Guests: Ed Markey, Jeff Corwin, Sig Hansen, Christopher Hitchens
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Who‘s going to pay?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Take the money and run? Could BP just declare bankruptcy and walk away from the gulf oil disaster, leaving taxpayers with the bill? Investors are increasingly questioning whether the company can survive if it doesn‘t. On Wednesday, its stock price plummeted by nearly 16 percent, a 14-year low for the oil producer, and it‘s lost more than $80 billion in market value since the rig exploded in April. Tonight we‘ll get a reality check.
Among the most compelling scenes from the gulf are the oil-soaked animals who don‘t know how to avid the oil. Tonight, Animal Planet host Jeff Corwin and the star of the Discovery channel‘s “Deadliest Catch” are here to talk about efforts to save what victims we can.
Plus, labor pains. Unions spent $10 million trying to defeat Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, and having failed, now vow not to support her in the general election this November. Will they be happier once the Republican wins? Should Bill Clinton‘s close ally really be the person they should be targeting? What is their definition of progressive?
And no introduction need here. Christopher Hitchens joins us tonight.
He‘s written a book about a subject he knows well, Christopher Hitchens.
Hitch himself joins us later in tonight‘s show.
Finally, why can‘t politicians learn to speak no evil when they‘re on a not microphone? The latest member of the open mic club, Carly Fiorina, who just dissed Barbara Boxer‘s hairstyle. She makes the “Sideshow” tonight.
We start with the case against BP. Democratic congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts covers—chairs the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us tonight. There‘s a lot of buzz out there, as you know, a lot of chit-chat that BP may be planning to skip town, declare bankruptcy and not pay all those victims down there in the gulf. What do you hear?
REP. ED MARKEY (D-MA), NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE: Well, the reality is that BP just can‘t declare bankruptcy. You just can‘t throw your arms up and say, I don‘t want to meet all of my obligations. You have to go to a court. You have to have a judge accept that. I personally would file an amicus brief and get as many of my colleagues as I could to deny BP being able to gain the relief of a bankruptcy court.
And if they did, in fact, go to bankruptcy court successfully, then I would argue that the shareholders and the bondholders should lose everything and that only the victims of this incredibly catastrophic accident should be the beneficiaries.
This is not like Lehman Brothers, where all they had was paper and a building that they worked in. This is a company with oil assets, with rigs, with real things that have real value, and we just can‘t allow them to run to bankruptcy court to protect them for their shareholders. We‘re going to have to track them all the way to the bank to make sure that BP stands for “bills paid.”
MATTHEWS: Congressman, what do you make of BP‘s CEO, Tony Hayward? He‘s been making some odd statements. Here he is in today‘s “Wall Street Journal,” quote, “There is no objective justification for this share price movement”—that‘s the drop in their stock value. “BP faces this situation as a strong company. We have significant capacity and flexibility in dealing with the cost of responding to the incident, the environmental remediation and the payment of legitimate claims.”
He‘s acting—is this just false bravery? They keep putting out these statements. We‘re going to have some more to show you in a minute. But BP keeps making these statements that fly in the face of reality. Of course, we understand, don‘t we all, why their share price might be going down?
MARKEY: Well, yes. The share price is going down because, actually, the market responds to the story of the day, which is why so many people watch CNBC all day long. But the reality is—coming back over to MSNBC - - is that this company has a strong revenue flow. It‘s made on average $20 billion a year, every single year going back for a decade. It has real assets, and they should be tapped before any dividends are given out to shareholders or bondholders in order to make sure that the people in the gulf are made whole.
MATTHEWS: What‘s your reaction when you watch—it‘s probably not fair to have you. You‘re one of the guys fighting this thing. But we‘re showing now on split screen, like everybody does on television, a picture of yourself alongside that live picture of the oil and the gas coming out of that hole down in the gulf. What‘s the reaction to America and to yourself when you see that every minute of the day endlessly?
MARKEY: Well, I insisted that BP put up that picture. They didn‘t want to do it, but I insisted that they do so. And I‘ve also insisted that they put up the HD version of it, which is even more graphic, more horrifying. The point of it is, is that the more people see it, is they connect the dots between that spillcam and the—and all of the animals, all of the birds coated in oil.
That is the connection of the dots which is now horrifying Americans and demanding that not just those animals and birds and fish but all of the human beings down there in the gulf who are exposed to these chemicals and their livelihoods be made whole. And ultimately, I think it‘s the spillcam which has drawn the attention of the American people and their ire to this issue.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at BP‘s record in the last couple of days and what they‘ve been saying. Two years ago, they said they were prepared to handle an oil spill 10 times larger than this one when they got their permit. They initially claimed only 1,000 barrels of oil a day were leaking. The company‘s CEO, Tony Hayward, recently denied the existence of underwater plumes of oil. He also said the environmental impact would be very, very modest. And last month, he said, I don‘t hear anyone faulting us in our response.
These statements by the CEO and by that corporation, again, Congressman, don‘t seem to bear any connection to the reality we‘re looking at in that live shot, to the reality of the birds and the people and the wetlands, the horror of this, probably the worst environmental catastrophe we‘ve ever seen. And they keep talking like everything‘s cool.
MARKEY: Not one of those things is, in fact, true. And by the way, BP either knew it or they are grossly incompetent or lying. There is no other option. And going right back to the very beginning, when they said there was 1,000 barrels a day, we now know because I obtained the document that within the first week, they actually had a document saying it was 1,000 to 14,000 barrels per day. They hid that document.
But if you really want to know what the problem is, you‘ve got to go back to the beginning. When they were actually filing for an application to drill, there was a probabilistic risk assessment done. That means doing a determination of what are the chances of a catastrophic accident. You know what they came up with as a conclusion? Zero risk. And the same thing was unfortunately accepted by the MMS.
Well, if there‘s zero risk of a catastrophic accident, you don‘t have to really build in the extra safety procedures. You really don‘t have to put in place the boom or the other mechanisms needed to respond. And so that probabilistic risk assessment, the chance of an accident at zero, is at the heart of the problem. They‘re not ready. BP really does not stand for “be prepared.” They, in fact, are making it up on a daily basis, not interested in the livability of the gulf, but their own liability as a corporation. And that‘s why the bankruptcy court should not be allowed to protect them and their assets from making whole again all of those people in the gulf.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Congressman Markey. Next Tuesday, he‘s going to be hearing from the leaders of the oil industry, especially BP. What a day of hearings that‘s going to be. Congressman Markey, Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us.
MARKEY: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Maria Bartiromo now is the host, as everyone knows on this and other networks, of “The Closing Bell.” Maria, you are an expert in money and you seem to be on top of this. I want to ask you one big question. You can take some time. Can BP walk away, grab the money and run? Can they use bankruptcy proceedings to get out of meeting their responsibilities morally, politically, economically, legally, here?
MARIA BARTIROMO, CNBC: No way, Chris. Absolutely not. Look, this company is going to face the largest liabilities ever. Not only that, it‘s probably going to be in court for years. The next question I know that‘s coming is, is the company going to go bankrupt? That‘s debatable. I mean, a lot of the analysts are looking at the financial flexibility of this company, and saying, OK—you just heard Congressman Markey, earnings of $20 billion a year. That‘s a fact. Cash flow of more than $35 billion a year. They‘ve got a debt ratio of 19 percent, meaning that they can actually borrow money of up to $15 billion.
So, so far—now, we don‘t know where this goes or when this will be contained and how big of a financial problem this ultimately becomes. But right now, they have the financial flexibility to actually pay these liabilities and avoid bankruptcy. We‘ll see what happens, but no doubt, this company is going to be in court for years as it faces the largest liabilities you‘ve ever seen.
MATTHEWS: You ever seen those pictures of a boa constrictor swallowing a cow? I‘m just wondering how much profit they have that they can just swallow this cost and how much profits they‘ve gotten away with for years, or made. Why aren‘t we all in all, if they have enough money to pay the debts of all those people and the economy of the gulf?
BARTIROMO: Well, you know, look, this is...
MATTHEWS: And just continue on.
BARTIROMO: This is an unbelievable disaster, and obviously, we all want, you know, somebody to—we want to find out answers and we want to find out what the heck went wrong here. But let‘s not forget we‘re all dependent on oil, Chris. It‘s what moves your car. It‘s what takes you in the air. I mean, we don‘t have an energy policy. And you know, until we start getting real serious about alternatives to oil, we are stuck, reliant on this. So yes, you know, you can hate the oil companies, but you need the product, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about this international thing going on here. BP, British Petroleum—there‘s a lot of talk this is going to cause frisson (SIC) between us and the old country. My question to you—is there going to be a big conflict between those stockholders, those pension fund people, those pensioners over in Britain and the UK, and the claimants over here for damages?
BARTIROMO: Yes, there‘s no doubt about it. We‘ve already seen friction between—between the rhetoric that you‘re hearing. The British government is getting involved. You‘ve seen a number of British companies come to the defense of Tony Hayward and say, Look, we all agree that this is a disaster, but this is an accident. Companies like WPP or companies—a number of other British companies today came to the defense. So you‘re seeing a bit of a unity forming, and you are seeing some division between Americans and the British.
Now, the State Department says absolutely not, that‘s not happening, there‘s no problem between the governments. But the British government is getting involved. Not only that, but we‘re talking about one of the largest dividend payers in the world. Retirees, pensioners are living on that dividend. So a lot of people in Britain do not want that dividend to go away.
And I should mention that the company employs 23,000 Americans. And it spends here—I‘ve got the numbers -- $20 billion a year, half of which it‘s spending in the United States.
MATTHEWS: You‘re the best, Maria. Thanks so much. Maria Bartiromo of CNBC. Thanks for joining us on HARDBALL.
Coming up, the most innocent victims, you might say, of the oil spill, although it seems to me all the victims are innocent. We‘re going to talk about them, how the ecosystem in that region may be affected forever. You‘ve seen these pictures. If you don‘t care, you‘re odd because most people do care about what‘s happened to that wildlife down there.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: A new Quinnipiac poll from Florida has some bad news for two presumed favorites down there. In the race for the Republican nomination for governor of Florida, AG Bill McCollum has fallen behind Rick Scott 44 to 31. What a plummet! And in the contest for the Democratic Senate nomination, Kendrick Meek has slipped into a virtual tie with businessman Jeff Greene, 29 to 27. That‘s a nail biter down there. A loss by Meek, who is African-American, could be very good news for independent Charlie Crist. Crist will need to win black votes in the general election against Marco Rubio. We‘ll be right back. That‘s going to be one of the great races this year, Florida Senate.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Some of the most upsetting images of this oil disaster have been the gulf animals covered in oil—look at them there—and struggling to stay alive. We‘ve—oh, there‘s another picture! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports over a thousand birds have been collected during the spill, 400 of them alive, 600 dead. Those are rough figures.
Captain Sig Hansen of Discovery‘s “The Deadliest Catch” just returned from New Orleans, where he saw firsthand the devastation. And Jeff Corwin is MSNBC‘s environmental and animal expert.
Gentlemen, we just got the latest word late this afternoon. The government estimate now of the flow coming out of that well before they did the cut and cap, which opened it wider for more flow, was up to 40,000 barrels a day. So the objective estimate, outside of BP‘s own estimate, is getting bigger and bigger. And of course, it‘s got even bigger in the last week or so because of that latest attempt to cap it, which apparently opened the floodgates to even more.
So here we have the question—Sig, I want you to talk about this—animals. I mean, everybody—some people—it‘s a matter of degree. I‘m in the International Fund for Animal Welfare. I‘m on the board. I care about this. I care about elephants. I care about whales, our fellow inhabitants of this planet. Anybody know with a brain knows if they die, eventually we die. Your thoughts?
CAPTAIN SIG HANSEN, DISCOVERY‘S “DEADLIEST CATCH”: Well, first thing we saw when we went down there—we went out and visited some of the fishermen, and next thing you know, there‘s a fish and game officer coming in and he‘s got a pelican with him, just managed to rescue it. And it was covered in—it was just—it was awful, you know.
MATTHEWS: And animals—you know, we say dumb animals, but it‘s true, they don‘t have any idea how to react to this, right? They don‘t know what it is, do they.
HANSEN: No. A lot of the birds, from what I understood and we learned, is that, you know, they‘ll go to the sheen. You know, they‘re attracted to it. That‘s the scary part.
MATTHEWS: The brightness, yes.
MATTHEWS: And then they get covered in it.
HANSEN: Well, then they get covered in it and they die. So what are you going to do? You‘ve—you know?
MATTHEWS: Well, is there any way—is there any kind of effort that could succeed on a grand scale, as we see this oil reach the Gulf Coast? All around the coast is endangered now.
HANSEN: Oh, it‘s—it‘s a real scary deal. I mean, what we saw—you know, when you...
MATTHEWS: Well, tell me what you saw.
HANSEN: Well, we saw the oil in the marshes. And you know, when you learn more about it, you understand how that affects not just the fisheries down there, but the whole community itself because, you know, look, these guys are out there fishing. In New Orleans, they brig that product into the beach and then the restaurants need it and then it‘s good for the tourism. It‘s just one big circle. And I shudder to think what could happen if they don‘t get with it pretty quick.
MATTHEWS: Well, we all saw “Forrest Gump” and there are a lot of different kinds of shrimp we like to eat. Let‘s face it, this is going to be devastating.
Let me go right now—let me go right now to Jeff Corwin on this. You know, how‘s it all relate? If what we‘re seeing is dying, if the birds are dying, the fish are dying, once these plumes move through the gulf at the much lower depth—they can‘t be detected yet—unimaginable amount of oil—can it kill life in the gulf, Jeff?
JEFF CORWIN, MSNBC ENVIRONMENTAL AND ANIMAL EXPERT: Absolutely, Chris. This is one of the most unprecedented, most devastating environmental catastrophes in the history of modern man. It‘s just amazing to me. With Valdez, despite that great tragedy, at least we had a finite amount of oil. I mean, this is Pandora‘s well. It just keeps bubbling up, this liquid, viscous death.
And of course, when we look at this—you‘re looking at that image right there. You can see that pelican just mired down in that deadly sweet Louisiana crude. The truth is, that‘s the—that‘s just the onion skin layer of this. There are many, many depths of water. You‘ve got a whole water column. And as this oil invades the column, it infects and kills all life that it has contact with.
MATTHEWS: What we‘re looking at in the pictures, tell me what the outlook is. We‘re looking at that pelican. We‘ve seen it before. It‘s in stock footage now. But does this mean they‘re all going to die, every bit of wildlife, bird or fowl or fish, are all going to die that get in contact with this oil? Is that the bottom line?
CORWIN: Chris, the most important thing everyone really needs to know is that the Gulf of Mexico is one of our planet‘s most biologically productive places.
We have many species of sharks that survive here. Every bluefin tuna
from Nova Scotia to the Gulf Coast, every Western Atlantic bluefin tuna breeds within miles of this spill. The brown pelican of Louisiana, this was a species that became extinct in 1963. Amazingly, it was recovered.
Now all these animals are endangered, are in jeopardy because of the spill. The truth is, though, when these animals are rescued in time, like the pelicans and the turtles, and when they receive proper medical attention, they can survive. So, every effort is needed.
MATTHEWS: But that‘s individual. That‘s individual bird, individual fish, right? You have to do it one at a time to save them.
CORWIN: You have to—absolutely. You have to do that one at a time.
We this incredible team of first-responders. Biologists and animal experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and people from nonprofit organizations have all come together to work as a well-coordinated team to try to get to these animals before it‘s too late. These animals...
MATTHEWS: Where do you put them when you—where do you release them to, sir, when you have them—when you‘ve cleaned them up? You can‘t put them back in that Gulf again. Where do you take them?
CORWIN: You—you can‘t put them there, unfortunately.
Right now, the oil slick is covering more than 2,500 square miles. I mean, it‘s just remarkable. When you‘re out there—yesterday, I was actually out there in that oil. I was actually watching birds being pulled from this crude. And when these animals, if they‘re captured in time, what happens is, they—just like—it‘s like a war.
What we have, Chris, is we‘re at the battlefield. And we set up a triage. They go to a MASH unit on the mainland. These animals are treated and then they go off to a rehabilitation center. And, hopefully, if they survive, they‘re brought to a place where they will be released.
But I can tell you this. Right now, it‘s not going to be in the Gulf, and it won‘t be in the Gulf potentially for generations.
MATTHEWS: Sig, let‘s go back to the Gulf. And we know about the water column that goes all the way down to the bottom, a couple miles down in some cases.
The—the oil is there. The only question is how much and where it is. But nobody denies that this—that this has been going on. The latest estimate is 40,000 barrels a day. It‘s now 42 days. Just do the arithmetic.
CAPTAIN SIG HANSEN, DISCOVERY‘S “DEADLIEST CATCH”: Sure.
MATTHEWS: It‘s all there. It‘s not going to go away. What‘s this going to do?
MATTHEWS: Philippe Cousteau says—let‘s Sig come—because Philippe Cousteau said even a little bit in every bit of mile or so, square mile, if there‘s any oil in there, it begins to contaminate.
HANSEN: Well, sure.
I mean, if you can compare it to Valdez, you know, from what I‘m understanding, that‘s maybe not even a quarter of what we had up in Alaska. And some of those river systems never came back. And a lot of the fish...
MATTHEWS: Yes. So, it‘s not biodegradable?
HANSEN: No. I mean, we got in there. We felt it. It‘s grease.
It‘s just like this thick tar.
And, when you feel it, you know, you understand what I‘m saying. It‘s just—you could not—you could barely wipe that stuff off your hands. It gets into those marshes. And, man, I mean, these fish, that‘s where they‘re living. That‘s where they reproduce. And—and that is the—you know, the lifeline.
MATTHEWS: They‘re like giant goby nets, and any fish that fishes fly
goes into them isn‘t going to come out.
HANSEN: Exactly. And also these booms they were putting out, we also noticed that a lot of those would just get washed up with the tide. And then they would lay on top of the surface of the beach, oil still coming in from behind it. And that‘s soaking...
MATTHEWS: Sig, how do we put this together? Our previous segment tonight was about the bankruptcy issue with Congressman Markey and Maria Bartiromo, the numbers end of this thing.
How can you pay damages if you‘re one company, no matter how big, for the loss of the Gulf of Mexico?
HANSEN: You better have some deep pockets, because there‘s...
MATTHEWS: I mean it, you have got it pay every hotel, every restaurant, every—every beachcomber, everybody who lives—everybody who works at a CVS, everybody who works at a gas station, anybody who works anywhere in that part of the economy.
MATTHEWS: It‘s just going to reverberate.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Jeff on that question.
Jeff, the economics of this thing, it—I don‘t know how you put a price tag on the Gulf of Mexico or the Grand Canyon or Yosemite or Niagara Falls. These are our—these were our gifts outright from God when people came to this continent millions of years ago.
Is—is there any way to put a price tag on what BP owes back to society, to North America, to us?
CORWIN: Well, first of all, clearly, there are thousands of livelihoods, there are thousands of jobs that may be destroyed forever.
And seafood alone, 70 percent of the shellfish we consume, the shrimp and the oysters, are harvested—are harvested from the Gulf of Mexico. And commercial fisheries, from the redfish, to the tuna, all these animals, we depend upon as natural resources.
So, I mean, if you just look at the outdoor recreational industry, that‘s a $700-billion-a-year industry, and no one‘s going to be going to the Gulf any time soon for kayaking and witnessing the wondrous splendor of nature.
This right now is a broken ecosystem. It‘s an ecosystem that we depend upon, not only for the aesthetic beauty, but its resources that we need, whether it‘s the softshell fried—the fried softshell crabs you will be eating or whether it‘s your shrimp boil.
CORWIN: All these things are—all these things are in jeopardy because of this spill.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to—let‘s be—let‘s be, as I used to say while growing up, black Irish about this. Let‘s go to worst-case scenario.
You know what that means. Suppose these well efforts to create two new wellheads don‘t work. Suppose August 15 comes and goes, and the well - - and that thing continues to splash out of that well. What happens to the Gulf of Mexico? We‘re looking at it. That—suppose that‘s going on next Christmas?
HANSEN: I mean, Alaska took generations to just fix that one little area.
MATTHEWS: But, if this can‘t get fixed, it won‘t stop hurting. It won‘t stop getting worse.
HANSEN: Well, I mean, once the ecosystem has been affected...
HANSEN: ... and it is destroyed, and, you know, I‘m not going to—I don‘t know how—how bad these effects are going to be. We won‘t know that—time will tell.
HANSEN: But—you know, because fish are pretty resilient. But then you have got that whole ecosystem needs to work as a whole. And that‘s—only time will tell.
MATTHEWS: OK, Sig, thank you very much for the—it‘s a bad night to be on, but thank you for coming in here tonight.
Sig Hansen, thank you very much.
Jeff Corwin, thank you.
Captain Hansen‘s new show is “After the Catch.” It premieres next Tuesday night.
Up next: Carly Fiorina becomes the latest victim of what we call the open mike club, after dissing Barbara Boxer‘s hair. That‘s next in the “Sideshow,” from the sublime to the ridiculous.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First: Carly Fiorina joins the open mike club. The morning after winning the Republican nomination to challenge Senator Barbara Boxer in California, Fiorina was caught on a hot microphone being somewhat snarky about her opponent‘s appearance.
Here‘s Fiorina unaware she‘s being recorded while prepping for an interview with a Sacramento affiliate thanks .
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLY FIORINA ®, FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Lauda (ph) saw Barbara Boxer briefly on television this morning, and said what everyone says. God, what is that hair?
FIORINA: So yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, Fiorina later said she was just quoting a friend in calling Boxer‘s hairstyle “so yesterday.”
Well, that‘s known as speaking off the top of your head.
Next: Reality bites for John McCain. It started when Snookie, who I‘m told is famous for appearing on that MTV reality show “Jersey Shore,” said she doesn‘t go tanning anymore because the president‘s health care plan adds a 10 percent tax on tanning bed services.
She added that John McCain, if president, wouldn‘t have put a tax on tanning.
Well, for whatever reason, Senator John McCain decided to respond to the reality star via Twitter. To Snookie—quote—“You are right. I would never tax your tanning bed. President Obama‘s tax/spend policy is quite the situation. But I recommend wearing sunscreen”—close quote.
Well, McCain is fighting, obviously—you can tell by this—for his political life out in Arizona.
Now to a curious candidacy down in South Carolina. Alvin Greene came out of nowhere Tuesday night to win the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Senator Jim DeMint come November. Now, less than 48 hours later, U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn, the highly respected lawmaker, is charging that Greene is a plant.
Why? Well, here‘s what we have learned so far about Alvin Greene. For starters, he‘s unemployed. Greene has not reported any fund-raising, run any ads, or put up any kind of Web site for his campaign.
And last, but certainly not least, he faces a felony charge for obscenity. Well, Greene defended his Senate candidacy in an interview with a local reporter today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what kind of work did you do? Because I have been talking to folks and nobody has really heard your name?
ALVIN GREENE (D), SOUTH CAROLINA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well I worked with my friends and friends of my—my friends. And we campaign hard. You know, we worked hard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what kind of campaigning did you do?
GREENE: OK. Could—OK. Could—OK. Can I end this thing?
What kind of campaign did we do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
GREENE: OK. We—we campaigned all across the state, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, you be the judge. It looks pretty sad. I think Clyburn‘s got a case here.
Now for the “Number.” “National Journal” came out today with their list of 30 House seats most likely to switch party control this November. Of those 30 seats, how many are held by Democrats? Twenty-five. Bad news for the party in power. Twenty-five of the 30 most at-risk House seats are held by Democrats, but not enough to lose control—tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: The unions in Arkansas spent $10 million trying to defeat Blanche Lincoln. That didn‘t work. Now they say they will not support her in the general election. What‘s going on here?
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HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks soaring today on a drop in jobless claims and a big jump in Chinese exports, the Dow Jones industrials surging 273 points, to finish back above 10000, the S&P 500 adding 31 points, and the Nasdaq climbing nearly 60 points.
Analysts predicting a rally with legs. They say the markets are oversold and investors are taking advantage of some juicy buying opportunities.
In economic news, new jobless claims falling last week, not quite as much as expected, but still trending lower. And the trade gap widened less than expected in April. The foreclosure rate slowed again in may. But bank repossessions have reached a record high. Banks are trying to clear a backlog of homes before tackling new foreclosures.
And Senate Majority Lead Harry Reid is trying to extend the deadline for closing on homes purchased with that now-expired tax break for an additional 90 days.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
So, what‘s wrong with a moderate Democrat or even a conservative Democrat? Is the left smart to attack the Democratic center?
MSNBC‘s analyst Harold Ford Jr. is a former Democratic congressman from Tennessee. And he ran for the United States Senate.
I thought of you immediately this morning, Congressman. I immediately said, I knows a guy who heads the DLC, which exists, the Democratic Leadership Conference—Conference—for the very purpose of maintaining the viability of centrist and sometimes conservative Democrats, so it‘s not a lefty party, per se.
Your response? You‘re one of the people that personifies that.
HAROLD FORD, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the DLC was founded by Al From, as you know, and Bill Clinton went on to personify it through his policies and his approach and through his presidency.
Our main thinking and really the motto is that the middle class is often forgotten and left out in the political—in the major national political conversation in the country. I think what you saw happen in the last few days, the win in Arkansas is not as much a win for moderates, although Blanche, Senator Lincoln, certainly, I think, would probably fit in the wing of the party which we—which I chair.
But I think it‘s really instructive for those running for office this year. You have to keep your races local. Chuck Todd and you, Chris, have said this over the last few days. Localize your races. Make clear to those at home how policies in Washington and new ideas that you have will affect positively people‘s lives and how it will make a difference in people‘s lives.
And I will say that there is concern, I think, amongst a growing number of Democrats about the size of government, about the size of the deficit. This—this—the DLC has certainly been a voice and a force on that front for a long, long time.
And I dare say, if Democrats want to hold the majorities, which I believe we will in the fall, in both the House and the Senate, we‘re going to have to organize our message around not necessarily a centrist agenda, but a—an agenda that—that affects, in a positive way, in a growth way, middle-class families and middle-class kitchen tables and, for that matter, small businesses across the country.
MATTHEWS: But if some of the people, the louder voices, have their way, the Democratic Party could go around and say anybody who is pro-Second Amendment, like John Dingell out in Michigan, get out of the party. Anybody who is pro-life, like Bob Casey up in Pennsylvania, get—or Bart Stupak—get out of the party. Anybody who is for free trade, like you are, I believe, like Bill Clinton is, somebody who is for NAFTA, and proud of it, get out of the party.
If you start going around with this crusade, saying only people on the left—progressives is the term of art today—are eligible to be Democrats, it seems to me that will be a pretty small political party in most states, won‘t it?
FORD: And, more importantly, and in a terrible way, it‘s a losing strategy.
You and I both know politics is about addition. It‘s a simple mathematics equation. If you‘re—mathematical equation—if you are able to attract more people to your side, you‘re going to win.
Now, there are certain principles and core values we have as Democrats. And I‘m a Democrat because I believe that the guy who is cleaning floors and, for that matter, the woman who is attending, or man who is attending sick people in hospitals and senior care facilities, their kids ought to have the right to go to college just as my dad‘s kids, just as I was able to go to college. I think my party does a better job at that.
But for us to impose litmus tests around social issues, I think, is a bad thing. I happen to be pro choice. I happen to be pro Second Amendment. But by the same token, I‘m a Democrat for other reasons. And at the end of the day, the most important vote you cast in the House and the Senate is the very first vote, whether or not you vote for Harry Reid to be the leader of the Democrats or Nancy Pelosi to be the Speaker. After that, you‘ve got to give Democrats some leeway.
Mart Critz, the fellow that won in Pennsylvania—Pennsylvania‘s 12th
I hope I‘m pronouncing his name correctly—probably doesn‘t fit neatly in an ideological Democratic box. But he‘s a Democrat. He‘s going to vote with us the majority of the time. He‘s the kind of Democrat that we need in the House. I was in the House. I daresay that 40 percent of Democrats who didn‘t vote for Blanche, or Senator Lincoln, in Arkansas, I hope they‘re able to come home in the fall and send her back. I hope she listens to them and, quite frankly, that they understand her better, and that we‘re able to legislate and seek policies come to fruition.
MATTHEWS: As an analyst, and as a guy who has been Democratic candidate, what do you think is the smart position? The White House position that came out the other day, yesterday, that said unions shouldn‘t be spending their money on killing other Democrats; they should be spending their money winning for Democrats in general elections. Are they right? Or is the SEIU and some of the other unions, like AFSME right, going after people like Lincoln? Who‘s right? Somebody‘s got to be right and somebody‘s got to be wrong here.
FORD: I‘m a big Diana Looly (ph) Democrat. I gave thought to running for the U.S. Senate here in New York. I resented forces in New York and, for that matter, some around the country tried to block me from running. I think anyone ought to be able to run. And if unions want to put up candidates across the country, they have every right to do that, and spend the money they want to spend.
I would hope that after the loss there in Arkansas, that those who support Mr. Halter will come forward and be willing to support Blanche, work with her, listen to her. I hope both sides are able to sit down and listen to one another.
I‘m not an opponent of primaries. I think anyone who wants to run ought to be able to run, and certainly those who want to support them, there shouldn‘t be retribution imposed against them. They should be willing to listen to those who want it and move forward.
MATTHEWS: Nobody has been a better exemplar of what you just said than the Clintons, Bill and Hillary Clinton the last two years. They‘ve been the biggest boosters for the president, and I think they personify the kind of unity you‘re talking about on the center left. Thanks so much, Congressman Harold Ford, as our analyst on MSNBC.
And a reminder, my big documentary—and it is a g—it‘s going to make some noise. I can tell you it already is. “The Rise of the New Right” premieres next Wednesday night, June 16th, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We‘re going to be on at 5:00, 7:00 and Midnight; 7:00‘s always the one a lot of people watch.
Up next, by the way, the wickedly witty Christopher Hitchens—don‘t call him Chris—talks about his new memoir “Hitch 22.” This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘ve just received the latest in the case that Harry Reid has been handed a lifeline. John Ralston, the so-called Charlie Cook of Nevada, says Republican Sharron Angle‘s win on Tuesday makes Reid the favorite to win re-election in Nevada. What a turn around that is. Reid was considered a goner by Washington professionals. But right now Ralston calls this race lean Reid. He‘s the favorite right now. Things can change very quickly in politics. Reid is now the upper guy in that race out in Nevada because he‘s running against someone on the hard right.
Politics, strange business. HARDBALL will be right back.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Christopher Hitchens is one of the most brilliant essayists and thinkers of our time. His coming of age memoir, “Hitch 22,” is getting rave reviews. And the book will debut on the “New York Times” best seller list next week. Welcome, Christopher, the smartest guy I know, as you know.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, AUTHOR, “HITCH 22”: Yes.
MATTHEWS: You call yourself Christopher. I call myself Chris. But there‘s probably more money in Christopher. Why did you choose it? It‘s in the book.
HITCHENS: I don‘t like circumcision of names. Actually, I have amputated my surname for the title, made myself Hitch, which is what some of my friends call me. The thing is don‘t be called Chris if you care about your mother. My mother said keep Christopher, it‘s a nice name. And if you advocate circumcising, it will be Chris Hitchens, and the H will go.
MATTHEWS: The as print.
HITCHENS: The as print will go. And if you come from a family like mine, which was desperate not to fall back into the lower, lower middle class—
MATTHEWS: Dropping H‘s everywhere.
MATTHEWS: You mention your mom, the tragedy you grew up with. What happened to your mom?
HITCHENS: My mother was very beautiful and very fashionable, wanted to be more fashionable. Yvonne. She was much younger than my father, who was a great man, but a rather dry, rather morose man, one could say. He bored her somewhat. When my brother and were growing up, mother took up with another guy who was not so morose, but he was manic-depressive, bipolar. And I read in the papers that he killed her, that he murdered her and killed himself, when I went to Athens, which is where it happened.
To find out about it during a time of war and crisis—it took a revolution, it took a long time. I describe all this in the book. I found that they had made a suicide pact. They thought it wasn‘t worth going on. Things weren‘t working.
MATTHEWS: They left a letter?
MATTHEWS: How did that strike you?
HITCHENS: Well, it was terrible for me because—why should I—for my father, for my brother, for all of us. It was terrible because the noblest in my think that hurt, because I would have to break it to them that that was the case, and because I had to do—
MATTHEWS: She cared most about you?
HITCHENS: I won‘t say that. I don‘t think she did at all. But I think she thought I would be the one who would come. My father wouldn‘t be able to make it. My brother was too young. So it wasn‘t favoritism. She wouldn‘t have done that.
MATTHEWS: She knew you would take care of things?
HITCHENS: I had to take care of things. It was a terrible way of becoming a firstborn in that way, I suppose.
MATTHEWS: You and I had a lot of agreement over the years about issues. People know my politics. They‘re not too hard to figure out here. They‘re somewhat in the center, somewhat on the left on some things, a bit to the right on the others. But you were for the Iraq War. I was very much against it. Why do you think we disagreed? We both had the same information.
HITCHENS: Yes. Well, there is a whole chapter in the book, which I really wish people would read --
MATTHEWS: Sell it.
HITCHENS: It hasn‘t been—the case—the left case, if you like to put it like that, for regime change has not been made, to my knowledge, at that length. I describe who the people were in Washington that also really thought Saddam Hussein has to go; it‘s been too long. He should have been taken care of in ‘92, after Kuwait. Iraq is going to hell very fast. we can‘t have it imploding. We have to intervene one way or another.
The general case for that, moving Iraq into a post-Saddam Hussein era, helping the Iraqis to recover their country, was a very solid one. It came from a lot of experience of opposing intervention. I had been very opposed to Bush senior in the first Kuwait war. I thought that was shady war in many, many ways.
So I wrote a whole chapter about how I changed my mind and why. While most people think it‘s entirely about weapons of mass destruction, I don‘t. I think that was the second reason.
MATTHEWS: You‘re for regime change. Do you think any other country in the world has the right to go to another country, a third country from ours, and get rid of its leader because they don‘t like them?
HITCHENS: Yes, on four conditions: that that country is invading and occupying the territory of others, they just committed genocide or is committing eat, that it is fooling around with a non-proliferation treaty, and that it is giving aid and comfort to international terrorist organizations. Iraq had tone all those four things.
MATTHEWS: You‘re giving that definition, which allows an attack on Iran right now.
HITCHENS: Under those conditions—well, no, Iran hasn‘t committed genocide.
MATTHEWS: You mentioned non-proliferation.
HITCHENS: Yes. certainly.
MATTHEWS: And you mentioned terrorism.
HITCHENS: There were four conditions.
MATTHEWS: You have to meet all four.
HITCHENS: The genocide one, if you sign the Genocide Convention, is enough in itself, because that mandates actually international—I would say there are four conditions under which a state can be held to have lost some of its sovereignty. In Iraq‘s case, all four. And I didn‘t believe that they had given up on WMD, not on the ambition.
MATTHEWS: So where are you now? Where are you now? This country was with you, by the way. The great majority of Americans bought the Bush argument, the neo-con argument, if you will, that they had weapons, and not only that, it was a necessary step to arrive at some kind of stability in the Middle East, that as long as Saddam was paying 25,000 dollars reward for terrorism against Israel, there was no stability. A lot of people had good reason. Where are you now?
HITCHENS: And sheltering the guy—and sheltering the man who mixed the explosives for the first attack onto the World Trade Center?
MATTHEWS: Where are you now?
HITCHENS: Now, it‘s up to the Iraqis now.
MATTHEWS: Are you for the war now? Was it a smart position?
HITCHENS: Yes, of course. Iraq is a much better country. They have a parliament. They have an elected president. They have a free press.
MATTHEWS: You were right?
HITCHENS: -- on my lapel. I describe all this in the book.
MATTHEWS: So you were right?
HITCHENS: Well, those of us who for removing Saddam Hussein were right, yes. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the current president, our president, President Obama, staking out an opposition to that war? He‘s our president now. Does he have the wrong foreign policy for America?
HITCHENS: This isn‘t enough about me, by the way. I will talk about Obama if you like.
MATTHEWS: Do you want to talk more about your book and about yourself?
HITCHENS: Yes, I would. That was the advertised. Don‘t ask me about
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you this. Why do you think Margaret Thatcher is sexy?
HITCHENS: Much more like it. Well, I think I was right about that, too. A lot of people, when she first became the leader of the Tory party, thought she was a shrill, right wing, suburban bitch and so on. I thought not. I thought she had charisma. I thought some of it was sexual. I thought she had the most wonderful skin and eyes, and I thought that she was going to be the next prime minister. I got laughed at for that.
I think I was correct about that. I thought some of her power was sexual. And she managed to exert this most amazing allure.
MATTHEWS: Who else would you put in that category of appeal, for female for example, today, in America? Which American political leader today has that kind of Thatcherite appeal?
HITCHENS: Not a one.
MATTHEWS: Not a one, Feinstein?
HITCHENS: No. No.
HITCHENS: I don‘t mean to sound ungallant.
MATTHEWS: Not Nikki Haley, the new leader from South Carolina? No one has that sort of appeal?
MATTHEWS: Can I depart from your book for one second. Who do you like in politics today?
HITCHENS: I don‘t think it‘s terribly interesting. No one wants to know my views about that.
MATTHEWS: Salman Rushdie—how did Salman Rushdie affect your life?
HITCHENS: Well, by becoming, symbolically and practically, the great free test of expression in our time. There has to be one for every generation. He was the one for our, and against the most strenuous opposition. You have a sort of theocratic head of a foreign state, dictator, offering money in his own name to murder, to bribe for murder a novelist.
Extraordinary, the biggest frontal attack on everything I loved by everything I hated. A lot of people tried to avoid this confrontation, said, actually, if only he hadn‘t written the novel --
MATTHEWS: How do we live in a world where Islamic people on the more fanatical end of the culture will not allow that kind of free expression in Europe or in America, if it in any way violates reference for Islam?
HITCHENS: Yale University Press did a book about the Danish cartoons.
It has the cartoons in them, cuts them out. Comedy Central censors itself. I say that Salman Rushdie was the great warning, and we should have paid more attention then.
MATTHEWS: Hell of a book, “Hitch-22,” “New York Times best seller list. We only talk about it when he‘s here. Next time, he‘ll talk about other things. Christopher Hitchens, author of “Hitch-22,” a play on, I think, “Catch-22.” I‘m thinking, but I don‘t want to change the subject.
By the way, I‘m going to be on “Charlie Rose” tonight, the great Charlie Rose, for I think the whole hour, talking about the big documentary I have coming out next week on the rise of the right, which I‘m very proud of.
When we return, I‘m going to have some thoughts BP‘s responsibility and accountability toward the oil spill, this whole thing about skipping town with a bankruptcy deal doesn‘t play with me or anybody. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a dead serious thought about BP, British Petroleum. What is all this talk about the possibility of BP declaring bankruptcy? What would that do to the legitimate claims against it?
I‘ve had this concern from the beginning that the interests of BP and those of our president are decidedly different. BP has a responsibility to its stockholders, already beaten down by the drop in stock value. Will the stockholders now demand that BP seek the protection of bankruptcy? Will the giant oil company resort to this measure as a way of meeting its fiduciary responsibility?
That‘s a great question. Can the government of the United States do anything about it? That‘s another great question. Whatever the president can do to protect the interests of BP‘s American victims should be number one on his agenda.
That‘s all for HARDBALL right now. Thanks for being with us. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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