Guests: Ben Affleck, Alan Greenspan, Amanda Carpenter, Ezra Klein, Chris Cillizza
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The fifth anniversary of the war resolution. Was Hillary right or was Obama right? Our live guests tonight, Ben Affleck and Alan Greenspan.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. Five years ago today, 29 Democratic senators voted to authorize President Bush to go to war with Iraq. They included Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Harry Reid and John Kerry. Twenty-one Democratic senators voted against giving the authority to the president. They included Ted Kennedy, Russ Feingold, Carl Levin, Paul Wellstone, Dick Durbin and Barbara Boxer.
To mark the anniversary of this fateful vote, Democratic senator Barack Obama today, who was not a senator five years ago, put out a video warning that Hillary Clinton has just made the same mistake again by voting for a resolution condemning Iran.
Meanwhile, former president Jimmy Carter went after Dick Cheney, calling him “a disaster for the country.” Should the Democratic candidates for president start talking as tough as President Carter?
Tonight, one of the brightest stars in Hollywood, one of the sharpest political minds, as well, joins us, Oscar winner Ben Affleck. He‘s here from the—in the studio with me. He‘s right in front of me. There he is. And he‘ll rate the 2008 candidates and weigh in on the hottest political issues of the day.
Plus: In one of his smartest moves, President Reagan appointed Alan Greenspan chairman of the Federal Reserve board, a position he held until his retirement last year. Greenspan‘s new book, “The Age of Turbulence,” is number one on “The New York Times” best-seller list. He joins us here, as well, at this seat that Ben Affleck is sitting in right now. He‘ll be here in just a couple of minutes, after Ben leaves.
Plus, on this, the fifth anniversary of the Congress‘s Iraq war vote, we‘ll ask Greenspan about his remarks about the book and the role that oil may have played in this war.
But we begin with America‘s favorite leading man, actor, director,
activist, writer—in fact, he won the Oscar for writing, not for acting -
Ben Affleck. Thank you..
BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: Thank you very much for having me.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re a thinker. That‘s why you‘re here.
AFFLECK: Well, I‘ve always wanted to hear my name next to yours and Alan Greenspan‘s, so this is definitely...
MATTHEWS: This is a new (INAUDIBLE)
AFFLECK: ... a dream come true.
MATTHEWS: Affleck and Greenspan, here they are!
AFFLECK: Exactly. I always knew it would happen, you know? I thought I‘d get the Fed. But it‘s nice that it happened here.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this five years from—you know, five years ago, the Democrats had their chance. They took their chance. They bet on the war. The war turned out the wrong way, and now they all don‘t like it.
AFFLECK: Well, I think there was—the information that people had was very different five years ago than the information people have now, you know? And I think the American public—if you look at polls from five years ago, the polls were very different then than they are now, if you‘re going to make a direct analogy to Iran and Iraq.
But I think, you know, the op-ed piece that Barack wrote was really good. I think it was the Manchester—the paper in New Hampshire. And I think that, you know, we definitely have to be very cautious in terms of giving the president and the vice president the leeway to make the same mistake again.
MATTHEWS: You know, are you being easy on these guys? Because, Ben,
it seems to me that a lot of people watching the situation in October of
2002, five years ago today -- 80 percent of the American people believed
that George Bush was taking us to war. So it wasn‘t a question of getting
you know, letting him borrow the car and not knowing what he‘s going to do with it.
The other thing is that the arguments for the nuclear threat from Iraq were highly odd, that he somehow had a nuclear weapon, he had an airplane that was going to deliver it, and he‘s going to deliver it over here. That was—that was Cheney‘s argument. Do you believe it was bogus or authentic?
AFFLECK: I think—I think—well, now, obviously, those arguments were clearly bogus, but a lot of people...
MATTHEWS: Do you believe Cheney believed that they had a strategic threat against the United States, that they were going to attack the United States here?
AFFLECK: It seems fairly unlikely that that‘s true. But I mean, I think most people think...
MATTHEWS: Didn‘t they just do this to get us in the war, because they wanted us to fight the war?
AFFLECK: I think they believed it was in the United States‘ best interest to exert our hegemony in the Middle East, to establish a place where we could exert our sphere of influence to build, I think they genuinely thought, a democracy. And the way that they did it was reckless, irresponsible and stupid. I mean, there‘s a great YouTube video of Cheney arguing against—I don‘t know if you‘ve ever seen it. You know...
MATTHEWS: We‘ve had it on the show many times.
AFFLECK: It‘s great.
MATTHEWS: So prescient.
AFFLECK: So he clearly understood what he was doing, and then later, you know, made that terrible mistake. And Barack now sees rather—and makes his point rather saliently that it would be a terrible mistake to do so again in Iran and argues for diplomacy.
MATTHEWS: Let me take a look—here‘s the Republican candidates the other night. I watched the debate. I was moderating the debate. I was obviously watching it, as well. I was overwhelmed by the willingness of the candidates to say that we could go to war because the president says to go to war, without any approval by Congress, even if it‘s a deliberate decision which would have days to decide or months to decide, that they think that the commander-in-chief doesn‘t need the Congress.
Let‘s listen to some of these thoughts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You sit down with your attorneys and tell you what you have to do. But obviously, the president of the United States has to do what‘s in the best interests of the United States to protect us against a potential threat.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He was right to do that under the Constitution, as the commander-in-chief of the military forces. If he has time, then certainly, you want to go to Congress, as we did in Iraq, and get the approval of Congress.
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And this idea of going and talking to attorneys totally baffles me. Why don‘t we just open up the Constitution and read it? You‘re not allowed to go to war without a declaration of war.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR GOVERNOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If it‘s necessary to get it done because it‘s actionable right now, yes. If you have the time and the luxury of going to Congress, that‘s always better.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the situation is that it requires immediate action to ensure the security of the United States of America, that‘s what you take your oath to do when you‘re inaugurated as president of the United States. If it‘s a long series of build-ups, where the threat becomes greater and greater, of course you want to want to go to Congress. Of course you want to get approval.
FRED THOMPSON (R-TN), FMR SENATOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that—I think John has it right. I would add that under the War Powers Act, there‘s always a conflict between the Congress and the president as to the exact applicability of that when an engagement lasts for a particular period of time and when they must come before Congress.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FMR NYC MAYOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It really depends on exigent circumstances and how legitimate it is, if it really is an exigent circumstance. It‘s desirable, it‘s safer to go to Congress, get approval from Congress. If you‘re really dealing with exigent circumstance, then the president has to act in the best interests of the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, except for Rudy Giuliani, who made the point if there‘s an emergency, you act. But these other guys act like it‘s a military junta running this country, like you don‘t—Oh, we might, as a courtesy, as a luxury, check in with Congress.
AFFLECK: Yes . I mean, it‘s very clearly laid out. Of course you go to Congress and you ask for a declaration of war. But the other really peculiar argument is that—as if it‘s very common that, you know, you have to go to war so quickly against another nation state that you wouldn‘t be able to assemble the Congress of the United States of America. We got the Congress together the next day after Pearl Harbor. What is a quicker emergency going to happen where—you know, we were able to get together after 9/11. When is the situation going to arise where it‘s going to happen so quickly that we‘re going to have to declare a war—I mean, it takes a long time to assemble the armed forces. I think we‘re going to find the time to consult the Congress of the United States.
MATTHEWS: Could it be that built into that way of talking is this notion of fear mongering, that they‘re trying to imagine a day when Iran is going to attack the United States with its air force and artillery and everything else, and we have to move quickly to defend ourselves? What are they talking about?
AFFLECK: I think this is a way of—you know, all these guys are basically afraid that if any of them qualify any of these statements by talking about anything other that saying, you know, We need to be strong and presidential, and I need to be able to use force unilaterally, they‘ll be attacked by the other guys...
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, that‘s...
AFFLECK: ... and made to look weak.
MATTHEWS: Well, is this a battle of the biggest jingoists?
AFFLECK: Yes. I mean, it‘s just about, I think, looking the most strong. The irony is they have Rudy Giuliani, who at another point during the debate, defined himself as a strict constructionist when talking about the line-item veto and is willing to throw away the Constitution in talking about...
MATTHEWS: Well, he‘s a little more...
AFFLECK: ... you know, talking about war and also talking about the 2nd Amendment, which he‘s not a strict constructionist when it comes to gun control.
MATTHEWS: Well, are you?
AFFLECK: I‘m probably more on the side of—anyway, doesn‘t matter.
MATTHEWS: Where are you on the 2nd Amendment.
AFFLECK: I‘m probably less of a gun control guy than Rudy Giuliani is, if you look at the gun control laws in New York City. I mean, it‘s probably next to impossible to own a handgun in New York City and—you know?
MATTHEWS: We had Huckabee on the other night. I said, What do we do about gang warfare in north Philadelphia or west Philadelphia, where you have tough gangs going at each other and one guy kills somebody and somebody else kills somebody else, and turf wars, the usual kind of things, Sharks and Jets again? You know, nothing new in America, but he said, Right to carry will solve that problem.
MATTHEWS: Are you crazy?
AFFLECK: Right to carry (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: I mean, having dead kids—more kids armed with their licenses? These kids wouldn‘t qualify for licenses anyway.
AFFLECK: What solves that problem is, you know, addressing that from the bottom up, which is addressing issues of poverty and education, and you know, dealing with broken homes and drugs and addiction. Those are...
MATTHEWS: The other way to do it is the way Chief Timoney says to handle it, and that‘s to have a lot of police in the streets after a killing, so you stop the revenge killings.
AFFLECK: Well, yes.
MATTHEWS: Got to use some tactical (INAUDIBLE)
AFFLECK: That‘ll address, like, a single, one-off, kind of, like, stopping the next person dying.
MATTHEWS: And a kid walking down the street with four other friends and he‘s got a bulge in his pocket, you might ask him what the bulge is.
AFFLECK: Right. More police will work.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s look at Jimmy Carter. I know you watch these things. You watched the debate. You watch all this stuff. Here‘s former president Jimmy Carter speaking about the current vice president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, he‘s been a disaster for our country. I think he‘s been overly persuasive on President George Bush, and quite often he‘s prevailed. But it was one of his main commitments was to go into Iraq under false pretenses, and he still maintains that those false pretenses are accurate. He still maintains somehow that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. He still maintains that Iraq somehow or another had weapons of mass destruction, claims that have been disproven by all reasonable sources.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I love the way he laughs when he makes these points. He‘s fearless, this guy!
AFFLECK: He is. He‘s kind of—the appeal he has—and I think that may have been almost inappropriate, probably, to go that far after Vice President Cheney, even though I‘m personally not a fan of his. But you know, he seems like a guy who has—there something appealing about it because he seems to have nothing to lose.
And you know, he‘s done wonderful, amazing things, some great humanitarian work. I mean, this is a guy who two weeks ago was in Darfur, and the Khartoum-led government wouldn‘t let him into one part of the village, and he sort of brazenly walked through with the guys from the Janjaweed pointing guns at him. And he said, You can‘t stop me from going in here. So he clearly isn‘t going to be afraid of what Vice President Cheney is going to say to him.
I think there‘s something appealing about a guy who—who seems to be, like, you know, almost, I don‘t know, like, gleefully reveling in the fact that he just doesn‘t care.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the candidates? Wouldn‘t it be nice to have them under sodium pentothal. I mean, how do we know what Barack is really thinking after he‘s been through five and six consultants. And Hillary‘s so lawyered up and consultanted-up. We don‘t know what they really think, do we?
AFFLECK: It‘s terrible. I mean, I think it‘s the one really bad thing about American presidential politics is that they get so managed. And it‘s one of the things that happens that makes—it‘s why Al Gore is so much more appealing now than he used to be because now he doesn‘t feel constrained by the need to sort of to play to every demographic and get into kind of that lockbox sort of, like, you know, thing where he got almost robotic. He became free, and he started criticizing the war. He got into this whole environmental stuff. But I think you get so overmanaged and so—you begin to second guess yourself so much that, you know, you almost become so neutral as to be, you know, nobody and...
MATTHEWS: What are they afraid of, Ben?
AFFLECK: They‘re afraid of offending people. They‘re afraid of being on this show and leading the story. They‘re afraid of being the first thing that you talk about, which is, like, Look what So-and-So said. Look at the mistake they made. Because nobody runs their stump speech. You know, you and the next five other shows about politics aren‘t going to run their policy. You‘re going to run when they fall over or they offended somebody, and that‘s unfortunately the way that it works. And everyone‘s terrified of that. And it has to do with—you know, with not making a mistake.
MATTHEWS: Well, we run the stump speeches if they‘re any good.
MATTHEWS: Actually, we covered Barack Obama‘s stump—his announcement speech. It was one of the most stirring days of my life being out there and covering that in Springfield. It just hasn‘t come anywhere. I want to talk to you about that and also your movie. I just started watching it. It‘s a great movie. It‘s up there with “Mystic River” already...
AFFLECK: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: ... in watching of it. And it‘s also about Boston and it‘s about real people. I love the accents, too.
Anyway, we‘ll be right back. It‘s about a missing young girl. So much of American cable television now is about some missing kid or some—somebody missing. What‘s that about? You might have a psychological view about why we‘re obsessed with the missing members of our world.
You‘re watching HARDBALL now with Ben Affleck. We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) I swear to God, I won‘t (INAUDIBLE) no more! I won‘t even go out (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s all right. We‘ll find her (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You promise?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We‘ll try. I will.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You promise? You have to promise me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I promise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I‘ve come to know these people now over these debates. Is this our sixth debate, I think? Something like that. And this has a—this is a lot like “Law & Order,” Senator.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you...
ROMNEY: No, it has—it has—it has a huge cast, the series seems to go on forever...
ROMNEY: ... and Fred Thompson shows up at the end.
THOMPSON: And to think I thought I was going to be the best actor on the stage.
MATTHEWS: So can you, Ben, tell when somebody is acting?
AFFLECK: You can tell when some of these guys are more at ease than others, and you know, I thought—I actually thought Fred Thompson would be a little bit better. I think he—you know, he came into the race and it seemed like a lot of people were hoping for, you know, Ronald Reagan, you know what I mean, that kind of laissez-faire and a little bit of charm and a little bit of Hollywood. And if you want to be, you know, Ronald Reagan, I think you can have the laissez-faire and you can have the supply-side and the hard right and the sort of quick wit, but you also have to have the charisma of Ronald Reagan, you know? And I‘m not sure he quite had that, at least in that debate.
MATTHEWS: You know, he seemed like—because I hung around there, when I was moderating, with these guys backstage. I haven‘t talked about it here yet, but it‘s kind of a company, these guys now. They all hang out together now. They‘re very friendly, very comfortable with each other. I‘m so happy about our democracy to see that Rudy and Romney and these guys and McCain and their wives all kid around with each other. They go back to the audience, they sign autographs. They‘re friendly. Very comfortable thing. But Fred looked like the transfer student, you know?
AFFLECK: Yes. I mean (INAUDIBLE) on the trail and whatever. I would imagine that every now and again, something‘s got to sting, you know, one of these barbs. But at a certain point, you know, you do see it, you see them, you know—you know, chatting with each other a little bit behind the lecterns, it looks like, you know...
MATTHEWS: It‘s interesting. It‘s almost—I wish could see—everybody could see it. But I was really happy to see it. What do you think about Giuliani? He‘s leading the pack every—every poll we take, he‘s ahead.
AFFLECK: he looks like he‘s going to be a very, very tough candidate. I think it‘s interesting. I think he‘s gone from—I think he‘s sort of mitigating his liberal social issues, you know, that—the abortion—pro-abortion and social judges and the New York City stuff, you know, with this hard-core, you know, really reactionary foreign policy stance. You know, he‘s kind of outflanking on the right the neocons, with this Podhoretz guy...
MATTHEWS: He‘s hiring them. He‘s got John Bolton. He‘s got Norman Podhoretz. He‘s...
AFFLECK: Yes, Podhoretz...
MATTHEWS: ... bringing these really...
AFFLECK: ... a guy who‘s openly prayerful of bombing Iran. It‘s sort of—you know, it‘s really pretty remarkable.
MATTHEWS: OK, game it. Do you think he‘s bringing them in to co-opt them or he‘s really going to buy their act?
AFFLECK: Well, I think, actually, they help him get support from folks like evangelicals, who clearly aren‘t moving to him because they like him on social issues, but they‘re definitely gravitating to him. And it has to be based on foreign policy stuff. And I think, you know, they can tell that he is legitimately a superhawk on foreign policy, and I think they like that. And people think of evangelicals as being sort of, you know, just these, like, Christians who see one thing and bang the Bible and that‘s it, and they‘re kind of dumb. And they‘re not. They‘re sophisticated. They see the overall...
MATTHEWS: They‘re very pro-Israel...
AFFLECK: ... you know, a big part of that neocon as defined by Cohen in an op-ed article in “The New York Times” recently had to do with, you know, Iran and—and a certain political streak in Israel‘s foreign policy and trying to—he‘s got to bring that together with the neocon agenda...
AFFLECK: ... and he‘s moved toward that, you know? And I think, you know, that‘s really helped him with the evangelicals, who are also extremely pro-Israel.
MATTHEWS: That‘s interesting, figuring that out, because I never thought of him going around the circle to go there, to go through being pro-Israeli to win over the evangelicals down South and overcome the problem with his social issues.
AFFLECK: Well, they don‘t have a great evangelical candidate. They don‘t really like, you know, Romney. So, you know...
MATTHEWS: Because he‘s a Mormon. To be blunt about it, that‘s their problem with him. But it‘s not intellectual.
AFFLECK: There‘s a part of—there are some evangelicals who see Mormonism as plainly almost heretical.
AFFLECK: And there are some who I think just aren‘t really drawn to him as a candidate, also because, you have got to remember, he‘s the governor of a blue state.
MATTHEWS: And he flipped on—he flipped on abortion rights.
AFFLECK: He‘s a flip-flopper on a couple of these things.
AFFLECK: I think that‘s not that appealing.
I don‘t know really why they haven‘t been able to find one from the second-tier candidates, except for the fact that guys like Brownback and Huckabee, who would be draws to the evangelicals, just purely aren‘t seen as guys that can win. They‘re so far back in the second tier that...
AFFLECK: ... he‘s not a horse I would back, because...
MATTHEWS: How do you see this ending up on the Republican side?
AFFLECK: God, I used to think that Romney could do it. And now I feel like it‘s probably going to be Giuliani. And I feel like Giuliani is going to be very, very tough. And...
MATTHEWS: You‘re with me on that one. That‘s what I think.
We will be right back with Ben Affleck. He‘s the director of a new movie—we will talk about it—“Gone Baby Gone,” a lot like “Mystic River” in sort of its texture. I just started watching it. I don‘t want to see the ending yet. I don‘t want to hear about it from him either. I want to know what happens, because I hear there‘s a lot of surprises in this movie.
Anyway, we will be back with HARDBALL and Ben Affleck, who, as you can see, knows as much as anybody on this show about what‘s going on. And he challenges me in that regard.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GONE BABY GONE”)
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: Do you have any children, Ms. Gennaro?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: No, sir.
FREEMAN: My only child was murdered. She was 12. Did you hear about it?
What you probably didn‘t hear and what I hope you never have to deal with, Ms. Gennaro, is what that feels like, what I have to deal with, knowing that our little girl actually died crying out for me to come and save her. And I never did. I know what it feels like to lose a child.
This child, that‘s all I care about. And I‘m going to bring her home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I have heard through the grapevine, through my producers who work with me, that you can do me.
AFFLECK: Not as well as Darrell Hammond. All right, Ben Affleck, you‘re on the show. What do you? You‘re an actor. You‘re an idiot. Tell us something. What are you here for? What do you got?
I‘m sitting with David Gergen. I mean, this guy has worked for four presidents. What do you know? Why am I talking to you?
Go ahead. Answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I‘m not that bad.
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Ben Affleck doing me a few years ago, actually. He‘s here with me right now, talking about 2008 race. He thinks Giuliani is going to beat the spread.
I think you‘re with Obama, still.
AFFLECK: I—I like Barack, yes.
MATTHEWS: Now, here‘s what Brad Pitt said about you: “‘I never thought about it. I have no desire at this point to run for president or anything. But I—maybe I serve better by not going through all that.
And then, ‘George should do it,‘ he says, offering up pal Clooney. He
would be quite good. I think Ben Affleck should run.‘”
So, you‘re getting—you have got up-up boys out there, as they say in Massachusetts, pushing your case. What do you think?
MATTHEWS: You‘re moving to Virginia. Is this setting up—you think you might go for Warner‘s seat, you know, that kind of thing?
AFFLECK: Yes. Brad just wants someone that‘s not him to do it, I think. That‘s very...
AFFLECK: He‘s just very nice.
AFFLECK: No, nothing for me, believe me, no, no, no, no.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t want to do it? The scrutiny is pretty brutal.
AFFLECK: I‘m just reading the—learning about politics, reading all the good books on politics here. You know what I mean?
MATTHEWS: It‘s all yours, my friend.
AFFLECK: “The New York Times” bestseller list?
MATTHEWS: It‘s on there, yes.
MATTHEWS: Getting on there right now. I just heard.
Look, let me ask you this about the movie. There seems to be, on this network, MSNBC, and other cable networks, an almost relentless pursuit of stories about missing people, you know?
MATTHEWS: What—is there something if you—you‘re a student of our culture. Why, at this point—they tend to be young blonde girls, missing blonde girls? This whole premise of your movie is about that.
I think part of what—part of what the movie is about is, the beginning of it is, this young girl has disappeared. And one of the reasons why the media really runs with the story is because she‘s this kind of angelic-looking little girl.
And part of what—the book was written by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote “Mystic River.” And part of it is about what happens in—in the media when these stories become—you know, maybe inspired a little bit by kind of by JonBenet Ramsey or...
MATTHEWS: You mention that in the movie.
AFFLECK: Yes. The irony is that, later on, of course, there‘s story now that has happened in England that is sort of where the girl looks somewhat similar.
But when there‘s a certain look of sort of angelic innocence, something sometimes happens in the media where it takes on this life. And people really get you know, it strikes a chord in people, because it seems like the worst thing possible, as something that is this incredibly innocent child could be—you know, something terrible could happen.
And, so, part of the book is about how that affects people in the neighborhood, and part of it is how the story operates kind of in the media. And then part of this movie is about how it actually kind of isn‘t what you think at all and isn‘t what it seems.
MATTHEWS: When you‘re directing a movie like that, what are you thinking about? Are you thinking how this—how every moment of the movie has to hold the crowd or are you thinking about story?
AFFLECK: I guess what I‘m thinking about is—you know, you have—
I have had the story, you know, in my head for quite some time by the time you actually go make it. So, I‘m trying to think about making it—having the integrity of it being real, and also keeping it sort of surprising and interesting, you know, and a lot of times just thinking about keeping myself together.
MATTHEWS: Well, the reviews are already in. They‘re great. And I hope it has a good box office.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a serious story. I don‘t know what works these days.
AFFLECK: It is a serious story.
MATTHEWS: You got to get somebody 18 years old to like this movie, right?
AFFLECK: I need to have people who watch your show go...
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, it‘s a little older than that. I think it‘s about 85 years old.
MATTHEWS: Just kidding. No. It‘s a little older than 18. It‘s about my age.
But look at me. I‘m the audience for this show.
AFFLECK: There you go.
MATTHEWS: I watch it.
Hey, Ben, you‘re one of the best.
AFFLECK: Listen, this is good...
MATTHEWS: And, as a political pundit, no patronizing aside, you are unbelievable. You are unbelievable.
AFFLECK: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: Everything you say is true about Rudy Giuliani. I have been saying that for two years. Whatever your position, liberal, middle, or left, or right, Giuliani has beat the spread week after week after week.
And, if just watch this business, the Republican Party seems to want strength more than anything else. And, for whatever reason, good, bad or fictitious, or whatever, he exudes it.
AFFLECK: Because they know—they know that it wins. You know what I mean? And they know that it—it‘s going to play, and it plays to all quadrants of their base, even though they have just as divided a group as the Democrats.
MATTHEWS: And this thing you have figured out is brilliant, about how he goes very hawkish in the Middle East, which helps bring in the Christian right.
MATTHEWS: So interesting. I will have to call you up as my lifeline once in a while.
Anyway, thank you, Ben Affleck.
AFFLECK: It‘s just an honor to be in the same seat that Greenspan is going to be in.
MATTHEWS: You‘re warming it up for Greenspan.
AFFLECK: I can‘t believe it. What an honor.
MATTHEWS: “Gone Baby Gone,” it‘s about a missing child, opens in theaters next Friday.
AFFLECK: October 19.
MATTHEWS: October 19. That‘s coming up now.
Up next: We heard a lot of economic talk from the Republican presidential candidates at this week‘s debate. Alan Greenspan will be sitting in that chair in just a minute.
You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Rebecca Jarvis with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks end a volatile session lower. After being up 120 points, the Dow Jones industrial closes down 63-and-a-half. The S&P 500 fell eight points. And the Nasdaq lost 39 points.
The sudden reversal started when J.P. Morgan lowered its revenue estimate for Chinese search engine Baidu.com, triggering a tech sell-off. Google, Apple, and Research In Motion were among the victims.
Most U.S. retailers reported dismal September sales, hurt by unusually warm weather. Some, including Target and J.C. Penney, cut their third-quarter estimates. But Wal-Mart raised its forecast.
And oil prices rose for a third straight day, climbing $1.78 in New York, closing at $83.08 a barrel.
Foreclosure filings in September were up nearly 100 percent from a year ago, but they were down more than 8 percent from a record high in August.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
He was chairman of the Federal Reserve for nearly 20 years and was considered one of the most powerful men in the world. When Alan Greenspan spoke, Wall Street reacted. And now his new book, “The Age of Turbulence,” has been making waves.
Alan Greenspan will be here in a moment. Actually, he‘s here right now.
But, first, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report on the economic plans of the Republican presidential front-runners.
FRED THOMPSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have got to admit, it was getting a little boring without me.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lost in the headlines over this week‘s GOP debate was the news that the Republican front-runners do have different and controversial plans for us. Fred Thompson believes in fixing Social Security by slowing the growth of benefits.
THOMPSON: It would not affect current or near-retirement people. But for future retirees, instead of having nothing, which is what they‘re headed for under the current situation that‘s unsustainable, they would have protection. But it would be indexed to inflation instead of wages, as it is today. And it would solve the problem for several years; it wouldn‘t solve it indefinitely, but it would give us a window of opportunity to get our arms around the problem. It would be a major step in the right direction.
SHUSTER: But the Congressional Research Service says, if we had been doing what Thompson wants since the early days of the program, there would be 10 million elderly Americans living in poverty today, instead of just three million.
As for Mitt Romney:
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Instead of having the federal government give you government insurance, Medicare and federal employee insurance, let‘s have private insurance.
SHUSTER: But economists say that increasing the profit for health care would raise consumer costs and ad more Americans to the ranks of those who are uninsured.
Rudy Giuliani‘s economic nostrums are fairly broad.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A president has to work on the fundamentals. What are the fundamentals? Keep taxes low. Keep regulations moderate. Keep spending under control.
SHUSTER: Giuliani would cut taxes on corporations and make the Bush tax cuts on income permanent. He would also further reduce taxes for Americans who can‘t get health insurance through their employers.
In other words, Giuliani wants these Americans to have more money to spend on health insurance. But there‘s no guarantee they would spend it on that instead of something else, sending more people to emergency rooms without insurance.
As for Social Security, Giuliani has not offered any solution, nor has he identified which government programs he would cut to keep spending under control.
For Ron Paul, the way to control spending and reduce the debt is easy:
End the Iraq war.
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we want prosperity, we have to change our foreign policy. We have to live within our means.
SHUSTER: Mike Huckabee believes that America‘s economic health relies on cutting our dependence on foreign oil.
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It‘s critical that for our own interest, economically and from a point of national security, that we become energy independent and commit to doing it within a decade.
SHUSTER (on camera): The real question for voters is, which candidate would be the wisest when he or she leaves the world of campaigning and enters the world of economic reality?
I‘m David Shuster, for HARDBALL, in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, he‘s author of the new book, biggest book in the world right now, “The Age of Turbulence.” You‘re looking at it. Here‘s a copy right here, a huge book of great importance to us all.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for joining us.
You have been all around the world talking about this book. But now, here on HARDBALL, are we going to have a recession next year?
ALAN GREENSPAN, FORMER FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I think not.
I think the problems are significant. There are concerns out there.
And the odds that we will have an inflation have risen. But they still...
MATTHEWS: An inflation or a recession?
GREENSPAN: I‘m sorry, a what?
MATTHEWS: The odds we will have an inflation or a recession?
GREENSPAN: No, no, recession.
In other words, the odds that we will have a recession next year are less than 50/50. But they have increased from about a third last March, up to something higher than that, somewhere between a third and a half. But it looks now as though it‘s not accelerating as yet.
MATTHEWS: What‘s driving your concern about the future? Is it the housing market, the energy price spike, or just consumer confidence?
GREENSPAN: It‘s fundamentally the price of homes, for two reasons.
Because of the quickness with which—with which the whole housing market collapsed, new homebuilders were caught with a very large inventory, in fact, twice normal. New homes are very difficult to maintain and very costly. And you tend, if you‘re a builder, to go towards fire sales. And that‘s exactly what they‘re starting to do. And home prices have been coming down fairly quickly in the last several months.
The critical issue here is not so much how much housing starts or activity falls, which it will, but its potential impact on consumer expenditures, because all of history suggests that when you get significant capital gains in homes, which we have had, as you know, for a long period of time, a very substantial part of that capital gain gets into consumption expenditures via the mortgage debt market. And we have not really seen any impact from the weakness in prices as yet, and the reason for that is that stock prices have been rising and so that the wealth of households has been fairly stable.
But if we begin to get a significant decline in house prices, that almost surely will create some weakness in consumer expenditures. And that‘s where the key issue of the probability or possibility of a recession is coming from. The rest of the economy is doing reasonably well.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the economic belief that the amount of money you spend every week or month is based on not just your income, but your wealth?
GREENSPAN: The Federal Reserve‘s model, which is a fairly complex model, indicates that about 15 percent of consumption expenditure is essentially driven by the wealth effect.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this proposal. We had in that debate the other night Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas—I hadn‘t heard this idea before, but maybe it‘s common. He wants to get rid of the IRS completely, get rid of the Internal Revenue Service, get rid of the direct tax, the income tax, and replace it with a national sales tax. I always thought that was, quote, regressive; it hurt people because it made poor people spend all their money and pay taxes on every nickel they had; whereas wealthy people could save money, and they wouldn‘t have to spend it all. And therefore, they wouldn‘t be taxed as much.
What do you think of it as an economic proposal, a sales tax?
GREENSPAN: Well, it‘s a fairly common proposal which a fairly significant number of economists support. And the argument is not consumption. But the fact there‘s—if you create incentives to saving, and you build up a sufficient amount of savings in the system which gets invested in capital assets, physical facilities and the like, productivity rises. And ultimately it is productivity on which standards of living rests.
So the argument is not that you get yourself higher standards of living by spending. What you do is you get it by increasing productivity. That‘s what the argument basically is.
The problem is not—it‘s not an economic problem. Most people agree that makes a good deal of sense. It‘s a political problem because we have never been able to effectively eliminate the income tax and substitute some form of consumption tax, which is what this argument is all about.
MATTHEWS: You were one of the heroes of the 1083 Social Security Commission. You put that thing together with the political partnership of Ronald Reagan and Tip O‘Neill, my old boss. And you did a lot of work to bring solvency back to the Social Security fund. Of course, it dealt with taxes, taxation of Social Security benefits. It dealt with the age moving up to 67 of retirement.
It had to do with, I guess, to some extent with benefits. But how do you solve it now when you have to go back at it now?
GREENSPAN: Strangely, Social Security is not a difficult problem to solve. It is basically a decision that the political system has to come together and look at maybe five or ten different types of proposals, all of which would work. It‘s a defined benefit program and it just is an issue of political will. The real problem is Medicare.
MATTHEWS: Because the health care just gets more and more expensive?
GREENSPAN: Well, the way you look at it basically is that we have an entitlement today which we can afford, in the sense that at the existing number of retirees, the system is not having any particular difficulty financing it. The problem is we‘re about to double the number of retirees. And what nobody wants to talk about is what that means. And if you go and look at the basic forecasts of Medicare expenditures, they all look low to me, frankly.
In other words, the issue is a deeply, potentially major problem for the American economy, because it essentially means, one way or another, you‘re going to have to cut benefits to a certain extent. The reason is that we can‘t solve Medicare strictly by increasing taxes. You can do a lot of tax increase. But if you try to do the whole thing on taxes, you will fail because you will slow the economy down in the tax base. Therefore, some cut in benefits is required.
MATTHEWS: Rationing is very tough.
GREENSPAN: Well, I know what‘s going to happen. It‘s just that they‘re not going to get there for a while.
MATTHEWS: Well, anyhow, hope we have a picture. Can we put another picture up. This is Alan Greenspan, the young man at the time, as chairman of that commission with Tip O‘Neill and Ronald Reagan signing the bill that saved Social Security for all those generations. I hope we can show that picture now. Anyway, thank you, Alan Greenspan. The name of your book, “Number One.”
There‘s you. That‘s you over there on the left. There‘s Tip, Reagan, Bob Dole.
GREENSPAN: The one with hair.
MATTHEWS: There‘s Rostenkowski, Bob Michael. God, what a group. Anyway, thank you very much. “Number One,” we‘re showing the book again, too, “The Age of Turbulence.”
Up next, the round table. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Former President Jimmy Carter said this, let‘s catch it, about Vice President Cheney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, he‘s been a disaster for our country. I think he‘s been overly persuasive on President George Bush. And quite often he‘s prevailed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let‘s bring in the HARDBALL round table, Ezra Klein of the “American Prospect,” Amanda Carpenter of TownHall.com, and Chris Cillizza of theWashingtonPost.com, and also of the “Washington Post.”
Chris Cillizza, what do you make of Carter? He‘s man who doesn‘t require sodium pentothal to say what he thinks.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, I‘m not terribly surprised. I don‘t think Jimmy Carter has made his distaste with the Bush administration all that masked in the past. You know, he‘s become sort of a hero on the liberal left and a hated figure in the conservative movement. I‘m sure what he said about Cheney just there in the clip isn‘t going to change either of those things any time in the near future.
MATTHEWS: Well, they are opposite numbers in life, aren‘t they, Amanda, those two fellows.
AMANDA CARPENTER, TOWNHALL.COM: Yes, absolutely. Although, I do want to say, it does concern me that he made these statements in a foreign media. It was on BBC. He is still speaking as a U.S. representative and he‘s bashing current foreign policy. In foreign medias, that does concern me.
MATTHEWS: So you still go to the rule—you still go to the rule that you don‘t bash us overseas?
CARPENTER: I think that‘s a good rule to go by.
MATTHEWS: That was Churchill‘s rule too.
EZRA KLEIN, “THE AMERICAN PROSPECT”: I‘m not terribly concerned about whether the British know that people think Cheney is little bit quick to go to war. I think—
MATTHEWS: I think most people have that assessment.
KLEIN: I think the British particularly have that assessment pretty well in hand.
MATTHEWS: So this is a commentary which will go to the ages, Chris Cillizza, but won‘t have much impact. I do think it‘s the kind of thing I questioned, why the Democratic candidates, who are calling for massive change in foreign policy, a 180 from where we are right now, lack the kind of spit that Carter has. They don‘t say a whiff, what they have to say, so you don‘t really believe them exactly.
CILLIZZA: Even forget how they say it, Chris, I think some of what
they say. This is a group where the three front runners said they could
not promise all troops would be out of Iraq by 2013. The base of the part
And I think, frankly, we‘re not just talking about the base of the party. I think we‘re talking about a broad—
MATTHEWS: Ninety percent.
CILLIZZA: -- wants people out of Iraq. And yet, Democratic candidates aren‘t willing to go there. I don‘t know if they get punished because there isn‘t a candidate out there necessarily articulating that message. Jimmy Carter I don‘t think is running. You know, I‘m not sure they get punished. But it has been amazing to me; it seems as though the Democratic party and their politicians are behind the curve, not just of their base, but of the broader element of the so called moderate independents in this country when it comes to the war in Iraq and what to do next.
MATTHEWS: I never heard of the campaign slogan, be careful.
CILLIZZA: Not a winning one.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the new ad. You is actually a video put out, the way we do it now. You put it out on the web—by Barack Obama. He put it out today on the fifth anniversary of the Senate authorization of the war with Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: October 11th, 2002; the United States Senate hands George Bush a blank check to wage war in Iraq, setting in motion events that have led to the greatest foreign policy disaster in a generation. But one leader warned of that disaster before it began. One leader resisted the march to war. Here‘s what Barack Obama said then.
BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require U.S. occupation of undetermined length at undetermined with undetermined consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Amanda, he was there. He took that position back in 2002 when everyone else was running scared. Barack Obama, he was a small-time politician in Chicago. But politically, that message sounds like it would win with the Democrats. Why don‘t we hear it louder?
CARPENTER: Well, one thing, I have looked at that speech that he‘s given in 2002 and he quotes a very good line from the speech. If you go further down into it, he see says that the war in Iraq was essentially a ploy constructed by Bush and Cheney to distract from domestic issues that impacted poor families, which gets into the crazy territory. So, you know, if people want to take a look at that line, I think they should look at the speech as a whole and the parts he‘s not quoting.
MATTHEWS: So you think it was an ideological speech, rather than an assessment of reality?
CARPENTER: It absolutely was.
KLEIN: Well, I would like to see that quote before I buy into it. But his statement there is correct. He said if we went in, we would had an undetermined occupation and there would be unknowable consequences. He was correct. I mean—
MATTHEWS: Cheney had that right too once. Isn‘t that great.
KLEIN: He knew in ‘91 that you can‘t do this. It‘s not our role.
MATTHEWS: Chris Cillizza, why is this guy running around with a gag on his mouth?
CILLIZZA: You know, Chris, I don‘t know, because, look, he‘s very subtly been making the judgment versus experience—that he had the judgment, if not the experience that Clinton has. But he needs to come out and say it. Look, we‘re no longer in January, February and March of this campaign. We‘ve got an election, a vote in three months time. You have to draw contrast. That‘s how campaigns work. You have to convince people why they should buy you and sell another candidate.
You know, I don‘t think he‘s done that yet. It‘s not his nature, I don‘t think. But he has to realize, if he wants to win, he has to draw that contrast more blatantly in the eyes of the voters.
MATTHEWS: My father always said if you want to be a politician, stand on the street corner, at Broad and Chest in Philadelphia with a bull horn, and attack the drones in city hall. If you really want to go at them, go at them.
We‘ll be right back with the round table. You‘re watching HARDBALL on
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Amanda, is this a two person race now, the race on the Republican side?
CARPENTER: If you look at the debate that you hosted so well on Tuesday, the first half hour of the debate was a two-man race. It‘s all Rudy and it was all Romney. Fred Thompson, who everybody expected big things from, was in the middle watching it all happen.
MATTHEWS: He was the supporting actor.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Chris? I was surprised how strong and really debonair and fun to watch Rudy and Romney were.
CILLIZZA: You know, I think what was funny is that myself and other people said they thought Fred Thompson was a winner. But he was only a winner in comparison to the incredibly low expectations that he had. If you compared him to Romney and Rudy‘s performance, frankly, they were both more polished, more familiar with the issues, just more comfortable on that stage, which I thought was strange, because Fred Thompson is someone who has made his living in front of a television camera.
I do think, just on your question, though, Chris, if Fred Thompson can‘t make a strong second place showing in New Hampshire, if he comes in third behind Huckabee or a Giuliani, assuming Romney wins, I think we‘re looking at a two-man race, with a showdown at the OK Corral in New Hampshire between Romney and Rudy.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about this; it seems that just in television technique, Rudy and Romney get it. The camera is not going to stay with the long shot of all ten guys or nine guys up there. If you say something interesting, they‘re going to go tight on you and you‘ll be the star in all of the replays.
KLEIN: Sure. And I think Rudy and Romney get something that Thompson doesn‘t, which is that it‘s a three person race. It‘s Rudy, Romney, and Clinton.
MATTHEWS: She‘s always there on the stage.
KLEIN: She‘s the omnipresent force on the stage. There‘s that really weird interchange between Rudy and Romney about—
MATTHEWS: I love it. They‘re both against her.
KLEIN: Right, where Romney says, Giuliani, you went to court to take on the line item veto.
MATTHEWS: I love this. It‘s like two guys fighting over the same girl. I‘m sorry. I love the idea too much. Anyway, thank you Ezra Klein. Thank you Amanda Carpenter. Thank you Chris Cillizza. Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now, it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.
Watch Hardball each weeknight