Guests: Eugene Robinson, Susan Molinari, Tarryl Clark, Hendrik Hertzberg,
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Three cheers for BP, Barton, Bachmann, and Rand Paul.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews from Washington. Leading off tonight: Gaffe or strategy? Joe Barton apologized to BP last week for what he called the government‘s “shakedown” of the company. Other Republicans and conservatives said essentially the same thing—Congressman Tom Price, Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, among others.
Were Republicans angry because Barton was out of line or because he said openly what many of them believe privately? We‘ll get into that at the top of the show.
One reason Republicans might want to question BP is that we know now the company long believed 100,000 barrels a day was the worst case scenario, not 1,000. Congressman Ed Markey released that document yesterday. He joins us tonight.
Plus, oil spill politics. The disaster in the gulf may make some careers and break others. Who are the winners, and who are going to be collateral damage?
Also, meet the woman working to unseat Michelle Bachmann in Minnesota, Tarryl Clark. She‘ll be here.
And “Let Me Finish” tonight with what happens when politicians say what they mean and get in trouble for it.
We start with Joe Barton‘s apology to BP for the way the U.S. government is treating it. NBC News political director Chuck Todd is our chief White House correspondent, and Hendrik Hertzberg is with “The New Republic” (SIC) magazine and wrote a stellar column on this point this week.
Let‘s start with Chuck. Chuck, this whole thing—let‘s take a look at it. Here‘s Joe Barton, followed by Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann and Rand Paul, all issuing the same message on BP on that $20 billion escrow account. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE BARTON ®, TEXAS: I‘m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown.
So I‘m only speaking for myself. I‘m not speaking for anybody else.
But I apologize.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Because I‘m telling you, every time—this is just—this is another bail-out fund called something else. And we‘ll see who gets it. If Obama‘s past is prologue, and it is, then this is going to be used as a little miniature slush fund.
REP. MICHELLE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: The president just called for creating a fund that would be administered by outsiders, which would be more of a redistribution of wealth fund. And then now it appears that we‘re going to be looking at yet one more gateway for more government control, more money to government...
RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: What I don‘t like from the president‘s administration is this sort of, you know, I‘ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP. I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, Rick Hertzberg is, of course, with “The New Yorker” magazine. But let‘s start with Chuck. Chuck Todd, this montage, as we call it on television, one after another Republican voices siding with BP against the American people—what‘s going on with that party? Have they finally made a mistake in a year they‘re doing pretty well in politically?
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR./WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think what—and I think one of the reasons why—you know, a lot of people have wondered, why isn‘t the president—why have Republicans stayed somewhat silent on the oil spill when it comes to the last 60-odd days, that they really haven‘t piled on the president. Yes, there‘s been some hits here and there, but there hasn‘t been because they know that it‘s unpopular to side with BP.
And yet principally—and I think what you‘re hearing there, particularly when it comes to—when you‘re hearing what Rush was talking about and what Rand Paul is talking about—principally, I think there a lot of conservatives who are uncomfortable with the idea of government being the intervening force here, that it goes against sort of their own principle of how they believe the private sector should be interacting with government.
And the problem is, is politics is getting in the way because guess what? BP is unpopular with everybody, Republican, Democrat and independent. And so it‘s politically—and that‘s what I think is—frankly, I think it‘s—the Republicans have been in a box on how to respond to this oil spill politically moreso than this White House.
MATTHEWS: Well, Rick, it seems to me that people that people like safety regulation when it protects them. We all like airline safety from the government. We like to know that we open a tuna can, there‘s not ptomaine in there. People like regulation when it affects them. And I guess—is this just a time when they realize that regulation‘s on their side?
HENDRIK HERTZBERG, “THE NEW YORKER”: It is. And the Republicans recognize that and they‘ve been trying to walk a very fine line strategically here, and Joe Barton kind of pushed them off. The phrase he used of a “shakedown,” after all, had been tried, had been put out the day before by the Republican Study Committee. And the Chicago comparison had been made by Michael Steele the day before, the Republican national chairman. So it looked like this was—he was advancing a talking point one step further.
It‘s just that he kind of put his foot in it first by apologizing to BP, and then by—by saying that—what the real horror here, the real tragedy of the first proportion was not the oil spill but people picking on poor BP. So yes, this is ideological. This is a kind of ideological thing for the Republicans. But then it got out of control, and the very delicate balance that they were trying to strike got all bollixed up and they fell off the high wire.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think it‘s interesting. I think, guys, it seems like the Republican Party is against regulation. It‘s against government. It‘s against taxes. And here they got caught with the worst environmental or conservation disaster in history because we didn‘t have adequate regulation.
Let‘s take a look at here how it works. In fact, Rick‘s got the point here. Barton wasn‘t the first Republican to use the word “shakedown” in relation to BP. Congressman Tom Price issued a press release, as Rick said, the day before. And last week, the chair of the Republican Study Group put out this quote. “BP‘s statement, its reported willingness to go along with the White House‘s new fund, suggests that the Obama administration is hard at work exerting its brand of Chicago-style shakedown politics.” These guys are on automatic pilot mentally.
Let‘s take a look at Rahm Emanuel, who has not been that visible on the Sunday programs. Here he is coming out—I guess he‘s figured he‘s caught them. He‘s caught the Republicans with Barton. Here he is jumping on this on “This Week” yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAHM EMANUEL, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: You can say it‘s a political gift for us, and it is, but it‘s dangerous for the American people because while the ranking Republican who would have oversight in the energy industry and if the Republicans were the majority would have, actually, the gavel and the chairmanship—that‘s not a political gaffe. Those were prepared remarks. That is a philosophy. That is an approach to what they see. They see the aggrieved party here as BP, not the fisherman.
And remember, this is not just one person. Rand Paul running for Senate in Kentucky—what did he say? He said the way BP was being treated was un-American. And I think what Joe Barton did is remind the American people, in case they forgot, this is how the Republicans would govern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So Chuck, from the White House perspective, is this what‘s going on? They see the Republicans finally after months and months of good luck because of the tough economy, because of the spill, they have a—the Democrats now say Hey, the Republicans are getting into the business of policy now and they‘re showing their attitude, which is they don‘t believe in regulation.
TODD: Well, this has been getting at something that Rahm Emanuel himself has been trying to figure out a way to show, which is to showcase that—you know, he wants to push this idea that they can make the fall be a choice. This is the Democratic way of governing, this is the Republican way of governing. And they hadn‘t had a lot of examples, and they feel like Barton gives them this stark contrast because Barton would be a chair.
And that‘s why you heard Rahm talk about the fact that these were prepared remarks. This wasn‘t somehow he was just speaking off the cuff at a press conference, these were clearly prepared remarks. This was his opening statement. He worked on them for a while, and in fact, knew that he was trying to walk the line by saying, I‘m not speaking for the Republican Party. But as the ranking member of that committee, and at a hearing that everybody was going to watch, it was clear that it was going to be an issue.
Now, the irony to this is Barton‘s not popular in the Republican leadership. And the more—you know, so the Democrats are going to walk a fine line here, is that if they push this really hard this week on Barton and it has legs and it is getting traction in this congressional race—for instance, we‘ll have this TV ad that‘s being played in the Bachmann race up in Minnesota—if it gets traction, you may see the Republicans fire Barton now from his ranking post because it could be that much of a political issue.
MATTHEWS: Rick, our friend, Mike Kinsley, said years ago, I believe, to quote him, he said that a gaffe in Washington is when you say what you think.
HERTZBERG: Yes, when you accidentally blurt out the truth. That‘s—that‘s the Kinsley law of gaffes. And this is exactly the reverse, as what Chuck just said shows. This was deliberately saying something untrue. It‘s the reverse of the old Kinsley law of gaffes. That‘s what‘s happened here.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s saying something untrue on purpose?
HERTZBERG: Well, I think it‘s untrue that this is a Chicago-style shakedown.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. Right.
HERTZBERG: That‘s untrue.
MATTHEWS: But I meant the part—I meant the part where they‘re out there defending a giant corporation by instinct against big government. And they‘re defending, basically, a pariah.
HERTZBERG: They are. And they‘ve got this problem all across the board. I mean, what they have going for them is that people don‘t like what‘s going on right now. They don‘t like the high unemployment. They don‘t like the oil spill. And so naturally, there‘s a tendency to lash out at who—the authority figure, who‘s in power. And What the Democrats have to do, obviously, is to make it, as Rahm Emanuel said, a choice election, rather than a referendum on the present, on the status quo, on what‘s going on right now.
And the Republicans are—have a problem because they are instinctively against government, against public action, and we‘re in a situation where that‘s the only way we can solve any of these problems or even ameliorate them. And to go back to just—just laissez-faire, no regulation, the market is God—that‘s not a particularly attractive message. What is an attractive message is, Hey, you don‘t like the way things are, throw the rascals out.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think the big problem the Obama administration—
Rick, you and I could talk about this, and Chuck—and let‘s go back to Chuck on this. The problem—Roosevelt came in after a long period of time, from ‘29 to ‘33, where it became clear it was the Republicans‘ fault. This president came in after the Republicans had made those policy mistakes, and he came in so quickly on the heels of the Republican departure that the public didn‘t get a clear notion whose mess it was. Right, Chuck?
TODD: Well, that‘s—that‘s—that‘s an interesting way to put it. I think that they‘re struggling, you know, and that‘s why you hear the president—you know, he keeps trying to say, Hey, I came in with this deficit, I came in with this, I came in with that. And the Republicans sit there and say, Well, how long are you going to sit there and blame Bush and blame—and do this—and then Democrats come back and say, Hey, Ronald Reagan was blaming Jimmy Carter in the 1984 acceptance speech...
MATTHEWS: You can blame as long as it‘s true, can‘t you?
TODD: You know, and so the question is, what does the public say? And I‘ll be honest, the public does for the most part get that this stuff isn‘t Obama‘s fault yet. That doesn‘t mean they don‘t expect him to try to come up with some answers because guess what? They elected him to try to fix some of these things. And if they don‘t think he‘s fixing it, they are an impatient public, and that‘s where the political part comes in.
HERTZBERG: I think, Chris...
MATTHEWS: OK—go ahead, Rick. Last thought.
HERTZBERG: I think Chris‘s point is crucial here because Roosevelt—
what Roosevelt had because it was undeniable that it was Hoover‘s problem,
not Roosevelt‘s—the public gave him a chance to try and fail, to do some
to learn on the job, as it were. He didn‘t really—he didn‘t really come up with the policies that made the New Deal for the first couple of years. He was still talking about balancing the budget after—soon after he took office.
Obama doesn‘t have that much margin for error, and the main reason is because the effect of the crisis really hit after he was in office, after he was elected.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what we all think, I think. Anyway, thank you, Rick Hertzberg of “The New Yorker,” great piece this week, as I said. Chuck Todd, as always, thank you, buddy.
TODD: We got about...
MATTHEWS: Coming up, a newly released document shows BP long believed that 100,000 barrels a day—believed that number was the worst case scenario, not down about 1,000 or 5,000 or something like that, but 100,000 barrels they were looking at as a potential disaster here way at the beginning. Congressman Ed Markey released the document and the facts (ph) on that (ph) (INAUDIBLE) going to be with us live in just a minute.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Vice President Joe Biden today is in Chicago, campaigning for Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. Meanwhile, the Republican in the race, U.S. congressman Mark Clark—Mark Kirk, can‘t shake charges of resume inflation. “The New York Times” reports that the leader of a New York nursery school where Kirk claimed he worked as a teacher said Kirk never was a teacher there, just a, quote, “additional pair of hands helping out.” Kirk has been accused of exaggerating his teaching resume, which consists of one year of private school in London, and his military record. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. U.S. congressman Ed Markey released an internal document that shows the company, BP, knew the worst case scenario for the oil spill could climb to 100,000 barrels per day.
Welcome, Congressman Markey. No one knew it would be this bad. They apparently did know it could get this bad.
REP. ED MARKEY (D-MA), ENERGY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE: Well, as you know, in the first week they said that the spill was only 1,000 barrels per day. Then the second week, 5,000 barrels per day. And slowly but surely, it‘s gone up to 60,000 barrels per day. They are now saying that by the middle of July, they have the capacity to actually store 80,000 barrels per day out on the ocean.
So I thought it was important for people to see this document, which BP prepared, which in the absolute worst case scenario, would lead to 100,000 barrels...
MARKEY: ... per day going into the gulf.
MATTHEWS: Well, what was the difference—if you heard it from their point of view, what would they say was the difference because their initial claim of only a—still a hell of a lot of oil going into the gulf, a lot of oil going into the water there, ruining it—how would they explain that? Is it one condition, the way they saw it when it first blew, or a later condition if they cut—cut off the blowout preventer or what? What would they say?
MARKEY: Well, honestly, BP did not stand for “be prepared.” They weren‘t ready for any kind of an accident. They did not believe that there was any risk of a catastrophic accident happening. And so right from the very beginning, in my opinion, they were trying to lowball the number because their liability is actually tied to how many barrels per day go out into the gulf.
MARKEY: That‘s how much they are going to be fined. So first it was 1,000, then 5,000, 19,000. Now it‘s up to 35,000 to 60,000. And again, with each additional barrel per day, the fine goes into billions of dollars.
MATTHEWS: OK, so their representation of facts is in their interest always. We have to look at that. So here‘s my scary question about the president. We were all watching, as you were, intently last week when the president said 90 percent of this is going to be capped off in the next days and weeks. Now, that—to most people, “next days and weeks” mean, well, maybe by the end of June or a little later, next days and weeks, doesn‘t mean a month. Where did he get that number from, 90 percent will be capped off within the next days and months—next days and weeks?
MARKEY: Well, that is a number that was developed by Thad Allen and the team of experts that has been put together, working with BP to put a cap at 90 percent on this leak within the next several weeks. But remember, all along...
MATTHEWS: What are they talking about? What‘s the—it‘s not the relief wells.
MATTHEWS: Those are coming in August. What are they going to do that‘s going to stop it, 90 percent of the leak, in the next several days and weeks?
MARKEY: It is another form of cap which will be placed upon this well. But remember, even as recently as the end of last week, Thad Allen said that there are still significant questions about the integrity of the wellbore, that is, the pipe going down into the ocean.
MARKEY: So, I think that 90 percent is a good goal, but, again, there is still uncertainty that surrounds something that‘s never been attempted before.
BP misrepresented their capacity to deal with this. So, all of this is being presented on the run.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but...
MARKEY: And all we can do is pray and hope that there is success.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the president was wise to take that estimate? I mean, you‘re never supposed to predict good news unless you‘re sure of it, if you‘re a political leader. You‘re only going to get hurt when the public gets disillusioned, say, wait a minute, didn‘t you say next days and weeks, we‘re going to 90 percent of this capped?
And if it does not happen, the president is going to be caught here looking like he believed something she shouldn‘t have believed.
MARKEY: Again, the president was making his representations based upon the technical facts as he knew it in addressing the nation last week.
MARKEY: But there are still uncertainties with regard to the integrity of the wellbore and any technology in which they are going to apply.
And I think the American people know that. I know they know that BP has been making it up. I think they understand the degree of technical difficulty in capping this well. I think, however, at the same time, they know that the president is in the room and working as hard as he can to force a solution to this as quickly as possible.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Congressman Ed Markey, who has been on top of this from the beginning.
Let‘s talk—let‘s go to NBC‘s—MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe.
Richard, I will tell you, it‘s interesting how the policy debate has begun already.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: People like Haley Barbour. Let‘s watch Haley Barbour right now. He wants to start drilling in the deepwater again, right where the trouble is, go dig it in again. Jindal wants to do it. He‘s filed an amicus brief in a suit against the government.
These are Republicans who have Republican philosophy which is against regulation, against safety regulation in many cases. They just want to drill. Here they are. Here‘s Haley Barbour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)
DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”: What‘s worse, the moratorium or the effects of this spill on the region?
And I‘m talking about the moratorium on offshore drilling.
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI: Well, the moratorium—yes, the spill‘s a terrible thing, but the moratorium is a terrible thing that‘s not only bad for the region; it‘s bad for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Isn‘t that a wonderfully stark difference in the way a lot of Americans look at this as an environmental conservation disaster of—we have never seen anything like it, and a guy who says, no, the most important thing to look at here is, we‘re not drilling?
WOLFFE: Right. And there‘s a philosophical piece of this, which is true, but there‘s also a regional piece of it.
Remember that most of these environmental disasters, the people who care the most about them are the people whose backyards are most affected. And here you have a governor saying the economic argument is stronger. Contrast that with Florida, where we have seen a 50-point swing in support for offshore drilling.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to get to this later. So, why is one governor getting popular down there being macho man about offshore drilling? And Haley is the ultimate macho man. And Charlie Crist down in Florida, who has swept to the top by saying no more drilling?
MATTHEWS: Is it because Florida wants sand and beaches for resorts and retirees, and Mississippi wants drilling for jobs now?
WOLFFE: I think they have got a more diverse economy in Florida. They care more about environmental politics. Maybe the politics are more toward the center of American—of the American spectrum here.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t make money off oil.
WOLFFE: They were highly supportive of offshore drilling. That 50-point swing since this started tells you everything you need to know about Florida politics.
Watch George LeMieux, the Florida senator, on Wednesday, when he goes to the White House. He‘s been a supporter of energy and climate legislation. He‘s been also very critical of the president. These guys in Florida, Republicans in Florida, are caught in a bind here.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s talk nationwide.
The country looks at this thing as just bad news, no heroes. I would say that‘s fair. Certainly not the president. There are no heroes. BP is the villain. Tony Hayward is especially the villain. He‘s out at that yacht race this weekend, right?
WOLFFE: Oh, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that culture that say he can go hide on some elite yachting competition on the very weekend that he—everybody knows he was the head of the company that did this?
WOLFFE: There‘s only one thing that‘s been worse than this disaster, and that‘s BP‘s handling of it.
And it‘s not the only case, by the way. Their head of communications just a week ago was at an open-air opera concert in the suburbs of London. They‘re so tone-deaf to the public perception of how connected they need to be. And when they try to get connected, you have Hayward saying he wants his life back. It‘s a great life.
MATTHEWS: Is this some aristocratic way of showing you don‘t sweat?
Is there some culture here we‘re missing here, Richard?
WOLFFE: It‘s not my cup of tea.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not your cup of tea. I don‘t know.
Some Republican guy, what was his name? Steve King. He said that it was spot on the way BP is handling this. It‘s just incredible.
WOLFFE: Right. It is incredible.
But, you know, if only it were about the language here. They have screwed up on so many points here. But if you can hire Dick Cheney‘s spokesperson to be your communications specialist, then you are really tone-deaf.
MATTHEWS: And that‘s what BP did.
WOLFFE: And that‘s what they did.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Richard Wolffe.
Up next: Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul shot himself in the foot with his criticism of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And now he has got some tough love for those who don‘t have jobs. In other words, he‘s not exactly pro-unemployed here. The “Sideshow” is next. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First tonight: a curious case of amnesia. In case you missed it last week, Florida Democratic hopeful, Senate hopeful, Jeff Greene suffered a bit of a memory lapse when it came to his voting record.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And where did you vote—say, in 1980, where were you voting? Did you vote for Reagan or did you vote for Carter or Mondale in 1984. Who did you vote for them?
JEFF GREENE (D), FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I can‘t remember in 1980 who I voted for.
MATTHEWS: You can‘t remember whether you voted for Ronald Reagan or not?
GREENE: I can‘t remember who I voted in 1980, because I had just moved to California from Massachusetts, and I was—just gotten out of Harvard Business School.
MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. You didn‘t have an opinion on Ronald Reagan as a president enough to decide who to vote for?
GREENE: I can tell you this. I was fed up as frustrated then as I am now at what was going in America...
MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. No, this is—I don‘t think I know anybody that doesn‘t know whether they voted for Reagan or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, cat got his tongue? Not exactly.
Election records show that Greene ran unsuccessfully for Congress in California as a Republican in 1982. That could be why he kept that confused in his memory. Records also show Mr. Greene stayed registered as a Republican for 10 years after that until 1992, when he moved and dropped his party affiliation.
He probably figures, Mr. Greene—and rightly so—that Florida Democrats would not take kindly to his party-hopping way. It could be that he doesn‘t remember voting for Ronald Reagan because his instinct told him not to admit it.
Next: a little tough love from Rand Paul. Kentucky‘s libertarian Senate candidate has a message for the unemployed: Get back to work.
Here‘s Paul on a radio interview last week explaining why he supports the Republican filibuster against extending jobless benefits.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: So, it‘s all a matter of making priorities, which is the priority. And sometimes tough decisions will have to be made.
As bad as it sounds, ultimately, we do have to sometimes accept a wage that‘s less than we got under a previous job in order to get back to work and allow the economy to get started again. And nobody likes that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
PAUL: But it maybe one of the tough-love things that has to happen.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, you have got to think about what the family really sick about not being able to find a job thinks about this kind of talk by a politician.
Finally, on a personal note, I want to say happy 30th anniversary to my queen, my beautiful wife, Kathleen, 30 years, three beautiful kids, of course, one incredible journey. There she is, Kathleen -- 30 years married.
AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Amanda Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
The Dow Jones industrials closing about eight points lower today, ending the day at 10442. The Dow rallied earlier after China said it would allow its currency to appreciate against the dollar. Elsewhere, the S&P 500 fell four points to 1113 and the Nasdaq lost almost 21 points to 2289.
A federal judge in New Orleans says he will rule no later than Wednesday on an oil industry request to lift the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. And BP says today it has already spent $2 billion on fighting the oil spill.
And a price war appears to be breaking out in the e-reader. Today, Amazon cut the cost of the Kindle by $70 to $189. And Barnes & Noble knocked $40 off the price of the Nook to $199.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now it‘s back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
While the oil spill is an unmitigated disaster for the Gulf region and maybe the country, in political terms, the results are more mixed. Some politicians have seen their profiles rise and their reputations improve.
Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post.” Susan Molinari is a former New York congresswoman who now works with the law firm and public affairs firm of Bracewell & Giuliani.
Thank you both for joining us.
Let‘s take a look at this poll. Sometimes, things change in politics. Sometimes, people change politically . A new poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce Political Institute has Charlie Crist, the governor, zooming up to 42 percent, Marco Rubio, a bit falling down, Kendrick Meek not going anywhere at 14. He wasn‘t going anywhere before.
Susan, I want to go with you. You‘re a former moderate Republican. And I‘m looking at Charlie Crist, who is either a moderate Republican or a future Democrat or whatever. But politically he‘s found the sweet spot in the practical center. Let‘s deal with this oil spill threat by a moratorium. Let‘s stop it. He‘s doing something.
SUSAN MOLINARI ®, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, that‘s—well, they all have. You know, when you talked about Jindal, Haley Barbour, Bob Riley, you look at these governors who really have sort of taken their popularity up a notch by being out there every day, by answering questions, by getting down into detail, by feeling the pain, one way or the other, of their constituents and the overall concern on where we‘re going in the future.
So, I think they have done really almost the opposite of what President Obama has done. And that‘s the daily grind of keeping in touch, so that their constituents know when they go to sleep somebody is staying up.
Now, let‘s just say, with Charlie Crist, it‘s a long time for all of them between now and November. And I think the one thing Governor Crist can‘t count on at this point is not having the infrastructure. It‘s already shown in some of his fund-raising.
And when it comes time for getting out the vote, for example, the NEA endorsed—well, I guess did was a dual endorsement for the Democrat and for Governor Crist, which means neither one of them are going to get those people coming out to work for them.
MOLINARI: So, I don‘t know how that plays out come Election Day.
MATTHEWS: Susan, you‘re my buddy. But let me tell you, that was the same argument made against Joe Sestak. He didn‘t have the organization. It was all poll-driven. It was all P.R. and communications.
It came out. The people paying attention to these kinds of programs, they pay attention. Here‘s what I want to ask you. Everybody figured—I thought this number. I love the math here. Here is Rubio getting 31. He‘s always gotten about low 30s.
What it proves is, 31 is the majority of half. It‘s the majority of the Republican Party. So, A Tea Party kind of guy, a guy on a hard right, will dominate the Republican Party. But the minute you get out of that world into a larger universe of all voters, you see the other guy getting 42.
EUGENE ROBINSON, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
MATTHEWS: He moves way up, because there‘s a bigger country than the Republican Party.
In this case, you have a Democratic candidate who has not made a lot of noise and hasn‘t made...
MATTHEWS: Has not been a good candidate, yes.
ROBINSON: Has not been a great candidate. You have got Charlie Crist, who has political skills, as we have discussed earlier...
MATTHEWS: Yes, is nimble.
ROBINSON: ... and who has had this disaster happen off his shores and has been able to present himself day after day as the governor who is in charge, the governor who cares, the governor who is taking action.
And that has got to help him, I think, every day, so not that he would root for this to go on, but, in fact, the longer it goes on, I think the more it helps him.
MATTHEWS: You know, it reminds me of a shortstop in baseball. You can‘t predict where the ball is going to go. But he‘s there. And he makes the throw to first. And he‘s there.
ROBINSON: Right. And he happens to be the guy who is in charge right now.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at “The New York Times” that wrote that Governor Haley Barbour—another kind of politician altogether, old-school, not exactly metropolitan, old-school country boy—quote—“As he nears the end of his eight-year stint as governor, Mr. Barbour‘s performance could help shift his political image from that of an outsider political boss to an out-front crisis manager, and possible presidential candidate in 2012.”
Susan, I guess Mark Leibovich of “The New York Times” saved all his generosity for this piece. He didn‘t give me any when he wrote about me.
MATTHEWS: But he‘s certainly laying it on thick for this guy.
Is this true? You‘re a Northern Republican. Can you imagine based upon his performance as a good old boy during this crisis that Haley Barbour could emerge as an credible candidate for national ticket?
MOLINARI: I have to tell you, Chris, and I worked—Governor Barbour was chairman of the RNC, the Republican National Committee, when I was in the House leadership. And he was one of the smartest political people I have ever worked with.
So, he was a good political tactician. Those are usually the people that, when you put the cameras on them, they just cannot communicate.
MOLINARI: He was one of the best communicators we had as a Republican national chairman, a great spokesman. And, as somebody who comes from, you know, metropolitan New York, I really like this good old boy. And I think he could sell very well on a national stage.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Have you noticed, Susan, he has not attacked the president. He has been very --
MATTHEWS: very modulated—Gene, this—very modulate, even positive about, given the—I mean, I‘ve been tough on the president.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: A lot of people on the center-left have been tough on the president and the left certainly. And, yet, here‘s a guy in the conservative part of the Republican Party, traditional wing, southern conservative, who‘s been very positive about the president relatively.
ROBINSON: Right. He says the president is basically doing what he
MATTHEWS: Why is he doing this? Why is he being so positive?
MATTHEWS: It‘s not a bad way to get better treatment is to say nice things about the guy giving it?
ROBINSON: Well, number one, he may actually believe it. Number two, I—he generally does not believe in BP bashing.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but he‘s on—he‘s not Barack Obama bashing either.
ROBINSON: No, he‘s not. No, he‘s not. I mean, I think he has—look, I think this is what the guy thinks. And I think it‘s—and I also think, if he‘s trying to set himself up for a national run, I think it‘s smart.
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s—I don‘t think the Republican Party has a fixed front team yet so that the team is up.
Let me just go to this stuff. Charlie Crist has done well, Susan, by basically doing his own thing, saying I don‘t want anymore drilling in Florida, blah, blah, blah.
MATTHEWS: Haley Barbour says, I want more drilling, because he‘s really working blue collar kind of Democrat I mean, Republican. And he really wants to get some jobs down there again.
Here‘s Bobby Jindal from February 2009 when he gave the Republican response at the president‘s State of the Union. And, more recently, look at this comparison between Bobby Jindal when he made his debut, and—I mean, I gave him a tough time then. And here he is now looking pretty good. The Jindal of old and the Jindal of new.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL ®, LOUISIANMOLINARI: Good evening, and happy Mardi Gras. I‘m Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana.
If our people are desperate to save their way of life, they‘re going to do everything they can. That‘s why they‘re fighting so intensity, so creatively. That‘s why we propose putting back trucks on barges. That‘s why we‘re proposing things like pilings of rocks and sand dredging.
This is a war. And we got to win this war. We cannot afford to have this along our wetlands.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MATTHEWS: There‘s not a politician in the world, Susan and Gene, that looks better in a suit out there working with the people. I remember how Bob Dole was so mad because he had the handicaps. He could not compete with George Herbert Walker Bush in that primary in New Hampshire. I can‘t get out there ride the truck.
Here‘s Jindal looking like a million bucks out there, you know, with the flak jacket on him, whatever he‘s got on, a life jacket, compared to walking through that dark hallway.
ROBINSON: No. Look, that was an unmitigated disaster. Jindal one, as we showed, it was unmitigated disaster.
MATTHEWS: Tennessee Williams we don‘t need here.
ROBINSON: Jindal two has learned a lot.
ROBINSON: And he‘s learned.
MATTHEWS: What‘s he learned?
ROBINSON: You know, he looked like a wienie basically, to get out there, to be in first, obviously has command of detail.
MATTHEWS: Yes, look at this guy, you know? He‘s sky king (ph) here. He‘s everywhere.
ROBINSON: Well --
MATTHEWS: We‘re looking at these pictures. He‘s every—he‘s on the boat, he‘s in the airplane, he‘s on the dock. And he‘s everywhere.
Your thoughts, Susan, about a man of action here, the governor, rather than a guy trying to compete with the State of the Union message.
MOLINARI: Some people can give great speeches and can‘t handle political or environmental crises. This was a guy who couldn‘t give a great speech but clearly is on top of this crisis. And he has really earned his national stripes, I think, as a result of the way he has dealt with this—everywhere, all the time.
MATTHEWS: Is this an example, Susan, of governors always looking better than legislators and our president as a legislator? I‘m giving you an open shot here at his chin, right to his chin.
MATTHEWS: Is President Obama basically a legislator who can give good speeches and offer up really good policy proposals—I mean from the center left, like health care—but is not necessarily a guy on the job as an executive?
MOLINARI: Well, I don‘t know if the—I think that is—
MATTHEWS: Is this too tough?
MOLINARI: I think that‘s absolutely accurate. You know, he gives a great speech.
MATTHEWS: Ha! I knew you‘d say that.
MATTHEWS: I gave you—I gave it to you.
MOLINARI: He gives a great speech with the teleprompter. But, you know, how can you react immediately?
MATTHEWS: OK. See, I give you a little chance to be classy and you go to the teleprompter.
MATTHEWS: You‘re great, Susan Molinari. Thank you, Gene Robinson.
Up next: we‘re going to meet Tarryl Clark. She‘s the Democratic candidate—well, going to be, I guess, running against Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in Minnesota. This could be interesting.
This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, is taking on Senator Barbara Boxer in California. But some of Fiorina‘s the most prominent Silicon Valley colleagues won‘t be on her side. Oracle‘s Larry Ellison and Cisco‘s John Chambers have lined up behind Boxer. And as “Business Week” reports, Silicon Valley may have, quote, “misgivings” about Fiorina‘s tenure at Hewlett-Packard which lost half its market value on her watch as CEO.
Fiorina often touts her business background. But in this case, it may not be her strong suit.
HARDBALL—back in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS: Do you withdraw extortion, or do you not withdraw extortion in the context of your criticism of the White House?
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: Well, I—I believe in the idea of BP paying this all off. What I don‘t believe in is politicizing this fund. It shouldn‘t be run out of the White House. It shouldn‘t be run out of the administration. It should be run out of the system we already have set up for all those, which is through the courts. That was the context of my remarks—
RIVERA: Be that as it may—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Hmm, welcome back.
There‘s probably one American congresswoman—Republican congresswoman—Democrats would most enjoy defeating in November. That‘s Minnesota‘s Michele Bachmann. You saw her there rather confused with Geraldo Rivera.
And the person out to beat her, tries to beat her tonight is on here tonight. Here she is: State Senator Tarryl Clark.
Thank you very much for joining us.
What possessed you to have the stuff to take on Michele Bachmann in her home situation there? Isn‘t she popular, or isn‘t she? Tell me what the situation is at home for Michele Bachmann.
TARRYL CLARK (D), MINNESOTA STATE SENATOR: Well, Chris, it‘s great to be out here. Let‘s face it: Washington still isn‘t working for families in Minnesota or around the country. And Michele Bachmann certainly isn‘t.
People are struggling to make ends meet. We have the highest unemployment, highest foreclosure rate in the state. And all the while, she‘s seeking celebrity status and on following her own agenda instead for fighting for the people of the sixth district.
And this whole incident, this continued, ongoing horrible disaster with BP is just an example, and really is the defining moment in this campaign. It shows who Congresswoman Bachmann is really is.
MATTHEWS: Well, what made her want to become Joe McCarthy of all people rather than worrying about the people in the district. Here she is in 2008 when he discovered her, launching what sounds like a McCarthyite crusade to start a new red scare in Congress.
Here she is:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to se an expose like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Weren‘t there any books in her house when she was growing up? Why would she want to go back to the horrendous days of the McCarthy period where everybody‘s looking under everybody‘s bed to see if they‘re a commie or not?
CLARK: You know, I can‘t speak to what her motivation was. All I can say is that was the start of the people in the sixth district have seen over the last two years—you know, stomping your feet, having rallies at taxpayers‘ expense, sending out campaign-style literature. None of those things has done a dang thing to put food on a family‘s table, keep hard-working people in their homes, or bring them back to work. And that‘s what I want to stand up and fight for.
MATTHEWS: Is your district a middle-of-the-road district or a Republican district?
CLARK: I‘d say it really is a district that focuses on the person, not the party. You know, it really is about things like: can we send our kids to college, can we afford to retire, can we expand our small business have, good roads. So, I‘d say it‘s pretty middle-of-the-road. It‘s voted for Senator Amy Klobuchar over Mark Kennedy on his home turf, voted for Jesse Ventura as governor and has voted for Tim Pawlenty—
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.
CLARK: It also voted for Tarryl Clark in my district.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s put you in the hard seat. You‘re in HARDBALL.
Ms. Clark, you‘re a state senator—
CLARK: All right.
MATTHEWS: -- here‘s the question: Would you have voted for the health bill as it came to the House floor?
CLARK: You know—
MATTHEWS: Before it came in, would you have voted for final passage or not?
CLARK: Ultimately, I would have. But, Chris, that bill is flawed.
It was flawed. It didn‘t do enough for cost containment.
But what it did do is, for the first time, women across the country are going to be able to get affordable health care when they‘re pregnant. It‘s going to get rid of pre-existing conditions, help close that dreaded Medicare Part D donut hole.
And so, if I was there, I would have been negotiating for better costs—just like we have done in Minnesota. We have some of the lowest costs and best outcomes in the country. And I would have been there fighting for better protections for those things.
MATTHEWS: OK. I figure Michele Bachmann for a hawk. Are you a hawk? Would you have supported the war in Iraq and the war Afghanistan? Would you support keeping troops in both those countries for a while now, in the near future? Would you keep the troops in those countries now?
Let‘s go to the present. If you have to vote when you get in the Congress, would you keep the troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq?
CLARK: First off, my dad and two of my brothers served in the Navy. I‘ve worked hard on veterans and military family issues and I will continue do so in Congress. The past administration was misguided when they went into Iraq. They took the eye off the terrorists in Afghanistan.
I support the withdrawal in Iraq and we need to get the job done and go after the terrorists so al Qaeda can‘t go after us again.
MATTHEWS: So how long would you keep troops in Afghanistan?
CLARK: Until we get the job done. But I‘ve always focused on let‘s make sure we are supporting what the president is doing, bring our people back home as fast as possible, and make sure that our men and women have the tools and equipment they need.
Let‘s face it now, with using so many citizen soldiers, we need to make sure with all these redeployments that we‘re really taking care of our families and our men and women, as well.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about the hottest issues in the country right now.
CLARK: Something I might add, Congresswoman Bachmann hasn‘t done.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s talk about the issue that she‘s taking a real bite hold of. She‘s come out and said BP basically is being pushed around by this president. And then she‘s not saying they‘re the good guys, but she‘s saying basically, they seem to be the victims of a president who‘s using Chicago-style politics, who‘s basically beating them up, pressuring them to spend the $20 billion.
Would you take that position or what would you take? Are you pro-BP, anti-BP or where?
CLARK: I‘m pro the taxpayers of our country. She‘s pro-BP. I‘m pro-protecting our jobs, the environment and the taxpayers. And she has come out several times saying she‘s worried about BP being fleeced—
CLARK: -- or being chumps. I don‘t want the taxpayers to be fleeced or chumps.
CLARK: This is BP‘s oil spill. They need to clean it up.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming on HARDBALL. We‘ll have you back again. Please come on again.
Tarryl Clark is running against Michele Bachmann. Michele Bachmann, by the way, is always welcome on this program, especially if she‘s willing to take on Rush Limbaugh for the first time in her life.
When we return, I‘m going to have some thoughts about Michele Bachmann, Joe Barton and these other Republicans who seem to be BP defenders. I don‘t know why. I‘m going to ask that question.
You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this emerging embarrassment on the right.
Joe Barton reminds us that sometimes, politicians get what they deserve. In other words, they get caught saying exactly what they wanted to say. Someone once said that the late Spiro Agnew had about the same depth of political belief as the tired guy on the 5:00 commuter train after his third drink. Well, maybe they don‘t have bars on the trains any more, but you get the point, and you also know the mentality.
This guy picks up the newspaper but all he ends up talking about is he doesn‘t like taxes, he doesn‘t like government regulations because his boss says they‘re bad for profits. He doesn‘t like government at all because that‘s the way the guys talk in the executive dining room—guys who get their talking points, by the way, from the editorial pages of “The Wall Street Journal.” And, oh, yes, he thinks jokes about climate change and environmental concerns are really a hoot.
And here comes the embarrassing part: Joe Barton and Michelle Bachmann elected members of Congress—they‘re out there talking BP‘s side of this public debate. Why? Because they have been kennel trained to do it, bark at regulation, bark at government and if you can reach it, lick the hand of big corporations.
Rand Paul has called the president‘s pressuring of BP “un-American.” Barton, the top congressional Republican on energy policy, said the president was shaking down BP for getting it to set aside $20 billion for the people they‘ve hurt. Bachmann called the $20 billion a redistribution of wealth, a slush fund.
Pay no attention to Mr. Barton‘s apologies and Ms. Bachmann‘s endless regurgitations. They got—well, they got it right the first time the way they really think.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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