Guests: Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson, Chris Cillizza, Howard Fineman, John Harris, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, David Boise, Chad Griffin
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Which way should he go?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews up in New York. Leading off tonight: Obama drama. What does President Obama do now? Does he try to appease the angry liberals in his party who believe he‘s given away the store to Republicans, or does he pull a Clinton and play the role of the moderate, hoping to win back voters in the middle? Right now, he‘s pleasing no one.
Also, the Republicans showed their hand this weekend, voting against limiting tax cuts to those making less than a million dollars a year. Well, the two questions facing Democrats are, can they make the Republicans pay politically for that stand for the rich? And are the Democrats‘ other priorities out there—like extending jobless benefits for people out of work, the new START treaty to stop the nuclear war from starting again, “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell”—are they worth giving up on the tax breaks and giving them to the rich?
Plus, has the word gone out among some Republicans it‘s OK now to bash Sarah Palin? Where once was heard a discouraging word, now—or seldom heard, now Palin is taking shots from the likes of Ed Rollins, our own Joe Scarborough, even Barbara Bush. Has someone sounded the dog whistle?
And a federal appeals court heard arguments this afternoon, in fact, on Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage out in California. David Boies, who‘s fighting to overturn that ban, joins us here tonight.
Finally, another brilliant idea from the people who brought you Tea Party nation. Catch this. Voting rights should be limited to those people who own land. Wow! That‘s going back. Check out the “Sideshow.”
We start with what President Obama should be doing now. John Harris is the brilliant managing editor of Politico, and Chris Cillizza, a young man, is managing editor of Postpolitics.com and an MSNBC contributor. Harris, you are so, so bleedin‘ smart, and that‘s why I‘m starting the show off with you tonight.
JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Everybody is doing—it‘s all the Obama drama.
HARRIS: But not Cillizza, right?
MATTHEWS: ... I know, liberal and moderate and even some conservatives, are wondering what is President Obama going to do now. Is he going to throw in the towel, give the rich people their tax cuts just to get whatever he can, to salvage this session of Congress, or is he going to fight like Harry Truman, bring down the government, whatever it takes, fight through Christmas, tell the Republicans to take all the blame for not giving us our tax cuts, and just take it like a man, like some people are saying?
MATTHEWS: I‘m serious. That‘s—it‘s almost getting to be almost about masculinity sometimes with the bloggers. So where are you—where are you on this?
HARRIS: Well, it‘s obviously not my job to give him advice, but it does seem clear to me that he feels the reason he does not want to play chicken is that he does not feel like that he‘s got the better end of the bargain. Look, that‘s why he‘s looking for a deal, even though Democrats in his own party don‘t like it, is that he fears the consequences of not...
MATTHEWS: OK, what‘s his worst fear if he says, I‘m not going to give tax cuts to the rich?
HARRIS: His fear that everybody will get tax increase, and they won‘t look at the nuance of who‘s to blame for that. They‘ll just say, Don‘t like it, and they‘ll blame the president and say that he‘s killing jobs and raising taxes in the middle of a bad economy.
MATTHEWS: Well, can‘t he just come out and say, Well, that‘s not the truth? The truth is that the only reason you don‘t have your tax cut is the rich are holding us hostage—I mean, the Republicans are holding us hostage so the rich can get what they don‘t need, more of a tax break. Why doesn‘t he just say that and take the heat over Christmas, take the heat through New Year‘s until the Republicans say uncle?
HARRIS: Because I think the Republicans feel like they‘re not going to say uncle. They feel they‘ve got the better hand to play. And Obama, for all his—all his noises about wanting a deal must be making a similar calculation, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, that could be it. Let me go—let me go right to Chris Cillizza for another analysis. Neither one of you can take positions, of course, but you can give me the smart move if I ask for it, maybe. What‘s the smart move for him to do right now? Throw in the towel, have a nice Christmas with the rich getting their tax cuts and maybe some getting some bennies on the side, like extended unemployment benefits for the working people who are out of work, and maybe “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” and maybe even new START, the nuclear treaty?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I—
Chris, I think—you know, you mentioned Clinton in the opening, and I think that‘s the road Obama is headed. If you listened to him in Winston-Salem today, it seemed like he said, Look, we‘re going to get to a compromise. And the Clinton lesson there—live to fight another day. John knows this a lot better than me, but Bill Clinton survived by surviving, by sort of understanding the fights you could win and the fights you couldn‘t win.
I think—you raised a question, Why doesn‘t he just dare Republicans to keep fighting? Two reasons. One, I don‘t know that they have the Democratic votes. You saw four Democrats on the $250,000 or less cross and vote against them. You saw four Democrats on the million or less tax cuts vote against them. And number two, there‘s...
MATTHEWS: ... a majority.
CILLIZZA: But Chris—Chris, one quick thing. Politics—you know this better than me. Politics often is about what fits on bumper sticker. The Republicans message out of this is, Democrats raise taxes. The Democratic message out of this is, Well, we did raise taxes, but only on rich people. It‘s just a two-part argument versus a one-part argument. I hate to say it, but sometimes simple works better than even slightly more complicated in politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at Frank Rich this weekend. He‘s the brilliant columnist, liberal columnist from “The New York Times.” Used to be theater critic. And he‘s offering some, I think, theatrical direction to the president. I‘m not sure he‘s right. In fact, I wonder. But here he is. He says, “The real problem is that he”—the president—
“is so indistinct, no one across the entire political spectrum knows who he is. A chief executive who repeatedly presents himself as a conciliator forever searching for the good side of all adversaries and convening summits in the end comes across as weightless, if not AOL.”
John Harris, do you think that‘s fair, that this president‘s weightless?
HARRIS: I think it‘s premature because nobody would have said that about Bill Clinton. He got a reputation as somebody who would be—could meet his adversaries in the middle, but also was willing to stand tough against them. But nobody was saying that about Bill Clinton in late 1994, the equivalent period for Obama now, or even early 1995. The climactic event didn‘t come from—until a year from now, with the government shutdown. That‘s when people said, Look, Clinton‘s got the reasonable position, but he‘s also got spine. So I think you‘re judging Obama too early...
HARRIS: ... in what‘s really going to be a two-year-long...
MATTHEWS: You mean Frank Rich is.
HARRIS: Two years. And it sounds like maybe you‘re sympathetic...
MATTHEWS: No, no, no. I‘m only...
HARRIS: ... to the idea that...
MATTHEWS: ... presenting it.
HARRIS: ... Obama‘s being wimpy.
MATTHEWS: You‘ll—you‘ll hear at the end...
HARRIS: OK. Yes, I do believe...
MATTHEWS: ... of the show where I‘m at.
MATTHEWS: Let me go right now to Cillizza.
HARRIS: ... believe that Frank Rich is being...
MATTHEWS: So you don‘t believe...
HARRIS: ... premature.
MATTHEWS: You think Frank Rich is too tough. Let me go to—show Bill Maher, who‘s done it kind of in a really sarcastic way. Well, Bill‘s pretty smart, too, in his own way. Here he is, in a kind of a comedic way, sticking it to the president on CNN this weekend. Let‘s listen to Bill Maher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”: But I‘m so disappointed that he just seems to be another in a long line of Democrats that come across as wimpy and wussy and whatever word you want to ascribe to it, of not standing up for what they believe in enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s like this going wobbly—I don‘t know why Maher‘s doing it. Everybody‘s doing this masculine test, like, it could be the president is right...
MATTHEWS: ... Harris is suggesting he might be. He might be right in knowing he doesn‘t have enough marbles to beat the Republicans, that in the end, they‘ll beat him on the tax issue, which is their strength, and he‘s not going into the valley of death, as some people are arguing he should. But everybody‘s turning it into a test of machismo here. Is that fair?
CILLIZZA: Well, Chris, I would say that I think, you know, dating back to Jimmy Carter and somewhat through the Clinton era, and certainly now, Democrats always want a president who‘s going to fight for progressive policies. I think they thought that‘s what they were getting with Obama. Though, frankly, if you look back at his career before the presidency, it‘s largely as a conciliator and a bridge builder. That‘s where, I think, he views his expertise and his unique skill set, not as somebody...
CILLIZZA: ... who sort of says, I‘m going to—here‘s the line and we‘re not crossing it. I think the left wants him to fight more, clearly. The question is, is would him fighting more amount to anything? Would him fighting more—I keep coming back to something—John made this point. I think it‘s the right one. Do they have the votes? Do people like Ben Nelson in Nebraska and these sorts of people who represent these states that are clearly conservative...
CILLIZZA: ... went very strongly Republican in 2010, are up in 2012 -
do they want to take a series of tax votes? My guess is the answer to that is no.
MATTHEWS: OK. You know, the funny thing this weekend...
MATTHEWS: ... John Harris, is that the theater—the former theater critic, Frank Rich, who everybody reads on Sunday in “The Times” is giving particular advice. He said this president should sort of act like Ralph Cramden, the guy who was always—the overheated Irish guy—I thought he was Irish anyway—in “The Honeymooners.” My grandmother, in fact, was Irish as heck and she wouldn‘t watch it because she knew too many guys like him!
MATTHEWS: And the fact is, this guy was always, “Alice, to the moon!” He was going to punch his wife if she fought with him one more time. And my question here is, is that even close to the persona of our president, Ralph Cramden?
HARRIS: No. I mean, he would look ridiculous if he tried to do a Ralph Cramden impersonation, and that‘s not what people voted for in 2008. But yes, he needs to sharpen his definition, but he needs to do it on his terms. This is going to be disappointing to Democrats on Capitol Hill...
HARRIS: ... because what‘s right for Obama, his imperatives, aren‘t necessarily what‘s right for them.
MATTHEWS: Well said.
HARRIS: I think people want to see the president being reasonable and getting things done but willing to fight for principle. Democrats on the Hill typically benefit through sharper lines, through more partisan divisions. That‘s not typically a winning strategy for presidents.
MATTHEWS: Because they all represent gerrymandered districts, and they can‘t lose a general election if they‘re—if they‘re imbecilical (ph) they can‘t lose a general election...
CILLIZZA: Chris, just very quickly, to John‘s point—you know, you can like or hate the way that Obama is carrying himself, but the only thing worse than what Democrats think he‘s doing right now is being phony. There‘s nothing worse in politics than trying to be someone you‘re not.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree.
CILLIZZA: Bill Clinton, to his—to his lasting credit, kind of understood, for good and bad, who he was. And I think Barack Obama got elected in 2008 largely because people felt like he was who he was. Hillary Clinton might say things—he stuck to who he was.
MATTHEWS: You guys are smart.
CILLIZZA: Going away from that to become a fighter, that sort of thing, I think, actually, carries more risk than going the route he‘s taking now, which is trying to be the person that he is and the person that got elected president. Remember, 2008, we were talking about a landmark election and that this guy was the next Lincoln. All of a sudden, two years later, he‘s not—you know, he should change. He needs to be something different. I don‘t know...
CILLIZZA: ... if that politically makes sense.
MATTHEWS: ... two to one, two to nothing. Gentlemen, we have to go right now in this segment. Two-to-nothing, I just heard the two smarter guys, you two, basically say let Obama be Obama and not be Ralph Cramden. And now we‘ve got to let Mr. Cool be Mr. Cool because that‘s who he is.
Anyway, thank you, John Harris, sir.
HARRIS: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And thank you—your book, by the way, is called “Survivor.” It‘s a great book on Bill Clinton. And of course, Cillizza, you‘re brilliant every Sunday especially.
Coming up, the battle for tax cuts. Can the Democrats make Republicans pay politically for voting against limiting tax cuts to those making less than a million dollars a year? By the way, Cillizza‘s on Monday morning, actually.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We learned this afternoon that Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, is gravely ill. Edwards family sources tell NBC News her condition has taken a turn for the worse, with doctors telling her that aggressive treatment for her cancer is no longer advisable.
Elizabeth‘s receiving care now at home in North Carolina, at Chapel Hill. She‘s said to be not in pain right now and is surrounded by family and friends. Doesn‘t look good.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Look, this argument‘s over, David. You and I can continue to engage in it, but it‘s over. The Senate voted yesterday, and every Republican and five Democrats said, We‘re not raising taxes on anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: This argument‘s over. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That‘s the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, sounding certain that the deal is done and Bush-era tax cuts will be extended for everyone, including the rich.
And today, President Obama and Vice President Biden met the House Democratic leaders in the state—on the state of negotiations. The idea of extending tax cuts for the wealthy is making a lot of Democrats unhappy.
The Huffington Post‘s Howard Fineman is an NBC political analyst and Democratic congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida also joins us. Let me start with Howard, who has the news. Where does this stand late today?
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Chris, my understand is that they‘re real close, and it could be announced as soon as tonight. And you put your finger on where the concern is, to wrap it up, which is House Democrats, ostensibly President Obama‘s base.
But the White House, I think, is thinking that they‘re going to get enough out of this deal to complete the task that they began on Saturday night, which is try to pacify House Democrats, to make sure they‘re all on board—Nancy Pelosi and her people are on board with what the Senate basically already agreed to.
And what that‘s going to be is a two-year extension of all the tax cuts, including those for the wealthy. And what that would mean is that they would be getting ready to expire again right as we‘re heading into the last innings of the 2012 presidential campaign. So remember everything you‘ve heard this time around because you‘re going to hear it again in two years.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz. Your view on this? Because I—the problem is that the Democratic Congresspeople who have been reelected are from relatively safe districts, from Democratic districts. All the moderates from swing districts were wiped out in the last election. So everybody‘s getting very ideological, it seems to me, in saying no tax breaks for the wealthy. But maybe there‘s another argument besides ideology here.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, I mean, the bottom line here is no matter how this turns out, shame on the Republicans for getting the priorities backwards. I mean, the gall that they have to insist that every other proposal, any legislation be halted and held back until we make sure that we cover tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires is just unbelievable. And if they think that‘s not going to come back to haunt them, then they‘re really living on another planet.
You know, you made a reference earlier to the president not really being like Ralph Cramden in any way, shape or form, but what I think he should be doing—and this is through watching repeats and reruns, rather than living in the moment, but he should be more like the dad on “Father Knows Best”...
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ... or “Leave It to Beaver,” where he shames the Republicans into doing the right thing because, you know, to say that we are going to hold unemployment benefits hostage going into the holiday season to make tax cuts for wealthy people a priority is really, I think, not going bode well for the Republicans over the long-term.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Howard. You know, there‘s a...
FINEMAN: Well, Chris, I think...
MATTHEWS: ... lot of tough talk out there. That wasn‘t tough. That was smart. But there‘s been tough talk. Look at Weiner—I mean, Congressman Weiner. He did a memo to the president, a tweet this afternoon. “Why are we always punting on third down? Let‘s get our offense on the field.”
FINEMAN: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: I mean, that‘s again one of these emasculating comments you‘re getting from men and women both, right and left, directed—tell, and this time against the president.
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, what the White House is going to argue is that they have gotten out of these negotiations more than anybody would have expected a while ago. There will be the extension of unemployment benefits. There will be, apparently, a payroll tax credit on the employer side, not the employee side. There will be—there will be a reimposition of the estate tax for families—or for inheritances over $5 million, which in its own way is a kind of wealth tax.
FINEMAN: And there are going to be some other things there to spur the economy that are going to allow the president to at least go to the House Democratic caucus, at least go to the liberals in the Senate, and say, Look, I got more out of this negotiation than you think. I‘m not the bad negotiator than you thought. I have more spine that you think. And he‘s the deal. At least, that‘s what they‘re arguing behind the scenes.
Now, that‘s what they‘ve been arguing for the last few days. Whether they can make that sale with all the Democrats in Congress, I doubt. Whether they can make it with rank-and-file Democrats all over the country, I‘m questioning. But that‘s going to be the administration argument for the next hours.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: At the end of the day—Chris, at the end of the day, we need to make sure that Democrats continue to be the champions for the middle class, fighting to create jobs, turn the economy around. And you know, if we don‘t end up with a deal that is going to demonstrate that that‘s what we‘re doing and that‘s what we‘ve accomplished, then—then shame on us. I mean, I‘m confident that President Obama is in there swinging. I think both Democrats in the House and Democrats across the country want to see a little bit more fight and a little bit intensity going forward. Hopefully, we‘re going to be able to get a little bit more out of the president than we‘ve seen. But you know...
MATTHEWS: Tell me—tell me what you mean, though, Congresswoman, because I‘ve got great respect for you and I probably agree with you on a lot of things, but I don‘t know what—I keep hearing that word “fight.”
My colleague Ed Schultz uses it. A lot of people on this network use it. What exactly does it mean? Does it mean get red-faced and yell, pound the table?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, no.
MATTHEWS: Does it mean hold the government up? Because, basically, the only leverage this president, the man we‘re looking at, has right now, the only leverage he has now is not to sign something. That‘s the only fight he has in him: I‘m not going to sign it.
So, you send me a bill that...
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, that‘s not the...
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: What other—what other fight does he have?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I disagree that‘s the only fight.
MATTHEWS: What can he do?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The president has the bully pulpit for leverage.
And I think the—the fight that people are talking about—and, like I said, it‘s more “Father Knows Best” than Ralph Kramden—but using the bully pulpit more strategically and effectively. And I think...
MATTHEWS: OK. Give me an example. Script him right now. What would he do? What would he say you would like him to do?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What I would like him to do?
I mean, he could go on national television and—and make an address to the United States citizens, talk about the importance of making sure that we don‘t blow up our deficit with tax cuts for—for the wealthiest Americans.
I mean, what was I think probably the best focus was that they could have made a case—this is my opinion—they could have made a case to say, well, we‘re not going to allow the tax cuts to be extended for people above a million dollars.
You know, fighting for that provision before it was—a vote was taken Saturday night in the Senate, raising the profile of it, using the bully pulpit, like I said, more strategically effectively, you could make your case to the American people across the country. You could do it in an Oval Office address. You could do it through some well-placed—well-placed high-profile speeches.
MATTHEWS: And then what? And then what?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And shame—and shame the Republicans. Make it politically untenable for them to be able to insist on this unbelievably outrageous line in the sand that Mitch McConnell drew.
You can call it that. You can call it that.
Howard, I want to ask you a political assessment. If the Democratic president went out and did that, would that in any way endanger Republican senators in their seats? Or would they just say, nice try?
FINEMAN: Probably not, but it might have been worth a try.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes, make them uncomfortable.
FINEMAN: Yes. What Obama is doing here is what he does, which is, he‘s going to say, look, I got some results. Read these pieces of paper. Read points A, B, C, and D. I got this on payroll tax. I got this on the inheritance tax.
FINEMAN: I got this. I got that. I got that. Read the memo.
And what—and he may be right. But what—what—one of the things that‘s missing—and it may sound trivial, but it‘s not—is the music here, is the marching music. And that‘s what the Democrats don‘t hear.
And that‘s one of the things they‘re upset about, as well as the fact that he sort of gave in on the tax question from the beginning.
FINEMAN: Now, they‘re going to argue that they got all these things, but mostly what they got are other kinds of tax cuts. So, in a sense...
MATTHEWS: You‘re right.
FINEMAN: Other than the inheritance tax.
MATTHEWS: You‘re right. You‘re right, because they gave up—I thought they gave up election night, guys.
FINEMAN: Yes. Yes. Yes.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We‘re not going to give up, though.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, don‘t you think the president basically gave up—the president did—on election night? He came out of that election, having lost all those seats, with the idea, well, we‘re not going to be able to control the tax fight now.
Here‘s my question to you, Congresswoman, last question. If he goes to midnight on this, right through this New Year‘s, through the holidays, and says, I‘m going to fight this thing, this is my fight, this tax equity question, but doesn‘t get don‘t ask, don‘t tell because of it, won‘t the progressive base be angry with him on that, that he failed on that question?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I think the president absolutely needs to engage in aggressive negotiations, but he needs to use all the tools available to him. And they need to make sure that they‘re operating on all those cylinders that they have.
And I think that they probably could have done that a little bit more
effectively and used the more progressive members that are left in the—
that are still in the House caucus. We have the ability to help leverage -
give him leverage.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ... and play that against the Senate and the senators, who have a little bit tougher time.
MATTHEWS: Got to go. Got to go.
Thank you so much...
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ... U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Have a nice holiday, when it comes.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And, thank you, Howard Fineman.
MATTHEWS: Up next: the latest zany idea from the Tea Party. Wait until you hear this. The head of the Tea Party Nation wants you to own property or not be allowed to vote. Doesn‘t this sound like the Federalists back around 200 years ago?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. It‘s “Sideshow” time.
Live from New York, it‘s Julian Assange. “SNL” imagined what the WikiLeaks founder would do as head of celebrity gossip site TMZ.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Tonight, I present a new WikiLeaks, where the leaks are even more embarrassing and the details are even more sordid.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: WikiLeaks: TMZ.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: So, where we at today, guys? Looking for world leaders behaving badly. Come on.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, our guys caught up with President Hamid Karzai leaving (INAUDIBLE) last night, and I think it kind of speaks for itself.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: So, your boy Obama was in Afghanistan. Did you get to see him?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I did.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Did he ask you about all the bribery in your administration?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Sir, you forgot your briefcase.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I do not take bribes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Assange will be the one soon ducking cameras. Great Britain, where Assange is believed to be hiding, has just received a European warrant for his arrest.
Next: Those were the days, my friend. The head of Tea Party Nation, Judson Phillips, said on radio last month that restricting voting to just property owners makes a lot of sense.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JUDSON PHILLIPS, FOUNDER, TEA PARTY NATION: The founding fathers originally said they put certain restrictions on who got the right to vote. It wasn‘t just you were just a citizen and you automatically got to vote.
Now, some of their restrictions were—you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of them was, you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because, if you‘re—if you‘re a property owner, you actually have a vested stake in the community. And if you‘re not a property owner, you know, I‘m sorry, but they—property owners have a little bit more of a vested stake in the community than non-property owners.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Hmm. Let‘s get this straight. You live in an apartment today, for example, forget it. You‘re in college living in a dorm, forget it. You‘re in a senior citizens residence, forget it. Tea, anyone?
Now to tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Treasury unveiled these new high-tech $100 bills in April of this year. The problem? Production of these notes is so complicated that some ended up with a design defect that renders them unusable. Making matters worse, there‘s no easy way to separate the correctly printed $100 notes from the duds, which means there‘s a whole lot of bills now sitting in government quarantine.
That‘s what they call it. How much are they worth? Well, according to CNBC, $110 billion. That value represents 10 percent of the total U.S. currency supply -- $110 billion in bills are worth the paper they are printed on, tonight‘s “it would be a lot funnier if it weren‘t true” “Big Number.”
Up next: Republicans against Sarah Palin. Well, the establishment of the Republican Party apparently fears, if they don‘t stop her now, she will cruise to the presidential nomination come 2012, only to get blown away in the general election by President Obama. And now some of her potential 2012 rivals are making some noise. That‘s ahead.
Wait until you hear. They‘re scared of her. They‘re talking it.
You‘re watching HARDBALL right now, only on MSNBC.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks ending mixed, as investors regroup after some strong gains last week, the Dow Jones industrials sliding nearly 20 points, the S&P 500 losing 1.5, and the Nasdaq adding 3.5 points.
Investors taking a bit of a breather today. Stocks were moving in a narrow range on light volume for most of the session, but precious metals were sparkling on the notions the Federal Reserve could extend quantitative easing. Gold settling above $1,415 an ounce, silver prices hitting a 30-year high.
Meanwhile, Sprint Nextel shares jumping more than 6 percent after getting a thumbs-up from hedge fund president David Einhorn. International GameTech surging nearly 5 percent on bets Nevada Senator Harry Reid will pass a bill regulating and taxing online poker sites, but Dollar General tumbling 7 percent on a drop in same-store sales growth, that despite solid quarterly profits and an upbeat forecast.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Are Republicans putting out the word that it‘s time to stop Sarah Palin?
Just before the midterm election, Karl Rove told “The London Telegraph”—quote—“”With all due candor, appearing on your own reality show on the Discovery Channel, I am not certain how that fits into the American calculus of what keeps me—or helps me see a person in the Oval Office.”
A few days later, Politico ran this headline: “Next For GOP Leaders:
A few weeks after that, some Bushes weighed in. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE”)
LARRY KING, HOST, “LARRY KING LIVE”: What‘s your read about Sarah Palin?
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: Well, I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful. And I think she‘s very happy in Alaska, and I hope she will stay there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH ®, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: If it‘s between my mom and Governor Palin, I got to go with my mom just in general, because she‘s my mother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was Jeb Bush, of course.
And then rising Republican star New Jersey Governor Chris Christie chimed in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON”)
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, “LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON”: Do you think Sarah Palin could do it?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY: Be vice president?
FALLON: Be president.
CHRISTIE: Well, you know, who knows, Jimmy.
FALLON: Yes. Yes. Yes.
CHRISTIE: It‘s an amazing world.
FALLON: Crazier things have happened, I guess?
CHRISTIE: I don‘t know, but it‘s an amazing world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You have got to like a guy who rolls his eyes when he‘s asked a political question.
And then just yesterday, veteran Republican strategist Mike Murphy was on “Meet the Press.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN MEDIA STRATEGIST: I have been a critic all along, started on this show at the Republican Convention saying I thought she was a bad strategic choice, because she‘s a poison pill in the general election, wipe us out, I believe.
But in the Republican primaries, particularly in the movement conservative silo, which generally will win the Iowa Caucus, and therefore get a lot of momentum, she‘s very, very powerful, if she runs. So I think she will have a half-life, but she is going to be a terrifically powerful force, in some ways, for good. She‘s kind of a polemicist and everything. But, as a candidate, she‘d be a disaster.
And we will see if other Republicans start to take that position.
Quietly, a lot of them do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: “As a candidate, she‘d be a disaster.”
So, is the word out?
Pat Buchanan and “The Washington Post”‘s Eugene Robinson are here.
They‘re both MSNBC political analysts.
Gene, I want to start with you, because you‘re not, I don‘t think, a member of the active Republican Party right now.
MATTHEWS: I have got to get your views on this, because there is—there does seem to be a pattern of, not a whispering campaign, a “right out in the open” campaign, of clearing the deck of Sarah Palin. I‘m not sure it works, but it‘s certainly trying to work.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
I mean, Chris, it will come as a shock to you that I‘m not on the Republican star chamber mail—e-mail list, so I don‘t get those e-mails, but maybe one went out. I mean, clearly, there are people who are getting very nervous about Palin and her—and her what I would call preeminent position in the Republican field right now.
There‘s nobody who has got her charisma. There‘s nobody who has got her Twitter following.
ROBINSON: There‘s nobody who has got a reality show like she‘s got.
She‘s Sarah Palin.
And it‘s not just Iowa, as Murphy said, where she could do well. When she gets to my home state of South Carolina, they‘re going to love her there, too. So, if I were a Republican thinking about running for president, I would be really worried about Sarah Palin, too.
MATTHEWS: Pat, is there a real differential between popularity in the evangelical wing of the Republican Party and general election prospects? Or is that unfair? Is that a left-wing assessment?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It‘s a left-wing assessment, but it‘s also not unfair in this sense, Chris.
Let me take Mike Huckabee, who ran a very strong primary race back in 2008. But I think he bumped his head at a point because he is so strongly identified with the evangelical Christian South, if you will.
BUCHANAN: I think he would have a tough time in a general. There‘s no question about it, that that alone gives you enormous strength and power in a nominating process. It does not necessarily translate in the general.
MATTHEWS: You mean the Republican Party wouldn‘t be advised to run Marjoe for president?
BUCHANAN: I don‘t know who Marjoe is and what...
MATTHEWS: Oh, come on. Remember, he was the young preacher. Come on. You...
MATTHEWS: If I get outside the narrow focus of politics, I lose you, Pat.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. I‘m just talking about you—he had a preacher‘s background.
MATTHEWS: Does that preacher‘s sort of Jesus on the radio religion—type of religion turn off the suburban Republican voter?
BUCHANAN: There‘s no doubt, Chris, it turns off some.
But let‘s take Sarah Palin now. She has the—the Tea Party, the Christian right, the right-to-lifers, many of these folks come out of the Democratic Party that you grew up in. And their children do.
MATTHEWS: Well, I grew up in the Republican Party.
BUCHANAN: And so that‘s real reach across there.
But the suburban Republicans can be overrated, you know?
BUCHANAN: There‘s no doubt that, say, Reagan, to get those folks with him and then go after the Reagan Democrats, he did a very smart thing in putting George H.W. Bush of Walker‘s Point on his ticket with him to close the party...
BUCHANAN: ... and then go after basically the conservative Democrats and independents.
MATTHEWS: Do you think, Gene, that the Democrats are hoping that they can get a break and get a weak opponent coming around? Because it‘s going to be a very tough time for anybody running for re-election in America, especially trying to carry the whole country and getting 270 electoral votes next time as an incumbent.
Do you think the White House people can get towed? Are they just rooting for her? Or rooting for Huckabee or somebody on the evangelical right who would just have no chance in the Philadelphia suburbs, the New York suburbs, the Cleveland suburbs, the kinds of places they need to win?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I think they are rooting for that. I think it‘s a mistake though if that‘s their electoral strategy for 2012, to root for a defeatable Republican opponent. In fact, what I think they have to do is build an affirmative case and then if, on top of that, if on top of having built your affirmative case for reelection, then you get—you also will happen to get Sarah Palin as your opponent with her high negatives. Then I think you feel a lot better going into 2012 than otherwise you might.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at Sarah Palin. And, Pat, I‘m sorry to interrupt. But we have a great picture of Sarah Palin coming up. Here she is—a scene from last night‘s episode of her reality show. What do you catch in this? This is almost hard for people like me to grow up in the sort of burbs and the cities to appreciate, but listen to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s coming right here. Just wait. Wait. OK.
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go, baby. There you go. There you go.
PALIN: OK, good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s just perfect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, what do you make of that, Pat? I mean, this is unusual. That wasn‘t John Kerry in camo. That was the real thing.
BUCHANAN: That wasn‘t John Kerry. What is it? What is it, that thing off the shores of Nantucket or wherever?
ROBINSON: It‘s windsurfing.
MATTHEWS: Pat, I mean, probably the deer hunter country in Pennsylvania, I would bet.
BUCHANAN: This is where she has real strength. I mean, hunters and sportsmen and outdoor folks and men will really say, you know, this is really a terrific gal.
And, Chris, let me say this. She is getting picked at, but they‘re not by major, I think, with—you know, with some exceptions, major figure figures. Look at how Mitt Romney is handling this. And Bobby Jindal is handling this. Mitt Romney is praising her. Jindal said, of course, she can be elected.
This is what the Republican Party‘s got to do. With regard to Republican establishment, they tried—they wanted Rockefeller instead of Goldwater; Rockefeller instead of Nixon in ‘68; George H.W. Bush instead of Reagan.
And the Democrat Party wanted Goldwater and they wanted Reagan. They were wrong about Reagan and right about Goldwater. So, I would not, if I were the Democrat Party, automatically start celebrating because this woman has an enormous amount of reach outside of politics and culture.
MATTHEWS: OK. She‘s a dead shot, too.
Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan and Eugene Robinson.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the fight for gay marriage—talking about different subjects. California‘s controversial gay marriage ban is back in the courts today. It may well go down. This could be a big change in American history.
Attorney David Boise joins us. He‘s the one fighting that ban in California of Prop 8. If he wins, same-sex marriage wins as well.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Republicans have long pushed states rights and now, they‘re offering legislation to essentially would have proved of a nullification of federal laws at the state level. Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker is planning to introduce a bill this week that would allow state officials to challenge the constitutionality of federal laws before they go into effect, prior review. The so-called states rights bill is in large part a reaction to health care reform, of course. But Wickers said it could be used for other regulation, such as those from the Environmental Protection Agency. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
The legal battle over gay marriage is now one step closer to going before the Supreme Court. Supporters of Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage out in California, brought their case before a federal appeals court today.
And David Boies and Ted Olson were once at odds in the Bush versus Gore case joined to argue against the ban on gay marriage.
David Boies joins us now. He‘s an attorney for American Foundation for Equal Rights. He‘s also chairman of the firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner.
And Chad Griffin is the board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Gentlemen—let me start with David Boies.
Could you give me, David, a layman‘s case for striking down Prop 8?
DAVID BOISE, PRO GAY-MARRIAGE ATTORNEY: Sure. Marriage has been ruled to be a fundamental right by the United States Supreme Court 14 times over the last hundred years. And the question is: should that fundamental right be available to gays and lesbians? What we proved in court was that depriving gays and lesbians of the right to marry harmed them in very significant ways and harmed the hundreds of thousands of children that gay and lesbian couples are raising today.
We also proved that preventing gays and lesbians from marrying had no social benefit to anybody else. It didn‘t help heterosexual marriages, obviously. It didn‘t help anybody else in our society. So, there was no rational basis for depriving these people of this fundamental right.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to Chad Griffin for a response to what we just heard.
CHAD GRIFFIN, AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR EQUAL RIGHTS: Yes, Chris, thank you. The legal arguments and political arguments are so important. But also in this case, there are four plaintiffs. And those four plaintiffs and their families were seated in that courtroom today. And every single day we continue to have state-sanctioned discrimination is doing grave harm to those plaintiffs, to their children and to their families and to the millions of other young people across this country, whether they‘re from Fresno, California or Little Rock, Arkansas, or Washington, D.C.
And as long as we have state-sanctioned discrimination in this country against a class of people, it gives license to others to discriminate.
MATHTEWS: Let me ask you, Chad—let me go back to actually David on this.
Does your argument hold if you were to say it would be equally valid to make this argument in the early days of our republic? Had this argument been made in the late 18th century, would it have seemed credible or how would it be different? What‘s changed in terms of your understanding of the Constitution or what would have been the understanding of the Constitution since you‘re arguing is a fundamental right to equal marriage rights?
BOISE: I think there are two aspects of that. First, I think one aspect of that is that the bias that we see against gays and lesbians, today, is really a product of the last 100 years. People talk about this going back generations and centuries. In fact, there was much more tolerance of this in past periods than there has been—
MATTHEWS: When did we have same-sex marriage in this country?
BOISE: You‘ve never had same-sex marriage in this country. You‘ve had same-sex marriage in other ancient societies and we demonstrated that at trial. But you‘ve never had same-sex marriage in this country.
The question is whether recognizing, as we do now, the equality of all people in our country, not just the words but the reality of it, should we extend this fundamental right to them? Remember, when this country was founded, we the people was essentially we white male property owners. It‘s been an expansion of what it means to be equal from the beginning.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Chad.
Should the American people get to vote on this or should it be a court decision?
GRIFFIN: Chris, one‘s fundamental constitutional rights should never be put up for the vote of the people. Political campaigns are decided upon who has the most money, who has the best political rhetoric, who can put the best ads on television. And one‘s fundamental constitutional rights should never be put for a vote of the people.
And I am one who believes in the ballot initiative process and there are certainly things across this country that are voted on by the people. But a fundamental constitutional right, particularly that of a minority, should never be put up for a vote of the people and decided by a political campaign, and who has the best advertising and the most money.
MATTHEWS: What are the chances, David, of getting Scalia on this, some of the more conservative judges on the argument that it is a—it is a fundamental right and that they might just jump the fence and join you guys?
BOISE: Right. We‘re not—we‘re not giving up on any of the justices because—I mean, if you look at Ted and myself, it‘s hard to find two lawyers farther apart on the political spectrum.
BOISE: And we‘ve always believed from the beginning this was not a conservative or liberal, Republican or Democratic issue. This was an issue of constitutional rights. And conservatives, at least as much as liberals, want to keep the government out of people‘s private lives.
So, I think that this is something that we could win. No one ever likes that prediction, we‘re going to win 9-0, but we could win every justice on this.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Chad on this.
Does this have to do with gay orientation or is this about equality? I‘m just trying to figure the marriage issue here. A lot of people argue marriage isn‘t necessarily about procreation. It‘s not necessarily about boy/girl. It‘s only about an association between two people.
Give me your philosophy on it.
GRIFFIN: Sure. There‘s no question. I mean, look, many of these facts came out in our trial with a tremendous amount of evidence and with two brilliant bipartisan lawyers on our side of this case. And marriage is clearly a bond between two loving people. There was a time in this country that when one said marriage, in many states, it did not mean a marriage between a black man and a white woman. And then—
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK. Well said. We‘re moving on. We‘re with you.
Chad Griffin, thank you, sir, for joining us. David Boise, good luck with the odd‘s couple case out there in the ninth circuit. It‘s one of the great stories in history.
When we return, let me finish with what I think people are looking for when they say they want President Obama to fight. Is it a metaphor? Do they mean it, fight with his fists?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a man everyone‘s talking about, President Obama. I‘ve never seen anything quite like this. Everybody talks—everybody I talk to has advice for the guy. Everybody knows what he ought to do and is to varying degrees angry that this man is not doing it.
Well, the most obvious advice is for him to fight. That‘s the favorite word these days. No, they don‘t mean that literally, invite Republican senators up to the White House and start punching them. They don‘t mean grabbing them around the neck and squeezing them so they agree to cut taxes for people who making under $250,000 a year and not cutting those taxes for people who make more.
Or they mean to fight constitutionally? Do they mean telling the Republicans who are now holding up this tax-cutting proposal the he, the president, won‘t sign any other version and is willing to let the Congress adjourn this month for Christmas and New Year to come and go and let those tax cuts evaporate for everybody if necessary? Is this what they mean? Taking the risk of letting the economy take an additional beating in the first months of 2011, risk having the country turn on him as the one man standing between them and not just their tax cuts but an improving economy? Is willing to have half the country or more seeing him as the country‘s number one economic problem?
Hmm, I think a lot of people want something in the middle. They want President Obama to fight verbally. They want him to go on TV and blast away at the Republicans as protectors of the wealthy.
But didn‘t we think we were electing a hot-headed as president? Didn‘t we think we were picking a guy who shouted off his mouth and yelled bad things about those who disagree with him, deriding their motives any way he could?
The problem with us getting mad on television is simply not in this president‘s nature. If we‘re honest with ourselves, we know he wouldn‘t be president if he was.
Look, it‘s hard being a smart liberal. The right can bellow from the gut. They hate government, even though it‘s taxes necessary to pay for it. They don‘t even have to think about it.
The left can also bellow from the gut. They don‘t like big business. They love activist government. They can call for more government, higher taxes to pay for it without shame.
It‘s not so easy when you‘re a liberal president trying to lead a centrist country in a difficult time. It‘s not so easy following your gut when your brain warns you this is precisely what everybody else in the country is doing, yelling from their gut and calling people names.
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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