Guests: Rev. Al Sharpton, Ed Rollins, John Heilemann, Dylan Ratigan, Jonathan Capehart, Ron Reagan, Deroy Murdock, Jay Carney
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Ralph Nader kept Al Gore out of the White House. Ross Perot put Bill Clinton in. Will Mike Bloomberg be the big spoiler this time?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. If New York mayor Michael Bloomberg runs for president next year, could he actually win? Could there be a wild road down the middle that leaves both parties out of the money? Could a country that can‘t have Obama or Rudy be looking for someone besides Hillary and Fred Thompson? Could the right set of party nominees open a third candidate to a wide vista of electoral possibility? Tonight, we did into the possibilities off a presidential run for New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Plus, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster grabbed an interview today with filmmaker Michael Moore. We‘ll have that for you later for fans and people who are not fans.
And we begin with David Shuster‘s report on the third party candidacies that have made history.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York mayor Mike Bloomberg dropped a bombshell Tuesday when he announced he‘s leaving the Republican Party and promoting a platform of nonpartisan service. Today in New York, Bloomberg would not rule out a presidential bid completely, though he declared he intends to serve as mayor even as he travels across the country talking about issues like health care and the environment.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY: Nobody‘s willing to talk about those things, and I think that that‘s exactly what the candidates should do. We have roughly 10 Republican and 10 Democratic candidates, and I think that‘s what they should address. And I‘m going to speak out on those issues, and by not being affiliated with a party, I think I‘m going to have a better opportunity to do that.
SHUSTER: Still, Bloomberg‘s actions have reinforced suspicions that he‘s leaning towards an independent party presidential campaign, or at the very least, laying groundwork if he wants to get on state ballots.
Third party and independent candidates have had some impact on modern presidential elections, but most often in the role of spoiler. In 2000, Green Party nominee Ralph Nader grabbed less than 3 percent of the vote across the country.
RALPH NADER (G), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Remember, both Gore and Bush cannot talk about getting dirty money out of politics because they‘re taking money from those same companies that are pouring that dirty money into politics.
SHUSTER: But many Democrats believe that most of the votes for Nader in Florida would have otherwise gone to Al Gore, giving Gore a victory in Florida over George W. Bush and handing Gore the White House.
In 1992 and 1996, Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot of Texas ran for president.
ROSS PEROT (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let‘s take a little time and figure out what happened to the engine. Let‘s raise the hood and go to work. Let‘s diagnose the problem. I can tell you before we look at the engine, an engine tuneup won‘t fix it.
SHUSTER: As an independent in 1992, the quirky businessmen garnered almost 20 percent of the vote, not enough to win the presidency but more than enough to allow Bill Clinton to oust President George H.W. Bush in a three-way race.
In 1996, Perot ran again, as the nominee of the Reform Party, picking up less than half as many votes but allowing President Clinton to win reelection with under 50 percent of the vote.
In 1980, Republican nominee Ronald Reagan debated independent John Anderson on national television without the Democratic nominee, President Jimmy Carter. Carter refused to debate Anderson, a liberal Republican who was viewed as possibly more damaging to Carter than he was Reagan. In the election, Anderson captured less than 7 percent of the vote.
In 1968, former Democratic governor George Wallace of Alabama formed his own party with the mission to be a spoiler, hoping to throw the election to the Electoral College and expand his political clout. He did not succeed, but he did win five Southern states and he took a lot of Southern Democratic votes away from Hubert Humphrey, giving Richard Nixon a small but decisive win.
Today, there are many questions about Michael Bloomberg.
CHARLIE COOK, “COOK POLITICAL REPORT”‘: He‘s going to, you know, look at this after the February 5 round of primaries, and if both parties come up with damaged—badly damaged or badly flawed candidates, and if he thinks he‘s got a shot, he‘ll get in.
SHUSTER (on camera): Bloomberg might be to appeal in a general election to moderate voters who are turned off by the extreme views that candidates are required to put forward to win the Democratic and Republican nominations. And in a general election, Bloomberg certainly has the money to compete. Friends say he would spend at least half a billion dollars, or a tenth of estimated his net worth, if Bloomberg decides to press forward with a campaign.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David. Ed Rollins worked for Ross Perot‘s campaign a while, at least, back in 1992. Ed, thank you. It‘s great to see you.
ED ROLLINS, ‘92 PEROT CAMPAIGN MANAGER: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: Haven‘t seen you in a while.
ROLLINS: How are you?
MATTHEWS: Would a sane candidate like Bloomberg do better than Ross Perot?
ROLLINS: Well, there‘s no question that I think Bloomberg, as a very competent mayor and a very popular mayor in a very tough city, would do very well. And equally as important, with his kind of resources and his ability and willingness to spend, he can sort of set an agenda that other candidates may have to deal with.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s say Hillary is the nominee of the Democratic Party. She‘s the current frontrunner. And let‘s say Fred Thompson, who had big mo right now, gets in the race and wins the Republican nomination, just for sport here. There‘s two nominations. Do they create an opening for a third?
MATTHEWS: ... actually win, like Bloomberg? Can he win if those two are the nominees?
ROLLINS: It‘s awful hard to get to 270 electoral votes for any independent candidate, but he certainly has a center to run down with those two candidate—hypothetical. And I think the more important thing is by March, we probably know who our nominees are, but both parties will be out of money. And I assume they‘re going to take the federal check that‘s about $90 million they don‘t get until after the conventions, so he could have March, April, May, June, July, August to basically go to a nationwide campaign and talk about issues that matter to Americans and have great, great impact on the presidential race.
MATTHEWS: And you could have half the Democratic Party by then not too happy with Hillary, and you could have a lot of Republicans not too happy with the war in Iraq, and that would be an opportunity, at least, for enough votes to vote for 270 electoral votes for that guy, right?
ROLLINS: I had...
MATTHEWS: At least the opportunity.
ROLLINS: I had a formula when Perot was, at one point, at 39 percent during the brief period I was managing his campaign, and I had a formula where I could‘ve got to the 270 by winning a plurality of the states. Situations are different, obviously, and there‘s an environment that‘s different, but the most important thing is this is a very competent man. Country clearly wants a competent leader after six years of the present incumbent, and I think, to a certain extent, he‘ll have great appeal.
MATTHEWS: Would you run his campaign, if he asked you?
ROLLINS: I don‘t basically want to read anybody‘s campaign again!
MATTHEWS: OK. I always like to get some news here. Let‘s bring in the Reverend Al Sharpton, who ran for president himself. Here‘s your quote in “The Washington Post” today, Reverend. “A girl in high school catches you looking at her, and she starts wearing nice dresses. It doesn‘t mean she‘s going to date you, but she‘s at least teasing you, so it really increases your hope. This is a serious tease.”
Well, but what‘s the purpose of the tease?
REV. AL SHARPTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think the purpose of the tease is to set himself in a position that if, in fact, we see the Democrats and the Republicans come up with candidates that are less than uniting of their parties and their parties‘ loyalists, he‘s already set the stage to come in, if he chooses to do it. I don‘t have any inside information, but I don‘t think Bloomberg has made a final decision to do it, but I do think he‘s testing the waters and I think he‘s smart enough and savvy enough to position himself to launch, if, in fact, he does make that decision.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you—bring back Ed for a second, Ed Rollins. You know, this election situation as well as anybody around today. You know, when you look at the people that may well lose party nominations and thereby create large constituencies for a third party, if Obama comes up short—he‘s a very attractive candidate, but if he falls short of Hillary and all those militant people out there, all those idealists, I should say, who just love the guy, want a change candidate (INAUDIBLE), and they look at Hillary and she doesn‘t quite do it for them, and you look at all the people that are rooting for Rudy right now, who are suburbanites and moderate Republicans, and they don‘t have Rudy because Thompson overtakes him because of his cultural conservative bona fides, you have a lot of Rudy people out there, suburban people, and a lot of Obama people, idealists, out there—do those two groups of people constitute a governing majority? Can they be that?
ROLLINS: Well, the difference in this campaign—Perot‘s campaign was sort of a volunteer-driven in which Ross always paid attention to his volunteers. I think that Mike Bloomberg is going to run his own campaign, along with his very able Kevin Sheeky (ph), who‘s his—his political guy, and basically put the issues before the country. And it‘ll be a question of, Do you want someone who‘s competent, who will go tackle very tough issues? And one of the tough issues he tackled was he took on the largest school district in the country and has tried to put reforms in there, which obviously may have made a great appeal to some of Barack Obama‘s supporters.
MATTHEWS: Well, is he making a mistake if he runs as a rich guy, rather than running as a rich guy who needs the support of little people, the way that Perot did it so well? Perot kept saying, If you get me on the ballot, I‘ll run. He really gave the people a role in the campaign that a rich guy normally wouldn‘t give you that kind of role in his life.
ROLLINS: Perot listened to no one. Perot had this great fantasy. He had a messiah complex, but he wouldn‘t spend the money. The truth of the matter is he spent $67 million in the closing month of the campaign to get his reputation back. But when I was running his campaign, he‘d promised me he‘d spend $150 million. I walked in with a TV budget of $109 million, and he said, I‘m not going to spend any more. I‘m can go Larry King any night and talk to all the voters I need.
I tried to explain to him Larry King on his best night had two or three million viewers and he basically needed to talk to 100 million viewers. He had no concept. This is a guy who‘s built—meaning Bloomberg has built communications gigantic media outlet, and he understands the game better than anybody.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Reverend Sharpton, do you think there are many Democrats out there and Democratic-leaning independents, non-affiliated people, who will be looking to somebody besides Hillary, should she win this thing, win the nomination?
SHARPTON: Oh, it‘s very, very possible. But I think you‘ve also go to remember there is someone who has a track record at being able to attract unlikely allies and appeal to people that don‘t normally come together. It‘s Michael Bloomberg. I mean, I‘ve sat in New York and watched him win twice, and despite the fact he‘s a very wealthy guy, he was able to get some poor people to rally around him. And he was able to get people that were middle class and not normally aligned with them. He built the kinds of coalitions that could be, if I was in somebody‘s camp—could be at least very alarming, if not frightening.
He does have a solid sense of what he wants. He has solid ideas. But in all due respect to Mr. Perot, he had one thing he didn‘t have. He has a track record. He can not only say, These are my ideas about education, this is what I‘ve done. These are my ideas about...
SHARPTON: ... dealing with different issues...
MATTHEWS: You are so positive, Reverend—you are so positive about this guy. I‘ve noticed over the years, not being a New Yorker, being an out of towner, that he is better on race, in the sense that I don‘t see him stirring up division, the way Rudy was able to do to Rudy‘s benefit politically.
SHARPTON: No, he‘s been very accessible. We‘ve had some stark disagreements, but he‘s the kind of guy that sits down and talks. In fact, he calls people first in any community.
SHARPTON: And after having such a hostile relationship with Rudy, the fact that somebody would sit down and smile made you feel like you were in love.
MATTHEWS: God, it sounds like you are!
SHARPTON: Well, it sounds like I—I come out of a verbal (ph) abused mayoralty into somebody that at least who respected us.
MATTHEWS: Well, Ed Rollins, it‘s great to hear from Reverend Sharpton. It‘s always a surprise to hear what you have to say. Thank you, gentlemen, both.
Lots of talk about Mike Bloomberg because there is some disaffection already growing in the other two political parties. We‘re going to talk to some people that really know Bloomberg for the inside look, not just the cut of his jib, but what kind of guy is he? Does he have the stuff? Jonathan Capehart from “The Washington Post” used to work with the guy.
CNBC‘s Dylan Ratigan also. He‘s with “New York” magazine—I‘m sorry. “New York” magazine‘s John Heilemann‘s joining us. We got some people that are going to tell you about who Mike Bloomberg is when we come back, not just whether there‘s an opportunity for Mike Bloomberg. we‘ll figure that one out in the next could of minutes.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: I think there‘s a great challenge ahead. We have international challenges. We have domestic challenges. And as I said out in California two nights ago, I don‘t think that we are addressing those issues. I‘m particularly upset that the big issues of the time keep getting pushed to the back and we focus on small things that probably only inside the Beltway are important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg from earlier today. Has this guy got the right stuff to beat both parties? John Heilemann had the cover story on Mayor Bloomberg for “New York” magazine. “The Washington Post‘s” Jonathan Capehart served as a policy adviser for Bloomberg in 2001. That was his first campaign for mayor, which he won. And he also worked in the transition to the mayor‘s office. And he later worked at Bloomberg News. And Dylan Ratigan‘s author out of—he‘s anchor, rather, of CNBC‘s “Fast Money.” He‘s a former executive at Bloomberg‘s company. So we‘ve got three inside guys here, all men, all informed about the guy.
So let‘s do the Jack Kennedy question before we go into intellectual stuff. Jonathan, what is Mike Bloomberg really like?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, FORMER BLOOMBERG POLICY ADVISER: Mike Bloomberg...
MATTHEWS: Really like.
CAPEHART: What is he really like? He‘s a fun, kind-hearted, big-hearted person, who when you watch him on television just now with that bite, you know, the voice is a little—might be a little strange, it might be a little two-dimensional, but if you were sitting here right now, he‘s a very lively, three-dimensional person, very personable.
MATTHEWS: OK, John?
JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK” MAGAZINE: Really smart, really confident.
And I think that‘s really key. I mean, he‘s a guy who is not afraid to surround himself with the smartest guys in the room and let them make decisions.
MATTHEWS: Why is he so rich? What‘d he do right?
HEILEMANN: Well, I think, I mean, he saw the—he saw a bunch of things that were happening in the financial markets and about the need for information that people out on the trading desks were demanding in real time.
MATTHEWS: He built that whole thing himself.
HEILEMANN: Absolutely. It was a visionary company, unquestionably.
MATTHEWS: Dylan, what is he like?
DYLAN RATIGAN, FORMER BLOOMBERG NEWS GLOBAL MANAGING EDITOR: And above all of that, he‘s somebody who is living, Chris, the American dream. The difference between Mike Bloomberg as a rich independent candidate and anyone else is this is a guy who was born poor, of immigrant parents, came to New York, had an idea, thought he could do it better, and proved it out, and as a result, has money. But that‘s not the reason he gets up in the morning. This is a guy who gets up in the morning because he believes it can be done better. He truly believes that.
MATTHEWS: You know, he strikes me as an amazing—I heard that back when he was working for Bert Solomon (ph) back when he was a kid, that he used to get up at 7:00 o‘clock in the morning and be the first person in the office with cigarettes because Bert Solomon, one of the partners, liked cigarettes and he always had one. That‘s opportunism. And then later on, he was the guy that got rid of cigarette smoking in New York. That‘s opportunism. Here‘s a guy that was a Democrat, became a Republican to win the mayor‘s office, then quit the Republican Party so he could run as an independent. That‘s opportunism. Is it bad opportunism or good opportunism, Jonathan?
MATTHEWS: Has this guy got values or beliefs or he just...
CAPEHART: ... and the reason why he switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party was because there were too many people running for mayor on the Democratic line.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s called opportunism.
CAPEHART: And Governor Pataki called him and said, Hey, I hear you‘re thinking of running for mayor, do you want your vote on the Republican line? Now, Mike Bloomberg has never been shy about saying why he took the Republican line, because he wanted to run.
MATTHEWS: You‘re nicely in a very Ivy League way telling what I just said...
MATTHEWS: Do you want to take over here, Dylan? Dylan, Jonathan...
MATTHEWS: He wants you to say the same thing he just did. I‘m sorry.
Go ahead, Dylan.
RATIGAN: I‘m just saying A, it‘s pragmatism, and B, even when he was running, even when he was acting as Republican mayor, he was the only notable Republican in our country to come out against John Roberts on the Supreme Court. So to be looking to his principles—his principles—he‘s been relatively consistent for a politician, OK. And he has been very efficient...
RATIGAN: I didn‘t set the bar.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, let me ask you about this guy‘s ability because I think a lot of people—you know, I just counted the other day, you know, five billionaires now I‘ve met in this business and other ways in my life. There are billionaires out there. Certainly, you see Mort Zuckerman is on television. You see a lot of him. Steve Scwartzman‘s (ph) on—the head of—what‘s it, Blackstone? There are people out there. Dan Snyder‘s (ph) a billionaire. People are—most of them, I‘ve noticed, are really, really smart. But how does that really, really smart translate to being a good president, Jonathan? If you had to vote for him, why would you do it?
CAPEHART: It would be because of competence. It would be because of proven ability to get things done. I mean, he‘s a billionaire businessman who then went into politics because he wanted to do good. He wanted to do the right thing. And so now maybe he‘s going to go for the White House, and he can turn to the American people and say, Look, I governed New York City for eight years, and this is what I‘ve done. Here are my accomplishments, from education to crime to welfare numbers and whole bunch of other things.
MATTHEWS: John, you‘re looking at me with a need. I don‘t know what it is. But let me ask you this, John. Is this the New York echo chamber? I am imagining somebody right now in Colombia, South Carolina, or Salt Lake City, saying, a bunch of New York-type East Coast people like me sitting around jawing about what a great mayor of New York is...
MATTHEWS: ... and they say, I don‘t care—I don‘t give a rat‘s butt who is the mayor of New York. You guys are just talking up your own crowd back there. What about the people out in the country? Aren‘t there better presidential candidates than the guy who is mayor of New York?
HEILEMANN: Well, look, I mean, running New York City is a huge managerial task. And one of the things that Mayor Bloomberg will run on if he runs for president is on the fact that he can—you know, he can fix what is wrong the country. It‘s that Ross Perot, “I‘m going to climb underneath the hood of the automobile and fix the engine” kind of thing.
MATTHEWS: Why not Richie Daley of Chicago? Why Tommy Menino of Boston? Why not Eddie Rendell, who was mayor of Philly? We have had a lot of good mayors.
HEILEMANN: A billion dollars is the difference.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
HEILEMANN: But, Chris, let me just say—let me say one more thing...
MATTHEWS: That‘s it.
HEILEMANN: ... that—this is really important.
And I take your—I am on your side on this.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a skeptic.
HEILEMANN: I think that the problem for Bloomberg is that presidential elections are ideological elections.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
HEILEMANN: They are about what you believe in.
HEILEMANN: And the problem for Bloomberg is that, when he starts...
HEILEMANN: ... when he starts getting asked those questions, it‘s going to turn out to be to the left of almost every Democrat in the field.
RATIGAN: I don‘t know about that. I don‘t know, because, I mean, listen, ultimately, he comes down on, stay out of my bedroom and leave my money alone.
And I think that most people in this country would agree with the principles of, stay out of my bedroom and leave my money alone. And that is basically where you are going to find Mike Bloomberg.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean by, stay out of my bedroom?
RATIGAN: I mean, when it comes to social issues, whether it‘s gay marriage, or whatever that issue might be that has to do with how people live, that social issues...
MATTHEWS: Yes, we don‘t have abortions in the bedroom, by the way.
That‘s too cute a line.
RATIGAN: All right. All right.
MATTHEWS: Too cute a line.
RATIGAN: He‘s a social moderate and a fiscal conservative.
MATTHEWS: OK. Where is he on the war in Iraq? You start, Dylan.
Where is Mike Bloomberg on the war in Iraq?
MATTHEWS: Is it a good idea, a bad idea, whatever? Is he going to give us an answer on that? Or is he just going to take a bye on the top question in our country today?
RATIGAN: I think what Mike—listen, I have not talked to Mike Bloomberg on the war in Iraq.
What I would expect from Mike Bloomberg on the war in Iraq is something that is very deliberate and systems-driven. What do I mean when I say that? He will say, you cannot leave, but you must create a plan to leave. And he will articulate that plan very clearly.
RATIGAN: He is very transparent in his communication. He will come out and say, this is the plan. These are the thresholds. This is how we will achieve them.
MATTHEWS: And we had a guy that thought like that. His name is Rumsfeld, very systems, very organized, very theoretical, and that got us involved—it takes more than theory.
RATIGAN: There‘s a lot of different systems out there.
MATTHEWS: Well, the trouble is, it takes more than systems. It takes a basic sense of the world. And I‘m not sure he has it.
He backed—backed Joe Lieberman in reelection last year, a guy who is obviously the biggest hawk in the Democratic Party...
MATTHEWS: ... although he has been out having lunch with—with Chuck Hagel, the biggest dove in the Republican Party. What does that tell you? What is that up to? He doesn‘t care?
HEILEMANN: I think Bloomberg—well, I think Bloomberg prizes independence above all.
MATTHEWS: But where is he on the war in Iraq?
HEILEMANN: Well, I think we don‘t know the answer to that question, because I have asked. I have asked him the question.
HEILEMANN: What he thinks is, it has been grossly mismanaged.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s—that is what the majority is.
MATTHEWS: Yes, Jonathan?
CAPEHART: I have nothing to add.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know where he stands either?
CAPEHART: No, I don‘t. But I..
MATTHEWS: This is like trying to get—find out from Hillary where she stands on the Scooter Libby pardon.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Jonathan Capehart, Dylan Ratigan, and John Heilemann.
Coming up, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster had an exclusive interview today the noisemaking filmmaker Michael Moore. You will get to see it right here in just a minute.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
Michael Moore, the big guy, is coming up.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, left-wing, or liberal, filmmaker Michael Moore is unveiling a controversial new documentary about the poor state of health care in this country. And, certainly, that is a fat target. He‘s already stirred great passions with this film on both the left and the right.
Earlier today, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster, who is sitting across from me...
MATTHEWS: ... caught up with Michael Moore on Capitol Hill.
It is not hard to catch that guy.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: No.
MATTHEWS: He‘s a big guy. He doesn‘t move too fast, doesn‘t he?
SHUSTER: Especially today, we were able to corner him. But the name of...
MATTHEWS: I love his interviews he does on the Hill, when he grabs congressmen, and said, are your kids going to fight in this war or not, or are you just going to vote for this war?
SHUSTER: It was great. And the members of Congress, the liberal members of Congress, were lined up there today.
But the name of the movie, Chris, is “Sicko,” as you know. It opens tonight for a viewing for a variety of members of Congress.
But, as you know, the controversy has been building for months. In this film, Michael Moore calls for the end—the end of for-profit health care. And he filmed part of this movie in Cuba, where he brought some people who volunteered on 9/11 at ground zero who are suffering from health problems. He brought them to Cuba, to Guantanamo Bay, where they could do this little shtick, where they walk up to the gates, and Michael Moore can make this point about the health care that is available for detainees that is not available for Americans.
In any case, Michael Moore is being called everything from unpatriotic. Fred Thompson, who is mulling a run for president, has also produced a YouTube video in which he essentially declares that Michael Moore should be like a Cuban filmmaker who has been thrown in a mental institution by Fidel Castro.
SHUSTER: So, in any case, with the groundswell of antagonism that is being launched at Michael Moore, as well as a lot of support, we cornered Michael Moore on Capitol Hill. And here‘s the interview.
SHUSTER: You are about to go into a buzz saw of criticism. What are you anticipating? Is there anything out there that—that bothers you about what is coming?
MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER/AUTHOR: I expect no criticism.
SHUSTER: Right. Of course.
MOORE: I think millions of Americans have been suffering through this system, dealing with these lousy HMOs. You have got 47 million who don‘t have insurance. I think that there will be a groundswell of support to fix this very broken system. I‘m not expecting anything but support for that.
SHUSTER: There‘s been some call for you to go to jail because of what you did in Cuba. How do you react to those—to those claims?
MOORE: Well, the Bush administration is upset because I took a group of 9/11 rescue workers that the Bush administration will not provide health care for to our naval base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
And I wanted them to receive the same free health care that we‘re giving the al Qaeda detainees. The Bush administration provides free dental, free eye care, and free medical for all the people that are accused of plotting 9/11. The people who ran down to ground zero to save lives don‘t have health care. I think that is a travesty.
SHUSTER: Fred Thompson has been particularly critical of you. What is your response him and the complaints that he has made, both about you and about the film?
MOORE: He is one of my favorite TV actors. And I—I can‘t wait to see the next video.
SHUSTER: Was there anything, in putting this together, though, that really stuck you as standing out, that really inspired you or motivated you to push forward with this issue?
MOORE: The level of greed in our insurance companies. And they actively set out to try and not cover people who are paying them a premium every month.
This is amazing. I mean, people should read their policies. They would be surprised how many ins and outs these insurance companies have, where they can get away with not paying the doctor bill, not paying the hospital bill. And, if you get a serious illness, watch them try to dump you from their rolls.
This should be illegal. It is a crime. They‘re a racket. And I want the private insurance companies out of the equation.
SHUSTER: What do you say to those who say that you are unpatriotic?
What is your response to those that question your patriotism?
MOORE: Name three people who say that.
SHUSTER: Fred—Fred Thompson, Bill O‘Reilly...
MOORE: When you—when you love America, you stand up and you ask questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have got to go.
MOORE: That is the most patriotic thing to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
SHUSTER: Thank you very much. We appreciate it.
SHUSTER: Michael Moore, there‘s really only one person, I suppose, like him.
But, in any case, Chris, a lot of controversy generated, but, also, a lot of Democrats today showed up at that hearing room, and were happy to stand next to him and praise him, and try to use this film as part of the debate that is coming in Congress over health care reform and some of the plans that Democrats are now floating.
MATTHEWS: You know, I have got to agree with him on this stuff. I have got to agree with him. He has got a case. And health care in this country is not working.
SHUSTER: And, if nothing else, I guarantee it‘s going to be a very interesting film.
MATTHEWS: He is something else, isn‘t he?
MATTHEWS: By the way, you are the most pushy...
MATTHEWS: ... pushy journalist I have ever seen. You were pushy to Michael Moore. And those other guys hated you for hogging all the action there.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, but I like you fighting in it, getting those shoulders up.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster...
SHUSTER: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... who is not afraid of anybody.
Up next, our HARDBALL debate tonight: Are third-party candidates just spoilers?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Rebecca Jarvis with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks falling, as bond yields rose, reigniting worries that high rates could slow down business—the Dow Jones industrial average dropping 146 points, the S&P 500 losing almost 21, and the Nasdaq falling almost 27 points.
Oil dropping 91 cents in New York trading, closing $68.19 a barrel, that as U.S. inventories hit a nine-year high. Gasoline inventories also rose this week, almost twice as much as analysts expected.
And the struggle continues at Circuit City, the electronics chain reporting worse-than-expected second-quarter earnings, amid a big drop in TV sales.
And “The Wall Street Journal” reports, the board of directors of Dow Jones & Company, publishers of “The Journal,” is taking over negotiations on the company‘s future from the controlling Bancroft family. Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp. has offered $5 billion. And there may soon be new offers.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Newly independent—politically, that is—New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today he is planning to serve out his term. He is planning to. He intends to. Words like that came out of his mouth. But, in politics, plans, obviously, can always change.
Bill Clinton, when he ran for governor last time, said he would run for the—serve for the full term, and he didn‘t. He ran for president.
For more now—for more than a century now, a Republican or a Democrat has occupied the Oval Office, but, in some races, third-party candidates, like Ross Perot and Ralph Nader, have been spoilers, taking votes from one of the major candidates, making another the winner. I think Teddy Roosevelt did that back in ‘12.
So, the question is, in the 2008 presidential race, is it ripe for a third-party candidate? And, if so, could it spoil the plans of Hillary, Barack, Rudy, or even Fred Thompson? And how good is that for our democracy, to have a spoiler decide the election?
Theresa Amato is a former Ralph Nader campaign manager. And Cynthia Tucker is with “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”
Cynthia, what is wrong with a third-party candidate running in this election?
CYNTHIA TUCKER, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, “THE ATLANTA-JOURNAL
CONSTITUTION”: There‘s absolutely nothing wrong with a third-party candidate running, Chris. In fact, journalists would greet it with enthusiasm, no doubt. You know, the more, the merrier.
But the simple fact of the matter is, Michael Bloomberg probably can‘t win. The party system is certainly loosening in this country. The structure is changing. Parties don‘t have nearly as much control over the process as they used to. But the fact of the matter still is that it is most likely that one of the major-party candidates will win in 2008.
THERESA AMATO, FORMER RALPH NADER CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, it‘s very...
MATTHEWS: That means—let me just make that point again—if you don‘t win this election, and you are a third-party candidate, you help somebody else win and somebody else lose, by the very nature of the numbers.
AMATO: Not necessarily so, because everybody has to earn their own votes. We‘re not a two-party system. The word party doesn‘t show up in the Constitution. Everybody should be able to run for president in the United States.
MATTHEWS: Neither does the word Air Force, but we have got an Air Force.
AMATO: Yes. Well, we should have third-party candidates. And I think it provides more choices and voices for the American people.
MATTHEWS: OK. Your guy got 97,000 votes in Florida back in—what year was that? In 2000?
MATTHEWS: And Al Gore lost Florida. Are you saying that your guy‘s 97,000 on the political left didn‘t hurt Al Gore?
AMATO: No. I think Al Gore hurt Al Gore.
But you have to look at, every third-party candidate got more than 537 votes, which was the difference between Bush and Gore. You also have to look at, does the candidate, who is a sitting incumbent vice president, win his home state of Tennessee, Clinton‘s state of Arkansas, and all the things that count, in terms of who was registered to vote. How were the votes counted? And, of course, we had the Supreme Court stepping in, which was quite unusual.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t get it.
Cynthia, do you want to join this discussion, because I don‘t see how she‘s making her case.
TUCKER: Oh. The simple...
MATTHEWS: I mean, Al Gore gets 97,000 votes...
TUCKER: Oh, the simple fact of the matter...
MATTHEWS: ... in Florida. He cost—I mean, Al Gore loses by 500 votes, and Ralph Nader gets 97,000 votes in Florida, and you are saying those aren‘t connected, those two facts?
You go, Cynthia.
TUCKER: Well, of course it is true that they‘re connected.
Yes, Al Gore hurt Al Gore, but...
TUCKER: ... the simple fact of the matter is that he had help. He had help with this—his—his disastrous loss.
There was a promise, as I recall, from Theresa‘s candidate that he would not run in states where the race would be close for Al Gore, and he could hurt him. But he did. He did that anyway.
AMATO: That is really not true.
TUCKER: And, so, 97,000 -- 97,000 more votes, Al Gore would have won Florida easily, no contest. The Supreme Court would have not entered it. And he would have been sitting in the Oval Office into 2001.
AMATO: So, what are you saying, Cynthia? Are you saying that no third-party candidate can ever run? Because the difference was 537 votes.
Furthermore, it‘s—it‘s really not true what you said as a premise. Ralph Nader started the 2000 campaign and the 2004 campaign to get every vote, because you have to earn the votes of the American people.
I know, because I was his campaign manager, that the strategy was to go to all 50 states both times.
MATTHEWS: You know, I want to ask you—let me go—let‘s switch to another race.
TUCKER: I seem to recall very clearly Nader making the promise that he would not run...
TUCKER: ... in states where it might be very close for Al Gore. I—
I don‘t think I am making that up. And 97,000 votes clearly makes a difference.
Could Nader run? Of course he could. This is a democracy. Anybody can won—can run. But who did he help and who did he hurt? It seems to me that Al Gore‘s politics were a lot closer to Ralph Nader‘s politics. But because of Ralph Nader‘s decision to run, Al Gore lost and George Bush won.
MATTHEWS: Theresa, is there a reason to run for president if you know you can‘t get 270 electoral votes? Is there any other justification for running?
AMATO: Absolutely. You have to put issues on the table. Look at the people who ran on a platform of abolition or women‘s suffrage or the direct election of senators. Look at Ross Perot, who raised issues. Look at Ralph, who ran on an anti-war platform in 2004. There are—
MATTHEWS: Anti-what war?
AMATO: Anti-Iraq war in 2004. It is important to put issues on the table that neither of the major candidates may not hold. The problem here is not with third parties. The problem is that two parties have made it difficult the for third parties to compete. There are structural barriers to entry, from the ballot access laws, the commission on presidential debates. It makes it very hard for anybody else, except for the two parties, because it is a private corporation that allows the Democrats and Republicans to talk to tens of millions of voters.
And you have partisan secretaries of state. You have structural problems that make it difficult for third parties to actually get a chance to compete for the American electorate.
MATTHEWS: What is the danger here, Cynthia, of a third party campaign in 2008?
TUCKER: Well, the danger is for the candidate whose politics are most like Michael Bloomberg‘s, and that would probably be the Democratic nominee. If the Republican nominee is Giuliani, then that is perhaps less true, But if the Republican nominee is Fred Thompson, who is pretty conservative, and the Democrat nominee turns out to be Hillary Clinton, I would suspect Michael Bloomberg‘s politics are much closer to Hillary Clinton‘s than to Fred Thompson‘s. And therefore he draws votes from her.
He also has a lot of money. So some of those access issues he can overcome more quickly than a lot of poorly funded candidates could.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very Theresa Amato, who ran the Ralph Nader campaign, and Cynthia Tucker of the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”
Up next, our HARDBALL panel debates Bloomberg‘s big move. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now to debate the stories that are making news across the country. Here to get to the bottom of things are Deroy Murdock of the “National Review” online, MSNBC political analyst and radio talk show host Ron Reagan, and Jay Carney of “Time Magazine.”
First up, Bloomberg ready to run with an announcement that he is leaving the Republican party yesterday. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg could be edging closer to a run for president. Or could he? Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: I have said that my intention is to be mayor for the next 925 days and probably about 10 hours, whatever is left, 11 hours. And that is my intention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jay, is that too cute. Clearly I intend to, hardly a Shermanesque denial.
JAY CARNEY, “TIME MAGAZINE”: Well, hardly a Shermanesque denial. And he has been so methodical in plotting his preparations for a run as an independent. It does not mean he is going to do it, but this is an extremely smart, pragmatic man, who is taking all the steps necessary so that if it looks like there is a possibility he can do this and succeed, he can pull the trigger, and he won‘t have to regret not doing—not laying the groundwork six or eight months in the advance.
No matter what he says about having no plans, he is definitely doing everything he needs to do to make this happen.
MATTHEWS: Ron, do you see this guy moving towards a nomination, or just a big flirt that goes to nowhere?
RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, think he is seriously considering this. Most people think that early 2008, I gather, would be the when he makes the announcement, one way or another. Listen, this is going to be a very interesting thing if he gets into the race. Think about being Rudy Giuliani, for instance, and suddenly, you‘ve got another New York mayor in the race, and arguably a more successful New York mayor.
If you‘re a Democrat, it also raises some questions. This guy is a social moderate, and, on top that, he has a very B.S factor for a politician. So that could siphon away some of the Democrats‘ natural constituency. And then there is his money. This guy has 150 million dollars of his own money on his two mayoral races.
What will he spend for the presidency? I mean, he is a billionaire. He could pay for his entire campaign. He could just write a check. He would not have to raise money at all.
MATTHEWS: Is the rest of the country as available to a big spending candidate as a New York mayor candidate? Can you spend that kind of money for president? Do people really vote for a candidate for president—
Deroy, you pick this up—because they like the TV ad?
DEROY MURDOCK, “NATIONAL REVIEW” ONLINE: Well, I think his money is going to be much less of an issue as the positives and negatives. I think his positives are, obviously, he has built a tremendously successful business. He is a self-made man. That‘s a positive. Here in New York City though, we call him Mommy Mike. He is really kind of a nanny type.
He started off very early on with a big ticket-writing blitz. People were getting fines for having things on their business awnings other than names of the companies and phone numbers. He moved on to this big fight on trans-fats. He is very meddlesome, in terms of getting into people lives and trying to control people‘s behavior.
MATTHEWS: He is hardly a libertarian, right?
MURDOCK: He is not a libertarian. I think he is really sort of a management technocratic liberal, essentially. He is spending money at a pretty steady clip. He raised payroll—I should say, property taxes right when he came in. So I don‘t think he is somebody who conservatives will find very appealing, and I think most liberals probably will go with either Obama or Hillary Clinton, if either of them gets the nomination.
MATTHEWS: OK, Mayor Bodinski (ph) is not for you. Next up, cheers and jeers for Hillary at the Take Back America Conference in Washington today. Watch how the applause for Hillary Clinton turned to boos when she talked about Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: It is the Iraqi government that had failed to make the tough decisions that are important for their own people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, are we surprised by that, Deroy, that she is getting a hand—a negative hand from people who are very much against the war, when she has sort of staked out a middle position on this?
MURDOCK: No, I‘m not surprised by that. Hillary‘s on the far left.
People on the far-far-left are upset.
MATTHEWS: You are unbelievable.
MURDOCK: -- at her about her vote—
MATTHEWS: Hillary is on the far left?
MURDOCK: Yes, she is on the far left. Look, she has an American Conservative Union rating of about 10 or 12 percent. She portrays herself as a moderate. There‘s nothing very moderate about her. She‘s a big spender, a big taxer. She did vote for the Iraq war. Now she‘s running away from that. There‘s nothing conservative or moderate about her. She is a solid liberal.
There are people to her left. And being booed by these people makes her appear to be a little more to the center, but she‘s a very solid left-of-center type politician.
MATTHEWS: Ron, you are to the left of her, so where does that put you?
REAGAN: I‘m out there where the buses don‘t stop, I suppose. I guess if the American Conservative Union calls her far left, I guess it must be true. But listen, she has a problem here. And a lot of major Democratic candidates do have a problem with the Iraq war. You listen to Hillary Clinton, you listen to Barack Obama, and listen carefully, they are not saying they‘re going to pull all the troops out of Iraq.
In fact, they‘re talking about leaving a force in Iraq for quite some time, and that puts them at odds with the majority in their own party, and maybe a majority of the American people.
MATTHEWS: And in that debate—sort of “Syriana” debate I did yesterday, Jay, she was the one candidate to clearly say a residual military force stays in Iraq. She was very clear about it.
CARNEY: She has—
MATTHEWS: I would not put that on the far-far-left.
CARNEY: No, it is not on the far-far-left. David Keene at the American Conservative Union would also put Rudy Giuliani in the same category on the far left, given his policies—
CARNEY: It is absolutely true on guns, gay rights, and—
MURDOCK: Rudy Giuliani is a tax cutter. He kept spending at about one percent below the inflation rate her in New York City.
CARNEY: I was talking about social issues.
MURDOCK: I‘ll give you a social issue, racial preferences. He got
rid of racial preferences in contracting in his first month as mayor. So -
CARNEY: Read what David Keene has said about Giuliani, I invite you to do that, and probably will say about Mayor Bloomberg as well.
MATTHEWS: He‘s at the American Conservative Union.
CARNEY: He did say that if he beat her for the Senate some years a go, he would support the president.
CARNEY: Hillary has taken a gamble on staying in the center within the Democratic party context on Iraq, and not—refused to apologize for her vote, refused to say it was a mistake, and has come out, so far, on the other end, still in the lead.
There is the Obama boomlet. You know, he‘s still a very strong candidate, but he has not taken over the lead from Hillary. I thought, while she was booed yesterday, there was less—the boos weren‘t quite as loud as we‘ve heard in the past when she faced audiences like this on Iraq.
MATTHEWS: So your applause meter was working in reverse.
CARNEY: Yes, I think—
MATTHEWS: You know, I think Hillary Clinton is not on the far left, because there are so many other people to her left. Thank you Deroy, you‘re going to stay with us. Keep fighting this guy. Ron Reagan, thank you, Jay Carney. All three coming back. You‘re watching HARDBALL. I‘m watching it too, on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We are back with Deroy Murdock, Ron Reagan and Jay Carney.
Jay, I just found out that you spent the last couple of days with Mr. Murdock—not Mr. Murdock, Mr. Bloomberg. What‘s he look like? What‘s your assessment of this guy running?
CARNEY: Well, it was clear—I was with him—I was at the conference in Anaberg (ph) in Los Angeles, that he and Arnold Schwarzenegger were a part of. He was clearly there participating in a calculated way to maximize the attention he would get by changing his party affiliation to unaffiliated.
The speeches he gave on Monday night in L.A. and Tuesday morning in L.A were national political speeches about the problems with Washington, about his accomplishments, and about what a good leader, the right kind of leader, a non-partisan leader would do if he or she were president. So, I think he may not run, but I think he is a lot closer to running than a lot of us realized until this week.
MATTHEWS: OK, next up, Bush—this is the president, kills stem cell again. President Bush vetoed a bill today basically not broadening—The bill would have broadened federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. the president complained that once again the Congress has sent him legislation that would compel American tax payers to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos, playing politics or ethical responsibility.
Let me ask you, Ron Reagan, with your family‘s history with Alzheimer‘s. What‘s your position on this? What do you think he‘s doing here?
REAGAN: Well, There is no surprise here. He said he would veto it. This is basically the same legislation he vetoed before. It is scientifically unsound, his position, and it is morally incoherent, as well. The White House implies that by destroying these pre-embryos—they‘re not technically embryos—pre-embryos or blastocyst, that you are committing what is tantamount to murder.
At the same time, we are talking about in-vitro fertilization clinic pre-embryos here that are kept in cold storage. At the same time, he ignores the fact that 400,000 or so, as many as half a million of these embryos, will simply be destroyed otherwise, if nothing else is done with them.
So, apparently, if you use these pre-embryos to develop life-saving therapies, you are committing murder. If you throw them into a dumpster, however, that appears to be, I don‘t know, spring cleaning perhaps.
MATTHEWS: OK, Deroy your opinion on this? You‘re a libertarian. So I‘m waiting to here how you stand on this federal funding of stem cell research?
MURDOCK: Well, about three years ago, I am among those who grieve very much for the death of Ron Reagan‘s father. I waited seven hours to pay my respects to him at the Capital Rotunda, and was very much sorry to see him go through Alzheimer‘s at the end of his life. So I very sympathize for what Ron has been through and other families that suffer through Alzheimer‘s.
But I don‘t think the way to address that disease and others is through the destruction of human embryos. These embryos are not destined to be thrown away. In fact, there is an organization called Snowflake‘s Adoption Agency in Orange County, California, and they have placed these embryos, which they have actually implanted in utero. And about 120 or 130 or so kids have been born and are alive and well, and are out playing hop scotch --
MURDOCK: Well, there are 400,000. What I think we should do is encourage more of them to be adopted. The idea that these are going to be thrown away is not so—
REAGAN: And if they‘re not adopted, what happens to them?
CARNEY: But they are thrown away.
MURDOCK: As many of them should be put up for adoption as possible, number one. Number two, adult stem cell research has produced drugs for about 62 or so different diseases. Embryonic stem cell research is purely speculative, has created absolutely no cures so far. And number three, even if you think this is something we ought to do, why can‘t the Pfizer, Merck and Lilly pay their own money to do it. Why do U.S. taxpayers have to be involved in this incredibly immoral and highly controversial research?
I think the private sector ought to be able to do this. Adult stem cells, which have created, as I say, something like 60, 62 cures already—
If the government is going to be involved in anything, it should be involved in that, not in embryonic stem cell research. I think the private sector, if anybody, should be involved in that. Mainly, we should try to get these embryos adopted to the greatest extent possible.
MATTHEWS: Ron, your response to that?
REAGAN: Morality is about suffering and blastocysts do not suffer.
People suffer. People with myriad conditions and diseases, who are waiting for cures and treatment, suffers. And that‘s what embryonic stem cell research holds out promises, relieving that suffering.
MATTHEWS: Ron, thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: We‘re out of time gentlemen. It‘s an important debate. We‘ll have it again soon. And thank you Jay Carney of time. Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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