Guests: Steny Hoyer, Maxine Waters, Chaka Fattah, Roy Blunt, Al Franken, John Fund, Allen Boyd, Hilary Rosen, Susan Molinari
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And now the man of the hour, the new Democratic leader on Capitol Hill, Steny Hoyer. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Well, I am here with the winner today, a big win today. What was that vote one-something to eighty...
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), INCOMING MAJORITY LEADER: 146-89.
MATTHEWS: 146-89, and you knew all those people who voted for you?
HOYER: I hope.
MATTHEWS: Do you know all the ones that voted against you.
HOYER: We‘re finding out. Actually, no, Chris, we‘re moving on.
We‘re moving on.
MATTHEWS: Is this really a secret ballot? I‘m asking. Oh, yes, everybody is moving on when they win. When they lose they keep grudges. You have in your mind those who are loyal to you and have stuck with you.
HOYER: Big number.
MATTHEWS: And you know the ones that didn‘t?
HOYER: Actually, there weren‘t very many, as you can tell.
MATTHEWS: No, I think Murtha had his numbers off. There‘s no doubt about it.
HOYER: There weren‘t very many of them.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your leadership and what your goals are. I‘m sure when you go to bed tonight, you put your head on the pillow, you‘re going to be thinking about the huge opportunity you have to lead, basically, the congressional opposition in this era. What are you going to try to get done?
HOYER: Well, I—you know, we pretty much set forth what we want to get done. We think there was a mandate for change, a mandate for a new direction, and that was our mantra, new direction.
Clearly, we set forth six things that we want to do in the short term:
9/11 Commission, minimum wage, college costs, start dealing with energy independence, do something on the prescription drugs, make negotiation possible, bring prices down, and then we‘re going to start dealing with Social Security and make sure it‘s there for people.
Obviously, the first things we‘re going to do, Chris, is we want to return honesty and hopefully civility to the House of Representatives. We think there has been very a confrontational, negative, non-inclusive Congress. We think that needs to be changed.
MATTHEWS: Are you going be kinder and more civil to the Republicans than they were to you?
HOYER: I hope so.
MATTHEWS: Is that your intention?
HOYER: It is my intention and it‘s Nancy Pelosi‘s intention, our speaker. And I think together we can accomplish that. I don‘t know who is going be elected to the leadership tomorrow in the Republican Party, but I can tell you that John Boehner and I and Roy Blunt and I, in my position as whip—minority whip—have had good relationships. We, obviously, have disagreed, but we‘ve had an ability to talk to one another.
MATTHEWS: I have heard that just a few years ago that when Newt Gingrich was speaker, he and Dick Gephardt, you friend and former colleague, never had one meeting in a room alone in a whole year. They were never—it was surrounding by a big bunch of people to sort of insulate them from each other.
HOYER: Chris, I think that‘s the case. As you know, Dick is a very close friend of mine and I was in the leadership with Dick Gephardt when, in 1994, we lost the House and Gingrich took over.
The story that I hear in talking to Dick was that he called the then-Speaker Gingrich early in the year and never got his phone call returned, and so he didn‘t call again and they had very, very few discussions. And the reason for that is Gingrich‘s premise was that cooperation was not helpful for his political strategy. He was a political strategist, and he didn‘t think that worked for him.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk a little HARDBALL here. The previous government of this place that you guys have overthrown in this election had a rule that they do no majority action without the majority of the leading party, for example, when it comes to Iraq and trying to carve some sort of negotiation with this administration of joint policy. Will you honor that deal that you will only make a deal with this administration if a majority of Democrats go along with it?
HOYER: Well, I think the probability is that will be the case. What we will not do is we will not prevent action that a significant majority of the House approves of. Hastert—Speaker Hastert, who I also got along with well, and get along with well.
But the hardball that they played, if you will, was that if the overwhelming majority of the party—if they, in effect, could not pass it themselves, they really were not interested in making accommodations to Democrats to make a less divisive piece of legislation.
MATTHEWS: I see.
HOYER: And one of the reasons for that was Tom DeLay wanted to have the hardest alternative to deal with the Senate. He did not trust the Republicans in the Senate, much less the Democrats.
MATTHEWS: So he wanted to drive a harder bargain.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you this, to get back to the point. If the president comes up here and his idea of bipartisanship is to cherry-pick a minority of your party and try to bring them in—the Lieberman types, real conservatives—and bring them in on a deal, would you let that happen? Would you fight that?
HOYER: I don‘t think that will be our objective and we do not want to see that happen. Nancy and I, as you know, had lunch with the president last week. He was very gracious, very congratulatory of Nancy, very cognizant of the historic nature.
MATTHEWS: Did he seem to prefer you to her?
HOYER: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t try to say you‘re a moderate Democrat, I can work with you and Nancy might be cut out of this thing?
HOYER: Divide and conquer you mean?
HOYER: No, he did not do that.
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t try to do that?
HOYER: No, and that is not going happen. It‘s not going to happen because Nancy and I, while we may have differences, know that we need to work together and want to work together for the success of our party. And we know that Iraq is a critical issue not just for the Democratic Party, but for the American public. Now, that was one of the big reasons for this win, and they want to see a change of policy in Iraq.
Now, the—obviously, Baker-Hamilton‘s coming down the road. We‘ll see what that says. Perhaps that will be—perhaps—a basis on which we can move towards some sort of consensus.
MATTHEWS: You think it‘s OK for your party having won a majority to wait for a Republican-dominated commission to give you leadership?
HOYER: No, no, no. I don‘t think that we‘re going to wait give them
give us leadership. What we‘re going to wait is for them to give the president of the United States a reason for changing his stay the course policy.
MATTHEWS: Can you reveal to us—or is it off the record—your conversations with Nancy after you won? Did she say good work or did she say I‘ll give you a year to prove yourself?
HOYER: No, she said we‘re going work together.
MATTHEWS: All right.
HOYER: That‘s what she said. We have not had a long discussion yet, but I just saw her at her reception and we said the same thing and we embraced. You know, again, we have known each other 40 years. We had this temporary disagreement, obviously, but we will get over that quickly. Why? Because we‘re going to move fast, and when you‘re moving fast, you are thinking about going forward, not what happened yesterday.
MATTHEWS: What is your sense of how important your record is here in the next year to how—whether the Democrats get the White House back?
HOYER: I think it‘s...
MATTHEWS: Do you see yourself as laying down a Democratic record that the country gets confidence in, and therefore is more likely to pick a Democrats president next time?
HOYER: I think the country expects us to do a job, and I think if the country sees us doing a job, Chris, and working in a bipartisan way to accomplish that job, they‘re going to be very pleased, and yes, I think it will help our presidential candidate.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go to the ticklish things. You‘ve got the subpoena power now. You haven‘t had it since ‘94. If you look at history, the subpoena power was in the hands of the Republicans in ‘47-‘49. They used it. They caught one real communist, Alger Hiss. The rest of the time they just messed around.
The Watergate Congress was able to go after Nixon. The Republicans went after President Clinton with the impeach. Do you see any aggressive role there for the subpoena power with regard to, say, energy policy, with regard to how we got into Iraq? How aggressive will you party be in using that subpoena power?
HOYER: John Dingell and Henry Waxman are pretty energetic...
MATTHEWS: They‘re strong guys.
HOYER: ... pretty focused, and very smart. And they are experienced people that know how to investigate and get to the bottom of issues. We are going do that. We think that is the responsibility of the Congress. Checks and balances, we think, have eroded very substantially over the last six years. And the American public expects there to be somebody watching the store. That is our role and we are going do it.
We are not going do it in a got you way. We‘re going to do it in a way that looks at real problems, as you‘ve pointed out, so that we don‘t do them again, make the same mistakes twice.
MATTHEWS: Do you think you were told in the truth in the run-up to war in Iraq?
HOYER: I don‘t know the answer to that question, but it‘s...
MATTHEWS: Is it worth finding out?
HOYER: It is worth finding out, so if it was the intelligence community that misinformed the president, we need to know that. If it was, in fact, the president utilizing the information given to him by the intelligence community in a wrong way, we need to know that as well. The American people need to know that. So, yes, I think it‘s an important question for us to pursue.
MATTHEWS: Do you have any sense that the vice president may not be serving the full term?
MATTHEWS: I‘m just wondering that, because the president of the Untied States, when he said I wasn‘t going to get rid of Rumsfeld, said I‘m not going to get rid of Cheney. And then he got rid of Rumsfeld. I wonder if this is how he lays out his agenda, by saying who he‘s not going to dump.
HOYER: Well, I don‘t know about that, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It is odd, isn‘t it?
HOYER: There‘s somewhat of a Constitutional difference, you know? He can rid of Rumsfeld. Getting rid of Cheney may be more difficult under the Constitution.
MATTHEWS: How do you think your working relationship will be with the president?
HOYER: We‘ll see. The president indicated, as I say, when we were down there, he wanted to work together on those things that he thought we could. We specifically discussed immigration. I think he thinks he is going have an easier time dealing with the Democratic House, by far, than he had dealing with the Republican House.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but if you pass him one of these weak-willed immigration bills like Simpson-Mazzoli where all it does is give away independents—or what do you call them—citizenship cards, and does nothing about enforcement, what good is that?
HOYER: We are not going pass that kind of bill.
MATTHEWS: Because you‘ve talked to Simpson about it. He knows it was a joke.
HOYER: Yes, we‘re not going to pass that kind of bill.
MATTHEWS: OK, good. Let me ask you...
HOYER: Let me say, I think there is general agreement that the borders have to be secure. We cannot afford to simply have...
MATTHEWS: How about sanctions against employers who hire people cheap and illegally?
HOYER: I think we need that. I think we need that.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about the president.
HOYER: But we also need guest worker, and we also need to do something with the 11 or 12 million people who are here.
MATTHEWS: I agree. That‘s true, and everybody agrees. Let me ask you about the president, because you‘re in that room and you have that amazing ability. The morning after a congressional election when your party has taken back at least the House and it looks like you‘ve got a 50-50 shot at the Senate at that point—the Virginia thing wasn‘t decided—you are sitting in the Oval Office with the president of the United States, and he is looking at you as the winners and he‘s the loser.
HOYER: He said, You thumped us badly. He said, You really gave us a.
MATTHEWS: Did he treat you with respect?
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t treat you like the little kids coming in the room, with the little kids table next to the Thanksgiving table, like you guys are over at the card table and we are at the big table.
HOYER: I never got that feeling that he treated us exactly that way, but, clearly there was a difference. Clearly, this time he understand that it was not simply being polite, it was a necessity because we now have the ability to pass or defeat legislation, which we did not have then.
MATTHEWS: Does he get it in his gut and in his brain that you guys are, like it or not, his partners in government now? Or does he still think you have to meet his standards, like, I‘m still holding onto my principles and I‘m sure you will—in other words, I‘m not cutting any deals that violate anything I believe in. In other words, can you push this guy into something he doesn‘t want to do?
HOYER: In the past.
MATTHEWS: This president—I should say it with respect—can you make him do something he doesn‘t want to?
HOYER: -- he was dealing with a powerful lieutenant governor—he was dealing with a powerful lieutenant governor in Texas, obviously, that made common cause with him. I think it‘s yet to be tested. He‘s certainly expressed a desire to do just that. Whether he does it remains to be seen. This president has demonstrated he is pretty willful, he‘s pretty sure of himself and he‘s not likely to compromise. But we‘ll see.
MATTHEWS: Is he over his head? Is he in over his head? Does he have the ability to deal with the complexity of the situation we face in the world today, where you have the old Baathist people, you have the Shia, you got the Sunni, you‘ve got the jihadists, the relationship among Syria and Iran and Iraq, and the Jordanians and the Israelis. Has he got the mind power to put that together so we‘re better off in two or three years than we are now?
HOYER: I think the answer to that is—I think he.
MATTHEWS: We are getting worse off, obviously.
HOYER: He is not sure that he has that kind of brain power around him, and I think that is why he is now reaching out to people with more experience who historically, during the course of his administration, he felt were too moderate, on the one hand, and on the other hand, people not as decisive as he wanted. Now he is thinking to himself, I need somebody else.
MATTHEWS: Okay, let‘s move ahead here. If Gates doesn‘t pass muster because he gets caught in the loop on Iran-Contra or something, would you go along with Duncan Hunter as a fallback for him? Would you support him for Defense chief?
HOYER: I am not going anticipate that appointment.
MATTHEWS: I think it is going be a tough round of hearings on Gates up here. Your party‘s out for blood, and your not going let Gates skip in there, just because you‘re faced with Rumsfeld when you‘ve got another choice you can go with.
HOYER: That is the Senate decision, but I think clearly Gates is going to get careful consideration, sure, and properly so.
MATTHEWS: Are you going be a great leader for many years to come?
HOYER: I am certainly not going say on your program I am going to be a great leader for many years to come!
MATTHEWS: I hope you are.
HOYER: I‘m going to try to be the best leader I can be.
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re great to come on here the night you won. You‘re the hottest hand in town. You are going to get a lot of friendship tonight. And beware of new friends.
HOYER: Thank you, Chris. You are an old friend, and I need to beware of you.
MATTHEWS: Exactly. We had Jack Murtha last night, we have you, and if anybody ever beats you, we‘ll have them on.
HOYER: All right.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with more HARDBALL. The man of the hour, Steny Hoyer of Maryland—a moderate Democrat in an immoderate time. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We are back with a couple members of Congress who were very involved in this debate, in fact this big fight on Capitol Hill that has yielded a new leader: Steny Hoyer of Maryland is the new Mr. Democrat on the House side right now. We just had him on.
Now we have Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extremely famous Democrat.
When did you get famous—back in ‘72?
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I don‘t know. I have been around for a long time.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve been a very important part of the Democratic party in California, which is dominant out there.
Let‘s go to my friend from Philly, Chaka Fattah—we haven‘t talked to in too many months. Chaka, are you going be mayor of Philly soon, or what? What‘s happening?
REP. CHAKA FATTAH (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I have a big announcement on that on Saturday. But today we will deal with this election in the House.
MATTHEWS: Can I assume that you‘re going for bigger things in Philly?
FATTAH: I can just tell you that I am energized about the idea of this mayor‘s race and I‘m going to have something to say on that on Saturday at noon. Why don‘t you come on down and.
MATTHEWS: You‘re so coy! Good luck with your decision. if you make it then. I have always supported you and I will continue to support you, Mr. Fattah, Congressman.
Let me ask you—no, let‘s talk with Congresswoman Waters, here. What is this race that led you, a good member of the Democratic liberal society—the liberal side of things—to back Steny, who I think is a moderate? Why did you do it?
WATERS: I think Steny has demonstrated his leadership, he‘s paid his dues. Steny knows the name of every member of Congress, all of the new members. He pays attention, he‘s been there every Thursday morning to run those whip meetings. He took his licking and kept on ticking. He lost but he played the game of being a team member. And he is a member‘s leader.
MATTHEWS: Is he of your philosophy?
WATERS: Not always. I don‘t always agree with him.
MATTHEWS: Is he tough enough on Iraq?
WATERS: I think he has come to the point where all of the members of the caucus are now. He signed a letter, along with Nancy Pelosi and all of the rest of the leadership, to the president of the United States, talking about the mismanagement and how we‘ve got to change course. So they are all there. I was ahead of all of them, but they‘re all there now. He is where he should be, and again, he has proven himself. He paid his dues and he was rewarded today.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen to another voice. Congressman Fattah, you supported Jack Murtha—is that because you love the guy like so many of us do, or is it because you like his politics, or are you just from Pennsylvania? How would you describe your motives?
FATTAH: First of all, I love Jack Murtha, and I think the country loves him for his courage in standing up against this war. He got a lot of votes in the Democratic Caucus today, but it did not add up to a win for him. But I think those who know him Jack Murtha know that that was—that is one moment in time. We‘re going to be united. Steny Hoyer deserves this victory. He got the lion‘s share of the votes today and we are going be a united caucus.
But Jack Murtha will be remembered as the person who awakened the country to the fact of this misadventure in Iraq, that we needed to turn away from it. And he took a lot of blows. And I think that the fact that he ran for leader is part and parcel of his passion about the war.
He has been in Congress and he has never ran for the leadership. He‘s never had any interest in the leadership. His only reason for stepping forward today as a candidate was he wanted to give voice to this passion that we heard on election day, that we really need a new direction in terms of Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the House leadership. I‘m trying to remember—I may be wrong, but Jim Clyburn is one helluva heavyweight, and you‘ve got him in the leadership now—he‘s whip. He‘s going to run the organization.
WATERS: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: The only other member I can think of who is African-American from the caucus, the Black Caucus, is Bill Gray.
WATERS: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: So he is only the second African-American to get into the big leagues here. Tell me about it—why is that important to you?
MATTHEWS: If it is.
WATERS: ... it‘s extremely important because, as you know, the Democratic caucus is a diverse caucus. And they embrace diversity and they have given support to Jim Clyburn not only now, but when he first ran as caucus chair.
And so it shows that we understand what America is all about and how we must have the kind of diversity that America really represents in order to do a good job for the peoples. So I think it‘s consistent with Democratic values.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he‘ll have an influence on legislation—I know you have the Humphrey Hawkins bill that comes out. It‘s another version of the budget, it‘s sort of endorsed by the black caucus, as I understand.
Do you think you‘re going to be able to get any influence when it comes to big fiscal decisions? As a caucus—I don‘t want to be ethnic about this entirely. But it‘s a big deal to have Jim Clyburn up there.
WATERS: Sure. It‘s a big deal, and we have a lot of members who think like Jim Clyburn, who are going to be involved. I‘m going be the chair of the subcommittee on Housing and Community Development of the Financial Services Committee. We‘re going build affordable housing in this country.
FATTAH: And we want it in Philadelphia, especially.
WATERS: Absolutely. We are going to get it in Philadelphia.
MATTHEWS: Who put those nicer houses up?
Now that you‘re on, I got to ask you, Congressman Fattah, when you
drive in from the airport in Pennsylvania, and there‘s all these real new -
remember the pretty bad—all projects, because I think Bill Cosby grew up in one of those. Anyway, and then you go by them now, they‘re all sort of modern, almost suburban housing.
Who‘s responsible for that?
FATTAH: Well, I led the effort to get rid of the high-rises and to create these more modern public housing, and to also have mixed income. We need, for families, front yards and backyards, a little California-like, Maxine, so that kids can play and grow.
So we led that fight. We‘ve invested in it. But, you know, this Republican majority‘s been cutting back on the Hope Six program and other programs.
We‘re going have to—that‘s why we have to get out of Iraq. We are spending $11 million a minute in Iraq, $8 billion a month. And we can‘t invest that here in cities like Philadelphia and L.A. and New York. We can‘t do that is we‘re spending it in Iraq.
WATERS: Absolutely. You‘re absolutely right, Chaka. And I‘m so pleased that we have an opportunity to lead at this moment in our history. You‘re absolutely right.
We really appreciate what Jack Murtha did. And he really did give us a big bump. Those of us who have been working in the Out of Iraq caucus, begging for attention, just didn‘t get it.
But when he, this hero of the war came forward, it really did get the attention of the press and American people. He went out into America. And in going out into America, he got the support from all of the anti-war people, all of the progressives. He‘d not had that before, and it felt good. And he loved it. And he is doing a fabulous job. And I want him to continue to do that.
But now I think we have the kind of team that can bring our soldiers home. So I am happy that our team has been forged, we‘re all together. We‘re going to move forward. We‘re going use this moment in history to do good for the American people.
MATTHEWS: And Congressman Fattah, if you do become mayor of Philadelphia, I‘d like to see a more consistent performance by the Eagles, I mean, they‘re really a talented team. How about if they show it every Sunday from now? Is that a commitment from you in this campaign?
FATTAH: Well, you know, will be able to handle the Redskins at least.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s always been a problem for me—you guys and me—guys.
Anyway, I love Philly.
Good luck in the mayor‘s race if you make the run. I think you will.
Congressman Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia, Maxine Waters, a hero in her own time.
WATERS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with more.
We‘re going to have Roy Blunt, the once and future—it looks like—
House Leader. We‘ll be right back with Congressman Blunt from Missouri—or Missouri, depending on where you live.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back here where all the action is in Washington, that‘s the Capitol Hill. We‘re on it right now, where, as I said, we‘re in the Cannon House Office Building, the oldest of the House office buildings, where about a third of the members of the House have their office.
We‘re here with Roy Blunt, who‘s from Missouri. He‘s the Congressman.
He is up—you‘re the Whip right now.
REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MO), MAJORITY WHIP: I am.
MATTHEWS: And you‘re running for Whip again.
MATTHEWS: Even though Whip job this time is a little higher up, because it‘s number two.
BLUNT: Well, that‘s right. It‘s number two on the House side. I think my license plate goes down to number five, though, because it is on the minority side. And our goal would be to be sure that next time, we‘re getting those better license plates again because we‘ll be back in the majority.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re the opposition to the opposition. The Democrats are in opposition to the president as they take over the Congress in January. You will be the opposition to the people who are the opposition. How does that work? Do you immediately line up with the president? How‘s it work?
BLUNT: No, I don‘t think it‘s going work that way at all. You know, the Whip‘s job in the new Congress is going to be a slightly different job than the old Congress. I think the skill set is still the same, though: working with our members, being sure we‘re providing good alternatives, and, frankly, creating lot off challenges for their members.
Sixty of the Democrats in the new Congress were elected in districts that George W. Bush carried in 2004, 60. By contrast, I think we‘ll have eight, maybe nine, depending on how the Rob Simmons race ended.
We ought to be out there really with alternatives that define who they are and, frankly, give us a chance to once again get back to our roots.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Blunt, if you get a call from Karl Rove telling you guys to do something, what is your reaction?
BLUNT: That depends on what it is. I think...
MATTHEWS: Suppose he says, I want you guys to line up behind the president‘s immigration bill.
BLUNT: Well, I think then we wouldn‘t do it. You got look back at where we‘ve been the last year on this issue with the president, with the Senate. It depends on what the president‘s bill says, but if it‘s the president‘s bill of a year ago, the House position‘s the position that the country decided was the right position. We had that fight with the president. I was important, I think, in leading that fight with the president. It‘s the kind of thing that we are going have to do on occasion, but most of the time, we‘re going figure out how to work together with the president and create good alternatives.
MATTHEWS: I think it was Ted Kennedy, the senator from Massachusetts, who said, I just love minimum wage fights, because that‘s an area where the Democrats enjoy an advantage. They got a lot of workers organized and not on their side, and it‘s always tougher to say no than to say yes to a big group of people that want something.
Would you, as a party, oppose automatically a Democratic push for higher minimum wage?
BLUNT: Well, I would expect to see that. I think that‘s one of the things they‘ve announced they‘re going to do.
MATTHEWS: Everybody who sits in these chairs says, I‘m going to do minimum wage.
BLUNT: And what they‘re going to have to decide is whether or not the Democrats that I talked to you about, particularly, the ones during that campaign that said, sure, we need raise the minimum wage, but while we‘re doing it, we need to protect the small business folks, we need to do things for the restaurant folks, we need to do some things that offset any negative economic impact it might have. That‘s the kind of package...
MATTHEWS: Do you think restaurant workers should depend on tips?
BLUNT: I don‘t think restaurant workers should depend on tips, but I think things like restaurant depreciation and other things that make the—you have got look at who hires people at a minimum wage and think what can we do to offset some of the impact of this minimum wage increase so they continue to hire as many people as they would have hired anyway.
What you don‘t want is a minimum wage increase that results in job loss. We want people to get to work, not to be denied the opportunity to work.
MATTHEWS: How about the war in Iraq. Do you fellows and women who have been reelected in a very, very unfavorable year, the ones who have come back, do you feel that the president owes you or you owe him in terms of leadership on this war? Will you go a different course? Will you go your own course, or are you awaiting the commander-in-chief‘s orders?
BLUNT: Well, I think we are interested in what happens now with the new secretary of defense. I think many of our members, including me, think that if that decision would have been made earlier, it would have given our members a little more ability out there to talk about the fact that everything is under review.
We have got to constantly be looking at the goals we set, whether we‘re meeting them or not, if they‘re still achievable, and what the Iraqis are doing to do their part.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you a personal question. If Bob Gates gets bumped because of a lot of inquiry in this Congress—and a lot of Democrats, I know, are hungry to do this—and they go after him on Iran-Contra, any role he played in that loop, do you think Duncan Hunter would make a good substitute? Would you rather go back to Rumsfeld?
BLUNT: Well, we‘d miss Duncan Hunter leading us in the armed forces efforts we‘ve got here. Duncan Hunter...
MATTHEWS: He‘s running for president. If he doesn‘t get this job, he still wants the other one.
BLUNT: Duncan Hunter honors the military. His son is serving. He served. He would be a great secretary of defense but he is going the be a great leader for Republicans on defense issues in the House.
MATTHEWS: I‘m sure they‘re causing trouble here, but I do think that this Gates hearing is going to be tough as nail, because I know this is the first shot the Democrats have had at the Iraq policy and they are going use that opportunity to really nail him on that and nail him on his past. It is not going be fun.
BLUNT: Well, you know, I think for us to really have the kind of review of this policy we want to see happen, it is in everybody‘s best interest to have that hearing, to get Gates confirmed and to get a new look at the Pentagon.
MATTHEWS: Well, good luck with everything.
BLUNT: Thank you. Good to see you.
MATTHEWS: Good luck with your race tomorrow morning, right?
BLUNT: Tomorrow morning.
MATTHEWS: We‘ve got John Fund coming up here and Al Franken—what a duo that‘s going to be—to have a little loquacious argument. Coming up, we will be right back with Al Franken and John Fund. It‘s going to be interesting.
MATTHEWS: We are back up on Capitol Hill. I have John Fund joining me from the “Wall Street Journal.” I‘ve got Al Franken joining me from everywhere.
You know, the big question, gentlemen, is where are we headed with this trajectory. We had a big election last week. Pelosi tried to bring her man in, Jack Murtha, very much the anti-war man of the House, into the leadership with her. That failed today. Tomorrow, the Republicans fight over their leadership.
Where is this all headed, John Fund?
JOHN FUND, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: Well, the Democrats won a big victory but they did not have to say a whole lot about what they would do once they got into power. I think the Pelosi-Murtha dust up forces them to deliver now on ethics, forces them to put forward an agenda and forces them to, I think, resolve some of the internal conflicts they have between the members elected from the red districts and the members who come from the deep blue districts.
I think it is going be very clarifying. It‘s going to force the Democrats to come right out of the bat in January with a full agenda.
MATTHEWS: Al Franken, where are we headed?
AL FRANKEN, AUTHOR, “THE TRUTH (WITH JOKES)”: Well, I don‘t know how full the agenda is going to be. I know they‘re going to vote to raise the minimum wage and, I think, the first really fascinating one will be on Medicare Part D where Democrats will push legislation and pass legislation to allow Medicare to bargain with the pharmaceutical companies on the price of drugs. And I think once that passes, it will be interesting to see if the president vetoes it.
MATTHEWS: But they‘ve already—well, it has to get through the Senate. Do you think it can get through there? This is a big deal for people who are seniors who have medical problems.
FRANKEN: I think it would be a good deal for seniors because it would lower the price of prescription drugs. It would probably—they could use the money that was saved to close the donut hole. I think it is a win-win for seniors and I think it‘s a win-win for taxpayers. And it‘s just—you know, the Republicans sold out to the pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies and I think that needs to be reversed.
FUND: Well, Al, I have heard a lot of good things there, but I have not heard the word ethics. The Democrats campaigned against the culture of corruption.
FRANKEN: OK, ethics.
FUND: And the question is, Nancy Pelosi was supporting Jack Murtha who, frankly, had real ethical problems. He said the ethics package they were promoting was crap. And now the question will be, will the Democrats move out, as soon as they take control of Congress, with a complete and full ethics package?
Right now, I don‘t hear a lot of talk about that. I think the Pelosi-Murtha dust up forces them to put that front and center before Medicare and before minimum wage.
FRANKEN: I think it can all be done at the same time. I think they‘re going to do it in the first 100 hours, and I think that she talked about lobbying reform right away. I think this is a good—I am glad that Steny Hoyer won.
I really admire Jack Murtha for standing up on the Iraq war. I admire his service, but I think part of that vote was exactly what you‘re talking about, which is voting for ethics reform. I mean, let‘s face it. This was your guys, your pals, are corrupt. I mean, your buddies, your chums, they are just—they‘re crooks.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about...
FUND: Thanks. I didn‘t know they were my chums.
FRANKEN: Oh, yes. Oh, come on, John. They are your—you know, buddies.
FUND: Thanks for saying that I hang around with crooks. That is really nice, Al.
FRANKEN: Oh, you‘re welcome.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you both—you can start since he just offended you, and I think he did it intentionally.
Let me ask you, John Fund, and then Al Franken, there‘s a notion around this building—I mean, the great joke is from Mark Russell (ph), I‘ve repeated it before because it‘s hilarious.
He says, what does a Congressman say to another Congressman on Wednesday?
Have a nice weekend.
MATTHEWS: I mean, the fact is—the fact is—people say, we shouldn‘t do—up here on the Hill, we shouldn‘t be doing indictments, they shouldn‘t be using the subpoena power. They shouldn‘t be trying to find out how the hell we get in this war, because that gets in the way of doing minimum wage and the Medicare stuff and it gets in the way of ethics.
You act like, John, that if you do minimum wage, you can‘t do ethics.
MATTHEWS: They can work five days a week, can‘t they?
FUND: Well, they haven‘t brought a calendar that will say you do that.
Look, the Republicans, they had a legitimate problem. They did not do oversight that Congress is supposed to, because you can‘t do it three days a week. But, they also...
MATTHEWS: Who decided that the Hill should only work three days a week?
FUND: The whole thing was going to be a family-friendly Congress.
MATTHEWS: So you only worked three days a week?
FUND: Remember, a lot of members decided not to move their families to Washington...
MATTHEWS: That was a great decision.
FUND: Well, the Democrats are going to have to decide. Do you want a five day work week, or do you want to go back to...
MATTHEWS: Well, it was the Republicans who created the three-day work week for only themselves.
FUND: I‘ve heard nothing said about the calendar yet, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK. Now get in here, Al. I‘m not going to argue this.
FRANKEN: Well—I just want to—you know, John‘s pals, his buddies, his friends decided, we‘ll only have 69 full workdays in the whole year.
I mean, your buddies did that...
FUND: Wait a second. A lot of work does—goes back to the district. It is called consulting with the constituents. It‘s called...
FRANKEN: You can do that, actually, on the actual weekend. But these guys only met 69 full days. And there‘s lots of work to do. And part of what—you were at the dinner last night, John—and...
FUND: Bill Clinton, that‘s right.
FRANKEN: Right. And the president talked about, not only corruption and not only Iraq, but the fact that American people want Congress to address the real problems that Americans face every day. And that‘s health care, and that‘s why the Medicare Part D thing is so important. And it‘s jobs and it‘s energy independence, which go hand in hand.
We can create so many new jobs with energy—new energy and...
FUND: Just remember, Al, California voters voted on a big oil tax and they decided that, yes, I think we do need alternative energy. But remember, alternative energy can also mean an awful lot of subsidies and an awful lot of waste. We saw that with the ethanol project. Which...
FRANKEN: Ethanol is a fabulous things. I‘m surprised you‘re against ethanol.
FUND: No, no. A lot of liberal Democrats were against ethanol and a lot of liberal Democrats were against the shale oil and the other kind of subsidies that we saw in the 1980s.
You can have alternative energy, but you can also have it according to market principals, Al. And you don‘t want to subsidize energy companies...
FRANKEN: You could do both.
FUND: ... which are already—which are already trying to horn in on this.
MATTHEWS: How‘s Nancy Pelosi.
FRANKEN: ... you mean by giving tax breaks to oil companies, like your buddies did in the last Congress? In the last energy bill? Your pals? Giving billions of dollars in tax breaks, John?
FUND: Al, for somebody who wants to talk about policy, you just want to make it all personal. I‘m sorry.
FRANKEN: Maybe you‘re not in on the joke, John.
MATTHEWS: Hey, Al, I got to take John‘s side of this.
Let‘s talk about the objective—let‘s attack the real person out here, not John Fund.
What kind of a Speaker is Nancy Pelosi going be?
FRANKEN: That was asked of me?
FRANKEN: I‘m sorry.
I hope she‘s a great speaker. Again, what president Clinton said last night—and John, this is all a joke. Your pal thing, you just didn‘t get it.
FUND: Sometimes you‘re on and sometimes you‘re off, Al. You know that.
FRANKEN: No, I‘m always on, you‘re barely ever off.
But anyway, here‘s the point. What Clinton said yesterday is that Democrats were not given a mandate. We were given a chance. And I think that Nancy Pelosi knows that. And I think that we‘re going try to get things done.
Now, he was talking about—and John will attest to this—he was talking about the difference between ideology and philosophy. John and I have difference philosophies, and his pals, his buddies in the administration have an ideology. And that‘s what got us into Iraq.
FUND: I was very impressed with the president‘s speech last night, but he says he was against ideology. So he doesn‘t have one?
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s Friday nights. I think that‘s his philosophy.
FRANKEN: He has a philosophy.
MATTHEWS: Friday night.
FRANKEN: A philosophy is different from an ideology. With an ideology, you know all the answers. With a philosophy, you have a—you have convictions and beliefs, but you go based on evidence.
And that was the problem with this administration and Iraq. They have been lying to us from the beginning. They have been telling—you know, it was yesterday, finally, that General Abizaid said we didn‘t send in enough troops. General Shinseki was right.
FRANKEN: It took three and a half years...
MATTHEWS: Please come back. Please come back, Al.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve been doing a lot of homework here, and I think you got ahead of the class.
It was very well done, I mean it. I‘m not sarcastic. It‘s great.
Thank you, Al, for coming on. And thank you, John Fund.
FRANKEN: OK, John, say hi to your buddies.
FUND: Say hi to Bill. I enjoyed him last night, he was great.
FRANKEN: He‘s a great buddy. You got your corrupt buddies.
MATTHEWS: That‘s Al Franken, that you for joining us.
And I think John Fund‘s a good sport to hang out with those buddies of his. I‘m just kidding.
We‘ll be right back with more. We‘ve got some people coming on here, Susan Molinari and Hillary Rosen coming back to talk about it from a distaff point of view, perhaps, if you will.
We‘ll be right back with some women.
MATTHEWS: Well, not all Democrats are on the liberal side of things. We have here, joining us right now Congressman—U.S. Congressman Allen Boyd of Florida who heads a group called the Blue Dogs. You guys were very much involved in the Steny Hoyer success today, right?
REP. ALLEN BOYD ®, FLORIDA: Yes, we were. Most of our members, Chris, supported Steny Hoyer.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the difference between a yellow dog Democrat and a blue dog Democrat?
BOYD: Well, a yellow dog Democrat comes out of probably the Depression, as you know, and that‘s the person who would vote for a yellow dog before they vote for a Republican. We‘re probably cousins. We‘ve been choked so bad by the far left and the far right that we turn blue.
MATTHEWS: So you guys are, what, middle of the road to conservative Democrats? Are there any more conservative Democrats like there used to be like in the old days, southerners?
BOYD: Yes, there are. A few...
MATTHEWS: Are you a conservative?
BOYD: Yes, I am, and we want to see it in North Carolina, Heath Shuler, as you know, and there are some others and...
MATTHEWS: Is he going to be a better congressman than he was a quarterback?
BOYD: Well, I don‘t know. He was a pretty good quarterback, wasn‘t he?
MATTHEWS: Well, anyway...
BOYD: I‘ll tell you what, he‘s going to make a difference up here.
MATTHEWS: Give me an issue where you folks are different than, say, Nancy Pelosi.
BOYD: Well, I think probably our main focus is going to be the budget deficits that have been built.
MATTHEWS: You mean you‘re actually going to stop all this profligate spending by Republicans?
BOYD: We‘re going to—we‘re going to very much try to go back to fiscal responsibility.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re—you are to their right on fiscal issues?
BOYD: Well, we just think that you ought not to spend more than you take in. At the end of the day, the books have to balance.
MATTHEWS: Well, that used to be a Republican idea.
BOYD: And for the last six years, Chris, that just didn‘t exist.
BOYD: You know? They‘ve just gone wild with...
MATTHEWS: Why do you think the Republicans went from being a conservative party on issues like that and becoming part of the problem?
BOYD: I think they began to legislate just to maintain power rather than to try to make the country a better place. And that‘s really what the Blue Dogs are all about.
We believe that you ought to tear down that wall that exists in the middle of the House floor that‘s been built over the last 12 years by the Republicans. That‘s a challenge that Nancy Pelosi has to tear down that wall and legislate for the good of the American people. Not just to maintain power.
MATTHEWS: Is there still a redneck railroad (ph) along the back?
BOYD: A redneck...
MATTHEWS: Well, that was the nickname for all the members of the conservative...
BOYD: Well, I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: They called it that. I didn‘t make it up.
BOYD: Chris, we could start one. You know?
MATTHEWS: No, they all used sit along the back row of the Congress. They were the conservative, mostly southern—all southern Democrats, and they‘d sit there as a point of distinction. They didn‘t want to be confused with the liberal Democrats.
BOYD: Well, would you sit back there?
MATTHEWS: No. I‘m too North. I‘m Philadelphia. But politically—politically I would fit there, I think, a more conservative person in that middle road position.
BOYD: Well, we hope that the blue dogs can have a little more influence in the legislative process now.
BOYD: Particularly since we have the majority. We think we can.
MATTHEWS: I would wear that label with pride. Too many northerners to be redneck, really, anyway.
Thank you, Congressman. We‘ll have you back again.
BOYD: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
BOYD: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: That‘s Congressman Allen Boyd.
We are going to have Hilary Rosen coming by, and we‘re going to have Susan Molinari, to have a couple of people to talk about—to sum up what happened today. Another difference and a big day today. A big day today.
We have a new leader of the Democratic Party on the House side. We have an elected Democratic leadership that is taking its shape tomorrow. A hot race for a Republican leader and deputy leader.
We will be back with more HARDBALL to talk about it.
MATTHEWS: We are back with former congresswoman Susan Molinari and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen.
You were chuckling about this because you think it‘s going to be one hell of a fight tomorrow on the Republican side, don‘t you?
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think the Republican Party has a choice to make. That, you know, their leaders took them down the wrong path, the Congress didn‘t stand up to the president. Are they going to reelect John Boehner or not?
MATTHEWS: Well, are they?
I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: Susan Molinari...
SUSAN MOLINARI ®, FMR. U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: You know what? There‘s one thing that I don‘t do, because it‘s hard being in Congress and it‘s hard voting for or against your friends. And as somebody who ran for leadership, I also know you can never trust what people tell you because it‘s a secret ballot...
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that the story of the last 24 hours?
MOLINARI: That is the story, yes. And that‘s the one thing the Republicans and Democrats apparently do have in common.
MATTHEWS: What is this when—Jack Murtha comes in here last night, we‘re over at the studio, and Jack Murtha—and I said, “Are you going to win?” He said, “I am going to win.” And I‘ve known the guy since ‘81.
“Are you going to win?” And he said, “Yes.” And I said, “Did you have eyeball-to-eyeball confirmation?” And he said, “Yes.”
And then I found out today that they had 113 votes...
MOLINARI: Somebody‘s wrong.
MATTHEWS: Well, either Nancy Pelosi or Jack Murtha had one-to-one conversations with people, and confirmation, and today he ends up with the sort end of the stick.
MOLINARI: The only time you can ever trust those is if you say, “Can I make it public?” So the only ones you can ever trust is if you look at “Hotline,” you know, right before and say...
MATTHEWS: Oh. Then the other guy...
MOLINARI: ... “You may go public with my...”
MATTHEWS: Then the other guy knows you‘re double-dealing (ph) him.
MOLINARI: That‘s the only ones you can trust.
MATTHEWS: But amazing to me—why do I say it‘s amazing to me? Because it is—that a guy or a woman says to two different people competing for each other, “You‘ve got me with this. I‘m with you.”
MOLINARI: But don‘t tell the other guy. But don‘t tell the other guy.
MATTHEWS: Is this a peculiarity to the Democrats or the Republicans, this facial dishonesty?
ROSEN: No, no, no. It‘s a peculiarity to the secret ballot. That‘s what it is. And it happens everywhere.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t they make it a public ballot?
ROSEN: Why don‘t they make it a public ballot?
MATTHEWS: It just seemed like it would save all this nonsense. And, you know, you say, “I‘m going to vote for you,” oh.
ROSEN: Public ballots wouldn‘t promote healing the next day, when everyone can say...
MOLINARI: I voted for you.
ROSEN: ... I voted for you and we can really do that.
MATTHEWS: You know, the Senate is a smart body. And I used to work over there. And it seemed like you‘d always know the four guys that went south on you over there.
No matter what the secret, you could always tell who they—we have been talking to—we talked to—about—she said there are boxes. There‘s the AB box, the CD box, the EF box. You can basically figure it out by going through the boxes—because it‘s done alphabetically—you can sort of put together who voted for you and against you by just doing the math.
Do you think that‘s true?
MOLINARI: Well, I know...
MATTHEWS: It‘s like counting cards in Vegas.
MOLINARI: ... from the Republicans, when I was there, I mean, everybody—I mean, you had a little white piece of paper and you filled it out like school. You‘d pass it to the end of the row. People are trying to...
MATTHEWS: And there is no secret number on the back?
MOLINARI: There‘s no secret number, and the staff takes it, and they go up front and then that‘s it. And they just, you know, announce the results.
MATTHEWS: Wouldn‘t it be great if there was a number behind each one of those ballots and everybody was transparently voting against their...
MOLINARI: And you know what? At the end of the day you kind of know.
At the end of the day.
MATTHEWS: How do you know?
MOLINARI: Because you just know who‘s going to—you‘re in a people business. If you don‘t see that it‘s coming, they‘ll stab (ph) you.
ROSEN: They‘re not going to know.
MATTHEWS: Lyndon Johnson used to say that if you walk into a room and can‘t tell within 10 minutes who your friends are and who your enemies are, you shouldn‘t be in politics.
MOLINARI: Exactly. Exactly my point.
ROSEN: But I don‘t think that applies here. I don‘t think you can call the people who voted for Steny Nancy‘s enemies, the people who voted...
MATTHEWS: No, but if they lie to you, you can.
ROSEN: Yes, but they‘re not permanent enemies.
MATTHEWS: Don‘t get too philosophical on me.
ROSEN: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: If a person looks you in the eye and says, “I‘m voting for you,” and they don‘t, they‘re not your friend.
ROSEN: But you—they are your friend. The majority of the people who ended up being for Steny today, some of those old liberal Democrats, are the very same people who put Nancy in the Democratic leader‘s slot two years ago.
ROSEN: The Barney Franks, the Maxine Waters, the John Dingles.
MATTHEWS: But why? Maxine Waters was just here. But why?
ROSEN: Because they thought she would be the best. But they had made pledges to Steny long before John Murtha ever said he was going to run. So, you know, this thing, I think, is about some trust. And they trusted those votes.
MOLINARI: And at the end of the day, you do have to come together for, you know, the common good, which is either for your political party or to move this nation forward. And I have no doubt...
MATTHEWS: Were you in the majority here when you were here?
MATTHEWS: What went wrong with the Republican majority? Why did it get a little sticky?
MOLINARI: You know, I‘ve heard people talk to you all day, and I think that it wasn‘t just one thing. It was, you know, some of the corruption, it was—you know, Mark Foley is when we started to go down. We were actually having a pretty good week at that point in time.
It‘s the war with Iraq. It‘s not just one thing. But we will be back.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the true blue conservatives believed in this war?
MOLINARI: I don‘t know if I can answer that question.
MATTHEWS: This is neocon war, it‘s an adventurous Wilsonian war.
It‘s far into the Republican...
MOLINARI: Can I just say one thing as a Republican? Steny Hoyer is a good guy, the Democrats are lucky.
MATTHEWS: We‘ve got to thank you.
Thank you, Hilary.
ROSEN: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Do you work on this show now full time?
Ha! You‘re great.
Hilary Rosen knows her politics.
We‘ll be right back tomorrow night with a big leadership fight.
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