Guests: Bill Press, Harold Schaitburger, Pat Buchanan
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to the show. With the campaign close and ticking louder every day and Hillary Clinton pulling further ahead of the field, at least in national polling, the Democratic presidential contenders meet at Soldier Field in Chicago less than an hour from now. They will make their cases before big labor at the AFL-CIO candidate‘s forum hosted by Keith Olbermann.
We will examine the stakes, the risks, the conflicts to watch—and there are some—and the highlights of the candidates‘ opening statements. We lead up to that at the top of the hour.
Also, news from Iraq to report in and to discuss.
And we‘ll have part of today‘s press conference from the site of the Utah mine collapse in the bottom of this hour, which is worth watch.
But to begin, we turn to one of the people central to planning tonight‘s event, NBC‘s political director, Chuck Todd, who is at Soldier Field to set the scene—Chuck?
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Tucker, you‘re looking live at Soldier Field in Chicago. I feel like Brent Musburger.
CARLSON: You sound like him.
TODD: Missing Phyllis George though.
CARLSON: It seems to me that John Edwards, after spending the last year—longer than that—really establishing himself as the candidate of labor, a guy who has gone on strike with labor. All he has left is a hunger strike. If he couldn‘t really show his commitment more than his has. If he doesn‘t get the endorsement of the unions, that says something profound, doesn‘t it?
TODD: It‘s interesting. It‘s a double-edged sword. Don‘t forget, labor feels burned by every time they think they have gone out on limb for a candidate, whether it was Dick Gephardt early in his career or Howard Dean late in his campaign in ‘03. So you have an irresistible force. And a John Edwards trying to make himself irresistible to labor by being the guy that is unapologetic about being for all of their issues, not just cherry picking certain things.
And yet you have labor not wanting to continue to look like they are not effective anymore and that somehow they can‘t deliver votes or nominations. The problem that Edwards has is that if he doesn‘t show he has a shot at the nomination, not just a shot at Iowa, but a shot at the nomination labor will split. And they‘re going to split in between the two other front-runners.
CARLSON: How important is—this is a subject that‘s been discussed all day long. But tell me the bottom line. How important is a labor endorsement in 2007, 2008?
TODD: If they were unified, it would be huge. But they‘re not going to be. You have to look at the endorsements. In Iowa, ASME and UAW, probably the two most effective labor endorsements you can get in the state of Iowa. An SEIU endorsement, which is a lot of the health care workers, would be helpful in New Hampshire. And then in Florida, it‘s a right to work state. Labor has almost no impact there, even in a Democratic primary. You have to almost start looking at it on a state-by-state basis, Tucker.
CARLSON: But in some of the early primary states that you say matter
as you said, Iowa—is labor support enough to move a candidate up a notch?
TODD: I think it is. It should be. If somehow Edwards could unify a lot of these key Iowa labor unions around him, it could be. But we saw last time, in Iowa, the main union guys split between Gephardt and Dean. What happened? Neither, who had the major labor endorsements finished in the top two. It was Kerry and Edwards. Kerry had the firefighters but that was really it. Edwards had UNITE, which is one of the other main labors, but not big in Iowa. Yet, the big Iowa labor unions could not deliver because they split.
If labor would unit with behind a candidate, then they probably could deliver a nomination, but the last time they did that—technically they united around Al Gore—but the last time in a crowded field like this was Walter Mondale. And we all know how that turned out.
CARLSON: Yes. Tell me the significance of the “L.A. Times” story today that has Hillary Clinton‘s chief advisor Mark Penn running a firm that does anti-union work. The labor unions have gone to the record saying they‘re upset about it. How upset are the labor unions?
TODD: They are very upset. I have talked to many labor guys today about that story. I said was that a hit piece by the “L.A. Times” or somebody who delivered op. He goes, no, no, no, this has bothered us for some time.
What Mark Penn actually is, Tucker, is a proxy for the frustration that labor actually has for Bill Clinton‘s tenure as president. Bill Clinton was not the most pro-labor. He got ASME‘s endorsement in 2002. It was a big deal. Jerry McAnsy (ph) sort of broke off from the rest of labor, who was behind Tom Harkin in that campaign. He wasn‘t looking. He got NAFTA passed. NAFTA is something labor feels like they are still paying a price for.
CARLSON: Not only did he get it passed, it was the centerpiece in some ways of his administration. According to some accounts, looking back at that and welfare reforming, that‘s what Bill Clinton did. That‘s who Bill Clinton is. It strikes me—correct me if you think I‘m wrong—a huge departure from the legacy of Clinton for some of these new candidates or most of them who have been running against NAFTA.
TODD: I heard, through second-hand sources, that Bill Clinton has said to friends, he could not get the Democratic nomination today with his stances on free trade and what he believes are necessary to deal with globalization, that he couldn‘t get the Democratic nation. Really, the entire party has shifted left.
And I think something I am going to be curious to watch tonight is how will Hillary Clinton distance herself from her husband? This is the only special interest group on the Democratic Party where it is important for her to show distance with Bill Clinton, not to hug Bill Clinton.
CARLSON: That‘s a fascinating back story not examined closely enough in my view.
Thanks a lot, Chuck. Good luck tonight.
TODD: You‘ve got it, Tucker. Thanks.
We are honored to be welcomed now by Pat Buchanan, MSNBC political analyst and winner of the New Hampshire primary, by the way, and also Bill Press, nationally syndicated radio show host.
Bill, I think, this is an interesting story. The Democrats—the line for the past seven years has been—let‘s look back to the Clinton era wistfully. Oh, we‘re still going. Bill Clinton was the greatest president ever. These aren‘t candidates running on Clintonite programs. They are against NAFTA. That‘s Bill Clinton.
BILL PRESS, NATIONAL SYNDICATED RADIO SHOW HOST: It‘s a contradiction. They love Bill Clinton. They still love him, but they hate NAFTA, and NAFTA has been bad for organized labor. Pat was against NAFTA from the beginning, as I recall from our “Crossfire” days.
CARLSON: But will you concede that NAFTA was not a small part of his legacy. That‘s a big deal.
PRESS: It‘s not. But I‘ll bet you, before this primary is over, Bill Clinton will be calling for renegotiating and changes in NAFTA.
CARLSON: That is a wise—I bet you $1,000 you‘re right.
PRESS: Because it‘s so obvious that‘s what labor wants that now and he will not get in Hillary‘s way on that issue.
CARLSON: So you‘re Hillary Clinton running under your husband‘s legacy really. That‘s what she‘s saying, she‘s ready to lead. She was the president‘s wife. She‘s running on him. How does she run on him while running against one of his central policies?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: She says it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it hasn‘t worked out the way we wanted. The trade deficits are large. A lot of the changes supposed to be made in Mexico and a lot of these countries aren‘t being made. We have to put conditions on future trade agreements. The Bush administration handled this wrong.
I don‘t know how she voted on CAFTA—that‘s the Central America Fair Trade Agreement—but only 15 Democrats rotes for that I think labor went out to defeat that.
CARLSON: So her position will be the left wing position on Communism, it‘s a great idea, but not implemented correctly?
BUCHANAN: No. It‘s evolved.
CARLSON: It‘s evolved. That‘s right.
PRESSED: It‘s evolved and future trade agreement haves to include environmental protections and protections for working men and women in those countries, which means a higher minimum wage and safer working conditions. That‘s labor‘s position.
BUCHANAN: Last year, the United States ran a merchandise trade deficit in goods of $836 billion. The trade deficit with Mexico was $60 billion. It‘s been $500 billion since NAFTA. We were told we would have trade surpluses. It hasn‘t worked. All we‘re getting are Mexicans and narcotics out of Mexico.
CARLSON: Well put, Pat. Mexicans and narcotics. I‘ll leave that to you to judge how much you enjoy these things.
CARLSON: But there is—not only do these candidates have a problem with Clinton and his legacy, but last weekend‘s appearance at the yearly KOS Convention, where they emphasized their environmental positions, many of which are probably a problem for labor unions. Do you think the UAW is for the green house gas emissions standards? No. That hurts their industry. Why would they be for that? It takes jobs away.
PRESS: You‘re wrong. UAW is very good on the environmental issues. They can make a car that makes 35 miles a gallon and make just as much money as they can making a car that gets 24 miles a gallon.
CARLSON: So you think the UAW position is anywhere near the Greenpeace position?
PRESS: No. What I‘m saying, this idea that labor and environmentalists are enemies, maybe it was at one time, but it‘s no longer.
CARLSON: They ought to be because their interests are different.
PRESS: No, they‘re not.
BUCHANAN: The Teamsters union, Hoffa, is really concerned. You have the Mexican trucks—are coming into the country because of the open-border thing that Clinton negotiated. And they‘re taking the jobs of American truckers. And now we find out that trucking companies are training truckers in India to come here and take jobs under these H1-V things.
CARLSON: I thought you were going to say to drive across India.
CARLSON: You can‘t outsource that.
Less than an hour until the Democratic candidates court the union vote. Barack Obama will be back in his home state of Illinois for that. Does he have the home court advantage?
And we will not know if the troop surge in Iraq is working until September with the General‘s report to Congress, if then. So why do Americans think things may be improving a bit on the ground?
This is MSNBC.
CARLSON: Welcome back. Organized labor has long been one of the basic pillars of support for the Democratic Party, but with fewer Americans joining labor unions, is that still the case?
For answers, we go to the scene of Soldier Field in Chicago, where we are joined by Harold Schaitburger. He is president of the International Association of Firefighters. He‘s also a member of the AFL-CIO‘s executive council and political committee.
Mr. Schaitburger, thank you for coming on.
HAROLD SCHAITBURGER, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF
FIREFIGHTERS & AFL-CIO EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEMBER: Tucker, thanks for having me. It‘s a pleasure to be here.
CARLSON: It seems to me, after all the pandering—I don‘t mean that in a pejorative way—that John Edwards has done, all the bowing before organized labor he‘s done, how could you not endorse him? It you don‘t endorse him, doesn‘t that send a message that you don‘t reward loyalty?
SCHAITBURGER: I think you have a number of candidates here—in fact, really the major candidates here have good solid records with labor. I think tonight is exciting and important. It‘s a night where union members are being addressed by every Democratic candidate, their unions, working families. They want to hear the issues. They want to hear exactly what is the vision for these candidates to the average middle class worker? How are they going to make sure that we create good solid American jobs and not lead jobs abroad? Will we have good health care for everyone and make sure that workers have a level playing field so they can actually belong to a labor union and negotiate a contract?
Tonight, I think every candidate will work hard to catch the air, the attention and to leave their message with all of those behind me and all of us who will be making some important decisions going forward on who discovers our support.
CARLSON: John Edwards will say that he believes that that should be a federal law prohibiting companies from hiring workers while their workers are on strike. Why should a willing worker, someone who wants a job, he‘s got a family to support, be prohibited by federal law from getting a job because the guy who has it isn‘t there doing it? Doesn‘t that hurt workers?
SCHAITBURGER: Let me first say that we have had an unlevel playing field for a long time in this country. Corporate America, business has had the advantage over workers and over workers who just want to exercise their union rights and their collective-bargaining rights and the rights afforded to them by federal law. It‘s time to level that playing field. I think that trying to put more restriction on the power that corporations already have, the advantage they already have is fair.
CARLSON: I think you may have misunderstood my question. My question is this. If someone leaves a job because they go on strike and I want a job and need a job and the employer is willing to hire me, this law that you endorse would prohibit the employer from hiring me. I‘m screwed in that process. I‘m a worker. I don‘t get a job thanks to this idea that you‘re pushing. Would you push that idea?
SCHAITBURGER: Tucker, I don‘t see a difference in that than our concern about the jobs taken by employers who would allow illegal immigrants to come across the border.
CARLSON: I‘m saying these are American citizens.
SCHAITBURGER: It‘s an American workers‘ program. But it‘s still, as far as I am concerned, it‘s the same premise. It‘s whether or not employers are going to have...
CARLSON: But one is an American who is willing to work and the other is an illegal alien. There‘s a big difference, isn‘t there?
SCHAITBURGER: No. What you‘re talking about is employers having the advantage over workers who are exercising their right in a collective-bargaining environment. And if they decide to strike, whether the employer should be able to ignore that process, ignore their right, if you will, to exercise their union rights and simply hire workers in their place. I don‘t see that as unfair.
CARLSON: Right, so you‘re saying that even if someone doesn‘t show up for work, they would be guaranteed a job? I would be surprised that most people agree with that. I wonder....
SCHAITBURGER: I‘m saying if someone would show up at a location where workers are exercising their rights and are on strike, would be a good old-fashioned scab. And in that case, they shouldn‘t be allowed to work there.
CARLSON: It is interesting to see a labor union leader, someone who purportedly speaks for the working man, attack people who want to work as scabs. Why call people names who just want to work. Aren‘t they works too? Aren‘t they blue collar people? Aren‘t the working man who you‘re supposed to be protecting? Why are you insulting them?
SCHAITBURGER: Tucker, the labor movement in this country has been part of building a workforce where retirement were created, where benefits were created, where health care literally was created on the back of labor. It‘s by no coincidence that when labor was at its highest strength, was when the spread between the rich and workers were at its smallest gap. So no, I think labor has a phenomenal track record in protecting workers, working families and seeing that they have decent jobs and a safe working environment.
CARLSON: I just heard you call workers, who didn‘t do anything wrong other than having a job—I heard you call them, scabs. You‘re calling them names. I don‘t see how you can be a defender the working man if you‘re insulting him like that? That‘s just—that‘s my position. I guess we have to agree to disagree.
SCHAITBURGER: I think where we have to disagree is that when you have workers out on a picket line exercising their right against an employer in that kind of situation, the workers that cross that line deserve to be called a name.
CARLSON: I think that‘s appalling, but I appreciate your coming on anyway. Thank you, Mr. Schaitburger. I appreciate it.
SCHAITBURGER: Thank you.
CARLSON: You won‘t get a real progress report on Iraq until next month, but already the troop surge appears to be getting a boost in support from some Americans anyway. What does that mean for Democrats who want out now?
Plus, Hillary Clinton opens up her lead against Barack Obama in a new national poll and she‘s getting a ton of supportive from women. Is the deal sealed? Is it over?
You‘re watching MSNBC, the place for politics.
CARLSON: The deadline for report on the troop surge in Iraq just around the corner, about a month from now, in mid-September, and some Americans seem to be warming up to the strategy. According to a new “USA Today” poll, 31 percent of Americans think the surge is making the situation better. It‘s a small number, but it‘s up nine points since just last month.
But while some areas of Iraq are cooling down, others heating up. The “Washington Post” today reports that Basra, where British forces are now pulling out, is spiraling into a cycle of violence and lawlessness. What does this mean for us?
MSNBC political analyst and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan joins us, as does nationally syndicated radio talk show how Bill Press.
Bill, to the Basra story first, I thought it was interesting, but not surprising, that as British forces begin slowly to leave Iraq‘s one port city, Basra, which has been a model city of reasonableness, it becomes less reasonable. Isn‘t this what will happen when we pull out?
PRESS: I think you‘re seeing what‘s happening with the British surge, that is what is going to happen eventually with the American surge. This was the model area. It wasn‘t so long ago, Bush Cheney said...
CARLSON: No, the British forces are pulling back. They‘re not surging. They‘re pulling back.
PRESS: I‘m sorry. I thought—what I meant was when they get pulled out, when the surge is over, you have chaos. I think that will happen in Baghdad at the end of the American surge when we start to pull out.
CARLSON: You‘re not allowed to say that. You supposed to say—hold on. That‘s liberal. You‘re supposed to say, it‘s bad now and could not get any worse and I‘m sure things will be great when we leave.
PRESS: No, I‘m not going to say that. I‘m saying the surge in itself has a fatal flaw, which is once the troops leave—it may look like it‘s improving now. Once the troops leave, it will be even worse. And in Basra, you have Shiites not fighting Shiites. You‘ve got Shiites fighting Shiites for the control of the oil in the government there.
BUCHANAN: I think the real problem coming, there‘s no doubt about it, we have about 40,000 more troops in there and you‘ve got good generals there and they are doing a good job. And obviously, militarily, they are doing an excellent job. But politically, the situation looks like a real disaster. I mean, the Maliki government—I think all the Sunnis have left the cabinet. It looks worse and worse. And I think you could get a political collapse there. But seeing the way the Democrats voted on the wireless warrant taps, going along with the president...
CARLSON: They‘re for it, those Democrats love the wireless wiretaps.
BUCHANAN: This tells me they are not going to impose a deadline for the withdrawal of the troops.
CARLSON: You don‘t think so?
BUCHANAN: They ain‘t got the nerve to go after the warrantless wiretaps.
CARLSON: Are they going to come out for house-to-house searches next?
PRESS: Listen, no, I...
CARLSON: No, no, why not—warrantless wiretaps.
PRESS: I fear that Pat is right. This was a key test. And there were 16 Democrats that went along with the program that they been rightfully bitching and complaining about for the last two years.
CARLSON: Do you think they will endorse Sam Brownback for president after this or no? Is that a possibility?
PRESS: They might—on how far they‘re going to go.
BUCHANAN: I thought they were going to impeach Bush for this. But they voted for it.
PRESS: They not only authorized what he did in the past, but they gave him more leeway in the future. And then put Alberto Gonzales in charge of deciding whether or not Bush is doing the right thing. I mean what were they thinking?
CARLSON: We‘re almost out of time. But just in one sense, I‘m kind of interesting almost for psychological reasons—why did you vote Democrat last time?
PRESS: Because on most issues, I agree with the Democrats, but sometimes they disappoint me.
BUCHANAN: If it weren‘t for Cheney, he would have voted Republican.
PRESS: And when they do disappoint, I will call them out on it.
CARLSON: Amen. Bill Press, an honest man. Thank you.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama used to get along, but that was many days ago, before Obama decided to run for president. Who is giving who the cold should? I think you know.
Plus, the stands are filling up at Soldier Field in Chicago, not to see the Bears play. It‘s union workers filling the stands. They‘re there to see the Democratic candidates square off in about 33 minutes. We‘ll get a preview.
This is MSNBC, the place for politics.
CARLSON: Still to come, the leading Democrats for president make their way to the stage at Soldier Field for tonight‘s face off in about half an hour. We‘ll hear from them in just a few minutes.
First though, six coal miners remain trapped an estimated 1,500 feet from the service of the Crandel (ph) Mine in Huntington, Utah. The rescue effort is made more difficult by continued seismic activity. The scene outside the mine took a surreal turn for a few moments at a press conference late this morning. Expected to offer an update on the search for the trapped men, one of the mine‘s owner, Robert Murray, gave an impassioned but meandering speech. Among other things, Mr. Murray asserted the importance of coal and criticized the press for disseminating what he called bad information. Here is some of his appearance, in case you missed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB MURRAY, MURRAY ENERGY CORP: We produce a product that is essential to the standard of living of every American because our coal produces 52 percent of the energy in America today, and it‘s the lowest cost energy, costing 1/3 to ¼ the cost of energy from natural gas, nuclear and renewable resources. And without coal to manufacture our electricity, our products will not compete in the global marketplace against foreign countries, because our manufacturers depend on coal—low cost electricity.
And people will not be able to pay their electric bills. Every one of these global warming bills that has been introduced in Congress to date eliminates the coal industry and will increase your electric rates four to five fold. So we are an essential industry. Many like to think that we are an old industry. Indeed, we are very high-tech.
When this tragedy is all other, I extend an invitation to all of you to join me and go underground in one of our coal mines right here in Utah, so that you can see for yourself what we do, which is essential to the American economy. Please accept my offer. Join these working men and women to see what they do, so you will have a better understanding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Bob Murray is obviously a man under tremendous stress. His important points were these: he believes it will be three days before rescuers reach the miners. He says that an earthquake did indeed cause that mine collapse, not a practice called retreat mining. Rescuers are working to install a seismic listening device to try to contact the miners. In Murray‘s words, only the lord knows whether those men are dead or alive.
Stay tuned to MSNBC for developments in that rescue effort at the Crandel Canyon Mine.
Well, tonight‘s Democratic face off at the AFL/CIO forum will happen in less than 30 minutes from now. It occurs against the backdrop of political news involving the major contenders. There are new presidential polls out today. Most attention is centered on the national numbers, where Hillary Clinton continues to pull away from her rivals at a steady clip. But two other perhaps more telling numbers about Hillary do jump out.
According to the latest AP/Ipsos poll, 63 percent of Hillary Clinton‘s support comes from women, 63 percent. Another notable result; on the question warmth and compassion, Senator Clinton—Hillary Rodham scores favorably with 39 percent of those polled by NBC News and the “Wall Street Journal,” 30 percent negative and 29 percent neutral.
Here to discuss these numbers, as well as the day‘s other political news, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press. Pat, there is kind of a remarkable picture that ran in this morning‘s “New York Times” over a story about the relationship between Mrs. Clinton and Barack Obama. I bring this up because her warmth and compassion numbers were, in fact, high.
Here‘s the photograph accompanying a piece meant to illustrate the following point: their relationship has chilled and it‘s her fault. Here‘s what it says, “the relationship began to change when Mr. Obama began musing aloud about a presidential bid. The day he opened his exploratory committee, he extended his hand and said hello on the Senate floor. Mrs. Clinton breezed by him, offering a cool stare.”
When is the Obama campaign going to make that point?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, she is acting as if she is the queen, and what is this upstart doing. But I think that she realizes, Tucker, that given that warmth problem she‘s got, I don‘t think she can get into a fight with Obama—I mean come back at him and get into a back and forth with him. He‘s got sort of an imperative to engage her. But, at the same time, she seems to be going up from being cool and presidential, and he is going down the more he is sort of on the attack.
He is in a bit of a box, I think. And I think she has handled it very well. It suggest there might not be, as Newt Gingrich says, a Hillary/Obama ticket.
CARLSON: You can‘t attack a woman in American politics. You just can‘t do it. It‘s really hard, even Hillary Clinton, who I don‘t think—
I will say, I‘m not a fan, but I don‘t think she hides behind that. She doesn‘t say, I‘m a woman, you can‘t attack me. It‘s not her fault necessarily. You just can‘t really. You attack a woman, you‘ll like a bully, period.
BILL PRESS, SYNDICATED RADIO SHOW HOT: I remember when Gray Davis attacked Dianne Feinstein in California and called her another Liona Helmsely (ph).
CARLSON: How did that work for him?
PRESS: She won.
CARLSON: Whatever happened to Gray Davis?
PRESS: He‘s practicing law in Los Angeles. He learned that lesson. He learned that lesson the hard way. I think the more significant number for Hillary today is the latest “USA Today”/Gallup poll, she is 22 points ahead of Barack Obama. So, it‘s not the warmth and compassion we‘re seeing. It‘s the machine. I mean her campaign—She does seems to be getting stronger and stronger. And Barack Obama is snipping at whether she takes money from lobbyists or what jacket she is working, or whatever. It doesn‘t seem to be working.
CARLSON: Well, 63 percent of her supporters are women. I think Mrs. Edwards—Elizabeth Edwards, wife of the presidential candidate and former senator—I‘m getting this off “The Politico” today. This is what apparently she said today, quote, “we can‘t make John black,” her husband. “We can‘t make him a woman. Those things get you a lot of press, worth a certain amount of fund raising dollars.”
They can‘t make John black. They can‘t make him a woman. I guess her point is that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are doing well because they are respectively a woman and black?
BUCHANAN: Yes. He‘s saying, in effect, Obama is getting a tremendous number of African American votes and it‘s rising because of his color. And she‘s getting the woman vote in part because she‘s a woman. It‘s a fair statement, Tucker. At the same time, I think they probably are folks who will vote against him on that. But this suggests what Obama‘s strategy has to be.
I think Obama still has a shot at it because he can be an explosive figure. He‘s made some foot faults. But if he can win Iowa—and she‘s dead even in Iowa. And apparently he‘s in good shape in New Hampshire. He wins Iowa or New Hampshire, he is the front runner overnight. But he has to do that. I think if Hillary wins Iowa, I think it‘s over.
PRESS: I have to say, I think this is an astounding statement by Elizabeth Edwards and one she will regret making, because I just want to suggest that the only problems with John Edwards‘ campaign are not that fact that he is neither black or female.
CARLSON: There is the understatement of the week.
PRESS: Let‘s just be honest here. To say something like that is uncalled for.
CARLSON: I do think it‘s fair that both of those campaigns have benefited from those facts, but that‘s not why they‘re beating John Edwards.
CARLSON: Exactly. They also offer something else. Sometimes, John Edwards—you started the show with that. He‘s really been working labor hard. He‘s been working for the last two years. But sometimes you do wonder, what is the essence of his campaign? What is his campaign all about? I don‘t think we see that yet.
CARLSON: His campaign actually is kind of unfolding and evolving at a rapid pace, kind of, beneath the radar of most people in Washington, who consider it a foregone conclusion that he‘s going to lose. He says things like this—as he did I believe yesterday—he went after Bill Clinton, the holy saint of the Democratic party, for letting, quote, corporate insiders design NAFTA. Can you do that.
BUCHANAN: Sure. What else is he going to do?
CARLSON: You‘re allowed to criticize Bill Clinton?
BUCHANAN: He‘s running, if you will, as a neo-socialist. He‘s running for the left wing of the Democratic party as hard as he can, trying to take that away from Barack Obama. His one shot is Barack falls and he is the anti-Hillary. And he thinks that is the way to win. That‘s what he‘s got to do. He can‘t do it in the center. What‘s in the center for him?
CARLSON: How long before he turns up in Caracas with Sean Penn at Hugo Chavez‘s villa.
PRESS: He‘s not going to go there. His focus is on the Iowa caucus voters. They are as liberal as you can get and as activist as you can get. He knows his audience and he‘s go to do that in Iowa.
BUCHANAN: Raising taxes for the rich? Sure, it‘s a left wing strategy. It‘s a Mcgovern strategy. Of course, Mcgovern only had Muskey as the big man running against him. But it worked for him. I mean, he ran on the left, out of Vietnam now, thousand dollar—all these left wing issues.
CARLSON: It‘s little weird to—I actually like and admire the fact that John Edwards—he is a phony obviously. But he thinks about the poor, which I actually like. I‘m not attacking him for that. But don‘t you think it is a little weird to mount a campaign based on economic populism during a time of undisputed prosperity? It‘s a little strange?
PRESS: There are a lot of people whose boat has not risen.
CARLSON: Indeed there are and there always will be. But generally it‘s a pretty rich time, no?
PRESS: I think John Edwards is speaking to that. I think he is speaking very eloquently to that. Again, let‘s circle back to where you started. He‘s going after that labor vote. He wants the labor unions to endorse him early, the way they did Howard Dean. That‘s his—
CARLSON: A brief reality check here for John Edwards—labor members are not poor. They are, in rural areas, the rich guys. If you‘re a member of a labor union in rural Maine, you‘re richest guy in your town. It‘s just true. They‘re not poor people and they don‘t think of themselves that way.
BUCHANAN: They don‘t like NAFTA. Edwards whole campaign is targeted on Iowa. If he doesn‘t win Iowa, it‘s over. You go for everything you can get there. All he needs is—basically, he needs 36 percent to 37 percent of the vote and then he wins Iowa and then, boom, he‘s alive; Obama is gone. It‘s him versus Hillary.
PRESS: The labor people are the little guy in the struggle with the corporations that Harold Schaitberger was talking about. The theme of economic populism resonates with them.
CARLSON: There are a lot of little guys in this country. They are not members of the old-line manufacturing unions. Those guys make a lot more money than a lot of people I know. It‘s people --
BUCHANAN: The bottom 80 percent of American workers has had basically a one percent increase in wages each year, if that, since Bush took office.
CARLSON: Are those UAW workers? No, they‘re the service workers.
BUCHANAN: The guys who are doing really well, Tucker, above 50,000, 75,000 dollars, Republicans will sweep them. He‘s going for the folks that are running from 15,000 to 45,000.
PRESS: Tucker, let me tell you something. The members of the labor unions are not rich. The members of the SEIU, the janitors and the nurses and the service workers nurses are not rich. In any struggle with the corporations, they are the little guy versus the big corporation.
BUCHANAN: It‘s interesting to see what he would do on amnesty for illegal aliens, because they do compete with many of these poor workers and lower income workers.
CARLSON: I wonder what Hillary Clinton thinks of all this, considering Hillary Clinton basically came out of the closet the other day as a bought and paid for tool of the money interest in Washington. I am just kidding. I admire Hillary Clinton‘s honesty and the courage it took to say lobbyists are human beings. That‘s a pretty tough statement. But in one sentence, is she going to get slammed on that tonight, do you think?
PRESS: I don‘t think it‘s a big issue. Labor unions have lobbyists. What Hillary said is that she will take the money from the lobbyists who are fighting for the good causes and not take the money—
PRESS: It was very smart distinction on her part, I thought. I used to be a lobbyist and I‘m OK.
CARLSON: The seven Democratic presidential hopefuls are getting ready at this moment to take the stage at the AFL/CIO Presidential Forum in Chicago. What message are they going to sell to union members? We‘ll get a preview right after the break. You‘re watching MSNBC, the place for politics.
CARLSON: Chicago‘s Soldier Field will be packed with union members and their families tonight. But they won‘t be cheering on the Bears. They will be there to hear the various pitches from the Democratic presidential candidates on stage to woo their vote. How difficult is it to separate one Democrat from the next when it comes to their stands on labor and union issues?
More important, with union membership slipping, does the blessing of big labor even matter? Here to preview tonight‘s presidential forum, coming up next on MSNBC is MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and nationally syndicated radio show host Bill Press. Now you all both live here and you‘ve been around politicians all your lives. You‘ve seen a lot of pandering. But I challenge you to come up with a pander more profound that this. This is Joe Biden on his feelings for labor unions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: You represent the reason this country is the way it is, the reason for America‘s ascendancy. The reason people wearing white collars have any rights at all is because of unions—unions, straight, old fashioned unions. And the future of this economic stability rests upon the growth, not the decline, of the union movement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Now, you thought that your rights emanate form the Bill of Rights, Bill, and the founders. But it turns out no. They come from the AFL/CIO. Have you ever seen anybody kiss butt more aggressively than Joe Bide in that clip?
PRESS: As a union member—
CARLSON: I‘m a union member too.
PRESS: I say thank you, Joe Biden. He‘s absolutely right. Look, the rights that I enjoy as a union member, whatever rights I have in terms of pension, in terms of health care, in terms of vacation time comes from the union. I wouldn‘t have zip without the union and neither would any other union member in this country.
CARLSON: That‘s a total crock. I have a union card in my wallet right now and I will pull it out and show you. It gives me zero rights. Zero rights. Any right I have, I negotiate because I paid my lawyer to do so. This is a total joke. I am forced to pay into this because of the stupid laws surrounding it pushed by people like John Edwards.
PRESS: I want to see, Tucker, you get in a run-in with MSNBC and see how fast they come to help you.
CARLSON: The union—you‘re kidding me?
PRESS: Absolutely, just like they‘re behind any working man and woman in this country.
CARLSON: What a crock.
PRESS: Where do you think you get the vacation that you get? Where do you think you get your health care?
CARLSON: Because I paid for my lawyer to negotiate it, not because the union. Exactly. Also the bill of rights guarantees us rights.
Anyway, I think, Pat, an interesting quote from John Edwards. By the way, these are their intros for tonight‘s forum, which we have exclusively on MSNBC. Here‘s John Edwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time for our party, our Democratic party, to stand with the people who made America great, men and women who work with their hands, who worked in the factories, worked in the mills, the men and women of organized labor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: I see the emotional appeal of that. I have respect for men and women who work with their hands, who work in the factories, who work in the mill. That‘s not the face of modern labor. The face of modern labor is public sector employee unions, the SCIU. And they‘re not working in the mills. They‘re shuffling papers.
BUCHANAN: In World War II, we had 40 percent were in labor unions and 33 percent as late as 1950. Back in 1960, when I was writing editorials, it was enormously powerful. It‘s down to 12 percent now, Tucker. And you‘re right, APSME (ph) is a huge union, government union. A lot of the workers now are service workers. You have the atomic workers, steel workers, auto workers, all these guys—coal miners, all these guys‘ unions have contracted dramatically. They‘ve got different interests than they used to have.
It‘s a different labor movement entirely. It‘s a much smaller one. Your buddy you were interviewing, he is right about one thing, corporations now and companies have enormous power vis-a-vis the unions. In the old days, back in the 1960‘s—when the unions struck newspapers, others struck consolidarity (ph) -- Rupert Murdoch busted them. But the union movement has been in decline ever since the 1950‘s.
PRESS: What‘s interesting is politically, they are, I think—politically—I know this sounds like a contradiction—more powerful than they were before, because they are better organized and they are more sophisticated in targeting and in focusing their efforts. They‘ve been very effective in the last couple campaigns.
CARLSON: They are also less representative of the nation at large, which in some way makes them—Their membership is more like minded. When 40 percent of the country is in a labor union, by definition, they have all sorts of different opinions.
BUCHANAN: Ronald Reagan carried 44 percent of working men in labor unions.
CARLSON: But why is it, Bill, that in the dynamic industries in this country and around the world labor unions are non-existent? I mean, in the industries—in the high-tech industry, which is a success story—it‘s the success story in America over the past 20 years, labor unions have no role at all, because smart, dynamic people want nothing to do with labor unions.
PRESS: I think there are a lot of factors. One of the things I found interesting this week—you probably saw this story—is that the bloggers, coming out the Yearly Kos convention in Chicago—the bloggers are now talking about getting their own union, because they feel they are not represented by anybody.
CARLSON: That‘s just a bunch of dumb rich kids talking. They don‘t know what they‘re talking about.
PRESS: I think it has to do with the changing economy, the changing work force.
CARLSON: Doesn‘t that tell you something deep and important about unions. Seriously, why doesn‘t Silicon Valley have a union? That didn‘t happen because of unions.
PRESS: A lot of those people, they are more independent, working individuals. They are working at home.
BUCHANAN: You got the mobility of capital—the Sun Belt. They all came out of the Sun Belt, all had right to work laws. Factories went out of there. Now they‘re leaving the Sun Belt. The new Sun Belt is Mexico and China. And American labor is in competition, dog-eat-dog competition, with Mexicans making 10 dollars an hour, and Chinese making two dollars an hour.
In the factory, the boss can say, you hit me for another pay raise and we‘re going to China.
CARLSON: Yes, but in the high-tech industry, where we are still—we are still in competition more than ever—
BUCHANAN: That‘s not mass. Those are individuals that do that stuff. It‘s not—When I was a reporter, you had the guild—we had this huge printer‘s union. They don‘t have any printers anymore.
CARLSON: No, they don‘t. We are now just moments away from the start of tonight‘s AFL/CIO presidential forum. Up next, final predictions. You are watching MSNBC, the place for politics. Eight minutes from game time.
CARLSON: Final preparations are underway at this hour for tonight‘s AFL/CIO forum at Soldier Field in Chicago. You are looking at a live picture right now. There is Barack Obama. It appears to be Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico trailing him as they walk towards the stage. You can see Chris Dodd.
You can‘t tell form this vantage just how huge that field is, but that is—it is literally a football stadium. It is packed with union members.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is our pleasure to welcome my good friend, Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, who will be moderating tonight.
CARLSON: There he is. You can see HARDBALL executive producer Tammy Haddad (ph) on stage next to Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich. We‘ve got Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC‘s HARDBALL. Chris, are you there?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yes I am. I am right here, Tucker.
CARLSON: What can John Edwards—All the focus today has been on John Edwards as a guy who has really made a play for labor from the beginning. What can—can he say anything tonight that he has not already said?
MATTHEWS: He has got to be thinking hard, how do I throw that hail marry pass? How do I score a touchdown. Hillary Clinton has been compared to Woody Hayes (ph), the Ohio State coach, three yards and a cloud of dust, a ground game that never seems to make a mistake. She‘s got 22 points on them now. She is moving towards over 50 percent in the Gallup poll.
He has to do something that convinces those delegates out there in the crowd watching in the media that he has to be the nominee. I do not know what he can do. You‘re right. I think it is pretty desperate right now.
CARLSON: So do you—I think what you‘re saying is these guys vote with their minds as well as their hearts. They are not going to award an endorsement to a guy simply because he has been with them. They want to back someone who has a shot of winning.
MATTHEWS: They want a president. It‘s simple as that. They do not want just a nominee, even. They want a president of the United States who will do labor‘s bidding, give them check card neutrality, toughen up on trade issues, get the minimum wage, give them all the issues they care about. They want it now. They have been out in the cold for too long, these guys. As it‘s been pointed out on your program for the last few minutes, labor is getting smaller. It is not getting better. They need help.
CARLSON: The trade issue is just a fascinating one to me. Bill Clinton, of course, the face of free trade and NAFTA. How is Mrs. Clinton going to navigate?
MATTHEWS: It is absolutely ironic, you‘re right. Because it was not a Republican who delivered NAFTA. It was a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, in 1993 and 1994. He came through and created free-trade as a regime for American economics. It has worked for a lot of people. But, as I have said so many times, the de-industrialization of America continues year after year.
The big auto companies are in trouble. All the factory towns are dying. There are so many towns across the Rust Belt, from Buffalo out to Chicago—Go through those small towns. Nothing is left but a Blockbuster movie place and a diner. Everything else is rust. It is all across the northeast and through the Midwest. I do not know what Hillary Clinton is going to do about this. She says she‘s going to re-industrialize America.
Well, that will be the day. That‘s why you have to wonder why labor does not put up its big strong muscle and say, damn it, we want our factory jobs back. Give us the policies that will do it, and ask the Democrats to put up or shut up.
CARLSON: What does that mean? I have heard that phrase a couple of times today, re-industrialize America. Is that the idea that we are going to start making big heavy metal things again?
MATTHEWS: It means that when you graduate from high school, you can
get a job at a plant, like the old Bud plant in Philadelphia, where they
build a big things like subway cars, or trains, or whatever. Something big
you‘re right, something big that requires muscle and big industry. We do not do that anymore in this country. We don‘t even have cigar plants anymore.
CARLSON: I wish we did do that. I am sad that we do not do that.
But the idea that we are going to do that any time soon is ridiculous.
MATTHEWS: It is under current policy, and it certainly is given world competition. The advantage we have in free trade is you and I can go to a store, and we can choose clothes from everywhere in the world, incredibly attractive clothing, khakis, shirts, socks, everything. You can pick out exactly what you want, the size you want and walk out of the store with it already fitted. That‘s because of free trade.
But the cost is down in North Carolina and South Carolina, those textile industries are not in good shape. That‘s the difference. Some people are winning; some people are losing. The winners have more clout than the losers. That‘s why we‘re having free trade as a regime in this country. Isn‘t that the case?
CARLSON: I think that is absolutely right. I think you can make a pretty good case either way. But it will be fascinating to see how Hillary Clinton navigates this, considering she has, of course, been running on the legacy of her husband. This is the big part of his legacy.
MATTHEWS: Twenty points ahead; you‘ve got to be that she is going to play it safe tonight at 22 points ahead. She is just two points away from picking up majority support of this country in the Democratic fight. I haven‘t seen a number like that—I don‘t know about you.
Can you remember a time when a candidate for president on the Democratic side is approaching a 50 percent against a field like she is facing? I mean, all of the other guys put together aren‘t going to have 50 percent.
CARLSON: It is remarkable, especially since it is—if you take three steps back—Hillary Clinton, someone who was written off as unelectable to the Senate, you know, eight years ago. Very quickly, tell me what Barack Obama needs to do.
MATTHEWS: He needs to engage her again and risk the costs. He has to be willing to risk the fact that someone like Howard Wolfson by midnight tonight will accuse him of talking to Holocaust deniers. I mean, he‘s going to have—This is how hard she will play.
CARLSON: That was really one of the great moments in television history, when, on your show, Howard Wolfson said that. That was just shocking.
MATTHEWS: It was a mean crack. It was a hard crack on the knees. He was saying for her, don‘t mess with my boss. And they are learning the price of engagement. But he has to engage. He has to risk it. Because if he hangs back, he will continue to fall back in the pack. He has got to take her on, or else get out of the way and let somebody else take her on.
Right now he is the dog in the manger. He is right there, number two, keeping somebody else from the number two who might do a better job against Hillary. Right now, he is the best friend she has, because as long as he is there and does not engage with her and take her on, nobody else can get past her, which means she‘s coming home free.
CARLSON: You think—Do you think he is hamstrung by his early promises to be the nice candidate?
MATTHEWS: Yes, but he could have overcome that. Couldn‘t he?
CARLSON: Yes, I think he probably could. Chris Matthews, thanks a lot, Chris. I appreciate it. The AFL/CIO candidates forum begins right now in Chicago. Keith Olbermann is hosting. We will see you tomorrow.
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