Guest Host: Ron Reagan
Guests: Howard Fineman, David Corn, Hampton Pearson, Jonathan Alter, Dennis Kucinich, Bob Shrum, Donna Edwards, David Abel, Steve O‘Donnell
RON REAGAN, GUEST HOST: Michele Bachmann rides a dinosaur through the entire 6,000-year history of the universe.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Ron Reagan in Seattle, sitting in for Chris Matthews once more.
Leading off tonight: The war against the war. From the start, Americans have been skeptical of U.S. involvement in Libya, and today, the House threw a pie in the face of President Obama, voting overwhelmingly against a measure that would have authorized the U.S. mission there. Not only did all but eight Republicans vote no, but 70 Democrats deserted the president, as well. It‘s a symbolic blow, but it‘s a sign of growing impatience with the effort to get Moammar Gadhafi.
Plus, the war on science. Michele Bachmann, who kicks off her presidential campaign on Monday, says when it comes to evolution, the so-called intelligent design or creationism theory, there‘s a scientific controversy between the two and both should be taught.
Let‘s be clear. There is no controversy at all among scientists over whether humans evolved. None. We‘ll get into the debate over whether creationism should be taught in schools.
Also, who says taxes can never be raised? Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl walked out of budget talks yesterday for one reason, taxes. Taxes are at their lowest level in decades, our government is deep in the red, and I happen to be very familiar with one president, at least, who hated taxes but raised them when he saw it was necessary. So why won‘t Republicans even consider making the wealthy pay a little bit more?
And why are some people in the FBI so nervous about the capture of Whitey Bulger? Could it be that they protected him and now are terrified that he‘ll turn on them?
Finally, as they say, dying is easy, comedy is hard. Texas governor Rick Perry found out just how hard last night. Check out the “Sideshow.”
We begin with Libya, though. As we said, the House today rejected a measure rejected a measure authorizing the U.S. million in Libya with 70 Democrats voting now. But the House would only go so far, refusing to defund U.S. operations in Libya. Only 36 Democrats voted in favor of that measure.
Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich joins us now from Capitol Hill.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Hi, Ron. It‘s good to be with you.
REAGAN: Good to have you. Well, sir, why did you and 69 other House Democrats break with the president on Libya?
KUCINICH: Well, first of all, it‘s not the president‘s choice to make. It‘s up to Congress to make the decision whether or not this country declares war. And so I‘ve been involved in leading the effort to—not just against the war in Libya, but in leading the efforts so that Congress assumes its rightful position as a coequal branch of government, that our system of checks and balances actually is activated, and that the separation of power on the issue of war that our Founders had a clear intention to—not just to enact but to see preserved, that we preserve it.
REAGAN: As you well know, we—in the U.S. has hasn‘t officially—
Congress hasn‘t officially declared war since World War II, and we‘ve fought in many places around the world. What is it about this Libyan operation that has people so up in arms?
KUCINICH: Well, you know, I—as I looked at what was happening, where the president unilaterally made a decision to take us into war, he talked to the Arab League, he talked to NATO, talked to the U.N., and didn‘t come to the United States Congress and ask for permission.
When I looked at that, I said, you know, I don‘t think that this is what the Founders had intended. I talked to other members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and we decided that the Constitution does mean something here, that Article one, Section eight needs to be enforced, that the Congress—our constituents are the ones that are asked to serve if there‘s a war. Our—we‘re directly elected. Our constituents‘ lives can be put on the line, and we‘d better have a say on these things.
And with America looking at a potential of expanding wars in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia and Sudan and God knows where else, it‘s time that Congress took its responsibility.
REAGAN: Now, you voted against authorizing the action in Libya, and I‘m assuming that you‘re one of the Democrats who also voted not to fund the operation in Libya. And I understand you‘re going to introduce an amendment to that effect. If all Congress is going to do is express displeasure about this without actually pulling the money, are we really just talking about symbolism?
KUCINICH: Well, there is a symbolic dimension. You‘re correct on
that. However, there‘s nothing symbolic about an amendment which is coming
up in two weeks—it‘s an amendment sponsored by myself and Congressman
Amash from Michigan. That amendment cuts the funds. That is the amendment
that will be the defining vote on Libya because once you‘ve cut the funds -
and I think we‘ve got a pretty good chance of passing it—then this thing is done.
REAGAN: Now, we all remember how we got into this, the circumstances that surrounded our action in Libya. Gadhafi‘s forces were rolling towards Benghazi, a city of 700,000 people and he was vowing to slaughter them. What sort of discussion would we be having today if President Obama had sat on his hands and allowed that to happen? The Republicans, I imagine, would be up in arms, accusing him of allowing these people to die.
KUCINICH: Well, first of all, there was no massacre, and that Gadhafi was on a rant and was threatening, once he had experienced an armed insurrection—that calls for careful analysis and not just simply reaching for the military response. And the fact that we went based on threats, as opposed to anything that was definable that actually happened, that‘s a big problem because here we reacted in Libya based on threats, and yet with what was going on in Yemen, in Bahrain, in Syria and in other places, where there‘s real harm done to civilians, we didn‘t do anything.
And so, you know, you have to see what‘s really—what is the real deal here in Libya? Is it about America‘s interests? I don‘t know. I mean, Libya didn‘t attack us. They don‘t have any intention or capability of attacking us. The War Powers Act says there has to be a (INAUDIBLE) threat to the United States.
So that‘s why, Ron, it was so important for Congress to get involved, to have the administration begin to answer questions. And they by no means have answered the fundamental questions about why are we there. Who are we supporting, really? And what‘s the end game? We should be right now joining China and other nations that are talking about the need for a political solution because there is no military solution in Libya.
REAGAN: Well, you‘re absolutely right, the end game is always the final question here with any sort of war activity.
Thank you, Congressman Dennis Kucinich. I know you‘re busy, so I‘ll let you get back to your work.
Let‘s turn now to the Huffington Post‘s Howard Fineman, who‘s an MSNBC political analyst here. Howard, why did President Obama go into Libya in the first place, do you believe?
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it‘s initially to prevent a humanitarian disaster, which may have been murky to some, but the likelihood of it was all too real for the president to ignore. That was number one.
And I think that number two, in the larger context of the so-called Arab spring, I think there was some sense in the region that if they could topple repressive regimes elsewhere and do it in the name of humanitarianism, they may as well go ahead and do it.
REAGAN: You know, as Dennis Kucinich mentioned, we‘re not going into Syria. We‘re not going into, you know, Yemen. Well, actually, we are going into Yemen, I suppose, in some respects. But we seem to sort of pick and choose our humanitarian causes here. Does that make any sense as a matter of principle?
FINEMAN: No. No, it doesn‘t. And nor did the fact that president‘s people said at one point that he was leading from behind. That is that, you know, NATO and the Arab nations and other leaders in the region were taking the lead and the United States was kind of a passive actor in it.
I think that complicated the president‘s message because if this is a matter of principle and freedom and a threat to the United States, then we don‘t lead from behind in those situations, Ron. We‘re out front. That‘s who we are. So I think it was confusing to the American people.
And also, the fact that I think it quickly became a question of who the rebels were that we were protecting because the word was around—not always true in some cases—the word was around that the eastern part of Libya was actually a hotbed of support for al Qaeda. And you know, there were questions about whom we were protecting there.
No doubt about how nasty Gadhafi was, although he had further confused the issue by seemingly being cooperative with United States in recent years. So the lines were especially murky in Libya, even though the threat to the rebels was real.
REAGAN: Howard, here‘s Speaker John Boehner today on the House floor.
Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: So at the outset, we asked some very straightforward questions of the president. Why isn‘t removing Gadhafi a part of this mission? What if he doesn‘t leave? Who are the rebels that we‘re there helping to fight? How long is this going to last, and at what cost? And what does success look like? These were questions that the administration would not or could not answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: Howard, perfectly reasonable questions, I suppose. Do you think that John Boehner would be asking those of a president named Bush, for instance?
FINEMAN: No. You know, Ron, I was just listening to that, and I‘m sure all our viewers were doing the same, saying, Why didn‘t John Boehner or virtually any Republican ask any of those questions, which were all the same questions, before we went into Iraq? Word for word the same questions, and the answers were not supplied. And indeed, some of the answers we still don‘t—we still don‘t have, even though we now still have 48,000 troops, let‘s not forget, in Iraq.
So you know, this is a lot of theater. I hate to be cynical here, but there‘s a lot of theatrics here. First of all, whatever‘s happening in the House is meaningless because the Senate‘s going to do nothing. And as you pointed out, they had this symbolic vote today but not vote to cut off the funds. They probably won‘t cut off the funds.
Republicans are loving going after the president on Libya because they‘re still wary of going after him on Iraq and Afghanistan, which are two wars that have their roots in the Bush years and which Republicans, when it suits their purposes, would still like to brag about from time to time.
REAGAN: Well, I suspect that if Moammar Gadhafi disappears, this issue will quickly evaporate and disappear, as well. Thank you, Howard Fineman. A pleasure to talk to you as always.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
REAGAN: Coming up: Michele Bachmann‘s kicking off her presidential campaign this weekend. She‘s a big believer in creationism, of course. And she says as long as there‘s a controversy, intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution. But there‘s no controversy in the scientific world. So why do these Republicans get to push their beliefs on the rest of us? That‘s ahead.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
REAGAN: President Obama didn‘t actually back marriage equality at that gala event last night in New York City, but he came close. And to those in the gay community who don‘t think he‘s moving fast enough on gay rights issues, the president gave this signal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And with your help, if you keep up the fight and if you will devote your time and your energies to this campaign one more time, I promise you we will write another chapter in that story!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: You heard him say it, another chapter.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Tea Party and all of America has one goal and it‘s this, that Barack Obama will be a one-term president!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: Welcome back to HARDBALL. On Monday, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is expected to announce she‘s running for president. But here she is in 2006 talking about evolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: There is a controversy among scientists whether evolution is a fact or not. They haven‘t reached the conclusion that evolution is a fact. There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: And just last week, after speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference, she said this. “I support intelligent design. What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don‘t think it‘s a good idea for government to come down on one side of a scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides.”
The science on evolution, in case you were wondering, is pretty unequivocal. But when Republicans deny scientific evidence on this and on issues like global warming, shouldn‘t they be called out?
Bob Shrum is a Democratic strategist. David Corn is Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine and an MSNBC contributor. Welcome to you both, gentlemen.
Bob, let me start with you. How disturbed should we be that a presidential candidate is talking nonsense?
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, look, it‘s an indication of how far to the right the Republican Party has moved. This is flat-earth ideology. Believe what you want and the facts be damned, along with all of us non-fundamentalists. When I was growing up, and I was taught in Catholic schools that there was nothing inconsistent between evolution and belief in God. Still—you know, God could use the evolutionary process in creation. Still, that was a matter of faith. That wasn‘t something you were taught as a fact. You could be taught it in Catholic schools but not public schools.
Michele Bachmann and people like her, and people who like her, have a different mission. They want to vindicate the idea in the Bible that the world was created in seven literal days a few thousand years ago. Most biblical scholars think that‘s nonsense.
And they ignore all the geological evidence. You know, it reminds, me during the Scopes trial in Tennessee in the 1920s, when that state outlawed the teaching of evolution, Williams Jennings Bryan, who was speaking for outlawing evolution, was testifying for it, was representing the state, was put on the stand by Clarence Darrow and he was asked about the fact that the rocks that Darrow was showing him were thousands of years older than his theory would allow.
And he looked at Darrow and he said, Frankly, I am more interested in the Rock of Ages than the age of rocks. And that‘s what‘s going on here. You have that—a kind of coup in the Republican Party of people of that kind taking over.
REAGAN: David, let me repeat something that Michele Bachmann said here. She says, “There‘s a controversy among scientists about whether evolution is fact. Hundreds and hundreds of scientists,” she says, “many of them holding Nobel Prizes”—
REAGAN: -- “believe in intelligent design.” None of that is true.
Is she just ignorant, or is she deliberately misleading people?
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That‘s a really good question.
And I think you‘d have to have her on the show and probe her. But I‘m
shocked that you, Ron, are shocked. I mean, not only does she go on about
REAGAN: I‘m not really shocked, I‘m just outraged, David!
CORN: Well, fine. I‘ll grant you that. But you know, in addition to this, you mentioned that she believes global warming is a hoax. She has said also in the past that almost all gays and lesbians have been abused as children. That‘s why they‘re homosexual. She has said that the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery, when that wasn‘t true, they kicked the can down the road.
I mean, it seems that either ignorance or historical revisionism is really her stock in trade. Now, that‘s obviously for partisan appeal. It may actually be what she believes, which would indicate a certain detachment from reality. Perhaps the scary thing is that such detachment had gotten her pretty far in politics and may serve her very well in places like Iowa.
Bob, here‘s what really disturbs me about this. I know that some people‘s eyes glaze over when you talk about evolution. But it seems to exist—this kind of positioning seems to exist on a continuum for me.
All right. You deny evolution. Then you deny global warming. Then you‘re talking about birtherism. And suddenly you‘re claiming that when you cut taxes, you actually raise revenues.
It‘s this sort of, you know, disdain for reality that disturbs me, I guess.
SHRUM: Well, Ron, I think that is absolutely right.
Look, it‘s a Flat Earth ideology that goes across the board. On economics right now, you‘re seeing Boehner and company trying to argue that the way to help a faltering economy is take demand out of it, so that people buy less, companies produce less, and employers hire fewer workers.
You know, the interesting thing if you look at Romney and Huntsman, they‘re deeply suspect in the Republican Party because they refuse to deny the client the science of climate change, even though, of course, they don‘t want to do anything about it. They‘re trying to split the difference to satisfy the base.
But it would be terrifying I think for someone—for us and for the world for someone like Michele Bachmann ever to become president of the United States. I suspect that secretly in the White House, they might actually be rooting for her to be the Republican nominee—maybe even not so secretly.
REAGAN: Yes, indeed.
You know, David, somebody had a conversation not too long ago with a diplomat from China. And they got talking about global warming. And the American asked the Chinese diplomat, he said, are you having this argument in China about global warming? And he just sort of laughed and shook his head. And he said, no, you know, our leadership come from science and engineering mostly. So, no, we‘re not having that conversation. And we never really had that conversation, because they understand science.
CORN: Bob made an important point a moment ago.
The scientific debate on global warming is over. And, in fact, it was even acknowledged by the Bush administration. George W. Bush, he ended up coming up with a voluntary system that really didn‘t address the issue. But he and everyone who worked for him said that it‘s real.
People who are—Sarah Palin used to say it was real. You have Pawlenty and Mitt Romney, who both took actions as governors, who said it was real. But we now live in this sort of fact-free political media environment, where people can get away with just denying things and saying, hey, there are two sides to every issues—
CORN: -- what she just said about creationism. You know, there is a scientific debate. On one side, there are three scientists. On the other side, there are three million scientists. So let‘s have a debate.
REAGAN: Yes, exactly.
CORN: Go ahead.
REAGAN: Oh, no, I was going to ask Bob if he thinks that it is useful and—well, fair, but certainly useful, to question president candidates about issues like evolution to kind of, you know, suss out their mind-set about this.
SHRUM: Well, you don‘t have to question Michele Bachmann. For her—
REAGAN: No, she just comes right out, doesn‘t she?
SHRUM: This is, for her, a point of the lance.
She is appealing to the religious right in Iowa. Her whole strategy is to launch herself there, survive in New Hampshire, get to South Carolina and do the same thing. I think the viewpoint is very distinctly a minority one in America. But she might just take off. And if the Republican Party completely loses its head, they might nominate her. Sure we should question her. She will be eager to give her answers. Her answers will be entirely fact-free.
David, Bob mentioned that this is a minority opinion in America. But here‘s the scary thing.
REAGAN: If you look at polls, consistently, between 40 percent and 50 percent of Americans—a Gallup poll from December asked about evolution and creationism -- 40 percent saying, no, God created man in his present form, in other words, no evolution.
Forty percent is a pretty big number in this country. What are the consequences to a nation when not only their leaders, but people themselves, simply deny reality?
CORN: Well, you would probably end up with not the right policies to deal with the challenges of the future.
You know, the first—you know, the first step to making progress in anything, whether it‘s your personal life, your social life, or as a nation in communal activity, is diagnosing reality accurately, and then coming up with prospective actions to deal with it.
So if you have Americans in denial about global warming or about creationism, it‘s a problem, more so on the former than the latter. I mean, people can deny evolution, and it doesn‘t necessarily lead to bad economics or bad climate policy.
But I would also—those polls are interesting, too, because I think if you started asking people sort of more detailed questions, do you really believe that Fred Flintstone lived with the dinosaurs—
CORN: -- do you really believe the world is not older than 6,000 years, and sort of break it down, I think people—to them, creationism just says, God created everything. Fine. And at one level they do accept that, those 40, 50 percent.
But if you get into details, I think the true creation fanatics, if you can call them that, are a smaller minority. But, yet, they still are Probably a big voting bloc in Iowa, which is what Michele Bachmann is counting on.
Bob, you know, for me, this is not about religious belief at all. You can believe that the world is a lump of cheese riding on the back of a giant turtle for all I care. You know, may the great turtle bless you.
REAGAN: You know, but shoving it into science classes just—that crosses the line for me.
We‘re going to have to leave it here. I‘m sorry, guys, but it‘s been a—it‘s been a pleasure talking to both of you.
SHRUM: Take care.
REAGAN: Thank you, Bob Shrum and David Corn. Take care, you guys.
CORN: Thanks, Ron.
Reagan You bet.
Up next: Texas Governor Rick Perry is still thinking about running for president. But his awkward jokes didn‘t make him any friends in the Latino community last night. That‘s ahead in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
REAGAN: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First up: an indecent proposal. Republican Senator Jim DeMint is pushing a pledge that would oppose raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts and a balanced budget amendment.
Last night, Glenn Beck learned Rick Santorum signed on to that pledge.
Beck‘s reaction? He offered to kiss Santorum in the mouth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GLENN BECK”)
GLENN BECK, HOST, “GLENN BECK”: I talked to Jim DeMint today and the
what is this—it‘s the cut, cap, balance and pledge?
RICK SANTORUM ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. I like that.
BECK: Is that right?
BECK: You know it?
SANTORUM: I like it, signed it.
BECK: You signed it?
SANTORUM: Yes. How about that?
BECK: I could kiss you in the mouth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: In the mouth? What does that even mean? Eww!
Next up, talk about a buzz kill. Last night at a Latino event, presidential hopeful Rick Perry tried his best to woo the Hispanic vote.
Awkward jokes like this one about tequila didn‘t help his cause.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS: Young Hispanics in Texas can aspire to be the next Rolando Pablos, the chairman of the Texas Racing Commission, maybe the next Roberto de Hoyos, who heads our economic development shop, and one of my favorites, the head of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Jose Cuevas.
PERRY: Is that awesome? That is the right job for that man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: Oh, Perry looks more and more, sounds more and more like that other Texas governor, George W. Bush, every day.
Now to the “Big Number.”
Last night, lawmakers met the press, this time on the softball field.
It was all part of the annual Congressional Women‘s Softball Game. Congresswomen squared off against their media counterparts, as NBC‘s own Andrea Mitchell called the event. Proceeds went to the Young Survival Coalition, which works on behalf of young women with breast cancer.
So, who won the big showdown? Lawmakers, 5-4. HARDBALL all-star Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz got the game-winning hit.
Way to go, Debbie.
Congress beats the press 5-4 -- tonight‘s oh-so-close “Big Number.”
Up next: When Eric Cantor walked out of the deficit talks yesterday because Democrats wanted to consider raising taxes, it made us wonder, what happened that can you no longer have a grownup conversation about taxes in this country?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks ending another week lower on worries about European banks and Greece‘s debt crisis, the Dow tumbling 115 points, the S&P 500 shedding 15, the Nasdaq giving up 33 points.
Eurozone banks leading the way lower, after Moody‘s downgraded ratings on two Irish banks and warned it may downgrade two Italian banks as well, also lingering uncertainty about whether Greece‘s Parliament will pass austerity measures needed to ensure another round of bailout loans.
Chipmakers were under pressure after Micron turned in weak earnings on sluggish P.C. sales. Software-maker Oracle also slumping today, despite better-than-expected quarterly results. Drug giant Pfizer shares losing ground after the FDA rejected its new painkiller, Remoxy.
And a bidding war is under way for gas pipeline operator Southern Union. There‘s now a $4.9 billion offer from Williams Company, topping a $4.1 billion bid from Energy Transfer Equity.
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 know the frustration that he feels when Democrat members continue to want to bring tax hikes into this conversation and insist we have got to raise taxes on the American people. And I think Mr. Cantor has made it clear that these conversations could continue if they take the tax hikes out of the conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was House Speaker John Boehner Thursday talking about Republicans walking away from the budget talks led by Vice President Biden.
Couldn‘t we all see that one coming from a mile away? What kind of budget deal is possible with all cuts and no rise in revenue? When did it become possible to take taxes completely off the table?
Congresswoman Donna Edwards is a Democrat from Maryland.
Welcome, Congresswoman. Happy to have you with us.
REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Thank you. It‘s good to be with you.
REAGAN: So, Jon Kyl and Eric Cantor walk out of these talks that are supposed to reach some sort of middle ground between Democrats and Republicans on how to move forward with the budget. And they basically take their ball and go home, because they don‘t like that taxes are actually being discussed.
Is this a productive attitude?
EDWARDS: Well, it‘s not.
And, in fact, I think, for the American public, it must feel a little bit like the kindergarten playroom, where you don‘t get what you want and you have to—it‘s your way or the highway, and you take your marbles and you go home.
But the American people are actually expecting us to do much more than that. And I think the assessment is right. You have to have a conversation that is balanced in terms what we do. On the spending side, Democrats have accepted, offered up, you know, $2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. That‘s like $5 million a day, and are saying we also have to raise revenues.
And, by the way, when did it become acceptable to describe oil subsidies to corporations that are making money hand over fist as a tax cut?
REAGAN: Yes, exactly.
You know, Republicans are fond of saying that, well, you know, families have to balance their budget, and when they realize that they‘re running out of money, well, they—they simply stop spending. But, you know, families, given the opportunity to increase their income, would generally go for that, if that would help their—their family finances here.
Are these people really—are they ideologues, or are they just shilling for the wealthy here?
EDWARDS: Well, I think it‘s clearly an agenda that, you know, says, we don‘t want to do anything that could possibly make this president look good.
And, unfortunately, that works against the—what the American people need. I mean, after all, would it really hurt us to remove the tax cuts for oil and gas companies? Would it really hurt us to restore sanity to our tax code by making sure that the wealthiest 2 percent pay their fair share?
How about a prescription drug plan that was never paid for under Republican administrations, two wars that were never paid for, tax cuts that were never paid for, for the wealthiest? And so those things are all off the table, but the American people and the middle class have to suffer the brunt of proposed cuts to Medicare and other things that are actually really important to middle-class families.
REAGAN: Well, you wonder if there is another agenda here. Grover Norquist is the head of a group called Americans for Tax Reform. He makes Republican candidates sign a pledge not to raise taxes.
Here‘s what he said in 2001. I‘m sure you‘re familiar with this: “I don‘t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.
Congresswoman, do you think that the ulterior motive to all this refusal to, you know, garner revenue for the government is really about crippling the government, bankrupting the government, so that, at the end of the day, we won‘t have any choice, in the Republicans‘ mind, but to slash all these social programs?
EDWARDS: Well, in fact, you can see that starting with the Republican budget at the beginning of this year, and even the continuing resolution from last year, where it‘s just a slash and burn of everything that‘s government. I mean, we don‘t want to protect the air and water quality. We don‘t want to protect our food.
We don‘t even want to know what the weather is going to be. So we slash know NOAA, the weather agency.
And so, this goes across the board. And after a while, once you slash and burn government and then say, well, government can‘t do anything well, it becomes sort of the mythology that feeds itself. And that‘s what‘s going on here. And this is really about politics.
And I‘m just glad that as Democrats, we‘re really going to stand up for the American people. We‘re going to say, you know what? The middle class does deserve the Medicare that it‘s earned.
The wealthy should have to pay their fair share. Oil companies shouldn‘t be allowed to make profits and be subsidized at the same time. I mean, this is about fairness and balance. Spending cuts where it makes sense, and raising revenues so that we can make sure that government actually works for the American people.
REAGAN: Thank you, Congresswoman Donna Edwards. I appreciate you being with us, very much.
EDWARDS: Thank you.
REAGAN: Let‘s turn now to Jonathan Alter, who is an MSNBC political analyst.
Jonathan, welcome. Always a pleasure to speak with you.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Ron.
REAGAN: Hey there.
So, is this just another attempt to starve the beast here?
ALTER: Well, I think that‘s part of what it is. And it‘s partly that tax cuts are the religion that they believe in. And, you know, there was a time when your father first became president in 1981, you could argue that marginal rates really were too high. And so, he scored some points by saying Democrats think every day is April 15th.
But then later on, even he realized that they need to raise taxes to just meet their obligations. And he did so on a few different occasions Ronald Reagan was president.
REAGAN: Remind me, Jonathan. Right, remind me, because I‘m not an expert. Didn‘t Ronald Reagan, when he was president, actually raise taxes more often than he cut taxes?
ALTER: Well, I think you could probably make an argument that if you wanted to break down all the little tax cuts he did, he cut them a lot, too, especially in 1981.
But he also in ‘82 and in ‘86, there were some tax increases there that everybody‘s forgotten about. And what happened was in 1984, when Walter Mondale said that he would raise taxes in the middle of his presidential campaign, the assumption was that he lost to your father because of that—which is not true. He lost because the economy started getting a lot better.
But the lesson at the political establishment took, especially the Republican Party was: never, ever, ever be for raising taxes. And they have taken this philosophy, turned it into a religion, and now, it‘s about to wreck the whole country and destroy the future of our children, because they insist that even tax breaks for big corporations, you know, basically corporate welfare, cannot be eliminated under Grover Norquist‘s definition of what a tax increase is.
REAGAN: I believe that a well-known Republican strategist whose name I‘m now blanking on some years ago said, look, the Democrats are always playing Santa Claus with government programs. Here‘s something to help this group, something to help that group of people.
What we need to do as Republicans is be Santa Claus with tax cuts. Everything is a tax cut, because people like to hear that their taxes are going to be cut. And that way we deprive government of funds.
ALTER: Right. That‘s right. And that was the view. And so, when President George H.W. Bush did the responsible thing in the early 1990s and broke his “read my lips, no new taxes” pledge from 1988, in order to move toward a balanced budget, they went crazy. And, you know, they weren‘t enthusiastic about him in 1992. He lost to Bill Clinton. And Bill Clinton comes in I‘m sorry to retrace this history, but I think it‘s really important, Ron.
So, Clinton comes in and he proposes a tax increase in 1993, which is approved by one vote. Every single Republican was against it. They all said, if you raise taxes, you will wreck the economy.
What happened? Clinton raised taxes and we have the biggest economic boom in American history. Not because he raised taxes, but because they did not inhibit economic growth.
So, the whole idea that you‘re hearing now from Republicans, you can‘t
raise taxes without hurting the economy is just B.S. It‘s been slam dunked
REAGAN: Exactly. There is absolutely no evidence for that.
Jonathan, I‘m afraid we‘re going to have to leave it here. But, again, always a pleasure speaking with you, Jonathan Alter, MSNBC analyst.
ALTER: Great talking you to, Ron.
REAGAN: You bet.
Up next, a big victory for the FBI this week. They nabbed Whitey Bulger, the alleged Boston mob boss, in a very unconventional way. But the big worry for some inside the FBI, will Bulger sing and point the finger at them. That‘s ahead.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
REAGAN: First Lady Michelle Obama is in Botswana tonight. But before she left South Africa, she did pushups with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The first lady and the 79-year-old Tutu were attending a health awareness event for kids. Yes. But did she do boy pushups?
The first lady also spoke to a group of children at the University of Cape Town where she encouraged the kids to realize that they can go to college and make an impact one day.
We‘ll be right back.
REAGAN: We‘re back.
James “Whitey” Bulger, one of the FBI‘s top 10 most wanted and allegedly connected to 19 murders, was found this week in a rent-controlled apartment blocks from the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California.
Today, he was flown to Boston and appeared before two judges.
So, just what led detectives to Bulger after a manhunt lasting over 15 years?
David Abel is a “Boston Globe” reporter and Colonel Steve O‘Donnell heads up the Rhode Island State Police.
Welcome to you both.
David, who is Whitey Bulger? And what did he do to deserve to be on the FBI‘s top 10 most wanted list?
DAVID ABEL, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Well, Whitey Bulger spent 16 years on the lam after being accused of killing 19 people, as you said, over a long period of time. He was a major crime boss in the early ‘70s. And he acted as a major informant for the FBI and is a big symbol of FBI corruption.
REAGAN: Steve, let me get you in on this, too. It seems to me—
I‘ve heard the name Whitey Bulger before, but I was only vaguely aware that he was some kind of gangster from back east, you know, Boston, and what have you.
Is he—does he represent some sort of unfamiliar kind of gangster to most Americans? Most of us, you know, we see the mafia on TV a lot, the Italian mafia, but he was part of an Irish gang, yes?
COL. STEVE O‘DONNELL, RHODE ISLAND STATE POLICE: Well, it‘s not uncommon. Yes, I can hear you. It‘s not uncommon in law enforcement circles to be involved and different ethnic groups and crimes.
So, he ran—Whitey Bulger was in charge of the Winter Hill Gang where they were involved in armed robberies, bank robberies, drug dealing, you name it, murders. And what happens is the connection to traditional organized crime is when you commit crimes and you pay tribute, you pay money, for the privilege of doing those types of crimes, it is a hierarchal structure where the money is broken up by all of the Italo-American, I should say, American, but the traditional (INAUDIBLE) out of New England.
So the mob bosses in New England cut up the proceeds of all sorts of criminal groups, including the Winter Hill Gang.
REAGAN: I see.
David, you mentioned before, that he had been an informant for the FBI. This seems to be one of the intriguing elements of the story. I understand that was actually tipped off by an FBI agent, and made his escape some 15 plus years ago because of that? What else can you tell us about that?
ABEL: Right. Well about 16 years ago, shortly before he was indicted an FBI agent by the name of John Connolly allegedly, who has since been convicted, various crimes, tipped him off and that is what allegedly led Whitey Bulger to flee.
Since then, the FBI has been hunting for him and that has raised a lot of doubts and concerns among folks here in Boston who are concerned whether the FBI really wanted to find him. And many folks here, especially after the hearing today, here in south Boston, wondered whether they would actually ever see this day and thought the FBI really might not want him in their control.
REAGAN: How did they ultimately find him?
ABEL: Well, on Monday, they released a PSA, public service announce many or advertisement, on various television programs specifically catering to women, in an effort to identify his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, who had been with him for many years. And that apparently, is what led to his capture.
We don‘t know all the details right now, but we‘re hoping to learn more.
REAGAN: Colonel Steve O‘Donnell, is it common for the FBI or law enforcement to use people like Whitey Bulger as informants?
O‘DONNELL: Well, I think that law enforcement uses informants. It‘s just a matter of how far the informants will take it. So, if someone is committing criminal acts, law enforcement does not authorize anybody that works or gives information to them to do a criminal act.
So, this particular case, as I spoke about yesterday, it‘s an issue of a rogue member of the FBI. It‘s a robust organization with a great reputation. I spent 28 years working with the men and women of that organization and clearly, they wanted to find Whitey Bulger. And they‘re not the only people that were looking for them also. There were all different agencies and a combined task force.
(INAUDIBLE) since I was a U.S. marshal in Rhode Island and I was privy that the marshals were part of a network out looking and trying to track down Mr. Bulger.
REAGAN: But apparently people are a little bit nervous about what he might say in court. Gentlemen stay with us. We‘re going to talk a little more.
We‘ll be back with David Abel and Colonel Steve O‘Donnell.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
REAGAN: We‘re back with “The Boston Globe‘s” David Abel and Colonel Steve O‘Donnell of the Rhode Island State Police for more on James “Whitey” Bulger.
David, Mr. Bulger seems fairly smug in the courtroom. At least that‘s the impression I‘m getting at a distance here. Do you he figures he can cut a deal with people, perhaps because he feels he could embarrass the FBI further?
ABEL: That‘s a good question and clearly, quite a few people, some of the victims‘ relatives thought he—used very similar language, smug, arrogant. He walked into the courtroom this afternoon with a bit of a jovial look on his face and he smiled at his brother, William Bulger, who is the former Senate president and the president of the University of Massachusetts.
And it is unclear exactly whether he will plead innocent or guilty or whether he‘ll try to strike a deal. We don‘t know.
REAGAN: Colonel O‘Donnell, I don‘t mean to romanticize Whitey Bulger in any way, but does his arrest in some way mark the end of an era in criminal justice or criminality, that is?
O‘DONNELL: Well, I think his arrest is a landmark thing for Mr. Bulger and the demise of the Winter Hill Gang. But, again, there is no romanticizing any of these gentlemen. He‘s just really no better, no worse than just a common murderer, a serial killer.
O‘DONNELL: I think his appearance in court today would tell you that he‘s an arrogant—just an arrogant man that abused the system.
REAGAN: Yes, 19 murders is nothing to romanticize.
Colonel, I‘m going to have to leave it there.
Thank you, David Abel and Steven O‘Donnell.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
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