Guests: Phil Mudd, Mark Potok, Tony Perkins, Claire McCaskill, Mark Mazzetti, Debbie Stabenow
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Running for cover.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Welcome to the real world. Disney World has two realities, the part above ground, where we take rides and eat fun food, and the part below ground, where the people who run the place move around, organize, do their quiet work. Well, today, the world learned that we the people are living on the playland part of the planet, not the reality. The reality is in the corridors of power that run below ground. The reality goes on down there, the work indoors, the secret Arab push, for example, for us to hit Iran. What do we really think of leaders like Robert Mugabe? All kinds of stuff going along below the surface.
But now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has to explain the hardball tactics we rarely get to see. We‘re talking, of course, about the planetary damage control from WikiLeaks. We‘ll talk to one of the “New York Times” reporters who broke the story and to Senator Claire McCaskill.
Also, if you want to know where the fight is in Washington, here you go. The Republicans are fighting to keep tax cuts for the wealthy while saying no to extending unemployment benefits for the unemployed. It‘s actually the same amount of money, roughly, but who gets it is the question. If the Democrats can‘t make a winning issue out of this baby, they shouldn‘t be in the game.
Plus, the conservative Family Research Council said it was a victim of a smear campaign after the Southern Poverty Law Center listed it as a hate group for its anti-gay views. One big reason, something one of the FRC people said right here on HARDBALL. Well, fasten your seat belts because the head of both groups will be here tonight to debate the issue.
And let‘s give credit to the FBI. Those agents broke up what could have been a horrendous terror attack out in Oregon. We‘ll talk to a former FBI agent.
Finally, what would Teddy Roosevelt have to say if that fellow up on Mt. Rushmore could talk? Well, what would he say about us, or what would anybody say about us? Well, a top Teddy Roosevelt historian says foreigners (ph), what they think of us is that we‘re insular, insensitive, lazy, obese and complacent—all that. Check out the “Sideshow.”
We start with WikiLeaks. Senator Claire McCaskill is a Democrat of Missouri. She sits on both the Armed Services and the Homeland Security Committees. And Mark Mazzetti covered the story for “The New York Times.”
Senator McCaskill, let‘s go to the news flash in here. I am—I‘m not going to say I‘m stunned to know that gambling goes on, like the guy in “Casablanca,” but I am amazed to see all this information come forth about all these Arab leaders now and what they were saying about Iran. They want us to attack Iran‘s missile sites.
Quote—this is from the head of—from Saudi Arabia. He told us to cut the head off of the snake, words like this the cables expose various (ph) Arab leaders—Arab leaders pushing the U.S. to take out Iran‘s nuclear program. As I said, Saudi Arabia ambassador the United States Adel al Jubeir said that King Abdullah, quote, “told you to cut off the head of the snake.”
King Hamad of Bahrain said, quote, “That program”—that missile program—“must be stopped. The danger of it—letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”
And Abu Dhabi‘s crown prince said, quote, “Amadeenjad (SIC) is Hitler”
Ahmadinejad, obviously. And Lebanon prime minister Hariri said back in 2006, when he was parliamentary majority leader, quote, “Iraq was unnecessary,” but “Iran is necessary.” The United States “must be willing to go all the way, if need be.”
Are you stunned at that candor from these Arab Islamic leaders that we should blow away, basically, Iran?
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Well, I think what I‘m stunned about is that someone that had access to this information decided it was a great idea to make it public. That, to me, is terribly damaging to our national security. It‘s damaging to our alliances around the world. People need to feel like that they have the ability to speak freely in certain places about their fears and frustrations about leaders around the globe, and I don‘t know how we get our allies to trust us if we can‘t protect the information that they give us.
And it is extremely unfortunate, and I really do think it‘s time that we take a look and make sure that our laws are strong enough in terms of going after people who leak this kind of classified information that can kill Americans if it‘s used improperly.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at what the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said about those very cables describing Arab leaders‘ fears of a nuclear Iran. Let‘s listen because this is a somewhat different take, Senator. She seems to see the positive in this, at least in this portion of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Any of the comments that are being reported on, allegedly from the cables, confirm the fact that Iran poses a very serious threat in the eyes of many of her neighbors.
If anyone reading the stories about these alleged cables thinks carefully, what they will conclude is that the concern about Iran is well founded, widely shared and will continue to be at the source of the policy that we pursue with like-minded nations to try to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, she‘s giving a couple of points there. One, the secretary of state says that it‘s good that we know, the whole world knows, that it‘s not just us and Israel that‘s worried about Iran, or Europe even, but the Arab world, the Islamic world is worried about them. She seems to think that even though she can‘t acknowledge the actual facts in these—these cables, and the wording, that the message is a good one for us. Is it?
MCCASKILL: Well, I think that if there is any silver lining in this very dark cloud that all of this leaked information represents, it is that it confirms that the leadership in Iran is distrusted by everyone in the world...
MCCASKILL: ... and that they are isolated in terms of their power. And it also, frankly, Chris, tells us that our alliance with Russia as it relates to Iran is incredibly important.
MCCASKILL: That‘s why I find it incredible that the Republicans are willing to put national security on the line in order to try to damage the president of the United States by trying to block the ratification of the START treaty.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you on that one.
Let‘s go to Mark Mazzetti of “The New York Times.” Let‘s talk about
the impact of this, not whether the group, WikiLeaks, should have—leaks
should have published it, or whatever—I know you don‘t want to get into that—but the political realities of this. I am—I‘m not shocked by this stuff, that Mugabe will do anything to hold onto power, you know, in Zimbabwe—hot flash.
MATTHEWS: We all know that. He‘s 100 years old. He ain‘t going to give it up to anybody or any election. Is it a hot flash that the Arab leaders, especially conservative leaders of Saudi Arabia, are scared to dickens of—to use a Christmastime reference—of Iran having a nuclear weapon and warning that if get the nuclear weapon, other Arab states will have to get weapons of the same kind. These are not flashes of news, are they? The only thing I think hurts—your reaction to this—is the Yemen president, where the Yemeni president, basically, is admitting that he‘s covering for us in attacking the terrorist sites in his country.
MARK MAZZETTI, “NEW YORK TIMES”: And—but of course, that was—that‘s been reported for months, that the U.S. is behind this campaign of missile strikes in Yemen.
MATTHEWS: So what‘s the news here?
MATTHEWS: What‘s the horror story?
MAZZETTI: Well, I mean, the news is you‘re getting this window into American diplomacy. You‘re getting a—a number of—you‘re seeing the behind-the-scenes efforts by the Obama administration and the Bush administration to deal with these very sensitive issues, like Iran‘s nuclear program...
MAZZETTI: ... like the terrorist threat in Yemen, like Pakistani nuclear material, like the effort to get rid of—or to or empty out Guantanamo Bay and the sort of horse trading that goes on...
MAZZETTI: ... with all these countries who don‘t want to take...
MATTHEWS: Well, were you, as a journalist who covers these stories, surprised by anything in these cables?
MAZZETTI: Oh, I think there‘s a lot that‘s surprising in terms of...
MAZZETTI: ... in terms of the details of...
MATTHEWS: Tell the viewers right now.
MATTHEWS: What shocked you?
MAZZETTI: There‘s a story that I did in today‘s paper about how diplomats are increasingly asked to get personal information of foreign—of foreign officials‘ credit card information...
MATTHEWS: OK, so Secretary of State—let me go—let me go back to Senator McCaskill on this. Everyone respects the work that Hillary Clinton‘s doing in the United States secretary of state position, but is she right or wrong to be seeking inside information about diplomats assigned to the U.N., credit card information, travel information, that sort of thing. Is that wrong or right?
MCCASKILL: Well, I mean, Chris, I think you‘d have to be naive not to understand that there‘s a lot of intelligence work that is done within the diplomatic corps. And this is true with every country—it‘s true with our allies, it‘s true with our enemies—that the diplomatic corps is part of intelligence gathering in our work in terms of keeping Americans safe.
So I think what‘s troubling about this is that it‘s important for that work to be done well, that it not be something that is paraded on the front pages of newspapers.
MATTHEWS: But how do you stop it?
MCCASKILL: Well, what you do is...
MATTHEWS: It‘s done.
MCCASKILL: Right, it...
MATTHEWS: The milk is—cow‘s out of the barn. The milk is spilled, whatever metaphor you use. The world now knows the United States, the secretary of state, the previous secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, both ordered their troops to spy on diplomats at the U.N.
MCCASKILL: Well, I...
MATTHEWS: We all know that now.
MCCASKILL: Well, and I think that most people in America and most people, frankly, around the world know that diplomatic corps have been engaged. If you look at history, diplomats for...
MCCASKILL: ... through all the conflicts in this world have been involved in intelligence gathering. So I don‘t know that that‘s shocking. What‘s shocking is somebody thinks this is a good idea that has access...
MATTHEWS: To leak it.
MCCASKILL: ... an American...
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘re our enemies.
MCCASKILL: ... somewhere leaked this.
MATTHEWS: But they don‘t think it‘s a good idea, though, Senator.
They don‘t like us. This guy in Australia says Assange doesn‘t like us. Obviously, WikiLeaks doesn‘t like us. They‘re doing this to hurt us, aren‘t they?
MCCASKILL: Well, the ability...
MATTHEWS: Or hurt our policies.
MCCASKILL: The ability to get this information—some of this information that‘s been leaked came from Americans that leaked it. So I guess...
MATTHEWS: Yes, but what are we going to do with this guy?
MCCASKILL: Well, I...
MATTHEWS: What do you think we should do to him, fry him?
MCCASKILL: I think—think we should figure out a way to bring the force of law to anyone who takes...
MATTHEWS: Well, he is already arrest, isn‘t he?
MCCASKILL: ... this information...
MATTHEWS: Aren‘t we beating...
MCCASKILL: If you teal something...
MATTHEWS: ... a dead horse? This guy‘s got—he‘s facing 20 or 30 years at least, isn‘t he?
MCCASKILL: I don‘t think we can give up on that. If somebody steals something, we go after them with the force of law and we don‘t give up just because they‘ve already been caught stealing.
MCCASKILL: We continue to go after them because they stole something else. We‘ve got to—this is—this is property that has been stolen, and we should treat it that way...
MCCASKILL: ... and make sure that we try to have some deterrence so this doesn‘t continue happening.
MATTHEWS: OK, Manning, the guy—the enlisted guy who did the leaking, the hacking, he‘s facing heavy time here, isn‘t he?
MAZZETTI: That‘s right. He‘s in a—he‘s in a...
MATTHEWS: Now, the other guy‘s...
MAZZETTI: ... military prison.
MATTHEWS: ... the one, Assange, the Australian guy who published this stuff on line—he‘s probably—is he going to skate or what? What‘s it look like?
MAZZETTI: It‘s actually unclear what his legal status is. He‘s around Europe. He‘s in and out of countries in Europe...
MATTHEWS: Does he have a country of residence where we can actually nab him?
MAZZETTI: He does spend a lot of time in London.
MATTHEWS: London. The Swedes are after him, right?
MAZZETTI: Yes, and as we‘ve reported...
MATTHEWS: How did they get in the act?
MAZZETTI: They‘re pursuing him on some sexual assault charges.
MAZZETTI: So it‘s questionable about...
MATTHEWS: Sexual assault? I think it‘s rape.
MATTHEWS: This guy is a rapist, apparently, too, according to...
MAZZETTI: It‘s unclear what exactly‘s going to—is going to happen to him...
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know he—well, he‘s been accused of rape.
MAZZETTI: Can I make one previous point that the senator made on intelligence gathering? I mean, there‘s no question that the diplomatic corps over—over decades has helped the intelligence community build profiles of foreign leaders. We contacted several ambassadors, recently retired ambassadors, who retired before these new directives went out, and they were shocked, actually, that the diplomats were actually now being tasked to do this type of information—credit card—how do you steal credit card information or frequent flier numbers?
MAZZETTI: They thought that was actually crossing a line into spying which, in their mind, actually put diplomats in danger overseas because they‘re then suspected of no longer being just diplomats.
MATTHEWS: What can we do, Senator McCaskill—this guy, Assange—as was pointed out a moment ago, he faces charges, apparently, from the Swedish government for sexual assault or rape, we‘re not sure yet. But if these charges are pending, is that all we‘re going to nab him on, sort of hit him on something else than this particular incident, what he did here? Is this how we‘re going to have to live with this, that there‘s no outstanding crime that he‘s guilty of in this regard of publishing this material on line?
MCCASKILL: Well, I think we need to get information from him and use the criminal charges against him to leverage and get information. We need to pull this thread and find out how he got this information. Where did it come from? There, in all likelihood, is someone else involved here, and in all likelihood, it‘s someone that has much closer ties to the United States of America than this person does. So I think it‘s important that we look at all of our laws, see if they need to be updated. We‘re in a new generation now, a new era of technology. We‘ve got to make sure that our laws are modernized to reflect...
MATTHEWS: Does this crime exist?
MCCASKILL: ... that new technology.
MATTHEWS: Senator, you‘re a lawmaker. Does there exist in the present world environment—is there such a thing as a crime to publish this information that this guy got from a hacker? Once he got the information on the international information market and published all this information on line—you say squeeze him on the charge of rape, or whatever else the Swedes have him on. But is there a real crime here that we know of that exists in publishing this information?
MCCASKILL: Well, there certainly is—there certainly is with the hacker. And the question is, what jurisdiction do we have over the Internet. If this information is being published on the Internet in other countries, what jurisdiction do we have? And I don‘t think our laws have caught up to that technology in that regard...
MATTHEWS: That‘s for sure.
MCCASKILL: ... but I do know that there are laws about the hacker. And I know Senator Ensign and Senator Webb are working on some legislation as we speak to update some of the current statutes we have, to make sure...
MCCASKILL: ... that it covers human intelligence and not just the kind that‘s written down.
MATTHEWS: Senator Claire McCaskill, thank you for joining us, so much, and getting to the criminality, perhaps, of this whole matter, and Mark Mazzetti of “The New York Times” for joining us.
Coming up: Let‘s get this straight. Republicans are blocking jobless benefits for the unemployment (SIC), which are running out, saying we can‘t afford it. But they want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the very rich, which is about the same amount of money per annum, about $80 billion. Can Democrats make them pay politically for this line of thinking? They‘re choosing the rich over the unemployed? Is that a good choice for America?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: I have to pay tribute tonight to that great actor, that comedic actor, Leslie Nielsen. He died at his Florida home at the age of 84 the other day. It‘s hard to believe that Nielsen started his acting career with dramatic roles in serious movies when it was the disaster spoof “Airplane” that made his career. Nielsen deadpanned some of that film‘s best lines, classics like, “Surely, you can‘t be serious.” “I am serious, and don‘t call me Shirley.”
Of course, he went on to star as the bumbling Lieutenant Frank Drebin in “The Naked Gun” with O.J. Simpson and its absurdly titled sequel, “Naked Gun 2 ½,” and “33 1/3” the other one. By the way, “2 ½” was my favorite of the Nielsen films of all time. HARDBALL—what a great actor, what great fun he gave us, Leslie Nielsen—we‘ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Congress is back to work for its final work of the year, and the battle lines are clearly drawn. Democrats want to extend unemployment benefits for people out of work. Republicans are insisting on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Get the picture?
Here‘s Senator Dick Durbin the subject on “MEET THE PRESS” just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: We should be focusing on what it takes to move this economy forward. We should not be worried about the discomfort of the wealthy but the fact that there are many people struggling to survive every day now because they have no job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining me now are two Democratic senators, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Sheldon Whitehouse Rhode Island, both representing states with horrendous unemployment rates. I want to start with Senator Stabenow. It seems to me that this is one of the easy arguments than you can face in politics, looking out for the vast number of unemployed people and all they want is unemployment benefits, about a couple hundred bucks a week, max, and people who want to have big tax cuts who are making billions of dollars or millions of dollars, at least, and they don‘t really need the money, whereas these people desperately do. How do you lose this argument, to put it bluntly?
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: Well, Chris, I think you‘re absolutely right. And I find it amazing that after over a year of Republicans saying that it‘s such a national emergency to have the deficit we have, that the first thing they want to do is increase the deficit by $700 billion to give an extra tax cut to millionaires and billionaires, and at the same time say no to people who are out of work.
You know, this week, starting Wednesday, we will begin to see 142,000 people in Michigan who are out of work through no fault of their own—they‘re going to begin to lose their benefits, people who, at this point, are using those benefits just to keep a roof over their head and food on the table for their families.
So, this is an outrage. And, boy, if there ever was a difference in who we‘re fighting for, this is it.
MATTHEWS: Senator Whitehouse, it seems to me there‘s a bit of an ideological here, not just a class fight, if you will. The Republicans, at least the ideologues, like Senator Kyl of Arizona, are arguing the case that giving people extended unemployment benefits encourages them to slough off, not to go looking for a job. That‘s what he‘s saying.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE ( R) RHODE ISLAND: That‘s the argument, but in Michigan and in Rhode Island, that argument is clearly nonsense, because there are an awful lot more people running around looking for jobs than there are jobs.
There are 65,000 people unemployed, just by the government statistics, in Rhode Island. There are not 65,000 jobs out there waiting for those people. So, the argument is nonsense. And the economics of it are lousy.
The very best thing that you can do to revive this economy, the most efficient way to spend money to revive this economy is to put it in the hands of the unemployed. It‘s a 2-1 immediate rebound for the economy.
WHITEHOUSE: It‘s literally the best way to do it.
And, finally, you have got the simple fairness argument. I mean, here are people—it‘s their last support. These families are getting desperate. And you kick away the very last income that they have, and they‘re really destitute, and it‘s a tragedy.
On the other hand, what we would be doing is asking the wealthiest Americans to go back to the tax payments that they were making under the Clinton administration, when the economy booming, and everybody looks back at that as the good days.
MATTHEWS: Well, we couldn‘t get any Republican people on from the Congress tonight. We are going to keep trying to get them on to make their case in this regard.
But, Senator Stabenow, here is the problem. Is there going to be a deal here? And it seems to me the Republicans would love a deal. They have got their tax cuts for the rich. And then they could say don‘t blame us for the unemployed not getting their benefits, because we said OK to that.
Wouldn‘t you be letting them off the hook with some simple quid pro quo here?
STABENOW: Well, I think so.
I‘m certainly not one that believes that we should extend an economic policy of extra tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires that hasn‘t created jobs for 10 years. You know, Chris, if that policy had created jobs, I would be all for it.
But we have lost hundreds of thousands jobs in Michigan under a policy for 10 years of giving tax cuts to the very rich and hoping it trickled down—that trickles down to everybody else.
I mean, we want and I strongly support tax cuts for the middle class, for small businesses, helping people who are out of work when there‘s five people looking for every one job that‘s available.
STABENOW: And in my judgment, we need to stand firm on that and make it clear that we‘re not going to be held hostage. We‘re not going to let them hold middle-class families and small businesses hostage or people who are out of work hostage to give an extra tax cut that adds $700 billion to the national debt for the few wealthiest Americans.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Senator Whitehouse, a guy up in Rhode, Rhode Island, a working-class guy, would say if you said to him, you can get your unemployment benefits if the rich get their tax cuts? Would he say forget it about it or would he say, yes, I guess you have to cut a deal with the wrong guys? Or what would he say? How do you speak for a person like that?
WHITEHOUSE: If it comes down to keeping these people with body and soul together with their last remaining shred of income and with no jobs around them, I think that has to be our first priority.
MATTHEWS: You mean you would give away the tax cut to get that?
WHITEHOUSE: If we‘re clear about this choice, I don‘t think we have to, because I think Americans get this.
WHITEHOUSE: You asked earlier the question, how can we lose this one? I think the only way we could lose this one is by not being clear and not being solid together. And if we start to wobble, then I think, you know, that‘s how we lose it.
But if the White House stands firm and if we stand firm, I think we can do what is right for people who are unemployed through no fault of their own and protect our debt and our deficit levels from having to borrow more money from China to fund huge tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at Senator Kyl, a Republican, on this issue. He was on “Meet the Press” yesterday defending the Bush tax cuts. He says they aren‘t a tax cut. Listen to the way he argues this. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)
SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), MINORITY WHIP: Nobody is talking about tax cuts. We have had the rates in existence now for 10 years. All Republicans are saying is, keep them in place. Don‘t raise taxes on anyone. And so our position is, let‘s extend all of the current rates for some period of time. Obviously, we would like to do it permanently, but if it‘s three or four years, that‘s fine, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, catch the logic. Here he is, the same senator who said the tax cuts are not tax cuts, even though they were sunsetted back when they were passed, here he is in March saying extending unemployment benefits don‘t create jobs. He‘s knocking the benefits. Here he is. Let‘s listen.
Here it is: “In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”
There you have your argument, Senator Whitehouse. There you have your classic Republican conservative argument, that unemployment benefits encourages laziness, it encourages sloth, it encourages not looking for jobs, whereas tax cuts for the rich are really not tax cuts, because all they do is continue the beneficence of George W. Bush.
STABENOW: You know, Chris, if I could jump in here and just say...
STABENOW: ... I would invite Senator Kyl to come to Michigan and talk to the 50-year-old person who‘s never been out of work in his entire life who now finds himself in a spot where he is just barely holding on, and in a economy where there aren‘t more jobs is trying to figure out what in the world he‘s going to do.
A lot of folks are trying to go back to school. They‘re trying to have a second career in their 50s or early 60s. But this is a very difficult situation that is going on. And, frankly, if the tax policy that he‘s talked about had worked for the last 10 years, we would be creating jobs.
But it hasn‘t worked. My question to him is, where are the jobs? It hasn‘t worked.
STABENOW: It added to the deficit, but it certainly hasn‘t created jobs.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you so much.
WHITEHOUSE: The job growth was in the Clinton years under the taxes, before George Bush did these cuts. That‘s when the real job growth was. That‘s when the economy was booming.
WHITEHOUSE: And that‘s what the Republicans apparently are afraid of going back to.
MATTHEWS: Well, it seems to me that Jon Kyl, now opposing the New START treaty, trying to screw up our relations with Russia, trying to defend tax cuts for the rich by saying they‘re not tax cuts, by knocking unemployment benefits for people who are hard-up, seems to be running for Dr. Evil this Christmas.
Anyway, thank you very much for joining us, Debbie Stabenow, the senator from Michigan, and Sheldon Whitehouse, the senator from Rhode Island.
Up next: The man responsible for giving us Sarah Palin as our almost famous person is now comparing her to one of the greatest figures in Republican history, John McCain dancing with the one he brung—his effusive praise for his one-time running mate next in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First: Dance with the one you brung. Ever since he found her in Alaska, John McCain has defended that Hail Mary pass of his, that pick of Sarah Palin for his running mate two years ago. Yesterday, he played his pick on an even higher pedestal. He said she was—hold your breath—right up there with Ronald Reagan. That‘s right, folks, the Gipper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “STATE OF THE UNION WITH rMD-BO_CANDY CROWLEY”)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: I think that anybody who has the visibility that Sarah has is obviously going to have some divisiveness.
I remember that a guy named Ronald Reagan used to be viewed by some as divisive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yes, I remember a guy named Ronald Reagan. He was the guy who beat Bobby Kennedy in the Oxford Union debate, a guy who spent much of his adult life writing about his conservative philosophy, a guy whose commentaries written over many years were serious business, serious argument.
As “The Weekly Standard” put it last week, Palin‘s given us no reason for anyone to follow her, no reason.
Speaking of Reagan, the Gipper‘s somewhat questionable biographer, Edmund Morris, came up with colorful language yesterday when asked to challenge the subject of his latest and previous much-praised biographical workers, Theodore Roosevelt.
Here he is with CBS‘ Bob Schieffer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FACE THE NATION”)
BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST, “FACE THE NATION”: What would Teddy Roosevelt think of today‘s politics, Edmund?
EDMUND MORRIS, AUTHOR: You keep asking these presentist questions, Bob.
MORRIS: As the immortal Marisa Tomei said in “My Cousin Vinny,” that‘s a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) question...
MORRIS: ... because you cannot pluck people out of the past and expect them to comment on what‘s happening today.
I can only say that what he represented in his time is what we look for in our presidents now—what we hope for in our presidents now, and we‘re increasingly disappointed. He was somebody who understood foreign cultures. He represented the dignity of the United States. He was forceful but at the same time civilized.
I can, sort of, see us, us Americans, with their eyes. And not all that I see is attractive. I see an insular people who are insensitive to foreign sensibilities, who are lazy, obese, complacent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It‘s funny. There sure are a lot of people out there who want to get into this country, though, aren‘t there? Hmm.
Up next: The culture wars are getting hotter. The conservative Family Research Council has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. And we have got the leaders of both groups coming here to settle it next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
TRISH REGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Trish Regan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks finishing lower, as the dollar rises. Today, the Dow slipping 39 points, the S&P losing about a point, and the Nasdaq shedding nine points. The dollar climbing against a basket of foreign currencies, after the E.U. put together a $100 billion-plus aid package for Ireland. Investors are worried that Spain and Portugal could be next.
Big retailers ending the day mixed despite a solid 6.5 percent boost in Black Friday sales -- 212 million shoppers hit the stores, an increase of more than 8.5 percent over last year. Online retailers also ending mixed on Cyber Monday today. Overstock.com soaring 8 percent—eBay is lower due to a lack of free shipping. P.C. makers under pressure on weaker outlooks for 2011 due to rising tablet sales.
And Starbucks may be looking to end its 12-year partnership with Kraft Foods, after accusing it of mismanaging sales of its packaged coffee in grocery stores.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
A bomb plot planned for the tree lighting ceremony out in Portland, Oregon, was stopped by an FBI—by the FBI in a sting operation. The suspect just appeared in federal court this afternoon. So chalk one up for the agency, the FBI.
How many similar plots could be brewing out there in the U.S.?
Philip Mudd is a former deputy director in the FBI‘s National Security Branch.
I guess a lot of people are disappointed. We Americans felt for a while—and maybe it was naive—that terrorism was a foreign problem, that Americans were not going to be drawn into it. Now, here, you have an immigrant from Somali—from Somali—Somalia.
PHIL MUDD, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Mm-hmm.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this as a pattern here? Are we going to face more of this, based on what you‘ve been seeing?
MUDD: I think we will face it for years. I think we were naive to believe this wouldn‘t cross the Atlantic.
We have seen this in Europe since 911. We saw it at Madrid. We have seen it in London. We have a large immigrant population here. To believe that Americans wouldn‘t be a part of the global sort of al Qaeda revolution is I think naive.
MATTHEWS: What about assimilation? We have always taken—I, personally, am emotional about this. I think this is the one country you can become an American. You can come into this country, no matter where you come from, and really join our society.
Is that not happening with the Islamic people coming here, or some of them? They‘re not joining? They‘re not really assimilating?
MUDD: You do see a great deal of assimilation here.
But, remember, in the case of Somalia, you‘re talking about families that came in post 1991, 1992. So, these kids were either born there or born here shortly after their parents got here. So, these are kids who have not been here for generations, in contrast to a lot of the other communities that we have.
MATTHEWS: So, let‘s talk about this operation. I don‘t think it was entrapment. And you tell me why it wasn‘t.
MUDD: Because you have a kid who repeatedly, in the indictment, talks about his willingness to murder innocent people around a Christmas lighting ceremony.
MATTHEWS: So, he had a spot lined up. He had an event lined up, the Christmas tree lighting...
MUDD: The‘s correct.
MATTHEWS: ... a location lined up, and a time of year and everything else. And all he needed was what from the FBI?
MUDD: He needed a weapon, so that he could go and commit what he wanted to commit anyway.
MATTHEWS: Suppose he hadn‘t been given that weapon?
MUDD: I think he would have found another way around it. If you look in this country, you can buy a weapon, you can buy explosives. We have seen it repeatedly in plots across this country.
MATTHEWS: But he was operating alone?
MUDD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Now he wasn‘t because we helped him.
MUDD: No, I don‘t buy this.
Look, in this country, you can go to a gun show and you can buy a weapon. He wanted to build an explosive. If he hadn‘t gone this route, imagine. In two years or three years, he might have shot up a shopping mall.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this—the way they confected this, with a big bunch of drums of gasoline, right? Isn‘t that what they put together?
MUDD: I think he—he was looking to do what we have seen elsewhere in this country and overseas. And that is have a big bomb, like we saw at Oklahoma City, for a major splash that would be on the front of the media around the world.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk pattern here, not guilt, but pattern of possible behavior around the country.
Nobody‘s worried about this kid anymore. He‘s going to face serious time. He‘s not going to be a problem into his 40s, probably, or 50s even, based upon this—if he gets convicted.
But recent immigrant population, we know around the country, a lot of people come here from that part of the world, the Islamic part of the world. They come from the Horn of Africa. They come from East Africa. They come from West Africa. They come from the Middle East, right?
MUDD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Lot of people. This is a great country to come to and they‘re the hardest people—they‘re hard working. They‘re gung-ho. I have to love them because I see a lot of them. As drivers, I see them working at hotels when I travel around. They are gung ho Americans, but there so many of them.
Within that universe, there will be—you‘re arguing some people.
MUDD: Absolutely. If you look around this country, we have huge problems with drug violence, huge problem with child pornography. We‘re going to have problems with extremism as well. It‘s a phenomenon we see in South Asia and the Middle East and Europe and it‘s here.
MATTHEWS: OK, you‘re in crime. You‘ve been a crime—well, you get the criminal after the act.
MUDD: That‘s correct.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about getting him before the act. We have Internets. We have an Internet. I‘m talking like Bush here.
MATTHEWS: We have the Internet. We have that accessibility for lonely people to get online and talk to anybody in the world they want to talk to basically.
They can talk to people for the same background. They can talk in their language. They can talk in the way the country has talked, where they come from. They can feel very much at home.
Is that a particular sensibility in pushing a young guy like this toward a bad act?
MUDD: I think it‘s critical in terms of radicalization. But there‘s a bit of a misunderstanding here—it‘s critical as an accelerant once the kid wants to go down a path. What I saw in nine years of threat briefings is kids who are talking among themselves, they‘re vulnerable like a lot of kids are. And a few of them will say, OK, let‘s do something about it. And then they go off and start looking at images like Abu Ghraib, looking at kids killed in Gaza, kids killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS: They radicalize themselves.
MUDD: Well, they radicalize among themselves and they accelerate down that path when they see images on the Internet.
MATTHEWS: And they have enough of a case because by our nature, we give it to them or we have made those mistakes?
MUDD: Well, and the people who want to see this in their minds are very effective—
MATTHEWS: Do you buy the argument that‘s been made by some of our military people—I think maybe Petraeus is one of them—that one of the things that it radicalizes people is our—the way we behave with prisoners in Abu Ghraib?
MUDD: Ghraib, I think, was a huge issue in this county. Not huge enough. This was a critical factor in the radicalization of kids not only in this country but kids, for example, who went from places like Syria or Yemen into Iraq.
MATTHEWS: I wonder how we‘re going to win this war. And I ask you because there‘s about three ways we‘re trying to fight the war. Detection of a criminal behavior in this United States, you can make a case against this kid perhaps. You find people who commit crimes, but it‘s already too late because they‘re committing the crimes or they‘ve gotten involved in a crime because of action by the FBI in detecting them, right?
MUDD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Working with them and get them before they can do any bad thing.
And then you have the problem of dealing with the wars we fight overseas, then you have the problem of dealing with protection on airplanes, right?
MUDD: You‘re making it sound harder than it was.
MATTHEWS: It is hard, because I‘m telling you, we fight overseas, we fight on airplanes, we fight with protection, and then we try to catch the bad guys. Where‘s our biggest vulnerability?
MUDD: I think the biggest vulnerability is in overreacting to incidents like this. Look, al Qaeda is going to lose. They have a message that if you look at research around the world is slipping in the eyes of people who are potential recruits because they murder too many innocents. The problem we have in this country is losing our ability to absorb an immigrant, if people—and we saw this in a mosque over the weekend. If people overact to this—
MATTHEWS: Tell me what happened. I want to hear from your view.
MUDD: Well, we had people react to an incident—
MATTHEWS: Out there?
MUDD: Out there—a kid who was a murderer. He‘s not a Muslim. He‘s a murderer. We have this murder happens everyday and we ought not to make this into ideology or Islam. We ought to regard him as a murderer.
MATTHEWS: So, this American, what you called it, vigilantes, whatever you called them, apparently when it hit that Islamic group, even though that was the group from which we got the information.
MUDD: That‘s correct. And they‘re feeding a sense potentially among immigrants that this is not a place people want to live.
MATTHEWS: Is everybody in the FBI as enlightened as you?
MUDD: It‘s good question. I think so. It‘s an organization that
MUDD: What‘s that?
MATTHEWS: I some of the problem there?
MUDD: No, I don‘t think so. The FBI—I mean, we haven‘t had an attack since 9/11. If we would have been on 9/12/01, you would have taken this bet in a heartbeat.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for your service.
MUDD: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Phil Mudd, from the—recently with the FBI.
When we return, that hot fight between the Family Research Council and Southern Poverty Law Center is coming right here. The law center says the Family Research Council is a hate group based to some extent on what was said here by one of the representatives.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Mark Kirk of Illinois is being sworn in late today as a United States senator. Senator Kirk becomes the 42nd Republican senator, narrowing the Democratic majority in this lame duck session. Senator Kirk replaces Roland Burris, of course, who was appointed after Senator Obama‘s election to the presidency. Kirk fills out the remainder of Obama‘s term and will be seated for a full term starting in January.
HARDBALL will be right back.
MATTHEWS: The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the Family Research Council as one of its hate groups. The FRC, needless to say, does not appreciate it. Both are with me now.
Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council. Mark Potok is the intelligence project director for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Mr. Potok, make your case.
MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, let me say for starters that our—when we name groups “hate groups,” that has nothing to do with any allegation of criminality or some kind of measure of expected violence. It‘s purely about ideology. Do groups demonize entire groups of people with falsehoods and other kinds of demonizing propaganda, conspiracy theories and so on?
The Family Research Council, among many other things, has associated falsely gay men with pedophilia. They have suggested that homosexual men molest children at rates that far out distance those heterosexuals and that‘s simply a falsehood and a known falsehood.
On your show, Chris, a representative of the council, Peter Sprig came out and said something that frankly would have been sufficient for us to list them as a hate group all by itself. That homosexuality behavior—
MATTHEWS: Well, let me show you that right now. It was Peter Sprig.
MATTHEWS: Right. As you‘re right to say that. A senior fellow for the policy, the Family Research Council was on HARDBALL on February 2nd this year. His name is Peter Sprig. He‘s senior fellow to the FRC. Let‘s listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you think that we should outlaw gay behavior?
PETER SPRIG, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, I think, certainly—
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking you. Should we outlaw gay behavior?
SPRIG: I think that the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned the sodomy laws in this country, was wrongly decided. I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior.
MATTHEWS: So, we should outlaw gay behavior?
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Peter Sprig. We know your position. It‘s a clear one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Is that your position, Mr. Perkins, that we should outlaw gay behavior? Is that your group‘s position, outlaw it?
TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: We have not been or are we nor we‘ll be working to recriminalize homosexual behavior. His point in that interview was that in 2003, we were opposed to the overturning of Lawrence—of the sodomy laws in the Lawrence v. Texas case and for a reason. We think to be silent when it comes to homosexual behavior, that‘s both harmful to society and more importantly to the individuals who engage in it to be silent, that is in fact hateful.
MATTHEWS: But he said we should outlaw it. Is that your position?
Just to get that straight, should we outlaw it?
PERKINS: No, we are not—no. No, we are not—
MATTHEWS: So he doesn‘t speak for your group? He doesn‘t speak for your group?
PERKINS: Look, Chris, I just said we have not been—we are not and we are not going to be working to recriminalize homosexual behavior. That‘s not the issue today. What‘s at issue here is in an attempt to take our public policies and enshrine homosexual behavior as some protective class, redefining marriage, and, of course, voters in 31 states have rejected that idea. So that‘s what we‘re working on. We have never put forth a policy that would recriminalize homosexual behavior.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to you, Mark.
PERKINS: Well, let me speak—
MATTHEWS: I want Mark to respond to this issue because now we‘re having president of the Family Research Council saying that the position that was taken here by Peter Sprig, which said we should outlaw gay behavior is not his position, not the position of his organization.
Does that exempt—does that exempt him from your classification as a hate group, that action today, just now?
POTOK: No, no, I think it‘s—I think it‘s ridiculous. And I say that for this reason. Peter Sprig went on your air, just as I am doing, as a representative of his organization. The Family Research Council made no sound about this. There was nothing remotely approaching the repudiation or even a clarifying statement about the statements that were made.
I mean, look, the Family Research Council has done things a few years ago—they put out a pamphlet called homosexual behavior and pedophilia in which they said that a part of the so-called homosexual agenda was to destroy, to get rid of all age of consent laws, having to do with sexual behavior, and then the Family Research Council went on to say that, in fact, homosexual activists—in their words—were working to make pedophiles the kind of apostles—
POTOK: -- the profits of a new sexual order. Those are simply falsehoods. Those are simple lies.
MATTHEWS: OK, is that true—
PERKINS: Let me go back to—
MATTHEWS: You stand by that or not?
PERKINS: Let me go back to the first issue that Mark brings up about the connection between homosexual men and pedophilia. If you go back to the archives of sexual behavior, a peer-reviewed journal that stated in a self-identified, 86 percent of men, homosexual men who engaged—men who engaged in molestation of children, 86 percent of them are identified as homosexual or bisexual. That study has not been refuted. And that is in part what‘s based upon—that statement was based upon.
If you look at the American College of Pediatricians, they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a risk to children. So, Mark is wrong. He needs to go back and do his own research because this—this evidence is out there.
And what we‘re saying is this is not beyond debate and what is troubling here, Chris—
PERKINS: -- is that the left is losing ground in this public policy debate and so they start this juvenile process of name-calling and trying to shutdown debate over public policy.
MATTHEWS: OK, stop for a second because you just made an argument of fact here. You say that the public is turning against this, whatever, the latest poll numbers we‘ve got from CNN and all kinds of reputable polls is that the country is turning more and more towards accepting open service by gay people in the U.S. military. So it‘s not as simple as you put it. I know that the country moved right in the last election. But when it comes to open service, this country is overwhelmingly moving toward acceptance of open service, are they not?
PERKINS: Well, if you look at the men and women who actually serve, which is only about 12 percent of the population that‘s been serving in the military, it‘s almost inverse. In a poll that‘ll be coming out tomorrow, 63 percent of those who serve or who are currently serving or have served are opposed overturning this policy because they‘re the ones who have to live by it.
PERKINS: But if you look at what‘s happened in this last election, the American public has rejected this—this radical push for social policy when the administration said it was going to be focused on jobs.
MATTHEWS: I think they rejected—I think they rejected a 9.5 percent unemployment rate. That‘s my view.
PERKINS: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Tony, always—go back and spank Peter Sprig for saying the wrong thing on this show because he said the opposite of what you said.
PERKINS: We don‘t do that either.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t spank, OK, well maybe you should, at least verbally.
Thank you so much, Mark Potok, for coming on the program on a very hot issue.
When we return, let me finish with why the right is wrong about the pat downs and body scans at the airport. At least that‘s my opinion.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this story that wasn‘t a story at all. How do you compare the G.I., who loses an arm overseas in war, to the embarrassment someone might feel during an airport scan? Or even a pat down?
I‘ve been thinking of this over the weekend, over the Thanksgiving Day weekend and think about what the Theodore Roosevelt historian Edmund Morris said on “Face the Nation” Sunday. He was asked what Teddy Roosevelt would say about people of today, and instead, he offered a view from an immigrant to this country, that Americans are lazy, obese and complacent. Well, forget the obese and complacent part. Make your judgments on that yourself.
But the lazy part—the lazy way of thinking where people never stop to think, “Oh, that would be hard,” when they complain about body scans, to think of what other Americans are giving up in this same battle to fight terror or they never think about the simple facts. What is the enduring pain or discomfort or anything that affects you a nanosecond after you‘ve been scanned or patted down at the airport? What does that enduring cost to you, that pain, that supposed horror? It just isn‘t.
I think that Teddy Roosevelt that Teddy Roosevelt guy is onto something.
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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