Guests: Margaret Carlson, Terry Jeffrey, Jon Alpert
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: President Bush kept taking the punches this week, first from the polls, then from the press. How long can he and his party take a licking and keep on ticking? Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL.
It was a critical week for President Bush, a prime time speech defending his illegal immigration plan, a trip to Arizona to demonstrate just how serious he is about this issue, sit downs with top TV reporters, sending his top dog, Karl Rove, to Capitol Hill to push his agenda on Republicans, but the low polls still plague this president‘s second term and the big question remains, has the president exhausted his political capital on the war in Iraq? Is Bush at the Alamo?
And later a new HBO documentary depicting the horrors of the war in Iraq. We‘ll talk to the director of “Baghdad E.R.”
Plus, if it‘s Friday, it‘s time for our “HARDBALL Hot Shots.” MSNBC‘s Tucker Carlson, Norah O‘Donnell and Ron Reagan have their say on what was hot this week and what was not.
But we begin with the president. Terry Jeffrey, the editor of “Human Events Magazine,” and Margaret Carlson is a columnist for Bloomberg.
First, NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory asked President Bush this week about his low poll numbers. Let‘s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In the most recent survey your disapproval rating is now one point lower than Richard Nixon‘s before he resigned the presidency. You‘re laughing.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘m not laughing.
GREGORY: Why do you think that is?
BUSH: Because we‘re at war, and war unsettles people. Listen, we have got a great economy. We have added 5.2 million jobs in the last two and a half years. But there‘s—but people are unsettled. They don‘t look at the economy and say life is good. They know we‘re at war.
And I‘m not surprised that people are unsettled because of war. The enemy has got a powerful tool, and that is to get on your TV screen by killing innocent people. And my job is to continue to remind the people it‘s worth it, we‘re not going to retreat hastily, and, you know, we‘re not going to pull out of there before the job is done. And we have got a plan for victory.
GREGORY: They‘re just not your unsettled, sir. They disapprove of the job you‘re doing.
BUSH: That‘s unsettled.
BUSH: Yes, I do. I see it as the war is difficult, and I understand that. I understand why people wonder whether we can win the war or not, but there‘s a big difference between some of us who believe that we‘re doing the right thing in moving forward and a group of people who want to pull out before the job is done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know it‘s got to be a tough time for the president when he thinks immigration is his strong suit, Terry Jeffrey. I mean, I don‘t know who is thrilled about that issue, but he thinks he has to weigh in on that this week. He was talking to reporters about it, like David. Is he gaining anything on that issue or on the issue—the whole question of his presidency this week?
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, HUMAN EVENTS: I think the immigration issue is an absolute disaster for the president. I think what you have right now is not just conservatives out in the country, but all kinds of people who are irate that the federal government will not secure their border.
This man has been president now for six years. We had five years ago almost now the September 11 terrorist attacks. His own government is telling us there‘s a potential terrorist threat at the border. He, himself, in his speech on Monday night mentioned terrorism as one reason for securing the border, yet I don‘t think he really convinced people on Monday night, Chris, that he‘s actually going to secure the border.
So I think it‘s a disaster for him. I think if we get to election day in November and illegal aliens are still streaming across the border and President Bush‘s efforts to reform immigration therefore have failed, they could well throw the Republican majority out of Congress.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s slow it down a little bit, Margaret. Can he win this bill?
MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG COLUMNIST: Well, you couldn‘t turn down what had already happened with one speech that looked totally symbolic, let‘s send a few trips to the border. It was dead on arrival. I happened to be listening to Rush Limbaugh that day who already gotten the talking points, and he couldn‘t go along with it for three hours.
The president did it backwards. I think a lot of people who are sympathetic to the immigrants who are here and want to find a way to make them legal, still want the borders secured. But he did it backwards for his base and isn‘t convincing to the people who are sympathetic to the immigrants who are here, who feel they were seduced to this country. And we have to find a way to make it legal.
MATTHEWS I think you had a point there, which is what‘s the real test of success? It‘s not a bill with nice signature and pens being handed out. It‘s two weeks later, three weeks later when we look on NBC or any of the other networks and we watch films, movies, are people coming across the border again? Because if they don‘t get this guest card, they‘ll come anyway. Isn‘t that it, that‘s your point?
JEFFREY: Well, that‘s exactly it, Chris. I mean, Governor Schwarzenegger of California said he didn‘t hear the president say I‘m going to do whatever it takes to secure the border, and that‘s what he wanted to hear. That‘s what I think the vast majority of Americans want to hear.
MATTHEWS: What about going out there and saying I am willing to build 370 miles of fence compared to the house call for 700 miles of fence?
JEFFREY: It looks like a jack really. Because if you are going to build a fence, you might as well build one all the way from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, put up a double fence, put enough manpower on the border to actually secure it. Congressman Charlie Norwood of Georgia...
JEFFREY: Yes. Of course forever. We secure the border—I mean, it‘s not really. The question is whether the greatest power on earth has the engineering capability and the manpower to actually secure its frontier. Clearly, we do. The question is—politically the lead in Washington has the will to do it.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you, Margaret, about the technical problems here. First of all, you can‘t stop people from getting here indirectly. They will come by water. They could come in by Ocean City, New Jersey, if they wanted to if they had a boat. You could have people come here by air. You could have people come here by tunnel. It isn‘t so simple as just a 3,000-mile border, is it?
CARLSON: Well, it isn‘t, and that again is a halfway measure if you‘re only going to do half a fence.
MATTHEWS: What is the theory behind the half of a fence? Go to the end of the fence? Is it like a big sign in Mexican, go to the end of the fence?
CARLSON: I don‘t get it.
CARLSON: What was the question you asked now? Now I‘m back on the fence.
MATTHEWS: The impracticality of it looms in the eyes of every American. Sure, we notice that there‘s less crime, where they‘ve had a fence. You can shift it away. You can say go bother some other community across the border, but basically fence is just redirect traffic, right?
CARLSON: Yes, you can have border shifting, but you can‘t stop it unless you do one the things that Bush talked about but which there‘s no enforcement of, which is his constituency is hiring these people.
MATTHEWS: The business guys. They are all Republicans, and they don‘t want to lose the cheap labor.
CARLSON: Right. And these people then are seduced here by that. And it is not going to stop, so they don‘t have a job.
MATTHEWS: Here is the problem, the president says all you good patriots come down here from the National Guard and defend the border. Meanwhile, if they get past you, my buddies in business are going to hire them. Isn‘t that what he is saying?
JEFFREY: Well, there is absolutely no doubt that is part of it. Because, Chris, I have done a lot of reporting in the last year about how Social Security numbers are misused by illegal aliens.
MATTHEWS: How do they do it? Tell us.
JEFFREY: Well, basically, they get a false Social Security number.
They go to get a job.
MATTHEWS: Just make a number?
JEFFREY: When they fill out their W-4, which is the first thing you need to do to get a job, they put on someone—they may be using Margaret‘s Social Security number or yours with their name. When their employer then pays taxes on that and submits a W-2 to the IRS and Social Security Administration, the government automatically knows someone is using somebody else‘s Social Security number.
As of this moment, the Social Security Administration has a list of every employer in the United States that filed more than 100 bad W-2‘s every year. Almost every one of those got a letter from the Social Security Administration telling them they filed bad W-2‘s. Everybody including Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, knows those represent illegal aliens.
If the federal government wanted to now, they could go out and bust all of the biggest corporations in this country that have built a business model on hiring illegal aliens.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t they?
JEFFREY: They don‘t want to do it. Big business has too much power, among the elites of both parties in this town.
MATTHEWS: So if we were all Marxists sitting around here and saying economic strives politics...
JEFFREY: Not Marxists, capitalists.
MATTHEWS: No, economic strives politics that part. No, I mean the thinking of economic striving politics. You are saying that is the case here?
MATTHEWS: That he really doesn‘t want to protect the border because he wants to protect profit?
JEFFREY: That is part of it. Big business has too much power. The second part of it is the Democratic Party doesn‘t want to secure the border because they see future constituents in the people coming across. Ironically, Karl Rove and George W. Bush have made the same calculation. They‘re afraid of losing the Latino vote in America. Legitimate concern for the Republican Party.
We want that vote, but they‘re afraid to do what it takes to actually secure the border, because they fear erroneously, I believe, if they take the action to actually secure our southern border, they‘re somehow going to lose for the Republican Party in the future of the Latino vote. I don‘t think it‘s true. I think they believe it.
CARLSON: And, yet, they‘re trying to have it both ways, and it shows. And Jeff you left out one thing. In addition to wanting to placate employers in this country, Bush actually knows immigrants from Texas. He knows they‘re law-abiding. They‘re pillars of the community.
MATTHEWS: Well, not completely law abiding. They broke the law to get in here.
CARLSON: They‘re not law abiding, but after that one big law break, they‘re law abiding. They raise good families. Their kids go to college.
MATTHEWS: ...liberal arguments.
CARLSON: They‘re homeowners. But George Bush sees that.
MATTHEWS: Why when they put a wall up around San Diego, the crime dropped 56 percent? Why did that happen if they‘re all law abiding?
CARLSON: I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: Well, it did.
CARLSON: Yes, I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: Why do you say they‘re all law abiding? Where did you get that from?
CARLSON: The studies of Hispanics in this country...
MATTHEWS: Not Hispanics, no illegal immigrants.
CARLSON: First generation Latino, children of Latinos, by and large, go to college, they‘re homeowners, they‘re employed, they‘re law abiding. I don‘t know about that San Diego statistic, and I don‘t know who they are.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen to David Gregory talking to the president. He asked the president about Republican opposition to his immigration plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Mr. President, on your immigration plan, Republican critics have been outspoken. The California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, called the deployment of National Guard troops a mere band-aid, and House Republicans who are key to this debate have also been outspoken.
This is what Charlie Norwood said of Georgia, quote, “The people in my district are ready to throw anybody and everybody out of office that won‘t bring this nightmare to a stop. The plan the president proposed,” he said “is not what the American people want.” Why are conservative Republican critics wrong?
BUSH: Oh, I get criticized from the right and the left, David. There are some who say you should be for amnesty, which I think is a mistake. There are some—I guess they‘re for deportation, which I don‘t think will work. What I‘m for is a comprehensive border plan that recognizes that we can—we need to increase the Border Patrol, and until we get 6,000 additional agents stood up, there needs to be National Guard here to help the people who are doing the job down here. And we need fencing along parts of the border, we need infrared, we need motion detectors, UAVs, all aimed to helping to secure this border.
rMD+BO_rMD+IT_rMD-IT_rMD-BO_But you cannot secure the border, in my judgment, without a temporary worker plan. In other words, we got people coming here to work, they‘re doing jobs that Americans aren‘t doing, they‘re sneaking across the border. It seems like, if we‘re trying to enforce the border, it makes sense to let them come here on a temporary basis to do jobs Americans aren‘t doing, provided they can pass a criminal background check.
MATTHEWS: Has anybody though through guest workers and what it would be like? South Africa for years would allow people, Africans, to come from their homelands, they called them, to work in different gold mines. They‘d hang around for months, work for six months at a time, no women around, prostitution would pick up, diseases like AIDS would catch on, horrible environment for people to live in. Men away from women. What is he thinking about when he says guest workers? What‘s the image? Do you cross back every weekend?
JEFFREY: It‘s a euphemism; he doesn‘t really believe in guest workers. Guest workers—he doesn‘t want—he says he‘s not for amnesty; he really is for amnesty. So what are you going to do with all these people who are here illegally when you make them legal? You‘re going to make them guest workers, instead of saying you‘re making them permanent legal residents on the path to citizenship.
I agree with you on this measure, Chris. An actual guest worker is a person who would be brought into the United States from a Third World country in order for his labor to be exploited at a substandard wage by a major employer of the United States—
MATTHEWS: Just like the Turks in Germany.
JEFFREY: -- not to have equal political status, equal economic status to an American citizen. There should only be one kind of immigrant into the United States—a legal immigrant.
MATTHEWS: And by the way, if they have children here, they impregnate somebody here, is that person a citizen? Of course it is, because under the Fourteenth Amendment, they are. It‘s such an unthoughtful approach so far. Nobody has figured this thing out.
We‘ll be right—
CARLSON: How would you send parents back?
MATTHEWS: How do you send anybody back? Who‘s going to go back? I‘m not going back, if I‘m the guy.
I‘ll be right back with Terry Jeffrey and Margaret Carlson.
Later, our special Friday feature, the HARDBALL HotShots are coming.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with Terry Jeffrey of “Human Events” magazine and Bloomberg‘s Margaret Carlson.
Margaret, you start here. We‘re used to, in our society now, dealing with the fact that Spanish is a growing minority language. You can‘t get on the phone without saying for English, stay on the line—
CARLSON: Press 2.
MATTHEWS: Press 2 -- we do that in our banks, we do it on ATM machines. It‘s English—it‘s not other languages, it‘s Spanish and English competing now, like in Canada it‘s English and French.
The president is apparently open to the idea making English now a “national language” or official—what does that mean?
MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG COLUMNIST: It‘s playing to those people who want Bush to be tougher on immigration, in one way.
MATTHEWS: Does it mean we don‘t have to listen to that phone bank thing say that to us anymore? We don‘t have to listen to—
CARLSON: That‘s another piece of corporate America, you know, playing to—
MATTHEWS: What does it mean?
CARLSON: -- to the situation as it exists.
CARLSON: But most immigrants want to learn English.
MATTHEWS: But what does it mean, Margaret, to say a “national language?” I don‘t get what that means.
MATTHEWS: It has no meaning.
JEFFREY: I can tell you specifically what it means, the amendment that Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma got through the Senate yesterday, is that, you would not be entitled to have the federal government provide you a service in your other language, other than English. Now Congress can pass laws saying, you have to give out this in Spanish and this in whatever, but you wouldn‘t be entitled to it.
Right now, it‘s viewed as an entitlement. You can actually sue the government if they don‘t give you your benefit in your foreign language.
MATTHEWS: Okay, if I show up on election day—I‘m showing up in San Diego or Chicago and I‘m a Spanish-speaking person—I‘m here legally, I‘m a citizen, but my English isn‘t so good and I say, Can I have a Spanish ballot because I‘m trying to decide to vote for this Rahm Emanuel or not, or whatever. Do you have a right to that now?
JEFFREY: Actually, Rahm will give you two ballots.
JEFFREY: The truth is, Chris—
MATTHEWS: Do you have a right to a Spanish ballot?
JEFFREY: Under the Voting Rights Act, you do. And Jim Inhofe‘s amendment would not change that. I think it‘s a good question, whether or not we should hand out ballots in languages other than English, because theoretically, to become naturalized as an American, you‘re supposed to learn English. But the real—
MATTHEWS: You‘re not—you only have to know a language.
JEFFREY: The real point of it is, Chris—
MATTHEWS: You don‘t have to learn English under the law, now.
Please, don‘t get that wrong with people.
JEFFREY: All right.
MATTHEWS: A lot of people in this country can‘t speak English very well, and they‘re citizens.
JEFFREY: The real point of it is this, that liberals in this country for years have been breaking down the institutions that assimilate immigrants into our culture. It‘s one way of pandering to them for their votes. So in other words, if you have a population and you‘re going to make it easier for them to stay in their native tongue, they‘re not going to learn English, they‘re not going to come into our culture.
I think conservatives rightly want to unite our country over one language.
MATTHEWS: This is the one you‘re right on. Can you handle that?
Anyway, Terry Jeffrey, Margaret Carlson, thank you both. Margaret, my buddy!
Up next, the horror of war. This is something. Wait till you see these pictures. A new documentary takes us inside a military emergency room in Baghdad.
And later the HARDBALL HotShots. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
On Sunday night, this Sunday night, HBO airs the documentary “Baghdad E.R.” It takes you inside the 86th Combat Support Hospital over in Baghdad where wounded military personnel and civilians get their first medical treatment. It‘s raw and real and a reminder of the human cost of war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we see here is trauma—hardcore, raw, uncut trauma. And if you‘re not equipped with coping skills to deal with that, then you may not go back with big war wounds on the outside, but they‘ll definitely be on the inside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jon Alpert made this documentary. He joins us from New York. Jon, is there anything you didn‘t put in because of taste, it was just too much?
JON ALPERT, DIRECTOR, HBO‘S “BAGHDAD E.R.”: There was a lot. The public really can‘t handle the real pictures from this hospital, the actual amputations. We put a little bit, but actually, the real violence is a lot more than we put into it. And actually, the soldiers watched this and said oh my goodness, you really backed this off, didn‘t you? And we had to.
MATTHEWS: What did you learn?
ALPERT: I learned a couple of things. I learned that there‘s nothing pretty about war. There often really aren‘t any victors and there‘s a horrific cost to war and you can see it very clearly from this documentary, but there‘s also a lot of heroism. And to understand the heroism of our soldiers and these doctors, you have to see the horror too.
MATTHEWS: Twenty five hundred Americans killed in combat, these other people got wounded terribly. Tell me about those numbers. Do they tell you enough or what do they tell you? What do they still leave you wanting to know about the horror of war?
ALPERT: Well, you know, the thing that I think this program shows is the human face. You know, it‘s not just numbers, it‘s not just the ticker on the bottom of the screen, two soldiers died today. These are people‘s brothers, sisters.
They have names, they have faces. And when you see them dying in front of you, when you see the efforts that the doctors make to keep them alive, it really teaches you something about this war.
MATTHEWS: And their heroism is the doctor‘s heroism?
ALPERT: They‘re working 24 hours a day. You know, the helicopters never stop. It‘s just chuck, chuck, chuck, and you hear it coming and you know what‘s happening and it‘s frightening because people come off those helicopters mangled and tangled up in ways that human beings should never be.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at another clip from “Baghdad E.R.,” which airs this Sunday night on HBO.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two dead on arrivals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just had two more American soldiers come in, killed. I purposely have not counted how many deaths, people I prayed over. It‘s just—I don‘t know, it would overwhelm me. I don‘t think I could—it would just be too overwhelming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Boy, that was the chaplain there. Jon, how about the families? Are they too overwhelmed or are they resisting or opposing what you‘ve done here, putting this on television?
ALPERT: No. The families have all thanked us. They‘ve told us that they‘re proud to be part of this film and the soldiers are too. Reverend Snyder (ph), for example, called us the other day and he says I want to tell you two things. He says first of all, I finally added it all up. It‘s 117. That‘s how many soldiers I prayed over. And I‘m proud to be part of this film and I want America to see it.
You know, the Army wants people to see this film. There‘s a lot of talk about you can‘t show coffins, you can‘t show this. The Army gave us 100 percent access and they want America to understand the reality of this war, so that our citizens will be well-informed because they work for us and they want us to make the right decisions. They think this program will help.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think they allowed you to do this—and it‘s going to be a powerful moment for a lot of people to see this, and I expect to see it Sunday night—and yet they won‘t let us take pictures, networks take picture at Dover of the caskets coming home from Iraq?
ALPERT: Maybe their policy is changing and maybe they think that the American public does need to be informed about everything. They certainly are letting us see things that they have never let people see before, that you will have never seen before unless you watch this program.
You know, I was horrified by what I saw there. It was difficult to film some of these things, but I was really inspired by the soldiers and by the doctors and I think the Army wants people to see that whole picture.
MATTHEWS: What will it do for us? What good will this movie produce?
ALPERT: I think this movie is going to inform the American citizens. You know, this war is being fought in our name and to make a democracy strong, we have to be well-informed. And if we are like this and we don‘t see what‘s going on over in Iraq, shame on us and shame on us to send soldiers over there if we don‘t have all the information.
MATTHEWS: Do you think this will discourage people in their support of the war?
ALPERT: I think that everybody is going to make their own decision. I can only tell you that all the soldiers that have seen this have called us up and thanked us and want everybody to see it. It‘s being shown around the clock at bases all around the United States.
MATTHEWS: Powerful stuff. Congratulations on a good piece of work.
I‘m going to have to see this movie.
MATTHEWS: I think we all should see it anyway. Thank you, Jon Alpert who produced this film, “Baghdad E.R.” It airs Sunday night, this Sunday night, at 8:00 p.m. on HBO.
Up next, the “HARDBALL Hotshots” are here. MSNBC‘s Tucker Carlson, Norah O‘Donnell and Ron Reagan are all going to be here, the big three tonight.
And next week on HARDBALL, Major General John Batiste who‘s calling for Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Tim Russert‘s coming here. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is coming here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Yes, it‘s that time. Time for our special Friday feature, “HARDBALL HOT SHOTS,” my MSNBC colleagues this week Tucker Carlson, Norah O‘Donnell and Ron Reagan.
Let‘s dig in.
First up, a different sermon. In the last presidential election, George Bush rallied his religious base to victory. This time around, the Democrats want a piece of the action, and they say they can do it.
This week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched ads for Christian radio audiences in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Virginia, reminding voters how much they hate the president‘s plan for private Social Security accounts. Could it possibly work, Tucker?
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION”: Well, Rahm Emanuel says he has got all of this polling date that shows that evangelicals are mad about Social Security. I think you have to be pretty out of touch, and Democrats apparently are to think that Social Security reform is going to win over evangelicals. Abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, those are the threshold issues for evangelicals.
This to me is like Bush spending all that money in California in 2000.
Right? It‘s supposed to be a display of strength. I worry, you know. We‘re so far ahead, we can waste it on groups we can never win. I think it‘s a waste money.
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it‘s an interesting strategy by the Democrats and one that they have been criticized for not employing in the past. They certainly should be if they want to expand their base, be courting a religious Americans or evangelicals certainly.
But I think what the reason that they‘re sort of doing this is they see the success, for instance, of Tim Kaine, who of course—the Democrat who won the Virginia governorship who talked very openly about his faith, about being a missionary. He of course was opposed to the death penalty and was attacked on that, but then said hey, stop attacking me because of my faith. And that was a way to sort of deflect that sort of criticism.
There‘s also in the Ohio governor‘s race, Ted Strickland, the Democrat there, is an ordained minister, and that could benefit him along with evangelical Christians. So Democrats see it as a way of sort of expanding their base. I agree though with Tucker. They‘ll have to talk more than just about Social Security. I know there are some of the hot button issues that really evangelicals put at the top of their list.
MATTHEWS: Ron Reagan, I wonder if the Democrats aren‘t so secular at the top that talking to Christian conservatives is almost like sending missionaries out into the bush. They don‘t know anybody that talks like these people, and they are trying to speak their lingo on Christian radio. I don‘t know.
RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well, could it work? Yes and no. No, if they think that any of these people are actually going to turn around and vote for Democrats. That‘s not going to happen, but it doesn‘t hurt to remind them that conservatives, religious right conservatives, are a bit disenchanted with the Bush administration. James Dobson of course of Focus in the Family came out warning the Republicans, just a little while ago about this.
But the issue isn‘t really Social Security. I agree with Tucker and Norah on that. It‘s things like gay marriage, abortion and other issues like that. The trouble with having the right wing—religious right as a base is they‘re never really satisfied. You can‘t bash gay people enough. You can‘t be too anti-choice, and the Bush administration is stuck in that difficult position.
MATTHEWS: Well, the first question in politics is this guy or this woman one of us? And as long as there‘s an us perception, I agree, it won‘t work.
Next up, the keystone bellwether. Earlier this week, Pennsylvania voters sent a loud and clear message against political officeholders who feather their nest. Two Republican leaders in the state senate and a dozen others lost their primaries in what could be a sign of anti-incumbent voting in the November elections.
Norah, it‘s an old issue. Politicians who raise their pay while in office. Apparently they‘re being plucked off by voters who noticed who did the work—the dirty work as they see it, and they are kicking them out of office.
O‘DONNELL: Well, it‘s very interesting what happened in Pennsylvania. The question is whether it‘s a bellwether for the rest of the country or whether it was just this issue on voting for the pay raise or whether there‘s something else going on out there, which is an anti-incumbent mood across the country.
And certainly our national polling suggests that because so many Americans—in fact, two-thirds of Americans believe that the country is on the wrong track—that that is a very anti-incumbent mood. And of course Republicans are in power, so they‘re the ones who could likely suffer in these midterm elections.
People want to kick out the incumbent if you will and have a fresh start with someone new, so it could signal that there‘s a lot of anger out there in the electorate, some of these early votings, and that would not portend well for the Republicans. As we know, Congress has the lowest approval rating since 1994 when of course—that was the Democrats in power. And they got kicked out, and Newt Gingrich and the Republicans gained power then.
MATTHEWS: Well, it shows, Tucker, that voters are paying attention.
CARLSON: Of course, they‘re paying attention, and they don‘t like Bush. And they‘re mad at the Republicans. I mean, on every issue, Republicans lose, as you know. These are all signs of a looming disaster. Karl Rove‘s much talked about last month‘s strategy of reminding voters what they‘re going to get if they kick out the Republicans doesn‘t seem to have kicked into gear yet though.
I mean, I think the remarks yesterday from Harry Reid, saying making English or even discussing making English the national language is, quote, “racist,” if I were running the congressional campaign committee for the Republicans, man, I would make an ad out of that. I would every day remind voters, kick us out you‘re going to get these people. But they haven‘t done it yet. I don‘t know why.
MATTHEWS: It‘s racist to be for English?
CARLSON: Yes, that‘s what he said. He said the amendment is racist.
The amendment to make English the national...
MATTHEWS: What could that possibly mean?
CARLSON: I personally—look, Harry Reid is good guy in some ways. In my view, not such a good guy in other ways. Definitely a hot head in all ways.
MATTHEWS: If we have a television show in English right now—you‘ll notice we‘re speaking English—that is a racist action?
CARLSON: That‘s just pure racism, Chris. I can‘t believe you‘re doing that. It‘s just wrong.
REAGAN: At the same time, though, this English only amendment is one of the silliest, you know, political pose down kind of moves in history. I mean, really, what good is it going to do? What will it do at all?
CARLSON: Really. Take a look at any country that has more than one national language and you see a country at war with itself. It‘s a big deal.
REAGAN: We don‘t have national languages. We all speak English pretty much, you know.
CARLSON: We don‘t actually all speak English pretty much at all.
REAGAN: Well, we do. Yes we do. Yes, we do. And we will.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll talk about Montreal when we come back. I‘ll be right back with much more. You‘re watching “HARDBALL Hot Shots” only on HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to “HARDBALL Hotshots” with Tucker Carlson, Norah O‘Donnell and Ron Reagan.
Next up, high dry and handsome. Tomorrow, voters in New Orleans head to the polls to decide whether Ray Nagin gets to serve another term as the city‘s mayor. Nagin has overcome a deluge of criticism to find himself in a two man runoff with Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu. Nagin presided over the city during Katrina. Landrieu‘s family has led Louisiana for decades. I moderated their debate earlier in New Orleans this week. Let‘s listen up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: If it wasn‘t for the failed levees, we wouldn‘t be here talking about this.
MATTHEWS: But you know how odd that sounds to most Americans, it‘s like saying except for that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was your evening? I mean, if the levees hadn‘t failed, we wouldn‘t be here. I wouldn‘t be here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was a bad point, I think, Mayor Nagin there. Anybody think that‘s a little odd to say it weren‘t for the levees, we wouldn‘t have had any problems, Tucker?
CARLSON: Well, he‘s a little odd. I mean, he‘s a little odd and he failed as a leader of the city during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I was there. I mean, I can tell you what everyone who watched on television knows, and that is the city was out of control.
There was no city government in control. His cops were literally looting Wal-Mart. The guy had some kind of breakdown in the middle of all this, then he goes on television, goes in to this weird racial rant. I mean, the idea that he could be reelected makes you wonder about the state.
MATTHEWS: Ron, but the other guy‘s family has been running the show down there for generations.
CARLSON: The other guy is kind of impressive, though, I think. I mean, I‘ve talked to him and I—I mean, look, that‘s right, and, you know, maybe the things they say about him are true, but I actually think he seems like a competent, impressive guy. More impressive than his sister, that‘s for sure.
MATTHEWS: OK. Hey, Ron, they didn‘t invent the levees under this mayor‘s rule. They thought that dirt piled up along the river was going to do the job for all these centuries. Who‘s to blame?
REAGAN: Well, Tucker is right, and you are right that this will be a referendum to some extent on what Nagin did during Katrina and, of course, his performance was less than stellar.
But you look at these two guys, they‘re not far apart on the issues, they‘re both Democrats, they even look a little bit alike. They don‘t have a lot of hair except, of course, Ray Nagin is black, and Mitch Landrieu is white and that raises the question of when the race will be an issue.
O‘DONNELL: That is a brilliant observation, Ron. Brilliant.
REAGAN: Well, the question arises, though, will this thing break down along racial lines? And that plays into also how many of the voters that are living in other cities now will actually cast absentee ballots for this election.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s move on here. Next up, you don‘t say. It depends on what the definitely of is, is. Is the sky really the sky? Is English really the language of the United States? Yes, the answer is unequivocally yes.
But Congress, nonetheless, decided it needed to officially make English the national language the United States. It then revised the amendment from national language to the common and unifying language. What is going on here?
I have to go to our star reporter. Norah, just as a reporter, what in hell are they doing on Capitol Hill playing around with something that‘s worked since the 1700s when they decided to go with English rather than German? Why are they dickering around with this one?
O‘DONNELL: Well, listen, I mean, I figured English was our national language. But I guess it needs to be called our official language. This is what you call up in Congress as usually a poison pill amendment, which it is put in there in order to ruin a whole bill and make doom ultimately the larger immigration proposal.
I thought what was particularly interesting today too is how this amendment has put the White House and the president in trouble. Tony Snow, the president‘s new press secretary, saying today that the president—quote, “we have supported these types of amendments.”
And then the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, who has spoken very publicly about the fact that his parents came from Mexico, said, quote, “the president has never supported making English the national language,” and that from his attorney general. So even the White House is not clear about what exactly the president supports.
CARLSON: You know, I just—I wish I could vote again so I could vote against Bush just on this issue. I mean, language is culture. Our language holds us together. We‘re held not together by race, not by religion, it‘s language.
And you see that point. If you can‘t stand up for your own language, you can‘t stand up for your own culture, you can‘t stand up for your own country, right? And you will fall apart if you don‘t stand up for those things.
REAGAN: We don‘t need to stand up for our language.
CARLSON: Of course we do.
REAGAN: People speak English in America, they have for a long time.
CARLSON: I don‘t know. I don‘t know, Ron.
REAGAN: And they will for a long time.
CARLSON: I think you need to dig a little deeper on this question. I mean, we have American schools, state schools, teaching Spanish in bilingual programs. People—that did not happen 100 years ago. Immigrants when they came 100 years ago had to speak English in the schools. We have schools now ...
REAGAN: And they will speak English now.
CARLSON: Actually, a lot of them don‘t. That‘s just ...
REAGAN: They have to. They have to to get jobs and get along.
CARLSON: A lot of research on this, and there are a lot of immigrants who just don‘t speak English, into the second and third generation. It‘s a big deal.
O‘DONNELL: But I think that ...
REAGAN: I don‘t think into the second ...
O‘DONNELL: ... most immigrants realize that in order to get ahead, in order to succeed, in order to realize the American dream, which is why they‘re here in the first place, that they do have to learn English and that if they only learn or continue to speak Spanish or what other language that they speak, that they will remain if a small world of citizens and unable to communicate with the rest of American who does speak English.
CARLSON: Well, how about this? How about the business of government ought to be conducted if English. In some places it‘s not, as you know.
O‘DONNELL: Well ...
CARLSON: We can‘t even agree on that. We can‘t even agree that that is the language that our government uses, because people in Congress don‘t have the courage to do so.
O‘DONNELL: So are you saying—well, Tucker, for instance, the White House posts the president‘s remarks in Spanish on the Web site.
CARLSON: That‘s right.
O‘DONNELL: So should they not do that?
MATTHEWS: Well, let me suggest something.
CARLSON: I think our government will take every opportunity to push English on its citizens because it‘s the thing that holds us together.
MATTHEWS: OK, we‘ve got two Irish-Americans here, Ron and Norah. I want to remind you both that the best favor the Brits ever did to Ireland, maybe the only favor they ever did to Ireland, was make everybody speak English.
And that‘s why the Celtic tiger is roaring right now, because when you call them up for help on something or call India, another country that benefits from English, they can talk right back to you as if they grew up speaking English, which they did.
Norah, wasn‘t it good for Ireland that they were forced to speak English? This is a tough one for you.
O‘DONNELL: Yes. I‘m pro-Irish, yes.
REAGAN: I think the international language could have been Irish Gaelic. That would have been interesting.
O‘DONNELL: That‘s true. That‘s true.
CARLSON: Too guttural.
MATTHEWS: OK, one thing that we know too. The country to our north -
let‘s stop talking about Mexico. In Canada, they have a constitutional crisis over the issue of language. The province of Quebec relentlessly insists on special treatment for its language and its culture.
Tucker, make your point.
CARLSON: That is the point. For 40 years, that country has been on the brink of splitting apart literally in some cases. We don‘t—most Americans don‘t know that because they don‘t know anything about Canada because they don‘t care, but it‘s true.
That country is divided by language. You could go across the world, put your finger on a map, pick a country that has more than one language widely spoken and you see, again, a country at war with itself. You can‘t overstate the importance of this.
rMD+IN_rMDNM_ This is not some crazy jingoistic Minuteman kind of talking point. This is totally real and it‘s consistent across the board, across the world and I think this is—I just think this issue is bigger than almost any other issue right now.
MATTHEWS: I think in Belgium, you‘ve got the Walloons who speak French, you have got Flems, and they‘re always at war with each other, aren‘t they. Is anybody going to ...
CARLSON: As yet Belgium remains a nation.
MATTHEWS: Therefore ...
CARLSON: But would you want to live there?
REAGAN: What‘s that?
CARLSON: Would you want to live there?
REAGAN: Belgium? They make great beer in Belgium.
CARLSON: There you go. That‘s why you‘re a liberal.
O‘DONNELL: I was waiting for that. I was waiting for that.
MATTHEWS: Great dogs too, I think. They always produce good dogs for America.
Let me both—let me ask all three of you. Now, I want you to put on your real pundits hats and reporters hats, starting with Norah, because I‘ll ask it to you and I‘ll cough it in reportorial terms. Is the betting now that we‘ll actually get a bill, even a paper bill, a signing ceremonial type bill, before the election?
O‘DONNELL: On immigration?
O‘DONNELL: Probably not. I think that the House and Senate are so far apart and all of the Republicans on the House side that I spoke with this week were sort of turning their nose up at the president‘s speech and saying, well, that‘s great, but we‘re not going to move and we still got to have security first.
So I don‘t see any signs that the House Republicans are going to compromise. And, in fact, when Karl Rove went up there, they practically showed him the door rather than listening to him and even the vice president‘s efforts to lobby on Rush Limbaugh an other shows do not appear to have moved it that much.
MATTHEWS: Does this prove, Tucker, you can‘t pander in both directions at the same time?
CARLSON: That‘s exactly—that‘s very well put, and that‘s exactly what it proves. It also shows that House Republicans finally remembering what they said they believed in in 1994, finally showing some toughness to stand up to a president from their own party. I wish they had done this kind of thing for the last six years. The country would be in much better shape, and no we‘re not getting a bill, and thank God we‘re not.
MATTHEWS: Ron Reagan, will we have a bill that‘s signed by the president by Election Day, a piece of paper he signs?
REAGAN: I won‘t disagree with my colleagues. I think it‘s highly unlikely. I think there‘s a possibility though—a remote possibility that an idea could sweep the Republican Party that some sort of bill is politically necessary for the midterms, but that‘s an outside shot.
MATTHEWS: A patch.
REAGAN: A patch.
O‘DONNELL: Well, I‘m not saying, Chris, that I think there will definitely be a backlash on this issue. There is a problem with illegal immigration in this country. Now, there are differences on what the solution should be, but many people feel very strongly about it. And if this Congress fails to do something, I think that someone will be blamed for it at the polls in November.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back. President Bush wants a fence across the southern border. Let‘s talk about it. You‘re watching HARDBALL Hot Shots” only on HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to “HARDBALL Hot Shots” with Tucker Carlson, Norah O‘Donnell and Ron Reagan.
Up next, high, dry and handsome. I think we have done that before. Let‘s talk about the issue of the fence, and that‘s the question here. It takes a fence.
This week the Senate approved an amendment to put up 370 miles of fence along the Mexican border heading eastward. That is less than the House Republicans voted for. It was about twice that. It comes as part of a so-called comprehensive bill to deal with illegal immigration.
Will putting up a wall ever accomplish what a simple crackdown on crooked employers could? Let‘s start with Ron Reagan. If you are for some kind of border enforcement, isn‘t it smarter to say to the guys who are hiring these folks coming in, you can‘t do it anymore?
REAGAN: Yes, that would be a smarter idea. Putting up a fence on the border, a 2,100 mile border, is aesthetically ugly. It is symbolically unfortunate, and from a practical standpoint, it is almost useless. Ten foot fence means 11 foot ladders.
MATTHEWS: Norah, is it that simple? I would think all it needs is a really good set of shovels the way all these pictures we show. You just tunnel under it.
O‘DONNELL: Right. And I think that‘s why the president, who is from a border state, Texas, says that this is not just a solution where you can put up a fence and that will stop illegal immigration. rMD+BO_rMDNM_You are not dealing with the economics of the issues, which is that poor people from South and Latin America are coming to the United States because they know they can make a good wage and they can send billions of dollars home every year that they do.
So they‘ve got to deal with that issue, which is why the president has proposed this guest worker program. Now, building security only is what the House wants to do, but this president says it‘s got to be more than that. And it doesn‘t appear, though, that they are going to get a bill on that.
MATTHEWS: Do you think, Tucker—you are pretty much from the right, although, you are a libertarian. Do you think the president seriously believes what he says about this issue? I mean that. I rarely say that. I know he believes in the war, but does he really believe this fence will do anything except P.R.?
CARLSON: No, I mean, look I don‘t know the president‘s heart, but I think—I suspect he finds the idea of a fence repugnant in every way. And he is just acceding to popular will. People want a fence. And incidentally, we‘ve helped pay for a fence that divides Israel from the occupied territories. It has done a lot to prevent terrorism in Israel.
Is it the only solution? No. But this fence, even a 370 mile long fence, is not going to stop illegal immigration. It will cut it down on the margins. It is part of an overall effort to reduce it. If you were really serious about ending illegal immigration and virtually nobody in power is in this country on either side—but if you really meant it, you would build a fence. Of course you would.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you, you can go in Washington to the nearest Seven Eleven parking lot and there will be people lined up in the morning to go work. If you can get from Mexico to a parking lot anywhere in the United States—you know, a Seven Eleven parking lot, where you know there is a job opportunity, aren‘t you going to try to do that with or without a guest worker program, with or without a wall? You would get here.
CARLSON: Absolutely. But I mean, look put it in context. There is almost no enforcement of our immigration laws now. Once you get over the border—certainly, once you get out of a border state, you are home free. Local police departments, in New York for instance, have a policy of not enforcing immigration law. They won‘t deal with it, period.
There is nothing you can do short of committing an actual regular crime to get busted by the cops. So, you know, we could do a lot more then what we are doing because we are doing nothing.
MATTHEWS: OK. Ron, let‘s go to the full cartoon aspect of this. The
president asked patriotic Americans to go down to the Mexican border, work
for a couple of weeks keeping people from getting past them. Meanwhile,
his friends in the business community—most Republicans are businessmen -
are waiting to hire these guys, if they allude the people he sent down to stop them. It is catch me if you can.
Isn‘t this a horrendous use of American patriotism to ask people to stop people from going to jobs that the president‘s friends are going to give them?
REAGAN: To the extent that this whole immigration issue is a problem, a genuine problem in this country. It is insoluble as long as you have what amounts to a third world country on our southern border. You cannot solve this problem. You can only manage it, period.
MATTHEWS: Well, couldn‘t you have a liberal immigration policy that was enforced? Why not?
REAGAN: You could, but that is managing the problem.
MATTHEWS: Just say to employers we will let in a million people a year, a huge number of people. It is just that if anybody hires anybody beyond that number, we are putting them in jail for 100 years. Can‘t we have an enforceable immigration? You say we can‘t.
REAGAN: Well, not that would be managing the problem. That would be letting more people in and hiring them and having some sort of guest worker program or whatever, which to his credit the president is proposing. But you cannot stop people from coming over here. That‘s not possible.
CARLSON: I don‘t know. But, wait a second, isn‘t it in our interest to provide Mexico some incentive to improve its country, to improve its economy...
REAGAN: Yes it is.
CARLSON: ...to make people not want to come here. So maybe if you put the brakes on illegal immigration and said no mas, the Mexican government might have some incentive to stop stealing money and improve their country.
REAGAN: There‘s no saying no mas though. You are fighting human nature.
CARLSON: Of course there is saying no mas. That‘s like saying you can‘t stop Hamas from coming into Israel. Actually it turns out you can. That‘s what we want.
REAGAN: No, Israel doesn‘t have a 2,100 border.
CARLSON: No, it doesn‘t. But Israel doesn‘t have the resources we have.
REAGAN: Well, they have got some pretty good resources there. What I am saying is you have got a third world country on your border. They are going to come across as long as they see the pot of gold over here.
MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Norah on this, on the reporting. Norah, you said that the president will pay a price if there is not a bill. Will he pay it from Hispanics in this country who vote, the ones who are legal and can vote in elections? Or will he hear it from the people who are not Hispanic, the nativists or whatever you want to call them, other than Hispanic Americans who are mad at him for not stopping what is going on now, which is illegal immigration?
O‘DONNELL: In the short term, I don‘t think that the president or the Republican Party, politically speaking, is worried about the reaction among Hispanics. They‘re worried about their base because those are the people who vote in November. And we have seen the president‘s poll numbers are in the tank in part because his base is leaving him.
So, first and foremost, he has got to court his base, and then he can talk about expanding the Republican Party or do whatever he wants to do. I think that because the base wants a very, very tough beefing up the security, if there is not any bill on that that the Senate agrees to, that is why there will be some sort of backlash.
MATTHEWS: Hey great to have you. Tucker, thank you. Norah O‘Donnell, thank you, Ron Reagan.
Next week on HARDBALL, our guests include Major General John Batiste, who is calling for Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Tim Russert is coming here. Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, is coming here.
Right now it is time for “THE ABRAM‘S REPORT” with Dan.
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