Guests: Jonathan Alter, Shartia Brantley, Jonathan Allen, Ron Brownstein, Ken Vogel, Melinda Hennenberger
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Snow death.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in New York.
Leading off tonight: The politics of snow. It has been true for generations, the first casualty of a big snowstorm is the mayor. Lindsey of New York, Bilandic of Chicago, McNichols of Denver all learned what happens when the snow piles up and the traffic snarls. Today it‘s Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York. Why isn‘t my street cleared? Why isn‘t it plowed? Governor Christie of New Jersey, what in the world are you doing in Disney World? The political bad guys of the blizzard of ‘10 -- that‘s our top story tonight on HARDBALL.
Plus, the execution squads are out to kill Obama‘s a health care bill, and Mike Huckabee is cheering on the execution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FMR. ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: The health care bill not only is a bad product, but it was concocted by a bad process, in locked rooms in the middle of the night, with people having never read over 2,300 pages of the most massive policy that has ever been concocted and pushed on the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Could this be any more predictable? Every time a new layer of the social safety net is proposed, where it‘s Social Security, the income tax, Medicare, Medicaid, just to name a few, conservatives have argued that Americans would be left under the communist boot. Why should this time be any different?
Also, we‘re going to take a look at the most notorious campaign ads of the year, both the lethal ones and the suicidal.
And we‘ll clue you in on the latest insanity making its way through the right wing—well, I guess could you say brain—that President Obama might want to give Manhattan back to the Indians. That‘s what they‘re worried about now. Will someone please stop the madness?
And finally, we have a special year-end guess tonight, Kathleen Matthews. That could be very intriguing here in New York.
Let‘s start with the political fall-out over that 20-inch—almost 20-inch snowfall right here in the city, Gotham. Jonathan Allen is with “The Politico,” and on the phone, we‘ve got Wayne Barrett, who‘s a senior editor for “Village Voice.” By the way, the reason Wayne‘s on the phone is the snowstorm.
Let me go to Jonathan Allen to start with. Jonathan, the snowfall is one of those wonderful moments where you can tell whether your mayor‘s any good or not. In fact, whether it‘s fair or not, that‘s when they usually get canned.
Let‘s take a look at these headlines in New York right now, knocking
Mayor Mike Bloomberg‘s performance. “The New York Daily News” says, quote,
“snow excuses: Mayor Mike defends plowing amid outrage.” “The New York
Post” says, “Cold Comfort: Mike finally mad over blizzard blunders.” The
front page of “The New York Times,” the gray lady, quote, “City struggles
as storm impact chastens Maryland (ph)”—that word, “chastens.” In
addition, New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn, usually a
Bloomberg ally, said, quote, “Clearly, the response was unacceptable.” I
love this English. “This is a level of lack of clean-up that I really
can‘t recall.” Well, that‘s well stated. And the city‘s public advocate -
that‘s the job that Mark Green used to have for a hundred years, Bill DiBlasio, said, “Bloomberg should have declared a snow emergency.” He said, “I don‘t think New Yorkers got a clear enough message.”
Well, here we are, Jonathan and Wayne. Snow politics have brought the demise of Bilandic in Chicago, made Lindsey look like a limousine liberal, which he was, et cetera, et cetera. What‘s it going to do to the perfect Mike Bloomberg record?
WAYNE BARRETT, “VILLAGE VOICE” (via telephone): Well, Chris, it finally breaks through the snow job that he normally gets in the New York media. I mean, he is being hung out to dry this time. I‘m looking out my window, and it‘s finally, my block—I live right off of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and my block has finally been plowed and you can actually see pavement. But the first plow that we saw here was 4:00 o‘clock yesterday afternoon, and that‘s about as late as I can ever remember it coming up through this middle-class, working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn. I‘ve just never seen it take that long.
MATTHEWS: And you‘re in one of the ritzier parts of town.
BARRETT: Well, we call ourselves middle class here.
MATTHEWS: Aren‘t you in Park Slope?
BARRETT: Bring back Rudy! Bring back Rudy!
MATTHEWS: OK, here we go. Here we go. Let me—let me go to Jonathan Allen, an out-of-towner who knows this politics. What do you make of this? Because I love the fact that there‘s an acid test for successful mayors. It‘s called the snow. We‘ve been through it in Washington with Fenty. He did all right for one day, then later on, didn‘t do too well. And when you criticize him, it becomes an ethnic struggle. You can‘t criticize in the city if you live two blocks out of the city. The politics is roaring on this kind of an issue. Your thoughts, Jon?
JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO.COM: I think the big issue here is empathy, whether the mayor feels for the people who are trapped in their homes, who can‘t get to work, who are having troubles. You‘ve got Mayor Corey Booker in Newark, New Jersey, who‘s been tweeting all the things he‘s been doing. For every bag of diapers he delivers, there‘s 50 moms who think, Man, my mayor really cares about me.
Mike Bloomberg, on the other hand, slow afoot to really get behind this thing, made some comments that made it seem like he wanted people to simply call into the emergency numbers they normally do. And really, I think that matters a lot. You‘ve got Chris Christie, as you mentioned, in Florida at Disney World. Hopefully, he‘s picking up a snow globe there to get some empathy for some of the folks back home.
But I think that‘s what matters. I think people want to hear that their mayor cares. I mean, for four days, the first four days in the history of this country, people in Manhattan wished they lived in Newark, New Jersey.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look back at the mayors who‘ve been snowed under. There‘s a lot of history to this snow death. In 1969, New York mayor John Lindsey was nearly forced out of office after city-wide failure to respond to that snow storm. Chicago mayor Michael Bilandic, who came in after Dick Daley, was inept at handling that blizzard of ‘79, so inept, he was defeated in the primary two months later to Jane Byrne. A Christmas Eve blizzard in 1982 ended Denver mayor William McNichols‘s 14-year tenure. It was enough to blow him out. And Mayor Marion Barry took heat for being at the Super Bowl in southern California when a storm pummeled Washington back in ‘87. I forgot that one. He also angered residents again in ‘96, when it took nearly a week to clear the streets after another major snow storm.
I want to go to Wayne because you‘ve got an attitude about this. You know, in Washington, the last snowstorm we had was (INAUDIBLE) but D.C.‘s blithering when it comes to snow. An inch is enough to keep you off the streets. It was so deep in Georgetown, the nicest neighborhood around, I guess, that there was so much snow, they couldn‘t plow it because there was no place to plow it to. They ended up having to shovel it out. You couldn‘t move it anywhere.
BARRETT: Yes, well, you know, one of the strangest scenes you see is that the—no one has shoveled the stairwells down to the subways. Now, that‘s just a shovel and a pair of hands. And people were sliding down the subway stairs. They were not shoveled.
MATTHEWS: I saw those pictures.
BARRETT: Yes. I mean, that‘s just really gripping. I think Peter Vallone, a very conservative, middle-class city councilman from Queens, started calling Bloomberg “Baghdad Bob.”
BARRETT: Because he was inventing his own reality and saying that everything was—Everything‘s fine out here, everything is hunky dory out here. And people really couldn‘t take it. Now, Greg Kelly (ph) is on Fox. “Good Morning New York.” He‘s the son of the police commissioner. I heard him say yesterday morning that between 12:00 o‘clock in the evening, midnight in the evening, and 6:00 o‘clock in the morning on Monday morning, that there was a work stoppage.
BARRETT: Now, there‘s not been any news story that said that, but he says, I have my sources. Well, he‘s got a pretty good source.
MATTHEWS: You know, Wayne—
BARRETT: So we really—we‘re searching for explanations. Maybe that‘s not the accurate one. But we‘re searching for explanations as to why this happens. And it‘s really had very serious consequences. Marty Markowitz (ph), the borough president of my borough, said that a woman had a heart attack and that the closest an ambulance could get to her was four blocks away, and they had to carry her from the house to the ambulance.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think you‘re scoring a lot of good points with Michael Bloomberg. And I want to recall to you something that Tip O‘Neill once said, or was reputed to have said, when he was in a bind politically. He said, I don‘t need you when I‘m right.”
On Monday, Mayor Bloomberg said things are proceeding smoothly. Let‘s listen to the mayor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: The city is able to deal with things like this. It‘s a snowstorm, and it really is inconvenient for a lot of people. Our city is doing exactly what you‘d want it to do, having the government provide the services that people want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the next day, the mayor acknowledged that the clean-up was slower than expected. Let‘s listen to the second-day acknowledgment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: The fact remains that many New Yorkers are still coping with serious hardship as a result of this blizzard. And I want them to know that we do appreciate the severity of these conditions they face and that the bottom line is we‘re doing everything we possibly can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Jon, I want to go back to some politics because this is all about politics. You know, in the old days of Tip O‘Neill up in Boston, they used to give out snow buttons. If you worked for the political campaigns of the right guys who won, obviously, and when it came December, January, February, March, even when there was snow, you walked downtown with your snow button on, and you were put on the payroll right away. When these jobs like Wayne‘s talking about are shoveling off the steps to the subway, that anybody who‘s able bodied could do without a machine, why aren‘t they out there working on the city payroll? It looks to me like a great patronage opportunity for regular people.
ALLEN: Well, I think in part, it‘s because cities don‘t have
political machines the way that they used to—I mean, the breakdown of
the machine. And for many reasons, that‘s a good thing. But for others,
maybe perhaps snow removal, garbage renewal, it‘s a bad thing. You
mentioned Richard Daley in Chicago before. There was a guy who understood
that the services had to be done. People would notice if they weren‘t done
ALLEN: -- and it would cost him at the ballot box. So I think we‘ve had a big change. You know, with Michael Bloomberg, here‘s a guy—as Wayne was mentioning, has been virtually untouched during his tenure as mayor from scandal, from reporters are going after him. And here you‘ve got a situation where I think he‘s really put himself in a blind politically. He sounded—might as well have on that first day been saying, You‘re doing a heck of a job, Brownie—
ALLEN: -- you know, completely disconnected with what was going on on the streets.
MATTHEWS: I love it. I love it. I love what you say, Jon, because I want to go with Wayne with this. You know, they knock the old political machines, but they were huge. And you had everybody from all the ethnic groups brought in, all working for the machine so that when they took over city hall, they were ready to work, looking for jobs. Is there a danger in having an independent mayor like Bloomberg, who doesn‘t have machine behind him? He doesn‘t have peeps—people—who are dying to get a job in the middle of the night when the snow comes down?
BARRETT: Well, you know, the MTA is the one who failed on the steps of the—you know, that‘s a state agency. Obviously, the city can do something about the subway steps, as well. But I think, you know, when you go back to Lindsey, that was the peak of the machine. And you—
MATTHEWS: Yes, but he didn‘t have the machine.
BARRETT: Right. But—
MATTHEWS: He was running—
MATTHEWS: -- the last time.
BARRETT: -- left the Republican primary. In 1969, John Marquee (ph) defeated John Lindsey—
MATTHEWS: I know all this! Who are you talking to, Wayne? I know all this stuff!
BARRETT: Yes, I know, but—
MATTHEWS: But what‘s it got to do with the fact that Lindsey wasn‘t a Democrat? The Democrats are better at this stuff, aren‘t they?
BARRETT: And then he wins as a Liberal in November. But you may remember, Chris, that when he ran for president in ‘72, he went down to Florida, he came in fifth in Florida, and he went down there and he was hounded by transported New Yorkers, who reminded him of how he failed—
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
BARRETT: -- to handle the snowstorm of 1969.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to one hero here real quickly, Corey Booker, the mayor of—the mayor of Newark. Why is he so great, Jon, quickly? Why does the one guy deserve credit for this?
ALLEN: Because he‘s out there with his people and he‘s communicating to them that he‘s delivering services, and that, like I said before, magnifies each one you do -- 10, 20, 30 people are pleased that their mayor is out there fighting with them.
MATTHEWS: OK, Wayne Barrett, thanks a lot for joining us. Thank you, as always, Jonathan Allen.
Coming up, some Republicans want to kill health care. They want to—well, they want lethal injection of health care. They want to do it quick. Let‘s talk about whether they‘re going to actually have a chance to do it. If they only control the House, they don‘t have the Senate, they might be able to work the Senate. Can they get the president to sign his own death warrant? I don‘t think so, but let‘s talk about it. Can they kill health care? Coming back on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: The Associated Press is reporting that federal authorities have opened a probe, perhaps criminal probe, of Delaware Republican Christine O‘Donnell to find out if the former Senate candidate used campaign money to pay her personal expenses. This came in after a complaint was filed with the Federal Election Commission stating that O‘Donnell had used some $20,000 in campaign funds to pay her rent and other personal expenses. O‘Donnell raised more than $7.3 million during her Tea Party-led campaign. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL. With Republicans set to take charge of the House of Representatives just next week, there‘s a renewed push by some conservatives to actually repeal the Obama health care bill, which was just signed into law this year.
Here‘s more of Mike Huckabee, who‘s gone way out front in this thing, in a TV ad that‘s on the air. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUCKABEE: And despite the kicking and screaming of Americans who say, We don‘t want this, Congress insisted we were going to have it anyway. Well, it‘s one thing to have to take our medicine when we‘re kids, but American voters are grown-ups. We expect and demand to be treated like it, and we weren‘t. Well, now we‘ll do our spanking on the Congress and show them that we still rule in this country. That‘s the way it‘s supposed to be and the way it will be when we get this petition signed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow, music to kill health care by. It‘s even a musical now. How real is this move to repeal Obama health care? And is this opposition the big change something we‘ve seen before again and again and every time social legislation is delivered?
Joining us right now is “National Journal‘s” Ron Brownstein and “Newsweek‘s” Jonathan Alter, who‘s an MSNBC political analyst.
Ron, I want to you start here. Huckabee—what is this gentleman up
to? Is he trying be the Attila the Hun of the right? A couple of days ago
actually, it was a week or two ago, he said, Let‘s kill, kill, the guy who leaked the papers for WikiLeaks, kill him—not a trial, not anything else, just kill him. And now he‘s saying let‘s kill “Obama care.” Is he trying to stake out the Attila the Hun position to make up for his possibly modest reputation as a moderate?
RON BROWNSTEIN, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”: Well, look, I mean, after the 2010 Republican primaries, I think there‘s going to be a lot of Republican 2012 candidates who are moving to the right. I mean, the capacity of the conservative base of the party to drive those primary results, to unseat sitting senators like Murkowski and Bennett in primaries—I mean, they had to catch everybody‘s attention.
And you know, Huckabee is hardly out of the Republican mainstream on this. I mean, you are seeing a remarkably broad-based resistance to the health care bill, you know, up and down the Republican Party not only in the Congress but among the governors. I mean, without drawing moral equivalents, you would have to say that no major federal initiatives has faced this kind of sustained opposition after passage, possibly since Brown versus Board of Education. So there is a big fight coming on a lot of different fronts, both in the courts and Congress.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at John Boehner, the new Speaker, Speaker-to-be, right after the mid-term election. Let‘s listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: I believe that the health care bill that was enacted by the current Congress will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health care system in the world and bankrupt our country. That means that we have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill and replace it with common sense reforms that‘ll bring down the cost of health insurance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, he‘s a regular Republican who‘s beginning to talk with almost the talking points of the far right. I mean, what do you think, Jon Alter?
JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes. Well, this is now dogma in the Republican Party. It does remind me of, you know, what you and I know from studying Franklin Roosevelt, after Social Security passed in 1935 --
ALTER: -- the Republican Party went to war against it. They called it socialism. They had the bosses of all the companies put notes in the pay envelopes saying, Franklin Roosevelt‘s scheme is going to take money out of your paycheck.
ALTER: They got clobbered in the 1936 election. So this is what elections are about. (INAUDIBLE) going to tee it up—
MATTHEWS: You wrote that great book about FDR‘s first 100 days.
ALTER: -- for 2012.
MATTHEWS: Now let‘s take a look at the—here‘s David Leonhardt wrote this for “The New York Times.” He‘s a columnist. Let‘s hear his views. Quote, “Nearly every time this country has expanded its social safety net or tried to guarantee civil rights, passionate opposition has followed. The federal income tax, a senator from New York said a century ago, might meant the end of our distinctively American experiment of individual freedom.” Wow. “Social Security was actually plan to “Sovietize” America. A previous head of the Chamber of Commerce said in 1935”—that‘s what he said. “Well, the minimum wage and mandated overtime pay were steps in the direction of communism, as well. In fact, bolshevism, fascism and Nazism, as well.” The national—that was from the National Association of Manufacturers.
So Ron, it seems to me there‘s always a lot of rhetoric on the right, and maybe you could argue that, progressively, the liberals are increasing the social safety net, but they‘re not denying anybody‘s democracy. You can get rid of any one of these program the day you get a majority to do so.
Now, my question to you is the plausibility of this, that Republicans control the House—let‘s start with that. Can they get to first base and get 218 votes to simply repeal—not repeal and replace, but just get rid of the whole thing?
MATTHEWS: They can?
BROWNSTEIN: And probably sooner than later. Dave Camp (ph) said in our magazine, “National Journal,” last week, they intend to try to repeal it in one fell swoop, if possible, and in pieces if not.
Now, obviously, they will acknowledge that is mostly a symbolic gesture and—as long as Democrats hold the Senate and Obama is in the White House. The bigger threat is the courts.
BROWNSTEIN: I mean, you have got two major pieces of litigation moving forward, both the individual mandate challenge to the Medicaid expansion.
And when you look at these Republican judges striking down the individual mandate, which is an idea that was brought to national politics as the Republican alternative to Hillary and Bill Clinton in ‘93, and then exhumed in 2004 by Mitt Romney, when you look at those judges striking that down, it basically tells you that in all likelihood, this is going to the Supreme Court.
There are almost certainly four votes to knock it down, four votes to uphold it. And like many things in life, whether it lives and dies will depend on what Anthony Kennedy feels like the morning of this argument.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t we have an election for the fifth member of the Supreme Court? Because, once again, he is now the—or he‘s the—what‘s her name, O‘Connor.
ALTER: Yes. He is the swing vote.
Look, the ironies here never end. Barack Obama was against an individual mandate when he was running against Hillary Clinton in the primaries.
ALTER: But you cannot have a ban on discrimination on preexisting conditions without it.
MATTHEWS: Could the Republicans jam through a resolution saying no more individual mandate, at least get that principle established in both houses? Could they squeak that through the Senate as well?
ALTER: No. No, no. They can‘t get that through the Senate—
ALTER: -- because the whole thing collapses.
And when it goes to the Supreme Court, it is even crazier, because you have these judges, these justices, who they have spent their whole career preaches against judicial activism, legislating from the bench, and they‘re about to be the biggest hypocrites ever to wear black robes.
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘re going to get to the whole question of where the taxing power of the country is.
Is it your sense that Obamacare cannot repealed by act of Congress, Ron Brownstein, just to make this official?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. No, I—no, I don‘t—look, I think the House will vote to repeal. It is not going to pass through the Senate.
If a Republican—certainly, I think any Republican nominee, as you suggested with the commentary from Huckabee, is going to have to run on repealing it. If they win in 2013 and control both chambers, they will have a chance to do it.
MATTHEWS: How can Mitt Romney run against a program modeled after his program in Massachusetts, Jon Alter?
ALTER: Very easily. He is doing it.
MATTHEWS: What is the logic?
ALTER: He doesn‘t need any logic. He can‘t win if he doesn‘t do a 180 on that.
And one of the reasons you see Huckabee so out front on this is that he raised taxes in Arkansas. So all of these guys have to—
MATTHEWS: Do you understand the insanity of this, Jon Alter?
MATTHEWS: So, the voters will get really cynical now.
The guy who was against the individual mandate, didn‘t believe you should be forced to buy health insurance, named Barack Obama now defends it. The guy who supported the individual mandate in Massachusetts, who totally believes in it, will attack it.
MATTHEWS: That‘s why people don‘t trust politicians.
Thank you, Ron Brownstein. Happy new year.
And, thank you, Jon Alter.
BROWNSTEIN: Happy new year, guys.
ALTER: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: We have discovered the root of the evil: total hypocrisy.
Up next: How tall do you have to be to have a shot at the presidency? Now, there was an old wives‘ tale, perhaps, a conventional wisdom, that the tallest guy always won. Not so true lately.
You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
For centuries, the conventional wisdom in America was that the tallest guy was considered the favorite in presidential elections, well, a rule that 2012 contender Mitch Daniels, who officially stands at 5‘7“, is very much aware of.
Well, here is the Indiana governor last night in a local interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many have said you would have a lot going against you if you were running for president. And some obstacles, you just can‘t help. One is that you‘re short.
GOV. MITCH DANIELS ®, INDIANA: I don‘t dispute it. You know, if it comes down to height and hair, I guess we wouldn‘t do too well.
I have always taken the position it is not for me to suggest to any free citizen why they cast their vote. If they pick a reason that you say, well, that doesn‘t make any sense, it‘s their vote. It‘s their right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, in recent years, we have had a slew of shorter guys beat taller guys. Richard Nixon beat George McGovern. Jimmy Carter beat Jerry Ford. George W. beat both Al Gore and John Kerry.
Up next: a run through the right-wing spin machine.
Earlier this morning, President Obama said the U.S. would support the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. It‘s a nonbinding resolution intended obviously to improve relations with Native Americans in the U.S. Pretty innocent, right, to most people?
Well, not to the conservative news site World Net Daily, where it garnered the five-alarm headline “Obama to Give Manhattan Back to Native Americans.”
Well, it continues—quote—“President Obama is voicing support for a U.N. resolution that would accomplish or could accomplish something as radical as relinquishing some U.S. sovereignty and opening a path for the return of ancient tribal lands to American Indians, including even parts of Manhattan.”
Whoa, we got trouble in Gotham City.
On a lighter note, Eddie Rendell gets a little sass. Remember how the Pennsylvania governor called the United States a nation of wusses after the NFL canceled—or, rather, postponed Sunday‘s Eagles game because of the blizzard?
Well, check out what happened at last night‘s postponed game. Turns out workers had piled snow on the seat next to Governor Rendell, along with the sign, “This seat reserved for non-wusses.”
Anyway, Eddie is right. You play pro football in the snow. Hey, kids play out in the snow. Mom used to say, go out and play.
Now to the “Big Number.”
Sarah Palin‘s much-hyped reality show is essentially a big kiss to her home state, but does Alaska love Sarah back? You are going to love this number. Consider this. In a new PPP poll, Sarah Palin‘s home state favorability among voters stands at—you won‘t believe it -- 33 percent.
Apparently, to know her is not to love her. The ex-governor is 33 back home. Don‘t forget that number. Take it to bed with you. Sarah, they don‘t love her where they know her—tonight‘s politically subzero—well, not quite—right near zero, right near freezing—approval number.
Up next: Well, some were dynamite, some were suicidal, but all were lethal to somebody. The top political ads of 2010, they‘re coming up. This is going to be real fun for the end of the year.
You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
SHARTIA BRANTLEY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Shartia Brantley with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks losing steam late in the session, but still closing at new highs. The Dow Jones industrials adding nearly 10 points, the S&P 500 up 1.25 and the Nasdaq tacking on four points.
More light trading today, but bellwethers are higher on a wave of investor optimism heading into the new year. Energy stocks extending a slow-motion rally as oil prices hover around $91 a barrel.
Retailers higher across-the-board, despite a report showing retail sales slowing in the week leading up to Christmas.
B.J.‘s Wholesale Club soaring on rumors it may be the target of a takeover bid by Leonard Green & Partners. Sears jumping 6 percent after announcing it is launching an on-demand video service to compete with Netflix.
But Microsoft slipping a bit after refiling a lawsuit against rivals Apple, Facebook and Google for illegally using its technology.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Make-or-break political ads this year turned out to be the turning point for many candidates. We have got our top five. They are great.
And we‘re going to go through them with Politico‘s Ken Vogel and editor in chief of PoliticsDaily.com, Melinda Henneberger.
Thank you, Ken.
And, thank you, Melinda.
I want Ken to start on this, then Melinda.
But jump in at any time.
Let‘s go straight to my favorite one. This is the game-changer in Pennsylvania, the ad put out by Sestak in the primary that knocked Arlen Specter out of the Senate after 30 years. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JOE SESTAK CAMPAIGN AD)
REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I‘m Joe Sestak, the Democrat. I authorize this message.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: My change in party will enable me to be reelected.
NARRATOR: For 45 years, Arlen Specter has been a Republican politician.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Arlen Specter is the right man for the United States Senate. I can count on this man. See, that‘s important. He‘s a firm ally.
NARRATOR: But now:
SPECTER: My change in party will enable me to be reelected.
NARRATOR: Arlen Specter switched parties to save one job—his, not yours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know how you could beat that out. I think it cost him 64 -- 64 counties of the 67, Ken.
KENNETH VOGEL, THEPOLITICO.COM: Yes, I mean, he had a lot of advantages coming into this primary.
He had higher name identification than Sestak. He had more money than him. He had been successful in the Philadelphia suburbs getting Democratic votes. But he also had this huge looming liability: the question of whether he was truly a Democrat or just acting out of political expediency.
Sestak tried to raise it and—and argue that, in fact, he was just acting out of expediency on the campaign trail. But nothing makes a case as clearly as this ad featuring the number-one Democratic boogeyman—for Democrats, that is—George Bush.
MATTHEWS: OK. I have got a different angle.
Melinda, it seems to me that what killed him there was not Bush‘s presence, which was bad enough, but his own incredible eyebrow-raising admission—
MELINDA HENNEBERGER, POLITICSDAILY.COM: Exactly.
MATTHEWS: -- that he was doing it entirely in his own personal interests.
HENNEBERGER: Exactly. It is devastating because he is saying it to like, I‘m going to tell the truth now.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Right.
HENNEBERGER: This is a completely cynical move. And so people believed, yes, I see the cynic there admitting to me that this has nothing to do with caring about anyone but myself. So, of course this was devastating, correct.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Just in case you were doubting a politician of the worst kind, this will prove it.
MATTHEWS: I sure am.
HENNEBERGER: Yes. Telling the truth in this case, no.
MATTHEWS: This is a positive ad, I think. Well, no, it‘s a completely negative ad. I guess I just like the candidate.
Here it is: a California ad put out by Jerry Brown. It is called “The Twins.” Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JERRY BROWN CAMPAIGN AD)
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA: Insanity is the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
MEG WHITMAN ®, CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I have built businesses.
WHITMAN: I built a business.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Met the payroll.
WHITMAN: Met a payroll.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I enter this office beholden to no one except you.
WHITMAN: I will owe my office to no one but you.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I don‘t owe anyone anything.
WHITMAN: I don‘t owe anyone anything.
SCHWARZENEGGER: We need to see the state as a business.
WHITMAN: Running this thing a little bit more like a business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Melinda, it‘s—they have got a picture of a magazine cover, a phony mocked-up magazine, with twins, with them together, the tall Schwarzenegger, the shorter Whitman. It‘s a devastating ad, especially since Schwarzenegger is not too popular these days.
HENNEBERGER: It was a brilliant ad waiting to be made.
In fact, when I heard Whitman saying those things, you thought, I have heard this before.
HENNEBERGER: Arnold, you know, whose approval rating was next to nil at the point—that point, why did she use the talking point over and over again?
MATTHEWS: Because they are talking points.
HENNEBERGER: I thought that Jerry Brown‘s ads in general were brilliant.
In fact, my favorite ad of the whole cycle was the Jerry Brown ad that you were in, Chris, the one about the most interesting man in California, once they knew they had it won, the Jerry Brown ad. It was great.
MATTHEWS: OK. What ad? I haven‘t seen that ad. I like to be in ads, though.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to this one.
Let me go back to you, Ken. Don‘t you think the ads are worse—or the best ads, I should say, when you feature the person you are trying to kill killing themselves?
VOGEL: Oh, yes. This ad in particular, those are stock Democratic—
I‘m sorry—Republican talking points. You could find anybody saying those.
And it is obviously—the power comes from putting Schwarzenegger up there and linking him to Meg Whitman, when she is trying make the case her whole campaign was about how she is this breath of fresh air, independent businesswoman, not politics as usual.
Here you, in a devastating fashion, with that sort of funny wink, link her to the outgoing unpopular Republican governor who is everything that Republicans are looking for to change in the primaries.
MATTHEWS: OK. Somewhere in my mind, guys, I remember an old cartoon
I used to go to two hours of cartoons at the drive-ins with my dad—of Elmer Fudd blowing one of these blunderbuss, and it blowing right back in his face, and Bugs Bunny escaping.
Here is an ad that does that. It blows right back in the face of the candidate, Jack Conway. Let‘s watch this ad. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
NARRATOR: Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the Holy Bible a hoax, that was banned for mocking Christianity and Christ? Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol and say, his God was Aqua Buddha?
Why does Rand Paul now want to end all federal faith-based initiatives and even end the deduction for religious charities? Why are there so many questions about Rand Paul?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, because you are the only one asking them.
Let‘s go to Ken on this one.
This killed Jack Conway, I believe. Your thoughts?
VOGEL: Well, yes, it absolutely did. The polls show that. We obtained a Republican, an internal Republican poll soon after this ran that showed that 45 percent of the people who saw it were—considered themselves less likely to have voted for Jack Conway than before when they saw it.
The sort of politics 101 principle at play here is, of course it would be helpful to Jack Conway to have this storyline about what arguably was just a college hijinks sort of hoax that Rand Paul was involved in out there. You could use it, perhaps, to question his religious conviction.
But you don‘t want your fingerprints on it. And there is no better way—or worse way, from his perspective—than to them—than to use it in your closing-case ad.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And who in college didn‘t do something they don‘t want advertised?
Let‘s go to this one, Arizona Republican primary Senate candidate—here it is—John McCain, the old favorite here, taking on J.D. Hayworth‘s prior line of work. I love this ad. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
J.D. HAYWORTH ®, ARIZONA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Now, you may think what you have heard is too good to be true, but let me assure you, it is real.
NARRATOR: Well, it was too good to be true. Twenty-four attorneys general condemned this company for promising people free government money, then ripping them off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don‘t have to pay any of this money back.
NARRATOR: J.D. Hayworth, pork barrel spender, lobbyist. Huckster?
HAYWORTH: It is real.
NARRATOR: Character matters.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: I‘m John McCain, and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Count the reasons that ad worked against J.D. Hayworth, Melinda?
HENNENBERGER: I want to go become for a minute to the Conway ad—
HENNENBERGER: -- which I actually think was the very worst ad of the entire cycle because the Conway people felt really strongly that they were pitching to, as they said, the little old church lady from the middle of nowhere, and it turns out that the little old church lady from the middle of nowhere does not like to become descended to anymore than anybody else do. And so, it backfired.
MATTHEWS: So, the ad was you‘re a bunch of Christian hicks and we can exploit that fact, in other words.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re not really sophisticated Christian believers who would know the difference.
MATTHEWS: I love it.
MATTHEWS: The ad on J.D. Hayworth. Ken, you take this one?
HENNENBERGER: You know—
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Melinda.
HENNENBERGER: -- I‘m not sure that was a game changer but it worked
because Hayworth, as a lobbyist, was not exactly the purist. He was not
really the Tea Party candidate. I mean, it worked against him because he
really was a lobbyist and, you know, that was the knock against him, that -
I don‘t think he would have won without this ad or with this ad.
VOGEL: If could I pick up on Melinda‘s point, not just their kind of marginalizing, showing him to be, you know, a blow hard, a huckster, but the Tea Partying angle on particular to me was fascinating. This ad that sort of undercurrent to me speaks to the Tea Party and said to the Tea Party, this is not your guy. That was his path way to victory, J.D. Hayworth‘s, against McCain in this anti-establishment year to be the Tea Party candidate. Here they are suggesting—not suggesting—they are alleging that he‘s a pork barrel spender and a lobbyist.
HENNENBERGER: Which he was.
VOGEL: Two things that the Tea Party hates the most.
MATTHEWS: A quick—quick, the witch ad, let‘s just show while you‘re talking there, the witch ad, did that kill Christine O‘Donnell? Melinda?
HENNENBERGER: The “I‘m not a witch” reminded me of “I‘m not a crook.”
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look. We are going to show it. Go ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, FORMER DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: I‘m not a witch. I‘m nothing you‘ve heard. I‘m you.
None of us are perfect, but none of us can be happy with what we see all around us, politicians who think spending, trading favors and back room deals are the ways to stay in office. I‘ll go to Washington and do what you‘d do.
I‘m Christine O‘Donnell and I approve this message. I‘m you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Melinda, was she already dead before this?
HENNENBERGER: It‘s a mesmerizing ad. And again, you know, when you hear “I‘m not a crook,” translation, “I‘m a crook.” You know, “I‘m not a witch,” translation, “I‘m a witch.”
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Melinda. And thank you, Ken.
HENNENBERGER: Take care.
VOGEL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I love the ads that worked. These ads worked one or the other. They were both lethal, let‘s put it that way. Either they killed the candidate or killed the other guy.
Thank you, Ken Vogel. Happy New Year to you. And to Melinda Hennenberger, thanks for joining us.
HENNENBERGER: Take care.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: the great veteran TV anchor Kathleen Matthews is going to join us to recap the best and worst of 2010, take a look at the New Year and give us a mood ring on the country. You don‘t want to miss it and intrigue coming up here with the queen—when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Last night in the HARDBALL side show, we reported that New Jersey‘s governor and lieutenant governor were out of the state at the same during the snowstorm, which made the Senate president have to serve as acting governor this week. Well, today, New Jersey‘s “Courier Post” reported that Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno is in Mexico, spending time with her ailing father. We wish we‘d known that. Our thoughts are with her and her family.
HARDBALL will be right back.
C. MATTHEWS: Well, we are back.
We‘re up in the Big Apple this week with my queen, Kathleen Matthews, who anchored the news in Washington for a while and now, she‘s the top executive vice president with Marriott International, travels the world when I don‘t see her. Fortunately, I get to see her a lot and I‘m going to do what we do at home, which is talk about what‘s going on in the world.
And I‘m going to ask you, the queen, your highness, I got to ask you this, as they used to say—
KATHLEEN MATTHEWS, VETERAN TV ANCHOR: I‘m not your highness, please.
C. MATTHEWS: Ed Koch here in New York, he‘s asked to say, how we doing? How am I doing? So, my question to you is: how‘s America doing?
K. MATTHEWS: I‘m doing great.
C. MATTHEWS: OK.
K. MATTHEWS: I‘m married to you for 30 years.
C. MATTHEWS: Keep that up.
K. MATTHEWS: We got three wonderful kids who are pursuing their dream. But, you know, it‘s still a really tough time for a lot of Americans. Unemployment is how they gauge their happiness. Is the country on the right track? If you‘ve got a job and you think you‘re going to keep your job, you think it is.
If you don‘t have a job or somebody in your family doesn‘t have a job, or your kids can‘t get a job, you don‘t think the country is headed in the right direction. And I still think that is the big litmus test right now. It‘s what President Obama needs to address if he is going to—if he‘s going to be re-elected the next time. He has had all these—
C. MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m in the news and some kind of show business here in the talk business and you are in business. So, tell me, how‘s the economy look out there? You covered travel, tourism. How does that—are people—Black Friday was supposedly OK, but Christmas looks good in terms of sales, I hear.
K. MATTHEWS: New York City is just packed. You can barely walk down the streets. But then you go into some of the stores and even with all the sales, 30 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent off, you don‘t see a lot of crowds in the stores. So, I think that there‘s still some uncertainty and I think that‘s what you really see in business.
But our business, I work for Marriott International, 3,500 hotels and 70 countries around the world. We are doing fabulous in places like China and India, where we have huge growth. And it‘s more tepid growth in the United States, but we see the business travel‘s back.
C. MATTHEWS: Yes.
K. MATTHEWS: And it was down 20 percent and in some cases 30 percent at the depths of this recession.
So, business travel is coming back. Leisure travel is pretty strong. Where we don‘t see a big business is in the big group business. So when people are having these big, giant meetings, the meetings that you often times would speak at—
C. MATTHEWS: Right.
K. MATTHEWS: -- you know, with 2,500 people in the room, though people are not making commitments to have those big meetings yet. So, that‘s kind of the last holdout that we‘re seeing in our business.
C. MATTHEWS: So, my next question about America. You get travel more than I do because I‘m here most of the time or in Washington. When you travel to places like India, which is booming today, or China, which is booming, and we fear them as our trading competitors here, would you rather live there?
And I don‘t mean this as a chauvinist American question. Do they get
are they anywhere approaching the way of life we have in this country, in terms of freedom, in terms of opportunities, to live an interesting life, a good life? Is this still the place to come to?
K. MATTHEWS: You hear in China about 8 percent to 10 percent growth; in India, 8 percent to 10 percent growth. But the divide is enormous in those countries. I mean, India—it‘s hard to believe how big the divide is between the haves and the have-nots.
The good news is that you have rising middle classes in those countries and as you have more and more investment, you create jobs, not only for people who might be college graduates at the top of the ladder, but you‘re also creating a lot of entry level jobs.
So, in our business, we‘re creating jobs in India for people that are in the scheduled classes who‘ve never had an opportunity except to sort of scrape together a rural farming income.
C. MATTHEWS: Yes.
K. MATTHEWS: So, I think you see really good news there, but you also have tremendous challenges. In India, you‘ve got a democracy, which makes them a great partner for the United States.
C. MATTHEWS: Is anybody trying to move to India? Is anybody trying to move to China who is not Chinese? Everybody wants to come to America. I‘m chauvinist about this. Every ethnic group in the world wants to come here even if they‘re not here already.
So, my question is, nobody‘s banging down the door of Mumbai to move in, nobody‘s banging down the door at Beijing to move in, because there‘s something about this country in terms of freedom and the light of our lives and even our bad employment right now—the lightness of this country, the happiness level. I will argue, I don‘t get to travel like you, I‘m putting it to you again—is it better in those countries because they have better growth rates?
K. MATTHEWS: America is the greatest countries on earth. We all know that.
C. MATTHEWS: But people are still trying to get here.
K. MATTHEWS: But for Americans, we are very chauvinist about that. But interestingly, in our hotels in India, we have the young Indians in their 20s and 30s who were part of—whose parents were part of the great Diaspora from India. So, they moved to Australia. They moved to the U.S. They moved to Toronto. They moved to Frankfurt.
C. MATTHEWS: Is anybody moving there?
K. MATTHEWS: And their children, who are in their 20s and 30s, are moving back to India because they see tremendous—
C. MATTHEWS: But nobody else is moving there.
K. MATTHEWS: -- in their economy.
C. MATTHEWS: Nobody else is moving. This is the country where everybody is moving here.
K. MATTHEWS: You see Chinese Americans who are deciding—
C. MATTHEWS: Yes, they‘re going back to their country. You‘re missing my point. This is the one foreign country people want to come to.
K. MATTHEWS: But this is after several generations. This is after several generations.
C. MATTHEWS: I‘m not winning the argument.
K. MATTHEWS: But I‘m not arguing with you on this.
C. MATTHEWS: OK.
K. MATTHEWS: America is a great place.
C. MATTHEWS: This is the one foreign country people all want to come to and live here.
K. MATTHEWS: I actually think, Chris, one of the things to be good is for us to make it easier for more Indians and more Brazilians and more Chinese to come to the U.S. to see what a great country this is and to take those lessons home, and that‘s one of the issues that we still need to address post-9/11 --
C. MATTHEWS: OK.
K. MATTHEWS: -- is the fact that‘s still very hard to get a visa, very hard to come into this country. And the more that people travel to America, the more that they realize what a great country this is, and they take those lessons home with them.
C. MATTHEWS: Usually, we talk about our kids, but we‘ll talk about this stuff here.
We‘ll be right back with Kathleen Matthews right after this.
You‘re watching HARDBALL with the queen, only on MSNBC. There they are.
C. MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Kathleen Matthews, who‘s agreed to come on the show tonight.
Kathy, what do you think about politics these days? A tricky subject for you, but I‘m thinking about the president. I would say, he‘s got about a 50/50 chance of re-election, maybe a little better. He‘s an incumbent.
It‘s going to be a tough time. If he doesn‘t get the unemployment down to about eight, it‘s going to be much tougher. That‘s my assessment.
K. MATTHEWS: Yes, I was running through Central Park today, sort of dodging the horses and carts and also the big snowdrifts. And there was a guy with—with what sounded like a New Jersey accent and he was talking to his buddy.
And he said, “You know this Obama guy, I think he can pull it back. I think that he can come back, he can come back”—which I thought was really interesting. I think there still is a little residue of rooting for Obama, but a big sort of pile of disappointment. And things like getting the START Treaty through and the free trade agreement with North Korea—I mean, South Korea, do not touch the lives of most Americans. It really is that unemployment rate.
C. MATTHEWS: Yes.
K. MATTHEWS: But, you know, the forecast for the economy right now, Goldman Sachs, one of their top analysts is saying, maybe 4 percent growth, as much as that, for the U.S. And if you have that kind of growth, you‘re going to have some jobs. But we have to create 9 million jobs, right?
C. MATTHEWS: Yes.
K. MATTHEWS: Nine million jobs to get to the economy to 6 percent, which is considered good. So, there‘s an awful lot to accomplish.
C. MATTHEWS: Yes, but the Republicans got this big garbage truck filled with crap and dump it on his head in January of 2009. And they said, what‘s all of that crap doing on your head?
I mean, they left it on him. They did it all. The unemployment was zooming up there. The stock market was in free-fall. The auto industry was dying. The financial industry was chaotic. They dumped it all on him, including the rising debt.
K. MATTHEWS: Right.
C. MATTHEWS: And they say, what are you doing all these problems, buddy?
K. MATTHEWS: But people want quick solutions. So, they say, OK, you‘ve been in there for two years. Now you‘re on your third year. We want to see some results.
C. MATTHEWS: Yes.
K. MATTHEWS: So, the expectations are very high. I actually think he‘s got a good team around him now. I think Tom Donilon is terrific on the NSC, on National Security Council. I think he‘s got a good chief of staff in there who‘s not a confrontational kind of guy. And so, I think he‘s got the kind of people around him—
C. MATTHEWS: And you‘ve taken down Rahm Emanuel here, right here on television?
K. MATTHEWS: No, I‘m not. But I just think that—you know, you learn who are the people that are going to help you get your job done. And so, wouldn‘t we rather have a strong President Obama running in a presidential election against a good team of Republican challengers. So, the issues really are what driving—are driving this and the philosophy.
C. MATTHEWS: You came to maturity in the ‘70s. I came up a bit earlier in the ‘60s. Do you think those were better times than the times our kids are coming? We have three kids in their 20s now, right through the whole span of their 20s, three of them. Do you think there are times the next 20 or 30 years they‘re going to be as rich an opportunity as our times were?
K. MATTHEWS: I have generally felt that it‘s going to be much tougher for our kids to have a better life than we‘ve had, and I don‘t think that our parents ever felt that way.
C. MATTHEWS: But they have more stuff. They have more things like iPad and iTunes and all of this stuff.
K. MATTHEWS: The opportunity to buy that stuff.
C. MATTHEWS: Yes.
K. MATTHEWS: But, you know, you got to get off of the dole at a certain point.
C. MATTHEWS: Yes.
K. MATTHEWS: I mean, I think one of the good pieces of news in our life is that we have a daughter graduating from college who actually has a job now as do all of her good friends, all of our good friends from college. So, you know two years ago, kids graduating from top colleges were not getting jobs when they graduated. So, I think that that, you‘re seeing some—
C. MATTHEWS: We also have an actor son—we have an actor son who looks like a young Tom Cruise or a Warren Beatty if anybody knows. Now, that I have you on, I can bring this up. Any Hollywood producer or agent who wants to help out Thomas Matthews, here‘s your chance. The guy is—he‘s a movie star. He sings like an angel, right?
K. MATTHEWS: He‘s heading out to L.A. and hopefully, he‘ll have a better life than his parents when he discovers—when he gets discovered.
C. MATTHEWS: Well, I think—I think if I were out there asking for a young handsome star, I‘d be going for Thomas Matthews, wouldn‘t you?
K. MATTHEWS: I would. I would.
C. MATTHEWS: Together, we make that appeal.
K. MATTHEWS: But I think that we‘re a little—we‘re a little biased on this.
C. MATTHEWS: No, I‘m not at all. If you‘re smart, Thomas Matthews will be coming out your way in L.A. and Lotus Land (ph).
Thank you, Kathy. Happy New Year, my dream girl for 30-something years now.
K. MATTHEWS: Nice to be with you.
C. MATTHEWS: That‘s HARDBALL—look at her, gorgeous, as we say in New York.
Anyway, thanks for being with us. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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