November 20, 2013
Guest: Dana Milbank, Michael Beschloss, Stephen Schlesinger, Andrew
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Political Armageddon.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. The dirty little secret of American
politics today is that this battle between President Obama and his enemies
is not a contest of achievement.
No, it`s a battle between a president who wants to do great things --
extend health care to the tens of millions of working people, many of them
poor, ending two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and preventing a third war
with Iran -- and almost totally negative force arrayed and barking against
him, a campaign of verbal terror and negativity aimed at denying tens of
millions decent health care, denying immigrants the chance to be come
citizens, denying people of other sexual orientations and identities an
equal chance to provide for themselves, obviously, also denying marriage
It`s a strange, unbalanced battle between a man who wants to do great
things and an enemy aimed at ensuring he does not. It`s a tale of a
political party that once freed the slaves and battled the monopolies,
built the transcontinental railroad and created scientific agriculture to
the land grant colleges reduced now to playing jackal in the moonlight.
Howard Fineman`s the editorial director of the Huffington Post Media Group
and an MSNBC political analyst and Jonathan Capehart is the illustrious
opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.
Howard, I painted this in strong terms and strong black and white, but I
have to tell you, I don`t see a Republican agenda except to destroy Obama.
Let`s go with this. The president`s enemies have tried to destroy, kill,
defund, block or destroy everything in his program.
The president, in contrast, has made it his goal to fight to extend rights
to minorities, the uninsured and the oppressed. His opponents are trying
to take away these rights.
Here are just three examples of how this works. The opponents of the
president prevented millions of people from having access to health care
under the law. They`ve waged a three-dozen-state war aimed to suppress
voting rights of minorities, especially African-Americans. And they`ve
systematically derailed anything that would extend the principles of
equality and fairness, whether it be health care, sexual orientation and
identity, or the right to marry.
Let`s look at the first one of these segments. Republicans in 24 states
now have rejected the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act
as part of a blatant attempt, I think, to destroy the law. As a result,
there are more than five million low-income working Americans, many of them
in Republican-controlled states, whose access to the insurance under the
law has been voided. by the far right.
Astonishingly, preventing people from getting insurance is now a badge of
conservative honor by Tea Parties like Rand Paul. Here`s Senator Paul on
CNN just yesterday attacking Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey for his
decision to expand Medicaid in New Jersey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: On the case of the New Jersey governor, I
think embracing "Obama care," expanding Medicaid in his state`s very
expensive and not fiscally conservative. That fact, I would say, would
lead towards you making the conclusion it`s not a very good conservative
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Scorched earth, Howard. Here he`s going after a middle-of-the-
road to somewhat-right Republican governor of New Jersey, basically
blasting him because Christie didn`t really go along with "Obama care."
He`s been dumping on it. But he at least allows the expansion Medicaid to
the working poor, and for that, he`s calling him, basically, not a
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, Chris, I think your thesis is correct. I don`t think there`s -- I
don`t think there`s any arguing it. I think the Republicans do have a
philosophy. They do have an agenda. And that agenda is what they think of
as liberty, what they think of as freedom, but they define it as a project
to dismantle or block every proposal -- essentially, every proposal
President Obama has made from the day he came into office.
That`s been their operating philosophy from day one. They`re very proud of
it. They think that`s an agenda, and that`s what they`re pursuing.
And in the case of Medicaid in the states, there`s no greater proof of it
than the fact that for many years to come, and essentially on into the
distant future, the federal government, not the state governments, will be
picking up the costs of those programs.
So what the governors in those states are doing is deliberately standing
athwart history and shouting, Stop, at the -- at the federal money helping
poor people in their states. And as you say, they`re proud of the result.
MATTHEWS: You know, I`ve never seen a political party put, you know,
vicious, gut hatred in some cases -- not all cases, obviously -- into a
political program of negativity. Jonathan, it`s like they have a gut,
despising -- I`m trying to think of the right words about Obama -- I don`t
know if it`s hatred. It certainly is, in some cases -- but despising the
guy so much, all they figure (ph) is to spew out that -- that gut hatred of
the guy into what they call a program of opposition. That`s all it is.
Anything with his name on it has to be killed.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. Well, I
think the word you`re looking for is animus, maybe.
CAPEHART: But you know, the Republicans -- let`s take the Affordable Care
Act as -- as a -- as an example. What`s the basis of the Affordable Care
Act? "Romney care," Governor Mitt Romney`s health insurance plan for
Massachusetts. And you know, the -- one of the major tenets of the
Affordable Care Act came out of the Heritage Foundation, not a bastion of -
- of --
MATTHEWS: Why do they hate it?
CAPEHART: -- progressive thought or liberalism.
MATTHEWS: Because Obama got it through?
CAPEHART: Exactly, because President Obama said he`s for it. You know,
sometimes, Chris, we talk on your show and other shows about, you know,
whether the president should come out in favor of something and how folks
on the Hill want him to stay away from it.
Well, it`s because if the president says he`s for something or he`s
encouraged by something that`s happening, movement that`s happening on
Capitol Hill, that`s a surefire way to quit (ph) it because of the knee-
jerk reaction of a lot of folks within the Republican Party to oppose
anything the president wants to do, even if it`s the right thing to do.
MATTHEWS: Howard, I want to go talk to you. You`re about my age. And I
remember Kirk O`Donnell, who I worked with years ago with the speaker,
Speaker O`Neill, and he said something I never realized. It`s very
optimistic. He said if you want to be loved by history, support the
expansion of rights because the rights go out to a lot more people,
minorities, obviously, and women, of course, obviously, over time, and of
course, people of different sexual orientations. And the more that that
grows, the more people in the future who benefit from that will remember
who was on their side.
Now, my question here is -- here`s the president doing this. His enemies
out there have made it a goal to suppress the rights of voters, many
minorities across the -- look at this map. I hope you can see it. Under
the leadership of Republican Reince Priebus, the RNC chair, Republicans
have advanced voter suppression bills in more than 35 states just this
year, 2012. Those are figures compiled by the Advance Project, which
tracks voting rights.
So all across the country -- I`ve been out meeting with groups on my book
tour. I got to tell you, every once in a while, I come across somebody who
says, Well, we have to do that to prevent cheating, and I say, Where`s the
cheating? If there was some serious example of it -- or is this just to
say there aren`t as many white people compared to how there will be in the
future (INAUDIBLE) as there have been in the past, therefore, the only way
we`re going to win these fights is reduce the number of black voters
because there`s growing numbers of -- of Hispanic, and of course, African-
You put them together, there`s a lesser number of whites. Therefore, the
only way whites win these elections is making sure the other people don`t
And if it isn`t that, what is it?
FINEMAN: Well, Chris, I think that the actions of Republicans on voting
rights is the perfect emblem for what you`re talking about. It`s a
negative, stop-the-world kind of theory.
FINEMAN: And you don`t have to say it in directly racial terms. It`s just
that the new immigrants, the new people, the newly empowered people,
Hispanics, other immigrants from around the world who`ve come to the United
States, for whom voting is a wonderful prize of their life -- it`s what
America is all about. And for the Republicans to be focussing on winnowing
out that crowd, rather than taking measures to be the party that includes
that crowd, that champions those rights, is what worries serious Republican
strategists who look at the long term.
The more the Republicans put their hand up, like the traffic cop, the more
they`re painting themselves into a corner.
MATTHEWS: Howard, have you ever been to a naturalization --
FINEMAN: Yes, I have.
MATTHEWS: Have you been --
FINEMAN: I have.
MATTHEWS: And you know what I`m -- Jonathan, you`ve been there. It is one
of the most --
MATTHEWS: -- inspiring moments you`ll ever be -- you watch those people
put their hands up and take their oath as Americans.
Anyway, the president -- apparently, some Republicans, or a lot of them,
don`t like that sight. Anyway, apparently, his enemies are trying to
derail every attempt to extend the quality of fairness (ph). Look at the
pattern here. They`re trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, of
course, which extends the basic right that you should be able to see a
doctor if you get sick without bankrupting you in the process.
Red hots in the House have blocked legislation passed by the Senate which
would outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or
identity. They`ve also infamously fought against extending marriage rights
to same-sex couples.
And they won`t even touch a bill passed by the Senate which attempts to fix
our broken immigration system. As Politico reported recently, the party`s
agenda -- that`s the Republican agenda -- is literally a blank piece of
paper. They report, quote, "Last Thursday, a group of House Republicans
filed into Majority Leader Eric Cantor`s Capitol office suite and received
a blank piece of paper labeled `Agenda 2014.`"
Jonathan, this isn`t investigative reporting. The Republican Party doesn`t
have an agenda --
MATTHEWS: -- except to screw Obama and anything with his name on it.
CAPEHART: Right. Right. No, you`re -- this is absolutely right. And
here`s the thing. Let`s say they were successful in repealing the
Affordable Care Act. Let`s say they are being successful in squashing
immigration reform. Let`s say they`re successful at squashing the
Employment Non-Discrimination Act from becoming law --
MATTHEWS: What`s their alternative to that, Michelle Bachmann`s husband?
Is that his program out there, somewhere in Minnesota? Is that the
CAPEHART: Well --
MATTHEWS: I`m being ludicrous because I think that is the program in some
CAPEHART: Well --
MATTHEWS: -- switch these people around. They`re not made the right
way. Maybe -- maybe we can fix them, make them straight. And then we
won`t need all this stuff.
CAPEHART: Well, that`s a whole other conversation --
MATTHEWS: -- ludicrous, but go ahead.
CAPEHART: Right. But the thing is, let`s say they were to repeal the
Affordable Care Act. Then the American people are going to start asking,
Well, then, what you got? What do you have to replace that with because
there are some things about it that we like?
All those things you mentioned before -- immigration, gay rights, the voter
suppression efforts. Remember that GOP autopsy? All of those things, all
the constituencies affected by all of those things we just mentioned were
mentioned in the GOP autopsy. And it said, We must reach out to these
communities if we are going to survive in future elections.
Everything they that are doing now, everything that they have done since
that autopsy has come out --
MATTHEWS: OK --
CAPEHART: -- has made a mockery of --
MATTHEWS: Let`s --
MATTHEWS: Howard, I want to talk to you about this. What about this
workplace thing? Do Republicans really believe it`s OK to keep somebody
from working for you if they have a certain manner you think is a gay
manner, if you will, or they`re too effeminate or some -- do they really
have -- believe that`s OK in terms of American fairness that you can reject
a person for a job because of manner or appearance or a suggestion of
identity or something like that?
FINEMAN: Frankly, I think for most of them, even a lot of Tea Party
people, in their hearts, they don`t believe that, Chris.
FINEMAN: But they`re playing to the red hot core of their base, for sure.
And I think most Republicans who have a half a brain about the long term
realize what a losing proposition this is because of demographic and social
changes in America --
MATTHEWS: Yes. And openness.
FINEMAN: -- that are happening, and that most people -- most people
overwhelmingly approve of.
I would also say that what the Republicans are doing now, and the reason
for that blank piece of paper, is that they think they`re really smart and
they`re going to sit on their hand -- in addition to the philosophy we`ve
been talking about and the opposition to Obama and the animus that they
have, they think it`s a winning political proposition. They`re making a
bet that "Obama care" will not be fixed, that it won`t recover by the fall
of next year, and in fact, it`ll be worse --
MATTHEWS: OK --
FINEMAN: -- that rates will be higher, et cetera. That`s their bet. So
it`s animus. It`s philosophy. And it`s what they think is smart politics.
MATTHEWS: Last question to you, Jonathan. This thing about workplace
behavior and discrimination -- is this the "Don`t ask, don`t tell" policy
rewritten for the private workplace? I mean, what do they really believe
in terms of outright discrimination against sexual identity?
CAPEHART: You know, I think these folks don`t believe that it`s a real
issue. I think they don`t think it`s -- they don`t think it`s a big deal.
CAPEHART: I think what`s so ridiculous about the conversation about the
Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- most Fortune 500 companies already do
what the federal -- what the folks --
MATTHEWS: I see.
CAPEHART: -- on Capitol Hill won`t allow the federal government to do.
So the folks who are preventing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act from
being passed are really a perfect example of them being behind the times
and way behind where the rest of the country is.
MATTHEWS: Yes. So well said. Thanks so much, Howard Fineman, so (ph)
much (ph) to you, of course, Jonathan Capehart.
Coming up: Look who suddenly loves women. Republicans, their allies, the
Koch Brothers, are paying for ads now aimed at discouraging women from
signing up for health care -- so here you have the conservatives who have
ignored women`s issues for years suddenly asking women to help them destroy
the Affordable Care Act, the same way they`re going to after young people
and told them, Don`t sign up.
Plus, we have some candid footage tonight, really great stuff of Jack
Kennedy discovered by one of our HARDBALL producers here, Will Robbie (ph).
It`s a rare glimpse at Jack Kennedy as he really was without the cameras
on. He was caught off-guard, apparently, and you see the charming -- well,
wait until you see it because I`m thrilled (INAUDIBLE) seeing him here this
way -- in an NBC News program, he`s in a green room getting makeup on,
talking about Nixon`s bad makeup just a few days after their big debate.
And here`s a bad combination, Toronto`s Rob Ford, school children and a
four-letter word. It just gets worse and worse up there for the Torontoans
and their mayor.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with Jacqueline Kennedy`s wish for two
memorials to her husband after he was killed. A half century (ph) -- got
that news for you tonight. She had a separate, besides the eternal flame,
that she wanted, a secret one, and I know about it.
This is HARDBALL, place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, the Obama/Clinton alliance was in full effect today.
President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former
president Bill Clinton, and President Obama cited President Clinton`s
ability to spur economic growth and shrink the deficit, something the
current president has pushed for.
Among the 15 other honorees, Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Steinem, and Ben
Bradlee, the executive editor of "The Washington Post" who led a pair of
young reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, as they broke one of the
biggest stories in political journalism ever, Watergate.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the country`s highest civilian honor.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the problems we`ve
had is one side of Capitol Hill is invested in failure, and that makes, I
think, the kind of iterative process of fixing glitches as they come up and
fine-tuning the law more challenging.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Obama`s understated
characterization there of the Republican sabotage of the health care stands
in stark contrast to the fear-laden language of the right. Writing in
today`s "Washington Post," columnist Dana Milbank called the far-right
effort to scare people out of enrolling, particularly if they`re young and
healthy, the scary movie strategy.
Here`s the trailer for that movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Moms and dads are worried that
they`re going to lose their health care plan. Individuals who are going
onto the Healthcare.gov Web site are beginning to fear that perhaps their
identity will be stolen.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The premiums are going
right through the roof.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You won`t be able to keep your doctor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, Healthcare.gov screams to those who are
trying to break into the system, if you like my health care info, maybe you
can steal it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s fairly pathetic. You might as well just say boo,
Congressman, because that`s all you`re saying here, boo. Add to this the
Koch brothers-funded group, Americans for Prosperity, is pouring millions
of dollars into advertising that spreads fear and uncertainty about the
president`s health care plan, then ties vulnerable Democrats, of course, to
And these ads have a specific audience, women. "The New York Times"
reports the ads are specifically aimed at women because the group`s
research has shown that they are not only more undecided than men about the
merits of the Affordable Care Act, but they also tend to make the decisions
about their family`s health care. Do you need a poll to do that?
Anyway, "The Washington Post`s" Dana Milbank joins me, as does the host of
MSNBC`s "NOW WITH ALEX WAGNER."
Alex Wagner, I have to ask you about this. This is a concerted effort, it
seems to me, to do what everybody fears might happen naturally, but the
Republicans want to make sure it`s going to happen. If young, healthy
people do not enroll, and only the people with real health care challenges
they`re already facing, if you will, preexisting conditions, this program
is going to cause higher rates.
If they can jam as many people out of this with scare tactics about the
fact that they`re going to be watched over by the Chinese or that
somebody`s going to get all their inside information, as if it`s that
valuable and interesting, and now women are told to do it because we all
know women know more about health care as a group in this country than men
tend to know in terms of what`s covered -- this is a concerted effort to
sabotage a program.
And then after they`ve sabotaged it, they`re going to say the American
people turned against this program? I mean, don`t they deserve some credit
for ruining it, if they do?
ALEX WAGNER, HOST, "NOW WITH ALEX WAGNER": I think the credit rests on
their doorstep, if we can even call it credit, Chris. Two points I`d say
in response to your questions. One is I don`t think you can scare young
people with this idea that their information is getting shared.
I mean, I think fundamentally, young people in the 21st century are much
more sort of digitally savvy, much more open in terms of their social
networking habits and their personal information. I just don`t think
that`s a viable line of argument to scare them away.
I also think they`re much more forgiving as far as glitches and tech.
They`ve grown up in an age where institutions have crumbled and have been
rebuilt on line. They are used to apps and updating apps and new operating
systems. In that way, I think they have a lot more room with young people
than they -- than the Republicans have perhaps acknowledged.
To the targeting of women, I feel like that`s both shameless and
despicable. One, they`re targeting women because they feel like, just as
you pointed out, women are making the decisions in their household as far
But it is despicable insofar as the Affordable Care Act specifically makes
a point of helping women. Women are no longer discriminated against in
terms of insurance premiums. They have access to better coverage, to
preventative care. And women who are mothers can now keep their children
who have preexisting conditions on health insurance without worrying about
In that way, it really, truly is the most craven political exercise to try
and target women, young women and mothers and tell them this is a bad
WAGNER: This is effectively death panels 2.0.
MATTHEWS: You know what it reminds me of? It reminds me of -- it reminds
me, Alex, of the old Virginia Slims ads back in the `60s where they
convinced women who wanted to be lose weight and be very cool --
WAGNER: Yes, exactly.
MATTHEWS: -- to be thin, oh, buy a real thin cigarette. It will kill
you before you get fat. It`s unbelievable. And they did it. Talk about
Anyway, as I mentioned, the Koch brothers are pouring huge amounts of money
into midterm races where Democrats are vulnerable and ratcheting up the
fear factor about the Affordable Care Act. And this ad right here targets
Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Let`s watch this stuff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: People don`t like political ads. I don`t like them
either. But health care isn`t about politics. It`s about people.
It`s not about a Web site that doesn`t work. It`s not about poll numbers
or approval ratings. It`s about people. And millions of people have lost
their health insurance. Millions of people can`t see their own doctors and
millions are paying more and getting less. Obamacare doesn`t work. It
just doesn`t work. Tell Senator Hagan to stop thinking about politics and
start thinking about people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, a raft of ads just like that one featuring a woman speaking to camera
or narrating the ad are being rolled out against Louisiana Senator Mary
Landrieu, Alaska Senator Mark Begich and three vulnerable Democrats in the
Dana, I used the example of Virginia Slims because it plays to concerns
some younger women perhaps did have about weight and being groovy and sexy
and all that, at the same time selling them cigarettes.
In what this case, are they selling people in terms of health care in these
ads? Nothing. You don`t need health care, basically. That seems to be
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes.
MATTHEWS: Don`t -- don`t sign up.
And I think, in fairness, they are trying to dissuade everybody from
participating in these programs. And they see women as a vulnerable group
to go after here. The idea -- and they don`t say it`s sabotage, but it`s
hard to describe it as anything but that. First, you had the red state
governors not participating in these exchanges.
And now you have this sort of fear campaign to try to get people, the young
people, the healthy people not to do it. The goal is to kill the program
overall, but, really, the irony here is just that they`re just going to
make it more expensive for the taxpayer if you only get the older and the
sicker people in these exchanges. Well, guess what? The government`s
going to get stuck picking up the higher-than-expected costs for that.
So, these fiscal conservatives going after Obamacare are actually creating
a big government entitlement.
MATTHEWS: How`s that going to work? Aren`t these insurance companies
private? How would the federal government get -- or the taxpayer have to
pick up the bet -- pick up --
MILBANK: Well, it`s written into the law that if it`s -- for the next few
years, if it`s more than 3 percent -- costs are more than 3 percent above
what`s anticipated, the government has to -- the federal government has to
pay at least half of that.
And also, if you only have the -- if you discourage everybody else from
getting into the program, you only have relatively low-income people who
qualify for the subsidies. The amount they contribute is fixed. And if
the costs go up overall, well, it`s us, the taxpayers, who are going to
have to pay for that.
MATTHEWS: Well, this sabotage, why should the Koch brothers, who are
billionaires and they make all their money in oil and gas -- and I can see
where they would pour some money into something that prevents regulation or
pushes a certain kind of energy policy.
And I can see how that would be good for their stockholders, I guess, if
you`re crude enough about it. Alex, but why are the Koch brothers, why are
they spending hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars
trying to screw a health care program? What economic good does it do the
Koch brothers to attack a program aimed at helping not the poor people,
they get covered by Medicaid and will be covered by Medicaid, but screwing
the people who show up for work every morning, but don`t have health care?
Why do they want to screw them?
WAGNER: Because the Koch brothers don`t -- based on their -- their --
their record thus far, they don`t -- they would like to tear asunder the
American social compact.
I mean, they fundamentally do not want a powerful or in any way functioning
WAGNER: Because it behooves them and private interests to operate without
They can make as much profit as they want and hold on to all of it.
MATTHEWS: But why not health care for people?
WAGNER: Because they want to keep all -- to Dana`s point, there is this
idea of risk corridors.
And if these insurance companies are saddled with sicker, older patients --
WAGNER: -- the federal government does have to pick up the bill.
WAGNER: Marco Rubio was trying to get rid of that.
But the problem is, Chris, that people are not going to be left to die in
the streets. That is just not the way America works. That said, the
Republicans have no plan B for what happens.
MATTHEWS: Are you sure that`s not the Koch brother plan?
WAGNER: Well, I`m --
MATTHEWS: I`m not being totally ridiculous here. If we lose out on any
attempt to create a social safety net for the working poor, who don`t have
health care right now, what happens to them?
Anyway -- the emergency room. I know. Somebody will take care. But I
tell you, do these people spending hundreds of millions of dollars
attacking this program have any plan for those people? Answer, I believe,
is no, anyway, except dying in the streets probably.
Anyway, thank you.
Why would you defend them on any grounds?
Anyway, thank you, Alex Wagner, for coming on tonight --
WAGNER: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: -- after your hard work in the daytime.
MATTHEWS: You have worked two shifts tonight.
MATTHEWS: Dana, you always work two shifts. Thank you, sir.
MILBANK: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next: the HARDBALL exclusive. Never-before -- this is great
stuff -- never-before-seen footage of Jack Kennedy in a rare, candid
talking moment here about the debates he just had a few days before with
Richard Nixon. This is the Kennedy a lot of us had always been curious
Remember my book "Elusive Hero"? He`s a lot less elusive when you watch
him in a couple minutes here.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, tonight, we have some newly discovered footage of Jack Kennedy
talking candidly and perhaps unaware that a camera was rolling about his
first debate with Richard Nixon.
This was just four days after that debate. Here`s the backstory. That
first presidential debate of 1960 was the first ever televised. And
television gave Kennedy the clear edge. More than 60 million people
And what they saw may have been more important than what they heard, a
haggard Nixon just back from the hospital, pale, with sweat on his chin and
upper lip. By comparison, Kennedy was cool and flush with confidence,
projecting the winning image that would take him to the White House.
Well, the story goes that Nixon relied on makeup that failed to hold up
under the hot lights in the studio. The newspapers had a field day with
that day. And "The Chicago Daily News," a Republican paper, went so far as
to suggest that Nixon`s makeup had been intentionally sabotaged by a
Democratic makeup artist. Well, that story, of course, turned out not to
But the makeup issue was as hotly debated as the debate itself.
And, here, HARDBALL producer Will Rabbe dug through the NBC News archive
and discovered footage with sound of Jack Kennedy talking while having his
makeup done on camera just four days after that debate.
He was at his home in Hyannis, Massachusetts, preparing for an interview
with David Brinkley and Chet Huntley of NBC News. It`s a rare glimpse, I`m
sure to tell you, behind the curtain at Jack Kennedy`s off-air persona.
While the audio is poor, you can make out that they`re discussing the story
about Nixon`s makeup.
Historian Michael -- historian Michael -- I`m sorry -- historian Michael
Beschloss is here with me now.
And, Michael, you have seen this and you agree this is a big deal.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes.
It`s amazing, because, Chris, number one, especially this week, if you
think about the amount of film footage that you and I maybe have not seen
before of JFK, very hard to think that there could be anything like that.
BESCHLOSS: So here we have a find that at least you and I have not seen,
and I think most Americans have not.
MATTHEWS: I haven`t.
BESCHLOSS: It really is a discovery.
MATTHEWS: I love it because, like the scene in "Crisis" about the Alabama
desegregation effort, you have got a glimpse of the guy when he doesn`t
think the cameras are on. And this is fabulous.
OK, Mike, let`s -- enough suspense. Let`s take a look at what we have
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You see that story
about the Democratic makeup man?
Yes, who did make him up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who was it, Lynn (ph)? Do you know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he has a man who does that for a long time.
KENNEDY: I must say, all these newspapers who keep putting the knock now
on to the debate, I think it`s just a -- a media rivalry, isn`t it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, there`s some of that.
KENNEDY: As a Democrat, I must say I don`t know what we`d do without
I look at print and -- .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it was a hell of a show, I thought.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: There -- that`s what -- you know, Michael, I get a glimpse there
of why Ben Bradlee and all the other guys, Red Fay, loved this guy. He was
a guy`s guy, speaking frankly.
Pat Brown, the former governor of California, told me -- when I once asked
him about one of my books, what was Kennedy like? He said, no B.S., just
MATTHEWS: And there he is talking like most guys would about how the hell
Nixon looked so bad, what was going on there, the whole thing.
BESCHLOSS: Yes, as you write in the book. That`s right.
And we don`t have any so-called secret tapes of Kennedy during the
campaign, the way that we do through the White House. So, this is almost
all we have got. And the other thing is that not only do we see him off-
guard, but he`s talking about something really important, is that you and I
know that the one moment in the campaign that probably did more than
anything else to change the outcome was that first debate in Chicago.
So, here we have got him off-guard talking about that.
MATTHEWS: And you don`t get a sense that you get with Nixon, where Nixon`s
always looks like he`s rehearsed everything he`s about to say. And that`s
the -- I`m not an anti-Nixon -- or a Nixon hater, but everything seemed to
be rehearsed with Nixon, like, what do you want me to look like, sound
like, be concerned about?
And he never like talked turkey like Kennedy did, like he was doing there
BESCHLOSS: No. That`s exactly right. This is a real guy.
And, you know, the other thing, Chris -- I`m you knew Ted Kennedy, and I
did a little bit too. And he sounds almost the way that Ted Kennedy did in
private. And it`s not like in public, where the diction was more crisp and
the sentences were more parsed. It`s sort of like a regular guy. You`re
just talking to him.
MATTHEWS: And I like the -- we`re looking at his face here, the alertness,
the liveliness of this guy`s personality, the eyes flashing around,
checking out the room, and obviously great-looking and the whole thing that
the charisma is all based on, Great voice.
I think Kennedy had -- when he didn`t have to learn to project a voice,
which it took him about 15 years to learn to do it. His in-person voice
MATTHEWS: I`m impressed by that part of it.
BESCHLOSS: I think it was, although different, because this is, what, four
days after that debate in Chicago.
And, in Chicago, every facial expression he gives is perfect, and the
sentences are so crisp. The one thing that really struck me here is that
look how tired he is, the bags under the eyes that that makeup artist is
working very hard to conceal.
The funny thing is, Nixon`s problem with Kennedy was not just the bad
looks, because he had been in the hospital for three weeks with an infected
leg and had just banged it on the way into that Chicago studio. He was in
The Kennedy people were so conniving that they made sure that the lectern
that he used was a very thin lectern, so you could see Nixon`s leg sort of
leaning down and not really standing up straight. They wanted everybody to
see that problem.
BESCHLOSS: I think that`s right.
MATTHEWS: It`s unbelievable. And then, in the second debate, of course,
they found out that Nixon had lowered the room temperature down in D.C. to
about 40 degrees.
And the Kennedy people that came in, both Kennedy brothers and their guy,
Bill Wilson, and scared the hell out of the guy who was guarding the heater
and said get that heat off and get that air conditioning -- I`m sorry --
get the heat up and the air conditioning off.
This kind of stuff went on back and forth. I love this stuff, clean
tricks, the real politics behind it.
BESCHLOSS: There we go.
MATTHEWS: Michael, I thought we could impress you. And I guess we did.
BESCHLOSS: Oh, very impressed.
MATTHEWS: You`re one of the great archival and documentary journalists
ever. And history from you always come from hard data, not just oral
history. Thank you so much for coming on.
BESCHLOSS: Well, right back at you. Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Up next: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford can`t get out of his own way, apparently -
- his latest four-letter blunder next on the hard -- next on the
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. I`m Veronica De La
Cruz. Here`s what`s happening.
The U.S. has reached a security agreement with Afghanistan that would keep
U.S. forces in that country past the 2014 deadline. Afghan leaders will
debate whether to accept the deal tomorrow.
Illinois has become the 16th state in the nation to legalize gay marriage.
Governor Pat Quinn signed the measure into law a short time ago.
And President Obama speaking tonight at a dinner honoring today`s Medal of
Freedom recipients. They included President Bill Clinton, Gloria Steinem,
and Oprah Winfrey.
I`m Veronica De La Cruz -- rMD-BO_now back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": President Obama`s kind
of getting all the late-night jokes now. Are you --
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Better him than me.
LENO: Well, there you are.
G. BUSH: I really don`t miss the spotlight.
G. BUSH: It`s hard for some to believe, but I think eight years of the
LENO: Well, I must say, you look much more relaxed.
G. BUSH: No kidding.
LENO: No, it`s true. But it`s true.
LENO: No, but, I mean, I would see -- but --
G. BUSH: Duh.
G. BUSH: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was, of course, former President George W. Bush on
"The Tonight Show" yesterday.
And Jay Leno also asked about one of President Bush`s new hobbies,
painting. The president said he`s been taking lessons from a teacher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
G. BUSH: I had read Winston Churchill`s essay "Painting as a Pastime."
G. BUSH: It inspired me.
I said, I`m thinking about painting. She said, what`s your objective? I
said, there`s a Rembrandt trapped in this body.
LENO: Right. Wow. Well, so --
G. BUSH: Your job is to find it.
LENO: So, yes.
LENO: Apparently, modesty not a problem.
G. BUSH: No, no.
LENO: Well, let`s show some of the paintings. This is your dog Barney.
Look at that.
That`s right. You know something? I can`t even see where you painted over
the number. That is beautifully done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, when former first lady Laura Bush showed up, the topic
turned to President Bush`s recent serious health threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
LENO: When the president had that heart scare, how scary was that?
LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: It was scary. It was very scary.
L. BUSH: But --
G.W. BUSH: I wasn`t as scared.
LENO: Was it, you had Obamacare?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Love that wine.
Anyway, meanwhile, there`s more bad news for Toronto`s embattled Mayor Rob
Ford. On Monday, the city council took away much of his power, leaving him
for all intents and purposes, a figure head. Then, a cable channel in
Canada canceled his brand new one-day-old reality show. And yesterday,
most of his senior staff quit to go to work for the deputy mayor up there.
Here was Jon Stewart last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: A vote yesterday, it`s been a hell of a couple days
for Rob Ford, including an interview with CNN where he surrounded himself
with school children and then said this --
ROB FORD, TORONTO MAYOR: I was sick and tired of all these allegations and
all this (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Excuse my words. That`s all it is. Sorry,
kids. I shouldn`t have sworn in front of the kids.
STEWART: Just, I shouldn`t have done that. I feel like (EXPLETIVE
DELETED) for doing that, Jesus. That`s another (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Oh, I
just said it again. (EXPLETIVE DELETED). No, that`s bad. Shouldn`t have
said that. I`m such a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Oh, what am I doing?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MATTHEWS: Is he saying those words? Or did they just do a bleep?
Anyway, yesterday, we learned that when it comes to politicians and
cocaine, Canada isn`t alone. Trey Radel, the Tea Party congressman from
Florida, for once floated the idea of impeaching President Obama pled
guilty today to a misdemeanor charge of possession of cocaine. He was
arrested last month after buying 3.5 grams of cocaine from someone who
turned out to be an undercover agent in the DuPont Circle area of
Washington, nice neighborhood actually.
Well, today, he apologized to the judge for his extremely irresponsible
choice. It turns out Radel was lucky to have been caught in Washington.
Had he been arrested in his home state of Florida, he could have faced a
felony charge and prison time.
Well, some have noted the hypocrisy since Radel has voted to allow states
to mandate drug testing for food stamp recipients. I guess he doesn`t need
Finally, Senator Ted Cruz was interviewed on CNN this morning. Listen to
what he says about the people he claims to be fighting for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: When I go back to Texas, I travel the state, and
I see people who come up to me, men and women across Texas. And they grab
me by the shoulder, and they`re afraid. They say, "Ted, you know, I just
lost my health insurance. I`ve got a child with diabetes. I need my
health insurance. I`m scared. Please stop this from happening."
Those are real facts.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And what do you say to them? I look at the bills
that you`ve sponsored. There`s not one that offers a solution to the
current problems with healthcare, except to get rid of the existing law.
Is that enough?
CRUZ: Well, that` the only solution that will work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: There you have it, stands for nothing. Cruz, he talks about the
people he meets who are scared of losing their health insurance, but he
fails to mention a small giant detail -- that Texas has the highest number
of people without health insurance notice country, including the largest
number of children without health insurance -- 852,000 Texas children had
no insurance last year. And he doesn`t do nothing about it, he says he
cares. Those are the people the president`s healthcare law is designed to
And, sorry, Senator Cruz, repealing the Affordable Care Act will do nothing
for them, and you know it.
And we`ll be right back.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: It looks as if Ken Cuccinelli`s political career may not be over
yet. "The Washington Post" reports Cuccinelli is considering making a
Virginia Senate run next year against incumbent Democrat Mark Warner.
Good luck with that one.
Cuccinelli, of course, just lost his race for governor and would likely
face a very tough fight against Warner, who observers expect is likely to
win reelection against any challenger by double digit. What a great
senator he is.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
We`re now looking back at the legacy of Jack Kennedy, this week. Everybody
is, it seems.
In a new book, "The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger Jr." reveals that
(INAUDIBLE) are the famous historian correspondents from 1945 to 2005,
including his personal exchanges with senator and later President Kennedy,
beginning in 1955. Schlesinger is most often identified by his
relationship with Jack Kennedy when they first met in `46, in 1960
supported Kennedy`s campaign for president of his long time mentor and
former boss, Adlai Stevenson. He was later appointed as special assistant
to Kennedy and worked in the White House.
The letters in this book capture the frank and honest relationship that
they shared and also the trust Kennedy placed in Schlesinger for advice on
a range of progressive issues for like civil rights and disarmaments. Two
of Schlesinger`s sons, Stephen and Andrew, compiled and end of this volume
of letters and they join me now.
Gentlemen, I love the book of his diaries, and I`m sure I`m going to like
the letters, because you guys did a hell of a job.
And, Stephen, I do remember writing for your magazine back 40 years ago
called the New Democrat. I think I have a number of stories that I wrote.
Let me ask you first, Stephen, about your dad and Kennedy. Was Jack
Kennedy a liberal by the standards of Stevenson and FDR?
STEPHEN SCHLESINGER, "THE LETTERS OF ARTHUR SCHLESSINGER, JR.": Yes. Not
only was he a liberal, he`s a self-proclaimed liberal. I mean, what
Democratic president since Jack Kennedy, maybe Lyndon Johnson, has ever
said they were a liberal. Yes. Now, he was.
And he was the man who proposed in the 1960 presidential campaign, he
proposed Medicare. He proposed the Peace Corps. He was talking about
discussions with the Soviets about disarmament. He was very much ahead of
his time. I think that was one of the reasons it was a very close election
in the end.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Andrew for the other question. What`s Kennedy --
how was your father -- how would he grade him as a fellow intellectual?
Was he a person who loved ideas, loved to read, was he someone like an
egghead, the phrase used I make -- I think coined for Adlai Stevenson?
ANDREW SCHLESINGER, "THE LETTERS OF ARTHUR SCHLESSINGER, JR.": My father
thought that Jack Kennedy was more of an intellectual than Adlai Stevenson.
SCHLESINGER: Adlai Stevenson would listen, he was a great listener. And
he took -- absorbed ideas by being surrounded by brilliant intellectuals
and people with ideas and then he could synthesize (ph) them.
But Kennedy actually liked to read books, read the books that his advisers
gave him. And he was -- so it`s a funny irony that --
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know, I think Stevenson`s book was the social registry,
but that`s an Irish comment. That was part of my attitude.
Let me come back to Stephen on this.
Jack Kennedy, I mean, this whole thing about you know, the sophisticates
love to say -- sophisticates love to say two things. One is, well, I`m
conservative on fiscal matters, but on social matters I tend to be liberal.
Well, OK, fine.
And the other thing they like to say is, well, Kennedy promised a lot but
he never got much done, I`m completely against that view. What was your
dad`s view about Kennedy`s and, of course, I read his book, "The Thousand
Days", his first that came out. But what was his assessment of Kennedy`s
achievements as president? Your dad?
S. SCHLESINGER: Well, you know I think he felt that Kennedy was shut down
in the prime of his life. But many of the accomplishments that Lyndon
Johnson is renowned for started in the Kennedy administration, had Kennedy
lived and probably would have been reelected overwhelmingly in 1964, he
would have been the person who passed the civil rights bill because he
would have had a Democratic-controlled Congress.
He would have passed Medicare. He would have passed a lot of the social
legislation like war on poverty that Johnson is well renowned for. So I
think he felt that Kennedy was short shifted in a way by history. But that
he was nonetheless a man of considerable potential accomplishments.
MATTHEWS: Explain to me something I think a lot of moderate conservatives
and liberals don`t get, is why there was a strong group of people on the
left that were anti-communist as hell, but very liberal. Explain that,
A. SCHLESINGER: Well, after World War II, there were two types of
liberals, the popular front liberals who supported a close relationship
with the Soviet Union as had taken place after World War II, and the anti-
communist liberals, my father was one of them. Americans for Democratic
Action was the organization they set up.
They did not want their liberalism or their accomplishments be undermined
by being painted as communists, and they rooted out the communists from all
their organizations. They did not trust the communists. Those communists
of those days were pro-Stalin.
MATTHEWS: Of course.
SCHLESINGER: And my father made a big, later, when he met a lot of young
students and new-age historians, he believed they had to distinguish
between anti-communism, which seems kind of feeble during the Vietnam War
and the anti-Stalinism which they fought after World War II.
MATTHEWS: I agree with that.
Anyway, as Jack Kennedy geared up to run for president in `59, he faced
questions about whether he was sufficiently opposed to Senator Joe
McCarthy`s communist tactics -- tactics -- in the U.S. Senate.
Mr. Schlesinger penned Kennedy some strategic political advice. Here`s one
passage, "You`re going to pay a serious price before you were through for
having written a book called `Profiles in Courage`. People feel entitled
to hold you to higher standards than they hold most people. As you know
better than I, the McCarthy thing is the greatest talking point against
you. The one thing which has cost most doubt about and which indeed is
hard to defend."
Certainly, that`s what he thought.
Stephen, how did your father deal with the McCarthy/Kennedy failure to
fight with each other enough?
S. SCHLESINGER: Yes, he always was very upset that Kennedy wouldn`t take a
position on the censor (ph) of Senator McCarthy by the Senate. Of course,
you know, Kennedy was in the hospital at the time and had an excuse. But
the fact is that many liberals represented in a sense by my father felt
that Kennedy nonetheless should take a forthright position for the censure
And the fact is that in the end, I think Kennedy was you know, balancing
different political reality realities when he was trying to run for the
MATTHEWS: All right. We`ve got to go. I think the Irish thing had a lot
to do with it. I know from my background, anyway, because Joe McCarthy was
more popular than Kennedy up in the early `50s in Massachusetts.
Anyway, thank you, Stephen, good luck with this book. I love your father`s
writer and I love the fact you guys didn`t hide this stuff. You did it as
he once said to you, guys -- I call it as I saw it. And I love the fact
that he kept it all in there.
Thank you, Stephen and Andrew Schlesinger.
Coming up, let me finish with Jacqueline Kennedy`s wish for two memorials
to her husband, one you know about, the eternal flame, the other you`re
going to hear about.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:
Jacqueline Kennedy wanted two memorials to her husband when he was shot and
killed a half century ago this Friday. One was the eternal flame next to
his grave at Arlington National Cemetery where today, President Obama laid
a wreath honoring the 35th president, alongside the first lady, Michelle
Obama, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The other memorial was to scratch the loss president`s initial on the
corner of the new Saturn rocket to be used for the early Apollo flight that
coming January. She wanted to be where somebody wouldn`t notice it, that
only she and perhaps her husband would know was there.
Jack Kennedy wanted to beat the Soviets to the moon, wanted to win (ph) out
over them in the third world with the help of the Peace Corps, and
basically wanted to win the Cold War in a peaceful competition, not a
Well, six years after Kennedy`s death, I was serving in Africa teaching
business to the rural traders of Swaziland. One night in July, a fellow
volunteer took the people from his village onto the hill, to watch
something soon as small bright light began crossing the dark horizon. It
was the reason he brought his people out there that night to see his
countrymen traveling to the moon.
That Saturn rocket Kennedy hoped would one day pass the Soviets, it had
done its job. And so had his Peace Corps.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
And this evening, just a few hours ago, the Senate came to another one of
its truly embarrassing avoidable standoffs. And it happened even though
Democrats and Republicans had previously agreed on how to proceed on
competing legislation -- legislation over one of the biggest issues facing
our country today.
Here is what happened. The one big thing the Senate needs to do before
Thanksgiving break is pass the National Authorization Act, the defense
bill. And this year, that bill is the terrain of one of the most
interesting David and Goliath battles on all Capitol Hill.
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