Guests: Jim Goldman, Howard Fineman, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, Lisa DePaulo, Richard Wolffe, Michelle Bernard, John Larson
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A wild week in Washington.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
A week to change history. In Ohio today, President Obama kicked off the most crucial week of his presidency. White House advisers are predicting passage of the historic health care bill by Saturday. House Democratic leaders agree, but emphasize the work of getting a majority vote is still to be done. They‘re working around the clock to get the 216 votes needed for passage. Will they or won‘t they?
And while Democrats are pulling out the stops in this final drive for health care, the Republican leader of the House says he will do all he can to throw up roadblocks. So who‘s got the moral and political high ground on this? Let‘s ask our political strategists from both sides of the fight.
Plus: Remember her? That‘s John Edwards‘s mistress. Her name is Rielle Hunter, and she‘s just posed for “GQ” and talked all about her affair with the former presidential candidate, their child, and how Edwards thought he could reconcile his relationship with her and still win the American presidency.
Also, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Israel‘s decision to build more housing units in Arab East Jerusalem insulting to the U.S., and Israeli prime minister Netanyahu shows no signs of backing down. We‘ll get to the difference in U.S. and Israeli policy and what the president‘s next move should be.
And finally, in “Let me finish” tonight, I‘ll say that elections ought to matter. Obama won. His program ought to be enacted or at least get a vote.
Let‘s start with the final push for health care and the president‘s speech in Ohio today. U.S. Congressman John Larson of Connecticut‘s the chairman of the Democratic Caucus. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Larson, Congressman, thank you. I want you to help—it will build your case, but I want you to talk about it. Here‘s president Franklin Roosevelt talking about health care reform in 1944. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all, regardless of station or race or creed. Among these are the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: “Regardless of station”—I love the way they talked in those days. And here‘s Presidents Nixon—President Nixon‘s no left-winger—and Bill Clinton in clips from Michael Moore‘s documentary “Sicko.” Let‘s listen to both these presidents make their case for a national health care plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The purpose of this program is simply this. I want America to have the finest health care in the world, and I want every American to be able to have that care when he needs it.
BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am announcing the formation of the president‘s task force on national health reform, chaired by the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Boy, were they young. Well, there you have it, Roosevelt, Nixon and Clinton all making the case for national health, and here we are on the verge perhaps of doing it. Will this effort this time succeed, Congressman?
REP. JOHN LARSON (D-CT), DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIR: Absolutely, Chris. And I think you started off—I mean, the history of—if you‘re in this business, if you‘re serving as a member of Congress, if you don‘t get a chill listening to this and knowing at this moment in time, we have the opportunity on behalf of the American people to accomplish what Roosevelt, Truman, Nixon and Clinton wanted to do and on behalf of the American people.
Every week I go home, contrary to what you hear—there‘s an awful lot of concern and fear that exists out there, to be sure. But remember what Roosevelt also said about fear and what he said immediately after that, It‘s the warm courage of national unity, knowing that we have this commonweal opportunity here before us to bring the American people together and do so in a way that uplifts the people by providing them with basic coverage and service, by making sure that they can‘t be denied claims.
LARSON: This is a great moment to be in Congress.
MATTHEWS: You know, I wonder one thing, watching this, if we haven‘t gotten caught up in the trees and forgot the forest of history that we‘re facing here, a real history that‘s about to be made if this bill passes. And I guess my question has to do with that. How did it happen? How did we get caught up in a year, more than a year, of arguing over procedure?
LARSON: Well, was it von Bismarck that said two things shouldn‘t be observed, sausage being made and a bill becoming law? When you have a bill that‘s put together by committees the way that it has, the extraordinary work that‘s been done—Chris, we‘ve devoted more time in our caucus alone than we have in the previous years‘ caucuses combined just in the area of health care. And so this is an important issue to people, et cetera.
And I think your analogy is somewhat right. We‘ve been doing a lot of forest in the trees stuff here. And instead of getting back to what the American people care about—and what they want to see now is something you‘ve been advocating, an up-or-down vote on this issue. Enough with the process. Enough with everything that‘s going—they want a vote up or down on this issue.
MATTHEWS: Will there be a vote on the Senate bill, or will there be this vote on the rule, the Slaughter solution, whereby you don‘t actually vote on the Senate bill as members, come the end of the week, but you vote on a rule which deems that to have passed the House...
LARSON: Self-enacting (ph) rules have been used since 1948. And whether that‘s the route we take or not, there‘s at least three, possibly four options that we can take. But again, I don‘t think the public cares much about the options we take. They want to see us act. And by whatever course it takes, we will have this bill on the floor this week and we will vote and enact this legislation on behalf of the American people.
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t know what to make of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, but she‘s a member of Congress from Minnesota. I always thought Minnesota was a liberal state. Apparently, it has changed, it seems, certain parts of it. She says—she‘s telling her people—we‘ll have a clip later in the show, in the “Sideshow,” where she‘s actually advocating a sort of a tax revolt. If the bill passes the House by this method and the rules—using a rule, rather than a vote, on legislation per se, she says people shouldn‘t pay the tax that‘s involved with this bill. In other words, she‘s urging a tax revolt and thinks—I don‘t know if she‘s going to be there like an H&R Block guy standing next to you when you go before the IRS. But she says that people can violate the tax law if it‘s passed by this procedure. Your reaction?
LARSON: Well, God bless Michele. I wish her well in this. I think the American people, though, are—the kind of revolt that the American people are looking forward to is one where they can throw off the yoke that insurance companies have had over them, where they can get away from the nonsense of preexisting conditions, where they can‘t have their insurance policies rescinded on them.
The president was eloquent today out in Ohio. I think it‘s getting back to those basics and elevating this discussion to real people and what happens in their lives, Chris. That‘s what people say back in Augie and Ray‘s in East Hartford when I go there.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go. Here‘s the president in Ohio today. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want us to look and see what is the best thing for America and then do what‘s right. As long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership, and I know these members of Congress are going to provide that leadership.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: I don‘t know about the politics, but I know what‘s the right thing to do! And so I‘m calling on Congress to pass these reforms, and I‘m going to sign them into law. I want some courage!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Congressman, I‘ve never seen the Republican Party so narrow in its appeal. It‘s basically come out and said disinvest in America, watch your pocketbook, don‘t do anything, don‘t have any government. It‘s forgotten eight years of sort of spendthrift behavior by President Bush. It is like the guy in the—in—in—what‘s that movie, “Casablanca,” where the guys says, I can‘t believe gambling‘s been going on here. It‘s like they‘ve discovered this sort of narrow Republicanism.
What do you make of that in Connecticut? What do you make of the fact the Republican Party now isn‘t a party of grand conservatism anymore, it‘s a party of this narrow little nasty “Don‘t do anything” party?
LARSON: Well, you know, I think it‘s sad for the country. You know, coming from the Northeast, as you know, Chris, having worked for Tip O‘Neill, you know, you know the relationship with Silvio Conte. You know the history here. You know, the “Grand Old Party” has become the party of no and obstructionism.
LARSON: And I think the public sees through that and—but I think it‘s vitally important that Democrats not lose sight of the fact that we‘ve got to connect with people that are really hurting out there, that are feeling the loss of $17 trillion in wealth from 2007 to 2009, that are worried, are concerned about their families, their futures and their jobs. And we‘ve got to do everything within our power, putting this behind us, getting health care passed, demonstrating that we‘re on their side I think elevates us. And the president in his speech—I‘m glad to see that he‘s got it back. He‘s into his Robert Cray (ph) mode.
LARSON: He‘s a strong, strong persuader.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the key problem I‘ve got with the way this bill‘s been sold. Back in the ‘30s...
MATTHEWS: ... when we had the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt
came along and made a very simple argument to the American people. He
said, Look, some people are going to be able to survive past their earning
years. They‘re going to live lives—years and years, women especially,
well past when they can make a living. So we ought to have insurance for
them. It‘s called Social Security. And back then, people didn‘t live past
much past 65, so it was a good investment. Lots more worker bees than retired bees.
Now, in the ‘60s, Johnson went along and said, basically, Let‘s do that for health care for older people. Fine. So we understood the basic transfer. Worker bees help out people after they‘ve retired, OK? Why hasn‘t the president been equally clear in this one, where people who have a little more income are going to help that 30 million people get some kind of subsidies so they can have health care, as well? Does that sound too socialistic?
Why hasn‘t he made that clear moral argument, We‘ve got to help people, get them out of the emergency room, give them some self-respect, primary care, take care of themselves, be self-reliant to an extent, and be responsible, but we can‘t do that as long as they‘re showing up for three or four hours, waiting in the emergency room? Why doesn‘t he make that case instead of getting into the weeds?
LARSON: I think he is making that case. But you‘re right, Chris. To the extent that we said to people all along—and I think it was both strategic and the right call (ph) to say, If you like what you have, you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can still see him. But in that premise, we didn‘t embrace the commonweal arguments that both Roosevelt and Johnson did.
But in his speech today out in Ohio, you saw where the president was, and that‘s exactly the kind of appeal that he‘s going to have to the American people and I also—also think, before our caucus, as we vote on this very historic and momentous occasion this week.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. U.S. Congressman Larson, John Larson from Connecticut, who remembers the Rockefeller Republicans, the moderate Republicans...
MATTHEWS: ... that used to work alongside of you for positive government, that are now missing from the fold. Thank you very much for joining us. Congressman Larson...
LARSON: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... the chairman of the Democratic Caucus in the House.
Let‘s go to “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, who always helps me by putting things together. And I did make, I think, which is to me the fundamental observation I‘ve made—they don‘t want to sell it clearly because it sounds like we‘re giving money from people who have a little more than average to people who have less than average. And that didn‘t—maybe the polling on that didn‘t work. But that‘s why people can‘t quite trust this bill. They go, Wait a minute, what‘s going on here? Who‘s paying and who‘s getting? And in—instead of saying the people a little better off helping people a little worse off, which is what really is going on—I guess they were afraid that wouldn‘t sell.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the common...
MATTHEWS: The commonweal argument.
FINEMAN: The commonweal idea—he used the word commonweal...
MATTHEWS: A hybrid.
FINEMAN: ... the notion of the warm courage of national unity—times have changed even since Nixon. And as Bill Clinton found out...
MATTHEWS: Nixon sounds like a socialist!
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, Ronald Reagan happened in between. The war in Vietnam happened in between. Watergate happened in between. The country‘s trust in the idea of the commonweal...
MATTHEWS: I shouldn‘t say Nixon sounds like a socialist. He sounds like what people call socialist...
MATTHEWS: ... which is government doing something.
FINEMAN: Right. Yes. That‘s exactly right. But the distrust of government that developed in the ‘60s that was basically adopted by Ronald Reagan...
FINEMAN: ... taken from the hippies by Ronald Reagan...
FINEMAN: ... OK, and the anti-war people—that is still an important thing today. There is no warm courage of national unity on this because people, as much as they distrust the insurance companies, also distrust the government.
FINEMAN: Let‘s face it. They distrust the government. So Barack Obama‘s swimming upstream on that. You‘ve heard a lot of argument from him about how evil the insurance companies are because—what polling shows is what works is attacking the insurance companies, more than raising the flag of...
MATTHEWS: ... devil you know. It‘s not—it‘s not...
FINEMAN: It‘s not the devil you already know.
FINEMAN: Now, for the base of the Democratic Party, I can assure you that if and when this bill passes—and I think it is going to pass—the first thing Barack Obama is going to say to the base of the Democratic Party is 30 million people. People who weren‘t covered...
MATTHEWS: Yes. Because they‘re Democrats.
FINEMAN: ... are going to be covered.
FINEMAN: ... either were or are or will be Democrats. That‘s the key number for him, 30 million. Plus regulating the insurance companies.
MATTHEWS: But he can‘t say it now because the people voting now are very skittish...
MATTHEWS: ... as all congresspeople are now...
FINEMAN: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: ... unless they come from poor districts in the big cities...
MATTHEWS: ... are skittish about threatening the middle class.
FINEMAN: And for the reason that Congressman Larson said, $17 trillion of national wealth has been lost, a lot of it lost by the middle class. They know their insurance rates are going up, but those who have insurance through an employer desperately want to keep that insurance.
MATTHEWS: I know.
FINEMAN: They‘re afraid of any change. They‘ve become conservative.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m like that...
MATTHEWS: ... plan here, you know.
MATTHEWS: And nobody—I‘m serious! Nobody wants to lose that!
FINEMAN: That‘s why Obama is...
FINEMAN: That‘s what he‘s arguing against as he tries to get over the finish line with this.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Greta. Howard, you‘re the best.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: By the way, do they have the abortion thing figured out or not?
FINEMAN: No, but they‘re waiting to the very end. They‘re leaving Stupak and company alone for right now. They‘re going to try to get it other ways. They‘re hoping in the end that Stupak‘s 12 end up not being 12...
FINEMAN: ... but 5 or 5. They can live with 5 or 6.
MATTHEWS: And if not?
MATTHEWS: If it‘s 7 or 8, what do they do?
FINEMAN: If it‘s 7 or 8, that‘s right on the margin. Look, Barack Obama‘s going to be in the vicinity of the Capitol, OK, on the last day or so.
FINEMAN: This is going to look like the Chicago, you know, city council or the old Kentucky legislation that I used to cover. It‘s going to come down to the last minutes of begging, pleading and arm-twisting.
MATTHEWS: OK. So as they say in basketball, he‘s not going to shoot from downtown. He‘s bringing the ball down.
FINEMAN: It‘ll be in the paint in the end.
MATTHEWS: Always there with a metaphor!
Coming up: Republicans putting up every roadblock they can to stop the Democrats‘ final push, which (INAUDIBLE) -- this is going to be one wild week. But what can they actually do to stop it right now? Can they stop the president from bringing the ball down the court, to use the metaphor of basketball. I‘ll not use it again. We‘ll move on to other metaphors. I did like the word “paint,” though. That‘s (INAUDIBLE) right under the basket.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It‘s down to the week for President Obama to get health care reform done by Saturday. In the final six days, what does he have to do to get it done? And what can Republicans do to stop them? Boy, is it simple right now. That‘s the question for the strategists. Couldn‘t be clearer. Steve McMahon‘s a Democratic strategist and Todd Harris is a Republican strategist.
I want to ask you first, then you respond. Jim Clyburn was on this weekend on “MEET THE PRESS,” and he said, Don‘t have the votes yet, but we‘ll get them.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right.
MATTHEWS: How‘s it look?
MCMAHON: Well, I think that‘s absolutely where it is right now. You know, Howard Fineman was just on, talking about the Stupak 12. And the question, I guess...
MATTHEWS: Those are people that are pro-life.
MCMAHON: Pro-life. And the question is, Are there 12 of them? And will they vote against this bill if the abortion language is not fixed, which it will not be, or are there six or eight of them? I think there are probably six or eight, and I think Nancy Pelosi is going to get the votes.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that issue? Because somebody pointed out in the paper today, the debate over abortion rights, like oftentimes big debates in this country, occurs within the Democratic Party. They have the loudest fights. What do you make of that?
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think it could potentially—and I‘m on the record on this show saying I think the bill is going to pass, but I do think that this could sink the entire bill.
It is not—and it‘s not just the abortion issue. There are—the National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting 50 to 60 Democrats in swing districts. These are people who either voted no in November when the bill came up or voted yes and are now wavering.
And those members are getting targeted with mail, with phones, every single way they could possibly bombard those districts. They are getting targeted to turn the heat on against those members.
MATTHEWS: But these guys are already dead, as far as you are concerned. Once you voted for health care, you guys can kill them on that issue. So, how can you kill them twice?
HARRIS: Well, we think that they‘re vulnerable.
MATTHEWS: How do you threaten a guy if you killed him?
HARRIS: Because the White House is saying, you have to vote yes.
That‘s your only way out of this. We have got to get this bill passed.
HARRIS: And what we are saying is, it doesn‘t really matter which way you vote.
MATTHEWS: You‘re dead already.
HARRIS: We think you are dead already.
MATTHEWS: Well, see, you are laughing.
MATTHEWS: But why should a Democrat worry about what the Republicans are saying if they have already got them in the short hairs whatever?
MATTHEWS: I mean the crosshairs.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Anybody—anybody who voted yes on this bill the first time has to vote again the second time, because if you flip-flop...
MATTHEWS: Well, tell him the argument, so he can hear it.
HARRIS: I know what the argument is.
MCMAHON: If you voted yes, you are wearing that vote. And whatever bad stuff is...
MATTHEWS: The ads are cut.
MCMAHON: The ads are cut. And they are going to be run, and voting no the second time just makes you an unprincipled flip-flopper. It doesn‘t do anything to take away the first yes vote.
And, you know, you are talking a little bit ago about courage. And, really, what—that‘s what this comes down to. These are people who vote in Congress to send young men to go to war to die for their country.
MATTHEWS: When was I talking about courage?
MCMAHON: No, you and Howard were talking about—and President Obama today was talking about he needs a little courage from Congress right now..
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.
MCMAHON: ... to do the right thing. These are people who vote to send people to war.
MATTHEWS: I wasn‘t talking about that, by the way. The president was.
MCMAHON: And there are people who, frankly, if some of them lose, but the country gains health care reform for everybody, that‘s what they are there for.
MATTHEWS: You are talking—you are actually—you‘re actually talking a member of Congress into voting for something that will cause him or her to lose their seat.
MCMAHON: John Kennedy wrote a book a long time ago...
MATTHEWS: I know, but...
MCMAHON: ... called “Profiles in Courage,” and that is what is going to be required right now.
HARRIS: It‘s not...
MATTHEWS: Do you think—you think that argument could ever be made by a politician to another politician?
MCMAHON: I think President Obama was making it today in Ohio. He doesn‘t know how the politics...
HARRIS: And he‘s not on the ballot in 2010 either.
MCMAHON: He doesn‘t know how the politics are going to play, but he knows what the right thing for this country is.
You played all the tape of all the presidents who have asked...
MATTHEWS: No, I think that‘s...
MATTHEWS: I played that because I want people to know the stakes here.
Todd, Richard Nixon was for an employer mandate to require every guy or everybody who owns a business to provide health care for their employees. What do you think of that?
MATTHEWS: What did you think of Nixon‘s idea?
MCMAHON: He thought he was a socialist.
MATTHEWS: Keep the government out of it. Just have the business pay for the—you have to have insurance. That‘s the deal. Just like you have to have insurance to drive a car, if you are going to run a barbershop, you have got to have insurance.
HARRIS: Look, there are...
MATTHEWS: What do you think of Nixon‘s idea?
HARRIS: I think Nixon‘s idea is not relevant to the debate...
MATTHEWS: So, you don‘t want to address it?
HARRIS: No, it‘s not that I don‘t want to...
MATTHEWS: Was he a socialist?
HARRIS: No, I don‘t think he was—of course, he wasn‘t a socialist.
MATTHEWS: But he‘s more dramatic than Barack Obama.
HARRIS: Well, certainly not more dramatic than talking about sending young men off to war.
There are certain elements of this bill that both sides can agree on. And I don‘t think that this is a debate about courage. It is a debate about arrogance, because the White House knows that the average voter in this country does not support this bill. They are getting it shoved down their throats. And there are a lot of Democrats in swing districts who are going to pay the price for it.
MCMAHON: Let‘s stipulate that the Republicans did a good job framing this bill and getting people to a point where they have questions about it.
But a lot of the people who oppose this bill—and Joel Benenson wrote a great piece in “The Washington Post” over the weekend—oppose it because it does not go far enough. So, if you take those people away and you add them to the people who support it, you throw in the historical nature of this, it is a pretty tough thing to...
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the Republican line on health care. We have been hearing it, but here it is elsewhere. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK”)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: If they do this, it is going to poison the well for anything else they would like to achieve this year or their .
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I‘m doing everything I can to prevent this bill from becoming law, plain and simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That guy is Dan Aykroyd, I‘m convinced.
What do you make? He‘s basically saying, “I‘m going to throw every roadblock” they can think of, the Republican Party. Do you think that sells to the American people, that you have an election, and one party wins, and they promise to do health care, and the other party says, yes, I know we lost, but we‘re going to screw them?
MATTHEWS: Do you think that sounds like a positive thing for America?
MATTHEWS: I know the other guy won, but we‘re going to screw him.
HARRIS: Barack Obama certainly did not run on the health care platform like he‘s been promoting right now. So, it...
MCMAHON: Yes. Yes, he did.
HARRIS: No. No, he didn‘t.
MATTHEWS: You know, if John Boehner played golf the way he plays politics, the other guy would have—it would be his turn to hit the ball. He would be running around in front of them, throwing stuff around, throwing the pin around, trashing him. That‘s his idea of...
HARRIS: Well, if the guy getting ready to swing is a really bad golfer who is going to hit the ball right into your face, then people will probably be pretty happy about that.
MCMAHON: Here is a memo—here is a memo to Democrats out there. Any time the Republicans are on television, telling you what‘s best for the Democratic Party, take it with a grain of salt.
MCMAHON: These are people who say that they are going to throw up roadblocks, like they haven‘t been throwing up roadblocks ever since Barack Obama got here.
MATTHEWS: What does that mean? What does that mean, take it with a grain of salt? I have never understood that phrase. What do you mean, take it with a grain of salt? What does that mean?
MCMAHON: Well, take it with a whole—take it with a whole shaker of salt, because they are not being honest.
MATTHEWS: I just never know what these things mean.
HARRIS: Stipulated, Steve. But here is a memo for the American people. Any time the White House and congressional liberals say that they know what‘s best for the American middle class, take that with a shaker of salt.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s catch—let‘s do a little look at the Sunday shows, because here it is, Monday, and this is the starting gun. This was the—this was the revelry for this week that is happening. What a week it‘s going to be.
Here‘s the administration line on health care reform on the Sunday shows. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK”)
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I believe it is going to happen this week. I think we are going to have a vote. And the American people are entitled to an up-or-down vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Whoever sits here this time next week, you all will be talking about health care reform not as a presidential proposal, but as something that will soon be the law of the land.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know what? I thought Axelrod was better than the president this weekend. That will get him in trouble, but he really was. He was a mensch. He was human—human. I‘m from Philly. And he really seemed to make the case.
You don‘t think you have lost the moral high ground here? How would you like to be a person who says, I don‘t want working people to have health care; I want them to just take their chances in the emergency room; to hell with those people; if they can‘t pay, live with it?
HARRIS: You sound like Alan Grayson. I don‘t know of a single Republican who says anything remotely close to that.
MATTHEWS: Maybe that‘s a crude way of putting it.
MATTHEWS: What is your position...
HARRIS: Look, our position...
MATTHEWS: The 30 million people without health care, what are you saying to those people? Forget it?
HARRIS: Our position is that there a lot of things that both parties can agree on, and we ought to start by passing those.
HARRIS: Both parties get to claim...
MATTHEWS: There‘s one thing you don‘t agree on.
MATTHEWS: This party wants to insure the 30 million people that don‘t have health care, and you don‘t.
HARRIS: No, no, no, no. What we don‘t agree is on a 2,300-page, trillion-dollar bill that‘s not going to solve the health care crisis in this country.
MATTHEWS: How long was the Social Security bill?
HARRIS: I have no idea how long...
MATTHEWS: Neither do I. Why are we talking about this number?
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Steve McMahon.
Thank you, Todd Harris.
MATTHEWS: How long was the bill that took us to the war in Iraq? I don‘t know. It doesn‘t matter. We went to war.
Up next: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann—she‘s—well, she‘s hard to figure sometimes—wants to stop health care reform, and she‘s going to the extremes, calling for Americans not to pay their taxes. Will she be with you when the IRS man comes? Will she stand next to you in court? That‘s the question I‘m going to ask.
The logic behind her—coming up in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First: March madness.
At a weekend rally in Minnesota, U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said Americans should defy health care legislation depending on how it gets passed in Congress. In particular, she took aim at a proposal that would allow the House to fix flaws in the Senate bill through a procedure that avoids voting on the Senate bill itself.
Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: Mark my words, the American people aren‘t going to take this lying down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No!
BACHMANN: We are not going to play their game.
BACHMANN: We are not going to pay their taxes...
BACHMANN: ... if you want us to pay for this, because we don‘t have to. We don‘t have to. We don‘t have to follow a bill that isn‘t law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, I wonder if Congressman Bachmann will make herself available to appear in court on behalf of the people she‘s now encouraging to violate the law.
Next: horsing around.
J.D. Hayworth, John McCain‘s right-wing primary challenger, is sounding the revelry over gay marriage. Yesterday, he told a Florida radio station—quote—“The Massachusetts Supreme Court defined marriage as simply the establishment of intimacy. Now, how dangerous is that? I guess that would mean if you really had affection for your horse, I guess you could marry your horse.”
That was J.D. Hayworth thinking.
Anyway, I think the word they used in Massachusetts was intimate, not affectionate.
Bringing up the connection between horse and rider in this debate really doesn‘t show a lot of common sense or human understanding. You can be for or against same-sex marriage, but we are talking about human love here.
Now, for the “Number.”
How many Americans say they can still achieve the American dream in their lifetimes? Well, according to a poll by Xavier University, 67 percent. Times are tough but hope springs eternal -- 67 percent, two-thirds, say the American dream still possible for them, tonight‘s—well, that‘s a pretty big number for us.
Up next: The woman who had John Edwards‘ child, Rielle Hunter, is breaking her silence. We have got the reporter who interviewed her for “GQ.” That‘s Lisa DePaulo coming here next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JIM GOLDMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Jim Goldman with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks ending mixed after trading in a narrow range again today, the Dow Jones industrials adding 17 points, the S&P 500 ticking up about a half-a-point, and the Nasdaq slipping five points. Investors in a holding pattern ahead of tomorrow‘s meeting of the Federal Reserve—no big changes are expected, but the Fed could discuss the upcoming expiration of its yearlong program to buy more than a trillion dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities.
There were some movers today—Wal-Mart jumping nearly 3 percent on a ratings upgrade based on its potential for grabbing market share from supermarkets. And Pepsi bubbling up more than 1.5 percent after announcing plans to buy back $15 billion worth of its own shares, but Google dragging on the Nasdaq on reports that it is close to shutting down its Chinese search engine after censorship talks with that government broke down.
That‘s it from CNBC. We‘re first in business worldwide—now back to
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Rielle Hunter, who has a child with former presidential candidate John Edwards, had been one of the few people involved in this story who hadn‘t done an interview. Now that‘s changed with her exclusive interview in “GQ” with Lisa DePaulo.
And some of the pictures that accompany the article are making so much news—or as much news as the words themselves.
Lisa, thank you for joining us.
Have you been upstaged by the photo play here?
MATTHEWS: What—I‘m serious about...
LISA DEPAULO, POLITICAL REPORTER, “GQ”: Yes.
MATTHEWS: This is a strange thing. We have all been talking about it among the producers this afternoon, about how—well, grotesque this whole thing is.
She is there showing herself as sort of like a sex kitten with the—holding the kid‘s toys. And, you know, they‘re—they‘re playthings, basically, showing—there she is, hanging around with this, hanging around with no clothes on.
What is this about? What—how did she get into this? Did you know this was going to be the deal when did you the interview?
DEPAULO: Well, I guess I‘m—you‘re starting with a different position than I have. I think the photos are fabulous. I think they portray her in many different ways that she is.
I think the photo of her with the baby is gorgeous. And I think she is also a sexy woman. And you know what? It is “GQ.” It‘s not “Newsweek.” I—I do think that the photos are great.
MATTHEWS: Well, she doesn‘t. She said, according to her interview with Barbara Walters, that she was—quote—“repulsed.”
MATTHEWS: Is that an attempt to get the benefit of the pictures, which you say are, whatever, sexy or whatever and good...
DEPAULO: Honestly, Chris, I...
MATTHEWS: ... and also be seen as somebody who didn‘t want to be in this situation?
Well, look, honestly, she—well, she posed for the pictures. I don‘t think—it is not like, you know, they came out of a spaceship. But I do think—you know, it is hard today. This thing broke, and—and the blogs had at it.
And, you know, she got ripped to shreds. And I think anybody today, you know, has to have that initial reaction of, oh, my God, what did I do?
I think that, as the days pass, it will be put into a little bit of perspective.
Look, I think they are beautiful pictures. I really do. And, I mean, she‘s not in a bikini. She‘s not in a bustier. She‘s—you know, she‘s a sexy woman. I mean, is anybody surprised she is a sexy woman? He fell in love with her.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about what we know from your interview with her, what you have figured out, what‘s the subtext.
I find it interesting that John Edwards, who was able to come so close
he was a shooting star in American politics back in 2000. He came so high, and then he ended getting the V.P. job, V.P. nomination. And, yet, he had shown very little. He had been a very successful trial lawyer, winning those cases, and had made a lot of money, and was able to win the Senate seat, and then immediately ran for the presidency, and immediately -
and got a lot of people thinking this was the populist hero of our time.
And, yet, we knew so little about him this guy.
DEPAULO: Isn‘t that interesting?
And she says that at one point, you know, he was vetted as a vice presidential candidate, and there were things in his past that nobody ever knew.
MATTHEWS: Like his name is Johnny. I never knew that.
DEPAULO: How about the Johnny, yes.
MATTHEWS: We have to read an interview with his girlfriend to find out what his name is.
DEPAULO: I love that. I love that.
MATTHEWS: Were you surprised we were getting these little—these little sugarplums of information, like his real name is—it‘s like Mickey Mantle, whose real name was Mickey.
MATTHEWS: And his real name is Johnny. I guess Johnny Edwards sounds more like a second baseman than a presidential candidate.
DEPAULO: Yes. You never find out better stuff than the person who is sleeping with someone.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the—I want to read something from your piece. And then we will talk about it.
Rielle Hunter says Edwards—that‘s the candidate for president—was aware of the risks of their relationship and what it posed—quote—
“He, in fact did say to me the first night, ‘Falling in love with you could
really “blank” up my plans for becoming president.‘”
Well, that‘s a nice sort of charming come-on line. But the fact is, were you able to tell from your interview with her whether he realized that this wasn‘t going to sell if it got out? The public has changed in its attitude about things now that we get to know everything. Maybe we haven‘t changed, but now that we know everything, they can really—
DEPAULO: I so agree with that.
MATTHEWS: It just hurts.
DEPAULO: I mean, I thought there was so much revealing in that one line. I mean, including that he was using the words in love on their first night together. I mean, I just found that fascinating. I think, yeah, he knew on some level every step of the way, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: He knew it would get him in big trouble.
MATTHEWS: And yet—
DEPAULO: Yet, read the rest of the interview. It is quite amazing that she‘s crazy about him. I think her depiction of him is very, you know, involved in and intensely, you know, interested in her.
MATTHEWS: Why aren‘t they walking down the streets of New York together right now like, you know, Jennifer Aniston and some guy?
DEPAULO: She is calling Barbara Walters today. I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: He‘s down on a beach in North Carolina, sort of sitting there like Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca,” sitting alone on the beach. I don‘t know. It‘s none of our business.
Let‘s talk about the election. I do find these stories interesting, him and the former—still almost former governor of South Carolina—has that public sort of craziness of heading down to Argentina and saying he was on the Appalachian Trail, and then his wife walking out on him. He left their sort of—and I keep thinking of this almost like Murphy Brown in the elevator. She used to say on the show, if you punch the button, you get off.
Why don‘t these guys get off at this floor? Why isn‘t he with her?
Why isn‘t the other guy in Argentina?
DEPAULO: Because there is a better floor, you know. I mean, it is so funny. She addresses this. Like the—this is what—these guys, you know, fall crazy. I mean—
MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well, we are in yucky territory here.
DEPAULO: You are uncomfortable with this, Chris.
MATTHEWS: No, this is not my favorite. I would rather argue about health care. Here we are right now. Let‘s go to the race about his wife‘s cancer return. Obviously I know Elizabeth. This is really a very tragic story.
Quote, “I was shocked. I really viewed it as reckless. What‘s interesting was that she wanted to stay.” Here‘s the girlfriend saying—
I‘m sorry, he‘s saying the wife wants to stay in, and he wanted to get out, and she wanted to stay in.
How do you put that whole thing together? John Edwards, according to his girlfriend, wanted to quit the race because of his wife‘s health problem, and, I guess, because of the relationship with her. And yet, she says that he said that she said, Elizabeth, in this case, that they should stay in the race. How do you put it together?
DEPAULO: Well, first of all, I mean, this is classic of men in affairs. They tell their mistress things about their wife. Obviously a lot of what she relays are things that Johnny told her. What I think is interesting—I thought you would—it is so funny about her talking about how she—did he ask her advice during the campaign. And the bottom line, she said you know, she really wasn‘t that interested. And I found that so interesting because we all know all that Elizabeth did to get him through years of politics. She was a real true political partner.
Rielle was not that interested. She said something about how, when he asked her, should I endorse Barack Obama, and Rielle said, you know, I really don‘t have an opinion on that. I thought that was pretty—
MATTHEWS: You love your job, Lisa.
DEPAULO: I do.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
DEPAULO: I do.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t find this yucky. It is a fascinating story.
It is about life. We all sort of recognize a lot of it.
Up next—good luck. Congratulations. You always do a great story. Up next, it may be the diplomatic feud between United States and Israel in years. In fact, I think I don‘t remember anything like this. The Obama administration isn‘t backing down after condemning Israel‘s decision to build those housing units in Arab East Jerusalem, which was announced while the vice president was over there. I was over there with the Vice President Biden when this thing happened.
Where‘s this heading? What can President Obama do about this very difficult situation? This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, the United States may be facing its biggest rift with Israel in 35 years. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not hold her fire when it came to Israel‘s announcement that it‘s going to build more housing units in Arab East Jerusalem during Vice President Biden‘s trip to the region.
Here‘s what she told Andrew Mitchell about decision by the Netanyahu government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: It was insulting. And it was insulting not just to the vice president, who certainly didn‘t deserve that. He was there with a very clear message of commitment to the peace process, solidarity with the Israeli people.
But it is an insult to the United States. I mean, the United States is deeply invested in trying to work with the parties in order to bring about this resolution. We don‘t get easily discouraged, so we are—we are working towards the resumption of the negotiations.
But we expect Israel and the Palestinians to do their part, and not to take any actions that will undermine the chance that we can achieve the two-state solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: On the other side of the argument, Israeli Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu rejected any restrictions on settlements in or around what they define as Jerusalem. He told a meeting of his Likud Party, quote, “building in Jerusalem and in all areas will continue in the same manner it has over the last 42 years.”
How does this make President Obama look right now to the world?
Richard Wolffe and Michelle Bernard are both MSNBC political analysts.
Richard, you first. I was there with Vice President Biden over there. I know what Arab East Jerusalem looks like. I have some pictures to show. The fact is that when you go there, it has an Arab quality to it. There‘s a street scene I took. It‘s Arab populated. It‘s been Arab populated for centuries. Israel‘s building there. What‘s the intention? What are they up to?
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The Israelis say this is a neighborhood that everybody knows is going to end up as part of Israel. The truth is that you cannot make this kind reality on the ground when your biggest ally is trying to restart a peace process that has been dead for a decade or more.
So it‘s not just about the embarrassment. What it comes down to is politics here. Do you believe Netanyahu was being worked over by his right-wing minister, who authorized this stuff? Or do you think that, you know, this is some kind of conspiracy? Because everyone enjoys beats up on Barack Obama and Israel right now.
MATTHEWS: In Israel.
WOLFFE: In Israel. The end result here is—look, in the end, for the Obama administration, they can be independent mediators. They have to show they‘re angry with the Israelis. They have to have trust on both sides. Right now, there is no trust.
MATTHEWS: The United States, in this context, isn‘t just an independent mediator. We support a two-state solution. That‘s US policy under two administrations now, including George W. Bush, who was a huge friend of Israel. The Clintons, it is US policy, Israeli policy. Is Israeli policy, based on their behavior, a two-state solution, or is it to hold out and foot drag?
MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don‘t see anything that definitively says that Israeli does not want a two-state policy.
MATTHEWS: The people may want it. But does the government want it?
BERNARD: I don‘t see anything that says that the government doesn‘t want it. If you believe that this was a problem, it was bad luck. The minister of the Interior did something very, very silly, which is what I personally believe. We haven‘t seen the prime minister or anyone else in the Israeli government come out and say, we don‘t want a two-state policy.
It shows, quite simply, is whenever they do have peace discussions, clearly Israel has decided that the part of East Jerusalem that they are building is going to be part of Israel. It‘s not going to be part of the Palestinian Authority. Doesn‘t mean that there won‘t be a two-state solution. But this area that we are talking about clearly is going to be part of Israel.
MATTHEWS: The question is, are we ever going to get anywhere with this? The question is, if there‘s never going to be a deal that will include giving the Arabs some piece of Jerusalem to call their capital, is there any other alternative here?
WOLFFE: There has to be a deal for it because there‘s actually something bigger going on in the region, which everyone cares more about, which is Iran. If Israel wants to have united international action against Iran, it has to take the Palestinian situation off the table. The Palestinians have to take their own situation off the table because otherwise they‘ll have no state. So there is a long term interest, even a medium, short term interest, to get this done.
MATTHEWS: I think you said this to one of our producers and I want to check this with Michelle. Unless Israel can build something of an anti-Iran coalition—admittedly will be difficult. The Arab countries don‘t love Israel. But they have to get together in a common interest, the Sunni countries, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority have got to get together and face down this Shia crescent that‘s developing in Iran and in Afghanistan, et cetera, right?
BERNARD: Absolutely. No disagreement from me there whatsoever. But the Palestinian Authority has to come to the table and President Obama needs—President Obama, you know, he has this image right now that he has not been strong enough in forcing negotiations. He has to go to the table with the Palestinians and the Israelis.
MATTHEWS: Brutal question. I may not like the answer. If Dick Cheney were vice president, would this so-called silly accident that occurred this week, where they announced building of housing units in the face of the peace process, have occurred? Would they have made that silly little mistake with Dick Cheney on the ground?
MATTHEWS: So then it wasn‘t a mistake?
BERNARD: No. I do believe—I do believe it is a mistake. But I believe—
MATTHEWS: Would they have committed that mistake if Cheney had been walking into the country in.
BERNARD: I think the government, from the top down, would have been looking much closer and what harder.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the Obama problem. What do you say?
WOLFFE: Wouldn‘t have tried to embarrass Cheney. If they had, the Bush administration would not have tried to embarrass the Israelis in return.
MATTHEWS: What would they have done?
WOLFFE: They would have said, Israel can do whatever it likes, and the Palestinians need to give up terrorism and come to the table, security first. That was the debate we had for eight years.
BERNARD: Cheney would not have made the statements the vice president made. Some people actually thought that the vice president made a gaffe and were aghast in thinking, how on Earth could he say something so strong against the United States government‘s closest ally without thinking about it first? Was it a gaffe or did he really intentionally—
MATTHEWS: Are you talking about the vice president‘s condemnation?
That was cleared at the White House. This is administration policy.
BERNARD: I‘m not arguing that it‘s not. But I‘m telling you there are people who will ask was this a gaffe because it was so strong?
MATTHEWS: The language that has been used—not not been used since Donald McHenry in 1980. It was very strong language. You‘re right. Thank you, Richard Wolffe.
I‘m trying to take the position of the Israeli middle. Ehud Barak would be my true north. Do you agree?
WOLFFE: Yes, but that‘s not the middle in Israel anymore.
MATTHEWS: Richard Wolffe, thank you. Michelle Bernard, we have to talk more about this.
When we return, I‘m going to have thoughts about this historic week coming up as President Obama makes the final push for health care reform.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC>
MATTHEWS: Let me finish with this: I care about this country, this democracy of ours. I want it to work. I want elections to matter. I want them to be dramatic, exciting, noisy, and I want the results to count.
When a party fails in our form of government, it ought to be dumped. It ought to be out of the job long enough to get the message. When a party wins an election, on the other hand, it ought to be able to do what it promised to do in the election.
When Ronald Reagan won back in 1980, beating Jimmy Carter, he came to Washington and pushed through a 25 percent cut in federal income taxes, and a big change in where the government spent money, more on defense, less on social programs. The Democrats didn‘t throw up road blocks in Reagan‘s way. On his biggest test, he got a simple up or down vote. That‘ show he enacted a historic change in this country‘s economic policy.
And you didn‘t hear months and months of complaints about it. His use of reconciliation was viewed as simply a dramatic, new, aggressive use of an existing procedure.
The point is, Reagan promised something in the campaign and was able to deliver. The opposition spoke against it, but didn‘t set up road blocks.
The time has come for the US Congress to make the same decision on this president‘s program. The Republicans have had their say. So has the president. It‘s time to vote, up or down, up or down. Does anyone, least of all Republican, think Ronald Reagan would not have called his major campaign promise for an up or down vote if he were in the position President Obama is in now?
After months of debate, the issue has come down to this: not whether you‘re for or against Obama‘s health care plan—that‘s for the individual senators and members of Congress to decide. But whether you are for or against elections mattering in this country. Obama won promising to do something that he‘s doing.
If he makes history later this week, it will be the history he promised to make. In this greatest of democracies, elections ought to matter.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Catch us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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