Guests: Katherine Eban, Sari Horowitz, Theresa Brown
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Roberts rules.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington, and "Let Me Start"
with one of the great days in this country`s history. Today the United
States Supreme Court, led by the chief justice himself, decided that
President Barack Obama`s health care act squares with the American
All the drum beating, all the horrors floated up from the right-wing
fever swamps are, as of today, simply the hate vapors of the perennial
rejectionists to progress, the rear guard funded by the Koch brothers and
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Today`s hero, Chief Justice John Roberts,
who walked to the forefront of history and said yes to progress and no to
the role prescribed for him by the right.
He would not be the man, he would not lead the court, he would let the
court named for him carry historic blame for denying health care to tens of
millions of Americans. He would not be the ramrod for yet another right-
leaning partisan-appearing Supreme Court ruling that would have been the
third strike over the plate following Bush-Gore and Citizens United.
So let`s start today by standing back and looking at this bold,
defiant, grand decision by Mr. Roberts and his Supreme Court. He and four
liberal justices upheld the mainspring (ph) of the Obama health care bill,
the provision that said people have to get health care or pay a penalty.
These five justices, this unlikely coalition, ruled it constitutional.
Pete Williams is NBC justice correspondent. I want to ask you, Pete,
the big question of the day. Chief Justice Roberts, appointed by President
George W. Bush -- why did he do what he did today?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we can`t say that
for sure. We can only look at his words. I think you have to go back to
when the case was argued to say that while Justice Roberts did have some
skepticism, there were also questions that he asked that indicated that he
might support the law. So it`s not a huge stunner, in that sense, because
he in essence had signalled that he might do it.
I think you have to say, Chris, that this is really two decisions.
First of all, the Supreme Court with Justice Roberts joining with the four
conservatives agreed with one of the central conservative criticisms of
this law, which is one of the main defenses that the Obama administration
had mounted, that Congress had no power under the commerce clause to do
The Constitution, remember, says Congress has to power, quote, "to
regulate commerce." Now, the opponents have said if you don`t have
insurance, you`re not engaging in any commerce. Therefore, you can`t be
regulated. This is beyond Congress`s power. Chief Justice Roberts agreed
with that criticism, along with the other four justices. There were five
votes for that proposition.
But the chief justice said it doesn`t stop there because the Obama
administration had made this second argument that Congress had the power
under its very broad taxing authority, and that`s where the chief found
common ground with the four liberals on the court to say that it`s
constitutional. So legally, the guts of the law are left intact.
The only real change that today`s decision made is to the Medicaid
side of the law.
WILLIAMS: The states had argued that by being forced to either accept
all these new Medicaid requirements -- if they said no, the federal
WILLIAMS: ... OK, fine, then you`re out of Medicaid. And that`s
where the court said, No, you can`t go that far.
MATTHEWS: OK, so we have a major decision by the chief justice, who
supported the president on this one, said it was constitutional, what he
did, because of the taxing authority.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to Anthony Kennedy, the usual swing vote on the
Supreme Court, who basically succeeded Sandra Day O`Connor in that role.
Now, I look at two decisions by him which I found profound. One was the
Lawrence case, where he basically found for sexual liberty among consenting
adults. And here it seemed like he was following that libertarian
approach, which is -- remember the old phrase, Keep government out of the
boardroom and out of the bedroom?
WILLIAMS: Right. Yes.
MATTHEWS: It seems he`s one of those people who basically is for
individual rights against a big government. He didn`t go with this taxing
authority recognition by the chief justice.
WILLIAMS: I think that`s a very fair reading, Chris, of what he said.
And you know, that`s also consistent with the concerns he expressed during
the oral argument of this case. He thought this was a vast overreaching by
Congress and he joined his conservative colleagues in saying so today.
MATTHEWS: Yes, well said. Pete, you`re the best, and it`s great to
have you. I was watching you go through it. And by the way, I think our
ties are in total agreement today...
MATTHEWS: ... which is one of those other strange phenomena. Anyway,
thank you so much, Pete.
WILLIAMS: You bet.
MATTHEWS: Let`s turn now to what this means to the presidential race,
and I think it means a lot. Howard Fineman`s editorial director for the
Huffington Post and an MSNBC political analyst and John Heilemann national
affairs editor for "New York" magazine. He`s also an MSNBC political --
this is one of the reasons I love this job, don`t you?
You wouldn`t want to be sitting home somewhere, at some Starbucks, you
know, right now.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
MATTHEWS: You want to be doing this. The importance of this -- let`s
go up side, down side. Had the president lost this fight, what would have
FINEMAN: Well, had he lost it, I think his reelection chances were if
not zero, close to nil.
FINEMAN: Because he`s the change agent. This was his big bet. This
is the thing that he staked his first term on. Had it been thrown out by
the Supreme Court, it would have been terrible.
Now, the flip side is, and to quote Winston, Churchill, There`s
nothing more exhilarating...
MATTHEWS: I was thinking of that one!
FINEMAN: ... than to be shot at without result.
MATTHEWS: That`s exactly what I was thinking of!
FINEMAN: ... wow! It`s a huge...
MATTHEWS: Except I don`t like to use ballistic language when we`re
talking about the president...
FINEMAN: All right. All right.
FINEMAN: It`s a huge jolt of electricity and energy.
MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s so true, because to go over it again, embroidered
again for our progressive viewers, to tell them -- it`s one of those NBA
games, seventh game of the series, one team wins 98-97, but it`s the whole
FINEMAN: It`s the seventh game, in that sense, in this first term.
FINEMAN: For sure. The other thing is, even though no Republicans --
very -- virtually no Republicans in Congress ever supported this...
FINEMAN: ... he now has the bipartisan imprimatur of at least one
Republican-appointed major figure...
FINEMAN: ... Chief Justice John Roberts.
MATTHEWS: You can`t go bigger!
FINEMAN: You can`t go bigger than John Roberts.
MATTHEWS: And so let`s take a look, here, shortly after the court`s
decision was released and so -- Chuck said this today. He said -- Chuck
Todd -- The better the decision, the faster the president`s response.
MATTHEWS: So here he was at high noon today. Let`s listen to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Earlier today, the
Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care act, the
name of the health care reform we passed two years ago. In doing so,
they`ve reaffirmed a fundamental principle, that here in America, in the
wealthiest nation on earth, no illness or accident should lead to any
family`s financial ruin.
I know the debate over this law has been divisive. I respect the very
real concerns that millions of Americans have shed (ph). And I know a lot
of coverage through this health care debate has focused on what it means
politically. Well, it should be pretty clear by now that I didn`t do this
because it was good politics. I did it because I believed it was good for
the country. I did it because I believed it was good for the American
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A quiet little chuckle there today, I didn`t do this for --
because it`s running -- the indubitable mandate, which is the mainspring of
this bill which was approved by the high court, is running about 30
percent. Obama`s a lot better than 30 percent.
JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean,
look, I -- you know, there`s no question that if you`re the White House
that this is the preferable outcome, much better for you. Obviously, on
policy grounds, it`s a huge victory and on political grounds, it`s better
than the alternative. But nothing that happened today made the law more
HEILEMANN: The law is still really unpopular...
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go...
HEILEMANN: There are some pieces of it there are kind of popular, but
much of it -- talk to Democratic pollsters about what people about health
care -- about this law.
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. Don`t be Debbie Downer here!
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a simple question. Is he -- you said it`s
MATTHEWS: Is Howard right that if this had gone down today, this
would have been toilet time here?
HEILEMANN: I think -- I think it would have been a huge -- the --
from the Romney...
HEILEMANN: From the Romney campaign`s point of view, being able to
stand up and say the president wasted a year-and-a-half...
HEILEMANN: ... during an economic crisis and passed a law -- the
constitutional law professor -- that was unconstitutional, would have been
a huge political win for the Romney campaign and a devastating political
loss for the Obama administration. But we now are going to have a fight
for three months over this law.
MATTHEWS: You think?
HEILEMANN: We are going to -- yes, absolutely. The Romney campaign
thinks that they still have a huge -- that this law is really unpopular and
they are going to run hard against it...
MATTHEWS: ... going to do a whole segment on that tonight...
FINEMAN: This law...
HEILEMANN: We`re going to do a whole segment on that tonight, whether
Romney really thinks this is a chain he wants to rattle from now until
MATTHEWS: ... go back to job creation.
FINEMAN: You know what? As unpopular as the individual mandate is in
the otherwise somewhat popular piece-by-piece health care law, President
Obama would prefer a three-month argument on this to a three-month exegesis
of how the economy is...
MATTHEWS: So you guys disagree...
HEILEMANN: Well, no. No, I think -- I...
MATTHEWS: Does he want to talk about jobs or health care? Romney.
HEILEMANN: Romney would much rather talk about jobs, but I don`t
think he`s going to back off this criticism. I think if you look at a
piece of legislation that`s polling 70-30 and you`re a Republican...
MATTHEWS: He created the model for this thing!
HEILEMANN: ... you are -- he is pledging to repeal and replace the
MATTHEWS: Does he get 60 votes in the Senate to do that? All this BS
about he`s going to repeal. It takes 60 votes to create, and I believe, 60
votes to decreate.
HEILEMANN: Did they pass this law with 60 votes in the Senate?
HEILEMANN: They had reconciliation. There can still be
MATTHEWS: How do they -- how do they kill it with reconciliation?
HEILEMANN: They -- they did it -- they did it -- the Democrats passed
it with reconciliation. There`s no reason you can`t repeal it with
reconciliation. Republicans will try.
MATTHEWS: They didn`t pass it with reconciliation! They passed it
with 60 votes.
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute! Stop. Stop the music. You forget history
here? Sixty votes.
HEILEMANN: I recall the reconciliation process...
MATTHEWS: No, they never used reconciliation. They got Arlen Specter
and the two Republicans from Maine. That`s how they got the 60 votes. Go
FINEMAN: No, I was -- I was just going to say that the -- I forgot
what I was going to say...
FINEMAN: ... because I`m so damn excited...
MATTHEWS: I am, too.
MATTHEWS: He`s the only guy that`s not excited. This is the "Game
FINEMAN: All right, so Mitt Romney -- this is great for Mitt Romney
to solidify the base. That`s true. He`s going to talk about taxes. He`s
going to say this is a tax. (INAUDIBLE) define it`s a tax. And Mitt
Romney came out today, stood in front of the Capitol and said, Barack
Obama`s going to tax you more, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
But if Mitt Romney chooses to focus on the health care bill for the
next three months, he will be taking off the table his number one argument
to be elected...
MATTHEWS: By the way, I want everybody to...
FINEMAN: ... which is that Barack Obama has blown it on the economy.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me tell you something about -- by the way, not to
get too tough with you, my friend, because I think, As McLaughlin would say
on his show, there`s an element of truth in what you say.
MATTHEWS: If this is held up as a tax, then reconciliation...
MATTHEWS: ... is adequate to get rid of it.
MATTHEWS: You simply reduce the tax thing...
MATTHEWS: ... to zero under reconciliation because you can move
numbers around. You just can`t create or decreate whole programs under
HEILEMANN: I think -- if you don`t -- one of the -- if you don`t
think the Republicans, if they get control of the Senate and they have a
Republican president, that they will try to use reconciliation to repeal
this law -- I think it`s crazy to think they won`t try to do that. They
hate this law...
MATTHEWS: I know.
HEILEMANN: ... and they will try to repeal it!
FINEMAN: But the fact is, the polls show that health care is, like,
number four or five in people`s concerns about what`s number one in their
MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you...
FINEMAN: That`s a problem for Romney...
MATTHEWS: The unemployment rate gets down to 7.5, they won`t even be
talking about anything.
Here`s the president (SIC) talking about the decision would only
energize their party further, the Republicans, against the law and against
the president. So Republicans are making the best of this. They`re making
lemonade out of this lemon, this loss today. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think the real
outcome of today`s decision is to strengthen our resolve to make sure that
this law is, in fact, repealed.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: The decision today really
indicates we have entered an age in which the government, Washington, will
be controlling health care unless something changes.
REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: Today was not a good day for freedom.
It was not a good day for struggling American families who wish to keep the
health care that they have. I respect the ruling of the Supreme Court, and
I respectfully and vehemently disagree with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, maybe I`m wrong. (INAUDIBLE) you want here? Maybe I`m
HEILEMANN: They did!
MATTHEWS: So when did they use the 60 votes to get the super-
HEILEMANN: I`m -- I`m -- we`re not -- we`re not going to go back and
-- I can`t -- all the legislative maneuvering that happened at the end --
they used -- the Democrats employed reconciliation at one point to get that
MATTHEWS: Yes, at one point.
HEILEMANN: Is my memory.
MATTHEWS: Parts of it. The parts of it...
HEILEMANN: If my memory serves...
MATTHEWS: ... in the conference report, I think they could do it...
HEILEMANN: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... but at the actual passage of the bill, they didn`t do
HEILEMANN: So we`re both half right. Let`s say that.
MATTHEWS: They couldn`t have done it without 60 votes, though. Now
I`m at a loss here. Let`s go back and talk about the second part of this
thing, the boring part, I must say, the Medicaid part.
With the Medicaid now, they cannot sanction the states by completely
screwing them, basically, if they don`t go along with this expansion to
anybody who makes less than 133 percent of the poverty level.
MATTHEWS: OK, Howard Fineman, thank you. And John Heilemann, thank
you. This is such a big day for Howard and I, we can`t get over our
giggles. We`re going to go to the tapes on you and me...
MATTHEWS: Coming up, is this a fight -- really fight with Mitt
Romney? Is he going to keep it up? I think you might be right, but he may
be wrong. I don`t think anybody wants to hear Mitt Romney talk about
health care since he created it up in Massachusetts, and that might be
brought up in the discussion.
And as expected, the House has voted to hold Attorney General Eric
Holder in contempt on basically a party-line vote, with some Democrats
walking out of the vote in protest. We`re going to have that later in the
What a huge day in American politics, however, and this is HARDBALL,
the place for it, politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: The government could decide that we`re going tax you if you
don`t eat broccoli on Tuesday. Apparently, that`s now constitutional. But
I don`t think it`s a very wise law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We got another lesson today on how perilous it is to
predict what the Supreme Court will do, of course. A lot of people like to
look at it in trade -- Intrade, the on-line market, to predict the future.
We`ve even done it here on HARDBALL.
Well, Intrade got the health care decision very wrong today. This
week, in advance of the decision, Intrade guessed that the chance the
individual mandate would be struck down was roughly 75 percent, 3 out of 4
chances. Ouch! It didn`t happen.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The president scored a big win
today at the Supreme Court, but in the court of public opinion, the health
care law remains unpopular. That`s mainly thanks to the individual
mandate, the idea that almost everybody has to get health insurance or pay
a penalty for not doing it.
Well, today, the president did defend or tried to defend that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When uninsured people who can afford coverage get sick and
show up at the emergency room for care, the rest of us end up paying for
their care in the form of higher premiums. That`s why even though I knew
it wouldn`t be politically popular and resisted the idea when I ran for
this office, we ultimately included a provision in the Affordable Care Act
that people who can afford to buy health insurance should take the
responsibility to do so.
In fact, this idea has enjoyed support from members of both parties,
including the current Republican nominee for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Of course, Romney has strongly defended mandates in the
past himself. Of course, he was vowing to repeal the president`s health
care bill. But will "Obama care" become a major part of this campaign,
given where his party stands on the issue? Will he have a choice?
Mark Halperin is "Time" magazine editor-at-large, of course, senior
political analyst here at MSNBC. Michael Steele`s former chair of the RNC.
He`s also an MSNBC political analyst .
Michael, I have to ask you, in terms of the nature of this campaign
we`re facing, with an unemployment rate that looks it`s going to be around
8 -- maybe a little higher, maybe a little lower -- we pretty much know
where the situation lies right now.
So what will be the deciding factors? Will it be something like this
that rolls out and becomes a bigger story even than it was today?
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it
has that potential, particularly if the Romney team does not come to the
table with a level of specifics about what he would do. This whole repeal
and replace idea -- I love it, but the reality of it is, once the House
moves next week to repeal, someone`s going to have to start talking about
what they`re going to replace it with.
Whether or not it gets to the Senate, that`s irrelevant. What`s
important is that the messaging at this critical juncture, after -- of on
the heels of this ruling, has to be one of taking the country to the next
step in terms of what Republicans say. And I think this thing could be a
sleeper in this election.
MATTHEWS: Have you heard any Republican alternative to the mandate
for paying for this thing?
STEELE: There are -- there are individual pieces that are out there
that particularly, the 14 members of the House who are doctors, the GOP
(INAUDIBLE) have talked about. That now has to come together in a
comprehensive way to say, OK, if we don`t do the mandate, what are we going
to do? And more importantly, how do we pay for it?
Because remember, you`ve got a lot of taxes that come on line
beginning next year, and that is how Obama was planning to pay for this.
This now becomes, I think, a sleeper issue, depending on how Romney defines
it going forward.
MATTHEWS: You know, Mark, FDR had a wonderfully sarcastic way of
talking about the Republican Party. They always take something the
Democrats have just done and say, We could do that, too, in a way that
won`t cost you anything. They always do that after the fact.
Can they get away with it this time, just saying it won`t cost you
anything, the Democrats`ll cost you this mandate or this penalty, we can
give you preexisting coverage, we can give you adult children coverage, et
cetera, et cetera, but it won`t cost you anything?
HALPERIN: Well, Chris, I don`t think you have to look back any
further than the last election we had in this country in 2010, where
Republicans were shockingly deficient in offering an alternative to deficit
reduction, but simply said the president`s not doing a good enough job on
deficit reduction. Vote for us.
They didn`t have any ideas, really, about how to reduce the deficit in
any serious way. I think it may end up being the same on health care.
Look, people inside the beltway and in the Northeast Corridor I think are
skeptical of the Bain argument. And yet we see out in the country that may
I think health care, on the other side, may be it. When I go out with
Governor Romney and he talks about repealing Obamacare, again, mostly with
partisan audiences, but the reaction is as raw and emotional as anything
else he talks about.
And I don`t think it`s a reach at all to say Obamacare has taxes,
higher taxes and small business doesn`t like it, big business doesn`t like
it. Republicans have been talking for months about how Obamacare relates
to the president`s record on the economy.
So I think for sure he will talk about it and I don`t think he will
talk about it reluctantly. I think he will talk about it as one of his
strongest arguments of why Republicans, at least, don`t think the president
has managed the economy well.
MATTHEWS: Well, stay on this, Mark. Does the fact that the Supreme
Court relied on the taxing authority of a president to basically give this
constitutional muster, will that give the Republicans an argument right
HALPERIN: They certainly think so. I read about 200 Republican
tweets and press releases today and almost all of them focused on that.
I think the president`s remarks today are a great start for him to try
to make the case about why the mandate is a conservative idea, why it`s a
necessary thing. I think he`s going to have to keep that up, because I
don`t think Governor Romney is going to back off going after the law. And
I don`t think most voters are going to care -- I may be wrong, but I don`t
think they`re going to care about what he did in Massachusetts.
If they don`t like this law, he`s the guy who says he will get rid of
it, as difficult as it might be to get rid of it. The incumbent won`t get
rid of it. He will implement it.
MATTHEWS: Well, jump on this, Michael.
MATTHEWS: Mitt Romney today said he disagreed with the court`s
decision and promises to repeal the health care law if he wins the
election. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What the court did today was
say that Obamacare does not violate the Constitution. What they did not do
was say that Obamacare is good law or that it`s good policy. Obamacare was
bad policy yesterday. It`s bad policy today. Obamacare was bad law
yesterday. It`s bad law today.
If we want good jobs and a bright economic future for ourselves and
for our kids, we must replace Obamacare. That is my mission. That is our
work. And I`m asking the people of America to join me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was rather automaton-like talking by -- with a
staff-written script, but it might work.
Mitt Romney has strongly backed health care, however, mandates even, I
in the past. And of course the president`s plan was modeled on Romney`s
own plan up Massachusetts. Well, today, the group American Bridges found
video of Romney defending mandates in order to bring health care costs
down. This was from back in 2006, not a million years ago. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2006)
ROMNEY: In regards to the mandate, the individual responsibility
program, which I proposed, I was very pleased to see that the compromise
from the two houses includes the personal responsibility principle. That
is essential for bringing health care costs down for everyone and getting
everybody the health insurance they deserve and need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know the Hall of the Presidents down there in Disney
MATTHEWS: ... where you just sort of feed in the script of the voice
in the statue who speaks a different line?
MATTHEWS: He just went from one line to another based on the script.
How does he do this? Mark may be brilliant in saying the visceral attitude
toward the health care bill. They don`t care who chops this program apart.
MATTHEWS: They just want somebody to do it, even if it`s a guy who
created something like it out in Massachusetts.
And I think that`s going to be the cornerstone of the Romney strategy
going forward. Like a lot of folks are beginning to realize, I don`t think
he backs off of this. I think he pushes full-steam ahead. And you know
what he`s going to do.
He`s going to link it to the economic argument as much he possibly
can, how it ties into jobs and the small businesses, the weight of the tax
burden on the taxpayer as well as businesses. So I think this is going to
round very nicely for him.
Interesting, though, is what the president does and started to do
today is fashioning this ironically from a conservative. You noted it, a
conservative personal responsibility argument, which I think is going to be
fascinating for him to make, particularly since he was against the mandate
before he was for it, and Romney was for the mandate before he was against
So these two gentlemen have now crafted a very interesting dialogue
for the fall campaign.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, I`ll tell you one thing. President Obama
doesn`t want to talk about it anymore. That`s my hunch.
Anyway, he said so today. And whenever they start talking move on,
Mark, every time I hear the word move on, that means, please. I`m
clinching. Let`s talk about jobs, anything but this.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Michael Steele, Mark Halperin, thank you,
Up next, see what happens when a Republican member of Congress thinks
the law`s been overturned. That`s coming in the "Sideshow." These guys
got the worst news. I`m not going to say which networks had this story
completely wrong, but you can guess it wasn`t this one.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAHM EMANUEL (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO: Time and again, he has shown
political courage. I think -- I said to him, I said this is a cost of
politics vs. the policy and you got to weigh it. You have other things on
the agenda you want to do. Can you make a political win?
And to his credit, he asked. He wanted the honest opinion. I gave
him the honest advice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And this is the "Sideshow," the Supreme
If you thought this was a big day free of political sideshows, just
wait for this. Initial reporting on the decision -- not on MSNBC -- led
many to believe the health care law had been struck down, and resulted in
some premature celebrations by Republicans.
A tweet from Michigan Congressman Justin Amash -- quote -- "This is a
big win for liberty and the Constitution."
The congressman`s jubilation was short-lived, however, but he wasn`t
alone. A cell phone captured Republican Congresswoman Jean Schmidt
reacting to the misinformation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speak.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Speak.
REP. JEAN SCHMIDT (R), OHIO: They struck down the individual mandate.
They took it away?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was Meg Ryan yesterday.
Anyway, she was in for a letdown, but get this. The president himself
also got wrapped up in the confusion. He, too, initially thought that the
law had been struck down after catching wind of that initial
Well, White House aides say Obama then walked into the Oval Office.
White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler followed soon after giving the president
two thumbs up, but explaining that the law had in effect -- or in fact
survived what was a roller coaster, but even those who did have the facts
straight got caught up in the heat of the moment.
Patrick Gaspard, executive director of the Democratic National
Committee, had three words to tweet. "It is constitutional," and then he
used a B-word that rhymes with witches. He shouldn`t have done that. A
follow-up tweet acknowledged that he had let his -- quote -- "SCOTUS
excitement" get the better of him.
Kind of reminds me of this moment, doesn`t it, just after the bill was
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a big
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, moving on, just days after reviving his phony death
panel warnings -- or her death panel warnings, Sarah Palin tweeted -- quote
-- "Obama lied to the American people again. He said it wasn`t a tax.
Obama lies. Freedom dies."
That`s Sarah Palin.
Freedom dies? Well, really, Governor? But it might just be
Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who takes the cake with his statement
on the ruling -- quote -- "Just because the couple of people on the Supreme
Court declare something to be constitutional doesn`t make it so. The whole
thing remains unconstitutional."
That`s Rand Paul.
Actually, Senator Paul, when the Supreme Court says something is
constitutional, by definition, it is.
But now to switch gears, this whole historic decision really comes
down to two people, President Obama, of course, and Chief Justice Roberts,
who provided the key swing vote that upheld it. Just a few years ago, the
two men shared another historic event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Barack Hussein
Obama, do solemnly swear...
JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: That I will
execute the office of president to the United States faithfully.
OBAMA: That I will execute...
ROBERTS: The office -- faithfully the president -- office of
president of the United States faithfully.
OBAMA: The office of president of the United States faithfully
ROBERTS: And will to the best of my ability...
OBAMA: And will to the best of my ability...
ROBERTS: ... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the
OBAMA: ... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the
ROBERTS: So help you God?
OBAMA: So help me God.
ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Up next, the House votes.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
JANE WELLS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Jane Wells with your CNBC "Market
The Dow sheds 25, the S&P is off three and the Nasdaq is down 26. The
Supreme Court`s decision on the president`s health care overhaul sent big
managed care companies like Cigna, Aetna and WellPoint lower. J.P. Morgan
shares lost 2.5 percent following a report in "The New York Times" that
losses from derivatives trades could total up to $9 billion.
And the economic front, jobless claims by 6,000 in the latest week.
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, the Republican-led House of Representatives took the
unprecedented step of voting to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in
contempt of Congress and House Democratic leaders led by the Congressional
Black Caucus staged a walkout to protest the vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s something evil about using the procedures
of the House, especially something as severe as holding someone in contempt
of Congress, to further political aims, is not why to American people sent
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: The action on the floor
today is unprecedented in the history of America. Never before in history
has the Congress held a Cabinet officer in contempt. That`s why we are
here in this courtyard to say to our Republican colleagues, shame on you.
Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer expressed
the administration`s disgust about the contempt vote with a statement that
reads in part: "At the beginning of this year, Republicans announced one of
their top priorities was to investigate the administration and to ensure
that President Obama was a one-term president. Today, we saw the House of
Representatives perform a transparently political stunt."
But just one day earlier, a blockbuster "Fortune" magazine report
showed that the entire Fast and Furious investigation was based on a lie --
the claims about it, rather.
Katherine Eban wrote the "Fortune" magazine article and Sari Horwitz
writes for "The Washington Post," and in today`s paper had an exclusive
interview with the former head of the ATF in Phoenix.
Thank you very much for joining us.
I want to start first of all with getting to the "Fortune" magazine
issue right now.
What is the issue here? I read the issue and it seems to me it was
saying that there is no substance to the charge that they walked these
guns, that they purposely allowed laws to be broken and allowed guns to
fall into the hands of the cartel in Mexico so they could track those guns.
"Fortune" magazine -- tell me what the "Fortune" magazine piece, bottom
line, says about that.
KATHERINE EBAN, "FORTUNE": What it says is that there was no
operational tactic by the ATF to choose to let guns flow into the hands of
Rather, there was a protracted, intensive fight, debate with local --
with federal prosecutors about the grounds, the legal grounds for seizing
these guns and arresting suspects. That`s what it says.
MATTHEWS: So, what is this whole fight about if there wasn`t an
attempt to give guns, basically allow guns to fall into the hands of
killers, which led to the killing of those people?
I mean, why -- according -- if your article`s correct, there`s no
substance at the bottom of this story to justify any of this stuff, the
contempt, all this demand for paper, everything, if your story is correct.
EBAN: Whistle-blowers inside of Phoenix Group Seven, which was the
ATF group tasked with conducting this investigation, had -- came forward
after the death of a border agent and claimed that they had been forced to
sit back and watch as guns flowed to criminals.
What they didn`t say and what my article says is that they, number
one, had a tremendous grudge, animus, against the group`s supervisor that
they accused of orchestrating this. They didn`t say that there was
protracted, intensive debate with federal prosecutors as ATF agents sought
permission to seize guns and were denied that permission. It didn`t say
any of that.
Well, let me go to Sari Horwitz at "The Post."
What`s your reading on this basis -- on the Fortune" magazine piece?
Is this in fact any hard evidence that the United States government by a
policy of Fast and Furious allowed guns to fall into the hands of the bad
guys, if you will, the Mexican cartel?
SARI HORWITZ, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No, the man who I interviewed,
William Newell, was the boss. He was the special agent in charge of the
Phoenix office. He was the boss of the people in the "Fortune" magazine
And he agreed with the premise of that article that they didn`t
intentionally want guns to end up in the hands of criminals, but that they
were constantly told they did not have probable cause to seize these
See, they had a noble intention in this particular operation, which
is they wanted to penetrate a drag -- a firearms organization. They didn`t
want to just keep arresting the small purchases, the street level guys.
They want to take down a whole organization.
And to do so, they felt like they had to watch the straw purchasers.
They did not have the legal grounds, they say, to go in and arrest those
straw purchasers or the middlemen who they were giving the guns to.
MATTHEWS: But they could -- could they have picked these people up
on gun violations, if they had chosen to follow that route, rather than
walking the guns? If they had said no, every time we see what looks to be
a gun violation at any level, we`re going to nail them because that will
stop the trafficking. Could they have done that?
HORWITZ: The tricky thing there is if someone goes into a gun store
and buys a gun legally, right, and then passes it on to someone who is not
prohibited from buying a gun, it`s very hard to prove in court that there`s
a violation. They kept running on this issue and they didn`t want to keep
arresting straw purchasers.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Katherine and the "Fortune" piece.
Your piece basically is a larger, nearly impossible to stop with guns and
criminals -- you know, it just seems to me that this is a pretty clear
case. But why do you have people coming out of the agency itself, the ATF,
blaming the higher authority, saying, no, you let them buy those guns, you
let them go, you let the laws be flouted and your response over the death
of those people?
EBAN: Well, as is often the case, when you have a situation that is
highly politicized and highly public, there is a rush for the exits. And
in this case, ATF and Justice Department initially backs the agents on the
ground, but I should say they never really asked them in any detailed
fashion what actually happened.
And then as the political pressure mounted, there was as I said, a
rush for the exits and people started -- the blame started rolling downhill
until these ATF agents had basically found themselves alone. People are
not really interested, people in authority, finding out what exactly
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, it seems to me there`s a couple of those.
Maybe you two can`t follow this, but I`m going to ask you to follow this
and project from your reporting, starting with you, Sari. Here`s the
question, if -- here you have the NRA in this country, which is so powerful
as we know that. Going after members of Congress and saying you`ve got to
vote our way on this or we`re going to strike called against you in the
next election and yet here they are charging the ATF with not doing enough
arrests for gun violations. Isn`t that extraordinary for them to take that
posture here, the NRA?
HORWITZ: Look, the whole thing is extraordinary and you know, Chris,
in Washington, it`s all about politics. But you know, there`s a very, very
important point that needs to be made here -- the whole vote today came
down to something that happened with a letter written on February 4th by
the Justice Department to Congress basically saying we don`t have any
instances where we`ve ever not interjected or seized guns.
HORWITZ: It turned out, that letter was wrong and they had to
withdraw it. And what Issa, the chairman of the oversight committee and
the Republicans want is all the internal deliberations in the Justice
Department since the letter was written to see if there was a cover up, who
knew what, when? And that`s what the fight is.
HORWITZ: The internal deliberations in the Justice Department.
MATTHEWS: I agree. They`ll never get them.
Anyway, thank you very much, Katherine Eban. And thank you, Sari
Horowitz. Great reporting.
Up next, back to health care. We`ll talk about the political
consequences about today`s Supreme Court decision, but what does it mean
for actual people? You know, patients, people who have health problems,
concerns, want to be insured properly. The ground game, we`re going to get
to it in a moment.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`ve got some fresh new results from the NBC/Marist poll
of three swing states. Let`s go to the HARDBALL scoreboard.
In Michigan, a state President Obama won easily four years ago, the
president just a four-point lead. Not good enough over Mitt Romney, 47-43.
That`s in line with other polls that have shown the race there tightening.
It`s even closer in North Carolina, where our poll has the president
up by just two. Against not close -- too close for comfort for the
And let`s look at New Hampshire, another state the president won
easily in 2008. It`s all tied up there, 45-45.
Very, very telling here. This is a very close election. \
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of this law,
there are other Americans, other sons and daughters, brothers and sisters,
fathers and mothers who will not have to hang their fortunes on chance.
These are the Americans for whom we passed this law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`re back, of course.
That`s President Obama today speaking after the Supreme Court upheld
his health care law. What a day it`s been for the president. We`ve talked
a lot about the politics of the big decision by the Supreme Court, the 5-4
But how is it going to affect real people?
Zeke Emanuel worked on the Affordable Care Act as a health care
adviser to President Obama. He`s also an MSNBC contributor, and he chairs
the medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Theresa Brown is an oncology nurse and the author of "Critical Care:
A New Nurse Faces Death, Life and Everything in Between." She`s a blogger
for the "New York Times."
Theresa, I want to get to you about a cancer patient or leukemia
patient. Bring it down to what it meant to you in a patient like that --
the ruling today.
THERESA BROWN, ONCOLOGY: Well, the issue of why we need the
affordable care act was really brought home to me one afternoon when I was
taking care of a new leukemia patient who started to talk to me about death
panels and I told him there was no such thing because he said oh, really,
because I hoped there were.
And he didn`t health insurance and he was convinced that the care he
would need to cure his leukemia would bankrupt his family.
He ran his own business. He had worked his whole life. His wife had
health insurance, but he was not on her policy. And I`m guessing from
things he told me, he couldn`t afford it.
But whatever the reason, he wasn`t insured. He`d always been healthy
then he was suddenly very, very sick. And his wish was for the government
to actually assassinate him rather than his family having to lose their
livelihood to save his life.
MATTHEWS: Well, how will his condition be difference in terms of the
$20,000 for these chemo injections which staggers most of us watching now?
How can anything cost $20,000 for an injection?
But, well, what will his situation be -- if what`s been passed into
law now. It`s clearly unchallenged in the courts. So, how`s it look now
for him? Or a person like him?
BROWN: It looks so much better, because there`s so many provisions
in the Affordable Care Act that should help so many Americans who couldn`t
get insurance get it. For one thing, there are subsidies that will go to
people who can`t afford insurance. There are plans to expand Medicaid.
There are also a lot of provisions to lower the cost of premiums. And that
will make insurance more affordable for the average American.
So there`s lots of different ways including state-run insurance
exchanges that people who in the past couldn`t afford insurance should be
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to Zeke Emanuel. That`s what real life is,
of course. It`s frightening the cost of medicine, $20,000 for an
injection. But will the individual mandate which was what was at stake
today and the chief justice found with the 5-4 majority. And now, we know
we all have to do something. No walking into an E.R. with some financial
effort on your part.
So, how`s that going to affect the cost of the average premium to buy
ZEKE EMANUEL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it`s going to bring it down
MATTHEWS: How? Show them the mathematics of how it work.
EMANUEL: So, if people who are insured go in, they get services from
a hospital, services from a doctor and they don`t pay for them, someone`s
got to cover those costs because they`re not free, whether it`s the X-ray
machine or the lab tests. The hospital folds it into the cost that they
charge else who`s paying --
MATTHEWS: And they hit all the insured people --
EMANUEL: And it`s estimated that on a family premium was about over
$1,000. So that`ll go down. And then --
MATTHEWS: Because a lot of healthy people who are young will be
getting themselves insured, right?
EMANUEL: Well, a lot of healthy people will be insured. But also
everyone will have coverage, so will pay in. In addition, states were
often pays hospitals or doctors who provided this uncompensated care out of
general revenue. And that will go into providing them insurance.
And it`s not only that the premiums will go down, these people who
didn`t have insurance will now get preventative tests. They`ll be able to
take care of themselves. So, maybe their service demand, the number of
services they need will actually go down.
MATTHEWS: This seems like when you explain it as a position in which
you are, in a public policy, it sounds so simple. Everybody`s got to kick
into the ability -- extent of their ability. Why does this darn bill have
to be as fat as an old Sears Roebuck catalog? Why is it have to be so
EMANUEL: Well, Chris, let me --
MATTHEWS: I know, I mean it, because most people don`t like that.
They don`t like why it`s so big and complicated if it`s as simple as what
you just said.
EMANUEL: Let me point out two facts. The decision today, 199 pages,
just deciding one issue in the bill. So, talk about length, you`ve got a
lot of issues that take up time.
The second issue, it doesn`t just deal with this access problem. It
dealt with cost problems, with the number of doctors and nurses we have,
with prevention. There are many things in the bill.
Plus, the whole health care system is $2.8 trillion, almost 20
percent of the whole economy. You can`t regulate that and get a good law
in a very short bill.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Zeke.
EMANUEL: But wait --
MATTHEWS: Why did you bring your prop?
EMANUEL: This is my good luck charm for this bill. It`s broccoli.
Now you have to eat your broccoli to stay healthy.
MATTHEWS: I don`t like it, but I`ll eat it when I have to. I eat
when it`s on the plate. I eat what I`m told to. Teresa, thank you for
joining us and giving an insight to real people. And you for the big
picture, which we always need.
When we return, let me finish with the decision made possible by one
man, Chief Justice John Roberts.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with Mr. Chief Justice John Roberts.
What a treasure in public affairs, in human existence, is the
unpredicted. Those moments someone does something that staggers the rest
of us that is so phenomenal that it blows us away. John Roberts just
performed one of those acts.
He did what judges are up there to do. He was judicious looking at
the Obama health care act from all angles. How from each perspective the
act does or does not pass muster with the Constitution.
He did so as he said looking at that angle from which the Obama
measure could be ruled to square with this country`s organizing document.
He admitted to looking for it until he found it.
So the big question, what pushed him? What made him look until he
found the root for the Obama health care act the constitutional
acceptability? What was it that encouraged him, John Roberts, to go beyond
the Interstate Commerce Clause and find the taxing authority, the provision
he believed gave Obama`s act its OK by the Constitution?
Well, my hunch knowing Justice Roberts and his wife just a bit is
that his motive was high morality. He wanted to do good and went looking
for a way to do it consistent with his oath to respect the Constitution.
He wanted to protect both. That`s the heart of it. And the one shot this
country has at looking at the welfare of all our people and the way it
would square with the constitutionally limited government.
There is in our church a commitment to social justice that runs deep
and wide crossing those sad divides between right and left, and it holds to
the central belief shared by so many religions, to look out for our
brothers and sisters on this Earth. It goes against the notion every man
for himself and steers as all towards something finer, or something of
obligation in our lives to our fellow mankind. It is worthy, it is good.
And today the Supreme Court, the highest court in our country, agreed with
it, saying that when it comes to health and health care, we Americans have
no obstacle to doing what is right.
So, let`s all put our heads in the pillow tonight saying this was a
good day for our country, a good day to have lived and to have known we
live in a country, one that is trying harder each generation to be better.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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