June 7, 2013
Guests: Michelle Richardson, Michael O`Hanlon, Sen. Angus King, A.B. Stoddard, Katherine Boyle, Bill Kurtis
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: I spy.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in New York for Chris Matthews.
Let`s begin tonight with this classic American debate. It`s the tug-of-war
between the national security and personal privacy. But what makes this
fight so unusual is that even as we learn that Washington is keeping tabs
on who has phoned whom and when, we`re reminded that this is a government
headed by a liberal Democratic president who`s made a virtue of
Today the story got even richer. Today we learned that Washington has been
collecting information overseas on foreigners using Web-based companies
like Google and Facebook and Apple. Is the invasion of personal privacy
too high a price to pay for the increased security against terrorism that
it`s supposed to bring, or is it all worth it, especially in a society
where personal privacy is diminished every day, where "easy-pass" tags and
metro cards track our every move and where private companies know what cars
we drive, what magazines we read, what Web sites we click upon?
President Obama gave a forceful defense of the program, and that`s where we
begin tonight. Michelle Richardson is with the ACLU and Michael O`Hanlon
is a senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The latest revelation, courtesy of "The Washington Post," involves an NSA
program known as PRISM (SOUND DROP) e-mails. Americans were not directly
targeted, "The Post" reported, but while going after foreign targets, the
program did routinely collect a great deal of American content, as well.
The revelation about this new program comes a day after "The Guardian"
broke the news that the NSA was collecting telephone information on
domestic and international calls.
Today, the president addressed criticism about these programs. He said
that he came into office with a healthy skepticism about them, but after
evaluating their effectiveness, he was convinced they were necessary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My assessment, and my team`s
assessment, was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks. And the
modest encroachments on privacy that are involved in getting phone numbers
or duration, without a name attached and not looking at content -- that on,
you know, net, it was worth us doing.
Now, some other folks may have a different assessment of that, but I think
it`s important to recognize that you can`t have 100 percent security and
also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Michelle Richardson, of what significance to you that the
president says, Hey, it works?
MICHELLE RICHARDSON, ACLU LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL: Well, we would absolutely
disagree that this is just a modest encroachment. The news this week
confirms that the NSA is daily getting downloads of every American`s phone
records from all of the major companies in the United States. That is a
significant encroachment, and it really reflects our associations, where we
go, what we do and who we know.
SMERCONISH: Michael O`Hanlon, is this is significant encroachment, where
none of your phone conversations are being listened to?
MICHAEL O`HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Michael, you know, I agree with a
lot of Michelle`s concerns, but I also agree with the president that we
need to be able to look for associations, not the content being monitored.
We need to know, frankly, who`s talking to terrorists. And we need to be
able to sift through a lot of data to establish those patterns.
What I`m more concerned about is establishing clear oversight so that you
can`t have political vendettas or other such things that happen out of
For example, let`s say that in the tracking of all of this, we find out
that somebody goes to a porn site, some married man or something. And then
the government decides they`re going to use that against him because some
future Richard Nixon decides that he doesn`t like somebody and he`s going
to embarrass him publicly.
That`s the kind of thing -- the personal infringement, embarrassment,
vendetta -- that I think we need to figure out how to prevent. I`m less
worried about just the very fact that the government looks at who`s talking
to whom. I think we need to do that to stop terrorism. But we need strong
safeguards so there can not be future abuses of power by a government that
decides to target people and use potentially embarrassing information and
ways that it never should have been able to do.
SMERCONISH: Michelle, you can understand the conversation that we`d be
having tonight, God forbid there were some kind of an attack, that this
metadata, had we analyzed it properly, could have prevented. That`s what
we`re all seeking to stop, no?
RICHARDSON: Well, there`s no evidence that these sorts of metadata
collection programs actually work in the terrorism context. We`ve been
collecting this information for over a decade now in the post-9/11 world.
And neither the past administration or this one has been able to give a
single example of how this information has caught a terrorist attack before
SMERCONISH: But when you have disparate interests like Mike Rogers and
Dianne Feinstein both telling the American people -- in fact, I`ll show it
to you. Yesterday, Congressman Mike Rogers, who`s the chair of the House
Intelligence Committee, put it frankly. He said these programs are
necessary, and in fact, are responsible for thwarting a terrorist attack.
Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: ... that within
the last few years this program was used to stop a program, or excuse me,
stop a terrorist attack in the United States. We know that. It`s
important. It fills in a little seam that we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So respectfully, when you say that there`s no evidence that
they`ve been successful, you can listen to Senator Feinstein. You can
listen to Congressman Rogers. These are the folks who are getting the
information, and they say it`s worked.
RICHARDSON: Right. And you can also listen to Senator Wyden and Senator
Udall, who have said in the last couple of days that even though they sit
on the Senate Intelligence Committee, they haven`t seen the evidence.
You know, the other question is, could we also catch these sorts of
terrorist threats through far less intrusive methods? This is really only
one tool that the government has. There are many ways for the government
to get the same sort of information, but do it on a way that is suspicion-
based, that goes through courts, that gets meaningful review and doesn`t
sweep up a lot of innocent Americans in the meantime because, really,
that`s the problem here, not that the government is spying on suspected
terrorists, but they`re spying on the rest of us in the meantime.
SMERCONISH: Michael O`Hanlon, is the concern where this might lead as
compared to where we are with this particular program or this particular
pair of programs?
O`HANLON: That`s my concern. Obviously, Michelle has a slightly different
bar or threshold where she`s concerned. I`m concerned, as I mentioned
before, about people being somehow politically or legally punished for,
let`s say, tax fraud, for example, or whatever, or you know, the kind of
crimes that may be crimes but are selectively prosecuted, and sometimes
people do relatively minor things wrong, but then government decides it`s
going to undertake a vendetta against someone it doesn`t like, and it
happens to have this information already at its disposal because of these
advanced surveillance methods. That`s the kind of abuse that I`m worried
I`m not of the view that we can just let people, you know, talk to whomever
and have the government totally stay out of any kind of monitoring of what
the connections are because I disagree with Michelle, this is the way in
which we usually find terrorists. It`s by establishing connections,
networks, pictures, spiderwebs of who`s talking to whom. You`ve got to be
able to do that.
But you`ve also got to prevent future abuses and vendettas, and I don`t see
the safeguards yet being strong enough or well enough explained.
SMERCONISH: "The Washington Post" today quotes a career intelligence
officer who provided them with information about the program. The officer
said the program was a gross intrusion on privacy. Quote, "They quite
literally can watch your ideas form as you type."
But Michelle, I was struck by this comment, which was posted by a blogger
on "The Post`s" Web site. And it reads as follows. "Shortly after
watching those extraordinary people leap to their deaths on 9/11, I decided
I was willing to forfeit my absolute rights to absolute privacy if it would
help the government protect this country from any further disasters. So
far, the federal government has been, for the most part, pretty effective
in thwarting foreign terrorists on our soil, and the anti-terrorism brigade
hasn`t interfered with the quality of my life in any way, despite their
efforts to collect and collate information from phone calls and the
Internet. Just pass a law, pronto, that explicitly limits the use of such
eavesdropping to anti-terrorism prosecutions and nothing else. Beyond
that, if cyber-monitoring and telephone snooping is the price I have to pay
in the fight against jihadists, so be it."
Would you disagree with the blogger`s observation that up until this moment
in time, there`s been no disruption of any American`s day-to-day life by
virtue of surrendering any of the privacy that we`re talking about?
RICHARDSON: I don`t think so. And I don`t think many people would
actually assert that these programs are directly preventing these sorts of
attacks. Look, that commenter absolutely can forfeit his privacy, but he`s
not in the place to forfeit mine or yours or anybody else`s. That`s the
beauty of our Constitution. Our rights are our rights, and people don`t
get to waive them for each other.
SMERCONISH: Michael O`Hanlon, do you evaluate this debate in the context
of what transpired on September 11, like the blogger, with an image in your
head of the folks jumping out of the twin towers?
O`HANLON: Well, to some extent, but I think more about how we found
terrorists largely around the world. Michelle`s right, there probably
haven`t been that many plots stopped here, although there may have been a
couple. But a lot of the ways we`ve found terrorists around the world have
been by establishing connections, by listening, by looking at who`s talking
to whom, by trying to see what the phone records are.
And these are often cases in which the same civil liberties protections
don`t apply, of course. They aren`t necessarily American citizens or there
may be probable cause. But this is how we have established a knowledge
base on who is a terrorist or who might be a terrorist. It`s by seeing who
talks with whom, who associates with known terrorists. You have to be able
to do this in a world of huge amounts of data and huge numbers of potential
threats from all sorts of different directions that you can`t see coming.
So I think of it more in terms of all the stuff we`ve done since 9/11,
where we`ve actually had a lot of success over the years in trying to find
some of the al Qaeda operatives and others in places like Afghanistan,
Iraq, Pakistan, and so forth.
Bringing the debate back home, again, we`re talking about American
citizens. I do agree strongly with Michelle on at least one point. We
need to protect people`s rights from abuse of government. I don`t think
the abuses have happened yet, but I think they could. The safeguards are
not yet clear enough. The rules are not yet clear enough. That`s where
the Obama administration has to direct its attention.
SMERCONISH: Michael O`Hanlon, Michelle Richardson, thank you both very
O`HANLON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Coming up: Where`s the outrage over all this government
snooping? This is an unusual political story. Republicans are praising
the program, as are most Democrats. And that has some on the left
Also, Republicans are trying to kill "Obama care" in the crib. In fact,
its limited popularity is slipping under an assault of negative ads.
Today, President Obama made his case for the law and argued it`s already
And you stay classy, Newseum. Yes, that Newseum, that temple of capital J
journalism in Washington, is honoring the most famous anchorman since Ted
Baxter, Ron Burgundy. It`s all in anticipation of the new movie,
"Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues."
And sorry to see Michele Bachmann go? Well, don`t worry. The Republican
running for her seat is proving to be pretty entertaining himself.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: Well, we can`t say we didn`t see this one coming. Cory Booker
is running for the Senate. The Newark mayor is expected to make the
announcement tomorrow, weather permitting. Booker, a Democrat, is the
heavy favorite right now to win the seat long held by Frank Lautenberg, who
passed this week. Governor Chris Christie chose a Republican yesterday to
hold the seat until this October special election.
We`ll be right back.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Politics makes strange bedfellows
sometimes. That axiom is never truer than when it comes to national
security issues. When "The new York Times" editorial bashes the president
and "The Wall Street Journal" editorial defends him, you can be excused for
wondering what`s going on.
"The Times" today wrote, quote, "The administration has now lost all
credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving that truism that the
executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it."
"The Wall Street Journal," no friend of the president, wrote this. "There
seems to be little here that is scandalous. The critics nonetheless say
the NSA program is a violation of privacy or illegal or unconstitutional or
all of the above. But nobody`s civil liberties are violated by tech
companies or banks that constantly run the same kinds of data analysis."
Meanwhile, here`s frequent Obama critic Senator Lindsey Graham defending
the NSA programs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I`m a Verizon customer. It
doesn`t bother me one bit for the National Security Administration to have
my phone number because what they`re trying to do is find out what
terrorist groups we know about and individuals and who the hell they`re
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings, however, told
Politico, quote, "The president said that, `I must return to my authentic
self,` and I think the president needs to go back and read his own
So what does it mean that some of the strongest criticism of the president
is coming from the left? I`m joined by Senator Angus King of Maine.
Senator, what do you say to people who fear their privacy is being violated
with this intelligence gathering?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Well, I think it`s important, first, to
understand exactly what the program is. And when I was reading those first
stories that came out, the impression was created that the government was
listening in on phone conversations. We now have established that`s not
the case. What they have are when calls were made, who they were made to.
Michael, this is a classic argument that`s been going on for thousands of
years. Who will guard the guardians? How do we produce and create a
government that`s strong enough to protect us but not so strong that it can
I think there`s some areas here where we need to ask some hard questions
and say, Are there ways to achieve the same level of security with less
intrusion? For example, it makes me nervous that the government has this
huge database of all the phone numbers. I understand in other parts of the
world, quite often the data is left with the telephone company. If the
government needs to go after, you know, Tamerlan`s cell use, they then
would get what amounts to a warrant, go into that database which resides at
the company, and get the same information.
I`m with your prior guest. It`s not a question of, Do we need to do this?
I think we do. The question is, Are there ways that we can do it that will
give us a higher level of protection? And it shouldn`t matter who`s in
KING: That`s important, I think.
SMERCONISH: ... I`m not privy, obviously, to the intelligence that you
see, but it`s interesting that you bring up the Tsarnaev case because I was
thinking intuitively that it`s an example of why you should have a program
like this because once you know who`s responsible for the bombing of the
Boston Marathon and have a phone number for that person -- and you`ll
remember for a while, we were searching for the younger brother -- you
would instantly be able to see with whom that phone number has connected
and with whom that phone number or group of phone numbers have connected.
And you would instantly have a matrix that could tell you potentially, is
there a terror cell in the United States.
My concern is...
KING: Absolutely, and that was the key question. If you`ll recall, our
question -- our first question was, Who did it?
KING: But within minutes of finding these guys, the next question is, Are
they in league with other people? Is something going to happen in New York
or Los Angeles? And that`s why this is an important program.
My only -- the point I`m trying to make is, where does this big database
reside? And should it -- does it have to be in the government vault, if
you will, or can it be left at the companies?
And those are kinds of technical questions that I`m going to be asking and
pursuing because, you know, again, if you create a situation, eventually
there`s going to be at least the temptation for abuse. And that`s why I
think we need to think of structural solutions, not depending upon the good
will of the people that are in charge.
SMERCONISH: Senator, is the...
KING: But you hit it. I mean, that`s why it`s important.
SMERCONISH: Is the president deserving of criticism for a lack of
KING: Well, you know, it`s a little funny to talk about transparency when
you`re talking about programs which, by their very nature, need to be
You know, you don`t want to go on television and say, well, OK, Mr.
Terrorist, today, we`re going to be checking the e-mail on Google. It`s
got to be done, I mean, if you want it to be effective. And there have
been debates about this.
Now, I just came to the Senate this winter, so I have only been on the
committee for four or five months. But my understanding is, this was
pretty thoroughly debated over the last four or five years in the Congress,
and people did understand what the implications are.
I think the challenge for us, as it always is, is to find the right
balance. But, you know, I mentioned this to someone this morning. Put
your -- you know, think -- put your journalist hat on, and what if the
headline this morning, instead of Obama searches records, had been, Obama
canceled program which could have prevented nuclear attack on Miami?
SMERCONISH: That`s a great point.
And, Senator Angus King, it`s a great -- it`s a great point.
KING: We would have articles of impeachment already drawn up.
SMERCONISH: That`s true.
KING: So, we have got to do this. The question is, how do we minimize the
impact on our citizens?
SMERCONISH: Thank you for your observations, Senator Angus King.
SMERCONISH: David Corn is the Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones"
and an MSNBC political analyst.
I need a scorecard to keep track of who`s on what side, because there are
some unusual alliances. Break it down for me, David.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you sure do.
And on issues like this, we often see it not fitting into the typical D.,
R., left/right mode. On the right, you have Karl Rove saying he`s all in
favor of these surveillance programs, but yet Glenn Beck thinks the black
helicopters are coming next.
And on the Democratic side, you have Democrats who are supportive of the
president, and then others, like Ron Wyden, senator from Oregon, and Mark
Udall, the senator from Colorado, who for years have been talking about
this stuff the best they can, saying there`s a program out there, it`s
problematic, we just can`t tell you the details, but now we can.
So that`s why I don`t think this is really a political crisis for the
president or a political controversy, because it doesn`t cut against --
along political lines. It`s a policy matter, a very important one. And I
think, you know, Senator King got into this a little bit. We have secret
government. We have the CIA, the NSA and 12 or 13 other intelligence
agencies that do things supposedly to protect us.
We allow this to happen, under the assumption that there is really good
oversight and judicial review.
SMERCONISH: But, David...
CORN: But I don`t think people are confident that that`s what`s happening,
and thus we`re not sure whether any of this stuff really is being done
SMERCONISH: Well, how about -- how about the role of the private sector?
Take a look at how some of the tech companies named in the report are
responding to this thus far with their statements.
SMERCONISH: For example, there seems to be an underlying theme here.
Here`s the response from Facebook -- quote -- "We do not provide any
government organization with direct access to Facebook servers."
Then Apple said, "We do not provide any government agency with direct
access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data
must get a court order."
And then Yahoo!`s response: "Yahoo! takes users` privacy very seriously.
We do not provide the government with direct access."
SMERCONISH: What`s with the semantics of this direct access?
CORN: It depends on what the meaning of "is" is...
SMERCONISH: Right. Exactly.
CORN: ... and what the meaning of direct access is.
So they use a third-party go-between. I don`t know. In a lot of these
cases, when the government comes to these companies with national security
letters or other court orders, it often prohibits the companies from
talking about it. And, in some cases, as has been written about in the
last day or two, it even allows the companies to lie.
So, ultimately, I don`t hold them at fault here. If the government comes
to you and says, you must do this, maybe they can fight it in the secret
courts and so on. But it really is a matter of policy, and it`s really the
action from the government, from the executive branch here that is -- that
should get the attention and which should get the scrutiny and the
oversight that we need.
And I think one thing that`s -- you and I have talked about this in the
past. With the intensity of political polarization in this country, it`s
really hard to foresee a situation where a majority of the public would
trust any congressional committee, any president saying, I have vetted
this, and, believe me, I`m doing it the best I can.
One side`s going to raise a fuss no matter who`s in there.
SMERCONISH: David, I have said that these First Amendment issues, these
privacy issues as well, Fourth Amendment, they demand consistency. You
can`t decide whether you like or dislike President Obama...
SMERCONISH: ... and then rule accordingly, because there will come a day
when it`s President Clinton...
SMERCONISH: ... or President Rubio or President Corn. Who knows.
CORN: Well, that`s what...
SMERCONISH: David Corn...
CORN: Well, I don`t think that will happen.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
CORN: But that`s why we need to have good practices in place to build
confidence. And I don`t know if we have those yet.
SMERCONISH: Thank you for your observations.
CORN: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: A reminder: You catch me every day an SiriusXM`s radio POTUS
channel 124 weekdays at 9:00 Eastern.
Up next, Michele Bachmann brags that she`s the champion of repealing
Obamacare. Could someone please tell her Obamacare is still around?
That`s in the "Sideshow," which is next.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."
First, Stephen Colbert`s in memoriam video about Michele Bachmann`s time in
politics might have been premature. Here she is on FOX last night
reflecting on her time in Congress and what`s in store for the future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I feel like I have done a lot in the
eight years that I have been there, redeemed the time. I was a very strong
voice taking on my own party. I pushed back on the bailout. I was the
champion of get -- repealing Obamacare and also dealing with this issue of
the IRS. I have been involved in that as a former IRS attorney.
On issue after issue, dealing with the rise of Islamic jihad, I have been
there. I`m not quitting my public involvement. In fact, I may run for
another public office. That could happen. But for right now, I think I`m
going to find a different perch in order to be able to weigh in on these
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Is she really the champion of repealing Obamacare if, after 37
attempts at repeal, Obamacare is still on the books?
We also found out this week that Republican Tom Emmer, a former Minnesota
state rep, will run to fill Bachmann`s seat. Now, if you were hoping for
someone a bit more progressive than Bachmann on things like gay marriage,
don`t look to Emmer.
He`s also no stranger to crazy moments on the campaign trail. During his
run for governor back in 2010, Emmer pushed for legislation that would have
lowered the minimum wage for waiters and waitresses. Someone stopped by
one of his town halls with a tip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM EMMER (R), MINNESOTA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I played hockey for a
lot of years, and that guy actually got me to jump a little bit. I love
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: "The Minnesota Star Tribune" reported that there were 2,000
pennies in that bag. This could get interesting.
Next, are we reaching the point where we might need to add a 51st star to
the American flag? Turns out people in several rural Republican-dominated
counties in Colorado aren`t satisfied with recent laws passed in their
state, things like gun control and new regulations on oil and gas
production. Some county officials are ready to split off entirely and form
a new state, the state of North Colorado.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We said, we have got some ideas. Do you want to listen
to them? A petition to create a new state. And that new state would be
the state of Northern Colorado.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some will call it extreme, maybe aggressive. And I
would say, absolutely. I think extreme times call for extreme actions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I would say to those folks in Denver that say, oh,
this doesn`t have any chance, we`re not going to take this seriously,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: North Colorado seems like a long shot. If it did come to
fruition, though, it would be the least populated state in the country and
among the reddest.
Next, the Republican nominee for Virginia`s lieutenant governor has been a
"Sideshow" regular these past couple of weeks. Bishop E.W. Jackson has a
history of controversial comments, to say the least, comparing Planned
Parenthood to the KKK, calling gay people icky.
And, this week, it was comments from his 2008 book that took the cake. The
subject? Yoga. Quote: "The purpose of such meditation is to empty one`s
self. Satan is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess
it. That`s why people serve Satan without ever knowing it or deciding to."
That didn`t sit so well with a founder of a yoga franchise in Washington,
who responded: "We have over 30,000 students in the D.C. area. Thousands
of them are practicing with us every day. They`re very kind. They don`t
have a demonic danger. So, I can attest for them and for me that Satan is
not in the vacuum of their soul."
Up next: the real reason why Americans haven`t yet embraced Obamacare.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
JACKIE DEANGELIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Jackie DeAngelis with your CNBC
Stocks rallied on Wall Street, the Dow surging 207 points, the S&P adding
20, the Nasdaq climbing 45.
The Labor Department is saying that employers added 175,000 jobs in May.
That was better than expected. However, unemployment rose a tenth-of-a-
percent to 7.6 percent last month.
And mega-retailer Wal-Mart announcing plans today to repurchase $15 billion
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
During President Obama`s visit to California today, he wound up bombarded
with questions about NSA surveillance, but the intent of his trip was to
extol the virtues of Obamacare, a name that he`s embraced, by the way,
which goes into effect in less than seven months and which polls show is
not popular with voters.
The president tried to drown out the political noise with some facts about
the benefits of the health care law. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, the bottom line is you
can listen to a bunch of political talk out there, negative ads and fear-
mongering geared towards the next election, or, alternatively, you can
actually look at what`s happening in states like California right now.
And the fact of the matter is, through these exchanges, not only are the 85
percent of people who already have health insurance getting better
protections, and receiving rebates, and being able to keep their kids on
their health insurance until they`re 26, and getting free preventive care,
but if you don`t have health insurance and you`re trying to get it through
the individual market and it`s too expensive, or it`s too restricted, you
now have these marketplaces where they`re going to offer you a better deal
because of choice and competition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Joy Reid`s the managing editor of TheGrio and an MSNBC
contributor. A.B. Stoddard is associate editor and columnist for "The
A.B., let me start with you.
He`s never closed this deal. He`s never been able to successfully sell it
to the American people. You think he will be able to do so now as it
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE HILL": Well, he`s obviously
There are lots of things that are in the news and consuming the Congress
and the media, as you know, not only the three so-called scandals, but now
the news that our every communication is being tracked by the government.
So President Obama was supposed to be spending this time trying to resell
the health care law.
Democrats do not talk about this publicly, Michael, but, as you know, they
will tell you privately that they`re panicked about pushing the
administration and the president in particular to sell this right this
time. They`re going into the third election in a row having to defend
Obamacare. It`s never been less popular.
It is popular with people who haven`t -- who have no insurance, but it`s
unpopular with people who have insurance, because they don`t believe they
will be able to keep it. Unless he brings those uninsured into the pools,
everybody pays more. He`s got to change minds about this before November
of `14, when Democrats are on the ballot.
SMERCONISH: A.B. -- A.B. says he has to sell it right this time.
Selling it right this time, in my view, is selling it as a matter of
personal responsibility. If you have health insurance and I don`t, and I
use an E.R. as a primary care practice, that`s not right. I should be
paying my fair share.
He`s never made that pitch effectively.
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And, ironically, that used to be the
Republican case. That used to be the Bob Dole case for doing the
individual mandate, was that basically, otherwise, you would get free
riders, meaning people show up at the E.R. and all the rest of us pay for
I think that the White House would admit to the fact that, when the law was
first passed, Democrats sort of passed it and then ran the other way.
REID: It was never sold the first time, so you could do a poll that says
good idea/bad idea/no idea. Most people have no idea what it is. They
have no idea what it does, how to get it. They just have this vague idea
that it`s a bad idea. So...
SMERCONISH: But, you know, when you explain it in personal responsibility
terms, because I have done this on the air...
SMERCONISH: ... or when you say, A.B., that -- that these exchanges are
supposed to be the Orbitz of health care, it`s sort of an aha moment for
folks, like, oh, wow, I didn`t really recognize what he was trying to do.
But what they`re also hearing from their neighbors and small businessmen in
their communities is, they`re afraid they`re not going to be able to employ
all their employees due to the costs of Obamacare, that they`re either
laying off workers or they`re demoting them from full-time to part-time to
This is a really bad story line for the -- for Obamacare. As I said,
unless these exchanges, by the way, more than 30 of which the federal
government has to have up and running less than four months from now on
October 1, unless they end up appealing to a broad swath of people --
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Yes.
STODDARD: -- attracting new healthy young patients, again, everybody`s
prices go up. And so, you see the Obama administration, I think, shrewdly
using this campaign of micro-targeting, of really working hard in election-
style campaign to persuade the persuadable uninsured people to get out and
join the exchange.
SMERCONISH: On the politics of this, already ads are targeting senators
running for re-election for their vote in support of Obamacare.
Joy, here are a few.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
AD NARRATOR: When Senator Pryor was the deciding vote for Obamacare, it
was a huge letdown for the state of Arkansas. And people haven`t forgotten
AD NARRATOR: Jeanne Shaheen cast the deciding vote for Obamacare. Now,
employers may cut your weekly work hours from 40 to 29 to avoid the new
taxes and penalties.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SMERCONISH: Jeanne Shaheen is one of 60. So, all 60 cast a deciding vote.
Opponents of President Obama`s health care reform law are vastly
outspending supporters of the law on ads.
This chart from Kantar Media compares ad spending I races for the Senate
and House and the presidency. In Senate races, that`s the bar on the left,
more than $150 million has been spent, and as you can see in red, all but a
fraction of that has been spent on anti-Obamacare ads. Same for the House
where the anti-Obamacare ad spending dwarfs that of the law`s supporters.
And in the presidential race, the law`s critics outspent its supporters by
a margin of more than 5-1.
So, naturally, with all that ad spending, it`s the anti-Obamacare message
getting through. As A.B. pointed out, he doesn`t have the support of his
own party. They`re not out there selling this message.
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, because they understand that those
kinds of ads only work if people don`t know what`s in the bill, don`t know
what it is and they just have this vague idea.
Look, first, there`s been the spinning (ph). I want to pushback on one
thing A.B. said because businesses like Papa Johns and other companies who
threatened to lay people off over health reform, they have been the ones
that got the bad press. It`s like tremendous pushback from their customers
when they do that. And more cases than not, they pull back on that idea
because it really isn`t quite true.
And the other issue is this. The president has got a bill that is
historic, right? We`ve been trying to get universal health care in this
country for something like 100 years before he was able to get it done.
Medicare had this same problem when it was first -- the idea was first
brought up, it was called socialism, the end of democracy as you know it by
REID: Once people actually have health care, once they`ve actually got it,
you`re going to see people saying, you`re not taking away my Obamacare the
same way you have with Medicare. But people have to have it, experience it
for themselves, or, and/or Democrats have to advertise what is in the bill.
SMERCONISH: Your point`s a great point. It might win the Democrats an
election in 2022. What`s going to happen in 2014 is a different story.
Thank you, Joy Reid. Thank you, A.B. Stoddard.
When we come back, America`s anchorman, Ron Burgundy, takes on the nation`s
capital. Stay classy, Washington.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: Congressman John Dingell of Michigan has now served in
Congress longer than anyone else in history. Congressman Dingell has been
a member of the House since 1955. More specifically, that`s 57 years, five
months and 26 days, 30 terms.
Today, Congressman Dingell passed Senator Robert Byrd to be the longest
serving member of congress in history.
Now, his father, John Dingell Sr., held the seat for a mere 22 years.
Meaning that Dingell has represented Michigan in Congress for 80 years.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the age when the dinosaurs` roar greeted the dawn
and apes rode the winged horse across the valley of Eli, there was a loan
stranger who offered comfort, wisdom and overly sexual neck messages. It
was said he would one day return. That day has come.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, America. Did you miss my hot breath in your ear?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Yes, he`s back. In a mere six months, Ron Burgundy returns in "Anchorman:
The Legend Continues." This time around, Burgundy will be celebrated with
"Anchorman: The Exhibit" at Washington, D.C.`s, exhibit devoted to the
news, the newseum.
Now, unless you think a visit to "The Anchorman" exhibit is an excuse to
vicariously wallow in a politically incorrect newsroom of yore, the museum
describes their plan this way: "The exhibit explores the reality behind the
humor of `Anchorman` and tracks the rise of personality-driven news formats
in the `70s."
As you probably know, the original "Anchorman" spoofed that 1970s newsroom
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What in the hell`s diversity?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I could be wrong, but I believe diversity is an
old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron, I would be surprised if the affiliates were
concerned about the lack of an old, old wooden ship, but nice try.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Joining me now, "Washington Post`s" Katherine Boyle who wrote
about the "Anchorman" exhibit this week in the paper`s style section. And
former Chicago anchor Bill Kurtis who actually provided the narration for
Bill, you`ve had an accomplished career. Do you find, though, that that
voice is now forever associated with this movie?
BILL KURTIS, FORMER CHICAGO ANCHOR (via telephone): It is. You can kiss
the rest of my career good-bye because everybody will remember the
"Anchorman" movie. But, you know, it`s a new demographic. What the heck!
SMERCONISH: Katherine, I thought this was a guy`s flick. And yet, in
anticipation of this conversation, after what you wrote for the style
section, I`m thrilled to hear women say they loved it, too.
What`s the appeal of this movie, of this character?
KATHERINE BOYLE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, for one thing, it`s a really
funny character. I think everyone loves a good satire. But, you know,
there`s a huge women`s narrative in this film. I mean, satirizing the way
that women came up in the news media, the news culture at the time. So I
think women really appreciate a film that is mocking a time that was
definitely hard for women to be working in the workforce.
SMERCONIS: Bill, you`ve lived the life. How much truth in jest?
KURTIS: Well, the suit was certainly true. How did they get ahold of our
Adam McKay, the director, happened to be in Chicago when I was anchoring,
and I think he connected with my co-anchor and myself.
There`s a lot of truth but, of course, it`s an entertainment film. I`d
glad to see Ron getting the recognition he deserves.
SMERCONISH: You know, "Anchorman" took great joy in spoofing the
competition among local news teams in the `70s, like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, well, well, Ron Burgundy and the Channel 4 news
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Wes Mantooth. Hello, evening news team.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice clothes, gentlemen. I didn`t know the Salvation
Army was having a sale.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, am I right? Look at these guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, where did you get those clothes? At the toilet
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Katherine, how about the museum as a venue for this exhibit?
It reminds me of some circumspection when the National Constitution Center
in my hometown of Philadelphia had a Springsteen exhibition a year or so
ago. Does it fit?
BOYLE: I actually think it does fit. I mean, the museum for one, it`s
going to bring in a lot of people. The museum is in dire straits in terms
of finances. They`re privately funded museum and, you know, most museums
in Washington are free and they have a $22 admission fee.
So I think they need to do something buzzy. They need to do something
that`s going to bring in the next generation of museum-goers and this might
be it. I mean, it`s not going to take over their bottom line. It`s not
going to really be a game changer that they are hoping in a lot of ways,
but it`s going to bring in a lot of people and it`s definitely caught the
attention of people in the news media, that`s for sure.
SMERCONISH: Bill, how representative of the era is this movie?
KURTIS: Well, not only is it representative of the era, it`s creating its
own era because there are local teams across the country that are for
charity are establishing their own little fights amongst themselves. But,
you know, the sad thing is that, now, when young people hear the word
"anchorman," probably the first image they think of is Ron Burgundy.
SMERCONISH: Well, I think they probably think of, Katherine, of Ron
Burgundy and Ted Baxter intertwined, right?
BOYLE: No, I --
KURTIS: Indeed, Katherine.
BOYLE: I definitely think it`s a thing that comes to mind in the minds of
young people. But it`s a good satire. I mean, I don`t think it`s
necessarily a bad thing for people to think about.
SMERCONISH: Listen, I loved Ron Burgundy "Anchorman" all eight times that
I`ve seen it.
KURTIS: Anyway, you`re like everybody.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Bill Kurtis, Katherine Boyle. Thank you both. We
really appreciate your being here.
SMERCONISH: Thank you. We`ll come right back to HARDBALL.
SMERCONISH: Let me finish tonight with this.
In a week of NSA and DNA and MLB, a 10-year-old girl has captured national
and world attention. Sarah Murnaghan is dying of end-stage cystic fibrosis
in the Children`s Hospital of Philadelphia. She`s been waiting for a lung
transplant for a year and a half. Now, they say she has a week or two
left, if that.
The issue, to be available for an adult lung, you have to be 12 years old.
And Sarah is only 10. So, she`s been waiting for a transparent from a
pediatric donor, of which there are few. Her parents appealed, requesting
that Sarah be placed on the adult lung transplant list. That appeal was
declined and an online petition was launched calling for that policy to
change and for federal officials to make an exceptional ruling on behalf of
Sadly, this story becomes political with Kathleen Sebelius at the center
for the storm. Secretary Sebelius called the case agonizing, but said that
she could interfere with the donor rules.
Midweek then, a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled that Sarah is eligible
to receive a lung from the adult donor list. The judge ordered Secretary
Sebelius to suspend the donor rules for at least 10 days and a hearing has
been set for June 14.
With that door open, the family of 11-year-old Javier Acosta (ph) has been
granted a temporary injunction to waive the rule.
My thoughts and prayers are with Sarah and Javier and their families. And
I think this raises a bigger question about organ donation in the United
If the issue is not enough lungs and kidneys and hearts and corneas, how do
we get more? Two words: opt out.
See, opt in is the current national U.S. policy. It requires explicit
consent from the donor, given through a donor card administered by the DMV
or from relatives if the donor failed to indicate desire during his or her
lifetime. Let`s reverse that.
A national opt out system would presume consent of the deceased to have
their organs harvested unless they`d opted out. Nobody`s going to be
taking your organs without consent, but if you say nothing, you`ll be
presumed to have opted in.
I`m not just guessing here. The system`s been tested in Europe. As of
2010, 24 European countries have some form of opt out, which some call
presumed consent, with Spain, Austria, and Belgium yielding high donor
Art Caplan is head of the medical ethics at NYU Langone. He agrees,
telling me, quote, "Your organs aren`t going to do you much good when
you`re dead. I think we`d get much more donors if we just shifted the
responsibility to say `what you want to do about donation`, from saying, `I
want to do it`, to having to say, `I don`t want to do it.` Most people say
they do want to donate. So why don`t we make that the default position?"
Opt out? Why not, indeed?
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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