Guests: Richard Engel, Howard Fineman, David Corn, Robert Reich, Larry Sabato, Errol Louis, Jenny Backus
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Republicans trying to kill Medicare.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington. Leading off tonight: The revenge of the people. Remember all those videos of angry town halls where voters attacked Democrats over health care? Well, now Democrats are hoping for a new round of that fighting, this time over Paul Ryan‘s push to kill Medicare, the Republicans‘ push to kill Medicare. Democrats have even released a video on the issue. Well, the Republican demolition of Medicare tops our show tonight.
Plus, the Republican protection racket for the rich. Why do Republicans fight so hard to defend the rich from paying their fair share of taxes? You tell me.
Also, Donald Trump‘s new right-wing buddy and the New York mayor who says he‘s birther mad.
F-16s, by the way, from Norway, of all places, try to kill Gadhafi.
Finally, Haley Barbour‘s not running for president—just found out today. So who is?
We start with the backlash against the Republican Medicare kill. Howard Fineman is political editor for the HuffingtonPost and David Corn is Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine. Both are MSNBC political analysts.
Let me take a look—I want you both to see the latest footage. If you hold a town meeting today, you can be sure someone will have a cell phone...
MATTHEWS: ... someone will have a way of showing it to the world. Everything now goes viral. Here‘s Republican congressman Lou Barletta. He was the anti-immigrant guy who got elected in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Here he is facing angry constituents not over illegal immigrants, but by the Republican effort to kill Medicare. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you‘re doing with this Ryan budget is you‘re taking Medicare and you‘re changing it from a guaranteed health care system to one that is a voucher system, where you throw seniors—I‘m 64. You throw seniors on the mercy of for-profit insurance companies.
The reason we have Medicare in the first place is because seniors couldn‘t get health insurance. People won‘t cover seniors for this lousy $15,000. You said nothing in the campaign about, I‘m going to change Medicare. Now you voted for a plan that will destroy Medicare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Boy, she is good because she‘s totally informed. And by the way, that little pirouette she did when she turned around and starts...
MATTHEWS: ... Look, I own this room! And she‘s basically saying, Lou Barletta, you ran against illegal immigrants. Fair enough. We elected you because we didn‘t like illegal immigrants. Next thing you know, you‘re voting with the Republicans like a lemming to kill our Medicare.
These are—look, Pennsylvanians up in that part of the country are not rich people. They‘re working class, middle class people, but they‘re not going to head off to Florida to live in some big houses somewhere. They got to make it up there through the winter and all, and they need the Medicare.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
Well, you know, that...
MATTHEWS: Why is this guy voting with the party like a lemming?
FINEMAN: That‘s Joe Biden‘s ancestral homeland up there...
FINEMAN: ... in the Scranton—you know, eastern Pennsylvania area. It‘s an older demographic. And the Democrats are going to target anybody at or near...
MATTHEWS: Looks like those people are targeting the Republicans!
FINEMAN: Yes, they definitely are. They definitely are. I think you‘re going to see much more...
MATTHEWS: Why do...
FINEMAN: ... of that all around the country.
MATTHEWS: Howard, you and I have been in this business a long time.
FINEMAN: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: What moonshine did Barletta drink that got him to vote with the Republican vote to kill Medicare? One of the—they‘re not going to kill Social Security. Nobody‘s that nuts.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re pretty close to being nuts when you mess with Medicare...
MATTHEWS: ... the one program I‘ve discovered everybody likes once they turn 65.
FINEMAN: Yes. And I can‘t answer it other than to say that ideology trumps political common sense in this case because they are fixated on the idea that the route to salvation for the country and for them politically is to cut government spending.
FINEMAN: But that‘s not the popular...
MATTHEWS: The average person doesn‘t think...
FINEMAN: ... or even necessarily the right way...
MATTHEWS: ... it‘s government spending. They pay...
FINEMAN: They don‘t. They don‘t.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. They all have dodges now. We‘re going to get to Pat Meehan...
MATTHEWS: ... the former U.S. attorney, who wishes he was still a U.S. attorney, by the way, I think, defending himself by saying, This is just blueprint. Well, now the big dodge the Republicans have is, yes, I voted for it, but that only affects people 55 or 54 and younger. And that woman apparently in that same exchanged turned around and said, yes—when he tried to defend himself, she said, yes, but I care about my nieces and nephews. I don‘t want them screwed out of Medicare.
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, more important than that, I mean, in that demographic, I worry. But also, people have parents and people who are 30 and 40 are looking at the parents who may be 55 or 60...
CORN: ... and heading in that direction, they don‘t want to worry about for-profit insurance taking care of their parents in the next five, ten years. So there‘s—it‘s not just 64 or...
MATTHEWS: Yes, here‘s your Starbucks gift card. Go buy some insurance.
CORN: I mean, that...
MATTHEWS: Take a look at the map. Here‘s what‘s going on. The Democrats aren‘t so stupid. Look, they got a map now. They‘re looking around the country, where they lost the seats just last November. This isn‘t a Hundred Years War. This is a few months ago. They got blown away in those races. Now they‘re already targeting those to get back, Howard.
FINEMAN: Well, one of the keys is five of those on the map—I don‘t know if it shows that, but five of them in Florida. Five of the districts are in Florida. Duh. Not surprisingly.
FINEMAN: Well, because of the senior demographic.
MATTHEWS: But they got—they‘re the people with money.
FINEMAN: They‘re the people with money, but they care about this.
They believe in it philosophically. You‘ve got Arizona. You‘ve got Iowa. You‘ve got Pennsylvania. That‘s what they‘re going after. And by the way, by trying to exempt the younger people, also, it doesn‘t necessarily help the Republicans make their case because what they‘re saying to the younger voters is, We‘re going to screw you. We‘re going to screw you. So if you look at who supports what across the board...
CORN: There are 13 congressional districts where people—where they elected Republicans in last November, but in 2008 and 2004, they voted for Barack Obama and John Kerry. That‘s half of the 25 they‘re going after. Barletta is in one of those districts. These are the people who should be running scared. These are Democratic-leaning or Democratic high registration districts where the people like Medicare, like Medicaid, as well. And they don‘t like tax cuts for the rich. So they all should be worried what‘s going to happen.
MATTHEWS: OK, well, this splits both ways. Let‘s try to balance this out, this discussion. (INAUDIBLE) You look at your cash situation, most Americans, and most people in the country don‘t live in cities, they drive cars. So a lot of your cash is going right into that pump right now, you know, whether you‘re doing the card or you‘re paying the cash, 78 bucks a pop...
CORN: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: ... paying supreme, you‘re paying regular, a little less. Twice a week, you‘re getting killed over 100 bucks in cash. So you‘re cash poor. Then you look at the value of your house. You thought it was worth 100K. You‘re getting close to retirement. That‘s your nest egg. That‘s only worth $70,000. So what‘s happening today is people are facing cash poverty and wealth poverty. What I thought I owned in the back pocket—I could go watch television (ph), I think—at least I own the house. I‘m going to sell that to retire with—it ain‘t what it was. You‘re going to have a lot less money to go buy an apartment somewhere, a condo in the—wherever...
CORN: Hey, and their kids...
MATTHEWS: ... on top of that, your Medicare is getting screwed. It isn‘t going to cover you for your health...
CORN: And their kids are not getting good jobs. I mean, that‘s the other thing.
MATTHEWS: So who do you blame?
CORN: So you know, the whole feeling...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s watch...
CORN: ... of security is gone.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s watch this guy. Here‘s a guy who got elected in Joe Sestak‘s districts. You know this district.
FINEMAN: Yes, I do.
MATTHEWS: It‘s right—Delaware County. It‘s regular people. They‘re not a lot of right-wing country folk. They‘re suburban people, inner, outer suburb. Here they are realizing the guy they elected because he‘s a clean U.S. prosecutor has been voting the Republican lemming line. Here he is trying to defend his vote. And here he is—wait until you hear his defense. It‘s very interesting, a little too interesting. Here he is, Pat Meehan, defending his vote to cut Medicare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you voted to abolish Medicare, how will you explain that to people who are in their 50s who are out of work, that they will have not the Medicare that I have?
REP. PAT MEEHAN ®, PENNSYLVANIA: You said in your comment that I voted to abolish Medicare, and that‘s factually wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, how is that wrong?
MEEHAN: Let me answer the question...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will.
MEEHAN: ... and then I‘ll talk to you. Thank you. I voted for the Ryan plan. What Paul Ryan has put out is a blueprint, a sense of what we would like to do, a direction that we‘d like to go in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you think it helped he was wearing a regular work shirt when...
MATTHEWS: ... he explains killing Medicare?
CORN: It doesn‘t help.
FINEMAN: And to say it‘s a blueprint doesn‘t help, either, because he
what does that mean? He doesn‘t explain what that means. And the more he tries to explain actually what he voted for, the deeper trouble he‘s in because there‘s no way that the mathematics of the Ryan plan would result in anything other than the average retired person paying at least $5,000 or $6,000 more...
CORN: These are not...
FINEMAN: ... a year in the end. These are not numbers made up...
CORN: These are not suggested guidelines. You know, for years—the last year, we‘ve heard that Paul Ryan has an integral, coherent plan to save the country. This is part of that. This is not sort of, Well, let‘s have a committee and study whether we should do this. The Republicans are on record of ending Medicare and Medicaid as...
MATTHEWS: It‘s just like saying I voted to authorize to war not to go to war.
CORN: It‘s even worse than that.
FINEMAN: Well, the problem is, there are numbers attached to it now because the Congressional Budget Office and other sort of neutral umpires of this thing are saying there‘s no way that the vouchers that Paul Ryan would hand out would cover all the costs, and so people are going to have to absorb more of it themselves.
FINEMAN: Wait. The Republicans aren‘t really arguing with those numbers.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at this ad campaign. It was put together by a progressive group called Americans United for Change. It‘s launched an ad campaign, as I said, this week in four congressional districts at about $35,000 a pop. By the way, it‘s going after, in this case, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. Let‘s watch the ad nailing the Republicans. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sean Duffy looks like a nice young man, but on April 15th, he voted to end Medicare and its guaranteed health care benefits. Instead, he wants seniors to get coverage from private insurance companies. Under Duffy‘s plan, seniors‘ costs will go up over $6,000. Duffy wants to use that money to give millionaires a $200,000 tax break. Ending Medicare so millionaires can get another tax break? Really? Call Congressman Duffy and ask, What were...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FINEMAN: ... the voice of that person, and she sounds like Betty White.
MATTHEWS: It is Betty White.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m just kidding.
FINEMAN: That‘s a granny—that‘s Betty White or Granny or Aunt Flabby or somebody saying, How dare that nice young man try to deny me Medicare?
MATTHEWS: In other words, I liked his looks, but he‘s hurting me.
CORN: But guess what? The Republicans are acting like Republicans! They‘re squeezing the elderly and the poor to make room for tax cuts for the rich. I mean, this is a gift to the Democrats. And if they can‘t do ads like that across the country, they should...
MATTHEWS: We got two Republicans on the run, one saying it was just a blueprint. What was the other one saying? Oh, it‘s only for 55 and younger. So Howard, the fact that they‘re already on the run, that they‘re playing dodgeball here, does that tell...
MATTHEWS: What‘s that tell the top Republicans in the House?
FINEMAN: You asked initially, Why did they do it? I think there was a sort of group frenzy, a sort of group mentality, We got to do something for the Tea Party initially, we got to be with the Tea Party. And so they did it. This was the one thing that they felt they had to do...
MATTHEWS: Are they dead?
FINEMAN: ... after the election.
MATTHEWS: Are they dead?
FINEMAN: Well, they‘re going to run as fast as they can unless they can change the subject between now and (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Well, how do they change the fact they voted for this thing, they voted for it?
CORN: They can‘t change the fact. And this is an albatross around their neck. They have a year-and-a-half now to try to...
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s a millstone around your neck...
CORN: No. The Ancient Mariner wore the albatross.
CORN: But this is—this is a heavy burden for them to carry for the next year-and-a-half because any time they talk about deficit—and they thought they had an advantage on Obama on the budget and the deficit and tax issues and all this stuff. Now he has a counterargument. Yes, but this is what they want to do. And it‘s not going to go away.
FINEMAN: Well, they have to—they have to change the argument back to the fact that the government‘s broke, and I don‘t know if they can do it. They‘re going to try.
CORN: And the economy‘s...
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t it like Hollywood? This is high concept.
FINEMAN: That part‘s high concept. Losing the Medicare money is not high concept. That‘s the problem for the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right. Thank you. It‘s easier to understand the Democrat argument—the Democratic argument. Howard Fineman, David Corn, jumping on the Republican carcass—objectively.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: The hometown crowd in New York goes after Donald Trump. That 24/7 news media up there has nailed it. They‘re going after him now. And I think this very impressive mayor up there, Mike Bloomberg, was much tougher than the media. He‘s hitting him for being a birther. “The New York Daily News,” Mort Zuckerman, going after his other developer. This is interesting. Let‘s see how Trump handles the nasty treatment from some of the intramural boys up in New York.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, good news. Doctors have cleared Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to attend her husband‘s space shuttle launch Friday. What a family. They say they‘re comfortable with Giffords making the trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where husband Mark Kelly will command the space shuttle Endeavor on the second to last shuttle mission ever. Giffords continues her recovery from January‘s shooting. “The Arizona Republic” reports today that she can speak normally, but most often in a single world or a short phrase.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: As you know, I‘m staying out of it. I think that Mr. Trump is having the time of his life. I congratulate him for getting all the attention that he‘s getting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know what that means. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was John McCain on “MEET THE PRESS”—I don‘t know what he meant by that—weighing in on a possible Trump presidency without saying a thing.
As Trump becomes more serious, of course, so does the scrutiny he faces from politicians and the media, especially media back home in New York. Errol Louis is in New York, the host of “Inside City Hall” on NY1. And Jenny Backus is a Democratic consultant.
Let‘s take—overall right now, Errol, what is going on in New York? I noticed “The New York Daily News,” Mort Zuckerman‘s paper—he‘s a big developer up there, Donald Trump‘s a big developer—is this intramurals in New York, or what‘s going on? Why all of a sudden the heat on this guy?
ERROL LOUIS, NY1: Well, I don‘t know if it‘s heat. It‘s people taking him up on his challenge, his offer to be taken seriously. If you‘re going to take him seriously—and we did a long interview with him—we also went in and looked at his voting record and found that he hadn‘t voted in a primary in over 20 years. I mean, you know, it comes with the territory. And frankly, it‘s a love tap compared to the scrutiny he‘s going to get if he actually gets into a presidential primary.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that‘s going to hurt him with the birther crowd, that he didn‘t vote in primaries in New York City?
LOUIS: Well, you know, it‘s—he switched parties and then didn‘t vote either as a Democrat or as a Republican. You know, it starts to look a little bit funny. He was saying very nice things about the president, about Barack Obama as late as last year...
MATTHEWS: That‘s true.
LOUIS: ... or 2009.
MATTHEWS: Well, here was Trump on “Fox & Friends.” I swear he gets up and turns on the TV and watching (INAUDIBLE) Fox, I‘m sure. Here he is on morning—this morning, today, talking about his voting record, defending it point by point, but not quite accurately. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Sometimes you‘ll have a primary where a Republican is even mentioned and where there is no Republican or where he‘s expected to get 4 percent of the vote, and I‘ll be in a foreign state or I‘ll be in a foreign country doing business. And am I supposed to drive back when the Republican is, you know, considered to get 3 percent of the vote or there is no Republican even running? So a little bit of that. But in terms of the general election, my record is very good. I mean, generally speaking, I like to vote. I‘m a believer in voting, I will tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I just love this, Jenny Backus! He says the same thing to the church crowd. He says, You know, I go whenever I can. I‘m sort of a Sunday kind of guy, Easter—you know? But it‘s an amazingly new bar has been set very low. First of all, apparently, he didn‘t vote in the general election of 2002, so I guess he‘ll qualify that again, yet again, and say, OK, I only voted in presidential general elections. It‘s going to take a while to get this straight, I guess.
JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Well, it‘s a cult of personality right now. I mean, I think everyone wants a little bit of amusement. Spring is in the air. People are looking for something to laugh at. His (INAUDIBLE) numbers are going down. I mean, the bottom line is this guy is a figment of everybody‘s imagination in some...
MATTHEWS: He is?
BACKUS: Yes. Well, he‘s a figment of all...
MATTHEWS: OK, who‘s got a better chance of being elected president next year, him or Pawlenty?
BACKUS: It‘s true!
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think he‘s up against a fast track here.
BACKUS: No, I...
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s on a muddy, slow track here...
BACKUS: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: ... and he‘s galloping along here.
BACKUS: Oh, come on, Chris. You know that presidential races are won by slogging it out in Iowa and New Hampshire. I mean, this guy is Mr. Florida. He comes flying in to Iowa...
MATTHEWS: OK, let...
BACKUS: ... in his gold coach plane...
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this Bloomberg thing, the fact that Bloomberg, your mayor, went after him? He said he‘s an icon, and then—on “Fox & Friends” yesterday, but then he went on to challenge the birther issue? Let‘s watch a very respectable mayor, Michael Bloomberg, go after his fellow New Yorker. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: Anybody can run for president if you‘re 35 and an American citizen and born here. The president was born here. This birther issue is more than one person. There‘s a lot of groups that have glommed onto this. I think the Republicans are making a terrible mistake in making this a big issue. We have immigration. We have the deficit. We have the economy. Those are the things that the public cares about. If the Republican Party doesn‘t start addressing that, they will lose and they deserve to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Not as a journalist, but as an American, Errol, are you offended by this birther talk?
LOUIS: No, not really. Obviously, it‘s—look, it‘s obviously a stand-in for something else. People seem to have lost their minds over something related to the president.
LOUIS: And it expresses itself in this very peculiar way, you know?
So, you know, I mean, I pity those people...
MATTHEWS: Well, what is it?
LOUIS: ... more than anything.
MATTHEWS: Is it factual? Is it a true inquiry? Is it true skepticism, or is it, so‘s your old man? It‘s like schoolkids yelling at each other, your mama, that kind of stuff?
LOUIS: It‘s probably—my guess, if I had to guess, would be that it‘s a euphemism. In polite company, you can‘t say certain things about—about the president. So, they will say, well, he‘s not an American. And they like the fact...
MATTHEWS: So, what‘s it euphemistic for?
LOUIS: They like the fact that it bothers people like you, Chris, and I think they get more pleasure out of bugging you than—than anything else.
MATTHEWS: Well, I would all—I would surprised if he spends his mornings figuring out how to bother me.
But here‘s Franklin Graham, a guy I don‘t respect. He was asked about Mitt Romney and Donald Trump as possible presidential candidates. Let‘s listen to what the Reverend Junior Graham had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR”)
FRANKLIN GRAHAM, SAMARITAN‘S PURSE: I have met Mitt Romney. No question he‘s a—he‘s a very capable person. He‘s proven himself. Donald Trump, when I saw that that he was getting in, I thought, well, this has got to be a joke. But the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself, you know, maybe the guy is right.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST, “THIS WEEK WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR”: So, he might be your candidate of choice?
GRAHAM: Yes. Sure, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Here he is. Let‘s take a look at this. Here‘s Franklin Graham. He has a history of saying incendiary things. You‘re about to see a couple of them. Let‘s listen to a few of things he‘s said in just the past year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: I said that Islam, after 9/11, that Islam was wicked and evil. I don‘t believe that Mohammed can lead anybody to God.
First of all, I think the president‘s problem is that he was born a Muslim. His father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father. He was born a Muslim. His father gave him an Islamic name.
Now, it‘s obvious that the president has renounced the Prophet Mohammed and he has renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That‘s what he says he‘s done. I cannot say that he hasn‘t. So, I just have to believe the president is what he‘s said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What is this seed of Islam? He says Islam is a joke of religion. Then he‘s quoting the religion beliefs about the seed of Islam. Somehow, you—you become part of a religion without any forethought.
BACKUS: It‘s—it just makes me—I think it would make everyone in
and you have to be careful who you sort of associate and say that are your backers.
And the fact that Trump and Graham are embracing myself makes me scared about foreign policy. It‘s almost like Sarah Palin waking up and not knowing where Alaska and Florida are. I mean, you need to be able to have someone who has can have a conversation and lead and make strategic decisions and garner respect.
MATTHEWS: Why would he glom on to this guy?
Errol, why would he want Franklin Graham behind him? Then to—associate himself with Franklin‘s wonderful father, Billy, a different kettle of fish than the son, I think we all agree by now.
LOUIS: Well, he‘s trying to get some legitimacy, clearly.
I mean, he likes his standing in the polls. He‘s appealing to the birther crowd. He‘s looking for friends anywhere he can find them. And that‘s how you run for a president, at least in the early stages of it. That‘s one version of how you run for president.
You know, he could stand on principle and remain single digits in the polls and just kind of fade away, like Haley Barbour. He‘s chosen a different strategy.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s try to go further. I want to now plumb the depths of you. I want to do some teeth-drilling of you, Errol.
You said that he gets up in the morning to try to bug me, which I find sort of almost laughable. But fine. Let‘s go this—the last thing you said. He does this to appeal to the birther crowd. Who are the birther crowd?
LOUIS: Well, I mean, they‘re self-defined, people who believe that insanity -- 84 percent of Democrats reject it -- 69 percent of independents reject it. And apparently something around 46 percent of Republicans do not reject it.
So, you know, there you have it. I—I—you know, beyond that, I don‘t know how you slice and dice them. I don‘t know where they fall as far as their geography or their religion or anything else, but...
MATTHEWS: Can you help me guess with this one? I guess they‘re rural and I guess they‘re right-wing and I guess they don‘t like Barack Obama, long before they ever questioned his birthplace.
BACKUS: But we need to be careful about birther equals Tea Party in some sense.
MATTHEWS: I didn‘t say that.
BACKUS: No, you didn‘t, but other people are saying that. And I think that‘s where—Trump says Tea Party. He‘s trying to say that he is a Tea Party guy, but this is a guy who has gone into bankruptcy four times, used every corporate loophole and...
MATTHEWS: OK. You are just being partisan here.
BACKUS: I am not being partisan.
MATTHEWS: Yes, you are, because the fact is, he seems to be appealing.
BACKUS: I‘m just saying that the Tea Party...
MATTHEWS: There‘s something going on why—I want everybody—both of you guys to tell me, why is he doing so well in these polls if he‘s a joke?
BACKUS: Right now, a ham sandwich would do well in the Republican primary.
BACKUS: There‘s no—he‘s a celebrity. People recognize his name.
MATTHEWS: Yes, sir?
LOUIS: I don‘t think that—I don‘t think he‘s a joke. He‘s talked about trade policies, some other things very seriously.
This birther thing is pure insanity and a bit of political hucksterism. But, other than that, he‘s a serious candidate.
BACKUS: I don‘t think you can say he‘s a serious candidate...
BACKUS: ... looking at...
BACKUS: ... what he said. I mean, his—he‘s glib. He‘s got one
line. He flip-flops every second. He‘s not going to hold—New York is -
other than probably my hometown of Boston, well, my home area of Boston, New York is a hotbed of political—you guys are going to—you guys are starting to sizzle him up a little bit. Wait until everybody else...
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m actually confused now, because I think—I‘m not confused. I do think we‘re seeing a statement here.
I believe that the early round of Republican candidates who have put their names out there are not working. I think Mitt Romney‘s like the dog food the dog never wanted. No matter how much advertising, no matter how good it looks, he doesn‘t like the taste of this dog food.
I think T-Paw ain‘t working there. He might. I think all this talk about Mitch Daniels is intellectualism that is never going to go anywhere.
MATTHEWS: In the end, you have got to pick a human being to be president of the United States who you trust more than you trust the other guy.
And I think that‘s the Republican conundrum for a while now.
MATTHEWS: Maybe by next year, they will have solved it.
BACKUS: Well, Trump is not the solution for them. And you can see that by Rove and other people coming out and saying—trying to run away from him and disqualify him right now.
I mean, we have had a couple of primaries like this where some people didn‘t like John Kerry. They—they—everyone looks for the superstar. You don‘t get superstar races every single time out in a presidential cycle. And I think we need to be careful not to overlook the workhorses out there, the people ,the guys, unfortunately for the—and Michele Bachmann, her—well, maybe not her—but going to Iowa and New Hampshire...
MATTHEWS: Errol, did you just hear the standard change?
MATTHEWS: The standard has changed.
MATTHEWS: Michele Bachmann is now a serious candidate for president because we have got Donald Trump in the race.
BACKUS: Donald Trump. There you go.
MATTHEWS: They have moved that center strip.
LOUIS: Nothing succeeds like success. Let him win a couple of primaries and a lot of stuff will suddenly start to fade away. Remember Barack Obama and some of the warts that he had.
MATTHEWS: Well, the good news for us is, I just got the word from his office today that, when he announces, apparently, what, June 1, he‘s coming on this show and make a lot of—give us a lot of information about his plans. So that‘s when I want Donald Trump on the show.
And I will wait. I‘m willing to wait, Donald. And I don‘t think you get up in the morning just to bother me at all.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Errol, I think you‘re wrong on that one. But you‘re a New Yorker. You know, I understand how you‘re all obsessed with your intramurals up there.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Errol. Thank you very much, Errol Louis, for joining us.
LOUIS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And I want to thank you Jenny Backus, as always.
BACKUS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, Republicans get dumped. The law firm—the law firm hired to fight for the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, backs out. And then the top lawyer quits because he doesn‘t like them backing out. That‘s ahead in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL—the beat goes on, on same-sex marriage—only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First, drill baby drill, it‘s back. Didn‘t take long. Here‘s Tim Paw, Tim Pawlenty, this morning.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TIM PAWLENTY ®, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: This is a president who has sat on his hands as it relates to drilling. You know, we have got a country that‘s got some enormous energy assets that are not being exploited or leveraged to the benefit of our country and to our people.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, nobody thinks this country can drill its way out of high gas prices.
Anyway, next up: Republicans get dumped. Under pressure from gay rights groups, the law firm that had originally agreed to defend the Defensive of Marriage Act, DOMA, for House Republicans has pulled out of the case.
Angry at his firm‘s decision, Republican Paul Clement, who is a former solicitor general for George W. Bush, quit the firm in protest. He said, “Unpopular causes have a right to a defense.”
Well, I may not agree with his politics, but you can‘t argue with the principle. The courts should settle these things like this.
Finally: cooking the books. This month, Republican Jon Kyl told a giant whopper on the Senate floor, saying that abortions are 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. Well, the real number, 3 percent. Senator Kyl made matters worse by putting out word that it was not intended to be a factual statement, what he said.
Well, now he‘s taken the—he‘s backpedaling this one a step further. Kyl has just moved to revise the statement in the permanent congressional record. The daily record printed that night had what he originally said.
Anyway, up next: The big debate in this country is about reining in the deficit. But how can we be serious about it if we‘re not talking about raising taxes, especially on the rich? Taxes are lower than they have been for decades, so why aren‘t this part of—this part of the mix?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
SIMON HOBBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Simon Hobbs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks ended mixed on a quiet session, as investors wait on more corporate earnings. The Dow fell 26 points, the S&P down two, and the Nasdaq added five.
It was the lightest volume day of the year so far coming off, of course, a holiday weekend and in advance of the Fed‘s first big news conference Wednesday. Tomorrow, we get earnings from Amazon, Ford, Coca-Cola and 3M. Investors are increasingly focused on whether rising input costs are cutting profit margins.
But tech companies are still a standout, averaging a 33 percent bump in earnings, 27 percent increase in sales over last year. After the close tonight, we had Netflix delivering strong quarterly profits and sales, but a weaker-than-expected outfit is driving shares lower after-hours.
And precious metals are just getting more precious every day, gold still trading at record highs, above $1,500 an ounce, silver also hitting a new high, just shy of $50 an ounce today.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS WITH DAVID GREGORY”)
DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”: Could you support a deal here out of this gang of six on the budget that includes tax increases?
SEN. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA: Well, we are not talking about it. We are not talking about raising tax rates at all so.
GREGORY: All right, but here‘s—here‘s...
COBURN: So, if there‘s a net effect of tax revenue, that would be fine with me.
GREGORY: Alan Greenspan was on this program last week. He said the Bush era tax cuts should expire for everybody. Is that not fair?
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: So, you have got to work both sides of the equation. But we did not raise tax rates in this proposal. What we did was have tax reform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota on “Meet the Press” yesterday.
Can Democrats and Republicans find a way to fix the budget?
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is a professor at U.C. Berkeley and author of the new book “Aftershock.” There it is. And University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato is the author of “Pendulum Swing.”
Gentlemen, thank you for coming on the show.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: This is something that has really gotten sort of bogged up or—or clogged up in American politics. That is, you can only adjust one side of the ledger now. That means cutting taxes—or cutting spending, and that‘s all anybody talks about.
Look at these new numbers right now. We have got a “Washington Post”/ABC poll you might not be shocked by. Forty-three percent -- 53 percent opposed to even a small tax increase and small cuts in Medicare. It‘s written as almost minuscule and it‘s written as a fair proposition, and people still reject it 53-45.
Then you ask people, should we go after—sock it to people that make most of the money, and it‘s 3-1 tax people, over 72 percent.
Robert Reich, it seems like people don‘t want any kind of an across-the-board adjustment in anything. They only get excited about hitting people hard who they are not. In other words, I can read a poll to know that most of the people who are responding to this are making less than $250,000 a year, and they‘re saying hit the people that do make more.
Is this where we‘re at, we only go after the rich, that‘s it?
REICH: Well—oh, Chris, I thought the most part of that “Washington Post”/ABC poll you‘re talking about is that 54 percent, 54 percent of registered Republicans said taxes should be increased on the rich.
Now, I haven‘t seen anything like that for the last 30 or 40 years. And I haven‘t been following every poll for the last 30 or 40 years, but for years Republicans have been saying and most of the public has been believing that if you cut taxes on the rich, then you get trickle-down economics that benefits everybody, and, also, if you increase taxes on the rich, everybody will be hurt because some day everybody‘s going to be a millionaire.
REICH: Well, those are two methodologies, and they have both gone out of style and out of fashion. So, even Republicans are beginning to say, look, if we have no other choice, let‘s raise taxes on the rich.
MATTHEWS: So, if that‘s the voters‘ opinion, Larry, why isn‘t it happening? Why do both parties...
LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS:
It‘s not happening...
MATTHEWS: We just saw two members of Congress who are supposed to be the guys in the middle cutting the deal, they were gun-shy, both of them, on any kind of tax increase.
SABATO: Yes, because a poll is a not an election. That‘s fundamentally the difference here.
Look, the reason Republicans almost universally, not just Tea Party Republicans, but mainstream Republicans, oppose any tax increase is because if they do, they‘re guaranteed not just a Tea Party challenge. They‘re probably going to be challenged in a primary by another mainstream Republican.
And it‘s gotten to the point where tax increases are now defined, at least by some, like our friend Grover Norquist, as being the elimination of tax subsidies for things like the ethanol industry. So, it‘s—it‘s getting tougher and tougher even to raise fees and close loopholes and eliminate subsidies.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is a problem for both parties because, Robert, if—if—if you can‘t get any give from the Republican side on revenues, on taxes, even on an increase in revenue through reform, if you can‘t do that, it seems to me very hard to get the Democrats to agree to any kind of cut in spending.
So, the president can‘t get his own party to do any kind of budget adjustment, any kind of effort to reduce the deficit that‘s real, if he can‘t get the other party to increase revenue. So, both sides get hurt politically because neither side will move then.
Is that where we‘re at? Nobody wants to do anything because nobody‘s doing everything?
REICH: Chris, if you assume that compromise is actually halfway between the president‘s proposal and Paul Ryan‘s proposal, then, yes, you are stymied—you are completely stymied. But if the public and I think a lot of Republicans and not a few Democrats are getting a lot of news when they go home right now at town meetings, when the public actually registered what they want—no cut in Social Security or Medicare, and do tax the rich and let‘s get rid of corporate welfare, let‘s pare down military spending—when so many representatives are hearing that in the town meetings you might actually see a more, a greater willingness to compromise when they come back.
MATTHEWS: Well, I see that don‘t touch Medicare. I don‘t see the excitement of raising taxes. Do you hear it, Larry?
MATTHEWS: For the rich?
SABATO: I‘m with you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I mean, do they actually demand at meetings?
SABATO: Well, I don‘t know what people are saying in their meetings. I doubt that‘s what the Republican members are hearing—and remember, it would have to pass the Republican House.
Look, there‘s only one open window for a compromise and that is, Bob mentioned, corporate welfare. I think Republicans would say as Senator Coburn did, closing loopholes, tax reform. That may be a way to produce some kind of compromise. But if you‘re talking about a general increase in tax rates, forget about it. Not going to happen.
REICH: Well, Larry, I completely agree with Larry on that. No general increase in tax rates, but what we‘re talking about is increasing taxes on the rich. Not only getting rid of the, you know, extension of the Bush tax cuts for people over $250,000, but also, for example, capping home mortgage interest deductions, maybe, what, $20,000 a year. I mean, there are a lot of things that can be done that would get in my view a great deal of public support.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re not running for anything, Robert. And, Larry, and you‘re not running for anything. And I think Larry made the point a minute, I think that was crisply stated. There‘s a difference between a poll and an election. If all you have to do is expose yourself as a Republican to any kind of problem with the voters, they‘ll kill you on it. The Republicans will be Tea Partying you. The Democratic side, they‘ll get you on Medicare.
So, I‘m afraid that the solution politically for this crowd of people in politics today is: do nothing. Let the deficit ride.
Robert, don‘t you think that‘s what‘s going to happen, really? They just going to let this deficit balloon and they‘re not going to do anything about it.
REICH: Chris, always the path of least resistance is to do nothing. But if the dollar continues to drop, if we see that—it‘s not just Standard & Poor‘s but capital markets become very afraid that the Republicans and Democrats doing nothing, then their hands may be forced and may have to do something.
REICH: And then the question is: what are they going to cut or what tax are they going to raise? And I think if you can raise any taxes at all, it‘s got to be on the rich.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t see any leadership out there from either party cutting a deal.
Larry, what about Haley Barbour quitting? I thought he might be able to thread the needle. He might be, to use another metaphor, a Tea Party-appealing person but without being a Tea Party person. But—what do you think? Why did he quit?
SABATO: Chris, I think he‘s one of the smartest politicians in either party and he just proved it today. He wasn‘t selling. And he picked it up. He wasn‘t selling because of the D.C. lobbyist thing, because of the Mississippi connections, because of his accent and looks. And he decided I think rather sanely he didn‘t want to go through this tortured presidential selection process for nothing.
MATTHEWS: So, now, there‘s only a couple left. There‘s only Jeb and maybe Christie. Who‘s the—what do you call it—the dark horse for you? Who‘s going to come in the race and win it on the Republican side, anybody?
SABATO: I doubt anybody comes in but the person who just keeps being mentioned is Chris Christie and he loves it no matter what he‘s saying.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you completely on that.
Robert Reich, Chris Christie, what do you think? Big surprise—
REICH: I think he could be a very strong candidate but don‘t take your eyes off Mitt Romney. He looks the part. He acts the part. He has gleaming white teeth. He is kind—now, wait a minute, I know the public is very—
MATTHEWS: You are setting him up. You are setting this guy up—duller than you can imagine.
REICH: Mitt Romney is an empty—Chris, I‘m not—I‘m not a supporter of Mitt Romney. I think he‘s a very strong candidate. I mean, Mitt Romney is an empty suit. I think in fact—
MATTHEWS: You heard what I said the other day? He gives empty suits a bad name.
Anyway, thank you, Robert Reich. Thank you, Larry Sabato. You‘re just setting this guy up. An ass (ph) and a gold and the horse is what you want.
Up next, NATO‘s ratcheting up the pressure on Moammar Gadhafi, targeting his main compound. The Norwegians are shooting at this guy. Boy, it‘s fascinating. Not us, Norwegians—F-16s from Norway.
We‘ll get a report from the front lines from NBC‘s Richard Engel.
MATTHEWS: Well, as we just mentioned in the show, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is not running for president. And that means Mississippi will remain one of the 32 states that has never produced a U.S. president.
Wow. I didn‘t know that one. In fact, of 44 presidents, 28 came from just six states: Ohio, New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas. Wow. I didn‘t know that.
You learn something new every night here.
HARDBALL back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, today in Libya, NATO forces attacked Gadhafi‘s personal compound in Tripoli, causing heavy damage. A Libyan government spokesman called it an assassination attempt. Well, the U.S. military says Gadhafi was not the target.
NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is in Benghazi, Libya.
Richard, is that to be believed that they weren‘t trying to knock off Gadhafi by going after his personal office?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It‘s very hard to see how it wouldn‘t be perceived that way if you are in Libya. Imagine if a foreign government attacks the White House and then says, well, we weren‘t exactly trying to kill the president. We were just trying to destroy some command and control issues there.
So, from the Libyan perspective, yes, I can certainly see how it‘s perceived that way. According to a U.S. official, these two Norwegian F-16s fired to destroy command and control capabilities. They destroyed Gadhafi‘s personal office, a library and reception hall, and as you mentioned in the last segment, you have to be one unpopular world leader to have the Norwegians attacking you.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I thought that.
Let me ask you about Misrata. There was a retreat by the government forces, by Gadhafi there, that seemed to surprise even the rebels, and there was something of a comeback by them. How do you see that fight going over in Misrata? We have it on the map.
ENGEL: Misrata has been described as a massacre, what happened over the weekend. Gadhafi‘s forces pulled back, the rebels game very excited. They were able to drive out some snipers from the center of the city. They were claiming victory, even people here in Benghazi started to celebrate. They were calling Misrata liberated.
And then as the troops pulled back to the outskirts of the city, all weekend, there was indiscriminate shelling, a school was hit, a hospital was hit, maybe 45 to 50 people, at least according to medics were killed, unless they get some direct air support, constant air support, many people believe that there will be many more deaths in Misrata.
The Predator drones have helped, but they don‘t seem to be in the sky enough or attacking enough to provide any kind of real security for the people of Misrata.
MATTHEWS: Can you report that we have changed our strategy, that we‘re going for the kill, if you will—that we are escalating the NATO forces, the attempt to topple Gadhafi or not? Are we still at that limited warfare mode?
ENGEL: I think we are definitely still in the limited warfare mode.
In the very beginning of this conflict, when it was led by the United States not by NATO with U.S. participation, there was a much more aggressive military campaign. Every day, we were seeing dozens of Libyan armored vehicles being destroyed. That tempo, the battle tempo, has been greatly reduced.
There was this very symbolic and dramatic attack on Gadhafi‘s compound today. There have been other attacks on his compound. This was just with bigger bombs.
MATTHEWS: Well, we heard Johns McCain over the weekend go in there and basically side with the rebels and say we‘ve got to really go in there and help them, but here‘s Lindsey Graham, his longtime ally from South Carolina on Libya. Let‘s listen to Lindsey Graham.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: It is leading to a military stalemate. Right now, there‘s just right now no momentum by the rebels, even if they‘re better armed to break through to Tripoli. There‘s not deep support for Gadhafi. So, my recommendation to NATO and the administration is to cut the head of the snake off, go to Tripoli, start bombing Gadhafi‘s inner circle, their compounds, their military headquarters in Tripoli.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do we have the mandate within the NATO, or rather, within the U.N. Security Council to support that kind of mission, to go in and topple this government?
ENGEL: No. The mandate is simply to protect the Libyan people and not to engage in regime change. The mandate would have to change.
Many people say the policy is effectively to topple the regime. You saw these fighter jets today from Norway attacking the main compound of Gadhafi in the center of Tripoli. So, everyone knows that toppling the regime is the undeclared objective. But there isn‘t a written mandate to do that.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is beginning to resemble in very broad terms the Bay of Pigs. It looks like we‘ve gone in there to try to topple somebody. Now, Fidel Castro was still in Cuba.
I‘m beginning to wonder: is there any reason to believe that Gadhafi will be out of there before President Obama leaves office? What‘s to believe in terms of this ending anywhere in the foreseeable future? Why would Gadhafi go anywhere as long as he can make the strong stand he‘s making now?
ENGEL: He certainly wouldn‘t, and there are no indications that he has any intention of doing that. After the attack on his compound, Gadhafi was seen on Libyan state television.
ENGEL: His son came out, called the attack “cowardly.” He said that he has no intention of bowing down or raising his hands in surrender.
But there are some things working against Gadhafi right now. The rebels do have some support. They were able to clear out a limited pocket of the center.
ENGEL: Sure, they were attacked. But, significantly, the rebels have also taken over a part of territory on the other side of Tripoli, close to the Tunisian border.
ENGEL: So, if there‘s more momentum, they could pincer in and squeeze around Gadhafi. But unless that happens, yes, this could take months, perhaps even longer than that.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much, Richard Engel, in Benghazi, Libya.
When we come back, “Let Me Finish” with the two kinds of Republicans out there today. They‘re becoming clear.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with that old one about there are only two kinds of people in the world—those who think there‘s only two kinds of people in the world, and those who don‘t.
Well, today, there are two kinds of Republicans in this country:
those who are on the birther thing and those who aren‘t. I think most Americans, Democrat, independent and Republican, are proud of our country that we could elect Barack Obama president. I believe that. Even people who didn‘t vote for him were glad to see this country of ours can measure up to those ideals of “all men being created equal,” that this is a country where we can make it no matter how humble or different your background.
Well, the Republican Party, unlike the rest of the country, is—as I said—roughly divided on this issue. It‘s about even-steven between the people who are happy we can meet up to our ideals of equal opportunity and American exceptionalism, and those who can‘t deal with the fact that Barack Obama is president—that a guy named like Barack Obama is president, that a guy who looks like Barack Obama is president, that a guy whose father was a black African is president. They just don‘t like it.
Well, tonight, I offer two Americans to personify this big difference in the Republican Party. I offer you the name Michael Bloomberg who himself personifies the American Dream, who created something really great—Bloomberg Communications—and then became mayor of New York.
I offer you the name Franklin Graham, born to a fine name, perhaps the finest father you could have in this country, Billy Graham—born with all the pedigree one would want in this country.
Mike Bloomberg just said the Republicans are making a big mistake making this birther thing a big issue.
Mr. Graham has said that Donald Trump is now his candidate. No surprise here. He, Mr. Graham, has accused the president of having the seed of Islam in him, whatever the hell that means. So, it‘s perfect that Trump is his guide. He was riding the birther horse long before Trump even jumped on the saddle. Graham rode it hard for weeks—rather, Trump did and stabled it wet.
As I said, there are two kinds of Republicans: the birthers, and there ilk like Franklin Graham, and those who think like Mike Bloomberg, who defend and cheer the American ideal.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
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