Guest: Sen. Chuck Schumer, Tom Ridge, Nia-Malika Henderson
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama draws the line.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Taking the fight to the Republicans. When the president announced his
deficit-cutting plan today, he made it clear he`s not buying the "no new
taxes ever" taboo taught by Republicans. His $3 trillion plan includes
$1.5 trillion in tax increases, primarily by ending the Bush tax cuts that
favored the wealthy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not support any
plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary
Americans. And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who
rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the
wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Will it pass? No. Will it win over middle class voters?
We`ll see. One thing it will do is give the president a stark, well-known
plan to begin the upcoming November fight over debt reduction.
Plus, Barack Obama has been incredibly lucky in his opponents so far,
from an absurdly weak candidate in his Senate race to John McCain, who
seemed well off his game of eight years before. Could the Republicans be
handing Mr. Obama another gift, this one named Rick Perry, who scares off
the middle and hands the Republicans to Obama?
Also, a former president, a former head of the FBI and 51 members of
Congress are among those who have called on the Georgia parole board to
grant clemency to Troy Davis. Davis was convicted of killing a Savannah,
Georgia, police officer, but seven of nine witnesses have now recanted
their testimony. No one has helped give this story more publicity than the
host of MSNBC`s "POLITICS NATION," the Reverend Al Sharpton. He joins me
And just what the Obama White House didn`t need, a new book portraying
his team as disorganized, rudderless and even hostile to women. As you
might imagine, The White House is pushing back, pushing back very hard.
"Let Me Finish" tonight with that question of Obama`s luck. Are he
and his rivals both counting on it to hold in 2012?
We start with President Obama fighting back. Senator Chuck Schumer is
a Democrat from New York. He sits on the Senate Finance Committee.
Senator Schumer, thank you.
It seems like President Obama today has totally bought your idea of
going after people who make more than a million dollars a year and don`t
pay their fair share of taxes.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), FINANCE CMTE.: Well, I think it`s a good
thing. Most Americans believe that, at least on the highest-income people,
people who make over million dollars, that those taxes should not go down
with the Bush tax cuts, and maybe should even be a little bit higher. This
is the one part of our economic spectrum that`s done extremely well over
the last 10 years.
The middle class income is down. Poverty is up. Even upper middle
class people have stayed flat. But the very, very wealthy have done
extremely well, and they should do their share. They don`t care about
Medicare or Medicaid or student loans. This is the way they can help.
MATTHEWS: The Buffett rule, making sure that people in the very high
income brackets pay the same percentage as people in the middle classes pay
-- how do you do that? How do you bring that fight to the country and win?
SCHUMER: Oh, I think if the president should bring it to the country,
and I believe he will, he will win. And that`s something that I`ve
believed for a long time. I believed it back in December.
The bottom line is, 59 percent of Republicans think very well-to-do
people should pay more in taxes. And you just have a small group that
dominates the Republican Party apparatus that`s against this, but the
American people, liberal, moderate, and conservative are not against it.
They`re for it.
So if you go to the country -- you will never get this done by simply
asking Republicans to do it. But if you go to the country and change
people`s minds, you can get it done. And I think that`s what the president
will relish doing over the next month.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the public knows that the top 1 percent of the
country made 20 percent of the income?
SCHUMER: I don`t...
MATTHEWS: The top 20 percent makes 60 percent of the income. Those
numbers, do they resound with the public? Are they aware that there`s kind
of economic inequality in the country?
SCHUMER: I think the public realizes that economic inequality is on
the rise. And most of all, what the public realizes is that the middle
class is struggling. I think they might not put it in these terms, but
they know that median income has gone down, that it`s harder in 2010 for a
middle class family to pay the bills than in 2000.
But they do know that the people at the highest end have done very,
very well. And I think they feel -- I don`t think people feel resentment
towards the rich, they just want them to do their fair share.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this whole debt reduction effort
coming up in November. Obviously, it`s going to be...
SCHUMER: Oh, one other -- Chris...
MATTHEWS: Yes. Go ahead.
SCHUMER: Yes, one other thing. And when Eric -- when Tim (SIC) Ryan
calls this class warfare, to say that wealthy people should pay their fair
share, that`s outrageous. That`s like saying when he calls for a middle
class tax cut that that`s class warfare. Simply to say that income tax
should be redistributed in ways differently than it is today, whether you
want to have more taxes on some groups or less on others, is not class
warfare, and that`s cheap.
MATTHEWS: Can you hold to this position going into the debt
reductions in November? Will the Democratic Party say, This is our offer,
half this debt reduction has to come in taxes, a lot of it`s got to come
from the rich, we`re going to hold the line on this through the fight, even
if it means you go into the automatic alternative?
SCHUMER: I believe that the president was really much stronger. I
thought the speech he gave today was his best yet. I think he went home.
This is my own speculation, of course, but I think he thought about things
in August and said he has to draw more differences between who`s stopping
things and who`s for things. And that speech today was like (ph) it.
And I think that the president`s saying that we will not cut Medicare
and Medicaid, which he took a lot of flak for from his own party when he
was agreed to come to the table with Boehner on those things -- but we will
not cut those unless we get an increase in revenues -- has now made it
possible to actually come to a big deal in the super-committee...
SCHUMER: ... because before that, if Republicans just say, If you
don`t raise taxes, we`re not for any increase in revenues, then their view
was, We`ll get this all out of cutting Medicare and Medicaid. Let`s take
that idea off the table because Democrats won`t be for it, and the
president did early on, which may allow the super-committee to get more
done, rather than less.
MATTHEWS: Is it smart for the president, or is it just simply
necessary, he has to focus on debt reduction now, including higher taxes
for the wealthy, fair taxes for the wealthy, at a time when the public, in
all the polls, say Democrats should be focusing on jobs, not debt
SCHUMER: I think...
MATTHEWS: ... from that.
SCHUMER: Yes. The main focus has to be on jobs, absolutely. But I
think the president sees this in a very -- in a continuous way, that our
first few years, we should focus on jobs. But over 10 years, we should
reduce the debt and reduce the deficit. And I think that`s where most
And I think, actually, it will be easier to create some jobs programs,
particularly the kind we really need, such as building infrastructure and
making sure that teachers aren`t fired -- it`ll be easier to do that if the
public believes that in the long run, we Democrats are for getting a handle
on our debt and our deficit.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much for coming on HARDBALL, Senator
Chuck Schumer of New York.
SCHUMER: Chris, great to be here.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, sir.
SCHUMER: Today`s a good day.
MATTHEWS: Well, a big day for the president. Here`s Howard Fineman,
MSNBC political analyst and editorial director for the Huffington Post
Media Group. First, let`s take a look at this. Republicans jumped on the
president`s plan today as class warfare. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), BUDGET CMTE. CHAIR: Class warfare, Chris, may
make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): When you pick one area of the economy and
you say we`re going to tax those people because most people are not those
people, that`s class warfare.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I don`t believe
that class warfare is leadership. And you know, we could get into this tax
the rich, tax the rich, but that is not -- that`s not the basis for
America. And it`s not going to get our economy going again. And it`s not
going to put people back to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, today President Obama reacted to the class warfare
charge. Let`s listen to the president again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Middle class families shouldn`t pay higher taxes than
millionaires and billionaires. That`s pretty straightforward. Either we
ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes, or we`re
going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare. We can`t afford to
do both. This is not class warfare, it`s math.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Howard, there it is. I mean, two Democrats that I
respect, there`s the president and Chuck Schumer both saying, We`re not
doing this out of resentment, we`re not doing it out of class warfare, it
just must be done because somebody has to pay the load and the rich -- you
know, Willie Sutton, you go where the money is. They got the money,
they`ve got to pay their share.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
the predicate is that they haven`t, according to them, been paying their
fair share. So it`s not inventing something, it`s going back to what the
situation was before George Bush. At least, that`s the argument that
they`re going to be making. And...
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s give that argument a little -- a little sift
MATTHEWS: It seems to me that a lot of people who make millions, not
just CEOs who make a lot of money, but people -- a lot of people who make
money off money. And they`re the ones that pay the lowest taxes.
MATTHEWS: The male or female worker out there sweating their butt off
pays a higher rate than the person sitting at home clipping coupons, as we
say. And that`s what the president says is unfair. Why does somebody pay
35 and somebody else pay 15? He`s saying, Make that 15 get jacked up to
35. And here it is, by the way -- go ahead. I`m sorry.
FINEMAN: No, no. That`s absolutely right. There are two things.
There`s the way the money`s made and there`s the amount of it. And it`s
true that a lot of upper middle class people most of their income from
wages and salary and so forth, not from interest on investments. And
that`s one of the things the president`s...
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s ask the question, Will it work and will it work
FINEMAN: Yes. I think -- I -- well, first...
MATTHEWS: Will he ever get it passed?
FINEMAN: All right. Well, no, it`s not going to get passed. But the
key thing for him is that this is music to the ears of most Democrats. The
Republicans can pound the table and say, This is class warfare, horrors.
Bill Clinton says that any time the Democrats talk about taxes, the
Republicans scream "Class warfare," which is correct.
And so what the president essentially is doing is saying, OK, call it
what you want, I`m going to advocate this policy. The Democratic base --
and I talked to a lot of them today -- absolutely loved...
FINEMAN: ... what the president said in the Rose Garden today.
MATTHEWS: Let me try to figure out what he`s going to do to get
reelected. What I like to do is figure out politics. It seems to me when
you have a 9.1 percent unemployment rate running into next year, with no
sign of relief, he`s got to talk jobs. He`s got to stay on the road
talking bridges, infrastructure, putting people to work. And he`s got to
succeed to some extent, get that rate down a bit.
And also, he has to come up with some other part of it to say he`s
trying to deal with the debt issue, which is the tax thing on the rich,
MATTHEWS: How much is he going to modulate the two of them? Is he
going to -- mostly jobs, just enough taxing the rich to keep the left
happy, or what?
FINEMAN: No, I think he`s got to make the connection between two.
He`s got to...
MATTHEWS: You do it.
FINEMAN: Well, he`s got to say, Look, we need this money to help
America survive. Now, he said that to some extent. He said, I`m not going
to -- I`m going to veto any bill that goes after Medicare that doesn`t also
have, quote, "serious revenues." But he needed to -- and elsewhere in this
speech he gave today, talked about infrastructure, research, bridges and
roads and so on. He`s got to say, Look, as a country, we need the revenue
to invest in the future for jobs today and for jobs tomorrow.
MATTHEWS: OK, jobs and revenue from the wealthy...
FINEMAN: They relate to each other. The biggest problem Barack Obama
has giving a speech or selling an issue is sometimes, he`s too abstract
FINEMAN: He needed to say more today about exactly how the money he
would raise from people who need to pay their fair share would be used to
create jobs in America.
MATTHEWS: Somebody`s got to pay for the bridges.
FINEMAN: Yes, somebody`s got to pay for it.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well...
FINEMAN: Somebody`s got to...
MATTHEWS: You`re pretty good at this. No, I mean, he`s not as good
as you with that simple thing you just did.
FINEMAN: He connected it to Medicare, but he needed to connect it
more directly to jobs, and I think you`ll find them doing that in the next
couple months. Interestingly, Chuck Schuman -- Schumer -- excuse me -- is
driving the train right now. He won the day on the argument over the
MATTHEWS: Go after the above-millionaire.
FINEMAN: Yes. And I think you`re going to see Chuck Schumer playing
a very important role in the campaign not just for the deficit reduction
deal, if there is one, the budget -- the debt reduction deal, but in the
Obama campaign to come.
MATTHEWS: Fascinating. Because he`s got to deal with the Wall Street
constituency, as well. That`s his.
FINEMAN: That is his...
MATTHEWS: He`s got to punch those guys in the nose while he`s doing
FINEMAN: He`s going to give the president political protection to go
MATTHEWS: Is it fair to say that going after the rich and their money
and working on getting jobs for regular people -- he`s decided he`s going
to live with the hatred of business?
MATTHEWS: He`s going to live with it.
FINEMAN: He`s going to live with it. And if he`s going to try to be
a Democrat in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, he`s got to say what
Roosevelt said, which is that, I -- you know, I welcome their hatred.
MATTHEWS: He did. He did do that. We liked that in those days.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard Fineman -- back in those days. Thank
MATTHEWS: Not the same people, but our parents perhaps.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Rick Perry`s leading the Republican field, but
does he appeal to the suburban and centrist voters Republicans are going to
need to beat President Obama? Big question. Is this guy just too far
over? Some people are sure he is. You`re watching HARDBALL, only on
MATTHEWS: Another Reagan maybe running for office out in California.
Michael Reagan, the eldest son of President Ronald Reagan, is considering
challenging Senator Dianne Feinstein, the senator, next year. Reagan, a
long-time radio talk show host out in Los Angeles, told "The San Francisco
Chronicle" he`s thinking about a run. Feinstein`s approval rating, by the
way, in a poll last week was just 41 percent, suggesting she could be
vulnerable, particularly if 2012`s a big Republican year.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Barack Obama`s had luck on his
side when it comes to his opponents over the years. When he ran for the
U.S. Senate, he ran against Alan Keyes. In 2008, he went up against a very
weakened John McCain. Many Republicans worry that President Obama might
get lucky again next time if they nominate Rick Perry, who could be a very
tough sell in battleground states and populated suburbs of big cities like
my home town of Philadelphia.
Well, Tom Ridge was Pennsylvania`s very popular governor and the
nation`s first homeland security secretary. Last week, he endorsed former
Utah governor Jon Huntsman for president. And Michael Steele joins us. He
served as chairman of the Republican National Committee and lieutenant
governor of Maryland. He`s an MSNBC political analyst.
And I guess the question is -- we`ll talk about Obama`s luck, but I
think it`s pretty manifest. The man had some pretty lucky -- he was pretty
lucky in his opponents. He ran with two guys with marital problems in
Illinois. He ended up running against this guy who parachuted in, Alan
You`re laughing. I want to go with you first.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I
MATTHEWS: I mean, because, basically, he`s been pretty lucky in his -
- and John McCain, like your party always does, runs a guy eight years too
late. He was tired, just like Joey Giardello (ph), finally won the
middleweight championship 20 years too late.
My question is, is your party all sort of thinking, Rick Perry, tough
sell in the `burbs, tough sell among the...
STEELE: Some are. I think some people are looking at it that way. I
think if you look at a general election strategy, given what you saw the
president do just in the last seven days -- I mean, the whole turnaround
with his effort, starting with the speech before Congress a week ago,
ending up with the speeches out across the country -- he`s ready. And the
MATTHEWS: He`s running.
STEELE: He`s running. And the question is, in a toe-to-toe
conversation with the American people, do you come off as a gadfly or do
you come off as a serious player? And I think that when you look at the
presidential contenders who are lining up to run, a lot of people around
the country are saying, you know, the comments about Social Security and
Medicare and Medicaid, the whole Texas thing...
STEELE: ... may not sell that well in the middle of the country and
in those key areas where we could be competitive, like Pennsylvania...
MATTHEWS: Do you and I have the same brain? Because I just thought
of the word "gadfly" about an hour ago, and I haven`t used it in 10 years.
(INAUDIBLE) last time you used the word "gadfly."
STEELE: The last time I used the word gadfly was probably a year ago.
MATTHEWS: God! (INAUDIBLE) weird night!
MATTHEWS: Anyway -- weird psycho yin/yang going on here. In a new
"USA Today" Gallup poll -- we love polls here -- Rick Perry leads
Republicans -- 31. He`s got 31 up against Romney`s 24. By the way, in the
last poll in August, he was 17 to Romney`s 24. So he`s moving ahead. I
don`t think he`s crested yet. You`re out there with Huntsman.
TOM RIDGE (R), FMR. PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: Absolutely.
RIDGE: Well, because I think...
MATTHEWS: You don`t like Perry!
RIDGE: Well, first of all -- no, it`s not a matter of not liking
Perry. I`m delighted that we have three conservative Republican governors
running for the presidency in the United States. I also happen to like the
one that I think is the broadest range of experiences as a businessman, as
a governor, as a diplomat, and someone who I think is going to do very,
very well with the retail politics and someone who I think has the greatest
RIDGE: ... promoting a conservative agenda to Republicans and
Democrats and independents.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but he says he`s crazy. He says he`s crazy. He
believes in evolution and climate change. That doesn`t fit in your party
MATTHEWS: He says, call me crazy.
Anyway, let`s get back to the reality world. Politico today writes
about a GOP meeting in Harrisburg -- quote -- in which -- quote -- "Most
Republican -- Pennsylvania Republicans agreed that Romney would be an
easier sell to the fiscally conservative, yet socially liberal voters who
play an outsized role in deciding both statewide and swing district
congressional races -- quote -- `I don`t think Rick Perry is going over
real well in the Southeast,` said suburban State Senator John Rafferty,"
who`s running for attorney general out there. "`Romney would do better.`"
Michael, my brother, who is of course a big Republican, as you know,
in Pennsylvania, who is county chairman -- or actually commission of
Montgomery County, the wealthiest county, he said Romney/Rubio much more
than Rick Perry.
STEELE: Well, that`s probably true. And I think you will see that.
MATTHEWS: Are you guys worried about Rick Perry losing states that
you could win otherwise, like Ohio, like, well, Colorado? I`m looking
through the states that are going to be close.
STEELE: I think I would take a closer look at how he`s polling in
those states on an individual state-by-state basis...
MATTHEWS: Look at these states.
STEELE: Yes, but I don`t know what the polls say in those particular
states. I know when you get out to some place like Kansas and Missouri,
there`s a different kind of viewpoint than when you`re looking into
Florida. I want to see a little bit more of what they`re saying on the
ground and how Republicans are translating a Perry candidacy against a
Barack Obama, because whether you like it or not, this thing boils down to
who goes up against Barack Obama the best.
I would suspect that the Obama team would be a little bit more nervous
with a Huntsman, who brings...
MATTHEWS: Yes. Or how about with a Romney?
STEELE: Or even with a Romney.
MATTHEWS: But here`s the question.
MATTHEWS: What happens with those people in those swing states, like
Colorado, when they find out that this guy has talked up secession,
secession from the union? He doesn`t like civil rights because he doesn`t
like the way it was founded in `64 under the Constitution. He suspects
voting rights should be gotten away with. He makes comments about
evolution that makes him sound like he`s a troglodyte.
Don`t people who go to school worry about a guy like that president of
the United States?
RIDGE: Well, I think the first challenge is for the Republican Party
to understand that and understand which one of the three conservative
governors has the best opportunity, who has the greatest appeal to the
broadest section of not only Republicans but independents and Democrats.
I know a little bit about Pennsylvania.
MATTHEWS: You have been very successful up there.
RIDGE: I know whereof these folks speak. And I think, of all the
candidates, and we have got, again, three conservative Republicans, the
conservative Republican governor that does best in those suburban counties
outside of Philadelphia is Jon Huntsman.
MATTHEWS: Right now, your party is probably thinking a little giddy.
If you had an election right now, a quick vote, like in Ohio, I think you
would probably win, no matter who you run, whoever runs against the
president, with the unemployment rate the way -- and the sultry mood of the
country right now.
But are you worried a little bit, Michael and Governor, that the
president is lucky? He`s pretty fast on the draw when it comes to it. He
may be battle -- as you say, he`s out campaigning. If he gets hot on the
trail, he becomes sort of a Harry Truman out there, are you afraid it`s
going to take a really good candidate to beat him?
STEELE: Well, I have always said it will take a good candidate
regardless of what the situation in the country is, because beside the
historic and the importance of having an African-American president of the
United States, Obama is one of the best political operative candidates,
elected officials that we have had in a long time, since Reagan, really,
and even Bill Clinton.
MATTHEWS: Best at what? Narrow that down.
STEELE: The best at really kind of bringing people to him and getting
people to connect with him.
I think one of the problems that he`s had is that the White House has
kept him in the White House much more than they probably should have.
MATTHEWS: You voted for him, didn`t you?
MATTHEWS: I almost got you there.
MATTHEWS: No, because you`re selling him so well here.
Governor, is he that good? Is Obama that good? Because right now
he`s down in sort of what you might call the biorhythms of the
RIDGE: Well, but that`s now. We`re looking at next November. And I
think the Republican Party needs to understand that we need to nominate
someone in Tampa that can defeat Obama in November.
Frankly, people don`t care for his economic policies. There`s an
absence of foreign policy, but people still like the man. And at the end
of the day...
MATTHEWS: Who`s that? The president.
RIDGE: They like the president.
MATTHEWS: So you are a little worried that Rick Perry is a little too
yahoo for states like Pennsylvania?
RIDGE: I think of the three candidates in Pennsylvania, the one that
would be best served for the Republican Party is Jon Huntsman.
MATTHEWS: Is the one you nominate.
OK, let`s go to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has decided not to run.
He`s very well-thought-of. But he says there`s time for someone else to
jump in. In fact, he even told "The New York Times"` Jeff Zeleny he had
tried to get three or four Republicans, other fellows or women, to jump in
-- quote -- "Rick Perry proved it wasn`t too late. I don`t think it`s too
late yet. In the wired world we`re in, somebody new could get in."
Is that reasonable? Could a Christie jump in this race?
STEELE: No, I don`t think at this point, because just getting on the
ballots in the various states would be problematic to begin with, before
you even got into whether or not you could raise the money. Getting that
organization on the ground is a huge part of the early work you have got to
And when you look at, for example, what`s going on in Pennsylvania
right now, where the Republican legislature and the governor are looking at
changing the dynamics of how they will vote electorally, all of these
MATTHEWS: How about a natural like a Donald Trump? Wouldn`t he be
able to jump right in this thing? Just kidding.
MATTHEWS: He`s talking about running as independent.
MATTHEWS: He`s not going to drop that cash. No way.
Governor, good luck with your candidate. What`s his name again?
RIDGE: President Jon Huntsman.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
Thank you, Michael Steele.
RIDGE: OK. You heard it first on HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Governor Ridge.
Up next -- the place to find the news -- up next, Bill Clinton
responds to Dick Cheney`s call for Hillary to challenge President Obama.
Boy, Cheney`s up to trouble, up to no good. He`s in the "Sideshow," where
he`s going to stay.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Now for the "Sideshow."
Former V.P. Dick Cheney recently mischievously suggested the secretary
of state, Hillary Clinton, should run for president and challenge Barack
Well, yesterday, Bill Clinton got his chance to weigh in on that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FACE THE NATION")
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I very much
agree that she`s done a good job. But I also have a high regard for Vice
President Cheney`s political skills.
And I think one of those great skills is sowing discord among the
opposition. She is a member of this administration and committed to doing
it. And I think he, by saying something nice about her in the way he did
it, knew that it might cause a little trouble. I don`t want to help him
succeed in his political strategy, but I admired the fact that he`s still
out there hitting the ball.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He`s great.
Anyway, Cheney`s doing what Dick Nixon did back in `63 to Jack
Kennedy, push the idea of a Democratic president dumping his own Democratic
vice president, standard -- as the president just said, President Clinton,
Actually, Bill Clinton`s not the only one commenting on Cheney these
day. Last week, presidential candidate and Texas U.S. Congressman Ron Paul
called Cheney a dictator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When he says he will
support all Republicans except some, like myself, which means that he wants
to be the dictator, and say, I will decide who is a true Republican or not.
And I say, he doesn`t have that authority. The people have this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: How can you not like Ron Paul? Cheney was wrong about
Iraq. Ron Paul was right. And that`s the record that counts.
And, finally, the man who keeps dipping his toes in the presidential
waters, or teasing he might, Donald Trump, has another meeting with a
Republican hopeful next week. Trump already met with Rick Perry and
earlier this year had a pizza dinner with Sarah Palin.
Well, next week, it`s Mitt Romney. But, not surprisingly, Trump`s
office is still leaving the door up for Mr. Trump to run in the race
himself. His spokesman says -- quote -- "If Mr. Trump is not satisfied
with who the Republican candidate is come next June, he will potentially
reenter the presidential race as an independent, which is not good news for
the Republican Party. By reentering the race, either Mr. Trump will win
the presidency or Barack Obama will, unfortunately, be reelected."
Well, this is the first time I have ever recalled someone threatening
to be a spoiler. Very strange.
Up next, the former president and former director of the FBI are among
those who are calling for clemency for a Georgia man now on death row.
Troy Davis was convicted of murdering a police officer and is set to be
executed this Wednesday, two days from now, but seven of the nine witnesses
have recanted their testimony. My MSNBC colleague the Reverend Al Sharpton
will join us, be with me next.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Mary Thompson with your CNBC
Stocks staging a late-day comeback, but still starting the week in the
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giving up 11 and the Nasdaq slipped nine. The Dow pared about half of its
losses though late in the day after Greece`s finance minister said talks
with debt inspectors were productive and substantive.
Meanwhile, bank stocks tumbled after President Obama proposed taking a
$1.5 trillion bite out of the deficit by letting the Bush era tax cuts
expire for the wealthy. And Netflix sagged on word it will spin off its
DVD delivery service into a separate company while it focuses on movie
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That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
A death penalty case in Georgia is drawing national attention, in
fact, worldwide attention, as one man awaits word from the Georgia Board of
Pardons and Paroles, which is meeting just today to consider his fate.
Troy Davis was convicted and sentenced to death for the shooting of an
off-duty police officer, Mark MacPhail, back in 1989. Now seven witnesses
have recanted their testimony, and many jurors are saying Davis should not
be on death row, given the turn of events in the case.
Joining me right now is our colleague the Reverend Al Sharpton, the
host of MSNBC`s "POLITICS NATION." He`s been out there leading to charge
to try to save Troy Davis from execution.
Reverend Sharpton, this case, tell me why it caught your attention,
first of all. What brought you into this? A sense of actual innocence?
Is that what it is?
AL SHARPTON, HOST, "POLITICS NATION": When his sister reached out to
National Action Network, the group I had, about three years ago, what
compelled our involvement was when we saw that he was convicted with no
physical evidence. Never -- there was no recovery of the weapon, there was
no DNA, and he was convicted, basically, Chris, on nine eyewitness
testimonies, and seven of those nine had recanted or had changed their
this. Some of them say they were coerced. Some said they were only shown
a single photograph.
There was clearly the overwhelming majority of the people that
testified, which was the only basis of the conviction, and two of them did
not recant, and one of them, many accused as being the gunman. So we said
there was clearly no basis to execute a man when you had this much
MATTHEWS: What happened to that testimony today? Did that person
actually come forward, under oath, with the parole board and say it was the
SHARPTON: I do not know if that person has testified yet. They are
in closed testimony. I do know there`s been testimony by one of the jurors
in the case that said that if they had, in fact, known that the ballistics
didn`t match -- there had been, apparently, a shooting earlier in the day
of this shooting -- and the jury was led to believe that ballistics from
the bullet found in that shooting matched the bullet found in the shooting
of this officer, MacPhail, that Troy Davis was accused of.
If they had known that, they would have not voted guilty for Troy
Davis, which I think is startling. And you must remember that there are
five members of this Board of Pardon and Parole. Three of them are new,
have never heard any of this before, never voted before. And the two
remaining, in fairness to them, are hearing things they never heard before.
So we are seeing if this board will at least stay -- until they get
more information, stay his execution, or outright say there`s not enough
evidence to take a man`s life.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe, Reverend Sharpton, this man didn`t do this?
SHARPTON: I believe he didn`t do it.
But I think that there`s, clearly, enough questions here that you
cannot say it`s beyond a reasonable doubt, when the only basis of the
conviction has been the nine testimonies that now seven of which have
recanted. I believe this man didn`t do it. I have visited him on death
row. I really believe he didn`t do it.
But I`m not asking them to go on my belief. I`m saying the evidence
is not there, and your job is to look at evidence, and it`s just not there.
SHARPTON: ... others have been there.
MATTHEWS: Let`s get to the people most involved on the other side of
this fight. That`s the mother and the daughter of the slain police
officer, Mark MacPhail. Both say they believe Troy Davis is guilty.
They follow this trial, obviously, intently, as family members from
the beginning and they hope to gain peace from this execution. Let`s
listen to them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has been hell, because I want like -- I would
like to have some peace. I would like to have this situation over with.
We are the victims. And those people that recanted, why did they wait
17 years before they recanted? They should have done it if they felt that
way earlier, not when the final, final time that has come now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s brought -- right back up to the forefront,
and those wounds are just -- they`re ripped back open.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you say to the mother`s question? Not just her,
obviously, concern for what she sees as justice here and for closure, but
what do you say to her charge that these witnesses were all out there
saying he did it, all these years, and only later, all these years later,
when the memories have faded are they saying they can`t say that anymore.
They can`t be witnesses anymore to this murder.
AL SHARPTON, HOST, "POLITICS NATION": Well, first of all, I think
all of us must have nothing but sympathy and condolences for the mother and
the sister. They lost a son and a brother. And no one condones that. I
just think who did it should pay for it and I don`t think --
MATTHEWS: Sure, but they were watching the case long before you
were. And they were watching it when these witnesses were all out there
testifying under oath. And now, all these years later, they just say, oh,
I don`t like the idea of somebody being executed, so I`m having second
thoughts. I mean, couldn`t you do this in every case?
SHARPTON: Well, if that were the case, Chris, then they would be
right. What happened is that Troy was defended first by attorneys that
could -- that would not, that were public defenders, could not really
adequately defend him.
SHARPTON: Then he was defended by a legal agency that was defunded.
So, these witnesses were never penetrated for all those years. So we
don`t know what they would have said if Troy had the right defense.
MATTHEWS: I got you. So, a weak defense.
Let me ask you about the judge. Why is this federal district court
judge so adamant, apparently, he will not reverse -- he will not allow an
appeal, he will not stay the execution? What`s his story?
SHARPTON: It could be anything from "I don`t want to say I was
wrong," it could be, "I don`t want to question colleagues." You have to
ask yourself, if you have a former Republican head of the FBI, a former
Republican congressman agreeing with Jimmy Carter and I, the judge would
have to say, why are all of us saying this, and you can`t see there`s
really, across all lines, the question of how do you say there`s not
reasonable doubt here.
MATTHEWS: OK. But let me try to be honest, even though you`re my
colleague, you`re against capital punishment, aren`t you?
SHARPTON: I`m against capital punishment.
SHARPTON: Bob Barr is for it and he came on "POLITICS NATION" last
week with me and said he`s against this execution, even though he disagrees
with me on the death penalty.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, let`s keep an eye on this case.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I do respect your vigilance on this matter.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you to the Reverend Al Sharpton, his show obviously
follows mine right now, "POLITICS NATION." He`s is doing very well
actually at 6:00 Eastern, right here on MSNBC.
Up next, just what President Obama doesn`t need, a new book
portraying the Obama White House as a disorganized mess and even hostile --
throw this one in -- hostile toward women. And now, White House officials
and some former members of the administration quoted in the book are
pushing back. Well, they have to, don`t they?
That`s next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Big day tomorrow. The military`s "don`t ask, don`t tell"
policy will officially be history. The policy was first enacted by
President Clinton as a compromise back in `93. Last year, Congress
repealed it. And after getting approval from the military, President Obama
signed off, making good on a campaign promise.
The repeal will be marked by an afternoon news conference at the
Pentagon by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and joint chiefs chairman,
Admiral Mike Mullen. By the way, those are two good men.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Wow, what a story this is -- we`re back -- just what the
White House need.
With polls already showing that the public has lost confidence in the
president`s handling of the economy, a new book out this week paints a
portrait of a White House economic team that is dysfunctional, and a young
president who was constantly, quote, "undermined" by his more seasoned
advisers. The book is by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind. It`s
a controversial book. Of course, already, several of the people quoted in
it have already come out and attacked the book they`re quoted in.
But the stinging portrait might have a damning effect anyway.
According to news accounts, the book Suskind wrote, the president often
felt, quote, "performance pressure -- having to play the part of a
president, in charge and confident, each day, in front of his seasoned,
combative, prideful team, many of whom had, all together, recently served
another president. As he confided to one of his closest advisers, after a
private display of uncertainty, `I can`t let the people see that. I don`t
want the staff to see that. But get up every morning, it`s a heavy
Well, Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for "The
Washington Post" and has read the book, which puts her in strong position.
Ands Richard Wolffe is a journalist, of course, and he`s also an MSNBC
analyst who has written extensively on the president`s economic team.
Nia, let me ask you about the book because we have all these weird
embargo rules we have about what we can say. Whatever you can say, this
book, does it ring true?
NIA-MALIKA-HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, in parts it does
read true. I mean, some of the things that have come out, we`ve already
sort of knew. I mean, whether it was about this whole idea of the White
House as a boys club -- that is something that we`ve already extensively
reported on. Here at "The Washington Post," at "The New York Times," there
had been pretty lengthy stories about this.
Of course, now, we have Anita Dunn pushing back specifically on
something she supposedly said in the book, saying that the White House was
a hostile environment to women, that it fit the legal definition of a
hostile definition. She`s very much pushing back on that. I spoke to her
She also declined to discuss -- in the book, there`s also a scene
where there`s a dinner featuring 12 women who go to the president and
really complain again about this, you know, kind of frat boys, all-boys
environment. And she declined to talk about that, too. She said she would
never talk about private conversations she`s had with the president with a
reporter or a book author.
So, you have seen, I think, starting today, a real strong pushback
from this White House, even pointing to passages in the book that seem to
have been copied from Wikipedia, some other mistakes. And I guess in a
book that`s 500 words -- I mean, 500 pages, of course, there are going to
be some mistakes. But the White House is arguing that those mistakes
really undermine the general premise of the book.
MATTHEWS: Well, you`re right. Anita Dunn is the president`s former
communications director and she`s quoted by Suskind in the book as saying
about the White House, this is bad stuff. Quote, "This place would be in
court for a hostile workplace, because it actually fit all the classic
legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women."
And look at this quote from Christine Romer, who`s the former
chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. According to Ron Suskind,
the author, she thought she was purposely excluded during one meeting with
Larry Summers. He quotes her as saying, quote, "I felt like a piece of
Both women, it must be pointed out, have since denied saying these
things to Suskind. Well, there`s on old phrase in British politics and it
was during (INAUDIBLE) scandal, they would, wouldn`t they, deny it. So --
I mean, if they`re loyal and they may have said it in all kinds of context,
they may not have said it.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: How do you put this together? You`ve done a good job of
covering this White House.
WOLFFE: OK. Well -- look, I haven`t read the book. And I don`t
want to trash --
MATTHEWS: What about these charges?
WOLFFE: But, you know, what would worry me as an author, as a
writer, is actually the small stuff more than these quotes because people
deny quotes, they may misremember them. Obviously, they`re pushing back
very hard on that. But the factual stuff, that would keep me up at night
in a cold sweat.
WOLFFE: If you say Dan Pfeiffer was deputy press secretary, that
kind of speaks to a sloppiness, either in the writing or in the editing or
both, that`s a little bit troubling. And that -- in terms of my own
writing, that would put me in a cold sweat.
MATTHEWS: But everybody on the progressive side loved Ron Suskind`s
book when he wrote about the Bush White House.
WOLFFE: Sure they did. And look, the portrait --
MATTHEWS: It`s the same guy.
WOLFFE: The portrait he`s making of an economic team totally gels
with what I wrote in "Revival," what Jonathan Alter wrote in --
WOLFFE: Extremely dysfunctional. That`s the old economic team, of
course, the one under Larry Summers. So, the portrait rings true --
MATTHEWS: So, you say old news? Part of this is old news?
WOLFFE: Well, I haven`t read the whole book.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go to news accounts. Here`s what Larry
Summers, the former director of the president`s National Economic Council,
supposedly said to one of his colleagues, Peter Orszag, who was the
president`s budget director. Quote, "We`re home alone, there`s no adult in
charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes."
Summers told "Politico" today that the account of the book is a
combination of fiction, distortion and words taken out of context.
Also quoted in the book, Paul Volcker, of course, the great former
Fed chairman who headed the president`s economic recovery advisory board,
said, "Obama is smart, but smart is not enough. Leadership is another
thing entirely, about knowing your mind enough to make real situations,
ones that last."
So, that`s a profound criticism of the president, Nia. That`s not
really about this book. That`s a profound charge about the need for a
president to have a firm grip on his own thinking or her own thinking, an
ability to stay the course. And he`s saying that Obama doesn`t have that.
That`s probably a more profound comment than we`re talking about here.
HENDERSON: In some ways if you read near the end of the book,
President Obama almost admits that himself, this whole idea of it`s not
enough to be confident in that chair in the Oval Office. Part of
leadership is also transmitting that sense of confidence to the American
He -- Suskind had those interviews with the president. I think it
lasted about 50 minutes in February. And you do get the sense that this
was before, this whole idea of a feuding economics team and Rahm Emanuel
and Larry Summers and those big personalities really ramming legislation
through Congress, that`s what the president needed then.
And now that he has turned a chapter, post-shellacking in November
2010, that it`s a different sense of what he needs to do. And one of the
things that he reflected on is that he needed to develop a vision, a sort
of North Star, where he had a narrative for the country.
MATTHEWS: So, now, the Republicans who don`t like this president and
the public is worried about the economy, now have a Bible.
MATTHEWS: They this book they can wave around like Mao`s little red
book from now --
WOLFFE: It`s not like they just wave around the economy and the
unemployment rate. I mean --
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s stick to this book. Does this now give them a
text, it gives them anecdotal stuff, throw in the charge of sexism in the
workplace or hostile workplace? But this larger charge that Larry Summers
said nobody was supervising him. He was home alone like in the movie.
WOLFFE: Let me just pick that up for a minute because it`s so ironic
having Larry Summers say that kind of thing. Larry Summers was the one who
was slow-walking these economic ideas. It`s a bit like a criminal blaming
law enforcement for being lax. OK? He`s the one that --
MATTHEWS: That`s one of the charges in the book, by the way -- that
Geithner slow-walks stuff.
WOLFFE: He`s the one who undermined the president when it came to
economic regulations on too big to fail, undermined Volcker. And he`s the
one who says there was no adult supervision. He hijacked the process,
according to all the people who work with him.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Well, here we go.
Anyway, thank you, Nia-Malika. Is this an important book or non-
HENDERSON: I think it`s going to be an important book at least for
Washington, for the next, you know, one or two or three weeks. I mean,
these things come in cycles. We had last week Cheney. So, this is I think
the book of the moment for now.
MATTHEWS: OK, thanks so much. Nia-Malika Henderson and Richard
Wolffe, thank you both for coming on. Great reporters.
When we return, let me finish with luck -- you know, when the
president has it. And will he have it on his side in 2012? I know the
Republicans are worried he might.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with luck. People notice it, talk
about it. Many believe in it -- a streak of luck.
We know it when we see it. It seems to be something that we all see
and believe it when it`s happening, getting the breaks. Some just get
them, it seems.
Well, President Obama certainly has the confidence about him, it
would be reasonable to assume it comes from his sense of being, OK, lucky.
Things have worked out for him along the way -- born to not the best
circumstances, his father left early. He went to a great high school,
great college, great university. Top law school where he had the brains
and the grit that made editor of law review.
He ran for the United States Senate and he had his two most prominent
opponents drop out of the race for personal reasons. He ended up facing
Alan Keyes who parachuted into Illinois for no better purpose than to put
up a show. Lucky Barack.
He gave a great speech in 2004 Democratic National Convention, even
before being elected senator and was on his way. He was a contender.
While he faced a tough opponent, Hillary Clinton, everything broke
his way once again in the general election. John McCain was nominated
eight years too late and ended up throwing a Hail Mary pass in the name of
Sarah Palin, who ended up like most Hail Mary passes, incomplete. And go
throw in the financial crisis that basically knocked the party of George W.
Bush out of the action.
Now, Obama faces a really tough outlook. Joblessness hangs at 9.1
percent with low growth in the picture. Republicans seem to be getting
their act together on the road to nominating either Mitt Romney or Rick
Perry. It could be Romney-Rubio next November, or Romney-Perry, or the
other way around. A number of possible strong tickets made stronger by the
9.1 percent unemployment rate.
The smart money now is on the Republicans to back Romney out of
caution for the same reason the Obama people aren`t exactly losing their
cool these days. Yes, the president`s people are confident. They`ve been
here before. They`ve seen the doubters.
Didn`t people think they were falling behind Hillary this time four
years ago? And Republicans share the superstition. They worry he will be
lucky again. And that`s why they`re holding back on Perry, thinking they
better run Romney, just in case this guy`s luck holds, as it has before.
That`s why the Obama people refuse the panic no matter what someone
yells from the sidelines. It`s the human belief in luck. It`s the stuff
that dreams are made of.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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