Guests: David Marash, David Gergen, Rep. Dave Reichert, Andy Kahan, Ross Eisenbrey, Jonathan Capehart, Julie Mason, Roger Simon
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Who‘s won the Pillsbury bakeoff, Bush or Ahmadinejad? The two leaders met in New York. Who‘s walking away the winner?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. With the eyes of the world watching President Bush, he took stage at the U.N. today and talked about the war—not about the war in Iraq, not about America‘s involvement in Afghanistan, and not even about Iran. Instead, the president talked about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That may be true, although I doubt it. But with thousands of American soldiers putting their lives on the line every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, why didn‘t the president try to bring some diplomacy to the U.N. body? More on this in a moment.
Plus, in our second story tonight, murder-abilia. Last week, we learned that there‘s actually a market out there for the suit that O.J. Simpson wore at his murder trial. It‘s part of a bigger trend, with criminals turning to the Internet to exploit their horrendous crimes by turning a profit from selling their stuff. Well, there‘s a new sheriff in town. He‘s the guy who caught the Green River mass murderer. He was elected to the U.S. Congress, and tonight he plays HARDBALL.
And GM workers go on strike for the first time in over 30 years. They‘re demanding job security. But will they be shown the door? And with the auto industry outsourcing more jobs, does this is signal the end of our industrial age? CNBC‘s “Mad Money” man, Jim Cramer, will be here for our HARDBALL debate tonight.
We begin with HARDBALL‘s David Shuster.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amidst ongoing problems in Iraq and facing an Iranian leader who seems more determined than ever to gain nuclear capability, today President Bush spoke to the United Nations and focused on a country many people have never heard of.
BUSH: Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma.
SHUSTER: Also known in Southeast Asia as Myanmar, the ruling military junta is holding more than 1,000 political prisoners, and the regime has now threatened monks who this week led 100,000 demonstrators on a protest march.
BUSH: I urge the United Nations and all nations to use their diplomatic and economic leverage to help the Burmese people reclaim their freedom.
SHUSTER: Still, the president‘s speech to the U.N. was unusual. He barely made any mention of Iraq, and President Bush only spoke of Iran while listing dictatorships that are at odds with long-held U.N. principles.
BUSH: In Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Iran, brutal regimes deny their people the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration.
SHUSTER: By avoiding any high-profile mention of Iranian President Ahmadinejad, the Bush administration appears to be trying to downplay his stature in Teheran. Analysts say Ahmadinejad gains support whenever he is seen as being targeted or bullied by the United States. And the Iranian president‘s visit to New York comes at a time when he faces several domestic problems and challenges.
Yesterday at Columbia University, Ahmadinejad tried to goad President Bush into a verbal duel.
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I am ready, in the United Nations, to engage in a debate with Mr. Bush, the president of the United States, about critical international issues.
SHUSTER: But this morning at the U.N., President Bush would only say...
BUSH: This great institution must work for great purposes, to free people from tyranny and violence. Every member of the United Nations must join in this mission of liberation.
SHUSTER: Behind the scenes, however, administration officials called Ahmadinejad‘s speaking tour a stunt that won‘t distract most people from Iran‘s pursuit of nuclear weapons. And the Bush administration continues to push hard to get the U.N. to impose more economic sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt a uranium enrichment program. Two U.N. sanctions have already been passed, but a third proposed by the U.S. is being blocked by China and Russia.
Meanwhile, in Washington, all eyes continue to focus on Vice President Cheney. Last month, McClatchy newspapers reported that he urged President Bush to consider tactical air strikes at Iranian training camps.
(on camera): So the silence on Iran from President Bush is intriguing. It could mean the White House is lowering the temperature and backing away from military options. But perhaps it‘s just about lowering Ahmadinejad‘s profile in Teheran. In any case, despite the concerns at the U.N. for political prisoners in Myanmar, Iran and Iraq remain crucial issues.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster. David Gergen is a former White House adviser, and David Marash is an anchor on Al Jazeera. Let me go first to David Marash. Dave, what do you hear out there about the—the first sort of Sardi‘s reviews of these two presidents‘ speeches and the performances in New York?
DAVID MARASH, AL JAZEERA ENGLISH: Well, first off, on the Bush speech, I think that the first things that were noticed were the two things that were not there—that is to say, almost no mention of the war in Iraq and almost no mention of Iran. That probably got some sighs of relief in the region, where there‘s a lot of anxiety about American military intervention in Iran.
Of course, the region is waiting to hear Ahmadinejad‘s speech upcoming to the U.N. I think the feeling is that Columbia University kind of let him off the hook yesterday when President Bollinger had at Ahmadinejad before he spoke. This was seen in the region as a great discourtesy. And the content of the two speeches...
MATTHEWS: Well, I think it‘s seen everywhere...
MARASH: ... sort of got lost.
MATTHEWS: I think, David, it‘s a discourtesy, period. I don‘t think it requires any cultural translation. It was meant to be discourteous, wasn‘t it?
MARASH: It was. But you know, Iran is a culture in which particularly hospitality and courtesy are expected to trump even honesty and candor. You‘re not supposed to speak harshly to your guests, much less about them, much less before they get to talk first.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to David Gergen. David, it seemed to me that that performance at Columbia did set up President Ahmadinejad to look like a victim to the West, again, thereby setting himself up as a champion against the crusaders again.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, I think, Chris, it plays—I do think it plays cross-culturally in different ways. It may have played well in the Middle East. I don‘t think Ahmadinejad‘s visit played well here in the United States at all. I think Bollinger gave voice to a lot of the disgust Americans have toward him when he‘s using (ph) the Holocaust in Israel and terrorism. And you know, I think Columbia, frankly, was trying to recover from having issued an invitation that was very awkward, to say the least. But look at what “The New York Daily News,” what “The New York Post” were saying. You know, Bollinger was right in line with that.
GERGEN: And so I think that played well...
GERGEN: I think Ahmadinejad does not come off well here in the United States.
MATTHEWS: Right. Well, let me ask you, David, about this public diplomacy effort. Karen Hughes was out on TV today on this network, and clearly, we‘re trying to win the hearts and minds of the Europeans, the Muslims living in New York, the Muslims living in the Muslim world itself. We‘re trying to encourage people not to become terrorists, not to support terrorism. On that front, has the last couple days been successful for the president or successful for those who like to stir things up?
GERGEN: No, I don‘t think the last couple days have been helpful for the president at all in the Middle East. I don‘t think he—you know, it was good that he spoke out against Burma and the authoritarian generals there. But you know, by skirting the main issues of his presidency at the U.N., I thought he missed an opportunity. It occurs to me that, first of all, he didn‘t want to put Ahmadinejad on the same platform with him.
GERGEN: But secondly, and very importantly, he‘s basically kissed off the U.N. as an instrument for trying to solve things in the Middle East. I mean, he just doesn‘t even take it seriously when he goes there, and I think that‘s what we saw today. Beyond that...
MATTHEWS: Did you think it was odd...
MARASH: Chris, my guess...
MATTHEWS: ... of him to be quoting—David Marash, do you think it was odd of the president of the United States, who‘s basically against multi-lateralism, period, as David says, to be quoting the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights. I mean, where did he—who is he, Eleanor Roosevelt, all of a sudden?
MATTHEWS: I mean, where‘d he come from with this? And talking about the American outrage against Burma—the American people are outraged about New Orleans. They‘re not focused on Burma. Nobody that I know of has even thought about it. Let me go to you, David Marash.
MARASH: And in the Middle East, when the president says, Democracy in Burma, a lot of people say, Well, what about democracy in the Palestinian-occupied territories, where voters elected Hamas and the American administration tried to undermine them?
My guess is that what got a lot of attention in the Middle East were two lists that the president made. The first one was three nations in need of international support—Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. Let me tell you, in the Middle East, ears perked up of, Does that mean the U.S. thinks that Lebanon, like Afghanistan and Iraq, is worth fighting over...
MATTHEWS: Oh, geez.
MARASH: ... and whether they think that Hezbollah is a second Taliban? I think that shook people in the Middle East.
And then there was the list of brutal governments that oppress their people and did not, of course, include Egypt or Uzbekistan or Ethiopia, all notable allies of the U.S. in the global war on terror, but in the region known for oppressing their own people.
MATTHEWS: David Gergen, I just wonder what the president‘s take on things, which was all about—today it is—all about democracy versus lack of democracy, freedom versus dictatorship—is the overlay that most countries apply to the world. Don‘t most apply the overlay, Well, you‘re either with the third world or you‘re part of the imperialist past, or the crusader past? Isn‘t that the way that most of the world looks at things?
GERGEN: I think that, unfortunately, given the context, the president‘s words just do not appeal to many people in the developing world because we are seen as not just standing for freedom but crusading for it and knocking over governments and walking into other people‘s territory. And just I‘m afraid his—you know, his—given where—if these words came from another president without this history, I think they‘d be better received.
But let me just say one other thing about public diplomacy, to switch subjects. You know, in Europe, I think what people are waiting to hear, foremost on their mind is the issue of climate change. And this U.N. session is really—that‘s the theme. And for the president to go to the U.N. and basically just give, you know, a couple of sentences about climate change, not address it, and have his own set of conversations this week outside the U.N. framework, he‘s thumbing his nose at what they‘re trying to do...
GERGEN: ... at the U.N. And that, to me, is what, from what a public diplomacy point, is going to play far more negatively in Europe than anything else he did today.
MARASH: And David, he also missed a chance to boost his new friend, Ban Ki-moon, who is trying to make this...
GERGEN: That‘s true.
MARASH: ... the climate change...
MARASH: ... summit, by ignoring it. And of course, the president needs Ban Ki-moon in Darfur and in Iraq and a lot of places, and he didn‘t help him out today.
GERGEN: I agree with that.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you gentlemen, both, David Marash first—if the president wasn‘t trying to do something a little bit elliptical here. In going after the government in Burma and citing a couple of other non-Islamic examples of what he considers dictatorships, fairly enough, is he trying to say, I‘m not on some vendetta against the Islamic world? And would anybody buy that, the way he went around that circuitously today, saying, Look, I‘m just not—I‘m not just going after targeting after Islamic countries, Arab countries. Look at me. I‘m overfocused on Burma over there in Buddhist country. So don‘t think I‘m just after you on the issue of Middle East politics. I really am a champion of democracy. Does that sell? David Marash?
MARASH: Well, it was a most elliptical sell, as you yourself put forward. I doubt that any of the intended audience listened to the speech and got that message.
MATTHEWS: What other message, David, was he implying? Why did he say the American people are outraged at Burma, when you and I, who do read the papers—I don‘t even think you and I are outraged, and we read the paper every day -- 90 percent of the American people are not outraged at hardly anything right now, but the idea that they‘re outraged about Burma is ludicrous.
GERGEN: I agree. Most journalists were trying to figure out today, Do we call it Burma or do we call it Myanmar?
GERGEN: You know, because we haven‘t been paying much attention. But there is a serious drama unfolding there...
MATTHEWS: But it‘s not an American sphere of influence.
GERGEN: No, it is not. It is not. But, you know, I have to tell you, Chris, I had the feeling today when he gave that speech—you know, he in the past has given 30 to 45-minute addresses at the United Nations. This was 15 minutes or so. I just thought this was sort of an obligatory duty...
GERGEN: ... on his part, that he didn‘t take it seriously. He went in, buffed up his image a little bit—I care about Burma. I care about poverty. I care about HIV/AIDS. He‘s got a good record on poverty and HIV/AIDS.
GERGEN: But I don‘t think he took the speech or the forum very seriously because I don‘t think he takes the U.N. very seriously anymore.
MATTHEWS: How about Ahmadinejad? David Marash...
MARASH: ... to the U.N....
MATTHEWS: Will he go home and feel that he won? Will he feel that he won this trip, this away game?
MARASH: Yes, you know, but when the president goes to the U.N., it‘s like the late Pavarotti taking the stage of the Met, and he simply didn‘t sing a star‘s aria in a star‘s way. I think David had it very much on target that it came across as a perfunctory performance and a missed opportunity to help out Ban Ki-moon and to clarify some points that people are focused on. And as you say, Burma—Myanmar—is not one of those key cardinal points.
MATTHEWS: Will Ahmadinejad be able to dine out on this? I used that phrase the other night. It‘s a Western term. Will he be able to dine out on this for the rest of the year by saying, I went to America, they treated me with disrespect. They were inhospitable. They treated me like a little person. They called me petty. They even made fun of my stature. This is how we get treated by the West.
MARASH: Well, he‘s going to Venezuela next, where, you know, the master of that art, Hugo Chavez, of insulting the U.S. at the U.N. And they‘ll entertain one another.
But in Iran, there is a very large portion of the public, including many Islamic conservatives, who put down Ahmadinejad because he‘s so completely contrarian and so completely adversarial, and this is costing Iran economically. It‘s costing it in its foreign policy. And a lot of Iranians fault him for this. I don‘t think he helped himself a lot when he gets home.
MATTHEWS: Well, that explains, David, why he was even—David Gergen
why he was making that sort of odd reference to spare parts the other day at the U.N.—at the Columbia University event. Did you notice that? It was, like, All right, I have a practical need here, these spare parts, after all the ideology talk.
GERGEN: Well, I find him impossible to predict. He‘s an interesting debater, but I think he also has this buffoonish quality about him.
MATTHEWS: Yes. As do most demagogues...
GERGEN: ‘As well as a terroristic quality.
MATTHEWS: And most demagogues tend to have that aspect...
MATTHEWS: ... to them. And sometimes we make a mistake of laughing at them when we should be...
GERGEN: ... agree with that.
MATTHEWS: This is the mistake we made with Hitler. We thought he was funny, with that little mustache that turned out he wasn‘t funny at all. Anyway, thank you, David Gergen. Thank you, David Marash. Great to have you on.
Coming up: Should murderers and other criminals be allowed to profit from behind bars by selling what they‘re calling murder-abilia? The congressman who helped catch one of America‘s most notorious mass killers joins us to talk about how he‘s going to stop it.
And later: The Hillary Clinton campaign puts the clampdown on a magazine story it didn‘t like.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. When O.J. Simpson broke into a hotel room to get back items he said were his, we heard a lot about the seamy side of the sports memorabilia world. Well, today in Washington, lawmakers are trying to clamp down on a disturbing offshoot of the memorabilia trade. It‘s called murder-abilia, inmates out there selling things like locks of their hair, artwork—I mean lousy artwork—even nail clippings to collectors. And believe it or not, there‘s a market for this stuff.
Serial killer Richard Ramirez, known as the “night stalker,” has this painting for auction on a Web site that caters to inmate art. The more notorious the artist, obviously, the better the bidding. For this, it starts at $40. A lock of hair from serial killer Lawrence Bittaker can also be had. Anyway, bidding on this starts at $39.99. I like that bargain basement. Then there‘s John Wayne Gacy.
One of the co-sponsors of a bill that will make it illegal for inmates to sell this stuff is Congressman David Reichert of Washington state. He knows a bit about serial killers. He led the task force that solved the largest serial murder case in U.S. history, the “Green River killer.” This photo, by the way, shows him interrogating James Ridgway, the Greenway (SIC) killer. Congressman Reichert joins us right now from Capitol Hill. And Andy Kahan is the mayor‘s crimes unit director for Houston. They both join us here.
Let me get right now to Congressman Reichert. What‘s going on out there in terms of this market for this criminal queer stuff that apparently people are excited by?
REP. DAVE REICHERT ®, WASHINGTON: Well, this is really a bill about victims and victims‘ families.
And what‘s happening is, state prisons and federal prisons, these inmates are selling what we‘re calling murderabilia, any memorabilia that has to do with the heinous crimes they have committed. They‘re putting them on the Internet. They‘re trying to sell these items, make money off the victims‘ pain and sorrow and suffering. And we just think that‘s wrong. And...
MATTHEWS: Give me some examples, if you can, Congressman. You‘re familiar with this field. Most are not. I never heard of it before.
REICHERT: Well, especially in my case that we handled in King County in Seattle Washington, Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, for example, has had—he‘s just been in prison a couple of years, but he‘s had a number of items up for sale.
He had three items up for sale within a week or two ago. Two of those have already been sold. They were photographs. And now he‘s got a third item with his autograph on an envelope that has the King County Sheriff‘s logo on it. And, right now, the bid is at $100. Now, he could put...
MATTHEWS: What do they do with this money, buy cigarettes, Hershey bars? What are they doing with this money in prison?
REICHERT: Well, that‘s—that‘s a good question, Chris.
Part of what they do is, they put it in their bank account in prison. If they make enough money, they can certainly send it out and give it to family members to use. But they use it in commissary purchases within the prison, to buy cigarettes, to buy, I would think, in some cases even drugs illegally through the prison system.
Andy, tell us what you can about this whole situation and what you think needs to be done here.
ANDY KAHAN, HOUSTON CRIME VICTIM ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: Well, first of all, we‘re of the opinion that you just shouldn‘t be able to rob, rape and murder and turn around and make a buck off of it.
And from the victims‘ perspective, the families that I deal with, there is just nothing more nauseating and disgusting than to find out the person who murdered one of your loved ones now has items being hawked by third parties for pure profit. It‘s just like being gutted all over again by our criminal justice system.
And I certainly want to commend the congressman, our Texas Senator, John Cornyn, for realizing that, as much as we believe in free enterprise and capitalism, you got to draw the line somewhere and the buck should stop here.
MATTHEWS: Is this people that aren‘t satisfied with Nazi memorabilia? They have got to go to the real stuff, the more current stuff? What kind of person is on the market to buy fingernail clippings and hair, tufts of hair from people? What kind of people are looking for that?
KAHAN: I will give you a great example. Here‘s Charles Manson‘s hair right here that is being sold basically for anywhere from $50 to $100 or so.
Obviously, you‘re dealing with crime enthusiasts, people that want to own a piece of somebody‘s soul. They become part of somebody. This is just a macabre, insidious, despicable industry. And you have got about five dealers nationally that essentially set up contractual deals with inmates.
And, as long as they can present their, you know, personalized items, such as letters, artwork, food scrapings, fingernails, hair, anything that is connected to them, the higher notoriety that they achieve, the more the money goes for and the more people pay for it.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Reichert, when you wrote this bill, did you get legislative counsel in the House to tell you whether it‘s going to pass muster with the First Amendment or not?
REICHERT: Well, this focus is strictly on inmates. And, yes, we did. And, no, it doesn‘t. So, we‘re—we‘re feeling just fine about the language of the bill. And it‘s a cohabitation with the First Amendment. So, we‘re—we‘re looking at this bill moving forward quickly through the House and also through the Senate.
MATTHEWS: But it doesn‘t cover O.J. because he‘s outside.
REICHERT: Well, that‘s...
MATTHEWS: He got—he got acquitted.
REICHERT: That‘s a battle for another day.
MATTHEWS: But this basically says that prisoners inside cannot use the evidence of their crime to make money?
REICHERT: Absolutely true, yes. They can‘t use—they can‘t use the U.S. mail system to send their murderabilia across the nation.
KAHAN: Yes, Chris. Chris, this has really absolutely—it really has nothing to do with the crime itself. It‘s items that they personally produce or own that they ship out for sale.
MATTHEWS: Well, it does have to do with the crime itself, in the sense that people are benefiting...
KAHAN: Well, it does in the fact...
MATTHEWS: ... that sick people out there are willing to create a market for the—for things that only exist because mayhem was committed. That‘s why these things have a value. Geez.
KAHAN: Well, they‘re—yes, we give them immortality and infamy that they don‘t deserve by committing some of the most despicable crimes known to mankind.
MATTHEWS: I think people should give to the missions, by the way.
Anyway—just kidding, but they ought to have a better cause than this.
Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Dave Reichert, who knows what he is talking about.
REICHERT: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Andy Kahan, thank you, sir.
Up next: Why is Rudy Giuliani looking for campaign cash? Catch this.
He was in London the other day. He‘s having a fund-raiser in Kazakhstan.
Could it be because he does business over there?
And the Hillary camp orders a magazine to kill a story, to spike a story by saying, you can‘t get to Bill for an interview unless you spike this story. She‘s playing hardball—when we return.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and some interesting politics.
Rudy Giuliani, who just started a fund-raiser over in London, is now shaking the cup in far-off Kazakhstan. His people have set up a video appearance by the 9/11 man over there. Well, apparently, being America‘s mayor ain‘t good enough for this guy.
It turns out Rudy‘s company—this won‘t surprise you—does a lot of business in Kazakhstan, which explains the desire of folks over there to kick into his election coffers. See the Pyramids along the Nile. Send me photographs and souvenirs. Just remember, darling, all the while, all politics is local.
Here‘s Jon Stewart, by the way, just last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”: Giuliani‘s running for national office. He is pro-gun, hard stance to reconcile. I only hope some sort of event occurred between then and now that he could say caused him to rethink his position.
STEWART: It‘s—it‘s just hard to imagine what that event might have been.
STEWART: He‘s not really associated with any one moment.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I also think that there have been subsequent intervening events, September 11, which cast somewhat of a different light on the Second Amendment.
STEWART: And while what he just said doesn‘t seem to make any sense whatsoever, with regard to the events of September 11, it does speak to the tragedy that is 9/11 Tourette‘s.
STEWART: Won‘t you 9/11 help us, 9/11?
STEWART: Because 9/11 is a terrible 9/11 to...
STEWART: ... 9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jack Kennedy once god mad when it was printed that he had posed for “Gentleman‘s Quarterly.” Kennedy said that magazine appealed to gays back then in his day, though that wasn‘t the word he used, of course.
Well, now the Hillary campaign got a story about her killed in “GQ” by saying it would kill the magazine‘s access to a fellow it was preparing to do a big cover piece on. That fellow they used as blackmail was Mr. Bill Clinton, all this according to our old pals “The Politico” newspaper.
Speaking of playing it tough, that is what John McCain has got to do
these days. His campaign chief, Rick Davis, is putting out word that the
old warrior‘s prepping himself for a big reversal of fortune come
Christmastime—quote—“Iowa always tends to punish the front-runner
right down at the end of the campaign”—close quote. McCain‘s man said -
quote—“So we want to hang around and be a very viable campaign in Iowa long enough for everyone to take that second look. That is what we like about Iowa.”
Well, the hope is that what happened to John Kerry last time, when he passed the pack in the last weeks, will happen this time to John McCain.
General Sherman, when asked whether he wanted to be president, said that, if nominated, he would not run, if elected, he would not serve. Well, Jim Webb, another military man out of Virginia, was asked the other day by the AP if he would accept the vice presidency.
His answer was far short of Shermanesque—quote—“It is really not something I‘m looking for. I will say that. I have never thought of myself as someone who would be running for the vice presidency.”
That sounds like someone very much interested in that job.
Finally, Leno and Letterman aren‘t the only ones using Larry Craig on television. Take a look at this new ad from a group looking to combat childhood obesity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: It‘s their dirty little secret, members of Congress taking PAC money from corporations producing bacon, burgers and other fatty foods.
In turn, Congress buys up millions of dollars of these products and dumps them on our schools. Companies get rich. Kids get fat.
Is your seminar on the gravy train? Find out at stopchildhoodobesitynow.org.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Up next: Workers at General Motors walk off the job. Is corporate greed killing the American worker? Jim Cramer joins us for the HARDBALL debate tonight.
You‘re watching it, only on MSNBC.
SCOTT COHN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Scott Cohn with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks closed mostly higher, despite some bad economic news. The Dow Jones industrials gained 19.5 points, the S&P off a fraction. The Nasdaq gained 15.5 points.
Existing home sales fell for a sixth straight month in August to the lowest level in five years. Meantime, home prices in 20 metropolitan areas fell nearly 4 percent on the year, ending in July.
And Lennar Corp., the largest U.S. homebuilder, reported the biggest quarterly loss in the company‘s 53-year history.
The Conference Board reports, consumer confidence sank to a two-year low this month.
Oil fell back below $80 a barrel. Crude dropped $1.42 in New York, closing at $79.53 a barrel.
And, on day two of the United Auto Workers strike against General Motors, contract talks continued for a second straight day. Meantime, General Motors‘ shares fell 32 cents today.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We haven‘t seen this in nearly 40 years: the UAW, United Auto Workers union, ordering its 70,000 members who work for General Motors to strike, protesting what they called the one-sided nature of its labor contract negotiations with GM.
Are we losing our industrial base in this country? And is corporate greed killing the working class? That‘s the HARDBALL debate tonight. It‘s a hot one.
Jim Cramer is the host of “Mad Money” on CNBC. And Ross Eisenbrey is the vice president of the Economic Policy Institute. He is an attorney specializing in labor and employment issues.
Let me go to Ross, first of all.
What‘s going on with this fight over job security out in Michigan?
What‘s the fight about?
ROSS EISENBREY, VICE PRESIDENT, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: Well, the fight‘s about keeping jobs in the United States.
General Motors says that they will not make commitments to the UAW to keep the 73,000 jobs that are left at GM in the United States, in the United States. They‘re interested in moving, as they have been, to Mexico, to China, to Eastern Europe, Russia, all over the world. And the UAW is saying, we‘re making concessions. We‘re the most productive workers in the world. Keep the jobs here.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, Charles Wilson, head of GM once said, what‘s good for GM is good for America.
How can you say that, Jim, if you‘re taking the jobs out of America?
JIM CRAMER, HOST, “MAD MONEY”: Well, I got to tell you something.
First of all, you have got this issue all framed wrong, Chris.
This is about breaking the union. You break the union, you save the company. Do you know that, in 1992, Caterpillar broke the union, same union? Caterpillar‘s stock was at $5. Now it‘s at $76.
You know, the same month that they broke the union, GM‘s stock an was at $34. Where is today? Thirty-four. If GM wants to be a competitive company in the world marketplace, like Caterpillar is, the number-one maker of earth-moving equipment in the world, it‘s got to break the union.
Wagoner is going to do that. And that‘s how you save American manufacturing.
MATTHEWS: So, you‘re saying that the—it was the industry, the company, that forced this?
MATTHEWS: Forced a walkout?
CRAMER: Rick Wagoner is not going to let this company be staying at $35 for—for another 15 years. He has to break the union to save—this is not destroying the village to save it. This ain‘t Vietnam. This is about saving American manufacturing. And the only way you‘re going to do it is, you break that UAW.
MATTHEWS: OK, Ross, what‘s your view?
EISENBREY: Well, that‘s a pretty sad view. If—if that‘s what Rick Wagoner is doing, he‘s going to tear down General Motors, you know, along with the union. They can‘t—they can‘t sustain a long strike.
CRAMER: GM is torn down. There ain‘t much there.
EISENBREY: The Teamsters have already said that they‘re not going to move GM vehicles. So, they can bring in strike replacements, but they won‘t move any vehicles.
CRAMER: Ah, same thing I heard about Caterpillar in 1992. It was supposed to be shut down. Now it‘s the number-one earth-moving manufacturer in the world.
MATTHEWS: Are you saying that GM is tough enough to break the Teamsters, too?
CRAMER: This guy is. This guy Wagoner is the real deal.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about a couple issues. One is job security.
Let me ask you, Ross, is it feasible for a company in a global economy to guarantee jobs in this country, to say, we will guarantee you‘re going to keep the 73,000 jobs that exist today in perpetuity? Is that a reasonable demand by labor?
EISENBREY: I don‘t think that that‘s what the UAW is asking for.
I—you know, I don‘t know the specifics at the table. But they‘re asking for commitments that GM make investments in plants in the United States. And my understanding is that they can‘t get them to make those commitments.
And, you know, they really are the most productive. They‘re more productive than the Japanese transplant workers. The—the problem that GM has is with its tremendous retiree health benefit issues. That‘s something that the government ought to be helping GM with.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s another issue.
Let me go back to the—let‘s stick to the security question.
Jim, is it reasonable to ask a company to guarantee your jobs in America?
CRAMER: Not—not in this day and age, no.
I mean, we‘re getting the—we‘re getting the heck kicked out of us. You can‘t guarantee jack anymore. This is a—we need to be a flexible work force, if we‘re going to be able to compete with the Japanese, the Chinese, the Indians. Everyone wants in this—in this auto game.
You can‘t offer those kind of guarantees.
EISENBREY: Right. But this isn‘t...
CRAMER: This is—this is 2007.
EISENBREY: ... just about autos, though. I mean, this is about—this is happening union, nonunion. It‘s happening outside of autos. EDS just announced it‘s sending 15,000 jobs to India. This is a problem that every American worker has a stake in, and they ought to be rooting for the UAW here.
CRAMER: I think if you root for the UAW, then you just let GM go away.
MATTHEWS: What happens if we have—do you see a future five, ten years from now where we don‘t have an auto industry in this country, Jim?
CRAMER: If you don‘t break the UAW, we won‘t. There‘s no real reason to make cars here. I understand from Mr. Eisenbrey that we‘re productive. But I‘ve got to tell you something, if we‘re productive, how come it costs so much less—I know you got the health care considerations. We got a union that makes it so they spend a lot of money building cars. If we want to get back in the game—do I want to break the union?
I‘m like big Bill Haywood. I was a member of a union. I was a shop steward at one time. But I‘m putting on my “Mad Money” hat here, Chris. If you want GM to be a viable company, they‘ve got to do what Caterpillar did.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask this great question of Ross. You got a lot of retirees out in Chicago and Illinois, all around that part of the country, Michigan, Indiana, a lot of retired auto families. They‘re living on health care that they‘ve negotiated for it when they were in their working lives. Is that in danger right now?
EISENBREY: Yes, it‘s absolutely in danger.
MATTHEWS: Are these companies dumping their responsibilities to these retired families?
EISENBREY: They‘re doing it all over the country. You know, there‘s always the possibility that they would go bankrupt and use bankruptcy to dump their health care liabilities. But that‘s what the union‘s fighting for. It‘s fighting to preserve something for 350,000 people who are not working in the plants right now.
MATTHEWS: Is that going—is that a reasonable demand, Jim, to have your health care promises kept?
CRAMER: Chris, let me give—
MATTHEWS: I mean, these promises were made, weren‘t they?
CRAMER: I‘m going to give you a game, set, match here. I‘m going to rest my case. GM‘s the largest buyer of Viagra in the world.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean by that.
CRAMER: They‘re the biggest consumer, buyer—that‘s one of their health care costs. They are the largest buyer of—
MATTHEWS: This is a colorful way of saying the auto industry has become the health industry, right, because they‘re providing so much health care for so much people.
CRAMER: I am trying to boost your numbers. They‘re a very large health care provider.
EISENBREY: They are a big health care provider. That‘s a real problem. We need national health insurance. We need to lift that obligation off the back of General Motors, so that they can keep these jobs, middle class jobs in the United States.
CRAMER: He‘s absolutely right.
EISENBREY: Once that happens, they‘ll be able to produce cars.
CRAMER: You‘re absolutely right, Mr. Eisenbrey. That is what has to happen, because you can‘t be competitive.
MATTHEWS: It‘s going to be like the Railroad Retirement Act, where an industry goes bust and the government just picks up the tab for all their losses, all the commitments, right, Ross?
EISENBREY: Yes, we need something like that. We need these jobs in the United States because our trade deficit is, you know, blowing up right now. We need to be able to produce these things here.
CRAMER: If GM wins and they bust the union, I‘m telling you, you have a five fold increase in the stock. In the end, this is America and that‘s what we care about.
MATTHEWS: Cramer, I think there might be a market in building those metal bathtubs they have in the Cialis commercials. You know, the older couple sitting out overlooking the horizon, watching the sunset from their separate bathtubs. You ever think about that scene? I always wonder what is that supposed to suggest?
CRAMER: That‘s supposed to suggest that GM‘s costs are way out of line.
MATTHEWS: What a wacky world we live in.
EISENBREY: The “Mad Money” perspective is, you know, how do you get the stock up as high as you can. That doesn‘t do anything for the middle class in America. That‘s why we‘ve lost the middle class; 90 percent—
I‘m not just talking the middle, 90 percent of Americans have seen their share of national income go down by 270 billion dollars in three years.
MATTHEWS: I hear the same conversation here at NBC and GE. The same conversations being held in this show are being held around the show here at GE and NBC. Everywhere in the world they‘re talking about it. They call it 2.0 here. It‘s restructuring. It‘s whatever you call it. Job security is zero. Thank you very much, Jim Cramer, Ross Eisenbrey.
A reminder, on October 9th, I‘ll be co-moderating with Maria Bartiromo the Republican presidential debate in Dearborn, Michigan. It‘s going to focus a lot on heavy industry, the auto industry, steel, everything that we used to make better than anybody else in the world. That debate will air on cNBC and MSNBC.
Up next, President Bush goes to the U.N. But is he winning over the world? Isn‘t that the world debating council? Aren‘t we supposed to win those debates sometimes? Anyway, the HARDBALL round table is coming here. This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Time now for tonight‘s HARDBALL round table.
Jonathan Capehart is a member of the “Washington Post‘s” editorial board.
Julie Mason is a White House correspondent for the “Houston Chronicle.” And Roger Simon is chief political columnist for Politico, the aforementioned Politico.
Anyway, Iran‘s president addressed the U.N. late this afternoon, the General Assembly. Here he is, Ahmadinejad, explaining what he thinks is the root of the world‘s problems and also, of course, taking a shot at our president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There‘s no doubt that the second and more important factor is some big powers disregard of morals, divine values, the teachings of the prophets, and the instructions by the almighty god, as well as the rule of the incompetent. How can the incompetent, who cannot even manage and control themselves, rule humanity and arrange its affairs?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. And I was thinking, Roger, like it reminded me a little bit of “Dr. Strangelove” with precious bodily fluids. Out of nowhere, the guy is talking about God and the prophets and Moses and Jesus and Mohammed and making us all feel like he‘s got something deep to say to us. He takes a little shot to the groin at Bush‘s incompetence. He couldn‘t resist playing to the crowd.
ROGER SIMON, “POLITICO”: Is that Bush‘s incompetence or the incompetence of democracies?
MATTHEWS: Oh, you‘re being very sophisticated. I think it‘s a shot at Bush.
SIMON: Either way, we seem to have done pretty well so far. I think we‘re doing better than Iran is doing so far. You can‘t win with giving this guy a platform. Whatever he says is bound to outrage. My real question though is why the State Department gave him a visa to travel as widely as he did, to travel out of the U.N. I mean, we could have—
MATTHEWS: normally—you know this; is it normal practice to restrict diplomats to Manhattan?
SIMON: He‘s not a normal guy.
MATTHEWS: I know, but have we ever done it before? We did it to Castro. We did it to Khrushchev. Khrushchev went to Disneyland, or he almost did. I mean, you know, we‘ve let the guys we don‘t like in the world travel pretty extensively in this country when they come here for the U.N., don‘t we?
SIMON: I guess he would say because we‘re incompetent. We grant—
MATTHEWS: I disagree with you. Julie Mason, let me ask you, what was that last little kick to the midsection about, that incompetence? Who‘s he talking about? We understand the religious stuff. What about the incompetent stuff.
JULIE MASON, “THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE”: Sure, he‘s talking about Bush obviously. It‘s funny, Bush stood up at the U.N., as you know. And he pointed the moral finger. At least half of them are sitting there thinking Gitmo. It‘s an easy mark for Ahmadinejad. While he‘s been here, he‘s vacillated between being boring and being sort of outrageously nutty. I don‘t think he scores any points here.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, he didn‘t pound his shoe on the table. Good old Khrushchev did.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:” No, he didn‘t. It‘s sort of the usual rants against the developed world from a country that‘s either in the developing world or a country that wants to be part of the big powers, and so a way you show your strength is by maybe rhetorically slamming your shoe on the podium. That‘s basically what the president of Iran did.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a newspaper man. You all are. When you‘re looking at the newspapers of the world, Roger Simon, today, tomorrow, the next day, they‘re just a great panoply of newspaper front pages. Who‘s winning this battle of the front page, our president or their president?
SIMON: Well, probably their president because our president is so disliked around the world. If you‘re going to talk about the world press. Also, our president talked about Myanmar, which may not be a huge headline around the world. It may be.
MATTHEWS: Are you outraged about Burma?
SIMON: We probably should be, you know.
MATTHEWS: I know. But outraged about Burma? Nobody‘s thought about it, let alone be outraged about it. They‘re outraged about New Orleans, if anything.
MASON: Well, about housing prices too and crime going up. But Burma, I don‘t know. Can they point to it on a map?
MATTHEWS: They may be thinking about Burma Shave or something.
MASON: I‘m outraged by Burma shave. I‘m on record.
CAPEHART: Chris, you have to remember, the president was speaking before the United Nations, not before a joint session of Congress, and sort of a State of the Union Address.
MATTHEWS: But he said Americans are all outraged about Burma. Is that an accurate statement of Americans‘ opinion?
CAPEHART: Probably not. But I mean, what‘s happening in Myanmar.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think the “Washington Post” editorial page—have you written an unsigned editorial of outrage about Burma or Myanmar.
MASON: It was an aspirational moment.
CAPEHART: Actually, Chris, it‘s coming.
MATTHEWS: It‘s in the mail. We‘ll be right back. I want to talk about not Larry Craig. We‘ll wait for his statement tomorrow in court. I want to talk about the Clintons‘ ability to kill a story in GQ. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Jonathan Capehart, Julie Mason and Roger Simon. Let me ask you, Roger, have you ever had the Clintons kill a story you were working on? They killed one in GQ. It‘s all over the place. The GQ editors admitted it. It reminds me of Jack Kennedy when he didn‘t like having his picture taken by GQ or even somebody accusing him of having his picture taken by GQ. What do you make of this story?
SIMON: This is Ben Smith‘s story in Politico. What‘s odd about it is not that the Clinton campaign tried to get it killed. Everybody tries to massage the press their way. What is odd is that GQ would go along with it. That is really bizarre.
MATTHEWS: And admit as much.
SIMON: Yes, I mean, and to get a Bill Clinton story in the paper—I mean, this guy‘s popularity is astonishing, that he can get—they can get a story on Hillary Clinton killed, trading that off for a puff piece on Bill.
MATTHEWS: Julie, this reminds me of the kind of deals they do at the morning shows for movies. If you want Julie whoever the star is, I forget the names of them these days—if you want the big star, you got to take the dorky director and the screen writer to go with it on Tuesday and Thursday. But in this case, the deal is, if you want big Bill Clinton on the cover of your GQ in his latest wardrobe by Ralph Lauren, you have to go along with killing a story about Hillary that they don‘t like in the Hillary campaign.
MASON: It‘s true.
MATTHEWS: This is the free press we are selling to the united third world.
MASON: But it‘s not a priesthood. As you know, we are all painfully aware, it‘s a bottom line business. I think this is going to be happening more often. It‘s a shame but it‘s just commerce.
CAPEHART: Going to be?
MATTHEWS: Jonathan Capehart, would the “Washington Post” kill a story in the Sunday magazine to save—would they kill a story on the op ed page?
CAPEHART: That‘s a whole—
MATTHEWS: This is like General Petraeus, who is not willing to say he doesn‘t know the answer to something.
CAPEHART: Chris, what happened between the Clinton campaign and GQ is something that happens in news rooms across the country, where—for instance, when Mayor Giuliani was in power here in New York, it was common place—it was known that if you wrote a story that was negative about the administration, that the likelihood of your calls being returned by the mayor‘s press office—
MATTHEWS: We live in that world. That‘s the threat world. But when you buckle to the threat, aren‘t you buckling to terrorism? Aren‘t you?
MASON: Terrorists to what?
CAPEHART: That‘s a question for GQ.
MATTHEWS: I know it is.
CAPEHART: The thing I find astonishing is that GQ actually went and record and admitted—
MATTHEWS: That‘s what I found great. I love that honesty. If you‘re going to be a sleaze, at least admit it. Let me ask you about this, Jonathan, you‘re in the Washington, D.C. area. Obviously you write for the Post. Isn‘t it amazing that Jim Webb, the freshly elected U.S. senator—he‘s not really an ideological Democrat. He‘s sort of a moderate. In fact, he maybe have Republican sensibilities in many ways, that he‘s already opening himself to the possibility of being on the ticket with Hillary. What do you make of that?
CAPEHART: I think it‘s kind of strange. You‘re more a student of this than I am, but it‘s always been that you have to tread lightly when romancing whatever candidate, whatever nominee there is for the vice presidential nod. You don‘t want to look like you‘re outwardly campaigning for it. I think Senator Webb could have answered that question a little more artfully.
MATTHEWS: I think he looked a little too happy with the prospect.
Thank you, Jonathan. I love your honesty. Julie Mason, Roger Simon.
Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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