Guests: Vice President Joe Biden, David Corn, Jonathan Allen, Anne
Kornblut, Liz Sidoti.
HOST: One on one with the VP.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Jerusalem. I‘m here in Jerusalem
tonight, where the United States has just been whacked in the face by the
Israeli government. Its announcement of new settlement construction is the
big story here, especially after Vice President Biden said here yesterday
that there‘s no space at all between the United States and Israel. Well,
there is now. And I‘ve got some tough thoughts on that later.
I‘ve also got part two of my interview with Vice President Biden. The
big subject was health care reform. And President Obama‘s in Missouri
today on a last big push to get his health care reform package passed by
late next week.
The latest Associated Press poll has President Obama holding steady at
53 percent in job approval, and he‘ll need all the support he can get if
he‘s going to meet his self-imposed deadline of next Thursday.
And how far will the Republicans go in exploiting troubled congressman
Eric Massa to make Congress look bad and them somehow look good? We‘ll get
into that one later.
Let‘s start with my interview with Vice President Biden on the White
House‘s last big push to pass health care reform.
Well, here we are in the Holy Land, Mr. Vice President. And the
president of the United States, your boss, has set a deadline for action
for action on the health care bill. It‘s a holy deadline—Passover,
MATTHEWS: You‘re laughing, but this is real. He wants this bill out
of the House by the end of next week.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So do I.
MATTHEWS: OK, how are you going to do it?
BIDEN: I feel confident the Speaker will be able to get these votes.
Look—and everybody talks about this extraordinary process. This is a
bill that passed the United States Senate with 60 votes.
BIDEN: Sixty votes. To ask a majority of the members of the House to
pass it and somehow that be extra-judicial or extra-legislative is just—
this has been blown out of proportion. And it will be reconciled. That‘s
you know, this so-called reconciliation process—only in Washington
does the word “reconciliation” mean war. I mean, you know...
MATTHEWS: So you‘re confident. What would be the adjective right
now, going into next week, of this sort of last hurrah on this bill, the
Joe Biden, the vice presidential view?
BIDEN: I am hopeful.
MATTHEWS: You are hopeful it‘s going to happen. Let me ask you, do
you think he‘s succeeded? I could put this a number of ways, but do you
think the president and his people, including you, have done a good job
explaining this bill to the American people? And if so—and here‘s the
hook—why are they so resistant to it in the polling?
BIDEN: Because it‘s real complicated, Chris. It‘s incredibly
complicated. Just explaining what a—the way in which the mechanism is
set up where everybody can buy into an insurance pool, be part of a—I
mean, people are—this is a complicated system.
And one of the things that the Republicans did very well, they spent
the month of August, last August, making a very strong rhetorical case
against it. They talk about death panels. They talk about all these
things that are absolutely ridiculous. When you ask people how they feel
about the bill, taking the constituent parts, they like it. But this is
MATTHEWS: Remember the loaves and the fishes?
BIDEN: I do.
MATTHEWS: The New Testament...
BIDEN: I do.
MATTHEWS: You probably know that story. A lot of people can‘t figure
out how you insure 30 million more people, which a lot of the liberals—
and I certainly support that.
MATTHEWS: Everybody likes—I like, every progressive, says, Let‘s
get 30 million people. How do you do that and lower the overall cost of
health care in this country?
MATTHEWS: How does that happen?
BIDEN: I‘ll tell you how you do it. When you have everybody in the
game, you don‘t have those 30 million people showing up in an emergency
room without any insurance to cover them, getting care, and you being
charged for it.
BIDEN: It costs you about a thousand bucks a year everybody has
insurance for those 30 million people.
MATTHEWS: But now they have a doctor. They have primary care.
BIDEN: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: They have dentists. They have all the other costs of
BIDEN: Well, what that does, it also saves billions of dollars in
preventative care. There‘s overwhelming evidence that if people actually
didn‘t wait to the last minute to deal with a crisis on their hands in an
emergency room, that it‘d cost a whole lot less money to maintain their
health. And so, you know, it‘s a little bit—let me give you one that
confuses the heck out of people. Why—how are hospitals going to do
this? We‘re paying hospitals an extra bonus out of Medicare to take care
of people who don‘t have insurance. If everybody walking in the door has
insurance, we don‘t have to pay them the bonus and we can save that $100
MATTHEWS: Do you think they‘ve done a good job of selling this?
BIDEN: No. We...
MATTHEWS: Why not?
BIDEN: Because it‘s complicated!
BIDEN: I need another 20 minutes...
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
BIDEN: ... to explain it...
MATTHEWS: Do you think the White House staff‘s been doing a good job
BIDEN: I do.
MATTHEWS: All I do is read these stories about Rahm Emanuel‘s up,
he‘s down, he‘s got friends, he doesn‘t have friends. Why are there so
many stories in the Washington press about the White House, looking under
the hood of the White House? Who cares?
BIDEN: Because for the first year, you couldn‘t find any problems.
This is the first administration of eight presidents I‘ve been with that
after one year, you don‘t have stories about the fundamental division
within the White House and among the cabinet and all the rest. So they
didn‘t—they couldn‘t find it there, go inside. Go inside. You know,
look, this is—this is great theater in Washington.
MATTHEWS: OK, you want great theater?
BIDEN: This is good stuff.
MATTHEWS: Eric Massa‘s leaving the House, right? He‘s retiring—
from New York. He says that Rahm Emanuel went up to him in the gym when he
was stark naked and put his thumb on him and said, Why aren‘t you voting
for the health care bill? That‘s theater. Is the guy too tough?
MATTHEWS: Is Rahm Emanuel too tough?
BIDEN: No, he‘s not too tough. And I—you know, I...
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that escapade?
BIDEN: Well, first of all, I have no idea if that happened.
BIDEN: All I know is the guy who said it happened has given three
different reasons why he‘s leaving the House.
BIDEN: I don‘t know! But let me tell you, Rahm Emanuel is smart,
he‘s tough and he‘s fair. He serves the president very, very well.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go to a question I know you care about. You‘re a
you‘re pro-choice on abortion rights. Ultimately, it‘s up to the woman,
but you‘re also (INAUDIBLE) with the Hyde amendment. How do we honor that
concern? I mean, a lot of people do fit that description. In fact, the
polls show most people who are pro-choice are against funding. Nancy
Pelosi‘s given—made a strong statement during the Blair House summit,
there was no federal money here for abortion. Are you confident? Can you
BIDEN: I am confident. When that comes to a vote on the floor, the
health care bill, I am confident that it will be absolutely prohibited to
use federal funding to provide for abortion.
MATTHEWS: OK, here‘s a tough question. The White House staff, you
say, has done a good job or not selling the president‘s programs? How
would you describe (INAUDIBLE)
BIDEN: Oh, I think it‘s done a good job. But look, I mean...
MATTHEWS: You think they‘ve done a good job (INAUDIBLE) Here‘s the
question. How come the Republicans bashed the brains into this president,
saying he did the bail-out bill, when Bush did the bail-out? Why do they
confuse the bail-out bill with the jobs stimulus bill and get away with it?
They keep doing this conflation trick they did to get us into war with
Iraq. They keep conflating the bail-out that Bush did with the jobs
stimulus bill, and the Democrats get blamed for it. I‘m just asking.
BIDEN: What I keep saying in the White House—patience. Have a
little patience here. Things are beginning to turn around. They‘re
beginning to turn around not only in fact in the economy, they‘re beginning
to turn around in figuring out the Republicans are for nothing. What are
they for? What have they offered?
And it is true that when you see in the news every single night X
hundred billion dollars for banks, no matter who started it—no matter
who started it—it‘s awful hard for the guy sitting at the kitchen table
in North Philly saying, Hey, man, I don‘t have a job, and they‘re giving
all this money to banks. This is a hard thing to sell until we start
actually every month seeing 100,000 created, 200,000 jobs created, the
economy moving. It‘s going to move. Patience.
MATTHEWS: Well, as we say in Northeast Philly, shalom.
BIDEN: That‘s not what you say in Northeast Philly! I know what you
say in Northeast Philly. I can‘t say it on (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for joining us.
MATTHEWS: Vice President Biden also condemned Israel‘s decision to
build 1,600 housing units in disputed Arab East Jerusalem. The decision by
Israel was a big-time slap in the face to the White House and it‘s put a
dark cloud over Biden‘s trip here. We‘ll get into that next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL from Jerusalem, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Vice
President Biden condemned Israel‘s decision to build 1,600 new housing
units in East Jerusalem. He was ambushed by the announcement and said it
was precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now.
Palestinian leaders are already saying the plan could torpedo U.S. efforts
to restart Mideast peace talks.
Let‘s go now to NBC News White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie
and also to David Corn, the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones”
magazine. Savannah, what is the White House reaction to this slap in the
face over here?
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Oh, well, I think you saw it in
the person of Vice President Biden. I think they are irate about it. They
condemned it. They think it really undermines the process at a time when
they‘re just trying to breathe some life into these talks, which, let‘s
face it, are really barely breathing at this moment.
And I think some symbolism was evident when Biden showed up 90 minutes
late last night to his dinner with the prime minister, trying to send a
signal, perhaps, Look, you yank our chains, we can do that, too. Two can
play at that game. So I don‘t think there‘s any way to interpret it other
than a total rebuke, a slap in the face.
And notice when the interior ministry—when they apologized today,
the interior minister, he apologized for the timing, saying, You know what?
Maybe I should have waited a week. But he did not apologize for the
substance. In other words, they are unapologetically going forward with
this settlement construction in East Jerusalem.
MATTHEWS: David, what‘s your view on this? Because we‘ve watched—
apparently, this kind of thing happens occasionally—in fact, some people
think too often—where the minute an American official comes over here,
that there‘s always that very strong demonstration of independence, in
fact, you might say recalcitrance on part of the Likud government.
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”: Well, look what happened yesterday. You
covered this a bit. The day began with Joe Biden saying there is no space
between the United States and Israel, and the day ended with Joe Biden
saying, I condemn this decision. In diplomatic terms, using the word
“condemn” with an ally is considered really pretty—going pretty far.
It shows, at the very least, that Netanyahu can‘t control his own
government. It seems like he might have even been blind-sided by this
announcement yesterday by the interior ministry. The Netanyahu government
only exists because he‘s made deals and put together a coalition government
with some far-right parties in Israel. And it‘s one of those—leaders of
one of those parties who controls the interior ministry and who was
unapologetic about this.
SO you would think that if Netanyahu was serious about having a decent
relationship with the United States, he‘d make sure that all the ducks were
in order when the vice president was coming.
On the policy matter, a few months ago, in November, Israel agreed to
a 10-month partial freeze on settlements that did not include this East
Jerusalem, where these settlements are at issue. And the United States and
others said OK to that. So what‘s happened now—a policy that the U.S.
has OKed for Israel has now ended up being been condemned by Israel (SIC).
So Netanyahu has lost in the politics. He‘s lost in the policy. He‘s
made the United States and Biden look very foolish while they‘re all trying
to put together a united front in getting negotiations going and in dealing
MATTHEWS: You know, Savannah, I guess we‘ll always debate, depending
on how friendly people are to Israel, whether we have the same exact
interests they do. No two countries have the same exact interests. But it
looks to me like it‘s now become fairly clear we have different policies.
The United States policy and it was a policy of the previous
administration, the Bush administration, as well, is we want two states in
this area of the world. We want to have an Israeli state, a Jewish state,
and we want to have the development, if possible, of a Palestinian state, a
peaceful Palestinian state alongside it. That doesn‘t seem to be the
policy of Netanyahu and his government.
GUTHRIE: Well, look, I think it was an Israeli official who said that
these indirect talks really are the last gasp for peace talks and the last
gasp for the notion of a two-state solution, and that if this doesn‘t work,
which, frankly, you know, people who‘ve been watching this longer than I
have don‘t have a lot of faith that it will, that that‘s where you end up.
And look, the issue about yesterday, with this slight—you know,
there‘s not necessarily a lot of reservoir of good will between Netanyahu
and Obama to begin with. I think Obama—or excuse me, Netanyahu is a
little bit suspicious of Obama and been looking at his own domestic
problems and wondering, Well, do I just wait it out? Maybe President Obama
isn‘t that strong. Maybe I wait it out until the next election.
So I think there‘s a little bit of that going on, as well as, of
course, what David mentioned, which is Netanyahu‘s own domestic politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think that‘s the perception over here, that
Netanyahu has played a waiting game, a delay game. He‘ll do the old
British trick of conceding the principle, David. He‘ll say, yes, we ought
to have talks on two states, and yes, let‘s think about it, let‘s get
together maybe, and never really challenging the principle. But I think
everybody over here knows he‘s Likud guy. The Likud Party‘s against giving
land back, certainly giving a—creating a state. He‘s got far-right
people in his party coalition, the religious right. It‘s very hard to
believe that he wants a two-state solution, that he‘s with the president on
CORN: There‘s been a challenge for every American president who wants
to make progress in the Middle East. If you get out there and you say, as
Joe Biden said yesterday, that we have an absolute commitment to Israel,
you‘re kind of in a box because then if Israel does something that you
don‘t like, well, you know, you can criticize it, but it looks like you‘re
really not united and you don‘t have an absolute shared vision together.
Being a broker in a region, which we try to be...
CORN: ... and being, you know—you know, basically, the guarantor
of Israel‘s security, which we try to be and we say we are, are very hard
to juggle at the same time. And it allows, I think, Israel, which is, I
think, in a position of weakness generally in this power dynamic, to, you
know, either yank our chain or be manipulative. And if Netanyahu really
wanted to make things work with peace negotiations, he certainly is in a
position to do so. But now it looks like a real tangle.
The one thing that the U.S. does have going for it is that in domestic
politics in Israel, often the key question is, Does the prime minister have
the confidence of Washington? Does he have good relations with Washington?
And so when Biden and perhaps when President Barack Obama say critical
things about Israel, that does hurt Netanyahu. It would tend to. So
perhaps the U.S. has to be—play more hardball, Chris, to get things
MATTHEWS: You know, Savannah, this is going to be hard to weigh this
for a couple of weeks now. You know, you and I and everybody who covers
presidents are always looking for signs of strength, whether it‘s, you
know, breaking the PATCO strike or Kennedy standing up to U.S. Steel or
some sign of steel, if you will. And yet we‘re also aware that it‘s
possible for even a friendly country like Israel to overplay its hand.
What‘s the sense in the White House right now? Did Netanyahu let
things get out of hand? Did he play too tough with our president, even
humiliating our vice president, or that Netanyahu at least knows where he
stands and Obama doesn‘t? Who won this fight?
GUTHRIE: Well, I don‘t know if they‘ve made that calculus, or at
least not to me in talking with a senior aide just before we came on here.
They said, Look, Netanyahu‘s got his own coalition, almost hinting, it
seemed, to what David Corn was alluding to, that Netanyahu‘s got to get
control of his own government here.
But you know, the other piece of this that we should be talking about,
of course, is Iran. I mean, look, Middle East peace talks have to make
some progress if the administration can put together the coalition it wants
to and corner and box in Iran. If you want to get moderate Arab states on
board publicly, you‘ve got to show some progress on Middle East peace. And
that‘s the other factor that‘s going in here, that and also keeping Israel
in line and keeping it in terms of its own reaction to Iran.
Obviously, of great concern here is that if the Obama administration
can‘t get the Security Council, everybody united around tough new
sanctions, that Israel‘s going to feel like it doesn‘t have a lot of
options left. And that creates its own set of problems. So that‘s the
other piece of the puzzle...
GUTHRIE: ... as we talk about this. It‘s not just about diplomatic
niceties. I mean, it really implicates some big issues.
CORN: Ahmadinejad is the winner so far in all this. You ask for
winners, and sometimes we don‘t know for a while. You know, any—if
there is conflict between the United States and Israel and that does get in
the way of reviving any semblance of talks with the Palestinians and
Israel, then that‘s good for Iran. It makes everything just muddier and
murkier and gives Arab states more excuse not to get tough with Iran.
MATTHEWS: You know, it is so interesting you said that, because the
president of Israel, a man everybody loves, Shimon Peres, yesterday said
that what Ahmadinejad has set up in this part of the world is a very simple
nexus: Israel against its enemies.
And, therefore, there‘s kind of weird notion that, if you are an enemy
of Israel, you are somehow the leader of the region. And he‘s made himself
even though he is a Persian and not an Arab, and something of an
unstable figure, he is setting himself up in a nexus between him leading
the forces against Israel, generally speaking, and Israel on the other
And this—I think you said it well—it sets up him as at least the
daily winner in this difficult situation.
Savannah Guthrie, thank you so much for joining us from the White
And David Corn from “Mother Jones,” as always, you are great.
Up next: Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has only been on the job
for just about a month. Talk about hubris. He is already writing his
memoirs. Don‘t you usually have a career first, then write the memoirs?
What is going on? Catch the “Sideshow‘ coming up next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL—this guy has got his bragging rights set
up already—from Jerusalem, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL from Jerusalem. Time for the “Sideshow.”
We learned today that Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, who has been
a senator for just 35 days, has a book deal. According to “The Wall Street
Journal,” Brown is expected to write about his upbringing, his early
career, and how he beat Martha Coakley to win his Senate seat.
Maybe he can call it, “It‘s Not About the Truck.”
Just a thought, but didn‘t people used to write their memoirs after
their careers? This guy has been in office, what, a month?
Up next: Check out this new radio ad that J.D. Hayworth is running
statewide in Arizona for his primary challenge against Republican Senator
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, J.D. HAYWORTH CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: Unlike some leaders who shy away from their faith, J.D.
Hayworth embraces it. J.D. Hayworth accepted Christ as a young boy and
later met his wife, Mary, at church.
After nearly losing a daughter early in pregnancy and a son in
childbirth, J.D. and Mary were sustained by prayer and came to value God‘s
gift of life even more.
God gave us the covenant of marriage and the blessing of children.
That is why J.D. Hayworth supports traditional marriage and defends the
right to life of the unborn.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Don‘t we have a constitutional ban against setting
religious test for public office? I have never heard somebody scoff up
votes by saying he‘s better at his religion than the other guy.
Now, for the “Big Number.”
President Obama is out in Saint Louis today making the final push for
health care. We know how the president and his team think they are going
to get it done, at least 50 Senate votes, plus the tiebreaker by Vice
But a new Associated Press poll finds that a huge part of the country
thinks it is important for the president to get some Republican votes as
well. How many? Well, 84 percent of the country thinks he needs
Republicans. Tonight‘s “Big Number,” 84 percent of the country tells the
Associated Press that it is important for any health care plan to have the
support of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
Up next, another kind of sideshow: ex-New York Congressman Eric
Massa‘s bizarre media blitz and how the Republicans are trying to exploit
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC
Stocks bouncing back from a midday diplomat, with banks leading the
way, the Dow grinding out a three-point gain, the S&P 500 ticking up five
points, and the Nasdaq adding 18.
A big day for Citigroup—shares jumping more than 6 percent, this
after a vote of confidence from analyst Dick Bove this morning on CNBC.
Investors also interested in reports the bank is considering selling its
real estate unit.
Retailer American Eagle another big winner—its shares climbing more
than 6 percent on a better-than-expected quarterly report—profits there
up about 81 percent from a year ago.
And oil prices hitting an eight-week high, before settling around $81
a barrel on a surprise drop in U.S. inventories.
And another surprise drop, this time in wholesale inventories—after
January sales rose to their highest level since 2008, restocking is on
deck, and that is always good for the economy.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GLENN BECK”)
ERIC MASSA (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Glenn, the only thing I can
do is slit my wrists and bleed out here on the—I‘m telling you, I was
wrong. I was wrong. It‘s why I have—do you...
GLENN BECK, HOST, “GLENN BECK”: Wait. Wait. The—the—no. What
you‘re saying to me is, they took it wrong.
MASSA: No. I‘m saying my behavior was wrong. My behavior was wrong.
I should have...
BECK: What is wrong about it?
MASSA: I should have never allowed myself to be as familiar with my
staff as I was. I never translated from my days in the Navy to being a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was now former Congressman Eric Massa on FOX News last night.
What is the latest Republican plan to exploit this troubled man?
Joining me now is Politico‘s Jon Allen and MSNBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell.
Jon, it seems like, Jon, to start with you, that the Republicans—
or, rather, the media right, if not—well, actually, the leadership as
well—seems to be enjoying this man‘s problems of identity and behavior
and perhaps embarrassment.
JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO.COM: Well, I certainly think Republicans are
are watching this, as everyone else is, with sort of a mix of horror and
fascination and anticipation.
And, at the moment, they have generally gotten out of the way and let
him stumble, and let the Democratic leadership speak for what it has done
and what its role was in this, Steny Hoyer, for instance, giving a 48-hour
ultimatum to Massa‘s staffer to go to the Ethics Committee. Nancy Pelosi
has addressed it somewhat.
But I think you‘re going to see Republicans moving forward in the next
couple of days and really pushing to get a better timeline on certainly
what the speaker knew, and when, and how she was informed and how her staff
So, I think we are going to see a little bit more activity from
Republicans on that in the next couple of days, maybe even next week.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s what you‘re reporting over there.
Norah, it seems to me that the Republicans are changing their tactics.
First of all, they used him as kind of an attack dog. He is going all over
the media, all kinds of programming, “Glenn Beck” especially, sort of
pointing the finger at Rahm Emanuel and others in the Democratic Party,
attacking Nancy Pelosi.
In his troubles, he seems to be pointing his finger at the Democrats.
And now the Republicans seem to be saying, no, we can use this guy a
different way. We can sort of smear the Democrats, or besmirch them,
rather, because they didn‘t get to this problem sooner?
I guess—is that their latest tactic?
NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You are
absolutely right that Congressman Massa—or former Congressman Massa—
has now become a tool of the right.
The news today is that the Republican leader, John Boehner, is saying
that he wants the Ethics Committee to reopen its investigation into these
allegations of sexual harassment by Massa. And, in fact, some of the
sources, Republican sources, I‘m talking to say that they may, in fact, go
ahead and push for a formal information.
What do they want in that investigation? They want to know what the
Democratic leadership knew and when. Specifically, did Speaker Nancy
Pelosi know about this at all? Remember that Speaker Pelosi has said that
she did not know about it, her staff heard had about some of the rumors,
but that she was not specifically informed about this.
Steny Hoyer has said that he knew about this, that he issued Massa an
ultimatum, and that, of course, it then got referred to the Ethics
Committee. But the Republican leaders right now are weighing should they
push really, really hard for this formal investigation to try and—to try
and blame, essentially, Nancy Pelosi for all this, for not knowing about
it, and, if she did know about it, for not doing more?
Because this not only involves allegations about groping and tickling
male staffers, but possibly also an intern. And that is very serious.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at—here he was, Eric Massa, the
former congressman from New York, on FOX last night, on “Glenn Beck.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GLENN BECK”)
MASSA: I should have never allowed myself to be as familiar with my
staff as I was. I never translated from my days in the Navy to being a
BECK: All right.
MASSA: But I did not—let me be very clear.
BECK: I don‘t know of tickle fights in the Navy. I have never been
in the Navy. I don‘t know of tickle fights in the Navy.
MASSA: Oh, hey, let me show you something.
BECK: You‘re going to show me tickle fights...
MASSA: I‘m going to show you a lot more than tickle fights. You
can‘t—I don‘t know if you—that is a crossing-the-line ceremony...
BECK: Harry (ph), can you get this?
MASSA: That is a crossing-the-line ceremony in 1983. If you were to
take this out of context today...
BECK: I don‘t know if you can show this.
Really, Harry, you know...
MASSA: But if you—can you imagine transporting back to this today?
It looks like—like an orgy in “Caligula.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jon, what do you make of this—of this expose?
I mean, it seems like he is almost dancing out there with his
troubles, going into not just whatever his behavior was his staff, which is
certainly going to be a serious matter for the Ethics Committee and perhaps
for the leadership, but this roommates thing, with the four bachelor
roommates going into tickle fights and tickle parties, and he is the 50-
year-old guy on the bottom of the pile.
All this stuff involves his social life and all this stuff that is
certainly about a troubled guy, I think. Is this helping anybody?
ALLEN: Well, we will see—it‘s certainly not helping Eric Massa or
his reputation. You heard him essentially impugn the United States Navy
during that interview with Glenn Beck, that this is sort of normal behavior
in the Navy.
I think that, if you talk about the tickle fights—and he tried to
say that—on “Glenn Beck” that none of what he did was sexual. Had he
been in a tickle fight with female staffers, I don‘t think anybody would be
trying to make that distinction between sexual and non-sexual.
So, I think, look, Eric Massa...
ALLEN: ... obviously is going through a very difficult time. He had
that odd interview where he talked about Rahm Emanuel approaching him in
the House gym shower naked.
I mean, these are sort of odd things for someone to just sort of
volunteer up. And he is certainly going through a difficult period right
now. I think one of the things I actually hear on Capitol Hill a fair
amount these days is, there‘s some sadness for him, because he is self-
destructing in such an ugly way and in such a public way, in addition to
whatever—whatever consequences there—there might be for him for his
inappropriate behavior in the past.
MATTHEWS: Well, that gets to the point here. Here is Nancy Pelosi,
the speaker of the House, on “Charlie Rose,” saying: “This is a very sick
person. Perhaps his judgment is impaired because of the ethical issues
that have arisen.”
Well, that is kind of hard and clinical.
Let me go to something on “Larry King” the other night. This really
got a bit graphic. And then we‘re going to end this sordid conversation.
I got the feeling somebody ought to show some sympathy for this guy. I
don‘t see a lot coming from anybody, really.
But here is Larry King, who was at least getting to some of the issues
here that are more personal than political.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE”)
LARRY KING, HOST, “LARRY KING LIVE”: This may be silly, but I guess
we have to ask it. Are you—are you gay?
MASSA: Well, here‘s that answer. I‘m not going to answer that.
In—in year 2010? Why don‘t you ask my wife, ask my friends, ask
the 10,000 sailors I served with in the Navy.
KING: No. All right. All right...
MASSA: I‘m not going to answer that. That‘s—that is such...
KING: All right, you don‘t have to. I said...
MASSA: Well, but it‘s an insulting...
KING: This ain‘t a court.
KING: I didn‘t mean it to insult you.
MASSA: No, no, not me. It insults every gay American, because,
KING: No, it doesn‘t.
MASSA: Yes, it does. It somehow classifies people.
Why would anybody even ask that question in this day and age?
KING: Because you said you groped someone...
MASSA: And—and here you go back to that. And I..
KING: ... who was a male.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Norah, I‘m almost thrown back into the position
of saying something philosophical, that Congress is a representative
It‘s got everybody, 535 members. It‘s got people with personal
troubles, identity issues, behavior problems that do get into the
MATTHEWS: It seems to me that we are just watching a person‘s sort of
public humiliation here. And I don‘t know what purpose it serves anymore.
And the Republican Party keeps pushing it. The right-wing media is
pushing it. I guess we are doing it by even talking about it. But it has
become something of a serious spectacle here. And if it becomes a serious
question used against the Democrats, it‘s going to become an even bigger
O‘DONNELL: No doubt about it. And that was certainly why the
Republican right tried to use the congressman yesterday to do that, by
asking him to explain, you know, what was corrupt in government.
He has only been a congressman for 14 months. He has hardly been in
Congress that long. But, clearly, he is struggling with how to explain
these allegations of sexual misconduct and his resignation.
First, of course, he said that it was a reoccurrence of his cancer
scare. Then he said it was salty language. Then his explanation for
resigning that we learned that there were these charges of sexual
harassment. And then he says he groped staffers. “And, not only did I
grope a male staffer, I tickled him until he couldn‘t breathe,” and that
he, you know, tousled the hair of one of his male staffers, “What I ought
to be doing is fracking you.”
I mean, the explanations get weirder and weirder and weirder. It is
one of these instances where he should stop talking, because, every time he
opens his mouth, the story changes, and, also, we learn more disturbing
descriptions of his interactions with his staff, which he described as—
quote, unquote—“all bachelors.”
MATTHEWS: Yes. John, you can have the last word on this. I think
“Saturday Night Live” will probably have the last word on this. I just
imagine the cold open come Saturday night with the shower scene. I don‘t
know how they avoid it at this point. That is the funny side. We have a
serious problem with a guy here.
Go ahead. Your thoughts? Is this going to end on “Saturday Night
Live” or is this a serious issue that‘s going to have legs?
ALLEN: It will end on “Saturday Night Live.” But there is a
serious issue here. One of the things it points is that Capitol Hill
remains sort of the last plantation, where staffers really are kind of
under the thumb of their bosses.
In this case, you‘ve got somebody who gets out of the reach of the
Ethics Committee by resigning his job. Obviously, there were some staffers
who felt very uncomfortable in the situations that they were put in. That
is maybe one of the serious things to take from this.
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re right. Thank you, Jonathan Allen. Thank
you, Norah O‘Donnell.
Up next, President Obama makes another campaign-style stop to push
health care. Is it going to work? His trip to St. Louis today. This is
HARDBALL, from Jerusalem, thousands of miles away from the Eric Massa mess,
only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL from Jerusalem. Time for the
politics fix. President Obama is in St. Louis today, pushing health care
reform ahead of next week‘s deadline. Liz Sidoti is national political
reporter for the Associated Press. We also have the “Washington Post‘s”
Anne Kornblut with us right now.
Liz, give me a sense of this new campaign cadence of the president.
It is like he is back to 2008.
LIZ SIDOTI, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes, it really does. I mean, what
President Obama has shown us over the course of campaigning is that he is
best when the stakes are really high, and when the final push is in the
mix. So he has headed out on the road and talking to voters, and doing
what he does best, which is trying to sell them on exactly his policies at
this point. It is not selling them on the White House, but selling them on
the policies. We‘re going to see more of that.
MATTHEWS: Anne Kornblut, you covered him in the campaign. It seems
like he is happier when he has a clear cut number to go for. Back in the
campaign against Senator Clinton, the numbers were the delegates. The
numbers were who is going to have the most delegates. That was simple. He
didn‘t care about all the anger and all the commentary about him, as long
as he was going up in numbers. Is he happy now that the number is 216; he
has to get it; if he gets it, he wins?
ANNE KORNBLUT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: That is a really good way of
putting it. I hadn‘t thought of it that way. But now that you mention it,
I think that is exactly right.
What we saw in the campaign was that he would do fine when he was
just running against himself. But when his back was up against the wall,
when he was really challenged by Senator Clinton, he would rally. That is
what we are seeing him do now. He has got that fighting spirit, the fire
in the belly. There is no shortage of cliches that we‘ve described what he
needed to show. He seems to be showing it this week.
What I don‘t know is how long he can sustain it. He is going on
this trip to Asia, to Indonesia, Guam and Australia on March 18th. The
White House has said they want this done by then. The House has said, we
are not sure we can do it, and by the way, we don‘t need you giving us
deadlines. We‘re trying to get this thing done here as we can.
So if it doesn‘t get done by the time he leaves for Asia, this
momentum we‘re seeing, this burst of energy here, he certainly can‘t do
that halfway across the world. And can he pick it up when he comes back?
I don‘t know. There‘s still—even though it seems to be going in the
right direction, still, as always with health care, a lot of unknowns.
MATTHEWS: You know, during the campaign, Liz, we had—we all
watched David Plouffe run that masterful campaign. It was all about
numbers, as I said. It wasn‘t about who carries New York. It was about
who gets the most delegates. Now you have Rahm Emanuel in the hot seat.
He is really being tested now. It seems to me if they don‘t get the health
care bill, he will get blamed just like the president. Exactly, the stakes
aren‘t as big, but it is all about the numbers now.
SIDOTI: Well, sure. There is only so much the White House can do.
Look at the voters‘ behavior when the Louisiana Purchase went down and when
the Cornhusker Kickback went down. The White House, I think, has to be
very careful about just how much they twist arms in order to get this bill
Voters are sick of Washington. They‘re sick of the politics of
usual up here. I think the White House has to be pretty delicate. And
Rahm Emanuel, as well, has to be pretty delicate about how they actually go
about getting this done.
As we‘ve seen before, Congress has a mind of its own. And they made
very clear they are not necessarily going go along with this, as Anne said,
this deadline. Congress is going to do what it wants in some respects.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know. I get the feeling Nancy Pelosi is a team
player. Let me ask you, Anne Kornblut, about what is in and what is out?
There was noise on the Republican side certainly about Eric Massa. They‘re
riding that baby. But there‘s also the thing about Scott Matheson, the
brother of the congressman out in Utah. What is fair game now? What is
OK, in terms of offering up the Sugar Plums to turn the corner on health
KORNBLUT: You‘re right. What is arm twisting? What is bribery? I
think, at this point, they are going to be, actually, as Liz said, very
careful about what could be perceived as trying to buy a vote directly.
But they have to get there somehow. They are us tussling over abortion.
They‘re tussling over specific provisions that could be fixed in
I don‘t think we know exactly what fair game is at this point. The
Republicans are going to complain about anything that smells of being a
deal. They, at this point, feel they have to get it done. So I think it
is an open question.
MATTHEWS: The vice president, in our interview out here—we
showed it tonight. We actually conducted the interview late yesterday, but
tonight we showed it. He talked about some sense—I got the sense from
his remarks that they are trying to develop some kind of response to the
Stupaks, to the people who really are concerned about abortion being in
this bill. Do you have a sense they are refining it in some way, or
finding some way to give confidence to the pro-life Democrats? Anne
KORNBLUT: Yeah. It seems that they are trying to do a couple of
different things. One is to count the votes and to see if they can do this
without the pro-life Democrats. They‘re not sure. There are some
Democrats who think they can. Others who caution, no, you have to have
They are signalling that, as they go forward, there might be another
time, another bill where they can make some fixes. Repeatedly what we have
heard Nancy Pelosi say, over and over again—and the White House agrees
with this—this is not an abortion bill. This is a health care bill.
Let‘s not get the two things confused. Whatever your concerns are, we can
fix them in the future. Let‘s not get hung up on this.
MATTHEWS: Liz, do you have any reporting on that? Because the vice
president seemed to suggest, and Stupak is suggesting, that they are
working towards some kind of resolution on that front?
SIDOTI: You know, Rahm Emanuel was up on the Hill last night, sat
down with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. I think that‘s exactly what they‘re
trying to o. The White House recognizes that these abortion provisions are
a road block and are stalling this from getting done.
You know, what we‘ve seen is that Stupak has spoken to Waxman about
this. And Waxman has indicated that yes, they are trying to come up with
some sort of a solution, because I think Democrats, overall, want health
care passed. They want to get this done. They want this for the
president. They want this for the American people.
And the division within their ranks, this close to an election, on
an issue that they made their priority, does not look good for the
MATTHEWS: Liz, as I said earlier, the president is going out to St.
Louis tonight to campaign for Claire McCaskill, raise some money for her,
but also to push for health care reform. What do you think about the fact
that the candidate out there for Senate, Robin Carnahan, she‘s not even
going to be out there? Is that a snub? Because of the difficulty of a
Democrat winning out there with a president who is not that popular in
SIDOTI: Two things to think about here. Missouri was the one swing
state where John McCain won in November, 2008. And I think—I wouldn‘t
necessarily call it a snub. But I think it‘s a recognition that, you know,
America doesn‘t like Washington right now. Voters, and particularly voters
in swing states, don‘t like Washington.
And no matter how hard Obama tries, he‘s still the president. He
still lives in the Washington. He still lives in the White House. In many
respects, as much as he tries to fight against Washington, he is
Washington. I‘m not sure how smart it is for a Democrat in the swing state
right now to have him in. I think Democrats, in general, are going to
tread carefully when it comes to—on one hand, he‘s a popular president.
On the other hand, he‘s a reminder of Washington.
MATTHEWS: You know, Anne, it‘s interesting to watch how politicians
give a statement. Here is Carnahan‘s statement, put out by the campaign
out there: “Robin will be meeting with financial regulators and policy
makers in Washington to demand strong financial reforms to Wall Street
bankers accountable.” It goes on and on about the importance of Robin
Carnahan, the secretary of state, meeting in Washington today.
How do you read it? It seems to me—maybe we‘re watching this too
closely. But when the president comes to your state and campaigns
politically for his number one priority, that the Senate is going to have
to vote on, it seems to me that somebody running for the Senate ought to be
there. What do you think?
KORNBLUT: Well, the campaign actually had a great rebuttal. Some
Republicans were pointing out that statement, point out the fact that she‘s
not going to be there. And the Carnahan campaign said, “what? Are you
suggesting that we should put politics over people?” She‘s going to be
talking about financial reform in her capacity now.
Look, the president‘s popularity ratings in Missouri are quite low
right now. It‘s not really that shocking that she might want to be seen
carrying on her business. Although, I agree; I wouldn‘t take it all the
way to a snub, but to deprive her Republican opponent of the opportunity to
have a photograph of her with the president. Fresh campaign ad material,
isn‘t really all that surprising. It is, though, a pretty sharp reversal
from what we saw in the last election. In Virginia, in New Jersey, in
Massachusetts, where candidates wanted the president there. It is
noteworthy that she isn‘t there.
MATTHEWS: Missouri is a tough state. It‘s the Show-Me State. Of
course, I always like to point out the weirdness. It‘s the only state in
the union that voted for Eisenhower, who won the war in Europe, the first
time, and decided they didn‘t want to vote for him the second time, in ‘56.
It‘s an interesting decision by an interesting state, that is hard to
Thank you, Liz Sidoti, and thank you, Anne Kornblut.
Up next, I‘m going to have some thoughts about the White House‘s
condemnation of Israel‘s announcement yesterday to build 1,600 new housing
units in East Jerusalem. You‘re watching HARDBALL, from Israel, only on
MATTHEWS: Let me finish with this tonight; late yesterday here,
after we did this show, we got the news that the Israeli housing minister,
a member of the far right religious party, had approved 1,600 new housing
units in territory not internationally recognized as part of Israel. It
was seen here as a direct assault on the US policy of trying to establish a
Palestinian state alongside Israel, an insult, really, to President Obama
and to Vice President Biden, who was here visiting with the specific
purpose of encouraging new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian
Look, there will always be a question as to how well American
interests and Israeli interests coincide. Some will argue they are forever
the same. But the hard, nasty fact is that there is a difference in
policy. The United States wants good faith negotiations aimed at finding a
solution. The actions of the Israeli government of Bibi Netanyahu, and the
announcement of the new housing construction go out on the very day Vice
President Biden came here to encourage negotiations, can only be taken as
an in your face rejection of that policy.
Netanyahu could have said he disagreed with the new construction.
He didn‘t. In fact, Netanyahu supports the substance of the decision, even
if he was embarrassed by its timing. He had dinner with Vice President
Biden in his own home on the very night of the actions of the Israel
government that were offering the very opposite of friendly hospitality.
The happy recipients of yesterday‘s news are those here who disagree
with the US policy of trying to find a two-state solution. And they are
certainly entitled to that position and that reaction. But far more
distressing, the one person who was absolutely thrilled, the man who has
been slowly and deliberately building the battle lines in this part of the
world, between the Islamic world and Israeli, between anti-Israel and
Israel, is the man who will love the new level of anger by Palestinians,
and by those who believe they have a just claim on nationwide.
That man who loves the news of yesterday is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He
will exploit what happened here to the hilt.
Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more
HARDBALL. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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