Guests: James Sherk, Mark Green, Roger Simon, Chris Van Hollen, Eric
Alterman, Neera Tanden
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama rang (ph). The anger on the left.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Protecting the House. Robert Gibbs is now saying publicly what a lot of Democrats have been saving privately, that the Democrats could lose the House of Representatives this November. We also now know that the White House has a pitch: Keep moving forward, voters, not back to failed Republican policies. Can that sell in the face of high unemployment and a growing deficit? That‘s our top story tonight.
But when it comes to the Senate, the Democrats may have received break from a most unlikely source, the tea party. As many as five Senate seats that should have been easy Republican wins this November are now up for grabs because the tea partiers have sent the GOP careening to the right.
Also, do unemployment benefits make people lazy? Well, that‘s basically the argument many Republicans are making in the fight over extending benefits for people who‘ve been out of work for a long time.
Plus, a debate that has exploded on the left in magazines and blogs in the past week. On one side, President Obama has let progressives down. On the other side, Get over it, he‘s doing all he can. Let‘s get to that big one.
And “Let Me Finish” tonight with something a lot less sexy than Lindsay Lohan‘s latest court appearance or Mel Gibson‘s latest tirade but a lot more important.
We begin with Robert Gibbs sounding the alarm that the Democrats could loose the House of Representatives. Congressman Chris Van Hollen is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the man responsible for winning seats in the House and protecting it this fall.
What did you make of it when you were watching on Sunday when we saw Gibbs? Well, here he is. I was taken with the fact that he would actually come out and say your party, his party, as well, on “MEET THE PRESS,” could lose. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think there‘s no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall. But I think there‘s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control. There‘s no doubt about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you mean, “There‘s no doubt”? That is the first time I‘ve ever heard—just imagine—just imagine if he had said that about President Obama last election, when he was running for president. Oh, we could lose this thing, sure!
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD), DCCC CHAIRMAN: Yes, well...
MATTHEWS: Politicians don‘t talk about losing. He did.
VAN HOLLEN: Listen, Chris, two things. Number one, we have said from day one that...
MATTHEWS: Were you surprised he said that on Sunday?
VAN HOLLEN: I was not surprised he said that, for this reason. What he said was there are a lot of seats in play around the country and it‘s a dogfight out there. We‘ve been saying that from day one. We‘ve been saying that from January or last year the afterglow of President Obama‘s election. Be prepared. And we have been prepared. So the Democrats...
MATTHEWS: Could you lose 39 seats?
VAN HOLLEN: ... are not—the Democrats are not going to lose the House. The answer is no.
MATTHEWS: Well, he said you could lose 39 seats.
VAN HOLLEN: No, the way I understand what Robert Gibbs said is he said there are enough seats in place, that mathematically, that could happen. No one contests that fact. The question is what is going to happen. The special election up in Pennsylvania was a race, as you know, all the pundits out there said if the Republicans can‘t win that seat in this environment, there‘s no way they‘re going to take back the House. We fought a dogfight out there. We won by 5, 6 points because we made it a choice. Just like Robert Gibbs has said, what this debate does is focus the voters on the choice they have.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s take a look, Congressman, at what‘s going on right now. This is the way it works right now. These are the numbers. You‘ve got 255 House seats in your party‘s control, 178 in Republican control, 2 vacant seats, 1 R, one D. So that averages out. So let me ask you this about this -- 39 seats, you‘d loose the House, right? You‘d lose the subpoena power. Darrell Issa would have it. The Republicans can‘t wait to get it. They really want it, don‘t they.
VAN HOLLEN: Hey, they‘ve been out there...
MATTHEWS: Well, why do they want the House? They don‘t want to pass any bills, so what do they want the House for? What‘s their real goal to get the House?
VAN HOLLEN: Their goal is to stop the Obama agenda in its tracks. We had a big national election two years ago. Voters wanted change. What the Republicans want to do is go back to the same economic agenda that got us into this mess to begin with.
MATTHEWS: So give—since voters tend to be negative voters, meaning they vote against things, here‘s your free shot. What do you think is the worst thing the Republicans would do if they got the House back?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, they‘re going to go back to the same economic agenda. So here‘s what they‘ve said they‘re going to do. This isn‘t just made up. Their number one economic policy is to reinstate the tax cuts for the very rich. This is for the richest Americans.
VAN HOLLEN: And we heard Jon Kyl just the other day say, And they don‘t have to pay a penny for it. That‘s $700 billion. What next do they want to do? They all voted against Wall Street reform. And we heard John Boehner, the Republican leader, describe the economic devastation that Americans felt as a result of the meltdown on Wall Street—he compared that to an ant. He trivialized it.
VAN HOLLEN: So they have told us what they‘re going to do. Joe Barton—he will be their point person on energy policy.
MATTHEWS: He works for BP, right?
VAN HOLLEN: Let‘s apologize to BP because the president said...
MATTHEWS: I know. Well, he...
MATTHEWS: Well, they sort of tried to walk him on the plank on that one.
VAN HOLLEN: But in this story, or at least the story that sort of got over—passed over there was that the day before, 115 members of the Republican conference had said exactly the same thing. They said that the insistence on setting up the fund...
MATTHEWS: Why do you think the Republican Party...
VAN HOLLEN: ... was a shakedown.
MATTHEWS: ... is so comfortably in bed with the oil industry? I mean, why—I‘m not sure they all are, obviously. But why do some members openly say, We‘re in bed with the oil industry, after this catastrophe? They‘re happy with the fact they‘re not regulated. They‘re happy with the fact they make a lot of money and they don‘t really get regulated any way that‘s going to protect our own coastline, our own waterways.
VAN HOLLEN: Right. Well, they have taken the position for years, with the oil industry, with the insurance industry, with Wall Street, business as usual. Anything goes. We don‘t have to protect the consumers. We don‘t have to protect the taxpayer. And that is the underlying theme...
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s take a look...
VAN HOLLEN: ... in the Republican policy. That‘s what they‘ll go back to.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the president. He‘s got a new tack out there, by the way. For a long time, after a year-and-a-half in office, he never mentioned the opponent. He was like a Chicago pol—There is no Republican Party. Now he‘s starting to name names. He‘s advertising your opposition. Just like you advertised the Republicans, what they would do if they got in, here he is advertising what the Republicans—using names like Boehner, these curse words—Boehner! What‘s the other guy‘s name?
VAN HOLLEN: Boehner and Barton.
MATTHEWS: ... Blunt. He‘s got them, all these Bs. Let‘s take a look...
VAN HOLLEN: OK.
MATTHEWS: ... and BP, of course. Here he is in Missouri. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You may have read, the top Republican on the House committee, Mr. Barton publicly apologizing to BP. Does anybody here think BP should get an apology?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No!
OBAMA: Mr. Barton did. He called this a tragedy, this—this fund that we have set up to compensate fishermen and small business owners throughout the gulf. That‘s not the tragedy. The tragedy is if they didn‘t get compensated. So this is the leadership that we‘ve gotten from Barton and Boehner and Blunt. Sometimes I wonder if that no button is just stuck in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there you heard it, Barton and Boehner and Blunt. I love the names! Here he is. Let‘s take a look. Here he is, Gibbs, the spokesman for the president, on Sunday underlining that this, what you just heard, is going to be the spiel from now until election day in November. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIBBS: Joe Barton started his congressional testimony of the CEO of BP by apologizing not to the people in the gulf but to the CEO. I think that‘s a perfect window not into what people are thinking but the way they would govern. Joe Barton, John Boehner—those are the types of things you‘ll hear a lot, I think, from both the president and from local candidates about what you‘d get if the Republicans were to gain control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You guys are out there nut collecting, aren‘t you! I mean, you—you—the Democrats have—we‘ve had a tough economy in this country. Everybody‘s had a hard time. A lot of people have. Maybe not the oil companies! So you‘re going around looking for nuts, like, you know, Barton is crazy enough to side with BP in the worst catastrophe—haven‘t you got—and another one, Bachmann. You haven‘t got the other B here! If you‘re going out looking for nuts, it would seem like you‘d put her in your basket.
VAN HOLLEN: Well...
MATTHEWS: You haven‘t gotten to her yet! She wants to investigate you guys for anti-American activities!
VAN HOLLEN: Well, look, what‘s surprising, Chris, is not what they...
MATTHEWS: You love these (INAUDIBLE)
VAN HOLLEN: Well, they have told us what they‘re going to do. They have forecast exactly what they‘re going to do. Joe Barton has always been on the side of the big oil companies, and he said it publicly. They‘ve been on the side of the big insurance companies, fighting...
MATTHEWS: Who‘s the guy that yelled out...
VAN HOLLEN: ... health care reform...
MATTHEWS: ... in the State of the Union, “You lie”? What was that guy‘s name?
VAN HOLLEN: That was Joe—that was Joe Wilson.
MATTHEWS: Where do they get these guys from?
VAN HOLLEN: But that‘s the point. See, people need to focus on the fact that if you were to hand control over to the House, these are the guys who are going to be running policy and...
MATTHEWS: What percentage of the Republican Party right now, as its changed in our life—you‘re a bit younger than me—has moved to the right, clearly? What percentage of the Republican Party would you put in the nut bag right now, the party that‘s not just conservatives, but people that are just really crazy out there, even beyond the tea partiers?
VAN HOLLEN: Let me—let me just say...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t want to give me a percentage?
VAN HOLLEN: No, but the out of the mainstream...
VAN HOLLEN: ... caucus of the Republican Party...
MATTHEWS: All right...
VAN HOLLEN: ... in the House is the largest caucus in the House by far, which is why you have these situations where you have...
MATTHEWS: Do they talk like this on the floor? Do you actually hear them talking among themselves, talking like this?
VAN HOLLEN: Well...
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t BP great?
VAN HOLLEN: Usually, they‘re a little more circumspect, which is why it‘s, you know, something when Joe Barton gets out and publicly makes these statements.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
VAN HOLLEN: But it‘s important that people understand what these guys...
MATTHEWS: OK, you know...
VAN HOLLEN: ... really mean.
MATTHEWS: ... usually, when you vote, a regular person votes with their gut. They walk in there—they vote with their mind, too, but (INAUDIBLE) I don‘t like the way things are going. They go in and vote against the incumbents. That‘s called a referendum.
Now, you guys are trying to change that gut instinct to, No, don‘t go in there and vote with your gut, because that‘ll screw your party. Go in there and go, Now, which party‘s the worst? Let‘s make sure I don‘t have the worst party, at least. So the Democrats have not exactly been a great success yet, but the Republicans are far worse, right? How do you get people to change the question from, Yes or no, do I like things the way they are or not like the way things are, to, Let me think, Democrats versus Republican? How do you get people to think like that? Because clearly, you‘re trying to get them to think like that. Gibbs is trying to do it. And the president‘s trying to get us to think like that. Choice, not referendum. How do you change it like that?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, because people, at the end of the day, have a choice between two candidates, right? So it‘s not...
MATTHEWS: But they don‘t think like that usually. They usually go, Yes or no.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, what we‘ve said, though, is it‘s not just about us. It‘s us versus them. What differences do you have between the parties on these issues that are critical to Americans? And if we can get people to focus on the fact that, you know, John Boehner describes the situation...
MATTHEWS: So this is a “frying pan into the fire” kind of thing?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, this is—this is, Let‘s have a real debate on the issues.
MATTHEWS: I think (INAUDIBLE)
VAN HOLLEN: And what‘s interesting is what they‘ve told us they‘re going to do.
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s great you‘re finally advertising your opponents because the guys like Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl have been getting a free ride in this country for months now. They just sit back like burghers on Main Street, waiting for you guys to blow it. Then they get all the votes.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, they get to sit on the sidelines. They get to whine.
VAN HOLLEN: They get to carp. And now we‘re saying, Put up. Let‘s see what you guys...
MATTHEWS: It‘s an interesting choice...
VAN HOLLEN: ... are going to do.
MATTHEWS: ... that you‘re making...
VAN HOLLEN: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: ... for the American voters, if they choose to make a choice and not just go, Nyah. Anyway, thank you, Chris Van Hollen, who happens to be...
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ... my congressman.
Coming up: There‘s a debate brewing about President Obama on the political left now. Some liberals or progressives are saying the president has let them down, while others say, Give the guy a break. We‘ll get to that interesting debate on the left when we return. It‘s going to be a hot one.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: So you think Sarah Palin doesn‘t have her eye on 2012? Well, her political action committee has taken in (ph) the (ph) fund-raising to new heights. SarahPAC, it‘s called, has raised $866,000 in just the second quarter of this year, more money than it (ph) has ever raised in any three-month period before, and is spending money on the kinds of things you need to have a national political figure built up—list building, speech writing and foreign and domestic policy consulting. “Politico” points out that for the first time since 2008, Palin has a political operation befitting someone with presidential aspirations.
That‘s HARDBALL. We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: People get surprised when we follow through and keep our campaign promises. (INAUDIBLE) like, Wow, he‘s—he‘s—he went ahead and did health care. Why‘d he do that? I said I was going to do health care! It‘s the right thing to do!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: We said we would do something, and we did it!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Obama late last week—Thursday night, exactly—saying that he delivered on his campaign pledge to reform health care in this country. Many on the left, however, say he doesn‘t deserve credit because he hasn‘t lived up to the promises he made in the campaign.
Eric Alterman‘s a columnist for “The Nation” and Neera Tanden‘s the chief operating officer for the Center for American Progress.
You made a lot of noise with your article, Eric. Let‘s talk about it with someone else who shares your general point of view. Let‘s talk about health care for a second. What would be your critique, Eric, on television right now about how well Barack Obama responded to his own promises for health care in 2008?
ERIC ALTERMAN, “THE NATION”: Well, on the one hand, I want to give him credit for (INAUDIBLE) historic achievement. I mean, every Democratic president since Harry Truman has tried to do this and only Barack Obama did it. The question is, is did he have to pay so high a cost—you know, not allowing the reimportation of drugs, not allowing seniors to buy—to use Medicare to buy in bulk, no public option, et cetera, et cetera.
My problem with Obama—and again, I think I‘m pretty sympathetic to Obama. I mean, I‘ve never voted for a president in my life with such enthusiasm and I understand his problems. But I don‘t understand why he didn‘t come in with a strong program and say, Come to me, the way Ronald Reagan did and the way George W. Bush did, and let Congress fight out the details with the various lobbies. Instead, he said, You guys work it out, meaning the insurance industry and the pharma industry, et cetera, et cetera, and let me know when you have something. And for that reason, I think we got a much weaker bill than we could have if he had tried to redefine the ground on which it was fought.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s pretty smart. Neera, your response to that?
NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I‘d say that, at the end of the day, the bill was 80 percent, 90 percent what the president campaigned on.
MATTHEWS: Did he have any more—did he leave anything on the table, as far as you‘re concerned, in the end game?
TANDEN: That bill was...
MATTHEWS: Or was it the—according to Eric, he made the mistakes in the beginning, letting the kids do their own thing, sort of, on the Hill. You guys put it together, and I‘ll decide where I‘m going to push at the end. And that‘s the way he did it. He sequenced (ph) because he didn‘t want to be like the Clintons because Mrs. Clinton, when she was first lady, said, Do it this way, and that didn‘t work, so he said, I‘m going to play it loose. Was that loosey-goosey approach at the beginning deleterious? Did that hurt him?
TANDEN: No. I mean...
MATTHEWS: Did it?
TANDEN: ... the facts are, it didn‘t hurt him because of the facts are that the bill that moved through in the summer was closer to what he wanted. The bills that were introduced were closer to what he wanted, and it was part of the negotiation on the Hill where we lost some important things. But at the end of the day, that bill was 90, 95 percent of what he campaigned on. Did he get...
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s...
TANDEN: ... everything? No.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to something that broke my heart, Keynesian economics. I was trained in it. I believe in it. I still believe that government has to make up for a lack of demand when consumption goes down and business (INAUDIBLE) go down. The government‘s got to step in or the economy dies like it did under Hoover. I still believe that‘s true.
However, I‘m want to ask Eric first, how would you assess his success or failure with stimulating the economy last year and this year?
ALTERMAN: Well, again, it was a terrific bill. A lot of good things are going to come of it that we haven‘t seen yet. And maybe they had to do it this way. I don‘t know. Obama‘s a smart guy. Rahm‘s a smart guy. They know stuff I don‘t know.
But again, why did he come in and say, Here, Republicans, are your tax cuts for corporations, so early? Why didn‘t he say, Here‘s what I want, and then dole out the pieces (ph) (INAUDIBLE) ahead? What keeps happening is that they try and try and try to get one or two Republicans. The Republicans play games with them all the way to the end. At the end, they don‘t support it, and yet the bill reflects what the Republicans wanted. If the Republicans...
MATTHEWS: Well, how do they get around that...
ALTERMAN: ... play ball or not.
MATTHEWS: Eric, you were there. I was there. Neera was there. They needed Specter. They needed the two senators from Maine. Was there another way around it besides just blasting through the Senate rules, and you know, go Gotterdammerung and see what pieces were left?
ALTERMAN: You mean...
MATTHEWS: What was the alternative?
ALTERMAN: You mean with the stimulus?
MATTHEWS: Yes. What—what would they—they couldn‘t get the 60 votes without Specter and Snowe and Collins. What are they supposed to do?
ALTERMAN: Chris, you were in Tip O‘Neil‘s office in 1980, right?
MATTHEWS: Yes, for six years.
ALTERMAN: Didn‘t Ronald Reagan change the terms of the debate? Didn‘t Ronald—and by the way, this is what Barack Obama said he admired about Ronald Reagan, and Hillary took a pop at him for it—unfairly, I thought. He said the big ideas came out of Ronald Reagan. I want to be that kind of president. Nobody would have believed Ronald Reagan could have gotten what he got out of that Congress, except that...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Neera to respond because it has a lot to do with the Senate rules (INAUDIBLE) whether you can create a program like health care under reconciliation. And we‘ll argue about this until we‘re dead. But the issue is, they didn‘t think they could do it. Your thoughts, Neera?
TANDEN: The exact—Eric‘s actually making the point, which is that the president had has the most transformative change of any president since Reagan—health care, financial regulation reform. These are issues that Democrats have campaigned on. These are new landmark pieces of legislation that no one thought we could get through.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s move on to that. Here he is on fin reg. I want you to talk about it.
The bill is probably going to pass. They got Scott Brown. They are going to apparently get enough votes.
Let‘s see the president here speaking about financial regulation post the disaster on Wall Street. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, I will put in place the commonsense regulations and rule of the roads that I have been calling for since March, rules that will keep our market free and fair and honest, rules that will restore accountability and responsibility to our corporate boardrooms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Is he going to be proud of what he did in financial reg or is it going to look weak five years from now?
TANDEN: Absolutely he will be proud of it. The actual thing that liberals have focused on, which is having a board with consumer protections, is in the legislation. It‘s the most far-reaching legislation since the New Deal. It‘s the biggest piece of business reform in Wall Street we have had. And we have to look at exception—we‘re nitpicking at the ends in order to criticize this.
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘re screaming loud, aren‘t they, Eric? That‘s one good sign on Wall Street. God, they‘re all over the guy, saying, all of a sudden in two weeks now he‘s anti-business. He doesn‘t like us. He‘s dumping on us. All of a sudden, there‘s this roar from the Roundtable on down. Everybody I have heard of is complaining to me.
They‘re the most ungrateful SOBs on earth. If you notice, the stock prices all went up the minute that this bill was finalized, even though the broader market went down. So, no, they‘re thrilled. They‘re thrilled.
MATTHEWS: So, you think they‘re lying, and they‘re lying with their whining?
ALTERMAN: I think they‘re whining. And a few of them are—the smart ones are whining. And the stupid ones are whining.
But, look, on this one, I actually probably don‘t disagree with Neera. We‘re 95 percent there on health care. On this bill, I‘m much more critical, because he had the country behind him on this. This was a political win for him.
MATTHEWS: Was it Barney and Chris Dodd who let him down? Because they chaired those committees and they have been working on it on the inside. Are you saying it‘s another case where he didn‘t define what he wanted up front?
ALTERMAN: No, I‘m saying money is the most powerful thing in this system.
ALTERMAN: And the bankers have more of it. Dick Durbin I think I quote saying, the bankers own this place. And they showed it. And they did it quietly.
Look, why in the world didn‘t he break up the big banks. The “too big to fail banks” are still in a position to use the house‘s money to make all these wild bets. They get the cash when they win. We pay when they lose. We‘re in exactly the same position we were...
MATTHEWS: I couldn‘t agree with you more. I couldn‘t agree with you more about the ownership of Capitol Hill.
Let‘s take a look at right now—here‘s the hot one, climate change, which a lot of people know it matters in the long run more than anything else we talk about. We have only got one planet. We don‘t have an alternative here. This is it, where we live. Let‘s take a look at this.
Here‘s what then candidate Obama...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As president, I will set a hard cap on all carbon emissions at a level that scientists say is necessary to curb global warming, an 80 percent reduction by 2050.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Almost three years ago. Is he doing it? It looks so tough. It‘s so hard.
TANDEN: I think the president should be kept to the promises he made for his term. And he should be kept to this promise. It‘s an important issue. It‘s a critical issue. But he has a term to do it. And I think liberals shouldn‘t attack him and criticize him when he‘s failed to do it at the end of his term, instead of attacking him...
MATTHEWS: OK. So, you are going to give him a couple more years.
Eric, this is the toughest thing in the world. The business community
if I call it that nicely—has taken this sort of mockery approach to climate change, like they do towards evolution, towards—they do anything that is scientific. Their ability to be knuckleheads and be proud of it amazes me. So, your thoughts about whether we can get climate change, even with this president.
ALTERMAN: Well, Chris, I think this is one area where we need to talk about the media. More people question global warming today than they did two years ago, when in fact there‘s more evidence that it‘s happening.
All that—quote, unquote—“climate gate” stuff that mostly your competitors—MSNBC has been pretty good on this, but FOX and to a considerable degree CNN and even the Sunday shows have been peddling what has turned out to be nonsense. And yet people are believing it.
And so he‘s got—this is a really—it‘s a tough issue even if people believed it, because it‘s the future. It‘s the future. What has prosperity ever done for me?
MATTHEWS: Read the “New York Times”‘ lead editorial yesterday. Everybody should read it, lead editorial on Sunday, which really cleared up a lot of the crap that‘s been said about this.
MATTHEWS: Your thought, Neera, on this one?
ALTERMAN: And “The Washington Post,” by the way, publishes George Will on this. And then the news pages of it say, Will is full of it. And yet “The Post” continues to publish this nonsense. There is no sense of responsibility on this issue.
MATTHEWS: I can‘t agree with you more.
TANDEN: Well, on this, I agree with Eric. There are a lot...
MATTHEWS: But can this president—does this president—oh, we have got to go. I‘ll tell you something. We‘re all rooting for this president to do something here, right?
TANDEN: Yes, absolutely.
ALTERMAN: Yes, we are.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Eric.
MATTHEWS: It‘s great to have you on. You have stirred it up, sir.
Thank you for coming on.
ALTERMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Neera Tanden.
Up next—a little bit of disagreement on the left here, but it‘s where we belong.
Up next: Michele Bachmann—I can‘t believe I‘m saying it—continues to top even herself. Her latest diatribe about the Obama administration, wait until you catch this one. There‘s nothing she won‘t say. She has no stopper.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
And what a “Sideshow” we have tonight.
Them vs. us. That‘s the rallying cry now of Rand Paul, the Kentucky Senate candidate. He voiced it at an event this Saturday. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: We have to get our policy out there. We‘re not going to get a lot of help from the newspapers. We must present our message. We must articulate it. We must not let them describe who we are.
We must describe who we are.
PAUL: There has been a concerted effort since the Tea Party began to rise since my victory to paint us as something we are not. There is nothing about our movement that is really outside of any kind of mainstream.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s right. Newspapers do nasty things, like write down and print up what you said last week.
You, Dr. Paul, said you had problems with the ‘64 civil rights bill and how it got enacted. You, Dr. Paul, called White House criticism of BP un-American.
How are people to judge you if not by your words? But if you want to speak finish yourself, you have a fresh start here, any time you want it, on HARDBALL.
Speaking of Tea Partiers, Michele Bachmann continues to out-crazy even herself. The Minnesota congresswoman who once accused the Obama administration of running a gangster government has kicked up the rhetoric notch. Bachmann said at a conservative gathering in Colorado this past Friday that President Obama is turning the United States into—quote—
“a nation of slaves.”
I guess once you get hooked on this stuff, you have to keep upping the dosage.
Moving down to South Carolina, Democratic Senate candidate Alvin Greene tells “The New York Times” that the story of his unlikely primary victory has gotten interest from a New York publishing agent and a Hollywood screenwriter.
Greene‘s actor of choice to play him in a movie, Denzel Washington. Yes, I saw Denzel in “St. Elsewhere,” in “Glory,” as the great Steve Biko, the South African black consciousness leader. I saw him play Brutus in “Julius Caesar” in New York. I saw him as the lawyer in “Philadelphia.”
Let‘s see. He also played Malcolm x. So, I don‘t blame you, Mr. Greene, for wanting him to play you. My question, Mr. Greene, is, who are you playing?
Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Progressive has been the moniker of choice by people on the left of late. I like liberal, but whatever. So, how do Americans feel about the word progressive? Well, according to a new Gallup poll, 12 percent say progressive describes their own political views, 12 percent -- 31 percent say it does not.
But the more interesting number, how many said they‘re unsure of whether progressive defines them or not? Wow -- 54 percent, a solid majority of Americans, are unsure of what the word progressive actually means -- 54 percent, tonight‘s “Big Number.” And I find it fascinating.
Scheduling note: I‘m speaking next Tuesday night at the Ronald Reagan Library out in Simi Valley, California. That‘s next Tuesday night, July 20. For more information, go to reaganlibrary.com.
Up next: Are unemployment benefits a disincentive to finding a job?
That‘s an argument some Republicans are making these days, but is it true?
That debate straight ahead.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Cautious trading ahead at the start of earnings season today. The Dow Jones industrial adding 18 points for its fifth straight positive session. The S&P 500 up a little bit less than a point, and the Nasdaq tacking on two points.
Alcoa kicking off earnings after the closing bell, quarterly earnings and revenue coming in slightly better than expected. The aluminum maker is also predicting increased demand.
And railroader CSX exceeding expectations as well with a 47 percent jump in quarterly earnings. Microsoft shares jumping more than 2 percent on reports that the software giant could be teaming up with Fujitsu to tackle cloud computing.
Materials were the weak link on a drop in overseas demand for copper.
U.S. Steel and mining giant Rio Tinto both closing lower this afternoon.
But shares in Playboy Enterprises surging 40 percent after Hugh Hefner proposed taking the company private, touching off a potential bidding war with rival “Penthouse” magazine.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job, but it doesn‘t pay as much. And so that‘s what has happened to us is that we have put in so much entitlement into our government that really we have spoiled our citizenry and said you don‘t want the jobs that are available.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That‘s Nevada‘s Republican Senate candidate, Sharron Angle. And she‘s not the only one talking like that.
Here‘s Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl in March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), MINORITY WHIP: If anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And it‘s not just the conservatives out West.
Here‘s Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania on Friday. “The jobs are there. But if we keep expending unemployment, people are just going to sit there. I have literally had construction companies tell me, I can‘t get people to go back to work until they say I will come back to work when unemployment runs out.”
Tom (sic) Sherk is with the Heritage Foundation. He‘s a senior analyst of labor economics. Mark Green of course is former New York City public advocate. And he‘s host of the syndicated radio show “Both Sides Now With Huffington & Matalin.”
Gentlemen, this is one of the issues. Again, we‘re going back to the high school debates I had, like whether we should have the civil rights bill under interstate commerce. Here we go with this baby.
You‘re saying—well, let me ask you Mr. Sherk, do you believe that people are shirking work to take unemployment compensation? They would rather get $300, if you‘re making it, the absolute top of unemployment, rather than take a job for $30,000 or $40,000 a year? You‘re saying that?
JAMES SHERK, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well, no, no, that‘s not what I‘m saying.
What unemployment insurance does—and this is the finding of the science. It‘s not just me saying this as a conservative. Alan Krueger—he‘s the assistant secretary of the treasury for Obama—put out papers finding exactly this in his role as an academic economist.
It‘s not a left/right thing. It‘s the finding of the science. It‘s that when you extend the length of unemployment insurance benefits, that workers spend more time unemployed and take longer to find work. But it‘s not because they‘re lazy. It‘s not because they‘re sitting on the dole.
What it does is, it changes the types of jobs they look for. If you‘re unemployed, you would like to find a job near your city in the same type of work and preferably paying close to what you had before. And so when you have got, say, two years of benefits, so those are the jobs you spend the first year or so looking for.
The problem in this downturn is that a lot of the jobs that have been lost, particularly in construction and finance, simply aren‘t coming back. And so you‘re encouraging workers to spend a lot of time looking for jobs that don‘t exist and aren‘t going to exist.
I‘m going to have Mark respond to that.
He makes an intellectual argument there. Let‘s hear your response.
MARK GREEN, FORMER NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC ADVOCATE: This is as much science as Terri Schiavo was alive.
Chris, this is a good debate a century ago. And from Andrew Mellon to Herbert Hoover to Mr. Burns on “The Simpsons,” there have been people who say, don‘t give unemployed benefits because they won‘t work.
The science is that most economists agree some people getting unemployment benefits—they may be very young, they may be professionals with some options—may not seek work because they‘re getting a little benefit.
The overwhelmed percentage are panicked, desperate, can‘t meet mortgage payments, can‘t meet health care payments, can‘t pay for their drugs.
I don‘t know how often Mrs. Angle or Senator Kyl or the economists have been unemployed. People all over the country are putting out feelers for jobs. And there are 20 applicants for every job. And in this desperate situation, unemployment benefit extension does two things.
And it has ever since Keynes and Hoover. It‘s moral, because it gives to people who are largely desperate. And, second, it‘s perfect economics. It‘s countercyclical. The federal government spends money exactly when the economy needs a stimulation because business and consumers aren‘t spending. If there‘s not an overwhelming consensus for this, I don‘t think we should depend on free market, abstract people who say the free market will stop Toyota‘s...
GREEN: ... stop...
GREEN: ... collapsing, and stop oil—oil spills in the Gulf.
MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s interesting, Mr. Sherk. My son is an actor. And, of course, actors have to get jobs when they‘re not acting. And my son, he goes—shows up for jobs as busboy and things like that, an actor in New York.
By the way, Thomas Matthews. He looks like a movie star, he should be working more often.
And he shows up—and, Mark, you live in New York, you know what it‘s like. They announced a job like at a restaurant for busboys, which is a fairly an entry level job. Not waiter which could be pretty professional obviously, a busboy. The lines go around the corner. They‘re like trying to get an acting job.
How you can say that there aren‘t people looking for work at pretty much at the entry level job? Not the perfect job, the highly or semi-skilled job, but basic work. And these jobs have lines around the corner. Every time a hotel opens, the lines are around the corner for two or three blocks.
Why do you say there aren‘t unemployed people that really want to work out there, who don‘t really want to work? Why do you make that case when every single time you open up a job—
JAMES SHERK, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I‘m not saying that.
MATTHEWS: -- the lines are incredibly long and they don‘t get the jobs, because there‘s only a few jobs open.
SHERK: I‘m not saying that they don‘t want to work. And I‘m certainly not saying we should get rid of unemployment benefits. It‘s simply a question of how much is appropriate. I think two years—
MATTHEWS: But who are these people in the lines every time a job opens in New York that seems to be reasonably OK? Not even attractive, just OK—a job that exists, and the lines are around the corner. What do you think that is? That phenomenon we‘re looking at?
SHERK: Well, part of that is from the unemployment benefits. The New York economy has been hammered. The financial industry has, you know, taken a heavy toll. A lot of investment banks have gone down. With those investment banks, a lot of the New York economy.
And so, if you want to find a job, a lot of the workers now in New York or unemployed are going to have to move to different state. They‘re going to have to move to, say, Nebraska, or to Texas, or one of the states where the economy isn‘t doing as poorly.
But when you got the two years of benefits, it encourages the workers to look for the jobs in New York instead of looking for the jobs, say, in another state.
MATTHEWS: Do you live in the ivory tower of the universe?
MARK GREEN, FMR. NYC PUBLIC ADVOCATE: Chris—
MATTHEWS: You‘re talking about a guy who‘s got a house, barely able to pay his rent, and you‘re saying take the family and put them on a Graham bus and drive to where? Alaska. Where were you saying they should go to get this busboy job?
GREEN: Chris, appreciate this.
MATTHEWS: Nebraska. You are serious. I got nothing against theory. But that is theory. That‘s not reality.
GREEN: Here‘s the theory. People in Ohio and Michigan should move to Nebraska because that‘s where the new jobs are. Now, follow this abstract theory. According to him --
MATTHEWS: There‘s a new restaurant in Omaha. Get on the bus.
GREEN: -- we should cut the oil depletion allowance, because that‘s making oil men lazy and they‘re not investing in technology on spills. We should end Medicaid because then the poor will take care of themselves. They‘ll be motivated to be more healthy.
This is insane. Unemployment benefits work in every country and in this country, except for a fringe right-wing who don‘t want it, exactly the economy needs it.
SHERK: I‘m not calling for getting rid of them. I‘m not calling for getting rid of them.
GREEN: You‘re complaining about two years. First, you know that two years is the absolute maximum. Half the people—half the people on unemployment now have been unemployed six months or more.
Bush lost 8 million jobs. He created 2 million in eight years. Clinton created 22 million. Republican economics dug this hole, and now, you don‘t want to help the victims out of it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let him answer.
GREEN: That‘s very convenient.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Sherk, go ahead. Mr. Sherk, your chance.
SHERK: I was going to say, look, all this government spending from the stimulus hasn‘t worked. What we need to do is—
GREEN: Two to 3 million jobs, say the CBO. Who‘s right, you or the
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take the unemployment comp, Mark. And, Mr. Sherk, let‘s take the unemployment comp. Is unemployment compensation overused, underused? Is it a necessity in a modern workplace where you have 10 percent unemployment in the country or not?
This is a real unemployment rate by the way. It‘s an objective fact. It‘s not about how busy or willing you are to take a lower level job. Why do you think, sir, there is almost 10 percent unemployment rate right now? Is it because people won‘t take the lower jobs?
SHERK: That‘s part of it. And that‘s not simply my saying it. The Brookings‘ paper on—the Brookings Institution recently released a paper on economy activity that found that the current unemployment extensions have increased the unemployment rate by about one percentage point. It‘s not most of what‘s going on, but it‘s contributing to it.
And, again, that‘s the Brookings Institution, by no means a conservative institution. That‘s what the science shows.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Sherk, do you know anybody who‘s out of work?
SHERK: I have several friends who are out of work.
MATTHEWS: OK. See, with some familiarity with that, are they lazy?
SHERK: No, not at all. I‘m not saying that people are lazy.
MATTHEWS: Do they refuse to take jobs below their cut, below their self-esteem? What‘s their problem for being unemployed, as you know them? Because you know them personally. So, tell me, are they the kinds of people that won‘t take jobs that are available because they insist on getting jobs appropriate to their ego?
SHERK: They‘re looking for jobs that match their skills. And they have in mind something in terms of what they‘re looking for. Most people do.
MATTHEWS: Have you told them they‘re living off—they‘re living off the country too much, and to get off unemployment? Have you told that person yet?
SHERK: I am not arguing for getting rid of unemployment benefits.
No one is arguing for that.
MATTHEWS: No, you‘re saying people have too much self-esteem for the lower level jobs. That‘s why they won‘t—they‘re exploiting unemployment compensation too long.
SHERK: What I‘m saying—
MATTHEWS: That‘s what you just said for five to 10 minutes now.
SHERK: What I‘m saying is it changes the type of jobs you look for something near your home.
MATTHEWS: Again, have you told your friends to take lower level jobs?
SHERK: No, if they‘ve been unemployed for a year and a half, yes, I would tell them that.
MATTHEWS: But you haven‘t gotten around to it yet.
SHERK: If those jobs are in New York, I‘m coming back.
MATTHEWS: It‘s kind of hard to do this. I‘m having some fun with you because it‘s a sad story. It‘s easy to tell a guy to go flip hamburgers who‘s been a nuclear scientist. I‘m sorry, it‘s hard.
Anyway, but thank for this.
And, by the way, to get unemployment compensation, you have to prove that you‘ve gone looking for a job. You have to fill out the forms. Every time you go in for another check, you have to go through all this stuff. It‘s not like that they‘re not just writing checks.
Anyway, thank you, James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation. And, Mark Green, thanks for having you on.
GREEN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Democrats maybe catching a break from the tea partiers. It looks like the Republican Party has lost some opportunities by running whackos instead of really serious candidates. Or maybe that‘s an extreme statement. You never know. Sometimes, whackos actually win. So, let‘s see that when we come.
You‘re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Embattled Republican senator, David Vitter of Louisiana, has drawn not one but two new challengers in the last minute. State Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor will challenge Vitter in the Republican primary and State Representative Earnest Wooton will run as an independent in the general. By the way, Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon is also on the race.
Vitter has faced heat over the past few weeks because he had a staffer who handled women‘s issues for him who is accused in 2008 of threatening to kill his girlfriend with a knife. Vitter has, by the way, was tripped up before by the D.C. madame prostitution scandal. That was in 2007. But who keeps—who keeps records?
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
The Tea Party Movement deserves a lot of credit for motivating the Republican base this year, obviously. But will they get the blame if Republicans end up losing some Senate races they might have won with a more centrist candidate?
Roger Simon is “Politico‘s” chief political columnist. And “Time” magazine‘s Mark Halperin, an MSNBC senior political analyst.
Gentlemen, let‘s take a look at just the board right now and how it looks right now. We‘ve got 56 Democrats in the United States Senate, 41 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democrats.
So, basically, the Democrats are in pretty good shape to hold control. They‘ve got 58. Of course, then you‘ve got Robert Byrd‘s seat which will be filled, we assume by the Democratic candidate but we‘re not sure. So, they can hold 59 to start with.
So, here we go with what it looks like. They‘d have to lose 10 to lose control of the Senate. We‘ve got Charlie Cook right now who says they‘re going to lose between four and six; Stu Rothenberg, between five and seven. Larry Sabato says seven.
So, now, let‘s look at the states where the tea partiers—and I want you, gentlemen, to focus on this—five states where I said the tea party candidates having won the nomination or headed toward winning them could screw it up in an otherwise easy win.
Sharron Angle in Nevada is up against Harry Reid. She is the nominee.
Rand Paul, the tea partier nonpareil, is in Connecticut, he‘s—in Kentucky. He has won the primary. Marco Rubio is the candidate of the Republican Party in Florida, and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania.
And then we‘ve got Colorado Ken Buck up against Jane Norton. Ken Buck being the tea partier.
Mark, you first. It seems to me that they have a problem in there and that they could lose two or three of these they might have otherwise won with a normal candidate, mainstream candidate.
MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That‘s right, Chris. These are five that should have won and they may lose them because of the Tea Party. The Tea Party has injected a lot of enthusiasm. But you take Florida, if Charlie Crist hadn‘t been forced out of the party to run as an independent, they would have won that seat without question.
Pennsylvania, I think Specter would have had a better chance of holding the seat for the Republicans than Toomey does against Sestak.
MATTHEWS: If he had stayed in the party.
HALPERIN: If he stayed in the party. And the only reason he left the party, of course, was because of the Tea Party.
Now, Republicans have done a good job in some of these places of trying to shore up their weakened positions. But the fact that they have to spend resources on it means they can‘t spend it in some of those other states. I actually think they still have a chance to win the 10 seats that they need to take back the Senate.
MATTHEWS: Because, in other words, the country is so angry, they‘d vote far-right.
HALPERIN: That‘s right. And some of these other states, like Wisconsin and Washington and California may well be in play. But the problem that they have is they do have to worry about these five they shouldn‘t and they do because the Tea Party‘s influence.
MATTHEWS: Usually, these fringe candidates, Roger, you and I know, get in for one term and once people get a good look at them, they‘re gone. But that doesn‘t matter, they could win.
What do you think? Do you think the far-right candidate would have perhaps a victory even if it is too far a nomination?
ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: Yes, I think they could. It‘s—this is a strange movement. It‘s not a movement created by a leader. It‘s a movement in search of a leader and it‘s very hard to look at it as a national movement with some organization to it. This is undefined, diffuse anger throughout the United States.
MATTHEWS: Has it encouraged candidacies, for example—I mean, let‘s face it, Pat Toomey was already there. We also expected the time before he would have been there anyway. But people like Sharron Angle—she‘s a function of the Tea Party Movement. I mean, she would haven‘t existed otherwise.
MATTHEWS: Rand Paul, he‘s the nonpareil tea partier.
SIMON: The question now for a candidate is why not run. You know, so what if I don‘t—
MATTHEWS: Because you know you‘ll get 30, 40 percent to start with.
SIMON: Yes. So, what if I don‘t have any money? So what if I don‘t have any name recognition? I‘ll pick up the name recognition from the media. All this diffuse anger out there. Nobody likes the incumbents. I‘ve got a good shot at it.
MATTHEWS: In a no election, where everybody wants to vote no about the condition, even though Congressman Van Hollen would say we‘re going to change it into a choice election this year, most people vote referendum. I don‘t like the way things are. I‘m voting for anybody who‘s the outsider.
Is that what they‘re all betting on? Mark?
HALPERIN: Well, I mean, the Democrats are certainly betting on that. They‘re also betting on, Chris, as you know, these Tea Party candidates not only put up candidates who are going to have a harder time winning for the Republicans, but it does close the enthusiasm gap. The Democrats can wave around the bloody shirts (INAUDIBLE) of these Republicans like Sharron Angle and like Rand Paul and who have a more—
MATTHEWS: Who‘s the craziest person that could win this year in the Senate? Craziest senator coming in next term? Is it Angle?
HALPERIN: I‘m not a psychiatrist. I‘m not a psychiatrist, so I can‘t say.
MATTHEWS: OK. I was talking about political crazies, not psychological. I think Angle can win and I think she may be as far out as anybody who‘s ever run for office.
SIMON: You really think she can win?
MATTHEWS: Well, yes. Yes. I look at the numbers.
MATTHEWS: The Irish betting odds are 55 percent she wins. That‘s what I‘m going by. Do you like that?
HALPERIN: She can win for sure. But, again, even if she wins that seat, Democrats can use her statements, they are using her statements to raise money and energize Democrats in other places. The biggest problem that she—the biggest the Democrats have now is to figure out a way to energize other Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Oh, no. I think they‘re all—I think a lot of these people are in the lunar module.
Anyway, thank you, Roger Simon. Thank you, Mark Halperin.
When we return, let me finish with the economic horror story facing this country and the two options we have to deal with it.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a matter somewhat different and more important than Lindsay Lohan‘s parole violation or Mel Gibson‘s latest tirade. It‘s the economic hammerlock we‘re in in this country.
First, we need to get this recovery going because without a stronger recovery, this high unemployment is going to go on and on and on. Second, we need to deal with the ballooning federal debt, now up to $14 trillion.
Yesterday, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, who are chairing President Obama‘s fiscal commission, gave us the horror story. Believe it or not, right now, the total amount of federal taxes covers only three federal purposes: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The checks you pay to the government go to paying those three programs. That‘s it. Everything else the government does, like defend the country and fight two wars is borrowed from China or somewhere else.
So, there you have it. The two realities people expect government to do its part in driving a stronger recovery and getting people back to work.
But if we‘re going to close the federal deficit even 10 years from now, we have to cut $1 trillion from now from either cutting spend are or adding taxes. Find it boring? Rather think about Lindsay Lohan‘s parole violation or Mel Gibson‘s latest tirade? We‘ll, go to it—but somebody better be figuring out this one.
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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