Guests: Ellen Tauscher, Tom Tancredo, Lindsey Graham, Roger Simon, Janet Napolitano, Howard Fineman
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight, the president speaks to the country. His topic is immigration. His message: Support my idea of reform. But the real purpose tonight is to win back the hearts and minds of the American people. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews, and welcome to HARDBALL. Tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, President Bush in his first prime-time address from the Oval Office on a domestic issue will speak to the country about the problem of illegal immigration. The president is expected to call for the deployment of National Guard troops to protect America‘s border with Mexico, but major questions will remain after his speech. What is the role of the U.S. military? Is the National Guard already stretched too thin, fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did the president consult with the governors of border states on militarizing our borders? Is this a short-term fix on a long-term problem? Finally, is the president addressing the entire nation or just his conservative Republican base?
More on this later. But first, MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell has a preview of the president‘s prime-time address.
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Chris, any Oval Office prime-time address is a big deal. But tonight‘s speech is unprecedented. You mentioned it. This is the first time the president is using this setting to tackle a domestic issue, and it shows just how high the stakes are.
And the president is really walking the tight rope. He has got to appeal to the right, by stressing that he is going to be tough on the border security, and he is appealing in some ways to the left to some degree by proposing this guest worker problem—proposal.
The problem for the president is that in many ways, he is unable to appease either side. They‘re both unhappy on this particular proposal.
But the big headline that this White House wants tonight is that the president is going to be sending the National Guard to tighten the border, that he is not soft when it comes to enforcing our nation‘s security.
And so the Pentagon says it could be up to 6,000 National Guard. They could be there one to two years, a temporary plan there to shore up the borders.
Some other people have—on Capitol Hill that I spoke with, some Republicans, said today, well, this is an important step forward, but House Republican, who are taking the hard line on this issue, say, yes, we‘re for border security, but we‘re still not for a guest worker program. In fact, the House Majority Whip Blunt said that they will not support any plan unless the 11 to 12 million undocumented in this country go home first before they can apply for any guest worker visa. So it is going to be very hard for the president to get through the House.
Now, some others have suggested today that the president is giving this very big speech tonight for political reasons, to shore up his base. But interestingly, Chris, we heard from Karl Rove today, who essentially suggested that the president‘s approval ratings won‘t go up again until there is better news when it comes to the Iraq war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: The American people like this president. His personal approval ratings are in the ‘60s. His job approval is lower. And what that says to me is that people like him, they respect him. He‘s somebody they feel a connection with, but they‘re just sour right now on the war, and that‘s the way it is going to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: So even tonight, as the president is trying to win the hearts and minds of the American people with his bold new immigration proposal and putting it out there, Chris, even his own top political adviser admits that the Iraq war is souring the mood of the country and dragging down the president‘s approval ratings on everything—Chris.
MATTHEWS: And I wonder where Karl Rove gets his poll numbers for, because NBC has got the president in personal popularity down below 40 percent, at 39 percent, with only 19 percent saying they have very positive feelings about him. So I don‘t know where Karl Rove is polling.
But let me ask you about the real goal tonight. If you have to think about the American electorate, which part is he going after tonight?
O‘DONNELL: His conservative base. Period. Who says that this is a major problem in this country, especially in the border states. And Karl Rove said today that he believes it is a center-right country, and as long as there are center-right candidates, and if they can put forward a center-right set of policy proposals—this is just one of several wedge issues they‘re going to put forward—they believe that they could keep the conservative base.
Karl Rove says he is still optimistic about the mid-term elections, but it is a very tough picture out there. This is the beginning of the president‘s swinging for the fences.
MATTHEWS: Do we have any idea what deployment of the National Guard along the border would mean? I mean, these men and women go down there, they are people who have signed up to protect their country in wartime and against civil disasters like Katrina. But now they‘re being deployed to go down there and stop human beings from crossing the border. Will they actually be using the rifles? Will they be in a military deployment? What would their capacity be? Do we know yet?
O‘DONNELL: It is a great question. The White House has said that they are not planning to militarize the border. The National Guard will be there in a support role. But clearly, this raises some real questions, as both Democrats and Republicans on the Hill today were raising questions. Why are we sending our National Guard there, already stretched thin and tired from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan?
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Norah O‘Donnell, for introducing the speech.
Congressman Tom Tancredo is a Colorado Republican, and Congressman Ellen Tauscher is a Democrat from California. Thank you both for joining us tonight.
REP. TOM TANCREDO ®, COLORADO: My pleasure.
REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What is the—do you believe the president believes the National Guard troops are going to stop illegal immigration, Congressman?
TANCREDO: No, I don‘t...
MATTHEWS: Whether he believes it.
TANCREDO: I don‘t think that he thinks it will stop illegal
immigration. I think he thinks it is one step in that direction. I think
I disagree with Norah in one thing, I‘ll tell you, in that it is not just a play for the base. This is a play for a majority of Americans, because when you look at the polls, it‘s a huge percentage of Americans who support the ending of illegal immigration into this country, including by the way, Democrats.
MATTHEWS: But does—does the president support ending illegal immigration? Do you believe he is with you on this?
TANCREDO: Yeah, that is a great question, and one I‘m not sure I can answer. I don‘t know if this—to what extent this is a really just a ploy, a way—a way to garner support, and just from a political standpoint, help push the issue that‘s in the Senate right now, which is amnesty. I think that that is absolutely tied in here. And so it may be more that than it is a desire to stop illegal immigration. But the symbol of putting the military on the border from my point of view is a good one.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Tauscher, is this a Karl Rove stunt? The speech tonight, the idea of talking about National Guard troops? They could have talked about this three years ago, six years ago when they first came into office. We had the illegal immigration problem then.
TAUSCHER: Why didn‘t they fund the Border Patrol in the 2004 Intel Reform Act? Why didn‘t they fund them last year? Why aren‘t they funding them in this year‘s budget either?
The plan was to increase the Border Patrol by 2,000 every year for the next 10 years, to get to the double the size that the 9/11 Commission said we should have. So this is just bait and switch.
MATTHEWS: Well, why—why are we putting people who are basically patriotic Americans serving in a, you know, part of the career—that‘s not their career, to be National guardspeople—where you should be putting professional borders guards?
TANCREDO: Well, I think, for one thing, we do not have enough professional border guards, and this is to help augment that.
But let‘s talk about the numbers. There are 440,000 National Guardsmen in the United States. What we‘re talking about here, I‘ve heard as few as 4,000 being deployed on the border. It started out at about 15,000; now I think it is down to 4,000. That‘s less than 1 percent of the total.
About 20,000 are presently serving in Iraq. When you get back from Iraq, by the way, you have a six-month—or is it six weeks? I can‘t remember which now, but you have this period of time essentially of R&R where you can‘t be used.
So I don‘t think we‘re going to be stretching the lines too thin,
certainly. I think there should be far more than this deployed down there
far more than this number that he‘s talking about deployed if he‘s really serious. We do need to augment what we have on the border, and Ellen is right. We have passed—the House has passed actually a year ago an increase in the Border Patrol of 2,000 a year for five years. The president came back the next year with—in his budget, asking for 271. We had to force through the appropriations process him to hire 1,500.
TAUSCHER: Still lower than it should be.
TANCREDO: Which is still lower than it should be. So it is a continuing battle.
But nonetheless, as I said, I‘m not going to fault him for sending them, because I want them on the border. I just want more, and I‘m really worried about the fact that they‘re going to be working under the control of the governors. What does this really mean? You have got governors who are somewhat sympathetic, some are totally opposed, some are completely supportive. Does that mean the role in each state of the guardsman is going to be different? There is a lot of answers here that we need to still hear.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you all, because I‘m a skeptic, I‘ve watched the attempt to pass an immigration reform before, nice documents are signed, both houses agree to them, the president signs it. It has a name.
TANCREDO: Simpson-Mazzoli, yes.
MATTHEWS: Simpson-Mazzoli. And nothing ever happens. What are the odds that after all this is done at the end of the year, you have a lame-duck session perhaps and you do pass some bill, but it doesn‘t change anything. There are still 11 million people in this country illegally. There are still people coming across the border every night. You can take the NBC cameras down there and watch them.
Is it just more paper we‘re passing out? We‘re giving out so-called guest worker paper, then we‘re giving out legalization paper. And the way we‘re dealing with undocumented workers is to give them all documents. How is that a solution to anything?
TAUSCHER: This just can‘t be tough talk...
MATTHEWS: It‘s paper.
TAUSCHER: Well, this just can‘t be tough talk out of the White House tonight. This has got to be a real plan. And unfortunately, the president doesn‘t have a comprehensive plan.
You cannot use a baseball metaphor—the National Guard as a utility infielder—every time you feel like it. They are overstretched. I sit on the House Armed Services Committee. Ninety percent recruiting, not 100. And we need to be sure that we‘re not overusing these guys.
Apparently, they‘re going to be used for logistics and driving trucks and maybe construction. That isn‘t really what the guard...
MATTHEWS: What does that mean?
TAUSCHER: Well, the president is trying to walk this very thin line. He cannot militarize and federalize the National Guard. He has to leave them...
MATTHEWS: So they bring their guns? Do they bring their guns to the border?
TAUSCHER: Apparently, they don‘t bring their guns...
MATTHEWS: They don‘t bring their guns.
TAUSCHER: ... they don‘t do arrests. They basically are there to support.
MATTHEWS: So, OK. I‘ve been hanging out having lunch with a bunch of National Guards people—and I‘m a National Guards person, supposedly. I‘m sitting down on the Mexican border. I see 20 people get out of a truck and run up towards the north. What do I do? Absolutely nothing.
TANCREDO: Here‘s a...
MATTHEWS: Because I‘m not—I have not the capability to arrest them. I am just standing there watching them doing it.
TANCREDO: This can actually work. I‘ve seen where we have deployed the military to the border. In this case it was the northern border. It was a two-week exercise with 100 Marines. I was up there for a part of that. I watched it happen. They interdicted, by the way, no one. They did not stop anybody. They only provided eyes and ears, 3 UAVS.
Then they had the border patrol station strategically behind. When they saw something coming, some people coming across, they would radio. The border patrol would, you know, take a helicopter up to meet these guys coming across and say hey, you know, welcome to America. Spread them. It worked. It really worked well. It can work.
MATTHEWS: Is that going to be their duty?
TANCREDO: Who knows. I mean, so much of this...
MATTHEWS: That sounds like a military duty.
TANCREDO: Well, it is. But there is no...
MATTHEWS: I think the Marines you talked about were armed right?
TANCREDO: You know what? I do not believe that they were.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know why we would deploy troops without arms.
TANCREDO: I don‘t either. It makes no sense, especially when you‘re looking at—you know, I heard just the other night that...
MATTHEWS: I mean, Boy Scouts could do what you‘ve just described.
MATTHEWS: You know, Girl Scouts could do it too. Why bring grown-up people on federal pay roll? They‘re getting paid to be troops to send them out there. Do they wear the uniforms?
TANCREDO: Oh, yes. It the technology that I hope they bring with them. That is what we need on the border, Chris. It is the human resource. But technology can help us actually secure that border.
MATTHEWS: Am I the only person who believes that a person who wants a job and is promised legalization over time and can find a job that‘s illegal in the short term, will still try to get here?
TAUSCHER: Yes. Absolutely. And that‘s why we need comprehensive reform. The president should stand up and say that he is going to support the McCain Kennedy bill in the Senate. And then he should urge the House Republicans to do better than the bill that just criminalizes everybody and find a way to not reward but to regularize the 12 million that are in and figure out how to get a better program just on immigration reform generally.
TANCREDO: Terrible idea. Terrible idea to actually legalize the people who are here illegally. A horrible message.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the message?
TANCREDO: The message is if you‘ve done it the right way, if the millions of people who have come into this country through the process the right way waited in line, they are all suckers. That‘s what the message you send when you start legalizing the people who broke the law, putting them in line for citizenship. It is a lousy idea.
If he wants to comprehensively deal with this issue, I‘ll tell you how. You do in fact secure the borders through both military and border patrol assets and then you go after employers. If you can stop the magnet...
MATTHEWS: Can you imagine the Republican president going after Republican business people and threatening them with big fines? Can you imagine that?
TANCREDO: He better. He better.
MATTHEWS: But Bush won‘t do that. They‘re his pals. These are the people who want the illegal immigration.
TANCREDO: Yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: They want as much immigration as possible and cheap workers as possible. But if he says I‘m going to fine you big time, he‘ll lose all that support.
TANCREDO: If he wants to turn his poll numbers around, I‘ll tell you...
MATTHEWS: So you say he has to declare war on the illegal hirers?
TANCREDO: That‘s exactly right. That‘s the magnet.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he‘ll ever do it?
TANCREDO: Hey, it remains to be seen.
TAUSCHER: That is part of it. But McCain Kennedy does not do amnesty.
MATTHEWS: Aren‘t these the people that you described who contributed to Republican campaigns?
TANCREDO: You bet, but you know what? There are fewer of them than the millions of people who I and others deal with every single day.
MATTHEWS: I know but you remember about the cloth cut Republicans.
But the mink coat Republicans want these cheap laborers.
TANCREDO: Hey, we passed the House bill, remember?
MATTHEWS: You know what I am talking about.
TANCREDO: You bet I do. But the House of Representatives passed the bill, enforcement only. We passed it December 13.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s all see what happens to the president tonight how well he does with the people.
MATTHEWS: Thank you Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher of California.
Coming up, can members of Congress reach a deal on immigration in this election year? Doesn‘t sound like it. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Here to answer some tough questions about looming legal battles, illegal immigration and the president of the United States is South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. He is also a colonel and reserve judge in the Air Force.
Is the National Guard the right force to send to the border?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I think it can help, but it is not a permanent solution. They can be forced multipliers. They can provide some technical assistance. They can relieve some logistical border problems the border patrol has. They can enhance what the border patrol is doing. But I don‘t think you are going to see them on the front lines of law enforcement.
MATTHEWS: You know, I‘ll say this for the fifth time tonight. NBC cameras have caught people coming across the border. It is a very familiar picture. It is what we call stock footage. People climbing over, racing, sometimes being caught, kind of a cat and mouse game. Will this stop that?
GRAHAM: Well, what it does it allows the bored patrol to free up some people. IT provides new technology. And it is the recognition by the president that he gets the message from his right wing that rMD+IT_rMDNM_I know the border is broken, I‘m going to do something about it. He‘s telling the American people, we‘ve got a crisis, here‘s a crisis response.
What do you do when you have a crisis? You call out the National Guard. So, yes, it will be well-received if it is not over sold. This is not a permanent fix. We don‘t have the ability to keep the National Guard on the border forever. And it is not the way to secure the border.
The way to secure the border is through technology and law enforcement. We are going to double the size of the border patrol. But this is a political statement as well as a substantive statement. But if we oversell it as Republicans, we‘ll make a mistake.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s where I think my head is going. If you say it is going to stop illegal immigration, that‘s overselling it. Because people know if there is a job here they can get Los Angeles or South Carolina and there‘s a guy hiring on a street corner at $10 an hour, they‘re going to be there.
GRAHAM: We‘ve got 4.7 percent unemployment. People are coming because there is no employment. There is a better life in America than there is in Central America and Mexico. So people are coming to our country for the same reason the Irish came and everybody else came. We have a right to control the flow. But if you really want to solve the immigration problem, solve the employment problem.
MATTHEWS: How do you—when did the United States get responsibility for flawed employment in Mexico or Nicaragua?
GRAHAM: We don‘t, but I am saying people are responding to our needs.
People are coming over here because we have jobs that we‘re offering them. We need to find a way to control how we offer the job and who can take the job.
MATTHEWS: Well, how about making it illegal to hire illegal?
GRAHAM: Let‘s make it not only illegal but understandable. How about going to the Chamber of Commerce that‘s all over the country and say here‘s the way you employ people, here‘s a tamper proof card, here‘s a system that works. And if you don‘t use it, you‘re going to go to jail.
MATTHEWS: And the problem is we have got people on the left and the right who don‘t believe in an I.D. card.
GRAHAM: We have got problems with...
GRAHAM: Yes, absolutely. Now let me tell you the third audience he is talking to tonight. He is talking to the United States Senate. We are about to embark on a comprehensive solution. The president is telling the right, I hear you, I hear you about the border now you need to hear me. The border alone will not solve the problem. We need tamper proof employer verification cards.
MATTHEWS: Will he say that tonight?
GRAHAM: He‘s going to say that tonight, I believe. And I think he‘s going to say, you can‘t ignore 11 million people who came here to work.
MATTHEWS: OK so the National Guard talk tonight is basically a short- term demonstration project that he‘s serious.
GRAHAM: I hear you from the right and I‘m going to act because we‘ve got a crisis, short-term solution.
MATTHEWS: And behind that demonstration project you call it, the National Guard is a commitment to really stop illegal immigration.
GRAHAM: There are two messages behind the National Guard. To the right, I disagree with you about border security only. I‘m going down a different path. We‘re going to deal with the 11 million by giving them an earned path to citizenship into the employer community. I understand the system is broken. We‘re going to start over. But if you don‘t play fair in the future when we start over, we‘re coming after you.
MATTHEWS: What happens to those people. National Guard‘s coming into place, they‘re going to be assisting the border patrol, but what happens to those 11 million people—of those people who say “I‘m not going to bother going for citizenship. I‘m going to keep working illegally.” What happens to them?
GRAHAM: Well what happens to them depends on what happens to the people hiring them. If we had a system tomorrow that every employer would be afraid not to play by the rules and give the card and not follow the rules, then the jobs would go away.
MATTHEWS: But you know, we look at—we have an industry in this country, the southern part of the country. Not just air conditioning but golf resorts, hotel business. All these people exist off of illegal labor, don‘t they?
GRAHAM: They‘re coming here because of the demand. We have a high demand for unskilled workers. We‘ve got the agriculture industry, the tourism industry, construction industry, where literally, these people are doing jobs that Americans no longer choose to do.
MATTHEWS: Well if the salaries went up, they might.
GRAHAM: Well the bottom line is we‘re trying to legalize a need.
MATTHEWS: OK, you know I disagree with you, Senator. There are people in our neighborhood, in Maryland, guys working their butts off. They‘re hard-working guys. I‘ve got nothing against the individuals. But they‘re working in sheet rock. They‘re putting up plaster board. They‘re doing painting jobs. They‘re doing jobs that pay pretty darn well.
And I don‘t think most are legal. So you can‘t just say they‘re coming to do the jobs people don‘t want. We have the city of Washington with a lot of working-class people that should maybe be hired to do those jobs. Why aren‘t they getting those jobs first?
GRAHAM: What I‘m saying is that the people are being hired who come across the border are doing jobs that are unskilled work, for the most part that‘s hard work, and they‘re getting paid, most, above minimum wage.
MATTHEWS: If you drive through this town, Senator, you see the construction jobs all over northwest. They‘re Hispanic workers. How come they‘re not hiring African Americans who live in this city? Why are they all Hispanics? Why are the people who get here, these are skilled jobs. Not the guy holding the flag. Anybody can do that. But the guys doing the drilling, the cleaning up the tar work, they‘re digging for the pipelines and everything else. They‘re doing skilled work.
GRAHAM: The fair question is, are we taking jobs away from willing American workers? We‘ve got 4.7 percent unemployment. You can‘t—there are not a bunch of people standing on the streets in South Carolina unemployed.
As a matter of fact, if you‘re an employer in South Carolina, you‘re begging for somebody that will show up five days a week. So this is not about a bunch of people coming over here working cheap, putting us out of work. We‘ve got historically low unemployment. This is about supply and demand in an out of control process, broken borders, a lousy legal system.
MATTHEWS: You really mean to say that there aren‘t people in the United States who want to work construction?
GRAHAM: I‘m saying that there will never be in your lifetime, lower unemployment than we have today.
MATTHEWS: Spoken like a proud Republican. Thank you, Senator Graham. Up next, Senator John McCain spent part of this weekend with the Reverend Jerry Falwell, a man he once called an agent of intolerance. We‘ll find out how that speech went and also about McCain future. That‘s coming up in the next segment, you‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The president is going to speak in a few minutes tonight. But first of all this weekend, Senator John McCain gave the commencement address at Jerry Falwell‘s Liberty University. So why is this important? Because back in 2000, not 100 years ago, when he ran for president, McCain called Falwell an agent of intolerance.
Now they‘ve buried the hatchet, maybe. Is McCain setting the table for an ‘08 run by cozying up to these conservatives? Roger Simon is political correspondent from Bloomberg News, he was at Liberty University this week for the speech. First of us, was John McCain well received?
ROGER SIMON, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: He was well received. He got, he was interrupted four times in a 25-minute speech which ain‘t bad. He got a standing ovation afterwards. And I think it will prove to be his best-received speech of this week. He‘s speaking at the New School in New York and Columbia University. I think he will get a much less warm reception.
MATTHEWS: He‘s giving the same speech at the conservative school this weekend and now doing the same speech at a liberal school up in New York.
SIMON: And that‘s on purpose. His campaign, his people want to show that he is not pandering to the left or the right. He gives the same speech wherever he goes and people can accept it or reject it and that‘s all part of John McCain‘s...
MATTHEWS: ... OK, loving to analyze the entrails of John McCain, which I‘m going to probably spend the next two or three days doing, did you notice in his speech, although he assumed the position of hawk on the Iraq war, he said “I believed at the time it was the right course.” Wiggle room.
SIMON: I‘m not sure—I don‘t think there‘s any wiggle room on his support for the war. There may be wiggle room in the future on what we do about wrapping it up or not wrapping it up. John McCain is pretty open about it. He would put more troops in there if we could but he knows politically that‘s impossible. I think what he is talking about, is saying, “Look, even if I‘m wrong on this, I did it for my country and I did it because I think not doing it would be worse.”
MATTHEWS: But who said he didn‘t do it for his country? That‘s a false argument. Nobody questions anybody‘s patriotism who fought for these wars. It is a question of whether it was the right judgment for America whether to go.
SIMON: And he deals with that. He says if we didn‘t fight them there, we would literally be fighting them on the Brooklyn Bridge.
MATTHEWS: The Iraqis?
MATTHEWS: So he goes into that conflation game that the other side does, which is to say every time you‘re fighting an Arab, we‘re fighting terrorists.
SIMON: Well and the irony is, this was exactly the argument that was made during the Vietnam War, but no domino effect ever happened. We didn‘t fight the Viet Cong on San Francisco, on the Golden Gate Bridge. But McCain‘s point is terrorism is different than the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese, where this time they will come and get us.
MATTHEWS: But the Iraqis are not terrorists, the Iraqis are nationalist Baathists who don‘t want—who have their own attitudes toward Israel, their own attitudes towards everybody in that region perhaps. But what terrorist role have they played? I guess I‘m rMD+IN_rMDNM_not familiar with that.
SIMON: Well I shouldn‘t be here making his point. But I think he‘s making the point that the people we are fighting in Iraq are indeed terrorists.
MATTHEWS: Well, now.
MATTHEWS: But they‘ve come in since we went in.
SIMON: Well I think critics of the war point out that the war actually worsened the terrorist situation.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a bad man to argue with on this Roger, you‘re a journalist. But let me ask you, do you think it was a smart move for him to go down there and did he succeed what he wanted to do, John McCain?
SIMON: I think it was both smart and I think he succeeded.
MATTHEWS: Why did he walk out of there without taking questions? Why was he so brief and almost bluntly brief?
SIMON: He‘s a little more removed from the press than he was in 2000. He says that‘s going to change. It‘s going to be exactly the same. He takes questions at his town meetings.
MATTHEWS: But he walked out even before the end of the ceremony.
SIMON: I think he wanted to get out of there before Jerry Falwell went in and told the kids they‘re soldiers for Jesus Christ. Those two words did not appear in McCain‘s speech and they never left his lips. He gave an entirely secular speech at an evangelical university is very open about the kids working to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the world. There‘s nothing wrong with that. I don‘t think McCain wanted to be around while that was being said.
MATTHEWS: I think that was an interesting move to find common ground.
They‘re both hawkish.
We‘ll see how well that goes over, as you say, the new school. Thank you. Up next, the president plans to send National Guard troops to the southwest border. Do Southwest states want them there? That‘s the big question. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC and we‘ll bring you the answer.
MATTHEWS: We‘re less than 30 minutes away from President Bush‘s nationally televised address tonight where he‘s expected to unveil his plan to send thousands of National Guard troops to our border with Mexico.
President Bush will tour the border town of Yuma, Arizona, later this week. The governor of that state, Governor Janet Napolitano, joins us now. It is great to have you tonight. It is such a hot issue. You know all about it. What has been your experience in using National Guard troops at the border?
GOV. JANET NAPOLITANO (D), ARIZONA: We‘ve actually had National Guard at the border since 1988. We use them in a support capacity, for drug interdiction. We use them for engineering, building and maintaining fences, lighting and so forth. And I‘ve been asking for more federal funds for more guard on the border for quite some time now. I‘m looking very much forward to the president‘s speech.
MATTHEWS: Are you looking forward to him deploying National Guardspeople across the Mexican-American border?
NAPOLITANO: Yes. I think that‘s what he‘s going to propose. I think what he is going to propose is that National Guard troops from around the country do their annual multi-week training along the U.S.-Mexican border. That they do it in a support capacity. It is important that it be mission specific. Important that it be targeted. But for a state like Arizona where over half the border patrol apprehensions in the country occur annually, this is a good addition.
MATTHEWS: Will it stop illegal immigration?
NAPOLITANO: It by itself will not stop illegal immigration. This has to be part and parcel of a whole package of reforms that include a temporary worker program that includes employer sanctions that actually are enforced on the interior of the United States. And Washington, D.C. and Mexico City must engage on an ongoing basis with respect to immigration.
MATTHEWS: Do you trust a Republican president to impose economic or criminal sanctions on Republican businesspeople who hire illegals?
NAPOLITANO: You know, I think he must. If we‘re going to have a workable immigration law, it is a supply and demand issue as one of the former speakers on your program said. You‘ve got to have a law that‘s workable and then you have to enforce it. That means you have to have the tools and the resources and I.C.E. and the other federal agencies to go in and for those who intentionally keep avoiding the law, and avoiding the intent of the law, they have to be subject to criminal penalty.
DOBBS: How do you enforce—you‘re a former prosecutor. How do you bring the bear on an employer, say a guy who runs a hotel, or a woman who runs a hotel who hires people to do the lawn work and the housework and the chambermaid work and you know they are hiring people illegally. They say they gave me documents, they look good. How do you sanction those people if they say they got paper in their hands that looked good?
NAPOLITANO: There‘s a number of things you can do. One of them is you can just impose a simple requirement that they have to verify that the Social Security number of the person that they‘ve employed is actually that person‘s Social Security number. There are a myriad of ways to do that. So that there are ways that you can tell whether somebody is really making a good faith effort to comply with the law and whether they‘re not.
It goes to another fundamental point which is to say that most of these illegal immigrants are here working. And that‘s why the temporary worker program combined with the employer sanctions really need to be part of the whole bill that the Congress ultimately passes. They need to pass a bill. I think America is tired of waiting.
MATTHEWS: Some Democrats in the Senate, I get the sense, are willing to play a game of delay using parliamentary tactics to allow lots of amendments, to break apart a deal. Maybe I‘m wrong in that. Do you believe the Democratic party stands to gain by a bill that‘s passed and signed by a Republican president?
NAPOLITANO: I don‘t think it should be viewed that way. In my view as a border state governor, this is a problem that needs to be solved. It needs to be taken out of the partisan rhetoric of both sides. Both sides, the rhetoric has gotten overheated and inaccurate and misleading. Emotions are running too high. In my view, you need a workable border, a tough border, a secure border and then an immigration border that matches the economic reality of today.
MATTHEWS: What are you going to say to President Bush when he comes down to Arizona this week? On Wednesday, I believe.
NAPOLITANO: I‘m going to say it‘s pretty hot. Don‘t wear wool. I‘m also going to welcome him to our border. He‘s been here before. He‘s a former border governor himself. I‘m glad that at long last, the White House is finally engaging. This problem has been allowed to fester for far too long.
MATTHEWS: It is great having you on the show tonight. Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona.
Up next, we‘re 20 minutes away from the president‘s address to the country. Can he rally his Republican Party and the country at large behind his immigration ideas. This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The president is about to deliver his speech on illegal immigration. What will he say? Is it what his critics want to hear him say? And what about his supporters?
Pat Buchanan is a MSNBC political analyst and Howard Fineman is “Newsweek‘s” chief political correspondent, no supporters at this table. Let‘s go, an independent and a guy who doesn‘t like Bush policy.
Can he say anything new tonight, Pat, that would convince you he is serious about stopping illegal immigration?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he‘s taken some steps in that direction, but he is not going to tell me seriously that he is not going to have a guest worker program or provide an amnesty to 11 million people. Because I think he intends to put them on a path to citizenship, and it is de facto amnesty.
MATTHEWS: And what does that do to future illegal immigrants, encourages them?
BUCHANAN: Oh, for heaven‘s sakes, if 11 million people are given amnesty after Reagan gave 3 million amnesty, the whole world is coming. Everybody says, look, we made a mistake. We should have gone in illegally.
What are we doing waiting here?
MATTHEWS: Howard, another view, an analysis perhaps?
HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK: Well, the speech—the full text of the speech is embargo. The White House put out some excerpts earlier, and it is clear that the president is going to pound the table and agree with Pat that he, President Bush, is against amnesty.
But they‘re going to set up the straw man of amnesty. Bush is going to oppose that. But he will be for a guest worker program that will put several million of the estimated 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants on the path to citizenship. And is going to will make people like Pat very upset.
MATTHEWS: But he‘s also using words—and I saw some of those excerpts too—like we‘re a nation of immigrants. Well, hell, we all know that. But when you use language like that, you‘re making the case for these illegal people to keep coming into the country.
FINEMAN: Sure he is. Because what he is trying to do...
MATTHEWS: There‘s only one reason to say we‘re a nation of immigrants in this debate.
BUCHANAN: They are not immigrants. These are illegal aliens. Immigrants came to Ellis Island. These people are part of an invasion of this country by people who are illegal and want to come here and don‘t want to follow our laws and are determined to get here. You‘re right, they come here to work, but this is not immigration, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you, Ernest Hemingway once gave this advice to I think it was to Rita Hayworth, he said don‘t confuse action with motion. Is anything going to come out of this bill that is really going to change anything? A lot of bills.
FINEMAN: Well it maybe the Rita Hayworth speech here. Because I think, for example, the notion of sending National Guard troops to the border without arms to stand around and do nobody‘s clear precisely what, I think, is symbolic. But it is less than meets the eye. And rather than calm the conservatives who are upset with this—I don‘t know what Pat‘s view on it is—but I think it is just going to inflame them. Because they‘re going to view it as a phony piece of theater that isn‘t really going to do anything..
MATTHEWS: OK. You‘re sending National Guard troops, who have volunteered to serve their country and defend it, who have volunteered to learn some military training. They get pretty good at it. You are telling them don‘t bring your guns with you . This is not a military operation. In fact, you can wear your uniforms, but it is only just for disciplinary reasons. You have no reason. We are not going to be in any combat situation.
So you‘re going to get down there and basically what? Work the phones for them? What are you going to do down there? You can‘t stop anybody.
BUCHANAN: You are going to free up some border patrol for a time. But the key questions here are political, Chris. I think he is going to win this thing in the Senate. And then the question goes how many amendments do you get on it?
When you go to conference, Harry Reid has got the conference committee booked from the Senate side. The question is, will the Republican conservatives in the House when Bush goes to work on it, if he does, we‘ll vacate. If we lose this—the conservatives—fight in the House, I think the conservatives will lose the House.
MATTHEWS: How can conservatives go back to their basically gerrymandered Republican districts of people, our native Americans, who are upset about too much illegal immigration going on and say, yes, I signed the president‘s bill, he leaned on me a little bit, so I did it? How do you defend that?
BUCHANAN: Well, you get 120, 130 Republicans vote against it. And the Democrats roll in and vote for it. Listen, I disagree with you here.
MATTHEWS: But there is a Republican House rule, you have to have a majority of Republicans to vote.
BUCHANAN: You don‘t to. Hastert will want about half the guys at least. But look, I think the Democrats really want a bill. I disagree with you there. I think this is a bill when you naturalize and move these people on the path to citizenship, you‘re putting an end to the Reagan, Nixon coalition forever.
FINEMAN: Whoa. They want a bill eventually.
BUCHANAN: You don‘t think they want one this year?
FINEMAN: I am not sure they want one before the election. I think they would like to see the Republicans fight with each other all season long. And I don‘t think they want to give...
MATTHEWS: What about the argument that Pat makes that they want the road not just to citizenship for the illegal immigrants but the road to membership in the Democratic Party.
FINEMAN: Well, of course they do. But they figure they are going to get that eventually. They would like to see, to use a phrase from the Nixon days, the Republicans twist in the wind for a while, divided between their business constituency and the pro-Hispanic outreach that Bush is trying and the native American who are concerned about.
BUCHANAN: Bush had such an opportunity. He could have come in with a strong border security...
MATTHEWS: Native Americans meaning European Americans generally. I was using your phrase, yes. That wasn‘t exactly my phrase.
BUCHANAN: He could have come in with a border security bill and security—and a fence and these things and split the Democrats. And he told the Republicans and the business guys next year, we get the guest worker stuff. This year, we split the Democrats and get the security stuff. It would have been a winner.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here‘s what I think. I think there will not be a bill this year. Because I think the Republicans who are against illegal immigration know that this is their bread and butter. If they buckle on this, an issue which is big on talk radio, as you know—I mean, I‘ve been listening to these people on talk radio. Laura Ingraham talks about it all the time. And she‘s not a fanatic. Savage may be, but he‘s been talking about it for years.
And it is an issue that resonates with a lot of angry Americans out there. It is not some issue they casually put aside.
FINEMAN: And it is not a small number either. It is not a small number, even though the polls show that a lot of people favor some kind of guest worker provision and so forth. There are also big numbers for the idea that Pat is spousing about, having to follow the law. That is important to people all across this country. It is.
MATTHEWS: I know. And that‘s one reason why Republicans believe in bouncing budgets because it is a matter of morality.
FINEMAN: Well, they‘re not doing that, so they might as well stick with this....
BUCHANAN: Look, if they are not bouncing budget, what is the argument for a Republican House if they can‘t stop this? I mean, they don‘t balance budgets. They‘re into pork.
MATTHEWS: Well, here is one of the great arguments of our time. Usually when we come on programs like this, we decry the fact that the little person out there, the regular human being, gets blamed for things like different kinds of drugs. The African-American gets nailed for a bigger sentence. Then the rich guy is using cocaine, he gets a lighter sentence.
But in this case, if you try to be attorney general in this country, if you try for a high office of any kind, like U.S. senator, and you are caught hiring an illegal house person at home, somebody to help clean your house, you are dead. So isn‘t it interesting, you can‘t be attorney general and hire anybody illegally and you can‘t be a U.S. senator and hire anybody illegally? But we sort of step back and say oh that is just the way things have to be.
BUCHANAN: Because Clinton...
MATTHEWS: I don‘t get it. It‘s an—it‘s a reversal thing.
BUCHANAN: Clinton lost two attorney generals. His first two on nannies.
MATTHEWS: Why did the Democrats take it seriously for regular people hiring illegals if they take it seriously about their A.G. candidates.
BUCHANAN: Millions of them going on out there and everybody knows it.
MATTHEWS: Why do we hold people to a higher standard? We do believe obeying the law is a good thing.
BUCHANAN: Exactly. Especially good when you‘re in office.
FINEMAN: Except if it ruins the service the economy that we all now live on. You cannot have it both ways. Some people are arguing these people will be a tremendous burden on American society. But the fact is we‘re saying at the same time, that they‘re taking and doing all the service jobs.
MATTHEWS: Excuse me. I‘ve been hearing that all night. They are doing big time jobs that regular working people would love to have. These are job that pay well. Construction and paining. Sheet rock workers. They‘re all around my neighborhood. I see them every day. You know what‘s going on. We know what‘s going on. It is not—
BUCHANAN: You can‘t find an occupation where illegal—very, very few where they‘re more than 25 percent. It means 75 percent are Americans they‘re competing with.
MATTHEWS: I bet you they get paid less than the guy next to him is legal. That‘s why they‘re hired. And they‘re good. Pat Buchanan, Howard Fineman. We‘re all trying to be good. We‘re getting ready for the president‘s speech on border patrol. He‘s going to send the National Guard to the Mexican border and do some other tough things tonight. It‘s worth watching. My colleague Keith Olbermann will be here with me when we come back. You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re just five minutes away from the president‘s remarks on controlling the border, sending in the National Guard, and dealing with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in our country. We‘re joined right now by my colleague, Keith Olbermann, host of MSNBC‘s “COUNTDOWN.”
Keith as a broadcaster, let‘s skip politics for just a second. What kind of audience do you think the president will get tonight, even though he has al the networks covering this?
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: I‘d be surprised if there‘s anything different in terms of the response to this, in terms of viewership or the reaction to it, Chris, from any of the other previous speeches of the last year, year and a half from the president. Because it seems to me that the country is pretty much solidified one way or the other. Everybody watching is solidified in their opinions of this president personally.
The topic itself is perhaps far less black and white than the opinions of the president are, certainly. But nonetheless, it‘s such an example of talking to people who have already made up their minds about you, that I wonder if the purpose is—it can be achieved, even in speaking to his own core group, his own base.
MATTHEWS: I was just looking at the NBC numbers. The most recent ones we had. Just very recently and asked what do you feel about the president, not intellectually, but what do you feel about him. Nineteen percent are very positive in their feelings, 20 percent, in addition to that, have somewhat positive feelings. That doesn‘t crack 40 percent. His personal appeal to the country doesn‘t seem much better than his political appeal at this point, his job performance.
OLBERMANN: It is. Obviously, the former has suffered because of the latter. The opinions that many people had were, as we saw in the previous presidential administration.
The willingness of this country to give the benefit of the doubt to the chief executive is surprisingly, surprisingly strong, given some of the chief executives of the last part of the 20th century and some of the controversies that they went through and put the country through, that it would be any kind of a sustaining support for someone, or not even support, but maintaining this position of, well, all right, this didn‘t work, we‘re going to give them another shot. This sort of bipartisanship that we always call for and ask where did it go in our broadcasts. It has been there, but I think the president sort of spent it, don‘t you?
MATTHEWS: I guess that‘s my question. But, you know, his appeal tonight—and it does involve National Guard troops. We‘ll finds out in the next couple of days whether people think that‘s more of a symbol than a reality. But it seems like he‘s going for such a long ball tonight, a Hail Mary pass.
He has set out tonight to try to get to people who believe we have too many people coming across the border, have too many already, and would like to see that number reversed, to find agreement with people like Ted Kennedy who are looking out for the illegal immigrant.
If you can get those two groups to agree, you might as well get the Republicans and the Democrats to form the same political party.
OLBERMANN: You‘ve got at least, I guess, five different positions within the conservative base, within the Republican base. I think what this is about and what the president being so driven and focused always on the idea he has come up with or the idea that he‘s already brought out, we may be looking at this backwards. We may be looking at this as the National Guard story of the day, that being the headline here.
This is probably going to be much more of a sales pitch for that guest worker program that we‘ve heard so much about, that he will go back to. No matter what the response was from however large, in this case, those to his left might be 48 percent and those to his right might be 48 percent, he‘s going to keep that middle four percent and run straight through center with it, to use a football term.
I think we‘re going to see what we often see in speeches from the president, which is damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, this is my idea, this is the one that is going to work and here‘s why you should do it. Whether or not he convinces anybody is another thing all together. But I assume that‘s what we‘re going to have.
MATTHEWS: Well, the old H.L. Mencken rule is never argue with someone whose job depends on not being convinced. My skepticism watching this play out is there are a lot of Republican Congresspeople out there who represent very tough, non-Hispanic districts that have been gerrymandered that way, who damn well don‘t want to spend the next 10 or 20 years of their career defending a vote that includes amnesty.
OLBERMANN: Is this about solving the situation? I Imagine there‘s a component of that in everything that every politician says. It‘s a question of how much. Or is this, as most political speeches are intended to be, one way or another, is this about making it look like you can solve something? Is this a real solution or is it something that says, well, I gave it my best shot, here was my argument and I did the best I could and politics got in the way. I think its more of the latter than the former.
MATTHEWS: That‘s a humiliating position to reach. Thank you. We‘re waiting right now. A nationally televised address by President Bush. The presidents has asked for this time tonight to talk about the red hot issue of illegal immigration.
There are an estimated 11 million people in this country illegally. What will the country do about that? That‘s the question tonight. There are people coming into this country or trying to do that tonight and tomorrow and probably forever after illegally. What do we do about them, to stop that? To stop that if you will.
There are businesses in this country who want the cheap labor that illegal immigrants provide them because they‘re desperate for work. What do we do about them? Those are the real questions that need to be answered. And the president will have to address them tonight. Keith, your final thoughts. We‘re coming up on the president‘s speech in about a minute and a half now.
OLBERMANN: We have always had an immigration debate in this country. It has always come out in times of crisis, Chris. It has perhaps, though, never been such a tightrope, as reasons we‘ve already been discussing. This has got so many dimensions to it and so many different point of view. And some who are liberal through and through may be conservative on this issue and vice versa. It is such a tightrope, such a nuance, we‘ll see how well the president walks that tightrope tonight.
MATTHEWS: I think sometimes issues, Keith, they are for the most part one side or the other. You talked about that middle four percent. I wonder where there is a middle ground on this one. You‘re either for immigration from across the Mexican border or you‘re against it. And I think a lot of these Republicans and a lot of other Americans are dead set against it, just as the liberals are dead set for giving these people a break and a future as Americans. Here‘s the president of the United States.
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