Guests: David Corn, Jonathan Alter, Howard Fineman, Julia Boorstin, Ron Reagan, Michael Honda, R. Clarke Cooper, Donna Edwards, Jonathan Allen
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: To Huckabee or not to be.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Leading off today: Collateral damage. George F. Will has just written that the toxic waste, the lies about President Obama being spread by people like Mike Huckabee, will wind up contaminating other Republicans who are serious about winning the party‘s nomination next year. His point? People like Sarah Palin and Huckabee, to name just two, are so contemptuous of the truth that the Republican nominee will become collateral damage, diminished by association. If Will is right, we can only say Republicans will deserve what they get for not putting a stop to this sewer talk.
Plus: Religious leaders on both coasts are calling on Peter King to cancel his hearings next week on the radicalization of American Muslims. They say the hearings will do nothing more than stir up anti-Muslim hatred. King says it‘s Muslims who are being radicalized to kill Americans. Who‘s right?
Also: What took so long? The Republican leadership is fighting the Obama administration‘s decision last week not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. Acceptance of gays is growing, obviously, every day in this country. Is this really the fight the GOP wants to have?
And speaker John Boehner is coming awfully close now to saying that he‘s going to take on Social Security and Medicare. Can you touch that third rail in politics and survive? We‘ll see.
Finally, Mike Huckabee has pulled back his claim that President Obama grew up in Kenya. And then again this week, he took back a putdown of Natalie Portman. That‘s where it belongs, in the “Sideshow.”
We start with the sleazy attack on President Obama and how it could hurt Republicans for running for president. MSNBC political analyst David Corn‘s a Washington bureau chief—in fact, the Washington bureau chief—definite article—of “Mother Jones” magazine. And Ron Reagan—Ron, it‘s great to see you!
RON REAGAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to see you, too, Chris.
MATTHEWS: He‘s a political commentator. Ron, I‘m going to let you start from—you‘re not “Sleepless in Seattle, so here goes. Here‘s Mike Huckabee Monday—the week of travesty began with this—on an AM—I never go on AM radio. I‘m sorry, Ron. Whoever does AM radio is probably looking for this kind of conversation these days.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen to AM radio‘s version of Huckabee.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR GOV., HOST, “HUCKABEE”: His perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British are a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow! Thanks to Politico. Here‘s, by the way—you know, I got to tell you, there‘s a old horrible joke about a guy, and he said, Do you ever misstate something you intended to say and you got the wrong thing? The other day, I intended to say to my wife, Please pass the marmalade, but I said, You‘ve been ruing my life.
MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s just—it‘s just incredible statement now -
I meant to say it was Indonesia when I was talking about the Mau Maus in Kenya and his father and the British and this incredible line of narrative, and then his flack goes out and says, Oh, he meant to say—no, he didn‘t!
REAGAN: He seemed to be questioning—
MATTHEWS: He meant to say what he said.
REAGAN: He seemed to be questioning the idea that the British empire was, in fact, an empire, that they were colonialists. You can correct me if I‘m wrong, guys, but didn‘t the British used to call us the colonies?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I thought we were on the side of the defenders of the local land against the colonists. I don‘t know what—by the way, you can‘t even catch up with—can‘t even catch up with Huckabee. But he puts him back there with in Mau Mau country, with people in the country trying to defend themselves against British colonialists by killing white people.
It‘s great imagery if you‘re in this game on the worst side. I mean, it‘s
REAGAN: -- Boy Scouts and he was running around with the Mau Maus in Kenya.
REAGAN: But this is a problem for the Republicans and not just Huckabee, because you‘ve got—polls indicate you‘ve got nearly half of the registered Republican voters who buy this kind of stuff. So how do you pander to people—
MATTHEWS: What percent, Ron?
REAGAN: -- who aren‘t the sharpest cutlery—we‘re looking at a major plurality, if not the majority. I think it‘s in the high 40s, maybe even up close to 50 percent.
MATTHEWS: In the R party—in the Republican Party.
REAGAN: In the Republican Party, yes.
MATTHEWS: But that‘s 20-some percent of the country that‘s open to this malarkey.
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: But those are votes you need in the Republican primary. That‘s the issue here. A lot—
CORN: And this is the issue that George Will—
CORN: George Will (INAUDIBLE) let him speak for himself. We‘re allowed to—most of his column‘s embargoed for Sunday. Get your local papers if they cover him -- 500 do. But here‘s Will‘s column, the part we‘re allowed to do. Here‘s his take on—in his column. “Sensible Americans must be detecting vibrations of weirdness emanating from people associated with the Republican Party. The most recent vibrator is Mike Huckabee”—who referred in a radio interview to President Obama—
“quote, ‘having grown up in Kenya‘”—he actually grew up in Jakarta and Honolulu, mostly Honolulu except for three years. “A spokesman for Huckabee dutifully lied, saying his employer, quote, ‘simply misspoke.‘ Let us not mince words here.” This is Will speaking. “There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon right now—Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty—so the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.”
That‘s George F. Will, well stated. You can‘t keep talking mindlessly on AM radio and not expect somebody sane to overhear you. He went into this whole claptrap narrative, David, about him being over there with the Mau Maus and listening to all this anti-British sentiment and being part of this whole landscape. And it took—he didn‘t have the guts to come out and say himself he was full of it. He had a flack come out and do it and said it was really talking about Indonesia.
CORN: Well, and then two days later, he went on another conservative radio show, and when the host said that Obama had anti-American feelings because of his childhood—didn‘t say where it happened, but because of his childhood—Huckabee agreed with him.
So he‘s compounding the problem. He‘s turning into the Charlie Sheen of the Republican Party here. It‘s, like—it‘s, like, this meltdown because he can‘t be a serious candidate and go on these shows with these talk show guys and then—
MATTHEWS: Do you think he‘s lost it?
MATTHEWS: Do you think he‘s lost it?
CORN: Well, I think he‘s—
MATTHEWS: Or is he just playing to the base?
CORN: I think he‘s—I think he‘s—
MATTHEWS: Like Ron said.
CORN: I think he‘s pandering, but in such a prominent way, it‘s going to hurt him.
CORN: And George Will is right because this is one reason I think Mitt Romney‘s not declaring. Would you want to be in a debate this week, if you‘re Mitt Romney or even Tim Pawlenty, and be asked about what Huckabee said? Your choice is either to push him away and alienate those voters, or to sort of not answer the question.
MATTHEWS: Well, the one period—
MATTHEWS: -- we‘ll get to it when we get to the political analysis of this guy. What he‘s doing is throwing out this swill, basically, right now so that he can quit the race, stay on television, make money, and then wait until the next summer of 2012, be picked up as a running mate by someone who‘s going to be a little more sane, like Mitt Romney, that that‘s the game he‘s playing. He knows we‘ll get mad at him. He knows he‘ll say these terrible things. He‘ll sort of deny he said it. But he‘s playing this game to the sick wing of that party.
Here‘s veteran Republican strategist Mark McKinnon speaking in “The Daily Beast” today. “I doubt most Americans have a clue about the Mau Mau revolution, including me, but I‘m pretty sure for most folks, it sounds like something extremely foreign, vaguely socialist, anti-Christian, or at the very least, un-American. And unfortunately, whether it was averted or not, I think that Huckabee‘s intent was to further sow the seeds that Obama is somehow not really one of us, he‘s one of them.”
You know, the Mau Maus—the last movie about them was something called “Safari” with Victor Mature.
MATTHEWS: I agree, it goes way back to the ‘50s. My grandmom took me to see it at the Chestnut Hill Theater, I remember. But that was the Mau Maus. They were, of course—to remind people who don‘t know that Kenyan history, they were the people that were the early revolt against British imperialism. And they were pretty tough, pretty ruthless. Jomo Kenyatta, who became the great president of Kenya, always swore he had nothing do with them. Everybody figured he had something to do with them.
But to bring all that back and claim that somehow, the experience of President Obama‘s paternal grandfather somehow influenced this thinking through this sort of bloodline, which we Americans really don‘t buy, I don‘t think, do we, Ron? Do we buy this blood theory—
REAGAN: No, we don‘t.
MATTHEWS: -- of thinking? You are a perfect example, by the way—
MATTHEWS: -- of how blood just don‘t work, if you don‘t mind my saying so.
REAGAN: Oh, thank you. Thank you. This is part of a larger Republican narrative, though, and I think you‘re going to see it floated by even some of the more sane candidates, not Huckabee, which is this idea of Obama, as McKinnon said, as “the other.” You know, Huckabee goes over the top with it, but others will try and find a subtler way to make that point and appeal to their constituents with that line of narrative.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here‘s the good news. Here‘s the good news.
MATTHEWS: We got an unemployment rate that‘s starting to come down. We have a president who has been—I hate to talk like Frank Sinatra, but classy. He has been really distinguished as our president. His family has been immaculate. The first lady has been wonderful. Everybody has been dignified and made us feel great as a country.
The fact that they have to go back to his African roots, that they have to go back two or three generations to slime this guy, is probably a good indicator they don‘t got nothing on him.
CORN: Well, I—
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that something?
CORN: Well, I think—I think they‘re worried, to an extent. You know, the economy still is in a bad place. It‘s better than it was when he came into office, but it‘s still in a bad place and—
MATTHEWS: Well, why don‘t they use that?
CORN: That‘s what I‘m saying, they‘re not using that. And if you look at the Republicans on the Hill, all they‘re talking about is not job creation, just these same old, same old tax cuts for the rich—
CORN: -- and government cuts for everybody else. Their agenda is really thin—
MATTHEWS: OK, which Republican, Ron—
CORN: -- and it‘s not working.
MATTHEWS: You first, then David. You‘re both expert at watching this. I know you‘re both liberals, but I want you to focus on the Republican side. Which Republican candidate who has a real chance to be our next president—because we know it‘s going to be a close election next year, no matter what anybody says, in the Electoral College. Which one of these five people here will have the stuff, the cojones, as Hemingway would say, to stand up and say, Enough, I‘m going to triangulate against the yahoos. I don‘t care how many votes it costs me in Iowa. Will Daniels do it? Yes or no, either guy.
REAGAN: I think Daniels is potentially somebody who could do it, or a Jon Huntsman, maybe, if he‘s still—
MATTHEWS: Will say, Enough of this garbage.
CORN: Well, I—
CORN: Ron, I think Huntsman has a problem because his—the beef against him is going to be that he worked for Obama.
CORN: So if he looks like he‘s going—
MATTHEWS: -- Haley Barbour—actually, we can skip over him.
MATTHEWS: Will Romney do it? Will Romney say, I‘m a good, church-going member of the LDS church. We don‘t believe in racism—
CORN: I think this is Romney‘s challenge. Tim Pawlenty won‘t because he‘s already calling himself what, T Paw T (ph) because he‘s with the Tea Party?
MATTHEWS: And he‘s also saying, Bring back DADT.
CORN: Yes, so he won‘t—
CORN: -- Romney, who has stayed away from this stuff, to his credit. Now, when he gets into the thick of it, when he finally announces and he‘s running against Newt or Santorum and Huckabee and they‘re raising this, will he distance himself? I mean—
MATTHEWS: Just say, This is not about the ancestry of my opponent.
MATTHEWS: This is not about his ethnicity.
MATTHEWS: This is not—he is as American—
MATTHEWS: -- as me and my wife. Their family is as American as I am.
CORN: This will be—
MATTHEWS: Just say that!
CORN: This will be an important moment for him, how he handles this, because this issue isn‘t going away because 20 percent, if not more, of his party—
MATTHEWS: Let‘s give him the catechism. He is as American as I am. That‘s not the issue. Just say it like that. It would be sweet. And I haven‘t heard it yet—
REAGAN: Haven‘t heard it.
MATTHEWS: -- because they still want that card. They love that ethnic card! Anyway, thank you, David Corn. Thank you, Ron Reagan.
REAGAN: You bet. Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up—have a nice weekend, guys.
Coming up, religious leaders around the country want Congressman Peter King to cancel next week‘s hearings about the—what he calls the radicalization of American Muslims. I think most American Muslims are pretty assimilated, pretty pro-American, I would think, but I guess King wants to be sure. He says radical Muslims here at home pose a security threat, but critics say the hearings will do little more than stir up anti-Muslim hatred in America. That‘s ahead.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We got the new unemployment numbers out today, and the news is good for the economy and the Obama administration. Overall, the unemployment rate ticked down a bit to 8.9 percent. It‘s below 9 for the first time. That‘s the lowest it‘s been for nearly two years, nearly a full point from where it was just three months ago, so progress heading downward. That‘s always good for the soul. And the economy created 192,000 new jobs last month, in line with the economists‘ expectations. Well, that‘s a good one there, too.
President Obama‘s reelection prospects are tied directly—I‘m telling you, and we all know it—to that number. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Pressure‘s mounting for Republican Peter King in New York to cancel next week‘s hearing on what he calls the radicalization of the American Muslim community. It‘s slated for next week, as I said. Fifty faith, civil rights and human rights organizations have signed a letter to Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi just last month that said, “Singling out a group of Americans for government scrutiny based on their faith is divisive and wrong.” In addition, more than 180 religious leaders in New York and California have called on King to cancel the hearings, saying they smack of a McCarthyite attack of kind of witch hunt again.
Here‘s Congressman King explaining the need to hold hearings on what he calls the radicalization of American Muslims. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: There‘s no other group in this country other than al Qaeda and Islamic terrorists which is recruiting. We‘ve always had neo-Nazis. We‘ve also had—always had environmental extremists. What makes this unique and different is this is a home-grown group of people being recruited by an enemy from overseas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don‘t get it.
Democratic Congressman Mike Honda—Michael Honda of California opposed to these hearings. He spent several many years at a Japanese internment camp when he was a child. He‘s now the House Democratic senior whip.
You know, you have to wonder—I like Peter King personally. We‘re Irish-Americans, you know? But you have to wonder, did he ever go among all the 20 or 20 million Irish-Americans looking for IRA supporters?
REP. MICHAEL HONDA (D), CALIFORNIA: No.
MATTHEWS: Ever have hearings on Irish-Americans, which guy‘s paying money to Noraid (ph)? Maybe they should, but it would have been a very horrific situation. They shouldn‘t have done it, in fact. It would have been horrendously received.
HONDA: Well, he—he has—his district‘s right near Ground Zero—
HONDA: -- and I think that that‘s where a lot of the controversy started in terms of the—you know, putting together a mosque for—the organizer wanted to have a multi-denomination place where everybody—
MATTHEWS: I know. I like that guy, by the way. I interviewed him.
MATTHEWS: I like him. I trust him.
HONDA: That‘s very American.
MATTHEWS: Well, he wants to set up a 92nd Street Y, like a Jewish Y,
sort of a community center, for Islamic people. Now, I understand, however
you may disagree. I understand how people think it‘s—it‘s too darn close, that it‘s close to what is really a cemetery to most Americans, 9/11. You don‘t agree with that?
HONDA: I don‘t agree with that. I think that that‘s—it‘s symbolic. And if you want to be symbolic, you bring people together in an area that was a point of attack.
HONDA: And I think that that‘s—you know, that‘s—you know, to me, symbolism‘s a lot (ph).
MATTHEWS: Well, here he is, Peter King, called on Muslim leaders in an interview with “National Review” magazine. He said, quote, “It is not enough for them to say that they denounce all terrorism, that they denounce all violence. They have to be much more aggressive. I don‘t think they fully realize that. They worry that if they come out and highlight their opposition to Islamic terrorism, it would focus too much attention on the Muslim community, reminding people that these terrorists are Muslim, so they don‘t deal with it in an open way.”
You know, this is a classic example—I want your thoughts on this—where you go out and give lectures to people who are totally peaceful, totally patriotic, who despise terrorism, and you lecture them. What does that accomplish?
HONDA: I don‘t know, but he‘s accused the community of not stepping up and sharing information. At the same time—he suppresses them at the same time, and it‘s just—
MATTHEWS: How does he do that?
HONDA: Well, when he accuses them of terrorism or being 80 percent of the mosques in the country are activists in terrorism, that‘s—that‘s kind of a suppressing kind of activity. Like the Japanese-Americans, when we were trying to socialize ourselves in this country, all the anti-Asian kinds of media and activities—it suppressed our community from being more active and outspoken.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Now, you were—I fed (ph) you the calculation. You‘re a little older than me. Not much. But you were 3 or 4 years old when your family was interred.
MATTHEWS: Interned. You were taken to Colorado from California. You were put in a camp.
HONDA: Yes. I was about 9 months old when we came in. So I think the only thing that was (INAUDIBLE) national security (ph) was part of my diapers, you know?
MATTHEWS: But you had—you were telling me when we just came in here—and I met you years ago when you first got elected out there in California—that—
MATTHEWS: -- you have been having dreams about it growing up, what it was like to be in those camps.
HONDA: You know, people ask me if I remember things.
And things come back to me in dreams when I was a youngster, about 7, 8. I would share these dreams with my parents during dinner. And it was as if I saw a black-and-white movie theater right at my eye level. And I would explain what was going on. My mother would look at my dad and say, that happened.
MATTHEWS: Yes. So, you remember that.
HONDA: And she thought that I was a pretty strange kid.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look here. Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter, who is also with “Newsweek.”
Jonathan, it seems to me that this is going to be hell on wheels, these hearings.
JONATHAN ALTER, NBC NEWS CONTRIBUTING CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
MATTHEWS: I‘m talking to Mike Honda, who grew up in a very young age and experienced what the internment camps were, as a parallel to going through all the Islamic mosques in the country and basically vetting them.
ALTER: Well, you know, Congressman King has said that American Muslims are—quote—“overwhelmingly good people.” So he‘s going to try to set a friendlier tone.
The problem is, when you have these hearings, they inevitably turn into a circus, no matter how much the chairman wants to keep things under wraps. And the question you have to ask about that is, does that then help the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department to thwart plots?
And there have been a few dozen Muslim Americans arrested in the last couple of years on terrorism charges. So, there is a very, very, very small percentage of the Muslim community that needs to be watched more closely, so we won‘t have another 9/11.
MATTHEWS: Well, what good will the hearings do?
ALTER: But that‘s the point. The question is, does—do the hearings take us closer to good surveillance of them or further away?
And I would argue the answer is, those hearings take us further away from that, because they alienate the very people in the Muslim community we need to talk to the FBI, to give an early warning.
ALTER: So, they‘re counterproductive to the goal that the congressman is trying to advance.
MATTHEWS: I think so.
Well, here‘s what Congressman King said about the Islamic extremists in those mosques. Let‘s listen to King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: In 2004, I said that 80 percent of the
mosques were controlled by extremists. That was based on testimony in the
2000 from Sheik Khabbani, who was testifying at a State Department hearing. Now, I don‘t know today whether it could be more than 80 percent, it could be less than 80 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s the question. When you want to investigate crime, you don‘t go out and sweep through a community and say who here can prove they‘re not involved in crime?
Doesn‘t that put the onus—and if you think, the psychology is, if you feel like you grew up in America and say you‘re second- or third-generation Islamic, and you always feel America maybe have—your parents seem a little bit—a little different than other parents, but you feel American, and you‘re getting into it 100 percent.
Then somebody comes along and says all you people are suspicious.
ALTER: Yes. Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: Doesn‘t that almost work in the direction of radicalizing somebody, I would think? Your thoughts?
ALTER: It could potentially radicalize them.
But, at a minimum, if you‘re trying to convince Muslim groups not to put up posters that say don‘t talk to the FBI—and there are such groups that put up those posters—if you‘re trying to work against that, this is not the way to do it. There are other ways of reaching out to the Muslim community to encourage more participation with law enforcement.
So, Peter King is not a bad guy. You know, he‘s done some good work on getting aid for first-responders after 9/11 who were being, you know, shunted aside by the Republican Congress.
ALTER: So he‘s not—he‘s not a whack job congressman. He‘s just not thinking logically about how to achieve his objectives here.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Honda, Congressman Honda?
HONDA: Well, the language that they use in terms of titling—in titling the hearing is pretty damn negative. It almost presupposes the conclusion of what the outcome of the hearing is going to be.
And if it‘s about law enforcement, how many law enforcement people have they invited to speak on behalf of their own experiences with the community? And it‘s about building trust.
MATTHEWS: What do you think will be the—what do you think is the predetermined outcome? What do you think the message is going to be of the King hearings?
HONDA: Well, every time they hear radicalizing and Islam, they‘re going to equate that with the terrorism and everything else—
MATTHEWS: The whole community.
HONDA: -- like that. And there‘s no exceptions.
Is he looking at radicalization or terrorism? Is this broader than terrorism? Is it the thinking and ideology within the Islamic community, Jonathan?
ALTER: Yes, look, there‘s a problem here. If you talk to Janet Napolitano, she will tell you that they are concerned in law enforcement about a radicalization of some very small group of elements of the American Muslim community, because they have had some arrests of Muslim Americans.
ALTER: So, it‘s not like there‘s no issue here at all. But if you‘re trying to repair relations with that community, so they cooperate more, the last thing you want to do is have a showy hearing that‘s going to make everybody resentful.
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re right.
ALTER: So, he‘s just not thinking straight about it.
MATTHEWS: That‘s my bottom line. That‘s a well-stated statement there.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, thank you sir, for coming in.
HONDA: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek.”
ALTER: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Mike Huckabee strikes again. Now he‘s got a beef with the Academy Award-winning actor Natalie Portman. He is going after her. And he‘s sort of taking it back already. This guy is busy, saying it and pulling it back so fast, you can‘t keep track of it. But we will.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
Mike Huckabee has been out this week saying that the president grew up in Kenya, as you all know by now, that he was involved somehow in the Mau Mau revolt, he hung around madrassas.
And now, like Charlie Sheen, another hero of this week, he‘s ranting about all sorts of things. Like, now, it‘s Natalie Portman being pregnant by her boyfriend. Doesn‘t like it. Here‘s the reverend.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: You know, Michael, one of things that is troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, hey, look, we‘re having children. We‘re not married, but we‘re having these children, and they‘re doing just fine.
But there are not really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a movie. And it‘s unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yes, right.
Well, this afternoon, Huck backtracked in a statement, calling Natalie a great actress who deserves her Oscar and he said he‘s happy she‘s marrying the baby‘s father.
Mike Huckabee commenting this week on all matters, from the Mau Mau Revolution to unmarried mothers who win Oscars.
Next, I have always said those Hitler references have no place in politics. Lose them. That goes for both Republicans and Democrats. It just seems to keep on happening, though. Here‘s Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown on the Senate floor this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: As a nation, I look back in history at some of the worst governments we have ever had. Do you know that one of the first things they did, they went after the trade unions?
Hitler didn‘t want unions. Stalin didn‘t want unions. Mubarak didn‘t want independent unions. These—these autocrats in history don‘t want independent unions.
I‘m not comparing what‘s happening to the workers in Madison or in Columbus to Hitler and Stalin, but I am saying that history teaches us that unions are a very positive force in society that creates a middle class and protects our freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let‘s say Hitler never married Eva Braun either, anyway, until to the end. Anyway, Senator Brown, lose it with the Hitler references. Never, ever, ever talk about him again, never. Nobody should.
On to not—comparing him with politics.
Anyway, on to Texas, where the state is considering a new immigration bill to tackle the rising immigration problem, maybe. The bill would punish anyone for hiring an alien with up to two years in prison or a $10,000 fine, anyone who does it—one exception, household help. That‘s right. Employers of maids and gardeners would be all exempted from the law. Got it? Now, isn‘t that convenient?
And as I have mentioned on HARDBALL this week, FOX News suspended Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum‘s contributor contracts as they consider running for president.
Well, here was Stephen Colbert and his thoughts on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE COLBERT REPORT”)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”: FOX, I think you‘re setting a bad precedent here, because a lot of your contributors have signaled that they might be running for president. If you suspend these guys, next, you are going to have to suspend Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, John Bolton.
Luckily, this does not affect Glenn Beck—
COLBERT: -- because, based on his show, he‘s looking past 2012 and running for archduke of the post-apocalyptic afterscape.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Up next: House Republicans say that if the Obama administration won‘t enforce and defend DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, they will. That‘s ahead.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks regaining ground in the final hour, but still finishing firmly in the red, the Dow Jones industrials tumbling 88 points, the S&P 500 sinking nine, and the Nasdaq falling 14 points.
Investors shrugging off the best jobs report of the recovery, as oil prices skyrocketed on escalating unrest in the Middle East. Employers added $192,000 jobs in February, the unemployment rate falling a tenth of a point to 8.9 percent. And December and January‘s numbers were revised upward to show an additional 58,000 jobs were added.
But violence in Libya and protests in Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, and now eastern Saudi Arabia sent oil prices soaring. U.S. crude is up $3 today, finishing just below $105 a barrel. Those prices are keeping the transportation sector under pressure, with airlines taking the biggest hit.
Overall, a roller coaster of a week resulting in only fractional gains.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I‘m really disappointed in the president and the Department of Justice and the fact that they‘re not going to defend a law the Congress passed overwhelmingly.
I would be very surprised if the House didn‘t decide that they were going to defend the law. It strikes me as something that‘s just as raw politics as anything I have seen, knowing that a lot of people who believe in DOMA probably not—likely not to vote for him, and pandering to the other side on this issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was of course House Speaker John Boehner Sunday talking to the Christian Broadcasting Network. Today, he announced that the House will take action to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court through the house of—the office of the House counsel.
In his statement, he said: “It‘s regrettable that the Obama administration has opened this divisive issue at a time when Americans want their leaders to focus on jobs and the challenges facing our economy. The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts, not by the president unilaterally. And this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution.”
Is Speaker Boehner right to call this raw politics by the president?
The Huffington Post‘s Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst. And R. Clarke Cooper is with—well, he is the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans.
Gentlemen, thank you.
Howard, sometimes—and Clarke—I get the feeling that Boehner does things almost the way the queen of England has to read statements issued by the party in power.
MATTHEWS: Like, does he really want to do what he‘s doing?
Clarke, do you think he really wants this role he‘s playing right now?
Or would he like to just let this thing ride away to the sunset?
R. CLARKE COOPER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: It‘s a tough role. The speaker has a tough role.
MATTHEWS: Bringing up a fight to keep DOMA, to keep Defense of Marriage Act, when the country seems vaguely bored with the issue.
COOPER: Well, he wants to focus on the mandate that the voters sent in 2010, which was, pay attention to the budget, reduce government spending, reduce the size of government. Those are the priorities—
MATTHEWS: So why is he doing this? Why is he creating this—using this bipartisan counsel to get the counsel of the House to bring this case in court to defend the—
COOPER: Well, it‘s a nonpartisan—the House general counsel is a nonpartisan entity. And this is where it‘s going to—
MATTHEWS: It‘s mostly Democrats, though.
COOPER: But it‘s a bipartisan commission.
MATTHEWS: I know.
COOPER: And this is—
MATTHEWS: So, he‘s hiding a little bit from the issue?
COOPER: No, he‘s not hiding. He‘s bringing balance to it and bringing the focus back to the mandate that the voters wanted in 2010.
The speaker is trying—
MATTHEWS: So, you really are—you‘re not just a—you‘re not just a leader of the gay liberation movement. You really are the Republicans, aren‘t you? You really are.
MATTHEWS: Every time I keep for—I keep forgetting that you are an
COOPER: We are an R.
MATTHEWS: I know. I know. But you think he‘s OK on this?
COOPER: This is—this is—it‘s much better than where it could be. I want like to see DOMA repealed. I would love to see it repealed legislatively.
MATTHEWS: Well, why are backing, why are you defending the speaker on this, then?
COOPER: The speaker is doing the right thing for right now. This was not political courage by President Obama. This was political calculus. He threw this in the mix to try to—to stir the pot.
MATTHEWS: You pushed the cause of gay rights and same-sex marriage, all these issues. At the same time, you do this little clip of any Democrat involved --
COOPER: No. But I will tell you right now, this—this is gamesmanship on the president‘s part.
MATTHEWS: Is the president right not to fight the constitutionality of DOMA or wrong? Right or wrong, the president?
COOPER: Well, let me raise this.
MATTHEWS: No, no.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this.
COOPER: Why is don‘t ask, don‘t tell being fought by the Department -
MATTHEWS: Can I ask this question? Is the president right or wrong to not fight for the constitutionality of DOMA?
MATTHEWS: Right or wrong, sir?
COOPER: Right or wrong?
MATTHEWS: Answer the question.
COOPER: President Obama is abdicating his duty.
MATTHEWS: Is he right or wrong in not fighting for the constitutionality of DOMA, right or wrong? Answer the question.
COOPER: If he‘s not going to fight this, why is he fighting don‘t ask, don‘t tell?
MATTHEWS: There we go. This is—this is the problem with the Log Cabin guys. You‘re half-Republican and half-gay-liberation guys. Which is it? You can‘t answer the question.
COOPER: We‘re gays who—we‘re Republicans who happen to be gay.
MATTHEWS: Right. But I‘m asking you politically, that‘s not about DOMA—it‘s not about the Constitution here. I‘m asking you, where do you stand and whether the president was right or wrong in not fighting for the constitutionality of DOMA, right or wrong?
COOPER: Where is his position on this?
MATTHEWS: He‘s not doing it.
COOPER: He‘s not doing it.
MATTHEWS: Is that right or wrong?
COOPER: It‘s wrong that he‘s not doing it. He‘s taking it—
MATTHEWS: You just earned—your comment has earned a wince from my colleague. You‘re now trying to discern these guys, the Log Cabin Republicans believe the Republicans are always right.
COOPER: No. Hold on.
MATTHEWS: The speaker is right.
COOPER: Hold on, what the speaker did was he looked at—he looked at the terrain and he noticed that the terrain was the president was playing gamesmanship on a time of steering away focus on the economy, take away focus on the budget and to throw this hot potato in the mix, which is what he did. It was political calculus. It wasn‘t courage.
What would be courageous is if the president stood up and said, you know, I would like to see DOMA repealed, I support marriage equality. We‘re going to non-pursuit on the court cases, and, oh, by the way, we‘re not—we‘re going to suspend “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”
MATTHEWS: OK. Howard, your sense of this.
FINEMAN: All right. Well, it is true that the president didn‘t go all the way. Because he‘s just said we‘re not going to defend it in these particular cases, OK?
MATTHEWS: And this is the DOMA section three which says that the federal government doesn‘t recognize same-sex marriage.
FINEMAN: And that‘s the issue in cases in Connecticut—I think that‘s one that the White House would say prompted them to say what they said. It wasn‘t just politics. They had—they had a legal thing to decide.
But if you talk to gay rights activists who I guess are not Republicans, like Winnie Stachelberg, who‘s one of the leading gay activists in the country, she—her interpretation is that Boehner sort of took the least line of resistance here. It‘s interesting to hear her talk about it because her reaction—
MATTHEWS: You mean, he was acting like the hot potato, too.
MATTHEWS: That you‘re accusing the president.
FINEMAN: Yes. Yes, because when this decision by the president not to fight for the law a couple of days ago, there was thundering silence from the Republican leadership, I think it‘s fair to say.
MATTHEWS: Will DOMA pass again in the Republican crowd now if they‘re back in again? Will they pass Defense of Marriage Act in the current Congress right now?
COOPER: I would say, no. But his is looking at—I‘m obviously biased because I want to see DOMA repealed.
COOPER: I think it‘s an appropriate, it‘s an encroachment of state‘s rights and encroachment on individual liberty. Fellow Bush alumni, Ted Olson, who was our lead advocate on the courts on this, is arguing against DOMA in some of the cases that are—
MATTHEWS: That‘s why he‘s against the whole idea of denial—
COOPER: So, we have more pro-quality or self-identified pro-quality Republicans in Congress than we did—
MATTHEWS: Let‘s bottom line this. It‘s Friday night. Where is this going to end up? It seems like the president doesn‘t want to defend the constitutionality of the bill. You think Congress, it would unlikely, to take the initiative to do it again right now.
So, there‘s a lack of heart to now—to really fight same-sex marriage in this country. It seems like it‘s almost catching up to—not quite, catching up to the idea of open service, it‘s not quite there yet, right? That‘s why it‘s murky.
FINEMAN: Those trends are related, by the way. I think we need to quote her again—says the Supreme Court is going to deal with us one way or the other. That‘s number one. She said what the president did she called historic—even though admittedly it didn‘t go as far as he could have. And from her point of view it was historic.
It‘s clear to me that the Republican leadership would rather stay away from this thing all together—
FINEMAN: -- because they do want to focus on other things. And then they know as the Republican presidential campaign starts, all the Republican contenders are going to want to go out there and play to the crowd that is obsessed with this issue.
MATTHEWS: Pawlenty is already doing it.
MATTHEWS: Suburban women.
COOPER: Well, Mitch Daniels saying stay away—
MATTHEWS: Suburban women tend to be Republican because of tax considerations but on issues of social issues like this, they are very much against this gay bashing. They‘re very much for open service, very much for same sex. They don‘t like Republicans being anti-gay.
FINEMAN: The key now is that the polls show that among independent voters, it‘s a closely divided issue and it‘s not one that—
COOPER: And I think in terms of the primary GOP voters would like to stay focused on the economy.
MATTHEWS: I like the way you confuse me. Clarke, you‘ve got a tough job. He‘s got to be for Republicans and he‘s got to be for gay rights and a party that‘s not exactly for gay rights.
Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman—the look I‘m getting from Howard. Have a nice weekend—Howard Fineman. R. Clarke Cooper of the Log Cabin Republicans.
Up next, House Speaker John Boehner says it‘s time to do the big things and tackle Social Security. Is he sticking his neck out? Is the Republican Party touching that third rail? Are they going to get electrocuted? Interesting. Or is he doing those things they‘re doing in the NFL and fake it to get the other side to do it.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s proof right now. The Republicans don‘t look kindly on their own when they—when they work across the aisle. Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu is attacking Newt Gingrich for making a public service announcement with Nancy Pelosi in 2008 to fight climate change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: We don‘t always see eye-to-eye, do we, Newt?
NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: No. But we do agree, our country must take action to address climate change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Sununu is also blasting Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and current ambassador to China for having the, quote, “tarnish” of being in the Obama administration. Today‘s Republican Party, if you work with Democrats, you‘re out.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Wow, big news this morning.
In “The Wall Street Journal,” in an interview with that paper, House Speaker John Boehner said the budget will include—the Republican budget coming up will include trims or cuts in the costs of entitlement programs like Social Security, he said, and Medicare. Is he serious? And if so, can any politician of either party weather the cost of going after these very popular, broad-ranging government programs.
Donna Edwards is a Democratic congresswoman from Maryland, right near Washington; and Jonathan Allen is a reporter for “Politico.”
Just to get it clear, where would you stand if you were the king or queen of deciding whether to cut Social Security?
REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, first, I want to get the argument straight because Social Security, be clear, doesn‘t have a single thing to do with our deficit problem.
MATTHEWS: You have a surplus in Social Security right now. How long will we have that?
EDWARDS: Well, we have it until 2037. I mean, Social Security is solvent until 2037.
MATTHEWS: And there‘s more money coming in from worker bees than retired bees.
EDWARDS: That‘s right. And not just that, but actually, Americans‘ incomes. This new generation we‘ll be working, my son, their income earnings are projected to be 10 percent higher than our earnings.
MATTHEWS: I‘ll believe it when I see it.
EDWARDS: I didn‘t say it.
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s great our kids are going to make all these new money, I think. So, basically, OK, how about Medicare? Is there any way to cut it?
EDWARDS: Well, in Medicare, you know, keep in mind what we did with the Affordable Care Act, the health care act, was actually extend the solvency of Medicare to 2029.
EDWARDS: And so—I mean, I think that we‘re doing the things to get us on track to make sure both of these programs—
MATTHEWS: Would you call yourself a liberal progressive?
EDWARDS: I would so, yes.
MATTHEWS: Liberal or progressive, what do you like better?
EDWARDS: You know, I‘m an old liberal.
MATTHEWS: OK, old liberal. So, now we have—Jon, it‘s great to have you on. We have somebody who‘s clear on their statement. They don‘t want to cut these programs. They affect a lot of people. They don‘t think that—they‘d probably like to have tax increases or tax reforms to pay for a lot of this deficit reduction.
Now, you, Jonathan, objectively, what is Boehner up here? The fact that he‘s going to out and done it, single, unilateral interview with “The Wall Street Journal.” It‘s a great paper. The fact that he said to them in so many words that he‘s looking at cuts in Social Security. He‘s for them. He‘s going to target them. He‘s going to set it as a goal.
Is that, in fact, embracing it or is that just touching it sort of and hoping the president will do the real gripping of the wheel and say I‘m going to do it? What‘s he up to here?
JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO: Well, Boehner and his fellow leaders have been extremely critical of the president for in his budget not doing any entitlement reform. And I think what Boehner is really saying here is they‘re going to do some entitlement reform. The president left them a lot of room to do a little bit and make it sound like a lot. I think he is messaging, trying to send a bold message through “The Wall Street Journal” to economic conservatives that they will do something on these entitlements.
But what we‘ve heard from him and other Republican leaders, so far, is a lot more about health care entitlements, about Medicaid and about Medicare than Social Security—
MATTHEWS: But on that, you know that old vaudeville routine, I‘m not sure how it developed, but it was Alphonse and Gaston. Who‘s going through the door first? You first, no you first.
Is there any chance you see the president joining Boehner and walking through a door and saying we‘re going to cut these programs, it‘s going to hurt but we‘ll take the heat together? Is there any chance of that happening this spring?
ALLEN: Any chance—I think it‘s a small chance. The president decided not to do it in his budget. They‘re going to have to have some big grand bargain that‘s going to include those things and some of the budget things this year. We‘ve got sort of a train wreck of budget issues coming together—the fiscal ‘11 appropriations bills, the debt ceiling, fiscal ‘12 budget and the fiscal ‘12 appropriations bills.
And a lot of these members of Congress can‘t even distinguish between those things. They don‘t know what they are. They haven‘t dealt with them before. There‘s a lot on the plate for not only the House Republicans but for everyone.
ALLEN: And, by the way, I would like to say the congresswoman does not resemble an old liberal to me at all.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at these numbers. The NBC/”Wall Street Journal” Poll says that only 22 percent of Americans think it‘s necessary to cut Social Security. That‘s in line with your thinking. Only 18 percent say it‘s necessary to cut—we‘re looking at the numbers now -- 18 percent think it‘s necessary to cut Medicare. So, not only would the president be nervy to do something in Medicare and Social Security, but it would be completely off base with the public, right?
EDWARDS: Well, it‘s unnecessary. He‘ll be completely off base. I mean, if we want to talk about something, Social Security, let‘s look at the income threshold. Why is it $106,000, why not $200,000 and extend the life of Social Security forever.
MATTHEWS: Well, because it makes it more of a redistributive program if you did it.
EDWARDS: Except that all those people between $106,000 and $200,000, you‘re not capturing the same folks and you really do contribute to the extension and lifetime solvency of Social Security. And then you don‘t have to do things like put caps on cost of living increases and increase the retirement age. That‘s a progressive—
MATTHEWS: -- increase the benefits of those people who made that money.
EDWARDS: No, but I think the—I mean, the benefits will be sound.
We‘ll still be able to pay out at 90 percent by doing that.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Jon, about how about it‘s going to go? The American people keep saying they want something done about the deficit. They want something done about the debt. And now when you pull them, they say don‘t cut Social Security, don‘t cut Medicare.
And then in the latest polling we‘ve done says don‘t go after public employees really. I mean, you have given the co-pay and things like that, but don‘t take away their rights to negotiate and things like that, which down the road will cost money to the states. Do you think the public if we have a plebiscite right now, a national vote to cut the deficit, what would the public do if they had it their way?
ALLEN: Well, it depends entirely on what‘s in it. I mean, the problem—the reason we have a $14 trillion deficit is that people don‘t want to be taxed and they don‘t want to cut spending. And the problem is that we—that leaves you with not enough revenue to pay for your services. And we‘re seeing that all come together, and we‘re not getting courage from politicians yet.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve said it well and I can‘t say it better. The people do not really want to deal with reality. The politicians have to bite the bullet. Thank you.
EDWARDS: I‘m ready to bite. Thanks.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Donna Edwards, congresswoman from Maryland, and Jonathan Allen.
When we return, “Let Me Finish” with the real sinister reason why Mike Huckabee is talking about President Obama and the Mau Maus. It‘s dark stuff.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight, and this week, with a challenge to the Republican Party.
Here‘s how it goes: Don‘t do what Huckabee did this week, skip the talk about the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya in the 1950s, about the influence of his African father or grandfather, what influence they might have on the president and make this campaign about how this president has performed as president. The policies he‘s advanced and how they‘ve performed.
Our country has a lot to talk about between now and November 2012. Don‘t waste time talking about a country, Kenya, Barack Obama never lived in, a distant father he hardly ever met, or a grandfather he never met.
For one reason, I didn‘t think of it, talk about something as far away and as exotic as the Mau Mau revolt in the 1950s seems a strange way to address the 2012 American presidential campaign, more important that you‘re getting economic and other challenges facing the country right now.
It‘s like the general in Dr. Strangelove talking about precious bodily fluids. Or George F. Will puts in a column for this weekend, “Sensible Americans must be detecting vibrations of weirdness in what Huckabee was saying.”
Vibrations of weirdness—of course, looking it from the conservative of George Will, you can spot something dirtier in this tying of the president to a revolt against white rule in East Africa back 60 years ago.
The image of black men killing white people in a political struggle that goes right to the ideological, cultural and ethnic nervous system of those people who might just be ready to hear just the kind of weirdly exotic nonsense ole Huckabee got caught peddling on the A.M. dial early this week—something ordered from the Dark Continent, for the late night fear mongering of a pol from Arkansas who knows how to hit the sweet spot of American racial nervousness. You know, the old Nat Turner business of slaves breaking loose and killing their owners.
This is precisely dead-on what Huckabee did this week, talking up the Mau Maus and Obama‘s dad and grandpop—sell those kind of black and white violence, or black against white violence sells in the dark, nervous night of the soul.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
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