December 11, 2012
Guests: Dana Milbank, Bob King, Scott Hagerstrom, David Edelstein, Frank Bruni, Christine Quinn
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Racket on the right.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this racket on the right. That`s what
Bill Kristol calls the far-right fringe, a racket, a syndicate of tough-
talking types who grab millions driving the Republicans and conservatives
off the nearest cliff.
What`s exposed this rift between conservatives and far-out rightists
is the fiscal cliff the United States faces this January 1st. The hard-
righters are attacking any sign of compromise as a white flag of retreat.
Who`s going to come out the winner in this fight? The people who make
money pulling conservatives to the hard right, or the people who believe
that conservative office holders, just like liberal office holders, have a
real stake in making the government actually work.
And a far bigger question -- will this war on the right help the
country unite and avoid the fiscal cliff, or will it give the rightists`
side a chance to bring the house down?
With me to fight this out is MSNBC political analyst Ron Reagan and
Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post." Before we talk about the GOP split,
we should mention there`s been a new offer, unclear so far, put forward by
the GOP to the White House regarding the fiscal cliff. At this time, NBC
cannot confirm any specific details within the offer. It was sent over
Speaker Boehner`s spokesman says, quote, "We sent the White House a
counteroffer that would achieve tax and entitlement reform to solve our
looming debt crisis and create more American jobs." That`s all we know.
Dana Milbank, they say it`s good. They said it`ll solve all our
problems. They won`t say what it is. Explain.
DANA MILBANK, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, look, I mean, we`re still in
the fairly early stage of posturing here, and nobody can strike a deal
until they get closer to it, until their feet are to the fire.
MATTHEWS: When do you say the fire begins?
MILBANK: Well, nobody can make any prediction for sure because...
MATTHEWS: Well, try.
MILBANK: ... they could hammer this thing out in three hours, if they
really wanted to.
MATTHEWS: That`s right.
MILBANK: But if they don`t wait until the very end of December or
even go over the cliff, then...
MATTHEWS: I think it`s 21. I`m going to bet on -- what`s your hunch
about this, Ron Reagan? You`re here -- I mean, I think they`re going to
try to get it done by Christmas just for efficiency`s sake and not to scare
the horses. That`s the thought I have. I may be conservative on this.
RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you`re -- yes, I think
you`re right, they`d like to, but I`m not sure they can get it done before
Christmas, and maybe before the end of the year. I think, again, as we get
down to the last few hours, I think then you`re going to see a real push to
get something done.
As Dana implied, everybody knows, in a sense, what this agreement in
broad strokes is going to look like. We`re going to have tax increases on
the upper 2 percent and we`re not going to have a tax increase on the
REAGAN: And there`s going to be some spending cuts. But that`s, you
know, that`s about all we know at the moment.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this fight that seems to be
emerging the last couple days on the right. And it`s not surprising. It
may, to some extent, be represented (ph) on the left, but I don`t think so
Republicans fall into two camps on fiscal reform and the whole
question of the cliff, the realists, we`ll call them, and the ideologues,
we`ll call them, because that makes sense.
Well, today, former Mississippi governor who is a realist, Haley
Barbour, planted himself in the realist camp, and even Rush Limbaugh has
acknowledged the Republicans` weak position. Let`s listen to both.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY BARBOUR (R), FMR. MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: As a Republican, I
would take raising the rates on the two top brackets if in return, we had
tax reform laid out over a period of months, if we had entitlement reform.
If you have the whole package, I would hold my nose.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What I`m saying is I don`t think
there`s a Republican alive who could stop what`s going to happen. There`s
-- we don`t have the leverage! The power isn`t there!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Talk about a decisive move. Where (ph) we got him in the
realist category is a strange brew right now. Then you`ve got the
ideologues -- I thought Rush was always there, but he`s not on their team
this time -- who say avoid tax increases at all costs.
Here`s Kentucky senator Rand Paul. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think the president`s got it exactly
backwards. He`s adamant about raising taxes, and he`s dead wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think of Mr. Boehner`s idea, cap
deductions and get $800 billion in revenues? Does that make any sense?
PAUL: It`s a tax increase. It`s a bad idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What`d you expect? What kind of question was that to ask
him? Anyway, conservative blogger and editor of RedState.com -- that`s
Erick Erickson -- he wrote a piece entitled "Why John Boehner must not fold
on tax rate increases."
And a "Wall Street Journal" editorial reads, in part, "It`s a shame
that Republicans are playing into Mr. Obama`s hands, negotiating in public
among themselves prematurely giving up on the tax issue."
See, this is why I think there`s an easy case to make if you`re on the
right. We had an election.
MATTHEWS: And if you respect the election, you must assume that they
were paying attention when Barack Obama, the president, as you like to say,
appropriately, and they didn`t like to hear -- the president -- over and
over in every speech said, We`ve got to raise the tax rates on the top
bracket. And everybody heard it, and everybody who voted for him knew they
were voting for that, and that was the a majority.
MATTHEWS: That would help a conservative to say, You know, this time,
I`ll go with the voter.
MILBANK: Well, and that -- this shows if you live long enough, you`ll
see anything happen, and now we have Rush Limbaugh being the voice of
MATTHEWS: On the dream team!
MILBANK: ... within the Republican Party, the voice for pragmatic
decision-making in the party. I think people do realize that. They say it
privately. Each day, more and more of them say it publicly.
MILBANK: This is inevitably where we`re going. But the Republican
Party right now is like "The Lord of the Flies." It`s not clear who`s in
charge. That`s why I can`t...
MATTHEWS: Who`s got (INAUDIBLE)
MILBANK: That`s why I can`t join you -- exactly -- I can`t join you
in that prediction because it`s not clear whether a guy like Rand Paul has
enough people with him...
MILBANK: ... to bollix the whole thing.
MATTHEWS: ... let`s talk about the president for a second, Ron. You
remember "Cool Hand Luke." I sometimes think that this president is Cool
Hand Luke. Back when he was fighting Hillary, people like me would say,
Get going, take her on, she`s killing you! And she was 20 points ahead.
He beat her.
We watched the campaign. Right near the end, I`m having, as he`s put
it, a stroke after his first debate, and he says, You know, I got it. Stop
being so crazy about this.
Here he is again, playing it very cool. It`s now December 11th.
They`ve got 10 days under a fast clock to get this done. Is he too cool?
Is he sending the message out there on the stump that he wants to send?
REAGAN: Yes. I think he is. And no, I don`t think he`s too cool.
Look, if we go over the fiscal cliff, it`ll only be for a little while, and
it`s probably to the Democrats` advantage anyway. They`ll say the
Republicans pushed us over the cliff in the first place. And by the way,
now that we`ve gone over the cliff, about 70 percent of the deficit would
take care of it if we stay over the cliff at least.
You know, I take Dana`s reference to "Lord of the Flies." It`s really
more like a monkey`s wedding or something out there, the disarray in the
MATTHEWS: I have never been to one of those, actually.
REAGAN: Well, you can imagine the confusion. Yes, it`s (INAUDIBLE)
But it is, it`s the ideologues versus the pragmatists. The pragmatists
simply want to serve their donor base. That`s why they don`t want to raise
taxes on the rich.
REAGAN: But the ideologues have a different game altogether. They
want to bring down government, basically.
MATTHEWS: Well, you can`t watch the game without a scorecard. Here`s
some more of the people on the -- what we call the pragmatists` side, the
realists` side, and it`s an unusual shaping up here. Bill Kristol, William
Kristol of "The Weekly Standard," the leading neocon of the country -- he`s
leading the criticism that the Republican Party needs a "come to Jesus"
He writes in "The Weekly Standard," his magazine, quote, "It may be
that major parts of American conservatism have become such a racket that a
kind of refounding of the movement as a cause is necessary."
Joe Scarborough, our colleague, echoed and amplified Kristol`s opinion
on "MORNING JOE" yesterday. Let`s listen to Joe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST, "MORNING JOE": Conservatism is a racket for
a lot of people to get very, very rich.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And David Frum, a former speech writer for W, I guess,
agrees that conservatism has been corroded by money. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID FRUM, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH SPEECH WRITER: The conservative
followership has been fleeced, exploited and lied to by the conservative
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Now, this is great stuff. It`s basically like an
Eisenhower speech, the military-industrial -- military-industrial complex.
He says, basically, you got people like Rush out there making zillions.
You`ve got people in the blogosphere who just enjoy what they`re doing.
But there`s an entertainment industry out there, you know, led by Hannity
and the rest of them, and they always take the fringe side.
MILBANK: Sure. I mean, it`s -- it`s blindingly obvious what they`re
saying, but the fact that they`re now saying it is kind of interesting. If
you went back and looked at the Tea Party, a lot of these so-called
populist groups were funded and backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and
other corporate interests. So you have all these well-meaning blue-collar
Republicans out there doing the bidding of millionaires...
MATTHEWS: And how are they backed by the Chamber?
MILBANK: ... working directly...
MATTHEWS: I mean, who (INAUDIBLE)
MILBANK: There are all kinds of corporate lobbyists are involved in
MILBANK: And there were -- I mean, if you look at the people, they`ve
just been transplanted over from other well-funded groups to try to harness
that Tea Party movement. And in many ways, well-meaning people were
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about -- you said you wouldn`t mind
tiptoeing across the finish line January 1st. I have no idea. I`m afraid
of that risk myself. But what do the right wing want, if they bring this
house down? I mean, they -- they do want this trouble, I would think. You
-- you don`t want this economy to flatten out and go to a second recession.
What are the right-wingers who don`t want any deal want? What`s their
card game at the end, Ron?
REAGAN: Well, it`s kind of a crisis capitalism, in a way, or crisis
governance. They create an emergency by going over a fiscal cliff or not
approving the debt ceiling raise, and then they say, Because we have this
big emergency, we need to do all sorts of drastic things to defund mostly
the domestic side of government, turn it over to private industry, whether
it`s health care or anything else.
That is their aim here. It`s to drown the government in the bathtub,
as Grover Norquist famously said.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know!
REAGAN: They still believe that.
MATTHEWS: And so that sounds like -- that sounds like Moynihan,
Senator Moynihan, the late Senator Moynihan of New York`s theory that the
whole idea of supply-side was basically to get rid of so much revenue that
the government had such big deficits that even liberals couldn`t call for
Dana, your thoughts on that?
MILBANK: Well, that would all be well and good, except that they`re
also getting -- they`re getting all the taxes to go up at the same time, so
they`re not achieving anything by that.
MILBANK: The Republicans realize they lose politically if we go over
the fiscal cliff. But this isn`t just a political thing. The country
loses economically if we go over it, and then everybody`s going to
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go back -- let`s go back to normal world. Assume
everybody is rational for about five seconds.
MILBANK: Oh, I can`t do that.
MATTHEWS: Dana, you first. You`re here in Washington. Let`s go.
And then Ron. I want (ph) this. What`s the game play out the next few
days? I think the Republicans have really reached the end of the line.
They`re hoping Obama will show his cards and come out for some cuts on
entitlements to match -- and then they`ll go to show something on tax cuts.
What do you think?
MILBANK: They`re begging him to show something. He has no incentive
to do anything, at least publicly.
MATTHEWS: Will they show their cards on tax cuts first?
MILBANK: They have to. They have no cards in this.
MATTHEWS: Will they show the card? Will he eventually -- who`s going
to show their hand first? Ron?
REAGAN: The Republicans. They`re going to have to. Obama can stand
pat, and he`s doing it right now.
REAGAN: He can be Cool Hand Luke.
MATTHEWS: OK. I think that`s the way I think he is playing, very
cool. Thank you. He`s going to force -- force John Boehner to come out
and say what he wants done to protect the rich people or not protect them.
Thank you, Ron Reagan. Thank you from out there.
REAGAN: You bet.
MATTHEWS: And thank you, Dana Milbank from right here.
Coming up: A big anti-union vote in Michigan is shaping up. Don`t kid
yourself. That`s today`s vote. It`s really about jobs back in that state,
a right and a left going at it. Is it about gutting unions? A lot of
people think so. Is it about lowering wages and hurting Democrats in the
process? You bet! Let`s watch it.
Plus, the most talked-about movie in Hollywood hasn`t even opened yet.
It`s about torture, and not in the way you might have imagined. Many
critics say "Zero Dark Thirty," about catching bin Laden, strongly suggests
that without torture, we never would have gotten the guy. But not everyone
agrees that`s what the movie`s about. It`s going to be hot.
And the GOP`s favorite Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia, just
came out with the -- well, quite a sugar plum. Here he is. Quote, "If we
cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against
murder? Can we have it against other things?" Well, Republicans already
have enough problems with the gay community. Did they really need this?
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the problem with judge (SIC)
Scalia. I think you just heard it.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Everyone loves a winner. President Obama`s job approval
rating has been lifted by his reelection victory. Several new polls have
him above 50 percent, some by large margins. The new Politico/George
Washington University Battleground poll was the closest, 50 percent approve
the job the president`s doing versus 47 who disapprove.
The president is plus 8 in the new Gallup poll, 51 percent versus 43
disapprove. He`s plus 12 in "The National Journal`s" latest polling, 54-
42. And in a new Associated Press poll, President Obama is plus 16, 57
approve versus just 41 for disapprove. By the way, we served the good wine
(ph) last year, as you noticed.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. About 10,000 demonstrators took
to the Michigan state capitol today as labor supporters protested two right
to work bills in the state long known for its proud union history. The
bills would mean workers would not have to join a union or be forced to pay
dues, and they`re headed, those bills, to the governor`s desk right now.
Republican governor Rick Snyder had in the past said right to work was
a divisive issue, but now plans on signing the legislation into law, making
Michigan the 24th right to work state.
We`ve got guests on both sides of this fight tonight. Bob King is
president of the United Auto Workers. And Scott Hagerstrom is with the
Michigan -- he`s actually Michigan state director of Americans for
Gentlemen, let me show you what Governor Snyder -- Rick Snyder, the
Republican -- had to say earlier today when he was a guest on "ANDREA
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: The way I viewed it as, it`s on the
table. It`s a hot issue. Let`s show some leadership. So I stepped up to
say, when I review it, I think it`s a good thing. It`s about being pro-
worker. It`s about giving freedom of choice to workers.
And then secondly, as was mentioned in the earlier report, it`s about
economic development. We will get more and better jobs coming to Michigan
because we`re going to be more competitive.
It`s important to make a distinction with Wisconsin and Ohio. That
was about collective bargaining. That was about the relationship between
employers and unions. This has nothing to do with that. Right to work is
about the relationship between the union and workers.
And this is about being pro-workers, giving workers the choice. If
anything, this should encourage unions to be more responsive to workers in
terms of saying they need to show a value proposition of why they`re a
great place to join.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Bob King, thank you, sir, Mr. President, for joining us
tonight. A lot of our viewers are younger, well younger, because they
don`t remember the Taft-Hartley fights of after World War II and all that
fight about right to work and whether states should have a right to pass
Make your case quite simply. Why should a worker be forced to join a
BOB KING, UAW PRESIDENT: Well, let`s start out with the facts. No
worker in America is forced to join a union. The National Labor Relations
Act, the Beck (ph) decision say that any worker -- our UAW constitution
says any worker who does not want to be a member does not have to be. They
The question here really is, do citizens in a community pay their fair
share of the police, the fire, the snow removal, any of the services they
get from that community? Yes, they do. I want to ask Governor Snyder, is
he going to say to...
MATTHEWS: No, no, no! Don`t ask...
KING: ... Michigan citizens, if they don`t...
MATTHEWS: No, I -- no!
KING: ... want to pay the...
MATTHEWS: Bob, let me ask you the question. I know you had fun with
me on that one. In other words, you have to pay the equivalent of the
dues, even if you`re not a member of the union, right? You`re forced to do
it in order to work, correct?
KING: Yes. You don`t have to be a member of the union. So it`s not
about freedom to be in the union or not. You don`t have to be a member of
the union under the UAW Constitution right now.
MATTHEWS: Why should you be forced to pay the equivalent of union
dues in order to work?
KING: You`re not -- you`re responsible to pay your fair share of the
costs of representation. If two workers are on the line, they both get the
benefit of the contract, they get the raises, the pension, the health care.
If you say one worker doesn`t have to pay, in a way, you`re giving him a
raise. You`re creating divisiveness on the shop floor.
Everybody should pay their fair share. That`s kind of an American
MATTHEWS: It is?
KING: We`re fighting about that in Washington on the fiscal cliff,
MATTHEWS: Well, let me...
KING: The Tea Party (ph) don`t want to pay their fair share.
MATTHEWS: Suppose -- last question for you. Suppose they`re
Republicans and they don`t like the UAW`s liberal point of view on
KING: None of our dues dollars goes to -- or very, very little. We
raise our money for politics through voluntary contributions. The money
that members pay in dues goes to pay for the representation they get.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well said.
Let me go to Mr. Hagerstrom. Same tough questions. Why are
Republicans and your organization against unions? Because this is pretty
much a union-gutting operation. You would like to see -- you work for the
Koch brothers. They don`t like unions. Why are you working for them?
SCOTT HAGERSTROM, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: You know, I work for
Americans for Prosperity. This is not about the Koch brothers.
MATTHEWS: Well, they...
HAGERSTROM: This is about freedom...
MATTHEWS: Who`s paying your salary?
HAGERSTROM: I work for Americans for Prosperity. We`re a nonprofit.
MATTHEWS: Who`s paying your salary?
HAGERSTROM: Unions are -- Americans for Prosperity. I came here to
talk about the policy and this is about freedom. This is about...
MATTHEWS: No, but who`s paying your salary to do it?
HAGERSTROM: ... economic liberty...
MATTHEWS: Who`s paying your salary to do what you`re doing right now?
HAGERSTROM: I just told you. I just told you, Americans for
Prosperity. We`re a 501(c)4...
MATTHEWS: What`s that?
HAGERSTROM: ... and we`ve been advocating -- I`m sorry?
MATTHEWS: Who`s paying your...
MATTHEWS: ... to do this today?
HAGERSTROM: I just -- I just told you, Americans for Prosperity.
MATTHEWS: You`re not answering my question.
HAGERSTROM: We`re a nonprofit -- we`re...
HAGERSTROM: I just told you what the answer is. I came on here to --
I came here to talk about policy! This is about...
MATTHEWS: I know, but...
HAGERSTROM: ... freedom for workers...
MATTHEWS: ... I want to know why.
HAGERSTROM: My family are union workers, and they had to leave the
state a long time ago. Because I care about this issue. It`s very
personal. I grew up in metro Detroit. My parents had to leave the state a
long time ago because they were union workers. We`ve lost a lot of jobs
here. Michigan was a rich state.
HAGERSTROM: Today, we`re a poor state.
We want to return Michigan to economic growth , and we know this
governor and legislative leaders are dedicated to that.
HAGERSTROM: And what`s special about this is, these people that
demonstrated here today, when this passes, they can still belong to a
union. They still have that free choice. Nothing changes for them. This
is a win/win for everybody.
MATTHEWS: So, you`re not -- just to make this clear, Mr. King, you`re
the president of an international union. You were elected and you serve
and you get paid by the union. I understand that.
I just want to understand what this other fellow, how he finances his
being here today, because there`s a real question whether you`re a front
for the owners, for the people that really don`t like unions. And you tell
me you`re not -- you won`t answer the question who is paying your salary.
That`s all I want to know. Who is paying you? Who is paying you?
HAGERSTROM: We have over 3,000 donors here in this -- Americans For
Prosperity. I told you, we`re a nonprofit, just like the Red Cross, just
like any other nonprofit organization.
And we`re here to talk about the policy and why this is going to move
HAGERSTROM: You know, in Indiana, over 42,000 new jobs since they
passed right to work.
HAGERSTROM: In the same period, Michigan was stagnant on their
employment growth. We want those jobs to come to Michigan.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Mr. King.
KING: Michigan has been growing jobs.
MATTHEWS: You have had a great -- let me just tell you what I know
how good you are, because the Reuther brothers were fabulous. It was a
clean union from the beginning. It`s a very liberal union with big-picture
It isn`t just interested in just wages and work rules. It`s
interested in the welfare of middle class people in the country. You have
a great union there. Is this right-to-work thing going to really hurt your
union and kill the esprit de corps of the union workers? They`re so gung-
ho about the union. Why would this hurt them?
KING: I don`t think it will in the UAW. I think we have great
The problem is that it`s just the first step. We have watched in this
state right-wing legislatures pass laws that take away the collective
bargaining rights from public sector employees on health care and pensions.
They did a really petty, vindictive law that took away the right to do
deductions for teachers. That`s why we went with Proposal 2. That`s why
we`re fighting here today, because we know we want to stop this before they
try to take away the rights of private sector workers to bargain over wages
or pensions or health care.
This is about democracy and about America. I also want to say, for
economic development, Governor Snyder was just bragging yesterday 144,000
jobs since he`s been governor, most of those created by the auto industry
through collective bargaining.
We sat down at the bargaining table with Ford, General Motors, and
Chrysler. Our membership made sacrifices, gave up raises so we could get
more economic development, more product, more investment, and billions of
dollars is going into Michigan because of unions and because of collective
bargaining, helping not just union workers, but union -- but workers, all
workers throughout the state.
And you know, Chris, and I know in right-to-work states, average
income is down, average wages is down, not as much pension or retirement
security as in union states, less spending on K-12 education, less spending
on infrastructure. Why? Because workers make less, there`s less tax
revenue coming in. Right-to-work is bad for Americans.
MATTHEWS: Why do people like the Koch brothers oppose unionization,
HAGERSTROM: We`re not opposed to unionization. Unions will continue
to strive and to go forward.
This just gives individuals the right to determine what happens to
their hard-earned money. This says, you do not have to give your hard-
earned money to a private organization to keep your job. It`s that simple.
It`s that simple.
This is going to move Michigan forward. It`s going to move our state
forward, allow us to compete for great-paying jobs. And we believe the
UAW. They can still -- they`re going to have to be competitive, they`re
going to have to earn those dues from those union members and from the
people on the line.
And if they earn them and they`re competitive, they will stay in the
union and they will keep their membership. So I think they`re up to the
task. I think they`re up to being competitive, just like everyone else in
our society. And we look forward to them being more responsive to workers.
MATTHEWS: OK. One last question. I know the funding relationship of
Mr. King. As I said, he was elected press of an international union that
has got a good reputation.
Your organization, I want to know more about. Again, for the fifth
time, who pays your salary?
HAGERSTROM: I told you. I work for Americans For Prosperity.
MATTHEWS: Who pays your salary?
HAGERSTROM: And just like the Red Cross, we have over 3,000 donors.
I told you, Americans For Prosperity.
MATTHEWS: And who is that?
HAGERSTROM: It`s a nonprofit.
MATTHEWS: That`s the Koch brothers.
HAGERSTROM: We have over 87,000 activists.
MATTHEWS: Are the Koch brothers behind you?
MATTHEWS: Just yes or no.
MATTHEWS: Why are you quibbling?
HAGERSTROM: We have over 87,000 members here in Michigan.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, we`re not getting -- I think you guys are working
for the Koch brothers, and you`re not denying it. So I can`t understand
what we`re talking about.
You`re talking for them, and I`m talking to you, and you won`t tell me
who you work for.
HAGERSTROM: I`m talking for 87,000 activists in Michigan, who I`m
And they want right-to-work. They want freedom to work in the
HAGERSTROM: They want a Michigan economy where people can earn more
money, because we`re not.
HAGERSTROM: We were ninth in per-capita person income in 1965.
Today, we`re 37th. We were a rich state. Today, we`re a poor state.
HAGERSTROM: Things have to change.
HAGERSTROM: Change is difficult. And I understand the unions have
captive members, and they want to keep those captive members and those
MATTHEWS: No, you look like the captive here.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Scott Hagerstrom, thank you.
HAGERSTROM: Things are changing. And we want to move our economy
MATTHEWS: Scott Hagerstrom, I want to know more about your work
relationship with the Koch brothers. Please let me know some day.
Anyway, Bob King, thank you for joining us tonight, both of you.
Up next: It`s a big question this Christmas season. Which political
party would Santa Claus belong to? That`s ahead, and this is HARDBALL, the
place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now to the "Sideshow."
Matt Damon does Bill Clinton. Last night, he told Jay Leno about an
awkward Bill Clinton encounter he witnessed at a party back in the `90s.
Someone brought up "Primary Colors," that movie that gave a morally
challenged portrait of Clinton. And Damon remembers Clinton`s response
about the actor who refused to play him in the movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
MATT DAMON, ACTOR: And pausing, he goes, you know, I understand they
offered that part to Tom Hanks.
DAMON: Tom Hanks turned it down. He said it was disrespectful to the
office of the president of the United States of America. I like Tom Hanks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, now we know how Clinton tells you what he feels about
Next, a lot of Republicans are still trying to figure out how to win
elections. One idea, broaden your base to attract more voters. Another
possibility, keep talking up voter photo I.D. laws and trying to prevent
Democrats from casting a ballot.
Enter Republican campaign consultant Scott Tranter. Here he is at a
panel discussion yesterday talking about why Democrats and Republicans will
never agree about voter I.D. laws.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT TRANTER, REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN CONSULTANT: I don`t hold out any
hope that there`s going to be great -- any great, grand bipartisan
agreement on voter I.D. laws at the end of the day. A lot of us are
campaign officials or campaign professionals. And we want to do everything
we can to help our side. And sometimes we think that`s voter I.D.
Sometimes, we think that`s longer lines, whatever it may be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Longer lines. Well, at least he`s honest. Make it hard
for the opposition to vote with the I.D. laws or keep them waiting in long
lines until they give up and go home.
Good idea, Scott. Worked a lot this year, didn`t it?
Next, here`s a serious political question. Santa Claus, Democrat or
Republican? That`s one of the questions people were asked in a new a
holiday-themed poll from PPP. The results? No surprise. A plurality, 44
percent, said Santa is a Democrat, vs. 28 percent who said he`s a
Republican. Maybe that`s because Republicans don`t like the giveaway
Next question, will President Obama get coal or presents this year?
It`s tight; 51 percent said gifts; 49 percent said coal. For Mitt Romney,
it`s 63 percent for gifts, 37 percent for coal. That 63-37, maybe it`s
some kind of consolation prize.
Finally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid paid tribute to retiring
Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska yesterday and fessed up that the outgoing
Nebraska Democrat has something he wants. The hint is in the top half of
this picture. You`re looking at it. Let`s take a listen to Reid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I think, if the truth were
known, many, many senators would be very envious, as I am, and I would even
think the presiding officer, about that hair of Ben Nelson`s. I mean, that
is a mop of real hair.
It`s often that people call his office, e-mail his office. They
believe he has a toupee. It`s his hair. He has hair like a 15-year-old,
Mr. President. And so I have to acknowledge I am a little envious of his
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, hair envy aside, Nelson`s real mark in the Senate
might be casting what many people called the deciding vote in favor of
Obamacare. That was quite a moment.
Up next: the new movie "Zero Dark Thirty" suggests we wouldn`t have
gotten bin Laden without torturing terror suspects. Not everyone agrees,
and that`s ahead.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Hampton Pearson with your
CNBC "Market Wrap."
Fiscal cliff worries put a damper on today`s triple-digit rally, but
the Dow still ends with a 78-point gain, the S&P up nine. The Nasdaq adds
35 points. AIG shares jumped nearly 6 percent. The Treasury Department
says it has sold all its remaining shares, netting a $22.7 billion profit
And on the economic front, the trade deficit widened in October, as
exports posted their biggest decline in nearly four years.
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
One of the most anticipated movies of the holiday season is "Zero Dark
Thirty," the story of the manhunt for Osama bin Laden. Critics have
praised it, but it`s not without controversy. The film shows brutal scenes
of torture by the CIA against an al Qaeda detainee. And many who have seen
it say it implies that torture laid the groundwork for eventually capturing
and killing bin Laden.
"New York" magazine film critic David Edelstein -- Edelstein --
praised the film and ranked it as the number-one movie of this year, but he
also admitted to having some moral qualms about it.
He wrote: "As a moral statement, `Zero Dark Thirty` is borderline
fascistic. As a piece of cinema, it`s phenomenally gripping, an unholy
The film`s director, Kathryn Bigelow, said the movie was honest in its
depiction of torture. Let`s hear her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHRYN BIGELOW, DIRECTOR: Well, I think the film doesn`t have an
agenda. I think it just shows the story as the story of the greatest
manhunt in history. And that`s part of the history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But how honest is that history in the film? Many experts
say the film gets its facts wrong about the central role torture played in
hunting down bin Laden.
"New York" magazine`s David Edelstein joins us right now, as does "New
York Times" columnist Frank Bruni.
Thank you. It`s an honor to have both of you on.
MATTHEWS: David, let me ask you about the movie. Is it an honest
portrayal of what happened, as best you know?
DAVID EDELSTEIN, "NEW YORK": Well, I think it`s a very neutral
I don`t -- I don`t know the specifics. I didn`t talk to any of the
CIA people involved. What I have heard is that Mark Boal, the
screenwriter, kind of drank the Kool-Aid and fell in love with his CIA
sources and are essentially taking their point of view.
Now, Peter Bergen, in his book "Manhunt" and also in a recent article,
implies that there was absolutely no link between so-called extreme
interrogation and information that led to the courier who ultimately
brought them to bin Laden.
MATTHEWS: For those having seen the film, do you believe it makes the
case that torture was essential in killing bin Laden?
EDELSTEIN: Can I answer that in a vigorously wishy-washy way?
MATTHEWS: I guess you will.
EDELSTEIN: Because I think that Kathryn Bigelow, if you look at her
last film, "The Hurt Locker," it began with a quote from the journalist
Chris Hedges to the effect that war is a drug, it`s an addiction, and
Kathryn Bigelow is kind of an amoral filmmaker.
She portrays a woman who is basically addicted to revenge, who is on a
kind of counter-jihad. And Bigelow takes her point of view, and shoots
those torture scenes in a very kind of neutral way. They are ugly, they`re
disturbing, and at the same time, given what the film is about, they don`t
exactly make us want to go out and sign a petition against torture.
They are sort of portrayed as ugly, but necessary.
MATTHEWS: I get you.
EDELSTEIN: And I think that`s the central question. Was it
necessary? We know it`s ugly. Was it necessary?
MATTHEWS: So, Frank, the same two questions to you. Is the movie
accurate, and does it justify means as a justification because of the ends?
Because you get the bad guy, it`s OK to torture somebody along the way.
How did you view it?
FRANK BRUNI, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I don`t think the movie makes the
case. I don`t think it wades into capturing Obama -- I mean, capturing
Osama and killing Osama is worth torture.
But it does suggest very, very strongly that without the torture we
would never have been able to raid that compound, we would never have
gotten there. And this is a movie that I think it`s important to note the
makers of it have said, we took a very journalistic approach. They have
raised the bar on its accuracy in a way that doesn`t happen for other
So, the fact that they imply so strongly, maybe even more than imply,
that torture was essential to killing Osama bin Laden, and there are a lot
of questions among experts about whether that`s so, I think that`s a big
issue to be discussed.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to David.
I have seen about three movies that might be considered fascistic.
But I`m not saying they were bad, because I happened to like the movies.
One was "The Chase," Arthur Penn`s movie. I definitely think that had that
element to it. "Straw Dogs," of course, "History of Violence," where the
good guys get to be the violent people.
That`s what I`m -- that narrows it down, without getting too
ideological about it.
Is this one of those movies that people like me will like, because the
good guys get to be the violent people?
EDELSTEIN: Well, it`s not as extreme as -- as the TV series "24"
EDELSTEIN: But there is -- there is in the American action cinema
and particularly this idea that means justify ends, and that it`s just a
given that in order effectively to fight criminals or evildoers that the
heroes have to descend to the same moral level.
EDELSTEIN: And I think -- I think Bigelow who is a male-oriented,
testosterone-oriented filmmaker does buy into this myth.
Well, the question is, is it a myth? Is it a myth? Is it a valid
archetype? What is it? I think we have to debate that.
MATTHEWS: Can we defeat terrorism by playing by gentlemanly rules,
to use the same reference kind of point?
EDELSTEIN: You`re asking a film critic? You`re really asking a film
MATTHEWS: David, I`m asking you. You guys make moral judgments all
EDELSTEIN: Actually -- actually, I don`t know the answer to that.
But I do know if you look at our fiction -- our so-called dramatic or
narrative cinema, that is ringingly endorsed, you know, in the same way
that, you know, the death penalty and vengeance is sanctified in our
If you look at a documentary like Alex Gibney`s great Oscar-winning
film "Taxi to the Dark Side", you have a lot of FBI people, not CIA,
arguing that extreme interrogation doesn`t work, that friendly -- that it
makes people psychotic. That friendly interrogation, in fact, does a lot
more to getting information. I don`t think friendly interrogation,
frankly, is quite as cinematic.
MATTHEWS: Well, apparently not.
Well, did torture play an essential role in the hunt for bin Laden?
That`s the question. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who I do respect, is chair
of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She says unequivocally no. She
spent three years looking at millions of pages of evidence.
Earlier this year she wrote, "CIA did not first learn about the
existence of Osama bin Laden courier from detainees subjected to coercive
interrogation techniques. Instead, the CIA learned of the existence of the
courier, his true name and location through means unrelated to the CIA
detention and interrogation program."
That`s after her statement and one of the FBI interrogators who was
successful in getting information from al Qaeda detainees using non-
coercive means has strongly criticized the CIA`s use of torture saying it
didn`t work. Listen to what he says on "60 Minutes" about what happened
after a CIA interrogator showed up to take over the questioning of one of
the detainees he had been dealing with.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supposedly he`s an expert in the field. So I
asked him, do you know anything about Islamic fundamentalism? He said no.
Have you ever interrogated anybody? No.
He basically said no, he knows human nature.
REPORTER: And how does Abu Zubaydah react to this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He basically stopped cooperating.
REPORTER: The information dried up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, totally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Frank, is that true? That he stopped talking after they
start getting rough with him?
FRANK BRUNI, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, I don`t know enough about
the particular case. I can`t answer that.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me ask you generally about this. How is this
going to coming out?
Frank, you`re a general columnist. I read you a couple times a week.
What`s this -- how is this going to play with most people, liberals
and everyone, when they watch a movie which has got this tough approach to
getting an evil person. How are we going to react to it as a general
society you think?
BRUNI: I think some liberals will be pretty upset because, you know,
to go back to what I said, I think most people will walk out of this movie
with the impression that torture was a vital part of getting Osama bin
Laden in the end, and the history of this, the experts about this, that`s
not what they say. I mean, there`s debate about this and there`s a strong
belief among many of the most trustworthy experts that torture is not
necessary in these sorts of interrogations and to get this sort of
And so, I think a lot of liberals -- I don`t want to even do this in
liberals and conservatives. I think a lot of people who have moral qualms
about torture and don`t want to accept it too easily as a necessary
technique are going to feel a bit uneasy about this movie.
Now, that`s not say it`s not a terrific movie as a movie, but again
the bar for this movie is a little bit different and higher because the
makers have said they took a journalistic approach.
EDELSTEIN: But, Chris, let me say one more thing about the film. In
its defense, torture only occupies about the first 30 minutes. I know for
many people, that`s quite enough. And there is an enormous amount of
detective work involved in actually finding the location of the courier.
The other thing is that the movie is -- it kind of fudges. I have so
say Bigelow and Boal kind of fudge the actual revelation. They torture the
guy, it doesn`t work, and then they trick him into saying that he said
something that he didn`t say, and then he spills everything in a very calm
and casual way. So --
BRUNI: But, David, didn`t you have the sense that was a product of
him having been broken?
EDELSTEIN: Certainly. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Well, everybody, I always tell people, you know, I have
been watching movies for years with stars I don`t like and I like them in
the movie. So I think it`s one more thing we have to use our discernment
when we watch.
Thank you very much, Frank Bruni and David Edelstein.
EDELSTEIN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Excuse me.
Up next, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia`s latest insult to gay
Americans. Is this what the Republican Party needs right now?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley says she won`t appoint
a placeholder to take Jim DeMint`s seat in the U.S. Senate, but rather
someone who could serve for years.
But a new PPP polls finds the favorite among South Carolinians would
be comedian Stephen Colbert. The South Carolina native gets 20 percent of
the vote there. You see it. U.S. Congressman Tim Scott gets 15 percent
and 14 percent favor U.S. Congressman Trey Gowdy. Another 11 percent would
pick Jenny Sanford, the ex-wife of the state`s former Governor Mark
Jenny Sanford, Tim Scott, and Trey Gowdy are all on Haley`s short
list. Colbert is not.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is causing controversy for
comments he made while selling his book at Princeton University yesterday.
"The Associated Press" reports a gay student asked about the
justice`s comparisons between anti-sodomy laws and laws against murder and
Scalia replied, "I don`t think it`s necessary but I think it`s
effective. It`s a form of argument that I thought you would have known,
which is called the reduction to the absurd. If we cannot have moral
feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder and can we
have it against other things?"
"The Associated Press" also reports Scalia told the student he was
showing the parallel, not equating murder with sodomy.
In addition to causing trouble, Scalia`s outspokenness comes at a
time when many Republicans are keeping quiet on the upcoming Supreme Court
Here with me tonight are Christine Quinn, the speaker of the New York
City Council, and Joy Reid, who`s managing editor of "The Grio" and an
Madam Speaker, Judge Scalia is an interesting character. Tell me
what was your reaction? I mean, he cashed in a number of ways, saying
reduction at absurd -- he was just making absurd comparison.
But let`s get back to the morality issue. What is the connection
between your views -- personal views of morality and your views of the
CHRISTINE QUINN (D), NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: You know, look,
he wasn`t teaching a law class there. He was making a point, I believe,
about what he actually thinks.
And the job of the Supreme Court when they`re going to take up this
very important matter isn`t what they personally think about LGBT people.
It is what the Constitution sets out as a framework for protecting the
rights of Americans. That`s the question here.
And I believe the Supreme Court is going to rise to that occasion as
they have before and look at those important issues. And really the
justice should apologize for what he said there and kind of apologize --
MATTHEWS: What did he say? Tell me what exactly he said wrong that
you think -- besides the way he talked. What was it -- just the sloppy
comparison of murder with people`s orientation?
QUINN: It`s offensive.
Look, sexual orientation is who we are as people. It`s how we
created if we`re LGBT. And to compare that even in a way you want to say
was some philosophical exercise to a heinous, horrible crime of murder,
it`s just wrong.
He can say it was a slip of a tongue and that`s fine. We all have
them. God knows I have. Just apologize.
But don`t compare me to a murderer because I`m a lesbian. Just don`t
do it. It`s wrong.
MATTHEWS: Joy, you know, I`m going to -- first, you get your first,
I have a lot of complex -- there`s a lot of complexity here. But there`s a
certain way this guy talks. I want to get to it at the end of the show.
What was your reaction when you heard this? It`s like back in the
problem era. Why do they go back into rape, why they talk like they do?
What brings them -- brings the vocabulary into areas of -- why bestiality?
Just don`t say the word again. Don`t -- why don`t they just repel that
kind of lingo?
JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM: You know, Chris -- yes, I`m with you on that.
When I heard it, I was like here we go.
I don`t know who said it. That conservatism is about standing
athwart history yelling stop, right? And, you know, that is what Antonin
Scalia represents at his core. He`s a person who has really stood sort of
to stop the march of history.
But it`s interesting because we`ve always thought, at least for the
last 50 years, of the Supreme Court as being ahead of public opinion on
issues of rights --
REID: -- whether it was the Brown v. Board case.
REID: Whether it was on abortion. When the Supreme Court got ahead
of public opinion and advanced rights forward. But Scalia has been
consistent throughout his career at believing that the Constitution, as he
said in the same speech, is dead, dead, dead. And that we should go back
to the framers` sort of intent, regardless of the march of history, and
sort of stand athwart it yelling stop.
So, you know, I think that we are seeing, as Representative Quinn
said, his own personal opinions about homosexuality coming forward in what
But the problem for him is that`s not the court`s job. The state and
the country has a compelling interest in preventing murder, right, so we
could pass laws and the court can uphold them.
REID: Because that`s a compelling interest. Is there a compelling
interest in stopping people from getting married? That`s the problem he`s
going to have with the law.
MATTHEWS: My approach is if you`re conservative on these cultural
issues, you have perfect right to be cultural conservative, even if you`re
a chief justice or whatever you are, associate justice. Why doesn`t he
just say call me old fashioned or anything.
MATTHEWS: Just why do you have to be nasty? I think it`s the
question of nastiness.
But, your thoughts, Christine. As a gay woman, is there a proper way
for someone who disagrees with you on gay rights to talk?
QUINN: You know, there is. I mean, look, I`ve had any number of
conversations with people who disagree with marriage equality, disagree
with different LGBT issues.
And you know what? Two people who disagree sitting down and talking
in a dignified way is always a good thing. It adds to deeper
understanding. And maybe, someday, one of the two people changing their
But, you know, Chris, my father always said, it`s nice to be nice.
And it is. And you should treat other human beings even if you disagree
with them, even if you dislike who they are, in a respectful way.
The justice was disrespectful to me and my family. And that doesn`t
further my understanding him better or him understanding me better, which
is ultimately where we all want to be headed in life.
MATTHEWS: You sound like a smart politician.
Anyway, thank you, Christine Quinn, Madam Speaker. Thanks.
And, Joy, as always. You can play any position on this team.
We`ll be right back.
REID: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: Antonin Scalia.
For those who grew up like I did, he`s a familiar guy. All those
years my dad was in the Knights of Columbus, there were guys like Justice
Scalia around. They were at the picnics. They were at the Christmas
In fact, I can remember, Mr. Kokousa (ph) played Santa Claus, my
dad`s best friend Gene Shields (ph) played his helper. The guy who did
that stunning unforgettable somersault coming down the aisle of the old
church hall declaring in his loud voice, Santa Claus is coming!
Yes, I know guys like Scalia, Knights of Columbus guys from the
1950s, faithful guys who hung out with the boys for whom Monday night was
holy named and Friday night was bowling night, and practically all night
They were old fashioned guys. Good guys. Family men.
And while they were Democrats and Republicans, they were not the kind
of guys to drive foreign cars, go to foreign movies, or watch public
television. That is the culture I`ve got to figure Justice Scalia sees
things through when he talks about same-sex marriage and he talks about gay
people. So far, so good.
It`s when he talks about the Constitution, when he talks about the
law, when he talks about basic human freedom and a free country that he
crosses into troubling territory. Why? Because the culture he came up in
and it`s not everybody`s -- nor is it required to be everybody`s in this
country -- he sees his job through the same eyes and remembers and adheres
to the culture, his own culture. And that is not the same as deciding in
what is constitutional, what a free society that values liberty and
equality under the law.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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