California assembly.

But just for—I got to do it.  Let‘s take another look at the strategies both sides used today starting with the Democrats, who wanted to make the point that the two sides really aren‘t far apart.  This will be a setup to the really good one among the Republicans.

Here the Democrats are with their talking points.


SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA:  Quite frankly, we may be closer together than people really think, in actually getting agreement that we can move forward on.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Many of the provisions that are in our bill are initiatives put forth by the Republicans.

OBAMA:  There are some additional ideas that Republicans have presented that we think are interesting and we also tried to include.

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY:  And I think there‘s a lot of agreement that the current insurance market really fails way too many people.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  I was glad to hear my friend Tom Coburn‘s remarks.  I think we agree with most of them.

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK:  We are so close to national health insurance.

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA:  The main point is: we‘re not really that far apart.


MATTHEWS:  Well, here the Republicans are.  Their message was simple:

Kill bill.  Kill the bill and start over.

Catch how clearly they synchronized their language.  Let‘s listen.


SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE:  This is a car that can‘t be recalled and fixed and that we ought to start over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A lot of the people that I talk to want us to start over.

ALEXANDER:  They would like for us to start over.

REP. JOE BARTON ®, TEXAS:  We‘re talking about as Leader Boehner said and Mr. McConnell—Senator McConnell said, let‘s start over—

ALEXANDER:  So, if we can do that, start over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s time to start over.

ALEXANDER:  But we‘d like to start over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What we simply want to do is start over, work on a clean slate of paper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Starting from a clean sheet of paper.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  Let‘s start with a clean sheet of paper.  Let‘s start with a clean sheet of paper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Take the Etch A Sketch, go like this.  Let‘s start over.

BOEHNER:  Let‘s scrap the bill.  The American people want us to scrap this bill.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And we believe a better approach is to go step by step.

ALEXANDER:  It means going step by step together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They want us to take a step back and go step by step.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Move through these issues step by step.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY WHIP:  That‘s why we continue to say go step by step.

BOEHNER:  Let‘s take a step by step approach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What American families want is a common step—a common sense step by step approach.


MATTHEWS:  What a flaming embarrassment.  Look at these terms: “start over,” “clean sheet of paper,” “scrap the bill,” “step by step,” repeated like robotics.

Chuck first.

TODD:  Well, the last guy -- 

MATTHEWS:  This is an embarrassment for this party.



TODD:  Now, it got into what, you know—

MATTHEWS:  This is what it must be like at one of those North Korean assembly meetings where they all get together before the dear leader.

TODD:  The Republicans made the decision to prep.


TODD:  They did debate—actual debate—


MATTHEWS:  They rehearsed.

TODD:  But clearly, they had a rehearsed talking point.

The Democrats had a strategy.  But as you noted earlier, they had a wider vocabulary—


TODD:  -- in saying what they were.

But clearly, the Democrats went in there to say—hey, we‘re not that far apart.  We‘re in agreement.  Why?  Because it‘s this wavering conservative moderate Democrats that they need to win over and they need to convince, oh, it‘s not radical, don‘t worry, everything is going to be OK.

And the Republicans are trying to send the message: hey, we‘re all united here.  Let‘s start over, but we still want to have health care but let‘s start over.

MATTHEWS:  There was an example of Pyongyang democracy which is what the dear leader said to recite and they recited it as a song.

GUTHRIE:  Well, you know, and this is the reason why we, as correspondents, who have to put together short network pieces on this got a feeling like, you know, there wasn‘t a lot of there there, the 7 ½ hours of debate.  But both sides really talking past each other.

TODD:  Where was the issue negotiation, right?

GUTHRIE:  Yes, I think—

TODD:  We need to have that moment where you thought—

GUTHRIE:  Again, yes, there was—it had the potential of these guys lean across the table and, you know, putting numbers and sliding—


TODD:  Like, that‘s what we thought, like somebody is going to bring white board.  None of it.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Boise State (ph) can beat that out.

You know, Mayor, it made me so happy to see the production of those talking points and to see what—you took six or seven hours and wonder why does it sound repetitious.  Because it is.

Mr. Mayor?

BROWN:  Yes.  It is frankly too bad, Chris, that they had prep.  They had rehearsals.  As a matter of fact, the American people would have been much better off and it would have been much better theater if people had shown up and expressed their own personal views.

When someone says we‘re close together—no, tell me exactly what you mean.  Tell me what we‘re close on.  Are we close on X and X, X minus X, any of those things.  Tell me where we are in that regard.

And believe me, when you say we must start over, step by step, what do you mean by that?  Don‘t use those terms.  Speak real, clear, precise, simple English.  And then I‘ll know you understand.

Neither side did that in my opinion.  And it turned out to be 7 ½ wasted hours from the standpoint of ultimate substantive productivity.  But it presented a golden opportunity for Barack Obama to get even.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  This could be—get even.


TODD:  You know, I mean, that is ultimately—he‘s going to get—and I‘ll tell you this, the Democratic Party—

GUTHRIE:  Not get even like revenge.

TODD:  The Democratic Party will be seen as a failure in their ability, even be a majority party, if they can‘t finish this job.

MATTHEWS:  Savannah, it‘s great being with you.

GUTHRIE:  Great to be with you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

GUTHRIE:  The summit will be judged as a success if he has a good legislative outcome.  Otherwise, everyone—


MATTHEWS:  I think they‘re moving on.  I think Jim Clyburn made news tonight.  They‘re going (ph) -- Senate and House Democrats are getting together.

Thank you, Chuck Todd.

Thank you, Savannah Guthrie.

Thank you, Mr. Willie Brown.  It‘s great to have you on, sir.

BROWN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Keith Olbermann was supposed to be here tonight, with us tonight, but he couldn‘t make it for personal reasons—deeply personal reasons.

Keith, we know—you ought to know our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

We‘ll be back tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now, stick around for our special edition of HARDBALL on the health care summit.



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