Guests: Chuck Todd, Jane Wells, Chris Cillizza, Rick Lazio, Ron Christie, Robert Reich, Clarence Page
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: No mosque need apply.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Leading off tonight: Ripping off the mosque. It didn‘t take long, did it? Suddenly, the way to score points in politics is to attack the mosque. Rick Lazio wasn‘t getting any traction in his run for governor in New York, then he had an idea. He‘s a brilliant fellow. He came up with the zesty notion of attacking the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero.
Here‘s part of his latest ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK LAZIO ®, NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: New Yorkers have been through enough. Now a terrorist-sympathizing imam wants to build a $100 million mosque near Ground Zero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, never mind the fact that the imam in question there, attacked by him, has been deputized by the State Department to try and bridge peace between East and West around the world. Can Rick Lazio defend that ad, even against the firefighters and police officers who are today condemning it? We‘ll find out soon. Rick‘s coming right here to HARDBALL at the top of the show.
Also, how can Republicans talk about cutting deficits and at the same time demand that the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of the country be extended? The man who would be Speaker, John Boehner, tried to make that case today. Vice President Joe Biden responded that Boehner was basically saying the way to get out of our economic rut is to go right back to the policies that got us in the rut in the first place.
Plus, it‘s primary day today in five states, including Florida and Arizona, the most important voting until election day. We‘ll lay out what today‘s voting will tell us about November and what‘s at stake for both parties today.
Also, if you‘re looking to come to Washington for Glenn Beck‘s rally, a Tea Partier has helpfully written what The Huffington Post calls “the cliche-ridden guide to avoiding black people on the subway in Washington.” What a great way to celebrate, by the way, the anniversary of the great Martin Luther King “I have a dream” speech. We‘ll poke some fun at the scheduling of this event, among other things.
Finally, Mitch McConnell says he takes President Obama at his word that he‘s a Christian. And Stephen Colbert says he takes McConnell at his word that he‘s not a human-turtle hybrid. Great “Sideshow” tonight.
We start with the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero. Joining us right now is former New York congressman Rick Lazio, who‘s running for governor of New York. Here‘s your new TV ad. I want to show it, first of all, Rick to everybody. Let‘s watch it. Caused a lot of stir.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK LAZIO ®, NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: New Yorkers have been through enough. Now a terrorist-sympathizing imam wants to build a $100 million mosque near Ground Zero. Where‘s this money coming from? Who‘s really behind it? Incredibly, Andrew Cuomo defends it, even though this imam said America was an accessory to 9/11. Andrew Cuomo is very, very wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call Andrew Cuomo and tell him a Ground Zero mosque is very wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A lot of people watching this ad would say it‘s really a political ad. It has nothing to do with religion or 9/11 or anything else. It has to do with the fact that you‘re down about 30 points in what looks to be your upcoming general election fight with Andrew Cuomo for governor. Your reaction to that.
LAZIO: My reaction to that, Chris, is that this is an issue that two thirds of Americans, two thirds of New Yorkers care deeply about. This is certainly not about religion. This is about the security and safety of the people of New York. And in my mind, some of the points that are made in this commercial are very valid points. Listen, the imam who—Rauf—who is spearheading this effort did, in fact, say that American policies were an accessory to the crime of 9/11, this the very same month as the attacks on 9/11 2001.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you give us the full—why don‘t you give us the complete sentence that he gave? That‘d be more helpful.
MATTHEWS: Repeat the whole sentence.
LAZIO: As I recall, he said American policies were an accessory to the crime of 9/11. And people can—
MATTHEWS: That‘s not the sentence.
LAZIO: People can go to—
MATTHEWS: That‘s not what said. He said, “I wouldn‘t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory.” We can argue about the word “accessory,” but he didn‘t say we deserved to be hit.
LAZIO: Then he goes on—
LAZIO: Then he goes on and says that Osama bin Laden, in a very real sense, was made or created in the USA. These are not—this is not the voice of a bridge builder. You know, this is a guy—
LAZIO: -- these are developers—
MATTHEWS: Why did he go to—why did he go to Danny Pearl‘s funeral? Why did he stand up and say, I‘m a supporter of the state of Israel? Why did he say, I‘m a Jew, I identify with Judaism? Why did he make those comments if he‘s a hater?
LAZIO: I‘d like know why—
MATTHEWS: Is he a hater?
LAZIO: -- why they refuse to say whether or not they‘re going to take money from Iran. This is only a few years ago. One of the developers of this project didn‘t answer, in fact, didn‘t say that he wouldn‘t—they wouldn‘t—
LAZIO: -- take money from Iran. Doesn‘t that trouble you? It should trouble most people.
MATTHEWS: It troubles me that you‘ve just changed the guy‘s sentence when he said, I wouldn‘t say that”—
MATTHEWS: -- “the United States deserved what happened.” That is not the language of a hater. That‘s a guy who perhaps used the wrong word in terms of “accessory.”
LAZIO: No, you‘re—
MATTHEWS: Clearly, what he was trying to say is, obviously, a lot of people in Middle East, especially the Saudis on those planes, hijacking those planes don‘t like our policy. Clearly. It‘s not saying that they‘re right. But he certainly isn‘t saying we‘re guilty. He certainly isn‘t saying it‘s our fault. And you‘re making it sound like this guy—
MATTHEWS: -- sounding like you‘re saying this guy is blaming Americans—
MATTHEWS: -- for the World Trade Center horror.
LAZIO: If you want to apologize for a guy who—
MATTHEWS: No, I know you do this—
LAZIO: If you want to apologize for a guy who—who said—
MATTHEWS: I know what you‘re doing here.
LAZIO: -- this is—this is—
MATTHEWS: I know your tactics, Rick. Let‘s take a look at your tactic. Let‘s take a look. First of all, the uniformed police officers—you said this is a security issue.
LAZIO: Union! Union!
MATTHEWS: If it‘s a security issue—
LAZIO: Unions! Unions! Unions!
MATTHEWS: Well, why are—
LAZIO: Let‘s be fair about this.
MATTHEWS: -- why are the uniformed fire officers, firefighters, why are the police officers all saying they disagree with this ad?
LAZIO: These—these are the union—these are the union leaders that support Andrew Cuomo. Let‘s be fair about this, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you mean—you mean the cops and the firemen are saying this because they‘re Democrats and you‘re a Republican.
LAZIO: Those are your words. I‘m just saying these are union members
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m asking for your words.
LAZIO: These are union leaders, and they support—they support Andrew Cuomo. I‘m just saying, listen, this is—from this imam—
LAZIO: -- he says—he has said—he‘s compared America unfavorably to al Qaeda. He has said that—
MATTHEWS: Why would he say, I am a Jew, I identify with Judaism, I am a supporter of the state of Israel? Why would he be at the funeral service for Daniel Pearl, who was a Jewish—he happened to be a Jewish guy was killed, basically, and beheaded because he was Jewish. He‘s at that funeral—
MATTHEWS: -- to show honor to that guy. Why would he do that if he was a hater?
MATTHEWS: Just tell me!
LAZIO: Here‘s—here‘s what I‘m saying. Let‘s get—let‘s get to the bottom of this and have a—
MATTHEWS: The bottom of it is you‘re running for governor.
LAZIO: -- a full accounting of where this money is coming from.
Don‘t you want to know whether Iran—
MATTHEWS: Well, they have to raise the money first.
LAZIO: -- is giving money here? Don‘t you—don‘t you—
MATTHEWS: I do—would like to know. I would like to know—
LAZIO: Don‘t—don‘t you—
MATTHEWS: -- but I want to know why we‘re talking about this in a race for governor. Let‘s take a look at what you did when you last ran for office back in 2000. Here‘s a bit of your debate with Senator Hillary Clinton. I want to show the way you operate and see if this isn‘t more of that. Let‘s watch and let the voters and the viewers decide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAZIO: Let‘s sign it. It‘s the New York Freedom From Soft Money PAC. I signed it. We can—we can both sit down together. We can all get all the media in here. We will make sure it‘s an iron-clad deal. And I‘m happy to abide by anything that we all agree on. But let‘s get it done now. Let‘s not get any more wiggle room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Clinton, you want to respond?
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, yes, I certainly do. You know, I—I admire that. That was a wonderful performance, and I—
LAZIO: Why don‘t you sign it?
CLINTON: And you did it very well.
LAZIO: I‘m not asking you to admire it, I‘m asking you to sign it!
CLINTON: Well, I would be happy to when you give me signed letter—
LAZIO: Well, right here. Right here.
CLINTON: When you give me—
LAZIO: Right here! Sign it right now!
CLINTON: Well, we‘ll shake—we‘ll shake on this.
LAZIO: No, no. I want your signature because I think everybody wants to see you signing something that you said you were for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this is your aggressive kind of campaign tactic I know you do when you‘re behind. You‘re 30-some points behind. There you went over and practically served papers on Hillary Clinton. I don‘t think the public liked that very much. Why do you persist in this kind of campaign tactic—
LAZIO: Hey, Chris—Chris—
MATTHEWS: -- which has earned you the criticism of the police, the firefighters?
MATTHEWS: You said this is an issue of security. Well, they don‘t agree with you.
LAZIO: How about Howard Dean? How about Harry Reid? They‘re taking the—the Anti-Defamation League, former mayor Rudy Giuliani, former governor George Pataki, two thirds of the American people, 70 percent of New Yorkers. You know, you can try and smear me, if you want, but—
MATTHEWS: No, I—
MATTHEWS: You were the one using—
LAZIO: But all these people—
MATTHEWS: -- using the language about this imam—
LAZIO: Chris, Chris—
MATTHEWS: -- who is portrayed at a bridge builder and you‘re—
LAZIO: Chris, I‘m trying to—
MATTHEWS: -- out there basically calling him a terrorist.
LAZIO: I‘m trying to—I know you—you‘re talking over me. I‘m trying to explain what my position is. I‘ve said that I believe that this imam has made a number of comments that I find alarming and concerning. I believe that he has shown a certain sympathy with radical organizations. I think that, in fact, when he dodges the question of whether Hamas is a terrorist organization and he compares America to al Qaeda unfavorably—
LAZIO: -- and—and they say—and they‘re leaving open the possibility of taking money from Iran, that it requires, at the very least, the Andrew Cuomo, who‘s the attorney general of New York, who‘s got jurisdiction over this, to sort of say, Let‘s have a fair and open accounting. I think when other people are coming to this—this imam and to these developers and say, Let‘s explore other alternatives, and they—they give a straight-arm and say—
MATTHEWS: Oh, you‘re moderating your voice here, sir. That‘s not what you‘re calling this guy. “The New York Times” editorial page has said you were operating hysterically here. And I‘m going to ask you about why, if this guy is such an enemy of the peace, why is he used by the United States State Department to go around the world on, apparently, a half dozen trips around the world, trying to build bridges between the East and West? If he‘s the bad guy, why is our government using him to bring peace?
Answer that question.
LAZIO: I—I think it‘s—it‘s alarming. In fact, I don‘t know why the State Department—
MATTHEWS: That‘s alarming, too?
LAZIO: -- is using somebody who won‘t criticize Hamas, who won‘t call
Hamas, who the U.S. government has classified as a terrorist organization -
why dodge that question, if you‘re really a peace builder—peace maker and a bridge builder?
MATTHEWS: Well, let me just ask you because I‘ve asked you five times. Why he say something—well, why would he go to the funeral for Daniel Pearl? Why he would say, I am a Jew, obviously in a passionate manner, perhaps hyperbolically saying he‘s Jewish because he is Islamic? Why would he say, I‘m a supporter of the state of Israel? Why would a gentleman publicly make those kinds of statements, obvious in a way that would—would put his life in jeopardy, you could argue, if he‘s such an enemy of peace?
LAZIO: Why wouldn‘t you call Hamas a terrorist organization? Why would you compare—
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) answer my question.
LAZIO: Why would you compare the U.S.—U.S. with—
LAZIO: -- with al Qaeda? Why would you say that American policies are an accessory to the crime of 9/11? That‘s what this guy is all about.
LAZIO: I mean, those are his words. And I would invite, by the way, your listeners to go—don‘t listen to me. Don‘t listen to you. Go on line. Google it. Look for yourself. Explore this yourself.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
LAZIO: You know, let‘s—they should get the facts. I think people
MATTHEWS: Jeffrey Goldberg was on—
LAZIO: That‘s why 70 percent—
MATTHEWS: -- “MEET THE PRESS” recently, and he‘s with “Atlantic,” of course, magazine, an expert on the Middle East. And Jeffrey Goldberg, who studied all of these issues, thinks this man is a bridge builder. And I just want to go back to where you distorted a sentence. You said he said the United States was an accessory, its policies—you‘re changing the words, by the way, over the days here—to what happened on 9/11.
Here‘s what he said in the sentence that you keep corrupting. Quote, “I wouldn‘t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory.”
Obviously, we have unpopular policies in the Arab world. Everybody knows that. You know that. Why do you keep denying the truth here? He‘s trying to explain why we have enemies, because they don‘t like our policies. But at the same time, he‘s saying they‘re wrong to attack us. They‘re wrong to attack civilians. They were committing a sin against Islam.
All this is on the record, Rick, and you keep denying it. In fact, you keep dancing around it because—
LAZIO: Those are—
MATTHEWS: -- it‘s not part of your—
LAZIO: -- your words, Chris. Those are your words, not his words.
You put up—
MATTHEWS: They are his words!
LAZIO: If you would show his exact quote—
LAZIO: -- and the following quote that Osama bin Laden—
MATTHEWS: Let‘s agree. Let‘s agree, Rick. We‘re going to ask everybody out there to do some homework on this—
MATTHEWS: -- and study what this man actually said, not what you put in your ad.
LAZIO: Please do.
LAZIO: Please do.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Rick Lazio, running for governor of New York—
LAZIO: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: -- in a tough race. Thank you for joining us.
LAZIO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: House minority leader John Boehner calls on President Obama to fire his whole economic team. Well, and then what? What do Republicans have to offer to fix our economy?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: It was just three weeks ago that President Obama gave New York congressman Charlie Rangel an advice: Retire to end your career with dignity. Well, Congressman Rangel shot back an at event last night, quote, “Frankly, he”—Obama—“has not been around long enough to determine what my dignity is. For the next two years, I will do—I will be more likely to protect his dignity.” That‘s Rangel.
Representative Rangel was issued with 13 charges of ethical violations by the House panel last month, including hoarding below-market apartments - - rent-controlled apartments—and improper fund-raising. Organizers barred any photography, by the way, or videotaping of the event we‘re quoting from.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: President Obama should ask for and accept the resignations of the remaining members of his economic team, starting with Secretary Geithner and Larry Summers, the head of the National Economic Council. We do not have the luxury of waiting months for the president to pick scapegoats for his failing stimulus policies. We tried 19 months of government as community organizer, and it hasn‘t worked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was House Republican leader John Boehner in Cleveland earlier today. Vice President Biden had a response to that man, who will be speaker of the House if the Republicans win this election. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After months of promising a look at his party‘s agenda for their plans for America, their economic agenda, he made what was billed this morning as a major economic address, and his chief proposal, when you look at it, apparently was that the president should fire his economic team. Very constructive advice, and we thank the leader for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. A little sarcasm there. Former labor secretary Robert Reich is a professor at U. Cal. Berkeley and author of the upcoming book “After-Shock.” And Republican strategist Ron Christie is a former aide in the Bush administration.
Well, Boehner stuck the in knife in today, Mr. Reich. He basically said taxes are going up under the Democrats. They‘re going to start class warfare, blah, blah, blah. What‘s your reaction?
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Fairly typical, and pretty pathetic, Chris. I mean, first of all, to say that the president ought to fire his economic advisers is sort of a version of what the Republicans have been telling American business, Fire your workers. That doesn‘t really generate jobs. It doesn‘t generate any new jobs.
In fact, there‘s nothing to Boehner‘s plan. I mean, the Republicans say they want more tax cuts, an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the top 3 percent, the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans. It‘s going to cost us $36 billion to do that next year. And at the same time, they say, Oh, no, we can‘t do things that are going to expand the budget deficit. Well, they are exposing themselves as shills—
REICH: -- for the very wealthy. And this is absurd.
MATTHEWS: But aren‘t you being conflicted, as well, by saying it matters—it doesn‘t matter if we run a little higher deficit, help stimulate the economy, but you don‘t want those tax cuts for the wealthy. Wouldn‘t they stimulate the economy as much as anything else?
REICH: No because the wealthy do—you know, they save most of their income. They don‘t spend it. I mean, what you want to have, if anything, is a tax cut for average working people. I mean, 80 percent of Americans, Chris, pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes. Why not exempt the first $28,000 of income from the payroll tax? I mean, that should be the Democrats‘ plan. That‘s a people‘s tax cut.
MATTHEWS: Ron, you probably think I was setting him up for that answer, right?
MATTHEWS: That he could say that the rich people save all their money, doesn‘t do the economy any good. You probably thought I was playing ball with him there, didn‘t you.
RON CHRISTIE, FORMER BUSH/CHENEY ADVISER: For a second.
MATTHEWS: No, actually, I was surprised how smart that was. And I did learn that in school and I should have remembered it, all right?
CHRISTIE: Well, one thing I would say—
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that true, that rich people save their money and it doesn‘t stimulate the economy, therefore, why give them a tax cut?
CHRISTIE: No! Absolutely not. If you look back at the tax cuts from the Kennedy administration in 1961 --
MATTHEWS: But they weren‘t rich people tax cuts.
CHRISTIE: Oh, actually, you took the top marginal rate down from 90 percent to 70 percent. If you look from 1961 to 1968, the government increased their—
MATTHEWS: Why do you guys keep—
CHRISTIE: -- by over $100 billion!
MATTHEWS: OK, well—
REICH: Chris, I‘m talking about facts.
MATTHEWS: OK. Oh, here‘s a fact—
CHRISTIE: I‘m a lawyer. I don‘t deal—I don‘t deal with opinion.
I deal with facts.
MATTHEWS: OK, good. OK.
CHRISTIE: The fact of the matter is, Chris, if you look at the Bush tax cuts and you look particularly after 2003, the United States government, the United States Treasury—
MATTHEWS: I‘m still stunned—
MATTHEWS: I‘m still stunned by your statement you don‘t deal in opinion.
CHRISTIE: Hey, look, I‘m giving you the facts.
CHRISTIE: Then I‘ll give you my opinion.
MATTHEWS: All right. OK, let—
CHRISTIE: Let me—let me give you this fact. The fact of the matter is, after the Bush tax cuts in 2003, from 2004 to 2007, over that four-year period of time, the federal government, the Treasury took in over $785 billion that was not anticipated. What did the Democrats do? They say, Oh, let‘s increase taxes. Let‘s increase spending. That‘s proven it doesn‘t work.
Boehner was exactly right. They need to fire the economic team in the White House. Their policies have failed. Their projections have failed. What they said the stimulus was going to do, it has failed. We need to try something else.
One of the interesting things today, Bob Reich, is that the—about to be—the purported speaker of the House, perhaps the once and future king or whatever, didn‘t say he wanted to go back to the Republican policies of the previous Republican administration under George W. Bush. He said, we‘re going to be different from them as well. Did you note that distinction? He ain‘t playing defense. And why not?
REICH: Yes. Well, it‘s very interesting, because it‘s so easy to go back to the George W. Bush administration policies to see that median wages dropped, that we got into the worst recession since the Great Depression, that actually it was an economic disaster.
So the Republicans don‘t want Democrats to be able to say, they, Republicans, want to take us back to where they were when this car went off the road. No. Republicans want to say in effect the Democrats took the car off the road.
But the Republicans to date have not come up with any positive plan.
They don‘t actually have an answer for what to do.
MATTHEWS: Well, here they are. Here‘s Boehner with more on the tax cuts. Here he is with his plan, such as it is. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: President Obama stated he wants to stop some tax hikes, and not others, once again, putting government in the position of picking winners and losers and pitting taxpayer against taxpayer.
According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Joint Congressional—or
Joint Tax Committee—that‘s the official scorekeeper for all tax policy
in our country—half of small business income in America—that‘s half -
would face higher taxes under the president‘s plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, obviously this guy is no threat to anybody‘s charisma standards.
But, here, let me just jump on this before I go back to Vice President Biden. And, Bob, you can check in here, Mr. Secretary.
It seems to me, Ron, that that‘s a stupid argument. Obviously we have had a progressive income tax back since we started with the constitutional amendment with permitted direct taxation. He‘s saying this pits taxpayer against taxpayer.
Well, what does that mean? Obviously richer people pay a higher percentage. That‘s always been the case at the margin. That‘s the norm in the way we do it. We don‘t tax everybody the same percentage. Why is he saying that‘s pitting taxpayers against taxpayers?
CHRISTIE: Because of course it is.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not true.
CHRISTIE: Of course it is. It‘s class welfare.
MATTHEWS: Well, then the progressive income tax is class warfare.
CHRISTIE: No. I am one of those small business owners that if the president allows President Bush‘s tax cuts to expire, I will pay a lot more income than I currently do.
We‘re already talking about nearly 50 percent as it is. And I‘m tired of this. The Democrats say, oh, the Republicans drove us in the ditch. Well, if the Republicans drove us in a ditch, Chris, the Democrats are going to take us into a black hole.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
CHRISTIE: Well, no, no, this is a very important point. If you look in the last 31 months, Chris, the last 31 months, the Democrats have increased spending by $4.4 trillion. You look at the amount of money that President Bush spent, it was $3.3 trillion. So, in 31 months, based on their spending and their priorities, they have added $4.4 trillion.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here‘s what I don‘t understand.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Secretary, one question. How come the Democrats keep letting the Republicans make charges like that when it was the Republican Party, when they had control of the House and the presidency and the Congress and they doubled the national debt, and they did TARP, and somehow they keep blaming the Republicans—or the Democrats for bailing out big industry, when they are the ones who did it?
MATTHEWS: I don‘t get it.
REICH: Chris, not only were the Republicans the one that did all that, but I think the Democrats ought to have the courage of their convictions and say and alert the public of the fact that the top 1 percent, the top 3 percent of Americans have never in the past 82 years have as much of the national income as they have right now.
And so that simply putting them back to the Bill Clinton tax rates,
which, by the way, not at all very high. In fact, the Clinton years were a
very, very good economy. Simply having the top 3 percent pay what they
paid on the Clinton years is not a big hardship. It‘s very, very
appropriate given particularly that we have in the out years a budget
deficit, that the very rich don‘t really spend much of their income, and
also that the rich are collecting—the top 1 percent collecting about 20
almost 25 percent of total national income right now.
CHRISTIE: Fascinating, Mr. Secretary. Interesting. The top wealth earners in this country, the top 5 percent, pay nearly 95 percent of the taxes. So, you‘re saying, oh, you know, that‘s not really enough. They need to pay more, when 50 percent of Americans don‘t pay federal income taxes.
CHRISTIE: I didn‘t interrupt you.
My second point is, if the Bush tax cuts are so terrible, why is it, if you look at the returns of President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Senator John F. Kerry, they‘re all paying under the Bush tax rates? If these are so terrible and you guys think we would return to the Clinton tax rates, then why don‘t these people pay it?
The fact of the matter is the Democrats are going to drive us further over the hill by this increase in spending.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t they pay what?
CHRISTIE: No. If they think that the Bush tax rates at 35 percent for the upper earners are so bad, why aren‘t they paying 39.6 under the Clinton—
MATTHEWS: You mean just offer to pay more on their own?
CHRISTIE: Well, no, if the Bush tax cuts are so terrible, Chris—
MATTHEWS: No, because you pay the taxes that you‘re taxed. You don‘t offer extra money to the federal government.
CHRISTIE: No, Chris, what I‘m saying to you is, if this is such a bad economic policy and these are bad policies, the Democrats should pay under Clinton, like the secretary suggests that we should go back to.
MATTHEWS: When did we have a healthier economy, under Clinton or under Bush?
CHRISTIE: Well, we had a healthy economy in the Clinton administration. But then again, the dot-com bubble burst right at the end of the Clinton administration, and we inherited that in the Bush.
CHRISTIE: -- the Bush people, we never shined about what we inherited.
REICH: If I could get into this conversation a little bit.
MATTHEWS: Go for it.
CHRISTIE: Go for it.
MATTHEWS: You‘re in it.
REICH: There‘s so much hypocrisy coming from the Republicans about the fact that they are really shills for the rich.
They say every time you say that, that‘s class warfare. They have been mounting class warfare for years against the rest of us, against the middle class, against the poor. And it‘s time for Democrats to stand up to them and say, look it, these guys want to expand and continue the Bush tax cut for the top 3 percent. That was not part of the Bush plan originally. That‘s why the Bush plan got through and did not—well, it already bust the budget. But it‘s going to bust the budget even further if you do that.
And why in the world would we want to do that? They are just doing it to protect their friends. Why don‘t Democrats stand up and say that?
MATTHEWS: You just did.
Thank you, Robert Reich, former secretary of labor, down at Cal Berkeley, and Ron Christie, Democrat—oh, Republican strategist.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Rod Blagojevich already knows what he will say at the next trial. He‘s got his answers. That‘s in the “Sideshow,” where he always seems to find himself.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First up: a novel defense. A year ago, Rod Blagojevich went on “The Daily Show” and declared that once the full version of his tapes were made public, like the one where he called Obama‘s old Senate seat golden, that it would be immediately clear that he did nothing wrong.
Well, watch Jon Stewart last night follow up on that claim. Note here, it wasn‘t pretty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”: You said to me so adamantly, the next—if you could only hear the tape, the next thing you would I‘m saying, but orphans just need food.
ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: No.
STEWART: And, yet, the reality of what you said is very different.
BLAGOJEVICH: No, it is not. On that very tape—on that very tape -
and they accused me of this—
STEWART: Be you don‘t say later in the tape. You say right after that.
BLAGOJEVICH: Shortly after the fuller discussion.
BLAGOJEVICH: Hold on a minute. You haven‘t heard the tapes. I mentioned how—
STEWART: Is this why you didn‘t take the stand?
BLAGOJEVICH: No, Jon.
STEWART: I would like to see you as a Dickens character. I would like to see you as a victim. But you make it so hard—
STEWART: -- to take your side completely by not doing that.
BLAGOJEVICH: Yes, I understand.
Well, we will have a chance again in the next trial. Well, I mean, what do you want me to say?
STEWART: So, you‘re saying to me, don‘t worry, they will try me again, and this time I‘m really going to get up there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yes. And Stewart promised to B-Rod that if he gets off in the retrial, the second trial, there‘s going to be a big Jon Stewart hug waiting for him.
Hey, he was nicer to B-Rod than he was to me.
Anyway, by the way, Stewart‘s colleague Stephen Colbert skewered Senator Mitch McConnell last night for his shifty answer on the issue of the president‘s religion.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE COLBERT REPORT”)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”: One in five Americans believe Obama is a Muslim. Interesting side note, one in five Americans also believe that polls are Muslim.
COLBERT: They do use Arabic numerals.
COLBERT: Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on yesterday‘s “Meet the Press,” he put this debate to rest.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The president says he‘s a Christian. I take him at his word.
COLBERT: OK. Just like when Mitch McConnell says he‘s not a human-turtle hybrid, I take him at his word.
COLBERT: And it‘s not easy. I have a strong desire to feed this man lettuce and raw hamburger.
COLBERT: But I take him at his word.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s cruel enough. It‘s good to know people that can see when a pol like McConnell is sticking in the knife like he did over the weekend.
Finally, an all-too-familiar refrain: Michael Steele at odds with his party. Listen to how the Republican National Committee chairman characterizes Arizona‘s tough new immigration law in an interview with the Spanish-language Univision station—quote—“The actions of one state‘s governor is not a reflection of an entire country, nor is it a reflection of the entire political party.”
Michael Steele may get his words mixed up. So does a solid good guy like Vice President Biden. But it‘s fair to say I think, especially in this case, here he has really got a problem with that immigration law out in Arizona. I think his heart is in the right place on this baby.
Anyway, up next, it‘s primary day in five states. What will the vote tell us about November? That‘s today‘s the primary out in places like Arizona and down in Florida. What‘s at stake for both parties tonight when we get the returns?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JANE WELLS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Jane Wells with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks extending their losing streak to four in a row. The Dow Jones diving 133 points. The S&P 500 tumbling 15 and the Nasdaq plunging 35.
A huge drop in home sales rattling investors big time today. Existing home sales plunged more than 27 percent in July to their lowest level in 15 years. One economist says the housing sector is already in the grips of a double-dip recession. Another says it‘s time to accept that America is actually experiencing a mild depression.
And while you may be mildly depressed, some investors are seeing this as an opportunity to get into the sector. Homebuilders Lennar and KB Home finished higher. D.R. Horton basically finishing flat after being up more than 2 percent earlier in the session.
A couple of earnings report to wrap things up. Burger King did not deliver a whopper, instead reporting weaker-than-expected revenue and a modest outlook. And discount retailer Big Lots, shares slip despite lots of big earnings and a solid forecast.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
It‘s another big primary day, believe it or not, across the country. Voters in Florida, Vermont, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Alaska are picking their nominees for November. The big fights, of course, as you have heard on this program, are in Florida and perhaps out in Arizona.
We‘re joined right now by NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd, along with “The Washington Post”‘s Chris Cillizza, who is the managing editor of PostPolitics.com.
Chris, you and I have been chatting earlier today to get our act together. Let‘s hear from Chuck to start with.
MATTHEWS: Florida, it seems to me the battle is on the Democratic side tonight. It is between Meek and Greene—Greene, the big self-financer—
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is.
MATTHEWS: -- and Kendrick Meek, the African-American congressman. That race, why is that important to the future of the United States Senate, the Senate race?
TODD: Well, here‘s why it‘s important. Because if Greene is the nominee, somehow, the Democratic establishment in Florida and more importantly nationally will rally around Crist, openly. It will be OK.
There will be a permission slip.
MATTHEWS: Because he‘s seen as a bit of a gadfly.
TODD: A little bit of a gadfly. He doesn‘t really have any support.
MATTHEWS: He‘s the guy that can‘t remember—when I asked him and Norah O‘Donnell asked him whether he voted for Reagan or not, he says, I can‘t—he remembers. He voted the wrong way.
TODD: He‘s a hobbyist.
TODD: This is a guy—there‘s a couple of guys like that this year where basically they say said, hey, I‘m just curious about how politics work.
MATTHEWS: Making your point here. And then get in here, Chris.
Here‘s the Quinnipiac, which is a great poll. Latest poll shows Charlie Crist, the independent, the incumbent governor, who is elected as a Republican running as an independent, 39, 32, 16. See how it works out? Now, if you put Greene in the race, if he wins tonight, it‘s not much different. There isn‘t a big move here. It still remains 40, 32, 15.
Chris Cillizza, on paper, it doesn‘t seem to matter who the Democratic nominee is. What does matter?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I—you know, I think Chuck is right, Chris. I—you‘re right in the poll. But I think Chuck is broadly right, which is, they‘re not doing it yet in terms of Democrats.
But I do think, if you saw Jeff Greene as the nominee, it would be OK. You know what I mean? I have talked to lots of Florida Democrats who say, hey, to be honest, like, I voted Democratic as long as I can remember, but I can‘t imagine voting for this guy.
So, it‘s kind of a way that they would be able—
MATTHEWS: This guy Greene?
CILLIZZA: This guy Greene.
They would be able to explain and rationalize to themselves, well, I‘m still a Democrat. You know, I‘m a loyal Democrat, but this guy is not credible. You can‘t make that argument. You can disagree with whether Kendrick Meek can win or not, but you can‘t make the argument that he‘s not a credible, real Democrat.
TODD: That‘s the issue.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here could be a problem for the Democrats. Kendrick Meek wins tonight.
MATTHEWS: Probably going to be. He calls up the president of the United States, a fellow African-American, and says, I‘m the only guy that‘s going be in a United States senator from our community, the only African-American who will be a United States—are you not going to come down and campaign for me?
MATTHEWS: Are you not going to send everybody in the administration down to help me? Are you not going to send the money?
And what happens if he does that and stop this secret support for Crist?
TODD: Well, look, I don‘t know if Kendrick Meek will do it, if he does do that. And I think you will see some—
MATTHEWS: Rubio wins the election.
TODD: But it‘s going to be difficult. Because the more—that‘s right—the more that Kendrick Meek—the stronger he gets, the harder, frankly, it is to stop—
MATTHEWS: Because Rubio can‘t get over high 30s.
TODD: Well, but if Marco Rubio gets 85 percent of the Republican vote, he‘ll get 38 percent total. I think that‘s his floor, it‘s 38. If there‘s that, and so, you have a Democratic vote there and then—
MATTHEWS: OK. We agree. Let‘s go to Arizona. We‘re agreeing this is a tough one. And the weird thing is sort of bank shot.
I want to start with you on this, Chris Cillizza from “The Washington Post.” Arizona, John McCain has done what it takes. He is going out there. He stooped to conquer, if you will. He‘s moved farther to the right than he is. He is a deal maker, a classic United States senator in the tradition of Barry Goldwater. He‘s an institutionalist, but he has betrayed basically his beliefs and he‘s going out there and pretending he‘s a Tea Partier.
Will it work for him tonight? Will the portrayal work?
CILLIZZA: Yes, it will absolutely work. I think the only debate is how big he beats former Congressman J.D. Hayworth, not if he beats Congressman J.D. Hayworth.
You know, Chris, there are two ways to look at (ph) this. There‘s one people who are kind of dismissive of McCain because he‘s clearly -- and there‘s no debate—he‘s moved to his ideological right on almost every issue, immigration being the most obvious one. But he‘s moved to his right in fear of losing to J.D. Hayworth. The McCain people—and I think the most hard-beaten campaign strategist would say, yes, but elections are about winning and losing. Now, that puts aside the question of John McCain wins tonight—very likely he‘s going to win a fifth term in the fall.
What does what‘s happened in the last three months mean for John McCain bridge-maker, deal-maker—
MATTHEWS: I was John McCain before I wasn‘t John McCain?
CILLIZZA: I mean, I think he‘ll make the case. Hey, look, this is politics. I did what I needed to do. But you guys know me.
I think John McCain is fundamentally not particularly ideological, frankly—particularly when it comes to domestic issues. I think he feels strongly to foreign policy. I don‘t think he‘s that waded to positions when it comes to domestic issues.
MATTHEWS: All right.
CILLIZZA: So, I think he‘s going to make the case, look, I‘m the guy who can build the bridges. But remember, the confrontations with President Obama, both during the campaign and during the early days of the Obama presidency, I don‘t think Democrats are going to forget or forgive.
MATTHEWS: In a world of equality, he can attack the president because the press was in love with him when he ran as a maverick. I‘m sorry John McCain. I like John McCain. The press likes mavericks, OK? We like mavericks.
TODD: Well, like anybody that will buck their party—
MATTHEWS: Yes, we like the very notion of a maverick.
TODD: But, let me tell you this, there‘s one thing that both Obama and Bush have in common. And that is they both beat John McCain. And I think John McCain took both beatings personally. And that seemed to almost have more of an influence sometimes on what he did in the United States Senate.
TODD: But the question is everybody is like, well, is he going to be the John McCain the deal-maker? No. But I think that Lindsey Graham is going to be his proxy. It‘s going to be fascinating to watch Lindsey Graham who‘s actually—
MATTHEWS: Lindsey Graham has been true.
TODD: -- not been—not been, but he has been loyal to John McCain. And I think he‘s pulled back from deals in the White House out of respect for the McCain during this primary process.
TODD: Now that it‘s over, I think Lindsey Graham and the White House
finding a way to cut deals, maybe on Gitmo, maybe on energy, will suddenly
MATTHEWS: If the United States Senate doesn‘t have people like John McCain, it shouldn‘t bother to meet. They should mail it in. Because if you‘re not going to make deals, there‘s no sense coming to Washington. Just mail in your ideological position and stay home if you‘re not going to meet each other.
Let‘s try one more question. I want you to do this, Chris. Alaska—everybody is watching Sarah Palin.
MATTHEWS: She has the highest approval rating, ¾ -- 76 percent of the Republican Party likes her. Here‘s the question: she got a role here in this race, she‘s trying to knock off the incumbent Republican up there with this guy, Miller—Joe Miller. Why does she do this? And isn‘t this just going to be an “L” in her column tonight?
CILLIZZA: Yes. I think it is going to be an “L” on her column. I mean, look, primaries (INAUDIBLE) we have talked about—primaries are tough because—especially in smaller population states, because not that many people vote. Florida, maybe a little easier. A lot of people vote. Alaska, not than many people vote. We don‘t know who comes.
But, yes, Lisa Murkowski is clearly the favorite to get reelected.
Why does she do it? Palin that is. I don‘t know the answer to that.
I think we‘re all—and I put myself in this category, trying to figure out the grand strategy behind all of her endorsements. I wonder if there isn‘t a grand strategy that she and the Murkowskis have never got along all that well. She beat Frank Murkowski, the senator‘s father in a primary in 2006. She just wanted to be with the other guy. And so, she was, regardless of whether he had a chance to win or not.
Again, I think we grade her in the same we grade Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels—all these people who are talking about running for president. I don‘t know if that‘s appropriate. I don‘t know that she—
MATTHEWS: Do you think she‘s secretly Irish?
TODD: It‘s personal.
TODD: And you know what—how many times have we seen that influence, a political decision like this? This is not a grand strategy in Alaska.
MATTHEWS: Sometimes it‘s nice to know—sometimes it‘s nice to know people have personal picks.
TODD: It shows you their human sometimes.
MATTHEWS: They‘re human anyway.
TODD: How about Todd Palin versus Lisa Murkowski? Now, that could—how about—
CILLIZZA: Oh, you heard it here first.
MATTHEWS: Levi is running for mayor of Wasilla. It gets some interest up here.
Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd. Thank you, Chris Cillizza.
Up next: the controversial Tea Party rally coming here to Washington on the same day of anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King. Isn‘t it an accident—did Glenn Beck not know that King gave that speech at the Lincoln Memorial in August? Didn‘t he remember that from growing up?
He says he doesn‘t remember that. And the street party, by the way, it comes with its own strange guide to Washington, basically is saying, stay away from black people while you‘re here, honoring the Martin Luther King Day. I don‘t get it. Maybe it‘s funny. Maybe it‘s awful.
HARDBALL back in a minute.
MATTHEWS: Well, former Agriculture employee, Shirley Sherrod, has rejected an offer from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to come back to the department. At a joint news conference today, Sherrod said she may consider work as a consultant with the agency on civil rights issues. Meanwhile, Secretary Vilsack repeated his apology and took full blame personally during the televised news conference, a real gentleman there.
Sherrod was forced to quit after conservative blogger published edited portions of a speech in which she appeared to make remarks that could have been interpreted as racist. She‘s now planning to file a lawsuit against that blogger. That should be hot.
HARDBALL will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Ahead of Glenn Beck‘s rally this Saturday on the Lincoln Memorial, Tea Party activist Bruce Majors posted online a primer on how out-of-towners should navigate D.C. during that event. The guide was then circulated through a main Tea Party site.
In this section of this blog, or whatever, entitled “Safety and Mores,” Major‘s first sentence reads, quote, “D.C.‘s population includes refugees from every country. Most taxi driver and many waiters, waitresses especially in local coffee shops, like the Bread and Chocolate chain, are immigrants. Frequently from east Africa or Arab countries. As a rule, African immigrants do not like for you to assume they are African-Americans, and especially do not like for you to guess they are from a neighboring country, for example, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia.”
Joining me to discuss the Tea Party guide to the capital, fellow D.C. resident, Clarence Page.
You know, this is—I don‘t know, I‘m going to laugh, because it‘s absurdity.
CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: This is absurd.
MATTHEWS: But this is telling white folk how to get through an ethnically diverse town with a lot of African-Americans, which has been African-American in its majority I think since the Civil War. You know, I‘ve lived there since I got out of the Peace Corps. These people need a special guide. It‘s a regular big city, folks.
PAGE: I thought this was a satire, at first, though.
PAGE: It looks like a liberal satire or stereotyped view of what Tea Party people think.
PAGE: But it‘s—it‘s essentially a guide for—this is the sort of thing you hear from every small town person who is afraid of big cities.
PAGE: Coming from a small town, I can say this. I grew up in John Boehner‘s district, as you know.
PAGE: Middletown, Ohio. And I want to tell you, we‘re not all hicks out there, Chris, but—
MATTHEWS: Use your common sense when you come to a big city. But here he is, here‘s Majors, also outlined—he outlined that areas of this city we‘re in right now to avoid certain metro rail lines that means subway lines and neighborhoods far from the Capitol and the National Mall. D.C. blog took Major‘s restrictions and blog.
Look how they showed it. They took it. Look at the map. They Googled the map and shown it.
See the little blue area? That‘s the only place in Washington, according to this blogger, it‘s safe to go in Washington. I got to tell you. It‘s an awful boring trip if you only do the—that‘s basically the Washington Mall from what I can tell.
PAGE: There‘s also your neighborhood, in the pink zone, I believe.
MATTHEWS: No. I‘m up in the far northwest up there. But anyway.
PAGE: Look how absurd this, though. I mean, the normal street life in D.C. is, you know, stay to the west of the park—
PAGE: -- or Rock Creek Park. Now, east of the park has gotten largely gentrified. This city defies ‘60s stereotypes from the old Clint Eastwood movies. But this is still Dirty Harry city.
MATTHEWS: You and I know that the zestiest part of the town are the areas that are most mixed --
PAGE: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: -- edgy, the most fun for young people. All the young people now live on 14th Street.
PAGE: And he does give props to Silver Springs and some other nice suburbs and some neighborhoods (INAUDIBLE) Capitol Hill.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s talk Glenn Beck. I don‘t want to talk too much about it. It gets a big audience on another network, fine. That‘s television broadcast, it‘s cable broadcasting, fine.
But here he is coming to Washington, he said it‘s an accident that he‘s designated—he‘s scheduled to give a big speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August. Now, he—he didn‘t know it was the exact same date that Martin Luther King spoke here in ‘63, but he darn well—he darn well knew what every kid growing up in school knows, that Martin Luther King gave the speech in the history of the Lincoln Memorial, this speech, the only one I can think of and it was in August of ‘63.
MATTHEWS: Everybody knows that. So, how could he know he was not touching on a touchy issue here, coming in as a far right winger, addressing white folks who need to be advised on how to avoid black folks basically on Martin Luther King Day?
PAGE: Well, what confuses me, Chris, is even if that were true, and I doubt that it is, why he‘d be running away from it. You know, why not just stick to his other line which is that he‘s continuing Dr. King‘s revolution. That‘s no less absurd than to say that he didn‘t know that that was King‘s, what, a great day of the Dream speech—
PAGE: -- “I Have a Dream” speech. Because really, what‘s interesting here is that the same people who say that—say that we should move the mosque or that the so-called Ground Zero mosque should not be so close to Ground Zero are the people that say, well, why are you offended that Glenn Beck would have a rally at a Lincoln Memorial on the day of King‘s famous speech?
MATTHEWS: Because he‘s doing it on purpose.
PAGE: Yes, well, you know—
MATTHEWS: By the way—
PAGE: That‘s what Newt Gingrich says about the mosque. They‘re doing it on purpose. They want to be provocative.
MATTHEWS: Two greatest speeches in the history of America, with the “I Have a Dream” speech in ‘63, and the other one is Lincoln‘s second inaugural, right?
PAGE: You got it. You got it.
MATTHEWS: We agree on that one. Thank you, Clarence Page.
When we return—I don‘t think the third one is going to be Glenn Beck‘s—when we return, I‘m going to have some thoughts about Congressman Boehner‘s pledge to change things in Washington. Wait until you hear how he says, “I‘m going to do things different than past Republicans.” He‘s not even defending their record.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a real stunner.
Today in Cleveland, the Republican leader in Congress said that his party shouldn‘t be judged on its record. Congressman John Boehner pledged that he would run the House differently than it had been run the last time a Republican was speaker.
He said, quote, “And I don‘t just mean differently than the way Democrats are running it now. I mean differently than it‘s been run in the past under Democrats or Republicans.” Or Republicans.
Here he is, the Republican candidate for speaker coming out and saying that it isn‘t—he isn‘t going to try to defend the performance of his party the last time it controlled Congress. He was referring, of course, to when Republicans were running the show, when they had President Bush in the presidency and one of their guys in the speaker‘s chair. It was spending bill after spending bill, one after the other, dutifully passed by the Republican Congress, signed by the Republican president.
You saw the national debt double. You saw the happy two-step of tax cuts and spending hikes. The idiots delight of fiscal irresponsibility.
It‘s been a while, certainly back to the Bill Clinton administration, since the Republican Party hued to fiscal conservatism. For a Republican president who was fiscally conservative, you‘ve got to go way back before Reagan who joked, by the way, that the deficit is big enough to take care of itself. You‘d have to go decades before a Republican Vice President Dick Cheney snarled that the deficits don‘t matter.
The problem is that the deficits of the past decade and the bailouts began under George W. Bush. We need to know that. Under Republican president, they said yes to everything, with as much relish as under a new Democratic president they are saying yes to nothing.
No wonder John Boehner promised his party would change. Wow.
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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