Guest: Ron Paul, Arlen Specter, Joan Walsh, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Nasty business.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Going negative. Senator Arlen Specter has attacked Democratic congressman
Joe Sestak‘s military record. A new TV ad Specter has running in
Pennsylvania opens by saying Sestak was, quote, “relieved of duty” after a
31-year naval career. With just four weeks to go before the primary, why
is he doing this? It‘s our top story tonight.
Also, President Obama takes on Wall Street, the president traveled
just a few subway stops from Wall Street to urge Wall Street‘s masters of
the universe not to fight proposed new regulations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And unless your
business model depends on bilking people, there‘s little to fear from these
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this looks like a win-win for Mr. Obama. Either
Republicans fight him and take Wall Street‘s side in this fight, or they
join him and he gets a bill. What‘s better? Big question.
Plus, Michele Bachmann again attacks the Obama administration as,
quote, “gangster government.” That‘s her phrase. We‘ll get the HARDBALL
strategists to debate it.
And the man beloved by the country‘s Libertarians, Ron Paul of Texas,
joins me here tonight on the set to talk about the tea parties and their
future. What a get he is tonight.
And I‘ll finish with a thought on how negative political advertising -
attack ads, if you will—work to depress democracy, not a great thing
to be doing in America these days.
We start with the Senate race up in Pennsylvania. Joining me right
now is Senator Arlen Specter. Senator Specter, thank you for coming on
tonight. I want you to talk about your TV ad that‘s running in
Pennsylvania right now. Here‘s the ad. We‘re going to run it free for
you, and then I want you to respond to why you‘re running it right now.
Here it is. Let‘s listen.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Sure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Sestak, relieved of duty in the Navy for
creating a poor command climate. Joe Sestak, the worst attendance of any
Pennsylvania congressman and near the bottom of the entire Congress. Last
year alone, Sestak missed 127 votes. Sestak says the missed votes weren‘t
important. He went campaigning instead. Let‘s say no to no-show Joe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And here‘s part of a Web video your campaign put out last
summer. Let‘s watch that. And we have one more to show. All three of
them we‘re showing tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wants you to vote for him, but doesn‘t vote for
us. Joe Sestak, AWOL for Pennsylvania.
SPECTER: I‘m Arlen Specter and I approved this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And here‘s a Web site sponsored by your campaign called
“no-show Joe.” It‘s the top of the page. It says “Joe Sestak AWOL.”
Senator, it‘s four weeks to go before the primary in May. Why are you
focusing on this man‘s 31-year military career and not his political
SPECTER: Well, I‘m not focusing on that. I‘m focusing most heavily
on my own very positive record. And I‘m speaking about that on the stump
and I‘m advertising it on television.
But when Congressman Sestak puts on a commercial touting his service -
and I commend him for most of his service, but it‘s relevant, and the
voters ought to know why he was terminated. And it is not my words, but
it‘s the words of “The Navy Times” and “The Army Times” that he was
terminated because of poor control climate—poor command climate. And
when he puts on this ad, which is in violation of DoD rules because there‘s
no disclaimer, I think I‘m entitled to reply. The voters ought to know the
whole story. Listen, this isn‘t my opinion. These are facts.
MATTHEWS: Let me—let me ask you—I‘m not going to give his side
of the story, but he gave it to us last night, so I‘ll relay it to you,
Senator. He says that a new chief of naval operations came in, Mike
Mullen, and he replaced Vernon Clark. Vernon Clark says this about him.
This is Vernon Clark, the CNO who appointed him. “He did what I asked him
to do. I wanted straight talk, and this put him in the crosshairs. People
are going to say what they want to say, but he challenged people who did
not want to be challenged. The guy is a courageous, a patriot‘s patriot.”
Now, this is the guy who appointed him. A new CNO came in. The new
CNO had the prerogative to remove him. He did. You say the word “relieved
of duty” and “terminated.” Those words sound like he was fired, like he
did something wrong, that he was not getting a good performance review.
What was it?
SPECTER: Well, that‘s what the military journals say, that he was
fired. And he has commented about what Admiral Clark said. But when
Admirable Mullen came in, he terminated him. And as “The Pittsburgh Post-
Gazette” quoted—and I wrote this down to be precise. These are not my
words. “The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” on April 5th of this year, earlier
this month, said, quote, “A current admiral said that Sestak had a, quote,
‘tyrannical‘ leadership style. He would command by fear and intimidation.”
And that was why he was terminated, because of his poor command climate.
But listen, those aren‘t my words, those are the reports in “The Army
Times,” “The Navy Times” and a currently serving admiral.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about his whole military record. You
said something relatively positive about most of his record. I want to put
that up for the public so they know who the guy is. He served in the—
he‘s an Annapolis guy. He graduated second in his class. He‘s the
highest-ranking former military officer ever elected to the U.S. Congress.
He served for 31 years in the Navy and retired as a three-star admiral.
And at one point, he led an aircraft carrier battle group, the George
Washington group, in Afghanistan. And he also was with the Navy‘s deep
(ph) blue (ph) anti-terror team after 9/11.
He has had a long record. Do you think it‘s fair on your part to run
an ad four weeks before the primary that said he was relieved of duty? It
sounds to me like you‘re really—really killing the guy in terms of his
31-year record, based on perhaps how well he didn‘t get along with the new
SPECTER: Well, I am not questioning any of the positive things you
have said, and I agree that that part of his record is commendable. But it
is relevant as to why he was terminated. And when he runs an ad touting
himself, I think the public is entitled to have all of the facts. And
that‘s what we have laid on the line.
Look here, when we talk about his absenteeism and missing votes, we‘re
not questioning his judgment or speculating about what—who may be right
or who may be wrong. We have dealt with hard facts. And I think that the
public is entitled to know all the facts. If he wants a promotion to be a
senator, why hasn‘t he done his job as a member of the House of
Representatives, the worst record of anybody in the Pennsylvania
delegation? Now, should that not be brought to the public?
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s talk about the public interest and not the
interest of either of your candidacies. You‘ve been a respected member of
the Senate for 30 years. You‘ve been very successful in getting reelected,
and people think you‘re a smart guy and you‘re on your game. But the
question, I guess, the public has a right to ask is, why don‘t you confront
him to his face with this stuff? Why don‘t you debate him on television
And you‘re a prosecutor. You know the rules of the courtroom. You
have a right to be confronted with the evidence against you in person, in
court. Why don‘t you debate this fellow on television, like we‘re doing—
well, I‘m not doing it for him, but I‘m trying to serve up, I guess, this
debate. Are you going to debate him on television?
SPECTER: The answer is yes. I‘ve agreed to a statewide televised
debate in all the markets. When he ran for reelection 2008, his opponent
wanted a series of debates and he said no. And why did he say no? Well,
that‘s the customary response of an incumbent.
Listen, Chris, it is difficult to get name recognition, to get people
to know you. I travel to virtually every one of Pennsylvania‘s 67 counties
every year. It‘s hard work. Well, let Congressman Sestak earn his own
I‘ve agreed to the debate. And we also had another debate where I
confronted him. We debated before the Democratic women several weeks ago.
We had a joint appearance before a group in Pittsburgh. We‘ve—we‘ve
been together, and he‘ll have his debate.
And listen, Chris, he has not spared the rod in criticizing me. He‘s
been doing it for more than a year. And listen, I‘ve developed a thick
skin. I‘m not complaining about his criticism of me. I‘m talking about my
positive record, what I‘ve done on NIH funding, what I‘ve done on bringing
jobs to Pennsylvania. But I think the public‘s entitled to know all the
And listen, you invite me, I appear. I‘m very accessible. I‘ve been
on MSNBC—this is my third time in 36 hours.
MATTHEWS: I know you‘re on a lot on “Joe.” Let me—on Ed‘s show.
Let me ask you, when will this debate be, so people watching now will know
when to tune in? When will this debate...
SPECTER: May 1st, 7:00 o‘clock, statewide, all the television
markets, a full hour.
MATTHEWS: That‘s Saturday night at 7:00 o‘clock.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, good luck in the debate, Senator. You‘ve
answered the question for me. The guy was terminated. He was relieved of
duty. I personally hope you have more than one debate, but that‘s your
call. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
Coming up: President Obama went up to New York today to take on Wall
Street. How did he do?
But first, during the during the commercials, among the field of 2012
GOP hopefuls for president, who‘s up and who‘s down? We got the latest
numbers. We‘ll tell you in a minute.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Nate Silver at Fivethirtyeight.com says the Republican
presidential candidates are currently regarded more poorly by the public
than leading Democratic candidates were four years ago. Look at this. By
looking at all favorability polls conducted within the past year, only Mike
Huckabee and Mitt Romney—only those two—have favorable numbers. All
the others—Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, and of course, Sarah
Palin—all have high unfavorable ratings.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I‘m here today specifically, when I speak to the titans of
industry here, because I want to urge you to join us instead of fighting us
in this effort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was the president up in New
York earlier today, asking Wall Street to stop opposing financial reform.
Did he close the sale on reform and really get tough with Wall Street? I
Joan Walsh is editor-in-chief of Salon and Pat Buchanan‘s an MSNBC
political analyst. I want to hear from the firebrand from out West here.
I thought I got a little too much Ray Milland from this guy, as I like to
say, a little too casual, and not enough fire-eating Huey Long from our
president. What do you think?
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: You got Barack Obama, Chris. And you know,
sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn‘t. I‘m with you, I wanted to see
more fire. He wasn‘t Teddy Roosevelt. He wasn‘t Franklin Roosevelt. You
know, a lot of people on the blogosphere today were bringing up the old
famous old FDR speech, where he talked about the banks and these evil
corporate interest and he said he welcomed their hatred.
WALSH: They hate him (SIC), and I welcome their hatred.”
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.
WALSH: That is not Barack Obama. But really, more—you know, you
and I both know...
MATTHEWS: Well, he gets their hatred, whether he welcomes it or not!
WALSH: Exactly. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: He might as well welcome it, you know?
WALSH: It‘s very—it‘s very unlikely that they‘re going to join him
on this one.
WALSH: To me, it‘s not about style, though. Ultimately, it‘s about
what‘s in the bill, how tough is the bill. And from all indications, it
doesn‘t sound—it sounds like there‘s going to be a lot of loopholes even
in this relatively tough and encouraging derivatives legislation. So
that‘s what worries me. I‘m—I—he can talk as cool as he wants, but I
want to see some toughness in the bill, and I don‘t know that we‘re going
to get it.
MATTHEWS: So there‘s not enough teeth in this bill. Pat, do you
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think this is more
graduate seminar than anything else, Chris. But I don‘t think you can do
FDR, you know, denouncing the money-changers in...
MATTHEWS: How about Teddy Roosevelt and the malefactors...
BUCHANAN: How about money-changers in the temple of our civilization,
when Lloyd Blankfein, sitting right there in front of you, your buddy,
who‘s the head of Goldman Sachs and whose company who gave you a million
bucks. But I think what Obama did correctly was—look, he‘s won the
battle here. The Republicans are aboard. He‘s playing president. He‘s
being magnanimous in victory.
MATTHEWS: Has he rolled them?
BUCHANAN: It‘s the right thing to do...
MATTHEWS: Has he rolled them?
MATTHEWS: He‘s got Richard Shelby aboard! He‘s got Bob Corker.
BUCHANAN: Well, look, when you got that...
WALSH: We‘ll see. We‘ll see.
BUCHANAN: I mean, you don‘t rub somebody‘s nose in the dirt. Be
magnanimous. I think he handled it very well all the way around. But he -
Chris, that‘s not him. I remember Gerald Ford‘s friends—buddies asked
me, should he really go after the media, as Agnew did? I said, No...
BUCHANAN: ... because he can‘t do it. He won‘t do it. It‘s not him.
He won‘t follow through. Barack Obama is what you saw up there...
MATTHEWS: OK, my question is this. It‘s an American question, and
it‘s totally non-ideological. It‘s the same question we asked after 9/11.
After all the precautions, after all the homeland security, all the
fighting terrorism and all that stuff, could it happen again exactly the
same way it happened, where the guy‘s coming down from Portland, Maine,
same four guys getting on the plane? What‘s to stop it this time?
What‘s to stop these guys up there, the masters of the universe...
MATTHEWS: ... from coming up with some new gizmo, some weird scheme
and doing it all over again?
BUCHANAN: It could happen again. Suppose you had the EU, the—
Greece—let‘s say Spain and Italy gone just as Greece did. These banks
would start down, and if JPMorgan went under, Chris, we would go in and we
would rescue JPMorgan.
BUCHANAN: Because look—because if...
BUCHANAN: ... if they go under, they drag everybody under with them.
WALSH: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: So in the end—so in the end, the argument was made today
by one of our commentators in real time—Joan, your thoughts—that no
matter what they say about this $50 billion package they‘ve got ready,
they‘ve gleaned from the industry itself in case they need it to do a bail-
out, that in the end, if somebody goes down and it‘s $100 billion or $200
billion or whatever, they‘re going to get bought off and the rich guys are
going to walk away, bankrolled again, once again insured by the federal
government‘s fear of “too big to fail.” Yes, again.
WALSH: Yes. I think that—you know, there‘s a big—big
Democratic debate, actually, right now, Chris, whether you need to go in
the direction of the Sherrod Brown-Ted Kaufman “too big to fail” bill and
really—and really set limits on how big these banks can be and what
percentage they can be lending and how—you know, how vulnerable that
The Obama White House seems not to love that idea. Chris Dodd seems
not to love that idea. A lot of us think we need both. We need tough
WALSH: ... but we also need to—we need to break up some of these
banks and create...
MATTHEWS: Do we need Judge Green again, and Judge Green, and Ma Bell
being broken up again? Is that what we need?
BUCHANAN: You‘re not being...
MATTHEWS: Something like that?
BUCHANAN: I don‘t think you‘re being fair to the Democrats here.
Look, if it goes down...
BUCHANAN: ... a big one goes down this time—well, you‘re not! If
a big one goes down this time, they do like General Motors. They‘re going
to wipe out the leadership. They‘re going to wipe out the shareholders.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
WALSH: They are saying that.
MATTHEWS: OK, for everybody watching, that‘s the good news. I‘m
told, Joan, that in Europe, when they bail somebody out after they blow it,
all the big shots are gone.
MATTHEWS: The minute you take a dollar or a pound or a franc from the
government, the deal is you go. Nobody stays.
Let‘s look at it. Here‘s the president, completely—well, he shot
down Republican claims that the reform bill would translate into endless
taxpayer bail-outs. That‘s the Frank Luntz talking point.
MATTHEWS: He had to address it today. What a victory for Frank
Luntz! The president of the United States has to go to Cooper Union like
MATTHEWS: ... and respond to your frickin‘ talking points!
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the president taking on Luntzie (ph).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What‘s not legitimate is to suggest that somehow, the
legislation being proposed is going to encourage future taxpayer bail-outs,
as some have claimed. That makes for a good sound bite, but it‘s not
factually accurate. It is not true.
A vote for reform is a vote to put a stop to taxpayer-funded bail-
outs. That‘s the truth. End of story. And nobody should be fooled in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Joan, somewhere, somewhere, Frank Luntz—he‘s in
England, I guess—is having a thrill going through his brain right now
because he has concocted a phrase, “endless taxpayer-funded bail-outs,”
which has become Mitch McConnell‘s prayer book, his catechism...
WALSH: Even when it‘s shown to be a lie...
MATTHEWS: ... and the president had to respond to it.
WALSH: Even when it‘s shown to be a lie, Chris, which is unfortunate.
You know, they are saying—I saw—Austan Goolsbee said it the other
day, that they are going to go in—if this happens again, they will not
be bailed out, they will be thrown into bankruptcy. You know, there‘s a
level at which people want to see the guys who screw it up—and they are
mostly guys, don‘t mean to be sexist—taken out.
WALSH: They want them taken out. They don‘t want them to get
bonuses. They don‘t want them to get golden parachutes. And they don‘t
want taxpayer money going to this.
I‘m a little bit worried, though, that—that the administration has
indicated it will compromise on this re-administration restructuring fund
because of so much Republican opposition...
WALSH: ... which I think is kind of ridiculous. These are fees paid
by the bank. There will be administrative costs in bankruptcy. Somebody
needs to cover those costs. This was an innovative way to do it.
But Obama, because he‘s getting pushback, is already saying, well,
maybe we—maybe we don‘t have to have that in the bill. And that‘s a
MATTHEWS: You know, I just heard somebody with a—with a wonderful
name like Joan Walsh, one the nicest names—it‘s mellifluous—it‘s
beautiful—making—just making reference to a guy named Austan
MATTHEWS: It‘s just—there‘s something inconsistent about...
WALSH: He‘s got a perfectly nice name, too.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It‘s something out of Dickens.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. It‘s Dickens.
WALSH: I like Austan Goolsbee, you guys.
MATTHEWS: ... for—I know. He‘s a good source, too. I know all
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to this.
Bottom line, Pat, as the summer ends, will the president, as—it
looks to me like this was going to be a fight that was going to go on all
the way through September, and they were going to sign the bill, cleaning
up Wall Street, restricting it in all these ways, saying no more money for
the guys who win when there‘s a bailout.
MATTHEWS: And they were going to sign it around the time that Lehman
Brothers went down, sometime in September. It looks like to me like this
fight is going to be over a lot faster than that, and he‘s going to be on
fighting about energy and immigration at some point.
BUCHANAN: It‘s not going to be a big deal.
The Republicans basically are giving him a bye. They are saying,
we‘re not going to fight you on this particular battle. Let‘s move on to
the next one. So, he wins, but he doesn‘t have the big fight. It‘s like
winning a primary with no opposition, Chris.
WALSH: Well, he‘s had a...
MATTHEWS: Joan, you agree they going to roll on this and just let him
have it and then say he won, without letting him be able to feel a
WALSH: They will never say he won. They will never say he won.
WALSH: They—you know, and the—and the people who didn‘t vote
for it will continue to use these talking points about bailouts. They will
treat him unfairly, no matter what happens.
I happen to think that it‘s a good thing to get it out of the way, as
long as there‘s teeth in it.
WALSH: The idea of dragging it out all over the summer, we saw what
WALSH: ... with health care reform and death panels and the lies that
can spring up. I think they should get it down now while they seem to have
the votes and they have the momentum.
MATTHEWS: Would he be smarter if he did energy next, come down in the
center again, like he did on this issue, come down in the center, one-time
progressive, health care, then the center on this, on cleaning up Wall
Street, the center on energy, and put off immigration?
If he does immigration next, I think he ruins the summer, my thought.
Your thoughts, Pat?
BUCHANAN: If he does immigration now, he will be torn to pieces on
it, and he will lose the battle. He may have been pushed into doing
MATTHEWS: Yes, I don‘t understand it.
BUCHANAN: ... by the Hispanic Caucus, which came aboard...
MATTHEWS: I think that‘s a mistake.
Your thoughts. What‘s he better to do, energy right now, as we start
using more gas this summer and worry about gas prices, or do immigration to
meet the concerns of the Hispanic voters?
WALSH: you know what? He‘s being pushed to do immigration, but it‘s
largely because of that idiotic racial profiling law in Arizona. That‘s
what‘s pushing them.
MATTHEWS: Try explaining that to history: I did it because of
Arizona. Excuse me. I think he‘s crazy, he‘s a knucklehead if he does
immigration this summer.
WALSH: I don‘t think he can afford to take Latinos for granted. I
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Joan Walsh.
BUCHANAN: He‘s got a big Supreme Court battle coming up, Chris.
WALSH: There‘s a lot. There‘s always a lot.
MATTHEWS: Well, the smaller the battle, the better.
Thank you, Pat Buchanan.
WALSH: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: We‘re sizing up the summer.
Up next: Vice President Joe Biden talks about his BFD in the
“Sideshow.” That was the nickname for it.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MFN...
MATTHEWS: ... only MSNBC.
Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First: Joe Biden‘s BFD. Earlier today, the vice president gave “The
View” a look behind the scenes of his hot microphone moment during last
month‘s health care signing. I guess it bothered some people, what he
said, though I don‘t know who exactly.
Guess who it didn‘t bother? The president. Here‘s the veep on “The
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE VIEW”)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look...
JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, “THE VIEW”: Did you not realize there was a
microphone in the...
BIDEN: I realized there was a microphone, but I had no idea it was
BIDEN: I was as far away from the microphone as there to here, and I
was whispering in his ear.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BIDEN: And, after it was over, we walked out, and—and we got in—
in the limo to go over to another event, and he was laughing like the
BIDEN: I said, “What‘s so funny?”
BIDEN: “I don‘t see anything funny about this.”
And he said, “Well”—he said, “Katie, my secretary, told me, when
you said that to me, everybody could hear it.”
And I went, oh, God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I never seen something so no—anyway, that‘s no BFD
become such a long-lasting BFD.
Anyway, next: tempest in teapot. The man behind a famous ad campaign
has lost his job after leaving a nasty voice-mail message for the Tea Party
Here‘s the voice-mail. See if you can recognize the voice.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LANCE BAXTER, ACTOR: Hi there.
I‘m doing a paper about FreedomWorks, and I was wondering if somebody
could give me a call back. It‘s—I‘m wrapping up, and I just have one
more piece of information I need to get from you guys.
Just need to know what the percentage is of people that are mentally
retarded who work for the organization and are—are members of it.
And, oh—and one final thing, also. Wondering what your plans are,
how to spin it when one of your members does actually kill somebody,
wondering how, if you‘ve got an actual P.R. spinning routine planned for
that, or are you just going to take it when it happens.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Voice-mail from hell. Recognize that voice? It‘s Larry
Baxter, the announcer in the Geico ads, not the gecko, but the guys who
says, “Geico, real service, real savings” at the end of those commercials.
Baxter says that he left the voice-mail after hearing about the slurs
yelled at members of Congress during the run-up to that health care vote.
He also said leaving the voice-mail was stupid and doesn‘t blame Geico for
giving him the axe for leaving that message.
Finally: aiming at the top. Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich
asked a judge today to subpoena President Obama to testify at his federal
trial. B-Rod claims President Obama has direct knowledge concerning the
allegations against him.
Remember, by the way, B-Rod is up on charges of trying to sell the
president‘s old Senate seat. The White House isn‘t commenting.
Now for the “Number.”
The White House is said to have 10 names on its short list to replace
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Who is leading the pack? Well,
according to the oddsmakers at Intrade.com over in Dublin, current
Solicitor General Elena Kagan with 41 percent. She‘s also a former Harvard
Law dean. Kagan‘s odds are almost even to make it to the Supreme Court, 41
Wow. She‘s ahead of the pack—tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: Congressman Ron Paul on the future of the movement he helped
create, the Tea Party, the libertarians.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC
Stocks climbed back from a morning plunge to finish modestly higher
today—the Dow Jones industrial average adding nine points, the S&P 500
up two, and the Nasdaq gaining 14.
Concerns about Greece continuing to weigh on the markets. This
morning, it was news that its debt in relation to GDP was higher than
expected. But stocks began to recover around midday, despite a wave of
lackluster earnings forecast.
Chipmaker Qualcomm‘s shares tumbling more than 8 percent, after
lowering it outlook, and Nokia plunging more than 13 percent on a weak
forecast due to stepped-up competition in the smartphone market.
And posting earnings after the closing bell today, Amazon shares
moving sharply lower after-hours, despite beating expectations on a 46
percent increase in sales.
Microsoft also on the decline after-hours, the tech giant beating on
earnings and revenue as well, citing strong sales of Windows 7 and the
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We saw thousands of Tea Partiers rally in Washington on tax day last
week. And a recent Politico poll actually shows the movement is split
between social conservatives, who look to Sarah Palin as their leader, and
libertarians, who look to Congressman Ron Paul.
Well, Congressman Ron Paul is with us tonight.
It‘s an honor to have you, sir. You‘re a leader of a movement.
Sometimes, you remind me of my hero growing up, who was in fact Barry
REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS: Oh, well, that‘s...
MATTHEWS: And then I grew up.
PAUL: Oh, wait a minute.
MATTHEWS: And I began to see the complications of life, like people
get old, and they don‘t have a lot of ability to save money, so they need
Social Security, and we need a civil rights bill, even if it was done under
the interstate commerce clause, and it may have been a fiddle there.
But the fact is, it isn‘t always as clear and simple as libertarian
philosophy argues. But you have stuck to your position. You are a
libertarian. At your age, still believe way less government is way better.
PAUL: But aren‘t we on the verge of proving our point?
Social Security sounds good, but it‘s broke. And even if they take
care of sending out the checks, eventually, the checks won‘t buy anything,
because we will just print the money. So, I think our point has been
proven. We‘re—that‘s what this whole movement is about. And that‘s
what the Tea Party movement is about.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me give you that—OK.
PAUL: And that—I mean, the failure of government is everywhere
MATTHEWS: But what about the—let‘s just take the most—I used to
argue this with my dad, who was sort of middle-of-the-road Republican. I
would try to take your position.
And he would say, yes, but some people just don‘t save money. Maybe
they don‘t have the discipline. Maybe they don‘t have the financial
ability. They live paycheck to paycheck.
All of a sudden, they‘re 65. They don‘t have any money. And, in the
old days, you would move in with your kids. And, in modern society, the
kids have already moved to the suburbs. You‘re in the old neighborhood.
It doesn‘t work. That‘s why the government felt it needed to have some
kind of safety net for retired people.
You still don‘t think we need Social Security? This is pretty
PAUL: There‘s a moral issue there as well. The person that didn‘t
save and spent their money and had no money when they were 65, what does—
why does that give them a moral right to take it from the person who was
frugal and saved?
MATTHEWS: Because you force them to pay in the payroll tax.
PAUL: But, no, what if you didn‘t force them? What if...
MATTHEWS: That‘s the problem my father would say.
MATTHEWS: OK, so, what do you do with those people? If you don‘t
have a Social Security system, what do you do?
PAUL: Well, you‘re going to be a lot better off than a Social
Security system where everybody is dependent and it goes totally bankrupt,
and you have a whole society broke. That‘s what the problem will be.
Nobody is going to get..
MATTHEWS: Would we be better getting rid of Social Security?
PAUL: Pardon me?
MATTHEWS: Would we be better getting rid of it?
PAUL: No, not under these circumstances. I have bills in the
Congress that would make it solvent, that you couldn‘t spend a penny of it.
And I would—I would take care of these, these people who are
totally dependent by stopping the money being spent overseas. And I would
have a transition in order to do that.
MATTHEWS: OK. I‘m with you on that.
By the way, that overseas—that adventure, I‘m with you on that.
PAUL: Yes, that‘s the only place—that‘s the only place that you
MATTHEWS: That‘s the part I like.
Let me ask you about this health care bill. It always seems to me
when people say, I don‘t want a helmet, fine, drive without a helmet.
MATTHEWS: But, when you get picked up on the highway, and you‘re all
messed up, and the ambulance gets there, and the rescue squad gets there 10
minutes later, you‘re taken care of. Somebody takes you to the best
hospital, the closest hospital, gives you the best treatment they can give
So, society does look out for its individual members. It does.
Libertarians say, I don‘t need society. I don‘t want to pay into health
Is that logical?
MATTHEWS: Do you libertarians have a logical position?
PAUL: No, it‘s not logical to have what we have. That means you
create the moral hazard. The person can go out and say, oh, I don‘t really
have to worry. If I get hurt, somebody else is going to take care of me.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well...
PAUL: But where does he have the moral right to say that, I have been
injured—it‘s a socialization of medicine. This idea that government
will take care of me, that means that somebody will.
MATTHEWS: No, but don‘t you have to make—doesn‘t a person have to
take responsibility and buy health insurance, so that, when they do get
into trouble, they have to...
PAUL: Well, I think they have to take responsibility for their life.
If they injure themselves, if they‘re stupid—we can‘t protect people
MATTHEWS: No, but shouldn‘t—no, but when you get a stroke or you
have a heart attack, or you have—something goes wrong with you at the
workplace, and somebody has to look out for you, isn‘t it better that
society says, no, wait a minute, while you‘re young and healthy, kick into
health care, like this new plan requires, so that, when something goes
wrong, you have already begun to contribute?
PAUL: See, I think where we disagree...
MATTHEWS: What is wrong with that?
PAUL: Where we disagree is, you use the word society rather
carelessly. Society—who is society?
Society is just everybody. But there‘s only a few people who are ever
in the Congress someplace dictating what—who society is and who pays,
who gets bailed out, who doesn‘t.
And, under a society where people are responsible for themselves, they
have to suffer the consequences. If they don‘t take care of themselves,
they have to depend on charity, their friends or their neighbors or their
But you would have a lot fewer people. Now we‘re going to have a
whole society. I mean, now we have 21 percent of the people that are
underemployed because of this false illusion about Keynesian economics,
that this is going to work.
There‘s going to be nobody else to bail them out. So, society isn‘t
going to be there, because society is broke, because the government is
MATTHEWS: So, the president should not have pushed a big spending
bill in the face of the big looming second Great Depression?
PAUL: Oh, that was horrible. It was exactly the opposite thing...
MATTHEWS: He shouldn‘t have done that?
PAUL: He should have cut spending and put the money—I would
MATTHEWS: That‘s what Hoover did.
MATTHEWS: Cut spending.
PAUL: No, he didn‘t. He—Hoover was every bit as bad as Roosevelt.
Roosevelt just continued a Hoover program. Hoover—Hoover...
MATTHEWS: OK. You want to go back to Coolidge.
MATTHEWS: You want to go back to Coolidge.
MATTHEWS: You love Coolidge. You guys love Coolidge.
PAUL: No. How about Thomas Jefferson? How about people like that...
PAUL: ... who believed in freedom and free markets?
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at the Tea Party movement that you, in a
way, you and Barry Goldwater, going back, people who believe there‘s too
much government, too much big government.
I understand the impulse. Some people in the Tea Party movement don‘t
exactly go along with that. They‘re more for Palin. They love, you know,
outlaw abortion. A lot of other issues, they‘re very concerned. They
don‘t like same-sex.
Is the Tea Party movement too social and not economic enough for you?
Or how would you describe what you see in that?
PAUL: Well, I don‘t think anybody can describe it yet. I mean,
they‘re claiming there‘s a difference. But they say that I am not as
interested in the social issues. But, you know, in many ways, here, I am a
very conservative person socially.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re not running around against the evils of same-sex
marriage. I don‘t hear you talking about that.
PAUL: No, but to say that I‘m not interested in family values, you
know, I happen to be married and have children and all that.
MATTHEWS: I know. But that‘s fairly normal. But you‘re not out
there waving signs against same-sex couples.
PAUL: No, that‘s true. I do not.
I believe in values, but I do not believe in using force to put those
PAUL: I don‘t believe in using force to make you a better person for
your own sake.
But I don‘t believe in putting force on you to make you more
responsible economically. I apply the rules equally to social justice and
economic justice. I don‘t understand this division, why you may defend
social liberties rather well, but as soon as it comes to me spending my
money on assuming responsibility—I say, why don‘t you apply—
MATTHEWS: But you‘re the only one that I know because most people who
say that they‘re libertarians always come back in and say, yeah, but no
same-sex marriage and let‘s outlaw abortion.
PAUL: I think the consistent position is government shouldn‘t be
involved in marriage. Why should we have this argument? It‘s up to
MATTHEWS: I agree, but do you think a Tea Party person takes that
PAUL: Probably not. But I think everybody should be able to define
it. I have my definition of marriage but I don‘t have the right to impose
my views on others. But nobody has the right to impose their views on me.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the ugly part of the movement? And I
don‘t think you have anything to do with it, but when I look at these
signs, they‘ve got Hitler moustaches on this guy, the president of the
United States. They do crazy colors on his face to play around with his
ethnic background. Look at this stuff, you‘ve got a hammer and sickle.
All of this stuff is really kind of nasty, edgy, I hate the guy, rather
than I have a different philosophy of this guy. He got elected president
legitimately. I disagree with him. Why all this delegitimatization? He‘s
not really our president. He wasn‘t really born here. What is all this
PAUL: Well, I think that might be distortion. I‘ve never seen that
MATTHEWS: You‘ve got to look around a little bit.
PAUL: I think it‘s, I think -
MATTHEWS: Most people are aware that this is part of the movement.
PAUL: I think it‘s very small and I think it‘s ugly.
MATTHEWS: Bill O‘Reilly, who‘s been kind of almost moving to the
center compared to some of those guys, I mean he knows it‘s going on.
PAUL: But they‘ve done some detailed polling of these people. These
are well-educated people. And most people, probably 99 percent of the
people don‘t carry ugly signs.
MATTHEWS: But who put the signs up, when the signs that are outside?
PAUL: Maybe the left did.
MATTHEWS: You‘re kidding me, you are kidding me.
PAUL: Yeah, probably. I try to needle you.
MATTHEWS: Where are you going? Rand Paul, I know this guy, he‘s your
kid, your son, he might pull an upset and win at the Senate seat for
PAUL: It looks good.
MATTHEWS: It looks good for him.
PAUL: It looks very good.
MATTHEWS: Who are you—you guys have become the bandwagon. Who is
backing your son now? Isn‘t it Mitt Romney is backing him?
PAUL: I don‘t think so.
MATTHEWS: Not yet?
PAUL: But Bunning is.
PAUL: Bunning is the conservative independent. You know, he was not,
he didn‘t fall into the trap of being part of the establishment. He‘s
anti-establishment. He‘s with the grassroots and the Tea Party people.
And the people who like individual liberties and free markets and sound
money. I mean they‘re all for that.
MATTHEWS: You guys can win it you can win in Florida with Marco
Rubio, you can win in Kentucky. You can win around the country.
PAUL: There‘s a revolution going on, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Are you the leader?
PAUL: No, I‘m not a leader.
MATTHEWS: Is Palin?
PAUL: I don‘t think there is any one leader.
MATTHEWS: Do you think she could be president by her abilities?
PAUL: Oh sure, just look at the past history. Almost anybody can
MATTHEWS: You‘re just not saying anything. You‘re not even saying.
You‘re saying anybody can be president, you‘re saying there‘s no standards?
MATTHEWS: It‘s a complicated job.
PAUL: That‘s right. But I would say that on both Republican and
Democratic sides, people rise to the occasion. All of a sudden they have
MATTHEWS: True romantic, a Harry Truman romantic here. Thank you.
Congressman Ron Paul.
PAUL: Good to see you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, Congresswoman Michele Bachman, another version of
the dream here, trying to defend her calling of the Obama administration
“gangster government.” I guess she‘s Elliot Ness this week.
But in one minute, does Governor Rick Perry of Texas want to run for
president of this country?
MATTHEWS: If you‘re good enough for Texas, why not America? That‘s
one of the questions posed to Governor Rick Perry of Texas in this week‘s
cover story in “Newsweek” magazine. In an interview, Governor Perry
insisted he is focused on Texas and would not run for president under any
circumstances. However, he then goes on to say what he wants whoever is
elected president to make Washington as inconsequential in our life as we
can. I want to get this country back, he says. Only time will tell what
he‘s really up to.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. President Obama seems to be gaining the upper
hand in the Wall Street reform fight. The Republicans miscalculated,
thinking they could turn bailouts. That term of art they‘re using into the
death panels of this debate. For more on that, the coming fight on
immigration and Michelle Bachman‘s latest gangster talk, let‘s bring in the
strategists, Democrat Steve McMahon and Republican Todd Harris. We‘ve got
three big questions. First of all, this fight on Wall Street, has he won?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It looks like he‘s won it. The
Republicans now are talking about compromise and they‘re talking about
bipartisanship and maybe even supporting the bill.
MCMAHON: Well I mean, I think that they see the momentum going the
MATTHEWS: You don‘t like this boxing terminology, are they clinching
like the middle-weights? Is that what they‘re up to? Don‘t hit me.
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think there‘s going to be some
bipartisan compromise, but not until the bailout fund is removed from the
bill. There‘s dissension even on the Democratic side.
MATTHEWS: But the bailout, before you throw Frank Lantz‘s talking
points here, $50 billion that‘s coming from Wall Street itself, it‘s not
HARRIS: Ultimately, but that gets passed on to taxpayers, Wall Street
is not just going to write out a check for $50 billion and hand it over to
the government without passing on those funds to all their customers and
their customers are taxpayers. So ultimately, that gets paid by the
MCMAHON: OK, so this is a little bit disingenuous, just as the
argument that the bailout is disingenuous. The money comes from the big
institutions and it‘s to be used to dismantled them if they fail to get rid
of their CEO, get rid of their board, and to take it over and sell it so
that they can actually fail and go out of business, which they didn‘t do
last time. It‘s the opposite of a bailout. It‘s a put them out of
business fund, is what it is.
HARRIS: On Main Street, there‘s no government fund if some mom-and-
pop shop goes belly-up, there‘s no government fund to come in and help
those people out. If a financial institution makes risky decisions and
they go belly-up, the officers ought to be out on the streets. The
shareholders ought to lose their money.
MATTHEWS: While you‘re running your trump card, getting so tough
here, is Wall Street the Republican Party‘s ACORN?
HARRIS: The answer is yes.
MATTHEWS: I think it is.
HARRIS: I don‘t know.
HARRIS: When President Obama gives back the money—
MATTHEWS: Your big embarrassment. You‘re laughing because your—
MCMAHON: Here‘s an interesting fact from a Gallup poll. If you say
Wall Street reform, the numbers go up 15 points. When you say financial
MATTHEWS: OK let‘s—
HARRIS: When President Obama gives back the money he took from
MATTHEWS: OK here‘s a question I don‘t know the answer to, a
dangerous question. Immigration in Arizona, the states are getting tough,
they‘ve given up on the federal government enforcing the law. Their police
officers stop and basically check a guy for an ID or a woman.
MCMAHON: A little bit of vigilantism.
MATTHEWS: No. The law enforcement official is doing it. Is this
something that‘s going to cut which way?
MCMAHON: Well, I actually think it cuts both ways. At the end of the
day, it‘s going to cut for the Democrats because Hispanics all over the
country are looking at this thing and saying, what are they doing down
there and why are they doing this? John McCain now has a primary opponent
is supporting this, but only because he has a primary opponent. Remember,
John McCain cosponsored immigration reform with Ted Kennedy, the
MATTHEWS: When are the Democrats going to enforce immigration law?
MCMAHON: I think President Obama and the leaders on the Hill are
talking about moving immigration reform maybe even ahead of climate change.
And if they do, you‘ll see how serious—
MATTHEWS: Are they going to keep the biometric checker in there? Is
it really going to be a checkable system, or just more BS?
MCMAHON: It starts with securing the borders, then it talks about—
MATTHEWS: No, no, the key is the ID card. The key is the ID card.
Are they going to have it in there, because it‘s in there now. Will they
keep it in there, or have it taken out?
MCMAHON: I think they have to keep in it there in order to get it
MATTHEWS: Sanchez the other day seemed opened to it. Not happy with
it, but she understands why it might have to happen.
HARRIS: I think as far as what‘s happening in Arizona, it‘s probably
good short term politics. I agree with Steve, this is bad long term
MATTHEWS: I don‘t understand why we don‘t just say everybody who is
here is here, no more people get in illegally.
HARRIS: That‘s exactly right. The way that you take care of the
immigration problem, you‘ve got to secure the border.
MATTHEWS: We‘re reaching common ground here, this is going to get
dangerous. Let‘s go to Michele Bachmann, who is not common ground at all.
And here she is last week at the Tea Party rally. Let‘s listen to Michele
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMAN ®, MINNESOTA: They don‘t realize that your IQ
scores are way above average. We‘re on to them. We are on to this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well Bill Clinton reacted to that in the “New York Times”
by saying, quote, “They are not gangsters, they were elected. They are not
doing anything they were not elected to do.”
What is this delegitimization by your crowd. The right wing, he didn‘t
get elected, he‘s not an American, they‘ll say anything. What is this
HARRIS: I think if you ever talk to someone who worked for President
Bush, you‘d hear that for eight years—
MATTHEWS: Nobody ever said he wasn‘t an American.
HARRIS: They certainly said he wasn‘t elected.
MCMAHON: He was elected, right, guys?
MATTHEWS: If that election had gone the other way in Florida, in
2000, and the guy who had the less popular vote, I think the right wing
would have blown up. I don‘t think they would have accepted at all the way
Al Gore took it like man. He took it, he conceded, even though he got more
votes than the other guy, 600,000 more votes. He said OK, this is the way
the system works, I‘m going to bow to the Supreme Court. Would you guys
have bowed to the Supreme Court?
HARRIS: I agree, Al Gore took it like man. The liberal base of the
Democratic Party is still whining about it
MATTHEWS: Would you guys have taken it, you guys on the right? Would
they have taken it? Would you have let the Supreme Court pick a president?
MATTHEWS: I know you wouldn‘t, you guys—there would have been
generals in uniform. Here‘s Bachmann again yesterday talking on the “Hill.”
She‘s not backing down. Here‘s Michele Bachmann, the congressman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it‘s right to use the words gangster
BACHMAN: Absolutely, I do. And the best example of that would be from
the automobile task force. That‘s a gangster government move. When
government comes in and decides who the winners are, who the losers are,
and there‘s no recourse. That‘s what happened to 3,400 dealerships across
the country. That‘s one example of gangster government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think it was the consumers that decided which—
HARRIS: If gangster government means that the government picks
winners and losers, then I don‘t like gangster government. I‘m not really
sure what gangster government means.
MCMAHON: Here‘s what she‘s done. She‘s managed to slander people
from Chicago and African-Americans at the same time.
HARRIS: And Italians.
MCMAHON: It may be clever but it‘s—
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re mispronouncing the word, but it‘s gangsta,
but that‘s all right.
MCMAHON: But it‘s insidious and it‘s what the right -- it has a
MATTHEWS: It does? I didn‘t think it does.
MCMAHON: It absolutely does, absolutely has a racial undertone.
HARRIS: Oh, please.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of the language of these people in the
far right? Your guy Rubio doesn‘t do this stuff, does he?
HARRIS: He doesn‘t do this stuff.
HARRIS: Have you ever been to a union rally and listen to the
language that goes on there?
MCMAHON: Have you ever been to a union rally?
HARRIS: I have, I was escorted out.
MATTHEWS: He was one of the scabs. Anyway, Steve McMahon, Todd
Harris, when we return, I‘ll have some thoughts on disgusting negative
campaign commercials. I hope this guy never makes any, this guy. You‘re
watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight, roughly where I began tonight. I
really don‘t like negative political ads, could you tell? When it gets near
election time and they start running them, I get thoroughly depressed.
Some sound like indictments. They‘re usually in black and white. You hear
this creepy voice of the announcer sometimes sarcastic, even sneering,
other times whispering.
He‘s giving you the dirt. You see the old newspaper clippings, the
mocked up headlines that flash up on your screen. They kind of give the
attack ads some authority. Hey this guy belongs in jail. This is criminal
stuff, how awful? How does this guy live with himself? Does he actually
have a family? How does he get up in the morning or go to bed at night
being this corrupt?
We‘re supposed to have a couple of reactions to all these negative
ads. First, we‘re supposed to vote against the guy in the nasty,
disgusting ad. Second, we‘re supposed to then forget all about the ad once
the election is over and go on believing our government is in good hands.
We‘re supposed to believe in all those we‘ve elected to run the country,
even if we remember that the same faces and names we‘ve spent weeks
watching and listening to and those disgusting TV ads, all those state
assembly people and judges and city council people, U.S. senators and
members of Congress.
But some of us don‘t vote for the other guy after watching some
negative TV ads because after we‘ve watched so much of this stuff, we
really don‘t feel so good about politics at all, neither do we forget all
about what we‘ve seen after the election is over. No we remember face after
face, familiar sounding name after familiar sounding name as the people who
are now running the government.
Those ads we get at election time are the previews of coming
attractions like you see at the movie theater, what‘s coming to a political
office near you. So I don‘t like ads that attack the other guy‘s character.
I don‘t like politics as prosecution because I‘m one of the people, like
you maybe, who thinks politics can still bring out the best in us. We can
still find good people to lead us, sometimes for what we‘re facing right
now, the very best people.
These nasty TV ads you see, how about the next time you catch one, you
pay attention to which guy is paying for the ads, you know that guy who
says I‘m Joe Blow and approve this message. Next time, how about voting
against that guy? That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Right now, it‘s time for “The Ed Show” with Ed Schultz.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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