Guests: Roger Simon, Jonathan Capehart, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, I.S. Leevy
Johnson, D. Taylor, Terry Hickman, John Ensign, John Ralston, Jill Zuckman
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The 2008 presidential contest heats up as race
becomes an issue in the Democratic campaign. And Senator John McCain
emerges as the GOP leader in national polls.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. Two new
national polls have surprising results tonight, including a new leader on
the Republican side. More on the polls later.
And it`s getting ugly out there. Once again, the issue of race has
reared its head in the Democratic contest. On Sunday, BET founder Bob
Johnson, one of Hillary Clinton`s most prominent supporters, criticized
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB JOHNSON, BET FOUNDER: As an African-American, I am frankly
insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we
would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally
involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the
neighborhood -- that I won`t say what he was doing, but he said it in his
book -- when they have been involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Was Bob Johnson hinting there about Obama`s acknowledged
drug use when he was a young man? Johnson has denied this in a statement,
and Barack Obama`s had to refuse comments -- actually, has refused comment.
But will this fight over race divide the Democratic Party? More on this
hot topic later.
Plus, the Michigan Republican primary is tomorrow. It`s a must-win
for Mitt Romney. HARDBALL`s David Shuster`s in Michigan and will have a
live report tonight. And we`ll talk about the state of the Republican
Party politics with Nevada senator John Ensign.
And Tuesday night -- that`s tomorrow night -- Brian Williams with Tim
Russert will moderate NBC`s Democratic debate in Las Vegas at 9:00 PM
Eastern. The event airs on MSNBC, and HARDBALL will be there with live
coverage at 5:00 and 7:00. And then Keith Olbermann and I will be here
right here on MSNBC with post-debate coverage from 11:00 to 1:00 o`clock in
the morning Eastern. You don`t want to miss the first Democratic debate to
feature just the top three candidates, Clinton, Obama and Edwards. It`s
like a fight card. So make sure you tune into MSNBC for your political
news and information. That`s an advertisement.
We begin with "The Politico`s" Roger Simon and "The Washington Post`s"
Jonathan Capehart. Gentlemen, I have to talk about this, so let`s take a
look at the latest Washington/ABC poll. This is the ABC poll right now.
It`s got Hillary down by 11 points and Obama up by 14. She`s now beating
Obama by just 5. Great stuff, right?
ROGER SIMON, "POLITICO": Right.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST": It is great stuff. It means
that we still have a race going on, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, now let`s look at the "New York Times" poll, just to
completely confuse things, because that shows Hillary Clinton up by 15
points, 42 to 27. Roger, do we believe polls anymore after last week`s
debacle? I mean, here we have two completely against each other.
SIMON: After -- after New Hampshire, I think you`d have to be crazy
to believe the polls. I don`t believe anything anymore. I`m waiting to
hear -- for the people to speak themselves and willing to accept their
judgment. I think we can do analysis, I don`t think we have to do poll-
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look. OK, Mr. Tom Brokaw!
MATTHEWS: That`s what he said the night of. He said that to me.
Let`s talk about the interesting thing here...
CAPEHART: A distinct resemblance.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about this thing, Johnson with race. I mean,
everybody knows race is like the San Andreas fault in this country. You
grew up with it. I grew up with it, somewhat remotely, but it`s there.
MATTHEWS: The fact is that now we see Bob -- Bob Johnson, a very
prominent guy, a billionaire -- I think he`s the first African-American
billionaire, he started BET, he sold it to a big conglomerate. He has
raised the issue not just of the Clintons being unfairly abused as not pro-
black but raised the issue of Barack Obama`s youthful drug use. There`s no
doubt in my mind, was there in yours, what he was talking about?
CAPEHART: There is no question in my mind what Bob Johnson was saying
and what he was alluding to, despite what he says -- what he said in that
statement that the campaign -- that he released through the campaign
MATTHEWS: ... that the campaign wrote for him probably.
CAPEHART: He had it right. Three quarters of the three way through
what he was saying, that the idea that the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary
Clinton, are somehow not friends of the African-American community...
MATTHEWS: That`s BS.
CAPEHART: ... doesn`t ring true.
CAPEHART: But then to say, Well, we knew what he was doing in the
neighborhood -- I mean, just the way he said it, the look on his face. How
many times have I seen relatives of mine do that look, that sort of wink
and nod to say, I`m saying something, but I`m not saying it, but you know
what I`m saying. Know what I`m saying?
MATTHEWS: Very Nixonian, actually. That just...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Roger, it seems to me that was manifestly
true, that he was alluding to the same thing that other people in the
Clinton world have been doing, trying to nail this guy as a youthful drug
SIMON: When Bill Shaheen did it a few weeks ago in New Hampshire, a
big Hillary supporter, he had to resign for saying it. No one`s asking Bob
Johnson to take back his comments. And of course, he says he didn`t mean
it, but I totally agree his denial is not believable.
But there was a part of it that you didn`t show that`s maybe even
worse, where Bob Johnson says Barack Obama is trying to be this reasonable,
likable, Sidney Poitier type. Well, I think we know what the message of
that is, it`s back to the old accusation that Barack Obama is not black
You know, this is really uncomfortable stuff. Even at the best of
times, we don`t like talking about race in this country, and in the super-
heated atmosphere of a presidential campaign, it becomes even more
CAPEHART: And you know, Chris, this is really unfortunate, that here
we are at the -- we`re really at a moment, a very historic moment in the
country, but particularly for the Democratic Party, where you could have --
you have the first viable female candidate for president, the first viable
African-American candidate for president, both seeking the nomination for
the Democratic Party to run for president, and things seem to be running
off the rails over this issue of race. And I think both sides need to put
the lid on this...
MATTHEWS: Who`s guilty?
CAPEHART: ... while it`s hot.
MATTHEWS: Who`s guilty of raising the issue verbally? We know it`s
there, but who`s guilty of ripping the scab off this thing? Is it the
Clinton people, for talking about Martin Luther King not being able to get
the job done and LBJ...
CAPEHART: No, no, no, no, no, no...
MATTHEWS: I don`t think that`s a fair rap, myself.
CAPEHART: No, Chris. That -- you know, it`s not Senator Obama, it`s
the Obama supporters who are whipping up sort of the hysteria over, you
know, She`s trying to denigrate the good work of the Martin Luther King.
MATTHEWS: That was a bad call.
CAPEHART: That was a bad call. That`s not what she was saying. And
then I think the most egregious is sort of whipping up the flames over
whether President Clinton saying "fairy tale" was about the full campaign,
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s play referee, which is what I like to do, since
we`re not playing pundits or prognosticators anymore, Roger. Let`s take a
limited role here. On the issue, who`s guilty, who`s not? Are the
Clintons guilty in any way of abusing the memory, the legacy of Martin
Luther King, in saying Lyndon Johnson had to do the dirty political work of
getting the bill passed through Congress, getting Republicans to vote for
it -- rather largely, they did vote for it -- getting the job done after
Martin Luther King had started it? Is that an attack on Martin Luther
King, or is that a phony foul, a fake foul, that there was nothing said
that was wrong there?
SIMON: No, I think what was said was wrong. I think it was
unfortunate to take on the iconic figure of Martin Luther King and use it
in this political way and to denigrate in some way what he accomplished in
CAPEHART: Roger, I`m sorry, you can`t -- Roger, that`s not -- that is
not true. She was not denigrating what -- what Martin Luther King did. I
mean, when you study Civil Rights history...
SIMON: She said, Look, you know -- you know (INAUDIBLE) She said
dreaming is one thing and accomplishing is another.
CAPEHART: Yes, and then she also...
SIMON: She drew a bright line between dreaming the dream and
CAPEHART: But Roger, she also said that Dr. King...
SIMON: And I think most people -- many people would agree...
CAPEHART: ... he marched, he was gassed...
SIMON: ... that Dr. King accomplished a lot.
CAPEHART: ... he was arrested, he was beaten and he went to jail for
all these things. And remember the "I have a dream" speech was not the
beginning of the Civil Rights movement. That was the high point of the
Civil Rights movement, with Dr. King standing there on the Lincoln
Memorial, facing the Capitol, saying to the nation and to Congress, You
must do this for me and for our people and for our nation. And he knew
SIMON: And I think if she had said all those things...
CAPEHART: ... he needed -- he needed President Johnson to get this
done because that`s why -- in the equivalent today, Dr. King had Lyndon
Johnson on speed dial. He knew he needed to have a legislative -- had to
MATTHEWS: Roger, your response to that?
CAPEHART: ... to make his dream a reality.
SIMON: Jonathan, if I can interject for a moment here?
CAPEHART: I`m done.
SIMON: If Hillary Clinton had made the case that you just made and
made it in the way you just made it, there`d be no controversy today. She
didn`t do it. And in a campaign where every word is parsed carefully,
studied, focus -- grouped and polled and decided upon in a conference call
that morning, it`s hard to believe the choice of words she made was
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take a look at her choice of words. Here`s
Hillary Clinton on Fox last week. Let`s take a look. This is the
objection of discussion here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dr.
King`s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the
Civil Rights Act of 1964.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And here`s what she said on "Meet the Press" with Tim
SIMON: So where`s all the high-flowing language?
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this -- more of this -- more of this
SIMON: Yes, where`s all the high-falutin` language?
MATTHEWS: Well, I guess that was it. Go ahead, Jonathan.
CAPEHART: Well, the point -- I mean, Roger does make a very good
point in saying that when talking about -- when talking about race, and
particularly about Dr. King, that you do have to be careful. You do have
to be more mindful of the fact that people are going to construe what
you`re saying in all sorts of ways...
CAPEHART: But you know -- but you know what? Here`s the thing that
we haven`t talked about. For the longest time, the Clintons have, for lack
of a better description, owned the African-American vote. Remember,
President Clinton is -- is affectionately called "the first black
MATTHEWS: Toni Morrison said that.
CAPEHART: Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate, was the first one to say
it, and people adopted it. But now the Clintons have to -- I think have to
adjust to this new terrain. They don`t have this terrain to themselves
anymore. They have Barack Obama there.
MATTHEWS: OK. I`m trying to find objectivity here. I guess I can`t
find it. Let me go to you, Roger, on one last thing. Do you agree the
people around Clinton -- Bob Johnson, work our way backwards through Mark
Penn on this program, working further backward to Billy Shaheen -- that
these people tend to be pushing the line? We should be focusing on this
young man`s youthful indiscretions in the drug area, that that`s
SIMON: I think that is the effect. I think that`s what`s happened.
You can judge their motivations. We can`t -- we can`t look into their
souls and see why they did it. But certainly, that`s what the effect has
been. They constantly raise this issue.
And look, from Hillary Clinton`s point of view, this is what was in
danger of happening, that Barack Obama was making the case that voting for
him was a redemptive act, that Americans could feel good about themselves,
about their country and about their image in the world if they voted for
this black man. From her point of view, Obama has raised race from day
one, and she is just doing what he has always done by raising it again.
MATTHEWS: Last word, Jonathan.
CAPEHART: I just think that the Democratic Party and both Senator
Clinton and Obama and their surrogates just need to cut it out because I
think the damage could possibly be irreversible.
MATTHEWS: You know what I`m thinking, weirdly enough? This fight may
require that they form a ticket as the only way to seal this after this
bloodletting. After this kind of talk, it seems to me the only way to
satisfy those who lose this race eventually is to put it together.
CAPEHART: Well, if they don`t put a lid on it now, if it keeps going
the way it`s going -- it looks like it`s going, you might be right.
MATTHEWS: Would you agree with me, Roger, if they don`t stop this
now, it`s going to be very hard to heal the wounds short of a national
compact between the two of them on a ticket together?
SIMON: I do. I wrote months ago, even before the race stuff started
as heated as it is now, that there`s going to be enormous pressure if
Barack Obama does not win the nomination, and he might, to put him on the
SIMON: ... depending on if he really wants to spend the next four or
eight years going...
MATTHEWS: Right. OK. Got to go.
MATTHEWS: Oh, don`t put down the vice presidency here. It`s been a
very powerful job for a man named Dick Cheney. Anyway, thank you,
gentlemen, Roger Simon...
SIMON: It`ll be a very powerful one for Bill Clinton.
MATTHEWS: OK. Jonathan Capehart.
Coming up, much more on the fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack
Obama -- it`s getting a little ugly out there -- and the issue of race.
And by the way, don`t forget, tomorrow at 9:00 PM Eastern, for the
first time on our stage, only the top three Democrats debate. It`s Clinton
versus Obama versus Edwards. The field is narrowing. This is the game of
"Survivor." Live from Las Vegas, and what happens in Vegas won`t stay in
Vegas, thanks to MSNBC.
Plus, all the results from the Michigan primary tomorrow and that big
battle between Mitt Romney and John McCain.
And in one hour tonight, it`s the brand-new HARDBALL "Power Rankings."
That`s 7:00 o`clock Eastern. We`ve got interesting rankings for you.
You`re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we also have to
have a tax code and a set of laws that are responsible and make sure the
people who are working and not making huge amounts of money, that they are
able to make ends meet and live out the American dream. And that
increasingly is fading away for a lot of people. So that`s one of the
reasons I`m running for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That looks like an exciting meeting.
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. Senator Obama called Hillary
Clinton`s remarks about Martin Luther King and LBJ, quote, "unfortunate and
ill-advised." I love the language people use. Hillary accused his
campaign of distorting her comments. And BET founder Bob Johnson, well,
seemed to allude -- let`s put it lightly -- to Obama`s youthful drug use at
a Hillary event and referred to him as Sidney Poitier -- in other words,
the perfect black man in "Guess Who`s Coming to Dinner."
Will the issue of race divide the Democratic Party? U.S.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas is the national campaign chair --
co-chair for Hillary Clinton, and former South Carolina state senator (SIC)
I.S. Leevy Johnson is the Obama supporter -- is an Obama supporter. There
are many of them, obviously.
Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us. What do you make
of Bob Johnson`s role here, saying a positive thing about the Clintons,
Don`t accuse them of not being concerned and supportive of black causes and
black aspirations in this country, but then to go on and make an allusion,
a pretty clear-cut allusion, to Barack Obama and youthful drug use? Was he
right in the beginning and wrong at the end?
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX), CLINTON CAMPAIGN NATIONAL CO-CHAIR:
Well, first of all, tomorrow is Dr. Martin Luther King`s birthday, and
State Representative, I`m so proud of your leadership in South Carolina.
Obviously, South Carolina is one of the seats of the Civil Rights movement.
But I think the importance of Dr. King`s holiday tomorrow and the
national celebration next week really should move all of us to take
people`s words as they have indicated and to bring to a conclusion any
divide on the question of race and to move these campaigns toward the real
I have a book on Dr. Martin Luther King, and I have seen nothing in
here, in fact, that would suggest Dr. King didn`t understand the value of
politics and politicians and moving them. In fact, a speech that he gave
in 1957, "Give us the ballot, and we will change the South."
Senator Hillary Rodham`s Clinton is a heart that admires and loves Dr.
King, as she has said. And if anyone can point to me in her past life or
political life, her public life, where she said one denigrating comment
about a diverse person, then that`s the real question about this candidacy,
not the words of surrogates, not the words that are interpreted by other
campaigns, but frankly, what is in Senator Clinton`s heart?
Many of us know what`s in her heart, including John Lewis...
LEE: ... who certainly marched across the Edmund Pettis Bridge and
was a bloodied not victim, but victor of the Civil Rights movement. He is
supporting Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
MATTHEWS: I.S., there tends to be a pattern here, however, of Clinton
people, starting with Shaheen up in New Hampshire, then her message
director, Mark Penn, and then Bob Johnson, certainly a brilliant guy, a
billionaire, knows what he`s talking about -- all brought up that drug use
issue. What is that about, as you see it?
LEE: Well, I think, you know...
MATTHEWS: No, I want to go to I.S. I.S.
I.S. LEEVY JOHNSON (D-SC), FORMER STATE REPRESENTATIVE: The fact that
he`s a billionaire does not mean that he`s brilliant. His comments fueled
an issue that is diverting us from the real important issues in this
campaign, and it needs to be brought to a close. It is important in this
election for the issues that are affecting the public to be debated. And
what we`re doing now is detouring away from those important issues.
Here in South Carolina, there is some support for Hillary Clinton.
However, there`s more support for Obama. And the people in South Carolina
are more interested in education, economics, a reference -- you know, what
Bob Johnson said was appalling. But, more importantly, his body language,
the way he said it really underscored that he was making a statement that
he now regrets.
And a reference to what he -- what Barack Obama did as a youth, it
does not make one iota of a difference now. Now he`s matured. Now he`s a
graduate of Harvard University, was head of "Law Review."
He is imminently qualified to be the next president of the United
JACKSON-LEE: I am delighted to agree with the state representative --
former state representative -- on a portion of his remarks.
Absolutely, we need to move forward. We need to heal. We need to
come together in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, who fully understood
his movement helped to move Lyndon Baines Johnson and the United States
Congress toward the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voter Rights
However, we need to take people at their words. I didn`t hear what
Bob Johnson said that had to do with any drug use. It said something about
what people were doing in the neighborhood. You could be organizing in the
We need to stop agreeing to innuendo and really listen to facts.
JACKSON-LEE: And when the gentleman from New Hampshire, Mr. Shaheen,
made those comments, our campaign was quick to denounce him and remove him.
However, when the Barack campaign -- Barack Obama`s campaign mentioned
or gave innuendo to the fact that Senator Clinton might have had something
to do with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto`s death, nothing was done.
But I want to stop that now. Let us heal this bridge, if you will,
and tell the American people that a woman can represent all of the people,
and, yes, the candidacy of Senator Obama can, as well. We believe our
candidate is ready to lead, ready to serve and has the ideas to heal the
pain of America, the economic solutions.
JACKSON-LEE: We believe she is ready to solve those problems for
MATTHEWS: Well, Congresswoman, this is what Bob Johnson said that --
let`s watch Bob Johnson talk for himself.
Congresswoman, you decide whether you think this is, in any way,
unclear what he is talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB JOHNSON, FOUNDER, BLACK ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION: As an African-
American, I am, frankly, insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that
we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have
been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues...
B. JOHNSON: ... when Barack Obama was doing something in the
neighborhood that I won`t say what he was doing, but he said it in his
book, when they have been involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: "When he was doing something in the neighborhood, and I
won`t say what he was doing."
What do you mean -- you think he meant by that, Congresswoman?
JACKSON-LEE: Well, I think, again, we should, Chris, look to the
hearts of the candidates. There is nothing that I see in Senator Clinton`s
heart that would suggest that she would say anything negative about
African-Americans, Latinos, women, or Senator Barack Obama.
An African-American male in the name of Bob Johnson is supporting this
campaign. I`m enthusiastic about that. Why? Because men, women, of all
races, colors and creeds are supporting this campaign, and that`s the only
Why don`t we ask Senator Clinton if she has any comment as to the
background of Senator Obama?
JACKSON-LEE: And you would get an absolute, resounding no.
I agree with the gentleman from South Carolina. There are supports of
Senator Clinton in South Carolina, supporters of Senator Barack Obama.
JACKSON-LEE: We`re not going to leave any stone unturned to get
voters, and we`re going to show them our heart. We`re going to tell them
we care about them, and we`re going to tell them that we, too, admire and
love and have an affection for Dr. King.
JACKSON-LEE: He is an icon and he helped save America.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Congresswoman.
Thank you very much...
L. JOHNSON: But nobody -- but nobody can ignore the fact that we
understood what Bob Johnson was referring to. You canned Shaheen. Why
don`t you can Bob Johnson? And what was...
MATTHEWS: How do you can a billionaire who`s not working for you?
L. JOHNSON: Well, he`s a surrogate. Don`t put him on the campaign -
- on the campaign trail. He`s out there speaking for the campaign.
MATTHEWS: Well, they made him -- they force-fed him to read that
statement. They had to put that statement out in his name. Of course they
have already bugged him. I`m sure he`s not happy about having to put that
statement out. That`s probably as far as they got.
Look, I`m not going to intervene here.
Thank you both. This is a touchy time. Everyone is touchy. I hope
people aren`t using dog whistles to send...
JACKSON-LEE: Touchy-feely. I hope -- I hope that we exude the love
of Dr. King.
MATTHEWS: OK. I think you`re right.
L. JOHNSON: We`re not touchy.
MATTHEWS: And we got to have guys who stop sending out dog whistle
signals, too, that some people -- the bad people hear, even if the good
people pretend they can`t hear them.
Anyway, thank you very much, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson...
JACKSON-LEE: A lot of good people around, Chris.
MATTHEW: The majority, I hope, my lady.
JACKSON-LEE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for coming on...
JACKSON-LEE: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: ... Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas and I.S. Leevy Johnson of
Up next: the HARDBALL "Big Number." And, tonight, it`s a big example
of how bad this race has gotten. We are going to talk about what we just
saw, with Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama, and what it`s become right now.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
So, what other wild politics can we expose tonight?
Well, first, from the police blotter: two driving-under-the-influence
cases, one involving Cate Edwards, daughter of the Democratic presidential
candidate. Her car was hit from behind at a stoplight the other day by a
driver who was charged with driving while impaired.
The other DUI case involves Sid Blumenthal, a senior adviser to the
Clinton campaign. Fortunately -- and I don`t use that word lightly -- both
drivers must be relieved to know that no one was hurt in either accident.
For my friend Sid, it`s far better to short suffer a short, small-term
humiliation than what could have happened, and you may well -- and may well
inevitably happen again, if people drink and drive.
Let`s check in with some of the fun President Bush is having on his
whirlwind Middle East tour.
Our first stop, the United Arab Emirates, where President Bush got to
play with some trained hawks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You guys are making
BUSH: He`s never had a press conference before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that could be the most awkward presidential moment
since -- well, since this moment in Israel a few days later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t what to make of that.
Anyway, we have been discussing -- as have been discussing, this
Saturday, we have the Nevada Democratic caucuses. And, as you remember
from Iowa, those caucuses are interesting affairs. Friends, neighbors and
colleagues actually gather together in homes and debate the candidates
before publicly declaring their allegiances.
Well, everything in Las Vegas, of course, is just a little bit more
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SWINGERS")
VINCE VAUGHN, ACTOR: You dig that? We`re going to Vegas, Mike.
JON FAVREAU, ACTOR: Vegas!
FAVREAU: You think we can get there by midnight?
VAUGHN: Money, we are going to be up five hundy by midnight.
FAVREAU: Yes, Vegas!
Vegas, baby! Vegas!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Case in point, caucus-goers this weekend will descend upon
the famed Bellagio Hotel, which you have perhaps seen in movies like
And amidst the cocktail waitresses and craps tables, they will come
together to pick a president.
Jack Kennedy used to say, nun are all Democrats and bishops are all
Republicans. Well, do you think croupiers and waitresses are all
Democrats, and the pit bosses and casino managers are all Republicans? I
wonder about those things.
And, finally, it`s time for the HARDBALL "Big Number" tonight. It`s
been coming through this show. As you know by now, Barack Obama admits in
his own memoir that he used cocaine when he was growing up. Even if you
haven`t read the book, you probably know about it from all kinds of
sources, like the Clinton campaign.
Well, first, it was Billy Shaheen, Clinton`s national co-chair, who
brought up the cocaine issue. He resigned from the campaign afterward, but
not before the damage had been done. Then it was campaign adviser Mark
Penn who brought up the cocaine issue right here on HARDBALL.
Now, as we mentioned earlier in the show, its influential Clinton
backer and BET founder Bob Johnson who brought it up yet again. How many
times is that in total? Three -- three mentions of Obama`s cocaine use for
political gain, three, tonight`s "Big Number." Will we hear four?
Up next: the union fight at the heart of the battle for Nevada.
And don`t forget tomorrow night`s Democratic debate live from Las
Vegas. It`s the first debate limited to the top three, Clinton, Obama, and
Edwards. The debate is at 9:00 Eastern.
And then stay with MSNBC for full coverage of the Michigan primary
results. That`s also tomorrow, a doubleheader tomorrow night.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Rebecca Jarvis with your
CNBC "Market Wrap."
Stocks rallying today -- the Dow Jones industrials gained nearly 172
points. The S&P 500 climbed 15. The Nasdaq was up 48 points.
Stocks got a boost from a better-than-expected preliminary earnings
report by IBM. The tech giant said its fourth-quarter profit jumped 24
percent. IBM shares were up more than 5 percent today.
CNBC has learned that Citigroup plans to announce a write-down of as
much as $24 billion, and layoffs this year could reach 24,000. Previously,
it was estimated the layoffs could reach 20,000. It`s all because of
subprime and credit-related losses.
Gold climbing to another all-time high, above $910 an ounce, before
closing at a record high above $901 an ounce, up more than $5 for the day.
And oil rose $1.51 in New York, closing at $94.20 a barrel.
That`s it from CNBC, America`s business channel -- now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In Iowa, caucus-goers assembled at neighbors` homes and community
centers and churches to decide whom to support. In Nevada, caucus-goers
could go to meetings in such Vegas Strip hot spots as the Bellagio, Luxor,
Caesar`s Palace, this to accommodate shift workers, who otherwise might not
be able to attend a caucus, because they work on Saturdays.
But a Nevada teachers union has taken issue and is suing to stop
caucusing at the casinos.
D. Taylor is with the Culinary Workers Union Local 226. And Terry
Hickman is with the Nevada State Education Association.
First of all, D. Taylor, why is it important to your membership, your
rank and file, Mr. Taylor, to be able to caucus at places like Bellagio?
D. TAYLOR, CULINARY WORKERS UNION LOCAL 226: Because they have to
TAYLOR: I mean, here, we have a very busy weekend. You know, our
membership is women, people of color. They serve the food. They cook the
food. They obviously do the kind of work -- they make the beds. It`s
very, very important. The hotels understand that. The Democratic Party
obviously understands that.
They approved this back in March of last year unanimously, no problem.
The Democratic National Committee approved it in August, no problem. All
the campaigns knew about it. Two days after we endorsed Senator Obama,
five plaintiffs, three of them who had been on the committee to approve it
back in March, all of a sudden, who are tied with the Clinton campaign, are
opposed to this.
So, we know this is part of the Clinton campaign. In fact, President
Clinton today said he`s against the at-large precincts. What that will do
is disenfranchise the exact reason why the caucus came here, diversity and
union members. So, the Clinton campaign has clearly shown they are
interested in disenfranchising the exact same people as the reason why the
caucus came here.
So, we`re saddened by that. It reminds me of the tactics the
Republicans used in Florida. But, obviously, our members are used to
fighting. We have a diverse membership. We`re very excited about this. A
lot of our members just became citizens.
So, it would be the first time they could actually have a voice in the
presidency. We have members who have been disillusioned with the political
TAYLOR: They are excited about it. They would be disenfranchised,
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Terry.
Terry Hickman, you`re the teachers union, the NEA, out there in
Nevada. Why are you opposed to the caucusing at casinos, like Bellagio and
Caesar`s Palace, this Saturday?
TERRY HICKMAN, NEVADA STATE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: Well, our issue
for caucuses is one of absolute fairness.
We believe that special accommodations are fine for some, they are
fine for everyone. We don`t believe that where you work should determine
your ability to have access to the caucuses.
We have hundreds of employees who are members of the Nevada State
Education Association who are going to be working the caucus sites because
they`re in many schools. They`re not going to be allowed to participate in
the caucus because it`s not their home caucus.
We think that everyone should have the opportunity, and that
opportunity should not be based upon any other thing than the opportunity
for fairness. That is our issue.
HICKMAN: That is why we signed on to the suit.
MATTHEWS: What teachers will be working Saturday night?
HICKMAN: Well, the Nevada State Education Association has over 10,000
members who are education support professionals.
And when schools are open -- and they will be Saturday for a lot of
the day -- hundreds of custodians and others will be working those schools.
And, when they are not able to participate, they are disenfranchised from
the very process they are there to help make work.
MATTHEWS: Why didn`t you guys get on the job of this months ago, when
you saw this coming, and work to get equal opportunity for teachers and
educational administrators and support people? Why didn`t you fight for
the same opportunities that the casino people have gotten?
HICKMAN: Well, we became aware of this only in the last while.
Unfortunately -- we wish we had been able to do it sooner. But now that we
know about it, and now that we`re totally aware of it, we think that
disenfranchisement is an issue. It is certainly something we believe in as
an association. We believe that everyone can have that opportunity.
MATTHEWS: OK, would you have raised this issue -- let me go back to
D. Taylor. D., you`re saying that the reason they`re doing this,
complaining, is because Hillary Clinton didn`t get your organization`s, the
Local 226`s, endorsement.
TAYLOR: Oh, yes, this is just a ruse. We all know that. Everybody
here in Nevada knows that. You know, all politics is local. Three of the
plaintiffs on this literally approved these rules back in March. They are
tied with the Clinton campaign. President Clinton today came out against
the at-large precincts. So he is in support of disenfranchising thousands
upon thousands of workers, not even just our members.
So we don`t even -- listen, the Teachers Union is just being used
here. We understand that. This is the Clinton campaign. You know, they
tried to disenfranchise students in Iowa. Now they are trying to
disenfranchise people here in Nevada who are union members, people of color
and women, because they didn`t get the endorsement.
That`s why we supported Senator Barack Obama. He`s talking about
inclusion, not division, not about excluding people.
MATTHEWS: Do you think -- should teachers and other educational
support people be allowed to vote at the schools that they teach at and
work at? Do you think that`s appropriate?
TAYLOR: Of course I do. But this is not a primary; this is a caucus.
You only have two hours.
MATTHEWS: So if they`re working that weekend, you are saying they
should be able -- I`m asking you, I`m not telling you. Do you think that
people that work at a school should be allowed to caucus at that school?
TAYLOR: I don`t know. I don`t know the rules of all the caucus. I
just know the rules that affect our folks. It is ironic to think about it
that we have a major move to disenfranchise people of color on Martin
Luther King weekend.
MATTHEWS: I know. Well, wherever -- as they say in Washington -- as
they say in Washington, where you stand is where you sit. Anyway, thank
you very much, D. Taylor and Terry Hickman.
Up next, we`ll get the latest from the ground in Michigan with the hot
primary, which could decide if there is a future for Mitt Romney and what
kind of future John McCain is going to face after tomorrow night. This is
HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. well, tomorrow night`s actually
the big Michigan primary. It`s a must-win for Mitt Romney. The polls show
the race is a toss-up. I mean it. The McClatchty/MSNBC poll has Romney up
by eight. Reuters has McCain ahead by three. I just love these. The
"Detroit Free Press" poll has Romney up by five. The "Detroit News" has
McCain leading by one.
The nice thing about these polls is they are clearly in conflict, so
we don`t have to believe them, unlike last week in New Hampshire, where we
believed them because they were consistently wrong. HARDBALL correspondent
David Schuster is in Michigan. He joins us with more. Not to blame the
pollsters, but Michigan seems to be all over the place. David?
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, that`s right. One of the
hard things the pollsters have to do out here is try to figure out how many
independents and Democrats are going to participate, because the Democratic
race is totally meaningless. The Democrats were essentially told not to
campaign here. How many Democrats cross over, that will be crucial.
Mitt Romney, Chris, is laying everything on the line here in Michigan.
He pulled his ads in other states so he could run heavier here. Mitt
Romney`s father was governor of Michigan 40 years ago. Romney`s been
talking about the Michigan`s concerns and how it`s personal to him and he`s
been talking about his family connections at every event. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: My dad didn`t finish college and yet his first great
accomplishment, in my view, was being able to go on and become the head of
a car company.
He ran a car company right here in Detroit. And then -- and then he
went on to run for governor of Michigan. And he became governor of
Michigan three times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: The economy here in Michigan stinks. It has the highest
unemployment in the nation. All the candidates are talking about that.
Mitt Romney in particular has been criticizing John McCain for McCain`s
insistence on fuel efficiency standards. That has not set very well, of
course, that position, with the auto industry. But Romney is a free-trader
and that doesn`t sit very well with Michigan either.
As for John McCain, he`s been given a heavily dose of realism, saying
that jobs that left Michigan are not coming back. McCain was under fire
today because of a mailer in South Carolina attacking Mitt Romney. Here`s
the mailer; John McCain`s mailer essentially said that Mitt Romney raised
taxes in Massachusetts and essentially supported tax-payer funded
abortions. McCain was on the defensive today here in Michigan, having to
explain why he`s going negative already in South Carolina. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will respond. Now,
we won`t go tit for tat, but we will respond and we will make clear that
this kind of negative campaigning didn`t work for him in Iowa when he
attacked Governor Huckabee. It didn`t work in New Hampshire when he spent
millions attacking me. And I don`t think it will work in Michigan where he
spent millions attacking me. And it won`t work in South Carolina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Now, as McCain and Romney tear each other apart, the guy
that`s hoping to benefit is the economic populist on the Republican side,
Mike Huckabee. He`s been talking about the great economic concerns here in
Michigan, has been saying that the federal government must step in and
help. Here`s Huckabee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Michigan saved America.
And now it`s time for America to return the favor and help save Michigan
when it`s in trouble, and it`s in trouble today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: And, again, Chris, the key issue here in Michigan, jobs.
The state has lost tens of thousands of jobs, 25,000 Chrysler alone just
over the last year. Michigan is in a very pessimistic mood going into this
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster in Detroit. Now back to Nevada.
We`re joined by Republican senator from Nevada, John Ensign. Thank you for
Let`s talk about the races coming up in the Republican party. Right
now, you`ve got the race in Michigan tomorrow, between -- or among, I think
it`s fair to say, Romney, McCain and Huckabee. Then we go to your state
for the caucuses, which have been diminished in importance for some reason
you can explain. And then this same day, next Saturday -- this Saturday
rather, we`ve got the South Carolina caucuses.
Put it together. Is this going to winnow the field for your party?
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: I`m not sure that we`re going to have a
nominee even after February 5th, Super Tuesday. We may come down to a
convention. I`ve never seen it this competitive, this long in -- at least
in my lifetime, or at least as long as I`ve been involved in politics. So
it`s fascinating to watch.
MATTHEWS: Is this Damascus on the road to St. Paul? A reverse of the
biblical? I mean, all the way to St. Paul, is it going to be chaos? It
looks like it might be, unless McCain Wins tomorrow night. In that case,
if McCain wins tomorrow night, does he become the clear front-runner, sir?
ENSIGN: I`m not -- I`m not sure about that. You will still have Rudy
Giuliani out there, who is playing all of his cards down in Florida, and
some of the other big states. So I`m not exactly sure how it`s going to
The one thing that I think is exciting is, because there is no clear
front-runner, whoever`s going to come out of this is going to be battle
tested. They are going to absolutely have to put on their game face in the
primary, and not just have to wait for the general election. Sorry, I`m
having problem with my earpiece.
MATTHEWS: I can hear you. Let me ask you, senator, why do you think
the Democrats, 58 percent, just nationally polled, say they are very
enthusiastic about voting this fact, in fact more enthusiastic -- 58
percent of them -- more enthusiastic than before? And on the Republican
side, only 32 percent of the people are unusually enthusiastic? I`ve never
seen that kind of dichotomy? Why is your party so un-thrilled with this
ENSIGN: Well, you know, I think that there are a lot of reasons out
there. But, Chris, as you know, there is a long time between now and next
November. I`d rather have our party a little behind now as far as
enthusiasm, but be ahead on enthusiasm when it comes down in November. Six
weeks would be an eternity in politics, but this many months before the
election, it`s impossible to make predictions.
MATTHEWS: Sometimes when I listen to my colleague, Pat Buchanan, I
listen to Karl Rove or read him in the "Wall Street Journal," I get the
suspicious -- maybe it`s not appropriate -- but the suspicion, as they
build up Hillary Clinton, that they want this big basted turkey for
Thanksgiving, that they want her because they think they can beat her. And
I`m not sure they`re right.
Do you think some people in your party are happy with the prospect of
running against Hillary Clinton come November?
ENSIGN: I`m actually happier that we have two candidates that are
going to have to really battle it out on the Democrats` side, spend a lot
of the money and not have a clear front-runner right now. So, I think it`s
healthy for the American electorate to have clear choices, and to battle
out in the primary on both sides and then to have the, you know, top two
candidates face off in the general. I think it is actually good for the
country. You`ll be able to see in many, many debates -- you`ll be able to
test and see, are they consistent on their issues, so in next November we
can elect a person who would be best to lead the United States.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Senator John Ensign of Nevada.
When we return, the round table will be here for the politics fix.
You`re watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix tonight.
Tonight our round table, Jill Zuckman of "The Chicago Tribune" and John
Ralston of the "Las Vegas Sun."
Let me start in Las Vegas, John, with this debate. How do we figure
out who is going to win the Nevada caucuses on the Democratic side this
Saturday night? It is so close. You have your poll out there at 32-30-27
among Obama, Clinton, and Edwards. These are so close it is unbelievable.
JOHN RALSTON, "LAS VEGAS SUN COLUMNIST": It`s hard to tell. We have
never done this before out here in Nevada. I mean, who knows what the
turnout could be with 9,000 four years ago on the Democratic side when we
were on Valentine`s Day. How much interest is out there? Harry Reid, the
majority leader who got the caucus here, says 100,000. I think he is
living in a fantasy world.
But could they get half of that? Maybe. But where are these polls?
Where are they coming from? Who are they polling? I don`t know if they
got the right universe. But it is clear that --
MATTHEWS: How do you know it is going to go?
RALSTON: The Culinary Union has a big impact.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Jill. This thing is big. Everybody thought
about a week ago, you know, that Obama would win New Hampshire. We all
did. Let`s face it, we are looking at every single poll that said he
would. Then we`re all looking at the fact the Culinary Union, the big
restaurant and casino union out there, was all going to endorse Barack. So
he`s going to win two in a row. Can he still win out there?
JILL ZUCKMAN, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": I mean, he could. Nobody really
knows because this is such an untested area in Nevada. I think the only
thing we can bank on right now is that it is going to be very chilly on
that debate stage tomorrow night between Obama and Senator Clinton.
MATTHEWS: They are getting very personal. Let me ask you about the
field. How`s it sizing up out there, John, between the two? Can you give
me the cut of the jib of the person backing Hillary and the same thing with
regard to Obama? How is it splitting up back and forth. Is it class? Is
it ethnic? What is it?
RALSTON: All the Democrats -- all of the Democratic party
establishment essentially -- I mean, Harry Reid has tried to stay out of
it, but his son, Rory Reid, who was the chairman of the County Commission,
managed to rope in a whole bunch of establishment endorsements, the state
Senate minority leader, former Governor Bob Miller. They are all with
Hillary Clinton. She has an amazing amount of free media just from all of
She`s also making a pitch out here, though, Chris, to the Hispanic
community and she has a lot of support in the Hispanic community, including
a very prominent young assembly-man, Ruben Keewan (ph), who has been
escorting her around and trying to get support for her.
Obama, the Culinary Union Workers are really behind him now. And you
talked a little bit about that lawsuit before. The real interesting
political fallout from that is D. Taylor trying to energize his members.
The Clintons are trying to go right to the heart of the Culinary Union
Membership, 40 percent or so Hispanic.
MATTHEWS: John, out of time, buddy. Thank you. We will catch you
out there. Thank you, Jill Zuckman. Wish we had more time, John Ralston.
Tomorrow night the Democrats debate in Las Vegas. We`ll have complete
coverage starting at 9:00 Eastern.
Also, tomorrow, all the results from the Michigan primary, Republican
primary. That`s the hot one. See you then.
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