Guests: Mark Halperin, Michael Smerconish, Alex Wagner, Amanda Drury, Rick Perlstein, Maxine Waters, Joe Klein, Wes Moore
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Party crash.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington.
Leading off tonight: Hostile takeover. Are we watching a takeover of
the Republican Party these days? We have a GOP that is increasingly
indistinguishable from the Tea Party. Its newest heartthrob, if you will,
Rick Perry, doubts evolution, doesn`t believe in global warming and wants
religion to be central to our politics. Well, either the GOP is reflecting
a real change in our American culture, or the GOP`s headed for a 1964-style
thrashing. Which is it?
Also, there`s been no shortage of advice for President Obama on what
he should say in his big post-Labor Day speech. Well, here`s some you`re
going to hear tonight. Go partisan. Forget about trying to make a deal
with Republicans who have no intention of making a deal with you. No,
remind people what Democrats stand for, what government can do when
politicians aren`t trying to tear government down, and then let the
Republicans defend attacking Social Security, attacking Medicare, attacking
Plus: Does the president have a problem with his most loyal
supporters, African-Americans? Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California
thinks so. And I`m going to have hard questions on her -- or for her on
what she thinks now the president should do -- what actions he should take,
not what words he should speak.
And Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn -- can`t believe he did this. He
suggests that President Obama wants to create a culture of dependency in
America because, Coburn says, it worked so well for Obama as an African-
American. It`s hard to know where to even start with that one, but we`ll
try in the "Sideshow." I can`t believe Coburn said that.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" with Rick Perry and the hard-right politics
of a changing Republican Party.
We start with what we`re calling the hostile takeover of the
Republican Party. Mark Halperin is an MSNBC senior political analyst and
"Time" editor-at-large, and Michael Smerconish is a radio talk show host
and an MSNBC political analyst.
Gentlemen, this is a tough question. The GOP right now -- the top
three candidates are, of course, Bachmann, who won the straw poll in Ames,
Rick Perry, who`s the new kid on the block and perhaps the hot hand, and
Mitt Romney, who seems to be holding on, and no more. Has the party moved
dramatically toward the Tea Party world, Mark?
MARK HALPERIN, "TIME," MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: It has moved
dramatically in that direction ever since the passage of health care, maybe
even before that. The party is on a roll in elections and in momentum in
Washington with the message of the Tea Party. But there`s real dangers.
All of the candidates, including Mitt Romney, probably the most moderate,
with the possible exception of Jon Huntsman, are fully captive to the ethos
of the Tea Party. And while it may allow them to win the election, long
term, it could be disastrous to the party.
MATTHEWS: Michael Smerconish, I wanted you on tonight because I think
you are wise and sensitive to the movements in the Republican Party, when
it moves away from the suburbs, when it moves away from people who are a
bit right their politics but not hard right.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, I have filed a column for publication tomorrow on exactly this issue,
and what I say is that Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, if he can emerge,
present the best hope for the GOP for exactly this reason. But that`s only
if they can survive -- and I don`t even say win, I say survive the primary
I happen to think that the best thing that happened to Romney was
Perry getting into the race because he and Michele Bachmann attract the
same kind of a constituency, and I think the only hope that Romney has is
that they split that conservative Tea Party vote, allow him to be the last
man standing, because either he or Huntsman are the only one who can appeal
to independents and moderates who hold the keys to this election.
MATTHEWS: Yesterday, Governor Rick Perry was asked about his stance
on climate change. Let`s listen to this response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe that the
issue of global warming has been politicized. I think there are a
substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they
would have dollars rolling in to their -- to their projects. And I think
we`re seeing an -- almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming
forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is
what is causing the climate to change.
Yes, our climate`s changed. It`s been changing for -- ever since the
earth was formed, but I do not buy into -- that a group of scientists, who
have in some cases found to be manipulating this information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. And earlier today, Governor Perry answered a question
about his position on evolution. And here`s what he told New Hampshire
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: You know, it`s a theory that`s out there. It`s got some gaps
in it. But in Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ask him why he doesn`t believe in science.
PERRY: --because figure you`re smart enough to figure out which one is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Mark, I don`t know what to say. I mean, this is
-- you know, Ronald Reagan used to say progress is our most important
product when he worked for GE. I wonder if these people are anti-science.
The way this guy, Governor Perry -- and I don`t know him very well. The
way he refers to science as -- and his suspicion that scientists are all
crooked, they`re all trying to get research money, foundation money -- as
some -- there`s a hostility in his voice and his depicting of science.
HALPERIN: Chris, let`s not -- let`s make sure we differentiate on two
HALPERIN: One is the Tea Party stands for lower taxes and less
government, and there are a lot of people in the suburbs of Philadelphia
and in Ohio who believe in that, too. So to the extent that the party is
captive to lower taxes and less government, that again may find them enough
adherents to win the election in 2012.
We also need to keep, I think, separate people who are saying things
like Governor Perry`s saying that they believe -- there`s no doubt in my
mind that Governor Perry believes both what he said about global warming
and what he said about evolution -- and those who are taking positions on
social issues maybe because they feel they must in order to run the
gauntlet of getting the Republican nomination.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But can you separate the Tea Party appeal on issues
like taxes and spending, which clearly goes right to the center and perhaps
even over to the center left in terms of appeal, from their gospel beliefs?
HALPERIN: Well, that`s going to be the challenge if Rick Perry`s the
Republican nominee. He and his advisers suggested before he got into the
race that if he ran, he would run on the economy and jobs and downplay his
position on social issues. Michele Bachmann has been very skillful in
doing just that. On her Sunday show round robin last weekend, she avoided
giving direct answers to questions to about her positions on social issues.
She wants to focus on the president and on the economy.
I`m surprised, to some extent, that Rick Perry`s not doing that, given
that they said he would. On the other hand, throughout his career, he`s
said what he believes in. And as I said before, these are his genuine
beliefs. These are not positions he`s invented to try to get through this
MATTHEWS: OK, Let`s take a look at the "New York Times" and CBS poll
just out. It`s been polling on the Tea Party for, actually, several months
now. In August, 20 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the Tea
Party, 40 percent saying they have a negative view. That unfavorable
rating, by the way, has doubled since April.
When asked if the Tea Party has too much influence on the Republican
Party, 43 percent say yes, too much influence, 24 percent about right, and
17 percent say not enough.
Michael, I have to tell you, I don`t think you can control your
message like we did in the old days, politicians. That little kid, young
kid about 8 years old -- I don`t know how old he was, maybe 10 -- maybe his
mother was prompting him. But these questions are coming from everywhere.
How does a Tea Party guy who has all this old-time religion in his soul
keep it to himself?
SMERCONISH: Well, I think, Chris, part of the problem for the Tea
Party is that it`s now become synonymous with intransigence, and that`s a
good thing for the president. The most telling moment of that debate in
Ames was when they were questioned as to whether they would reject a 10-
for-1 deal --
SMERCONISH: -- $10 of cuts for every $1 of tax increase. Every hand
went in the air. Pawlenty was still on the stage. Perry was not yet in.
And the audience applauded. That also tells you something. I was
disappointed in Jon Huntsman for going along with the pack in that regard.
But that`s, you know -- that`s where they are. And I think to
outsiders watching that, who are more middle of the road, it`s going to
catch up with them. And that`s why the president should come home after
the vacation, lay out a definitive plan that everybody understands, and
then demand that there be a vote up or down in the Congress. That will
enable him to say, Look, I`m ready to compromise. They were not.
MATTHEWS: You know, Mark, let`s talk turkey about most -- I am
completely confident in American politics. Like the French -- I know
nobody wants to hear it -- we tend to be a bourgeois country, somewhere in
the middle. We don`t go flying off to the left or flying off to the right
generally. In fact, we just don`t do it.
But what does a parent of a suburban high school kid think, when we`re
fighting for our lives economically in the world with science and math and
we got to be the best at it, when you`ve got guy who may be the next
president who doesn`t believe in science, who questions it on every matter,
whether it`s the current issue of the climate or the old-time argument over
evolution, questions science per se?
Where are we at in our global struggle for economic excellence when we
challenge the scientific method itself?
HALPERIN: Well, I don`t want to -- I don`t think we should overstate
Perry`s relationship with science. He just had back surgery with an
experimental stem cell procedure.
HALPERIN: So he obviously believes in science to some extent. The
views that he has on those two issues are in the mainstream of many people
in the Republican Party.
HALPERIN: They may be inaccurate. They may be provocative. They may
hurt his chances of getting elected by, at a minimum, taking him off
message. But these are not positions that are -- would be foreign to a lot
of Americans, and certainly not a lot of talk radio show hosts.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about votes for next year in states that decide
elections. You mentioned them, Mark -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, probably other
states like that, Wisconsin, are going to decide this election, perhaps
Virginia, of course, and even Florida, of course, are all in the running.
Michael, in those states, there are a lot of middle-of-the-road people
who have kids for whom they are very ambitious. Will these issues of
science, of questioning perhaps the Voting Rights Act`s relevance today,
questioning the constitutional basis for the Civil Rights bill, even --
will these turn off the middle?
SMERCONISH: Yes, unless --
MATTHEWS: Will the Democrats have an opening here?
SMERCONISH: Unless -- the Democrats do have an opening here unless
the economy totally bottoms out. In the 24/7 cycle in which we live -- and
Mark knows this better than I -- but the incessant coverage of everything
that they say -- I don`t think you can control your message and limit your
campaign only to matters economic. Sooner or later, Michele Bachmann is
going to have to answer some of those questions that she no longer wants to
address about same-sex relationships. And these science-based questions
for Rick Perry are going to be problematic, not in the short term. In the
short term, they help you. They help you carry South Carolina.
SMERCONISH: They help you in Iowa. I don`t think they help you in
MATTHEWS: Well said.
SMERCONISH: But eventually, in a general, they`re problematic.
MATTHEWS: What a great segment. Two gentlemen, you were excellent.
Thank you so much, Mark Halperin. Thank you, my buddy, Michael Smerconish
Coming up: Is it time for President Obama to get partisan and go on
the offense for once in his big speech coming out after Labor Day? Is it
time to start punching? Should he remind America, for example, that
Democrats are the ones who fought for Social Security, for Medicare, for
Medicaid, for all of those people take and don`t want to see torn down? It
might help the country and it help himself and it might help him win
reelection if he does it.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s the big question since Rick Perry got into the
presidential race. Can he win in November? Is he electable? Well, Nate
Silver at "The New York Times" crunched the numbers and found that Perry
won his three elected terms as governor by an average margin of victory of
13 percentage points. It`s a strong number, but it lags behind the 19-
point winning margin that other Texas Republicans had during those same
elections, and it may give Republican establishment second thoughts about
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no problem with
folks saying Obama cares. I do care.
If the other side wants to be the folks who don`t care, that`s fine
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was the president,
President Obama, earlier this week embracing his role in health care
reform, of course.
But historian and author Rick Perlstein says President Obama has got
to be much more forceful in making sure voters know they have him to thank
in protecting social programs. Perlstein`s essay in "Time" magazine just
came out. It`s entitled, "How Democrats win defending the social safety
net." And He joins us now from Chicago. Alex Wagner`s a Huffington Post
reporter and an MSNBC political analyst.
Rick, everybody here loves you, so we can`t wait to hear your thinking
about this. I want to start this off, lady and gentleman, because this is
the best piece of clip I`ve ever seen to make your point, Rick, and to
educate all of us how to be, if you want to be, a strong Democratic
Here`s President Roosevelt warning about Republicans back in 1936 in
words that could be used right now in this partisan fight. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me
warn the nation against the smooth evasion that says, Of course, we believe
these things. We believe in Social Security. We believe in work for the
unemployed. We believe in saving homes.
Cross our hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things. But
we do not like the way the present administration is doing them. Just turn
them over to us. We will do all of them, we will do more of them, we will
do them better, and most important of all, the doing of them will not cost
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Unbelievable! Rick, that is American speech. That`s how
you talk to people today. Your thoughts because it seems to me what you`re
RICK PERLSTEIN, AUTHOR, "NIXONLAND": Today. That`s right. I mean,
every Democratic candidate from dog catcher to, you know, (INAUDIBLE)
presidential candidate have been saying the same thing ever since, every
I mean, in 1960, everyone remembers the famous debate between Nixon
and Kennedy. Kennedy made Nixon sweat. Well, why did he sweat? It came
right after Kennedy said, I`m a Democrat. I`m proud to be a Democrat. We
built Social Security. And by the way, you elect me, I`m going to put
together something called Medicare, you know, Social Security for medical
care for old people. And this guy, Nixon -- he`s part of a great, proud
American party called the Republicans. Oh, and by the way, let me just
mention the Republican Party opposed all those things.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me go out to Alex Wagner. This politics, it
seems to me, reminding people what the stakes are -- you won`t have all
this stuff even to kick around anymore, to use a Nixon phrase. There won`t
be Medicare, Medicaid. These are things the Republicans have been dying to
take apart and now they`re on the verge of doing it.
ALEX WAGNER, HUFFINGTON POST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I --
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts?
WAGNER: I think there`s a sort of a sinking feeling among some
Democrats that Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi are the great protectors of
Social Security and Medicare, and not Barack Obama. I mean, the fact that
he has shrunk from this fight -- he is teed up to have a grant argument
about the role of government in public life, and it seems like on a lot of
levels, the president is shrinking from it, when he has a pretty impressive
legislative series of accomplishments that he can point to, and yet he`s
still -- you saw this in Minnesota and Iowa.
One day, he`s standing firm for these social programs. The next day,
he`s trying to be above it and sort of be the great -- great -- the
conciliator-in-chief, if you will, and stand in the middle road and appeal
to independents. And I think for that reason, there`s a lot of anger on
the part of the left.
MATTHEWS: You know, it seems to me --
MATTHEWS: -- Rick -- and I`m a firm believer the word "left" as
applied and even used there by Alex is -- in a world sense, the Democratic
Party is really a centrist party. And that`s why it`s harder to make the
points. They`re not a hard socialist party. They don`t believe in
government control of heavy industry and minerals and everything and
royalties. They basically believe in mixed capitalism. They believe in
some role for the government.
They believe in a strong, in fact, dominant, private sector, and yet
that`s a more nuanced position. Obama seems to have a hard time in
PERLSTEIN: I mean, Chris --
PERLSTEIN: Chris, forget the word left.
Ronald Reagan, let`s quote him. There is no left and right. There`s
only up or down. Up for the middle class means some kind of protection of
their economic interests.
PERLSTEIN: I mean, Obama is worried that if he talks about this
stuff, he`s going to sound divisive.
History suggests that people who talk about this stuff aren`t
divisive. They`re uniters. I mean, look at -- look at Franklin Roosevelt.
This is the guy who said the kind of stuff you -- you heard in that clip.
This is also the guy who built the strongest, the biggest, the most diverse
political coalition in American history, and then he united the whole
country to defeat Hitler.
The idea that talking about malefactors of great wealth, about --
about people who are taking away the birthright of every American, is going
to make people think that you`re somehow creating class war, history
doesn`t suggest it. It`s just not there in the record.
This is the kind of stuff that makes people feel that the Democratic
Party is on their side, that Democratic leaders are going to lay down the
tracks for their interests --
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go --
PERLSTEIN: And it not only help Democrats win.
MATTHEWS: I want to go to Alex. I want to go to Alex.
PERLSTEIN: It helps them govern the country better.
MATTHEWS: I want to go to Alex with this question, and then back to
you with the same question.
Kennedy was able to make that case for the Democratic Party back when
the party was two times as strong as the Republican Party. The Republican
Party was basically dormant in the `50s. It had really died off. Most of
the people, half the people who were Republicans had become independents by
the end of the `50s -- 2-1 registration advantage.
Today, it`s a very close competition. Alex, as a younger person in
this discussion, do you think that you can go out there and argue a strong
Democrat-vs.-Republican argument on the social safety net and win?
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
I mean, look, we`re talking about veterans. We`re talking about
children who are sick. We`re talking about the poor, the disenfranchised,
people are color. I mean, this is a huge part of the American public. And
the idea that somehow you have to forfeit these values in the name of,
what, deficit cutting, I mean, it`s illogical.
And I feel like Obama needs to channel that sort of passionate better
angel and -- and go big. I mean, he`s got to go big with this, and then
ask the American public for the mandate. And I think they will give it to
MATTHEWS: Can he make the case with sarcasm that the upper class
Franklin Roosevelt owned -- Franklin Roosevelt -- you`re smiling, Rick.
Nobody was better at sarcasm than FDR, with the "My dog Fala" speech,
maybe the greatest political speech ever given. The guy destroyed his
opponents with sarcasm. This president doesn`t to team to have that gift -
MATTHEWS: -- that gift.
WAGNER: He -- he -- he has his own rhetorical mode and he doesn`t
even need to use sarcasm.
He can just say, look, these are the positions that 60 percent to 70
percent of the American people hold. He can point to the -- what is it,
like 23, 30 polls that say that the American people are more interested in
raising taxes on the rich than they are in deficit reduction. He can talk,
again, to the broad center of the American electorate. But he can`t do
that without putting Republicans who are extremists in his sights.
MATTHEWS: OK. Why doesn`t he make the simple case that Nixon was to
his left, that he is not a left-winger, that Nixon wanted to have an
employer mandate? This guy, all he -- our president, all he got through
was an individual mandate, making the individual American responsible to
pay for his own health care costs, a very conservative idea that came from
the Heritage Foundation.
Why does he let them tag him as a socialist and get away with it over
and over again, Rick?
PERLSTEIN: Well, I think he`s letting himself be intimidated. He`s
letting them get inside his head.
He`s playing to the Beltway elite, which treats the Tea Party as if
they`re somehow the broad center of the American electorate, when, as you
showed in your statistics, 40 percent of country thinks that they`re off
the rails. They`re the most --
PERLSTEIN: According to Robert Putnam in "The New York Times" the
other day -- I think you had him on -- that they`re the most unpopular
group in the American electorate. All he needs to do is point out that
John Boehner said, there is no room between me and the Tea Party.
Instead, he assumes that John Boehner can somehow bring the Tea Party
to heel and sell them this deal, when they`re entire existential existence,
their whole reason for being on this Earth politically, is not making any
kind of compromise like that.
Here`s President Obama on government`s role in reviving the economy.
Let`s listen. It`s kind of defensive.
I want you to respond to this, Alex.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The prime driver of
economic growth and jobs is going to be our people and the private sector
and our businesses, but you know what? Government can help. Government
can make a difference.
So, I hope that I can count on you in the days ahead to lend your
voice to this fight to strengthen our economy. I need you to keep your
pressure on your elected representatives for things like the payroll tax
cuts or road construction funds or the other steps that will help to put
our country back to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Alex, I remember when the Republican Party was
down in the doldrums and they ran a TV ad that says, Republicans are
MATTHEWS: I mean, that`s what that sounded like.
MATTHEWS: Government can help.
WAGNER: Again, you know, I -- I don`t disparage the president for
encouraging Americans to get in touch with their elected representatives,
but leadership has got come from the top on this.
And I think that there is a sense in some circles -- and I have talked
to a couple of Democratic strategists about this -- that the president is
lost and that he really doesn`t know where to go, and that the Tea Party,
small though it may be, has sort of gale-force winds behind it and that the
MATTHEWS: Well said.
WAGNER: -- and -- and -- and he`s -- he`s been blown around by them,
and he really needs to regain his footing and he has -- it`s a critical
time to do that.
WAGNER: There are 14 months before 2012 and he`s got to come out with
something big. The American -- there are 15 million people out of work.
They need jobs. He`s got to have some short-term spending to deal with
that. And he`s got to make his case to the American people.
MATTHEWS: I hope he`s watching.
Thank you very much, Rick Perlstein. Great thinking and great writing
and thanks for coming on.
Alex Wagner, as always.
Up next: Michele Bachmann keeps coming up with new reasons for her
past career. Interesting embroidering going on here. Her latest reason on
why she went to work for the IRS coming up. They keep getting more
interesting. That`s ahead in the "Sideshow."
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the "Sideshow."
First up, well, here`s a fun one. Since the early days on the
campaign trail, Michele Bachmann has made it widely known that she has the
experience as a tax litigation attorney for the IRS. Well, recently, she
famously said she became a tax lawyer because her husband told her to, and
the Bible commands wives to be submissive to their husbands.
Well, today, she came up with a creative explanation for why she went
to work for the IRS. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I went to work
in that system because the first rule of war is know your enemy. So I went
to the inside to learn how they work, because I want to defeat them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s quite an elaborate plan for your career, but
is she running for president now to infiltrate the enemy yet again?
Anyway, that one comes to us courtesy of Greg Sargent from "The Plum
Line" at "The Washington Post."
But the crazy talk continues. Another personal attack on President
Obama`s background, this one coming from Republican Senator Tom Coburn. At
an event in his home state of Oklahoma yesterday afternoon, an audience
member asked the senator whether he felt that President Obama wanted to
Well, Coburn used the opportunity to criticize the president`s
political philosophy as -- quote -- "goofy and wrong" and said that --
quote -- `The president`s intent is not to destroy. His intent to create
dependency, because it worked so well for him."
And what does that mean? Well, Coburn went on to say that President
Obama pushes government-run program because -- quote -- "As an African-
American male, Obama received tremendous advantage from a lot of these
Well, Senator Coburn, you now join the ranks of other Republicans who
have sunk to the left of condoning ethnic gibes at the president, nothing
to be proud of here. And I`m surprised at you, Senator. I thought you
were better than this one.
And on to the 2012 campaign trail. GOP candidate Rick Perry stopped
by a local cafe in New Hampshire yesterday for a meet-and-greet. Once
inside, Governor Perry stopped at the counter to sample a pastry. There he
is. It soon became clear that not everyone who stopped by for a few words
with the governor was there to cheer him on. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let them eat cake?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- going on here? Let them eat cake? Your attacks
on the middle class, working for the rich people in Texas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Whoa, the voice of the people there.
And now for the "Big Number" tonight.
President Obama finished off his three-day bus tour yesterday.
Throughout the week, by the way, he held four town hall meetings in the
Midwest. As it turns out, he managed to get the crowds going more than a
few times throughout the week. How many times did the president pause for
applause over the course of his four appearances? Two hundred and
seventeen times. Not bad. On the other hand, there were only 48 pauses
for laughter. And there`s no surprise there. With the current economy,
it`s not exactly chuckle-worthy out there.
Up next: Does President Obama have a problem with African-American
supporters, well, his most loyal supporters out there? Maybe so.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California says he`s got a problem. He`s
got some serious questions -- and I have got serious questions for her.
And she`s coming up next, Congresswoman Waters.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Amanda Drury with your CNBC
Stocks plunged big-time today, amid signs of more economic weakness.
The Dow Jones industrials losing almost 420 points, more than 3.5 percent,
closing at about 10991. The S&P 500 fell 53 points, and the Nasdaq
suffered the biggest percentage loss of more than 5 percent, dropping 131
Nervous investors fled for potentially safer investments. Money
flooding into U.S. Treasury bonds and to gold, which sold at a record price
today of almost $1,830 an ounce. The housing market, meantime, doesn`t
look any better today. Sales of existing homes in July fell unexpectedly
by 3.5 percent. Analysts had projected a rise of 2 percent to 3 percent.
Reasons include tougher lending standards and lower appraisals.
And that is it from CNBC. Now I`m going to head you back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.
Does President Obama need to focus more attention on unemployment in
the black community, which is nearly double that rate of the rest of the
Congresswoman Maxine Waters thinks so. Earlier this week, at a jobs
fair at a town hall out in Detroit, she -- sponsored by the Congressional
Black Caucus, she had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: The Congressional Black Caucus
loves the president, too.
We`re supportive of the president, but we`re getting tired, you all.
We`re getting tired. And so what we want to do is, we want to give the
president every opportunity --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long?
WATERS: -- to show --
WATERS: -- to show what he can do and what he is prepared to lead on.
We want to give him every opportunity.
But our people are hurting. the unemployment is unconscionable. We
don`t know what the strategy is. We don`t know why, on this trip that he`s
in the United States now, he`s not in any black community. we don`t know
But all I`m saying to you is, we`re politicians. We`re elected
officials. We`re trying to do the right thing and the best thing. When
you let us know it is time to let go, we will let go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Well, so, should the Congressional Black Caucus, which is powerful in
the Democratic Party, will they be more aggressive in confronting the
president on the jobs issue?
Congresswoman Waters joins us now.
Congresswoman Waters, you have got a lot of seniority and a lot of
prestige. So, here`s my question for you. As a legislator, tell me what
bill you want the president to send up to the Hill that you guys can fight
for on jobs?
WATERS: Thank you very much, Chris.
As you know, the Congressional Black Caucus has produced about 40
pieces of legislation. We think the most significant bill would be a bill
to do what the president has alluded to. And that is the infrastructure
bank, where we would repair the roads and the streets and the water
systems, and put people to work. And, of course, people with jobs will put
money into the economy.
We think that`s one significant thing. Some of us are focused on
talking about bringing our jobs from offshore back into America. Too many
of these call centers and other jobs have been exploited for Third -- for
cheap labor in Third World markets, and we believe we have to take a close
look at the tax code to see if there are incentives that keep them sending
these jobs over there.
We know they want cheap labor, but we should make it more difficult
for them. We should make it more costly for them to do that. So we`re
looking at that. Of course, many of us thought the stimulus package was
not big enough. We know it`s going to be very difficult, but we do think
the president should be bold, and he should come back with the kind of
stimulus package that he`s going to have to fight very hard for.
And, so, we also believe that all of this talk about the green jobs
never materialized. We have not had the training. We don`t have the
manufacturing where solar panels are being developed.
So, we`ve got some ideas, and if the president is going to roll out
with the new proposals, we intend to have our input in it and to help
develop something that will be good for this country and, of course, good
for the African-American community.
MATTHEWS: How are you going to get him to do it? How are you
personally and members of the Black Caucus going to get the president to
come out after Labor Day and not come out with this little bag of things
he`s got, but a strong infrastructure bill that hires perhaps a million
people? The unemployment rate is millions and millions of people. In the
black community, it`s double, as we pointed out.
Do you want him to do a deal that`s big enough that really put a dent
in unemployment? Are you willing to push that hard?
WATERS: Yes. I`m willing to push very hard. And I want to tell you,
these job fairs that we`re holding around the country, where thousands and
thousands upon people are lining up, we`re sending a message and he can see
that there`s rising anger, there`s rising concern. Perhaps he does not
know this much concern was out there in the African-American communities
and I suspect that what we`re doing is going to be duplicated by other
So, we think what we`re doing now will add to -- you know, giving him
the strength. One of the things we hear consistently is, the people want
him to fight. They want us all to fight. They don`t like that this Tea
Party has gained so much influence and appear to be so strong and, really,
influencing public policy in the way that they`re doing. They keep telling
us, stand up and fight, and you go tell the president that we want him to
stand and fight, too.
So, we`re going to put everything that we can into it. We support
him. We want him to be successful but cannot back down. No more
compromises like the ones that we saw in raising the debt ceiling and all
of those cuts that we`re confronted with.
MATTHEWS: Let`s look at this town hall episode. Your congressional
colleague Allen West of Florida was on FOX last night and he called you and
other African-American leaders part of the problem. He used some pretty
inflammatory language, which you`ve heard before. He used it again. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALLEN WEST (R), FLORIDA: You have this 21st century plantation
that has been out there where the Democrat Party has forever taken the
black vote for granted, and you have established certain black leaders who
are nothing more than the overseers of that plantation, and now, the people
on that plantation are upset, because they`ve been disregarded,
disrespected and their concerns are not cared about.
So, I`m here as the modern day Harriet Tubman to kind of lead people
in the underground railroad away from that plantation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you think of that? I know he represent as white
district, and I know who he`s talking to.
WATERS: That`s so odd.
MATTHEWS: He ain`t talking to the black community, I don`t think.
WATERS: I think it`s so odd.
No. I think that that`s odd and it doesn`t make good sense and I
don`t think it even deserves a response. Did he tell you his brother was
MATTHEWS: Tell me.
WATERS: He has a brother out of work. His brother came up to me,
introduced himself and told me that he had lost his job, had been laid off.
And I asked him if he`d called his brother? And he said he had. I
said what did he say? He said, he told me to come to the job fair. He
told me to come and see you.
And so, we`re hopeful that we can help his brother.
MATTHEWS: So, he sent him to the plantation, as he put it?
WATERS: Well, you know, that`s a reasonable conclusion.
Thank you very much for coming on, Congresswoman Maxine Waters. I
hope you keep up the fight. I`d love to see, by the way, a huge
demonstration in Washington on the issue of jobs. Labor, minorities, lots
of people --
WATERS: I think that may happen, yes.
MATTHEWS: We`re coming up on the anniversary, you know, of the King
speech. Maybe it`s time. It`s your call, but I would be very happy to
cover that one.
WATERS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, call them the new generation -- the new greatest
generation of men or women for the better part of the last generation
fought wars for our country, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Well, a lot of them
are coming home with incredible leadership skills in dealing with
communities over there. And they`re already doing great things. This is a
good American story coming here.
And this is HARDBALL -- we`re here to tell it -- only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: "New York Times" reported today that the Justice Department
is investigating whether Standard & Poor`s improperly rated dozens of
securities in the years before the financial crisis. Wow!
Well, the report points out that investigation began before S&P
downgraded the government`s AAA credit rating this month. But the news
will no doubt fuel or add fuel to those who suspect politics at work here.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
A new edition of "Time" magazine is just out. And the cover story is
an inspiring look of how many veterans, American veterans returning from
our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are working to change this country, ours,
for the better -- from helping out their fellow soldiers to running or
political office. "Time" is calming this piece -- in fact, it`s calling
them the new greatest generation.
Joining me right now to talk about these soldiers, the "Time"
columnist, the great Joe Klein, who wrote the cover story, and a former
Army captain who is profiled in the piece, Wes Moore.
Welcome to both of you.
I want to go to you, Wes Moore, for a firsthand. You were a subject
of this piece. You are part of this story.
Tell us, if you can, what is it that your generation, coming back from
the front, in terms of the duties you`ve had over there, in terms ever
trying to bring a country together politically, how that trains you to help
back here at home?
WES MOORE, U.S. ARMY CAPTAIN (RET): Well, I`ll tell you, I was
honored to be one of the people asked to represent this group of 23 million
Iraq-Afghanistan vets who are coming back with some extraordinary skills.
I mean, you`re talking about people who are coming. They are
entrepreneurial. They are fearless. They are able to look at worst-case
scenarios before they even look at best-case scenarios.
And the fact is., as we`re looking at this transition back home,
there`s not a scenario these men and women, these non-commissioned officers
and officers are going to see when they come back home that is going to
intimidate them or make them flinch. These are extraordinarily brave and
courageous group of people and we`re glad that they`ve chosen to serve not
just in uniform, but they`re not serving as they come back home.
MATTHEWS: Joe, how is this warfront, both Iraq and Afghanistan,
different in terms of training people for their careers back home?
JOE KLEIN, TIME: Well, Chris, you know, I`ve been going over there
for the last five or six years, embedding with American troops. And I`ve
always been kind of amazed by what they do.
And most Americans don`t know it. They`re not just providing
security, but they`re also going into these towns and they`re becoming the
government. They are doing infrastructure projects. They`re opening
schools. You know? They`re paving highways and they`re dealing with the
local city councils.
And I -- you know, I watch these captains like Wes and also the
noncoms, the sergeants and corporals who have do this. And I say, if they
can do that over there under fire, they can certainly do that under -- you
know, back here.
The great thing that I found out over the last few months reporting
the story, is that a lot of them are coming back here with the intention of
making things better here because they don`t like what they see when they
MATTHEWS: How much big thinking guess on out there in the war front,
Wes? I mean, people are talking about America when they are over there,
when they got time alone, over drinks or over coffee or whatever, in the
nighttime in the dark when you got time to kill.
Are they talking about the country they represent in the battlefield,
about what they can do at home?
MOORE: You know, I think the thing that takes up the most time for
soldiers and sailors and airmen and marines overseas isn`t necessarily the
larger socio-political implications and ramifications of the work.
But we are focused on each other. We are making sure that person to
your left and to your right can get home safely. We are making sure that
you are taking care of not just in the battlefield, but then you`re also
taken care of when you get home. I mean, that`s our focus.
I mean, leadership for us really comes down to a couple of really
elementary elements. One is make sure you are prepared at all times for
everything. The second thing is use common sense. And the third thing is
take care of your people.
Those are things that we live by. And we know that if can you do
that, then you are putting yourself in a good position for good success.
MATTHEWS: Same question to you, Joe. The same question.
KLEIN: Yes. One thing is that a lot of times at night, they are out
on patrol. And I got say, when they come back from patrol, do you know
what they do to let off steam? They play war video games.
KLEIN: I mean, the stuff that they`re doing over there is so intense,
that it doesn`t leave much room. Although I have a couple of special
operators in this piece who spent the time, you know, between operations,
arguing Keynesian versus classical economics.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a good thing to argue. They may find that
useful. I`m still arguing with my brain every night that one.
Here`s Rick Perry earlier this week -- this is a tricky question.
Here is what Perry, the governor of Texas, said yesterday about our
president and he is our president, everybody`s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the reasons,
one of the powerful reasons that I`m running for the president of the
United States is to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on
the uniform of this country respects highly the president of the United
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What in hell did he mean by that, Wes Moore?
MOORE: Well, you know, it`s funny because I remember somebody earlier
saying, well he said it once and it`s early in the race.
But the fact is, you know, he didn`t say it once. He said it multiple
times. So, it`s not just a slip of the tongue. It`s a talking point.
And this actually really bothered me because, you know, the fact is,
when we put on that uniforms and we put ourselves in harm`s way, we`re
doing it because we swore allegiance to the Constitution of the United
States and we are following the orders of the commander-in-chief,
regardless of that person is Republican or if that person is a Democrat.
And the fact is that Rick Perry, as former Air Force officer, he knows
that, you know? And quite honestly, I found that statement to be not only
offensive but beneath the office that he is running for.
MATTHEWS: You know, I don`t get it either, Joe. This guy has not
been a left-winger on foreign policy, if that`s what bothers a politician.
He has been for the war in Afghanistan, doubling down there. He`s been
continuing the effort in Iraq. He got bin Laden.
What is wrong with this guy as a military? I can understand argument
about his politics. This was a direct personal shot at the president and
it sounds really nasty.
KLEIN: Well, it does. And the irony of this is that I remember
during the Iraq War, a lot of uniformed military brass were really kind
brassed off at President Bush because he didn`t play -- he didn`t plan
phase four of the Iraq War, which is what you do when you get there and you
have taken Baghdad.
This, you know, this president does that planning and I think he is on
pretty good terms with the military brass.
KLEIN: And the other thing I would point out was that, twice in the
last four months, he made major decisions against the advice of the
military, one was to do the right -- do the Osama bin Laden raid the right
way. The military just wanted to bomb it.
And the other was not to do counterinsurgency in the eastern part of
Afghanistan. I think that that was a wise decision as well.
MATTHEWS: Joe, thanks so much. Great reporting, great story. It
makes us feel good.
Wes Moore, thanks so much for your service. Thank you for that.
MOORE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And thank you for coming on tonight.
When we return, "Let Me Finish" with a troubling shift to the right in
today`s Republican Party.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this dramatic shift in
Republican politics. Three years ago, the party ran John McCain for
president. Next year, it looks like they may well run one of three
candidates: Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney or Rick Perry. So, the odds
increasingly favor the Republican Party shifting starkly right-ward.
I listen to Rick Perry and I wonder what we are talking about and
where we are going as a country. He refuses to accept the role, for
example, that fossil fuels play in climate change. He sees creationism as
a serious academic subject. He wants to ditch the Voting Rights Act. He
questions the constitutional basis of the Civil Rights Act. He speaks of
secession, his defenders say, as some sort of harmless rhetorical device.
He believes in states` rights and promises to make the federal government
Well, these are not dog whistles. They are bugle calls to the old
days, before the civil rights, even before the Civil War. Is this the
Republican Party formed by Abraham Lincoln and advanced by Theodore
Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower and, yes, continued by Ronald Reagan?
Is this that progress as our most important product, as Reagan once
declared for General Electric? Or does it view progress with distrust?
I don`t think we need to get into name-calling in this emerging
campaign season. What we need to get into are the beliefs, the doctrines
and deeply held world views of the candidates.
Does Rick Perry believe the government could use some tough, even
radical reform, or does he believe it is essentially evil? Does he possess
a humility in the realm of science or does he reject the scientific method
itself? Does he have a problem with the civil rights bill that goes beyond
the judicial ruling that rule it constitutional?
And what did he mean all those times he waved that threatening word
"secession" around? Does he believe the Confederate states were right to
do what they did?
As we used to say in the 60s -- there`s something happening here.
And, now, as the wild electoral season begins, it`s a very important time,
I think, to take notice and ring more than a few alarm bells.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Al Sharpton.
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