KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: To set the scene for you, we truly are
in uncharted waters. Even in 1952, the unpopular president of that day, Harry
Truman, his vice president, Alvin Barkley, were both briefly on the ballots in
some of the Democratic primaries of that winter and spring. Thus, we will see
a president and a vice president jointly chairing—with the speaker of the
House, obviously—uninvested in the active politicking of the moment while
giving a State of the Union address. That will be for the first time ever.
And I use that verb “see” deliberately. The last time anything like this happened, 1928, with Calvin Coolidge. There was, of course, no TV. No Mr. Coolidge’s speech, then still known by its formal title, the President’s Annual Message to Congress. It was nationally broadcast on radio as long ago as 1923. So that’s the historical oddness of the thing, Mr. Matthews.
Let’s pick up on the point that I interrupted you at, at the start of the hour here, the idea that we may have just seen a vice presidential candidate walk in.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Condoleezza Rice, despite the difficulties of this foreign policy, including the war, which is immensely unpopular—a very small number of Americans like the war in Iraq or the decision to go to war in Iraq—Condoleezza Rice has escaped largely unscathed by that. People really like her. She is likable and impressive.
And I have to think, given the ethnic, you know, excitement—let’s call it American excitement about Barack Obama—if he doesn’t make it to the nomination, a lot of people on the Republican side might say, well, why don’t we try to do something to offset that and take advantage of the hope of having an African-American in a high level of government. And certainly, she is a very impressive person. And I think the Republican Party especially likes her.
So she might balance off a ticket of Romney very effectively, and as well as certain McCain as well, if either one of them wins this thing.
OLBERMANN: Of course, the aides, Chris, to Mr. Bush have acknowledged the difficulty of getting Americans to pay attention in a time when record turnout in the primaries, particularly the Democratic primaries, indicating how eagerly the nation is looking forward to the next administration, no matter who it is, no matter what political stripe it wears. But is this distraction in a way like the Bill Clinton 1998 speech, when everybody was thinking about the Lewinsky scandal, which had just broken? She might as well have been in the room. The fact that he didn’t mention her was essentially the lead story that night.
I mean, not to try to make people pop in a DVD of “Seinfeld” or something, but is that the degree to which this speech is almost irrelevant to the world that surrounds it right now, even the political world?
MATTHEWS: Well, I think the way the president set this up tonight, there are at least a couple of questions people want answered tonight. There is Ted Kennedy, of course. He made such a barn burner speech, a real tubthumper, I should say, for Barack today at AU, American University.
The first answer they want concerns the stimulus package and the dollar, the checks that are going to be mailed to so many Americans—in fact, all of us to some extent. I think they want an answer to that, and they also want an answer to the war ending, still, no matter what the president says.
I think the two questions on the minds of the American people going into this tonight are, when is the check coming? And when is the war ending?
I think they would like to get those answers tonight.
I wish we would get a very solid answer to both of those. We may get an answer to the first. And probably the president prodding the Senate now, the Democrats in the Senate, to move quickly on his stimulus package and at the same time give us some sense of the longevity of this war that apparently continues without end, with five Americans getting killed today. This is a real war that continues. And I think that despite the fact that it is off the front pages, doesn’t make it any less real for those who have suffered from it and continue to do so.
OLBERMANN: How does he, and as we await the call of the—the familiar call of the “ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States,” does the president leaven Iraq in some way by emphasizing his efforts in the Middle East, late in his presidency though they may have been?
MATTHEWS: He may try, but there is no sign of life there. Re-establishing a road map is not going to excite anybody.
You know, I have to tell a story. Back in 1982, I was administrative assistant to the speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill. And Ronald Reagan came to give the speech, and I was hosting him, because the irony is that the speaker of the House—in this case, the opposition leader—was the host.
And I walked in to see the president. I had never met President Reagan before. I said, “Mr. President, welcome to the room where we plot against you.” You know what he said? Ronald Reagan? He said, “no, not after 6:00. It’s after 6:00. The speaker says we’re all friends after 6:00.”
You know, I think that spirit is something we would like to see come back. Not that they will agree to do nothing, but they agree to do something. I think that’s what we want. Not an agreement on tranquility and comity, or even comedy, but an agreement that actually says to the other side, let’s agree on one thing, let’s move this thing. Let’s make some change happen here.
OLBERMANN: Here is the call, Chris.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Speaker, the president of the United States!
MATTHEWS: (inaudible) members of Congress on both sides of that political aisle have waited there for hours to get those very opportune seats. Don Keys (ph) of Ohio is there. Loretta Sanchez is there from California. They are all waiting there. Olympia Snowe of Maine. They are all waiting there a long time to get this opportunity to be seen in this picture tonight. I think that was Chris Shays who just gave the president a peck on the cheek there.
OLBERMANN: And obviously, we saw Mr. Boehner and Mr. Hoyer of the House following him. There they are in the shot. Is there—are there Republicans, Chris, who got there later to make sure they were not in this shot? We talked...
MATTHEWS: Well, that is a question.
OLBERMANN: It seems to me that they are perceiving that he is, if not a positive in the campaign ahead, but he is less of a negative than he was, say, three, four months ago. Is that a valid assessment or is that anecdotal?
MATTHEWS: Well, I think the funny thing about being a member of Congress—there is Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, of course, a Democrat—the irony is, of course, they want to be seen as outsiders and challengers of the system, but yet they want their people at home, who vote for them every two years, to actually see them at work, just to see them showing up tonight. It’s a strange thing, voters. They keep saying they hate the Congress and keep reelecting 96 percent of them. So I’m not sure the voters have figured out what to do with these politicians, much less the politicians figuring out what to do with their jobs at some point.
OLBERMANN: I’m sorry, not that they introduced the president, but that they introduced him at exactly the moment that you were talking about Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan and after 6:00. It does seem as if American politics is always at about 5:30, does it not, or somewhere 5:30 and 6:00, and it never gets to 6:00? There is an interesting pairing, by the way.
MATTHEWS: Isn’t that—I thought that would be...
OLBERMANN: Look at that.
MATTHEWS: That I thought would be the two-shot tonight, and it is. That will be the two-shot on all the networks throughout the evening. Perhaps those two gentlemen sitting next to each other will be the two-shot, as we say in this world of television. The two of them together.
OLBERMANN: It sure was 6:00 for them today.
MATTHEWS: Boy, that is the most powerful endorsement I have seen.
Just—a torch passing.
There is the president giving a copy of his speech to the VP, who I assume has seen it already. He probably approved it. And there is Nancy Pelosi, who saw it about two hours ago, thanks to the early edition that goes to the wire services.
OLBERMANN: And Chris and I will rejoin you afterwards. Senators Obama, Clinton, McCain among our scheduled guests. As the president takes what will be the last sip of water, we will say and then step aside—ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.
(STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS)
OLBERMANN: The president of the United States speaking for approximately 53 minutes. The last of his seven State of the Union Addresses, with handshakes for Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Cheney. The Democratic Response to this to come in about five minutes from Governor Sebelius of Kansas.
If you’ve ever heard of those composers of the classical era and of their unfinished symphonies, this was perhaps a State of the Union Address, a best of album of unfinished symphonies. Consider what we heard tonight. Oldies but not so goodies. Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq. The ink-stained thumbs of the Iraqi elections. That’s three years ago this Wednesday. Bringing justice to our enemies for 9/11, a pledge that has been stated again and again since 9/11. The armies of compassion in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina was around Labor Day of 2005.
No Child Left Behind invoked. The surge forces we sent to Iraq are beginning to come home. The promise of the return of troops from Iraq repeated again. Stopping a plot to fly a plane into the tallest building in Los Angeles. That’s the “Liberty Tower”/Library Tower story about which counterterrorism experts have their doubts, to say the least, and about which the president when initially reporting it did not previously inform the authorities of the city of Los Angeles that he was going to reveal that, sending that city into something of a panic, and got the name of the building wrong when he first revealed it.
Another story about passenger jets invoked again, bound for America over the Atlantic, even though it proved later that the people who were supposed to try to blow them up did not have tickets nor passports to even get on board those planes.
And then the one that has probably set half of the audience that heard this speech ablaze mentally, about Iran, come clean about your nuclear intentions. And before that, verifiably suspend your enrichment of uranium.
Invoking, if not word for word, Chris Matthews, then at least in terms of spirit the infamous 16 words and the yellowcake pancake—the yellow pancake of Niger in 2003. Extraordinary that that phrase would appear in this man’s last State of the Union.
MATTHEWS: Yes. In fact, given the fact that according to our NBC poll, 67 percent of the American people, a neat two-thirds, don’t approve of President Bush’s handling of the Iraq War. That’s a war that continues down. And he gave a new phrase for it; I thought you might have caught this, Keith: “protective overwatch mission.”
That will be the ultimate, or further stage of this war, where we will apparently retreat to barracks, deployments, and wait in the 120-degree weather as we await our need in the country we’re based in.
It’s certainly no promise of any deliverance from that war. This war will continue as he leaves office with a new terminology now, as I said, “protective overwatch mission,” which sounds like a very, very long commitment of our troops in a country where they’re getting killed, as we said, five of them were killed today.
Not a hopeful message. In fact, I think the one thing missing from tonight, we’ve gotten used to it being missing that we haven’t noticed it. He didn’t ask the American people to do anything. There was no call. There was a statement of what we’ve accomplished as political leaders, he has accomplished, but nothing that said to the American people, here—it’s your country, damn it, let’s do something with it.
More of a—sort of a set of New Year’s resolutions that were never achieved, as you say, almost like, I’m going to learn French this year or I’m going to work on my golf game or I’m going to clean out the closet.
Andrea Mitchell, I guess the only thing I thought that was newsworthy was this new definition of our mission in Iraq, the most troubling area in the world still for us. Andrea Mitchell is joining us.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you
know, he’s trying to set the terms for a debate that has already started.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama actually agree on this, that they and other
Democrats, Jim Webb and others who are not running for president, will not
permit the Pentagon and the president to go ahead and redefine this deployment
when the U.N. mandate expires next year without them coming to the Senate.
They say it is a treaty, the Pentagon and the administration says it is a status of forces agreement which they have with 80 other countries around the world and does not require Senate consultation. The Democratic argument in opposition to this is that it is actually committing the United States to defend the Iraqi government. And that makes it a treaty and does require consultation and a vote, a two-thirds vote in the Senate, as all treaties do.
So this is an approaching battle. Hillary Clinton has pretty well laid down the battle lines there. In fact, in that MSNBC debate in Nevada, she proposed to Barack Obama that he sign on to her legislation, and he said—that’s back when they were polite to each other. He said he would, and he did the very next day.
And Jim Webb then signed on. So that is the legislation moving through the Senate. So that is the one area where I think the president tonight was trying to lay out his terms but he’s going to run into some real headwinds in the Congress on that one.
OLBERMANN: Andrea and Chris, I think putting your two thoughts
together, perhaps we have a theme for this. Chris, you pointed out he didn’t
ask the people to do anything. Andrea, in many respects he’s not even allowing
the Senate or the House to do anything. This is a, how-I-see-it, this is a…
OLBERMANN: Edited highlights of the Bush presidency condensed for time purposes.
MITCHELL: Sort of a Reader’s Digest version, if you will. And of course, he and the Pentagon, the defense secretary, Bob Gates, say that they have the right to determine how our troops operate in the field, which they do in 80 countries. Except that this is one country in the world which is at war, a hot war.
This is not Korea. This is not a place where we have been for 57 years without shots normally being fired. This is a shooting war.
OLBERMANN: And the other thing I was struck in terms of imagery here, and we could go back to the beforehand and Obama and Kennedy together or President Bush rubbing the head of the follically-challenged Congressman Gohmert of Texas, whatever you like.
But during this speech, given that the debate on the House floor about FISA is at such high pitch and the prospect in the Senate of a filibuster, when the president insisted that the FISA bill be passed now and no extension, even though he says it is so critical to our security he’d rather see it elapse on Friday or Saturday morning than have this one-month extension if the telecom companies are not given immunity for whatever they “reportedly,” as he used the term, reportedly did in the nation’s defense.
At that moment the Republican side of the chamber rose in roaring support and there was—it almost looked like a Simon Says contest on the left side. The Democrats were motionless. Not even not standing or applauding, motionless at that point.
MITCHELL: Yes. It was a reverse wave or an aborted wave. You know, when you think about it, they came together out of self-defense, mutual self-interest on economic issues, on this stimulus package because one of the big criticisms, one of the reasons why the approval ratings of Congress is—are so down is that the Democrats have not accomplished anything, according to most of the American people, since they have been in office.
So Democrats and Republicans in private came together and negotiated behind the scenes, the House side at least, and the White House, and came together with a stimulus package. But there is no conciliation at all on this eavesdropping issue.
And already Harry Reid, the majority leader, said in advance that this was a scare tactic. He called it both cynical and counterproductive. And so you see no conciliation at all on issues that they don’t think the American people are that worried about.
OLBERMANN: Chris, let me do a little…MATTHEWS: Let me bring in…
OLBERMANN: Before you do that, let me just give a little traffic here. The five-minute watch for the Democratic Response from Governor Sebelius of Kansas begins when the president leaves the chamber. Later on we’ll be joined by senators Obama and Clinton separately, of course, Senator McCain, Senator Webb, and many others. Sorry to interrupt, Chris.
MATTHEWS: No, as we see the president signing autographs there, he’s signing copies obviously of the State of the Union. Let’s bring in Howard Fineman and Margaret Carlson. Margaret, of course, from Bloomberg; and Howard from Newsweek and from us.
The—I still think, Howard, challenge me here, that the big news today, the State of the Union, is the deal announced today at American University between Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama. That is the State of the Union. I’m not sure this adds to the definition of this presidential campaign or what’s to come in the next year at all.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Teddy and Obama
together were a union that describes the state of the country right now, the
state of what’s going on on the floor right there. When Obama walked into that
room, it was as though the conquering hero, the young prince, had come in. He
represents something that the Democrats are trying to say, which is that this
way of doing business is over with and something new is required, something
There wasn’t a lot of big thinking here. I noticed that the president talked once again, as Chris—as Keith was saying, these old phrases now, “defining ideological struggle of the 21st Century.” Is that Barney Frank that he’s talking to there?
MATTHEWS: It looks like it.
OLBERMANN: It is indeed.
FINEMAN: Yes. But I think there are other, bigger topics out there, and there’s a sense among the American people that we’ve got to take a fresh look at how we conduct business and where we stand in the world. George Bush’s frame of reference was set on September 11th, 2001, and he has been talking about the “defining ideological struggle of the 21st Century” ever since.
I think the American people are ready to sort of see if there isn’t another framework with which to view the world, and George Bush completely ignored that. There were a lot of fat chance moments here where he said he was going to—we need to reform entitlements and we need to do an immigration deal and we need to balance the budget and we need to have peace in the holy land and we need to stop Iran in its tracks, after which I think most viewers were saying to themselves, fat chance, at least the way you guys are operating. And that is the tone outside the room that these people were not acknowledging.
MATTHEWS: Remember that sign that was always outside the old drug stores, we always wondered what it meant as kids: “sundries.” Sundries.
MATTHEWS: Sundries are inside. Margaret, your thoughts…
MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG: Notions.
MATTHEWS: Sundries and notions, that is even better. Thank you.
CARLSON: Well I think that the president treated this as a night to
get through, not a night to accomplish very much. Don’t call people to
action. Don’t even, you know, pay homage to the Congress, really, because it
was, you didn’t do this, you didn’t do that. And by the way…
MATTHEWS: And don’t mess with my stimulus package.
CARLSON: Yes. Don’t mess with that. And by the way, on Friday if you don’t do what I want, I’m going to say you’re soft on terrorists. It was basically some of that old stuff. If he wanted to make news tonight he would have had to have endorsed a candidate. And he nearly did, in fact with—I mean, he did play to McCain’s strength with the earmarks.
MATTHEWS: Right. Boy, we are thinking together, I will tell you, tonight was a John McCain speech in so many ways. The evils of earmarking. The importance of the military. Again and again extolling the military men in uniform and women in uniform over and over again as if there was any question about the prestige they hold in our country.
That’s no argument. We all look up to them. But the idea that the country is primarily focused on Islamic radical terrorism rather than what the country is truly focused on right now, which is the strange thing that’s going on in the world economically right now, we all want to know what is this thing, Mr. President?
And instead of giving us his fireside chat like Franklin Roosevelt and explaining what’s going on with the credit markets in Europe and how they relate to the subprime problem here at home and why that has caused the Dow to drop a couple thousand points, why doesn’t he explain that to us?
Instead he said, I’m going to give you a tax break, so be quiet.
FINEMAN: He made it sound like a matter of plumbing, let’s just
tighten this bolt right here and this washer and this nut…
MATTHEWS: Instead of explaining why the water pressure is dropping.
CARLSON: Yes, and the water is really…
FINEMAN: And the people are concerned about that.
CARLSON: And the water is really cold. I was thinking about Clinton…
MATTHEWS: Well, and that is a question of why...
MATTHEWS: What was that—I think a lot of people expected the president to at least engage for a couple of minutes tonight on what is going on in the world economically and why we should worry and why we should have confidence if we do a couple of things right.
FINEMAN: He doesn’t dare do that. Chris, he doesn’t dare do that because that raises too many profound questions about the way we are running things in this country: the debt that we have piled up, the trade deficits that we have, our problems with education and health care that are a drag on our economy, our lag of big think, as I was saying before, lack of big think in the world.
This was not a big think speech of what the American people are concerned about. It was a big think speech about what they were concerned about three or four years ago. That is the difference.
CARLSON: And remember, Chris, how…
MATTHEWS: Well, why are people buying gold right now? Because it’s a smart move. And that’s the scariest thing you can say, that gold bullion is a better investment than the American economy right now. And that is a very interesting standard of why we are in trouble.
CARLSON: And people are buying up our assets at half price, which is another disturbing thing. Remember, even when Clinton was impeached, he could come out and say in the State of the Union, hey, but you are doing pretty well, aren’t you?
CARLSON: Because the Rubin economy was helping out. But he was reduced to, remember, small bites. There was nothing like immigration or Social Security. All of that—all of those big ideas of Bush’s are gone now. He might as well have done midnight basketball and school uniforms. And the only big thing he has left, he has got to get out of—he needs to get out of this war somehow.
MATTHEWS: Keith, in their efforts to be Reagan, none of them are willing to make the great Reagan question to the country, are you better off than you were four years ago? None of them are willing to quote that particular challenge these days.
OLBERMANN: I think the Democrats may have a different answer to that, provided to us by Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
MATTHEWS: Here she is.
OLBERMANN: Here is Governor Sebelius.
GOV. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS: Good evening. I’m Kathleen Sebelius, governor of the state of Kansas, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak with you tonight. I’m a Democrat, but tonight it really doesn’t matter whether you think of yourself as a Democrat or a Republican or an independent or none of the above.
Instead, the fact you’re tuning in this evening tells me that each of you is, above all, an American, first. You are mothers and fathers, grandparents and grandchildren, working people and business owners. Americans, all.
And the American people, folks like you and me, are not nearly as divided as our rancorous politics might suggest. In fact, right now, tonight, as the political pundits discuss the president’s speech, chances are they will obsess over reactions of members of Congress.
“How many times was the president interrupted by applause? Did Republicans stand? Did the Democrats sit?” And the rest of us will roll our eyes and think, what in the world does any of that have to do with me?
And so I want to take a slight detour from tradition on this State of the Union night. In this time, normally reserved for a partisan response, I hope to offer something more: an American response, a national call to action on behalf of the struggling families here in the heartland, and across this great country; a wakeup call to Washington, on behalf of a new American majority, that time is running out on our opportunities to meet our challenges and solve our problems.
Our struggling economy requires urgent and immediate action, and then sustained attention. Families can’t pay their bills. They are losing their jobs, and now are threatened with losing their homes.
We heard last week and again tonight that Congress and the president are acting quickly, on a temporary, targeted stimulus package. That is encouraging. But you and I know that a temporary fix is only the first step toward meeting our challenges and solving our problems.
There is a chance, Mr. President, in the next 357 days, to get real results, and give the American people renewed optimism that their challenges are the top priority. Working together, working hard, committing to results, we can get the job done.
In fact, over the last year, the Democratic majority in Congress has begun to move us in the right direction, with bipartisan action to strengthen our national security, raise the minimum wage, and reduce the costs of college loans. These are encouraging first steps. But there’s still more to be done.
So we ask you, Mr. President: Will you join us? Let’s get to work. We know that we’re stronger as a nation when our people have access to the highest quality, most affordable health care, when our businesses can compete in the global marketplace without the burden of rising health care costs here at home.
We know that caring for our children so they have a healthy and better start in life is what grownups do. Governors in both parties and a large majority of the Congress are ready, right now, to provide health care to 10 million American children, as a first step in overhauling our health care system. Join us, Mr. President. Sign the bill and let’s get to work.
Sitting with the first lady tonight was Steve Hewitt, the city manager of Greensburg, Kansas. Many of you remember Greensburg, our town nearly destroyed by a tornado last year. Thanks to Steve’s efforts, and hundreds of others in our state, and across the country, Greensburg will recover. Folks rolled up their sleeves and got to work, and local, state and federal governments assisted in the effort.
But more than just recover, the Kansans who live in Greensburg are building green, rebuilding a better community for their children and grandchildren; making shared sacrifices, and investments for the next generation.
Greensburg is not alone. You and I stand ready, ready to protect our environment for future generations and stay economically competitive. Mayors have committed their cities to going green; governors have joined together, leading efforts for energy security and independence; and the majority in Congress are ready to tackle the challenge of reducing global warming and creating a new energy future for America. So we ask you, Mr. President: Will you join us? It’s time to get to work.
Here in the heartland, we honor and respect military service. We appreciate the enormous sacrifices made by soldiers and their families. As governor of Kansas, I’m the commander-in-chief of our National Guard. Over the past five years, I have seen thousands of soldiers deployed from Kansas. I have visited our troops in Iraq; attended funerals and comforted families; and seen the impact at home of the war being waged.
We stand ready in the heartland and across this country to join forces with peace-loving nations around the globe to fight the war against terrorists, wherever they may strike. But our capable and dedicated soldiers can’t solve the political disputes where they are, and can’t focus on the real enemies elsewhere.
The new Democratic majority of Congress and the vast majority of Americans are ready, ready to chart a new course. If more Republicans in Congress stand with us this year, we won’t have to wait for a new president to restore America’s role in the world and fight a more effective war on terror.
The last five years have cost us dearly: in lives lost; in thousands of wounded warriors whose futures may never be the same; in challenges not met here at home because our resources were committed elsewhere. America’s foreign policy has left us with fewer allies and more enemies.
Join us, Mr. President. In working together with Congress to make tough, smart decisions, we will regain our standing in the world and protect our people and our interests.
I know government can work to benefit the people we serve because I see it every day, not only here in Kansas, but in states across the country. I know government can work, Mr. President, because, like you, I grew up in a family committed to public service.
My father and my father-in-law both served in Congress; one a Republican and one a Democrat. They had far more in common than the issues that divided them: a love for their country that led them from military service to public service; a lifetime of working for the common good, making sacrifices so their children and grandchildren could have a better future.
They are called the “greatest generation.” But I believe, like parents across America, that our greatest generations are still to come, that we must chart a new course, at home and abroad, to give our future greatest generations all the opportunities our parents gave us.
These are uncertain times, but, with strength and determination, we can meet the challenges together. If Washington can work quickly together on a short-term fix for families caught in the financial squeeze, then we can work together to transform America.
In these difficult times, the American people aren’t afraid to face difficult choices.
But, we have no more patience with divisive politics. Tonight’s address begins
the final year of this presidency, with new leaders on the horizon and
uncertainty throughout our land. Conditions we face, at home and abroad, are
results of choices made and challenges unmet.
In spite of the attempts to convince us that we are divided as a people, a new American majority has come together. We are tired of leaders who, rather than asking us what we can do for our country, ask nothing of us at all.
We are Americans sharing a belief in something greater than ourselves, a nation coming together to meet challenges and find solutions; to share sacrifices and share prosperity; and focus, once again, not only on the individual good but on the common good.
On behalf of the new American majority, the majority of elected officials at the national, state and local level, and the majority of Americans, we ask you, Mr. President, to join us.
We are ready to work together, to be the America we have been and can be once again. Thank you for listening. God bless and sleep well. And, in the morning, let’s get to work.
OLBERMANN: Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, while violating the first law of broadcasting, which is do not ridicule the people who will follow you on the air, namely, the political pundits such as us, gently asking the people, Republicans included, even in one case the president, to kind of make a lame duck presidency even lamer, picking up on that thread that Chris Matthews had mentioned earlier, that there was very little in that speech that asked the populous to do anything—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Yes. You wonder what the purpose of the conversation is. I think so much about politics, the more I study this, what is the transaction the politician is offering you? Hillary Clinton is very effective, she says, I’m going to get in there and fight the bad guys for you, the big corporations, the insurance companies, I’m going to fight for you, I’m going to be your gladiator in power and so you can trust me to do the job for you.
Barack Obama offers a different proposition. He says, I’m going to urge you to take back your government, it is about you and your country, not just your government, you can take it back. In a way, Howard Dean tried the same thing with less finesse, obviously. But these transactions are everything.
Jack Kennedy said, ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. I’m not sure whether that is left or right. But it is something different and it is something more uplifting rather than simply, here are the things I’m going to do for the following interest groups, I’m going to hit the following agenda items so you can all stand up and applaud and vote for me and give me some money.
I think it is more uplifting to say, we are in this together, let’s try some things together. I don’t think it is hackneyed, I do think it is what people want. I think Kathleen Sebelius is right. And I think that the president missed a chance four or five years ago to engage us all, and maybe not in a big tax increase, maybe not in a bond drive, certainly not in a draft, but some way to make the American people feel that this is their country. I think people need to feel that ownership again. And that is my thought.
We are going to be joined right now by several presidential candidates this evening, including Senator Clinton and Barack Obama. We hope to get all the ones now who are still running in this race.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Right now let’s go to Senator John McCain, Republican presidential—there he is. Senator McCain, you know you are in my heart. I have to tell you, the president gave your speech tonight.
He talked about, we have got to cut the number of earmarks in half or I’m going to veto the bill.
He talked about the war against terrorism. He talked about reform. It was—he didn’t talk much about the global economic challenge right now. In fact, he said basically, we will get through this, like you do. It was your speech, Senator.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I would have—and I liked the speech, and I liked some of the things he laid out, and I appreciate of course the president’s sincerity. I would have said, let’s take care of those earmarks now, let’s—look, they are in those bills right now, you don’t have to spend them.
I would have said that immediately. And I think it would have gotten -- maybe not some support within the chamber, there is a lot of pork barrelers in there, but I think it would have—I think given us some hope for saving some money.
I think the president, also—I think, probably could have, as you said, a little more call to service. But—and by the way, Chris, I don’t mean—but I was thinking about this organization. Have you heard of this organization called ONE, O-N-E? Have you heard of it?
MATTHEWS: No. No, Senator.
MCCAIN: Two million young Americans have volunteered. They have volunteered to serve overseas to fight malaria, to fight HIV/AIDS, they are mainly volunteers, they are inspired by Bono. Look, there are examples:
AmeriCorps, City Year. There are organizations all over America today where young people are eager to serve causes greater than their self-interest.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about what you would have said that the president didn’t say.
MCCAIN: I would have probably been harsher on spending. I think I would have been tougher on that. I would have talked more about serving a cause greater than your self-interest. I would have also maybe laid out in maybe tougher terms the challenges of the housing market.
I’m down here in Florida. As you know, the housing market is really tough here. And some of the economic challenges we are facing, I may have given a little more urgency to getting this stimulus package passed. There’s no reason why the Senate shouldn’t pass it this week. There’s no reason why the Senate shouldn’t pass it immediately.
The markets, people are looking for some help right now. Let’s get it done. It wouldn’t have been maybe the bill exactly as I’d have written, but let’s get going on that. I would have maybe been a little more urgent.
I appreciate the president, I appreciate his message, and I appreciate his—I am in some disagreement. I listened to your previous conversation. I still think the transcendent challenge of the 21st century is radical Islamic extremism. And I think he was correct in his assessment of it, maybe the same as it was four years ago. I’m afraid it’s going to be with us for a long time.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your opponent down there in Florida.
In this race, obviously, you know more than I about where it’s going, but I wish you well. But let me ask you, your opponent is getting very personal. He said that you were thinking of teaming up with John Kerry and running as his number two in 2004 and he would have never given that a second thought. Your reaction to that little shot.
MCCAIN: Oh, I think there’s about 20 shots leveled today. I think it means that we’re doing pretty well, prospects are pretty good for tomorrow.
MATTHEWS: He said a nanosecond—he said it wouldn’t have taken a nanosecond for him to reject a John Kerry offer of a partnership.
MCCAIN: It’s well known I rejected that out of hand in the beginning.
And it’s also well known that I campaigned very hard for this president’s re- election and election, harder than anybody. Ask the chairman of the Republican National Committee. And more than anybody for our Republican candidates.
So look, it’s—he’s run negative ads against Huckabee. He’s run them against me. That’s the kind of campaign that he’s running. And you have to respond from time to time. But you’ve got to go on with your own campaign and know that people aren’t going to take that kind of thing too seriously.
MATTHEWS: Well, he went through a whole shopping list of measures that you have fought for in Congress. You know which ones, McCain-Feingold, McCain- Lieberman. I mean, he does know your legislative record. He says every word—
MCCAIN: Did a lot of research.
MATTHEWS: Well, he doesn’t have to worry about his record in that regard. But he clearly went through everything you’ve done and said it’s all been basically catastrophic. What do you make of that kind of assault on your record?
MCCAIN: I think most people want us to work across the aisle. I think most people want us to get something done together. I think that’s obvious. And if we want to talk about his record as governor, one of the worst economies in the country, now they’ve got a 245 million dollar debt because of his government-mandated health care. The 730 million dollars in raising taxes.
We can go back and forth about that. But I think Americans right now want our vision for the future. They want America safe. They want this economy back restored, and they want to know that vision. And I’ve been articulating that all over the state of Florida.
MATTHEWS: What did you make of the Democratic big move today by Senator Kennedy, endorsing Barack Obama so dramatically with President Kennedy’s daughter there and his grandson, his son, rather, Patrick Kennedy? It was very much a family affair at American U.
MCCAIN: Well, I didn’t see it, to tell you the truth, because I was out campaigning. But obviously, I think that Senator Kennedy is a very important factor in the Democratic party, and—but it’s hard for me to assess that. I know that pundits like you and Keith were making different predictions about who was going to win about a month ago, not only on the Democratic side but on our side as well. So I think a lot of things can happen between now and a week from now or even—I just think things are very unsettled. I think a lot of Americans are undecided.
MATTHEWS: Well, you show a lot of courage out there, senator. Thank you very much for coming on tonight. By the way, we have our jobs too. Our job is to predict what’s going to happen tomorrow night. And we can’t do it very well. But we do like doing it. Thank you. Good luck tomorrow night in Florida. Senator John McCain.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Senator Barack Obama, having returned to Washington today, to among other things attend the president’s address before the joint session of Congress. He had other business earlier in the day, which we’ll get to in a moment. The senator has been good enough to join us now from the Capitol. Senator Obama, thanks for your time tonight.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you so much for having me.
OLBERMANN: Not so greatest hits tonight in the president’s address? We counted here at least nine reruns in this from previous States of the Union and previous speeches to the nation ranging from Katrina to the use of the phrase enrichment of uranium, which we’ve heard somewhere in the past before. What did that speech strike you as?
OBAMA: Well, it was warmed over past State of the Union speeches. As I travel across the country, the American people want much, much more. They are anxious about their economic futures. They’re seeing their homes foreclosed. They’re seeing jobs contracting. They are concerned about being able to send their kids to college. And what they want is leadership from the White House, not simply recitation of problems or, you know, looking to some of the same old proposals that we’ve seen over the last couple of decades.
And so, you know, I think most viewers would see a mismatch between the size of our challenges and the smallness of the prescriptions that were offered by the president.
OLBERMANN: Not to put two carts before one horse, Senator Obama, but if that had been you giving a State of the Union address tonight, what are the first two or three things that come to your head here that you would have said you that did not hear tonight?
OBAMA: What I would have said is we have to have a bold strategy for dealing with our economy. And that means not only short-term economic stimulus, that included a package for unemployment insurance expansion, because long-term unemployment is much higher than it’s been in the past. It wouldn’t just mean dealing with seniors and making sure that they are getting rebates that would help them with higher costs.
But it would mean critically improving our education system, making sure that college is more affordable through a 4,000 dollar tuition credit, revamping our energy policy entirely, so that we are capping Greenhouse Gases, that we are investing in solar and wind and bio-diesel, that we are investing in the kinds of green jobs that can drive our economy for decades to come. You know, that’s the kind of leadership on the domestic side.
And on our foreign policy, what I would have liked to see is that we had a plan to exit from Iraq, not a nebulous plan that some like your previous listener, Senator McCain have suggested might last two decades, three decades, 50 years, but rather a plan that says we’re going to put the Iraqis in a situation where they have to take responsibility for hammering out agreements between the Shia, the Sunni, and the Kurds, so that we can refocus attention on Afghanistan, where things are slipping into a very dangerous situation.
OLBERMANN: To focus on what the president said about Iraq, senator, we heard a phrase that came to my mind was the vestigial presidency, this non-treaty treaty to stay perpetually in what the president tonight termed a protective overwatch mission, which has been already interpreted in some places as basically endless war. Is that what you heard about Iraq?
OBAMA: Well, we know that that is what the White House has been foreshadowing. They’ve been in discussions with the Iraqis about this. I don’t think it is consistent with American traditions or consistent with American national security interests to bind the next president’s hands in what I believe has been overall a failed policy in Iraq. And I can assure you that there will be a lot of resistance in the Senate and I, as a presidential candidate and possibly the next president, will work very hard to ensure that my hands are not tied and I can pursue what I think is in the best interests of the American people.
OLBERMANN: Gosh, you mentioned the possible president part. I’m glad you did because I have a question about that too. Did you perhaps overshadow— did you and Senator Kennedy perhaps overshadow this speech tonight with your gathering earlier today in Washington?
OBAMA: Well, I can tell you it was a very powerful moment for me personally. You know, I don’t know how it looked outside of that auditorium. But to be there with Ted Kennedy, a giant of the Senate, but also Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of John F. Kennedy, and to feel that spirit evoked of that moment over 40 years ago when this country really believed in dreaming big dreams and limitless possibilities, and how it tied up with sort of the imaginations of my parents when they were first married, and how that carried on to inspire me later on in life; it was an important moment for me, and I think an important moment for the campaign.
MATTHEWS: Senator, it’s Chris Matthews. I’ve never seen the Kennedys, in all the years I’ve watched them, bestow on someone outside their family their legacy. What did it feel like to hear Ted Kennedy in so many particulars take your side in this presidential debate?
OBAMA: Well, as I said, Chris, it was a powerful moment. Folks who were there, I think, saw that part of the reason it was so moving was not only Senator Kennedy and Caroline and Patrick Kennedy’s ability to evoke that idealism that has been so much a part of the Kennedy legacy, but also to see 4,000 young people and to recognize that they were feeling what perhaps their parents or even grandparents might have felt so many years ago.
That was exciting, because part of what this campaign’s been about is rekindling that sense of possibility, that we can solve problems like health care and energy and global warming and repairing our standing in the world, and that we don’t have to shy away from these problems, that they’re hard, that we can look at them clear-eyed but tackle them and bring the country together.
OLBERMANN: Senator, one question about themes and annotations, is it fair to say that there is something of a construction being made on your behalf if not by you that you’re being positioned as the John F. Kennedy of the 21st Century? And I’m saying that with a slight cringe to it because I can’t imagine anybody really feels comfortable with that. Is that a really razor’s edge that you have to walk in terms of that endorsement today?
OBAMA: I think you are absolutely right that I am not comfortable with that comparison. You know, John F. Kennedy is a singular figure. Bobby Kennedy is a singular figure in our history. But as I said before, what I do think Senator Kennedy and his family spoke to is the moment we’re in right now. I think we’re in a moment similar to 1960, where the country is ready to move forward, not look backwards, but to move forward and meet new challenges. And that’s what I think we were speaking of today, not that I compare in any way with the heroism of a John F. Kennedy, who had served so nobly in World War II, but rather that we’re in that same moment and we have to seize that moment.
OLBERMANN: On the subject of seizing the moment, one last question here about the politics of this week, particularly tomorrow and Florida. Senator Clinton announced her plans to visit supporters there after the polls close tomorrow night in accordance with her pledge not to campaign in the state before its primary, are you—where are you going to be tomorrow, first of all? And do you think the spirit of that pledge about Florida is being upheld within the Democratic party?
OBAMA: Well, I can’t speak for any of the other candidates. I know that what I’ve said is I would not campaign in Florida during their primary season. That was a commitment all of us made to the early states. I’ve abided by that pledge. There are no delegates being allocated or decided. So nobody’s campaigned. So really it’s just a beauty contest.
But there’s no doubt that the state of Florida’s extraordinarily important in the general election. And once I’m the nominee, I intend to spend a lot of time there. Of course, it was hard not spending time in Florida in January. There were many weeks where I was tempted to do a little campaigning in Miami.
OLBERMANN: Well understood, sir.
MATTHEWS: Senator, I have to ask you one last question. There’s talk today in the press that former President Bill Clinton has changed his tactics with regard to this campaign for the nomination, that he will behave differently with regard to your record and your positions, he will be positive now. Do you see any signs that that is a new tactic on his part?
OBAMA: You know, I’m not really up to speed with the tactics of the other campaigns. Here’s what I know, though, Chris, is that people desperately want us to figure out how to solve their problems. And we have an opportunity on health care to set up a program where everybody has access to health care that’s as good as the health care I have as a member of Congress.
People desperately want to figure out how are they going to finance their child’s college education? And I have a plan to provide a 4,000 dollar tuition credit for those young people. So those are the things that I want to talk about as much as possible in this next week. I think that’s what the voters want to hear. You know, and I do think that last week you saw a lot of distractions and sort of a slipping back into the old politics.
What I’ve tried to do throughout this campaign—and I’m not always perfectly successful at it, but I keep on trying to move our dialogue in the direction of a new politics that says instead of spending a lot of time bickering, we’re going to spend a lot of time presenting solutions to the American people and enlisting them in the process of changing.
OLBERMANN: A long day for senator Barack Obama of Illinois. We made it a little longer. Thanks for bearing with us, sir. We appreciate it.
OBAMA: Great to talk with you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Let’s bring in NBC’s Brian Williams now and NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, who’s the moderator of “Meet The Press.” Well, gentlemen, I tried to hook him into a discussion as to whether he thought Bill Clinton had changed his tactics. I guess that’s the promise of the last at least several hours. Brian?
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, I just spoke to Senator Clinton and tried to ask her if what we’ve been told, all of us, on the record, was a large part of the motivation of today’s Kennedy endorsement and that is the tone, tenor, and content of the Clinton campaign; and in large part a subset of that the comments by the former president, whether or not that would lead to a change of voice for the campaign.
She wasn’t having any of that question. We will have to see. It is interesting now, with the comments President Clinton is on the record with, coming out of South Carolina, chief and most notable among them the Jesse Jackson comment, everyone is hyper-aware now, people who are just dialing in, who realize there is something of a national primary coming up in a few days here are also hearing of this subtext because American life gets busy, and it will come as a shock to all of us that not everybody is as dialed in and interested as we all are.
But now, with the parameters laid out, the endorsement is made, message received; one would assume we get to see if anything concrete comes of it.
TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, Chris and Keith, I think two things happened today. When the brother and the daughter of the 35th president of the United States decides to anoint someone, to literally and symbolically pass the torch to the generation of Barack Obama and to his candidacy, it’s a large event, particularly for someone like Obama, who needs to appeal to blue-collar Democrats and to older Democrats, something that Ted Kennedy has done through his whole career.
But secondly, we have talked repeatedly in our discussions after the primaries and caucuses about two on one, how it was Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama, how she was able to go to one state, he was able to go to another. Suddenly, when Ted Kennedy took to the podium today and said Barack Obama has opposed this war from the beginning and let no one dare tell you anything else, and that we have to turn the page on the politics of distortion, he was emerging as the equivalent of Bill Clinton in the Obama campaign, the chief surrogate, the corner man, and basically saying, putting the Clintons on notice, that now this is going to be two on two if necessary.
Now, Senator Obama told Brian a few minutes ago we have a lot of surrogates in the campaign, senator John Kerry and the governor of Arizona and others. But there’s no doubt in my mind that today was a very significant event in that regard, in terms of drawing the line, saying if you’re going to change your tactics, fine. If you’re not, we’re now going to have two heavyweights combating you. It’s going to be some eight days to Super Tuesday.
OLBERMANN: And Tim, to that point, it’s almost like we’re going to come back and have that heavyweight fight, but first I’m going to hit you one right in the face back. To quote—to quote basically Hillary Clinton’s line about will he be ready to be president on day one, to quote that back and almost spit it as he said it so forcefully, are we already in the fight? Are we already in the end of the first round?
RUSSERT: Well, for the man who is known for his experience in the U.S. Senate, the most experienced Democratic legislator, to say this man is ready to be president, yes; he was taking each of the arguments used by the Clintons against Obama and turning them around and presenting them back. And I think that was done very intentionally, Keith, I do. Now, make no mistake about it, in the hoopla surrounding this event today, suggesting that this is a defining moment in the Obama campaign and so forth, it was significant. It was important.
But Hillary Clinton still has an awful lot of money and an awful lot of support and an awful lot of resources and 22 states to go to in a very short period of time. And she’s ahead in most of those states. This is still an uphill climb for Obama. But it still underscores how significant an event I think this was of Ted Kennedy not only endorsing but signing on in a robust, energetic way.
Remember back, whenever he’s gone on the campaign, 2004 in Iowa, he practically put John Kerry on his back and went around that state and fighting for him. That’s Ted Kennedy’s style. It’s going to be something to watch. But today really was a warning shot from the Obama campaign that we’re serious about this. We are going to fight toe to toe. And it’s going to be two huge political operations, the Clinton camp and the Obama camp. And now I think they’re equal in terms of money, resources, and potent surrogates.
OLBERMANN: And I think the warning shots connected. I think they hit somebody as well. Brian, as a presidential historian, as a veteran of these things, I realize that this is a lame duck president that we’ve been dealing with tonight. I counted at least nine reruns from earlier episodes of this program. But have you ever seen a State of the Union address as—I don’t want to say irrelevant. That’s unfair. But as overshadowed by the current political scene in the last 20, 30, 40 years of American history?
WILLIAMS: Well, that’s one way of putting it. And the last one, you know, especially after a two term run, is always going to have some of that. Think of that two-shot, though, as you’ve been pointing out all night, Keith. I was watching your coverage earlier. First time since ‘28 we have a president at the lectern, vice president behind him, and the next president is not going to come from those ranks.
But then all you need to do is look at George W. Bush’s eyes. They fill up with tears as they did more than once tonight when the subject goes to the military. You had a lot of combat infantry badges up in the president’s box tonight, a lot of people who have overcome tough injuries from two wars, that have started and continue to be fought on this president’s watch.
And that’s kind of what resets our gyros and gets our attention right back into the moment, that this is—everyone’s been using the torch has been passed today because of the Kennedy nomination. Let’s call it a baton, a huge baton of responsibility, not only what comes with the office of president, but the military operations going on around the globe remind you that this takes on a different cast because the stakes in the post-9/11 world seem higher.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Brian Williams, for that assessment. Tim Russert, thank you, sir. When Keith and I return, Senator Jim Webb, a man who knows something about combat, and Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. We will preview tomorrow’s action in Florida as well. This is MSNBC’s live coverage of the State of the Union. Back with more in a moment.
OLBERMANN: We continue with our coverage of the State of the Union Address. Senator Jim Webb, the Democrat from Virginia who gave last year’s rebuttal or answer from the Democrats, is with us now. Senator, thanks for your time. If you were giving the Democratic response, what would you be responding to, off the top of your head.
SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: Well, I think, if I were to look at what I said last year, I talked about the state of the economy. I talked about how I thought we should proceed forward with respect to the situation in Iraq. And I talked about government accountability. And this speech was basically defensive. It was backward looking. It was a lot of posturing and political positioning, those sorts of thing.
And I think that what Barack said a little while ago is true. We need to be focusing on how to fix problems and being straight with the American people about where the problems are. The economy right now is in much worse shape than it was a year ago for a number of reasons that are very clear to many people. And we tend to debate the war in Iraq as if Iraq were an island in the middle of an ocean, rather than a part of a region, which, from Lebanon all the way to Pakistan, has serious problems right now.
OLBERMANN: And al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, according to the president tonight. We also need to have a protective overwatch mission there, which, as I’ve said before, sounds like, and has been interpreted as, endless war. What was the president’s strategy in Iraq in that speech tonight?
WEBB: Well, he continually talks about the war against international terrorism, because we all agree that we need to address that. But I go back—before I went to Iraq in November, I was getting the briefings and they were talking about the op-tempo of al Qaeda had gone down in Iraq and I made the comment that international terrorism is not a national phenomenon. That’s by it’s very definition an international phenomenon.
And if I were al Qaeda, I would be moving toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this was actually before Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by al Qaeda. So when the president tries to look at Iraq separate from the region, he is not being honest about the difficulties that we face. And the only way that we’re going to resolve this is with strong diplomacy. You look back over the last year, the one positive note has been the performance of our military, as always; and we have failed again with this administration, in terms of putting the right diplomatic posture in place.
Your question a minute ago about this long-term basing arrangement is a very serious question. How long do we want to be in Iraq and how do we arrive at that decision as a government?
OLBERMANN: Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, we are crushed for time. We thank you for yours, sir. Thank you. Our coverage in the wake of State of the Union address continues after this.
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: In the final of his seven State of the Union addresses to the nation, President George W. Bush tonight looking to calm some fears.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At kitchen tables across our country, there is a concern about our economic future. In the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth, but in the short run, we can all see that that growth is slowing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The president, on the other hand, tonight looking to stoke other fears.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: If you don’t act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That relating to the FISA bill and the telecom immunity thereof.
The commander in chief looking to make claims that seemed analogous to his now infamous 16 words about Iraq and Niger’s yellow cake uranium five years ago in his pre-war State of the Union address in 2003.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Tehran is also developing ballistic missiles of increasing range and continues to develop its capability to enrich uranium, which could be used to create a nuclear weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: If you are watching your watch to take the date, that was tonight. That was not from the 2003 State of the Union message.
Mr. Bush with a recurring theme tonight of placing trust, not in his government, but in the people of his land.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: And so long as we continue to trust the people, our nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure and the state of our union will remain strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And good evening. Alongside Chris Matthews in Washington, I’m Keith Olbermann at our MSNBC headquarters in New York. And this is our continuing coverage of the State of the Union address.
And, Chris, we may have an iconic image that has almost nothing to do with the state of the address, per se, but occurred before it. This is from Scott Applewhite of the Associated Press, whose captions suggest that we are not inferring things from this photograph. Obviously, in red, Senator Clinton reaching across to shake the hand of Senator Kennedy, who so rousingly endorsed Senator Obama at the right for the presidential nomination of their party, the Democratic Party, today...
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Right.
OLBERMANN: ... with Senator Obama, in Mr. Applewhite’s words turns away from her as she reaches out towards Senator Kennedy. That is the interpretation from the man who took the picture. And this was not apparently captured on videotape, so we will have to take his word for it.
And, as a veteran of many years with the Associated Press, apparently, we can, but that—that picture is just—that’s—that’s a Pulitzer Prize right there.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, my mouth is open, because I am thinking that the real roundhouse punches from Ted Kennedy at A.U., at American University, were directed really at Bill Clinton, the former president, in terms of the shots he used about distorting the record of Barack Obama, about the whole way in which the former president has been accused, I am not sure of fairly, of widening the racial divide in this country during this campaign.
All those shots were directed at Bill Clinton, not Hillary Clinton.
It’s very interesting how—Tim, I think, was setting that up rather well as, they’re not just cornermen or seconds in this race, if you think of it as a duel. They’re getting in there very much as tag-team partners, that Bill and Hillary Clinton are going to be fighting from one end of the room and—of the ring, if you will, and the other end is going to be Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama. Boy, that is an even match maybe. We might find ourselves happy to see this combination here.
I do think it is interesting that the state of the union is not as good as the president said it is, according to the American people and according to our polling by NBC News and “The Wall Street Journal.” The latest polling, within the last few days, is that 19 percent of the American people believe this country is moving in the right direction. That is the lowest it has been in a long, long time.
And, of course, the president would have had a very hard time admitting to that.
Let’s bring in NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory.
Does the president know that less than one in five people watching tonight agree with him about the state of the union?
DAVID GREGORY, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think he is pretty well aware of that by now, Chris, yes, absolutely.
And I think I saw different things. I saw a president at times ho was bitter and defiant, diminished at certain times, and openly chiding Congress—not just Democrats, by the way—rather, not just Democrats, but Republicans, as well, on the issue of Social Security reform and immigration, where he was soundly rejected by Congress, two important pillars of this second term rejected.
So, here was a mostly diminished president trying to make an argument about taxes, about wasteful spending, about getting a bipartisan economic stimulus package through, and, on Iraq, trying to make an argument on the one hand, saying the surge has worked better than a lot of people thought, on the other hand, saying to those presidential hopefuls in the audience, Obama and Clinton, just named, that it is incredibly important, in his judgment, that the United States maintain a sustained presence in Iraq, not just for Iraq’s sake, but for the region as well.
And Keith brought this point up about this overwatch program. The president has told me in the last several weeks that at least certainly 10 years is a figure of a sustained U.S. presence there. You have got John McCain on the campaign trail saying they could be there for 100 years.
So, the United States has a firm commitment in the Middle East for some time.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about immigration. The president didn’t have to go back into this, but he went back into it. It is not helping John McCain as an issue. I didn’t mention it with him, but it isn’t.
And his first concern seemed to be that of a businessman. Maybe this is traditional Republican Party, but here you have, not that the humanity issues, or the fact that the kids are here born here with parents here illegally and have to deal with that conundrum. We know about that one and have to care about it.
But here he is saying, he wants to create a lawful way for foreign workers to come here and support our economy. This is business people trying to get people to come here legally or illegally to help their businesses. And I just wonder, it is a strange admission of his priority here, which not humanity or American interests. It’s business interest, per se.
GREGORY: Yes. That may be a slightly narrow reading of his interest in this issue all along, which stretches—there’s no question the business community and its influence on him and those around him in making this kind of policy.
But it was also his experience as governor of a border state and the fact that he did put the humanity of those immigrants coming across the border as a centerpiece of his campaign way back in 2000. A logistical reality as well that rounding up that many illegal immigrants would be very, very difficult and deporting them.
So, you put all of those together, that is what really was the cornerstone of his immigration policy, which a lot of people, including critics, felt he was much more fluent on than other areas of his agenda. And, yet, it was both Republicans and Democrats that rejected it.
MATTHEWS: By the way, he’s talking about future illegal immigrants and legal immigrants. He’s talking about the need for a constant flow in the future of people across the border to fill the jobs in this country.
It’s very interesting how he puts that.
David, thank you.
MATTHEWS: We’re going to have right—joining us right now is columnist Eugene Robinson of “The Washington Post,” a familiar face around here.
Eugene, what are you going to write about this speech? I thought—well, let me ask you to render the—the scales of justice here. What is a bigger news story for tomorrow morning’s newspapers, if you had to put the front page together, Ted Kennedy endorsing—or, rather, the Kennedy family, the surviving daughter of the former president, the surviving brother of the former president, both together endorsing Barack Obama on the eve of the big Super Tuesday events of next week, or the State of the Union address? What is the hot—what is the big story tomorrow?
EUGENE ROBINSON, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I am going with politics tomorrow.
ROBINSON: I think it is a...
MATTHEWS: I led you there.
ROBINSON: No, I mean, which way you going to go?
The State of the Union speech was not the most exciting we have heard.
Just one kind of bookkeeping thing, though, the president once again raises the specter, almost in passing, of an Iranian nuclear weapon, enriching uranium to -
· that they can use to build a nuclear weapon, without mentioning that his own national intelligence estimate says there is not now an Iran nuclear weapons program.
So, you know, again, it does go to perpetuate this kind of atmosphere of perpetual terrorism crisis that—and rogue state crisis that he likes to come back to again and again.
In terms of the rest of the speech, it is—you know, immigration, what more is he going to say about immigration? What more is he going to say about his big ideas that he didn’t get through in the second term he’s not going to get through now? And the rest of it was mostly detail, it seemed to me.
MATTHEWS: You think the vice president, with the help of Scooter Libby, may have come back in force to put those lines in there, as Keith may have suggested, without getting too personal about it? It did seem like a golden oldie there he put in there in that stack.
ROBINSON: Yes, I would have that, after the NIE, you could kind of let that rest for a year, since you have been told by your own intelligence agencies that this is not now a threat, not a threat for the foreseeable future.
But—so, maybe the vice president did want to mention it for old time’s sake.
OLBERMANN: Yes, but it wasn’t—that was not the only one, Gene.
And, by the way, if you are watching at home, Gene and I are sitting at right angles. So, we’re talking to each other this way and that way.
OLBERMANN: But the—half this speech was a recitation of what you would say it would be somebody boasting about their college record and listing the nine incomplete courses that they took.
He is talking about the success of voting in Iraq, when we have this controversy over whether the new de-Baathification laws is going to increase the number of former Baath Party members in the country or significantly decrease it. Nobody seems to know for sure. He has got al Qaeda on the run in Iraq. He’s got bringing justice to our enemies for 9/11.
He invoked Hurricane Katrina, as if that has been going well for the last two-and-a-half years in New Orleans...
OLBERMANN: ... surge forces, the literal use of that phrase enrichment of uranium, which is just a tense difference than 2003, and one letter between Iraq and Iran. And he invoked the so-called terrorist plots in Los Angeles and in the various British airliners to New York and Washington and Vegas. This is highlights the weren’t highlights the first time.
ROBINSON: Yes. That is his story; he is sticking to it.
I mean, those terrorist plots in particular jumped out, because they were basically discredited. And, as you mentioned, a lot of what he claimed credit for is—hasn’t really happened, hasn’t really been accomplished, is in various states of being accomplished, or never will be accomplished.
So—but, as I said, that is his story; he is sticking it to for now.
ROBINSON: And he doesn’t have to come back for next year and—and own up.
OLBERMANN: Well, maybe your column, you can use cut and pastes from the last seven columns about the State of the Union address. If he can, I don’t see why you can’t.
Eugene Robinson is staying with us.
For more on reaction to the president’s State of the Union address tonight, let’s turn now to Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, himself until recently a presidential candidate in the Democratic Party.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Happy to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Let me just read it to you, and you tell me what you think.
“Our message to the leaders of Iran is also clear: Verifiably suspend your nuclear enrichment so negotiations can begin.”
I don’t know. I’m thinking I heard that before somewhere.
BIDEN: Look, this speech was out of touch with the American people, I mean, just flat out of touch. Even when he talked about the economy, a less controversial area, he talked about this emergency plan that was going to solve the problem of the middle class, in effect.
Look, they’re worried about a recession, but they’re also worried about the things that put them in the hole to begin with: health care, education, energy prices. You know, I mean, there was no discussion of anything that’s going to affect them long-term.
And then he has a war with no end. He talks about Iraq. He—you know? He’s totally out of touch with where the American people are. They want the war to end. They want to end it. They want to end it without leaving chaos behind, and here he’s talking about indefinite, you know, confrontation in that area of the world.
I mean, it was just—I found it out of touch. It was almost like, Keith, he was just checking a box. He’s like the salesman on his last day. He made his last sales call. You know, he checked the box, and, you know, I have done my job, and now, you know, I’m going to move on.
I mean, I just found it devoid of what Americans are talking to me about, anyway.
OLBERMANN: Well, and then to conclude it with, “by trusting the people, our founders wagered that a great and noble nation could be built on the liberty that resides in the hearts of all men and women, and “by trusting the people,” invoking that phrase again, and yet, as several people have pointed out, you’re now not just talking about majorities that want withdrawal from Iraq in a year, but nearly two-thirds in that, two-thirds or more who think we’re on the wrong track as a nation, two-thirds or more who believe waterboarding is torture, and this president obviously does not, a majority that doesn’t want the possibility of any kind of—anything being withheld, in terms of prosecuting the telecom giants, if they were involved in warrantless wiretapping.
There’s a lot of invocation of trusting the people, but there wasn’t—not only was there no trusting of the people in this address, but, as Chris Matthews pointed out, there weren’t even any requests of the people. This is a passivity element here.
BIDEN: Look, you kind of can look at this president as bookends: 9/11 and today. And consistent from the moment of 9/11 on, nothing, no challenge has been laid before the American people. There has been no vision.
I know that’s a trite phrase to use in this town, but there’s no vision expressed as to what he sees the world looking like two, three, five years from now. What’s going to be for average Americans in terms of their ability to maintain their standard of living?
I mean, it’s like it was just, to me it was devoid of reality. It just has no connection with the everyday concerns of the vast majority of the American people. I found it the most disengaged speech I have ever heard in a State of the Union, and I have heard a bunch of them.
MATTHEWS: Senator Biden, let me ask you about the president’s terminology tonight. It seems like we have got a new term of art for our occupation of Iraq after all these five years. It’s called a “protective overwatch mission.”
MATTHEWS: It sounds a little Orwellian.
BIDEN: Oh, God.
OLBERMANN: Is this forever? Is this love means never coming home?
What exactly does it mean?
BIDEN: Oh, God, Chris, look, it’s even—he talked about going down to pre-surge levels. He’s talking about pulling 20,000 troops out. We put 30,000 in. Even after he’s done with what he’s proposing now, we’re still 10,000 above where we were a year before, and absolutely no end in sight.
Look, what was the reason for a surge? I know I’m a broken record on this, old buddy. He said the reason for the surge is to give an opportunity for a political settlement. The military guys did their job. They do it every day, every darn time.
And what’s happened now? They gave the opportunity, they set it out, and the president was AWOL. There is virtually—he talked about the awakening, meaning that the group of Sunnis in Anbar Province. Guess what?
That awakening is going to become a nightmare if we don’t figure out how to get these guys jobs or get them integrated into the security forces, like they were promised.
You know, we could end up a year from now a lot worse off than we were a year ago in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the economy. It seems to me that every reasonable person who has any wealth at all is looking at the stock market and going, what the heck is going on with the Dow? What’s going on in the international markets? How does it all relate to the subprime? What’s it got to do with people getting mortgages they were sold into but can’t afford?
How does it all work together? It seemed to me the president had an opportunity tonight to explain the situation, and he passed over it as simply, well, the creation of jobs isn’t quite as spiffy as it was a few months ago. I mean, what do you make of this?
BIDEN: I make of it as it’s like a dream world. It’s like what Keith said. As they say in my business, I associate myself with the remarks of the gentleman who spoke before me.
BIDEN: I mean, it just is—you know, and I know I’m ruining your reputation by doing that, but all kidding aside, I mean, what was this about?
I mean, by the way, a lot of people with wealth are looking at the stock market. The neighborhood I come from, they’re just looking at the street they live on.
BIDEN: They’re not looking at the stock market, for God sake. They’re trying to figure out how in the hell am I going to pay my—
MATTHEWS: I know. Well...
BIDEN: You know, and there’s no discussion of that, none, none.
MATTHEWS: You know, Keith, it reminded me of the old line on the radio before we were really born, was Fibber McGee saying, “One of these days, I’m
going to clean out this closet.”
OLBERMANN: And it comes down crashing.
MATTHEWS: That was the theme—yes, it was the theme of this entire speech tonight.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Yes, I didn’t hear it live, but I’m taking your word for it.
But, Senator Biden, let me close you out with this, with our thanks, after one more question.
BIDEN: Sure. Sure.
OLBERMANN: Just to pull it back to reality, to some degree—and we asked Senator Obama about this in the last hour—to some degree Senator Obama and Senator Clinton and Senator Kennedy kind of overshadowed this speech, at least in terms of the political headlines of the day.
BIDEN: Oh, yes.
OLBERMANN: You heard what Senator Kennedy said. You heard the invocation of the late President John F. Kennedy. Do you have a horse now in this race? Do you have a position on this? You have a reaction to Clinton and Kennedy and all that?
BIDEN: No, no, no.
But, look, this was a huge day for Barack Obama, a huge day. And I think it’s the most significant—mostly, endorsements don’t matter, but I might tell you, in my view, Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack was as consequential as Ted’s endorsement of Barack, because it carried with it a legacy that is profound. And it legitimized what up to here has been sort of a fledgling hope of the candidate of hope. And it’s been a big deal. It’s been a big, big day for Barack Obama.
And the last—when he won in South Carolina, he stepped up to it. I mean, that speech he made, his acceptance, that was a serious, heartfelt, well, well delivered and, I think, very, very good speech.
So, it’s been a good week for Barack. But Hillary’s still, you know, alive and kicking. I don’t count her out at all. I think that, going into Super Tuesday, I think she still has a very good chance of still being the nominee.
And this is a historic moment. I mean, look, we’re going to—we’re likely that the next president of the United States will be an African-American or a woman. That’s something I dreamed of from the time I got involved in politics. I never thought I would get caught in the middle of it.
BIDEN: But that’s something I dreamed of—that’s something I dreamed of from the time I started. And it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal.
OLBERMANN: The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, the senator, the esteemed gentlemen from Delaware, Joe Biden.
OLBERMANN: And thank you for associating yourself with my words, which I never thought I would hear. That’s a dream of my own.
MATTHEWS: That’s right.
BIDEN: I’m sorry if I hurt your reputation, but...
OLBERMANN: No, no. It’s gone already.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.
MATTHEWS: And, Senator, thank you for running for president, because you added a lot to those debates.
MATTHEWS: And they needed some things, and you gave it to them. And I know it was a hard thing. But thank you. I mean it, as a friend. I really think it showed so much guts to run.
MATTHEWS: And maybe it will be an African-American. Maybe it will be a woman.
MATTHEWS: Maybe it will be a Republican. But I think the best thing is that you ran.
BIDEN: Well, thank you, man.
MATTHEWS: And that’s how the system works. Thank you.
BIDEN: It was a great experience.
Thank you very, very much, both of you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Let’s bring in Andy Card, who served as chief of staff under President Bush.
You know, it is easier, Mr. Card, to give a State of the Union when you are about 70 percent in job approval. It takes a little something to go out there when you are about 30.
ANDREW CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I have been listening to you and Keith. I can’t tell you how cynical you two sound.
CARD: And almost every guest you have had on has been very cynical.
You can’t even find an objective skeptic to interview.
CARD: And I can tell you, the president’s address tonight was very important, because it really was a sobering call to reality for us.
And the reality is, we have an enemy who wants to hurt us. The primary job of the president is to protect us. He talked about protecting us. He talked about the needs to have the tools to protect us. He talked about the challenges that our troops are facing. And, yes, he talked about the realities of our economy.
But the economy is not in a recession. We have to get it out of the recession. And he challenged the Senate in particular to pass the stimulus package, and get it done quickly. He challenged the Senate to pass the FISA bill and Congress to pass the FISA bill and get it into—into law, so that we can help to protect the country.
I thought it was a very practical speech. It was not bombastic. It was not over the top. It was realistic as the job of president. And the context of the speech is unusual from anything we have ever had before in this country, in that the State of the Union address came in the heat of a presidential election where neither party is settled on a candidate yet.
In fact, we have never had a situation where the State of the Union address came after we have had the process start for nominating a president within each party.
MATTHEWS: Well, one concern a lot of people would have—and you can call it cynicism—is, we have had, what, seven years now of this president, our elected president.
And, in all that time, he has not vetoed a spending bill, and we have had pork after pork after pork, earmark after earmark, here he is on the way out of the door saying, I don’t like earmarking.
How do you respond to that?
CARD: Well, first of all, earmarks have been growing like topsy. And, yes, he did challenge Congress to cut back.
And I can tell you, even when I was serving in the administration, we challenged Congress quietly, and sometimes not so quietly, to be more responsible about how they were spending money. But you also had to govern and had to get things done. And working with Congress is not easy.
And, Chris, you know that better than anyone. And you have to make a lot of compromises. And the speaker of the House has a tough job getting things passed. And Speaker Pelosi has a tough job with her caucus right now getting things passed. That is one reason Congress is not as productive as it should be.
But I actually think the president put an important marker out there when he said, we’re going to be paying attention to a process that Congress has been using with increasing frequency.
CARD: And this is way down in the weeds.
But this is the so-called report language. And that isn’t—non-law that ties the hands of the executive branch. And the president says, I’m going to put an executive order out to tell the executive branch, don’t pay attention to something that is not a law. If it is just a request from Congress in one of these side letters, if you will, to a law...
CARD: ... don’t pay attention to it. The courts have said that that is the right thing to do.
MATTHEWS: But he cannot stop the enactment of a law that is passed by Congress because some of the amendments weren’t voted on formally. Congress can agree to a conference report, with all its elements in it. As long as it is within the range of the House and the Senate bills, they can pass that. If he signs that, that is the law.
CARD: That’s the law. He doesn’t have veto—he doesn’t have line- item veto authority.
MATTHEWS: He said tonight he was going to tell agencies they were—he was telling the agencies that they are not going the enforce the will of Congress, as signed by the president.
I think that is an unconstitutional proposition.
CARD: No, no. He said—he is telling the agencies, if it is not a law, you don’t have to enforce it.
CARD: If it’s just a side agreement that is not in the law that he signs, you don’t have to comply with it.
MATTHEWS: He went further. Andy, he went further and said, if they—if the Congress didn’t formally vote on an amendment which led to the final enactment, he wasn’t going to see it enforced. I think that’s extraconstitutional on his part. But we will determine that later.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
CARD: ... you’re way down in the weeds, Chris.
CARD: And the truth is, the weeds are preventing sound budget practices from being implemented in the executive branch.
MATTHEWS: Right. I am just down there with that old Constitution.
Anyway, thank you, Andy Card. It’s great having you on, sir.
CARD: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You are a good guy. Thank you.
CARD: Good to see you.
When Keith and I return, we will preview tomorrow’s critical Republican primary in Florida. And, by the way, this is the hardest one to call. Not even we are trying to call this one. I’m not trying to call it. It is brutally close down there in Florida. McCain may have had a couple of good days. The overall trend maybe seems to be to Mitt Romney, but who knows.
You are watching MSNBC’s live coverage of the State of the Union. We will be back with more in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We must also find a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally. Illegal immigration is complicated, but it can be resolved, and it must be resolved in a way that upholds both our laws and our highest ideals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Tomorrow, voters in Florida will head to the polls. Mitt Romney and John McCain are locked in a tough fight.
For a preview of that fight, we are joined by U.S. Congressman Adam Putnam of Florida, who is the chairman of the House Republican Conference.
He’s one of the leaders of the House. He did support Fred Thompson.
Where are you now, Congressman, in this big fight between Romney and McCain, McCain and Romney?
REP. ADAM PUTNAM ®, FLORIDA: I am squarely in Switzerland.
I was a big Fred guy, and I am just watching how this plays out. And it is really interesting to watch. I think I am your first guest on tonight who is not running for president, except for Andy Card.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you this, why not? I’m just kidding.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, what is—what is happening down there? I am watching the president tonight deliver a State of the Union wherein he seems to take most of the McCain positions for some kind of reform of immigration, even if it is a bit testy for a lot of us to accept, a big focus on getting rid of earmarks and pork and waste by the Congress, an awful lot of focus on an awful challenge, which, of course, is terrorism in the world, no discussion, really, of the international financial crisis going on right now.
What do you make of it? It didn’t—it seemed to be McCain speech, not a Romney speech.
PUTNAM: Well, I—you know, the president has talked about immigration in probably every one of his State of the Union speeches.
The president led his speech by talking about a bipartisan agreement on an economic stimulus. So, it is not as if he ignored the international financial issues that are out there. And, of course, he spent a fair amount of time talking about foreign policy in Iraq.
So, you know, I don’t—I don’t view that as being a McCain speech over a Romney speech at all. I don’t know that that is a fair premise to take.
MATTHEWS: Well, we disagree.
Let me ask you about that race, so that we can find something to agree on. Is this going to be close tomorrow down there, or do you think one of the guy has got a leg up, without telling me who it is?
PUTNAM: You know, I...
MATTHEWS: Is this going to be as tight as it looks, or what?
PUTNAM: I think it is as tight as it looks.
I called my wife right before the State of the Union. And she said, oh, it is you. We have had 25 robo-calls today between these two candidates.
So, I think it is going to be a nail biter. It’s clearly between Romney and McCain. Giuliani does not appear to be in the top two at all. I don’t think his strategy is going to work of disregarding the first four states. So, I think it is going to go down to the wire.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thanks a lot for joining us tonight. Thank you very much for your patience...
PUTNAM: You bet.
MATTHEWS: ... Congressman Adam Putnam of Florida.
MATTHEWS: Michelle Bernard, of course, who is on the program tonight, she is with the Independent Women’s Voice.
Michelle Bernard, you liked the president’s speech tonight, I guess.
MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN’S VOICE: I would say that it was a very difficult night for the president to have to give a speech. Following Barack Obama’s address at American University would have been difficult for the most fascinating and wonderful orator, let alone President Bush.
MATTHEWS: So what do you make of the new value of the president’s speech tonight compared to that of Ted Kennedy endorsing Barack Obama, in fact, preceded by Caroline Kennedy? I agree with Joe Biden, there was something extremely poignant about the late president’s daughter coming out of a private life to do something she never does, which is to become a full-fledged politician, at least for a couple of days.
BERNARD: Well, you know, I mean, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, that entire generation has been standard bearers for the Democratic Party. So for the Kennedys to endorse Barack Obama today, and again to have Barack Obama give that speech that he gave Saturday night after winning the South Carolina Primary, and then again today here in Washington at American University, clearly, that was the news of the day.
It overshadowed the president’s speech. It was a very difficult speech for the president to give. We are in the middle of an economic downturn. We are in the middle of the war that is still very, very unpopular, regardless of whether or not you believe that the surge is working or not.
People are looking for change, that has become the resounding theme among Republicans and Democrats alike. And you know, the president talked to us tonight about the unfinished agenda. And really most of the country is looking forward, most of the country is looking for what we call that “shining city on the hill,” and we did not get that in the president’s State of the Union Address.
And unfortunately people were probably left with, you know, are we talking about change? What is the president’s vision of the future? What is going to happen in the next year? Or are we going to be reduced to politics as usual?
MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you very much for joining us, for staying up late. You were on tonight. You are always great, Michelle Bernard, thank you for your thoughts—Keith.
BERNARD: Thanks, Chris.
OLBERMANN: Yes. His unfinished agenda—that phrase, “his unfinished agenda” perhaps summarizes that speech tonight, Chris. But as we are talking about Florida, I want your political intuition on this. We had two developments in the Rudy Giuliani campaign that seemed to merit some attention here tonight.
The first one being that he stated on the campaign plane that the winner of Florida is going to win the nomination. And it sure looks like he is going to finish third, if he is lucky, in Florida. That is number one.
Number two, when reporters got back on the plane today, they found autographed Rudy Giuliani baseballs. And we don’t think was like some sort of big sale on them that he picked up somewhere and just decided to pass them out. That sort of—were those parting gifts? Is he ready to go out…
MATTHEWS: They looked like those.
OLBERMANN: … if he indeed does not win, as it looks like he is not even going to finish second in Florida?
MATTHEWS: Well, I guess they’re what we call in New York tchotchkes, huh? Little gifts…
MATTHEWS: Little gifts for the door. But you know, the neat thing
about that statement is it reminds me of one of those great old radio sound- offs, like, that is all of my time, thank you for yours. You know?
It is like, if this thing doesn’t work in Florida, don’t expect me to stick around much longer. That does seem to be the message there.
OLBERMANN: Is it—could it happen as fast as after tomorrow night?
Would he get out quickly? Would he get out—because obviously there is so much for him to do and so much for him to do profitably—and I mean that in both senses of the word, that do not involve running for president. Does he want to get out while the getting is good before it becomes kind of an embarrassment if it is not that way already?
MATTHEWS: Well, I don’t think his value is growing, I think, as a politician. I think he had a good opportunity a couple of years ago, and I go back to something I read once about the great Douglas MacArthur, who had so much to do with winning World War II in the Pacific.
And people said that right after he came back from being fired by Harry Truman in ‘51, had there been a presidential election that year, he could have beaten anybody, including Truman. But it took a year for him to really get around and by the time a year later, they were looking for a real diplomat, not for a warrior like him, and certainly not a difficult warrior.
And they were looking for an Ike Eisenhower, someone who could bring peace to the war, end the war in Korea, and not turn it into a World War III.
And so I think timing is everything. It is an old phrase, but I think the timing of—when you to the point where Jon Stewart is telling jokes about
9/11 Tourette’s, and how you can’t get through a sentence, when Joe Biden is saying every sentence includes a noun, a verb and 9/11, it becomes a joke.
And it shouldn’t be of course, because 9/11 was critical to our history and a horror for us all, but as a political case, I think it had a short shelf life, shorter than six years.
OLBERMANN: Yes. And it proves you cannot be a one-note wonder in any field, and last for very long at it. But the other thing he has to look out for is those—you know, he is still a popular speaker, he still has a livelihood. So that other meaning of profit applies too. Well, we’ll see. I mean, he has given us the hints, but who knows what practically will happen.
MATTHEWS: He is not the first New York mayor to think he could be president, and he is certainly not the last, I get the feeling, don’t you?
OLBERMANN: And not the get the message—right. And not the last or the first to get the message in Florida, as John Lindsay’s fans will remember.
MATTHEWS: Well, Lindsay, and now Bloomberg is dreaming dreams, too.
You know, they all think they have got the second-hardest job in New York. I think Lindsay coined that phrase. And once they…
OLBERMANN: In America.
MATTHEWS: … hear that moniker, they go for it. Hey, if this is the second toughest job, why not go for the big one? They believe it.
OLBERMANN: Chris and I will—yes, well, this is the second job in America—toughest job in America, as you know, the one we share here. Chris and I will be…
MATTHEWS: No, it’s not.
OLBERMANN: … having coverage of the Florida Primary tomorrow, beginning at 6:00 Eastern when we, the unobjective cynics, of Mr. Card’s phrase, join you once again for the latest and whatever happens after that.
McCain and Romney head-to-head and Giuliani just watching at this point.
Up next here, Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow. You are watching MSNBC’s live coverage of the aftermath of President Bush’s final State of the Union Address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our military and civilians in Iraq are performing with courage and distinction and they have the gratitude of our whole nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: From New York and from Washington, we rejoin you with MSNBC’s coverage of the State of the Union Address. MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow are here in New York.
I think there is almost no need for me to try to provoke either one of you, it is just a question of who gets to talk first. Rachel, what did you think of the speech?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought it was kind of a Groundhog Day State of the Union speech. It could have been any year, there were so many greatest hits in there. It started off on a weird and I thought portentous note when Bush immediately cited “A Charge to Keep.”
That, of course, is the name of his autobiography. We learned in Jacob Weisberg’s new book this month that Bush thought he named his autobiography after a painting that hangs in his office that shows in Bush’s mind—what he thought it showed, was a guy on horseback leading a bunch of missionaries up a steep trail, it turns out what that painting actually shows is a horse thief running from a lynch mob.
So the fact that he didn’t pick up on the outing of that in Weisberg’s new book, I thought was a bad sign.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let me respond, I guess.
BUCHANAN: The speech really is not a memorable speech and there were not many memorable lines in it, but I did notice in the Iraq section where the president was very defiant there and he went back and indicated that a year ago everyone thought that the situation was headed for chaos, and the surge was tried and the surge was worked, and that the surge succeeded, and he is going to withdraw 20,000 troops, and as for the other troops, he wants them fully funded.
What he was saying here in effect is, on this major issue, Iraq, where you folks were elected supposedly to impose deadlines and timetables, I have won this battle and I want you to continue funding it.
And the truth is that he has won it and despite the feeling of the American people—or two-thirds that we ought to get out, I think he is—he really sort of held up a mirror to the timidity and to the impotence of the Congress of the United States.
We just heard Joe Biden here talking about how he is out of touch with the American people. And you have got to ask Senator Biden, why they have not then, you know, grabbed this nettle and really dealt with it, and the truth is that they have not.
MADDOW: Yes, on the Iraq issue, Bush making this announcement about certain combat brigades coming home, essentially, you are right, Pat. He is saying, we are going to go back to pre-surge levels and then other than that, the pre-surge levels are there indefinitely.
In other words, he is winding the clock back to November of 2006. He is saying ending the war is still off of the table. The only thing we can discuss is whether or not we are going to end the surge.
Keep in mind that this is the week that Paul Wolfowitz went back to the State Department this week to go work on weapons issues. Just today, we got a huge new profit statement from Halliburton. When I say this is Groundhog Day, I honestly believe it, this could be 2003, this could be 2004, this could be 2005, there is nothing about the future, it’s just about holding ground and dialing the clock back.
OLBERMANN: And to that point—Pat, forgive me for interrupting, but I want to focus you in and get your reaction, particularly, as somebody who knows the writing of speeches and the reading of presidential speeches and candidate speeches intimately, would you ever, under any circumstances have imagined that after 2003 and the 16 infamous words about Niger and yellowcake uranium, would you have ever imagined hearing a phrase that said, Tehran is also developing ballistic missiles of increasing range, continues to develop its capability to enrich uranium?
Does something not ring somewhere to say, don’t use a phrase that immediately invokes 2003 all over again?
BUCHANAN: Well, I think on Iran, let me say, you know, there is—I mean, they are enriching uranium. I mean, Ahmadinejad indicates—I think he is saying they are doing a lot better at it than they really are. But I thought, Keith, the president—I saw the president’s speeches last summer at the American Legion and I wrote columns about him and took these quotes, to me it looked like war was imminent. I could not see how he could climb down from the statements he was making until that NIE came out.
And what I saw tonight in the president’s statements on Iran was formulaic. I mean, he said all of these things before. He simply repeated them. I got none of the sense of imminence of crisis or the real possibility of an attack on Iran we were getting last fall.
I think he had to do this thing tonight the way he is doing it, because they are still working on the sanctions up at the U.N. But I—you know, I didn’t get the sense that the president was as hot really for confrontation with Iran as he and the vice president seemed to be six months ago.
MADDOW: I think that was—I think I heard that as well. It felt like it was saber-rattling, it was very familiar sounding threats, but they didn’t really have the same punch behind them. I think partly because it is so repetitive.
OLBERMANN: And one saber and it didn’t rattle very loudly. Pat Buchanan, Rachel Maddow, again, thanks. MSNBC’s political analysts.
Next, our panel will rejoin us. You are watching MSNBC’s continuing coverage of the president’s State of the Union Address this evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Members of Congress should know, if any bill raises taxes reaches my desk, I will veto it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This is MSNBC’s continuing coverage of the State of the Union Address. We are joined now by presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
It’s a pleasure to speak with you, sir.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Hi, Keith. Nice to talk to you.
OLBERMANN: The various phrases used to describe this effect that a lot of us have felt in hearing the president tonight, Michelle Bernard put it I think perhaps most succinctly, that was “his unfinished agenda.”
There were references to cut and paste jobs from previous States of the Union, edited highlights of the Bush presidency and a best of album of unfinished symphonies. Why so many reminders of all of the things that perhaps Mr. Bush feels he has accomplished but history and recent history suggests are very much unfinished?
BESCHLOSS: I think because he has really run out of steam. You know, this is a president whose poll ratings are almost as low as they have been. He has lost both houses of Congress. A huge number of Americans, according to the polls, think that the country is on the wrong track.
And even in the Republican primaries, Keith, you see these Republican candidates, very few of them are making any effort to associate themselves with the legacy of George Bush.
So he is about as lame a duck a president as you can really find. But you know, Bush is the kind of person, you remember when he came into the presidency, he had been installed in a contested election by the Supreme Court, yet he essentially said, I’m going to govern as if I was elected by a landslide.
So in a way, if you thought of past history, you might expect him to say, even though I am in a very difficult situation my last year, I’m going to try to propose some programs that actually might get passed, might require working with some Democrats, there was almost none of that.
OLBERMANN: But the freedom that lame duckness would theoretically provide, it seems that few presidents in that situation have ever just said, I have a free pass here, especially this president, because, as we have remarked several times, not since 1928 have we been completely clear of even an incumbent president or vice president appearing, however briefly, in the primaries.
This is—it did not ultimately matter for him, nor the candidates who seek to succeed him what he said tonight except perhaps in their reactions to it. He could have said anything. Would you not think that for 10, 20 minutes of a speech of that length, your last chance, something aspirational, something rhetorical, something great or memorable could have been introduced, or did he think that he did that?
BESCHLOSS: It was an opportunity lost. If it was in there, I didn’t find it. And I don’t think you did either. And you know, you would have thought that perhaps he might have said—you know, for instance, Lyndon Johnson was a lame duck his last year, but got fair housing and gun control.
Ronald Reagan, although he had lost all of Congress, was able to do things with Democrats his last year that helped to end the Cold War. You would think that there would be some kind of aspiration.
Even Gerald Ford, going out of office, you know, came up with something that people thought was sort of a non sequitur, make Puerto Rico the 51st state, there was not even anything quixotic like that.
OLBERMANN: That would have—at least that would have been a headline in that.
BESCHLOSS: It would have caught our attention, wouldn’t it?
OLBERMANN: Or you know, make them the 43rd state and make somebody else 51st state, something original perhaps. Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian, I’m sorry our time was so brief. Thank you, sir.
BESCHLOSS: Great to talk. Thanks, Keith.
MATTHEWS: Thanks, Keith. Let’s go back to the panel. I have got Margaret Carlson here from Bloomberg; and Howard Fineman from Newsweek, and Gene Washington—Gene Robinson still here from The Washington Post. Let me put it all together.
I am reading here, I want you all to react to Dianne Feinstein, I have always liked her as a senator, she is so solid, this isn’t really partisan, it is just tough. Gene, you respond to this quote. This is what Dianne Feinstein put out tonight.
“I found the speech disappointing. It was narrow and lacked vision. I believe the American people have pretty much moved beyond this administration.
They have moved on to the presidential campaign, wondering who is going to be next president and what does the future hold. In a sense, this was a wrap-up speech, it was the beginning of the end to eight very tough years.”
MATTHEWS: How is that for a complete summing up? Go ahead, your thoughts on Dianne Feinstein’s thoughts.
EUGENE WASHINGTON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, that is like the screen door hitting you in the rear end on your way out of the room, I think, I mean, basically. You know, that does put a period on the end of it. It was a speech that didn’t try to do a whole lot. It certainly didn’t try to set the country on any new directions, probably because the president knows, you know, his time for doing that sort of thing is over. And so he didn’t try.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let’s watch a beginning, everybody—Gene and Howard and Margaret, let watch something that began perhaps tonight, although this campaign is so hard to predict, here is the arrival of Senator Barack Obama in the chamber tonight, let’s watch this event. Just one of the senators, there he is coming in.
It is a bit, Howard, like a president coming down that aisle.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and he has got Claire McCaskill right there with him, the senator from Missouri, who was an early endorser. Today was the big endorsement.
What impressed me about this whole thing, and having talked to some of the Obama people about this, as soon as the results from South Carolina were in, they realized they had a moment here to establish him as the kind of shadow president. Almost a parliamentary thing.
Don’t forget, he is in the Senate and Hillary Clinton is in the Senate. And as Andy Card said, this is the first time that you have a presidential campaign in full bloom before the State of the Union. And it comes at the end of a presidency.
And Hillary was nowhere to be seen tonight. You know, she was supposed to do television tonight, she canceled for the most part except for the interview with Brian Williams.
Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy really stood as the center of gravity in the Democratic Party, bidding to be the next turn of the wheel of American history while George Bush was giving this forgettable non-speech.
I mean, the two events coming together couldn’t have bespoken more a changing of the guard than if Barack Obama had scripted the whole thing from the beginning, and they tried, by the way. And they also came out with a video—Obama video tonight on the Web. I mean, they are trying…
MATTHEWS: Right. This could be their day.
FINEMAN: This is their—they scripted this as their day and they largely succeeded in it.
MATTHEWS: And doing it on the same day, Margaret, as the State of the Union. It does seem like a bit from “Fiddler on the Roof” here, “Sunrise, Sunset.” I’m not sure we know anything about the future. One again, I chastise myself for predicting anything.
MATTHEWS: But it is “Sunrise, Sunset” based upon Ted Kennedy’s promulgation today.
MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG: You know, on the presidential idea, the first time I have heard presidential-like speeches when accepting a victory, as in South Carolina and Iowa, was Barack Obama. They were scripted speeches, they were…
CARLSON: … heroic. Well, John McCain uses teleprompters. I mean, if you are going to give a speech…
FINEMAN: Yes, but Obama just started doing it.
MATTHEWS: Gene, I thought you had a thought there about the use of teleprompters.
ROBINSON: Yes—no, John McCain uses teleprompters now. After his disastrous experience without a teleprompter, he now uses them.
MATTHEWS: Ha! You mean that speech he read.
FINEMAN: Yes. But Obama hadn’t been using them very much, I thought that was very interesting. Also, the way this is going off like a series of firecrackers. Kathleen Sebelius, the governor of Kansas, gives the official Democratic Response. Tomorrow she is going to be endorsing Obama.
So you have the Obama campaign surrounding the existing administration on all fronts.
MATTHEWS: OK. Keith, I think the next question is, when does Al Gore make his appearance this week on the behalf of Barack Obama to finally ice this thing perhaps?
OLBERMANN: Yes. Well, how much more is there? Who stays out there?
Who is going to be able remain neutral at this point? There aren’t that many…
MATTHEWS: Adam Putnam of Florida…
MATTHEWS: He was on tonight. He is playing Switzerland, that is an interesting way of putting it.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and Andy Card, they will remain neutral the rest of the way. But yes, where are they and is there going to be—we talked about the—over the weekend about rush by prominent African-American politicians to, you know, get by Senator Obama’s side, is that going to be at any point followed by a rush by every other kind of politician, every other Democrat? Is there a bandwagon effect at some point?
MATTHEWS: And what does silence betoken? What does not saying something mean? I have been thinking about that. If you are Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, if you are just one of these new kids of the block, the new senators, and you don’t say nothing, what do people presume? Do they say, hey, look, you could have gotten behind Barack Obama if you are a youthful, thinking kind guy, if you are a change agent, why didn’t you?
I mean, Howard, what do you think? What does silence betoken?
FINEMAN: Well, confusion right now , because these next eight days are going to be moments of decision for all Democratic politicians. Because, for Barack Obama, it will be, were you with me before Super Tuesday or after Super Tuesday? I think that is dynamic of it.
And Hillary is saying, if you stick with me now, I won’t forget you later. But those eight days can’t go fast enough for Hillary Clinton.
OLBERMANN: All right. We are…
MATTHEWS: Yes, thank you, guys.
OLBERMANN: We are out. Howard Fineman, Margaret Carlson, Eugene Robinson, thank you much. Norah O’Donnell and David Shuster will pick up our coverage after a break.
Please join Chris and me tomorrow, beginning at 6:00 Eastern for live coverage of the Florida Primary, Romney and McCain. And we’ll see what happens with Rudy Giuliani. For Chris Matthew, I’m Keith Olbermann, thanks for being
with us, and good night for us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: There was another time when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a new frontier. He faced public criticism from the preceding Democratic president who was widely respected in the party. Harry Truman said, we need someone with greater experience, and added, may I urge you to be patient. And John Kennedy replied, the world is changing. The old ways—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORAH O’DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: And Ted Kennedy was one of the big headlines today, endorsing Senator Barack Obama. Good Evening, I’m Norah O’Donnell reporting from MSNBC world head quarters in New York. And this is MSNBC’s continuing coverage of the State of the Union by the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I’m David Shuster reporting from Miami, Florida, where tomorrow Republicans will have one of the most important clashes of campaign ‘08, the Florida primary. Tonight, all eyes here were on President Bush, as he delivered his seventh State of the Union. And for the next hour, we will talk about the president’s big speech and about how the Bush presidency is affecting the rough and tough political campaigns for both parties.
O’DONNELL: With the stumbling economy now surpassing the war in Iraq as the country’s top concern, the president tonight announced a plan to crack down on spending.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you send me an appropriations bill that does not cut the number of earmarks in half, I will send it back to you with my veto.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: The president repeated his pitch for immigration and Social Security reform, but he saved his strongest words for what he called the success of the troop surge in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Ladies and gentlemen, some may deny the surge is working. But among the terrorists there is no doubt, al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, and this enemy will be defeated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: And at one point, the president tried to lighten the mood with some humor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes, I welcome their enthusiasm. I am pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: It was a funny line for some of the Republicans, but not so much on the other side of the aisle for the Democrats.
And David Shuster is down there in Florida and also with us to talk about the night, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, who was the White House communications director under the nation’s 40th president, and also MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell, Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez and MSNBC analyst and host Rachel Maddow.
Welcome to all of you. Pat, let’s begin with you. This president’s State of the Union Address, his final in office; how do you think it played tonight?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was really not a memorable speech, I have to say, that the president delivered. I don’t know that there were many memorable lines in it. That was a very funny line he had. And I think that where you see the president of the United States really becoming energized and engaged was on the surge in Iraq, which, quite frankly, he believes has been a great success and most people believe has been a great success. And he is defiant in saying that we are going to stay the course, as it were. We’re going to bring out 20,000 troops. And there are going to be more there at the end of his term than there were in 2006 when the Democrats were elected.
But I don’t think that it, as I said, Norah—I just don’t believe it was a truly memorable speech.
O’DONNELL: And on that surge is working, he said 20,000 troops will be coming home. But that still doesn’t bring us down to pre-surge levels, right, Pat?
BUCHANAN: That’s exactly right, Norah. But that is where he was defiant, in a sense. He was saying, in effect, to the Congress, look, you said you were elected to impose deadlines and time tables. You haven’t been able to do it. You didn’t do it. We put the troops in. It is succeeding. And now you will give me the money to support those troops.
And the truth is the Congress is not going to impose any deadlines and timetables, and the president is going to leave office with more in there than were in there in 2006.
SHUSTER: Rachael Maddow, I heard a lot of recycled ideas, whether it was housing reform, veterans care, climate change, stem cells. Did you hear anything new in tonight’s speech?
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO: No, I really didn’t. Earmarks, exactly. Trying to get rid of the pork barrel spending. The earmarks thing—a lot of the stuff that he raised, whether it was earmarks or judge nominations or health care costs and the uninsured, and climate change even, any of the stuff that he raised is a little bit shaky ground for him, because on all of the things the record does not necessarily look better in terms of his watch or in terms of what the Republicans have done in Congress than what the Democrats have been proposing.
On all of those things that he raised, he has real weaknesses in his own record. I really was expecting to hear something knew. I was expecting there to be a little bit of a surprise, because as we went through the litany of the old stuff, he didn’t have anything to offer on health care. Why have the costs and the number of uninsured kept going up every year if his ideas on it so good.
LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I have to say this though. One thing that is missing here that I think that American voters are listening for is that they don’t want to hear a great oratory; they want to hear about a lot of great hard work. And the president recognized that. If you looked at it in kind of—the metaphor you would have is someone putting their head down and saying, let’s move forward and get the job done.
I thought that the president did a good job in reiterating that with the economic stimulus package, putting the onus on the Democrats not to load it up, but to give him a bill that can put money back in the hands of American taxpayers. He’s talking about holding the line on taxpayer wasteful spending.
I mean, a perfect example would be Hillary Clinton and the Hippie Museum, you know, the millions of dollars of tax payer money he wants to have for a museum at Woodstock. So don’t forget there are serious things.
MADDOW: This is exactly what I am talking about. In the Democratic Congress, the number of earmarks went down by 40 percent compared to the Republican Congress. So that is something that you would expect the Democrats to be bragging on and raising in speeches. You wouldn’t necessarily expect a Republican president to be bragging on it. President Bush has added his own earmarks to defense spending bills, including a librarians program named after his wife and a --
SANCHEZ: The bridge to nowhere, there’s a lot.
MADDOW: Right, that is also a Republican program. This is not something on which he has a clear political advantage. That is why I was surprised to see him try to brag on it.
SHUSTER: Leslie, hold on a second. I want to bring on Lawrence O’Donnell. Lawrence, I want to get your reaction on the other side of this.
Tonight, President Bush made a variety of proclamations and pronouncements. At one case he demanded that Congress stop the pork barrel projects that are added
to spending bills and are known as earmarks. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The people’s trust in their government is undermined by Congressional earmarks, special interest projects that are often snuck in at the last minute without discussion or debate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Now, it is true that the people’s trust is undermined, but it was the Republican Congress and President Bush that did it for many years, the last Republican Congress in 2005. The president signed spending bills that included 13,492 earmarks costing 19 billion dollars. Last year, the president’s own White House stuffed approximately 480 earmarks into his appropriations requests for military construction and veterans affairs. The president’s earmarks included 24 million dollars for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. Lawrence, should that be part of Veteran’s Affairs?
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I must rise in defense of earmarks, having worked in the Senate and having stuffed some into bills with my own hands. Look, an earmark depends upon how you look at it. John McCain hates all the earmarks. He considers Amtrak an earmark, which it is. If you live in the northeast corridor between Boston and Washington, you realize how vital that is to the infrastructure of the northeastern United States. If you don’t, you don’t care about it.
So yes, there’s a lot of silly things that end up on those lists, but there’s a lot of really vital aspects of how this country holds itself together that is represented in this big evil pile named earmarks.
O’DONNELL: Lawrence, it is Norah, and I thought of you when I was listening to the president do that, because I noted that it was the president saying, essentially, I am going to curb your spending ability, Congress, and your ability to do special projects. Shocking all, every single member of Congress stood up and applauded. And yet, they are guilty of the very thing the president is saying he is going to try and stop them from doing. How much success do you think he will have?
L. O’DONNELL: Well, he did the one thing he can do. The one politically relevant statement he made is his statement about vetoes. He will veto a tax increase, which he won’t get a chance to do that. But he said he will veto any appropriations bill that doesn’t have a 50 percent cut in the number and amount of earmarks. Now that is a pretty easy thing to measure.
And so let’s see if he does that.
O’DONNELL: Pat, isn’t this finally a bone to throw to conservatives who said this president, one of the thing he’s has done very poorly is to cut spending, that and has grown enormously, domestic spending as well as defense spending under the president?
BUCHANAN: Well, the president was very much hurt. He was routed in 2006. As he said himself, he took a thumping. And when conservatives looked at themselves and said why did we take such a thumping? They looked at the enormous social spending under George W. Bush and the failure to control it and his failure to veto a single spending bill.
And clearly the president is behind the curb and he’s now trying to catch up as a—you know, a fiscal conservative. And frankly, he has a very poor record of that. And now he is trying to do better wit, at the end of the term, and the way for example he is trying to do better with the Middle East by going over there and working on peace in the last year of his administration.
SHUSTER: Leslie, doesn’t this just underscore that this is a lame duck State of the Union speech, when the best the president can promise to do is, well, I will stop their earmarks, despite what the Republican Congress has been doing for the last five years.
SANCHEZ: You know, that is a winner. When you have Congress with a 70 percent disapproval rating, the president can really rail on that issue. I think what is interesting is the president started this speech, you know, the same way—he is full circle with what he started his administration with. He was talking about No Child Left Behind, reauthorizing that, which has done a lot of kids—a lot of good for under-served students. He talked about immigration reform. I don’t really think realistically we are going to get that done, but it’s something he needs to keep pressure on. I think in this presidential election, we should all keep pressure on these candidates.
And he also talked about faith-based initiatives. Those were three things that were near and dear to him when he began under the mantra of compassionate conservatism. You didn’t hear about that in the last two years.
I think he is ending strong in what he believed was right.
O’DONNELL: All, Leslie Sanchez, great to see you. Thanks so much for joining us. The rest of the panel will stick with us through the next break.
SHUSTER: Coming up next, in less than seven hours, voters here in Florida will go to the polls to make or break Rudy Giuliani, who was once the front-runner. He is now fighting for third place and his presidential dreams.
O’DONNELL: Plus, you know, David, it was a good day for Barack Obama, earning a big endorsement from the Democratic heavyweight Edward Kennedy. What will the fallout be for Hillary Clinton’s campaign? Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: In this election year, let us show our fellow Americans that we recognize our responsibilities and are determined to meet them. Let us show them that Republicans and Democrats can compete for votes and cooperate for results at the same time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Since 9/11, we have taken the fight to these terrorists and extremists. We will stay on the offense. We will keep up the pressure. And we will deliver justice to our enemies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: I am Norah O’Donnell in New York. And that was President Bush earlier tonight giving his seventh and final State of the Union Address.
SHUSTER: I am David Shuster in Miami, Florida, where tomorrow the Republican candidates for president are heading for a major collision in the Florida primary. For those candidates, the war in Iraq and the larger war on terror remain hot topics. The contest here is shaping up as a very tough fight between Senator John McCain and Governor Mitt Romney.
O’DONNELL: David, I was look at the latest Reuters/C-Span/Zogby poll, which has McCain slightly ahead of Mitt Romney. It seems that McCain got a three point bump after the endorsement from Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is counting on a victory in the Sunshine State, remains a distant third in most polls.
SHUSTER: Let’s bring back our panel. Pat Buchanan and Lawrence O’Donnell. Also joining us is Michelle Bernard, Republican strategist for the Independent Women’s Forum, and MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford. Craig, you have been in Florida for the past month, so who will win this thing tomorrow?
CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: My head says Mitt Romney.
That is certainly the buzz from a lot of the contacts I have here in the state. But a lot of old pros here in Florida, David, are I saying they have never seen one so tight, such a—in the last few weeks the lead going back and forth in peoples’ minds.
McCain got a real boost from those endorsements that you mentioned from Governor Crist and from Senator Martinez. Also, I think that what may actually be a big boost for Romney in the end is evangelicals. I am told—the word that is going out is a vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain. And so a lot of the evangelicals are thinking about moving to Romney, because they just want to stop McCain, and voting for Huckabee is a throw away vote in their minds. I don’t know if that will pan out. I have seen it happen before in Florida, and that is what is in play, I am told.
SHUSTER: Pat Buchanan, it really does seem like this election here is boiling down to an argument of what is more important, the war or the economy?
What do you think is going to be the cutting issue tomorrow?
BUCHANAN: Well, I think what happened here, David, is look, McCain came out of South Carolina with a bump, and then Romney had a terrific debate, his best one. I think that the momentum was swinging all of his way. You could see it in his mood and the discussion of the economy and Mr. Outsider.
And then McCain made that charge, which I think was a low blow, that, in effect, he had called for a call of the withdrawal of the troops and time tables, et cetera, as the Democrats had.
And it knocked him off of his game. I think McCain turned the issue back around to the war in Iraq and national security. So I mean I have sort of been feeling that it has been going McCain’s way. But I think Craig makes a very good point. I have been hearing the same thing about the evangelicals saying a vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain, and there is a tremendous rising hostility to a McCain nomination among conservatives nationwide.
whether it is coming soon enough in Florida to help Romney, I just don’t know.
O’DONNELL: You know, it is so interesting, because this is a winner take all primary. I want to show everybody; Romney does have the most number of delegates right now, 59 delegates. Huckabee has 40. McCain 36. And of course, it is a winner-take all, 57, and I think that is part of why, Michelle, today I was struck by—I mean, McCain and Romney have been going at each other, but they were essentially both—Mitt Romney, it was not even 7:00 in the morning and he started calling John McCain a liberal this morning.
Let’s just show our viewers a little of the back and forth between them today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As the liberal governor of the state of Massachusetts, he raised taxes by 730 million dollars.
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if you ask people, look at the three things Senator McCain has done as a senator, if you want that kind of liberal Democratic chorus as president, then you can vote for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’DONNELL: Michelle, what do you make of two of them slinging the L- word at one another?
MICHELLE BERNARD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, at one point in time I thought only the Democrats were capable of this kind of brawl. So at least they have brought some interest and something interesting to the Republican primary. Tomorrow is really going to be fascinating. It is a very important test for Senator McCain, because unlike South Carolina and unlike New Hampshire, he won’t have independents available to bolster him, like they did in the other primary states.
This is going to be a real test for his appeal among Republican voters. Only Republicans can vote. It is a closed primary. It is winner takes all; 57 delegates are at stake. If McCain had to choose a perfect time to peak though, he could not have picked a better time. But there is a question—
O’DONNELL: Lawrence, I noticed today that Cindy McCain told voters in Florida that this state will make or break them.
L. O’DONNELL: I don’t think it will. I think that both McCain and Romney will survive after Florida. and, you know, if I have to bet tonight, if I have to join the guess work, which is all we can do at this point, I’d bet a dollar on McCain’s mini surge here and those three points that he seems to have on Romney right now.
But McCain is running very strong in California. No reason for him to be out of this after Florida. And no reason for Romney, because he can buy his way into the future of this campaign no matter what the outcome is in Florida.
BUCHANAN: Well, I agree with Lawrence. It is not make or break for McCain, because I think that he will go north and there is a lot of states up there, as well as California, some of those New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, the others, which are winner take all, where he is beating Rudy Giuliani—which, incidentally, tells me Rudy is going to be out of the race before he is humiliated. But think I that if Romney loses, it is hard for me to see how he could go forward and really roll up enough delegates to win the nomination.
I think it is probably pretty close to make or break for Mitt Romney.
O’DONNELL: Pat, I have to get David in on this, because he is from Florida. What is with all these Giuliani headlines today, that he’s going to decide on Wednesday if the campaign is over. I understand he gave out baseballs to the traveling press corps?
SHUSTER: Yes, it was almost nostalgic today. What Giuliani did as he was talking to reporters—and he said, the winner of the Florida primary is going to win this nomination. And so that set the expectation that if Giuliani does not win, he recognizes he is out of this. And therefore, he gets out.
And, Norah, it’s so interesting, a couple of events; you could almost see the crowds thinning out. There was one event today—one of our colleague reported that there were just as many reporters in the audience as there were supporters, which was kind of sad. And the only thing that Rudy Giuliani has been able to do to get in on any of this is he has been able to talk about the battle between McCain and Romney. But that is about the only way he is getting anybody’s attention. So here is a sound bite and we will get your reaction on the other side. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opponents are fighting with each other, calling each other names. Let them do that. We are not going to call anybody names. I want Florida to send a message that the kind of candidate you want and the kind of president you want is one that can remain focused on positive goals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Craig Crawford, Rudy Giuliani was once leading in the state of Florida, what happened to him?
CRAWFORD: Well, his Little Miss Sunshine tour went sour. He was all over the state for months. Something I have noticed about Rudy Giuliani—I was out in New Hampshire and Iowa when he went out and campaigned. People forget, he really did make an effort in those states in the beginning. It is not really true that he abandoned those states. He did try in the beginning.
And what I have noticed about Rudy is that when he campaigns, his numbers go down. It reminds me of Bob Dole. We saw this with Bob Dole.
Sometimes candidates actually do more harm than good. There is something about the reality of Giuliani that doesn’t match the promise of what people expect.
O’DONNELL: Pat, what about that? I have heard that from—and I have not been out on the trail with Rudy Giuliani, but I have heard from several veteran reporters that they are struck by what a poor campaigner he is.
BUCHANAN: Well, you know, he went out there—I think—I genuinely believe that he and McCain, when they dissed the Iowa straw poll and walked away from it, they opened up the door to Huckabee and they ran away—it seemed to me—they started, especially Rudy, running away from these primaries. And it is just seemed to me insane to think that you could lose four straight primaries and major caucuses and expect to come roaring through in the fifth.
I will tell you that I don’t know what they will do, but my guess is that scheduler for Rudy Giuliani and strategist who devised this, they will be
sleeping with the fishes later this week.
O’DONNELL: I love it, Pat.
SHUSTER: There was one person on MSNBC who several months ago said that the strategy of Giuliani was not going to work and his name Patrick Buchanan. We should get you a meddle and he ought to listen to you next time.
O’DONNELL: Let me bring Michelle in on this. What about that? Was it that Rudy Giuliani just had a dumb strategy from the beginning? Someone said it was brilliant, but very, very risky or that he was—
BERNARD: Well, all of the Republican candidates who are running this time around have had people say that none of them are reliable conservatives.
So I don’t really think that is what did him in. I think it started with, one, him leaving campaign rallies to take phone calls from his wife, and either coming back or not coming back, ignoring voters in the other primary states.
You know, his strongest following in Florida were New York transplants who were in Florida, who remembered 9/11, who remembered his heroism after 9/11, because we should not forget that he was probably one of the most unpopular and hated mayors in the country prior to 9/11.
CRAWFORD: A lot of them were Democrats. That was the problem there; so many of them were Democrats and they forgot about that in a closed primary.
O’DONNELL: Well, I am still—and I keep hearing that—
BERNARD: Well, the Republican supporters are hemorrhaging and they are divided a lot. My understanding is a lot of them are going to Romney; a lot of them are going to McCain. it will be interesting to see how Giuliani support prior to today will impact the race tomorrow.
O’DONNELL: There is a wild card in Florida and that is this absentee and early balloting. We have heard from the Florida officials that there are million people who have voted both in the Democratic or Republican primary by early or absentee voting. Giuliani has been there for a long time. So we will watch that.
Thank you Michelle Bernard. We appreciate it. The rest to the panel is going to come back after this break. And coming up, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama gets a big-time endorsement from Senator Ted Kennedy, who said he feels change in the air. Will that also mean a change for Hillary Clinton’s campaign?
SHUSTER: Plus, you could feel the chill in the air. You could see it, too. Take a look at this scene from the State of the Union tonight. Here are the two Democratic front-runners. Let’s just say they are not close. We’ll talk about this photo coming up. Stick with us, everybody.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To build a prosperous future we must trust people with their own money and empower them to grow our own economy. As we meet tonight, our economy is undergoing a period of uncertainty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Welcome back, I’m David Shuster, reporting tonight from Miami.
N. O’DONNELL: And I’m Norah O’Donnell in New York. And tonight we have just seen President George W. Bush wrap up his final State of the Union Address. And in the audience, Democratic senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
SHUSTER: Obama, fresh off of his resounding victory in South Carolina’s primary, taking a seat next to Senator Ted Kennedy this evening, who surprised the political world today and the Democratic establishment, endorsing Obama for president.
N. O’DONNELL: The key question really becomes today, what does this mean for Obama’s chances moving forward and how big of a blow is this to Hillary Clinton? With us, Beth Fouhy covers Hillary Clinton for the Associated Press; and MSNBC political analysts Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan, who worked in the White House under both President Nixon and Reagan. And Lawrence O’Donnell, joining us from Los Angeles.
Welcome to all. And I want to put up for you a photo taken tonight at the State of the Union. It is Hillary Clinton slipping in a hello to Senator Kennedy, as we are told according to the Associated Press, that Barack Obama then turned away from her. An interesting moment that has been written about and sort of shows really this personalizing of this campaign.
But what was really interesting is that this came after a day in which Senator Kennedy, when he endorsed Barack Obama, really slammed the Clintons, and I think particularly Bill Clinton, in his endorsement of Barack Obama. Not necessarily by name, but by implication.
And we want to play for you just several of these clips that was put together by our friends from “HARDBALL.” Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: … trapped in the patterns of the past…
… demonizing those who hold a different view…
… there is the courage, when so many others were silent or simply went along, from the beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq...
… and let no one deny that truth.
The old politics that parses us into separate groups and puts us at odds with one another...
… the same kind of hunger to move on and move America forward.
What counts in our leadership is not the length of years in Washington…
We will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion.
We will close the book on the old politics of race against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against ethnic group, and straight against gay.
With Barack Obama, we will end a war in Iraq that he has always stood against.
Let us reject the counsels of doubt and calculation.
… find a way past the stale ideas, stalemate of our times…
… the politics of fear...
I know that he is ready to be president on day one!
Harry Truman said: “We needed someone with greater experience.”
… go beyond the divisions of the past…
(END VIDEO CLIP)
N. O’DONNELL: Those numbers we put up there are the number of times that he could have been referencing the Clintons, turn the page. And he said, I know Barack Obama is ready to be president on day one, essentially turning Hillary Clinton’s word against her. How much has this rattled the Clinton campaign?
BETH FOUHY, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, it’s just the latest thing to be rattling them. I mean, the South Carolina results was definitely a wake-up call for them. They had really tried to position Barack Obama as sort of a niche candidate, a black candidate who appealed only to black voters. That was certainly Bill Clinton’s role.
And people like Ted Kennedy really pushed back on that. The exit polls showed it didn’t work that way. He, Barack Obama, got a quarter of the white vote. He about tied Hillary Clinton among white men. And women—black women and white women resoundingly went to Barack Obama. So that rattled them.
And then getting this endorsement—him getting this endorsement from Kennedy was—sure, it was a blow.
N. O’DONNELL: Yes, but in many ways it was a rebuke of Bill Clinton more than Hillary Clinton, in some ways. Is the campaign saying that Bill Clinton is going to be restrained in any way?
FOUHY: Well, that is an interesting question, all of us have spent this week saying, oh, he is hurting her, he is really screwing up her message.
In fact, the Clinton campaign really strongly believes, and they have lots of data to prove it, that Bill Clinton is the most—continues to be the most popular Democrat in the country.
So the question is how do you use him? You use him a way to get people excited, people who remember his presidency very, very fondly. But you don’t want him doing this incredibly sort of negative, harsh, distracting role that he played in South Carolina.
So they are trying to recalibrate him, they are definitely not going to put him on the backbench.
SHUSTER: Lawrence O’Donnell, this moment during the State of the Union tonight, when—on a day when Barack Obama has had such a great day, and it has been such bad one for Hillary Clinton, why wasn’t Barack Obama gracious enough to shake Hillary Clinton’s hand?
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, as a creature of the Senate myself, having worked there for seven years, David, I saw these kinds of things everyday. There were—senators become in pitched combat with each other, and they have these very intense enemies that might last for a week or two, but then at a certain point in the future, you see those two people working together again.
But when the tensions are running high in the Senate, that physical move that you saw Obama do, that little turn when the other one comes closer, you could watch the Senate floor on any given session, on any given day, and I could point out to you who was doing that to who and we could discuss why.
So it is a standard Senate move, I have seen it a thousand times, I am not surprised by it at all.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: David, can I…
SHUSTER: But, Rachel Maddow, doesn’t this—yes, Pat, go ahead. But I was going to ask Rachel, then, Pat, you after this, but Rachel, doesn’t this suggest then that the Democratic Party perhaps is going to be—is going to remain fractured and it’s going to be difficult for the Democratic Party to unite once there is a nominee?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: This looked a lot more like high school than it did like, you know, the Taiwanese parliament where they are hitting each other with shoes and taking each other out on stretchers.
I think that we get very excited when we cover the current conflicts and the current divisions, especially when it’s between people who are seen as being natural political allies, people within the same party.
But if you kind of take the broad lens view here, this was not a duel on the floor of the Senate, it was kind of like a little shoulder turn. And I just don’t see the divisions in the Democratic Party right now being that deep. I really don’t.
I would be looking for them and reporting on them if it were happening, but I just don’t see it. I still think that Democratic voters, by and large, like their plausible candidates and I think that the candidates are fighting it out. But I don’t see them as becoming enemies, I just don’t feel—it doesn’t feel that way to me.
N. O’DONNELL: Yes. Pat, But what about someone like Greg Craig, who is a name many people may not know, but he worked for Bill Clinton on the impeachment—during the impeachment hearings. He is the longtime Kennedy staffer. He is now a Barack Obama supporter. He said in Newsweek this last week that if you can’t control Bill Clinton on the campaign trail, how are you going to control him in the White House? Isn’t that a line that the Republicans can use to divide the Democrats?
BUCHANAN: The Republicans will use it if they get an opportunity to run against Hillary, you can bet on it. But I will say about Obama, that is a very angry, bitter thing he did. And as David suggested, it was ungracious.
Here was Hillary Clinton in a very rough race with him. When Teddy Kennedy had endorsed Obama, going out of her way to shake his hand and say…
N. O’DONNELL: No, no, we don’t know that, Pat. We don’t know that.
She was going to shake Ted Kennedy’s hand. We don’t know that she was reaching out to Barack Obama.
BUCHANAN: I didn’t say, I said she was going to shake Teddy Kennedy’s hand when he endorsed Barack Obama, and Barack Obama was ungracious, he was angry. Why was he angry? I will tell you why, because he is bitter at what they have done and he knows it is working. If you look at the numbers out of New Hampshire, the white vote went from 34…
L. O’DONNELL: It is the old Buchanan “Obama scared” theory.
BUCHANAN: All right. Look, the white vote in New Hampshire was 34 percent, it went down to 28 in Nevada, it went to 24 in South Carolina. And in the upcoming races, the reason Teddy Kennedy may be able to help is, as Howard Fineman told us the other night, Obama is losing the Hispanic vote four to one.
If you are sinking in the white vote and you’re losing in the Hispanic vote, then what Bill Clinton did, we can call it anything we want, it appears to be working and that is why, if it weren’t working, if it were failing, Obama would not be as angry, I think, and as bitter as he appeared to be.
L. O’DONNELL: So, Pat, you are calling South Carolina a state that worked for Bill Clinton’s strategy?
BUCHANAN: I think what worked—you mean, it certainly consolidated, I think, the African-American vote and it diminished the white vote. If that happens nationally, the game is over.
MADDOW: Pat, I think that would make sense if they hadn’t split white male votes basically evenly between them. I think if your thesis were right, we would have seen a large majority of white males going for Edwards and Clinton together. And we didn’t see it.
N. O’DONNELL: Well, actually, Edwards did win more white votes than either Clinton or Obama in the race.
BUCHANAN: Well, this is the point that is valid is Hillary Clinton does have a serious, serious problem with white males, that is there as well.
I mean, I agree with that, but I do think the Clinton thing appeared—look, we will find out tomorrow night. You said yourself, Norah, that we have got enormous turnout among Democrats. I can’t believe it when nobody has campaigned there. Let’s find out what happens tomorrow night to see if this thing has worked.
SHUSTER: Well, Pat, one of things that is happening here in Florida is that there is a property tax issue that is on the ballot here, and that is driving a lot of people to the polls. But in any case, Lawrence O’Donnell, thanks for being with us. Beth Fouhy, Rachel Maddow, and Pat Buchanan are sticking around.
N. O’DONNELL: And up next, the day Obama and Clinton are fighting for, Pat just mentioned it, Super Duper Tuesday. Voters in more than 20 states go to the polls. Who has got the upper hand? Can any of us tell? Stay with us.
N. O’DONNELL: And welcome back, I’m Norah O’Donnell in New York.
SHUSTER: And I’m David Shuster in Miami. We are now just one week away until millions of voters in 22 states go to the polls and help select the Democratic nominee for president.
N. O’DONNELL: Next Tuesday, there will be almost 1,700 delegates awarded and a clear nomination front-runner may emerge. But with so much ground to cover all across the country, where will the candidates focus their efforts?
SHUSTER: And, Beth Fouhy, we heard today that Ted Kennedy is going to go straight to California to campaign for Barack Obama. Is the Clinton campaign nervous and what will they do to counter that?
FOUHY: Well, the Clinton campaign has a lot of institutional advantages, David, on the February 5th states. It is a great state for Hillary Clinton, California. It is very solidly for her at the moment, although there are some polling showing it is tightening a little bit.
But she is probably 10, 15 points up. And keep in mind, people have been voting in California since January 7th. Half of the Democratic voters vote absentee in California, so a lot of this stuff is water under the bridge for all of these people who voted a couple of weeks ago.
Where Teddy Kennedy is really going to be able to help Hillary Clinton is with older, committed, core Democrats—I’m sorry, help Barack Obama, is with older, committed, core Democrats. That is Hillary Clinton’s base, older people, labor union members, middle class, working class white folk. And that is where Teddy Kennedy also has a lot of popularity
So the thought is that he can go into some of these communities where a lot of white, older people remember his brothers, remember the power of the Kennedy name, and really bring some of those voters back over to Obama.
SHUSTER: And, Pat Buchanan, as I do the math, there is no way that either Obama or Clinton, even if they were to win every state, could wrap up the nomination on Super Tuesday. It increasingly looks like, and I think read this somewhere, that 40 percent of the delegates that a nominee could need could be comprised of these superdelegates, these members of Congress, governors, members of the DNC. When do we start hearing about them?
BUCHANAN: Well, I think you are seeing a lot of people hold off endorsements right now because of Barack Obama’s win in South Carolina. I think they are going to wait and see, David, who the clear nominee is—or it is going to be. And I think that February 5th will do that.
Now, February 5th, the problem for Kennedy and Obama is they have got to do 22 states in seven days, I mean…
BUCHANAN: … you get plopped down in a capital somewhere, how are you?
You can’t turn around voters around. And look, California itself is a nation.
If Kennedy is going to work that, I’m sure he will help, but that leaves all of the 21 other states wide open.
So I think a lot of this may be baked in the cake. And Kennedy may not be able to transfer it. I mean, I was out with Ronald Reagan in ‘86, he was at his most popular, and he was at 70 percent, and we lost 10 Senate seats.
N. O’DONNELL: Yes, it is a great point.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY: Hey, you know guys, I just want to posit my theory that Florida, voting here tomorrow—Pat mentioned it earlier, you have got all of this early voter turnout, a million Democrats probably are going to vote in Florida, and put all of these legalities aside.
My argument for why Florida is worth watching tomorrow on the Democratic side is it might be a very good preview of what happens in all of these February 5th states where the candidates are not going to be able to campaign very much.
I think that voters here in Florida who haven’t seen any traditional campaigning from the candidates are very similarly situated to what voters out in all of those Super Tuesday states who also haven’t seen. So it will be a real reflection, a possible preview.
N. O’DONNELL: Yes, Rachel, go ahead.
MADDOW: I think Craig raises a really important point. And that is that the national media gets into all of these states even if they are not having direct visits from the candidates. And when we have got 22 or 24 states all going on February 5th, and we’ve got the ban on campaigning in Florida that we have got for the Democrats, for tomorrow what happens is the national media becomes more important.
And what gets covered in the national media a lot of times is Barack Obama’s beautiful speeches and scandal about Bill Clinton and maybe he is being inappropriate in the campaign.
CRAWFORD: Well, we are going to have a very, very specific way to measure the impact of South Carolina and the Kennedy endorsement in Florida.
And here is how, is when we compare the live voting tomorrow versus the early voting, because all of these absentees and early voting that have come before this past weekend will go one way.
If there is difference in Obama’s support between that early voting before South Carolina and Kennedy, and if we see a big boom in the Obama vote on live voting tomorrow, then we are going to see there is a Kennedy or South Carolina bump.
N. O’DONNELL: You know, Craig, you make an interesting point and so does the whole panel. We found in our exit polls that, you know, in most of the states, half of the voters had made up their mind more than a month ago in this.
And we know that in California, as Beth brought up, there has been a lot of early voting going on there as well. But I want to bring up the issue of Latinos and Hispanics, which are important in the West.
And, Beth, there is a new poll out that shows that Hillary still has a very large lead among Latinos. Can Ted Kennedy help Barack Obama among the Latinos or is it too late?
FOUHY: You know, I am not entirely sure why everybody thinks that Ted Kennedy has got this big power among Latino voters. I mean, let’s face it, the reason that Latino voters are siding with Hillary Clinton right now is because of name recognition. It is not, I don’t think, because of the enmity between Hispanics and blacks.
There is probably a piece of that. But frankly it is about name recognition. Again, in Florida, as Craig was saying, where the candidates have not campaigned, there is a big Latino vote there. Hillary Clinton has got a much broader name recognition, and there has been no advertising in Florida.
So there was nothing Obama could do to mitigate that. That’s not going to be the case in California.
CRAWFORD: Well, Obama did have an ad on cable here. Obama had an ad on cable here that was all over the place.
FOUHY: Oh yes. But that is totally different than buying a big…
CRAWFORD: Obama did advertise on television in Florida in 6 million homes.
FOUHY: Right. But it is not the level that we are going to see in some of these big February 5th states.
MADDOW: The most important role thing—the most important role of Latinos here is how many fewer Latinos there are identifying themselves as Republicans because of the focus on immigration among the Republican candidates.
It is going to be much more important in the general than in the primaries.
N. O’DONNELL: All right. Thanks to Beth Fouhy—Pat, we are going to come back. Thanks to Beth Fouhy, Pat Buchanan, Craig Crawford, and I guess Rachel sticking around.
I’m sorry, Pat, but I know you’ll be back on tomorrow night with me.
So we are going to hear more from Pat Buchanan. No worries to our viewers, Pat Buchanan will be back on MSNBC.
And up next, David, what do we have coming up next?
SHUSTER: You can read my lines if you want, Norah. No worries.
SHUSTER: We get to the lighter side of the State of the Union and...
N. O’DONNELL: We are going to get to the lighter side.
SHUSTER: And, and, fill it in. And…
N. O’DONNELL: The campaign trail…
SHUSTER: Lighter side of the State of the Union. There we go.
N. O’DONNELL: Coming up next.
SHUSTER: Tonight’s lighter moments from inside of the House chambers and outside on the campaign trail. And here to help us with that, radio talk show host Stephanie Miller; screenwriter and commentator John Ridley; and NBC contributor and Air America radio host Rachel Maddow.
N. O’DONNELL: And welcome to all of you. And we put together something sort of fun which shows Bush aging essentially throughout the years.
We have seen his approval ratings go down, we have also seen him get a little grayer in the hair. So take a look at this from him from 2002 to 2008, essentially, look at his hair essentially just getting grayer and grayer.
Rachel, what do you make of that? I mean, that is the normal process, but being at war for that long also tends to age you.
MADDOW: Yes, you know, they always say that president years are kind of like dog years, you know, that you put four or five years on for every year in a normal person’s life.
Well, the thing that I noticed tonight was his awkward habit of screaming inappropriately at the camera around things that shouldn’t really have emotion for them. When he was talking about something that the Congress didn’t fund adequately, he really screamed, not the funding, as if it was going to be the final thing that really just made him blow and he was going to go hit somebody in the front row.
That was—I mean, yes, he looks old, but he also looks really cranky.
STEPHANIE MILLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You know what makes a president look old, being the worst president ever.
JOHN RIDLEY, SCREENWRITER: Don’t hold back, Stephanie, how do you really feel?
MILLER: if I had presided over Katrina and Iraq and the recession, I would look pretty bad, too.
SHUSTER: All right. John, you get this next one. Mitt Romney seems to be the candidate on the campaign trail with the perfect hair and complexion. So we decided to see what he might look like giving his eighth State of the Union Address.
RIDLEY: You know, and with a little Grecian formula, you could reverse all of that. I mean, this guy, I don’t know, I think he is going to be the president with the picture in the closet that ages, you know, 20 or 30 or 40 years and he is going to look absolutely fine and start making movies after this.
MADDOW: You guys made him look like a baked apple doll there.
N. O’DONNELL: Yes. I think Mitt Romney may age better than that.
MILLER: Oh, my God, it is Barbara Bush.
N. O’DONNELL: Stephanie, you know, I don’t know if you have seen—you know, Chuck Norris of course campaigning for Mike Huckabee. And at one time he suggested that McCain might be too old to be president. Well, I talked to Chuck Norris today, because John McCain said that he was going to send his 95-year-old mother Roberta over to wash out Chuck Norris’ mouth with soap.
Well, here is what Chuck said in response to that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK NORRIS, ACTOR: Well, I made a mistake there. I got personal, Norah, and I should be sticking with the facts. And I called John and apologized, but his mom can still wash my mouth out with soap, but I want a hug and a kiss afterwards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
N. O’DONNELL: So, Stephanie, Chuck Norris, what do you think, having a kiss with McCain’s 95-year-old mother?
MILLER: Isn’t that cute? If he doesn’t kick the soap out of her hand, that will be really a touching moment in politics, won’t it?
RIDLEY: That is really creepy, could we just get back to the Clinton- Obama race-baiting as opposed to Chuck Norris making out with McCain’s mom?
MILLER: … aging man stars?
RIDLEY: Yes, race-baiting over geriatric sex any day of the week.
SHUSTER: Hey, John, speaking of maybe, Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne was the cabinet member chose to stay home tonight. Dirk, presenting the amusing prospect of a president named Dirk.
RIDLEY: I think it’s great, I want to see Dirk in giant neon and it so bright that it finally explodes—oh, wait, I’m thinking of Dirk Diggler, I’m sorry, wrong Dirk.
RIDLEY: I just want to hear the press conference, President Dirk, President Dirk, excuse me.
MADDOW: Did anybody else worry though that maybe the reason John McCain didn’t come to the State of the Union tonight is because…
SHUSTER: Thank you, Stephanie Miller, John Ridley, and Rachel Maddow, we are out of time, that does it for us. Up next here, if you missed any of the State of Union, we will be playing it again in its entirety. I’m David Shuster, I’ll see you tomorrow on “HARDBALL.”
Great job tonight, Norah.
N. O’DONNELL: Great job to you, nice to see you, David. And I’m Norah O’Donnell. We will see you back here tomorrow.