Guest Host: Michael Smerconish
Guests: Oriel Morrison, Roger Cressey, Evan Kohlmann, Howard Fineman, Sam Stein, Clarence Page, Susan Page, James Hoffa
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Obama loses, Boehner loses. Who
Let`s play some HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Matthews. Leading
off tonight: Political football. Let`s agree there were no winners in
yesterday`s foolish "You`re a jerk, no, you`re a jerk" debate over the
timing of the president`s jobs speech. But in Washington, when no one
wins, the president often loses.
Republicans have to be thrilled that they stuck another thumb in the
president`s eye, and Mr. Obama`s supporters -- they`re holding their heads
in their hands over what appears to be another cave-in by the White House.
The speech will now air before the opening of the NFL season, but the
larger lesson seems to be that if the president and John Boehner can`t
agree on scheduling, what makes anyone think they`ll be willing to work
together on creating jobs?
Every concession to the Republicans, every bad poll that comes out
seems to make President Obama`s reelection less likely, but the White House
is looking to two former presidents who won despite terrible economic times
for inspiration. Can FDR and Ronald Reagan offer a blueprint for victory
And 10 years after 9/11, are we really safer from terrorist attacks?
A lot of experts say no.
Also: They`re in, they`re out. They can`t decide. What was behind
yesterday`s other scheduling circus, this one involving Sarah Palin and
And finally, "Let Me Finish" with why I don`t believe what either what
either the White House or the speaker`s office said during yesterday`s
childish spat and what that says about what we can expect from them in the
We start with the timing of the president`s jobs speech. Clarence
Page is a "Chicago Tribune" columnist. Sam Stein is a political reporter
for the HuffingtonPost. Welcome to both of you.
Sam, I`m not buying any of it. I believe that the White House
selected that initial date specifically because it was the GOP debate. And
I don`t buy what the speaker said, either, about perfunctory votes getting
in the way or a security clearance sweep that needed to be done in the
House. What do you make of it?
SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTONPOST: I agree with your skepticism on both
fronts. I think the White House wanted a contrast, a direct contrast with
the Republican presidential field that night, where the president could lay
out his vision and then the Republicans squabble amongst themselves over
how bad it was. And you know, no one`s answered the question about why
couldn`t Boehner call back Congress on Tuesday? Why did he have to call
them back on Wednesday? Clearly, the speaker could have accommodated the
president, if he did. And what ended up happening is he said no, and the
president gave in and said, Sure, I`ll do it on Thursday.
SMERCONISH: Clarence, was it all bad staff work? I ask because White
House communications director Dan Pfeiffer went on "THE DAILY RUNDOWN" with
Chuck Todd this morning and he tried to clean this mess up. Listen to what
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR./WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So did
Speaker Boehner tell -- I believe we`ve reported that it was chief of staff
Bill Daley. Did he specifically tell Bill Daley, Yes, September 7, 8:00
o`clock, I`ll make it work?
DAN PFEIFFER, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: He said -- he -- they
raised no objections to the date or time. So either...
TODD: Well, I mean, I guess -- what does that mean when they say they
raised no objection? I don`t want to -- but what does that mean? Meaning
they said it was sort of Boehner saying, Oh, all right, Bill?
PFEIFFER: We had no reason to believe after that conversation that
there was any reason that Wednesday could not work for logistical or other
reasons for the speaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Sounds like a lot of hummina-hummina-hummina. Clarence,
what do you make of it?
CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": It`s puzzling to me, Michael,
because I don`t know why they would want to be on the same night as the
Republican candidates. Compare, contrast, OK, but you`re also stepping on
your message. And I`ve seen President Obama do that several times during
his administration, which is remarkable for a man who was so effective at
messaging during his campaign.
I think it`s going to take a little while. I just hope that, you
know, whatever message he`s got to deliver next week is going to be worth
SMERCONISH: Sam, my view is that they`re all now so pre-conditioned
to be in opposition to whatever the other guy wants because when you think
through Boehner`s response politically, I don`t think it makes sense. Why
wouldn`t John Boehner want that debate to take place, for the good of his
party, immediately after the president because you`d have so many more
eyeballs then tuning in?
STEIN: Well, let me just -- let me just push back against the premise
-- one premise of that, which is I don`t think that the White House is
preconditioned to say no to the Republicans. I think the preponderance of
evidence shows the Republicans have said no basically to whatever the White
House puts out.
Now, yes, there is -- there is some benefit to the Republican
presidential field going right after the president. But at the same time,
I think the White House does like that contrast. I think they like the
idea of the president speaking down to the Chamber of Commerce, accusing
them of doing -- sorry -- speaking down to Congress, accusing them of doing
nothing on the jobs front.
I think they like the idea of the Republican field raising their
hands, saying they will reject $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax
increase. I think they like the idea of Obama coming out as an adult.
It`s a beneficial optic for them, and I think they wanted it.
SMERCONISH: OK, you know that there`s a contrarian view to that. I
happen to believe that it`s in the presidents`s best interests to continue
to pursue, I`ll call it, the reasonable ground because in the end,
independents are the ones who are going to call the shot in this.
There`s another argument out there, though, Sam, that says that the
base is now so offended with what they perceive to be his caving in that
some may not be as motivated.
STEIN: And that`s the thing. It`s like this whole argument over the
date of the speech is a really trivial, superficial argument. No one`s
going to remember it in a week from now. However, it does reinforce the
narrative that`s preexisted for a lot longer than this argument, which is
that Obama is not willing to fight for even the most minute matters. And
so yes, he did -- ultimately, he looks like the adult in the room by
switching dates, but the base, a depressed base as it is, doesn`t like to
see the president cave in on even these things.
SMERCONISH: Clarence, any reason in your mind to believe that the
president will change course as a result of a kerfuffle like this?
PAGE: Let me put up one thing, Michael. I don`t understand -- well,
again, I think Obama would look much more like the adult if he comes on the
next night, after the Republican candidates are squabbling with each other,
and looks like the adult in the room because he is. He`s the president,
for Pete`s sake. And why step on your own -- right in your own news cycle?
Why schedule yourself to go on right before another big news event unless
you aren`t that confident about what you`ve got to deliver in your own
I think, in the long run, that Boehner did Obama favor by pushing him
onto his own night because he ought to have his own night.
SMERCONISH: Let me show you both what long-time Democratic strategist
James Carville weighed in and said this morning on "Good Morning America."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The last thing that the White
House needed was to appear to cave in to the speaker, and that`s what
happened. The last thing the Congress needed, and the White House, was to
have a spat that looks like they couldn`t resolve anything.
I do think this is a really big debate, and I think the White House
was out of bounds in suggesting -- in trying to schedule the speech during
the debate. I know -- given a choice between watching the debate and the
speech, I`ll watch the debate, and I`m not even a Republican.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Hey, Sam, I share that view. I think it is a significant
debate because I think a lot -- there are going to be many of them to come,
SMERCONISH: ... want to see Rick Perry for the first time on that
stage. It is the Reagan Library. What`s this guy all about? And can he
sustain whatever come from the questions?
STEIN: Yes, but they also want to see the Saints versus the Packers
on a Thursday night. Let`s not downplay that. The opening night of the
NFL season is a big draw. I don`t think the White House really wants to go
against that. They`re trying to plan around that, and that`s telling in
its own right. They know that there`s a lot of viewers out there who are
going to be drawn to football.
I just happen to disagree with both of you on this one. I think the -
- they`ve always looked good when they`re contrasted with Republicans, even
if it`s Republicans going right at them. Let`s go back to that famous
Baltimore-area town hall event that they did on health care, where Obama
was in the lion`s den.
He comes out always looking like the adult on this one. I imagine
that he has a bunch of proposals that are going to be unveiled in this jobs
plan that are very much in line with what Republicans have suggested in the
past. I think he wants to put it out there and see them oppose their own
SMERCONISH: Isn`t the big picture...
PAGE: Enjoy the game, Sam.
SMERCONISH: Clarence, isn`t the big picture...
SMERCONISH: Isn`t the takeaway from this that if they can`t get their
schedules together, if this is the sort of BS that they`re going to bicker
about, there`s really no prospect -- no matter what the president proposes,
they`re going to stand in opposition to it? Clarence, isn`t that the
PAGE: Well, maybe I`m affected by the fact that I was out in the real
world last week and back in my home town, Middletown, Ohio, which happens
to be in John Boehner`s district, heavily Republican area. And people
there feel like a pox on both the houses because Ohio`s in crisis. They
need jobs. They`ve been deindustrialized. And they see the parties
squabbling over what night to have the speech on. That`s like, you know,
the Vietnam peace talks arguing over the shape of the table. It`s just
SMERCONISH: But as I -- but as I said in my preamble, I really
believe that when all are perceived as losers, he suffers more. Congress
is more of an amorphous almost faceless, nameless -- you know the old
adage. People don`t like Congress, but they like their member of Congress.
I think it catches up with him if this is the way the public perceives it.
PAGE: I don`t mean to disagree with you, but you know, back in the
Clinton-Gingrich days, remember that big dust-up, same kind of deal. The
president won. People tend to see the others as obstructionists, and
that`s the way Obama ought to be playing this now.
STEIN: And we have a very recent data point on that. The debt
ceiling fight, for all of its problems, both parties were blamed, but
Republicans, according to all the polls after the fact, were blamed much
more than the president. Again, I don`t think the White House is
distancing itself from a fight, but they actually have to engage first.
SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, James Downie wrote a column for "The
Washington Post" last night that read, in part, "If this was an attempt to
make Republicans look unreasonable, then in almost every conceivable way,
it failed spectacularly. If this is a preview of Obama`s reelection
campaign, Democrats should be very worried."
Sam, you`re not buying into that.
STEIN: Well, I just think that we have an infinite ability to forget
the last news cycle. And with this issue, the actual substance of the
speech, I have to believe, will trump this one-day story about whether or
not it was scheduled on a Wednesday or Thursday. I just can`t imagine
SMERCONISH: Clarence, I`m wondering what the mood`s going to be like
in that joint session. You know, there`s a member of the Tea Party, a
congressman member of the Tea Party, who`s already tweeting and saying he`s
not even going to be in attendance. I`m thinking about Joe Wilson shouting
out "You lie." Has this process now become so politicized that the speech
is taking on a tone it would otherwise not have had?
PAGE: Well, Joe Wilson`s shout-out was hardly the GOP`s finest hour.
And frankly, if I was Obama, I would have gone ahead and had my speech on
the first night and said, Hey, if you don`t want to show up, you know,
that`s on you. Let the cameras pan around to the empty seats and see what
kind of message that would send to the public.
But that`s me, that`s not Obama. I sometimes wonder why he`s not more
of a Chicago-style politician because Harold Washington, his old role
model, would have done something like that and he would have won.
SMERCONISH: Sam, you know, it`s all about expectations. I think the
expectations keep rising now because of all this attention, all of this...
SMERCONISH: ... going into the speech.
SMERCONISH: It better be something big, I guess is what I`m saying.
STEIN: Totally agree with you. I think if he doesn`t go big, then
there`s going to be disappointment, severe disappointment among the base.
He needs to do something. He needs to set out a vision, an actual vision
for what the economy`s going to look like in two or three years.
Stan Greenberg, the prominent Democratic pollster, says that the
toughest thing to do in politics is tell people who are suffering that
things are going to get better or that they are getting better. This is a
big lift for Obama. He has to go big, it seems.
SMERCONISH: Clarence Page, thanks very much. Sam Stein, as well.
PAGE: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: We appreciate your time.
And a reminder. The Republican presidential debate, the Reagan
Library -- it`s going to be right here on MSNBC next Wednesday 8:00 PM
Eastern. And join us Thursday 7:30 Eastern for the president`s big jobs
Coming up: No doubt President Obama has an uphill path to reelection,
but the White House is looking to two former presidents who won despite
awful economic times, FDR and Ronald Reagan. That`s ahead.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
SMERCONISH: Former Republican senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska had
some harsh words about his own party. Listen to what he told "The
Financial Times" about the Republican Party`s handling of the debt ceiling
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK HAGEL (R), FMR. NEBRASKA SENATOR: The irresponsible actions of
my party, the Republican Party, over this was astounding. I`d never seen
anything like it in my lifetime. I think about some of the presidents
we`ve had on my side of the aisle, Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr., and
go right through them, Eisenhower. They would be stunned, I think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Hagel says today`s GOP has moved too far to the right, is
too intolerant and is too captive to the ideologues of the Tea Party
We`ll be right back.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Fourteen months away from the
presidential election, it`s looking like a grim picture for President
Obama. With unemployment numbers still hovering over 9 percent and opinion
polls giving his job approval all-time lows, what does he need to do to
stand a chance next year?
According to "Time" magazine`s Michael Scherer, White House aides are
looking to two former presidents who scored second terms during similarly
rough economic times, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.
Scherer writes, "FDR and Reagan argued that the country, though in
plain, was improving and that their opponents, anchored in past failures,
would make things worse."
According to the article, White House aides intend to make sure that
voters believe a year from now that their fortunes are improving, and they
plan to persuade the American people that a Republican in the White House
would be a step backward.
But the strategy would take "no drama Obama" into territory he hasn`t
traditionally been comfortable, a partisan fighter. Does he have it in
And for that, we`re joined by "USA Today`s" Washington bureau chief
Susan Page and MSNBC political analyst and HuffingtonPost senior political
editor Howard Fineman.
Susan, does that strategy make sense to you?
SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, you know, the number one thing Barack
Obama needs do if he`s going to get reelected is to make the economy
better, not persuade people the economy is better. People live the economy
every day. You need to have a sense that the economy is picking up,
unemployment is coming down.
I mean, it is natural that he would choose, say, Ronald Reagan`s
reelection in 1984 as his template because you certainly do not want to
choose Jimmy Carter`s reelection template in 1980. You know, at that
point, Jimmy Carter got the opponent he wanted from the Republicans, Ronald
Reagan, too old, an actor, you know, too extreme, too right-wing. But
people were so unhappy with the economy and with the state of the nation,
they were willing to take a leap of faith. That would be the nightmare
scenario for Barack Obama.
SMERCONISH: Howard, I was -- I was really taken with this "Time"
magazine piece and the idea that they had Michael Beschloss behind closed
doors, advising Bill Daley and the senior staff. What did you take out of
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I
used to work at "Newsweek," so I would have been really mad at you for
citing the excellence of "Time," but now at the HuffingtonPost, it doesn`t
FINEMAN: I think -- I think it`s a little preposterous to suggest
that Ronald Reagan`s reelection campaign is going to be a template. Ronald
Reagan`s central message in the campaign was encapsulated in a TV ad called
"It`s morning in America."
SMERCONISH: Well, as a matter of fact, we have it.
SMERCONISH: And I`d be remiss if I didn`t cue it up for you right
FINEMAN: Why don`t you do it now, and then we`ll talk afterwards.
SMERCONISH: Let`s do it. Play the tape.
FINEMAN: OK. OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This afternoon, 6,500 young men and women will be
married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four
years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It`s
morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our
country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to
return to where we were less than four short years ago?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I remember it being unveiled. I was in Dallas that year.
What`s the point that you take away from that?
FINEMAN: Well, my point that I take away from that is, at least now
and projecting forward -- it`s a dangerous thing to do, but projecting
forward to next year, it`s hard for me to imagine an ad like that being
accepted by the American people next year.
I don`t think the numbers are going to be good enough, and I don`t
think the temper of the country is going to be good enough, which is why
when I talk to Democrats outside and inside the White House, as I did
today, what I heard was a slightly different message.
It`s not going to be a "morning in America" campaign, it`s going to be
a "darkness at midnight" campaign about the Republicans. It`s going to be
about the fact that the Republicans in Congress pushed Paul Ryan`s bill on
Medicare, about how they pushed "cap, cut and balance," about how the
Republicans want to dismantle Wall Street reform. It`s going to be about
how the Republican presidential candidates have embraced the Tea Party.
Those are going to be the two central messages of a campaign that`s
mostly going to be about attack. I think this is -- just as 2008 was in
some respects an uplifting campaign from both sides, this one is going to
be down and dirty from the beginning from both side.
SMERCONISH: I have a difficult time seeing the president in that
role. And maybe he wouldn`t play the position...
FINEMAN: No, he wouldn`t do it himself. He wouldn`t do it himself.
SMERCONISH: Susan, do you see it the same way? Go ahead.
PAGE: I -- I do not. I do not think you can run -- run and win a
presidential campaign with a totally negative message about your other --
the other side.
Agreed that Barack Obama is not going to have the kind of feeling of
economic optimism that Ronald Reagan had in `84, even though unemployment
was still pretty high in 1984, still above 8 percent. You need to say to
Americans, things may be bad now, but I have a plan that will make things
better if you give me another chance, if you give me a second term.
SMERCONISH: Right, but isn`t the response -- isn`t the response going
to be from the American people, to what extent can we think your plan is
going to be carried out?
SMERCONISH: I`m the least optimistic about...
SMERCONISH: ... the result from the speech that is coming next week.
What -- what...
FINEMAN: Here`s -- here`s the problem that he`s got, Michael. I
think he campaigned on change. Don`t forget. It was very simple. It was,
we are the change we can believe in, change you can believe in, change,
So far, for the most part, to the extent that there has been change,
it hasn`t necessarily been for the better. So I think it`s going to be
very hard for the president to argue, you know, look at my plan. Look at
the future that I have sketched, because, so far, for the most part, it
hasn`t come true.
SMERCONISH: According to your...
FINEMAN: But he can -- yes.
SMERCONISH: According to your script, according to your -- your --
your battleground plan, which of the GOP field members best suits it? It
seems to me, based on what I have heard you say, it`s probably Rick Perry.
FINEMAN: Well, it`s either Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann, I would
say, at this point. Let`s leave Ron Paul out of it. But it`s probably
those other two.
And I think it`s going to be -- it`s -- as I say, my sense of it is,
it`s going to be a really, really rough and nasty campaign in which one
side, the Democrats, are going to be accusing the Republicans of being
literally irrational, of not accepting modern science and, you know, modern
education, and the theory of evolution, et cetera, against Republicans, who
are going to essentially be accusing Barack Obama and the Democrats of
being unholy, ungodly, and completely and utterly ineffective.
And it`s going to be nasty.
SMERCONISH: Susan, if -- if Howard is right, then it means that those
Democrats who right now are saying draw a line of your own in the sand, and
stop pursuing the reasonable ground are not going to get what they`re
looking for, because I think what he`s described is a strategy that demands
that the president continue to be the one who`s the conciliator.
PAGE: I -- I could disagree with Howard here. I think that Obama --
what we`re going to hear from President Obama on Thursday night is, here`s
my big plan, whether or not they`re going to let me get it passed into law.
Republicans have at this point no big incentive to cooperate with
Barack Obama. And of course they disagree with him on some of the
prescriptions he has for making the economy better. So he might as well
lay out a big plan and say...
PAGE: ... this is my plan. This is what I would do. If I can`t do
it now, put me back into office and maybe give me a Democratic House.
FINEMAN: I actually think that what I was suggesting is not
inconsistent with what Susan was just saying.
I think I agree with you, just looking at it from the sidelines. The
president may as well lay out whatever plan he`s got. And...
SMERCONISH: Because he`s not -- he`s not getting anything anyway.
FINEMAN: Well, yes, exactly.
And he`s going to say, this is a sober, rational way to approach the
future that these people, in their zeal, are rejecting. It`s going to be
more -- but my point is, it`s going to be more about the Republicans`
refusal to be logical, at least according to Barack Obama, as it`s going to
be about the virtues of this great, sweeping vision that the president has.
I think people are impatient now with the idea that this is a
president who sketch -- who can sketch out, let alone sell, a big vision,
because he`s pretty much been unable to do that all the way along.
SMERCONISH: All right, you`re not buying the `84 Reagan reference.
Let me go further back in time.
SMERCONISH: President Roosevelt, 1936, faced 17 percent unemployment.
He argued his over opponents had spent the 12 years before he came to
office destroying the economy. And he had just begun to turn the ship
around in his first term.
Let`s listen to one of his most famous speeches, 1936. It`s a
Democratic rally right here in Madison Square Garden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1936)
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Powerful
influences strive today to restore that kind of government, with its
doctrine that that government is best which is most indifferent to mankind.
For nearly four years now, you have had an administration which,
instead of twirling its thumbs, has rolled up its sleeves. Never before in
all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as
they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I`m smiling because I know Chris would just be thrilled
that we played a historic reference like that.
FINEMAN: Yes. That was great.
SMERCONISH: Susan, of what...
SMERCONISH: ... of what relevance can you see to this coming
PAGE: Well, what a great speech. Any show where you can show FDR
giving -- giving a barn burner like that is great.
Maybe a better precedent, though, for this election would be Harry
Truman. Now, you can hear Obama now talking about a do-nothing Congress,
they won`t do anything, Washington`s gridlocked, and -- and setting himself
up that way, which turns his failure to get a lot of things done perhaps
into an asset, because it is a detriment to the other side.
FINEMAN: Well, I think Susan and I are destined to disagree on
But I don`t think that will work, because I think too many people also
blame the president, including his own camp. People on the Democratic side
to some extent blame the president for gridlock. I think that`s too
technical an argument. I think it`s too -- and too procedural an argument.
I think he`s going to go -- I don`t care what I -- it doesn`t matter
what I think. I think he`s going to go in the direction of Franklin
Roosevelt in `36, where it was an apocalyptic thing, where Roosevelt was
saying, look, these people are out to strangle our way of life. And I have
stood there and taken it, but I have stood in the way of the evil people
doing what they want to do.
SMERCONISH: Got it.
Howard Fineman, thank you.
Susan Page, thank you both very much.
PAGE: Thank you.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Up next: the other big scheduling snafu, this one
involving Sarah Palin and Christine O`Donnell. Have you heard? That`s
next in the "Sideshow."
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Now for the "Sideshow."
First up, as we said earlier, now that the silly season fight is over,
President Obama`s jobs speech will not be conflicting with the GOP debate.
The scheduling kerfuffle took up prime real estate on today`s front pages,
with headlines line, "Obama Moves on Jobs, and Foes Feel an Elbow," and
"Obama Blinks on Jobs Speech."
And there were many more where that came from. Still, though, there
will be no prime-time competition between the president and the 2012
GOPers. He`s now got another face-off to contend with.
That`s the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" headline, which sums it up,
and says, "Obama`s Speech Up Against Packers." That`s right. The
president`s speech will now air directly before the opening game of the NFL
season. That`s between the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.
So, instead of sharing the stage with eight Republican candidates,
President Obama will be competing for attention with the last two Super
Next up: That`s not the only scheduling nightmare that erupted
yesterday. The Sarah Palin/Christine O`Donnell tilt is even tougher to
follow. So, pay attention.
A few weeks ago, Sarah Palin was scheduled to make an appearance at a
Tea Party rally that will take place in Iowa this weekend.
SMERCONISH: Days later, failed 2010 Senate candidate Christine
O`Donnell of Delaware also invited.
SMERCONISH: So far so good. Then the Tea Partiers got angry letters
protesting O`Donnell`s appearance. So she was uninvited.
SMERCONISH: News spread then that she`d been booted. Voices were
raised, suddenly O`Donnell back in.
SMERCONISH: Well, it turns out the Palin camp didn`t want her to
share the stage with O`Donnell, so, yesterday, Palin`s plans to attend put
SMERCONISH: No Sarah Palin if O`Donnell is there? Well, that`s
unacceptable to the Tea Partiers. Christine O`Donnell, you`re out.
SMERCONISH: And then a sigh of relief. Palin is back in.
SMERCONISH: So, to sum up, after being in, then out, then in,
Christine O`Donnell is out, Sarah Palin is in, and the show will go on.
And now for the "Big Number."
When you think of the smartest ways to invest your money, is
purchasing a New York City taxi medallion at the top of the list? Probably
not. Well, think again. As it turns out, their increase in value over the
years is surprisingly large, outpacing the growth in the price of oil, home
prices and even gold. How much has the price of a Big Apple taxi medallion
increased since 1980? One thousand percent.
The going rate is now close to $700,000. How is that for a smart
investment? One thousand percent, that is tonight`s "Big Number."
Up next, as we come upon the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks,
let`s try to answer the one big question on everybody`s mind: Are we safer
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
ORIEL MORRISON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Oriel Morrison with rMD-
BO_your CNBC "Market Wrap."
On Wall Street, the four-day rally has ground to a halt on some mixed
economic reports, the Dow Jones industrials sliding 119 points, the S&P
giving up 14, and the Nasdaq finishing 33 points in the red.
Caution was the word of day because we`re officially in September,
which is historically the worst month of the year for stocks, not to
mention tomorrow`s release of those all-important August jobs numbers from
the Labor Department. Analysts are predicting no change in the 9.1 percent
Retailers were mixed on a smaller-than-expected 4.4. percent jump in
chain store sales in August. Goldman Sachs slumped after agreeing to end
the practice of robo-signing mortgage applications. It will also
compensate borrowers for wrongful foreclosures.
And a judge has thrown out Oracle`s $1.3 billion verdict against SAP
over copyright issues, saying Oracle had only proven about $272 million in
That`s it from CNBC -- now back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE HAMILTON, FORMER CO-CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: We are not yet in
the place in this country where the first-responders can talk with one
another. Ten years after 9/11, we are not yet at the place where we know
who`s in charge at the site of a disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That`s 9/11 Commission Co-Chairman Lee Hamilton on problems in
responding to a terrorist attack that still exists a decade after the 9/11
Of the 41 recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, the U.S. still
falls short on nine of them and they range from things as basic as first-
responders being able to communicate with one another to ambiguous
authority for the director of national intelligence.
Evan Kohlmann and Roger Cressey are NBC terrorism analysts.
Roger, what`s the problem? Why can`t first-responders communicate
with one another?
ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Michael, the biggest
problem was that when Congress gave money to the administration, and, for
instance, the Bush administration, then DHS pushed it down to state and
local authorities. They didn`t put any requirements or framework around
it. They said, you know best. You spend the money. Buy the
communications equipment you want, instead of making sure that there were
rules and requirements to ensure that interoperability that Congressman
So, that is why. Left to their own devices, the states and localities
will spend in the way they think is best, but not necessarily in a way that
cuts across all federal requirements.
SMERCONISH: Evan, I don`t want people`s eyes to glaze over when I ask
this, but does it have to do with whether the bandwidth is going to be used
for a public or a commercial purpose?
EVAN KOHLMANN, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, that apparently is a
reason why a bill hasn`t been passed, because of the fact that they haven`t
been able to decide whether to simply allocate the space to -- directly to
emergency services or whether to have it do -- through a commercial
But does that really matter? Is that really the basis for which we`re
holding up this entire process? Does that make any sense at all? This is
a matter of life and death.
SMERCONISH: Well, I remember this as being a pretty significant
finding of the 9/11 Commission. I can remember interviewing Secretary John
Lehman, who was a Naval secretary and member of the commission, about how,
within the Twin Towers, NYPD and the Fire Department could not communicate
with one another.
And the prospect that, 10 years later, that`s still not been resolved
is pretty frightening.
KOHLMANN: It`s unconscionable.
Look at the faces of the firefighters and the policemen that walked
into certain death when they went up the World Trade Center. Can you
imagine that, 11 years later, these men still don`t have the tools to do
their job? What would happen if we sent a SEAL team into go capture bin
Laden with BB guns and a team of poodles?
KOHLMANN: No one would support that.
SMERCONISH: Roger, you also heard -- heard Co-Chairman Hamilton talk
about the lack of a hierarchy, of who`s in control at a particular site.
Can you flesh that out for us?
CRESSEY: Well, I think the -- the congressman still believes -- and
quite rightly -- that there`s still some level of miscommunication and lack
of coordination at federal, state and local when it comes to disasters.
But, actually, I think we have done pretty well relative to where we
were 10 years ago. You only look at the most recent example of Hurricane
Irene. I think DHS has really come a long way. Are they at the
destination yet? Absolutely not. But the level of incident commanding
that is going on, on the ground is much better.
I think Katrina was a seminal event here, Michael. Katrina forced the
Washington bureaucracy to realize that DHS has a counterterrorism mission,
but all of its legacy missions were being ignored. And so things have
changed for the better, but, again, still a journey. We`re not at the
SMERCONISH: Evan, I don`t want to give al Qaeda a playbook, but what
areas of vulnerability are you most concerned about?
KOHLMANN: Well, I mean, they`re the same ones we`ve been facing the
last decade. And we still don`t have a reliable method to make sure that
explosives are not smuggled on board an airplane. I mean, you would have
thought that would have been something we`re going to tackle right after
SMERCONISH: The full body scanners don`t get it done or there are
not enough of them being utilized?
KOHLMANN: Look, we had a guy who boarded a flight, whose father told
us he was a terrorist, told the State Department he was a suspected
terrorist. He was able to board a flight to the United States. The only
reason the bomb didn`t go off was a trick of science. It had nothing to do
with our detection abilities.
That should be scary. That should be frightening. That should be a
wake-up call. And instead, the response of the Department of Homeland
Security is the system works.
How did the system work? Ad what has been done since then? And I`m
afraid that, as much as Roger said, that he`s correct that there`s been
progress that`s been made, it`s not enough.
Think about cyber security. We have 14-year-old kids right now that
are breaching America`s top cyber security and we`re powerless to stop it.
If al Qaeda goes down that road and starts launching cyber attacks on
our infrastructure, what are we going to do about it?
I don`t any that we`re prepared for anything. I don`t think we`re
prepared for another 9/11. I don`t think we`re prepared for the next
SMERCONISH: Allow me to show you what a portion of the report said
on emerging terrorist threats. It reads, "Most troubling, we have seen a
pattern of increasing terrorist recruitment of American citizens and
residents to act at lone wolves. Self-radicalization poses a serious
emerging threat in the United States."
Roger, comment on that.
CRESSEY: I think it`s right, Michael. Ten years ago, the priority
was al Qaeda the organization, then the affiliates, then the self-starters.
Now, in fact, the order has been reversed. And the challenge there is
these individuals don`t appear in anyone`s database. As long as terrorists
travel and talk, we have a great chance at intercepting them.
When they cease doing that, we have a problem. The lone wolf
scenario inside the United States speaks directly to that.
But the way we solve this one is not by giving greater money to one
particular agency. It`s community policing. The greatest way to deal with
a lone wolf in a local community is for the community itself to identify
Evan correctly speaks about cyber security being a huge priority and
I think he`s right. It comes to understanding what individuals are doing
to radicalize themselves. We need people at the community level helping
out on this as well.
SMERCONISH: Evan, to what extent are you concerned that political
correctness poses a peril in and of itself 10 years removed from September
KOHLMANN: I don`t think it`s political correctness. I think it`s
politics in general. I think people are so focused on their partisan
objectives they have forgotten the bigger issue here.
SMERCONISH: Even in this area?
KOHLMANN: Yes, I think definitely this area. If it wasn`t a
problem, why isn`t there a national broadband service for first responders
SMERCONISH: Well, I think all of these issues unfortunately have
lost their intensity. I just think that -- you know, the -- I don`t know.
The momentum I guess is what I want to say -- to get things passed and
covered has been extinguished. And that`s a sad commentary.
KOHLMANN: And the only time it comes up again is when there`s a
terrorist attack, when someone tries blowing up an airplane or blowing up a
car bomb in Times Square. And then two months later, everyone has
forgotten about that. That`s not a good way of following through with the
counterterrorism strategy. It`s certainly not a good way of following an
enemy like al Qaeda that is constantly evolving and changing and trying to
match what we`re doing.
I mean, that`s the point is that al Qaeda right now is not talking
about launching attacks on airplanes. They`re talking about launching
cyber attacks and devastating U.S. infrastructure, and we`re doing very
little about that.
SMERCONISH: Evan Kohlmann, thanks much. Roger Cressey, we
appreciate your time.
KOHLMANN: Thank you.
CRESSEY: You bet.
SMERCONISH: Up next: what does big labor want to hear about jobs
when President Obama addresses Congress next week? Teamsters President
James Hoffa joins us next.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
SMERCONISH: Dick Cheney is not making many friends with his new
memoir. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is firing back at the
former vice president for what she called, quote, "an attack on my
integrity in Cheney`s book." Cheney suggests that Rice misled President
Bush during nuclear negotiations with North Korea -- a charge that Rice
vehemently denied. Like her predecessor Colin Powell, Rice said Cheney`s
book takes, quote, "chief shots" at members of the Bush administration.
We`ll be right back.
SMERCONISH: We`re back.
Next week, the president will lay out his jobs plan in a speech
before a joint session of Congress. President Obama has come under fire
for his handling of the unemployment crisis and the criticism is even
coming from his base.
Union leaders have put the president on notice -- fight for jobs and
stand up to Republicans. Listen to the advice AFL-CIO President Trumka had
for the president when spoke at a "Christian Science Monitor" breakfast
just last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD TRUMKA, AFL-CIO: If you only propose what you think they`ll
accept, they control the agenda. I urged him to propose what was necessary
to solve the problem. And I hope he does that. And if he doesn`t, then if
he falls into the nibbling around the edge, I think history will judge him
that way and I think working people will judge him that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Joining me now is the president of the Teamsters Union,
Do you agree with what you just heard from Mr. Trumka?
JAMES HOFFA, TEAMSTERS PRESIDENT: I think the president is going to
be very bold that I agree that the president has to do more than what he`s
been doing and I think he`s going to do that on this coming date, on
Thursday, when he announces all this.
I agree with most of the things. I think he -- what Trumka is saying
the president has to be bold. Don`t for what basically will be satisfied
by the right wing in Congress. Come up with something that`s going to
solve the problem, put people back to work -- jobs, jobs, jobs. That`s
what he wants. That`s what people will rally behind, and he`s got to get
back on that footing to say, hey, this is a program that will work.
It`s going to be infrastructure. It`s going to be putting people
back to work. It`s going to be jobs training. Let`s get it done and let
the American people judge that.
And take that to Congress. Take that to Congress. If the right
wingers in the House turn it down, they`re the ones who will have turned it
SMERCONISH: It sounds as if you think he`s been too conciliatory
HOFFA: I do. And I`ve mentioned that before. I think he`s going to
draw a line in the sand. I mean, he really has had a difficult time with
unemployment back in December, with the recent debacle with regard to the
debt ceiling. We can`t have any more of this.
You know, the answer is, I think people support him. They want him
to do things. They want him to do basically get the government involved
and let`s basically start solving these problems.
I hope he comes up with an aggressive program that is big enough to
solve the problem and let`s start doing it. And if they don`t go along
with that, if they try and stop it, then you know what? Let`s basically
start pointing fingers at who stopped it last time and who`s stopping it
SMERCONISH: Mr. Hoffa, can he win without labor? Labor had a number
of setbacks, Wisconsin and other states. I saw some data. In fact, I
think I can put it on the screen that talks about decline in the percentage
of Americans who are affiliated with labor back in 1953.
Well, here it is. Let`s take a look at the numbers of American
workers who are union members now as compared to numbers some 50 years ago.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just about 12 percent of
American workers were union members in 2010 compared to nearly 27 percent
back in 1953.
HOFFA: But we`re still strong in major states.
But you mentioned Wisconsin and Ohio. You know, we had 100,000
people demonstrate in Wisconsin. The labor movement, organized labor, and
people of Wisconsin just recalled two Republican state senators. That`s a
We have over a million in Ohio to recall SB-5, which is a bill that
took away collective bargaining from public employees. So, really, we`re
doing a heck of a job.
You know, the right wing introduced right to work in 14 states, and
we were able to beat it back in every state. You know, so we are alive and
well and fighting for the American worker.
SMERCONISH: And the concern, I guess, you`re expressing is one of --
it`s not that he could lose the union vote. It`s whether the union vote
will be sufficiently motivated to come out and play role?
HOFFA: Well, he`s got to motivate us and we really -- that`s his
SMERCONISH: So, what do you want to hear? What specifically -- what
specifically do you want to hear?
HOFFA: I want to hear his plan, obviously. I don`t know what his
plan is. But, obviously, it`s got to be something that involves, you know,
getting this country moving again. It`s got to be infrastructure.
We just watch what happened with Irene. We`re watching television
about bridges being washed out. Roads being washed out. That`s a
tremendous job to be done there.
We need training programs.
He`s got to drive home big business. We`ve got Apple computer
sitting on $76 billion and they don`t build anything in this country.
They`re sending jobs overseas.
He`s got to start job honing Honda that wants to build $1 billion
plant -- they`re going to build in Mexico. Why doesn`t somebody call them
up and say, hey, build it in the United States? That`s the kind of job
honing that`s going to be going on.
And that -- you know, I don`t know -- he should do that.
Jeff Immelt, who`s the CEO of G.E., tell him to make the calls. He`s
got to start motivating people.
SMERCONISH: There was a great opinion piece, I think it was Harold
Myerson (ph) who wrote in "The Washington Post" this week talking about
Steve Jobs and saying that he can really secure I think he`s already got a
tremendous legacy. But his legacy by doing what you just said, which is
try and turn some of that manufacturing back to the United States. And
immediately someone call might radio program and said, if they do that, the
slate should be wiped clean and there should be concessions from unions to
make that more affordable for Apple.
HOFFA: Well, that`s ridiculous. I mean, look at the plants that are
built here right now. Other companies are building plants. General
Motors, Ford and Chrysler thriving. They`re all unionized. I mean, that
doesn`t work. That just won`t work.
We basically have good jobs here. We got to start employing people
here. We got to start job honing big businesses that are sitting on record
amounts of money. They`ve got it here. They`ve got it in their coffers.
They`ve got it oversees, Pfizer, General Motors, Caterpillar, tell them to
start bringing that money back here and let`s start putting Americans back
to work. That should be the message that we do.
SMERCONISH: All right. James Hoffa, Teamsters Union president --
thank you so much for being here.
HOFFA: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: When we return, allow me to finish with why I don`t
believe with what either the White House or John Boehner said in that
scheduling kerfuffle and what it really says about what we can expect going
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
SMERCONISH: Yesterday`s scheduling flap between the White House and
House was a stark reminder of the dysfunction in Washington. And if they
fight about that, it doesn`t bode well for the next 15 months.
I get that this coming weekend, Labor Day weekend, marks the
unofficial end of summer and Tuesday is back to work and school for many
adults and children. I also understand that Congress comes back to work on
Wednesday evening -- and that therefore, superficially, the White House can
argue that Wednesday was the natural date, the first date on which
president could reasonably expect to go to the Capitol and speak to
Congress about jobs.
But, surely they knew that Wednesday is the GOP debate and yes, one
of about 20 to unfold, but it`s one that`s already been rescheduled twice.
It`s going to include Rick Perry for the first time and it will occur at
the fabled Reagan Library.
Just as there are no tears in baseball, there`s no coincidence in
politics. I suspect the White House picked that date because it was the
night of the debate and not in spite of it. I also think the idea was to
offer America a stark contrast between whenever the president intends to
say about jobs and the responses that will be offered by the Republican
So I can`t buy the explanation of Jay Carney, who when asked about
whether the date was picked because of date said, no, of course not. Nor,
however, do I buy John Boehner`s response, which is to talk about conflict
with some perfunctory votes and needed time for a security sweep and so
Look, I wish the White House had simply said the date selected did
take into account the GOP debate and that Boehner had then responded by
saying, terrific, come on over.
We would all have benefitted from seeing each of the candidates
running for president -- telegenically at least -- on the same stage. And
it would also have added some interest to the debate.
Think of this, the debate could have started the moment President
Obama finished. And the first question from Brian Williams could have been
to ask each Republican hopeful to respond to the substance of what the
president had offered.
Instead, the entire tit-for-tat exchange is a reminder of the
gridlock in Washington, the petty partisan politics that divide us and
stand perhaps in the way of recovery. They all come off looking out of
touch. If any of them had their finger on the pulse of the people, they`d
have realized already that next week is already overscheduled.
Most Americans will be worried about back packs, bus schedules and
press khakis than the presidential race. With three sons heading back to
school, next week in my house is the most next hectic of the year right up
there with Christmas. Not to mention that`s the start of the NFL football
season and the 10th anniversary of September 11th.
Look if they can`t consolidate schedules, how are they going to
You can follow me if you can spell Smerconish.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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