Guest: Willie Brown, Peter Canellos, Mark Halperin, Al Gerhart
(PRES. OBAMA PRESSER)
OBAMA: But if we‘re persistent and we‘ve got the right—right
approach, then over time, I think that we can make progress. All right?
Thank you very much, everybody.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: You‘ve been watching the president‘s press
conference as part of the nuclear security summit here in Washington. This
is HARDBALL, and with me now is MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and
former mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown
Mayor Brown, I was stunned by those last couple of words. The
president seemed to be giving in on what we thought was going to be a major
U.S. initiative, a peace plan for the Middle East, saying, basically, we
might have a situation here of one step forward, two steps backwards, and
if neither party wants to do anything, we may not be able to do anything
ourselves, even though he said again it‘s in our national interests to
relieve these tensions and avoid this conflict,˜20if we can.
WILLIE BROWN, FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: This man is extraordinarily
gifted in being diplomatic in his utterances and in his speeches, and that
was one of those times when he demonstrated that at the zenith.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think he gave way there on the issue of us doing
something in terms of a proactive stance on a Middle East peace?
BROWN: I think because he has not had a chance to discuss it with the
players and the parties involved. He did not want to impose upon them. He
leaves them with the option. He‘d like to persuade them, and he will make
an appropriate announcement when there‘s persuasion—when that persuasion
has worked. Until then, he‘s going to be very careful not to put them in a
box where somebody will say, Did you agree to do this, the president said
he‘s going to do it, if you didn‘t. He‘s not going to do that.
MATTHEWS: Pat, you and I were watching the same thing there. The
president was taken into the topic. He didn‘t want to go into it,
apparently. But maybe Mayor Brown is right, he‘s not ready and he‘s not
going to give away any indication he‘s got a plan.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Chris, I think this is a bit
of a pull-back from what David Ignatius had, which was apparently fed to
him by the national security adviser, General Jones, where the United
States was going to lay out what we think is the appropriate solution, that
both sides everybody—almost everybody seems to agree on for a
Palestinian peace with Israel. He seemed to be pulling back and he‘s
saying, We don‘t—we can‘t do that right now. We‘re not going to do
But he did seem to be agreeing with the Petraeus assessment, which is
the United States is suffering because of this conflict and because of the
damage it‘s doing to our reputation. Because we‘re perceived as weak and
unable to bring about a solution, we‘re being hurt, and maybe even
Americans are being killed because of it. He didn‘t say it hard and fast,
but he seemed to be leaning and saying, We are suffering because of this.
MATTHEWS: Well, the American people know we have an interest in peace
over there. Let me ask you first of all, Pat, then the mayor—this
question of proliferation. Jimmy Carter took heat over that. He was
laughed at because he said, My daughter, Amy, cares about proliferation of
nuclear weapons. A lot of us thought that was a serious issue. Ronald
Reagan eventually said he wanted to get rid of nuclear weapons. This
president—I mean, going back to John Kennedy trying to deal with the
nuclear genie and put it back in the bottle.
What do you make of today‘s efforts of putting the genie back in the
BUCHANAN: I think it‘s part—it‘s part of a major effort on the
president‘s part, which is much more serious for all of us since 9/11,
where you‘ve got terrorists coming over here, trying to kill as many
Americans as they can. And in a world where now something like eight or
nine countries have nuclear weapons, this is far more serious.
The president‘s got three goals, I think, Chris. One, he wants to
reduce the stockpiles of the Americans and the Russian Soviet stockpiles.
Secondly, he wants to deal with these rogue nations that have these
weapons. And the third thing is to scoop up—and that was what this week
was all about—all this nuclear material, whether it‘s highly enriched
uranium or plutonium—those are the two raw material for nuclear weapons
to get as much as of that as they can off the market.
So I think it‘s a three-pronged offensive. This he wants to be part
of his legacy, I think. He‘s deadly serious about it, and it‘s one of
those things we call a 90/10 issue. I think this is something on which all
the American people and most of the world is behind him.
MATTHEWS: It‘s hard, Mr. Mayor, to get the public interesting in
something so frightening. I remember John F. Kennedy gave what many people
think was his most important speech ever at American University, not far
from here in Washington, in 1963, when he talked about trying to get rid of
this nuclear threat to mankind.
Here he is, the president of the United States, this young guy who
didn‘t live through the cold war, like we all did, coming in and saying,
Can we scoop up—I was stunned to hear the Soviets are still building
plutonium. They‘re still making it over their in their reactor over there.
And here is the president saying 64 metric tons we‘re going to get rid of,
which is capable of building 17,000 missiles. Mr. Mayor?
BROWN: He said all of that. And if you recall, during the course of
the campaign, in the many debates that he engaged in, he talked
specifically about this issue. He said, I want this to be one of the goals
I want to achieve.
BROWN: And in fact, now that he‘s got health care behind him for the
moment, he‘s moving onto the very next issue. He laid it out in Prague.
Now in the USA, with 49 nations signing on, he has, in fact, in many cases
put in place and had a pledge for four or five potential achievements from
And one of the achievements, clearly, Russia has now decided, We‘re
going to shut down the plant that we have and the factory that we have,
where we‘re dealing with the issue of nuclear power that results in
BROWN: That‘s an incredible step. Secondly, he said that there are
two or three nations—and I have no idea how much they may have. But he
said there are two or three nations that said they‘re going to surrender
their entire stockpile. Those are all very significant achievements...
BUCHANAN: Yes, they are. Canada...
BROWN: ... for this young president.
BUCHANAN: Canada and Chile. But Chris, to your point, Jack Kennedy
spoke at American University in June of 1963, after he‘d looked into the
abyss in October-November 1962 of the possibility of nuclear war. Barack
Obama and all the rest of us went through 9/11, where these people tried to
did attack the United States and killed thousands (INAUDIBLE) And
they‘re trying to get nuclear weapons. So that is what is concentrating
his mind. It‘s 9/11, plus all this nuclear material that‘s floating around
in this world. And again, I think this is an issue on which the whole
American nation and most of the world are entirely behind him.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Mr. Mayor, it seems to me—this may sound
partisan, and maybe it is. I‘ve had a criticism myself for years now
against the Bush administration, especially Vice President Cheney, for
confusing us. The war in Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. We kept being
told that it did. There was this conflation going on that—words that
were suggestive that somehow, we were getting even when we went into Iraq
for what had happened to us on 9/11, when they had nothing to do with each
There‘s also the use of that term, which I think was very—very
distractive, “weapons of mass destruction.” I don‘t know why the past
administration didn‘t simply say nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons. We have
to fight them. We have to deal with the proliferation issue. Your
thoughts on that matter. Are we getting more clarity here than we got
under the previous administration?
BROWN: The fact that this man in his presentation just a moment ago
did not even reference 9/11 is a major step, frankly, for all of us. We
should not relate this back to 9/11. Jack Kennedy, when he made his
remarks, was dealing essentially with the same issue. I suspect that not
much of this current weapons-grade nuclear materials that‘s in the hands of
a whole series of nations was, in fact, available at that time. It‘s
happened since then. It‘s happened before 9/11. And in some cases, I
suspect it‘s happened after 9/11.
9/11 should not be the anchor tenet on this issue. The anchor tenet
is the potential for the destruction of mankind as we know it, and that‘s
what Barack Obama is trying to deal with.
BUCHANAN: OK, listen, you‘re right, Chris, weapons of mass
destruction can include chemical shells, of which millions were fired in
World War I, or a hydrogen bond with one megaton, which can destroy any
city in the world. I think the separation of nuclear weapons out is
vitally important because those are the real things that are a real threat
to the United States of America, whereas I say—I mean, they used
chemical weapons. The British used them in Iraq. They‘ve been used in
Yemen and everywhere else.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think they were used to get us into Iraq, is what I
think they were used for.
BUCHANAN: Well, that‘s—they conflate...
MATTHEWS: For rhetorical purposes.
BUCHANAN: They conflate. When say “weapons of mass destruction,”
you‘re talking about an artillery shell with chemicals in it or an atomic
MATTHEWS: Well, I think we might be getting some more clarity here
Mr. Mayor, thank you.
President Obama on Iran sanctions—let‘s listen to the president
this afternoon, right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What sanctions do
accomplish is hopefully to change the calculus of a country like Iran, so
that they see that there are more costs and fewer benefits to pursuing a
nuclear weapons program.
And, in that process, what we hope is, is that, if those costs get
high enough, and the benefits are—are low enough, that, in time, they
make the—the right decision, not just for the security and prosperity of
the world, but also for their own people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Sometimes, I think Americans are too rational.
I wonder, Pat, and then Mr. Mayor, if you think as well. The
president is talking about a very rational cost-benefit analysis on behalf
of the—the—the ayatollahs, the—the mullahs over in Iran...
MATTHEWS: ... and their mouthpiece, Ahmadinejad.
The question I have is, do you think they think rationally? Are they
thinking in terms of economic costs if they go nuclear, as opposed to the
benefits of having that prestige weapon they seem to want to have?
BUCHANAN: Well, see, Chris, I happen to disagree with the president
I think the United States government does not have great credibility.
We have got a national intelligence estimate came out in 2007 said Iran
gave up the drive for nuclear weapons. The IAEA says Iran is not now
outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It‘s not in violation.
MATTHEWS: You believe they‘re not pursuing a nuclear weapon?
BUCHANAN: I think they‘re—my view is, they probably want to get to
the point where they have the knowledge and ability. But, if they are,
where exactly are they outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty?
Why hasn‘t the intelligence community of the United States gotten up
and said, look, they‘re going after weapons; they got this secret plant
here, here, here, and here, that we did not know about it, and that
explains it? They haven‘t even changed the national intelligence
MATTHEWS: So, you‘re suspicious that we don‘t know what‘s going on?
BUCHANAN: I think—I tell you what I think is being done. I think
the United States—just a guess—has sabotaged the—the centrifuges
at Natanz. They have got 8,000 of them. Every month, it‘s less and less
The White House, Mr. Gibbs said—got up and said, they can‘t even
enrich uranium to 20 percent for medical isotopes. If you can‘t go to 20
percent, how can you go to 95 percent?
BUCHANAN: So, I don‘t think it‘s conclusive. And I wish they would
tell us what the evidence is that Iran is hell-bent on building a nuclear
MATTHEWS: This is a very hot issue, Mr. Mayor, in this town. We have
been looking at a lot of ads in the paper now concerned about the Iranian
threat to Israel, which you‘re well aware of yourself, people of—friends
of Israel in this country. And there are millions and millions. Most
Americans are friends to Israel.
And they‘re worried about this Iranian threat. Do you think the
president was tough enough today in talking about sanctions as a deterrent?
WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: Again, I say this is
a diplomatic response by this president.
He does not want to be in a position—for whatever he said to the
Chinese—to the head of China, Mr. Jintao, he doesn‘t want to be in a
position where he violates that. And, obviously, he was soliciting from
the Chinese cooperation on the sanctions issue.
W. BROWN: In other words, he says: I have gotten another group of
nations that have just as much oil available to you, if in fact the
Iranians cut you off. If we move with sanctions against the Iranians, and
we really do have to impose them, will you be with us?
He had to be careful to protect those private conversations, those
private arrangements. And this is a guy who is doing it very cleverly,
very carefully, and very effectively. I don‘t think he wishes to be in a
position where he‘s rattling the sword, where he‘s saying, if you don‘t do
this, we won‘t do that, nor do I think he wishes to reveal exactly what
information we have on what the Iranians are currently doing, without that
coming through the U.N. and the other international stages on which the
discussions can take place.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Mayor, I think you have hit the point there, which is
he can speak about these issues, but he has to speak about them much more
carefully than someone on television does, because, if he says something
slightly wrong, he blows the deal.
Thank you very much. You have been very circumspect, as we all the
Thank you, Mr. Brown—Mr. Brown.
Thank you, Pat Buchanan.
Up next: Sarah Palin is making money, lots of it. How much, for
those who are curious? We will tell you. She‘s doing quite well in the
money department right now.
We will be right back with more on MSNBC and HARDBALL;.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First: Mike Huckabee stakes out his position on gay adoption. In a
college newspaper interview, Mike Huckabee, the once and perhaps future
Republican presidential candidate, said he opposes adoption by same-sex
couples. The audio of that interview was just posted.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: You don‘t—you don‘t
go ahead and accommodate every behavioral pattern that is against the
ideal. I mean, that would be like saying, well, there are a lot of people
who like to use drugs, so let‘s go ahead and accommodate those who want to
There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate
them. There are people who believe in polygamy. Should we accommodate
them? But where do you...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, accommodating...
HUCKABEE: Children are not puppies. This is not a time to see if we
can experiment and find out, how does this work?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Governor Huckabee said later that the school paper
sensationalized his views and that his opposition to gay adoption is well-
known and hardly unusual.
I suspect the governor will not want to continue comparing people‘s
sexual orientation with incest and illegal drug use.
Next: an Empire State of mind. Attorney general and would-be governor
Andrew Cuomo doesn‘t give a lot of interviews, though he‘s apparently busy
pulling strings behind the scenes. According to today‘s “New York Times,”
perhaps no elected official in New York spends more time on the telephone
with reporters, calling them day and night, coaxing, massaging, disputing,
and cajoling, always off the record.
Well, I say good for him. Good for Andrew. As Senator Edmund Muskie
of Maine, one of the wisest, hardest-working political figures I ever knew,
once said, only talk when it improves the silence.
Now for the “Big Number.” Tonight, it‘s a lesson to always follow the
Since leaving public office in July of last year, how much has Sarah
Palin earned through her book deal, paid speeches, and TV appearances?
Well, according to ABC News, over $12 million, which, by the way, is about
100 times what she made in one year as Alaska‘s governor. Sarah Palin‘s
$12 million payday—tonight‘s “Big Number,” a very “Big Number.”
As they used to say of Liberace, another fellow, another person who
took some licks for over-the-top behavior, he laughed all the way to the
bank. Of course, Liberace just played the piano. He never told us how to
run the country.
Up next: Newly-elected Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts causing a
bit of a headache for the Republican Party.
And a reminder: You can now listen to all MSNBC shows, including
HARDBALL, simulcast live on satellite radio. Find us on Sirius channel 90
and XM channel 120. Catch us in the car.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Mike Huckman with your CNBC
And stocks pushing slightly higher, as earnings season begins to get
into full swing today—the Dow Jones industrial averages adding 13 points
to finish above the psychological benchmark of 11000 for the second day in
a row now, the S&P 500 up less than a point, and the Nasdaq gaining eight
A couple of big names reporting after the bell today—Intel—
that‘s the company that helps your personal computer run—wowing Wall
Street with better-than-expected profits and revenues. Shares are soaring
in after-hours trading.
And America‘s largest transport company, CSX, also moving sharply
higher after hours after reporting a 22 percent jump in profits, revenue up
Meantime, Home Depot leading the Dow today, as several states launch
initiatives encouraging consumers to buy energy-efficient appliances.
And oil prices falling for the fifth day, ahead of a report on
inventories due out tomorrow. Analysts are expecting relatively high
inventories, after a report showing demand for gas has fallen more than 3.5
percent in the U.S.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS: I go to Washington as the
representative of no faction or no special interests, answering only to—
to my conscience and to you, the people.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
S. BROWN: However—however, I know—I know I have a lot to learn
in the Senate. But I know who I am and I know who I serve.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
S. BROWN: I‘m Scott Brown from—I‘m Scott Brown.
S. BROWN: I‘m from Wrentham.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
S. BROWN: And I drive a truck!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
That was Scott Brown the night of his big Senate victory back in
January. Back then, he signed autographs as “41,” meaning he would be the
41st Republican senator to help his party stop the Democrats‘ agenda in the
Now he‘s Mr. Independent. Just last night, he voted with the
Democrats to end a Republican filibuster on a bill to extend unemployment
benefits. And back in February, he voted for a big Democratic jobs bill.
On top of breaking ranks on some votes, Senator Brown is catching a
little heat from the party—party—Tea Party crowd, I should say, for
not planning at all to go to the big rally tomorrow in Boston, where the
headliner is going to be Sarah Palin.
Is Senator Brown, the guy who drives the truck, just trying to steer
clear so he can win another term?
Peter Canellos is the editor of “The Boston Globe”‘s editorial page
and the editor of the great book “Last Lion,” about the—the late Ted
Kennedy. And “TIME” magazine‘s Mark Halperin is the co-author of another
great book, “Game Change.”
Let me go right now to Peter Canellos.
What do you think of this fellow? Is he going to try to avoid being a
Santorum and being a—and try to be a Saltonstall, a modern—moderate
New England Republican? Is that the game plan?
PETER CANELLOS, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, “THE BOSTON GLOBE”: Yes. I
think the game plan is to be somewhere in between.
I mean, he‘s clearly not in that purely liberal Republican tradition
that Saltonstall was in. But—but he‘s running on the far edge of
conservative for this state. And he has to make sure that he has at least
one foot in the mainstream. And that‘s what you saw in these last two
MATTHEWS: Is he worried about Joe Kennedy or somebody else coming at
him in a year or two...
CANELLOS: I‘m sure he is.
MATTHEWS: ... at the end of his two-year term? He doesn‘t get a full
term. Is he worried about a—sort of a centrist Democrat with a lot of
ethnic appeal, not a lefty or an intellectual? He could beat one of them,
probably, but somebody who has appeal in—with the old Democratic Party
up there, the working people, the middle-class people who aren‘t from
CANELLOS: Yes, I think he‘s quite vulnerable, and—and that—
that‘s why you‘re seeing these votes and that he‘s very cognizant of—of
wanting to have an independent image, not a doctrinaire Republican image.
MATTHEWS: Mark Halperin, he‘s not going up there for a big Sarah
Palin day up there in Boston. But maybe that‘s because he‘s—he‘s
thinking about votes down in the Senate.
If I were him, I wouldn‘t skip any votes right now. I think he would
take heat from everybody, especially with these votes coming up on playing
for unemployment comp.
MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, “TIME”: Well, and he‘s not
taking much heat from Tea Party members. He‘s taking heat from Boston talk
-- talk radio hosts.
I think all three of us probably have and most everybody else who has
ever appeared on HARDBALL has taken heat from talk radio hosts in Boston.
I don‘t think he‘s worried about that.
And I think he‘s been remarkably...
MATTHEWS: What, Howie Carr?
MATTHEWS: Don‘t worry about Howie Carr.
MATTHEWS: Don‘t worry about Howie Carr.
HALPERIN: ... I‘m saying.
MATTHEWS: Howie Carr is a pussycat.
HALPERIN: I think—I think everybody has seen that Scott Brown is
really smart at conserving his power. He‘s not gone out—he‘s following
a bit of the Obama model when Obama got to the Senate. He‘s not out there
He‘s being careful to tend to his constituents, and he‘s going to let
the national politics take care of themselves down the road.
MATTHEWS: Well, here he is speaking for himself on CNN, explaining
his vote with the Democrats to move forward on the unemployment benefits
Let‘s listen to Scott Brown, the senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
S. BROWN: My role, I feel, as—just as a citizen of the country and
someone who believes in good government, is, we need to get back to doing
the people‘s business. And that‘s what I‘m going to do.
And when I see a good vote, bill, whether it‘s a good Republican or
Democrat bill, I‘m going to vote for it. But I would encourage my Democrat
colleagues to do the same, because I haven‘t seen the reciprocity. And if
I‘m going to be the 60th vote, there‘s going to be times I‘m going to be
the 41st vote, too, because we can‘t all be one-sided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I have got a couple of thoughts on this.
One is, watching Mitt Romney, I think the slogan of your state, the
commonwealth, should be what‘s—what happens in Massachusetts stays in
Massachusetts. He‘s—he‘s a pro-choicer up there. He pushes through the
template health care bill, which is the model for the president‘s, and acts
like he was never there.
This guy—well, is that a fair critique of Mitt Romney, Peter? I
hope it is.
CANELLOS: I think it‘s—I think it‘s a major—it was a major
obstacle for him in the—in the campaign in 2008 that, you know, he
appeared to be walking away from his positions in Massachusetts.
Now he‘s going to have to do it again on health care—or is doing it
again on health care. I think it‘s a—it‘s a major dynamic, a major
problem for him going forward.
Is Scott Brown at all thinking big? My belief, if it weren‘t for the
issue of abortion rights, where he‘s for them, generally speaking, he would
be a fantastic Cinderella candidate to run against the president next time,
because he is just easy to take. I have been with him a little bit. He‘s
easy to take. He doesn‘t have any rough edges.
If you just want to vote against Obama, which is the one issue that
unites the Republican and the Tea Party crowd, he‘s easy. Put him up there
and run against him, Peter.
CANELLOS: You want to see me? I think that Scott Brown would be an
appealing candidate perhaps for vice president on the Republican side,
especially if Romney is a leading contender who does not get the
nomination. It‘s a way of bringing the Romney crowd into the mix.
Certainly, up here in Massachusetts, everybody who is elected
statewide is thinking about their national future. There‘s quite a
tradition of that up here. I‘m sure it has crossed Scott Brown‘s mind.
All of these combinations have crossed Scott Brown‘s mind.
MATTHEWS: It seems me, Mark, he‘s a lot more appealing than a Mike
Dukakis, for example, just to pick out one Massachusetts element we‘ve had
over the years.
HALPERIN: Look, one thing you want starting out as a presidential
candidate is someone people think, I would like to hang with that guy, that
guy I‘m comfortable with. President Obama has that for sure. Scott Brown
I think, look, there‘s questions about his national and international
experience. What he needs to do, if he wants to be a national player,
whether running for president or not, is keep this momentum going. You go
to events like I was in this weekend, the southern leadership meeting in
New Orleans, Scott Brown is as exciting to those people as any other
national Republican leader, even though he is pro-choice, because he does
represent contrast with the president on economics and on some national
security issues. Those are the two big issues that are uniting the party
right now, not the social issues where they disagree with him.
MATTHEWS: Last time, the deal-breaker with McCain was he couldn‘t put
Lieberman on the bill because of that issue. Is it still the deal-breaker
now, your thoughts, going back to Peter on the same question? Is it the
deal breaker now, being for choice?
CANELLOS: I think it‘s very hard to swallow. I don‘t think the
Republicans wanted to have a showdown at the convention the last time
around over this issue, and they probably won‘t in 2012, either. It would
have to be a situation where Brown kind of courts the pro-life community,
finesses the issue a little bit, reassures people, and is so appealing and
necessary that they go for it. So it‘s an obstacle. It‘s not completely a
MATTHEWS: Mark, this question of whether the Republican party wants
somebody who can win a general election. Also, do they want a Tea party
candidate. They may not be the same answer.
HALPERIN: The Republican party is headed in 2012 where the Democrats
were in ‘92, where the Republicans were in 2000. They want somebody who
can win the White House back. They‘ll make compromises on a lot of issues
to do that. They‘ll try to get the Tea Party involvement in energy,
without getting in the way of nominating someone who can win. I think
abortion rights, a candidate like a Joe Lieberman or a Scott Brown, is
still a bridge too far for the Republican party.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me tell you—I‘m not doing their planning for
them, but it seems to me they‘ve got a problem. They‘ve got people who
pass their test, Palin and Bachmann, who can‘t possibly win the presidency.
They‘ve got people who could win the presidency who can‘t pass their test
because they‘re not their kind of person. Don‘t they need somebody who is
their kind of person without being one of them. I‘m serious. Isn‘t that
the problem, Mark?
HALPERIN: That‘s the problem. That‘s why I think you hear a lot of
chatter still about people like Haley Barbour, John Kasich, Jeb Bush and
Mitch Daniels, who are people who can thread the needle you‘re talking
about, who can speak to the Tea Party movement, based on their record and
their rhetoric, but also understand they‘ve got to be a big tent. They‘ve
got to reach out.
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts about that, Peter, the last thought? Is
there a possibility that Scott Brown will be the Republican candidate for
president in 2012?
CANELLOS: Only if Romney doesn‘t run. They have the same political
operation up here. It would be a real problem—
MATTHEWS: Who‘s a better politician?
CANELLOS: Well, right now, Brown looks more appealing. But,
obviously, Romney has run before. I think Romney has some assets going
into the race and kind of a unique profile. If Romney goes ahead and wins,
people will say all that changing of positions and all that, he did what
was necessary. It‘s a little like George Bush Sr.
MATTHEWS: You guys just want a horse. You guys in Boston have never
changed in 30 or 40 years of covering you guys. You will do anything to
have a horse in the race. I‘ve heard so much stuff. Dukakis is great.
You ought to meet the guy. You guys never quit. Thank you, Peter
Canellos. I know what Boston wants. They want a candidate from Boston.
Thank you. Mark Halperin, continued good luck with your book. Thank you.
Up next, are the Tea Parties forming militias?
First, in one minute, a new poll shows that top Democrat Harry Reid is
in deep trouble out in Nevada. We‘ll tell you why. This is HARDBALL, only
MATTHEWS: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada continues to
face a tough reelection battle, as a new poll indicates his unfavorable
rating has reached 56 percent. He‘s now trailing the front runner for the
Republican nomination out there in a hypothetical general election match-
up, former Nevada Republican Party Chair Sue Lowden, by eight points, in a
three-way contest that includes Tea Party candidate Scott Ashuan. The
Republican Senate primary is scheduled for June 8th.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Tea Partiers out there are now
pushing for the creation of a state militia in, of all places, Oklahoma.
They say a new volunteer militia would help defend against what they see as
federal infringements on state sovereignty. This Monday marks, by the way,
the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, which was done at the
hands of Timothy McVeigh.
Al Gerhart heads a group of Tea Party factions collectively known as
the Oklahoma Constitutional Alliance. Al, thank you for coming on
HARDBALL. I want to give you a thought—all your thoughts here. What do
you think would be the purpose of a militia, in terms of restricting a
legitimate debate, of course, what should be the role of the federal
government. We‘ve been arguing about it for about 250 years. What would
be the role of an armed militia, though?
AL GERHART, TEA PARTY LEADER: Well, the militia they were speaking
about was one that was controlled by the state, by the governor. So it‘s
not what most people consider militia. It‘s more of a state defense force.
There are a total of 22 states that have defense forces already. Oklahoma
happens to be the only one that has an inactive force.
The purpose would be to back up the National Guard. When our National
Guard is deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or they don‘t have the equipment
here, that‘s when the state guard could step in.
MATTHEWS: What role would it play vis-a-vis our own government?
GERHART: Our own government, on a theoretical level? I guess if a
state guard ever thought they could stand up to the federal government,
they would probably get squashed.
MATTHEWS: So what would be—what would be symbolic? I mean, is
this a symbolic thing? I wonder what—luckily, we haven‘t had wars since
the Civil War that I can remember, but—in this country between the
government and the states. But when can you imagine the states wanting to
go to war with the federal government using armed force?
GERHART: I wouldn‘t imagine they ever would. What our founding
fathers envisioned—they never envisioned having a standing army. The
Second Amendment was not about your right to shoot a burglar, protect your
family. The Second Amendment was the right of the states to have a
militia. What the founding fathers envisioned was all these state militias
that basically kept the federal government in check just by their very
MATTHEWS: Where do you get that history? Where is that history
coming from? I guess I don‘t know that history.
GERHART: Go back to school then, because the history is there.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about the militias as an instrument to restrict how
the Supreme Court rules on—the Supreme Court rules in this country about
what the federal government is allowed to do. What is a militia going to
do with a Supreme Court, challenge the Supreme Court?
GERHART: No, sir. Did you realize the militia has been authorized by
the Supreme Court. There‘s been a case on it already.
MATTHEWS: Sure. We‘re talking about the use of the—let‘s not get
into the lawyers game of shifting the marbles around here. Are militias,
as you understand them, a proper tool to stand up to a federal decision
approved by the Supreme Court? Do you believe a militia in Oklahoma should
ever be used to fight the federal government? Is that your view?
GERHART: Oh, no, it should never be used to fight the federal
government. That would be insanity. That‘s not the point. The point is
if you have 30 or 40 states that have state militias, that would never
happen to start with. The government will respect us.
MATTHEWS: Why not? Explain how that would work.
GERHART: Well, Chris, if you have 30 or 40 state militias that cannot
be controlled by the federal government, that alone will keep the federal
government from ever trying to overstep its bounds. If it ever decided to,
the state militias couldn‘t do anything about it. That‘s real simple.
MATTHEWS: When we had a fight, the federal government had a fight in
Little Rock to integrate the high school down there, they brought in
federal troops. They nationalized the National Guard down there and put it
at the service of the federal government. Why wouldn‘t the militia of any
state be nationalized to put it to the service of the federal government,
and used to serve the needs of the federal government? What would stop
that from happening in your case in Oklahoma?
GERHART: Technically, they can‘t. What they can do and what they
would do is draft the people in the State Guard, which is perfectly
legitimate. But they cannot control the state militia by the state
Constitution. In Oklahoma, we have three state militias. Every man in
Oklahoma between the ages of 17 and 70 is a member of the state militia.
That is our law.
Most states have similar laws. As far as your state guard, they
disbanded it after the April 19th bombing, out of respect for our citizens,
and it was probably a good decision for them to do so.
MATTHEWS: Name an issue that you can imagine in which a state militia
in Oklahoma, based Oklahoma, would act to prevent the federal government
from doing anything on health care, on education, on any issue. Where
would he get a role in standing up or bluffing the federal government or
using its strength just by being there to stop the federal government from
GERHART: Chris, where are you getting all of this? No one has ever
mentioned that. As far as our group, we don‘t even have a position on
whether or not the state militia is a good idea or bad idea.
GERHART: I‘m here to basically represent what the other people are
talking about. I told your producer we have no position on in. We know
the people who do have a position on it. Their position is if it‘s under
our Constitution, it‘s legal. Why not go ahead and re-enact it, just like
having another highway department or something? That‘s all it is.
MATTHEWS: What did you mean when you said “it‘s scary, it sure is,”
when you talked about having a militia down there in Oklahoma?
GERHART: Gee, Chris, I think everybody understands that if we ever
got to the point where state militias felt they had to stand up against the
federal government that would be a scary situation. That‘s one I don‘t
want to live through and I don‘t want to see my kids living through that.
MATTHEWS: I can‘t follow you, sir. You‘re going on a couple points
here. You‘re saying that a militia would play a constitutional role in
standing up for the sovereignty of your state, but it would never actually
be active in doing so. I don‘t get the point.
GERHART: Our founding fathers considered the militias crucial. If
you read the Second Amendment, it‘s all about that. It‘s all about the
need for a well-regulated militia. Again, we‘re not supposed to have a
standing army. The founding fathers wanted that to be a counter-point.
But times have changed. Now we have a huge standing army. It‘s just
symbolic. That‘s all it is.
MATTHEWS: You seem like you‘re suggesting there‘s a legitimate need,
even if it isn‘t put into practice, a legitimate need to stand up to
federal authority. You believe there is?
GERHART: I don‘t believe there is a legitimate need to do that. But
there is a legitimate need to have a state guard, or else 22 of the states
wouldn‘t have it, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for coming. I appreciate it. We‘re trying to
get to the truth here. Thank you, Al Gerhart, from Oklahoma.
When we return, I‘m going to have some thoughts about political BS.
Don‘t miss our show tomorrow. Comedian and TV host Bill Maher is
coming here to be our guest. Bill Maher. You‘re watching HARDBALL. He‘s
coming here Wednesday, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight by talking about political BS. John
McCain has spent a career calling himself a maverick, even wrote a book
called “The Education of a Maverick.” The other day he said, quote, “I
never considered myself a maverick.”
When the senator from Arizona said that, did he believe it? Did he
mean that he was wrong all those times he called himself a maverick? Or
was that comment about not considering myself a maverick just good old BS.?
Rudy Giuliani said recently, quote, “there were no domestic attacks in
the United States under Bush.” Did he forget about the worst attack in
history, which came under Bush, or did he mean there were no attacks after
the worst attack in history, or did he say it so many times, that there
were no attacks under Bush, that he stopped thinking about what he was
saying? Or was he just BSing us for the thousandth time?
What did Governor Rick Perry of Texas mean when he said, a while back,
that Texas had the right to secede from the union? Did he think Texas had
that right but had his history totally off? Then why did he keep it up,
after getting straightened out on this matter, saying that Texas certainly
had the right to secede, but wasn‘t going to exercise unless things got
really bad? Was he just BSing us like Rudy was?
There‘s a great line in my favorite movie, “Lawrence of Arabia,” that
may explain this habit of saying something you don‘t actually believe, but
is so powerful and useful you just keep on saying it. It goes like this:
“a man who tells lies merely hides the truth. A man who tells half lies
has forgotten where he put it.”
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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